I am excited about our spring revival and I want to invite all of you to come because it’s gonna be great. Get this- Ben Merold is our speaker. If you have heard him before, you’ve gotta come and hear him again, and if you haven’t heard him before, you’ve got to come and hear him. You won’t want to miss this special weekend. So please save these dates: April 12th, 13th, & 14th. We’re going to have a wonderful time of singing and hearing Ben preach God’s word on Friday & Saturday at 7 P.M. and again on Sunday at 9:30 A.M. Ben is also going to be leading us in an Elder’s Clinic on Saturday from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. This will be a great time of learning for all who are elders and all who hope to become elders. Lunch will be provided but if you wish to contribute, donations will be accepted for our youth group. In order that we may know how much food to prepare, in the near future, we’ll set up a Facebook event so we can get an accurate count of everyone who’s coming. So please mark your calendars for April 12th-14th and make plans to come to South Hickory Hill Christian Church.
No matter your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that our nation—our world has become so complacent concerning that which is eternal. I am often reminded of words of wisdom spoken by President Tom McGee. He stated these words of wisdom often during my four years as a student at St. Louis Christian College. “We must keep the main thing the main thing.” While that saying may seem simplistic, it conveys a deep message that we, as Christians, should not be distracted by things that are “shiny”, rather, we must always be focused on that which is eternal.
A decade later, I taught numerous courses over a period of 16 years as an adjunct professor at St. Louis Christian College. In my preparation for teaching these courses, I came across the following prayer, which I’d like to share with you. I believe that if we would pray these thought-provoking words, all of us could gain renewed focus concerning what is of eternal significance.
“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life, having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.”
― Sir Francis Drake
It was 1983. Our church had invited George and Lois Poston to come and share their work with Northwest Haitian Christian Mission. Back then, technology was a slideshow, and a mission presentation was not one, but at least two trays of slides. For some, one tray of pictures, along with the corresponding stories, is plenty, but I was hungry for missions. I was ready for that second slide tray to be locked and loaded. After the service and into the night, all I could think about was how I could go to Haiti on a mission trip. I knew that at my age, my parents would be hesitant to let me go. As I thought and prayed, I decided to ask my dad to take me. I was overjoyed when he said, “Yes.” And so, we made our plans to travel with a group in August 1983. We exited the commercial plane going down the stairs onto the tarmac. It was so hot that you could literally feel a wall of heat surround you, and there was a smell of burning that was permeating the air. After we had gone through Immigration and Customs, we were greeted by the Postons and others that would be part of our group during this mission trip. Having stayed the first night in Port-au-Prince, we embarked on our journey to Port-de-Paix. We spent the next week and a half pouring a concrete roof, running electricity for an orphanage, stuccoing the exterior of a church, digging a latrine, singing and preaching in revival, and singing and preaching on the radio. For the most part, the Haitian people welcomed us and demonstrated extreme curiosity concerning who we were and why we had come. There was, however, a group who practiced voodoo who saw us as a threat to their religion and way of life. We never let them scare us or stop us from completing our task of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. We also experienced deep, broken hearts when we saw little girls, whose legs had been broken and sat crooked, sitting in the side of the road, begging for money. We learned that we could not give these little girls money, because in doing so, their fathers would do even more harm to them so that we and others would have even greater pity on them. We also witnessed little boys running home after fishing for shiners in the ocean. Even though shiners had very little meat, the boys’ faces shined with bright smiles. After 10 days of working hard, long days, and preaching and teaching every evening, Dad and I returned home feeling blessed to serve God in Haiti and blessed to return home to our family. Shortly after our return, we had our slides and our newly-purchased slide projector and we shared our mission trip with our church family at West Long Prairie Christian Church. Having shared our images with their corresponding stories, it was time for tray #2.
Another Christmas has come and gone. All of the shopping, all of the rushing, and all of the stressing, is behind us, and now we’re gearing up for New Year’s Eve, which includes the choosing of New Year’s resolutions. While these resolutions can be good for us, they rarely make into February, let alone the second week of January. Our resolutions may die too quickly because our approach needs improvement and better focus. I submit to you that we should keep our focus on Jesus and how He grew using the Luke 2:52 formula. Luke 2:52 reveals that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. So, let’s follow his example. Let’s grow in wisdom by reading His word, allowing the truth to shape our thinking and ideology. In doing so, our minds, perspectives, and life will be brought to a Christ-like focus. Developing this quality of wisdom will take patience and determination but when accomplished, life is transformed. Then, Jesus grew in stature. As adults, we might already think, “Aw, I’ve already completed this portion,” but growing in stature could also include taking care of one’s body. We should never take our health for granted. While we shouldn’t obsess over beauty to the point of vanity, taking care of ourselves is indeed necessary. Then, we see that Jesus grew in favor with God and man. These last two focus on integrity and relationship. It’s about being a Christian even when no one is looking. As such, we grow in favor with God through a prayerful relationship with Him. Through prayer, we communicate with God, opening our hearts before Him. By doing so, not only are we getting to know Him through His word, but we’re also building relationship with Him through our time spent in prayer. In doing so, we find ourselves loving God with our entire being. This is what also helps us to love our neighbor as ourself, which allows us to grow in favor with men. People want to see authenticity in our lives. In addition to Luke 2:52, this authenticity can also be developed by following in Jesus’s examples, found in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Before Jesus began His ministry, He prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. Through His example, we learn to begin any action by praying first. In other words, spending time with God strengthens us for the task at hand. This is also evidenced when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) on the night He was betrayed, leading to Calvary the next morning. So if you are grappling with your choice for resolution in 2019, may I suggest the process demonstrated by Jesus Himself. When we make this our ambition, even while we still may have hiccups along the way, our lives and our relationships will be greatly improved.
From our family to yours, may you have a very happy New Year.
Christmas is upon us yet again. We find ourselves rushing around, trying to find those perfect gifts we want to give to our family and friends. We want everything to be just perfect. We can’t wait to see the look in their eyes when they open their presents. We want the decorations to be full of splendor. We want the table to be filled with Christmas goodies that will be remembered and talked about next July. Yet we feel like there’s something missing. “Could I have forgotten to buy a gift? Did I forget the dry-cleaning?” And we continue to wonder, “What could it be?” It will continue to nag at us until we either forget about it or we stumble upon it.
But for others, this time of the year is lonely and depressing. We attribute these negative feelings with bad memories, a death in the family, or some other event which has caused us to alienate ourselves from others. “What is so great about Christmas anyway? Why do we have office Christmas parties? What’s so great about exchanging gifts, getting something I don’t want and will never use?” We just want Christmas to go away. The hurt, the pain, and the depressing thoughts are too painful to bear.
Then there are others who can “take it or leave it” when it comes to Christmas and all of the holiday festivities. Using this vein of thought, we will attend the Christmas parties to which we are invited, but we don’t really care if no invitation is extended.
Finally, we who are in Christ reflect on the true meaning of Christmas even while we are able to enjoy the Christmas decorations, parties, goodies, and gift exchanges. While we may have struggles with bad memories from the past, we don’t let those memories get us down. Rather, we focus on what’s important, because Christmas is a big deal to us. For instance, throughout the Old Testament, God promises to send the Messiah to save us (Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; and on). That’s a big deal. (For more information, read Walter C. Kaiser, JR. Toward an Old Testament Theology.) These promises were given through God’s prophets, priests, angels, and a few kings along the way. Then, at the beginning of the New Testament, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah to come (Matthew 3; Luke 1, 3; John 1:6-8, 19-34). All of this is a big deal. And then, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Angels proclaimed His birth. Shepherds (Luke 2) came to worship Him at His birth and Magi from the east, traveling a great distance, came and offered gifts to our God and King (Matthew 2). Knowing all of these events to be true, we can’t help but think that our God came to us, being born in a manger, so that He might teach us, die for us, rise again on the 3rd day, thereby redeeming us from our sin so that one day we can be with Him for all of eternity (Please read all four Gospels.). THAT IS A HUGE DEAL!
So please allow me to encourage you during this Christmas season. Jesus loves you. The reason He came was to save you, therefore He is our reason to live. That is a big deal. From my South Hickory Hill Christian Church family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I received a two-part question from Greg that I think you will find intriguing. While I must admit with all humility that I don’t know all the answers, I am happy to share what I believe the Bible teaches. So here are the questions: 1. Did Satan and the demons ever have free will? 2. Is there redemption available for Satan and the demons?
First of all, thank you for your thought-provoking questions. I believe it’s good for us to challenge ourselves with fresh study. Scripture indicates that Lucifer, in cryptic tandem with the king of Tyre, were “the seal of perfection, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (see Ezekiel 27:3; 28:11-19). Then Isaiah affirms our understanding of Lucifer’s decision by speaking with authority that Lucifer’s goal was to replace God (see Isaiah 14:12-15). Further, Isaiah refers to Lucifer as the Morning Star (ibid), which translated to literal Hebrew is “brightness”. This imagery is further depicted in Revelation 12:4, 7 and 8, wherein the dragon (Satan) is rebelling against God and is followed by one third of the angels. From these passages we see that the bright morning star, who was created in perfection and beauty, chose to rebel against God thereby was cast from heaven to roam the earth as a lion, ultimately to be defeated and thrown into the eternal lake of fire. Even Jesus tells us that He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:16-18). Jack Cottrell underscores these truths in his book The Faith Once For All (170).
Now concerning the second question, I affirm that scripture teaches there is no redemption for Satan and his demons. The strongest evidence is found in the teaching of Jesus Christ. For example, in Mark 1:21-28, while Jesus was authoritatively teaching the truth of scripture a demon afflicted man cried out to Jesus affirming that Jesus was the son of the Most High God and Jesus told him to be quiet. Forgiveness was not an option for the demon, nor was the proclaiming of the gospel. Again, in Mark 5:6-13 the demon afflicted man ran and threw himself down at the feet of Jesus but salvation was only afforded to the man, not to the demons named Legion. While there are countless other passages, I will close with one final quote. While the gospel is God’s salvation for mankind, hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Only one conclusion can be drawn from this verse of scripture (indeed the entire word of God), there is no redemption for Satan and his demons.
I received the following question from Carrie a short while ago and I know that you will find it intriguing.
“We know that in the Book of John that Jesus tells us that He must leave so that the Spirit can come to us. That would lead us to believe that the Son and the Spirit cannot be here at the same time. However, there are at least 3 occasions where Jesus and the Spirit are both here at the same time. One example is when Mary visited Elizabeth during their pregnancies. Another is when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, and Simeon was filled with the Spirit. The final count is when Jesus was baptized and the Spirit came upon Him like a dove. So then, how do we reconcile these examples with Christ’s words in John?”
First, thank you for submitting such an insightful question. While there are seeming contradictions, the context of John 16 will help us to understand fully when He said that He must go so that the Father will send the Spirit to them. So, let’s briefly consider the rest of Scripture in order to determine whether Jesus and the Spirit can be present at the same time. You have provided three excellent examples: Mary visits Elizabeth, Jesus is presented at the temple and Simeon is full of the Holy Spirit, and at Jesus’s baptism, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove. These accounts are found in Luke 1, Luke 2, and Luke 3 respectively. Then, there’s also a major account where Jesus and the Holy Spirit were together at the same time: at the Creation found in Genesis 1. Now we know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6) Scripture also teaches us that it is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6:18) Therefore, I submit that if we believe Scripture ever contradicts itself, we are completely mistaken. So, that brings us back to the context of Jesus’s statement in John 16. Now let’s ask a few questions of this text. Why is it better for Jesus to go? What does He mean? I’ve heard all my life that people wished they could have walked the earth during the time of Jesus. While that may sound good, the fact remains that by the time we reach John 16, Jesus’s earthly ministry is nearing completion. In this context, when Jesus says that it is better that He goes, He is nonchalantly referring to the cross. The cross changes everything. Through the cross, we have the opportunity for forgiveness; therefore, through the cross, we have the opportunity for renewed relationship with God. You see, before the cross we were still in our sin and all sacrifices under the Levitical code were simply rolled forward and the Holy Spirit simply worked among people. So in our right relationship with God, we are now able to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us. This outpouring was prophesied in Joel 2 and it came into fruition in Acts 2 and following.
So, let me conclude with this following summary. Jesus said it is better for Him to go, because through His death, burial, and resurrection we receive forgiveness of sin, at which time God sends His Spirit to dwell within us. (Acts 2 38-39) So then, there is no contradiction. Before the cross, Jesus and the Spirit could be together, but our relationship with God was still damaged through our sin. After the cross, our relationship with God has been reconciled and therefore God’s Spirit dwells within us, and yet Jesus tells us that He remains with us in Matthew 28:20.
I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving. My family and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family we rarely see. Now, Thanksgiving is once again behind us. Let the Hallmark Christmas movies begin!
For some, December rings in with excitement. For some odd reason, they like snow, they like winter. I can’t fault them, but I don’t necessarily share their enthusiasm.
Some can’t wait to put up the Christmas tree, while others can’t think about dragging all of that stuff out. Some are excited about all the shopping and fulfilling the list of all the items they wish to give to family and friends. Still, others prefer sitting at home in their jammies and slippers, ordering their items online, gleefully looking forward to the Christmas parties that lie ahead. It’s an exciting time of year. (Insert screeching halt here.) For some, this time of the year is not so much about joy, for some have depression looming over them. The long, dark nights. The cold, blustery days. The simple, yet unexplainable sadness. The feeling of quiet aloneness, even with a family and friend gathering. While there must be reasons sometimes, we don’t know what they are. I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know it seems like a Sunday-School answer, but God is with you. Jesus loves you, and so do we at South Hickory Hill Christian Church. I know that depression can make a person feel as if no one cares and no one understands. You feel like you’re drowning. You feel like you won’t catch your next breath. Panic ensues. The temptation is to shut down and isolate yourself. I want to encourage you today as we are entering into this Christmas season to break the stranglehold of depression by pouring your heart out to God, by reaching out to a friend and seeking the Lord among His church, laying all your cares and anxieties at the foot off the Cross. You can do this with the strength of the Lord. If you need someone who will listen, I urge you to contact me at 618-214-1165. May God bless you and may we all have a very blessed and merry Christmas.
Thanksgiving - it’s here again already. What does Thanksgiving bring to mind? In my childhood years, I remember snow sledding down the hill at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, seeing family, and eating all the turkey and the fixin’s and the pumpkin pie that I could eat. As I grew older, snow sledding wasn’t a priority, but seeing family, eating Thanksgiving dinner, and going around the table and sharing what we’re thankful for was the highlight of the day. At this stage of my life, I’m no longer satisfied with just a day of gathering with family and sharing Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving has come to mean so much more to me. Thanksgiving, as a Christian, has become a daily offering of thanks unto God and it’s more than just what we eat, where we live, and where we gather with family and friends. Thanksgiving is realizing what Jesus has done for us. He created us in His image, knowing that we would sin against Him and He would have to die for us, yet He created us anyway. Then, throughout the Old Testament, we read about His will and His work to prepare us for when our Messiah would come, and He did come, born of a virgin, and lying in a manger. Then, He began teaching and preaching repentance, redemption, and the Kingdom of God is near. Shorty after He had spoken the words of John 14:1-7, He gave Himself on the cross, was buried, rose again on the 3rd day, and He has promised that we will be with Him for all eternity. Every fiber of my being wells up with thanksgiving and praise with what God continues to do in my life. So for me it’s no longer Thanksgiving Day, rather it’s a daily Thanksgiving. May you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving all the days of your life.
Blessings and peace,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My name is Stacy Garner; I am a preaching Elder at South Hickory Hill Christian Church. God has granted me many opportunities of Christian service, and I am happy to share these with everyone via this column on this website. It is my goal to share and experience, answer a question, or unpack a difficult passage from the Bible on a weekly basis. If you have a suggested topic on which you would like for me to elaborate or question you would like for me to answer, please submit those via the “Contact Us” tab that appears when you press the “More...” tab on the front page of this website. So, I invite you to come back often and to interact freely so that we all may be better informed about the ongoing work in Christian life and ministry.
Stacy accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of seven, at which time he also dedicated himself to full-time Christian ministries in the future. He has served as a preaching minister for a total 27 years. He has served in cross-cultural missions for a total of 17 years to 10 countries. He has also taught as an adjunct professor for a total of 16 years.