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Hull's Memorial Baptist Church
 Pastor's Blog 
Wednesday, December 16 2015

“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”

- Luke Skywalker

Friday, in theaters everywhere, “The Force Awakens”, Episode VII of Star Wars, will begin with familiar words written in blue against the blackness of space—A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .           

The Force has a light side and a dark side, and can be used for good or evil. We need to be reminded, now and then, that the greatest evil comes from within, not from what attacks us from outside. Any one of us, even the best of us, can give in to fear, anger and hatred. William Law, seventeenth century English writer, advised, “Love and pity and wish well to every soul in the world; hate nothing but the evil that stirs in your own heart.” 

We may think of ourselves as the Good Guy, like Anakin Skywalker did in his early years. Thinking too highly of ourselves easily degenerates into self-righteousness. When we, like Anakin, think of ourselves as the wisest, the strongest, and the purest, we become obsessed with ourselves to the point of losing concern for others; we might even turn into an evil Darth Vader.

Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi defines the Force as “an energy field created by all living things, surrounding and penetrating us, binding the galaxy together.”

God’s Force is not created by living things—the Creator himself is the Force energizing all life. “He has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3).

God’s Force surrounds us—his unfailing love sustains us on our journey through life. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

God’s Force binds the galaxies together—his unlimited power is displayed in his orchestration of interstellar space. “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26 NLT). “Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:16-17 NLT).

When God’s Force awakens in any of us, we’re challenged to channel it into concrete actions of justice and compassion. However, we cannot trust ourselves to stay in the light of God at all times. Each of us is a sinful, fallible human being, as susceptible to sin as was Anakin Skywalker on the path to becoming  Dark Vader.

We cannot consistently bear good fruit with human effort alone—we require a Power greater than ourselves. Luke Skywalker realizes this when he suffers a monumental shock to his system—he discovers that Darth Vader is his father. Realizing he is cut from the same cloth as his father, he struggles with how good and evil can exist in the very same family. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956), wrote: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Each of us desperately needs a powerful Leader to keep us on the right track, and to save us when we stray—none other than the Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ penetrates believing hearts with the purifying, inspiring power of the Holy Spirit. If we’re going to actually follow Jesus and behave as his disciples in this dark world, we need to be illuminated by this Holy Spirit.

God’s Force is uplifting, hopeful, inspiring and challenging. It is not trapped in a galaxy far, far away—it is transforming hearts, making people more caring and compassionate, selfless and sacrificial. This Force is seen not only in events that happened a long time ago—it is at work today in hearts, homes, churches, schools, and communities.

God’s Force will win the last war in the battle between good and evil. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5 NLT).

God’s Force awakens most visibly in Jesus. It is strong in him, in his Father, and in all of us who follow him in faith and obedience.. “This light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:14 NLT). If we’re going to stay out of the shadows and walk in the light, we must rely on God’s Force.

“I want to walk as a child of the Light, I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world, The Star of my life is Jesus! In Him there is no darkness at all! The night and the day are both alike! The Lamb is the Light of the City of God—Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” (Kathleen Thomerson)

God’s Force alone can truly awaken our hearts. “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:9 NLT)

W

Johnny R. Almond

Interim Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

Posted by: Pastor Almond AT 01:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, December 09 2015

                                                                                                What’s Wrong with Our World?

"Refuse to be discouraged by the many signs that planet earth is the insane asylum of the solar system." (Anonymous)

It was calm just before the storm. Shortly after sunrise, December 7, 1941, the peaceful security of a sleepy Sunday morning was shattered as the unwelcome monster of war intruded into tranquil Pearl Harbor. While negotiations were going on with Japanese representatives in Washington, Japanese carrier-based planes swept in without warning over Oahu and attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet. Nineteen naval vessels, including eight battleships, were sunk or severely damaged; 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed. Military casualties were 2,280 killed and 1,109 wounded; 68 civilians also died. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan.

War is not always between nations. Sometimes it is between our higher and lower natures, and tragically ends in the dark side winning. Sometimes it is between innocent bystanders and thugs, with criminals inciting violence and brutally murdering victims. Sometimes it is between radicalized terrorists and opponents of their fanatically-conceived ideal society, with indiscriminate killing of all who happen to be in their way.

America has a problem with violence. In June, South Carolina church members were killed during a Bible study due to race. New York City has more police officers than many countries have in their standing army; yet over 1,000 a year are gunned down by fellow citizens. News from our nation’s capital is dominated by murder. Violence screams in often-repeated headlines—innocent children at Sandy Hook, innocent movie patrons in Aurora, innocent churchgoers in Charleston, innocent party-goers in San Bernardino.

America has a problem with terrorism. The FBI reports that last Wednesday's slaughter of fourteen innocents in California was an act of terrorism, the first on our soil since 9/11.

We live in a wilderness—a terrifying situation where demons lurk, a territory where chaos and bewilderment reign, “the land of the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2).

What’s wrong with our world? The Bible answers—“No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all”  (Romans 3:10-18 NLT). Albert Camus (Notebooks, 1935-1942) wrote, "We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves.”  Billy Graham said, "The heart of every problem is the problem of the human heart."

Who will show us the way out of this wilderness to the promised land? President Obama has vowed that America will defeat ISIL, but will military solutions work? Can politicians deliver on their promises to ensure our security? Where is peace to be found?

“A child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice for all eternity.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT).  The Messiah's reign will solve problems that have befuddled politicians, scientists, warriors and philosophers ever since sin polluted the human heart.

The sunrise of the Day of the Lord, when “the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in our hearts” (2 Peter 1:19 NLT), will bring sin's monstrous reign over this troubled world to an end, replacing pandemonium by the peaceful reign of the King of kings. The Messiah will rule forever over a new earth where righteousness is the order of the day. Human solutions have never worked, but heaven's will. A new world's coming -- it will be stormy just before the calm.

Johnny R. Almond

Interim Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

Posted by: Pastor Almon AT 01:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, December 03 2015

Thanksgiving Spoiled, Christmas Salvaged?

“Thanksgiving as founded be th’ Puritans to give thanks f’r bein’ preserved fr’m th’ Indyans, an’ we keep it to give thanks we are presarved fr’m th’ Puritans.” (Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley’s Opinions, 1901)

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ‘tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack.)

Preachers who decry the evils of society—particularly criticizing the way many people leave God out of Thanksgiving or commercialize Christmas—are usually branded as killjoys or Scrooges. As a preacher, I’m tempted to jump on the condemnation bandwagon as we begin another annual retail festival. But I’ve decided instead to let someone who is not a preacher address these issues. It was refreshing, and maybe a little surprising, to read Kathleen Parker’s editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Eloquently diagnosing our culture’s moral decay that surfaces this time of year, she refers to our common vices of greed, intemperance, gluttony, wrath and pride. Bemoaning how consumerism has run amok, she describes Black Friday as “the super-sale day when you’re likely to be trampled to death in a stampede for The Deal.” Then she notes that “consumer-itis seems to become more acute with each passing year. Indulging and gratifying ourselves, we’re no longer subject to traditional inoculations of conscience—shame, embarrassment and fear.”

Parker’s remarks about how we generally celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas are a severe indictment of the anemic American brand of Christianity. I include her stinging words here for honest introspection by anyone serious enough about authentic faith to take her message to heart—“Our national feast day is a contrivance of mindless gorging, a mere appetizer to the galloping consumption to follow thanks to the greatest marketing scam on Earth. Celebrants seem impervious to irony as they buy massive quantities of stuff to celebrate the birth of a Savior who had and wanted nothing.”

Her words are as incisive as the Old Testament prophets’ condemnation of societal ills. And they are as forceful as the apostle Paul’s description of the way people will live toward the end of time—in love with themselves and their money, boastful, scoffing at God, ungrateful, considering nothing sacred, out of control, cruel, hateful, reckless, loving pleasure more than God, acting religious, rejecting God’s help (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

You and I may have already fallen into the Thanksgiving trap of overindulgence, but we don’t have to be duped by the marketing scam Parker mentioned. With heaven’s help, we can celebrate Christmas in a way that honors Christ—giving our Savior our heart, donating generously to His church, taking time to prayerfully meditate on the Messiah’s promised Kingdom, giving thanks for family and friends, and singing for joy as we realize God is on this journey with us through time to eternity.

Johnny R. Almond

Interim Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

Posted by: Pastor Almond AT 09:23 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

    Hull's Memorial Baptist Church
    420 Enon Road | Fredericksburg, VA 22406 | PH: 540.371.4124