Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Chain Reaction

Posted on: January 29th, 2023

In Acts 16:20 , Paul and Silas have just faced a crowd, that rose up against them and beat them, for proclaiming customs not like those of the their own. The chief magistrates then tore off their robes, only adding to the humiliation, and ordered the chief jailer to guard them securely.   He received this command and threw them into the inner prison, fastening their feet into stocks. Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Let us take a moment to pause there. Take a moment to think of our own lives.  Today we face our own onslaught of daily struggles and difficulties, but in all honesty, our modern day trials pale in comparison to the pain and anguish that Paul and Silas had to deal with.  These men not only kept the faith, but demonstrated it outwardly; praying and singing to God.  We will continue to examine the chain of events set off by their faith in verse 26 and following.
Suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!” And he called for the lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour in the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household (Acts 16: 26-33).
As written in verse 33, the jailer and ALL his household were baptized.  If only we could know how many souls were saved that night; all because Paul and Silas relied on their faith, and demonstrated joy and praise to God while in prison, under mental duress and physical suffering. 
Each day every single one of us wakes up with our own mountain to climb, whether it be a stressful job, financial strain, grief, illness, marital strife, challenges with trying to build a Christian home in a sinful world; the list goes on. Insert your problems here.  We must still walk in Faith. Faith that God is on his throne and will see us through the steepest summits and scariest descents.
God used Paul and Silas’ extreme adversity to help spread the Gospel.  The jailer went from contemplating taking his own life to trembling at their feet, asking what he must do to be saved, all because Paul and Silas chose to worship and praise God in ALL circumstances.  This brings to mind another verse written by Paul, Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”   We can use this scripture as motivation to find contentment in the daily grind of life.  Finding contentment in the mundane often leads your mind to think on things in a more spiritual manner, illuminating the blessings God has placed before you. Paul again extends his wisdom in Colossians 3 urging them to “keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
You never know when a seemingly ordinary interaction with someone may lead to a chain reaction of not only saving one soul, but perhaps a soul and their entire household.   Paul and Silas were not consumed with thought about their own well being; they submitted themselves to God, and praised his name. I can personally admit that I often ease into my day focused on my own challenges, my busy schedule, and my own family.  It takes a concerted effort to “take off” daily self- mindedness and see the needs of others and opportunities God is setting before us. 
Three Simple Ways We Can Demonstrate Our Faith Daily:
Put on the Word – Start off right by setting your mind right.
“Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things
that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).
Share the Word – Don’t be afraid to act on an opportunity to turn conversation to God.  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel” (Rom. 1:16).
Be the Word – Exemplify God in your daily actions. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27)
We must strive to demonstrate faith in all circumstances, and perhaps, we might just turn one everyday moment into a chain reaction of obedience and generations of souls saved.

The Chameleon Syndrome

Posted on: January 22nd, 2023

Chameleons are interesting little lizards.  We have them on our deck all the time.  They live in the plants.  When Norma waters, they dart in and out of the greenery as if they don’t want a drop to fall on them.  They’re hard to see because they are the same greenish color as the plants.  Sometimes you see them sunning on the deck.  When they do, they become, by some natural instinct, the same dingy brown color as the board on which they are reposed.  It’s an amazing ability.  Only those reptiles of the family of the chamaeleonidae can do it, I am told.

I have no inclination toward herpetology, but it seems to me that those who do so have made a mistake here.  There’s another animal which is disposed to change colors in accordance with its surroundings.  It’s man. 

Just like the chameleon, man has this ability to look just like what is round about him.  There is, in fact, a very strong pressure to conform.  Most of us struggle, trying to resist the temptation to look like the world, trying to maintain our true colors.  As Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” Especially when everything around you cries out for you to adapt.

There’s a bit of hypocrisy in calling yourself a Christian and complying with the world at the same time.  It’s hard to spot a Christian when he talks just like world.  It’s hard to know that a young lady is devoted to higher ideals when her dress is the same provocative attire as the rest of society.  And you just never would figure out that a fellow’s a Christian when he frequents the same haunts as those who profess no allegiance to Christ.  And that’s what hypocrisy is–play acting.  It’s pretending to be something you are not.  It’s putting on a different uniform, changing colors to fit the occasion.  James (4:4) refers to those who would practice such duplicity as “adulterers and adulteresses.” 

But there’s another side to this business of the chameleon syndrome it seems to me.  There are those among us who have the ability to change colors on Sundays–and maybe on Wednesday nights.  They look like us.  They use the same terminology, even have the same way of pronouncing things.  They seem to have the same convictions about the church and its work.  They know all the right names, can cite all the present issues, can even name some of the prominent preachers among their list of friends.  But deep down, they are not of us.  They just look like us.  Their color changes back on Monday.

God warned us that we should be careful to not let the world draw us away.  “And be not conformed to this world,” He says (Rom. 12:2), a sure indication that there is a magnetism about our environs.  In Colossians 3:1 we are told to “set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”  And in I Jno. 2:15, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”  The world wants us, that’s for sure.  God knew it would.  

It’s a difficult assignment, but we must show our true colors at all times (I Pet. 3:15).  We cannot serve God and mammon at once (Matt. 6:24).  The true Christian is the constant Christian, and his constancy is not determined by externalities, nor by circumstances, but by faith.  He reasons by that faith.  That faith is consistent and continual.  He will be who he is regardless of the situation.

The chameleon is fitted with this interesting ability to change colors in order to protect himself.  If we’re not careful, we’ll do the same thing:  in order to avoid the pressures of the world–to keep from being uncomfortable–we’ll adapt to our surroundings.

Good Works

Posted on: January 15th, 2023

“What’s the Least I Can Do?” (And Still Get to Heaven)

            Imagine a preacher and a congregation coming together to talk about working together and everything seems to be going great.  They agree doctrinally, they genuinely like one another as people, and they both have a similar zeal and vision for the future.  As everyone is getting ready to pack things up for the night and head home to a bright new future together the preacher says, “I have just one more question.  What’s the least amount of work I need to do here and still be supported?  What are we talking; one, two sermons a week, a Bible class, maybe a bulletin.  What’s the least I need to do for y’all to be happy with me?”  Immediately, I think we could see and agree that the problem is not so much the question as it is the attitude behind the question.
            It’s a preposterous question that we know no one would actually ever ask; right?  The very concept of someone wanting to do the “least amount of work possible” is oftentimes even shameful in our society.  And yet, while sometimes people may not ask the question out loud, we can observe them routinely asking the question through their behavior.  People who seem to constantly/continuously “do” the least possible.  The least they believe to be necessary.  Consider the concept in a few relationships.
            Work – The person who shows up late, complains about their job, wants to always go home early, and yet they know they need the job and they know they have to work to pay the bills, but they aren’t going to give their most.  They seem to always be straddling that fine line of doing the absolute least they can do and yet still be employed.
            Marriage – What about the spouse that, yes, they don’t drink, or curse, or do drugs, or are abusive, and don’t cheat – all of these things they realize could lead to the destruction of their marriage, but at the same time they do not love, listen, forgive, participate in the marriage the way they truly should?  They seem to always be seeking to give the least they can to the marriage but still remain married.
            Parents – What about parents who provide a home for their children but don’t engage their children spiritually? They pay for stuff and take their kids places but aren’t truly involved in “raising” (training) them?
            Children – What about children who make it their job to make their parents’ lives difficult? Children who only call on birthdays and holidays? Children who do the least amount of work they can possibly get away with and still be in good standing with their parents.
            Time and time again we observe people’s actions in these various relationships and identify people who through their actions are saying “What’s the least I can do in this relationship and still have it?” But now, what has God said about all of these?
            Children – “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well- pleasing in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)  When are children to honor and obey their parents? Always, and in all ways.  That’s what obedience is. (Jeremiah 35:10&18)
            Parents – “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
            Marriage – “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. “ (Ephesians 5:22)  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)
            Work – “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Colossians 3:23) (Of course, this assumes you would work hard for the Lord.)
            There is a common thread through each of these relationships and that is that the minimum effort/work God expects of us is our maximum.  It is no different when it comes to our relationship with Him.  “What’s the least I can do and still go to heaven?” There’s actually a verse that tells us that. “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH” (Mark 12:30).  God has given us His everything, and He expects everything from us as well.  Let’s work to love God and proclaim it through good and godly attitude and actions.
            “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)

David Osteen

Seasons of Life

Posted on: January 8th, 2023

Life cannot be defined. It is, and that’s all there is to it. Oh, I’m aware that the dictionary gives us a definition of life. But listen to it: “The interval of time between birth and death.” How vague.
Lots of people have said lots of things about life.  Shakespeare said of it, “The web of our life is a mangled yarn.” John Ruskin said, “There is no wealth but life.” And Henry Wadsworth Longfellow succinctly said: 

Lives of great men all remind us.
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us,  Footprints in the sand of time.

But none of these really tells us much about life. Probably the most incisive statement ever made about the origin of life is the one made by Moses in Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” After that, life is pretty much inexplicable.

Life has seasons. They’re nice. About the time one is finished, I am ready for the next. Spring is always welcomed after the long, hard winter. We look anxiously for Autumn following the hot Summer months. Winter has its adherents, too; so does Summer.  But the most popular time of the year, according to my own personal survey, is Autumn.

Something I’ve noticed, though, is that life has seasons. I’m not talking about the seasons of the year now, but the seasons of life. Most everybody has a Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, if he lives long enough.

Spring comes first. It has a lilt to it. It is blown with winds of youthful enthusiasm. It conjures up thoughts of things like emergence, adventure, and conquests. The traditional time for love’s beginnings, Spring is dominated by the sheer desire to burst forth from the cocoon and try the still damp wings, to soar the heights, to break forth from someone else’s dominance and fly alone. Youth and Spring, they soar together on gossamer wings.

Summer comes and there’s more of a feeling of belonging, a sense of having a place in life. It’s a time for work, hard work. A man is to earn his bread by the sweat of his face and that calls for Summer. Life has responsibility now, pressing down like the hot sun on a tar paper roof. It’s demanding, bringing out the determination in us, causing us to strain against the friction, calling on us to prove our maturity.

Autumn is the beautiful time of life. Having broken free, having flown alone, man has arrived by the time Autumn comes. But Autumn is, for some, life’s trouble time. It’s a time when doubts arise, when the colors of the trees and the bite in the wind portend the coming of Winter. To reassure themselves that they have not faded, some leave the security of love and home and make foolish grabs at youth again. They color their hair, robbing Fall of its rightful myriad of colors. Instead of settling in and being part of the view, they try to make themselves over again and in doing so succeed only in making fools of themselves. When they should be making preparations for Winter, they, like foolish grasshoppers, flitter away the days of Autumn in a stupid, ill-fated effort to retard the cold by returning to Spring. Autumn is beautiful, but ever so dangerous.

Winter may be the best time of all. Winter is hard, but it makes us want to go home. Home is Winter’s harbor. There’s warmth at home, a fireplace to light the face of your mate, gently smooth the wrinkles, give a warm tint to the graying hair. Yes, I know that Winter’s the time when the grim reaper comes more frequently, robbing us of our lives. But let him come. He falls into my hands when he does, for I am a Christian, and he becomes my means of transferal to that better place, my eternal home. Winter is for those who love home.

Enjoy every season, my friend; life is for living. But live for God. Make Him the heart of every season, and you’ll live a happy life. “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life. . . ”
(1 Tim. 6:12)
Dee Bowman

Make the Most of Every Opportunity

Posted on: January 1st, 2023

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:2-6).

The year was 1995 and the setting was 10th grade World History class. “Boring, boring, boring” was all I could think to myself. “I hope the new teacher will at least be easy.” With a first-rate attitude I took my seat on day one and was ready to survive. My outlook quickly improved as an attractive girl sat down in the seat to my right. I had met her in 7th grade but our paths never crossed and we hadn’t exchanged more than a few words. I soon found that her personality and intelligence were commensurate with her looks. A friendship was born.

One day we started a discussion on the subject of world religions which sparked a debate between us. I told her about the Bible and what I believed and where I went to church. We continued the discussion and debated long after the subject ended in the class. My tact was terrible, but I was knowledgeable and convicted in what the Bible said. I must have done something right because a couple months later she asked to join me for worship services. “I’m going to convert and marry this girl;” life could not have been better. One thing led to the next and my Dad baptized her about a year later.

The spread of the gospel was not over at this point because her Mom and Dad and two sisters needed the truth as well. It didn’t start well after they learned of her baptism. They thought we were pulling the family apart. Over the next few years we let our light shine and helped put a hurting family back together. Her younger Sister was the first to show interest, followed by her Mom and older Sister, and lastly her Dad. They were all baptized five years later. Today (17 years later) her Dad is a deacon in the Church alongside her Mom who is the quintessential servant of Christ. Paul said “make the most of every opportunity.” You never know how God can turn a World History class into an opportunity to lead someone to Christ.

Evangelism does not always turn out like this. In fact it usually does not. It is complicated, arduous, and frustrating. We are competing against thousands of religions, Bible interpretations to match any idea or belief, various personalities, human resource rules to keep you quiet at work, and the devil working against you each step of the way (I Pet 5:8). However, through all of these impediments, don’t give up. Proclaim the gospel as much as possible because the person truly looking will jump on those words and it may lead to their salvation (Acts 4:19-20). Find creative ways to turn any discussion towards the Bible. Compliment your proclamation of Jesus with a life governed by his word (Ezra 7:10). This will authenticate the message and passion in which you portray it. Be a steady example of godly living and discipline and pray that God will soften the hearts of the lost (I Cor 9:24-27). One day they might get tired of doing things their way and realize the answer is Jesus.

Make the most of every opportunity and may it never be said of us “you never mentioned him to me.”

Two Words That Transform

Posted on: December 25th, 2022

Two powerful words: “Thank You!” Those two words have the power to transform.  Paul would repeatedly write in his letters how thankful he was for the people to whom he was writing. He would say, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you.” (Phil. 1:3, NJKV)

Research shows that thankful people are happier and experience better health. “Thank you” is also a good stress reducer. It is hard to have high blood pressure and be thankful. Thankfulness quiets the troubled spirit. It is also hard to be thankful and stressed at the same time. Thankfulness and appreciation are good for us personally, and for those with whom we interact. Thankfulness is like a muscle. The more often we do it, the more thankful we are.

Look again at what Paul will say, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Remembering someone and something they did produced a heart of thankfulness in Paul. When we reflect on something good someone has done for us, we should be thankful. When we remember an experience, we are brought to thankfulness. When we remember that person who lifted us out of darkness, we are moved to be thankful. 

A few years ago, when I was in a stupor, I called a close advisor to share my woes. He told me to find ten people who had done something for me and go and tell them, “Thank you.” I did, and then I realized why he told me to do that. By remembering what the people had done for me, it changed my focus. I began to focus on all the things for which I was thankful rather than the thing that was affecting me and producing the dark stupor. It changed my mind. It was transforming.

Zig Ziglar had a gratitude wall. I saw it. He would say, “I am thankful for everyone on that wall. Some of them for the good they did for me and some for other reasons. But I am still thankful.” 

Maybe this is not you, but don’t we tend to focus just on the moment right before our nose, rather than the overall picture? If someone hurts me, it is that moment that gets my attention. But what if, before I became too rash, I remembered all the good they had done for me. Wouldn’t my remembering produce thankfulness which would also quiet the issues I had with them? Too often, we tend to focus on what is right before our nose rather than the overall picture.

Mealtimes are not the only times to say, “Thank you!”  What if we began our day thanking God because we remember how He cared for us through the night? What if in the morning we thanked God because we remembered the good from the previous day by other people? What if we were thankful at night before we closed our eyes to sleep, as we lay our heads on our pillows remembering all the good that has happened that day? All the wonderful people we encountered, and even the few rascals. But we remember them all and are thankful for everyone.

When we remember we have more to be thankful for, thankfulness and resentment cannot reside in the same heart.

Reflections of the Psalms

Posted on: December 11th, 2022

Psalm 86

The inscription below the title identifies Psalm 86 as being written by David. The events behind the writing of the psalm are not known today, but any Christian can identify the words of a man who is truly trying to put into words his love, trust, gratitude and dependence in the Living God.

God wants each of His children to be completely dependent upon Him. To arrive at that state, the Lord will often allow a person to get in such a desperate state that the only alternative is to trust in the Lord. David had always loved and trusted the Lord. Yes, he made very serious mistakes in his life, but he never hesitated to repent when faced with his sin, and accepted the consequences for his actions.

In verse 1, David wrote, “Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy.” One man wrote that these words picture a small child who runs to his father for comfort and protection. It is sad that too many Christians do not take advan­tage of the comfort and protection that the Lord can give. Often, it takes some crisis or catastrophe to make a person realize that the only answer is trust in the Lord. Society trains people to be self-sufficient. “He is a self-made man!” But God wants each person to place his, or her, life in His hands.

When a person tries to deal with the unbearable, the result is a feeling of being adrift. Usually, a person is too burdened to enjoy the pleasures of life. There is no time to “stop and smell the roses”. David faced heavy trials before and after he became king, but he still knew the source of his strength. Verses 2-5 describe a person who is God-centered. Today we would such a person is Christ-centered. David writes, “Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man; O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to You I cry all day long. Make glad the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You.”

How many Christians, when they prayer to the Father, reflect the love and trust in David’s prayer? How many allow the words and direction of God to actually guide their lives? Christians are not exempt from depression and troubles, but IF a person will hold fast to their faith in the Lord, He WILL come through. Only God can bring real joy and peace.

Verse 11 is an important verse for any sincere person who is searching for the truth. “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” Many people are searching for…something. However, they really don’t know what they are searching for. Again, the answer lies with the Lord. To contemplate the real fact that any person, who is joined to God through Jesus Christ, can approach the Supreme Creator of the Universe as “Father” will inspire awe and deep reverence.

The psalmist prayed for God to teach him His way. Today, Christians know the way, the truth, and the life through Jesus Christ. The New Testament scriptures reveal God’s Plan and hope. However, the words and power of the Gospel cannot work if a person does not make them part of his, or her, life. In addition, a person can read about Jesus Christ and never come to know Him on a personal level. To know God, to know His will and way, requires prayer, obedience, commitment, and active faith in the principles laid out in the scriptures. David knew that, but he did not have what every Christian has available today. How much more should a Christian show in terms of spiritual trust and strength!

David also asked for an undivided heart. Too many people have divided loyalties. James wrote that a double minded man will fail. Christians are constantly being pulled one way and then another. Knowing “The Way” will help a Christian to cast off all the things that try to pull him away from the path of salvation. A Christian’s mind must be centered upon the Lord FIRST, and then everything else will fall into place.

Every Christian has come to the place that David did when he wrote Psalm 86. Every Christian has stood before God stripped of all self-sufficiency and pride. When such times occur, remember Psalm 86 and the final words when David wrote, “because You, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.” God is waiting to do just that with each of His children. Won’t you let Him help you?

James Shelburn

Their Bliss Will Go Amiss

Posted on: December 4th, 2022

The newspaper headline for the article simply read “More Than Half Will Wish They’d Said ‘I Don’t.'” It was referring to those who had said, “I do” in marriage. Most of the article was devoted to the findings of Ray E. Short, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville sociology professor. He said, “Research shows that half of all first marriages today will end in divorce, separation or unhappiness tomorrow. Their bliss will go amiss.”

It is sad to think that the failure rate for marriage is so high in our society. While marriages fail for many reasons, underlying most failures are common causes—a lack of understanding of the marriage relationship, the failure to choose a proper mate in a calm, rational way, and a disrespect for God’s law concerning marriage.

Before marriage is ever contemplated, one should seek to understand the husband-wife relationship and what is involved in it. First of all, one should realize that they are making a lifelong commitment. Long after the honeymoon is over, the marriage is to endure. In instituting His law which was to govern the marriage relationship, God, in the beginning, said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

God intends for a man and woman to become one in marriage and for that union to endure until death severs the bond (Rom. 7:1-3). Our Lord, in Matthew 19:6, emphasizes the permanent nature of the relationship when He says, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The dissolution of a marriage is a serious matter with God. Matthew 5:32 states, “…whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” In the eyes of God, marriage is a lifelong commitment and it should be entered into with that in mind. Every effort must be made to make the union endure the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, and all other things that happen for better or worse.

As to selecting a proper mate, the professor offered three suggestions:

First, take plenty of time in your courtship and engagement—the longer the better.

Second, get good, science-tested preparation from textbooks (the Bible is the best book you could use—gt), marriage and family courses or qualified counselors.

Third, be sure that what you have is real love that can support a long and happy relationship.

He even offered some clues, each in the form of a question, so that a person can sort out a real love from just an infatuation:

How many things about the person attract you?
How consistent is your level of interest in each other?
How does the romance affect your personality?
How do you see each other?
How do parents and friends view you two?
What about jealousy?
How do you feel about and refer to your relationship?
What is your overall attitude?
To the professor’s three suggestions for mate selection, I would add a fourth—make sure your prospective mate has the same love for the Lord and things spiritual that you have. So many people have either abandoned the faith or had to experience almost insurmountable difficulties in an effort to keep their marriage intact because of their mate’s lack of appreciation for or outright hostility of God and the religion of Christ.

Much happiness and fulfillment is possible in marriage if you keep these things in mind. If all husbands and wives would follow the will of God and use His word as their guide in all they do, their “bliss would not go amiss,” rather, they would have much satisfaction on this earth and eternal joy in the world to come. Let no one enter into marriage without knowledge of God’s arrangement.

Gene Taylor

Enjoy The Experience

Posted on: November 27th, 2022

Prior to taking a trip, my wife will often ask the rest of the family, “what are you looking forward to most about the trip?”   Responses have varied, depending on the ages of the kids at the time (seeing Mickey, riding this ride, seeing this place, eating this food, etc…), but a recent response made me stop and think.  “I’m just looking forward to the experiences” was the response my son gave.  Wow, what a great answer!  It made me think to myself, “Do I sometimes focus so much on getting to a certain place, that I’m missing out on some great experiences along the way?”  I think we all must admit, that there have been times we have missed out on some great things, because we were so focused on getting somewhere else at that moment.

The beginning of the new year can be a good time to reflect and also make plans to move forward.  While this is a good thing to do and good time to do it, we must be careful about the manner in which we try to accomplish these things.  Making plans and setting goals are good things if we don’t lose track of where we’re at the moment.  There have been times in my life where I have been so focused on accomplishing a goal, that I paid no attention to what was going on around me.  The end result of this was often my own detriment or even negatively impacting others, while wasting the time I’ve been blessed with.

Use Each Moment You Have

Focusing only on some point in the future can cause us to miss out on the important time of the present.  I read a quote once that said, “If people threw away their money as thoughtlessly as they throw away their time, we would think them insane. Yet time is infinitely more precious than money because money can’t buy time.”  We all understand that once time is past, you can never get it back.  That makes our time more valuable that any worldly possession.  This demands that we understand the value of each individual moment we have in this world.  The apostle Paul said,

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”  Eph. 5:15-16

He joins the idea of walking circumspectly with making the most of your time.  If we do not pay attention to each moment, we are not using the time we have properly.  He then goes on in verse 17 to write about not being foolish, but understanding God’s will.  If you don’t understand what God’s will is, you are unwise, not careful and do not make the most of your time.  The idea of making the most of your time (redeeming the time) is to rescue it from loss.  Don’t miss out on the moments you have, but use them (each and every one of them) properly.  We can’t do this, if we don’t know God’s will.

Take In Each Moment

Experiences point us to God.  They are given to show us God. We know something of the sweetness of His friendship and blessings, because we have tasted His gifts. We know something of the refreshment of a relationship with Him, because we have experienced this with other people.  We know something of the warmth of His affection, because we remember the warmth of our friends and family.

Whatever action is good in this life, whatever idea is good and true, whatever thing we see, hear, smell, taste or touch of all God’s creation — all of it is designed by God as a sign and taste of what it is like to enjoy God himself.  However, the creation and all that is in this physical world is not God. These are His good gifts, and if our enjoyment terminates on them, we are not worshipers but idolaters, no matter how much we thank God for them. Thanking God for something you love more than God doesn’t make you a worshiper. We are created to know and enjoy God, not just His gifts.  Appreciate the things in this world, but understand their purpose is to point us to God.
Paul put it this way:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Philippians 4:8

“Taking in each moment we have” or “enjoying the experience” is a great way to appreciate the limited time we have in this life, but an even better way to appreciate the God we serve.  Is your service to God more about the gifts or the giver? 

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive may fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”    Habakkuk 3:17–18

Appreciate all God has given you, no matter how much, how little or how that compares to others.  But more importantly, appreciate who God Is.  Appreciate what God has done.  Appreciate what God is doing.  Appreciate what God will do for you.  Enjoy the experience of serving a wonderful and loving God.
Travis Everett
Cedar Park Church of Christ

I’ll Flay Away

Posted on: November 20th, 2022

Some glad morning when this life is o’re, I’ll fly away.  To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away. 

My grandparents on my father’s side and I were very close while I was growing up.  My grandfather preached in Victoria, Texas, which is only 30 minutes away from where I grew up, and after my grandfather retired, they started to worship with my family in Yoakum.  On Sundays they would come over for morning services and then stay the afternoon with us until the evening service, which led to countless lunches filled with laughter, good conversation, Memaw’s rolls, and occasionally, singing hymns.  Sadly, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer when I was a teenager and would go on to endure several years of battling the illness until she finally was put on hospice.  One afternoon, close to her final days, my family and I went to visit my grandmother to surround her on her deathbed and sing songs of encouragement to hopefully lift her spirits.  I can remember singing “This World is not my Home”, “Unclouded Day”, “When we all get to Heaven”, and others.  I’ll never forget two specific things about that day.  First, my grandfather wasn’t in the room as we sang because it was too difficult to bear, and my grandmother said, “where’s my friend?” asking for my grandfather.  It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.  They were married 67 years.  Secondly, though my grandmother was in pain, and knew her days were short on this earth, she sang along with us as much as she could.  I remember watching her while we sang one song; she was singing and smiling.  It was “I’ll Fly Away”.

When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll fly away.  Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away.

Albert Brumley was born in Oklahoma in October of 1905 into a family of sharecroppers, and so, he spent much of his early life chopping and picking cotton on a farm.  Sharecroppers were at the mercy of the landowners in many ways, which led to suboptimal conditions.  In 1931 sharecroppers began to form unions protesting poor treatment by landowners, which helps to paint the picture of the environment Albert lived in.  In 1926 Albert enrolled in the Hartford Musical Institute and studied there until 1931.  The institute was led by Eugen Monroe Bartlett, the owner of the Hartford Music Company and composer of a song we often sing… “Victory in Jesus”.  Though Albert was doing well in school, evidenced by his eventual writing of songs such as “Jesus, Hold my Hand”, “This World is not my Home”, and “If we Never Meet Again (This Side of Heaven)”, he couldn’t escape from having to return home some summers to help on the farm.  I can imagine a young Albert longing to escape the hot, monotonous, and pain staking work of picking cotton on someone else’s land to a place where lyrics and music paved the way to sustenance and sustainability.  It was while working on the farm feeling this frustration and desire to flee the entrapment of painful, laborious work, that Albert started to write the famous hymn “I’ll Fly Away”.

Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away.  To a land where joys shall never end, I’ll fly away.

Albert would go on to purchase the Harford Music Company in 1948, fully detaching himself from the life of a sharecropper.  The trapped youth found a “land where joys shall never end”, but we know, since his life was not over on this earth, that he was not truly in the land of joy and peace.  Not even close.  My grandmother had known true pain, true heartache, for much of her life.  My father was one of three boys given to my grandparents by God to be stewards of.  Brad, the oldest, I never met.  He was killed in a motorcycle accident as a young teenager.  Though my grandmother almost always wore a contagious smile, at times one could tell she was thinking about her boy.  Sadly, I remember a Sunday morning when I unknowingly led Brad’s favorite hymn.  After the song, I took my usual spot next to my grandparents, and I saw my grandmother sobbing.  She still missed Brad deeply some 45 years after the accident.  Fast forward to the day we all gathered around her to sing songs such as “I’ll Fly Away”.  She was ready to go home.  To truly go home.  To fly away to a land where joys shall never end.  To a land where there is no night and where she can hold her son’s hand once again.  Won’t it be wonderful there!

Psalm 55:6 “And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.’”

Travis Starling