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

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!