Looking for a sign

The other day I filled up my vehicle.  On the drive home I noticed that where the numbers for the mileage usually show, there were letters instead.  The letters said, “gASCAP”.  There was no doubt what the van was trying to tell me.  It was the first time I had ever seen that.  Apparently it was the first time I had ever put the gas cap back on insecurely.  When I got home, I unscrewed the gas cap and screwed in back on.  Naturally, the mileage showed back up and everything was fine.

I often wish God would be so clear.  If I am being honest, most of the time when I think I am doing what God is wanting me to do, or preaching about what I think God wants me to preach about, or writing in my blog post what I think God wants me to write, I am guessing.  I certainly believe the more I study the Bible and the more I pray and follow Him… well,  I believe they are more “educated guesses”.

But most importantly, God knows my heart.  He knows when I am trying to do His will.  He also knows when I am avoiding His will, replacing His will with my own.  He knows when I am doing things for His glory and He knows when I am doing them for my own glory.  He knows when I am trying to be obedient to Him, even when I am wrong about it.  And I believe that is good enough.  If He wanted to be any clearer, He could.

And I know You could leave writing on the wall that’s just for me.  Or send wisdom while I’m sleeping like in Solomon’s sweet dreams. ~ Nichole Nordeman

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Breaking my promise to myself

Last night we were in Cabela’s in Wheeling, WV.  I had some credit with them through a Cabela’s credit card.  I was looking for discounted running shoes/sneakers, not because I run but because I am on my feet pretty much all day every day and my feet are old and need a decent shoe.  I found a clearance section, but the sizes were limited.  All I could see were boxes with a little non-color picture of the shoe on the end.  I found a box that was my size, and it was marked about 80% off.  I told myself no matter what the shoe looked like I was getting it.  Then I opened the box.  I assume I have already ruined it for you because you saw the picture.  When I opened the box, I knew I would not wear those shoes if Cabela’s gave them to me for free.  One reason is that Diane will not let me buy velcro shoes.  No offense intended to anyone who needs velcro shoes, but I do not need them.  I am sure if and when that day comes, we will laugh and I will buy a pair with her blessing.

As I stood there, I remembered my promise to myself.  “At this price, I will wear these no matter what they look like.”  And I looked at the shoes.  And I remembered my promise.  And I closed the box and put it back on the shelf.  I remember what I heard Matt Chandler say in a sermon one time, “Who has lied to you more than you?”  Now I wish I had bought them for a sermon illustration this coming Sunday.  This week I think I am going to preach a third part of a three week series that I did not know was going to be a series.  The first week was, “Will you entrust yourself to Jesus?”  The second week was, “Can Jesus entrust Himself to You?”  And at this point in the week, this coming Sunday I think I am going to preach about all the times we make the wrong choices, and how He gives us chance after chance each new day.

God already knew the shoe in the box.  He already knew I was not taking those shoes home no matter what I told myself before I opened the box.  He knew that with me, “A promise made is a promise kept” is not always the case.  He knows sometimes I have the best intentions when I give my word (to Him, to others, or to myself), yet for one reason or another, I do not keep it.  And day after day I wake up to a Savior who gives me a fresh dose of mercy and grace.  I should sleep in peace every night because the truth is I also go to sleep with that same mercy and grace from Him.  God can never be disappointed in you or me because He already knew whatever it is that bothers you about you.  He is gracious.  Be gracious to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Seize the fresh start He offers every moment of every day through these three words, “Jesus, forgive me”.

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I am Batman

I was surprised the other day by a vehicle behind me.  Locals may have seen it before, but it was my first time.  It was a yellow truck, with black trim all decked out with the Batman logo.  Across the windshield were the words, “I AM BATMAN”.  It was a pretty cool looking truck, but there was no way that I believed the person driving it was Batman.  I am sure they love driving around in a truck that looks like it could belong to Batman, but I seriously doubt that they think they are Batman, either.

I got a message from a pastor friend who said they were listening to a supposedly Christian speaker/teacher the other day.  This friend said they found out the person they were listening to did not believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus, or any historical aspects of the Gospels.  The teacher simply believed that Jesus was a good moral teacher, and we should follow His teachings.  People do not usually blurt that out when they talk to a room full of Believers.  You usually have to do some research.  They do not usually start out their talk saying, “I do not believe Jesus was the only Son of God”.

CS Lewis says that it is impossible for Jesus to have been only a good moral teacher.  Lewis says, Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord.  Here is what Lewis said as published in Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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Nothing to be afraid of

This morning I was trying to figure out why bees were getting into a certain fluorescent light at the church.  I was looking between the drop ceiling and the roof above it.  And I just about freaked out when I saw a bat. It was hanging above the drop ceiling and had its wing wrapped around its body.  I took a picture and zoomed in on it.  That is when I realized it was not a bat at all.  It only looked like a bat. It was actually a piece of insulation paper.  While putting up fiberglass insulation is not my favorite thing, a piece of insulation paper does not scare me.

Much of the time when we are afraid, we really only misunderstand or partially understand something.  Other times, it is helpful to change our thought process.  A couple of months ago someone was preaching for me on a Sunday morning.  I do not remember if they used the words ‘scared’ or ‘afraid’, but they were at the very least extremely nervous.  I told him there was no need to be nervous because the people he would be preaching to would be rooting for him.  They would encourage him.  Some would even come up to him afterwards and tell him it was a wonderful sermon even if it was not that great.  He said, “I have never looked at it that way.”

Sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ need not fear anything.  If we but remember that we have a Father in heaven and a Savior at His side as our Advocate, it will take some of the fear away.  It does not mean that we will never go through some pain and discomfort, and things we do not look forward to, but even that will be used for good by our gracious Heavenly Father.  We have nothing to fear.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will surely help you; I will uphold you with My right hand of righteousness. ~ Isaiah 41:10

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Staying close to the center

This morning I put nearly 50 pound of ham on to slow cook for the community dinner tonight at the church.  I also made a half gallon of sugar free lemonade.  As I was making the lemonade, I was swirling the bottle at the bottom while holding it steady at the top.  The result was the bottom of the bottle swirling and spinning the powder up with the water as it went round and round, while at the same time the top was stable and steady enough for the water to be going in the bottle.  Can you see it in your mind?  After I filled it I took this picture to help you picture it.  It was not easy to do, but as I held that bottle the thought of the top remaining steady while the bottom went round and round gave me the following thought.

As we are able to make Jesus the center, and as we stay focused on Him – meaning He remains the center of our lives, we are better able to remain steady and unshakable.  It is not unlike avoiding sea sickness by focusing on the steady horizon, and not on the waves rocking the boat you are in.

I am not saying I never get upset, I admit I do.  But when I do, as I look back and can now think about it with a clear head, I realize those are the times I have removed Jesus from His rightful throne and placed myself on it.  At the very least, I have placed my ills, wills, and skills in His place.  I have found that if I do my part, He will do His part.  And if I do not do my part, He is still doing His part.

Do not be one of the people of whom God says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  (Matthew 15:8)  When your heart is far from Him, it is too susceptible to the ebbs and flows & rise and fall of life’s tides.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” ~ Isaiah 26:3

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The big fish that swallowed me up

I was talking with some friends last night.  One of them was paying the other a compliment when they said, “I was Jonah and you were the big fish.”  Say what?  They explained that they were on the run and their friend swallowed them up, would not let them go, and eventually led them in to the presence of Jesus.  That one was a new one to me, and I am guessing it also is to you.  I read a book once called One Month to Live by Kerry Shook.  I found it to be boring and full of well worn cliches.  If Shook had come up with “I was Jonah and my friend was the big fish that swallowed me up”, I would have been impressed.

We rarely think about this in the story of Jonah and the big fish (or whale, if you prefer), but God used the belly of the great fish to save Jonah.  Jonah was on his way to a certain death at the bottom of the sea.  But God…  God kept Jonah safe in the belly of the great fish until Jonah saw things God’s way.

I use this illustration to remind you that God is always doing the unexpected.  God brings hope our of despair and life out of death.  Whatever it is that you are going through that you would consider a trial or tribulation, just wait.  I can nearly guarantee you that one day you will be able to look back on it and look at it as time in the belly of the whale.  It is far from what you want, but exactly what you need to draw closer to God.

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When you can’t see

It was really strange the other day driving down that road knowing what I could not see.  Locals know this as where 956 ends in Maryland near the rocket center.  There’s a big mountain behind that fog.  Without the fog, you would see a mountain at least 3/4 the way up that photo.  With the fog, you could not see it.  I know the mountain is there.  If someone was driving on that road for the first time, they would not know it.

It is a lot like the difference between knowing God is near and not knowing He is near.  Can I see Him every second of every day?  Of course not.  Can people make an argument that they can?  Sure.  They claim they can see Him in a raindrop, in a falling leaf, etc.  That does not always suffice for me.  When things are crashing down around me and when I do not see or feel Him, I must remind myself that regardless of what I see or feel, like that mountain, He is definitely there.  In those times, all I can do is cry out to Him and ask Him to help me hang in there until I can clearly see Him again.

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