Monday, October 27, 2008

The Peacemaker

Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 4th century. He went to Rome and found chaos in the streets. The commotion was over the gladiators. He was amazed that four centuries after Christ had come people were still killing each other for sport. When he arrived at the coliseum the gladiators were shouting, "Hail Caesar, we will die for Caesar." He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said "In the name of Christ, forbear." The crowd protested and began to shout, "Run him through, Run him through." A gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand. He got up and ran back and again said, "In the name of Christ, forbear." The crowd continued to chant, "Run him through." One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk's stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood. One last time he gasped out, "In the name of Christ forbear." A hush came over the 80,000 people in the coliseum. Soon a man stood and left, then another and more, and within minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

What does it take for there to be peace? It takes sacrifice. It takes humility. It takes someone who will do what is right regardless of the cost.

Consider all the sources of conflict in life: There are wars over land and property. There are divorces over "irreconcilable differences." Sometimes relationships become strained by pride. And most of all, there is the conflict between God and ourselves because of our own foolishness and sin.

What motivates us to peace? A man standing in the middle of the conflict. A man who loves us so much that he will not allow us to continue in our sin and death. A man who himself is willing to give his life to save our own. A man who will help us to see what we are doing to ourselves and to others. A man who took a sword and cried, "Father, forgive!"

God has called us to peace. He has called us to peace through the death of His own Son. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Praise God for His love and compassion in the midst of our foolishness!

"Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God." ~ Matthew 5:9

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!

When I was just a boy, singing was a very important part of the worship. If there was a song being led, we sang. My whole family sang. It didn't matter what our voices sounded like. It did not matter that we had no musical training. We sang because it was our way of praising and thanking our worthy God. It amazes me when I am in the worship and I see Christian people who will not sing.

One of the songs I quickly learned was "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah." I liked the song, especially the words, "Praise His name young men and maidens, aged men, and children small." I thought the author was including me and it made me feel like my singing mattered. In the old Songs for the Church songbook it was number 148. Later on I figured out that the song was from Psalm 148, and that the words came straight from the Bible. So the author new exactly what he was talking about.

"Hallelujah" is a very special word. It is a transliterated word from an original Hebrew two-word phrase. The first part, hallelu, is the second person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hallal, which means, "Joyous praise." The second part comes from "YHWH", a Hebrew name for God, rendered in English as "Yahweh." I have also heard some include that the "el" in the middle of the word is short for "Elohim." Elohim is the third word in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 1:1), and another name for God. This word was so sacred to the Jews that they would not say it aloud. It expressed to them all the concepts of the divine, triune God. So some might say that "Hallelujah" is "Praise to God, the Lord." Hallelujah must not be understated. This is a joyful word of praise to God!

Just before Henry "Red" Mitchell left us this week, he tried to lead "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah" from his bed. He wasn't finished praising Jehovah. His hallelujahs were still going strong. I believe that this song is not just another song in our song books. It was given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal and divine hymn of praise to God. "Red" has crossed over now to the land where the hallelujahs roll. He can sing this song and never get tired. He can sing this song with greater joy and meaning than he ever did in his earthly lifetime.

As a people of God, we have much for which to be thankful. We need to be a people of praise. Henry Mitchell taught us the importance of praise for the Lord. It is a lesson we must never forget. If we will sing to God, if we will praise his name with all of our hearts, it will change our lives. I promise.

"He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!" ~ Psalm 148:14

Monday, October 13, 2008


In the Old Testament there was a fortified city in the middle of Palestine located on the outskirts of a fertile plain. Trade routes and roads converged there. With regard to worship, this location was replete with altars, built by men in the name of Jehovah.

Abraham came first in about 2000 B.C. As he was about to receive the land of promise he stopped at this place. God appeared before Abraham and made a covenant with him regarding his descendants (Gen. 12:6,7). Abraham built an altar.

Jacob came to the same spot some years later. After being estranged from his brother Esau over blessing and birthright, Jacob arrived in this place just having made up with his brother. He erected an altar to God and called it El Elohe Israel, which translates, "God, the God of Israel" (Gen. 33:18-20). Jacob also built a deep well while there. The Son of God later talked to a Samaritan woman at this well (John 4:12).

Next came Joshua with the Israelites during the Caanan conquest. Having been given the victory by God, Joshua made his last statements before his death to the Jews in this plain. There was a renewal of the covenant, complete with sacrifices and the reading of the Law (Josh. 8:30-35). The ceremony had a very symbolic meaning. The Israelites had just been on Mt. Gerazim where they were told of the blessings of keeping the covenant. They had also been on Mt. Ebal where they were warned of the curses of not keeping the Law.

They now stood with Joshua in Shechem. The place of Abraham's promise and Jacob's well. The land between the two mountains. The plain between a blessing and a curse. Joshua took this opportunity to speak to their hearts. He told them they had to make a choice (Josh. 24:15).

Today, we are not so far from Shechem. We are in the land of eternal promises. We are near the well of living water. We are in the plain between eternal blessing and eternal punshment. We also have a choice to make. The correct choice is obvious. The time is at hand. So get your stones together and start building your altar. For our God is a consuming fire.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Making a Decision

An accident. A job loss. A death in the family. A divorce. A broken relationship. A wrong suffered. These are not events to which we look forward. But these are events that do take place in our lives.

An achievement. A job promotion. A birth. A marriage. A rekindled relationship. An encouragement. We seem to appreciate these things more. We hope for these things. We thank God for them.

I have been thinking this week about the importance of making spiritual decisions. Note that I am writing this on a Monday, the day after nine members of our spiritual family came forward to repent. Something happened to them Sunday that caused them to make a decision. It was a decision they have all been needing to make for some time.

So what do two lists; one of negative life changing experiences and one of positive life changing experiences have to do with it? These events touch our lives and keep us from being stagnant. They force us to think about what matters. They help us to keep from being distracted by everyday living. Often these events force us to make the spiritual decisions that have been long overdo.

I am confident that our gospel meeting will have an effect on some people for a good while. It is an event that has caused many of us to make a decision. This is why we have gospel meetings. It is about what the Bible can do to change our lives. It is about submitting to the perfect will of God. It is about spiritual blessings. It is about faith.

Think about these two lists again. While at first we may thank God for one and hope to avoid the other...we ought to thank God for both. I used to think that my life was best when things were status quo, nothing much going on, just living. But I have learned to embrace challenging times as opportunities from God. These are our chances to change. These are our chances to make important, spiritual decisions.

I am praying for you, friend. But I am not praying that your life will be without life changing events. Instead, I am praying that your life will be blessed with events that will lead you to spiritual opportunities. I am praying that when these moments come you will make a decision. I am praying that your decision will save your soul.

"...choose you this day whom ye will serve..." ~ Joshua 24:15
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." ~ Job 1:21