Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wilbur's Hope

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.
 (Psalm 37:4-5)
In Acts chapter three, we read a familiar account of Peter and John going up to the temple to pray. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)

In this passage we meet this physically-infirmed beggar. The man went to the temple daily to beg for money. When Peter and John spoke to him, he looked at them and the scripture tells us that he expected to receive something from them. What did he expect? He expected money, of course. What he got was much more than he expected.

Recently, I was at a dinner with some pastor friends. We were talking and sharing stories, as usually happens when you get a group of pastors together. One pastor friend of mine told a story that made quite an impression on me.

He told of a church in Texas that had fallen on hard times. As a matter of fact, the church had closed its doors. There were only five or six people left, and a former pastor had even tried to sell the church. The remnant no longer met in the church, they only had Bible study together.

My friend was in seminary at the time and would help with the Bible study occasionally. The former members of the church asked him if he would help them to start a church. He asked if they had a building, and they told him that their old church building was still available to them, but that they had not worshipped there in almost five years.

They took him to see the building. Of course, with no one occupying it for almost five years, he was expecting some disrepair. What he found was an interior and exterior that was so clean and well kept that it seemed as though church services had been held that past Sunday.

That’s when he found out about Wilbur. Wilbur had only half a lung, a condition brought on by working in coal mines for years. Each week, for almost five years, Wilbur made sure the grass was cut, the inside was cleaned, the exterior was painted and all maintenance was done. He said he wanted to keep it up, because he expected that they would have church in that building again one day.

He was right. They did have church again. My friend helped them get started enough to hire a pastor, and when he checked on them last, they were continuing to grow.

For years, the beggar went to the temple expecting something from those who passed by. He fully expected that Peter and John were going to give him something as well, but his expectations were set too low. He didn’t expect to be healed. He wasn’t actively seeking healing. He was only expecting what seemed realistic. However, God is not bound by the confines of our reality.

What are you expecting from God? Are you acting on it like Wilbur, or are you waiting on it to happen to you like the beggar? When you lift prayers up to God, ask with your heart, know that he hears, and expect Him to move!

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Like a Moth to a Flame

 As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11

Many of us who are trying to live a Godly life, are frustrated by our inability to stop sinning. We realize that our sin is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that we are forgiven. However, we still have trouble putting away what the Apostle Paul calls "childish things."

Let's be honest for a moment. If you think about it, there is some sin that you can't seem to let go of. It may be as simple as gossip, or as damaging as pornography. It may be as problematic as an addiction to alcohol, or as innocent as a "white lie," for "someone's own good." Too much television, wasted time infront of a video game, or overeating are all examples of things that many people struggle to keep away from. We know these things are not good for us, and we feel guilty for returning to them, but we seem to be driven like a moth to a flame.

A good example of this is Keith Coggins. In 2001, Keith was 19 years old. He decided to rob Stockmen's Bank in Kingman, Arizona where he made off with about $2000 in cash. He wasted no time spending it. He threw a party, and bragged to his guests about his sucess in the holdup. However, in about 18 days, that $2000 was gone.

Since it was so easy, the first time, he decided to rob it again. This time, he went for the vault. He got away with over $72,000, but never got a chance to spend any of it. A police officer recognized the getaway vehicle, and arrested him shortly after the robbery. He was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to both robberies.

Robbing the same bank twice in a three week period is bad enough. However, that is not the end of the story. Mr. Coggins was released from prison in 2005. He maintained a low profile until this past January. On January 13, 2011, Mr. Coggins made his way into the same bank branch. He was wearing a black ski mask, black gloves, and black clothes. He demanded money from the tellers, and left with an undisclosed amount. There was a fifteen minute chase, before authorities caused Mr. Coggins' truck to wreck. They found him hiding behind a rock, and recovered all of the stolen money.

Mr. Coggins has been tried since then, and will spend the next 10 years in jail. One detective who worked on the first arrests in 2001 said, "I'll be darned, He didn’t seem to learn much did he? And he surely didn’t get any better at it.”

We seem to be the same way when it comes to our sin. We don't seem to learn much, and we certainly don't get any better at it. We keep doing the same things over and over. We ask God to help us stop, but we don't do much to try to help Him out. Peter writes in his second epistle about this problem. Hie writes, "the proverbs are true: “'A dog returns to its vomit,' and, 'A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.'"

Many times the sins we seem to struggle with the most are reallly bad habits. For many of these, we don't need divine intervention, we need to get our will under control. We use the fact that we are all sinful as a crutch to give us an excuse to not quit.

Jesus defeated sin on the cross and we are forgiven. Because of that, we have a responsibility to refrain from wallowing in the same mud that He has already washed away. Do whatever it takes to walk away from sin, and ask God for the strength, wisdom and will power to stay clean.

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth  while in the presence of the wicked.” So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: (Psalm 39:1-3)