Tag Archive | Apostle Paul

The Cost of Service

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BedfordNestled in the heart of Virginia, there is a small town named Bedford. Unassuming in its quaintness, with a population of less than 7,000, Bedford is quintessential “small town America”. But if you dig a little deeper, Bedford has a unique and hallowed distinction in the life of America.

img_2738.jpgThis small town lost more men, per capita, in the Normandy landings on D-Day than any other municipality in America. In 1944, this small town had a population of around 3,200. On June 6, 1944, Bedford lost twenty of her sons in the event known as Operation Overlord, the allied incursion that was the beginning of the end of the Nazi stranglehold on Europe.

Earlier this week marked the 73rd anniversary of D-Day. With a force of over 150,000, the victory that day was significant. But at what cost?

IMG_2803With over 10,000 casualties including over 4,400 soldiers killed, the Allies paid a steep price for the victory at Normandy. In the wake of victory, within days, communities all over America were mourning the loss of their sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers who died on those beaches; men who put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom, not just for our nation, but for freedom loving people throughout the world.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17), but comes at a cost to someone. Freedom and liberty come at the cost of diligence and, when necessary, brave men and women fighting and giving their lives for the sake of freedom. Wealth and prosperity come at the cost of years of hard work and keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Staying healthy comes at the cost of diligently eating right, exercising, and taking care of your body. For the Christian, salvation is free, but came at the cost of the precious blood and life of Jesus. Service and sacrifice are the price of the things that are most important to us, and anything worth having is going to cost something to someone.

IMG_2823So with the examples set before us, for what are we willing to sacrifice? What principles and beliefs are we willing to get up off the couch for, leave our comfort zone, and dedicate our lives to the service of? At what point do we decide that we are not here for ourselves and our needs, but are to serve others and their needs? For the patriot; duty, service, and honor are the prices of strength and freedom. For the believer in Christ, Paul put it this way…

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. ~ Colossians 3:1-4

IMG_2838Regardless of the circumstance — whether standing for the truth of God’s Word, for the rights of the poor and disadvantaged, against the forces of dishonesty and corruption in our world (like fake news, lawless counter-culture activism, and Godless ideologues that parade themselves as social justice warriors) — the time has come for decent people of good will to get off the fence, off the sidelines, and get involved in making a difference through serving others, and letting their voices be heard.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for
good men to do nothing.”

This famous quote by Irish statesman Edmund Burke is a great reminder for a society seemingly at the tipping point of anarchy. But Burke said something else just as pertinent to where we are today…

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing
because he could do only a little.”

Truth.

We all have different gifts, abilities, and resources. But it takes all of us working together with whatever gifts we are given to make a difference, in this world and in the next.

Think about it.

Pastor Ron

The Sound of Socialism

austriaanschlussRecently at our church, our young people performed the great musical The Sound of Music. It is the classic story of the von Trapp family’s escape from Nazism in Austria after Germany usurped Austria into the German empire in 1938 — an event known as the Anschluss.

One of the by-products of doing this timeless musical was the opportunity to teach our children a little bit of history about World War II and the Nazi regime…

A history many in our nation have obviously forgotten.

Nuremberg 1The National Socialist German Worker’s Party (ie: the Nazi Party) rose to power following Germany’s defeat in World War I. The Nazis played upon the discontent of the people in attacking big business and capitalism, and used class-warfare as a tool to further its popularity by establishing a culture of entitlement and ideological superiority. Racism was also a key element in the spread of this toxic ideology, and resulted in the Holocaust… the death of six million Jews.

Socialist… Sound familiar?

For the first time in our nation’s history, we not only have candidates who are promoting socialist beliefs, but have an openly socialist candidate running for the highest office in the land.

Have we become so short-sighted that we won’t heed the hard-fought lessons we have learned in the last 80 years? Has our education system become such a cesspool of ideologues and history revisionists that our children are being brainwashed into believing that socialism is the answer to all of the problems that ail us as a nation? Oh sure… socialism has its appeal — after all, who doesn’t like FREE STUFF???

The problem is that nothing — N O T H I N G —  is free. Even “free” stuff is costing someone, somewhere.

Take education for example. One of the mantras we are hearing is for “free education/free college”. Well, if college becomes free, one would have to assume that all of those things it takes to keep the doors open — lights, heat, electricity, etc. — are all going to be free as well.

And how about those salaries? If we are going to offer free college, would it not be reasonable to assume that all of the college faculties will be doing their jobs gratis? That means janitors, security, administration, and yes… professors. So, all of these (mostly highly) trained and educated people are going to put in their 40+ hours per week with no paycheck to show for it? Sure, there are those states where some college is being offered for “free” (TN being one that offers 2 years of community college for “free”). However, “free” is still not free… it ultimately comes at the expense of the taxpayer.

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money.
~ Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

The Bible has a lot to say about work and a good work ethic. From Genesis to the writings of the apostles, hard work is considered admirable and Godly. Looks at what Solomon had to say in Proverbs…

All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.
~ Proverbs 14:23-24

 Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.
He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
~ Proverbs 10:4-5

The Apostle Paul was pretty direct in his instructions to the Thessalonians…

 While we were with you, we gave you the order: “Whoever doesn’t want to work shouldn’t be allowed to eat.” We hear that some people in your group refuse to work. They are doing nothing except being busy in the lives of others. Our instruction to them is to stop bothering others, to start working and earn their own food. It is by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are urging them to do this.
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

Yet in spite of these warnings, I hear candidates running on a platform that constantly blames the ills of the poor on the rich, and stirs up not just class warfare, but ties it to racial division as well. The idea that penalizing someone who has worked hard in order to subsidize the lazy completely takes away from the incentive to work hard and do well. Why would I want to work hard to be a success if someone is just going to take away my hard-earned income and give it to someone who has not worked for it? It is absurd to believe that when you rob from the rich it is going to somehow benefit the poor in the long term.

Hitler and Amin Al-Husseini

Berlin, 1941: Adolph Hitler meeting with Mohammed Amin Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem

The further we run as a society from the teachings and statutes of the Bible, the further and faster we run toward our own destruction. Although seeming to tolerate Christianity initially, the Nazis moved rapidly to quell the voice of the Christian church, while at the same time forming an unholy alliance with Islam. Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary, once admitted, “National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable“. We are seeing the dark specters of this type of ideology taking hold in our nation, with Christians being put on trial for their beliefs and convictions, while Islam is given a pass and a warm embrace by those in the corridors of power.

In the end, however, it’s quite simple: One cannot forsake the teachings and statutes of the One who established human civilization without severe consequences.

“God has been very good to us. One of the reasons God has been
good to us is that we have done him honor. ~ Justice Antonin Scalia

Although we are a nation founded upon Christian principles, secularists in our society have been trying desperately to take America to the point that we are decidedly “post-Christian”. With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend, the political stakes for the soul of our nation have been raised to a perilous level. The wrong person being appointed to the Court would send us into an abyss of unconstitutional decisions and legislation from which we might never recover. For as Justice Scalia observed…

“That’s the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: ‘The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break.’
But you would have to be an idiot to believe that.
The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things… As long as judges tinker with the Constitution to ‘do what the people want,’ instead of what the document actually commands, politicians who pick and confirm new federal judges will naturally want only those who agree with them politically.”

We need a transformation in our country. What is happening societally and politically right now should be driving us to our knees in prayer. The consequences of going further down the rabbit-hole of unGodliness, secularization, and socialism should drive every person who loves this country, and what it stands for, to the ballot box. We have come so far from the horrors of the socialism and subsequent fascism of Nazi Germany, as well as the fear of “The Evil Empire” of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) and the Cold War. I lived through it. I remember the rhetoric and threats. I remember climbing under our school desks during air-raid drills. I remember the nuclear saber-rattling. I remember the images that the words “nuclear holocaust” invoked.

I want more for my children and grandchildren.

You should too.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The more I watch the news, read stories on the internet, or talk to people, the crazier I see our society becoming. Here are just a few questions that I have been pondering of late…

  • Emanuel AME2We see stories nearly every week of some atheist or anti-religion group up in arms because someone prayed at a school function, sporting event, or city council meeting. We have seen anti-God groups go after every Christian symbol, holiday, and even our own national history with a vengeance, trying to eradicate the Christian “religion” and our Judeo-Christian roots from every corner of public life.

So where is the outcry from these same individuals when it comes to the tax-payer funded indoctrination of our school children and college students to Islam? If “separation of church and state” is so important, why do we need governmental-appointed positions such as Sharia Czar and Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference? Where is the indignation from anti- religion groups when it comes to the misrepresentation and acceptance of Islam by those in the corridors of power in Washington D.C.?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • For decades, the argument (among others) from pro-abortion groups has been that it is fetal matter — a blob of tissue — not a baby. A baby does not become a real person until it is actually born. Until birth, a fetus does not have a “meaningful life”.

If this is the case, then why is one of the nation’s top abortion providers, Planned Parenthood, currently embroiled in controversy surrounding the harvesting and selling of fetal tissue from aborted babies? If it’s not a person, why harvest these meaningless “blobs of tissue”? At what point, and who, decides that a person’s life has no meaning? What about people who are tragically injured and in a persistent vegetative state… are they no longer worthy of life?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • IMG_1905With the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, the LGBT community, which has spoken out for decades about discrimination and mistreatment, have finally been granted the “right” to marry the person of their choosing. After years of being denied the right to live their lives however they choose, believe what they want to believe, and love who they want to love, homosexuals and transgender individuals have been granted the ability to do so with the blessing of the United States Supreme Court.

So why is it ok now to vilify and persecute Christians who still oppose same-sex marriage? How is it that people who for years screamed “discrimination” are now discriminating against those who simply (and peacefully) disagree with their lifestyle based on personal religious values? How does a homosexual’s “right” to marriage trump a Christian’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

You can’t have it both ways.

For a society that prides itself on intelligence and logic, we have crossed just about every line of logic and reason in our attempt to be “fair, tolerant, and inclusive.” Science, biology, natural law, and intelligence take a back seat to the ability to “identify” with a person or group. Laws are ignored by those entrusted with upholding the law because those individuals disagree with a certain statute or regulation. Those tasked with protecting and serving the public are forced to operate at a handicap because the very people they are trying to protect are advocating their destruction. We have been told that global warming (“climate change”) is the most pressing issue of our time. Yet recently, arctic ice increased by 1 million square miles in one year (2012 to 2013).

In Romans 1, Paul had this to say about those who choose to ignore and/or disregard the truth…

   The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, 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 people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — Who is forever praised. Amen.
    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:18-32

Creation itself testifies of the glory of God, and His handiwork. A society may attempt to dissuade its members from belief in a Holy God. It may try to marginalize God, lumping Him in with fable, folklore, myth, and legend. Yet, the fingerprint of God on Creation is unmistakable and undeniable. In Psalm 19, David declared…

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 reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Werner Heisenberg, considered to be one of the fathers of Quantum Physics, had this to say about the relationship of science and religion…

“Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life.”

CoffeeCreation is not subject to the whims of world leaders, political correctness, or public outcry. Nature cares not a wit about feelings, fairness, or whether or not it offends anyone. The natural laws, written into the DNA of every cell in Creation, are as unchangeable as Jehovah God. Mankind may attempt to suppress all evidence of the goodness of God from society, but the stones, seas, and stars will not cease to cry out. And if nature declares the glory of God, and God is who He says He is, then His Word is true. And if His Word is true, then we cannot help but conclude that He means what He says, and that we must all come to Him in repentance and humility, to find grace and forgiveness. Truly coming to Him in repentance means to turn from our sin, and accept His finished work of salvation through His sacrifice. We cannot come to Him while holding on, in stubborn unrepentance, to the very things He died to redeem us from. You can’t have it both ways.

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
~ Werner Heisenberg

Staying Between The Lines

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For the better part of the last century, any person driving the roads of America (and most other countries) have experienced something every time they get behind the wheel. It is something that, although we often take it for granted, guides every mile we drive down the highways and byways…

The painted lines in the road.

Whether double yellow lines, dotted lines, white lines, or any other lines that the DOT has taken the time to paint, we look to those lines without even thinking, to guide us in our travels, and to keep us safe.

Seems kind of crazy, huh? I mean, think about it: We are expecting an assortment of painted strips and symbols on the roadways to guide and protect us from the hazards and pitfalls of driving. Without thinking much about it, we typically abide by what the paint instructs us to do, and travel about from place to place, heeding its direction. We speed down the roads in relative safety, assuming that everyone else on the road will do the same, and abide by the paint’s instruction.

We have faith that the little strip of paint on the road is going to keep the 20-ton semi hurtling toward us on its own side of the road.

While we may not understand why a road is designated “one way”, the paint on the road reflects that it is so, and we don’t question its validity… we just do what it says.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, while driving down the road on a foggy night — when I can’t see the road ahead of me, or even the shoulder beside me — all I have to guide me is the reflection of my headlights off of the reflective paint on the road.

And through all of it, we are making a lot of assumptions. We assume the driver heading toward is alert, and is abiding by the same rules of driving etiquette we are. We take it for granted that, as we travel down that one way street, every other driver on the road recognizes the clearly stated flow of traffic, and abides by it. We hope and pray that, when we are driving slow and nearly blind on a foggy night, that the guys who painted the lines knew what they were doing, and didn’t dead-end the lines off the side of a cliff.

If you think about it realistically, what is keeping that other driver on his side of the road?

Absolutely NOTHING.

The vast majority of accidents on our roadways, in one way or another, are caused because someone didn’t follow the paint… someone didn’t stay between the lines.

“So, Pastor… what does this have to do with ANYTHING????”

I’m glad you asked.

God has painted lines on the road of human history that are intended to be followed. He gave us a driver’s manual called  “The Bible” that He meant to guide us along the journey. When we get into trouble — as individuals or as a society — it is generally because we have not stayed between the lines. We may not like the lines. We may not like the way they look, what they represent, or how they make us feel at a given time. We may not understand the logic, reasoning, or thought processes that went behind the formation of the lines.

But the lines are there nonetheless, and our wants, wills, desires, dreams, or intentions have no bearing on their existence… or the consequences of violating their borders.

Just as a 20-ton semi hurtling down the road, there is nothing there to stop us from crossing the lines God has drawn. Man has — from creation — been given a free will. Should we choose to go outside the lines of the laws of God, we do so at our own peril. Paul writes in Galatians 6…

 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

We can decide to travel against the flow of history, and ignore natural law. We can choose to ignore the “One-Way” signs, and presume that there are many ways to God… that as long as we are earnest in our belief, we will one day reach Heaven. But just like the person going the wrong way down that one-way street, it won’t take long before we are proven wrong. Jesus said…

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ~John 14:6

It all comes down to faith. Following His lead, regardless of public opinion, political winds, or the fleshly yearnings of our own hearts. In Hebrews 11:6, Paul said…

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

And in those times when we can’t see clearly, and are fraught with fear, doubt, and insecurity, God has given us fellow believers (Godly friends, pastors, teachers, etc.) to reflect His love and wisdom, and help guide us along the path when the thick fog closes in around us.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. ~ Colossians 3:16

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In a culture that is more and more running off the road and into the ditch of immorality and unGodliness, it is more important than ever for the Church of Jesus Christ to lift high His banner, proclaim His Word, and keep the lines clearly painted on the roadway.

 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:14-16

Stone-Phillips

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Be Excellent!

Looking Glass

Pat Riley, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, knows something about excellence. Having won one NBA Championship as a player, and five as a coach (four with the Lakers, and one with the Miami Heat), he had this to say about excellence…

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

People who rest on their laurels or believe their own press seldom achieve little more than fleeting success. Those who reach a point at which they become satisfied with their past accomplishments, and rest on past glory are usually left on the shoulder on the highway of progress, and soon become spectators of this Great Race we call Life. Those who spend their lives working for the applause of others are foreign to the loneliness of what it means to be a pioneer, or are unfamiliar with the solitude that comes from being on the cutting edge.

It’s the NBA star who was once the 12-year-old kid, shooting countless free-throws in his driveway.

It’s the inventor who went through hundreds (or thousands) of failed designs before he found the one that worked.

It’s the musician who practiced for thousands of hours in an empty room before playing the first note in a concert before thousands.

It’s the medical professional, who spent lonely years studying what it means to hold life in their hands.

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard…

      Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

      And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.. ~ Colossians 3:23-25

Paul shows us that his goal was to keep moving forward, that there is a prize that awaits those who diligently follow after Jesus. Paul makes it clear that excellence is a constant journey that is only achieved by continually moving forward. As believers in Christ, our excellence should be evident to all, for it stands to echo into eternity.

The great Vince Lombardi once said…

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

If perfection is our goal, than excellence is within reach.

However, if “good enough” is our standard of success, then we will survive in a nondescript existence of mediocrity and obscurity.

I just think the King of Glory is worthy of more than that… don’t you?

Experience and the Light of Contentment

Through the Looking Glass

As a general rule, how we see and respond to things in life depends on our own experience.

DickensUpon the death of Charles Dickens, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley delivered a memorial eulogy, praising Dickens for showing by his own example that…

“…Even in dealing with the darkest scenes and the most degraded characters, genius could still be clean, and mirth could be innocent”.

Dickens, who had been through a great deal of adversity in his own life, managed to find the bright side of human nature in some of his most famous characters — people who made the best out of bad situations.

The Apostle Paul discussed this mindset in Philippians 4:11 when he said that “I have learned to be content… whatever the circumstances”. Paul understood that, while the circumstances of life may not ideal, contentment is a vertical choice… not a horizontal one.

Circumstances can be an “undeserved” condition, but contentment is always a choice — a choice to follow Jesus… regardless.

Run to Win (A Bear Story)

I am reminded of a story I once heard…

Two friends were hiking through the woods when they happened upon a bear. Hoping they had not been noticed, there hopes were quickly dashed when the bear, still a ways off, began to charge them. Panic seized them, and one began to run as fast as he could away from the rampaging bear. The other, who was several yards behind his friend, quickly sat down, ripped off his hiking boots, and began strapping on his sneakers, which were in his backpack.

As the first friend passed the second, he screamed, “What in the world are you doing? You can’t outrun that bear!”

“No,” came the reply. “But I can outrun YOU!!!”

In Hebrews 12, Paul implores us to “run with endurance the race set before us”.

In 1 Corinthians 9, he tells us to “run in such a way as to obtain [the prize]”.

Sometimes we feel like we’re running to something, and sometimes if feels like we are running from something. However the race looks to you, God wants you to run it to receive the prize. As the saying goes, “Be in it to win it!” He who called you will also equip you (Phil. 1:6). Whatever race He has called you to run, He has made a way for you to come out on top. Just trust in His goodness and His strength, and run to win.

You can do it! That’s a promise from Him (Phil. 4:13).