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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Turn on Your Headlights!

A few mornings ago, the fog was so thick when I left home for work I could barely see a few tenths of a mile down the road in front of me. I had to take my time, move forward carefully, be prepared to stop, and make sure my lights were on.
Life can be like that sometimes. Our way can be foggy and unclear, and it's hard to see where we're going. That's why we need to read the Bible and rely on God. God said that His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). In many areas the Word provides a clear view of what is right and wrong; the way to go and the way to avoid. On many issues the yes or no is as clear as a bright, sunny day.
But in some areas, the Bible is not so clear. With some questions the way is kind of foggy. As a preacher, the questions I get hit most often with are not the clear ones, but the foggy ones. Like no one has ever asked, "Pastor I hate a certain person, and I want to kill them. Is that wrong?". That's pretty clear in the Bible. But on other questions, the answer is not so obvious, either because what the Bible speaks on it is unclear, or it doesn't speak on it at all.
So the way I try to approach those kinds of issues is to handle it like you would with driving on a foggy morning. Take your time, move forward carefully, be prepared to stop, and make sure your lights are on. In particular I want to talk about making sure your lights are on. And the two headlights I use are two questions I ask myself. 1) Is my motivation sinful? 2) Will it give God's name glorify or shame? Let's test it out.
Ask me about something you are not sure if it's ok with God. I see your hand; you there eating and getting crumbs all over your computer...Ok, good question. "Is it a sin to buy lottery tickets?" Let's turn on the headlights. 1) Is your motivation sinful? 2) Will it give God's name glorify or shame? I think you have your answer. Next question. You there still wearing Christmas pajamas in September... Ok, another good question. "Can my boyfriend and I go to 'third base' and still be pure until marriage?" Let's turn on the headlights. 1) Is your motivation sinful? 2) Will it give God's name glorify or shame? I think you have your answer. (And by the way, if you're rounding third base really fast, it's easy trip and fall into home plate without even meaning to.) Next question. You there with your forehead knotted up because you don't like the answers to the first two questions...Ok, that's a fair question that many people have. "Can't I just make my own decisions. As long as I'm not hurting anyone, it should be ok right?". Let's turn on the headlights...even when you don't want to see what they reveal, turn them on. 1) Is your motivation sinful? 2) Will it give God's name glorify or shame? Whether you like it or not, I think you have your answer.
Look, there is only one place where we can find the answers to all of our questions, and that's the Bible. Some are obvious, but some need a little light to see. The real question is, once we know the answer, will we obey. Don't get me wrong, I struggle with finding some of the answers, and accepting some of those I do find. That's why I think we should pray about it.
Father, we thank you for sharing Your light in this foggy world. There is no telling where we'd end up without You showing us the way. We pray Lord that You will help us see Your truth when the answers are not so clear. And most of all, we ask that when we find the answers, You give us the strength to obey them. We are so grateful that Your Son has risen and His light is burning away all of the fog and chasing away all of the darkness that was consuming us. And it's in His name that we pray. Amen!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

God is Straightening out My Lines!

While growing up working on the farm, one of my regular jobs in the summer and fall was mowing the pastures. As young as 11 or 12, I was mowing with a bush-hog pulled behind my dad's Farmall 140 tractor (some of you know what that is). I remember the first time out to mow, daddy told me that he wanted me to mow in straight lines. He likes his work to be neat, even his farm work. That was a challenge because the pasture is not flat, but rolling hills with trees and ditches to mow around. I asked him how I could do that. He walked up beside the tractor as I was sitting on it backed up on one side of the field. He said "Just look all the way across the pasture to the woods on the other side" as he pointed. "Pick the tallest tree you can see and keep your eyes on it." Then he looked at me "Don't be looking around to see what's going over here or over there; you will lose your tree. And don't look back to see how you're doing, you can do that when you get to the other side. Just keep your eye on that tree and drive this tractor straight to it." Then he walked off to do other things and left me to my mowing.

So I picked my tree, revved up the throttle, let up off the clutch, and started mowing my line. Being a curious little boy with a short attention span, I had to look back to see if his method was working. Low and behold, it was (who knew parents could actually know what they're talking about from time to time). I made it all the way to the other side and turned the tractor around. I was disappointed to see that my line was pretty straight except for the part where I looked back. There was a very obvious curve. So I started again, picked my tree on the opposite side of the farm, and mowed my line. This time I didn't look around, and I didn't look back. And from the other side, I saw that my line was pretty doggone straight. So after several hours, I could look across that pasture and see I had done a good job.

Now as an adult, and more so as a Christian, I can look back at that lesson and see that it has much greater implications than just on a neatly mowed field.God's word gives us pretty much the same advice on how to live our lives. This world and living in it is by no means a flat field. There are lots of hills and valleys and ditches to go around. And we can either choose to just try to live it on a whim, take it as it comes and hope for the best. Or we can set our eyes upon the tallest tree on the horizon, which is the Cross of Christ. If we will open the eyes of our hearts, we'll see that our Heavenly Father has said to all of us what my father said to me. He said we are to focus on the cross and the sacrifice Jesus gave for us. We shouldn't waste time looking around worrying ourselves over the troubles that surround us or comparing ourselves to what others are doing. And He clearly said "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" Luke 9:62

Surely even since I have been saved, I have never been able to mow perfectly straight lines in my life. And if there is anyone who has, I'd like to meet him because His name has to be Jesus. But I can see my lines are a lot straighter than how they used to be. And I have that blessed assurance that one day I will meet my Heavenly Father, and He will look at my field and say ..."Well Done"!