Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wooden Faith

I believe that there is nothing in the Bible that is insignificant. Truly, everything that is there is purposeful. For some things, the reason is obvious, such as Jesus’ crucifixion. For many others, we scratch our heads and wonder why God chose to tell us in His Word, the name of the Roman guard that Peter slashed.

I was thinking this week about wood. Yes, I was thinking about the substance of which trees are made. Before you decide that I have way too much time on my hands, or that I have completely lost what marbles I had left, consider the following with me.

God created the world in six days. The first two days were spent separating day from night, and the earth from the sky. There was no land yet, so the earth was just water. The first mention of any life on earth is in Genesis 1:11 where grass, plants and trees are formed. Only three days later did He create man and woman. Therefore, wood was here before people.

Adam and Eve had free reign in the Garden of Eden, except for that one tree. They were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we know what happened. They ate and were banished from the garden. From then on, wood and trees become one of the most overlooked, yet very significant part of the scriptures.

Consider, if you will, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It did not cause Adam and Eve to sin, but it was there to witness it. It is just as much a part of the story as Adam and Eve or the serpent. Without it, there is no fruit. Let’s take a brief look at what God has to teach us about trees and wood.

In Genesis 6, not long after the fall from Grace in the Garden, God decided to wipe out all people. However, He found Noah to be a righteous man and decided to save him and his family. How did He save them? He told Noah to build a boat out of gopherwood.

By the time of Abraham, the sacrificial covenant system that was in place, required a burnt offering, which used wood. When Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, they were headed up the hill and Isaac said “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7).

God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and Moses wooden staff played a huge role in the liberation of the Hebrews. The Ark of the Covenant, which was the embodiment of God’s presence, was made from acacia wood. Certain woods were prescribed by God for use in the Tabernacle and Temple.

Then there was Jesus. He was born in a manger which was probably made from wood.
He was raised by a carpenter. He was probably taught the trade and learned how to work with wood. He used trees for illustrations. Zacchaeus climbed into a tree to be able to see Jesus. Finally, two wooden beams were used to bring a cruel and terrible end to His time as a human.

Is it a coincidence that the same substance was the first form of life, the vehicle by which sin entered the world, and also held the weight of Jesus and all of our sin? I think not. God always allows for redemption. Adam and Eve picked the forbidden fruit from a tree. Therefore, God arranged for trees and wood to play a part in His plan of redemption. Noah’s ark saved all of humanity, the burnt offering forgave sins, Moses’ staff delivered the Hebrews from Egypt, and when Jesus, the carpenter’s son, stretched His arms across the wood that Friday, we were saved from sin forever.

Never overlook the ordinary things in your life. God uses the great and the minute things to complete His plan. In your prayer time, ask God to reveal to you those things, in His plan for your life, that you might ordinarily overlook.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fresh Out

Unfortunately I had to put gas in my truck the week of the great fuel crunch. I was at a pump that only had regular in it. The mid-grade and premium selections were covered. That was fine with me since the regular was $4.99 per gallon. I looked across the street at the sign in front of another station, which indicated they had premium for $3.85 per gallon.

For just a moment I was tempted to stop pumping gas and change to the other station. However, as I looked closer, I realized the all of the nozzles at other station were covered. They might have been advertising $3.85 premium grade gasoline, but they really had none.

This reminded me of something that happened to a pastor friend of mine. He lives to eat at Zaxby’s. For those of you who have never eaten there, they have the best chicken strips and wings on the planet. In fact, chicken is all they sell. You can get chicken wings, grilled chicken salad, chicken strips, and chicken sandwiches, but you won’t find a burger in the place.

Anyway, my friend goes into the local Zaxby’s and places his order. The girl behind the counter tells him that they are out of chicken. He is, of course, quite surprised and downright indignant. “You mean all you sell is chicken and you’re out of it?” he replied.

As I listened to his story he went on to say that if all you do is sell chicken, you should be able to stock up on it so that you never run out. He also took it a step further by saying the local church is no better. Many churches have crosses on the steeple, stained glass that depicts scenes from the life of Christ, Bible references or cute sayings on our signs out front, but when someone comes inside, in desperate need of a savior we are unable to point the way. We point them to our programs, our ministries, our worship service, our coffee pot, or our information desk, but what we are really saying is “Jesus? We ran out of that a long time ago. Would you like some information on our Sunday School classes?"
I realize that all of the things I named above can all be used by God to lead people who thirst for righteousness to the Living Water. However, my point is, when we begin to replace personal relationships with those who need Christ, with programs and information desks we are no better than a gas station with no gas, or a Zaxby’s with no chicken.

I attended the State Evangelism Conference in Rock Hill this past February. As I left one of the sessions, I noticed a woman at the church’s information desk. She was definitely not part of the conference. She was not well dressed, and she had tears in her eyes. I walked by, assuming the folks at the desk were helping her.

I went outside to my truck to make a call. I finished my call and as I was returning to the church, I saw her in the breezeway. She was still crying. Preachers of all shapes and sizes were filing out past her. Nobody stopped.

I knew that God was speaking to me, so I went up to her and asked if I could help. She said the people at the desk told her to go to a certain building on the church campus, but that she could not find it. I told her that I did not know where it was, but asked if I could help. She cried even more. She poured her heart out to me.

Here was a bunch of pastors and church staff people gathered together to talk and learn about evangelizing our state, but we completely missed one who was desperate for Jesus, even though she just walked right in the front door. What message got sent to her that day? “We have plenty of buildings, and a great information desk, but we are fresh out of Jesus.”

What are you doing to show the love of Christ to a world in need of a savior?
Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks: "I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone-dead. "Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there's life in you yet. But I wouldn't know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God's work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God. (Revelation 3:1-3 The Message)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Thank you for your patience while I dealt with computer problems. I hope you enjoy the blog post below called Reading Errors.

Reading Errors

One of the great joys I have had, over the last year, is witnessing my son learning to read. He began with just the letter sounds, which he picked up pretty easily. Then putting those sounds together was a bit of a struggle, but once he did it a few times, he was off to the races. He can now read most any word, at his level, and he sometimes attempts ones which are much harder.

I love to read with him at night just before bed. If it is a short book, I let him read it to me. If it is longer, I take a line or two and he does the same. We take turns reading until we are finished. Of course, he still loves for me and his mother to read a whole book to him.

One of the problems he has with reading, at this stage is that he wants so badly to read faster. Sometimes, he will read a story to me, and will do fine for a while. Suddenly, I’ll hear something that doesn’t quite make sense. When I check it out, the first few letters of the word are the same as the word he said aloud, but the word is completely different. When I make him go back, he reads the word correctly.

There are several reasons that cause him to make this mistake. First, he has a desire to read faster. Secondly, he doesn’t take the time to make sure of what the word is before moving on to the next one. Thirdly, he wants to be impressive to whomever he is reading. Fourthly, he is overly confident and thinks he knows the word already.

Of these reasons, the first is the most noble. I appreciate his ambition to be better, but we all know there are no shortcuts to getting better at anything. It takes practice and hard work. The second reason could be caused by impatience, or tiredness. Either way, it can cause quite a bit of confusion. The third reason is useless, because I could not be more impressed with him than I already am. I know his limits, and his level of learning and I do not hold an expectation over him beyond what I know he is capable of. However, I do expect him to perform any task to the level that I know he can. The last reason is common also. He is feeling good about what he can do, and overlooks some basic rules of reading because he thinks he is past that. However, how many times in life have we all had to go back to basics in order to reorganize life?

This is a good example of our Christian walk. As we learn more about God we tend to make the same mistakes as a young reader. We begin using what we learn from God, but we want Him to move faster in our lives. First, we don’t like the pace God has us on, even though we are not ready for the next level with Him. Secondly, we don’t make sure of the Word before acting. Thirdly, we want to impress others (or maybe God) with our faith, so we act a certain way based on how we think we should live. Fourthly, we get a small glimpse of God’s plan for us, so we run ahead assuming we know where to go.

All of these mistakes are detrimental to reading, and also to our relationship with God. God works in His time, not ours. God gave us His word to guide us and lead us. If we do not consult the Bible and commit its words to our hearts we will never be sure of God’s true plan. God already knows what we are capable of, He created us and knows us inside out. He is happy when we do something pleasing to Him, but we do not need to call attention to it. He already knows, and we have no reason to impress other people with our faith. Finally, God knows what lies ahead, even though we do not. Wouldn’t you rather follow someone who knows where you both are going rather than to run ahead, only to have to come back to basics later?

Trusting God is hard sometimes, but He will always prove His power and glory in your life if you let Him. Give Him your time, read the Bible for guidance, live only to please Him, and don’t get ahead of His plan. If we can avoid these mistakes, then we will truly honor Him.

My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones. (Proverbs 3:1-8)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


To any readers,
Due to some serious computer issues, I have not been able to update this blog for a while. I will resume posting after Wednesday September 17, 2008.
Thank you for your patience.