WITH THESE WORDS

WITH THESE WORDS                                                                                                                    Andy Hollifield 7-13-19

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (ALL SCRIPTURE USED IS KJV)

A word is a powerful force. Have you ever thought about how much impact a word can have? I remember as a kid we learned the little saying; “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” That may sound good and I understand the purpose of it, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can recover from physical ailments but there are wounds made with words that will never heal. It is of little wonder that the “tongue” is spoken of 129 times in the bible and often not in a very flattering way. The entire third chapter of James talks about the tongue. It goes so far as to say in verse six that “it is set on fire of hell” and in verse eight, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Can you imagine the hurt and conflict that would be avoided if we could only tame our own tongue? All of the emotional hurt started at some point with words. Words from doctors about ourselves or a loved one that has broken our hearts or words from a loved one that they were leaving to go somewhere else that have had the same effect. The words we speak can often cause problems not just for others but also in our own lives. Words are one thing that, no matter how much we may want to, once spoken can never be taken back. We can say, “I take that back” or “I didn’t mean it” but it doesn’t take our words out of the mind of those they were spoken to.

On the lighter side, I have heard an old saying that, although it may be comical, it contains a tremendous amount of truth. It simply says, “Make the words you say today tender, kind, and sweet for tomorrow they may be the words that you will have to eat.” That statement alone would keep us out of a lot of problems if we would only put it into practice. Another saying that would be beneficial to us is this; “Make sure your brain is engaged before you put your mouth in gear.” That’s easily understood, isn’t it?

We have discussed how words can hurt others or cause problems for ourselves but words can also bring joy. Actually, if you stop and think about it, words are the catalyst behind almost all of our emotions most of the time. Except for love, such as the first glimpse of a newborn baby or a new puppy, our emotions are triggered by words. Fear, anger, disappointment, joy, love, excitement, and sorrow are all based on the words of others and the effect they have on us.

God knows the power of words better than anyone else. He used them to speak the heavens and the earth into existence. He also spoke everything in them into being except for one creation and that is mankind. We sing songs about God’s hand carving the mountains and valleys and hanging the sun, moon, and stars, in their places. While it makes for a good song it isn’t really based in fact. The bible says in Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” According to the bible which is God’s word, we are the only thing in creation that God ever put his hand to. Those words ought to make us feel special. His word also teaches that we are the only part of creation that he gave his Son for to redeem us out from under the curse of our sin and provide salvation.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 we find that Paul told the church of Thessalonica to “comfort one another with these words.” The words he was speaking of were the promises of God. The promise of Christ’s return to take us to heaven to be with him. Paul wrote words to encourage those that were in sorrow over loved ones that had passed on. He told them to “…sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Twice the bible speaks in Titus 1:2 and 3:7 of the “hope of eternal life” for those that have died believing in the Lord and have accepted him as their Savior and repented of their sin. It is interesting to me that the word comfort is used as a command in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and not merely as a suggestion.

Here is an interesting fact about the word “comfort.” It is defined as to soothe, console, reassure, and bring cheer to. It is also used 66 times in the bible. The same number as there are books in the bible. I know the division of chapters and verses wasn’t ordained by the Holy Ghost at the time they were written but it sure makes for some interesting coincidences if you believe in coincidences. I personally believe that all things are in the control of God and therefore there is no such thing as coincidence. I also believe that God wants us to view his word, the bible, not only as a book of do’s and don’ts and instruction but also as comfort in our everyday lives.

It would pay us to keep foremost in our minds the power of the words we speak. They can be used to wound, injure, and anger but can and should be used to convey love, comfort, and consolation that we might bring joy, happiness, and peace to those around us that have need of those things. “Choose your words carefully” and “Think before you speak.” That is excellent advice for all people of all ages regardless of the situation. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

 

NOT A HOPE BUT THE ONLY HOPE

NOT A HOPE BUT THE ONLY HOPE                                                                                            Andy Hollifield 7-12-19

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

Hope in Christ is not just “a hope” but it is “the only hope” we have. You only have to look as far as a lot of people in the public eye, such as athletes, entertainers, and politicians, to see misery. Not all of them but I dare say a lot of them have no other hope or purpose in their life most likely because they don’t have hope in Christ. Their only hope is in themselves and if that is where your hope is and you are not succeeding at what you are doing, it would make you miserable.

That is one of the many advantages of being a Christian. We don’t have to rely on our own success to find peace and contentment but we only have to look as far as the cross where Jesus successfully purchased salvation. I may fail miserably but my hope is in the one that never has and never will fail.

I hope you will indulge me for a few days because as you all know when you lose someone really close to you, you stop and evaluate everything in your life. After careful evaluation for a few days, I have concluded that God is still my hope and my rock and just because my world here has taken a hit doesn’t mean God has lost any power.

Aside from the Lord, I have always had two men that were my go-to people regardless of what kind of problem I was facing. One was my dad who passed away in 2007 and the other was my pastor Bruce West. Both were wise men and didn’t answer anything without thought. I have learned from both of them how to bite my tongue and engage my brain before putting my mouth in gear. I’m not really good at it sometimes but I am getting better. There have been times when I have had something weighing on my mind that seemed so hopeless that Diane would tell me I needed to go talk to my dad. Other times she would ask me if I had talked to Bruce yet. You don’t find men like them very often.

Another thing I have found that is important as far as talking to someone is that it needs to be someone that won’t talk about your issue with anyone else but you. I probably shouldn’t have said Bruce was my last one because I have another friend I have that kind of confidence in. He’s just younger and wiser instead of old and wise. The scary part is that I am now the old preacher and have become that kind of confidant for other people. I always tell someone that wants to talk about something privately that I have more secrets than Dear Abby. I try to be just like Bruce and my dad were for me. I discuss things only with the person whose issue it is. There is nothing more hurtful than to tell someone something in confidence and then hear it later from someone else.

I told Diane today that at 54 years old I was all alone in a great big world. That’s really more comical than true. I haven’t ever been alone since October 1973 when the Lord saved me. It is, however, a little bit unnerving when you no longer have the ones that you have counted on your whole life. But you know, there is comfort even in death. Just like David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 after the death of his baby, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” That is a comforting thought and should give us hope even in times of bereavement. Like my uncle said before dying of cancer, “I have more family over there than I have over here anyway.” That should give us hope and comfort but only if we have been born again.

To openly contradict some big-name preachers and entertainers, we are not all our own gods. If we were, I would be in serious trouble without hope. By the way, there is still only one pathway to God. That is the one that Jesus made from heaven’s throne to the womb of a virgin. From there to the cross, then to the tomb, and from the tomb to the mercy seat. No one else has ever done that or ever will. No one else can ever do what he has already done. That is exactly why he is not “a hope” but “the only hope.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

HOW FULL IS YOUR BOTTLE?

HOW FULL IS YOUR BOTTLE?                                                                                                   Andy Hollifield 7-11-19

Revelation 5:8 “And when he had taken the book, the four beast and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

Our prayers are stored in heaven. Three times in the book of The Revelation, the prayers of the saints are mentioned as being in heaven. The first time is in 5:8 when the golden vials (bottles) are in the possession of the 24 elders that bowed down before the Lamb. Then in 8:3 they are in the hand of another angel at the golden altar before the throne. There the angel is to offer the prayers of the saints on the altar with much incense. Finally in 8:4 “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended before up God out of the angel’s hand.”

Just think about that for a minute. Every time you have prayed, God has cared enough about you that not only did he answer your prayers but he kept those prayers in golden vials. Have you ever received a letter from someone that was dear to you that you kept in a special place as a special possession in your life? That is what God thinks of our prayers. Just as that special letter from that person was their communication with you in their absence at that time, so are our prayers to him. In his absence from us, he cherishes our prayers because they are all the things we have to say to him.

While it thrills me that God thinks enough of me to put my prayers in his own special place in his golden vials, it also makes me think about what I am putting in those vials. Think of our vials of prayers as a love letter to God from us. When I have received letters from some special person, although I was interested in what was going on in her life, that wasn’t what I was interested in the most. I couldn’t wait to get to the part where she told me how much she loved me and how much she missed me and looked forward to seeing me again. I already knew her feelings but I just liked being told over and over. If we are made in God’s image and the same mind that Christ has is supposed to be in us (Philippians 2:5), don’t you think he feels the same way?  Although he is interested in our day-to-day issues, don’t you think he probably wants to hear from us how we feel about him?

In Psalms 22, David speaks in verse 3 about how God “inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Who among us has not wanted to hear that special person talk about how wonderful they think we are? In short, God desires for us to praise him. The psalmists speak in 131 different verses, sometimes multiple times in a verse, about praising the Lord.

Do you realize the word “prayers” is only in the bible 24 times? That is the same number of elders that bowed before the throne. Also, the word “vials” is used only five times in scripture, all in the book of Revelation. We know that five is the number of grace in the bible and through prayer is how we obtain grace.

It just did my heart good and blessed me to realize that God loves my prayers to him enough to save them. I hope it does the same for you. The questions we need to be concerned with are these: What are we putting in those vials or bottles, praise or requests and also how full are the bottles with our prayers? God is waiting to hear from us. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

A TRIBUTE TO MY PASTOR

A TRIBUTE TO MY PASTOR                                                                                                         Andy Hollifield 7-10-19

A person just never knows each time you meet someone, where that introduction might lead. You don’t really expect a simple meeting to become a nearly five-decade friendship but I am one of a few blessed people that has one of those friends.

My life-long pastor, Rev. Bruce Howard West, is apparently nearing the end of his nearly 90-year journey. To begin to count the lives that this one life has impacted is an absolute impossibility. To begin to comprehend the depths of this man’s wisdom both in and out of the pulpit and in life in general, would most definitely be an exercise in futility. Ninety years of living can teach a person a lot of life’s lessons but it takes a true heart of compassion to share them with anyone willing to listen and learn.

Bruce knew me before I knew him I guess because he attended one of the first churches I ever went to in my life. I was only a toddler then and was taken to church a lot by our neighbor. It was in 1972 or ’73 when I first met Bruce to really know who he was. Little did I know then that not only would he be my Pastor three different times, but he would also years later become my mentor. Mentor probably isn’t a strong enough description of what he has been to me. A better way of putting it would be to say that he has been to me what Paul was to Timothy in the bible. I may have come up short on my end but he has always filled his position to the best of his ability. Any shortcoming on my part is not an indication of a lack of effort on his part.

Bruce had just recently started pastoring New Hope Baptist Church in Barnardsville, NC when I started going there. My mom’s first cousin who had known him from Fellowship Baptist Church in Newbridge invited mom to ride to New Hope with her and her kids one Sunday. We were a sight too. Eight kids under nine including four little toddler girls piled into that old blue Plymouth and headed to Barnardsville. No seatbelts, car seats, airbags, cell phones, or any of the other modern safety features we think we can’t survive without. Just two determined women that wanted to get their children into church.

Our moms became our Sunday School teachers and eventually the church prayed our dads back into church and both later became deacons. Unbeknownst to me at the time, was that little church on the head of North Fork was going to be the foundation that the rest of my life would be built on. It was in October 1973 in a revival at Pisgah Forest Freewill Baptist just down the road that I accepted the Lord as my Savior. Bruce baptized me in the creek just below the church the following June with the help of Garson Burleson, the pastor at Pisgah Forest.

I don’t want this tribute to be about me but it is hard to not mention myself when talking about the impact Bruce has had in my life. I remember when I first decided I wanted to sing at church, which was before I was even saved, Bruce would always encourage us kids. He didn’t put up with a bunch of foolishness during church, but outside was a different story. He would cut up and carry on with anyone who wanted to enjoy each others company and a good laugh. In the pulpit, he was all business. He even put a sign on the front of the pulpit that read; “If you must whisper, make it a prayer.” Apparently, everyone took that sign serious because God was so real in the hearts and lives of that church that we didn’t need a revival for the entire five years Bruce was the pastor. It was nothing unusual for the service to break loose during the singing and wind up having preaching, if we had any, before Sunday School if we even had that. People now would gripe about a preacher not having Sunday School for the little kids but believe me, we were definitely getting a spiritual education. We were being taught by example about the working of the Holy Ghost. I have heard it said that what you learn as a child you retain all of your life. I will have to agree with that because once you have church the way we did then and see the Lord move as he did then, nothing less will satisfy you.

I sat on the front bench once I was allowed to sit away from mom and dad. I sat mesmerized as Bruce would shout and run the aisle or hop from the front to the back of the church and back to the pulpit on one foot rolling his shoulders and blowing like a freight train the whole time. I even remember one Sunday morning while he was preaching, he took off down the aisle out the door, down the steps and out of sight. We could still hear him preaching but couldn’t see him. In a minute we saw him going through the cornfield above the outhouses with his arms going like a windmill and still preaching up a storm. In a few minutes, we could hear him coming up the steps still preaching, in the door, and right back into the pulpit and never missed a lick. When you see the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost when you are a young kid like I was, it helps you realize at a young age what an awesome and almighty God we have that can make a man do that and not even remember it.

When I announced my calling to preach in June of 1986, I didn’t know it but it was within one day of when he had announced his calling fourteen or fifteen years earlier. He gave me some of the best advice I ever got about preaching when I called and told him. His advice was to get a good study bible, KJV of course, a Strong’s Concordance, and a Webster’s dictionary. He said those three things would be all I would really need and anything else would just be extra.

He also taught me to have something I could preach every time I darkened the door of a church. He said that the pastor could be sick or might have had to make an emergency visit to the hospital or something and I might be needed to fill in. He made sure I learned that one. He would sometimes get in the pulpit, open his bible and read something. About the time I slouched down in my seat to hear some good preaching when he hit second gear, he would close his bible and tell the church, “Pray for Andy as he comes to preach to us.” He then said, “Come on son and mind the Lord.” Then he would go sit down on the front bench and start praying for me. All throughout my ministry he always made himself available for advice, prayer, or just good conversation and passing the time.

When it came to making himself available, he didn’t have a watch. He was always on call 24/7 for anyone that needed him whether they were a church member or not or even a Christian for that matter. I have called in the middle of the night to get him to pray on a couple of urgent occasions. I wasn’t the only one either. There was the husband of a girl at our church that had never been saved that we were all praying for. He went to Texas with a man in our church that drove a truck. On the way back, this young man started asking questions about the Lord and about being born again. After a little while, he asked the man if they could go talk to Bruce when they got back. This young man was one that when you went to visit him he would always welcome you and treat you like his best friend. But when you mentioned church, he was pretty much done talking to you. When they got back to Asheville, they drove over to Bruce’s. After talking a few minutes, that boy got on his knees in the living room floor and prayed and got saved.

There was a Wednesday morning in November 1983 that Bruce really went above and beyond what anyone could have expected of him. I had just returned home a week earlier from having a kidney transplant in Winston Salem. I woke up that morning and was running a low-grade fever. A fever above 100 degrees meant I had to call the hospital immediately. When I did, they told me to come down a day early for my appointment. Mom had just got back to work after having a month off while she was sitting down there with me. Although I felt fine, she didn’t want me to drive down by myself. She would have taken off of work again if she had to but she told me to call Bruce and see if he could ride down with me. About an hour later I picked him up and headed to Winston. He made a call to his deacon at Chapel Hill Baptist in Skyland and told him he wouldn’t be there that night and to take the service and also to pray for me. He took off on a moments notice and went 150 miles not knowing when or how he would get back home. It just isn’t everyone that would do that for you and I have never forgotten it.

I mentioned earlier about how he obeyed the Holy Ghost in church. He also did it every day in his personal life. He always told me that giving a notice when you were fixing to resign as a pastor only prolonged the agony for you and the church. Every time he ever left a church, it was at the end of the message and I think it may have always been on Sunday morning. It wasn’t a family decision either. If Stella was at home sick, unless someone from the church called, she never found out until after the fact. He always said the church was dead in the water if the pastor knew from the Lord that his work was finished and didn’t immediately leave. He even left once when he had a 400 dollar a month payment on his van. He still owed a couple years or more on it and never was late or missed a payment on it and he wasn’t even working a public job at the time I don’t believe.

If Bruce or Stella ever got something on you, they would never forget and every time they told it to someone else they would both laugh like it had just happened. He always liked to tell everybody about the time I came to visit and Stella made a home-made Lasagna and invited me to eat while I was there. I didn’t think I had eaten that much of it but they tell a different story than I do and their’s is probably a lot closer to the truth. I wasn’t the worst one though. He also liked to tell a story about one of our younger preacher friends that came with a crew to do some work on their house one time. The story goes that this preacher ate so many of Stella’s apple fritters that he just laid out in the front yard under the shade tree moaning because he was too stuffed to move let alone do any more work.

Well, I guess I have to stop somewhere. You just can’t put nearly five decades of life into words much less in just a page or two. Few preachers ever have a pastor to take them under their wing the way Bruce did for me. I have always said that I learned as much from him out of the pulpit as I did in it. I also learned as much by watching him as I did by listening to him. Bruce and Stella have always been my go-to people no matter what I was facing in life. He preached when I got saved, baptized me, married Diane and me, and also preached the dedication service for my son. He even scheduled me to preach in his church one time so a pulpit committee could come to hear me. He would have preached my ordination service in 2007 but he was having voice issues and couldn’t talk above a whisper after just a couple minutes. When I was pastoring, he came pretty often to Malvern Hills to be in service with me. It is both intimidating and encouraging to see your pastor come in to support you.

I know I am very biased but I sincerely hope that each of you have the privilege once in your life to have a pastor like Bruce. I am also thankful for every mile and minute we spent together that I had the opportunity to take him to a service somewhere. I have always said that I felt sorry for any preacher that didn’t come up under Bruce West because I know what they missed out on. I still feel that way even more than when I started preaching. I hope you have enjoyed my little stroll through time and I also hope you have enjoyed a little glimpse into the life of this great soldier of the cross, my pastor, mentor, and my friend; Bruce West. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

 

A LONG WAY FROM BEING A BISCUIT

A LONG WAY FROM BEING A BISCUIT                                                                                     Andy Hollifield 7-9-19

Matthew 3:11 “…He will baptize you with the holy ghost and with fire.” (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

Baptism by fire! That doesn’t sound very comfortable and inviting does it? The next verse is talking about the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. What is left after the chaff is blown away is the good seed ready to be put to use.

That golden kernel of pure wheat just laying there in all of its glory looking straight up to the Lord who made it. That good seed is representing God’s children. Nothing is quite as good as laying there looking into the face of God with all of the useless junk removed from your life when you accepted the Lord as your Savior. That is the picture the writer put forth in Matthew 3:12 of Jesus cleaning us up and making us fit to be used of the Lord. Making us into that multi-purpose, desirable, nutritious, grain of wheat that will be beneficial to the kingdom of God. But, you’re not a biscuit yet!

That kernel of wheat isn’t really worth much raw but when it is made into flour, then it becomes useful. Have you ever thought about what the next step of the process is? You go from being cleaned up into a glorious kernel of wheat…straight into the grinder. That wheat first has to be ground into flour before it’s really useable. Once it is ground into flour, then it has to be sifted.

Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31 that Satan had desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. Jesus never told Peter he wouldn’t be sifted. He told him that he had prayed for him that his faith wouldn’t fail. Then he said in verse 32, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Sifting is a process where the flour is put into another grinder called a sieve and with a circular motion of a grinding arm, pressed through a screen to remove any impurities like rocks, dirt, and anything else that shouldn’t be there leaving only refined flour ready for use.

Next, things are added to the flour. Lard, baking soda, buttermilk, and a little salt. Jesus did tell us to be the salt of the earth, didn’t he? Salt has a lot of uses but in baking, it is used to add flavor. You could even say those other ingredients might be faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (2 Peter 1:5-7). Those are the things that make a child of God useful.

Now we’re getting somewhere right? Next, you get squeezed and rolled around and possibly it may seem like a mixer has been put right in the middle of your life and you don’t know which way is up. Then you get rolled around and beaten some more and finally, you just seem to get flattened out. Kind of like life has run over you and backed up and ran over you again just like with a rolling pin.

If all of that isn’t hard enough, then you get cut. Things happen that just cut you to your heart and you don’t think you can stand it. When it seems like it may ease off a little, then you wind up in the fire with the heat on. When you have spent your time in the fire with the heat on, don’t think God has forgotten you or just being mean to you. When he brings you out, what started as a kernel of wheat has now gone through the process of growth and being molded and made into something useful for God’s glory.

That wheat was “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), into flour that God continued to work with and by adding ingredients in your life, he has made you into something that will be of great benefit to others. Some folks he transforms into sweetness like a cookie or cake and others into a biscuit for nourishment to start someone’s day. Or he may use that flour to make you the gravy for someone’s biscuit. Do you know how gravy is made? First, flour is put into hot grease and burnt and then ingredients like buttermilk, salt, and pepper, are added gradually and still stirring on the heat until it results in good gravy providing yet more nourishment to those that consume it.

We’re not all cookies or gravy or biscuits or cakes. God has different uses for each of us. A lot of the process of growing as a Christian involves things that are hard and sometimes uncomfortable, but it is always for our benefit and to benefit those that are looking at how we handle those adverse circumstances. We are called to be the salt but we are also supposed to take “the bread of life” (John 6:35) to those that are lost and seeking for something to fill their hunger.

Jesus said in John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” God isn’t trying to be hard on us with the circumstances of life that we have to endure. He is just trying to make us into something useful for him that by our sacrifice many souls can be drawn to him. Once they are drawn to him by how they have seen him work in our lives, they can accept him and become the fruit of our labor. If you are still just that kernel of wheat, saved by his grace but doing nothing for his glory, you are a long way from being a biscuit or some other finished product that can bring glory to God with your life. God just wants to use us to be a blessing to others. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

THE FATHER’S CARE

THE FATHER’S CARE                                                                                                                    Andy Hollifield 7-7-19

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?  (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

I will never have the actual privilege of being a grandfather to grandchildren of my own. But I have the same belief pertaining to grandfathers as I do stepfathers; whoever is doing the job earns the title regardless of blood relation. That is why when I refer to my grandsons, they aren’t by kinship but they are in my heart. The two unwed mothers our ministry has helped have each had a wonderful little son that immediately captured my heart on sight. I was there when both were born and was the first man other than doctors that got to hold them. That was in part because their Papa Eric allowed me to go first. His bonding time came on a daily basis as they spent their first few months of life in his home. I don’t believe it would be possible to love kids any more than I do these boys.

I had the privilege Friday night to have the oldest one, Sam who is now 18 months old, spend the night with us Friday night and most of the day Saturday. We laid out a foam mattress and blankets on the living room floor for him and a sleeping bag and blanket beside it for me and camped out I guess you could say. As we were there in the dark, it brought back memories from 20 years ago lying awake listening for Tyler to breathe. As I lay there listening, I could see the lightning flashing periodically and casting quick shadows in the dark room. I began to think about how Sam wasn’t concerned in the least with the weather outside. I also thought of how he hadn’t given a thought to whether he would be warm and comfortable or even fed or safe. When he finally closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, I am sure none of those thoughts were even in his little mind.

I actually was lying there thinking about how our heavenly Father desires for us to be that dependant on him. He would love for us to trust him completely, as Sam did me, to the point where our care and provision never even crosses our mind. He would have us to be so sure of his care that the storm around us didn’t even phase us no matter how dark and scary the shadows might be. For us to just lay back next to him and close our eyes in total peace knowing we are safe from all harm would be a great compliment to his care for us. For him to have our total trust and dependence would bring the same satisfaction to his heart as Sam’s complete and unquestioning faith did to mine.

Jesus rebuked his disciples for trying to keep people from bringing their children to him. He went so far as to say in Luke 18:17 that if anyone didn’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child, they would in no case enter in. Have you ever thought about exactly when it is our faith in God grows weak? It isn’t because of the Father’s care but rather when we question or doubt his care. Children don’t question and analyze the way adults do. They make the assumption if they put their trust in someone, that all of their needs will be met. They have that child-like faith to the point that they don’t even question or think about how that care will come to pass.

Can you imagine how close our relationship would be with the Lord if we had that same attitude and faith of a child? If we didn’t even give a thought to our needs, like Jesus said in Matthew 6, but wholly trusted in him. How many babies have you ever seen that asked what was going to be for lunch immediately after finishing breakfast? The answer is none. They just wait until they are hungry again and come to us for food not even entertaining the thought that we might not give them what they need. If we would just come to the Lord when we get hungry fully believing he will provide, instead of worrying about everything ahead of time, how much more content with his provision do you think we would be?

Who would have ever thought that the Lord would use an 18-month-old little boy that can’t even talk yet, to teach an old preacher a lesson in complete faith in his care? If God could use Baalim’s donkey that couldn’t talk to teach him something, he can use a baby that can’t talk to do the same thing with a preacher today. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

JUST LOOK AT US NOW, WILL YOU?

JUST LOOK AT US NOW, WILL YOU?                                                                                         Andy Hollifield 7-5-19

Isaiah 2:17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

Luke 1:52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

“Exalted” means to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality, etc.; elevate. With that in mind, I want to look back 241 years. I know that July 4th is past but as I sat watching fireworks disintegrate in the clouded night sky over Lake Junaluska, NC, I thought about the beauty and the sounds. The sound of exploding bombs brought joy to all of those that witnessed them. I thought about how different it must have been for the men that won our independence starting in 1775. It is one thing to declare independence but another thing altogether to secure it. Don’t stop reading now because this really isn’t a post about July 4th as much as it is about coming out from under oppression and being exalted by God.

As I watched the fireworks display and noting the beauty of it, I shudder to think of the horror that those soldiers went through at the sight of similar bombs exploding and bringing only death and destruction. There certainly was no beauty out on the battlefield for those men. Soldiers have faced those same situations in every war our country has ever been engaged in. Men and women throughout our history have continued to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor just to defend that flag we are so proud of and the nation it represents.

Let your mind go back to April of 1775 and even on back to 1754 and the events leading up to the French and Indian War. Part of the reason for our independence is those years. From 1754 on as the war continued, England was quickly spending itself into bankruptcy. Their answer to the problem, much like today, was not to do anything different but to tax the colonies and get what they needed. Eventually, the taxes got so high that the colonists were unable and unwilling to pay them. The British had even taxed Molasses back in 1733. Those taxes took away all freedom for the colonists to govern themselves. These taxes became the oppression that was the catalyst of the war for Independence. They kept the colonists stifled as far as growth and pretty much broke because part of the legislation called for all goods shipped from the colonys to go to England for distribution via “The Navigation Acts.” Also during this time The Quartering Act of 1765 which required colonists to house, feed, and supply the needs of British soldiers was still the law. The Navigation Act proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as the old saying goes. Over twenty years of British oppression and taxes culminated in the beginning of the war for independence.

Now, on to our main topic. The plight of the colonists in those years is a parallel picture of our lives before we invited Christ into our hearts. We were going along pretty good just minding our own business and enjoying life. Then, there came a day that we realized there had to be more to life than what we had. At that point, we began to try to fill that void with whatever anyone said would bring us happiness or give us a temporary escape from what had now become a burdensome life. For some, it may have been alcohol and for others maybe drugs or illicit sex or searching for something in various religeons; none of which could fill that void in our lives. We may not have realized it at the time, but that was simply Satan trying to keep us oppressed with sin so that we would not figure out that God himself was what we needed to fill that void. From the creation of man, we have had an inborn desire to worship. Some might disagree with that but if you look back in Genesis 4, you will find that both Cain and Abel brought an offering unto the Lord. Why? Because of that inborn desire to worship. After all, Isaiah 43:7 says “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Revelation 4:11 says in part: “for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” If there was no inborn desire to worship, why did Cain and Abel bring an offering unto the Lord? The simple answer is that we were created in his image and for his glory. Even ancient civilizations had a desire to worship something. Even Greek Mythology with all of it’s gods prove that there is an innate desire to worship someone higher and more powerful than ourselves. A lot of times, these cultures have gotten it wrong and worshipped the creation instead of the creator but the desire was still present. Satan knows that desire is toward God even though it sometimes takes us years to figure it out and come to the Lord. If he can keep us oppressed with sin so that we never come to the Lord, then his purpose has been served. Satan himself said in Job 1 that he was walking up and down in the earth. God knew that he was seeking to afflict someone and so goes the story of Job. The devil destroyed all that he could but even in all of that trouble, Job still had the desire to worship God. Satan operates out of jealousy and deceit and that was manifested on the earth when Cain became jealous of Abel’s offering and killed him. He apparently was deceived and thought that he could hide his actions from God. We spend a lot of time in our lives believeing that we can get by with sin. We also are deceived in our thinking and thus we submit ourselves to the oppression of sin to which there is no remedy apart from the grace of God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

As I thought about those early colonists that risked everything in total dependence on God to gain their independence, I thought of how we too, are under great oppression from sin. The difference is that we can do nothing to free ourselves. We can’t fight our way out and can’t outlast it and escape it’s grip. The only thing we can do is to run to the one that created us in his image and submit ourselves to him. Only the blood of Jesus and the sacrifice of his life on the cross is the only way to obtain forgiveness of our sins and escape from it’s bondage. Jesus has already fought our battle for us so that we could be free. We no longer have to be in bondage to sin and the devil because Christ paid for our liberty through his death, burial, and resurrection.

Just as those early colonists fought their war to gain their independence totally depending on God for deliverance, so must we fight ours. Christ won our independence from the bondage of sin but we must fight the forces of evil with a total dependence on God and his grace and mercy. The price of freedom isn’t cheap. It cost a lot of the colonists their fortunes and some even their lives. For our freedom from sin; it cost heaven it’s very best and cost Jesus his life. We have come a long way as a nation from where we started in 1776. We as individuals should have come a long way from where we were when Christ saved us. Just look at us now, will you? Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!