Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

Seeking the Lord’s Heart

“Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.” (John 8:54-55)

In the early seventies, George Harrison wrote and recorded a song that caught my attention. It was one of those songs that stuck in my mind, one that I found repeating the lyrics over and over. The title was “My Sweet Lord,” and the lyric that stood out was this. “I really want to know you, really want to go with you, really want to show you, Lord that it won’t take long, my Lord.” As a Christian, that was appealing to me, as what I wanted to do is know the Lord better.

Jesus was engaged in a conversation with the Pharisees when He spoke our text verse in response to a previous statement the Pharisees had made. It was about the signs and wonders of Jesus, the Word of Truth He was speaking, and His claim He was the Son of God. “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.” (John 8:52) Before this verse, Jesus had said those who keep his Word would never see death. His response is significant.

Jesus never sought glory for Himself as everything He did was for the glory of and in the power of His Heavenly Father. The Pharisees could not accept that, and many people don’t today. Jesus was seeking the glory of His Father, God, as all people are to be doing. The work we do for ourselves is for our benefit. When we labor for the Kingdom of God, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and God deserves our glory for that. The Christian life is lived by the grace of God, and our boast is in Him and not in ourselves. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

These two verses are powerful, and much could be written, but today I want to focus on the last phrase, “but I do know Him and keep His word.” The Pharisees new God and have an excellent knowledge of the scriptures, but they did not know God. The Pharisees were all about keeping the law and following all the traditions. Knowledge, law and keeping traditions will not produce salvation. Knowledge alone cannot help you until you have an understanding of purpose. The law cannot save you as it only condemns. Traditions are only physical expressions and will not save you without knowing the spiritual purposes. The Pharisee’s time has come and gone, but those who practice their religion in a Pharisaical way is alive and well in the Church today.

Knowledge is an asset to anything you want to accomplish. My wife has asked me many times, “why don’t you read the directions first?” I guess I think I know it all only to find that I know nothing. Knowledge can lead to believe when you understand where the knowledge is pointing. You believe in what the knowledge teaches you. The Pharisees knew Jesus as a result of what they had seen and the signs and wonders He was performing. The Pharisees didn’t believe because they rejected the truths Jesus was teaching. My younger brother taught me some come to learn and some who come to criticize. The Pharisees came to criticize.

In the Churches today, they are filled with people who have a great knowledge of scripture. Sadly there are many who little knowledge of scripture. We all live in a busy world that is a distraction to serious bible study. Many profess to have faith in Jesus but have little knowledge of who Jesus is. Many say they have faith in Jesus when what they are saying is they know who He is. You can have vast knowledge, but without faith, you have no belief. Faith is living in the Word of God to accomplish the good work that He created you to do. We cannot live the Christian life as a spectator. We have to practice our Christina life through faith. That is how we are justified. By faith, salvation does not come by works, but salvation is justified by faith. (Romans 5:1) “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

We can have the knowledge, belief, and faith, but it is useless if we have no obedience to prove our faith. Obedience to the Word of God gives us a good understanding of what we are to accomplish for Him. Our obedience to the commandment of our Lord is a statement of the love we have for Him. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15). With our reverent respect for the Lord, we will gain the Divine wisdom to see through the challenges set before us. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111:10)

Jesus said, “I do know Him and keep His word.” God the Father sent His Son to come amongst men and do His will to save the lost of this darkened world. Jesus, who is faithful and true, did the will of His Father obediently without variation. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38) Jesus knew His Father, and through obedience to the Father’s will, He understood the higher purpose of His mission. A college professor who has never practiced his trade cannot reach far beyond the basics, as he has never practiced his profession.

God knows us, and He knows every detail about us better than we know ourselves. The key to salvation is we accept Jesus into our lives to live through us. To have a personal relationship requires more than God knowing us; it requires us to know God intimately also. We need to know His Word and act on it in faith, not just speak it, but live it. Our active faith is the light we share in a darkened world. To do this, we need to seek after the heart of God as King David. “After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” (Acts 13:22)

The goal of a Christian is to live a Christ-like life. Christ-like is to believe in His word and live it in obedient faith, gaining a greater understanding of applying Divine wisdom. The Holy Spirit residing within us gives an unquenchable council to face all the challenges, trials, and tribulations that come before us in our journey to the Promised Land. “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24)

The purpose of Jesus is that people would come to know God in a personal way, and they would know Him who God sent. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) We can do this by living as citizens of the Kingdom of God in the world so people may see His truth in action. We are in this world, but our life is lived in the Kingdom of God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

My prayer for each of you is that of the Apostle Peter that by the Grace of God you continue to grow in the knowledge of the King of kings, believing on His name in the obedience of your faith gaining understanding and Divine wisdom to accomplish the good work set before you. .“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 25, 2020

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Standing on the Rock

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

The Lord had led Moses and the Israelites to the land of Rephidim, where there was no water for them to drink. The people quickly ran out of their water and became thirsty. Most likely, this was just a want of water but a threat of dehydration. When dehydrated, the mouth and tongue become dry and sticky. Water is needed in the body to produce saliva, and without saliva, one cannot even spit. People will suffer from heat injuries, have urinary and kidney problems. Some will have seizures and go into low blood volume shock. The people began to grumble to Moses, asking why he had led them to this place.

Moses went to the Lord God in prayer, and the Lord spoke to Moses. “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:6) Moses obeyed the Lord’s command, and with his rod struck the Rock and water came out from it, providing enough for the Israelite people.

This command given by the Lord is impressive to us today on the other side of the cross of Jesus. The Lord God states that He will stand before Moses and the people as Moses strikes the Rock. The Lord God is taking the place of the accused. God is not the accused because He led His people to a barren place and left them without water. The Lord God is the accused as a prophetic example of an event to come many years later. The Rock is symbolic of Jesus. An innocent man struck down so the people can have living water.

We see this symbolism again in the book of Numbers when Moses again strikes a rock. Moses and the Israelites are in a place called Meribah, where again, there is no water. As before, the Israelite people begin to complain of their thirst. Moses goes to the Lord God in prayer, and the Lord gives him another command. “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the Rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the Rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” (Numbers 20:8)

As the Lord instructed Moses to gather the Israelite people and, in frustration, called them rebels. “Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.” (Numbers 20:11) Moses didn’t do what the Lord had commanded Moses to do and became angry at Moses’ disbelief. The Lord was angry with the people as they were disobedient and did not trust the word of the Lord. The punishment was the people, and neither Moses would enter into the Promised Land.

Back in Horeb, when Moses struck the Rock, it brought forth water, which was salvation for the Israelite people. Now at Meribah, God told Moses to speak to the Rock. Moses, in his frustration, strikes the Rock with his rod not only once but twice. Again the water flowed from the Rock and was salvation for the Israelite people. In verse twelve God shows His anger because Moses did not trust Him. “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)

It strikes me that all through the wilderness adventure, the people of God failed to trust God through their trials and temptations. Moses had lost his patients with the constant grumbling of the people. Instead of following the word of God, struck the Rock as he had before. As a result of Moses’ lack of faith in God’s Word and the people’s disobedience, they lost the blessing of entering the Promised Land. As Christians we must be careful to follow in faith of God’s Word in obedience. Our chief end is to glorify God and we do so by praising Him for His lovingkindness towards us. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3)

The Rock of their salvation in Horeb had now become a stumbling block. On the Day of their Visitation, they missed their Messiah. Today the Rock is still a stumbling block for many, as they cannot accept the efficacy of Christ’s work on the cross for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus’ love offering for our redemption from sin is the anchor of our faith in Him. The writer of Hebrews teaches us to hold fast to our assurance of hope through Jesus Christ. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)

Jesus went to the cross once and for all that the sins of the world are atoned for if you accepted His sacrifice for your sin debt you are forgiven and can have eternal life in God’s Kingdom. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Mankind needs not to strike the Rock again for the water of life, as Jesus was lifted up for the eternal spring of living water. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

John the Baptist baptized with water for repentance for the forgiveness of sin. He was preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. “But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.” (Matthew 3:15) When Jesus, the Messiah, came He would baptize with water and the Holy Spirit. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Water and the Holy Spirit are essential as the Spirit is a pledge that we are the children of God. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) The Holy Spirit is also our Divine Counselor that will guide us into righteous living. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Jesus will abide by the Christian eternally as we abide with Him.

It is essential to share this truth with every ear that will hear. Every Christian needs to pray for the lost sinners that their hearts will be prepared to receive the truth of His gospel. They no longer need to his the Rock of Salvation as the work of Christ is finished. They need only accept Jesus into their lives and become a child of God, or reject His truth and become a child of damnation. “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” (John 12:48)

Living in a sin-darkened world fractured from the Creator, many will love their darkness and reject the light of Jesus Christ. For the Christians who have embraced the light of His truth, we still will live in a fractured world. Christian will always have trials and tribulations as they journey to the Promised Land of God’s Kingdom. All through our path are refuge is found in the One who dwells within, the Lord Jesus Christ. “He only is my Rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” (John 12:48)

God my salvation and my glory rest; The Rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:6-8)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 1, 2020

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The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10:14)

A good shepherd is someone that teaches and guides you through training to provide for your success in an event, a life career, and life in general. There are many shepherds in the world, but not all of them are good shepherds. Some will teach and lead you to places that you should never go. They will take you down paths that are wrong and dangerous and even fatal. When you find yourself in the influence of someone, a shepherd, be sure the shepherd has your best interest at heart and leading you on a good path that will reach a beneficial destination.

When in the leadership of a shepherd, always see the ultimate goal that he is leading you to. When in the Army, I was still training in Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. My Drill Sargent named Sargent McGregor, and a fine Scottish lad was he. He was an older man on the high side of thirty-five. At eighteen, most everyone looked old to me. When I was very young, my dad was only thirty. For every day of my life, when I saw my dad, he looked old. When you have children, you might remember how your children see you.

I knew I was not going to have a good time with Sargent McGregor the first time I experienced his training. When we trainees walked into the barracks area, the first thing that happened was a size ten boot lifting me by my backside. I turned around, getting ready to do something stupid, and there stood Sargent McGregor. I am not going to repeat what he said, but his point was not to walk anywhere until we are no longer in his charge. We had to run to the barracks, the parade ground, the mess hall, and run to the latrine. Sargent McGregor would keep us busy training every moment of the day and well into the night. That’s a long time when the day began at three in the morning. When I joined the Army, the first thing I heard was that we were the most modern Army in the world. Why then did we clean toilets with toothbrushes, clean pots and pans with steel wool, and carry one-hundred pounds of equipment everywhere I ran.

Through my experience with Sargent McGregor, I learned that all his merciless treatment was to prepare me to survive in the worst of conditions that were not far in the future. I later realized that Sargent McGregor was a good shepherd because he assured my capability to accomplish the mission that was ahead of me. My first impression Sargent McGregor was all wrong, as he had my best interest at heart

I learned something a week ago, and I am happy to share that with you today. You have a good shepherd leading you here today. Billy doesn’t paint pretty colorful deceptions but tells you how it is without excuses. I was listening to Billy teach a rider that had been thrown off the bull before the time ran out. He explained the move the rider made that threw him off balance. Billy told him why it threw him off and wat to do to avoid that mistake. All these things have to happen in a fraction of a second, and that is what the training is for. It is hard to hear what you have done wrong, it great to understand how to fix it, and Billy ended the conversation with encouraging words. Billy is your good shepherd who has your best interest at heart.

I haven’t seen Sargent McGregor in fifty years, but the lessons he taught me sill guide me today. Today Jesus is my Good Shepherd. I believe in His word and act in faith in his word no matter how bad things get, and it always works out good. In 2010 I was on my death bed with terminal cancer. I was bedridden, and my x-wife had to do everything for me. I wanted to die, I was sick and tired, but the Lord had a better plan. One night my son and his wife Brandi came over, and everyone prayed for me. Was I better the next day, did the pain go away, and could I get out of bed, no? What I did have was a sure hope that Jesus would answer and see me through. Jesus did, because here am I.

Jesus knows me, and He knows what the plan and purpose for my life are in this world. I know that Jesus knows me, as He reveals the mistakes in my life and the way to fix them. The first fix is to acknowledge who Jesus is as a God that desires a personal relationship with me and you. That is amazing! The fix is to listen and stop making the mistakes by obedience to His Word. The fix is asking Him to be the Lord of your life in obedience to His Spirit that resides within your heart.

“Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

Stokes Green Swamp, March 22, 2020

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Choice of Door

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

It’s my honor to be once again able to speak to all you Cowboys and friends at Stoke Green Swamp. Soon you will enter into the shoots and prepare for the gate to open for your ride on the bull. You have gone through all the training that you could for this night’s event. When you get into the shoot, you will make the final preparations before you raise your hand to signal your readiness. It brings to my mind the verse we just read from the Gospel of John. After the gate opens, you have prepared for the expected and are ready for the unexpected, as the outcome is a mystery.

Your success is measured by how long you stay on the bull. How well you react to the bull’s efforts to get you off his back. It also depends on the actions of the bull. Will he give you a challenging ride, will he just lay down and not fight at all. The key for you is to ride him for eight seconds. After that, you are awarded points for your effort and the bulls. There are so many variables it would be hard to mention them all. In my lack of understanding of this sport, I will be counting the seconds and waiting for the horn to blow. For all of us, it is a mystery what will happen after the gate.

There is another gate or door that I want to speak to you about tonight that has some of the same characteristics. In the bull riding, it is the bull that must be conquered after you pass through the gate. In life, the bull must be conquered before passing through the gate. The bull is life, and the gate leads to rest. In bull riding, it is partly measured by how long you stay on the bull. The ride is how your success is measured. In life, it is how well you master the bull or your life before the gate.

In the world, some measure success by how much wealth you acquire, how much possession you have, and how much influence you are on others. There are many other ways success is measured in the world, and if success is measured by a worldly measure when you reach the gate, the success will be worthless. The measure of success is what you have accomplished that has value after you enter the gate. In eternity success will make all the difference as to where you will spend that unmeasurable time.

Eternity is a mystery to many people. There is an old Led Zeppelin song I remember called “Stairway to Heaven.” There is a lyric that I’ve often wondered about. “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. And it makes me wonder.”  I am not sure what the meaning of this lyric is, but I think it tells the truth about the road we all are traveling on. Though there are many choices in life to be made, there are only two choices to make in regards to the other side of the gate.

Unlike those who have gone before beyond that gate, few know the outcome when passing through the gate. God’s Word teaches us this truth. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) God is going to judge what you have done, both the good and the bad. Judgment is not what someone wants to face without Jesus as their advocate. No one goes to a court of justice without an advocate to defend them.

The ones that have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior will escape the wrath of God against sinners, as the wage of sin is death. Those who have accepted Jesus, as they are sinners, He has paid their wage on the cross, and are forgiven. They are God’s children. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Jesus is the gate we want to enter into eternity through. If we come by Him, then we will be saved.

As children of God, we serve our Heavenly Father and do His will in our lives. It is not because we have to, but because we desire to please our Heavenly Father. Much like we are the children of our earthly father, we want to please him. By accepting Jesus as our Lord, He gives us power by His council. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26) The Spirit of God is living through us, and in our obedience, we can do all things that are pleasing to the Father.

In all things we do, if it is bull riding, going to school, working our job, living in the marketplace, and even in the ministry for the Kingdom of God, we do it as we are working for the Lord. He is the Creator, and He has given us dominion over His creation. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23-24) Success in life is built on our eternal perspective and the destination once we pass through the gate to eternity.

The other important statement of this verse we read is what will happen “we will go in and out and find pasture.” I know what pasture is to the bulls you will ride tonight, but good pasture is essential to us also. What is the good pasture we will find? We can see a hint in the 23rd Psalm. “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

We will find quite still waters, as the storms of life here have passed us now. Our spirits will be restored to when they were in the perfect image of God’s. Our spiritual maturity has become complete, as we will be as He is. Our souls are restored, and we will be living in the likeness of Jesus, as Jesus came in our likeness having empathy and love for our condition. Now we will be once again whole. All our life, we have lived by faith in Him, and He has kept the gate open for us to enter into His Kingdom. “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8)

Godly living is not only the success of life here. There it is the victory the Jesus has won for us on the cross. He sacrificed Himself on the cross to be the Lamb of God to pay the wage of our sinfulness. Jesus died and went to the grave and defeated death by His resurrection, and proves He can raise us from the dead. He now sits at the right hand of God praying for us that we soon will join Him and find rest. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

Stokes Green Swamp Ranch, March 14, 2020

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Live Your Passion

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Today here at Stokes Green swamp, we are looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church. In verses thirteen and fourteen, Paul is discussing the upward call and the goal he is aiming to obtain. As it was a message to the Philippians in their day, it is also relevant to us today.

Have you ever done something you wished would never end or wish you could do again and more often? I have as I have been to places, been in situations, and met people that I want to be with often. It those processes I had always disliked when they came to an end. It is like I am sure when you are practicing to ride the bulls, you still desire just one more ride. You love it, as it is your passion. Webster defines passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.

Today your passion is bull riding, and some of you are wanting bull riding to be your way of life. Others of you are doing it now just for the thrill and have other plans for the future. And there may be some that are not sure what their passion is. It is essential to find what your passion is, as, without a passion, you will also lack a vision for your life. Then some passions over time flame out, and you find yourself empty.

Some of us just know, we know what we are good at and what we love to do. Others in the world drift from one thing to another, searching for that one thing that gives them greater enjoyment in accomplishment. The Lord created us, gave each an overall passion for doing something that brings fulfillment to our life. If we seek the Lord, He will reveal that one talent we have that will spark a passion in our lives. It is a gift unique to each of us given by the grace of God. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6)

There are a lot of people in this world that dislike the job they have to do. They dread going to work each day and facing the drudgery of their job. It affects their attitude towards others, and it affects their attitude towards themselves. They are seldom happy in their work and often live without peace in their heart. I think this lack of happiness and peace is the discouragement of their position in life. It is hard to break free from one’s history of disappointment. The future is not bright when it seems more of the same. The truth is God created everything with purpose and for His plan.

God loves you, and He desires you to become the person He created you to be full of the purpose He has for your life. One is to glorify Him and to use that unique talent He has placed in you to accomplish the good work of His Kingdom. The one passion that you love and have a desire for brings you happiness and peace. That one desire you never grow weary of. It may be He has called you to be a minister of the gospel. A minister of the gospel is not just a preacher, a teacher, or an evangelist. It could be anything your passion drives you to do. Whatever that good work is, He has prepared for you to accomplish it regardless of the obstacles ahead of you. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Release yourself from the slavery of the past. Do not let the history of your life distract you from the future of life. If you have received forgiveness of your sin through Jesus Christ, then forgive yourself too. God has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west. “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) If God has forgotten your sins, then you forgive yourself too. Do not enslave yourself with the memory and cast off those thoughts, as in the eyes of God, they no longer exist.

No longer are you of the world but a child of the sovereign God of Creation. You are no longer a world citizen, but a citizen of the Kingdom of God in the world. The world is your inn, but Heaven is your home. Don’t live like the people of the world but live as lights of God’s truth that they may see His glory. By your position in the universe as a child of God, you are a minister of the gospel, that others may see God’s love, peace, and joy in your heart. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

It is not this world that holds our love but the Kingdom of God. We are here to complete our work and go home to God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is where our heart is and, therefore, is where our treasure is. We do not love this world, as dark as it is, we love our God, as He is leading us home. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6)

We don’t labor in our passion for silver and gold, or the things this world has to sell, as all the things of the world will vanish when we leave. We labor in our passion for the promised inheritance from the riches of God’s glory that neither moth or rust, and fire of judgment can destroy. Therefore, all that we do is for our Lord, as only He is worthy to receive glory. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

We sacrifice and suffer now for the highest reward without none other can exist, and that is our faith in our Lord Jesus our Christ. He loves us so much that He took our sins to the cross Himself and shed His blood for our redemption. He lived a righteous life as a man that He can give us righteousness to enter into the Kingdom of God. He rose from the grave and lives that He can raise us from the grave and give us eternal life with Him. Jesus is our salvation, and on the last day will complete it. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 3:3-5)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

Stokes Green Swamp, March 1, 2020

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Mary Macbeth

It is a pleasant day here in the All Most Heaven of Ballengee. I find myself sitting on a rock along the riverside of the Greenbrier River listening to the rhythm of water, making its way south to the Kanawha. The Greenbrier is not a deep river and flows over a bed of rocks but does have deeper places along its course. There is a place not far from where I now ponder that in younger days, we jumped from a ledge into the river. The challenge was how many flips could one make landing headfirst into the river. Somehow I just couldn’t flip and would land either on my belly or feet first. The former is remembered and the later most desired.

Today as I look down at the smaller rocks with the water swirling around, I notice a familiar creature I called Crawdaddys in my youth. I don’t know what they are actually, back then that is what everyone called them. They are a miniature Lobster looking creature with pinchers on long arms to capture their prey or defend themselves from boys like me. I never intended to do any hard to the Crawdaddys, and their pinch was not all that painful unless they pinched between the fingers.

The one Crawdaddy I was watching came out from the crevasse of a rock, and when my shadow came across him, he would dash back beneath the rock. I would move back, and he would come out, and when I moved forward, he would hide. I soon lost interest in this game but wondered what secrets were hidden in his safe place. I can’t explain why but the remembrance of Mary Macbeth came to my mind. It was as if the Crawdaddy brought out that memory from my safe place.

Mary Macbeth, oh Mary Macbeth, her memory at one time was painful for my heart to recall.  Today with so many years past by May’s memory, brings warmth to my heart. She was my first love—one where I fell hook, line, and sinker. My young heart as a senior in High School was filled with the allure of Mary Macbeth. The first time my eyes were filled with the lust of Mary was on the second-floor balcony of the school. I was standing there looking below, waiting for the time I would have to go into the classroom. Then all of a sudden there she was walking through the courtyard to some unknown class at school. I watched every step hoping she would look up and see me. Then I was afraid she would and see me observing her every move.

I have since then never believed in love at first sight. Love takes time as there is more to learn than appearances. But at the age of seventeen, I was all about appearances, and Mary Macbeth had them all. I had never seen anyone walk the way that Mary did. I can’t explain it, but she had a special stroll that pulled my heart into her cadence. Every day I would rush to the balcony to watch Mary Macbeth stroll by below. Her far view filled my heart until finally, it was near busting over. I asked all my friends if they knew who she was or anything about her. I wandered the campus searching for Mary but never found her. I even went to see the dean about her. A place I would never voluntarily go. I tried as casual as I could to enquire by asking the dean, do you know what class Mary Macbeth is in right now? The dean would not answer that question. I had to meet her somehow.

I am not a social person, as after school, I had my farm chores to do. I found unexpected energy and rushed through the chores each night, so I could go to the local hang out. Finally, on Saturday night, she was sitting with a bunch of guys from Talcott of all places. I went over a sat as close as I could, hoping someone I knew would come in to start a loud conversation. As fate would have it, no one I knew came in that night. I was trying to think of something distractive that would catch her eye. I saw once a guy who took three straws and balanced them to stand up. Then he placed his drink on the straws, and the drink stayed there. I thought that was amazing, and I tried doing that.

I got three paper straws that had been unused so they would not be soft. After many futile attempts, they stood straight up on the table. Then I toke the paper cup filled with my cherry cola and carefully placed it on the straws. I did it but kept my hands near to the cup to be sure. The cup remained secure in place. I started to move my hands away as I look to see if Mary Macbeth was watching. I should not have allowed the distraction of looking at her as my elbow shook when I turned my head. The cup fell and poured cherry cola all down the front of my pants. Mary Macbeth was watching then as I stood up, looking like the fool I was.

Monday at school, Mary Macbeth was in the cafeteria when I went in before school. She had never been there before when I came to school. I wanted so bad to go over, but I was too embarrassed. Mary came over to my table, and in disbelief, I must have blushed brightly. Mary said I should have stayed Saturday night as the whole place laughed along time after I left over what I had done. Not what I wanted to hear, but she was talking to me. We talked a little while over simple stuff, and I was trying to keep that going. It was getting to be time for class, so I did something even more stupid just to be with her. I suggested we go down to the Greenbrier and have a day off. I couldn’t believe it. She said yes. It was the best day I had ever had, and we had a wonderful time getting to know each other. So I thought. When I asked her to the sock hop Friday night, she said she was going, but with her steady. I was crushed.

My sorrow did not end there. Monday after school, my best friend, Johnny Crawford, saw my dad on the way home from school. Johnny asked my dad if I was feeling all right. In that conversation, my dad figured out that I was not at school Monday. When I got home, it was a trip to the woodshed. I had never in my life been so consumed with a girl, never been so in love that there was nothing else I could think about. Never a girl that I was willing to make a fool of myself several times just to get her attention. All the many nights of anticipation blown in an instant. It was not that she had a steady, Mary Macbeth’s steady was Johnny Crawford, my best friend.

As I was pondering threw this now fond memory, which taught me the difference between lust and love, Brother Simms came drifting by on a raft. He paddled over to the shore for a visit on a pleasant afternoon along the Greenbrier. Brother Simms asked what I was doing, so I told him the short version. I was thinking about my first love, and what a fool I made of myself over it. Brother Simms, in his usual way, said something simple but profound. “Yeah, some are fools for first love, some are fools for possession, and some are fools for Jesus. It’s not bad to be foolish when it is the right cause.” I kind of had to agree, more manageable now that Mary Macbeth was fifty-two years past me now. It was then painful, but now it is a beautiful memory of learning a good lesson.

It’s now Sunday evening, and you know where I am. Swaying towards and against the evening breeze drifting up the meadow. I find myself examining the message Brother Simms taught today at the Church in the Knoll. And comparing it to the lesson learned from a memory of years ago by the Greenbrier Saturday afternoon just past. Brother Simms spoke out of the book of Revelation, chapter two, verses four and five. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

I cannot remember all that Brother Simms said today, but as I think about the verses, I don’t believe the Lord is saying that I had left my first love. I truly loved Mary Macbeth with all my heart. If I had never met her face to face, it would have been enough to stand on that balcony and watch her pass each day. I know I have my wife and kids, my job, and I love pondering on the porch of the little cabin, but none are my first love. Then there is the Crawdaddy of my youthful memories that I loved down by the Greenbrier, but the Crawdaddy is not my first love. Although he lived by the small rock and would see by my shadow, I was darkened. He would retreat into the rock and bring out the more profound things to reveal to me in my mind.

The first love of all mankind should be the truest of love, that love that brought all into existence, and that love that provides all that mankind needs to live. The most important of which is His love. As I move to and fro in the old rocker, swaying back and forth in the wind of the Spirit, my first love is the One who loved me even before I was. Therefore, I try these days to keep His commandment as best I can in the hope that someday I will be with my first love. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

Thomas Kirkpatrick

Ballengee, March 17, 2020

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The Value of Obstacles

“But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chronicles 15:7)

Before we start our discussion today, I must remind you of a misconception some have about following Jesus in this world. People have come to me and said I am following Jesus, and yet I have many struggles in the path. Many temptations to return to the former way I was on. I thought that when Jesus came into my life to be Lord and Savior, all of this difficulty would have past. Let me first address that by saying we mistake where we are bound for with where we are. We are of the Kingdom of God, but we are living in the same world we were once a part of. The word is a fractured and darkened place as a result of sin, disobedience of God’s Word. We are either suffering from our present sinful ways or of the world around us. Jesus told us that there would be trials and tribulations in this world. Jesus said to us that the world hated Him first and will hate us also. Jesus suffered the same obstacles that we shall continue to struggle with until He comes or we leave this world. We are changing into the likeness of our Lord, but the world is drifting into further wickedness. It is we who must change, as the world is hopelessly lost.

As it has always been for us, since the first house of cards fell in the winds of time, in the world, we face trials and temptations. We can have the wrong attitude of these things and cry out to God, saying why you have allowed this trouble to come into my life? Or we can have the right attitude and seek the Lord to lead us through and have the victory over our struggles. Do we see obstacles as a cause to be beaten down or as a challenge to strengthen our resolve?

An old Vietnamese proverb of Ho Chen Mien was this. “The wind causes the roots of the tree to grow deep, giving the tree strength to stand against the wind.” When obstacles come, instead of questioning the Lord, we should seek His counsel to overcome them. Those of us who exercise, either physically or mentally, know that resistance builds strength.

The Apostle Peter learned this truth in a very shameful way. On the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, three times Peter was accused of being with Jesus, of being one of His disciples. Three times Peter denied that he had any association with Jesus. Peter felt that having admitted being with Jesus’ disciples would have brought death to him also. When Jesus was taken out of the courtyard, He looked at Peter, and Peter fell into bitter shame and wept. The sad truth was that Jesus had warned Peter that this would happen. Jesus advised Peter to pray that he would not fall into temptation. How many times do we know we should not do something, and still we do it?

After three years of serving as a disciple of Jesus, in the hour of Jesus’ greatest need, Peter denied Jesus as Lord. Peter was devastated and thought he had lost the most excellent opportunity of life to serve the Son of God. Jesus forgave Peter, just as He is willing to forgive any who seek Him, and Peter continued his position of building the Church for His Lord. Near two thousand years later that Church stands today, and the gate of hades cannot stand against it.

If you read of the struggles of the early Church that Peter and the other Apostles formed in the power of the Holy Spirit, then you will know the immense obstacles they overcame. These obstacles strengthened them, and they grew into the excellent moral guide of societies today. The Lord can take the struggles we face and use them to improve us into the moral character he desires His people to be. As Peter wrote, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

When obstacles come into my life, or should I say my day, instead of wondering why I take them to the Lord in prayer. Who else would I tell them to? Of course, I seek counsel from my closest friends, but they are not always with me. The Lord is always with me, He is ahead, beside, behind, and He is in me. Where ever I am, He is there with me, and I seek Him first. Still, as God does not live in a microwave world but a perfect Kingdom, I become anxious. I am not prone to worry, but I do have a patience problem. I want solutions now. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Sometimes it is hard to wait. When I was a younger child than now, birthdays and Christmas were an eternity away each year. Even worse for me, they both come in December. But we must remember that God does not operate in twenty-four hour days. God works in an eternal day, and for us, it is hard to imagine the minuteness of our day to HIs eternal day. When we gain the eternal perspective to live in, we realize that we cannot conceive God in time zones. We cannot measure His eternal time, and neither can we measure our time in eternity. God will answer our prayers, God will provide our needs, God will heal our sicknesses, and God will come for us in His immeasurable time. As the Scripture says in the fullness of time. We must be patient and wait upon the Lord. Have faith, as the Lord with be here at the perfect time. The Lord is patient towards us, and we must be patient towards Him. “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

My father pastored and Presbyterian USA Church for over forty years and then retired. During his retirement, he became an interim Pastor at churches that were in transition from one Pastor to another. While pastoring in North Carolina, my dad had a blockage in a vein of his neck to be cleared out. During the operation, he had several strokes. My dad had some paralyzes and difficulty thinking thought-out thoughts and speaking. It was devastating for his passion for serving as a Pastor in a Church. My dad communicated very clearly that he believed he would once again return to the pulpit and preach. He struggled for years retraining and preparing for the day he would again preach a sermon for the glory of God.

Surely thousands of prayers and fasting. Untold hours of practice and training and living in the faith that God would send him to the pulpit. The day arrived for my dad to have the opportunity to preach. It was a small country church in the mountains of North Carolina before a congregation that knew him well. Dad had been their interim pastor for a while back. They invited him, and it was an answer to a promise of God’s Word.

It was perfect for me, as it was a day that I was home. In years past, you could set your clock from the time my dad began to speak till he stopped. Twenty minutes always, never less, and seldom more. My dad was the most punctual man I ever knew. My dad made it to the pulpit and arranged his notes making ready to deliver God’s Word to a waiting congregation. My dad stumbled through with many words slurred, and a few thoughts dropped. There were a few eternal seconds of silence while he tried to gather his momentum. For those who had never heard my dad speak, it must have caused wonder. I could feel the question, “how could this man have made a living as a Pastor.”

The ones who knew the history before this day, those of us who have heard him preach, and those of us who knew his heart, it was the greatest sermon my dad had ever preached. All ten minutes of it. I don’t remember the topic or Scripture of his message. I don’t even remember the Church he had delivered it at. I do remember his message as proof of the promises of God’s Word. I remember it as the work of the Lord in a broken body healed for His glory. I do remember that every word hit my heart with a pounding conviction. I do remember the joy my dad never lost. With God, all things are possible. “Those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Stokes Green Swamp, March 1, 2020

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