CALL TO WORSHIP —Psalm 59:16-17 But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
The church family has had quite a few members and loved ones move from this earthly life to the presence of Jesus during the past year. This week brings remembrance of another of these, Robert Erick. At times of the passing of believers I am often reminded of a song that speaks about the passing from this world into Jesus’ presence. We try to imagine what it will be like but won’t really appreciate it until it happens. What we can see only unclearly here and now will be clear and glorious.
The song is “Windows of Home,” originally recorded by the Gold City quartet. When I belonged to a quartet years ago, we also performed this song. I have had the opportunity to sing it hundreds of times, I am sure. That is probably why it comes so readily to my mind. I think it was my mother’s favorite song of all the ones that we did over the years. When she passed away, I had it included as one of the songs in her memorial service. At that time I believe it took on even more meaning for me (“Looks like my loved ones want me to come home…”).
Remember your loved ones that have joined Him, and be blessed by listening to Ivan Parker and Gold City:
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 72:18-19 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Titus 3:4-6 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Recently I was blessed to be able to visit the Pensacola, Florida area. I always like to visit different places of interest, and take pictures. One of the places I visited different parts of on a few occasions was the Gulf Islands National Seashore (a national park). A couple evenings close to sunset I went to Johnson Beach on the south side of the island where I stayed (Perdido Key). The beach on the Gulf of Mexico is wide and long. It has the whitest, softest sand I have found on a beach anywhere. The evening is usually a time when many fewer people visit. There were usually a few family groups playing and walking into the waves and water. A few fishermen were also around.
I am always attracted to wildlife. There were several great blue herons on the beach that seemed very tolerant of people, and walked surprisingly close to them. There were also a couple shorebirds that I watched both evenings I went. One was a willet, a long-legged bird about 10-12 inches long, with a long, narrow sharp beak. The other was the bird whose picture you see attached, a sanderling. It was only about 6 inches long, with shorter legs and a shorter sharp beak. I followed one around for a while both evenings. It was fascinating to watch. The bird would look for food that the waves carried in, running out to search as soon as the water receded enough. It would reach down with its beak, picking up small creatures that fit its taste. It always took notice of where the waves were. When the waves came back in, it would turn and run away as fast as its little legs could carry it. It was always able to stay out of the waves’ reach. Then when the waves receded, it would again rush out into the area that was just uncovered to find something else. It was amazing that the bird always had the ability to sense how far to go, and when to quit and run back to stay out of danger. It always seemed to know what was enough, and didn’t try to grab too much. If only we humans had the same innate sense.
The sanderling’s method reminded me of a Scripture that I had heard at some point, but could not remember exactly offhand. After a bit of searching, I found it:
“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)
This Proverb was noted as being an inspired utterance by Agur, son of Jakeh, to a man named Ithiel. In verses 7-9 he asks God for two things: to be free from falsehood and lies, and to have neither riches nor poverty. Freedom from falsehoods and lies will always serve us well. Secondly, he asks God for just enough. If he has too much, he might forget God and who He is. If he has too little, he might steal and dishonor God. How much is exactly enough? He doesn’t specify, but leaves it to God to decide.
We tend to appreciate God’s creation for its beauty. We all love beautiful flowers and plants. We appreciate the diversity and beauty of all animal creation– animals, birds, fish, and even insects. I believe that God gave us more than beauty in these creations. The more I watch and notice, the more I see lessons from their nature and behavior. I think He definitely knew what He was doing with His design for creatures. They are reminders of Him, and can help point us to principles that should be part of our lives (“…Sluggard, look to the ant…”). In my case they often lead me to think of parallels in the Bible.
Lord, thank you for sanderlings. Help us to learn from their example to survive well by accepting enough, and to stay out of trouble from looking for too much. We don’t want to put ourselves in jeopardy. As Agur wrote in Proverbs 30, let us always remember You, and keep us honest and away from dishonoring You.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 96:11-12, 1-2 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — John 1:14, 16-18
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 16:8-9, 11 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 39:4-7 “O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
The other day I happened across a news item that is one of those rare, pure good news stories. Recently, Hubert and June Malicote celebrated their 79th wedding anniversary. Even more recently, each of them celebrated their 100th birthday. Here is the link to the article from Fox News:
When I read this article I immediately thought of Pastor James’ sermon about marriage a few weeks ago. I think I am one of those he mentioned who were intended to be single rather than married. I would certainly agree that marriage was intended to be a blessing and a benefit to people in general. Proper and successful marriage, and family life, places God at the center. Some of the couple’s comments noted in the article help to explain the longevity of their marriage and happiness. I believe Hubert has the perfect attitude:
“I’ve always said that a happy home is where God is,” he continued. “It’s just been a good life. Good teamwork. A good home.”
Having a happy home in His presence is what God intended for man from the beginning. That is the relationship between a man and his wife declared in Genesis 2:24:
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Hubert also has advice from experience as to why their marriage has lasted for 79 years:
“We maybe have had disagreements. But we’ve always worked them out,” Hubert said. “Our attitude has been that you don’t hurt the one you love. And if you have an issue or quarrel, take care of it, don’t let it grow, think it over, talk it out and solve the problem and go on with your life.”
These actions exemplify Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:32:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I would suggest that another reason that they have had such a long and happy marriage goes back to their meeting. It was in a church service. I believe they both had a relationship with God before they met. As they developed their relationship as a young couple, church activities were at the center of their lives. After being married, they raised 3 children, and have 7 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. The article also noted that they are fixtures at their church and have been involved as teachers.
I am sure that while the Malicotes are blessings to each other and their family, they are blessings to any who know them or become aware of them. Their marriage is exactly what God had in mind.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Revelation 4:11, 5:11-13
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 145:17-19 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
This past Saturday I took a walk through part of Miller Nature Preserve in Avon. I noticed the plant whose picture you see attached growing on the bank of the pond. It’s really quite delicate and pretty, isn’t it? Don’t touch it. Don’t smell it. Don’t even go near it (I used a telephoto zoom lens to take the picture). Don’t even think about eating any part of it. It is water hemlock, considered to be the most poisonous plant in North America. I have read comments from experts saying that ingesting just a small amount of the stem or roots can bring death in as little as 15 minutes.
After hearing Pastor James’ sermon on Sunday, I was reminded of this plant.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6).
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree death came instantly. Not death from the toxicity of the plant, but death from being disobedient to God’s order. They didn’t die instantly physically, but they would die. That would be something that they, and all humans, would not have experienced if they had been obedient. Did God know that we would fail and sin? Absolutely.
Why were plants like water hemlock, that can kill almost anything that would eat it, created in the first place? What was God thinking when he created it? Insects feed on it’s flowers’ nectar. They don’t have any ill effect from it. Animals usually know or sense when something is toxic or harmful, and intentionally avoid it. People can learn quickly (unfortunately after a tragic event). Toxic plants and venomous creatures, like some snakes or insects, have some built in protection from predation. It helps them to survive. I believe this is part of God’s design. Water hemlock provides a reliable source of nectar for certain insects. It won’t be eliminated by other creatures (or people) eating it. Possibly it has some other uses we simply aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes it takes humans time and experience to learn.
Considering our world, we can be thankful that God planned in ways we haven’t discovered for the earth to be able to carry on operating. That includes the plants, animals, and even insects that we don’t appreciate for various reasons. They make up a self-sustaining world. Sometimes we do things that affect how it operates, but God’s planning has always proven superior to our intervention. Thankfully that same planning went into our future salvation, and His sending Christ to cover our sin and shortcomings. As humans, we can mess up a lot. We can’t mess up God’s ultimate plan for us and our world.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 36:5-9 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like the great deep; How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light do we see light.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your right hand will hold me fast.