Saturday, May 15, 2010

Frank Page

I am very excited to see Frank Page nominated as President of the Executive Committee for the SBC. In my opinion there is not a better candidate. See the story here. Frank Page

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Put Down the Duckie

Put down the duckie, if you wanna play the saxophone!
(Chris Cherf. “Put Down the Duckie”. Sesame Street. 1988)

The line above is from the Sesame Street song, “Put Down the Duckie.” I have always loved Sesame Street, especially the creative songs that appear in the show. Several years ago, I loaded a bunch of Sesame Street songs onto my iPod, so my kids could listen to them while we are in the car. They still want me to play them every time we go somewhere in my truck. Mommy may have the video player in hers, but daddy has the tunes!

I have to admit that at the time of this writing, I’ve had Put Down the Duckie in my head for two days. (Just click the title if you'd like to have it in your head too!) I can’t stop the great bluesy melody from entering my brain. I know people will laugh if I begin singing it out loud, so I hold it all in. Maybe if I can get away in my truck, I’ll dial it up on the old iPod and sing as loud as I want. Maybe then it will get out of my head!

However, I began to think there may be another reason that the song is stuck in my head. As I thought about the lyrics, I realized that there is a valuable lesson being conveyed. Since many of you may not be familiar with the song, I’ll explain. Ernie wants to learn to play the saxophone, but is getting a “funny squeak”, each time he tries. He decides to ask Mr. Hoots, (a saxophone playing, Louis Armstrong sounding, owl) who is the leader of a band. Mr. Hoots identifies Ernie’s problem. Ernie is trying to play the saxophone while holding his favorite toy; his rubber duckie. Mr. Hoots sings, “Ernie keep your cool, I’ll teach you how to play the sax. I think I dig your problem. It’s rubber and it quacks!” Mr. Hoots then tells Ernie to, “Put down the duckie if you want to learn to play the saxophone!”

We are currently studying the book of Exodus on Wednesday nights. At this time, we are talking about the Ten Commandments. The first two things God tells Moses is, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” (Exodus 20:3-4)

What is God talking about? We know them as idols. What is an idol? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a representation or symbol of an object of worship” or “an object of extreme devotion.” In short, an idol, for the Christian, is anything that we hold in such high regard, that we are unwilling to let go of it, even if it means damaging our relationship with God.

Do you have any idols in your life? Is there something that you need to “put down” in order to hear God’s voice or serve Him better? Those things are different for everyone. However, the bad news is that we all have them. What’s worse is that like Ernie, we have no idea what’s causing the problem, even though it’s right in front of us, squeaking and in our way.

The good news is that God has made a way for us to put those things behind us. God became one of us, lived a perfect life, died for our sins and rose again. Because of that, we are understood and forgiven. Is there something that you need to lay before God? Is there something that you haven’t been able to let go? There is no better time than now to give it to Him.

When Ernie continues to try to play the saxophone, while holding the rubber duck, Mr. Hoots says, “You haven’t heard a word I said. You gotta get it through your head. Don’t be a stubborn cluck. Ernie, lay aside the duck!” God is saying to us, “Haven’t you heard Me? I love you! Put the things that keep you from Me behind you and run into My arms. There you will find peace and love like you have never known.”

Sometimes, however, we need help. Just as Ernie went to Mr. Hoots for his problem, you may need to talk to someone who can help you. We often cannot see our own problems. A Christian friend, a minister, or a Christian counselor can sometimes help you see more clearly what you cannot discern on your own. Put down whatever the “duckie” is in your life and enjoy a wonderful relationship with the one who created and loves you!

[Manasseh] took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the LORD, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. (2 Chronicles 33:15-16 NKJV)

When I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't Do The Crime, If You Can't Do The Time

Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.
(Sammy Davis Jr. Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow. Capitol Records. 1976)

On the night of July 18th, a fire broke out in an extremely populous city. It began on a side of town where there were shops that sold flammable goods. The fire quickly spread and by most accounts, burned for five days. By the time the fire was contained, it had completely destroyed three and severely damaged seven of the fourteen city districts.

The year was 64 AD. Nero was the emperor of Rome. Some people of the day suspected that Nero started the fire. After all, he was known to do some strange things. There were many rumors about his activity during the fire. Some said he played the flute and others said he sang, while dressed in stage costume, while the city burned. Whatever the truth may be, he was certainly a suspect in the minds of the people of Rome, and began to receive some public blame for the fire.

When he realized that many were accusing him of starting the blaze, he did what most of us would do. Nero found a scapegoat. Nero decided to blame the Christians for almost destroying the city. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote of the events, Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace…Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero found his scapegoat in the Christians. An 18-year old in Winona, Minnesota, found a scapegoat in his dog. No, the dog didn’t eat his homework, he vomited on the young man. The man crashed his car into a utility pole and left it. Witnesses led police to the man who they saw “walking a beagle” near the accident. When police caught up with the man, they found out that he had no driver’s license or insurance. The only excuse he could come up with was a quick redirection. He told them that he crashed because the dog threw up on him. He got a ticket anyway.

We seldom take the blame for our bad choices. It’s much more convenient to place the blame on someone or something else. The problem is, many times we are guilty of the crimes we have been charged with. If we made a bad choice, why is it so hard to admit to it and take the punishment?

I read a story recently about a pastor who had to go to traffic court for an expired license plate. He listened to all of the people, who were before him, tell the barrage of stories illustrating why they were not guilty. He was very embarrassed to be there, but when it was his turn he spoke up to the judge and declared his guilt. The judge was so shocked by his admission, that he let him go with no charges and no fine.

We must all come to the place with Christ where we admit that we are guilty of sin. We have all come up short when it comes to His standards. When we try to sidestep or blame someone else, we insult our Creator. He knows our hearts. He knows our motivations. He is like the judge that knew the people were guilty of the crimes they were accused of. However, when we, like that pastor, will admit our wrongs, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Even though we are guilty, Jesus paid the price for that guilt. We are able to be free from blame, guilt, and eternal punishment, because Jesus died and rose again. Stop playing the “blame game” and admit your sins to Him. He will forgive and forget.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)