First Christian Church Newton

A Community of Companions on the Journey of Faith

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

Don’t Smoke the Gospel of John

30 years ago, a prisoner named Alex used the pages of the New Testament to roll cigarettes. A fellow inmate tattled on him, but when the chaplain gave him a new Bible, he simply asked that he not smoke the book of John. Says Alex, “I began reading and I came to chapter 3, where it said that God loved me so much that He gave His Son for me. My life has never been the same since.”

Today, Alex serves as chaplain in three different jails in the Corpus Christi area. He also preaches regularly, and works with the homeless and poor in the region. This year, he’s distributed over 300 Easy-to-Read Bibles to inmates, and recently baptized 15 more.

See, we never know the impact we have on others. It might be a simple phrase, a simple comment, or even just a smile.

Jesus saw everyone as being a child of God, and so should we.

Shalom,

Gary

What’s Happening with Easter?

Ever wonder why it is that Easter falls on a different day every year?

“In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.(*) From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox.”

Therefore, the Easter date can swing as much as 40 days from one year to the next. The vernal equinox [that is the date in the spring when the day time is equal to the night time] is always on March 21; but the orbit of the moon is much less precise and we get a full moon roughly every 28 days. This makes the date for Easter change every year.

I find it highly humorous that there are some who think that “the government” should just set the date for one date every year. Little do they know that the “government” has nothing to do with it!

That being said, this year Palm Sunday is March 24. Maundy Thursday is March 29. Easter, then, is April 1.

We have many worship services scheduled for the upcoming few weeks.

Palm Sunday we have a puppet cantata scheduled during the church service.

The Eggstravaganza [Easter Egg Hunt for the kids] will happen after church on Palm Sunday.

Maundy Thursday service will be at 7:00 pm, and we will be celebrating a Seder service, which is similar to a Jewish Passover meal. Each part of the meal has special significance.

Community Good Friday service will be at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church at a time yet to be announced.

Sunrise Easter Service will be at 8:00 am under the front overhang, with breakfast following in the Fellowship Hall.

Easter Sunday Morning service is at 10:30 am.

Busy!

But what a blessed time of year!

Make your plans now to attend all of our services.

Shalom,

Gary

*For more information on regular scheduled events, visit the church calendar.

God Never Gave a Promise That Was Too Good To Be True!

“What gives here?” I heard a young man say. “Either there is the law of God or not. Why would God give us the Ten Commandments and then tell us that he loves us anyway if we break them?”

I said, “It is because He loves us more than the Commandments. The Ten Commandments are a list of things He DOES NOT want us to do.

“You’re worried about permissiveness–about the way the preaching of grace seems to say it’s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God’s forgiveness. …”

While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He’s angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue–that music, dancing, and a fattened calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys any more. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.” — Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 7.

The above paragraph is the part of our discussion for the Lenten Bible Study which will be this coming Sunday night. The Lenten meal will be at 5:30 with the Bible Study afterward.

Shalom,
Gary

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