Sunday, September 25, 2022

Walking in the Dark


Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

~Prov 29:18

Back when we camped in a tent we always tried to remind everyone, the children and ourselves, to go to the bathroom before dark. There would be no street lights, no lights or lanterns hanging in campsites along the way, no way to see the path through the dark trees. In the middle of the night, there would only be darkness, the darkness that hid tree stumps, snakes, spider webs, and skunks. A thick darkness that closed in around us and chased us up the path to the bathhouse. Inevitably someone would need to go potty.  If one has to go everyone needs to go. Pity the camper whose flashlight batteries were low or gone.

I find traveling through life is a lot like a dark night in search of the path to the potty. It often feels like the walls of the world are closing in. There are wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires. I feel like I'm stumbling in the darkness trying to find the path through life. 

There is a way to find my way. One of my favorite verses to remind me that God knows how to shine his light and show me the path is found in Psalms.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

 ~Psalms 119:105 

So now the question is "What is God's vision for me and for his people?

How do we get there? 

What part do I play personally in his vision? 

I'm reminded that when God told Abram to go into a land that he would show him, Abram got up, took his wife and his belongings and went (Genesis 12:1-5.) He didn't make excuses that he had never been there before or he was afraid of the people or that he didn't want to leave his home and family there in Ur. He just went, one step at a time, one day at a time, trusting God to show him the way. 

Abram didn't have the word of God as we do. He had to be a good listener and actually, so do we. What did the verse say? "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." God is not going to speak from the clouds to give us direction. He has already spoken in his word. If God's people do not read, study, meditate, memorize, put into action the things God has told us we stand in danger of being harmed in the darkness of this world. Read the first verse from Proverbs again. " Where there is no vision, the people perish." So what do we do? The rest of the verse says he that keeps the law is happy (my paraphrase). How will we keep it if we don't know it? How will we know it if we don't read it? 

Pray for God's vision for his work in our day because he has put us here for a reason.

May I offer a challenge? Read one chapter each day, Monday-Friday. Keep a journal about what the Lord is showing you in each chapter. On Saturday review what you've read and what you've written. On Sunday, attend your house of worship and see how God speaks to you through the services in congruence with what you've studied. Follow God's lead as Abram did, one step, one day at a time. 

Heavenly Father, direct our steps in this dark world. Show us our purpose. Give us a vision for your work. In Jesus's name. Amen.

Hey Kids: 

Have you thought about the fact that Jesus has put you here in this time and this place for his purposes? He has a reason you were born into your family, your country, your region. What talents has he given you? What direction might he be pointing you? 

This week I challenge you to find a quiet place to read God's word. Memorize a favorite verse. Ask God for his plan for you each day and then follow just as Abram did. 


Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Gates of Hell


And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

What's behind the gate? Do you ever walk past a fence along the sidewalk and wonder, "What's behind that gate?" Is that gate there to keep you out or something/someone in? Maybe both. A gate is a defense against any and all. 

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus gave us a picture of a gate defending hell and its future inhabitants. Maybe in our modern minds, a better picture is a gate that keeps the lost locked in while we amble by on our merry ways.

Who's behind the gate? The addicted, the gang members, the prostitutes, the too rich who intimidate us, the too poor who disgust us, the profane, the bully, you fill in the blank. We see them. We whisper about them. We pass them by never attempting to unlatch the gate, much less break the gates down. Isn't our usual excuse, "Oh well, they made that bad choice. They can straighten up, or come to church, or _______ if they want to." Not true. 

Who is the leaven in the flour? Matthew 13:33 tells us it is our job to spread the gospel. We have to be the leaven in the flour, the world. It is our job to assault the gates that lock in the lost. Not by beating our tambourines against our Bibles and singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" as the temperance movement is pictured in the old westerns. Rather we must be meeting and greeting the lost in a sincere and caring manner.

Who do I meet? Does your child play sports with families that may be lost? Do you have business acquaintances? Do you see community members at the local store? What about your neighbors? My brother once wrote a letter to a corporate owner who lived in our city. He invited this owner to a Franklin Graham crusade. To my brother's surprise, the owner had his secretary contact my brother and set up a time that he could pick up the owner and take him to the crusade!

What do people want? Sadly we usually just pass by the people who aren't in our circle of friends. We fail to unlock the gates and invite people to escape. When the crowds in Matthew 19: 29-34 tried to shush two dirty, loud, blind men begging by the roadside, Jesus stopped and asked what they wanted, what they needed. They asked for sight. Jesus gave them both physical and spiritual sight. Funny, or rather odd, though they were lost, they already knew they needed Jesus.

Heavenly Father, help us consciously show the love of Jesus to those we meet along our path. Show us how to unlatch the gates of hell and invite others into the love and light of Christ. In Jesus's name. Amen.

Hey Kids:
Is there someone in your class or neighborhood who is being passed by?
What kind and friendly words can you offer them to let them know you care?
A few friendly words can open doors to invite others to church and to share the gospel.

Write down a name(s) you plan to show kindness to this week.
Pray for them and your friendship greeting.
Be aware Satan will try to make you chicken out.
He is not in control of the latch on the gates of hell.
That gate is waiting for you and me to open it so the Light of Jesus will light their way out.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

God's Great Love



For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,39 KJVWe camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As usual it was overflowing with people, but we were there for the same reason, to find some peace from the crazy rat race of work and cell phones and TV's and technology of every description that invades our lives every day. True, without technology, I wouldn't be able to share this with you, but sometimes you do need a break.
When you cross into the park, your cell phone immediately loses signal. It will search until all power is gone, which won't take long unless you cut the phone off completely. Then to get your pictures you have to go through all the stuff to get it back on and to the camera. Whew! Word to the wise, pack another camera. We camped at Cades Cove. There are no electrical sites, except maybe the handicapped sites, another shut down of technology. I'm not sure if even the generator powered campers had the ability to receive TV and radio signals. Who would want it when you are surrounded by the glory of God's creation.
The eleven mile loop that takes you through forest and meadows and leads you to old cabins and trails. Traffic creeps along at ten to fifteen miles an hour with people stopping to view deer and bear. Pull-offs are frequent for those wishing to get out and get a closer look or walk through cabins and along trails. You may be accompanied by fifty to hundred people but most speak in whispers, in awe of the beauty that surrounds them. Smiles greet you as fingers point out the wildlife across the meadow or up in the tree. I thought, this is almost heaven. There are no harsh words. There is no hurry. There is no worry. That's probably why so many signs say stay fifty feet back from wildlife! We lose all fear. Peace and calm reign and you wish for the day to never end.
The highest mountain in the Smokies is Clingman's Dome. For many years it was thought to be the highest mountain in the east until more accurate measurements declared Mt Mitchell the winner. There are also a significant amount of caverns under the Smokies. Most are not open to the public, but there are a few. We ventured into Tuckaleechee with an older guide who knew the cavern inside out. Though I didn't take pictures inside (I didn't know going in I could take my camera), the beauty and magnificence of the cavern was awesome. Stalactites and stalagmites, curtains of formations, underground rivers and a waterfall, amazement at every turn. Then he turned off the lights, but God was still there in the dark, the dark you could almost feel. Here in the Smoky Mountains, we could ascend to one of the highest peaks or descend in one of the deepest caverns. No matter where we were, we were never without God. We could pray at the heights or in the depths. God would still hear. We could still feel His presence. We still had His love. There is no escape from God or His love and why would you want to escape? It's because of His love that we have the beauty of His creation. It's because of His love that we have salvation through Christ Jesus. God is love (I John 4) in all He does.
Heavenly Father we thank you for your loving kindness in creating this tiny earth filled with wonder. Thank you for placing us in the midst of the wonder. We are such a tiny speck on the earth in the midst of your gigantic universe yet you care for us. You sent Your Son to die for us in the midst of our sin. May we never lose sight of Your great mercies. In Jesus's name Amen
Hey Kids:
God's creation is so amazing. Have you ever thought that God created all things because He loves us? From the smallest atom to the tallest tree to the deepest cavern, we can see our amazing God and His love for us.
Why not take a little vacation from technology this week and take note of something far more amazing - God's creation.
Take pictures or draw or write about something awesome.
Here's some hints to get you started.
Watch fireflies or lightning bugs as they begin their nightly dance. What makes them glow without burning up?
Listen for woodpeckers in search of food or building homes. Why doesn't his beak break or bend?
Check a flower bud for a few days to watch it as it opens. Does it twirl open or pop or slowly, slowly broaden its petals.
Can you find a way to measure the tallest tree in your yard or neighborhood or park?
What other things can you find that God has created to bless you with?