Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Looney Tunes

Do you remember Saturday morning cartoons? Yes, I know you can still watch them on Saturday morning, but the old standards are gone. Remember the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show that lasted for four hours? You could wipe out a whole box of Cocoa Pebbles or Honeycomb while watching that show!

My favorite character, bar none, from Saturday morning cartoons was Yosemite Sam. How many times have you seen Sam burst into the saloon, sashay up and say “Gimme a Sasparilly, and make it snappy!” He was a hothead who always let it get him into trouble. How many times have you seen him thrown into the same canyon that Wile E. Coyote falls into, while muttering something you wish you could hear?

It took all kinds of characters, with all kinds of personalities, to make that cartoon work. What truly made it funny is that we all know people, maybe even ourselves, who act like those characters. I can even think of some people in our church who are like Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote. Don’t think for a second that I am going to tell you who they are though!

The Bible tells us that being part of this family of God is like that as well. It takes all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:12 reads, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” We need each other. We are the body of Christ, but we are not all the head, the foot, the hands, the heart. We also cannot survive, or at the least, function properly without the rest of the body.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:14, 21-27)

This passage is sometimes a tough one to swallow. We may not agree with everything our Christian brothers or sisters do, but we are commanded by God to encourage them, pray for them, and love them with His love. If we do not, we are causing the whole body to be restricted. That means we are limiting ourselves and our own walk with Christ, when we do not support and love the rest of the body of which He is the head.

We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made”. (Psalm 139:14) Let’s learn to love each other with the love of Christ both in spite of, and because of our differences!
But if we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? (If We Are The Body by Casting Crowns)
And God placed all things under [Jesus] feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Praise Him!!

Gas prices are at an all time high and continuing to rise. Wall Street is taking a beating. The housing market is a mess. Strains of diseases, thought to be long extinct, have reoccurred. The war in the Middle East rages on, with more people killed each week. There are fatal car accidents, homicides, drugs, and robberies, even in your own town.

There is plenty around us to cause depression, frustration, anxiety, and apathy. All one has to do, is just watch the news or read the paper to find all the daily dose of bad news needed to cause such feelings and emotions. If we simply focus on these things, it would seem that the ground is giving away beneath our feet and there is no hope for anyone.

Many of us are not directly affected by any of the situations listed above. However, we do endure heartaches and disappointments at times. It is in those times that it is most important to draw close to God. It is not a hard thing for the Christian to thank God and praise Him when all is well. It is quite difficult to give Him that same praise in the midst of a storm in our lives.

I remember when one of the banks I worked for decided they no longer needed my services. My direct supervisor came by at 5 pm on a Friday afternoon to tell me I was no longer employed. I was shocked and overwhelmed. I had done nothing wrong, but now had to look for a job.

The next morning, I was supposed to help set up our church for service on Sunday. Simpsonville First Baptist had started a second campus which was an all contemporary format. We were meeting at the Simpsonville campus of Greenville Technical College, and had to set up and tear down each week.

Before I entered the building, I encountered a man who I had grown to admire. His name is Jim Dawson, and he is simply the finest example of the attitude we should all have as a Christian. He is always positive, energetic, and compassionate. He and his wife were mentors to me and my wife without even knowing it.

Jim took one look at me that day and knew there was something wrong. I thought I had hidden my pain pretty well, but he saw right through it. He asked what was wrong, and I told him. The first words out of his mouth were “Well…Praise the Lord!” I thought he was nuts. However, I learned from that encounter, that praise to God is not only reserved for what we perceive to be good in our lives, but something we should always do.

By Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Did you notice in the scripture above, the writer of Hebrews refers to the “sacrifice” of praise? That’s because sometimes it is indeed a sacrifice. It is not something we want to do when troubles come. However, God says we should praise Him continually. Give Him the praise He is due, for He has created us to worship Him. When we praise Him, He will lift us up, and give us hope. Praise Him! Praise the Lord!!

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

I was sure by now / That You would have reached down / And wiped our tears away / stepped in and saved the day / but once again, I say "Amen," and its still raining As the thunder rolls / I barely hear you whisper through the rain / "I'm with you" / And as Your mercy falls / I raise my hands and praise the God that gives / And takes away

I'll Praise you in this storm / And I will lift my hands / For You are who You are /No matter where I am / Every tear I've cried / You hold in your hand / You never left my side / And though my heart is torn / I will Praise You in this storm (Casting Crowns, Praise You in This Storm)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Because He Lives

This past weekend, I had the chance to do something I had wanted to do for many years. Lynn and I went with some very good friends to see the Gaither Homecoming Tour in Columbia. It was a great night of worship music. Many of the songs we heard that night were ones I had not heard in years. The program lasted for four hours, and we were all tired by the time it was over, but truly blessed.

It was a treat to actually see the man who wrote so many of the songs I grew up hearing and singing. Four of these are actually in our Baptist Hymnal. There’s Something About That Name, The King is Coming, The Family of God, and my favorite, Because He Lives. Something Beautiful, He Touched Me, It Is Finished, and Let's Just Praise The Lord, are examples of some of his other inspired works that are not in our hymnal, but are standards in Christian music.

One of the stories he told Friday night was about the song, Because He Lives. In 1969, Bill and Gloria Gaither were expecting their third child. Their firstborn, Suzanne, was four, and her sister Amy was three months old. The timing for another baby wasn't ideal since Gloria hadn't fully recuperated from Amy's birth. On top of that, Bill contracted mononucleosis. Health concerns weren't the only issues the couple faced: a recent divorce in the family and a rift with a close friend weighed on their minds. Another friend's strong prayer support gave the Gaither’s hope.

About six months later, Bill's dad, George, beckoned the couple into the middle of their office parking lot which had just been newly paved the previous fall. There, a single blade of grass had broken through the blacktop. Against the odds, life triumphed!

In July, a healthy baby, Benjamin, was born. Soon after, Because He Lives poured out of Bill's grateful heart beginning with the words;

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives!

What uncertainty are you facing today? Are you wondering how you are going to pay those bills? Maybe your health is failing and you have no idea how you are going to make it through this time. Is your marriage far less exciting than you had hoped it would be? Perhaps you have lost a job, or you are in fear of the layoffs at your place of employment.

No matter what your circumstances are, you are not alone. Even if it seems the whole world has left you behind and has forgotten about you, Jesus cares. Not only does He care, but He is right there every step of the way. He may be hard to see and hear in the clatter of daily life, but He is there, waiting to wrap His love around you. All you have to do is call His name, ask Him to come into your life and heart, and He will meet you in your storm.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; There's just something about that name!
Master, Savior, Jesus, Like the fragrance after the rain;
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Let all heaven and earth proclaim;
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there's something about that name!
William J. Gaither

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. John 14:19

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Some years ago, I was watching a British comedian who was entertaining an American audience. He was quite funny through his whole act, but one thing he said really made me laugh. He looked at the crowd, and said, “So, you people left England because of taxation….How’s that working out for you?”

How true is that irony? Today, we pay more in taxes than those who left England back at the beginning of our American history. We pay sales tax, property tax, and many more including state and federal income tax.

Did you know that in 1916 the income tax law had just over 11,000 words, but the 1996 version has over 7 million words? That is ten times the number of words in the Bible! Does our tax system confuse you? You are in good company. Albert Einstein said, “The hardest thing to understand is the income tax."

It may be hard to understand, and it may be frustrating to continue paying taxes, but we don’t have much choice. Not only is the system here to stay, but people have been taxed ever since there has been organized government. Even the Bible addresses taxes in several areas.

Three instances come to my mind concerning taxes in the Bible. The first is in Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Of course, if this tax had not been imposed by Caesar, then Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem. There would have been no stable, no manger, possibly no shepherds in the fields, etc. The Christmas story would have been much different.

The second occurrence that I think of is in Matthew 17:24-27 where the temple tax is due. Peter does not want to pay the tax, but Jesus instructs him to go fishing. Jesus says that the tax would be found in the fish’s mouth. (Boy, I wish I could pay my taxes like that!)

The third is the fact that Jesus called Matthew to become a disciple. To me, this is a perfect example of why Jesus came to earth. This story is found in Matthew 9:9-13.

The tax collectors of Jesus day were social outcasts. The Jews didn’t like them because they were Jews who extorted money from their own people. The Romans didn’t like them or trust them for the same reason. Because of their status in society, they usually only gathered and socialized with other tax collectors, and those who were also less socially accepted.

When Jesus asked Matthew to join him, he immediately left his job and followed. He was very excited, but the only friends he could tell were the least desirable people in town. So he threw a party for them and invited them to meet Jesus.

The bottom line to this is very obvious. Jesus does not care about who you are, what you have done, what you wear, how much money you have. He just wants you as you are. We may be burdened with taxes, physical problems, financial problems, relationship problems, or a whole host of things that frustrate and blind us to the love of Christ. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, Jesus simply says, “Follow me”.

Does following Christ mean that we will never have difficulties? No. It does, however, mean that our focus will no longer be on the things of this world, but the things of God’s Kingdom. Wherever you are, look up to the God of all creation and ask for help. He cares.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7