Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Maze

Last week, I heard John and Cleve on WAFJ, talking about local fun things to do. One of the items they mentioned was Kackleberry Farm in Louisville, GA. This time of year, they have a pumpkin patch, hayrides, and lots of other attractions, including a corn maze. When they mentioned the corn maze, I immediately thought of my family's summer vacation about three years ago.

This is the maze in Garden City, SC
We were staying at Pawley's Island, which is just south of Murrell's Inlet near Myrtle Beach. One afternoon, we were driving north to have some fun at Broadway at the Beach. As we  traveled through Garden City, my wife spotted a maze made out of wood fencing, which looked to be about eight feet high.

I had seen it there for years, but it never occurred to me that it would be fun. She and the kids, however, thought it would be great. I gave in, and we planned to stop there on our way back.

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent man. I was confident that I could navigate that maze with no problem. My wife took our oldest, who was seven at the time, and I set out with our youngest, who was three.

At first, it was fun. I managed to get to the back of the maze, where there was a marker to let you know you had reached the halfway point. However, by that time, my daughter was whiny and tired. I also think she was concerned that we might not get out. Frankly, that thought began to work its way into my mind as well.

Corn Maze in Danvers, MA
Apparently, I am not the only one who doesn't do well with those things. A few days ago, in Danvers, Massachusetts, a man with his wife and two children decided to tackle a corn maze. The maze boasts pathways that are seven miles long, and averages an hour to navigate. For this family, the fun turned into a nightmare. They were hopelessly lost, and were dealing with their youngest child who is three weeks old. Things got worse when they realized the sun was setting and the folks at the farm had closed up and gone home without checking to see if anyone was still in the maze.

Fortunately, they had a cell phone. They called 911. In about 10 minutes the police showed up along with a dog to help sniff them out. They were rescued, only to find out they were only about 25 feet from the exit.

These examples are perfect illustrations of how we get pulled into sin. Most of the time, sin looks like fun at first. We either think it will be pleasurable and think we are smart enough to handle it. We enter in, like innocent lambs, simply looking for excitement or entertainment. At first, it may actually be amusing. However, we wander in deeper and deeper until one day we realize we have no idea how to get out.

It seems the harder we try, the worse it gets. We look around for clues or try new strategies, but we find ourselves back down the same paths again and again.

For those who do not know Christ, the quest for freedom from sin is hopeless. They will always fall into despair. For the believer, we know we can call on God to rescue us. The problem is that we are embarrassed to acknowledge that we can't find our way out. So, we wander until we swallow our pride and ask Him for help.

Yes, I got out of the maze at the beach, but not until some kind people on the observation deck began shouting directions to me. I needed help, and felt humiliated. However, the feeling of humiliation faded quickly as it gave in to the relief of freedom.

Sin gets us mixed up. Satan wants us to be confused and embarrassed to ask for help. Put aside those feelings of pride and come to the Father, who will pull you out of the maze of sinfulness, wrap you in His arms and speak peace into your life.

By the way, that was my last venture into a maze. Forever!

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 45:16)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Mess We Make

After years of being in denial, I have come to terms with an ugly truth about myself. I have a problem that I have had for most of my adult life, that I cannot seem to shake. It affects my job, my leisure time, my family, and some of my friendships. I feel a bit hopeless in this issue, because as of yet, I have found no remedy or way out. What's this terrible problem that I battle? Here's my confession. I am...a messy person.

There, I've admitted it! Isn't that the first step to recovery? Perhaps. If my wife wasn't around to "inspire" me to pick things up and put them where they belong, I could go for a long time without picking up.

I'm not as bad as I once was. These days, I can't stand to see dirty dishes in the sink and clothes lying around bothers me. However, I still have this problem.

My truck is the place where I have the worst problem. When I wash it, clean out the interior, and vacuum it out, I vow to never let it get in that shape again. It stays that way for about a week. In a very short amount of time, I'm right back in the bad habits again.

Do you ever feel like your life is like that? You work hard to get things organized into neat compartments. You know when all of the bills are coming due, you're ahead at work or school, you have written everything down on your calendar, and you're pretty proud. Life seems nice and orderly.

However, life doesn't play fair. Maybe you forgot to pay a bill, or some expense arises that you didn't plan on. You have a few interruptions at work or school and suddenly you're behind. Your schedule has some overlap that you didn't notice before, and you have to be three places at the same time. What do you do?

Some people roll their sleeves up and start trying to work at organizing better. Some people panic and become a flurry of activity. Some people shut down and feel hopeless, and as a result, give up and do nothing.

I have found an interesting correlation that has eerily proven true over and over again for me. I would venture to say that it is true for you also. Here it is. The more chaotic and messy my life seems to be, the further I am from my walk with God.

When things seem to be crashing down on you and you feel hopeless, take some time to consider your spiritual health. Instead of working yourself into a frenzy trying to keep up, spend some time with your Maker. Ask Him to help you prioritize, and make Him the top priority. Our Creator is not a God of chaos. He is very orderly.

I am teaching a 4-week class on Genesis, at the Edgefield Baptist Association. On Monday, we discussed the creation. If you study the accoutrements, you will find that God created everything in the order needed. He created day and night and began the spin of the Earth. Then He created the atmosphere to hold in the oxygen and material that living things would need to survive. After that, He created plant life. Plants need the sun to live, so He created it next. Since the plants were in place to give the animals something to eat, He created them last. This is a wonderful example of how orderly God is!

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. They were very confused and chaotic in their worship. Some said that one way of doing things was right, and others held on to the opposite belief. As a result, not much was getting done for the Kingdom, because their whole church was "messy." Paul tells them in verse 33, "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."

The only times in the Bible where God allows confusion is to either confuse the enemy so that His people could be victorious, or to teach His children a lesson. By allowing confusion and chaos, He is hopeful that they will turn to Him and give their confused lives completely over to Him.

Maybe that is the case with you today. Perhaps your life is a bit out of control and you're not sure how to begin calming it down. Start by going to the One who made you, and asking Him to take over. After all, you're not doing such a good job, are you? Slow down a bit. Trying to work harder at it, only brings further disappointment. Ignore the chaos for a while and sit down beside your Father, bring Him your brokenness, and ask forgiveness for forsaking Him. He'll help you put the pieces back together and bless you with a "sound mind."

 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah 
(Psalm 46:10-11)