The new year has arrived, and with it comes a clean slate with infinite possibilities. Some people will resolve to start diet and exercise, and the gym will be filled with people working off the holiday pounds. Maybe the year’s resolution will be to read more or to love more or to travel more. Whatever you resolve to do will take time to accomplish, and spiritual resolutions are worth the time.
Over the next fifty-two weeks, make time for your church. Support the worship services, support your pastor, and be a friend to others that attend. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Take time to read the Bible and pray. A daily Bible reading schedule can be found online or ask your pastor to get you one. Compile a prayer list and take a few minutes every day to pray. This will be time well spent that will reap eternal dividends.
Another great time resolution is family time. Go on regular dates with your spouse. If you have children take time for each of them, and grown children should take time with their parents. Chris Mack, head coach of the University of Louisville men’s basketball team, believes that his three children are more important than his job. "It's everything to me," Mack said. "When I die, hopefully a long, long time from now, I'd rather be considered a better dad than a better coach.” This may be an unusual quote for a basketball coach, but it should not be unusual for a Christian.
Time is limited, but we all have the same amount. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” How will you spend your time in 2019?
It is hard to believe that Christmas is over for another year. The year 2018 has flown by, and a new year is about to begin. Before embarking on this fresh start do not forget there are still a few important days left before the year concludes.
One key to starting the new year well is finishing the old year right. Acts 20:24 says, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy…” All people have a life course and finishing is one of mankind’s greatest achievements.
Derek Redmond is a retired Olympian. During his career, he set records and won medals, but he is most remembered for how he finished a race during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, when he tore his hamstring mid race. In spite of the injury he continued the race. While limping painfully and with assistance from his father, he managed to complete a full lap of the track as the crowd stood and cheered. Derek was disqualified due to outside help from his dad and officially was listed as "Did Not Finish". Actually, this might have been his greatest finish, becoming a inspiring part of Olympic history.
You may have suffered many trials in 2018, or you may have had a great year of success. Either way, finish this year as strong as you can. Some great ideas for doing that are to attend your church this Sunday, read your Bible, and show love to the One who directs your course. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Like Derek, your finish can inspire and encourage others to do the same.
What is a real Christmas hero? People often look for a champion in the television image of a cape-wearing action figure that executes implausible aerial maneuvers. Others consider a movie star or sport athlete and consider them hero-like. In a season full of elves, flying reindeer, and chimney gift distribution, let’s not forget some of our real heroes. Men and women who serve our country and protect our freedoms often go unnoticed during the holiday season, and that is a Grinch-like quality that should be eliminated.
Jefferson High School graduates Jason and Heather Keasler are Marine vets who have served our country honorably. Heather is in her late 20’s and is currently deployed overseas. Younger brother Corporal Jason Keasler is 23, but has been medically discharged from the Marines after four years for what his wife Danielle called “The knees of a 60-year-old.” His knees were damaged while jumping into a trench wearing a full combat load, and after four surgeries Jason is currently waiting to get old enough to receive a knee replacement. Jason and his wife and their two boys live here in Marion county, and are adjusting back to civilian life. “Adjustment is really hard,” Jason admitted. “I have to remind myself often that I am not in the military anymore.”
In the Marines, Jason has been stationed away from home during the holidays, and he shared some of the realities of being out of touch with family and friends. “I loved getting care packages”, said Jason. “Movies were great to get because they helped pass the time and keep your mind off of things for a while.” While stationed for two years in Hawaii, Jason was able to have his family with him, but in other places he had to go alone.
The famous song “I’ll be home for Christmas” often does not apply to our deployed soldiers. “It is especially hard during Christmas for the soldiers that could not bring their families,” Jason shared. “They miss knowing what is going on back at home. Sure, they can scroll through Facebook, but they miss the personal touch of knowing bits of news and the personal touch that friends and family bring.” Then he added, “Soldiers and their deployed families also really miss their pets, sometimes even more than people.”
When asked what was most important to the deployed soldier during the holidays, Jason replied, “Christmas gifts were not as important as knowing that family and friends were thinking of them and appreciating them. Knowing that people are thankful for the sacrifice for service means more than anything. A good soldier will never ask for thanks but that does not mean that we do not appreciate it.”
If you have a soldier overseas this Christmas, make sure they know how much you love them and miss them. If you see a retired vet around Jefferson, take a minute to tell them thank you for the sacrifices they made. If you would like to adopt a soldier, there are many programs led by charitable organizations that provide ways to reach out to soldiers stationed on ships, submarines, and bases around the world. Check out the website AdoptaUSSoldier.org for more ideas. Let’s determine to never forget the brave men and women who sacrifice much so we can have another safe and merry Christmas.
Note: Jason used to faithfully ride my van to every service when I was a youth pastor. I am thankful for this young man and his service to our country.
If there is one thing that this pastor has learned it is that people love their pets. Most of my church members have pets that they love, and many are part of their family. Being covered in pet hair is sometimes part of making pastoral house calls, especially if you sit in the pet’s favorite seat!
The Bible teaches that you should treat your animals decently. Proverbs, the book of wisdom, states, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” This truly is a wise statement. It does not mean your pet should expect a life of luxury, but that your furry friend should be treated kindly with its needs met. God is concerned about one sparrow that falls to the ground.
The Bible does not discourage love for your pets. In Second Samuel, King David was reprimanded with a pet illustration, the prophet telling a story of a man with a pet lamb who treated her like a member of the family. There is nothing wrong with loving your pets. As a child I prayed that my dog Benji would go to Heaven, and then cried when my cat Nero had to be put to sleep.
The Bible also teaches that animals have their place. In Genesis, God said to man to subdue the earth and have dominion over all the animals. In Romans, it talks about a generation that worships and serves the creature more than the Creator. God never meant for us to put animals above people, and especially not before Him. God should be more important to you. Your family and neighbors should be more important as well. Everything has a balance, and it is important that the leveler is the Word of God.
Countless Americans have followed closely the funeral of former President George H. W. Bush. Presidents, kings, dignitaries, and their entourages gathered to pay their respects to the Bush family. The services and burial were handled with class and dignity as the world watched.
After all the fanfare dies down, the excitement ceases, and the news channels move on to the next stories, what is left for the former soldier, politician, and president? Sure, the historians will complete the final chapter of his life story. What then?
The 41st United States President lived many years and did prodigious acts of greatness while alive. He was a good soldier, father and husband. He was known by the entire world. On the other hand, funerals happened this past week that only a handful of folks attended, and seemingly no one cared much about. No television crews were present, and their deaths did not even make the local paper.
Death comes to everyone. Death does not care if you are president or pauper, or whether you are young or old. The only thing that matters to George Bush going forward is what did he do with Jesus of Nazareth? If we go by what was spoken at the funeral, Bush made the right choice. Only God knows his heart, and only God knows yours.
Every individual is faced with this same decision. What will we do with Jesus? Romans 10:13 says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 6:23b tells us, "...the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The greatest gift ever given was a King born in Bethlehem, and the greatest gift He gave back was His death and resurrection from the grave. Wise men are still the ones that seek Him.
Physical intimacy outside of the bounds of holy matrimony is always great wickedness. The few moments of illicit pleasure leave a lifetime of regret. It produces devastating results. It is time for God’s children to determine that they are going to quit listening to the world when it comes to choices regarding marriage and purity.
Dr Don Sisk
We are all familiar with the story of the virgin Mary. The Bible account of her life and Jesus’ birth is read by millions every December, and countless people have been named after her. Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel who was sent from God to ask Mary to make a very difficult decision. This decision would not only change her life but would change the direction of all mankind. Her answer to God’s request in Luke 1:38 was simple: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word…”
She was swift to follow what God wanted. As soon as Gabriel finished his message, she agreed without hesitation. She was willing to surrender her life completely to the Lord’s will without asking for time to think about it. She called herself a handmaid, which is basically an indentured servant with a lifetime commitment. She was willing to completely follow God’s Word sent through an angel without question or reservation.
William Carey, who is called the founder of modern missions, said this; “I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Mary’s decision mattered, and she made the right choice. Doing what God wants is always the right choice.
This Christmas, are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Maybe He wants you to help a needy family, or give an offering to your church, or even volunteer for a ministry. Amy Carmichael put it this way: “Satan is so much more in earnest than we are--he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.” Where God guides He will always provide. This Christmas, let’s listen to the Word of God and make a difference in the things which truly matter.
Is God A Bird Watcher?
Many folks enjoy bird watching. One of my daughters put out a hummingbird feeder this fall for a school project, and what joy she had to see them hover in to drink. It was pretty cute to watch her sit at the window watching those little birds fly around. Her enthusiasm about the venture was contagious, and often others of her siblings would be lined up peering out the window in hopes of seeing another one come by.
Did you know that God is a bird watcher? Jesus spoke in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (knowing).” A farthing was a Roman coin equal to a half penny of our money. Jesus was saying that a sparrow is not worth much, but God cares so much about that little bird that He notices every time one is in distress.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 10:31, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” The comparison Christ was making was that if He cares about a little bird (which he does), then just think how much more He care about us. Just considering that fact should take a big load off of our soul. I Peter 5:7 encourages us with this thought, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
East Texas is home to some of the prettiest birds in the country, and many can be viewed right here in the city limits of Jefferson. Many of you regularly feed these little guests at feeders in your yards or on your porches. The next time you are bird watching, remember God is watching as well. That should remind us that He is watching us with even greater loving care.
Through the years, I have seen many people get out of church. Very few make plans to do it. It just happens to them by missing a service or two. Then they miss a couple more services here and a couple more services there. Pretty soon they are no longer in church. As many times as I have seen it I still never get used to it. It still hurts me every time. I know what they miss and what the local church misses. Communities are filled with people who never intended to get away from God, but did not go to church on Sunday because they developed the habit of not going. Do not ever let that habit get started! EVER!!
Psalm 42:1 tells us, “As the hart (deer) panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” I write these thoughts from a deer stand as I watch the beginning of another beautiful East Texas day. Some folks across the country think that East Texans don’t appreciate nature because we hunt, fish, and cut trees, but for most of us, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am thankful for the natural beauty we are surrounded by every day. Psalm 8:8-9 says, “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” Of course, in a perfect world I could do without so many wild pigs. Oh, and scorpions— and mosquitoes. How can I ever forget waterbugs? My wife said tearfully in her first encounter indoors with a waterbug, “They said everything is bigger in Texas, but that is ridiculous!” Well, you get the picture.
When I first moved to Jefferson over twelve years ago, I struggled with thankfulness. I knew very few people, and I often longed for my old home. My problem was that I tended to only look at the bad stuff. Do you ever struggle with the place God has you? He knows best what you and I need; we just need to trust Him.
We may not have the fantastic fall foliage of areas north and east of us, but we have a lot of beautiful sights here in Marion County. It is worthy of a prayer of thanksgiving lifted from even a hunting stand on a lovely fall weekend. Psalm 116:12 says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”