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Feb 25, 2016

No Nonchalant God

“Then Job answered and said, ‘Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face.’” – Job 23


The whole of Job 23 is an amazing Bible passage. That is why I have chosen the whole of it as our text for today. You need to read it all, rather than just a verse or two. It is the manner that Job approaches God which is so contrary to how many approach him in their dealings with him, if they deal with God at all. Job admits what we all know, we do not see God, we do not see him at work, we do not hear him speak to us; it as though he is not even there. We treat him too often as a nonchalant God because we neither see his form, nor hear him speak. Therefore, we conclude wrongly, he doesn’t care, he does not hold us to account, he does not concern himself with the way we take. Nothing could be further from the truth. God does not nonchalantly dismiss us from his sight and hearing just because he does not stand in our presence visibly as another human being would. We place ourselves outside his presence, from our perspective; but it is never so from his.
Job rightly sees this in his wrestling with the ever present, real God in the midst of his terrible circumstances, even though he does so while remaining in thick darkness between him and God. But not so in the “sight” of Job’s faith which always informs his understanding. He knows God hears him! At the end of the book of Job, he receives the approbation of God for his seeing him aright, and he is richly rewarded for his accurate understanding of God’s being and actions over against the advice of his counsellors; and Job is blessed again by God to his former position prior to his testing, only doubly so is he blessed by God in the end.
Most men and women live their lives as though God is a nonchalant God, if He indeed exists. If He is, He can either take or leave me, they think. The fact that God does not reveal himself to me according to my senses, makes little impact on me, absent durable faith. If God wants to remain a mystery to me, so be it, we think. He will not bother me, and I won’t bother him. He may be, He may not be. Does it really matter? As long as He is NOT making it clear that He is, that He is truly involved in my life in such a way that I know beyond all doubt that He is doing things in and to me and before me; it doesn’t really matter to me, one way or the other, simply because I am not really aware of It. If I am not, as far as it concerns me, He just isn’t. It is that simple. Or is it?
Is He my world’s Creator? Is the universe really explainable apart from Him? Many feel it is, but the blind, unscientific, unreasonable leaps of faith unbelieving scientists must take to explain an uncreated universe are far too great. Too many missing-links of reasonable explanation simply are not; which is preferred apparently to believing the alternative: that the universe has a Creator.
But if He is, and He has created, is he purposefully distant and nonchalant, even indiscoverable, unknown? Job reveals the true God in His wrestling with Him in the midst of his pain and suffering. He is anything but nonchalant. “He will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.” We may not perceive him at work on us and in us, but the Sovereign God is never at rest.
You may not agree with how he is going about it, but “he knows the way that I take.” If you were Job, and experiencing what he experienced, what would you think? How would you see God in the midst of such pain? Yet, Job, as an example for us all, came out as gold. The very real perception of faith which characterized Job in his personal view of God, his wrestling with God, stands as a beacon for you. Job’s God is never nonchalant, because he isn’t. He is a God very intent on you and seeking your growth in faith. See to it that you don’t just hear about him from others, but that you yourself “see him with your own eyes.”


“Mighty God while angels bless thee, may a mortal sing thy Name? Lord of men, as well as angels thou art every creatures theme.”
“Lord of every land and nation, ancient of eternal days, Sounded thru the wide creation, be thy just and endless praise.”
(1st and 2nd verse of Robert Robinson’s hymn, “Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee,” 1774)


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Feb 18, 2016

Last Breath

“It is appointed unto man to die once, and after that the judgement.” Hebrews 9:27


As a witness to someone’s last breath you are in the presence of the most momentous events of their whole life – the threshold of eternity. My wife, sister, and I watched this past September as my father took his last breath on this earth, having breathed for nearly a century. It is truly tragic to see silence descend on someone so loved when you were just conversing with them moments before. This was Dad’s one appointment to die. You only get one, after all, unless you are Lazarus and the few other people raised to life by the Lord of life. Most of us die only once. The exceptions were Enoch and Elijah who were translated into eternity without traversing the valley of death, or going through the river which flows between us and heaven (think Pilgrim’s Progress). According to the Bible there will be those living when Jesus returns, who will not experience death either, but the vast majority of us will take a last breath.
I have witnessed a number of last breaths, having traversed lethal battlefields in Vietnam, kneeling by compatriots as they breathed their last, being by my mother’s and wife’s bedside at their death, as well as witnessing both my father’s and father-in-law’s last breath, among others. The reality of death encompasses you when you accompany your loved ones to the point of the last breath, but no farther. Everyone should have the experience of witnessing a final breath; meditate upon it both for the one who takes it, and for your own personal destiny, for you have an appointment as well “to die once, and after that the judgement.” Your meditation is vital to an understanding of the momentousness of life and death and your own mortality, and, in fact, your malleable-by-faith-destiny, for you have a critical decision to make while still breathing, but not after.
C.S. Lewis well said, “There are, aren’t there, only three things we can do about death: to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it.” A few desire it, many fear it, far too many ignore it. The very worst thing you can do about the fact of death is ignore it. Is that where you are when you really think about it? Ignoring death is by far the easiest and most dangerous route in dealing, or not dealing with it, and its ramifications for you. It is actually tragic to the nth degree to ignore the truth of death; yet so many do. Your death ought to be the greatest incentive to the manner in which you live your life, even and especially if your actual moment of death is still half a century away, unbeknownst to you.
It is fairly certain that the thief on the cross beside Jesus, who was given assurance of salvation from the Lord’s own mouth in response to his expression of faith, regretted the years of unbelief preceding his last breath in crucifixion. But he had ignored death in the way he lived his life to breathing his last. But he received the same wages (of life) as the workers who came in the wee hours of the morning as told in the Lord’s parable, when he came in the last minute. If you are asking yourself in the moments of your last breath, “Is this all there is?” you are to be pitied above all men. Your destiny beyond death ought to govern your every thought in life as to how you think it, how you live it, and to whom the glory of your life belongs.
Lewis also said concerning death, “Die before you die. There is no chance after.” Now what in the world is he referring to? The Bible tells a person clearly if they try to find their life, or cling to it, they will actually lose it, but if they give up their life for me, the Lord of life, they will actually save their life, not only for this life, but for eternity. Lewis is saying, you need to die to self and live to God before you die, for there is no chance after. You die to self in this life, you die to pride; you die to self, you live for others; you die to self, you live for Christ. Jesus said he was the resurrection and the life. Some tend to see his statement as religious hocus-pocus; but such thinking is to their grievous loss. These are they who honestly have to ask themselves as they approach their last breath, “Is this all there is?”
The consideration of your certain death, incentivizes you to consider what happens after. Ignoring death is horrendously stupid, because it is not “all there is.” Even if you think so, what if it isn’t? You do not lose a thing by investigating the ramifications of your death, as long as you investigate sincerely to find the true answers. To not do so is the height of nonsense; it is an eternal mistake, and eternal is forever. No one truly knows the day of their final breath; but there really is a way to have certainty over what comes right after. Assurance of eternal life is the very best way to face your last breath, for there is really no fear of dying.
In fact, like the Apostle Paul, you will actually desire it, with the greatest feeling of joy. No paralyzing fear, no foolhardy ignoring, just the trusting assurance of whose hands you are in traversing the valley of the shadow of your death, and death itself. This is not a “pie-in-the-sky” trust. But a trust guaranteed by the ages of history, and by the millions of others who have found it solid-gold, and by those who have experienced the spiritual transformation of their life very emphatically. Final breath means being in the immediate presence of the Resurrected Savior. There is no greater anticipation and no greater joy reality when you do take that final breath.


“Chosen not for good in me, wakened up from wrath to flee, hidden in the Savior’s side, by the Spirit sanctified, teach me, Lord, on earth to show, by my love, how much I owe.”
(4th verse of Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn, “Not Till Then How Much I Owe,” 1837)


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Feb 17, 2016

Be Careful; Don’t Hook Yourself

When I was a small child, my dad looked for ways to spend time with me.  One of my fondest memories involved us going fishing together.  He carefully taught me to tie a fisherman’s knot, so the fish hook wouldn’t come off the line.  However, I wasn’t exactly skilled with the long fishing pole; in fact, he often said I was dangerous.
I can still hear him warn me, “don’t hook yourself!  I was quite a hazard, not only to myself, but to anyone who happened to be nearby.
Occasionally when people speak of forgiveness they say “I let them off the hook.   When I hear that I can’t help but think of my Dad’s admonition, and forgiveness takes on a new definition.  Maybe we should say just what my dad said – “Don’t hook yourself.
I used to think that to forgive someone meant I was willing to accept the consequences of that person’s harmful or hurtful actions toward me, and not hold a grudge.
While forgiving others does release them from responsibility for my pain, it also unhooks me from the emotional and physical damage that a long-standing resentment can cause.
Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew 6:14-15 states, “if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
These words force us to make a decision.  Will we choose to forgive, or will we keep ourselves and others “on the hook?  Forgiveness isn’t always easy and certainly takes practice.
Kevin Williams
Mentor and Life Coach


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Feb 11, 2016

Vengeance as a Life Attitude?

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” Romans 12:14-19


Vengeance is a very common movie theme. The hero has had a great wrong done to him; usually, his wife or family has been brutally murdered and the story line is how the main character gets revenge by killing the evil perpetrator(s) in a most satisfying manner; think Charles Bronson. Or, a woman has been terrifyingly raped and abused, and she exacts “perfect” revenge on the rapist(s); a very common theme which never seems to get old in the movies. Vengeance sells. But, is the story-line that true to real life? In some rare cases it is, but in many, many others the crime goes unavenged, or is resolved by the authorities in less satisfactory ways than the aggrieved would envision. The Bible would lead the Christian to an other-worldly means of receiving justice than exacting revenge to resolve those matters unjustly perpetrated on you, all the way from a slight to the most grievous offenses.
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” What does this from God’s mouth teach you about daily living, in the set thinking of your mind and the nature of your attitude? How often is vengeance stirring within your heart from the slightest wrong to the most devastating one? How quickly vengeance rears its head in our thinking as we go through our daily routines. It is a pattern in our flesh and in our struggle with sin to think of the other driver on the road, a family member or our neighbor, or a stranger in a combative sense in which we need to “avenge” a perceived or genuine wrong. Such “heart-thinking” obliterates the immediate prior instruction to “vengeance is mine, I will repay”; instruction such as “live in harmony with one another” and “as much as it is possible live peaceably with all,” or “never be wise in your own sight” and “repay no one evil for evil.”
Such thinking is really an attitude; it is a mind-set, or preferably a “heart-set,” rather than a knee-jerk response in the split-moment of grievance. Unless the mind or heart can be settled in the instruction of the Lord prior to the grievance manifesting itself, it normally will not happen. Our hearts need to be prepared to receive persecution before it comes; we need to be expecting wrongs, slights and injustices before they happen. Why? Because they are going to happen. It is a promise. And a righteous and honorable response is given from the mouth and heart of the much persecuted One, the Lord Jesus.
The Lord’s thinking is revolutionary. It follows no natural pattern of behavior. It rises far above the “madding crowd” that permeates a fallen world. It is so out of character that it draws notice from a watching world. It presents a very clear witness to others that yours is an other-worldly behavior which speaks volumes and draws questions as to how such is possible; a great opportunity to present the “suffering servant” who willingly went to an unjust cross for your sin and mine; presenting him genuinely as the only one who can transform their life, offering them a reward of eternal life.
I do not think there is a more penetrating and powerful witness to the world than to suffer unjust persecution honorably as the Lord would have you, in this manner which he gives as reminiscent of himself. This can be made evident over and over in the most minimal slights, or in the most grievous affront or injury. Being offended has become a cottage industry. Everyone is busy about offenses perpetrated on them. But even the greater damage is done within the spirit by embittered feelings of grievance unavenged. How vastly different is the attitude of one who is truly a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, it will not become a part of your character unless you have done due diligence in your heart and mind with the Lord prior to persecution coming upon you. You must “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, acquiring by faith and obedience his character as a mind-set or heart-set, a nurtured and fixed attitude that is gracious in the face of all personal injustices. “Put him on” before you ever come into the realm of more and continuing persecution.
Is this possible? Only if you take the Lord’s words seriously. He says, “How can you call me Lord and do not do the things that I say?” Furthermore, he says, “Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not…….and then I will say to them, depart from me, I never knew you.” His words are serious and intended to be life and character transformative. You must have ears to hear him, and then do them. Make them a mind and heart-set type of response to a world which is by its very nature a sinful world; remembering that greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world. Manifest this greater power in the attitude which tells the world exactly who you are.
But remember too, God is just. He promises, “I will repay.” And that He will do, where it is justly warranted. How good it is that all of it is in His capable hands. Be content with His justice, both for us (His grace is sufficient) and for our true enemies.


“I would not have the restless will that hurries to and fro, seeking for some great thing to do, or secret thing to know; I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.”
(2nd verse of Anna Waring’s hymn, “Father, I Know that All My Life,” 1850)


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Feb 08, 2016

Thomasville Times Enterprise Writes on How Paul Anderson’s Strength Changed the World

I do not know if his records still stand, but, at one time, Paul Anderson was considered the strongest man in the world. He won a gold medal in the heavyweight division of the weight lifting competition in the 1952 Olympics. At that time, the Russians were dominant in the sport. His triumphal efforts set new records in the dead lift, the bench press and the squat. He was called a freak of nature by the Russian press.
In thinking about his designation as a freak, I consider him a freak of spiritual strength. Upon coming home to Georgia, he settled in Vidalia. He founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home for Boys. Through his efforts and the support of many, his magnificent desire to rehabilitate boys into strong Christian men became a reality.
It was my privilege to serve on his board of directors and to enjoy a personal friendship with him. It was not unusual to sit under the shade of a giant pecan tree in his yard and watch him work out with weights of outrageous pounds.
Paul Anderson came to Thomasville during my tenure as pastor of First Baptist Church. He spoke to our brotherhood. He shared his testimony and then did some feats of strength. I will never forget one very impressive lift was to allow eight big men to sit on a specially constructed table. He got under the table, put his back and shoulders against it and raised up 2,000 lbs. on his back.
As stunning as his physical strength was, his love for God and people was even stronger. He could have parlayed his physical power into many lucrative enterprises but he gave it all to God and God used him to change the world one life at a time.
He made our world a better place for us all.

Reposted from the Thomasville Times Enterprise, 02/04/2016, By Rev. Milton Gardner.


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Feb 04, 2016

Free?

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36


Many people who live in America consider themselves free. What exactly does “free” mean in the context of life in America? What does “free indeed” words from the Gospel of John really refer to in anyone’s life? Can the “free indeed” of John speak of a Christian in North Korea, just as much as a Christian in North America? Would you think of yourself as “free indeed” if you lived in North Korea? Paul begins Galatians 5, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And he goes on to say later in the chapter, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
There certainly appears to be different expressions of “freedom” within the contexts of our lives. What do we prize as the freedom most desired and loved? Political or spiritual? Freedom to indulge the flesh, or freedom to obey God’s Word? Freedom from personal fears? Freedom from emotional crises? Freedom from rejection? Freedom from poverty? Freedom to be who we believe we are or have been made to be? Just what freedom should you pursue? What freedom would truly satisfy your heart? What type of freedom would make you honestly feel, “Now I am truly free!”?
I think you know that as wonderful as political freedom is, such freedom does not remove all fears. It doesn’t remove feelings of guilt. You still have concerns that weigh on you. Your mind is not free from the burdens of conscience or fears of one sort or another. Does God offer such personal freedom? Does the Bible set forth a promise of freedom from any and all fears and concerns about normal life? Can he who believes in the Son truly expect to be set free in such a way that he or she can bask in this supernatural freedom which places your cares in the arms of your Savior? Is this the promise of John 8:36?
What is it that truly imprisons you? Is it not the personal sin which has a grip on your flesh? Sin is the cause of what you do and think which produces guilt, even a sense of burden coming from unconscious guilt. Sin produces fear of the loss of your well-being. Sin instigates the pursuit of things/actions sought for the purpose of escaping your fears; despite the actual result of increasing them. Paul speaks of the war within the believer: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…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 I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7) We cry out for freedom from the sin that wars within us; from what sin incites in us, and from the guilt which results. This is a freedom only Jesus can give us. It is a freedom our soul craves.
Freedom from sin and its guilt, freedom from fear of loss of well-being, freedom from the judgment of the Righteous Judge of all, freedom from the fear of punishment, these constitute a true freedom which goes beyond political freedom, and is available wherever you live on the earth. You need such freedom for a true sense of well-being; a freedom surpassing all concerns and fears, even the fears of fatal disease. This is the unsurpassed freedom which Christ offers to His own. It is the freedom your soul craves. It rejoices even when jail bars, real or circumstantial, surround. To live free when fears arise, when physical health fails, when Satan attempts to raise your blood pressure, as all around threats advance, this is a freedom which basks in the protection of an indefatigable Savior, who will not disappoint.
Such freedom is graciously offered to you in Christ. Too few avail themselves of it. Faith must take hold (forcefully, violently) of such offered freedom, and faith must sustain it. Take a hard look at your soul environment and its genuine sense of freedom. If anxious fears define your soul-environment, you simply do not trust His promises. You can experience freedom by faith. “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) For freedom in Christ is the absence of fear.


“Thou hidden source of calm repose, thou all-sufficient love divine, my help and refuge from my foes, secure I am if thou art mine: and lo! From sin and grief and shame I hide me Jesus, in thy name.”
(1st verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”, 1749)


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