Monday, March 31, 2008

Can you sleep when the wind blows?

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.

Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, Hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!" The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away.

The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25 NKJV)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's in a name?

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades. Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures. Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.

One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, "Now don't get mad at me...I know we've been friends for a long time.....but I just can't think of your name! I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it. Please tell me what your name is." Her friend glared at her. For at least three minutes, she just stared and glared at her. Finally she said, "How soon do you need to know?"

Names are very important in our society. In fact, it is usually one of the first things we ask or offer to each other when we meet someone for the first time. Sometimes we even make assumptions about others based on their name. For example, would you rather fight a guy named Stacy or a man named Mad Dog? (By the way, there really is a man named Mad Dog out there. He did some work on my parents’ house once. The name is really on his driver’s license. Just ask my mother if you don’t believe me.)

Sometimes we acquire nicknames because of something we have done or by some way we have acted. I have had two nicknames while in college, one was given to me when I attended North Greenville College, and the other was from my days at Erskine College. Both were given to me by others due to something I had done. My friends from college still call me by one of those two names.

When I first came to Edgefield, a man asked if I had been to visit a certain sick person in our church. The person who asked, however, didn’t use the sick person’s real name. I asked who he meant, and he could not think of the sick person’s real name. He always knew him by his nickname.

In the Bible, names are equally important. When people in the Bible had a life changing experience with God, their names were often changed. Abram, which means “high father”, was changed to Abraham (father of a multitude), Jacob (supplanter) was changed to Israel (having power with God), and Simon (God has heard) was changed to Peter (rock), just to name a few.

Their names were changed because they had a change in their heart. They were new people, because of what God had done for them. What does God call you? What would your nickname be to the world right now? Would you be called a Christian or something else? Do you like the name you would be given or not?

Whatever your present circumstance and whoever you are right now, can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. You do not have to continue pretending to be someone you’re not. Give your life to Jesus Christ and let Him give you a name that you can take with you to eternity. He will actually give you part of His name. You can be called Christian!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Keep on Running Away

The movie Forrest Gump tells the story of a man with an IQ of 75 and his epic journey through life, meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture and experiencing first-hand historic events while largely unaware of their significance, due to his lower than average intelligence. Throughout the movie, we find that Forrest, although not smart, is hopelessly in love with his childhood friend, Jenny. Jenny leaves town, and Forrest doesn’t see her for a long time. However, she shows up one day and lives with Forrest for a while. One day Forrest finds that she has left once again. His solution to handling the feelings of loss was to run.

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, and just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, and keep right on going.(Forrest Gump)

He just kept running to get away from his problems. However, after running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, he realized that you can’t run away from your problems. None of us can.

The same is true when you are running from God. For those who have accepted Christ, trying to get away from what God wants you to do, and where God wants you to go, is futile. For some reason, we think we can run hard enough in the other direction, or even hide somewhere well enough that God cannot find us or see us. God, however, is always with us.

This reminds me of the story I read last week about James Wombles from Ohio, who went on a burglary spree. He robbed six different residences before police could catch him. How did they catch him? He had been convicted of a crime previously and was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet installed by law enforcement. When officers realized the robberies were happening in the vicinity of Wombles’ location, they were suspicious. As they tracked his GPS anklet, they discovered him to indeed be the burglar. When they finally arrested him, he was relaxing in a vehicle full of the stolen items.

This seems silly to us doesn’t it? One would think if you were tethered to the police by a GPS system, you would try to stay out of trouble. However, he thought he could get away with committing crimes even though the police knew all along where he was.

The Bible tells us that God is all around us. He sees all, he knows all. Instead of thinking in the negative, try to remember that no matter where we are; we are only a prayer away from our Heavenly Father. He is with us when we hurt, when we are down, when we are grieving, and when we are happy, excited, and celebrating. He loves us and wants to be involved in all aspects of our lives. Will you let him?

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Psalm 139:7-8)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Excuses Excuses

Excuses, Excuses, You hear them everyday. /Now the devil he'll supply them if from church you stay away. /When people come to worship God, the devil always loses. /So to keep those folks away from church, he offers them excuses.
Well, in the summer it's too hot. /In the winter it's too cold. /In the springtime when the weather's just right, you find some place else to go. /Well, it's up to the mountains or down to the beach or to visit some old friend. /Or just stay home and kinda relax and hope some of the kin folks start droppin' in. /Well, those church benches; they're too hard, /and that choir is way too loud. /Well, you know how nervous you get when you're sittin' in a great big crowd. /Now the doctor told you to watch them crowds, they'll set you back. /But you go to that ol' ball game 'cause they say it helps you to relax. /Well, a headache Sunday morning and a backache Sunday night. /But by work time Monday morning, you're feeling quite all right. /Well, one of the children has a cold, pneumonia do you suppose? /Why, the whole family has to stay home! /Just to blow that poor kid's nose
The Kingsmen Quartet

Have you ever called in sick to work? I think most of us have at one time or another. Some people have even called in sick when they weren’t really sick! Sometimes we will go to extremes to get out of doing certain things.

Last week, Daniel Kuch of Pasco, Washington, knew there was going to be a drug test at work. He also knew that calling in sick and faking a cough would arouse suspicion. Being the intelligent person that he is, he decided to get a friend to shoot him in the shoulder and told his employers that he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

Hopefully, you haven’t gone to such extremes to get out of work. However, as the lyrics to the Kingsmen Quartet song above illustrate, we will come up with just about anything to keep us from church, church work, or worse, what God wants us to do.

Don’t get me wrong, you are in good company if you are in the habit of offering excuses to God for why you cannot do His will. There are scores of people who belonged to that club, long before you even started talking.

One of the greatest men in the Bible was Moses. When God called him (through a burning bush nonetheless) he offered God an array of excuses. He actually heard God’s voice through a bush that was on fire, but not burning up, yet he gave God three reasons why he was not the man for the job.

First, he said the people would not believe him unless he could tell them God’s name. God gave Moses His name. Secondly, Moses said they wouldn’t believe him because they knew him too well. God showed Moses His power through turning the staff into a snake. Thirdly, Moses gave the last excuse he could. He told God about his speech impediment. God told him to take his brother along to speak for him.

No matter what your excuse is to God, He knows your heart. You may be able to fool the pastor, you may be able to convince your spouse, you may be able to pull the wool over the eyes of most people, but you will never outwit God. He knows your innermost thoughts. He knows all the ugliness, all the hatred, all the pain, all the unforgiveness, and all of the other things that keep you from following Him.

The good news is that He loves you. Not in spite of these things, but because of them. He created you and He adores you. Follow Him, and what He wants for your life, and He will give you life like you have never known. Stop making excuses and start making time for Him.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fish Fry

Some of the great memories I have from my childhood are of the times my family spent at Lake Greenwood. We boated, swam, fished, and just sat around being lazy. To make it even more fun, some great friends of ours had a trailer right in front of ours, right on the lake. These friends also lived about a mile from our house back in Greer.

We caught a lot of fish, mostly brim, and crappie, and we almost always cleaned and cooked them. Most of the time we ate them while we were at the lake, but some of the fish were frozen and brought home. These fish were being saved for the fish fry later.

I can remember many of those fish fry Friday nights. They were special. Maybe it was because we were at home, and got to enjoy fresh fried fish, or maybe it was just the friends who we were able to see once more, either way, it was a memorable time.

I was in Greenwood earlier this week, and passed a Captain D’s seafood restaurant. On the sign were the words, “FISH FRY”. My first thought was, “Do they serve any other kind of fish?” Why does a Captain D’s, who mainly serves fried seafood, need to tell people they have fried fish?

If you are driving by a Captain D’s or Long John Silver’s do you need to be informed what you might eat when you get inside? I don’t think so. Fried fish at one of these restaurants is not special. Everyone knows what they serve. On the other hand, if they were to have a fish fry at my house, that would be special.

When the general public drives by a church, they generally have a notion of what they would experience if they came inside. They would expect to hear about Jesus, or God, or love, or something of the sort. They would probably not be surprised to find talk of such things within the walls of a church building. That is not different or unique.

However, if the message of Jesus’ love for us is demonstrated in our lives outside the church walls, then we have something that will get the attention of the world. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t gather and worship. We should. But thinking that it ends at noon on Sunday is a mistake.

When we take the attitude of thinking that Jesus can only be found inside the church walls, we have reduced ourselves to a “members only” club. Do we need to put up a sign in front of the church that reads “Find Jesus Here”? People already expect that. We really need to wear a button on our shirt that reads, “Ask me about Jesus”.

It is wonderful to hear the Gospel preached in church. However, just as those fish fry Friday nights from my childhood were special because they were in an unexpected place, the Gospel is even more special when it is done and lived out each day of our lives instead of just at church.

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. (Matthew 4:18-20 The Message)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

It can't happen to us!

You think this can't happen to your church? The Jews believed God would never really destroy the temple either. In 70 AD, however, it was leveled. Leave God out, put programs in, stop telling people about Jesus, and watch. May God open our eyes in these days.

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24: 1-2