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

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)
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.


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


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 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.