WHY?

Bill Murphy ©2021

After Mommy and Daddy, one of the first words a child learns to say is WHY?  It’s a word that parents will hear countless times!  Even our Heavenly Father is asked this question!  We’ve made WHY a very important part of our vocabulary.  Don’t get me wrong: It’s most often a good thing to ask why!  We learn things when we ask why… things we might have missed had we not asked.

My father illustrated this principle with one of the most powerful lessons he ever taught me.  He did this in a story he told during the late 1940s.  I was perhaps only in 1st or 2nd grade. 

Our family was traveling from our home in Jackson, MS to Delhi, LA to visit his sister and family.  This was in pre-interstate days, and much of our route was along two-lane US Highway 80.  

Before reaching Vicksburg, where we’d cross the mighty Mississippi River, we crossed numerous smaller bridges spanning other rivers and creeks.  As we approached one particular bridge (one that Dad referred to as the ‘new’ bridge) he told me the following story.

Years before, he said, there’d been a terrible storm with extremely heavy rains.  The rain came down in torrents, making it difficult to see ahead.  Rivers and creeks suddenly flooded and overflowed.  And the bridge ahead (of us) suddenly washed away!  One by one, because they could not see ahead clearly, drivers failed to stop in time and drove off and into the raging water below, to be swept away.

But one old black man, was driving slowly, and cautiously.  He saw the danger ahead… and stopped!  Then, he ran back down the highway, and frantically tried to warn approaching vehicles of the danger ahead.

But this was 1940s Mississippi.  Ours was a land peopled by two separate and separated races… races divided by more than simply skin color.  Sadly, then we were separated by trust, or rather, a lack of trust.  Needlessly, irrational false-fear kept others from seeing the warning… and from failing to ask ‘why?’  They swerved around their potential savior and proceed on, into their watery deaths.  

Thankfully, someone using their brain (and heart) stopped… and then another.  Finally the ‘lemming-march’ was halted.

Although It was a quick lesson, told while driving across a simple bridge along an old asphalt highway, that story had a tremendous impact on me.  The amazing thing is, it taught me a multitude of life-lessons, lessons which have stood with me for a life-time!  It taught me far more than that it’s ok to ask why?

As he told it, Dad probably had no idea of the lasting impact it would have upon my life.  He told it as if it were 100% true, and I’m certain that it is!  My Dad was not one to make up stories… unless he admitted to the fiction.  But try as I might, I’ve never been able to verify this event… as sad as it was.  That old fellow who risked life and limb to save others, should be honored, should be remembered!  

I hope that somehow, somewhere, that old fellow knows that the story of what he did meant a lot to me when I heard about it… and that it still does today! 

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WANTS AND NEEDS

© 2021 Bill Murphy

This is not ‘preaching to the choir.’  If anything, it’s preaching to the preacher.  Yours truly being the preacher in this case.  I need this message more than most!  This study has been real eye opener, and a heart convicter.  The subject is an ageless dilemma, as old as time itself.  If we’re honest, it’s an issue which lies at the very heart of our greatest victories and accomplishments.  It’s also at the root of our greatest mistakes and failures. 

Perhaps it would be wise to take a closer look at these all-important but small five-letter words, WANTS and NEEDS, and how they relate to our walk with God.

We all need God.  That’s a no-brainer!  The issue is – simple wants and needs are never a simple issue for us to grasp – to neither understand or to accept.

First, we should return to the basics, in an attempt to understand the meanings of the terms need and want

NEEDS:  The following is a short list of things we need.

  1. Water.  We must have water to survive!  A high percentage of our bodies are made up of water itself.  Without water, we become a dead, dry, shriveled corpse… like a mummy!
  2. Oxygen.  We must have oxygen to breath.  Otherwise we suffocate.
  3. Warmth.  We don’t have thick and furry flesh.  Our bodies (without clothing) are incapable of sustaining us in low temperatures. 
  4. Food.  We need nourishing food to sustain our bodies, to give it energy, to help it to grow and remain healthy.  Otherwise, we grow sick, weak, and die.  The key word here is ‘nourishing.’

These are of course the very basics.  Take any one of them away, and you’ll not have a long lifetime.  Now let’s look at this same list as viewed as wants.

WANTS: 

  1. Water.  Although most any water will do, we want Perrier, Evian, Glacéau, you know, the good stuff, pure and unfiltered, from some ancient un-polluted source, cold and delightful.  Ahhhh.  That’s GOOD! 
  2. Oxygen.  We buy air purifiers for our home and our offices.  They spew out purified air, washed free of impurities, and laced with the fresh scent of jungle flowers.  Wow!  We complain about, hey… what’s that stink?
  3. Warmth.  A coat?  No, not just any coat will do.  What’s popular this year?  What are our favorite movie and sports star wearing this year?  What’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’?  Do I look good in beige?   Let’s look on-line!
  4. Food.  Yes, I’m here to eat.  But that’s only a portion of the equation.  I want to be entertained, to be served, to be pampered with food-stuffs that delight and brings joy to my pallet.  Pigs eat.  I prefer to dine!  Dinner should satisfy more than simply my requirement for food.   

There’s most often a vast gap between needs and wants.  Needs usually determine what we are.  Wants often determine what we’ve become or are becoming.

We often compare our physical wants and needs when we’re faced with decisions in life and daily living.  That’s good!  That’s the way it should be.  But do we ever compare our spiritual wants to our spiritual needs?

When we realize there actually is such a thing as spiritual wants and spiritual needs, do we understand that the difference between the two has a tremendous impact upon our relationship to God? 

There’s an old hymn that’s seldom sung today that speaks of our need of God.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;

Every hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,

I come to Thee.

It was written in 1872 by Annie S. Hawks, and the words are as true today as they were then.  As Christians, we all agree that we need God! But what does ‘needing’ Him actually mean?  Don’t we believe that it means all of Him?  And by ‘all’ don’t we understand that to mean every bit of Him that we are capable of having?

God has a will.  And God also has a plan.  And His will and His plan reach down to us on a personal, one-on-one level!  Alone, we’re both hopeless and helpless.  And our hopelessness and helplessness means that we need Him, and we need to know His plan and His will for our lives.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, 

plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jeremiah 29:11

God put a tremendous amount of trust in us!  Among the many wondrous things He’s given to us, He also gave us (allowed us) to have a will of our own.  Our will is a blessing, but we can turn it into a curse.  God elected to allow us to choose Him!  And although it’s obvious that we need Him… we fall victim to the power of the enemy and allow this miraculous gift of will to freely operate in the realm of wants.  God has wants also, and He wants us to join Him someday in Heaven.  But He’s allowed us to have a will like as unto His, and this will allows us to have wants, many which are dangerous, and even physically and spiritually fatal!

Jeremiah quoted God saying…  

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, 

plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

We need to allow God to have full reign in out lives.  He knows what’s best for us, and His best are far better than anything we could ever imagine!  And yet, he speaks and tells us that He has plans to give us hope and a future… and we stand and reply to Him that we’re using our ‘trump-card’ of will… and that we’d decided to do things our way… the way we want to!  WOW!  Been there.  Done that.  Lived to regret it!

I think we all understand that needs are important.  But do we also realize that wants are equally as important… because wants can be dangerous, damaging, and fatal!  This is true in the social, physical realm and especially true spiritually!

Prayer

Lord, I don’t know the answers.  But you do.  I don’t understand half of the what’s and few of the why’s. But you do. I can’t see what’s ahead, but you can.  I don’t know the way, but you do.  Lord, I can’t. But you can. I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee. Oh bless me now my savior.  I come to Thee.  Amen

HOLY COMMUNION

What it means to us. What it means to Him 

Bill Murphy, January 2021

Introduction:

When God does something ‘special,’ I’ve heard it said that He was really showing out.  He certainly did this time… In giving this special message to me!  I’m taking none of the credit, for this exciting fresh look is only a closer look at words spoken and events accomplished over two thousand years ago.  Nothing in it is new.

I praise and thank Him for allowing me to have this fresh look.  The message it gives is not new, nor is it my message – it is His entirely.

As the song says, ‘God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good!’  To me, this time, He was especially good! 

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What we’ve come to refer to by such terms as ‘Holy Week’ is fast approaching.  The date of Easter Sunday this year is April 4, 2021.

No doubt there will be many sermons preached on the Church’s observance of Communion.  This observance is also referred to as a rite, and observance, a ceremony, a sacrement, a rite or service.  By what ever your local assembly calls it, it is something originally instituted by Jesus, and we are instructed to continue the practice.  As in other observances, such as baptism, it is a physical expression (or symbol) of a deeply spiritual event.  Jesus Himself stated it perfectly when He said we should participate in communion as a physical act of REMEMBRANCE.

The question is: what is it that we’re supposed to be remembering?

Luke and Corinthians both answer that question when they record Jesus as saying, ‘In remembrance of Me.’  

The reason this meal is referred to as the ‘last supper’ is because it was the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples that could be thought of as normal and ordinary.  He was about to die on the cross… and nothing in Heaven or Earth would ever be the same again!  It was a monumental event… at a monumental time in the history of mankind!

We have national holidays for similar reasons… days set aside to remember specific times and events in history.  For many years after World War Two, we celebrated VE Day (Victory In Europe) and VJ Day (Victory In Japan).  Those two celebrations are no longer considered to be ‘politically correct,’ and are no longer celebrated.  Yet, because it was a pinnacle turning point in the history of our nation, we still remember December 7th, the date on which Pearl Harbor was bombed.  

Although VE and VJ days were considered as days of celebration and joy, because they were times of remembering victories… Pearl Harbor Day can never be remembered with joy and with a ‘celebratory’ spirit. It is a day of remembering tremendous sacrifice and great loss of life.

Now, let’s consider our original question.  What did Jesus want us to remember today when we receive communion?

Scripture tells us that the broken bread is to remind us of his broken body, and the wine to remind us of his shed blood.  This is what we are told to remember as we receive communion… this is the purpose of communion.  But we all already know that, don’t we?  

Yes, we do.  But just like the song ‘Jesus loves me,’ the message never gets old, never wears out, never loses its powerful message!

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And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.   Matthew 26: 26-28

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.  And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.  And he said unto them,  This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.    Mark 14: 22-24

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.    Luke 22:14-20

…The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.    I Corinthians 11:23-26

I often hear a term used which is interpreted as ‘participating in a rite or ceremony,’ and that term is ‘celebrating’ it… as in celebrating the last supper.  Personally, I don’t think ‘celebrating’ is an appropriate word for remembering the horribly painful, brutal, bloody death of our Lord and Savior!  We can’t begin to imagine the shame, the pain, the suffering that He went through!  Hollywood attempted to show us, but that was only a weak attempt at making us understand.  We always thing of Jesus and His strength, faith, steadfast courage and unshakable spirit… yet scripture describes how He agonized over what was about to happen to him!  Think about that!  Remember it!  Now where is you ‘celebration’?

As in most all things, there’s both a ‘what’ and a ‘why.’  We’ve just had a brief and painful look at most of the whats of this last supper.  The ‘why’ is no less monumental in its supreme importance to God, to His will, to His plan for mankind, and to each and every one of us… then as well as today!

Two thousand years ago, our calendars changed.  Jesus Christ changed more than just our calendars, but everything!  Before him, God had a special family of people, people He referred to as ‘His Children.’  This was the Hebrew Nation.  

These Hebrew people, living in Jerusalem, in the very shadow of the temple, were not only subject to the laws of God… but also subject to Roman law.  They paid taxes to Rome, and Tithes to God in the Temple.  And their sins were never completely forgiven.  Instead they were atoned for, meaning, they were rolled forward for another year when all of these collected sins were atoned for all over again on the Day of Atonement.  A sacrifice was made, and blood was shed, to pay the price for the people’s sins.  ‘Church’  was a rather bloody place back then!

But Jesus changed all that!

Jesus came and not only taught us how to live in harmony with one another and with God, but He also preached forgiveness and love… and mercy and grace… faith and hope… and peace and joy.  He taught us how to find and to follow the pathway to the very heart of God! 

And then, He did something that bewilders and amazes us today.  He did something that all the blood of centuries of animals could never do… He paid the price for all sins ever committed before, and all sins committed afterwards.  He himself became the sacrifice, dying on the cross, as a final and complete sacrifice, which would remove sin from mankind for once and for all!  All that was required of us was to reciprocate… He’d give His life for us but He wants us to give our lives to (and for) Him!  He did this for everyone, everyone past and present…everyone who will give up (surrender) their wills unto Him.  

Oh yes, then, as even today, there are many who cannot or will not agree to this exchange… and they chose a temporary life on earth over eternal life in heaven.  And yet, He suffered and died even for them… even though they reject his unbelievably wonderful ‘deal.’  He did this for me, and He did this for you!

When we remember (like He told us to do) His broken body and the shed precious blood, we shutter in awe, our eyes flood with tears, our knees go weak and we fall to the ground in deep humility, respect, reverence.  We worship at His feet.  We worship because of what He has done for us.  We are to remember His great pain and suffering, which He willingly subjected Himself to, so that we might have eternal life with him!

We are involved in this equation.  We are the ‘why’ He did this!  We are the why He suffered, bled, and died on the cross.  He did it to save our filthy hides, to take the place for all of our sorry sins… Himself to die that WE might live!

Earlier we saw what was in it for Him.  But now we’ve seen what’s in it for US.  It is all together different… total polar opposites.  He got the pain, suffering, and death… but we get the joy, happiness, peace, and life eternal!  That second part takes away our tears.  That causes us to celebrate!  That joy sends us to our feet, our hands lifted in PRAISE!  That’s what’s in it for us.

In many restaurants, especially in beach areas, you often see notification signs stating: NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO SERVICE.  The meaning is clear, their dining in NOT that casual!  Dress for the occasion!  Four and Five Star Restaurants will probably require a reservation!

Do we need a reservation to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to partake in communion? 

Actually, in a very real sense, we do!  The ‘reservation’ that is required is that we come to His table in sincere humility, and with an attitude of worship, understanding, and respect for what it means.  We need to reserve our hearts, minds, and spirits to come to the table in deep awe and respect.  Read what Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians. 

“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.     I Corinthians 11:24-29

Now, as we stand before the altar, and the loaves and the wine lay before us, this year let’s be honest with ourselves and honest with God… and let’s consider carefully not only what we are remembering, but also why.  And let’s consider not only what’s in it for us, but especially, what’s in it for Him!

Isn’t it amazing, that something so separate and diverse as are worship and praise, that they can come together almost as one, in an event so monumental to our very faith!  We would miss oh so much to see the one and ignore the other!

It’s also amazing to consider that communion ‘flips the coin’ so to speak.  We tend to think that praise brings about worship… but during communion, it’s worship which brings on praise!  

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