Category Archives: CS Depew

True Treasure

Estate (ist`eit) n.
a landed property. The whole of a person’s property, including real estate and personal estate.

This weekend my family attended the estate auction of my grandmother, Beulah Irene Deckard. There were thirty-two acres with a small house and barn. Furniture sat empty along the walls of the living room and bedroom forming a line of memories out the back door into the yard where there were two tents with tables supporting boxes upon boxes of stuff; much of which I did not remember.

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There were several things that would make the people on those antique reality shows drool. I smiled at the thought as my wife and I walked along the tables looking at everything. But then it happened…we walked by a box of wooden shelves and I saw the crescent moon with a stairwell going from one landing at the bottom of the moon to a landing at the top. There were two of them that hung on the walls holding the small knick-knacks that Beulah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren had made over the years. The sight of the moons that hung on the walls, among countless pictures, waiting to greet us every time we would visit was too much. I lost it. Just as I was able to turn away and choke back most of the tears, we walked toward the tables (plural) of quilts my grandmother had sown by hand.

After the auction was well underway and the real estate had sold, I stepped into the house and found the new owners standing in the kitchen. The wife remarked, as she closed the oven door, how Beulah was known for her cooking, “But this stove looks almost new.” The tears started flowing again as I smiled, “It is. She wore the other one out.”

Matthew 6: 19-21 says, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. When I thought of that scripture, I realized the quilts and meals my grandmother’s hands had made for so many years were never her treasures…we were. Anyone who received either from her was given a gift of abundant love. Her family knew the Gospel because her husband was a preacher. They understood the Gospel because she lived it.

As it turned out, I was able to see my grandmother the day before she died. We had gone down to visit with her in the nursing home. When my mother was ready to leave, she took my youngest daughter and walked outside. I stayed behind another minute because I wanted to pray. When I finished, Granny looked over at me and said, “I want to go home.” That was the first time I had ever cried for my grandmother, because when I looked into her eyes, I was sure she didn’t mean her little house in Gamiel, Kentucky.

In the end, Beulah Irene Deckard left this moth and rust riddled world with her treasures in the right place. We left the auction with a few quilts, two moon shelves, and a lot of memories. But the tears I am wiping away from my face as I write this have a lot of joy in them. You see, I have one more treasure waiting for me in Heaven. I love you Granny and I can’t wait to come home.

 

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A Matter of Perspective

sw2004_2_06aEvery so often, I feel a little out of place or disjointed. I wonder if I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. At first, scrolling through the articles of my fellow partners didn’t help. There are several articles concerning leadership. While those are helpful to an employer, a pastor or even a deacon, what about the rest of us? You can find articles, news, seminars, self-help books or even take classes on how to lead. But what about how to follow? More importantly, what about how to follow non-Christian leaders?

In order to provide for our families, we work more hours or more jobs. We spend more time at work or looking for work knowing good and well our family needs the husband and father around more. But something occurred to me a while ago; the large company I work for doesn’t want me working more. In fact, the company doesn’t want me at all. If they could automate my job today and let me go – they would. I have worked there for seventeen years and they see me as a liability, not an asset.

Now I know the general biblical response to such feelings or situations; we treat those around us the way we would like to be treated. We respect the authority set over us. We try to be a light in the workplace so those non-Christians will hopefully see Christ in us. But that brought me to another problem. I read and/or study my Bible or meditate on a scripture daily in order to help me lead my family. From Genesis on, there is an amazing theme happening through the Bible – God is sovereign. He cannot be stopped. His plans cannot be thwarted. Even when the fathers of Israel didn’t have enough faith, enough courage, or enough brains, God still achieved His eternal plan. That made me realize something else entirely; God doesn’t need me. If He worked around the saints of old, then His will is still going to be done today, with or without me.

I stewed on these thoughts for a few days and then posed a question to a dear friend: If you spend the majority of your day working and reading/studying the Bible so you can provide for and lead your family, what are you left with when you realize you work for a company that doesn’t want you and serve a God that doesn’t need you?

Remember when I said God can’t be thwarted?

Through my friend, God gently twisted my perspective. The truth of the matter is – I was right. God doesn’t need me at all. In the grand scheme of His plan and the universe He created, I am a grain of sand. He will reclaim what is His. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and there will be a new Heaven and new Earth. And God doesn’t need me for one bit of it. But He wants me to be there to see it! You see, this grain of sand means something to its Creator. In the vastness of all the stars, moons, and planets of the universe, God named a grain of sand. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. He doesn’t need me – – He wants me! The thought of being separated from His Creation, even the sand, bothered Him. So much so, that He sent His Son to pay our ransom for sin and bring us home. He wants every last one of us.

As for the company I work for, I was right about that too. They don’t want me at all. But they need me. For seventeen years, I have honed my skills to do the best job I can. They are working as we speak at automating my job, and they will…eventually. But God has this grain of sand right where He wants me. 1Corinthians 15:58 says, Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Out of love, I was created. By faith in Jesus Christ, I was saved. By grace, I am wanted by the King of Kings.

 

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What’s in a Boat Anyway?

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.  They say unto him, we also go with thee.  They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.  But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat?  They answered him, no.  And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye will find.  They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.  Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.  Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.  And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.  John 21:3-8

ontheshoreHave you ever done something as a pure reaction? With little or no thought, you simply react.  This is the third time we find Simon Peter in a boat.  In Luke 5: 4 and 5, there was no reaction, just the obedience, “Nevertheless at thy word,” before he is called to follow Christ.  In Matthew 14: 24-31, we witness Simon Peter’s moment of unbelievable faith with, “Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” that allowed him to walk on water toward Jesus.  Now in chapter 21 of John, Jesus has been crucified and resurrected.  He has appeared to the disciples twice so they know he is alive.  There would have been no surprise.  So what would make Peter react in such a way?  When John said it was the Lord, there was little to no thought.  He forgot the fish in the net.  He paid no attention to what the others were doing.  He grabbed his coat, jumped out of the boat and swam the hundred yards to shore.  Why?

I think it had something to do with his journey.  We often talk about people who are too focused on something as having blinders on.  They can see nothing but their target, whether it’s good or bad.  Peter obeyed and followed a teacher.  He later realized Jesus was the Son of God.  Now Christ had been crucified, buried and resurrected.  And there, I believe, lies one point of this Scripture; after everything Simon Peter had experienced, witnessed and heard since becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, what else could stir him to the point of pure reaction except the glory of the risen Lord?

Too often throughout our day, our focus is on everything except Christ.  Our days are so filled at times it can almost seem to minimize our risen Lord.  So I will pose the question – What are you focused on?  What would merit such a reaction and cause you to jump out of your boat?

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The Representative

family-cross-silhoutteI spent the first few days of my two week suspension bitter.  The internal investigation had been little more than a formality.  The company I work for accused me of negligence and rules violations which caused a derailment.  My union representative, in my opinion, didn’t present the best defense.  I sat in the investigation watching both sides sling accusations trying to catch each other in a lie while both ignored the statement of events.  I didn’t feel like I had been treated fairly by the company or represented fairly by the union.  Neither had seemed to take my statement into account or had much faith in my ability.

It wasn’t until I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount that I realized I had no right to throw stones.

Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father which is in Heaven.  As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.  I work for Him and on occasion have been called upon to defend my faith.  I have the Bible as a guideline with which to live my life.  All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.  But how often did my light truly shine?  How much time did I spend in His word so I was familiar with the guidelines?

 All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.

Matthew 5:44 says, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.  Through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, He has taught me what to say and how to react in a given situation; not just for my own good, but for His glory.  But how often did I listen?  How often did I rely on His ability instead of counting on my own?  I would get caught up in worldly views and arguments instead of concentrating on my only true job – representing God.  When someone attacked my beliefs, did I heed Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, that ye be not judged?  Or did I take it personally and attack theirs.  Instead of relying on Matthew 7:12a – Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, when mud was slung, I slung it back.

As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.

Most importantly, when someone was curious and asking questions about God, how many times had I chosen that moment to be quiet?  My suspension was a glowing reminder of one thing – I have been a poor representative.  This is not a job that is at stake or loss of some income.  These are souls with an eternity of consequences.  We are to represent God before the world, with the same love and conviction Jesus Christ will represent us before God.  I will continually fall short, but my life is committed to Jesus Christ and I will try with every breath I have left.  How ‘bout you?

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It Goes Without Saying

Gospel PaintingWhen the Partners for the Gospel was started, it was meant to be a helpful and encouraging tool for us and others in the ministry.  As I read the articles posted each week by my Christian brothers, I would call this a great success for which I am grateful to be a part.  Since we are all believers, our sharing of the Gospel especially to each other often goes without saying.  But in the last few weeks, I have felt under conviction because of exactly that…it has gone without saying.  There are believers and non-believers alike that visit our site, and every single one of us need to hear the Gospel message daily.

Jesus’ commission to the disciples after the resurrection was simple, and non-discriminate.  Matthew 28: 19 commands, Go ye therefore, and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Mark 16: 15 says, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Luke 24: 46,47 tells us, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And in John 21: 17, Jesus is speaking to Peter.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

I sometimes forget that any Scriptural advice or Biblical teaching I may offer without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is little more than a twelve step program the world could find in any number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  All Scripture is profitable because all Scripture, from the Old Testament stories to the New Testament parables, point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.

Isn’t it amazing that the one thing about Christianity that seems the most unbelievable to the world is the only thing that gives us credibility in the world.  

Christ paid the price for our sins when He went to the cross.  He wasn’t dragged or forced you know, He went willingly and obediently so you and I can be perfect and righteous in the sight of God.  That is what the world needs to hear and I am thankful to Patrick, Michael, Bryan and the others for “preaching and teaching all nations.”  We don’t have to be eloquent or educated to be obedient.  Jesus did the work and provided the message…He told us to “Go.”

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Do We Need a Bigger Boat?

 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?  Matthew 14:24-31

Isn’t it amazing how far God will lead us if we are willing?!  In my previous post, we can imagine Peter launching out into the deep almost as a kind gesture.  “Okay, I’ll do it, but I’m telling you we’re not going to catch anything.”  He was not only willing to fail, but probably expecting it just to appease Jesus’ request and prove he knew what he was talking about.  It was the obedience we discussed earlier with little faith to speak of.

Now we see a very different Peter who is still willing to fail, but this time he is willing to fail with a faith few have ever possessed. 

In both cases he found himself in the midst of the sea.  In both cases there were people watching.  But now it didn’t matter.  He was willing to do something no one had done before; something that couldn’t be done just to be where Jesus was.  We don’t know how far Peter got.  To be honest, it doesn’t matter.  If only for a moment, Peter proved to everyone on that boat at God’s command, if we keep our eyes on Him, He will do things through us and with us that can’t be done.  But we have to be willing to get out of the boat.

I could tell you that I have spent most of my life on the boat, but that would be a lie.  Most of my life has been spent on the dock watching the boat go by.  Getting past what people thought just to get on the boat was a big step.  But I have seen God’s power.  At times I have felt His love and Spirit consume me.  I have wept at the thought of what He has done for me.  And now it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or says; I don’t care if I fail.

I want to get off the boat and be where Jesus is.  How ‘bout you?

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Believe It or Not!

I recently had an opportunity to share the Gospel with a co-worker.  When I asked if he was a Christian, his response was, “No.”  As we continued talking he shared that he did not believe in God, Heaven or Hell.  The cliff-notes version of what he said was evolution explained our presence here, though no one knows how evolution started (meaning no one can answer how the first organism came into existence.)  When we die, he simply believes nothing happens…we die and that is it.  I did not attack his beliefs, but rather sat and listened trying to understand his point of view.  That only seemed fair since I was hoping he would do the same when I voiced my beliefs.

Although I was praying fervently throughout our trip, few answers came to me.  In sharing the Gospel and using Scripture as support, he commented that he believed many Bible stories to be historically true, but by no means believed all of it.  He viewed it as he would any other piece of literature.

I felt completely inadequate because, without the Bible,
I had nothing to stand on. 

Later that evening, as I pondered our discussion, I realized the true difference between a believer and non-believer; Faith and hope.  Perhaps the truest statement I made to him was that I did not have enough faith to believe in evolution.  To believe this world just came to be from an explosion or some other event with no order whatsoever takes a big leap of faith.  Then to believe a single-celled organism somehow appeared and evolved into everything around us is…well, as I said, I don’t have that much faith.  My faith is rooted in the Word of God.  The only thing I accepted from the start is the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  It is true, it is real, and it is without error…that’s it.  From that one belief, everything else is explained.  I can show you when the earth was created and in who’s image we are created.  I can explain the relationship between a man and woman.  I can even tell you why there is great evil in the world today and who we have to thank for our constructive nature, tools and music.  Those are just in the first four chapters of the first Book in the Bible.

What He Was Missing…

It sounds funny doesn’t it; a Christian not having much faith?  But there is something at the core of what I believe that I think my co-worker is missing – HOPE.  I find hope in the fact that there is a God and He is the creator of everything.  I find peace in the fact that God gave His creation free will to sin or rebel against Him only to provide a way to overcome that sin through His son Jesus Christ.  And most importantly, I have hope in the fact that this if not the end.  I do not have to endure the horrors in this world just to have it end when I die.  I can look forward to spending eternity with my Creator and Savior.  It makes the time I spend on this rock a little more bearable.  (All of that is in the Bible too.)  But then there is the question of how can I believe the Bible is true?  It may have started with a small amount of faith, but believing God’s word gives us true, eternal, awe inspiring hope.  God showed me so.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
1 Peter 3:15

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Reflections: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I normally don’t spend a lot of time in front of the mirror.  Even when I do to shave or brush my teeth, I take little time out of my day to really look.  But today was different.  I paused and took a long, hard look because today, I am forty-two years old.

Forty-two years ago today, God chose to bring me into this world.  He did so with a plan, a purpose for this boy born six weeks pre-maturely on October third in Covington, Ky.  As I looked at the face staring back at me, sifting through the memories that accumulate, I realized God’s plan would have involved few of the things I had said or done in that time.  Of course, you can argue the experience factor: all the things I have done have molded me, for better or worse, into the man I am today.  And without the Holy Spirit to guide my conscience, I wouldn’t care about the manipulative or hurtful words spoken in anger or haste in the first half of my life.  I could chalk my life up to…well…life, and go on with my day.  But there is something more going on here.  God knows all things, He is God.  Yet He still brought me into this world knowing I would fail Him time and time again.

In fact, as I reflected, I realized that was the one thing I have done with spectacular success.

But God is also patient.  From this day in 1970, He looked ahead 9 years to when I would accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  He knew I would understand the basics of salvation, but it would not be enough to keep me from being overwhelmed by the “eye candy” of this world.  He saw the day 24 years later when I would quietly and prayerfully give my life completely to Him.  He knew the day would come when I said, “Whatever you want, wherever you want me, whenever you’re ready; I’m in.”  I guess I needed the experiences, but only because I didn’t pay attention.  You see, I was brought up in a good, loving Christian home.  I was taken to church every week.  I heard the Word of God; I heard the Gospel, but I didn’t listen too closely.  He gave me every opportunity to be shielded from this world, but I sat oblivious to what was really being said and what was really at stake.

There is still too much of me in the mirror.

As I look at the man in the mirror, I see grace and love.  Not mine, of course, but God’s.  The world should look at me as I am now and see Jesus Christ…but they don’t.  I know there is still too much of me in the mirror.  But He isn’t done yet…not by a long-shot.  The first half of my life I spent a lot of time and energy getting in the way.  I wonder what I’ll see in another forty years as I spend all of my time and energy trying to stay out of His way?

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Launch Out into the Deep

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.  And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. Luke 5:4-5

“Launch out into the deep…”  I’m sure many a sermon has been preached on those five words in chapter five, and deservedly so.  Those five words address a faith many are inspired by but few experience.  Launching out so far that God is the only possible rescue and the only possible explanation for success.  Reading from our desks or easy chairs gives us a false sense of detachment when we think about faith of this magnitude.  The mere thought of that kind of blind obedience brings with it exhilaration, excitement, fear, anticipation, anxiety, doubt and of course rational thought.  That’s why it is the kind of faith that only 300 men in Gideon’s 32,000 man army possessed.

“Nevertheless at thy word…”  Simon Peter along with James and John had just cleaned their nets.  Being up all night they surely had not sat in one place.  They had moved back and forth across the water, looking for any sign of fish.  They were tired and ready to go home.  Maybe tomorrow would be better.  (It certainly couldn’t get worse.)  There was no earthly reason to go back out and drop those nets again.

But something caused Simon Peter to do it.  Maybe it was the literal thought that it couldn’t get any worse.  Maybe it was to demonstrate that he knew what he was talking about.  Maybe it was just to appease this man and get him off the boat.  Whatever the reason, I doubt it had much to do with strong, unwavering faith.  That came later. Notice that Jesus told him to let down his nets; plural, and Simon agreed to let down the net; singular.

No, the faith and belief that sustained Simon the rest of his life began with obedience. 

God is God.  He will test our faith, reward our faith, and grow our faith to a degree we can’t imagine.  Want He wants from us is not huge, undying faith – that will come.  The Almighty God of the Universe, our Lord and Creator wanted one thing from the Israelites and He wants one thing from you and me – obedience.  What minuscule amount of faith it takes to obey is sufficient.  

Think of all the rational objections you can.  Reason how what you feel led to do makes no sense and you don’t even believe half this stuff.  Tell yourself how crazy this will look to everyone around you.  And then remember the four words of obedience that changed Peter’s life and eternity – Nevertheless at thy word.

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The Anniversary

My wife and oldest daughter are beginning a Bible study of the Proverbs 31 woman.  On the eve of our 13th anniversary, I realized I haven’t thought of Shannon as a Proverbs 31 woman.  But that was because I never had to.

Verse 11 and 12 says she is trustworthy and constant in her love.  I have trusted Shannon with all the things of my heart for thirteen years and I have never questioned or doubted her love for me or our children.

Verse 13 through 29 tells us this woman is among other things; industrious, thrifty, not idle, willing to do hard work, compassionate, prepared for the future, wise, kind, and not satisfied with the status quo.  I can tell you the life of a railroader is hard for his family.  I can also say I am the sole income for our family.  But that doesn’t paint the full picture.  You see, while I pay the mortgage on our house – Shannon makes it a home.  While I get aggravated when we spend money – she always manages to get what we need and leave something in the bank.  When I am away from home – our daughters are still home-schooled each day.  As I came home and want to rest or play with our children – she makes time to talk to her husband above the daily noises of a busy, chaotic household and still does the chores that my arrival interrupted.  She does without time for herself to make time for her family.

Verse 28 to the end says she is blessed by her family and a woman of God.  But I hope by now you see that she is not as blessed as we are.  I am to be the spiritual leader of my home, but the means by which I am able to do that is Shannon’s love of the Lord.  Our lives are centered around our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but I find our daily reminder of that in my wife, the mother of my children.  Is it any wonder King Lemuel’s mother said in verse 10, this kind of woman is rare?  Yet, I never gave the Proverbs 31 woman much thought because that is exactly the woman I married.

Anyone can make marriage vows when they are filled with “or”:  For richer or poorer, for better or worse, sickness or health.  It takes a special woman to keep those vows long after every “or” has been replaced with “and”.  And I’m telling you, if you’re married long enough, there won’t be an “or” anywhere in sight.  But the “ands” are where God shows you why He gave you each other.  God did not simply give me a partner, friend or wife.  As always, He provided what was missing to make me whole; He gave me “one flesh.”

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