Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The difference Between Passing Through and Passing By


We love to sing the old familiar song “This world is not my home I'm just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me from heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore”. The song jingles in our head and flows from our lips and gives warm thoughts in the heart as we think of the beauties of heaven, the loved ones who are already there, and the thoughts that we will one day dwell there also. I understand the sentiment. But if we are not careful we can be so busy focusing on our heavenly destination that we lose sight of the journey that has been set before us. We rush through life oblivious to the sights, sounds and stories and situations around us. We are headed to glory but we forget the gospel encounter that is enabling us to have the hope of glory. In doing so we fail to communicate the doctrines of grace that will help others join us in glory.

Jesus did not make the mistake of just passing through. In Luke 18:35-43 we read the story of Jesus and the blind beggar. The blind man was sitting beside the road cobbling together a living by the only means available to him. He was begging. He could not see but he could hear and feel the commotion of the crowds and he inquired about what was going on. The people told him “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by” (Luke 18:37). I submit to you that there is a measurable difference between passing by and just passing through. Jesus demonstrates what that difference is.

When you are just passing through you take the easiest route. You take the interstate and by pass the towns and crooked roads and the crowds and congestion. You want to get through the territory and make it to your destination as soon as possible and with limited stress. But when you are passing by you take the interesting route. Jericho was a less than desirable town and there was a road that went around it. But Jesus did not avoid Jericho but ventured right into the middle of it. He waded into the thick of the crowd where he could touch them and feel their pulse. He heard their stories. He saw their struggles and recognized their pain. He stopped and engaged in conversation with the people. His followers did not understand his concern and methods. When the blind man cried out for mercy Jesus’ disciples tried to silence him and blockade his access to Jesus. But Jesus stopped amongst the masses and asked that the man be brought to him. The disciples and the crowds saw the blind man as a freak to be shunned but Jesus saw him as a man in great need. The disciples were in passing through mode but Jesus was in passing by mode and so he stopped and engaged in a dialogue with the blind man.

The blind man was desperate and lonely and needy. When asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him he answered quickly and clearly “Lord, I want to see. It has been a long time since these eyes have functioned. Let me recover my sight”.  Jesus said ok. “Receive your sight”! The man’s vision was recovered and he followed Jesus around the rest of the day, glorifying God, telling people what Jesus had done for him. And all the people who saw it began giving praise to God.

We live in a world that is blind in a multiplicity of ways and for a myriad of reasons. They need the touch of Christ. They need the power of His mercy and grace. They need the gospel that loves and the gospel that saves and the gospel that heals. They are not going to encounter that gospel if we just pass through. But if like Jesus we will take the slower difficult road and pass by and stop and engage them with the power of the gospel, lives will be changed. Jesus himself does not walk physically upon this earth today. But we do. While we do let us tell the story of Jesus and administer the help and forgiveness that Jesus has to offer.  

 

 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Value of a Tombstone


Two weeks before my grandmother Ada Cloyd was nine (9) years old she lost her mother to tuberculosis (TB). Grandma did not talk much and if you wanted information you had to pry it out of her. I asked her once what she remembered about her childhood and she said she remembered that when her mother died she and her two older sisters, ages 13 and 11, and her younger brother, age 7 were all sitting on the bed around her father as he told them what had happened. She said that all of them were crying. That may have been my grandmother’s only lasting memory of her parents because two weeks later her father was found dead under a tree where he had been plowing with his mules. He was buried on my grandmother’s 9th birthday, May 27, 1916. Uncle Vince and Aunt Lucy and their daughter, who lived just down the road on the neighboring farm, moved into their house and provided the care and guidance needed until she and her siblings were grown. I am sure there were lots of stresses and struggles with that arrangement but my grandmother always held Uncle Vince and Aunt Lucy in high regards.

Her parents were buried in the family plot in a country cemetery. I have visited that cemetery a few times and have observed that many of the older graves are simply marked with sandstone rocks without name or words of eulogy or notations of the deceased date of birth and death. Such was the case with my great-grandparents when they were buried there in 1916. Poor people have poor ways. There were more critical things to spend money on than a properly cut and inscribed stone. It was left to family and friends to remember where their loved ones were buried. It was the responsibility of the older generations to pass this information and the accompanying stories along. Though my grandmother had a limited experience with her parents, preserving their legacy and memory was important to her. Those barren sandstone grave markers were not sufficient to honor their lives. When she became an adult, perhaps twenty or more years after her parents death she purchased out of her own funds granite tombstones that have now for decades marked the resting place of Noah and Izabel Gill. I was born 41 years after the deaths of my great-grandparents. But I know their story because someone told me. I can find their graves because someone respected them enough to buy a tombstone. It is right to honor our dead. It is good to preserve our memories. It is healthy to recall who we are even if when we do not know the ancestors in our lineage that made us who we are.  Remembering our loved ones who have gone on demonstrates our love and gratitude and regard for them. Taking the time and effort to do so adds value and dignity to our own human story.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Tribute to Billy Graham and Thelma Perkins


Two of the greatest saints of God who ever lived died today and entered the glories of heaven.

One of those saints, Billy Graham, was well known. In his 99 years he had touched every corner of the earth. In one sense he was a simple Baptist preacher. In another sense he was a giant of a man. Billy Graham stated "My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ". That being so he fulfilled that purpose well. He preached in 180 countries and in the process preached to an estimated 250 million people. I have known of Billy Graham all of my life. As a kid growing up we used to gather around the television and listen to him preach. Many years later I had the privilege of serving as a counselor in one of his crusades. I stood within 40 feet of him but never had the opportunity to meet him personally. I think there were smiles in heaven today when Billy Graham arrived. And I think there was a smile on his face when he stood before the throne and met the Lord Jesus.

The other great saint that passed from earth today and began her days of heavenly rejoicing was Thelma Perkins. She was not known by very many people outside of the locality of where she lived. But I knew her well. I first met Thelma Perkins when I was seven years old. Our family was new in town and we joined the Gano Avenue Baptist Church where Thelma and her family were members. She became a lifelong friend to all of us. But we found her worthy of so much respect that none of us, not even my mom and dad, would address her, by any other term except “Mrs. Perkins”. Mrs. Perkins spent her 94 years on this earth loving and serving the Lord through her church and loving and encouraging the people that God placed in her path. Mrs. Perkins was a homemaker caring for her husband and raising three children. She was a kind neighbor. She was a gracious host. You would always get a good meal at her house but more importantly you felt love and warmth and kindness in her home. She never said unkind words about others and her presence made you cautious about engaging in unworthy speech as well. She was one of those people that the love and grace and mercy and kindness of Jesus just oozed out of. Her kind of character and demeanor is rare in the world. Mrs. Perkins was an ardent student of the Bible and was a Sunday School teacher for over sixty-five years. She had a great interest in missions and though she never traveled that much she prayed for people all over the world. I know she prayed for me. Her life and example has been an encouragement to me and many others.

Billy Graham got to heaven early this morning. Mrs. Perkins got there about 10:20 AM eastern time.  I am not sure what the protocol of heaven is like. But somehow I think that with these two great saints arriving on the same day that protocol was broken. There must have been applause. Maybe the heavenly choir got a little extra excitement and danced while they sang. Surely somebody shouted. I was not there so I don’t know. But I think that when the Rev. Billy Graham and Mrs. Perkins stood before the throne today the face of the Lord Jesus was beaming when He said “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

My Christmas Prayer for 2017


When the rhetoric is vile and spewing forth hate

Fill my heart with love, my mouth kind words to relate

 

When characters are threatened by accusations

Keep my tongue from promoting the declarations

 

When news blares of another sniper with a gun

May my sheath, sword, and shield be your majestic Son

 

When I encounter neighbors burdened and in need

Grant me the blessing to give, not withhold in greed

 

When humankind divides by status, creed, and race

Help me pursue common ground, guide me by your grace

 

When conflict and confusion never seem to cease

Make me wise so that I might facilitate peace

 

When a brother has no one on whom to depend

Cause me to be silent, listen, and be a friend

 

When loneliness and despair threaten to destroy

Bring me hope, that encouragement I might employ

 

When I see people broken by sins frustration

Give me boldness to share knowledge of salvation

 

When they grapple in darkness unguided by sight

Let my life and voice become a beacon of light

 

When people doubt Bible truth and implication

Allow me patience for a gospel conversation

 

When stilled in weariness from our earthly story

Deliver heavens hope from the Lord of glory.

 

I Think Maybe I am Getting Old


I think maybe I am getting old. In recent weeks I have had a hankering to make contact with some old friends. I followed through on those yearnings. I called an old friend I had not spoken with in a few years. He told me the sad news of his oldest son being killed in an automobile accident. In the course of that week I spoke with another old friend and learned some of the stresses of his life. It is late in the year and I had some vacation time I needed to take. So this last week I drove to Missouri to see an old friend. We had an enjoyable visit.  But he has a few health problems that concern me and I know they trouble him. I move on and go see my mother and father in-law. I enjoyed the evening listening to their stories. They don't have any sons but since I married one of their daughters they claim me and I am proud of their claim. On the way home I meditate on my visits and I have a fresh reality that getting old has some challenges. And I think maybe I am getting old.

 

I get home and sleep in my bed one night and then take off in the in the other direction to Kentucky. My purpose is to attend a funeral visitation for the father of a pastor friend of mine. My friend is not as old as I am but I know from experience that losing your father will make you feel old. I continue on my journey and go spend the night with my aunt. We set up and talk past midnight and I am pretty sure that is past her bedtime. But I don't want to miss the opportunity share some old memories. Because, I think maybe I am getting old. Next morning I drive over to the town where I grew up. I go to the cemetery to visit the graves of my father and mother. I inspect the flowers resting on top of their stone and I surmise that they are in good enough shape that they don't need to be replaced just yet. I had made arrangements to see another old friend. His son is about the same age as me and I had spent a lot of time at his house when I was growing up, particularly on Sunday afternoons after church. We have a lot of church stories to tell and a lot of people to memorialize. I discover that this old friend and I have more friends in common that are dead than are alive. I think maybe I am getting old. 

 

I get home and I read an obituary in the Illinois Baptist. A pastor friend with whom I have enjoyed many moments of sweet fellowship has lost his wife of 52 years. I call my friend and he reminisces about her life and her home going. She had been suffering from cancer and her death is bittersweet. I think my friend feels old and I think maybe I am getting old. 

 

So I am absorbing my recent experiences with old friends. It causes me to understand that I don't want to spend much time in puny arguments. Life is short and there is simply too many difficulties and too much sorrow to waste energy squabbling. I would rather give my life to loving one another and rejoicing in the love of others.  That is my opinion. But maybe I am just getting old. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Conceived in Eternal Love


Conceived in Eternal Love

By Brent Cloyd, 2017

 

Joseph was a young man excited about life

A maiden named Mary was pledged to be his wife

But then he received news that he could not ignore

News that hurt and the community would deplore

Though they had not come together she was with child

This kind of shame would cause them both to be profiled

 

Being a good man he did not want to cause her pain

To force public disgrace, there was nothing to gain

I’ll quietly divorce her, he fretfully resolved

This will be better for all the parties involved

But as he was dreaming in the blackness of night

An angel appeared, spoke to him, and set things right

 

Take Mary as your wife, and do not be afraid

Years past the prophet spoke of a plan that was made

The child that grows in her is a gift from above

Wrought by the Holy Spirit, in eternal love

She is carrying in her womb a precious son

Through him for mankind abundant life will be won

 

You will call Him Jesus, a savior from heaven

In His powerful name God will stop sin’s leaven

Through His life and story God among us will live

By His atoning work He has much grace to give

So Joseph arose, as commanded, without delay

Took Mary as his wife, The Lord he did obey

 

Scripture said that from a virgin Christ would be born

To allow otherwise would create righteous scorn

So they refrained from sex until after the birth

Denying themselves the natural urgings of earth

When the time came there was born a child of great fame

God’s precious gift, a savior, Jesus was His name.

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When God Whispers in Your Ear


I have never had an angel of the Lord speak to me. I have never heard what I thought was the audible voice of God. The Lord has spoken to me through the scriptures. He has impressed things on my mind. He has placed feelings on my heart. He has sent other people to me with directives and words of encouragement. But an angel of the Lord has never whispered in my ear or showed up in a mid-night dream.

 

But when God spoke to Joseph he did so through His angel. Joseph was engaged to a young girl named Mary. Word got out that she was pregnant and Joseph knew he was not the one responsible. In despair he wonders what he should do. In a restless night of sleep an angel of the Lord appeared to him and made the situation clear. “Mary is a virgin and what is happening to her is an act of the Spirit of God. She is bearing a son and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. And Joseph woke up from that dream and took Mary as his wife and did not have relations with her as his wife until after the child was born. As commanded they named the boy Jesus.

 

Not long after Jesus was born an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again in a dream. The command this time was simple but it was direct and urgent. “Get up, and take the boy and his mother to Egypt and don’t come back until I tell you it is ok, for King Herod in his wickedness is searching for the child in order that he might kill him”. So Joseph arose in the middle of the night and departed to Egypt. Joseph in the course of a year or two had encountered the angel of the Lord twice and each time he had been called to radical action that altered his ordinary ambitions and asked him to do something strange and uncomfortable. What he was being asked to do was helping fulfill the words of the Lord spoken by the prophets but it was greatly changing his life. I think it is true that obeying the commands of God always push us to do and be something different than we ourselves had planned for our lives.

 

Joseph and his family lived maybe two years in Egypt. Then one night an angel of the Lord awoke Joseph again in a dream and said “you can go back to Israel now. Herod has died and it is safe to go home”. So he arose and went back to Israel. But once you have been gone from home, going home is never the same. When Joseph got back to the borders of Israel he discovered that Herod’s son Archelaus was ruling over the region of Judea and he was as bad as his father. Once again he received a message from God in a dream and he had to alter his plans of going back to his original home and instead went to the region of the Galilee. There Joseph and Mary set up housekeeping in a city called Nazareth. My guess is they were never quite at home. The people of the region of Galilee probably looked upon them as outsiders. But there Jesus and his brothers and sisters grew up. In that area Jesus developed his trade. Within the small parameters of that region Jesus brought forth His teachings, called His disciples, and developed His ministry. It all happened like this so that the words of the prophets could be fulfilled; the Messiah “would be called a Nazarene”.

 

One of the lessons this teaches us is the importance of obedience. A simple young man named Joseph, in the midst of stress and confusion, heard the voice of the Angel of the Lord and obeyed. Maybe he argued a little bit, but we do not have any record that he did. What the record states is that he obeyed even though it may have meant ridicule, added stress and increased responsibilities, making uncomfortable journeys, and the loneliness of living in strange places. He obeyed even though it greatly altered his life. He obeyed because he believed the voice of God was trustworthy and that heeding that voice would lead to the will of God being fulfilled.

 

God communicates to us in a lot of ways. We never know what method he might use. It might even be through an angel. But I wonder, if God gives a directive to us, will we obey? Will we follow His instructions even if doing so calls us to unusual and even radical actions? Will we do it believing that our obedience leads to the fulfilling of God’s ultimate will?

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