Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Great Gift! Now what??

My son and I recently celebrated our birthdays. His is two days before mine, which is really great. We get to celebrate for almost a whole week!

This year, we got some great gifts. He got several footballs, an MP3 player, and lots of other cool presents, including the Madden football video game for our Wii. I also got some great presents, including new clothes and an iPad.

My son was very excited when he opened his video games. He couldn’t wait to come home and play them. When I opened my iPad, I was only somewhat excited. Yes, it was a great gift, but when I opened it, I had no idea what it was. It was only after I realized what I had, that I was truly thrilled to own it.

The next day, my son decided to try out his new football video game. He put the disc into the console, and after some crazy music for an introduction, the game started. There’s a good bit of set up to do at the beginning and it took a few minutes to finally get to the place where you are actually playing football. However, the game takes some skill with the remote, and was a little difficult at first. My son got very frustrated and walked away very upset. He said, “Daddy, it’s too hard!”

I also had time to play with my iPad. Macintosh, who makes the iPad, does not include any directions with any of their products. They believe they are so easy to use, that there is no need for them. However, this is not true in my case. I tried several times to play around with it, but wasn’t sure how to do some things, so I didn’t do much with it for a few days.

There is a happy ending to both of these stories. My son plays the football video game like a pro. He is even learning more about choosing the right plays for different football situations. I have learned how to use my iPad and I’m not sure I can ever be without one.

In both cases, we were given something that was a little difficult for us to use at first. Our gratitude for the gifts, and our desire to understand and master them, drove us to learn how to use them. We now use them regularly and efficiently.

God has given us the Bible. Last week, I wrote about going to the Bible for answers. However, for many, it is like my son’s video game or my iPad. We simply don’t understand it, have no idea how to use it, and get frustrated when we try. However, we need to continue trying to understand it, study it, and use it in our lives.

 Make reading your Bible a priority. Stick with a reading plan. Ask God for the desire for His Word. Pray for understanding and He will show you great and wonderful things. 

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get Answers

I do a lot of research in my position as pastor. I am always trying to figure out what this Greek word really means or what customs were like back in Bible times. Sometimes, I even have to research on when to use a comma in a sentence or how to spell a certain word.

For all of these things there are resources. For the Greek words, there are Lexicons. For the cultural information, there are Bible dictionaries and history books. As for the comma usage…well…if you know of one, please let me know.

Suppose you just made some zucchini bread that tasted fine, but was very dense. What if you were frying chicken in a pan and it sticks? How would you know how to correct those problems the next time? (Maybe you would just not cook anymore and go out to eat!) You would need to pick up one of Shirley O. Corriher’s books.

Who is Shirley O. Corriher? Shirley is an Atlanta, GA biochemist, food writer, teacher and consultant. She has written such books as; CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking and BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. For over 30 years, she has solved problems for everyone from home cooks, editors and writers, large companies like Pillsbury and Procter & Gamble, to Julia Child. If you have a cooking problem to correct, she is your resource.

What is the solution for the Zucchini bread? Corriher says that either the baking powder was old and inactive or too much was added. She says that sometimes recipes call for too much baking powder, which will result in the rising bubbles bumping into each other and floating to the top, where they burst. When they do that, there is no leavening.

How about the stuck chicken? She says that instead of immediately shoving the spatula under the chicken, to simply wait. She says that it’s the protein in the chicken that loosens when heated and sticks to the pan. Waiting until the chicken is cooked and lightly brown, will allow you to gently slide the spatula under the chicken and turn it over.

My point is, when you want to know something, there are a variety of resources to help you get the information you need. With all of these resources at our disposal, there is no excuse for not knowing something that you desire to know. There is more knowledge floating around today than ever before in history.

Why is it, then, that when we feel the desire to know God better, we are confused about how to go about it? We have the greatest instruction book ever written. God has given us His Word and preserved it down through the ages, so we would never be confused about how to live.

However, if we never consult God about the situations we find ourselves in, then we will keep making the same mistakes over and over. The zucchini bread of our lives will never rise. We will continue to be stuck to the pan every time.

The Bible is rich with God’s instruction, encouragement, love, history and much more. If you have trouble knowing where to read for certain things, pick up a good topical Bible. With a topical Bible you can look up any subject and read all the scriptures related to that subject.

Just as there is no excuse for routinely making the same mistakes in cooking, there is no excuse for not following God in your life. The instructions have been given. The directions are plain. Simply open the Bible and your heart and let God show you the way!!
Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from His mouth and lay up His words in your heart. (Job 22:21-22 NIV)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Familiar Ways

Fall is officially upon us. This is always an exciting time for me. There are many reasons I love it. My birthday, football, deer season and cooler weather are just a few.

I have been going through my deer hunting things. I always pack up most of my hunting equipment so that I can leave to go hunting on short notice or suddenly find some free time. It’s also a good time to make sure I have everything I need and that my camouflage clothing still fits and isn’t too faded.

I can name most of the things that are in my bag. I have a flashlight with fresh batteries, two knives, hand warmers, gloves, cover scent, a face mask, a pen and paper, and various other things that I might need in the woods. I have another bag that just has clothes in it. I make sure I have a warm enough coat and the right boots for whatever the weather is.

My point to this is, that I regularly check my equipment to make sure I am ready for hunting season. Notice that I said “hunting season,” not just one hunt. This means that I need to thoroughly check everything to make sure it is in proper condition for this season. Simply because it worked last year, does not mean that it is good enough for this year.

I believe our lives are similar. Sometimes we rely on old, outdated, worn, or insufficient equipment for our lives. We believe that if it worked before, it will work again. Life does not work that way.

For example, a football team may have great success in one game by running the ball. They may have a great athlete as a running back, who can gain yardage every play. However, the team they play the next week will know that they need to watch that star running back, and zero in on him. Suddenly, the running game is not working anymore.

I have illustrated this many times from the pulpit by, using the various ways Jesus healed the blind. There were many blind people that Jesus healed. However, four occurrences are recorded in scripture with specifics of what method He used. He healed two at once by touching their eyes. One we’re not told how He did it, only that the man was healed. He spit on another man’s eyes to heal his blindness. Jesus simply spoke to Bartimaeus and his eyes were opened. By the pool of Siloam, Jesus spat on the ground, made clay, rubbed it on a man’s eyes and told him to wash in the pool to receive his sight.

The point is, that what worked in the past, may not work now. This is true in life, our Christian walk, and in church. Jesus changed the tone of His messages, the illustrations He used, and the way He healed, based on what would speak best to the people who needed Him.

Maybe it’s time we took inventory of our Christian equipment. Are we relevant to the people who need to hear the gospel the most or are we just taking care to make ourselves comfortable? Is there anything that we need to replace in our lives? Are we as effective in our Christian walk as we once were? Maybe God is leading you to change.

In John 21, we find the disciples fishing. Jesus had risen from the dead, and was standing on the shore. The disciples, who were fishermen by trade, were having no luck pulling in fish. They saw a man on the beach, who was calling to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They did not know it was Jesus yet, but what they were doing wasn’t working, so they tried it. When they did, they could barely pull in the nets for the volume of fish. Jesus called them to do something different than they were used to doing, so that he could show them His power, but most importantly, so that God would receive the glory instead of them.

Spend some time in prayer this week, asking God to show you where you need to improve your relationship with Him and be an effective soldier of the cross. Then follow Him with no hesitation!

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)

Friday, October 1, 2010


This week, I heard an interview with author, Emma Donoghue. She is best known for her historic fiction and her knack for inserting homosexual characters in those settings. While I am not a fan of her previous writings, I was intrigued by the idea of her newest release, which was the reason for the interview.

Her new novel is titled, Room. It is told from the viewpoint of a five year-old boy named Jack, who has never left the eleven by eleven room that he shares with his mother. Seven years prior to the time of the novel, Jack’s mother was kidnapped and held captive in a man’s soundproof garden shed. She has never left the room, and even gave birth to Jack there. Jack has never known any other existence.

The room is furnished with a television, a bed, a rocking chair, a rug, a sink and toilet. The man who kidnapped the mother furnishes them with groceries, and makes sure they are well. He is not really a character in the novel as much as a device to bring them food and such.

Because Jack has never had any human interaction other than his mother, he believes they are the only humans on the earth. He thinks that the images he sees on television are only “cartoons.” He is even unsure that “Old Nick,” the kidnapper, is real. He thinks he is only partially real at best.

Because Jack has never known any other existence, his five year-old imagination has allowed him to become friends with the items in the room. Since the novel is told from his words and point of view, whenever he refers to an item it is capitalized. For example, there is Lamp, Rug, Television and Rocking Chair. All of these are personified in some way by Jack. They are his friends, and Jack seems to be a pretty happy boy. He has no sense that he and his mother are actually prisoners.

We as human beings grew up in sin. Sinfulness is all we know. Even though it is not the ideal way to live, we tend to be fine with it. Why? Because we know nothing of another existence. Before experiencing Christ in our lives, we have no idea how it feels to be free from the burden of sin.

Jack spent his whole life in the confinement of a small room. We spend our days confined to the darkness of our sinfulness. When we are offered a way out, we often resist because a new way of doing or thinking is frightening to us. We have been chained for so long; we have even made friends with our chains, just as Jack made “friends” with Lamp and Rug.

We need to allow God to shine the light of His Holy Spirit into our darkness and bring us into the light. We have been held prisoner for too long by the world and our comfort of “the way it has always been.” In order to follow Christ we must be ready to move into a better existence with Him. There is indeed more to this life than simply existing. Jesus died to give you a more significant life. Will you come out of your room and follow Him?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5 KJV)