Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whatever Happened To Thanksgiving?

Our community has just experienced the second greatest retail marketing event of the year – Halloween. A recent survey showed American’s participation of Halloween went up from 59% last year to a whopping 65% in 2008. The total revenue that was brought in from sales related to Halloween was over 5.77 billion dollars! Yet, before Halloween was over, stores were already gearing up for the no.1 retail marketing event of the year – Christmas. But didn’t we leave something out? What was it that we missed?

Thanksgiving. Yes, it may sound strange, but it is true – there really isn’t a real market for Thanksgiving. But don’t we have the day off – it’s a holiday – right? And we have the some 45 million turkeys that the industry is making ready for our tables. And, of course, there are the football games – what more could you ask for?

I believe some reflection on the history of Thanksgiving would provide us some needed insight into why America is bypassing Thanksgiving. In 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated a three day Thanksgiving festival with the local Indian tribes. Why? They had survived losing half of their population the first winter, had learned how to fish and farm from the Indians, and had finally raised enough crops in the third year to have a Thanksgiving celebration. Death, starvation, and hard times are always good reasons to be thankful for a merciful God Who providentially takes care of you.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed into Law that the third Thursday in the month of November would be set aside for a Thanksgiving holiday. When? 1863 – right in the middle of the hardest war Americans have ever fought – The Civil War! War is another good reason why we should pause and give thanks to a merciful God for His many kindnesses to us.

When you add all these reasons up, you’ll find that America is experiencing all the same symptoms for Thanksgiving. Then, why is it that we are forgetting to celebrate Thanksgiving the way our forefathers did? I believe the answer is simple: as a Country, we do not have a humble spirit and a grateful heart to God for His many mercies. We have forgotten God. We got rid of Him in the classroom, we don’t talk about Him in the marketplace, and His gospel message is seldom preached in pulpits across our Land. Our Country used to be known as “the free and the brave,” because Americans spoke of “God and Country” without hesitation or embarrassment. It is different today. If you believe the liberal media, the average American doesn’t talk about God in a personal way, and he is also embarrassed to be an American.

Fellow Americans, we need to get back to God. We need preachers who will boldly preach the gospel; namely, that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for sinners. And, as sinners, we need to repent of our sins and seek God’s forgiveness. Only as we return as individuals to Christ, will we, as a Nation, get our Country back where it needs to be – thankful to God, for His many mercies to us all.

Will The Real Christian Please Stand Up

Where is the real Christian today? In a recent poll commissioned by Christianity Today the following statement was made:

“The United States is described in mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the study, identify themselves as “Christian”), and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case. However, not all within this vast group of Christians are alike.”

The most important question in the world is this: “Are you confident that the faith you have will take you to heaven?”

You will know if your faith survives through the trials of life that will come upon you. Tragically, there are many fair-weather Christians, who in times of testing, will find their faith wanting – and they will fall away. One chief reason why this is true is that people are being taught to embrace the love of Christ without embracing the Cross of Christ. Christ and the Cross are inseparable!

An intellectual ascent to the teachings of Christ is simply not enough. People today wish to embrace the spiritual but refuse to acknowledge the supernatural. They like many aspects of the gospel of Christ: love, being a good neighbor, being a peacemaker, etc, but they have rejected the Person of Christ. Consequently, when trials, persecutions and even death come, these ‘Christians” will fall away. And in falling away, they prove themselves to be false Christians.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

Where is the self-denial? Where is the self-sacrifice? To a true Christian, the central pivotal point in their life is the Cross of Christ – that is where they met Jesus! Meeting Christ at the Cross changes a person’s life forever. The Apostle Paul wrote it this way:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Human faith rejects the Cross, it is repulsive to it. Saving faith embraces the Cross, its very nature is drawn to it. Why? Because saving faith is part of the gift of salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Saving faith can’t fail! It is unfailing, undying – true faith endures! This is why the true Christian has a living Hope that the Apostle Peter talks about. Read how Peter states it:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – I Peter 1:3-9

Are you a Christian? Is the self-denial and self-sacrifice of the Cross seen in your life? Are you relying on your human faith, or the gift of saving faith? Will you be one who falls away in times of tribulations, or will you stand for Christ? Don’t fool yourself, where you spend eternity will depend upon the answer. Is Christ Jesus living His life through you?

Time will tell.

Playing Around with Satan

Location of Constantine Theater: Pawhuska, OK

The recent decision of the Constantine Board to allow “ghost hunters” to monitor the Constantine Theater for paranormal activity is a most regrettable one. Blinded by the greedy prospect of having tourists come and visit “the haunted theater,” the Board has opened up the proverbial Pandora’s Box of evil. Soon, the Board will be approached by other groups seeking their opportunity to tape a ghostly voice or video a hapless spirit.

What disturbs me most about their action is their refusal to heed the warnings of GOD:

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Proverbs 3:7

“…evil comes to him who searches for it.” – Proverbs 11:27b

I have no doubt but that the “ghost hunters” will find evidence of demonic activity. They may try to white-wash it and say these are “friendly spirits;” but God has spoken clearly upon this matter.

When a human dies, he immediately finds himself in either heaven or hell – depending upon whether he received Jesus as his personal Savior and was striving to follow Jesus in his lifetime. For a human soul – once he dies – there is no second chance. There is no purgatory. God states clearly, “For it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus makes it very clear that there is “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 11:19-31) between the living and the dead. It is impossible for a soul or spirit to come back from the dead and to wander upon the earth.

Ghost of friends or loved ones are actually demons impersonating humans. Satan – the god of this age – works hard at drawing mankind’s attention away from the one, true God. The Devil tempts people by drawing them away with both their feelings and their imaginations.

Citizens of Pawhuska and of the Osage – be warned! Do not play around with Satan and his demons. This action taken by the Constantine Board will only encourage demonic activity in our area! The evil spirits who promote drug abuse, suicide, terror, and despair will most assuredly increase their activities in our town and our beloved Osage.

Satan delights in tormenting humans. And we play the fool when we toy around with demons, spirits, ghosts – whatever you may call them! They are evil and their sole purpose is to promote evil. Unless Pawhuska – as a people – repents of her rebellious heart toward God and cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness, we shall see more suicides occur, greater drug abuse, more physical abuse in families, more chaos in our schools, and more spiritual deadness in our churches.
In the church that does not faithfully preach Christ and the Cross, Satan reigns supreme. Residents of Pawhuska know the churches that truly lift the name of Jesus and serve Him. They are also aware of the churches that are spiritually dead. They maybe filled with religious activity, but when it comes to preaching and teaching Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, they are dead in spirit – and tools in the hand of Satan!

As a community, we are playing around with demons! Satan and his demons are going to have a field-day with our town because of our foolishness.

Oh, beloved Pawhuskans and fellow citizens of the Osage – repent of such rebellion; cry out to God for His mercy. And in His love, He may forgive us.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

The worst thing that could happen to Pawhuska is this: God would give up on us.

Repent, before it is too late.

Truth that Sets You Free

Jesus was having a conversation with some Jews who had an intellectual belief in Him (John 8:31-47). These Jews represent a great many people today, who have an intellectual assent to the sayings of Jesus but they do not have a personal relationship with Him. Or to put it another way, they believed in what Jesus taught, but they did not believe in Him as their personal Savior.

Many people recognize the good teachings of Jesus, and in that sense, they believe in Jesus. But herein lays the dilemma: it is not good enough to simply believe in the teachings of Jesus. Aligning oneself with the moral teachings of the Holy Scriptures will not remove sin from the heart of a person. Being a moral person in a relativistic way may label you as “good” in the sight of others, but it will not save you in the eyes of God.

The words of Jesus are not to be merely agreed to intellectually; they are designed by God to draw you into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. An exercise of the mind is not enough; it takes an exercise of the heart as well. Jesus said,

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
“And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32).

How do you know that what you have with Jesus is not mere “head-knowledge,” but that it is – in fact – “heart-knowledge?” If you truly know Jesus as your personal Savior, the Truth you have gleaned from His Word will set you free from the sin in your life. And to the degree that you remain in His Word – by living it out by faith each day of your life – will be the degree that you shall be free indeed!

It is the Presence of the Truth – that is Jesus – in your life that sets you free from the sins of your life. So many churches are full of people who have a head-knowledge of the teachings of Jesus Christ, but they know nothing of a heart-knowledge of the Savior. How can such a thing be said? It is simple: their lives display no freedom from the trappings of sin that fill their lives. Their hearts are still filled with anger and hate toward others. Greed and envy fills their minds – discontent and unrest permeate their being. And all the while, these “church-goers” attend their worship services – their lives full of hypocrisy – never meeting God! Is it any wonder why so many worship services are exercises in futility? From the pulpit to the pew, there is spiritual deadness. They have a head-knowledge toward God but lack the heart-knowledge toward Jesus Christ.

And when these observations are made, these church-goers react the same way as the Jews did in the passage aforementioned. As to the Jews mentioned, Jesus said to them,

“But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I hear from God” (John 8:40).

Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me

On three different occasions Jesus tells His disciples to take up the Cross. There are six elements in the declaration that Jesus makes to His disciples:

1. “If anyone would come after Me…
2. “let him deny himself…
3. “and take up his Cross…
4. “and follow Me.
5. “For whoever would save his life will lose it,
6. “but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

Jesus calls his believers to follow Him. This is implied in the name “follower.” Yet, the average so-called believer today has understandable problems with this command from Jesus. You have many people, who call themselves Christians, who do not follow Jesus Christ. It is a popular fad to wear ‘the Cross’ as a pendant, but to live what the Cross represents is a total different matter. They look on the Cross as a symbol of love and of peace Indeed, love and peace are to be found at the Cross, but only through the horrific death by Jesus on the Cross. Jesus is the Savior of the world only in the sense that the world has but one, true Savior – Jesus Christ!

To be a true follower of Jesus, a man has to deal with the Cross of Jesus. What do I mean by that? The answer is found in the words “let him deny himself.” To deny oneself is to disown oneself, to repudiate oneself. In other words, you must refuse claim to yourself – “I did it my way” goes out the window! Of course, this flies in the face of what the world teaches man today. It is a “me-ism” society in which we live; me, myself, and I rule the heart. Caring for others is a distant second to loving oneself – loving Christ is out of the picture.

But that is just what Jesus demands: you must disown yourself, your feelings, and your will. How is that possible? Jesus said, “…and take up his Cross.” Each person has his/her own cross to bear for Christ’s sake. It’s one thing to look at Jesus on His Cross, it’s quite another thing to look at our own cross and hear Jesus say: “take it up.” And when you look closer at the statement, you will realize that it is a command. Jesus is commanding us to take up our Cross and follow Him. Unless we place our will on the Cross, we cannot be a disciple of Jesus. Unless we place self on the Cross, we cannot be His disciple. It is as simple as that.

To be a Christian is to live for Christ, not for self. To truly be Christian is to disown self, take up the Cross of self-denial, and follow after your new Master – Jesus Christ! By losing self, you gain your soul. To those who are destroying themselves, this is folly; but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God working within them. If you do not deny yourself, take up your Cross and follow Jesus, then you are not His child.

To whom do you belong?