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.