The Ten Commandments

Howdy Folks, Circuit Preacher here again with my trusty mule as we are takin’ a rest after a very eventful week. Now I don’t know why Millard, my mule, would be tired as he spent the last few days in the livery stable being hand fed grain from a young girl who just thought the world of him.  He was livin’ it up as she brushed him every day and made sure he had every want and need taken care of.  Millard felt that he was just this side of heaven bein’ treated with such lovin’ care.  I’m sure that when I told him it was time to move on, he spent a second or two deciding whether or not to join me.  But here we are, on the trail again makin’ our way to the next town for Sunday preachin’.

Now me, on the other hand, I spent the last few days sittin’ in a jury box. Yep, that surprised me too!  There we was, mindin’ our own business, Millard an’ me, as we were just passin’ through, when the sheriff asked me to sit on this jury, figurin’ I would be an impartial juror.  I consented, hopin’ that it would just be for an hour or two, but then the trial took several days and now I’m probably going to be late getting’ to my next appointment.  But it sure turned out to be a facsinatin’ trial especially as I sat there listenin’ to the entire story—I soon realized that this guy on trial had broken every single one of the Ten Commandments in one day!

It had all started a few weeks earlier. This young man, still livin’ with his folks, started to admire the things he saw in his neighbor’s house.  Now, this neighbor was the banker so he had nice things to admire.  Well, this young man started finding reasons to go visit and he started to covet his neighbor’s things and, as it turned out, the banker’s wife was something to be admired too, and he started to covet her as well.  Next, we found out that the wife was into some sort of weird religion where she worshipped this image that some figured went back to the ancient idol of baal.  Well, low and behold, one Sabbath morn’, as the banker was at church doin’ religion the right way, everything came to a terrible conclusion.  The young man went to “visit” the wife and afterwards decided to steal her idol.  As he was returning home, his father saw him sneakin’ back and confronted him right there in the street.  The young man refused to listen to his father and in fact started shoutin’ obscenities, includin’ takin’ the Lord’s name in vain, for all to hear.  The arguin’ continued until the young man pulled his six-shooter and shot his father dead, just like that.  Right at that moment, the sheriff came runnin’ up and that young man started tellin’ lies about the entire event, tryin’ to put all the blame on his parents and neighbors.

Well, as you can imagine, we found him guilty. There was a list of charges against this poor soul but in the end it really only mattered that he had killed his father.  That alone was reason enough to hang even though he was guilty of much more.  That reminded me of the verse in James 2:10 where it says that if you break just one law, you are guilty of all.  There were folks around back then who thought they were special because they kept all the laws of God perfectly. . .well, except for their pride, I suppose.  But anyway, God tells us that none is righteous and we are all sinners and in need of a Savior.  I hope this young man repents of his ways before the hangman sends him to his Maker.  God will forgive you no matter what you have done, even right up to the very end.

Now I’d better go fetch Millard as he has been inchin’ his way back towards town and that livery stable. In the meantime, read your Bible and know the ways of God!

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In God Is Our Trust

Howdy Folks, Happy Independence Day! I just finished a sermon in the little church here in Cascade Falls which is part of my circuit.  Now don’t tell anyone, but I try to make it here each Fourth of July because these great folks throw the best picnic on this holiday weekend than any other church I know.   And Millard, my mule, probably wouldn’t take me anywhere else even if I tried.  Last year, I swear he ate an entire watermelon all by himself, and right now he’s already gotten into the salad bowl.  I’d go swat him on his rump except I’ve just gotten comfy in this hammock and I don’t expect I’ll be goin’ anywhere for the next few hours or so.

Well, this gives me time to reflect on the words I shared to the flock this mornin’. In the year 1814, a young lawyer was sent out to a British ship to negotiate the release of a certain doctor which he did, but they were held on board until the bombing of Fort McHenry was completed.  As the smoke cleared the next morning, Key saw that the Stars and Stripes was still flying over the fort and it inspired him to pen these words:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion, A home and a country should leave us no more! Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Clearly, Mr. Key saw God as our saving power and even stated “In God is our trust.” We find this all through the scriptures and especially in the Psalms such as chapter 20 verse 7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” and 31:14, “But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.”  We should always trust in God in our everyday lives, but often we are reminded to trust in God when we are in trouble.  Even David suggests this in Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

And why should we do this? Apart from the obvious?  Do I need to remind you of the awesome attributes of God?  Psalm 84:12 states, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”

May God bless America and you today, my friend.

 

 

Is God Angry?

Good day folks, Circuit Preacher here, glad to take a break from the rough trail on which I find myself today. Millard, my mule, is grateful too—after all, he was doing most of the work.  But I am emotionally worn out as we have just come from a funeral.  It was a sad occasion as a stagecoach had tumbled off the edge of the road and over into a gulch along a mountain pass.  Two people were killed instantly and another took a few minutes.  None of these folks were church goin’ folks and the report from one of the survivors is that the third man, a bad man by reputation, spent his last breaths sayin’ that he wasn’t ready to die.  Well, since I was in town, they asked me to say a few words over the graves and I was willin’.  But I didn’t mince words and probably shocked some folks over what I had to say.  Millard was shocked too as I smacked his behind when he started to munch on some of the flowers someone had left in front of a marker.  I believe he forgave me, but sometimes you have to keep that ornery mule in line.

But I digress. The words I spoke came in part from that most famous of sermons by Jonathan Edwards.  Now I’m not sure the last time you heard a good hellfire message from the pulpit, but around this timeframe, and especially in revival tent preachin’, it seems to be a popular subject.  I feel sometimes that we forget what it is that we are being saved from.  Yes, we are called to love others and serve and such, but there is a simple message which starts it all and that is, we are sinners and in need of salvation from the wrath of God!

Edwards starts off in Deuteronomy 32: 35, “their foot shall slide in due time.” I do encourage you to read the entire text.  Edwards states, “In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed verse 28, void of counsel, having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.

There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

Edwards then makes the following points: There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment, they deserve to be cast into hell, and they are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. Later he goes on, “The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. ’Tis true, that judgment against your evil work has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are continually rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it. The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”

Edwards continues: “O sinner! consider the fearful danger you are in. ’Tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.”

Then he concludes with some points to consider: Whose wrath is it? It is the wrath of the infinite God, it is fierce, and it is an everlasting wrath.  He also mentions that some feel that they can somehow beat the wrath of God.  No one is immune, all have fallen short.  He ends with this paragraph, “Therefore let every one that is out of Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom. ‘Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest ye be consumed.’”

I would continue and emphasis that there is a way of escape. Despite the wrath of God, there is a way of salvation and that is through His son, Jesus Christ.  Believe on the Lord and thou shalt be saved.  God, in his love and mercy, sent his Son to pay the price for our sins which cleanses us and leads to eternal life with Him.  None of us knows when the end will come, for those poor folks on the coach, it was unexpected and sudden.  You cannot put off making your decision!

May you go with God today!

 

 

 

To read Jonathan Edwards’ full sermon, SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD, go to http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34632/34632-h/34632-h.htm

 

www.jonhovis.com

 

Suffer the Children

Well Howdy folks! I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend and remembering those who have sacrificed all to fight for our freedom on this Decoration Day.   Ha fooled ya; that’s what Memorial Day used to be called as the townspeople would go out and decorate the grave markers of fallen heroes.  Now you have to understand, here in the year 1850 we don’t have Memorial Day yet, I learned about it from my friend in the future, but I think it is a great idea to have a day to remember those who gave their lives.  So in honor of this day, Millard, my mule and I went out to the local park after church to attend a picnic with some friends.

I’ve been settin’ here watching Millard as he is playing with some of the children. He’s like a big dog when it comes to children.  He doesn’t like them much, but he has a lot of patience and understanding when it comes to kids.  There they are pullin’ on his ears and ridin’ him all around the park and all he does is roll his eyes at me each time they pass on by.  He pretends to be annoyed, but I believe that he really is enjoying himself.  Besides, little Sally gave him some salad to munch on which I am sure made his day.

This reminds me of our Lord as we read in Mark 10: 13-16 where they were bringing the children to Jesus so that he could touch them. His disciples were rebuking them that brought the children but Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”  With anyone who has kids, you know that they have no filters, no inhibitions, no shame.  They will say anything that comes to mind and ask a million questions about something they want to understand.  God wants us to be like that as well when it comes to knowing Him.  We are not to stay as children, Paul teaches us that in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, we should grow in knowledge of Him and move from the milk of the Word to solid food, that is, to delve deep into his Word and learn more and more about the wonders of God, his creation, and his plan for us.  Do you have children somewhere in your life?  Teach them, spend time with them, enjoy them, train them up in the way they should go so when they are old, they will not depart from it.  That’s one of them Proverbs.

Well I’m gonna go get Millard and we’ll head off to the far end of town, I hear there is some big horse race or some such thing there today. God bless!

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www.jonhovis.com

Mother’s Day

Good day folks! I have to be a little more formal in my greeting today as I am in town takin’ a little break from the trail.  Millard, my mule, is takin’ a break as well.  He was all excited as I led him over to the livery stable where he saw a jenny standin’ there, but then he remembered that he is a mule and, well folks, it just doesn’t happen with mules.  But anyway, soon he was getting’ a rubdown and feedin’ on some oats and he was as happy as a clam, but with fur and four hooves…and eatin’ hay.

Now, my circuit usually has me preachin’ here today, but they had another guest speaker in so I was able to enjoy myself sittin’ here in the pews with the other folks singin’ and praisin’ God as loudly as I could. Usually, I’m singin’ out on the trail at the top of my voice and people are lookin’ at me like I’m just a little bit crazy!

I see that it’s Mother’s Day there in the future—we won’t start that tradition here in 1850 for another twenty years or so. Of course, the ancient Greeks had a celebration of sorts with their spring festival, and then our friends in the old motherland have their Mothering Sunday honoring the Virgin Mary, but we Americans will someday do a fine job of it and honor all our mothers and it is a fine thing to do.  As I was sittin’ here in church, I started to think about mothers in the Bible.  Naturally, the first to come to mind is Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior.  Imagine being the mother of Christ!  What a privilege and responsibility!  And to think that He was more perfect than she was!  But I always look with wonder and amazement at Moses’ mother.  We read in Exodus 2 about how she hid her son to protect him from being killed by the Egyptians and then risked everything by puttin’ him in a basket down in the Nile River near where the Pharaoh’s daughter would bathe.  As we know, it all turned out okay as Pharaoh’s daughter took him in and raised him as her own son.  Moses’ mother loved him so much that she was willin’ to give him up and I have no doubt that she would have even given her own life for her son.  I’m reminded of some friends who adopted a child.  Their little girl is loved beyond measure just as if she was their natural child and is such a blessing to them.  I thank God that her birth mother chose life!  She must have known about Psalm 139 starting in verse 13, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”  Elsewhere it is written, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”  Pray for your mother today, and every day.  I mean, just look at what she has to deal with raisin’ you!

May God bless you today, and I hope to see you along the dusty trail next time!

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Goin’ to Jail

Howdy Folks! Circuit Preacher here again greetin’ you as you pass by.  Feel free to set a spell; Millard, my mule, thought he’d stop and munch on some grass and when he gets it in his head that it’s time to eat, well, there’s just no talkin’ him out of it.  Just as soon as we turned the bend back there and he saw some sweet wildflowers amongst the grass ol’ Millard just looked at me as if to say “git off!” and so here we are, takin’ a break.

I suppose it’s a good thing that we stopped as my mind was still thinkin’ back to this past week and a poor fellow I met in jail. No, I wasn’t in jail, just invited as this poor fellow was fixin’ to hang for his crimes and had asked if there was a man of the cloth around.  Well, the local preacher was off visitin’ members of his flock at a faraway farm, so they asked me to fill in.  Now, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous going to jail as I had never been before.  This wasn’t just some sheriff’s cell where they keep you for a night after drinkin’ too much—I was headin’ to the state penitentiary where they keep the hardcore prisoners.  After getting’ through the front gate, the guards patted me down and then led me through one locked door after another and then down a long dank corridor which smelled like a cross between a dead mule and a sewer.  It was lined with cells filled with dirty men, several who suggested to me things I would never have thought of in a hundred years.  Many of these men were foul, rough men, seemingly justified in being in this place, although I did notice several who were quiet, scared, and looked genuinely out of place.  My heart went out to these men and as I said a quick prayer under my breath, and I felt the Lord nudge me towards a desire of helping all the men who were in this dreadful place.

Well, we finally reached the cell of the condemned and they let me inside. The man was set to hang at noon which was only an hour away.  He was shaking and had a tear in the corner of his eye as he asked me if there was anything I could do.  The man explained that he had lived his entire life stealin’ things, each time getting more brazen and extravagant in his theivin’.  Never had he felt any regret or remorse for his victims or for his way of life, it simply was what it was and he enjoyed the adventure and risk of it all.  But then he had gotten caught and there he was finally facing the consequences of his actions.  Sittin’ in this cell had given him plenty of time to think about things and to think about what was going to happen next as his life was going to be suddenly taken from him after a short drop.  He asked me a simple question.  “Will God have mercy on me, waitin’ ‘till right before the end to ask forgiveness?”  I opened my Bible to Luke 23 and read verses 26 through 43 which talk about the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves on either side.  Many folks were throwin’ insults at Jesus, the people, the rulers, and even the thieves!  But then later, one thief finally recognized who Jesus was, the Messiah and Savior, and asked Him to remember him.  Jesus said in verse 43, “today you shall be with me in Paradise.”  So here was this guy, and he waited until he was being executed to repent.  I looked straight into the eyes of this unfortunate man sitting here next to me.  “You still have an hour of life left, you can repent now and God will forgive you!”

Now I left that cell with a smile on my face as did he after he prayed to God for the first time in his life. Of course, sadly, he still had to pay the price for his deeds, but we know that Christ paid the price for our deeds and we have salvation through Him if we would just accept Him.  I hope you will take the time this week to pray for those who are incarcerated.  Many areas even have jail ministries if you feel the calling to help more.  There is truly a need.

Well, now Millard is takin’ a nap so I guess I’ll join him for a while and I hope to see you down the dusty trail next week.

www.jonhovis.com

 

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Millard, The Good Samaritan?

Howdy Folks! Circuit Preacher here and I really appreciate you invitin’ me in—of course, I do believe Millard, my mule, would have stopped anyway seein’ as how you’re about to have lunch; he’s just like that, Millard is, crude and uncivilized, but what do you expect from an ornery mule?  Well, I’m just a simple man, spreadin’ the gospel from town to town whenever I’m needed, offerin’ a word of encouragement or helpin’ out whenever I can to the nice folks I meet along the trail.

Of course, that reminds me of a gal I met just a few days ago, just a mile or so outside of town. There she was leadin’ her horse along and it was favorin’ one leg as it limped down the road.  Now normally, Millard wouldn’t be fast enough to overtake a tortoise let alone another horse, but since they was strugglin’ up we came from behind.  As I noticed the girl, I remembered what I’ve read in the book of the law “love thy neighbor as thyself,” so I told Millard to stop and he did so gratefully.  The girl, she couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old and a hundred pounds soakin’ wet, was carryin’ two heavy sacks of wares to sell in town and there were two more on the poor horse as well.  So I up and took those sacks and threw them over Millard’s saddle as he rolled his eyes at me and off we all went to town.  Along the way, the girl told me about how her family was strugglin’ with paying the mortgage on the farm and they were tryin’ to raise money to make a late payment.  After getting’ to town and talkin’ with the blacksmith, I saw her agonize after hearin’ the price of a dollar for a new shoe for the horse.  Well, without even thinkin’, I pulled out a dollar from my vest and plopped it down on the stump and off I went—It wasn’t until later that Millard reminded me that that had been my last dollar.  “Well, after some preachin’ on Sunday, I’ll get paid and we’ll be fine!” I told him, and that mule just went back to munchin’ on some hay that had fallen out of the backside of a forward bound wagon.

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We read a similar story in Luke 10: 30-37. A man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.  Along came a priest and then a Levite who both passed him by, but then a Samaritan came by and stopped to help the man.  Now you have to understand, the Jews and Samaritans did not like each other, in fact you might say the Jews hated the Samaritans.  They were half-breeds and worshiped at a temple not in Jerusalem which was just all wrong.  But here was this guy who came along, cleaned up the man, took him to town, and paid for his lodging.  Truly, this man loved his neighbor!  Often we get busy and focused on our own lives and problems that we are like a cart horse with blinders on, looking only straight ahead.  Perhaps this week you will see someone on the side of the road who needs a helping hand; pray to God to open your heart and share His love with another.

And as always, please be sure to visit www.jonhovis.com my friend from the future’s website and feel free to share this blog with any of your friends. I hope to see you again somewhere down the dusty trail.

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The Heavens Declare

Hello stranger, mind if I join you ‘round your campfire this evening? It’s gettin’ late and me and my ride here are mighty tired.  Of course, Millard, my mule, named for our great president, was goin’ to stop anyway ‘cause he kinda has a mind of his own, but I thought it’d be polite to ask anyway.  I do believe that Millard smelled whatever it is that you’re cookin’ and steered me this way; he does look out for me like that.

Well, I’m the circuit preacher ‘round these here parts, headin’ over to Circle Bluffs for next Sunday’s meetin’ and I get to spend a few days enjoyin’ the lovely countryside along the way. You know, I started this here ministry kinda by accident as I favored talkin’ and sharin’ and helpin’ those that I met along the way and there was a need for preachers way out here in the wilderness.  Folks liked what I had to say, and more importantly, they liked what the Word has to say, so they kinda asked me to fill in until they find a full time preacher.  Now of course, you might be wonderin’ how a man in the year 1850 is writing this here blog for those of you in the future.  Well, all I know is, I have a friend there who takes care of that for me with some contraption which I can’t explain.

Anyway, it is a beautiful evening as I see the stars begin to appear one by one as the sun has set, leaving a faint trace of red across the horizon and the air begins to cool. It reminds me of Psalm 19…

19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
19:2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
19:3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
19:4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
19:5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
19:6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

As we ponder the great expanse of the heavens, we can’t help but wonder of the glory and majesty of God and his wonderful creation. With countless stars, the planets, and the moon which keeps us company through the night, all orbiting in perfect harmony, I just have to declare the glory of God.  It demands a response from us which is to worship and praise Him.  As we read in Luke 19 where the people were shouting majesties as Christ entered the city, the Pharisees were rebuking them, but Jesus said to them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Now I think it would be very interesting to hear the stones sing the praises of God, but alas, while God’s children are still here on this earth, we are called to proclaim His glory!  I encourage you, the next time you are in church, to sing out, ponder the lyrics of whatever great hymn you are singing, as they have a great message all their own, and praise God with all your heart!  Sometimes I even sing along the trail—Millard thinks I’m weird but that’s okay!

Now if you like what I have to say, you might enjoy my friend’s stories too! Visit www.jonhovis.com and I will see you next week somewhere down the dusty trail.

 

 

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