I have to tell you that this period over the past month-and-a-half has been among the longest in my life, including those seemingly endless months I spent in Vietnam or without Irene, and Katheline and Wayne Jr., during my several unaccompanied tours when I served in the Marine Corps. I don’t have to ponder long why this seems so because I know that I, along with Irene, miss being in the physical presence of the most wonderful and precious people in the world — Brethren — especially those Brothers and Sisters in our Ripon Church Family! Being able to spend three times, or more, with you all every week and work in the LORD’S Kingdom at different times on those works or projects that we engage in together, are highlights of my life and lift my spirit greatly!
It is easily understood why the writer to the Hebrews stated in 10:24 that we should
“…consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” I recognize that this scripture is usually used in connection with the assembling together, v. 25, but I believe that it is not limited to that single application. Reading further in Hebrews 10:25 “…and ALL THE MORE as you see the day drawing near” (emphasis mine). While there is some difference of understanding whether “the day” herein is the LORD’S day (Sunday) or the day of the return of the LORD, it’s important to consider that earlier in Heb. we read: “But encourage one another DAY AFTER DAY, as long as it is still called “Today”…” (3:13) (again, emp. is mine). Clearly, Brethren are to encourage one another — daily and constantly!
There is no question as to why we need to go through this period of physical isolation and separation. Our love for one another and consideration for the welfare and health of all of our Brethren demanded that we do everything we can to protect each other (Rom.12:10-12&Phil.2:3-4). It’s easy to get down about the situation because of its impact on our “God-given right” to worship how, and when, we choose. Perhaps we forget that our God also gave the current generation of humanity the intelligence to create and develop alternative means of rapidly communicating and associating with each other and participating together, including worship and other spiritual activities. This great era of technology — misused as it is sometimes — is also a gift from God, through the know-how of all of the “geeks” and “nerds” of the world! Let’s not bemoan what we have to endure but, rather, celebrate that we can use this technology to stay in touch with each other and worship together, albeit virtually, while we are helping to protect the health and well-being of all of our Church Family! We have the means to stay in touch with — and encourage — each other!
One of the blessings in this slow-down time is that we all have more time to spend with God! Irene and I have certainly spent more time daily in His Word and other spiritual activities together, as well as more time to walk together and talk, during these past six weeks. How about you? Why not take advantage of the available technology to keep up with Matt’s Sunday sermons on our YouTube channel, our interactive Bible study through Zoom on Thursday evening, and other Brotherhood podcasts and broadcasts that are now prominent throughout the week? These will help to keep us growing spiritually and edify and encourage us while we patiently await the time — hopefully soon — when we can renew our assembling together within a healthy and safe setting. Keep praying! (1st Thess. 5:17 & James 5:16b). May God continue to bless us all as we strive to serve Him!
In Luke 15:11-32, we have the account of what is commonly known as The Prodigal Son. As you know, these passages detail the reckless actions of a greedy and foolish son who asks his father for his inheritance so he can venture out into the world on his own. As time goes by, the text tells us this son “squandered his estate with loose living” and ends up feeding hogs in order to survive. “When he came to his senses” he remembers that even his father’s servants have plenty to eat and decided to return home to repent and fall on the mercy of his father. One of the most beautiful of scriptures is Luke 15:20: “ And he got up and came to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Obviously, this father had been watching and hoping for his son’s return. The son admits his transgressions and tries to explain to his father that he is no longer worthy to be his son. The father will hear none of this and proceeds to rejoice that his child had been “lost and was now found.”
This scripture shows one of the many benevolent characteristics of our Father, His willingness to forgive our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. This by no means is all our divine Father does for us. Please consider the following:
-Sent His Son to die for our sins.” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (1 John 4:14)
-Keeps us. “My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:29. “I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.” Heb. 15:5.
-Adopted us into His family. “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” Ephesians 1:5.
-A Provider. “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?” Matthew 6:30.
-A Protector. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” 2Thessalonians 3:3.
God has also created us in His own image, granted us salvation, given us the Bible, delivered us from the domain of darkness, plus countless other blessings. However, in order to be the recipient of these many blessings, you must first become His child by repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized. If you have not, I urge you to become part of this wonderful family with a glorious Father. It is the best decision you will ever make.
This week I had the opportunity to watch a short video of a United States military honor guard in Washington D.C. placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a ceremony that takes place each day in memory of not only this particular unknown serviceman buried here, but to honor all American soldiers who have given up their lives for the freedoms we and others around the world enjoy. The solemnity and respectfulness of all those in attendance was beautifully and rightfully obvious. It caused me to also think about all the families who have lost loved ones in the battles that have been waged since the beginning of our country. Their heartache and grief was great. What a sacrifice.
This Sunday, many around the world will be celebrating Easter. To some it is just bunnies, colored eggs, and candy. Others celebrate this holiday as a yearly remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. To us, the resurrection of our Lord is too precious and marvelous to only observe once a year. Just like the example of the early disciples, it is our practice to remember and honor the great sacrifice of Jesus each and every first day of the week. “And when He (Jesus) had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19. Also, 1Corinthians 16:2 speaks of Christians coming together “on the first day of every week”.
The gift of freedom which has cost the death of so many of our military men and women is something we should never take for granted. However, the greatest gift of all time was the willing suffering, sacrifice, and death of our Lord. Without His willingness to die on our behalf, we would not have the hope of salvation. Acts 4:12 Jesus’ demonstration of love is too wonderful to relegate to only one Sunday a year. So, we joyfully memorialize the greatest gift every given each Lord’s Day with the solemnity and respectfulness that it deserves.
Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Acts 9:36-42.
Here we have the narrative of Peter, through the Holy Spirit, raising Tabitha from the dead. This woman was described as “full of good works and acts of charity”. Those acts are later described as various types of clothing, which the text seems to indicate, were made for the poor since they were acts of charity. Some of the widows standing in the room when Peter arrived very likely were wearing some of the garments this benevolent woman had made. These good works appear to have made Tabitha beloved and well known.
Often times when we think of great works in the Lord’s kingdom, we think of knowledgeable and eloquent preachers, those who give great sums of money for the cause of Christ, and steadfast church elders and leaders. These people are absolutely vital in order for the church to grow and function properly. However, the saints who work “behind the scenes” are also indispensable: teachers of children’s classes, gardeners, song leaders, janitors, treasurers, personal workers, secretaries, encouragers, sound system engineers, computer experts, and the list goes on and on. It is probable that Dorcas did her good works of quietly sewing in the privacy of her home and giving alms to the needy without much fanfare, but what an impact it had on the city of Joppa. Apparently she was well known in the seaport town of Joppa, because combined with her charity and the demonstration of God’s power in raising her from the dead, verse 42 of Acts 9 says; “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Even though we are not formally meeting at this time, please continue to do your good works; praying, studying, staying in contact with fellow members, checking on one another, and mailing in your weekly contributions. God bless you all as we strive to be pleasing to Him.
In these days, when many are suffering with sicknesses and not able to work to supply for their families and all of us not being allowed to gather together in groups, concerned over the health of the ones we know and love and the people all around this world, makes it a very trying time for everyone. We are all waiting for the scientists and medical experts to come up with a treatment and a vaccine. We can only hope it is soon. We put much trust or you may say ‘have faith’ in our government to do the right things and to do as they have promised. To believe in men to lead you, who don’t believe in the God this nation was founded on and those principles, can be risky. We vote with the hope they will do what is right. They more frequently do what will profit themselves more than the right thing.
So where should we put our trust? Where can your faith be put so you can know the truth and what to expect? We can hope for a lot of things in this life but there is only one place real hope in things to come can be found.
1 Peter 1:17-21, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
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