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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

God's Got Big Arms! (A Morning Prayer)


My morning prayer...
Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I pray that today someone will meet You when they meet me.
Lord, I am amazed at how You bring old memories to mind to teach me new truths. I thought about an ad I used to see in magazines way back when I was a little boy. It was advertising a book that would show you how to exercise and grow big muscles in "just 15 minutes a day". What I remember the most is the comic strip in the ad. It was of a skinny young man sitting on a beach with I guess his girlfriend. Then here comes this big, muscular guy running by and kicking sand in his face. When the skinny kid tries to confront the big bully, he grabs the kid by his little arm, comments on how skinny he is, and then threatens to beat him up. So, of course the kid orders the book, goes home and exercises, and in no time he's standing in front of the mirror flexing his newly found muscular arms ready to defend his honor. I think he goes back to the beach, bops the guy in the face or something, and now all the ladies want him..or something like that.
Lord, I think that jumped out at me then and has stuck with me until now, because I was that skinny little kid. I was the boy with the noodley arms feeling like I was less than because I was smaller than. I never got sand kicked in my face, though I guess I somehow thought that I would. But nevertheless, anytime someone ever said something about how skinny I was, whether from friend or foe, whether they meant to hurt me with it or not, it left a mark. So, what did I do? Well I got into college and then I got into the gym. I thought I would feel better about myself, more confident in my own skin if I had some big arms to flash. So I worked out feverishly and my arms got bigger. I'm not sure if they were ever big enough to be flashing, but they got bigger. So I guess I felt a little bit better that if trouble ever came my way, trouble might think twice if it caught a glimpse of my guns.
Well Lord, the ironic thing is just about the time that I stopped being that skinny little kid, was right about the time I grew up, You got a hold of me, and I stopped caring about that kind of stuff so much. Go figure! But there are still bullies in my life that love to kick sand in my face, just not the kind I can see. Now that I live for You, I realize there are spiritual forces that pick on me and would love to shame me on the beaches along my walk with you. And the thing is Lord, my spiritual arms have gotten bigger, but they would never be big enough to scare them. Buuuuut, You on the other hand, Your arms are massive. Jeremiah even said "Ah Lord GOD! behold, you have made the heaven and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for you."
So mighty Father, I call on You to show Yourself strong in my life. There are some things I face that worry not about how strong I have gotten, physically or spiritually. So I need You Lord to flex Your arms and let those spiritual forces know that I am Yours and You mean business. I pray You be gentle with me but be forceful with those things that come against me. You said that Your strength is made perfect through our weakness, so here I am Lord, I am Your man.
Lord, I always feel protected with You because You are strong and mighty; and I always feel comforted by You because You are kind and merciful. I love You for that. In Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Check Your Settings

My morning prayer...
Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Yesterday was good. Can You help me make today great? I promise to give You the credit.
Father, of course I see You in everything. Well, some time back I bought a new iron. I really liked the old one, but somehow I managed to knock it off the ironing board, and it never was quite right after that. I hadn't had to buy one in a long time, and I didn't realize there are now so many choices just for an iron. They had several within a price range I was comfortable paying, so I had to choose from those based on the options and settings each one had.
Well I finally picked one, and I have been using it for a while now. But, I can't say that I yet understand all those settings it offers. Lord, there are several settings I can choose to adjust the temperature and steam based on the fabric of what I am ironing. Suffice it to say that I just boil it down to two settings I try to stay between...hot enough to stick to my clothes and not hot enough to get the wrinkles out. I do leave the steam setting on high because it just doesn't seem like it's ironing unless I can hear that sound.
Father, thinking about that, I realize that I too have many settings. I can adjust my knobs to change how I function depending on the situation I'm in or the people I'm around. I can adjust my dress, my attitude, my posture, and my behavior, all depending on the situation I'm in or the people I'm around. Even with just how I talk, I have settings for 'work mode' and 'with my kids mode' and 'around my friends mode'. I even now have a 'church mode". But there is one setting I never want to turn off, and that's 'Child of God mode'.
Lord, I never want to forget who I am and Who I belong to. I am Your child now, and I want that to show it no matter what situation I am in or what people I am around. I want my Christian life to be consistent from church to home to work and to my community so that I can glorify You. I want my Christian light to shine not just when I'm in church, but also when I'm in Walmart, or when I'm home alone.
I must admit that there are times when it would be easier for me if I could turn my 'Child of God' switch off, even for just a moment. It would be easy to turn it off when I get angry or when I want to get even; real easy when I am tempted or even when I'm tired. But Lord, I don't want to do what's easy, I want to do what's right. Every where I go I want everyone I meet to know that You are mine, and I am Yours. This Child of God wants to make his Father proud.
So Lord, give me the strength and courage to leave my switch on 'Child of God'. You showed me that You love me by never changing Your settings, even when it would have saved Jesus. I just want to show You how much I love You by not adjusting mine. In Jesus name. Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Do Pine Trees Lament Over the Limbs that they Lose?

On a particular Saturday, if you had driven past my house, you may have seen me, as some of us country folk say, booting up in my yard. In preparing to cut my grass, I was bending over (to translate for you city slickers) picking up little limbs and pine cones. I have a few, pretty massive, pine trees in my yard, and every week they deposit little limbs and pine cones that I try to pick up before I start with the grass cutting.
I've done that a million times in my life over the years, but for some particular reason on this day, I stood up from my bending over to look up to the top of one of those trees. The lowest branches are probably 20 feet up. I noticed how far those little limbs and pine cones had to fall to hit the ground. Then I wondered, if those trees had feelings, how would they feel about constantly losing those little limbs and pine cones. Would they feel remorse over the sight of what was once part of them now lying on the ground? Would the trees talk among themselves giving their condolences over their losses. I doubt it.
I would imagine that if those trees could think and feel, they'd think about their Creator, and feel ok about the process of loss that He built into them. You see, it is healthy for those trees to lose the little limbs and pine cones. Every one of those limbs I picked up were dead. As long as they were hanging on, they were adding weight but contributing nothing to its growth. So the Lord sent a wind just strong enough the sway the tree for it to lose those limbs. And the seed of that pine tree is in that cone. So no knew pine tree would grow if one first didn't lose a cone.
Of course if you've ever read any of my posts, then you know this is really not about pine trees. It's about you and me. I don't know about you, but I often lament over the little limbs and pine cones I lose in my life. Of course not all the losses in my life have been little, but I have even moped and groaned over little losses that seemed huge to me at the time. But I've had to learn, and still learning, that with God, loss is a part of growth. In God's kingdom, when we lose we actually gain. Whether it has been people, places or things, I can look back now and see how God has sent winds of circumstance and change just strong enough to remove what was dead weight in my life, as well as those that needed to be deposited somewhere else to grow.
Look my friend, if you are struggling with some little limbs and pine cones you've lost in your life, just think of a pine tree. Then remember what Jesus said... "Every branch in me that bears no fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15 15:2). The Lord loves you, and He's not shaking your tree to hurt you. He's not taking things away to punish you. He wants you to grow and the good things in your life to multiply. Both take time, and time takes faith. He cares about you more than any pine tree, and the Lord never fails!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Broke Down? Call Your Father!

Ever had a breakdown? No, I don't mean a mental or emotional breakdown. I mean your car broke down. Bummer isn't it? I've driven all kinds of cars in my life, and usually I drive one until the wheels fall off, as they say. So I've been through many breakdowns.

I remember my first was when I was in college. It was the end of my first semester, and I was driving a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I was heading home for Christmas break, and I was leaving Greenville on a Friday evening. Most of the students had jetted out of town, and by the time I stopped to get gas around 10:00 PM, the town seemed deserted. I got my gas just as the store was about to close, and hopped back in ready for my ride home. But the car wouldn't start. There happened to be a guy about to pull out the lot who tried giving me a jump, but the car wouldn't do a thing. He said he thought it was the starter. I didn't know much about cars, so I had no clue what it was. All I knew was I couldn't fix it, and I sure didn't have the money to pay someone else to fix it. That guy left, and the guy working in the store was turning out the lights and told me he was about to close up. So there I was broke down, no money and no one there to help me. My college buddies I knew well enough to call on were long gone. So I didn't know what else to do, but to go over to the pay phone (yes this was before cell phones), pull out my quarter, and...call my dad.

I hated to have to call him, because it was late, and I knew he was probably in bed tired from working all day. Not to mention, he was almost an hour and a half away. I don't know what I expected him to do, but I didn't know what else to do. After the phone rang a few times, he picked up. I could tell I woke him up. And I said that stupid thing we say when we call someone late at night..."Were you sleep?". DUUUH. As I was explaining what was going on, I was squinting as if to brace myself for his response. You know like when you're about to open that can of biscuits knowing it will pop. I guess I was expecting his response to be about what my response would be if someone called me in the middle of the night like that. I was expecting a big sigh, or a "Lord have mercy", or "Boy you mean to tell me I gotta get out of bed and...". But I realize now that was my expectation, because that was before I was a father myself.

To my delightful surprise, my dad without hesitation simply said "I'm on my way!". For that skinny 18 year old kid, broke down, standing in the dark at a pay phone, far away from home, that was one of the best things I'd ever heard someone say to me. And not only was I glad that I could hear the urgency in his response letting me know he was going to come as quickly as he could, but I could also hear in his voice that he was glad that I called on him.

I dug that story out of my mental archives not to show you how great my daddy is, though he is pretty awesome. I shared that story of my earthly father to point you to my Heavenly Father. In my walk with the Lord, I have found that He is just as eager for me to call on Him when I need help. Psalm 46:1-3 says "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.(which means stop and think about it)"

Do you feel broke down in your life right now? Broke down in your marriage; your finances; your health; your peace of mind? Feel like there is no one who can help you or who wants to help you? Then call on God! Call on Him right now. Because not only can He help you, but He wants to help you. He will be glad that you called.

Selah!