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In Christ Alone

Read: Acts 4:8-12

    In Acts 3 Peter and John encountered a lame man begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Jerusalem Temple. Seizing upon this chance encounter, Peter not only performs a miraculous healing on the lame man but finds yet another opportunity to speak to the multitudes in the name of Jesus Christ.
    Before he could finish his address, however, Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4). Faced with the overwhelming presence of the most revered Jewish leadership of their day, these fishermen-turned-evangelists exhibited no trace of fear. They could be, and were, threatened by torture and death to cease preaching Jesus to the multitudes. But their threats proved ineffective. Why? Because in the showdown between Jesus and the Jewish leadership, they lost and Jesus lived!
    In Christ alone is found the power to preach the truth in the face of the world’s relentless opposition. In Christ alone is found the power to forgive sins. In Christ alo…

Speak to One Another

Read: Ephesians 5:19

    In May of 2017 a 67-year-old woman in Plainfield, NJ was caught on surveillance video walking down the street focusing on a cell phone. Her walk turns tragic as she bumps into, and then falls over, an open basement access door. Landing amid workers repairing gas lines six feet below, she was ultimately lifted from the basement with serious injuries (mcall.com).
    We live in a world that has grown dependent on our smart phones. If we are honest with ourselves we have all seen it and even at times been guilty of it: friends and family sitting together and, instead of talking to one another, everyone is intently focused on their favorite electronic device. Are we in danger of losing the social skills of interpersonal communication?
    Thankfully, there is one aspect of Christian worship that consistently reminds us of the value of verbally sharing our faith. Every time the church gathers to worship in song the astute believer understands that our singing has more…

FIRE!

    At 10:48 on Sunday morning, February 7, 1904, fire was reported near the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. The effort to bring it under control would eventually take 1,231 firefighters from Baltimore, surrounding communities, and even fire units from out of state. Each crew responding to the fire brought along their own equipment, primed and ready to assist. As these various units converged to tackle the rapidly spreading fire they stumbled over a nagging barrier that hindered their efforts: "the lack of national standards in firefighting equipment" (Wikipedia). Many of the firefighting units that responded to the disaster could offer little actual assistance because the couplings on their hoses didn't fit the connections on Baltimore's fire hydrants.
    When the fire was finally tamed over 1,500 buildings lay in ashes. Before long the National Fire Protection Association adopted national regulations requiring standardized equipment for all firefighting equipment, es…

The Value of Our Past

    It is just a penny. You get change for your coffee or a quick trip to the convenience store and drop it into your pocket or stash it in your pocketbook and don't give it much thought. But what if that penny is not what you think? What if that penny has a value far greater than it seems?
    In 1995 the Philadelphia mint struck a number pennies with what www.collectorsalliance.com describes as a "Double Die Error." The master of the coin's desired image requires more than one stamping. On this particular coin the stamping process resulted in a slight imperfection in which the words "Liberty" and "In God" are blurred. A similar mistake was made on the 1955 penny. That coin has been highly sought by coin collectors who have valued it at $20,000. The 1995 coin has not achieved such a high value, as of now. It is valued closer to the $200 mark. But specialists expect the coin to rapidly increase in value as the decades pass.
    Our nation's past…

The Origin of Father's Day

    In 1911 Anna Jarvis achieved her dream of a national day honoring Mothers. But decades would pass before fathers would be so honored. The state of Washington was the first to have a Father’s Day, thanks to Sonora Dodd whose own father, Civil War veteran and widower William Jackson Smart, reared six children as a single-parent (history.com). While Dodd pushed for June 5, 1910, her father's birthday, she was content when Gov. M.E. Hay designated July 19, 1910 as the first Father's Day (history.com).
    This spawned national efforts to establish a Father's Day with advocates like William Jennings Bryan and presidents Wilson, Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson. However, an all-male Congress was hesitant, fearing that if they passed such a resolution it would appear to be self-serving. So Father's Day had no official, national observations until 1971 when President Richard Nixon appointed the third Sunday of each June as Father's Day. On that day, at the age of 90, Sonora …

Absentee Fathers

    The father's image may have been reflected in Timothy's face and build.  His mannerisms may have been mimicked by his young son. He may have given his name to the boy who so quickly grew to manhood. It doesn't take much of a man to give those things.
    Eunice taught Timothy how to live (2 Tim. 1:5). She introduced him to a loving God and molded his heart by divine truths (2 Tim. 3:15). At her knees he learned right from wrong, to respect God and to serve others.
    Timothy grew, thanks to his mother, to be respected by all who knew him (Acts 16:1-2). Paul saw in him the spark of a servant kindled under a mother's loving touch.
    Meanwhile Timothy's father is noticeably absent. It is as if his contributions ended at birth. Could his father appreciate the man Timothy had become? Was this man, shrouded in a world Timothy chose not to share, the one who planted in Timothy the fear that would dog his every step as an adult (1 Tim. 5:12)?
    Timothy is an object le…

What is a Dord?

    The second edition of Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary (1934) included an entry for the word "dord," which was defined as a synonym for density. The problem, however, is that the word "dord" wasn't really a word. How could such a thing happen? The answer seems to be a misplaced note card on which an editor requested that an abbreviation, "d" for the word "density," be inserted for the next edition. Somehow, that card marked "D or d, cont/ density" was mistaken by the next editor as new word. It remained in the popular dictionary for five years before finally being removed (www.snopes.com).
    Words are powerful. They can break one’s spirit and uplift the broken hearted. Words can incite anger and reconcile estranged friends. A thoughtless word can easily offend while a tender, sensitive word can endear. They can be infused with emotions, whether for good or ill.
    The gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ, i…

Built Together

Read Ephesians 2:22
     Thanks to missionaries Ryan and Sarah (of Warners Chapel congregation) Davis, many of us in the Carolinas have become more familiar with the history and beauty of Cusco, Peru. One of the city’s attractions showcases the area's Inca history: Hatunrumiyoc. Here tourists marvel at the precision of carefully cut stones built into a wall. Perhaps most famous is a twelve-sided, twelve-angle stone. The irregularly shaped stones making up this wall are so perfectly fitted together that "it is not possible to push a pin or a piece of paper between the stones" (theonlyperuguide.com).
    When you consider the ancient craftsmanship it took to build such an amazing wall, you will be reminded of the even more amazing skill in which God as, over the intervening centuries, places the living stones into Christ’s church (1 Corinthians 12:18). In Paul's letter to the Ephesians you can see this great spiritual wall from this perspective (Ephesians 2:19-22). Here …

History Repeats

    Déjà vu, French for "already seen," refers to the feeling that a situation you are currently experiencing has already been experienced in the past. It is a strange feeling of our memory playing a trick on us. But on the larger scale of world history it has been long observed that history repeats itself. The names and places may change, but the parallels to the past experiences of history replay themselves in the lives of generations to come. As George Santayan, a Spanish-American author, famously observed: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
    That statement by itself has a feeling of déjà vu, we've heard it before. The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw observed, "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history” and poet Lord Byron observed, “History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page.” But all of these reflect the far older, inspired truth of wise King Solomon, "That which has been is what wil…

Deacons as Not Doubled Tongued

Read: 1 Timothy 3:8    The following entry is found in a book entitled Epitaphiana: "Sir John Strange / Here lies an honest lawyer, / And that is Strange" (archive.org). I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but there was a popular British lawyer in the 1700’s with whom such an epitaph has been associated.
     When Paul began outlining the spiritual qualifications for deacons he demanded that they be honest. To be "double-tongued" is to adjust the truthfulness of their speech to the conclusions held by their hearers. They are like the dishonorable listeners in 2 Timothy 4:3 who, "because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers." Preachers and teachers can be just as guilty by saying what any given audience "wants" to hear rather than what they "need" to hear. Such fast and loose handling of God's word should have no place in the life of a Christian. Therefore, those working with a deacon and those whom a deac…

Thank God For Mothers!

    Cries of anguish filled the throne room of Heaven. God's chosen nation languished in severe bondage, oppressed by the merciless brutality of Egypt. Heaven rang with cries of confusion at the silence and apparent apathy of God. Cries of desperation in the face of seemingly forgotten promises of deliverance echoed about the Creator.
    The time was right for God to change the world. A child was to be born, sheltered and nurtured to step into the vacant leadership role and bring forth the Hebrew nation. But before that child could be sent, another had to come, a kind, caring soul equipped to bring about the marvelous scheme of Heaven. God sent first Jochebed, a mother.
    Later cries of anticipation filled the throne room of God as the world languished in deadly bondage to sin. These were cries of hope that God would act by bringing forth the long-awaited Savior. Israel anticipated the Messiah that God had promised. Their cries of exultation, prompted by the knowledge of those wo…

The Origin of Mother's Day

    The story of Anna Jarvis is fairly well known. Her campaign for an annual Sunday to honor mothers began the year she lost her own mother, 1905. During the Civil War Miss Jarvis' mom worked in military hospitals taking care of wounded soldiers, North and South alike. Her concern for better medical care continued well after the war. It was her mother’s zeal and selfless service that Anna Jarvis was intent on honoring.
    Her efforts met with success on a local level when her local denomination set aside a Sunday in May 1908 to honor her own mother. Nationally, however, would prove a more difficult prospect. In that same year Congress rejected the idea of a national Mother's Day. Just two years later Jarvis' home state of West Virginia recognized Mother's Day as a state holiday with other states to follow their example. By 1911 all of the states observed Mother's Day. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as …

Mother’s Measure of Success

     Various standards have been used in mankind's attempt to measure success. Some measure success by awards, peer recognition, or verbal praise. For others, the number of digits following the dollar sign measure success. Some seek success in the trappings of things: cars, houses, “toys.” Success is measured by some in the number of hours spent pursuing their leisure hobby and others by time spent in the office. None of these measures are nearly as accurate as Mother’s Measure.
     Success, to Mother, is measured in spiritual riches and faithfulness to God. When God is revered and His will upheld, to her you are in first place. When you unselfishly serve others she knows you learned well the secret of life. No matter what the world may say, by Mother’s Measure you have succeeded.
    To the faithful Christian mother success is not in what their children “have” but who they are. They cannot fail as long as they can look their mother in her eyes and hear her honestly say, “I'm p…

What Do You WANT To Do To Be Saved?

    Authorities in Glenville, NY are baffled. The small town has witnessed several single vehicle accidents involving large trucks. According to the Daily Gazette in nearby Schenectady, the Glenridge Road railroad bridge has been struck by trucks, peeling back trailer tops, "at least 20 times since a road-widening project was finished in 2013" (dailygazette.com). The problem? The clearly marked bridge has a clearance of only 10 feet 11 inches while the average height of an 18-wheeler is between 13 and 14 feet.
    Many site an increased reliance on GPS devices for the accidents while others blame drivers for ignoring clearly marked low clearance warning signs. In a similar, but far more serious vein, is the failure of many modern religious people to properly heed the biblical "warning signs" when it comes to God's plan of salvation.
    Whether they are blindly following their denominational teachings or refusing to take God’s Word seriously, the result is always…

The Origin of Easter

    Except for Acts 12:4 in the King James Version, the religious holiday known as Easter is not mentioned in the Bible. That lone KJV citing should have been translated "Passover," as it is on every other occurrence.
    The debate of the origin of Easter has a long and passionate history. One side argues that as the church grew it adopted and "Christianized" pagan festivals. So the pagan feast honoring “Eastre” was reassigned as a festival honoring Jesus' resurrection. The other side argues that only the name adopted to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection, "Easter," has pagan roots.
    Setting all the arguments aside two things become clear.
    First, there is no mention of "Easter" until the middle part of the second Christian century. That date is the crucial point for anyone seeking, as we do, to restore New Testament Christianity. There is no scriptural support for observing any specific date in our calendar year as a religious holiday. Chr…

Pilate

Read: John 18:26-33

    There are many variations to the origin of the carol Silent Night. All agree to the time, 1818, place, Obendorf, Austria, author, Joseph Mohr, and composer, Franz Gruber. In some accounts the hymn was only intended for a one-time performance. But when the tune’s composer played the hymn to test an organ repairman’s handiwork, the repairman so loved it that he sang it everywhere he went, planting the song in people’s hearts, as a sower sows seed, leading to its vast popularity.
    As John records the exchange between Jesus and Pilate, we find encouragement for our responsibility to share the Gospel. Pilate's question in verse 33 is foundational, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Although he had no intention of recognizing Jesus' true identity or the nature of His kingdom, still 50 days in their future, that did not discourage Jesus from answering in verse 36, “My kingdom is not of this world." We must be careful to not allow the world's seeming dis…

Reports of His Death

There are three dates you should keep in mind as you read this article: 1897, 1900, 2012.
    The first is the most debatable because the circumstances have, ironically, been exaggerated. One of the most popular versions has it that while Mark Twain was in London an American newspaper erroneously printed the humorist's obituary. When asked to comment on this mistake Twain reportedly replied, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Twain would go on living for another 13 years.
    The second date, 1900, was the year that German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche passed away. He was 55 years old. He is perhaps best known for his observation, printed in various works, declaring that "God is dead." In intervening years his comment, and what various writers suppose he meant by it, have been widely debated.
    The third date is 2012. In that year American theologian William Hamilton died. Hamilton is perhaps best known for an article appearing in the April 8, …

The Wrong Orders

    Train wrecks. They don't happen that often, fortunately. But if you ever see an interview with a survivor of such a terrifying experience you will probably be able to STILL see the horror etched into their faces.
    A few years back evangelist G. F. Raines related the story of a terrible collision between two speeding trains. Both trains were barreling down the same track in opposite directions on a foggy, moonless night. Both engineers, realizing the danger, threw on their brakes in a futile attempt to stop their trains. As rescue workers systematically picked through the wreckage they discovered one of the engineers pinned inside his locomotive. Holding in his hand a yellow sheet of paper he pitifully explained, "Someone gave the wrong orders."
    In one of the final scenes ever written by inspiration the apostle John describes the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). With all of humanity gathered about the throne of God the books are opened and the dead will be judged.…

Why "Daylight Saving Time"?

    There are, based on how daylight saving time (DST) is currently implemented in the United States, two types of time. "Standard" is determined by our established time zones that stretch across the country while "daylight" time is the adjusted time in those areas where DST is observed (Hawaii and most of Arizona are excluded). Standard time was first established by the railroads in 1883 to regulate their schedules rather than having inconsistent times from one station to another. It would be another 35 years before standard time would be set by an act of Congress.
    The idea of DST was first introduced in the U.S. in 1909 by Andrew Peters, but the bill had only a short, unproductive life. It would not be until the U.S. involvement in World War I that standard time would be set by Congress. Included in that 1918 ruling on standard time was the first introduction of DST in America. Strong resistance to the annual time adjustment would lead to that part of the law …

Training for Success

     Preparation for one’s vocation in life is very important. Whatever career one chooses, the Bible discusses a complete program for a successful life. It serves as a pattern for all of humanity. Below is a brief outline of this training for success.
Mental Growth. Every trade demands instruction in the skills necessary to succeed. To survive in a trade one must be able to perform those skills to the satisfaction of the employer or patrons.
Physical Growth. Maturity is a must to succeed in the adult world. The sophisticated business world of today is no place for the immature and childish. Strength, stamina and drive, traits that come with age and experience, are essential.
Social Growth. To prosper in the marketplace requires a certain amount of the social graces. Although manners are not universally practiced in this sometimes crude modern world, the successful are often the well-liked.
Spiritual Growth. Ethics are still vital in the professional realm. Often belittled or scoffed at, …

The Origin of Valentine's Day

    February fourteenth is one of American's favorite holidays as they spend about twenty billion dollars as an expression of love towards "that special someone." According to IBISWorld, $866 million will be spent on cards, $2.9 billion on candy, $1.8 billion on flowers and nearly $10 billion on romantic dinners. But what is so special about Valentine's Day?
    Like many modern holidays, Valentine's Day has deep roots in religious and secular history. Many secular scholars trace it back to pagan religious observances called Lupercalia. Among Roman Catholic scholars the roots of Valentine's Day are often traced to religious leaders martyred in the third Christian century (498 A.D.).
    According to History.com, while imprisoned just for being a Christian, Valentine is said to have fallen in love with a young maiden (some accounts identify her as the jailer's daughter). Just prior to his death on February fourteenth, Valentine sent a letter to his beloved c…

Doing Unto Others

    Seeking solitude from the demands of His ministry, Jesus withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. The disciples were diligent to shield their Master from any further interruptions when they encountered a woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon. She believed that the only One who could help her was Jesus. She knew that the time to secure His help was now (Matt. 15:21-ff). Yet there was one huge barrier between her and the miraculous help she so desperately needed for her daughter. She was a Gentile seeking help from a popular Jewish rabbi. Being so well aware of the long and unpleasant prejudice between these two groups she was banking on the unprejudiced character of Jesus.
    The disciples saw only a pesky Gentile woman. The fact that Jesus did not respond to her pleas convinced them He shared their view (v. 23). Then Jesus did the unexpected. He coaxed from her evidence of the faith that prompted her to seek His help. He even commended her for the rare quality of her fa…

Jesus is Mediator

Read 1 Timothy 2:5

    Plutarch, in his Life of Alexander, relates the puzzling encounter between Alexander the Great and the Greek philosopher Diogenes at Corinth in 335 BC. Eager to meet the famous cynic, Alexander and his entourage approached Diogenes who was lounging in the morning sunshine. As their shadows fell across the relaxing philosopher, Alexander asked if there was any favor Diogenes wished to ask of him. Why yes, came the reply. You can step to one side, you are blocking the sun!
    Scholars have debated if this enigmatic encounter really happened and, if so, what is its significance. But taking in the scene of the king and the philosopher one thing is clear, Diogenes wanted nothing between him and the sun. As Christians, we are in the same situation as Diogenes. Only we spell the word "SON," not "sun."
    Jesus is our only mediator with God. When you are right with Jesus you are right with God. When you are right with Jesus you are right with others. …

No Laughing Matter

    Life is funny but death is no laughing matter. Celebrities often find grist for their comedic mill in bringing levity to the serious subject of dying. Here are a few of my favorites:
Erma Bombeck suggested these words for her grave marker, “Big deal! I’m used to dust.”“I’m not afraid to die,” said Woody Allen, “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”Dustin Hoffman once said he wanted the epitaph, “I knew this would happen!”George Burns’ take on life and death: “If you live to the age of a hundred you have it made because very few people die past the age of a hundred.”    Death can be many things but in the end no man can honestly say that it was unexpected. Life is plastered with warnings. We are reminded of death in the changing of the seasons, the observation of nature, and the passing of generations. Our bodies send out warnings when something is not right. Death is personally experienced through the loss of friends and loved ones. God reminds all that “it is appointed u…

Unity of the Faith

Read: Ephesians 4:13
    For years counterfeiters have created countless headaches for government officials. The threat is very real: unauthorized imitations must be eradicated for real currency to retain its validity. This was highlighted in 2003 when, in Roanoke Rapids, NC, a checker at a local grocery store made change for a shopper’s $150 in groceries. The customer paid with a single bill and was given $50 in change. The math sunk in later when it was realized that the $200 bill was counterfeit (www.thesmokinggun.com).
    The parallels to the one authentic faith portrayed in the New Testament seem clear. We live in a world of multiple faiths. Despite promises to be just as good as any other faith, they will prove powerless to deliver on those promises. Those counterfeit “faiths” stand in stark contrast to the one true faith that alone will shape us into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.“ Only authentic faith comes from the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). It alone …

The Value of Your Past

It is just a penny. You get change for your coffee or a quick trip to the convenience store and drop it into your pocket or stash it in your pocketbook and don't give it much thought. But what if that penny is not what you think? What if that penny has a value far greater than it seems?
    In 1995 the Philadelphia mint struck a number pennies with what www.collectorsalliance.com describes as a "Double Die Error." The master of the coin's desired image requires more than one stamping. On this particular coin the stamping process resulted in a slight imperfection in which the words "Liberty" and "In God" are blurred. A similar mistake was made on the 1955 penny. That coin has been highly sought by coin collectors who have valued it at $20,000. The 1995 coin has not achieved such a high value, as of now. It is valued closer to the $200 mark. But specialists expect the coin to rapidly increase in value as the decades pass.
    Our past may be somew…

Only You Can Decide

     She called it a "merciless bed." The German woman created the devise as a foolproof method of getting a person out of bed in time for class. No more repeatedly hitting the snooze button, after the alarm clock rings the bed will begin to slowly lift and if, after five minutes, the sleeper doesn't put their feet on the ground by their own volition the bed will dump them on the floor against their will (news.excite.com).     If you still need help getting up, you might be interested in trying "The Carpet Alarm Clock." Created by Sofie Collin & Gustav Lanberg, the sleeper sets their alarm clock as usual. However, it will be the carpet (which actually is more like a throw rug), not the clock, that will sound the alarm in the morning. There is no "snooze" feature, the alarm sounding from the carpet will not go off until they physically get up and stand on the carpet (bitrebels.com).     We live in a high-tech world with devices and trinkets to make o…