• Just a friendly reminder for everyone going to the Grizzlies game tonight. Also, the Oliver Creek Church of Christ has a group of 9 people coming to the game too. They'll be joining our group! Let's be sure to greet them.
    1. While We Wait

      I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

      and in his word I hope;

      my soul waits for the Lord

      more than watchmen for the morning,

      more than watchmen for the morning.

      —Psalm 130:5-6

      “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;

      I will take you by the hand and keep you;

      I will give you as a covenant for the people,

      a light for the nations,

      to open the eyes that are blind,

      to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

      from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

      —Isaiah 42:6-7

      “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

      —Ezekiel 33:11

      Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

      —1 Peter 2:12

      Eager anticipation is a form of waiting, but waiting filled with hope and purpose.

      Children may look forward eagerly to Christmas or birthdays. Parents and grandparents do as well, but in a different way. Preparing for a family visit or a birthday party can be a part of joyous anticipation of joy to come. And every year, before holidays such as Easter or Christmas, I see articles urging readers not to become stressed or filled with performance anxiety, but to remember what the season is supposed to be about.

      After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus went to Nazareth and read prophecies of good news, then told those in the synagogue that those prophecies were being fulfilled right in front of them. The sun was rising, then and there.

      The word "fulfill" means to bring to completion. God had called Isaiah to be a bringer of good news and healing and release, just as He had called Moses to the same work much earlier. And just as He had called all of Israel to be and do all along. Jesus was the perfect completion of a task that Israel had failed to complete. And Jesus had shared that task with His followers, calling in the Sermon on the Mount, “...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father...

      There's an old hymn by Philip P. Bliss that builds on that metaphor, beginning:

      Brightly beams our Father’s mercy

      From His lighthouse evermore;

      But to us He gives the keeping

      Of the lights along the shore.

      A few lines later, that hymn resonates with the hope-filled song that describes

      watchmen waiting “for the morning”, but it does so from a different point of view. The watchmen watch to give safety to others. Bliss's line gives the perspective of the others:

      Eager eyes are watching, longing,

      For the lights along the shore.

      It seems easier to have compassion on those who are seen as seekers looking for the light. It seems harder to regard even the most bitter opponents as fellow victims of the enemy who seeks to destroy all humans. But that is exactly what they are. Peter's message about the patience of the Lord, “not wishing that any should perish”, applies to them as well.

      Eager anticipation of the Lord's final, eternal dawning includes a renewed dedication to reflect the light of His love and truth.

      To all. While we wait.

      1. Gravity

        The heavens declare the glory of God,

        and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

        The law of the Lord is perfect,

        reviving the soul;

        the testimony of the Lord is sure,

        making wise the simple;

        Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

        be acceptable in your sight,

        O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

        —Psalm 19:1, 7, 14

        “You shall not murder.”

        —Exodus 20:13

        “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. ... You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

        —Leviticus 19:18, 34

        “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

        —Matthew 5:21-22

        Gravity cannot be seen, but its existence is clear from its effects.

        Although the consequences of gravity have been known from ancient times, it took the work of Isaac Newton to give us the beginnings of a clear understanding. Ancient and medieval thinkers thought the world—where humans live—was the center of the universe. And they assumed that the objects that moved through the sky—sun, moon, and stars—moved in perfect circles centered on the earth. Unfortunately, those ideas couldn't explain what was clearly visible in the motions of the planets. So the theory of epicycles was born, with circles on top of circles, progressive complications in an attempt to force facts to match ideas built on a flawed foundation.

        Between 1616 and 1633, the religious leaders of Galileo's time persecuted him and eventually put him on trial for the supposedly "heretical" belief that the earth was not the center. Copernicus and others had seen bits and pieces of how orbits could be described, but Newton finally published in 1687 a full account of what we now call Newton's laws of motion, from which the relationships between gravity and orbits could finally be explained, with a level of accuracy that defied improvement until Einstein.

        I'm not suggesting that Sir Isaac was divinely inspired, but using that little bit of scientific history as a parable for human misunderstanding of the Law of Moses.

        Humans have always been tempted to put themselves—instead of God—at the center of things. But starting with that false assumption leads to more and more complicated rationalizations as they try to make sense of life. Some don't even try, but simply do what they want. Remember how the book of Judges ends?

        I have heard some people try to contrast an "angry God" of the patriarchs and Moses with the meek and gentle Jesus of the gospels. But the Sermon on the Mound doesn't record Jesus saying "The Law told you that, but I'm telling you this." Instead, He taught, "You have heard... but I say..." He was deconstructing the false embellishments that had been placed on top of the Law, and the false practices by which some of the religious leaders of His day lived.

        And those religious leaders didn't like it.

        They criticized and pursued Jesus and finally used a trumped-up set of charges and a fake trial to send Him to His death. Defying the teachings of the very Law that they claimed to uphold. The very Law that He came to fulfill.

        Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia that “the law was our guardian until Christ came”. And a school zone crossing guard has to impose rules on children that aren't needed after they have grown. But the principles are still there. John wrote in his first letter that “this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

        Those who try to ignore the first three-fourths of the Bible fail to understand the gravity of their mistake.

        So do those who still try to put humans at the center of the universe.

        1. Ebenezer

          Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

          whose hope is in the Lord his God,

          who made heaven and earth,

          the sea, and all that is in them,

          who keeps faith forever;

          who executes justice for the oppressed,

          who gives food to the hungry.

          —Psalm 146:5-7

          And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

          As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.

          Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

          —1 Samuel 7:3-4, 10, 12

          And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened.

          —Matthew 9:27:30a

          "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" contains words that first stood on their own as a hymn from the author of both, Robert Robison.

          Here I raise my Ebenezer,

          Hither by thine help I've come;

          And I hope, by thy good pleasure,

          Safely to arrive at home.

          Nearly a century later, Charles Dickens used "Ebenezer" as the first name of his central character in A Christmas Carol. And that raises a question: which do we typically remember, the "Ebenezer Scrooge" at the beginning of the story, or at the end?

          Samuel lived in a turbulent time. The book of Judges ends with the tragic words, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The record makes abundantly clear that their idea of “what was right” was nothing like what the Lord had called Israel to do. (Not that different from today.) So, as Moses had prophesied, Israel ended up under the heel of the surrounding Philistines. And the Lord rescued them again, giving the Philistines a little taste of the power that had freed Israel from Egypt.

          After the captured ark was returned, Israel spent twenty years lamenting and repenting. Then Samuel called for complete rededication, purging the nation (again) of the idols that they had accumulated. Then, when the Philistines tried to attack the people gathered for prayer and fasting, the Lord protected them.

          And that's when Samuel set up a memorial called Stone of Help to remind Israel of the grace-filled help of the Lord.

          The Lord, who made heaven and earth, is faithful to His promises, whether or not His people deserve it. Jesus didn't quiz the blind men about their theology, ask for references, or inquire as to what they would do with their newly-bestowed sight. He saw their need and trust, and acted. The Lord acts to ensure that the oppressed are treated with fairness. He provides for those who cannot provide for themselves. He has always been, is, and always will be, the help of His people. Therefore His people can trust Him.

          At the beginning of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge lives up to his last name—stingy, grasping, miserly. By the end of the story, he has made a start toward living up to his first name, and being a reliable helper to those who needed his help. It would be nice if we remembered him for where the story left him instead of where it found him.

          It would be nice if we remembered the Ebenezer of Samuel as clearly as we remembered the Ebenezer of Dickens.

          1. Church Workday Hello Holmes Road Family, This Saturday will be our annual spring cleaning at the church from 8:00 - 12:00. We need all hands on deck to complete the attached punch list. If you can assist, please come so we can complete all items on the list. If you have any questions, please contact me at 901-387-8558. I'm looking forward to seeing you there. Thank you, Reginald
            1. Pat Hughes is being moved fro, Baptist Desoto Hospital to AHC Appling Wood in Cordova around 5PM today. No room number yet.
              1. Containers

                I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,

                for I do not forget your commandments.

                —Psalm 119:176

                All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

                —Isaiah 53:6

                “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?”

                —Matthew 18:12

                For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

                —Romans 7:18

                For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

                —2 Corinthians 4:6-7

                I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

                —Galatians 2:20

                Beatrice Warde's 1930 essay titled The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible makes a passionate case for an approach to typography that is challenged by some in the current time that emphasizes self, including self-expression. She claimed a parallel between excellence in typography and the design of a crystal goblet, "because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain."

                After 175 verses that express thanks and praise for the Lord's word (precepts, commands, teaching, laws, instruction...), Psalm 119 ends in confession. The image of a lost and wandering sheep appears later in Isaiah and the teachings of Jesus to emphasize the faithfulness and steadfast love of the Lord who seeks and rescues. And along with Paul's repeated words of thanks and praise for the grace and mercy of the gospel, we find a confession of the inner struggle: delight in the path of the Lord versus the relentless pull of distraction, defeat, and death. But then Paul breaks through the crisis with thanks and praise to the Lord who “will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

                And the light that the Father gives to the hearts of His people is not just for them. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world.”

                Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth that the glory belongs to the Lord, not the clay pots that house it while in this life. Clay pots and crystal goblets don't seem to have much in common, until we consider the purpose: to reveal and give glory to what they were intended to hold.

                That doesn't mean that the Lord's people are to be drab or faceless, invisible or identical. Paul elsewhere writes of each part making its unique contribution to the health and well-being and growth of the body. That also means that the parts of the body don't claim glory, because that belongs to the Head.

                The parts of His body are containers—vessels, pots, goblets—that are to reflect the love and shine the light of the treasure within.

                1. Three Days

                  For his anger is but for a moment,

                  and his favor is for a lifetime.

                  Weeping may tarry for the night,

                  but joy comes with the morning.

                  —Psalm 30:5

                  But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here...” And he put them all together in custody for three days...Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”

                  —Genesis 42:14-15, 17, 21

                  So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.

                  —Exodus 10:22

                  “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

                  —Matthew 12:40

                  Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

                  —Acts 9:8-9

                  The Lord didn't destroy Saul for his violent opposition to the infant church; He gave him three days of darkness.

                  Joseph was second in command in Egypt. He could have ignored his brothers' plea for food. He could have left them to rot in prison for their treachery, or even executed them. Instead, he gave them three days to consider their past actions. Genesis records their recognition of their own guilt, and shows by their subsequent words and actions that they had repented.

                  The Lord directed Moses to give Pharaoh one last chance to submit before death came. Three days of darkness gave Pharaoh time to reconsider his arrogance. The sun, worshiped by the Egyptians, was demonstrated to be just another part of the Lord's creation, totally subject to His will. Pharaoh tried to negotiate—as if he had anything with which to bargain—and ultimately refused to learn.

                  Esther requested three days and nights of fasting before she went to the king on behalf of her people. She prepared herself and approached the king in keeping with Mordecai's instruction.

                  Jonah was given three days inside the fish that had swallowed him—three days in which to repent of the rebellious attitude that sent him running away from the Lord's command to preach to Nineveh. He obeyed physically, but his heart clearly wasn't in the task, and he pouted when the Lord showed mercy to the Ninevites.

                  Jesus foretold his own three days in the darkness of the tomb. But then He left the tomb behind, bringing life and light to those who would believe.

                  Saul had three days of darkness and fasting to consider his own actions and to humble himself before the One whose body he had been persecuting. At the end of that time, he got up, prepared to be a new person. More importantly, a believer and ambassador and apostle of the One whose grace had rescued him.

                  I don't know whether Saul/Paul thought about the length of his darkness when he arose to be baptized. But, given his education, I feel that it's likely that he recognized it at some point. Perhaps as he wrote to the believers in Corinth:

                  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

                  Paul used his three days well.

                  1. Here/Hear

                    Exalt the Lord our God;

                    worship at his footstool!

                    Holy is he!

                    Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

                    Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.

                    They called to the Lord, and he answered them.

                    —Psalm 99:5-6

                    Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!”

                    —1 Samuel 3:4

                    And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’”

                    —1 Samuel 16:2

                    “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

                    —Isaiah 52:6

                    Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

                    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

                    If you take away the yoke from your midst,

                    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

                    if you pour yourself out for the hungry

                    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

                    then shall your light rise in the darkness

                    and your gloom be as the noonday.

                    —Isaiah 58:9-10

                    Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” ... But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

                    —Acts 9:10, 13-15

                    Someone might describe a moment of stress by saying, "My whole life flashed before me." Ananias seems to have had a moment in which Samuel's whole life flashed before him.

                    "Hear" means more than awareness of a sound—it means to pay attention, to act on what is heard. After years of taunts by Peninnah, Hannah's anxious prayers were heard, and she bore a son. She named him Samuel, because the Lord heard her. She gave her son to the service of the Lord, where he “continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.

                    Samuel's first recorded words occur in the dark of night, when the Lord calls and Samuel responds, “Here I am!” Young Samuel gave a response of readiness and attention even though he was at first confused about the caller. But as the calls repeated, he responded as Eli had instructed, with even more emphasis, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.

                    Despite a life of service to the Lord that included disappointment with Israel and then with Saul, Samuel had been faithful to the Lord. But when the Lord gave Samuel the job of anointing Saul's replacement, Samuel was afraid.

                    I used to struggle with the idea of the Lord giving Samuel what one commentator called "a cover story" that seemed to hedge the truth. I see it a little differently now. Yes, Samuel was being called to represent the Lord in what amounted to opposition to Saul. But the Lord gave him a way. And, on his part, Samuel made two sacrifices: in addition to the heifer, he sacrificed his fears to the Lord.

                    One more time, Samuel heard, and obeyed. Samuel became an instrument of the Lord in replacing Saul, a rebellious king, with David, a man after His own heart,.

                    The name "Ananias" appears to be a Greek version of a Hebrew name meaning "the Lord has favored" or "the Lord has been gracious", an appropriate name for one called to deliver a message of amazing grace. And when the Lord spoke, Ananias responded just like the young Samuel, “Here I am, Lord.” But when the Lord gave him his task, Ananias responded just like the aged Samuel, "That's dangerous!" (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing.) And the Lord reassured him.

                    So Ananias heard, and obeyed. Ananias became an instrument of the Lord in transforming Saul, a persecutor of the faith, into Paul, an apostle and missionary.

                    We know a number of events in Samuel's life; we know hardly any of Ananias. But, by being available, and hearing, and obeying, both of them had a part in changing the world.

                    And the Lord calls us to listen as well as they did, to listen to Him as intently as we pray for Him to listen to us.