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Archive for May, 2019

It is that time of year again when school teachers shout and parents are tempted to run for the hills. The end of another school year has arrived. The summer break begins. There will be no tests to take for three whole months. Vacation time has arrived. Hooray! Happy days are here again!

This isn’t true, of course, for those who are graduating. They will not be back in high school when September arrives. Their joy at the idea of graduating is tempered by the awareness that the enjoyable times they have shared in school for twelve years will now live only in the land called yesterday.

The annual jubilation associated with entering the summer break won’t be the same for those wearing a cap and gown. The time to move on has arrived. Yesterday’s events are gone, stored in their memory bank, and what is yet to be now begins to claim center stage.

Seniors – regaled in cap and gown – will march across the center stage to claim a little piece of paper. But it is far more than a piece of paper. It represents countless hours of arduous study. It represents the dedicated labor of teachers who have tried to instill within you a love for knowledge and a determination to spend your life in ways that serve and bless others. For those entering college the time of studying continues.

Long ago in ancient Greece, when formal education was for the very rich or the very determined, a wise teacher was approached by a group of noblemen. One nobleman said, “Our sons have completed their studies and it is time for them to return to their homes and live in the style befitting their station. Tomorrow we will present them at a great banquet. Be sure they are appropriately dressed in their finest robes.”

The following day the banquet hall was filled with royalty dressed in dazzling finery. The great moment arrived when the students entered the banquet hall with their teacher. A cry of disappointment arose from the crowd, for their young men were dressed, not in the garments of the noble, but in simple robes of sackcloth, each carrying a mortarboard – the mark of a common workman.

The noblemen cried, “What is the meaning of this? Our sons were to be dressed in their finest garments!” The wise teacher replied, “But they are! Your sons are dressed in the clothing of the mason, for their destiny is to build. Some, as architects, will build cities. Some, as teachers, will build lives. Some, as physicians, will restore bodies – but all will be builders on the solid foundation of knowledge.”

And to this day those who graduate from high school and other schools of higher education wear a cap and gown – proudly symbolizing the value of education, and the fact that they are builders, not only of their own future but also of the future of their community, nation, and world.

Graduation is a time when yesterday’s preparation becomes the foundation for tomorrow’s achievements. There may have been times when those who are graduating wondered if this day would arrive, but it is here. You graduates have earned it! Celebrate it! Enjoy it! The future belongs to you!

But know this: The God who created you wants to walk with you every mile of the way through life and use you to glorify His name and to serve others. If you will do that, the graduation festivities this year will not begin to compare in splendor with the one that you will experience on that day (See Revelation 21:1-5).

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What does it mean to live here in light of there?

Solomon states in the book of Ecclesiastes that “God has set eternity in our hearts” (3:10, 11). Living in the light of eternity enables us to make choices here on earth that dramatically affect every part of our lives.

Such a choice was required of a woman named Vibia Perpetua who lived in the second century A.D. She had a husband and a newborn baby. They were new Christians, and were members of the struggling persecuted church in North Africa. Linda Holland tells Vibia’s story in her book, Alabaster Doves.

The day came when people moved from the center of the street in Carthage to make way for a procession of Roman legionnaires. The lead Roman soldier unrolled a scroll and read it to the people who had gathered. The message denounced those who were Christians because they would not sacrifice to the emperor. Wherever they were to be found they were to be taken, held, and brought before the consul.

Meanwhile, outside of town, Vibia and her husband had just become new members of the Christian church in Carthage. She was twenty-two, and could not have known at that time that her commitment to Christ would demand of her the ultimate test of courage.

The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had issued an edict prohibiting Jews and Christians alike from converting or making converts. The Roman procurator Hilarianus faithfully and fanatically attended to the execution of this edict. If these new Christians would not deny their faith, they had to be executed.

The new church had entered the martyr age. Men, women, and children were torn from their homes, judged to be dangerous citizens, and condemned to die. Spies lurked in neighborhoods who reported the names of those who became followers of Jesus Christ. Not only had Vibia Perpetua and her husband become Christians, but several of her friends had also accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Vibia’s father came to the prison again and again to plead with her. With tears in his eyes, he kissed her hands and fell at her feet, asking her to recant her faith. For this he was taken out and beaten. Vibia watched as her husband denied his Christian faith, placed the lighted sacrificial incense on the altar to the emperor. He then ran away, leaving his wife to be executed.

The day came for the execution to be carried out. Vibia and her fellow Christians were led before Hilarianus, Procurator of Carthage. “Are you a Christian?” Hilarianus demanded.

“I am,” Vibia answered. “I cannot forsake my faith for freedom. I will not do it. For Christ is my life, and death to me is gain.”

Hilarianus signaled the executioners, who herded Vibia and her friends to the entrance of the arena to be executed. Vibia and her friends met their deaths on March 7, 203 A.D. and stepped into the arms of Jesus. The blood and tears of these dedicated early Christians were hot wasted, though. They moistened the ground into which new seed would fall and produce a harvest for Christ’s kingdom.

They knew what it meant to live here in the light of there. The day could come in our country when Christians would be asked to deny their faith or die. If so, will your faith be strong enough to stand the test?

 

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Very few things in the world are as awe-inspiring or give as much joy as the birth of a child. To see a child function – instilled by God with the spirit and soul of an individual – should be testimony enough for any person to believe that there is a God. As children grow and we witness the innocence of their character and personality, we can understand the answer Jesus gave when His disciples asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He called a little child to stand beside Him, and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2).

Every child is a gift from God. So, what is a boy? And what is a girl? A few lines from the writings of Alan Beck point out some of the delightful pleasures of children:

“A boy is truth with dirt on his face, beauty with a cut on his finger, wisdom with bubble gum in his hair, and the hope of the future with a frog in his pocket . . . And when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, he can mend them like new with two magic words, ‘Hi, Dad!’”

“A girl is innocence playing in the mud, beauty standing on its head, and motherhood dragging a doll by the foot . . . But when your dreams tumble down and the world is a mess…she can make you a king (or queen) when she climbs on your knee and whispers, ‘I love you best of all!’”

Children are a constant reminder of many attributes we should all strive to develop. Andrew Gillies expressed it this way:

“Last night my little boy confessed to me

Some childish wrong;

He prayed with tears—

‘Dear God, make me a man

Like daddy — wise and strong;

I know you can.’”

Then while he slept

I knelt beside his bed,

Confessed my sins,

And prayed with low-bowed head –

‘O God, make me a child

Like my child here—

Pure, guileless,

Trusting Thee with faith sincere.’”

May we all live our lives with a sizeable portion of that childlike innocence, that we may be always teachable. Jesus said that it is the best way to know Him, serve Him, and one day reserve a place in our Father’s eternal kingdom.

 

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John Ruskin wrote: “How much I owe to my mother for having exercised me in the Scriptures, and above all, having taught me to reverence them as transcending all thought and ordinary conduct.” What a treasure he had to be able to say he had a godly mother. As Abraham Lincoln said, “No man is poor who has had a godly mother.”

Many women today are upset and disappointed when they learn they are pregnant. They say it will interrupt their lifestyle, so they get an abortion. They say, “This is my body; I will do with it as I choose.” I could understand this sentiment if only their body were involved. The Bible teaches that our bodies belong to the Lord, not to ourselves. Thus, Christians are to use their bodies in a way that will honor and serve the Lord.

The women to whom our world is most indebted are godly mothers, for they believe in prayer and often pray. Monica, a North African Christian in the fourth century AD was 23 years old when her son, Augustine, was born. Augustine was destined to become one of the greatest Christian leaders and thinkers of all time – in spite of his father’s unbelief. Though Monica’s husband was frequently unfaithful to her and possessed a violent temper, she trained Augustine in the Scriptures and prayed for him every day.

According to Augustine’s Confessions, at sixteen he plunged into sexual immorality. For the next sixteen years he tried to extricate himself, but could not. Finally, his mother’s prayers were answered, and Augustine came to the cross a penitent sinner, was forgiven of his sins, and his life was totally transformed. Monica’s prayers for her husband were also answered, for he became a Christian shortly before his death.

God-fearing mothers recognize that their children are gifts from God. The Old Testament mother, Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, was such a mother, for “she gave her son to the Lord.” She did it while he was yet a child. She was not willing to stand idly by and wait for him to grow up. I can identify with Samuel because my mother also gave me to the Lord when I was very young. She saw that I was in church each Sunday. She didn’t send me, or make me go; she took me to church. I am eternally indebted to her.

God-fearing mothers take advantage of their children’s curiosity by teaching them the important things they need to know in order to develop their skills. Because children are curious, they are loyal to those they love, and are teachable. This is where a God-fearing mother has her greatest opportunity to serve God and touch the world. To come to Christ at an early age is to miss the bondage of evil habits: alcohol, drugs, immorality, etc. It is important that both parents set the proper example for their children. More is caught by children from their parent’s example than is taught to them through their words.

When Robert Ingersoll, the notorious skeptic, was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?” The other said, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll didn’t explain my mother’s life, and until he can do that, I will stand by my mother’s God.”

No mother has ever had a more important job than raising her children. Therefore, to every mother reading these words, ask yourself this question: “What would it profit me if I could gain the whole world, and lose my own sons and daughters?” It takes a great deal more than just having children and attending church to make you a godly mother. It asks that you dedicate your life, your home, your work, and your children to God – and that you pray daily for His leadership.

 

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I suspect that you, like me, receive a lot of telephone calls every day. Imagine that one day when your phone rings, you pick it up and say, “Hello . . . to whom am I speaking? You mean the real, er uh . . . I mean, the One who . . . who created the entire universe and hung the stars in place? The One who . . . Holy Catfish! . . . What do I mean by ‘Holy Catfish?’ It’s only an expression, honest to . . . uh oh . . . Well, what I mean is, I didn’t expect You to answer . . . And by the way, why do You answer your own phone? I know lots of people who aren’t nearly as important as You are who don’t answer their own phone.

“In my work here on the earth I have had secretaries for more than sixty years in the churches I have served as pastor who answered incoming calls, then buzzed me on the intercom to tell me who was calling. Don’t You have a secretary in heaven? You don’t? But surely You have an official receptionist? Of course, I should have remembered . . . your receptionist is Simon Peter. I knew that all the time. I was just pulling your leg . . . Oh my goodness, that is not what I intended to say . . . please forgive me.

“You must get a tremendous amount of calls . . . You don’t? . . . That surprises me . . . I thought a lot more people than that would talk to You every single day . . . What? . . . And You say this is the first time that I have talked to You in three months and ten days? . . . Really, God, You didn’t have to mention that, did You? . . . Er, uh . . . What I meant to say, Lord, is that You have every right to mention it.

“Let me get back to why You don’t have a secretary. You say you enjoy answering the phone? . . . Really? . . . But God, You could have any secretary You want. There are some excellent secretaries down here – including Brenda, the current secretary at our church. She is one of the finest. You could zap up any secretary You choose. . . . What? You don’t find that to be funny? I thought it was pretty funny . . . Ha Ha — see, I’m laughing. Yes, of course You are right. Brenda would not appreciate my joke either.

“What’s that? You have a bookkeeper in heaven? And among the things You keep on record are how often church members attend worship, and how much they give in their Sunday offerings . . . Really? I don’t believe most church members are aware that everything they DO and DON’T DO . . . and the amount they GIVE or FAIL TO GIVE is all recorded in your book. And You say that the Internal Revenue Service would be very surprised at how little some church members give to support the work of your Kingdom?

“Lord, would You like for me to tell church members about the books You are keeping? You would? I will also include this information in an article that I have written every week since 1959 for publication. After I have done these things I will get back with You and let You know if it has made any difference in worship attendance each Sunday in the church I attend, and if the level of giving to the work of your Kingdom has increased. . . . Oh, I forgot . . . You will know this before I will. Yes Sir! I mean, Yes, Lord.

“You want me to tell people that when history has come to an end and Judgment Day has arrived that your books will be opened to reveal everything that is in them . . . Really? And that those whose attention You have been trying to get for a long time are going to be greatly surprised? . . . And also embarrassed? And that especially those who don’t even believe You exist will be the most surprised? I can understand that!

“Come to think of it, Lord, knowing that your books are going to be opened on Judgment Day, I’ve got to run. I’ve got to begin doing several of the things You have asked me to do that I have let slide far too long.”

 

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