Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Driver on the Bus

On Thursday, September 16, 2010, a uniformed bus driver entered a Chicago Transit Authority bus and settled into the driver’s seat. He logged in, started the bus and headed out on the bus’ route about 8 pm. He picked up numerous passengers and dropped them off at the appropriate stops. All seemed to be going well.

Sometime around midnight, however, the man returned the bus to the CTA garage and accidentally hit another bus. Another worker saw the accident and left to get a supervisor. As the second man was leaving, the bus driver bolted out of the bus and ran down the street.

It took a while for the authorities at the CTA to determine what was wrong. It turned out that a bus driver had reported his uniform being stolen about a month before. Before long, the man who drove the bus around for a few hours was identified. He was an acquaintance of the bus driver whose uniform had been stolen.

Now the “fake” bus driver is facing charges for his excursion. His motivation in posing as a bus driver is unclear, but is under investigation. Also, the CTA has assured the public that they are evaluating measures to keep this from happening again. 

The interesting thing about this story is that if he had not hit the other bus, he would have gotten away with his venture. He looked like a bus driver. He logged in and followed procedure. He apparently drove like a regular driver. He even knew the bus route and picked people up and dropped them off in the right places.

Many people might say, “What’s the big deal? No one was hurt.” However, there is a very real danger in this story. This man was not qualified to drive the bus, and as a result, placed both the passengers and himself in a potentially harmful situation.

There are many people who look like Christians. They seem nice. They know the “churchy” words to say. They give money to their church and other Christian causes. They may even have leadership roles in the church. However, they may truly not know Jesus in a personal way at all.

There are many who believe that simply being a “good person” and treating others with respect will grant us favor with Almighty God. Jesus calls these people “false prophets,” and warns us to watch out for them. We cannot simply observe their actions or words to learn of their relationship with God. We must also look for the fruits of following Christ in their lives.

In Galatians 5, Paul outlines both the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit. He writes, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:19-26 NKJV)

Look for these worldly works and Godly fruits in the lives of those who you believe to be Christians. You certainly do not want to get on the bus with someone who looks like a bus driver, but turns out to be a fake.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ghost Train

On August 27, 1891 a west bound train had just passed through Statesville, NC. Passenger train No. 9 was chugging along normally in the early morning hours, when it came to Bostian’s Bridge that spanned Third Creek about two miles west of Statesville. At the bridge the train derailed and plunged 60-75 feet into the ravine below. More than 20 people were killed and close to 30 were wounded.

Some people say that if conditions are right, each August 27th you can actually hear the crash. It’s known as the “ghost train” of Bostian’s Bridge. Each year there are a number of people who gather, on the anniversary of the crash, to listen for the sounds of a train wreck.

This year was no exception. There were about a dozen people on the bridge in the middle of the night, waiting to hear some sound of a train. Those people did indeed hear a train, but it was not a “ghost train.” They realized suddenly that there was a real train coming around the bend.

All of the people scattered to clear the tracks on the other side of the trestle. All of them made it across but one 29 year-old man. The man was struck by the train, and then thrown into the ravine by the force of that blow. He did not survive.

In 1 Samuel 11:1-3 we read these words. “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

David was toying around with sin. The things he did at first were not huge errors, but they were errors nonetheless. He didn’t go off to war like the other kings, he was too comfortable in his palace. He looked over into Bathsheba’s house and saw her bathing, he didn’t look away. These are not the worst thing David could have done, but they were wrong.

The problem is that even what we consider to be minor sin in our lives often leads to major ones. From David’s “small” sins, he wound up committing adultery and causing Bathsheba to do the same. He made his guards have to cover for him. He forced Joab to do something very unethical. He got Bathsheba pregnant. He arranged for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to be killed in battle. From simply not following through in his duty, to murder was a very quick, slippery slope.

Just like the young man who was waiting for a “ghost train,” David thought he was safely playing around with something fun and exciting. However, just as the man on the trestle, David was hit by the train of sin, which threw him down and almost destroyed him. Many times we are fooled into thinking we can “get away” with our sinfulness. We think we can beat it if we begin to become ensnared in it. The reality is that we may never know that we are trapped until it is too late.

What’s the cure? We need to stay away from those things, people, places, and atmospheres that can lead us down the path to sin. There are many things that we surround ourselves with that make it easy to fall prey to sin. Eliminate them from your life. Also, we need to apply God’s Word to our lives. We need to know what God is saying to us through His Word, and obey. Then, we need to pray for the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help us know what is good and righteous.

If we are in a right relationship with God, He will open our ears, eyes, mind, heart, and spirit to see the world as He sees it. When that happens, we will stop chasing after sin like the young man sought the “ghost train,” and avoid the consequences of living carelessly. 

My sincere condolences go out to the family of this young man. May God grant you peaces in this time of loss. S.W.

Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 NKJV)

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.(Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pastor Terry Jones

OK. I usually try to stay out of such, but I am quite indignant over this whole Koran burning thing. No I am not making a comment on whether the Muslim holy book should be burned. What's burning me up is the way the media has made a religious kook from Gainesville, Florida, who has a church with 50 members instant fame.

Do the people who are the most outraged by his threat to burn Korans on Saturday, not realize that they are the ones who are fanning the flames? People like Terry Jones feed off of such attention. They relish it. They wallow in it.

I used to keep a note under the glass on my desk that was a wonderful reminder for me in dealing with people. It read, "Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it." Mr. Jones is one who loves this slop, and our media, religious organizations, and our politicians are all simply wrestling this pig. Even the President and the Pope have weighed in on the matter.

People!!! Just a matter of weeks ago, most people had no idea who this guy was, or anything about his church of 50 members. Now the President of the United States, General Petraus, The Pope and numerous celebrities are talking about him? Where is our sense?

This man is the "shock jock" of Christianity. His philosophy is that bad press is better than none at all. This is doing nothing but puffing up his ego. Listen to me America. If you want Terry Jones and his kind to go away, pull the news trucks out of Gainesville, leave him alone and stop talking about it. You're worried about how this will affect our troops and world relations? Don't film it, then no one will see it but his 50 member congregation!!! My dad always said, "The manure doesn't stink until you stir it up!" Quit stirring!!!

OK. I have wasted enough time on Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center of 50 members. I'm  going home to burn some cookies.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is There Anyone Who Fails?

School has started back for students from preschool to college. Along with school comes homework, learning, tests and grades. If it were not for those things, school would be a fun place to be!

One would expect a normal school to be a place where teachers who are trained for certain subjects, pass on their knowledge to students. A normal school should also have a professional and knowledgeable administrative staff, who can run the school, in a way that is both efficient and appealing to the public. After all, if your school has a bad reputation, parents are less likely to send their children to you. 

I read two articles recently about two schools where one might think twice before sending their children to them. The first is from a high school in North Carolina. On the road outside the school is the word “school” in huge white letters to mark the school zone. However, the large letters on the road are misspelled. They read, “SHCOOL.”

Now I realize that this grand-scale typo is not the school’s fault. It was the contactor who painted the road who made the error. However, most people driving by would automatically blame the school for the misspelled word.

The second school is Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Drake University recently launched a new advertising campaign for their school. The idea of the campaign is to get the message across that Drake University’s experience, plus your passion is a great combination. This sounds like a pretty good advertisement, until you see how it is marketed.

They have shortened the campaign to something easily remembered. Sure enough, it’s easy to remember! Here is the way the ad reads. “D+ The Drake Advantage.” Huh? D+? Is that all your school expects? Maybe I should have attended there. I could have been the valedictorian! The school paid a lot of money to a marketing company to come up with a D+ for their ad campaign, so they say they’re sticking to it for a while. I say the marketing company should get a D+ for not noticing the problem.

We all make mistakes. Even schools, teachers, churches, pastors, police, doctors, and everyone who is human make errors from time to time. While we all know that humans make mistakes, for some reason it seems tragic when someone we look up to makes them. We hold some people in much higher regard than others and expect them to perform accordingly.

This expectation of perfection is the reason it hurts so much when those we regard so highly fall into errors of judgment. We want someone to inspire us, who we can look up to. We want someone to follow, who is above normal failure. We want someone to love us, who will never be unfaithful.

There is only one who can fulfill those expectations and more. Jesus will never fail. He is the only man who ever lived who did not sin. He resisted temptation and even defeated death. He is perfect and calls you to His side. He wants to love you, lead you and inspire you in ways you cannot imagine. If you have been “let down” by people who you wanted to be perfect but who never were, then allow Jesus to show you what true love really is. Ask Him into your life today and learn how to give Him more and more of you until you trust Him completely.

If you have never trusted Christ with your life before, please talk to a Christian friend or your minister about it. If you do not have either of those, you are always welcome to contact any staff person at this church, and they will be happy to help. 

Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:24-28 NIV)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Act

When I was a kid, I used to love to pretend. I didn’t just pretend, I really acted out the parts that I was playing. I remember one time I was going to play police. It was very hot summertime, but I went inside to change into long pants. My parents told me that I couldn’t and I began to cry. I said that policemen didn’t wear shorts. I think I took my pretending to the extreme level.

This pretending actually came in handy when I began getting involved in drama. I took a course in drama in high school, but was not in any productions. However, when I was a student at North Greenville College, I was asked to be in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was one of the rustics. It was a small part, but enough for the theatre bug to bite me.

After I left North Greenville I transferred to Erskine College where I was even more involved. I appeared in two or three productions each year while at Erskine College and Erskine Seminary. I won two “Erskies”, the name given to the award voted on by the student body for the drama department. I was also named to Alpha Psi Omega a national dramatics honor fraternity.

Shakespeare wrote “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts”. We play many parts in our lives. We are a son or daughter, a brother or sister, father or mother, employee or employer, etc.

We also pretend in many other areas also. We pretend that it didn’t hurt when our husband or wife forgot our birthday again. We pretend that we are fine when our best friend doesn’t call for weeks. We pretend that we’ll “be better off” when we lose our job or the divorce is about to be final. Many times, we also pretend that our Christian faith is strong and that we have all the answers.

The Christian group Casting Crowns has a song called Stained Glass Masquerade. The lyrics penetrate deep within those of us who have ever pretended that everything is OK when we are falling apart on the inside.

Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?
Cause when I take a look around, everybody seems so strong.
I know they'll soon discover that I don't belong.
So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay. 
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too. 
So with a painted grin, I play the part again. 
So everyone will see me the way that I see them
Are we happy plastic people, under shiny plastic steeples?
With walls around our weakness, and smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open, to every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

We have all put on the mask. We have all played the role and sat in church and sang the hymns and heard the preacher, all the while wondering how everyone else seems so strong. We know how to say the words. We know how to dress and act. But do we know that Jesus doesn’t care about any of those things? All he wants is us, every part of us. He calls us to the great banquet just as we are, not as we think we need to be. When we think we can disguise our ugliness with an act, we are truly mocking God. When we realize that the church is not a refuge for the righteous, but a hospital for the broken, wounded, weary, and scared, then we will truly see Christ move in our midst.

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:16-17 NIV)