I’d like to take you back in time to think about some of the happiest moments in your life. Do you have the picture there in your mind? Take a look at who is there with you. Are they in your life today? So many things change as we go through life. Maybe we move away or someone you are close to does and you fall out of contact due to this busy life. Who do you have the fondest memories of and are they still with us today?
My oldest son, whom we were able to have in our lives for almost 16 years, brings so many fond memories. Yes, there are painful ones but I don't focus on those. He is missed by so many. My sister Kathy, that we also have lost, brings me many happy memories from my youth; and as she became an adult, her funny sneaky pranks, and her bigger than life heart is always remembered. There are also the things that I had learned from my dad and my wife's parents. Papa Joe, as the easy going man, always here laughing and making jokes. We miss them all and all the cherished memories.
So on your trip down memory lane with family and friends, hopefully, they are mostly fond memories for you. All the people you have met in this life, how many will go with you to the next? My fond memories of some are saddened when I think that they left this life not truly knowing Jesus. At the time, many did, but for some, they didn't want to hear no matter our efforts to share God’s word. Though people will reject God and His word at times we must not get discouraged and give up trying or we will live with that regret. It's a brand new year again and the opportunity to help others in our life to find the truth still remains. Some will listen and some will not. We will regret the ones that we didn't try to reach and be sad for those whom reject Christ. Everyone has the freedom to choose their own direction and we can't control that no matter how much it hurts. Let us take advantage of the time we have here to reach all those we meet with God’s word. Don't let memories haunt you because you didn't try. The road to destruction is wide and many will take it. Let us stay on the narrow road that leads to everlasting life and bring as many as will hear to come along. Have a great year building more memories with this wonderful loving family of God here in Ripon. Truly rare, are the wonderful servants of God we have here to serve with. We love this family and feel blessed by being a part of it. Let us bring souls to His words.
In Him, Chuck Saarloos
It’s hard to believe 2018 is nearing an end and 2019 is just around the corner. At this time of the year we often hear the song “Auld Lang Syne” being sung. After all these years of hearing that song, I finally decided to look up the meaning of that phrase the other day. I found out it is the title of a poem written by the famous Scot poet Robert Burns in 1788. The phrase “auld lang syne” actually means “old long since” but basically means “days gone by”. There is some benefit in remembering events from our past, the good and the bad. We should remember the negative things we’ve done and plan to never repeat them. The good that we have done should be continued and improved upon if possible. However, we should never let our sins and shortcomings cause us to freeze for fear of failure, nor should we never move forward and “rest on our laurels” for the good we’ve done.
The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle had sins from his past for which he was very ashamed, but he also made great accomplishments for the Lord. But, he was forgetting all those things and each day reaching out to do the will of God. What a great example for us and we begin to think about a new year.
Let’s reflect on a few things we might consider as we start this new season of our lives.
*I want to be a more diligent Bible student. 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Study to show yourself approved unto God.”
*I want to improve my prayer life. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - “Pray without ceasing.”
*I want to be a more liberal giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 – “God loves a cheerful giver.”
*I want to be a teacher of the gospel. Mark 16:15 – “Preach the gospel to all creation.”
*I want to rid myself of addictions. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
*I want to be more faithful in my church attendance. – Hebrews 10:25 – “Nor forsaking our own assembling together.”
*I want to be totally committed to being an obedient child of God in all aspects of my life.
Let’s dedicate ourselves to being the best we can be in this new year and encouraging those around us to do the same. My prayer is that God will bless each of us this year as we strive to do his will more perfectly. Happy New Year.
Some of you may remember the well-known National Basketball star, Charles Barkley. In l983, Mr. Barkley made a commercial for Nike proclaiming that “I am not a role model.” He did go on to state that parents should be role models for their children, and that is true. However, it is true that many do look up to people famous in sports, music, business, and acting as individuals to pattern their lives after. Young people often are attracted to their heroes because of their notoriety, power, physical ability, or wealth. Opinions and advice from the well known can be interpreted by some as fact, even if the person is espousing things they have no knowledge of or worse yet, contrary to Biblical teaching.
But, what about us ordinary folk? You may think that no one is watching you for clues to how to pattern their lives, but think again. As we look back to our youth, didn’t you have someone you wanted to be like? A person who seemed to have it altogether. Did you ever express to that role model that you admired them, the choices they had made in their lives, their behavior and habits? Or did you just watch from afar and try to pick up actions that would endeavor to make you like them? If you were like me, you probably never mentioned to your “secret mentor” that you admired, respected, and wanted to plan your life like them.
If you were trying to follow the example of someone, guess what? Someone is more than likely watching you as a role model for their life. It may be someone you would never expect: a senior citizen, a newlywed you may not know well, a new Christian, a friend, or your own child. We may never know. Whether Charles Barkley wanted to be a role model or not, I’m sure he was to some. The same can be said of us. The Apostle Paul tell us in 1Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” At first glance I thought this to be a very puffed up statement on Paul’s part, but on closer inspection, we are instructed to be imitators of Paul only as he imitated Christ. That could also be true of us. We don’t want people to imitate us in our weakness, failures, or sin, but if we are truly imitating Christ, people can imitate us.
So, let’s make some sound choices that others can imitate. Here are a few things we might consider: Is your church attendance and participation what it should be? Are you using language that demonstrates your Christianity? Do you speak about the church and church members in a negative way, or are you always complaining about what goes on at church? If you are a Bible class teacher, are you well prepared to share the truths of God’s Word with others, or are you just winging it? Does the way you dress show your desire to be respectful, appropriate, and modest? Are you reaching out to others to show them Jesus? Are you studying your Bible and praying as you should?
It is true that we have a choice in the decisions we make, the way we act, the places we go, but we are also bound by the consequences of those decisions. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own decisions, but we never want anyone to imitate us in ways that could have negative eternal consequences. Let’s dedicate ourselves to being better imitators of Christ so others can imitate us.
This time of the year is often called the gift giving season. We see people scurrying around to purchase gifts for their friends and loved ones. I have received many gifts throughout my lifetime. When I was a young boy my name was drawn and I won a new beautiful red Schwinn bicycle. For one of my birthdays my wife bought me a Jett table saw. My beloved children and grandchildren have been true and treasured gifts. My Christian brothers and sisters, I consider wonderful blessings. However, the greatest gifts are those God has given to us, His children. Let’s consider a few.
Matthew 7:11 – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
James 1:17 – Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.
Acts 2:38 – And Peter said to them, Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The most beautiful gift that has made all other gifts possible is Jesus. He left his perfect heavenly home to come to earth and live among people. He graciously left us His teachings in His holy Word. He endured rejection, betrayal, and a horrific death on the cross in order that we might have eternal life. He sent the Comforter after He ascended back to heaven to guide us in truth. And He has prepared a home for us to live with Him for eternity after this life is over. What a gift! Let’s dedicate each and every day of our life thanking, praising, and obeying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for these beautiful gifts.
This past week our nation has witnessed the death and funeral of our 41st President, George H. W. Bush. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, it is always a sad experience to see a family in mourning for a loved one. Most of us have also lost those we cared for deeply, and it hurts, so we know how the Bush family and friends feel.
It is a fact, that we will all one day leave this earth in death if the Lord doesn’t return first. So, is there a lesson we can benefit from when we are confronted with the passing of those we love?
One of the benefits of death is it reminds us that we are all headed that way. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 9:27: “…it is appointed for men to die once.” It should not be a surprise to us that at the end of this life, whenever it is, we are going to die. We don’t usually like to linger on this thought, but it is a fact we must acknowledge. The positive side of this benefit is we have time to make ourselves right with the Lord. We live life in a time frame. All that we do must be accomplished within those boundaries, whether “good or evil”.
A second benefit of facing the reality of our death is knowing God has graciously warned us to prepare for our final scene on earth. Judgment is not a “pop quiz” for which we cannot prepare. Romans 14:10 says; “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of God.” This is a sober thought for non Christian and Christians alike. To stand before the creator of the universe who knows not only our deeds but our thoughts and intents as well, makes the most righteous among us shudder. II Peter 3:9 assures that our loving God wants no one to “perish, but for all to come to repentance.” We also know that God loved us so much that He sent His precious Son to die for us (John 3:16) so that we could live with him eternally. What a beautiful thought!
To me a most beautiful benefit of contemplating death is knowing that we have a reward coming. Revelation 2:10 says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” What a glorious hope faithful Christians have. This life is a place of preparation. Don’t miss this opportunity to be right with God and let death take you unprepared. Let’s all take advantage of our “death benefits” while we can and dedicate ourselves to being ready. Are you ready?
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