Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's Impossible for God?

I admit I’m not an auto mechanic. Far from it. In fact, I’m not aware of any other pastors who are. That’s probably because some of the language frequently used in addressing stubborn car problems is not compatible with being a man of the cloth.

There’s been this loud, annoying rattling / knocking sound coming from somewhere under the hood of my aging Toyota Corolla. I may not know much about cars, but it doesn’t sound good and it didn’t used to be there. I really don’t want the motor dropping out of the vehicle somewhere in the middle of the highway.

Personally, I’d love to get another 7-8 years out of this thing (it’s a 1998 with about 130,000 miles). In just four years it will be a good first car for my oldest son, who is definitely not getting a Torch Red ZR-1 Corvette with a handcrafted LS9 638-horsepower supercharged V8 when he turns 16.

So I took it to a guy for him to look at. He diagnosed a possible cause, did a little work, but didn’t make the noise go away. I should also say I’m not really interested in spending a ton of money digging around for other potential, but not guaranteed, fixes. Maybe it’s something I can live with. A little embarrassing driving around on clattering wheels, yes, but I’ve also been living with the “Check Engine” light on for the past several years. And yes, I always make sure the gas cap is securely tightened.

What I want to tell you though, is that this morning when I went to start ‘er up, the rackety mess of machinery was purring like a kitten humming softly on a spring day. And I wonder if someone’s been praying for God’s blessings toward us.

Could it be that without even knowing this situation, somebody’s been asking the Lord to take care of our needs? Is it possible that simply out of His grace that He has answered in this way? Do you suppose God knows how to fix car engines?

Let me give you a word that defines what’s impossible for God: nothing. Add that to the fact that God cares passionately about even the smallest needs of His people, and you’ve got a formula that equals grace every time.

Look at some of God’s “impossible” acts of mercy and grace on behalf of His people. We’ll start in the Old Testament. Giving Abraham and Sarah a son, even though they were well beyond child-bearing years. Inflicting the plagues upon Egypt in order to rescue His people Israel. Drying up the Red Sea. Feeding His people with manna from heaven and providing water for their thirst out of a rock. Breaking down the walls of Jericho. Raining down fire from heaven on Elijah’s water-logged sacrifice. Filling a widow’s vessels of oil until there were no more jars. Just to name a few.

In the New Testament you have a virgin conceiving a child. Blind men receiving their sight. Lepers made clean. Demon-possessed in their right minds. Deaf now hearing. Mute singing the praises of God. Lame men running and leaping for joy. Sick people made well. A man with a withered hand restored whole. Dead raised to life. Crowds of thousands eating their fill from a little boy’s sack lunch. Jesus calming a storm with a word of command and walking upon the waves of the sea. I’m only getting warmed up!

The point is this: nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible for God. There is nothing too difficult for Him. Nothing! What are you trusting God for today? By faith in the name of Jesus, what are you praying for and believing God for right now?

Is He obligated to grant every wish like some kind of divine genie? No. Will my Corolla run forever? Probably not. But I know that He knows my needs better than I do. And I choose to trust Him. He’s never let me down. “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On the Menu

In the summer of 2007 I had the opportunity to go to China for two weeks. It was my first trip overseas, my first time literally running to catch a flight, and my first time singing in a karaoke bar. Being there was almost surreal. Everything was different. Sounds, smells, sights. As one of our team members was fond of saying, “I’ve been to a couple of county fairs and a hog killin’, but I ain’t never seen anything like that before.”

Stop by my office sometime and I’ll show you some pictures and tell some stories. I never get tired of talking about it. Some of the details tend to get fuzzy if I don’t! And yes, I’m eager to go again. I hope to!

It was also my first experience tasting some real Chinese food. Going to the Supreme Buffet or Panda Express doesn’t count. Of course, steamed rice was a staple, as were noodles. Every meal, and you ate everything with chopsticks. At a couple of restaurants the wait staff saw us struggling, so they offered us forks. Not me, though buddy. I was determined to make a go of it no matter how awkward or clumsy I looked.

One of the stories my boys enjoy most is about me eating a bowl of noodle soup. The weather was pretty hot and we were eating in an outdoor patio. They had a fan on the floor trying to keep their customers cool. But as I lifted out some noodles dangling from my chopsticks ready to slurp down a bite, the fan blew them all over my chin and neck. It caused quite a mess, and not a little bit of embarrassment.

Personally, I really did enjoy the food. Lost about 10 pounds in two weeks, but I was still bigger than most of them. Care to know some of what was on the menu?

Frog porridge. Okay, that one was as bad as it sounds. That’s probably where I lost the weight. Some of our other team members experienced such dishes during that lunch as fermented egg porridge and eel porridge. We only ate there once.

Have you ever had pig’s feet? It was interesting. Chewy, but interesting. Shrimp was served whole – antennas, eyes and all. You just kind of closed your eyes and opened your mouth and went for it. We ate octopus twice. Once it was pretty good. The other time it was served as an hors d’oeuvre at the karaoke bar. It was raw. That left an aftertaste for a couple of days. Never once did we find those sugary donuts you see at the American Chinese buffets. And not a single fortune cookie in sight.

Then there were the “meat sparklers.” At some point we learned to not ask too many questions. Sometimes it’s better to just not know. On another note, we didn’t see many dogs or cats wandering around.

Anyhow, let me take this opportunity to invite all the men in our community to our wild game dinner this Saturday night, January 28. It will be held in the basement fellowship hall at the First Baptist Church at 6:00 p.m. It should be a fun night together. Just the men! Some of the guys in the church are pretty accomplished hunters. There’s no telling what they might bring or what kind of stories they’ll tell. If you have some wild game you’d like to share, or some wild hunting stories, please do! As for me, I’ll probably bring a salad or dessert. I didn’t bring home any Chinese leftovers.

I’d also like to invite you to join us this Sunday morning at 10:45 for a “Men’s Day” worship service. Everyone’s invited to come, but we’re enlisting men to lead out in various ways – through testimony, song and Scripture reading. Should be a great day.

Then Sunday evening at 6:00, come for our “Singspiration” worship service. If you have a song of praise, an uplifting poem or favorite verse, you’re welcome to come and share it. We’d love to hear from you! Maybe you’ll experience something you ain’t never seen before! And I promise we won’t make you eat any mystery meat sparklers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is 2012 the End of the World As We Know It?

They say the world will end in 2012. You buying that?

The ancient Mayan calendar ends with December 21, 2012. Prognosticators and prophets are firing up all sorts of predictions about how it’s going down. Solar flare produced by Planet X. Rare planetary alignment creating massive polar shift. Meteor. Asteroid. Disease. Biological warfare. Aliens! Yikes!!

Whatever it is, they say some kind of cataclysmic event will bring the end of the world as we know it in 2012. I wonder if R.E.M. had this in mind when they wrote their hit song back in the day? Seriously, you’re not buying into this junk, are you?

Of course, predicting the end of the world is nothing new. Remember Harold Camping from May 21 last year? Then again on October 21? How about the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1874, 1914, 1925, 1975, etc.? Joseph Smith of Mormon fame predicted the world would end by 1891. Pat Robertson in 1982. David Koresh claimed the end would come in 1995. The Hale-Bopp comet of 1997. The Y2K scare! Just to name a few. If this column makes it to print and you’re reading it, then they’ve all been wrong so far.

Many people get caught up in the hype. The media and tabloids love this kind of stuff. So do movie producers and book publishers. And survival gear companies. Behind any good doomsday prophecy you know somebody’s making some cash.

What I’m saying to you, dear sound-minded friend, is don’t be suckered into believing this garbage. In the Greek New Testament language there is a word that describes such false predictions. It’s pronounced “ba-lon-ey.”

So what does the Bible say? First of all, it says Jesus will indeed come again. In Acts 1:11 two angels appeared to Jesus’ disciples as they watched Him ascend into heaven and said, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Re-read John 14:1-6, too, when you get a chance, among others. There’s no question about it: Jesus will come again.

But Scripture also states clearly that the time is unknown. In Matthew 24-25 Jesus explains this in no uncertain terms. He talks about the signs of His coming and the end times. He talks about the suffering His church will face. He even says specifically that many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. Read these two chapters and see how foolish it is for anyone to claim to know specifically when these things will happen.

And if I could make a third point (don’t all good sermons need three points?) it would be that Jesus’ return will be a day of judgment. You’ll see this in Matthew 24-25, but let me also take you to 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: “…when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…”

In a nutshell, that means that Jesus’ second coming will be a great day of salvation for those who believe and long for His appearing, but it will be a terrible day of judgment for those who have spurned Him and despised His church.

The fact of the matter is that it’s utter absurdity to be predicting times and dates that are not meant for us to know. But we should always be alert and ready.

So, are you ready? Have you repented of your sin and received the forgiveness that only Jesus can offer through the cross? Are you trusting Him now for your salvation, living in holiness and godliness as you await His coming? We’d better be buying that!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Watching Tebow Proclaiming Christ

Well, in case you’re wondering, I did get to see the BCS championship game Monday night. Jim and Sue Holler invited me over to watch on the big screen. It wasn’t really much of a game, but the conversation and fellowship was terrific. And man, can Sue make some brownies!

The game of the weekend, though, had to be the Steelers – Broncos. I’ve never been a fan of either team, but I can’t help but root for Tim Tebow. His touchdown pass to win the game in overtime has been all the buzz in the sports world this week.

I’m not writing this to proclaim the praises of Tim Tebow. But I am happy that someone who is unapologetically and unashamedly a follower of Jesus Christ is getting a national spotlight to proclaim his faith. Tebow never fails to give glory to God whether he wins or loses. He never fails to thank his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the gifts and opportunities he’s been given. I’ll cheer for that all the way to the Super Bowl.

It’s interesting to see people’s reactions to Tebow. Most are not indifferent. Either they love him or they hate him. And it’s not primarily for his performance on the football field. We could debate whether or not he’s really a star NFL quarterback. He’s no Tom Brady, that’s for sure. He’s not your fantasy league all-star, and how effective he’ll be in the league remains to be seen.

But the reason there’s so much animosity toward him is because he’s bold in his faith in Christ. A lot of people don’t like that. Our culture has a mind-set that basically says it’s fine for you to believe in whatever you want to believe in – or nothing at all – but just keep it to yourself. Don’t try to tell me what I should believe.

I’ve never heard Tebow preach through the media. I don’t recall any post-game interviews where he’s told anybody what they should believe. I can’t remember him giving any altar calls in the press room. What he does is simply testify to his love for the Lord. You may have seen from his college days that he inscribed Bible verses in his eye black, such as John 3:16. Tim’s a witness of the salvation of Christ Jesus, and he can’t help but tell others what God has done for him.

Tim’s parents were missionaries in the Philippines, where he was born. His mother’s pregnancy was extremely difficult from the start, and the medical team thought they had lost the baby a number of times. In fact, the doctor bluntly told Tim’s parents early on that the only way to save her own life would be to terminate the pregnancy.

Abortion wasn’t an option. They chose to trust in God, and His peace sustained her through the pregnancy. When Tim was born the attending physician told his father, “Mr. Tebow, your child is a miracle baby.” They know God answered their prayers.

I’m not in the least surprised that people get as worked up about him as they do. Tebow’s very existence is pro-life. He’s not a secret admirer of Jesus, but a sold-out follower. His character backs up what he believes. When the media takes swings at him or other players diss him, Tebow always seems to respond with humility and blessing.

People don’t know how to take that. They don’t know how to take Jesus either. Didn’t Jesus tell His disciples that they should expect such malicious treatment? “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me first,” He said. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).

Not every believer will get the kind of platform Tim Tebow gets to witness for Christ, but we all should be so bold no matter what the cost. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That’s a Savior worth proclaiming!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking for Love?

I rarely watch television unless it has something to do with sports. Maybe the occasional evening news or the Storm Riders on the Weather Channel. Even caught a little bit of political info from C-Span recently. How exciting. We have a very basic “local only” cable package, so aside from the shopping channels, PBS and the locals, there’s not many options.

But if you’re a sports fan who enjoys college football bowl games, and don’t have ESPN, the bowl season is quite a bummer. Hardly any games are on the main networks, so unless a good friend or caring church member invites me over to watch the championship game next Monday night, I guess I’ll just have to read about it in the paper.

Anyway, so last night we had a free evening at home. We’d been procrastinating on taking our Christmas tree down by playing Scrabble, (don’t ask me who won), watching “Facing the Giants” on video and taking care of our new puppy, which basically meant trying to keep him from chewing the legs off the furniture. Later my wife starts flipping through the channels and we land on this comedy called “The Bachelor.”

It was hilarious! If you’re not familiar with it, let me explain. There’s this single dude, dressed all up in a nice suit on the set of this huge mansion. And one by one there’s like 25 beautiful women who show up, introduce themselves as potential brides and start fawning all over him. He’s like a kid in a candy store! All he has to do is sample the ones he wants the most, while “dating” whomever he chooses. At the end of the season he will have found the love of his life and they’ll ride off into happily ever after land.

And the drama of it all along the way! Put 25 women together who all want the same guy and you’re rivaling the best of pay-per-view championship fights.

It was so funny I couldn’t bear to watch. And sad. Pathetic, really. Is this how it works these days? Seriously? Men, can you even imagine if while dating your future wife you were also courting several other gorgeous women? You think she’d be okay with that? There’s no way.

I’d like to tell the bachelor dude to think through this for a moment. You’ve got all these ladies who obviously have been unable to maintain a steady relationship with anyone else so far. Same for the guy. You think that under the spotlight of cameras capturing your every move, the fabricated dramatic environment and a few fairytale date scenarios that suddenly you’re going to find a relationship that will last for a lifetime?

The fact that these “beautiful people” can’t seem to attract or find a husband or wife ought to be enough of a warning sign that this is not a very good idea. If you can’t find love in real life, it’s sure not going to happen in prime-time television. And don’t even get me started on the whole fictitious concept of “reality TV.”

Somewhere during the course of this show I started humming the 80’s country song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Many men and women have no clue about love. Some have never received it, many have never given it. They’re looking for it, all right, but they’re looking in all the wrong places.

If you’re looking for love, my friend, let me introduce you to Someone who already has proven His great love for you. Someone who will never let you down, never disappoint and never put you to shame. His name is Jesus, and He laid down His life for you on the cross. You’ll never find a greater love than this; I don’t care what promises the bachelor or bachelorettes make. Receive His love today, and respond by loving Him with all that’s within you. I guarantee you’ll discover a love that is forever true and faithful.

They ought to make a show about that!