Without Excuse? (PART 2)

 Surprisingly enough, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that the entire world is 'without excuse' in its ignorance of the existence of God. Isn't that an amazing assertion? "For that which can be known about God is plain to them," we read, in Romans 1:19, "because God has shown it to them." 

But the question remains: how so? How has God "made it plain"; so plain in fact that the whole world is without excuse? That's what we began exploring last week. 

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Without Excuse?


 

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CCOT's 'Samaritan' Ministers



IT'S HARD WORK TO KEEP A DROP-OFF LOCATION HUMMING. 

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Tic...and...Toc


 

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The Case of the Red Cross Flag


 

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This Year, Make Room! - Final Edition for 2017


 

 

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It's Straight...and It's Narrow


 

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Ghost House (part 2)

Of course, I don't really believe in 'ghosts', nor that a house can be 'haunted', but that doesn't mean there weren't disturbing things present. An abandoned shed out back was teeming with fast-moving tarantula-like spiders, so I spent the very first week, spraying them and their horrible offspring to death. Then I exultantly tore down the entire shed, ridding the earth of its presence forever! 

I found a four-foot long snake-skin up in the attic, left behind, most likely, after a winter's hibernation. So I spent the next few days plugging up slots along the roof line where he must have crawled through. It was summer, after all. He was gone. I certainly hoped so anyway; otherwise I was sealing him in! 

And then there was the usual assortment of tropical things 'haunting' the house itself: beetles, roaches, centipedes and spiders. I sprayed, swatted, shooed and squashed until the place began to look fairly decent, then made sure all the windows and doors were sealed. 

For the rest of those months I worked on that dismal kitchen: built cabinets and counters, laid linoleum and dropped a ceiling. It was quite an undertaking and a quite a transformation. 

I didn't work alone; missionary friends would come down to help whenever they could: painting, laying floors, tiling walls. They are dear faithful friends, all of them: I still feel very indebted to them. 

There was one more thing 'haunting' the house: a 'ghost-shelf' on the living room wall. They are often referred to as 'god-shelves' actually, but this one was especially devoted to the ghosts of the two who had died in the home. Often I would show up for work and find fresh joss smoking up from it. 

Every week our landlord, Mr. Lai and his wife, would show up to bow before the shelf, lay their offerings upon it and plant a few more joss sticks into the ashes. They did all this with the same sad, nervous reverence so common to those who fear the dead. 

The 'ghost-shelf' made me uncomfortable. "I can't move my family in until it is removed," I kept warning Mr. Lai. "Oh, don't worry teacher, it will be gone before you're done working here." 

Well, I certainly hoped so. Many times I would be noising away with a hammer or a drill in one of the other rooms, while poor Mr. and Mrs. Lai would be standing there trying to honor the dead. Always I wanted to stop my work and give them a few moments of peace, but dear old Mr. Lai would have none of it. He would pick up on my silence and shout out to me:  

"Don't stop your work, Teacher, you're not bothering us. Just keep on, keep on!" And then—sadly—"This is nothing. We'll be done in just a few minutes." He somehow seemed embarrassed by it all; and very weary of it too! 

Throughout that long, hot summer I had been making the tedious 100-mile trip down from Taipei and back again each day. I was just too hot, sweaty and dirty at the end of the day to even think of spending the night. But when I finally got a shower installed, I decided it was time: I took a change of clothes and a cheap folding beach lounge and headed back down, glad to be done with the constant commute. After all, there was still a lot of work to be done and time was running out. 

That night, I slept soundly enough: as good as can be expected, I suppose, for someone sleeping in their clothes on a beach chair. But very early the next morning, I was awakened by the sound of voices! And the voices were in the house! For just the briefest moment, I assure you, the thought of a "haunted house" crossed my mind. 

And then I finally made out the words (in Mandarin, of course): "He's here," I heard someone say. "He did it!" 

They were neighbors. They had come in through the unlocked door; past the living room, down the hall to stand at the bedroom doorway and congratulate me: "You did it," they cheered. "You spent the night!" 

There must have been some kind of neighborhood betting pool on whether or not I could make it through one night. 

I didn't do it right then, but later we got to explain to many of them the glorious truth of the Christian: he shares his life—and his home as well!—with a 'holy ghost': the wonderful, comforting Spirit of God. And he never, ever has to be afraid. "Greater is He that is in you," remember, "than he that is in the world!" 1 Jn 4:4 

So good to worship with you each week. 

Next! See you there! RAS 

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The Things We Do Have!


 "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus!" 1 Thes. 5:18

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Ghost House


Our recent move with all its "aches"—head, back, heart: you name it!—has got me thinking about the other times we've done it.  Just how and when and why did I allow myself to accumulate all this stuff, I'd like to know? How utterly un-missionary I've become! It's shocking. 

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The Trojan Horse and the American Home

Let's face it: the home is under siege in our culture today, and a lot of moms and dads are getting tired of fighting the battle. If you are not one of them—if you have built a home and are busy defending and protecting it, may God richly bless you for it! Don't stop now. Don't back down. Don't even relax, because you are doing something that our entire civilization will someday thank you for, if it does indeed survive!

One of my favorite stories is Virgil's Aeneid. I know that sounds a little stodgy; it's too bad the book has such a boring title: it could just as easily have been entitled "The Survivors of Troy".  But Aeneas is the main character: a Trojan hero who survived the terrible destruction of his city and who now sails the Mediterranean in search of a new home. 

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Look to the Heavens

There was a time, back in the 3rd Century BC, when the scholars, scientists, and intellectuals of Alexandria used to make fun of the man known as Eratosthenes. After all, the guy was only a librarian, wasn't he? What was he doing dabbling in the sciences, for crying out loud? In academic circles, back in those days, 'specialism' was all the rage—much as it is today—and Eratosthenes was definitely no 'specialist'. He grew up studying poetry, then shifted to philosophy, then mathematics. He wrote a book of poetry and a history of dramatic comedy. In short, he was a 'jack-of-all- subjects', master of none.

When Eratosthenes got interested in science, that was the last straw. His contemporaries scoffed at him. They called him 'beta'—after the second letter of their alphabet—the implication being that he was 'second-rate'. They were 'alpha' scholars, he was 'beta'. 

In those days, the single most perplexing scientific problem had to do with the size of the earth. Just how big was it anyway? It's a very important question; after all, if we don't know how large the earth is, we will never really know just where we are on it!  Pythagoras had already argued that the earth was a sphere, but just how big a sphere was it? Many people guessed; nobody knew, and no one even dreamed that there might be a way to actually measure the earth. 

Except for Eratosthenes! His passion for this problem caught fire when he started hearing travelers' tales about a well down south, in a little town named Syene, some 600 miles down the Nile from Alexandria. The remarkable thing about this well was that, at high noon on the longest day of the year (June 21 ), the Sun would shine right straight down into it, all the way to the bottom. That set Eratosthenes thinking. Perhaps the reason his contemporaries had failed, in their efforts to measure the earth, was that they kept looking at the earth, instead of the heavens! To solve this great dilemma, perhaps one must look up, instead of down! Since Syene was almost directly south of him, all he needed to do was wait until June 21st of the following year—when the Sun was directly overhead in Syene—and measure the angle of the Sun's shadow where he lived, further north, up in Alexandria. 

At exactly high noon on that famous day, he went into the town square, knelt down in the dirt beneath a tall, towering obelisk, and measured the angle of the sun's shadow: it was 7°12': roughly 1/50th of a circle. Knowing that the distance between Syene and Alexandria was 5000 stadia, all Eratosthenes needed was a little simple geometry to come up with his answer: 250,000 stadia, or 28,576 miles! 

Eratosthenes had measured the earth! 1

Actually, because his numbers for the distance between Syene and Alexandria were imprecise, his figure came out a little too large: the actual circumference is 24,859 miles. But, for 200 BC, that was pretty close! And his methodology was flawless; it is still used today. 

Eratosthenes was no longer a 'beta', and his contemporaries no longer laughed! His contribution to science was immense! The lowly librarian has been known ever since as the Father of Geodesy (the science of measuring the earth).2 

Eratosthenes' greatest legacy, however, was not the size of the earth. What he really left behind was a priceless principle that every map maker, every navigator, every traveler and explorer has followed to this very day: "Look to the heavens, if you want to find your bearings here on earth." He was the first one to suggest such a thing, and that made him quite a pioneer! 

I don't suppose he realized just what a marvelous spiritual principle he had touched upon! 

We live in a generation that no longer looks up; that never lifts its eyes. (Maybe it has something to do with iPhones.)

In our efforts to solve all the problems of man, we keep looking down:  at man, at ourselves, at our world. And yet, with all of our sciences and all of our "-ologies", we're still just as lost and disoriented as can be! 

Listen, dear ones: the answer will never be found 'below'! By looking up—to the Lord God Almighty, and by seeking His ways we will find our own way in this world. He gives us His Word; He announces His will; He puts us in our place; He shows us our 'size' and gives us our bearings. 

Listen, dear Christian. I know the world laughs at your allegiance to Jesus. To them, you're a 'beta' with a second-rate mind! But there really aren't that many wise people in the world. They were rare in Eratosthenes' day and just as rare today. That's all right; you just be one of them! Be an Eratosthenes: looking to the heavens for the answers you need!  How does that beautiful verse go? 

"Set your minds on things above, not on the things of the earth. " Col. 3:2

See you Sunday!                          RAS

 

1. In Eratosthenes' day, a stadia was reckoned at 603 feet. 

 

2. The Mapmakers, John Noble Wilford, Random House, NY, 1982 p. 21-24

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The First Half of the Journey



This article was first published on August 31, 2003 by Pastor Rod Schorr

 

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Honor and Defeat


 

I neither know, nor care, what side of the political spectrum this places me on, but I, for one, am disgusted with that Biloxi Mississippi School Board's decision to remove To Kill A Mockingbird from their High School curriculum. "There is some language in the book that makes people feel uncomfortable," was the palaver given out by the board's Vice President. 

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Our 'Dream' Ski Vacation

I don't know how you feel about it, but I personally don't consider three successive visits to a hospital to constitute a dream ski vacation.  By the morning of our third day in Vail, as we headed to the hospital for yet the third time, I was moping, big-time: "What kind of ski trip is this?" 

Not that there was much wasted cost or anything. A dear friend at church had let us use her timeshare; so it was a wonderfully affordable "luxury" for us. 

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Resist the Tyrant


I always get upset when I hear people minimize the American Revolution. You're probably familiar with the people I'm talking about: limp-wristed professors who tell their moonstruck captive audience that it was all just "a war to enshrine capitalism"; haters of our nation who dismiss it as a "grudge over taxes"; spineless pacifists who insist that "it all could have been solved by negotiation". 

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The Summer

Fall weather is setting in; we're finally closing windows at night; fans and air conditioners have spun to a halt at last,  and it has me thinking about the Summer that is behind us. 

And all I can say on that subject is: "Wow!"  What an incredible summer it has been! 

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God is Always Working

   In our recent Messenger messages, we have been reading some amazing things about famed American evangelist Dwight L. Moody.  But did you know that his longtime “side-kick” Ira Sankey had a remarkable career and had his own amazing experiences in the service of God?  

   Ira David Sankey was a phenomenal singer of hymns and gospel music at the end of the 19th century.  So much so, Sankey is credited as being the father of “gospel music”.  As a young man, Sankey devoted his life to the Lord and then devoted much of his time to singing sacred songs in churches, while working full time for the IRS.  Dwight Moody was established as a well-known preacher in the U.S. and the UK when he heard Ira Sankey sing at a church convention in Indianapolis in 1870.  Moody told Sankey “I have been looking for you for eight years!” and asked Sankey to lead the music for his preaching campaigns.   Sankey agreed to join Moody full time and what a powerful team they became. 

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Inspire!

There's one thing about a 'relay': it is never entirely about 'speed'. In a relay, you can be the fastest people on the face of the earth and still lose the race. 

Want an excellent example of that? The 2004 Olympics, which took place in Athens, Greece. That year, everyone knew that the American women's team was going to win. They were, beyond all doubt, the very best in the world. 

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Moody's Sinking Ship

Speaking of Dwight L. Moody, (oh, you didn't know I was?  Last Sunday! Where were you?) there was another important turning point in the life of this incredible preacher and evangelist.  It happened in November of 1892 and it happened on board a sinking ship, of all things!  (There was nothing dull about the life of this preacher!)

You know, untold thousands of people came to Christ during Moody's 33 years of preaching, but the last seven years were the most astonishing of all! And some people say that that "shipwreck" was the cause of it all.  Here's how it all transpired. 

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