A Tribute to Eric M. Landoll

On April 7, 2017, we lost a dear man and good friend, Eric Landoll. The day of his memorial service contained some irony. On the one hand, it is not common, and certainly not fun, to reflect on a life that ended too soon. 48 years old is young by most standards. I’m sure you agree. On the other hand, nearly 300 guests gathered at his service to remember a young man who was loved and who loved many. It was a blessing to have known this quiet soul who would be the first to say hello; the first to ask how you were doing; and the first to greet you with a smile.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven– A time to give birth, and a time to die… .” These words might give you the impression that death is something natural, just because it is expected. After all, the Scripture attributes a time for “…everything under heaven.” There is a certain inevitability associated with death. But it is never to be thought of natural in the purest sense.

Death entered our world for a reason. That reason is due to the presence of sin. Humankind was the crown of God’s creation; made in God’s image with a mind, will and emotions. And yet, he fell. Our first parents disobeyed God and offended Him. Their rebellion against God brought a sentence of death for everyone (Romans 5:12). All people die because all sin. We are told in Hebrews 9:27 that it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…. Every human being has an appointment to appear before the sovereign God of the universe and give an account for his/her life. Although created by God and for God, you and I have offended God through our thoughts and our actions.

But as alarming as this situation may sound, it was for this reason that Jesus Christ came to this earth as God incarnate so many years ago. Christ died and rose again to abolish death for those who trust in Him. Note Christ’s words in John 11:25, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Jesus makes the invitation to anyone: “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The rest that Jesus provides is soul rest, that comes from knowing Him, trusting Him and following Him.

The Christian possesses the sweet knowledge and anticipation of life after death, because Jesus arose from the dead. The Christian lives in this world knowing that his real home is not of this world. Rather God has prepared a place for him. Death is a transition from one state of life to another. Jesus said in John 14:1:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

And, Paul wrote that when we are absent from the body, we are …at home with the Lord. This is good news for the Christian, especially when he finds himself in a world where there is so much death. So there is urgency for all to repent of their sins and place their trust in Jesus Christ, in order to possess heaven as their home.”

So how can you become a Christian and access this life that Jesus spoke so regularly of? There are two things necessary: repentance and faith. At the outset of His ministry, Jesus preached: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.

Repentance means to change. It is implied in the act of confession, where a person comes before the Lord in prayer, and asks for forgiveness and turns from their wrongful deeds.

The other act is faith- which goes beyond believing that there is a God. But means embracing God, following Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” Such is the clear path to an eternity with God.

Regarding our good friend, Eric, I wish I could have had one more conversation with him. Wish I could have hugged his neck one more time; and told him how much he meant to me. But that did not happen to our choosing. We must resign ourselves to God’s will in these matters. As it says in the book of Job: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed by the name of the Lord.”

What can we say about Eric? Lots of things like sharp, scholarly, classy, funny, handsome, winsome, kind, helpful and good. Other words are loving, caring, witty, ornery and humble.

High School
My earliest recollection of him was his part time job on the square. Eric was hired by Lyle Catron to represent Shanks and Sterrett Clothing Store. That was Nevada’s classy store. Eric was the perfect person for the job because he was classy. His temperament and dress made him a great choice for the job.

A member of the speech and debate squad in Nevada’s glory years of that sport, Eric thrived at Extemporaneous Speaking. Under the direction of Tim Gore, Eric fined tuned his speaking skills, which gave him a head start compared to some of his fellow law school students. Eric was an excellent public speaker. He spoke on foreign and domestic subjects. He kept files of current events. Anything from the US Supreme Court to what was going on in Sri Lanka. Eric was good at what he did. He was a critical thinker. I remember going round and round with him about creation vs. evolution.

With Landoll there was always a lot of joking and kidding around. If you were privileged to know him, he may razz you about your personality defects. Beneath it, there was a definite sense of kindness.

E loved the outdoors. He liked to fish and hunt and he loved to camp. On one of those camping trips where high school boys are up to absolutely no good, Eric, Chuck Thomas, Suresh Dalai, John Garton and some others were gathered near everyone’s vacation spot, the Marmaton River. After a few hours of actually lying on the tents as they lay flat against the earth, it was decided that camp must be set up. The problem was that it was getting dark. And it was discovered that the wrong pegs were brought, or maybe no pegs at all. Eric then asked: “Have you guys ever been camping before!?”

Post High School
You could describe Eric as smart, a sharp young man. He was well liked by many older, peers and younger. My friendship with him ramped-up in 1988. I had known Eric and we had experienced some good times together. Coming home from Christmas break and needing to make a change in schools, I enrolled at Missouri Southern. I attended a basketball game that evening at the High School. Eric was there and welcomed me to my new school, assuring me of a good experience and a good time.

That spring, Eric, Tom Weakley, Pat Wood, Brian Schneider and I spent a lot of time together. Those were happy times. As roommates, we would cook, lift weights at the YMCA; listen to “Guns and Roses” blaring in his navy blue 66 Mustang with cherry interior went down the road.

Eric was very smart. He was determined to get a good education and do well. After graduating from Missouri Southern with his business degree, he attended Mizzou law school. Eric saw himself as a helper to others. In this way he was incredibly selfless.

Dylan Murray was attending Mizzou at the time and was thinking of applying to law school. This is what he posted: “He was always a friend to me in Nevada, and also at MU, where I recall him giving me some great advice about the LSAT Law School entrance test and about what to expect in Law School. I will always recall him very fondly.”

Eric became good friends with Mike McCaffree. On another adventure in the great outdoors, Mike and Eric went on a float trip to the Elk River near Noel, Missouri. McCaffree had a broken arm, thus making E do all of the paddling on a river that barely has any current. Clearly, this was a well thought out plan, by McCaffree! Eric reminded him often.

Eric was caring and fun, but he also knew tragedy. Eric had lost his beloved older brother Russ to a tragic car accident. Others had experienced loss; one of our friends lost his dad tragically. At a party, I stepped outside and found Eric and our friend shedding some tears, encouraging each other over who they had lost. Eric was someone you could talk to. Eric lost his mother to cancer and his Gerald, to whom he was especially close, in 2007.

Latter years
Eric practiced law in Nevada for 20 years. He was an exceptional lawyer and enjoyed having to think quickly and communicate clearly with a line of reasoning. He developed an excitement for the preparation and the opportunity to be judged for his efforts.

He was not “cut-throat,” but cared about the individual. He fielded his fair share of divorce cases. The first two or three, he got the couples to reconcile. This did not help his bank account, but gave him satisfaction. The toughest part about the job was seeing homes divided and kids displaced. Eric was sensitive and surprisingly patient. He had a deep sense of the good. He was anchored morally and had a sense of what was right.

In 1996, Eric married the love of his life, Angie. Eric was a catch and so was Angie. They were a handsome couple. Angie had moved to our area from Iowa. She was a student at Iowa State. Eric and Angie’s love was so strong that it endured a long distance relationship, before the inventions of texting, email and unlimited long distance. They waited until 11 p.m. to talk on the phone, so as to have cheaper phone bills. Angie and Eric were married for 21 years. From this union were born three beautiful children: Abbey, Clay and Carter.

This is what Eric said in a text conversation I had with him just a month ago. We were bragging about our kids, or complaining about the challenges of life. Here’s what he said:

“Dave. I promise you, I’m fine. I know you married me to the best woman in the world, and for that I thank you. I’m happy to break bread with you but please don’t fret over my welfare.

I’m absolutely fine. Clay missed state by two points this year. David Dade was the ref. He does a great job refereeing.

Abbie got a big scholarship when she graduated. She’s doing good things with it at MU. Has a 3.8+ gpa in the honors journalism program.

I don’t go around bragging to anyone else, but Clay has 3.9+ gpa, action-class, Varsity cross country, varsity wrestling, stucco, junior class vp., drum major. Angie and I are very fortunate. …. went to Missouri Scholars Academy at Mizzou last summer for three weeks, is going to Boys State this year, but I still want to pinch his head off for being such a jerk to his brother.

And he was quite fond of Carter. Even just recently, he bought Carter a cantaloupe because Carter liked cantaloupe. “Here you go buddy. Here’s your cantaloupe.” Carter participated in the 5th grade spelling bee and won third place. But even more important than his finish was the fact that he would “high-five,” his classmates, upon their successful attempts at difficult words. This blessed Eric and made him proud.

This is what Andy Remington posted:

On Friday this world lost another good man. I met Eric Landoll in high school, where we both participated in speech and debate. “E” was a top dog in the class and I used to love to watch him in action. After graduation and college, we both ended back in Nevada, where he began to practice law. Again, I was always in “awe” of his talents. Periodically we’d work together and I remember going to his office and telling him when Donetta was pregnant with Taylor Remington, and we talked about how some day our kids would know each other. We had always kept in touch and over the past few years had been in a group chat room where we spoke several times a day about everything from, politics, cooking, health issues, bragging about our kids, and many “unmentionable” topics as many of you can imagine! Those conversations helped me keep my sanity a lot of days. One thing I’m positive about “E” is that he loved his wife and kids more than anything. Those kids are the most polite, well mannered, and smartest children you’d ever meet. I know a lot of people are going to miss “E”, especially myself and “The Knights of the Golden Hog.” Take care buddy and hope to see you again some day.

I believe that Eric would have liked to be remembered as a hardworking, kind, and helpful soul who loved his family and loved his friends. We were better for having known him. And we can thank God that we had the privilege.

It is easy to let such an event pass with the pain, but with little to no spiritual effect. What would God tell you today? And as we grieve in the days, months and years ahead, may you be reminded that God has given you life and so life must be lived with Jesus at its center. May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand. Amen.

The following is a letter that Eric’s seventeen-year-old son, Clay, wrote to his dad on June 22, 2016:

Dear Dad,
In PSD (Personal and Social Dynamics), we were told to think of who we admire/look up to most in our lives. It was a hard question, because I love you and Mom equally, but when it comes to who has taught me more about how to be a man someday, you took the cake. Now that I have an image of you eating pineapple upside-down cake, I can thank you for the unmeasurable amount of effort you have put into being such a gigantic part of my life.

I can’t even remember a time when I questioned your love for me or my love for you. Of course there were times when we couldn’t stand each other, but I feel each time made us a little bit closer. I also appreciate how you’ve always encouraged me to follow my dreams and to work hard so that I am the best me I can be. You taught me to be caring, passionate, trustworthy, and to be a gentleman. You’ve given me a set of tools with which I can carve a life of my own someday. A gift in which I will be forever grateful and appreciative of. I simply would not be anywhere near who I am today without your guidance and involvement in my life.

I know I don’t say it enough, Dad, but I love you. And I thank you. You are an amazing dad, and you’ve shown me how to be a good partner by how you treat Mom. You’ve raised an ever grateful family. So again, thank you.

Love,
Clay

Why Go to Church?

This is a very good question, especially when more and more people are choosing not to attend church. The statistics regarding church attendance are unfortunate. According to a Gallup poll, 32% of Pennsylvanians attend church services weekly. 20% attend monthly. 47% seldom or never. Could it be that we are transitioning from a time when most people attended a weekly worship service, to now that most people do not? Our culture is growing more post Christian.

But such trends should not affect you or me. In fact, such statistics are indicating that the church must become more intentional in its ministry. People attend worship services because they want to, versus that it is the acceptable thing to do.

For Christians, we see the invaluable worth of setting aside time to worship the King of the universe. Worship is our corporate time to commune with God. In return, it is the church gathering for worship, that we receive the most benefit in our spiritual walk with the Lord. The Reformer John Calvin said:

“The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power, but the Church is the orchestra, as it were—the most conspicuous part of it; and the nearer the approaches are that God makes to us, …the more attentively are we called to consider them.”

When you think about it, the worship service is the opportunity where each of us has something to give. Yes, hopefully we get something out of it, but the worship service is something to which you contribute. The choirs give their ability to make music. The Preacher gives his sermon. Your prayers and your offerings are given to God. And hopefully to this, you give your undivided attention. And when we do, God blesses us. Hopefully, you walk out of here encouraged, inspired, helped, blessed, taught, challenged, corrected and loved.

To see the value in attending the worship service, we turn to a well-known passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians that were dispersed abroad and suffering persecution for their faith. The theme of the letter to the Hebrews is the supremacy of the sacrifice of Christ.

In many ways, Hebrews stands alone from other portions of Scripture. Hebrews tells us that compared to the Old Testament administration, Jesus functions both as our superior priest and sacrifice. Better than all of the sacrifices established in the days of Moses that provided only temporary atonement for sin, Jesus Christ was the eternal sacrifice. He was the only sinless person that walked the earth. He was a sacrifice without blemish. In our passage, we are told that the only way we can approach God’s throne with confidence is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

No one could enter the holy place except the high priest once per year. When he did so, it was a dangerous thing to do. Because of Christ’s service and sacrifice, we can draw near to God with full assurance. We can relate to God in a new and fresh way. We can have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven and we’ve been released from our debt. Based on what Jesus has done for us, there is a series of imperatives, indicated by the phrase, “Let us….” “Let us draw near, hold fast and stir one another up.” We are first told to…

• draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….” Jesus is the one who washes us and makes us clean. He provides a clean conscience, although we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This separates Christianity from the rest of the world’s faiths. Because of the work of another, I can become a new man. My transgressions can be wiped clean and I can become a child of God, whereas before I was His enemy.

• Next, we are told to “…hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These Christians were about to lose their faith under the pressure of persecution and the inconveniences of the day. The ultimate question they were wrestling with was: “Wouldn’t it be much easier if we were just to revert to our old Jewish way of life, rather than trusting in and living for Jesus Christ? The answer of course, was a resounding no!

• Finally, we are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We need each other. Part of obeying the last instruction is avoiding the keeping of ourselves from meeting with other Christians.

Gerald Hawthorne points out: “These things are of the essence of Christianity. Since their maintenance is dependent upon the mutual interaction of the Christian society, it is absolutely essential that one assemble himself with other Christians if he is to be assured of continued spiritual development. Any type of go-it-alone Christianity is unthinkable… .”

Among the gathering of the saints, there is acceptance. There was support. There was also transparency. And, there was responsibility. Rick Warren, in his well-known book, The Purpose Driven Life, stated: “Being a Christian is more than just believing- it’s belonging. Without a church, you don’t have a spiritual home.” And this really addresses one of the basic needs we have as Christians.

The Church of Jesus Christ should function much like a family. Today, we see our family’s growth as we welcome four new members into Central Schwenkfelder Church. This is a great event and one for which we should thank God.

Receiving new members is a sign of life for the local church. The book of Acts tells us that among the early church, “…the Lord was adding to their number daily, those who were being saved.” We praise God for what He is doing in our midst. But there are other signs of life in the local church in addition to numerical growth.

If our mission is to love God, serve others and grow disciples, then it would make since that this is done, to a large part on Sunday morning when we meet together as a church body.

This is not the only venue or time where this is done, nor can it be the only venue or time where this is done. But it is done, on a Sunday morning.

As our choir sang:
Here are symbols to remind us of our lifelong need of grace;
Here are table, font and pulpit; here the cross has central place.
Here in honesty of preaching, here in silence as in speech,
Here in newness and renewal, God the Spirit comes to each.

Lord of all, of church and kingdom in an age of change and doubt,
Keep us faithful to the gospel, help us work Your purpose out.
Here in this day’s dedication, all we have to give, receive;
We, who cannot live without You, we adore You, we believe.

By attending the worship service, you can respond to and receive from God; you learn about Him and your life is changed because of it. You can encourage others regarding God and His love. It is a time that you can redirect your thoughts from a world not friendly to your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time that you can pray for others and benefit from prayer.

By not attending the worship service, you miss out on the teaching; miss out on the fellowship; miss out on the opportunity to serve, bless and encourage, Evidently, the believers had experienced a fair amount of suffering and persecution as a result of their faith. It would be easy to keep oneself from the Christian gathering. Verse 32 states:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.”

Today, lots of other things get in the way of our church attendance. Consider the following:

• Sometimes, we get our priorities off. Thom Rainer, the head of Lifeway Christian Resources, says that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance today is that folks do not attend as frequently as they once did. Instead of attending four weeks per month, they attend 2-3. When a quarter of your attendance does not show up one week, that makes a 100 attendee church feel like a 75 attendee church.

• Work. Some people are employed on a Sunday morning or work the graveyard shift on Saturday night into Sunday morning. For some, this cannot be helped. For others, it might simply be an opportunity to communicate to your employer that Sunday morning is important to you and that you ask to have it off.

• Sporting events. Some have made the response that they can worship God in the deer stand, the duck blind, or the golf course. But people do not. Today, more and more kids’ sports leagues are holding their games and/or practices on a Sunday morning. These are competing for the soul of your young person. Would you be different? Would you value the time in worship more than a sports league?

• Family get-togethers; When we changed the worship times a few years ago, I had a couple approach me and say that they did not attend anymore because that was the time that they went out for breakfast with their family. Instead of picking a different time for breakfast, they gave up the church. How sad.

• Our need for rest/sleep; “Sunday is the only day I have to sleep in.” Maybe try going to bed earlier. Or attending the 11:15 Informal worship service.

• Our insecurities, “No one likes me there. I don’t know anyone.” Maybe try getting to know others. If you avail yourself, others will respond. Try introducing yourself. Stick around after the benediction.

• Our dress: As long as most of your body is covered, it really doesn’t matter the type of clothes you wear to worship. As long as it is tasteful, that’s really all that matters.

• Our preferences: There will always be something that doesn’t suit you or the person next to you. Not everyone can be pleased with all aspects of the worship service.

• Our impressions: The church is too conservative; the church is unfriendly; that church is not mission-minded enough. Etc. The church is not designed to suit your preferences. Maybe God is doing something? I would definitely say, “stick around.”

The bottom line is that all of these can stand in the way of your spiritual growth. Satan loves to use these to keep you away. You become vulnerable to your tendency to be uncommitted, Satan’s lies, televangelists who teach heresy (many do) and the lie that says you don’t need the church.

Author Mark DeVries states: “Real community means real responsibility for each other. It means a commitment to be there for each other even when the schedule is tight and when motivation is low.” We do this because Jesus is coming again. And we must be ready. And this is the place to become ready.

A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. The letter reads as follows:

“I’ve gone to church for 30 years now. In that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time, and the pastors are wasting their time.”

This started a real controversy in the Letters to the Editor column – much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote the following clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time, my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

How to Show Love on a Sunday Morning

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… .”
(1 Peter 1:22 ESV)

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
(1 Peter 2:1 ESV)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
(1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

How do you show love on Sunday morning among God’s people? As a Christian, what are some ways to demonstrate that you are interested in the lives of others? Consider the following action points the next time you attend a worship service.

One way is to be outwardly focused. As a church, we can overlook love and become insulated and ingrown. It is common to come to church thinking only about what you will receive rather than what you are able to give. One of the greatest dangers to the health of any church is to become inwardly-focused. If you want your church to grow, you must value people. As Dr. Dave Coryell, Director of Christian Endeavor (www.cemidatlantic.org) recently said to a group of leaders: “Meaningful conversations and meaningful connections encourage people to stay.” This really applies to everyone. Not just the greeters or the Board of Deacons. Everyone.

Offer a courtesy. Try to think like your neighbor. What are their questions? What are their needs? What may they be curious about when they visit your church? Think like someone who is not a part of the church. Invite the stranger to your Sunday School class. Take the time to answer their questions. As a church bulletin once stated: “We have one pastor, but all of us are ministers!” See yourself as a minister, equipped to serve their needs.

Be available for others. The “greeting time” should not function as planned kindness. We must do this more naturally. If you see someone that you do not know, take the time to approach them. Introduce yourself. Tell them that you’re glad they are here. Take them to the welcome center. And if there is no one there, then be the welcome center! If it is your day to oversee the welcome center, show up early and stay late.

Don’t rush off. After the service, don’t be in a hurry to go to the next thing. Don’t do anything for yourself for at least five, if not ten minutes. Take the time to reach out to others and make them feel welcome. Someone once said: “The church is the only organization that does not exist for itself.”

David Fitch, who pastors in Westmont, Illinois, He encourages his church to take on a godly presence in their homes, neighborhoods, work places and church. He says: “Pray for that space and become sensitive to what God is doing.” (Rob Toal, “Outreach and Evangelism: What Works Today,” CT Pastors, 43). Pastor Fitch encourages his flock to use the dinner table as a means for proactive love and mercy, as well as evangelism.

As Christians, we are called by Christ to be available, provide a godly presence and tell others about the great God we serve.

Fear Not…

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

I recently read an article written by an older teenager named Jacki as she cited her three biggest fears (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/my-3-biggest-fears-as-a-teenager). They were the following:
• Fear of the future;
• fear of failure;
• fear of intimacy and loneliness.

In citing her fear of the future, Jacki said: “As teenagers, we start to realize the idealistic plans we made as kids aren’t sure things. We don’t have control.” Overwhelming can be the feeling of being, “in-between.” “…in-between schools, jobs, plans, and security. Stress lingers. My future was a blank slate, everything was up in the air, and I felt swallowed by the unknown. Fear of the future pressed in.”

The next is a fear of failure. Jacki states: “Failing in school, work, relationships, driving—basically, failing at life. We’re afraid of disappointing those we love and messing up in some extravagant, irreparable way. The fear of failure is paralyzing because it inhibits us from taking risks and moving forward—which is, of course, what growing up is all about.”

The last of the three is a fear of intimacy and loneliness. Jacki says: “This is the season of my life where I’ve never been more aware of how sinful and broken and flawed I am. Yet it’s the season where I’ve never been more aware of trying to cover up my flaws. I’m afraid of people seeing the real me.”

If we were honest, we can identify with Jacki’s state of mind. You and I have encountered those fears or maybe we still do. The feeling of vulnerability is akin to the human experience.

But how we handle our fears is another matter. The Lord Jesus wants us to turn our anxious thoughts into prayers (Philippians 4:6), asking God to be mighty in our lives and slay our fears through faith.

Would you bring your fears before Him today and ask for strength to face them? Would you pray for the young people in your life that may be facing anxiety every day? Ask that God would work in their lives and draw them unto Himself. Remember that Jesus said: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

God’s Protection and Peace

Like many kids across America, my children started back to school today. They were a little anxious, as were their parents. Wanting to get this school year started in the right way is important to all of us. Will they do well? Will they make friends? Will they make good decisions? My situation is small in comparison to those friends who recently dropped their kids off at college for the first time. My heart goes out to them.

As I thought about today, a couple of verses came to mind. One was part of one of David’s recorded prayers. “You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:5).” This verse tells you where God is in relation to your life. If Jesus is your Lord, He is ever-involved in your circumstances, your life events and your daily concerns. Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian woman who gave refuge to Jews during WWII in her home, said: “There is not pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Christian, you are never alone.

What are you to do with those thoughts of uncertainty? 1 Peter 5:6-7 says that such thoughts ought to drive us to prayer. “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God… casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Anxiety is a normal feeling, but it should never rule us. God does not want us to dwell on our insecurities. Rather, we are to give them to Him.

I assured my children that a new school year brought with it new friends, new teachers, new responsibilities, and new opportunities to do well. I encouraged them to do their best, “…for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).” I told them that we were proud of them; that we loved them; and that they were up to the task. Thankfully, day one is in the books. May God give you grace for the days ahead.

What is God’s Will For My Life?

Such is a common question among humankind. So often we approach this subject as if we are “searching for a needle in a haystack.” We want the burning bush, as Moses experienced. Or we want a thundering voice from heaven telling us what we should do. But if it were that simple, where would faith God figure in? Is it not better that we trust God, obey Him, and step out, despite the unknowns?

Augustine of Hippo, the fourth century church father, said: “Love God, and do what you will.” It is my understanding that he wrote this regarding one’s desire to discover God’s will for life. Finding God’s will requires prayer and action.

Consider the following verses. Paul wrote: “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7 ESV) Here, Paul is reminding Christians in Corinth that during their time on this earth, they are physically separated from the Lord. This arrangement is by God’s intentions because it requires faith. Faith always has an unseen element to it.

In addition, consider Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, who said that he would not believe that Jesus arose from the dead unless he could see with his own eyes and touch His wounds. Afterwards, when Christ chose to appear to His disciples in the upper room, He specifically approached Thomas and encouraged him to see and touch. Then, in loving admonition, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)

Sometimes we long to receive a sign from God. We want to know specifics instructions about who we should marry or to what job we ought to apply. God has already given us timely instructions in His word about such things. Oftentimes, God does not give us the where, why and how of our circumstances. Rather, He wants us to pray: “Lord, guide me along the way,” as we step out in faith, obeying His word and learning from the Holy Spirit in the process.

The Reason for Easter

Although often crowded by the attention given to Spring or the expectation of the Easter Bunny, today has been the foundation of the Christian faith for 2,000 years. Resurrection Sunday is why Christians exist. It is what separates Christianity from all of the world’s religions. It is the deal maker. It is the day that we gather to say: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Jesus has had a monumental effect on human history. Consider the following statements made by both believers and unbelievers. H.G. Wells, British writer who died in 1946 said:

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all of history. Christ is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to [Jesus].”
Daniel Webster, 19th century American politician and the founder of Webster’s dictionary, said: “All that is best in the civilization of today, is the fruit of Christ’s appearance among men.”

Kenneth Scott Latourette, former President of the American Historic Society:
“As the centuries pass by, the evidence is accumulating that measured by its effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet. The influence appears to be mounting. No other life lived on this planet has so widely and deeply affected mankind.”

And finally, Will Durant, popular modern historian and philosopher, when asked what he felt the apex of history was, replied: “The three years that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth.”

Jesus said many powerful things. His Sermon on the Mount has been acclaimed as the most powerful message delivered in all of history. But His influence is not due to the fact that he was a sage. Sages come and go. It is not because He was wealthy, because he was not. Jesus was born into poverty. It is not because of His great heritage. This is why many could not get past that He was apparently the son of a carpenter from Galilee. Rather, it is because of His resurrection from the dead and its practical and historical effect on all who follow Him.

The influence of Jesus’ life is found in the short verse of Romans 4:25: “Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” To explain this statement, let us compare these two sections of Scripture, found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter four and Mark’s version of the resurrection, found in Mark 16. We first understand that…

JESUS WENT TO THE CROSS FOR A REASON.

The Apostle Paul gives us that reason in verse 25: “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions….” Jesus did not die a passive death, as if he was a victim of a horrible circumstance. His death was a part of God’s ultimate plan to provide the means of atonement for our sins. Each person has a deep spiritual need that cannot be met by himself or philosophy or money or sex or relationships or a career, etc. It is only met through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Each of us has a God-shaped void that can only be filled by Him. The fourth century church father Augustine once prayed: “O Lord, our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in You.”

If you are a member of the human race, you are a sinner. Jesus said in John 8:34: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Sin is defined as any transgression against God’s moral law. By being a sinner, you are at odds with God. You cannot conquer your sin by “doing better next time.” As someone once said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Each of us has a sin problem that can only be adequately dealt with by God.

But God, in His love, has reached out to you in the life, death and resurrection of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Both Jesus’ death and resurrection addresses our two greatest spiritual needs, which are forgiveness and restoration. You cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. That tells us that our greatest need is not to have a good self-image. Our greatest need is not to feel positive about yourself. It is not to overcome the trials that come your way or achieve your greatest potential. Rather, your greatest need is to be reconciled to the One that you have offended. And that One is God. As Charles Sell wrote: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. He has provided the means of your forgiveness. This is why Jesus went to the cross. “He was delivered up for our transgressions.” Secondly, we are told that…

JESUS LEFT THE TOMB FOR A REASON.

If you’ll notice from Mark’s resurrection account, that reason was not automatically known. In fact, you see that the three ladies who went to the tomb on that Sunday morning, fully expected to see the body of Jesus there, awaiting anointing, which was a gesture of devotion. They are met with shock to see the stone rolled away and the angel seated, announcing Jesus’ resurrection. So griped with fear and amazement that they ran back to the where Jesus’ disciples were and talked to no one on the way. They are not sure what just happened. Common in all of the gospel accounts of Jesus resurrection is that the disciples did not expect it. As, they all meet an angel and they all react in fear and amazement.

Mark was written, most likely before the other three gospels were. Matthew and Luke are thought to have used Mark as a template for their accounts. Mark and Romans were probably written at the same time. Mark describes the resurrection event, Paul interprets it. Paul says that Jesus coming back from the dead is a testimony that God can do the impossible. He links the resurrection faith with that of Abraham. Abraham is the father of all those who believe, mentioned at least three times in Romans chapter four, verses 11, 16 and 17. Only God: “…gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” And verse 21: “…what He had promised, He was able to perform.”

This event occurred in 33 or 34 A.D. Fast forward about twenty years, when Christians were going through persecution and the expansion and dispersion of the church. Now, Paul, writing to the believers in Rome, seeks to teach these new converts of the similarities between them and Abraham, the father of the believing. Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness.

Verse 25: “…who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” Jesus died for your transgressions and mine. Each of us needs a right relationship with God. Justification means “…to set free, acquittal.” Jesus death and resurrection are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have forgiveness of sin without His death. Nor can we have justification/acquittal without His being raised from the dead. Charles Hodge, was one of America’s greatest theologians who taught at Princeton in the 19th century. He said: “This verse is a comprehensive statement of the gospel. His death and His resurrection were alike necessary; His death, as a satisfaction to divine justice. Had He not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what He claimed to be. We should be yet in our sins, and therefore still under condemnation.”

Therefore, there are four spiritual laws that are important for everyone to know before they leave this earth. One is that God loves you and has a plan for your life. In other words, you were made for a reason. You are not here by chance, a product of circumstance. You were made by a loving Creator God. But your sin has separated you from Him. You have offended Him by Your deeds. Some may judge a deeds ethics by the hurt it does to others; and if it causes no hurt, then it is not wrong. But God does not believe in situational ethics. He has established eternal standards of what is right and wrong and demands their obedience. When one of His principles is broken, it is as if we’ve broken them all. And we are worthy of His wrath. Hell is a real place because God is a just God.

Thirdly, Jesus came as the God-provided means for your forgiveness. He gave His life so that you could be reconciled with God, your Creator. Lastly, you must receive Christ by faith, in which the same way that Abraham believed God’s promise, and it was credited to His account as righteousness. Jesus lived the life God demanded from you and died the death you deserved. For your salvation, Jesus left the tomb on that morning so long ago. Jesus’ resurrection means life-giving change for you and me. That is why Christians are people of tremendous hope.

Because of Easter, we can have a new life. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can have a new identity. Because of Jesus being raised from the dead, we can go to heaven when we die. But you must follow Him. You must seek forgiveness for your sins. You must become a disciple.

Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead has been the hope of Christians for 2,000 years. Governments can try to stamp that out, to no success. In some of the places where the church is heavily persecuted, it is also expanding at an unprecedented rate. When all is said and done, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only hope that we have.

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross.

Following Jesus remains the most important, the most critical decision you can ever make. Have you done so?

Why Missions?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In April, our church will send eight individuals to Athens, Greece to serve immigrants and refugees. The situation there is desperate. Because of our relationship with missionaries there, we have been given an opportunity to make a difference in an otherwise difficult and challenging situation.

Why do Christians go on mission trips? Why are churches support missionaries? Quite honestly, the answer is simple. Jesus cared for people. As Dr. Peter Kuzmic of Gordon Conwell Seminary used to say, “Jesus is the missionary par excellence.” Jesus left His throne of glory, to come and dwell among us (John 1:14) and show us the way to the Father (John 14:6). He became a servant (Philippians 2:7) for our sake. Our God is a sending God.

The Lord is concerned for the nations (Matthew 24:14). The Lord draws people to Himself, (John 6:44). Because of our love for others, we should want to participate in God’s work. Our love for Jesus must influence what we do for others. He said: “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… (Acts 1:8).” It is an incredible privilege to represent the risen Lord Jesus Christ, whether it be in Athens, Greece or with a neighbor!

Several years ago, someone left our church because they misunderstood our involvement in missions. It is not as if we are trying to push anything off on another, or sell anyone anything. Rather, it is out of our love for God, our love for the Bible, our love for Jesus Christ, and our love for others, that we are involved in missions.

While in Athens, we will take on the role of servants; serving food, distributing clothing, cleaning, assisting, and witnessing- whatever the Lord would have us do while there. Please pray for us as we prepare to leave and serve. We greatly appreciate your support.

Hope for the Grieving at Christmas

Many households are preoccupied with shopping, extra events and added duties at the Christmas season. But for a segment of our population, the holidays come with mixed emotions. There is a sense of loss. For some of you this is a year of firsts without a loved one. The first birthday, the first trip to the shore or vacation in the mountains; and the first Christmas, without your precious family member or friend. You miss them and wish they were here. They may be gone, but they are not forgotten. God cares for you and wants you to turn to Him.

As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to abolish death for those who put their trust in Him. Jesus said in John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That gives me tremendous hope. But you may come from another faith backgrounds or no faith at all. Regardless of where you are with God, your pain is real and you may have questions of how best to handle it.

What I’d like to share with you today are not original thoughts. They come from Mr. James Miller in his article: “How Will I Get Through the Holidays?” Miller provides some very helpful pieces of advice. He offers 12 and I’d like to highlight just a few as you approach this time of year. For one, he says: “Accept the likelihood of your pain.” To put it in my own words, this Christmas will not be the same as others, nor should it be. Your loss is very real. And to acknowledge such is, in a way, a subtle tribute to your loved one.

Secondly, Miller advises to “turn to others for support.” Other friends and family care about you. They share your pain, to varying degrees. “No man is an island,” as the 16th century English poet John Donne said. We are called to bear one another’s burdens. The company of others can be a great support.

Most of all, God cares about you. Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus experienced the spectrum of human emotion? He knew what it was like to love, to miss and to cry. The shortest verse in the Bible says a lot: “Jesus wept.” This was on the occasion of losing his good friend, Lazarus.

Maybe this Christmas is a time for spiritual renewal. Maybe this year you’re primed for a time of returning to God like you never have before. I have always appreciated the words of Psalm 46:1 and I quote it often to folks in need. “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.” God is not far off. He is near to those who call on Him.

Thirdly, be gentle with yourself. The holidays are a stressful time. It is okay to treat yourself lovingly, at a time when life is hard. Give yourself a lot of latitude.

Lastly, count your blessings. What is there to appreciate this time of year? Grief is also a time to slow down and reflect on those things that you would not normally, given your busy schedule. Being grateful can extinguish feelings of discontent and unhappiness.

Finally, some of you have children at home. They deal with grief in a different way than adults. Operate in a spirit of compassion, knowing that your children and grandchildren grieve, too.

Christ coming to our world was the sign of God’s love. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Christ brought the gospel to this world and His good news is for all those who will trust and repent.  May your grief usher you to Jesus, who is the “Good Shepherd.”

Heaven: Who’s There?

Have you ever tried to describe a place that you’ve never seen? Never visited? It is impossible. But in the presence of someone who has, for instance, been to the Grand Canyon, you may hear them say: “Oh, it is beautiful! The vistas are majestic! You’ve got to go there! Take the mule down to the bottom! Take the helicopter ride!

Heaven is a bit different in that very few have been there and yet have returned to tell about it. Jesus and the Apostle Paul are two exceptions. Today, we approach the question: “Who is in Heaven?” Our answers are found in Holy Scripture.  Jonathan Edwards was a congregational minister in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the early 18th century. He was also a missionary to Native Americans and the third president of Princeton and considered by many to be the father of the American Church. Regarding heaven, he wrote:

 There are none but lovely objects in heaven- no offensive, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing that is wicked or unholy. …Everything is beautiful to behold, and amiable and excellent in itself.”[1] He was basing his description, not on personal experience, but on Revelation 21:27: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Jesus said much about that place. In John 14, Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for us. This chapter occurs in the context after Jesus announces His departure in 13:36.

Jesus spoke of “His Father’s house.” He was talking of heaven. He mentions rooms. These are dwelling places within the house. Jesus also spoke of “eternal dwellings,” in Luke 16:9.

Jesus is going to prepare a place for His disciples. But the way that He goes is through the cross: the public torture, the separation from His friends and supporters, and most of all, the separation from His Father. Jesus takes the time to reassure them of His love, along with the imperative: Trust in God; trust also in Me.” Moving is the face that on the night that He would be arrested and go through the most difficulties of hardships, pain and separation; it is Jesus’ character to encourage His disciples. He tells them that He is going to the Father in 13:1, 3, and 14:28. Jesus’ words bring up the question…

What happens when someone dies? That is a question that is quite common. Two years ago, I lost my mother. On one of our trips to visit her grave, a relative asked: “Dave, what happens when we die?”  The Bible is quite clear. Jesus said that not everyone who dies goes to heaven. In fact, He made it sound like relatively few people enter everlasting life. Matthew 7: 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Finding out after you die is too late. Hollywood actor Brad Pitt was asked the question: Is your soul spiritual?

He replied: “No, no, no! I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it.”[2] I disagree. To be prepared here and now, is far better and less reckless and irresponsible.

Once we die, a departure occurs. This is the testimony of the major Protestant catechisms such as the Westminster of 1646 and the Heidelberg of 1564. A comfort that the believer has is that once he has died, he will always be in the presence of Christ.   These teach that once a Christian dies…

  • Shortly thereafter, his body goes into the ground. As the pastor says at the committal: “Earth to earth; ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”
  • But the soul departs and is in the presence of Christ. Paul reflecting on his possible death while in prison, wrote in Philippians 1:23: “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better….” In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
  • The souls of Christians are separated from their bodies and reside with the Lord until the Second Coming of Christ. That place is known as paradise. Jesus said to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43: “”I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” It is heaven, but not in its final state or condition that will occur when God brings the new heavens and the new earth.
  • On the day that Jesus returns, the soul will be reunited with the body and it will be raised, what is commonly known as “the resurrection.” Martha, Lazarus’ sister believed this in John 11:24 by saying: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
  • Then, once the final judgment takes place, Christ will bring the new heavens and the new earth, which will come down. From then on, our homes will be permanent. 2 Peter 3:13: “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Maybe the situation can be described in this way. If you lived in downtown Chicago, in a difficult area. But you were notified that you had inherited a sprawling beachfront home in Cape May, NJ. On your trip to Cape May, you had a small layover in Pittsburgh. While in Pittsburgh, you met some other family members who would also inherit the home. You would tell others that you were headed to Cape May; but your trip to Pittsburgh was incidental; it was a necessary stop, on the way.

In such a place, death is conquered. Who will be in heaven? Jonathan Edwards writes:

“Every gem which death rudely tears away from us here is a glorious jewel forever shining there. Every Christian friend that goes before us from this world is a ransomed spirit waiting to welcome us in heaven. There will be the infant of days that we have lost below, through grace to be found above. There the Christian father, and mother, and wife, and child and friend, with whom we shall renew the holy fellowship of the saints, which was interrupted by death here, but shall be commenced again in the upper sanctuary and then shall never end. There we shall have companionship with the patriarchs and fathers and saints of the Old and New Testaments, and those of whom the world was not worthy, with whom on earth we were only conversant by faith.”[3]

Overjoyed, we’ll be to see our Christian friends and loved ones, and those we’ve only read about and admired over the years. Most of all, we will be in the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are comforted and blessed to know that it is a wonderful reunion and a great discovery. More than can ever be described into words. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).”

Until then, we know that we have access to the Father through Jesus. Now the Lord gives us a pretty exclusive response to Thomas’ question in 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the only way of connected to God. He alone provides access to Him. If we think that there are many ways to God, you are in essence calling Jesus a liar or you do not know your Bible very well.

Jesus said in John 1:51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This is an Old Testament allusion to what is known as Jacob’s ladder, the dream that the patriarch had of a ladder reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Of that place, Jacob said: “And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! (Genesis 28:17)”

Furthermore, Peter and John preached an exclusive message in Acts 4:12 when they said: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This goes with what Isaiah 45:22 says: “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

That’s why missions is so important to the life of the church. We have a message to get out and preach and share. D.A. Carson states: “It is totally inadequate to claim that one knows God, …while disowning Jesus Christ.”[4]

Nevertheless, the culture says: “Oh, there are other ways to God. Why be so narrow?” But what did God say? What did Jesus say? What more needs to be said?

Some within the false church and many within the culture say that this is an arrogant statement. Why be so narrow? We confused criticality with narrowness. Jesus is clearly speaking in reference to His Father’s house and its access. The point is that Christ has opened up heaven. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us that based on the endurance of Jesus, and because He is our high priest, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” In Biblical times, no one could ever approach a king’s throne with boldness. You had to be summoned. If you went where you were uninvited, it could cost you your life. But we serve a different king that allows us to approach Him with confidence. Without Christ, there is no access, let alone confidence.

So, heaven is for those who know the Father through Jesus Christ. It is the place that Jesus has gone to prepare for us.

But Jesus is also preparing us for a place. That is called sanctification; the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who’ve trusted Christ. May the Lord’s words function as peace and encouragement to you who live for Him. May they function of motivation to know Him, if you’ve lived you’re life apart from Him. May it be to all of us a call to preparation; to know that this life is not all that there is. Rather this life is a preparation for the next. Your eternity lies outside of the material and outside of yourself. It demands trust in Christ and dependence upon Him.

Thomas a Kempis, a cardinal in the 15th century and the author of one of the best known Christian devotional works, The Imitation of Christ, said:

Follow thou me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou must follow; the truth which thou must believe; the life for which thou must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth, the never-ending life. I am the straightest way, the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated.[5]

[1] Jonathan Edwards, 14.

[2] http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/idolchatter/2009/07/quote-of-the-day-brad-pitt-on.html.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, Heaven: A World of Love (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 1992), 17.

[4] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 1991), 491.

[5] Thomas A ‘Kempis The Imitation of Christ, 56. 1.