Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NOVEMBER EDITION... 2018


INTRODUCTION: What a great month, November.  Of all the months so many people love to enjoy, it seems by November people begin to slow down and appreciate what they have received. It has also been a time do a bit of reflecting.  America has in its tradition a focus of Thanksgiving as a holiday.  Think about this my friends and readers.  Here is a holiday that commemorates no hero, celebrates not battlefield,  support no lobby that is behind it; no group or sect or party claims it.  Yet, Christmas cannot dim it nor July 4th steal its glory.  And all America loves it with quiet and intense affection that is reserved for it no other day of the year.

What makes Thanksgiving different?  What makes it beloved?  What makes it real?

Perhaps the answer is simple: Thanksgiving is an affirmation.  It is our heart's testimony to a deeply held conviction-- the conviction that these things we call free and decent and American did not just happen to us.  We did not get them because we were wiser, or more clever, or even luckier but another gracious hand was involved. 

This conviction is the sum of many beliefs and experiences.  The belief in the dignity of every human being.  The belief in a real right and wrong.  The belief in decency and honesty and integrity.  The belief in a responsibility, under God, to our fellow-man, wherever he/she may be.  For these beliefs, and the American way of life, Thanksgiving and the day we celebrate these realities is our joyous affirmation to a kind Providence for His blessings and guidance.


II. DIGGING DEEPER... "A WELL WATERED DESERT?"

Abraham's cattlemen and those of his nephew Lot were carrying on a feud among themselves.  Abraham, the man of faith, said to Lot,the man who lived by sight, "The whole land is before you.  Take what you want and I will occupy what you do not want."  The Scriptures  states: "Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah"  (Gen.13:9,10).

The environment has definitely changed.  Today the Jordan Valley is 1291 feet below sea level, the lowers place on earth.  The temperature sometimes reaches 130 degrees in the middle of the day.  Why all the contrast from an earlier period?  We in twenty-first century have become well away of environmental changes.  This should come as no surprise to us.  There is an answer for the skeptic.

The discoveries of the archaeologists show that the Jordan Valley was well populated in the time of Abraham and Lot. (Approx. 2500-2000B.C.)  A mound discovered at the south end of the sea of Galilee (Khirbet Kenak) shows the presence of a large city existing at the time when Lot "beheld the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered."  Potsherds indicate that the city was occupied about the period mentioned above.

William F. Albright and Melvin Grove Kyle did archaeological work in the Jordan Valley in 1924.  Their archaeological investigations "have proven that the most prosperous period of history of this was in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000B.C.) and that the density of its occupation gradually declined until it reached the lowest point in the early Iron II Age." (1)  Nelson Glueck's exploration in the Jordan area before and after 1940 showed that this area had been densely populated.  "He discovered more than seventy ancient sites,many of them founded more that 5,000 years ago...Thus the archaeological discoveries have shown that no one who knows the facts can set aside as inaccurate the Biblical record of Lot's choice of the Jordan area." (2)  It is evident that Lot chose the part of Canaan popular with most people went there to live.  Like so many carnal Christians of our time, he was "following the crowd."

The Word of God shows how a "well watered" plain can soon vanish.  "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not just after evil things, as they also lusted." (I Cor. 10:6).  "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 16:25).  We could go on and one and quote such passages as: I Tim. 3:3; I John 2:15-17.  These are for our instruction.

Lot looked on the well watered plains of Jordan and walked by sight.  His paradise was destroyed.  Abraham lived by faith and obtained a city with foundations.  We have choices to make as well.  Let Abraham be our example.

_____________________________________________________________________________

1.William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co. 1933), p. 134.

2. Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and the Bible History (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1952), p. 56.


II. DID YOU KNOW!!!

"The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between rails) is four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.  Why such an odd number?  Because that's the way they built them in England and American Railroads were built by British expatriates.  Why did the English adopt that particular gauge?  Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge.  They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were set on a gauge of four feet, eight-and -one-half inches.  Why were wagons built to that scale?  Because with any other size, the wheels did not fit the old wheel ruts on the roads.  So, who built these old rutted roads?  The first long-distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions.  The roads have been in use ever since.  The ruts were first made by Roman war chariots.  Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches with the width of a chariot needed to be able to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.  Maybe "that's the way it's always been."  Think about this as you think about good traditions built on a perfect God and transient man.  Many of man's changes are often needed and in need of constant change.  But God knows when His changes are needed through love and grace. 


III. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT... A Thanksgiving Outline Sermon

Title: The Road to Thanksgiving: What a Child can Teach Us...

Text: Psalm 131 and Psalm 75:1

Introduction: There is great joy in the simple and profound aspects of scripture. Psalm 131 is one of the "Pilgrim Psalms" also known to many readers as "The Psalms of Ascent."(Psalms 120-134)  This means they were Psalms sung as the Jewish pilgrims made their way up the mountain paths toward the city of Jerusalem and its festivals.  Their purpose was to prepare the heart for worship as hymns and choruses do today in Christian worship today.  This Psalm(131) has great lessons for us as children learning more about ourselves and about God.

A. Humility- vs. 1- Humility is a strange quality.  You do not know when you are truly humble.  If you feel and say and tout humility, then in short your are not humble but proud and the direct opposite of humility.  Our culture does not prize humility and in fact gives it low value.  Remember the bumper sticker so noted a few years ago..."The one dies with the most toys wins."  A wise friend of mine use to respond to this quaint phrase above by saying, "So what? Dead people do not play with toys."  A healthy step on the road to Thanksgiving is "Humility."  Consider the words of the Apostle Peter I Peter 5:6.

B. Simplicity- vs. 2- When a child is born, they soon seeks nourishment from their mother's breast.  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all come from the same place.  Her milk and comfort will place a cranky crying child back to sleep. (consider EL Shaddai in language definition) "Shad" is the Hebrew word for "breast."  The baby doesn't seek a food bar with a variety of options, but seeks nourishment and comfort from one place.  So it is with our souls, nothing  can satisfy our souls like God in all realms of our existence. The mother's milk will eventually dry up but God's nourishment through His Word will never quit giving us all we need for health and strength and meaning in our lives.  Jesus told the tempter in the wilderness "...man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God..." 

C. Integrity- vs. 3 The advice in this third verse is genius.  We are to put our hope or "confidence" in the Lord.  As a child grows it seeks out the mother's advice and wisdom.  It puts confidence in her responses to the questions of life for a young mind. As the child sits on the mother's lap or at her feet a "confidence" or "hope" is generated. He or she seek to be "near." A wise child of wise parents  will wean their child/children off of the world's pablum, and on to the word of life in scripture.  This "confidence" we speak of will pay dividends for the future in the life of the child.  A true epiphany occurs.  When troubles come into life, being "Near Him" is the answer.   When joys abound, it is being "Near Him" that really satisfies.   This is what integrity is all about as our lives show forth peace and hope for the future.  We decide in daily life through these God given instruments that  "life is about decisions!"

Conclusion: Consider then this great short but profound Psalm.  Earlier we read in Psalm 75:1 "...We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near." (NLT) Remember, God loves you and seeks you daily.


IV. WORDS OF WISDOM CONCERNING "GRATITUDE."

Here is a group of wisdom words brought by W. Waldemar  Th.D.(1900-1960)

What if?

1. What if nobody cared to call us friends in those plastic years of youthfulness!

2. What if nobody cared when we return at nightfall, worn and frayed by the strain of daily toil!

3. What if nobody cared when thieving years robbed us of youth, health, substance, and security!

4. What if nobody cared when we slip out into the silence of eternity!

5. What if nobody cared to enfold our loved ones in comforting arms when we have made the twilight voyage!

However, because we do care, let us "do unto others as we would that others do unto us."  You see, Thanksgiving always blesses others while Apathy leaves us void of virtue.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

OCTOBER EDITION...2018...WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE...

                                             BY Dr. Keith J. Wise


I. INTRODUCTION: The month of October is a month of preparation for winter in most of the midwest of the United States.  Here, people are cleaning up their yards and putting away the summer lawn furniture, cleaning up dying gardens and conditioning the tools for next Spring.  We have as a society over the decades selected certain days of the month as special days.  In my blog a year ago I listed about a dozen or so special days in the month that we as a people celebrate.  This year I would like to note just one important date of celebration, and that is Columbus Day.

Columbus was Italian by nationality and explored for Queen Isabella of Spain. His main directive was to search out a totally new yet in most part, uncharted waters and lands.  It would be much like our first flight to the moon.  It was not always clear as he traveled where he was going, but he persevered with his primitive instruments as he reached the Western Hemisphere. As many of you know, he traveled with three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Although he traveled for the Queen, many in the shipping industry of his day laugh as such a venture.  However, I always remember a quote from my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Huestis, "If Columbus had tuned back, no one could have blamed him, but no one would have remembered him!"  His discovery of a new world, with new people and new dimensions changed the course of world history for both good and bad.  Furthermore, it gave birth to redefining the concept of "NEW" in the minds of many Europeans, while providing a rich history beyond Europe and giving  people, yet unborn, opportunity.  So in this month of October we can celebrate Columbus Day on October 12 of our calendars in a way that celebrates the spirit of adventure and discovery.

II. DIGGING DEEPER... The hand of God concerning King Cyrus of Persia...

The days of old Babylon were over as the Meads and Persians entered the city with little to no resistance and captured by King Cyrus, a splendid wealthy city of antiquity.  Within the captured populations that Cyrus inherited were the Children of Israel or the Jews.  They had been in exile seventy years and by God's providence would again be displayed as king Cyrus the Great directed a proclamation, a release of these captive people along with any number of captive peoples of the Babylonians.  The Bible records in three separate locations this momentous event: II Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2-4 and Ezra 6:2-5.    

Secular history and archaeology have since confirmed this event by finding in 1879, a clay cylinder about 9 inches long known as the Cyrus Cylinder.  You can search this on your computer and see pictures.   Written in Akkadian Cuneiform, it is today a national treasure of the country of Iran and is on display in replica at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.  Furthermore, it has been translated into all the official languages of the UN.  Part of the inscription reads: 'I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy.  May all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries...ask for a long life for me, and mention my good deeds...'   Although the Jews are not mentioned by name, they are suggested by being a captured people and noted in their sacred history to preserve them as a people.

II. A DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FROM THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

Matthew is the first gospel in our Bibles of the New Testament.  It connects the last book of the Jewish Scriptures of Malachi to a revelation of the God's Son in Jesus Christ our Lord.  In fact it proclaims Him as the fulfillment of prophecy and the King.  In verses 1 to 18 of chapter one, we begin reading in a strange way  the introduction to a book containing a family tree of genealogies.  In part it reads, "...An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham..." 

Matthew has a strong cycle of Jewish roots and backgrounds and convincingly displays the list of some biblical heroes and figures from the Jewish Scriptures. We call this the Old Testament, (42 generations), but also with the opening lines gives textual pride to the place of David and Abraham.  Verse 1, quoted above, has a lot to do with a new heavenly revealed theology of Christ the King as the Word that became flesh.  In his conclusion, Matthew sums up some eighteen centuries of history in three equal rounds of fourteen generations: 1.) From Abraham to David, from 2.) David to the deportation to Babylon and 3.) from the deportation to Jesus Christ. Ironically, how can fourteen generations account for such unbalanced periods of time, from approximately 1750-1000 B.C., from 1000-598 B.C. and from 598-6B.C.?  Seeing it another way, fourteen is two times seven the perfect number.  Consequently, perfected fullness multiplied by two.  It is in truth, another way of representing Jesus' coming as the fulfilment of history.

III. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT- A Sermon for Righteous Affirmative Living-

Title: Affirmative Living in the Life of Joseph

Text: Genesis 37:12-28

Introduction: Do you have a dream?  You need one.  Our dreams, hopes and aspirations drive us to fulfillment.  They display a powerful image of what life can be and often we have let people, circumstances and life in general degrade or destroy our dreams.  It is my personal opinion that even after age sixty you should have a dream and still be used of God in your Christian life.

Joseph was called, derisively, the "dreamer."  Some of his dreams were prophetic and some if not for any other reason were interesting.  Joseph dreamed of using his considerable talents to do great things for God and his family.  He remained faithful from the family business, to the house of Potiphar in Egypt and from the pit to the palace to be only second in honor to the Pharaoh.  What his brothers meant for death God used for life in his time frame and in eternity.  In other words, Joseph's dreams enabled him to live affirmatively.  How do we live affirmatively and what does it mean? 

A. Affirmative living means recognizing the presence of God in your life.

     1. Whatever happened to Joseph never caused him to give up on God.  In fact, everything that happened to him seemed to only draw him closer to God.

     2. Do you notice the presence of God in your life? As a Christian, the Holy Spirit is a testator to your position in Him.  With the many distractions we endure in our daily schedules, quiet time and focusing on God will help us recognize and realize how He wants to work in us.  I believe God has a plan for your life and mine and having a dream to trust in His will can accomplish this for us.  One of the distractions we can face can be the past.  The past has two elements of destruction in distraction: Guilt- over what we have done in remorse as sinners, and the Hurt and Pain- what others have done to us.  Joseph kept his focus on God so at least as we have recorded, these two powerful distractions did not control him.

B.  Affirmative living means making the best of bad situations.  

      1. Joseph was hated and sold into slavery.  He was unjustly accused and placed into prison.  Though forgotten, it is never recorded he lost hope.

      2. But whatever happened to Joseph, he kept on making the best of his circumstances. He was sold into slavery only to become the head servant in the house of Potiphar.  Enticed by Potiphar's wife, he was unjustly accused and thrown in prison. Here he interpreted the dreams of the Butler and the Baker and eventually interpreted the colossal dream of the Pharaoh which saved Egypt, Israel(Jacob and his family), and that part of the world from famine.  

      3. Are you faced with what may appear as surmountable difficulties and challenges?  If you are, dream again.  Look up and let the living God provide a fresh look at your circumstances.

 C. Affirmative living means maintaining your principles even when inconvenient.

      1. Joseph had to face deceptive brothers, corrupt officials, unjust circumstances and an alien culture.  He could have made all kinds of excuses and given in at any point, but he did not do so.  He was willing to do what was right and in the will of God ignoring the consequences. 

      2. Have you been mistreated and in unfair circumstances?  Dream again and trust God...He is still the answer to every aspect of your life.

  D. Affirmative living means recognizing God is in final control.

      1. When Joseph was finally reunited with his brothers, he said to them, "What you did to me you meant for bad, but God used it for good."  Joseph recognized that God can "turn around" any situation and make it right and whole.  Remember only God can make such dramatic changes "...all things work together for our good."

      2. Have you wondered if God has deserted you?  Have to had doubts if your life has any purpose at all?  Stop and dream again that God is good and that he will provide the path to the future.  I have a formula that if you look at Joseph, Moses, David and even our Lord Jesus Christ we see the following.

              a) HEARING... Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

              b) TRUSTING... Trust what God has said, we have examples in scripture.

              c) OBEYING... The Lord will never lead you wrong.  He is always right!!

CONCLUSION: Can you dream again?  Yes... He will give you what you need.  He has provided all the tools to see beyond your circumstances and life in general. Jesus said, "Ask, Seek, and Knock."  Beloved He is the way, the truth, and life for all of us.

IV. QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY

1. Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Great things in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are going."

2. Henry David Thoreau: "I had three chairs in my house- one for solitude,two for friends, and three for society."

3. Thomas Jefferson: "The wise know too well their own weakness to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows how little he knows." 

4. Woodrow Wilson: "Character is a by-product; it is produced in the great manufacture of daily duty."

5. Horace Mann: "Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it."

V. JUST A THOUGHT HERE AND THERE THAT CAN INSPIRE...

1. Our Potential: "A plain bar of iron is worth about $5.00.  This same bar of iron when made into horseshoes is worth $10.50.  If made into sewing needles it is worth $4,285. If turned into balance wheels for watches it becomes worth $250,000. " This illustrates in another sense the worth of you.  Many times your value is what you do with yourself with the help of God.  

2. The current of time carries us on inevitably to our destiny.  No single moment can be relived exactly except in memory, and then only vaguely.

3. He who has energy to root out vice, should go a step farther and plant virtue in its place.

4. Blessed is the man who is too busy to worry in the day-time and too tired to lie awake at night.






Saturday, September 1, 2018

1-14

       SEPTEMBER EDITION- 2018- WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE

                                                    By Dr. Keith J. Wise

Introduction: We meet the month of September as a real period of beauty in a new and wonderful way.  The trees in the midwest are beginning to turn their glorious colors and the temperatures are coming down to comfortable levels.  The Native Americans or Indigenous populations of America had names for all the months and their moons.  September was for many of them named "The Moon When the Calves Grow Hair."  In scripture, God gave Noah and his family a promise after the flood found in Genesis 8:22 "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest,cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

Here are few historical dates of importance in September: (1st) Beginning of WW II (1939), (2nd) Japan Surrendered (1945), (3rd this year) Labor Day, (10th) Admiral Perry defeated British fleet on Lake Erie (1813), (17th) Constitution of the United States signed (1787), (23rd) First day of Autumn or Autumn Equinox. Also: Birthstone- Sapphire, Flower- Morning Glory.

September is a great time to get you and your family back to church and regular worship.  The vacations are usually done and a mark of a committed Christian is wanting to please the Lord.  Hebrews 10:25 encourages us with these words. "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (NIV)  


I. DIGGING DEEPER... A Lesson on Judgement from Joshua and Beyond-

Under Joshua's leadership the Israelites set up the tabernacle at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) and until the time of the Judges it remained the central place of worship and the locality of the yearly festivals (Judges 21:19).  It was kept under the charge of Eli the priest.  The Philistines defeated the Israelites there and captured the ark, keeping it in their possession for some time (I Sam.4).  Later it was returned, but not to Shiloh.  The ark was first taken to Beth-shemesh (I Sam.6:12) and then to Kirjath-jearim (I Sam.7:1).  Later, in the time of David, it was brought to Jerusalem.  The family of Eli was later found at Nob (I Sam.22:11) but never at Shiloh.  Why was the ark not returned to its place in Shiloh?

    It is likely the Philistines destroyed the city when they fought against Israel, and thus there was no place in Shiloh for the Israelites to bring the ark. It is evident the city was destroyed before the time of Jeremiah because the prophet, declaring God's message, said, "But go ye now into my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel...Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth" kjv (See Jer.7:12-14 and 16:6-9).

    The Arab village at Seilun, located not far from Shechem (Jud. 21:19), has been identified as the ancient city of Shiloh.  It was partially excavated between the years 1926-29 by a Danish archaeological expedition under the direction of Hans Kjaer.  It was discovered that the city of Shiloh was inhabited and flourished in the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., and was destroyed in about 1050B.C.  After this period it was deserted for several centuries.  "The pottery indicates no settlement at Shiloh from about 1050B.C. until about 300B.C., although the possibility of an unimportant town at the site cannot be ruled out. (1)  

    Archaeology not only confirms the biblical record that the city was destroyed, but points out another item of interest not contained in scripture: "The potsherds reveal no evidence that there was ever a Canaanite settlement at Shiloh.  The Hebrews appear to have founded the settlement after the conquest of Palestine." (2)  Thus, they evidently built the city as a place to put the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant dedicated exclusively to Yahweh.  There was no city there before that time.

    Although the Bible does not record every detail in the historical record, what it does record is true and dependable.  "The archaeological discoveries at Shiloh are all the more significant because scholars holding the critical view frequently assert in the past that the story of the tabernacle at Shiloh was a late fiction...However, what the Danish excavations revealed was that Shiloh was at the height of its prosperity in the period of the judges, as indicated in the Bible, and that it was destroyed by a fire in the days of Eli and Samuel (c.1050B.C.), it was evident that the skeptical attitude toward the historicity of these events was "sheer nonsense."(3)  The excavations at Shiloh confirm and supplement the biblical record.  The declarations of Scripture lead us to declare that God has spoken the truth.  Therefore, we are to believe what God has said.  As the prophet Amos said, "...seek the Lord and live..." The discoveries of the archaeologists confirm, and add weight to declare that God's Word is trustworthy.  As we trust and search the Word of God, more of it will be understood and none of it will become contradictory. 

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1. Charles Fl Pfeiffer (ed.), The Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 523.

2. George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1937), p.128.

3. Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press,1952),p.149. 


II. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT- Sermon: GOD IS STILL SEEKING...

Text: Matthew 22: 1-14

Introduction: In the year 1973 the then President of Great Lakes Christian College John Hasty, tells the story of being in Chicago for an Educators Conference.  He recorded his impressions of activities in the City Hall Square in his college paper.

    In one edge of the square a crowd passed out handbills, chanting, "Impeach Nixon Now!!"  On another corner a group of Arab and Palestinian sympathizers were chanting against the American involvement in the Arab-Israeli War.   Still louder in the middle of the square, a young women declared she was going to bare her breasts in protest of sexism in America at noon sharp.  A team of policewomen abruptly stopped her show and escorted her into a waiting patrol car.

    While watching all this activity, Mr. Hasty became aware of some music coming from the spire of the Temple Church.  The carillon was playing its noontime concert.  Above the din of the activity in the square the music tune of "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross" filled this world of confusion.

     There amidst all the hate, sensuality, conflict and wantonness was the Christian message of salvation.  However, no one was listening.  The Wedding Feast of our text today suggests a similar theme: The feast was prepared, the messages sent out, but no one was listening.  As verse 5 says: "But they paid no attention and went off...one to his field, another to his business." Not listening to God can have dire consequences.  

     Today, we need to consider some aspects of God's invitation to us who are Christian and a world in desperate need of repair, restoration and hope.

I. God Invites Us To A Celebration- The kingdom of heaven resounds with the music of festival.  When we recall the pictures of rejoicing of the lost being found; we see the shepherd who found the lost sheep, the women who recovered her lost coin, or the father whose prodigal son returned home to receive a ring, a robe and the feast of the "fatten calf."  The impulse here is to "throw a party."  

    Even more than today, weddings in Jesus time were an occasion of celebration. Fathers saved for years to provide hospitality for as many guest as possible in the small communities that dotted Israel.  Such said Jesus was to be the atmosphere of God's Kingdom. In our parable the invitee was not just anyone but the king!!  The recipients however were too busy with their lives of immediate gain, and were not willing to forsake their selfish pursuits for an eternal festival. (Lesson: Short Term vs. Long Term thinking and investment is important.)

II. God's Invitation Is To A Social Occasion- The parable reflects the fact that our Christian faith is "not" a solitary experience.  The Kingdom of Heaven is an uncomfortable place for those who want to express faith "alone."  God's fellowship goes contrary to the old gospel song "On the Jericho Road."  "...On the Jericho Road there's room for just two: No more or no less, just Jesus and you."  (Acts 2:42) (Lesson: This is not a command to come but an INVITATION to ATTEND!!)

Just a thought: The king in the parable has the right to "command" his subjects to come to the wedding feast but he does not and only invites.  He prefers the company of those who want to be with him in fellowship.

APPLICATION:

I. Our King's Message Is An Invitation-  He invited Israel through the Law and the Prophets to prepare for the festival through His Son as he now invites the world.

II. God Allows Us To Accept Or Refuse As With The Invitation to Israel-   In our parable Jesus tells us the initial guests refused.  Some were openly hostile, as throughout the history of Israel records and they rejected the King's invitation and murdered the messengers. (vs. 5)  We see here a case of simply being "indifferent."  They were busy with their own interests and themselves in their daily life.  Likewise today our culture worships at the altar of "self" indifferent to the invitation of God. 

To this unbelievable rejection of the King's Invitation, he sent his armies and destroyed such thankless subjects. (vs.6)  In application the city of Jerusalem was destroyed twice in its history: Once under the Babylonians and later under the Romans.  Indifference, selfishness and thanklessness can bring destruction.  But we lean a third lesson.

III. God Will Continue Seeking Until He Finds Suitable Guests-  In our parable it is instructive that the whether we accept the invitation or not, the party will go on.  God and His eternal purposes will be fulfilled in his eternal wisdom and perfect completion.  There are the cynics, rebels and haters of God; but they can not thwart the King(God's purposes).  Remember, in chapter 21, the King sends is own son to inspect the vineyard and the "tenants" kill the son.  God has paid a price of the "right" of invitation beyond our selfish schedules and lives!!

Lesson:  When the time came for the wedding feast, the King sent out His servants to invite the "good and bad" or now symbolic of the Gentiles and the world to this feast with his invitation.  Under normal circumstances the upper classes and middle classes in Israel were given a "wedding garment" to wear at the dinner or feast. Here it was a requirement in our parable.  To not wear it was akin to "rejecting" the King's invitation.  We must attend the feast on the King's terms.  As the King observed the crowd he notice an obnoxious guest who was not clothed in the King's wedding garment. This guest had no response to the King's question: "Friend...how did you get in here without wedding clothes?"

Short Talking PointsThe Question of "Worthiness" or "Unworthiness."

1. What made the first guest unworthy?  Answer: Only their refusal to accept the King's invitation.

2. What made the "obnoxious" guest unworthy? Answer: He did not come to the feast through the King's channels or obedience by not wearing the King's wedding clothing.

3. What made the all the other guest "Worthy?"- Answer: They simple accepted the invitation of the King and his channels of obedience. Later in the New Testament this is called "...putting on Christ."

Conclusion: The invitation to the great feast is open 24/7 and as Christians we must obey the channels of obedience directed by the King.  Look in the New Testament and see the plan of salvation: Faith, Repentance, Confession, Baptism in water for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit all will sustain us in our journey to bear fruit and growth in Christ to the great Supper of the Lamb that is coming.  By Faith we know the King is Coming and table has already been set for the whole world. (Amen)


III. QUOTABLES FOR YOUR DAY...

1.  A noted writer of the 1950's and 60's was Ruth Smeltzer from Denver, Colorado.  Some of her quotes were called "Smeltzerisms."  Here are a few.

   a. "The unlovable child needs love most."

   b. "Kindness is not enough.  The Bible says, "loving kindness."

   c.  "If you are too busy to be kind, you are too busy."

2. Peter Marshall, one of the most celebrated Chaplins of the U.S. Senate left us with a great number of sermons and prayers from his tenure in this position. From one of his noted prayers comes this excerpt:  "Give us clear vision, that we may know where to stand and what to stand for- because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything."

3. A mental health tip: "Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength.  It does not enable us to escape the evil; it makes us unfit to cope with it when it comes.  God promises that "as thy days, so shall thy strength be." (Deut. 33:25)  Also consider I Peter 5:6-7.




 


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

August Edition- 2018- Wonderful Words of Life- by Dr. Keith J. Wise


INTRODUCTION: August is before us and most of the summer has been filled with vacations, family reunions and just some weekend getaways. Most families in the month of August begin thinking of preparation for school.  As you may have noticed, most of the box stores are already putting out notebooks, pens, and varieties of school supplies.  College age students are planning with their parents for some type of orientation, if they are freshman, and if they are seasoned in collegiate life know their line of courses for another year. Which brings me to some political comments and observations.  As a nation have you ever considered our greatest asset?  In my humble opinion our true strength cannot be found in the weapons of war or in our great arsenal of technological advances; instead, it lies deep in our convictions and dedication to our American ideals.

     Freedom's greatest enemies are indifference of spirit, weakness of will, and compromise of principles.  This is the stern lesson of history from ancient to modern civilizations.  The greatest achievement and glory of a free people is to transmit their freedoms to their children.  A free people never give up their liberties, they lose them through spiritual apathy and material reverence.

     Our greatest asset is the youth of America and whoever wins the youth, wins the future of America.  Our ancestors understood this and made it a part of their daily dialogue.  Teach your children the truths which have made this nation great and you will have done much to combat the viruses of foreign "isms" that would make us lethargic and forget the functional ideas of America.


BOOK REVIEW: Gospel Reset: Salvation made Relevant. Ken Ham

This is a new book by Ken Ham who in his travels and work is president, CEO, and founder of Answers in Genesis-US.  He is the driving force of the highly-acclaimed Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.  As a biblical apologist he has had the opportunity to see the changing culture of America over the last several decades.  The basic premise of the book is explained by Ham on the book jacket in his written explanation: "The gospel message hasn't changed, but the way in which it needs to be presented in a secularized culture does need to change. It's time for a Gospel Reset!"

In his theory of biblical preaching and communication he proceeds with a logical and biblical framework.  Hamm attempts to explain how we as a culture and society have changed.  His theory is that we were once a people driven by general biblical knowledge and a social lexicon that knew the language of definitions such as God, Sin, Death, Savior.  He parallels this with the biblical example of the first gospel sermon after the resurrection of Jesus by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2) He illustrates this by the response of the Jewish people who were informed by Jewish tradition and Jewish ideas of blood sacrifice, messiah, Jehovah and other names of God. These were the accepted words of redemption, consolation and hope in the minds of his Jewish listeners.  He acknowledges this example to an informed audience, thus three thousand responses to the gospel in Acts 2.  In short, they understood what Peter was saying to them.  Ham will then compare and express this is how American and Western culture have communicated up until the last fifty years.  There were the great revivals of Billy Graham preaching from the Bible and the responses, often at the local church level, where churches were either growing or influencing the surrounding culture of a post World War II society. A similar language of words and ideas were expressed.

He then compares and illustrates the biblical preaching of another Apostle, the Apostle Paul.  He circles the outline of Acts 17 which enunciates a different approach to the scholars and philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens than that of Peter in Jerusalem.  As a culture immersed in the teaching of "idols and evolution" Paul points to the beginning of God in creation and built from the foundation up.  The Apostle Paul uses a different model when speaking to Greeks who exhibited no or very little references to the God of Israel.  However, Paul knew and understood that unless there is an abandonment of a "man" informed society to a "God" informed society, the cycle of destruction and disillusionment would continue.  Paul makes clear to his Greek audience in Athens that God, the creator, has in his time, sent a new revelation in the form of Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, he has appointed a day, "into which he will judge the world by that man..."  For us, Ham will note, we must do as Paul did, by getting people to think a different way with a Biblical world view of God. This new uniformity is one way and one destiny because of "God's revelation in Christ Jesus" .  He points out that our secularized culture in America has moved off of its formerly Biblical foundation of operative words.  In Paul's format to the pagan Greeks, he proclaims a living God, the defilement of sin, and the consequences of death and the only viable option as a resurrected savior in Jesus Christ.

Ham will speak commentary on our shifting culture which has become unintelligible from a biblical perspective to our society at large. Ham notes that Christians must approach our neo-pagan culture which now asks: "Which God? What sin? Why Death? and Why a Savior?"  We must now restore the old values that bring about purity and understanding in our dialogue with our neo-pagan neighbors and media, much as the Apostle Paul did in his sermon on Mars Hill.  Ham also partially blames the church for its blurring of focus and abandonment of biblical values over the last decades.  He calls for revival and a fresh approach to explaining the preaching of the gospel.   As always in his discussion, he iterates the tone that the gospel and the message of Christ is still relevant to our age and to our culture and I would note "multicultural" in its scope.  We who are Bible believing Christians must never abandon the Great Commission to the world by the Word of the Lord Jesus himself.  Let us get reinvigorated by the word of God and begin a new messaging of God through intelligent discourse and compassional service.   Peter's words, some thirty or so years after Pentecost rings true in I Peter 3:15 "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have..."(NIV)


I. FAITH JOURNEY FOR AUGUST...GIVING IT TO GOD

In the chaotic world in which we live, our focus is often clouded by any host of distractions.  One of the tools I used while ministering in the local church was for the individual Christian to think about scripture in a slow, meditative fashion.  As the month of August will soon be upon us, I would like for you as readers of this blog to take a week by week "faith walk" through these scriptures a week at a time. Meditating on these scriptures for the week will be the source of therapy, healing, insight and energizing of your vision as a Christian.  I will use a couple of different translations to help you in this "journey."

A. Week 1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) (NIV)

B. Week 2: With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) (New Century Version)

C. Week 3: Then Jesus told him "You believe because you have seen me.  Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." (John 20:29) (NLT)

D. Week 4: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5) (NIV)


II. QUOTES FROM THE BOATS...

Mark Twain as a riverboat captain use to collect sayings from that culture along the Mississippi River.  Here are a few and an extra from Samuel Johnson.

A. "Live only for today and you ruin tomorrow."

B. "Teach the young people how to think, not what to think."

C. "All progress means change, but all change is not progress."

D. "In today's exchange of goods of all kinds, we know that price of everything and the value of nothing."  

E. "What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence."(Samuel Johnson)


Saturday, June 30, 2018

JULY EDITION...2018... WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE

Dr. Keith J. Wise


Introduction: July is a time of beginnings of some lazy days, days of outside fun and remembering how we got our county and its freedom.  Many are getting various kids of harvest from the family garden and we are continuing to pray for our nation as we consider the birth of a great destiny.  We will say something about it as we go through this edition of Wonderful Words of Life.


DIGGING DEEPER... Last of the Campbell Debates- Campbell-Rice Debate

This last of the celebrated debates of Campbell come in the years of 1842-43.  To properly understand the context of all these debates we must once again recall their subject matter and their place.  In the Walker debate Campbell argued as a Baptist.  Against McCalla he also argued as a Baptist.  Against Owen he championed Christianity against infidelity.  In the Purcell debate he argued as a Protestant challenging the "antichrist" of Catholicism as he called it.  Finally, he debates Rice as a champion of this movement to restore New Testament Christianity.  

This debate is interesting in that it is the most documented debate in the arsenal of debates of Campbell.  The debates covers such subjects as baptism, the Holy Spirit, and creeds.  As we already noted in these debates; in a broad sense neither contestant came away with a clear-cut victory.  The Presbyterians began losing large numbers of adherents to the then named "Campbellites" after the publication of the debate and Campbell's earlier reputation.  Later, Campbell picked up the rights and published this debate on a broader scale. 

In an interesting turn of events of this debate, the Presbyterians approached Campbell during a Kentucky trip in 1842.  They knew his background was Presbyterian and admired some of his thinking and processes.  Campbell justly assumed their motives and began correspondence with a C.H. Brown of Richmond, Kentucky.  Campbell desired to debate John C. Young, President of Center College in Richmond.  However, the Presbyterians after receiving a rejection from Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge of Center College, rolled out N.L. Rice, a Presbyterian minister from Paris, Kentucky.  The Presbyterians regarded this young minister having been a graduate of Princeton Seminary in 1829.

Campbell traveled to Lexington, Kentucky in August of 1843 to complete the details of the debate. The debate's propositions were as follows.

    1. The immersion in water of a proper subject, into the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the one, only apostolic or christian <sic> baptism.

    2. The infant of a believing parent is a scriptural subject of baptism.(Rice affirms)

    3. Christian baptism is for the remission of sins.

    4. Baptism is to be administered only by a bishop or ordained presbyter. (Rice affirms)

    5. Human creeds, as bonds of union and communion, are necessarily heretical and schismatical. 

The debate begin in the building of Lexington's Main Street Christian Church on September 15, 1843.  Edward Sawyer in his work "Campbell-Rice Debate," Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), p. 145 reports that Christians of the Restoration Movement outnumbered the Presbyterians five to one at this point in time in Kentucky.   

The debate opened with the discussion of the mode of baptism.  Campbell referenced the Council of Ravenna in 1311 and gives the impression that the Roman Church up to this point immersed as its primary mode of baptism.  Campbell sited this counsel but it was by this time in the Roman Church that any number of modes were being using in Europe among their Diocese: Sprinkling, Pouring, Immersion.  Rice responded with the old Zwinglian arguments that the mode meant nothing only repentance.  Calvinistic teaching had been that baptism was an outward sign of in inward grace already taken place. Campbell's drive force were the examples of New Testament conversion.  Biblical examples would be used in the Restoration Model of Christian Baptism in water "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38)

This debate ended with some clarity for the Christians of the Restoration Movement and continued losses for the Presbyterians.  However, the debate is so well documented that my simple blog will not carry all the discussion.  Later Campbell's friend Barton W. Stone continued to discuss the issues of the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord's return, and other subjects that clarified and simplified the debates of the past. 

DID YOU KNOW... The Hittites Did Get Around

Moses said, "The Hittites...dwell in the mountains" (Numb.13:29).  The writer of Chronicles reported, "...so brought they out horses for all the kings of the Hittites" (2 Chron. 1:17).  When the Syrians attacked Samaria the Lord made them to hear the noise of chariots and horses and they said, "Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!" (II Kings 7:6).  Joshua refers to "all the land of the Hittites" as some of the boundary lines of the promise (Josh. 1:4).  These are about four of the forty or so references to this nation many early critics used to say were mythological people.  However, within the last hundred years all these views have been rejected by modern, scientific Archaeology.

 One example of this was Hugh Winckler who went to Boghazkoi in central Turkey and there examined what had been the capital of the ancient Hittite empire.  He found over 10,000 clay tablets, among them was a military treaty made between the Hittites and the Egyptians about 1300B.C.  In 1911 the British museum began excavations in the city of Carchemish, and important center of the ancient Hittite empire.  Near an old palace gate the archaeologists discovered a statue made of black stone.  It represented a Hittite god sitting upon lions. The Hittite royal family is shown on a wall panbel as they go forth to meet a victorious Hittite army.  The armies of the Hittites and the Egyptians are represented in Scripture ina somewhat equal way (2 Kings 7:6-7).  Asn empire the Hittites conquered the land of Canaan but from and early dat it is evident that local tribes  settled in various places.

It is known from the archaeological discoveries that the army of the Hittite empire had become powerful through the development of new weapon, the light, horse-drawn chariot.  Thus a famous battle between the Hittites and Egyptians was inevitable.  In 1286 B.C. at Kadesh, Ammonite capital in central Syria, the battle took place.  The Hittites concealed themselves from the Egyptians scouts and with their chariots they attacked the Egyptians in a surprise raid. Had help not come to the Egyptians, they would have been destroyed.  Such were the influence and power of the Hittites.  Today, we know they extended over the western Mediterranean in settlements as well as in modern day Turkey through an established traditional kingdom state.  Thus, when we hear of Abraham dealing with Hittites, it is not out of historical context. 

We must remember, although the Bible is not primarily a history book, when it speaks historically it will eventually be found correct. It is somewhat difficult for modern trained skeptics to embrace such profound truths.  However, be not dismayed the word of God will endure forever.




NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT... The Need for an American Revival...

A number of years ago, Joe Wright who was to open a new session of the Kansas Senate shocked and informed that distinguished gathering with the following stirring prayer.  It has since been copied and used around the world.

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance.  We know your Word says, 'Woe on those who call evil good and good evil' but that is exactly what we have done.  We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and have inverted our values.  We confess that:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it pluralism.  We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyles. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.  We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.  We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.  We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionist and called it justifiable.  We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.  We have abused power and called it political savvy.  We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.  We have polluted the air with profanity and pronography and called it freedom of expression.  We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. 

Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.  Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you to govern this great state.  Grant them the wisdom to rule, and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will.  I ask it in the name of your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen."


HOW TO BE A HERO IN AMERICA... A JULY 4th THOUGHT

When now deceased Astronaut John Glenn of Ohio was a boy in New Concord, Ohio, he was inspired to become a pilot by the daring flyers who raced, barnstormed, and stuntmen at the Bendix Air Races in Cleveland.  One of the nation's pioneer pilots was a particular hero of Glenn's-- Roscoe Turner.  Turner who in later years got in touch with Glenn in Washington wrote down eight requisites for heroism.  Consider these:

1. Vision and Foresight.

2. Courage.

3. Self-confidence.

4. Believe in God.

5. Willingness to make any sacrifice, including life.

6. Honesty with yourself and others.

7. Letting nothing interfere with the objective.

8. Living each day as though it were the last.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

JUNE EDITION---2018--- WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE...


INTRODUCTION: Ahh the month of June.  What a month as it seems most of the days are sunny and bright.  The new plantings in gardens of flower and vegetables are basking in their new found homes as they daily seek their ripening of fruit.  For us, as we mark time the months which cover many noted events for special groups and causes, June exemplifies herself.   However, two days stand out as important to the celebrated calendar.  One of these days would be Fathers Day and the other Flag Day.  We will say a little more about these days as we progress and give some highlighted quotes and influence that have been noted in our society.   


I. CONTINUING OUR DISCUSSION... A Look at the Campbell-Purcell Debate-

It is often hard for us, in our modern mode of life, to imagine frontier America before the Civil War.  Much of the continent of the United States was not yet settled or explored by white Europeans or Americans.  There were settled areas of communities,  but their prosperity would eventually depend on their location.  Besides this, new identities, different than in Europe began to express themselves. The Industrial Revolution was in its infancy in America and noted models of education and assimilation of immigrants was about to go from slow to hyper. Northern and Southern Europeans responded to the oppression in their native countries in other growing numbers as they moved to the United States.  

Still further, there were the dynamics of education and forms of written communication such as newspapers.  How were these teaming populations going to be educated in the language and customs of America?  At this juncture, on the Ohio River was one of the most dynamic cities on the frontier.  Cincinnati,Ohio which was part of the great state of Ohio, became a state in 1803.  Furthermore, it was becoming a center of the pork industry.  People were coming at various rates to settle or move on to the west.  Several meetings of the education leaders of Cincinnati and the west both religious and secular were involved in looking to the future.  In October of 1836 there was such a considered meeting held at the College of Teachers, an education society, which had only been founded in 1831.  

On the evening of October 3, 1836 a number of educated leaders from the frontier colleges or universities were invited to envision how the education structure would look in future years on the frontier.  We know from the minutes of this meeting that Alexander Campbell attended and opened the meeting with prayer.  Following this an education pioneer Dr. Joshua L. Wilson spoke first concerning universal free education and the use of the Bible as a text book.  When he finished, noted Catholic Bishop Purcell, later Archbishop, attacked Wilson's idea about using the Bible as a textbook.  This rather hotly debated topic continue to engage the group as Campbell included his comments and ideas in the discussion.  As a well known speaker and debater, Campbell later on October 5, lectured on the topic of a "Moral Culture."  In his presentation, Campbell included and identified such ideas as "freedom of thought" which he said were partially the result of the Protestant Reformation.  Bishop Purcell, as he did with Dr. Wilson, objected and said that the Reformation, from his Catholic perspective, was the cause of all the world's dissension and infidelity.  Campbell responded directly and told Bishop Purcell that this should not be the platform for such a discussion, but if this topic were to be examined he would meet Bishop Purcell anywhere else to continue in this line of reasoning.

On October 10, Campbell defended his position in an address at the Sycamore Street Church which at this point identified itself as of a Disciples origin. Campbell in debate style gave Purcell an opportunity to respond. Bishop Purcell asked for time to gather his thoughts and he then returned to next night to speak. He commenced to launching into a tirade against Luther and the Protestant Reformation.  He said the that Luther was the devil incarnate and enslaved to his own lusts.  It was said he used such strong language that the ladies in the audience blished.  Campbell then responded with a challenge to a debate.  At this point Purcell declined for reasons of health. 

Fifty-seven citizen wrote Campbell begging him to expose the Catholic absurdity. He agreed to debate and returned to Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia).  A little historic context would be good to note at this juncture.  There was a national discussion relating to papal power in the American state.  This was primarily agitated in large part to the advent of immigration on a large scale following the close of the Napoleonic was of 1815.  A strong anti-catholic sentiment existed in the country.  In more recent history of American media, it was like the question asked of John F. Kennedy's allegiance in his run for President in 1960.   

Campbell returned to Cincinnati in January of 1837.  Purcell had since learned he was given permission to debate by the Diocese.  One of the complications of the debate was the healthy of Campbell.  Purcell was thirty six at the time and Campbell was in his late forties.  In his winter trip from Bethany Campbell found the Ohio frozen and river traffic was halted included passengers.  Remember, this is not the Ohio River we see today monitored by the Corps of Engineers with free flowing waters.  He took a longer overland route and caught cold in the process, remaining ill through most of the debate.  After arriving in Cincinnati Campbell met with Purcell and agreed to the propositions and rules of the debate.  

The debate began at 9:30a.m. on January 13, 1837 and there were seven points of discussion which because of time and space I will not list but please see my sources below.  Both men were valiant debaters, it took Campbell several days to clear his voice over a fever because of his cold.  Sources of Campbell's arguments were challenged and at the end Campbell made some excellent responses to the validity of the Protestant Reformation.  However, most commentators then and now believe Campbell lost he debate.  Purcell was a young rising Prelete in the Roman Catholic Church and known for his excellent scholarship.  He became Archbishop in 1850. Most of the reformers in the audience felt Campbell won the debate and his points were for generations considered classic material for anti-catholic debate.  There had been an agreement to split the proceeds of the debate and by 1838, Campbell's share amounted to $800.00 at six cents a copy.  I modern concepts, the printed debate did well.  

Note: See sources for further details and discussion: Michael W. Hines, History of the American Restoration Movement (2nd Ed.). (Cincinnati- Christian Restoration Association-2016) pg. 107-112.

Eva Jean Wrather, Alexander Campbell: Adventure in Freedom, a Literary Biography. (Edited by D.Duane Cummins). (Fort Worth: A project of TCU Press and the Disciples of Christ Historical Society 2009) pgs. 68-78)



II. DIGGING DEEPER... History is a Living, Changing Reality but True...

Much of history as it is collected and analyzed will be further interpreted and raised to new heights of scrutiny, or simply appreciated by the interpreters.  Sometimes cynical quotes and disruptive ideas are displayed.  Voltaire said, "...History is little else than a picture of human crimes and misfortunes."  Henry Ford said rather tritely, "...History is more or less bunk."  History is both a art and a science, but the people discovered in its annals, or displayed in one discipline, may be rejected in another discipline until proper scholarship or evidence is tested. Such is the empire of Assyria. Its rulers have in most part been chronicled and noted for our consideration. The last ruler of the Assyrians was King Ashurbanipal.(669-626B.C.)  He was more of a scholar and artist than what we might call a conqueror.  He once boasted, "I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the obscure Akkadian writing which is hard to master.  I had joy in the reading of the inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood."  Ashurbanipal  created a large library by gathering texts from royal archives and religious centers in the Ancient Near East.  In Ezra 4:10 he is called the "great and noble Asnapper."

In 1852-53 Hormuzd Rassam discovered the remains of Ashurbanipal's library in the ruins of ancient Nineveh.  From 1853 to 1876 about 22,000 religious literary and scientific texts were discovered.  The tablets were taken to the British Museum where they were studied and deciphered.  Some of the fragments reported an ancient Babylonian legend of creation with some similarities to the creation record in the book of Genesis.  Many of these accounts both Assyrian and later Babylonian follow the same simple creation sequence: primeval chaos, coming of light, creation of the firmament, appearance of dry land, creation of sun, moon, stars, creation of man, and the Deity resting.

The Biblical account of the creation story is inspiring and uplifting in its account.  Creation in the Bible is an act of an omnipotent God seeking to display His creation.  There is evolution within the species, but a unique separation of various classes and species.  Here are a few scriptures that give a spontaneous act of sequentialism in creation. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  He gathered the waters of the sea together as a heap: he laid up the depth in storehouses.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast."(Psalm 33:6,7,9)  "For by him were all things created...he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1:16,17).  You are worthy, O Lord to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they and were created." (Rev.4:11)



III. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT... "Thanks Dad"... A Sermon for Father's Day...
       

Text: Ephesians 6:1-4

Introduction: June is the month in which many churches and a groups celebrate Father's Day.  Culturally, there are a lot of mixed signals when it comes to nodes the roles of Fathers.  One small boy was once asked on a sidewalk interview to compare Mother's Day and Father's Day.  He said, "...Father's Day and Mother's Day are just the same expect on Father's Day you don't spend so much on the gift."  Paul gives us some insight on Fathers, remembering he is speaking to a pagan culture that is given a new ethos through the conversion of Christianity.  We simply want to say "Thanks Dad" for your sacrifice and love.

A. Thanks for Material Possessions...  Most responsible fathers wish to provide for their families.  Paul will stress in another New Testament book by addressing Fathers in a pagan culture the following inspired advice..."If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." I Timothy 5:8.  He wants the Christian fathers in the family to understand that even the pagan unbelievers provided for their families. They as Christian fathers should do much more by example.

Even if your earthly fathers were not Christians but were good providers, thank God for their provision "materially."


B. Thanks for Faithful Instruction- If we will listen and remember we could often be instructed in the right areas of life.  I remember my father giving me the following instruction, "Keith, pay attention to what you are doing..."  My father is deceased, but I can still remember even as an adult his advise when I returned home to visit with my family.  He was still giving instruction.  Periodically, he would see that I was learning something and doing it correctly.  He then would encourage me by a positive gesture or word.  I believe this kept my brother and I from getting exasperated.  I have raised two sons and a daughter and have to ask myself on a number of occasions "ARE YOU A COACH OR A CRITIC?"


C. Thanks for the Godly Illustrations-  My father did not get serious about his Christian walk until he experienced a "brain aneurysm."  After this his questions were less critical about Christianity and the Church.  He started asking questions to get some answers only God could give him.  I had people in my local congregation that were great role models.  People like Howard Taylor is one I could think off the bat.  He was an Elder and leader in a direct but quiet way.  He help us young men grow.  Ministers like Alva Sizemore and Rod Huron likewise in their families exhibited true Christian strength and love.  They were not conformed to this world but were transformed examples.

Conclusion: I found this advice from an old paper called North American Union News.  I rescued it while helping to clear out some material from my grandmother's home.  This short column was entitled: A FATHER'S ADVICE- A father, seeing his son about to go out into the world, gave him the following rules, without which, he said, the young man could not hope to succeed: 

Tell the truth-falsehoods are hard to remember.

Shine the heels of your shoes as well as the toes.

Don't lend money to your friends-you will lose both.

Don't watch the clock; it will keep on going-you do the same.

You do not need clean cuffs every day, but you need a clean conscience all the time.

Don't borrow money unless you positively have the wherewithal to pay it back; then you don't need it.


IV. A THOUGHT ON THE FLAG:  On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the design for the flag.  Less than two months later an ensign was raised from the southwest bastion  of Fort Stanwix.  The Continental Congress' resolution read: "Resolved: That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."  Many a young man and women have defended the United States of America since this declaration.  Many stars have been added since 1777 and innumerable stories of heroism and sacrifice have recorded.  All races, creeds and beliefs have set below her colors.  However, freedom is not free and many, would today, minimize her significance or criticise her accomplishments.  The noble experiment of the United States of American have in its history freed more people than all civilizations in the World.  God Bless America!!! 

 



Monday, April 30, 2018

MAY EDITION (2018)     WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE...

                                              Dr. Keith J. Wise


MAY...THE MONTH OF LIFE...HONORING SACRIFICE...

     The month of May as I noted last year is the month of two important holidays; Mother's Day and Memorial Day.  There have been other celebrations added over the years in May, but these are the two most importance of note. If you think about it, these two holidays are days in which we as a people honor sacrifice.  On the one, Mother's Day, we note the sacrifices of our mothers.  How many of us could give testimony of "going the second mile" with us and for us as our mothers.  I reflect often on the special person that sacrificed to give me and my brother and two sisters a good life in Steubenville, Ohio.  The other special day we recognize is Memorial Day.  This day is set aside to recognize the true sacrifice of our military men and women who gave their all for our nation and its freedoms. Let us rejoice and remember these special days and people that enrich us for their sacrifices.


I. INTRODUCTION: We have over the last several months been dealing with the history of denominations or religious movements.  Specifically, we have been examining the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and their early origins.  We have talked about Thomas and Alexander Campbell and more noted the debates that were documented in American Ecclesiastical history.  We have looked at the Walker and McCullah Debates and now we turn to a fateful and somewhat interesting debate in a new arena of social politics and economics.  

In the early decades of the 19th century, the American continent was becoming a laboratory of social and religious experimentation from Europe.  With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, new ideas of worker production were noted.  One concept known as the "Factory System," comprised new innovations of workers and capital and expansion of wealth had become a hot topic of interest.  Long before Karl Marx, there were utopian theories of how production could be carried out in new environments of human existence and broader populations.  Early on, pioneers of this focus in Europe like Charles Fourier (1772-1837) who disliked the factory system, and was noted as a "utopian socialist." Numbers of Fourier Societies existed in early 19th century America. One of the disciples of Fourier was Robert Owen.  He was a skeptic(Atheist or Agnostic) and socialist who owned and operated a number of successful textile mills in New Lanark, Scotland.

Owen came to the United States in 1824 to use the American Industrial environment as a laboratory for his utopian ideas.  He is noted for establishing a community in New Harmony, Indiana. He traveled and became a popular voice of his philosophy establishing at least sixteen Owenite communities throughout America. He tended to see himself as a purveyor of superior European elite attitudes to this newly birth nation.  Through a series of contacts he had planned to debate, as was the platform of education and entertainment of the day, with a Dr. Underhill on the subject of socialism and Christianity in 1828.  However, through a series of events too detailed to recount here, he and Alexander Campbell were eventually connected for a public debate.  Owen stopped by Bethany, Virginia(now West Virginia) to meet Alexander Campbell on his way back to England.  Ironically, the two men seemed to hit it off immediately.  Eventually, the two men arranged to meet in Cincinnati in April 13-21 1829 for an eight day debate which was much touted in the press. The debate was to be held at a large Methodist church which seated 1,200 members and could accommodate such a large crowd .  Owen stood and simply listed "twelve" supposed truths of atheism and socialism and restated them over and over throughout the debate.  Finally, he yielded the floor to Campbell who spent twelve hours explaining the rationale of Christianity.  This debate may well be on of the best illustrations of Christian evidences available for its day.  During the debate, the two men often ate dinner together between debate sessions.  They treated each other as gentlemen and again, brought Alexander Campbell into national prominence.  The evaluation by the press was interesting as Owen simply introduced his own social and anthropological views, while Campbell used evidence and history to substantiate his position concerning Christianity.  One writer, J.J. Haley overstate Campbell's effect as he (Campbell) "saved the Mississippi Valley" from communism.  Papers of the day regarded Alexander Campbell as "the defender of the faith..."  As time went on, many of the experimental socialist communities in America established by Owen went into disrepair and are now tourist attractions. 



II. DIGGING DEEPER...A LOOK AT KING HEZEKIAH-KING OF JUDAH

As we look at the history of Israel in the pages of the Old Testament, the kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon who each ruled for forty years divided after the death of Solomon.  Here we observe two distinct kingdoms and recognizable states.  First we see the Kingdom of Israel; the collection of ten of the northern tribes that rejected the family of David in Jerusalem. The second kingdom will be the Kingdom of Judah. This kingdom will comprise the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah and most importantly for the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem with the temple.  Each of these kingdom will have its own dynasty and line of kings that will rule their respective areas. 

By the time we get to King Hezekiah, it has been 300 years since King David.   In the sixth year of Hezekiah's rule, the norther Kingdom of Israel is taken into captivity by the Assyrians.  In integrated a policy of the "transmigration of populations" (moving one conquered population into the territory of another conquered population). In Israel's case, they moved other people from the Middle East into the space of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Please note, not all the Jews were taken out of this geographic area, for we have record of a remnant that still was drawn to the temple worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem. By New Testament times, these other semitic peoples and the remnants of the Jewish diasporic experience will produce what is noted as the Samaritans.   

As we look at King Hezekiah's life it is recorded in the books of II Kings, II Chronicles, and Isaiah.  A number of Bible chronologies see Hezekiah ruling either from 715-687B.C. or 725-697B.C.  Just for context, and interesting fact is that Ahaz, King of Judah and father of Hezekiah, paid tribute to the Assyrians at different times as did Hezekiah.  You can see a carved picture of Hezekiah paying tribute to the King of Assyria at the British Museum in London.

Hezekiah is considered one of the best and Godly kings of the southern Kingdom of Judah.  He is associated in his rule as a good king like David (II Kings 18:3).  He removed the pillars and poles that were symbols of fertility idolatry.  He went as far as breaking into pieces, the bronze snake that Moses had made in the desert for the Children of Israel to find respite from the bite of the invading serpents (Numbers 21:4-9).  By the time of Hezekiah and the rampant idolatry, the Jews of the southern kingdom were "worshipping" this bronze object as a talisman (II Kings 18:4).  To breaking this mystical connection with Moses, King Hezekiah now called it just Nehustan, meaning "just a piece of bronze." 

Some other remarkable actions taken by Hezekiah in this national revival of the spiritual life of the Kingdom of Judah we see: 

1. He reopened and cleansed the temple.

2. He celebrated a national Passover Feast.

3. He countered and through submission to Jehovah, sent away the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib's Assyrian forces. 

4. His life was extended 15 years.

5. He, however entertained visitors from Babylon that will cause Isaiah to chasten him for such bravado. 

Hezekiah was so successful in his spiritual relationship with God that it says, "...in everything he (Hezekiah) undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered." (II Chronicles 31:21)  Also consider II Chronicles 32:25 and II Kings 20:1-11). 



III. DID YOU KNOW?... THE FAMILY IS WONDERFUL AND NEEDED

The idea of a family was in the mind of God from the beginning.  He wanted mankind to realize how important this category of human relationships were to build and feed our souls and lives.  So if it is so important, what is it all about?

1. Family is about Relationships- In the beginning God concluded, "It is not good for the man to be alone"(Gen. 2:18) The man and women were commanded to "leave your mother and father, cleave unto you wife or husband, and they will become one flesh."  You see it is about relationships.  The measure of a family is not in the cost of the home in which they live or the neighborhood in which they reside or the things with which they decorate their house.  The measure of a family is in the strength and warmth of their relationships.  We learn this lesson from Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob. 

2. Making those Relationships Work is Often Difficult- Only in fairy tales do we read, "...and they lived happily ever after."  In reality, when we marry we spend a lifetime working out our relationships with two naturally selfish people to begin to become one. Peter Drucker in one of his books on management, suggested four basic requirements for effective human relationships: Communication, Teamwork, Self Development and the Development of Others.  In reality, what Druker said about the workplace is also true in the family.  We can look at these principles in the family for maximum results.  Communication- We must communicate with each other. This means listening as well as talking. Sometimes we believe we have said one thing and others have heard another. This also means catching the non-verbal communication as well as the verbal communication.  Without communication relationships will flounder. One item imperative in families is forgiveness.  By the way, communication is developmental and difficult.  Teamwork- In reality the family is a team that must work together.  This means focusing on what others need as well as on what we need, and being willing to do our part.  Without teamwork, a family cannot survive.  Ask any coach, they will tell you building a team is difficult as well.  Self-Development- We must develop ourselves so we will have something significant to contribute to the relationships in the family.  This can mean such aspects as being a life long learner.  This means establishing spiritual disciplines so we may grow spiritually.  This is a challenging but rewarding experience.  Development of Others- A team must commit themselves to the developing of each another. A mature family member will not be insecure about the successes of others in the family but will rejoice as accolades are given to others.  Their success is our success. 

3. Relationships Sometimes Fail- Pausing in the Biblical examples of Jacob and Esau or Joseph and his brothers selfish ambition ends in tragedy.  Sometimes marriages made in heaven become hell on earth. Sometimes the blessings of parenthood turn into our worst nightmare.  Sometimes relationship fail. We as a fallen race rush into the God ordained relationship of marriage and family and forget the sacrifices and depth of commitment that it requires to love unselflessly.  

4. Broken Relationships Can Be Redeemed- When God is involved, broken relationship can be healed, revived and recommissioned.  The Old Testament stories of Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his bothers are heartwarming reminders of how reconciliation and hope abounds in God's economy.  These stories point to the great reconciliation of God through Jesus Christ for us.  Each of us has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  The shadows and types of Old Testament heroes and heroines awakens us to the ultimate love story of God becoming like us in Christ so that we could become like Him.  I have seen broken marriages reunited and blessed.  I have seen the prodigal son or daughter return to the weeping and rejoicing parent or parents.  Our relationships here are temporary but are a laboratory for eternity.

Byline: By looking up every day and seeking to know the Lord Jesus Christ you will rebuilt yourself and all your relationships in forgiveness, love and support.



IV. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT: A Sermon for Graduation and Graduates

Title: Guidelines from Scripture for Being A Successful Graduate

Text: II Timothy 1:6-7

 Introduction: Spring is here and the month of May is often filled with events of graduations and weddings. As Christians there are many instructions of great advise for the young man and women as they leave an institution of learning to enter the classroom of the real world classroom.  However, if we listen to the eternal word of God we can come out in the end, much better than when we entered.  Besides, in our text, such passages as Phil. 3:13-14 (forgetting the past) and Hebrews 12:1-3(throwing off weights of sin) are additional samples of instruction that will save your life and improve your heart.  I suggest some simple guidelines for graduates from high school or college that life has taught me. 

I. Face Your Fears: (2 Tim. 1:7)  The Bible is full of a simple direction entitled "fear not."  I like our text on this because it is given to the young Evangelist Timothy who was with Paul and served at the Church in Ephesus. Paul addressed his personal inadequacies and those of Timothy.  Timothy apparently lacked self-confidence.  Now this isn't the confidence that aspires to haughty self reliance, but this is a confidence in God above yourself. Paul reminds Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Max Lucado says, "Fear doesn't want you to make the journey to the mountain.  If it can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands."

I once did a sermon series while holding a local congregation called: Quitters, Campers and Climbers.  This simply distilled the three categories of people in the world, and for the Christian walk that has to be lived out in training.

II. Forget You Failures- (Phil. 3:12-14)  If fear doesn't hold you back, your past may with its failures and frustrations through guilt.  Timothy sought out and Paul accommodated himself as a mentor for sound advice to this young Evangelist.  Many times we fail because we do not listen either to God or sound advice from Christian sources.  Remember, someone has been here before; you can learn from the experience of others.  But, get sound advice from the experienced!  In our Philippians text Paul had enrolled in the "Christ Likeness University."  He (Paul) had pursued a course of molding himself after the Master.  Two strategies were employed by Paul and later Timothy to deal with failure.

     1. He refused to allow failures to become destructive in his life.  His past did not control his present or future.  His eyes were fixed on Christ so he could "move forward." Failure is not fatal!!  He who does not "learn" from failure will not pursue spiritual excellence. 

     2. He refused to allow failures to beset his journey to his goal.  None of us are perfect and the only ones who never do anything wrong are the ones who never do anything.  It is not a matter of "if" we will fail, but "when."  How do we process failure.  When we fail we must learn from it and then put it behind us.  WE must never allow failure to make us quit trying. Get God's perspective!!

III. Follow Your Faith- (Hebrews 12:1-3)  Read this text a few times and think about it.  If facing our fears and forgetting our failures are defensive approaches, then this is a positive pro-active solution.  

The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians who were in despair and were thinking of going back to the strict rules of first century Judaism. They had been facing persecution.  The author kept pointing to the superiority of Jesus Christ as a positive reference point for their faith and reminding them of His Messiahship.  

This form of focus is much like a runner who needs a "reference point" to keep him going forward.  NASA illustrates this need for a reference point in its history by the possible ill-fated mission of Apollo 13.  The astronauts needed to make a critical course correction while in space.  If they failed, they might never return to earth.  Yet the astronauts needed to conduct a thirty-nine-second  burn of the main engines. How would they steer?  Astronaut Jim Lovell determined that if they could keep a fixed point in space in view through their tiny window, they could steer the craft manually. That focal point in space could be their destination.  Lovell decided to make EARTH his focal point, and for thirty-nine agonizing seconds, Lovell focused on keeping the Earth in view. This is captured in the 1995 hit movie Apollo 13.

Scripture reminds us that to finish your mission successfully "...Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2)

Conclusion: To recap.. Face Your Fears, Forget Your Failures, and Follow Your Faith by Focusing on Jesus Christ.  Your life will be a challenge but also a rewarding adventure.



QUOTES THAT RESONATE

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."  Shakespeare

"More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much." P. T. Barnum

"When a man is no longer anxious to do better, then well, he is done for." Haydon