Are We Useless

We just celebrated 120 years of ministry as an organized body of Christians. What a wonderful accomplishment. I want us to think back for a moment and ask ourselves this question: Why did they organize?  The year was 1898.  William McKinley was president and the Spanish-American War was going on. Trains were the main source of mass transportation and “horseless carriage” were just rare and for the wealthy; most people having never seen nor heard of them.  The overwhelming majority of people had no telephone or other communication device. So what motivated the people in a small community to organize a church?  First let’s look  at the social aspects of the local church “back then”.   The church was usually also the local school and was fundamental in teaching the three R’s: “Readin’, Ritin’, and Rythmatic”.  Along with the occasional barn dance, church socials and picnics were where families got together.  I suspect that is where many young folks met their eventual spouse. Of course churches were necessary for weddings and funerals, too. The church impacted the community in so many ways. Some of those things have changed, however.  The local church is no longer needed for school.  The social aspect has certainly diminished as people gather most often for entertainment, dining out, and sporting events. Many weddings are celebrated at wedding “venues” and funeral homes conduct many funeral services. Are we useless, then? Heavens no!  The sweetest social interaction is still as the body gathers together, whether it be for services or fellowship.  I may be an old fuddy duddy but being with my fellow believers is still my favorite part of social life. We must remember, though, that the most important aspect has to do with the Gospel.  We know, of course, that churches existed for the proclamation of the Gospel.  How can people hear if no one preaches to them? (Romans 10:14). But it was also for the preservation of the Gospel. The purity of Christian teachings needed to be upheld. Sound doctrine is of utmost importance. Those two things are still the bedrock foundation of our purpose as a church.  And what we preach and what we teach are still the most important things we do:  They determine our eternal destination and our quality of life, both personally and in the structure of our society.  I’d say we still have an important role, wouldn’t you?   Say good things about you church and about your Savior.   Bro. Tony


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Turn it over

                It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks with all the political nonsense going on and then the indoor monsoon in the nursery area.  It seems like there is bad news on top of bad news. But it is in these times that we have to take one of the strongest steps of faith and do the one thing that brings us peace and comfort: we have to “turn it over to God”.  And, honestly, that’s not easy, is it?
Yet, God tells us that we can do that, even in the worst of times.  Remember the verses in 1 Peter 5 where Satan is described as a roaring lion looking to devour us? Here is the verse immediately preceding that warning: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Can we truly turn it over to God? Absolutely! But there are a few steps were have to take.

First we have to truly do our best. Peter said that we have a role when he tells us to be alert and have our mind under control.  That means calm down and do the right thing according to God’s direction. That leads us to the second thing. We have to be students of God’s Word.  There are some many promises in there that can and will bring comfort. Claim those promises by believing that God keeps His promises. Next we have to realize that at a certain point we have done all we can do. We are limited in many ways, and controlling people’s thoughts and actions is certainly one of those ways. Only when we recognize that can we begin to rely on God. Please understand, realizing that we can do nothing else isn’t giving up; quite the opposite.  It  is the necessary part of finally being able to turn it over to God. And we can do that when we take to heart one more promise: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Go ahead.  Turn it over to God. Experience some of that peace that Jesus gives.   Bro. Tony


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Jesus is the Main Thing

I’m 66 (and ¾) years old. I do not recall the nation being in this much turmoil, even during the race riots of the 60’s and the Vietnam War/hippie era. Those times were defining moments in the shape of our nation. The racial unrest rightfully turned our country down the path of equality. The free-love, down with the man, anything goes movement, not so much (I know there are those who will disagree with that). Where will this cultural unrest take us? The answer to that can be either very frightening or a source of comfort. I believe the church will determine the answer to that. Many churches failed miserably during the civil rights battle and many were not successful in ministering during the flower child era. Why? In both cases I believe that we let our anger supplant our concern for souls. That is, we judged people and found them unworthy of our love and evangelistic efforts. We stopped and circled the wagons instead of continuing the journey of ministry. Am I suggesting that we not be involved in politics? Of course we should be involved. What a wonderful privilege we Christians have to be a voice in how our nation functions. And I believe every Christian should vote and vote according to Biblical principles. Quite frankly I’m appalled at politicians on both sides of the isle but I will continue to reach out to all because the only way to change our culture is to change the people in our culture. That is our first priority. Do I have the right to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat or a “Trump is not my president” T-shirt? Of course I have that right. But how successful do you think I would be sharing the gospel with someone of the opposite political leaning while wearing either? Like I heard someone say: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Jesus is the main thing.
Bro. Tony

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Your Past

I want to talk about the past.  A Supreme Court nominee has his character and credibility attacked because of something he may or may not have done 30 years ago as a teenager.  Whether or not he did what he is accused of, the situation brings up some interesting questions:  Does our past define us? Can a person change? How long must we bear the burden of bad decisions and impetuous actions?
Several years ago I served a church in a small town where I had previously attended high school. During that time of school I was in a severe state of rebellion against just about everything, having been forced to change schools for my senior year. I behaved badly. As I was talking to a church member, attempting to encourage him to return to church after some time away, he brought up something that I have done while in high school and made this statement: “I didn’t think preachers did stuff like that.” I was a lot of things when I was 18.  I was a human being, I was (and still am) a sinner.  I was immature and on occasion stupid. I was angry and hurt.  But I wasn’t a preacher. Yet this man wanted to define me at 33 by what I had done at 18. He did eventually come back to church and we were friends, but I was shocked by his response that day.
God had not only forgiven me for all this I had done and, most amazingly, had even forgotten what I had done (Isaiah 43:25).  In that same chapter He tells us not to dwell on the past. We are to deal with that aspect in two ways:  First, not dwell on our past so that it drags us down.  Second, not to dwell on someone else’s past, either. Perhaps there is something in your past that troubles you and makes you feel like you are a bad person or unworthy.
God’s promise to you is that if you repent and confess sin, you are forgiven.  It’s over and done with. Satan will try to accuse you about it and, honestly, people may not put it entirely out of their minds, but in the eyes of God you are white as snow. Praise God for forgiveness and second chances!
Bro. Tony

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The Devil is a Liar

I heard an evangelist say of Christians: “We preach a dynamite gospel and live firecracker lives”. Unfortunately, if we honestly assess our lives we would probably come to the same conclusion.  We read in the Bible where God worked His will regardless of the weakness of human spirit, the objections of heathen government, or the power of His adversary, the devil. Do we not think He can do the same today? Of course He can.  Then why haven’t we accomplished great things in our church and in our own personal lives?  I believe it is because we actually believe the devil more than we believe the Lord. One of the most effective tools of the devil is his lies. Listen to how John described Satan in John 8:44 “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  Satan lies to you constantly and you don’t realize that it is he.  He lies to you about the past and tells you that it defines you. He lies to you about the present, telling you that you are worthless and cannot succeed.  He lies to you about the future as he tells you nothing will change; there is no hope. All lies. Jesus tells you the truth because He is the truth.  When Jesus tell you “with God all things are possible”, believe that. It is the truth.  When God says that you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”, believe that.  It is the truth. The Word of God tells us again and again that we are to live a life victorious because it is God who is in control. It basically comes down to this when it comes to a powerful, victorious, fruitful life:  Will you believe the devil or will you believe God?   Bro. Tony


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Take a Breath

I’ve had difficulty writing my column this week.  In fact, I’m currently writing my third draft.  There is so much going on in our nation politically that will affect the world my grandchildren will inherit.  There are stories in the news of riots, protests, and un-civil behavior.  Families are being separated at the border, transsexuals are being invited to read to our children at public libraries, schools seem more interested in changing ideology than in teaching children to read and write.  I could go on and on.  As we are apt to say in the south, It’s a mess ain’t it? Here’s what I need to do (by “I”, I mean “we”):  take a deep breath and remember whose we are.  “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV)  1 John 4:4 says “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”.  Yes, things look pretty bad when we look at them; this certainly isn’t the world we once knew.  Bad is called good and good is called bad. But that is nothing new, really. Such was the situation when Jesus walked the earth in bodily form. All of His teachings were given under the heavy hand of a perverse and un-Godly government. In that poisonous atmosphere of debauchery He told His disciples that He would give them a peace that the world didn’t understand.  He told them that the world would hate them but that He loved them and would never forsake them. I take those promises seriously and hang onto them for dear life. Remember, though, His commission to His disciples then and His disciples now: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.  He never spoke of changing government, He spoke of changing people. Ideally, when enough people are changed and become a new creature through Christ, government changes.  But even if that doesn’t happen, our task remains the same. So even in a nation becoming hostile to Christianity and seemingly doing everything it can to distance itself from God, I am encouraged. God is on His throne.  We can not only survive, we can flourish. The gospel can and will continue to change people. It can change their hearts from anger, despair, and hopelessness and give them hope and joy and an assurance of eternal life.  My help…my hope…my joy…my purpose…comes from the mountains: the Lord who made the heavens and the earth.   Bro. Tony


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The Bible is True

There is an old saying that “what is true for you may not be true for me”. That is often used when discussing morality, religion, and/or certain social issues. That is referred to as “subjective truth”.  But is there such a thing as subjective truth? Or to put it another way, can truth even be subjective? The so-called subjective truth is based on a person’s beliefs or opinions; his or her perspective. In fact some respected philosophers claim that all truth is subjective.

I believe quite the opposite. I believe no truth can be subjective. I believe that truth can only be objective and un-changing or it’s not truth at all.  What people refer to as subjective truth is merely their “interpretation” of what is true. Let me give you an example that I’ve used in sermons.  If I go into a kindergarten class and ask them if I’m short or tall, they would tell you that I’m tall.  If I walk onto the court of a pro basketball team and ask them the same question their answer would be the opposite; to them I appear short.  Which one is true? Neither. The truth is that I’m 6’2” tall. It is their perspective, their interpretation of that truth, that affects their answer.

The Bible is true. It is absolutely true. It is the truth.  It is unchangeable, immutable, truth.  It cannot be changed for this generation, it wasn’t different for the last generation, and it will not be different for the next. Jesus, Himself, said “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).  A person’s perspective will determine their adherence to that truth, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

So when it comes to religion and morality I’ll let the Word of God guide my actions.  That may not be popular and it may draw the ire and disdain of this present world, but I’ll hold firmly to it. As Paul said in his letter to the Colossians,  “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Say good things about your Savior and about His Church.

Bro. Tony

 


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Christianity-religion of peace

I heard it again. In a discussion about morality a lady said this: “Religion is evil. Religion poisons everything.”  Another person said “religion is responsible for more wars and suffering than anything else in history”.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who naively accept that premise without checking the facts. Has religion ever led to bloodshed? Of course it has. But usually after such statements about evil religion and its’ reign of terror we are pointed to the Crusades and even the Salem witch hunts as examples of religious hostility. Why? Because theses falsehoods are generally pointed to a bias against Christianity, not just “religion”.

              While the witch-hunting hysteria is most certainly a black eye for Christ-followers we must put the number of deaths in perspective to “Religion is responsible” for worldwide deaths. 20 people were executed for the crime of witchcraft in a period of about 15 months. Contrast that with just one weekend in Chicago where 12 people were murdered and 66 shot.  Religion had nothing to do with that.

              The Crusades are a different matter.  It is estimated that over 1.5 million people died in the 200+ years of the crusades. That is an awful number.  But let’s look at the reason for the crusades: they were fought to regain land taken by over 1000 years of Islamic aggression. Yes, definitely a religious war that caused a lot of death and suffering but who knows how many harsh Islamic caliphates there would be in Europe and the Mediterranean had not Christians fought back.  So, yes, religion has played a part in wars throughout history.

              But is religion responsible for more wars that any other cause? Has religion resulted in the death of more people than any other reason? Absolutely not.  To make that statement even remotely true you would have to belief that World War I and World War II, as well as the Korean War and Vietnam, were fueled by religious hatred and fought to advance religious beliefs. Do you really think that Adolf Hitler wanted to rule the world because he was a religious man?  And, in fact many of the European “religious” wars were more about land grabs and power struggles than religion.

              Christianity is, and always will be, the supreme religion of peace.  Never did Jesus command us to force people to accept our faith by force. Becoming a Christian must be a personal choice; a conscious decision to accept Christ as Savior. No amount of outside force can achieve that. Christianity is the reason we can have true peace in our lives.  It is the reason we can truly change from self-centered to selfless, from from hateful to loving.  In fact Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives”.  Falsely blame war and suffering on Christianity if you like but in reality Jesus give a peace that supersedes anything the world can offer.

             

             

 

             

Say good things about your Savior and about His Church.

 

Bro. Tony


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All or None

All or none. That choice is pretty stark: Everything or nothing.  We don’t like being put in a position where we have to make such a drastic determination, do we?  We usually like a “middle ground”; a place of compromise.  Honestly, in so many cases, compromise can be a good thing.  But there are some cases where compromise is useless.  The Bible is the most glaring example .

                You see, we must believe all of the Bible or there is no use in believing any of it. It is either all the very word of God or we can’t decipher which is the word of God, if any of it. If we think we can pick and choose what is truth and what isn’t we then become the master of the Bible, that is, it’s editor. If effect, we become as God, deciding what is right or wrong, what is good and evil.  The Bible becomes ineffective, useful only as a personal handbook for what we want to believe.

Yet, I see that happening in more and more people and, unfortunately, more and more churches/denominations. If what the Bible says doesn’t line up with what we want and think we simply ignore it and say the dumbest of all rationales: “Well, they didn’t know back then what we know today”. Hear this…God knew more back then than we will ever know.  We must make up our minds that we will live by by pure faith in the Bible and believe every word of it.

I understand that there will be some different interpretations of what God meant in a few passages such as whether a deacon can be divorced or what the dragon in John’s Revelation vision represents, but we will still believe that God, Himself, told those men what to write and it is all His word.

So, yes, I believe a snake and a donkey talked, I believe the Red Sea parted, I believe angels came to earth and talked to people, I believe people were miraculously healed, Jesus was born of a virgin and He was murdered and raised from the dead.

So, too, I believe it when He says that homosexuality is wrong, there are only two genders, and marriage is to be between a man and a woman.  I believe God created in the womb and it is not our choice as to whether a baby lives or dies after it is conceived. I believe those things, not because they are rational to an imperfect mind or because the ideology of the day favors them.  I believe them because I believe the Bible is the never-changing, ever-truthful Word of God.

I believe it all.

Say good things about your Savior and about His Church.

Bro. Tony


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Summers End

                The summer seemed short and hot so there just wasn’t much energy. While it is still very warm it is great to see things begin to pick up as school starts back. It’s exciting that a couple of projects we have been working on are finally about to happen.  Some of the hill area is being cleared so that the church is more visible from the main intersection.  The new signs are being installed.  The new church directory is in the works.  Awesome.

                Keep in mind that “Grace on the Bluff” is just around the corner and we need someone to come alongside Meg to train to take charge. This is such a fantastic ministry and I know the Lord has impressed it upon someone’s heart to take the reins and keep it going. Please be praying about it and contact me if you have any questions.

                If you haven’t signed up for the church directory, please do so as soon as possible.  You can do it online in just a couple of minutes. Just go to the church website and follow the instructions.  If you are not “web savvy” just give us a call, or sign up after a church service.  This directory is much needed.  It helps celebrate our 120th Anniversary as well as updates our current membership and faithful attenders.  We want everyone’s picture in there. I hope to see your name on the list soon!

 

Say good things about your Savior and about His Church.

 

Bro. Tony


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