Your Hometown

There is nowhere in the world of memories like your hometown.
Your hometown is the place you were born and grew up. It’s where you learned the value of friendship, the pain of first love, the disappointments of failure, and the stories of life.

Your hometown is riding bikes on tree-lined streets on hot summer days, fishing in the creek, and camping under the stars in a backyard tent of bed sheets. It may be a girl’s first kiss or her first home run and a victory Oreo Blizzard at the corner Dairy Queen. Sunday school picnics and snow angels on the sidewalk.

Some young men answer the call of duty, leaving their lives on a battlefield while their bodies find their final rest back home. Others leave chasing dreams and adventure, not returning home until news calls them to stand alongside a casket at a freshly dug grave.

A hometown is as much a story and a time as it is a place. It’s where, as the years pile higher one upon another, the fondness for and yearning to return grows deeper and more powerful. It’s an invisible drawing, like a child to a kite or the morning dew to an open field.

CS Lewis wrote, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.

The longer I live, the more sure I am that I was not made for this world. I long to be with the One for whom I was created. The sin in the world afflicts my soul like it did Lot in Sodom. Even more unbearable is the evil and unfaithfulness I know lurks in the hidden places of my own heart. Nothing but total and absolute freedom from my own self will do.

Christian, this world is not your home. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

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The Blind Man

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).

Today I waited at a stop light and watched a blind man walking on the sidewalk. His telltale, long white cane tapped the pavement in front of him, first on the right, then on the left, then back again. Each tap sounded out what was in front of him.

I wondered what he would do when he reached the pile of dead leaves in his pathway. He neither stumbled nor hesitated, but kept tapping his stick in front of him.

The red light changed to green and I continued on to my destination, just as the blind man was doing. Our journeys really were not different. We were both headed somewhere. I was traveling by sight and he was walking by faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – Louisa MR Stead

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know: “Thus saith the Lord.”

Refrain
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood,
Just in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease,
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Saviour, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Lyrics by Louisa MR Stead (1882)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

 

 

A Heart of Stone

It is truly amazing how all animal life obeys God’s commands without hesitation. Balaam’s donkey became God’s ambassador to a false prophet (Numbers 22:21-34); a great fish served as ready transportation for a stubborn prophet named Jonah (Jonah 1:17; 2:10), and ravens brought food to Elijah hiding in the desert (1 Kings 17:6). It is only man who rebels against God. Birds may have a “bird brain,” but to the bitter end, man has a heart of stone!

When the gospel of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) is preached, the Holy Spirit changes man’s stony heart of sin into one of flesh and the new believer’s life becomes a letter written by Christ (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25-27).

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; you are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God (2 Corinthians 3:2-4).

The Joyful Shepherd

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13).

The four Gospels reveal a continual conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. They believed that because they were physical descendants of Abraham and kept the outward appearances of the Law, they were in right relationship with God and citizens of His kingdom. They didn’t need a Saviour because they weren’t lost, nor a physician because they weren’t spiritually sick. They didn’t need Jesus.

One day Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God with a group of tax collectors and sinners. Some religious leaders arrived, complaining how Jesus spent His time with the rabble of society. He replied to their complaints with a story from ordinary life to make a point. With His parable He pointed His finger straight at the religious leaders.

A shepherd had 100 sheep but one wandered away and got lost. The shepherd left the 99 to find the lost one. He rejoiced at finding the lost one, put it on his shoulders, and carried it home. Then Jesus said, I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Lk 15:7).

This parable isn’t about evangelism or a pastor’s duties. It’s about Jesus, His work, and His joy.

Shepherds were a despised class of people in the days of Jesus, responsible for guiding, providing, and protecting the sheep that belonged to others. This shepherd left everything to save one lost sheep and was then joyful when he found it, safely carrying it upon his own shoulders to his own home.

Jesus left the glories of Heaven to seek and save that which was lost (Lk 19:10). He graciously carries the lost sinner upon His own shoulders, bearing the weight of the sins of His sheep even to the point of death on the cross (Jn 10:14-15; 1 Pet 3:18; Col 2:8). He endured that cross for the joy that was set before Him, the joy of redeeming sinners who will live with Him forever in His home (Heb 12:2; Jn 14:3).

The religious leaders didn’t think they needed the good Shepherd to find them, save them, and bring them home. Do you need such a Shepherd?

The Monster Within

Janice pressed her back hard against the window and held her breath. Hiding in the shadows, the terrified woman was sure the monster would crawl past her and she could escape its hungering belly. She waited silently, one minute and then five.

Since a teen, Janice had been fully aware she was being hunted by a blood-thirsty creature that seemed to shadow her every move. No matter where she went, how far or fast she ran, the monster was always as near as her own shadow. Tonight she knew it had followed her yet again.

The past 25 years had been a whirlwind of travel and attempted disguise. She couldn’t hide among the masses in New York. Neither the empty open prairies of Wyoming nor the sky rise flat in London sheltered her from the creature that stalked her every move.

Deep down, Janice knew there was no escape from the creature. She’d put it out of her mind or try to mask it with a substance or a relationship, but in the still moments of the night it was so close she could feel its heart beating in her own chest. In those moments she recalled her mother reading stories from a black book about the monster. Mother said it had been following Janice since before she was born and there wasn’t a soul on earth strong enough to slay the creature and set her free. But she decided that if the monster was going to kill her, it was her life and she’d go out fighting on her terms.

A few years earlier she worked with a woman who knew all about the creature. She’d been terrorized too, and claimed Janice couldn’t run away or hide from it because it actually lived inside of her. Like her mother, this woman said a Saviour had come from Heaven a long time ago and gave His own life to defeat and set her free from the creature and its power. Janice just needed to trust that by His sacrifice He’d become the Victor over the monster she knew as Sin.

Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. (Genesis 4:7). If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

Jesus and Healers

And Jesus strictly warned him and sent him away at once. And He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone…” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city (Mark 1:43, 44, 45).

The Bible says that Jesus gave His original Apostles power to perform miracles to prove the veracity of their preaching before the New Testament was written.

The Scriptures also repeatedly record that when Jesus and the Apostles performed their miracles they didn’t hold healing events or share testimonies. In fact, as the passage above shows, they strictly warned those who were healed not to tell anyone.

A man with leprosy approached Jesus begging to be healed. His leprosy is what we call Hansen’s Disease today and is related to tuberculosis. The disease is caused by a bacteria on the skin transferred by touch and respiratory droplets. The bacteria invades the nervous system and spreads to the extremities like the hands, feet, ears and nose, causing disfigurement of the skin and bones, the twisting of the fingers into claws, formation of skin tumors, and eventually a total loss of feeling.

Because of the highly contagious nature of this disease, Jewish law (Lev 14) forbid lepers from close contact with others. Lepers were required to wear distinctive clothing, ring bells, shout that they were “unclean”, and get no closer than 16 feet (5 meters) from an unaffected person. The man in the Gospel of Mark approached Jesus close enough that Jesus touched and healed him!

Jesus strictly commanded the man to get his healing confirmed by a Jewish priest familiar with the disease and share the news with no one else. Jesus sought no publicity with a public testimony or advertising. But rather than obey Jesus, the man told everyone that he’d been healed. The result was enormous crowds of sick people all wanting Jesus to fix them too, despite the fact that He’d come to preach repentance from sin (Matt 4:17).

Today false preachers, evangelists, and apostles proclaim their miracle-working power on Youtube, Facebook, and other social media. They don’t require independent confirmations from medical authorities. They crave the personal attention their shows receive, though they would argue it’s all about the glory of God. Jesus was all about the glory of God, and He insisted on silence.

Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).

When the Work is Done

Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12).

During the summer break from school, before I became a teenager, I’d go to work with my grandfather. He was in the business of repairing and remodeling homes and businesses. It was hard work, but I loved it because I got to spend the day with my grandfather.

Time is a constant, but the way it feels to move is never the same. Sometimes the day marched along like a tireless battalion of US marines; but the afternoons often trudged like the comatose Dunkin Donuts guy. When I was ready to quit and take a rest, my grandfather would say, “There’ll be time to rest when the work is done.”

Before dying on the cruel Roman cross, Jesus cried out, It is finished! (John 19:30). He had done everything that could be done to save sinners. The work for which the Father had sent Jesus into the world was complete. Jesus paid it all.

The Bible says that three days later God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20). God the Father revealed the standard of all miracle-working power by resurrecting and causing Jesus to sit down in Heaven. Christ’s work was done.

All that’s necessary now is for you, by faith, to accept the work that Jesus did by for you.

Jesus Paid It All – Elvina M Hall (1865)

I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all.”

Refrain:
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him, my robe, His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side, I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
Can change the *leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed my ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,” shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down, all down at Jesus’ feet.

Elvina M Hall (1865)

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12).

 

Gold Fever

Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone, South Dakota RLR 2014

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).

Gold fever still infects visitors to the America West. At the Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, South Dakota, we explored the lives of men a century ago who gave up their worldly possessions, their health, and their lives for the chance of striking it rich. On our visit in 2014, we watched men, women, and children panning the sands for flakes of gold or even that rare nugget.

A quirk of human nature is that we’ll willingly sacrifice things of value for the potential of greater value. We’ll risk everything on a roll of a pair of dice or turn over our paychecks to a lottery scheme promising that one out of 100 million tickets is a winner.

Jesus told a short story about a man who found a treasure buried in a field. This man didn’t suspect a treasure, he actually found it! He then sold all that he had so he could buy the field where the treasure was hidden.

God the Father provided His Son as the salvation for the sins of the world. His forgiveness can’t be bought with gold or silver or hid in hole in the ground. God’s salvation must be accepted by faith, trusting that Jesus has done all that is necessary to save the sinner. This priceless gift of eternal life isn’t a gamble, but when possessed, is a source of great joy.