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Palms And Willows?

Thought For The Week…

Take a look around you. Everyone is different. There are different skins colors, hair styles, languages, likes and dislikes; just to name a few! The human race may be diverse, but they have some things in common. For example, every human has a birth date and immediately begins his or her journey towards the end of their physical life. Another thing that every human being has in common is the fact that each of us has good things happen to us and each of us has bad things to happen to us.

Job is probably one of the best, Biblical examples of an individual experiencing both “good” and “bad”. Job’s wife encouraged Job to abandon his faith in God (Job 2:9-10) after she had reached her melting point. Job reminded her that they needed to endure the hard times just as they enjoyed the easier times!

(Job 2:9-10) “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”  (KJV)

Our Lord Jesus is another example of one who experienced both the “good” and the “bad”. Jesus makes His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem in the manner as prophesied (Zech. 9:9). We call this day Palm Sunday. As Jesus made His way into the city, the crowds grew larger and they waved palm leaves in front of Him and laid their garment upon the ground. Palm leaves are symbolic of grandeur and happiness. Willows, on the other hand, speak of sadness and hard times.

(Zechariah 9:9) “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”  (KJV)

It is quite interesting that when Moses conveyed the order of ceremonies for the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23, Israel was to gather both palms AND willows. Of course, this was they could have adequate materials to make the booths they were required to dwell in during their feast, but the implications are much more than that. This celebration was to offer the first-fruits of harvest. The bounty of harvest certainly endured both “good” and “bad”.

Jesus IS the first-fruits! He enjoyed the “palms”, but also understood what the “willows” meant in just a few short days. Our lives can be characterized by times under the palm trees as well as under the weeping willows. Just as a bouquet, and a wreath come from the same place, remember that God allows “good” and “bad” into our lives for our benefit!

(Romans 8:28) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (KJV)

Are You Making Music?

Thought For The Week…

Music is one of the most powerful mediums in the universe and is a wonderful creation of God. The more I study music, sing and play an instrument the more I stand in awe at the beauty of Godly music. It can encourage, strengthen and challenge everyone within its reach.

I am reminded about the time when King Saul was disturbed and could not sleep. Nothing brought relief to his soul until David pulled his fingertips across the strings of his harp.  (1 Samuel 16:14-23) Whatever the melody was, it’s soothing rhythm eased the king and brought stillness to the raging sea of his mind. As Saul, both you and I have been rejuvenated by a divinely appointed arrangement at one time or another. God made each of us in such a way that music naturally compliments our life.

Listening to music has always been a great pastime of my mine. When I was saved, however, music took on a larger role. I craved gospel music! Listening to a hymn or gospel song’s melody and anticipating its chord changes is something which stirred me deeply!  As a result of this newly found emphasis, I became more keenly aware of how God’s Word, when set to music, can become that much more meaningful to you.

For the child of God, music should be a natural result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Consider Colossians 3:16 “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.” The Apostle Paul is saying the God’s Word should be “at home” in our hearts and the fruit of that relationship should bring forth constructive music for us and those around us.

Whether it is just a melody of personal praise or that of a congregational hymn sung in a worship service, Godly music should be something that a Spirit-filled Christian enjoys and seeks to build their life around. Does your walk with God bring a song into your heart? Does your life produce a song which draws others to hear Jesus?

Are You Shining Brightly?

Thought For The Week…

When I was a little boy, my mother had two kerosene oil lamps on the mantle which were really quite nice looking. The globes were simple in design, but the bases had some beautiful artwork engraved into it. Most of the time, these lamps sat on the mantle for decoration only. However, every once in a while, when the power would go out, momma would light these lamps. They were amazingly bright and very cozy on a cold winter’s night!

There was one occasion when momma lit the lamps which I remember vividly! For some reason she forgot to trim the wick in one of them quickly enough and the smoke darkened the globe with soot. It did not take very long for this to happen, but it left an image in my mind I won’t soon forget. You see, the soot had done its damage! Though there was light inside the globe, it did not reach out to its full potential because the glass was dirty. We did not enjoy the beautiful flickering light like we could have.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (KJV)

Every child of God, according to Jesus, is a light. He stated this in Matthew 5:14-16 and further mentioned that we needed to let our light shine in such a way that our good works would glorify our Heavenly Father. As a result of our obedience to God, our light would be a help to folks around us.

Our light will not be effective and reach its fullest potential if our lives are not pleasing to God. If we refuse to keep our sins confessed and live for ourselves instead of God, then we will be like that dirty globe my mother had to deal with. It was only when she cleaned the globe that it was able to be a blessing to those in the room that evening.

How bright is your light? Though we will never know just how effectively God is using us and every time He is using our light and testimony, we still need to shine brightly! Stay out of God’s way and let Him work through you dear saint of God. Allow Him to have His rightful place and you will stand amazed as to how God can use you. Keep your lamps trimmed and burning brightly!

Behind The Offering…

Thought For The Week…

Any student of the Old Testament sits in astonishment as they meditate upon the Tabernacle’s creation and its meaning. It must have been a magnificent structure to behold. Those who did have a chance to see it from a distance, like many of the surrounding nations did, certainly were touched by their experience!

Have you ever given much thought as to how the Tabernacle was able to be built to begin with? While Moses was up in the Sinai those 40 days and nights God gave him the plans for the Tabernacle and everything that would be used in service for God. When you read Exodus chapter 35, however, you will find some very intriguing details about the source of provisions for the Tabernacle’s construction.

Without a doubt, many have been blessed as they read the list of things that were given in the offering that Moses asked for. But more importantly, two things are mentioned consistently about some of the children of Israel which illuminates God’s plan over all. Some of the folks are said to have had “a willing heart” and a “stirred” heart.

Yes, God could have miraculously provided the building materials and everything which was needed for the Tabernacle in a way like He did with the manna, but He didn’t. He chose to move upon the hearts of men and women to give of their possessions which they had accumulated while in Egypt and from their “back pay” they collected just before the march out. God certainly provided the material provisions in the first place, but again, He simply touched the hearts of His people to give to the offering.

It is absolutely amazing how various ministries in our local churches can be created, enabled, and carried out in service for Christ. It begins with “a willing heart” and a “stirred” heart. If you allow God to “stir” your heart, you will have “a willing heart,” and if you have “a willing heart,” indeed, your heart will be “stirred!” As God’s people responded to the offering that day, little did they know, how far reaching an impact they would make!

How about you? Are you allowing God to “stir” your heart? Do you have “a willing heart” towards God and the work of God? Consider how God used the offering in Exodus chapter 35 and ask God to use you too!

Whose Side Are You On?

Thought For The Week…

In our neighborhood, as a child, there were many folks to play with. Most of our Summer vacation from school was spent playing together in the woods and IN the creek. Occasionally, we played certain games which required us to determine whose side each of us would be on. As innocent as this may seem, people can really show some signs of severe behavioral disorders in their grandiose emotional expressions for who is going to be on THEIR side! Lol!

Nothing has changed since my childhood days. People are still people and we can put on quite a show when trying to get folks on our side of any issue. Our recent elections, here in the United States, are a prime example of the lengths people go to when endeavoring to get folks to choose sides. Millions of dollars were spent, and thousands of man hours were needed to pull it off.

In view of this innate desire to have individuals on OUR side, a question comes to my mind. “Shouldn’t we focus our efforts on trying to be on God’s side of things?” The Tea Party, for example, has spent a lot of man hours spreading their message and have been able to make a huge impact upon today’s politics. I am not against the Tea Party, but I wonder what would happen if people used as much enthusiasm when spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

In the absence of Moses, Aaron allowed himself to be manipulated, and led Israel into false worship with a golden calf which HE made. While Moses is up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments, Israel was engaged in the idolatry! When Moses comes into camp he immediately calls everyone to the carpet. He handled this issue with great simplicity. He began with a question which required everyone to answer with immediate action. He said, in part, “…Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me…” (Exodus 32:26)

There is a lesson to be learned here. Instead of trying to get people on our side, may we point people to Jesus and His Word! Sometimes we, even as believers, find ourselves on the wrong side of the equation. It is far better to focus our energies on lifting up God’s way and attempt to stay on HIS side!

Precious Memories!

Thought For The Week…

As Creator, God fashioned our bodies from the dust of the Earth. Every part of our body is important and serves a function. Of the many things a person should be grateful for, the ability to remember should be at the top of the list. Memory can be a sweet blessing, and is often not really appreciated until it begins to slip as one begins to age.

Memory is with us 24/7. We can never escape it unless we suffer from an illness which robs us of our ability to recall. Memory certainly isn’t perfect, but is honest. Our daily activities and actions, good or bad, are stored away like a computer encrypts code on its hard drive. We are told by physicians that we only use a small portion of our brain’s capacity which is quite amazing, but obvious in some people… just saying! Lol!

Memory becomes more precious to me the older I get! For instance, February 16, 1992 I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour! I often relive that event in my mind which brings tears to my eyes. In early February 1993 I surrendered publicly to the call of God on my life to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Again, I can give you details as to how that event unfolded. On March 5, 1999 I stood at the altar in Gospel Light Baptist Church of Walkertown, North Carolina with my sweet heart, Shilo Dowdy. We were married day and have never regretted it!

One of the reasons someone should live a clean life, as a child of God, is to limit the scars of sin upon our mind. Though I can instantly recall fond memories, I can also remember some awful memories! There are some events of my past that I wish I could forget, and memory can be a brutal teacher.

Without a doubt, I do love my God-given ability to remember. My Lord has been good to me! Pondering His blessings and how He has proved Himself to me is simply amazing. Our Heavenly Father wants us to remember Him and we should do our best to harbor our lives around His Word. Making daily memories with Him becomes to us like the song is entitled, “Precious Memories!

Precious Memories

Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred scenes unfold.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

Precious father, loving mother
Fly across the lonely years
And old home scenes of my childhood
In fond memory appear.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

In the stillness of the midnight
Echoes from the past I hear
Old-time singing, gladness bringing
From that lovely land somewhere.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

I remember mother praying
Father, too, on bended knee
Sun is sinking, shadows falling
But their prayers still follow me.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

As I travel on life’s pathway
Know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

Stop Chasing Crows!

Thought For The Week…

I love to watch documentaries. Recently, while viewing a program on Bald Eagles in North America, I learned some interesting facts and a very insightful characteristic about their behavior which I thought illustrated what Christians should do in their own lives.

Did you know that at one point there were approximately 400 mating pairs left in the lower 48 due to pollution from pesticides and other issues? That’s right! This beautiful bird was in danger of going extinct, but thankfully it is not so now. God, in his providential care, has let man learn the error of his ways. The eagle population is thriving due to strict laws and the utilization of better practices of man.

Anyone who has personally seen Bald Eagles, in the wild, knows that they can grow to be rather large creatures. It is an interesting thing to me that because of their great size they limit their reaction to certain behavior by others. For example, when other birds, such as crows, get near them, they simply fly away. Instead of expending vital energy on chasing away the crow, it is more fruitful to leave.

There is a lesson to be learned here. You and I do not need to chase away the “crows” in our life. We should simply walk away! Every time we try to reason and defend ourselves we are wasting precious time and energy. The Apostle Paul faced many trials in his life. Under Inspiration of the Holy Ghost, He wrote these precious words in Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

As the crown of God’s Creation, and as His child, we would better serve ourselves by letting God take care of those aggravating “crows”. The eagle could make minced meat of that crow in a second, but he chooses to let the crow have the platform for the moment. Yes, you and I could put people in their place, would more than likely win the argument, and/or could inflict pain in retaliation for their actions toward us, but what purpose would that serve?

The eagle’s way… might I say, “God’s Way” is the best way! Stop chasing crows and soar above. Enjoy the freedom of Providence!

How’s Your Eyesight?

Thought For The Week…

One of the hardest days of my life was when I realized I needed eyeglasses. For several months I noticed that I could not read the clock on the back wall of the church. While that can be seen as a rather humorous situation to be in as a pastor, it was actually very humbling. For many years I could see quite well, but not being able to see something that I should discouraged me immensely.

There are many Christians today who need to correct their vision, but not with a pair of prescription eyewear purchased from the local Optometrist. Many of God’s people have allowed themselves to be desensitized to the needs of others. This can happen sometimes due to the fact of not paying attention to those around you. While looking at people, we may actually not see them at all! Jesus was not like this. The Bible indicates that He was MOVED with compassion when He SAW the multitudes.

(Matthew 9:36) “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”  (KJV)

We need to see people the way Jesus views them. As our Lord ministered to people each day, He took time to not only be around them, but He observed their needs as well. In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we need to slow down and notice the needs of other people. This, of course, will interrupt our life, push us out of our comfort zone, and put us in a vulnerable position. In spite of the unpleasantness which can occur while trying to minister to the needs of others, it is quite rewarding!

Everybody enjoys it when someone notices a need we have and endeavors to take care of it. So why is it that we do not try to reciprocate? Why do we enjoy being a “consumer” more than a “producer”? Our human nature robs us of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Will you open your eyes and behold the harvest field of opportunity? Will you be the servant that Christ can use today?

An Urgency For Consistency!

Thought For The Week…

Every morning, whether we see it or not, the sun comes up in the East and sets in the West. Clouds may obscure our vision, but this cycle continues each day as God has decreed it would. Depending upon the Earth’s rotation upon its axis in relation to its orbit around the sun our temperature fluctuates and gives us our seasons. Even to the casual observer this is an amazing subject to contemplate.

There are many things I have learned from observing the sun and watching its behavior each day. One characteristic which stands out is the fact that it is faithful! The sun is faithful to come up in the East and set in the West! Jeremiah was encouraged by the consistent actions of the sun for it reminded him of our Faithful Heavenly Father. Consider what he said in Lamentations 3:22-23, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” As the sun if faithful to continue its course so God is consistently merciful and compassionate. In fact, each new day brings new mercies and compassionate care from our Heavenly Father!

In view of these great examples of consistency, every child of God needs to be consistent in the right things. Some people fail to realize that 99.999% of the human race is CONSISTENT! The problem is being consistent in the right things. Are you consistent in the “basics” of the Christian life? Many of God’s children desire to serve Him, but are not consistently walking in His ways. Rather, they are walking in their ways and are subsequently hindered in their service for Christ!

I close with a few remarks from Paul Chappell on this subject… “One who has difficulty carrying out the basics of the Christian life may not be ready for the commitment necessary for ministry involvement. CONSISTENCY (emphasis mine) in our Bible reading, prayer time, and church attendance serve as indicators that we might be ready to go to another level in our service for Christ!” 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Will you endeavor to improve your consistency/faithfulness to the things of the Lord? Will you enter this new week with a fresh sense of urgency to be found FAITHFUL?

Safety Is Of The Lord!

Thought For The Week…

Years ago, when Shilo and I were dating, we decided to go and visit the Dam which held back Smith Mountain Lake; located southeast of Roanoke, Virginia. I was pastoring a church about an hour south of Roanoke at the time. We enjoyed eating our picnic lunch and walking around.

The time soon came for us to leave and head back down to Collinsville where I lived. As we were leaving the Dam site, I came around a turn and had to stop for a flock of turkeys somewhere along a desolate stretch of roadway. There were about four to six of them out in the middle of the road, and they took their sweet time moving onto the grassy shoulder. We were held up only a minute or so, but long enough to make it seem like an eternity!

I navigated around my feathered friends when I was able to do so and continued along the winding road back to the State Highway. As soon as Shilo and I got back onto the main road and started West, I looked ahead, about a half of a mile, and noticed a semi-truck coming towards me and slowing to a stop. Most of the tires on this truck were blown out with smoke billowing upwards from the brakes. As I looked back to my right I noticed dirt in the road and the phone poles in the edge of the field were all broken where the semi clipped them. As we slowed down to view the recent damage, I saw a horrific sight. This truck had run over the front of another vehicle which was waiting to pull out onto the State Highway. This vehicle had no place to go! I do not recall anyone being killed in this accident, though I am surprised someone didn’t.

Later in dawned upon me that those turkeys saved our lives! If Shilo and I were 30 seconds to a minute earlier, then we could have been hit, head on, by the Semi! Safety is, indeed, of the Lord! Proverbs 21:31 states, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.” This event should remind each of us that we should be patient when held up from our travels. God might be keeping us out of harm’s way!