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George's Corner - Pieces from Pastor George Bowers.

Unfinished Business

                It's hard to keep your age a secret when you receive a
walker in front of your congregation to "honor" your 50th birthday (Thanks
Dale and Norm!).  Nevertheless, it is a reminder that none of us are getting
any younger and that we're all heading up, over, or down the hill.  While I
have no plans of leaving here anytime soon, one of my grandfathers died
unexpectedly at my age which injects a dose of reality into this otherwise
lighthearted milestone.  

                It was also a little sobering to hold funerals just prior to
my birthday for two wonderful public servants who died too young.  Both of
these individuals had incredible accomplishments and made wonderful
contributions to our society that have and will benefit us all.  At the same
time, each left behind some unfinished business as well.  Projects and plans
that were in the works but that never got completed.  Good ideas that never
made it off the drawing board, or even out of the brain.  We all have some
of these around our homes, in our workshops, at our jobs, or in our minds.

                Turning 50 reminds me that I'm not going to have time to do
all the things I want to do and that I must choose how to spend my remaining
days on this earth wisely.  Since some business will inevitably be left
unfinished, what is most vital for me to complete?  As I've thought about
that question, let me offer some criteria that may be helpful to others who
are considering the same issues.  

                Since the greatest commandments are to love God and others,
it seems these offer guidance to us for such decisions.   First of all,
let's not let any worship of God go unoffered.  When our bodies are in their
graves, our earthly tongues cannot sing, our lips cannot pray, and our
hearts cannot praise the Eternal God.  Although Christians will do so
throughout eternity in new bodies, why not wear out the ones we've got now
by glorifying Him?  

                Secondly, we must address our relationships with others by
leaving no apologies unmade.  Let us not be like the coward who left a list
of hollow confessions to be read after his death.  On the other side of
life's hurts, let us be sure to leave no offense unforgiven.  No matter how
great the pain, nor how intentionally it was inflicted, let us, with God's
help, give the same forgiveness to others that God has freely given us.   In
a similar regard, let us leave no love unshared.  Wherever, whenever,
whomever, and however we can show love, let us do so.  And let us do all the
generous giving we can now since we won't be able to do any of that when our
bodies are six feet under.  

                Finally, and most importantly, we must be sure that we have
invited our Creator God to forgive us through the shed blood of His Son,
Jesus.  As we look over our agendas of unfinished business, let us move this
to the top of our lists.  For if we accomplish everything else we attempt,
but fail to complete this piece, all our love, generosity and apologies
won't matter.  Jesus is the only Way God provided for us to enjoy His
presence forever and this item can easily be accomplished anytime and
anywhere.  If you haven't already done so, do it today, that you might know
the blessing of God's presence both now and forever.  From the downhill

slope, George      



Removing The Bearing Walls

                As the construction workers began to demolish the rooms
behind our sanctuary in preparation for the new kitchen, they discovered an
important surprise.  Two of the walls not only divided classrooms, but were
also supporting the weight of the roof above.  If they removed these bearing
walls without providing some other support, eventually the roof would
collapse and the area would be destroyed.  It might not happen immediately,
but over time, either little by little in response to gravity's tug, or all
at once in a large blizzard, the new kitchen would be ruined.

                Our society too has certain bearing walls that hold the roof
up and provide protection to all of us living beneath.  Although these
invisible supports may not be obvious at first, if they are removed, the
impact will be felt in time.  There have always been weaknesses in the walls
and from time to time, repairs have been made.  But when entire walls are
removed and institutions demolished, eventual disaster will occur either by
slow degradation or by catastrophic failure.

                Some of those societal supports over the years have included
stable family structures with two parent, male-female homes.  As marriages
and families disintegrate, children are the ones most severely impacted
emotionally, financially, and spiritually.  For some, the roof caves in
completely through physical or sexual abuse, perhaps even resulting in death
as we have recently witnessed.  In other cases, drugs and other destructive
substances become the substitutes for loving safe relationships.  If you are
married, do all you can to strengthen this bearing wall with your spouse for
all of our sakes.

                Another bearing wall has been a strong work ethic of
self-support.  Such perseverance and determination also provided generous
charity wherever it was truly needed.  A can-do attitude rather than an
entitlement mentality supported a large safe covering for even the weakest
members of our society.  As this wall is dismantled, governments try to prop
up the ceiling with aid programs that are often shortsighted and ill
planned.  Let's do what we can to strengthen this important wall of support.


                Other walls that have served us well have been honesty,
mutual respect for life and liberty as well as free speech and the free
exercise of religion.  As we become more dishonest with each other and with
our government, as we devalue life and freedom, and as we restrict and
dictate religious expression with political correctness, it's only a matter
of time until the roof of our free society will cave in.  Of course faith in
God through Jesus Christ and adherence to Biblical practices have served
well as our foundation but they too are badly eroding.

                 Thankfully, the workers at our church realized what they
were doing and constructed beams that would support the weight and bear the
load preventing future disaster.  I pray that we will do the same before it
becomes too late for our culture.  Let us repair and rebuild the supporting
walls of our nation that our building may be strong and that our people may
be safe.

Blessings, George












Text from a very recent sermon.  "Editing the Bible."

 (Reading some Bible verses, tear out a page and throw them
away).

            God says I'm supposed to love my enemies.       Rip

            God wants me to share my belongings with others.    Rip


            I'm supposed to give 10 percent of my income?  Rip

Jesus says I'm supposed to tell my neighbors about Him.  Rip



What in the world am I doing?  I would hope what I just did up here would
turn your stomachs!  Ignite your anger.  And fire up your soul.  I did not
in fact, just rip up a Bible, but only some newspaper to give that
appearance.  This Book is much too Holy and sacred for me to treat in that
way.  Nevertheless, we will see this happen in the story today and perhaps
even in our own lives .  Please open your Bibles to Jeremiah 36.



            Last week, we looked at King Hezekiah's war strategy that
successfully thwarted the fierce attack of the Assyrians, he let God fight
his battles.  It was an awesome show of faith and one that should instruct
us all.  If you were absent, I would encourage you to go online and listen.
The powerpoints are now on line as well.  Well, about 100 years have passed
since then and now Hezekiah's evil great grandson, Jehoiakim is king.  And
God called Jeremiah to speak truth to him.  His words are very urgent and
direct.  Repent or perish.  Jeremiah 1-35.  And then God tells Jeremiah to
do something else with His words of warning in Jer 36:1.



1:  In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word
came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 "Take a scroll and write on it all the
words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other
nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till
now. 3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to
inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will
forgive their wickedness and their sin."  4 So Jeremiah called Baruch son of
Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to
him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll.



            Writing was a highly specialized skill and even many people that
could read could not write.  Perhaps they were protecting good penmanship.
I would never have been a scribe.  One of my teachers, Mr. John Lee, told me
that one of my papers looked like a raccoon had drug his rear end across it.
Nancy can sympathize.  At any rate, we take very much for granted in being
able to read and write.  If you can do either or both, thank the Lord and
thank a teacher.  So since Jeremiah can't write, he summons his scribe,
Baruch, to take dictation and so he writes it all down.  



            What would you say if I told you that we have Baruch's
fingerprint?  In 1996, (1) this ancient piece of hardened clay was
discovered in Jerusalem that included the words, Belonging to Baruch, the
son of Neriah, the scribe.  It was made by Baruch while the clay was still
soft and it would harden to serve as his enduring signature on some official
document.  Not only do we have his signature, but in the highlighted area of
this photo there is part of a fingerprint that in all likelihood, is that of
Jeremiah's secretary, Baruch who lived 2600 years ago as he made this
impression with his official seal.  Truly phenomenal.




So after Jeremiah finishes giving dictation, and because he is under house
arrest, he sends Baruch to read this scroll at the temple.  It had such an
impact on the people there, they say the King's got to hear this.  Listen to
what happens.  



20 After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they
went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him. 21 The
king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of
Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials
standing beside him. 22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in
the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. 23
Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut
them off with a scribe's knife and threw them into the firepot, until the
entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who
heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25
Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the
scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king commanded
Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of
Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord
had hidden them.



            Here we are introduced to additional characters in this drama
from whom we also have seals.  In addition to the seal of Baruch,
archaeologists have also uncovered this one (2) that reads, "belonging to
Gemariah, son of Shaphan" who we just read about.  And this one "belonging
to Elishama, servant of the king," mentioned in verse 20.  And another one
belonging to Jerahmeel which I couldn't get a photo of.  These were real
folks and the Bible is about real events.



            It is of 604BC and as God's Word is read to King Jehoiakim,
instead of being cut to the heart by the warnings of God, he cuts up the
scroll of the Word of God and burns it piece by piece in the firepot.  Why
would he do such a thing?  Was he so cold that he needed more heat?  Was it
so dark he needed more light?  No.  He did this because he didn't like what
it said.  It stepped on his toes.  It called him a sinner and it demanded
that he change or face God's judgment.  And so he burns it page by page.




            Let me ask you today, Did Jehoiakim's firepot change the truth
of God's Word?  Did it change the judgment that God was sending?  Did it
erase his wicked actions?  Burning the scroll might have made Jehoiakim feel
better, but it did nothing to change God's truth.  It only revealed his own
heart's stubborn refusal to listen to God.



            Today, most of us would probably never think of tearing pages
out of a Bibles and burning them.  At least I hope not.  We would never
dream of getting out our knives or scissors and mutilating God's holy word.
And yet, I fear we do this in other ways.  How you ask?



            Let's start with the easy stuff.  Say Dismiss.  When society
doesn't want to hear what God says about issues of our day such as
homosexuality, they dismiss God's Word.  They may not rip the pages out of
the Bible, they simply claim that they no longer apply; that they aren't
relevant, or that they're outdated.  I've even seen some scholars try to
explain away the meaning using Greek and Hebrew, although the original
languages are very clear on the issue.  Some European nations such as
Denmark, have gone so far as to legally prohibit pastors from reading these
texts in their pulpits and I tell you we're not far from that here in the
US.  About a year ago, the distribution of Bibles was banned at Walter Reed
Army Hospital in Maryland until the Family Research Council and others
called it to the attention of some Congressmen.



The homosexual issue is only one of many parts of Scripture that people say
no longer apply.  We like the parts that talk about God's love but we
dismiss or cut out the parts of His Judgment.  Without both, God is very
unjust and nothing more than a weak babysitter.  No, He will judge all sin
one day!  We either accept His gift of grace from His Son Jesus Christ or we
will pay eternally for our sins.  Even though we may not be burning it,
whenever we dismiss part of God's Word, we're in essence doing what
Jehoiakim did.                                



But what's even worse, I'm afraid, is when we say we're Bible believing
Christians and ignore what's written there.  Say ignore.  We should expect
non-Christians to despise and dismiss God's Word, but we should be
different.   We may say we believe it, we just won't do it.  For example,
what does it say about heterosexuality?  That any sex outside of marriage is
sinful, either before or during.  When we read it but ignore it, we're no
different than Jehoiakim.



            Or when it says, Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the
church but we don't and we won't even try.  Or when it says to forgive those
who do us wrong, or don't gossip, or don't hoard wealth, or to love our
brothers and sisters in the church.  When it says to keep God first above
wealth and sports and success and all.  I'm not talking about slip ups from
time to time. We all will.  Thank God for grace.  I'm talking about
continued willfully ignoring what God says.  We believe it, we just will not
do it.  Period.



We, like Jehoiakim, set ourselves up in judgment of God and His Word instead
of realizing He will use His Word one day to judge us.  We do not have the
authority to change or ignore it at will.  We think we know more or better
than God.  God forbid!!  It reminds me of a time when I was singing with the
Lion of Judah at Pine Meadows nursing home and one woman stuck her fingers
in her ears.  I hope it was too loud, but I fear we do that with God all too
often because we don't want to hear what He's saying.  I'm not listening!
Speak to the hand.



We also mimic Jehoikiam when we refuse to read and study God's Word.  Say
Neglect.  What a precious privilege to have in front of us today the holy
word of God.  And the ability to read it!  Most people in Jeremiah's day
couldn't read or write.  And scrolls were extremely expensive.  This
continued to be the case up until very recently after the printing press was
invented and the first book to be printed was what?  The Bible and it's
still the best seller.  I'm afraid it is the most sold but the least read.
The first man to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew
and Greek was William Tyndale, who was strangled and burned at the stake for
doing so in 1536.  We have it and don't read it.  We have it and don't obey
it.  German Pastor and Lutheran Theologian, Martin Niemoller has said, The
Bible does not belong on a shelf but in your hand, under your eye, in your
heart.  Dig into it daily to get your download each day from the Father.




            Which is why we're doing the E260.  It challenges us to read
parts of the Bible we might not read otherwise.  You see, whenever we just
reread our favorite chapters or books, in effect, we're doing what Jehoiakim
did.  We must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others.
A W Tozer said that, "Nothing less than whole Bible can make a whole
Christian."  Hopefully it will whet our appetites for the whole Bible.  I
know it has hard names, skip over them or just use the first letter or
something.  And it's never too late to start.  We have half the year yet and
all of the New Testament yet to go!!  If you're a slow reader and the E260
is too much, read part of it.  Some is better than nothing.  But compared to
the time most of us spend in a week doing whatever recreational event we
enjoy, I dare say time is not the real issue.



We Americans watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day.  That equals 13
years of our lifetimes sitting in front of a cesspool.  If we watch just two
hours, that's still over 6 years.  On the other hand, if we spend just 15
min in the Bible each day, that's only 1 year of our 75.  Whose presence
would we rather be in, that of the godless Hollywood actors or that of our
Creator God?



            In 2006, Carl Bowman conducted a study of Church of the Brethren
members about various things.  Some of you were surveyed.  Although he found
that 45% of the Brethren say they believe the Bible is literally true and
should be taken word for word, over half of our members nationwide read it
less than once a week.  That tells me that it's not valuable to us.  I hope
that is different here!  The Brethren used to be called "People of the
Book."  You probably heard about the family that had the pastor over for
supper one evening.  After the meal, the father asked his son to get the
book Dad loved so much.  He came back with the TV Guide.



I know some of it is hard to understand.  For me too!  But it is the only
book in the world that God promises to bless us for reading! Not for
understanding it all, but for reading it.  The more we read, the more we'll
understand.  If it was a problem with our softball swing or our deer stand
or our engine, I dare say we'd research to figure it out.  But if the Bible
is a little complicated, we just dismiss it.  Don't just strip mine God's
word-go deep inside.  Get a good study Bible or a good commentary to help
understand difficult passages, but start with the Word, not with the study
aids.  And be sure to get good ones.

There's some real garbage out there written by people that don't believe the
Bible or that it's simply man's word about God.  One of the reasons I've
been showing powerpoints is to help us realize that these ancient places and
these ancient people really existed, that these things really happened and
that there are tons of evidence to prove it!  It's not an outdated book.
It's a dependable guide for daily living.  I've put some suggestions in the
July Newsletter.                  

                                 

In reality, most of us are like the old Indian who said it's not the parts
of the Bible he didn't understand that gave him trouble, it's the parts he
did understand!  Most of it is not all that complicated.  Books have been
written about secret codes in the Bible like the Divinci Code.  The plain
message of the Bible is not hidden, concealed, or complicated.  John 3:16.
Look for Christ on every page!  He is the watermark from Genesis through
Revelation.

         

The Bible is a book about you, your ancestors, your brothers and sisters,
your Savior, your God, and your future.  Why would we not want to know about
all of these?  If I knew of a better book to recommend, I would.  If I knew
of better advice, I'd give it.  If I knew of anything that was any truer,
I'd buy copies and give them away.



A friend of mine has found the best way to gauge where someone is in their
spiritual walk is to ask them where they've been reading from in the Bible
lately.  I'm afraid to ask that question, because I don't want people to be
embarrassed, but I'm warning you now, I'm going to start asking it.  I'd
like to see us ask each other, not just me.  God's Word is vital to our
spiritual growth and health both individually and as a church.  Let's not
edit it like Jehoiakim by either dismissing, ignoring, or neglecting God's
Word, but rather let us read it, honor it, and obey it!



Editing The Bible

MC900251555[1]Jeremiah 36 (Pg. 1237)


 
     



I.  Getting Up To Speed:

     A.  Hezekiah let ____ fight his battles.

    B.  King Jehoiakim is Hezekiah's ____ great grandson.



II.  Jeremiah's Message:

A.   _______ or perish!

B.   MC900194102[1]Vs 1-3 God tells him to _____ all of it down.

C.   He has Baruch, the Scribe, ______ it for him.

D.   Baruch reads it at the _______.

E.    MC900391582[1]It ends up being read to the _____.



MC900030071[1]III.  King Jehoiakim's Response:

A.   He cut up the scroll and ______ it.

B.   He did this because he didn't _____ what it said.

C.   Burning it did not _______ the truth.



IV.  How We Edit The Bible:

A.   We ________ God's Word by:

1.     Claiming that portions do ____ apply today.

2.     MC900123499[1]Explaining it _______.

3.     Prohibiting it from being _____.

4.     Cutting out the parts about God's _________.

B.   We ________ God's Word by:

1.     Saying we believe it, but we won't _____ it.

2.     Refusing to ___ what it says.

3.     MC900036556[1]By willfully ignoring God's ______.

4.     Judging God's Word, but He will

     use His _____ to judge us!

C.   We _________ God's Word:

1.     We refuse to ______ or study the Bible.

2.     MC900335470[1]It is the most sold, but least _____ book.

3.     The first English translator was

         _______ for doing so.

4.     The Bible belongs in our hands, under

  our eye, and in our ______.   Niemoller

5.     MC900391666[1]Dig into it for our daily _____load.

6.     Nothing less than the ______ Bible can

    make a whole Christian.  Tozer.

7.     Are you a person of The Book?  _______

8.     The Bible's message is ____

     hidden or complicated.

9.     The watermark on every page is _________!

10.   Where have you been reading from lately?  _____

             

36:23

Verse To Remember:  Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the
scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe's knife and threw them into the
firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.        Jeremiah