Sermon/Poems

    Neil Swain:

Are You a Radical Reformer?

Music of the Heart

Company Retirement Plan

God's Circle

The Goodness of God

Stepping Outside Decorum

Changed Perspectives

The Nature of Forgiveness

The Tax Man Cometh

Communication

Faith and Works

Preparing to Sow

Little People

Where Are Your Riches?

The Christian Life

Rules and Regulations

Consistency

A Pearl of Great Price

Self Worth

The Plagues of Egypt

Destroying to Build

   Obie Burton:

Effective Prayer

God's Indescribable Gift

One Flock, One Shepherd

Adorning

Material Things

Riches of Christ

Choices

Christianity

The Old Rugged Cross

Even God Can Fail

   John Valverde:

Drawing Close to God

Busy Work

God is Good

Adversity and Discipline

Spirituality

Suffering for Christ

The Savor of Salt

Riches

Leprosy and Sin

Cheerful Giving

Pray Without Ceasing

In Everything Give Thanks

The Last Days

Winning Souls

Prayer

Priorities

The Ten Virgins

Unity

Someone Cares

Our Gracious God

   Eddie Ketchersid:

Life's Lemons

   Patrick Keagle:
Fruits of the Spirit

Christ's Church

Prayer Life

Walking with God

   Scott Gillet:

The Lost Son

Relationship with God

Beyond the Past

What is God's Will?

Who is God?

Life After Death

Soul Food

Working for the Lord


Mold and Make Me

Joshua's Faith

Faith's Flame

Peace or Panic?

   Craig Joslen:

Tolerance

Two Laws of Pardon

Forgiveness

The Truly Happy Man


   Patrick Porter

Pride and Greed

Choosing Life


    Leland Odneal

Who is God's Friend?

Evil, Pain and Suffering

Promises of God

Natural Disasters

     Juan Valverde

The Mind of Christ

Our Relationship with God

Die Once--Then Judgment

Above and Beyond

     Hal Crass

A Sincere Heart

Knowledge

Steps to Salvation

Choices, Decisions

Human Development

The Great Commission

What Motivates Me?

Worship

Temptation

Understanding Depression

What in the World is Life All About?

Life Changes

The Humble Shall Be Lifted Up

Forgiveness

Defeating the Enemy

    Walt Berry

Divine Relationships

      Les Reed

The Power of Grace


From Sermons by Neil Swain

Are You a Radical Reformer?

Christianity equals Catholicism,
from this world’s point of view.
If its members see discrepancies,
what are they to do?
Martin Luther, a German friar,
saw corruption going wild,
indulgences for every sin,
like Satan’s bastard child.
He nailed up thirty-nine complaints
upon the church house door,
a daring move against the pope
that none had tried before.
The “Restoration Movement”
was born to start a trend
as Protestants and others
tried the church’s faults to mend.
Isaac Watts was one reformer
who changed the way we sing,
wrote words for many songs and hymns
that make the rafters ring.
Until the 1600s,
nearly all the Christian songs
were directly from the book of Psalms
or Jewish chant-alongs.
Watts was a non-conformist,
a man before his time
who made religion personal
and put it into rhyme.
Oxford and Cambridge banned him,
his parents thought him strange,
as wordings of the scriptures
he sought to rearrange.
Thank God for men like Luther
and Isaac Watts and YOU!
The good deeds of your daily life
can make a difference too.

§

Music of the Heart

Jesus taught with many parables, a simple way to show
the folks what Christian living was to be.
Through metaphor and allegory– ancient video–
his every-day import was plain to see.

In classical music we can note a modern allegory
explaining Christianity for real,
the way that God intended, not a superficial rite,
but a way of life our friends can see and feel.

A beginning music student learns only notes and meter.
His plinking does not please most human ears.
But as practice takes him far beyond the dots and rests and measures,
the audience absorbs the tones it hears.

Too often Christians can’t get past the basic law: mechanics,
the rules beginners need for exercise.
The whole of the Biblical story–like a Chopin masterpiece–
is structure with beauty, plus many a twist and surprise.

It flows from beginning to ultimate end, transitions from notes to music,
beyond the jot and tittle of the law,
beyond rules and regulations and rites and ceremony
to the bottomless well of love from which to draw.

Man, with his willful, selfish pride, thought death would end the story
of the carpenter who came to change the plot.
But that was just the starting point of his eternal reign,
whether Jewish leaders liked the tale or not.

There really are no atheists–each person has his god,
perhaps his car or sports or education.
Everyone needs Christ to fill his life with purpose and with hope,
but some don’t recognize their own starvation.

What is the music I’m playing? Who am I being today
that the eyes of my friends don’t have that reflective glow?
Words really make a difference, example is supreme
in teaching them the things that they should know.

§

Company Retirement Plan


You’re gonna work forever? This company says no.
All must retire, some early–unplanned. Our policy says so.
A retirement plan is important, but most folks don’t enroll.
You will be retired longer than you work, and are gambling with your soul.
No benefits come to those who refuse to accept the company plan.
Acquaint yourself with enrollment steps as soon as ever you can.
Don’t rely on others for info which may be incomplete.
Contributions from pay and investments are requirements you must meet.
Analyze the job you are doing; we all have a specified task.
Are your projects approved by the Big Boss? Don’t be afraid to ask.
Read the document cover-to-cover. Getting sidetracked could mean disaster.
Busy-ness isn’t always productive if it doesn’t please the Master.
Working part-time is no option for earning a living wage.
To budget your paycheck takes foresight and skill, no red ink on each page.
Income must cover expenses, no credit cards allowed,
with a balance of spending and saving, that nest-egg well endowed.
Not a miser nor a spendthrift, keep your priorities straight.
Invest your assets wisely. A flock of con artists await.
With a focused approach, dedicate your time and effort in one accord
for guaranteed income annuity and some pre-retirement rewards.
Too many small projects may be hard to manage, beyond your expertise.
Experience, knowledge and wisdom help benefits increase.
All short falls are covered, insurance is free, but you must be pre-enrolled
and participating actively with an attitude brave and bold.
Think seriously of retirement; it’s coming sooner or later.
A drop-out can be re-enrolled with the Administrator.
Meet with our representatives, get on the right track soon.
Change that outdated portfolio and sing a happy tune.

§

God's Circle

Man’s relationship to God has changed thru the years,
according to plans divine,
a cyclical pattern that started with Adam,
their sometimes neglected  lifeline.
It had no physical structure at first,
in patriarchal days,
one-on-one communication,
no priest or house of praise.
Then came the tabernacle,
a mobile home for God
with a Holy Place where only the priest
in his glorified ephod
could offer the blood of bulls and goats
as atonement for sins of all.
Only Aaron and his sons
on the Lord could call.
Then Solomon built the temple,
God’s permanent dwelling on earth,
still with its separate places,
more splendor and more girth.
No worldly folk could enter,
segregation was the rule.
Women kept to outer chambers,
their involvement minuscule.
Christ brought his church full circle.
Now each saint is a priest,
a temple where his Spirit lives,
from the largest to the least.
We can talk to God at any time
thru our High Priest, Jesus Christ,
who paid for our redemption
thru his bloody sacrifice.
In his body, all are equal–
all free from bonds of sin,
all free to worship and to serve,
full of joy and peace within.

§

The Goodness of God

If God is so good, why does evil exist? Why is following him so hard?
We wish for a senile grandfatherly type, a benevolent retard
who says at the end of each perfect day, “A good time was had by all.”
No consequences for stupidity, no worries for sin’s downfall.

But God’s love is more stern and splendid than the kindness that we understand.
It insists on cleansing and changing us by his awesome, creative hand,
so we slowly become the best we can be, a lovely, divine work of art.
The transition  may be quite painful as he re-shapes a sin damaged heart.

The artist’s best efforts go into the work that he loves with all his being,
molding the clay with just the right touch, future characteristics seeing.
Perfection is his creative goal, beauty unaffected by time.
Do we really want less than God’s true love, the ticket to glory sublime?

As the Shepherd who tends to the flock he loves, he goes above and beyond
our natural tendencies to roam, creates a protective bond,
assuring our safety and comfort while training us to obey.
Contentment comes to the faithful, disaster to those who stray.
His heart must be repelled by our stains, demanding a cleansing so deep
that his love can someday rest well-pleased in his white, unblemished sheep

A parent afraid to discipline is not showing love at all.
The son surrenders his own will to a good father’s loving call.
Authoritative love sets standards, obedient love complies.
Without the growth from constant change, the wasting soul sickens and dies.

God’s love is a consuming fire, like that between man and wife.
His jealousy for his beloved expects faithfulness throughout life,
and maturity toward excellence with the help of his awesome love,
adorned as the bride on her wedding day and the honeymoon cottage above.

§

Stepping Outside Decorum

“A man after God’s own heart” was David, Israel’s king.
Relocating the ark of the covenant made him dance with joy and sing.
Wife Michal was embarrassed at this undignified celebration,
inappropriate for his regal position as head of God’s chosen nation.
King David’s response to Michal? “I celebrate here with God
and will do even more ridiculous things than dance in a priest’s ephod.”

“But everything shall be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
Do we sometimes take this scripture beyond its intent today?
Worship can become like a funeral when spontaneity dies,
choking out vitality and joy, enthusiasm, surprise.
We can’t stand any type of change, must stay in our old rut
that soon becomes much like a grave, our minds and hearts long shut.

Christ stepped outside decorum in his ministry on earth,
gave a whole new view of compassion, exploding into rebirth.
He shocked the scribes and Pharisees by touching a loathsome leper.
The paralytic healed on the Sabbath became an instant high stepper.
Levi, a hated tax collector, extorter, Jewish traitor
was chosen as a disciple and became an apostle later.

Forerunner of the coming Christ was his country cousin, John,
who lived out in the wilderness, no normal clothes to don.
Eating locusts and wild honey, and never drinking wine,
he served in his own peculiar way, which seemed quite out of line.
He oft was called a nut and maybe crazy as a loon,
but he believed God’s promise that the Christ was coming soon.

We should enjoy the Christian walk, not stifle our spark of life
in dignified stoicism with no happy trumpet or fife.
New converts’ enthusiasm often is put to death
by the old and staid and cynical before it can hardly draw breath.
We must examine ourselves each day, our motives to discern,
looking for ways to grow and change, never too tired to learn.

Do we encourage, like Barnabas? Gladly suffer like Paul?
Give aid to the poor and downtrodden with their backs against the wall?
Can we dance with joy like David, or act like his hateful wife?
Rededicate, rejoice, re-spark, reclaim a redeemed new life.
God gave us a song; we should dare to sing and praise the sacrifice
he gave for our salvation–victorious Jesus Christ!

§

Changed Perspectives

American colonists headed west with everything they owned:
fine china, crystal, furniture and more,
which wound up as litter on the plains, completely unimportant.
Now food to stay alive was the only score.
Their basis for decisions at the time was rather faulty.
Bad information may have urged them on.
Perhaps their fantasies and dreams preempted common sense
until reality began to dawn.
The cost of opportunity must be weighed and measured.
What’s critical today may change tomorrow.
To get ahead in business and make a million dollars–
instead of happiness, may turn to sorrow.
The long-term implications of daily small decisions
look harmless now as up the steeps we climb,
but we’ll rue that day of indiscretion, leaving in our wake
bleaching bones upon the sands of time.
New events create new models and new criteria
for our decision making through the years.
Perspective changes, sometimes daily. Nothing stays the same.
Gaiety is washed away in tears.
We all are on a journey that ends with a transition.
Our actions are controlled by our beliefs.
Fantasy and wishful thinking only cloud the mind,
waste precious moments that will cause us grief.
Our next frontier is heaven, eternal life decisions
that must be made in time for preparation.
Look beyond the here and now, evaluate the urgent,
get ready for that day of separation.
Survival or death are our options, God’s heaven or Satan’s hell,
two possibilities from which to choose.
We can join the team of winners with Jesus as our coach,
or ignore his calling and completely lose.

§

The Nature of Forgiveness

If we want forgiveness,
we, too, must forgive–
even our enemies,
hate to outlive.
Start with the simple,
your family, friends.
Practice makes perfect
if you only begin.
Love others as self.
Just what does that mean?
Sometimes loving self
can be less than keen.
We often know self
to be nasty, unloving.
Yet we feed and protect
our body from drubbing.
We wish ourselves well
in spite of our flaws
and know we’d be better
to follow God’s laws.
In self or in others
we hate evil ways–
greed, lust and deceit
that darken our days.
Forgiveness brings hope
that the once sinful man
may, with the Lord’s help,
become human again.
Lovable we may not be,
oft cowardly and vain,
but God’s love never falters,
refreshing as the rain.
His necessary punishment
can be an act of love,
to bring us back beneath his wings,
 warm as a woolen glove.
Forgiveness of another
may help us more than him,
relieve our heart of bitterness
that made our light grow dim.

§

The Tax Man Cometh

Matthew, the tax collector, was an outcast of the Jews,
and a loan shark for the hated ruling Romans.
When Jesus chose him for his team, a leader in his kingdom,
it must have seemed the very worst of omens.
A public works contractor, he bid for the right to provide
the monies for building projects and army needs,
collected from the citizens much like the IRS,
with fewer rules, encouraging his greed.
Working both sides against the middle, a traitor to his own clan,
he must have had few friends on either side.
Imagine his surprise when this wise and humble teacher
loved him anyway, would in his home abide.
The Christian movement didn’t care about a person’s background,
so hard for prideful Jews to understand.
This extraordinary man, a carpenter by trade,
hung out with sinners, made no great demands.
“Follow me!” he simply said, and was the perfect pattern
of loving the unlovable and lost.
His disciples could not fathom an “other worldly” kingdom
nor believe how much his loving them would cost.
But the outcast Matthew stayed the course, like everyone but Judas.
Did he write the little book that bears his name?
Was James, the son of Alpheus, also Matthew’s brother?
No post of earthly honor did he claim.
He just carried out his mission, used whatever little talent
he may have had to spread the wondrous news
of the Christ who gave his life blood to save his fallen people,
for lowly Gentiles just as well as Jews.
You think you’re not important, that God could never use you?
Today could be the perfect day to start
to make a change in history and Christianize the world.
Nobody is too small to play a part.



Communication

Communicating is hard to do,
with many complications,
even between a husband and wife,
but more so among nations.
Besides the language barrier,
some words have different meanings,
and emphasis shades in varied hues
the message we are gleaning.
“Boy, is she hot!” Is she bursting in flames?
“That gal is cool!” Is she freezing?
“Hey, he stole the teacher’s apple.”
A fruit or a lap-top seizing?
A subtle meaning may be lost
if we don’t understand
the circumstance or person,
the custom of the land.
The Bible is filled with examples
of hidden meaning to ponder,
to urge a deeper study of
the scriptures that make us wonder.
In the story of the poor widow
who gave her last mite to the poor,
there may be more questions than answers,
not much of which to be sure.
Was she shabbily dressed, perhaps dirty?
How was she treated by others?
Unfavored by God? Social outcast?
Did she have any sisters or brothers?
Does “poor widow” speak of family,
tribal culture,  social standing?
Did she think of herself as generous,
a pat on the back demanding?
Do we ostracize folks like this widow,
show more honor to the rich?
Could we give all we earn to the work of the Lord?
Or is our cart off in the ditch,
like the young ruler who went away very sad,
with money his most precious treasure.
Are we givers or takers/ Doers or whiners?
Thankful for gifts beyond measure?
Folks we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole
may be seen as more worthy by God
than those who warm the pews three times a week
but are time/talent/money tightwads.

§

Faith and Works

The law of Moses could not save man
because it required perfection.
Works of the law, the keeping of rules,
goes in the wrong direction.
Jewish Christians had some trouble
in turning loose of old ways,
tried to bring rites like circumcision
into the church’s young days
so that Gentiles could earn a relationship
with God through works of old.
The new law, bought by the blood of Christ,
brings perfection to the soul.
Grace spans the gap we could not cross
without divine intervention.
Works of merit cannot save us,
despite our good intentions.
Before Moses came upon the scene,
Abraham’s faith was proved
by the obedience of his actions;
 his knife-wielding hand was moved.
Elements of belief and action
comprise the faith that’s true.
Faith compels good works and service,
asking, “Lord, what can I do?”
Faith without works will starve to death–
it’s like the compulsion to breathe.
Our actions manifest our faith,
unlike demons who believe.
To follow the law meticulously
is impossible for man.
We must rely on grace from Christ,
who authored salvation’s plan.

§

Preparing to Sow

The parables of Jesus Christ always made a point,
were memorable to those who understood.
He spoke of sowing seed in various types of soil,
and in the fertile soil the crop was good.
The hard or stony places needed preparation;
else scattered seed there only fed the birds.
Preparing hearts to understand the message of salvation
is the first step for the best news ever heard.
A good example softens up abused and stony souls;
an act of kindness plows and breaks the ground.
Some eyes cannot see past the gripping hunger, thirst and pain
until that Christian “friend in need” is found.
We must pick our battles well and never waste the seed
that Christ has furnished for a healthy crop.
The words of life are meaningless to a starving man,
like planting precious wheat seed on blacktop.
A man with no religion cannot evaluate
the scripture that is preached, however plain.
The gospel is irrelevant unless it serves his need,
which is our Christian duty to explain.
Feed and comfort, listen, care, freely fertilize
show the love of Christ from day to day.
Remove the stones and hoe the weeds, water with your sweat,
and as you toil, take time to humbly pray.

§

Little People

I’m not really that important,
can’t do wonders like Peter and Paul.
What about the “little folks”?
Does God need us at all?
The Bible speaks of Crispus,
a leader of the Jews,
who gave up political power
to help spread the Lord’s Good News.
He helped the troubled Corinthian church
by being a good example.
Our chances to aid God’s people
in modern days are ample.

There was Gaius who was almost killed
by an unruly crowd,
traveled to foreign fields with Paul,
was never boastful or proud;
sponsored church meetings in his home,
a simple task we can do.
Every day brings more chances to help.
Doesn’t this sound exciting to you?

Aristarchus also traveled with Paul,
serving through good and bad,
imprisonment, shipwreck, a martyr’s death,
he gave everything that he had.
It was more than just worship three times a week,
then carelessly go on his way.
Dedication was proven by unselfish works.
He lived his faith every day.
We can be distracted by worldly concerns
and fail in our trials and trust.
Becoming like Jesus should be each day’s aim,
humble gratitude a must.

§

Where Are Your Riches?

How do we determine our worth--
by money or knowledge or fame?
By how often we show up at worship
and play the religion game?
Heroes of today are movie stars,
ball players and talk show hosts.
Our measure of self can often be seen
by what interests us the most.
Jesus shocked the religious crowd of his day
by befriending the humble and lowly,
and putting down the scribes and priests
as being less than holy.
Most of us think rich people are blest,
without a worry or care,
but money can be our undoing,
an idol and a snare.
Societal rules for determining wealth
are detrimental at best.
Christ changes our perspectives,
expects us to be unimpressed
by worldly standards and motives.
He judges by the heart,
by our attitude of gratitude
and the love that we impart.
He died for us while we were sinners,
accepts us just as we are.
From caterpillar to butterfly,
he makes us a superstar.
We share in his riches and righteousness,
reflecting his glorious light,
lead others from earthly darkness
to the realm where there is no night.

§

The Christian Life

In the first century, when the church was young,
how was the Christian seen?
Did the unbelievers view him
as a saint with his soul washed clean?
He was thought of as arrogant, haughty,
unwilling to socialize
in activities of the worldly,
their orgies to demonize.
He was considered petty
about the little things,
like worshiping the emperor
instead of the heavenly King.
Not believing in pagan idols
like Hera, Diana or Zeus,
he was looked on as an atheist,
 contrary and obtuse.
He was known as a trouble maker,
and blamed for every wrong
by the jealous Jewish leaders,
who agitated the throng.
He was part of a cult, rather scatter brained,
yet despite these worldly impressions,
one fundamental image emerged–
that of loving and hopeful expressions.
They all had a positive attitude,
charming and magnetic,
that drew the searchers to the Light
by an aura empathetic.
With our hearts and actions on the same path,
even in this age of doubt,
we can still lead by example,
show what Christ is all about.
We must be different, holy,
show our faith by works of love,
be ready every day for death
with our face toward God above.

§

Rules and Regulations

Human nature never changes–
we are always making rules,
forming groups for special reasons,
keeping out those crazy fools.
Hoops and hurdles for the masses
to protect the upper class
will ensure a better gene pool
as the years and eons pass.
We would like to think we follow
Christianity to the max,
like apostles from the get-go,
when the rules were not so lax.
In Jerusalem it started;
could the church become world-wide?
Could it spread to lowly Gentiles?
Isn’t Moses still our guide?
Barriers based on family lineage
were the first rules God erased.
Clothing, social status, money–
old ideas all replaced.
Persecution of the faithful
served to spread the great Good News
as the Christians fled to countries
where their faith was not abused.
Now the church was universal,
just as Jesus had envisioned.
Bitter was this pill to swallow
for those of the circumcision.
Gnostics soon thought up some new rules,
then came added pagan rites,
immorality condoned,
superstition to excite.
To restore our faith in Jesus,
back we go to century one
when the church was first established,
to the word of Christ the Son.
Married to him by baptism,
living right and doing good,
no perfection, test or license
for the earning of sainthood.

§

Consistency

Time and again, the Israelites disobeyed the Lord
until his patience wore extremely thin.
After the death of Solomon, they fought amongst each other,
then broke apart because of wanton sin.
The northern group was captured and served as common slaves,
never again to be known as a nation.
Soon the southern tribes were also taken in captivity,
rebellion causing their humiliation.
Not all of them were evil; a remnant still remained
who were always faithful to the Lord on high.
Why were these not spared the misery of serving pagan masters?
Why must good folks suffer shame and even die?
Too often we blame God, who only wants our good.
He tries to draw us back to him through change.
His wisdom looks ridiculous to the common man,
and the actions of his friends sometimes seem strange.
As with Daniel in the lions’ den, his friends in the fiery furnace,
no one should supercede the God we love.
True faith stands in the face of adversity and death,
assured of better things from up above.
God is consistent in protection of the faithful soul,
has a plan for us beyond our comprehension.
All the painful hist’ry of his people in the olden days
worked to bring the Christ on his exalted mission.
In time of strife and chaos, remember those like Job
who kept the faith, stood firm when all seemed lost.
Your positive attitude can affect those folks around you, watching,
when they see your willingness to pay the cost.

§

A Pearl of Great Price

Why is a pearl considered special,
a precious hidden treasure?
Why does the Bible speak of this
as rare beyond all measure?
It represents the captured time
that money cannot buy,
the slow process of patience
that no speed can satisfy.
It starts with just a grain of sand,
a trial for its host,
to irritate the oyster,
which then becomes engrossed
in coating, shaping, softening
a problem so finite.
A gem this rare and precious
cannot form overnight.
A Christian, like a costly pearl
takes time to grow and change.
The perseverance that we need
- our lives to re-arrange-
comes only from that grain of sand
to aggravate our soul,
provide the growth and change of heart
to reach our lofty goal.
Life is not an instant Happy Meal,
a drive-up window prize.
Perfection, like a pearl, takes time;
we needn't apologize
for human flaws and weaknesses
that are slow to go away.
Christ fills the blanks where we have failed
as we struggle through each day.
Building layer upon layer:
faith, goodness, knowledge, too,
self-control and perseverance,
godliness that's deep and true,
then kindness to our brothers
comes easier in time,
so that love can thrive within our hearts
a gem that now will shine.
We culture, build each other up,
as living rocks in Christ,
responding to the love he gave
when his life he sacrificed.

§


Self Worth

What is the source of your self worth -
Is it work or title or money?
Is it special skills or a prestige job?
A talent for being funny?
Accomplishments? Self sacrifice,
or pride in the family name?
Your children or your fancy house,
perhaps a claim to fame?
Solomon, wise in many ways,
said he had tried all this,
and found it to be vanity,
empty, meaningless.
God's love alone can give us worth,
give life some common sense.
The house we own, the car we drive
are of no consequence.
To labor in his service
is to be his love's conduit.
Whatever good we hope to do,
his strength will bring us through it.
He doesn't promise health or wealth,
just protection of our souls
as long as we are faithful,
pursuing lofty goals.
The blood of Christ can cover
our sins, both great and small.
We should emulate his sacrifice
and offer him our all.

§

The Plagues of Egypt

When Moses and the Israelites were held as slaves in Egypt,
the Pharaoh was supposed to be a god
who communed with other gods that controlled the universe,
thus religion was a government ramrod.
Planting, flooding, harvest had to do with their beliefs,
and they must appease the gods who ruled their lives.
Priests were their intercessors, taking care of rituals
while working folks were busy as bee hives.
Pharaoh was the focus, the awesome god on earth,
their contact here that dealt with Mother Nature.
As Israel's leader, Moses, interacted with the Pharaoh,
he was a threat, like a foreign legislature.
The river Nile, they thought, was their daily source of life
from Osiris, god of the underworld.
The first plague sent by God turned the water into blood,
his glory and omnipotence unfurled.
Their symbol of childbirth was the frog, a thing to worship.
To kill one was a crime deserving death.
When God sent hordes of frogs, invading bowls and ovens,
they seemed to multiply with every breath,
and Egyptians had begun to doubt their own creation symbol,
an anathema that filled their hearts with dread.
Who could make a meal and eat with them hopping everywhere?
Who could sleep with slimy frogs inside the bed?
Then came the lice that even interfered with priestly rites,
for these men of god must be devoutly clean.
The plague of lice was torture, proof that the living God
controls the earth and everything therein.
With a snap of his mighty fingers, he could destroy the structure
of their existence and their man-made idols.
Then swarms of insects pestered them and took away their pleasure,
another god had lost his earthly title.
God sent a plague on livestock belonging to Egyptians,
their source of sacrifices and their food.
He sent infectious boils to all Egyptian people,
and infected priests were in a surly mood!
Hail ruined the crops of barley, the food of common people,
and flax from which the cloth for robes was spun.
The locusts finished up the task, destroying what was left,
and even then the worst had not begun.
God had poked his finger in the eye of all Egyptian gods.
The people now had nowhere else to turn.
But Pharaoh still clung to the hope of salvaging his kingdom. 
Moses' plea to free the slaves was duly spurned.
None of these plagues affected God's clan, the Israelites,
and they did as they were told until the end.
They spread blood upon their door posts to avoid the very last,
killing of the first-born - of beasts and men.
Pharaoh's oldest son would someday rule in his father's stead,
had been groomed to be the next Egyptian god,
but that night God proved that he alone controls our life and death,
and to the angel gave a deadly nod.
Creator God has power beyond imagination,
both love and wrath no man can understand.
His grace has brought salvation to all who will obey,
but the rod of justice strikes at his command.

§

Destroying to Build

Only God creates from nothing.
We must tear down first to build,
use the things from his creation
such as sand and trees and steel.
When we exercise our muscles,
cells die off, replaced by new.
Grow or die, we're always changing.
Earthly choices are so few.
Hypertrophy or atrophy -
do you have a growing soul?
Firm foundation in the Word?
Christian attitudes your goal?
Does its strength improve with testing?
Virtue, goodness on the rise?
Knowledge, character and motive
should increase among the wise.
Tearing down the worldly self,
moral excellence is sought,
letting go the old ego
for the righteousness Christ bought.
Perseverance in the faith
in the face of persecution
grows a patience necessary
to prevent the soul's pollution.
Understanding and forgiveness
for the thoughtless acts of others
warms the inner being,
sheds kindness on our brothers.
Throwing off the things of old,
selfishness, a hurtful tongue,
we can be revitalized
with a heart forever young.

  §


From Sermons by Obie Burton

Effective Prayer

God is concerned about our lives,
desires communication,
responds as to a friend in need
in every situation.
His answer could be “wait awhile,”
or maybe “yes” or “no.”
Though not always what we desire,
it’s best and apropos.
We are all unworthy sinners, yet
he accepts us and responds.
If we pray acceptably,
our spirit corresponds
in close relationship to his,
our constant intercessor.
He faithfully forgives the sins
of a humble, fervent confessor.
Study and meditation
are necessary parts
of expecting God to answer prayer
and change our wayward hearts.
As we pray for bread, we also work
and do our very best--
responsible and honest--
then God will do the rest.
We must do what we can to stay healthy
to expect any healing we need.
Testing God to provide in miraculous ways
is expecting a crop without seeds.
He’s the author of salvation
to all who will obey.
We must do our part, along with prayer.
”If you love me, you do what I say.”
Seek and knock, do your best to gain wisdom.
Know his ways and walk with him.
Then communicate your wants and needs
and your cup will be filled to the brim.

§

God's Indescribable Gift

God has hidden his face from the sinful,
whose iniquities are gross.
Our righteousness is as filthy rags,
our attitude bellicose.
The best works we can do on our own
cannot erase our sin.
Only the righteousness of God
can cleanse us from within.
He does not want us to be separated
from his mercy and his grace
that can justify believers
to freely seek his face.
Christ suffered the penalty of mankind,
the cruelest torture devised–
crucifixion on a Roman cross,
ridiculed and despised–
to purchase our salvation,
a gift most folks disdain.
Glad tidings of redemption
peal forth in a haunting refrain.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
he takes away our fear
of death and the wrath that is to come.
Rejoice that he is near.
Baptism empowers us to leave
the world of sin and death,
our old life buried instantly,
taking its final breath.
Then we arise, washed clean and fresh,
beginning life anew,
to serve the Lord forever
with praise that is his due.

§

One Flock, One Shepherd

Christ calls himself our shepherd, the keeper of the flock,
a spiritual relationship of love.
He guides us and protects us, supplies our every need,
and leads us to the Father up above.
He warns us that false teachers would lead the flock astray,
destroy the soul that follows a stranger’s voice.
Satan’s deceitful doctrine will toss us to and fro.
Which one to follow is our daily choice.
The Shepherd provides good pasture, enfolds us in his care
if we hear, learn and know his loving word--
so vital for salvation, for growth and every-day life,
the best news that the world has ever heard.
Be filled with knowledge of his will, that you are not deceived.
Be sober, vigilant–discerning  truth,
for Satan is a roaring lion seeking to devour.
Search with the dedication of a sleuth.
Follow, imitate, pursue, obey the Shepherd’s call,
submit to God, resist the devil’s schemes.
Seek first the kingdom of the Lord, his loving righteousness,
and he will bless beyond your wildest dreams.
Every sheep is special in the Shepherd’s care;
a beautiful relationship abounds.
He seeks the lost and wandering lamb to bring into the fold,
and there’s joy in heaven when each one is found.

§

Adorning

Beautify, garnish, clothe yourself
with a reverent manner of life,
transformed by the inborn gospel,
avoiding worldly strife.
Store the word of God in your heart
for the purity you crave
in attitude and conduct,
the right way to behave.
By following God’s pattern,
a path you daily choose,
stay separate from unclean things,
your special gifts to use.
Compassion, forgiveness, patience
will adorn your very being.
Your loving, gentle attitude
is what folks will be seeing,
beyond the earthly attributes
of beauty, wealth or fame.
A loyal, faithful servant
wears a righteous, holy name.
When viewed in a living example,
the Bible becomes more attractive,
showing the needy onlooker
a faith that proves to be active.
Let your light shine to honor God,
allowing him to change
your heart and soul to fit his mold,
priorities rearrange.
Apart from the Word within the heart,
the spirit cannot grow.
Through the power of the Gospel,
his wisdom and beauty will show.

§

Material Things

Whatever is gain to me on earth
could be a loss to Christ.
Of more importance than wealth or fame
is spiritual sacrifice.
To give up self for righteousness
brings riches everlasting,
like a meal of Tammy's cooking
after days and weeks of fasting.
Material things can become a god,
even for the poor,
when every thought is driven
by a constant striving for more.
The flesh is weak and vulnerable,
temptation on every hand.
The world is trying to sell us
instant glory on demand.
Eat, drink and be merry, they say.
That's what life's all about.
But looking hard at reality,
this philosophy is in doubt.
The covet bucket has no bottom.
Just how much is enough?
Why is happiness so short lived
by obtaining lots of stuff?
Jesus could have been born in a palace
instead of a smelly stable,
been an earthly king to improve the world,
set up a new timetable.
But he wouldn't settle for second best,
had better things in mind.
Contentment is the greatest gain
he offers to humankind.

§

Riches of Christ

Christians are the richest people on earth,
with treasures no money can buy.
The Bible offers all we need,
our souls to satisfy.
It teaches us how to worship
and live a righteous life,
to love and help our neighbors
deal with a world of strife.
Our ultimate purpose is saving the lost
so they can share God's glory,
the treasures of his wondrous grace,
salvation's awesome story.
We must use our talents for the Lord
as day by day we plod.
Stewardship is vital
as we serve the living God.
Develop a positive attitude
to perform the work required.
Study, pray and exercise;
by scripture be inspired.
Don't deny your hidden talents
as you quake with fear inside.
Remind yourself, "I can do all things
through the strength the Lord provides."

§

Choices

When choosing a church, do you pick the one that is better suited to you?
Or is it better fitted to the pattern tried and true
that was given by the Savior who is its cornerstone?
We are his body, temple, flock, paid for by Christ alone.
Do you ask, "How little can I do to squeeze through heaven's gate?"
To serve by "shoulds" and "have to" is service second rate.
Our response of Godly reverence is shown in our desire
to respect, obey his teachings with a heart that is on fire
with a loyal attitude of love that imitates his own,
striving for perfection, a spirit that's full grown.
Christ wants our faith and purity like a most beloved bride,
cleansed constantly by his own blood as we walk by his side.
He wants a steadfast spirit guided by his word,
unmixed with man's opinion that can sometimes be absurd.
Unthankfulness is evil. We should show our gratitude
by giving freely of ourselves with a cheerful attitude.
Keep separate from unclean things with purity of heart
expressed in righteous living - holy, set apart.
Growth in knowledge and ability requires substantial food,
the bread of life, the bible with which we are imbued.
It soaks into our mind and soul to change our daily lives,
to make us happy servants so that we can grow and thrive.
Christian fellowship sustains us as we exhort each other,
strengthening the church in love, each sister and each brother.

§

Christianity

God's people demonstrated the Christian way of life
through the leading of the Spirit long ago.
Ruth's commitment to Naomi resulted from her faith
in the God of Israel, more than a show.
Faith was all Naomi had to offer in this foreign land,
no tangibles, no husband and no son,
but Ruth could see the evidence of faith that daily worked,
and through her life, Ruth's heart was slowly won.
God was real to humble Daniel, who defied ungodly laws
when he prayed and worshiped as a faithful Jew.
He faced ferocious lions armed only with his faith.
His victory that day can be ours, too.
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego - by faith they faced the flames
that killed the guards who tried to throw them in.
They knew the Lord could save them, yet even if they died,
it was better than to worship gods of men.
Steadfast believers serve in faith despite the circumstances,
obeying God's commands, his righteous will.
They scorn desires of lust and pride, immediate gratification,
and try instead his glory to fulfill.
Harassment, threats from peers and kin are constant tests of courage,
requiring living sacrifice each day,
worked only by transforming love, renewing of the mind,
controlling progress in the living way.
Occasions that might overwhelm a normal human being
can't hinder God as he works out his plan.
Beyond our earthly logic is a mighty, awesome wisdom
that cannot be understood by sinful man.
Immersed in the Word and living by faith, his victory is our hope.
No other proof is needed as we strive.
Through trials and testing, heartaches and tears, he offers a sure way to cope.
Only in him can eternal faith survive.

§

The Old Rugged Cross

Christ exemplified perfection by his death on the cross,
the love for which we strive.
Though our human accomplishments cannot purchase glory,
our agape aim helps us survive.
Through our feeble attempts and frail victories,
we find no reason to boast,
and the needed humility grows deep within
the heart of a willing host.
As we evaluate the worth of the cross,
the giving sacrifice,
we see why Paul gave up everything
for the promise of paradise.
In the darkness as Christ hung there in shame,
we see the image of sin,
the hopelessness of man without a redeemer -
our righteousness to win.
By his death, removing the old law,
atonement is possible now
as the old man of sin is put to death
and a new life is endowed.
The cross is God's love story to man
to spare us the certain wrath
that will come upon the wicked
who choose the broad, easy path.
There is no salvation or anchor -
no foundation to hold and sustain -
except Christ who frees us from bondage,
sweet freedom from guilt to gain.
Through problems and worldly temptations,
our focus on him holds us straight
for the most rewarding life of all
as we march toward heaven's gate.
Continual cleansing by his blood
gives strength to overcome.
Even though despised and rejected by men,
there is no cause to be glum.
In our mind's eye we see Christ crowned with thorns,
the mocking and scourging and spit.
As they pull out his beard, drive spikes in his hands,
we feel the shame of it.
Nothing we give can come close to the price
he paid to set us free.
Showing gratitude through acts of love
is our duty for Calvary.

  §

Even God Can Fail

Again and again God tried to heal
the rift that had been made
between him and his chosen clan,
attempting to persuade
the sinful people of Israel
of their need to repent.
Through their blood line, the Savior
would one day soon be sent.
They were warned of their impending doom,
but rebellion was their choice.
They looked instead for worldly help,
ignored the Master’s voice.
And when the Christ came down to earth,
announcing their salvation,
they rejected and abused him;
he was just an aggravation.
Yet still he died to set them free
because he loved them so.
Without his blood’s atonement,
forgiveness they’ll never know.
He is the key and peg on which
his church is held today.
Alignment with this cornerstone
is the true and living way.
If we reject his teachings
like the prideful Israelites,
he’ll reject us on judgment day
and send us from his sight.
His goodness and severity
are balanced on the scales,
and justice will take precedence
over our last minute wails.

§

From Sermons by John Valverde

Drawing Close to God

When we wander too far from the Father,
he may use some painful way
to regain our faithful attention,
loving discipline to convey.
Sometimes we need a reminder
of the gap in our lives that is spreading,
and only a great disappointment
can show the direction we’re heading.
He may allow us to suffer
an agonizing defeat,
take away our earthly possessions,
our self-righteous pride to unseat.
When we ignore the little clues
that we’re staying away from the goal,
a big incident could awaken
a sleepy, lethargic soul.
If you think you can stand on your merits,
take heed lest you fall from his grace.
Self-confidence may be the stumbling block
that makes you fall flat on your face.
The Lord’s tender love is still waiting
for our humble, repentant return.
Stop, listen, study before it’s too late,
salvation’s sweet lesson to learn.

§

Busy Work

Christians have a role to play
in the on-going story of Christ,
the mission that he planned so long ago.
As new-born babes in his kingdom,
 we naturally thrive on milk
and our tender spirit slowly starts to grow.
Then soon we need more solid food
and exercise for strength,
God’s word that satisfies our every need.
Nutrition, light, deep watered roots
protect our souls from death
as we work to cultivate new crops from seed.
Our conscience must be exercised
so we cannot be swayed
by every wind of doctrine going round.
Only in the God-breathed scriptures,
his blueprint for salvation,
can the answer to life’s mysteries be found.
The Israelites longed for olden days
instead of looking forward
to freedom waiting in the promised land.
They whined and walked in circles,
getting nowhere fast,
refusing guidance by the Father’s hand.
To learn what God expects of us,
study is a must
to find our place in his exciting scheme.
Become a usable tool,
progressing, changing, growing,
an active paragraph in his heavenly theme.
We have a daily choice to make–
either grow or die.
The Bible is our spiritual nutrition.
Good works according to God’s will
are the exercise required
to bring a healthy spirit to fruition.

§

God is Good

Does it take a dire emergency to make us think of God?
Do we treat him like a spare tire in the trunk–
unseen and seldom needed or even brought to mind,
most days as useless as a pile of junk?
The things we take for granted–like water, food and air–
are the greatest blessings we will find on earth.
To count them is impossible, like numbering the stars,
yet we hardly recognize their lifelong worth.
Distracting marketing is used to keep our minds too busy
to focus on the thoughts our spirits need.
The ads would have us all believe that happiness is bought,
and love for God rates far below our greed.
Our loving Father knows not to give us all we want,
but is not sparing in what really counts.
A productive future he has planned for every faithful saint,
and blessings overflow in huge amounts,
if only we cooperate, trade our own will for his.
In everything give thanks, both good and bad.
Surrendering to Christ means hope and victory,
abundant life and joy can then be had.
Chastisement, discipline may come to underline our weakness,
and straighten out our walk toward heaven’s shore.
Our Lord is never too busy to help us with our problems,
lend tools to cope with any hopeless chore.
The atheist thinks he has earned everything he has,
knows nothing of rich Christian gratitude
that cures all stress and worry which make a person sick,
as Jesus taught in his beatitudes.
We have no cause to worry; he even feeds the birds,
and dresses flowers in such fine array,
more beautiful than Solomon in all his earthly splendor,
and greater gifts he offers us today.
His nature is completely good, his love and wisdom flawless,
keeps justice, mercy, grace in perfect balance.
He can make all things work for good, keeps every promise true,
and shares his glory with extravagance.
Count your many blessings, of which there is no end.
In heaven we will know eternal rest.
Simplify your life on earth, focus on its meaning.
We truly are too God-blest to be stressed.

§

Adversity and Discipline

Learn to rejoice in discipline,
as it puts us on the path
toward the ultimate goal of being with the Lord.
For exercise and strengthening,
he allows adversity,
though initially unpleasant, strange and hard.
God disciplines his children
whenever necessary
to wake us up because he loves us so.
Yoked with Jesus on the upward road,
we can carry any burden,
as muscles of the spirit stretch and grow.
Now we can see our weaknesses
that need his awesome strength
and wisdom, reaching toward the main objective.
Better equipped to do his will,
we can climb the highest mountain
and see the valley from a new perspective.
Girded firmly with his truth,
behind the shield of faith,
we can meet courageously the worst temptation
and use it to his glory,
as instruments and tools
to comfort others with God’s own compassion.
Too much self-confidence and pride
can make us crash and burn.
Resist the evil day with his great might.
The armor he provides us,
the sword of sure defense
protects from danger through the darkest night.
In trials and afflictions
stand firm and guard your faith.
God’s righteousness prevents a nasty fall,
furnishes a way of escape
with mercy, grace and peace.
The Lord himself delivers from them all

§

Spirituality

Expecting that God’s kingdom was physical in nature,
the humble Jesus was dismissed as fake.
Some still look for a leader to rebuild the Jewish nation,
to rule on earth, King David’s place to take.
God is a spiritual being; his rule is of the spirit.
Jesus came to show the spirit of the law.
            He wants to change our spirits, make us loving and forgiving,
give his Holy Spirit on which we can draw
for strength and courage, grace and faith to conquer any foe,
to give more than expected, take abuse,
to love and pray for enemies, ask nothing in return,
fruits of the spirit hopefully produce. 
Our natural compulsions can get us into trouble,
and he teaches us to reach beyond, above,
to mirror Christ in thought and deed, reflecting back his light,
engulfing all we meet in his own love.
His wisdom looks like foolishness to the worldly wise
whose worship centers in the “here and now.”
We feel so wise and modern, think we have all the answers,
need no advice to tell us where and how.
Poor churches back in Africa might teach us all a lesson
about the way the early Christians gave,
so generous in spirit, above the earthy norm,
humility to gladly be a slave.
Their circumstances give us pause, so poor in human terms,
but rich in grace that we can’t comprehend.
Like the widow in the Bible who gave all that she had,
the type that Jesus gladly calls his friend.

§

Suffering for Christ

With the benefit of hindsight
in the Bible that we read,
we still are so confused today,
it’s lesson scarcely heed.
We have so many freedoms
that our suffering is rare,
unlike those in other countries
whose woes could curl your hair.
Some in Africa must wonder
at the source of meat they buy,
sometimes sacrificed to idols,
pagan gods to glorify.
That soon may be our problem
as the pagans here increase,
daily testing faith and values,
evil hordes that never cease.
We may be maligned and threatened,
prudishness a fire ignite.
Arm yourselves and keep your head up,
join together in the fight
Being very different people,
we have been transformed by Christ
from cocoon to butterfly
by his bloody sacrifice.
Attitudes of gratitude
change our thinking from the past,
form our loving wills and actions,
give us purpose that will last.
As a family united,
spiritual, yet still earthbound,
aiming toward our home in heaven
we race on to higher ground.

§

The Savor of Salt

Christians are the salt of the earth,
affecting our neighbors and friends.
There are many and varied needs for salt;
its usefulness has no end.
We can have the same healing value as salt,
curing sad and sin-sick souls,
binding the wounds of neglect and regret,
with peace and joy as our goals.
As salt in a cut may cause burning and pain,
the truth often stings a raw heart,
but with gentle application
love’s soothing balm we impart.
Salt can sweeten bitter waters,
create a thirst for learning,
prevent fatigue in our service to God,
offer zest for which others are yearning.
Yet we know too much salt kills the flavor.
Practice sharing in wise moderation.
Blend it well with other ingredients
for encouragement and inspiration.
Salt brings out the best in people,
penetrates the hungry heart
to nourish and sustain the body,
a canvas for heavenly art.
Carefully season your speech with salt
and it can cure the craving
of one who seeks food for the soul,
his eternal spirit saving.

§

The Mind of Christ

Morality spirals downward, even in the church.
Some Christians are not able to discern
between the good required by God and evil of the world.
Ask: What Would Jesus Do? We need to learn!
A conscience can be seared by lust as with a branding iron,
becoming numb until it feels no pain,
and losing the ability to recognize its sin.
The attitude of Christ is ours to gain.
We will be judged according to our every word and deed,
accounting to the Judge who sees it all.
“The devil made me do it” is not a good defense.
God offers an escape before we fall.
Work out your own salvation with righteous fear and trembling,
be humble and obedient unto death,
that he can use you in his service, strengthened by your trials,
cleansed by his blood until your final breath.
Why be baptized and wash away the filth of sin and shame,
then wallow in the mud like earthly swine?
Forgiveness is conditional: confess, repent and pray.
The choice for saintliness is yours and mine.
Be calm and silent, let God work and shape you as he pleases.
Of human nature, go against the grain.
Be holy, different, feed your conscience daily in the word,
its tendency to selfishness retrain.
Be transformed by the love of God, renew your mind and soul,
be all that he has destined you to be.
Christ volunteered to be a man, then showed us how to live
and sacrificed his all to make us free.
Free from our human nature that tries to drag us down,
free from all superstition, worry, fear.
That freedom had an awful cost. Don’t take his gift for granted!
Stay close and hold his promise near and dear.

§

Riches

The wisdom of God is the best kind of wealth,
providing contentment that leads to good health.
A mind that is centered on money and power
can never be happy; its greed will devour
the peace that is promised to all who believe,
a trap Satan sets to beguile and deceive.
The desire for earthly wealth and fame
is like a never-ending game
where poor as well as rich can play,
but the spoils of winning soon decay.
Christ had no wish for earthly gain,
and anyone who wears his name
should yearn to learn his attitude
and humbly bow in gratitude
for health that makes us fit to work,
the servant’s office never shirk.
We can use what money we have for good,
its useful functions understood
without becoming its fawning slave,
stressed out unto an early grave.
Responsibility is the key
to finding what’s required of me
to grow into the mind of Christ,
the things that must be sacrificed:
unwholesome habits, idols, friends
that draw me toward unrighteous ends.
Great riches offered by the King,
I know are mine, the one “sure thing.”

§

Leprosy and Sin

Sin, like dreaded leprosy, is not within the genes;
acquired by carelessness, it slowly grows.
Progressive if not treated, often terminal,
you wouldn’t wish them on the worst of foes.
Naaman offered money for a handy cure
for the leprosy he knew would maim and kill.
Through God, Elisha told him to dip himself in water.
Obedience and faith would fill the bill.
Proud Naaman refused at first; the Jordan was too muddy
and far away from home–too much to ask!
He thought up substitutions, as we often do for sin.
Why can’t we have an easy, earthly task?
Wisdom is diffused when we water down the gospel
and alienate ourselves from God’s good news.
But when Naaman obeyed the Lord, his cleansing was complete.
What would we do if walking in his shoes?
Sometimes we only listen to what we want to hear.
Perspective often needs a drastic change.
Although the gift of healing that God offered him was free,
there were requirements Naaman thought were strange.
Salvation is conditional, and yet it is a gift.
No deed is great enough to earn the prize.
Jesus bought it with his blood and offers it to all
who will obey, his love to utilize.

§

Cheerful Giving

We would like to believe that we earned all we have–
we can be independent and strong.
But without the Creator we wouldn’t exist,
have air to breathe all the day long.
Abel gave his very best to God
with a thankful attitude,
but Cain was disobedient,
hateful, vain and rude.
The widow’s mite was all she had,
yet she gave it up with joy,
more generous than the wealthy snobs
expecting an “attaboy!”
 God needs naught from us, but he knows that WE need
to be generous, loving and kind,
that to sacrifice daily feeds our famished souls
and produces a satisfied mind.
To joyfully share what little we have,
showing thanks to the Giver of all,
is an investment which we strive to protect,
whose worth will never fall.
Accepting the attitude of Christ–
freely you receive, freely give,
being a living sacrifice of talent, money, time
is the happy way to live.
Cheerful giving brings us closer to
the image of Christ we seek,
the love that grows within our hearts
to make us patient yet meek.
Like the five loaves of bread and two little fish
with which Jesus fed the crowd,
our simple gifts of faith and love
in his hands will do us proud.

§

Pray Without Ceasing

Only the priest could talk to God under Hebrew law,
but now we all can pray through Christ, the High Priest without a flaw.
He can sympathize because he lived through all that we endure.
tempted in every human way, but remaining sinless and pure.
Each Christian is a saint and priest with close ties to the Lord,
who keeps our slate washed clean each day; there is no sin scoreboard.
Request, believe, receive, he says. We should be anxious in nothing.
His promises are ours in Christ, no maybe so, no bluffing.
There is a right and wrong way to pray; no selfish gratification.
Deny self, carry the cross with love, submit to sanctification.
Diligence in seeking God’s will is always richly rewarded.
Treasures beyond our wildest dreams are graciously, freely accorded.
Listen closely to what he says, obey, and he will hear.
Abide in him, live in the light, and his way will be clear.
Forgive and be forgiven. Simple but sometimes tough.
Although we find the going hard, the grace of God is enough.
The prayer of a righteous saint and priest avails much, he decrees.
Our past sins are forgotten, washed away in the deepest seas.
Nobody comes to the Father except through Christ, the Son.
The Holy Spirit helps us pray, and the battle is already won.

§


In Everything Give Thanks

God wants only good for us
and tells us how to find it.
He does not force obedience
but can be the strength behind it.
Free will is distinctly human,
the awesome right to choose,
and when we opt for God’s own path,
his love we’ll never lose.
We may face many trials,
their good results unseen,
but God can always use them,
a host of blessings glean.
From slavery he freed us
and shared with us his name,
yet still we, like the Israelites,
grumble and complain.
Could we, like Paul and Silas,
praise God when thrown in prison?
Though innocent of any crime,
to sing was their decision.
Enthralled by this phenomenon,
the other inmates stayed
even when the doors were opened,
of the earthquake unafraid.
The jailer’s life was changed that night
through this unlikely event.
God can use us in exciting ways
if we will only consent.
The horrible death of Jesus
is the greatest example of all
that good can come from evil,
sweet from the bitterest gall.
Thank God for every blessing
as well as tribulation.
He can even use your weakness
as a cause for celebration.

§

The Last Days

Folks celebrate the birth of Jesus, but ignore his teachings,
as though his birth is all there is to know.
The babe did nothing for mankind until he grew to manhood
to complete his mission on the earth below,
to bring the world salvation through his death and resurrection.
God's plan for our redemption was in place.
The Old Law, nailed upon the cross, was fulfilled by his death,
and now we're offered his amazing grace.
The church was then established on the Day of Pentecost,
when Peter preached the great salvation story,
the New Law God had promised, the Good News for all time,
where saints can share in his own wondrous glory.
The Christian dispensation is the last that will be given,
as it offers all we need for joy and peace,
a map to guide us onward to the perfect promised land,
where life before his throne will never cease.
The house that God established is chief among the mountains,
greater than all earthly nations of all time,
the only kingdom promising eternal carefree life
in heaven where the blessings are sublime.
It started in Jerusalem, just as was prophesied,
and spread abroad to rescue every nation.
Believe, repent, confess, be baptized, walk within the light
is the sermon Peter preached for full salvation.
Sin alienates us, separates us from the only hope
that comes from Christ who bought us with his blood.
He offers us a place of peace where swords turn into plowshares,
where the stench guilt smells like a sweet rosebud.
No sin hangs overhead to shame obedient believers.
He makes us pure and holy by his grace.
Christ has preeminence within the church that he established
at Pentecost, beginning these last days.

§

Winning Souls

All Christians have different talents
and functions to use for God's glory,
bringing others into the kingdom,
sharing wonders of salvation's story.
Jesus, the master soul winner
taught his disciples the art
of becoming expert fishers of men
with the bait of a loving heart.
We should share our joy of fellowship,
consolation, compassion, affection,
humbly giving our best to others,
leading in the right direction.
For a church that is perfectly unified,
we should all have one main mission,
each playing his part to pull the load
with no thought of selfish ambition.
Nobody distracts from the purpose,
no conflicts should ever arise.
All having the will and mind of Christ,
our efforts will harmonize.
The needs and feelings of others
should come before our own,
as agape love grows deep within,
our mortal desires overthrown.
We live by faith in the spirit
to do the work of Christ,
even, if need be, unto death,
the ultimate sacrifice.
Becoming a usable tool for the Lord,
tranformed by his glorious light,
we will finally be perfected
in that land where is no night.

§

Prayer

Give diligence to your search for God,
humbly approach his throne.
In faith, denying selfish ends,
let your desires be known.
Submit unto his righteous will,
that your motives may be pure,
not hypocritical, for show,
keeping joy and peace secure.
As you strive to further the kingdom,
talk personally to the Lord,
believing in his wisdom
and searching out his word.
Christ, our high priest who lived on earth,
understands our ways.
He is both our advocate and judge,
our debt for sin defrays.
There is no need for anxiety
as we speak to him in prayer.
His waiting arms enfold us
within his loving care,
yet he chooses not to hear us
when we willfully live in sin.
Erase that grudge, sincerely repent,
a clean slate to begin.

§

Priorities

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus with religious questions,
he seemed to be sincerely seeking truth.
He had kept the rules and regulations of the Jewish law
despite temptations in the days of youth.
But Jesus knew his heart; his priorities were skewed,
and wealth was more important than his soul.
When asked to shed his riches and follow after Christ,
let love and service be his main control,
it was not the news he wanted, much like us today
as we tend to follow our own selfish will.
Give up our earthly pleasures, the friends who stroke our egos?
We live it up, and who will pay the bill?
The encumbrances of daily life entangle, drag us down
til we forget the One who paid the price
to purify eternal souls, preparing us for service,
asking us for loving sacrifice.
Denying self, take up the cross and follow in his footsteps
and he provides for all necessities.
The wise will act upon his words, look deep within the forest
and see the beauty of the varied trees.
Morals are more important than any earthly wealth,
God's kingdom lasts beyond this mortal vale.
Look past what seems expedient, strive for eternal truth,
for Satan's snares can lead you off the trail.

§

The Ten Virgins

Those waiting for the bridegroom (Christ)
already had the Light,
expectant in their hope of his arrival.
But half of them let down their guard,
failed rightly to prepare
for the late night hour, risking their survival.
Some Christians started on the path
that Jesus had laid out,
but were turning back to Judaism's way.
Who has hindered you," he asked,
"from obedience to the truth?"
Diligence is the daily price we pay.
Life is no bed of roses
when you choose to follow Christ.
Your family may be your greatest foes.
To calculate the cost,
look at Jesus on the cross.
To follow him is to accept his woes.
Growth of abundant crops of fruit
requires a lot of sweat
and following the plan at every step.
Fruits of the spirit slowly grow
by feeding on the Word,
relying on God's love and grace to help.
We cannot borrow oil
from our neighbor's knowledge store.
Our constant study is our only source.
Each individual is judged
by his own preparation,
the blood of Christ our only true recourse.
To cry "Lord, Lord" and not obey
is hypocrisy that kills,
expecting God to look the other way.
But he's never made a promise
that he failed to keep,
and justice will prevail at judgement day.

 
§ 

Unity

Religious unity in the church is much to be desired,
and to reach this great objective has been hard.
The way is rough and rocky through our meager human wisdom,
but can be reached through the word of Christ the Lord.
Every action should be regulated by his perfect teaching,
the gospel left for those who would obey.
To be united, all must follow this exact same pattern,
steadfastly living by it day by day,
accepting Christ as Lord and Master of all that we do,
in worship and in private words we speak.
The fellowship of mind and soul, in judgment and in love,
will be obvious in character that is meek.
Accomplishing his purpose may seem beyond our strength,
but striving TOWARD perfection, we press on,
encouraging each other in refreshing fellowship,
knowing that, although we sin, he will atone.
He offers constant cleansing as we WALK in the light,
not SITTING like a lump upon a log.
Drawing apart from fellow saints can leave us sad and lonely,
as walking in a thick mind-boggling fog.
True love, expressed in friendship by Christians far and wide,
will keep our caring hearts so soft and warm.
On the narrow pathway with the saints, arm in arm with Christ,
obedient souls will never come to harm.
"Love one another always, just as I have loved you",
compassionate and patient, tender hearted,
unchangeable and hopeful, compassionate, courageous,
enduring in the mission Jesus started.
Neither poverty nor persecution takes away our joy,
as a cheerful heart will keep our outlook bright.
Assurance of forgiveness is the best of all God's blessings,
a hope that sees us through the darkest night.
"O, death where is your sting?" when God gives victory
through the blood of Christ that washes sins away.
We can focus past the trials that hamper us on earth
and see eternal bliss on that great day.

§

Our Gracious God

Praise the Lord, oh my soul,
for the blessings that he gives,
the air I breathe each moment,
heartbeats that let me live.
For the discipline of trials
that help keep faith so strong,
chastisement for his loved ones
to steer us away from wrong.
Although we may be paupers here,
our wealth is stored above
when our hearts are set on righteousness,
the riches of his love.
He protects our souls from Satan
even when our bodies fail,
securing our redemption
from that evil, hate-filled jail.
Be patient; wait on God
and your strength will be renewed.
Then you can soar like eagles
at a peaceful altitude
where the workings of God’s mighty plan
are easier to see -
the loathsome sins of bygone days
wiped from his memory.
At the throne of grace, our great High Priest
grants mercy for our needs,
and blood that cleanses every stain
of our unrighteous deeds.
The Lord is compassionate, gracious,
slow to anger, quick to heal,
so great is his love for his precious flock
who follow his word with zeal.
He knows we are weak and fragile,
like molded, unbaked clay,
relying only on his strength
until the judgment day.

§

Someone Cares

We sometimes think we are worthless
when we're hurting and feeling down,
when every word and action
make us feel just like a clown.
But we come from the great creator God
who gives us bright rainbows,
the One whose awesome wisdom
makes the perfect, delicate rose.
His love for us is constant,
unlike our changing emotions,
and he sends us blessings every day
that would overflow the ocean.
The soul is worth a terrific price,
and he has paid it all.
On Christ was laid our iniquity
that made us stumble and fall.
Our soul will last forever,
but the body will decay,
go back to simple atoms
in the original form of clay.
Have you counted the cost if your soul is lost?
You are precious to the Lord.
To gain the whole world and lose your soul
is a miserly reward.
Satan works to draw us away from Christ,
says there is plenty time,
but we know not what tomorrow may hold,
today your choice is prime.
The day of salvation is here and now,
Christ stands at the door and knocks.
He is the loving Shepherd
who tenderly tends his flock.
He knows your great potential,
has your earthly ministry planned,
to mold you in his image
as you serve your fellow man.

§

From a sermon by Eddie Ketchersid

  Life's Lemons

Does it seem that life has handed you a lemon every day
though you do your best to serve the Lord and follow in his way?
Think of Joseph, and his brothers who sold him as a slave,
and the time he spent in prison, although innocent and brave.
Lemonade was long in coming, but when the time was right,
his years of being faithful brought the answer to his plight.
Paul was served a lot of lemons as he stood up for the faith,
and beating, stoning, starving had him looking like a wraith.
Through it all, he was contented, since his debt for sin was paid.
God's sweet grace was all he needed to make tubs of lemonade.
The apostle John had suffered for the Word so many years.
On the lonely isle of Patmos, most of us would melt in tears.
But the Lord was there unhindered, revelation to unfold,
bringing joys so unexpected, worth more than the brightest gold.
Only God can see the picture he is painting with your life,
using  juice of many lemons that you know as pain and strife.
He can take the hardest trial that your soul has even known
to help mold you in his likeness with a character full grown.
Thank him for the daily lemons and the courage to endure
til your patience is perfected and your attitude mature.
Trust that God is ever present through each day of life's parade,
using trials for his purpose as he stirs up lemonade.

   §

From a Sermon by Patrick Keagle

Fruits of the Spirit

God continually looks for fruit on his vine,
his church, bought by blood of his Son.
He gives us a chance to spread the Good News
of how our salvation was won.
Encouraging others and sharing the Gospel,
the fruit of our lips in his praise,
the self sacrifice that honors his name,
the songs to his glory we raise
are just the beginning of fruits we can bear.
We should never grow weary of sharing.
Living daily in love is our worship to God,
examples of service and caring.
We are all kings and priests in this righteous endeavor,
reflecting the light of the Son,
manifesting his love to a world that is famished
for news of the things he has done.
Though this Christian walk is exclusive, restrictive
like a seat belt that hinders and binds,
or an old heavy coat necessary for warmth,
he gives soothing life to the vine.
The fruit we produce and share with our neighbors
 is delicious to ingest.
His laws of love lift up the soul
to the height of happiness.

§

Christ's Church

Do we "go to church"? Or are we living stones
that constitute the church Christ suffered for in agony?
We are called out to be different, a holy, righteous squad
recognizable on sight as God's own progeny.
By men despised and rejected, he died to set them free.
Will we dare to sacrifice in such a way
that our lives might be in jeopardy by following his will?
Can the Father say "Well done" on judgement day?
Even before the cross, Jesus suffered every day.
Spiritual adultery broke his heart
as the Jews, his special people, followed after pagan idols,
and he wept as their religion fell apart.
Was his bloody sweat caused by the stress of carrying our sin,
a greater burden than the cross he bore,
the slaps and spit and flogging he underwent in shame,
his raw emotional pain to underscore?
How can we be complacent about his sacrifice,
the price he paid to bring about salvation?
His back that was cut to ribbons of flesh, his bloody swollen face
unrecognizable in its mutilation.
Square wrought-iron nails drove through his wrists
to bear his body's weight
and through his feet against the post
were Jesus' chosen fate.
With shredded back against the wood,
straining for each breath,
his ministry was now complete
and he calmly welcomed death.
His love was proved by sacrifice,
putting others first.
If anyone teaches less, he said,
let him be accursed.

§

Prayer Life

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray,
a simple, unassuming way
to tell our Father what we need
and keep humility up to speed.
A reverent, healthy fear is felt
when at his throne we've daily knelt.
Christ intercedes with loving care
so God will understand our prayer.
With his own plan align your will,
seek his commandments to fulfill,
to serve at any lowly task,
whatever he may ask.
Saturate your life with his holy word,
salvation's peace to undergird,
and pray for simple daily food,
to bolster your good attitude.
Holding a grudge consumes the soul,
so forgiving others is the goal
that frees us to approach the Lord,
though forgiving can be hard.
He rewards those folks who earnestly seek,
unselfishly serving, generous, meek,
persistent, striving til the end
when they will meet their Greatest Friend.

§

 Walking with God

The life of a Christian is simple,
but EASY it's definitely not!
Taking every thought captive is constant,
with the word of God calling each shot.
We avail ourselves of his wondrous grace
by obedience to his commands,
like Elijah who stepped in the water first
before it rolled back to dry land.
Repentance is a change of heart
that brings about change of action,
not just sorrow for getting caught
or fearing God's dissatisfaction.
It is left up to each individual
to follow the rough, narrow road,
make every EFFORT to enter,
as Christ helps him bear his load,
recognize erroneous deeds of the flesh,
turn back and begin anew,
with prayers of praise and forgiveness
and strength to carry it through.
Throw off everything that hinders -
whether habits or hobbies or friends -
giving conscious effort to letting God lead,
with his blood making constant amends.
Run the race with all perseverance,
the course that is set by God's word,
though your feelings might want to lead you astray
from the instructive Voice you have heard.
Each person has only one mouth, but two ears
to be used in that proportion.
Keep your tongue from vile or idle speech,
beware, take all precaution.
Christ's example of love is self-sacrifice:
It is much more blessed to give,
which we learn through loving obedience
is the happiest way to live.

  §

From sermons by Scott Gillet

The Lost Son

Parents raise kids and expect the best,
yet some will choose to roam.
Something more than hunger
brought the penitent wanderer home.
Any plant needs its root to stay healthy,
nourishment daily supplied.
Without sustained care by the Maker,
before long the starved soul has died.
God offers us freedom of sonship,
the privilege of his sweet grace,
forgiveness and guidance forever,
the soft, loving smile on his face.
He offers a plan that will make us
the best we can possibly be.
If we only comply with his wishes,
the beauties of heaven are free.
Come home and partake of the feasting,
the white robe of his righteousness,
the welcoming celebration,
a ring and a Fatherly kiss.
He carries us through the hard times
and catches us when we fall,
so understanding and patient,
so joyful when we call.
Eagerly watching the homeward road
where the wandering first had begun,
he lovingly showers with blessings
each penitent daughter or son.

§

Relationship with God

A close relationship with God
is a human’s greatest need.
Looks and size are unimportant;
age that comes now at warp speed
matters not to Christ the Savior.
Life gets sweeter day by day
when we take his thoughts as our thoughts,
act like him at work and play.
How well do you know the Father?
Do you dwell upon his word?
If his Spirit lives within you,
every day his voice is heard--
intimate and close and caring,
helpful as the road you tread,
shares in all your joys and sorrows,
watching for the rocks ahead.
In your heart his love unbounded
overflows in words and deeds.
Like a shining, guiding beacon,
your example ever leads
brothers, yes, and wandering sinners,
bringing courage, faith and hope.
Willingness to serve when needed
offers them a way to cope.
One-by-one are born the children
in the kingdom of the Lord.
With encouragement and teaching,
we can help them get onboard.

§

Beyond the Past

The Holy Spirit gives us words
that we all need to hear,
to take us onward and upward,
past agonizing fear.
If we look beyond the messenger
to hear the message plain,
the benefits are staggering,
far more than earthly gain.
The folks who knew of Jesus’ past
as a carpenter so meek
could not believe he was the Christ.
Why turn the other cheek?
Was Saul a chosen instrument?
Even the apostles doubt.
His persecutions in the past
still held a lot of clout.
We humans are not judges,
cannot read a person’s heart.
We must accept him as he is,
forgiveness to impart.
We are strengthened by fiery trials,
can do more than we imagine
with the Holy Spirit’s guidance,
thankful for his discipline.
Forgiveness leads to healing
of the body, mind and soul,
brings us closer to our brother
and to God, our final goal.

§

What is God's Will?

How do we know if we’re doing God’s will?
What does he want us to do?
Would we give up our comfort to answer his call,
then always follow through?
Bad events sometimes take place
to discipline and test,
to strengthen us and teach us
that God knows what is best.
Our failure or success depends
on obedience and trust.
Faith and patience slowly grow
when suffering is a must.
In retrospect we often see
God’s loving intervention,
revealing awesome strength and power
that give our work fruition.
“Be still and know that I am God”
is sometimes very hard.
Faith increases with each answered prayer
as we wait upon the Lord.
If we try to force events to come
in our own frame of time,
we may pay dearly for results
that seem less than sublime,
like Abraham and Sarah
who thought they couldn’t wait,
and the Middle East debacle now
is their resulting fate.
Jesus always sought the Father’s will,
not rushing in his mission.
“The time is not yet,” is simple,
the essence of submission.
Persevere in faith, unwavering,
for God is in control.
All things will work out for your good--
salvation of your soul.

§

Who is God?


Life on earth would be meaningless without God as our guide.
The Creator of existence stands lovingly at our side
and empowers us to do his will as we walk the narrow way,
just as he blessed old Noah when he chose to obey.
Innumerable laws of nations would be unnecessary
if we kept his commands of agape love on our itenerary.
He gives us everything we need to follow his great plan,
and discipline to help us grow, to be all that we can.
Many people in the past have fought with God, and never won.
Disobedience brings spiritual death, separation from the Son.
We try to be independent, ignoring his helping hand,
and humility comes with failure to obey his blest commands.
David slew Goliath only by the power of God,
and if we cannot slay giants now, our faith has grown slip-shod.
Do we honor God daily and ask for his help in everything we do?
How thankful are we for what he does to keep us cleansed and new?
He is constantly working in our lives to give us joy and peace,
preparing for a better life where wonders will never cease.
We must grow beyond fear and prejudice, get excited about the Good News
that promises hope of salvation, his grace our souls to infuse.
His blessings, beyond expression by human words of praise,
will last for all eternity, beyond this worldly phase.
No one can snatch us from his hand, but we can walk away.
Take care, stay close in his outstretched arms, prepared for that great day.

§

Life After Death

What makes life "life"? Where does it start?
Eternal life starts in the heart.
Baptism brings new life from death.
The switch to Christ can take your breath!
Who controls your life? Old habits, friends?
Improvement comes as God extends
his guiding hand that leads to peace,
when fear of Satan's death will cease.
The end of this life is the grave,
but Jesus came to earth to save
the soul that yearns for other realms,
eternal life that overwhelms.
Nothing but choice can turn you aside
from the God of love in whom you abide,
the God whose light gives life to all,
the light you reflect, onlookers enthral.
Life on the earth is a vapor, a mist
that soon disappears with the sun's warm kiss.
A mind controlled by the spirit is life
that soars above the pain and strife.
Your treasures in heaven will never dim
when your soul's reward is invested in Him.

§

Soul Food

Hunger makes food appetizing,
desirable and tasty on the tongue,
like forbidden fruit to the rebel
or adulthood to the very young.
Our soul can also know hunger,
and will die unless properly fed.
God's word is the only nutrition,
but we often use junk food instead.
The world offers tidbits aplenty
to tempt appetites gone astray,
but none satisfies like the Bible
that guides us along heaven's way.
Sustained by a well-balanced diet,
our bodies keep healthy and fit,
and indulging in the word of God
keeps our hearts and souls well lit.
Studying fills up the empty spots,
renews and changes a being.
Our innermost parts are satisfied
with beauty beyond our seeing.
Souls as well as bodies
Jesus fed while here on earth,
and the same is true even today
as he sates our greatest dearth.
Without his sustaining bread of life
souls will be malnourished and die.
The believer will never be hungry,
eating food furnished from on high.
He shares this food with others,
an inexhaustible meal,
changing lives as it's stored within the heart,
to restore, satisfy and heal.

§

 Working for the Lord

Give all you have to the job at hand,
as working for the Lord
and the task will be enjoyable,
no matter how lowly or hard.
Keep the Savior in your heart and mind
in everything you do
with obedience and humility,
a recipe tried and true.
Don't worry about the other guy,
nor envy his talents and ways.
Just do the best you possibly can,
with an attitude of praise.
Actions speak much louder than words;
don't brag or show offense
when you're not appreciated
for your effort and common sense.
Always let your words be seasoned with salt,
bite your tongue until it's tame,
don't criticize or condemn another
or try to shift the blame.
Be effective and productive
like a tree that bears good fruit.
To live in harmony with mankind
is a worthwhile lifetime pursuit.
Environment can change you
unless you keep on your toes.
Another's ungodly habits
can bring you a world of woes.
Be transformed daily by the Word,
renewing your mind and soul.
No competition on the job
can help you meet your goal
of inner peace and happiness
that God has promised his saints.
Everlasting joy is waiting
for him who never faints.


§

Mold and Make Me

"Have thine own way, Lord," we often sing,
but is true submission our goal?
Are we humble enough to take any shape
that our Father chooses to mold?
When the shaping is painful, how do we react?
Curl up in a fetal position?
Is commitment for life, or just til it hurts?
Do we look forward to the transition?
Our deeds will show plainly in whom we believe,
faith is proved by the things that we do.
From the heart's overflow come the words that we speak,
whether heathen or Christian or Jew.
An obedient heart is a gift from the Lord,
a heart filled with love and good will.
We sometimes may falter when tempted to sin,
and fail his commands to fulfill,
but the blood of Christ cleanses us when we repent,
no matter how gruesome the deed.
We nurture each other by sharing the flame,
the spark of his glory we need
to remain at the ready when his voice is heard,
looking forward to that final day
when we will meet him up in the air,
gladly leave behind this pot of clay.

§


Joshua's Faith

Becoming Israel's leader after Moses' death,
Joshua hardly even missed a beat.
He had stepped out of his comfort zone many times before,
and had no fear of failure or defeat.
He pressed on toward the goal that had been set by God,
the land that had been promised to their nation.
Obedience was necessary to his great success,
as with every human since dawn of creation.
Who would have thought a prostitute would be the chosen vessel
to hide and help them conquer Jericho?
When, with a shout, the walls came down and Israel rushed in,
only Rahab and her kin were free to go.
As God instructed Joshua to lead his chosen people,
so still he guides us through his word today.
He will do amazing things among us , his New Israel,
as long as we continue in his way.
Like marching round and round the wall each day at Jericho,
his plans, to us, may not sound very wise.
We may be afraid to walk into the river at flood stage,
but these trials could be blessings in disguise.
God always kept his promises when Israel obeyed,
and punished them whenever they rebelled.
By faith they conquered Jericho and all the promised land,
where every pagan worshiper was felled.
Even in the midst of battle, God's wishes and commands
must be foremost, despite our human will.
He may draw us from our comfort zones with challenges and trials,
but supplies the ammo, all our needs to fill.
All Christians have a calling and responsibility
to use our talents for his kingdom plan.
Our efforts may seem feeble, but with the strength of God,
a simple word affects the soul of man.

§

Faith's Flame

God has a plan for every soul,
a ministry, a final goal.
He knows each heart, each precious seed
and gives us everything we need
to fill our spot, our burdens bear,
and do the work he has prepared.
To gather with the local saints
adds to a flame that flickers faint,
as kindly words and gospel hymns
give courage to a faith bedimmed.
Although we scarcely understand
the mission given by God's hand,
we follow one day at a time,
and slowly up the steeps we climb
with hope that from the crest we'll see
the panorama grand and free.
The sad disciples saw the end;
no way could these folks comprehend
the tragic death of Jesus Christ,
the One who gladly sacrificed
himself upon that bloody tree
to save the likes of you and me.
Our tragedies will bring us pain,
but with his help we'll surely gain
the strength and courage that he gives
because we know that he still lives.
Though Jesus knew his flock would flee,
their future he could also see,
that with his Spirit in their hearts,
til death they never would depart.
Like him, our death is not the end -
but a new beginning with a Friend
to light our lives forevermore,
a great adventure past death's door.

§

Peace or Panic?

Satan sends distractions into our daily lives
to lure us from the Word that sets us free.
Money and possessions may become our only goal,
or worry makes us want to scream and flee.
Imagine if they had TV or modern world-wide web
when the plagues had Pharaoh's Egypt by the throat.
We would panic at the notion that this tragedy would spread
to our own town, no matter how remote.
Remember all the chaos in preparation for
the supposed computer crash of Y2K?
God was in control in Egypt, fighting for his people,
and still controls the course of things today.
Remaining faithful is the key to Christian peace and joy.
knowing that what happens here has no effect
on our salvation through the gift Christ gave us through his blood,
though the puzzle pieces we cannot connect.
Beyond our understanding are God's reasons for events
to get our attention, change our attitude.
More important than the circumstance that boggles up our mind
is our response, the thoughful interlude
that helps us weigh our options and tip the scales toward God,
choose peace instead of worry and defeat.
Becoming more like Christ each day should be our foremost goal,
knowing that he promised all our needs to meet.
Don't let the  worldly cares and plagues preoccupy your mind.
Give precedence to God's unchanging way.
The design he made is perfect, a pattern for our lives
that ensures salvation on the judgment day.

  §


From sermons by Craig Joslen

Tolerance

Not one of us is worthy of salvation;
without the grace of God we have no hope.
To judge someone by surface information
takes understanding far beyond our scope.
The Lord alone can see our thoughts and motives.
He knows the heart and loves the inner man.
If we live and die to glorify his goodness,
we can be a part of his great holy plan.
Supporting weak and fragile Christian brothers
instead of pointing fingers to condemn
reflects the loving light of Christ, the Savior;
all the praise and glory go to him.
Don’t be a stumbling block and cause another’s sin,
lest Godly wrath and judgment make you pay.
In lowly, meek submission serve your fellow man
with gratitude for grace that paves the way.
Intolerance for evil and serving other gods
was plainly taught by Jesus in the temple.
His righteous anger is a warning we must not ignore.
Obedience, though sometimes hard, is simple.
Too easily we fall for worldly wisdom.
False prophets still can lead us far astray.
Don’t tolerate their foolishness and slander.
Stand up for right until the judgment day.

§

 Two Laws of Pardon

When they heard the Gospel message on the Day of Pentecost,
the Jews knew they had killed the Christ. Their wayward souls were lost.
In repentance they asked, "What must we do to have our sins forgiven?"
Peter led them to the cleansing of all sins through baptism.
Though water and the Spirit wash away the filthy past,
we humans still are prone to sin, and may become down-cast.
But now we have the avenue of prayer through Christ our Lord,
and his purifying blood erases sin's score off the board.
When Simon, a baptized believer, tried to buy the gift of healing,
he was told to ask forgiveness in this act so unappealing.
Godly sorrow helps us change and grow through study of the word.
Prayer helps keep our relationship with the Savior undeterred.
Our one baptism into Christ gives access to the throne,
and as our mediator, he makes our wishes known
to the Father who gives liberally, much more than we can dream.
What blessings are in store for those on his celestial team!

             §         

Forgiveness

One of the hardest commandments that God has given us
is the one that says we Christians must forgive.
Wiping out any hard feelings toward our fellow man
is the only way for happiness to live.
Anger or resentment can poison the soul
and even make the body very ill,
yet as humans, we hug closely our feelings that are hurt,
and hope to cure the pain by popping pills.
Our sins against the Father are worse than any slight
that might be done to us upon the earth,
yet he forgives it all through the blood that Jesus shed.
In him alone we have eternal worth.
We need his help to grow our faith,  give us the strength and will
to turn loose of the horrid, painful past,
becoming different, unique, to mirror Godly love,
lest from his presence we should be outcast.
We cannot pray effectively as long as we hold on
to the hateful grudge that in our heart holds sway.
For our own benefit, he directs us to forgive
and learn the freedom of the living way.

  §

The Truly Happy Man
(Psalm 1)

Blessed (happy) is the man who only looks to God
for advice in planning all that he must do.
He walks not in the counsel of the wicked, never choosing
a worldly person as his great guru.
He never mocks another to belittle and condemn,
delights in serving God by serving man..
On the law of God he meditates to train his mind and soul,
producing righteous fruit by God’s own plan,
like a tree that’s planted in rich soil beside the riverbank,
where the stress of drought will never reach it’s roots.
Each season brings a bounty, sustaining life and growth,
and even an abundance of new shoots.
Whatever work he finds to do, he does it with his might,
according to the word of Christ the Lord.
According to obedience, he prospers at his task,
accepting that the Christian walk is hard.

Not so the man of evil, like chaff blown by the wind,
whose thoughts are for himself, of lust and greed.
Of no substantial value are his efforts in the world,
no worthwhile crop, his hungry soul to feed.
He will fall down in shame at the judgment seat of Christ,
too late for mercy on that fateful day,
but will perish just as God has promised, God who never lies.
Then, sadly, it will be too late to pray.

§

From sermons by Patrick Porter

Pride and Greed

The rich young ruler was serious, asked Jesus what he lacked
in being righteous and godly, for he seemed to have the knack
of obeying rules, observing rites and looking religious to others,
the kind of man we’re searching for to count among our brothers.
We like to judge by appearance, respect those with riches and power
who keep the pews warm on Sunday and amuse us by the hour
with tales of exploits unnumbered, their wonderful wisdom to share.
But behind closed doors we might could find tales that would curl our hair.
The message of the worldly appeals to our pride and greed,
breeds painful envy and contempt, insecurities to feed.
Their do-it-yourself deities are calling us by name
to offer wondrous riches, glory, honor, fame.
Their images copy corruptible man and glorify his shame,
with no thought of repentance, their innocence to reclaim.
Our vanity never has enough; peer pressure often rules.
We need a nicer house and car, more finery, more tools.
Self worth revolves around our stuff that’s supposed to make us happy.
We need fences and gates and guard dogs for contentment, and make it snappy!
King Tut was buried with treasures galore, while his hungry mourners wept.
Abundance messes with the mind; its blessings can’t be kept.
Jesus knew the rich young ruler could not find happiness
except in giving of himself, other needy souls to bless.
The Israelites rejected God to worship a golden calf,
and when Solomon married pagan wives, his wisdom seemed cut in half.
We all keep pushing the limits to fill our emptiness
when only God can satisfy and cure our selfishness.
He invests in us his loving grace, then we turn and walk away
to further our own agenda, new heartbreak for him each day.
The Sabbath was given for man to savor the glories of creation,
to worship, praise and honor God in quiet meditation.
Christ Jesus rested in the grave on the Sabbath day
after creating our redemption, such a terrible price to pay
for the church which he established, a family of saints,
his body of believers who, to the world, seem quaint.
We are to be contented with whatever we may own,
like Jesus who had nothing, not even an earthly home.
Possessions are just a hindrance, an added weight to bear.
We’ll be glad for empty arms with which to greet him “over there.”

§

Choosing Life

Self indulgence–do your own thing:
This is the basis of sin.
The world will tell you,"If it feels good, do it.
Whatever it takes to win."
We were sons of disobedience,
walking the wide highway,
headed for disaster
with only hell to pay.
God's wrath for our sin was poured out
on Jesus, his dear Son.
His love and mercy redeemed us
and victory was won.
He chose us as his children
and gives us the right to choose
to follow in his footsteps,
or his priceless gift refuse.
He daily seeks the best for us;
the devil wishes us harm.
The Father offers comfort
within his mighty arms.
His grace is sufficient for all our needs
as we trust and obey,
safe and secure for eternity
where no one can snatch us away.

§

From sermons by Leland Odneal

Who is God's Friend?

Abraham was called a friend of God
because his faith obeyed.
Off to a strange land he sojourned;
not a moment in doubt delayed.
Despite some mistaken decisions,
he accepted God’s promises true,
planned to sacrifice his only son
 just because God told him to.

How today can we be a friend of God?
Love with heart, mind, soul and strength.
Seek his face when times are good or bad,
for his cause go to any length.
Good friends spend time together,
their blessings gladly share.
Christ’s friends will join him in glory–
no sorrow or death over there!

Christ grafts his friends into the vine,
the church for which he died.
For the vilest of sinners he gave his all,
was tortured and crucified.
He sticks even closer than a brother,
listens, supports, sustains.
His yoke is easy, not burdensome.
Fear the Lord, honor his name.

§

Evil, Pain and Suffering

Many people believe that evil and pain
disprove the existence of God,
a flawed understanding of creation’s ultimate aim.
The freedom to choose makes us human,
and suffering strengthens the soul,
like precious gold that is purified by flame.
A loving Lord instructs us
to choose good over evil,
but obedience is by daily personal choice.
Would you rather be a robot,
programmed for exacting duty,
who could not respond to God’s melodious voice?
Freedom brings consequences,
unwise choices cause us pain,
sometimes roiling others in our wake.
Some pain may came from sin
or natural disasters,
and carelessness can cause plain old mistakes.
Decisions made by others
may often cause us grief.
God can’t be blamed for man’s own foolish acts.
Job’s faith was tested by his pain
and yet he realized
God’s goodness, love and power were still facts.
Instead of asking, “Why me, Lord?”
Just say, “Please help me cope.
Teach me and make me stronger for the race.”
In suffering we learn how much
we need the Father’s help,
and rely upon his loving, saving grace.
Even Jesus Christ was not exempt
from suffering and pain,
the depth of which we cannot comprehend.
With thankfulness we take his gift,
the shed blood of the cross,
that our life’s story has an awesome end.

§

Promises of God

God’s promises are relevant in our lives each day,
encouraging and strengthening the soul.
We can trust him to forgive our sins and be our constant friend,
with life in heaven our eternal goal.
He makes the faithful over into a new creation,
complete for any work we undertake.
His love grants us our heart’s desires within unselfish bounds,
for we know his promises he’ll never break.
He gives our lives rich treasures, far beyond our dreaming,
will walk beside us to the very end.
He understands us perfectly, our weaknesses and strengths,
sends angel-help, our problems to attend.
He listens to the pure in heart, protecting us from evil,
rewards the seekers of his righteousness.
Although we are misunderstood by the unbelievers,
God gives us strength and love, their lives to bless.
In times of trouble he is there with water for the thirsty
and food that will sustain his weary child.
He has a purpose for our lives, takes care of all our needs,
if our attitude, like his, is meek and mild.
He gives mercy to the merciful, is gentle with the fragile,
and expects self-discipline from us as well.
Struggle and temptation was learned by Christ on earth,
and he has the antidote, our fears to quell.
The Holy Spirit in our hearts changes who we are.
Love and joy and peace thrive deep within.
We are truly free in Christ, exalted by his presence,
calmed by the promise of forgiven sin.
No fears of condemnation can shake the faithful child.
The Savior feels our woe and intercedes.
Never withholding anything from his family,
through prayer he gives us everything we need.
Using difficulties to strengthen, he makes us more like Christ,
and uses us to spread his word below.
When we are weak, the Lord is strong, has overcome the devil,
and works all things for good, our great Hero.

§

Natural Disasters

Is suffering catastrophes the consequence of sin?
Or does it teach the value of godly peace within?
Sometimes the innocent pay the price of another’s selfish act,
yet God can use it all for good to keep his saints intact.
As an earthquake saved the jailor’s life, and better yet, his soul,
God has the power to restore, with our happiness his goal.
He has authority and power to protect us if he chose,
but beyond our understanding, his great wisdom knows
that we need challenges to face in order to mature,
to see that only through his strength can our souls be secure.
Dependence on him sets us free, his blessings to pursue,
to sort out our priorities, our righteousness renew.
We see that busyness and peace seldom ever mix,
that worldly pleasure often can leave us in a fix.
Disaster can be sobering, repentance to avail,
reminding us to call on God, who answers without fail.
It helps us understand that life on earth is short and vain
without the mutual love and joy found on a higher plain.
To realize our need for God and other human beings
is humbling, just the thing we need for blessings past our seeing.
Without the pain of trial and turbulence below,
the wonderment and value of peace we cannot know.

§

Sermons by Juan Valverde

Our Relationship with God

It is your choice; come near to God
and he will come near to you.
Wash your hands, purify your heart,
to your deepest faith be true.
If you stray away like the prodigal son,
you are out of the Father’s reach.
His protection you may forfeit,
as the scriptures plainly teach.
Even the son who stayed at home,
though physically near the dad,
let resentment strain his relationship
and make his attitude bad.
Young David knew God was with him,
but Bathsheba blurred his vision.
Emotion replaced clear thinking;
 sensuality made the decision.
Though repentance brought him back to God,
he paid dearly for his sin.
Our memories of past mistakes
keep burning deeply within.
Loving discipline is necessary,
and punishment at times.
The sins that separate us from God
will rob us of the sublime.
He refuses to hear the prayers of one
so distanced from his way,
yet always longs for his child’s return
when he can shout “Hooray!”

§

Die Once--Then Judgment


There are different pictures of judgment day, depending on our view:
Punishment for the ungodly, joyous rewards for a few.
The common goal of Christians is heaven with the redeemed,
more beautiful and peaceful than we have ever dreamed.
Christ gave us the  church as a haven to share and encourage each other
in all good things of righteousness, the hope of every brother.
As we continue to struggle and strive, this fellowship is essential
in overcoming evil, a goal that is providential.
Jesus died to open up the door that leads to eternal bliss.
At all times we should be ready, all temptation to dismiss,
preparing for the judgment according to God’s will.
The depth of the heart shows in each deed we do as we climb the rocky hill.
Drive yourself to study and rightly divide the word that can save your soul.
Satan looks for the weaklings along the edge. Inattention can take its toll.
Grow in grace and knowledge, abiding in the light.
Stay on the track to the end of the race, like a homing pigeon in flight.
Follow in Christ’s footsteps, become more like him each day.
Learn and live by love, be meek and kind, for this is the heavenly way.
The teachings of Christ are simple, IQ is not important.
Feed upon his manna, keep your mind absorbent.
Peace will permeate your thoughts, your soul will be set free,
knowing the Lord a s Master through all eternity.

§

Above and Beyond

Will God be pleased with my daily walk
in service to him and man?
Am I too busy with my own life
to focus on his plan?
I should be more zealous toward his will,
obey the Word he gave,
walk on the path of the faithful
who he has promised to save.
Christ makes us perfect, answers our prayers
as long as we remain
within the Spirit of his grace,
his righteousness to obtain.
We need a great drive for the Christian life,
greater than for work or friends,
greater even than for our family,
yet these will grow without end
while preparing for eternity,
apart from worldly strife.
Refreshing ourselves in his refuge, the church,
gives us one step up in this life,
and closer to bliss, like Enoch,
whose faithfulness is a legend
A close friend to God, he never saw death
but was translated into heaven.
Entanglement with vain worldly affairs
can draw our attention away
from the path of service to others
toward mayhem where Satan holds sway.
Christ always obeyed the Father,
was pleasing beyond measure.
We can follow in his footsteps and
inherit eternal treasure.
 
§

Sermons by Hal Crass

A Sincere Heart

Every verse of God’s Word is important
in making us pleasing to him.
To take a man’s word for the health of our soul
makes our chance for eternity slim.
Apollos, a Jew, was converted to Christ,
but knew only John’s baptism.
Priscilla and Aquilla heard him preach,
but instead of criticism,
they kindly taught him in private
the gospel more accurately,
and since he was eager and willing to learn,
the truth was easy to see.
An open mind and receiving heart
that wants to be pleasing to God
accepts gentle, loving correction,
the discipline of his rod.
Others who were preaching Jesus
were told by disciples to stop
because the preachers were not “one of us.”
They wanted the cream of the crop.
“Whoever is not against us
is for us,” Jesus said.
He can take any talent we offer
and use it for living bread.
Though we all may read the same scripture,
not all are of one accord.
Background may influence the meaning
of our service to the Lord.
Try to understand where they are coming from
when teaching the Bible to others.
Test your own motives, be humble and kind
to prospective sisters and brothers.
We cannot rely on the “experts,”
theologians or preachers or priests,
put our souls in the hand of mere humans,
and expect to enjoy the great feast.
Study for yourself with a childlike faith
and a positive attitude.
Then God will supply his wisdom
to a heart filled with gratitude.

§

Knowledge

Beginning with faith, there are virtues
that a Christian adds throughout life
which produce fruits of the Spirit
and reduce our pain and strife.
God once communicated
with his people one-on-one,
but much has changed in latter times
since he sent his precious Son
to show us by example
a better way to live,
that happiness and joy are found
in learning to forgive.
This knowledge added to our faith
conditions the heart and soul.
The Spirit guides our thinking,
making us pure and whole.
Fundamental to relationship
with our God above
is knowledge of his holy word,
the essence of his love.
This is his communication
to all who would believe,
and we respond to him in prayer,
his blessings to receive.
It equips us with the answers
to questions of our hope,
with needed strength and purpose
to struggle and to cope;
to identify false doctrines
and escape the devil’s wiles.
Knowledge of the Father’s love
is the source of endless smiles.

§

Steps to Salvation

We hear the gospel's message,
 believe in Christ the Lord,
confess that faith to others.
 None of these steps are hard.
Repentance for our worldly ways
may be a little tough.
No matter what we do or say,
it never seems enough.
Baptism--washing sins away
in blood that Jesus shed--
completes the first requirements.
We've risen from the dead.
This begins a life-long process,
taking on the mind of Christ,
building character, compassion,
forgiveness, sacrifice.
Cultive humility of heart,
an unselfish attitude,
be teachable, submissive,
show constant gratitude.
With help from the Holy Spirit,
 we're in various states of change.
Our souls are gently molded,
old lives to rearrange.
A meek and docile spirit
may lead others to the Light,
toward the way of God's contentment,
the land where is no night.
Where greed and self-indulgence
led to misery and strife,
now the attitude of Jesus
leads us to eternal life,
preparing us for heaven's
Father-son relationship,
supplying food and water
to enjoy throughout the trip.

§

Choices, Decisions

We're always making choices; some may seem like second nature,
as daily choosing to get out of bed.
What we are and will become are based on our decisions.
We need to keep the basics in our head
to avoid a life of heartache, stress and pain from unsound choices.
A relationship with God is number one.
The sooner this good choice is made, the more joy we encounter.
Contentment in the Lord is more than fun.

How to earn our daily bread is important--yes, essential..
Learn what you love to do, then look around
for someone who will pay you for the job that you enjoy.
Then you know that your decision will be sound.

Take time and pray for wisdom in choosing your life mate.
Use common sense; don't let emotions rule.
Look for character, integrity, devotion to the Master,
and your choice won't show you up to be a fool.

Put methodology to work in planning out your life.
Look for all useful info, and then pray.
Ask "What would Jesus do?" and he will help you choose,
point out the most objective, righteous way.

Teach children how to make decisions, learn from their mistakes.
Be honest and admit, "I just don't know."
Experience makes choices easier, even someone else's.
Eliminate unknowns, seek more info.

Our prisons are full of proof that bad decisions can be costly.
Too many blame their ruined lives on others.
To take responsibility is the first step up the ladder
in learning to beome a caring brother.

§

Human Development

Physical growth is obvious, from birth to teens or more,
but also there is other development in store.
Emotions are important, and social needs are great.
Our intellectual output we hope will be first rate.
Then spirituality starts to bloom, connected to the others--
Love for the Father and the Son, our sisters and our brothers.
Each develops at his own speed at the level necessary
to accomodate whatever need, however arbitrary.
Dysfunction shows a lack of growth in any of these five,
controling mind and body, moving goals for which we strive.
It may affect ability for peace at work and play,
for good and wise decisions to walk the narrow way.
Immaturity may lead to disobedience of the law,
recognizing and setting priorities, seeing our own worst flaws.
Then compassion and forgiveness are foreign as the moon.
Other folks must make us happy, and they'd better make it soon!

Christ came to telll his followers there is a better way.
The less-developed are offered hope. His grace is free today!
His advice and commandments are wonderful news, the source of true happiness.
Obedience brings joy and love, our eternal souls to bless.
Understand what Christ has done for us, the awesome gift he gave--
a voluntary, cruel death, his enemies to save.
Developing the mind of Christ, we grow to higher realms
and live in harmony and peace, with love that overwhelms.
A love that motivates, compels to go the extra mile,
bend over backwards just to serve, share blessings with a smile.
Agape love trumps any card, the ace that wins, hands down.
No deal from Satan's deck turns up the promise of a crown.

§

The Great Commission

Ere Christ returned to heaven,
he told his dearest friends,
“Go. . . preach, and make disciples through my word.
Teach all I have commanded,
and I will be there with you
as you spread the greatest news the world has heard.”
Many factors are involved
in reaching varied peoples.
One size does not fit all, each soul unique.
Be humble and submissive,
no arguments or put-downs,
and when scorn pains you, turn the other cheek.
Some may be much too comfy
with the way they are
to be receptive to the gospel’s grace.
But many hearts are fertile ground
for sowing of the word,
want better plants to fill their garden space.
The gift of teaching may be rare--
a sense for understanding
just what a person needs and what to say.
But all can help them carry on
by selfless acts of service,
preparing souls to face the judgment day.
Each saint should be prepared to tell
what Christ has done for him
when asked by anyone about his faith.
Example sometimes teaches more
to neighbors than our words,
like hot soup served up to a starving waif.
We are to help all children,
the fatherless and widows,
and abusers soon will feel the wrath of God.
We must not walk alone,
but share the heavy burdens
of others down the path that angels trod.

§

What Motivates Me?

We tend to be subjective, need objectivity
in order to examine self in truth.
Getting honest about the way we feel and the acts of daily life
is not easy, for it speaks of sad reproof.
We tend to rationalize, deny, excuse our foolish ways,
avoiding guilt and pain that cause us grief.
Humility that leads to change is hard for prideful humans,
yet its absen ce is a state of unbelief.

We must assess our reasons for everything we do.
Sometimes we need some help to see the light.
The gravity of David’s sin was pointed out by Nathan,
at once improved his lacking inner sight.
Repentance took away the guilt that weighed upon his soul
and made him ineffective for the Lord.
We must be honest with ourselves, confess our faults and weakness,
then make a turn-around, however hard.

When driven by resentment, feeling like a pious martyr,
unholy anger rules our every thought.
Emotional pain, undaunted pride may feed self-righteousness
till sanity and health have come to naught.
“Be angry and sin not”–be angry only with sin.
Show your emotions in a healthy way.
Don’t let your attitude be damaged by a hostile bully.
His self esteem is suffering today.

Materialism pushes some, with hopes of worldly power,
security or happiness or fame.
But love of money can consume a Christian’s heart and soul.
To wager thus is not an idle game.
The need for approval and recognition can become unbalanced.
Impressing others is our only goal.
Social status can become a god with appetite unsated,
like the suction of an outer space “dark hole.”

Fear is a motivator given to the human
for self protection when the need is right.
A pilot fears the coming storm he knows  may mean disaster,
makes changes in immediate plans for flight.
Unhealthy fear of criticism, ridicule and shunning,
or phobias unnumbered causing panic
need professional intervention, a lot of TLC,
and tests for causes possibly organic.

The reasons for a Christian’s walk should be motivated
by an attitude of gratitude and love.
In the shelter of God’s loving arms we are safely nestled,
warm and comfy as a velvet glove.
We want to show our thankfulness for his matchless grace
and mirror his transforming light to all,
becoming more and more like Jesus each and every day,
waiting for that last victorious call.

§

Worship

There is more to worship than “going to church”,
a daily attitude
of awe and reverence, honor, praise,
obedience, gratitude.
We are like God in spirit,
able to discern
the difference in truth and error,
to create and to learn.
In spirit and truth we worship
according to God’s own plan.
His wisdom tells us what is best,
tho we may not understand.
Worship is not meant to entertain;
we must participate.
Keep it simple, from the heart,
his grace to celebrate.
Behavior must be consistent with words.
Work to serve both God and man.
Be a daily living sacrifice,
help others when you can.
Be good stewards of God’s money.
Is that beggar really in need,
or just too lazy to work for food,
driven by lust and greed?
Children are innocent victims,
and worthy of our care.
Proper love and Christian teaching
helps them overcome despair
to become productive citizens
and children of the King.
When one precious soul is rescued,
the bells of heaven ring.

§

Temptation

No one is immune to temptation.
The question is not “if” but “when?”
It starts in the mind with our selfish desires,
with Satan determined to win.
He aims at our vulnerable soft spot--
the psyche so riddled by doubt,
the body now weakened to yearnings,
the anger at hand to burst out.
We must teach our desires the right motives;
with truth, exercise our will;
give Satan the orders to vacate our mind;
God’s righteousness fulfill.
His Holy Spirit will not reside
in the temple where Satan lurks.
This father of lies encourages us
to believe the easy way works.
Our gossip and slander are stumbling blocks
to the weak or newborn brother.
The tongue is a murderous weapon
that can kill or injure another.
Being careful not to put God to the test,
deceiving ourselves in the trying,
we learn to discern the right from the wrong
to garner a faith that’s undying.

§

Understanding Depression

The “common cold of mental health”
is said to be depression,
which happens to even the best of us,
calling for compassion.
It’s a sad and hopeless feeling,
loss of interest in life’s pleasures,
anger based anxiety,
constant thoughts of guilt and failure.
Concentration is a problem
and memory is fleeting;
sleep and eating habits change,
decisions are heart-rending.
Like friends of Job, we often judge
and blame the harried victim,
listing his imagined sins,
not trying to console him.
It’s cause may be events and change,
perhaps short-lived, then gone.
Or the source could be genetic,
inherited; prolonged,
an imbalance in brain chemistry
that causes irrational acts.
We should learn to understand it,
search for all the facts.
Alcoholism and drug abuse
are oft self-medication
that mask this dark unhappiness
with its mental flagellation.
Many folks are driven from the church
by lack of compassion and love.
Job’s friends who judged him angered God
who watches from above
armchair psychologists today
who deride their fellow man
and cause more mental anguish
any way they can.

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Parables of the Lost

We know from the parables of Christ
that a few of his children will stray,
and according to careful statistics,
that fact is so true today.
Of the forty-five percent who leave,
a majority don’t return.
Many completely abandon the faith,
and are cause for much concern.
Why do they go? We would all like to know.
Perhaps we can help change the tide
if we look at ourselves and our methods
instead of complain and deride.
Were they ever really converted?
Just immature and weak?
Turned easily by the cares of the world,
it’s riches and glory to seek?
The answers they give may be humbling.
We are cold and indifferent, they say,
prideful and self-righteous,
legalistic and lacking in grace.
Our judgmental attitude scorns them.
Blame the victim is often our cry.
We lack understanding and wisdom;
compassion and love we deny.
Like the hypocritical Pharisees,
we shun those who don’t think like us,
rub their noses in sins of the past
and throw them under the bus.
Christianity is not a religion,
but a loving relationship
with patience and understanding
that sometimes must zip the lip.
When we stake a claim in his body, the church,
do we take his name in vain
by criticizing his servants
to cause mental anguish and pain?
Does cult-like brainwashing narrow our scope
to legalism and pride,
with few inspiring examples
to help keep the stray sheep inside?

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What in the World is Life All About?

Life is a puzzle we’re striving to solve,
a journey, with heaven our goal.
Some days are like a roller coaster ride
as we struggle to find our own role.
Or is it a game for worldly acclaim,
the guy with the most toys a winner?
We must be prepared with the right puzzle piece
to aid the questioning sinner.

Life is a test of integrity, faith,
obedience, honesty, love,
of how we handle temptations
and honor our God up above.
Each failure has consequences,
even though it may be forgiven.
Success is richly rewarded
when by sincere love we are driven
The wide path to sin is selfishness;
by our own desires enticed.
Deep rooted faith keeps us grounded
in the field of self-sacrifice.

Life is a trust; each one is in charge
of things that belong to another.
Everything in the world belongs to God.
Our talents we must not smother.
As trustees of our gifts from God–
children, money, time–
we must invest them wisely
in the cause that is sublime.

Life is temporary, fleeting,
passes swift as morning dew.
Only spiritual things are eternal,
and we must not miss our cue.
As strangers and pilgrims on the earth,
with Captain Christ at the helm,
our citizen-ship is good hands,
sailing toward that heavenly realm.

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Life Changes

Repentance is a process, not just a one-time event.
We turn from sin, dedicate our lives to continual amendment,
correction for the better, to alter and improve
our attitude of service, old habits to remove.
We become aware of our selfish ways, contrary to God’s will,
and pray for help and wisdom, his wishes to fulfill.
With study, we more easily can see our faults and change,
be pliable like molding clay , our ways to rearrange,
developing a humble heart, forgiving attitude,
unselfish spirit, compassionate soul, a deep new gratitude.
God’s wisdom knew we needed help and gave us his own Word
as a tutorial for our growth, the best news ever heard.
Jesus lived as our example, was tempted in every way,
knows just exactly how we feel even before we pray.
The world would teach us selfishness, with pride our main concern.
Compassion is not macho; with lust our spirits burn.
Unforgiveness can surely make us mentally and physically ill,
living in daily torment, like frying on Satan’s grill.
God’s forgiveness is conditional because he knows our need
of turning loose our grudges to make new life succeed
Each of us has different temptations; we cannot judge another,
but through example and kind words, we may help save a brother.
Convincing people of a better way by reflecting Christian light
is to show that life is better lived by faith instead of sight.

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The Humble Shall Be Lifted Up

The five steps that lead to salvation are a process, not an event.
Repentance--constant changing–never ends.
The carnal body must resist the devil every day,
sometimes appearing as the best of friends.
Jesus showed us by example that we can resist temptation
as we learn to be like him in word and deed.
Abundant crops are promised if we plow and plant and harvest.
He furnishes the water and the seed.
As we follow in his footsteps, we see his great compassion,
relieving pain and suffering and woe.
His spirit of submission seems foreign to our nature,
yet his sympathy is humbling to behold
As we emulate the Savior, we can learn how to detect
when someone near is hurting deep inside.
To demonstrate compassion goes far beyond a feeling.
The need for TLC can’t be denied.
He plainly showed that love is active, does whatever work
is necessary for a friend or foe.
Like the humble child, so innocent of hidden, dark agendas,
render random acts of kindness here below.
Jesus owned no earthly home or wealth, yet gave and gave and gave
of the things most needed by a world in pain.
We have wealth and time and talents which we should gladly share,
take weary travelers on the glory train.

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Forgiveness

God promises forgiveness for every shameful sin
if we meet all the conditions he has set.
Belief that Jesus is the Christ who came to save our souls
is just the first demand that must be met.
Repentance: Stop and turn around, completely change direction.
Prepare to walk the long and narrow road.
Confess your faith in Christ the Lord, be baptized in his name,
and he will take your heavy sinful load.
Forgive your fellow humans just as you have been forgiven
and another load is lifted from your heart.
Include the worst of enemies in your humble prayers
and your new-found peace of mind will not depart.
Expect good things to happen now–forgiveness from above,
with untold joy and growing self-esteem .
A positive influence with others can be felt,
perhaps some other sinners to redeem.
Don’t be puffed up with pride and dwell on the offense
or the injury will fester worse with time.
Ask for help from the Holy Spirit to change your attitude
from victimized to victory sublime.
Unforgiveness is a bitterness that poisons the heart,
where the hated person still is in control.
Personality disorders, unpleasant disposition,
poor health and stress do damage to the soul.
Forgiveness may not heal the scars, but can take away the pain.
Leave vengeance to your just and righteous God.
Recognize the healing power in this act of love,
no more self pity, feeling so downtrod.
God’s love is unconditional, but not his great forgiveness.
Free choice is ours–ignore him or obey.
We can look forward eagerly to his second coming
or live in dread of meeting judgment day.

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Defeating the Enemy

Satan is the enemy of every child of God,
doing battle daily in the heavenly realms.
A child of disobedience, the ruler of the world,
his lies lead down where darkness overwhelms.
An angel of the bottomless pit, so powerful and wicked,
this serpent revels in deceit and murder.
He prowls among the sheep of God, hoping to devour
the weak who wander past the caring herder.
This is a war for your very soul; don’t underestimate
the enemy, a cunning adversary.
Anticipate what he may do and clearly understand--
his tactics may be extraordinary.
Know the weapons in his arsenal and all their many uses,
know when and where he will engage you next.
Be practiced with your godly arms to neutralize and stun.
Surprise will leave old Satan sorely vexed.
Be aggressive and proactive, initiate the battle,
do what you’ve trained to do in spite of fear.
Even if your life on earth is lost, your soul is safe forever
because the Savior’s hand is always near.
The battlefield is in your mind; your weapon is the Word
that will repel the devil and his schemes.
Pride and ignorance are the tools he favors in his quest for Christians.
You must remember God’s grace still redeems.
His commands are for your own good; his Holy Spirit guides you,
and humble prayer can deal with selfish pride.
Carry his banner, never give up, be on the offensive.
You cannot lose when Christ is on your side.
An attitude of gratitude helps keep your soul connected
to the Lord whose power you are free to use.
Be self-controlled, alert and cool; dismiss those evil thoughts
lest they mature into real heart-abuse.
Don’t gamble the eternal for the temporary.
Resist the evil one and he will flee.
The Holy Spirit dwells within and helps you make decisions.
Fruits of the Spirit glow like fire in thee.

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From Sermons by Walt Berry

Divine Relationships

The best-known love of modern times,
eros, from which comes erotic,
is not even mentioned by Jesus.
He asks of us nothing exotic.
Agape is the love required
to live in peace with the Lord,
not uncontrolled action of the heart,
but the will and mind in accord
with the teachings he left us in his Word
that can change us from within,
make us more like our Creator,
completely cleansed of sin.
Agape is the greatest gift
God offers on the earth.
Without it, all our work is vain,
our worship has no worth.
As light shines through a prism
to make a lovely rainbow,
agape brightens every day
and sets the soul aglow.
Fruits of the Spirit grow from its warmth
in an atmosphere of peace,
saves liberty from sad misuse,
helps selfish strivings cease.
This love is the basis of faith and hope,
the fundamental doctrine of Christ,
who proved amazing agape
by his painful sacrifice.
To love him in the way he loves
is to keep the commandments he gave
that will change us into his likeness
with the heart of a willing slave.

From sermons of Les Reed



The Power of Grace

 The reality of Jesus,
his life upon the earth,
has been known throughout our history—
from his miraculous birth
to his death and resurrection,
his power o’er the grave
that gives believers victory,
our sinful souls to save.
We can live for him and in him—
he is all we ever need
for success in everything we do
if we only let him lead.
He changed the world we live in
with love for every soul.
His example is our roadmap
to reach that final goal.
By the power of his awesome grace
we are changed forevermore
to live eternally with him
on that peaceful shore.
Fruits of the Spirit show the world
whose children we’ve become
when we react to them with love,
glowing faces never glum.
If we are on fire for the Lord
in everything we do,
he richly dwells within our hearts,
each day an adventure new.
Our salt adds flavor to the meal
and a brightly shining light
to lead the lost and blinded
out of the darkest night.
We can lift folks from the stinking mire
that drags them down in shame,
live out obedient, active faith,
glorify Christ’s holy name.


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