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Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
As we conclude our Thanksgiving weekend and families begin making their way back home, I wanted to share with you something that began for me a few weeks ago. The other week, on a Sunday or Wednesday night, we were led in a closing song, The Doxology. It had been a while since I last sang it and I began thinking back to singing it as a boy. I have always liked The Doxology for its simplicity and timelessness. It is old—published in 1709—and has been sung for generations. Here are the words:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The author of The Doxology is Thomas Ken. Thomas was orphaned as a child and was raised by his older sister and her husband. He went to college and entered the ministry, holding several different positions and eventually becoming a chaplain in the court of English King Charles II.
The Doxology was originally written as a common ending to three different songs, but the ending stuck and the original songs are unfamiliar to most today. Its simple call for praise and acknowledgment of God’s blessing is a needed reminder, especially in our abundant modern era. James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift comes down from the father of lights. As we wrap up our weekend of giving thanks and move into the Christmas season, let us not forget to praise God for every good and perfect gift!
The Old Man and the Gulls
The Old Man and the Gulls
It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night until his death in 1973 he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.
Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry”—that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry—"read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off. Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.
—Paul Aurandt, "The Old Man and the Gulls", Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.
Walk4Water Fundraising Goal Surpassed
Thank you, Woodsfield!
We are thrilled to share that you and your community raised $10,910 for clean water! That's enough to provide a community with a clean water well and a survival gardening workshop!
Your generosity will supply clean water for THOUSANDS of men, women, and children. With the life-saving gift of clean water, people will be equipped for a better quality of life and more opportunities will become available for their families. The team at Healing Hands International is extremely grateful to be in partnership with you.
There Are No Words
There Are No Words
“There are no words.” After the events of this past week and the passing of our beloved Butch, that phrase kept coming up in my head and out of my mouth. As a minister, sometimes you feel like “Bible Answer Man.” People ask you for help remembering a passage they are trying to think of, they ask you if you can send them verses on something they are struggling with, they call you if they’re trying to work through a Bible question or a detail about a Bible story. But, there are times when even the preacher doesn’t have the answer. This would be one of those. I struggle with words to explain how a healthy middle-aged man with a wife, three young daughters and a beautiful grandchild can be making a trip home from work—one he has probably made thousands of times in his life— and be at the wrong place at the wrong time and not make it home. Many of us this past week have asked (or shouted, or cried), “WHY?” I think that’s a perfectly legitimate question, even when shouted. The story of Job has always gotten me. It is a story of tragic loss, illness, and Job’s quest to make sense of it all. We often forget that Job never knew what we know—there was a cosmic argument going on behind the scenes between Satan and God that was the root cause of all of his trouble. In the meantime, Job is left to wonder what is going on. He is told by his friends that it is his fault—he had to have done something wrong. But, Job is innocent and he knows this. At times, Job gets pretty blunt with his friends and with God in arguing his innocence and lamenting his struggle. At one point, in Job 13:15, Job both affirms his faith while at the same time arguing for justice: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” In other words, “I will have faith in God to the very end, but that doesn’t mean I won’t argue my innocence.” I think it’s perfectly normal in these situations to do just that. We can trust God, while at the same time ask “WHY?” God is ok with that. He is ok with Job doing that. A faith that asks the hard questions will, I believe, be deeper and more real in the end. How can it not? We have to let ourselves deal honestly with life, particularly when it’s been unfair.
So, ask the hard questions. Keep your faith in God. You can do both.
The church will be dedicating Sunday, November 12th to Orphan Sunday with the Orphans Lifeline International organization. There is a special contribution flyer and contribution box available in the back of the foyer, if you would like to give.
The Worst Sinner
In I Timothy 1:15, Paul calls himself the “foremost” of sinners. That’s a pretty big label, and today we’ll look at how he got there. As I was preparing for the lesson this week, I was reminded of what Paul says about all of us in his letter to the Romans in 5:6-11. He uses 3 labels to describe the “before Christ” relationship between us and God: “weak,” “sinners” and “enemies.” That last one is pretty jarring—enemies? I never saw myself as an enemy of God. I would imagine most of us probably haven’t either. And yet, in sin, that is exactly how we stand before God. Because of our sinful nature, we were hostile to him before submitting to Christ and having our sins washed away. Jesus literally washes us and puts us in a right standing with God and we become children of God instead of His enemies. Amazing, right?! It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it sometimes.
Paul goes on to describe the incredible love God has for us. Even while we were weak, sinful enemies of God, He sent His son to die for us. Imagine doing the hardest thing you can think of for the most difficult person you know and you might come close to what Jesus did on the cross. In fact, Paul even says someone might die for a good person, but a sinner? Never. It’s not just Paul. We all have been given this incredible gift. This is how Paul—with his “worst sinner” title—is able to be forgiven. The love of God is greater than my—or anyone’s—sin. That’s good news!
Two weeks ago I concluded our “Real Faith” series with the story of Moses, dealing with anger. I thought at that point that I would be moving on from the series, but after some thought and reflection on the next couple of months of sermons, I’ve decided to add two more lessons from the New Testament to our “Real Faith” series and extend it a bit.
This morning, our series continues with a look at the story of James, Jesus’ brother. James will teach us about doubts and skepticism as a regular part of our faith. Doubting and skepticism is a topic that, when I’ve preached or taught on it in the past, has drawn interesting and very opposite reactions. Some folks can’t understand why anyone would ever doubt God. For these people, things are very simple—God is God and that’s that. They have never doubted His existence or His goodness, how He works or why He does what He does. But there is another group of people, mostly silent for fear of being labeled or viewed as less than. These people occasionally—or often—have doubts about God’s existence and/or His goodness. This doubt might come from significant experience(s) in their life—trauma, sudden death of a loved one, difficult childhood, etc.—and they look at the evil in the world and struggle to see how God could exist or why He doesn’t stop the evil.
I’m not sure we like to talk about the reality of doubt in the Christian’s life, but it does and can exist. As we’ll see this morning, doubts can actually bolster faith—if they are dealt with properly. So, I would encourage you if you are one of those who struggle at times with doubts, deal with them! Admit them! You aren’t less than because you have them. You stand in a long line of believers over years who have wrestled with the reality of life and struggled to understand God in the midst of it all.
I believe that for those who deal with their doubts, there exists a more vibrant and real faith—one that, when tested, is more sure and more in touch with the world and all of its complexity.
Whoever Is Not Here with Us Today
I just finished Deuteronomy in my daily reading and was working through the latter part of the book when a phrase caught me. In the midst of getting ready to initiate the covenant before entering the Promised Land, God tells the people in Deut. 29:14—“It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.”
God wanted to make sure the people understood this wasn’t just for them—it was for their children, grandchildren, and all who would later be born in the Promised Land. The covenant God makes with his people in the book of Deuteronomy is more than just about land, however. It is about their identity as the people of God and how to continue in that identity. Many of the pieces of the covenant deal with behavior and practices that would set them apart from the people around them.
In many ways, we have inherited this same covenant. Paul talks about Gentiles in Romans 11:11-24 as being a wild olive branch grafted into the olive tree of God’s kingdom. You and I, thousands of years removed from the covenant in Deuteronomy, are those “not with us here today.” We were on God’s mind so long ago—we’ve always been on His mind. Your value, your identity, as a child of God is something of infinite worth. God has always thought of you, even before you were here.
An author for Reader's Digest writes how he studied the Amish people in preparation for an article on them. In his observation at the school yard, he noted that the children never screamed or yelled. This amazed him. He spoke to the schoolmaster. He remarked how he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked why the schoolmaster thought that was so. The schoolmaster replied, "Well, have you ever heard an Amish adult yell?"**
Although I’m sure there are Amish that yell, the point remains that what children see their parents do, they will do also. Many of the problems we encounter in life are generationally inherited; they are simply passed down from our ancestors until someone in the family tree decides they’ve had enough and takes a different path. We even see this in Scripture: Jacob repeats the same favoritism with his children that got him in trouble with his brother Esau. Isaac tells the same lie his father Abraham did. If not dealt with, the things we hate about ourselves and cause us the most pain will be passed on to another generation to deal with.
This morning we’ll close out our “Real Faith” series on Moses and his anger issues. As we think about anger, would you want your children or grandchildren to handle themselves like you do? If not, I hope our lesson this morning will be the catalyst needed to break the cycle of anger in your family.
**Reader’s Digest. Link for story: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/a/anger.htm
Soup Bean and Cornbread Fellowship Dinner
There will be a soup bean and cornbread fellowship dinner, Saturday, October 28th at 5 p.m. in the Fellowship building. Please bring a dessert and a friend!