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I was 12 years old when I decided to put the Lord on in baptism, and while there are some things that have grown a bit fuzzy in my memory about matters surrounding the occasion, there are a few factors that have not. I recall clearly three key influences that led to my decision. The first was knowing who Jesus is and what He has done for us. The second was the sudden death of my grandfather. And, the third factor was a sermon I heard that compelled me to make that walk to the front pew.
As long as I can remember, my parents had been Christians. I was brought up in a loving Christian home and we attended Sunday morning Bible classes and worship services. I knew about God. I knew that Jesus lived, walked upon this earth and died a cruel death for the world’s sins. With the help of my parents and Bible class teachers I feel like I knew much about how Jesus was raised on the third day and now is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven. I was aware of Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.” But as a very young child, at this particular time of my life, even though I knew many things about the sacrifice Jesus made, I really did not grasp the reality of death (mine, my loved ones, or that of Jesus Christ).
Then, when I was 10 years old, there was a terrible accident and my grandfather died suddenly. My grandmother told us that my uncle (who was born with multiple sclerosis and was mentally retarded and usually spent the majority of his time in his wheelchair) got up and began to walk across the room. He began to fall off balance and my grandfather stepped behind him to hold him steady but they both fell backwards to the floor. My uncle fell back on top of my grandfather and grandpa’s head hit the floor hard. My uncle was okay but my grandfather was knocked unconscious. An ambulance rushed my grandfather to the hospital, but it was too late. He died shortly after. While mom and dad and our aunts and uncles were at the hospital, my sisters and brother and our many cousins stayed at our grandparents’ house waiting for word about grandpa. When the cars pulled up I remember going outside to meet dad and mom at the curb. I had never seen my dad cry before that day. As we were walking toward the house he wiped his eyes and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Grandpa passed away.” I thought to myself, “passed away? What is that?” Dad didn’t say any more but I soon found out what “passed away” meant. All of a sudden Grandpa was gone! This was the first time anyone close to me had died. Not really knowing what to think or do about all that had happened I tucked the memory of this horrible death in the back of my mind where I would never have to think about it again. But it wouldn’t stay there. The memory crept back, and haunted me in my thoughts and even in my dreams. The finality of death and the separation it causes was very real to me now. There was no denying it, and apparently no avoiding it.
A couple of years later, I was sitting in the pew listening to the preacher as he delivered a powerful sermon about death and he spoke of those who were dying without Christ, without hope. This particular Lord’s day, the preacher brought forth the question of the hour. I heard him loud and clear. He asked if any of us were to die today, would we die without hope, without Christ? The thought was very real to me that day, it scared me. If I died, I didn’t want to die without hope, without Christ! I wanted to go to Heaven. I didn’t want death to snatch me away from Jesus, like death had snatched my grandfather away from me. The preacher continued to say that if we know what we’re supposed to do and don’t do it, it is the same as denying Christ. I believed in Jesus and I loved Jesus. I didn’t want to deny him! I had not been baptized for remission of my sins and I did not want to be guilty of denying Christ! As we were standing and singing the invitation song I wanted to go forward, but I couldn’t move. I decided that I would speak to mom about it first.
Later, at home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the lesson. God’s word through the preacher hit me hard. Terrified, I thought, “what would happen to my soul if, at any moment, I were struck dead.” After all, it happened to grandpa. I’m sure the last thing he ever expected was to die when he stepped behind my uncle to help him walk across the floor. But it happened, and quickly.
After lunch, mom was at the sink washing the dishes. I stepped up beside her and began to dry the dishes. “Mom, if I died without being baptized, would I go to hell? Mom stopped for a minute, and then as she reached in the soapy water to clean another plate, she said, “Well, the Bible says that only Christians will go to Heaven and if you’re old enough to know what to do but you don’t do it, you will go to hell.” Then she said, “Are you thinking about being baptized?” “Yes”, I said, very seriously. “I want to go to Heaven when I die.” She said, “I think that’s good.” I even felt compelled to talk to my sister, Joanie, about the sermon we had heard and the fact that I wanted to be baptized. In the process, she decided she wanted to be baptized, too.
The following Sunday morning as the invitation song was being sung, Joanie and I quietly left our places in the pew and walked to the front of the auditorium toward the preacher. By the time we reached the front pew, my heart was pounding out of my chest. A boy had made that important walk that day, as well. One after the other, we each stood in front of the congregation and made the good confession that “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” We were then taken to the water and baptized. I had such a joy and security that day! I knew in a very real way that from that time on, if I walked with the Lord, I would never have to fear death again and could look forward to one day spending eternity in Heaven with God. God gives us His inspired word (II Tim 3:16-17) to help us to stay faithful in our Christian walk, if we will only keep our focus on Him, and by the grace of God, we will make it to that Heavenly reward. Becoming a Christian was the most important and best decision I have ever made.
by Debbie Soechting
Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3
Patriotism is love of and loyalty to the country where you were born or choose to live. It’s having pride in what that country stands for, what it is, and the principles upon which it was founded– for America that would be the freedom to speak our minds, worship God according to our beliefs, defend ourselves and our families, and provide for our families as best we can in the way we choose.
Patriotism is that swelling of pride within us when the Stars and Stripes pass by or waves in the breeze. Pride at knowing the things that beautiful banner stands for–those freedoms aforementioned, the lives given on battlefields to preserve those freedoms, the lives given in the formative years expanding and settling the country, and the courage it took to do so.
Patriotism is the pride we feel when America and/or the people in it go beyond what others have done- put men on the moon, won gold medals in the Olympics, performed heart (and other kinds of) transplants, the curing of certain cancers, etc. Even the coming together to help others when tragedies strike our friends and neighbors, and the coming together as a nation when the country has been attacked on home soil. Add to that the pride we feel when we see a poor man or woman pull themselves up from poverty and become better educated and/or financially wealthy.
However, patriotism does not mean love of and loyalty to misguided leaders who are trying to erase God and Christian principles from our lives while trying to make sins of all kinds the accepted norm. Even though misguided, there is purpose in those leaders. Daniel 4:17 says “God rules in the kingdoms of men and gives it to whomever He wills.” What that purpose is we do not yet know. Hopefully it is a “wake-up” call to look at what we are becoming, or should I say have become, as a nation. To alarm us to the point where we will take a strong stand to put this nation back on the right track.
It’s hard to have pride in the country when such a large number of our citizens are acting like the demons cast into the swine by Jesus–stampeding towards that cliff that not only leads to physical death but spiritual death as well. Are the days too quickly approaching when the Christians will be in jail for standing up for The Truth of The Bible while sinners are free to do whatever they can think of to do?
While the thought of what’s happening to Christian principles in this country is far from patriotic and righteous, let’s not lose sight of the greater goal–Heaven! We have chosen to live in The Kingdom of Christ. That’s why we are called “Christians”. We are only “pilgrims”, “strangers” passing through this earthly place. While we want to be proud of that physical country in which we live, let’s always remember that Kingdom in which we have chosen to live and show our “patriotism” for it.
If patriotism is that love of and loyalty to a “country” we have chosen, coupled with a desire to stand up for its beliefs and principles, does that not translate over into The Kingdom of Christ? Isn’t that exactly what we are to be doing? Standing up for the truth in God’s Word? Being excited about it and sharing the Gospel of Salvation for all who will hear and obey?
Yes, we believe these United States of America is the best country on the face of this beautiful earth and we’ll do all we can to protect those great founding principles of freedom that grants us the liberty to pursue our happiness. But I submit to you that our “first patriotic duty” is to God, Christ and His Kingdom. Living in the United States of America is great, but it does not lead us to our greater goal–Heaven, where we will be eternally with God and Christ. Let’s live our lives with great exuberant “spiritual patriotism”. Let’s live like we’re proud to be Christians. And let’s see how many more we can take with us to share that great Far-Away Land of Heaven our Home.
by Beth Turner
Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3
What is patriotism? The word partiotism comes from the Greek word “Patris”, meaning Fatherland The dictionary describes patriotism as a persons level of loyalty for their country. Devotion for country can be shown by serving in our military, serving in a government office whether small town, state, or Federal and voting. Another way to show love and devotion for our country is teaching our children the history of the country. As a small child, my son was always asking questions about the men on the money and which ones were the presidents. This gave me reason and opportunity to learn and teach him about the birth of our nation. Knowing our history helps us understand the personal sacrifice made by many during the beginning of this nation, and to apprectiate the rights and freedoms given to us. Men like George Washington, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others should never be forgotten.
Partiotism is also shown by flying the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The American flag is a representation of liberty bought with the blood and sorrow of many who were looking for a better way of life. It is a reminder of the freedoms we have and enjoy through the giving of others. It should remind us that freedom is never free. When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we stand, face the flag, place our right hand over our heart, (military personnel and scouts salute), and men remove their hats from their heads. This is done daily in our schools, some sporting events, boy scout meetings, at the beginning of government meetings whether local or federal. The pledge is easy to say and fun to repeat. When my daughter was three she loved saying the Pledge of Allegiance to people when we ate at restaurants.
Teaching childern the Pledge of Allegiance is good, but what do those words mean? Each phrase has its own individual meaning. As you pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, you promise loyalty to the flag itself, to be loyal to your own state as well as the other 49 states, and loyalty to the government that unites us all remembering that we are one nation under GOD. We are reconizing that our country should not be divided (Indivisible) and we should understand the right of Liberty and Justice is for ALL of us.
“I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, under GOD, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”
Our country’s forefathers believed in God and referred to Him often in their writings. The Declaration of Independence refers to God four times calling him Nature’s God, their Creator, Supreme Judge of the world and Divine Providence. The 56 signers of the Declaration stood up and spoke out against the king of Great Britian, George III, knowing that doing so could cost them their lives. In many cases for the early Americans it did just that. Many who fought in the Revolutionary war did not live to see the final result. Patrick Henry spoke to the Virginia House of Burgessess, on March 23rd 1775, during the Virginia Convention delivering his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. However, Patrick Henry said more than that. He quoted parts of seven Bible scriptures in his speech (Mark 8:18, Jer. 18:22, Luke 22:48, John 11:44, Ecc. 9:11, Jer. 6:14 and Matt.20:6). Mr. Henry was urging the men at the convention to pass a resolution to send Virginia troops to fight in the Revolutionary War. Since the birth of our country, many people have given their efforts and sometimes their lives to keep our freedoms alive. The U.S. Constitution, the very foundation of our country was based on belief in God and his word, the Bible. On October 3,1789, George Washington made a Thanksgiving Proclamation to set a day for the Nation to acknowledge God, and His help, and blessings for our country. President Washington said we should pray with thankfulness and ask forgiveness for the nation’s trangressions. Before this proclamation, on June 28, 1787, Benjamin Franklin reminded the attendants of the Constitutional Convention that during the struggle with Great Britian their prayers were “graciously answered.” Franklin suggested they continue praying daily before they proceeded with business asking for God’s guidance for the country. Many brave Americans have fought to perserve our rights established by our founding fathers. Singing songs such as the “Star Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful” can give us a proud and patriotic feeling toward our country and help us remember the early patriots. However, let us not forget the very best way to show partiotism is to be a Christian! Be faithful to God! As Christians we should pray fervently every day for God’s Guidance (I Thess. 5:17, Matt. 7:7-8). We need God’s guidance for the Church, and our families and our nation. When the Church is strong and faithful and our families are strong and faithful, our nation will be too. A comparison can be made between patriotism for our country and patriotism for God.
There was sacrifice made for both the Church and our country. Jesus came to this earth (Matt. 2 and Luke 2), lived among the people and told them of the coming of His church (Matt. 4:17 Matt. 16:18). He taught the people how they should live and treat each other (Matt. 5-7). Jesus chose such men as Peter, James, and John and the other apostles to train and take up the leadership of His church after his death (Matthew 10:2-7 & Acts 2). Their was sacrifice made for our freedom of Christianity and Jesus paid that debt.The Church is so important that Jesus died for it and bought it with his blood. Jesus died for the sins of everyone from Adam(the first man in Gen. 1:27 and 2:20) to the last person who will ever be born (Matt. 27:32-38, Mark 15:22-28, Luke 26-46, John 19:13-22). It took the blood sacrifice of Jesus for us to have freedom from our sins.
The church of Christ was established around 33 AD, in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost. After Peter preached the first sermon, about 3000 people were baptized (Acts 2:41). New Christians went everywhere teaching and spreading the good news of Jesus. However, they were met with opposition. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church (Acts 6:5), was stoned to death for preaching about Jesus (Acts 8). The Bible says of Saul of Tarus that he made havock of the church and had men and women thrown into prison (Acts 9:3). This terrible persecution did not stop the early Christians. Acts 9:4 tells us that they were scattered but they went everywhere preaching the word. The Church grew!
Saul, who was a great persecutor of the Church, became Paul one of the greatest preachers for the Church (Acts 13:9). Paul traveled the known world with men like Barnabas (Acts13:2-ff) and Silas (Acts15:40, 16), teaching and preaching the gospel, suffering severe persecution ( Acts 13:19,16: & II Cor. 11:23-27). That did not stop them because the Church was most important in their lives. We have many other examples of Christians who helped spread the word of God. Luke, who traveled with Paul, was a great physician and the author of Luke and Acts. Aquilla and Pricilla helped Apollos by taking him aside and teaching him the word more perfectly. (Acts 18:24-26) We have examples of Timothy and Titus, who were two preachers of the early church. The Lord’s church was of great importance to them and so it should be to us today.
Early Christians stayed faithful to God (patriotic for God) even while facing death. We do not know all of the names of the Christians who have stood up to a hostile government for the cause of Christ. Americans have been blessed to live in a country whose founding documents are based on Christian principles. Therefore as Christians in this country ought to never miss an opportunity to be patriotic for God in telling others about Jesus. Just like we should know the history of our country and its founding fathers, more importantly we should know God our Father in heaven and the history of His church. We can not make the right decisions about our spiritual future without the knowledge of God’s word. It is true that knowledge is power. Let it not be said of us “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hos. 4:6)
By Sheri Folkes
originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3
- Forgiveness: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7
- Rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
- Eternal Life: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” John 6:27
- Enduring Love: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever” Psalm 138:8
- Divine Nature: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
- Overcome Evil: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
- Mercy: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Let FREEDOM Ring!
By Beth Drake
Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3
The name of Deborah means bee. “Science confirms the ancient belief that of all the animal kingdom, the bee ranks among the highest in intelligence. Deborah stands out as among the wisest of all the Old Testament.” (Mary Hallet)
The Bible does not tell us much about Deborah’s family. We know that she was married to a man named Lapidoth (Judges 4:4). They lived between Bethel and Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim. The palm tree under which Deborah sat as she judged for the children of Israel became a landmark known as “The Palm of Deborah” (Judges 4:5). She was referred to as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7), but there is no record of any children being born to Deborah and Lapidoth.
Deborah, having superior spiritual, mental and physical powers, was called by God to be a judge over the Israelites. God also gave her the task of delivering her people once again from captivity. A captivity brought on by their idolatry and trying to do what was right in their own eyes. She was one of the females called a prophetess in the Scriptures. Being a prophet or prophetess meant having the ability to speak for God. In other words, being a prophetess, she was able to be the mediator between God and the Israelites.
Deborah, however, did more than prophesy; she also gave her people the determination to free themselves from their bondage. As the people came out to hear her wisdom, she talked to them of their deliverance, with the help of the Lord, from their oppressors. After 20 years of oppression, Deborah became the deliverer of her people. After the victory over Sisera, she was judge over all Israel for 40 years. During this period Israel rested from war and captivity (Judges 5:31).
It was because Deborah believed God could and would do what He said that she sent for Barak, a trained man of war (Judges 4:6,7) and said to him, “Has not God commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you 10,000 men of the sons of Zebulun and against you I will draw Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand?’”
To Barak the task seemed hopeless. He did not appear to have as much faith as Deborah because his answer was, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, then I will not go.” (Judges 4:8) Maybe it was because Israel had been in slavery so long that it made Barak seem a little afraid.
Did Deborah hesitate? Not for an instant – she replied “I will surely go with you, nevertheless, there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedish. (Judges 4:9)
Sisera had 900 iron chariots and a multitude (100,000) of soldiers, and Barak had only 10,000 men plus God to fight for him. But in spite of the odds, Deborah’s faith in God did not waver. God was her ally. Even the “stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” (Judges 5:20) God sent a tremendous rain/hail storm that caused the river of Kishon to flood, rendered the chariots useless and overwhelmed the army of Sisera. The men with Barak were able to kill all the men of Sisera except Sisera. He left his chariot and fled. Barak pursued him but did not find him. Sisera went to Jael’s house. Here was the woman, Deborah had told Barak, “God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
Sisera met Jael in the road, and she invited him into her house to rest. “And he said to her, ‘Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.’ So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. (Judges 4:19; 5:25) She covered him with a blanket, and when he was asleep she drove a tent peg through his temple in to the ground. (Judges 4:21, 5:26) She received the glory of killing Sisera as well as much criticism, but Deborah was known as the woman who, through her faith in God, rescued her people from their enemy.
Deborah could not only prophecy, arouse, rule and fight, but also write. After her victory over the Canaanites, she composed a song which is regarded as one of the finest specimens of ancient Hebrew poetry, being superior even to the celebrated song of Miriam. Deborah’s song in Judges 5 magnifies the Lord as being the one who enabled Israel’s leaders to defeat their enemies. No character in the Old Testament stands out in bolder relief than Deborah, prophetess, ruler, warrior and poetess. Her song is immortal because her life was dedicated to God, and her deeds heroic and sublime. (Dr. Lockyer) Her dedication and trust in God was her most valuable of all her talents.
Read Judges 5 carefully. The most important lesson we can learn from the study of the life of Deborah is that faith in God will give us courage to overcome. It was her unfailing faith in God that gave her the courage to deliver her people. (Judges 5:31)
From the study of the Old Testament we can learn how God dealt with His people and all He did for those who obeyed Him. If we only believe and obey, He will do for us all that He promised. Just as Deborah is remembered because she served God to the limit of her ability, we should also strive to serve Him in the same capacity.
The author of this article is Unknown
Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3
What is Patriotism? For most people, it means “love for their country”. A recent poll completed by USA Today showed that in fact, almost 95% of all Americans state that they are somewhat patriotic. For me, patriotism means much more than that. You see, I’m an Army wife. I watch daily as my husband dresses in uniform to serve this great nation. For me, patriotism not only means love for my country, it means love for my family.
As I continue to reflect on what patriotism means to me, I am reminded of a few simple things. First of all, honor comes with patriotism. I am so proud of my husband and what he does on a daily basis. It is a true honor to be a wife of a soldier in the USA. Although many Americans are becoming less and less God fearing, the support for our troops continues to grow. When people learn that I am an Army wife, most will say “Thank you for your sacrifice and we are praying for our troops”. I am so appreciative of the kind words many Americans express to soldiers and their families. I truly believe prayer is powerful, and especially during times of war. As Christians, we are blessed to have a Heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers. My prayer life during these past 4 years has given me the opportunity to grow closer with God. I am reminded of the verse in Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. This verse is a constant reminder not only to the honor I have here, but the honor and trust I have to my Father in Heaven.
Secondly, selflessness comes with patriotism. As a wife of a deployed soldier, I’ve given up many things to be where I am today. Many times we take for granted all the little things our husbands do around the house for us. It can be anything from paying bills to fixing a leak on the washer. For an Army wife, one becomes selfless during times of deployment. I began to realize quickly after my husband was gone, that I was responsible for doing everything. I will admit, it was hard! There were nights when he would call and I would just cry! I just wanted his help! But I was quickly reminded of not only the sacrifice I was making, but the sacrifice he was making in Afghanistan. For Christians, we need to continually remember the great selfless
sacrifice our Lord made by dying on the cross for our sins. Because of His great selfless sacrifice, we have hope of an eternal home one day!
Thirdly, I believe for an Army wife, passion comes with patriotism. When someone is passionate about something, one usually does it with all their being. For a wife of a soldier, I am truly passionate about my life and the dedication is takes to be a military spouse. During my husbands’ deployment, I sent at least one care package a week. In those care packages, often it would be something as simple as chapstick or hand sanitizer, but for the two of us, it meant something more. For both of us, it meant that I was constantly thinking of him everywhere I would go. For him, it was a brief moment to enjoy life’s simple pleasures that we often take for granted. My passion for my nation and family grew even stronger when I was able to welcome home my soldier from Afghanistan. True passion for patriotism is seen in any welcome home ceremony for soldiers after deployment. As my husband continues on his journey as a soldier, I will continue to be his #1 fan. My hope is that you will continue to pray for our soldiers who fight for our freedom. My constant hope is that you find honor, selflessness, and passion in your daily walk with Christ.
Patriotism takes more from us than just a “love for our country”. It takes people like you and me who continue to endure the trials of this world, to make a better future for our children and grandchildren. Wars are not short. In fact, our world will continue to rage wars on each other for many years to come. As wars rage on, we can continue to show our patriotism and support for our nation by praying daily for those fighting for it. We live in an ever-changing world, where fewer and fewer people are allowing God to be a part of their lives. Our society is becoming less God-fearing, and as Christians we realize that we need God and the peace that He gives more than ever. I pray that we continue to seek and trust Him more. Only with God, can we fight through the wars of life and come out stronger on the other side.
by Beth Soechting
Originally published in the Summer 2010 Issue V3N3