From the pastor
Greetings in the name or our Lord Jesus Christ. Another year has come and gone and as we approach 2003, it is a blessing to know that our Lord will be with us in the new year. There is a song in our book which begins with these words, "Thus far the Lord has led me on, thus far his power prolongs my day." As we approach the new year, I find these words to be of great comfort for if our eyes are open, we know it is by the Lord's mercy and grace that we have made it "thus far". It is good to reflect upon this truth, for if our Lord has been with us in the past, he will not desert us today, tomorrow or in the years to come. The psalmist, David, found comfort in this knowledge of the Lord's abiding presence. In his 139th Psalm, he acknowledged the Lord's presence in his past, present and future as he penned these words: "Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?"(Psalm 139:5-7).
When David used the word, "Behind", he saw the Lord's presence, His hand of providence, in his past life, leading him, blessing him and guiding him. He saw the Lord protecting him as a small boy as he watched over his father's sheep, even when he slew the lion and the bear. He saw the Lord's hand blessing him and guiding the stone that sunk into Goliath's forehead. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. We look back and see things in their proper perspective. Many times it takes years to fully understand the why of things and to realize that the Lord was really with us. As each of us look back, let us be careful to attribute all of our past blessings to our Lord and not luck. If we see past luck and not past Lord we will become unthankful and must trust to the impersonal god of luck for our future. Will this be the God that we pray to? And what about our past trials and misfortunes? David saw the Lord in these as well. In the most famous of all Psalms written by David, he said, "Thy rod and they staff they comfort me." Yes, David found comfort in the rod. In the rod of affliction and in punishments, David saw the Lord as a loving Father who would chasten him when he wandered. He could look back and see the Lord sending the prophet Nathan to convince him of his sin with Bathsheba as he said, "Thou art the man". He saw afflictions as eyeglasses, keeping his eyes focused on better things than this present world. When I look back in my life, I remember some things that I did not think I could go through. I thought they would never end. Today, I see those things differently. I realize as I was going through them, the Lord was with me and many fond memories are found there. As we look back, let us ascribe our misfortunes to His teaching, or else the past will never make sense to us and our hardships will make us bitter, depressed and our future bleak and hopeless.
As David uses the word "before" I find comfort and hope for us all. David EXPECTS the Lord to be in his future life. The future is something that is greatly feared and we have the ability to imagine great evils which may never occur. As our Lord said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof ...take therefore no thought for the tomorrow." We are thus taught to live day by day, in day-tight compartments. When the submarine hits a mine, each compartment is sealed off, securing the air and precious cargo. When we hit a land mine in our life, let us seal of the day, day by day, for the Lord, taking one days troubles at a time. We can all get down and depressed if we do not live for the present blessings. Surely, we should look for them and be thankful for the good we have in hand. Many blue tomorrows are the offspring of a red hot today in the flesh. Let us stop and meditate upon the Lord, His word and His knowing our tomorrow and holding it in His hand.
But what about today? Did David's Lord, know his present plight? Does He know, or even care, about ours? To describe the Lord's present presence David uses the word, "thine hand upon me". Here is a dwelling hand that can not be moved. Our Lord's abiding presence in our lives is strong. He is a friend that "sticketh closer than a brother." Jesus is a faithful high priest who is touched by the feelings of our infirmity. He, too, walked the shores of time. He saw troubles, He saw conflicts and disappointments. People misused Him, even people He loved. Yet, He did no sin. I love what one preacher said to his member when they informed him that they did not feel as close to the Lord as they once did. He asked them this question: "Who moved?" We have never been promised that we will not see troubles and conflicts. In fact, we are guaranteed that we will. But we are promised that He will walk with us through them as He did with Daniel in the den of lions and the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. His hand was upon them as well. And though He may not change the present difficulty, is it not a great blessing to know that He knows all about them and that we can share it with Him. As David did, let us approach the new year with knowledge that the Lord is near and expect, as David did, that He will be with US!
What is happening at DONALDSON
By the time you receive this letter we will have concluded our study of 1 Corinthians. If we would have asked the Lord to inspire Paul to write a letter for the churches of our day, I do not believe he could have written anything better than what we have in the book of I Corinthians. As we have studied this book, I have been humbled by its power. With clarity, this book echoes the woes and banes of the churches for centuries. From divisions caused by preacher preferences, to church discipline; from the false appeals of charismatic principles to what true charity really is; the alpha and omega of church life is contained in this book. It is a pastoral handbook to be studied and meditated upon by us all. Yet, as with all of scripture, if we do not apply it to our selves, to our own churches, it is just words on a page.
Chap 13 is the greatest treatise on love than any song that has ever been sung or any poem that has ever been written. Though many will talk about how much they love the Lord and His church, we would ask them how much they do for them. Charity, real love, is an action word which means that we are willing to give our time, our assets and our bodies for that thing we claim to love. If we say we love the church, we are saying we love Jesus Christ and those Christians that make up the church. This means we want to be with them when they gather around the throne and worship Jesus Christ. We pray for them, we encourage them, we minister to them, we rejoice with them and we suffer with them. Charity is grounded and rooted in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chap 14 deals with the subject of speaking in tongues and the women who thought they were to be teachers at Corinth. We find this to be timely in our day when so many charismatic churches are rising around us. In many places in the New Testament, the word "gift" is translated from the Greek word, "charisma". Thus, the charismatic churches claim to have special gifts(charisma), vested within them, the gift of tongues being the predominant gift that they most covet. Yet, we find that Paul places this gift far below the gift of prophecy, or preaching, "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach other also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." Many of these charismatic churches have women pastors, or preachers, in spite of the fact that Paul states in the very chapter that deals most with the gift of tongues: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak…" We come across many of these in our day, talking about how spiritual they are, singing the Lord's praises in Wal-Mart and other public places, making us feel that we are far less spiritual than they are. Yet, Paul puts all of this pretentious religion to silence in this chapter as he writes, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord"-v37. A really, really, really spiritual person will acknowledge that the things Paul has written are God's commandments, including "let your women keep silence in the church." Genuine spirituality is found in obeying the scriptures. It is not displayed in the marketplace, but in the heart. The Pharisees put on a similar show in their day, yet Jesus said they were painted graves that looked clean on the outside but inside they were full of dead things. Contemporary material is indeed found in this book!
Through the centuries, Chapter 15 has been respected by many divines and theologians as one of the most important chapters in the bible. It demands the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Everything that we believe or hope for, hinges on the fact that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. This is the heart of true Christianity, for this truth will confess that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, not a god, or one of the gods, not the by product of the flesh, but truly the incarnate Son of God. All true Christianity will confess this truth.
This chapter begins with enough eye witness information to convince any judge or jury that Jesus indeed rose from the grave. Paul then, very methodically, shows the Corinthians what must necessarily follow this monumentous event. The things that MUST follow give the church the bedrock for all of their doctrinal sentiments. Consider: If Christ is risen then there must be a bodily resurrection of all the saints(v.12); the preaching of Christ and His word is relevant and important to His people(v.14); our faith is not in vain for it is founded upon reality, truth and something or someOne concrete(v.14); and most of all it declares in the face of Satan and all the world that the saints are no longer in their sins, they stand before the courtroom of divine justice innocent(v.17). It further guarantees that those who sleep in Christ have not faded into oblivion, but rather are alive and well with Jesus(v.18). Truly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was and is the most notable event in all of history.
This chapter also sets forth the beautiful doctrine of representation. As Adam represented all of humanity in the fall, the second Adam, Christ, represented a special people, the elect, on the cross. The evil consequences of the first Adam's actions, sin, fell upon all of humanity. Yet, the blessed consequence of Christ's actions, life from death, fell upon all of His seed: the elect. Thus we have representation!
This chapter gives the most detailed account of the resurrected bodies than any other place in scripture. In verse 37 Paul compares the body that is placed in the ground at death to a seed that we plant. What we plant is void of beauty. Yet, what comes up is a substance of that very seed, yet beautiful and full of life. Just compare a sunflower seed to the beautiful sunflower when it blossoms! Then, think of resurrection morning!!
In verses 37-50, Paul informs the Corinthians that the resurrected bodies will be more than spirit. Since the body of Christ came forth from the grave, so will all that He represented: He is the firstfruits of the harvest. In Paul's day, the theory of dualism was advanced which taught that everything material was evil and only spirit was good. The raising of a body was repulsive to this school of thought. I love what C.S. Lewis said to those in his day that advanced this idea: "What position does a spirit take when it stands?" An understanding of this chapter gives us this much about the resurrected bodies: individuality and even identity in the resurrection. The belief that the resurrected body is only spirit, unknown to self and saints is very similar to those of Paul's day who called him a "babbler".
Paul closes out this book with the subjects of Christian maturity, love for Jesus Christ and his love for the Corinthians. He encouraged them to emulate mature Christians and look to such for their examples: Apollos who had labored among them; the house of Stephanas who had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints; Fortunas, Achaicus and the husband and wife team of Aquila and Priscilla who had a church in their home. Verse 14 says it all, "Let all your things be done with charity." From the use of their gifts to their discipline in the church, all should be done charitably. These two maxims must go side by side: doing the right thing and doing it in the right spirit. These are the Jachin and Boaz of church strength and maturity!
The motivating factor for the Corinthians to change and do the things Paul admonished them to do must be their love for Jesus Christ: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha(v.22)" This is the strongest language in the New Testament concerning church discipline. The word "Anathema" means excommunicate, to put out or withdraw from and the word "Maranatha" means the Lord cometh. This sent a strong message to those who were advocating that Jesus was just a good man and the His cross foolishness. A true believer is one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, not just a good man. This shows the seriousness of Paul's letter. It is written as if all that he has said funnels in to this one thing: our love for Jesus. How faithful we are to God's house is an indicator of our love for Jesus Christ. Paul knew that those who really, really, really, really, loved Jesus, would do the things he had written because the wellspring of all true obedience is found in our love for Jesus: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." Good works do not pay for our sins, only the blood of Christ can do that, but a desire to please the Lord is always the result of a renewed heart.
Our love for other Christians is also measured by our love for Jesus, "If a man say, I love God, and hatheth his brother, he is a liar"(I John 4:20). Corinth needed this as well to solve their problems.
Our Lord caused Peter to search his own heart concerning this love as He asked him, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" Surely, if Jesus questioned Peter as to the sincerity of his love for Jesus none of us are exempt from the question. It is possible for us to love the church, to love meetings, to love sermons and yet to forget that all of this should be done with and for our love for Jesus. We should sing the songs of Zion because we love Jesus; we should pray because we love Jesus; we should love one another because we love Jesus; we preach because we love Jesus; we read the word because we love Jesus and the list goes on from baptism to the Lords supper. We do it all because we love Jesus. If we do it, any of it, for any other reason, our reasons are less noble than what they should be. When the gospel came to me in power I saw Jesus Christ crucified for my sins. I did not see a religion, a songbook, a doctrine or even the people who made up the church. I just saw Jesus upon a cross suffering for me alone. I saw Him possessing knowledge, knowledge of who I was, what I was and what I had done. I could no longer look at my friends and the world around me and compare their sins to mine, for His eyes were fixed upon me as they were upon Peter when he denied his Lord. It is good for us to go back to that initial experience with Jesus when we doubt our calling and grow cold.
Paul was telling, even warning the Corinthians, that if any had joined the church at Corinth for any other reason than because they loved Jesus, if this love was not mingled with their guilt, their repentance and their desire to change and know Him better, they were in the wrong place and judgement was coming. We look not for perfected people to come to Christ and be baptized for none are. The Spirit and the bride encourage every sinner to come as they are with a love for Christ and a desire to change for His honor. If we wait till our lives are in order we will never come. This is my creed today and forever: loving Jesus.
On the third Sunday in February, we plan to take our annual trek to the ice skating rink at Little Rock and eat pizza afterwards. We plan to leave after lunch. Bring warm clothes!!
Our annual meeting is the second weekend in April. Elders Ronald Lawrence and J.R. Rakes have promised to be with us. Let us begin to pray for this meeting as we see the day approaching.
100 YEAR CELEBRATION
Harmony Church was constituted on August 8th, 1903. This coming August will mark the 100th year of this church. We are planning a special meeting for this wonderful occasion. The time will be announced at a later date.
When I was visiting Metropolitan Tabernacle, in London, I picked up a copy of a book entitled, "Angels Among Us". It is written by Ron Rhodes and I have found it to be very biblical as he writes about the scriptural references to angels. It is true, we are not to worship angels. Yet, we are to believe what the bible has to say about them. There is a lot of false information published today, even bordering on the occult, concerning angels. That is why I recommend this book. It not only gives a biblical perspective of angels, it also exposes the false information that is found in many so called "Christian" books on the subject. Check it out!
Remember in prayer
We have been saddened by the death of two of our church members. Brother Carl Brooks died on December 25th and Sister Louise Thomerson died on January 1st. Let us remember these families in our prayers.
Sister Lema Clayton has been suffering from vertigo and has been unable to attend our services for several weeks.
Please remember that there is more than prayer. A card, a phone call or a personal visit is always encouraging!!!