(Aug 3, 2020)
Stay six feet apart. Wear a mask. Stay home. Do all your shopping online. Use hand sanitizer. Wash your hands often. You know the drill.
COVID-19 has done a number on our country, on our communities, on our churches, and on us. We have all been “socially distanced”. And that is what concerns me. I sincerely believe some have taken this idea of social distancing to the extreme. They have distanced themselves from family. From loved ones. From church family. From God?
Being alone and apart from others is not always a healthy choice. This does not mean that you need to put yourself at risk and step into someone’s “bubble”. However, I have been noticing a pattern. Social distancing, while it seems to start with simply staying six feet away from those you love and fellowship with, it seems to then progress to not coming out to church at all, or other social events. It follows on to not responding to texts or phone calls from the people who care about you. Finally, it comes to the point of complete isolation, especially from those you need the most.
Have you stopped attending your church? Have you stopped watched the live stream services? Have you stopped responding to loved ones? Have you maybe even gone to the point of socially distancing yourself from your Savior? Have you stopped praying? Have you turned instead, to filling your lives with work, the cares of life, online entertainment, movies and such? Have you even socially distanced from yourself? In other words, you are shutting out the voice within you that is crying out for attention?
Pick up your phone. Send a text to someone who cares about you. Facetime with a friend. On Sunday morning, get dressed, leave your house, get in your car and drive to your church. Take a mask with you, if you feel safer with it on. Walk up the steps, open the door and inhale. Inhale His Presence. Inhale healing. Inhale hope. Exhale fear. Exhale despair. Exhale those thoughts that held you captive. Live again. Someone who cares will be waiting for you.
Jesus said it best, “Come unto me…” (Matt 11:28). Don’t socially distance from Him. Get close. Let Him enfold you in His embrace.
Free Indeed (Free In Deed)
(July 27, 2020)
Two of my most favorite scriptures are these:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)
In my preparation for last Sunday’s sermon (by the same title), I was intrigued by the use of two different Greek words for the word “free” in these verses. The first is eleutheroō (pronounced el-yoo-ther-o'-o), which, according to Strong’s Dictionary means, “to liberate, that is, (figuratively) to exempt (from moral, ceremonial or mortal liability): - deliver, make free.”
The second is eleutheros (pronounced el-yoo'-ther-os) which means (Strongs definition) “unrestrained (to go at pleasure), that is, (as a citizen) not a slave (whether freeborn or manumitted), or (generally) exempt (from obligation or liability): - free (man, woman), at liberty.”
While you can see these two words are related, the meanings are quite different. It is one thing to be “liberated”, but quite another to be “at liberty”. For example, in the earlier years of our nation, the slaves become “liberated”, but it was years later until they became “at liberty”, in fact some would argue, that many have still not achieved that status.
As a Christian you can be “liberated” but still be inhibited by your past. Christ wants us to walk in the liberty that He has provided. We are no longer the citizens of the world, but are now the citizens of Heaven. We are at liberty! Indeed!
After Sunday’s service, a dear elder came to me and shared his thoughts about the word “indeed”. I was inspired by his remarks! He said that the word “indeed” may have been derived from the two words “in deed”, possibly meaning that as a “deed” is a legal document showing ownership, “free indeed” could mean that we “own freedom”. I did a bit of research today, and when I looked at the etymology (the history of the word), he’s right! It comes from the two words “in deed” and “deed” means “a thing done” or “law” .
I challenge you to “own your freedom” in Christ! Do not let the enemy trick you into thinking you cannot break free of your past!
(check my facts at https://www.etymonline.com/word/indeed)
(July 20, 2020)
It is interesting to me, how our bodies heal. If you have had an injury or a surgery, healing is a process. Many times there are certain procedures or exercises to follow to help expedite the healing process. Then, there is the matter of time. Time is an essential factor in physical healing. Time is an essential factor in emotional or spiritual healing as well. There may be certain therapies required to make the body or the mind stronger. Exercise is usually a part of the protocol for healing, so that weakness can be turned into strength. Sometimes the pain of the injury or the surgery persists.
There are various stages of healing, certain “windows” where the wound may still be delicate and tender, and gentleness and comfort are essential. Later on, exercise and movement are important, to begin the strengthening process. One cannot “jump into” full normalcy. If that happens, many times, further and deeper injuries can result.
Are you, or someone you know, hurting? Needing healing? While I believe God can, and often does heal bodies, minds, situations and circumstances instantaneously, sometimes the healing process is more gradual. I believe we need to be patient with ourselves, and with others who may need a healing. Time may be a factor. Healing cannot be rushed. Gentleness and understanding are vital. There is nothing wrong with taking it slow.
I love the passage in Malachi (4:2): “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Being a farm kid, I loved watching baby calves grow. But, they did not grow overnight. It took months, even years. They grew gradually, from weak, wobbly babies to strong muscular animals. Many times, healing will come, in very much the same way.
Be healed. (No matter how long it takes.)
Sheep v. Goats
(July 13, 2020)
Jesus shares an interesting glimpse of the coming judgment day, found in Matthew 25:31-46. Here, he uses an analogy of sheep and goats… “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (v32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (v33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Mat 25:31-33).
When you read further into the text, essentially, the “sheep” are those who have ministered to those in need, and the “goats” are those who did not. The sheep reached out to those who were hungry, thirsty, needed shelter or clothing, or were sick or in prison. The goats did no such thing.
Why would Jesus choose to use these two animals to illustrate this account? Without getting too deep into animal science, let me just share what I know, from growing up as a farm kid. Sheep are social animals. They are natural followers. It is relatively easy to get them to do what you want them to. You simply lead them. Goats, on the other hand, are rugged individualists, they tend to have their own agenda. They are escape artists. They are definitely not followers!
A large part of being a Christian is learning how to follow. Jesus said, in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me:” Are you hearing His voice? Are you following Him? What is He saying to you? Where is He leading you? Are you moved, when you see someone in need? Are you obeying (following) His Word? Or, do you have your own agenda? Is your schedule so full, and your entertainment so loud that it is drowning out His voice in your heart? Do you have issues following your spiritual leader? Do you have trouble making time to stop and listen? Do you question the authority of the Word of God?
When I read the end of the story in Matthew 25, it does not bode well for the “goats”, (v46) “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:” However, for the sheep, it is “life eternal”. This scenario reminds me of the lyric of that Sunday School Song, “…I just wanna be a sheep, Baa Baa Baa Baa! I just wanna be a sheep, Baa Baa Baa Baa, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just wanna be a sheep, Baa Baa Baa Baa!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, not sure about you, but, I just wanna be a sheep.
(July 6, 2020)
What a beautiful word. Liberty. A word that gives promise of something better. A word that brightens our mundane existence as human beings. A word that quickens our pulse. A word that opens doors and breaks chains.
Our country was founded upon the principles of this word. Taken from the text of our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I cannot forget the words of the Patriot, Patrick Henry, as he spoke before Second Virginia Convention on March 20, 1775: “…Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The Bible speaks of liberty as well. My favorite passage is this: (Luke 4:17-21) “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, (v18) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (v19) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (v20) And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (v21) And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
It is clear, from the above text, that Jesus was setting the foundation for his ministry, establishing the framework of the Gospel, and clearly communicating the purpose of why He came to earth. It is interesting to me that the words “deliverance” and “liberty” are translated from the same Greek word “afesis” which, according to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, means: ; freedom; (figuratively) pardon: - deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission. It is the same word used in Acts 2:38 (translated here as “remission”) “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”.
The message of the Gospel is forgiveness of sin, remission of sins, deliverance from sin, pardon, freedom and liberty! When we obey the Gospel, sin has no power over us anymore! We are set free! We are delivered!
However, I believe the Bible has more to say about liberty. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the church in Galatia, writes, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1) What is this “yoke of bondage” he is referring to? If you read the context of the prior chapter, he talks about being “under the law” or in the later verses of chapter five, “the circumcision”, which both terms refer to the Old Testament Law and those related traditions. Essentially, he warns us of being bound by traditional religion that is in conflict with the Gospel.
I think it would be good for all of us to take a few minutes to examine our traditions. Do they align with Scripture? Are they based on Scripture? Do they harmonize with what Jesus and the Holy Apostles did and taught? If not, we need liberty! The kind of liberty that sets us free! The kind of liberty that allows us to follow Christ, wholly! (See 1 Timothy 4:13-16)