“Do not be anxious…”
Well, we have almost made it. The end of 2020 is in sight. As the tobacco farmers would say, “We are in the short rows now”. This has been a year like this generation has never seen. Who would have ever thought a virus would practically shut the world down? Who could have imagined the great toilet paper famine of 2020? Most of us have never seen grocery stores limiting families to one pack of meat, regardless of how many children you had to feed. Many people enjoy going out to a restaurant on the weekend and sitting down to a nice meal. For a while, that was done away with. We saw a year when many people were told not to come in to work and we shouldn’t spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with our families or even visit loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals. The sad thing is that many of these inconveniences, restrictions and infringements on our American freedoms may be coming back.
So what will 2021 hold for us? Will the New Year be any different? Can we expect a change just because we hung up a new calendar? I wish I knew. I wish that I could type in these 600 words or less what we can expect. I can’t do that, but I can tell you where to put our focus in 2021. Put your eyes on the Messiah of the world. Remember Him? We just celebrated His birthday yesterday. Focus your heart on the One that lived here on this earth, walked among humanity and knows what it is to face problems and tribulation. We need to put our hope in Jesus Christ.
As we get to Mathew Chapter 6, Jesus’ public ministry is in its early days. We see that John the Baptist has baptized Him; He has faced the 40 days in the wilderness and has called His 12 disciples. Jesus has begun to heal every kind of sickness and ailment that the world had known and word of His miracles had spread wide and far. Now the crowds are following Him. As Jesus turns around and sees the multitude, He stops on the hillside and gives the Sermon on the Mount. He tells them not to worry about the physical things of life. He wants them to know that it is easy to get distracted with the temporal things. Jesus told them and tells us, “Do not be anxious.” Don’t worry. Don’t allow the things of this world bother you. Jesus then says in verse 32, “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek…” He is saying only the lost worry about those things. Only those that don’t have a relationship with Me get distraught over the temporary things of life. Jesus also says in verse 30”… O men of little faith…” Can you imagine Jesus looking at you and asking, “Where is your faith? Why don’t you trust Me? Do you not believe that I love you?” Our hearts would fall into the pits of our stomachs if Jesus ever questioned our faith in Him. Jesus wants us to know that only those that don’t have a relationship with Him need to worry about anything. No matter what 2021 may bring, trust Jesus. Know that He cares for you. Put your faith in Him. Trust Him with your today, tomorrow and eternity.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
And so it begins. Well actually it began several weeks ago, but I thought it would be a catchy way to start the column. Christmas, Christmas decorations, Christmas sales, Christmas commercials and worst of all, Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, Christmas is everywhere. We have been surrounded by Christmas for several weeks now. Some craft stores have had their Christmas supplies out since July! There are several homes on the roads that I drive that have had their trees up for several weeks. Many stores are having special Christmas sales every Friday in November and I know of one that is having a special sale each day this month. Every year I roll my eyes, utter under my breath and at times say it our loud, “it is not time for Christmas!” What about the Fall Festivals, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving? Are we skipping over these important days and events?
Then recently as I was awake still lying in bed one morning and I began to think, maybe with the year that we have had, we could use some extra Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it is exactly what we need.
No, the sales and most of the decorations have nothing to do with the true meaning of the season, but what if we went ahead and grabbed a handful of Christmas joy? Please don’t misunderstand or don’t get me wrong, I am not saying lets skip over Thanksgiving and head straight to Christmas. That first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims were grateful to God for seeing them through a tough year. The odds were against them, but God provided and saw them through it. Sound familiar? We need to especially this year be thankful to God for seeing us through 2020. This year has that proved to us, if anything can go wrong, it probably will. Thank our Lord and Savior for His many blessings and His goodness. Thank Him for His provisions and His love. But, let’s also sing with excitement about the coming of the Savior of the world. Let’s embrace the great joy that Jesus offers to each of us. His first coming brought that great joy to the world. “And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew 2:10. “And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people.” Luke 2:10. That first Christmas was filled with the excitement of the fact that the Savoir of the world had come. They were overjoyed that God loved them enough to send His only begotten Son. The shepherd’s hearts were exploding with excitement that Jesus was here. The sky was filled with angels singing to the glory of God. Let’s recapture some of that same joy and excitement right here and right now. Let’s begin to spread that Good News that there is hope in the midst of the worst of times. Yes that even includes 2020. Let God’s love fill your heart. Go ahead and get in the Christmas spirit, and spread some Christmas cheer.
“Phillip found Nathaniel and said to him, “we have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
I miss Billy Graham. I miss just knowing that he was still here. Sure we can watch his old crusades several times a week on tv. Even better than that, we can watch them online at any time of any day that we want. I hope that I am wrong, but I don’t believe that there will be another minister like him. He led 417 crusades across 185 countries. 84 million people heard him preach in person, with another 215 million watching the crusades on tv. He ministered to every president from Harry Truman, our 33rd President to Barak Obama or 44 President. He preached alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in New York. Billy ministered to royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II but he also preached in prisons, sharing the hope of Christ. Dr. Graham was on the Gallop Polls Most respected Men and Women in the World a record 61 times. It is estimated that he led 3.2 million people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Wow, when God called him home, we were left with a void. Who could ever do what he did in this new generation? Who could ever fill his shoes?
The good news is that we are not called to fill his shoes. Most of us will never have the opportunity to preach to millions of people, be on tv or witness in foreign lands. Very few people will ever get to tell a President or a leader of another nation about the love of God. We cannot be like Billy Graham, but we can be like Phillip. Phillip found Jesus. The One that Scriptures and the Prophets had been talking about. The One that the world had eagerly been waiting for, he found the Messiah. What did Phillip do then? Did he get up and go to the multitudes and to the crowds? Did he try to gain an audience with Caesar, or to rent out a coliseum and invite everyone in town to hear how Jesus had changed his life and He could do the same for them? No, no he didn’t. He went to one person, Nathaniel and told him about Jesus.
No we probably won’t be like Billy Graham, but we can be like Phillip. Each of us can go to the people that we know and tell them one on one about Jesus Christ. If you are saved, Jesus has changed your life and your eternal destination. Not only can we tell people about that but we are expected to. We all know people that are lost; many of them are family members, go to them. Then reach out to co-workers, friends or neighbors. Be like Phillip. Go to them and tell them that you have found Jesus and it has made all of the difference in your life and He can do the same for them.
“Jesus said to him,” I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Last year our son’s duty station with the Army was changed. He had spent his first three years in Germany, now the Army wanted him in Texas. In between his move, he came home for several weeks. When time came for him to go to Texas, he decided to drive. I went along with him to divide the driving up. We had a good trip. We saw some states that we had never visited before. I got to enjoy some authentic Texas brisket. Strange thing though, I never once saw anyone wearing a cowboy hat. Is it possible that television and movies have lied to us all of these years? Well after we arrived, it was time for him to report in and for me to return home. My flight was going to first take me from Texas to Denver and then to Raleigh. I was going to have about an hour and a half layover in Denver, which wasn’t bad as I would get to enjoy the view of the Rocky Mountains. Well, as time passed the announcement came that my flight would be delayed an hour. “Ok, this is fine”, I told myself. I went and put five dollars in one of the mechanical massage chairs and relaxed for a while. It was worth every penny, but it wasn’t too long after that, that I heard the announcement that my flight was delayed another hour, and then the flight was delayed for a third time. But the airline made it up to us; they gave us all a twenty five dollar credit on our next flight. I am not sure how to type sarcasm into a sentence, but hopefully you can pick up on my eyes rolling.
Needless to say I was frustrated. All of these delays were going to put me landing in the wee hours of the morning. I started thinking to myself, maybe I could book another flight. I could see on the board that every other flight was on schedule. Maybe I should just get on another plane, any plane. Then I realized that all flights did not have the same destination. There was only one flight that would get me home.
If you are planning to spend eternity in heaven, there is only one way, and that is through Jesus Christ. Being a good person will not get you there. Mohammad, Buddha or Confucius cannot get you there.
Being enlightened doesn’t lead there. Giving to charity or helping little old ladies cross the street won’t help you get through the Pearly Gates. Jesus tells good Ole Doubting Thomas, that there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Himself.
Peter tells us the same thing about Jesus. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. Scripture is plain and simple; Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. The Bible leaves us with no doubt of how to get there. Paul reemphasizes this point, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Romans 10:9.
Don’t be misled; you can only get to heaven through asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins, to believe in His death and resurrection and to ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.
“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Let me start with one word, “Mayberry”. Many thoughts just entered your head. If you are a young person, you are probably thinking, “it’s just that old black and white tv show that Mom and Dad watch every day”, but to the rest of us, it means so much more. It represents a simpler time and lifestyle. Problems no matter how personal or difficult they may seem, always worked out during that 30 minutes. It was a time when family meant something. Generations went to church together. Friends stuck together. Think about how many times Andy covered for Barney’s mistakes and never said a word or brought them up later to throw in his face. Remember how many times Otis, Goomer and Floyd were willing to step up and be deputies when a friend was in need. Andy and Opie had just about the perfect father/child relationship. They talked things out and trusted each other. Even as aggravating and hard to get along with as Mayor Pike and Ben Weaver could be, Andy always kept the peace and worked things out.
I think the show still has so much appeal, because it represents, in my opinion, the way that we want life to be. We want to know that everything is going to be alright. We want to believe that people are going to get along and will walk the streets of the town in harmony. Deep down, we want to know that others care for us and will be there for us in our times of need. Yes, I believe we see something in Mayberry that we want in our lives. We want to live in a place like that.
I have good news for you; there is a better place than that to live! God is preparing a place for those that love and trust Him, a place of pure perfection, and a place that sin has not stained. It is a place that does not have a single lock or burglar alarm. Revelation 7:16 “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore: neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.” Revelation 21:21 “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Ezekiel 1: 28 “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.” Revelation 4:6 “and before the throne there was, as it were a sea of glass like crystal…” Now I cannot include all of the descriptions of heaven in this column, but I will share my favorite with you. Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death, there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain; the first things have passed away.”
The good news is that God is preparing the perfect place for those that have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is heaven. I hope to see you there.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
This week we celebrated Memorial Day. This is a time that we as a Nation set aside to remember the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I would like to share with you something that our son. Sargent William Nutt of the United States Army wrote.
“Memorial day is a day set aside for the remembrance of those who died protecting our Country. We put our flags at half mast, we go to Arlington Cemetery, and we thank a veteran. Because we know that without sacrifice this Country would not exist. Whether it was on the beaches of Normandy, in the jungles of Vietnam, or in the streets of Bagdad, we have always had those willing to give everything to protect this great Nation, and to protect our ability to go to church and to worship the One True God. The Nazis intended on destroying Christianity and replacing it with paganism. In North Vietnam Christianity was not tolerable because it did not comply with their communist ideals. The Middle East is full of people, whose only purpose in life is to see the fall of western civilization, including Christianity. You may not support the war, Vietnam had its protestors and some people are tired of our involvement in the Middle East. But be thankful that there are men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect this Country.
We live in a lost and dying world and my travels throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East have shown me the true and sad state that our world is in. Christianity is under attack once again and not just from radical Islam in the Middle East, but from the secular world in general. We are seen as outliers and persecuted because of our beliefs. But through all of this we have hope. Before Jesus was arrested He said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Through all of our trials and tribulations we can have peace because He has already defeated sin and death, and we have assurance that one day Christ is coming back to make right all of the wrongs of the world. As we celebrate Memorial Day, go in peace and remembrance. The peace that Jesus Christ has offered each and every one of us, in remembrance of the sacrifice of so many men and women that served this Country, and in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. May God bless you and God bless the United States of America”.
It is easy for us to get so tied up in our own lives that we forget about the sacrifices that have been made and the ones that are currently being made for our Nation. Sadly, it is also easy to stop thinking about the sacrifice that Jesus made for each and every one of us. He died for our sins and offers us forgiveness of those sins. May we never forget or take lightly His sacrifice. Only two people have died for your benefit, the American Soldier and Jesus Christ. May we always be thankful.
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump…”
1 Corinthians 5:6,7a
Well Spring has sprung. Area garden stores and nurseries are working hard to meet the early demand for tomato, pepper and other various plants so that people are able to plant their gardens. I am like a lot of people this year and took a gamble and planted a little earlier than normal. Usually April 15 is the earliest that I will even consider planting tomatoes or peppers, but with the mild winter and no more cold weather being forecast, I planted a couple of weeks ago. There is something satisfying about planting a garden. There is a sense of satisfaction in being able to grow what you are eating. I am willing to make a wager that more people this year will be gardening after we have seen the shortages at the grocery stores. To me nothing compares to the smell of the freshly plowed earth and the purr of a diesel tractor. I enjoy thinking about what to plant in each row so that each plant doesn’t shade the other out from the sunlight and plants with vines aren’t overlapping each other. I look forward to watering the plants and seeing their growth from day to day. Then comes the harvest time and what you have worked for all summer, it is time to eat. Now that little paragraph makes gardening sound great doesn’t it? It is a piece of cake, right? Yea, I did leave out one little thing. The most dreaded of all of the garden chores, weeding. Wow, I just got the chills typing that word. It is the most time consuming, back breaking, labor intensive part of a garden. It is also one of the most critical parts. You can have the most beautifully tilled land. You can plant the healthiest plants on the face of the earth. You can put down all of the right fertilizer, but unless you get rid of the weeds, you will end up with a mess and your harvest will suffer. You cannot allow even one weed. Why, because one weed will quickly turn into a dozen. Then that dozen will turn into hundreds.
In our Scripture, Paul is using leaven as an example of how sin can quickly spread in our lives. If we don’t get rid of it, one sin will quickly lead to another sin. No, there is no way that we can ever be sinless here on earth. However, Jesus does offer us a solution for our need to get rid of sin in our lives. It is called forgiveness. It is called repentance. It is us asking Jesus to cleanse us of our mistakes. It is all possible because of what we just celebrated, Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is possible through asking Him to be our Lord and Savior and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Don’t allow sin to take root in your heart. Don’t allow sin to spread in your life. Confess it to Jesus and asking Him to forgive you and to help you to turn from it.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and give His life a ransom for many.”
It is here, everyone’s favorite time of the year. No it isn’t time for the new Hallmark Christmas movies. This is much better than that, it is time for March Madness! It is the season that college basketball fans all around the nation look forward to all year. Well to be honest, as a Carolina fan, I am not looking forward to the tournament as much as I have in the past. What is the old saying? “There is always next year.” there are people all around the Nation, particularly in our neck of the woods that will call in sick just to watch the tournament; they have to cheer their team on. We will spend countless hours glued to the television with adrenaline pumping, cheering on each dunk and three pointer. We will be on our knees in front of the screen screaming at the referees and any missed calls, calling them “blind” or accusing them of being paid off by the opposing team. Many will be decked out in their favorite team t-shirts and caps. There will be big foam fingers waving in the air declaring our team to be number one. For the next several weeks there will be many people trying to cheer their team onto victory.
But you know, as cheerleaders sitting in front of our televisions or even standing in front of a seat in the stadium, we never add a single point to the teams score. You and I as fans may proclaim our love and devotion for the team of our choice, but we never really do anything to add to the score do we?
Sadly, that same mentality has carried over into our churches. Oh, there are plenty of church members that want to see people getting saved. Practically everyone in the church wants to see missions work being done in their local communities. The average parishioner wants to see their church grow and be a beacon in their neighborhood, but sadly many churches are filled with, “pew riders”. What is a “Pew rider”? That is someone who only wants to sit on a pew and cheer someone else on to do the work of the church. Plenty of people believe in missions, but how many church members get involved in it? The average Christian wants to see the church have a great VBS, but do they lift a finger to help? Person after person will want to reach the next generation of people, but do they ever leave the church sanctuary to tell someone about Jesus? I am afraid the answer to all of those questions is, no. Our churches shouldn’t be filled with cheerleaders; they should be filled with active participants.
Jesus Himself, came to this earth to serve. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10. He set the example on not sitting on the sideline and just cheering the team on. He showed us how to be active. He showed us how to serve inside and outside of the four walls of the church. Don’t just cheer your church on, be an active participants in the Lord’s work.
“like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
1 Peter 2:2-3
I love this time of the year. Winter is my favorite season anyway, but it is also the season that I raise calves. Most years I purchase a few dairy bull calves to bottle raise. I use to talk about cows to one of the farmers in our community, Leon Barker. He loved cows as much as I do, but he would always tell me, with a big smile on his face, “Cows are nothing but an expensive hobby.” I will miss our conversations. Leon passed away a few weeks ago. However I still enjoy going out each morning and afternoon in the cold with milk bottles in my hands to feed them. I love to see them get excited when they see me coming. Every morning before the sun is up, I hear them calling for their milk. As soon as it is light enough outside to see, I look out and see them staring back at the house, just waiting for me to walk out of the door with the bottles in my hands. Then they can hardly wait for me to open the gate. They all rush me as I enter the pen. Each one is pushing the other so that they can be first in line to drink. They are hungry. They want the milk and they want it ASAP. It is satisfying to me to see them deeply desiring the milk.
Now I want us to compare that to our desire for milk. No not cow’s milk, goat’s milk or even, I can’t believe I am going to say this, almond milk. Peter in our Scripture verses compares God’s Word to milk. Peter is urging his readers to be as hungry for the Bible as a young one is for milk. It is through reading our Bibles and studying it that we grow in our knowledge of Jesus. When we feed on Scripture we are able to grow in our understanding of our salvation and the extent that God went to, to be able to offer it to us. He says, “if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord”. He is saying if you are saved, you have experienced God’s greatest demonstration of love and kindness. Now we should get closer to God through His Word. Peter is quoting Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good…”
How hungry are you for your Bible? How much time do you spend being spiritually fed through it? Do you go to church, excited about hearing from God? Do you go looking for nourishment? Each of us should have a desire for God’s Word in our lives that is above and beyond any other desire in our lives. We should feel empty when we aren’t in His Word. Spend time today in Scripture being nourished by it. Tomorrow, get up and go to church and allow God to feed you spiritually. Have a desire for the “pure milk of the Word”.
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
Life very rarely turns out the way that we had planned. I never would have imagined that I would have been on as many military bases as I have. I certainly have not been on as many as those of you that have served our Country, thank you for your service, but I have been on a few in the last few years. When our son graduated from Basic Training we went to Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri to see him. A couple of years later when he was stationed in Germany, we went over to visit him and got to walk around the base. A few weeks back he was moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas and I drove down with him and got to tour the base. The one thing that I have noticed about being on an Army base is the sense of pride. Men and women walk around with their heads held high. Their wear the American flag on their sleeves with honor, and soldiers speak to each other in passing. You can sense that people want to be there. They realize that they are all working together for one purpose. They are proud to be Americans and are just as proud to serve their great Nation. They realize that they have a Commander in Chief that supports them and their purpose.
As I was thinking about it, this is the way we should feel every time we walk in our Churches. We should be glad to be there. There should be a sense of unity. Our heads should be held high as we serve and worship. There should be a sense of pride that we are there working together for one purpose. We should realize that Jesus Christ is our Commander In Chief and He loves and died for the Church. The church should be the most unified and loving place on the face of this Earth.
Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with issues in the church. Word has gotten to him that there are quarrels in the church (v.11). Imagine that. Paul says this can’t be! Christ is not divided is He? The body of Christ is to be one in unity and love. He is urging the church to get along for the sake of the Gospel. Why does unity matter in the church? Why should we love each other and work together? Jesus Himself answered that question. “ I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:23
Jesus tells us that the reason that unity and love are so important in a church is because this shows the truth of the Gospel. It shows the unconditional love that God has for us and that we are to have for each other. When you get to church tomorrow, hold your head high, be happy to be there, love and serve with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Too much is at stake not to.