May 28, 2017

In Christ Alone – Blake Edwards

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

By Blake Edwards

The powerful words of “In Christ Alone” make it arguably the most popular hymn written over the past couple decades. When I sing this song I feel encouraged and it causes me to look in the mirror. It is a beautiful song musically and lyrically. The song conveys the appreciation we should have for Christ. It focuses on all He has done, continues to do, and will do for His followers. I want to share the lyrics and discuss a few parts of this song.

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song,

This Cornerstone, this solid ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease,

My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless babe,

This gift of love and righteousness,

Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Til on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied,

For every sin on Him was laid,

Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay,

Light of the world by darkness slain,

Then bursting forth in glorious Day,

Up from the grave He rose again.

And as He stands in victory,

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,

For I am His and He is mine,

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt of life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me,

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand, ‘

til He returns or calls me home,

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

-Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend

Let’s focus on the last verse. The power of Christ compels us to live guilt free and not fear death. We can have this innocence because the blood of Christ was innocent and washes our sins away. Yes, we are guilty if we stand alone, but in Christ alone we can be relieved of guilt. When we are in Christ, death has no power over us (Romans 6:14). Since as long as we draw close to God. We will draw closer to God the more we know Him by His word and the more we strive to demonstrate the godliness and holiness He exhibits.

Finally, there is a declaration that we will stand in the power of Christ until our days on this Earth end. We will not be carried away by the powers of the world, but rather stand firm on the foundation of Christ, our Savior. “Or calls me home,” is an amazing and yet subtle encouragement to Christian ears. We do have a house not made with hands and we will live in the presence of God for eternity if we walk by faith eagerly awaiting Christ’s return (2 Cor. 5:1-8).

If we were to sing this song today, would you be able to confidently sing it? Can you proclaim that you are living in Christ alone?

 

 

 

 

 

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May 21, 2017

No Ma’am, I Won’t Ever by Van James

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“Reckless words pierce like a sword,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing”

Proverbs 12:18

I saw him in the church building for the first time last Wednesday. He was in his mid 70s with silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the Good News with him. He was a well-respected, honest man with so many characteristics a Christian should have, but he had never put on Christ in baptism, at least as far as I know.

I had asked him a few years ago, “Have you ever been to a church service in your life?” We had just finished a pleasant day of visiting and talking. He hesitated, then with a bitter smile told me of a childhood experience some sixty years ago. He said he was one of many children in a large impoverished family. His parents had struggled to provide food, with little left for housing and clothing.

When he was about ten, some neighbors invited him to worship with them. The Bible class had been very exciting. He had never heard anyone read from the Bible before.

After class was over, the teacher took him aside and said, “Son, we want to look our best when we worship the Lord. Please don’t come again dressed as you are now.” He stood in his ragged, patched overalls, looked at his bare, dirty feet and said, “No ma’am. I won’t…ever!” And he never did.

There may have been other factors to have hardened him so, but this experience formed a significant part of the bitterness in his heart. I’m sure the Bible teacher meant well, but what if she had put her arms around that dirty, ragged little boy and said, “Son, I’m so glad you are here, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus!”

I pray that I might ever be open to the tenderness of a child’s heart and that I might never fail to see beyond the appearance and behavior of a child to the eternal possibilities within.

Yes, I saw him in the church house for the first time last Wednesday. As I looked at that immaculately dressed old gentleman in his casket, I thought of the little boy of long ago. I could almost hear him saying, “No ma’am, I won’t… ever!” and I wept.

 

 

May 14, 2017

Three Barriers To A Relationship With God

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

H.G. Wells was never particularly religious, but after he had studied the history of the human race and had observed human life, he came to an interesting conclusion:

“Religion is the first thing and the last thing, and until a man has found God and been found by God, he begins at no beginning, he works to no end. He may have his friendships, his partial loyalties, his scraps of honor. But all these things fall into place and life falls into place only with God.”

Wells was right. Life in all its fullness begins with God. While it’s sad that an irreligious world doesn’t make the connection. Yet it’s sadder still that too many Christians fail to grow, develop and enhance their relationship with God.

Today consider these 3 barriers that impede drawing close to God and developing a real relationship with Him.

(1) Substituting knowledge about God instead of knowing God.

It is easy to memorize verses, recite lists, and become proficient with facts, without really getting to know God and develop an intimate relationship with Him.

While the sons of Eli no doubt had  knowledge of the LORD, the Bible says they were “corrupt,” did not “know” him.” They had no communion with Jehovah. Unlike Abraham they were not “friends of God.” Nor like Enoch did they “walk with God.

When a wife says to her husband, “you don’t even know me! What does she mean? She’s not talking about facts. But understanding her emotionally. Being in touch with her desires. Needs. And wants. And feeling a special bond and intimacy in their relationship.

Divine association with God goes beyond simply studying His Word. It brings us in touch with the heart of God. It is loving God with all of our being. And walking close to Him.

(2) Satisfaction with our relationship.

If you have a good marriage and have been married for 40 years, your relationship with your spouse is not the same as during your dating days. Or even the first few years of your marriage. You have grown closer. Your love has deepened. Matured. And expanded.

If, however, your marriage is average or less than that, you know there’s something missing. The connection is not quite right. There is complacency. Apathy. And dullness. Maybe there’s no desire to divorce, but you’re just living together instead of really being together.

The same applies in our relationship with the Lord. We can fall into a habit just “going to church.” Doing our Bible reading. And saying our prayers. But we, like the Laodician Christians have grown “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:15). We’ve settled for less. So much less than we could have.

The difference is that both the physical and spiritual relationship, takes work. Necessitates daily involvement. Demands deep commitment. And requires communion beyond a surface level.

(3) Distractions of the world

In His parable of the seed and sower, Jesus warned about “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” choking out the Word (Matt 13:22). When earthly cares and monetary matters dominate our thinking, they stifle our relationship with God. Dampen our enthusiasm for matters of the soul. And smother our desire for spiritual fulfillment and divine association.

John commanded us to “love not the world” for a reason. The world deflects and distracts us from the proper focus on our heavenly Father.

If you don’t feel close to God, why not? What’s hindering you? How can you rekindle the passion? And where do you begin? These questions are worth your serious reflection.

Adapted from an article by Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

 

 

 

May 7, 2017

Joy and Gladness – Curtis E. Flatt

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

In Luke 1:14 Zacharias was told that Elizabeth would bear a son and that he would, as a result, have joy and gladness. This combination of words joy and gladness was often used in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 35:10 they are used to describe the joyful flourishing of the kingdom of God or the church which was to come. This son of joy and gladness was born and came announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand. (Matthew 3:2) This is certainly a New Testament theme, for the word joy in its various forms is found nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. Those of us who are in the church apparently sometimes fail to find or else we forget the joy and gladness of being a part of the redeemed.

No Joy And Gladness

There are things in which people should find no joy and gladness. So often people find joy and gladness in sin. This is no strange thing, for sin has its attractions, for sure. (1 John 2:15-17) But this which seems to be of joy and gladness finally leads to destruction. We must not find joy and gladness in doing our own thing as did the Israelites when they made their golden calf. (Acts 7:41) Innovations in worship bring joy and gladness to many, but there will be sorrow one day because of them. (Matthew 7:23)

Many Things Of Joy and Gladness

There are many things in which people should have joy and gladness even though they may not recognize their attractions.

Here is contained a number of these as found in the New Testament.

  1. People ought to have joy and gladness in the temporal things God prepared, i.e., rain from heaven and fruitful seasons. (Acts 14:17). However, there are other things of much more importance to bring joy and gladness.
  2. People ought to have joy and gladness in that they have opportunity to hear the gospel—the good news. When the man of Ethiopia heard the gospel, he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39) This was because he had found something of great importance to fill him with joy and gladness. So many miss this entirely.
  3. People ought to have joy and gladness in that through this gospel they can be in Christ. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” (Philippians 3:1) Herein is reason for joy and gladness for it is here (in Christ) where all spiritual blessings are available. (Ephesians 1:3) This reminds us of the importance of baptism for it is by and through baptism that people get into Christ. (Galatians 3:26,27). None are in Christ who have not been baptized correctly.
  4. People should have joy and gladness in the hope which is in Christ. (Hebrews 3.6) Nothing is so saddening as to see our loved one die without the hope which is in Christ. On the other hand, nothing fills the soul of the mourner with joy and gladness like hope. Hope is one of the abiding things. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three ….” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  5. It should also be noticed that people should have joy and gladness in the opportunity to worship God. Even though the psalmist did not have all the advantages people have in Christ, he experienced joy and gladness in worship. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1) There is but little doubt, if any, that he was talking about worship. I may be a poor judge, but I fail to detect this joy and gladness on the part of many when it comes to worshipping God. Have we missed something?
  6. In view of all of this, is it any wonder that when Christians have to suffer for right that the New Testament teaches that they should suffer with joy and gladness? The New Testament does teach that. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” There is so much meaning in the song we sing

Though your heart may be heavy with sorrow and care,

You may others to gladness beguile,

If a face like the light of the morning you wear,

And carry your cross with a smile!

For the work that you willingly, faithfully do,

You shall reap a reward after while;

Only grace in your service can glorify you,

So carry your cross with a smile.

 

We conclude with David’s statement to which Peter referred in Acts 2:26:”Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.” (Psalm 16:8) “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)