Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Divine Appointments

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:16-17)

How did you celebrate Memorial Day? Many people had to work. Some spent time with friends or family. Some had cookouts. Others may have attended memorial services in cemeteries or watched parades through towns and cities.

For so many of us, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. It ushers in a time of vacations, days by the pool, no school for the kids, and many other images we hold dear when the days get longer. However, while there is no harm in all of this, it is important to realize that there have been men and women who died defending the freedoms we enjoy. Not only do we need to take the time to remember the sacrifices they made, but we also need to remember their families.

In churches across America, if Memorial Day was mentioned, it probably was accompanied by a statement about Jesus laying down His life for our freedom from sin. That is very true. However, we must also remember that while He was alive, He gave us an incredible example of how to live.

Have you ever thought about how Jesus inserted Himself into people’s lives? He interrupted funerals, interfered with people at work, and stopped huge crowds to speak to one person. Jesus might have been considered rude by today’s standards. However, when He showed up, everything changed for the people He encountered.

In today’s world, people have the same problems and hurts as they did in Jesus’ time. The difference is that we are too busy to see them. How long has it been since you ministered to a stranger? When was the last time you were actually the “hands and feet” of Christ? A long-time family friend told a story this week that truly spoke to me. The following are her words.

I saw something today that broke my heart wide open. On the way to my sisters, we passed by a home-made memorial in a front yard. A father and mother were standing by it. They had lost a son in war. I slowed down and nodded to them. Hours later, as we returned home and passed by the house again, they were still standing by the memorial. The father had an American flag wrapped tightly in his arms. I am sure this flag accompanied his young son's body home. This time I stopped and told them I was sorry for their loss and appreciated his service and sacrifice. I started reading the memorial and was brought to tears when I read that he had died on May 19, 2011. This father and mother were experiencing their first Memorial Day and were trying to honor their son. Please pray for these families.....we all owe them so much! Today is much more than just cookouts and a day off work.

If you are like me, the first reading of this story moves you because of the pain these parents felt. I can picture the scene in my mind and I hurt with them. However, a closer reading moves me even more. My friend, who is not a pastor, minister or any member of the clergy, did a very Christian thing. She allowed her life to be interrupted by this family, and in turn interrupted theirs.

Jesus never shows up at a time that is convenient for us. He doesn’t plan around our schedules or call us to see when we can fit Him in. Christ interrupts, disrupts, and does anything else He can to get our attention. He may also use us to interrupt others to get their attention. How has Jesus interrupted your life lately? How have you used the ministry of interruption? When you give your life wholly over to Him, expect interruptions!

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
(1 John 3:18)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just Because You Can

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (1 Corinthians 6:12)

I had to go to the DMV in Edgefield last week. As I came through the door, I saw there were two people in line ahead of me. I knew one of them, so she turned around and spoke to me. We chatted for just a moment while we waited, and then we both noticed something about the same time.

To our right, along the wall, was a teenager, who was sitting at a school desk. He had a pencil in his hand, and was writing in a booklet. At times, he would stop writing and tap the end of the pencil on his chin and furrow his brow. What he was doing was obvious. He was taking the driver’s license test.

Both of us who were in line, chuckled and made comments about our current inability to pass the test. We both agreed that we were glad we were not the ones taking the test. However, my thoughts went back to my teenage years and my own quest for a driver’s license.

I did very well on my written test. However, like every other teen, I was nervous about the driving portion of the test. However, when the officer came out and called my name to go for the driving test, I could not have been happier. I knew that one of my best friend’s father was a SC Highway Patrol officer, but I had no idea that he administered driving tests. I passed with flying colors!

There is a huge amount of power that rests in obtaining a license to drive. You can go where you want, you no longer have to depend on someone to take you places, and you have a taste of true independence. However, power without responsibility and wisdom, will always lead to a fall.

Paul says in the above passage, that all things are lawful for the Christian. We are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven and have freedom in Him. However, simply because all things are lawful, does not mean that we should do things that are unwise.

While, a driver’s license gives you some freedom, the privilege and the vehicle must be treated with respect. The license gives you the right to drive, but that power must be used responsibly. Speeding, driving recklessly, and other abuses of that power can lead to expensive tickets, car crashes, injury or even death.

I believe, in essence, what Paul is saying is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” A good example of this is the story of 59-year-old, Leroy Fick from Michigan. Mr. Fick won $2 million dollars in the state lottery almost a year ago. However, he continues to receive food stamps. Qualification of food stamps is based on gross income, and lottery winnings are considered liquid assets. Therefore, the lottery money doesn’t apply to the qualification standards. Simply because Mr. Fick technically qualifies for food stamps, doesn’t mean he should continue to receive them.

Psalm 49 tells us in verse 13, that if we put our trust only in ourselves, we will die. It is only when we put our trust and our lives in God’s hands that we will know how to live. He knows what is best for us. The only way that we can use the power of life responsibly, is to allow Him to have control. 

For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings (Psalm 49:10-13)

Monday, May 2, 2011

No Coincidences With God

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the LORD, you His faithful people; praise His holy name. (Psalm 30:1-4)

West Side Baptist before the explosion
Choir practice at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, always began at 7:20 on Wednesday evening. At 7:25 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, 1950, tragedy struck. An explosion demolished the church. The blast forced a nearby radio station off the air and shattered windows in surrounding homes.

The tragic tale that was told, however, is not what you might think. The tragedy was that the church was horribly damaged. No one was hurt in the explosion.

Not only was nobody hurt, but the true irony of this tale is that no one was there. Each member of the usually faithful choir was late for practice. Most of them had great excuses, but they were all late.

One was having trouble with a geometry problem. She knew practice began promptly and always came early. But she stayed to finish the problem. Another was ready, but the car would not start. So she and her sister called the geometry problem girl and asked her to pick them up. One other member also had car trouble. Another was late because she had to help her mother clean her house. Two were simply late for unexplained reasons. One man became engrossed in conversation with his sons and lost track of time. The pianist fell asleep after supper and made her mother, the choir director, late also. A high school girl wanted to finish listening to a radio show and made her friend wait with her. Even the pastor and his wife were late because she realized at the last minute that her dress had a stain, and she had to iron another.

West Side Baptist after the explosion
At 7:25, a thundering blast, that was  heard in almost every corner of Beatrice, nearly leveled the West Side Baptist Church. The walls fell outward, the heavy wooden roof crashed straight down. The firemen thought the explosion was caused by a gas leak in a pipe, that was ignited by a flame from the furnace. Regardless of the cause, if the choir members had been in the building that night, they would have been seriously injured at the very least, or at the worst, killed.

What are the odds of every single person who was to be in the choir that night, being late? Some may attribute the occurrence to coincidence, but you will never convince the choir members of that. They are all of the strong opinion that it was divine intervention that saved their lives.

In the Psalm quoted above, David is praising God for sparing him from destruction. He writes, “you spared me from going down to the pit.” Then he admonishes God’s people to sing His praises.

Can you imagine what the choir must have sounded like the next time they sang God’s praises in worship? They were saved from injury or possibly death. They had a very direct, personal reason for praising God, and I’m sure they sang praises from the very depths of their soul.

You may not have been saved from something so dramatic as an explosion, but God watches over you, nonetheless. I maintain that we have no idea how many times those little inconveniences of life are really God protecting us from danger. Am I saying that the next time we are delayed by something to thank God for it? Yes.Yes, I am. As crazy as it may seem, those delays just may be sparing us “from the pit,” as David put it.

We have much to praise God for. We are blessed with many things, but the one, tangible thing we know we can lift up our praise to God for is our salvation. Not from destruction on this earth, but from the utter destruction of our sinful souls. Give Him the praise He deserves!

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.” 11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. (Psalm 30:5-12)