Friday, April 26, 2013

"I Know Not What Awaits Me"

“I Know Not What Awaits Me”
James 4:14
  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

News Headlines ~ Chicago Tribune ~ December 30, 1876  
Gospel Singer and Song Writer Burns To Death in Tragic Train Wreck

The railroad train on which Mr. and Mrs. P. P. Bliss rode to their death left Buffalo, New York, on Friday afternoon, December 29, 1876. At eight o'clock that evening, while approaching Ashtabula, Ohio, and crossing a ravine, the bridge gave way, and the train, with its 160 passengers plunged into the ravine. 

It was the worst winter night of the year and the Pacific Express was three hours behind schedule. The train was creeping across the bridge, when something under the bridge snapped. For an instant, there was confusion, the cracking of wooden beams, and then the crash of the train, headlong into the ravine.  For a moment there was silence and then arose the cries of the injured and suffering; the few who remained unhurt hurried to help others or to escape from the shattered cars. They crawled out of windows into freezing water waist-deep. Men, women and children, with limbs bruised and broken, and some pinched between heavy timbers, begged with their last breath for help, which no human power could give. 

Five minutes after the train fell, fire broke out. The fire was fanned by high winds, keeping the wooden coaches ablaze. Mr. Bliss succeeded in escaping from the wreckage and crawled to safety through a window.  He soon realized his dear wife was pinned under the ironwork of the seats. Returning to the car, he bravely remained at her side attempting to release her maimed body from the mangled beams. Men who, in the bewilderment of the shock, went back after wives and children and found them suffocating and roasting in the flames. In less than ten minutes after the catastrophe, every car in the wreck was on fire. There were no remains that could ever be identified from the fire. The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. P. P, Bliss were never recovered but his trunk reached Chicago safely.

When the trunk was opened, it was found that the last song that he had written, before his death, began as follows: "I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes..." The trunk contained many hymn-poems which he had not yet written the music for. One song not yet finished was My Redeemer, which became world famous, when music was added by James McGranahan. 

My Redeemer
I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

Sing, oh, sing, of my Redeemer,
With His blood, He purchased me;
On the cross, He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant pow’r I’ll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

                      ~ Words by P.P. Bliss

Thought: God alone knows the future. Our life it is like a puff of smoke or like one’s breath that appears for a moment and then vanishes away. The true Christian submits his life to the Lord and is not presumptuous to think he knows what is best for himself or what tomorrow will hold. No matter what may await you, my friend, when you trust Christ as your “Redeemer,” victory is given over sin and death and hell. P.P. Bliss wrote of his “Redeemer” for he knew Him as Lord and Savior and experienced the wondrous triumphant power that paid the debt of sin and made him free.

Though P.P. Bless suffered greatly at the side of his dear wife, I am assured he never regretted his act of love towards her or was ever sorry he knew Christ and His great love for him.

(Read the last verse of the song.)

I Know Not What Awaits Me

I know not what awaits me,
   God kindly veils mine eyes;
And o'er each step of my onward way
   He makes new scenes to rise;
And every joy he sends me comes
   A sweet and glad surprise.

One step I see before me.
   'Tis all I need to see,
The light of heaven more brightly shines,
   When earth's illusions flee;
And sweetly thro' the silence comes
   His loving "Follow me."

O blissful lack of wisdom,
   'Tis blessed not to know;
He holds me with his own right hand,
   And will not let me go,
And lulls my troubled soul to rest
   In him who loves me so.

So on I go, not knowing,
   I would not if I might;
I'd rather walk in the dark with God
   Than go alone in the light;
I'd rather walk by faith with him
   Than go alone by sight.

                                 by P.P. Bliss

Friday, April 19, 2013

For the Time Is Near

For the Time Is Near
A Quick look at Revelation

Revelation 1:1-3
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

The book of Revelation begins and ends with a blessing to those who read and hear the words of this book and who keep what it says–––for the time is near. Sometimes I think people are confused by this wonderful book thinking it is bizarre and mystical but may I encourage your heart, it is neither. The book of Revelation has as it’s central theme, Jesus Christ. It is all about Him, His majesty and His glory and as the curtain is pulled back, John describes for us; the vision of the revelation of Christ, the unveiling of who He is, using song, poetry, symbolism and prophecy.

The book of Revelation is said to be a gift from the Father to His Son as a reward for His perfect and humble service while on earth. The purpose of Revelation is to exalt Christ and bestow upon Him a name above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5,8-11). Revelation communicates the events of Christ’s second coming and warns the church of the danger of sin. It depicts the reverent worship around the throne of God with all it’s splendor saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, to open the scroll and then the appearance of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse–––the beginning of the judgments. 

There’s a war waged in Heaven with Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels. They’re not strong enough to prevent Christ from coming again and establishing His millennial kingdom and are permanently cast down from heaven to the earth. (Woe, to the inhabitants of  earth).  The saints begin to rejoice saying; Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10). 

The ringleaders of world wide rebellion will exercise their authority and perform great signs of their own to imitate Christ’s. The world system will become fascinated with worshiping the Antichrist and he will encourage and demand worship of himself above every so-called god or object. He will be aided by his cohort, the false prophet, Satan’s last and most powerful lying deceiver. Satan, the counterfeit of the Father, Antichrist, the counterfeit of Jesus Christ and the false prophet, the counterfeit of the Holy Spirit will form the satanic false trinity in Satan’s final deception of the world. 

One hundred and forty-four thousand, that belong to God, will survive both Satan’s wrath and God’s judgments on the sinful world. They will emerge from the worst known holocaust in history, the tribulation. The bowl judgments, which depict the most unimaginable devastation and death, will affect only those who worship the Antichrist. The final world religion will be exposed as “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS,” and the impending King will be seen in graphic, powerful imagery as THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 

The church, the Bride of Christ, and all who are redeemed, will be presented to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ and the marriage of the Lamb ceremony will be complete. The return of the Conqueror, seated upon a white horse, who is called Faithful and True, wearing a robe dipped in blood with many crowns upon His head, wages war. The pinnacle of the Day of the Lord, a frightening catastrophic holocaust, called the Battle of Armageddon takes place. In an instant, the beast will be seized, along with the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil, and the false prophet will be banished or thrown alive directly into the lake of fire the place of eternal punishment. Satan will be bound there for 1,000 years and Christ will return and reign in a real kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. Then, Satan will be released for a short time and the Great White Throne Judgment will take place where continuous, unrelieved torment will be the final state of Satan, fallen angels, and unredeemed men.

The final vision portrays the eternal joy of the new heaven and the new earth, God’s glorious promise to the Saints. The New Jerusalem takes as it’s inhabitants, the redeemed, those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The splendor of heaven with eternal blessing, has in it’s midst, the Bright and Morning Star who will shatter the darkness of man’s night and bring to light the dawning of God’s glorious day, eternal life with Christ.

Thought: This is only a short account of the things to come following the Rapture of the church; but be assured, they will come to pass. 

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.   For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

In the ending statement of Revelation, Jesus Christ says, Surely I come quickly, speaking of His second coming to take back what is rightfully His. 

2 Peter 3:10-14
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,   Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Are you ready for His return? He is coming and His return is imminent. The Lord of glory offers heaven to those who accept His gracious invitation. Repent and put your faith and trust in the only One who can forgive you of your sins, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Investment for Life

 An Investment for Life
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

For some time now, I have been thinking about the topic of Home schooling.  In the years that I home schooled my children, (beginning in 1985), it was still somewhat of a new concept and therefore, looked upon as being unwise, unintelligent, somewhat rebellious, and to some, just plain ole stupid. Through personal experience, reading, and hearing about home schooler’s, I’ve concluded that the academic achievements as well as the spiritual and social dynamics are extremely successful.

We, my Pastor/husband and I, began to look back in history at the education of the early American Pilgrims in 1620, the Puritans in 1630 and up to the 1800’s, and found that most of their education took place in the home, either with the parents or a tutor (usually a pastor) providing the instruction. Our heart’s desire was to teach the Word of God to our children and provide for them a home that would train them up in the way they should go. We felt that training our children was a God-given responsibility––whether it be through home schooling, Christian school, or public education. We soon realized that for our family, it was definitely home schooling.

Realizing early that the most important benefit of home schooling was the spiritual aspect, our highest priority was for our children to have a personal relationship with Christ, believe that the Bible was the inspired Word of God and love Jesus. We learned that biblical principles could be applied to every subject and wrong philosophies could be exposed carefully and consistently–––which we did at the dinner table regularly throughout their teenage years.

We learned that famous people which were home schooled had a Hall of Fame and below is a short list of some of them who serve as further evidence of the success of parental commitment to this kind of teaching.

At least ten presidents were taught through substantial teaching in the home.

George Washington, called the “father of our country,” received most of his education at home by both patents until his father died when George was eleven.

Thomas Jefferson was taught to read and write by his father at home and later became the second president of the United States and responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence.

John Quincy Adams was completely home schooled until he was twelve years old and entered Harvard at the age of fourteen. The godly example and instruction of his mother, the commitment and sacrifice of both parents to personally train and produce integrity and wisdom in him,  enabled him to become the sixth president of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln was likewise educated through home instruction. Lincoln would walk to other households, reading nearly every book within a fifty mile radius. His godly character was instilled in him through his home schooling family which aided him in serving as president during the dark days of our country’s Civil War.

John Tyler, also a president, was “tutored at his father’s knee” and according to several historians, there was no record of President Tyler attending any public school before he enrolled in William and Mary College at the age of twelve.

William Henry Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt were all taught at home and all became presidents. Theodore Roosevelt was one of the few presidents who was endowed with an encompassing intellect, a love for literature and the arts. Franklin Roosevelt was trained in French and German and at age fourteen enrolled n Groton school and four years later entered Harvard.

President Woodrow Wilson developed a love for reading, and was taught by hands-on learning, skillful apprenticeship and biblical principles. His father would regularly take him on trips to teach and develop his interaction with adults which enhanced his ability to become the president of the United States.

Many Delegates of the Constitutional Convention Were Taught at Home. At least seventeen of the total delegates were schooled at home. These men drafted the most important and significant Constitution in the history of the world and two of them would become presidents, Washington and Madison.

Benjamin Franklin, printer, inventor, author, and U.S. minister to France was home schooled except for one year of grammar school and one year with a private tutor when he was between the ages of eight and ten. Apprenticeship, taught at home, trained him to be highly skilled in printing and because of his pioneering spirit, he taught himself science so well, it put him on the cutting edge of many scientific discoveries.

You might question the validity of these men and their claim to being trained at home, but I encourage you to investigate their lives and their educational resources to find this to be true. (It is interesting to note that Thomas Edison was expelled from public school at age seven because he was considered “addled” unable to think; confused by his public school teacher. He lasted only three months in formal schooling. Over the next three years, his mother taught him the basics at home, and as Edison himself stated, “She instilled in me the love and purpose of learning.”) (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.6, Macropaedia (Chicago: University of Chciago Press, 1983).

When he [Edison] was an overly tender 10 years old, his mother introduced him to an elementary book on physical science, and that marked the beginning of his life-long effort to teach himself. He set up his own chemistry laboratory in the basement. Since he was crushed by the overwhelming disadvantage of poverty and had no welfare net to save him, he went to work at the age of 12 and became self-supporting while continuing to educate himself and carry on his own experiments that eventually helped to revolutionize the world. Quote by Wyn Wachhorst, Thomas Alva Edison (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981), 180-83. 

Thought: The Word of God is the source of all truth and the standard by which all things are measured. Without a biblical foundation in your child’s education, your program will be incomplete. God will honor those who honor Him, especially those who commit to training their children in His ways–– the most important aspect of home schooling. 

Proverbs 23:19-26 ~ Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.  Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.  Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.  The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

This is a diligent and sober call to young people to adhere to the advice of their godly parents in all profitable instructions. Truth guides the heart and gives right principles that we might be kept back from sin and be well-informed in wisdom and instruction. Teaching the Word of God in the home is powerful and the means by which knowledge makes the riches of Scripture come alive. Home schooling is not just about teaching the ABC’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), but instilling in your children; a love for God, His Word, and His Ways. When we integrate all of these together, we have wise teaching which enhances learning and promotes a heart for God.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Martyred for Their Faith

Martyred for Their Faith 

John 15:20
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Easter is over, but, the reality of the Crucifixion is not. The cruelty of mankind against another human being is overwhelming to me. After completing a short study on the means of death used to kill many Christians, including our Savior, it brought me to write about a few brave men martyred for their faith in Christ.

Crucifixion was probably started first with the Persians (modern day Iran). Initially, the victim was suspended to keep their feet from touching holy ground. The Phoenicians, traders to many lands, seem to have also acquired the practice and probably spread it to other cultures, including the Greeks. Alexander the Great (a Greek) introduced the practice to Carthage, where it was picked up by the Romans. The Romans started using it around the time Jesus was born. The Romans perfected crucifixion as a punishment designed to maximize pain and suffering. It wasn’t about killing somebody—–it was about killing somebody in a really horrible way. Someone who was crucified suffered the maximum amount of pain. Crucifixion was also the most disgraceful form of execution. It was usually reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and vile criminals. The only time a Roman citizen was ever crucified was for desertion from the army.

Many people have been killed for their faith through the ages. The word martyr, is the basic Greek word used in the New Testament which is translated “witness.” Therefore, when Jesus said, “ye shall be witnesses unto me” in Acts 1:8 it had great significance to them. This does not mean that every follower of Christ will be killed for their faith, but because the witness of the early church followers resulted in their martyrdom, we use the word today to mean someone who dies for their faith.

Acts chapters 6 and 7 give us the account of Stephen’s martyrdom. Stephen is considered one of the first Christian martyrs after Christ himself. Stephen was speaking and preaching the truth of Jesus Christ to a stiffnecked (obstinate) and uncircumcised people. His words offended the listeners and they put together a council that brought false-witness to the things Stephen was saying. Acts 6:11-13 ~ Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.  And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,  And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law.

Stephen proclaimed that God’s own people were at fault for restraining the prophets’ call to righteousness. They even killed Jesus, the Christ. Matthew 26:59-60 ~ Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, The reaction of the people towards Stephen was to gnash on him with their teeth. They ran Stephen out of the city and stoned him. Stephen patiently accepted the persecution that was given to him and asked the Lord not to hold them guilty who had stoned him repeating Christ’s words on the cross. Acts 7:60 ~ And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 

Andrew was one of the first disciples of Christ and previously a disciple of John. John 1:40 says, One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.. Andrew was the brother of the impetuous Simon Peter. After the biblical record of Andrew’s life, he went on to preach around the Black Sea and was influential in starting several churches. He was the founder of the church in Byzantium or Constantinople. Tradition says that Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross refusing to be crucified in the same manner as Christ because he was not worthy.

Paul’s execution has been difficult to place the date but some have said it was in late A.D. 67; others in the spring of A.D. 68. Some writers say Roman citizenship exempted Paul from the lingering torture of death, such as crucifixion or being thrown to wild beast to be eaten alive, which was inflicted on so many of his Christian brothers and sisters. Paul was lead through the city by a number of Roman soldiers whose responsibility was to carry out the orders of the court. So that they would not attract too much notice inside the city, the condemned were escorted out of the city gates or walls to die on the Ostian Road which led to Rome’s river port.

You can be sure the soldiers guarding Paul had heard from his lips the story of Jesus and His love for them making his last few moments count for the Lord. If ever these soldiers had a vision of Christ, it was on the face of this man, as he was being lead to his own execution. Roman citizens were decapitated by the executioner’s axe or sword. According to the Roman historian, Titus Livius, the criminal was tied to a stake, cruelly scourged with rods and then beheaded. Of all the writings of the church leaders, none mention Paul as being scourged, assuming he escaped this torture. During the time of Paul’s execution, the sword, especially under the rule of Nero, was the mode of execution used. The sword was more cruel than the axe in that it took several strikes to complete the job and bring death to the accused.

Thought: Do you wonder what exacting was going through the mind of each of these men as they suffered? They knowingly were to experience excruciating pain and finally, death because of their faith and love for Christ. Could it be that Paul was looking upward towards Heaven remembering how Christ met him on the Road to Damascus? Did he recall how Christ Himself suffered outside the city for his sin repeating to himself, “I am the chief of all sinner?” Did he think with anticipation and joy he would soon be in the presence of God, face to face, with His Redeemer? Was Stephen rehearsing his words spoken to the high priest and the great council in the synagogue as he rebuked their unbelief and was accused of blasphemy? Or, was his heart filled with love and forgiveness for those who would stone him to death seeing the Heavens open and Jesus standing on the right hand of God?

Of course, we will never know what the answers are to these questions this side of Heaven, but we can be assured that God makes no mistakes and all that He does or allows is for the purpose of glorifying the One who gave His all on the cross for us.

2 Timothy 1:12 ~ For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

2 Timothy 2:12 ~ If we suffer, (endure) we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

2 Timothy 3:12 ~ Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.