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Christmas Sunday

Our heavenly Father, on this Christmas Sunday we rejoice in the good news of Your Son: ‟To us a child is born; to us a son is given.” We thank and praise You for Your great love and for the gift of salvation made possible through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We rejoice once again in the message of the angelic choir: ‟Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.”

Father, even though centuries separate us from the birth of our Lord, remind us that it was in a time and place not terribly unlike ours. You caused a virgin girl to conceive and bear a child and call His name Jesus―Savior. In the humble setting of a cattle stall the Word became flesh and the light of eternity broke through into our time-bound world. The words of the apostle John never lose its excitement: ‟We beheld His glory, the glory of the only Son of God, full of grace and truth.” Fill us with anticipation for that time when we shall see Him ourselves.

As we celebrate Christmas, we remember that the Savior was not received hospitably by those people who claimed to be waiting anxiously for Him. The religious leaders of the day sought His life, because they saw Him to be a threat to their traditions. Herod the Great sought His life, because he saw the Messiah as a threat to his own rule. Under Pontius Pilate, the Romans crucified Him because they saw Him as a potential troublemaker.

Father, we cannot view these people as different than ourselves. Too often we have felt Jesus was a threat to our chosen ways as we refuse to bow in submission before Him. We have seen Jesus as a threat to our happiness and have hesitated to commit ourselves to doing His will. We have sometimes viewed the Christ with indifference and considered Him to be irrelevant for our modern times. We have seen His claim to Lordship as an infringement on our rights.

We pray for the millions of people who miss the true meaning of Christmas, because they have no personal relationship with the Savior. They still walk in darkness, seeking in empty forms and traditions peace of mind. They continue their pursuit of happiness along paths leading nowhere. On this Christmas, Father, we pray that some will come to recognize they will find no respite from their restlessness until they find You, for You have made them for Yourself.

We pray for those who have left home and family to bring the news of Christ to those yet to hear and understand. Especially at this time of family gatherings and familiar traditions, we ask that the Holy Spirit encourage their labors and bring a fresh sense of our Lord’s presence.

For each of us who worship, let the joy of Christmas renew within us the thrill of hope, and may the peace of Christ keep our hearts and minds fixed on Him. We pray in the name of Jesus and for our sakes. Amen.

Writer or Author?

Until I have a book published, I’ve decided not to call myself an author. But I am and have been for a long time, a writer. I journal and save them, but don’t know what use they will be. However, Matthew McConaughey recently had a book published, Green Light, and he gleaned from journals he’d kept for years.

[Wish my journals looked like this, classic and neatly tied for storage.]

My professor of journalism at Asbury College recommended me for a temp job at Asbury Theological Seminary when they needed an editor for their publication. That started my career. Then Chuck Keysor hired me at Good News magazine. I held several positions and two articles appeared under my name. Before we left Wilmore, KY, for Bill to pastor World Gospel Church in Terre Haute, IN, Dr. Keysor trusted me with editing Sunday school curriculum. Having written magazine articles and devotions in several publications still didn’t qualify me as an author (in my mind).

Now that Bill’s first book is to be released on Amazon on December 16th, I’ve considered calling myself a co-author. But that is not on-target. I collected, edited, and organized Bill’s sermons, but I did not write them. He preached those messages, and I prepared them for publication. If you’re interested, look soon on amazon.com for Words of Endearment: the Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love. The paperback book sells at $12.95 and the ebook for $6.50. You can pre-order the ebook, but not the paperback. These contain 12 sermons, 11 on the Ten Commandments, and a closing chapter on Rightly Handling the Word of Truth.

This blog posts did not start out to include a commercial; but there, I’ve done it. I want to express my thanks for all those who have contributed to my craft of writing, beginning with my literature teachers who showed me the value of reading good books. As I wrote book reviews, I honed my skills and learned from the best authors. I’m also grateful for all of you who comment on my blog posts, and I’ve paid attention to what you like best.

I close with a few quotes from my collection on writing:

“A writer is a world trapped in a person.” –Victor Hugo

“I write because I do not know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Conner

“The genius of the story is that it’s about ordinary life writ large.” –anonymous

“Writing demands your complete attention.” –Donald Miller

And my favorite from Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

First Sunday of Advent

Bill Coker gave this prayer several years ago at World Gospel Church, yet the points and subjects sound like today. This is part of a collection of pastoral prayers which will be Bill’s second book to be published in 2021.

Our heavenly Father, by Your great mercy You have bestowed on us every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. We praise You for Your faithfulness and the abundant gifts of love showered upon us. Truly our lines have fallen to us in pleasant places, because even our most difficult circumstances are pregnant with potential blessing. We know all of this is possible only because of Your love.

We are thankful for the opportunity many of us have enjoyed this past week, to be with family and friends to share our Thanksgiving celebration. We are grateful for this reminder of Your many blessings. For some of us, though, an empty chair has emphasized the absence of one whom we love; an empty dream has crushed our hopes; an empty expectation has frustrated our plans and brought disappointment. Our holiday has seemed hollow and our efforts at being thankful a bit feigned. We are grateful that we have a Savior who understands us, who feels our pain and knows our sorrow.

On this first Sunday of Advent, as we turn out thoughts toward Christmas, we ask for Your Holy Spirit to prepare us for celebration of the coming of Immanuel. Help us not lose sight of the spiritual significance of this season, even as we enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays. Bring to our minds again the promise of the coming Messiah whom the ancient prophets proclaimed. Remind us again that people heard, yet when the fullness of time came, they were not ready for the Christ.

Prepare our hearts, O God, for we want to make room for Jesus. We want to live in readiness for His Second Coming, even as we celebrate His first coming. As we marvel again that the Word became flesh, may we not forget (as preposterous as it may sound to the unbelieving heart) that Jesus is coming again, and every eye shall see Him and every tongue shall confess He is Lord.

We pray for our bloodied world, so torn by racial tensions and political conflicts. We hurt for the innocent victims caught in the crossfire, for those whose families have been racked by the pain of death, for those who seek to find hope in the shattered ruins of their country. We pray for the hardened hearts of those whose violent hatred disregard the sufferings of the innocent in order to inflict death and devastation.

As we celebrate the Advent season, keep reminding us of the people who live in the inner cities of our larger metropolises―for those who watch firsthand the disastrous consequences of drugs and crime as their neighborhoods and families are ravished. In our comfortable lives we cannot imagine the frustration of those who find themselves locked into the vicious cycle of poverty, lack of opportunity, and apathy. Forgive us for protecting ourselves by putting it out of our minds and by blaming society for the nightmare of children born into this hopelessness. Forgive us for doing nothing, even though we cannot honestly see how we could make any difference in this horrible mess. Forgive us for being inoculated even against caring.

Change us, Lord. Change our church by changing us. Change our community by changing our church. Change our city by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us in such measure that our own sense of inadequacy is overcome and the power of Your Spirit in us shakes our world.

We love You, Lord; we lay our lives before You. Do in us all that needs to be done, so that You can do through us all that should be done. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Balance and Flexibility

During a check-up on my knee replacement of 2006, the doctor advised only two procedures to follow: balance and flexibility. If I pay attention to those concerns in my daily habits, my knee will last until I’m ninety. That’s what the doctor said.

As for physical therapy, I’m poorly disciplined. The only exercise I practice daily is stretching. I have added an attempt to balance without holding onto the counter as I stretch my legs, and I’m getting good at it. Concentration and practice help my balance. I trust that these stretches also aid flexibility.

Balance and flexibility are also good in life’s other avenues. Reading interviews with three authors, I noticed each stated that they (2 females and 1 male) have to pay attention to balance in their schedules. While writing is a priority, their families come first. Their schedules not only make room for family activities, they are open for interruptions. That spoke to me, for if I’m writing in the morning, I don’t want to stop at noon when Bill asks for lunch. Thus, my attitude is reflected in my actions, and balance and flexibility are not honored. Neither is Bill’s request.

When we’ve visited friends on various mission fields, we’ve noticed their flexibility. Few activities seem to happen on schedule, and those who lead or participate rotate their duties. Yet, the ministries proceed and get results. Missionaries adapt to the culture and thrive―while also balancing their attention to family.

Moral of blog: balance and flexibility are good not only for knees but for life and its goals.

Election Results November 2020

I’m one of those who votes for the platform, not the person. I’ve been told that I’m a one-issue voter, and I don’t deny it. The Democratic platform is pro-abortion, and the Republican platform is pro-life. Life matters to me, so you can be assured that I voted for the party of life.

Carrie’s Baby

As of today, life did not win this presidential election. I want to cry, but instead I’m singing a stanza of an old hymn, “This Is My Father’s World.”

“This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King: let the heavens ring! God reigns: let earth be glad!”

With all my being I know that God is the Ruler yet! Don’t be mistaken, I’m not ready to be glad about the results of this election. The assurance of God’s victory is slow to come for me. But I will still fight on the side of what’s right: life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Right now I need to trust God, for He will be victorious in the battle between life and death. Let’s pray.

Friendship with Authors

It dawned on me last night that I actually know authors. I don’t just read their books, but I’ve developed friendships with those who write and get published. It’s a privilege and a joy to be their friend. Reading a book when I’m the author’s friend is something special. Let me introduce you to three authors I know.

 Trinity is not Joyce Long’s first book, but it’s the first of her books I read. When I went to her book signing at a local bookstore, I got a signed copy. I met Joyce at my first meeting with the Heartland Christian Writers. As the new writer of the group, Joyce gave me a warm welcome. At our Christmas party she had a box of her newly published books, and we shared her excitement. The writers group meets monthly (lately on Zoom), and Joyce is a ball of encouragement as we critique each other’s work in progress (WIP). Her background is in education and nonprofit communications. Trinity is not a theological essay but a blend of personal experience and biblical knowledge to help readers discover the fullness of God.

   John Matthew Walker, MD is a one of the fiction writers in the HCW group. He’s our leader, and he developed the website: https://www.heartlandchristianwriters.com/ Visit the site and read our focus statement. I read the latest of John’s books, Moonlight Awakens, a sex-trafficking story. It’s dedicated to “the invisible, the forgotten, the shamed.” John did his research on this horrific yet mysterious world that involves young girls and their trapped condition. John states his writing genre as “suspense that awakens hope,” and he follows through with that in this remarkable story that moves readers to do something about the darkness of sex-trafficking.

   How Callie Daruk and I became friends was a surprise yet a God-thing. She read my blog and sent a message asking to phone me. Her call was an invitation to help me with my “dream job.” Callie offered her skills with transcription. I sent her a series of Bill’s sermons on cassette tapes and she returned them as typed transcripts for me to edit and prepare for publication. Our friendship grew during the time her WIP became a published book, What Does God Want You to Do Before You Die? I pre-ordered it on Amazon, which was not supposed to happen in that time frame, for I had it before the release date. A mistake that proved beneficial, for I was able to send a review early. Callie’s book―30 devotions to help you begin living your purpose―is only 123 pages but packed full of insight and persuasion to follow God’s leading.

While I treasure my books, these and other authors are God’s jewels to me.

Endorsement with History Lesson Guest Blogger: Mallory North

World Gospel Church – artist view

My wife, Sonya, and I have been members of World Gospel Church in Terre Haute, Indiana, since the Spring of 1983. When our former Pastor Dr. Helmut Schultz and his dear wife, Norma Jean, were led of the Lord to return to the Oriental Mission Field in 1989, the Lord led the WGC congregation to extend a call to Dr. William B. Coker, Sr. to come and lead our church forward. Bill, as he preferred to be called, accepted the call and he and his lovely wife, Ann, served our congregation for the next 19 years. During those years under Bill’s leadership the congregation more than doubled in size, requiring additional educational facilities to be built, and moving from one service on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary to two services.

The highlight of each Lord’s Day was Bill’s capable exposition of the Scriptures. Dr. Coker’s educational training, teaching in college and seminary, and hard work made him expert in the biblical languages and history and cultures in which the inspired Bible was written. He was always able to mine the Scriptures for spiritual treasures, presenting and explaining the milk of the Bible to new believers for their understanding, and challenging the mature believers with the solid food required for their continued growth and service. Bill’s sermons were audible banquets to which the congregation gathered eagerly.

If my memory serves me correctly, recording Bill’s sermons on cassette tapes began as a ministry to members who were shut-in and unable to attend live services. That ministry quickly expanded to include essential workers who were prevented by their occupations from attending on Sundays, and later the staff sent tapes to former members who had moved away and could not find a church in their new locations that provided the richness of Bible teaching we were experiencing under Bill’s ministry. When the internet developed, the sermons were recorded and placed on the WGC website for anyone to listen or download for their personal benefit.

When Bill felt the need to retire from the ministry in 2008, he received permission from the board to obtain the recorded sermons. Because of Bill’s dementia, it became impossible for him to be involved in publishing his messages. Ann (who is a capable writer in her own right) stepped up to the task and organized Bill’s sermons and prayers and had them converted from tapes to digital audio files and finally to written forms. The book, Words of Endearment: The Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love is the first to be published.

Ann graciously provided a draft copy to examine when she asked me to write an endorsement. Bill’s book is a wonderful examination of the Decalogue from God’s point of view. Each commandment given through Moses to Israel (and by extension to all Christendom) is shown to reveal God’s love for His children by setting boundaries within which all can live full and free lives in covenant with the sovereign loving God and each other. The “Words” instruct us how to worship God in spirit and in truth. They teach us that we are His, and He is ours. They show us how to please God and be obedient to His will. Bill’s exposition is deep, yet clear, and filled with applications that help believers make proper choices to bring blessings in their own lives and that of others, while giving us ever deepening fellowship with God. The book will become a treasure to be read and reread by Christians. It will also light the way for the unbeliever who will take the time to read it to experience the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ. ―Charles Mallory North, Jr., PhD

Rhythm of Living

Last week Paul, my son-in-law, said that I ought to take Grandpa (what he calls his father-in-law) out to dinner once a week. He used a phrase that summed up the motive for this suggestion. He has noticed that the Cokers have a “rhythm to life.” We tend to do activities in a consistent way, like scheduled tasks. I like that term “rhythm” for it does describe our routine of living. I’m comfortable with our rhythm. And I’ll demonstrate what Paul has observed.

Mondays I connect with Chad Allen’s Book Camp: “Work Together.” For five Tuesdays I will have classes on Platform. Wednesdays and Thursdays don’t have weekly events. Friday is my laundry day and Saturday is for housecleaning. Sundays we worship, now at church.

Yes, we have gone out for dinner on occasion. Bill enjoys eating out, but he likes best to go inside a restaurant. That limits our choices this season of restrictions.

As for our daily schedule, we watch TV shows or movies after supper. It’s a time when Bill wants me by his side on the couch. It’s not a time for me to finish anything started at the computer. He comes to the study to get me. While sitting next to Bill, I may have a coloring book on my lap, but he wants to know what I’m doing. It’s pay attention time. We head to bed at 10 PM, take our showers, take turns saying a prayer, and sleep about eight hours.  

We’re up around 7 AM and get ready for the day. Bill is in charge of coffee and getting his Cocoa Puffs in the kitchen. I take my yogurt, berries, and granola to the study and eat while reading my Bible and devotional books. Bill’s habit of reading has decreased because of his dementia. He says, “I’ve done that all my life.” The truth is: he doesn’t comprehend what he’s reading. He has read a devotional publication when available, but often needs to be reminded. I’ve had to accept this as part of his disease, for it’s not an issue to be judged.

Bill spends his days with computer games, but has lately been confused by the rules. About mid-afternoon, he turns on the TV to watch old westerns and other shows. He often naps, but he would not admit that. He watches the clock and lets us know when it’s time for a meal.

Bill’s first book will be available this December. It’s titled Words of Endearment: The Ten Commandments as a Revelation of God’s Love. Other books are in process: Pastoral Prayers, Advent, the Church, and Holiness.

My days are mostly filled with writing, editing, and promoting. I tend to spend mornings reading and afternoons writing. I have my book proposal almost completed, so the next step is an agent or publisher. It’s a companion book for The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Title: Journey with Bunyan’s Pilgrim.

I’ve found that I like the process of building a Platform and Marketing, including Beta Readers and a Launch Team who have been invaluable. If you want to keep informed, send me your email address so I can add you as a subscriber.

Is it not obvious that we’re living in a rhythm? I don’t consider myself task-oriented, but I like to know at the end of the day that I’ve been productive. Is that a contradiction? Life is a process of steps, bit by big, moving us to form the big picture of leaving a legacy. Yes, it’s a comfortable rhythm.

Oh, I’ll not apologize for the commercials, for you are part of our community in rhythm.

Sample of Words: Discussion

Bill’s book, Words of Endearment, about the Ten Commandments, is scheduled for the press in a few months. Sermon to Book, the publisher, prepared questions for discussion after each chapter (Bill’s message). Here is a sample of the questions related to the Ten Words.

1st Word: How does your relationship with God define every other relationship in your life?

2nd Word: How are you experiencing both personal and corporate worship in your life and why is each important?

3rd Word: Can God trust you to bear His name?

4th Word: What are the main competitors for your time and attention on Sundays?

5th Word: If your children honored you in the same way that you honor those in authority over you, would they be obeying this commandment?

6th Word: How can you celebrate life—all life—and help to create and cultivate a culture of life in your home, church, and community?

7th Word: What heart issues have already taken place before an affair begins?

8th Word: Do you think of your possessions as your own or as a trust from God?

9th Word: Do you ever lie by your silence, by not speaking the truth when it is needed?

10th Word: How can wrong desires be yielded to God and transformed into godly desires?

Included after each chapter are three sets of questions and an action step to move the reader deeper into the Word as God states it. These questions provide good discussion for individual readers and groups. All this provides further reinforcement for the application of Words of Endearment: the ten commandments as a revelation of God’s love.

If you want to be notified when Words of Endearment is available for ordering, send your email address to Ann: al2.coker@gmail.com Thanks.

What Shall I Do?

This is a sample page of my companion book titled Journey with Bunyan’s Pilgrim. It’s the first day of 13 weeks of a study of  The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. 

Part I: Christian Journeys to the Celestial CityWeek One: Pilgrim Left HomeWeek One Day One

What Shall I Do?”

‟I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his backˮ (p.1, Barbour, 1998).

“A man clothed in rags and weighed down by a great burden on his back stood facing away from his own house. He opened the Bible he held in his hand, and as he read, he wept and trembled. Finally, no longer able to contain himself, he cried, ‘What shall I do?’” (p. 7 Barbour, 2010)

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, NIV 2011). Peter replied, ‛Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ (Acts 2:38).

John Bunyan opened his narrative with a dream. He saw a man reading a Book, weeping because of a great burden on his back. The man cried out, ‟What shall I do?” Although his conviction of sin resulted from reading the book, the book also contained the remedy: ‟Repent.”

Pilgrim wanted neither to die nor face the judgment. But something had to be done. What? Appointed to help him, Evangelist pointed to his way of escape. Ahead lay a gate that doesn’t come into view until light shines upon it. God’s Word is this light (Psalm 119:105).

God’s Word is truly a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), for while it admonishes us about sin, it also shows us the way to be rid of sin (Romans 5:21). Evangelist led Pilgrim to the light. We all need qualified leaders, equipped with biblical truth and a passion to witness to others about God’s truth. Their qualifications put into practice the direct path to God.

My Takeaway: As a teenager I was thankful for a Sunday school teacher who gave opportunity for students to make a personal decision for Christ. She took this seriously, for she even withheld her own pre-teen son from joining the church after attending membership class. Being a Christ-follower is more important than being a church member.

Your Turn: How were you introduced to biblical truth?

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