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Preliminary Emancipation – 1862

On this day in 1862, just after the Battle of Antietam, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on the rebellious Southern states to return their allegiance before the end of the year. If they failed to do so, their slaves would be declared free men. As no state responded to the threat, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. One result of this action was the recruitment of black soldiers to the Union, resulting in nearly 180,000 men enlisting during the remainder of the war. Lincoln considered the proclamation “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the nineteenth century.”

But the first proclamation came on September 22, 100 days before the final edict.

Here’s the lesson for us today. A declaration of freedom is not the same thing as freedom. Jesus died to set us free – 2,000 years ago. But until we accept that gift personally, freedom will remain beyond our grasp.

On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He paid the price. Your freedom has been purchased for all time. The next move is yours.

Doctor Fear

A woman went to the doctor’s office. She was seen by one of the new doctors, but after about four minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped and asked her what the problem was, and she explained. He had her sit down and relax in another room.

The older doctor marched back to the first and demanded, “What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old, she has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?”

The new doctor smiled smugly as he continued to write on his clipboard.

“Cured her hiccups, though, didn’t I?”

That’s the mistake a lot of us make. We treat the wrong disease. For example, when it comes to the sin disease, we focus on good works, water baptism, and following the Ten Commands. All of that makes us better, but none of it makes us well.

We are saved by grace and by grace alone. No other “cure” will do.

Bad Lab Report

A lady took her pet white duck to the vet. After examining the duck, the doctor pronounced, “Your duck is dead.”

The woman asked, “Is there any other test you can do to be sure?”

The vet brought in his pet black Labrador who sniffed the carcass, put his paw on the duck’s chest, and walked out of the room. The vet came back in with his tomcat that also sniffed the corpse, put its paw on the duck’s chest, meowed, and then jumped down from the exam table.

The vet then went to his computer to type out a bill. Upon telling the lady the bad news – indeed her duck was dead – he handed her a bill for $1,000.

“A thousand dollars? Why is it so expensive? You didn’t even do anything for my duck!”

The vet said, “The cost of the vet visit was just $50. The other $950 is for the cat scan and the lab report.”

The only thing worse than receiving bad news is having to pay for it. That’s where I’ve got good news for you. The Gospel is great news, and it costs you nothing. Jesus already paid the price for our sin in full – on the cross. And the exam results are in. You and I are dead in our sin. But there is hope. Jesus died to set us free. No cat scans or lab reports are needed.

Clear Direction

Pastor Clifford Stewart, of Louisville, Kentucky, sent his parents a microwave oven for Christmas one year. This is how he recalls the event.

“They were excited to join the instant generation. When my dad unpacked the microwave and plugged it in, within seconds, it transformed my parents’ smiles into frowns. Even after reading the directions, they couldn’t make it work. Two days later, my mom was playing Bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to even get the microwave to boil water. Her friend asked her, ‘What seems to be the problem?’ My mom responded, ‘The problem is that only my son knows how to work it. What I need is for my son to come along with the microwave.'”

When God gave us the gift of salvation, he didn’t send a complicated booklet to give us directions to figure everything out. He sent us his Son. Life is complicated. We have the Bible as our manual. But even that is not enough, because until you know the Author, it is difficult to understand the Book.

But God left nothing to chance. For your salvation, there is no assembly required – for one simple reason. God has given us his Son.

The Rushmore Report: Woman Buys Moon Dust for $995, Sells for $4 Million

It was one of the biggest moments in history. The Apollo 11 mission of 1969 brought man to the moon. There were also a few things that came back with the astronauts. While there, Neil Armstrong collected some moon dust and placed it in a bag. NASA forgot about it and accidentally auctioned it off for $995. Nancy Carlson bought it, and had it analyzed. Now NASA wants it back. But that will cost them a tidy sum – $4 million.

Carlson, a Chicago attorney, was certain the bag had real moon dust, so she sent it back to NASA to have it tested, knowing official verification would turn her bag of dust into a fortune. Carlson was right.

NASA confirmed that it was real moon dust, and then refused to give it back, saying they had made a mistake by selling it so cheap. Carlson went to court over the matter and won. Now she is auctioning it off, and it is expected to draw about $4 million.

How Carlson came to possess the celestial souvenir in the first place is a space odyssey in its own right. Previously, the government had seized the bag in a criminal case against Max Ary, the former president of a space museum in Kansas. He was convicted in 2006 of theft for selling objects from the museum, court records show.

While investigating Ary, authorities learned the moon bag had been auctioned off for $24,150 and seized it from its purchaser. But because of a mix-up with another bag that did not contain moon dust, no NASA official at the time was aware of the historical importance of the artifact.

The initial auction asked for a beginning offer of at least $20,000, but nobody bid on it. When Carlson, a corporate attorney and avid collector of space objects, saw the bag at auction again in 2015, she was the high bidder. She then sent the bag to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where its contents were verified.

Over time, the U.S. government has given away about 270 moon rocks to foreign dignitaries. Never have they sold any lunar objects.

Carlson did what many others could have done. She saw a value in that bag of dust that others simply missed, including the scientists at NASA. Then she bought it. Now she has a real prize, which is about to be turned into more money than she will need for the rest of her life.

Jesus told a similar story one day. He told of a man who found a rare treasure, then sold all he had to secure it. His point was simple. When we find that which brings us peace and security, for this life and the one to come, there is no price too high. We need to go all in.

Like the people at NASA, we often don’t recognize what is right before us. God has provided peace and eternal blessing through his Son, Jesus Christ. The next move is ours and it’s a simple one. We must be willing to give up that which we cannot keep anyway, in order to secure that which we will never lose.

But unlike the moon dust, God’s gift has already been paid for. And because we have an Advocate in Christ Jesus, no attorneys need to be involved.

Texas v. White

It was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, as it decreed by law what the Union’s victory in the Civil War had established by force: namely, that the United States is an indestructible union from which no state can secede. In 1850 the State of Texas had received $10 million in federal bonds, which lacked the necessary signature of the Governor, and were therefore transferred to pay for Confederate supplies. At the war’s end, Texas brought a suit in the Supreme Court to recover the bonds.

The defendants claimed that because Texas had seceded from the Union, it could not sue. The court upheld the right for Texas to sue and recover the bonds. The ruling stated, “The unsuccessful effort of Texas to secede may temporarily have lost the state the privileges of membership in the Union, but not membership itself.”

Now, what is the point of this history lesson? The Bible says believers are “adopted” into God’s family. Even if they wanted to “secede,” they could not. Our membership in God’s Union is secure.

Make no mistake. Saved people act differently than those who are unsaved. But their relationship with the Father is secure.

How Can I Know that I’m Saved?

Ephesians 2:8-9 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

In Luke 23:42, one of the criminals hanging next to Jesus on the cross prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Notice that he didn’t ask Jesus to stop his pain, although he would have been in excruciating pain on the cross. By that time, Jesus was famous for doing miracles, but the man didn’t ask Jesus to save him from death, either.

He said, “Jesus, remember me.” Why? Because he knew that his deepest need was salvation from sin – not just salvation to get into heaven. He believed in Jesus.

The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So how do you know for sure that you’re saved? How do you know you’re going to heaven when you die? How can you be certain? How can you eliminate doubt?

Your assurance of salvation is not by your works, because you can’t earn your salvation. Your assurance of salvation is not by your feelings, because feelings come and go.

What is your assurance of salvation? The promise of God’s word. If God says it, that settles it, because God cannot lie. You can trust the promise of God’s Word. You can rest in it.

Jesus replied to the criminal hanging on the cross, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Your assurance of salvation is the same: God’s promise that you will be in heaven with him one day if you believe by faith.

Just One Road

It happened in the big city of Kingman, Arizona. A dude rancher filed a notice of appeal with federal authorities to stop the use of a bypass road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Nigel Turner is the owner of the Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, which supplies the total income and livelihood. His problem with the bypass road was that it was an unnecessary route into the Skywalk area because two other routes already exist.

Here’s the real issue. Nigel wants all tourists to the Grand Canyon to pass by his resort. This means more business for him. He is already upset that two routes exist; he can’t stand the thought of three.

Most places have multiple routes. When my wife and I drive somewhere, her smart phone tells this dumb driver about three possible routes, whether we want three possible routes or not. But that comes in handy in times of heavy traffic.

But there is one place that only has one route. That place is heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way.” There is one way in and no way out.

The Most Important Day of My Life

It happened on February 3, 1974 – 43 years ago today.

In August of 1973, the bus ministry of College Park Baptist Church in Houston came knocking on my door. I lived with my parents and brother in an apartment in southwest Houston. We’re weren’t much for going to church. But things suddenly changed for my brother and me.

Under the excellent preaching of Dr. Cecil O. Sewell, Jr., we heard a clear presentation of the Gospel every Sunday. We kept riding the bus to church each week, we made friends, and we saw the difference Christ can make, in the lives of dozens of other students who were a part of the youth ministry at the church.

In September, my brother made a faith commitment to Christ. I didn’t fully understand it, nor did I inquire.

Fast forward to February 3, 1974.

After the morning service, I asked Brother Sewell if we could talk. He took me into his office, where we met for about an hour. His wife, Sharon, was with us, as well my my brother, Jim. Dr. Sewell read several verses from Romans. He explained that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), the payment of sin is separation from God (6:23), that Jesus died for me (5:8), and that I could experience permanent life change and receive eternal life in heaven through Christ (10:9).

Then he read Romans 10:13 – “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There, in my pastor’s office, I prayed with him to receive Jesus as my Savior.

That was 43 years ago. I was just 14 years old at the time. Since then, I met my future wife, got married, and we now have a godly son who is 26 years old. But that moment in time when I trusted Christ as my Savior made it all possible. If I hadn’t trusted in Christ, I wouldn’t have become a youth minister and met Beth five years later, and I wouldn’t be David’s dad.

I’d like to think there have been many significant days in my life. But I know, without a doubt, that the most important day of my life was when the God of the universe entered my life. It was on this day, February 3 – 43 years ago – that I receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

It was the most important day of my life.

Gene Cernan, Last Man on the Moon, Dies at 82

Gene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon, died Monday. He was 82.

Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December of 1972. It was the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon. His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the lunar module, giving him the designation of being the last person to walk on the lunar surface.

His words would not become as famous as Neil Armstrong’s first sentence spoken from the moon. But Cernan’s final goodbye to the moon was just as poetic . . .

“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed – the crew of Apollo 17.”

In the 2007 documentary, “In the Shadow of the Moon,” Cernan spoke of the epiphany he experienced while standing on the desolate – yet majestic – surface.

“There is too much purpose, too much logic, it was just too beautiful to happen by accident,” Cernan said. “There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me. And I mean this in a spiritual sense, not in a religious sense. There has to be a creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern our lives.”

Gene Cernan was an American hero, a trailblazer of the highest order. We honor this giant of a man who, 44 years ago, touched the face of the moon – and in the process touched the face of God.