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

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Not a Magnifying Glass. It's a Mirror!

Most of you are probably familiar with King David in the bible. And if you are familiar with him, then you probably know that he was a godly man who did an ungodly thing. For the sake of time, I'm not going to focus here on the sin he committed with Bathsheba, and the subsequent sin he committed to cover it up by having her husband killed. If you don't know the details, read 1 Samuel chapter 11.  Instead, I want to focus on his reaction when his sin was pointed out to him.

The Prophet Nathan knew what David had done, and not because he was a prophet. Nathan could see that Bathsheba was already married to Uriah, that David had her summoned to his palace, that strangely Uriah was called home from the battlefield then sent back out, that he suddenly was killed in battle, and that shortly after David took Bathsheba to be his wife. Yeah, it was plain to see what was going on to Nathan and everyone else, except David. Sinful desires have a way of blurring our vision and lowering our IQ like that.

Nathan decided he needed to reveal to David his own sin; not to embarrass him or to dethrone him, but to save him. So he told the King a story. He shared a tale of two men. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned many sheep, and the poor man had only one little lamb. The poor man raised that lamb in his home like it was his child. One day the rich man had guests over, and instead of taking one of his own sheep, he took the poor man's lamb, killed it and prepared it for dinner. (Now watch David's reaction)

The King was furious. David said that any man who did such a thing should die. Then Nathan looked David in his judgmental eyes and said some of the hardest yet must helpful words that he probably ever heard. He said "You are that man!". (Again, watch David's reaction). He could have told Nathan he was crazy and didn't know what he was talking about. Heck, he was king and could have had Nathan killed on the spot. But instead, he fell to his face with a broken and contrite heart, and cried out "I have sinned against the Lord". That's because at that moment, David's eyes went from looking outward to see the faults of others, to looking inward to see his own.

You know we might think that David had it made to have a Prophet right there with him so that God could speak directly to Him. But we've got the greater benefit of having all 66 books of the bible at our fingertips so that God can speak to us everyday. And many of us use it, but we use it the wrong way. We want to use the bible like a magnifying glass so that we can examine the faults of other people. We read the scriptures or hear the scriptures preached and immediately think of other people it applies to, and how they are wrong, and how they need to change. But God did not send me or you His word to be a magnifying glass. He sent it to be a mirror. He wants us to look into His perfect word, to see His perfect ways, and to meet His perfect Son. And when we do, it reflects back to us who we really are and reveals our imperfections. Not so the Lord came shame us, but so He can change us.
James 1:23-25 says "For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it".

So the next time you pick up your bible, and I hope it's real soon, say to yourself "This is not my magnifying glass...this is my mirror". Brace yourself for what you might see, then let God change you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Live Like a Light Bulb!

Quick question. Have you flipped on a light switch today? You probably did, but you didn't even think about doing it. Another question. Why did you turn that light on? Did you turn it on so you could see the light bulb? Did you hit the switch and say, "Hey, there's that light bulb. I've been looking all over for it."? Or did you turn it on and say "I think I'll sit back and watch some light bulb for a while"? No, of course you didn't. That's because the purpose of the light bulb is not to shine a light upon itself.

Guess what, as Christians we are called to be like light bulbs. God puts gifts, talents, abilities, skills, and knowledge in all of us. And those things create a light that shines bright and others will notice. But not for the sake of drawing attention to ourselves. No, of course not. Like a bulb, we're to shine our lights so that others who don't know God may see God.

Since there's been Christianity, there have been Christians using their gifts to become spiritual super stars. Yet Jesus Christ, the Bright and Morning Star Himself, never made an attempt to take credit or gain acclaim. In fact He did the opposite. He concealed His glory, and took the seat of a servant. And He did it all so that others could see God in Him and around Him. He said in John 17:1 "...God glorify your son so that he can give glory back to you." And then in Matthew 5:16 He tells us "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Brothers and sisters, we are living in a dark world that's growing darker by the minute. And those who are lost don't need to find us. They need to find Jesus. So every time you hit a switch, let that light bulb be a reminder that when you let our light shine, let it be the Savior that others see.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Day of Joy is Better Than a Hundred Years of Happy!

I often preach on and post about the biblical principle of not looking back. I believe God is forward moving, what He has in store for us is ahead and not behind, and we can't effectively grow into His plan for our lives with our eyes fixed on the rear view mirror. One of my favorite scriptures that I remind myself of often is Luke 9:62 "Any man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God." Can I get an Amen!
Even though it is biblical that we not look back, I do believe it is quite practical that we think back from time to time. After all, how can we ever grow wiser and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. So, for a moment I want to think back to my life before I got saved. So here we go. This is just between us, so don't be telling people my bizness..ok?
I gave my heart to the Lord in 1997. Every thing started to change in my life on that day, and I am so glad to now be counted among the redeemed. However, I have to admit that during those 26 years that I lived without living for Christ...I was happy. I know that might sound counter-productive to my evangelical calling, but I was. I was happy. Sure there were rough times, sad times, and painful times. But overall, they were happy times. I had a happy childhood, a happy adolescence, and a happy young adult life. If my life were chronicled like a reality show, and I could randomly select footage from say just the last 5 years before I came to Christ, you would see a whole lot more smiles than frowns; a lot more laughing than crying. Even when I was about as far away from God as I had ever been; during the times I was "running the roads" as folks around here say, I was having a blast. I may have woke up many mornings hungover, empty-walleted, and afraid to try too hard to recollect what I did the night before because I didn't want a pesky little thing like guilt to slow me down from doing it all over again. But...I was happy.
I have come to realize that I have, and many other preachers have, incorrectly or perhaps incompletely described the life of an unsaved soul. We describe it as dark, dreary and void of any happiness. And for some that is completely true, but for others that's only partly true. And when we do that, we imply that Christ ONLY came for those who are unhappy with their lives without Him. But that's not true. He also came for those walking around singing "Because I'm Happyyyyy..." and if you told them they needed saving, they'd ask "From what?!".
See, on that day that I recognized my plight as a sinner, realized my need for a savior, and professed my faith in Jesus, at that moment I saw what I had been missing. It wasn't happiness. It was joy. And like a child who's never had chocolate ice cream never has a craving for chocolate ice cream, I didn't even know what I was missing. All those years, I thought happiness was enough. I thought momentary smiles that masked the tears of my soul were enough. I thought a few hours of fun was fair trade for years of regret. I thought that enjoying myself was the goal regardless if I was killing myself in the process.
Oooooh, but now that I've had chocolate ice cream. Now that I know what it's like to truly smile inside and out even when my circumstances say I should be crying. Now that I know what it's like to have a peace that passes all understanding. Now that I know how it feels to have heaven in my heart when there's hell all around me. Now that I know what joy really is, I wouldn't go back for nothing. I wouldn't take a hundred years of happiness in exchange for one day of the heart-filling, soul-quenching, life-changing joy that I've found through Jesus.
The Apostle Peter had seen both sides, and I think he said it well. So I'll leave you with a passage. 1 Peter 1:8-9 "You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Before the Concrete Cures

I always consider it an honor to officiate and/or preach at the home-going service for one of our members, or someone I know. It is a heavy responsibility to be God's mouthpiece for grieving family members and friends. I also recognize it as a valuable, evangelistic opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with some who might not otherwise go to church to hear it. When given the chance to serve the Lord in that way, I don't take it lightly; and I don't attempt to do it without His help.
Just yesterday, I was honored with such an opportunity when asked to preach at the funeral for Mr. Buddy Lynch. He was known and respected by a lot of people, as was evident yesterday. Many people knew Mr. Buddy by his trade; he had a concrete business. Lots of people there had foundations, sidewalks, steps, and many others things made of concrete poured and finished by him and his crew. So, because of that, God lead me to share a word with them about concrete, which I'd like to now share with you.

Concrete has been around for thousands of years. From the pre-modern era, the Romans are often credited for using it. Concrete Roman structures still stand today, including the Pantheon, which is over 2000 years old. Other notable structures that used concrete in other parts of the world include the Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal. The amounts of concrete those projects used will boggle the mind. Today it is credited as being the most widely used, man-made material. The only natural material used more is water.

Concrete endures because it is so strong, especially when you add reinforcement like steel bars. But it came to be so widely used because of it's "workability". Whereas with stone structures, you've got to shape it and move it and lift it and stabilize it. And if you mess up and don't' chisel it the shape you want it, you have to start all over again. But concrete can be mixed on site or trucked in; pumped through pipes; rolled in a wheel barrel; or carried in a bucket. Then you can make it into any shape you want by pouring it into forms. Once it is poured, the construction science turns into an art. A skilled craftsman like Mr. Buddy can finish the concrete with a trowel to give it any shape and texture. People even write their name or the date in it, and it will practically last forever; or until the Lord returns at least. All of that you can do with concrete, but…you have to do it before the concrete cures. Once it sets…it’s set.

Concrete is a lot like you and me. All of us, some more than others, have that workability quality. We all start off as a rough, rocky, mushy mess. We're born sinful and self-centered. But in the hands of God, and having the willingness to let Him work, we can be formed and molded into something so much better. The Holy Spirit, using the bible as His trowel, can smooth away our rough edges, and shape us into the image of Christ Himself. But one day, we'll all draw our last breath, and at that instant our concrete will have cured. Whatever we are at that moment, we will be forever. Whether we're with God or without Him; saved or lost, we'll be that for the rest of eternity.

 So I encourage you that while your soul is still like wet concrete; while there is still some workability about you, let God change you. Let Him save you and create a whole new you. Let Him put your past fully in your past, and lead you into a new future. Let Him change your situation, your family, your world around you by first changing you. And please...please let Him do it before your concrete cures!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

From Mud to Mansion

If you are at home, take a moment to look around at your house. If you're not, think about what your house looks like. Notice how it's constructed, and what it's made of. Pretty sturdy, huh? Well, it has to be. Not only does it have to support you walking around in it, but it has to withstand rain and wind and lots of other stuff. Now, think about how long your home has been doing that. Some of you may be living in fairly new homes, but some of you are in homes that have been standing for years. Amazing isn't it?

I'll tell you what's else is amazing. There are some dwellings in the Southwest United States that have been standing for over 1,000 years; Some with people still living in them. And what's even more amazing is that these homes are mostly made of...mud. Yeah, that's right mud. They're called pueblos. Whereas your home is probably made of lumber and bricks and nails, and concrete, and shingles, and lots of other stuff; these homes are made of adobe which is dirt mixed straw that hardens like concrete. These homes are good for insulating from the southwest sun, and obviously good for withstanding the test of time.

Guess what you are mostly made of? Mud!; or more precisely dirt. At least our forefather Adam was. The bible says in Genesis 2:7 that God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into him. And like the pueblos, these bodies that God created are very durable. We can last a long time even through hardships, fights, sickness, injuries, and even having babies. I've witnessed that twice, and still don't see how women make it through that (much respect to the mothers). Of course some lives are cut short, but some last a long long time. For example, my great grandmother was 105 when she passed away.

However, like the Pueblos, at some point these old bodies will finally fall to the wearing away of life. And what once was the physical structure that houses who we are eventually returns to the dust of the earth, leaving only the memories for those who will remember. But I hope you know that end is not our end. Who we really are runs deeper than the flesh and bones in which we currently dwell. Inside of that earthly home is another one of God's creation that will never cease to exist...our soul. And it is not a question as to IF our soul will live forever, but WHERE! Now, we live in the bible belt, so I'm pretty sure I don't have to spend time on this post describing the two choices available to us in eternity. But what I will say is that I hope you've made the right choice.

The Apostle Paul, who at the time was faced with the end of his own life here on earth, wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:2 "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." You see, we who have accepted Christ get to trade in this earthly shell that's little more than a tent for a mansion made in glory. And it is a glorious home we get to dwell in forever. And when I say we, I hope that includes you.
Wouldn't you like for your story to read "From mud to mansion"?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

God is Restoring Me

Take a look at this car. That's the latest project of my good friend Tony. Now, if I had come upon that car, I likely would have thought something like "What a hunk of junk!". And if it were in my yard, I likely would have paid someone to tow it to the scrap heap. But not Tony. When Tony looked at this car, he didn't see it for what it was at that moment. No. He saw what it could be. More specifically, my guess is he looked at it and thought of what it looked like when it first came off the line back in 1966. How shiny it must have been. How that engine probably purred. How it might have felt cruising through "Hollywood" listening to "You Can't Hurry Love" by the Supremes, or "When a man loves a woman" by Percy Sledge, or some of the other hits from that year. And with those thoughts, Tony looked past its current state and set out to restore it to what it once was.
I feel like that's how God looks at us. Where others might peer down thier noses to judge our present flaws, and summise that the best is all but behind us, and we're good for nothing and can do nothing for good; God instead sees in us the possibilities of what we could be. He has the grace-filled ability to look past the dents we bear from bad decisions; the rust on our bodies from a life worn down by sin; the shattered windows and windshields of our souls, some broken out by the storms of life, others by the rocks hailed by our haters. And not only can God see past all of that, He, and He alone, has the power to restore us unto Himself.

In the book of Joel, you can read about the rusting away of Israel's obedience to God. For generations, Israel had chosen their own ideas and desires over the commands of the Almighty. This led them to their vulnerability and weakness, which led to them being conquered by their enemies. The picture of their spiritual demise was best painted by the physical destruction of their crops brought by locusts. Locusts go through different stages of development. First, the worm-like larvae stage, then the crawling stage, then the hopping stage, and finally the flying stage. At each stage their swarms bring about a greater level of destruction to crops, which Israel experienced. And as their crops slowly wasted away, so did their relationship with God and their spiritual strength. Sort of like that 66 Chevelle wasting away in the weeds. Sort of like you and me at points in our lives.

But God, who is not only our great Creator, is also, through Christ, our great redeemer. He promised Israel that if they repented of their sins and returned to Him, He would restore everything they had lost. In Joel 2:25-27, God said through the prophet "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the Lord your God, who does these miracles for you. Never again will my people be disgraced. Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced". And that, my facebook friend, is not just a promise to the nation of Israel. Through Jesus Christ, it is the covenant made to every believer.

At one time in my life, spiritually speaking, I felt about like the first picture of Tony's car. Now look at this second picture below, and see how I feel now. God saw what I could be, and in 1997 when I confessed my faith in Jesus, He began a restoration process to make me into what He could see. And just like Tony is not yet finished with his Chevy, God is not yet through with me. Every day He's building me back to what He intended from the start, and I can see more clearly what I will be when He's finished.