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Living on Purpose: They hear His voice, and follow Him

Dr. William Holland

1/19/23

By Dr. William Holland

 

Life is changing all around us. With technology providing an opportunity for every person on the planet to speak and listen, we are surrounded by so many opinions about everything, it’s becoming more difficult to discern what is right and wrong. Not only is this massive amount of information chaotic and much of the time unnecessary, but it has reached a point where many people no longer think for themselves. It’s concerning when individuals become so addicted to the lives of others, they ignore the responsibility to develop a meaningful life of their own.

Some might believe there is no harm in using communication as a constant entertainment, but Christians have been warned to not be consumed with the spirit of the world as evil imaginations will attempt to distract and build strongholds of dark attitudes. Ever since the human race could speak and write thoughts, motives and intentions have been to teach and explain. While a portion of instruction can be beneficial, there is also the danger of receiving contaminated information that comes from the desire to control and deceive. This is the snare trap of our day. Romans 12:2 says, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

There is right and wrong, just like there is truth and error. God is always right while we mortals struggle in the quicksand of deception as the result of a lack of spiritual wisdom and understanding. Life contains a specific purpose for each person and it can be discovered, but our earthly journey also gives us the freedom to do whatever we want and unfortunately this is what we usually choose. Every minute we are either doing God’s will or our will and they do not agree. I believe we can say with confidence that if a human ever accomplished anything worthwhile; they were being guided under the inspiration and direction of God.

In the book of Philippians the third chapter, we find an analogy that is used to describe how dedicating our lives to Christ is like participating in a marathon. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” We also see this idea of running in II Timothy chapter 4, “I have run my race I have finished my course” and in Hebrews the twelfth chapter, “laying aside every weight of sin as we run with patience the race that is set before us.” This does not sound like the traditional idea of salvation where a person raises their hand, repeats a prayer, and that’s it, but rather the concept of running denotes constant participation and relentless determination to accomplish whatever God is telling us to do.

We have the potential to know the meaning of life and our unique destiny, but generally speaking, we would rather not be bothered with such things. We desire to live to the fullest, have amazing experiences, and enjoy everything we can while we have the chance. However, when confronted about the consequences of making wrong decisions, we become hostile as we dig in our heels. Those who rebel against God become like fugitives that are always on the run. They become very uncomfortable when confronted with anything that reminds them they are going the wrong way. The beautiful thing about God’s amazing grace is that He does not stop intervening and convicting the conscience of those who are His children.

In the book of Luke chapter 15, we find a few parables, and one in particular Christ talks about a man who has 100 sheep. A good shepherd (which represents God), watches over every sheep and never takes their eyes from them. Verse four declares that if the shepherd loses a sheep, he will leave the ninety-nine and go search for the one until he finds it. When the sheep is found he places it on his shoulders and carries it home where he calls his friends and neighbors saying rejoice with me for I have found the one that was lost. Jesus goes on to make the point that there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents and God brings them back to His presence. The Great Shepherd watching over us today but there is a strong temptation by the world to lead us astray. Are you lost? Can you hear Him calling for you?

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Cooperation

1/19/23

By Stuart Neiman

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Mystery Plant! #705

John Nelson

Posted Jan. 10, 2023

By John Nelson
johnbnelson@sc.rr.com

It’s the branch of a tree, but this tree is no good for a tree house.

Take a look at the thorns, which can be found up and down the trunk, and also potently arming the branches. You won’t be

Gleditsia triacanthos (Photo by Linda Lee)

inclined to fool around with these stickers, as they really mean business, sometimes up to 5 inches long, needle-sharp, and often divided at the base: the species’ scientific name means “three-spined”. No other tree in our part of the world has thorns quite this size, which makes identification very easy. These are “true” thorns, in that they contain sap-conducting tissues which are continuous with the interior of the tree trunk. (Birders will be familiar with the shrike, or “butcher bird,” which uses these thorns for impaling prey: a grisly lunch.)

Large individual trees may be nearly 80 feet tall, and often with a rounded or flat-topped crown. The bark on an old tree will be dark grey, eventually splitting into ridges. The leaves are compound and somewhat fern-like. Its flowers, which are male and female on the same tree, usually, are greenish and fairly inconspicuous; they appear in late spring. Following the flowers, pale green beans will develop. These beans enlarge dramatically, eventually nearly 2 inches wide and over a foot long. The pods turn a handsome, shiny purple-brown, and almost always curl as they mature. The plump, hard seeds within the pod will be in a line, their linear arrangement easily seen from the outside. Much of the interior of the bean is eventually filled with a moist, fragrant pulp, which is edible. To me, these things are not much worth eating, but that pulp is sort of tasty, sticky, and sweet. Like cocoa paste. (Is there such a thing?) Now, I’ll have to tell you that the common name of this tree includes the word “honey”, not because it’s good for honey production, but because the fruits have that sweet, tasty pulp. At least, that’s my idea.

The beans fall from the branches in the winter, often forming a pile around the base of the tree. These beans are prized by wildlife, including deer; cattle and hogs like to eat them, too. The seeds, once they’ve gone through an animal, will readily sprout, as long as they end up in a sunny place. In the autumn, the foliage turns an attractive, bright yellow.

This species is commonly seen in much of the eastern USA, throughout the Mississippi River valley and into Texas. In the South, it is most often encountered in the piedmont and mountains. It is actually something of a pest sometimes, and has fairly recently been designated as “invasive” in parts of South America and Australia. Here in the USA, these trees are often planted, as they form good windscreens, and are quite hardy, affected by few pests or diseases. They also make a great shade tree for city streets…but then there are those nasty thorns. Well, turns out that a thornless variety is available. Which is good if you want a tree house.

[Answer: “Honey locust,” Gleditsia triacanthos]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org or email johnbnelson@sc.rr.com.

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Devotion At An Abandoned Home Place

Tom Poland

Posted Jan. 10, 2023

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Western sunlight sets on an old home’s final days.

No matter how long, no matter how often you travel a road, it’ll surprise you. I’ve driven Highway 378 into Georgia for not quite fifty years. The road has been a journal, and some of my experiences along that highway have made it into print. Roads tell stories, if you look and listen.

Some stories tell of tragedy. I’ve come across the unimaginable “Mule Kick That Killed Eight People” in Edgefield County. Some tell of destruction. I’ve seen three stores arsonists burned along 378. Some tell of sadness. I’ve seen homes go dark when their owners died, and I’ve seen wheelchair ramps go up as the years roll by, but aging’s changes go far beyond wrinkles, silver hair, and wheelchair ramps.

Buildings, wildlife and aging woodlands litter Highway 378, the highway of change. Along the road, winter lays the land bare. I’ve caught glimpses of ghost bridges come cold days after billions of leaves have fallen. Such is the case with the old Hard Labor Creek Bridge, an apparition that vanishes come summer.

But now another form of revelation falls, not rises, to reveal hidden places, the cutting of forests. The rise in lumber prices has translated into felling trees, clear-cutting, and places once hidden by woods reveal themselves. You see the lay of the land and you spot structures long concealed.

In sickness and health, a faithful buzzard waits.

Driving west on Highway 378 for maybe the 1,500th time I saw an ancient house for the first time. Just past Redemption Way stood a house on a red clay hill. Redemption Way, isn’t that a great name for the road leading to a correctional institution? There’ll be no redemption, however, for the old home. It will soon vanish. Some kind of development’s coming.

The old home had to have been magnificent in its day. It had what appeared to be cedar shingles to my inexperienced eye. Might be oak. A tin roof overlay the shingles, and a fine red brick chimney flanked the two-story home’s western side. As aged as it was, the house looked solid.

Details began to catch my eye. In a window partially covered by a collapsed tin overhang I saw a red curtain and scrap of cloth, red also. And red sunlight struck the old house as the winter sun hovered just over the horizon. What held my eye, however, were two birds black as coal.

To the left of the home, northwest as the compass goes, were two buzzards. One was standing by its fallen mate. (To my surprise I learned that buzzards mate for life. So, I’m assuming they were more than feathered friends.) The buzzard maintaining a vigil, I’ll say, did not flee as I approached. It hopped several yards from its fellow buzzard and kept a wary eye on me. Its mate lay on the ground with its left wing appearing broken. The fallen buzzard was dead, or so I thought. Buzzards can play possum; this one did. As I backed away, I saw its head lift.

I respect buzzards. From boyhood times when hundreds of them circled over pastures back home, I’ve paid attention to them. Reviled and deemed repulsive by others, just where would we be without buzzards?

I don’t see them in numbers like I once did though I recall seeing a large wake of buzzards pull at a deer carcass along 378. Their hunched black-shoulders brought shabby-dressed pallbearers to mind.

The original ornithologists, the Cherokee, understood buzzards. According to Cherokee legend, buzzards beat their wings in unison after the great flood. They dried all the mud and their synchronous wing beats carved out the valleys and mountains of Appalachia.

Buzzards and death go together. Buzzards like to perch in dead trees. They love dead houses too and I will surmise that they love their mates, maintaining a vigil, as this one seemed to do. Devoted and protective it seemed. The experts claim buzzards don’t eat fallen comrades, so suppress the cynic in you. Give the carrion-eating buzzard some credit for being a bit civilized, for having, if you will, a touch of humanity.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: Accomplishing God’s will is our purpose

Dr. William Holland

Posted Jan. 10, 2023

By Dr. William Holland

It’s disappointing to God that most people are usually more concerned about what they want in life than asking Him what He requires of them. Since our eyes were opened in the garden, our fleshly nature specializes in the skills of compromising and justifying. Self-deception is common Only a few will take the responsibility to obey Him and get serious about dedicating their lives to being a living sacrifice for Him. Yes, included with the blessings of this life is being accountable.

You might have heard the unpopular verse found in Revelation 3:16 where John relays what Jesus thinks about the church at Laodicea. “So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” We realize parables and analogies are common in the Bible, and without trying to explain the different interpretations of what this verse means, let’s just say that we want our coffee hot and our iced tea, well…cold. Within the context, Jesus is referring to their attitude. In short, He was saying their hearts were in a state of being lackadaisical, apathetic, and lethargic. And, not just this certain group, He is using them as an example of the dangers of backsliding when anyone takes their eyes away from His truth and drifts into the temptations of carnality.

Let us not forget that He is speaking to members of an established Christian church who were supposedly followers of Jesus and His teachings. This letter to Laodicea is the harshest of the seven churches that are mentioned in chapters two and three. There is no beating around the bush on His disappointment and He is warning them about trying to make the Christian life into a comfortable social club. By His judgment of their works, He makes it clear this is a dead church. What does this mean and can it happen today? Definitely. Whenever the members of an assembly see themselves as independent, materialistic, and self-sufficient, they have already slipped into a state of religious indifference.

Jesus continues to be more specific using cutting words such as “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Their lukewarm faith had become hypocritical. The lifeless atmosphere of the services, was the result of a lack of enthusiasm and passion for Christ in their minds and hearts. They had become backslidden and maybe there were a number of individuals that had never been converted, and were just pretending to be Christians. It’s not an exciting topic but there is such a thing as People who practice a form of religion, but their conscience is one of self-righteous complacency. They claim to be taking up their cross and following Jesus, but their hearts are unchanged, and their game-playing is sickening to God.

Many of us have been blessed beyond measure, but having daily quiet times where we pray and worship God, can help us remain humble and aware of the holy respect of His presence that is so vital to our intimate relationship with Him. Just because we have resources, does not mean we are to rely on them more than our faith. Instead of being proud of what we have accomplished let us realize that everything we have has been graciously given to us by the one who owns everything. In modern language, God offers us salvation through Christ and this gift of grace allows us to be transformed into a new person. Our spiritual identity goes from being blind and lost, to being filled with hope and joy that we have been rescued to do His will. Changing our mind changes our attitude.

A common defense of being lukewarm is that it does not matter. This is not true! Being backslidden is a big deal. When we lose our sensitivity and no longer feel convicted by the Holy Spirit, we are in serious danger. Becoming spiritually numb causes us to not care how our sin affects those who see it including God Himself. We do not realize the impact our halfhearted attempt of being a follower of Christ has on everyone. If demonstrating God’s character and accomplishing His will is not our purpose, what is? Accepting Christ is not all there is to salvation, it’s just the beginning. It’s an opportunity, a privilege to serve Him. Like Laodicea, the Lord is demanding for us to repent and get back on the straight and narrow. He is long-suffering toward the lukewarm and forgiveness is available today, but we must see our need and call on Him.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Speaker McCarthy

Posted Jan. 10, 2023

By Stuart Neiman

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2023 Legislative Preview for the Media

Posted Jan. 9, 2023

Rep. Bruce Bannister, Chairman, Ways & Means (R-Greenville)
Rep. Bill Sandifer, Chairman, Labor, Commerce & Industry (R-Oconee)
Rep. Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore (R-York)
Rep. Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore (R-York)
Rep. Jay Jordan, Chairman, Ethics (R-Florence)
Rep. Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore (R-York); Rep. Jay Jordan, Chairman, Ethics (R-Florence)
Rep. Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore (R-York); Rep. Jay Jordan, Chairman, Ethics (R-Florence); Rep. Bill Hixon, Chairman, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs (R-Edgefield)
Rep. Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore (R-York)
Rep. Bill Hixon, Chairman, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs (R-Edgefield)
Rep. Bill Hixon, Chairman, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs (R-Edgefield)
Rep. Bill Sandifer, Chairman, Labor, Commerce & Industry (R-Oconee)
Rep. Bruce Bannister, Chairman, Ways & Means (R-Greenville)
Rep. Bruce Bannister, Chairman, Ways & Means (R-Greenville)

Photos from the 2023 Legislative Preview for the Media, held Jan. 9, 2023, at the Blatt Building on S.C. Statehouse grounds. 

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2023 Legislative Preview for the Media

Posted Jan. 9, 2023

Sen. Shane Massey, Majority Leader (R-Edgefield)
Sen. Brad Hutto, Minority Leader (D-Orangeburg)
Sen. Brad Hutto, Minority Leader (D-Orangeburg); Sen. Shane Massey, Majority Leader (R-Edgefield)
Sen. Brad Hutto, Minority Leader (D-Orangeburg); Sen. Shane Massey, Majority Leader (R-Edgefield)
Sen. Shane Massey, Majority Leader (R-Edgefield)
Sen. Brad Hutto, Minority Leader (D-Orangeburg)
Sen. Shane Massey, Majority Leader (R-Edgefield)
Sen. Brad Hutto, Minority Leader (D-Orangeburg)

Photos from the 2023 Legislative Preview for the Media, held Jan. 9, 2023, at the Blatt Building on S.C. Statehouse grounds. 

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2023 Legislative Preview for the Media

Posted Jan. 9, 2023

Frank Rainwater, Executive Director, S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office
Frank Rainwater, Executive Director, S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office
Sen. Chip Campsen, Chairman, Fish, Game & Forestry (R-Charleston)
Sen. Chip Campsen, Chairman, Fish, Game & Forestry (R-Charleston)
Sen. Chip Campsen, Chairman, Fish, Game & Forestry (R-Charleston)
Sen. Thomas Alexander, Senate President and Chairman, Interstate Cooperation (R-Oconee)
Sen. Thomas Alexander, Senate President and Chairman, Interstate Cooperation (R-Oconee)
Sen. Ronnie Cromer, Chairman, Banking & Insurance (R-Newberry)
Sen. Ronnie Cromer, Chairman, Banking & Insurance (R-Newberry)
Sen. Thomas Alexander, Senate President and Chairman, Interstate Cooperation (R-Oconee); Sen. Ronnie Cromer, Chairman, Banking & Insurance (R-Newberry)
Sen. Katrina Shealy, Chair, Family and Veterans’ Services (R-Lexington)
Sen. Katrina Shealy, Chair, Family and Veterans’ Services (R-Lexington)
Sen. Katrina Shealy, Chair, Family and Veterans’ Services (R-Lexington); Sen. Chip Campsen, Chairman, Fish, Game & Forestry (R-Charleston)
Sen. Thomas Alexander, Senate President and Chairman, Interstate Cooperation (R-Oconee); Sen. Ronnie Cromer, Chairman, Banking & Insurance (R-Newberry)

Photos from the 2023 Legislative Preview for the Media, held Jan. 9, 2023, at the Blatt Building on S.C. Statehouse grounds. 

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Living on Purpose: Enjoying the comforts of remaining the same

Dr. William Holland

Posted January 2, 2023

By Dr. William Holland

As God continues to move upon the earth, He has never stopped calling His children to be truth seekers, to speak His words, and demonstrate His character. The painful fact is this does not happen automatically. There must be a passion to advance into God and this means the closer we come to Him the more we will become the best version of ourselves.

Most people have never really studied religious history and know very little about why we believe the way we do. The traditions the masses learn about God derive from what they have been told and very few have the desire to research on their own to see if the information is correct. I better stop there before I make too many waves, but one thing we can agree on is that personal transformation is one of the foundational pillars of the Christian faith.

When we watch a baby grow and progress in their learning, we celebrate and rejoice in their development. Likewise, there is no reason to doubt that God feels the same way about our spiritual maturity. Changes within our society and culture are inevitable and it’s easy to look back and remember how life used to be and how technology is always coming up with something new. Remember when we used to go to the movie rental store and used pay phones? When we look in the mirror, we can see that our bodies are slowly changing and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. However, there is an area in our lives where change will not happen unless we want it to. We are in control of our spiritual growth.

When we think about God and the spiritual life, it’s relatively easy to construct ideas about the way we believe, and it seems that everyone has private interpretations. We have been given free will to make decisions and we are basically in control of what we think and do. Very few comprehend what it means to surrender their will unto God. We can go to church, sing songs, and even give a few dollars in the offering plate, but no one including God is going to force us to develop an intimate relationship with Him. Christians have been given a new spiritual identity with the capacity to be convicted which is the ability to discern what is right and wrong. However, we can override our guilty conscience by ignoring God, and like a lawyer presenting a case in a courtroom, we can justify our thoughts and actions in the light of intentional self-deception.

There are numerous examples of characters in the Bible who have rebelled against God including His favorite people the Jews, as no human is a robot that He can control. One of the dangers that every child of God faces is compromising with the world’s system which by the way is the easy path and very common among the lukewarm crowd. Only those who have developed an awareness of God’s presence will ever have the faith to stand for His truth. And what is this truth? Well, truth means a lot of different things to many people, but the truth I’m talking about is believing that God is who He says He is. Remember Pilate said to Jesus, “what is truth?” At this hour, this question has never been more urgent. In the preceding verse, Jesus said that He was a king bearing witness to divine truth, and everyone that understands this truth can hear His voice.

I’ve mentioned the comfortable path where we just try to get along with the system without offending anyone, but this is not the way Jesus lived and neither is it the way He wants us to be. The desired path is a commitment to ignore our so-called dignified reputation and declare that obeying Him is our highest priority. When we make this choice, let us be prepared to experience a similar negative reaction that He faced. Taking up our cross and following His demands is not for the faint of heart because it places us on the front line of spiritual warfare. Will we choose the broad or the narrow way? Could it be that our New Year’s resolutions are the result of spiritual conviction? Are we being reminded by the Lord about what He wants us to change? What a perfect time to examine our hearts and dedicate our lives to God more than ever before.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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