You can hear him barking way before you can see him. Loud, persistent and ferocious, he's making his presence known. He's kept on a long heavy chain by his owner and around his neck is a thick sturdy collar. As you get closer to the big dog you hope the chain and the collar are both strong enough to hold him back. When you get within sight of him, his barking gets so loud it hurts your ears. The hackles on his back stand up as he stares you down. Your heart pounds. He leaps up as you keep walking toward him and you wonder: just how long is that chain?
Wait a minute. Who would be stupid enough to keep walking towards a big barking dog like that? Anybody with sense is gonna get as far away from those snapping jaws as possible. Nothing good can happen from getting closer to that sort of danger. One step too close and you could end up seriously wounded, or even dead. Just like a chained dog is dangerous if you get to close to him, so is the killing power of sin in our lives. Getting too close to sin is what Catholics call "the near occasion of sin." It means putting yourself in a situation or around certain people or things that can tempt us to sin. There's a beautiful Catholic prayer that we pray after we've confessed our sins called the "Act of Contrition." In it, we tell God how sorry we are for offending Him with our sins and we ask Him to forgive us and to give us the grace "to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin." Getting too close to situations that tempt us is just as dangerous as getting too close to that big chained dog. That's why it's so important to examine your life closely to identify your sins and what or who draws you close to sin.
To begin with, sin is willful. That is, you can't sin by accident or without meaning to. You have to know that the action is sinful and you have to consciously choose to do it anyway. So if sin is a choice, you can also choose NOT to sin. We know that we need the help of God's grace to avoid sin. Without grace, we're weak and easily tempted. We keep committing the same sins and can't seem to break the pattern. Grace is our only hope. Christ is our only hope. We received the gift of His grace at our baptism when we were drawn into the very life of God. Baptismal grace brings us out of darkness and into Light. Baptism makes us a child of God and opens the door of heaven for us. God's grace fills us again in every Eucharist. In the sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit once more infuses us with God's grace and love. He gives us so many opportunities for the strength we need to avoid sin.
What's your near occasion of sin? Are you as fearful of sin as you are of that dangerous dog? You should be. You should be even more afraid of sinning against God than of that big barking dog. The dog can wound your body but sin wounds your immortal soul. Sin can kill your soul if you allow yourself. St. Pio of Pietrelcina, known better as Padre Pio (1887-1968) was a 20th century saint who described how dangerous this can be: "The devil is like a rabid dog tied to a chain; beyond the length of the chain he cannot seize anyone. And you --- keep at a distance. If you approach too near, you let yourself be caught." So the question is: just how long is that chain? Do you keep yourself far enough from the things and people and situations in your life that tempt you to sin? Are you aware of whom and what you must avoid so that grace can help you to avoid sin? Pray that God will reveal your sins to you. This is one of His great gifts to us. When we know sin for what it is, we can begin to overcome it with His help. You will see your sins for the horrible and deadly things that they are. As Christians, we seek to do the will of Christ and we pray that His grace will help us to closely follow Him. Stay close to Christ in prayer. Open your heart to Him. Stay close to Christ in His Church and in the sacraments Jesus made for us. Begin each day by offering it to the Lord and every evening, examine the day and ask God to forgive you for the sins you've committed that day. Soon God will help you to recognize those near occasions of sin in your life. You'll hear the barking dog from a long distance away and God's grace will keep you far from his dangerous bite.
"Sin isn't the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is the denial of sin."---Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895 - 1979)
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Charlotte McGuffey, Salem Baptist Church
Sunday was a good day in the Lord’s house. Bro. Mike Teague brought the message in both services.
We missed Marshall and Betty Taylor and Tim and Connie Taylor and their girls who were attending the Taylor family reunion at Fall Creek Falls. Others were away on vacation and visiting relatives.
After the Sunday night service, we had a homemade ice cream social to celebrate those having birthdays in June. Everyone seemed to enjoy the ice cream and just about every topping imaginable and other goodies and the time of fellowship with each other.
Continue to pray for Buck Blevins who is home under hospice care and we pray for peace and comfort for him and the family at this time. Susie McNish still needs our prayers as she recovers and tries to regain strength. We also pray for Archie. Others on our prayer list are Brenda Callahan, Haley Stone, Mary Eslinger, Tania Neal, Rev. Wayne Hamrick, a cousin of Mike Teague and others.
Mark your July calendar so you will not forget our events in July. Our homecoming will be on July 15, Vacation Bible School will be held July 23 – 27, and our 5th Sunday night singing will be on July 29.
Frank and Jean Scoggins, David Scoggins and Brian and Meg Scoggins enjoyed camping several days last week at an RV park at Fort Mountain. They all had a good time. Frank, David and Brian enjoyed fishing and the younger two tried to outdo Frank.
James and Tilda Trew were back in church Sunday after returning from their wedding trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, New Orleans, Louisiana and Destin, Florida. We were glad to have James’ great-grandson, Tyler Grant, with us on Sunday.
Belated anniversary wishes to Mickey and Jewel Liner who celebrated their anniversary June 24. Happy anniversary to Jerry and Margaret Watkins who will be celebrating 56 years of marriage on June 30.
Happy birthday to Austin Parson and Marshall Taylor who will celebrate their birthdays on July 10.
As the column for next week has to be in by this Friday, June 29, I will probably not have any news by then so I want to wish all of you a safe and happy July 4th holiday. As you celebrate, remember what the day represents and give thanks for the freedom we enjoy.
Emma Jo Davis, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church
Our Veteran's Appreciation Service was great. We had a good number of veterans come for the service. The Vietnam Veterans of Chattanooga presented the program along with the Hat Ceremony. The preacher was very good but I did not get his name.
The meal after the service was very good. We had plenty of food and not a lot left. Thanks to all the ladies that helped with that part of the service. Several told us how much they enjoyed everything. I think we have been having this for about 30 years now. It is always a big blessing.
The Peters family reported a good time at their reunion on Saturday. They had a good number to attend. Sorry Lula Petty and Ellie Pitts were not able to attend.
I said in last week's news that the Silvey Reunion was to be at the Old Nutrition Center, that is wrong, it will be at the Keith Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. It will be July 14th.
I am thankful to have my son, Tim and his family visiting from S.C. this week. Billy Mitchell was able to be in church on Sunday evening. He seems to be doing better but still needs prayer. Dianne Hullender will be having radiation treatments soon. Remember these in your prayers.
Others on our prayer list are: Ellie Pitts, Lula Petty, Norma Headrick, Bernice Orr, Johnny Chapman, Benny Wilson, Kim Owens, Shirley Krajesky, our servicemen and women, our missionaries and our nation.
Happy Birthday wishes go to Gloria Ivester, Melissa Rhodes, Louise Pangle, Baileigh Pitts and Aiden Pierce, all on June 30th. Jo Cochran, July 2. Jo Self, July 4.
Happy Anniversary wishes to Jerry and Margaret Watkins, June 30th.