Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pop Quiz

In college, I worked as a server at a restaurant in Anderson. As the evening staff came in, we were pulled aside and informed that the restaurant would be closing forever at the end of the evening. Needless to say, it was an interesting night. We provided lousy service, and horrible food. One customer complained, and asked to see the owner. When the owner refused to do anything to correct the woman’s order, she exclaimed, “I’m never coming here again!” The owner just smiled and said, “You know what? You’re right!”

Sometimes there is not a warning for things that happen to us. In fact, most of the time we are taken by surprise at many of life’s twists and turns. You may head out to work just as you do each day, only to find a flat tire or that the car won’t start. You may receive an unexpected phone call or letter that changes your day.

Often we feel like we are back in a classroom and the teacher announces a pop quiz that we are terribly unprepared for. However, the reason teachers give pop quizzes is because they believe their students should have enough knowledge accumulated to be able to pass it. The information was already given by the instructor and from the textbook, so there should be no problem with the test.

I had a professor in Seminary who would give us a list of possible questions for every major test in his class. He would list 25 or 30 questions and tell us that ten of those would be on the test in the exact form listed. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to not perform well on his exams. However, many still found it difficult to make an “A”. Why was it difficult to make an exceptional grade? Because he expected perfection. After all, he gave us the questions to the test. Any mistakes were graded harshly. He gave us every opportunity to succeed. The choice was ours to diligently prepare, or merely guess which questions would be on the test.

God has given us fair warning about our lives, and the upcoming test that is involved at the end of them. We will all either take this test when we die or when we meet Him in the air. It is a simple test, and like my professor, He has given us both the question and the answer already.

On test day, we will be asked if we accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. If so, we pass the test. If not, then we fail. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, just as there were those who disregarded the warnings from my professor, there will be many who disregard the warnings of Jesus. Many times they don’t disregard spitefully. They simply think they have more time to get things in order.

Jesus illustrates this several times in the scriptures. In one parable, Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins who were waiting on the bridegroom. Five of them kept everything ready for his arrival, while the other five did not prepare. When the bridegroom arrives, he takes the first five with him, while the others scramble around to get everything together. They get left behind. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Do not fail the test given by the Master when that day comes. Make sure you are ready at all times. We never know when He may come for us to take us with Him to Heaven, or when we may meet the end of our lives on this earth.

While there is no guarantee of when it will happen, there is a guarantee that it will happen. We have been provided everything we need in order to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Would you pass that pop quiz today? If not, please contact me, your minister, a Christian friend, or anyone who can help lead you to the One who can change your life forever. To find out more about becoming a Christian, follow this link. http://www.sbc.net/knowjesus/theplan.asp

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Be Prepared

I was never a Boy Scout, Cub Scout, or otherwise. For some reason, my generation thought that it wasn’t “cool” to be a Boy Scout. I’m not sure if it was the uniform or the outdoor skills that we thought we were above, but my friends and I refused to be associated with them. However, my son is now a Cub Scout and I am having a great time experiencing scouting with him.
(Click the title "Be Prepared" above to transfer the the Boy Scouts of America website.)

This past Saturday, we had the opportunity to race in the district Pinewood Derby. After our car crashed at the previous race with our local scout pack, we made some adjustments to the wheel that came off and thought we were going to do well. Believe it or not, the same wheel came off at the district race. I was very disappointed and couldn’t help but think of all the things we could have done to the car to be better prepared.

The Boy Scouts motto is one that almost all of us have heard. The words “Be Prepared” can be recited by most of us even if we were never Scouts. However, the entire motto reads as follows; “The Scout motto is BE PREPARED. A scout prepares for whatever comes his way by learning all he can. He keeps himself strong, healthy, and ready to meet the challenges of life.”

Preparedness is crucial to getting things done correctly and efficiently. I read a news story a while back, about a robbery attempt in Benicia, California. Two armed men in ski masks had picked a cashless credit union to rob. A "cashless credit union" is where the money is deposited into a vault inaccessible to most employees. The men fled the scene, and no one was injured. One police officer was quoted as saying, "Apparently they weren't really prepared."

This reminded me of a robbery attempt that happened when I was a banker in Taylors, SC. Three hooded men got out of a pickup truck and attempted to come into the bank, hoods and all. When they tried to enter my branch, the doors wouldn’t open. We had magnetic doors at the branch that had to be released manually from inside. Obviously, we were not going to let in three men wearing hoods and facemasks!! The poor guys just weren’t prepared. They couldn’t even be good bank robbers.

God calls us to be prepared, to be ready, and to be the best. Colossians 3:22-24 reads, Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but [work] wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord—you serve the Lord Christ. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In other words, no matter if you are a plumber, carpenter, preacher, teacher, or even bank robber, you are to perform that task as if you are serving the Lord. By obeying this Biblical principle, we turn every ordinary mundane task into something that requires us to be the best.

In order to be the best, we must be prepared. No athlete trains to come in second or third or last. A true athlete’s heart and vision always sees the victory celebration, not the anguish of failure. It keeps the athlete strong and pushing on when he or she would rather not even get out of bed.

If we truly understand the greatness of the prize that lies before us, if we genuinely grasp the vision of the victory celebration in heaven with our Heavenly Father and loved ones, if we could hear our savior cheering us onward, we would never spend our time doing anything but preparing and training for the race we are in.

Training for this race is simple. We need to study God’s word, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) we need to pray constantly, Pray without ceasing.(1 Thessalonians 5:17) and seek God in every decision we have to make.

Be the best Christian you can be!

You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. (1 Corinthians 9:24 The Message)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time, either you hate it or love it. There are many who simply wish that we would never have to change our clocks ahead or back an hour. We usually hear these arguments in the spring, when we “lose an hour of sleep”. However, there are many more who enjoy the extra time in the sun at the end of the day.

I really have no preference in the matter. I like being able to do more in the evenings before it gets dark, but I pretty much go with whatever daylight I have. The only bothersome thing I have found about Daylight Saving Time is trying to get our kids to adjust. It is difficult to make them begin the bedtime routine when it is still light outside. However, after a week or so, it becomes less of a problem.

Since we moved our clocks forward this weekend, I have been thinking about the whole issue. Did you know that DST was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784? It wasn’t tried until some European countries adopted the practice during World War I. In 1918, the United States put it into practice, but it proved unpopular and was discontinued in 1919.

DST was adopted again during World War II and was called “war time”. After the war in 1945, states, cities and towns could choose whether or not to observe it. It was only in 1966 that Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, stating when DST should start and end. Even then, states could decide if they wished to adopt the practice or not.

The language used when people refer to DST is very interesting. We talk about “losing or gaining an hour of sleep”. I have heard people say that we “get an extra hour of daylight”. Perhaps you have said similar things. The truth is, we still have a 24-hour day. The sun is out the same amount of time each day, regardless what our clocks tell us. We do have shorter days in the winter and longer ones in the summer due to the Earth’s orbit, but switching our clocks back and forth does not give us extra daytime or rob us of the sun’s rays.

We like language that makes us feel good about ourselves. Referring to DST in this way makes us feel like we have some control of the Earth, when all we are doing is shifting things that we can control like our watches. Just because I move my watch ahead to 5PM at 2PM does not mean I can go home from work. It just means I have shifted my personal guideline for time.

We make these shifts in our walk with Christ also. We believe because we do good deeds, attend church, love puppies and children, buy Girl Scout cookies, and obey most traffic signs, that we somehow earn good graces with God. This is simply providing a smoke screen and God can see right through it.

Just as there are only 24 hours in a day, no matter how we measure it, there is only one way to have a relationship with God. Jesus shed His blood so that we would have full access to the One who created us. Call your good deeds what you like, but they will not earn you a place in Heaven. Call upon the One who is Light, and He will guide you with a light everlasting.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years. (Genesis 1:14)

Life was in Him [Jesus], and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:4-9 HCSB)