Unchanged Shadows

Ever heard of Christmas in July? I found myself musing the other day about words from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” “I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.” “No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.” “If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here.

Our futures are mostly comprised out of consequences from decisions made in the present. While we do rest in the fact that God holds the future that His children walk in, we nonetheless walk so in the tension of His sphere of sovereignty and our role of human responsibility. Elections have consequences on the short and long-term decisions of a country. A failed test during the course of a school year will affect the final result of the course grade. Money spent today on frivolity cannot be spent again on necessities when bills come due.

“Unless these shadows remain unaltered…I see a vacant seat…”

There is a correspondence between what we do now, and the outcome of that decision which we experience later. Many people say, “I need a break from church for a while” and before they know it that break has turned into a permanent vacation. “It’s no big deal, after all. Timber Ridge will always be there on the hill when I get ready to go back.” Will it?

God is faithful, and we have His word that His church will always have a presence in this world until He comes again. That truth however is no guarantee that Timber Ridge will be here when that day comes. As you make the “big” choices in life, don’t overlook the biggest. After all, without God in the mix you never can get to the final statement of the book, “God bless us, everyone.”


On Track

Our youngest son, Zachary, has discovered the wonder of books.   One of his favorite book series is Thomas the Train.  One of the nice things about these books is that many of them teach some sort of moral lesson throughout the book.  Such was the case with a book I read to Zachary the other day.  The last page of it summarized the lesson best.

“I thought there was nothing a train could not do,” said Thomas.  “But now I know that is just not true.  I learned a big lesson from one little crack.  A train is only as good as its track.”

How is the relationship going between yourself and your track?  Who is it that is guiding you down the mile markers of life?  God, His Word, His Church, or only yourself?  The sad truth is that for many of us, we act just like Thomas does for much of the book.  We think highly of ourselves and act like we are sufficient and invincible, only to learn too late how insufficient we are.

Man is a rebel who wants to do his own thing without any or very little accountability for his actions. This has been the case since the fall of man, but it sure seems like the level of defiance centered in this rebellion is increasing.  We have lost our need for a track, and failed to see that we aren’t going anywhere in this life, or in the life to come without it.

A life worth living is grounded by freedom, and true freedom is not the ability for one to do as he pleases, but by the grace of God, to do what is right according to the absolute and righteous standards of truth He gives us in His Holy Word.  May more of us realize just how necessary a solid track is to carry us through the highways and byways of this life!  If we don’t, the best our children may ever glean from their life experiences is that the railways of life lead us only to our death, not to our life.


May, a Month of Remembrances

The temperatures are warming, trees have budded, flowers are blooming, and spring is in full swing.  The end of a long year of school lies just around the corner.  Dreams of summer vacations are transitioning from possibilities on a paper into actual plans.  May is here, and summer is just around the corner!  Will you stop to smell the flowers of May before you fast-forward into June?

Our society has given the month of May two important events on the calendar for people to remember:  Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.  God has given us four special days: May 7, 14, 21 and 28, otherwise known as “the Lord’s Day” or Sunday.  What will we remember or celebrate when these days overlap?  Will we sing about mothers on May 14?  Will there be patriotic hymns on May 28?  In the majority of churches in our land the answer to that question will most certainly be an unequivocal “yes”.  The question we face is when we do blend them, can we maintain a proper perspective on the day?  Will the children who travel home to be with Mom on that special day bother to go to church with her?  Will God come up during the Mother’s Day meal or just Mom?  Things get even more complex with Memorial Day because for many people it marks the unofficial beginning of summer.  People get a three-day weekend which means they can travel, see sights, and get away.  Very often the “memorial” of our Memorial Day seems to get lost in the modern world – an amazing parallel to the Lord’s Day in our modern culture, is it not?

Celebrate motherhood, celebrate sacrifice and freedom, celebrate God.  These are all things that we should be doing not on any one day of the year but on every day of it.  Nevertheless, sometimes the calendar makes us focus on them a little bit more intently.  What will you be celebrating in May?  Take time out not simply to smell the flowers but to appreciate who made them and why their beauty is not simply an expression of love to Mom or a fallen soldier but to God.


Too Soon, Too Late

Last year I had the privilege to meet and speak with a man in the final days of his earthly life.  While going to his house to visit him I noticed a plaque on his wall that read, “We grow too soon old, and too late wise.”  How true a statement that proverb is!   

I would love to have clearer answers to the situations and problems that many of us face in life.  I long to know precisely what good God is bringing about when conflict and physical trials afflict us.  These situations are all around us, never seeming to end.  As a matter of fact many of them seem to just get bigger and bigger the longer we live.  “We grow too soon old, and to late wise.” 

There is truth in that statement, and yet there is also myth.  Has God given us enormous things to do in our lives?  Yes!  He has given us the care and stewardship of His creation; the filling of it through the propagation of children; the privilege of raising and discipling them in the fear and admonition of the Lord; the call of the Gospel message and the Great Commission.  All of these tasks have been given to us.  While there may be uncertainty in these things about what we should or should not do with them, there is not complete ignorance about them.  We may not have every answer we want to the questions of life, but we do have all the answers we truly need to make sense of them.  Why is there death?  Why is there sickness?  Why is there hostility?  It is there because of sin.  “WELL, THAT’S NOT THE ANSWER I WANT, GOD!” Nevertheless, that is the answer we need to hear. 

 If you can look at the sufferings of this world around your life and see that the “wages of sin is death” we are not as dumb as we think.  Yet when we look at those same situations and thumb our nose at God, in essence saying, “I know better than you do,” we have failed to miss the most basic message of the entire totality of Holy Scripture.  He is God, and we are not. 

“We grow too soon old, and too late wise.” 

May you know not every answer, but the one that matters most and then grow both old and wise in Him.





Words or Truth?

The other day my wife and children were having an English lesson in which they had to discuss the meaning of the term “propaganda.” She tried to explain it to them, and with just a little searching around the house they soon found a perfect example of it on the back of my stick of deodorant. It read:

This product contains: “ODOR-FIGHTING ‘ATOMIC ROBOTS’ THAT SHOOT LASERS AT STENCH MONSTERS…” Really? ATOMIC ROBOTS? Well, no, not literally, but the makers of Old Spice sure wanted to convey to the purchaser that their product is far superior to anyone else’s.

Over the course of human history, many people have thought that the Bible was nothing more than “religious propaganda.” All it contained they contended was nothing more than a bunch of exaggerated claims about sin in the world to prey on the weak-minded, gullible masses so religious folk could control their morality. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Bible does have a lot to say about sin, and mankind’s responses to it — not because “churchmen” want us to respond a certain way with our lifestyle choices — but because God does. The Bible is not propaganda, it is TRUTH.

America is full of vicious political rhetoric right now that is full of propaganda. Voices from both the right and the left screaming at us about what is right or wrong and how we should think about things. Do not give in to human propaganda! There is but one voice we need to hear to make right decisions in this life, and that voice is God’s as He has spoken to us through His Word. Make it a point this spring to study it. You’ll be amazed how much God’s Word has to say about this life, if only we stop and listen to Him instead of the world’s propaganda.


December Pen

As holiday shoppers flock to stores and the mall in search of the “perfect gift” the age old problem of the commercialization of Christmas rings true once again. What is this day that we are celebrating really all about? The Incarnation of Christ? Presents? Family? Santa Claus? All of the Above?

This year, the question of what we celebrate at Christmas (and on Sunday for that fact) takes on an even larger presence as Christmas Day happens to occur on a Sunday this year. For many Christians, this arrangement presents a fascinating conundrum.

A survey done by the Hartford Institute concluded the following:

“When Christmas falls on a Sunday it presents a problem for nearly every Protestant congregation – no matter what the size, shape or denominational affiliation. After talking with official researchers of several of the country’s major denominations, it is absolutely clear that when Christmas and Sunday service coincide – it is the Sunday service that loses. Attendance is always minimal on a Christmas Sunday.”

Why is that? Why is it that Christians who otherwise wear buttons and pins on their jackets that say “Keep Christ in Christmas” abandon corporate worship on a Christmas Sunday?

I for one happen to be looking forward to a “Son-day” Christmas this year. Why? Because it is a special treat that’s rare. From 2000-2050, Christmas Day and Sunday will coincide only eight times. (2005, 2011, 2016, 2022, 2033, 2039, 2044 and 2050). That means in 50 years I will only have eight chances to be “inconvenienced” or “edified” by Christmas occurring on a Sunday. I would so much rather be edified by it .

Perspective is so important to our Christian walk. Why we do the things we do, matters a lot. We at Timber Ridge are a family in Christ. What a blessing it is for us all to gather as that spiritual family in worship and celebration of Christmas! Now I am not saying “Be here at Timber Ridge on Christmas Day at all costs!” but I am saying to you maximize this “Son-day Christmas” event in 2016. Whether your family is coming to spend Christmas with you or you are traveling to see them, look at this Christmas Day as a great opportunity to worship together with them in church. Even if they don’t usually go to church, if you make it a priority to go to church that day, they might too. Don’t be upset or indifferent about the fact that Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday this year; see it as a great opportunity to put more of “Christ” into your “Christmas”. That is after all, what we often times say that we really want – right?


Pastor’s Pen


As we go through the business of life it is very easy to ignore warning signs along the way.  A few weeks ago when I was driving back from Morgantown, the “check engine” light illuminated on the dashboard.  What was it?  Was it an oil leak?  Was it a blown seal?  Was I about to be stranded on the road?  What should I do?  I drove it all the way home, constantly watching every other dial on the dashboard for any other sign of a problem.  None were forthcoming.  I took the van to the repair shop a few days later, and it turned out to be nothing more than a dirty fuel system as a result of cheap ethanol enhanced gas.  One can of fuel injector/fuel system cleaner later and the light had cleared.  I was good to go, at least as far as the light was concerned.  This incident however does raise a larger question that is worth pondering.  Can a solution can of anything really fix the problem?  The answer is of course no.  It can make the problem slightly better for sure, and it may even be able to act as a preventive for future problems, but to really correct a deficiency and restore something to its “factory” condition one does not simply need a can of solutions, he needs an entire overhaul!
How often do we treat our faith life with God the same way!  “Honey, the ‘check our spirituality light’ just illuminated on the dashboard – what should we do?”  “Throw in a can of quick fix Bible verse and prayer solvent and we’ll be fine.”  No, you won’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I want you to read the Bible and pray, but that in and of itself will not deal with the problem you are facing; you have to apply what Scripture teaches to your life.  Take Psalm 131 for example:
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
            Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
            Or in things too difficult for me. (Psalm 131:1)
Do you have a proud heart?  Do you have haughty eyes?  Do you chase after things too great for you in your own strength?  If you do, then reading a Bible verse and calling it good will not improve your condition one bit.  It is only when you earnestly read and apply Scripture to your life situation through the prompting and strength of the Holy Spirit that life changing maintenance is done.  May that be the engine diagnostic you need to not simply seek a quick fix solution to problems you encounter in life, but a lasting fix that will show you the true health or deterioration of your spiritual condition.

Rev. Steven T. Szelmeczki