Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Over Protective is Good
Barbara Henderson

 When Jerry and I got married many years ago Jerry was already a hunter.  He was quite at home in the woods.  However, he just wasn’t as cautious as I wanted him to be.  I don’t mean he wasn’t safety conscience when it came to gun safety.  I mean he wasn’t really cautious enough in the woods.  After all, that fictional character called ‘mother nature’ is vicious.  She is out to torture and kill everyone on the planet.  Her weapons include weather, terrain, wild animals, fear, famine, flood, drought, and lots of other things.  She can even get a tree or rock to come crashing down for no apparent reason and crush an unsuspecting hunter. 

 Fortunately for Jerry, I got him the necessary equipment for hunting right away.  We got married in August and he was all set to go before the first day of deer season.  I mean he was ready!  He was also very strong, thank goodness.  He needed all that strength to carry the things I got for him to ensure his safety.  (What he actually needed was a ‘burden bearer’ to go with him and carry all his stuff.)

 I got him a good compass, a whistle, and a case for water proof matches.  I hung all those on a sturdy string, and hung it around his neck before he was allowed to go out hunting.

  I also got him a canteen.  He was no longer allowed to drink out of streams in case there was a beaver in the area.  You really cannot be too careful where there is a possibility of beaver fever! 

 He also had to wear a water proof hat in case of rain.  He had a lightweight rain poncho tucked safely coat pocket just in case he was caught in a blinding rain storm.

 He had to carry relatively small back pack filled with some food, extra matches, canned sterno, water, band-aids, and a few other things that were absolutely necessary.

 He really was supposed to carry an old fashioned hunting horn carved out of a horn off a bull just in case he needed to call someone’s dog or call for help if the whistle wasn’t loud enough to be heard

 I also got him a holster for his 22 pistol.  He needed to carry that and at least 200 rounds of ammo.  That was in case he was trapped under a falling tree and was too far away for anyone to hear him blowing his whistle.  Then he was supposed to fire the pistol into the air at a set interval.

Now, boots were also an issue. He wore clunky shoes and boots before I met him.  He had to get over that and wear boots that would protect those skinny ankles and shins from snakes that might still be crawling around instead of hibernating.

 Once I had him all dressed up safely prepared to face the Ouachita wilderness, I sent my dad out hunting with him.  I could go back to sleep without worrying once I knew dad was with him. 

 There was one area where Jerry totally failed.  He was supposed to choose a specific sound and learn to make that sound realistically.  Daddy hooted like an owl.  Everyone in the family knew dad’s owl hoot.  It would let everyone in the woods know where dad was without dad making a noise that might scare the animals.  My granddad was not nearly as subtle as dad.  He did a really good ‘rebel yell’.  Yep, granddad probably learned his yell directly from someone who fought in the civil war.  Jerry just couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t hoot like owl, howl like coyote, or even moo like grandma’s milk cow.  Finally the family voted to keep him anyway.  None of my three brothers could do a good sound either, so they voted in Jerry’s favor.  However he didn’t get out of everything involved in the family hunting expeditions.

 Jerry learned a few things early on. 

First, he HAD to get used to carrying all the stuff I got for him.  There was no way whatsoever he was going to get out of that.  It was for his own good. 

 Second, he learned the lay of the land.  He knew which mountains were situated in what direction from my mom and dad’s home. (The Ouachita’s are sometimes laughed at as not really being mountains.  They are called ‘hills’.  The people laughing have obviously not climbed any of those ‘hills’, nor fought toe to toe with snakes and skunks for territory.’)

 Third, and this is probably the best, he learned that you could hear the roosters crowing from anywhere within walking distance of my grandparents’ home.  Gramps and Gramma lived one holler over from mom and dad.  Jerry actually had it made.  If the weather turned bad or he got hungry, he just followed the sound of the roosters to my grandmother’s kitchen and hid out there until it was an acceptable hour to get back over to mom’s house and act like he was exhausted from all that hunting he had been doing.

 He also learned that if anyone got a deer, everyone in the hunting party was to stop what they were doing and help get the meat taken care of immediately.  He already knew how to field dress a dear, cut it up properly, and cook it!  Well, my dad didn’t have to stop hunting and start helping, but everyone else did.  My mom thought Jerry was from another planet the first time he cut up a deer for her.

 That story is all true.  If you think that story is something – you should hear what happened when my son was born, and when he took his first steps, and learned to ride his spring horse, and then his tricycle.  Don’t worry.  I let him ditch the knee pads and football helmet before he started to school.  I didn’t want to embarrass him or anything.  (Then my baby girl was born….. we just don’t have time for all the details that went along with that blessed event,)

 Some people might call me over protective, but of course they don’t know nuthin.  They are just ignoramuses who need to learn to mind their own business.  The truth is I am NOT over protective.  I do not have the capacity to be protective enough.  I cannot be with my loved ones constantly.  And, even when I am with them, I cannot protect them from everything.  Early on I learned that the best thing to do for my family was commit them into the care of Jesus Christ every day.  He alone has the ability to be with them every single second of every day. 

 He provides for his children the things and knowledge that are necessary for safety.  He thinks of every contingency.  He has safety nets everywhere.  He never gives us permission to take off our helmets and knee pads.  If ever there was a leader who wanted the motto of His followers to be ‘be ‘prepared, it is Jesus Christ.

The Bible is our key to being prepared, to avoiding danger, to knowing what to do when danger comes our way.

 I know most people reading this have been over the instructions in the Bible many times.  Most of the readers have actually taken to heart to do the things Christ says to do.  They make an effort daily to do the act like the Christians they claim to be.

 What I would like to do today is encourage Christians to re-consider all the good things God does for his children on a daily basis. He has the capacity to KNOW what dangers we face and provide a path to safety.  He knows what dangers lie ahead.  He knows our temptations. He knows what we will need. 

 Sometimes the world seems overwhelmingly ‘out to get us’. Honestly, that is what the world and its leaders do.  They try to crush the opposition.  Anyone or anything that stands in their way is automatically in the cross hairs of some sort of high powered magnification devise.  One false step, like drinking unpasteurized cow’s milk and the weight of the federal government will come down on you in full force.  There are even ‘trash police’ in some places who go around checking garbage to make sure you are getting an acceptable amount of your trash in the recycle bin.

 In these uncertain times, it is really important that Christians are not overwhelmed by the fast paced word in which we live.  We should not let our focus be on the dangers surrounding us, but rather on the protection of our God.  God provides for us in ways that are obviously miraculous and ways that are much more subtle. It is good to make a specific effort every day to see the hand of God in our lives. Sometimes we can be so bogged down with cares that we miss a real miracle.  Other times we miss the good things God does for us everyday because we are looking for an obvious miracle.  Look for God.  I don’t mean look for His face in a holy tortilla or an apparition of some so called holy something or other.  Just look for God.  He is with you. Whether He provides for your needs through an obvious miracle, or by common means, He is providing you with ‘daily benefits’.  His goodness toward His children will never fail.  Look at what the Psalms have to say.

 Psalm 68:19

 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah

 What are some of the benefits with which the Lord loads you every day?  Usually we get something to eat, something to wear, and a place to lay our weary heads.  We have some measure of health if we are still breathing.  God gives us strength in trials.  God also teaches us things during trials.  God gives us direction in one way or another.  If He didn’t give you one thing you wanted, it is because He has something else for you.  The thing is for Christians to take the time to consider their daily benefits.  Don’t make light of the good things God gives you just because He gives them to you all the time.  God gives us forgiveness.  We can have a clean slate with which to begin each day.  God’s mercies are new every morning.  We should acknowledge them and appreciate them.  The old song ‘Count your Blessings’ is a good way to begin each day.  

Take the time to memorize this song.  It is a mood changer and burden lightener,

 Psalm 103:2

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Keep your heart and mind focused on the things the Lord has done for you. 

A loving parent or spouse WANTS to watch over you and do what is best for you all the time.  Unfortunately, they can’t do that.  And even if they could be with you all the time to take care of you, they actually don’t know what is best in every situation. 

 On the other hand:

God is with you all the time. 

God does know the best way to reach the goal.

God loves you more than your parents or spouse.

 Don’t forget God’s benefits.

Don’t forget that He is a very present help in trouble.  (Psalm 46:1

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.)

 Psalm 116:12

 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

 Considering all that the Lord has done for you, what is there that you should do for Him? 

I can think of three things to begin with.

First, be thankful.  Thank the Lord in everything and with every breath.  Pray without ceasing, and make the beginning of most prayers thankfulness.  Strive to develop an attitude of thankfulness in all circumstances.  If you fall into a raging river please do shout out 'help!'.  This one word can be a cry for help from God and from anyone within hearing distance.  But in most circumstances it is prudent to begin every prayer with thankfulness. 

Second, the Lord has given us instructions by which we are to live.  The least we can do for Him in return is make a conscience and continual effort to follow His instructions.  That means all of them.  Obey the commandments, and treat others the way we want to be treated.  That includes forgiving others the way Christ has forgiven us

 The third thing is to seek what specific or special thing the Lord asks of you.  We are all called to some sort of life-long missionary service, whether it be living a faithful Christian life in the town in which we grew up, or traveling to a foreign land where not even our native language is spoken.  Whatever the Lord asks of you, go ahead and do it because of the good things the Lord does for you on a daily basis.  He may ask you to continue dealing with a difficult person.  You don’t have to make them your constant companion.  Just treat them like you would want to be treated when you are around them. Remember that you are not befriending them because they deserve it.  You are doing it to please the Lord.  You may find yourself called to work harder for a spouse or employer who does not appreciate your efforts.  It changes your outlook when you do things for the Lord. The Lord always appreciates the things you do to please Him.

You may find yourself called to have patience in boring situations.  Do it to please the Lord.

 Years ago, I was comforted to send my dad out hunting with my husband.  Dad was a very experienced woodsman and hunter.  Dad and Jerry had a lot of good times together.  Life seems more complicated than that now.  People don’t even feel safe going to the grocery store by themselves.  There is no confidence that the things we need will be on the store shelves when we get there.  There is certainly no confidence that the entire world will not be facing famine, pestilence, and war on a large scale at any given moment.  No one knows what to do to be fully prepared for the future.

 Thankfully, God does know what we need for the future.  He is able to be with you every moment of every day.  He is able to provide for you and walk with you through the days ahead.  Take the time to consider what God has done for you, and what you can do for God. 

Do the things you are able to do to provide for your future.

Trust God to take care of the things you are unable to do.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Are You Worshiping God at Church - Or Making Yourself Happy?
Barbara Henderson

There is was in all its glory. The ‘Praise Band’ was on the stage at the church. The band members were dressed like rock starts. Cleavage bulging over the tops of the female singers costumes didn’t raise an eyebrow. Shiny tight pants on the male singers reminded a few old timers of the ‘Pirates of Penzance’, but no one seems to mind.

Of course this church was too traditional to do anything like pole dancing exercise for Jesus. They had to draw the line somewhere, and that seemed like a good place to draw it today. Of course, give it a few years and the line in the sand could be moved over a little more to the world. After all, the world was where the non-Christians were. What better way to bring them into the church than to bring an acceptable amount of the world into the church? Taken as a whole, or taken one by one, the congregation was proud of their church building, their diverse congregation, their open minded approach to making their church comfortable to the non-saved, and just over all proud.

This Sunday, the lights in the auditorium were dimmed. Spotlights in a variety of colors were aimed at the singers and musicians. The younger crowd was actually shouting and screaming in anticipation of a real show, a show that was equal to anything the world had to offer. Parents smugly patted themselves on the back for keeping their children from rock concerts by bringing rock music into the church. They had it made. They had saved their children from the world. Teens in the audience/congregation felt both Christian and worldly. They were in a church, so they must be ‘spiritual’. The beat of the world’s music was playing loudly. The song lyrics were sort of Christian. It was just all too cool. When the ‘praise service’ began, the volume of the praise band vibrated the floors and walls of the building just like at a real rock concert An energized and sustained emotional response to the music was maintained for over an hour by most of the people there. Those not responding, either positively or negatively, had their hearing aids turned off. After a prolonged musical assault on the people, the singers and band were exhausted to the point they had to stop. All that singing and dancing amounted to an hour long aerobic exercise session. They had to stop because they were just too tired and hoarse to keep going. Besides, they only knew a few songs, and how many times you sing a one line song?

Then the preacher got up to preach. However, being as overcome by his own emotions as was the entire congregation, he decided that a sermon wasn’t necessary. He just thanked the musicians for such an uplifting performance, said a closing prayer, and sent the people home.

One family didn’t go straight home. They went to Hooters for a meal. Then, as they were feeling so ‘Christian’, and ‘so good’, they decided to do a good deed. They went to visit Great Aunt Dorcas in the nursing home. She was delighted to see them. She was even more delighted to learn they had been to church. Speaking to her eleven year old nephew she asked, ‘What did you learn in church today?’ The boy replied, ‘I learned I want to be a rock star!’ Aunt Dorcas promptly fainted. The nurse was called. The family, feeling a dreadful emotional let-down, left quickly. They vowed to never again disrupt an emotional high given to them by the Lord in church by doing a good deed. Well, they all concluded, at least it was over for a week or maybe two or three weeks. They would have to check their calendar to see when they could make it back to church; and, that would really depend on what the church was offering them as well. If it was a boring service, then they would probably just skip it. And they would certainly skip it if there was going to be a preacher known for making then ‘feel uncomfortable’. After all, they could worship God just as well at home. Then, they put worshiping God out of their minds entirely. It was time to think about how to get the things the world had to offer. It was either debt or a second job or sell a kidney, but that yacht with two bathrooms was definitely a must.

Some of the people from that church were worshiping a false god. They have no real idea of who God is. They were worshiping their own desires. Others were real Christians. They were ignorant and self-centered, but nevertheless, true believers. They were worshiping God according to how they personally wanted to do it. They liked worldly music. They liked fitting in with the world. So, they took the world’s music to God as worship. They were honoring God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him. And, while there were true believers in the service, the children of those believers will very likely be Christian in culture only. And their grandchildren will be embarrassed to let anyone know that their family has a tradition of Christian worship. Self-stylized worship, worship done in a way or style that ‘suits the individual’ before it suits God isn’t really worship. Although God Himself is supposed to be the reason for and the center of the worship service, it became about not only pleasing the individual church attendee, but about pleasing the entire world!

On the same Sunday there was a little house church in a pagan land. Christian churches were officially allowed, but definitely frowned upon by all non-Christians. Sometimes Christians were beaten, robbed, fired from their job, refused a job, and even murdered for their faith. Their church service went a little differently.

First there was the greeting as everyone arrived. It was a sincere howdy to brothers and sisters in the faith. That wasn’t really part of the service. It was just a natural way to greet each other. Then the service began with the thanksgiving part of the service. That was how the little band of believers began every service. Personal humility in the little congregation made a group that was humble. Humble people are thankful people. The thanksgiving part of the service had a time limit on how short it could be, but now how long. Thanksgiving was given for at least one hour. If anyone tried to jump right into the prayer request part of the service, then they were censored immediately by the rest of the congregation. That seldom happened, but it wasn’t tolerated if it did happen.

Thanksgiving put God in His proper place as the One from whom all blessings flow. That is proper worship. The service is about worshiping God, so of course He should take center stage from the very start of the service.

Then there was singing. The music was dedicated to the Lord. It was the Lord that the people wanted to please with the music and the words of the songs, as they were singing to Him. No one there considered bringing in new members by making the music more pleasing to

Of course there was preaching and praying and fellowship and more preaching and praying. There was probably eating as well. If food was left over maybe it was taken to those who hadn’t been able to come to the service because of illness, or work, or maybe because they were in jail or something like that. I have read that in some countries prisoners don’t eat unless family members bring them food. Or maybe some of the brethren were in hiding because they were being persecuted for their faith.

Whatever went on in the little house church, the people were attempting to please God first and foremost in the service. They were worshiping God with a right attitude stemming from a reverent awe of their Savior. After the service was over, they continued worshiping God through right actions throughout the week. They tried to do the things Christ said to do. Obey the commandments moment by moment. There was no acceptable time to set aside their Christianity. Telling others about Jesus Christ, the way of salvation, was also a priority. It was a dangerous priority, but still a priority. Sunday was the day when the saints of God, the brethren got together for assembled worship. This assembled worship encouraged them to live a life of worship throughout the week. They had set themselves apart from the world, and they fully and completely identified themselves as people of God. They no longer wanted what the world had to offer. Worshiping God was their way of life.

Most church congregations fall somewhere in the middle. They are neither hot nor cold. Does that mean they are lukewarm? Are they sitting on the fence? Do they make the Lord sick? Are they measuring their own level of commitment by looking at the more liberal churches, and saying, ‘Well, thank goodness we are not THAT liberal!;’ Honestly, standing out as a conservative traditional church is not the goal. Those churches honestly seeking to make worshiping God a way of life just automatically stick out. They are the light on the hill. It cannot be hidden.

It is easier for a real Christian to wind up in a liberal church because there are so many of them. Some churches exist under the banner of a denomination with a strong history of sound theology and doctrine. However, they are only cultural Christian churches. The church has a form of godliness, but no actual faith in God. Unfortunately, churches like these suck in ignorant Christians like moths to a flame. Some recognize the problems with such a church after attending for a time. Some even turn away from such silliness called godliness. Then these real Christians realize they have a big problem. They can’t find a church with sound doctrine.

Amos 8:11-12 is beginning to come to pass. It says:
’11. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it

There are still churches that teach sound doctrine according the Bible. They do not slap the name ‘Christian’ or worldly practices and bring it into the church. There is no such thing as ‘Christian yoga’. These rare churches know that putting the word ‘Christian’ in front of something does not make it acceptable to God.

Individual Christians can make a big difference by living their own lives according to scripture. The instructions given in 1 Peter 1:13-19 give instructions on how to do that. The passage says,
’13. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; Take your Christian walk seriously.
14. As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: Don’t act like you can still live by the standards and rules of the world.
15. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Think about your actions. Great or small, you actions should be pleasing to the Lord.
16. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Your life should have a new paradigm, a pattern of living as close to that of Christ as possible.
17. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: If you call God your Father then act like He is your Father. Obedience is due Him.
18. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:’ God spared no expense to redeem us. What can we give Him in return except to love Him with all our hearts and honor Him by our actions

Humility and meekness is a sign of Christians walking close to the Lord. They progressively have a better understanding that all their accomplishments are through Christ alone.

A sign of a deceiver or a Christian attempting to live with at least one foot firmly planted in the world is pride.

Those hoping to have a life of greater ease and comfort should pay attention to 1 Peter 5:5 which says,
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’

There can be no life lived in greater hardship and turmoil than a life lived resisting the things of God.

‘Because I Love Thee I Will Serve Thee’ isn’t the deepest theological song, but it does have a clear message. If you love the Lord truly, then you will serve Him.

This is not a fancy version of the song – just a simple church service.

In my mind I can see and hear a very humble preacher singing this song. He has gone to heaven already. He was prone to burst into song right in the middle of a sermon, and this song was always sung with a tearful voice.
The message is simple.
Love the Lord?
Then serve the Lord. 

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