fading

“Those of the Elven-race that lived still in Middle-earth waned and faded, and Men usurped the sunlight. Then the Quendi wandered in the lonely places of the great lands and the isles, and took to the moonlight and the starlight, and to the woods and caves, becoming as shadows and memories, save those who ever and anon set sail into the West and vanished from Middle-earth.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien


(faded grave marker, Colonial Cemetary, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2018)

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.
But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Dear children, the last hour is here.
You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared.
From this we know that the last hour has come.
These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us;
otherwise they would have stayed with us.
When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.
But you are not like that,
for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth.
So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know
the difference between truth and lies.
And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ.
Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist.
Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either.
But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning.
If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father.
And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray.
But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you,
so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you
everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie.
So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

1 John 2:17-27

These four grave markers are but a few of the hundreds of markers that are scattered
throughout the Colonial Cemetary in the heart of Savannah, Georgia.
Graves of the famous and not so famous.
From signers of the Declaration of Independence to Revolutionary and Confederate
Generals to Yellow fever victims.

Names, dates and any semblance of recognition are all but gone.
Families who once came to linger and to mourn…come no more.

Faded markers that are the testament that our lives on this earth are but
fleeting whisps floating on the winds of time…

And yet it is our souls that are woven into the fabric of the Creator…
Whereas we may no longer be known to man, we are forever linked to
a gracious and redeeming Father…a Father who has bound us to His only begotten Son,
Jesus Christ.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

won’t back down

“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell,
but I won’t back down!”

Tom Petty


(rod iron fence to Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

The first official Christian martyr, or protomartyr,
was Stephen, who was killed in 36 AD.

What we know about Stephen comes to us from the Book of Acts.

A Greek speaking foreign born Jew, Stephen was elected to serve as a deacon to his community. Stephen, along with others, had appealed to the apostles that the
elderly widows within their community were being passed over and forgotten.
So Stephen, along with 6 others, were elected as official deacons who would in turn
attend to these elderly widows.

Yet Stephen was also known for being quite the evangelist.
He was an ardent speaker and witness of a new faith based on the teachings
of Jesus of Nazareth.
Stephen was known to lead many Jews to conversion.

Now we must remember that Stephen was both a Jew, born and raised,
as well as a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
A conundrum in dry and dusty Palestine.
As a Jew, he was still expected to answer to the Jewish governing body.

It was however his gift of speech and witness, along with the numerous conversions
of Jews, that would lead to Stephen’s swift demise.

Stephen was brought before the ruling Sanhedrin on charges of blaspheming.
The council believed Stephen to be nothing more than a heretic.

Eloquently, standing before the tribunal, Stephen presented his case as he spoke
of a natural and holy thread of events spiraling down through the ages as he linked
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, the Temple, David and finally culminating with Jesus Christ–
the inevitable final link in the chain.

Stephen continued explaining that the true Son of God who will come again to
judge both the living and the dead….
As he told those gathered that God’s kingdom was not to be found here on earth and
was not to be found in manmade buildings such as the Temple or in earthly accumulated treasures but rather was to be found only in the the risen Son.

Stephen closed his testimony by turning his gaze upward while announcing to those
gathered that
“I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
(Acts 7:58)
At which point the members of the council descended into chaos as they shouted and
covered their ears against hearing such seditious and heretical talk.

Shadows of Caiaphas tearing his clothes over the words of Jesus…
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you:
From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the
Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

Stephen was immediately sentenced death…being stoned to death.

Remember this was the time of pre Christian Paul–rather this was the dangerous
time of Saul, Paul’s ‘old man’ of persecution and hate…
For it was Saul who was the agent who took keen personal interest in crushing
any and all ‘heretics’ who were promoting the teaching of the crucified Nazarene.

It was Saul who paved the way for Stephen’s death and it was Saul who approved it.

Now imagine if you will what would have happened if Stephen had recanted
his teachings?
What would have happened had Stephen been frightened by the knowledge that he would
be sentenced to death.
What if the thought of having people throwing rocks at him until he died…
a death brought about slowly and painfully from rocks beating against his body,
what if the thought of such a horrific death made him change his mind?
What would have happened had he thought it would best, be easier, if he just opted
to cooperate and renounce his preachings?

What example would be set?
What presedent would then be set as a witness to other followers.
What if other followers had been too afraid?
Afraid for their own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families?
How would those decisions of so long impact today?

But Stephen had seen Christ in all His glory—
there was no backing down.
There was no turning back.
He would stand against the gates of Hell and he would not back down.

…..and it was this tale of Stephen and the sacrifice of faith that came
flooding front and center to my thoughts when I read the follwing
words offered by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson regarding the latest
news coming out of both England and Scotland regarding the Anglican Church.

“The Anglican Church is officially distancing itself from biblical and historic Christianity.”
David Robertson

Whoa!

The Church, the very bride of the Christ the groom, is actually distancing herself
from Jesus Christ???!!
As she is currently turning away from the Word of the God and the tenants of Biblical teaching… choosing rather instead to go the way of the current culture gods….

We are at present witnessing the Church of Western Civilization turning herself
away from her very foundation and yet thankfully, at the same time, we are witnessing
the Church of Africa rising powerfully to the defense and forefront of that same faith…
steeped in the Truth of God’s word….

The Bishop of Uganda has addressed this very issue….

“Archbishop “The British sent missionaries to Africa in the 19th Century telling us to trust the Bible as the Word of God, now they are telling us not to”
Archbishop of Uganda

“It is one way, Henry Orombi says,
of keeping faith with those long-ago Englishmen in muttonchop whiskers who brought
the church to Africa.
“A hundred or so years ago, the fire was in the Western world,” Orombi says.
“And many of their great people went over to the countries in the Southern Hemisphere,
and reached out there, and planted seeds there.
And then things changed in the Northern Hemisphere. . . .
It now looks like the Western world is tired and old.
But, praise God, the Southern Hemisphere,
which is a product of the missionary outreach,
is young and vital and exuberant.
So, in a way, I think that what God has done is he took seeds and he planted them
in the Southern Hemisphere, and now they’re going to come back,
right to the Northern Hemisphere.
It is happening.
It is happening.”
(excerpt from an article in The New Yorker / A Church Asunder April 2017)

As I pray that Bishop Orombi is correct…

May those of us of the Faith, as we find ourselves now standing against the
very gates of Hell, may we hold fast to God’s word, being not afraid of what the world
may do to us as we continue to proclaim His Glory…

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Need and want

“The art of our necessities is strange
That can make vile things precious.”

― William Shakespeare

“What people need and what they want may be very different.”
Elbert Hubbard

DSCN2434
(a hungry squirrel, Colonial Cemetery, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me

Lyrics by Cheap Trick

Need verses want
Want verses need

Once upon a time mankind knew that what was needed
was far more pressing than what was wanted…

However…as time passed and lines blurred, the hype was on…
Needs took a back seat to wants…

But there always seemed as if something was there…
something we just couldn’t put our finger on…
There was a gnawing, a burning, a hunger of sorts…
but yet it wasn’t necessarily for food…

And it only grew, and kept growing to an almost insatiable level.

We weren’t hungry because we had all the tasty and trendy food we could want.
We weren’t cold because we had all the coats, gear and warmth we could want.
We weren’t exposed to the elements because we had all the nicest shelters we could want.
We weren’t sick because we had all the best medicines we could want.

We were simply without…
Without something we couldn’t understand.

And so we felt…
empty…
lacking…
pained…
disjointed…
incomplete…

We had everything we thought we needed and everything we thought we wanted…
But…
But we were wrong….

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Psalm 55