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Saginaw, Michigan, United States
A sinner who may come before God because of Christ

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Death of an Evil Man

Saddam Hussein was hanged just before dawn in his country. There was no doubt that he had done some horrendous and terrible things to others. He ruled with a tight fist, he exploited his people, he was ruthless to his enemies, and he showed no mercy.

He professed Islam, but there are reports that he did not believe in God. Perhaps he saw that faith as a sound political decision rather than something that was heartfelt. The reports indicated he was carrying a Koran when he died, perhaps in the final days, his faith became more important to him.

His death is a happy day for those who were oppressed by him, but it is also a sad day for those who love humanity because he passed onto an eternal fate that no one wishes on another. Saddam Hussein was not saved by the blood of Christ.

For some reason, we Christians have become squeamish about making just such a statement about someone else. It yields cries of “judgmental” or “intolerant” or even “how presumptuous”. I think we are afraid to face that truth because it means we need to do react to that reality.

Is my neighbor saved? I don’t know but I might offend him if I tell him of the gospel and ruin a perfectly good relationship (hey, I might need to borrow his step-ladder some day).

But we should be questioning the salvation of others by constantly conveying the gospel. We should be breathing the words of salvation. We should be preaching to the choir. I should be asking you and you asking me.

A few years ago I was talking with one of the men ushering at church. He was a neat guy. He was known for his generosity, his kindness, his love for others. He passed out candy to the kids coming into church. He volunteered on the menial tasks. He was the kind of guy you just wanted to hug when you saw him. He had even developed the habit of writing the names of people in his Bible to remind him to pray for that person. My name was in there, as were the names of many others. I felt a great assurance by this.

During our conversation, he looked at me and his brow furled. He said he was reading the Bible the other day and was not sure he was saved.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. His statement left me dumbfounded. At first I stuttered something to the effect of “of course you are” – thinking of his position and long-standing membership in the church – he is an usher. He had been an elder. He prayed for the people whose names he had written in his Bible!

He retorted that he was just not sure.

I asked him if he had ever repented of his sins and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. He said he had. Then I told him to be assured about his salvation - on that day an evil man had died and a child of God had been born.

He chuckled and smiled, his countenance changed and he seemed assured by this. No opportunity to discuss this issue further happened because soon after our conversation he passed away from an illness.
Was he “saved”? I believe he was because of his profession and his life.

I will take the criticism that I am being judgmental and intolerant and even presumptuous, because the reality is that all evil men will someday die – either in the flesh, like Saddam Hussein, or in the spirit, like the usher at church.

For His Glory,
Tom Peck

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sin Is The Reason for the Season

Sin Is The Reason for the Season

My work place has an annual Christmas (or, as they now say, Holiday) contest. This year it was decorating trees, and each department decorated by a theme. The winning department gets a pizza lunch.

Some of the trees were pretty ornate, some were very clever (the cleverest was the contracts department which had an undecorated tree and in the middle was the toner from a copy machine – the theme – “a cartridge in a bare tree”).

Oops I digress. It is pretty easy to get all wound up in the Season. Even atheists like the season and who doesn’t like to get gifts. It is also a big time of year for boosting the economy. When I lived in a rural community, the local Chamber of Commerce reported that most retail businesses did almost 70-80% of their annual sales during the Christmas Season.

Anyway, one department put up a board with a Tree outline on it and some markers. There was a sign inviting anyone to draw on a decoration or write in a comment. Scattered about were sketches of ornaments and “Merry Christmas”. There was one thought-provoking statement: someone wrote “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and then, in a different hand writing, had crossed out Jesus and written next to it “Pagans”. Hence, “Pagans are the Reason for the Season”.

I thought about that for a moment or two.

What IS the reason for the Season?

Actually, sin is the reason for the Season. It is why Christ was born, to redeem His creation. If there had not been any sin, there would not have been any need for Him to come, be crucified, and resurrected.

It is man’s sin that makes His birth and His death and His resurrection logical. Otherwise, Christianity is just another good self-improvement program.

True, the attributes we are to take on are laudable: truthfulness, honesty, loving, caring, joyfulness, peacefulness, selfless, and forgiving. There are many religions and faiths and philosophies that recognize these as worthwhile and even the ultimate behaviors we, as humans, should strive to attain. Many are built around these traits, many profess that to exhibit them will get you rewards (a better life now, a better life next time, making God like you more, etc.).

The Bible, however, teaches that we should desire to put these traits on not for what we will gain from them, but because of something else we have already gotten – Christ’s payment for our sins. He took on our sins, even becoming sin for us, so that we would not have to face His perfect Justice, which requires punishment for our sins.

And this gift is so pure and perfect that it requires nothing more than our accepting the reality that we are despicable creatures because of our sins and that He took them on for us and is our Savior.

Thus, sin IS the reason for the season. This is not a rejoicing that we sin, it a heart filled joy because Christ did what we could not do, overcome our own short comings, our own bad decisions, our own pains that we have cause, our own selfish desires.

Even though December 25 is a questionable date for Christ’s birth; even though this “Holiday” came from a pagan event; even though Scripture does not ordain us to honor His birth, I will enjoy this Christmas because my sins are forgiven. I am the recipient of of the most wonderful gift I have received - salvation through Christ.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

News From Saginaw 12-10-06

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The cold wind of this week turned warm and the temperature turned “balmy” (in winter that means above freezing), enough to melt the thin layer of snow and dampen the sidewalks.

This unexpected thaw, while not typical, is not unexpected. Around this time of year in Michigan it seems the weather bounces back and forth between freezing cold to damp cold. My arthritis is not sure which is worse, but it has truly become a two anti-inflammatory pills season for me.

These aches were not unexpected, though I had hoped they would stay away until I reached sixty, but fifty-three is better than forty-two. As we look forward into the future we hope for the best but have knowledge that only the worst will come until the Lord calls us home. Someone will disappoint us. Someone will get very ill. Someone will die. Someone will achieve something we had only dreamed about.

I am not being maudlin here, just realistic. This world holds nothing for us but the hope of the return of Christ. This was the subject of the sermon today at Immanuel – Jesus Christ is returning. He will be back.

This is not our hope, but our reality. It is, as the sermon indicated, a very practical doctrine for those of us waiting on His return. It should be the guiding principal of our every breath since in the next He could be here, and it is something we need to be consciously considering always.

Forget the 244 things every Christian should do, just remember that He will be here in the next eye blink or the next finger snap or the next swallow. In an instant, not unexpected, but anticipated.

I never thought too deeply about this reality. It is like Christmas coming. We don’t really get that ‘season’s spirit’ until after Thanksgiving (ok, unless you are a retailer then it starts in October). We don’t really get excited about it until December comes and we suddenly realize that we have gifts to buy and decorations to put up and cookies to bake and cards to send. It is the busyness of preparing that elevates the excitement and anticipation of the event.

How I desire that I dealt with the coming King like the coming holiday. How I need to be busy in preparing for the return of Christ. How I must see it as immanent and take care of the last minute details. If the King comes in the next moment will I have the gifts wrapped, the decorations up, the food ready?

There are sins within that I must face and hard-heartedness that needs to be addressed. There are those I have wronged whom I never sought forgiveness. There are others who I have never told the good news of repentance and salvation.

My hope is that you are ready to rise up to meet our Savior when He comes on the trumpet sound, and that He will greet you as a good and faithful servant. Remember that we are not of this world, but we will be going home sooner than we think, and I pray that we all will be ready.

For His Glory,

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