Think on These Things

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Robot

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

 

   This past Thursday on advice from my doctors, I submitted to a procedure to repair inguinal hernias on both sides of my abdomen. Now, I’m not seeking sympathy because I was referred to a great surgeon who does almost all her surgeries laparoscopically. To me that simply means that only small incisions (three or four) have to be made instead of one big one that cuts through muscles and flesh to provide access to the affected area. It also means that instruments, including a camera to see well inside, are put through those small incisions to be used in taking care of the problem. But now, let’s add another wrinkle. My physician is also seen to be a specialist in robotic surgery. For this procedure, I understand that she sat at a computer and used a kind of joystick and foot pedal to guide the precise movement of the robot’s arms to grasp, repair, relocate, attach, and sew while viewing the camera’s pictures on the screen.

 

   I am not certain technically if these mechanical devices are “robots.” One definition of robot is “a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions auto-matically.” These movements are virtually all guided directly by the doctors doing the surgical procedures.

 

   Robots have always been fascinating. You more mature viewers probably enjoyed watching the “Star Wars” or the “Terminator” movies beginning in the 1980s and continuing this century. We were enchanted by R2-D2. You younger ones may think of “Trans-formers” or “Artificial Intelligence.” And the children might still enjoy seeing “Sid the Science Kid” or the “Robots” animated movie featuring a truly stellar all-star cast of voices. But we surely must have seen these as fantasy, or at the most science fiction...until now.

 

   I must say, I have always been skeptical of claims for robots. That must not be true of many other people. I read the other day that 25% of Europe’s citizens believe robots and artificial intelligence algorithms would do a better job of making policy decisions than politicians. [I could sometimes be tempted to agree with that...just a little humor there.] Really it would be sad to think that our lives could be regulated by inanimate, programmed machines, would it not? I also read that in Japan, China, and India, Buddhist and Hindu worshipers are experimenting with robot priests to automate the giving of blessings, forgiving sins, and performing baptisms and funerals. What is it coming to? The claim is that artificial intelligence can be created in such a way that it will evolve and update itself becoming more wise and more able to help people with their problems than fellow human beings.

 

   But the truth is, robots can only be designed and programmed by human beings. They may be helpful in manufacturing, law enforcement, medical treatment, and many other facets of living, but they are not possessed of that ultimate spiritual quality made in the likeness of God. Take just one aspect of life:  LOVE.

 

   God is love. Jesus commanded that we love. Oh, modern human “geniuses” may simulate some of the actions and reactions of love by means of “artificial intelligence.” But the love of God and the love of those made in His image can only come from the spirit within man. Remember, things made from matter are programmed by man and not one has the breath of life from God breathed into its nostrils so that it has become a truly living being (Gen. 2:7). And it cannot live fully  and faithfully serving God and believing in His Son by moral choice.

 

   Loving like God and Jesus love and loving them is a central component of spiritual life and existing in the image of God. It gives our lives purpose and meaning. It requires sacrifice. It changes who we are. It makes us who we are. Nothing other than human beings whom God created loves like God loves. That is true even including the living animal creation. And nothing assembled and programmed by man can of its own moral free will love God or its “one another.”

 

   So when Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another,” He was not talking to robots. He was talking to human beings who had the ability given by God to choose to love God, love Jesus, keep His commandments, serve Him, and have their spirits brought into God’s presence eternally.

“That Will Be Enough”

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (John 14:7-9).

 

   Back in Tennessee where I considered home growing up, there was a common expression among the older Christian men. When they came to the end of their prayers, they would say, “And Lord, take us to heaven and that will be enough.” I always smiled when I heard that. I couldn’t help but think, “I guess so! If He takes us to heaven, I certainly think that will be ENOUGH! What more could we ask.” Of course, our brethren had the best of intentions and meant only to beg God’s mercy to take us to be with Him. It is just one of those obvious petitions that struck me funny.

 

   For some people, enough is never enough. There is an old newspaper cartoon that got lots of attention

many years ago. It showed two fields out in the country that were separated by a fence. The fields were the same size and each had lush green grass. There was no difference in the size of the fields or the amount of feed from the grass. On each side of the fence, there was a mule with his head stuck through the wire eating grass from the pasture on the other side. It was hard to reach through and once having their heads on the other sides, both mule were caught. They panicked and brayed uncontrollably, unable to free themselves. The cartoonist wisely labeled his work “Discontent.”

 

   In our passage, Jesus is saying that they already had sufficient (enough) but they did not recognize it. They were looking for certain identification of the Father. Jesus wanted them to realize that they could see and know God by seeing and knowing the One who had been with them in the flesh.

 

   It is easy at first, however, to fail to realize what is enough. There is an old story about an old town out west. One day a frightened, bearded rancher ran into the saloon shouting, “Everybody run. Big Jake is coming. Get out, Big Jake is coming.” Of course, everyone cleared out of the establishment. Soon, a big, tall hunk of a man pushed open the swinging doors and stepped up to the bar. When he had downed a cool drink, the proprietor asked, “Do you want another.” The man hurriedly put on his hat, stepped to the door, turned around and said, “No. I don’t have time. Big Jake is coming.”

 

   We might relate this humorous story to the early message of John the Baptizer. He preached, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” John was a “big” person

in God’s plan. But although “he was a man sent from God,” he was only a “witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:7-9).

 

   The truly powerful One was not John, but it was Jesus. And His greatness made possible the fact that He could reveal God to man. Back in John, chapter one, it is revealed, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth... No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:1, 14, 18).

 

   Jesus made known the Father in words and works. He said, “Do you not believe  that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11). These words and works should have been enough for them. It seems that they came to be enough for the Twelve who took the gospel to the world.

 

   To paraphrase, Philip said, “Show us God and that will be enough.” As I read that, I sit back and smile like I did when I heard our older good brethren say, “Take us to heaven and that will be enough.” Would you like to see God. For now, at least, we can see enough by looking at Jesus, God in the flesh.

“Good News”

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians. 1:6-8).

 

   One of the great controversies in our society surrounds what is called the “media.” Television, motion pictures, journals, and newspapers are all seeking an influence on the minds of the American citizenry. Even beyond that is the effect of “social media” on our thinking. The controversy centers around whether what we see and read in any of these outlets of information is dependable. Specifically, are we placing our confidence in “fake (false) news” or accurate information supported by facts and data. Of course, an additional controversy relates to the purpose and motive of the presenter (reporter, editor, writer, producer, author, etc.). Are there hidden agendas behind what is said, and what general influence does the presenter want to have upon us?

 

   Now lest you think we are really discussing current political positions, I want to direct your attention away from current issues in our country to God’s Word concerning the “good news” of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brought to man. This passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us that the controversy between “fake news” and “good news” is certainly not “new news” to Christians. There were those in the first century who spread their own perverted information concerning an even greater and more important subject than a nation’s economy, social uprisings, or the handling of pandemic diseases. They were spread-ing a false gospel, which was not “gospel” (good news) at all. They were deceiving men and women concerning the will of God. And they were evil in what they did. Paul said they “want to pervert” the truth, obviously for their own reasons. Their motives must have been corrupt for the Holy Spirit twice says  they should be “accursed.”

 

   Paul calls the message he preached “gospel.” That word means “good news” or “good message.” It is presented through faithful preaching of the New Testament will of God as it relates to the salvation offered to all men. It is good news that Christ came to save us. Several passages (we could cite more) come to mind that define the accurate, dependable, good news Paul and the other apostles preached. Galatians 1:6-8 is only one of them.

 

   Mark 16:15:  In this passage, Jesus “said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved: but he who does not believe will be condemned.” That tells us once and for all that the good news is for every man. By the way, that should eliminate any question of racial discrimination by those who believe in the good news of Christ and want to serve Him. This passage also gives us the starting point of our acceptance of the good news: belief and baptism. What must one believe? The Gospel. Do you see why Paul was so adamant that the gospel not be changed because such perverted it.

 

   Romans 1:16:  In this passage, Paul declares that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written. ‘The just shall live by faith.” Both salvation and how to live righteous lives having once accepted the gospel are why Paul was not ashamed. Once again we see the universal outreach of the gospel and we learn we should not discriminate against any person. What could there possibly be to be ashamed of?

 

   1 Corinthians 15:1-4: In this passage, we are taught that we are saved by the basic gospel message surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing else that could equal the power of this good news. Jesus arose from the dead and we will arise from the dead to be with God if we stand firm in our faith and if we “hold fast that word which I preached to you.” What word is that, Paul? It is the good news (the Gospel) Paul declared to them.

 

   2 Thessalonians  1:6-8: There is a warning, however, posited in this “good news.” It is to those who trouble the believers and those who refuse to obey the gospel. Christ will come again and bring victory over death for the believers (1 Cor. 15:50-58); but those who refuse the gospel will see His vengeance. Don’t do it!

Going to Church

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:22-25).

 

   As fall approaches and the pandemic continues, politicians, school administrators, psychologists, parents of students, and, of course, the journalists who think themselves to be experts are debating whether to have the children go back to their school buildings. In person learning when physically present has great advantages. Interrupted learning and social isolation experienced by many children has obvious disadvantages. There are also both physical and mental health issues on both sides of the debate.

 

   Many of us have been necessarily out of our worship building for several months. All of us have curbed some of our important corporate (together) Bible studies and worship periods. While we have deemed

it essential to make  these adjustments, we don’t want to forget why we come together and how important that is to our spiritual health. So please allow me to list some reasons for physically coming together to worship. Granted, worshiping in front of a television or computer screen may be the best one can do if physically unable; but when we can, we will once again show faithfulness to God by coming to the place of worship where our brethren are gathered.

 

   We come together for assembled worship to God. We should worship privately, but God has also always called His people together to praise Him and develop their reverence toward God.

 

   We come together to hear God’s Word preached. Our spiritual growth is only possible as we grow in knowledge of the Word. The Gospel is the power of God in our spiritual lives. We learn much that we know from hearing good lessons based on Bible teaching.

 

   We come together to encourage and strengthen other Christians and visitors; as well as to be encouraged and strengthened ourselves.

 

   We come together to exercise the abilities God has given us to use in His body. Take singing, for example. How many of us really sing out to God when at home? God wants us to “teach and admonish one another” in song (Col. 3:16) “in the midst of the congregation” (Heb. 2:12).

 

   We come together to find and to be Godly examples to others. God wants you to be an example to others. And at times we need examples to follow as well. Where better to find them than in God’s house?

 

   We come together to teach our children the value of spiritual practices and to teach them to love God and His people. Do you want your children to grow up being Christians? Do you want them to be people of faith who build their lives and relationships on Godly values? Do you want them to find the peace and comfort of their inner lives on Truth. Then they need to be actively becoming members in the church.

 

   We come together to show Christ in our hearts to friends and associates in the community around us. The Lord wants us to be lights in the world. Our neighbors need to see us going to worship.

 

   We come together to be there for our brothers and sisters in Christ, serving them when in need  and helping them when they are burdened.

 

   We come together to create good spiritual habits. Christians came together to worship and remember the Lord on the Lord’s Day. That became their custom and it pleased the Lord. We learn the hymns and they become a part of who we are. In fact, every part of our togetherness with other Christians becomes part of us.

 

   We come together because we are instructed to. I left this for last because God wants us to worship Him because we love Him, not just because we have to. But in fact, we are commanded to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” and we should not rationalize that we may leave “going to church” out of our lives. God says to for many reasons good for us. Like going to school has many benefits, “going to church” is even more important spiritually. We are all looking forward to being together again in our Lord’s assembly. We all miss one another, don’t we?

Peace Be With You

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands  and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:19-22).

 

   Violence, rebellion, outbursts of anger, hatred, cursing, theft, vandalism, destruction of property, looting, beatings, shootings, murders. The weekend of July 4, at least six young innocent children were shot and killed in major cities in the United States. In Chicago alone, 87 persons were shot and 17 slain in one week-end. You may have seen a man shot in New York City while holding his daughter’s hand. Can anyone rationally suppose that this is how the Prince of Peace expects people to seek a better tomorrow? Perhaps some do not want peace, but I believe the vast majority of citizens in our country want to live peacefully in security with their neighbors, whatever their heritage..

 

   On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He spoke to them at length about going away. He pled with them: “Let not your hearts be troubled,” and after promising God’s Holy Spirit would be with them, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Then at the end of his message, His last recorded words to them as a group before His crucifixion were: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). From a human perspective, Jesus was to be a victim. From His divine perspective, He would be the victor.

 

   That was proven when He arose from the dead. On the night after He came out of the tomb, those same disciples were locked away in a room, frightened of the Jewish leaders when suddenly Jesus appeared in the flesh. And what did He say to them. He said, “Peace be with you.” In fact, he said it again, “Peace to you.” So Jesus last words to them before His crucifixion and His first words to them after His resurrection were words of “Peace.” What did those words of peace bring to these disciples? And what does Jesus’ peace bring to us?

 

   Jesus’ peace gives joy. Violence, resentment, and blame can only breed unhappiness. When Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” He did a strange thing. He showed them the scars in His hands and side. And the disciples responded in a strange way. They were glad. The Lord had come back from the grave to give life to God’s kingdom. Why do you think he showed them His wounds? Why had he left the scars from His suffering on His body? And why were the disciples happy to see them. Could it be that they were left there to prove Him to be their Lord who died for them. Could it be that He wanted not only to show God’s love and His own for them, but He wanted them to appreciate the message they were to take to the world that “while we are sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the gospel message they were to deliver to the whole world. That is the “good news” which makes every believer rejoice and be glad.

 

   Jesus’ peace gives purpose. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” Of course, their purpose as apostles (“ones sent”) was to  take the gospel to the whole world. They were to be at peace within themselves and not be troubled. They were to be unafraid of those in the world because He had overcome the world. Remember, he was not the world’s victim. He was the victor. They also would not be victims, but they would be victors in the exercise of their purpose. And we will be victorious if we shine as lights and flavor the world  as salt and show the world that Jesus is our Lord. What a great purpose for living and bringing others to Christ!

 

   Jesus’ peace gives promise. Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit. The Holy.Spirit would guide them into all truth. He would be their Teacher after Christ’s return to heaven. And we should find peace in the promises the Spirit gives in Scripture. A young Muslim named Nabeel came to America. He had trusted in what he considered to be a peaceful sect of Islam. But his friend showed him the peace in being a Christian. He learned that by the wounds of  the Christ he was healed. He said he came to know peace as never before. That peace promises eternal life. The world will only find peace as each of us find’s peace in Jesus.

God Spoke

By Colly Caldwell

 

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews. 1:1-2).

 

Last Sunday, May 31, 2020, two American astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, successfully rendezvoused their SpaceX capsule “Dragon” with the International Space Station. It was an amazing feat and it made history by uniting governmental agencies with private commercial interests to achieve its goal.

 

To help you remember, Alan Shepherd was the first American to reach outer space and orbit the earth on May 5, 1961. Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 (more than fifty years ago). Apollo 17 (December 7-19, 1972) was the final moon landing mission of NASA’s Apollo program.

 

To me, the most memorable space experience, however, occurred on Christmas Eve, 1968 as the space capsule approached the moon with earth in view. Three astronauts (Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders) took turns reading the first ten verses of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light...” Incredible!

 

God spoke and the world was created. The Psalmist said, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6). Again after identifying the creation, the Spirit said, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away” (Psalm 148:1-6). The apostle Paul said, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

 

God spoke and a plan was set in motion. The writer to the Hebrews addresses the fact that God spoke to the fathers including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He made promises that through their seed all the families of earth would be blessed. He confirmed His promises by speaking to all the Jewish fathers through prophets. That is reason for us to cherish the Bible as precious to us. It is not a book of magic or hidden meanings. It is not a book of philosophy, psychology, or social science, although many such books on those subjects have been derived from it. The Bible is the record of God’s speaking through the ages to men and women. God has communicated through His prophets His plan and His purpose. We do Him and ourselves a great disservice by our neglect of this wonderful, magnificent document.

 

God spoke and identified the Redeemer of mankind. At His baptism, God spoke from the heavens and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). When Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John, the Father spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.” (Matt. 17:5).

 

God speaks today through His Son and the words of Scripture reporting His will. That provides the living way for us today. The Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.” Jesus Christ is the communicative expression from God to man. The Scripture says that He was life and the light of men who became flesh and dwelt among us showing us the glory of God full of grace and truth (John 1:1-18). It was powerful for the astronauts to read from God’s word to a world that had never before seen the earth from that vantage point. Almost certainly, most of those who heard them read had not read for themselves the message of those words from God. When God speaks we must listen. Our present nature may call us away from God because we cannot see Him. But He speaks to us through His Son and our future existence with Him depends upon our listening carefully to what He says. Have you obeyed the gospel? Do you believe what God says? The astronauts were moved by what they saw and experienced. Are we moved when God speaks to us through His word?

Do You Feel Trapped?

By Colly Caldwell

 

“My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets while I escape safely” (Psalm 141:8-10).

 

Exactly two months ago, March 17, American businesses were shut down and Americans were called upon to stay home and practice “social distancing.” That was a new term to most of us but we soon learned that it meant we could not experience the freedoms of movement and interaction we had formerly enjoyed. To some it is almost as if we have been trapped in a kind of time-warp and as yet there is no way of certain escape.

 

I recently read about a delivery man from a Chinese restaurant in the Bronx who was taking food to a customer in a thirty-eight story apartment building. After delivering the food, the express elevator was not supposed to stop but it did. He was trapped from Friday to Monday morning in a 4’ by 6’ box. He had no food, water, or sanitation.

 

On a greater scale, you may remember the collapse of a mine tunnel near Copiapó, Chilé on August 5, 2010. Thirty-three miners were trapped underground for two months until October 13 (69 days) and survived. How relieved they must have been to once again see the light of day.

 

Or we all remember that 2,753 people were trapped in the World Trade Center and did not again see the light of day. There are all kinds of ways people feel trapped. Some will say they are trapped in their jobs. They might tell you they have to stay in very unfavorable working conditions or lose their health insurance. Or if they leave their jobs they cannot find another without having to leave everything behind that they otherwise love. Still others feel trapped in their marriages, those where there is abuse and unfaithfulness. And then so many in our society are entrapped by chemical dependency – alcohol and drugs, opioids, heroin, and the like. People who live in very poor conditions in the inner cities are affected. People who live in wealthy suburbs and seem to have everything a person could want are affected.

 

In Psalm 141, David no doubt refers to the traps of sinful, wicked men who tried to ensnare him in order to take his life. But he must have also had in mind the spiritual traps he could fall into by following evil men. He also said, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness, and let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked” (Psa. 141:8- 10).

 

In Romans, chapter 6, the apostle Paul speaks of being trapped by sin. He uses the analogy of being enslaved which is another form of entrapment. In Paul’s day, people could be enslaved simply because they could not pay their bills. Some of the early Christians were slaves themselves so they could relate to Paul’s words about being enslaved to sin.

 

Paul said, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (verse 19). And he goes on to tell them that “the wages of sin is death” (verse 23; see verses 12-13).

 

Think about that for a moment. We tell our young people to “say No” to alcohol and mind-altering drugs because they lead to death. More than 67,000 died in 2018 from drug overdose, 46,000 from opioids. Should we not be insisting that our young people come to grips with the fact that all sin leads to spiritual death, separation from the One who provides all things needful to our lives.

 

The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 23) Paul said, “God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (vs. 17). You don’t want to be trapped in a life of sin. Have you been raised from baptism to freedom in Christ?

Imitating God

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2).

 

   When  I was in college the greatest celebrity impersonator was Rich Little. He was sometimes called a “man of a thousand voices” because he could sound exactly like Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan or almost anyone else in Hollywood or Washington. Jonathan Winters gave it a good try. Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, and even Jimmy Fallon have been pretty good but Rich Little was the best.

 

   You can imagine that there would be a number of impersonators who tried to make a living imitating the President. I have read that the one considered the best at imitating Donald Trump is J-L Cauvin. He is a former district attorney from the Bronx. Perhaps a close second is John DiDomenico who apparently began doing Trump before he was elected. Both these men are hilarious and amazingly like Mr. Trump. What is interesting about DiDomenico is his approach to his subject. He says that impersonators usually look like the persons they are imitating (like Elvis, for example). They dress like them, take on their mannerisms and voice patterns. But he thinks the attitude of the celebrity is even more important than appearance. He says that is especially true with President Trump. You can imagine that he would try to put an emphasis on demeanor and attempt to imitate the President’s attitudes and self-confidence.

 

   Now I don’t have any political, sports, business, or entertainment figures I especially want to imitate to any significant level. I especially don’t have a desire to impersonate them. But there is One all of us who have spiritual goals should want to imitate, to whatever degree possible. That Person is God. And the Father wants us to be like His Son who is also Divine...we might even say, “Like Father, Like Son.”

 

   The apostle John said, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He went on to say that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” i.e., God brought the example we are to imitate in the person of Jesus Christ. Further, John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:14-18).

 

   Of course, imitating Christ does not mean we  dress up in first century clothing, and grow a beard (excuse the reference those of you who haven’t shaved while staying at home during the virus pandemic). Imitating Christ means taking on a demeanor like His, an  attitude like His, a faith like His, a spiritual life like His. The apostle Paul said, “be imitators of God” and do as Christ did in loving us and giving Himself for us.

 

   Notice three or four passages of Scripture that show us HOW to imitate God (the Father and the Son). First comes that “attitude.” It is seen in Jesus’ own spirit when he “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:4-5). Is our “attitude” one of serving self or others? Is our “attitude” one of humility or selfishness? It is amazing that in Jesus deepest moments of stress on the night before His crucifixion, He stooped to do service to those around Him.

 

   Another Scripture urging us to imitate Christ in this “attitude” of humility is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ” (Phil. 2:3-5).

 

   Going along with attitude is demeanor. The impersonator acts like his subject. The apostle Peter said, “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” (1 Peter 1:14-17). “Fear” is reverence, respect for God, anxiety at offending Him. Someone has said that the differ-ence between “conscious” and “conscience” is: “conscious” is when you are aware of something; “conscience” is when you wish you weren’t. Have a good conscience toward God: imitate Christ.

Putting It Off

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now: when I have a con-venient time I will call for you’” (Acts 24:24-25).

   “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost per-suade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am except for these chains’” (Acts 26:28-29).

 

   How many of you have had a list of things either written down or just in your heads that you were going to do during this quarantine. Now, how many of you have done all the things on  your list. It would seem such a convenient time while we are stuck at home to get all the things done we have planned. But being the creatures we are, I’ll just bet you have put off what you should have done. I loved it when Lynda told me of her conversation with one of our great ladies at Citrus Park, Elizabeth Harris. She told Lynda, “I have all these things to do around here and time to do them, but I am just not doing them.” Isn’t it strange how that works, even with our energetic sister Harris?

 

   Lynda and I were out on our walk this morning and I noticed that some of our neighbors who went to a lot of trouble to put out Easter decorations have still not taken them down nearly two weeks later. One even has an inflatable rabbit she hasn’t taken in. Another put about six dozen colored plastic Easter eggs in the jasmine on her mailbox. They may be there for Christ-mas. I really shouldn’t say too much about this because I just noticed that there are still all sorts of ceramic or stuffed Easter bunnies in every room of our house. Bunnies are Lynda’s thing in this past season.

 

   I suppose it doesn’t really matter this time. No one is going to see it. Everyone is under “house arrest” so we can put off our lists with impunity. But one of these days we are all going to be opened up and then it will matter. We really shouldn’t put things off too long. We should especially be aware that it does matter in spiritual things. God sees that at all times.

 

   Let me tell you a couple of my experiences so you can see that even baptism is not always convenient. My first baptism was to help my Dad baptize a dying older woman in a bathtub in a nursing home. It took two of us and she must have been terribly uncomfort-able but she did not want to put it off.

 

   The first time I actually baptized someone myself was after a sermon I preached when I was seventeen years old in 1960 at the Rose Hill church in Columbus GA. At the invitation, Mary Roark White came forward. She was 82 years old at the time. I was nervous as a

 

cat and she no doubt thought I would drown her. It was inconvenient but she did not want to put it off.

 

   Out at Mt. Zion, Tennessee, one summer in 1969 we baptized sixteen people over a several night span in a creek back up in the country and through a wooded area in the dark of night after services. In three successive gospel meetings at Mt. Zion, we baptized thirty people in that creek. It wasn’t convenient but they didn’t want to put it off.

 

   I remember before we got into our new building, Lynda and I went out about twenty miles across Tampa, to baptize Margaret Nelson in the lake behind her home.  The whole time she apologized for the inconvenience of calling us all the way out there...as if we would not be excited by the opportunity.

 

   With our baptistry everything is so convenient you can hardly imagine it. My Granddad used to tell of his baptism in a Tennessee creek when they had to break the ice during the dead of winter. Not convenient but he didn’t want to put it off.

 

WHAT ABOUT BIBLE BAPTISM

B - Baptism is a Burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; Acts 8:38).

A - Baptism is Action based on belief  (Mark 16:15-16).

P - Baptism is for the Penitent (Acts 2:38).

T - Baptism is a Transition (Rom. 6:1-17).

I - Baptism is Into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).

S - Baptism Saves (1 Pet. 3:21).

M - Baptism is a Mandated command (Acts 10:33).

 

   It is not always convenient to obey the gospel. It was not for Felix and for Agrippa. It required changes in their lives that they were unwilling to make.

 

 

 

Unintended Consequences

By Colly Caldwell “

 

17Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17, 20).

 

I have to say that in these uncertain times when threats of corona virus have virtually suspended life’s normal daily activities in our country, I sympathize with our federal, state, and local officials who are having to make hard decisions. One of the reasons I sympathize, having been in position in a school to make hard decisions, is the fact that almost always there result a whole series of unexpected and unintended consequences from any decision one makes. For example, just consider the unknown negative economic effects of deciding to close all “non-essential” businesses and telling 338 million people to stay in their houses. On the other hand, consider the consequences of allowing behavior to continue unchecked while potentially two million people could die of the virus. You can’t win. You may consider all known factors and still you will encounter unknown unintended consequences.

 

Do you know what kudzu is? Kudzu is a plant that was deliberately imported from Japan in the 1800s to be used as animal feed and to prevent erosion of farmlands. But kudzu grows very quickly (some say up to a foot per day). Soon it was covering trees and homes while blocking out sunlight and killing all kinds of vegetation. It covered electric lines costing the power companies millions and millions of dollars. It seemed so helpful but it became so destructive.

 

We visited Jamaica several years ago. Jamaica’s mongoose originated from nine animals imported from India in 1872 by William Bancroft Espeut to control the large rodent population on his estate. While the mongoose appeared to be beneficial at first, their many offspring were ultimately blamed for reducing fruit, fish, and crab supplies. They also went after chickens and other farm products and killed yellow snakes and insects that were critical to maintain a balance in the environment. Unexpected! Bad idea.

 

In Jesus’ day religious leadership was associated with several entities, each with its own view of how to apply the Law: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and to a lesser degree, the Essenes. Then there were the occupational groups, the scribes and the priests. The scribes were teachers and students of the Law, a majority of whom held views like the Pharisees. The priests’ views were most often like those of the Sadducees. All had “unintended consequences.”

 

The Pharisees believed strongly in following the letter of the Law. But they added their own traditional strict interpretations to the Law and lost sight of its true purpose and meaning. Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Matt. 23:23-24f). I have no doubt that many Pharisees were sincere in their religious convictions but the unintended consequence of their decisions about the Law was a failure to see “justice, mercy, and faith” in it. Further, the unintended consequence was to ignore the greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matt. 10:27).

 

The Sadducees were more liberal and less literal in their approach to the Scriptures. They denied the continuing living of dead spirits, the resurrection from death, and even the existence of angels (Acts 23:8). The unintended consequence was that they failed to see in the Scriptures that God is a living God and that all (even the dead) live in Him (Luke 20:37-40).

 

And the Essenes lived apart from the people interpreting the Law in such a way that they could not comingle with the populace. The unintended consequence of their ascetic interpretations was inability to influence others to join them in their understanding of the moral and spiritual aspects of the Law.

 

We may have some unintended consequences. We must be honest with God and ourselves and be careful to keep the main things the main things. The Gospel was created to keep God’s people in harmonious relation with Him and with each other. It was an expression of His protective love. Don’t lose sight of that.

The Lord Added

By Colly Caldwell

 

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them... And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41, 47).

 

Those of us who truly believe in Christ are members of a wonderful body of people. It is described in the New Testament as an assembly of souls, a spiritual family, the church of Christ, God’s temple. How it provides for our spiritual needs reinforces our very real desire to be part of it. We certainly do not want to forget our relationship to God and our spiritual family during the troubling times we are experiencing by quarantine resulting from this corona virus pandemic.

 

I am reminded of similarities to Daniel’s experience in Babylon/ Persia. He, and the people of Israel, were taken far away from their homeland. That meant that the religious practices they were accustomed to sharing at their regular place of worship (the temple in Jerusalem) were suspended. Daniel was aging. He had been in Babylon about seventy years. But he had not forgotten his relationship to God and the people of God. The series of events that led to “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” was precipitated by evil men when Daniel “went home. And in his upper room, with his window open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Dan. 6:9). Daniel stayed connected. It was important. We are working diligently to keep us all connected in this time. We are confident all our members are like Daniel; i.e., dedicated to God and His family.

 

When we were children, there were always those who created their own little exclusive clubs of peers. Those clubs may have consisted of some popular kid and his/her best friends. Everyone else was an outsider. The popular kid created the rules, the name, the secret handshake. And he alone got to decide who would be allowed into the club and who was kept out. The club might meet in a tree house, around a particular table at lunchtime in school, or later in a fraternity house on a college campus. There are even such exclusive and private clubs among older people who share some kind of status in common. There are clubs out there that would never accept us who do not have the right connections, social or professional status, financial standing, race, ethnicity, or gender.

 

One might see a similar mentality in the Jewish sectarian groups of Jesus’ day. The scribes and priests were religious/professional contingencies among the Jews. The Pharisees and Sadducees were also both politically and religiously motivated parties. Herodians, and Zealots were primarily political. The Essenes were an ascetic/social sect. While the Jewish populace may have sympathized with one or more of these parties, actual members are often identified by certain party in the gospel narratives. It appears that not everyone was a “card carrying” member of one of these groups. Not everyone had the right connections. Not everyone had the accepted family heritage. Of course, if you were a child of Abraham, a member of the nation of Israel, then certain doors to certain groups were open to you if you had the proper personal credentials.

 

Certainly such exclusive clubs is not what Jesus envisioned for His spiritual family. Nor does he adopt the view of many that it is acceptable to divide into parties (denominations) today. That was the direction the church at Corinth was headed when Paul chided them saying, “...each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or “I am of Apollos,’ or “I am of Cephas,’ or “I am of Christ.’” He went on to ask, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13).

 

Jesus wanted a fellowship of believers to which everyone in the world could belong. Of course, any group of people must have certain attributes in common to exist together locally. This is what is so extraordinary about Jesus’ assembly. The attributes are not physical. They are spiritual. They have nothing to do with human appearance or talents, social connections, professional status, finances, education, race, ethnicity, or gender. The attributes necessary are belief, obedience, and trust in God. And the attributes include becoming “poor in spirit,” “meek,” “merciful,” “pure in heart,” and “peacemakers.” We need to “mourn,” “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” and accept being “persecuted for righteousness” sake. God wants us to be faithful to Him and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can do that in troublesome times. Don’t forget faith in God and love His people.

A Turning Point in Life

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them... And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41, 47).

 

   You may or may not know the name Jack Welch. Two weeks ago, Mr. Welch died on March 1 at age 84. A huge turning point in his life came when he was named CEO of General Electric. He took it from a $14 billion dollar company to a $410 billion dollar conglo-merate in the twenty years he was overseeing it (1981-2001). But his personal life was full of other turning points that even he had to see as changing his future character. From a child he claimed to be a Catholic. With Cardinal Dolan present at his funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, however, a former Boston Globe columnist friend Mike Barnicle said of his life that at some point Welch “went AWOL” from the Catholic church. In 1995, Jack underwent a heart event that led to very serious open-heart surgery. He could have died. Following the surgery, it is reported that he was asked if he had any “epiphany” moments or turning point thoughts of how he would live having

faced his own mortality. He is said to have responded, “I didn’t spend enough money.” He went on to say that he would never drink another bottle of wine that cost less than $100. There was another turning point in his life when he met and married his third wife, Suzy Wetlaufer. She came to interview him for a piece in the Harvard Review, they had an affair, and he soon divorced his second wife to marry her. Jack Welch did not measure turning point experiences by Divine values. Now he has passed out of this life and left behind his more than $700 million dollar estate.

 

   Let me remind you of another kind of turning point experience in the lives of at least three-thousand Jewish people on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts, chapter two. Have you ever thought about those people getting up that day to attend the Pentecost celebration at the temple. Life was simple. They came expecting what had happened every year of their former experience. They were, no doubt, in a much larger crowd when they witnessed sudden miracles and heard an astounding message. That message turned their lives around.  When they returned to their homes that evening they were unexpectedly different. What an amazing change.

 

   Years ago it was common to see changes in people during church services. People listened to sermons and reacted with repentance and obedience on the spot. There may be many reasons for that not being a part of the culture in churches today but it is a shame we don’t see it as often. What would it take to see a return. Perhaps we should look more closely at our preaching. It takes true Gospel preaching. But it also takes three things on the part of those present who must experience a turning point.

 

   First is faith. That involves insight, acceptance, and belief. There must be an awakening or realization that the message being taught is true and applies to me. Belief in Christ, i.e. faith is essential. We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). Those people on Pentecost were convicted with acceptance that Jesus is Lord and Christ. It was a true turning point for them because they had formerly been complicit in crucifying the One they now had come to accept as their Savior.

 

   Second is repentance. That involves honesty and responsibility. Repentance by definition is a turning point. It is turning around and going in another direction. It begins with coming to be sorry for one’s sins. Sin separates us from God and hides His face from us (Isaiah 59:1-2). The Bible calls that kind of separation from God “death.” That should terrify us. We should be honest enough to recognize our own sins and resolve to abandon them for a reformed life. Peter reminded those people of the terrible nature of their sins and called upon them to repent.

 

   Third is baptism. That involves action. It involves responding to the means Christ has chosen for change in the relationship we have with God. It is a one-time activity that manifests one’s willingness to be obedient. It symbolizes the person’s faith in what Christ did for us (he died, was buried,  and rose again). We die to sin, we are buried in the water, we rise again to new life (Romans 6:1-17). This having been accomplished, we are given a new relationship to Christ and are added to Christ’s body (acts 2:47).

 

   When you read subsequent chapters in Acts, you will see clearly what a turning point in their lives that day was. You can have such a turning point in your life.

Our Light Has Come

By Colly Caldwell

 

   “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep dark-ness the people: but the Lord  will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the bright-ness of your rising” (Isa. 60:1-3).

 

   In 1975 an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico tipped over in a storm and crashed into the sea. A worker (not our Mark McBride) was trapped inside a room on the rig. As the rig sank, the lights went out and the room began to fill with water. As he thrashed about in the darkness, he came up into an air bubble in the corner of the room. For the next twenty-two hours he clung to life praying while the oxygen diminished and hope vanished. Suddenly, he thought he saw a faint glim-mer of light. Was he hallucinating? The light was real. It shone from a diver’s helmet. He was rescued.

 

   Isaiah prophesied long ago that the light, the spiritual light meaning the Messiah and His kingdom, would come and man would be rescued from the darkness that covers the earth. Darkness, of course, is a Biblical symbol of sin, of a world drowning in sin, and the resulting separation from God.

 

   Do you remember the star that led the wise men to where Jesus was after His birth (Matt. 2:1-12)? The light from that star led them to the Lord. We do not know that there were three of these men. There could have been more. From what we are told we usually assume that they were Gentiles because they came to Jerusalem from a far country to the East. They must have come some time later than His birth night and to some place other than the manger setting in Bethle-hem. We are told that they came into “the house” where the “young Child” was. He is not even referred to as a baby in the text. But they came, fell down, and worshiped Him bringing expensive gifts. They fit the picture portrayed by Isaiah of the many who would come to the light. They followed a star-light being directed by God to the true Light.

 

   Isaiah must have been enthralled with this image of light as he was guided by the Holy Spirit. In chapter nine of his prophecy, he said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (vs. 2). Matthew says that this state-ment of prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus came and dwelt in Capernaum (Matt. 4:12-17).

 

   In introducing Christ in his Gospel narrative, the apostle John said, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3). He went on to say that John Baptist was sent to bear witness of that Light that “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (vss. 8-9).

 

 

   What a blessing light is to mankind. After bringing the heavens and earth into being, the first recorded words of God in Scripture are “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). I marvel at the wisdom of God. In bringing the universe out of darkness, he said, “Let there be light.” And in bringing us out of spiritual darkness, he sent His Son to be THE Light of the world. He said, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

 

   Have you heard of the Luxor Sky Beam. It has shined straight up from thirty-nine xenon lamps on top of the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas since 1993. On a clear night it is said to be seen by aircraft 275 miles away. It has become a backup to the planes’ highly sophisticated navigational tools. It is also said to be a “waypoint” that serves as a GPS landmark. Now, I am not excited about a beam of light, however powerful, over “Sin City.” But I am excited over the solitary Light that points the way for all mankind to be saved. Jesus Christ is our Light. He is our real, authentic “waypoint” to  lead us out of darkness to God’s glorious presence.

 

   You know how miserable it is when your electricity goes out. Some of us spend large sums of money to connect generators to prevent the inconveniences and loss caused by being without power. One customer called the electric company following a storm that left them without lights for several days. She was out-raged and blamed the customer service person using very bad language. When she finally ran out of dia-tribes, she demanded, “Well, how will I know when my lights are back on?” Think about that one! Duh!!! I believe your faith, hope, and love will let you know when the Light of God is truly in your heart.

 

 

 

© 2020 by Citrus Park church of Christ

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