October 3, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

10 People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.

11 The words of the godly lead to life; evil people cover up their harmful intentions.

-- Proverbs 10:10-11

Today's Text

[4] I will send great troubles against them—all the things they feared. For when I called, they did not answer. When I spoke, they did not listen. They deliberately sinned—before my very eyes—and chose to do what they know I despise."

[5] Hear this message from the Lord, and tremble at his words: "Your close relatives hate you and throw you out for being loyal to my name. 'Let the Lord be honored!' they scoff. 'Be joyful in him!' But they will be put to shame.

--Isaiah 66:4-5 (NLT)

The Cost and Danger of Genuine Worship

By Don Meadows

While we go about our daily business, the Word and the world scream out to us.  There is a cost and a danger of genuine worship of the Living God.

Isaiah was speaking to two Israels – the one who continually ignores and disobeys God and the one who desires to obey.  The words ring true today for us.

Those who mock the Lord, who offer material sacrifices but not given from the heart, will have a day of reckoning.  “I will send great troubles against them – all the things they feared.”  How dangerous it is to go through the motions of religion without sincere hearts that love the Lord and desire to worship and serve Him.

Let the prophet’s words speak today to the individual, the nation and The Church.  “They deliberately sinned – before my very eyes – and chose to do what they know I despise.”  Sins done in ignorance will readily find a seat in the court of mercy before the God of justice.  Those done deliberately, defiantly before the very eyes of God, will be judged more harshly.  One questions the possibility of forgiveness, not because God isn’t merciful but because a heart that so trangresses is rebellious against truth to the extreme that the Holy Spirit may be unable to break the defiance.

Take heed, O sinner.  Listen carefully, nations which stand under the power of the living God.  Hear today, those who dare profess to shepherd and guide The Church but promote what God’s Word calls abominations.  Listen to the words of Isaiah; hear the Word of God.

Then Isaiah had a warning for those who worship with sincerity the Lord.  “Hear this message from the Lord, and tremble at his words: "Your close relatives hate you and throw you out for being loyal to my name. 'Let the Lord be honored!' they scoff. 'Be joyful in him!' But they will be put to shame.”

There is a cost to be paid for loyalty to God.  You see it in any congregation where one stands for the integrity of the Gospel.  You find the cost being paid in a nation where people insist on truth.

Good News Magazine asserts in its September/October 2001 issue: The “Worldwide persecution of Christians is on the rise. Christians continue to top the list among the most persecuted religious groups in the world.

“Nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) of the world’s population lives under high government restrictions on religion, and almost half (48 percent) live in areas with high religiously motivated social hostilities.” (p. 30)  “Christians are harassed with the most frequency of any religious group in 130 countries, followed by Muslim in 117 countries.  Jews face harassment in 75 countries even though they make up less than 1 percent of the world’s population.” (go to article)

Today we await word of the execution of a Christian preacher under the threat for converting from Islam.  Janet and I support a missionary “in secret” for fear of the danger he and his family face if discovered.  These threats to the faithful, however, are just a small sampling of the real persecution which exists.

Your close relatives will take issue with you, even hate you, declares Isaiah.  Preachers who proclaim truth from the pulpit often find, in their congregations, those who oppose their message – a message truly sent from God.  Persecution is revealed when a Christian is uncomfortable witnessing to a beloved relative about their relationship with God.

Salvation, indeed, is free.  It is given through the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  However, discipleship comes at a cost.  Are you willing to pay it?  Are you paying it now?

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October 5, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

The godly give good advice, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

-- Proverbs 10:21

Today's Text

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

--Matthew 13:41-42 (NASD)

(Supporting Texts Below)

Chopping Fuel for the Fires of Hell?

By Don Meadows

I remember vividly the morning that Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev died.  It was in 1982, and I was visiting a clergy friend at Mt. Blanchard Hospital in Findlay.

She was about to go into surgery for a hysterectomy; I walked into her room and she was crying.  “Can I help?” I asked.  She shook her head “no.”  A few seconds later she explained:

“I was just thinking about that poor, poor man. Now he knows just how wrong he has been all his life.”

I asked about whom she was talking?  “That man in Russia.  Now, he knows there is a hell.”

Brezhnev’s death was the top news that morning. He was a political hack of Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.  He was involved in the ouster of Khrushchev and became leader of the Soviet Union in his place.  They all were terribly evil men and avowed atheists. 

All this came to mind when I read in Good News Magazine an article “How Can United Methodists Believe in Hell?”  It’s a review of a book by the Rev. Rob Bell: “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”

Bell basically argues that there is no hell to fear.  God is love, so loving that He would send no one to a place of eternal torment.  Jesus’ death on the cross nullified the penalty of sin for everyone; everyone is going to heaven no matter what they did or do on earth.

Oh, how I wish it were true.  Then we would be free to do, as Bell declares, anything we wanted to do.  We could sin to our evil heart’s delight without fear.

But, it’s not true!  It’s not true. It’s not true for several reasons, two of which are:

First, that doesn’t make sense.  Common sense tells us that there are consequences to all our actions.  Bell answers that by saying, “We can have all the hell we want.”  He means, I suppose, that we bear consequences for our choices while on earth.  That’s illogical.

Secondly, and most important, it’s not scriptural.  There are hundreds of biblical references to judgment, punishment and eternal consequences for our temporal choices.  Bell is not simply wrong, he is dangerously wrong.

One example of scriptural contradiction to Bell’s thesis is the story Jesus told of the rich man and poor man, found in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 16.  Jesus gives us a specific name in the story, Lazarus, which, to me, suggests it’s more than parabolic.  It’s a report of an actual happening of which Jesus is knowledgeable (an awesome thought in itself).

Luke 16: 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.  23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.  24        And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’”[1] 

Hades (the place of the dead) was no imaginary or virtual reality for the rich man.  He said, “I am in agony in this flame.” It was real.

Don’t be misled by these teachers of false doctrine.  Jesus calls them “ravenous wolves.”  He compares them to useless trees which shall be gathered and thrown into the fire. (See below)

While there always will be people like Bell in every denomination or independent church, Christians must be alert constantly to their words and writings.  Society today is ripe with folks who seek to lessen the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They seek, knowingly or in ignorance, to make innocent things which are dangerous because they entice us away from biblical truth.

The Rev. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, understood this in the 1700s.  He proposed four ways to evaluate accuracy of doctrine.  The Wesleyan Quadrilateral says issues should always be tested by:

  1. Scripture.  First and foremost, what does Scriptures to say?  This does not mean, “What someone else says Scripture says.”  It means what does the Holy Spirit reveal to you as you study for yourself the Holy Word?

  2. Reason.  Does it make sense?  Is it logical?  Does it pass the test of common sense?

  3. Tradition.  How has the church treated the issue in the past?  Traditions may not be infallible, but traditions become traditions because over time they have found to be pretty much true.

  4. Experience.  What have you personally experienced that would guide you into accurately interpreting truth.

Don’t permit just anyone, no matter how many letters they have before or after their names, to determine for you what you believe.  Investigate.  Apply Wesley’s formula, with emphasis on biblical guidance.  Then ask God the Holy Spirit to witness to you, to enlighten you what is true

Tragically, Mr. Brezhnev learned too late his error.  This begs a question: “How many souls will discover the truth too late that hell is real?”

It’s unfortunate that The United Methodist Church will ordain and turn loose on local congregations pastors who are scripturally inept, spiritually dead or intentionally deceitful so that they will tell absolute untruths to trusting congregations.   Tragically, many of these “theologians” become powerful leaders in their denominations – even The United Methodist Church.

I have heard that “hell is God’s final surrender to man’s ultimate will.”  How God must grieve when His precious children make that choice. We and The Church should grieve, too, and repent and make certain that we are not guilty of chopping fuel for the fires of Hell!

---

For a link to the Good News Magazine, and a way to comment, visit:

http://methodistviews.com

Scroll down the headlines and click there to be taken directly to the article.


Supporting texts

Matthew 13:36-43      

36          Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

 37       And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,

 38       and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;

 39       and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

 40       So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

 41       The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,

 42       and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 43       Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.[2]

 

Matthew 7:13 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

 14       For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit

 15         Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

 16       You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

 17       So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

 18       A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

 19       Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.[3]

---

[1]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

[2]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

[3]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

 

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October 7, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

 People who accept correction are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore it will lead others astray.

-- Proverbs 10:17

Today's Text

Anyone who fears You is my friend—

 anyone who obeys your commandments.

(Supporting Texts Belo--Psalm 119:63

God A Partner in True Friendship

By Don Meadows

“Friends” on FaceBook, the popular social network on the internet, come in a mixed bag.

There are those who are “friends who’ll stick” through thick and thin.  There are those who will “friend” you to have another person whose correspondence they can read.  There are those who are “friends in waver mode;” they’ll go back and forth which ever way the winds of popularity blow.

The person who wrote the 119th Psalm puts a new slant on what the “friend relationship” means.  We aren’t sure who wrote the psalm, though many commentators believe it was David. “It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David’s experience in many interesting points,” one commentary says.

Verse 63 is intriguing from several vantages.  It’s intriguing in that it differs from the Arab mind which views friendship thusly:

The friend of my friend is my friend.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The friend of my enemy is my enemy.  In other words, friendship is built upon “what’s in it for me.”  That’s hardly a promising formula for lasting friendship or positive results.

Psalm 119:63 is intriguing, also, because it seems to remove the human, personal qualifications from determining who is “friend.”  The relationship of “friend” is not determined by personal involvement, positive or negative.  It looks, instead, to another qualifying discipline.

“My friend,” the Psalmist declares, “is anyone who obeys your commandments.”  This part of the psalm 119 is addressing God.  Thus, the writer declares that anyone who obeys God is his “friend.”

I believe the Apostle Paul understood this, when he advises, “14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”[1]

Obviously, neither the Psalmist nor Paul was suggesting we not be “friendly” toward other people, nor have close relationships with those who aren’t “God-fearers” or “God-followers.”  They are saying, instead, don’t become attached to, part of or participants with them in their ways which contradict those ways God wants his children to follow. Draw lines clearly for the boundaries where relationship can or cannot continue.

How often have you been told, or told someone, “You’ve got to quit running around with the wrong crown,” “You need to get some new friends,” or “You just keep the wrong company.”

Many times I have seen relationships between Christian and non-Christians end tragically.  The Christian often becomes so entangled in non-Christian things they lose their close relationship with the Lord.  A non-Christian never becomes a Christian because a believer buys into the unchristian world’s values.  A sinner is converted when he or she sees the joys to be realized by becoming a part of Christ’s body.

[1] 2 Corinthians 6, KJV

 

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October 10, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

 Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!

-- Proverbs 10:19

Today's Text

 

“. . . one sinner destroys much good.”

Ecclesiastes 9:18b (NKJV)

It Only Takes One

By Don Meadows

Most people are good folk.  It takes only one, however, to mess up things for the others.

Only a handful of people looking for a personal edge sabotaged the Ohio State University football program.  News reporters now tell us that druggies, thieves and other kinds of disreputable people are hiding inside the protesting masses on Wall Street and in other U.S. cities.  Members of the Tea Party found out what one bad apple could do.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing new.  It has happened since God placed man on earth and man tried to be his own god.

Take the case of Achan.  God told Israel, through Joshua, to take the City of Jerico and destroy it.  They were salvagenothing.  Achan, however, though the rules didn’t apply to him, so he took plunder — “ a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels.” [1]  Things then started going badly for the nation.  Their next target was the small nation of Ai.  Israel’s spies said it would be a piece of cake and only two or three thousand warriors would be needed.

Israel, however, was defeated, “for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel,” [2]

God cannot, and He will not, tolerate sin.  In the example of Achan, the entire nation suffered.  Always innocent people suffer as a consequence of the sin. Sometimes the suffering is immediate and easily recognized.  There are times, however, when the effects of sin will be delayed and not easy to see.  The suffering is there, though.

Sin is a community and communicable disease.  It plagues all.  Sometimes I have heard people refer to something as “victimless sin.”  There is no such thing.  To suggest it is an outright lie.  It was a lie, you will recall, that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

“Genesis 3 relates the appearance of sin which consisted of the refusal of mankind to be content with being human and the desire to become divine. The Bible affirms that humans have dignity as humans; they do not have to try to become divine to find meaning. The serpent, the woman, and the man receive their sentences, one of which is the unequal relationship of the man and the woman as the result of sin. The separation which sin causes is emphasized in the account of the expulsion from Eden (Gen. 3:22-24).” [3]

The wages of sin is death, the Bible tells us.  Death is separation – separation of the spirit from the body, separation of a person from God, separation of people.  It’s deadly.

Therefore, never take sin lightly or casually. Unfortunately, our society is doing just that.  Sin is so commonplace anymore that many people do know right from wrong.

Paul tells us, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[4] (Emphasis mine)

Solomon was a man wise about the ways of man.  He said, “One sinner destroys much good.”  Make certain the sinner is not you.  Keep alert and let it not happen on your watch.


[1] Joshua 7:21 (NKJV)

[2] Joshua 7:1 (NKJV)

[3] Holman Bible Dictionary

[4] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23 (KJV)

 

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October 12, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get a smart retort. Anyone who rebukes the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother rebuking mockers; they will only hate you. But the wise, when rebuked, will love you all the more. Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more.

-- Proverbs 9:7-9 (NLT)

Today's Text

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

 

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

-- Galatians 5:1 (KJV)

-- Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

  “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound.”

--Elton Trueblood in The New Man for Our Time. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 1.

The Illusion of Freedom

By Don Meadows

Absolute freedom is an illusion.  Those who claim they are free to do as they please are among those most disillusioned.

Jesus did not die that we might be politically or economically free.  He died that we might be spiritually emancipated from the slave master of sin.  Until Calvary we were bound, without hope of being released, to the God-rebelling natures that we inherited from the human nature of fallen man.

We were not doomed because Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We were doomed because, like and Adam and Eve, each of us chooses to disobey God and do our own thing.  We choose that because, to do so, we become god of ourselves.

The death and resurrection of Christ gives us a choice.  Until then there was limited, but not total, free will.  Always lurking somewhere was that nature that enslaved us to seek our own will.

Calvary broke those chains, however, setting free our spirits to see other choices.  The witnessing power of the Holy Spirit breaks through the blindness that keeps us bound to our old self.  It opens a window through which we can see something beyond, something better and something grander than ourselves. That is, of course, God, whom we cannot fathom in our “natural” man because man, in his fallen condition, can have no rapport with the holy and divine.

We were enslaved to our darkness, doomed and damned for lack of a way to gain acceptance by the One whose nature required absolute perfection.  God allowed man to see for himself his imprisoned condition to his nature and gave him the desire to escape.  The sacrifice of animals to atone for sins didn’t succeed.  Man’s unyielding will to be his own god is an unbending slave master.  Man’s highest goodness is never good enough to make him holy.

Punishment for sin is death, God has declared.  This magnificent God of love hates death, and, according to Peter, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”[1] 

Repentance was not enough.  Death’s requirement to wash sin into nothingness was still in play.  This is further complicated by the edict that only the death of a pure life could appease the demands of the Holy God.

Fortunately for humankind, this Holy God is love and loving, to wit: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” [2]

Jesus, God Himself manifested, was without sin.  His death satisfied the sentence of death, but   Jesus did not die to grant humankind a blank check to sin without consequence.  He died to give you and me and all God’s children freedom from our base instinct to sin.  This accomplishes at least four things:

1.                  We know right from wrong and can choose to do what’s right.

2.                  When we choose to sin the Holy Spirit, testifying to the truth of Jesus’ atoning work, convicts us of our broken relationship with the Holy God and reveals our need to confess our wrong-doing and “repent” – turn around and go another way.

3.                  We understand there are but two real choices of freedom in life.  (A) We are free to surrender to Satan and let him be our master. (B) We are free to surrender to Jesus and allow him to be our Lord.

4.                  In choosing we comprehend the truth that our election has eternal, as well as temporal, implications.

When we choose either Satan or Christ we surrender our freedom.  Satan would have us believe we have freedom to do as we please, and our natural instinct is to readily grab onto that notion.  This feeds the desire to serve self, to do what feels good, to have what we want. It energizes that passion to be our own god, which, of course, puts us at enmity with God. 

How Satan must laugh when one falls for this scam. He knows that someday he will claim his own, thus bring grief to the Loving God.  This is Satan’s goal, his only purpose since he realizes he can never triumph.  He can only bring hurt – hurt to God by hurting and destroying God’s people.

Choosing Jesus results in a different Master-servant relationship.  He wants only our best, both on earth and in heaven.  Jesus wants our happiness, not only for a moment or a season but for eternity.  Jesus knows, too, that someday he will claim his own in an embrace of unending divine joy.

Yes, you have freedom.  Absolute freedom, however, is an illusion because there are but two steps of freedom that you can take.  You can choose Jesus and life; you can choose Satan and death. 

I pray you’ll ask Jesus to be your Savior, Master and Lord.


[1] 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

[2] John 3:16-17 (KJV)

 

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October 13, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

 The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces.

-- Proverbs 10:8 (NLT)

On Golden Shore

This beautiful picture was taken by the Rev. Bill Reincheld with his Nikon and a bit of help from Photoshop.  Thanks, Bill, for sharing your world on St. Simons Island, Ga.

Today's Text

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people

--Exodus 13:21-22 (KJV) 

The Son of A Beautiful Day

By Don Meadows

Skies of blue with white, cotton clouds riding the air currents are my kind of day.  You can see the hand of God painting pictures just for you.

Sometimes, though, those skies aren’t blue, but dark gray.  Clouds become black, rolling waves that scare you for what else they might bring.  Just remember that beyond the storm there is a sun, doing its work, burning away the darkness, preparing to unleash the hidden brightness.

Many years ago I pastored a four-point charge in Ross County, Ohio.  As I served South Salem Parish,  I also attended the Chillicothe Branch of Ohio University and would drive down Ohio 28 three times a week for classes.

I recall that one morning the sun was shining brilliantly as I headed to go to school.  At the top of a very steep hill I could see for miles into the valley below.  It was blanketed in fog – a thick blanket that sprayed droplets of water onto the windshield as I descended the winding road.

My heart was bubbling over with excitement!  I wanted to stop, get out of the car and shout to the top of my lungs, “Wake up, wake up!  It looks like gloom and doom now, but I just came from the top of the mountain.  There is a bright sun up there, burning away this fog.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.  I’ve seen it! I know!”

That moment will be captured in my heart forever.  I remembered how God led Israel out of bondage, a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.  They followed because they knew, at the telling of Moses, that God was in it and it was going to be all right.

There are times, my dear friends, when the storms that rage in our lives seem ready to swallow us.  We’re down in the valley.  Fogs of trouble and threaten to envelop us. It’s nearly impossible to see an end to the misery.

Have faith.  I have been on the mountain and in the valley.  I know there is a Son. I have experienced Him. His name is Jesus and He said:

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”[1] 

Jesus doesn’t want us to have mediocre lives.  He wants us to experience fullness of life, joyous lives and lives which will ooze with thanksgiving and praise for the Father.  Don’t let the thief, who is Satan, rob you of your victory with moments of misery, days agonizing grief or seasons of desperate despair.

Look to the Son.  I’ve experienced Him, at the top of the hill and in the valley of hurt.  Hear me.  Trust Jesus!  A glorious day is about to break open.


[1] John 10:9-10 (KJV) 

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October 16, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

The godly speak words that are helpful, but the wicked speak only what is corrupt.

-- Proverbs 10:32  (NLT)

Today's Text

This message came to Jeremiah from the Lord early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah. The Lord said, "Stand out in front of the Temple of the Lord, and make an announcement to the people who have come there to worship from all over Judah. Give them my entire message; include every word.Perhaps they will listen and turn from their evil ways. Then I will be able to withhold the disaster I am ready to pour out on them because of their sins.

--Jeremiah 26:1-3 (NLT)

“(The precious utensils of worship you so love) will all be carried away to Babylon and will stay there until I send for them, says the Lord. But someday I will bring them back to Jerusalem again."

--Jeremiah 27:22 (NLT, my notations in parenthesis)

Preacher, Give Them ‘Every Word’

By Don Meadows

Religious people love their stuff.  Thus, you can imagine how upset they were when Jeremiah said God was going to take away their precious utensils of worship and send them to Babylon.  This was being done because of their disobedience, in hopes of turning them around.

This prophet would be in as much trouble today with Christians as he was then with the Jews.  He wasn’t careful about political correctness.  Jeremiah dared to speak what God told him to say, yes, “every word.” That always results in a Catch 22 dilemma.

Men and women considering pastoral or evangelistic ministry should be required to read this book.  It oozes with the realities of the constant tension produced when one assumes the responsibility of speaking for God to people.

Verbalize what God wants declared and you’ll get opposition from someone; failure to state what God wants said and you run afoul of God.  Unfortunately, too many clergy today, in the name of God, choose political correctness and echo what many people want to hear.

This is tragic because both preacher and people then are exposed to danger.  The spiritual health of people, indeed the eternal destiny of their very souls, might well hang in the balance.  The ability of a preacher to broadcast truth -- his/her education, experience, biblical understanding and the courage to do so -- are tantamount to a congregation’s growth toward true discipleship.

Not only must preachers defend pulpit freedoms, those in the pew, too, have a duty to provide atmospheres for God-breathed and God-directed proclamation.

The writer of Hebrews tells us this:

“Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”[1]

“Obey” isn’t a popular, or politically-correct, word these days. It has become a negative thing.

"Worship is easier than obedience. Men are ever readier to serve the priest than to obey the prophet." Those are the words of A. M. Fairbairn. Are they really true? If we think of worship in the ordinary sense, the answer may be ‘yes.’ True worship, however, always results in obedience. We cannot truly worship without repentance and new resolutions.”[2]

If you disagree with what the preacher says, go home, prayerfully search the holy text, permit the Holy Spirit to guide you and then discuss it with the exhorter. Both of you will grow.

The people of Judah were carried away to Babylon, as were the treasures of the Temple.  God may be disobeyed, but He won’t be negated.  God’s promises will be kept because He loves us too much not to practice “tough love.”

Sermons most difficult to swallow could be the very thing to heal or enhance your relationship with God. Proverbs tell us, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”[3]  Mercy isn’t limited to being granted after a transgression.  Mercy also is shown through the prevention of those things which will fracture relationships with God and others.  We seldom recognize that, though.

Experiencing this mercy, however, comes as a result of receiving “every word” the Lord sends your way – however and from whomever that Word comes.

 

[1] Hebrews 13:17 (NLT) 

[2] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997

[3] Proverbs 16:6 (KJV)

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October 19, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding

-- Proverbs  9:10 (NLT)

Today's Text

They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!

 Jeremiah 32:35 (NLT)

Child Sacrifice by Other Names

By Don Meadows

Children are being sacrificed still, not in the genre of Molech but on the altars of less sophisticated gods.

Hardly a day goes by that we do not hear or read stomach-churning news about terrible things being done to children.  These range from babies being shaken to death to young boys and girls being murdered by their parents, family, friends and complete strangers.

Sociologists and psychiatrists may label perpetuators as mentally ill.  Of course, there are instances of people being neurologically damaged and incapable of knowing right from wrong.  As a theologian, however, argue that much of today’s violence upon children is a symptom of sin-sickness which infects our world.

History records that there were societies which sanctioned child sacrifices.  God saw it and condemned it. His own people sometimes were infected when they associated with the people whom they told by God to destroy as they took the promised land. “They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!”[1]  God complained to the prophet Jeremiah.

Actually, the practice was known long before the Jeremiah encounter.  God, you’ll recall, ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, but stopped him before he could carry out the act. [2]

Molech was the national deity of the Ammonites (Lev. 18:21; Jer. 32:35), whose worship was accompanied by the burning of children offered as a sacrifice by their own parents. The god Molech also appears in the Old Testament as Milcom (2 Kin. 23:13; Zeph. 1:5; Malcham, KJV) and in the New Testament as Moloch (Acts 7:43). [3]

The altars today aren’t structures of grandeur.  Instead, they’re the filthy back rooms of methamphetamine houses where cooking is done and poison snuffed and swallowed; they’re at coke parties and heroin shooting galleries.  They’re on the highways where boys and girls riding their bikes or walking are run over by drivers intoxicated by alcohol, pot and other narcotics.  They’re built in the bedrooms and back rooms where youngsters are victimized because someone wants to use their bodies in life-taking acts of lust and perversion.

Such horrible altars are fashioned by those who think only of their want of pleasure or escape.  They’re erected by those greedy for the money that addicts will pay for a fix.  They’re built by a society which tolerates obscenity and smiles at those things the Lord declares are abominations.  They’re fashioned by a government more concerned about political correctness or political popularity than they are concerned about Godly righteousness, fairness and justice.  They’re made by you and me when we keep quite because we’re afraid we’ll offend someone, maybe in our own families.

These places of worship are constructed with lackadaisical attitudes of moms and dads who weren’t beneficiaries of good upbringing or those who have turned their backs on such “raising.”  They wink at drinking, drugs and promiscuous sex.  I recently got into a verbal hassle on the Internet with a mom who boasted that she’d explained a dirty, sexual joke to her pre-teen daughter.  The mom angrily accused me of judging her and told me to mind my own business, that she’d raise her daughter as she saw fit.

Well, it is my business.  It’s your business.  It’s our responsibility to “sound off,” if you please, when children are abused verbally, physically hurt, sexually molested, emotionally assaulted or spiritually deprived.  God looked at what was being done and exclaimed, “What an incredible evil!”  How He must wept then; how He must cry today!

There are times, too, when God’s heart must leap with joy.  Just today (Oct. 18, 2011) a lady from my previous church, Maple Street UMC in Lancaster, OH, was on FaceBook promoting support for “adopting” a little girl who had started to come to the church as a result of their “Free Store.”  The little girl wants to join the Girl Scouts.  Was there support among the people to make it happen?

No committee was formed.  No Administrative Council was called.  No Children’s Coordinator was summoned.  Within minutes people on FaceBook wrote, “Count on me.  I’m in.”  That little girl will be a Girl Scout, if her mother approves, with the assurance of finances to make it happen.

Remember the incident in Matthew 19?  “13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”[4]

That group in Lancaster, as surely as there are similar groups throughout The Church, demonstrates there still is an altar of sacrifice where children are involved.  It’s not an altar which takes the life of a child, but an altar of selflessness which enhances a child’s life.  That little girl one day will remember that a church did something special for her; she’ll then think of God.

Ungodly ways of a sinful generation are recorded in Jeremiah 31 and 32, along with God’s reactions.  He says, in effect, “I have to punish you, so you will learn.”  Then, in the latter parts of Chapter 32, God promises restoration.  His punishment is never punitive; it’s redemptive.

America, I fear, is in for very difficult times. “We ain’t seen nothing yet!”  That’s all the more reason for The Church to witness, expose, interpret and guide our lost world to a rediscovery that God is real, alive, unhappy and wanting his children to turn back to Him.  We need a Church that’s in the world but not a part of the world. The only question that remains is how long and what will it take?


[1] Jeremiah 32:35 (NLT)

[2] Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12  (NLT)

    [1]Later on God tested Abraham's faith and obedience. "Abraham!" God called.

    "Yes," he replied. "Here I am."

    [2] "Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you."

    [9] When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar and placed the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar over the wood. [10] And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the Lord. [11] At that moment the angel of the Lord shouted to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

    "Yes," he answered. "I'm listening."  [12] "Lay down the knife," the angel said. "Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me."

[3] Ronald F. Youngblood, general editor; F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, consulting editors, Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations [computer file], electronic edition of the revised edition of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1995. 

[4]The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

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October 21 & 22, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better then a steak with someone you hate.

-- Proverbs 15:17 (NLT)

Suggested by Alexis Callison, Mocksville, NC

Today's Text

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

--1 Corinthians 9:24 (KJV)

Therefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

--Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)

 

Mary Ward (in blue) running in the recent Columbus Marathon; Below Mary stands with Gladys Jones following the race.  They are rightfully proud of the medals they were awarded.

Everyone can be A Winner!

By Don Meadows

Gladys Jones and Mary Ward are distance runners.  Gladys is the wife of a retired Ohio State Highway Patrolman, and Mary is the daughter of a Fairfield farm family and student at Ohio University in Athens.

Both ran in the recent Columbus Marathon.  Gladys ran the half-marathon and Mary the full 26-mile race.  I asked Mary who won the race, and she said she didn’t know.  I asked her where she placed, and she said she didn’t know.

She told me that Gladys set a personal best time, and she, Mary, was running her first marathon so her time was a personal best.  Then, Mary explained it to me like this:

Runners don’t worry about who wins or what place they finish.  “Basically, we’re running against ourselves.  We just keep trying to get better.”

I have been following their running careers because they are members of Maple Street United Methodist Church in Lancaster.  I was their pastor for nine years.  In fact, I confirmed Mary when she was 13 or 14 years old.

The Apostle Paul was a sports fan, I believe.  He told the church at Corinth that, when runners compete, only one can win the top prize.  “So run that you may obtain,” he said.  He wanted them to win, knowing that to run the Christian race and finish is to win the rewards Jesus has promised us in heaven.

The writer of Hebrews, whom some believe was Paul, talked about being prepared to run. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

This training advice is good for runners of marathons and we who run the race for eternal life.

Note first that we are to lay aside every weight.  Wow, that’s why I shy away from physical running. In a spiritual sense, however, he is saying get rid of that stuff which slows you down, which compromises your condition and relationship with the Lord.

It could be too little Bible study or, even, too much Bible study.  It could be too little attendance at church or, even, too much attendance.  When we dwell on one discipline of spiritual conditioning to the exclusion of others it can compromise what we need in other areas.  A runner will tell you they need a balance of hard training and rest.  They need a right balance of protein and carbohydrates; there is a time and place for a concentration of both.

Secondly you will note the Hebrews writer said lay aside the sin which besets us.  This means, I think, we are to do away with those things in our lives which compromise our relationship with God.  Don’t get sidetracked by those things which would lure you off the straight and narrow path.  So many folk start out their Christian life full of energy and commitment.  Down the road, however, there pops up lures which try to distract them and cause them to revert back to their past.  Athletes who become champions will tell you that “focus” is a key to winning.  That means refraining from alcohol, drugs and those things which would compromise their body’s health.  That means staying away from avoidable injury.

Finally the Hebrew writer says run with patience.  Mary told me that she started out too fast, and at about the 17-mile mark running became very difficult.  “Had I paced myself better at the beginning, I could have had a better time,” she said. 

Christian, don’t think you’re going to master all the spiritual disciplines the first week, month or year of your walk with Jesus.  You’ll only wear yourself out and want to quit.  I’ve see it happen many times -- a new convert starts like wildfire, attends church every time the door opens, takes part in every activity, never says "no" and soon withdraws.  Run patiently the race.  Don't try to make up for your past life.  That is trying to earn your salvation through works.  Live for Jesus for today and every tomorrow you are blessed to have.  Don't give up.

Mary didn’t quit.  She toughed it out and won!  Oh, she didn't place first, second or even third.  She won the race against herself.  She finished.  She learned.  She rejoiced!

That’s the Christian’s objective.  We should not try to outdo someone else or be a better disciple than another person.  We’re to be the very best we can be, as much like Jesus as possible, until the end.

Gladys and Mary were met at the finish line and grabbed by folks waiting for them, cheering them, loving them.  At the finish line of life, Christians will find One waiting for them, ready to grab them in His arms and say, “You did it, my good and faithful servant. Welcome Home!”

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October 25, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths

-- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Today's Text

Several selected passages

Science, History and Holy Text

By Don Meadows

For centuries many people have sought to discredit certain passages in the Bible.  They argue the texts don’t hold up to scientific or historic scrutiny and, therefore, must be abandoned as fiction.

Some scientists are blatant critics; many historians calculate events and time lines and declare it is impossible for something to have happened the way the Bible describes.  Many casual readers of the Bible focus on Genesis 4:16-19  to argue their point.

“And Cain (after killing his brother and banishment by the Lord) went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” (KJV)

If Adam and Eve were parents of all living humans, they ask, where did Cain and his children get their wives? 

A simple explanation is that scripture does not tell us at what age Cain killed Abel.  Life spans at the beginning were several hundreds of years, so, true to the text, Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters.  These, we presume, had sons and daughters, so Cain could have married a sister or niece.  Our purpose here is not a long discussion of this issue right now. If, however, you want a more in depth explanation read the footnote attached. [1]

All this was brought to mind yesterday when I was reading ST. PAUL THE TRAVELER AND THE ROMAN CITIZEN by W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D.  It is an account of Paul’s journeys and examines them from the perspectives of history, language and authorship.

In Chapter 14, Section 7, Dr. Ramsay notes that some critics argue that Acts 27:21-26 and 33-35 were added by a phantom writer to make the Apostle Paul into a kind of “superhuman.”  These are the verses where Paul tells those aboard the ship that they will survive, then proceeds to convince them to eat.  Removal of 21-26 and 33-35 does result in a logical flow of thought but would negate much of the spiritual meat.

Ramsay concludes: “It is quite a tenable position in the present stage of science and knowledge to maintain that every narrative which contains elements of the marvelous must be an unhistorical and untrustworthy narrative. But let us have the plain and honest reasons; those who defend that perfectly fair position should not try to throw in front of it as outworks flimsy and uncritical reasons, which cannot satisfy for a moment any one that has not his mind made up beforehand on that fundamental premise. But the superhuman element is inextricably involved in this book: you cannot cut it out by any critical process that will bear scrutiny. You must accept all or leave all.”

The preface to this work was dated September 1895.  Thus, you can see that the assaults on Holy Scripture are nothing new.

Today we face the same attacks.  There are those who argue the Bible is just like any other book, subject to errors and misinterpretations.  An argument is that it was intended for the generation in which it was written and doesn't apply to us today.  There are even those who declare it is not divinely inspired.

Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (1 Tim. 3:16-17)[2] 

The  word “inspired” literally means “God-breathed.”  As he breathed life into man, God has breathed life into his word.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word  of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” [3] Again, 1 Peter 1:22-23 declares, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.[4]

Enemies of the word of God try to make it say what they want said.  True Bible scholars follow one of two basic approaches to correct interpretation. 

First, is exegesis.  This means one reads a passage of scripture, researches it and determines how it was intended to relate to those to whom and about whom it was written.  Then that context is applied to the contemporary situation, thereby giving us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, guidance from God to us through His word.

Isogesis is coming to the Bible with your mind made up. One then searches for a text to prove his thesis of a passage. Context and original meaning often are left out.  The result, of course, is that it is easy to swallow the lie you want to believe.

Even a superficial look at today’s world shows plainly that we live in a isogetical society. We have a notion how we want things, so we mix and match words to “prove” our point.

In Romans 1:18ff, Paul exposes what can happen when this happens.  “22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man . . .”[5]  The chapter goes on to describe how confused and how utterly perverse people became and become as a result.

Stand firm on God’s word, my friends.  Be a student of the Bible.  Go where good biblical preaching is practiced and research and study everything which doesn’t seem right to you.  Ask for guidance of the Holy Spirit, and “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” from those who, through ignorance or rebellion, would compromise the eternal safety of your very souls.

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Footnotes

[1] Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

One of the most frequent questions asked by Christians and non-Christians alike is where did Cain’s wife come from. This question also involves a larger question: what population existed at the time Cain built his city, and what of incest?

 According to Genesis, Cain murdered his younger brother Abel (Genesis 4:8) at some point in his life. As punishment for this crime, God banished Cain from his home and the presence of the Lord.

 The Bible also records Cain’s fear that others might avenge Abel by killing him (Genesis 4:14), that Cain obtained a wife at some point (Genesis 4:17) and built a city (Genesis 4:17).

 One theory that has been put forth to explain the existence of sufficient numbers of people is directly contradictory to Scripture and posits a “pre-Adamic” race dwelling in the neighborhood of the Garden of Eden from which Cain could take a wife.

 This is not a tenable solution, however, for the Scriptures clearly teach that Adam was the first man (I Corinthians 15:45) and that his wife, Eve, was “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20, NASB).

 Genesis 5:4 tells us that Adam had sons and daughters. At first, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve had to marry each other to populate the earth. Cain probably married a sister or niece or grand niece.

 Assuming the accuracy of the Genesis account, and considering the length of lives recorded (around 900 years, on the average), a very sizeable population could have developed very rapidly. Using conservative guesses as to the size of families and average age, there easily could have been several million people living at the time of the death of Cain.

 Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere indicate at what points in the life of Cain he murdered his brother, married his wife, or built his city. Even a few hundred years might have passed before all of the events took place, allowing for a sizable population with which to build a city.

 All this raises the additional question of incest. If incest is scripturally forbidden, according to the Mosaic law, how do we explain all this marrying of siblings? Since Adam and Eve were created directly by God, and perfect, it can be presumed that their genes were perfect.

 When sin entered the world at the Fall, bringing with it death, disease, and destruction, the gene pool would gradually become corrupted. At first, no harm would result from marriage of brothers and sisters, and had sin not entered the world, presumably no harm would have ever entered.

 As the generations passed, however, disease, environment, and sin took their toll on the genetic pool, which resulted in mutant and defective genes. Incest was prohibited in Moses’ time, from a biological standpoint, because it now was dangerous and resulted in deformed, moronic, or otherwise defective offspring.

 Moreover, in addition to the biological problem which arises from incest, there is also an ethical one. God forbids incest on moral grounds, and this is more crucial than the biological aspect (Leviticus 20:11ff).

 Incest disrupts the family social and moral structure. The family is the only God-ordained institution in the world other than the church. At the initial formation of the family structure in Cain’s day, it is difficult to presume what happened with inter-marriage. Thus we cannot be sure to what extent incest occurred. One thing is certain: after God’s ordained family structure stabilized, incest was sin. -- Apologetics, Tough Questions in the Bible, Logos Library, Nelson Publishing (electronic edition)


[2]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

[3]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

[4]The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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October 28, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

Just as damaging as a mad man shooting a lethal weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, "I was only joking."

--Proverbs 26:18-19 (NLT)

Today's Text

“ . . . I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

-- Matthew 16:19a (Text in Context CLICK HERE)

An Old Key to New Lives

By Don Meadows

Every now and then I find an old bunch of keys and have no idea what they fit.  I’m afraid to throw them away because, surely as I do, I’ll discover a lock, try one of the keys and, presto, it works.  You never know when you’ll find the right key.

That thought started growing in my head as I was talking to Joyce Melick of Maple Street United Methodist Church in Lancaster yesterday.  She was missions’ chairperson when I was pastor there. Because of her hard work, an X-Ray machine owned by a retired doctor was taken to Haiti for Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince. 

A group from the church went to Haiti in cooperation with Child Care International to oversee its installation, and a relationship developed between the church and the people of that poor nation.  It was a catalyst for Maple Street’s mission-mindedness and mission involvement.  One of the participants, Larry Alspaugh, really got turned-on to the Haitian people.  His work with CCI, the Haitian people and the church soared to new discipleship highs, and it continues to this day.  (Link to Haiti)

Joyce and I were celebrating those past blessings received when I said:  “One never knows when you’ll find a key that unlocks a door to someone’s Christian witness.”

Later, I went to the post office and received a letter from Jolenna Dailey of Oakwood, Ohio.  She recently completed a week of mission work in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, with the Hernia Project through International Medical Assistance. She was another lock that was opened.

Jolenna was a member of Countryside Chapel, where I pastored in the 80s.  She was a relatively new Christian then, working in a bank in Convoy and married to Eric Dailey, a factory worker.  She had one child, they soon had another and then another.  I needed a younger couple to be youth leaders and asked Eric and Jolenna. They accepted.

I moved from Countryside shortly thereafter; one night I got a call from Eric.  He said the Lord had called him to ministry and he wanted to know how to go about it.  Eric  now has been in ordained ministry more than 20 years; Jolenna went back to school and became what I’ll call a surgical assistant.  She prepares and handles all the instruments used by doctors during surgery.

A portion of her letter reads:

“The week finished on Thursday afternoon with a total of 66 hernia operations performed.  Seventy-eight New Testaments were distributed to our patients and the gospel message was shared.  We welcomed thirty-eight new brothers and sisters into the family of Christ.”

Pastors, sometimes it seems like your efforts are producing little or no fruit.  Don’t give up.  You never know when you might find a key -- The Key -- that opens a heart and mind to new possibilities of serving Jesus.  It may happen where you serve now, after you have left a church, or, even, retired.  Your work, however, in concert with the efforts of other pastors and lay people, might just be the key that rediscovers The Key that opens a glimpse of heaven for others.

And, I haven’t told you about Tad Grover, an ex-bank president, now a United Methodist pastor; nor Perry Prosch, a former highway engineer with the Ohio Department of Transportation, now a United Methodist pastor; nor Joshua DeLong, a little boy with a speech impediment who worked hard and grew up and finished a four-year degree in thee years and is now in his second year of seminary at Duke University, now a youth pastor and one day, soon, an ordained United Methodist pastor.

Remember what Solomon told us: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” [1] 

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t claim credit for these people making life-changing decisions in their walk with Jesus. I was privileged, however, to be a part of their lives and perhaps, just perhaps, provide a little nudge.

Many people are involved in developing a pilgrim's progress, but most of the accolades go to the Holy Spirit, who has performed mighty works of grace in their lives and brought blessings to countless numbers of people because they responded.

So remember, when you see an old key laying around somewhere, a single key or a ring full, one of them just might fit a door through which someone can step and rediscover The Key to deeper discipleship and perhaps deeper service for God.

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 Text in Context

Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT) 

    [13] When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

    [14] "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."

    [15] Then he asked them, "Who do you say I am?"

    [16] Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

    [17] Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. [18] Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. [19] And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven." [20] Then he sternly warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah


[1] Ecclesiastes 11:1 (KJV)