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

Friday, January 24, 2014

No More Tears

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4
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No matter what causes it to start, it usually starts the same. The initial onset of silence; flush feeling; lump in the throat; then here they come...the tears. We've all cried. Some may cry more than others, and our tears may be provoked by different things, but we all cry. Sometimes when we see others cry, it makes us feel uncomfortable and we might do the "ooo-kkkkk" and then walk away. For some, crying is contagious, and the tears of one can start a flood from others. But, we all cry.

I cry from time to time. If I sat and thought about it for a few minutes, I probably can name just about every time I have cried as an adult. Like when my daughters were born; when my wife got the word that she had to have heart surgery; when my mom died and several times thinking about her since then. There may be a few others, but those are times that I all-out, runny-nose, ugly-face cried. Certainly, there have been many other "near-misses"; times I've tuned up and choked up. A sad or touching movie will work it up in me from time to time (especially when it's a touching moment between a father and child..ever seen that old movie The Champ where the son sees his dad die after a boxing match?...oh that's a tough one). Also, when I feel the presence of God or see God moving in my life or the lives of people around me. That stirs up the tears too.

You ever wonder why we cry? Scientists give many reasons for it. Some say it releases needed hormones or flushes harmful toxins. Some say it relieves emotional pressure that if built up could cause physical problems. Some say its a social device aimed at triggering a reaction from those around the one doing the crying. I guess they're all right. I sort of look at it like we all have an internal, emotional cup. As our emotions build on the inside, whether it's sadness, hurt, anger, love, or whatever it is, that cups fills up until at some point it spills over in tears. I think some people cry quicker than others because they're more emotional and their cup is always at least half full. Not right or wrong; just how they are. Some people rarely let you see them cry because they feel however they feel about crying, and they learn how to intentionally shut off the emotion valve before the cups fills up. Not right or wrong; just how they are. And then there are those who often feel like a good cry would be helpful, but somehow an automatic shut-off switch has been installed by perhaps their parents, their friends, or by the tough situation they grew up in and they can't cry. Not right or wrong; just how they are.

So why all the talk about crying? Well, I don't know. I guess because there's been a lot of crying in my community lately. A lot of deaths. I mean just this week there are two families on my road who have lost a family member. I'm pretty sure they've been doing a lot of crying the last few days. Two co-workers had family members to pass away too. One lost her uncle to a severe asthma attack, and another lost her 15 year old nephew who was shot in the streets. They've probably been doing a lot of crying. So, I don't know. I guess the Lord wanted me to deliver a message to those reading this through tear-soaked eyelashes. First, He wants me to tell you that...it's ok to cry. Don't feel bad about crying or feel like you have to turn your switch off. He gave us tears for a reason. In fact, Jesus wept. So if crying was necessary for Him, it certainly is for us. And I think God also wants me to encourage you with the fact that if you believe in Jesus, then one day you will get to go to a place where tears will no longer be needed. He'll wipe them all away one final time and there will never, ever, ever be another tear to roll down your precious face. So it's ok. Go ahead and use up those tears you've got stored up, because one day you're not going to need them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

The Roman empire was one of the greatest civilizations ever. Not because it lasted the longest or it's army was the strongest, but because of it's influence throughout history. Certainly the Roman Empire spread its influence in commerce, language, art, politics, and warfare to the lands that it directly conquered. But, that influence also permeated throughout much of the rest of the world and throughout history. One of the main reasons its influence was able to get around so well was because of one of Rome's greatest accomplishments...roads. Romans took land travel from what had been mostly poorly kept foot paths to a system of stoned, well-drained and methodically interconnected roads. At its peak, the Roman empire laid claim to over 250,000 miles of roads. And they invested so many resources to such a road network because they knew that to grow and maintain an empire, they needed a way to easily move both military and goods.

But my purpose is not a history lesson, so let me get to my point. Not only did these roads make it much easier for Romans soldiers, Roman goods, and Roman ideas to get around. It also made it easier for the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ to travel too. Jerusalem and all of what we know as the Holy Land had become a part of Rome's conquered empire. So when Jesus gave His instructions to the twelve, and the Disciples became Apostles, the Roman roads made it much easier for them to 'go ye therefore'. The Apostle Paul often traveled throughout by boat to carry the good news, but he also traveled a lot on those Roman roads. And the amazing thing is that the Romans started to build that network of roads about 500 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. So from that we can see that God was literally paving the way for the love of Jesus to spread and for many to hear of that good news.

That causes me to press pause and reflect. Just think of how long before you and I were ever born, God was already paving the way for us to be where we are. And long before I was ever in church on that Sunday in 1997, He was laying down the stones so that I could hear of what Jesus had done for me. Not only does that encourage me looking back, but it also gives me hope looking forward. I know the Lord has already laid out my path to get me from here to where I need to be. The things I need to have, the people I need to meet, the experiences I need to go through. I believe God when He said in Jeremiah 29:11 " For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." I also know that God's way is not a crowded path. Not many are willing to go down that road because it requires sacrifice. It requires us to take the back seat and letting Jesus take the wheel. But I am ready to go down that road less traveled.

How about you?