Wes McAdams — Hebrews 10:25 re-examined

Last week we started a series of posts in which we are re-examining well-known passages of Scripture. This week we will look at Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…” (NKJV). This passage is often cited to rebuke those who “miss church,” but is that really what the writer of Hebrews had in mind?H

How the Passage is Often Read

This passage is often used to compel church attendance. We are told that missing a Sunday or Wednesday service – without an adequate excuse – is “forsaking the assembly.” But is that what the writer of Hebrews meant? Did he really just mean, “Don’t skip church services”?

The Book

The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who had “endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32). They were “exposed to reproach and affliction” (Hebrews 10:33). They witnessed their brothers and sisters being thrown into prison. They themselves “joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] property” (Hebrews 10:34).

It sounds like to me this letter was written to Christians who experienced the “great persecution against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1). Back then, these Jewish Christians endured this persecution with joy and faith. But now, decades later, their joy and faith seem to be wavering. Some of them are ready to abandon the way of Jesus.

The book of Hebrews is written to prevent that falling away. It is written to show that our covenant with Jesus is better than the old covenant. Jesus is a better high priest, who entered a better tabernacle, to offer a better sacrifice, and give to His people a better inheritance. To abandon Jesus would be the worst mistake anyone could ever make.

The Immediate Context

Hebrews 10 is all about the fact that without Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus was the one single sacrifice for “all people” for “all time” (Hebrews 10:10-14). Therefore, if a person rejects the sacrifice Jesus made on their behalf, there remains no other way for them to be saved.

The writer is encouraging them to “hold fast…without wavering” (vs. 23). He is warning them not to “trample under foot the Son of God” or “profane the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified” (vs. 29). He warns them not to “throw away their confidence” (vs. 35) or to be like those who “shrink back and are destroyed” (vs. 39).

It is only in the context of words and phrases like these that we can understand what it means to “forsake the assembly.”

The Meaning of the Verse

Hebrews 10:25 is often quoted by itself, but it is actually not even a complete sentence. The whole sentence of Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV) says:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The word translated “forsaking” is used several other times in the New Testament:

  • Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
  • God did not “abandon” Jesus in the realm of the dead (Acts 2:27, 31).
  • Paul said they were “persecuted, but not forsaken” (2 Corinthians 4:9).
  • Several of Paul’s companions, including Demas, “deserted” him (2 Timothy 4:10, 16).
  • God promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

As you can see, the word “forsake” carries with it the idea of “abandon” or “desert.” And that makes perfect sense in the context of being told, abandoning Jesus would be the worst mistake anyone could make. It seems that some of the Christians in that congregation had already made it their manner of life to abandon, turn their back on, and desert the church.

The Hebrew writer is telling them to grow closer together. He is telling them to figure out ways to rekindle the desire in each other to love and do good works. He is telling them to encourage each other more and more, so that no one walks away from Christ. He is telling them not to turn their backs on the church and on the church’s togetherness.

The Application

Does this passage mean the church should meet together, gather together, assemble together? Absolutely. That’s what it means to be the “church.” It means we are a group of people who have been gathered together by Jesus and we make it our custom to gather together regularly to encourage each other and stir each other up to be loving and do good works.

But I do not believe it is fair to call missing a service, “forsaking the assembly.” There are plenty of people who’ve abandoned Christianity and abandoned their church family, but occasionally missing a service is not the same as “forsaking the assembly.”

Think about it this way: I have a lot of work to do at the office today and I will probably have to miss dinner with my family this evening. It is disappointing, but it does not mean I have made it my custom to “abandon eating with my family.” There are certainly some men who have abandoned, forsaken, or deserted their family togetherness, but occasionally missing dinner does not qualify. In fact, it would be downright cruel to accuse a husband and father of abandoning his family in a situation like this.

Similarly, it seems a vast exaggeration to accuse someone of “abandoning” congregational meetings because they were not present one week. Does this mean it’s ok for church togetherness to not be a priority in our lives? Absolutely not. Being together with our church family should be of utmost importance to us.

And perhaps the more we focus on making our meetings a place where people are encouraged and stirred up to love and do good works, the more people will desire to come together.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

(I want to thank Wes McAdams for giving me permission to re-post this series that re-examines the way that we have looked at some familiar passages.  It is my intention to do these on the 1st Tuesday of each month.  You will be blessed if you check out Wes’ blog, Radically Christian at http://www.radicallychristian.com/)

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“Bringing Honor to God”

Other than my wife, I suppose that Ken Thomas has heard me preach more than anyone else (and a few others from the Prairie Grove church).  He has listened (and, I might add, quite attentively) to me regularly for 17 out of the last 27 years.  He often remarks about the quality of the sermon, or the subject that I tackled, or the length of the sermon.  He has always been a great encouragement to this preacher.

One of the things that he has always said about me, is that I could find 3 points in two sentences, or less.  In fact, he has playfully chided me about that, to the point that I have consciously tried to not have three points.  But there are just times, when three points is what is there.

Psalm 50:14-15 (CSB), Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and your vows to the Most High.  Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.

There are three points in the passage, Ken; and I believe that they are important points.

(1) The verses begin by saying, Sacrifice a thank offering to God.  It is my understanding that a “thank offering” is more of an attitude, than a particular offering.  The sacrifices that the Jewish people offered were to be done in gratitude for what God has done, or could and would do.  In verses 9-13, it has just been explained that God does not NEED their sacrifices.  He owns the cattle on a 1,000 hills (vs. 10), He does not need theirs because He is hungry.  The overwhelming attitude that God people have to have, than and now, is being grateful that THE God of the universe cares about us!!!

(2) The psalmist, Asaph, then says, Pay your vows to the Most High.  What vow had the people of God made to Jehovah?  Well, Moses at the end of his days, told the people: Take to heart all these words I am giving as a warning to you today, so that you may command your children to carefully follow all the words of this law.  For they are not meaningless words to you but they are your life, and by them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 32:46-47, CSB).  When Joshua told the people to choose for themselves the one you will worship, they responded saying, We will certainly not abandon the Lord to worship other gods.  (Joshua 24:16, CSB).  Their vow was to live like God wanted them to live, and to pay attention to what He said!  Which is the same thing that I said when I expressed my faith in Him, repented of my sin, confessed Jesus as the Lord of my life, and obeyed Him in baptism.

(3) Finally, the statement is made:  Call on Me in a day of trouble; …  It seems to me, the writer is saying that if you have an attitude of gratitude, keep your promise to pay attention and live the way that God says — you WILL call on Him in the day of trouble.  You won’t try to solve it by yourself.  You won’t try to buy your way out of it.  You won’t ask the government to solve the problem.  You will lovingly turn to God, and ask for His assistance and guidance.

When we do those, two things will happen — He will help, and I will honor Him.  When I live with attitude of gratitude in my life for Him and all that he has done; when I remember and keep my commitment (vows) to Him to live like He wants and pay attention to what He says, and when I call on Him in my day(s) of trouble — He will help and I will bring Honor to Him.  I have often been grateful for His help, but I will confess that I have not often considered how I honor Him in all of that.  All of those actions show my love, respect, and dependence on him — and that expresses my honor for Him, and brings honor to Him.

What a powerful message in those two short verses — even with 3 points!

Peace.

(These thoughts were first posted on Facebook on July 15, 2016.  They are being reposted here as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday” — even though it is Monday morning, before I got the time to get them on here.  It is my prayer that they will be a blessing to you, as you start this work week.  Please remember to “honor” the God that loves us.  Bill)

“That Was The Week That Was”

1964, and part of 1965, there was a weekly television show called That Was the Week That Was“, and it starred David Frost among others.  I can remember watching, and it being somewhat entertaining to a 14 year old.  I decided to “lift” the name as the title for some reflections that I want to share.  Beginning on Friday, March 30th, it will be my intention to do this every Friday on a weekly basis.  Saying that, reminds of driving nearly 2 hours to hear Foy E. Wallace Jr.  He preached for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and then we had to drive home.  But we went back the next night, and he began by saying that it was his “intent” to not preach as long as he had the night before, BUT, he added, we needed to remember that an “intent” was not a “promise”.  So, remember, that it is my “intention” to do this every Friday, and that is not a promise.

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The last weekly reflection column that I wrote was on February 23rd, and a lot has happened since then.  But there was one thing that I wanted to share.  Wednesday, February 28th, I drove to Florence, Alabama to attend “Alumni Days – 2018” at Heritage Christian University.  I had not been on the campus, while the school was in session, since I was there for graduation. I had driven through the campus on a couple of occasions earlier, but it was always on a weekend and nobody was there.

I did not attend the Wednesday night dinner and gathering — because, something else had my attention.  I drove an additional 30 miles to Rogersville, and went to the home of Roy and Joetta Trousdale.  I never had a younger brother, but Roy (and he will always be “Roy Mac” to me) is as close as a brother could be.  His parents, Roy and Petey, lived across the street from the little stucco house where Jerry Edwards and I had landed, while we were students at International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University), and there are extra stars in their crowns for how good they were to us, and to me after Jerry had moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  Roy, and his son, John, have been to our house — so that John could attend a baseball camp at the U of A.  Of course, John ended playing for that other U of A in Tuscaloosa.  All the times that Roy and I have texted, talked on the phone, and communicated by email over the last few years — I had never personally met his wife, Joetta.  Life, jobs, families, 500 miles had kept us physically apart.  I was really looking forward to spending some time with them, and the 2 days were extremely enjoyable.  I look forward to their being at our house the end of April, to watch John (and that team from Alabama) play baseball against the U of A.  I’m just glad it is not football.

Thursday was just a great day!  I heard some really good speakers, was there for the grand opening of the Coil Conference Center, toured the historical section of the school library, and had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends.  Friday morning, I attended my VERY FIRST “Alumni” meeting.  About 10:00 a.m., I was on the road — looking forward to crossing the Jordan River at Memphis and entering the promised land.  It is amazing how far behind you can get just by being gone part of a week, and I’m still trying to catch up.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel now, and I just hope it is not an oncoming train.

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In the last ten days or so, I have finished up 3 books, and I just want to mention them briefly.  The first one is The Kind of Preaching God Blesses, by Steven J. Lawson.  It is a really short book (125 pages), and the bulk of the material is 5 sermons that all come from the same text, I Corinthians 2:1-9.  Dr. Lawson is one of the leading proponents of expository preaching, and these 5 sermons lay a foundation for what he believes.  I am going to attend a short (2 days) workshop on preaching this coming August with Dr. Lawson, and I am trying to familiarize myself with his techniques and style.

Second, is Signs and Wonders (A Harmony Novel, Book 3) by Philip Gulley.  Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, that writes about a small town, Harmony, Indiana and what happens in that town through the eyes of a Quaker pastor, Sam Gardner.  All the things that you might imagine could happen, do.  All the amazing, hilarious things that can happen in small town churches are masterfully told in this remarkable book.  As I read this 232 page novel, I could almost hear the voice of Garrison Keillor reading it to me — it really has that kind of appeal.  If you never listened to Keillor, and his radio show Prairie Home Companion, with the very popular segment “News of Lake Wobegon” that might not mean anything to you, but it had that same small-town, homey touch.  There are 7 volumes in the “Harmony” series, and I just happened to catch this one on sale for my Kindle, and I will read the rest of them (if I can catch them on sale).

Finally, was Small Church Essentials by Karl Vaters.  Last Friday (3-16) I posted Part 1 of my review of this book, and Part 2 will be posted this Thursday (3-22).  For any that are in leadership of a small church, or care about a small church — it is a MUST read.

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“The Christian life doesn’t merely involve spiritual warfare.  The Christian life IS spiritual warfare.  All of the followers of Jesus are soldiers and not civilians (II Timothy 2:3).  We must be in constant preparation for spiritual battle and not a spiritual vacation.  The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign.  It is a call to spiritual war.” 

That statement is the first paragraph in an article titled “Cruciform Warriors Needed” by Derek Prince.  Prince is an assistant professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He blogs at “Prince on Preaching,” and that is where this very interesting article came from.  He is right, we are to be “cross-shaped” warriors, as we go off to fight the enemy.  May God give us the strength, courage, and wisdom to do just that.

“More Deadly than Cancer”

(This is another entry from “My preacher”, Bill Sherrill.  He was the preacher when I was baptized at the Midland Boulevard church in Fort Smith.  For a number of years my mother was his secretary, and I spend a lot of time at the church during the summer months.  He said that he is 84 years old, and still rides his Harley to the office every day.  He didn’t have a Harley in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, he had a Volkswagen Karmen Ghia.  He impacted my life as a young man, in a very powerful way, and I am privileged to share some of these articles that he sends out each week.)


         I had a small mole removed from my back. Pathology showed it to be malignant. The medical practice with a small melanoma is to return to a surgeon and have a larger area removed and studied. I had not been properly prepared for the “larger” area. Somehow I thought of it in terms of an inch or two at most, surrounding the first incision. But what is interesting is the conversation concerning the amount to be removed. It never crossed my mind to ask to have the very least amount taken out that could be done. Obviously, I was not anxious to have a large hole in my back. But neither did I want less than was necessary to remove the possibility of additional malignant cells.


Interestingly, few treat the malignancy of sin with such respect. Rather than go further than necessary to insure protection there is a tendency to debate just how little we can remove and still get by. Jesus comments on this inability to carry over natural wisdom into spiritual matters. He said, “…Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”  (Mat 16:3) We will often park our souls closer to Hell’s destruction than we would our car near to a dangerous cliff.


The nature of the immature has always been to see how close to danger they can get without suffering disaster, but when we see those who would claim maturity doing the same we tend to doubt their claims. God would advise, “…shun the very appearance of evil.” (1 Thes 5:2), but man argues, “Is it really very evil or just slightly away from good?” Paul wrote to the young man Timothy, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  (2 Tim 2:22) This is no, “how close can you get,” statement. Timothy is encouraged to “flee.” That is, in common terms, to run as far as he could from sin’s presence.


If we could ever convince mankind that sin was more deadly than cancer we would have made great strides in the battle against it. I have faced cancer several times in my life and I always wanted it removed “right now!” But it is deadly easy to let sin co-exist with little urgency. The significant word here is “deadly.” How shall we ever elevate the fear of the proximity of sin to the level of the fear of the proximity of cancer? Jesus well knew man’s misplaced emphasis when he said, “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28)

Bill Sherrill

2-26-18

“The Challenges of 2018”

“2017 is now past.  Learn from it, celebrate and honor it, but don’t focus on it.  It is gone.  Wholly embrace and boldly enter 2018 with expectations of new successes, greater personal growth, and special moments with family and friends that await you.”  (Richard Blackaby)

The first Hoot’s Musing for 2018 started with this quote on January 4, with an entry entitled “2017 in the Rear View Mirror.”  It was an entry about my desire to be a better disciple and preacher this year than last year.  My goal is to continue to grow, and not become stagnant in my life of faith, and my life in ministry.  This is the first report on how I am doing with the challenges that I presented to myself for 2018.  You, the readers of Hoot’s Musings are my accountability group, and each month I will report to you how I am doing — and I want you to hold my feet to the fire.

READING

My goal for 2018 is to read 78 books.  Now there is nothing magic about reading a certain number of books, except that it will be a continual challenge to use my time more wisely.  In the past I have used a lot of books in my study, but very seldom did I read that many books.  For example, right now I am teaching a Sunday morning Bible class on Satan and His Dark Kingdom; and there are 15 books that I am reading in conjunction for that class.  At the same time, I am preaching an expository series through the book of James, and there are 13 more books I am reading as a part of my preparation for that series of sermons.  It is not my intention to count any of those books as a part of the 78, as I want those books to be just for the joy of reading.

There are three books that I am reading daily (or in one case, weekly) that I will put on this list.  Each morning, I begin my day with some devotional reading from Psalms, and I am using two volumes to direct the thoughts of that reading:  Psalms for Living: “Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance” (Mark Lanier), and Prayer, Praise and Promises: “A Daily Walk Through the Psalms” (Warren W. Wiersbe).  Also, as a part of my desire to be a better preacher, I committed to read one book a month on preaching.  The first book I chose to read was One Year to Better Preaching: “52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills“, and I would think that it would be obvious that is a book that you read one chapter weekly.  So after one month, I am pleased with these books that will be a part of the whole year with me; and I am convinced that I will profit greatly from all of them.

To accomplish my goal of 78 books this year, I will need to average 6 1/2 books per month, and I am glad to report that I am a little ahead of schedule.  In the month of January I read 6 books, and have two more that I am about two-thirds of the way through.  The books that I have finished are:

  1. Book of Enoch“All about the Three Books of Enoch” — Dr. A. Nyland

     2. Captives of the Word — Louis and Bess Cochran

3. Praying for Sunday:  “You, Your Pastor, and the Next Sermon” — by Dr. Michael Fabarez

4. The Last Lecture — Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

5. Sermon Design and Delivery — Tom Holland

6. Alexander Campbell:  “The Man and His Mission” — Leroy Garrett and Louis Cochran

The two books that I have not completed yet are:

7. Nial’s Crossing:  “A Novel ( A Bill Maytubby and Hanna Bond Mystery) — Kris Lackey

8. The Blind Side — Michael Lewis

I will freely confess that three of those books are extremely short (less than 100 pages), but they were something that I wanted (and even, needed) to read.  The real challenge will be ahead, as I continue to attempt to do this on a regular basis.  I really believe that I will profit because of this effort, and ask for your encouragement in the process.

WRITING

The sermons on James are really good for me, and I hope that they are blessing others.  It is my prayer, that if the publisher finds them to be what he wants — that they will bless others for years to come.  I hope to have them finished by the end of April, and that I will be able to turn them over to him by then.  Writing a manuscript for a sermon has been really difficult for me, as I have never done that.  BUT, I believe that in developing the discipline to do that, will enhance my communication skills as a preacher.

I posted 10 times on this site during the month of January, and I would like to get that up to about 12 to 15.  In the last month I used two articles from another author (Bill Sherrill), three were from 2016 Facebook devotionals about Psalms, and five were new material from me (including one book review).  That ratio of articles may continue in the future, and hopefully it will be a blessing to you (the readers) and helpful to me.

PASTORAL MINISTRY

I have often said, I am not a pastor and don’t want to be called a pastor.  I am a preacher, that ministers at a local congregation; under the leadership of men called elders (shepherds, or overseers).  They should be responsible for more of the pastoring in this local church than I am.  But as a local minister, I am expected by God, and the people of this church, to be involved with, care about, and love the members of the Prairie Grove church.  I will never be as good as I should be, or even as good as I want to be.  I must constantly remind my, provoking to love and good words, to be more involved in a pastoral ministry with the church I serve.  Please pray that my efforts will be successful in this particular area.

HEALTH AND FITNESS

This is an area that I have added as a challenge for 2018.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, know that I had gastric bypass surgery on May 30, 2017.  It has been really successful for me, but, in a way, it has created some other problems.  I have lost some much weight, so rapidly; that I have lost a lot of muscle in the process.  On top of losing muscle, I have never been one to exercise — regularly, or even sporadically.  The last half of 2017, I really did well of walking on a regular basis (walked 230 miles in 77 days of walking).  But the walking dried up the last 2 – 2 1/2 months of the year; as the weather got colder, and the days shorter. My weight has been pretty static since about the 15th of October, only losing about 16 1/2 pounds.  Right after Christmas, I knew that I had to do something.  I thought about buying a couple of pieces of exercise equipment, but that just did not seem logical to the wife (or me), because I had no history of persistence in exercising.  So at the age of 67, I bought my first gym membership; and decided that I would work out on a regular basis for the first time in my life.  It was my goal to average going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week.  Monday – Wednesday – Friday, I would do lifting exercises to build some core strength back; and then on Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday, I would do a cardio workout.  Since January 2, the day I bought my membership, I have had 30 opportunities to work out, minus the 4 Sundays, as I had other obligations and responsibilities on that day.  In those 26 days, I have managed to go to the gym and exercise 19 days (73%).  I feel really good about that, and want to continue doing at least that well.  In my opinion, being in better condition physically, will be a part of improving as a preacher.

Weight – March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight – February 1, 2018 — 216 pounds

Richard Blackaby also said, and I quoted in the first entry of the year, “Warning!  If you don’t make any adjustments to your attitude, skills, or habits in 2017; you are destined to be exactly the same person with the same results in 2018!  Aim for more!”  That is my goal for the year 2018!  Pray for my efforts, in all the areas of endeavor!  Peace.

 

“Who Sits on Your Throne?”

Many of you have heard me talk about Basil Overton, and some of you have heard me mention him many times.  He was one of the teachers at International Bible College, and, in my opinion, he would have qualified for a Reader’s Digest entry into their “Most Unforgettable People” columns.  He had the unique ability to take the most complex subject, and break it down where almost anyone could understand it.  For years (and years) he wrote a column in the paper he edited (The World Evangelist), called Mule Musings.  He would take the habits of, or stories about, mules; and then make a spiritual application from them.  He was a brilliant and educated man, and I believe that he demonstrated that by being able to communicate with ALL people.  One of his memorable sayings was that “You had to be able to shuck the corn where the hogs could find it.”  The point of that would be, it didn’t really matter how much you knew, if you could not communicate it on a level where people understood — what you knew didn’t really matter!

Two of my favorite sayings (and again, you have probably heard these before) concerns people who have a little too high opinion of themselves.  He would say — “He has a problem with the perpendicular pronoun”, or “He is a self-made man, and worships his creator.”  Isn’t that a beautiful and simplistic description of a very real problem, that we, as humans, have.

Psalm 115 gives a very visual illustration of a problem that the nation of Israel faced:

But their idols are silver and gold,                                                                                                 made by human hands.                                                                                                                    They have mouths, but cannot speak,                                                                                            eyes, but cannot see.                                                                                                                          They have ears, but cannot hear,                                                                                                    noses, but cannot smell.                                                                                                                  They have hands, but cannot feel,                                                                                                   feet, but cannot walk.                                                                                                                         nor can they utter a sound with their throats.                                                                       Those who make them will be like them,                                                                                       and so will all who trust in them.                                                                                                (Psalm 115:4-8, NIV)

What a remarkable description of the futility, and the foolishness, of idolatry.  How ridiculous is it to worship a “god” that you made with your hands?  To think that something we designed and fashioned, could have been what created, sustains, and saves us!

Now, I am sure that for many of them — the idol was not the god, but was just representative of their god.  But, after time passed, the idol became the god.

You know that we still have that problem, don’t you?  The things that have been “created” by man, have become their “gods.”  It might be money, pleasure, sports, career, and the list could go on and on and on!  And again, these things are not the good, they become representative of the “god” that we have.  The “god” that we have … is … ourselves and what we want!  Their is the problem, we worship what we want!

Years ago, Kenneth Reed wrote a book entitled What Controls Your Life.  In the first chapter of that book, he explained that in each of our lives their was a throne; and whatever was most important to us would sit on that throne.  Each one of us needs to closely examine our life, and decide “Who Sits on our Throne”  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on June 28, 2016.  It is being re-posted here as a part of our series on the “Psalms”.  It is our prayer that it will be a blessing to you, and that you will grow closer to the Lord.   Bill)                                                                                                      

“Questions from the Shore”

(This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospels, and the author is one of my favorite preachers.  I grew up listening to Bill Sherrill preach, and really enjoy his thoughts from his weekly email.  I am glad that I have the opportunity to share them with you.  Hoot.)

It was early in the morning, just after daybreak, and the  morning breeze was just beginning to ripple the water of the lake. Not too far off shore, a group of men were in their boat. They had fished all night without success. On the shore stood a lone figure. He called to them inquiring about their catch, though he knew they had none. In words which must have stirred memories of another time, he said, “Cast your net out to the right side of the boat and you will get a catch.” As they struggled to bring in the huge catch, one spoke to another saying, “It is the Lord!”

Peter, who was always the one who rushed in where angels feared to tread, dove into the water and swam to shore. The rest followed, towing the overflowing net. On the shore, Jesus had prepared a fire and invited them to share a breakfast meal. Following the meal he turned to Peter and ask, “Do you love me?” Peter was already hurting because he had been so bold in word and so weak in courage at Jesus’ trial. His simple reply, “You know I love you,” twice answers the Lord’s questioning. The third time the question is asked, the reply is the same but we are told Peter’s feelings were hurt. What we miss in the English translation is the use of two different Greek words for love in the exchange. To use words perhaps a little more understandable, we would have Jesus ask “Do you love me with the highest love?” Peter then, no doubt remembering his failure to show such love under pressure, responds, “You know I care for you very much.” This play on words is used twice and then the third time Jesus lowers his level of commitment as he asks, “Are you sure you care for me very much?” It is to this lower challenge that Peter responds with renewed hurt. He has been trying to express his love without his usual bragging and Jesus, rather than accepting his humility, calls for him to be sure he even loves at that level.

We are not all that different from Peter, are we? We profess in word and song our undying love for the Savior, but often fail to exhibit it in times of testing. Were Jesus to call us to the shore might he say to us, not, “Do you love me,” but, “Are you sure you really care very much?” Forgive us Lord that our mouths too often out distance our actions!

Bill Sherrill
01.21.2018

“Opened their Mind to Understand”

In December of 2003, I interviewed with Mike Linn for a job as a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation, and I really needed the job.  I needed to leave where I was, and they needed for me to leave.  Work was a real challenge, emotionally and financially.  Joe Kidd, Mike Linn’s brother-in-law, had recommended me for the job, and I will forever be indebted to him.  Joe and I had been friends for a long, long time; and, in fact, he was my “best man” when Malia and I got married.  I’m sure that I never would have gotten an interview if it had not been for Joe.

You see, being a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation involved calling on residential contractors (home builders), soliciting the work that we could do on the houses they were building.  The products and labor we had to offer involved insulation (obviously), gutters, soffit and fascia.  To be totally honest, I didn’t know anything about any of that!  I did not know soffit from fascia, how to design a gutter system for a house, or how you went about insulating a house.  I was surprised to find out that not every wall in the house was insulated, that there were different thicknesses of insulation, that those different thicknesses indicated different degrees of effectiveness, and I had no idea what R-value meant.  Not exactly what you would want selling your products!

Over the 12 years that I worked for the company, I probably sold as much insulation as any salesman in any of the 8 offices of the company.  Now, there were other salesman that sold more (a lot more) windows, gutters, soffit and fascia than I did — but I was an insulation salesman.  How did I learn about insulation?  Well, a local salesman by the name of Jim Foster got stuck with teaching and training me.  I road with Jim for 3 or 4 days, and he taught me how to do it —  just like he did it.  He had to explain to me that there was  a difference in the cold wall and the knee wall, what size stud took an R-19, and what depth the code required for the attic insulation.  There were times that I had to go back and ask questions, times that I had to go back and remeasure the house, times that I made mistakes and the installers took the wrong material, and so on!  There were houses, big houses, that it would take 4 or 5 hours to measure; and when I got back to the office I was not sure of what I had done, or if I had done it right.  There was one house in Prairie Grove that I worked on all morning; and then, went back to the office and said that I needed someone to go with me, because I was totally confused.  There are just some things that take time to learn; but, I was determined to learn it.

There is a story that is found at the end of Luke’s Gospel, that I find to be very intriguing.  It begins like this:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  (Luke 24:13-16, ESV)

I don’t know if these two were part of the 12, but they were followers of Jesus, and they were distressed by what had happened.  A part of their distress, was that they did not understand why this happened, it wasn’t what they thought would happen.  Listen to what they told Jesus:

they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. … (Luke 24:19-21, ESV)

This was not supposed to happen to the Messiah, and now He cannot redeem us from the occupation of Rome in our country.  Everything is all messed up now!  They went on to say:

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  (Luke 24:21-23, ESV)

Jesus must have been heart-broken, that they had not understood all the things that He had said to them.  He said:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.   (Luke 24:25-27, ESV).

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved to hear all of that!

Later, after He had revealed Himself to these two, and they had gone back to tell the 11; Jesus appeared in their midst, and part of what he said to them was:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:44-47, ESV)

Our task is to learn the message of the Messiah, redemption, resurrection, repentance, and forgiveness of sins; and proclaim it to all the nations.  Like I said, I would like for Jesus to interpret all the passages for me, and open my mind to understand — but, the Father, has left us a written revelation to share.  May we have the energy and desire to learn this message, and share it with others; as I did to learn about insulation and sell it.  Obviously, we recognize which is the most important.  Peace.

 

(This week has turned into a very busy week — with medical appointments, deadlines, holidays, etc.  This post is one that was written about 9 months ago, that was not seen by very many people.  I am reposting it today, in hopes that it is a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Life is Tough”

There is no denying the fact that life can reach those points, where the difficulty can almost become unbearable.  It is during those times that we want to do like Hagar, and sit down and cry loudly (Genesis 21); or do like Elijah, and sit down under a tree and wished to die (I Kings 19).  There are all kinds of things that can drive us to that point — the suffering and death of a loved one, persecution from those that oppose us, financial reversals, marital difficulties, disease, and the list could go on and on …

I have been really blessed in my life, I have not faced many of those situations.  I have walked through them with many of my friends, and it always causes me to pray for the strength of faith to face these difficulties (that will inevitably come my way).    The reason for the prayer, is that we know that the reactions of Hagar and Elijah did not work, because of what happened in the rest of their stories.  In Hagar’s story, an angel of God appeared as she sat and waited on Ishmael to die, and said …”What’s wrong, Hagar?  Don’t be afraid, for God has HEARD THE BOY CRYING from the place where he is.”  (Genesis 21:17, CSB).  It does not say a thing about God hearing her cry!  In Elijah’s story, as Elijah sits under the “broom” tree, an angel comes and gives him something to eat and drink; and then sends him on his way to Mount Horeb.  It is there that God reveals Himself to Elijah in the still small voice, rebukes him for having such a defeatist attitude, and then tells him that are 7,000 others that have not bowed to Baal.  Those stories are so often a reflection of the way we act, or the way that we feel.  All of us want to do better, but we struggle with the faith to believe that we can.

My life was blessed last night, as 21 of us got together and watched a movie that is 42 years old, The Hiding Place.  This 1975 film, starring Jeannette Clift, Julie Harris, and Arthur O’Connell; is based on the 1971 book by the same name.  It is the true story of the Ten Boom family, as remembered by Corrie Ten Boom.  The Ten Boom family lived in the Netherlands, and were there during the Nazi occupation in the early part of WWII.  As the German occupation intensified, the persecution and imprisonment of the Jewish people began.  Because of their strong Christian faith, the Ten Boom family could not sit and do nothing as this was happening to their friends and neighbors.  The book and the movie are the tragic and touching tale of what they did to help their Jewish friends (and many they did not know), and the time they spent in German concentration camps.  You will shed tears, as you become involved in this remarkable story.

There is one line that I will never forget, that Betsy shared with Corrie; and Corrie has  shared it with the world — “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper.”  Regardless of the situation, and how bleak the trial might be, God, and His unfailing love are always there.  I was reminded of the “Shepherd’s” psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd;  I have what I need.  He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.  He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the  presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.                                                                                                                  (Psalm 23:1-6, CSB )

Get this book and read it.  Rent, or buy, this movie and watch it!  You will be blessed because you did.  Peace.

“Seeking after God”

Reader’s Digest used to have a treasury of short stories about people in every issue, especially those people that make a serious impact on the lives of others.  Over the years there have been a lot of those “special” people in my life, more lives than I could ever list or name.  Two of my favorite people are Mahlon Graham and Harold Wilbanks.  They both attended the Cedar Grove church in Rogersville, AL, when I preached there.  Harold passed away a few years ago, and Mahlon still lives in that community.

The people that make up that church all deserve extra stars in their crown — for putting up with all the nonsense, mistakes, problems, and dumb actions of a young (single) preacher, that still had some growing up to do.  Probably as much as anybody else, Harold and Mahlon liked me; and understood some of the conflict that was going on in my life.  They would listen to me, encourage me, and chastise me when I needed it.

Mahlon had a service station on Highway 72, east of town, down by the river, down by the river.  Sometimes the three of us would be there, and almost without exception, the conversation would turn to football.  Harold was an Alabama fan, Mahlon is an Auburn fan — and they were both serious about their team.  On top of that, they were both loud; and could get louder if they thought the situation deserved it.  Sometimes, I am sure that you could hear these “discussions” a mile away.  In those discussions I generally favored Auburn, but being an Arkansas, I really didn’t care much for either team.  So, I delighted in getting the arguments started, and providing a spark to keep them going.

Mahlon and Harold both encouraged me in my preaching, and there were times that I really needed it.  It was strange to me, that both of these men liked what they called my “hard” sermons.  You may recall those kinds of sermons from the past, when the preacher romps, stomps, and yells about “sin”.  Most of the time it seemed as if the intent of the sermon was to get the people to feel as if they were not good enough, or doing enough, to say they were saved.  Mahlon told me once, that he figured if he could “hunker” down and take a sermon like that, he was probably going to be alright.

Well, maybe I have learned a little, and grown a lot since then — but my approach to challenging sin is a little different 40 years later.  I have come to the conclusion, that sin is a “heart” problem, and not an action problem.  The bad actions are the result of what is going on in the heart.

Listen to what the psalmist has to say:

In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  (Psalm 10:4, NIV)

That verse, as well as any, my definition of sin:  Sin is doing what I want, instead of what God wants.  In one of the most wicked periods in the history of the Israelite people, one of the thoughts that is constantly repeated is:

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. …  (Judges 2:10-12, NIV)

The Israelites were sinners because they had a heart problem, that manifested itself as actions in their lives.

The actions of people are bad, because our actions are a manifestation of what is in our heart.  In one of his first recorded sermons, the apostle Paul made this statement about the Israelite King, David:  After removing Saul, he made David their king, God testified concerning Him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do”.  (Acts 13:22, NIV).  David made some terrible mistakes, but he always stayed “after” the heart of God, and God loved that attribute in him.  When we keep “seeking” God, even if we make mistakes along the way; God, in His “steadfast love”, forgives us and stays out in front of us.  We have to continually search out heart, and see if we are “seeking” Him, or seeking after our own wants and pleasures. Those that are “seeking” have room in their heart for God.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  (Psalm 9:10, NIV)

Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on May 27, 2016.  It has been revised and edited for use as one of our “Psalms for Saturday”.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you today.  Bill)