Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hospital Gardening

Whatever we believe in our hearts is broadcast every day to those around us by the way we talk and live, no matter what those beliefs might be. People can see the fruit of our beliefs in the way we live. Either they are attracted to the way we live, or they are repelled by the message our lives present to them.

Our lives will be judged by those who are watching us, no matter how much you may protest or beg them not to “judge” you. Your personal beliefs not only reflect on you, but to a certain degree, on all who hold those same convictions.

I have spent the last four days in a hospital in St. Louis. That is one way of describing the past week. Or, I could describe the time in the hospital as an opportunity to sow the seed of the gospel. “Hospital Gardening,” if you will.

Paul had an interruption in his preaching schedule when he was imprisoned by the Romans. He wrote a beautiful letter from prison to the good brethren at Philippi which was a great encouragement to the brethren who were concerned about Paul’s state.

His letter was encouraging because it supplied the Philippians with a refreshing perspective on what was happening. Rather than worry about how Paul was being kept from traveling and preaching the gospel, he helped them to see that even in bonds, he was still able to sow precious seed for Christ!

For one thing, brethren were being prodded by his imprisonment to do more preaching on their own. True, some did it for the wrong motives, but still Paul rejoiced knowing that at least the gospel was being preached!

He also told his brethren that those he was spending time with were hearing the gospel! What an amazing thing that happened to Paul! He was given the privilege to speak to Caesar, as well as his household, which probably added up to a large number of souls. Paul understood how God was going to use his situation to sow the seed of the gospel, even in a place most would think was “unreachable” since it was a group comprised of political leaders who often were corrupt people. How encouraging to see that Paul was given an opportunity to witness to the most powerful man on earth at the time, along with a lot of Romans along the way!

I’m no Paul, but his life has really encouraged me to look at life the way he did. During my time in the hospital I have shared a room with a friendly man recovering from a surgery similar to the one I had back in 2008 to remove the cancerous tumor from my colon. His situation brought back memories of my time of recovery over six years ago. I could relate to the problems he was going through for they were very much like mine.

I am in here to figure out how to manage the pain that comes from the cancer in my body, and it looks like they are close to a resolution to the problem which will give me more time to labor in the Lord’ Garden, if it is His Will. Because I hurt, I was not a very chatty person, and of course, he was going through his own recovery. As a result, we didn’t talk too much, though I did get to have some influence with the doctors and nurses during this time. I hope that I represented Christ to them faithfully so that they are left with a good impression of the Gospel and the Church of our Lord.

Today something very encouraging happened as my roommate’s time drew closer to an end. LuAnn and I found out that he also lived in the same town we do! Of all the people in this large metropolitan area of St. Louis and in a hospital with a very low census due to the July 4th holiday, how did this man and I end up in the same room?

I had learned his name this week, along with other things about his life. We had talked some yesterday, including an enlightening conversation on the problems that he said his church was having. He apologized and felt embarrassed for the shortcomings of his group as he indicated to me that he didn’t attend there a lot. The conversation went well until we had to cut it short due to other hospital demands.

But today he brought up the subject of religion again as he was waiting for his ride home, asking me what religion I was. I told him about my faith and what church I was a member of. He was very interested in learning more about our congregation and said he might come and visit. I told him I was on the program to speak this Sunday and that we would love to have him. He wasn’t quite sure he was ready for a visit that soon, but the seed has been sown, for which I am very thankful. I pray that he will take his soul more seriously and that I might get to see him fully follow the Lord!

Thank you for praying for my family and me. It is a pleasure to stand still and watch His salvation and how well He takes care of us during the trials of this life. He has ONLY been good to me throughout this trial, and my whole life. Today I hope we will all ask ourselves how our spiritual gardening has been going and what kind of crop we expect to have when this life is all over. I hope that you, my friends, will have a harvest that will make you beam with joy and eternal happiness, not a crop that brings only shame, shame, and more shame. Sow the seed with patience and with tears; JOY will come in the morning! The harvest will make you forget all about those hard parts of farming and give you eternal pleasure at the Right Hand of God!

 Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL  62012-0148

Jesus Christ, the Son of God

“I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So said the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:37). So say I. And so say most/all of you who regularly read this paper. Perhaps, then, it seems strange to devote this month’s front page article to the content of that confession. But the words of Peter and Paul come to mind. Peter wrote two epistles, he said, to “stir up…pure minds by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1). Paul affirmed, “For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe” (Philippians 3:1). Revisiting old ground is in the apostolic tradition.   It’s safe and sound.

Revisiting old ground also reminds us of what is important. And what could be more important than Jesus’ true identity? On that, our faith and future depends.

Some have asserted over the years that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, that it was others who claimed this for him. But Jesus tells us differently. On one occasion, while in the region of Caesarea Philippi, after being informed what the crowds were saying about him, he asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ response? “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-16). A ringing endorsement. On another occasion, when Jesus was speaking to a Jewish gathering in Jerusalem, he referred to God as “My Father.” At this, the unbelieving hearers prepared to stone him for what they supposed to be his sin of blasphemy (speaking words that denigrate or defame God). Jesus responded to them by asking, “[D]o you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:36). He had said it; they just didn’t believe it. Yet again, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus stood before the high priest and was asked directly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” His answer was unequivocal: “I am” (Mark 14:61-62).

So Jesus did say that he was the Son of God. But what did he mean by it? To understand that, we must understand the beliefs of the first-century Jews, beliefs based on their reading of the Old Testament. There, they found this prophecy: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [literally God with us]” (Isaiah 7:14). They also found this one: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). These prophecies shaped what the Jews understood “Son of God” to mean. For centuries they had believed a “Son” would one day appear, a man who had been miraculously born of a virgin (hence, the son of a woman, but not of a man—God would be his father), and who would also be God in human form (“God with us,” “Mighty God”)! Any Jew who claimed to be “the Son of God” would have been claiming to be the fulfillment of these prophecies.

This is, indeed, what Jesus was claiming, and the Jews did not miss his meaning. As they were preparing to stone him in the aforementioned instance for his supposed blasphemy, they said to him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33). And when Jesus earlier called God “My Father,” we read: “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). One must be a human to be equal with a human, and one must be God to be equal with God. Jesus was, in terms clear to his hearers, claiming to be Divine (“God” in the sense that he is part of “the Trinity”—three in one). Amazing, but true. And this claim was emphasized by other actions of his.

Jesus said and did several things during his ministry that make sense only in the context of him being God. For example, he referred to himself as “I AM,” a designation of eternal, self-sufficient existence that God used of himself when speaking to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). Jesus also allowed people to worship him. Eight times, the gospel accounts record him accepting worship (Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). This is very significant, since both he and those worshipping him believed that worship is only for God; the Scripture taught and he himself had said, “You shall worship the LORD your God and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). Furthermore, Jesus forgave people of their sins—sins they had committed against God. Only the offended can forgive the offender. Those who overheard him doing this understood the significance of his actions; they said to one another: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). Finally, Jesus said that he pre-dated the world, a claim that only God (who made the world) can make: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Jesus’ words and works cried out who he was—the prophesied “Son of God,” “God…manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). This is what we believe. This is what we confess. This is what we must not forget.

John P. Morris
~ 420NW 1251st Rd., Holden, MO  64040