Devotion in Motion: The book for “regular” Christians

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Sometimes I read the Bible while I’m sitting in a coffee shop by myself. Invariably the waitress will see this and will remark, “I notice you’re reading the Bible.  Are you a preacher?” Of course I always say “yes.” But there’s a part of me that always wishes I could say, “No, I’m not a preacher. I’m just a ‘regular’ Christian. God’s Word is important to me and I really enjoy it. It’s not just a book for preachers.”

Last week I told you a story about my cousin Richard. Richard wasn’t a preacher, but he was a Christian who loved God’s Word and studied it every day. As best I understand it, his habit was to get up about 4 or 4:30 in the morning.  He got out his Bible, a concordance, and some other study helps, and then spent an extended length of time in prayer and the reading of the Scriptures.

In fact, it was because of the study of the Scriptures that Richard (several years ago) discovered that he had had a minor stroke. Sitting down to start his daily Bible study, he realized that for some reason he could not comprehend the words on the printed page. He awakened his wife Mary Lu and told her he needed to go to the hospital.

rp_bible-300x200.jpgMost Christians believe that God gives insight to His pastors as they study the Holy Scriptures. But I have found that God illuminates His Word for all who spend time in prayerful study. Even though Richard wasn’t a preacher, I was always fascinated and heartened by the things he had learned from God’s Word. Once when we were visiting he said:

“John, when I went to Church Camp all those years ago, the preacher always said that at the Last Judgment the Lord would have a movie projector. On a huge screen He would show the movie of our entire lives, and everyone in the world would be watching. Every secret wicked deed and sinful thought would be known by every person in the world — and we would be horrified and ashamed for everyone to see us as we really are.”

But after I started to study the Bible, I came to the verse where Paul says, ’There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ Jesus died in our place to remove our guilt and cleanse us of shame. So the Judgment Day is not going to be anything like what the preacher said about the movie theater.  Instead, at the Judgment, each of us will sit down with God, one-on-one. And we’re going to have a heart-to-heart talk with Him about what we did with our lives. It’s going to be very quiet. And it’s going to be very serious. That’s why we need to strive to serve Him every day.”

The longer I live, and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that Richard was right. Let’s spend some time in God’s Word this week so that we’ll live in a way that’s more pleasing to Him.

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher believes that God’s Word is “good for everything.”) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21).

Devotion in Motion: A special cousin

11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.   Matthew 11:11 (NKJV)

 By Bro. John L. Cash

I’ve always believed that a person’s cousins are very special people. After all, our first-cousins are our very closest kin next to our brothers and sisters;  we share the same grandparents.  My Grandpa and Grandma Cash had seven grandchildren: Richard, Jeanne, Joe Thelbert, Dale, Linda, Cathie (my sister), and me. My father was “the baby” in his father’s family, and I am my father’s “baby.” So that makes me the youngest of all the cousins.

I got some sad news during the first part of July. Our oldest cousin, Richard Wayne Cash, had passed away in his sleep with a stroke at the age of 78. When I cousinsheard the news, it was like getting hit in the chest with something. But then I thought, “No, I can be all right with this. Richard is with the Lord, and that is what he wanted all his life. He is receiving the object of his faith.”

It comforted me, too, to think that Richard would be very glad to get to see his loved ones in Heaven. Every year there are more and more members of the Cash family there. Two of the cousins—Thelbert and Linda—have been there a long time.

I adore all my cousins. But I’m pretty sure that Richard was my favorite of them all. You’d think that my other cousins would be mad because I’m saying that. But I really don’t think I’m going to get in any trouble with them. If you pinned them down on the subject, I’m pretty sure they would say that Richard was their favorite cousin, too.

There are a lot of reasons for that—and I’ll try to tell you more in future stories. But mostly, Richard was just such a good, kind, loving person. He was like a Snickers bar. You can slice through a Snickers bar and everything in there is good. You can look the whole world over, and there is really nothing more beautiful than a person who has the Lord living inside.

Did you know that the Lord Jesus had a cousin? Jesus’ cousin was John the Baptist. From what I read in the Scriptures, Jesus thought that John was wonderful. In Matthew 11:11 He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist….” That’s quite a ringing endorsement; I mean, when the Son of God says that you’re the greatest man who ever lived, who can top that?

I’m sure you remember from Sunday School that John the Baptist’s life came to a sad end. His enemies cut off his head and put it on a platter. John’s disciples came and buried his body. And the Scriptures say that Jesus went off by Himself, away from other people. You have to know that His heart was broken.

We’re called as Christians to love everyone. But it’s normal and right to have a special kind of love for the members of our family. And it’s holy to grieve when we remember the lives of our loved ones. Tears are always the price we pay for loving someone.

Especially when we think of our cousins.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the people have frequently heard about Richard in sermons, even though they never met him.)  Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21).

Devotion in Motion: A new week in Christ

 ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

 By Bro. John L. Cash

Summer break is officially over, we’re all back in school, and that means it’s time for me to resume writing my weekly devotionals.  I’ve had a great summer, but it’s been a quick one and a busy one. Really, it’s kind of nice to be settling into my regular “school year” routine; every week and every day fall into regular and predictable patterns. In my way of thinking, the coming of August marks the beginning of a new semester and a new start.

I spend of a lot of time THINKING about time. I’ve come to the conclusion that time itself never changes; we (as humans) just have various ways of thinking about it depending on the situation. Something I’ve noticed is that when people pray, they express a lot of thoughts about the nature of time.

week calendarWhen I was a little boy in the Central Christian Church in Stuttgart, Arkansas, I used to listen to my Uncle Joe pray aloud. In every prayer he would say,  “Father, we thank you for taking care of us through another week—a week that is now lost into eternity.” That’s a profound thought, isn’t it? Once a week is past, it’s completely gone. It is “lost into eternity.” That always made me want to do a better job of using my time in the coming week.

At the church where I preach now, I often hear a friend offer up words of prayer in the Sunday morning service. Invariably, he thanks God for “a new week in Christ.” That’s a thought that’s full of sunshine and light. It makes me feel like I’m at the starting line of something great—and that my Saviour Jesus is by my side.

Yes, a new school year is an opportunity for a new start. But the truth of the matter is that every moment is a chance for a new beginning. We have only the present moment in which to live. The past is “lost into eternity.”  We can never change it, but we can cherish the good and learn from our mistakes.

The future is unseen, but it is always new. Let’s do our best to live for God, as we begin “a new week in Christ.”

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the church-kids all have lots of new school supplies.)  Send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com

Devotion in Motion: Letter to Mom, Part 3

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Ephesians 2:8, 9 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

In this, my third letter, I want to continue with my comments about nurturing “the faith of adolescents.” And I’ve been thinking; perhaps the best way to do that is to write a bit about the nature of faith in general.

Take a look at today’s Scripture text (at the top):

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9 (NKJV)

Now, that statement seems easy enough on the surface. But when look at it a little more closely and take it apart, you’ve got some important theological decisions to make. I think that the easiest way to show what I’m thinking about is to turn it into a multiple-choice test question.

In this passage, St. Paul says “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In this sentence the word “THAT” refers to:

GRACE

SALVATION

FAITH

ALL OF THE ABOVE

[Now, go and fix a cup of coffee, and think about that question for 45-minutes before you answer it. I’ll wait.]

OK, you’ve thought about it, and you’re back again? Good.

Let’s work through the answer together. Clearly, GRACE is “the gift of God,” because by definition, that’s what GRACE is. And, clearly SALVATION is “the gift of God,” because Romans 6:23 says so. And according to your English teacher, FAITH is the “the gift of God” because FAITH it is the closest antecedent; that’s how grammar works.

So, in my opinion, the correct answer is Letter D, “ALL OF THE ABOVE.”

It’s pretty plain to see (at least to me) that GRACE, SALVATION, and FAITH are all gifts that are given by God.

So why is that important? Because if grace, and salvation, AND faith are all gifts from God, we can ask our loving Father for all these things. And since FAITH is a gift of God, we can ask the Lord to give this “gift of faith” to our children.

As we’re raising our kids, it’s great to know that Jesus makes us a wonderful promise: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)

So, Anne, take this message of comfort to heart. We don’t have to worry. We just have to ask.

(More next week…..)

Love and blessings,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher and his wife are glad that Monday is a vacation-day.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: Letter to Mom of Middle-Schooler

least of these

11 ¶ Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right. ~ Proverbs 20:11 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

I hope you and Atticus have had a good week since my last letter. I’ve re-read it this morning, and I think my advice still stands: “When it comes to the developing faith of your children, PRAY—don’t panic.”

And after giving it some more thought, I’ve reached a conclusion. As parents, we are usually very poor judges of where our kids are in their relationship with God. I have a good reason to believe that, because that is what the Bible teaches. Jesus said that individuals are not even good judges of their OWN relationship with God.

Take a look at this passage:

Matthew 25:31 ¶ “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

43 ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

You’ll have to admit, it’s kind of an eye-opening story. The way I read it, there are a lot of people who are going to be surprised on the Day of Judgment. Some people will think they were awesome Christians in this life, and the Lord says He never knew them. And others who thought they never did anything for God will find out that they loved and served Jesus every day. What a nice surprise!

Whenever I read this passage, it always makes me want to re-think my relationship with Jesus Christ. Is showing compassion to others the habit of my life?

And there’s a wonderful flip-side to the story. Maybe our kids are just the kind of people that our God is looking for. Maybe their spiritual condition is better than we ever imagined.

Isn’t that a wonderful, comforting thought?

More next week,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where “Kissie” the pastorium-Siamese-cat has been making a lot of noise during the middle of the night and waking folks up this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).