Going straight to the Cross

I Surrender

by Barbara A Oliver

I have started making the dreaded New Year's resolutions. As usual, diet is near the top of the list, as it is for many Americans. Then, there is the one about working harder, and the one about learning to speak Spanish.

And, of course, as a Christian, reading my Bible, praying more, and developing a closer relationship with God top the list. These are all commitments that I make at the beginning of each new year.

But that is where I go wrong. I make a commitment. Yet, commitments are based on My strength, My drive, My ability, My pledge to persevere. So, like most people, three weeks later, I am back to my old slack habits. And for most of my resolutions, that's ok. I can survive another year being fat, being lazy, being mono-lingual.

But can I survive another year with the distance between what I am and what I want be in Christ? All other goals pale to this one goal. How do I keep it from becoming another failed resolution, another failed commitment?

I will not commit. I will surrender.

To surrender means to yield, "to give up oneself into the power or control of another."/1 I cannot commit to be like Christ. I have to surrender. My will, my desires, my goals must fall ... I almost said "second." But there is no "second." There is only "first," and God is First.

I have one New Year's resolution this year: To surrender. Each day I will surrender. Each day, because My will is strong, My desire to be in charge is strong. Only by surrendering every day can I hope to place my life in his hands.

What will you do this year? Commit or surrender?

/1 Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1983.

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Doing the Do's

by Barbara Oliver

Last night I was talking with a friend, and at the same time we both said, "Unfortunately, we are known for what we don't do."

We did not mean that we should not be the voice of concern in this age of moral laissez faire. Knowing what we don't or shouldn't do is important. But should it be the outstanding characteristic of our Christian walk?

My goal in life is not to be known for what I don't do, but rather for what I do. When people look at me, I want them to wonder what makes me different. I want to be known for my love, and my joy, and my peace. I want to be known for my longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV).

Let us strive in our Christian growth to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do. The don'ts should not be done. But let's make sure we are doing the do's.

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What's in a Name?

by Barbara Oliver

I was born in West Virginia. My grandmother was Maybelle Hatfield, before she married. One of my Hatfield aunts is married to a McCoy. Nearly everyone in the USA has heard of the historic feud between these two infamous families. And though it is fun to joke about being a Hatfield, it is not really a name to be proud of.

Names are so important. A girl in one of my karate classes was about fourteen, overweight, and very shy. She told the instructor her last name was Jones. A few weeks later, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Butts, came to the school to find out why they had gotten a bill for a little girl named Jones. She was embarrassed about her last name. She was tired of being teased. She wanted to re-create herself.

Another young fellow's father had deserted his family for another woman. He now had a stepfather who loved him and wanted to adopt him. When he went to school for the first time, he gave his stepfather's last name as his own and cried inconsolably when they told him he couldn't use that name.

God considers names important. A few examples? He changed Jacob's name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). He named Ishmael (Genesis 16:11) and Isaac (Genesis 17:19), and renamed Abram and Sarai (Genesis 17:5,15). He also named John and Jesus (Luke 1:13,31).

Our Father has adopted us as sons, and each day we strive to re-invent ourselves in his likeness. And, oh, how proud we should be that God has renamed all his sons "Christian" (Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:16).

Let us hold fast to that name (Revelation 2:13, NKJV).

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At Our Best

by Barbara Oliver

One of my favorite movie lines is from the movie Starman. Sitting in a coffee shop, the alien looks across the table at the human and says, "Do you know what we find the most beautiful about you? You are at your best when things are at their worst."

We have only to look at the lives of the early Christians to find examples of being at our best during difficult situations. Peter and John, after spending the night in jail, were being threatened by the Jewish priests and elders. But they proclaimed, "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). Stephen who lay dying, cried to the Lord "do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). Paul and Silas faced their "worst" by praying and singing hymns to God (Acts 16:25) and gave up their chance of escape to save a Philippian jailer and his family.

What causes a man or woman to stand calmly in the face of death? How many ordinary people have you seen become extraordinary dealing with disease or disaster? How many otherwise weak people have stood up to face unspeakable horrors for the sake of family, or friends, or God?

How much of our character have we inherited from our Creator, who when His moment of truth came, bowed to the will of the Father? The God-man hanging on a cross, pushed upwards against the nails driven into his feet for enough air to cry, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34).

We live in a troubled world. Who knows what the future holds for the Christian. Let us pray that when the trouble comes, we also will be at our best.

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Row, Row, Row Your Boat

by Barbara Oliver

For the July 4th weekend, I joined six fearless ladies from Highland Street in Memphis for a weekend on a 50-foot houseboat. When we left Memphis, we were sure of only two things: We had a cook and a captain, and we were going to have fun!

Then reality set in. We discovered that several people were needed to jump off the boat, swim to shore, and tie it up. To our utter amazement, three Amazon women were in our group: Amy, Carol and Diane. Often, the boat would have to be pulled further one way or the other, and I could hear Amy yelling, "One, two, three. Pull!"

Lynn, our chef, had researched Southern Living and found a whole issue devoted to houseboat cuisine. To put it mildly, we dined sumptuously. But she will be blamed for all those extra pounds that showed up on our bathroom scales this morning.

Janice, the captain, steered us to the right places throughout the weekend, closing her ears to the voices around her saying, "Wasn't that house on the same side the last time? Are you sure this is the right way?" Fortunately for us, it was the right way.

Sue was our plumber. Sue deserves lots of praise! Yea, Sue!

By Saturday night, I was feeling a bit concerned. Everyone on the boat had a job -- except me. I ate. I napped on the couch. I swam. I ate. I read, sitting in the sun with my feet up. But so far, I hadn't contributed one thing to the talented crew. I was, well -- a bum!

I would like to have been the captain, to steer the boat, but I tried, and I wasn't very good at it. Janice could do it better. I would like to have been an Amazon woman, but I am not a strong enough swimmer. Amy, Carol and Diane could do it better. I would like to have been the chef, but I am not a confident cook, and Lynn can cook great! I would like to have been the plumber -- nah! Thank you, Sue, for being willing to do that job!

Then suddenly out of the cabin, someone calls my name. "Barbara, can you come fix this TV and VCR? We want to watch a movie." Finally! Something I can do. After a little fiddling with the two remotes, we were watching the movie. "Ooh!" they exclaimed. I know, I know; it wasn't much, and it wasn't difficult. But don't tell them, because between now and next year I have to convince them that a TV/VCR Technician is an invaluable asset!

During the weekend, we were constantly amazed by the diversity of talents, which had the effect of making us a cohesive unit. We were a community, a church, a fellowship, a family, a body, intent on one goal: having fun. We were focused, and we all worked together to accomplish that goal.

It reminds me of what the church is supposed to be: a body, a group of parts working together to make a cohesive unit. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NKJV).

I like that: "for the profit of all." That is what Christianity is all about. We are a community, a church, a fellowship, a family, a body, intent on one goal: spending eternity with our Father and our Brother.

Let us be focused and work together to accomplish that goal.

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Forthright Magazine continues, more dynamic than ever! We have groups created for FMag on Facebook and the Churches of Christ Network. Announcement blog is up and going on Preachers Files. Email lists about FMag and FPress are available both on Yahoo and GoogleGroups. And, to top it all off, we're twittering for both on Twitter.com.
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June 2024
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