HOLY COMMUNION

Originally Posted in February 2021

What it means to us. What it means to Him 

Introduction:

God did something special in giving this message to me!  I’m taking none of the credit for this fresh look at words spoken at events that happened over two thousand years ago. The story is not new, it’s His entirely.  As the song says, ‘God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good!’  Yes He is! 

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What we’ve come to refer to by such terms as ‘Holy Week’ is here.  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, service.  By what ever your local assembly calls it, it was instituted by Jesus, and we are instructed to continue the practice.  As in other observances, such as baptism, it is a physical expression (or symbolic) 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.  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’re told to remember as we receive communion… this is the purpose of communion.  But we 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!

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 think 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 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, and  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 awareness 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 come together almost as one, in an event so monumental to our very faith!  We would miss oh so much to embrace 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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NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

Tornado

Let’s consider the following scenario:  You’re walking into your first day on a new job.  It is a large place, with several hundred employees.  You know that very soon your’ll be having interaction with dozens and dozens of these strangers.  But the only two that have welcomed you, or even reached out to you thus far are your immediate supervisor, and the HR Director!  It’s like walking into a new school, in a new state, half-way thru the school year.  It can bring on a real feeling of aloneness, even when in a crowd… as if you are a ghost no one can see!  Why won’t anyone reach out to me?  It’s almost as bad as being slapped in the face!

Fast forward to the last week in our area.  The entire central portion of the US had a week of sever weather, with high winds and very heavy rains.  These storm systems also produced tornados, which inflicted heavy damage in some areas, and even causing death and injuries.  These heavy rains caused flooding accompanied by major property damage.  Weather-wise, it’s been a rough week.

Fortunately, modern weather forecasting has given us ample warning time to prepare.  

One of the early warnings issued last week was to be prepared for possible power outages.  We have an electric range, so no power would mean no cooking.  Carol gave me a list of items that we might need over a period of 2 or 3 days, and off to Kroger I went!  The place was packed.  The ‘deadline’ for when the possible tornadoes were to hit was fast approaching.  Carol called me and said to forget the groceries, stop shopping, and to find a safe place in Kroger and hunker down.  I was instruted to STAY THERE!

I’ve seen my fair share of TV news-tornado-aftermath-coverage, and I know that tornados are not kind to Kroger, Lowes, Bed bath and Beyond, or to shopping centers in general.  I was already in the check-out lane, so I checked out.

There’s an old country song that says, ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.’   Putting a twist to that, I decided that if I was about to die, I’d much rather die with the one I loved… than die with strangers I was with! 

I made it home just as a real tornado passed overhead less than a mile away!  Needless to say, I was very grateful, thankful, and happy to be alive and safe. The whole thing was a very frightening experience. We were so relieved when it was over!

And then, once again, only yesterday, very similar storm warning were issued.  Everyone it seemed, was taking them seriously.  I had an eye appointment that morning, and was told to come in early, as they would be closing early due to the weather.   Folks that we know were told that their workplaces were closing early.  Our church cancelled all meetings, including church service, that afternoon/night.  The city was basically closing down early yesterday! 

We stayed home, stayed in, and enjoyed watching TV!

And then last night… after the weatherforcasters had said  ‘all clear’ and the danger was passed, and there was no storm damage, and all was good again and ‘right with the world,’ I began preparing for bed.  And that’s when it hit me… my reason for writing this personal confession, and my reason for wanting to share it with you.  

Last night it suddenly hit me.  In all the ‘action’ involved with that earlier storm only days before, when that danger had passed, I was thankful, I was greatful, and I turned by heart toward Heaven in sincere appreciation to God for allowing us to be spared from harm.  I was aware of His loving hands around me!  But this time, last night for some reason, I had come complacent… I had lacked that same awareness of His loving providence!  It was as if I had ignored His loving, caring, intervention into our lives. I was shaken… not as much by what I had done, but by what I had not done!

That’s when He showed me the lesson in all this… in His wonderful, loving, way! 

Earlier that night, when the storm had left our area, and all was once again right with the world, I had simply gone on with my life, without pausing to recognize HIM and His presence in this situation.  It was as if I had treated HIM as the new kid on the block… the new one  at school… the new employee simply ignored. 

Like I said before, it was almost as if I’d slapped My Lord in the face!  That’s how I felt.

Wow!  To think that I could have done that!  

Now I had two things to thank Him for.  One: for His mercy in protecting us (and others) from the storm outside… and Two: for His amazing grace in revealing to me what I could be inside, and yet still loving me enough to expose that to me!

THANKS LORD!  Thank you for still loving me!

DAVID’S HOMEWORK

David and Goliath

This is the story of David and Goliath revisited… perhaps in a way you’ve never thought of it before!

Homework! Yuck!  Who of us really liked homework?  Little did we understand when in school that homework was a vital part of receiving a good education.  (The teacher can teach.  It’s up to us to receive it.)

Homework teaches much more than simply the scholastic facts of the lesson.  It also helps in teaching us discipline, responsibility, and maturity – as well a being an excellent tool in hammering information into our brains.

So?  What does this have to do with David and Goliath?  I believe it has much to do with this, perhaps the best known and best loved story in God’s Word.

First, let’s go back in time, and take a closer look at the setting of the story.  David was just a lad, not yet considered to be a ‘man.’  He was a shepherd boy, tending the family’s flock.  And shepherding took place outside of town, out on the hills and planes surrounding Bethlehem.  Sheep are ‘skittish’ animals.  Sheep are not fighters.  Sheep are basically defenseless.  David was their defense.  This is where David spent most of his time.  You might say, this was his open-air school house.

The other boys, back home in Bethlehem, were ‘city boys.’  I know, Bethlehem was NOT a thriving CITY by any means!  It was a small town.  But even in a small town, one is surrounded by social interaction.  There were homes, there shops, there was commerce and activity.  If you tripped and fell, there was someone near to lend a hand and help you up.  If you were in danger, a scream would alert others of your need for help.  Assistant was near… assistance in the form of other humans much like youself.  David, on the other hand, was alone… surrounded by helpless sheep… or so it would seem!

David surrounded himself with God!  Perhaps, to put it in perspective, he allowed himself to be surround by God by continually welcoming God’s presence!

And here lies the reality of the difference between David and similar youth of Bethlehem.  David had a ‘need’ of God.  Yes, the other lads did also.  But David was acutely aware of it, whereas other boys were not.  The time would come when David would find himself in need of help and assistance… and he turned to his closest source of strength and comfort, God!

God is known for His unlimited strength and immeasurable power.  But God was not content for David just to know this as head/heart knowledge.  God, the great TEACHER of teachers, God gave David a little (what I like to think of as…) HOMEWORK.  It was like God was saying,  I’ve told you.  I’ve shown you.  Now you go home and ‘work’ this problem like I’ve instructed you.  The ‘problem’ came in the form of a BEAR!

David had listen to all of God’s lessons intently.  He had soaked them up eagerly.  So as the bear approached, David was ready.  His weapons of defense were hope, faith, and a secure trust in God.  And those weapons did not fail!  The bear was slain, and the sheep were saved!  And David got an A+ on his homework!

A similar insadent happened with a lion… and again, David prevailed.  David was learning!  

I like ‘catch phrases.’  One of my favorites is LET GO AND LET GOD!  To me, that perfectly illustrates David’s victory over the bear and the Lion. 

What I’m trying to say here is that before David ever stood before and up to Goliath, he had to stand before and up to his own personal weakness!  He had to learn the lesson of letting go and letting God.  Before Goliath came onto the scene, David had done his homework, and David had experienced what God could do!

Yes, when you read the story, some might think that David was speaking with a bit of pretensios braggadocio in telling those around him that he would take on Goliath.  But consider that moment, there in the Valley of Elah.  King Saul’s army was facing battle and blood, life and death, swords and spears, and an angry giant who towered over everyone.  Their minds and hearts were fixed on fear and not faith.  They were not of the mind-set to hear a testimony from a kid of God’s amazing grace and mercy.  But King Saul was!  It was he who made the decisioin to allow David to confront Goliath.

In truth, it was NOT David who stood up to Goliath, but God working with and through David.  David walked into the fray, but with God before him.  David took along his sling, but God gave that sling it’s power.  David picked up the stones, but God directed that stone to just the right spot to fell Goliath flat on his face.  And it was God who gave Goliath’s own sword into David’s hands… with which to sever the giant’s head! 

Was this a ‘miracle?’  On the human-side, it sure meets the requirements.  But what we call ‘miracles’ are simple matters for God.  All too often God uses ‘just kids’ to do His work.  And just what kid God uses is more often than not, the one who has ‘done their homework.”

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us… Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  And remember, study often comes with homework.

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Praise, Worship, and Snuffy Smith

Award Ceremony

I’m not sure whether or not it’s original with him or not, but my son-in-law, a pastor, says this about worship and praise: “We praise God for what He’s done, and we worship Him for who He is.”  Some say that they are basically the same thing, you know, six of one, a half dozen of the other.  

Really?

My personal belief is that there can be, and usually is, a distinct difference between what we do, and who we are.

Example One:  Our prisons are filled with vile murderers and rapist who have committed unspeakable acts on innocent victims.  And yet, back at home, there are countless mothers who still love those guilty monsters.  That’s because they can still see and love them as their own flesh and blood children.  They love them because of who they are… their child… in spite of what they’ve done.

Example Two:  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Example Three:  It happened on May, 1, 1943 in the war-torn skies over Europe.  Weather had made havoc of the Army Air Force bombing mission of an enemy submarine base.  Several planes had mechanical problems and turned back, several more got disoriented in the horrid weather and turned back.  And then enemy fighters attacked the few remaining planes! 

Aboard one bomber was what can only be described as a miss-fit.  His name was Maynard Smith,  The others called him ‘Snuffy Smith’ in derision, after a popular cartoon character of the time who was a back-woods, cantankerous oaf.  Maynard was what the military called a ‘screw-up.’  He didn’t adjust well to military life.  He was in trouble as much as he was out of it.  But, the USAAF needed ‘warm bodies’ to fight, and Maynard Smith met that qualification.  Maynard was assigned as a gunner in a bomber. 

Maynard’s aircraft was hit… in the fuel tanks!  A blazing fire erupted.  3 crewmen immediately bailed out, never to be seen again.  The German fighters continued the attack.  Maynard grabbed a fire extinguisher and battled the flames… and then alternated this with firing back at the fighters.  He also tended to the wounds of the others around him, as best as he could.  As the fire burned through the fuselage of the plane, Maynard threw out burning debris from inside the plane through these holes.  He alternated between battling the blaze, firing at attacking fighters, and attending to the wounded… until the piloted somehow managed to get the crippled plane back across the English Channel an to friendly base.  The plane broke apart on touchdown.  But all 6 of the remaining crewmen survived! 

For this, Maynard Smith was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor… for single-handedly saving the lives of all the others!

There was a huge difference between WHO Maynard Smith was and what Maynard Smith DID.  And as if to farther illustrate this, on the very day that he was awarded the Congressional Metal Of Honor, he didn’t show up for the ceremony!  He had to be found! And why?  Because, he’d messed up yet again, and was on KP in the kitchen, being punished by doing menial tasks, like peeling potatoes!  He had to be removed from a punishment detail so that he could be given our nation’s highest award for valor!  Yes, this is a true story.

As for me, I praise Him for what He’s done for me and for my family. And I worship Him with a grateful heart and with all of my being… for who He IS, and WAS, and forever WILL BE! 

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THE MASTER’S TOOLS

THE MASTER’S TOOLS

Once there was a young but very skill skilled artisan, a sculptor who worked in stone.  He was commissioned to do an important work, one to be placed in the town’s square.  But he was fearful of taking on such an important project.  So before he began the work, he returned to his teacher for additional training.

The teacher knew that his former student was capable of doing this work, but he also understood that the student was but a poor man, who could not afford the quality tools required for such an important commission.  “I will teach you how to do even greater work than that which you already capable, however, I require that you used my tools!

Day after day, the student hung onto the teacher’s every word, as he soaked up both knowledge and skill from the great master.  He learned quickly, but his young hands were not accustomed to using the master’s tools.  So when the master-teacher wasn’t looking, the student reverted to using his own, familiar tools. 

But the master knew.  He could tell by the cut of the stone. 

One morning as the student was about to begin work, the opened his toolbox only to discover that every tool had been smashed and broken into a worthless heap!  As he held the mangled remains in his hands, the teacher walked in.  “Why?” The student asked.

The old master looked at the bewildered student with loving eyes.  “I have not destroyed your tools,” replied the master,  I have destroyed only those  tools, the ones you now hold to your chest.”  Picking up one of his own fine tools which was laying before him, the old master continued, “I asked you to learn to use these tools… because they are now… your tools!” 

Are we too trusting in our selves, and in our own abilities?  Like the young sculptor, are we too comfortable using our own tools… instead of the quality tools freely supplied to us in His Word by our Lord and Master  

Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15 

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

We most always take that verse to refer to the importance of diligent, careful Bible study… and it does.  But tucked in between those words pertaining to scripture and study is the word WORKMAN.  I take that to mean that after we have read the Word, and we have diligently studied the Word, and we have confirmed in our heart what ‘thus saith the Lord,’ then we are prepared to take up the Master’s tools and do His work, His way, and for His glory.  After all, we are but the student!  

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THE BOOK OF BOOKS

A very old friend

This old Bible is rather ragged and worn. There are a few green paint stains on it also! This Bible was given to me as a high school graduation gift in June of 1959. It became my ‘go to’ source of inspiration, comfort, information, wisdom, and spiritual understanding. It’s a product of Word Publishers, and has the very best center column reference of any Bible I’ve ever owned! This make if a very treasured study Bible!

The wear you see looks more like abuse that simple wear and tear. Not so! But the green paint that I mentioned earlier came about at the same time that the spine damage occurred. The vehicle our family owned at the time (sometime in the early 70s) was a Ford station wagon, a very inexpensive, stripped down, economy model. It had NO CARPET, so the entire rear deck, with the seats stowed, was bare metal! We’d been doing some work around the house, and there was a can of green paint in the back. Oops.

That Sunday Night after church, our family of six piled into the Ford. Someone (probably me) opened and then closed it… but it was NOT firmly closed. After everyone piled in, and we did a quick head count, we headed home. We made it out of the parking lot successfully, but in accelerating onto the busy street, the tailgate flew up and open, while at the same time the paint can spilled, and that Bible of mine, which had been laid in the rear of the vehicle, slide across the slick rear floor, thru the green paint, and OUT THE OPENED DOOR and onto the street! Fortunately, no kids slid out also!

There was a lot of screaming and yelling, and we stopped in the middle of the street to survey the damage. My Bible lay in the street, battered, bruised, and looking like an abandoned cast off. I picked up the tattered remains. All the pages were there, just no long firmly attached. I cried, I really did.

I still tried to used this Bible, but I had to do so very carefully. I was ashamed to carry such a tattered example of God’s Written Word to church. I immediately began to search for a replacement.

I’m not sure what the publisher’s reasoning was, but search as I did… I could never find another like this one… not with it’s unbelievably amazing center column reference. Oh I found plenty with ‘ok’ references, but they were always references backwards… or references forwards. This old Bible has them BOTH WAYS!

For years, any time I happened to be in a book store, I search for my old Bible’s twin. I asked. Dozens of helpful clerks assisted me, but to no avail.

And then… less the ten short years ago, Carol and I were in what we call a ‘junk-tique’ store. You know the place… really old stuff, nothing really ‘valuable,’ just stuff a degree or two above worthless. And there on the shelf, shamefully priced at less than a dollar, was an IDENTICAL COPY of my treasured Bible! I’d found a true treasure! Ain’t God good!

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Not Loving My Neighbor

Bill Murphy  2021

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:43-48 

I’ve been a church goer since birth, and a Christian since I was knee high to a grasshopper… but there was a time in my life when I chose to turn a blind eye toward this all to familiar verse.

It began in 5th grade at George Elementary on Winter I do believe.  There was a boy in my class named J. D. Hudson, and he and I seemed to be in a constant clash.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but if I’ve ever ‘hated’ anyone in my life, it was J. D.  I you are reading this now, J. D., I pray that you will forgive me.  I’m long over my dis-like of you, I promise.  But I do confess, that I harbored that grudge for far too long!  And perhaps, that was my gravest sin!

J. D. had become such a bitter taste to me, that this emotional dislike actually became a part of my life… and this was a very shameful and troubling part of me!  I tried for years to simple ignore it, but without success.  Why could I not simply let it go?  It wasn’t as if the boy had killed my little sister, or maimed my mother or father… nor did he even kick my dog!  It was just oil verses water gone too far on my part!

Many years ago, some how, God in His mercy helped me to clean those nasty cobwebs out of my soul.  It felt so good to have that cancer melt away!  It was a blemish on my psyche that I’d created on my own, and somehow allowed to exist for too many years… a scar that, praise God, is no long there!  Oh how I hope that J. D. Reads this.  I hope that he’s doing well now, and has prospered all these years, and that he’s somehow forgiven me for my stupid grudge against him.  J. D., I am truly sorry!  I am. 

THE GREATEST SIN

I’ve always considered the greatest sin to be the sin of blasphemy.  But I’m beginning to believe that perhaps the greater sin is our feeble attempts to ‘humanize’ God.  Isn’t it true that we often think along the lines of now if this was me, (as if to say, ‘If I was God’)… I would or wouldn’t do this or that.  It can sometimes be a real slap in the face when we realize that we’re totally incapable of ‘second guessing’ Him!     

Our earthly lives are much like courtroom drama.  We have only just so much evidence at hand on which to form our opinions and understandings, and, we are  constrained by definite time restraints.  God has no restrictions.   And, He has limitless knowledge, both forward and backward in time.  God assuredly has the advantage over us!

The past few weeks the Murphy household has been much like both the courtroom and the boxing ring.  We’re in the process of selling our house in Illinois and moving back home to Mississippi.  Carol and I have turned it over to God, asking Him to lead, guide, and direct.  We truly want His will in all that is done!   Heaven knows the countless mistakes we’ve made in the past in trying to do it ‘our way.’  Our batting average isn’t the best in the world!

But in the current effort God is taking us on the roller-coaster ride of our lives!  One day is sunny and bright with what we see as progress, and the next day storm clouds surround us!  These ups and downs can be trying.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way!  Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

Our ‘roller-coaster ride has been our viewpoint.  But God keeps showing us that what we see as down can actually be an up.  What we see as 2 – 2 = 0, He keeps showing us can actually be 4… when He’s doing the math!  Only He can change a minus to a plus and do so in the blink of an eye… our eyes! 

There’s an old church song that says, ‘He is good all the time.  All the time, He in good!’  We’re seeing this proven right before our eyes and on a daily basis.

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BE A MAGNIFYING GLASS

This is a dust-off of a very old write, a presentation for a weekly devotional I gave while working for Jitney Jungle over twenty years ago.  I begin this with a brief  description of my life-long respect for communication clarity.

One of my earliest remembrances was spawned at Halloween during the late 1940s.  Battlefield Park in south Jackson, Mississippi held an annual Halloween fest for children, which included an overabundance of candy, bobbing for apples, and a rather tame spook-house.  They also had a ‘fortune teller.’  My older cousins had to explain to me what that was.  I still remember that the little slip of paper I was given by the spooky looking lady sitting behind the crystal ball said… that I would one day be a LAWYER.  I had to be told what that meant also!

   No, I never became a lawyer.  But I suppose that I have had lawyer-like tendencies most all of my life.  My high school yearbook stated something about my propensity to ‘argue.’

   That said, civil law is a stickler for truth!  And truth means saying what you mean and not simply what you say.  In other words… correct word usage is of paramount importance to me.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  

   This brings us to the subject of my old devotional.

   The first chapter of the book of John tells of the meeting of Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) when both were still pregnant.  In their conversation, Mary is quoted as saying, 

“My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

                                                       Luke 1:46

   Interesting!  But doesn’t MAGNIFY mean to make something larger?  So how is it possible to make the Lord larger?  Was Mary speaking about the baby Jesus growing in her womb?

   Definitely not!

   It’s generally assumed that magnify here means praise.  But could it mean much more?

   Here is where the difference between what Mary actually said, and what it appears that she said, is most important.  What did Mary actually say… what did she say spiritually, correctly, even ‘court-house’ legally?

    Notice that Mary didn’t say, “I magnify the Lord.”  She spoke of her soul, her spirit, her inner and eternal self. 

   Scripture talks about images.  It tells us that…

So God created man in his own image, 

in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:27

   Now, let’s define what an image is.  An image is not the real, actual item, nor even a physical duplicate of that thing.  It is only a likeness, a representation, similar to a photo.

   Mary spoke of ‘magnifying’ the Lord, and magnifying means to increase or make larger.  But this is not a boast of making God larger… but of making His image (the ‘reflection’ of God that the world sees in us) appear to be larger that the images of Him they have previously seen in others!  Think of it this way… when we look at an ant under a magnifying glass, the ant appears much larger.  The aunt in not larger, but the image of the ant is!

   Our world today is beset with Godliness on every side.  God has chosen us to be the visible image of Himself, the invisible God, in the world.  We do this by allowing our lives to be a reflection of His love and mercy.  The less of our nature that shows… and the more of God’s nature that shines within us… the more of God the world will see, and will learn of Him, and will be drawn unto Him.  

All of us, like Mary, should always strive to magnify the Lord… now more than ever!  As it says in Colossians 1:27, Christ in you, the hope of glory!

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A Simple Matter of Perspective

Every so often we encounter someone who’s attitude and outlook is, let’s say,‘out of sorts.’  They’re everything but cheerful, friendly, and hospitable.  OK… they’re cranky, cross, and crabby… even grouchy, irritable, testy, and surly.  Obviously they have a burr under their saddle. 

It’s so easy to pont fingers, to shout ‘button up buttercup,’ and to challenge them for acting out and acting up like they are.  In times like that, we’re glad that we’re not like them!

But we are.

As children of God, most of the time we’re hard-headed children.  And as children of God, we try to think of ourselves as bright, beautiful, and as perfect as is our Heavenly Father.  But we’re not.

Sometimes, God allows some sweet soul to hear the trigger click, and they ‘go off’ with a crabby ‘bang’ that wounds us.  But… in God’s big picture (in which He knows all and everything) He’s simply using ‘crabby’ as a temporary mirror, held up before us, so that we can see a clear reflection of ourselves!

In John 8:7 Jesus said…

‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone’

Oops!  Do I see myself in the mirror?  Yes, I believe I do.  Sorry Lord. 

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