Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in Your Hand?

In October of 2004, I went on a hike to the top of Table Rock. Table Rock is located in Pickens County in South Carolina and is one of the most popular parks in the state. The hike to the summit is rated moderate to strenuous, but I would say it is more strenuous than moderate. However, the view from the top is incredible, and well worth the climb.

At dawn, I arrived at the park before anyone else, and began my ascent to the top. The reason for my hike was a quest. I had renewed God’s call on my life to be in the ministry after many years of running away from Him. For some reason, I felt that God was going to reveal something wonderful to me, if I climbed to the top of the mountain, read my Bible, and prayed.

After a long, tough hike, I made it to the top. I caught my breath, ate a granola bar, drank some water, and found my Bible in my backpack. I thumbed through it a bit and landed on a passage that I knew in my heart was what God wanted me to see. I read the following words. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV)

I thought, “What? I have no trials in my life. I have a great job, a wonderful wife, a precious son and baby girl on the way. What trials?” I left the mountain angry at God. I felt like I had wasted my time climbing the mountain and reading those words. I did not believe that message was for me at all. I believed I had just picked that passage at random, and that it was nothing more than random words.

Within two weeks, my world came crashing down. I was in the middle of a trial in my life that I never saw coming. I went back to those words in 1 Peter, like a kid headed for the cookie jar. I understood what God was telling me, but only in hindsight.

In 1883, Dr. William Howey went to check on crews who were building the Canadian Pacific Railway. While there, he found some interesting copper-colored rocks and pocketed them. Upon returning home, he sent them to the director of the Geological Survey of Canada for evaluation. The stones were deemed worthless, and Howey threw them away.

A contractor picked them up, and a year later decided to check out the site where they were found. It turned out those "rocks" were copper, and the contractor had discovered one of the world's largest copper deposits, which produced millions of dollars of ore. Later, it was also discovered that the ore contained high levels of highly sought-after nickel. The deposit was named the International Nickel Company of Canada, and went on to become the second-largest producer of nickel worldwide. In 2006, the company was bought for $17 billion.

Sometimes we don’t recognize God’s providence in our lives. Words from the Bible that we think do not apply to us, may be the very words from God we need later. Stones that we think are worthless, may indeed be worth a fortune. God sends His blessings to us in many ways. It is not our job to judge them to be right for us or not. God knows more of what we need than we do. He also knows when we will encounter those needs.

When David went out to check on his brothers during the battle, he did not take a weapon. He only had a sling. I’m sure that many times he thought the sling to just be something used to protect his sheep or to have fun with. He never knew that it would one day bring down a giant in the name of God.

Read the Bible. Seek God. Pray for understanding. You are blessed. Never take anything from God for granted.

Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?" Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you."
“He [Aaron] will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it." (Exodus 4:1-5, 16-17 NIV)


Monday, June 15, 2009

True Deadline

I watched a video online last week of WYFF, the NBC affiliate in Greenville, SC, flip the switch to change all of their broadcasting from analog to digital. They did it with a lot of ceremony. They had the reporter in the room with the CEO of WYFF, and a host of other people. They then showed a gentleman, in the transmission room, on top of Caesar’s Head, who shut down the analog signal for good at exactly 7am on Friday June 12th.

Like many other stations, they actually did not stop broadcasting in analog at 7am. They simply stopped showing television programs. What analog viewers saw was a phone number to call if they were having any trouble with their digital converter box, or had any questions.

Congress passed the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act in October of 2005. This legislation called for the end of analog programming on February 17, 2009. The legislation even allowed families, who did not have cable or satellite television, to request up to 2 coupons per household to purchase a converter box so their television service would not be interrupted. These coupons were available from January 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009. As the end of 2008 neared, broadcasters also spent billions of dollars on publicizing the switch to digital on February 17, 2009.

As the February deadline approached, it was clear to many that Americans were not ready for the switch. Even with all of the publicity on radio, television, billboards, and over the internet, people still had not purchased the converter boxes or requested the coupons. In fact, the Nielsen Company estimated that 5.8 million homes were not ready for the switch in February.

The government decided to move the deadline to June 12th, to give people more time to change. However, between Friday June 12th and Saturday June 13th, over 700,000 people called a federal hotline. One third of the calls were legitimate issues with converter boxes. Twenty percent of the calls were concerns about reception issues. Another third, however, were from people asking where to get the coupons to get converter boxes that have been available since January of 2008. In fact, The Commerce Department said that on Friday alone, 319,990 requests for the coupons were made.

If all of this happens when we are aware of a deadline date; what happens when we know something is going to happen, but do not know when? Jesus assures us that He is going to return to earth again someday. He does not give the time, day, month or year. He simply says that He will return and for us to be ready. Will you be ready when He returns or will you be trying to dial the hotline to get more time?

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
(Matthew 24:42-44 NKJV)

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
(Luke 12:35-40 NIV)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Riddance

Chen Fuchao felt as though he had no reason to live. He was $290,000 in debt from a failed construction project, and saw no way out but to kill himself. He climbed to the top of the Haizhu bridge in Guangzhou, China, where eleven other people have attempted suicide since April of this year. Fuchao intended to be the twelfth.

When he got to the edge of the bridge, however, he must have needed to think about whether this was the thing to do or not. He remained there for over 5 hours. During his contemplative moments on the bridge, the police were called, the area was cordoned off, and traffic was held up.

A 66 year-old man named Lai Jiansheng emerged from the crowd that had gathered. He asked the police for the opportunity to try to talk the man down from the bridge. The police turned his offer down. Lai was insistent that something needed to be done, so he took matters into his own hands.

Mr. Jiansheng walked away from the police, and proceeded toward the barriers. He broke through the cordon, and began the climb to the bridge. He climbed up to where Fuchao was standing on the edge, and reached out to shake his hand. As they shook hands, Lai pushed Chen Fuchao off the bridge. Fuchao fell 26 feet onto the inflated air cushion that had been laid out by the police. Fuchao survived with some spine and elbow injuries. Click here for the video

When Mr. Jiansheng was asked why he pushed the man he replied, I pushed him off because jumpers like Chen are very selfish. Their action violates a lot of public interest. They do not really dare to kill themselves. Instead, they just want to raise the relevant government authorities' attention to their appeals." Indeed, Mr. Jiansheng and those who were stuck in the traffic, the police and fire departments, and many others were very inconvenienced by Fuchao s actions.

When we allow sin into our lives, it takes everything hostage. It robs us of self-control, happiness, relationships, time, and money. It holds up the blessings that God wants so much to give us, and keeps us blinded to the needs of others. It stalls our relationship with Christ and damages our witness to the world.

If sin is that disruptive in our lives, then why do we tolerate it? Why do we continue to do what is displeasing to God? God provided a way out. God sent Jesus to die so that we could be free from sin and temptation. Instead of letting sin hold our lives hostage, we should get rid of the thing that clogs up our relationship with God. How? Simply push it out of our lives.

Mr. Jiansheng had enough of Mr. Fuchao interrupting his day, so he pushed him off the bridge and ended the ordeal. We need to follow this example and push sin out of our lives.

Is it easy? No. There will be those who tell us we cannot rid our lives of sin, that it is just a part of life . (1 John 3:5-7) The police tried to tell Mr. Jiansheng that he could not talk to Mr. Fuchao, but he didn t accept that. He did something about it.

It will take courage. (1 John 5:18) Mr. Jiansheng had to climb the bridge in order to face the culprit. We may have to do many things that will take courage to accomplish in order to rid sin from our lives, but we must resist the temptation to do nothing.

In the end, we must do whatever we can to avoid sin. The alcoholic knows that if he takes that one drink, he cannot stop. Therefore, he must avoid drinking alcohol of any form. The same is true of whatever sin it is that you are wrestling with. Remove yourself from the circumstances, and ask for help if needed.

Will you give your sin up to God today and take the measures necessary to live a wholesome life before God? Will you push that sin off the bridge today and free your life from its holding power? If you would like to talk with someone who can help you, please contact me or a Christian friend who can pray with you, and help push the sin into the depths where it belongs!

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:8-11 NKJV)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

Do you remember singing the song, “This Little Light of Mine”, when you were a kid? How long has it been since you sang it? Do you remember the words? The song repeats “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Several times, followed by “Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine.”

The second verse repeats, “Hide it under a bushel…NO! I’m gonna let it shine.” Do you remember, as a child, shouting “NO!” as loudly as you could, since it was the only time you could yell in church without getting into trouble?

This little song has some great truth to it. It is based on scripture. Three of the four Gospels record Jesus saying the word that inspired the song. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV. See also Mark 4:21 and Luke 11:33)

In 1995, I visited Hawaii. My family stayed on the big island of Hawaii at a very nice resort. This should have been the trip of my life, but I never got over the time difference and the food was a little bit too “gourmet” for my “cheeseburger and hot wings” taste.

All in all, I’m glad I went. I got to see manta rays up close, watched dolphins play alongside out boat, and enjoyed the activities provided for us by Toyota, and the resort. However, the most fun thing I did was a helicopter tour of the island.

On this helicopter tour, we were shown lush tropical areas only accessible by air, coastline, one of the largest working ranches in the US, and of course volcanoes. The pilot took us to Volcanoes National Park and flew us over Kilauea, which is one of the most active volcanoes in history. From there he flew along the route of the lava flow to the sea.

Red lava flowed down the hill and into the ocean from Kilauea. There was a great deal of steam rising from the ocean where the molten rock met the water. It was truly amazing to view. Near this site, he flew us over Kalapana.

The town of Kalapana sits on the coast of the big Island, along with it’s subdivision named Royal Gardens. You can buy a lot there pretty cheap, because in 1990 it was covered 50 feet high in lava from Kilauea. When I saw it from the air, there was nothing but black lava rock. There was a sign on part of it that read, “For Sale by Owner”. The funny thing about the Royal Gardens subdivision in Kalapana is that the owners of the lots there still have the deeds to the property. They still own it; they just can’t do anything with it.

As Christians, we are sometimes like this town that was once thriving. However, because of sin, we allow our Christian witness to be covered by layers of destructive material. In fact just like this town, our Christian witness or “light”, cannot be seen at all sometimes, because we have covered it with black, hardened sin, like lava-rock.

God has given us the greatest story ever told. He will also give us the strength and courage to tell it. He never intended for us to light that candle and hide it. He wants you to share with others what God has done for you. So, “Hide it under a bushel…No!” Let it shine!!

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops (Matthew 10:27 NKJV)