Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Do You Feel Closest to God? by Frank Black


(F. Black – Nov. 2016)


            John Clayton has been with us and gives indisputable, specific, scientific evidence for a Creator God.  This information helps to absolutely confirm our faith and arms us to speak to others more authoritatively about the existence of our Almighty God. 

            But I want to ask you a personal question.  When do you feel closest to God?  - or feel His presence the most.  There is no ‘right’ answer here.  It’s personal with you.  Perhaps it’s seeing a child being born; during a worship service; witnessing something in Nature [God’s creation]; many other situations or events.  For me it’s seeing the magnificent Rocky Mountains.


            Romans 1:19-20 - “What may be known about God is plain to people, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

            Psalm 19:1-4  – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”


            I was 24 years old, having just finished my 3rd year in medical school.  My brother-in-law, Jim Brantly, was graduating from medical school.  Jim’s father and my father-in-law, Kermit Brantly, generously paid our families’ way on a trip West as a graduation present – to the Rocky mountains and Yellowstone National Park.  We were in two cars – yours truly with Lou Ann and 18 month old Melanie in our trusty Volkswagen. I witnessed the supreme grandeur of the majestic Rocky Mountains for the first time.  I was awestruck. [In later years Colorado would become our families’ ‘vacation state’ – skiing, camping, and backpacking].  


            [As an aside; recently I was talking to Jill Wells, who had just returned from seeing the Rocky Mountains for the very first time.  Her eyes and voice reflected the joy and the wonder of seeing them.  [“like a small child in a candy store”]


            To me Nature [God’s creation] is a ‘reflection of God’; or as one author put it, Nature is “God’s echo”.  So, as I’ve made obvious, I feel closer to God in the mountains – where the beauty, quiet, solitude, majesty, vastness, and peace are ever present.


[My “God Place”]

Vallecito Lake is a few miles outside Durango, Colorado, and the trailhead in the San Juan Mountains leading up to Columbine Pass.  Every inch is fantasically beautiful as we climb some 3,000 feet up winding switchbacks among the glorious pines and aspens.  The beauty easily overcomes tired feet and muscles.  [I see the scene and smell the aroma even as I write.].   It’s an arduous climb to Columbine Pass.  You have to pay the price to get the reward. Just before getting to the tree line above which trees don’t grow, we cross over a roaring stream and climb a small embankment which conceals the best campsite of all campsites.  It’s not visible from the trail, and we discovered it by serendipity.  It’s flat there, which nicely accommodates our tents, and is surrounded by large pine trees, whose needles make for a soft ground cover.  Another small stream can be heard nearby as it cascades down and before joining the larger stream we crossed.  This is the nirvana of all campsites.  I hope you can ‘see it’.  From the campsite, as you look further up the mountain, the tree line is barely a quarter mile away.  Beyond that the trail continuously winds its way to the Pass at about 13,000 feet.  The Pass is a ‘notch’ between two mountains.  After crossing the Pass, the trail then leads down to Chicago Basin. 

The campsite is a welcome respite but only a prelude to the ultimate ecstatic experience of reaching the top of Columbine Pass.  This is where I feel the closest to God.   This very spot!  The beauty of His creation here is indescribable.  You have to experience it.  “...Be still and know that I am God….”   Just take it in.  At the Pass you feel on top of the world and can see the panorama of God’s vast phenomenal creation all around you [360 degrees]. 

I draw on this experience [and others from Nature] frequently. Why?  To feel that special closeness to God again; when I’m feeling ‘down’; when I need a positive thought; when any doubts about God creep in.  I hope you have some events or experiences you also draw on.  Your “spot” – that special memory.  If not, capture some special times or places and cement those in your memory to be called on when needed.     


            “Oh Lord my God; how Great thou art”

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meditation in the Bible by Terry Gardner

Meditation in the Bible
by Terry Gardner
Meditation for a disciple of Jesus is to think deeply and carefully about the Word of God.  To meditate, according to dictionaries, is “to contemplate, think, consider, ponder, reflect, deliberate, ruminate, or to mull something over.” Thinking, to find understanding, to find meaning and value, defines us as people of God. We are called to “set your minds on things above, not on things on earth” (Col. 3:2).
Some things are necessary for meditation. We need quiet . . . and we may find real quiet more elusive in the twenty-first century than ever before. Quiet requires turning off all the background noise—the television, radio, “smart” phone, texting, computers, snap-chat, and our innumerable “devices.” When the patriarch Isaac wanted to meditate he went into the field in the evening (Gen. 25:63).  In the wisdom psalms, a great source for our understanding of meditation, we find the psalmists again and again walking out to look up and to look around them, considering the wonders of God’s creation, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars, the earth and everything in it, as in Psalm 8:3-8.
When I turn off all distractions there is soon nothing left except for me and God. Meditation forces me to deal with who I am and what I am. Sometimes we want the noise because we are hiding from God. Sometimes we want to shut off the noise of the world but find that we cannot. I am in many homes where television or radio constantly provide background noise that may crowd out our relationship with God. When we want to meditate we must find quiet.
We need to drink deeply of the Word of God.  In the wisdom psalms, one who is blessed finds “delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2).  Do we delight and discover joy in God’s Word?  Is thinking and reflecting on the way of the Lord what gives us happiness?  In Psalm 1:3 such a person will be “like a tree planted by rivers of water” that bears fruit and “in all that he does, he prospers.”  In Psalm 119, a praying meditation on the will of God, the psalmist exclaims, “Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). In the wisdom of Proverbs, a father instructs his son to “be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to the one who finds them, and healing to all his flesh” (Prov. 4:20-22).
Consider that our brother Paul tells Christians that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).  How may disciples of Jesus find that peace?  Paul knows that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, if anything is worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).  When we visited  with Ruth Sawyer before she died, she showed to Connie and me one hundred note cards of Scriptures that she was memorizing.  She was more than 80 years old at the time, but still learning and meditating on God’s Word.  Do we think about things true, honorable, right, pure and lovely?  Do we find times and places to focus on those things, to mull them over?  To ask how we can be better persons?  Better Christians?  Better friends?  Better neighbors?  Are we looking for the peace of God?  Let us spend time with our creator in meditation and in prayer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The OLYMPICS and GRACE by Frank Black


(F. Black)


          Those of you who know me well, know that I’m somewhat of a “sports trivia nut."  And I’m particularly an Olympics freak – I watched everything from badminton, to men’s and women’s wrestling and rugby, fencing, shooting, basketball, kayaking, gymnastics, track and field, and on and on – some 42 different sports and 306 events.  [Yes, I’m retired and can do this.  Even Lou Ann really “got into it.”]  I know some of you could care less, but bear with me and the analogy I’m presenting.


          First, if you don’t know, I’ll have to describe for you the ruling of “False Starts” in some Olympic events (sprinting events and swimming events particularly).  A ‘False Start’ is when a runner or swimmer in their events starts early or even flinches after the race starter says “SET” (remember: “ready, set, go”).  Anyone who starts early, flinches, or in any way distracts another racer after the starter says “set” is immediately disqualified!   That’s right. No second chance!  A world class athlete, after years of rigorous training, dieting, expenditure, and personal sacrifices, is OUT.  They’re finished for that event.  Can you even imagine the emotional agony, the anguish, the disappointment, the failure and loss for them?  Is it fair?  I personally don’t think so, but my opinion carries no weight with the Olympic Committee.


          So, where am I going with my analogy?  I’m making the case that “False Starts” in the Olympics are the exact opposite of God’s grace.   I think the “Why?” may be obvious:  In the Olympics you get one chance and one chance only.  With our Lord we get no end to the number of chances (of ‘false starting’, of fouling up, of sinning).  It’s called GRACE.  Our God is the God of second chances – and many, many more.  Isn’t this absolutely FANTASTIC for us!  Absolutely!  Our God is a God of infinite patience and forgiveness towards you and me.  God is NOT wanting us to fail or “false start," not wanting to condemn us.  No, he wants the opposite.  Because of His love for us, He forgives and forgives, waits and waits on us, and despite whatever the ‘dirtiness’ is in our lives, He’s there to say “WELCOME!"  This is called GRACE.


          For those who have thought or continue to think that God doesn’t want me or I’m not deserving of God because I’ve done such and so à  YOU HAVE IT BACKWARDS.  I can just assure you that, YES HE DOES WANT YOU!  [Remember, it’s the opposite of the “False Start” rule in the Olympics.]  No matter what your circumstance, no matter how long you’ve done or been whatever, no matter what others have told you, our God of love and forgiveness and infinite chances wants YOU.  He will accept you willingly and lovingly with all your ‘baggage.’ Don’t be stopped from prayerfully and lovingly approaching God by any of your life’s circumstances.  It’s never too late.  Isn’t God’s Grace beyond marvelous!! 


          Matthew 20:1-16  tells us this truth.  It’s Jesus telling the Parable of the workers.  The workers who came last and worked only one hour got the same pay [reward] as did those who had worked all day.  So it is with those of us who decide to follow our God and His Son at any time.  The timing has nothing to do with the ‘pay’ – the result – our reward.  It’s the same for all.  Again, it’s called GRACE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caring for our Children by Carolyn Jackson

August, 2016

Dear Church Family,

As parents, grandparents, and others that are caregivers, we have made it a priority to keep our children safe and healthy.  We make sure to teach them right from wrong and how to be alert in traffic.  Medical checkups and dentist appointments are at the top of our lists when caring for our children.  When it comes to our children’s eternal lives, are we as diligent with their care?

The remodeling of the Children’s Wing is almost at an end.  The Bible classrooms are in use as well as the Kid’s Praise Worship Center.  Our teachers are educated Christian servants with a passion for teaching God’s Word to this generation of children.  The teachers are using many different learning styles and activities to help teach the children of God’s love for His people.

We ask your help by bringing your family to Bible class and worship.  The Children’s Wing has Bible classes for ages 3 years through 5th grade.  The Kid’s Praise Worship Center is for ages 3 years through 3rd grade.  Bible classes begin at 9:30am and Kid’s Praise runs from 10:30am until approximately noon.

Kid’s Praise begins with songs of praise and thanksgiving.  The teaching staff is served communion, and the children are given the opportunity to give to the Lord’s Church.

Please join us in prayer for our families.

Carolyn Jackson

“Write these things for the future so that people who are not yet born will praise the Lord.”  Psalm 102:18

NOTE from the Elders:

The elders have asked Carolyn Jackson to serve as the interim lead for the Children’s Bible Class and Kid’s Praise programs until we find a permanent program director.  She has graciously agreed to shoulder the responsibility.  She has our full support and encouragement as she takes on this important task.  Please be supportive of her efforts.  We agree with her sentiments in the letter above.  There is no greater responsibility that we have as parents than the spiritual training of our children.  We urge you to take advantage of these programs.  Better yet, jump in and lend a hand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers by Greg York

The Kindness of Strangers          


…let us not grow weary in doing what is right,

for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

So then, whenever we have an opportunity,

let us work for the good of all,

and especially for those of the family of faith.

 Galatians 6.9-10


As I write this in the early morning hours of August 3, I am in my mother’s room in the Palliative Care wing of Baptist Hospital East in Louisville. If the phrase “palliative care” does not immediately register a connotation for you, here’s what that means: we have crossed the point where therapeutic measures will be taken. It is now about comfort. It means that, while we still do not know how long this leg of the journey is, at the end will not be a return to the status quo ante, at the end will not even be something that could be described as a partial recovery; at the end of this particular journey will be the end of my mother’s life this side of eternity.


As that reality has gained its current state of crystal clarity this week, it has become more and more apparent that what she is facing is not something for which a new med or a good night’s sleep is a solution. I think I had been suspicious (afraid?) of this outcome since she suffered a stroke on July 14. Her health had been in fairly sudden and rapid decline for about two months, but the stroke was the heaviest blow.


Since then, it’s been a journey of ups and downs, confusion and even some levity, and during much of that time my mother and all of us were (with apologies to Tennessee Williams) dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I’ve thought in these last couple of weeks and particularly these last couple of days of the many “strangers” (people previously unknown to us) who impacted this journey. Specifically, my mother has received (with very few exceptions) extraordinary nursing care. We have been blessed beyond measure to be in the care of nurses and nursing assistants who tended well to her physical and medical needs, but who did so with (is there any other word?) love. Even though we were not the “patient,” they also dealt with my father, my sister, and me with honesty and compassion and (yes, here’s that word again) love.


I know you don’t know any of them, but I want to list the names of these strangers who loved their way into our hearts as a way of honoring them: Kathy, Shellie, Kirstan, Rebecca, Marisa, Amie, Karla, Robyn, John, Ly (pronounced “lee”), and Torie (whose prayer over my mother and for my Dad as they were preparing to move to Palliative Care was one of those moments when the veil is torn back and heaven and earth are briefly, tantalizingly one). Cheri and Vicki and Katie in Palliative Care have already been amazing medically and emotionally. Dr. McCracken (who in my state of advanced years looks like he needs a note from his mommy to practice medicine) did an amazing job of walking my Dad through the medical realities as he made the decision about palliative care, a walk filled with compassion and honesty.


Sitting with my mother over many nights the last three weeks, I’ve had a chance to think about many things. As I considered the kindness she was receiving from so many “strangers,” and as I considered the influence of my mother on my life, my mind kept going back to one “stranger” whose kindness I remembered afresh and whose kindness I have been reminded anew to be grateful for. I wish my mother had been where we could have talked more about this, as I find my memory now not as clear on this as it should be. Anyway, the story as I remember it:


My mother did not have the greatest of childhoods. Her parents divorced in a time when there was more stigma attached to that for children than there is today. Responsibility for younger siblings thrust on my mother at an early age. She and various combinations of siblings were bounced around from relative to relative on both sides of the family at times. It was never a stable situation financially for her. That said, I don’t know that she would have described it as an unhappy childhood – you just don’t know better when you’re living in the midst.


By the time she entered junior high (as it was called back in those long ago days), seventh through ninth grades, though, she well knew she was not one of the blessed, one of the elite. One day in Home Ec class, someone of more social standing openly mocked my mother. (Yes, there were “mean girls” even in the late 1940s!) I’m sure that for a split second my mom’s self-esteem was exploding into a million pieces. But in that split second, the teacher intervened in a way that simultaneously affirmed my mother’s worth and sent the other girl sprawling down off of her high horse of false superiority.


But more, that teacher, Pearl Davis, became from that moment a mentor to my mother, taking her under her wing, encouraging her academically and socially through the rest of junior high and even on through high school. She saw potential in her and affirmed that on a consistent and ongoing basis.


I remember Pearl Davis as a much older woman because some times when we’d go to Lexington to see family when I was a child, there would also be a visit to Miss Davis for her and my mom to reconnect. My memories are of a distinguished but warm woman. I know also there were regular exchanges of cards and letters between her and my mother over the years. I want to say (I have vague memories of this…) that when I would accomplish something in the early years of my schooling, a congratulatory note from Miss Davis might soon arrive. I imagine the same was true for my sister.


I do not think I have thought of Pearl Davis for many years. The visits stopped probably when I was about junior high age. Maybe I just got to an age where I didn’t tag along anymore. Maybe Miss Davis had died. I just don’t remember. After Miss Davis and her influence on my mother returned to my mind these last couple of weeks, I’ve thought many times, as I said earlier, that I wish my mom were in a state that I could pull up some more details out of the well of memory.


It occurs to me that despite the fact that in many ways Pearl Davis is a stranger to me, she is a big part of why my mother is who she is, and thus is a big part of why I am who I am. I do not think it is overstating it to say that Pearl Davis made a difference for good in my mother’s life and that, in turn, made a difference for good in my life.


Who is your Pearl Davis? Be sure to tell them thank you.


To whom are you being Pearl Davis? You never know how far your influence might go. And that is particularly so when your influence on them is influenced by Jesus Christ’s influence on you.


We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord;

so then, whether we live or whether we die,

we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14.7-8

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is There an Energy Crisis in the Kingdom? by John Wright

Is There an Energy Crisis in the Kingdom?                                                     
John Wright   

The lifestyle we enjoy in this modern age has caused us to be very dependent on our access to affordable and abundant energy supplies.  We need power to run our cars, light our homes, and to keep us comfortable with instant heating and cooling.  Even our ability to work and do our jobs depends upon our connection to information and data that streams around the world.  It would seem that all of these advances would give us more time to work in God’s Kingdom, but the question is, “how is that working out?”  The answer for most of us, including myself, is not very well at all.

Today at work, we lost all our power.  For two hours, we had no lights, phones, internet, or working cash registers.  That was a big inconvenience, but we remained open and got every sale that there was to be had because we turned no one away, and we used the basic tools available to us in order to get the job done.  I was very happy when the power came on and it gave me a renewed appreciation of the modern tools and the power that makes our lives easier.  Now, this causes me to wonder.  Is it the modern age that has made us so busy that we have less time for God?  Or, could it be that we have taken our eyes off of God because the energy that powers our world is oil, electricity, and technology?  Church, the answer to our crisis is to plug back into God.

Jesus said in Mark 12:24 (NIV)—“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”

If we do not know the Bible, no matter how educated or tech savvy we are, we will never know where real and abundant power comes from.

Hosea 4:6 (NIV)—My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

Knowledge is very important, but it is not what we know, but “who.”

John 1 (NIV)—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  Later in the chapter, it says in verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The answer to that question of “who” is: We are to see God through the image of his Son, Jesus. 

Since we know these things, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of opportunities to know God.  Read your Bible, and attend one of the Bible classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.  I know we are all busy, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

To not plug into God’s power is just like letting our electricity be turned off.  His power is ready to be streamed; we only need to connect and it will work in any old jar of clay.

There does not need to be an energy crisis in this outpost of God’s Kingdom.  Just come and sit at the master’s feet.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)—“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  

My prayer is that more of God’s people will become actively involved in everything offered here at Southeastern.

Peace and love.

Thursday, July 14, 2016 Step Up by Steve Faidley

Called…to Step Up

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)


What do you believe?

Is Jesus Christ your tradition or is he your savior and the Son of God?

What do you believe you are called to be?

What did Christ ask of you?


How you are you answering these questions today…right now?


Why do we men so often feel it’s our paramount duty to have our job as #1 in our lives and our faith as an afterthought…if at all?  What holds us back from stepping up?  Is it machismo?  Is it pride?  Is all that church stuff is just for women?


Men and women are called to serve.  While there is much discussion about what women’s roles should be in our tradition, that is not my focus right now.  My focus is simply serving and looking to do the work that God has called you and me to do.  My focus right now is primarily on us men, but it applies to everyone – men and women; young AND old.


What will it take for you to engage? What will it take for you to get involved?  What will it take for you to serve the Kingdom of God better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today?


Don’t get me wrong.  I so appreciate the men that are serving.  I’m not going to list all the ways that some men do serve…I don’t want to elevate one means of serving over another.  But consider that we are called to grow, to mature, and to strive to be more and more like Jesus.  And that requires that we step up and don’t let fear of failure hold us back.


I Peter 4:10

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)


Step out.  Serve.  Stretch yourself.  Remember that Jesus didn’t call in a bunch of highly educated professionals to set up his kingdom on earth.  He was a carpenter.  Among those he called were fishermen, a tax collector, some political agitator brothers, and a tent-maker who was also a religious opponent.  They stepped up to a challenge that probably seemed pretty daunting.  At times they doubted their success and at times they flatly failed.  Think in terms of what you do for a living.  If you ever took on more responsibility at work, you stepped up!  If you ever learned a new skill and then applied it to your craft, you stepped up!  If you ever learned how to use a new piece of equipment and then used it, you stepped up!  If you ever earned a designation, certification or title, you stepped up! If you ever accepted that promotion to a new level of responsibility, you stepped up! Every time you ever stretched yourself to grow…a little or a lot… you stepped up and took a chance that you might fail.  I know there’s a chance our brothers and sisters might sometimes be a tough crowd, but more often than not, you’ll never have a more supportive and appreciative audience than your church family – thankful for your willingness to serve them, their families, their children, their community and the Lord.  ALL of us have the obligation to encourage and support everyone that steps up.  And I have to keep in mind myself that service cannot be allowed to replace spiritual growth and maturity.  The two should go hand-in-hand.  Perhaps one will help encourage the other, but both are necessary.

So, what’s your calling?  What can you do?  What are you willing to do? 


We need everyone in our congregation to look for ways to start or expand their service – men and women – but I’m primarily challenging the men right now.  We need more men to share their skills and their experience.   Will it take time from your week?  Yes.  Will it require some discipline?  Probably.  Will it be scary?  More than likely.  I still fight the butterflies EVERY time I get up in front of a group – congregation sized or class sized.  As for me, there are some things I CAN do that I don’t like to do – I need to work on that.  There are some things I do at which I need to get better – I need to grow.   No one ever said that improvement is easy.


So what are you waiting for?  Your invitation to serve and to grow was extended at the moment you accepted Christ.


To what service have you been called?  Now is the time to step up!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"My Kingdom Is Not of This World" by Terry Gardner

“My Kingdom Is Not of This World”
by Terry Gardner
In this season we are surrounded by the factions and frictions of the human political order.  Even among disciples of Jesus we find partisan political strife.  We do well, in such a time, to think carefully and prayerfully about what God teaches us concerning our relationship to human power.
A year or two ago, on a visit to Great Britain, I found great interest and bitter controversy about a referendum in Scotland deciding whether Scotland should declare independence and leave the United Kingdom, or remain in it.  While I was visiting, passions were enflamed; some thought such a move would be the greatest thing that ever happened and others thought it would be an absolute disaster.  Yet I had little interest in which way the vote went!  Why?  I was not a citizen of the UK or of Scotland; I could not vote; and I would soon be moving on, as my visit was only very brief.  “For our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul wrote, “from which also we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
As disciples of Jesus, we are to pass through this world of sin and sorrow, as our Lord did—teaching, preaching, and healing as we can (Matt 4:23). As we “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” all  that we need to do that work will be supplied (Matt 6:33).  We are not called to accumulate treasures on earth, “for where your treasure is,” Jesus says, “there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19, 21).  We have work to do on earth, seeking God’s kingdom—the rule of God—and sharing it as we can with all whom we meet. We have no call to promote any kingdom of the human order or any political faction of it.   Abraham “looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).  When we become obsessed with party politics, are we looking for the city of God or are we focused on a kingdom that is passing away?
Yet, someone may say, preacher X who has never written about politics has come out against candidate Y!  So we must oppose candidate Y!  If this be true then God’s Word will have something to say about it.  In the time of the emperor Nero (who murdered Christians), our brother Paul writes to disciples of Jesus in Rome to “pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13:7). In the first letter to Timothy, Timothy is encouraged to pray and give thanks “for kings and all in authority” (1 Tim 2:1-3).  Timothy is to pray for King Agrippa, for the Caesars (even the vicious Nero), for all rulers whether he likes them or not. So also we should pray for rulers the world over—whether they are democrats or republicans, indeed whether they are good or evil.  Let us pray that they do justice, that they love mercy, that they walk humbly (Micah 6:8), even that they speak the truth. It is not too much to ask! “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
“The president recently asked for prayer as he faces the complex and dangerous challenges of leading our country in such tumultuous times,” Franklin Graham wrote in 2014.  “His request was a pointed reminder to me that I should be praying for our president and our leaders every day—not to get something from them—but simply in obedience to the Scriptures.  I personally haven’t prayed the way I should, and I’m sure that’s the case for some of you as well.” We can join in that prayer. Let us seek first the kingdom of God that is eternal. The kingdoms of this world are passing away.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Can we truly love the person whose political defeat is our obsession? Can we pray for that person, before and after the election?  Whoever wins the election in November, God will still be in heaven—but will my heart, soul, and spirit still be focused on God?  It is good to be informed and to understand what is happening in the world, for we must live in the world as witnesses for Jesus. Yet we do well to turn away from the 24-hour resentment factory that television networks and radio talkers and internet “bloggers” provide. We do well to love all human beings and to focus on the law of the Lord, which is “perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7) and know that men and women of God “delight in the law of the LORD, and in his law” on which we may “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).  We do well to “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17-18).
 All the best,


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Faith Versus Doubt by Frank Black


[F. Black – June 2016]


            When I use the word “Faith”, what comes to your mind?  Probably your religious belief.  We’ll get to that, but you should realize that you have faith in many, many things that have nothing to do with religion.  You have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, that the lights will come on when you flip the switch, that your car will start, and so many other things.  Faith is the belief that something is true and will happen.

            I ride my bicycle for exercise. I think an example of absolute faith is my faith in drivers - that they will see me and steer away from me.  If the driver’s attention wavers, I would be at the mercy of their two ton vehicle.  When you drive, you have faith that others on the road will stay in their lanes, etc.  [Actually, I’m always amazed that there aren’t many more accidents].

            I’m just trying to get your thoughts on faith broadened a bit.  It’s true that everyone has faith in something outside themselves. Even atheists have a belief [a faith] in the fact that for them there is no overarching power [no God] in their world. 

            If you have belief [faith] in something, have you ever had events happen or something that caused you to begin to doubt that your belief was correct.  Of course you have.  Well, the same can be true for your religious belief.  Have you ever begun to have doubts about “the whole religious thing”?  Come on, now.  I have.  Have you wondered how all the events have happened on planet Earth and how a God could actually have created all this?  Again, I have.  The question then arises, “Is it wrong to doubt”?  No; a resounding NO!  So, what do you do when doubts arise?  I say ATTACK!  What do I mean by ‘attack’?: look to the real, historical Jesus who prayed earnestly to His Father God; talk to other strong Christians; read articles/books by people who have worked through doubts [John Clayton, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and others]; tell God of your doubts as you pray for what to do; and relax as some time passes.  Don’t worry; our God is greater than any challenge and understands your doubting. By working through your doubts I can guarantee that your faith will end up being stronger!  And by the way, doubts will keep arising over time.  They are not a “one and done” phenomenon.  Don’t be surprised, and be ready for them.  Remember; ATTACK !!


            I’m going to present some different definitions, thoughts, or stories about “Faith”:

·        Of course Hebrews 11 is the best known Biblical definition.  I like the way J.B. Phillips renders it in his version:  “Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for; it means being certain of things we cannot see.”

·        “Faith looks at God; unbelief looks at obstacles.”

·        “Faith is NOT having all the answers.”

·        “Faith is holding onto uncertainties with passionate conviction.” – Kierkegaard

·        “Faith is NOT the absence of doubts.”

·        “Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” – Yancey

·        Luke 17:5 – “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’.”  We should offer the same in prayer. 

·        “Faith is a ‘process word’; it should motivate us to action.” – York

·        Jesus blesses us in John 20:29:    “….blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet have believed.” [Jesus didn’t denounce Thomas for doubt]

·        A favorite story of mine:

      “Legend has it that a man was lost in the desert and dying for a drink of water.  He stumbled upon an old, deserted, ram shackled shack.  In it he found just a bit of shade from the desert sun.  As he looked around, he saw an old rusty, water pump.  He crawled over to it and began to pump up and down.  Nothing came out.

He struggled back to the shade.  Then he noticed an old jug off to the side.  He dusted it off and found an attached note that read, ‘You have to prime the pump with all the water in the jug my friend, and then you’ll get all you want. P.S.  Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.’ 

He popped the cork and sure enough there was water.  Suddenly he was faced with a decision. If he drank the water, he could live.  Ah, but if he poured the water in the old pump, maybe it would yield all the water he wanted.  What should he do?  Pour the water in the pump and take the chance of getting fresh water or drink the water in the jug and ignore the message?  

Reluctantly he poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump …. Squeak ……. Squeak ……Squeak  – Nothing came out.  Squeak ….. Squeak  -- a little water dribbled out, then a small stream, and finally it gushed!  He drank his fill of the cool, fresh, life-saving water. 

Then he filled the jug to the brim for the next traveler, put the cork on, and left a note:  ‘Believe me; it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back’.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Only Hope by Mike DeCamp

My Only Hope

Some items of background:  1)  I carry around an I-Phone.   2)  At home, I have a Mac computer.  3)  Apple automatically transferred the Mac I-tunes to my I-Phone—much of it having been my girls’ collection from their teen years, and often not my taste.  4)  I have Bluetooth in my car.  5) Recently, my I-Tunes started playing automatically when I start my car—a fact that I find rather frustrating.

Earlier this spring, I went through what my wife likes to call a “period of disenchantment.”  It wasn’t deep enough to be depression, but I was in a consistent state of being discouraged.  Many of you know that I have written a novel, and I had been looking for a literary agent for several months—I have a collection of rejection emails.  My job had been seeing some difficult issues.  The eldership had been frustrating in some ways, and I didn’t believe that I was doing a good job.  To top it all off, I was struggling with my own internal spiritual battles.  Doubts about myself.  Doubts about God.  Struggles with keeping my mind pure.  And, let’s be clear—if you are struggling with keeping your mind pure, that means that you are sometimes FAILING.  Think about this—impure thoughts often lead to bad decisions—‘nuff said.

All this leads up to Saturday morning, April 23rd.  I was driving to the North Central Church of Christ to attend ElderLink—and I just did NOT want to be there.  Oh, sure, this was a great event with great speakers.  Church leaders from across the Midwest were planning to be there.  It was a chance to meet new people and to learn new things.  Normally, I’d be all over it with excitement.  Not this day.  Nope.  I was deeply “disenchanted” instead.  Frankly, I had just exited one of those periods of struggle with my mind, and I was feeling quite guilty.  But, I was going.

All the way there, I was praying.  I was apologizing to God, and I was lamenting my struggles.  In essence, I was pouring out my soul.  I was hurting way down deep, inside.  As I turned into the driveway at North Central, I was telling God, “I don’t want to be here.  I’ll have to put on a face and act all happy, but you and I know that I’m a mess.” 

I sat in the parking lot for a while, continuing to pray and not feeling any better.  I watched as Randy Harris, Carson Reed, and Robert Oglesby drove up, got out, and walked in.  I was still struggling in prayer and not feeling one bit better.

The car was running.  I was praying, but drawing it to a close as I steeled myself to put on that happy façade.  Finally, I grabbed my I-Phone, and said one last thing:  “Help me, God.  Please help me.”  After that, I shut off the car and opened the door. 

Then, my phone did something it had never done before.  As I held it in my hand, it started singing to me.

“What in the world?” I said out loud.  However, instead of looking for the silence button, I decided that if it was going to randomly sing to me—well, maybe I better listen.

You guessed it.  It was singing a song that one of my girls had downloaded years before on the Mac.  As crazy as this may sound, I am so glad I listened.  The song that my phone began to randomly play was “Only Hope,” written by Switchfoot and performed by MandyMoore.  The lyrics are just what I needed—at just the right moment—right after I’d just asked God to help me.  Here are some of the lyrics:

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul

It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and

Over again

I’m awake in the infinite cold

But you sing to me over and over and over



So I lay my head back down

And I lift my hands

And pray to be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I know now you’re my only hope


Sing to me the song of the stars

Of your galaxy dancing and laughing

And laughing again

When it feels like my dreams are so far

Sing to me of the plans that you have for

Me over again


So I lay my head back down

And I lift my hands and pray

To be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I know now you’re my only hope


At that moment, my heart turned.  I was still hurting inside, but now I was ready to listen to God, and I was ready to go into the event, to see people, to listen to the messages.  I was ready to hope again.

You can write this off as a crazy coincidence, but it sure felt like God meant for me to hear that message at that exact moment.  That’s what I’m going with.  Oh, and by the way, I got my literary agent that very night.