First Christian Church Newton

A Community of Companions on the Journey of Faith

Things that Go Bump in the Night

“From Ghoulies and Ghostliest,
and Four Legged Beasties,
and Things that Go Bump In the Night;
Oh Lord, Deliver Us”

The above four lines are actually a prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer which was first composed by Thomas Cramner in the sixteenth century. It is a faint reminder to us that at least once the believers took seriously the forces of evil in this world.

We should never forget that Satan is in this world & he is trying to tempt us away from the truth.

This is the time of year when we see pumpkins in the stores & Halloween candy on the shelves. It is also a good time to look at some of the history surrounding the development of the season we call Halloween.

The word “Halloween” comes from the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (or the day before “All Hallows Day”, or “All Saints Day” as it is commonly known). The word “hallow” means “holy” like in the phrase, “Hallowed be Thy Name…”.

If you translate the phrase “All Hollows Eve” into the common vernacular of the 17th Century, it comes out “Hallow e’en”.

Like other Holidays which came to us out of our European ancestry. All Saints Day (Nov. 1) was a day set aside to celebrate all the Christian saints, known & unknown. The day before All Saints Day
was transformed from an old Celtic or Druid pagan holiday known as “all witches eve”.

Therefore October 31, being the day before All Hallows or All Saints day, came to be known as the last day of the year in which all the disembodied spirits could roam the earth with impunity.

For the Christians, the day took on an air of frivolity because as we all know Christ is victorious over evil (see Phil 2:5-11). Night time pranks & cavorting on Halloween were probably originally nothing
more then joyous celebrations of Christ’s ultimate victory.

The only reason “Jack-O-Lanterns” came to be associated with Halloween is because young people carried lanterns around on Halloween in order to see where they were going. These lanterns were improvised out of gourds or turnips. In 17th century England anyone who was known to carry a lantern by occupation, such as a night watchman, was referred to as a “Jack-o-lantern” which is a shortened form of the phrase “Jack of the lantern”. There was never anything sinister about it.

If we remember that Christ is, ultimately, victorious over Satan; Halloween can be fun & even a religious celebration. It is only when
we attribute to Satan a certain amount of authority in our lives that we can truly fear this celebration.

Otherwise why not enjoy the crisp fall air, the pumpkins, the candy & the children in costume & have a good time. There is after-all nothing truly to fear & the only things “that go bump in the night” are probably things your cat knocked off the shelf. Of course if you do not have a cat; well then there is always the aforementioned prayer.

Hmmm?

Gary

Waiting for an Invitation

“A Sunday school teacher once visited a poor family in one of the top apartments of a tenement in a small but clean room. From conversation with the father and mother, she soon discovered that since the beginning of a long illness of the father, the family had fallen from comparative comfort to poverty. He was now, however, better, and had been able for some time to work a little, so as to keep his family from destitution, but by no means to enable them to live in comfort.

Having learned so much of their worldly concerns, their visitor next began to speak of their souls’ interests. She asked them if they went to any church. ‘No,’ said the father. ‘We used to go long ago, before I took ill, but we went no more after that.’

‘But you have been better for a good while,’ said the teacher.

‘But nobody ever asked us to come!’

‘Well,’ said the visitor, ‘I’ll ask you now,’ and she directed him to a church where he would hear the glad tidings from a faithful minister.

The next Sunday several of the children were at her Sunday school and told her that their family had been at church. Since that day they have been hearers of the Word.

How many souls are perishing ‘because, though all things are now ready, nobody ever asked them to come?’ ” — Scottish Sunday School Teacher’s Magazine

I never cease to be amazed at how often we do not invite others to come and hear the word. Is it because we assume they do not want to hear? You just might be the messenger of hope that God has placed in that other person’s life. Take every opportunity to share the GOOD news.

Shalom, Gary

The Foolishness of the Cross

In 1967 while taking a class in photography at the University of Cincinnati, Rev. Kevin Burden became acquainted with a young man named Charles Murray who also was a student at the school and training for the summer Olympics of 1968 as a high diver. This is the story as told by Pastor Burden:

“Charles was very patient with me as I would speak to him for hours about Jesus Christ and how He had saved me. Charles was not raised in a home that attended any kind of church, so all that I had to tell him was a fascination to him. He even began to ask questions about forgiveness of sin. Finally the day came that I put a question to him. I asked if he realized his own need of a redeemer and if he was ready to trust Christ as his own Savior. I saw his countenance fall and the guilt in his face. But his reply was a strong “no.”

In the days that followed he was quiet and often I felt that he was avoiding me, until I got a phone call and it was Charles. He wanted to know where to look in the New Testament for some verses that I had given him about salvation. I gave him the reference to several passages and asked if I could meet with him. He declined my offer and thanked me for the Scripture. I could tell that he was greatly troubled, but I did not know where he was or how to help him.

Because he was training for the Olympic Games, Charles had special privileges at the University pool facilities. Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 that evening he decided to go swim and practice a few dives. It was a clear night in October and the moon was big and bright. The University pool was housed under a ceiling of glass panes so the moon shone bright across the top of the wall in the pool area.

Charles climbed to the highest platform to take his first dive. At that moment the Spirit of God began to convict him of his sins. All the Scripture he had read, all the occasions of witnessing to him about Christ flooded his mind. He stood on the platform backwards to make his dive, spread his arms to gather his balance, looked up to the wall and saw his own shadow caused by the light of the moon. It was the shape of a cross. He could bear the burden of his sin no longer. His heart broke and he sat down on the platform and asked God to forgive him and save him. He trusted Jesus Christ twenty some feet in the air.

Suddenly, the lights in the pool area came on. The attendant had come in to check the pool. As Charles looked down from his platform he saw an empty pool which had been drained for repairs. He had almost plummeted to his death, but the cross had stopped him from disaster.”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

1 Cor. 1:18

Shalom, Gary

Finders Keepers

One of my old favorites is the story of the father and son who worked for months to build a toy sailboat. Every night when he came home from work the man and his boy would disappear into the garage for hours. It was a labor of love–love for each other and for the thing they were creating. The wooden hull was painted bright red and it was trimmed with gleaming white sails. When it was finished, they traveled to a nearby lake for the boat’s trial run. Before launching it the father tied a string to its stern to keep it from sailing too far. The boat performed beautifully, but before long a motorboat crossing the lake cut the string, and the sailboat drifted out of sight on the large lake. Attempts to find it were fruitless, and both father and son wept over its loss.

A few weeks later as the boy was walking home from school he passed his favorite toy store and was amazed to see a toy sailboat in the window–his sailboat! He ran inside to claim the boat, telling the proprietor about his experience on the lake. The store owner explained that he had found the boat while on a fishing trip. “You may be its maker,” he said, “but as a finder I am its legal owner. You may have it back–for fifty dollars.”

The boy was stunned at how much it would cost him to regain his boat, but since it was so precious to him he quickly set about earning the money to buy it back. Months later he joyfully walked into the toy store and handed the owner fifty dollars in exchange for his sailboat. It was the happiest day of his life. As he left the store he held the boat up to the sunlight. Its colors gleamed as though newly painted.

“I made you, but I lost you,” he said. “Now I’ve bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever.”

I hope by now you have figured out that this is not just a story about a sailboat!

He made us. We were lost. He bought us back. We are twice His and twice His is His forever.

Shalom,

Gary

Perseverance

Recently our Disciple Men’s Fellowship Group met for their annual baseball game trip. Although we did not have as many attendees as we have had in years past we did have a great trip. We saw a good game and a great time was had by all.

In light of the baseball theme and seeing that summer [the-long-hot-summer!] is finally drawing to a close; I thought I would share some words of wisdom from the world of baseball:

Among other qualities of personal character, what makes a man great is his determination to keep going. Most sports buffs know that from 1960 to 1966 the record for the most stolen bases was held by the incredible Maury Wills. In 1962 he set the current club record for the Dodgers: 104 stolen bases in one regular season.

But Maury Wills set another record in those years. A record probably obscured by his other accomplishments. A rather dubious record, for in 1965, a year in which he again held high honors for the most stolen bases, he also took top billing for the most times caught stealing in a single season. He got thrown out (or “knocked down”) thirty-one times that year. But–he got back up. And that’s why we remember him. –Illustrations Unlimited

Proverbs 24:16 tells us: “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” Solomon tells us the essence of perseverance. It is not that a person may fail. [We all will from one time to another] It is whether we get back up!

Shalom,

Gary

Do You Know Your Fortune?

According to the story I heard, a man was at the Atlanta airport one day waiting for a flight to New Orleans. He had a little time to kill. As he strolled the concourse he noticed one of those fortune-telling machines. He dropped a quarter into the machine and out came a card that read, “You are John Smith. You are 35 years old, and you are waiting for a flight to New Orleans.”

It was all incredibly true. He was absolutely shocked. Surely there must be a trick, he reasoned. He looked behind the machine. He even wondered if Candid Camera was back on TV.

Then he took out another quarter to try the machine again. But this time he backed up to it. Out came the card that read, “You are John Smith. You are 35 years old, and you are waiting on a flight to New Orleans.

John said to himself, “I have got to figure this out. There has to be an explanation.”

He noticed farther down the concourse was a convenience store. He went in and told the clerk, “I want a disguise.”

He bought fake glasses, a big nose, a mustache, even a cape. He fixed himself up so well that not even his own mother would recognize him.

Back he went to the machine, dropped in his quarter, and out came a card that read, “You are still John Smith. You are still 35 years old. But now you’ve messed around and missed your flight to New Orleans.”

There is only one source of the real truth and we know where it is. Too often we miss out on the important things of life because we have spent too much time seeking truth from places that can never give it.

Shalom,

Gary

But I Will Pray For You

Be careful when you say that. Do not say those words unless you sincerely
intend to do it. How often have you experienced this: A friend of yours or someone
you know will be talking to you and they will mention some particular need or problem in
their life? You listen intently. You empathize. You lend advice. However, at some
point during the conversation you realize there is nothing that you can (or desire) to do
to help. Feeling somewhat helpless (or guilty), you offer what seems to be the only
thing you can say, “But, I’ll pray for you!”

Now actually that really is a wonderful thing to say. What it means is that you
intend to call upon the divine Creator and Sustainer of the universe to intervene on
behalf of your friend and perhaps change the order of the universe to benefit your
friend. That is what we call a miracle. Of course, miracles happen. There is ample
evidence in scripture and Christian history when God has answered such prayers. I, for
one, pray such prayers everyday of the week. Please understand, I am not suggesting
that you should stop telling your friends that you will pray for them.

I am saying that when you tell your friends that you will pray for them; make
sure that you actually do it. How often have you told someone you would pray for him
or her and then somehow you just never really got around to it? Such insincerity
borders on profanity. Do not say you will when you don’t.

In fact why put it off? When you realize that prayer is the only answer, why
not say, “Let’s pray about it right now!” If you believe there is power in prayer then
prove it. It is not difficult. Why would we be afraid of such a profession of faith?
Are we afraid that God will not answer our prayer as we prayed it?

On the other hand, maybe he will. That is the crux of the matter. It is not our
place to speculate on God’s will in any given situation. However, it is our God given right
as his children to ask him for help. Jesus plainly told us that he loves to give good
gifts to his children. {Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13)

The greatest heritage we have as children of God is the gift of prayer. Do not
take it lightly.

Shalom,

Gary

He Climbed in with Us

I read about a grandfather who found his grandson jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his little chubby hands and said, “Out, Grandpa, out.”

It was only natural for the grandfather to reach down to lift him out of his predicament, but as he did the mother of the child stepped up and said “No, Johnnie, you are being punished–so you must stay in.”

The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do. The child’s tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart.  But the mother’s firmness in correcting her son must not be taken lightly.

But love found a way. The grandfather could not take the grandson out of the playpen, so he climbed in with him. That is what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us at the cross.  In leaving heaven for earth He climbed in with us. The Bible says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” – –      Illustrations Unlimited

Shalom,

Gary

Serendipity!

Have you ever found something when you were looking for something else? I love it when that happens. When that happens, the term to describe it is: Serendipity. It comes from an old tale of ancient Ceylon by Horace Walpole entitled: The Three Princes of Serendipity.

The whole story is about how the three princes continually find something tin the process of looking for something else.

The other day I found a special drill bit that I had been trying to find for years. I was rummaging around trying to find something else, and I found this drill bit. “So, we killed the fatted calf and there was much rejoicing for that which was lost is now found!”

Well not really, but it was great to find it!

Do you realize how many people are “out there” looking for something and yet do not know what it is for which they are looking? We as Christians have found a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46) or a field with a treasure (Matthew 13:44,) and the rest of the world not only does not know where to dig; they would not recognize the treasure if they found it. Can you imagine someone holding the Kingdom in the palm of their hand and not even knowing it?

Serendipity Oyster with Pearl

This is basically what happened with Judas. He perhaps thought he was doing the right thing, but he sold out for money. Satan loves confusion. By raising enough distractions along the way, Satan hopes to trick us into making the wrong decisions.

It is easy for one to be distracted; especially when the alternatives look so good. Frankly, the alternatives usually do look better in the short run. Since it is frequently difficult for us to worry about the long run, Satan hopes to catch us before we know what happened. Because Satan is so tricky; unless a person is raised in God’s word, sometimes it is difficult to know God’s way from Satan’s way.

The only solution is simple. Start the trip to find God, and He will find you. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. In the process of looking for God through John the Baptist, Andrew met Jesus. He ran and got his brother, Simon, and said, “We have found the Messiah!”

That was kind of a serendipity-type experience. How often has it been that in the process of doing one thing for the Lord, you discovered something else? That is the way it is in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said it this way, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Shalom,

Gary

 

 

Nothing But the Blood of Jesus

As John Wesley rode across Hounslow Heath late one night, singing a favorite hymn, he was startled by a fierce voice shouting, “halt,” while a firm hand seized the horse’s bridle. Then the man demanded, “Your money or your life.”

Wesley obediently emptied his pockets of the few coins they contained, and invited the robber to examine his saddlebags, which were filled with books. Disappointed at the result, the robber was turning away when the evangelist cried, “Stop! I have something more to give you.”

The robber, wondering at this strange call, turned back. Then Wesley, bending down toward him, said in solemn tones, “My friend, you may live to regret this sort of a life in which you are engaged. If you ever do, I beseech you to remember this, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin’.” The robber hurried silently away, and the man of God rode along, praying in his heart that the word spoken might be fixed in the robber’s conscience.

Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service with the people streaming from the large building, many lingered around the doors to see the aged preacher, John Wesley.

A stranger stepped forward and earnestly begged to speak with Mr. Wesley. What a surprise to find that this was the robber of Hounslow Heath, now a well-to-do tradesman in the city, but better still, a child of God! The words spoken that night long ago had been used of God in his conversion.

Raising the hand of John Wesley to his lips, he affectionately kissed it and said in tones of deep emotion, “To you, Dear Sir, I owe it all.

Wesley replied softly, “Nay, nay, my friend, not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ which cleanseth us from all sin.” — Illustrations Unlimited

If you can’t believe that God can change even your life through the power and blood of Jesus Christ, then what other hope  do you have?

Shalom,

Gary

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