This week our nation is celebrating its independence. For 244 years now we have been a free nation. We are blessed in many ways as citizens of the United States of America. Far too often these blessings are taken for granted. When we were attacked on September 11, 2001 a new wave of patriotism was renewed in many of us. In today’s world that patriotism has diminished somewhat.

 

Patriotism is defined as “love for a country and a willingness to sacrifice for it.” Other words related to the idea of patriotism are loyalty, devotion, self-sacrifice and brotherhood. Because of their love for our country and the people who populate it, men and women are willing to risk their lives to protect and defend our liberties and freedoms.

 

As Christians we have the privilege of taking the idea of patriotism to an even higher and greater level, to the spiritual level. One of the analogies that the Bible uses to describe the people of God is a kingdom or a nation. In fact, the kingdom was a central image Jesus used to relate his gospel to us when he began his ministry by declaring, “The kingdom of God is near; repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus spoke many kingdom parables. The very heart of the words Messiah and Christ, is that Jesus is the king of the spiritual nation. Peter wrote this about Christians, “You are a chosen people… a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Whenever and wherever people surrender to the will of God, there will be a kingdom of God and the church of God.

 

But note, many of us have deep feelings of patriotism towards America. We love the USA, and we give our time, energy and money to participate in patriotic events and organizations. All of this is good. It has its place. But how much better it is to love the Lord's kingdom and to sacrifice your time, energy and money for it.

 

Do you feel as patriotic towards the church as you do to America? Do you have feelings of pride, loyalty and devotion to the church? Are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord's kingdom with your time, energy and resources? If so, show it! Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Don't limit your Christian activities to within the walls of the church building. Let everybody know that you're a citizen of the kingdom of God!

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I’ve said this before, but I want to repeat it now because of what we have had to endure over the past several weeks and how I have had a lot of time to really reflect on life — its trials and tribulations and its joys. The application in present times seems appropriate.

I listen to music frequently; sometimes just for pleasure, but more often, for relaxation, motivation, or inspiration. There are four songs that I especially enjoy because they say so much about life and my need for total reliance upon the LORD.

Josh Turner (the “other” Josh, with just as powerful, but much deeper, voice) sings two of my favorites. One, “Long Black Train” contains these words: “There’s a long black train coming down the line, feeding off the souls that are lost and crying, rails of sin only evil remains, watch out brother for that long black train. Look to the heavens you can look to the sky…find redemption staring back into your eyes. There is protection and there’s peace the same…Cause there’s victory in the Lord…Cling to the Father and His holy name, and don’t go riding on that long black train.” The other song is “Me and God” (okay, teachers and writers, remember song writer’s lyrical license): “There ain’t nothing that can’t be done by me and God. Ain’t nobody comin’ between me and God, one day we’ll live together where the angels trod…early in the morning…late at night talking it over, Me and God…I am weak and He is strong…He forgives me when I’m wrong…He’s the One I lean on when life gets hard…He’s my Father, He’s my friend…we’re a team, Me and God…”

Josh Groban (the artist more familiar to most of us) sings “You Raise Me Up,” which has only a few lyrics but says volumes about what God can do with, and through, us: “When I am down and, oh, my soul so weary, when troubles come and my heart burdened be, then I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit a while with me. You raise me up so I can stand on mountains…to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be.”

             “The Prayer” sung by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion contains these inspiring and comforting lyrics: “I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go, and help us to be wise when we don’t know, let this be our prayer, when we lose our way, ‘Lead us to a place, guide us with Your grace, to a place where we’ll be safe…when shadows fill our day…watch us from above, lead us to a place, guide us with Your grace, give us faith so we’ll be safe.’”

In reflection, some scriptures that come to my mind are: (1st Peter 5:8) “…be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (James 4:7) “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:8) “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”.     (1st Corin.15:57) “…God, Who gives us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ.”  I also think of: Mark 10:27, "…With people it is impossible, but…with God…all things are possible…”; 1st Thes. 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”; 1st John 1:7&9 “but…we have…the blood of Jesus…If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”; 2nd Sam. 22:33 “God is my strong fortress. And He sets the blameless in His (my) way”; Heb. 11:1&6 “Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen…And without faith it is impossible to please Him…a rewarder of those who (diligently-NKJV) seek Him.”  Finally, in one of my favorite passages, John 14:1-3, Jesus says: “Do not let your heart be troubled…in My Father’s house are many dwelling places (mansions-NKJV)…I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.”

May our actions and words always be reflective of the great love we have for our God and each other (1st John 4:7-12) and may those who see or hear us see Christ living in, and through us (Gal. 2:20). I pray that the Good Shepherd and our God will continue to bless us all as we strive —

daily — to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable to Him!

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            In the history of mankind, God’s people were “challenged” to make a freewill contribution or offering as their heart was “moved” to do so.  In Exodus 25:1-2 we read the LORD’s words to Moses: “…tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.” The purpose of the contribution, or heave offering, was to construct a sanctuary for God (vs. 8-9).  In Exodus 35 and 36, it’s revealed that the Israelites responded tremendously to this effort as “…everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the LORD’s contribution for the…tent of meeting and for all its service…all whose hearts moved them both men and women…” (Ex. 35:21-22) from their possessions, whether materials or skills.  Furthermore, we read in Ex. 36:3-5 the people “…continued bringing…freewill offerings every morning…” to the point that the builders informed Moses “…the people are bringing much more than enough…”.  Moses issued a command to the Israelites to STOP bringing any more as the material they had was “…sufficient and more than enough for all the work…” (Ex. 35:6-7)

            After the LORD’s Church was established, there was a means by which these early Christians also shared with others from their material blessings.  “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them…all who were owners of land or houses would sell…and bring the proceeds…and lay them at the apostles feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)  History tells us that these “new” Christians in Jerusalem were among the poorest and most impoverished of the residents and through these freewill offerings, the physical needs of the brethren were met.

            Recently, the LORD’s Church in Ripon was presented with a “challenge” to share with others the material blessings that God has provided for us.  As the Israelites did and as the early Christians did (also Paul’s statement in Phil. 4:14-19), you responded to the opportunity admirably!  Through the generous spirit and hearts of God’s people here, 844 lbs. of food and goods (that’s two fully stacked pallets!) was donated to two community secular organizations for distribution to those in need, especially during these difficult times of today.  Additionally, cash donations of around $900 will be sent to these organizations by the Church.  Altogether, this amounts to about $2500 value to enhance the efforts of community charities in trying to meet the needs of those who have less than we!  Of a very special note is that our efforts brought people from the community who happened by and after inquiring about what we were doing, also contributed.  What a great message to the community was sent, whether it was to a few or many! 

             Jesus’ teaching on providing for the needy is clear in Matt. 5:7 and in Matt. 25:34-40. The apostle Paul stated that “…the LORD Jesus…Himself…said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)  Our freewill and generous contribution is precisely what God expects from His people. (1st Corin. 16:2 & 2nd Corin. 9:5-8)  And, yes, this effort — this good work — did “Let (our) light shine…” to the community! (Matt. 5:16)  To God be the glory, forever!  Amen! 

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Most, if not all, of us are well aware that Memorial Day is a day set aside annually to remember all of those who are no longer with us. While much of the attention and the “festivities” (parades, etc.) are focused upon those who have sacrificed themselves for our country, the occasion is also a time to remember those who have made an impact on our lives in other ways. It remains to be seen what impact the lack of the usual gatherings and festivities this year, will have on the “celebration” of this very special day in our Nation. While it is easy to get caught up in all of the “pomp and circumstance” that is part of most Memorial Day observances, the solemnity of the occasion should never be degraded or forgotten. For the most part, on this special day in May, we Americans pay homage to those who have meant so much to us in our personal lives and/or as citizens of the United States. And rightfully so! However, the real essence and profoundness of this day is that the people that we honor, and the occasion for which we honor them, have a unique meaning to us that no person outside of our family or citizenry can truly appreciate!

Those who are members of the church that belongs to Christ, and are citizens of God’s Kingdom, participate in a “memorial day.” Not a day that comes only once a year, as in the Israelites lives with their Passover commemoration, but one which comes every week! Fifty-two times a year, we have a day when we commemorate the One Who has done more for us –- really, the entire world –- than any other being! Each, and every, Sunday we participate in a memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. “…Do this in remembrance of me…for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corin. 11:24-26) “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” Jesus continued in the following verse. Those of us who are friends of Jesus –- citizens of His Kingdom –- participate in this memorial every LORD’s Day as His Church has done since the first century. (Acts 2:42 & 20:7) Interestingly, some groups who consider themselves to be children of God do this only monthly, or quarterly, or even, less often, and question why we in the churches of Christ do it every week. The more obvious question would be why these groups do not want to honor the Savior more often. The real question is: why would any Christian not want to partake every Sunday of the greatest memorial feast ever instituted?

The LORD’s Supper, as we refer to it, is the commemoration to the greatest sacrifice ever made on behalf of any people! As a congregation of the LORD’s Church we partake weekly of His commemorative bread and cup to show our appreciation for, and to proclaim, His sacrifice for us. Because we truly appreciate God’s love for us, the Ripon church family commemorates Jesus’ great sacrifice and memorializes our Savior every week — solemnly, willingly, and happily! We participate in the ultimate “Memorial Day” every Sunday!    

We pray for God’s continued blessings upon us as we continue to strive to do His will!

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            It was God Who created MOTHERHOOD and His scriptures are filled with instructions and insight into regarding the role of MOTHERS and examples of proper MOTHERHOOD:  Gen. 3:20: Now the man called his wifes name Eve, because she was the MOTHER of all the living.                                                                                                                                            

Deut. 5:16: Honor your father and your MOTHER, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.                                                                                                            

Prov. 31:10ff: A virtuous (excellent) WIFEher worth is far above jewelsThe heart of her husband trusts in her…She does him good and not evil all the days of her life..She…works with her hands in delight…She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her householdher lamp does not go out at nightShe extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy…strength and dignity are her clothing…She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. HER CHILDREN rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her…a woman who fears (reverences) the LORD, she shall be praisedlet her own works praise her in the gates.

  2nd Tim. 1:5: For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your GRAND-MOTHER Lois and your MOTHER, Eunice, and I am sure that is in you as well.        

Eph. 6:1&2: Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD, for this is right. Honor your father and MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise).                                                        

The LORD teaches clearly that godly MOTHERS are to be obeyed, honored, loved and cherished — always — and cared for in their later years. And, yes, we are to honor our MOTHER-IN-LAWas seen in the great example of Ruth, David’s GREAT-GRANDMOTHER, and her love for her MOTHER-IN-LAW, Naomi.                                                                                

The secular world also has great wisdom and examples of how special a good mother is: The sweetest thing in all the world is a mother’s love.” O. A. Newlin  Mother’s love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do theimpossible.AuthorUnknown                                                                                                                                  

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am, I owe to mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her. George Washington           

Whether shes here or in heaven, Mother’s love is our haven and guide, foralways the memory of Mother is a beacon light shining inside. Time cannot destroy the memory, and years can never erase, the tendernessand the beauty of the love in a mother’s face. And when we think of ourmothers, we draw nearer to God, for only God in His greatnesscould fashion a mothers love.” Helen Steiner Rice                                                  

We are happy that the secular world recognizes MOTHERS for a special day! However, our honor to our MOTHER or GRANDMOTHERs — to the nth generation — must not be limited to one special day of the year. We Christians should honor them every day — especially when they are godly women — for they truly are God’s gift and blessing to us! To all of our mothers in the Ripon Church Family we hope and pray that you will have a great and Happy Mother’s Day!  

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13397 West Ripon Road, Ripon CA 95366

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