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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Footprints in My Sand - A Morning Prayer

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Father, no matter what I may face today, I know it was Your grace that brought me to it, and it will be Your grace that will carry me through it.

Lord, I love that poem "Footprints in the Sand". Obviously lots of other people love it too, because I have heard it many times and seen it in many places. I love how the author describes the times when life was the hardest, and only seeing one set of footprints; thinking he was walking alone, but finding out that was when You were carrying him. .

It does have me thinking Lord. Thinking about how You carry me. You have to carry me a lot don't You? Not just during hard times when my legs are weary. I think You have to carry me during my wayward times when my legs are wandering. During my scared and doubtful times when my legs have stopped. You have to carry me a lot don't You?

Lord, I don't mean for You to have to carry me so much, I really don't. I know there are times when I should be able to walk on my own, but You have to carry me. I know there are times when I need to help carry others, but You have to carry me. And Lord, I know when You do carry me, I am not the easiest load to bear. I am heavy and hard to carry, I know I am. I realize I have the weight of my worries, the pressure of my problems, and the fullness of my fears. I really don't mean to be so heavy, but I know that at times I am.

But Father, I am so glad that You are everything You say that You are in Your word. You are loving and patient, and I need that. You are strong and mighty, and I need that. You are full of grace and mercy, and I sure do need that. Lord, You are everything that I need which is why I am so blessed even when You are all that I have. I am so grateful for Your footprints in my sand, and I thank You for carrying me.

I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Run to God!

If there was something fairly simple you could do to add years to your life, would you do it? You would? You sure?
So, I some time back I read an article in the USA Today that said runners live on average 3 years longer than non-runners. I think it's been a known fact for a long time of the health-promoting, life-sustaining benefits of running . The "breaking news" of the article was that whether you run just 30 minutes of two hours a week didn't make a difference, just as long as you run. I personally think they need to study that part a little more.
Nevertheless, it is indisputable that exercising in general, running specifically, improves your health and improves your odds for living longer. And I am sure we could all imagine lying one day on a bed of dead wishing we could get another 3 years. So we're going to start running regularly to add years to our lives...right?
One would think with that news, by next week, we would have a hard time finding room to drive our cars for all the people out jogging around. Then what if we add to that all the other things we already know. We'd see cigarette companies go out of business, because we know they give you everything from increased risk of heart disease to lung cancer, right? Candy bars and snack cakes would go stale on shelves because of all the diabetes they cause, right? Beer, wine and liquor bottles would be poured out around the world because of all the DWI's, traffic deaths, broken families, and ruined lives they're responsible for, right? Everyone's internet speeds would drastically improve because of all the mind-corrupting, marriage-wrecking porno sites shutting down...right?
Maya Angelou famously said "...Now that I know better, I do better." I wish that were true for all people in all cases. I wish it were true for me. But the truth is, there is a vast divide between knowing what to do, and doing what we know. A gap that seems not that wide, because we can easily see to the other side. A lot of this stuff doesn't even take a leap of faith; it just makes sense. But it's obviously terrifyingly deep because we rarely try to cross it. Trust me, I understand the fear.
I pray that we all take some of this knowing better and turn it into doing better so that we can live happier, healthier, if not longer lives. But my friends, it there be no other chasm that we commit to cross, let it at least be the one that matters the most. And that be the one between knowing God, even believing God is real, and committing our lives to Him through His Son Jesus!
See just like some will read "Run regular, live longer" and say "Heh, ok...whateva!"; some will hear me or any of the millions of others on the Gospel mission say "Love Jesus, Live Forever", and still say "Heh, ok...whateva!". I understand that response, because at one time that was my response. I know firsthand that the gap between a life without Jesus and one with Him seems really deep. I remember well the fear of letting go and taking that step. But trust me, it's not that wide. It simply takes believing in your heart that Jesus is all the Bible says He is, and then confessing to someone that you do. That's all.
So don't let a little laziness keep you from living longer. And certainly don't let a little faithleness keep you from living forever. Run to God!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

I Will Follow the Rules

When I think about it, there are all kinds of rules everywhere for us to follow. Everything from laws to labels. There is always something for us to read, know and do (or not do). Sometimes I wonder if I can keep up with it all.

Even a place we stayed at on vacation some time back, I noticed a list of rules that was posted. No loud music; no more than two cars parked at your unit; put your trash in leak proof bags and put the leak proof bags in the designated receptacles; don't hang wet towels off the balcony rail; don't you hang off the balcony rail; keep your dog on a leash and keep his poop off the ground (or something like that).

The list was actually much longer. Rule after rule. But, it was ok because I understood why they had those rules. All of them made sense to me and had a valid reason behind them. In fact, I appreciated those rules and probably wouldn't have wanted to stay at a place that didn't have any. I wanted to have a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable family vacation experience, and those rules helped to make it so.

I must admit that early in my life, my view of the Bible was that it was basically a rule book; a long list of do's and don'ts. At that time, my heart was in a place that it wanted what it wanted and it certainly didn't want any dusty old rule book getting in the way of doing what I wanted. Of course I always wanted at least to have the notion of being a Christian, and Heaven was always a place where I wanted to go. But all those...rules; seemed like so many and so contrary to what felt right to me. I kept hearing it preached that through Jesus I could have joy, but it appeared to me God just wanted to take away my fun.

Well, that was then and this is now. I thank God that my eyes are wider and my brain is wiser. The Lord has helped me to see that this Christian walk is not about rules, it's about relationship. God's Word is first and foremost about me getting to know Him and how He loves me; and because He loves me, He want what's best for me; and He helps me find what's best for me by giving me rules to live by.

Some may think "rule" is a 4-letter dirty word; I know I used to. But it's not. God and I both know I need rules. I need lines painted on my road to help me stay out of the ditches. Just like the rules at the vacation house was for a better vacation experience, God's rules help me to have a better life experience. Now I understand what the psalmist was feeling when he wrote in Psalm 119:1 "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord".

So, with God's help, I will follow the rules.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Get Your Talking To

You ever gotten a spanking? I know that form of discipline is a dying practice, but for many of you reading this,  you grew up in an era where it was a more common thing. So except for you sweet lil darlins, most of you are acquanted with the feeling. And so am I.

Ya know, I'm not sure what was worse; the spanking itself, or the talking I kept getting after it. I mean the sting of those swats actually didn't last that long, but the talking I got from it lasted for days. Seemed like the least little thing would bring it back to my mom's memory, and she would say something to me or someone else about it. Like with one particular spanking, a few days after I got it, we were at my grandparent's house, and grandma asked me "How you been doing shug?". Before I could even answer, my mom jumped in and said something like "Let me tell you how he's been doing; do yoouuu know I had to whup him the other day for yada yada yada...". In my head I was screaming "Lawdamercy, here we go again!" Notice I said in my head. If it had made its way out my mouth, I would be posting another story about how I got whupped at grandma's house.

But you know what I'm saying right? I mean sometimes I had rather to have taken two spankings if I didn't have to hear all the talking about it. With the spanking I had to endure the short-term pain, but with the talking I had to face my long-term shame.

As a parent, I certainly understand why my mother did that. If it were left up to me, I would have immediately erased all memory of my wrong-doing , or maybe even tried to imagine I never did anything wrong to start with. And so, there might have been the chance that I would have made the same bad choice a second time. So, not only was the spanking necessary; but so was the talking.

You know, some people are put off by God's word for the same reason. In it we read a lot about what we shouldn't do wrong, or what we've already done wrong. The Lord uses the story of the nation of Israel for us to relate to as Christians, and the Old Testament is full of God giving them a stern talking. Just skim through the book of the prophets, and you'll see. And whether or not they wanted it, they surely needed it...just like us.

Think about it. God has the whole universe and everyone and everything in it to consider. Yet He cares enough for you and me to take the time to teach us, guide us, and yes even scold us. And the truth is, if He didn't care, He wouldn't do it. So when we ignore or reject God's word, we are ignoring and rejecting His love. Admit it, you know you need that talking. I admit that I do. It might not be good to us, but it's good for us.

The Apostle Paul wrote "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT).

So go ahead, find your Bible, open it up...and take your talking.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Are You Still Running From God?

If you will, read this passage, Psalm 139:1-18, then I'll share a few thoughts. It's fairly long. But God's word is always worth the read.

"O Lord , you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord . You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!"

Now meditate on that for a moment....just let that quench your thirsty soul....

So....Have you ever seen a momma chasing a toddler across a parking lot? You ever been that momma chasing a toddler across a parking lot? You know, one of those energetic toddlers who thinks it's a game; they are smiling and giggling, but the momma has that terrified "Aw Lawd, my baby!" look on her face. Just when she almost reaches that arm to grab it, the toddler cuts like an NFL running back, and off again they go. That momma will twist her ankles twenty times in those heels, sweat off a face full of make-up, even mess up that good do she just got done, all in the pursuit of her child.

The answer is probably obvious, but I will ask the question anyway. Why does the momma do that? Why so persistent in her  pursuit?

Well, when you read those verses from Psalm 139, you will see that God is just as persistent in His pursuit of us. No matter where we are or where we go,  God is there. When we sit down and when we stand up; when we travel and when we rest. From the very moment we started being formed in the womb, to the very day we are laid in our grave; every day, every place...God is there.

Now of course that passage is used to point to God's divine quality of being omnipresent,  that is present everywhere at the same time. But, I also think the heart of the passage is much deeper. I think it shows that God is not just present everywhere, like water is everywhere if you're stranded in the middle of the ocean. But, I think it shows God's willful and purposeful intent to be where you are.  He wants us to be close to Him, but our natural tendency does not desire the same. So He comes to us before we ever have sense enough to go to Him.

So it's like that mother, running across that parking lot, God chases us because we don't have the sense to know what seems fun is so very dangerous. And He does it for the same reason that mother would.....Because He loves you!

Are you still running from God? If so, then today is a great day to stop. Tomorrow may never come. God loves you.

Friday, July 13, 2018

How Do You See Jesus?

What do you think Jesus looks like?

A lot of people have a lot of ideas. When you get the chance, go to Google search, click "images", and type in "Images of Jesus". Then just scroll through and see all the ways Jesus has been depicted.

From ancient Jesus to modern Jesus; from blue-eyed Jesus to brown-skinned Jesus; from handsome Jesus to..not so handsome Jesus. All variations of how people think Jesus looks. And though He has been seen before, He did walk here on this earth for about 33 years; He has never been seen by any of those people who painted or portrayed Him.

So why so many variations? Well, I think that people tend to create the Jesus they prefer. Whether it be a Jesus that looks like them, or the Jesus they hope they will see. And that goes beyond just the images we create. It also includes the way we think of Him and the characteristics we assign to Him. Some people only want to believe in and follow God if they can see Him as the God they want Him to be.

But God is who He is, and how He is, and there is no amount of hoping or wishing or painting we can do to change that. He told Moses, "I Am THAT I AM..." in Exodus 3:14. And He must have been serious about it because in the King James Version, it's in all caps like that. He said through Malachi "I am the Lord, I change not..." (Malachi 3:6)

So, I'd suggest we all closely and seriously study the scriptures to truly see who God is and how He is. And if we can adjust our eyes to see Him more clearly, I believe we can follow Him more closely.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

It is Independence Day, though we typically just focus on the date, 4th of July. Some just see it as a day to be off from work, join with family and friends, cook on the grill, eat good food, and shoot some fireworks. Nothing wrong with that. After all, I plan on doing some of the things on that list.

But it is also important that we not forget the history that gives us this day to celebrate. I say that not just as a History major who believes that our past is the classroom in which we gain wisdom for our future. But also as a minister of God's word who believes that every earthly story can be a parable to teach us a heavenly truth. So let's take a closer look at this one.

Throughout the first half of 1700's, American colonists grew increasingly weary under the British government's control. As their unrest increased, King George of England responded by tightening his grip. The colonists finally got fed up.

On July 4th 1776, members of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. But the execution of that document did not mark the beginning of our freedom, just the beginning of the fight to achieve it. The Revolutionary Army, led by General George Washington, would have to battle it out with the red coats until October of 1781. Finally King George decided to cut his losses, his general Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, and they got up outta here.  Otherwise, we might still be saying things like "bloody", "top of the morning" and ..."ello Guvna!".

Spiritually speaking, we as individual Christians follow a similar path. We get to a point we decide that enough is enough, and with faith given to us by God, we choose to make a change in our life. And for us to find the freedom we desire, we can't just settle for a few small changes; we need a revolution. We get tired of all the old things, old ways, old habits, and old devils ruling our over us. So we turn to our Saviour, the Lord of Hosts, the General of God's Army, Jesus Christ, who on Calvary signed our declaration of independence with His own sweat and blood. Yet His was not a long, poetic proclamation of our freedom. In fact it was only 3 words "It...is...finished!". And that, my Christian friends, is our declaration of independence.

This is the real point of my post (yes I am finally getting to it). Those of us who have been about this Christian life for a while already know what some of you who just got started haven't found out. That the declaration is not the end, but the beginning of the fight. Though you may already be on the path to spiritual victory, there are yet battles to be won. Our eternal enemy doesn't give up easily. So, even though your are committed to Christ, you are still facing challenges that sometimes feel like will take you out.

But I want to encourage you to not give up and to keep fighting. Though shots are still being fired and the enemies are still advancing, through Christ Jesus,  you ARE on your way to victory. And so, we as brothers and sisters can borrow the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence and proclaim, "...for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to [Jesus] our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

God Can Turn Rain into a River - A Morning Prayer

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I pray that today You will once again prove how strong You are through how weak I am.

Father, some time back my youngest daughter was educating me on what she learned in school about clouds. She talked about the water cycle and how water goes from being vapor to clouds to precipitation to streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans and then back through the cycle again. Of that whole process, she seemed the most intrigued by the clouds. She was pointing them out as we went down the road, and schooled me on the different types of clouds. For me, I think the most interesting part of that process is rain. I am fascinated by how rain turns into a river.

Father, I researched and read that approximately 4 trillion rain drops will fall just in one square mile in a hour's worth of rain. Then to think how many rain drops could fall within a whole creek or river basin. Then all of those rain drops will follow a law that You created called gravity. As they travel down hill, they begin to collect until the drops become a trickle, and the trickle becomes a stream, and the stream becomes a river.

That is amazing to me how the tiny can within minutes become the mighty; how the one rain drop that was barely able to make a dent in the dust turns into a river that can cut its own path through soil and rock; how the one droplet alone could barely survive the heat of the sun can turn into a river that sustains life all around it. Lord I am truly amazed by how You turn the rain into a river.

Father, everyday of my life You are depositing droplets of Your goodness into me. Droplets of joy and peace; droplets of faith and strength; droplets of wisdom and understanding; droplets of grace and mercy; droplets of love and hope. By themselves they make no noticeable impact on who I am or what people see. But over the years since I've been following You, these droplets collected in my heart and created a river. Now that river has not only changed me, but it's starting to change the landscape around me.

Lord, I didn't start it, nor can I stop it. It just flows to me and through me. And I can't take credit for it any more than I can take credit for the rain that runs across my yard. So, I will just continue to watch in amazement as You turn this rain into a river.

Now Lord, I can better understand what You told the woman at the well when You said "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” So I thank You for sending the rain and for turning it into a river. I love You.

In Jesus name. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep - A Morning Prayer

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Thank You for watching over me while I slept. I can always sleep knowing that You never do.

Lord, last night I was lying in bed about to go to sleep, and for some reason it came to mind the prayer I was taught to pray when I was a little boy. I used to pray "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

I remember praying that prayer as a child and sometimes thinking to myself "What if I die before I wake?". That was a scary thought of closing my eyes for the last time and not waking up. But Father, I thank You that You gave me parents who taught me to believe in You and to pray to You. I do remember thinking that if I did die, it would be ok because I knew You would take me.

Now Lord that I am grown and saved, the truth behind that prayer still comforts me. As sad of a thought it is, the truth remains that one day I will actually close my eyes to never open them again. I pray Lord that it will be as peaceful as going to sleep. But however it happens, it is sure to happen.

Over my life, I have comforted grieving families, and I have also been a part of the grieving family needing the comfort. One day Lord it will be my family who will need comforting for me. I won't need it, not only because I won't be here to receive it, but really because I already have my comfort. My comfort is in knowing that it is my soul now that You keep and one day it will be my soul that You take.

Lord, I can better understand what the Apostle Paul felt when he wrote "To live is Christ, but to die is gain". Father, You know that I love living and hope to be doing it for a long time. But because I know that You are my keeper and one day will be my taker, I don't fear death. It will be ok for me to have to give up life, because in exchange for it I will receive glory, and Heaven is more than a fair trade for this Earth.

Father, thank You for the peace in knowing that one day to Heaven I'll be going. How can I not serve a God like You. I love You.

In Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2018

September 5, 1971 - ?

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I feel pretty tired this morning' but I'm still ready to do Your work. Show me what You want me to do.

Lord, as You know, sometime back I was teaching a lesson on Your power; in particular, Your power over death. To get the class' attention, I gave them a mock obituary with my picture on it with the dates Sept 5 1971- (whatever that day's date was). Father, not only did it spark conversation about death, but it also caused me to do a lot of thinking about my own.

The truth is Lord, one day people will be sitting around looking at a folded piece of paper with my picture on the front. It will display two dates; one date I know what it is, and the other I do not what it will be. On the inside there will probably a nice poem that my family will pick on the left, and on the right side will be a short summary of the life I lived between those two dates. Hopefully it will say some nice things about me..that are true, and hopefully it won't be too hard to find some nice things to say. It will list those close to me who have gone ahead of me, as well as those left behind. On the back will be listed the names of the ladies nice enough to carry my flowers, and the guys nice enough to carry me. Then there will be a note of thanks to those who showed kindness to my family and will likely invite them back to the church to share in some chicken as their reward. Those there who knew me well would be eating that chicken thinking "Eric sure would like a piece of this".    Lord, that will all be for me..one day.

Father no matter how I or anyone else may feel about death, it's something we one day must face. And though there are things I can do and ways I can live that may delay or hasten it, ultimately my death is in Your hands. And Father of all the mysteries You hold that I would Ike to know, how and when my death will be is something best left unknown.

So Lord, it will suffice for me to know that it will come one day, and because of You I will be ready. Therefore, in the time that I have to live, help me to live. Show me Father how to make what I do in these temporary days last for an eternity. Make my life matter, not so much to others, but to You. And Lord it's ok if no one says nice things about me at my funeral just as long as when I meet You I can hear You say 'well done!'.

Lord thank You for my life and thank You for filling it with love. I love You too. In Jesus name. Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

No Arms....No Problem! (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. As the road ahead sometimes looks rough, I am reminded by that song which says "I don't believe You brought me this far to leave me". Thanks for being with me everyday.

Lord, sometimes I can get down in a mental rut and think I've got things pretty rough. But You often remind me..and humble me..by showing me others who have it much rougher and yet they still press on to do great things. I was reminded of that some time ago when I came across a story of a young man who climbed Mt. Everest...with no arms. I will repeat that..not for You but for me..he climbed Mt. Everest with no arms.

As I understand, he had to have both arms amputated after a tragic accident where the kite he was flying hit a power line. I can't speak for other people, but I know that if that happened to me, my greatest challenges in life would probably be figuring out how to hug my daughters or brushing my teeth. But this guy set out to not only be able to do those common, everyday things, but also...to climb Mt Everest.

Father, You know what a challenge climbing that mountain is, because You made the Himalayan mountains and its tallest peak Mt. Everest. You stretched it up to the sky over 29,000 ft, or over 5 miles in the air, making it the tallest mountain in the world.; You know that it's so high that it's thin air forces those brave enough to make it to the summit to carry oxygen tanks; and their mountaintop celebration can't last but so long because either air-deprivation or blizzards force them back down almost immediately. You have watched thousands attempt to reach its peak, and the hundreds who died trying. You have also watched the few hundred who made it to the top. But as far as I know, all of them had two arms to do it. That's why this man's accomplishment is so amazing. To do so much with so little.

Lord, that inspires me! Not so much of the thought of how much I can do if I persevere and believe in myself; but how much I can do if I persevere and believe in You. Though it's not likely that I'll ever make it to the Himalayas, yet sometimes the things I face feel like about as much of a challenge as climbing a mountain with no arms. But You enable me to do them anyway. I am a living witness that You choose the weak things to confound the strong, and I embrace Your word which says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

I'm ready to do even greater things by Your power and my story if for Your glory.

I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Let There Be No Divisions in the Church!

Member of a church? Regularly go to church? Then this post is for your consider

I believe the greatest threat to any local church is not an attack from the outside, but divisions on the inside. Bickering, arguments, and grudges can totally diminish a church’s effectiveness in accomplishing the mission that God has given us. If you've been a part of a church for any amount of time, it's likely you have witnessed it for yourself to some degree. It's nothing new. Since the earliest stages of the Church, internal divisions have been a problem. In fact, the Apostle Paul recognized it and warned against it in his letter to the church in Corinth.

So, how do we guard against divisions? There are several things I could suggest, but today I’ll share just one. Here it is....We need to make sure that we form our church bonds around what matters.

Think about the many reasons people will start a church or join a church. Some people come together around the leader. Some come together because of worship style. Some churches are held together because of family history. I’m sure you know some people who only join a church because that was momma’s church or great grand pappy helped to lay the corner stone. Now hear me, in and of themselves, there is certainly nothing wrong with those reasons for being a part of a church. But when they are the only reason, or the main reason, then that church is in jeopardy of divisions.

I mean, what do you do when the leader leaves or heaven forbid, dies? Some people will leave, while others will stay just to gripe up a host of complaints about the new one that comes in. What if your worship style does not offer enough variety to speak to the multiple generations and diversity you hope to have in your church? One group will fuss if you try to sing new songs, and another will fuss if you don't. What if your outreach actually reaches out, and people who have no connection to any of the families in your church start to show up. And what if they look nothing like you and act nothing like you? What then? The ones who hate change and expect the landscape of that church to always be like it was when they joined will find every opportunity to run down or push out the new folk.

I think we’d do well to look at the church in Corinth to which Paul was writing his letter. If we could climb into a time machine and go back to attend one of their church gatherings, we would be blown away. Some in fact might be offended, or at least terribly uncomfortable. You see, Corinth was at the center of trade in the Mediterranean Sea, and just about dead center in the Roman Empire. And because of that, it was marked by unusual diversity.

In that church, you would find Jews and Gentiles, the civilized and barbaric; rich and poor; light skin and dark skin; middle easterners, Europeans, Asians, Africans and everyone in between. So how in the world could people so different come together to have a meeting, much less form a church? I’ll tell you why. Because every time they came together as a church, they abandoned the many, many things they disagreed on to focus on the one they did….Jesus Christ and spreading His good news.

But even the Corinthian Church faced the internal threat of discord, as I’m sure your church and my church may face at times as well. But it doesn’t have to. Let me remind you to keep Christ at the center and make sure that your church matters are the things that matter to God. I believe Paul’s epistles are God’s letter to His church today. And let us who are a part of a church take heed to God’s words through Paul when he said in 1 Corinthians 1:10 “Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose”.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Turn in the Direction of the Skid? Really?

"I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws." Psalm 119:59 (NLT)
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The snow we got twice in the last month or so proved tricky for driving. I'm glad I was able to stay off the roads for most of it.  In my 30 years or so of driving, it only took one time of waiting on the side of the road over an hour for a tow truck after skidding in the snow to learn my lesson and slow down.

In this recent snow I had to venture out to check road conditions. I have the sometimes difficult responsibility of deciding whether or not to shut down work.  While out slow-rolling on snow-packed roads, I thought about the advice that I've heard; and I'm sure most of you have heard it too. It is, if your vehicle starts to slide..say it with me now..."turn your wheel in the direction of the skid". Riiiight!

Have you done that?

In the few times I've been in that situation, whether in rain or ice or snow, I honestly don't know what I did. I'm not sure what I did with the wheel, or how I kept it in the road (except for that one time when I didn't).

But wait....does that really work? How is that supposed to help? Of course, I did what every question-laden, knowledge-seeking scholar would do...I googled it. Turns out from what I read, that advice is incorrect, or at least incomplete. The things is, if you start skidding, turning in the direction of the skid is supposed to keep you from going into a tail-spin. Makes sense. But the problem is, once your tires regain their traction, they are going to then just send you headed in the direction your wheels are then turned, which would be either in oncoming traffic, or off the side of the road. Makes sense too. So, the other half of the advice should be, once your tires regain traction, you are then to turn your wheel back toward the direction you want to go, ie, away from the skid.

Well, all of that is a lot for my brain to process just sitting here typing about it, so I know I won't have the presence of mind to think about that, much less do it, if I find myself skidding again. So, I'll do what I've been doing. Slow down, and trust in the Lord. Buuuut, that driving technique does awaken a thought in my heart about something spiritual.

Think about your life like driving down the road. We face some straight paths and some curvy roads; some roads up mountains that test our power, and others down mountains that test our brakes. Some days seem like life is so good we can just coast on cruise control, and other days we're gripping the wheel and holding on for dear life. And every once in a while, we drive into something that sends our life into a skid. Could be bad news, an unexpected bill, a broken relationship, sickness or death, or many other things. And whether it comes suddenly or gradually, the skid is always scary.

So what do you do? Our natural reaction sometimes is to go with the skid; we think things like: 'oh the marriage is failing, let me just end it'; 'the job is too hard, I'll just quit'; 'my weight is so out of control, I might as well give up exercising, and eat to make myself feel better'; 'my grades are just too bad now, no need to keep going to school'; 'I can't live since the death of my loved one, I may as well just die too', or 'my sin is unforgiveable, there's no need to stop doing it now'.

That might feel like the natural thing to do, but it will certainly end up with a crash. Instead, we should do what the writer in Psalm 119 said. "I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws."

So when our life starts spinning out of control, we should think about where God wants us to be, and steer in that direction. A pastor whose podcasts I listen to sometimes, named Craig Groeschel said "Where you will end up in your life is not determined by your intentions but by your direction." Not only is it a law of physics, but also a law of faith, that you will only end up in the places you are headed towards. So if you want to change your destination, you must change your direction. If you want to end up somewhere different, you've got to turn your wheel.

Where are you headed? Has something in your life sent you sliding into oncoming traffic or off the side of your road? You don't really want things to end the way it looks like it's going to end do you? I know you don't. So turn your wheel. In fact, surrender the wheel to Jesus, and He will turn it for you. Then He will turn your wheel the way you want your life to go.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

I Don't Have to Know How it all Works

Do you know what a VCR is? Of course you do. Do you still have a VCR? Well...maybe you do. I would guess that most of the people reading this post are in an age range where you not only remember using a VCR, but you probably remember your first time seeing one.

I guess mine would have been some time in the early to mid 80's. Some other people I knew had one, and I had seen theirs. Then my mom and dad finally got one in our home. It was the coolest. Just pop that tape in and watch the video of your renting.

The video store became the place you had to stop by on the way home to either rent or return a movie. Remember "Be kind, Please rewind"? And some of our children don't even know that the granddaddy of the DVR was the VCR. Remember setting it to record your favorite show? Better not tape over someone's wedding video.

As a young man, I was fascinated by the whole process. What was on the film inside the the tape? What was reading that film inside the VCR? How did it take what was on the film and display it on my tv?

You know what I did a few times? I would push the tape in and then hold that little flap open to try to watch all the innerds while they worked. I could see lights and turning, and moving, but still...I had no clue how it all came together inside that mini movie factory. So, I just made myself content with the fact that even though I didn't know how it worked, somebody smarter than me did; and I just sat and enjoyed my movie.

You know, sometimes our life with God on this earth can be the same way. We feel things, see things, experience things that we just don't understand. And either because of our natural curiosity, or our desire to be in control, we want to hold the flap open and figure out how it all works. We think we can peep in, pray in, or study in and see how all the lights and wheels of the how's, the why's, and the when's work. But the truth is, to a large degree we just won't understand.

We may never know on this side of glory the answer to the "Why me?" or "Why not me?". We won't always understand how it came to be cancer, or how the one you love could be gone so soon. We may not figure out the "When will it ever start", or "When will it ever end". But that is why I am so  thankful that we are under the watchful eyes of an all knowing God. So I'm striving everyday to get better with knowing Who I trust, and not trusting in what I know.

So if today you are vexed and perplexed by all the things in your life you can't figure out, I want to encourage you to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) And when you do that, and "In all yours ways acknowledge [God] and He will direct your path." (Proverbs 3:6) Then you can make yourself content, not worry so much about how it all works, and enjoy your life with God.

#seeinggodeveryday

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cake Mix and Hiding Places

"I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me." Psalm 139:7-10 NLT

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When I was a little boy, I loved the taste of cake mix. I mean I liked the batter after momma whipped it up in the bowl, and was always standing close by to lick the spoon or even one of the beaters off the mixer, ooorrr the grand prize...the bowl itself. But I liked the dry cake mix even better. I'm not sure how I ever got my first taste of it, but I was hooked. I think I liked it because not only was it sweet, but the powder felt soft and velvety on my tongue. So, whenever momma was making a cake from the box and not from scratch, I'd be standing around hoping for a little to be left for me. And even some days, I guess when the stars and moon lined up just right, momma would take a spoon and give me a little scoop. Ah...heaven.

There were times when I really wanted some cake mix, but there was no cake being baked. So I guess one day my craving got the best of me. While no one was paying attention, I slid one of the kitchen chairs over to the cabinets; I climbed up on it and started rummaging through looking for a box of cake mix. Bingo! I found it. Then I quickly grabbed it, got down, put the chair back, stuck the box under my shirt and scurried around looking for a place to get a taste.

I didn't want to go back to my room because momma was back in hers, and I thought she would catch me coming down the hallway. So I ran into the living room and spotted the perfect hideout. There was a big, single chair that sat at the corner of the room. The triangular shaped spaced between the chair and the wall was a perfect hiding place...so I thought. I climbed up and over behind there, squatted down and commenced to violating that box of cake mix.

It was getting so good to me that I just about forgot where I was. But you know what snapped me out of my cake mix-induced trance? The sound of my mother's voice over my head softly but firmly saying "What are you doing?!". Yall, I was busted fer sher! One hand in the box; cake mix all over my face.

You know what my first thought was? It wasn't "Oh, I'm sorry", or "Oh, I'm in trouble"...It was "I clare, I can't go no where!". I was taken by the thought of how I couldn't seem to go anywhere to do what I wanted to do and not be found by momma or daddy. Notice, I said it was what came to mind, and not out of my mouth. Otherwise the scolding I got would have been a spanking instead.

Sometimes we may feel the same way with God. Because of His all-seeing eyes and His presence everywhere, we can't find any place where we can do what we want to do, and He not know about it. I remember when I first got saved, there was a period that I felt a level of frustration because it seemed like I felt convicted about everything. Felt bad about what I said, what I watched, what I listened to, what I thought.

But now that I am more mature spiritually, I understand better. The fact that I can't escape from God; the fact that there is nowhere I can go that He can't see, is not for my punishment; it's for my benefit. I mean suppose momma just let me crawl into any old corner, any old time to eat all the cake mix I could get my hands on. How bad would that have been for me? Same thing with God.

In Psalm 139, David acknowledged that he could not get away from God. That the Lord knew every thought before he thought it, every word before he spoke it, and every place before he reached it. But he also wrote in verse 10 "Even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me."

So, I encourage you to never try to hide from God. Because, even if you could, you would not only be hiding from His hand, but you'd be hiding from His heart. Like how my momma felt about me, God loves you and He wants the best for you. And from that fact, you can never hide.