Eighteen Years

Yesterday was a day of significance in our home.  My firstborn son turned eighteen years old.  Already towering over me by several inches, and well on his way to being much smarter and more accomplished than I ever could dream of being, he has now reached a substantial milestone on his way to adult manhood and complete independence.  Frankly, I couldn’t be more proud of him.  God answered our prayers for a blessed child those many years ago, and He has kept His loving hand on Him all the while.  And while yesterday was all about my son, his birthday got me wondering about 18 year-olds in scripture, whether God made mention of any, and whether that age seemed noteworthy to any extent.

And my search led me to two items of interest.  First, King Jehoiachin began his reign at age eighteen, after his evil father King Jehoiakim died.  Learning nothing from the poor choices of his dad, Jehoiachin did evil in God’s sight and lasted exactly 100 days on the throne.  However, ruling over Judah just before this despicable father-son duo was a king named Josiah.  He actually took the throne at age eight, and scripture says that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David.  And it was in his eighteenth year as king that Josiah ordered the temple to be renovated.  And during this project, the high priest Hilkiah found a copy of the book of the law.

Upon hearing the writings of Moses being read, Josiah was distraught by the message, and vowed to wholeheartedly turn God’s people back to Him.  He restored the holy worship of Yahweh, he took serious the commands and warnings found in the scroll, and he reinstituted the Passover, which had not been observed in over 400 years.  That, my friend, is a productive and blessed eighteenth year.  But when Josiah was gone, it took practically no time for Jehoiakim and company to turn from God and usher in the captivity and judgment that God’s Word had prophesied.

Much can happen by age eighteen, or in the eighteenth year.  Much that I had little to do with and deserve no credit for.  But it still wells up inside me and chokes me with emotion.  What God can do in a life, what He has done in our lives, is nothing short of miraculous.  If you’ve experienced eighteen years of something, then look back over it and see the marvelous hand of a loving God and Father.  There really is no other explanation for it, and I praise Him for His awesome gift to me.

Rich Holt

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When death comes before birth

There are among us those people who have often suffered in silence a miscarriage or death of a child way too soon.  The last two weeks we have grieved with a family that lost a child 4 months into their pregnancy, after enduring a  previous miscarriage.  As well, this past Sunday the Sanctity of Human Life was celebrated in churches across our country. If you are someone who has grieved the loss of a child, may God use the manuscript of this funeral message for comfort.

Sadie (princess) Lane & Eli James (My God, one who follows)

1 Samuel 1:27-28

  1. 27 for this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.

Children are a product of God’s work and the Godly parent submits to this and knows that it is a matter of prayer.  Submission, by essence of word, implies a lying down of our plans for children.   We have no bargaining chips with God, the Godly recognize this and looks to God for direction in the midst of a sin-plagued world.  Adversity and tragedy come to the righteous and wicked alike.  So why try?  God does not owe us life, prosperity, of length of days.  Life is a miracle and is a gift of God entrusted to parents for a while.  We are alive by grace and another heart beat is God’s grace.  We will be held accountable to the gifts entrusted to us (Heb. 9:27)

  1. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent (granted) to the LORD.”

In light of children are only here because of God, we surrender them to God.  He designs them, made them, has power over them, and loves them enough to pay a purchase price for them ahead of time. Psalms 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them. NKJV This is true for all of us.

In light of such we see the obligation, but what about the pleasure in surrendering?  When none of us had the chance to get to know Sadie, God knew her intimately and had more considerations toward her then there are grains of sand.  Consider God’s plan of Jeremiah 29:11, Nature.  How could this be true when we are deprived of knowing Sadie and Eli and seeing them experience life?  Might I add that Steve and Kay have asked that this memorial be offered up to the countless others today in the audience that has suffered miscarriages in silence with a quiet grief.  May your grief experience some expression today and perhaps some comfort.

  1. We trust in God Character and heart. View this with the backdrop of the Cross.  God has not chosen these deaths to communicate what he thinks about you.  He chose one event and person that was called the Word of God.  This Word, this Jesus, died on the cross for us.  This puts His love toward us without question and also tells us that we have a God that suffers with us.  In fact, it was when Jesus was at the graveside of a friend with his mourning friends that He wept.  So today, the body of Christ, Jesus is not here bodily to weep, but we are here as His representatives to weep with us.
  2. Life in this world is not as always wished by God.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience. NKJV  As bad as the sufferings are and the pain of losing a child may be, the degree of negative intensity does not even rank in the degree of intensity of joy and glory in the world to come.  There will be a day when all that is sad will become untrue.  A natural world where babies die before they see the light of day is not God’s ideal world.  This is the ideal world to get to God’s Ideal world.  Until that time is realized nature and humanity are groaning and waiting for the redemption of our bodies.  We live in Hope until then, hope to see the children again.  It has been said that “for the believer this world is the closest to hell that they will get and for the unbeliever this world is the closest to heaven that they will get.  Sadie and Eli will experience the best this world can offer for the best is a shadow of Heaven while tasting a limited amount of the hell this world has to offer.

  1. This is not hope disappointed, but hope deferred. Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. NKJV  This verse is interesting considering that the Bible tells us that the tree of life is in heaven.  Heaven is the place where every hope is realized.   This implies Sadie’s presence is with God for hope to be realized.  This is the thought of David in

2 Samuel 12:19-23 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”

And they said, “He is dead.” 20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” NKJV

Consider also the heart of God toward children expressed in

Matthew 18:10-14  “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11  For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13  And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

NKJV

 

Therefore, God saves infants solely by grace (Titus 3:5), peculiar because the median is not faith, but extra grace.  They are incapable of faith since can’t hear the word (Rom. 10:17).  This fits with what we know about God’s grace and love, especially toward infants.  Grace is just due to the sacrifice of Jesus, once able to hear the word and understand their need then God holds them responsibility for the knowledge received.

God’s grace is central, for Christ is the center of salvation.

III. So they (could also be “he” for the verb is masculine) worshiped the LORD there.

NKJV

In light of giving Samuel to the Lord (around 3 years old), they worshiped God for he was in God’s hands for His use.  Steve & Kay, family the response of faith is worship for the object of faith is Christ.  Worship does not bring attention to the faith of the Walkers, but to the Savior of the Walkers.   You have more to give to Jesus (the hope of Sadie and Eli) and the good news is that the shoulders of Jesus can bear the extra load.

If it refers to “he worshiped the Lord there” then this would form a bracket around Hannah’s prayer and 2:11 “the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.”  What an amazing thought to apply this interpretation to Sadie & Eli.  Sadie & Eli are worshipping the Lord there!  Let us join them and the millions who never got to see the light of day on this earth.

For the church, family, and friends:

Give them space to grieve, space to heal.

Remember their loss before them; (let them set the conversation, don’t automatically shut down the subject).

Intercede for them and with them.

Envelopes: as in send them letters.

Volunteer for specific help, pray about it and observe their needs.  It’s not whether they take up your offer, but that you offered.

Encourage them.

Jarrod Scott

How will I glorify God in 2017?

From the Westminster Shorter Catechism –

Question #1 – What is the chief end of man.

Answer – The chief end of man is to glorify God.

As we start out the new year, one good question to ask ourselves is, “How will I glorify God in 2017? Other than the execution of our busy lives, earning a living, and raising a family, do we have a “chief end” for this year that is intended to “glorify God”? Time goes by so quickly on this earth and, by the time all the dust settles, we are facing eternity, oftentimes sooner than we expected.

Jarrod’s sermon this past Sunday was not so much about money and church tithing as it was about what we do with our time and resources in general. To paraphrase, Jarrod used the illustration of his grandfather, at the end of his life, paying a nursing home until he had no more money to offer.  The Pastor’s point was to present the biblical concept that it is only what we give away in life that we get to keep for eternity.

James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Matthew 6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

So, as we head into 2017 and our lives get tangled up with work and play, let’s not squeeze out God and our desire to glorify Him in the midst of it all. What brings Him the greatest glory is to tell others about who He is and what he has done in our lives. Giving of our time and talents to share that truth may need to start with a Christian lifestyle. However, within our family, our workplace, and our extracurricular life, we need to ultimately speak out, telling people about Jesus.

Ephesians 6:19-20 [Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

It is in the giving of our time and resources that we gain the opportunity to tell others the Good News of the gospel message. Lord, help us keep our eternal priorities inside the boundaries of what You have established as the “Chief end of man”, to bring You glory.

Jeff Hilles

Snow Fever

When I lived in Boone, we experienced something called spring fever.  This condition provoked irrational behavior such as stripping to just shorts and laying outside when the weather hit 65 and we saw the sun.  We never knew when we would see such “balmy” conditions again and future snow was very probable. Here, in lower altitudes in the south we experience Snow fever.  A similar condition also producing irrational behavior at just the forecast of snow. The symptoms are generally likened to a squirrel collecting resources to endure the two – three days of being locked down. There is a certain delirium and joy in this experience, for we don’t know if it will snow again.  For most of the readers, this is a familiar experience.  However, the charm is wearing off as I write this with the power flickering on and off.
When we are without some of the modern conveniences and transportation is challenging, it allows us to appreciate the net that holds us together even more. The God- ordained social fabric called community can mean the difference between life and death when life is difficult.  Why don’t we take the time to thank God for it and do our part to contribute to it?  Find someone to contact and check on them, just because you can.  You will find that what it means to them, will mean so much to you.  When God blesses us with more than enough,  than use the surplus to bless the community and make it better.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” “Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:27‬-28 ‭ESV‬‬
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬
Jarrod Scott

A New Year’s Transformation…

As we finish out the last few days of 2016, some of us will hold 2017 with high expectations of improving ourselves beginning on January 1st, 2017.  Yep, that’s right, it’s time for the annual New Year’s Resolution.  A personal promise to yourself any maybe others that you will improve upon something in the new year.  The new year is our so called “restart” for personal goals and priorities that we’ve been somewhat lackadaisical with in the previous year.

Based on a survey conducted in 2016, one website reports that almost 50% of Americans regularly commit to a New Year’s Resolution every year.  Of those, only 8% successfully reach their goal leaving 92% of us unsuccessful.  Based on those percentages, it would appear that for most of us our personal resolution isn’t really working for us.  We may ask ourselves, why did I not stick to it or why was I unsuccessful?  Maybe our goal was unrealistic, maybe we didn’t have the right mindset or we lost focus.  Perhaps there was something that came up unexpectedly that caused us to not succeed.  Maybe the goal was something much bigger in real life than what we had originally played out in our mind.

I’m not sure what your personal record is for New Year’s Resolutions in years past, but I can certainly tell you I’m not winning any trophies for mine.  As I’m reminded of how we can fall short year after year in meeting our New Year’s Resolutions, it reminds me of how we fall short in another area of our lives.  Romans 3:10 tell us “None is righteous, no not one”.  A few verses later in Romans 3:23 it reminds us “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  As Paul writes later in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

So here in lies the problem of Sin in our lives.  Just like those New Year’s resolutions, we fall short of reaching God’s glory and Righteousness.  As much as we can feel good about ourselves at times from refraining from doing the “bad things” we are still sinners.  As much as we can feel good about ourselves by doing good deeds for others and maybe even an unselfish sacrifice for someone here and there, we are still sinners.  The good news is that the Hope of reaching “God’s Glory” is not left to ourselves but in Christ Jesus.  Despite the fact that we are sinners, Romans 5:8 says “But God shows his Love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

As we enter into 2017, let’s allow Christ to be our Hope in the New Year and not ourselves.  Instead of making another “Resolution” that is dependent on ourselves, let’s follow Christ and ask Him to make the “Transformation” in us that Paul reminds us of in Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Have a very Blessed 2017!

Jason Hicks