Pastor's Desk

elevator of haunted house or stairs to holy heights
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/11/2024
“Sounds like a haunted house!” I wasn’t thinking as I said it. We were on the ground floor waiting for the elevator to take us to our room on the fifth. At our hotel, the wind outside was gusting ferociously. Large doors opened up to the elevator lobby. The wind was blowing the exterior doors open and was whistling, howling, and moaning through the lobby and hallways. The elevator arrived, and we with others got in and pushed the respective numbers to our rooms’ floors. When the doors shut, the vehement wind prevailed in finding its way through the small crack between the doors. The howling, whistling, and moaning increased. As the elevator began to rise, that’s when I said, “Sounds like a haunted house!” What I had forgotten was that a mother with two small girls had gotten on with us and stood behind us. When I said what I did, one of those little girls asked her mother in a quivering, fearful voice, “Mom, is this really a haunted house?” “You scared her,” Sandra whispered in her ear. I felt bad about that for just a second. Then I felt vindicated: The elevator jerked to a stop between floors. We were stuck. One passenger anxiously pushed the call button. When a voice came over the intercom speaker, she with traces of panic in her voice reported that we were trapped in the elevator. It didn’t take long for the elevator to heat up. Nervous bodies do that. It probably didn’t take long for help to show up either, but it seemed like a long time. I was looking at the elevator’s ceiling, looking for an exit. Finally, the maintenance personnel got the elevator back to the ground floor and got the doors opened. Nobody looked for another elevator. We all looked for the stairs. The mother and her daughters joined us in the stairwell. Fortunate for the girls’ small legs, their room wasn’t too far up. Ours was on the next to the last floor. As you know, there are two flights of stairs for each floor in most commercial buildings. We had eight to climb. As we labored up the stairs, I was reminded of an observation I’d made long ago: When I visited the hospitals, I used to like to park on the top floor of the parking garages and take the stairs. One day, climbing the stairs back to my vehicle, something I had subconsciously noticed many times before coalesced into words in my mind. The stairs on the bottom floor had a lot of wear--dirt from shoes and paint worn off. The higher one traveled, the stairs were less worn, less dirty, and had less paint worn off. By the time I got to the top floor, the stairs looked almost freshly painted. The observation was simple: The higher the floor, the less traveled the stairs. Few made the climb. It was too difficult. Too far. Especially with an elevator around. In Bible times, people thought of their god as residing in a temple, or in a “garden,” or on top of a mountain. That’s where gods dwelt. And if you were going to contact them, get to them that’s where you had to go. Of course, this was a distortion of the true worship of the true God, Yahweh. But take a look at the Bible's Old Testament. God’s presence was in the Temple, in the Garden, or on the Mountain. That’s where people went to meet with Yahweh. That was the Holy Place. God on top of the Mountain? That takes a climb. Comparatively few made the climb. I’ve climbed some mountains lately. The higher up, the thinner, not only the air, but also the traffic. And the less worn the trail. The sounds of the haunted house came on the lower floor stuck in an elevator. The great view of the ocean came from the height of our room after climbing the many stairs. That is true of the high places. Whatever the effort to get there the view is so much better. Clearer. Wider. Even, spectacular. The climbing the stairs to the view from our window, the scrabbling up the trail to the panoramic vista on the mountain’s summit were so worth it. Standing on the summit of one of the Superstition Mountains I said to my wife, “You never see this if you stay on the road and don’t hike up the mountain. Few see what we are seeing.” As in the hymn we used to sing describes, I am glad there is “Higher Ground.” There is a place that transcends the filth, ugliness, chaos, calamity, clamoring, and corruption, of this world in which we live. There is a heavenly place. There is God there. If we climb until the stairs look freshly painted from lack of use. If we climb the trail to where there are fewer and fewer hikers. If we persist in prayer until we leave behind the low life. We can make the climb in the privacy of our home in devotional prayer, or in the car on the way to work, or walking in the wilderness, or, in, perhaps, the most conducive place, in worship during the gathering of God’s people, in church. And we can make it because Jesus blazed the trail before us, traveled the trail, and is the Trail, to the Holy Place, to the Presence of God, to the Heights in Him. Everybody that came out of that elevator was looking for stairs. We would not have taken the stairs had the elevator not been stuck. Analogies, like the elevator, break down in a hurry--the elevator, had it worked, would have gotten us to the same height, the same level, the same floor, as did the stairs. But, two things: We wouldn’t have appreciated getting there by elevator as we did when we finally made it climbing the stairs. Second, there is no elevator to the Holy Place. Jesus blazed a trail. He didn’t install an elevator. Just, perhaps, it will take being stuck in a haunted elevator—being in some difficult, unpleasant, unbearable perplexity--to get you to climb the less traveled stairs to the higher place in God. It will be worth the climb. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
“…it’s not my truth”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/14/2024
“You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth.” This response to me is the same one given by the multitudes of the deceived today. It is what is driving the lunacy, the vitriol, the craziness, the anti-Semitism, the reverse discrimination, the flagrant and flaunted sexual perversions, the implosion of our institutions, et al, of our society. At its roots is a vaunted arrogance. “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is the epitome of self-assured arrogance. Humanity’s arrogance, I believe, has never been greater. Humanity has made itself, or, I should say, individual humans are making each himself/herself, the center of the universe. They desperately need a cosmology lesson. They make themselves the know-all. The end all. The judge in the judge’s seat, the head referee, the expert of every subject. God. “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is the hallmark expression of our postmodernity age. One of the things that I find both disturbing and infuriating with those who spout this is that, by saying it, they are saying they believe in no absolute truth, no objective truth, just “my truth; But, by saying this they are, in fact, claiming an absolute truth—the absolute "truth” that there is no absolute truth. This is not semantics. This is what they have done. Their statement that there is no Truth just my truth and your truth is in itself a claim of an absolute truth. It is also absurd. “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” reveals, by their saying it, an even deeper arrogance: Those who spew it believe that not only it, but anything they SAY is true simply because they have said it. If they SAY Israel is the oppressor, then Israel is the oppressor. If they say the sky is characteristically yellow, the sky is yellow. If they say something that Scripture has clearly labeled sin is, not only not sin, but good, and wholesome, then, because they said it, then it’s not sin, it is good and wholesome. This we get from news reporters prattling. And from pundits pontificating. And from politicians demagoguing. And from celebrities jabberwocking. And from scientists speaking beyond their field. And from progressive preachers manipulating. And from the man on the street. And from a co-worker across from you. And from the family member that would justify his sin. “I say it, therefore it is true.” “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is an attempt to say that all truth is subjective and no truth is objective. I realize that there is subjective truth. But there is a difference between objective and subjective truth. When we talk objective truth, we are talking about what corresponds to reality. The only way to deny objective truth is to deny reality. You can say it is summertime outside today in Ohio. But we have a plethora of means to ascertain whether that statement corresponds with reality. We need only consult the calendar. It’s January 14. We can take a thermometer outside. We can go for a walk without a coat. We can make and throw a snowball. And before Smarty Pants says, “Well, it is summertime in Australia,” he must know that the original statement was about the reality today, January, in Ohio. It describes a place in the northern hemisphere. And here it is winter. Smarty is not only skewing the claim, he is also proving there is objective truth. See, on January 14 it is summertime in Australia. Believe, me, it is winter here in Ohio. That is everybody here’s truth because it is true for everyone in Ohio. “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is an arrogance that manifests itself, not only in “because I say it, it is true, but also in these other delusionary and illusionary statements. They may not be verbalized, but they are thought: • Because I think it is true, it is true. • Because I want it, it is right. • Because I feel it, it is good. • Because I claim it, it is unarguable. • Because I don’t like it, it is dismissible. • Because I repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, it is undeniable. “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is something said by a set of people. Scripture had both the people and the statement pegged millennia ago. “…every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Jdg 17:6). What one in this set of folks does is “right in his own eyes.” It’s his truth. He says it right. Therefore, it is right. Not so! What about in God’s eyes? What about what God says? “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth” is a statement and sentiment that I reject as by any measure valid. It’s not just that I believe you are not the fountainhead or determiner of what is true. I do not believe I am either. It is that I believe God is. See, it’s not about my truth or your truth. It is about His Truth. And I want to make His truth my truth. I must. You know, there is one who can accurately claim, “You may think that is the truth, but it’s not MY truth.” And that’s God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
what’s the top of your refrigerator look like?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/07/2024
Though just on the lower end of tall, 6’2”, I am still utilized in stores, like Kroger’s: “Sir, excuse me; excuse me, sir”; it took me a moment to realize that the woman I was barreling past with my cart was speaking to me. I threw on the brakes, stopped, and turned to her. “Could you reach that bread on the back of the top shelf?” I could easily see it and reach it. I pulled it off the shelf and handed it to her. She smiled and thanked me, and I went on with my amateur shopping. Thinking of refrigerators. Being tall, I can not only reach bread on the top shelf at the grocery store but also see the tops of refrigerators. Ours. Yours. Any house I visit. I don’t try to. I don’t take advantage of the hospitality of homes to which I’ve been invited to do a white-gloved inspection. It’s involuntary. I’m taller than most refrigerators. My eye level is above fridges’ top edge. I look down on them. Literally, not disparagingly. I can’t keep from noticing. It’s just my view vantage. And, here, I’m afraid I might offend some folks. I don’t mean to. But, the tops of most refrigerators are rather dusty. Many, name-writing-with-a finger-in-the-dust dusty. Once, I was just trying to be helpful—like helping the lady at the story reach her bread—and made the mistake of mentioning to my wife that the top of ours was a bit dusty. She responded with, “I can’t see up there. I can’t reach up there.” My wife is a professional house cleaner by vocation. She does an impeccable job. She also is barely north of 5’ 1”. She’s right. She can’t see up there. But, from my height, I can. If you are a parishioner, friend, or family member who has, but will now never again, invite me to your home, I must protest this is only a blog about a spiritual truth—not house cleaning. I’m not writing so you will wonder if Pastor Hurst, Dad, Cliff, or whatever you know me by, has seen the top of my refrigerator and found it covered with dust moon-dust deep. No, I’m writing to contemplate that God is taller than 6’2”. From His vantage point, He can see more than the top of my refrigerator. He can see my heart. All of it. And it’s not dust I’m worried about His seeing. Many find it an inconvenient truth, but, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:13). God sees the top the refrigerator in your heart too. Once in my devotions I was reading and musing on Psalm 139, yet again. Towards the end, I came to the psalmist’s plea, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psa 139:23). I was wondering, “Why would the psalmist be asking God to search him to discover “any wicked way in me.” He has to know God doesn’t have to search to know. He has to know the omniscient God already knows. In fact, the Psalmist at the beginning of this outpouring has already declared that God has searched Him and known him. (139:1). It’s already been done. And then it hit me why. In a crude analogy, I answered myself, “Of course, the psalmist knew that God already knew what was in him. What he was saying was, ‘God, I know you have searched me and known me, but, God, take another tour of my heart. And this time, take me with you and point out to me and show me what You saw when You made Your search.’” Please, I am not suggesting that you invite me to do a tour of your house for me to inspect your refrigerator and tell you what I see. But, since God already has seen the top of your heart’s “refrigerator,” perhaps, it would be a good thing to, like the psalmist, invite the Lord in to do an inspection and to have Him tell you what He sees. Make no mistake. There’s comfort as well in this knowledge that God has seen the top of your refrigerator. It's not just the dust God sees. I know I don’t just see dust on refrigerators. I also see special keys. Needed medications. Breakable items. Important papers. No, God doesn’t just see the sin, the errant thoughts, the selfish motives and intents, the rebellion and disobedience. He also sees the wounds. The hurt. The pain. The struggles. The battles. Earlier, justifying my wife for our refrigerator being dusty (rarely so), I wrote: “She responded with, ‘I can’t see up there. I can’t reach up there.’” Once or twice (I’m a slow learner), she followed her response by throwing me the dust rag and saying, “If you see it’s dusty, dust it yourself.” She might have been a bit miffed at me. But her response is analogously wise. We should not only ask God how the top of our refrigerator looks from “up there,” but, when He says it is dusty, we should hand him the dust rag of repentance and contrition and, say, “God, if it is dusty, please, dust it.” As my wife also has said, “If you can see it’s dusty, you can also dust it.” What consolation. If God can see it—and He can, He can also dust it—and He will. Just ask Him. What’s the top of your refrigerator look like? None of my business, I’m sure. But have you asked God? ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
the inappropriate appropriation of christmas
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/17/2023
A reoccurring war-drum beat today (I hope that wasn’t appropriation.) is that folks are racists because they appropriate. Appropriation, that’s the thing—not to do. One realm where righteous woke warriors (again, I hope I didn’t appropriate.) go on attack is the sports arena: They point out that sports teams’ names and mascots have been appropriated, and, thus, are racist. Some examples are Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Edmonton Eskimos, and Chicago Blackhawks. One decrier proposes that any reference to humans be expunged from team names, mascots, and memorabilia. This, I find ironic since sports are all about people. Really, I’m not entering the fray of what is and isn’t cultural appropriation. But I am going to point out, that, once again, as almost always, those who decry others’ sins are committing, perhaps, greater sins themselves. If to name a team “Redskins” is appropriation, what in the world would you call the hijacking of Christmas if not appropriation? When you have taken the holiday and bleached it free from its very inception, purpose, and import and profaned it with your debauched festivities, prostituted it to make money, and repurposed it for your fairytales, what is that if not appropriation? Christmas has been inappropriately appropriated. The critical theorists who are astute include spiritual appropriation in cultural appropriation. As one explained, to wear a feather about your head is a spiritual appropriation from Native Americans. They (the Plains Indians) traditionally wore war bonnets. Also, feathers were used in Native American spiritual practices. Thus, to wear a feather on your head is appropriating culturally and spiritually. Yet, these same fastidious appropriation ferreters cannot see that Christmas has been inappropriately appropriated. I do not believe in ridiculing, maligning, or targeting any ethnic or spiritual group. Nor do I believe in being discriminatory or racist. True appropriation does exist when a group’s traditions, beliefs, customs, costumes, etc., are used for these malevolent purposes—not perceived but actual. But, contemporaneously, all such maligning things are being done with Christmas. It is being inappropriately appropriated. Before someone grabs a troll megaphone and shouts, “Don’t you know anything? It is the Christians who appropriated Christmas. December 25th is probably not even close to the day Jesus was born. But Christians appropriated the holiday of the celebration of a Roman deity to celebrate Christmas on the 25thof December.” I do know that. But I would call it re-appropriation. Polytheistic pagans had supplanted the worship of the true God with the worship of false gods. When they put the names of their contrived gods on worship and altars and feast days, they were appropriating “worship” for their own purposes. All worship belongs to God, Yahweh. Everything else is an appropriation. It’s not a pagan festival at the winter’s solstice that has been inappropriately appropriated. It’s Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth, the moment of the greatest wonder of all human history—God became One of us, a human. If celebrating the Word becoming flesh on December 25th, if worshiping Christ on that day is appropriation, it is an appropriate appropriation. All else being done to, with, and on that day to supplant the Christ is the inappropriate appropriation of Christmas—the holiday which bears His name, Christ. A continuously played rerun during this season is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” That’s not the worst of it. A depraved culture has appropriated Christmas*. That’s the cultural appropriation that should concern us most. It is totally inappropriate appropriation. --Pastor Clifford Hurst *If you think this far-fetched, look how the White House this year was decorated for Christmas, and the performance there with which the First Family chose to celebrate Christmas.
what is wrong with us?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/10/2023
“Maybe we both have COVID,” I surmised to my wife. Neither of us is subject to headaches. Both of us were experiencing awful ones. For days. My head felt simultaneously as if it were in a vice and full of slushy mush. Fatigued, for three days we complained and moped and dragged ourselves around. We wondered silently each one to ourselves and out loud to each another, “What is wrong with us?” What was wrong? It hit me when I went to fix coffee for the fourth day: Earlier in the week we had run out of our usual coffee. Deciding to wait until Saturday to purchase more from the store where we found it greatly discounted, I decided to use some specialty coffee we had purchased with graciously given gift cards. “Dark roasted” was all I saw on the package. That is what we preferred. For the next three days, I filled the filtered basket on our coffee maker with this high-end coffee. It had a nice aroma. Prepared the night before, the coffee maker goes off each morning at 5:30 am, so, by drinking coffee, we have occasion to spend time together the first part of each day.” Each morning during those three days, we both commented that this new coffee had a good flavor but seemed a little weak. “But,” I protested, “I have filled the filter as fully as possible. I can’t add more coffee.” That last evening, when I filled the basket for the next day, I took another look at the package. There in a small circle on the right of the package I read, “Decaf.” Walking to where she was sitting, I hollered to my wife, “I think I’ve figured it out! “We’ve been drinking decaf coffee! I didn’t see that label until just now.” “That has to be it,” my wife eagerly agreed. “That’s why we’ve had the headaches. I know we don’t normally drink caffeinated coffee this late, but we just might have to tonight to get our caffeine and fix these headaches.” Don’t judge us. Before you cite our headaches and low-performance functionality as evidence of our caffeine addictions and troll this post with condemnatory comments, think: Each caffeine naysayer and decrier would have the same symptoms if you didn’t eat for a day. Does that mean you have a sinful addiction to food? Well, I stumbled into that. I better leave that topic alone. But, if you protest, “Food is a necessity of life,” I must ask, “And coffee isn’t?” Satire aside, I really want to and wrote to share what I immediately thought upon my discovery of what was wrong with us: Just as not having our daily dose of caffeine had real impeding and painful effects on our daily living, so it is with one’s Christian life, with worship and prayer and with ministry when we attempt to “do it” without the empowerment and impetus of the Spirit. This is not a disconcerting, off-putting, but a wonderful truth. The NT scriptures, again and again, turn to the reality that we can—and can only—live the Christian life by the motivation, inspiration, activation, stimulation, and instigation of the Spirit of God. His effects are far more visceral to our souls and minds than caffeine is to our bodies and heads. That is the wonderful thing. We can have the Spirit daily “in our system” having this life-altering effect. The stimulate of our souls and inner lives should not be coffee. Nor wine for sure. It should be the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:18). Are you moping and groping? Are you lagging and dragging? Are you apathetic and lethargic? Is life, is serving God, a drudgery? Dull? Ineffective? What is wrong with you? Take another look at what you are “drinking,” partaking of daily. Does it have the label “de-Spirit”? The moment I realized I had once again poured decaf coffee into the coffee maker’s basket, I immediately emptied it into a Zip-lock and refilled the filter with real stuff, the good stuff, the stuff with the caffeine. Likewise, when our lives are devoid of an intake of the things of the Spirit, when we are not being filled with the Spirit, we should empty our lives of whatever we must to make room for the things of the Spirit, for the Spirit Himself. What is wrong with us? Nothing that cannot be fixed by drinking coffee…of the Spirit. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
thankful or unthankful
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/19/2023
Descriptions That Say It All. Before I heard the commentator mention it, I saw it for myself. It was evident. There was a marked contrast between the two crowds. Strikingly stark: Last week, supporters of Israel rallied in Washington, D.C., in protest against anti-Semitism. The huge crowd was, though passionate, well-manner, peaceful, temperate, and restrained. Two weeks earlier, a crowd of protestors, ostensibly to support Palestinians, but in reality, against Israel and for Hamas, raged throughout Washington as they had in other cities. They were rabid in their hatred and vitriol. That crowd was incorrigible, intractable, and, anything but peaceful. It was paroxysmal. (Of course, in both crowds, there were individuals who were exceptions. But, as a whole, the above describes each crowd.) The difference in demeanor made me think of Thanksgiving this week. Of being thankful. Of gratitude. However, righteous they may believe themselves to be, a crowd that behaves by burning American flags, calling for the death of Jews, and raging about how terrible their country is, is marked by something that goes deeper than its vitriol and vituperation—ingratitude. Those that comprise it are unthankful. Likewise, a crowd that is well-mannered, peaceful, and restrained has an underlying and overarching gratitude. If you knew in advance if a crowd was thankful or unthankful, you could determine what its demeanor and behavior were going to be when it protested. Thankful or Unthankful are descriptions that say it all. It really is that simple. Americans thankful for their country, thankful for their freedoms, thankful for their opportunities, do not act violently incorrigibly. Not as a crowd. Not as individuals. (And, yes, America has had and does have flaws; but despite those, even in protest of them, folks can be grateful or ungrateful.) An attitude of gratitude or ingratitude changes everything about a person, a crowd, or a nation. In any situation, circumstance, and even crisis, how a crowd, how a person, behaves can be precisely predicted by whether it has, he has, an attitude of gratitude or ingratitude. Which attitude one has is both predictive and causal. Insightfully, the Apostle Paul revealed this when he historically described humanity’s turning from worshiping God to idolatry—a transition that led to the corruption and reprobation of humanity. He noted that those who turned from God were not thankful. Not being thankful, they rejected God. Rejecting God, they became filled with unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, etc. Misbehavior and incorrigibility come from rejecting God, and rejecting God comes from and is accompanied by un-thankfulness. This is not just true with a crowd’s demeanor and behavior. It is true on every level. A spouse who is being unfaithful is unthankful. A teen child who is being rebellious is unthankful. A citizen who is haranguing our nation is unthankful. A believer who is maligning his church family is unthankful. And on and on the examples could go. I know, on matters of what is going on in Israel, for example, there are differences of opinion. There are nuances to the arguments. There are real wrongs done. But still, one’s demeanor and behavior in the argument, in his stance, are always consistent with whether that one is thankful or unthankful. It could be argued that the character of a person predetermines whether he will be thankful or unthankful. That may well be true. Yet, I suspect that the attitudes of gratitude and ingratitude have a power of their own. Gratitude is a kinetic force transformative of those who choose it. And ingratitude is likewise transfiguring of those who consent to its advances. Being thankful changes me. As does being unthankful. There may be much for which I cannot be thankful. But there is much more for which I can. Like the two crowds that visited D.C., my demeanor and behavior, my worship or lack of it, my love or disdain to love, will reveal which I have chosen. Whichever describes me, thankful or unthankful, well, describes me. Thankful or Unthankful are descriptions that say it all. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
heaven must weep over every baby killed
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/12/2023
“There is no other way to describe it, but that they are rejoicing over killing babies,” I remarked sadly to my wife. It was the morning after a substantial majority of Ohioans had passed Issue 1, an amendment to our state constitution that allows for abortion. Our newspaper’s special election issue led with a large photo of Issue 1’s proponents’ watch party. It featured a crowd on their feet, hands raised high in the air in victory, gleeful smiles on every face, the flush of exhilaration in their countenance, celebrating. Celebrating, ostensibly, over a victory for “women’s health.” Since the commencement of their campaign, “women’s health” was a disingenuous disguise, part of the scheming and strategy, to deceive people about what the amendment is really about. Whatever their protestations, the reality is, they were not rejoicing over women’s health. They were rejoicing over the worst thing for babies' health--being killed. How can I possibly accuse them of that? Because that is the inevitable outcome of the passage of this amendment. Babies are going to be killed. Murdered. The amendment was designingly crafted so ambiguously that eventually it can be used to allow for the abortion of anyone, for any reason, under any circumstance. The net result of the chicanery is that more babies, many more babies, exponentially more babies, will be killed than if the amendment had failed. And they were rejoicing over its passage. They were rejoicing over babies being killed. Babies will die because of this amendment. Not just the babies aborted in a true pregnancy crisis; not just the babies conceived by violent and or tragic circumstances. But babies for which there is no possibly justifiable reason their lives should be terminated. Babies that do not have to die. The revelers in the photo were rejoicing over killing babies. Plain and simple. The tragic cases that were cited by its advocates to justify the abortion amendment comprise only a minuscule fraction of the babies that will die. No! It is not just babies in those exceptional, anomalous cases that will die. Again, many, many, many, exponentially more babies will die than would have had the amendment failed. It is those babies they were rejoicing over. I tried to be kind and suppose that for many, their rejoicing was the glee of ignorance. But, really, the wrongness of killing babies is too innate to be ignorance. Although proponents have gone to great lengths to say that what is in a mother’s womb is not a baby, but just a clump of cells, people instinctually know that is not true. What’s in the womb is a baby. A clump of cells is a tumor. A tumor is removed from the body by excision. A baby is removed from the body by an abortion. Tumors are not aborted and babies are not excised. Babies, not tumors, are killed. No, there is no other way to cast it. They in the photo were rejoicing over babies being killed. Although most would have never voiced it, their jubilee, was, “We get to kill babies. We have finagled a way so any can kill their baby." It is evil to take a life. And, as Scripture would describe it, they “rejoiced to do evil.” Ours is a culture of death, and it celebrates death rather than life. Killing a life rather than giving a life. The rejoicing over the amendment said it all. In contrast, heaven rejoices over life. When one comes to and puts his faith in Christ, he is born again. He is given life. Spirit life. Abundant life. Eternal life. And, Jesus says, all of heaven rejoices over the new “baby.” Though this is a spiritual reality, it is also analogous to the physical reality. Heaven must rejoice over the birth of every baby as it did over the birth of The Baby. And, unlike those in the photo celebrating the amendment, Heaven must weep over every baby killed. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
awake or awoke: does it matter?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/05/2023
Awakened or awoke. Which is it? Does it matter? I have noticed in past decades that awoke is getting the most usage, surpassing awakened. Is there any difference? Perhaps, not, but enough to bother me. I don’t always speak grammatically correctly, but having taught grammar and composition for years, I generally know what is correct. Enough to find wrong usage an irritant. For example, I heard this week a renowned philosopher speaking of people who are lazily “laying around on beds.” Of course, they are not laying on beds. Unless he was referring to chickens who lay eggs. They were lying on beds. Awakened and awoke are like lay and lie. Each pair consists of two different words. There is a dissimilarity: Lay and lie have distinctly different meanings: To lay is to set or put down. To lie is to recline, assume a horizontal position, etc. Awakened and awoke developed as two different words, but they have almost the same meaning. Almost. There is a nuance of difference. Awakened often was used transitively. Bill awakened his children. Awoke was more intransitive. Bill awoke. Awakened and awoke should be easier than lay and lie to distinguish while using. In order of present, past, and past participle forms, lay’s are lay, laid, laid. Lie’s are lie, lay, lain. And there’s the confusion. The past form of lie is lay just like the present form of lay. There is a similar difficulty with awakened and awoke. Their forms are awaken, awakened, awakened and awake, awoke, awoken. Each’s present form is the same. Awakened or awoke? We may have trouble distinguishing between those two like we do with lay and lie. There may not be enough difference that it matters that we do. But there is a difference that does matter. The difference between the Great Awakening in America and the Great Awokening in America. OF those, we must know the difference. Their impacts are drastically different. Great Awakening or Great Awokening? Does it matter? In the 1730’s – 1740’s. America was in spiritual decline. Christians had little fervor. Churches were dead. Society was becoming debauched. God sent a Great Awakening. Dead churches came alive. The youth turned to the church, were born again, and became spiritually enthusiastic. The Word of God was spread with a passion and power that was infectious to all. Society was mightily impacted, prepared for the rigors of the Revolutionary Way. The Great Awakening was the first of several awakenings that God has graciously sent the people of America throughout the years since. These have arrested and slowed America’s slide into ruin and decay. They have brought her people back from the brink. The Great Awokening is something else. Although its seeds and shoots had been present for years, the Great Awokening has burgeoned and boomed since the turn of this century. It was doused with satanic miracle growth during the COVID years. Whereas the Great Awakening was birthed from the promulgation of Truth, the Great Awokening was birthed from the promotion of lies. It begins with the lie is that there exists only one binary—the oppressed and oppressor. The oppressed is always right and the oppressor is always wrong. This interface is overlaid upon every circumstance, issue, situation, and facet of human existence. Applied with prevailing lies that there is no absolute truth, no objective truth, that each has his own truth, the Great Awokening has brought us the craziness of an unlimited number of genders, the idiocy of not knowing what a woman is, the tragedy of children being allowed to be mutilated in an impossible attempt to become a gender opposite of what they are born, the imagination of implicit racism in any not a minority, the hatred of ever-splintering tribalism, the perversion of sexual expression, the travesty of calling terrorists the good guys and the good guys terrorists—and on and on goes the deterioration, destruction, division, and debauchery that the Great Awokening has awakened. Awakened or awoke? Probably using the wrong one is inconsequential. Great Awakening or Great Awokening? Which we have is exponentially consequential. To America. To society. To family. To souls. Enough of this Great Awokening. We need another Great Awakening. We need the Truth proclaimed, the people of God to be passionate about their faith, and the Church to be revived not just politicized. We need prayer meetings not protests. We need the transformation of souls not the transitioning of bodies. We need to fight the spiritual battle and not just rail about the social one. Great Awakening or Great Awokening? Does it matter? Absolutely. Completely. May we believers cry out, “Give us a Great Awakening.” Oh, how we need it. We must have it. If we have not awoken on our own to our need, we need to be awakened by God. It matters! --Pastor Clifford Hurst
issue 1: the choice god would have us choose
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/29/2023
On November 7, we Ohioans have a choice to make. Yes or No on Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that in essence, legalizes abortion at any stage. Proponents say abortion is all about choice. I would agree. But the question is, "Whose choice?" The mother's? The child's? The leftists’. The ethicists’? The government's. Or God's? In attempted support of Issue 1, horrible scenarios are created and hypotheticals constructed, to try to justify abortion. Two things should be kept in mind about such arguments: 1. There are some truly drastic situations involving incest, pregnant children, rape victims, critical health for mother. Those tragic cases should never be minimized. 2. Neither should they be used to try to justify abortion. Those are a minuscule fraction of those who actually choose to have abortions. Most abortions happen simply because a baby doesn't fit with what the woman wants. That is not my assessment; it is the proponents: They call their whole movement "Woman's Choice." What the woman chooses, what the woman wants. I don't find it as easy as some to simply say that there is never a circumstance where a choice has to be made about a pregnancy. But that is the point. Who or what ultimately makes that choice? And what about Baby's choice? In potentiality, what would Baby's choice be? Baby indicates its choice by striving to live in the drawing back in pain from instruments that would extract and kill it. Choices are often made like this for adults in a brain-dead coma. If a decision has to be made to end life support, the family considers: "What would she (the one in the coma) choose?" They don’t consider just what they would choose for the incapacitated. In the extreme cases above, the decision wouldn't be a choice a mother would have to or want to make. Whatever the medical urgencies or life exigencies, a mother with concern for her baby would not want to make a choice to end her child’s life. She would be saying, “I don't want to make this choice.” This is the point. Pro-choice is about the choice women want to make not about the choice they don’t want to make. Recent protestors have shown this by boasting since abortion is a woman’s right, they would gleefully choose to have an abortion. Fierce proponents of pro-choice continually chant the mantra “autonomy.” A woman should have autonomy over her body. Autonomy literally means self-law. A woman is the final authority over her body. She decides. She chooses. She chooses what she wants. As in so much of life, choices, tough choices must be made. But, for those who believe in Yahweh, the true God, they not only see they must make a choice, but they also desire to leave the choice to Him, the Creator God. Yes, humans have free agency. They can and do have to make choices. But from the beginning, when God put two trees in the Garden, we see that God sets up the choice. God gives the freedom to make a choice. But always, God makes clear which choice He would have humans make. God gave humans a choice. But not a choice of what is right and wrong. He gave a choice to choose between right and wrong. God gives what the choices are. Then, God makes clear what He would have us choose. As He told people again and again. “I set before you life and death. Choose life.” There are some really, really tough circumstances. But one does not have to be governed by those and choose with the desire to choose death. She can be governed by the desire to choose, as God would have her, life. In the end, Issue 1 is about whether a woman should be able to choose what she wants to choose or what God would have her choose. Issue 1 is about choosing life or death. A vote, No, is a choice for life. A choice God would have us choose. Choose life! --Pastor Clifford Hurst
“no!” is god’s answer too
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/22/2023
Frankly, the little boy’s voice behind us moved me more than the preacher’s booming voice coming across the pulpit in front of us. The child’s one word was weighted more than the many words--not that the many words were not poignant and powerful. That boy’s one word was “No!” The auditorium was crowded. The preacher was concluding a moving message. To bring it home, the man of God boomed a penetrating question to the congregation: “Do you want people to die and go to hell because you weren’t faithful?” As the preacher drew a breath for his next statement and the congregation sat in quiet contemplative conviction, a young boy a few rows behind us cried out a clarion clear, “No!” Children of that age, during the preaching, are normally busy doing something rather than appearing like they are listening—drawing or coloring pictures, playing with a hot-wheel, etc. But I have discovered as a parent, grandparent, and preacher, they are listening and catching far more than one would imagine. Also, children that age don’t recognize a rhetorical question--a question asked to make a point and cause reflection, with no expected verbal response from the listeners. That child was listening and answered as if the minister were in a dialogue with only him. Preacher: “Do you want people to die and go to hell?” Boy: “No!” “No!” as in “Of course not!” “No!” as in “That’s too horrible to even think of it’s happening.” “No!” as in “who could wish anyone go to hell.” “No!” as in “We can’t let that happen without trying to stop it.” It may seem odd, but, though I was hearing the voice of a young boy, probably not much past a toddler’s age, it was as if I heard the voice of God answer the first part of the preacher’s question, “Do you want people to die and go to hell?” In the child’s voice, I heard God’s voice too, “No!” I heard God’s heart behind the voice, “The Lord is not …willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9). The stark reality is people without Christ do die and go to hell. No amount of new atheism, post-modernism, pluralism, or watered-down, progressive Gospel can change that. But does God desire for folks to go to hell? Ask Him. “God, do you want people to die and go to hell?” He will answer with one Word, “Jesus.” “Jesus” is God’s “No!” to the question of whether God wants people to die and go to hell.” “Jesus” is God’s answer to the question as certainly as “No!” was the boy’s answer. Let’s listen to the dialogue again: Preacher: “Do you want people to die and go to hell?” God: “Jesus.” Because of Jesus, the Word made human, none have to go to hell. His death paid the penalty for our sins. His resurrection assured our subsequent pardon. All who accept Him through faith and repentance are rescued from the destiny of hell. By sending Jesus to die for us, God said, “No! I don’t want people to go to hell.” I just rewound the memory tape in my mind and listened again. Preacher: “Do you want people to die and go to hell …?” Boy: “No!” And there it was. I rewound the memory and listened again to make sure. I was not mistaken. In that boy’s voice was the voice of God. God answered “No!” too.* God answered, “Jesus.” --Pastor Clifford Hurst *”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Joh 3:16).
a sunbeam in the sanctuary
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/08/2023
It was a mixture of wonder and joy, the pure delight of discovery, that I saw on the young girl’s face. It happened in church: I was at a day service of a special meeting. The congregation was standing and worshipping. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see this girl, her face absorbed with full attention, her eyes riveted on her hand which she was rotating in this direction and that, raising it a little and lowering it back. Involuntarily, I turned to see more clearly and thought, “What is she doing?” As children that age sometimes do, she was standing with her feet on the top of the back of the seat in front of her while her mother, arms wrapped around her, held her there. The girl, probably four or five, had had her hand stretched upward and was singing and praising, following the modeling of those older folk around her. It was while doing so that she suddenly noticed that her hand from fingertips to halfway to her elbow was awash with brilliant light. The sanctuary was relatively darkened with no visible windows anywhere. I was puzzled, thinking, “From where is that light coming? I looked ceilingward at the large LED fixtures. No. They were flood lights. They would not be producing the beam on her hand. Only a spotlight would do that. A very bright one. Or the sun. It was then I looked at the wall behind us. High up, about 15-20 feet, there was a window! From that window, a narrow beam of light at an angle extended to the girl’s hand before passing further down to the floor. The girl continued to marvel at the brightness on her hand, examining it closely as she kept rotating it. With the hand opened upward, she was moving her fingers as if the light were water running between them and onto her palm. I am not sure she ever concluded why her hand was lit. Or, ever followed that beam’s path to the window and realized that it was the sun. I do know that with a smile on her face, she just closed her eyes and began to visibly worship Jesus all the while still moving her hand as if she were feeling and bathing it in the light from above. This is why I believe in coming to and worshiping in church. It is in worship that we so often discover that God has focused a beam of light upon some part of our mind, heart, and soul. Light that is unexpected. That is brilliant. That fills us with wonder and joy. When that happens, we know the delight of discovering the warmth of His love, the illumination of His wisdom, and the glow of His grace. It is doubtful if the girl would have noticed the same sunbeam on her hand had she been outside. No. It was in a place of worship that she did. She was in church worshipping and, there it was. A sunbeam from 93 million miles away focused with laser accuracy on her hand raised in worship to God. Wonderful! Yet, from further away, all the way from heaven, God will send forth His beam of light right to that dark place of your heart, your mind, and your life. Lift your hand and see. Better yet, lift your heart. There IS a sunbeam in the sanctuary. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the message of the tree and the river
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/24/2023
While in Bible School, I would often hike the railroad tracks out in the country to a clear, swift-moving stream to a place where there was, growing on its edge, a large tree with a root like a chair’s seat and a slanted trunk like its back. There I would sit in the peace and quiet, far removed from the noisy dorm and town, to study my Greek or just to contemplate and muse. I never failed to leave refreshed and renewed. My spot of refreshing was created and made appealing by two features—a tree and a “river.” Those two, Tree and River, figure prominently in the Revelation’s description of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. Why? Well, for one, they were the features of the original Garden, Eden--the Garden humanity lost and was banished from, because of their sin. Ever since, humanity has been trying to get back to the Garden, to the River and the Tree. Most will never make it. But those who trust in Christ, the saved, the redeemed, are on their way back. One day they will make it to the Tree and the River. Why is making it to the Tree and River so important? What underlies their significance? Both are described with the phrase “of life.” Both give life. But more specifically, a river refreshes and a tree restores. A river provides water for drinking and bathing; it refreshes. A tree provides fruit for food and leaves for healing. This description of the New Jerusalem with Tree and River was first written to a people of God who were harassed, pursued, persecuted, and many times martyred. This beleaguered band of pilgrims, under the constant duress of resisting the pressure to capitulate their faith, had to have been drained, depleted, and beaten up. Oh, they were promised victory. And, yes, they would be overcomers. They would make it to heaven—and by now, have. But here is the reality: The Redeemed will make it to heaven completely victorious, yet, that does not mean they make it unscathed. The promise is that nothing can destroy their soul. But that does not mean that their body, minds, emotions, and hearts have not suffered from the cares of life, attacks of the enemy, wounds of supposed friends, or personal afflictions of body and brain. The reality is that one can be not defeated yet depleted. One can have won yet be wounded. One can overcome but be overfatigued. Think of the soldier who has fought a great battle with a formidable foe. It’s over. He is victorious. He stands with a foot on the vanquished enemy, sword raised high, shouting, “Victory!” Yet, he is exhausted. Blood streams from multiple gashes. He aches in every joint. He carries the grief of comrades who deserted to or were slain by the enemy. However victorious he is, he needs refreshing. He needs healing—restoration. These the Tree and River provide. Upon resurrection or rapture, the refreshing and restoration of the saved one’s glorified body and being will be immediate and comprehensive. At that very nano-moment, he will be finally and completely perfected! Everything healed. All that’s wrong, made right. All that’s corrupted, made uncorrupted. Yet, the Tree and the River symbolize that to arrive at Heaven is to arrive to the refreshing and restoring from the battles passed through, the suffering endured, the exhaustion experienced, the wounds collected, and the hurts inflicted. Much can be said, that here must be left unsaid, about the Revelation’s description of that Tree and River. Something that must be said of the River is that it flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. God is the source. It flows from the Lamb. Significantly, the Lamb is the origin. The River is made possible, coming to the River is made possible, and drinking from the River is made possible, only because Jesus laid down His life as the sacrificial Lamb, paying the penalty for our sins and making eternal life possible. Because of the Lamb, those who believe with make it back to the Garden. They will see the Tree and the River. They will eat of the fruit of the Tree and drink of the River and, consequently, be restored and refreshed. But, though the River flows from the Lamb in heaven and the Tree grows on its banks there, can we not believe that the River flows past the parameters of Heaven just as the original Eden’s river flowed beyond its boundary? And can we not believe that the limbs of the Tree, laden with fruit for the picking, have grown over and beyond the walls of that City? If so, the water of the River flows close by you today and the fruit-laden limbs of the tree droop somewhere near to you at this moment. Because of the Lamb, you can, not having to wait until heaven, today drink and be refreshed, and eat and be restored. That’s the message of the Tree and the River. Pastor Clifford Hurst
and that's the holy spirit
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/27/2023
My older son and I were moving what were to us some large piles of dirt from, in turn, both our places. Using my small pickup truck and a 5’ x 8’ utility trailer, we loaded both, shovel full by shovel full. We made two trips to a rock and dirt dump. There, we had to unload the same way we loaded. Shovel full by shovel full. We worked non-stop and as quickly as we could, but it was still a long, laborious task. As we drudged away at the dirt, many much larger vehicles--dump trucks and dump trailers--backed up next to us and quickly offloaded tremendously larger deposits of much heavier stone and concrete in a fraction of the time we were taking. When one would in seconds rid itself of its load and pull away, I would say tongue in cheek to my son in reference to them, “Show off!” as we continued to shovel. Although we had been working for some time, the much smaller pile of dirt we were leaving on the ground was dwarfed beside the loads they had disgorged. Our pile looked pitiful. How could it look so large in the trailer and so small on the ground? About the time I was thinking that, a worker at the dump drove up in a frontend loader. First, on one side of us then on the other, he lowered his bucket and with ease in one effortless thrust drove forward and pushed a pile over the side of the incline. As we watched the speed and ease with which the frontend loader dispatched the heavy and large deposits of stone and concrete, I pointed first to our sweat-drenched bodies and then to the comparatively tiny pile of dirt and said, “Us in our own efforts trying to do things in our “flesh.” Then I pointed to the frontend loader effortlessly dispatching another dumped deposit, “And that’s the Holy Spirit.” Though I do not believe I spoke them that day, it was the words of the ancient prophet that informed my remark: “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zec 4:6).
a god worth keeping
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/20/2023
“The problem with getting rid of God is that you get rid of God.” This, I kept thinking in the middle of a funeral service last week. Whatever the ostensible reasons in exposition, the vapor-thin varnishes of pseudo-science, or the babbles of psycho-philosophies, the motivation and the end goal for much of academia and culture in particularly the past two centuries has been to get rid of God. The triumphant twisting and then touting of the evolutionary theory has led to naturalists declaring their delight at there being no Deity. No God to worry about looking over one’s shoulder in life. No God to worry about having to face in the afterlife. No accountability now. No judgment later. Well done, naturalists. Well done, humanists. Well done, atheists. You’ve gotten rid of God. How wonderful! Or is it? The problem with getting rid of God is that you have gotten rid of God. Now, for you who have ditched God, there is no more answer to the “why” of the origin question. Nothing to give meaning and purpose for living. Nothing transcendent to give value to the dirt, the accidental conglomerate of chemicals, the collection of instincts that humanity is. No absolutes to serve as a measure of morality. No beauty, or, at least, no reason or meaning to the beauty. There is no sense in anything. Not really. Congratulations! But it gets even worse. When you’ve gotten rid of God, there also is no hope in the many hopeless conditions that inevitably come. What is, well, simply, is. There is no comfort in times of hurt and loss. No mere human can know, understand or assuage the loss of one dearly loved. The is no basis for real trust following betrayal or abandonment. There is no model or experience of true love for humans to emulate. There is nothing to insert into the interior emptiness so shaped that only God can fill it. There is nothing for the yen within. There’s nothing in our world from our world that can reach much less scratch the itches of the soul. There’s no salvation for the lostness. A cornucopia consortium of money, people, education, therapies, career success, etc., cannot erase the feeling of this lostness. There’s no footing for forgiveness. There’s only bitterness, sourness, hatred, and strife. There’s no expunging of sin or guilt or shame—only a dulling denial that rots the soul, or worse, hardens it making it calloused and cauterized. However bad it is to have gotten rid of God in life, it’s worse to have gotten rid of Him in death. With no God, there is no heaven. There is no justice. There are no rewards. There is no vindication. There are no righting wrongs. There is no redemption, reclamation, or restoration. There is no continuance of a person, only annihilation and oblivion. There is no ultimate beauty, fulfillment, or knowledge. There is no reunion with departed loved ones. There is no healing of terminal diseases. There is no wholeness for the injured, handicapped, or broken. Pop culture rejoicing over having gotten rid of God needs to know that by getting rid of God it has, well, gotten rid of God. People today, in the metaphor I used to hear often as a child, have “cut off their nose to despite their face.” If they could only see—or “smell”: Getting rid of God has been and is a detriment to each of them personally, to their families, to their culture, to their country. But getting rid of God they’ve gotten rid of God. Only, they haven’t. They may self-congratulate themselves throughout their remaining years that they have gotten rid of God, and live accordingly. But, when they each in turn die, they will come face to face with the God they had convinced themselves they’d gotten rid of. This all reminds me of a story I first read so many years ago that I may botch some of the details. It might even be apocryphal. That won’t change its point: During the space race of the 1960s, the atheistic, communist Russians were the first to put a man in orbit. As his spacecraft circled the earth, he radioed back to ground his observations from his celestial vantage point. Smirkingly, he pontificated, “You, know, they (the Western world), say there is a God. Well, here I am up in space. I’ve looked around everywhere up here, and I see no God.” A British radio announcer reported the cosmonaut’s words and followed it with, “If he would step out of that cockpit, he would see Him in a hurry.” How true. You can’t get rid of God. The technology for spacewalks had not yet been developed. Had the cosmonaut “stepped out of the cockpit,” he would have discovered in a “hurry” that he had not gotten rid of God. If only that cosmonaut would have realized that he didn’t have to step out of the cockpit to see God. God, a forgiving, saving God, was right there in the cockpit with him. One can only believe he’s gotten rid of the God that he’s gotten rid of. He hasn’t. But, because of the mercy and grace of the God he’s gotten rid of, he can come to believe in the God he thought he’d gotten rid of. That’s a God worth keeping. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
“it’s about killing babies”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/13/2023
It failed: There was an urgency about Issue 1 up for a vote in Ohio this past week. The issue was about whether or not to raise the qualifications for the initiation of an amendment to our constitution from 51% to 60%. Only it wasn’t really about that. It appeared to be a question of checks and balances in our government. Only it wasn’t. Opponents of raising the threshold of a qualifying amendment insisted that it was about democracy. Only it wasn’t. Opponents outspent supporters 2-1. The source and amount of money spent to defeat it reveals the issue, despite protestations, wasn’t about democracy. Personally, I, considering only whether it was beneficial for our system of governance or our constitution, was never sure if Issue 1 was legitimately needed or good--if a yes vote was the right vote. But it wasn’t really about those things. Knowing what it was really about, I voted yes. If one truly voted no for the reasons I just listed, I would not malign them or their vote. But it wasn’t about those things. All along, both the prescient and honest and the devious and designing knew Issue 1 wasn’t about Issue 1. It was about subsequently attempting to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize abortion. An amendment to the constitution legalizing abortion would protect it from legislative action or judicial ruling. Excluding those who were deceived into thinking, or who honestly believed it was a question of governance, for the preponderance of those who opposed it, Issue 1 was about killing babies. Most support of Issue 1 was about NOT killing babies. Opposition wasn’t just about killing babies but making it more convenient to kill babies. Anecdotes and statistics have been shared again and again by near-weeping promulgators of abortion of how women have had to travel outside of Ohio to a nearby state to have an abortion. Websites have labeled Ohio “hostile” towards those seeking an abortion. After the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe vs Wade, the Ohio legislators passed the heartbeat law (6 weeks) and our governor signed it into law. The court has blocked it. This has reverted Ohio back to the allowance of abortion up to 22 weeks. That does not satisfy many folks. Afraid of an appeal court’s decision to allow the heartbeat law or in order to push for even later-term abortions, an intensive move was made to defeat Issue 1. These motives, though evident prior to the election by those paying attention, were revealed in the reaction to the Issues’ being defeated with 60% voting no. With a palpable giddy glee and unmasked delight, victorious opponents relieved and rejoicing immediately spoke of getting an issue on the November ballot to enshrine abortion with an amendment. Wednesday morning after the election, I finished an article on a paper’s front page that described people’s delight and said to my wife, “They’re not rejoicing over having defeated Issue 1. They are rejoicing over killing babies.” Though the jubilant claimed they were rejoicing about safeguarding democracy, or a win for women’s health, or about a victory for women’s choice, or a success for their political party, in reality, they were rejoicing because there seems now to be a path opened to get back to killing more babies in Ohio. People view issues through layers upon layers of punditry, commentary, sloganeering, and jingoistic jingles, and fail to see them for what they really are. Indubitably, there are truly complex questions about the extenuating, horrific crises of some expectant mothers--cases of concern and cause for real sympathy for a mother’s medical condition. And to say that these are rare is not to minimize their tragedy. But, when all the layers are peeled away, the end resultant reality, is that babies are being killed. And, in the end, there is but a fractional percentage where the baby, in fact, had to be killed. Left alone, these babies would have lived. No amount of redefining what is developing in a mother’s womb is going to change the reality that what is in there is a baby. And no other way of styling it is going to change that abortion is the killing of a baby. Despite those genuinely deceived, despite those whose misguided intentions are noble, caring, and empathetic, despite their being tragic circumstances in a minuscule amount of cases, in the end, the clamoring for abortion is a call for killing babies. Those who so clamor are those, “Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;” (Pro 2:14). The current push in our culture to legalize abortion everywhere is by those who rejoice in doing evil. They not only celebrated abortion's legalization wherever they are victorious, they want to coerce others to celebrate with them. We will not. We cannot. We instead weep. Why? It’s about killing babies. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
a mountain in the making
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/06/2023
“They are so beautiful!” I heard this again and again over the past week vacationing with my wife’s family in the interior of Colorado. Whenever someone looked out of the windows or off the deck of our lodge that was surrounded by them, “They are so beautiful.” When we took a train ride and looked out to the horizon to a distant higher range, “They are so beautiful!” And of the surrounding ones from the top of the tallest in the vicinity, “They are so beautiful!” And they were. What? What were so beautiful? The mountains! In order not to ruin the experience in the moment, when any remarked on the beauty of the mountains, I suppressed the urge to inquire, “Beautiful? Do you know how those mountains were formed? The process was anything but beautiful. It was ugly. If the earth had nerves, it was excruciatingly painful. Wherever there are mountains, there has been a collision. Two continental plates have collided with each other. The speed was immaterial. The tremendous force at impact and the growing tension afterward wasn’t. Similar in size, one plate refused to sink beneath or give to the other. Much like dueling elk bucks, horns locked and each pawing forward. The force between the two began to crush and crumble the rock at the point of contact. Edges broken off from the plates were shoved upwards at steep angles from the horizontal plane. And, voila, mountains! Mountains are the remains of a wreck between tectonic plates. Think of a car wreck. In the rest of reality, the remains of wrecks are ugly. Sad. Unsightly. Horrifying. Not so with the wreck of the earth’s plates. The remains of the wrecks are beautiful. The remains are mountains. And mountains are beautiful. Often in our lives, we are hit by things with devastating impact. Out of nowhere. Betrayals of relationships. Bad reports of an MRI. Chronic illnesses. Rejection. Loss of a job. Life-changing injury. Ruin of home. Opposing forces collide into our lives dashing our dreams, hazarding our hopes, ripping apart our relationships, fracturing our friendships, crushing our contentment, and pulverizing our peace. What happens is ugly, painful, and devastating. Without God. Without Grace. Without Love. Without faith, the end result of these cataclysmic forces in our lives would be as ugly and unsightly as their cause. But not so with God. The same God that used the ugly forces of the collision and crumbling of tectonic plates to form mountains uses the ugly forces that slam into the lives of those who put their trust in Him to bring about something beautiful. As Joseph succinctly and poignantly put it: “You meant it for evil but God for good.” It was ugly, but God made it beautiful. No one calls wrecked cars beautiful. Nor homes crushed by tornadoes. But wrecked plates of rocks? People look at those and say, “Beautiful!” Could not mountains be enigmatic reminders from God? Reminders that, because He is providentially involved in all that happens in the lives of His children, whatever devasting forces slam into us leaving behind horrible and hurtful wreckage, He can turn even all of that into something beautiful? Yes! The ashes, He makes beautiful. The mourning, an oil of joy. The spirit of heaviness, a garment of praise. The splinters of damage, stately trees of grace. The upheaval of wreckage, beautiful. Do not all things work together for good to those who are called to and love God? Next time you look at a panorama of mountains and find yourself exclaiming, “They are so beautiful!” remember that they are the remains of an ugly cataclysm. A wreck. They are the detritus of a demolishing disaster. And then remember that God can do the same with the ruins and wreckage of a life, a dream, and a past. All that has been horrible. Painful. Devastating. That wreckage God turns into beautiful mountains. That devastation is not just a miserable mess. It’s a mountain in the making*. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst *Mountains once so formed, continue to grow. God not only brings beauty from the impact of adversity and devastation, He brings growth.
“two grandpas in one place”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 08/02/2023
Fortuitously, this month, my son in the military, with his family, moved back to Dayton, OH. That’s where my wife and I pastor. Although he is army, he has been posted at the Wright Patterson Airforce Base to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology for further training. We are blessed to have them back with us, Mom and Dad, and back at our church. Last night, Wednesday, after service, a group of us were standing at the front of the sanctuary chatting. That group included my son and his father-in-law and others. My son’s children came in from their kids’ classes and, seeing us, down to we were gathered. One of them, my six-year-old grandson looked up at me and then over at his other grandfather. He rolled his eyes upward, shook his head from side to side, put his hands to his cheeks, and dramatically proclaimed, “Two grandpas in one church!” I could not tell if he was wowed or whelmed. I’ll take it he was wowed. Wow! “I have two grandpas in one church. At one place. I have both of them here for me.” At first, I mused over his rhetorical almost poetic expression--one with a mathematical ratio as well (2 to 1). Then, I began to ruminate over just what it was that made “two grandpas in one place” remarkable to him. I guess I could just ask him, but, however bardic he may be, I’m not sure he could articulate what was really impressing him about his observation. Also, he might have given me a different answer than where my thoughts took me and aborted this blog. So, rather than asking him, I will venture a conjecture: Relationships. I think it was relationships that he had in mind. We two weren’t just other people to him. We were grandpas. We each were someone with whom he had a relationship. A familial relationship. A binding relationship. A dependable relationship. A secure relationship. And, I surmise his thought behind his words was, “Just think, I have two of those relationships right here in one place. How nice.” This is how church should be for everyone. When we gather, it should be both a reality and an awareness that we gather with those with whom we have close relationships. That is why from the beginning--though the Church has departed from the practice even in my lifetime--believers referred to each other as “Brother” or “Sister.” In Christ, even someone further removed than a 6thcousin was a brother. So was a stranger who knew Christ that had dropped in for a visit. There are many instances in the New Testament that reveal what close relationships those who gathered for worship had. But I thought of how Paul expressed it to converts and his flock in Philippi. He gets almost syrupy: “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” (Php 4:1). “Brethren.” “Dearly beloved.” “Longed for.” Relationship. Church, according to the NT, is all about one anothering. Love one another. Greet one another. Pray for one another. Consider one another. Serve one another. Exhort one another. And one anothering is about relationships. Sadly, there has been an erosion of such relationships in churches everywhere. Goers have become mere mutual attendees. They are but simultaneous spectators of the same production. Cliques are bad. Clashes are bad. But capsuled self-absorbed individuals are the worst. The Church, each locally expressed body, is designed to be a unity comprised of organic relationships. Relationships deeper, closer even than the ones we have with those with whom we share DNA but not faith. Closer than the bonds of those on a sports team. Closer than drinking or fishing buddies. Closer than Facebook friends. Close. Family close. Coming to church, we ought to sigh contentedly, “All these brothers and sisters in one place!” But there are more relationships at church than just those with our fellow brothers and sisters. We gather with our heavenly Father. And our Elder-Brother and Friend, Jesus. And our confidant, comforter, and counselor, the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity. The Three in One. We have a relationship with God. This is why coming to church, and gathering together, is so vital and crucial; especially so in our fractured world where even biological families are fragmented. When we are together, we ought to be saying, “All those relationships in one place. Wow!” On Sunday, when you gather, as all believers should, you ought to look up to heaven with gratitude. Roll your eyes back in wonder. Shake your head back and forth in amazement, put your hands to your face in astonishment, and, with a WOW like my grandson, exclaim, “All these relationships in one place!” Oh, by the way. I have a one-up on my grandson. He said, “Two grandpas in one place.” Now, when I come to church I can say, “Three grandchildren in one place!” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
“do we get the ribbons now?”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/23/2023
He was so disappointed and crestfallen when I told him that I regretted having answered him. But I had to tell the truth. We were in our church’s kids’ camp. I was down the hill on the ballfield watching the children compete in track events. The one in progress was the long jump time. When one eight-year-old’s distance was announced, he knew he had won first! His face lit up with joy. First place! Seeing me, the pastor, standing nearby, thinking I would know, he looked up at me and asked, “Do we get the ribbons now?” His smile disappeared and his face fell when I answer, “No, not now. Later. You will get your ribbon at the awards ceremony in the tabernacle up there on the hill on the last day.” I felt bad for spoiling his joy of victory. But I was immediately struck by his question and my answer. It is a disappointment to learn this hard fact: We don’t get the ribbons now. They come later. It was then that I thought of my Aunt Mil and Uncle Dale. They had had no children. I moved them from California to Ohio to care for them when they retired. My aunt passed away first. Then my uncle. It fell to me to close their estate and get rid of their things. They had no estate. Their things were pitiful. For most of their adult lives they had pastored on Native American reservations and at small churches. On the limited incomes from those, they had acquired almost nothing. After my aunt had passed, my uncle, having suffered debilitating illness had been residing in assisted living. When he died and I was clearing his room, I found nothing of intrinsic value--not really, except a tv and a silver dollar. These with some memory-laden knickknacks I laid aside. The rest of the things I donated to the facility for another indigent resident and threw the rest away. As I put some dilapidated piece of furniture into the trash bin, I felt a heavy weight of sadness laden with bitterness. I’m not sure if I said it out loud or not. But I murmured: “They spent all their life in ministry. Faithfully. And they died and have nothing to show for it. Nothing but a few worthless things that I’m throwing away.” I can’t explain the dark cloud that descended upon me. Then, I remembered the story of the poor, retiring missionary and his wife disembarking in New York City on their return from Africa. Ex-president Teddy Roosevelt was returning on the same ship from a big game hunting trip. In the Big Apple, he was greeted by a huge crowd with an exuberant welcome. No one was there to greet the missionaries. Not after all those years of faithful labor. No celebration for them. I have to butcher the story with brevity to get to the reply to the missionary’s anguishing self-pitying observation: Through the gloom of his grumbling, he heard: “But you are not home yet!” The words were not the same but that is what I had told the victorious young man, “You don’t get the ribbons now, they come later.” Here’s the point. There was no doubt that the young man had won! He had. But, despite his accomplishment, he hadn’t yet received his ribbon. He had no evidence to show he had won. He had nothing to show for what he had done. He had not been rewarded. Many, today, are right there with the young man, my aunt and uncle, and the returning missionaries. They have been faithful believers in Jesus. They have faithfully served Him and others. They have faithfully plodded through the valleys, fought the satanic enemies, and resisted the world's allurements. They have been victorious. They have done great work. They have helped others. But they have nothing to show for it. They have that same experience of disappointment experienced by the boy on the ballfield. "You don’t get the ribbons now." But make no mistake. The ribbons are coming. That young man did receive his ribbon later. He stood there proudly on stage holding it as the audience applauded. He had gotten his reward! On the last day. In the tabernacle up there on the hill. Weary worker, fighting faithful one, disillusioned minister, no, we do not receive the ribbons now. But we will. There is a reward ceremony coming. Despite an interval between the work and the winnings, the race and the recompense, the adversity withstood and the approval expressed, the good done and the garland, the cross-bearing and the crown, and the labor and the Lord saying, “Well done,” there will be a day when we “get the ribbons.” Have we received the ribbons? No. Not yet. But we will. For sure. In the ceremony in the Tabernacle. On the last day. Up on Zion’s Hill: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal 6:9). --Pastor Clifford Hurst
is the holy spirit a dove?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/16/2023
Why am I thinking of and blogging about the Holy Spirit as a dove for this Sunday? Because today the children’s camp that our church has operated over the last 37 years begins. We call it Camp Dove. Also, the icon we use in the branding of our Pentecostal church is a dove. What’s all this about a dove? Ask anyone with even a rudimentary exposure to Christianity about the baptism of Jesus in Jordan and immediately there will come to his mind a picture of Jesus standing in the river, water running from Him and a dove either about to land or, having already landed, perched on His shoulder. A white feathered dove. After all, this is what all four Gospel writers described. Jesus in Jordan with the Holy Spirit embodied in a dove upon Him. Or do they? The art of the Church has led many to believe they did. The iconic renditions of Jesus’ baptism appear in every denomination (or nearly so), with Jesus freshly baptized and a literal dove resting on His shoulder. Something not considered is this: John the Baptist, the closest to Christ in Jordan, testified clearly that once the Holy Spirit had descended on Jesus like a dove, that the Spirit “remained” on Jesus. If the Holy Spirit descended as a literal dove, then, not only at His baptism but throughout His ministry, the dove remained on Jesus. Jesus walked around with a dove on His shoulder. Or head. Please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, but are we to believe Jesus walked the roads with his disciples, entered the temple, or preached in the synagogues with a dove perched on His shoulder like Long John Silver had a parrot? And, another thing, personally, I’ve always had a bit of difficulty thinking of the Holy Spirit embodied as an extremely close cousin to a pigeon, distinguishable only by being a bit smaller. Symbols are good—and that is what the dove in our branding is. But when they become icons, they can lead at the least to bad theology and at worst to idolatry, iconolatry. Yet, the Gospel records of Jesus’ baptism have inextricably linked the Holy Spirit with the dove. However, a re-examination of those accounts, I believe, reveals that they never say the Holy Spirit is a dove. Of course, not. Nor, even that the Holy Spirit appeared in the small shape of a dove. No. The emphasis is upon His descent, not his shape. All four Gospel writers concur. * The Holy Spirit DESCENDED LIKE a dove. Before I unpack some of the significance of that, let me make a special note: The Holy Spirit’s coming upon Jesus was a sign for John the Baptist. How would John know who the Messiah was when he saw him? ** The One who sent John instructed him “...upon whom thou shall see the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on him,” that will be the Messiah. Note, God did not tell John “...upon whom you see a DOVE descend, but upon whom you see the SPIRIT descend. Later, John testified that he did see the Spirit descend upon Jesus—like a dove. By implication of the text, only Jesus and John saw the Spirit descend. Thus, not only may the people not have seen the Spirit descend, they for sure saw no dove. The emphasis isn’t on the “what” the Holy Spirit descended as, but the “how” He descended, "came down." John, Jesus, their followers, and any who might have heard them tell this were Jews. They understood what was going on intuitively from their being so well-versed in Scripture. This language of descent like a dove immediately called to mind the beginning of their Torah--and the beginning of all things. “… And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:2). “Moved.” The Spirit brooded above the dark chaos like a dove hovers and broods over her eggs. She does so in the expectation that the eggs will hatch and life will come forth. The Spirit’s moving precipitates the work of God. And that work is to give life. During Creation, when the Spirit finished hovering like a dove, the darkness was gone and life filled this planet. And a clump of clay called man began to live. Whatever the certain import of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon Jesus for equipping and empowering Him for his ministry might be, the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ to bring forth the work of God, and that work would dispel darkness and bring life. I have left too little space for application, but let me focus on just one: Note that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove on CHRIST. 1) The Holy Spirit COMES upon Christ. 2) As John testified, the Holy Spirit POINTS to Christ. 3) And, also, as John said, the Holy Spirit REMAINED upon Christ. If we desire the Holy Spirit’s descent in our lives and worship, we must realize He comes only upon Christ in our lives. In our thoughts. In our worship. He also comes upon our pointing to Christ. pointing to Christ in our worship, evangelism, preaching, and living. And He will remain upon the Christ in our lives and living, the Christ in whom we are "hid." Abide in Christ and the Holy Spirit will abide upon you. The Dove will abide with you as He did with Christ. Fittingly, one year at our Camp Dove, just as we were about to begin the opening service, as I was walking to the tabernacle, I watched a white dove come out of nowhere and fly over it. Not for a moment did I think it was the Holy Spirit. But I did think, “Just like that dove flew over the tabernacle, the Holy Spirit can descend upon the gathered crowd of children and those of all ages tonight. His presence can be felt. His power can be evident. His work can be done. I entered the tabernacle praying, “Holy Spirit descend upon us like a dove.” Descend like a dove upon Christ—the Christ within us and in Whom we are. --Pastor Clifford Hurst * It is Luke’s account, I believe, that gives rise to the icon of the dove or Jesus’ shoulder. He adds a description to the Spirit’s descent like a dove. “Bodily shape.” People have taken that to mean something like in a dove’s body or a body like a dove. However, the descent of the Spirit was in the “bodily shape.” A body isn’t just used in reference to biological corporeality. “Body” was used to describe something that was distinctly different than what is around it. A body of water. There is water all through the air. But when water is collected together in a way it can be seen, we call it a body of water. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent. Everywhere. But He was manifest that day, in a manner within parameters that He was distinctly and empirically seen. Thus, “bodily shape.” To say, then that the Spirit descended “in a bodily shape like a dove” is to say He came empirically, experientially, and existentially, upon Jesus, He can also come upon a people. A people can know when the Spirit is present, hovering, descending. Such a coming is real. It is life-changing. **Well, just as the Holy Spirit had let the embryo John in his mother’s womb know when he was in the presence of the Messiah in His mother’s womb, God had told John that he would know the adult Messiah when he saw the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.
why did paul cross the sea?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 07/02/2023
Sitting on the deck watching the waves and wake created by our ship’s plying through the water, looking out beyond to an expanse of sea in every direction, I thought of the Apostle Paul. Two years ago, our church family at Union Pentecostal Church in celebration of our thirty years as pastors had gifted us with a trip for us and our children and their spouses. We nine were finally on a Mediterranean cruise courtesy of their largess. Although our route was confined to the western Mediterranean Paul traveled only in route to his fatal trial in Rome, I thought of his other missionary journeys that had him crisscrossing the eastern part of the same sea. I mused on his shipwrecks. His almost drowning. I am certain the Apostle was not transported on a huge, comfortable vessel, gliding over the surface, barely rocked by waves as we were. Those small sailing vessels were dangerous and susceptible to the slightest wave, wind, and weather. Corks in a tempest. My thoughts about Apostle Paul coalesced into one: Why would he do it? Why would he hazard his life like he did in sailing the Mediterranean? Days without seeing land? Why jeopardize everything on trips he did not have to make? He sure didn’t do it for wealth of fame. Why did he? Why did Paul cross the Sea? Why? The apparent answer is “to preach the Gospel, that’s why?” Yes, but we can’t leave it there. Why preach the Gospel? What is so important about the Gospel that one would put himself in such danger, discomfort, and possible destruction? “Well, because the Gospel is just that. It is good news! Paul had good news to share.” Yes, but why is it good news? That’s when the answer hit me: Why did Paul hazard his life in crossing the Mediterranean? Because without Christ people go to hell. To say that sounds so foreign and arcane to most today—"Without Christ people go to hell.” But no other answer makes sense. People beyond the sea were lost without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, they were eternally damned to eternal destruction. If there is no hell, why bother people in different lands, with different cultures, with different religions? Just leave them be--as the “woke” of today would urge. For sure, don’t risk life and limb to preach another, non-indigenous religion to them, one they really don’t need. They will be fine. And, suppose there is a hell. No big deal. ”All roads lead to Rome.” There are many ways to avoid hell and go to heaven. If Christ is not the only way to escape hell and any other way will do, again, why jeopardize one’s very life simply to announce that there is yet one more way among many to avoid going there? And something else: If the Gospel is only what some today say it is—a means of reaching one’s full potential, a way of acquiring self-esteem, a way of having all of one’s dreams come true, a way to wealth and health, is that really something for which to imperil one’s own life? Does it make sense to lose your life now to help some foreigner live his best life now? Your worst for his best? No! If Paul were only a life coach or a motivational speaker, his methods and speeches, however helpful, would not be something for which to hazard his life. Paul risked his life traversing the Mediterranean Sea because people without Christ go to hell. He cared. He knew that the Gospel had the power to save them, to change their lives, and to give them eternal life. He knew that Gospel was, not just the way to heaven, but the way to escape hell. That’s why Paul crossed the Sea.* He hazarded his life because of hell. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst *”Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; ….” (2Co 5:11)
i preached it wrong: god isn’t like a father
Bro. Clifford Hurst 06/18/2023
It is youth camp season. Almost forty years ago, the week of July fourth, I was preaching a youth camp in an open-aired tabernacle. In the hot, muggy, bug-ladened atmosphere surrounded by the darkening night, I was pleading with wayward young people using the story of the Prodigal Son. I described the promiscuous son’s having come to his senses as he slept with the pigs. And then his returning home. I emphasized his arrival: “The father did not wait until his son knocked on the door. He saw him coming and ran to meet him. The father did not halt his approach at his son’s distinct swine smell. Nor did he hesitate at the sight of his filthy robe and body. No! The father took his son in a welcoming bear-hug embrace. At his son’s protestations that he was unworthy to be a son or treated as a son, as he begged to be allowed to be just one of his servants, the father declared, ‘No, you are my son! Come into the house. You are more than welcome. And to show it, I’m going to throw a party to celebrate your homecoming’.” “Servants, bring a robe and ring. (and, hopefully, ‘Fill, the bath with water and get several bars of soap.’).” At that point, I entered my message’s plea for those away from Christ. I was appealing to them to come to the altar and surrender their lives to Christ. I declared, “God is like a father. God is like this father. If you come to Him, He will meet you with open arms. He will hug you with those arms. He will take you into His house.” As young people began to flood the altar, I noticed one young lady with her face contorted in misery and defiance. Sitting arms crossed. Distressed but obdurate. Refusing to come with the others to the altar. I watched as some sister went to talk with her and invited her to come to pray. She refused with a vehement verbal barrage and animated gestures. Of course, way up at the pulpit, I had no idea what she was saying. Afterward, what this teenage girl had said in her refusal to respond was relayed to me: It went something like this: “I ran away from home with my boyfriend. I did bad things. I realized what a mess I’d made of my life. Just yesterday, I returned home and asked my dad if I could come back. He yelled at me and told me what a bad person and daughter I was. What a mess of things I had made. What a horrible sin I had committed. Then, he pointed to the door and told me to leave and never come back. He screamed, ‘Get out.’” She then retorted, “That preacher said that God is like a father.” She vexingly and bitterly exclaimed, “If God is like my father, I want nothing to do with Him. I won’t go pray. He would be just like my father anyway. He would not take me back.” Deep in the night last night (Friday), with no waking remembrance of this for years, it hit me. I was wrong in what I preached. I had misspoken when I applied the story of the prodigal son. When I said, “God is like a father. It may be semantics, but what I said is all wrong. God isn’t like a father. There are some bad fathers. God is not like some fathers. Not like many fathers. Not at all. This girl’s father was a pastor. But God isn’t like that father.” Make no mistake. There are some good fathers. Some really good ones. I had one such father. But it isn’t that God is like them. The truth is God is not like a father, but a good father is like God. When the prodigal sons’ father met, embraced, and welcomed his stinking wayward son home, that father was being like God. The heavenly Father. The Ultimate Father. God was not like that father. That father was like God. Oh, to be a father like God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
a celebration that lasts more than a month
Bro. Clifford Hurst 06/11/2023
Our nation is in the midst of a celebration. The celebration of the Acronym-that-Appropriates-more-and-more-of-the-Alphabet. I write cryptically not to be ambiguous but to preclude possible censoring and censuring. After all NT Christians called Rome “Babylon.” I will just call this Acronym-that-Appropriates-more-and-more-of-the-Alphabet Month. June has been designated as the month for this celebration of the Acronym-that-Appropriates-more-and-more-of-the-Alphabet Being treated like any other citizen is not the goal. Tolerance is not the goal. Nor, is the promotion of a lifestyle, though it’s that too. Forcing and foisting society to embrace deviant behavior, as motivating and prevalent as that desired end is, is not the goal. Celebration is. When used for official or sanctioned calendar events, to celebrate is to observe a holiday or take part in a festival. But, as observed in this month’s festive events, like parades, for instance, it is evident that the Acronym-that-Appropriates-more-and-more-of-the-Alphabet takes “celebrate” in the literal sense of exalting, glorifying, lauding, and praise. They are celebrating. They are reveling and rejoicing. They are proud. Some of the most rabid cheerleaders in the celebration are scripture-mutilating, scripture-jettisoning liberal Christian leaders who, ostensibly under the guise of love, give speeches and preside over meetings that celebrate what God’s Word clearly notes as evil. Evil, not because it gets under God’s skin. And, not even just because it defies God’s laws. But evil because it destroys people, marriages, families, societies—just about everything. These are those who the proverb writer described as those “Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;” (Pro. 2:14). Rejoice. Celebrate. In celebrating evil, they celebrated the very thing destroying them along with everything good, wholesome, and healthful. Among other self-destroying behavior, they are celebrating the irreparable mutilation of children. They will not concede nor see it, but their celebrating what they celebrate is like cancer patients lauding and celebrating cancer. Or snake-bit victims, venom. Or those who’ve lost a loved one to recreational drugs celebrating drugs. It is not enough for these to celebrate evil. Their rejoicing over such evil comes with decrying, demeaning, disparaging, and detesting all that is pure, righteous, and holy. Those who love the Truth, follow the Word, and trust God’s design and decrees, cannot, should not, must not, and will not join that celebration. But we have plenty to celebrate. To rejoice over. A personal, holy, mercy-showing Creator. A loving, caring, Savior. Unchanging, unerring, absolute Truth. Meaning. Purpose. Eternal life. Light in the Darkness. Hope. Healing. Help. Though there is no designated month on the calendar to celebrate these, we can do so today. And in heaven the celebration of these things lasts more than a month. It lasts for an eternity. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the barking of the dogs or the singing of the birds?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/28/2023
It was exceedingly annoying as it always is. The incessant barking of dogs. I was on the phone with a friend whose job entails knocking on doors in search of residents. He had just knocked on a door and immediately there was this discordant cacophony of dogs’ barking. It was brutal to the ears even heard over the phone. Then in the hiatus of waiting for his return to our conversation, I noticed something. Despite the barking, and more clearly in the brief respites between barks, I heard a chorus of birds singing on the bright spring day. Not on my end. On his. I heard the mellifluously melodious singing of birds eight hundred miles away. It cheered me long distance. I commented to my friend about it. “Listen to those birds. They are singing so happily. It’s so uplifting.” He responded, “What birds? I don’t hear any birds. You mean where you are at?” “No!” I answered. I’m talking about the ones where you are.” He paused for a moment before responding, “Oh, now I hear them. I didn’t hear them before. All I could hear was those barking dogs.” The dogs were still barking. I attempted to wax philosophical. “You didn’t hear the birds?” I asked incredulously with a twinge of condemnation directed at him. “Yet, I did eight hundred miles away. The problem is,” I pontificated, “You were so focused on the barking of the dogs you didn’t hear the singing of the birds.” As I smugly awaited his impressed response to my clever retort, I was suddenly hit by conviction from the boomerang of my own invented aphorism. That little quiet inside voice that can be as annoying as a dog’s barking inquired, “Don’t you do that yourself. All the time? Always through life? Don’t you constantly listen to the barking dogs instead of the singing birds?” Conviction causes misery and misery loves company, so let me ask you. Do you hear the barking of the dogs or the singing of the birds? Such is life. Dogs are barking. Birds are singing. Usually, we focus on the barking. Oh, there’s so much of that. Grating growling, bothersome barking, and yucky yipping. All the time. News. Gossip. Whining. Protesting. Carping. Complaining. Verbalize vitriol. All the time. Everywhere. In all kinds of situations. Barking. Barking. Barking. But there’s not just barking. There is also the soft breeze stirring leaves. A babbling brook. A church bell. A baby’s coo. Music inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Good News of the Word. A congregation worshiping. The encouragement of friends. The affirmation of loved ones. The birds are singing. There’s singing. Singing. Singing. Both the barking of the dogs and the singing of the birds are sounding around us constantly. In the end, we choose which we will focus on, which we will hear. I think I will listen more to the birds’ singing. After all, even the squawking of a starling sounds better than the nerve-yanking yapping of a chihuahua. (No offense to chihuahua lovers.) Did you hear that? What? You tell me. Was it barking dogs or singing birds? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
"jesus will open it"
Bro. Clifford Hurst 05/14/2023
Mother’s Day can be difficult for those who have recently, or even not so recently, lost their mothers. This past week I could tell my wife was grieving for her mother whom she lost in 2020. I am reminded of this blog I had written sometime back about a visit to her mother’s grave. I thought it might introduce some brightness of hope into the ache of those missing their mother today. "JESUS WILL OPEN IT" In the bright sunshine, the view of the Ozark hillsides and valley below was refreshingly beautiful, yet a certain sadness hung in the air; the panorama I enjoyed was from the vantage of a hilltop cemetery. The conference my wife and I had traveled to attend was in a town near the cemetery where her mother had been interred a year before. She had wanted to visit the grave. We had barely unloaded our luggage at our daughter’s home where we would be staying when we got back into our SUV with one of our grandsons, a four-year-old. He was thrilled to be going somewhere with Grandpa and Grandma. But, as we traveled the gravel, country roads, he had a thousand questions when he learned we were going to Gigi’s grave where, my wife reminded him, we had buried her. Gigi is what our grandchildren had called their great-grandmother. I have been preaching the Gospel for 44 plus years, have taught in Bible College, and am seminary trained. But this four-year-old asked questions about death, the resurrection, and the coming of Christ, which stumped me and made me temporarily think I needed to revise my theology. We arrived at the cemetery. I parked in the lane at its edge next to the old barbed wire fence that marked its boundary with an adjacent pasture often dotted with grazing cattle. Gigi’s grave was in the last row abutting the lane. Now out of our vehicle and at her grave with Grandma, our grandson never stopped asking questions about his Gigi. He was trying to process how Gigi was down there in the ground yet in heaven with Jesus at the same time. I gave up on eschatological solutions and just let my wife try to answer. Weary with our journey and soon tired of standing, I opened the back hatch of our SUV. It was just steps from the grave. I sat on the back bumper of our vehicle enjoying the cool breeze, bright sun, and bucolic vista before me as I continued to watch and listen to my grandson. As he interrogated his grandmother, he began to move his hands all over the memorial tombstone feeling its edges and the engravings of its letters. With a visibly insatiable curiosity, he knelt and with his hands examined where the stone’s bottom edge joined the ground. He even felt the still sparsely grassed turf that covered the grave. My wife finally stopped mid-attempted-answer with a question of her own, “What are you trying to do?” Before he even answered, it hit me of what his actions were reminding me. They reminded me of a detective in an Edwardian-era manor’s library seeking among the books and along the edges of a bookshelf to find the secret latch for a hidden room. He answered, “I’m trying to open it. I’ll let Gigi out.” My wife began to try to convince him that it would be impossible for him to open the grave. Finally, he stopped his search for the secret lock or latch. Shaking his head in an affirmative nod he proclaimed, “But, when Jesus comes, He will open it. He will let her out.” Forgetting neatly packaged theology, I felt a thrill at his prophetic declaration. Jesus IS coming, and He WILL open it and let her out. That is the Gospel in a nutshell. Jesus comes. Jesus opens. Jesus lets out. At the visit to the synagogue that inaugurated His ministry on earth, Jesus proclaimed, “I am come to set the captive free, to open the prison door, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” That’s just what Jesus does. He opens the prisons of people’s sins and lets their captive souls out into the freedom of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. And for those whose souls He has set free in this life, though they die and are buried, He will one day open the graves and reunite their souls and their bodies. He will once again open up their prison and let them out. My grandson, convinced of the futility of his efforts and content with the hope of his wise proclamation, became quiet and still. My wife was kneeling, gazing at her mother’s memorial stone. Our grandson went to her, sat on the ground beside her, put his hand on hers to comfort her, and joined his gaze with hers. It seemed to me that he and my wife were peering past the granite and the sorrow into the distance to a future day when Jesus would come and “let her out.” Only the Gospel can give folks parted by death from their loved ones, in this case, a mother, the hope of reunion. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
justice, my wife, and the gospel
Bro. Clifford Hurst 04/23/2023
As a precursor to this Tuesday’s announcement about his presidential run for 2024, President Biden signed and announced an executive order mandating that all federal agencies prioritize ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE. When I heard “Environment Justice,” I thought of the Gospel. And my wife. See, truth is, when a modifier is added to justice, then justice is no longer justice. A modifier can make all the difference. It changes everything. For example, if I say, “wife,” that produces one perception. If I say, “my wife,” that’s another. But, if I say, “my FAVORITE wife,” that draws a drastically different picture. It’s not the possessive modifier, “my,” that makes the altering difference. Nor if I added a descriptive modifier, “beloved.” It’s when I add a modifier that distinguishes, “favorite.” If she is my “favorite” wife, there are others. Back to justice. Justice, overly simplified, is what is right, impartial, and fair. But add a qualifying modifier--Social Justice. Racial Justice. Economic Justice. Environmental Justice--and the modifier takes away what justice is. How so? Because to fulfill the qualifier in the vein it is meant results in favoring one group, philosophy, system, culture, etc., above another. The very opposite of what the modifier’s proponents ostensively profess is their intent and goal. The modifier tilts “justice,” rightness, impartiality, and fairness, in the direction of one and away from the other. The moment it tilts, justice has ceased to be justice. Justice is justice. It needs no qualifier. And the qualifier, once added, changes it. Destroys it. Makes it something else. So with the Gospel. Simply stated, the Gospel, the Good News, is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. Now let’s add modifiers. Social Gospel. Liberation Gospel. Progressive Gospel. Universalism Gospel. Prosperity Gospel. Holiness Gospel. The moment the modifier is added to Gospel, the resulting Gospel has become something else. It is not the Gospel of the New Testament. It is not the Gospel of Jesus. Nor Paul. And since it’s not, it can’t save or give eternal life or true hope and peace. Justice with any such modifier is not Justice. The Gospel with any such modifier is not the Gospel. And if my wife is “my favorite wife,” I have or have had more than one. I haven’t. I don’t. I have but one wife. And there is but one Gospel that saves. The Gospel. Minus all qualifiers and modifiers, --Pastor Clifford Hurst
perfect!!!
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/26/2023
Not just “Perfect.” But, “Perfect!!!”--perfect with three !’s because it is always said with verbal exclamation points of feigned optimism, enthusiasm, excitement, or joy--none of which, we will find, are usually meant. Perfect!!! is everywhere. I can’t be the only one that’s noticed. You have too? Perfect!!! A trip last week out of state only underlined that what I’ve been noticing is ubiquitous. Everywhere and in a plethora of circumstances folks are responding with “Perfect!!!” In their interactions waitresses and patrons both say, “Perfect!!!”. So do flight attendants and passengers, “Perfect!!!”. As do patients and doctors, “Perfect!!!”. And friend to friend, “Perfect!!!”. Why do they say Perfect!!!? And, how can so many things be perfect!!!? It stretches incredulity to believe that we live in such a perfect world of perfect people doing perfect things that everything is discovered and declared “Perfect!!!” Ever the skeptic--this I may get imperfectly--I really think Perfect!!! is a ploy! I’ll give a few examples of what I mean, and, if you would, let me know if I am on to something. You’d do that? Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a replacement for “Thank you,” without saying, “Thank you.” It’s used this way, although not always when you don’t have much cause to be thankful. Or you don’t especially feel thankful. Or, you just want to say, “Thank you” in a way that will end the conversation (another use of Perfect!!!). Example: Someone is portending to have done you a great favor. He is going on and on about how and why. You don’t really see it. You just want the monologue to stop. So, you say, “Perfect!!!” That makes him feel self-satisfied and stuns him to cease. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of making folks not feel bad or embarrassed when you are really not pleased with what they have done when they think they have really done something for you. Example: Your young children fix you breakfast. The outcome is less than desirable, the kitchen is a mess, and a few dishes are broken in the process. “Mom, we fixed you breakfast,” they announce proudly. Not to hurt them—and you can’t honestly say, “It looks great,” or even “Thank you,”--you say, “Perfect!!!” You have spared their feelings without revealing your own. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of feigning interest, enthusiasm, and joy--when you feel none of those things--to spare the other’s feelings. Example: You come home from work and your wife says, “We need to go shopping tonight.” You say, “Perfect!!!” If you say it emphatically enough, you can keep the sarcasm and disappointment hidden. She’s never the wiser. Perfect!!! “Perfect!!!” is a way of ending a monologue or undesired conversation. Example: When one is elucidating endlessly to convince you about how wonderfully he has done something or said something, if you say, “Perfect!!!” What else can he say? He has already convinced you. End of conversation. “Perfect!!!” “Perfect!!!” is a way of hiding your disappointment, frustration, and uncharitable emotions. You have sat in the restaurant booth for thirty minutes after you’ve ordered waiting for your steak. The waitress drops by and announces, in a way to feign her concern and accentuate her effort on your behalf, “I just went back to the kitchen to check on your food. They told me it would be ready in just a moment.” She finishes with a disarming smile. You say, “Perfect!!!” You want to say, “About time. I’ve waited thirty minutes.!” But she beams at your “Perfect!!!”. “Perfect!!!” “Perfect!!!” deflects from having to judge or be judged. We live in a society that does not want not be judged. Ironically, the worse judgment that one can receive is to be accused of judging. One may think something is subpar, lacking, etc., but if he says, “Perfect!!!.” he cannot be said to be judging by pointing out that something is wrong. He cannot be judged for judging. Someone announces she is going to go party and get soused. Another says, “Perfect!!!” He has not judged and, thus, cannot be judged. He has avoided sharing how He really feels. “Perfect!!!” I know I must have missed some other usages of “Perfect!!!” But, you say, “You need to stop. You’ve given enough. This has gone on long enough.” Oh, okay. Perfect!!! But, before I do, a concession, an analogy, and a spiritual truth. Concession: If any have found yourself punctuating your conversations with “Perfect,” I am not accusing you of consciously doing so as described above. If one of those illustrations describes how you use Perfect!!!, I am sure, it is unintentional. “Perfect!!!” is just one of those trendy expressions that are infectious. Most do not calculatingly adopt them. They catch them like the cold virus. And start sneezing them. Analogy: Perfectly good words are often prostituted and ruined by trendy, mundane, superfluous, imperfect usage. Remember, “Awesome!!!”? Awesome!!! was used so frequently for any and everything that Awesome!!! is no longer, well, awesome. It lost its awesomeness. “Perfect!!!” used imperfectly will lose its perfectness. Please don’t say it--“Perfect!!!” Spiritual truth: This blog actually came to me after reading from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when He enjoined us to “be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Wow! As perfect as God. How? This begs for exposition but maybe two quick conclusions would suffice. First, of all, that is just Jesus’ point. We CAN’T be perfect like the Father is perfect. Not on our own. Not by our efforts however strenuous they may be. Impossible. Yet, we are required to be perfect. That’s where the Good News comes in. That kind of perfection only comes through Christ. Our belief in Him. Our acceptance of Him through our repentance. And our letting Him live in and through us. And that can happen to any of us! “Perfect!!!” Really, “Perfect!!!” Second, we think of perfectness as exactness and flawlessness. The “perfect” that God is (and He is those things too) and the “perfect” we are to be, literally, at its root means “complete.” Only through Christ can we complete. Whole. We are complete in Christ, through Christ, by Christ. To that, I can only say Perfect!!! Really, “Perfect!!!” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
jesus, a bank you can trust
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/19/2023
I hate it when this happens. A great analogy I’ve used for years to illustrate a spiritual truth has been ruined in the past two weeks. Thank you, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank: See, I talked about banks when expositing this Scripture. “… nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2Ti 1:12). I won’t tax you with any but the bare minimum of the exposition: Apostle Paul endured great suffering and opposition for preaching the Gospel. But, in this scripture, he expresses certainty that he will not lose his faith, his salvation, his soul, his reward, etc. Why? Because all those things of Paul’s were in the care and keeping of Jesus. Jesus was guarding those things of Paul’s. Here’s where the bank illustration came in. I would preach… “This promise of Jesus’ keeping one’s soul, salvation, and reward, only applies to those who surrender their lives, their souls, their hearts, their futures, and themselves to Him. You cannot expect Christ to keep what you have not put in His care. Let’s say you have a million dollars. But you keep it at home. A thief brakes in and steals it or a fire consumes your house and the million with it. Could you go to the bank and say, ‘Do you have my money? Is it safe?’ After taking your name and checking the computer, the response would be, ‘What money? Did you deposit money with us? I don't see that you have an account here.’ ‘No,’ you answer, ‘But did you keep my money safe?’ Ludicrous, I know. Then, I’d tweak the illustration: “Let’s back the story up to before you lost your million dollars. You, worried about a thief stealing or a fire burning up your million, go to the bank to deposit it. You put stacks of money on the counter with ‘I’d like you to keep my million dollars safe.’ The teller is happy to oblige with the smiling, eager manager looking over her shoulder. She counts it. ‘$100,000,’ she announces. The manager frowns. ‘There’s only $100,000 here,’ she repeats. You shake your head affirmatively, ‘Yes, I know. I only want to deposit $100,000 but I want you to protect, keep, and insure my million dollars.’ “The manager steps up to the counter moving the teller aside. ‘But, sir, you have to understand. We can only keep safe what you deposit, what you give us. If you only give us a part of the million dollars we cannot guarantee the safety of your million dollars. You must give us all. Then we can keep it safe for you.’” I ended the illustration there with, “Jesus is like a bank. He can only keep safe what you give Him. And you must give Him all. All your soul. All your life. All your heart. All your… You give Him all, and Jesus, like a bank, will keep it safe. Until, when it will matter most—in eternity.” Jesus is like a bank? My illustration has been shot. Banks have failed. The story now goes like this: You join the run on the bank to withdraw and rescue your deposits, and, if the doors haven’t already been locked and you can get in, you discover your money is gone. Gone up like smoke vanishing in thin air. Wait. The bank illustration isn’t completely unredeemable. Why? Because it is only banks on earth that fail. Go bankrupt. That fail to keep what folks have deposited. There is another bank. Heaven’s bank. It seems Jesus used a bank illustration too: Well, not a bank, exactly. A safe storage. In Bible times wealth consisted largely of precious metals and jewels, clothing (or the material to make it), and food. If you had large quantities of these, it was necessary to find a safe storage for them. But, let’s just call these safe places banks of sorts. Then, let’s note what Jesus said about our using them: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mat 6:19-21). Jesus makes it clear. There are earthly “banks” and a heavenly bank. Temporal and eternal. On His word, you can rest assured that whatever you deposit in the Bank of Heaven is safe. Yet, that bank works the same as earth’s banks. Heaven’s bank can only keep safe what you deposit, what you surrender, what you commit. Thinking of this Bank of Heaven, knowing, ultimately, Jesus is in charge, we can say Jesus is the Bank. And the One who has given us anything we might deposit. And the Teller who receives it from us. And the Manager who locks it in the vault. And the Government that can and does insure it. And the Dividends on our deposit. Jesus is the Bank. The Bank you can trust. You commit, and He keeps. With banks beginning to fall like dominoes, the question frequently heard asked is, “What is your bank?” I don’t mean to sound inanely shallow or hyper-spiritual, but I will answer. “Jesus. Jesus is my Bank.” That may sound a bit silly, but it sure is reassuring. Because “I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” --Pastor Clifford Hurst
why there are no good stories: wait there is one!
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/12/2023
My poor wife. She has to hear my rants. Here is one of my frequent ones: “ 'They’ cannot write a good story anymore whether book or movie. Everything is reduced to the lowest common denominator of crudeness, idiocy, blasphemy, and stupidity. Instead of relying on a good plot, they rely on violence, sex, gore, and the shock of the extreme. And virtue signaling by working in woke-ism in all the places it doesn’t even fit.” I continue with the reason that stories have become such degraded, shoddy, sludge: “They can’t write a good story because they have gotten rid of the basis of a good story—a conflict of right and wrong, good and evil. There is no good and evil in their stories. Thus, they don’t have a real story.” For example, I need only refer to Disney’s Frozen. A positive critique of a movie--whatever the actual words were--used to be something like “the triumph of good over evil.” Frozen’s positive reviews could be summarized in this one, “Courage, positivity, agility.” When I watched it with grandchildren (I believe), I found myself continually muttering through the beard I don’t have, “There’s no conflict between good and evil. The ‘good’ characters aren’t really ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ characters are not really ‘bad.’ You can tell what the conflict of a story is really about by asking, “What is at stake?” In Frozen what is at stake is 1) whether a character would discover who she really was and realize her full potential and 2) whether a character would be courageous or not. Do you see the problem? That could take us down the road to a whole book of discussion. But, to keep my focus, without a clear, objective moral measure of right and wrong, there can be no intriguing conflict. And without intriguing conflict, there can be no plot. And with no plot, no good storytelling—despite Frozen’s success. Its success really had nothing to do with the story it told. Not really. Yes, it takes a clear, objective right and wrong to have conflict whether it be a conflict between a human and God, or between a human and human, or between a human and himself, or between a human and nature—animal, terrain, etc. You get the picture. Oh, wait, modern times have introduced a new conflict—that between a human and a machine, AI. Really, good conflict goes deeper than right and wrong. It goes to WHY there is a right and wrong. To why right and wrong matter: Good stories have always had this: Whether overt or covert, underneath the conflict is wrestling with the two greatest questions of life. Whether one has consciously thought of these, can articulate them, or even denies their validity, these two questions are those with which every human wrestles. And they are beneath the surface in all conflicts of life. Not just the ones in fiction literature. The ones in real life. Here they are: 1) What is the origin, nature, purpose, and destiny of the universe? 2) What is the origin, nature, purpose, and destiny of Me? Good stories are not just about good and evil, but why it all matters. Even when the story is of a man lost in the frozen forests of northern Canada--a conflict between human and nature, the answer to these questions matter. If a man is just a clump of molecules destiny to obliteration, it does not matter if he survives, whether he is rescued or dies. Not really. In fact, if you are a leftist, you may want him to lose. After all, he is chopping down trees for shelter, polluting the air with his campfires, and maybe killing some endangered animals for food. In the modern story, readers may be rooting for him to not make it. You see then, what one sees as good or evil, or, if one does not see anything as good or evil, determines what matters. And what matters is determined by how one answers the above questions. Modern literature/movies, etc., whatever their genre, do not have this wrestling with The questions of life. (Of course, there are always exceptions.) Rather, for a plot, they rely heavily and largely on three things: Discrimination (usually, perceived, inflated, or distorted). Destroying the planet (Where humans are both the sinners and the savior). Discovering you are enough, the be-all, know-all. (Which allows characters to flaunt their aberrant behavior while lauding them for their courage to do so). But they have no basis for even these to matter. The Bible, the greatest story ever, the story of redemption has it all. Good and evil. Conflict. Wrestling with the real questions of life. What a plot. What suspense. And, what denouement. What a conclusion. Whatever you may think of the Bible, its God, or Christianity, you, if you’ve honestly read it, cannot deny it has a story to tell. What a story! A story of good and evil. And what is at stake in that story is not whether or not one will find his courage, but whether or not he will find salvation for his soul. Good stories have good endings. Or sad. How the story of the Bible ends for any reader depends on the reader. You choose how it ends by how you choose to respond. Again, what a Story! The suspense continues. How will it end for you? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
a rant on the way to senior saints breakfast
Bro. Clifford Hurst 03/05/2023
Yesterday, driving to our Senior Saints breakfast at church, I pretty much lost any of the saint I might have possessed, though, unfortunately, I kept the senior. Why? The litter. We were traversing a road that is a major beltline to our city. The ditches and shoulders of the road were strewn with litter tossed from passing vehicles. Littering upsets me greatly. I claim no righteous reason for that. It may be my OCDness that desires everything to always be in its place, and the side of the road is not trash’s place. It may be my aversion to folk’s laziness that they would not take care of their garbage the way it ought to be. Or to their narcissism evidenced by their thinking only of relieving themselves of their waste and not of their trashing someone’s yard, or the city’s road; or, not thinking that, if that trash ever gets picked up and disposed of, someone else will have to do it. Or, it may simply be because litter ruins the aesthetics of the scenery. Litter is plain ugly. Dirty. Unsightly. But the thing that mostly was riling me was the blatant hypocrisy of the self-righteous leftists, the movers and shakers of the popular post-modernity culture. And their disciples. This I began to spew out to my wife. “Climate activists preach saving our planet from global warming and have successfully indoctrinated a whole generation in our schools, inculcating them to be rabid recyclers. They convinced them we can’t even use straws. Yet, that same generation they have converted into save-the-planet-ideology automatons are the ones who are littering our roads and planet. What hypocrisy! I am condemned for not recycling but they throw all their trash out the window.” I should have stopped there, but I tied it to another hypocrisy of today’s contemporary culture. “They continue to preach we are all racists and need to treat everyone equitably. Okay, right. I agree we should treat everyone equitably. But why are those who are taught to scream racism at everybody and everything so rude? So mannerless. Go out into the service sector. Everywhere, folks who are supposed to be serving you are rude. Devoid of manners. Totally lacking in a show of respect for others. Those in customer service, well, used to serve customers.” Of course, not all are rude. There is some wonderful, well-mannered folk in customer service. But, rudeness and lack of manners are systemic. For all their preaching of treating folks equitably, many folks who are quick to holler, “racism” are mannerless and rude. I concluded my rant with, “With all their teaching about saving the planet and everyone being racist, why don’t they teach students not to litter and teach them some manners.” That question could be answered from many angles, but every one of those involves this; For their beliefs, these see-racism-everywhere-save-the-planet advocates have nothing transcendent upon which to base their sanctimonious sententiousness. I do not have space to flesh that claim out, but, basically, it’s this: If all there is is matter, then, in the end, nothing matters. Or, put another way, if matter is all that matters then nothing matters. Environmentalism tries to make saving the planet matter. But with no basis, it doesn’t matter because it's all matter. So, people litter. Leftists, for questionable motives, try to make all “races” equally matter. But, if all we all are is matter, no race, no one matters. Thus, there is no need to treat one another mannerly. Over and over, because they have no transcendent basis for their ideologies, manufactured moralities, and minus-god religions, their hypocrisy manifests itself. They reveal this hypocrisy by being racist against those they claim are racist. They may protest that it matters that we save a threatened snail. But since all is matter, they show nothing matters when they advocate killing babies in the womb. They cannot live consistently with their beliefs. The bases of their beliefs are untenable. Only Christians can live consistent with their beliefs. The operative word there is “can.” Often, many don’t. But, since their beliefs are based on the transcendent God, His transcendent Word, and, thus, transcendent reasons, there is a basis for consistent living in this world. And because of that, none are better stewards of our planet than true believers in Christ. They do not litter, choke dolphins with straws, or treat anyone, whatever his “race” rudely. They are not hypocrital--though they may go off on an occasional rant against leftists. Oh, and by the way, another Senior Saint coming to breakfast noticed the litter along the same road en route. She didn’t just rant. She said, “It made me want to get out and do something about it. Pick it all up.” That senior had a more saintly reaction than I. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
a mighty thin pancake
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/26/2023
“It’s a mighty thin pancake that has only one side.”—this, from a former pastor of mine. By no stretch of the imagination am I a cook, but, when our children were small, I used to help fix breakfast for dinner after prayer meetings on Saturday nights. Pancakes were my purview. I probably did not cook them correctly, but the two sides of my pancakes always differed. The side that started topside then flipped and ended against the hotplate was marked by divots from collapsed air bubbles. The other side was smooth. The point is, as different as they might seem, they were each a side of a single pancake. Take either side away and there no longer exists that pancake. Often in matters of truth, if one acknowledges, affirms, and tries to actualize two seemingly opposing truths, tries to life-walk balancing himself with a paradoxical truth in each hand, he is disparagingly accused of walking in the middle of the road. And, his accusers will condescendingly and arrogantly continue, “you know what you find in the middle of the road—road kill.” Many times, I have been charged with this—being a middle-of-the-roader. Of trying to have it both ways. If I protest, “No, I’m trying to be balanced,” the response is a sneer: “ ‘Balance” is just a euphemism for being in the middle of the road, for compromise, for noncommittal vacillation.” “The yellow stripe that marks the center of the road goes right over your road-kill back.” No doubt, there are compromisers who make no clear stand for truth. But this accusatory, platitudinal condemnation is as naïve as it is inaccurate. The truth about Truth is that there are many truths that are paradoxical. One truth seems at odds with another. Yet, both are true. In fact, they are not two different truths, but two sides of a larger truth. To mix in yet another analogy, what is seen as trying to walk the middle of the road is in fact trying to walk the ridge that marks the line where two opposing slopes meet. It is believing both truths, however opposing they may seem, and trying to reconcile them into a way of thinking about them that one can believe them and live them, or perhaps, live with them. Let me give you an example: The Bible teaches clearly that each human is depraved. Fallen. Corrupt. Broken. Twisted. Yet, the Bible also teaches that each human is a God-image bearer, made in the likeness of God. Each human is at the same time capable of unimaginable wickedness and evil (by Jesus’ own words) and capable of the most extraordinary acts of kindness, love, and sacrifice. He is depraved and noble. Broken, yet the highest creation of God. Both these things are true. Each of these truths informs us about humanity. There is a ridge line to walk with the slope of one of these truths on one side and the other on the adjacent one. If you hold to one truth at the denial or ignoring of the other, you will slide down that slope into error and destruction. Either side. To believe humanity is only good and noble leads to horrible errors whether in religion, humanities, or politics. Yet, to believe that humanity is only depraved leads to other destructive beliefs, practices, and treatment of others. There is no space here for practical examples, but you get the picture. Last week I wrote of the Asbury revival. Most folks have responded to that “revival” from either one “side” or the other. Some view it with the assumption that because it isn't happening on their turf, in their tent, it could not be of God. Others, who consider only the sensational and not truth as markers, immediately proclaim it unquestionably of God. Yet, Scripture instructs us to assess moves like Asbury as a pancake of two sides, a ridge with two slopes: One side is “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” And the other, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1Th 5:19-21). Every so-called “move of God” we are to be quick to test; we are to practice discernment. Yet, Every so-called “move of God” we are NOT to be quick to quench, despise, or label pseudo. If we approach this revival via only one of these at the expense of the other, we will get things wrong. This is not being middle of the road. This is not compromise. This is not trying to have it both ways. This is walking the ridge between two slopes, not sliding down one or the other. This is realizing a pancake has two sides, examining and exploring each one, and keeping both. And, thus, keeping the pancake intact. Not only is a pancake with only one side mighty thin, but being so thin, it is also easily seen through. Clear through to the self-righteous motives, misguided intents, and petty designs of those who like their pancakes with only one side. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the asbury restaurant
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/19/2023
Truly, I’m grateful for the thought and the expense. But I was left totally unfulfilled, unsatisfied. My wife and I were gifted with a free dinner at a top-rated, acclaimed, expensive restaurant. The kind of place where the refined, cultured, and elite dine. The meal was served with lots of amenities and flourishes and aesthetic presentations including the sprinkles of parsley leaf, but I stared in disbelief at my steak. It was the size of a small medallion. I am one who cannot stand to have the items on my plate touching, their juices and sauces mingling and mixing. No danger that evening. There was an Atlantic of a distance between the few items on the plate. The portion of potatoes was meager, the smallest of dollops. I can’t remember if the other vegetable was green beans or asparagus, but there were but a few sprigs of even that. As we left the restaurant, I was yet hungry. In a sense, that was the best the world of vogue restaurants could offer. Five stars. Yet, I was unsatisfied. The Asbury Revival 2023 is evidence of this very reaction. The apostles of humanism in our universities have cooked up their post-modernity dishes of woke-ism, socialism, and pick-your-genderism,. Politicians have arranged it on the plate in an appealing-to-the-masses presentation sprinkling everything with virtue-signaling. The media has served it with self-righteous, ostentatious superciliousness, and self-important flourishes. The plate of the God-less naturalism conglomerated goulash has been constantly put on the table under the nose of the current generation. And, that generation has with relish dove into and devoured it. But, as it rises from the table of the latest rant, fad, entertainment, poor excuse for a movie, and the latest trend on social media, it is not only still empty, but emptier. Not still hungry, but hungrier. Today’s generation, and the one before it, have fared little better at the restaurant of the modern, entertainment-oriented, progressive Christian church. The setting may be a bit different—only a nano-bit, but the same stuff, though called by a different name, is on the menu. And on the plate. It is no more nourishing and satisfying eaten at a church as it is at any secular venue. Youth have departed the church having been fed no Truth, experienced no power, and seen no transformation. At Asbury, youth, left hungry by our contemporary culture, have responded when the Holy Spirit entered their chapel and began serving the reality of Christ. It fed their soul. Their worship was their dining. Their continuing worship was an indication, not that they were not finding what would satisfy, but that they had found it. In Christ. In the presence of God. In the moving of the Spirit. Some prejudicially conclude that good food can only be found at their favorite restaurant of choice. Or in their kitchen. The phenomena at Asbury the last few weeks, to them, cannot be genuine, of God, because either these naysayers did not cook the meal or it was not served at their restaurant. Of course, any revival must be assessed and judged by the Word as any restaurant must be open to a health inspection. Whatever the motives may be for those who would quickly dismiss this Asbury Revival as bona fide, one thing I am sure of is this: God will move whenever, upon whomever, wherever He finds those hunger for Him. And He does not care where they are. Or who they are. Also, I’m convinced, when God fixes and serves the meal, none will be dissatisfied. Except those who will not eat. When Manna falls from the kitchen of heaven, laid before us by serving angels, despite its having fallen closer to a neighbor’s tent than one’s own, it’s not time to discount it. It’s time to gather and eat. It will satisfy like nothing else. And, oh, before criticizing what is being cooked, served, and eaten at another restaurant, you might want to take a look at what is being put on the table at yours. --Pastor Hurst
the one you’ve been waiting for
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/12/2023
It is a devasting lie taught by the Devil and Disney and our degraded contemporary culture—that you and I can find value in ourselves. It goes like this: “You only need to look within for value, meaning, strength, and courage.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “You have it in you.” “You can find whatever you need in you.” Or, as expressed in Frozen, when Elsa duets with her mother’s spirit and the departed Mom sings to her, “You are the one you’ve been waiting for.” Behind woke culture’s condoning, endorsing, and encouraging children to go through body mutilating, mind-destroying sex-change treatments for gender reassignment, is this lie. “Look within.” “Whom do you see?” “Be that person, that thing, and you will find fulfillment, meaning, and worth.” “Whatever you think you are, be it.” “You are brave because you choose to transition.” “Your bravery makes you valuable.” Years ago, I attended a youth rally with our church’s teenagers. After service, I was sitting toward the back of the church when the youth began returning from the altar area. One mid-teen young man was coming toward me in a bantam rooster strut. His back was rigidly straight as he stretched to appear taller; his chest, thrust outward so that its muscles might be defined; his chin, lifted high; and, his biceps, flexed tightly to appear bulging. He swaggered from the hips stiffly turning his upper body from side to side as if his torso’s muscles were heavy with their largeness, and that both sides of the aisle might see how strong he was. As he walked past me, I reached up and slapped him on the back and said as if I were scolding him, “Walk like a man!” I saw the confusion cross his face as he froze mid-step. It was a panicky consternation. It said, “I thought I WAS walking like a man. Can’t you see it? Can’t you see how powerful, strong, manly, I am?” He tried to stutter a response, but nothing came out. As he began moving again, he attempted to flex his muscles larger, straighten his back further, and swagger more noticeably. Yes, I was mean. I was only joking but that was plain cruel. But, if he had cared to reflect and think about it, I was revealing an important truth: He was trying to find self-worth in self. He could not but fail. It does our youth no good to lie to them that their value can be found within themselves. It is not true. They need to know the truth. They are broken. They are fallen. They are incomplete. They are lacking. They are destined for disappointment and destruction if they believe the lie that they will find value centered in themselves. Not just they, but all of us. It is with this awareness that glorious truth comes to the rescue: First, that our value can NOT be found by us in us, doesn’t mean we have no value. We most certainly do. Only, it’s not centered in us. It is centered in God. Our value is not subjective in us. It is objective in God. In the fact that we are His creation. That means 1) We are valuable because of Who made us. If I draw a stick figure, it is worthless. If Michelangelo had drawn a stick figure, it would be worth thousands. 2) We are valuable because He values us. As I type, I am sitting with a blanket that’s holey and worn and out of fashion on my lap. It would be worthless to you. You wouldn’t give me even a dollar for it. I won’t part with it. It’s the first blanket my wife and I had when we were newly married. It is valuable because I value it. God values His creation. You are valuable because God values you. He proved that by giving His Son to die for you. 3) We are valuable because we bear the image of the One Who made us. We are image-bearers. For all our falleness and brokenness, we are yet in the image of Creator-God. How valuable is that? Speaking again of our brokenness leads to the second part of the glorious truth. Yes, we are broken. But we are complete in Christ. Christ completes us. He has taken our brokenness upon Himself so that we might be healed. Made complete. My young friend at the youth rally might well straighten his back further, walk taller, and swagger a bit more. Not because he is muscles are so big, or that he is so manly, or that he is so strong, but because he is God’s. He is Christ’s. That’s not arrogance. It’s just an awareness that his value doesn’t come from what he has but from Who has him. God, not you, is the One you’ve been waiting for. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
what to do when you’ve kicked your dog
Bro. Clifford Hurst 02/05/2023
An article I read about lowering graduation requirements made me think of a mentally deficient beagle I once owned and the night I lost my religion and became a hypocritical preacher. In my beginning years of preaching, when on the subject of sanctification (being made like Christ), I would name different things a person just won’t do if he really has the goods, is sanctified. Starting each declaration with “If you are sanctified, you won’t…., I would get on a rhetoric roll and state, “If you are sanctified, you won’t kick your dog.” Now, at that time, all my life I had beagles for hunting. I had gotten a new beagle that had absolutely no smarts. He loved to bark at night. Over and over, I’d have to get up in the night to quieten him. First, I would try opening the back door and yell-whisper, “Quit.” That only incited him to more barking. That left me to resort to the next step in dog discipline--the rolled-up newspaper. Before you judge me too harshly, that was almost 37 years ago when that was an accepted manner of disciplining a pet. Also, a loosely rolled paper, when applied, only startled and didn’t hurt the animal. You know it had to be a long time ago since there was a newspaper on hand. If you're contemplating reporting me, what I did is past the statute of limitations. Back to that night; around 2 a.m., I rolled my newspaper, and traipsed down the back stairs and across the backyard to where the dog was leashed to its house. I gave it a few swats with the rolled newspaper and, since the dog went silent, turned to go back into the house. I hadn’t taken but a step or two when the dog started yapping again. I whirled about and repeat the dose of discipline. The dog stopped. I turned and took a step. The dog started yapping again. This was repeated over and over. Many nights the dog finally would stop, but not this night. After numerous futile repeats of the procedure, something snapped in my sleep-deprived mind. I wheeled around back to the yapping dog and instead of engaging the newspaper, with my foot I caught the dog under its belly, lifted it, and launched it through the air. When it landed, it yelped and ran into its house. As I turned to walk away, relief that the dog finally went silent was only beginning to settle down on me when I heard the words of my preaching, “If you are sanctified, you will stop kicking your dog.” The conviction was heavy. I could have argued that I hadn’t actually kicked my dog. I had only catapulted him, but I knew the dog nor my conscience would appreciate the difference. So, what did I do? Fall down and cry out for forgiveness pledging never to kick my dog again? No. I simply determined to leave out that line, “…you won’t kick your dog” the next time I preached on sanctification. Not really. Feeling hypocritical, I never did preach that again. But I did use this story to illustrate a truth God taught me that night: When one’s experience falls short of his belief, it is easier to change his belief to accommodate the insufficiency of his experience than it is to get his experience back up to the level of his belief. It was easier to quit believing, if one is sanctified, he won’t kick his dog than to stop kicking the dog. How does the article on graduation requirements remind me of all this? Because the article reported the school officials’ intentions to lower the graduation requirements in order that more students might graduate. Lowering the standard was easier than getting the students to meet the requirements. So many Christians today have found their experience and walk fallen way below what they have professed to believe. Rather than endeavoring to get their experience back in line with what they believe, they simply alter their belief to coincide with their present experience. They lower the standard and deceive themselves into believing they are still graduating. So many examples of this could be given, but there is no space. There is only enough room left to tell you that, no, I never kicked my dog again. I just don't own a dog. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
the devil you don’t see
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/22/2023
I’m not trying to be pejorative by using “Indian.” I’m not prejudiced. It’s not a slam. It’s just a quote from history to make a point. A needed one. In a campaign against Indians on a killing and scalping warpath spree, General Miles was leading troops from Kansas down into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to catch and capture the perpetrators. Those plains, always dry, were especially parched that year. All was barren. One could see for miles. Troops would become nervous when seeing small bands of their enemy on the distant horizon. Those would quickly disappear from sight. Most of the time the cavalry saw nothing in the treeless, open prairie but burnt-up grass and dried-up ground. Miles to keep his men alert and wary to attack kept repeating the adage of those experienced with the West. “When you see Indians about, be careful; when you do not see them, be more careful.” Never were troops in more danger, never could the Indians inflict more damage, destruction, and death than when they had gone unseen until the ambush was complete and the trap sprung. This is so true with our arch-enemy, the Devil. Never is he more dangerous than when he is unseen behind the scenes. Never more deceptive than when he is out of sight, out of mind. Never more destructive than when he lies hidden from view in ambush. The devil has always been able to do less damage when and where folks believed in him and “saw” him at work. The most damage he has ever inflicted on society has happened in those societies which did not believe in him, nor saw his hand in anything. The Soviet communists didn’t believe in God. Nor the devil. Never has there been so much killing, destruction, and death. Generally, in politics, economics, etc., I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories. Not because I don’t believe in conspiracy, but advocates, however, elaborate their theory, however abundant their contrived “evidence,” always get it wrong. For one, they get the real masterminds, movers and shakers, and substantiating evidence all wrong. I do believe a conspiracy is playing out covertly, undercover across the board throughout all systems and institutions of our nation and world. But, the ultimate mastermind is Satan. As the apostle says, “This whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.” If our world is the setting of the Wizard of Oz, the Devil is the man behind the curtain pushing the buttons and pulling the levers. Only to far more devasting results. He is behind the trending woke idiocy driving the educating of children, the inculcating of popular philosophy in our colleges, the promotion of perversions in entertainment such as is being done by Disney, and the progressive, constitution-ignoring policies of our government. To name a few. Not to mention the morphism of the contemporary Church into a hybrid hodgepodge of nightclub, self-help, woke post-modernism, Eastern religion, and believe-whatever-it-is-you-wish entertainment. You say, well, from the examples above, perhaps, the devil isn’t quite as invisible as you insist. He seems only too visible. Perhaps, to you. But, not to those whom he would deceive and destroy. Even Christians who should see the devil, not just out in society, but at work in their own lives, particularly in temptation, so very often don’t. It is alarming when believers in drifting towards the ways of our world say of a particular thing, issue, or circumstance, “I don’t see any harm in that.” “I don’t see how that’s wrong.” That’s the devil you need to be the most disconcerted about. And wary against. The one you can’t see. The one you’re not keeping an eye on. The one you’re not resisting. The one you can’t run off. The one you let stick around and do whatever it is he’s doing. Other reports of that era, from which I borrowed the above quote, said that, in the Southwest Desert, Apaches were so adept at camouflaging themselves that they could be lying just a few feet away and one would never see them. They would blend in so well with the rock and dirt of the terrain, you would never know they were there until they had sprung up, crushed your skull, and taken your scalp. Again, without disparaging our Native American brothers, I would like to appropriate the above quote and word it this way: "When you see the Devil about, be careful; when you do not see him, be more careful.” -Pastor Clifford Hurst
lifted a foot (a faith) higher
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/15/2023
“A foot higher, and it’s a brand-new world.” That was Zachary Roloff, of the reality show “Little People, Big World.” Zachary is one of the little people, medically speaking, a dwarf. He is also a twin to a brother, Jeremy, of normal growth and height. When they were fifteen on a trip, they were standing on an enclosed balcony of a tall building looking down over the scene below. Only, Jeremy was seeing below and Zachary was trying to. He could barely see anything over the balcony’s safety wall’s edge and through its window. Jeremy, without being prompted, came from behind and, with hands under Zachary’s arms, lifted him up high enough to see below. After being sat back down, Zachary explains that this was the practice: “My brother lifts me up so I can see what he sees. A foot higher, and it’s a whole new world.” No doubt. The view of just a wall in front of you is by no means comparable with nor desirable as the scene of the landscape below stretching all around you, and the horizon and sky to boot. Zachary could not see what brother Jeremy saw until Jeremy lifted him. We often find ourselves in life, in our walk of faith, in our moments of crises, troubles, perplexities, and dilemmas seeing only the wall before us. The bleak wall. We can see no further. Not what’s beyond. Not what’s around. God sees beyond the wall before us. He sees all around us and ahead of us. But we can’t. But, when we can’t see, He lifts us. The Apostle Paul captures this lifting in a theological declaration (Ephesians): He declared that, when God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised Him all the way to glory and sat Him upon a throne, high about every opposing force, power, and might. Jesus is seated on high. Far above it all. Seeing it all. That’s all wonderful, but what about us who are still down here seeing nothing but the wall ahead of us? But, hold on. Paul continued. He said God also raised us, those who put their trust in Christ, and sat us in heavenly places with Christ. He raised us up to where Christ is. Far above it all. He raised us to where we can see what Christ sees. What a different view! Instead of just seeing the mess, the trouble, and the ugliness immediately before us, having been lifted by God, we see it all differently. A different world. A different perspective. A different outcome. That is why, when someone comes to know Christ, the world seems to have changed. He had been depressed, or hopeless, or deceived, or unfulfilled. But, having put his faith in Christ, he has been lifted to see his world differently. His future differently. His problems differently. His path differently. He has been lifted “A foot higher, it’s a brand-new world.” Actually, he has been lifted more than a foot higher. And he sees more than just this world. He can see to the next. The lifting isn’t limited to just the initial one from sin, unbelief, Christlessness. From Zachary’s comment, we understand that Jeremy had not just lifted him just that once. Neither has God, us. In the Christian experience, God has means of always lifting us. As and when we need it. His means are varied, but all in conjunction with faith in Christ. In our worshiping He lifts us. In our singing. In our fellowshipping with others who know Christ. In our serving. In our loving. In our reading of His Word. In His Spirit moving in our lives. Whatever the wall before us, the wall we can’t see through, around, or over, He lifts us. More than a foot. Oh, much higher. Above the attack. Above the bad news. Above the sickness. Above the betrayal. Above the crisis. Above the doubt. Above the fear. Above the temptation. And, oh, how differently things look. Just writing this I hear the old hymn’s refrain… Lord, lift me up, and let me stand By faith, on heaven’s tableland; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. Lifted a foot higher, a faith higher, we can see things as they appear to God, and it’s a brand-new world. ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
a hill of beans in 2023
Bro. Clifford Hurst 01/01/2023
Perhaps, it’s just something I picked up from my Okie upbringing, but we used to have this expression: “It didn’t amount to a hill of beans.” The following isn't meant as a reprimand but as a challenge; what have you(or I) done in 2022 that will amount to a hill of beans in eternity? In a hundred years? In 2023? Today? Maybe, for all the hectivity of your activity in 2022, you feel, like me, "What do I have to show for it?" As one author put it, we suffer from "the barrenness of busyness." Now, we must not view the past with dismay but with resolve, resolve that 2023 will be different. Let us ask, "What can I do for Eternity in 2023." The caution is that we must not answer that question nor let anybody answer it for us. That question is God's to answer. We ask, "What can I do that will make a difference in Eternity—that will amount to a hill of beans," and, if asked sincerely, God will give us the answer. The optimism is that to ask the question of what we can do for Eternity implies that we CAN do something for Eternity. Whoever we are, whatever our gifts and talents, our age, our position, we CAN do something for God. We can do something that amounts to more than a hill of beans. God is looking for those who don't ask, "What will God do for me in 2023? What would I like to accomplish this year?" but, "What does God want to do in me, with me, through me?" Oh, to catch the vision. So many are lost! So many are hurting. So many need help. Hell is being populated more quickly than Heaven. The workers are pitifully few. Time is running out. Jesus’ Coming and the accompanying Judgment are imminent. The good news is that God has a plan. And that plan involves us. God WILL give us a vision of His plan. God WILL work through us. We can make an Eternal difference in 2023—what we do this year can amount to more than a hill of beans. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
my gas-log and the manger
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/25/2022
My gas log had never looked so good. It was -9º outside that morning this week. In the shelter of our family room, sitting in my La-Z-Boy with my feet propped up and stretched toward its blaze, I was struck by the contrast. The dancing orange, red, and blue flames stood out in the black firebox that encapsulated it. The black firebox stood out in contrast to the white mantel and fireplace that enclosed it. The fireplace was framed by the color of the walls that backed it. Then, on either side of the already multi-framed fire were two large patio doors. It was there the real contrast to the fire lay. The doors flanking the fire showed brilliantly white snow blanketing everything outdoors. The high-gusting wind was blowing clouds of it across the yard. The few birds at the feeder were fluffed to unbelievable proportions. The frigid scene that framed the flames made the fire, oh, so much more welcomed and appreciated. The cold only caused the fire to stand out in stark relief. I sat in comfort and gratefulness. As my fireplace held the fire framed by the inhospitable cold seen all around it, two thousand years ago the Manger held the warm Word-made-flesh framed by all the cold in the world encompassing it. The Light in the Manger was surrounded by darkness. The Life in there, by all the death out there. The Love wrapped lying in the Manger by all the hate of the world wrapped around the Manger. The Fire that thaws and warms the heart burned brightly in the Manger surrounded by the cold that frostbites and hardens the soul like a stone. For all the heated rhetoric, the inflamed passions, the burning anger, it’s a cold, cold world out there. Dangerously cold. For all the claims of enlightenment, it’s a very, very dark world out there. For all the scientific and medical advances, it’s a very sick world out there. But all that cold only frames a welcomed sight. Fire in the fireplace. The Savior in the Manger. Light, Love, Life, Hope, Help, Healing, in Christ. What beauty. What hope. What life-saving, life-changing warmth. It makes me want to lean back in the shelter of grace and, resting on mercy, prop up my heart towards that Fire and gaze appreciatively and thankfully at it. Basking in its Light. Thawing in its warmth. Merry Christmas, Pastor Hurst
the question the manger answers
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/18/2022
“If your God is so powerful and so loving, why does He allow suffering in the world? Why doesn’t He do something about it?” This is the typical neo-atheist’s expected attack on Christianity. The attacker smugly poses the question as if it is an intellectual argument that triumphs over belief in God. He lobs it as a gotcha question and expects a deer-in-the-head-lights look. It is meant to flummox and bumfuzzle a believer into jettisoning his belief in God and, at the same time, provide the arrogant asker with a philosophical justification for rejecting Him. There is only one problem. His is not an intellectual question. Yes, this theodicy can be intellectual and dealt with philosophically. But atheist askers do not query it that way. They ask in a sensational appeal to the emotions. How does a powerful, loving God allow babies to be born with congenital, painful abnormalities, children to be abused, mothers to be killed in last week’s tornados, grandmother citizens to be blown apart in Ukraine, the family down the street to have no money to buy their children Christmas presents …. That stirs the emotions. How indeed can a powerful, loving God allow such suffering and do nothing about it? Ahhh! And, there’s the rub. I am not saying that the question has no philosophical answers. Though it by no means has an easy answer, there are intellectual answers. But the question isn’t really asked seeking answers. It is asked in an appeal to the emotions in order to obfuscate the intellectual and subterfuge the faith. Last night, watching a Christian-school Christmas program, it occurred to me that the emotional question, “If your God is so powerful and so loving, why does He allow suffering in the world? Why doesn’t He do something about it?” has a historical answer. He HAS done something about the suffering in the world. The Manger is the answer to the question. See, neo-atheists ask the question to impugn God, make folks feel bad about Him, embarrassed by Him, and motivated to expel Him from their lives and beliefs. But not only is their question flawed, they ask the wrong question. Instead of smugly asking, “If your God is so powerful and loving, why does He allow suffering in the world?” they should humbly and wonderingly ask, “Why would a powerful and loving God enter into our world of suffering.” Therein is the answer to the question. A powerful and loving God did do something about the suffering of our world by entering into our world of suffering. When? How? When He was incarnated in the human embryo conceived in Mary. When He was birthed in a “barn.” When He was laid in a Manger. The powerful loving God entered our world of suffering first to suffer WITH us. And, then, to suffer FOR us. On the Cross. His suffering was an answer to our suffering. It gave us hope in suffering. Hope that He would redeem from suffering. Redeem us--spirit, soul, and body. Redeem our world. Ultimately, to make a new us and a new world. One without suffering. One without sufferers. One where all suffering is righted. “If your God is so powerful and loving, why doesn’t He do something about suffering?” He has. Don’t believe it? Look in the manger. Still not convinced? Look from the manger to the cross. The manger shouts, “God has come into our world of suffering. The cross adds, “And suffered for us.” This season, in pageants, plays, displays, and decorations, whenever and wherever you see the Babe in the Manger and think of the original Nativity, do not merely think, “What a pastoral but cozy scene, what a cute little, cuddly-looking baby He must have been lying there.” Think, “The powerful, loving Creator/Redeemer God entered into our suffering!” And, when an atheist tries to discombobulate your faith with his smugly posed question, “Why doesn’t your God do something about suffering?” answer, “Oh, He has! Go look in the manger!” ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
firm pressing the moment
Bro. Clifford Hurst 12/11/2022
God is the God of moments. Moments that bring memories. Memories that bring movement in the soul. Photography captures moments. That bring back memories. However, not all photos are taken with a camera. Prodigiously more are taken with the mind. What a huge innovation when cameras were built into mobile phones. Having our phones always with us, we always have a means in hand to capture any moment. God designed us, humans, with that feature. Our minds freeze a moment of experience in a mental image, a photo that we file into some album in our minds. The thing about photos is that, when we look at them, the moment they’ve frozen in time thaws and releases the memory of that moment. iPhone users will readily understand the reference to “live” photos. Those moments captured with this feature appear in your albums as snapshots, still shots. But, when you firm press on one, a video plays for the duration of time your camera captured the photo. Our minds work the same way. A snapshot of a moment from the past suddenly appears on the home screen of our consciousness. If we pause to look at it, “firm press” it, the action of that moment begins to play a memory before our minds’ eyes. This blog’s musing on moments and memories, I blame on Christmas carols. On a particular Christmas Carol: “O, Holy Night.” I can never hear it without a photo popping up on the screen of my mind. When it does, that still shot of a moment from around fifty years ago unfreezes and a memory plays out in my mind. With sound: It’s Christmas time. My childhood family is going somewhere. Shopping? To church? To see the Christmas lights? That, I don’t remember. Dad’s driving. Mom is in the front next to him. In the back seat, I am sitting right behind Dad. Big sister is behind Mom. Little brother is wedged between us two--probably, already pestering us both. The last door has just been shut. Dad is putting the car into reverse to back down the steep drive of our home onto N. Harrison St. And he is singing. His favorite carol. Loudly. “Oh holy nightttttttttttt, the stars are brightly shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining…” Even back then, as he sang, I felt something move in my heart. And do again as I recall it. For me, that moment is forever captured. And it always brings that memory. And the memory brings movement in my heart. My blogging all this about photos and moments and memories and movements of the heart is not to share my personal Christmas memories. They are of no real import or interest to others. It’s just, that, first of all, I realized that this is what was happening at the very first Christmas time: The extended family and neighbors of Zacharias and Elizabeth, when they heard and saw the wonder and miracle of John The-Baptist-To-Be, had a moment captured with their minds. As Scripture puts it, “And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts…” A photo “laid…up in their hearts.” To be taken out of its album again and again. To be contemplated as its memory moved their hearts. Mary, from that first Christmas day, had a mental album filled with more photos than anyone else. It is immediately after Jesus’ birth that Scripture notes she has been snapping photos, capturing those wonderous moments surrounding our Lord’s birth. Although she had to have taken a spate of photos of Jesus’ actual delivery, and her first nursing of her child, it was just after the shepherds' adoring visit that, we are told, she had snapped a mental photo of their worship. “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” She kept those things--she captured the snapshot of the moment. She pondered them in her heart--she brought them to the home screen and firm pressed and watched the memory play out. Secondly, I thought this might inspire you to leaf through your mind’s album of photos of moments from Christmases past. No doubt, this season, you have been seeing these photos from the past as they periodically arise inspired by the Yuletide sights and sounds all around us. Take time to firm press them. Watch as the memory is released and plays out. What Christmas carol did you hear? Oh, there it is again. Dad, much younger than I am now, is backing out of the drive singing, “Oh, Holy Night…” I just felt movement in my heart. God is the Giver of moments. A Maker of our moments. The greatest moments of one’s life are those with God in them. The mind, the heart, I should say, captures them. When contemplated, the memory of them plays out. In the mind. And the memory brings movement in our souls. Like we felt in the original moment. Did you feel that? ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
feeble excuses
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/27/2022
Last week, at the time of this writing, we had a very cold Saturday night and a colder Sunday morning forecasted. One of our elder brothers, age 95, has been an epitome of faithfulness to all things church throughout the years. Yet, he had called his daughter who with her husband brings him to church to let them know he would not be going the next day because it was “going to be too cold.” However, the next morning he phoned to say, “Come get me. To say it’s too cold is a feeble excuse, and I’m not going to give it.” “What refreshing candor,” I thought when his daughter share this with me. We laughed together about it. In our laughter, what neither of us stated but were thinking was that his honesty highlighted the fact that most excuses folks give are “feeble excuses.” Really. Truly. It’s just that the 95-year-old confessed it—although being too cold is not so feeble an excuse at his age. It’s a valid one. In some Christian traditions, the pastor may hear spates of confessions. In mine, I hear excuses. They range from ludicrous to disingenuous. Teachers get the hackneyed, “The-dog-ate-my-homework.” I get those of the “My-brother’s-first-wife’s-great-uncle’s-youngest-child’s-dog-is choking-on-a-dinosaur-bone.” variety. Excuses for not attending worship. For not being involved in ministry. For not fellowshipping. For not surrendering one’s heart to Christ. For not reconciling with those for whom they are at odds. Most are no more bona fide than the “The-dog-ate-my-homework.” one. Some ARE in some cases legitimate. Genuine. Valid. I have observed that valid excuses need no accompanying explanation or elucidation. They are not feeble. They stand on their own. Excuse-making for not participating in God’s Kingdom is not new. In a parable, Jesus described excuse-makers: A great man planned a sumptuous supper and sent out invitations. When the evening came, he dispatched a servant to announce to those he’d invited that the supper was on the table. They all began “to make excuse.” One had bought an acreage, sight unseen, and just at supper time decided to go see the land he’d purchased. Sure. Feeble excuse. Another had bought five teams of oxen without examining them and was just on his way to go look them over post-purchased. Of course, that’s the way valuable animals are acquired. Feeble excuse. A third had married a wife. What does that mean? “I can’t come because I married a wife." Surely, he had looked her over before marriage. Maybe it was a honey-do list she’d given him. Maybe she kept him busy. This may have been the only semi-believable excuse. In any case, these were “feeble” excuses. So many excuses are so feeble they are tottering, tripping over themselves, wobbling in this direction and that. They ultimately fall flat. (You can tell when your relationship with Christ is weakening, stumbling towards a fall. Your excuses get more and more feeble.) In all of life, feeble excuses are given for this and that. For not attending school. Or for not showing up for work. Or for procrastinating. Or for rude, inconsiderate behavior. Or for failure to fulfill a duty, or finish a job. But any excuse given for rejecting God’s gift of salvation, however cleverly crafted, and fervidly given, is a feeble one. Its feebleness is evident to others. Its feebleness is evident to God. One day it will be evident to the very one that has made it. He will confess as did our beloved 95-year-old brother, “It’s a feeble excuse.” If only that one will confess that his excuse is feeble before it’s too late and follow that admission with, “and I’m not going to give it.”* --Pastor Clifford Hurst
god likes hearing the beeps
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/20/2022
They are really cute kids. They remind us of our grandboys. We miss them now that the cold weather keeps them inside. This late summer, a young family with two young boys moved in, four houses down, on the same side of the street. Soon we would hear animated voices right outside our home. Perhaps, it is because their parents have set our house as the boundary of how far they can traverse the sidewalk up our street. Or, perhaps, it is because our driveway is more steeply inclined than others around us providing a great acceleration ramp; but, these vocal, tow-headed brothers, 5 and 7, both with a name starting with a “Z” sound, use our driveway as the turn-around spot. Whether on scooters or bicycles, they ride right up to our garage, turn around, pause, and talk to one another then push off and coast down our driveway. At first, they would only talk to us if we happened to be in the garage with its door open or out front. But, soon, they were dropping their bikes on the drive and ringing our Ring doorbell. Often, we would answer the door and stand in the doorway as they barraged us with questions. One day, one brought a picture he had drawn and colored especially for my wife. On every visit, they were unreservedly loquacious. Sometimes, when they ring the Ring, we will be too engaged or have just minutes early made a trip to the door to chat with them, so we will not answer the door. One of those times, after the doorbell had been rung incessantly, we heard the beeps of the keypad on our front door’s lock. Again. And again. Finally, my wife went to the door. “Why didn’t you answer?” one brother asked. “We tried to unlock your door,” said the other. “We put in your number,” he pointed to our address on the front of the house. “It didn’t work.” He thought for a moment and then said, “Why don’t you just give us your code, and then we won’t have to ring the bell but can just come in when you don’t come to the door.” My wife just chuckled and said, “Oh, we don’t give our code to anybody.” We had a good laugh when she shared this conversation with me—and the boy’s audacious suggestion. But I couldn’t quit thinking about it. To him, it was a simple solution. They couldn’t get the door open, but we had the ability to give them the means to unlock the door and get in. We could provide them with a way of access. Inside. To us. The boys’ dilemma is not unlike all of humanity’s spiritual one: The door was shut on us. We were on the outside. We could not get in. We could not approach Holy God. We could not come into His presence. We were barred. Shut out. Hopelessly so. There was nothing we could possibly do to enter in. But God had this great plan that involved giving His Son to die for our sins. Because of all Jesus did, we have access. Jesus is our access. Jesus opened the door. Unlike our refusal to give the boys the number key to our house, God gave us the code to His. We can enter in. To His presence. To salvation. We can draw near. To His throne. And there, we can find grace to help in our time of need. In fact, God likes to hear the beeps of the keypad. Are you pushing those buttons? Are you entering in? “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2) --Pastor Clifford Hurst
messing with love, part 2
Bro. Clifford Hurst 11/05/2022
“Someone has messed with love. Big time. At least with the word love. The word love doesn’t mean what it used to. It has intentionally been changed.” This is how I began last week’s blog. I was speaking of how today’s elitist leftists and their minions are getting by pushing their perversions upon society even to the point of promoting the mutilation of children’s bodies. In short, they do it under the guise of love. They pull off this hoax by first redefining “love.” Love, they say, is affirming someone’s feelings regardless of what they are. I heard even this week a protestor supporting doctors that perform mutilating surgeries on those seeking to transition shout almost the very words I wrote last week. Speaking of children who desire to transition, she cried “If we love them, we will not tell them that they are wrong. We will not make them feel bad about their choice. We will support them if they feel they need to transition. This is love. This is what Jesus did. Jesus loved everybody regardless of who they were and what they did.” Yes, she said Jesus’ love would support children having mutilating surgeries. Having redefined love as supporting someone’s decision whatever it is and affirming how they feel and think, proponents then guilt anyone that would disagree with child mutilation with this. “If you do not support them in their transitioning, if transitioning is forbidden to them, they will likely commit suicide. That’s not love. Love would be to support them so they will not commit suicide.” That’s their argument, their guilt-tripping, If we love them, we will help them transition so they will not commit suicide. It is aggravating that these have messed with love and changed its definition. But—this will shock many--these with their perverted agenda are not the first to mess with the definition of love to accommodate their beliefs. Christians did it too. They changed the definition of love. Only they did so for something incredibly wonderful. And they got it right. NT Christians needed a word to use for the amazing love that God has shown us in giving His Son as a sacrifice to save us from perishing and to give us eternal life. Only, these first believers didn’t have a word for that kind of love. There were four words floating around in conversations and writings of the universal language of the time, Greek. But which to use to describe the motive and expression of God’s heart in saving us? There was eros; this love is the romantic, sexual love between a man and a woman. That word wouldn’t do. There was philos; this love is the love of companions with shared interests and mutual reciprocation. What God did was far more than just what a buddy would do. And we did nothing for Him. Of course, there was storge; this love is the love of the family, or, rather, the familiar. This is a love that comes from meeting others’ needs and having one’s needs met. God certainly met our needs in salvation. But His love was a far step above even this. Then there was agape. It was rarely used. People just didn’t think to use agape. There was this vague idea of agape being about affection, greeting with affection, as brothers might do. But it certainly wasn’t heard much in the marketplace or the home. Since agape wasn’t much used and Christians were looking for a word for God’s great love, they chose it. And redefined it. Agape, as they redefined it, was the unconditional love God has for humanity. Unconditional love. How wonderful! God has unconditional love for us humans. Whoever we are. Whatever we’ve done. Wherever we are at. God loves, agapes, us. Unconditionally! Wow! But, wait! That sounds a lot like the definition of love used by those supporting homosexual marriage and child gender transitioning: Love affirms them whatever choice they make about their gender and whatever choice they make about their sexuality. Love is accepting whatever they do, choose, or become. Doesn’t that sound like agape love--unconditional love that loves someone despite who they are or what they’ve done? I’m going to leave that hanging until next week. But it raises a question that needs to be answered: What is the difference between the love of leftists that says love is supporting and affirming a child who desires to gender transition and the love of Christians, no, the love of God, which says God loves and we should love unconditionally, whatever one chooses, does, is? What indeed? What do you think is the difference? --Pastor Clifford Hurst
messing with love
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/30/2022
Someone has messed with love. Big time. At least with the word love. The word love doesn’t mean what it used to. It has intentionally been changed. Words have always evolved. Nobody can keep that from happening. Many times, a word’s metamorphosis is innocuous and of little significance. For example, “cupboard.” Today, when most hear “cupboard,” they think “cabinet” in the kitchen--shelves in a box with doors hiding them. Originally, a cupboard was just that—a "cup-board," a simple, single board nailed to the wall to hold cups. Sometimes a word evolves all on its own from something good to something bad. The derogatory, slanderous “hussy” started out as “housewife.” These words changed meaning because of the unstoppable movement of language. Nowadays, words are purposely changed. Love was intentionally changed, rather, sabotaged, by our culture and society. And ruined. Here’s what’s going on. Today’s elitist, leftist academia and their indoctrinated automaton students, the media, and progressive politicians are taking perfectly good words and ruining them. It works this way: They have a twisted, rationally unsustainable belief like, say, that there are over a hundred genders or any ideology they want to promulgate and force all to accept. Since there is no objective basis for their arguments, they begin by redefining words in order to control the argument. Words like gender. Like marriage. Like love. Intent on spreading the lie that gender-transitioning is imperative for the mental health of sexually dysphoric children, postmodernist liberals insist, through redefining it, that “love is affirming people in whatever they think or feel about themselves.” It is only love to celebrate a child’s desire to gender transition and support and facilitate his choice. It would be hate to tell a child it is dangerous for him, or that he is deceived by his feelings, or that objectively, whatever his feelings, he is the gender of the biological sex with which he was born, or that he is destroying himself. By redefining love as the affirming of people whatever they do, whatever they think, and whatever they feel, the proponents of the child abusing gender transitioning insist on how we should treat children with identity struggles by using their new definition of love: It goes something like this. “If you love someone, you will never make them feel uncomfortable. If you love someone, you will never make them feel like they are wrong, or aren’t correct. If you love someone, you will support them whatever they choose to do—no, you will support whatever they do. You will tell them they are great, doing the right thing, are courageous. Therefore, you should support these children's transitioning." Pushers of this sick ideology then further use this messed-up definition of love to try to guilt trip society and opponents into accepting their concocted malignant doctrine. “Children with sexual dysphoria will likely commit suicide if you do not support their transitioning--and it will you, the haters’ fault. It will be your fault because you did not love them.” Their premise that if folks don’t support a child’s transitioning he will more likely commit suicide is utterly baseless and false, devoid of any supporting evidence. And, what they are calling love is not love. They have messed with the love to guilt trip society. What is the definition of love? Not what the above proponents of child abuse say it is. That's for sure. The best place to look up love’s definition is not in the dictionary, but in the Bible. But, when we look up love there, we discover a shocking truth. Christians messed with the definition of love too! Christians redefined love. Or, I should say, God did. I’ll have to finish that thought next week, but God’s changing love’s definition didn’t ruin the word. It got it right. And it’s nothing like today’s definition. Or is it? The point is, if someone is going to mess with love, what it means, let it be God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
it matters that it doesn’t matter
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/23/2022
Whenever I see someone walking into Walmart in his faded flannel pajama bottoms, I feel a wave sweeping toward me that is a mixture of nihilism and narcissism. Nihilism and narcissism originate in the flood waters of godlessness that have inundated our society. The seemingly innocuous act of wearing flannel pajama bottoms to Walmart is but a stone thrown into the prevailing pop culture producing the concentric waves which I the observer feel. The only reason one would inexpiably wear his sleepwear in public is that he feels it doesn’t matter; or because it doesn’t matter to him that it matters to others. That it doesn’t matter is nihilism—the feeling of everything being useless and senseless, a feeling that comes from rejecting absolute truths. That it doesn’t matter that it matters to others is narcissism—the egotistic fixation on oneself, a belief that one’s opinion, judgment, perception, etc., are all that matters. This feeling comes from one deeming oneself autonomous. Either way, the it-doesn’t-matter perception of society comes from divorcing God from its worldview. If all-there-is is matter, nothing matters. If there is no God who observes, evaluates, and calls into account, morality doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how people treat or are treated. Not really. It doesn’t matter that one is hurting, distressed, lonely, etc. A man tries to share his heart with his wife. She, distracted, isn’t listening. He notices and quits talking. She, realizing the background noise of his monologue has grown silent, reveilles herself enough to ask, “What were you saying?” He responds, “Nothing. It doesn’t matter.” The employee is asked by the boss, “What do you think?” Knowing the question is perfunctorily rhetorical, he responds, “It doesn’t matter.” Jaded from eating out, one when asked where he would like to have dinner, responds, “It doesn’t matter.” Another apologizes for breaking a dinner date. The ditched says, “It doesn’t matter.” These are simple anecdotes that reveal wide-range usage of the phrase. Yet, the sentiment is deeply rooted in an increasingly godless world. Truth is, without God in the worldview, “It doesn’t matter.” Not morally. Not existentially. Not pragmatically. Not only does “it” not matter, “nothing” matters. If nothing matters, nothing matters. There is no reason or purpose for anything. Oh, there is yet the narcissistic outlook. Nothing matters but the “I”—what I decide matters. “I” isn’t a very fulfilling purpose for living. “I,” however inflated, is too small to fill the need for meaning. People today seek something to matter. For example, they posture themselves as fanatically caring for nature. They don’t really care that much for the environment or dolphins. Not really. The concern for the environment, dolphins, and the rest is an attempt to make something matter. See, we humans must have something that matters—and makes us matter. Since God doesn’t matter, nature must. Humanity can try to make the environment matter. But, without God, there is no real reason why it should matter. In the end, if God doesn’t matter, nothing will matter. All the rave about drinking, marijuana, vaping, partying, etc., is but a hedonistic whistling-in-the-dark way of saying, “It doesn’t matter that nothing matters.” But, oh, to put God in the picture changes everything. It makes everything matter. The way I act. The way I think. The way I treat others. The way I feel. It matters because it matters to Him. It matters because I matter to Him. Also, because it matters to Him, others matter to me. I wrote this after having awakened in the night with two phrases roiling around in my semi-consciousness: First, was “It doesn’t matter.” Following that came, “It matters to the Master.” (I don’t know when I last heard that song.) These two phrases were like two wrestlers constantly changing positions. One moment one wrestler was on top, the next the other. Many times, consciously, unconsciously, or semi-consciously, that wrestling match goes on in one’s mind, heart, and life. One thing is for sure. Get rid of God and there is no wrestling match. “It doesn’t matter” wins uncontested. Every time. It doesn’t matter is all there is. However, if nothing matters it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t matter wins. The fact is, it does matter to the Master. Perhaps, in the scheme of things, someone’s wearing faded flannel pjs to Walmart doesn’t matter. But, one with a heart of faded faith, faded hope, faded joy, faded hope does. I think what gets me about the faded flannel pjs is that, to the wearer, it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter. With God it matters when it doesn’t matter. Does that matter? To you? ---Pastor Clifford Hurst
it’s righteous anger, right?*
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/16/2022
You may insist you never experience road rage but, if so, I suspect you haven’t yet begun to drive, are super-phlegmatic, or have nothing much to do or nowhere really to go. I think road rage, like all anger, is pretty much part of the warp and woof of our fallen humanity. I began this article contending rage’s universality so that you might not be too hard on my admission of it. Once, I was in a rush to make visitations at two different hospitals with the necessity of making it to the last one at a set time. At the first hospital, before I even got to the parking garage, I found myself behind a lady intent on talking to her passengers rather than driving. She was driving two mph or less. Once in the garage, though it seemed impossible, she slowed even more. There were no parking spaces available on the first levels. I was forced to follow her. Being in a hurry, I felt that anger slowly beginning to percolate from somewhere deep within. “Can’t she tell that someone is behind her? Doesn’t she care that she is holding someone up?” You know that feeling. You are hurling down the road at the 55-mph limit, and someone pulls and turns out in front of you forcing you to lock up the brakes; and, then, the infringer never accelerates past 25 mph—that feeling. Perhaps, at your sanctification level, you are beyond ever experiencing anger. I’m not. Later, listening to a talk radio host discussing the presidential orders, Supreme Court decisions, and current political candidates’ propagation and support of perversion and sin under the guise of equality, I began to feel the same type of anger I did when the slow pokey driver had impeded my driving. Were the experiences of anger related? I think so. We could take a lot of time to discuss the exceptions, and we could attempt to justify some anger by calling it righteous anger. However, I still believe this about most anger: My anger is my frustration of not getting my own way, of having something interfere with me, my way, my thoughts, my schedule, my work, etc. My anger rises from what is done to me. I use the same arguments as others that my disgust and anger I feel about things like the transgender bathroom use is righteous wrath against the unrighteousness and encroaching darkness. And I would like to believe that is all it is. Yet, I still suspect that political rage is a close cousin to road rage and most other rages. MY country is being altered and ruined. MY beliefs are being maligned, MY freedoms are being trampled, MY political convictions are being marginalized, and MY candidate is being beaten. Mine is righteous anger, right? I could justify my anger by calling up the example of Moses who waxed hot with anger when he saw the people dancing before the golden calf. But I cannot leave it there because Moses’ anger soon was replaced by his earnest intercession to God that He would not destroy them. Jeremiah had been sorely persecuted for his chastisement of the people for their sins. He could have been very angry. Yet, Jeremiah shed many tears for the same people. Back to Moses and the golden calf. It could be pointed out that anger is justifiable since in the same incident it is noted that God was angry with the people. Perhaps I can use God’s anger to justify mine. But, rarely is my anger pure anger like God’s. Most human anger is true of the nature I wrote of above. Beyond that, I keep being reminded of what James told us. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” If it is truly the unrighteousness that upsets us, we must not only become angry at it. That will never change unrighteousness into righteousness. Intercession can. Weeping can. Not anger. If I am truly concerned about my country, I will intercede, I will weep; I will not simply rage. If you feel a little angry over what I have written, intercede. Weep. Don’t rage. ----Pastor Hurst *Written before the 2016 elections.
mr. biden gets it right
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/09/2022
News-attentive people of our nation and around the globe were alarmed and shocked by President Biden’s use of the word Armageddon this past week. He did so to describe the danger portended by Russian President Putin’s tacit threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and any who would interfere on her behalf. In case you missed it, at a Democratic fundraiser last Thursday night, President Biden warned, “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” referring to Putin’s threats. Using words like Armageddon and Apocalypse and others, media anchors, commentators, and pundits and TV show and movie makers, borrow from our Bible’s metaphors and language. Often, they don’t use the actual terms and descriptions; they just allude to them with the phrase, “of Biblical Proportions.” The aftermath of catastrophes of nature and cataclysms from malevolent human deeds are described as being of “Biblical Proportion.” The destructive forces that caused them are labeled “Biblical.” I don’t feel like their use of Biblical language is flattering. Rather, I want to berate them mockingly with “Get your own metaphors. Get a thesaurus and come up with your own adjectives. Do you need a title for your dystopic movie? Quit borrowing one from the Bible.” But then, I didn’t write the Bible, and I don’t think God copyrighted it. But there is something to be noted: First, when the secular world has run out of superlatives to describe the horrible, awful, and calamitous, they know they can resort to the Bible for even greater appalling and dreadful language. Second, though they wouldn’t understand nor concede so, they are actually from their vantage point seeing what Biblical prophecy says is coming. I am amazed at how close they and Mr. Biden come to getting it right all the while employing the apocalyptic language of the Bible. It's amazing how close they get to what the Bible has prophesied. For example, describing the effects of climate change, the “authorities” herald global warming that will result in disastrous consequences of “Biblical proportions.” The Bible DOES forewarn of global warming. It prophesies a conflagration that will engulf not just this planet but its atmosphere. That is global warming of Biblical proportion. Another example is scientists’ fearfully warning of the possibility of an asteroid, something from space, hitting our planet with effects of “Biblical proportions.” That is why two weeks ago they completed and vaunted the successful mission of launching a spacecraft and striking an asteroid in distant space. The end goal is to develop a missile that, when it is evident that an asteroid is on a trajectory to collide with the earth, can be launched to wobble the asteroid off its path. Again, they are not far wrong. The Bible speaks eschatologically of “stars,” a pan of coals (fiery censer), and other projectiles plummeting from the sky and plowing into the earth. Whether natural objects or supernatural, they will be of Divine instigation and aim. The effects will truly be of “Biblical proportions.” Just one more: World political, economic, and social leaders are decrying nationalism and crying for a one-world governance to respond to our world’s disasters, problems, and challenges. A global government is in their eyes and estimation, the only solution. They WILL get their way: There is coming a global government. It will be of “Biblical proportions.” It will come with a global dictator. The Antichrist. Mr. Biden, you are right. There is going to be Armageddon. But not just a metaphorical one. The metaphor describes the last battle between good and evil will be fought. The descriptive figure of speech comes from the Bible’s prophesy of a coming battle between the forces of evil and the forces of good just before the second coming of Christ and the end of the world as we now know it. I have been there. Megiddo is a real place. Standing on the edge of Mt. Carmel’s peak, I gazed into the wide Megiddo valley below. There I heard the Biblical prophesies about the place playing in my mind’s ears while seeing distant armies marching toward each other in my mind’s eyes. It was then that it struck me. The other places we visited and would visit were places significant because they marked where something historically had already happened. Megiddo was the only place we visited whose greatest significance was for what had not yet happened: But will. The Battle of Armageddon. Yes, Mr. Biden, you are right. We are living under the prospect of the battle of Armageddon that is sure to come. Since the political, scientific, sociological, and economic, authorities are going to use Biblical language to prognosticate, I believe I will skip listening to them and just go to the source from which they borrow it. I will just go to the Bible, note, believe, and heed what it says is coming. The Source gets it right. I’m not referring to Biden. But to the Bible.
time for reverse-displacement
Bro. Clifford Hurst 10/02/2022
Most often, a believer’s passion for Christ, for the things of God, for spiritual things, doesn’t just dissipate; it is displaced. One’s passion for Christ doesn’t usually just slowly leak out like air from a compromised tire. It is pushed out of its chair by another passion that then occupies where passion for Christ had sat. Two things this past week fixed the above conclusion in my mind: Something I read in a biography of President Chester Arthur, and a radio program discussing the homeless. Arthur’s biographer was discussing the president’s father’s flaming spiritual fervor. Chester's father had been called to preach during the fires of America’s Second Great Awakening. Explaining the need and impact of that awakening, the writer made a statement that struck me as an applicable commentary on the period of time we have just passed through. The author had taken the reader back to the First Great Awakening of the early 1700s during which America had experienced a tremendous revival. Spiritual fervor. Passion. But, during the colonies’ struggle for Independence in the 1770s and 1780s, “the conflict with Great Britain focused American’s attention on political upheaval, rather than on religious salvation, and membership in New England churches plummeted.” (The Unexpected President, Greenberger, Scott S.) Patriotic passion had displaced Spiritual passion. Upon reading this shocking fact, I immediately was reminded of 2019-2020: COVID and Politics had enflamed the passions of all Americans. Including Christians. Including conservative Christians. Because COVID restrictions so affected our Churches, because the rabid, ridiculous, radical machinations and policies of the left were heralded and enacted, it became easier and easier for caring and alarmed Christians to conflate spiritual and political passion. As in the Revolution, when Christians suffered both from the rigors and deprivations of war with Britain and at the same time were at the peak of national patriotism and political fervor, 2019-2020 saw Christians suffering from the crises of COVID and at the peak of political fervor over the impeachments of “their president,” a “stolen” election, and godless, perverted leftist ideologies dominating schools, government, and media. And, just like in the Revolution era, the spiritual passions were displaced by the patriotic and political. The desire for “religious salvation” has in wide swaths been supplanted by the desire for political salvation. And, again, church membership has plummeted. Not everywhere. Some churches are doing better than ever. Sharing the Gospel more fervently than ever. They are growing. But they are an exceptional anomaly. Churches have suffered. “Christians” have left the faith. The second thing was the radio program on homelessness. Pre-COVID, a co-op of churches had been providing lodging and food for the homeless. In the interview, the director was asked how that ministry was doing since COVID. You could hear the sadness in the director’s voice. She gave the numbers, which I cannot recall, but in gist, she said this. “Since COVID, churches have lost members, and we have lost many of those churches’ involvement. We are now able to help only a fraction we were helping before.” Another causality. In the end, the co-op of churches has suffered because individual Christians have lost their spiritual passion. And, in almost every case, their passion has been displaced by another. The reality is, it is very difficult to hold competing passions in balance without one displacing the other. It’s hard for them to share a seat. Even legitimate ones like a passion for one’s work and a passion for family. Very difficult. A passion for sports and a passion for the church. A passion for politics and a passion for evangelism. A passion for a hobby and a passion for ministry. A passion for your country and a passion for the Kingdom. This should not surprise us. Jesus warned that one will “hold to the one and despise the other.” Of legitimate passions, the “balance” is to be found in prioritization: Jesus went on to say, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." Passion for Christ must remain in the highest chair of one’s heart. No other passion must unseat it. Displace it. What about when the passion for Christ has been displaced? The answer is reverse-displacement. Reverse the displacement. Commit to having the passion for Christ displace the things that have displaced Christ. Have the passion to have the passion for Christ displace the passions that have displaced the passion for Christ. Have the desire of Paul: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things butloss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them butdung, that I may win Christ, … That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Php 3:7-10). May this passion to know Christ displace all other passions. It’s time for a reverse-displacement passion. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
do you need to throw up?
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/25/2022
Warning: Content is gross! What I am about to write about is admittedly really gross. It’s about throwing up. Vomiting. Regurgitating. Upchucking. Heaving. Retching. Puking. You get the idea, and writing all those synonyms has made me feel nauseated. If you take exception with my language, I appeal to Jesus. He used the same word when He noted His reaction to the Church of Laodicea’s lukewarmness. He said He would spew, vomit, them out of His mouth. Throw up. It’s not the vomiting of the stomach that I’m talking about. It’s the vomiting of the mind, of the heart. Why do we vomit? Described in layperson’s terms, a bug causes a build-up of poison in the stomach and one must get it out. In more medical terms, a virus has caused one’s gastrointestinal tract to become irritated and inflamed and any contents in it further irritate it. Vomiting is the intestinal tract’s effort to rid itself of all those irritants. Either description will serve the purpose here: Sometimes we need to vomit, to throw up. Not because our stomach is irritated, not because of a build-up of poison in our belly, but because our mind is irritated. There is a build-up in our hearts. We’ve got a bug of hurt. We’ve got a virus of worry. Something has poisoned our emotions and irritated our minds. Probably going to be a bit too transparent here, but, hey, I’m already talking about vomit. Once, I was so troubled in mind and heart with news I had received and could not process, I felt I had to talk to someone. I went to a friend and warned him. “I have to talk to someone. I am so upset I have to get it out.” I explained why I felt I had to share: “It’s like having a stomach virus. You feel a buildup of poison, and you have to get it out. This isn’t going to be pretty. Throwing up never is. But it gives relief. At least for a little while.” Then, I poured out the pain and poison of my trouble. When I finished, I said, “I’m sorry that I threw up all over you.” God knows our stomachs--and our hearts. He made both. He knows we need to empty the poison of each. He has designed the stomach to eject its poison through throwing up. He has given our hearts and minds a way to rid themselves of their poison. God informed us of this with an invitation via the admonition of a Psalmist. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: … (Psa 62:8). “Pour out.” In the psalm, “pour out” is rooted in another analogy--the pouring out of blood from the body. Blood that ultimately comes from the heart. Pour out the emotions of your heart. Pour out what is troubling you. Pour out your life, yourself. Essentially, throw up the poison of your heart and the trouble of your mind. We have an example of this in Hannah. The only clue that she was pouring out her heart was that her lips were moving. But she was pouring out her pain of not being able to have a child, of being ridiculed and tormented by a rival wife. The observing priest, Eli, seeing her lips move and trying to find an explanation for such uncommon behavior in “church” concluded Hannah was drunk. “You need to quit hitting the bottle. You’re drunk!” he charged. Hannah responded: “Oh, no, Sir! ‘I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soulbefore the LORD.’” (1Sa 1:15). Again, slightly different analogy but same idea. Getting out what is troubling you. Throwing up. The invitation and admonition is to pour out our hearts to God. That, we definitely need to do. We need to pray. We need to cry out to God. We need to pour out and cast all our cares upon Him. Yet, although I don’t believe in confessors, God has made us so that we need others. Human others. Sometimes to pour out your heart to a friend, a confidant, a spouse, a pastor, is a must. It is tantamount to pouring your heart out to God. God uses such folks. Just a note of caution here: Just as you do not want to throw up in public in front of everyone, but in private, so with those personal, intimate, pains, poisons, and such. Never do you want to throw those up in public. It is a real friend and confidant that will allow you to throw up your sickened heart to him. The person to whom you do so may have nothing to say to help and may be able to do nothing to help the cause of the pain, but it will relieve you to be able to unburden your soul. If there is such a one in your life to whom you can rid yourself of the build-up of poison, be grateful for them, and go get it all out to them. Throw up. There is something to be said to such confidants. As I told my friend: “I just threw up all over you. You may not want to talk to me anymore because my sharing all of this must be toxic. It was toxic in me. It had to be difficult to listen to me.” “No,” he insisted, “I want you to share. You got to share.” I am thankful for his understanding and friendship. Nobody likes to be thrown up on no matter how close they are to you. It isn’t pleasant to be around someone throwing up. It can feel like you are getting thrown up on. It can make you feel ill yourself. However, I have visited the hospital when a patient suddenly became nauseated. A nurse would be trying to help. The patient would throw up and, in the process, get it on the nurse. The patient when finished would begin to apologize. The nurse, whatever her revulsion and displeasure over what had gotten on her would say, “It’s okay. You’re sick. I just want to help you.” So do true friends. So does God. Be thankful that you can pour out your heart to them. It will help. Are you troubled in heart and mind? Has worry and pain poisoned your thoughts? Has it all built up until you are just soul-sick? Do you need to throw up? Go throw up! Share with a trusted friend. More importantly, pour out your heart before God. --Pastor Clifford Hurst *Are you weary, are you heavyhearted? Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus; Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone. Chorus: Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus, He is a friend that's well known; You've no other such a friend or brother, Tell it to Jesus alone. “Are You Weary, Are You Heavy-hearted?” Author: Jeremiah Eames Rankin
a miserable big fish in a mighty small pond
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/11/2022
It is largely the reason for the craziness we are seeing in our society—everything from mandatory pronoun use to gender transitioning. It is the reason for most of the vitriol and anger—real or affected. It is the reason for the easily-offended-ism. It is the reason for pompous arrogance and narcissism on one hand and despair, suicidal inclinations, and deprecating inferiority on the other. It is the reason our government is imploding, our places of higher learning are deteriorating, our families are fragmenting, and, in many places, our churches are being ravaged. It is the Main Character Syndrome. Main Character Syndrome describes when one thinks, imagines, or acts as if he were the leading protagonist in life. Knowing our base nature and the drive for self-preservation, I suppose that humanity has always had its chronic sufferers of the Main Character Syndrome (MCS) and that all people have bouts of it. However, today we have an epidemic of it. The internet has facilitated its outbreak, transmission, and casualties. Folks post what they had for breakfast. And lunch. And supper. And the snacks in between. Everyday. As if these were great accomplishments. Their story is the one that matters. And in their story, they are the only one that matters. (Not that it’s wrong to share things of your life. The issue is why and how you share.) TikTok is largely nothing but the postings of those suffering Main Character Syndrome—and, at the same time, it’s also a main proliferator of MCS. Safe spaces have to be provided on college campuses so that folks can assuage and massage their Main Character Syndrome. The definition of marriage had to be mutilated so someone could pacify his urge to be the main character. We could go delineating the damage. If only people were satisfied to be the main character of just their story. Rarely are they. Not satisfied with having the leading role in their story, they attempt to insert themselves into the leading role of any and every story. Posted on the internet is a tragic loss of life in a distant state. An MCS sufferer, though he may have only once crossed paths with the deceased, in the comment section exudes on and on about how close he was to the deceased, what an impact the deceased had in the great accomplishments the commenter has made, how he has become the great person he is because of the deceased. There is a car accident that imperils the survival of some involved. A sufferer of the MCS may have only driven past and rubbernecked the scene. Yet, later, as he tells of the accident, somehow, he becomes the lead actor. He narrates with embellishments and redactions in such a way that he comes out as the hero that saved the occupants’ lives. He may have only made the 911 call--a later redundant one. Or, pulled over to let the ambulance through. But he is the hero. MCS is another reason I abhor the ubiquitous hackneyed “My story, my story, my story, my journey, my journey, my journey…” I get it. We all have a unique story, a unique journey. We would all profit if we took the time to inquire after and then listen to the unique stories of others’ lives. When a single person of the 7 billion inhabitants of the earth dies, an irretrievable modicum of history is lost forever. The aggravation isn’t that an individual has a story. It’s his obsession with his story. As if his story is all about him. He not only plays the leading roles but the supporting roles and every role. As a pastor, I have observed how the MCS is destroying individuals. At times, I am aggravated but mostly I hurt for them. They are miserable. They cannot be content in a church family. They cannot forge lasting relationships with folks. They can never live in reality. They cannot become a part of any ministry they do not lead. They must have the leading role—either as subject or object--or they are not happy. Or, they must be able to cast themselves in later telling as the main character. They see everything and everybody and every event only in terms of themselves as the main character. It is truly all about them. A fellow worshipper avoided them. The preacher intentionally targeted them. The one who brought donuts didn’t bring their favorite. The songs were not the ones they would have selected. They were not asked to sing. They must be the main character. Yes, MCS sufferers are not content just to be the main character of their own story. They must be the main character of every story. Or they won’t help write it. They must be a one-man band or they’re not playing. If it’s not their song, they are not singing. If it’s not their theme, they’re not amening. If it’s not their dance, they’re not dancing. If it wasn’t their idea, they’re not participating. If it’s not their thing, they’re not coming. Oh, they would, if they could be the main character. The great damage of MCS to an individual is that it prevents him from being a part of something larger than himself. He is the largest thing in his world. Not being a part of something larger than himself, he never finds meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. He is a big fish in a very small pond. A miserable big fish in a mighty small pond. Far better to be a small, contented fish in a large pond. Here’s the thing: For Christians and church, I thought Jesus was to be the Main Character. I thought that we were all about His Story. I thought He is who makes our story. Think of the difference it would make if each Christian, whether in personal life or the corporate life of the church, would make Jesus the Main Character. Jesus IS the Main Character of this story of the Gospel that transforms lives and gives hope, peace, love, and joy. He “plays” the life-altering, life-giving role. The question to ask is, “What would my story be like if I truly made, not me, but Jesus the Main Character of it?” I think the best thing for my and your story would be—pun intended—to let Jesus have the LEADING role. --Pastor Clifford Hurst
there’s a unicorn going down the street”
Bro. Clifford Hurst 09/04/2022
“There’s a unicorn going down the street!” a four-year-old looking out the living room window shouts to her mother cooking in the kitchen. The mother puts down the mixing spoon and joins her child at the window, “Where?” Mom asks. The child points to the street, “There!” The mother peers out and exclaims, “Oh, you do see a unicorn! How wonderful of you! What a pretty unicorn. Mommy’s going to call Daddy at work and tell him. Then, Mommy’s going to bake a cake and invite folks over to celebrate your seeing a unicorn.” Rather, many mommies today would—or so they have been told by the culture that they should. In not so distant past if the child had announced, “Mommy, a unicorn is going down the street,” Mommy probably wouldn’t even have bothered to go look. She would have hollered from the kitchen. “No, you are not seeing a unicorn. But you do have such a wonderful, creative imagination.” If the child kept insisting, a less busy mother would join her child in looking out the window. Depending on what the mother saw she would respond to the child, “There’s no unicorn walking down the street.” Or, “Nothing is walking down the street.” Or, if there were, “Oh, honey, that’s not a unicorn. That’s just a horse.” Or, “Ha! Ha! The neighbors tied a stick to their dog’s head to make it look like a unicorn.” Or, improbably, “That’s not a unicorn. That’s a rhinoceros! It must have escaped from the zoo!” But the mother would have never agreed with her child that there was a unicorn walking down the street. Why? Because there would NOT have been a unicorn walking down the street. Not on that street. Not on any street. Not in any plat. Not in any city. Not in any country. Not on any planet. Not the legendary unicorn imagined by storytellers and artists. Not the one in the child’s picture books. Not the stuffed one in her daughter’s bedroom. Those are imaginary. Unicorns don’t walk down the street. The reason the mother of days gone by could say there was no unicorn walking down the street is she, as humanity always has, believed truth is what corresponds with reality--objective truth that is. The child declares there is a unicorn walking down the street but, that does not correspond with reality. What she claims isn't real. There is no unicorn. Never has been. Pop culture today would insist, “It may not be the mother’s truth that there is a unicorn walking down the street. But it IS the child’s truth. It is true to the child.” This is a ludicrous misunderstanding of the difference between subjective truth and objective truth. The child can say, “I love horses,” and it be true. That child does love horses. The mother can say, “I hate horses,” and it be true; the mother hates horses. But that is subjective truth. That kind of truth varies depending on how the one who says it feels. That’s why the child and mother have contradictory truths. What each says is true to her and not to the other. But this kind of truth involves preference, feelings, perceptions, and experiences, not objective realities. This is subjective truth. Objective truth is that there is either a horse walking down the street or not. The little girl can love unicorns and it be true (subjective), but she cannot say a unicorn is walking down the street and it be true (objective). Folks today, rather than acknowledging reality, think they can have their own view of reality. They believe their view of reality is reality. They believe that whatever they individually think, feel, and believe is reality. They think because they say it, what they say is real, the truth. Because they say there’s a unicorn walking down the street, there IS a unicorn walking down the street. And no one can contradict them. No one should attempt to prove them wrong by observing that there is NOT a unicorn going down the street. Not only can no one express to them that he sees NO unicorn going down the street, but he must also affirm them by saying, despite there being no unicorn, “You see a unicorn going down the street. How nice!” Not only must no one NOT say there is no unicorn, not only must one affirm them despite there being no unicorn, but all must also celebrate their seeing a unicorn. “You see a unicorn? How wonderful. You are such a great child for seeing a unicorn. You are so brave to believe there’s a unicorn walking down the street.” “I see a unicorn.” Take that claim and replace “see” with “feel,” and “unicorn” with a gender. Now the little girl says to her mother, “I feel like I am a boy.” The mother cannot say, “No, you are a little girl.” She must agree with her little girl and praise her for believing she is a boy. She must call dad at work to tell him the good news. She must bake a cake and invite extended family and friends to celebrate the little girl’s believing she is a boy.” And nobody, nobody, dare declare that she is NOT a little boy. All must agree with the little girl that “a unicorn is walking down the street.” The fact is, there IS a unicorn walking down America’s street. No, unicorns do not exist. But the mentality I write of above does. Objective truth as a measure, guide, and standard has fallen in the streets and subjective truth has the whole road to itself. It is strutting. Truth has fallen in the street. No, it has not just fallen, truth has been knocked down, pummeled, kicked to, and left lying at the curb. All the while, the unicorn, the figment of the perverse imagination of our culture that has forgotten God prances with head held high down the street. Or so it seems: However, “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”(Psa 119:89). --Pastor Clifford Hurst