“Hot Off the Pres”
The Presbyterian Church of Gatesville, Texas
~ Pulpit Ponderings ~
Has it been a year already? Seems just a short time ago I was writing about the 2017 New Year and here I am writing about entering into 2018. Wow! In our minds or at least in our traditions, each year offers us new beginnings from past mistakes or failed opportunities or misjudged friendships or not hearing God whispering to us. I thought about how we travel sometimes during the year, especially on holidays, to see family and friends.
As we travel we might see these signs here and there, maybe such as: “You are Now Entering the Palo Duro Canyons” or “Welcome to Mobeetie, Texas” or “Welcome to the Home of Randy Matson” or “Welcome to the Home of the Fighting Hornets” and so on.
On the journey there comes a point where we leave one district or area behind and enter another.
January is the month when it is drawn to our attention that we are now entering a new era in our lives – 2017 is in the rear-view mirror of our lives and 2018 has already begun and takes on more and more meaning as we journey through January into February.
As Christians we might well learn from the attitude reflected in Philippians 3:13-14 –
“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Such a scripture may well draw us to want to make fresh resolutions and vows about the year ahead as we face up to the glorious gift of another year. There are, of course, some fairly fickle vows made in January that actually have very little meaning. This reminds me of a story told by Melvin M. Newland:
Have you heard about the man who moved into a retirement community to spend the rest of his life there? It wasn’t long until he had made a number of friends among the other residents. There was one lady he was especially attracted to, and she was attracted to him, also. So, they spent a lot of time together. Finally, one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him.
The next morning, he woke up remembering his proposal, but he couldn’t remember her answer. So, he went to her & said, “I’m really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can’t remember if you said `Yes’ or “No’”.
“Oh, thank goodness!” she replied. “I remembered saying ‘Yes’ but I couldn’t remember who asked me.”
The point is that some of the vows and promises we make can be shallow and have very little meaning. But the beginning of a new year can be a profound opportunity to consider the direction our lives will take over the next year and to look in the rear-view mirror of our lives and to decide what things God would require us to leave behind in the year ahead.
The verse I would like to do some reflection around is found in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 1:7-8 –
“Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. 8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”
At this time frame in history the people of Israel were in a safe place – God had rescued them from a life of slavery and humiliation – he had rescued them by miraculous deliverance through the red sea and now they were parked as it were at the foot of the Holy Mountain.
But now God says break camp – move on – there is more. What he has in mind for the Israelite people is to move in and take the land known as Israel to be a land set apart for God.
Before them they discovered that the area was full of prosperous strong people but they were idol worshippers – they had abandoned God and so God had given their land over to the Israelite people. Because of this God’s plan was for them to go virtually straight in and take the land – but as you know they rebelled and as a result of that rebellion they wandered in the desert for forty years. Fear crippled them and an entire generation failed to live out their God given destiny.
At Horeb, the Israelites had gained a certain position – and they faced an exciting and yet certain future.
There are three positions the Israelites were in that we can identify that help us to consider where we are in the purposes of God as we face our new year.
The first position is that they had escaped from slavery into freedom:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1.
“What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” – Galatians 4:1-7.
Before we can consider, then, the more profound purposes of our lives this year, we would do well to review whether we are standing in the freedom that Christ has won for us. This New Year is a good time to stop being chained to your past failures. God is saying here in His Word that he doesn’t want you to go through your life branding yourself as a failure.
On the Cross Jesus died so that he could forgive. When we become Christians on purpose that forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives. When we have received Christ’s forgiveness it allows us to forgive ourselves and forget our failures.
The reason the generation of Israelites who escaped from slavery from Egypt failed is they failed to recognize the completeness of their salvation. God was not only adequate to rescue them from Egypt, that is the past, he was also adequate for the situations that lay ahead, that is the promised land.
When they were terrified they wanted to go back to Egypt because they wouldn’t trust God for the circumstances that lay ahead. In that position they muttered against their God and their leaders –
“It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us. But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so, He brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’” – Deuteronomy 1:26-28.
What so often happens with Christians who do not discover their full destiny is that they go back to the thinking and attitudes of their previous lives – that is the danger of not going on in the Christian journey living out God’s call on your life. The result is that you want to go back to Egypt.
The second position was at Horeb, specifically at Mount Sinai, where Israel pauses to take a breath after the exciting events that had delivered them from 400 years of slavery. During that time of taking a breather, Moses goes up the Mountain in what is a defining moment in the life of Israel. It is there he meets with God and receives the ten commandments.
There is a time after salvation of learning how to live again – it is a time of readjustment – reassessment and repentance – here Israel makes the mistake of making an idol and is brought to a place of repentance. After we are re-united with God, there is a place where we take time to learn to live the new Christian life. And, this is why coming to church is so important. It is the place that teaches the many aspects of Christian living – just as a child does not get born and learn the life skills of living as a human being without the guidance of a parent – so a Christian must learn how to live a completely new life.
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge” – Proverbs 23:12.
What we need to understand though is that this time of learning is to be deeply valued – of course such a season lasts all through our lives but there is a season of learning intensely how to live as a Christian that is to be fully grasped. Respected Bible Scholar, D. A. Carson said this: “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.”
Having decided to follow Jesus there are all manner of lessons that the Christian needs to learn –it is interesting to read in the life of the early followers of Jesus: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” – Acts 2:42.
It may greatly profit us to review in this New Year just what it is God might want to teach us – what is it that we need to learn about how to live the Christian life? I have been struck by how many great opportunities there are to learn about God here in our own community – Christian radio and Christian television programs greatly supplement but do not replace the Sunday by Sunday preaching of the word here in our own church.
Someone once said: “It’s possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be a camp-follower without being a soldier of the king; to be a hanger-on in some great work without pulling one’s weight.”
Once someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger man. He said, “So and so tells me that he was one of your students.” The teacher answered devastatingly, “He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students.” There is a world of difference between attending lectures and being a student. It is one of the supreme handicaps of the Church that in the Church there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples.
To take some “Horeb” time to grow, you need to understand that your goal is to be a disciple of Jesus. Get a picture of some great heroes of the faith Paul – Mary – Wigglesworth – ten Boom – Taylor – but most of all Jesus. Aim at your goal and spend time becoming a fully-fledged disciple of Jesus. C.T. Studd tells us: “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
The third point is to break camp.
“Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites….Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them” Deut. 1:7-8.
There comes a time in your Christian journey where you begin to fulfill your Christian destiny – God’s call on your life. You live your life up to a certain point and it is OK, but you come to a point where you need to go and do the kinds of things that being a follower of Jesus involves. The Israelites were told to break camp. Behind them was their time of salvation and their time of receiving God’s teaching but now they were to set out and to fulfill God’s call on their lives. History records how this generation of Israelites failed to do what God had called them to do because fear stopped them.
We are not going to do that! The scriptures say 366 times: “Fear not!” If we as Christians together fail to fulfill our God given destiny, the church becomes a log jam of frustrated people.
One of the great things about the early church is that daily it was winning people for God. The reason that was happening was that people were fulfilling their destiny. Just as in Jesus’ ministry we see a definitive time when he moves from being within his parent’s household to beginning his adult ministry in Israel; I pray that God is calling to each of us to break camp in some area of our lives this year and get on with being a disciple within the ministry of God.
I also wish each member of The Presbyterian Church of Gatesville, Texas a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Standing on His Promises and, As Always,
In His Grip …Shalom Aleichem (Peace Be Unto You) …
Until the Nets Are Full,
Your Most Obedient and Humble Servant,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” – Matthew 28:19 (NIV).
~ A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU from your pastor ~
I want to personally thank the congregation of First Church for the very gracious gift given to me this Christmas. I truly appreciate your offering of gratitude. I am humbled and feel so blessed by the out pouring of love and concern for my well-being. I love y’all very much and look forward to our ministry together. I pray for God’s continued blessings on each of you and yours this New Year. I will remain, as always,
In Christ, Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant,
~ One Liners for the New Year ~
A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
My New Year’s resolution is to stop hanging out with people who ask me about my New Year’s resolutions.
I have only one resolution: to rediscover the difference between wants and needs. May I have all I need and want all I have.
If 2017 were a person, I’d sue him for pain and suffering and lost wages.
Dear God, my prayer for 2018 is a FAT bank account and a THIN body. Please don’t mix it up like you did this year.
Remember you can reset your resolutions on January 14th (Orthodox New Year) and February 8th (Chinese New Year). After that, even I can’t help you.
Every year I make a resolution to change myself……. this year making a resolution to be myself!
My New Year’s Resolution is to break my New Year’s Resolutions….That way I succeed at something!
Anyone who says that alcohol is a depressant isn’t drinking enough of it.
Keep the smile! Leave the tear! Hold the laugh! Leave the pain! Think of joy! Forget the fear! Be joyous, ‘cause it’s a New Year.
New Year’s is just a holiday created by calendar companies who don’t want you reusing last year’s calendar.
I’m actually feeling pretty okay about not accomplishing anything this year.
ATTENTION: It’s officially New Year’s Eve! You only have a couple of hours to do all the things you will resolve not to do in the new year.
~ New Year’s Eve Short Jokes ~
Q: What do you tell someone you didn’t see at New Year’s Eve?
A: I haven’t seen you for a year!
Q: What happened to the Irish man who thought about the evils of drinking in the New Year?
A: He gave up thinking.
~ Announcements for January 2018 ~
Elder & Greeter for JANUARY: Elder Jyane Pearson
Pastor Buddy will be taking VACATION December 31 through January 4. The Reverend Dr. Stephen Davey will provide emergency pastoral coverage during his absence and can be reached at 254-420-2700.
The Men of the Church have changed their designated time for the MEN’S BREAKFAST. It is now the FIRST Wednesday of each month. Therefore, they will gather Wednesday, January 3 at 8:00 AM at Rancher’s Steak House. All are welcome – bring a friend/neighbor.
Ladies’ Evening Bible Study is Wednesday evening, January 3 at 7 P.M. in the Fellowship Hall.
The Lord’s Supper will be observed during the morning worship service, January 7. All who have joined with Jesus Christ through their baptism as well as children who have been instructed by their parents are welcome to participate.
The Class of 2020 will be INSTALLED to the Session as Ruling Elders of this church during worship service on January 7. Keith Shepherd will be ORDAINED AND INSTALLED along with Betty Bartlett and Ann Davey. They will help serve the Lord’s Supper. We congratulate them for answering God’s call to serve as elders to The Presbyterian Church of Gatesville and ask God’s blessings on them as they endeavor to accomplish God’s will for the congregation.
PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN will meet at 10:30 AM, Tuesday, January 9, in the Fellowship Hall for the Bible study and lunch TBD. All ladies are welcome.
The SESSION will meet 7:00 P.M., Wednesday, December 17 in the Fellowship Hall.
Immediately following the worship service on January 21, a CALLED CONGREGATIONAL MEETING will convene for the purpose of approving the Terms of Call for Pastor Buddy, receiving the 2018 Church Budget, and hearing the Committee reports from the chairpersons. Any other business pertaining to the church will be addressed as well. Due to the importance of the items to be discussed all members of The Church are requested to be present.
Everyone is invited to the monthly CHURCH DINNER, Sunday, January 21, immediately following the worship service. Our hostess is Gail Johnson. Please join us for great food and warm fellowship. Bring a neighbor.
LITURGISTS (LAY READERS): Pastor Buddy is always looking for members who will assist in the worship service as Liturgists (lay readers). It should be an honor and privilege to read God’s Holy Word in public. If you can breathe and read then this is a great way to contribute to the worship of God. Just pick a Sunday, sign up (sheet is on the bulletin board in the hallway), and everything is provided for you.
Several years ago, the BIRTHDAY FUND was established to raise funds to use in our community mission outreach. Each birthday celebrant was to donate a dollar for each year celebrated. Recently the funds have been used to assist people getting back on their feet after a tragic fire, American Cancer Society, and for Senior Night; therefore, the funds are very low because our birthday folks have forgotten to donate. Please consider donating to this gracious fund when you celebrate your birthday. If you desire, you may designate your donation to support special missions by noting that on the check.