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

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just Because You Have the Right, Doesn't Make it Right

Let me ask you something. How do you handle your haters? You know who I mean. The people who don't like you, talk about you, treat you bad, out to get you. How do you handle your haters? When they talk about you, do you go and talk about them? When they post something ugly about you on FB, do you post something ugly about them on FB? When they run up and get all in your face, do you run up and get all in theirs? When they sneak and do devilish things behind your back, do you....ok you get the picture.
I want to share a little secret with you. And it must be a secret because you don't see that many people applying it. And really you won't learn it by watching tv or watching what others do. But here it is...our little secret...Just because you feel like you have the right to get back at someone doesn't mean it's right to get back at someone. Let me share an example from the Bible.
You know of King David right? As a young boy anointed by God to later replace King Saul; killed the Philistine giant Goliath in the Valley of Elah; invited to live in the palace by King Saul who treated him like a son; became a great warrior and the people loved him. Yeah, you know him. Well, when Saul started hearing the people cheer David's name more than his own, he grew very jealous. And as you probably know, jealousy is a strange yet powerful emotion that if not put in check will drive you to do things you never thought you'd do. It drove Saul to spend the rest of his life trying to kill David.
David had to run after several attempts on his life. In the Book of 1st Samuel Chapter 24, we read that one day King Saul was going around looking for David. He took a break and went into a cave to relieve himself. David and his men happened to be hiding in the back of that cave. Saul didn't even realize they were there. David's men told him to take advantage of that opportunity and kill Saul. How do you think David handled his hater? Had every right...right? Not only would everyone around David have understood why he did it, they would have cheered him on.
Well, the Bible says that David only cut off a little piece of cloth from Saul's cloak. As Saul exited the cave, David revealed himself by holding up that piece of cloth. This is what David said to Saul..."Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me." 1 Samuel 24:11 (NLT)
Look, let me give you a few pieces of advice. First of all, just because you feel like you should get back at someone doesn't mean you should. I mean come on, if you went and did everything you felt like you should do, me and everybody reading this post would have to put our pennies together to bail you out of jail. Second of all, our emotions are like dogs. It's one thing to let them in your house, but if you let them sleep on your couch, soon they'll be sleeping in your bed. You have to control your emotions and not let your emotions control you. And the power of God through the Holy Spirit helps us do that. Third, and most important of all, if God can show grace to us, then we certainly can show grace to others. We often want God to be generous with His grace when it comes to us, but stingy when it comes to others. And that ought not be so.
You never know. That unusual, unmerited display of love and forgiveness just might be what your haters need to point them to Jesus.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Can't Quit (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord...
Thank You for another day. As I prepare to go before Your people to share Your word, I pray that I go with Your strength and receive Your approval,
Father, it's amazing how I can look back over my life and see how You have been preparing me all of these years for where I am right now. I can see more clearly now the lessons You were teaching in what at first just seemed like regular life experiences. For example, I was thinking back to when I was in the 7th grade, and I decided to try out for our middle school football team. The only football I had played was backyard ball, and I certainly was not built for it at the time. My skinny frame was barely big enough to hold up the helmet and pads. But I wanted to be on the football team because many of my friends were trying out, and thought it would be fun to stay after school to hangout with them.
Well Lord, it didn't take long for my loosely held interest in playing football to unwind. Within the first week I got laughed at because my pads kept bouncing around on my narrow shoulders every time I ran; I got yelled at by the coach for sitting on my helmet; I almost passed out from getting too hot; I got stung by a bee on my stomach while doing up-downs; and I got creamed by the biggest 8th grader in the history of 8th grade while doing practice drills. And that Lord, was more than enough for me.
So, at the end of the week, I quit. I didn't do any dramatic exit; didn't make some grand speech and storm off the field. No, I just didn't go back to practice. And in the days that followed, I sort of felt bad because I didn't...feel bad. I thought it should have bothered me more that I didn't stick with it, or maybe I should feel some shame for being a quitter, or something. But I didn't. I realize now that it didn't bother me that I gave up on football, because I know that I wasn't made for football, and I really didn't care about it that much about it.
Lord, there have been other things I have thought about quitting to. I have to be honest with You, so I honestly admit that I have at times thought about quitting ministry. There are times that it gets so hard. Sometimes the challenge of balancing ministry and work is just too much. Sometimes it seems like it's not making a difference. Sometimes it feels like quitting is not only the easy option, but it feels like the only option. But, I realize that there is a difference between ministry and 7th grade football. Unlike football, I do have an interest in ministry. And not only do I have an interest in ministry, I know that I was made for ministry. There are a few gifts You have poured into me and countless life experiences You have shared with me, all to prepare me for..ministry.
You ordered my steps not to get me ready for success in the corporate world, not to become a celebrity, not to become great in any other field. I know that ministry is what You trained me and called me to do. And I know if I were doing anything else, I would be outside of Your will, and that's not where I want to be.
So Lord, no matter how I feel right now or how I might feel in the future, I won't give up. No matter what people say or do, I serve You. It didn't work out for me to become a football star, but that's ok. I belong to You, and what You say, I will do. I will follow Jesus as my example and heed the words of Hebrews 12:2 which says "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.". I know that You will finish what You started, and what You started in me You started a long time ago.
Lord, You're worth it all so I'll give it all, and its all because I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jesus Knows the Way, I Know I Trust Jesus, and That's All I Need to Know

When I was in high school, I was in the FFA. In case you didn't know, that's Future Farmers of America. (Did you just chuckle?) Hey, it's a great program, even if you're not planning a future in farming. Annnnywaaay. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the FFA national convention two years in Kansas City, Missouri. I want to give a quick shout out in memory of the late Mr. Mack Edwards. He was the FFA advisor, and he had a tremendous impact on my life.
The first year I went to the convention, I was super excited. It was my first time on a really long road trip. I had been to VA, DC and MD because I had brothers and sisters who lived up there, but this was the furthest I had flown from the coop. There are lots of things I can say about that trip and the experience, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on this.
I was thinking that to this day, I could not tell you how we got there. I mean I know the group of us was split between a van and Mr. Edwards' car. I remember what it was like riding cramped up in the back of that car listening to Mr. Edwards say "Dad dum this...Dad dum that". I remember the ride, but not the roads. I paid absolutely no attention to the highways we took or the turns we made. I guess I didn't concern myself on how to get to Kansas City.
In fact, when we were prepping for the trip, signing up and raising money, I never stopped for one moment to even ask Mr. Edwards if he knew how to get there. I can tell you the places we stopped and the sights we saw. I remember seeing Graceland and the Arch in St. Louis. I remember seeing the mighty Mississippi and touring a Kentucky horse farm. But I don't remember the route we took to get there. Now that I think about it, I guess I believed Mr. Edwards knew how to get there; I knew I trusted him; and that was all I needed to know. Which was a good thing because it allowed me focus on enjoying the trip.
Now as an adult I absolutely have to worry about those things when taking a trip. I now worry about the way to get there, what time we'll leave, what traffic will be like, and how much gas will cost. My daughters get to sit in the back and their only worry is "Are we there yet?". In some ways I envy them and that they can focus on nothing but enjoying the journey. Because they know I know the way, and they know they can trust me, and that's all they need to know.
Thinking about Mr. Edwards and that trip to Kansas City, I realize I need to trust God more on my journey through life. I have to admit that I sometimes get worried over the roads I will travel and the turns I will take. I get uptight when God doesn't show me the details of the route He has mapped out for me. I get anxious when I don't know where a road will lead or which turn to take. When instead I should be excited about the destination and enjoying the journey. I know I need to do a better job of living the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 which read "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
If this is something you need to work on too, then let's pray together. ...Lord build our trust so that we can leave the driving to You. We want to enjoy the ride. We want to get excited about the wonders of Your glory that we'll see along the way. Help us to get back the childlike faith we once had. Let not the cares of this life steal our joy as we travel to the next one. We know that You know the way, and we know that we can trust You, and that's all we need to know. In Jesus name. Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Because I Said So!

Let me ask you something. How did it make you feel when you heard these words as a kid...."Because I said so!"?
Yeah, remember that? You were told do something, or to stop doing something, and uncontrollably that one, 3-letter word came bellowing out of your little mouth..."Why?!". And whether you asked that as a sign of defiance or you honestly and simply wanted to know, it may have been abruptly and firmly met in response with...(say it with me now) "Because I said so!". Well, I don't know about you, but it hurt my little feelings back then. I thought it was a cold, if not mean response to a valid question. Especially since it was coming from my parents who I thought loved their lil baby boy.
You know these days, not too many kids hear that response. Some how we have gotten to the point as parents that we feel like it's necessary that we reason with our children. That in order for them to fully obey us they must fully understand us. And even in some cases, I have seen parents in an attempt to explain themselves to their children, they end up negotiating with their children. But you know, the truth is that a child, or a teenager for that matter, is not going to always understand the reason behind all the things we tell them to do or not do.
Like when I was a boy, it really made no sense to me that I needed to make my bed up every morning. For Pete sake, I was going to mess it right back up that night. Or what was so wrong with me eating a candy bar for breakfast? I was hungry and it was what I had the taste for, so. Not to mention, I thought it was more efficient because with a candy bar I didn't have to mess up any dishes. After all the wrapper was the plate and my fingers were the fork, and I could lick both of those clean. So to those commands and others, I couldn't help but to ask "Why?!", which was quickly met with "Because I said so!". And guess what? I might not have had sense enough to not ask "why" the first time, but I certainly had sense enough not to ask it a second time. I might not be the smartest, but I am certainly no D-U-M-Y!
Of course now as an adult, and especially as a father, I truly understand all the "why's" behind the things my parents commanded me to do. Wisdom gained through living life and reading the Bible have helped me to understand that my parents weren't being tyrants. They were loving me and getting me to do what was best regardless if I understood why or not. And I love them and thank them for that.
And so it is with God. As His child now, there are areas where the things He says we are or are not to do makes perfect sense. But I must say there are some other areas where I just don't understand. And there were times early in my Christian life that I felt like I needed to understand it before I could obey it. But I have come to realize two things. 1-Believing in God means trusting in God, especially when I don't understand God. 2- God loves me and He is a good Father to me, and He would never command me to do something that is not in my best interest.
So if you have a relationship with God through His son Jesus, I encourage you to keep on striving to know God better through His word and prayer. And in the process of knowing Him better, you will start to understand the "why's" behind His commands. But in the mean time, I also encourage you to trust God and to display your faith by obeying Him. Let's especially heed John 14:15 which says "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Let's love God by doing what He says, if for no other reason than...because He said so!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Am I Sanctified Enough? (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Thank You for my health. I pray for healing and strength for the many people I know who are sick. If You choose not to take it away, please give them a sign that You will see them through.
Father, I'm not sanctified enough am I? The word sanctification shows up in the Bible a lot, so it must be something that is very important to You. Growing up hearing the word sanctified seemed to only be applied to certain denominations. And it looked to me like it only meant rules about how one dressed or the things they could and could not do. But now that I understand a little better, I see that it is something that applies to all of us who call ourselves Christians.
So, since it is important to You, I have been doing a lot of thinking on it for a long time. When I first got saved, I looked it up and various books say it means to be consecrated. Ok, so that was just another word I had to look up. So I learned that consecrated means to be set apart for a holy purpose and a sacred use. When I ponder that definition, I still can't help but have that same questions come to mind..I'm not sanctified enough am I?
Lord, You remember, some time back I was in the middle of teaching bible study and came across the word consecrated. The word was not central to the lesson I was teaching, and I didn't plan to focus on it. But I think You could still see that big question mark hovering over my head. So You taught through me and out comes this explanation about what it means to be sanctified.
With Your leading, I asked, what was the purpose of the church we were sitting in. Those in bible study gave various answers. Then I asked wasn't that a perfectly good building that could be used for other things; move the pews and it is certainly big enough to hold a dance; leave the pews in and it's a great place to have bingo, can just call the numbers from the pulpit; perfectly good sound system to have a secular singing contest or even karaoke night; add a heater and few air jets and the baptismal would make a nice hot tub.
I remember the look on the people's faces like that was the most absurd thing they had ever heard, and rightly so. I and they understood that the church is consecrated and sanctified; set apart for a holy purpose and a sacred use. Even lukewarm Christians who only come on Christmas and Easter would think it to be appalling to do some of these other things in the church, because the church is not made for that.
Father, I realize that now that I am saved and bought with a price that was paid by Jesus' very life, I am now just as much Your temple as that church we were sitting in, if not more so. Yet, I sometimes allow what You have set apart to be sacred to be used for the profane; I have given place in what You call to be holy for the ungodly. I have allowed words out of my mouth that would never be tolerated in the church. I have set about activities that would never be allowed in the church. So, when I ask the question, am I sanctified enough, then I know the answer has to be... no.
Lord, I am glad that sanctification is not a one shot deal, else I may have missed it. But it's a process, and I know You are not through with me yet. Help me to stop thinking, saying and doing all of the things that are not pleasing to You. I know that I am not made for that. Sanctify me Lord so that I may be used for Your holy purpose.
I love You and I want to show You by how I live. In Jesus name. Amen.