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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Don't Face One Day Without Relying on God


You ever been so used to not having something, that when you actually do have it, you forget to use it when you need it? Yeah...me too. I know right.....yeah.....crazy ain't it.....yeeeeaah.
Oh....that's right. Now I'm supposed to relate that to a spiritual truth.
Ok, yeah so let me first tell you how that thought even came to mind. So, I have an umbrella. But I hardly ever carry it with me. It spends most of its life in the back seat or trunk of my car. Even if I go to leave the house and it's raining, I don't grab one from home because I figure, well, I've got one in the car. So I trot through the rain. Then if I'm getting out of the car, unless it's raining pretty hard, I just figure I won't melt, and trot through the rain.
I mean, you know how it is. You go dragging that thing around at every hint of rain, you end up losing it. Am I right? Plus, I don't want one more thing to have to carry or keep up with unless I have to. Plus I need one hand free to wave at everybody (that's what us southerners do) and the other free to flip through my phone to check Facebook. I mean let's keep our priorities straight here people.
Well, not too long ago I actually took my umbrella with me. When I got to work, it was only drizzling, but the forecast called for more rain later in the day, so I decided to be unusually cautious. I carried it in and propped up against the wall behind my desk. At the end of the day, I did remember to grab it before I left the office.
When I came out the back door of my building, it was raining. I thought to myself, "Well, I'll pull my collar up and trot through the rain". After about 20 steps out the building, you know doing that neck drawn up, face wrinkled, walking in the rain thing, myself said something to myself. You know how we do that.
Well, myself said to myself "Hey dummy, why are you walking in the rain with neck drawn up and face all wrinkled when you've got an umbrella in your hand?". I looked at the umbrella like "Yeah, you're right". I was so used to making it through the rain without an umbrella that I forgot I had one to use. So I popped it up, and walked on to my car.
Crazy ain't it...I know right...yeeaah.
Oh...still haven't gotten to that spiritual truth yet. Thanks for reminding me. So here it is.
You know I haven't always been saved. In fact I lived longer without Christ as my Savior than I have with Him. My guess is for some of you reading this who are Christians, the same is true for you. Well, because I went so long through this life making it without Him, sometimes I forget that now I don't have to.
Sometimes I catch myself walking into the storms of this life trying to find my way on my own; trying to stand on my own power, trying to figure things out with my own wisdom, trying to face my fears with my own courage. Which when I stop to think about it, that's crazy because I don't have to. It's about as crazy as me walking in the rain with neck drawn, face wrinkled, and an unopened umbrella in my hand as it is for me face one single day without relying on our Mighty God.
My brothers and sisters, let me remind you as I have had to remind myself, that if you have Christ as your Lord, then there is nothing you have to face on your own. No mountain to climb, no valley to cross, no giant to slay, and no heart-breaking loss. God is always with you! So turn to Him, lean on Him, rely on Him, and call on Him. He loves you, and He's waiting for you. And that right there is the truth.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Bringing Up My GPA - A Morning Prayer

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Help me to see every hour, every minute and every second of this day as precious they are so I will spend them wisely.

Father, I am glad that my girls are doing well in school. They are both working really hard and are very disciplined to stay on top of their assignments. I noticed that they both have come to see the effect every single assignment, every quiz and every test has on their overall grade, either positive or negative. They pay attention to their choices about how hard to study or how much effort to put into an assignment, and know that if they choose to not do an assignment or not to study hard for a test, how much that can quickly impact their average.

Lord, that mindset would have been helpful for me when I was in college. In my first year I did a lot of goofing off and not a lot of studying. I guess all that freedom was a bit much for me to handle, because I didn't handle it well. After failing some classes my first year and being placed on academic probation, I thank You that You helped me to see the need to tighten up. So I did.

I went back to school after that summer with a determination to pull my grades up. I buckled down, went to all my classes, and studied hard. After that semester, I was anxious to see my grades because I was confident they would be much better; and they were, but.... I was still disappointed. My overall GPA had not moved up that much. That's when I realized that it would be much harder for me to climb out of that academic hole than it was for me to dig my way into it. So I knew that I had to stay committed, and that to bring up my average it would take a lot of good grades to overcome the bad ones.

Lord, I see that life is in a lot of ways like school. There are times I have worked hard, and there are times that I goofed off. On that report card in Heaven with my name on it, there are some good grades and some bad grades. Father, the truth I'm trying to stay focused on is that as I dedicate my life to serving You in Your kingdom, I can mess up and do one bad thing that will overshadow a hundred good things. One really bad grade can drop my average.

And I don't mean how You see it from Your eyes Lord, because You grade me on a curve called grace that is only possible because of what Jesus did, and that I believe in Him. But I mean in the eyes of the "great cloud of witnesses" as Your Word says. I know that I stand to be judged by only Your eyes, but I do stand as a witness for You in the eyes of everyone around me. And I don't want my spiritual GPA to be a poor witness for You.

Lord thank You so much for sticking with me through life. You never gave up even when I wanted to. My average is not 100, but it has greatly improved. Thanks for helping me to make sure my good grades outweigh my bad ones. On the wall in my office at work, I have a college diploma that bears witness that Your grace brought me out of an academic hole. Then there's a certificate of ordination on my wall here that bears witness that Your grace brought me out of a spiritual hole too. Thank You for improving the averages in my life.

I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

What I hear, What I say and What I actually do. - A Morning Prayer

Good morning Lord. Thank You so much for this new day. I don't know what it has in store for me, but as long as You are in it, it has to turn out to be good.

Lord, I was thinking about my very first car. It was a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Not sure what made it a Supreme, but I liked it. It sort of became my car by default. My dad bought it used for a family car that my mom drove. But when I got my license, I started to drive it some, then more and more, until it became my car.

I was so proud of that car, I nearly washed the paint off of it. I'm surprise I never slid off the road with all the Armor All I lathered my tires up with. I was just so glad to have something to drive, and I was glad (and somewhat surprised) that my parents trusted me to drive it. Momma even told me I could drive it to school. However, she gave me o e very simple and direct instruction...DO NOT pick up a car load of boys on my way to school. She said I could let 1 ride with me, and that was it.

Father, that made sense to me, and I understood why she said that. But there obviously was some disconnect between what my ears heard her say to do, what my mouth said I would do, and what my brain was actually planning to do. On about the 3rd week of having my license, what little common sense I had gave way to the mounting pressure of all the "Come on maaan". So on my way to school I went about picking up not one, not two, but three of my friends: Mike, David O. & Jody.

Of course that clearly constituted the car full of boys my momma told me not to have. But I wasn't thinking about that. I was just thinking about the fun we were having, and the feeling I had while we were having it. So there we were with boom box plugged into the cigarette lighter (didn't have a tape player) hip-hopping our way to school.

Lord, long prayer short, You know all the details, but next thing I knew, we were resting, drivers side down in a ditch, just in front of my school, having hit another car (which was driven by one of my teachers), with bus loads of fellow classmates driving by inspecting the accident scene, and with a song by Eric B and Rakim still playing on that boom box (titled "Move the crowd" no less).

I was thankful that no one was seriously hurt. However, I must say that my inner person, who can't be strapped into a seatbelt  was crushed. And it wasn't until I was sitting in the state trooper's car, looking in his rear view mirror at the disappointed look on my mothers face that I fully realized the extent of my emotional damages.

Lord.....I don't want that to be my life now. See, You have given me a brand new life that I am so thankful for. A fresh start and a different path. And I probably get that same child-like, foolish looking grin on my face like I did washing my first car when I think about this new life. But at the same time, I hear You when You warn me about certain things. I understand that with my new freedom there must be some boundaries and limitations; not to steal my fun, but to protect my life. And I don't want to find myself having the same disconnect between what my ears hear You tell me to do, what my mouth says I will do and what I actually do. My new life is worth not taking that chance, and I don't want to get this close to You only to find myself wrecked on the side of the road.

Lord, help me to keep it between Your lines. Give me a heart to hear and the mind to obey. I love my new life and I love You.

In Jesus name. Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Songs that Stick to my Soul - A Morning Prayer


Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. This is the day that You have made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord, I am thankful for Your gift of music. I love music, and it is so much a part of who I am as a person. I have long known that music is powerful and songs have a lasting impression on the mind and the heart.

For example, I was thinking about how every now and then I can be standing at the copier at work and totally forget the 4 digit code, which I use almost every day. Yet I can hear a song that I have not heard in 20 years and still be able to sing almost every word. Just like that, the lyrics come right back to me, even if I don't remember who sang them or wrote them.

And not only the lyrics. I can sometimes remember what I was doing when I was listening to it. Like, I remember when I was probably 10 or 12 and the song "You Light Up My Life" was popular. I remember standing in my backyard with a wooden flute I got from the pow wow, trying to play that two chord progression that goes into the chorus (deee, daaaa.....'And you, light up my life"...). 

I also remember when I was probably 13 or 14 and was riding the giant swings at the State Fair one year and they were playing "You Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones on really loud speakers, and not wanting those swings to ever stop.

Oh yeah yeah, and I remember the first time I heard and saw Michael Jackson sing Billie Jean on tv. To this day I can remember every little, "hee-hee" and "Sha-mon"  he does in that song.

I also remember exactly how beautiful my sister Jimille looked and sounded while she was singing "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" at my mother's funeral.

And I remember when I was about 27 and had just gotten saved a few weeks before and was on my way to Raleigh; and I heard the song by Kirk Franklin "Let Me Touch You and See if You are Real"; and how I needed that because I was going through something at the time and You felt far away.
 
And not long ago, I was cutting grass with my ear buds in listening to music on my phone, pondering the pressure I often feel from my responsibilities, and the song came in rotation called "You made a way" by Travis Green. It reminded me of the many times You had and strengthened my faith to believe that You always will.

All of those songs Lord and many more have somehow stuck to my soul.
Lord, You know I want to live my life like a song about You. I want my words to be my melody and my actions to be my lyrics. I want everyday that I live to be another line and every breath I breath to be another note. And I don't want to just sing it to myself, I want others to hear it.

I want them to be moved by Your majesty and grabbed by Your grace. I want others to feel what I feel about You and to want a relationship for themselves. I don't want them to remember the one who wrote it, I just want them to remember who it was about. And I pray that one day when I am gone from this place to see You face to face, that someone will have a love song stuck in their heart that will always make them think of You.

Father, thanks for taking the broken notes of my life and making a melody that glorifies You. You are the reason why my life sings.

I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Try Not to Hit the Same Pothole Twice

I want to share something with you that my dad shared with me.  For those of you who don't know him, at the time of this post he is 91 years old and my hero. He spent the earliest part of his life working in high-class hotels in downtown Washington DC. He started as a busboy and worked his way up to maitre d. That was all before I was born, so I always enjoy hearing stories of his time in DC and all the famous people he met back then.

Well, he once told me a story about when he first went there. He worried that he had made a bad decision. See, he was only 17, and he and my mother were newly married and had a child. He left them at home with my grandparents to try to find a way to support them. Not only was he worried about that decision, but other decisions as well.

He said he was talking to his boss at the time who had taken a liking to him. He was reflecting on his anxiety over what he felt were bad choices. He said his boss told him something that he never forgot. He told him that bad choices are like running over a pothole. You can't "unhit" it, and if you keep looking back at it, you're likely to hit the next one. So he told him to keep moving forward, learn from it and try not to hit the same one twice.

Now that is good advice isn't it? So good that my dad carried it with him for over 70 years. I am really glad that he shared it with his baby boy. (Yeah that's right; I'm still his baby; he even called me that recently). But really, we'd all do well to heed that wisdom. I know I needed to be reminded of it.

You and I both have decisions to make every day. Some trivial and insignificant; others important and life altering. I sometimes second guess both kinds. But I know that even if it's a bad decision, once it's made, I can't unmake it. Once the pothole is hit, I can't unhit it. So the best thing for me to do is learn from it, keep moving forward, and try not to hit the same one twice.

Jesus said it like this in Luke 9:62 "...No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." That tells me that if we're going to go with God, we have to keep moving forward. I believe we can think back to remember what we've learned and how God helped us before. But we shouldn't look back. That's why the past is called the past; that's exactly where it belongs.

So let's pray for one another that we'd be able to let go of the potholes behind us and watch out for the ones in front of us. Then we can look ahead that we might be able to move ahead.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Need Help? Call Your Father!

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

I remember my first was when I was in college. It was the end of my first semester, and I was driving a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I was heading home for Christmas break, and I was leaving Greenville on a Friday evening. Most of the students had jetted out of town, and by the time I stopped to get gas around 10:00 PM, the town seemed deserted. I got my gas just as the store was about to close, and hopped back in ready for my ride home. But the car wouldn't start.

There happened to be a guy about to pull out the lot who tried giving me a jump, but the car wouldn't do a thing. He said he thought it was the starter. I didn't know much about cars, so I had no clue what it was. All I knew was I couldn't fix it, and I sure didn't have the money to pay someone else to. That guy left, and the guy working in the store was turning out the lights and told me he was about to close up. So there I was broke down, no money and no one there to help me.

My college buddies I knew well enough to call on were long gone. So I didn't know what else to do, but to go over to the pay phone (yes this was before cell phones), pull out my quarter, and...call my dad.

I hated to have to call him, because it was late, and I knew he was probably in bed tired from working all day. Not to mention, he was almost an hour and a half away. I don't know what I expected him to do, but I didn't know what else to do. After the phone rang a few times, he picked up. I could tell I woke him up. And I said that stupid thing we say when we call someone late at night..."Were you sleep?". DUUUH.

As I was explaining what was going on, I was squinting as if to brace myself for his response. You know like when you're about to open that can of biscuits knowing it will pop. I guess I was expecting his response to be about what my response would be if someone called me in the middle of the night like that. I was expecting a big sigh, or a "Lord have mercy", or "Boy you mean to tell me I gotta get out of bed and...". But I realize now that was my expectation, because that was before I was a father myself.

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

I dug that story out of my mental archives not to show you how great my daddy is, though he is pretty awesome. I shared that story of my earthly father to point you to my Heavenly Father.

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

Do you feel broke down in your life right now? Broke down in your marriage; your finances; your health; your peace of mind? Feel like there is no one who can help you or who wants to help you? Then call on God! Call on Him right now. Because not only can He help you, but He wants to help you. He will be glad that you called. But don't let the only time you call be when you're in trouble. Call on Him everyday. You'll be blessed and God will be pleased.

Selah!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Have You Made the Turn?


If you can, stand up where you are. Ok stand up straight and look straight ahead. Now turn; don't go any where, just turn. You can turn 45 degrees, 90 degrees or 180 degrees. Doesn't matter, just turn and face a different direction from where you started. Ok, you can sit down now (hurry up and sit down, people are starting to look).
Ok so, you've just illustrated what the first step of repentance looks like; and notice it's not a step at all. It's a turn. See the first step starts inside the heart and it involves a conscious decision where you say "I'm no longer going in the direction I was headed; with the seed of faith God has given me,  I am using it to turn from my sin and to face Him".
If you notice, when you did your little demonstration a moment ago, you had not changed your location at all. You were still standing in the very same spot. The difference was you were facing a different way. And that is what the first step of repentance is all about.
The Prophet Joel wrote "That is why the Lord says, 'Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.' " (Joel 2:12 NLT)
The day I publicly acknowledged Christ as the Son of God and my Savior, I had to take the first step of repentance. I made a conscious decision to turn a different way. Now certainly God orchestrated circumstances around me to want to turn; He used the man of God preaching that day to direct me on how to turn; and the Holy Spirit gave me the notion and the strength I needed to make the turn; but I had to decide that I was going to turn.
At the end of that day in 1997, no one, including me, noticed anything different in my life. Though I had turned, I was still standing in the same spot, like you were a moment ago. But praise God it put me facing a new way, and now almost 22 years later, I can see I am in a totally different place from where I was headed.
So I encourage you. If you've recently made that turn but you're feeling defeated because everything looks the same in your life, hold on! You're facing a new way, which means you're going a new way, and your change is...on the way. If you haven't made that turn, but you can feel God calling you to a new way, I ask you one question...what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

My Fatherly Advice!

As a father of two daughters, it troubles me to see the image some young ladies are presenting of themselves on social media. All these selfies either from a high angle to show cleavage or darn near dislocating their shoulder trying to get a pic from the rear view to show...well the rear view.

To the young ladies who might read this, know that it is with the love of a father from the heart of a father when I say this to you. If all you show of yourself to the world is butt and boobs, then all the world will see of you is butt and boobs. Then one day when you realize you are more and you want to be seen as more, your reputation will have set like concrete and it will take a sledge hammer to change it. Then you will regret those choices and feel like...a butt and a boob.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 "For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." Are you glorifying God with how you present your body? I know it's a natural thing to want the attention of people and to desire the praise of others. But I pray that you will come to a place in your life where you will realize that what God thinks of you outweighs the opinion of the whole world.

Now go cover up and delete some of those pictures.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Let Go and Trust God!

Would you ride in a car that could drive itself? If you've ever watched the Jetsons, or if you're too young, then perhaps Will Smith on iRobot, you've probably have at least once thought how cool it would be to kick back and let the car do the driving.

Well, what was once science fiction is pretty much available now. A few different car companies sell models that will park themselves. Google and other companies are testing cars that are fully autonomous, as they call it.  There are a few cities with driverless cabs. One company drove a car, or it drove itself, across the US. Not sure how that worked out.

I think the technology is ready for the task, but I’m not so sure we’re ready for the technology. Why?, you ask.  Well, because I don't know if we have it in us to let go of the wheel. I'm not sure if I could trust a car enough to drive for me, no matter how smart it may be. So, I'll let you test it out first, and then let me know how it goes.

You know, that applies to our spiritual lives as well. We say God is all powerful; we say God is in control; we say we trust God…but we have a hard time letting go of the wheel. Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus Take the Wheel, take it from my hands, cause I can't do this on my own..”. She probably should have said “Jesus,  PRY it from my hands..”, because we have a hard time letting go.

Are you familiar with the story of Moses' mother? She was presented with a situation where she had to decide if she would let go. Pharaoh made a decree that all male, Hebrew babies under two be put to death. She wanted to save her son, but she had no way to hide him. She was down to two options, trust God or not. She decided to trust God.

She put her baby Moses in a basket, walked down to the Nile River, put the basket in the water, took her hands off the wheel, and trusted God.

Can you imagine the faith it took for her to do that? The fears she had to swallow? Do you have faith like that? Yeah me neither. But we can develop faith like that. If we'd just let go of the wheel and trust God.

Are you going to let the Lord do the driving today? I know it's scary because there are so many obstacles to drive around. But just remember that God knows all, God sees all, and God is greater than all. So trust Him today...and let go of the wheel.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Good Morning Lord...It's Eric Again!


Good morning my Lord, it's Eric again.
I want to say thank You, for being my friend.
I must say I'm feeling, all wrapped in Your grace,
I'll share it with others, it's too good just to waste.

The closer we get, the more I can see,
That while I was wayward, You waited for me.
For that I do love You, and I want You to know,
I'll make it my goal, to let that love show.

You've given to me, what I don't deserve,
So committed to You, I'm ready to serve.
I lift up to You, my family and friends.
I want them to have, Your love that won't end. 

Please bless me dear Lord, and forgive me of sin,
God take it away, so satan won't win.
But if I should fall, as sometimes I tend,
I'll call out to You..."It's Eric again"!