At Christmas time there was a man who looked so out of place,
As people rushed about him at a hurried sort of pace.
He stared at all the Christmas lights, the tinsel everywhere,
The shopping mall, Santa Claus, with children gathered near.
The mall was packed with shoppers who were going to and fro,
some with smiles and some with frowns and some too tired to go.
They rested on the benches or they hurried on their way,
to fight the crowd for purchases to carry home that day.
The music from a stereo was playing loud and clear,
of Santa Claus and snowmen and funny-nosed reindeer.
He heard the people talk about the good times on the way,
of parties, fun and food galore and gifts exchanged that day.
“I’d like to know what’s going on.” the man was heard to say,
“There seems to be some sort of celebration on the way.”
“And would you tell me who this is, all dressed in red and white?
“And why are children asking him about a special night?
The answer came in disbelief, “I can’t believe my ear.”
“I can’t believe that you don’t know that Christmas time is here.
“The time when Santa Claus comes around with gifts for girls and boys,
“When they’re asleep on Christmas Eve, he leaves them books and toys.
“The man you see in red and white is Santa Claus, so sly,
“The children love his joyful laugh and twinkle in his eye.
“His gift-packed sleigh is pulled along by very small reindeer,
“As he flies quickly through the air, while darting there and here.
“The children learn of Santa Claus while they are still quite small,
“When Christmas comes he is the most important one of all!”
The Stranger hung his head in shame, he closed a nail-pierced hand,
His body shook in disbelief, he did not understand.
A shadow crossed his stricken face, his voice was low but clear:
After all these years, they still don’t know ……. ”
And Jesus shed a tear.
(Author unknown)

Learning To Die

This post was published in the October Courier for First Baptist Church of Hamilton Ohio. and is republished by permission.

jeremyLearning to Die

by Pastor Jeremy Spence

The words that came out of her mouth were these, “Dying is fun. I am looking forward to it.” If I wouldn’t have personally known her I would have thought she was crazy. But, she was far from being crazy. My grandmother is the one who uttered those words and in so doing started to teach my family and me, what it meant to die well, and with dignity. It would be the final lesson she would teach, culminating a life of teaching us how to live. It is also a lesson I will never forget. When my grandmother was given the diagnosis of liver cancer and 3 months to live she started on her final journey on earth, committed to finishing well. As she courageously faced cancer in the eye she graciously welcomed all who came into her home, especially her family.

As I was able to share at her funeral, her last months reminded me of the final days of Moses’ life as we read them in Deuteronomy 33. After Moses was told by God that he was going to die he blessed each tribe and in so doing blessed God. My grandmother did the exact same thing. As each of her grandchildren, and those we married, filed past her one last time she pronounced words of blessings, pride, and encouragement. She wanted to make sure we knew what she thought of us, and also how we should live going forward.

For me I heard the following words. “Jeremy, stay true to the holy calling of God on your life. I am very proud of you and your family. I love you very much. Your dad would be very proud of the man you have become. I know I will see you again”. There could have been no sweeter words spoke or a greater blessing given than what she spoke to me. She confidently and boldly proclaimed a blessing that was unique, challenging, but filled with the faith that God would be the one to work all things out for His good.

Those last days I believe Grandma spent them like she did most days, praying for her family and loved ones. As I reflected on her life during the funeral it came to me that my grandmother impacted at least 5 generations for The Lord in ways that most people wish they could do for just one generation. She prayed persistently and faithfully that all her grandchildren would know Jesus. All of us have made that commitment. She prayed for her pastor and her church that God would be glorified. Many people have come into the Kingdom because of her prayers. She prayed that she would be found faithful during all the days God granted her on this world. I
know she was found faithful.

After all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren would come to visit giving her thanks and blessings she would pray the only selfish prayer she may have ever uttered, “Lord bring me home”. The prayer that I believe was the last one to be answered when God decided to honor her request and so he took her home to be with him and reunited with my father and grandfather. It was the culmination of a life of prayer that came from her understanding of James 5:16b, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

Monday September 16, 2013 God answered my grandmother’s last prayer but the power of her prayers will be evident for many generations. Truly Psalm 116:15 is true, “Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of those faithful to him”.

When I come to the end of my life here on Earth I hope I will die as gracefully, courageously, and with as much dignity as my Grandmother. She gave me a picture on how to live faithfully and now I know how to die faithfully. For that I am grateful. For that I say “thanks Grandma and I will see you again one day”.

Looking Forward to Heaven,

Good Quote: Lifestyle & Love

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” Rick Warren

Choosing a Bible Translation

Choosing a Bible Translation

by J. Kristen Edscorn
Fifty years ago the King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible was considered by many to be the only reliable translation and choosing a Bible involved selecting the binding and color. Today, dozens of English translations are available. So, how does one decide which is best?

First, we need to recognize that there is no one translation that is the best. Even the writers of the New Testament books quote from several Greek translations of the Old Testament. Today we have no perfect translation, but there are a number which are very good. The real question is: Which is best for our particular needs?

About the King James
So what is wrong with the good old King James Version? It probably is the most beautiful, elegant, literary English translation that will ever be produced. In fact, it contributed a great deal to the formation of the English language. Modern translations usually lack the poetry of the King James because modern biblical scholars are more scientists than artists. Nevertheless, there are two major problems with the King James Version. First of all, when it was translated in 1611, there were relatively few Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available and they tended to be recent and less accurate. In the 400 years since then, literally thousands more manuscripts have been discovered, ranging from small portions to complete copies of the Old or New Testaments. Many of these are very early and more accurate.

Secondly, the English in the King James Version is not at all the same language spoken today. Both the vocabulary and grammar have changed considerably. As a result, a reader often must retranslate the King James into modern English in his or her mind. For many people, especially children, reading the King James Version is like reading a foreign language.

So Which is for Me?
Which brings us to the numerous modern translations. Most of these have been produced by fine scholars using the many thousands of manuscripts available today. Different translations are better for various purposes.

If you are interested in serious study of the Bible, including grammar and vocabulary, you will want a more literal translation, such as the English Standard Version, New King James, or New American Standard. However, it is always good to compare several translations, especially for passages that are difficult to understand. If you are interested in reading the Bible in large blocks, you probably will prefer one of the freer translations (not necessarily less accurate), such as the New International, New Living Translation, or Contemporary English Version.

The following is an annotated list of the most popular modern English translations.

Amplified Bible (AB) – first published in 1958, it is the fruit of tens of thousands of hours of research by Dr. Frances Siewert. Beginning with the very literal American Standard Bible, she adds additional words in brackets that help provide understanding of the meaning of the original language. This has become a very popular “second Bible” for Bible study. It is published by Zondervan.

Contemporary English Version (CEV), is a completely new translation published by the American Bible Society in 1995. Originally intended as a children’s translation, it uses a very simple, contemporary style. It is independent of traditional translations and freer of “biblical” terms. This is an especially good translation for people who speak English as a second language.

English Standard Version (ESV), an “essentially new literal translation,” follows the tradition of the King James, American Standard Version, and Revised Standard Version. Published in 2001 by Crossway, it was developed by a translation team of more than 100 scholars, with the goal of being very accurate (word for word), and yet very readable. It has become quite popular, as it is more readable than other literal translations.

Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) (TEV), completed in 1976, was translated by Robert G. Bratcher with six other scholars. This very free, though very accurate, translation avoids the use of traditional biblical vocabulary and communicates especially well with youth and the unchurched. Also published by the American Bible Society.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is another new word-for-word translation that strives to be both literally accurate and readable. It is not as literal as the ESV or NASB, but is more so than the NIV. The Holman, published by Broadman & Holman in 2003, is the product of nearly 100 scholars.

The Living Bible (LB), completed in 1971, is Kenneth N. Taylor’s paraphrase of the American Standard Version. Easy to read and once immensely popular, it is often criticized for adding too much commentary to the biblical text. It is published by Tyndale House.

The Message (Msg) – Eugene Peterson completed this paraphrase of the entire Bible in 2002. Peterson takes great liberties with words in his attempt to effectively communicate both the original thoughts and tone of the Scripture. The result is a very earthy, informal language. Published by NavPress.

New American Bible (NAB) – a Catholic translation, the work of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and first published in 1970. It is the version used in the American Catholic lectionary. In 2011 a Revised Edition is being published. The NAB is a more literal translation, especially the 1986 revision of the New Testament.

New American Standard Bible (NASB) – completed in 1971, was produced by 54 conservative Protestant scholars sponsored by the
Lockman Foundation. This version is very literal in vocabulary and word order, although the resulting English is quite wooden. It often is preferred by those who want an English version that reflects the grammar of the original. An Update was published in 1995 which seeks to use more modern English while preserving the literal nature of the translation.

New International Version (NIV), completed in 1978, was the product of 115 evangelical scholars. Within a decade it became the
best-selling English version, a position it still holds! It combines contemporary, literary English with traditional biblical vocabulary. The NIV is copyrighted by the Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). NOTE: A major revision of the NIV was released in early 2011. While it only changes about 5% of the text of the last edition (1984), the changes are significant, and it almost reads like a new translation.

New King James Version (NKJV), released in 1982, involved 119 contributors. It updates the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty. Although it uses the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original, it indicates where other manuscripts differ. Published by Thomas Nelson.

New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) of 1985 revised and updated the text and notes of the Jerusalem Bible of 1966. That version, based on a French translation, was an elegant, literary rendering (perhaps the most poetic since the KJV). The JB and NJB were projects of Roman Catholic scholars, and the notes reflect a modern, liberal perspective.

New Living Translation (NLT), published in 1996, is the product of 90 Bible scholars from around the world, from various theological
backgrounds and denominations. This is a very readable translation, while remaining more faithful to the original texts than the Living Bible (see above). Also published by Tyndale. An update was published in 2004.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – published in 1989 by the National Council of Churches, revises the Revised Standard Version of 1952. While following the literal tradition of the RSV, the NRSV eliminates much of the archaic language. One distinctive is the use of gender inclusive pronouns to replace male pronouns when the original writers meant both men and women. The NRSV does not change masculine pronouns referring to God, however.

Revised English Bible (REB), completed in 1989, is a thorough revision of the New English Bible. Like the original, it was translated by a committee of British scholars, representing all the major Christian traditions in the United Kingdom. The more archaic language was omitted and a more conservative approach was taken toward some of the difficult passages. Many readers find it to be an excellent translation for personal reading and study, though its British idioms make it less popular in the U.S. The REV is published by the
publishing houses of both Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

A New Testament of Note

Special mention also should be made of an important New Testament paraphrase. A paraphrase translates the thoughts of the original text, not the words. In 1958 J. B. Phillips completed The New Testament in Modern English. Phillips had a special knack of rendering difficult and long sentences into very understandable English. He even translates well some of the Greek puns and word plays that usually are lost. It
can be very helpful to have a copy of Phillips nearby, especially when studying the epistles of Paul.

For Children
Several translations especially for children have been published in recent years, in addition to the CEV mentioned above. The International Children’s Bible was completed in 1985 by 21 evangelical scholars. It is written on a high third-grade level. An adult edition, known as the New Century Version, also is available. Published by Thomas Nelson/Word.

Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) produced the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) as a children’s version of the popular NIV. It also is on a third-grade reading level. Both of these Children’s Bibles are excellent resources for children. The NIrV comes in several study Bible formats designed especially for children. Published by Biblica.

Reprinted with permission, Link to original post.

Twelve Biblical Reasons Why We Should Pray

This was in my church newsletter and I asked to reprint it. It is written by Rev. Dennis Metzger from First Baptist Church of Hamilton Ohio. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Twelve Biblical Reasons Why We Should Pray

It was one of those brief conversations that make a lasting impression. Ruth and I had been married a few years, and we were spending a few days with my family in Akron during the Christmas holidays. As we had finished gathering our things that had been scattered around the house, preparing to return to our home in Michigan, we sat down with a cup of tea at my mother’s kitchen table. We were just speaking the usual pleasantries about how good it was to be home, and thanking her for her hospitality, that she told us something I had never heard before. Read on…

Some of you may remember that my parents were divorced when my sister and I were still in our elementary school. Dad had been gone for a few years before my mom remarried, adding a new sister and brother a few years later. Mom held our family together during those interim days, and I look back on her efforts with much appreciation and admiration. One of Mom’s concerns, of course, was the welfare of my sister, Cathie, and me. It is during such times of uncertainty and insecurity that most of us fall on our knees before the throne of grace asking for wisdom and help from the One who provides both with abundance and much love…

That is the back-story. As we sat at the kitchen table on that day in December, Mom told us that she had committed her kids to the Lord during those lonely days, asking God’s protection and guidance upon our lives. She said she gave the Lord permission to use her son in any way that He desired, and that I was totally His–100%. I remember placing my hand on hers, telling her that I had not known that story before, and how thankful I was for her willingness to offer me to the Lord. I believe that it was this prayerful sacrifice of my mother on my behalf that followed me as I made my way in this world in my early years, which
ultimately brought me into the Lord’s ministry.

I could have gone any number of directions in college. I began with an interest in English lit and grammar; focused my studies in the sciences with a B.S. in Biology, and could have easily taken that major into the public classroom. I spent time substitute teaching my last year after finishing up my final few hours. But behind all of that was a desire to study theology and the Lord’s ministry. I have a heart for the things of God, and believe that it began with my mother’s commitment and prayerful invitation to the Lord to make me His very own.

On April 18th, I began a new series in the morning worship services entitled, The Great Adventure. The focus is that the members and friends of First Baptist would become a people who understand the value and necessity of committed personal prayer. There are many reasons why those who are committed to the Lord should follow this path. Allow me to take a few lines to list them. Twelve Biblical reasons why we should pray:

1. Reason #1: God values our prayers.

In John’s letter to the churches in Revelation, there is a scene in the fifth chapter where John sees with His own eyes the glory of the living and resurrected Savior as he stands before the throne of God in his regained power and splendor. The relevant portion of the text reads:

Then I saw a Lamb [Jesus] , looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders…He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Rev 5:6-8).

That is a remarkable passage in many respects. But to think that the heart expressions of our lives in prayer are like a sweet-smelling incense in the presence of God is a sobering thought. When our praise, adoration, and petitions leave our hearts, they are treasured by the God who hears them. That is an image we need to hold firmly in mind. God deeply desires that we would offer the prayers of our hearts to him–words of praise, thanksgiving, petition for our own needs; intercession for the needs of others. God values our prayers.


2. We are instructed in the Bible to pray..

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.


3. We should follow Jesus’ example, and like Him, pray regularly..

Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the [whole] night praying to God.

And of course you know of the prayers of our Lord Jesus on the evening before his crucifixion. Jesus prayed to the Father that He would be able to
complete the work the Father gave Him to do. And the Father answered that prayer.


4. Prayer is how we communicate our worship and praise to God.

Philip. 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1 Thes. 5:17 pray continually.

5. Through prayer, God allows us to participate in His work on behalf of others.

Prayer can heal nations and grant us strength to endure difficulties. Prayer also plays a part in bringing others
to faith in Christ. You already know the most powerful promise that we have used in times of national prayer:

2 Chron. 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

6. Prayer gives us power over evil.

Physical power and strength are of no use in the spiritual realm. Even the physically weak can be strong in prayer:

James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

7. Prayer is always available to us.

Nothing can keep a believer from coming before God. Governments may condemn and forbid God’s Word, but there are no barriers to prayer.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


8. Prayer keeps us humble before God.

Through prayer we realize that God is in control and we can do nothing apart from Him.

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.


9. Prayer grants us the privilege of experiencing the reality, the presence, and the power of God.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth.”


10. Answered prayer has the potential to be an incredible witness to unbelievers.

Skeptics will always have criticisms and doubts regarding answered prayer, but some will see the power of God at work, and as a result, may be drawn to Christ..

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

11. Prayer strengthens the bonds among believers. Scripture instructs us to pray for and confess our sins to one another. Through this we learn empathy and understand the needs of others.

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

12. Prayer succeeds where other means have failed.

Prayer is not a last resort, but it can often make a difference where other methods have failed.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

To his prophet Jeremiah, God revealed His heart–a heart that issues forth in good things for those who love Him:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Prayer is commanded in the Scriptures. It is also an amazing privilege. God, the Creator, invites us to come to Him personally to share in a lifestyle of relationship.
In prayer, we hear the invitation of God Himself who says, “I long for the pleasure of your company. Won*t you join Me?” I pray that we will find
ourselves emboldened and willing to do so.

Because a mother prayed…Pastor

Amazing Email

Here is another great email I got.


If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.  Mark 9:35


This is amazing.  The wood alone would have cost him a fortune.

Man builds working replica of Noah’s Ark (exact scale given in Bible)

In Schagen , Netherlands
The massive central door in the side of Noah’s Ark was opened to the first crowd of curious townsfolk to behold the wonder. Of course, it’s only a replica of the biblical Ark , built by Dutch creationist, Johan Huibers, as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible.
The ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high an d 20 cubits wide. That’s two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house.

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold.
A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine. Biblical Scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been.
Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and with occasional help from his son, Roy. Construction began in May 2005. On the uncovered top deck not quite ready in time for the opening – will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs, chickens, goats and one camel.
Visitors on the first day were stunned. ‘It’s past comprehension’, said Mary Louise Starosciak, who happened to be bicycling by with her husband while on vacation when they saw the ark looming over the local landscape.
‘I knew the story of Noah, but I had no idea the boat would have been so big ‘ There is enough space near the keel for a 50-seat film theater where kids can watch a video that tells the story of Noah and his ark. Huibers, a Christian man, said he hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands , where church-going has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years.
Now that I am old and Gray…give me the time to tell This new generation (and their children too) About all your mighty miracles.
Psalm 71:18

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I got the following in an email today and I thought I would share it.


In case some of us don’t remember this lesson:…………….

Subject: A Tidbit of Knowledge

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.
What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out
of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
Today, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were
not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone
during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each
element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality
which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of
the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy
Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,
Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy,
Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the
Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I
found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song
became a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.’

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone…..