A Sermon in Shoes

Sermon in Shoes

When I was a child in Sunday School, I remember singing one of my favorite choruses called, “A Sermon in Shoes.” The lyrics went like this:

Do you know, Oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Do you know, Oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you, to spread the gospel news,
(1) So walk it, and talk it, a sermon in shoes.
(2) Live it, and give it, a sermon in shoes.
(3) Teach it, and preach it, a sermon in shoes.
(4) Know it, and show it, a sermon shoes.
(Ruth Harms Calkin)

The song is a reminder that where ever a Christian walks, he or she is expected to share the Gospel news to others. Whether it be by one’s actions, attitudes, or personal testimony, a Christian is always a sermon in shoes. It goes along with something that American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) once said: “The preaching that this world needs most is the sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, it’s only fitting that we are a sermon in shoes if we’re walking with Jesus. And speaking of fitting…

According to the New English Translation (NET), Ephesians 6:14 & 15 says, “Stand firm, therefore,…by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace…”

The Apostle Paul was using the analogy of a Christian being a good soldier for Christ—“Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God….” (Eph. 6:11, 13). In his day, the typical soldier was equipped with a belt that protected one’s midsection, breastplate that protected the chest area, cleated shoes or sandals for firm footing, a shield for protecting the whole body, a helmet to protect one’s head, and, as you’d expect, a sword. Thus, in terms of being a soldier of Christ, the apostle speaks of “the belt of truth,” “the breastplate of righteousness,” “fitting your feet,” “the shield of faith,” “the helmet of salvation,” and “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” (Eph. 6:13-17).

From these verses, we can conclude that being a sermon in shoes is part of being a good soldier of Christ. For one important feature of standing firm as a believer includes, “fitting our feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace.”

We can only be effective in our walk with Christ as long as we hold our ground concerning “the good news of God’s peace.” This involves the inner peace that transcends human comprehension and guards our own hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Peace of this kind takes “preparation” meaning, “readiness of mind.” Which begs a few important questions: Are you—like a good soldier or member of a winning team—all “psyched up” and mentally prepared to be a sermon in shoes? Additionally, what condition are the heels of your shoes? Are you so worn out in mind and body, like the heels of an old shoe, that you can’t really dig in your spiritual heels and resist the temptations that cause you to slip and stumble?

Along with preparation, think of the need for those shoes to be properly fitted. No good soldier would even think of going out to battle if the shoes or boots are too big or too small for his or her feet. It would be easier for the enemy to advance if all the soldiers were distracted with tired, aching feet. Neither can we imagine civilians in everyday life dealing well with this situation, either.

Naturally, shoes of any kind and in any walk of life that don’t fit properly are not going to feel very comfortable. It’s been said, “Nothing seems to last as long as a pair of shoes that doesn’t fit.” This is true no matter how fashionable the shoes. You can add all kinds of things—from heel pads to insoles—but if these accessories don’t help then what good use are those great looking shoes going to be? They’ll probably never leave the closet and see the light of day.

The same goes with being a sermon in shoes. If our feet are not properly fitted “with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,” how far do you think our walk with Christ will get us? Therefore, we need to be ready, willing, and able to “spread the gospel news,” like the chorus says, and get “out of the closet” of our own comfort zone. And how can we be a light to the world if we don’t let our sermon in shoes shine out to others? 

True, it takes commitment, courage, and compassion to be a sermon in shoes. The quip is, “Some people can talk Christianity by the yard but they can’t, or won’t, walk it by the inch.” But if we’re going to walk the walk as followers of Christ then we will put forth the effort that comes with it. After all, we do have some mighty big shoes to fill as “imitators of God,” (Eph. 5:1-2).

We’re glad to be a sermon in shoes in spite of the fact that some will ridicule and mock us as we’re stepping in the Light. And, admittedly, they might have a valid reason if we put our foot in our mouth along the way and make a slip or two of the tongue.

No one, by the way, likes a shoe if the tongue is all bunched up with your foot inside. Fix the tongue, and the walk is much more smooth and easy, literally and figuratively. We must be careful not to put our foot, with shoe and all , in our mouth simply because we can’t hold our tongue. By the way, James 3:1-12 addresses the issue of controlling the human tongue.

And then there’s another important point about being a sermon in shoes…

Did you ever complain to a friend about something negative another person said about you? Maybe you were accused of having a certain flaw or weakness. And your friend told you, “Well, if the shoe fits…!” Ouch! But after some soul-searching you realized maybe your friend was really being honest and you really do need to make some improvement. Well, what are friends for, anyway? A sermon in shoes will take things like that in stride, right?

And speaking of soul-searching, or in the matter of shoes, “sole-searching”…

I have a real old, worn out pair of running shoes that I use for mowing my lawn. Now, I use a push mower, not one of those riding mowers that hardly takes any sweat and muscle and strain. I’m talking about a push mower that requires much walking over rough, hilly, bumpy terrain.

And so you can imagine the beating my grass-stained,  dried-mud-caked mowing shoes, with as many holes as Swiss cheese, has taken. I’ve duct taped them so many times in order to keep the soles on that they look like they’ve been through surgery after a bomb went off. Well, the other day, it finally happened…The duct tape wouldn’t even hold them. I lost the sole on each shoe before I had the lawn completely done. It took some “sole-searching” to find them hiding in the grass. 

Losing those soles got me to thinking about something else we pronounce the same way. Only it’s spelled s-o-u-l of which Jesus spoke—the kind he said you could lose if you gained the whole world—in Matthew 16:24-28. He was talking about the seriousness of discipleship. And that includes being a sermon in shoes without getting all bogged down about profiting from the pleasures of the world. You can have everything the ungodly world can offer but what good is it if you can’t cash it in for an eternal reward (the change from a mortal soul to an immortal soul) when Jesus comes in his Kingdom?

Being a sermon in shoes is truly a challenge. It not only means telling the good news to others. It also means showing it through empathy for others without complaining about our own woes. As one person commented, “Some people who had no shoes have been known to complain until they met someone who had no feet.”

It’s like the saying usually credited as a Native American aphorism, “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.” Some say the words are actually derived from a poem originally titled, “Judge Softly,” retitled later, “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins, ” which was written by Mary T. Lathrop and published in 1895.

Whether you’re a sermon in moccasins or shoes, you still need to put yourself in the place of others to understand their feelings and experiences through the love of Christ. We will then be able to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15). In so doing, others will be able to see what the Good News of God’s peace is all about—sort of like the arch support of a shoe. We all need support when the going gets rough (Ecclesiastes 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

And yet, as much as we try to support others, we must be careful not to appear as a “goody two- shoes.” Support? Yes. But not because we think we’re any better than someone else. Being a good sermon in shoes is reminding ourselves that no one—not even me, myself, and I—is above another person as far as virtue is concerned. As we’re told in Romans 12:3, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.”

And, as it says in Philippians 2:3, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself,” (NET).

Shoes are, indeed, excellent objects for learning lessons on life. I’ve talked about heels, souls, tongues, the importance good fitting, comfortable shoes and support. But what about the shoe strings, and the eyelets or eyes? If we don’t keep our shoes tied tightly, we’re likely to trip and fall and get hurt. Good, strong shoe strings are, therefore, required.

In the same vein, to be a sermon in shoes, we will want to prevent tripping, falling, and getting hurt. Thus, we want to be tightly laced to our principles and beliefs that keep us safe and secure in the Lord. In so doing, we let our eyes (eyelets, get it?) see and discover what God would have us learn and do while he controls our heartstrings through faith—a distinct characteristic of one who is a sermon in shoes.

Sadly, there are persons without Christ who are walking around in need of a sermon in shoes. So we go about the business of “soul-saving.” Our passion for lost “souls” prompts us to make sure we take the Good News to them. To those who receive that Good News, we will be timely messengers who share the Word that brings peace, joy, and ultimately salvation in their walk of life. Like it says in Romans 10:15, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.’” (Compare Isaiah 52:7).

And so…

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is group of church children singing, “A Sermon in Shoes,” http://youtu.be/uJLsm5xVqb0

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming to the Rescue

Luke 19.10

Whenever tragedy strikes, rescuers rapidly respond to save lives and prevent further danger. In any emergency—whether from natural disaster, accidental situations, or violent outbreaks—immediate help is needed. And we can be grateful for those who jump in without any hesitancy to come to the aid of the victims caught in their struggle to survive.

Lately, as we witness the shocking news of mass shootings in public gatherings, we think of those who come to the rescue to save others caught in harm’s way. In fascination, we watch first responders—police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medical technicians, and the like—bravely moving toward the chaos at hand. We commend them for fulfilling their duty, taking quick action in spite of endangering their own lives in the process.

We are also moved when others nearby come to the rescue. Take, for example, the most recent massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The mass shootings shook our nation as we first learned of a shooter that went into a Walmart in El Paso, opening fire into a huge crowd of shoppers on Saturday, August 3. In the wake of this evil act, 22 were killed and dozens more wounded. Then, during the early morning hours on Sunday,  August 4, a shooter entered Dayton’s downtown Oregon District—a collection of bars, restaurants and local businesses—killing 9 persons and injuring 27.

With all the news since then, we read of heroism in both scenes. This includes those who dove into the fray, some even acting as human shields, to save innocent lives. These were compassionate individuals who not only came to the rescue of loved ones but persons who were complete strangers.

An on-line article in the Dayton Daily News this week (8/8/19) fitly illustrates how good people are willing to help others in distress. In their article titled, “Many people rushed to help Dayton shooting victims,” Chris Stewart and Kaitlyn Shroeder give an intriguing report on their findings…

  • A critical care nurse fleeing from the scene, at first, stops and observes all the rows of wounded bodies on the sidewalk and starts to administered CPR on the ones who were will still alive.
  • A woman and her fiancé attempted to help the shooter’s sister who was among the critically wounded as the woman applied chest compressions she’d learned in a CPR course. All the while she kept praying for the victim to try to keep her alive. Sadly, however, the shooter’s sister died later.
  • A woman and her friend came running to the wounded and dying as soon as they heard shots being fired and found a man bleeding from a gunshot. She used her hands to try and stop the bleeding but he couldn’t be saved.
  • Many on the scene were said to hold up flashlights so people could apply first aid. Some supplied tourniquets and others provided comfort.
  • It was reported that 21 medic units were also tending to the wounded while police were busy chasing down the shooter.

After the shooting occurred, reports say it only took police about 30 seconds to bring down the gunman. Many believe that police officers probably saved dozens of other people from getting shot or killed had they not taken immediate action. They and all others who came to the rescue are commended for their acts of courage and compassion.

If someone has ever come to your rescue, whatever the situation, you can truly appreciate their efforts, concerns, and sacrifice for your care and safety. In fact, we can all be glad there are those who are even willing to take a risk at their own expense to come to our aid in time of need.

If we put this experience in a spiritual perspective, we can be even more thankful. For there’s another kind of situation we all find ourselves in as believers. And that’s the need to be rescued from the curse of sin.

You could say that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the First Responder to our need to be saved from the sin into which we’re born. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 6:23|). Christ came to rescue us when he died for us (Romans 5:6) so that we can be saved from the penalty of sin—the second death (Revelation 20:15; 21:8). For all sin requires that the penalty of death be paid.

Jesus died on the cross and took our sins upon him, enabling us to be forgiven of our sins (1 Corinthains 15:3; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 4:10).

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism, we enter a newness of life in him (Romans 6:1-11). We pursue God’s holiness, love, and truth as we’re filled with his Power. And our hope and faith is built upon the promise that Jesus will come again to establish God’s perfect Kingdom upon the earth (Hebrews 9:28; Titus 2:11-14).

The Good News for us is that Jesus will come again to rescue all his people from the curse of sin and death when he sets up God’s everlasting Kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 1:32-33; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 19:16). In several verses in Revelation, Jesus says, “I come quickly,” (3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). In other words, when he comes to rescue us, he will come “swiftly” according to his perfect timing.

The wicked, however, will not be saved as they will be raised, judged, and cast into the lake of fire (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Peter 2:1-9; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). God will put a final end to the evil that prevails in this present age. There will be no more curse of sin and death (Revelation 22:3).

One of the wonderful blessings of being a Christian is not only that Christ rescues and saves us, but that we can save others from the judgement fire and eternal death. Jude 20-23 says, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When we influence others through our Christian witness and they accept Christ, too, then we can rejoice knowing that we’ve been able to play a role in their salvation. That is one of the most satisfying feelings—coming to the rescue of others even as Christ has rescued us!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Christian singing artist, Lauren Daigle presenting, “Rescue”: http://youtu.be/gYR0xP1j4PY

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Holy Hate, Holy Love

Romans 12_9-11 chalkboard

Some people hate anchovies. Some people hate to get up early. Some people hate loud music. Of course, it’s just the opposite for others who love anchovies, who love to get up early in the morning, and who love to crank up the music especially when their favorite song is being played. Hate and love, in these situations, are relative.

It’s a different story, however, when hate creates hurt and love is destroyed in human relationships. Hate is a terrible weakness for humans. And it is to be resisted according to Biblical teachings since it has negative consequences.. As it says in Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”

Human hate is all over the news these days. You don’t have to look very far to see it in the media, politics, Hollywood, or in any other group. And just the fact that hatred plays a major role in crime and violence between co-workers, families, neighbors, and even strangers, shows how serious the problem can be.

As much as human hate is to be avoided, there’s another kind of hate that we could label as “holy.” This is the kind of hate that God has toward things that are considered unholy. For God is a holy God and, therefore, hates those unholy characteristics that fall under the categories of “sin” and “evil.”

In his book, Systematic Theology, the late Dr. Alva Huffer pointed out, “God cannot sin. He can neither approve sin nor tolerate sin. If God were to approve sin, he thereby would cease to be holy.”

God’s holiness is why he hates sin. And it’s why we as Christians want to hate sin, too. For if we truly love God, we will hate sin and the evil it produces. For example, the Bible says,

“Hate evil, you who love the Lord, who preserves the souls of His godly ones; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked,” (Psalm 97:10, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

“A righteous man hates falsehood, but a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully,” (Proverbs 13:5, NASB).

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate,” (Proverbs 8:13, NASB).

To love the Lord and hate evil means that we are not to approve of actions which God does not approve simply because we love him and he knows what’s best. There are many things that God hates which we should hate, too. Here is an interesting list I found on the web titled, “At least 43 Things That God Hates,” http://www.livingtheway.org/43things.html

You might be somewhat surprised to read about some of the things God hates. Indeed, many of these things God hates are found to be acceptable, or at least tolerable, in today’s permissive society. And so it should not surprise us that the ungodly world hates those who would detest the same things which God detests (John 15:18-25).

If we, as Christians, pursue holiness as we are instructed (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16), then we will develop a holy hate toward the same things God hates. This might sound strange. But when you think about it, it is all based upon our deepest love for God and his righteousness and justice. That is why we strive for moral excellence and purity in our own lives while we sincerely desire this for others, too.

Through Christ, we are able to strive toward such moral excellence and purity. Holy hate toward evil is, therefore, nurtured and developed through the saving grace of God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we are forgiven of our sins. And because we love him and his salvation so deeply, we are committed to live in God’s holiness and perfection while hating sin and evil.

The things we hate as believers in Christ are in correspondence with the love we have of God. So, we may hate evil yet love others in spite of the evil they produce. In First John 4:19-21 it says, “We love, because he first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also,” (NASB).

The fact that love is a command shows we must hate sin which violates God’s commands but, on the same token, love the sinner in obedience to his commands. Our submission toward God keeps hatred toward sin and evil in check with obeying his moral principles. Thus, we do not take matters into our own hands that would violate those principles but allow God’s will to be done.

We must remember, God is the Judge in all matters because his morality is perfect and we aren’t, (Romans 12:17-21). So, to what extent do followers of Christ go when it comes to applying his holy standards requiring us to hate sin and evil?

There was an instance where Jesus spoke of hate in terms of being his disciple. He said something that seems kind of strange if it’s taken out of context. Jesus commented, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sister, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciples. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:26-27, NASB).

Common sense tells us that Jesus wasn’t advocating hate in violation of God’s own command to love. Jesus used hate in this context to strongly point out the extreme urgency of self-sacrifice when it comes to being his true disciple. We must be willing to give up everything—including those we love dearly, and even our own life—if we’re truly committed to serve him. It’s all a part of counting the cost of being his disciple because of our undivided love for him (vss. 28-32). “So,” Jesus says, “therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions,” (v. 33). In other words, Jesus requires total loyalty if we are to follow him.

Only through Jesus can we hate the things that are unholy and love the things that are holy. Christ transforms us and our way of thinking to be like him (Romans 12:2-3; 13:14). As the Apostle Paul urged, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…” (Romans 12:9-10, NASB). And that is how we can have holy hate and holy love.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Our love for God and hate toward evil is based upon our reverence toward God’s holiness. Here is a worship song by Chris Tomlin, “Holy is the Lord,” that speaks of the joy and strength we receive as we praise him for his holiness: http://youtu.be/coROJgo5mqw

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking Advantage of the Jewish Advantage

Israel's role in the kingdom

“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God,” (Romans 3:1-2, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

It is said that after the Six-Day War in June, 1967, Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser said the war was unfair because Israel had two million Jews and he didn’t have any.

Ever since Israel was recognized as a nation in 1948, there has been much conflict with the Arab nations. It came to a head in June of 1967 when a brief yet bloody war broke out between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Against all odds, Israel miraculously triumphed.

Part of the victory included the capture of the older portion of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount, Israel’s holiest site. Many Bible experts believe this plays a major role concerning the prophetic signs pointing to Jesus’ near return (2 Chronicles 6:6; 7:16; 33:7; Luke 21:24).

Meanwhile, we stand in admiration of the way God deals with Israel. For, despite their weaknesses and failures throughout history, Israel remains the chosen people of God. This is an advantage that goes all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the covenant God made with them and their families (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:5-7, 18; 17:1-8; 22:16-18; 26:2-5; 28:13-15; 35:10-12; Exodus 2:23-25; 1 Chronicles 16:13-19; Romans 4:13).

As generations passed and King David enters the scene, we find that God established another covenant that would also have a part in the Jewish advantage. God promised that through the lineage of David, the Messiah or Anointed One of God would come to save Israel and rule on his throne forever in his kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:7-14). The Bible points out that Jesus, who is of the Davidic line, is the One who will fulfill this covenant (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-12; Luke 1:32-33).

Israel, therefore, was entrusted with “the oracles of God,” meaning that the Jewish people have been entrusted with the very Words of God. His promises and plans revolving around the Good News of God’s coming Kingdom and Jesus Christ, his Son comes through the Jewish line (Galatians 4:4; Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:1; Romans 1:3). 

The Church has an invested interest in the prophetic role that Israel plays in the world. For when Jesus returns, both Israel and the Church will be in God’s Kingdom (Jeremiah 31:9, 31-34; Ezekiel 11:17-20; 37:23, 26-28; Daniel 9:24; Zechariah 12:10-14; Romans 11:25-27). The Holy Scriptures reveal that Israel will be exalted among all the nations when the Messiah, Jesus, rules the world (Deuteronomy 14:2; Isaiah 60:1-22; 61:5-6; 66:19-21; Zechariah 8:20-23; Revelation 21:12).

This scene is much different than today where the Jews are mistreated in so many different ways. But God will put an end to the way the Jews are mocked and vilified when Jesus comes, according to his Word. They will be converted and saved when Jesus—the One they once rejected long ago as their Savior—appears from the heavens and fights against those who oppose him (Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 12:10; 14:3-5; Revelation 1:7; 17:13-14; 19:16).

God’s Word shows that the Jewish advantage is our advantage as believers in his Son. Jesus Christ, himself a Jew, is at the heart of it all. And when Jesus enters our hearts, we have the advantage, too— the advantage of salvation by faith in God’s wonderful grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8; see also Romans 6:12-23).

And here is real irony to ponder: The Jewish advantage of being “entrusted with the oracles of God” didn’t prevent the Jews from seeing the truth that Jesus is the true Messiah and Deliverer sent to save them. As shown in this post, that will change in due time when Israel is converted to Christ at his second coming. But our advantage, in the meantime, is that their rejection of Jesus led to our opportunity of salvation just as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 11.

In taking advantage of the Jewish advantage, we must always keep in mind that God promised to Abraham, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse…” (Genesis 12:3). While we are hearing much negativity about the Jews among the media and politicians, it is my observation that they are putting themselves at a great DISadvantage in lieu of this promise. And, as history proves, God doesn’t take very kindly to those who revile his chosen people—for example, the outcome of the Six Day War.

Thank God, we have a U.S. President that favors Israel and the Jewish people. This includes his leadership in moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. And the results are blessings on our nation— such as, improved economic conditions, increase in jobs, unemployment down, according to statistics. And if I might be so bold as to add this observation without intending to sound “political”: I find it interesting, in my view, that the “socialists” who hate President Trump are usually the same ones who detest Israel and the Jews.

The truth is, one day we’ll all have to give an account to God. And I would rather choose the Jewish advantage than take the DISadvantage others have chosen. For we know the blessings that will come and the REAL war that will be won against sin and evil and death (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, 50-58; Revelation 16:13-16; 19:11-16; 21:4, 7-8).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. A major advantage is that, in a large way, Israel’s hope runs parallel to our Christian hope as reflected in Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah: http://youtu.be/c_9N1ldPtQ8

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Loving Memory of a Wonderful Mother-in-Law


Rosemary Shute (August 14, 1930-July 1, 2019)

She lived, she laughed, she loved. These words repeatedly pop into my mind as I think about my mother-in-law, Muriel Rosemary Shute (nee Beardwood), who fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 88 years on July 1, 2019 after a long and valiant struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

From the time of her birth, August 14, 1930 in Welland, Ontario, Canada, Rosemary was a fighter. She entered the world a premature breech baby weighing only 4 pounds, was incubated on her parents wood stove, and was so delicate she had to be carried on a pillow, according to the family. Yet she overcame and lived a good, long life.

Her younger years were not without sorrow, however. Her mother, Flora, died of cancer in her early 50’s, when Rosemary was only 16 years old. Her older siblings took her under their wings especially her sister, Ivy and her brother, Edgar. Ivy, who was 15 years older than Rosemary, became a kind of surrogate mother to her.

Rosemary’s father, Harry, suffered from hardening of the arteries which is known today as Alzheimer’s. He had to go into a sanitorium and died when Rosemary was only in her early 30’s. It was another devastating loss in the family. But close ties with the family and friends kept them strong over the years. And Rosemary grew up to appreciate the preciousness of life as well as the importance of family, friendship, and faith.

Many in her church family fondly remember the times she went on golf outings and bowled with fellow members. Indeed, she was quite active in her church, singing in the church choir, presenting solos, and duets with her husband, Howard, a dedicated church leader in his own right. She also served in various church positions including Sunday School superintendent and church deaconess, as well as involvement in church fundraisers.

But one activity in which Rosemary will always be remembered is her “incredibly funny skits” for church socials, as members close to her recall. Not only did the members get many laughs, but she got a lot of chuckles out of the skits herself. As one couple reported, “Rarely could she get through one of these presentations without her breaking into giggles and snorts and eventually full on laughter, infecting all of us to join in.”

And that was her nature.

Yet, along with her jovial nature, my mother-in-law was a hard worker. Moreover, she was very efficient at what she did whether it was cleaning hotel rooms, tying grapes, or simply keeping house. Indeed, she always kept a tidy house!

She even opened a restaurant she called “Rosemary’s Inn.” Well, actually, it was only open for one evening. That’s when I came up from my home in Ohio to visit Diane, at that time my girlfriend. So, to make the occasion romantic, Rosemary fixed the two of us a nice meal, served on a small table for two, complete with a lighted candle illuminating the darkened living room for effect. Diane’s mom played the part of a waitress, apron and all. And nothing would do but Diane and I had to dress up for all of this. It was all in fun.

Us two “love birds,” as she called us, had an elegant evening much to the joy and pleasure of the one who would become my mother-in-law. Every time I brought back the memory of that romantic night at Rosemary’s Inn and asked if it was still open, she would grin and say, “Nope! It’s closed.”

Whether it was a game of Sorry, Checkers, or Crokinole (a Canadian board game consisting of flicking small wooden discs into the center and scoring points) with her family, my mother-in-law always enjoyed herself, win or lose. 

Everyone you’d talk to, including her children, testify of her joy for life and sense of humor. Words like “fun loving, caring, friendly, smiley, joyful” describe the kind of personality she had. And I remember how she liked making others smile, too.

When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon in Toronto (Was it REALLY 45 years ago? My, how time flies!), we stayed at her parents’ home in Niagara Falls before leaving the next day to live in the states. Just a few days earlier we were married at the Glad Tidings Church of God in Fonthill, Ontario, about 12 miles away. All of our wedding presents were being held at her parent’s house until we were going to leave.

When we returned to their house from our honeymoon late in the evening and came up to our bedroom, we pulled back the bed covers only to find rice spread everywhere in the sheets and pillows! Diane’s mom put them there as a sort of “welcome” to our new married life together. The next morning, when we told her about the “surprise” we found, she just grinned from ear to ear acting innocent about the whole thing.

We had so many wedding gifts, we could barely fit everything into our car. We were concerned that we’d have to pay a large duty for them when we crossed over the border at customs.

As we were preparing to leave the house, my mother-in-law not only sent us away with a teary good-bye, and a hug. She suddenly threw a handful of confetti on us in the car as we began to drive away, wishing us newlyweds a fond farewell. Confetti was everywhere: On the dashboard, in the seats, on the gifts that we had packed, and all over our clothes and hair.

When we arrived at customs in Buffalo, New York, we pulled into the office for inspection. We had a long list of the gifts and their estimated value to report to the officials. When we told them we just got married, they said, “Obviously. We can tell by all that confetti on you!” They took it humorously and let us a cross into the U.S. without paying any duty—thanks in large part to my mother-in-law and the confetti!

One thing I think is most unique and that’s having my mother-in-law as one of the members of the church I pastored. This includes all my in-laws, as well. For the Glad Tidings Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), Ontario, Canada, is my wife’s home church where her siblings continue to remain active. I was privileged and blessed to have pastored the church there for almost 12 years (2002 to 2014).

And throughout those years, I greatly enjoyed being my mother-in-law’s minister. When I was up at the pulpit each Sunday, I appreciated seeing her seated in the pew beside my father-in-law, as they took part in the worship services. And when I would come up with a mother-in-law joke in the message, especially on Mother’s Day, I could always count on getting a laugh out of her each time.

When she eventually entered the retirement home, I often visited her, ate meals together, and sometimes I’d bring her communion. In fact, she always looked forward to my coming there to help the social director, also from our church, who led hymn singing with all the other residents each month. As I mentioned, she loved to sing and enjoyed the camaraderie with all the other fellow residents and staff.

“Mom” Shute truly had a spirit about her that everyone came to love and admire. Her bright smile and sparkling eyes were seen in her love and zest for life. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law and the encouragement she gave me even when she laughed at my corny jokes and puns.

It always tickled me whenever she called me her “most favorite son-in-law.” Never mind the fact that I was her ONLY son-in-law. But I could turn that around, as well, and say, “She was my most favorite mother-in-law,” even though she’s the only one I ever had. I can just hear her chuckling about this remark.

Her love for life was reflected by her love for her beloved husband, her children, her church family, her relatives and many friends. She loved to be with people. And I believe this stems from her love for the Lord and being able to use her talents and gifts for his service. From the time she helped with the children in the church, and even being a foster parent for a while, she loved to help others and make their day a little brighter.

Although much more could be said, suffice it to say that my wonderful mother-in-law left an indelible print upon our hearts. And while we’ll all miss her, we eagerly look forward to the Day when we shall see her again—that Day when Jesus comes to raise all the faithful asleep in Christ to immortality, and we shall forever be together with the Lord in his Kingdom. For this passage comes to mind:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

My we all find comfort in these words as we eagerly prepare for that Great Day!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is a song that was sung as a duet by my mother-in-law and father-in-law at church, and lovingly presented at this time in their memory: “He Touched Me” https://youtu.be/oJNSlJqTku0


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Timing Is Everything


Back in 1960, singer/songwriter Jimmy Jones made the million-seller song, “Good Timin’.” The R & B song relates the historical encounters of David and Goliath, and Columbus and Queen Isabella to the prospects of a boy meeting the right girl at just the right time. https://youtu.be/OfeRtYZsVOU

Good timin’ is important in many other ways, too. Whether it’s hitting a home run, performing a death-defying stunt, telling a funny joke, making a sale, saving someone from danger—all these examples show that timing is everything for achieving success.

With God, timing is everything, as well. It’s all a part of his perfect nature. For, since he is perfect, so is his timing.

From the time he created the world to the time he called a people for his name, God’s timing has always been and always will be spot on. In fact, the eternal God who invented time controls time according to his own plan and purpose.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, wise Solomon declared, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). Whether in good times or bad times, God never loses control of the times and seasons in which he has put into motion (See verses 2 through 8.). In effect, we humbly recognize his power over time and put our trust in his ability to provide for our needs.

Solomon’s father, David, prayed, “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me,’” (Psalm 31, 14-15, NASB).

When we put our trust in the Lord and his timing, we can be assured of his blessings. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end, (New International Version, NIV).

As we put our trust in his perfect timing, the Bible instructs us to wait patiently in the Lord. This is often more easy to say than do. We want him to act upon our wishes immediately not later when he is ready to respond. It’s like praying, “Lord, give me patience and I want it now.”

Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord,” (NASB).

Speaking of waiting on the Lord, I especially like Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary,” (NASB). I believe this verse not only touches our hearts in the present, but applies even more importantly to a future time when God will give his people eternal safety, prosperity, and peace. As the eagle majestically soars higher and higher over the all the tumult below, believers will soar in the heights of glory in God’s wonderful Kingdom, to overcome life’s difficulties and disasters forever in the Kingdom of God.

God demonstrated his ability for perfect timing when his Son was born at just the right time and place. According to Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” (NIV). Not only Jesus’ birth, but his entire ministry including his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven came at the precise time God had planned—all for the sake of keeping his promises.

God’s timing is such that he is giving us adequate time to commit our lives to Christ, his Son, so as to be ready for the coming Kingdom (Acts 17:30). God is patient, giving us all the opportunity to repent and turn to him through Christ (2 Peter 3:9). But one day, when the right time comes, God will send his Son back to this world and only those who are ready for his coming will enter God’s Kingdom (Matthew 24:42-51; 2 Corinthians 6:2).

Good timin’ is God’s timin’. And, when we live according to his timin’, we will be in perfect timin’ for the countless blessings he has promised to those who follow him. Yes, timing IS everything!

Good News (and Good Timin’) to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a beautiful worship song, “In His Time,” http://youtu.be/UptqAjXLZWo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happiness and the Law


July 4th

The joke is told about an officer in a police helicopter who spotted a car speeding down the Interstate. He radioed his partner on the ground and the patrol officer in the car stopped the speeder and began writing a citation.
“How in the world did you know I was speeding?” the man asked.
The patrol officer didn’t say anything but pointed skyward.
“Aww,” the man moaned. “You mean, He’s turned against me, too?”

The speeder wasn’t happy, thinking that the police wasn’t the only authority out to punish him. His conscience bothered him for he knew there was a Higher Power to whom he must answer for breaking the law.

This scene brings to mind the proverb that says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law,” (Prov. 29:18, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Another word for “vision” is “revelation.” God’s Law was divinely revealed through Moses who recorded it when he was leading Israel to the Promised Land. It is outlined in what is called, “The Ten Commandments,” (Exodus 20:1-17; 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13). Without his Law, there would be no restraint in a civilized society. And without restraint, there is no order.

Sadly, some believe that we do not need God and his Laws of order in our society. They assert their belief on the words, “wall of separation of church and state.” Besides what they’ve already done to take God out of public institutions and property, they would also like to abolish words like, “In God we trust,” from our money, and “So help me, God” from oaths stated in Congress.

Just the talk of these issues cause strife and anxiety among many.

Of great significance regarding our legal system is that the Hebrew-inscribed Ten Commandments held by Moses are sculpted on the Supreme Court building. Not surprisingly, there are some who are trying to have this removed, too. Just think of it: The Supreme Court of our land without a visible reminder of the Supreme Laws of God to guide and direct the ones who make landmark decisions according to their own interpretation of the laws by which we live.

While most persons will agree that something just doesn’t seem right in all of this, others insist they are justified for removing God from our laws and institutions. Unfortunately, this situation is created because many do not understand what “wall of separation of church and state” truly means.

Here is a simple explanation from a Time.com article updated January 16, 2018, written by James Lankford, Senator from Oklahoma, and Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. An excerpt from the article titled, “The Real Meaning of the Separation of Church and State” says,

Jefferson’s famous phrase came in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. The Baptists were worried about the freedom to practice their faith, writing to Jefferson, “what religious privileges we enjoy, we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights,” which is “inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”

Jefferson wrote back that religious liberty, free from state tampering, would be a key part of the American vision. The Constitution, he wrote, would “restore to man all his natural rights.” In this same letter, Jefferson explained the intent of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This, he said, built a “wall of separation of church and state.”

Jefferson was not suggesting that religious people or religious motivations should be exiled from public debate. As a matter of fact, the letter was from a religious people appealing to an elected official for their rights — an elected official who, by the way, attended church services during his administration inside the United States Capitol. http://time.com/5103677/church-state-separation-religious-freedom/

We understand, therefore, that God’s Law was never meant to be kept separate from our government and the constitution. In fact, it’s because of respect and obedience of God’s Law that our nation was formed. Our founding fathers knew, for example, that without God we could not enjoy the freedom he has given to us—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, along with basic human rights. They knew that without God’s Law our country would inevitably suffer from unrestrained chaos and disorder that would prohibit such freedom and bring on oppression and tyranny.

Here’s what a few of them said:

  • “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” [Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted”, February 5, 1775]
  • “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” [JOHN ADAMS, Signer of the Declaration of Independence; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States]
  • “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” [THOMAS JEFFERSON, Signer and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence; Third President of the United States]
  • “Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others…[T]he great pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.” [PATRICK HENRY, Patriot and Statesman]

The Declaration of Independence, signed by our nation’s founders, recognizes God and his Law. They referred to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God—in other words, Laws of a higher, divine order—”…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and inserted, “Laws of Nature,” and “Nature’s God” he was referring to God’s Law, founded in God’s Word. But where did Jefferson get these now-famous words?

It is pointed out that Jefferson was a student of Lord Bolingbroke, an English politician, government official, and political philosopher. According to Lord Bolingbroke the Law of Nature’s God is the Law which is found upon God’s Word. Bolingbroke reportedly wrote to English Poet, Alexander Pope, saying,

“You will find that it is the modest, not the presumptuous enquirer, who makes a real, and safe progress in the discovery of divine truths. One follows nature, and nature’s God; that is, he follows God in his works, and in his word.” (article by Bill Fortenberry, “What is the Law of Nature’s God?” The Federalist Papers, Current Events, 4/6/2013. https://thefederalistpapers.org/current-events/what-is-the-law-of-natures-god)

Those who would try to erase God and his Law from our American system are fools. They reject our historical foundation—a foundation based on the moral and spiritual instructions of God’s Word. Without it, we have no liberty. Freedom is lost.

As the wise man wrote, “Happy is he who keeps the law.” When the Law of God was given to Moses, the key to blessings was revealed. Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.”

If wonderful blessings are granted to God’s chosen inheritance, Israel, then think of the blessings our nation will enjoy if all Americans follow those same principles, too! We, likewise, will be happy as a nation enjoying power, prosperity, and protection “under God.”

Have a happy Independence Day to all fellow Americans!
Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. You’ve heard the song, “America the Beautiful.” But you’re probably only familiar with the first verse. Here’s the song presented by Twila Paris with other verses that are also inspiring. Notice, especially, the verse that has the words, “America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”   

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment