Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Offering & Sacrifice

by Bill Blankenship

The month of May is a time we set aside to reflect upon the sacrifices made by the centuries of people who dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom. America exists today because of all those who had a vision and a dream of a free world where people would be equal and have fundamental rights, such as liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly to worship their creator God. These remarkable principles required tremendous sacrifice and dedication.

Many of our founding fathers believed in the sovereignty of God and His divine will for the existence of a new world. They dedicated themselves and their fortunes to bringing this vision to fruition and were willing to sacrifice everything, even their lives, to accomplish these ideals. We can honestly say America was born out of extraordinary courage, boundless sacrifice, and remarkable cost. We have all read many accounts throughout the history of our country illustrating the price paid for America’s existence. However, we are limited to our own understanding and cannot comprehend or fathom the price really paid for our freedoms. We are blessed individuals living the dream, and cannot relate to the amount of suffering, pain, and sacrifice given for us to have the lives we experience. As we move further into the future, each generation grows farther away from the values intended, whereby many wonderful blessings were granted. We have become more selfish and self-centered, obtaining as much of the world as we possibly can. These actions rob us of blessings and, in fact, encourage our willful ignorance.

As we look toward May 27th, I ask how you will remember our forefathers—those who have given their fortunes and lives for your freedom? How will you remember the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives on battlefields to secure and protect your freedom? How will you remember your family members who have made sacrifices for you and have passed on into eternity?

We should always pause and remember those who have given their lives so we might live in a free country. Freedom comes at a great cost, and we should thank God for their sacrifice. Jesus said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

As a boy, I remember visiting the cemeteries each year to decorate the graves of family members and friends with flowers. Decoration Day in Alabama was a significant occasion. Being a kid, I would get bored and tired of all the festivities. However, now that I am older, I take great pleasure in visiting cemeteries and reminiscing about the precious memories of those who have passed on. The word “precious” means “very costly” or “valuable.” This reminds me of the song “Precious Memories” by J.B.F. Wright.

Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred past unfolds

Precious father, loving mother
Fly across the lonely years
And old home scenes, of my childhood
In fond memory appears

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness, of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold

When I was still in the workforce, I sometimes walked during my lunch hour. On one of our walks, my co-worker and I found an old cemetery in a nearby wooded area. The cemetery was overgrown with vegetation, and we decided to clear the overgrowth the next evening after work. To our surprise, we found several graves from the 1800’s. These were graves of individuals who, it seemed, had been forgotten. We visited these gravesites several times and talked about who these people may have been and what their lives could have been like. Also, we took time to thank the Lord for leading us to that place and allowing us to think about those buried there. The sacrifice we made to clear that cemetery was well worth the blessings we received as we pondered the lives of those buried there. Who knows, we may meet these individuals one day in glory.

Many of the younger generation today do not believe it is essential to visit the graves of their families. Some are totally unconcerned, while others feel the dead are not even there anyway, thus seeing no need to take time from their schedule to bother with visiting the cemetery or honoring their loved ones with flowers. Yes, we know the spirit and lives of those who die are not in the grave, but the opportunity to remember them and the contribution they made to our lives is priceless. After all, those bodies placed in the grave belong to God, for they were formed and given life by Him. He also promises that there will be a resurrection one day, and these bodies shall rise to be changed into glorified bodies.

According to the Bible, we find sacrifice is the act of offering something valuable or meaningful to God as an act of worship, obedience, or atonement for sins. We see several sacrifices revealed in the Old Testament, which were a pivotal part of the religious practices of that day and are frequently mentioned throughout scripture. You can read about these sacrifices/offerings in chapters 1 through 7 of Leviticus. The sacrifices mentioned were not only the offerings of animals, grains, or expiation, but the people sacrificed themselves to commitment and worship as they remembered the Lord.

We notice sacrifice takes on a different element in the New Testament. God is offering us the ultimate sacrifice of His son, Jesus, who was born through the womb of a virgin and lived among us to reveal God’s eternal love for us. He was crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and raised to life on the third day. Do you find it interesting that the sacrifices in the Old Testament offered by mankind are now focused on God’s love by the giving of His only begotten Son? God shifted the sacrificial focus from external ritual sacrifices by man to the internal transformation of the heart through faith in Christ. On this Memorial Day and every day throughout the year, we should offer thanks to the Lord for His sacrifice.  He gave His life to pay our debt and has given us abundant life and the gift of His Holy Spirit.  We must always remember His sacrifice and never forget His benefits.

Psalm 103:1-7 Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagles.  The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed…..

Psalm 103:11-12 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;  As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us….  

Psalm 103:20-22 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

As Christ Followers, we believe Jesus’ death and resurrection offer us salvation by which we are reconciled to God. Our sacrifice to the Lord is more than celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ each year on Easter. We are to celebrate His resurrection every Sunday when we gather for worship. The key word here is as we gather. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) With modern technology of today, we can elect to stay home and watch services via live stream. We offer no effort or sacrifice on our part to even attend church gatherings. This attitude may even question our sincerity as a Christ Follower. Live streaming is intended for those who are providentially hindered by sickness or physically unable to attend church.

So, how do we practice sacrifice today as Christ Followers? Some will declare the Lord does not require sacrifice. They will use 1 Samuel 15:22, where Samuel told Saul that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” Many people take the scriptures out of context to try and justify their own lives. Obedience requires sacrifice. The principle conveyed by “obedience is better than sacrifice” emphasizes the importance of a heart that is willing to submit and obey God’s will. Outward religious acts, even if they involve sacrifices, are unacceptable to God if they are not accompanied by genuine obedience and alignment with God’s will.

The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the beloved of God in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  In the 12th chapter of the book of Romans, Paul informs us how to serve God with spiritual gifts, how to behave as Christ Followers, and how not to be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. This is all accomplished by our obedience and sacrifice.
God values obedience and faithfulness to His will rather than any religious custom we might promote without a sincere heart. We practice sacrifice by giving the Lord our time, our resources, and our efforts for the accomplishment of His mission here on earth. He revealed His mission to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:10, saying, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

When we come to know Christ as our Savior and become Christ Followers, we learn it is necessary to make sacrifices in our Christian walk. We no longer belong to this world or its desires. Yet, because we are still in a fleshly body and our flesh desires the ways of this world, we must sacrifice the flesh. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” We overcome the flesh by submitting to the Holy Spirit and following the truths of the Bible.

Sacrifice to Gather for Worship

We were made to worship God, and when we gather together in His presence and lift our voices to Him in praise, we experience all we were created to be.

Sacrifice to Spend Time with Jesus

We learn God’s will for our lives through His Word. If we are willing to spend time with Jesus, through reading the Bible and prayer, we will see our need for a Savior and the individual purpose God has for us.

Sacrifice to Connect with Community

When we open our hearts and believe in Christ, we are placed in the body of Christ. True transformation happens when you connect with other brothers and sisters in a small group setting. These groups provide you with the opportunity to build authentic believer relationships, where you can grow in your walk with others as you grow in your walk with Jesus.

Sacrifice to Commit and Serve

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” We were created to serve God and others. As you serve within the church in one of the many ministry opportunities, you’ll fulfill your purpose as you make God known.

Sacrifice to Live on Mission

We find Jesus gives us a great commission in Matthew 28. We are to make Jesus known in our communities and the world and make disciples who live and love like Jesus.

Sacrifice to Invest Your Resources

We all have the ability to invest in the work of the Lord by financially supporting the ministry of the church. By giving your tithes and offerings to the church, you’re helping to advance the gospel and establish a firm foundation for future generations to know and serve God.

Let us not limit our understanding of the sacrifices others paid for our opportunity to live in a free country where we can believe, worship, and serve a risen Savior. Let us not limit our understanding of the sacrifice that our Savior, Jesus Christ, paid for our opportunity to believe and live life more abundantly.

Remember, we have a great inheritance waiting for us in glory, which is worth our sacrifice.

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