Wednesday, August 24, 2016

True Freedom

Diversity and culture are truly wonderful things. We enjoy seeing over 200 countries parade in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We enjoy all the variations of food and the incredible differences of languages. There are, however, some things that are universal in every culture no matter how far they are separated by language and geography. Death, for example, is universal, and the fact is there is no one who is exempt. Guilt and shame are universal and bring great suffering in all cultures. The Bible explains that sin is universal, and to date it would be extremely difficult to find a more logical explanation for the evil in the world than the one provided for us in the Bible about sin.

The truest form of freedom is the liberty experienced when one is free from guilt and shame and is prepared to die with a clean conscience. All the major religions of the world address the issue of death, but not all tell us the truth.  How are we supposed to know the truth about sin and death?  Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). The freedom Jesus spoke about was the freedom of being set free from the burden of our sin and the fear of death. Jesus does both; he gives us freedom to live our lives without the weight of guilt and the gift of eternal life which removes our fear of death.

In an age of political correctness, diversity and culture are esteemed higher than truth. This is the lie of our age, that each culture has its own truth and that truth is equal to any other.  The greatest confirmation of the truth of Jesus’ words is to watch any person from any culture experience the new birth in Christ. That new birth brings freedom from the guilt of their sin and hope of eternal life with Jesus. Our mission is to share the truth regardless of the risk involved in doing so. The message of Jesus brings freedom, and the greatest freedom that all humanity longs for is the freedom to be free of fear—the fear of living and the fear of dying.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Mother

Myrene Ruth (Smith) Brooks was born in Lula, Oklahoma on October 2, 1929.  She came to California while still in her teens with her family who was seeking a better life. They settled in the San Joaquin Valley, and it wasn’t long until she met George Neal Brooks. George or “Junior” as he was called had just returned from fighting in the Pacific Theater in World War II. They were married in a simple ceremony in the preacher’s home; Myrene was just 17, and Junior was 24.  She and Junior had three children, two sons and a daughter, George, Boyd and Carol. Myrene was a loving mother who remained devoted to her children and always made their home a place her children loved and enjoyed.  Myrene knew southern hospitality from her roots and shared it not only with her family but also with her many friends. 
Junior and Myrene farmed, tried their hand at working a dairy and eventually started a trucking business, and that was something they both enjoyed along with the whole family.  They started out in the hay business where Myrene drove the hay trucks while Junior and the boys loaded the hay and young Carol would wake up next to her on the bench seat in the early morning hours.  They eventually started a rock and sand business, and Myrene drove 18 wheelers alongside Junior and was the dispatcher for their company.
When Sundays came they were always involved in their church.  Myrene taught Sunday school for years and was faithfully involved working in Women’s Ministries, always helping out in the kitchen and on the decorating crew.  Myrene and Junior handed their faith down to their children, setting a godly example for them to follow.
When Junior and Myrene retired, they developed a subdivision with 1 1/2 acre lots, and Myrene designed their home and outdid herself. She had a knack for design and said she missed her calling of designing homes.  They enjoyed their friends, family, church and did some traveling. Myrene really enjoyed helping her daughter, Carol, with flower arrangements and doing decorating projects and special meals. 
Myrene knew the pain of loss in her life from start to finish. She lost her mother when she was only 14 months old.   As a result, she formed a very close relationship with her sister, Jean, and they were the best of friends until she lost her a few years ago. Myrene lost one grandson, Rodney Brooks and her oldest son, George. Last year she lost her husband of 68 years; these were devastating losses for her which seemed to tear away part of her heart.
The past year has been especially difficult for Myrene because of her failing health. The loss and pain caused her to talk constantly about heaven. She looked forward to going and being with Jesus and her loved ones who were already there. Her greatest desire was to see Jesus and be reunited with her Sweetheart of 68 years.  On Monday, August 8, she got her wish and made her journey to her heavenly home where she is pain free, happier than ever, youthful, holding hands with her sweetheart, and rejoicing at the feet of Jesus. 
She is survived by a daughter-in-law, Janet Brooks of Hanford; one son, Boyd, and his wife Marilyn of St. Louis, Missouri; and daughter, Carol, and her husband Mike Evans of Hanford. She is survived by six grandchildren, Jeff Brooks, Carin Ray, Eric Brooks, Andy Brooks, Ryan Brooks, and Kyle Evans. She is also survived by 12 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great-grandchildren. She leaves behind a host of friends and family to mourn her passing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Proper Fear

Fear for the most part is a devastating thing and can be dangerous to our health. It can literally paralyze a person and cause them to experience depression. Fear can limit what you can accomplish in life. However, there is a proper fear that enhances your life and brings positive benefit. That fear is a fear of God. Solomon said this about that fear: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7). Having this fear is the first step toward becoming wise.

Jesus, realizing that some of his followers were afraid for their lives and were exhibiting fear especially in the light of hostility toward Jesus, talked to them about a proper fear. Jesus said don’t be afraid of people even though they can do harm to you because they cannot harm your soul.  God is the only one who has that power, and he loves you and will take care of you if you fear him.  Jesus even illustrated his point by pointing out that not even a sparrow is overlooked by our Father and are we not worth more than the birds. He even knows how many hairs we have on our heads (Luke 12:4-7).

This verse is really a statement of purpose of how to live life. Jesus says live life with a proper fear of God and do not fear man. Though man may inflict pain on your body and mind, he cannot harm your soul. God is truly the one to be feared not these evil people. This is a proper fear. A proper fear of God will free us from improper fears of men.

I love the word awe because it describes this proper fear of God. David captured it in these words: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him” (Ps 33:8). Again in another Psalm: “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws” (Ps 119:120).

Awe of God is a fear and reverence for God alone. It’s hard to imagine a taco or a new set of clothes being awesome—only God is awesome. It’s what Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. It’s what Moses felt as he stood in God’s presence at the burning bush. It’s what Elijah felt as he heard the still small voice. To fear God and to be in awe of him is what true believers do all around the world.

Martin Luther found this proper fear when he told the Emperor that he could not and would not recant what he had written because his conscience was captive to the Word of God. We need this fear—a proper fear, then we will be free from many fears of this life that plague our lives.