Friday, October 28, 2011

#88 Proof Reading

Some people have a gift for writing. Stories, poems, research, or other written articles seem to pour from some people. My wife tells me I am one of those people. I am not sure I agree, but that's beside the point. As a pastor I have to do lots of writing for all sorts of tasks and part of writing is proof reading that which has been written.

One time my family and I were eating lunch together in a local sub shop that has various signs and sayings posted on the walls of their shop. Some of the sayings are funny, some contain life-wisdom, others famous quotes, and believe it or not research. Yes, research. The particular sign that contained research was quoting a study from some university that discovered that the human mind is able to put together what words are supposed to be when we read it based on just the beginning and ending of the word being correct. The sign then contained a body of text with every word misspelled and it was actually quite easy to read it.

Being someone who has to write a lot I was intrigued by the sign and I actually look for that same sign when I visit other locations of the same franchise. So what does this have to do with anything? I am glad you asked. Speaking of being trained to do something, I believe that we also train ourselves to overlook sin in our life. No, it is not always intentional, but if we are really honest with ourselves we have to admit that we sometimes choose to ignore sin and just live life as if everything is alright.

I would also assert to you that just because the brain is able to read words that are misspelled doesn't mean that we should make it a practice to leave misspellings in our documents. Why not do our best since the Bible teaches us to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)? Likewise we should not ignore sin in our lives just because it's more convenient to do so. Amen?

Yes, giving up sin requires change and it requires us to live differently. But I can promise you that our loving, Creator God will never ask us to give up or stay away from anything that will prepare us for heaven (Psalm 84:11). His only desire is that we be saved so that we can spend eternity with Him (2 Peter 3:9).

When you read over a document looking for errors it's called proof reading. When we look over our lives seeking to be rid of anything that separates us from God it's called self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5). But unless we bathe the examination process in prayer, our eyes and hearts that are trained to overlook sin may not even see it. That's where prayer and the Holy Spirit come in. If we pray and ask God to speak to our hearts then we are promised that the Holy Spirit will come to us and convict us in all areas of life (John 16:8).

It is my prayer that each of us--including me--will not choose to be blind to sin, but rather may we seek the face of our God while He may yet be found so we can spend eternity with Him. May we all choose to let Jesus "proof read" our lives on a daily basis.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for Your wonderful mercy, love, and grace. Thank You also that You call us to a higher standard than that which we would set for ourselves. Please forgive us for clinging to sin, and please teach us to trust You completely as You prepare us for heaven. We give You thanks as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#87 Directed Landing

Jude 1:24 "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling..."

It has been said that nature is God's second book; second to the Bible of course. I am very inclined to believe that statement as it is so easy to see the fingerprints of God all over the great outdoors. From the tiniest insect to the majesty of the mountain you can see that God certainly knows how to impress.

When I was dating Ginger, my wife, we would spend lots of time outdoors on their farm in rural North Carolina. We roamed all over much of the 50+ acres the family had there and loved almost every minute of it. Almost because I fell off a horse or two. Not fun at all. But what was fun was riding the four-wheelers all over the place. Those things were so much fun and we rode them hard. One day in mid-fall we were all out riding through the woods and mud just having a great time when I got the great idea to try and cross a downed tree.

It had been there for quite some time and looked very crossable. So I got up my speed approached the tree squarely and began to make my way over it. However, I did not have the ground clearance to make it across. Yes, after the front tires pushed across the log I ended up high-centered and stuck. My friend gladly agreed to help me get un-stuck. He pushed from the front as I revved up the four-wheeler trying to get the back tires to grab and pull me off the log.

Well, the pushing, revving, and tire grabbing all came together in a sudden moment of momentum and the four-wheeler not only came off the log but it did so with great speed. Before I realized it, I was falling backwards off an embankment about 5-6 feet high. As I fell backwards the four-wheeler came with me and for some reason I never let go of the handlebars and my feet never came off the foot-pegs.

There was no time to think only fall. But God was looking out for a foolish teenager that day and instead of falling on the river stones that lay scattered about the river bed I landed in a mud spot just wide enough for my back to fit in, and I landed still attached to the four-wheeler that just ever-so-gently laid right over to the side. It was if God allowed His angels to direct my fall so that I did not have any injury at all. I was not even sore the next day. Friends, if you ever have to fall backwards holding a four-wheeler I highly suggest you land in soft mud.

After the fall we kept riding and the day ended with us having had lots of fun and wearing lots of mud. As my mind goes back to that day I am so thankful for not landing on the rocks. I am so thankful that I did not receive any injury. While most of us have endured some sort of physical fall during our lives, all of us have fallen spiritually. It does not matter how smart we are or how tall or rich or whatever we may be. If we have are alive the Bible says we have sinned.

But we do not have to keep sinning just because it comes easy and natural. We have a God who is able to keep us from falling. Not just physically but spiritually. The trick to the whole thing, so to speak, is to stop trying to do it on our own. We have to let God have control of the heart and He will do His part. The Bible promises it to be true.

So where are you tonight? Have you fallen over and over into sin and are you getting tired of just going through the same spiritual ruts you were stuck in a year ago? Today can be the day that all of that changes. Today can be the day that you let Christ come into your heart and you let Him have full control. Which will you decide: stay a lost sinner or become a child of the King who has Jesus that is more than able to keep us from falling and will lift us up when we do? I pray that we will all chose Jesus.

Dear Father in Heaven,
We need You so much, and we just want to thank You for being so amazing to each of us. Thank You for all the times you keep us from falling and please pick us up for a fresh start when we do fall. We trust You to save us as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#86 Reversed Controls

I have many loves in this life. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love my wife and kids more than I know how to express. I love great fellowship, food, music and playing the guitar, being outdoors, and I love to fly model aircraft. Yes, we are all just big kids I suppose.

Since the time I was young boy flying has fascinated me. My grandmother and mom would buy me model airplanes that you build and then sit on a shelf. Countless hours were spent selecting, building, and then pretending to fly those models. It was easy to see the progression of my skills as I grew older. Earlier models bore the marks of a novice builder.

That love for flying never died and it is my hope that one day I will be able to fly a real aircraft. Until then I will satisfy my love for the skies through radio-controlled (RC) aircraft. Just this year a dear friend of mine took the time to help me get started in the RC aircraft sport. From the first moment I took hold of the controls I knew that I was going to love doing that.

Eventually my first airplane was purchased and then another. My first few flights went very well with my trainer beside me. When I got out on my own the first several flights also went well. But--yes there is always a "but" right?--my lack of time on the controls eventually caught up with me. You are supposed to do a pre-flight check to make sure your radio is configured properly. Up needs to be up, down should be down, and so forth. I went through the checks and somehow failed to notice that up was not up. So if up is not up then up must be down, right? Right.

Well, I pushed the throttle up, my father-in-law threw the plane into the air like I had shown him and when I pulled back on the control stick to go up it went down and nose-dived into the ground smashing the propeller, the cowling around the engine, and the mount that holds the engine splintered into multiple pieces. My heart sank and my flying confidence was shattered too. How I wished my training buddy could have been with me. I have since rebuilt the aircraft, but more importantly I have learned the absolute necessity of having the controls properly set up.

Life is much the same way is it not? There are controls over our lives. Speed limits, various colored lines to keep us in our lane, signs that tell us where to go and not go, laws that help prevent people from causing harm to others, and God's laws.

Most of us by nature do not like to be controlled. We want to be free to do as we please, and when God or anyone else comes along and tries to restrict us we may buck against that control. We think we are more than capable of making our own decisions; flying by ourselves as it were, when in actuality we have the controls reversed and end up crashing.

When I look back on my own life I see many times when I crashed and made foolish mistakes. How much better could my life had been if I would have just let God have control of everything? I will never know until I get to heaven, but I praise God that He is willing to help me more and more as I let Him have the controls. It's my encouragement to you all today that you let go and let God have full authority in your life. Trouble may come, but when God is in control He will safely fly you all the way to heaven. Trust in Him friends. He is the master flier ;-)

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for being so awesome and for loving us despite how messed up we get. Please teach us today to trust You and to let You have full control of our lives. Please keep us focused on You until the day You come to take us home. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.