Those words are of course spoken by Captain James T. Kirk as he chronicles the adventures of the Starship Enterprise in the introductory scenes of Star Trek. When I was growing up in the mid-60s I loved to watch the original Star Trek series. I often tell people that if it were not for Star Trek, I probably wouldn't be married to my wonderful wife of 47 years. You see, Star Trek was in "color" and my wife's parents owned one of the only color TVs in the community. We only had black and white at my house. It seemed reasonable that Cindy and I should "date" so I would have an excuse to be at her house every Thursday night when Star Trek came on. Well.... 50 years, two children, seven houses, 27 cars and trucks, and 8 grandchildren later I would have to say it HAS been (and continues to be) an adventure into the unknown.
As we begin 2017, I'm reminded of those words from Star Trek because we are all going where no man has gone before....into our future. That of course is true with every breath we take, but we are more aware of it at appointed times, like the beginning of a new year. When the crew of the Enterprise went into unknown territory they did so with confidence in their vessel, their leader, and each other. We as Christians are the most blessed and privileged people in all the earth. We have been called, chosen, equipped, and sent into "all the world". The vessel in which we travel is "The Old Ship Of Zion". She is a tried and tested vessel of "safety" which we know as "Salvation". It was not built by the hands of man, but was designed and built by God himself out of the finest of materials, the body and blood of His Son. When we answer the call to " come unto me", God opens the door for our personal entrance into that ship then "seals" us in by His own Spirit such that the dangers encountered in our journey cannot threaten our safety. Jesus said it this way: "Joh 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.Joh 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.Joh 10:30 I and my Father are one."
The Captain on our journey is Jesus himself. He said "follow me". He does not tell us ahead of time where it is we are going, what we will encounter in route, or what new and strange beings we will meet along the way. But he did say, "low I am with you always, even unto the end of the world". Is that not exciting? To get up every day and follow Him into the unknown. To be completely without anxiety for your own safety, because your ship is secure; to simply follow the coordinates he gives you; to take every sight, sound and encounter as an adventure; and enjoy the ride. The problem with most of us Christians is that we want to know the plan ahead of time, we want to plot the course, and we want to steer the ship. Where is "following" in that? If we learn to be good followers and good listeners for instructions, the journey will be much more exciting and a whole lot less stressful.
Finally, we must know and perform our personal area of the service well; we must work together with our crew (Church) in harmony; and always have each other's back. Jesus, our leader, gave us a special command that is essential for us to successfully go into all the world and complete our mission of taking the Gospel to "all creatures". That command is: "Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." There is no greater danger to our mission than when there is disharmony and division among the crew. Let us reflect on what a privilege it is to be a member of the Lord's Church and resolve that in 2017 and beyond we will do our part to insure the success of this great journey into the unknown. We need to pray for one another. We need to show up and man our stations. And most of all we need to listen and follow the voice of our Lord as he speaks to us via His Spirit.
With just a few days left until Christmas, I am sure most everyone's life is busy trying to make preparations for the special day. In my blog last week I made some comments about trying to stay focused and not be distracted with all the "stuff" going on around us. Believe me I know that is hard to do, but if you can find just a little quiet time between now and Christmas, I would encourage you to just pick up your Bible and read the brief account of the events surrounding the birth of Christ. It is a story that never gets old.
The first Church I Pastored (Eureka Missionary Baptist Church, now relocated and renamed Fair Haven MBC ) was a little one in West Virginia that was organized out of a mission work the Lord had led me to start in 1986. Every year at Christmas instead of having a "program", we had a special service where we encouraged everyone to bring a gift of love to the Lord. Not physical gifts, but something out of your heart. It could be anything from just requesting that we all sing a special song, or maybe reading a special passage of scripture, or if you wanted to sing a special song yourself ( we only had a couple people who felt comfortable doing that, but the ones who had that talent did). Many of us who had no musical talent would take pen and paper and with the Lord's help try to search deep within our hearts for words to write a poem or a short prose. It was always a great blessing and joy to hear and experience what came out of these special Christmas services. I literally have books of those poems and writings from those years. I just spoke with Brother Ivan Smith yesterday who is now Pastor of Fair Haven MBC and he told me they were having their special service this Sunday and they were still continuing the tradition started way back when were just a new mission in 1986. He said they all look forward to it with great anticipation each year.
In looking through some of my own old writings, I came across the poem I wrote for our 1988 special Christmas service. I'd like to share it with you, not because I have any great talent, but in hopes that it might help you take a quiet moment to simply "reflect"
A PRESENT OF LOVE
By Danny Chandler
The night was calm and the sky so bright,
As the shepherds beheld the glorious light
That shined round the babe in his humble estate.
Who could imagine, this child held all of our fate.
In him shown the glory of the Father above,
A gift from heaven, a present of love.
This child was not like those who before him had come,
This one was special, he was God's son.
Born of a virgin as the prophets proclaimed.
Sent with the message we find in his name.
'Jesus', "for he shall save his people from their sins".
And so it is here, in the stable, our story begins.
No room in the inn for Jesus to stay.
No room in men's hearts of then or today.
Despised and rejected, forsake and scorned.
Such was his life, but to this he was born.
From the time he first stood, he preached from his heart,
That men must repent and from sin they must part.
They must look unto Him, and forsake their old ways,
Else be severed from God in judgement some day.
This message was unpopular wherever he went,
And so from their own presence the Savior they sent.
Choosing to hold pride and worldly things,
Rather than proclaim him Lord, Savior, and King.
We find him then at the close of his life,
Still the object of hatred, men's envy and strife.
Betrayed by a friend, and nailed to a tree,
Rejected by those he had come to set free.
His glory was not in the praises of men,
It was in giving his life for their pardon from sin.
And God was pleased with the price that he paid,
For he raised him again to life the third day.
So this is the story that I love to proclaim.
That salvation's in Jesus and no other name.
I don't point men to Bethlehem and an inn with no room,
I point then to Calvary, and a dark, empty, tomb.
For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a special time of year. It is of course a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy a meal, reminess on good times past and look forward to better times ahead. But for us who truly love the Lord, it affords us an opportunity to reflect on the birth of our Savior. Then through that reflection realize that it is not the Christian tradition that brings joy to our hearts, it is the living Christ dwelling in our hearts that is the source of our joy.
There is no need for me to decry the celebration of Christmas because of the unquestionable use of symbols that have their roots in paganism. Any causual student of Christian history knows that there is no Scriptual foundation for the celebration itself or for the use of these symbols, There is no need for me to rail on the commercialization of Christmas. We all know that secularism has been at work for decades to turn men's hearts from Christ to "cash", and for the most part they have succeeded. There is no need for me to remind you that the "celebration" of Christmas is under attack as being unconstitutional, politically incorrect, and religiously intrusive upon those who do not embrace God or Christianity. You already know these things. To continually dwell on them serves only to divert our attention once again away from Christ and onto the cause and symptoms, rather than the cure Himself. As much as possible we need to adopt the same attitude as Paul when he found himself in bonds and mocked by many about him. Php 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: Php 1:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds. Php 1:17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.Php 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me." That is our work as Christians. And what better time to do it than when all the world (whatever their motives) are at least aware of the "reason for the season". We can't undo history. We can't remove the greed that motivates men to sell Christ for thirty pieces of silver. We can't spend all of our time in debate with those who are so enraged at the goodness of Christ that they "knash on him with their teeth". Remember, Jesus said that if those we encounter will not receive us because of Him, we are simply to knock the dust off of our feet (a sign that God will judge them) and move on down the road with our message of "exaulting Christ".
So...... don't be distracted by all the shiny objects surrounding Christmas, the endless commercialization, or the "fool who has said in his heart there is no God". Keep your eyes on Jesus, let your joy be full, and when opportunity presents itself, lift Him high so all can see HIM.
I was recently watching the new TV series BULL, which is actually based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw as a trial jury consultant. Basically the story is built around the psychological profiling of potential jurors. Then through that profiling make recommendations to the Defense as to which jurors should be accepted and which should be rejected. It makes for interesting TV drama, but the scary part is, IT IS TRUE! Human reactions, based on the nature of the individual are predictive. Understand a person's nature and you can with reasonable certainty predict how they will react in a given situation, or how they will process specific information in relation to their life experiences. In the particular episode I was watching, a juror was rejected with nothing more said by "Dr. Bull" than "Wet Paint". When asked by his staff what he meant by that, his reply was something to the effect that human nature always wants to do what it is told it can't. The sign says Wet Paint....you gotta touch it to see if it really is. Where have we heard that before!!
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Gen 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: Gen 3:5 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 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
You see, God wanted us to known right in the beginning that we had something so unique that it made us in many ways, like God himself. That something is "free will". The lower animal forms are controlled entirely by their nature. It is impossible for an animal to make a choice that is contrary to it's nature. Oh it might be disciplined or trained through the "carrot and stick" method to make programmed choices, but it lacks the capacity to reason out the interconnected consequences of those choices and then act accordingly. Man was given that higher capacity, and with it an eternal soul that would be destined by the exercise of that free will. The problem with free will in man is that when it is exercised independent of the right influence from God himself, it will be excercised selfishly. The heart will want what the heart wants, even if it is forbidden by God for the man's (or woman's) own good. The Bible refers to this in man as " the carnal nature". The carnal nature of man is predictable and is always contrary to the Holy nature of God. Because man in his natural (carnal) state cannot (will not) please God, there must be a change made within the man that will enable him to have a new nature that is not carnal, but instead is "Spiritual". This "Spiritual" nature is imparted to man by God himself on an individual basis when that individual has met God's requirements of Repentence toward Him ( who has been offended) and Believed on the work and Person of His Son Jesus. This direct imparting of Spiritual Life to an individual is referred to as being "Born Again". In this Born Again state you become a possessor of the "divine nature" whereby "your free will" becomes "willing" subject to the Holy Spirit and are through Him enabled to think and act in a right manner. But don't be foolish and think that your carnal nature is no longer present, it is very present. The difference is that now you have a Spiritual nature that is capable of bring the carnal nature into subjection. Peter said it this way: 2Pe 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
If you are interested in better understanding this conflict between the carnal and Spiritual natures, click on the link and listen to my sermon titled ( unoriginally) "Wet Paint" . I would also invite you to listen to the follow up sermon titled Dry Paint. In this sermon I talk about what a Spiritual nature in full control of life looks like, as demonstrated through a "snapshot" of the Apostle Paul when falsely accused and in-prisoned.
Those are not only the opening words of the Bible, they are also a most important fact of life for everyone of us. Everything (and everyone) has to start somewhere. Except of course GOD, who clearly had no beginning , but that is a subject for a later time.
I will get better at this. Will try to keep it "pithy" as Bill O'Reilley says. Will try to keep it current and relative. Not my intent to go into long written sermons...if you like long sermons just come and join us in services at Sulphur Fork and as everyone will tell you.... they are plenty long😇
My name is Daniel (Danny) Chandler and I am the Pastor of Sulphur Fork Missionary Baptist Church in Sumner Co. TN.