Friday, September 16, 2011


Mistakes are made by most everything on earth. Humans are especially susceptible to mistakes, since we probably reason better than most animals. Mistakes are going to happen and we all should be ready to admit when we have made one.

I make mistakes all the time. Sometimes I forget things, do them incorrectly, or hurt others feelings. If you were in the worship service Sunday, you know I made a huge mistake. As I was preparing everyone for the time of response at the end of the message, I intended to call Matt, our interim Minister of Music, to the platform to lead us in the hymn of response. However, instead of calling "Matt," I called him by the name of our former Associate Pastor. Not only did I make a mistake, but I made it publicly and did it with something that was so obvious!

I don't embarrass easily. There's not much that rattles me. I have made mistakes from the pulpit before and was able to salvage them. This time, it took me a minute to get myself together and I was thoroughly embarrassed.

The unfortunate thing about our mistakes is that we usually leave behind an impression. The impression might be good or it might be bad, but we always make an impression. The impression that I may have left is that I wasn't paying attention or was being careless. Maybe you simply regarded it for what it was, an innocent error. Regardless of your position, I left behind an impression.

I read an article, some time ago, about an owl that accidentally flew into a window in Leicestershire, England. During the night, Nancy and Ray Pearce were sleeping soundly. When they awoke, there was a perfect imprint of an owl on their patio door. It seems that the owl had flown into the glass door during the night. When he slammed into the glass, there was an explosion of “powder down” which is produced by an owl's feathers. This produced a perfect picture of the owl in mid-flight right down to the beak, eyes, and ears.  "It's incredible," said Mr. Pearce. "The imprint really captured what the owl looks like.”

The owl obviously lived since there was no dead owl on the Pearce's patio. He probably shook his head after he crashed into the door and took a long look around to see who was watching. After making sure that none of his owl friends saw the fiasco, he flew off confident that nobody would be making fun of him down at the owl lodge later. Little did he know that he left behind a perfect image of his error.

Sometimes the mistakes that we make in our walk with God are public for everyone to see. Those are easy to atone for. We know that everyone knows of our error, we ask forgiveness and move on. But what about the mistakes we make when there's no one around? What do we do then? Do we simply look around to see if anyone saw us and then fly off confident in our self-centered thought that we hurt nobody but ourselves?

Our mistakes leave an impression on others whether we know it or not. Even if we do seem to be able to get away from our wrongdoing in private, God still sees and knows. Cain literally thought he got away with murder when he wiped out a fourth of the population one afternoon. However, God knew that Cain had killed his brother. “His eyes are on the ways of men; He sees their every step. There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide.” (Job 34:21-22)

The good news to all of this is that what God sees and knows, he also forgives. This is not just a lip service kind of forgiveness like our human variety. It is an all encompassing, thorough, completely liberating, forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 reads “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us”.

Perhaps you think you have made mistakes that nobody else knew about. Maybe you have carried that guilt around like a wet blanket because you feel that you cannot tell anyone about your secret mistake. You can be free from that guilt, because God has seen your every step and still loves you. He will forgive, if you will only ask.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Walk This Way

As a pastor, I am in the hospitals and nursing homes a great deal. I have visited church members and family of church members in Edgefield, Columbia, Augusta, Charleston, Greenwood, Aiken, and Greenville. In most of these, I don't even need directions to the rooms anymore. Some of these institutions are very esay to navigate, while others are like a maze.

University Hospital in Augusta is one of the easiest to find places in. The sections are color coded and clearly marked. Even the rooms on each floor are arranged so that the higher numbered ones are to the right of the nurses station and the lower ones are to the left.

I remember visiting one family whose three-year-old was having survery at MUSC in Charleston. I left very early to get there before the child's appointed surgery time. I arrived at the hospital in time. I went to the information desk and gave the attendant the name of the patient. She told me where he was, and gave what seemed like clear directions to the waiting area.

I thought I had followed the directions to the letter, but wound up at a dead end. I turned around, wound around another corridor, and found a nurses station. I asked for more directions. They told me I was in a completely different area, and told me how to get to the correct place. I walked a long way, but found a place that looked right. Of course, it was the wrong place. By this time, I was feeling rather silly and frustrated. A nurse at an information desk told me that I was close, and told me how to get to the correct area. Again, I could not find it.

Finally, I asked once more and a kind nurse sensed my frustration. She got up from her desk and said, "Come with me. I'll take you there." I was relieved until SHE got lost too! However, by this time, we both had a good laugh and found the family together.

In John 14, Jesus is telling His disciples that His time in this world is coming to a close. He tries to comfort them by telling about this wonderful place where He is going. Not only is He going there, but He said, "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

That sounded wonderful to all of them, except Thomas. Thomas gets a bad reputation sometimes, and is even called "doubting Thomas." However, I like Thomas. He usually asks the questions I, and many of you, would ask. Thomas pipes up and says, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

How many of us could find our wy to Heaven yourselves? No one can. In fact, Adam and Eve were in Paradise and still lost their way! When we try to find Paradise alone, we are no better off than I was at MUSC in Charleston. We get directions from the world like, "look out for number one," "think positively," and "you can do anything if you set your mind to it and work hard enough." We set out with that kind of thinking and believe we're on the right path, only to find a dead end or end up where we started.

Jesus' reply back to Thomas is wonderful. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." That statement is the heart of the Gospel. We couldn't find our way to God, so He sent Jesus to SHOW us the way! Like the nurse that helped me, God got up from His throne and became one of us to show us the way to Him.

Remember that you cannot navigate this world on your own. You will mess things up and get yourself turned around and lost. Asking Christ to lead you and following Him exclusively is the only way to God and Heaven. Give your life wholly to Him, and follow where He leads!

I'd rather see a sermon, than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me, than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear;
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
Edgar A Guest