Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Do you have a collection of anything? I used to call myself a collector of collections, because I couldn’t make up my mind about what I really wanted to put all that time, effort and money into. I have had several collections over the years.

I started collecting stamps one time. I bought a Babe Ruth commemorative first-day-of-issue stamp back in 1983 and that was and is the extent of my stamp collection. I also collected baseball cards for several years and still have a number of mint sets from the 80s. I collected Star Wars figures, but they fell prey to my BB gun and now are missing arms, legs and heads.

Nowadays, I don’t really collect anything. I do, however, seem to accumulate many things. The things I seem to be accumulating today really have no value to anyone else but me. There is a great deal of sentimental value that I place on quite a number of things that would be of no value to anyone else.

I enjoy watching the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. My wife just rolls her eyes if it’s my turn to be in control of the remote and I stop there. (By the way, the reverse happens when she in charge of the remote and she stops on HGTV.) I do find it funny that she also enjoys the Roadshow if she watches for a few minutes.

If you have never watched the show, they travel all over the country asking the locals to bring in antiques they would like to get estimates on. Expert antique appraisers uncover personal stories and assign monetary value to these items. Sometimes they have inherited the item or they may have purchased it at a yard sale or antique shop. They usually reveal how much was paid for the item and compare it to the value today.

The appraisers are always careful to tell the people what the item might sell for at an auction or what a collector might pay for it. This is because the item might not fetch nearly that amount if the person tried to sell it to just anyone. Therefore the price is dependent on the value someone else sees in it.

In Matthew 12, Jesus has a confrontation with the Pharisees. At the beginning of the chapter, we find Jesus and the twelve picking heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees accused them of working on the Sabbath, which was against Levitical law. Jesus responded by reminding them of the time that David ate the showbread from the temple, which was also not lawful. However, his hunger and strength was more important than Levitical law at the time.

Jesus then went into the synagogue and saw a man there with a withered hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The scripture reads, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. (Matthew 12:11-13)

Jesus encountered the man with the withered hand and appraised the value in him. He was worth more than a sheep, more than a sparrow, more than even the Levitical law. This man was also valued by Jesus to be worth His own life, because in verse 14 we see the Pharisees plotting against Jesus. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:14)

Have you ever felt worthless? Have you ever believed you made no difference in the world at all? Do you ever see what some would call the important people in the world and think, “I’ll never be like that; I’m just a big nothing.”?

Jesus says otherwise. Jesus saw Peter, Andrew, James, and John and said, “You are not just fishermen, you are mine!” Jesus walked by Matthew and said “You may look like a despised tax man to others, but you are great in my eyes. Come and follow me!” Jesus looks down on us and says, “You may think you have lived a horrible life and can never be anything of value to God, but I am the great eternal appraiser and I say you are worth more to me than even my own life.”

How much worth does God place on us? He gave up His entire Kingdom, humbled Himself, and became one of us. He then added more value to us by giving up that same life willingly on a cross. As if that were not enough, He then heaped on more value by defeating death, hell and the grave for us.

He gave all and then defeated all. Why? Because there was no way He was going to be outbid with YOU on the auction block. God loves you that much!

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I was trying to make my way to the music store from the hospital in Augusta last week. Isn’t it strange how you can go by the same buildings many times, but never really notice what’s there? On this particular day I was noticing things to my left when something caught my eye.

There was a very small store on the side of the road. It was not only small, but it was also very dilapidated. The wood siding on the front was buckled and faded, and the windows were covered in dust. The oddest thing was that it was occupied.

Hand-painted in black on the front of the little building were the words, “TV/VCR REPAIR”. There was an old car parked in front and the door was standing open. I didn’t go inside to see if it really was a repair shop, but I assumed the writing on the wall to be correct.

How much business do you think this person gets? When a television or VCR stops working how many of us send it somewhere to be repaired? Even if we do consider repairing it, we usually take it to the store where we bought it, instead of taking it to someone who strictly does repairs.

I remember getting a television of my very own back in the early 70’s. We placed it on the dresser in my room. Since the dresser was dusted twice per week and polished once per week, it was pretty slick. As I came into the room they day after I got the TV, I bumped it. It slid all the way to the end of the dresser and crashed to the floor.

Today, you might just take it back to the store where you bought it and get another one. Back then we just took it to a little repair shop in Greer, and it was fixed within a few days. It was the same TV, but with a new picture tube. It worked great for years.

The battery is not working on my cell phone. It will probably cost more to repair it than to buy a new phone, so I get to keep this one as a souvenir. Our society has become such a disposable one. Very few things get repaired. We sometimes seek opportunities to obtain something new rather than try to address the problems with the old.

I saw a Hyundai commercial during Monday Night Football that made me think about the way we throw away things when they are not perfect. The voiceover on the commercial says;
Instant gratification has us in a stranglehold.
So much so, that we don’t want to fix things anymore. We just replace them.
Don’t like your nose? Get a new one.
Don’t like your job? Get a new one.
Don’t like your spouse? Well, get a new one.
Whatever happened to commitment? To standing by our decisions?

This applies to our spiritual lives also. If your church has problems, find a new one. If God doesn’t give you everything you want, get a new one. We want to throw out what we don’t like about God’s word, and serving Him so that we may keep and embrace the things that make us feel good.

Living the Christian life is certainly not about instant gratification. It is about cultivating a relationship with our Heavenly Father. No relationship is created or maintained without commitment. The level of commitment to our vehicle, TV, spouse, or anything else on this earth only has temporal consequences. Our commitment to Christ dictates our eternity.

Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods. (Joshua 24:14-16)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Moose Songs

If you are like me, there are songs that remind you of a certain time in your life. Perhaps when you hear one song it reminds you of the first dance you had with your spouse. It may remind you of a lost love, or a carefree summer in your youth. Whatever it reminds you of, those memories come rushing in like a flood when the song is played.

Many times it is not planned. Many times it is heard by chance on the radio, or maybe even over the PA system in a store. These meetings with our past sometimes take us by surprise and send us to another place and time. Music is like a time machine that can transport us in seconds to somewhere in our past.

Personally, I have a long list of such songs. Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash reminds me of singing on our hearth when I was just a child. Smokey Mountain Rain by Ronnie Milsap reminds me of the first time I ever played my guitar and sang for anyone besides my family. The hymn Because He Lives reminds me of Pelham First Baptist Church, where my family attended church during my middle school through college years.

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by the Temptations reminds me of a moose. In fact, to my brother Ryan and me it will always be known as the “moose song”. When Ryan and I were teenagers, we went with our parents to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. If you have never been there, you should go. It is some of the most spectacular country you will ever see. It is at the foot of the Grand Teton mountain range and just south of Yellowstone National Park.

During the week we had been riding horses, whitewater rafting down the Snake River, and visiting Yellowstone. My parents had put us in a cabin by ourselves, while they enjoyed a cabin to themselves next door. (By the way, for years I thought they did this because they thought we were so mature. Now, since I have children of my own, I realize they just wanted some peace and quiet.)

One night Ryan and I were just goofing around in our cabin. We were singing Ain’t Too Proud to Beg at the top of our lungs. (Go ahead and sing it. You know you want to. “I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go…”) Just as we were halfway through the first verse, a full grown bull moose stuck his huge Bullwinkle looking nose through our open window. At first it frightened us, but then we lost our breath laughing. We ran outside to get our parents, and mom got a picture of the moose running away.

In the book of Deuteronomy, God gives Moses a song to teach to the Israelites. God tells him that Israel will, in time, turn from worshipping Him and chase after other gods. However, He says this new song will endure for generations and serve as a reminder to them to remember the Lord.

God gives us a new song in our hearts when we make Him the Lord of our lives. This song may not be one that we sing out loud, but it is there to remind us of His great works and what He has done for us. Maybe if we slowed down a little and listened a little harder we might hear the song…and remember.

After taking ev'ry detour
Gettin' lost and losin' track
So that even if I wanted
I could not find my way back
After drivin' out the mem'ry
Of the way things might have been
After I'd forgotten all about us
The song remembers when
(The Song Remembers When Lyrics by Hugh Prestwood. Recorded by Trisha Yearwood)

"Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for Me against them. When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting Me and breaking My covenant. And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants.
(Deuteronomy 31:19-21)

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


There’s this number that’s been floating around in my head for the last few weeks. The number is forty. Just in case you haven’t heard, by the time you read this I will be officially out of my 30s. I really thought I would try to do the Jack Benny thing and just stay 39 forever, but I think I have changed my mind about that. I think I may actually be ok with the age change.

While I am on the subject, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the surprise party Sunday night. You really did a great job of keeping the secret. The outpouring of love and generosity was overwhelming. Lynn, the kids, and I are so fortunate to be a part of this church family. We love all of you.

Anyway, let’s get back to my subject. I think my mother gave me the best piece of advice. While everyone else is ribbing me a bout being older, and “officially middle-aged”, my mother said that I would enjoy my forties more than any other age. She said “before forty, you still have no clue about life, and after you turn fifty, your body starts to fall apart, so go out there and enjoy the next decade!”

Not only do I believe her, but I think there is some Biblical truth to what she is saying. Just take a look at all the instances in the Bible where the number 40 shows up.

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights when God wanted to cleanse the world and start over. Genesis7:12

Noah waited another 40 days after it rained before he opened a window in the Ark. Genesis 8:6

Embalming required 40 days (although this was an Egyptian custom, the Egyptians recognized the period of 40 for the preparation of going into a new life, what they called the afterlife) Genesis 50:3

Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 days (TWICE) Exodus 24:18.Exodus 34:28-29 .Deuteronomy 10:10

Moses' face shone after the 40 days on the mountain. Exodus 34:29.

It took the spies 40 days to search out the Promised Land and bring back fruit Numbers 13:25

The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, one year for each day they explored the Promised Land. Exodus 16:35 Numbers 14:33-34

Goliath came for forty days before being killed by David 1 Samuel 17:16

Elijah, strengthened by one angelic meal went forty days to Mount Horeb where the Lord passed by and he heard the voice of God 1 Kings 19:8

Jonah warned the City of Nineveh they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city. The people repented in those 40 days and God spared the city. Jonah 3:4 and 10

Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness Matthew 3:17 and 4:1-2

Jesus was seen on the earth 40 days after His crucifixion Acts 1:3

When forty is mentioned, it occurs within the context of a trial, a lesson to be learned, or a major change. Is there a 40 in your life right now? Is God initiating a change in you that will affect your whole life? Maybe you’re going through a tough time and are wondering if there is hope. There is. God never lets troubles go unchecked. There is always hope in Christ.

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
John 14:1

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

To Die For

I recently heard a message from another pastor who was preaching on the life of Daniel. He was speaking of how Daniel never compromised his faith in God, even when it meant trouble. He stood strong in the face of adversity and held on to the Truth, which eventually delivered him.

One of the comments out of that message struck me. He said “When we cave, in following Christ, nobody respects it. Those who don’t follow God have no respect for us, and those who do follow God have no respect for us either. So we might as well go ahead and do the right thing.”

Have you ever thought about that? Did you realize how spineless we look to others when we don’t stick to the beliefs that we hold? When we do the right thing, it is respected by everyone. When we do the wrong things, everyone else sees how small we are.

I believe this is the reason so many will follow those who stand up for what they believe in, regardless of the outcome. If you line up the great people of history, you will find that most of them stood their ground when others just conformed. Christopher Columbus, Galileo, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks all changed the world when they stood their ground.

In the book Made to Count, by Bob Reccord and Randy Singer, the story is told about a meeting of youth and student ministers who were brainstorming about college evangelism and how to reach the next generation. Popular youth speaker Louie Giglio was present, but very quiet. He didn’t laugh when jokes were made about getting fired if they tried some of the “cutting edge” stuff. Finally, someone nudged Louie by asking what he thought it would take to reach the next generation. His response was incredible. He said, “We’ve talked about some ideas that we like, but then we’ve jokingly said that we didn’t like them enough to die for them. My read of the next generation is that they are looking for precisely that-something important enough to die for-and they’re willing to follow someone who will put their life on the line for that cause.”

I think Louie Giglio is exactly right except for one thing. I believe what he said is for all people, not just the next generation. People are looking for answers, people are looking for a leader, and people are looking for that one person who will stand for Christ no matter what.

Peter thought he could stand with Christ through whatever happened. In Matthew 26:34-36, just before the soldiers took Jesus away to be crucified; Christ had told his disciples that they would all stumble before the night was over. However, Peter said “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.

If you read the rest of the story, you know Peter denied Jesus, and the rest of the disciples also fled. They were willing to follow Him when He was performing miracles and teaching, but when things got rough, they were nowhere to be found. Of course, they all realized their mistakes, were forgiven and all but one of them eventually died for their faith.

You may not be called upon to actually die for your faith, but sooner or later, you will find yourself in a situation where your faith will be tested. Will you pass the test? Will you plant your feet firmly on the Rock and fix your eyes upon Christ and say “Come what may, I will serve the Lord!” or will you cave to the temptation to water down your faith or even deny it? Remember that God gave everything for you. Can you give Him any less?

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)