Thursday, May 11, 2017

Taking Pleasure in Simple Things


This morning was my turn to stay awhile with Mom.  I took advantage of the time to “plunder around” in her living room.  It is filled with “stuff” from a couple of families, and one must be careful lest he gets lost.  However, I had my iphone with the GPS and felt fairly certain I could find my way back to the kitchen eventually.


During the course of my plundering, I saw a simple coffee cup with a crack and a chip and the words Johnny “Chip” Rasberry written in something like fingernail polish. 

Seeing that cup brought back a rush of memories of my Dad.  He was a very simple man who enjoyed life almost as much as he enjoyed people.  The simplest thing could be a source of repeated pleasure for him.




Listening to, or watching a Cardinals Baseball game; drinking coffee with friends and relatives; riding his dog in the back of his truck; and of course talking about his children.  I so want to learn to just enjoy life and people.  Even today, people who knew my Dad speak of his love of life, his friendly personality, his sparkling eyes, and his ready smile.

For many of my generation, those growing up now, life is very complicated and finding joy in a chipped and broken coffee cup is simply not going to happen. 

Perhaps you’re wondering just what the significance of the coffee cup was, and is.  Well, as I’ve said Dad was a great one for fellowship.  On a couple of occasions when he stopped by the Rolling Creek Baptist Church Parsonage for coffee with the Pastor, the Pastor’s wife served him coffee in this chipped cup.  My Dad teased her endlessly about giving him the chipped cup and it became “his” cup.  Every time he visited he was served with that cup.  Eventually she gave it to him as a memento with the inscription mentioned above.  That cup had a place of prominence in their den, and Mom eventually moved it to the living room.

Dear Lord, Please teach me to enjoy the simple things of this world as gifts from You, and to not take lightly those relationships You grace my life with.  Thank You, Lord for reminding me of the great joy available to us for just “living” in this world.  I ask this in the sweet and holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Public Worship

I love contemporary music, if I am able to sing along with it.   I love to listen to it, but many worship services I've attended seem more like concerts where the congregation is not expected to participate in the singing.

This blogger expresses my views quite well in this article entitled, "Why I Didn't Sing When I Visited Your Church."

Whether it is Contemporary, Southern Gospel, or Hymns; if I can't hear the words being sung because the instrumentation is so loud, then I simply don't consider it worship.  Sometimes I feel like I'm being whipped into a frenzy by religious cheer leaders desiring me to cheer the team across the goal line.

Excitement should be an integral part of any worship service, and many services are totally lacking in any sense of anticipation of God doing something.  But easy to sing, well known songs, enhance a service.   I don't mean to imply that "new" music should not be introduced, it should.  However, the preponderance of worship music should be music that almost anyone coming into the service could participate in.

Please take a few moments and read this article by Tim Challis.  I really appreciate Susie Fairchild Lott pointing me to this article.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I'm Sorry



Such a small word, but perhaps one of the most important words in the English language.   To say, “I’m sorry,” is to say that I’ve been wrong and that, too, is a phrase that is very important.  Most of us have such an elevated sense of our own “rightness” that we cannot recognize when we are wrong, and to say, “I’m sorry,” without a sense of having been wrong is disingenuous at best and reeks of manipulation.

I’m wrong so often, that I have difficulty understanding how others can be so wise and correct in all their doings.   Nearly every bad thing that has happened to me is a consequence of either some wrong attitude, or some wrong action.   I think that my only really redeeming quality is that I try to be open to correction.  Such correction, either from another individual or from God, breaks my heart and causes me to cry out to both God and those I’ve offended for forgiveness.  Though people are not always ready to accept my proffered apology, God knows my heart and receives me and wipes away the guilt, leaving me free to begin again.

Starting over with a broken and contrite heart, allows me to experience the presence of God in a very unique way.  It is at that point that I realize that I need His guidance and cannot rely upon my own finite understanding of life and life’s issues.   He is willing to guide me to heights of usefulness, which I never before hoped to attain.  

I have discovered that the primary hindrance to reaching the point of brokenness which results in offering a genuine “I’m sorry” is pride.  Scripture tells us that number one thing God hates is pride.  It was pride which caused Lucifer to rebel against God.  It is pride which keeps me, at times, from admitting I’m wrong.  Pride causes me to defend my position more vehemently and to act irrationally when I am attacked.   

The opposite of pride is humility.  Humility allows me to be wrong.  Humility allows me to treat others with respect.  Humility allows me to recognize the weaknesses and needs of others without discarding them because of those weaknesses, because I realize that God has accepted me, even with all my weaknesses.   

Lord, Please teach me humility in order that I might be able to genuinely say, “I’m sorry.”  I ask this in the sweet name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Right to Preach on Political Subjects

The following article is by Matt Barber, author of the popular blog BARBWIRE.  I highly recommend his blog.

The American church has a problem. It’s one part fear, one part confusion and one part apathy. Pastors, priests and rabbis have long swallowed the false notion that all things religious and all things political are somehow mutually exclusive – that never the twain shall meet.

Leading up to Ronald Reagan’s landslide presidential victory in 1980, Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University, captured the crux of the church’s apathy problem. “I’m being accused of being controversial and political,” he said. “I’m not political. But moral issues that become political, I still fight. It isn’t my fault that they’ve made these moral issues political. But because they have doesn’t stop the preachers of the Gospel from addressing them. …”

“What then is wrong?” he continued. “I say the problem, first of all, is in the pulpits of America. We preachers must take the blame. For too long we have fearfully stood back and failed to address the issues that are corrupting the republic. I repeat Proverbs 14:34: ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation.’ Not military might, though that’s important. Not financial resources, though that has been the enjoyment of this nation above all nations in the last 200 years. But spiritual power is the backbone, the strength, of a nation.”

Indeed, it is not just within the church’s purview, but it is the church’s duty to insert itself into state matters relating to morality, public policy and culture at large.

Contrary to popular opinion, the words “separation of church and state” are found nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. Yet many are misled into believing they are.

So why the confusion?

It’s been intentionally fomented. It’s the byproduct of a decades-long religious cleansing campaign. The First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause,” a mere 10 words, is the primary tool secular separatists misuse and abuse to “fundamentally transform” America to reflect their own anti-Christian self-image.
Yet these words remain abundantly clear in both scope and meaning. The Establishment Clause states merely: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. …”
That’s it.

And the founders meant exactly what they said: “Congress,” as in the United States Congress, “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

In a letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, often touted by the left as the great church-state separationist, spelled out exactly what this meant then, and what it means today. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was simply intended to restrict Congress from affirmatively “establishing,” through federal legislation, a national Christian denomination (similar to the Anglican Church of England).

As Jefferson put it: “[T]he clause of the Constitution” covering “freedom of religion” was intended to necessarily preclude “an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States.”
The individual states, however, faced no such restriction. In fact, until as late as 1877, and after religious free exercise became absolute with passage of the 14th Amendment, most states did have an official state form of Christianity. Massachusetts, for example, sanctioned the Congregational Church until 1833.

Even so, today’s anti-Christian ruling class insists on revising history. The ACLU’s own promotional materials, for example, overtly advocate unconstitutional religious discrimination: “The message of the Establishment Clause [to the U.S. Constitution] is that religious activities must be treated differently from other activities to ensure against governmental support for religion,” they claim.

This is abject nonsense. It’s unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination – a twisted misrepresentation of the First Amendment. Secular-“progressivism” depends upon deception as much as it relies upon revisionism. Yes, “separation” applies, but only insofar as it requires the state to remain separate from the church. That is to say, that government may not interfere with the free exercise of either speech or religion.

For decades, hard-left anti-theist groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way (PFAW) and Barry Lynn’s Americans United (AU) have employed a cynical disinformation scheme intended to intimidate clergy into silence on issues of morality, culture and Christian civic involvement – issues that, as Falwell noted, are not political so much as they have been politicized; issues that are inherently “religious.”  AU, for instance, annually sends tens-of-thousands of misleading letters to churches across the nation warning pastors, priests and rabbis that, “If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status.”

That’s a lie. In reality, there is no legal mechanism whatsoever for the Internal Revenue Service to take away a church’s tax exemption. Churches are inherently tax-exempt, or, better still, “tax immune,” simply by virtue of being a church. Churches do not need permission from the IRS, nor can the IRS revoke a church’s tax immunity.

Since 1934, when the lobbying restriction was added to the Internal Revenue Code, not a single church has ever lost its tax-exempt status. Since 1954, when the political endorsement/opposition prohibition was added, only one church has ever lost its IRS letter ruling, but even that church did not lose its tax-exempt status. The case involved the Church at Pierce Creek in New York, which placed full-page ads in USA Today and the Washington Times opposing then-Gov. Bill Clinton for president. The ads were sponsored by the church, and donations were solicited. The IRS revoked the church’s letter ruling, but not its tax-exempt status. The church sued, and the court noted that churches are tax-exempt without an IRS letter ruling. It ruled that “because of the unique treatment churches receive under the Internal Revenue Code, the impact of the revocation is likely to be more symbolic than substantial.” Not even this church lost its tax-exempt status, and not one donor was affected by this incident.

As Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel has observed, “Pastors can preach on biblical, moral and social issues, such as natural marriage and abortion, can urge the congregation to register and vote, can overview the positions of the candidates, and may personally endorse candidates. Churches may distribute nonpartisan voter guides, register voters, provide transportation to the polls, hold candidate forums, and introduce visiting candidates.”

Since 2008, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has spearheaded a First Amendment exercise called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Since then, thousands of pastors across America have boldly exercised their guaranteed constitutional rights by addressing “political” issues from the pulpit. This has included directly endorsing candidates. These pastors have dared the IRS to come after them, and, not surprisingly, the IRS has balked.

Pastors, this election season follow the lead of Christ. Speak moral/political truths, in love, fearlessly. Remain undaunted by the threat of government intervention or punitive action by the state. And encourage your congregation to vote for candidates who sincerely reflect, in both word and deed, a biblical worldview and biblical principles.

Be “salt and light.”

Because Christ didn’t give us an option to do otherwise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Dedication of Robert Barnwell

The History Channel records this about Robert Barnwell:
 
    At age 16, Barnwell enlisted as a private in the Patriot militia. Wounded 17 times in the Battle of Matthews’ Plantation on St. John’s Island in June 1779, his supplies were taken and he was left for dead on the battlefield. Fortunately, a slave found him and took him to his aunt’s nearby plantation, where he recuperated. He rejoined the militia as a lieutenant the following spring, only to be taken prisoner by the British during the siege of Charleston in May 1780. Barnwell spent the next 13 months imprisoned on the ship Pack Horse. Still undeterred, he joined the militia after his release, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel by the end of the War of Independence.

Oh, that we could find that kind of dedication more widespread today in both political and spiritual matters.   It seems that nearly everyday unveils the kin of someone wounded or killed in war who is launching an all out attack on our attempts to defeat an enemy who shows no quarter, and exacts a terrible price from those he rules.   While in our churches, more and more we hear of people renouncing their belief in God because of some ill which has befallen them or one of those close to them.

Please do not be discouraged by the sudden discovery of those whose lives are ruled by selfish motives.    Many have never been challenged before, and have been carried along by the swift current of popular opinion without forming personal convictions.

We see this often in the lives of those who seem to “turn their backs on God.”  Christ taught clearly that in order to be His disciple one must be willing to subjugate all personal desires, dreams, and relationships to His purpose for the disciple’s life.   That one starting out and finding the way too hard, or too long is not worthy to be called His disciple.  Those who “return” to the way of the world seem never to have had their nature changed.  It is like the proverb: “The dog returns again to his vomit, and the pig again to wallow in the mud.”  That is because their natures have remained unchanged. 

The dog might be trained, curried, and manicured; but it is still a dog.  The pig might be washed, perfumed, and bound with a beautiful ribbon; but it is still a pig.  Eventually they will do again what their true nature requires.

Those who are born again into the Kingdom of God receive a new nature.  It is against their nature to reject God.  They might have momentary lapses and digressions, with even severe doubt; but their very nature mitigates against bringing a reproach upon the name of God.

From "A Word For Living"   ©            2005                 Mike Rasberry

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Inflatable Tires

  The photo is of Charles and Frank Duryea with their third automobile which was the first to use pneumatic tires, circa 1895.



According to “This Day in History,” it was in December of 1892 that Alexander Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse, New York, patented an inflatable automobile tire. Before the pneumatic tire, wheels were often made of solid rubber. This made travel a bumpy experience. After all, the streets of 1892 were made of dirt or cobblestone. Some horse-drawn carriages had been made with inflatable tires, but Brown and Stillman got the first patent for pneumatic automobile tires.

Smoother rides are something we all look forward to.  I remember bouncing from the wagon seat as my uncle’s mule pulled our wagon to the corn field.  The hard wooden wheels provided little cushion as we moved across the corduroy like  bumps in the sun hardened red clay tracks which led to the field. 

Today, we seem preoccupied with “smooth sailing,” a euphemism for life going along at a comfortable pace with little conflict. But the fact of life is that “...in this life we shall have tribulations.”   Scripture continually proclaims that one need not be overcome by the complexities or perplexities of life, but that the genuine Believer in Christ can have a sense of smoothness, no matter the bumps encountered.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”   It is encouraging for me to know that nothing befalls me without the knowledge and permission of God.   The same God who created the heavens and the earth desires to make my path smooth.  This is not some sort of fatalistic defeatism.  It is rather an enthusiastic embracing of the promise of God that even though I might walk through the darkness of the valley, He is there comforting and guiding my steps.  

Just as pneumatic tires made automobile travel more comfortable; so one’s faith in Jesus Christ, and His leadership, makes the bumps of life easier to take and more meaningful. 


From "A Word For Living"   ©      2005      Mike Rasberry

Friday, December 11, 2015

Building Lives that Last


The History Channel reports that on  November 7, 1940; the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State collapsed.  http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/tdih.jsp

The bridge was opened on July 1, 1940 and was the third longest suspension bridge in the world.  It greatly increase traffic across the Narrows, but it seemed to attract even more people to view a flaw in the structure.  It would swing so much in the winds that it was likened to a roller-coaster ride, and earned the name “Galloping Gertie.”

Numerous attempts were made to stabilize the bridge, but all failed leading to the dramatic collapse.  A more stable bridge was built using lessons learned from the memorable collapse.

Lives are not so easy to rebuild as bridges.  When people use their own understanding, and begin to inculcate error in the life-building process, it usually results in dramatic and far-reaching consequences.   Lives are often shattered on the rocks despair as the bridge they presumed safe collapses under the winds and pressures of life in the world.

Scripture tells us in Psalms 1 that there is a way which leads to success and we can have confidence that the Chief Engineer knows how best to build the bridge of life. 

The Holy Bible, New King James Version

Psalm 1
1Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
4The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.


From “A Word For Living”    ©          Mike Rasberry     2005

God Never Sleeps



In the sixth chapter of the Book of Esther the King is having difficulty sleeping, and orders that records of the Kingdom be brought that he might have them read.  In the course of events the king learns of a notable deed done on his behalf by Mordecai.   Now the king was unaware that his most trusted advisor had hatched a plot to have Mordecai killed, so he appoints that advisor to honor Mordecai throughout the capital city.  Eventually the plot is exposed and the advisor is executed upon the very scaffold he had planned for Mordecai.

This story points out the fact that God is often working behind the scenes to bless and protect His people.  I’m amazed at the times we become so pre-occupied with our predicaments that we lose sight of the fact that God is on our side.  Just because He is not bringing about cataclysmic events to show Himself in charge, we can be sure that He is.

I think He delights to show Himself strong in unexpected ways.  If you’re a “Child of God”, you can be sure that He never sleeps, but is always working with precision to so order events that yours will be a highly blessed life.

Don’t allow the seemingly overwhelming circumstances of the day to rob you of the confident joy of knowing that God is in charge, and that He is actively working on your behalf.


From "A Word For Living"              ©             2005      Mike Rasberry