Tuesday, June 19, 2012


When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faced with an ultimatum, they did not flinch. Nebuchadnezzar gave them a choice. Worship the statue or burn. Their response was quite impressive - "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." ~ Daniel 3:16-18.

This historical event reminds us that true, Biblical faith is unconditional. Circumstances do not determine whether or not God's people will do what God wants. Unconditional love produces unconditional faith. Jesus did not say to the Father that there were certain things He would not do. He did not say that there were only certain situations under which He would obey the Father's will. Jesus and the Father are, were, and always will be ONE (John 10:30). In order to be children of God, the same must be true for us.
Ask yourself if your love for God is conditional or unconditional. Ask yourself if your faith in practice is conditional or unconditional. Three Hebrew men in the book of Daniel taught by example that we have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves completely obedient. But they also taught us that it is possible to do what God wants regardless of the situation.

Remember that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord (Rom. 8:28). Remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31).

"Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." ~ Hebrews 5:8-9

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Standing Outside

While in a gospel meeting this past week at a country congregation I was standing in the foyer with some of the men as we talked about days gone by. I had been asking some about the history of their congregation. We were talking about attendance and gospel meetings...the normal conversation that takes place on such occasions. One of the older members mentioned that he remembered the time when they used to prop up the side windows of the building, even in the heat of summer, and how people would flock to the gospel meeting every night. He said there would be more people standing outside the building, trying to hear the gospel, than there would be people inside! The building just could not hold all the people who wanted to be there.

We all know how much things have changed. These days it is hard to fill any church building on any day. A friend of mine who preaches told me that one of the deacons at his congregation admitted that he would not attend a Monday night of a gospel meeting even if Paul, the apostle, was the speaker! I could write a whole book about what is wrong about that attitude, but I will abstain. I try to write encouraging articles with positive messages. I am not here to beat and batter people into submission to the will of God. (That method does not work).

The bottom line is that we have allowed differing forms of entertainment to become more important to us than hearing the gospel. What I am about to write is going to be very unpopular, but I promise it is with love and concern and much prayer and thought that this comes to you. Ball games and recitals and school programs cannot be compared to the importance of worship. I will take an evening at a gospel meeting with my family over any baseball game, concert, movie, or what have you. Your kids will grow up and the only thing that will matter is whether or not you taught them that God is more important than everything else.

Over the years, parents and grandparents have gotten offended at statements and articles and sermons directed at this topic. Please don't be! I don't always have my priorities in the right place either. Believe me, every sermon I preach and article I write is directed at me first. I have learned through the years, however, that these same parents and grandparents cry every Sunday and Wednesday when the gospel is preached because their kids and grandkids are no longer faithful to the church. They have either just stopped going or they are worshiping at congregations that are more "user friendly."

There was a time when we used to stand outside to hear the gospel. But today, too many people would rather stand outside and be entertained than sit inside to worship God. We need to be careful. Standing outside may eventually be an eternal problem.

Judgement is surely coming, coming to you and me
We'll be judged that morning for all eternity
Some will go to heaven, others will be denied
Will you be in that number standing outside?

~  J. A. McClung (1932)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A. F. Darrow

A few weeks ago I traveled to Ashland City on a Saturday to speak at a youth rally at a church out in the country. During one of our breaks, I walked behind the building to an old cemetery. I like to look at headstones. It is interesting to see how people wish to represent their lives in epitaphs. It is also quite telling to examine the years they lived in history, and to think about what that must have been like.

While examining different graves I came upon a very peculiar situation. A set of five headstones all in a row. Two of them were for the sons of A.F. Darrow. One was for the daughter of A.F. Darrow. One was for the wife of A.F. Darrow. The last one was a double stone for the parents of A.F. Darrow. But there was no stone for A. F. Darrow!

A closer look revealed that the two sons had died in infancy at the turn of the twentieth century. The daughter had died at the age of 8. The wife had passed in her twenties. Only the parents of A. F. Darrow had lived their life out to old age. Their deaths occured nearly 50 years after the passing of the daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

My first reaction was shock and sadness. I began to think about what A. F. Darrow, whoever he really was, had to endure at such a young age. I have two boys and one girl. I can't imagine losing both of my sons only days after their birth. And how could I possibly handle losing my young daughter after I had built a relationship with her that was so special? - especially in the wake of already losing two children. Then what if I lost my wife as well - my companion, the beautiful wife of my youth? I felt compassion for this man with no stone, this man who was not laid to rest with his family.

But then it hit me. My mind drifted to the Biblical account of the life of Job. When I thought about it I immediately had my answer. I knew why A. F. Darrow was not buried with the rest of his family. He was still a young man when all of these things happened to him. He still had a full life to live. Consider these words from the end of the book of Job - "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters....In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days" (Job 42:12-13, 15-17).

I cannot prove it, but I believe A. F. Darrow remarried and lived a full life. He probably had more children. He is most likely buried with his second wife and her family, wherever they may be. We need to be reminded and encouraged that God allows for blue skies when storms of life pass. He holds us in the palm of His hand. Every good and perfect blessing still comes from Jehovah - the same God whose own Son not only rolled His stone away - but made every stone only temporary!

"The end of a thing is better than its beginning..." ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8