Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Take Time to Be Thankful

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18
Long ago, Europeans left an old world to come to a new one; some for the satisfaction of exploring; some for economic opportunity; some to be free to worship in their own way. Whatever the motivation, they struck out together on a long journey for a new life. This new world was both full of promise and laden with problems. Many of these Pilgrims, as they came to be known, were Puritans, a branch of Protestant Christians. They were separating themselves from the Church of England, and were striving to be “purified” from what they saw as corruption in the church. So with Bibles in hand and hope in their hearts, they climbed on boats to sail to a new land.

In September of 1620, one such group of Pilgrims boarded a boat called the Mayflower and set sail for America. After about 2 months of hard travel, they reached Massachusetts and started building a settlement called Plymouth. They were ill-prepared to survive the winter they had walked into. Though they started building their settlement, they lived off their docked ship through the winter. Many did not make it to see Spring. History teaches us that friendly Indians of the Wampanoag tribe, most notably one named Squanto, showed the Pilgrims how to not only survive, but to thrive by farming and fishing. And thrive they did. By summer, their settlement was established and crops were growing in the fields.

As it had already been tradition among the Puritans, and many cultures for many centuries, the Pilgrims decided to have a feast the fall of 1621 to celebrate the bounty of their harvest and to give thanks to God. One Pilgrim wrote home of the celebration, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. ….And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Likewise, God has been good to us. And the least that we can do is to take time to be thankful. Even when we don’t have enough, or when things are not going our way, there is always something to be thankful for and God is always worthy of our praise.

Take time to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Climbing Over a Fence of Fear

"For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." Isaiah 41:13
   I came along pretty much at the end of a string of generations in my family who worked on the farm. Therefore, I had lots of great experiences that my children will never have, and that makes me a little sad. Like for example, I used to love following my dad around on the land. Sometimes we'd walk around the pasture and through the woods checking the fence to make sure the cows where being kept in or to find a place where they'd gotten out. About half of his land is open pasture and the other half wooded. He had just about all of it fenced in for the cows; some of the fencing much like that in the picture above.

As a little boy, walking the land was like an adventure. We'd walk through pastures, cross over creeks and climb up or down wooded hills. But at some point our excursion would come to a road block, or a fence block I should say. We would get to a place on the land where we would have to cross over a barbed-wire fence. The fence was only about 4' tall, but to a little boy it looked liked 12'. So for me it was practically insurmountable. No matter what was on the other side or what our need was for getting to it, I couldn't cross it. If I had been by myself, I would have had no choice but to cut my adventure short and to head back from whence I had come. But...I wasn't alone. My daddy was with me. So he would cross over the fence first. Then he would reach back over and grab me under my arms and lift me over the fence. Granted, that process of going over was scary becuase I was afraid of that barbed wire. It would have done little more than snagged my clothes or at worse scratched me a bit; but to my little eyes, I thought it would slice me to shreds. But my fear was abated when I remembered that my daddy was strong enough to lift me high enough that it wouldn't even touch me, and it didn't. So we crossed that fence and our adventure continued.

In the 16 years I have been walking with my Heavenly Father, I have found him to be a lot like my daddy, but better. Walking with Him has been an adventure to say the least. It has been exciting to see the places He has taken me and the power and love He has revealed. But as wonderful as it has been, I have had many difficulties along the way . I've had to climb over haters and hurters. I've had to get past problems and pain. I've had to make it over sickness and death. And I couldn't get past any of it without climbing over a fence of fears. Had I  been alone, I could not have made it over. But I am not alone, and I never will be. My Father walks with me, He has climbed every fence ahead of me, and in the times that my courage was not great enough and my faith was not strong enough, He picked me up and carried me over.  Now who wouldn't serve a God like that!?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
  Do you prefer mayonnaise or miracle whip? I am a miracle whip man myself. In fact, for most of my childhood, I thought miracle whip was mayonnaise. It was all that I remember having in the house, and all that I remember eating. I even used to eat what I called mayonnaise sandwiches, but it was actually miracle whip I was spreading on that white bread.

It was probably sometime during my teenage years that someone somewhere was making me a sandwich, and asked what I wanted on it. Of course, I asked for mayonnaise, and of course....what I got was mayonnaise. One bite into the sandwich, and I was immediately trying to mask that "what in the world is this?" look that was showing up on my face. It was the funniest tasting sandwich I had ever eaten up to that point, but my momma had taught me that you never complain about food when someone else is nice enough to feed you. So I just ate it and smiled. 

I later learned that it was mayo on that sandwich and not miracle whip. And I also learned that what I had been eating all those years was not mayo, but a sandwich spread that was similar to mayo but sweeter. But even to this day, I still prefer miracle whip, because for all those years my taste buds had been trained to prefer miracle whip.

In the passage here in Proverbs, the literal translation of the Hebrew phrase "train up" means to condition or train the palate. In other words, God is using the notion of training the taste buds to like certain things as a spiritual metaphor. See, all those years, my taste buds where being trained to like miracle whip and not mayo. Or like yours may have been trained to like pie over cake, or sweet tea over lemonade, or McDonald's fries over Burger King's, or whatever it might be. So with that understanding, we can see that the Lord is commanding us as parents, as teachers, as church leaders, as older brothers and sisters, as who ever is in a position to influence a child, to do what we can to train their spiritual taste buds for the things of God. To teach them to appreciate His word. To show them how prayer should be a part of our everyday life. To raise them in church so they can't imagine having a life that's not part of one. To model for them a love for God and a love for His people. Because the Lord promises in this passage that when we do, they will not depart from it when they get older.

Like with me, at this point I have tried all kinds of mayonnaise and all kinds of things that you can spread on a sandwich. But miracle whip will always be my preference, because that's how my parents trained my taste buds. Just like they trained me up to also have a taste for the things of the Lord, and from that I will never depart.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The World Ain't Flat But My Bible Is

"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth." Psalm 119:142
It's somewhat of a popular misconception that Christopher Columbus set out to prove that the world wasn't flat. Truth is, by his time is was a known fact among scientists and seafarers. He really set out to explore, because that was his passion. And those who invested in his voyages were looking for commercial opportunities. However, there were some people at that time who still believed that the world was flat and thought that if he sailed far enough, he would sail off the side of the earth. They rejected the truth they had been told because they couldn't reconcile it with what their eyes could see. After all, if you stand on a beach at ocean's-edge, it looks like there is an end to the earth. It looks like you could sail off over the sunset, not into the sunset. 

You know, similarly there are many things in God's word that people reject because it doesn't jive with what they see or think. A God who is everywhere and eternal, though we can't see Him? A perfect place prepared for those who believe? An eternal punishment for those who don't? A savior born as a baby, lived as a man, and died on the cross who separates us from the two? To many, it just doesn't make sense. But the truth, and always will be, what God says is true! Just like the fact that perhaps millions of people believed that the world was flat didn't mean that it was. Truth exists outside of our own opinions or acceptance of it. That's what  makes it truth. 

So, even though the world isn't flat, my bible is. And my bible flat out says that God loves you, whether you believe it or not.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Don't Let Your Blessing Become Your Curse

"And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Exodus 32: 3-4 (NLT)
Do you know where those gold earrings came from that Israel used to make their golden calf? God gave it to them. Yep, just a few chapters earlier in the book of Exodus, as the children of Israel were being lead out of Egypt, the Lord instructed them to go to all of their Egyptian neighbors and ask them for all of their gold and jewels, jewelry and trinkets. Not to buy it from them or steal it from them, but just to ask them for it. And the Lord touched the Egyptians' hearts, and they just gave it to them. So though they were living as slaves, God's people were on their way to the land He had promised them with great riches to help start their new life.....And look what they did.

While Moses was up on the mountain talking to God, they got tired of waiting and decided to make their own god to worship. And that wasn't long after the Lord had commanded them to have no other God but Him, and to make no graven images to worship. Yet they took that gold and melted it down into a statue of a calf to worship (which was probably something they saw the pagan nations around them do). That's a allow what was given as a blessing to become their curse. And not just a shame on them, but also a shame on us.

We are all guilty of similar sin. God blesses us with a job, then we end up spending more time focused on that than our families or Him. He blesses us with homes and cars, and we develop pride over those things and turn them into idols. He blesses us with  gifts and talents and we use them for our glory and not His. You get the picture, and the picture is this. If we're not careful, our blessing can become our curse.

So I encourage you to do what I will do myself. Count your blessings, thank God for them, them ask Him to put them and keep them in their proper place in your heart. Then you will not only receive a blessing, but you will be a blessing.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Until Your Well Runs Dry or Your Foot Valve Goes Bad

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14
You know, you never miss your water until your well runs dry...or your foot valve goes bad. I was out of water here at my house for a couple of days. At first I didn't know what was going on. I was hoping my well hadn't gone dry. That would have been a much more difficult problem to solve. But I couldn't know until someone who knew what they were doing could come by and look at it. Finally someone did. He figured out very quickly that it was the foot valve that had gone bad. Its a device at the end of the line at the bottom of the well that allows water to be pumped up out of the well but won't let the water flow back into the well. He fixed it. I watched. Problem solved. Lesson learned.

  In addition to learning what a foot valve is and how it works, I was also reminded of how we use water so much in our daily lives. Drinking, bathing, brushing teeth, washing clothes, cooking, washing cars, watering flowers, and so on. Water is such a part of living; it even makes up about 70% of our bodies, yet I realize how much I take it for granted. Sure, I was able to get some water to do what we I needed to do, but my life was hindered considerably all because of a lack of running water. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I was when that water started flowing into my house again.

   There is something even more necessary for living than water, or I should say someone. God is everywhere all the time, which is great because we need Him everywhere all the time. There would be no plumber to fix my foot valve if it were not for God. There would be no foot valve to fix if it were not for God. In fact there would be no water in the ground for us to dig a well if it were not for God. Yet, I'll be the first to admit that I go through parts of my day not even thinking of Him. I have received blessing and didn't thank Him. I have needed help and failed to call on Him. I have had questions and didn't think to ask Him. I have basked in His glory and delayed in giving Him praise. Shame on me for that, because I know where I would be without the Lord...I would not be.

   I am so glad that I will never have live with out Him, and never again will I have to experience a relationship without Him. Not only because He exists around me, but also because He lives within me. And for that well of water, I am truly grateful.