Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Keeping the Rubber Side Down

Finally, the mystery has been solved.

Right around Christmas I walked into the church and found in my office a Tyco remote controlled Harley Davidson motorcycle. A dark aqua colored plastic and rubber 80 cubic inch replica of the genuine article. Gently used, but nice. Already I was picturing myself cruising on the open road.

The attached handwritten note on a small sheet of white paper read simply: “Rob, Keep the rubber side down.” The giver left his or her initials, as well – “KD” or maybe “KS” if you took the letter S as in cursive.

But who? That was the question. Who in the church has the initials KD? I checked the directory and came up blank.

It’s no secret that I often dream out loud about wanting to own and ride a motorcycle. It’s come up a time or two in a sermon. In warmer weather months I hear right across the street from our house that distinctive Harley engine revving up, and I race to the window just in time to see my good neighbor getting his bike out and ready for a ride. I know you’re not supposed to covet your neighbor’s stuff, but it’s okay to dream, isn’t it?

KD, or KS? Who could that be? I brought the toy bike to an evening service the last Sunday of the year to see if anyone knew who may have left it here. There were no new leads. Nobody confessed to seeing anything, nobody heard nothing and nobody knew nothing. Sounds like a line in “The Godfather” to me.

If it were KS, then it could be Kristi Seely, a generous and fun-loving gift giver. But why would she have had an R/C Harley Davidson motorcycle? And I could be wrong, but I just can’t imagine her using a line like, “Rob, Keep the rubber side down.” Besides, it really didn’t look like a woman’s handwriting.

Anyway, the line is a good one. “Keep the rubber side down” is a pretty good piece of advice. I guess in biker lingo it’s saying, “Be safe,” or “Don’t crash!” Keep the tires on the ground. If not, things will not be well for you. Which is why my caring wife has consistently and vigorously expressed her reservations about my open road ambitions. Which is why I will never actually own a motorcycle, except for in my dreams.

Here’s another pretty good piece of advice: “Keep the faith.” My college roommate used to use this line often as a way to encourage others to hold firm to the faith we profess in Christ Jesus, and not to crash spiritually. He may have had in mind these verses from Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

That path may not always be the “safest” way to go, for it is a narrow road filled with trials and hardships, persecutions and sufferings. But keeping the faith, trusting wholeheartedly in the Lord and walking in the center of His will is always the safest place to be. There you will never crash and burn, but will be held eternally secure in the strong and mighty hand of Almighty God. And that path will lead straight to heaven, for it is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus – faith in Him alone – that we enter into the presence of the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Let me give you a special invitation to join us for revival services March 14-17. I am so looking forward to how God will use this time to show us His glory, and for us to respond in faith and obedience. Will you make plans to worship with us?

So, who’s KD? I found out a couple of weeks ago, but just for fun I’ll keep you guessing. Until next time, keep the rubber side down, and keep the faith!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Seeking Something Real?

Does anybody watch these so-called “realities shows” on television? According to the Nielson Ratings, millions do each week. I’m talking about shows such as “The Bachelor,” “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” and the like. Somebody needs to tell me exactly what’s “real” about any of this stuff.

Seriously, how real is it when your life is being filmed for a television audience? Do the participants act as they normally do, given there are camera crews and lighting technicians and sound guys and capturing their every move? That’s not real. And don’t forget that the content that makes its way into your living room has already been through the editing and production room.

And I can’t help but wonder how much of the “drama” that occurs in these shows is scripted by professional writers. How many of the scenes are staged? How many “takes” might they go through before getting it they way they want it?

I’m sure there’s enough raw, unscripted footage to make these shows appear to be “reality,” but come on. When they’re doing the auditions for “American Idol” and they let this guy sing “Amazing Grace,” and he brutally butchers this beloved hymn, then throws a fit when the judges tell him he doesn’t make it – that’s just a bunch of baloney.

Does it sometimes seem like just about everything in our world is fake? Remember when you used to trust what Walter Cronkite reported on the evening news? Now you watch the news and wonder what their agenda is, and who’s buying the network’s lead story. There was a time when people used to have real friends who talked face to face with one another. Now they’re more likely to text instead of talk, and connect with their 200 “friends” on FaceBook or follow someone on Twitter instead of building real friendships with real people.

If you’re looking for something real today, then look to the Word of God. You will never be misled, never be deceived, never be disappointed and never be disgraced. God’s Word is the most trustworthy reality show that’s ever appeared across the face of history. His Word was true from the beginning and it will be true for all eternity. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” said our God in the flesh of Jesus Christ, “but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Friend, you can believe the Bible is the Word of God – you’d better believe the Bible is the Word of God! Archeology and history affirm conclusively the fact of the written Scriptures, far more so than any other piece of literature ever produced. Written by the hands of some 40 different men over the course of some 1500 years, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind.

The Holy Scriptures tell us of who God is and what He has done. All of Scripture is a testimony to Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rising from the dead on the third day. The Bible tells us that Jesus is also coming again, and coming soon, and it urges us to repent and trust in Christ now while the time of God’s favor and salvation remain.

The Bible testifies unto itself that, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Tim. 3:16). Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is flawless.” Joshua spoke before the people of Israel proclaiming, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14). And Psalm 119 reads like a beautiful poetic dissertation on the hope and light and delight one finds in the unchanging, matchless Word of God: “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (v. 89).

You want reality? Immerse yourself not in front of the LCD screen, but in the measureless depths of the Word of God. See for yourself that God is real, His Word is sure, and His truth is forever. Experience the joy and peace of knowing and loving the great Author of our salvation. And drink deeply at the fountain of life – real life, life that is abundant and eternal, offered to you today by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Never Forget the Lord's Goodness and Mercy!

My wife recently received a nice little letter in the mail from Jesse White. Turns out she has a somewhat significant milestone birthday rapidly approaching. I shouldn’t tell how old she will soon be, but it’s also a frequently used and significant number in the Bible. Think rain in Noah’s day. Think Jesus fasting in the wilderness. You get the idea.

He was asking for money. You’d think that maybe on such a special birthday that Jesse might be sending a card with some cash inside to help her celebrate. Something about wanting her to pay for the privilege of operating a motor vehicle upon our tax-payer paved roadways. Go figure.

Upon receipt of this thoughtful note, my wife asked me, “Didn’t you have to get your license renewed on your last birthday?” I answered with the standard guy response: “Uh, I don’t know.” They teach that in guy school, you know. After all, my birthday was all the way back in October. How was I, a guy, supposed to remember something from four months ago?

Anyway, I was pretty sure that my driver’s license was not supposed to expire until 2012. Upon further prodding, however, from my sweet bride, I began to vaguely recall that maybe I, too, had received a similar nice little letter from our Secretary of State. If that were the case, then I’m sure I would have dealt with it appropriately. So, I thought, let’s just get out my license and I’ll prove myself right. Wrong!

A quick “Uh-oh” moment flashed before me when I pulled out a picture of this high-foreheaded guy only to discover in dismay that the red expiration date box read 10-12-09! I couldn’t believe – or maybe bear to admit – that my lovely wife was right, and I had been driving illegally on an expired license ever since!

Well, a hearty discussion ensued as I listened attentively, and we tried to figure out why one of us, namely me, hadn’t taken care of this matter already.

To make a short story not so long, something in that conversation finally triggered my memory. All of a sudden, like one of those “I should have had a V-8” commercials, I slapped my high forehead, retrieved my wallet, pulled out the old driver’s license once more, and this time looked on the backside and behold – there was the official “Certificate of Extension” sticker bearing the name of Jesse White which I had firmly affixed to the aforementioned driver’s license some four months ago. He-he-he. Case solved.

If nothing else, I hope you take some comfort in knowing that even under-40’s types can still have “Senior moments” once in a while. I tell Amy that with my head crammed so full of Bible knowledge and deep theological ponderings and stuff, there’s just no more room for trivial things like license renewals. She doesn’t buy it, either.

Well, no matter how much stuff we forget about, the one thing I don’t ever want to forget is knowing God. Moses warned the Israelites that when the Lord would bring them into the promised land, “a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut. 6:11-12).

But guess what? They forgot. They did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot what He had done, the wonders He had shown them. They forgot the God who saved them, the God who cared for them, the God who fed them and satisfied them. And they suffered for it.

God has sent you a nice little letter, friend. Only He’s not asking for $30 for another four years of driving privileges. He’s offering you abundant and eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Now is the time to act – before your life expires! Don’t ever forget the goodness and mercy of our God!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stumbling Blocks

"How often the very stones of Christ's Church have become stones of stumbling in His way? When does a man become a scandal to the Church? When he obtrudes his view of method as against God's view of method; when he tries to build God's Kingdom without God's cross, and without God's suffering; when he ventures to say in answer to the "must" of God spoken from the lips of Jesus, Not that way, that is a mistake, but by some easier method; when he attempts to make the method of his victory easy. Every suggestion of this age which leads us to imagine that we may bring His Kingdom in by softness and by sweetness, without blood and suffering, and agony, is a scandal, a stumbling-block."

From The Gospel According to Matthew, by G. Campbell Morgan (p. 219); sermon on Matthew 16:21-28.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life"

So, are you watching the Super Bowl this Sunday? Last year nearly 100 million Americans tuned in to see the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in an exciting game. The numbers this year will probably equal or surpass that figure. And people watch the game for all sorts of reasons.

Many of these are true football fans who just love to watch great teams battle it out on the gridiron. They get into the strategies and play calling, and secretly they wish they could do the color commentary for CBS. They could probably, in fact, name every Super Bowl Champion starting from the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I, and they’d rattle off each opponent (Kansas City Chiefs), the final score (35-10), who got the MVP award (Bart Starr), and the venue in which the game was played (LA Coliseum). For us – I mean “them” – the Super Bowl is the climax of the football season; nay, the pinnacle of the entire sports year.

Others who watch the game are the casual fans, or maybe non-fans, who tune in for the social event the Super Bowl has become. They’re more interested in the creative, new ads that come out, and they want to see what kind of wardrobe malfunction will take place during the halftime show. But, seriously – The Who? Every show since Janet Jackson in 2004 has featured aging white men, with the exception of Prince, who’s in a category by itself.

Then there are those who have somewhat of a financial interest in the game. Did you know that you can wager on everything from which team wins the coin toss, to which player will score the first touchdown, to how many field goals will be kicked, and on and on? Not that I’m advocating betting in any shape, fashion or form. Last year the Las Vegas books recorded $81.5 million on the Super Bowl, the lowest amount wagered since 2004. And that’s just what was bet legally! Imagine if everyone who put money on the game would instead give that money to disaster relief in Haiti.

Personally I’m looking forward to Peyton Manning and the Colts dissecting the Saints’ defense. And when they get ready to hand the Vince Lombardi trophy to Coach Jim Caldwell, I’m anxious to hear him give glory to God, as he usually does, as a testimony of his faith in Christ Jesus. What a platform to express thanks and honor to the Lord!

Speaking of platforms, I’m also eager to see this 30-second spot featuring Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. Tim Tebow is the star quarterback for the University of Florida, a two-time national champion and former Heisman Trophy winner. He’s also very outspoken in his Christian faith, and has backed up his talk by living a life of integrity and missions activity.

The ad, sponsored by Focus on the Family using private donations (outside of its general fund), is scheduled to air during the first quarter of the Super Bowl. Already the ad has generated a buzz of controversy, to put it mildly. Focus on the Family has not revealed the content of the spot, but the story involving the Tebow family is widely known.

In 1987 Bob and Pam Tebow traveled to the Philippines on a mission trip. Pam was pregnant with the couple’s fifth child. While there, Pam contracted amoebic dystentery, a condition which threatened her life and that of her baby. Her doctors advised her to abort the pregnancy in hopes of saving her life. Pam refused, and gave birth to Tim on August 14, 1987. And now you know the rest of the story.

Focus on the Family says the ad’s theme will be: “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.” Celebrating life is always a beautiful choice. I hope this message encourages and inspires young women and families everywhere to treasure the gift of life, and to make abortion unthinkable. And I hope it points people to the ultimate source of life through Jesus Christ our Lord. For it’s only by His mercy and grace, because of His blood shed on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, that we can receive forgiveness of our sins, that we can receive the abundant life He offers to us now, and that we can receive eternal life in heaven.

A Colts win might produce a spontaneous celebration in our home, maybe even a little dance. But that will utterly pale in comparison to the celebration in heaven over even one sinner who repents and turns to Jesus.