Ponce de Leon was a Spanish adventurer who, with the sanction of the king of Spain, set out to find the legendary Fountain Of Youth . In the year 1513 he searched the coast of what is today the state of Florida in a vain attempt to locate what he envisioned to be a source of perpetually life sustaining water. What a dream, what hope! Eliminating physical death. Of course, his efforts proved to be futile. There is no such water source.
We’ve crossed over the threshold of time, moving from one year into another. This article is number thirty seven in a line of bulletin articles I’ve been privileged to write at the beginning of a new year. Four such articles have come at the beginning of a new decade, and one served to usher in a new century and millennium. I suppose it’s common for a preacher to mull over, to a somewhat greater degree, just what he should write at the beginning of a new year. He wants to say something profound, something that will motivate thoughtfulness and action in a positive direction on both an individual and a congregational basis.
As we enter into a new year, there’s a question that ought to be up front in everybody’s mind: “How Is My Relationship With God?” At about this time every year people consider how their lives are going. They reflect on what happened to them last year and look ahead to what is realistically appearing for them on the horizon.
A crisis is defined as a critical moment, a decisive point in time, a situation or period of time in which matters are difficult, uncertain, painful, potentially dangerous. Frequently, a crisis calls for decisive action to be taken in order to avoid disaster. Everyone faces a crisis in life from time to time, some more compelling than others. One of the most profound of all crises is a crisis of faith, which can come in different forms.
Our present societal mindset takes a dim view of absolutes. Anyone who is absolutely certain of what constitutes truth and right and wrong, for example, is commonly considered to be narrow minded, bigoted, even radical. Some might also consider him to be mentally unbalanced and possibly dangerous.
Could you imagine trying to live without electricity? Probably, every one of us has had some experience with that prospect, on a limited basis. Storms of various types often down power lines or cause transformers to blow. Sometimes, heavy usage within an electrical grid will lead to a shut-down of the system within that grid. There have been a number of instances of loss of power over extensive areas of the country. While such scenarios cause problems, the resultant loss of power is usually fairly short-lived. Before long, the problem is corrected and power is restored.
In the second chapter of his letter James presents a magnificent treatise on faith. Actually, he defines faith. In so doing, three times he identifies “dead” faith: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (vs. 17). “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (vs. 2:20). “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (vs. 2:26). Clearly, James describes faith that is not coupled with works, faith that is not active, as dead faith!
This past Thursday was, in my opinion, one of the great holidays that we celebrate as a nation- Thanksgiving Day! A number of reasons could be listed as to why this is a great holiday, depending on who does the listing. There are few holidays that command as much attention and respect as does this one. To a great extent, the busy pace of our society shifts down into low gear on Thanksgiving Day. Most businesses are closed, and most employees have the day off.
Jesus stated, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8:32). The truth of God’s word is key to the development of one’s personal faith (Rom. 10:17) and, consequently, to man’s eternal salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26; 1 Jn. 3:19). It is through the truth taught in scripture that one is guided to salvation and to live a life of faithfulness before God (2 Tim. 3:15-17). In his work to bring about our spiritual destruction (1 Pet. 5:9), it is therefore imperative that the devil find a means of silencing the truth. How can the truth be silenced?
On the night of His betrayal, Jesus was in the “upper room” with the apostles. In one of the longest immediate contexts of scripture in the entire Bible (Jn. 13-17), and just before the events that would lead to His leaving them and going back to Heaven would be begin to unfold, Jesus gave the apostles a great deal of instruction and encouragement. That very evening He would be taken into custody and run through a series of mock hearings. The next day He would be on the cross.
Gary L. Hutchens