Pastor's Desk

the barking of the dogs or the singing of the birds?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/28/2023
It was exceedingly annoying as it always is. The incessant barking of dogs. I was on the phone with a friend whose job entails knocking on doors in search of residents. He had just knocked on a door and immediately there was this discordant cacophony of dogs’ barking. It was brutal to the ears even heard over the phone. Then in the hiatus of waiting for his return to our conversation, I noticed something. Despite the barking, and more clearly in the brief respites between barks, I heard a chorus of birds singing on the bright spring day. Not on my end. On his. I heard the mellifluously melodious singing of birds eight hundred miles away. It cheered me long distance. I commented to my friend about it. “Listen to those birds. They are singing so happily. It’s so uplifting.” He responded, “What birds? I don’t hear any birds. You mean where you are at?” “No!” I answered. I’m talking about the ones where you are.” He paused for a moment before responding, “Oh, now I hear them. I didn’t hear them before. All I could hear was those barking dogs.” The dogs were still barking. I attempted to wax philosophical. “You didn’t hear the birds?” I asked incredulously with a twinge of condemnation directed at him. “Yet, I did eight hundred miles away. The problem is,” I pontificated, “You were so focused on the barking of the dogs you didn’t hear the singing of the birds.” As I smugly awaited his impressed response to my clever retort, I was suddenly hit by conviction from the boomerang of my own invented aphorism. That little quiet inside voice that can be as annoying as a dog’s barking inquired, “Don’t you do that yourself. All the time? Always through life? Don’t you constantly listen to the barking dogs instead of the singing birds?” Conviction causes misery and misery loves company, so let me ask you. Do you hear the barking of the dogs or the singing of the birds? Such is life. Dogs are barking. Birds are singing. Usually, we focus on the barking. Oh, there’s so much of that. Grating growling, bothersome barking, and yucky yipping. All the time. News. Gossip. Whining. Protesting. Carping. Complaining. Verbalize vitriol. All the time. Everywhere. In all kinds of situations. Barking. Barking. Barking. But there’s not just barking. There is also the soft breeze stirring leaves. A babbling brook. A church bell. A baby’s coo. Music inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Good News of the Word. A congregation worshiping. The encouragement of friends. The affirmation of loved ones. The birds are singing. There’s singing. Singing. Singing. Both the barking of the dogs and the singing of the birds are sounding around us constantly. In the end, we choose which we will focus on, which we will hear. I think I will listen more to the birds’ singing. After all, even the squawking of a starling sounds better than the nerve-yanking yapping of a chihuahua. (No offense to chihuahua lovers.) Did you hear that? What? You tell me. Was it barking dogs or singing birds? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
"jesus will open it"
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/14/2023
Mother’s Day can be difficult for those who have recently, or even not so recently, lost their mothers. This past week I could tell my wife was grieving for her mother whom she lost in 2020. I am reminded of this blog I had written sometime back about a visit to her mother’s grave. I thought it might introduce some brightness of hope into the ache of those missing their mother today. "JESUS WILL OPEN IT" In the bright sunshine, the view of the Ozark hillsides and valley below was refreshingly beautiful, yet a certain sadness hung in the air; the panorama I enjoyed was from the vantage of a hilltop cemetery. The conference my wife and I had traveled to attend was in a town near the cemetery where her mother had been interred a year before. She had wanted to visit the grave. We had barely unloaded our luggage at our daughter’s home where we would be staying when we got back into our SUV with one of our grandsons, a four-year-old. He was thrilled to be going somewhere with Grandpa and Grandma. But, as we traveled the gravel, country roads, he had a thousand questions when he learned we were going to Gigi’s grave where, my wife reminded him, we had buried her. Gigi is what our grandchildren had called their great-grandmother. I have been preaching the Gospel for 44 plus years, have taught in Bible College, and am seminary trained. But this four-year-old asked questions about death, the resurrection, and the coming of Christ, which stumped me and made me temporarily think I needed to revise my theology. We arrived at the cemetery. I parked in the lane at its edge next to the old barbed wire fence that marked its boundary with an adjacent pasture often dotted with grazing cattle. Gigi’s grave was in the last row abutting the lane. Now out of our vehicle and at her grave with Grandma, our grandson never stopped asking questions about his Gigi. He was trying to process how Gigi was down there in the ground yet in heaven with Jesus at the same time. I gave up on eschatological solutions and just let my wife try to answer. Weary with our journey and soon tired of standing, I opened the back hatch of our SUV. It was just steps from the grave. I sat on the back bumper of our vehicle enjoying the cool breeze, bright sun, and bucolic vista before me as I continued to watch and listen to my grandson. As he interrogated his grandmother, he began to move his hands all over the memorial tombstone feeling its edges and the engravings of its letters. With a visibly insatiable curiosity, he knelt and with his hands examined where the stone’s bottom edge joined the ground. He even felt the still sparsely grassed turf that covered the grave. My wife finally stopped mid-attempted-answer with a question of her own, “What are you trying to do?” Before he even answered, it hit me of what his actions were reminding me. They reminded me of a detective in an Edwardian-era manor’s library seeking among the books and along the edges of a bookshelf to find the secret latch for a hidden room. He answered, “I’m trying to open it. I’ll let Gigi out.” My wife began to try to convince him that it would be impossible for him to open the grave. Finally, he stopped his search for the secret lock or latch. Shaking his head in an affirmative nod he proclaimed, “But, when Jesus comes, He will open it. He will let her out.” Forgetting neatly packaged theology, I felt a thrill at his prophetic declaration. Jesus IS coming, and He WILL open it and let her out. That is the Gospel in a nutshell. Jesus comes. Jesus opens. Jesus lets out. At the visit to the synagogue that inaugurated His ministry on earth, Jesus proclaimed, “I am come to set the captive free, to open the prison door, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” That’s just what Jesus does. He opens the prisons of people’s sins and lets their captive souls out into the freedom of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. And for those whose souls He has set free in this life, though they die and are buried, He will one day open the graves and reunite their souls and their bodies. He will once again open up their prison and let them out. My grandson, convinced of the futility of his efforts and content with the hope of his wise proclamation, became quiet and still. My wife was kneeling, gazing at her mother’s memorial stone. Our grandson went to her, sat on the ground beside her, put his hand on hers to comfort her, and joined his gaze with hers. It seemed to me that he and my wife were peering past the granite and the sorrow into the distance to a future day when Jesus would come and “let her out.” Only the Gospel can give folks parted by death from their loved ones, in this case, a mother, the hope of reunion. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
justice, my wife, and the gospel
Bro. Clifford Hurst 04/23/2023
As a precursor to this Tuesday’s announcement about his presidential run for 2024, President Biden signed and announced an executive order mandating that all federal agencies prioritize ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE. When I heard “Environment Justice,” I thought of the Gospel. And my wife. See, truth is, when a modifier is added to justice, then justice is no longer justice. A modifier can make all the difference. It changes everything. For example, if I say, “wife,” that produces one perception. If I say, “my wife,” that’s another. But, if I say, “my FAVORITE wife,” that draws a drastically different picture. It’s not the possessive modifier, “my,” that makes the altering difference. Nor if I added a descriptive modifier, “beloved.” It’s when I add a modifier that distinguishes, “favorite.” If she is my “favorite” wife, there are others. Back to justice. Justice, overly simplified, is what is right, impartial, and fair. But add a qualifying modifier--Social Justice. Racial Justice. Economic Justice. Environmental Justice--and the modifier takes away what justice is. How so? Because to fulfill the qualifier in the vein it is meant results in favoring one group, philosophy, system, culture, etc., above another. The very opposite of what the modifier’s proponents ostensively profess is their intent and goal. The modifier tilts “justice,” rightness, impartiality, and fairness, in the direction of one and away from the other. The moment it tilts, justice has ceased to be justice. Justice is justice. It needs no qualifier. And the qualifier, once added, changes it. Destroys it. Makes it something else. So with the Gospel. Simply stated, the Gospel, the Good News, is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. Now let’s add modifiers. Social Gospel. Liberation Gospel. Progressive Gospel. Universalism Gospel. Prosperity Gospel. Holiness Gospel. The moment the modifier is added to Gospel, the resulting Gospel has become something else. It is not the Gospel of the New Testament. It is not the Gospel of Jesus. Nor Paul. And since it’s not, it can’t save or give eternal life or true hope and peace. Justice with any such modifier is not Justice. The Gospel with any such modifier is not the Gospel. And if my wife is “my favorite wife,” I have or have had more than one. I haven’t. I don’t. I have but one wife. And there is but one Gospel that saves. The Gospel. Minus all qualifiers and modifiers, --Pastor Clifford Hurst
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/26/2023
Not just “Perfect.” But, “Perfect!!!”--perfect with three !’s because it is always said with verbal exclamation points of feigned optimism, enthusiasm, excitement, or joy--none of which, we will find, are usually meant. Perfect!!! is everywhere. I can’t be the only one that’s noticed. You have too? Perfect!!! A trip last week out of state only underlined that what I’ve been noticing is ubiquitous. Everywhere and in a plethora of circumstances folks are responding with “Perfect!!!” In their interactions waitresses and patrons both say, “Perfect!!!”. So do flight attendants and passengers, “Perfect!!!”. As do patients and doctors, “Perfect!!!”. And friend to friend, “Perfect!!!”. Why do they say Perfect!!!? And, how can so many things be perfect!!!? It stretches incredulity to believe that we live in such a perfect world of perfect people doing perfect things that everything is discovered and declared “Perfect!!!” Ever the skeptic--this I may get imperfectly--I really think Perfect!!! is a ploy! I’ll give a few examples of what I mean, and, if you would, let me know if I am on to something. You’d do that? Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a replacement for “Thank you,” without saying, “Thank you.” It’s used this way, although not always when you don’t have much cause to be thankful. Or you don’t especially feel thankful. Or, you just want to say, “Thank you” in a way that will end the conversation (another use of Perfect!!!). Example: Someone is portending to have done you a great favor. He is going on and on about how and why. You don’t really see it. You just want the monologue to stop. So, you say, “Perfect!!!” That makes him feel self-satisfied and stuns him to cease. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of making folks not feel bad or embarrassed when you are really not pleased with what they have done when they think they have really done something for you. Example: Your young children fix you breakfast. The outcome is less than desirable, the kitchen is a mess, and a few dishes are broken in the process. “Mom, we fixed you breakfast,” they announce proudly. Not to hurt them—and you can’t honestly say, “It looks great,” or even “Thank you,”--you say, “Perfect!!!” You have spared their feelings without revealing your own. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of feigning interest, enthusiasm, and joy--when you feel none of those things--to spare the other’s feelings. Example: You come home from work and your wife says, “We need to go shopping tonight.” You say, “Perfect!!!” If you say it emphatically enough, you can keep the sarcasm and disappointment hidden. She’s never the wiser. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of ending a monologue or undesired conversation. Example: When one is elucidating endlessly to convince you about how wonderfully he has done something or said something, if you say, “Perfect!!!” What else can he say? He has already convinced you. End of conversation. “Perfect!!!” “Perfect!!!” is a way of hiding your disappointment, frustration, and uncharitable emotions. You have sat in the restaurant booth for thirty minutes after you’ve ordered waiting for your steak. The waitress drops by and announces, in a way to feign her concern and accentuate her effort on your behalf, “I just went back to the kitchen to check on your food. They told me it would be ready in just a moment.” She finishes with a disarming smile. You say, “Perfect!!!” You want to say, “About time. I’ve waited thirty minutes.!” But she beams at your “Perfect!!!”. “Perfect!!!” “Perfect!!!” deflects from having to judge or be judged. We live in a society that does not want not be judged. Ironically, the worse judgment that one can receive is to be accused of judging. One may think something is subpar, lacking, etc., but if he says, “Perfect!!!.” he cannot be said to be judging by pointing out that something is wrong. He cannot be judged for judging. Someone announces she is going to go party and get soused. Another says, “Perfect!!!” He has not judged and, thus, cannot be judged. He has avoided sharing how He really feels. “Perfect!!!” I know I must have missed some other usages of “Perfect!!!” But, you say, “You need to stop. You’ve given enough. This has gone on long enough.” Oh, okay. Perfect!!! But, before I do, a concession, an analogy, and a spiritual truth. Concession: If any have found yourself punctuating your conversations with “Perfect,” I am not accusing you of consciously doing so as described above. If one of those illustrations describes how you use Perfect!!!, I am sure, it is unintentional. “Perfect!!!” is just one of those trendy expressions that are infectious. Most do not calculatingly adopt them. They catch them like the cold virus. And start sneezing them. Analogy: Perfectly good words are often prostituted and ruined by trendy, mundane, superfluous, imperfect usage. Remember, “Awesome!!!”? Awesome!!! was used so frequently for any and everything that Awesome!!! is no longer, well, awesome. It lost its awesomeness. “Perfect!!!” used imperfectly will lose its perfectness. Please don’t say it--“Perfect!!!” Spiritual truth: This blog actually came to me after reading from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when He enjoined us to “be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Wow! As perfect as God. How? This begs for exposition but maybe two quick conclusions would suffice. First, of all, that is just Jesus’ point. We CAN’T be perfect like the Father is perfect. Not on our own. Not by our efforts however strenuous they may be. Impossible. Yet, we are required to be perfect. That’s where the Good News comes in. That kind of perfection only comes through Christ. Our belief in Him. Our acceptance of Him through our repentance. And our letting Him live in and through us. And that can happen to any of us! “Perfect!!!” Really, “Perfect!!!” Second, we think of perfectness as exactness and flawlessness. The “perfect” that God is (and He is those things too) and the “perfect” we are to be, literally, at its root means “complete.” Only through Christ can we complete. Whole. We are complete in Christ, through Christ, by Christ. To that, I can only say Perfect!!! Really, “Perfect!!!” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
jesus, a bank you can trust
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/19/2023
I hate it when this happens. A great analogy I’ve used for years to illustrate a spiritual truth has been ruined in the past two weeks. Thank you, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank: See, I talked about banks when expositing this Scripture. “… nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2Ti 1:12). I won’t tax you with any but the bare minimum of the exposition: Apostle Paul endured great suffering and opposition for preaching the Gospel. But, in this scripture, he expresses certainty that he will not lose his faith, his salvation, his soul, his reward, etc. Why? Because all those things of Paul’s were in the care and keeping of Jesus. Jesus was guarding those things of Paul’s. Here’s where the bank illustration came in. I would preach… “This promise of Jesus’ keeping one’s soul, salvation, and reward, only applies to those who surrender their lives, their souls, their hearts, their futures, and themselves to Him. You cannot expect Christ to keep what you have not put in His care. Let’s say you have a million dollars. But you keep it at home. A thief brakes in and steals it or a fire consumes your house and the million with it. Could you go to the bank and say, ‘Do you have my money? Is it safe?’ After taking your name and checking the computer, the response would be, ‘What money? Did you deposit money with us? I don't see that you have an account here.’ ‘No,’ you answer, ‘But did you keep my money safe?’ Ludicrous, I know. Then, I’d tweak the illustration: “Let’s back the story up to before you lost your million dollars. You, worried about a thief stealing or a fire burning up your million, go to the bank to deposit it. You put stacks of money on the counter with ‘I’d like you to keep my million dollars safe.’ The teller is happy to oblige with the smiling, eager manager looking over her shoulder. She counts it. ‘$100,000,’ she announces. The manager frowns. ‘There’s only $100,000 here,’ she repeats. You shake your head affirmatively, ‘Yes, I know. I only want to deposit $100,000 but I want you to protect, keep, and insure my million dollars.’ “The manager steps up to the counter moving the teller aside. ‘But, sir, you have to understand. We can only keep safe what you deposit, what you give us. If you only give us a part of the million dollars we cannot guarantee the safety of your million dollars. You must give us all. Then we can keep it safe for you.’” I ended the illustration there with, “Jesus is like a bank. He can only keep safe what you give Him. And you must give Him all. All your soul. All your life. All your heart. All your… You give Him all, and Jesus, like a bank, will keep it safe. Until, when it will matter most—in eternity.” Jesus is like a bank? My illustration has been shot. Banks have failed. The story now goes like this: You join the run on the bank to withdraw and rescue your deposits, and, if the doors haven’t already been locked and you can get in, you discover your money is gone. Gone up like smoke vanishing in thin air. Wait. The bank illustration isn’t completely unredeemable. Why? Because it is only banks on earth that fail. Go bankrupt. That fail to keep what folks have deposited. There is another bank. Heaven’s bank. It seems Jesus used a bank illustration too: Well, not a bank, exactly. A safe storage. In Bible times wealth consisted largely of precious metals and jewels, clothing (or the material to make it), and food. If you had large quantities of these, it was necessary to find a safe storage for them. But, let’s just call these safe places banks of sorts. Then, let’s note what Jesus said about our using them: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mat 6:19-21). Jesus makes it clear. There are earthly “banks” and a heavenly bank. Temporal and eternal. On His word, you can rest assured that whatever you deposit in the Bank of Heaven is safe. Yet, that bank works the same as earth’s banks. Heaven’s bank can only keep safe what you deposit, what you surrender, what you commit. Thinking of this Bank of Heaven, knowing, ultimately, Jesus is in charge, we can say Jesus is the Bank. And the One who has given us anything we might deposit. And the Teller who receives it from us. And the Manager who locks it in the vault. And the Government that can and does insure it. And the Dividends on our deposit. Jesus is the Bank. The Bank you can trust. You commit, and He keeps. With banks beginning to fall like dominoes, the question frequently heard asked is, “What is your bank?” I don’t mean to sound inanely shallow or hyper-spiritual, but I will answer. “Jesus. Jesus is my Bank.” That may sound a bit silly, but it sure is reassuring. Because “I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
why there are no good stories: wait there is one!
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/12/2023
My poor wife. She has to hear my rants. Here is one of my frequent ones: “ 'They’ cannot write a good story anymore whether book or movie. Everything is reduced to the lowest common denominator of crudeness, idiocy, blasphemy, and stupidity. Instead of relying on a good plot, they rely on violence, sex, gore, and the shock of the extreme. And virtue signaling by working in woke-ism in all the places it doesn’t even fit.” I continue with the reason that stories have become such degraded, shoddy, sludge: “They can’t write a good story because they have gotten rid of the basis of a good story—a conflict of right and wrong, good and evil. There is no good and evil in their stories. Thus, they don’t have a real story.” For example, I need only refer to Disney’s Frozen. A positive critique of a movie--whatever the actual words were--used to be something like “the triumph of good over evil.” Frozen’s positive reviews could be summarized in this one, “Courage, positivity, agility.” When I watched it with grandchildren (I believe), I found myself continually muttering through the beard I don’t have, “There’s no conflict between good and evil. The ‘good’ characters aren’t really ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ characters are not really ‘bad.’ You can tell what the conflict of a story is really about by asking, “What is at stake?” In Frozen what is at stake is 1) whether a character would discover who she really was and realize her full potential and 2) whether a character would be courageous or not. Do you see the problem? That could take us down the road to a whole book of discussion. But, to keep my focus, without a clear, objective moral measure of right and wrong, there can be no intriguing conflict. And without intriguing conflict, there can be no plot. And with no plot, no good storytelling—despite Frozen’s success. Its success really had nothing to do with the story it told. Not really. Yes, it takes a clear, objective right and wrong to have conflict whether it be a conflict between a human and God, or between a human and human, or between a human and himself, or between a human and nature—animal, terrain, etc. You get the picture. Oh, wait, modern times have introduced a new conflict—that between a human and a machine, AI. Really, good conflict goes deeper than right and wrong. It goes to WHY there is a right and wrong. To why right and wrong matter: Good stories have always had this: Whether overt or covert, underneath the conflict is wrestling with the two greatest questions of life. Whether one has consciously thought of these, can articulate them, or even denies their validity, these two questions are those with which every human wrestles. And they are beneath the surface in all conflicts of life. Not just the ones in fiction literature. The ones in real life. Here they are: 1) What is the origin, nature, purpose, and destiny of the universe? 2) What is the origin, nature, purpose, and destiny of Me? Good stories are not just about good and evil, but why it all matters. Even when the story is of a man lost in the frozen forests of northern Canada--a conflict between human and nature, the answer to these questions matter. If a man is just a clump of molecules destiny to obliteration, it does not matter if he survives, whether he is rescued or dies. Not really. In fact, if you are a leftist, you may want him to lose. After all, he is chopping down trees for shelter, polluting the air with his campfires, and maybe killing some endangered animals for food. In the modern story, readers may be rooting for him to not make it. You see then, what one sees as good or evil, or, if one does not see anything as good or evil, determines what matters. And what matters is determined by how one answers the above questions. Modern literature/movies, etc., whatever their genre, do not have this wrestling with The questions of life. (Of course, there are always exceptions.) Rather, for a plot, they rely heavily and largely on three things: Discrimination (usually, perceived, inflated, or distorted). Destroying the planet (Where humans are both the sinners and the savior). Discovering you are enough, the be-all, know-all. (Which allows characters to flaunt their aberrant behavior while lauding them for their courage to do so). But they have no basis for even these to matter. The Bible, the greatest story ever, the story of redemption has it all. Good and evil. Conflict. Wrestling with the real questions of life. What a plot. What suspense. And, what denouement. What a conclusion. Whatever you may think of the Bible, its God, or Christianity, you, if you’ve honestly read it, cannot deny it has a story to tell. What a story! A story of good and evil. And what is at stake in that story is not whether or not one will find his courage, but whether or not he will find salvation for his soul. Good stories have good endings. Or sad. How the story of the Bible ends for any reader depends on the reader. You choose how it ends by how you choose to respond. Again, what a Story! The suspense continues. How will it end for you? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
a rant on the way to senior saints breakfast
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/05/2023
Yesterday, driving to our Senior Saints breakfast at church, I pretty much lost any of the saint I might have possessed, though, unfortunately, I kept the senior. Why? The litter. We were traversing a road that is a major beltline to our city. The ditches and shoulders of the road were strewn with litter tossed from passing vehicles. Littering upsets me greatly. I claim no righteous reason for that. It may be my OCDness that desires everything to always be in its place, and the side of the road is not trash’s place. It may be my aversion to folk’s laziness that they would not take care of their garbage the way it ought to be. Or to their narcissism evidenced by their thinking only of relieving themselves of their waste and not of their trashing someone’s yard, or the city’s road; or, not thinking that, if that trash ever gets picked up and disposed of, someone else will have to do it. Or, it may simply be because litter ruins the aesthetics of the scenery. Litter is plain ugly. Dirty. Unsightly. But the thing that mostly was riling me was the blatant hypocrisy of the self-righteous leftists, the movers and shakers of the popular post-modernity culture. And their disciples. This I began to spew out to my wife. “Climate activists preach saving our planet from global warming and have successfully indoctrinated a whole generation in our schools, inculcating them to be rabid recyclers. They convinced them we can’t even use straws. Yet, that same generation they have converted into save-the-planet-ideology automatons are the ones who are littering our roads and planet. What hypocrisy! I am condemned for not recycling but they throw all their trash out the window.” I should have stopped there, but I tied it to another hypocrisy of today’s contemporary culture. “They continue to preach we are all racists and need to treat everyone equitably. Okay, right. I agree we should treat everyone equitably. But why are those who are taught to scream racism at everybody and everything so rude? So mannerless. Go out into the service sector. Everywhere, folks who are supposed to be serving you are rude. Devoid of manners. Totally lacking in a show of respect for others. Those in customer service, well, used to serve customers.” Of course, not all are rude. There is some wonderful, well-mannered folk in customer service. But, rudeness and lack of manners are systemic. For all their preaching of treating folks equitably, many folks who are quick to holler, “racism” are mannerless and rude. I concluded my rant with, “With all their teaching about saving the planet and everyone being racist, why don’t they teach students not to litter and teach them some manners.” That question could be answered from many angles, but every one of those involves this; For their beliefs, these see-racism-everywhere-save-the-planet advocates have nothing transcendent upon which to base their sanctimonious sententiousness. I do not have space to flesh that claim out, but, basically, it’s this: If all there is is matter, then, in the end, nothing matters. Or, put another way, if matter is all that matters then nothing matters. Environmentalism tries to make saving the planet matter. But with no basis, it doesn’t matter because it's all matter. So, people litter. Leftists, for questionable motives, try to make all “races” equally matter. But, if all we all are is matter, no race, no one matters. Thus, there is no need to treat one another mannerly. Over and over, because they have no transcendent basis for their ideologies, manufactured moralities, and minus-god religions, their hypocrisy manifests itself. They reveal this hypocrisy by being racist against those they claim are racist. They may protest that it matters that we save a threatened snail. But since all is matter, they show nothing matters when they advocate killing babies in the womb. They cannot live consistently with their beliefs. The bases of their beliefs are untenable. Only Christians can live consistent with their beliefs. The operative word there is “can.” Often, many don’t. But, since their beliefs are based on the transcendent God, His transcendent Word, and, thus, transcendent reasons, there is a basis for consistent living in this world. And because of that, none are better stewards of our planet than true believers in Christ. They do not litter, choke dolphins with straws, or treat anyone, whatever his “race” rudely. They are not hypocrital--though they may go off on an occasional rant against leftists. Oh, and by the way, another Senior Saint coming to breakfast noticed the litter along the same road en route. She didn’t just rant. She said, “It made me want to get out and do something about it. Pick it all up.” That senior had a more saintly reaction than I. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
a mighty thin pancake
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/26/2023
“It’s a mighty thin pancake that has only one side.”—this, from a former pastor of mine. By no stretch of the imagination am I a cook, but, when our children were small, I used to help fix breakfast for dinner after prayer meetings on Saturday nights. Pancakes were my purview. I probably did not cook them correctly, but the two sides of my pancakes always differed. The side that started topside then flipped and ended against the hotplate was marked by divots from collapsed air bubbles. The other side was smooth. The point is, as different as they might seem, they were each a side of a single pancake. Take either side away and there no longer exists that pancake. Often in matters of truth, if one acknowledges, affirms, and tries to actualize two seemingly opposing truths, tries to life-walk balancing himself with a paradoxical truth in each hand, he is disparagingly accused of walking in the middle of the road. And, his accusers will condescendingly and arrogantly continue, “you know what you find in the middle of the road—road kill.” Many times, I have been charged with this—being a middle-of-the-roader. Of trying to have it both ways. If I protest, “No, I’m trying to be balanced,” the response is a sneer: “ ‘Balance” is just a euphemism for being in the middle of the road, for compromise, for noncommittal vacillation.” “The yellow stripe that marks the center of the road goes right over your road-kill back.” No doubt, there are compromisers who make no clear stand for truth. But this accusatory, platitudinal condemnation is as naïve as it is inaccurate. The truth about Truth is that there are many truths that are paradoxical. One truth seems at odds with another. Yet, both are true. In fact, they are not two different truths, but two sides of a larger truth. To mix in yet another analogy, what is seen as trying to walk the middle of the road is in fact trying to walk the ridge that marks the line where two opposing slopes meet. It is believing both truths, however opposing they may seem, and trying to reconcile them into a way of thinking about them that one can believe them and live them, or perhaps, live with them. Let me give you an example: The Bible teaches clearly that each human is depraved. Fallen. Corrupt. Broken. Twisted. Yet, the Bible also teaches that each human is a God-image bearer, made in the likeness of God. Each human is at the same time capable of unimaginable wickedness and evil (by Jesus’ own words) and capable of the most extraordinary acts of kindness, love, and sacrifice. He is depraved and noble. Broken, yet the highest creation of God. Both these things are true. Each of these truths informs us about humanity. There is a ridge line to walk with the slope of one of these truths on one side and the other on the adjacent one. If you hold to one truth at the denial or ignoring of the other, you will slide down that slope into error and destruction. Either side. To believe humanity is only good and noble leads to horrible errors whether in religion, humanities, or politics. Yet, to believe that humanity is only depraved leads to other destructive beliefs, practices, and treatment of others. There is no space here for practical examples, but you get the picture. Last week I wrote of the Asbury revival. Most folks have responded to that “revival” from either one “side” or the other. Some view it with the assumption that because it isn't happening on their turf, in their tent, it could not be of God. Others, who consider only the sensational and not truth as markers, immediately proclaim it unquestionably of God. Yet, Scripture instructs us to assess moves like Asbury as a pancake of two sides, a ridge with two slopes: One side is “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” And the other, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1Th 5:19-21). Every so-called “move of God” we are to be quick to test; we are to practice discernment. Yet, Every so-called “move of God” we are NOT to be quick to quench, despise, or label pseudo. If we approach this revival via only one of these at the expense of the other, we will get things wrong. This is not being middle of the road. This is not compromise. This is not trying to have it both ways. This is walking the ridge between two slopes, not sliding down one or the other. This is realizing a pancake has two sides, examining and exploring each one, and keeping both. And, thus, keeping the pancake intact. Not only is a pancake with only one side mighty thin, but being so thin, it is also easily seen through. Clear through to the self-righteous motives, misguided intents, and petty designs of those who like their pancakes with only one side. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the asbury restaurant
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/19/2023
Truly, I’m grateful for the thought and the expense. But I was left totally unfulfilled, unsatisfied. My wife and I were gifted with a free dinner at a top-rated, acclaimed, expensive restaurant. The kind of place where the refined, cultured, and elite dine. The meal was served with lots of amenities and flourishes and aesthetic presentations including the sprinkles of parsley leaf, but I stared in disbelief at my steak. It was the size of a small medallion. I am one who cannot stand to have the items on my plate touching, their juices and sauces mingling and mixing. No danger that evening. There was an Atlantic of a distance between the few items on the plate. The portion of potatoes was meager, the smallest of dollops. I can’t remember if the other vegetable was green beans or asparagus, but there were but a few sprigs of even that. As we left the restaurant, I was yet hungry. In a sense, that was the best the world of vogue restaurants could offer. Five stars. Yet, I was unsatisfied. The Asbury Revival 2023 is evidence of this very reaction. The apostles of humanism in our universities have cooked up their post-modernity dishes of woke-ism, socialism, and pick-your-genderism,. Politicians have arranged it on the plate in an appealing-to-the-masses presentation sprinkling everything with virtue-signaling. The media has served it with self-righteous, ostentatious superciliousness, and self-important flourishes. The plate of the God-less naturalism conglomerated goulash has been constantly put on the table under the nose of the current generation. And, that generation has with relish dove into and devoured it. But, as it rises from the table of the latest rant, fad, entertainment, poor excuse for a movie, and the latest trend on social media, it is not only still empty, but emptier. Not still hungry, but hungrier. Today’s generation, and the one before it, have fared little better at the restaurant of the modern, entertainment-oriented, progressive Christian church. The setting may be a bit different—only a nano-bit, but the same stuff, though called by a different name, is on the menu. And on the plate. It is no more nourishing and satisfying eaten at a church as it is at any secular venue. Youth have departed the church having been fed no Truth, experienced no power, and seen no transformation. At Asbury, youth, left hungry by our contemporary culture, have responded when the Holy Spirit entered their chapel and began serving the reality of Christ. It fed their soul. Their worship was their dining. Their continuing worship was an indication, not that they were not finding what would satisfy, but that they had found it. In Christ. In the presence of God. In the moving of the Spirit. Some prejudicially conclude that good food can only be found at their favorite restaurant of choice. Or in their kitchen. The phenomena at Asbury the last few weeks, to them, cannot be genuine, of God, because either these naysayers did not cook the meal or it was not served at their restaurant. Of course, any revival must be assessed and judged by the Word as any restaurant must be open to a health inspection. Whatever the motives may be for those who would quickly dismiss this Asbury Revival as bona fide, one thing I am sure of is this: God will move whenever, upon whomever, wherever He finds those hunger for Him. And He does not care where they are. Or who they are. Also, I’m convinced, when God fixes and serves the meal, none will be dissatisfied. Except those who will not eat. When Manna falls from the kitchen of heaven, laid before us by serving angels, despite its having fallen closer to a neighbor’s tent than one’s own, it’s not time to discount it. It’s time to gather and eat. It will satisfy like nothing else. And, oh, before criticizing what is being cooked, served, and eaten at another restaurant, you might want to take a look at what is being put on the table at yours. --Pastor Hurst
the one you’ve been waiting for
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/12/2023
It is a devasting lie taught by the Devil and Disney and our degraded contemporary culture—that you and I can find value in ourselves. It goes like this: “You only need to look within for value, meaning, strength, and courage.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “You have it in you.” “You can find whatever you need in you.” Or, as expressed in Frozen, when Elsa duets with her mother’s spirit and the departed Mom sings to her, “You are the one you’ve been waiting for.” Behind woke culture’s condoning, endorsing, and encouraging children to go through body mutilating, mind-destroying sex-change treatments for gender reassignment, is this lie. “Look within.” “Whom do you see?” “Be that person, that thing, and you will find fulfillment, meaning, and worth.” “Whatever you think you are, be it.” “You are brave because you choose to transition.” “Your bravery makes you valuable.” Years ago, I attended a youth rally with our church’s teenagers. After service, I was sitting toward the back of the church when the youth began returning from the altar area. One mid-teen young man was coming toward me in a bantam rooster strut. His back was rigidly straight as he stretched to appear taller; his chest, thrust outward so that its muscles might be defined; his chin, lifted high; and, his biceps, flexed tightly to appear bulging. He swaggered from the hips stiffly turning his upper body from side to side as if his torso’s muscles were heavy with their largeness, and that both sides of the aisle might see how strong he was. As he walked past me, I reached up and slapped him on the back and said as if I were scolding him, “Walk like a man!” I saw the confusion cross his face as he froze mid-step. It was a panicky consternation. It said, “I thought I WAS walking like a man. Can’t you see it? Can’t you see how powerful, strong, manly, I am?” He tried to stutter a response, but nothing came out. As he began moving again, he attempted to flex his muscles larger, straighten his back further, and swagger more noticeably. Yes, I was mean. I was only joking but that was plain cruel. But, if he had cared to reflect and think about it, I was revealing an important truth: He was trying to find self-worth in self. He could not but fail. It does our youth no good to lie to them that their value can be found within themselves. It is not true. They need to know the truth. They are broken. They are fallen. They are incomplete. They are lacking. They are destined for disappointment and destruction if they believe the lie that they will find value centered in themselves. Not just they, but all of us. It is with this awareness that glorious truth comes to the rescue: First, that our value can NOT be found by us in us, doesn’t mean we have no value. We most certainly do. Only, it’s not centered in us. It is centered in God. Our value is not subjective in us. It is objective in God. In the fact that we are His creation. That means 1) We are valuable because of Who made us. If I draw a stick figure, it is worthless. If Michelangelo had drawn a stick figure, it would be worth thousands. 2) We are valuable because He values us. As I type, I am sitting with a blanket that’s holey and worn and out of fashion on my lap. It would be worthless to you. You wouldn’t give me even a dollar for it. I won’t part with it. It’s the first blanket my wife and I had when we were newly married. It is valuable because I value it. God values His creation. You are valuable because God values you. He proved that by giving His Son to die for you. 3) We are valuable because we bear the image of the One Who made us. We are image-bearers. For all our falleness and brokenness, we are yet in the image of Creator-God. How valuable is that? Speaking again of our brokenness leads to the second part of the glorious truth. Yes, we are broken. But we are complete in Christ. Christ completes us. He has taken our brokenness upon Himself so that we might be healed. Made complete. My young friend at the youth rally might well straighten his back further, walk taller, and swagger a bit more. Not because he is muscles are so big, or that he is so manly, or that he is so strong, but because he is God’s. He is Christ’s. That’s not arrogance. It’s just an awareness that his value doesn’t come from what he has but from Who has him. God, not you, is the One you’ve been waiting for. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
what to do when you’ve kicked your dog
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/05/2023
An article I read about lowering graduation requirements made me think of a mentally deficient beagle I once owned and the night I lost my religion and became a hypocritical preacher. In my beginning years of preaching, when on the subject of sanctification (being made like Christ), I would name different things a person just won’t do if he really has the goods, is sanctified. Starting each declaration with “If you are sanctified, you won’t…., I would get on a rhetoric roll and state, “If you are sanctified, you won’t kick your dog.” Now, at that time, all my life I had beagles for hunting. I had gotten a new beagle that had absolutely no smarts. He loved to bark at night. Over and over, I’d have to get up in the night to quieten him. First, I would try opening the back door and yell-whisper, “Quit.” That only incited him to more barking. That left me to resort to the next step in dog discipline--the rolled-up newspaper. Before you judge me too harshly, that was almost 37 years ago when that was an accepted manner of disciplining a pet. Also, a loosely rolled paper, when applied, only startled and didn’t hurt the animal. You know it had to be a long time ago since there was a newspaper on hand. If you're contemplating reporting me, what I did is past the statute of limitations. Back to that night; around 2 a.m., I rolled my newspaper, and traipsed down the back stairs and across the backyard to where the dog was leashed to its house. I gave it a few swats with the rolled newspaper and, since the dog went silent, turned to go back into the house. I hadn’t taken but a step or two when the dog started yapping again. I whirled about and repeat the dose of discipline. The dog stopped. I turned and took a step. The dog started yapping again. This was repeated over and over. Many nights the dog finally would stop, but not this night. After numerous futile repeats of the procedure, something snapped in my sleep-deprived mind. I wheeled around back to the yapping dog and instead of engaging the newspaper, with my foot I caught the dog under its belly, lifted it, and launched it through the air. When it landed, it yelped and ran into its house. As I turned to walk away, relief that the dog finally went silent was only beginning to settle down on me when I heard the words of my preaching, “If you are sanctified, you will stop kicking your dog.” The conviction was heavy. I could have argued that I hadn’t actually kicked my dog. I had only catapulted him, but I knew the dog nor my conscience would appreciate the difference. So, what did I do? Fall down and cry out for forgiveness pledging never to kick my dog again? No. I simply determined to leave out that line, “…you won’t kick your dog” the next time I preached on sanctification. Not really. Feeling hypocritical, I never did preach that again. But I did use this story to illustrate a truth God taught me that night: When one’s experience falls short of his belief, it is easier to change his belief to accommodate the insufficiency of his experience than it is to get his experience back up to the level of his belief. It was easier to quit believing, if one is sanctified, he won’t kick his dog than to stop kicking the dog. How does the article on graduation requirements remind me of all this? Because the article reported the school officials’ intentions to lower the graduation requirements in order that more students might graduate. Lowering the standard was easier than getting the students to meet the requirements. So many Christians today have found their experience and walk fallen way below what they have professed to believe. Rather than endeavoring to get their experience back in line with what they believe, they simply alter their belief to coincide with their present experience. They lower the standard and deceive themselves into believing they are still graduating. So many examples of this could be given, but there is no space. There is only enough room left to tell you that, no, I never kicked my dog again. I just don't own a dog. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the devil you don’t see
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/22/2023
I’m not trying to be pejorative by using “Indian.” I’m not prejudiced. It’s not a slam. It’s just a quote from history to make a point. A needed one. In a campaign against Indians on a killing and scalping warpath spree, General Miles was leading troops from Kansas down into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to catch and capture the perpetrators. Those plains, always dry, were especially parched that year. All was barren. One could see for miles. Troops would become nervous when seeing small bands of their enemy on the distant horizon. Those would quickly disappear from sight. Most of the time the cavalry saw nothing in the treeless, open prairie but burnt-up grass and dried-up ground. Miles to keep his men alert and wary to attack kept repeating the adage of those experienced with the West. “When you see Indians about, be careful; when you do not see them, be more careful.” Never were troops in more danger, never could the Indians inflict more damage, destruction, and death than when they had gone unseen until the ambush was complete and the trap sprung. This is so true with our arch-enemy, the Devil. Never is he more dangerous than when he is unseen behind the scenes. Never more deceptive than when he is out of sight, out of mind. Never more destructive than when he lies hidden from view in ambush. The devil has always been able to do less damage when and where folks believed in him and “saw” him at work. The most damage he has ever inflicted on society has happened in those societies which did not believe in him, nor saw his hand in anything. The Soviet communists didn’t believe in God. Nor the devil. Never has there been so much killing, destruction, and death. Generally, in politics, economics, etc., I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories. Not because I don’t believe in conspiracy, but advocates, however, elaborate their theory, however abundant their contrived “evidence,” always get it wrong. For one, they get the real masterminds, movers and shakers, and substantiating evidence all wrong. I do believe a conspiracy is playing out covertly, undercover across the board throughout all systems and institutions of our nation and world. But, the ultimate mastermind is Satan. As the apostle says, “This whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.” If our world is the setting of the Wizard of Oz, the Devil is the man behind the curtain pushing the buttons and pulling the levers. Only to far more devasting results. He is behind the trending woke idiocy driving the educating of children, the inculcating of popular philosophy in our colleges, the promotion of perversions in entertainment such as is being done by Disney, and the progressive, constitution-ignoring policies of our government. To name a few. Not to mention the morphism of the contemporary Church into a hybrid hodgepodge of nightclub, self-help, woke post-modernism, Eastern religion, and believe-whatever-it-is-you-wish entertainment. You say, well, from the examples above, perhaps, the devil isn’t quite as invisible as you insist. He seems only too visible. Perhaps, to you. But, not to those whom he would deceive and destroy. Even Christians who should see the devil, not just out in society, but at work in their own lives, particularly in temptation, so very often don’t. It is alarming when believers in drifting towards the ways of our world say of a particular thing, issue, or circumstance, “I don’t see any harm in that.” “I don’t see how that’s wrong.” That’s the devil you need to be the most disconcerted about. And wary against. The one you can’t see. The one you’re not keeping an eye on. The one you’re not resisting. The one you can’t run off. The one you let stick around and do whatever it is he’s doing. Other reports of that era, from which I borrowed the above quote, said that, in the Southwest Desert, Apaches were so adept at camouflaging themselves that they could be lying just a few feet away and one would never see them. They would blend in so well with the rock and dirt of the terrain, you would never know they were there until they had sprung up, crushed your skull, and taken your scalp. Again, without disparaging our Native American brothers, I would like to appropriate the above quote and word it this way: "When you see the Devil about, be careful; when you do not see him, be more careful.” -Pastor Clifford Hurst
lifted a foot (a faith) higher
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/15/2023
“A foot higher, and it’s a brand-new world.” That was Zachary Roloff, of the reality show “Little People, Big World.” Zachary is one of the little people, medically speaking, a dwarf. He is also a twin to a brother, Jeremy, of normal growth and height. When they were fifteen on a trip, they were standing on an enclosed balcony of a tall building looking down over the scene below. Only, Jeremy was seeing below and Zachary was trying to. He could barely see anything over the balcony’s safety wall’s edge and through its window. Jeremy, without being prompted, came from behind and, with hands under Zachary’s arms, lifted him up high enough to see below. After being sat back down, Zachary explains that this was the practice: “My brother lifts me up so I can see what he sees. A foot higher, and it’s a whole new world.” No doubt. The view of just a wall in front of you is by no means comparable with nor desirable as the scene of the landscape below stretching all around you, and the horizon and sky to boot. Zachary could not see what brother Jeremy saw until Jeremy lifted him. We often find ourselves in life, in our walk of faith, in our moments of crises, troubles, perplexities, and dilemmas seeing only the wall before us. The bleak wall. We can see no further. Not what’s beyond. Not what’s around. God sees beyond the wall before us. He sees all around us and ahead of us. But we can’t. But, when we can’t see, He lifts us. The Apostle Paul captures this lifting in a theological declaration (Ephesians): He declared that, when God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised Him all the way to glory and sat Him upon a throne, high about every opposing force, power, and might. Jesus is seated on high. Far above it all. Seeing it all. That’s all wonderful, but what about us who are still down here seeing nothing but the wall ahead of us? But, hold on. Paul continued. He said God also raised us, those who put their trust in Christ, and sat us in heavenly places with Christ. He raised us up to where Christ is. Far above it all. He raised us to where we can see what Christ sees. What a different view! Instead of just seeing the mess, the trouble, and the ugliness immediately before us, having been lifted by God, we see it all differently. A different world. A different perspective. A different outcome. That is why, when someone comes to know Christ, the world seems to have changed. He had been depressed, or hopeless, or deceived, or unfulfilled. But, having put his faith in Christ, he has been lifted to see his world differently. His future differently. His problems differently. His path differently. He has been lifted “A foot higher, it’s a brand-new world.” Actually, he has been lifted more than a foot higher. And he sees more than just this world. He can see to the next. The lifting isn’t limited to just the initial one from sin, unbelief, Christlessness. From Zachary’s comment, we understand that Jeremy had not just lifted him just that once. Neither has God, us. In the Christian experience, God has means of always lifting us. As and when we need it. His means are varied, but all in conjunction with faith in Christ. In our worshiping He lifts us. In our singing. In our fellowshipping with others who know Christ. In our serving. In our loving. In our reading of His Word. In His Spirit moving in our lives. Whatever the wall before us, the wall we can’t see through, around, or over, He lifts us. More than a foot. Oh, much higher. Above the attack. Above the bad news. Above the sickness. Above the betrayal. Above the crisis. Above the doubt. Above the fear. Above the temptation. And, oh, how differently things look. Just writing this I hear the old hymn’s refrain… Lord, lift me up, and let me stand By faith, on heaven’s tableland; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. Lifted a foot higher, a faith higher, we can see things as they appear to God, and it’s a brand-new world. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
a hill of beans in 2023
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/01/2023
Perhaps, it’s just something I picked up from my Okie upbringing, but we used to have this expression: “It didn’t amount to a hill of beans.” The following isn't meant as a reprimand but as a challenge; what have you(or I) done in 2022 that will amount to a hill of beans in eternity? In a hundred years? In 2023? Today? Maybe, for all the hectivity of your activity in 2022, you feel, like me, "What do I have to show for it?" As one author put it, we suffer from "the barrenness of busyness." Now, we must not view the past with dismay but with resolve, resolve that 2023 will be different. Let us ask, "What can I do for Eternity in 2023." The caution is that we must not answer that question nor let anybody answer it for us. That question is God's to answer. We ask, "What can I do that will make a difference in Eternity—that will amount to a hill of beans," and, if asked sincerely, God will give us the answer. The optimism is that to ask the question of what we can do for Eternity implies that we CAN do something for Eternity. Whoever we are, whatever our gifts and talents, our age, our position, we CAN do something for God. We can do something that amounts to more than a hill of beans. God is looking for those who don't ask, "What will God do for me in 2023? What would I like to accomplish this year?" but, "What does God want to do in me, with me, through me?" Oh, to catch the vision. So many are lost! So many are hurting. So many need help. Hell is being populated more quickly than Heaven. The workers are pitifully few. Time is running out. Jesus’ Coming and the accompanying Judgment are imminent. The good news is that God has a plan. And that plan involves us. God WILL give us a vision of His plan. God WILL work through us. We can make an Eternal difference in 2023—what we do this year can amount to more than a hill of beans. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
my gas-log and the manger
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/25/2022
My gas log had never looked so good. It was -9º outside that morning this week. In the shelter of our family room, sitting in my La-Z-Boy with my feet propped up and stretched toward its blaze, I was struck by the contrast. The dancing orange, red, and blue flames stood out in the black firebox that encapsulated it. The black firebox stood out in contrast to the white mantel and fireplace that enclosed it. The fireplace was framed by the color of the walls that backed it. Then, on either side of the already multi-framed fire were two large patio doors. It was there the real contrast to the fire lay. The doors flanking the fire showed brilliantly white snow blanketing everything outdoors. The high-gusting wind was blowing clouds of it across the yard. The few birds at the feeder were fluffed to unbelievable proportions. The frigid scene that framed the flames made the fire, oh, so much more welcomed and appreciated. The cold only caused the fire to stand out in stark relief. I sat in comfort and gratefulness. As my fireplace held the fire framed by the inhospitable cold seen all around it, two thousand years ago the Manger held the warm Word-made-flesh framed by all the cold in the world encompassing it. The Light in the Manger was surrounded by darkness. The Life in there, by all the death out there. The Love wrapped lying in the Manger by all the hate of the world wrapped around the Manger. The Fire that thaws and warms the heart burned brightly in the Manger surrounded by the cold that frostbites and hardens the soul like a stone. For all the heated rhetoric, the inflamed passions, the burning anger, it’s a cold, cold world out there. Dangerously cold. For all the claims of enlightenment, it’s a very, very dark world out there. For all the scientific and medical advances, it’s a very sick world out there. But all that cold only frames a welcomed sight. Fire in the fireplace. The Savior in the Manger. Light, Love, Life, Hope, Help, Healing, in Christ. What beauty. What hope. What life-saving, life-changing warmth. It makes me want to lean back in the shelter of grace and, resting on mercy, prop up my heart towards that Fire and gaze appreciatively and thankfully at it. Basking in its Light. Thawing in its warmth. Merry Christmas, Pastor Hurst
the question the manger answers
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/18/2022
“If your God is so powerful and so loving, why does He allow suffering in the world? Why doesn’t He do something about it?” This is the typical neo-atheist’s expected attack on Christianity. The attacker smugly poses the question as if it is an intellectual argument that triumphs over belief in God. He lobs it as a gotcha question and expects a deer-in-the-head-lights look. It is meant to flummox and bumfuzzle a believer into jettisoning his belief in God and, at the same time, provide the arrogant asker with a philosophical justification for rejecting Him. There is only one problem. His is not an intellectual question. Yes, this theodicy can be intellectual and dealt with philosophically. But atheist askers do not query it that way. They ask in a sensational appeal to the emotions. How does a powerful, loving God allow babies to be born with congenital, painful abnormalities, children to be abused, mothers to be killed in last week’s tornados, grandmother citizens to be blown apart in Ukraine, the family down the street to have no money to buy their children Christmas presents …. That stirs the emotions. How indeed can a powerful, loving God allow such suffering and do nothing about it? Ahhh! And, there’s the rub. I am not saying that the question has no philosophical answers. Though it by no means has an easy answer, there are intellectual answers. But the question isn’t really asked seeking answers. It is asked in an appeal to the emotions in order to obfuscate the intellectual and subterfuge the faith. Last night, watching a Christian-school Christmas program, it occurred to me that the emotional question, “If your God is so powerful and so loving, why does He allow suffering in the world? Why doesn’t He do something about it?” has a historical answer. He HAS done something about the suffering in the world. The Manger is the answer to the question. See, neo-atheists ask the question to impugn God, make folks feel bad about Him, embarrassed by Him, and motivated to expel Him from their lives and beliefs. But not only is their question flawed, they ask the wrong question. Instead of smugly asking, “If your God is so powerful and loving, why does He allow suffering in the world?” they should humbly and wonderingly ask, “Why would a powerful and loving God enter into our world of suffering.” Therein is the answer to the question. A powerful and loving God did do something about the suffering of our world by entering into our world of suffering. When? How? When He was incarnated in the human embryo conceived in Mary. When He was birthed in a “barn.” When He was laid in a Manger. The powerful loving God entered our world of suffering first to suffer WITH us. And, then, to suffer FOR us. On the Cross. His suffering was an answer to our suffering. It gave us hope in suffering. Hope that He would redeem from suffering. Redeem us--spirit, soul, and body. Redeem our world. Ultimately, to make a new us and a new world. One without suffering. One without sufferers. One where all suffering is righted. “If your God is so powerful and loving, why doesn’t He do something about suffering?” He has. Don’t believe it? Look in the manger. Still not convinced? Look from the manger to the cross. The manger shouts, “God has come into our world of suffering. The cross adds, “And suffered for us.” This season, in pageants, plays, displays, and decorations, whenever and wherever you see the Babe in the Manger and think of the original Nativity, do not merely think, “What a pastoral but cozy scene, what a cute little, cuddly-looking baby He must have been lying there.” Think, “The powerful, loving Creator/Redeemer God entered into our suffering!” And, when an atheist tries to discombobulate your faith with his smugly posed question, “Why doesn’t your God do something about suffering?” answer, “Oh, He has! Go look in the manger!” ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
firm pressing the moment
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/11/2022
God is the God of moments. Moments that bring memories. Memories that bring movement in the soul. Photography captures moments. That bring back memories. However, not all photos are taken with a camera. Prodigiously more are taken with the mind. What a huge innovation when cameras were built into mobile phones. Having our phones always with us, we always have a means in hand to capture any moment. God designed us, humans, with that feature. Our minds freeze a moment of experience in a mental image, a photo that we file into some album in our minds. The thing about photos is that, when we look at them, the moment they’ve frozen in time thaws and releases the memory of that moment. iPhone users will readily understand the reference to “live” photos. Those moments captured with this feature appear in your albums as snapshots, still shots. But, when you firm press on one, a video plays for the duration of time your camera captured the photo. Our minds work the same way. A snapshot of a moment from the past suddenly appears on the home screen of our consciousness. If we pause to look at it, “firm press” it, the action of that moment begins to play a memory before our minds’ eyes. This blog’s musing on moments and memories, I blame on Christmas carols. On a particular Christmas Carol: “O, Holy Night.” I can never hear it without a photo popping up on the screen of my mind. When it does, that still shot of a moment from around fifty years ago unfreezes and a memory plays out in my mind. With sound: It’s Christmas time. My childhood family is going somewhere. Shopping? To church? To see the Christmas lights? That, I don’t remember. Dad’s driving. Mom is in the front next to him. In the back seat, I am sitting right behind Dad. Big sister is behind Mom. Little brother is wedged between us two--probably, already pestering us both. The last door has just been shut. Dad is putting the car into reverse to back down the steep drive of our home onto N. Harrison St. And he is singing. His favorite carol. Loudly. “Oh holy nightttttttttttt, the stars are brightly shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining…” Even back then, as he sang, I felt something move in my heart. And do again as I recall it. For me, that moment is forever captured. And it always brings that memory. And the memory brings movement in my heart. My blogging all this about photos and moments and memories and movements of the heart is not to share my personal Christmas memories. They are of no real import or interest to others. It’s just, that, first of all, I realized that this is what was happening at the very first Christmas time: The extended family and neighbors of Zacharias and Elizabeth, when they heard and saw the wonder and miracle of John The-Baptist-To-Be, had a moment captured with their minds. As Scripture puts it, “And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts…” A photo “laid…up in their hearts.” To be taken out of its album again and again. To be contemplated as its memory moved their hearts. Mary, from that first Christmas day, had a mental album filled with more photos than anyone else. It is immediately after Jesus’ birth that Scripture notes she has been snapping photos, capturing those wonderous moments surrounding our Lord’s birth. Although she had to have taken a spate of photos of Jesus’ actual delivery, and her first nursing of her child, it was just after the shepherds' adoring visit that, we are told, she had snapped a mental photo of their worship. “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” She kept those things--she captured the snapshot of the moment. She pondered them in her heart--she brought them to the home screen and firm pressed and watched the memory play out. Secondly, I thought this might inspire you to leaf through your mind’s album of photos of moments from Christmases past. No doubt, this season, you have been seeing these photos from the past as they periodically arise inspired by the Yuletide sights and sounds all around us. Take time to firm press them. Watch as the memory is released and plays out. What Christmas carol did you hear? Oh, there it is again. Dad, much younger than I am now, is backing out of the drive singing, “Oh, Holy Night…” I just felt movement in my heart. God is the Giver of moments. A Maker of our moments. The greatest moments of one’s life are those with God in them. The mind, the heart, I should say, captures them. When contemplated, the memory of them plays out. In the mind. And the memory brings movement in our souls. Like we felt in the original moment. Did you feel that? ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
feeble excuses
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/27/2022
Last week, at the time of this writing, we had a very cold Saturday night and a colder Sunday morning forecasted. One of our elder brothers, age 95, has been an epitome of faithfulness to all things church throughout the years. Yet, he had called his daughter who with her husband brings him to church to let them know he would not be going the next day because it was “going to be too cold.” However, the next morning he phoned to say, “Come get me. To say it’s too cold is a feeble excuse, and I’m not going to give it.” “What refreshing candor,” I thought when his daughter share this with me. We laughed together about it. In our laughter, what neither of us stated but were thinking was that his honesty highlighted the fact that most excuses folks give are “feeble excuses.” Really. Truly. It’s just that the 95-year-old confessed it—although being too cold is not so feeble an excuse at his age. It’s a valid one. In some Christian traditions, the pastor may hear spates of confessions. In mine, I hear excuses. They range from ludicrous to disingenuous. Teachers get the hackneyed, “The-dog-ate-my-homework.” I get those of the “My-brother’s-first-wife’s-great-uncle’s-youngest-child’s-dog-is choking-on-a-dinosaur-bone.” variety. Excuses for not attending worship. For not being involved in ministry. For not fellowshipping. For not surrendering one’s heart to Christ. For not reconciling with those for whom they are at odds. Most are no more bona fide than the “The-dog-ate-my-homework.” one. Some ARE in some cases legitimate. Genuine. Valid. I have observed that valid excuses need no accompanying explanation or elucidation. They are not feeble. They stand on their own. Excuse-making for not participating in God’s Kingdom is not new. In a parable, Jesus described excuse-makers: A great man planned a sumptuous supper and sent out invitations. When the evening came, he dispatched a servant to announce to those he’d invited that the supper was on the table. They all began “to make excuse.” One had bought an acreage, sight unseen, and just at supper time decided to go see the land he’d purchased. Sure. Feeble excuse. Another had bought five teams of oxen without examining them and was just on his way to go look them over post-purchased. Of course, that’s the way valuable animals are acquired. Feeble excuse. A third had married a wife. What does that mean? “I can’t come because I married a wife." Surely, he had looked her over before marriage. Maybe it was a honey-do list she’d given him. Maybe she kept him busy. This may have been the only semi-believable excuse. In any case, these were “feeble” excuses. So many excuses are so feeble they are tottering, tripping over themselves, wobbling in this direction and that. They ultimately fall flat. (You can tell when your relationship with Christ is weakening, stumbling towards a fall. Your excuses get more and more feeble.) In all of life, feeble excuses are given for this and that. For not attending school. Or for not showing up for work. Or for procrastinating. Or for rude, inconsiderate behavior. Or for failure to fulfill a duty, or finish a job. But any excuse given for rejecting God’s gift of salvation, however cleverly crafted, and fervidly given, is a feeble one. Its feebleness is evident to others. Its feebleness is evident to God. One day it will be evident to the very one that has made it. He will confess as did our beloved 95-year-old brother, “It’s a feeble excuse.” If only that one will confess that his excuse is feeble before it’s too late and follow that admission with, “and I’m not going to give it.”* --Pastor Clifford Hurst
god likes hearing the beeps
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/20/2022
They are really cute kids. They remind us of our grandboys. We miss them now that the cold weather keeps them inside. This late summer, a young family with two young boys moved in, four houses down, on the same side of the street. Soon we would hear animated voices right outside our home. Perhaps, it is because their parents have set our house as the boundary of how far they can traverse the sidewalk up our street. Or, perhaps, it is because our driveway is more steeply inclined than others around us providing a great acceleration ramp; but, these vocal, tow-headed brothers, 5 and 7, both with a name starting with a “Z” sound, use our driveway as the turn-around spot. Whether on scooters or bicycles, they ride right up to our garage, turn around, pause, and talk to one another then push off and coast down our driveway. At first, they would only talk to us if we happened to be in the garage with its door open or out front. But, soon, they were dropping their bikes on the drive and ringing our Ring doorbell. Often, we would answer the door and stand in the doorway as they barraged us with questions. One day, one brought a picture he had drawn and colored especially for my wife. On every visit, they were unreservedly loquacious. Sometimes, when they ring the Ring, we will be too engaged or have just minutes early made a trip to the door to chat with them, so we will not answer the door. One of those times, after the doorbell had been rung incessantly, we heard the beeps of the keypad on our front door’s lock. Again. And again. Finally, my wife went to the door. “Why didn’t you answer?” one brother asked. “We tried to unlock your door,” said the other. “We put in your number,” he pointed to our address on the front of the house. “It didn’t work.” He thought for a moment and then said, “Why don’t you just give us your code, and then we won’t have to ring the bell but can just come in when you don’t come to the door.” My wife just chuckled and said, “Oh, we don’t give our code to anybody.” We had a good laugh when she shared this conversation with me—and the boy’s audacious suggestion. But I couldn’t quit thinking about it. To him, it was a simple solution. They couldn’t get the door open, but we had the ability to give them the means to unlock the door and get in. We could provide them with a way of access. Inside. To us. The boys’ dilemma is not unlike all of humanity’s spiritual one: The door was shut on us. We were on the outside. We could not get in. We could not approach Holy God. We could not come into His presence. We were barred. Shut out. Hopelessly so. There was nothing we could possibly do to enter in. But God had this great plan that involved giving His Son to die for our sins. Because of all Jesus did, we have access. Jesus is our access. Jesus opened the door. Unlike our refusal to give the boys the number key to our house, God gave us the code to His. We can enter in. To His presence. To salvation. We can draw near. To His throne. And there, we can find grace to help in our time of need. In fact, God likes to hear the beeps of the keypad. Are you pushing those buttons? Are you entering in? “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2) --Pastor Clifford Hurst
messing with love, part 2
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/05/2022
“Someone has messed with love. Big time. At least with the word love. The word love doesn’t mean what it used to. It has intentionally been changed.” This is how I began last week’s blog. I was speaking of how today’s elitist leftists and their minions are getting by pushing their perversions upon society even to the point of promoting the mutilation of children’s bodies. In short, they do it under the guise of love. They pull off this hoax by first redefining “love.” Love, they say, is affirming someone’s feelings regardless of what they are. I heard even this week a protestor supporting doctors that perform mutilating surgeries on those seeking to transition shout almost the very words I wrote last week. Speaking of children who desire to transition, she cried “If we love them, we will not tell them that they are wrong. We will not make them feel bad about their choice. We will support them if they feel they need to transition. This is love. This is what Jesus did. Jesus loved everybody regardless of who they were and what they did.” Yes, she said Jesus’ love would support children having mutilating surgeries. Having redefined love as supporting someone’s decision whatever it is and affirming how they feel and think, proponents then guilt anyone that would disagree with child mutilation with this. “If you do not support them in their transitioning, if transitioning is forbidden to them, they will likely commit suicide. That’s not love. Love would be to support them so they will not commit suicide.” That’s their argument, their guilt-tripping, If we love them, we will help them transition so they will not commit suicide. It is aggravating that these have messed with love and changed its definition. But—this will shock many--these with their perverted agenda are not the first to mess with the definition of love to accommodate their beliefs. Christians did it too. They changed the definition of love. Only they did so for something incredibly wonderful. And they got it right. NT Christians needed a word to use for the amazing love that God has shown us in giving His Son as a sacrifice to save us from perishing and to give us eternal life. Only, these first believers didn’t have a word for that kind of love. There were four words floating around in conversations and writings of the universal language of the time, Greek. But which to use to describe the motive and expression of God’s heart in saving us? There was eros; this love is the romantic, sexual love between a man and a woman. That word wouldn’t do. There was philos; this love is the love of companions with shared interests and mutual reciprocation. What God did was far more than just what a buddy would do. And we did nothing for Him. Of course, there was storge; this love is the love of the family, or, rather, the familiar. This is a love that comes from meeting others’ needs and having one’s needs met. God certainly met our needs in salvation. But His love was a far step above even this. Then there was agape. It was rarely used. People just didn’t think to use agape. There was this vague idea of agape being about affection, greeting with affection, as brothers might do. But it certainly wasn’t heard much in the marketplace or the home. Since agape wasn’t much used and Christians were looking for a word for God’s great love, they chose it. And redefined it. Agape, as they redefined it, was the unconditional love God has for humanity. Unconditional love. How wonderful! God has unconditional love for us humans. Whoever we are. Whatever we’ve done. Wherever we are at. God loves, agapes, us. Unconditionally! Wow! But, wait! That sounds a lot like the definition of love used by those supporting homosexual marriage and child gender transitioning: Love affirms them whatever choice they make about their gender and whatever choice they make about their sexuality. Love is accepting whatever they do, choose, or become. Doesn’t that sound like agape love--unconditional love that loves someone despite who they are or what they’ve done? I’m going to leave that hanging until next week. But it raises a question that needs to be answered: What is the difference between the love of leftists that says love is supporting and affirming a child who desires to gender transition and the love of Christians, no, the love of God, which says God loves and we should love unconditionally, whatever one chooses, does, is? What indeed? What do you think is the difference? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
messing with love
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/30/2022
Someone has messed with love. Big time. At least with the word love. The word love doesn’t mean what it used to. It has intentionally been changed. Words have always evolved. Nobody can keep that from happening. Many times, a word’s metamorphosis is innocuous and of little significance. For example, “cupboard.” Today, when most hear “cupboard,” they think “cabinet” in the kitchen--shelves in a box with doors hiding them. Originally, a cupboard was just that—a "cup-board," a simple, single board nailed to the wall to hold cups. Sometimes a word evolves all on its own from something good to something bad. The derogatory, slanderous “hussy” started out as “housewife.” These words changed meaning because of the unstoppable movement of language. Nowadays, words are purposely changed. Love was intentionally changed, rather, sabotaged, by our culture and society. And ruined. Here’s what’s going on. Today’s elitist, leftist academia and their indoctrinated automaton students, the media, and progressive politicians are taking perfectly good words and ruining them. It works this way: They have a twisted, rationally unsustainable belief like, say, that there are over a hundred genders or any ideology they want to promulgate and force all to accept. Since there is no objective basis for their arguments, they begin by redefining words in order to control the argument. Words like gender. Like marriage. Like love. Intent on spreading the lie that gender-transitioning is imperative for the mental health of sexually dysphoric children, postmodernist liberals insist, through redefining it, that “love is affirming people in whatever they think or feel about themselves.” It is only love to celebrate a child’s desire to gender transition and support and facilitate his choice. It would be hate to tell a child it is dangerous for him, or that he is deceived by his feelings, or that objectively, whatever his feelings, he is the gender of the biological sex with which he was born, or that he is destroying himself. By redefining love as the affirming of people whatever they do, whatever they think, and whatever they feel, the proponents of the child abusing gender transitioning insist on how we should treat children with identity struggles by using their new definition of love: It goes something like this. “If you love someone, you will never make them feel uncomfortable. If you love someone, you will never make them feel like they are wrong, or aren’t correct. If you love someone, you will support them whatever they choose to do—no, you will support whatever they do. You will tell them they are great, doing the right thing, are courageous. Therefore, you should support these children's transitioning." Pushers of this sick ideology then further use this messed-up definition of love to try to guilt trip society and opponents into accepting their concocted malignant doctrine. “Children with sexual dysphoria will likely commit suicide if you do not support their transitioning--and it will you, the haters’ fault. It will be your fault because you did not love them.” Their premise that if folks don’t support a child’s transitioning he will more likely commit suicide is utterly baseless and false, devoid of any supporting evidence. And, what they are calling love is not love. They have messed with the love to guilt trip society. What is the definition of love? Not what the above proponents of child abuse say it is. That's for sure. The best place to look up love’s definition is not in the dictionary, but in the Bible. But, when we look up love there, we discover a shocking truth. Christians messed with the definition of love too! Christians redefined love. Or, I should say, God did. I’ll have to finish that thought next week, but God’s changing love’s definition didn’t ruin the word. It got it right. And it’s nothing like today’s definition. Or is it? The point is, if someone is going to mess with love, what it means, let it be God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
it matters that it doesn’t matter
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/23/2022
Whenever I see someone walking into Walmart in his faded flannel pajama bottoms, I feel a wave sweeping toward me that is a mixture of nihilism and narcissism. Nihilism and narcissism originate in the flood waters of godlessness that have inundated our society. The seemingly innocuous act of wearing flannel pajama bottoms to Walmart is but a stone thrown into the prevailing pop culture producing the concentric waves which I the observer feel. The only reason one would inexpiably wear his sleepwear in public is that he feels it doesn’t matter; or because it doesn’t matter to him that it matters to others. That it doesn’t matter is nihilism—the feeling of everything being useless and senseless, a feeling that comes from rejecting absolute truths. That it doesn’t matter that it matters to others is narcissism—the egotistic fixation on oneself, a belief that one’s opinion, judgment, perception, etc., are all that matters. This feeling comes from one deeming oneself autonomous. Either way, the it-doesn’t-matter perception of society comes from divorcing God from its worldview. If all-there-is is matter, nothing matters. If there is no God who observes, evaluates, and calls into account, morality doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how people treat or are treated. Not really. It doesn’t matter that one is hurting, distressed, lonely, etc. A man tries to share his heart with his wife. She, distracted, isn’t listening. He notices and quits talking. She, realizing the background noise of his monologue has grown silent, reveilles herself enough to ask, “What were you saying?” He responds, “Nothing. It doesn’t matter.” The employee is asked by the boss, “What do you think?” Knowing the question is perfunctorily rhetorical, he responds, “It doesn’t matter.” Jaded from eating out, one when asked where he would like to have dinner, responds, “It doesn’t matter.” Another apologizes for breaking a dinner date. The ditched says, “It doesn’t matter.” These are simple anecdotes that reveal wide-range usage of the phrase. Yet, the sentiment is deeply rooted in an increasingly godless world. Truth is, without God in the worldview, “It doesn’t matter.” Not morally. Not existentially. Not pragmatically. Not only does “it” not matter, “nothing” matters. If nothing matters, nothing matters. There is no reason or purpose for anything. Oh, there is yet the narcissistic outlook. Nothing matters but the “I”—what I decide matters. “I” isn’t a very fulfilling purpose for living. “I,” however inflated, is too small to fill the need for meaning. People today seek something to matter. For example, they posture themselves as fanatically caring for nature. They don’t really care that much for the environment or dolphins. Not really. The concern for the environment, dolphins, and the rest is an attempt to make something matter. See, we humans must have something that matters—and makes us matter. Since God doesn’t matter, nature must. Humanity can try to make the environment matter. But, without God, there is no real reason why it should matter. In the end, if God doesn’t matter, nothing will matter. All the rave about drinking, marijuana, vaping, partying, etc., is but a hedonistic whistling-in-the-dark way of saying, “It doesn’t matter that nothing matters.” But, oh, to put God in the picture changes everything. It makes everything matter. The way I act. The way I think. The way I treat others. The way I feel. It matters because it matters to Him. It matters because I matter to Him. Also, because it matters to Him, others matter to me. I wrote this after having awakened in the night with two phrases roiling around in my semi-consciousness: First, was “It doesn’t matter.” Following that came, “It matters to the Master.” (I don’t know when I last heard that song.) These two phrases were like two wrestlers constantly changing positions. One moment one wrestler was on top, the next the other. Many times, consciously, unconsciously, or semi-consciously, that wrestling match goes on in one’s mind, heart, and life. One thing is for sure. Get rid of God and there is no wrestling match. “It doesn’t matter” wins uncontested. Every time. It doesn’t matter is all there is. However, if nothing matters it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t matter wins. The fact is, it does matter to the Master. Perhaps, in the scheme of things, someone’s wearing faded flannel pjs to Walmart doesn’t matter. But, one with a heart of faded faith, faded hope, faded joy, faded hope does. I think what gets me about the faded flannel pjs is that, to the wearer, it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter. With God it matters when it doesn’t matter. Does that matter? To you? ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
it’s righteous anger, right?*
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/16/2022
You may insist you never experience road rage but, if so, I suspect you haven’t yet begun to drive, are super-phlegmatic, or have nothing much to do or nowhere really to go. I think road rage, like all anger, is pretty much part of the warp and woof of our fallen humanity. I began this article contending rage’s universality so that you might not be too hard on my admission of it. Once, I was in a rush to make visitations at two different hospitals with the necessity of making it to the last one at a set time. At the first hospital, before I even got to the parking garage, I found myself behind a lady intent on talking to her passengers rather than driving. She was driving two mph or less. Once in the garage, though it seemed impossible, she slowed even more. There were no parking spaces available on the first levels. I was forced to follow her. Being in a hurry, I felt that anger slowly beginning to percolate from somewhere deep within. “Can’t she tell that someone is behind her? Doesn’t she care that she is holding someone up?” You know that feeling. You are hurling down the road at the 55-mph limit, and someone pulls and turns out in front of you forcing you to lock up the brakes; and, then, the infringer never accelerates past 25 mph—that feeling. Perhaps, at your sanctification level, you are beyond ever experiencing anger. I’m not. Later, listening to a talk radio host discussing the presidential orders, Supreme Court decisions, and current political candidates’ propagation and support of perversion and sin under the guise of equality, I began to feel the same type of anger I did when the slow pokey driver had impeded my driving. Were the experiences of anger related? I think so. We could take a lot of time to discuss the exceptions, and we could attempt to justify some anger by calling it righteous anger. However, I still believe this about most anger: My anger is my frustration of not getting my own way, of having something interfere with me, my way, my thoughts, my schedule, my work, etc. My anger rises from what is done to me. I use the same arguments as others that my disgust and anger I feel about things like the transgender bathroom use is righteous wrath against the unrighteousness and encroaching darkness. And I would like to believe that is all it is. Yet, I still suspect that political rage is a close cousin to road rage and most other rages. MY country is being altered and ruined. MY beliefs are being maligned, MY freedoms are being trampled, MY political convictions are being marginalized, and MY candidate is being beaten. Mine is righteous anger, right? I could justify my anger by calling up the example of Moses who waxed hot with anger when he saw the people dancing before the golden calf. But I cannot leave it there because Moses’ anger soon was replaced by his earnest intercession to God that He would not destroy them. Jeremiah had been sorely persecuted for his chastisement of the people for their sins. He could have been very angry. Yet, Jeremiah shed many tears for the same people. Back to Moses and the golden calf. It could be pointed out that anger is justifiable since in the same incident it is noted that God was angry with the people. Perhaps I can use God’s anger to justify mine. But, rarely is my anger pure anger like God’s. Most human anger is true of the nature I wrote of above. Beyond that, I keep being reminded of what James told us. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” If it is truly the unrighteousness that upsets us, we must not only become angry at it. That will never change unrighteousness into righteousness. Intercession can. Weeping can. Not anger. If I am truly concerned about my country, I will intercede, I will weep; I will not simply rage. If you feel a little angry over what I have written, intercede. Weep. Don’t rage. ----Pastor Hurst *Written before the 2016 elections.
mr. biden gets it right
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/09/2022
News-attentive people of our nation and around the globe were alarmed and shocked by President Biden’s use of the word Armageddon this past week. He did so to describe the danger portended by Russian President Putin’s tacit threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and any who would interfere on her behalf. In case you missed it, at a Democratic fundraiser last Thursday night, President Biden warned, “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” referring to Putin’s threats. Using words like Armageddon and Apocalypse and others, media anchors, commentators, and pundits and TV show and movie makers, borrow from our Bible’s metaphors and language. Often, they don’t use the actual terms and descriptions; they just allude to them with the phrase, “of Biblical Proportions.” The aftermath of catastrophes of nature and cataclysms from malevolent human deeds are described as being of “Biblical Proportion.” The destructive forces that caused them are labeled “Biblical.” I don’t feel like their use of Biblical language is flattering. Rather, I want to berate them mockingly with “Get your own metaphors. Get a thesaurus and come up with your own adjectives. Do you need a title for your dystopic movie? Quit borrowing one from the Bible.” But then, I didn’t write the Bible, and I don’t think God copyrighted it. But there is something to be noted: First, when the secular world has run out of superlatives to describe the horrible, awful, and calamitous, they know they can resort to the Bible for even greater appalling and dreadful language. Second, though they wouldn’t understand nor concede so, they are actually from their vantage point seeing what Biblical prophecy says is coming. I am amazed at how close they and Mr. Biden come to getting it right all the while employing the apocalyptic language of the Bible. It's amazing how close they get to what the Bible has prophesied. For example, describing the effects of climate change, the “authorities” herald global warming that will result in disastrous consequences of “Biblical proportions.” The Bible DOES forewarn of global warming. It prophesies a conflagration that will engulf not just this planet but its atmosphere. That is global warming of Biblical proportion. Another example is scientists’ fearfully warning of the possibility of an asteroid, something from space, hitting our planet with effects of “Biblical proportions.” That is why two weeks ago they completed and vaunted the successful mission of launching a spacecraft and striking an asteroid in distant space. The end goal is to develop a missile that, when it is evident that an asteroid is on a trajectory to collide with the earth, can be launched to wobble the asteroid off its path. Again, they are not far wrong. The Bible speaks eschatologically of “stars,” a pan of coals (fiery censer), and other projectiles plummeting from the sky and plowing into the earth. Whether natural objects or supernatural, they will be of Divine instigation and aim. The effects will truly be of “Biblical proportions.” Just one more: World political, economic, and social leaders are decrying nationalism and crying for a one-world governance to respond to our world’s disasters, problems, and challenges. A global government is in their eyes and estimation, the only solution. They WILL get their way: There is coming a global government. It will be of “Biblical proportions.” It will come with a global dictator. The Antichrist. Mr. Biden, you are right. There is going to be Armageddon. But not just a metaphorical one. The metaphor describes the last battle between good and evil will be fought. The descriptive figure of speech comes from the Bible’s prophesy of a coming battle between the forces of evil and the forces of good just before the second coming of Christ and the end of the world as we now know it. I have been there. Megiddo is a real place. Standing on the edge of Mt. Carmel’s peak, I gazed into the wide Megiddo valley below. There I heard the Biblical prophesies about the place playing in my mind’s ears while seeing distant armies marching toward each other in my mind’s eyes. It was then that it struck me. The other places we visited and would visit were places significant because they marked where something historically had already happened. Megiddo was the only place we visited whose greatest significance was for what had not yet happened: But will. The Battle of Armageddon. Yes, Mr. Biden, you are right. We are living under the prospect of the battle of Armageddon that is sure to come. Since the political, scientific, sociological, and economic, authorities are going to use Biblical language to prognosticate, I believe I will skip listening to them and just go to the source from which they borrow it. I will just go to the Bible, note, believe, and heed what it says is coming. The Source gets it right. I’m not referring to Biden. But to the Bible.
time for reverse-displacement
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/02/2022
Most often, a believer’s passion for Christ, for the things of God, for spiritual things, doesn’t just dissipate; it is displaced. One’s passion for Christ doesn’t usually just slowly leak out like air from a compromised tire. It is pushed out of its chair by another passion that then occupies where passion for Christ had sat. Two things this past week fixed the above conclusion in my mind: Something I read in a biography of President Chester Arthur, and a radio program discussing the homeless. Arthur’s biographer was discussing the president’s father’s flaming spiritual fervor. Chester's father had been called to preach during the fires of America’s Second Great Awakening. Explaining the need and impact of that awakening, the writer made a statement that struck me as an applicable commentary on the period of time we have just passed through. The author had taken the reader back to the First Great Awakening of the early 1700s during which America had experienced a tremendous revival. Spiritual fervor. Passion. But, during the colonies’ struggle for Independence in the 1770s and 1780s, “the conflict with Great Britain focused American’s attention on political upheaval, rather than on religious salvation, and membership in New England churches plummeted.” (The Unexpected President, Greenberger, Scott S.) Patriotic passion had displaced Spiritual passion. Upon reading this shocking fact, I immediately was reminded of 2019-2020: COVID and Politics had enflamed the passions of all Americans. Including Christians. Including conservative Christians. Because COVID restrictions so affected our Churches, because the rabid, ridiculous, radical machinations and policies of the left were heralded and enacted, it became easier and easier for caring and alarmed Christians to conflate spiritual and political passion. As in the Revolution, when Christians suffered both from the rigors and deprivations of war with Britain and at the same time were at the peak of national patriotism and political fervor, 2019-2020 saw Christians suffering from the crises of COVID and at the peak of political fervor over the impeachments of “their president,” a “stolen” election, and godless, perverted leftist ideologies dominating schools, government, and media. And, just like in the Revolution era, the spiritual passions were displaced by the patriotic and political. The desire for “religious salvation” has in wide swaths been supplanted by the desire for political salvation. And, again, church membership has plummeted. Not everywhere. Some churches are doing better than ever. Sharing the Gospel more fervently than ever. They are growing. But they are an exceptional anomaly. Churches have suffered. “Christians” have left the faith. The second thing was the radio program on homelessness. Pre-COVID, a co-op of churches had been providing lodging and food for the homeless. In the interview, the director was asked how that ministry was doing since COVID. You could hear the sadness in the director’s voice. She gave the numbers, which I cannot recall, but in gist, she said this. “Since COVID, churches have lost members, and we have lost many of those churches’ involvement. We are now able to help only a fraction we were helping before.” Another causality. In the end, the co-op of churches has suffered because individual Christians have lost their spiritual passion. And, in almost every case, their passion has been displaced by another. The reality is, it is very difficult to hold competing passions in balance without one displacing the other. It’s hard for them to share a seat. Even legitimate ones like a passion for one’s work and a passion for family. Very difficult. A passion for sports and a passion for the church. A passion for politics and a passion for evangelism. A passion for a hobby and a passion for ministry. A passion for your country and a passion for the Kingdom. This should not surprise us. Jesus warned that one will “hold to the one and despise the other.” Of legitimate passions, the “balance” is to be found in prioritization: Jesus went on to say, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." Passion for Christ must remain in the highest chair of one’s heart. No other passion must unseat it. Displace it. What about when the passion for Christ has been displaced? The answer is reverse-displacement. Reverse the displacement. Commit to having the passion for Christ displace the things that have displaced Christ. Have the passion to have the passion for Christ displace the passions that have displaced the passion for Christ. Have the desire of Paul: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things butloss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them butdung, that I may win Christ, … That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Php 3:7-10). May this passion to know Christ displace all other passions. It’s time for a reverse-displacement passion. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
do you need to throw up?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/25/2022
Warning: Content is gross! What I am about to write about is admittedly really gross. It’s about throwing up. Vomiting. Regurgitating. Upchucking. Heaving. Retching. Puking. You get the idea, and writing all those synonyms has made me feel nauseated. If you take exception with my language, I appeal to Jesus. He used the same word when He noted His reaction to the Church of Laodicea’s lukewarmness. He said He would spew, vomit, them out of His mouth. Throw up. It’s not the vomiting of the stomach that I’m talking about. It’s the vomiting of the mind, of the heart. Why do we vomit? Described in layperson’s terms, a bug causes a build-up of poison in the stomach and one must get it out. In more medical terms, a virus has caused one’s gastrointestinal tract to become irritated and inflamed and any contents in it further irritate it. Vomiting is the intestinal tract’s effort to rid itself of all those irritants. Either description will serve the purpose here: Sometimes we need to vomit, to throw up. Not because our stomach is irritated, not because of a build-up of poison in our belly, but because our mind is irritated. There is a build-up in our hearts. We’ve got a bug of hurt. We’ve got a virus of worry. Something has poisoned our emotions and irritated our minds. Probably going to be a bit too transparent here, but, hey, I’m already talking about vomit. Once, I was so troubled in mind and heart with news I had received and could not process, I felt I had to talk to someone. I went to a friend and warned him. “I have to talk to someone. I am so upset I have to get it out.” I explained why I felt I had to share: “It’s like having a stomach virus. You feel a buildup of poison, and you have to get it out. This isn’t going to be pretty. Throwing up never is. But it gives relief. At least for a little while.” Then, I poured out the pain and poison of my trouble. When I finished, I said, “I’m sorry that I threw up all over you.” God knows our stomachs--and our hearts. He made both. He knows we need to empty the poison of each. He has designed the stomach to eject its poison through throwing up. He has given our hearts and minds a way to rid themselves of their poison. God informed us of this with an invitation via the admonition of a Psalmist. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: … (Psa 62:8). “Pour out.” In the psalm, “pour out” is rooted in another analogy--the pouring out of blood from the body. Blood that ultimately comes from the heart. Pour out the emotions of your heart. Pour out what is troubling you. Pour out your life, yourself. Essentially, throw up the poison of your heart and the trouble of your mind. We have an example of this in Hannah. The only clue that she was pouring out her heart was that her lips were moving. But she was pouring out her pain of not being able to have a child, of being ridiculed and tormented by a rival wife. The observing priest, Eli, seeing her lips move and trying to find an explanation for such uncommon behavior in “church” concluded Hannah was drunk. “You need to quit hitting the bottle. You’re drunk!” he charged. Hannah responded: “Oh, no, Sir! ‘I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soulbefore the LORD.’” (1Sa 1:15). Again, slightly different analogy but same idea. Getting out what is troubling you. Throwing up. The invitation and admonition is to pour out our hearts to God. That, we definitely need to do. We need to pray. We need to cry out to God. We need to pour out and cast all our cares upon Him. Yet, although I don’t believe in confessors, God has made us so that we need others. Human others. Sometimes to pour out your heart to a friend, a confidant, a spouse, a pastor, is a must. It is tantamount to pouring your heart out to God. God uses such folks. Just a note of caution here: Just as you do not want to throw up in public in front of everyone, but in private, so with those personal, intimate, pains, poisons, and such. Never do you want to throw those up in public. It is a real friend and confidant that will allow you to throw up your sickened heart to him. The person to whom you do so may have nothing to say to help and may be able to do nothing to help the cause of the pain, but it will relieve you to be able to unburden your soul. If there is such a one in your life to whom you can rid yourself of the build-up of poison, be grateful for them, and go get it all out to them. Throw up. There is something to be said to such confidants. As I told my friend: “I just threw up all over you. You may not want to talk to me anymore because my sharing all of this must be toxic. It was toxic in me. It had to be difficult to listen to me.” “No,” he insisted, “I want you to share. You got to share.” I am thankful for his understanding and friendship. Nobody likes to be thrown up on no matter how close they are to you. It isn’t pleasant to be around someone throwing up. It can feel like you are getting thrown up on. It can make you feel ill yourself. However, I have visited the hospital when a patient suddenly became nauseated. A nurse would be trying to help. The patient would throw up and, in the process, get it on the nurse. The patient when finished would begin to apologize. The nurse, whatever her revulsion and displeasure over what had gotten on her would say, “It’s okay. You’re sick. I just want to help you.” So do true friends. So does God. Be thankful that you can pour out your heart to them. It will help. Are you troubled in heart and mind? Has worry and pain poisoned your thoughts? Has it all built up until you are just soul-sick? Do you need to throw up? Go throw up! Share with a trusted friend. More importantly, pour out your heart before God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst *Are you weary, are you heavyhearted? Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus; Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone. Chorus: Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus, He is a friend that's well known; You've no other such a friend or brother, Tell it to Jesus alone. “Are You Weary, Are You Heavy-hearted?” Author: Jeremiah Eames Rankin
a miserable big fish in a mighty small pond
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/11/2022
It is largely the reason for the craziness we are seeing in our society—everything from mandatory pronoun use to gender transitioning. It is the reason for most of the vitriol and anger—real or affected. It is the reason for the easily-offended-ism. It is the reason for pompous arrogance and narcissism on one hand and despair, suicidal inclinations, and deprecating inferiority on the other. It is the reason our government is imploding, our places of higher learning are deteriorating, our families are fragmenting, and, in many places, our churches are being ravaged. It is the Main Character Syndrome. Main Character Syndrome describes when one thinks, imagines, or acts as if he were the leading protagonist in life. Knowing our base nature and the drive for self-preservation, I suppose that humanity has always had its chronic sufferers of the Main Character Syndrome (MCS) and that all people have bouts of it. However, today we have an epidemic of it. The internet has facilitated its outbreak, transmission, and casualties. Folks post what they had for breakfast. And lunch. And supper. And the snacks in between. Everyday. As if these were great accomplishments. Their story is the one that matters. And in their story, they are the only one that matters. (Not that it’s wrong to share things of your life. The issue is why and how you share.) TikTok is largely nothing but the postings of those suffering Main Character Syndrome—and, at the same time, it’s also a main proliferator of MCS. Safe spaces have to be provided on college campuses so that folks can assuage and massage their Main Character Syndrome. The definition of marriage had to be mutilated so someone could pacify his urge to be the main character. We could go delineating the damage. If only people were satisfied to be the main character of just their story. Rarely are they. Not satisfied with having the leading role in their story, they attempt to insert themselves into the leading role of any and every story. Posted on the internet is a tragic loss of life in a distant state. An MCS sufferer, though he may have only once crossed paths with the deceased, in the comment section exudes on and on about how close he was to the deceased, what an impact the deceased had in the great accomplishments the commenter has made, how he has become the great person he is because of the deceased. There is a car accident that imperils the survival of some involved. A sufferer of the MCS may have only driven past and rubbernecked the scene. Yet, later, as he tells of the accident, somehow, he becomes the lead actor. He narrates with embellishments and redactions in such a way that he comes out as the hero that saved the occupants’ lives. He may have only made the 911 call--a later redundant one. Or, pulled over to let the ambulance through. But he is the hero. MCS is another reason I abhor the ubiquitous hackneyed “My story, my story, my story, my journey, my journey, my journey…” I get it. We all have a unique story, a unique journey. We would all profit if we took the time to inquire after and then listen to the unique stories of others’ lives. When a single person of the 7 billion inhabitants of the earth dies, an irretrievable modicum of history is lost forever. The aggravation isn’t that an individual has a story. It’s his obsession with his story. As if his story is all about him. He not only plays the leading roles but the supporting roles and every role. As a pastor, I have observed how the MCS is destroying individuals. At times, I am aggravated but mostly I hurt for them. They are miserable. They cannot be content in a church family. They cannot forge lasting relationships with folks. They can never live in reality. They cannot become a part of any ministry they do not lead. They must have the leading role—either as subject or object--or they are not happy. Or, they must be able to cast themselves in later telling as the main character. They see everything and everybody and every event only in terms of themselves as the main character. It is truly all about them. A fellow worshipper avoided them. The preacher intentionally targeted them. The one who brought donuts didn’t bring their favorite. The songs were not the ones they would have selected. They were not asked to sing. They must be the main character. Yes, MCS sufferers are not content just to be the main character of their own story. They must be the main character of every story. Or they won’t help write it. They must be a one-man band or they’re not playing. If it’s not their song, they are not singing. If it’s not their theme, they’re not amening. If it’s not their dance, they’re not dancing. If it wasn’t their idea, they’re not participating. If it’s not their thing, they’re not coming. Oh, they would, if they could be the main character. The great damage of MCS to an individual is that it prevents him from being a part of something larger than himself. He is the largest thing in his world. Not being a part of something larger than himself, he never finds meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. He is a big fish in a very small pond. A miserable big fish in a mighty small pond. Far better to be a small, contented fish in a large pond. Here’s the thing: For Christians and church, I thought Jesus was to be the Main Character. I thought that we were all about His Story. I thought He is who makes our story. Think of the difference it would make if each Christian, whether in personal life or the corporate life of the church, would make Jesus the Main Character. Jesus IS the Main Character of this story of the Gospel that transforms lives and gives hope, peace, love, and joy. He “plays” the life-altering, life-giving role. The question to ask is, “What would my story be like if I truly made, not me, but Jesus the Main Character of it?” I think the best thing for my and your story would be—pun intended—to let Jesus have the LEADING role. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
there’s a unicorn going down the street”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/04/2022
“There’s a unicorn going down the street!” a four-year-old looking out the living room window shouts to her mother cooking in the kitchen. The mother puts down the mixing spoon and joins her child at the window, “Where?” Mom asks. The child points to the street, “There!” The mother peers out and exclaims, “Oh, you do see a unicorn! How wonderful of you! What a pretty unicorn. Mommy’s going to call Daddy at work and tell him. Then, Mommy’s going to bake a cake and invite folks over to celebrate your seeing a unicorn.” Rather, many mommies today would—or so they have been told by the culture that they should. In not so distant past if the child had announced, “Mommy, a unicorn is going down the street,” Mommy probably wouldn’t even have bothered to go look. She would have hollered from the kitchen. “No, you are not seeing a unicorn. But you do have such a wonderful, creative imagination.” If the child kept insisting, a less busy mother would join her child in looking out the window. Depending on what the mother saw she would respond to the child, “There’s no unicorn walking down the street.” Or, “Nothing is walking down the street.” Or, if there were, “Oh, honey, that’s not a unicorn. That’s just a horse.” Or, “Ha! Ha! The neighbors tied a stick to their dog’s head to make it look like a unicorn.” Or, improbably, “That’s not a unicorn. That’s a rhinoceros! It must have escaped from the zoo!” But the mother would have never agreed with her child that there was a unicorn walking down the street. Why? Because there would NOT have been a unicorn walking down the street. Not on that street. Not on any street. Not in any plat. Not in any city. Not in any country. Not on any planet. Not the legendary unicorn imagined by storytellers and artists. Not the one in the child’s picture books. Not the stuffed one in her daughter’s bedroom. Those are imaginary. Unicorns don’t walk down the street. The reason the mother of days gone by could say there was no unicorn walking down the street is she, as humanity always has, believed truth is what corresponds with reality--objective truth that is. The child declares there is a unicorn walking down the street but, that does not correspond with reality. What she claims isn't real. There is no unicorn. Never has been. Pop culture today would insist, “It may not be the mother’s truth that there is a unicorn walking down the street. But it IS the child’s truth. It is true to the child.” This is a ludicrous misunderstanding of the difference between subjective truth and objective truth. The child can say, “I love horses,” and it be true. That child does love horses. The mother can say, “I hate horses,” and it be true; the mother hates horses. But that is subjective truth. That kind of truth varies depending on how the one who says it feels. That’s why the child and mother have contradictory truths. What each says is true to her and not to the other. But this kind of truth involves preference, feelings, perceptions, and experiences, not objective realities. This is subjective truth. Objective truth is that there is either a horse walking down the street or not. The little girl can love unicorns and it be true (subjective), but she cannot say a unicorn is walking down the street and it be true (objective). Folks today, rather than acknowledging reality, think they can have their own view of reality. They believe their view of reality is reality. They believe that whatever they individually think, feel, and believe is reality. They think because they say it, what they say is real, the truth. Because they say there’s a unicorn walking down the street, there IS a unicorn walking down the street. And no one can contradict them. No one should attempt to prove them wrong by observing that there is NOT a unicorn going down the street. Not only can no one express to them that he sees NO unicorn going down the street, but he must also affirm them by saying, despite there being no unicorn, “You see a unicorn going down the street. How nice!” Not only must no one NOT say there is no unicorn, not only must one affirm them despite there being no unicorn, but all must also celebrate their seeing a unicorn. “You see a unicorn? How wonderful. You are such a great child for seeing a unicorn. You are so brave to believe there’s a unicorn walking down the street.” “I see a unicorn.” Take that claim and replace “see” with “feel,” and “unicorn” with a gender. Now the little girl says to her mother, “I feel like I am a boy.” The mother cannot say, “No, you are a little girl.” She must agree with her little girl and praise her for believing she is a boy. She must call dad at work to tell him the good news. She must bake a cake and invite extended family and friends to celebrate the little girl’s believing she is a boy.” And nobody, nobody, dare declare that she is NOT a little boy. All must agree with the little girl that “a unicorn is walking down the street.” The fact is, there IS a unicorn walking down America’s street. No, unicorns do not exist. But the mentality I write of above does. Objective truth as a measure, guide, and standard has fallen in the streets and subjective truth has the whole road to itself. It is strutting. Truth has fallen in the street. No, it has not just fallen, truth has been knocked down, pummeled, kicked to, and left lying at the curb. All the while, the unicorn, the figment of the perverse imagination of our culture that has forgotten God prances with head held high down the street. Or so it seems: However, “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”(Psa 119:89). --Pastor Clifford Hurst
who’s in the judge’s chair?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/28/2022
Last week, when it was known the court would be ruling whether or not the affidavit for the search of Trump’s house would be released, interested folks wanted to know who the judge would be. Who would be in the chair, the judge’s chair? That matters. The one who sits in the chair decides. A defense lawyer is always concerned with who is going to be in the judge’s chair in the case he argues. The decision made about his client, ultimately, will be made by the one in that seat. When folks in debate, discussion, or declaration passionately, rabidly, or zealously insist that their view, their stance, their belief on a matter is the correct one, I always want to know, “Who sat in the chair?” The judges’ chair. What standard did they use to decide? What measure? What authority? What source? Frankly, I do not believe many folks ever consider this question. But every time we conclude our beliefs, our opinions, our convictions, something, someone, was in the judge’s chair. Imagine your mind and heart as a courtroom. In that courtroom, it will be decided what you believe, what you think, what you feel, and what you consider right or wrong about a matter at hand. The question is, who or what will sit in the judge’s chair in that courtroom of your heart and mind? Who, after deliberation, will decide what you believe, think, feel, or consider as right and wrong on the matter? Or, do you believe things without any deliberation? Just thoughtless acceptance? Narcissistic arrogance would compel someone to answer, “Well, I will sit in the judge’s chair. No one has the right to decide for me but me. I will decide what I believe.” But that’s not the way it is. What you insist is YOU on the judge’s chair isn’t you, but your reasoning. Or, your emotions. Or, your experiences. Or your desires. Our your ambition. Our your _______. I don’t mean to be snarky, but really? Do you have that much faith in your own reason, emotions, experiences, and intuitions, to decide confidently on the big, consequential questions of life? Common counsel today encourages a person to follow his heart. So, people, let their hearts—which usually means their capricious emotions—flop down in the judge’s chair and decide what is right and wrong, up and down, good and evil. Take abortion. Ask an expectant woman, “Is abortion right or wrong?” That one responds, “Abortion is not only right it is good.” Now, ask, “Who sat in the judge’s chair in the courtroom of your heart and mind and decided that?” She will answer something like, “I did. I am a woman, and I alone can choose what I do with my body.” Her “self” in the judgment seat has already ruled badly. The baby in her womb is NOT her body. It has a different DNA. Not only that, it wasn’t really her “self” in the judge’s chair that made that decision, it was the twisted postmodern ideology; or, the pseudo-science drivel that says what is in her is a clump of cells; or, the sociologist’s lie and feigned compassion that says, “Since your child will suffer in life, you should terminate its life before it is born; or, her selfish ambition that says, “Your chosen career path is more important than any child’” Or, just emotion. She doesn’t feel like having a child. Or, the anxiety about the prospect of having a child under importune conditions. Or, I write this with compassion for such a woman, the invasive deception of a godless society. Take the quibbling of Christians over personal convictions, points of theology, and distinctive group peeves. We could take any of those theological issues, those beliefs that Christians feverishly fight over on. Let’s take the two I mentioned in last week’s blog merely as examples—God wants you rich. And, you have sinned against God if, as a man, you grow a beard. When you argue your point, faith is about getting wealthy or that’s not what faith is at all; or, God wants men to have beards or not have beards or doesn’t care, the question is, “Who sat in the judge’s chair in the courtroom of your heart and mind?” A charisma-oozing cajoler with a new doctrine? Man-manufactured tradition? Fear of the bosses of your fellowship or denomination? The pressure of your community? A collage of pieces of Scripture uprooted from their contexts? Simply, your feelings? Preference? Although in both societal and religious issues far better decisions would be made, far more sane beliefs would be formed, if at least Reason or Logic were in the chair. These have long ago been ejected. Even had they not, as preferable as Reason and Logic are, they alone are not adequate judges. They may make good lawyers. But they are not a good judge. The reason such ludicrous beliefs are being made, held, and promulgated in society and vitriolic divisions are happening in the Church is that whatever folks are putting in the judge’s chair is subjective. An adequate judge must be objective. Objective simply means it is true for everyone. Subjective is what is only true, or it only matters that it’s true, for the one. So, who should sit in the judge’s seat? Only one belongs there. Not me. Not my emotions. Not tradition. Not somebody else’s beliefs, convictions, or beliefs. Not the twisted philosophies of the world. Only one. God. The judge’s chair, is, well, for the Judge. That seemed simple enough, but to say God should be on the judge’s chair is a bit rhetorical. What we truly know of God, who He is, what He says, what He thinks, we know only through His revelation. That’s the Scriptures. The Bible. So, I would say, the Bible needs to be in the judge’s chair. Abortion is in reality a moral issue. The Bible should be in the judge’s chair. But, if you want to treat it as a political issue, then our nation’s constitution should be in the judge’s seat. And for all and any of our American political issues. If only, whether in an individual’s life, in society, or in church, every decision, determination, and direction was deliberated with the Word of God in the judge’s chair… If only we would let the Bible judge. I know there is yet the matter of differences in interpretation of the Bible. However, I believe that most of those differences would be absolved if those on opposite sides of an issue had the unifying desire to know what the writers, and, thus, God INTENDED to say—instead of trying to get Scriptures to say what would prove one’s particular point. But, in most cases, we are not even letting the Judge speak. Let the Judge speak, and then we can discuss what He said. Even with the differences in interpretation, the point is the Word would be in the judge’s seat. Not caprice. Not whim. Not errant reasoning. Not tradition. Not self. Not group think. Let’s have these discussions—political and religious. Let’s debate. Let’s argue if you please. But, let’s do so with the Scripture in the judge’s chair. In the courtroom of our discussion. In the courtroom of our group. In the courtroom of each our own minds and hearts. The next time we take a matter to the inner courtroom of our heart and mind, may we take a moment to ask and honestly answer, “Who’s in the judge’s chair?” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the great reset is happening
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/14/2022
A Great Reset is a great idea. “The Great Reset” was first a book Richard Florida wrote in response to the economic collapse of 2008. Then, “The Great Reset” was the initiative of the economic recovery plan drawn up by the World Economic Forum in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was launched in June 2020. The concept and phrase were quickly adopted and adapted to all the world's explosive problems. Racial unrest. Rioting in the streets. Climate caused catastrophes. “We need a RESET” was the refrain. Today, the Great Reset is the concept hegemonies of plutocrats, leftists, liberals are promoting to completely and fundamentally change our messed-up world into one of their liking and making. Their Great Reset would consist of replacing capitalism with socialism, religion with secularism, and nationalism with globalism. A Great Reset. The concept of a reset is derived from a fitting analogy in our world dominated by technology. We get it. Again, and again, when programs freeze, computers act funky, and other chip-driven devices stall, malfunction, and such, the best thing that can be done is to reset them. Reboot them. Whatever the device, support tech, when contacted for help with a malfunctioning device, will almost invariably begin with “Have you reset your device?” A reset can work marvels. The software gets back to doing its thing. The device starts working. The computer operates like new. So, why not just reset an economy? A government? A nation? The planet? Humanity? And, so we hear, especially, the designing leftist and liberals saying, “We need a reset!” A Great Reset. I concur we need one. I think you do too. Yes, we do need a reset. A GREAT reset. The world needs a great reset. Humanity needs a great reset. Every single person needs a great reset. Something is wrong with both our hardware and software. Things are in horrible shape. Malfunctioning Not working. Imploding. Deteriorating. A Great Reset of humanity and its world is a great idea. It’s a great idea because it is God’s idea. Secular proponents may not realize it, but they have hijacked the idea from God’s “playbook.” Only they can never carry it out. Their campaign to reset the world they may call sophisticated, hopeful, and optimistic. They may do so with confidence in humanity's quantum advances in technology, medicine, and science. I call it deluded arrogance. Does humanity really presume to think it can fix what is wrong with humanity? With our cosmos? With our star, the sun? With the universe? Degenerate society, however scientifically and technologically advanced, cannot pull it off. They cannot reset the climate (by their own admission when they are candid). They cannot eradicate crime. They cannot cure a common cold. They cannot reset humanity. The Great Reset. Humanity cannot achieve it. God can. God will. God does. There is a reset with God. God is Redeemer. Restorer. Renewer of humanity. GOD RESETS PEOPLE! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2Co 5:17) GOD WILL RESET THE WORLD. “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Pe 3:12-13). This Great Reset has already begun. Not just humanity but all of the universe will be reset, rebooted, and return to its original, pristine condition. Like a computer right of the manufacturer’s box. The Great Reset. Often, when promulgating, pumping, and pushing the Great Reset, advocates will show the visual of a reset button on an electronic device being depressed. The push of that button initiates the reboot. The reset. God has already pushed the reset button. Calvary was the reset button. Upon pushing the reset button on a device, some things immediately begin to happen. But, rebooting, resetting, is a process. The initial act of pushing the reset button makes everything that follows inevitable, though not everything immediate. Some things of this reset have already happened. A changed heart for us believers. Yet, our body is yet to be renewed. People in the world, believers, have been changed, reset, but our physical world has not. But with the push of the reset button, with Calvary, God began the reset that will totally redeem our universe, the world, and believing people in it. God’s reset is to the factory condition. The original condition. The perfection of the Garden. And the people in it. Only the Gospel can give the hope of the Great Reset. The Great Rest has already begun! It's happening! Pastor Clifford Hurst
“he tried to get close”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/07/2022
“Write about this.” “Put it in your blog!” I don’t think I have ever blogged something in response to a challenge to do so, but I am now. Here it is: I knew better. I hunted for over half my life. Also, from a child through young adulthood, I was an avid reader of Outdoor Life. You just don’t get close to a mother bear with young cubs. With my wife’s family on a recent vacation, we were staying in a condo about as far up into the Smokies above Gatlinburg as one can get. The road ended on top of the mountain not far from where we lodged. Despite quite a few visits through the years, I had never seen bears in the wild in the Smokey Mountains. That famine has ended. We saw bears constantly. Everywhere. Especially, around our condo and all through the resort of which it was a part. We even had one large bear hang out below our balcony. One day, as we were exiting the resort headed for town, someone spotted twin cubs over on the edge of the parking lot. And their mother. My brother-law who was driving stopped. Windows were rolled down, and we were all pointing or trying to get a photo. But the bears were far enough away that no one was able to get a very good one. I don’t know who, but someone temptingly said to me—because I was sitting shot-gun and could most easily do so—“Why don’t you try to get closer and get a good picture?” Bright idea. I knew better. Getting out of the car, I started walking tentatively and slowly towards the cubs. I sensed a brother-in-law had joined me a few steps behind. As I said, I knew the thing and the metaphor about the protective rage of a mother bear. But I figured, “The cubs are far enough from the her, that I can keep that pickup truck on the edge of the parking lot between me and the mother so she won’t see me.” She didn’t see me. She smelt and/or heard me. I had walked within just a few yards of the cubs and was snapping photos rapidly when I saw her coming about the same time my brother-in-law squealed a warning in so high an octave that it was almost unintelligible “She’s coming!” He broke Olympic records in his dash to the car. Later, he confessed to thinking he needed only to outrun me to the car to be safe. When he yelled, the mother came around the truck’s bumper. Her ears were flattened against her lowered head, as bears do when they charge. Growling she rushed at me with pouncing leaps. I could hear the clatter of her claws on the asphalt. I took a step backward with an involuntary “Ohhhhh.” It sounded like someone else made the sound, someone just gut-punched. Thankfully, mamma bear abruptly stopped just a mere few feet from me. The cubs had not seen us but had been trained to scurry up trees when their mother growled a warning. They were ten feet up the tree before the mother got to me. Sensing her cubs were safe, the mother turned back to them. Relieved but feeling foolish, I returned to the vehicle. Back in the SUV, we all were chattering excitedly about the experience as we wound our way down the mountain. We passed a cemetery. I think it was in response to seeing it that someone remarked, “We could be having your funeral real soon and putting you in the graveyard.” Seeing the tombstones, in a split moment of thought, I envisioned what my tombstone would look like. I saw one that looked like one of those centuries-old stones covered with moss with the epitaph in large letters with quote marks bracketing it. “Yeah,” I responded, “And on it, you could put, ‘He tried to get close.’ That would say it all.” The “He tried to get close,” would capture the stupidity of my being mauled and even losing my life simply to get a good photo of cute bear cubs. There was a courtesy laugh, but after it died away, I kept seeing the tombstone with my name and “He tried to get close” in my mind’s eye. It suddenly struck me. That might not be the worse of epitaphs. It could be a great epitaph to summarize one’s life. Not “close” to a mother bear, but to God. If we think of walking with God, serving Jesus, and worshiping the King, if we think of one devoted throughout his life to pursuing God and the things of God, “He tried to get close,” need not be a condemnatory epithet but a commendatory epitaph. If only, “He tried to get close,” could be the accurate and fitting inscription below my name on my tombstone. (To my wife and children: “If you read this, I’m not hinting.”) Could it be put on your tombstone? Could it be said of your life? “She tried to get close.” “He tried to get close.” That would say it all. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
what’s your tuna casserole?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/31/2022
She was very kind. When my wife and I were young evangelists and our firstborn was only an infant, way out west we were holding services at a church without an evangelist quarter. A saintly widow of the church hospitably opened her home to our family for the week. She was so kind. When we arrived, she had supper prepared for us, and I was in trouble. It was a wonderful home-cooked meal, but the main dish was a 9” x 13” dish of tuna casserole. Now see, I have an aversion, in general, to fish and, in particular, to tuna. Just the smell of it—and I can smell even the faintest traces—causes me to want to gag*. This repugnance is neither imagined nor self-fabricated. It is even hereditary. When my younger son was only a toddler, a can of tuna could have been just opened and, as soon as he caught a whiff of the smell, he would begin showing signs of nausea. So, I was in trouble. We blessed the food and thanked our hostess for the wonderful meal. When it came time to serve myself, I settled on a tactic I had learned for dishes I, as a guest, found distasteful: I dumped a rather small spoonful of the tuna casserole on my plate and then quickly smashed it with the top of the spoon and spread it to cover a large area of my plate. If one didn’t notice how thin the layer was, it looked like I had a lot. When the meal was over, I congratulated myself for being so clever and getting through the tuna casserole. It was over. Past. Done. Not! At suppertime the next evening I was looking forward to the meal. As we sat down at the table, I quickly became dismayed. Our hostess had rewarmed the tuna casserole and added a few fresh sides to it. I don’t even know how I made it through that meal. I just know that at bedtime I said to my wife, “You know how much I hate tuna. You must eat up that tuna casserole. Listen to me: ‘Eat up that casserole!’” She is a great wife. You might have guessed: The next night at supper, the casserole made its third appearance, and my faithful wife doled herself a gigantic dollop. Tuna is bad enough fresh. I could not imagine what it must have tasted like after the second, left-over warm-up. I don’t remember how many appearances the tuna casserole made that week. I just know that my wife sacrificially took care of what I found so unpleasant. Often, we humans do with internal struggles what I did with the casserole. What we find unpleasant within ourselves, we project to someone else to deal with—as if it is their problem. We put it on them. For example, a father, angry and frustrated with work, comes home and yells at his kids—for nothing they have done. He has put his tuna casserole on their plate. A church member struggling with inferiorities blames the church family for being uncaring or unfriendly and his not feeling a part. That one wants everyone else to eat his tuna. Another is boiling with bitterness in the cauldron of his heart for having been done wrong. He finds fault and lashes out at any who might be unlucky enough to approach him in an attempt of kindness. Once again, one’s own internal baggage, tuna, has been dumped on someone else’s plate. Today at church, if you should find yourself not liking the music, annoyed by others, bored with the preaching, or angry with a brother or sister, consider that there may be nothing wrong with the music, preaching, or people. Perhaps, it's just something with you. Same with your family. You are unhappy with your spouse, your children, your parents, or your siblings. Maybe the problem's not with them. Maybe it's with you. God too. This thing you find wrong with God, or His ways, we know it can't be anything wrong with God or His ways. It has to be something with you. If you dislike tuna, don’t blame the host who is trying to be kind. And for sure, don’t try to make it someone else’s responsibility to eat it. You could just accept that the unpleasantness comes from something about you and get down to business and eat it. Or, unlike repugnance with real tuna, you could ask God to remove the aversion. By the way, what is your tuna casserole? Do you try to put it on someone else’s plate? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
struggling with struggling
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/24/2022
Oxymoronically, it is those who spiritually care and try the most that have the greatest inner struggles. Some of the most moral, spiritual, godly people I know wrestle far more in conflicts of mind and soul than do their apathetic or indifferent or carnal or worldly church-pew neighbors. It is the spiritual go-getters that seem to be consistently in all-out combat inside. Ironically, the reason is that they care, they try, they aspire—they desire the things of God and want to please Him with their lives. Often, I have mused even within a church service, as I preached a message to challenge or convict, that those who should be moved by the message seem to sit serenely through it undisturbed, while ones who don’t even need the message--because of their heart and enthusiasm for God--are all torn up and convicted by it. I have concluded that the reason those who so conscientiously care are moved and torn up over such a message don’t really need such a message is that they so conscientiously care and are moved by such a message. They care enough to care—thus, they battle. On the other hand, those who need the message but are unmoved don’t care enough to be moved—thus, they don’t battle. They feel no conviction. It is this latter observation that has caused me to commit, “Some folks don’t have the peace of God. They are just too lazy to care.” Two men stand before an opened box of donuts on the counter in the breakroom. One struggles with taking just one or none at all. The other without hesitation reaches in and takes out four or five. The one that struggled was the one who cared about his weight and/or health and was trying to monitor what he ate. The one who had no struggle taking and eating multiple donuts just didn’t care and wasn’t trying to lose weight or prevent causes of bad health. Two roommates at college have the same classes, assignments, and workload. One frets, feels stress, battles over doing any other thing except studying. The other is carefree, laughs, goofs off, and answers any invitation to go have fun or party. The first cares deeply about her grade point average, wants to do the best she can, and get all her assignments in on time. The second simply doesn’t care about her grades. She doesn’t even care if she gets kicked out of college. Two neighbors have adjacent lawns. One worries that the persistent daily rains are going to prevent him from mowing. He frets over the appearance of weeds. He cannot rest because the latest storm brought down a tree limb that needs cut up and the brush hauled away. He is bothered by the fact his weed-eater is in the shop being repaired and the edges of the lawn are looking scruffy. His neighbor is faced with all these same conditions down to his weed-eater being broken. Yet, he hasn’t even bothered to take his weed-eater to the shop. He is unbothered by the ankle-high grass, the limb that also extends into his yard, the growing weeds, or the ungroomed edges of his lawn. Temperament, I realize, plays a role. The choleric fumes that something is keeping him from getting things done; the melancholy philosophies about why life seems to conspire against his efforts to have a groomed lawn; the phlegmatic is just happy the rains gave him a chance to just sit in his recliner and not mow; The sanguine calls someone up to talk and forgets all about the weeds growing. In the end, the struggle catches up to everyone. Later in life, the dozen-donuts-a-day coworker struggles with the health issues of the obese, the partying college student struggles to find a job and make ends meet because she has no education or skill, and the neighbor with the jungle of a yard struggles with a fine from the city and a tar-and-feather-ready mob of angry neighbors. It is far better to struggle in the effort to get it right, be right, do it right, than to struggle with the consequences of not doing so. Spiritually, much can be said to assure those whose hearts are right with God but who continue to struggle with things. There is no space for that. Suffice it to be said that those inward struggles are not all bad. Without them the healthy man might have been unhealthy, the student may have never graduated, and the man who would not mow may have lost his friends and family over his slovenly ways. So, if you are struggling with your struggling, realize the fact you struggle is the reason you don’t have to. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the woman’s choice
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/10/2022
“It’s my choice; it’s my choice; it’s my choice,” the abortion advocate was screaming with rabid anger and maniacal voice. “I chose to have an abortion. I’m glad I chose to have an abortion. I would choose to abort all over again. No one’s going to tell me what to do with my body. It’s my choice.” Since the reversal of Roe vs Wade, all of us have heard some rendition of this rage-laden mantra. Deafened by deception, this woman could not possibly hear what she was saying: “I chose to kill my baby. I’m glad I chose to kill my baby. I would choose to kill my baby all over again. No one’s going to tell me I can’t kill my baby. It’s my choice.” This angry advocate “for a woman’s choice,” is correct, however ostensibly. The abortion issue is about a woman’s choice. It truly is. (And, I’m not referring to her choice whether to have relations that resulted in pregnancy. Or, her choice to kill her baby.). She is correct. It’s all about a woman’s choice. That’s what it’s all been about from the very beginning. The very first woman, Eve, was the first to see it’s all about choice. Whether it be Eve or the febrile female above boasting of her abortion, both women were wanting to choose for themselves. But not as you might think. The choice that Eve wanted to make wasn’t to eat from the forbidden tree. The choice the Pro-choice Protestor was clamoring about is not the choice to do what she wants with her body—however loudly she screams that. This about choice goes deeper than that. What these two women have in common, is that they each wanted to choose for themselves what is right and what is wrong independently of any outside measure or standard. The part of the mantra, “It’s my body,” is code for “It’s my morality.” In other words, “I get to choose what IS right and wrong for me. I set the standard.” That’s what was going on in the Garden. We see this when we listen to the dialogue between the Serpent and Eve as he tempted her. First, a little background: God gave Adam and Eve a lush utopia in which to live. He gave them a free run of all the produce of the vegetation as food for their sustenance and enjoyment. Thousands of trees. They could choose to eat from any of them. Except one. God said, “You must not choose to eat of that tree. You can choose. The choice is yours. Just choose not to.” God named this prohibited tree “The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Adam and Eve must not eat of that tree. They must not choose that tree. Now for the temptation: Among other deceitful and deceptive things Satan said to the Woman, he lied, “God is trying to keep you from becoming one (a god) who can choose what is right and wrong for herself. God’s trying to take choice from you.” Well, not in those exact words. Here’s what he said: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5). First, Satan disparages God’s motives in forbidding Eve the tree. He says in effect, “God’s trying to keep something good from you.” What? What was Satan implying God was trying to keep from Eve? Her choice. He was saying, “God’s trying to take choice from you.” This lie has not changed since the Garden. It is still Satan’s lie to women. Someone’s trying to take your choice from you. Here is what was and is going on: God being God, had been the One who decided and told Adam and Eve what was right and wrong. “You can eat of this tree but not that one.” Satan told the woman, “God knows if you eat of the tree, you will become like God. You will not need Him to decide and tell you what is right and wrong. You will be able to determine and to decide that for yourself.” In other words, the decider of what is right and what is wrong will not be Someone or something outside of you, but you. You will be the decider of what is right or wrong. God will not choose for you what is right and wrong. You will choose what is right and wrong for yourself. It will be your choice. Satan was the very first women’s choice advocate. Eve got that this was what Satan was saying. That is why scripture records that Eve didn’t just see that the fruit of the tree look appealing and promised to be delicious to the taste, she also saw what Satan wanted her to see--that partaking of the tree would make her “wise.” Wise not in the good sense. But wise in the sense of obtaining and possessing what the name of the tree implied, “the knowledge of good and evil.” Now, we must think: Why would God, as Satan implied, want to deprive Eve of access to wisdom? Why would He want to keep “the knowledge of good and evil from Eve”? Of course, neither suggestion is true! God wouldn’t keep wisdom or the knowledge of good and evil from Eve (or Adam or anyone). This wasn’t about wisdom or the knowledge of good and evil in and of themselves. This was about who DECIDES what is “wise.” Who DECIDES what is “good and evil?” Who chooses what is right and what is wrong? Eve wanted to choose that for herself. She didn’t want God to make that choice. The Temptation then and now is this: Do we let God choose what is right and wrong or do we choose for ourselves what is right and wrong? Put another way: Will we have a transcendent standard of morality or will we each try to establish our own morality? Will we recognize and seek to follow an absolute and objective morality or will we try to live by a subjective morality. Reality is, if one chooses a subjective morality, in the end, he has no morality at all. He has only the following of his impulses and inclinations. This is exactly where we are today and why we are imploding as a people and as a nation. People do not want the locus of morality to be transcendent, something or someone outside of them. Not God. Not Bible. Not constitution. Not Supreme Court. Not reason. They want the locus of morality to be within each of them. For each to have his/her own morality. This can never work. God has given us the ability to choose. What a wonderful gift. He didn’t give us the choice of what IS right or wrong, but whether we will DO right or wrong. That’s the choice He gave at the beginning: Here’s this tree. Don’t eat it, live. Eat it, die. Choose life. That has always been the choice God has given. As the design of that tree, so the design of the world. When we choose God’s way, we choose life. When we choose our own way, we choose death. Yes, this is about Women’s Choice. And, women’s choice is the same as men’s choice. Not what we think is right or wrong. But whether we will do what God has said is right and not do what He said is wrong. Dear protestor, you do have a choice. Not whether or not killing a baby is right, but whether you will do the right of keeping your child or the wrong of taking its life. It’s your choice. Choose life. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
go to the birds
Bro. Clifford Hurst 06/26/2022
You will tell me it's my imagination, and it very well may be. But it sure seems like it's happening: I have a bird feeder hanging outside our patio doors. Birds quickly empty it. Almost daily I walk to the storage building at the back of my yard to get the seed to refill the feeder. On a day like today, the sound of the birds is almost constant in the background. When I walk out onto the lawn, my presence startles the birds which fly a short distance away. After their initial warning squawks and shrills, they seem to recognize who am—a friend, not a foe, a feeder not a predator--and grow almost silent. I am certain they know what I’m doing. They seem to be watching from nearby trees, bushes, and fences, anticipating that I am on the way to get more food for them. In my shed, I fill a pitcher, and, then, head to the feeder back by the house at the patio. Now, again, I know you will say it is my imagination, but, when I step out of the shed with the pitcher full of seed and begin walking towards the feeder, the birds everywhere within seeing-me distance begin to chime into a chorus that grows louder and louder as I near the feeder. The crescendo-ing symphony of finches, sparrows, cowbirds, grackles, starlings, wrens, and jays—some with sweet songs and some with disharmonious voices—seems ecstatic that more food is on the way. The feeder had become empty. But the House-dweller has come to fill it. I even sense, I think, the sound of gratitude in their birdsong choir of chirps, trills, squawks, whistles, and cheeps. Even the woodpeckers seem to add percussion with faster and louder drumming than usual. For sure, I’m no god, but my birds are worshipers. They recognize my presence. They know what my presence means. They respond by pouring out in voice their joy, gratitude, and anticipation at what I have and am doing. They greet me with a mellifluous anthem. I feel honored. I feel needed. I feel feted. I feel appreciated. (For the record, I’m making a point, not losing my sanity, becoming egomaniacal.) One day, between shed and feeder, hearing the increasing sound of the birds, I thought, "This is what worship in the house of God should be": The birds need no priming, pumping, or cheerleading. My presence is all it takes. God’s presence should be all it takes. Sensing God’s presence may at first affect us as mine did the birds. With a stilling silence. A fear. Not the fear of danger the birds momentarily have, but the fear of reverence, of awe. But, as their silence quickly turns to a vocal outburst from inner exultation at my presence, we ought to begin to break forth in an outpouring of praise, adoration, magnifying, and worship at His presence. As my presence means feeding to the birds, God’s presence means to us the feeding of our souls. That He is who He is and that He is among us is cause and reason enough for an anthem of adoration, yet, we know that He has mercifully come among us because we need Him. He has come to fill the feeder, to set the table. He has come to minister to our deepest needs. He has His pitcher full. He brings the feed to where we can receive it, and partake of it. He puts it before us, for our taking. Jesus, already, has given us an invitation. “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden.” “Come and dine!” Worshipers often wait for a leader to invite them to come, to partake, receive, and worship. But with the birds, I need not say a thing. Once I have filled the feeder, the birds, with delighted din descend eagerly upon it. As they feed, it seems they often stop for some final few bars of praise and worship for their feeder--me. This morning. Worship like birds. Join the chorus. Whether sparrow or finch, wren or starling, join the music. Whether tiny Chipping Sparrow or large Pileated Woodpecker (child or adult), join the praise. He has come. He is here. The Feeder of our Souls. If the sage in Scripture can say, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard,” surely it would be okay for me to say, “Go to the birds, you worshiper.” -Pastor Clifford Hurst
it is what it is vs he is who he is
Bro. Clifford Hurst 06/19/2022
“It is what it is.” Several times I’ve blogged ranting on this expression. I will not reiterate all the reasons I dislike this popular phrase—because it is what it is. Today, I just add one more diatribe. Here goes: “It Is What It Is” has become the god of a people who have embraced naturalism—the belief that matter is all there is. See, my beef is not just that this expression is nauseatingly popular in common parlance. It’s that it is revelatory of the effects of a culture being taught evolution. If evolution is true, all there is simply IS. It is what it is. It is predetermined. It is a result of natural causes. We have this god, “It Is What It Is,’ because humanity tried to rid itself of the accountability the existence of a personal God required. Our world embraced the pseudo-scientific theory of life arising from evolution (which scientifically is not a part of the evolutionary theory). Naturalism got rid of Creator God, but was left with nothing but the god “It is what it is.” I’m not the first to note that the Judeo-Christian God’s name, Yahweh, is “I Am That I Am” but the god of our society is “It Is What It Is.” Bottom line, our society, once permeated with the belief in the Judeo-Christian God, has traded the “I Am That I Am” for “It Is What It Is.” No wonder our society has cut loose from any basis of morality. No wonder there is no aspiration for goodness, greatness, destiny. No wonder there is such nihilistic despair. When “It Is What It Is” is society’s god, its refrain is “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Nihilism has led to hedonism. And hedonism to further nihilism. The problem with all gods other than the true God, Yahweh, is that they are too small for our needs and problems. Faced with real-life conundrums, crises, tragedies, losses, today’s, society can only respond with “It Is What It Is.” Those who know the true God can say in the face of the worst of life’s catastrophes, news, cataclysms, and calamities, God is “I Am that I Am.” God’s name, I Am That I Am, was first revealed to Moses with the instructions to convey it to the people of Israel when they were in the worse of conditions—abject slavery—and were facing, though soon to be delivered, a hostile environment and enemies in their traverse across a desert while headed to their Promise Land. God said, “Tell them “I Am” has sent you. In other words, not only God is the Eternally Existent One, “He is the God that will be there for you. He is that God that will be whatever you need him to be when you face whatever you face.” As the children of Israel, we are facing, both as a nation, a people, and in many cases as individuals, an unprecedented crisis. Multitudes with a nihilistic shrug and a despaired slump of shoulders will resignedly speak the name of their god, “It Is What It Is.” We, who know the name of Yahweh, can respond differently. We can say, “Our God is not ‘It Is What It Is.’ Our God is ‘I Am That I Am.’” In other words, we, faced with overwhelming, disconcerting difficulty, don’t say, “It Is What It Is,” but with hope and faith, “He is Who He is.” He is exactly what we need for this. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
your driver-assist/crash avoidance system
Bro. Clifford Hurst 06/12/2022
“I don’t like it!” was my wife’s first and most emphatic response to her new vehicle’s driver-assist/crash avoidance system. She was driving down the highway, and, as she drifted a bit close to one of the lanes’ lines, the steering wheel automatically veered sharply away. “It’s jerky!” she explained. The driver-assist/crash avoidance system does other annoying things too. It sounds beeping alarms if the driver begins to change lanes while another vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot. It also automatically slows when drawing near a vehicle ahead. It makes adjustments and sounds alarms and beeps. All are warnings to the driver. All are bothersome. But I am certain that these systems are going to save many lives, however annoying, at least at first, one might find them. Graciously, Creator God has included a driver-assist/crash avoidance into His design of each human. He has truly given each of us such a system to save us from wreck and ruin. Yet, people dislike, disdain, deny, reinterpret its signals, and blame nefarious origins and causes for it. Frankly, they “don’t like it.” Case in point: People with gender dysphoria who are seeking to transition or have transitioned suffer immense anxiety, depression, and extreme psychological trauma. The blame for this trauma has been attributed to discriminatory experiences these folks have had out in society—at school, work, social events, etc. COVID debunked that claim. During COVID lockdowns. when these were isolated from societal involvement and were totally out of social contexts where discriminatory experiences were possible, their psychological trauma should have significantly decreased. Instead, it increased. Why? Secular experts who have already written the narrative would never concede it, but these dysphoric folks’ treatment by society is not the real cause of the depression, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, etc., which they experience. Much could be said about how the fallenness of humanity is responsible for dysphoria, depression, and the rest, but there is also something else at work here. God has built into His image-bearers, each human, a driver-assist/crash avoidance system. God gave humans a conscience. Although the conscience alone is not always unerringly reliable—it can be hardened, misguided, seared, silenced, and skewed--it was designed to let humanity know what was right and wrong—in the sight of God and for their own sake. Whether codified in law or not, God has given folks this innate moral sense. He has even built into nature an observable order so one can tell what is “normal” and what is an aberration. So often when folks complain of depression, discrimination, and anxiety, in reality, they are experiencing the alarms, nudges, warnings of conscience, innate moral sense, and the effects of traversing the boundaries of the natural order. This uncomfortableness they want to blame on others and on being ill-treated by others. Although some are unjustifiably ill-treated, that is not the real source or origin of their unhappiness and anxiety. What they are experiencing is God’s created and installed driver-assist/crash avoidance system. This is true, not just for gender dysphoric folks. It is true of all folks. The inner uproar, the pain, is often the crash avoidance system sounding alarmed. (Of course, I am not suggesting that in every case all anxiety, depression, etc., is attributable to going against one’s conscience or the natural order of things.) In a vehicle with such a system, the more the driver does not take note of or ignores the alarms, the more he continues to maneuver in the directions and manner that triggered the system to sound the alarms, then the more insistent and persistent the system becomes. When one goes against the warnings of his innate system, the discomfort, the pain, the anxiety, etc., will only increase. To try to mitigate the unpleasantness of the alarms, disarm them, or harangue them does not relieve the person of the danger he is in. It only increases it. Ignoring God’s alarm system also only ensures the ultimate crossing of moral lines and the crashing and destruction of the person. Today, it is thought altruistic and compassionate to attribute folk’s misery of conscience, struggle with identity, and painful inner implosion to systemic bigotry, being targeted by conservatives, or discrimination from antiquated religious groups. Countenancing the dysphoria by legitimizing it and placing the blame for the resultant agony, confusion, and inner struggle on “hate” groups, do these no favors. It’s not being compassionate at all. It is becoming complicit in their misery and ultimate destruction. Those who suffer this pain need genuine compassion, healing, and the redemption of Creator-Redeemer God. They need Jesus and the wholeness He only can provide. Their misery is their crash avoidance system letting them know so. When my wife proclaimed she didn’t “like it,” I told her, “Well, there’s a button to turn it off. Just push it.” Some do everything possible to deflect, mitigate, and rid themselves of the pain of their inner crash avoidance system. Rather, they should listen to it and thank God He is trying to save them from wreck and ruin in life and eternity. He can save! He does rescue! He will not only warn, but He will also divert from destruction. Furthermore, He will make whole, complete, and fill with joy, peace, and a knowledge of true acceptance. We may not like our driver-assist/crash avoidance system or its constant clamoring. But we certainly need it. Do you hear the cacophony of its protests to your choices, activities, your living? Don’t harangue it with vituperation. Don’t let others tell you not to listen to it and that it's someone else’s fault you’re hearing it. Don’t turn it off. It’s trying to save your life, your soul. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
tomb or womb; there are no unknowns to god
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/29/2022
Memorial Day, officially, is for honoring all military members who have died while serving in U.S. forces. However, many have unofficially extended the honoring of the dead to their deceased loved ones whether or not they have served and died in the military. None would begrudge their doing so. As I began contemplating this Memorial Day, my mind kept going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As I thought of the nameless soldier(s), lying reposed in the darkness of the tomb, as odd as it may seem, I thought of all the nameless children since Roe vs Wade that have been aborted in the darkness of the womb. A tomb is to be the place of honor and preservation of alife once lived; the womb is to be the place of honor and preservation of a life to be lived. At least in this blog, I would like to extend Memorial Day thoughts for the deceased to include the millions of babies whose lives have beenunconscionably aborted. It is right that we should honor the slain unknown in the tombs. It is as fitting that we should remember the unknown slain in the wombs. Sixty-three and a half million were never given a chance to breathe. The loss of every military life is tragic. But compare: Loss of military lives in all U.S.A. wars: 1.3 million. Loss of lives from abortion: 63.5 million. The tomb of the unknown soldier is labeled “unknown” because the soldier is unidentified; his name is not known. Rather, THEIR names. The tomb enshrines more than one soldier. Originally, there were four--one for each major war/conflict of the last century. More recently, one soldier has been identified and returned to his home. Like these soldiers, the millions of aborted are unknown. They have no names. Wait, maybe they do. Have names. Maybe they are not unknown. To God, there are no tombs of unknown soldiers. We may not know their names. But God does. When those soldiers were born, they were given a name by loving parents. Though lost to humanity, God knows those names. No aborted baby had a loving parent to name him or her. So how could God possibly know their names? Could it be that, although the parents of the aborted were culpable in not letting their child live and, thus, also remiss in naming the baby, God Himself named the child? God is certainly capable of naming those millions of aborted children. God knows the name of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 200 billion trillion stars in our universe. That makes it easy to believe that He knows the names of the 7 billion people who presently inhabit the earth. And those of any who have ever lived and died. God knows the names of the billions of trillions of stars that humans have not seen nor named. He knows their names because He named them. We also know that before we even began to form in our mother’s womb, God identified us. He knew our names. Again, even though I’m venturing way beyond the boundaries of established theology, I ask, "Is it implausible that, if God has named every star, formed and known every child in the womb, He has also named every aborted child though no human did? The reason we honor the unknown soldier is that we honor life. It is also because we honor life that we should remember the unknown aborted. Unknown to us. Not to God. With God, there are no unknown soldiers in tombs. Neither are there any unknown in the wombs. There is something even worse than being among the unknown dead—to be among the unknown living. Forgotten. Lonely. Abandoned. So many today feel alienated. Apart. Unknown. These have names. People just don’t know or use them. To speak to them. Call them. Engage them in meaningful conversation. They should know they are not forgotten by God. They are not unknown to Him. He knows their names. The soldier in the unknown tomb, the unborn baby, the forgotten elderly person, the lonely, the alienated can say sing together, “And He knows my name, Every step that I take, Every move that I make, Every tear that I cry, He knows my name, When I'm overwhelmed by the pain, And can't see the light of day, I know I'll be just fine, 'Cause He knows my name.” There are no unknowns with God. There are no unknown people to God. Womb, tomb, or anywhere between. No! No unknowns to God. He knows each one's name. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the mom who packed the lunch
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/08/2022
A Tribute To Mothers You may have, but there is someone I’ve never heard given any credit. Not once. But this one played a huge role in a miracle so stupendously marvelous that all four Gospel writers recorded it--The Feeding of the Five Thousand. Five thousand were fed with five loaves and two small fishes. Rightfully so, credit is first and foremost given to the Miracle Worker, Jesus, in whose hands the loaves and fish multiplied to provide each meal. Though they were only following instructions, credit is also given to the disciples who organized the people, navigated the logistics of orderly seating them, and then distributed the fish and chips. Careful readers also give some nod to Andrew, the disciple that noticed the boy with the lunch and pointed him out to Jesus. Praise is even given to the boy who willingly surrendered his lunch. But there’s someone who goes unnoticed in the story—the little boy’s mother who packed his lunch. Today, I want to pay tribute to mothers, but, in particular, to mothers with small children who expend such great effort in the arduous work, care, and attention in readying their children for church, especially on Sunday mornings. That is why we have this story of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. That day long ago, a Galilean mother readied her small boy and packed his lunch for “church.” Over the years of pastoring many families who were raising children and being a father to four, I have had growing admiration for mothers with small children. They put in an unbelievable amount of work readying their children for church—even if they are fortunate to have a husband that helps. Let’s just consider preparing their children for church on a Sunday morning. That work starts before Sunday. There’s the making sure the clothes are washed, ironed if needed, and laid out the night before. There’s making sure the children are in bed on time Saturday night. First, baths must be given. Often, Mom is up many times during the night with a frightened, ill, or sleepwalking child. Troubled nights are always more frequently fall on Saturday nights. Then, there’s getting the children up early on Sunday morning. Infants and toddlers must have their diapers/pull-ups changed. There’s the preparing them breakfast--and getting them to eat it. With breakfast comes fights over the cereal box, milk spills, and always one refusing to eat. Then there's the clean-up of kids and kitchen. The children old enough to do so on their own are instructed to “go get dressed.” Often, they get distracted by toys, devices, and other things. “How many times do I have to tell you, ‘Go get ready for church?’” All that telling takes time and effort. Often, Mom has to referee or break up sibling fights. And help locate missing clothing items like shoes. There’s always a shoe missing. Infants and toddlers often need another bath and for certain another diaper change. Those that are small need to be dressed. That is no small accomplishment. It’s a feat that often has to be repeated. Despite clear instructions “not to get dirty,” children get into food, sneak out to the mud, go fishing in the commode, etc. Once the children are all dressed, Mom has to get prepared herself. Her absence to do so only allows the children to get into fights, make messes, etc., all of which results in more last-minute work. And, then, there are last-minute necessary tasks like restocking and packing a bag with toys, ointments, diapers, goldfish, and a million other things. In winter there are coats to find and wrestle children into. Although upon leaving the house for church, Mom’s work has just begun—starting with all those straps and buttons of car seats—I will stop the description there. Just know two things, I have missed so many things a mom with children does in preparing them for church and that, once at church, there is so much more to be done. So, I have great respect and admiration for Christian mothers with small children who make sure their children are always in church. And every Christian mother at one time went through all this with her children. Kudos seems too prosaic, so let me say, these mothers deserved a multitude of grateful accolades. God bless them! We honor them today! Each of these Christian mothers is like the mom long ago who packed those five loaves and two fish for her little boy to take to “church”—the mom behind that great miracle, the Feeding of the Five Thousand men, plus, scripture notes, women and children. Had there been no women there, probably, there’d been no children there. At least not small ones. And, if there had been no children there, the little boy would not have been there. And if the boy had not been there, the lunch this mother packed, would not have been there. And if the mom-packed lunch had not been there, there’d been no five loaves and two fish. And if the five loaves and two fish had not been there, the five thousand would not have been fed. Well, they would. Jesus would have employed another means to feed them. He just wouldn’t have done it with five loaves and two small fishes. But the point is, the mother readied the boy and packed his lunch. All fed that day, having finished eating, after thanking Jesus, should have said, “Thank you!” to the mom who packed the lunch. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
not calories but communion
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/01/2022
Recently, I was asked an intriguing two-part question: Will we eat in heaven? And, if so, why? Well, it appears we will eat in heaven--if there is any literalness at all to “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” More substantively, there is historical evidence that we will eat: In His post-resurrection appearances, in His glorified state, Jesus ate--fish and bread. Scripture says that whether raptured or resurrected, the bodies we will possess in heaven will be those made “like into His glorious resurrected body.” He ate. We will eat. Did I just hear sighs of relief? Joy? Yes, we will eat in heaven. Why? Well, because we like to eat, and heaven wouldn't be heaven if we couldn’t. Heaven will offer the very best of the world's cuisine: Think of the cinnamon rolls, the pecan pies, tubs of ice cream, the foot-high cakes, the bowls of candy. Of course, since it is heaven, it must be all desserts. Excluding those desserts that were so good here on earth that we called them "sinful." They won’t make the cut. They can't be allowed into heaven for obvious reasons. I know you haven't been taking me seriously those last few lines. Everything since the "Why?" has been droll levity. I really couldn't tell you what the food will be in heaven. It would, I think, have to be vegan. Heaven is all about life. I can't see slaughtering in heaven animals for food. That’s death. But that also begs the question: If heaven is vegan, would it be heaven? Yuck. There’s another problem if it were. I can’t really see in heaven rainstorms to water fields of grain, though, I suppose, they could be irrigated with water from the River of Life or the Crystal Sea. Oh, there I go again. There will be food. We know that angels know how to bake Manna. And, there’s that fruit from the Tree of Life. Seriously, the answer does have to do with the joy of eating. And the greatest joy of eating is not in the food on the table. The greatest joy of eating is the fellowship with those who are seated at the table. The food facilitates the fellowship. That’s why, in the best of restaurants, we do not like to see folks eating alone. We do not like to eat alone. So, yes, we will eat in heaven because we will have fellowship there as we did on earth. Yet, in a fullness we never experienced on earth. Fellowship with one another. Fellowship with our Lord. That is one of the things that Communion teaches. Jesus wanted to eat with His disciples one last time. He strongly desired to have that last Passover meal with His disciples. I can promise you; it wasn’t about the food. Well, it wasn’t about the food, but yet it was. About what the bread and wine, pointed to. His sacrificial death for His disciples. For all. But for Jesus, it was about the fellowship He had with His disciples. That time at the table, that time of fellowship was short-lived. Jesus and His disciples had to leave that table. Jesus had a mission. To die for their sins. Our sins. To die, so, that His disciples could once again gather at the table with Him. In eternity. In heaven. This time, they’d gather at the table never to leave. The fellowship would be perpetual. Forever Fellowship. It will be likewise with us. Every time we partake of Communion together in our worship service, we not only reenact the Last Supper, but we also anticipate that Eternal Supper. In both, we eat because, “…if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, ….” (1Jn 1:7). So, will we eat in heaven? Definitely. Why will we eat? Not for the nourishment of the body. Not to fulfill the cravings of our sweet tooth (Though I’m sure everything will taste heavenly). We will eat for the fellowship. As I typed that last sentence the chorus of an old song I haven’t thought of or heard in years began to loop in my mind, “Friendship with Jesus, Fellowship divine, Oh, what blessed sweet communion, Jesus is a Friend of mine!” And if we have friendship with Jesus, we will have it with one another! Eating in Heaven? Yes!!! But, it’s not about the calories. It’s about communion. With Jesus. With the saints with whom we now share the table. With all our loved ones and venerable saints who await us at the table there. This is a good thing to remember when you partake of Communion at the gathering of God’s people. --Pastor Hurst
i carried the king:
Bro. Clifford Hurst 04/10/2022
I am the donkey. You know, the one that carried Him that day. That day of shouting. That day of praise. That day when He, the King, entered the Holy City. You, I believe, call it the Triumphant Entry. You may find it surprising that I’m writing. But, let me remind you of one of my distant ancestors who could talk! Remember? The one who rebuked Balaam. She really could be such a nag. (lol. I couldn’t resist.) Anyway, I got her gene for speech. See, I’m not actually writing, per se, I’m talking. I mean, after all, I have hooves. Those aren’t too efficient on keyboards. Thankfully, there’s that new voice dictation technology. Forgive me; I’ve digressed. Back to the day I carried the King. I was not a likely choice to carry a king. I was not a nice donkey. I was rebellious. I allowed no one on my back. Not even my owner. Oh, some had tried. None were successful. Their derrieres barely made contact with my spine before I, with a mighty buck, hurled them through the air. They never tried again. I wasn’t just being mean—well, maybe; it’s that I had such a constant restlessness, anger at those humans, turmoil over the hardships of life, I felt compelled to kick and buck and bite. Two of His friends led me to Him. Thinking back on it, I could have easily taken the wrong road. I had been tied right at the intersection in the village. I could have been led in any direction. Yet, providentially, I walked the road that led to Him. Oh, I was being myself, struggling at the rope reins, trying to spit out the bit, shaking my head from side to side, digging in my heels. But strangely, the closer they pulled me towards Him-who-would-be-the-first-to-ride-me, all the uproar, all the wild instincts, all the restlessness began draining from me. By the time I got to Him, I was placidly plodding at His friends’ gentle directing tugs. For the first time in my existence, felt tamed. I felt peaceful. Though unbroken and unridden, I felt no urge to lurch or to shirk away from Him. Not from Him. In fact, though I couldn’t explain it, I WANTED Him to ride me! But, alas, I had no saddle for Him. His friends took care of that. They took off their outer tunics and arranged them on me, forming a quite nice, comfortable saddle. Then, they lifted Him, the King, and sat Him on my back. I trembled. Not with fear. Not with anger. Not with wildness, but with joy. My donkey mind understood at that moment that I had been born to carry Him. Born to carry the King! What a noisy, raucous mass surrounded us. Crowds were coming out of the nearby villages and gathering and milling around me—uh, Him. Another crowd was hastily ascending the road from the City below, shrieking as they came. Previously, that would have made me very nervous. But, despite the noise, the movement, the smell of perspiring humans, I felt nothing but calm. With Him on my back, I began to descend down that hillside. With all those shouting praise at Him, all that crowding around Him, all that fuss made over Him, I felt proud. I was the one carrying Him. Out of all the donkeys in Judea He could have chosen, He chose me! I felt not only elevated but exhilarated beyond brays. Though bridled, I felt unbridled joy. Like a spring morning being on a high mountain plateau covered with fresh clover. Only exponentially more. People were not only stripping off their coats, some were climbing trees and cutting off fronds. I wondered why until I felt coats and fronds cushioning my hooves. The people were paving the road before me. At first, I thought, “How thoughtful! They don’t want me hurting my hooves on all these rocks.” Then, I realize it wasn’t my hooves they were pampering. It was He they were extolling. Esteeming Him so greatly, they put before Him their valuable garments as pavement for a dumb ole donkey to bring Him with honor into their City. My long ears were twitching with the cacophony of loud shouts that filled the air: “Ho-sannnnnnn-na!” Again and again. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of Yahweh!” Then, I felt them on my neck. They weren’t raindrops. It was a sunny, blue-skyed day. They were tears. His hot tears falling on me. He had stopped me. All of the Holy City stretched below. As He scanned and surveyed His City, His Temple too, He lamented, “If you would only realize that today’s your day! Your day to welcome the Messiah who will deliver you. Instead, you will reject Me as you always have. And because you reject me, your enemies will lay siege, tear down your walls, and kill your children. Soon.” The tears began soaking through my mane. Puzzling over the disparity of my Rider’s sadness with the continuing shouts of rejoicing from the people pressing around Him, I felt Him gently nudge me to head on down the path. As we approached the gates, people lined the tops of the City’s walls and connected homes trying to get a glimpse of the cause of the commotion coming downing the road. The people on the wall shouted, “Who is that?” pointing to He-who-rode-on-MY-back. The crowd around us roared, “Jesus!” It's Jesus the King!" Had I known, perhaps, I would have made a U-turn and carried Him right back up the hill. Had I only known. Known that I was not carrying Him into the city to be seated on His throne, as everyone seemed to think, but carrying Him there to be hanged on a cross. But I didn’t. I carried Him there, and He did hang. And died. Yet, I heard later He rose from the dead! I heard that one day He is going to come down that same hill again. Next time He will sit on that throne. Only, next time, I won’t carry Him. Donkeys only carried Kings when they come in peace. My cousin the horse, the war stallion, the white one, will carry Him when He enters the City again. Next time He is coming to wage war and to judge. No, I won’t carry Him next time, but I will always have this: I was the first to carry Him! “White Stallion, you will be the second.” (I still struggle with that pride thing a bit.) [Scriptures: Mat. 21;1-12; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-45; John 12:12-18] --Pastor Clifford Hurst
“how did it feel to slap him?”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 04/03/2022
It was the “slap heard around the world.” But what I’d like to know is, How did he feel after he slapped the man? Did he feel shame? Regret? Remorse? Or, did he feel pride for doing something so bold? Justification for having defended another? Importance because of the adulation of his peers? Manly for doing something militant? Was he ever reprimanded for doing it? Or, was he awarded and promoted? Oh, and I am not talking about Will Smith who slapped comedian Chris Rock last week. I’m talking about the Temple security guard who slapped Jesus two millennia ago. It’s really not nice that a comedian got slapped. And it’s really, really not nice that Christ got slapped. Chris, it’s said, handled the slap nobly. Christ for sure did. Neither retaliated with a returned slap. Chris really did nothing. Christ plied the guard with a question; a question, that, had the guard any conscience or intelligence, must have pierced his soul. As Will ostensibly slapped Chris in defense of his wife--something Chris said about her, the Temple Guard slapped Jesus in defense of the High Priest--something Christ said to him. The guard said as he slapped Jesus, “How dare you to talk like that to the High Priest!” Jesus answered, perhaps with bleeding lips, “If I have said something evil and untrue, show how it’s evil and untrue. But, if I have spoken only the truth, why did you slap me.” Why indeed? But that’s not what I’m musing. I’m wondering how the guard felt having slapped Jesus, having slapped God! Normally, we consider how the one slapped, the one who received the blow felt. However, it was the guard, the perpetrator, who felt the greatest impact of the slap. I imagine he experienced an awful sting on his palm from the contact with Christ’s cheek. The sting he felt was far greater than the Christ felt from the slap. Not that Christ didn’t suffer a powerful, bruising blow. But how could it be otherwise? How could one slap a red-hot steel beam and not feel acute pain? How could a man slap God and not feel it in his hand, up his arm, into his heart? I wonder if the man in days to come stared at his hand and thought, “I slapped Him,” and felt anew the pain in his palm refer and run up his arm into his heart. Slapping someone is something to feel bad about. Bad because of what it does and means to the recipient. The slap brings not just physical pain and bruising. It results in insult. And indignity. This effect is an indictment against any man who would slap his wife or children or any other person. But it is also an indictment of all who have known or heard the Good News of Jesus giving His life in substitution for them, dying for them, and yet rejecting Him. Such refusal, such disdain. Such insult. Jesus died for you and you know it. Yet, you refuse Christ. You refuse to accept what He’s done for you and surrender your life and heart to Him. After the Guard had walked away, you might as well have been in line behind him and taken your turn to walk up to Jesus and with a closed heart but open palm slap Him across the face. How did Will feel? How did the Guard? How do you? How does it feel to reject Christ, to, in essence, slap Him across the face? If you say you feel nothing, you are in truly desperate shape. You are calloused indeed. The only acceptable slap I know of is the one given to bring someone out of a stupor or hysterical fit—if that truly works. At least it used to be acceptable. I am not advocating physical violence or coercion of non-believers, but, if your slapping Jesus does not bother you, you need a slap of your own. One to bring you to your senses. Out of your stupor. Or sinning hysteria. Again, not a literal one, but a slap of true shame, conviction, an epiphanic awakening of conscience. So, Will, Temple Guard, and Every Christ Rejector, “How did it feel to slap Him?” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
car-free sundays
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/27/2022
The Russia-Ukraine war and its consequences on the world’s energy supply plus the resultant sanctions on Russian oil have generated proposals on how to deal with the impending fuel shortage. The International Energy Agency this week presented a ten-point plan to deal with oil usage and mitigate the fuel shortage. One of the ten is “Car-free Sundays.” What’s that? Around the world, no one should drive their vehicles anywhere on Sunday. Not any Sunday. All should keep their cars parked in the garage or on the drive—on Sundays. In short, “Car-free Sundays” are church-free Sundays. At least where there’s no public transport available. Let me tell you how at least one pastor sees that. Whether the IEA is an unwitting accomplice or not, whether Car-free Sundays are enacted and enforced or not, Satan is yet again seeking to push through another way to discourage folks from not going to a house of worship on Sunday. If $5 a gallon, won’t keep them home, cut out driving altogether. If that sounds awfully conspiratorial, it is yet not coincidental. There are just too many things that seemed designed and institutionalized to keep folks from gathering in church to worship. And too many who are willing to avail themselves to do those things. Of course, for not going to church many professed Christians have used the “my-ox-is-stuck-in-the-ditch” excuse so frequently that they gave the Evil One an idea: He would just stick their car in the garage. As a pastor, I think your car would look far better in a parking place on a church lot than on your driveway. I know it would do the driver and passenger far more good. It may mean less fuel in the car’s tank, but more in its owner’s heart. “ I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” (Psa 122:1) -Pastor Clifford Hurst
what’s in putin’s mind? it doesn’t matter!
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/20/2022
With the Bear on the move, the stock market crashing, the virus again spreading, it is easy to believe that things are out of control. It seems like an empty platitude merely to say “God is in control!” Isn’t that kind of like whistling in the dark? Not if it’s true. It is. God is in control! Often during this invasion of Ukraine by Russia, I have heard pundits puzzling over what “is going on in Putin’s malevolent mind.” “What are his plans, his goals, his purposes?” However, the real question is What is going on in God’s mind? In the end, it’s not the movements and purposes of nations and men that will triumph, but the purposes of God. Although the world often looks like out-of-control chaos, everything is happening according to the plan of God. This is not to say that Putin doesn’t have his own purposes. (There are religious underpinnings and designs to Putin’s plans and machinations that are not mentioned in the media—or barely mentioned.) It is not to say the Putin’s evil purposes are in fact God’s. That would make God culpable of evil. It is to say, that whatever Putin’s or any person’s purposes, God has a greater, overarching, controlling one. How can this be? If God is doing what He wants in the world, how can Putin be doing what he wants? If Putin is pursuing his purpose resultant in great evil, the tragic loss of civilian life, awful suffering, and horrible destruction, how can God be pursuing His purpose of good, righteousness, and peace for the world? A recent re-reading of Jeremiah impressed me that God has an overarching plan that encompasses and controls the movements of the nations and the leaders that instigate them: Babylon was the world power at the time. That empire was on the move. It had crushed countries and their leaders. Specifically, Babylon had destroyed Judah, Jerusalem, and God’s Holy Temple. It had led the people of God captive to exilic servitude. Yet, even as Babylon was doing so, God said it itself would be destroyed. Annihilated. Despite what it or any other nation did. Why such certainty? Because God had purposed it. He had plans for Babylon. Plans He would perform. (Jer 51:29). Plans to both use Babylon to judge other nations and then to use other nations to judge Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of Babylon, was on the move, invading nations to expand His empire. Much like Putin. Invading Judah, He thought the battle plans, his; the strategies, his; the invasions, his; the victory over other nations, his. God said, “Nope. I’m only using you as my hammer to crush other nations that I want to judge.” (Jer 51:20). Whatever Putin has in mind, it’s what is in God’s mind that will prevail. As indubitably as God employed Babylon to judge Judah, He would then use the Persian/Medes to judge Babylon. He would “stir them up” to do that very thing. Again, the Persians/Medes would believe that it was their own conceived and invented intentions to conquer Babylon, but it was God’s purposes prevailing. And so forth, until this present day. I’m not saying God is using Russia to judge Ukraine. Not only do I not know specifically what’s in Putin’s mind, I don’t know what’s in God’s mind—although He has revealed His larger plan. It is an eschatological one of a global government led by the Antichrist. There is more movement among the nations happening in our world today than Putin’s invasion of Ukraine or China’s intentions to do the same of Taiwan. The world’s nations are moving to adjust to a new world order without the USA playing the role of a superpower. Somehow, the movements of nations today are a re-arranging of the world for that last government that excludes Christ--whether a particular nation or its leader has this in mind or not. That’s what God says will happen. That’s what He has in mind. God’s purposes are not, ultimately, to bring about the Antichrist’s one-world government. No! They are the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Government of Peace and Righteousness. That is where things are headed. The Antichrist’s one-world government is but a pre-cursory rebellion that God will crush and, then, consequentially, inaugurate Christ’s Kingdom on earth. It may yet be bothering some that, if all that is happening in our world is doing so according to God’s plans and purposes, how is God not culpable for the evil? Does not Putin have a freewill? Does not anyone? These are pertinent and huge questions. I have space to offer only a simple analogy: If an amateur plays a master chess player, the amateur makes free choices of where and how he moves his pieces. But the master chess player controls the board. It doesn’t matter the free choice of each movement the amateur makes; the master player has a plan to control the game. The master’s victory is inevitable and according to his strategic plan. It doesn’t matter what the amateur has in mind, thinks, plans. The master player is in control. In his mind, he sees the whole board and what moves need made however the amateur moves, whatever is the amateur’s mind. Yes, Putin is the amateur here. What is Putin’s plan? His purpose? What’s in Putin’s mind? It doesn’t matter. In the end, it’s only what is in God’s mind that matters. --Pastor Clifford Hurst P.S. If any thinks that I’m saying that it doesn’t matter what Russia is doing to the Ukrainian people my point has been missed. Of course, that matters greatly
dedicated to cardboard straws and sea turtles
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/13/2022
It’s unbelievable how trashy America has become. And I’m not talking about folks’ political talk, potty mouths, or perverted entertainment. I’m talking literally. Trash. Litter-ally. I know it is only anecdotal, but I do not believe I have ever seen so much litter along our roadways. To me, this is telling evidence of how degraded America has become. The ubiquitous trash is not only a sign of degradation, it is also a sign of the blatant hypocrisy of our society. Here's the irony: Our society, with righteous indignation against any who would disagree, decries the polluting of our environment. Global Warming alarmists have indoctrinated two generations of the need to save our planet by, for instance, banning gasoline and plastic straws. I admit they’ve done a bang-up job. They’ve been successful. Their disciples are rabid and radical in their insistence that others do this or don’t do that, use this, or don’t use that. They have transformed children into environmental police who scold their parents and others for infractions. They have successfully coerced and cajoled those who run food industry corporations into using cardboard straws. Every time I have no choice but to use a paper straw, I get annoyed. Some of it is that putting a paper straw in my mouth gives me the same awful irritation as biting and pulling a popsicle stick through my teeth or hearing nails scratching down a chalkboard. But there is a greater irritation. The hypocrisy of it all. To be clear, I believe in stewardship of our planet. That’s the main reason I find litter repugnant. We should take care of this planet. I don’t want to kill a sea turtle or an orca with my plastic straw. But my real beef about the litter on our roadways is the hypocrisy revealed by that litter. See, these “environmentalists” and their indoctrinated devotees are supposed to be all about saving our planet. They have been successful in getting students from kindergarten to college to go green, to protest against the use of plastic straws, to shame those who do not recycle. And, yet, those same students, many now adults, are littering our streets. All that litter can’t be coming from elderly red-necked, radical right-wingers. All that litter can’t be coming from sea turtle killers. There are tons of it. Much of it has to be coming from those (or their disciples) who insist we must give up gasoline-powered vehicles for electric ones to save this world from imminent conflagration. Yet, they throw their trash out of the windows of their electric car just as they did from their gas-guzzling one. I’ve, perhaps, convoluted my point with my rant, but it’s this: I’d like to ask the indoctrinators, “If you really care about saving this planet rather than just indoctrinating and controlling people’s lives, why don’t you teach these kids not to litter. I give you credit. You have gotten them to use brown paper bags at the grocery and brown paper straws in their soft drinks. You are good at this. So, if you really care about going green, why don’t you teach them not to litter.” Someone’s not teaching them. And if they really want to save the planet, why do they litter our highways?” It’s a different subject, but the point and the promulgators are the same; I would like to go on with, “You have taught them your version of tolerance. You have taught them everything is offensive from the names of our founders on monuments to using the name of original residents for a ball team. You’ve taught them you can’t even say “huMAN” because it is a slur against “woMEN.” Why don’t you teach them to have good manners?” “Again, I give you credit. You’ve changed our whole vocabulary, what we can and can’t say. Why can’t you teach not to curse, not to talk vulgar? You teach tolerance. Why can’t you teach folks not to spew hate at anyone with whom they may disagree?” “You say, ‘Everyone should be treated fairly,’ why don’t you teach manners of common courtesy and decency?” Never has there been such a lack of manners. Of course, there are exceptions but order a hamburger. The cashier most often will not even look at you. There is no common greeting. There is no, “Thank you.” On and on I could rant. But just one more thing to ask my strawman with the cardboard straws, “If you can see everything as discrimination of some sort or the other, some kind of phobia, why can you not see the bad manners? Why do bad manners not matter? Why do you have such bad manners when speaking to someone of a different persuasion?” If you’re waiting for a spiritual point and wondering if I have one, it’s this: We Christians must be careful lest we practice the same hypocrisy. Some that are so insistent on what, to them, constitutes a godly lifestyle, can be the cruelest, most gossipy, unfriendly, uncaring folks. Since I’m stuck on littering, let me illustrate with it. Once a minister wanted to go on a drive through the country to talk with me. He reprimanded me for having a different view on an issue ultra-conservatives consider taboo. As he was insisting I could not be conservative, holiness—or whatever he called it, he finished the candy bar he had been munching between barrages, wadded up the wrapper, rolled down the window, and tossed it out on the shoulder of the road. To me, all credence of his protestations of having a view more spiritual than mine went out the window with the wrapper. It happens on the other side of the spectrum (and everywhere in between too). Christians who insist it's all about love, love, love—tolerating any and everything, even embracing lifestyles of perverted sexuality--can become so hatefully caustic against any who insist that some things are sin, unbefitting a believer. Yes, in a sense, it does all come down to litter and manners. These really do reveal the kind of person, heart, and faith that we have. We cannot consistently act inconsistently to what we really are in our core. I want to be right in my core. I want to be consistent in my faith and practice. So, when the worker at the restaurant hands me a paper straw, I will say, “Thank you. Have a nice day.” And, I will not throw that irritating piece of cardboard out the window as I drive off. Maybe a sea turtle will be kind enough to thank me someday. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
what a werewolf has to do with jesus’ promise to never leave us
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/06/2022
For this week’s blog, my obsession with words has won out over any sense of trying to write something that others might find interesting or relevant—though I hope they will. I fear many will take this musing as trivial minutia, needless nuance, but it really isn’t. It can make a world of difference in our understanding of some scriptures. The keyword of the last sentence was WORLD. It is necessary to set this up with a basic fact about translation: Two or more different words in one language are often translated into a single word in another language. Take WORLD for example: When we read in our Bibles, “For God so loved the WORLD...” (John 3:16), the Greek word of the original text that was translated WORLD is kosmos. The same is true in John 1:10, “He was in the WORLD and the WORLD was made by Him, and the WORLD knew Him not.” Each occurrence of WORLD in that verse is a translation of kosmos—speaking both of the material planet and the people on it. However, when Jesus makes that great promise of Matthew 28:20, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the WORLD.”, WORLD is translating a completely different Greek word—aion. WORLD as aion means age, as in epoch, era, a period of time. If one doubts that, note that the Greek aion has found its way into our English. Aeon, or as we Americans spell it, eon. Eon is a long period of time, an age. Jesus’s promise was that He would be with His disciples always, even to the end of the EON, the AGE. This isn't to say that He would be with them unto the world, the planet Earth, was no more--though He will, but that He will be with them until the age in which they lived would end. Having known this, I always wondered why the KJV/Elizabethan English translated the Greek word for age (aion) as WORLD. Recently, during my reading and studying I stumbled over the reason: In old English “wer” was the word for “man” and “-eld” is our “old.” Put them together and you get wereld, or werold. Werold we now spell WORLD. By the way, say WORLD out loud. You most probably pronounced it (wer-eld). Werold meant literally how old a man was or a man’s age. A man’s age is how long he has existed. A man is a human. Thus, werold became the reference to the period of a person, persons, or humanity’s existence. Werald, written later as WORLD, came to refer to an AGE. As an asterisk but explanation of my title, if you struggle to believe that “wer” was once the word for "man," we still have words that preserve this meaning. Take werewolf. Werewolf is a compound noun that means "MAN—wolf." Well, back from mythical creatures to Jesus’ very real promise—“ I am with you alway, even unto the end of the WORLD,” uhm, “unto the end of the AGE. The disciples were on the brink of an awful period of time that would culminate with the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of their people. In a broader meaning, they and the soon-to-be-many converts to Christ were on the brink of an age of persecution of believers. Yet, there’s an even broader meaning of “age” in Jesus’ promise. He often spoke of the Kingdom as existing in two ages. The present age and the age to come. God, earlier, and the NT believers, later, called the present age the Last Days. In its widest meaning, the age in which Jesus will be with His people is the Last Days, the period of perilous times, times of deception, times of wars, times of calamities, catastrophes, times of cosmic disturbances. By this promise, Jesus said He would be with His disciples whenever they lived, wherever they lived, whatever they faced until the completion of this age—the age of the Last Days. Yes, He will be with us to the end of this age, this world. Now, this is not the same as saying, “I will be with you to the bitter end.” Because, as Jesus clearly taught, the tumultuous age of the Last Days ends with His Return which will inaugurate the New Age, which will be eternal. He will always, eternally, be with us in that age as well. He will be with us to the end of this world, and we will be with Him in the next world. That world (age) never ends. That’s why the NT uses the aion twice in an expression to mean “forever.” Into the aionas aion. Into the eons of eons. Into the ages of ages. When you read those “for ever and ever, evermores,” in NT Scripture, those words referencing eternity, you are reading “into the ages of ages,” or as it’s put in Eph 3:21, “…world without end.” Jesus will be with us unto the end of this WORLD, until we get to the “world without end,” to the end of this age to the ages of ages. Whatever season of life you are in, whatever period of darkness, difficulty, despair, whatever kinds of time you’re living in—whatever the world you’re living in is like at this moment, Jesus has promised He will be with you until you’ve reached the end of it. He will be with you until this age ends and the age of ages begins. Until this world is over and the world without end begins. He’s with you in whatever time you’re in for its duration.
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/27/2022
Do you say “Toh-mah-toe” or “Toh-may-toe”? Ever wonder why we say things so differently with different meanings across different generations, geography, and sub-cultures? Have you ever wondered, as a child quoting a nursery rhyme why some of the words didn’t rhyme? Take Mother Goose’s Jack and Jill: Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. “Water” and “after” in the stanza are supposed to rhyme. They don’t. But, originally, they did. Now, at least in most of the U.S., they don’t. Not at all. Then there are words like “word.” Here’s an example church folk will get. At least older ones: One of my favorite hymns as a child was “I Remember When My Burdens Rolled Away.” One line always bothered me: “When I sought the blessed Lord, And I took Him at His word…” “Lord” and “word” are supposed to rhyme. They didn’t. They don’t. When I was older, I tried to explain this lack of rhyming with that thing in poetry called half-rhyme. Recently, through reading a book a friend gave me, I discovered the real reason “water” and “after” and “Lord” and “word” don’t’ rhyme. And why you may say, “Toh-mah-toe.” Knowing the reason also made me feel less like a country bumpkin. I moved from the Southwest to the farthest Midwestern state. I’m phonetically challenged anyway, but folks had fun with how I pronounced words. Words like donkey. I didn’t pronounce it “dahn-key” but somewhere between “doin-key,” and “dohn-key.” Even my children guffawed when I would say, “Quit Peeenching (long e as in “peach) each other,” instead of “pinching” (short i, like in ick.). As a child, I used to think it humorous that my cousins in the far Northwest said, “whuht?” instead of whaht? Now I understand why. I know you’re dying to know the reason. It can be put in one word. Drift. When we hear “drift,” we normally think of an unanchored boat carried off by the tide or snow blowing across the road. But drift explains what is happening in the examples above. Words drift in meaning and pronunciation. One reason words drift is that vowels drift. We make vowel sounds at the top of our mouths. Some we make at the very front, just behind the teeth. Others we make further and further back towards the throat. I’m oversimplifying this, but let’s just take one word, bat. Some say, baat and some baht. Originally, it was pronounced like something closer to beat. But, the vowel in bat drifted over time. It drifted from beat to bit to bait to bet to bat. If you would say this sequence, you would find that the vowel sound is moving at the roof of your mouth from the front at the first instance to the back at the last. This explains so many things. Like why food, good, and flood, all have different pronunciations of “oo.” The same vowels drifted in different directions at different speeds. But, drift they did. Well, that was fun, but I’m really alarmed with a drift of another kind. As folks recognized how I said, “pinch” differently because of vowel drift, there is just as noticeable drift going on in Christianity. It is evident in individuals, families, churches, and movements. I may be wrong, but it seems that the recent COVID crisis has accelerated the drift. A drift from a personal relationship with God. A drift from church attendance and involvement. A drift from orthodox, Bible-grounded doctrine. A drift from essential tenets and practices of faith. A drift from reverent, God-focused worship. The way I say or used to say, “pinch” may be funny. But the drift that’s happening within American Christianity is not funny. Many Christians are sounding more like post-modernist relativists than Biblical Christians. Many churches have become entertainment venues, even inviting secular bands to perform in their services. Others seem to think that the Gospel is all about giving folks a good dose of self-esteem and helping them cause all their dreams to come true. Cardinal truths like Jesus’ being God and substitutionary atonement and Bible infallibility and authority are becoming a distant shore in the drifting tack of so many. The message of the Blood has become to many, antiquated, crude, and primitive. Slowly. Incrementally. Almost imperceptibly. Individuals are drifting. Families are drifting. Churches are drifting. Movements are drifting. With the currents of our times. With the social movements and fads of our age. With the political correctness. With the craze for entertainment. With the do-it-yourself, make-up-your own religion trend. With thinking they can be spiritual without cardinal beliefs or personal commitment to a community of believers. Not even bothering to look to the shore from which they’ve drifted, many are unaware they have or how far they have. Individuals have drifted miles from any passionate serving and worshiping Christ. Their attendance at worship is sporadic, hit and miss—if extant at all, dependent on their capricious inclinations. Whole congregations have drifted from truth and practice until they have drifted from even gathering at all. Their former church’s windows are boarded over and their doors locked. Just as the vowels in words drift both ways, so do people and churches and movements. Some drift from the Word of God, the genuine experience of grace, to libertinism. Some drift from the Word in the opposite direction into legalism, traditionalism. Either way, the drift is going to be disastrous. Folks are drifting with the seemingly pleasant, undiscerned currents of our times or with their myopic, provincial, legalism with no regard for the rapids and cataracts ahead. Drift is disastrous. For individual. For family. For church. For movement. In the end, it will not matter if I say peeench instead of pinch (the way I said it is actually closest to the original pronunciation). But it will matter if I quit believing, for instance, there is salvation in no other name but Jesus and start believing that each can discover his own path. Drift matters in my relationship with God. It’s not the drift in my mouth but the drift in my heart and mind and beliefs that matter most. Don’t drift from God no matter if you say peeeench or pinch, toh-mah-toe or toh-may-toe. --Pastor Clifford Hurst I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave, I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave; I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save, I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages. --Lewis E. Jones
the why? will turn to when?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/20/2022
Increasingly, I am convinced that nothing--no philosophy, no religion, no pursuit, no lifestyle, no possession--can give any hope in life and death but the message of true Christianity. In a sentence, I believe this because nothing else can give historical, objective reason to believe that there is something beyond this life. For all the protestations of those who have jettisoned God insisting they have found meaning in life without Him, the stark reality is that, if there is no God (the Biblical One) there is no life after death. And, if there is no life after death, there is no real life before it. There is no life in life. Often, I have voiced disdain and aversion to modern platitudes like, "Live for the moment." "It's about the journey, not the destination." "It is what it is." I get the kernel of truth in each of these: “Live for the moment.” If we try to live life with only a nostalgia gaze to the past or a wishful one to the future, we will live a miserable present. “It's about the journey, not the destination.” I get it. Analogously, if on a road trip all you focus on is arriving at your destination, you will miss so much and enjoy nothing of the trip. “It is what it is.” There are circumstances that we find ourselves in over which we seemingly have no control, that there is nothing we can do to change. We must simply accept and face them. But, with God and eternal life, God and heaven, these axioms do not describe all of life, but only a facet of it. There is something more than this moment. Beyond this moment. Beyond all our allotted moments. There is a destination to my journey, one past death and decay, time and age. Eternal life turns that journey cliché on its head. If there is something beyond life's journey, it's really not what the journey is like that matters. It's where the journey ends. It IS about getting there; or, at least, about where it is you arrive. And, it isn't what it is. It may be what it is right now. But it won't always be what it is. There is something after this life that, for the believer in Christ, will rectify, recompense, restore, the bad of life. In the past two years, I have faced both personally and pastorally the deaths of those close to me. I have encountered physical pain and sickness at levels I've never known. I have reached a milestone of age that demands contemplation of how few moments there are left, how little of the journey lies ahead, how soon it isn't going to be what it is. Intent aside, I am not remarkably altruistic. Yet, during folk's loss of loved ones in these last two years, particularly from COVID and cancer, I have felt so badly for them and their dealing with, in many cases, the cruel, untimely, loss of ones they loved best. They, good believers all, haven't asked it out loud. They have in most instances suppressed it. But there must be that persistent, dark question as constant white noise in the background of their minds, WHY? They may never articulate the WHY?, but I see that question behind the expressions of grief. I feel it in their ache of loss. WHY? Those with faith are not supposed to ask it. Or admit asking it. I mean, if we were going by Karma, these folks should not have died. They were among the best, let me say it, the goodest. Great people. Great faith. Why did they die? If this life is all there is, if there is no God, and, consequently, no eternal life, no heaven, then this question wins. WHY? will not let us live the moment. WHY? will not let us enjoy the journey. And WHY? is what it is and all there is; All we have is just a WHY?. But, wait! There is a God. There is eternal life. There is a heaven. I'm not saying these things answer the question WHY?. But, I am saying that when WHY? crashes your moment, you can know there is heaven after all your moments. When WHY? is a pothole on the road, a bridge out, a detour, a tree-down over the path of your journey, you can know that heaven is at the end of it. When the it it-is is only an ugly, harsh, cruel, black, and dark demanding WHY?, you can know it-is isn't always going to be what it is. One day, the “it” is going to be heaven. These musings have led me to a conclusion: Thinking of our loved ones who have passed on, with our faith solidly in God, however strong the grief, however loud the question, we can know this: There will come that moment when the Why? will turn to When? I will make it to heaven. I will see them again. The only question is When? Knowing there's a When, I can live the moment, face whatever it-is is, enjoy the journey however rough. I know there is going to be a When. When I get there. When I see them again. Yes, as believers, there is a moment in our grief, in our loss, when the WHY? will turn to “When?” The only question is When? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
be silly
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/13/2022
The urging of the title above is the opposite of the reprimand we have often heard, particularly, when we were children: “Don’t be silly!” Or, as often put, “Stop being silly!” That meant to stop being foolish. Stop being frivolous. Stop trying to be funny. Stop being ludicrous. Stop being absurd. Stop being incredulous. Stop acting like you don’t have any sense. Stop acting immaturely. All true. Silly is something we don’t want to be. Or maybe we do. Maybe we want to be silly. Silly hasn’t always meant what it does today. Silly wasn’t always a bad thing to be. It was once a good thing to be. And that’s how it became a bad thing to be—by being a good thing. Huh? How words change meaning has intrigued me, particularly since learning Biblical Greek and beginning serious Bible study, while at the same time being exposed to various local vernacular during ministry in different parts of our nation. Words evolved. Words travel. Silly has had an incredible journey to get where it is today. Silly put in its appearance in our language as Blessed. That’s right, Blessed, as in happy for one’s good fortune, having the pleasure of God’s favor. If one was silly, he was blessed, as in, “Gilbert had a bumper crop this harvest. He is so silly.” Silly as Blessed traveled through time until it became in the eyes of all who saw it, or rather spoke it, as meaning pitiful, feeble, weak, helpless. If one was silly, he was in awful shape as in “John (Gilbert’s great-great-great-grandson) has had a terrible harvest for the last three years. He is going bankrupt. He will lose the farm. He is so silly.” As Pitiful, Silly traipsed on through time until he arrived at our recent ancestors’ and our era. Somewhere along the way, Silly changed again. When he arrived, we met Silly as the twins Foolish and Frivolous. If one is silly, he is a thinks-he’s-funny, ignorant, bumbling, imbecile. If one is silly, he is foolish, as in, “Ed (John’s great-great-grandson) thinks he is going to save his farm in Minnesota by growing pineapples and oranges. He is so silly.” That’s how Silly changed in meaning from Blessed to Frivolous/Foolish as it made its journey through language over the centuries. But that doesn’t tell us how it changed. Knowing how Silly changed can be a real silliness. Or should I say a real blessing? So let me try to explain so you won’t think me silly. Or, maybe I want you to think me silly. It goes like this. Silly started out as Blessed. If one is blessed, he has received fortune and favor that has made him happy. To be silly was to be blessed. But who needs to be blessed more than the weak, the feeble, those living in unhappy squalor and lack, those in the most unfavorable of circumstances? None need blessed like those in this shape. Thus, Silly, Blessed, changed from meaning the good fortune that someone received to the condition he was in that caused him to need the good fortune. Silly, Blessed, became the word for those who needed blessed--the feeble, weak, etc. Silly had become Pitiful. However, since there is no worse feebleness than foolishness and no worse foolishness than being frivolous about one’s plight, Pitiful became Foolish. None is as silly as one in awful shape but is too foolish to see his awful condition but instead frivolously makes light of it. Silly indeed. Silly has become the twins Foolish and Frivolous. The context I’ve forgotten. But in a classic novel, an older man is talking to a young woman and says, “One of us has been very silly, and I have to say, ‘It’s not me.’” Well, I have to say, “It is me!” I have been silly. I’ve made some foolish mistakes and choices. I have been silly. I’ve been in awful shape. Messed up. Weak. Feeble. But Silly has traveled the opposite way. Silly was the brokenness, the feebleness, the weakness of my life but God saw it. He responded to it. He gave grace, strength, goodness, and mercy. My silly was the occasion for His blessing. Silly had again become Blessing. Think I’m all off about this? What of these testimonies from Scripture? “When I’m weak, then I am strong in the Lord.” “God had regard to my low estate and responded with favor.” “I had fear, and God gave me perfect love.” “I had sin abounding, and grace super abounded.” “I wore rags, God gave me a robe of righteousness.” This is no appeal for being silly. But the next time you hear, “Don’t be silly,” you might think, “But I want to be silly,” and, when you’re told—as someone may be telling me as he reads this--“Stop being silly,” you might respond, “I hope I never stop being silly.” Friend, be silly. Be blessed. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
spiraling upward
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/06/2022
Remember spiral notebooks? I don’t think I’ve used one in years. You? They used to be a huge part of my life during eighteen years of school and decades of study, meetings, and such. Well, I guess I can’t count the earliest elementary Big Chief years. I’m not sure what grade transition brought the spiral notebooks. All I know is that years ago, staring at the coiled spring binding my spiral notebook, I had an epiphany about history, life, and Bible prophecy. There is an axiom, “History repeats itself.” The validity of that statement was codified by Solomon three thousand years earlier. In his Ecclesiastes, he famously notes that “there is no new under thing the sun.” (Ecc 1:9). He declares this after having illustrated it with the endless cycle of one generation being replaced with a subsequent one, the sun’s daily rising and setting, the wind’s continual alternating blowing from one direction and then the opposite, and a water droplet’s cyclic journey from river to sea to sky to river and back to sea. Life is an endless cycle. Thus, history is an endless cycle. I agree, though my corroboration is not needed nor required to verify the popular adage and the Bible sage. History repeats itself. Life repeats itself. Each year, with each marker of seasons and annual events I find myself remarking, “Here we go again! We’ve just done this, celebrated this, seen this.” That history repeats itself has been in my thoughts a lot lately with the constant news of the recent massing of huge numbers of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border signaling Putin’s desired intention to invade. This impending threat is being met with our and other nations’ seeking to prevent him from doing so with placating diplomacy that is careful to avoid any mention of the use of force. When I first heard this news, as a reader of history, I immediately thought of the pre-WWII days when Germany began to mass its troops to invade Poland and the allied nations began to try to appease Hitler with placating diplomacy. I found myself saying, “Here we go again. History repeats itself.” It does. So does life. This is where the spiral notebook comes in. You may have done this. I did. If you were to begin at one end of the coil and begin to trace its first loop, your finger, obviously, would go in circles. If you kept tracing, your finger would go around and around and around. You would be repeating the same action—a circular one. Your finger, again and again, would trace the same path through space. It would keep ending in the same place it began. Wait. No, it wouldn’t. Though going in circles, your finger would NOT be ending in the same place. Yes, history repeats itself—but not like tracing the circumference of a ring, but like tracing a loop on the coil of a spiral notebook. If you trace the circumference of a ring, your finger truly does keep making cycles and ending up at the same place however many times you trace it. But, if you trace the loops of the coil of a spiral notebook, although you make circle after circle, cycle after cycle, your finger moves linearly through space. If you start at one end, after making each cycle, you end up 10 1/2” from where you started. With all the circular movement, your finger has moved linearly. You didn’t end up where you began. Such is true with history. For all history’s repeating itself, going in cycles, it is--from Judeo-Christian worldview--headed somewhere. For all of my life’s endless cycles, it is going somewhere. For all of God’s people’s constant, reoccurring trials, battles, we are headed somewhere. But this begs a question. If history, despite its repeating itself, is moving in a linear direction, who, what, is moving it? Who makes the repetitions like loops in the coil of the spiral? Or, whose finger is tracing the loops? Some say it is just the Darwinian force that moves history. Others, just time and chance. Others say it's greed, money. Others, the struggle between classes. Others, the evolution of thought, philosophy. Others, religion. Etc. We Christians believe it is God. God moves history. God is moving history to a determined end. God is in control. God is behind the scenes at work. He even breaks out from behind the scenes to intervene and involve Himself in history. As He did in the person of Jesus. As He does in miracles. God moves history, yet allows humans their free will which they often use in direct opposition to God. Yet, even their diametric choices God, in the larger scheme of things, moves towards the end He has purposed. God does not cause the evil, horrible things that result from human choice and action—like the holocaust. But God moves them in a direction of His perfect plan with a perfect ending. This reveals a conundrum: If God is in control of history, if God is moving history, why does it seem to be moving from bad to worse? Why does human existence seem rushing to cataclysmic destruction? Well, it is—and it isn’t. By any measure, by any honest observation, our world seems headed towards dreadful demolition by its own volition. There’s little cause to deny that. But despite that reality, it’s also true that God is moving this world towards a Kingdom of Peace, Righteousness, and Glory. He is moving this earth to a new one. He is moving man’s dystopic world to His utopian one. The same is true for each believer’s life. Whatever bad, hurtful, disappointing things occur in his cycles of life, God is moving that believer to a perfect outcome. Yes, despite its repeating itself, history--human history, my history, your history--is moving somewhere. Where to? Which direction? That depends on the status of one’s faith in God. One’s relationship with God determines which way along the coil one is moving. One’s faith in God determines one’s point of view. History is forever repeating itself. It is moving along the loops of the coil of the spiral notebook of reality. By all appearances, it appears that all is spiraling downward. Out of control. We know it’s not. It is spiraling upward. In God’s control. To a glorious future for those whose faith is in Him. --Pastor Clifford Hurst