Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just an Inch

I'm listening to the Arkansas Razorbacks play Mississippi State in the SEC Baseball Tournament. A Razorback just hit the ball to deep to right field. The State right fielder races to the wall, leaps, and catches the ball robbing the Hogs of a home run. The radio announcer hesitated making the call because the ball was above the fence. If the right fielder missed the ball it's a home run. If he caught it it's an out. After several seconds the player shows everyone he caught the ball.

Phil Elson, the Razorback's radio announcer, made a great, enthusiastic call. I've always like Elson for that. He was the voice of the Arkansas Travelers minor baseball team in North Little Rock for years before moving to Fayetteville. He said, "Poole [the right field] is 6'4". If he had been 6'3" that ball would have been a home run."

It's that close. So many athletic contests are games of inches. How many football coaches have been second guessed after not making a first down on fourth and inches? The instant replay recently instituted in Major League Baseball has show runners to be out or safe by just a matter of inches. Basketball players sometimes look like they've drained a 3 only to have the referee notice the shooter's toe was on the line. An inch cost the team a point.

Sometimes an inch separates a team from their goal. So close but they miss the championship. Even a builder knows how important an inch is. Ask the guy who had to tear out a wall because is was just an inch out of square. So close.

I don't know the exact physical locations of heaven and hell. Heaven is the eternal abode of those who follow Jesus. Hell is where those who do not will spend eternity. Heaven is perfect. Hell is awful. Heaven is the apex of desire. Hell is the pits.

Such a great difference between heaven and hell but the real difference is much closer. The difference between heaven and hell is the choice an individual makes regarding following Jesus. What choice have you made? It's your choice: follow Jesus or not. People don't usually choose hell but that's the only option if you choose to not follow Jesus.

Here's the choice I made almost 45 years ago. I realized I was a sinner when I heard the truth of the gospel and that is a problem. I understood that Jesus died on the cross, absorbing the punishment and paying the penalty for my sins. I believed Jesus is the Son of God and what he did on the cross is the only remedy for my sin problem. I confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord and committed to live my life following him and for his glory.

Because of that I am confident that heaven is my eternity. You can know that, too. Will you choose Jesus? Let me know if you'd like to talk about this. Heaven is close than you may think.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nancy & Jim

People come into our lives at what seems a random order. What seems random is part of God's plan. He uses each person for a purpose. In fact, you may be the person that God is using for a purpose for someone else. The hard part is noticing what each person is doing in your life.

I attended two funerals today. The first one was for Nancy Phillips. I met Nancy at Second Baptist Church in Russellville in 1993. I never knew her very well. She was always at church. She was well respected in the church and community. I knew her husband because Joe was the county judge.

Nancy's main contribution to my life was through her daughter, Linda. Linda is a Christian counselor. She's good at both. I wandered into Second Baptist Church after a divorce and I didn't know if life was worth hanging around for. The church was about to start a small group Bible study called "Making Peace with Your Past." Linda was the facilitator. I had no idea what the class was about but I knew my past was making me miserable so I showed up for the first session. That class, that church, and Linda changed my life. I'm sure that I'm here today because of those days.

I sure am glad I met Nancy Phillips. I'm also glad I met Jim Meister.

Jim's funeral was at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church this afternoon. His grandchildren are friends of my son so Jim's son and daughter-in-law are our friends. I met Jim last summer when he was in the hospital and our friends were out of state.

I walked into Jim's hospital room not knowing anything about him and not much about his situation. He was dealing with complications from a hip surgery. He was clearly in pain when I met him.

Instead of complaining about the pain and excusing himself from the visit, Jim welcomed me and struck up a conversation as if we'd been friends forever. Jim's a member of a church that is much larger than mine. In fact, he taught a Sunday School class that was larger than my church.

But Jim didn't want to talk about himself - except for his grandkids. He wanted to talk about my church. He kept talking until the pain was too much. Then he asked for pain meds. After the nurse brought him something he kept talking with me until he drifted off to sleep. I said goodbye although he never heard me, and I left. I was so encouraged and I expected to encourage him. That's just the kind of guy he was.

So God moves people into our lives for a purpose. Receive that blessing! And be the blessing to those people into whose lives God moves you.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Under Surveillance

As you may remember, several months ago I captured video of a military helicopter landing in our yard. A man got out and the helicopter left. I later learned this was a drug sting. By the way, I was not the object of the operation.

Yesterday a military helicopter flew around just above the treetops. My guess is that someone in the area is under surveillance. This reminds me that someone is always watching.

At Christmas-time the shopping malls are extra busy. The police set up a video monitoring system to keep watch over the parking lot looking for thieves.

At Back-to-School time the police will set up the little trailer carrying a radar gun and MPH display.

Recent global news reminds us that our email or phone conversations may be monitored.

Even the customer service line you call from time to time says the call may be monitored for quality and training purposes.

Someone is always watching. Do you think your smart phone or smart TV can really record video of what you are doing?

Bigger than all of these watchdogs is the fact that the God of Heaven and Earth and All Things is aware of everything you do. Some people actually consider His ability to know all things as a "watchdog" kind of thing. That's not his motive.

It's not that God is watching to see what you do wrong. He's watching to see when you need help. And he's always ready to help with the best help you can get. More help, better help than you can ask or imagine.

Because he loves you.

I'm not sure if the guy in the helicopter loves the guys growing dope. But I am sure that God loves you. He has a plan for your life that includes everything that is best for you.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

Riley's truck is a work in progress. We've done a lot to it. We have a lot to do.

I'm not really a handyman so I am in way over my head. One of the first projects we tackled was to fix the driver's side door handle. It's not as easy as the youtube video makes it look. We had to clean out enough space in the garage to park it inside because of rain storms headed our way. Altogether it took several trips to the parts store, dozens of views of the videos, and most of a week to get everything apart, fixed, and put back together. But it works and I don't care if I never get to do that again.

Today we tackled the lock on the back glass panel. The truck is a GMC Yukon with a fold down tailgate and a fold up glass. The glass wouldn't lock and Riley is always carrying around a bag full of baseball gear I'd rather not replace and a set of speakers (that we can't get to work!) that don't even belong to him. So we needed to get the lock fixed.

I poked and prodded. We could hear the motor trying but nothing moved. So I removed two screws from the panel covering the inside of the tailgate. That just gave me enough of a view to coax me into removing the other dozen screws and taking the panel out of the way. That wasn't bad at all but the whole time I'm wondering if this will go back on easily. Riley told me later he was wondering the same thing!

Now with the panel removed it became clear we needed to removed a metal plate covering the lock mechanism. I tried to talk myself out of it but my son was watching and I couldn't turn back now. I'm no good at just looking at a bolt head and judging the right size wrench to use so it took several random choices before I got it right. In case you ever have to remove the plate covering the lock mechanism on the tailgate of a 1996 GMC Yukon, you will need a 10mm socket or wrench. If you already knew that, I don't care!

And a vacuum cleaner. You'll need a vacuum cleaner. All the foam backing inside the plastic cover was no longer stuck to the cover but was either dust or in small strips/pieces. It was greasy. What a mess! So you'll also need some of that orange hand cleaner, too. We have some left from the time we changed spark plugs and wires.

Don't tell Riley, but I'm not sure what I did to fix the lock but he's really impressed. He said, "Wow, I'm gonna tell Forrest tomorrow that you fixed it!" Forrest is the guy at church who can fix anything. He's usually the guy we have to call to bail us out when we have reached the end of our wits and ability. It's happened more than once. We also call Jon. He's the guy who told me that I'd just have to work as quickly as possible - that was when I had removed the fuel filter and gasoline was pouring out like a fire hydrant.

So I'm not sure what I did to fix the lock but I could tell that this one part needed to move when Riley pushed the unlock button on the key fob but it didn't. I could see that a spring didn't look like I thought it should so I wiggled it around to the other side of a thingy. I helped the moving parts move.

Then we tested the lock and it worked. I'm a genius in my son's eyes.

Really, all I did was notice a few things that didn't seem to be the way they were supposed to be. And I helped them get how they were supposed to be. I could have been completely wrong in my assessment of how things are supposed to be, but I was right this time.

My role as pastor of a family of Christians is much the same way. I look at stuff going on in our lives and compare that to how things are supposed to be. Then I do what I can to help them get how they are supposed to be. The Word of God is my guide - not a youtube video or a self-help book or my personal opinion - so I am confident in His directions. Someone is stuck and I help them get free. Something is in the wrong place and I help show the right place. And so on.

I'm better at that than I am at fixing stuff on Riley's truck but I still sometimes wonder if everything will go back together the way it should. I've learned that God's grace is sufficient for that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tornadoe and Potatoe

I'm subbing in 7th grade English today. In the second class a couple of kids are kidding a girl about how she spelled "tornado." She added an "e" at the end. She said she spelled it like it sounds. I've heard people say it as if it had "uh" at the end. But, alas, there's just one way to spell "tornado."

I asked them if they knew who Dan Quayle was. They didn't. So I explained that he was the Vice President under George H. W. Bush. I'm not sure they knew who he was, either.

Then I told them about the time Vice President Quayle was doing a photo op in a classroom of elementary students. He was helping them prepare for a spelling bee or test or something. The teacher gave him a stack of notecards. He called out a word and the students spelled them. One notecard had "potatoe" on it. That's right. It was spelled incorrectly on the notecard prepared by and handed to him by the teacher. Mr. Quayle should have caught the mistake but, either because of nerves or ignorance, he corrected the student who had spelled the word correctly.

Of course, the media misrepresented this and made Quayle out to be a buffoon. The media does what the media does and they do it very well. Gone are the days of an unbiased media. Perhaps those days never existed, it's just something to say to lament the sorry state of affairs these days.

And, of course, I took plenty of opportunities in class today to add an extra "e" to as many words as possible.

(By the way, it's hard to write a post including the words "tornadoe" and "potatoe" spelled with the extra "e" because autocorrect automatically corrects them.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Second Day of Spring

Today is March 21 and it is the second day of Spring. Yesterday there was a lot of hype on the weather broadcasts and in social media. Not so much today. And today is just as pretty a Spring day as yesterday was. The second day just doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Even in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Thursday got more hype than Friday even though Friday was still first round action.

Heaven won't be that way, I don't think. There will be no second day let down. The beloved hymn says, "When we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first begun." Day 3,650,000 will be just as good as Day 1.

It's my personal opinion that heaven won't have 3,650,000 days. Not even 2. There will be no sun because the Lamb is the light in heaven. I see that as just one eternal day. I wrote a song about that years ago. Here are the lyrics.

The Bible speaks of heaven as the hope of all the saved,
Secured as our destination by the life that Jesus gave.
To get there just one thing you must do, to get there just one way:
Believe in Jesus then make preparation to live in an eternal day.

Heaven's a place of rare beauty, that's one thing we know.
We'll stand with our loved ones around King Jesus and praise him while ages shall roll and roll and roll.
And then we'll sing for a million years, shout for a million years, sing for a million more, shout for a million more;
That's the just the beginning of an eternal day spent in the presence of God.

Remember how Enoch walked so close to God that he was not?
God must have had something so special in store that Enoch missed life's last stop.
And I believe John must have seen it, too, as down through the clouds that city came - 
A city not built by hands of men! It's our home for an eternal day!

Heaven's a place of rare beauty, that's one thing we know.
We'll stand with our loved ones around King Jesus and praise him while ages shall roll and roll and roll.
And then we'll sing for a million years, shout for a million years, sing for a million more, shout for a million more;
That's the just the beginning of an eternal day spent in the presence of God.

Here's a link if you'd like to hear the recording by Jubilee (Carri Corbitt, Donny Joe Martin, and me) from a long time ago.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Be Faithful and See What He Will Do

Our Bible study Sunday night was from Malachi 3. That's right, "Will a man rob God?" I've been preaching a series of sermons on Sunday mornings called Letting Go. Let Go of your Fear. Let Go of Your Past. Let Go of Your Own Plans. Let Go of Your Defeats. I thought about a sermon called Let Go of Your Money but I thought I'd let Malachi handle the heavy lifting.

First, let me put out there that I believe God gives each person/family all he/they need to tithe, live, and be generous. Failure to do any of those three is a sign of shoddy stewardship. And I believe that what God provides is exactly what you need, maybe not what you want but what you need.

6 "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty. 
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?' 
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty.

As you read the text of Malachi 3:6-12, you should notice that God expects people to be faithful in stewardship and he has no problem testing him in the matter. The word "test" is not a word that means to determine what a person knows or doesn't know, which is usually a negative thought, but to prove the validity of something, which is usually a positive. God is saying, "Be faithful and you have proof that I am who I say I am and will do what I say I will do."

Those who are faithful stewards will see the truth that God blesses those who are faithful, provides for them, and gives them a good reputation in the community.

Certainly, we want God to bless us. Be faithful and see what he will do!

And we want God to provide for us. Be faithful and see what he will do!

Did you notice the third promise? God will give the faithful and good reputation…"all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land." That was a promise to God's called people of the Old Testament, Israel. A good way to relate that to today is to realize that faithfulness of Christians - the Church - will result in blessings, provision, and a good reputation. Remember, God's called people (Israel in the past, the Church today) have always been tasked with carrying the blessing of the Good News.

If you have tried sharing your faith recently you may have noticed a negative reception to your effort. Have you wondered why? Could having a good reputation in the community help? I think so. I think that Christians who are faithful to what the Lord says will have a reputation in the community that will open paths for sharing the gospel.

For the sake of the lost around you will you consider being faithful? Not just in stewardship but in all things?