August 30, 2016
I have a new neighbor who works for the IRS. He tells me preachers are high on their list of suspected tax dodgers, so I am trying to be on my best behavior. Actually, he says they rarely go after small church pastors - not enough money to bother.
Most of us get nervous just thinking about taxes. I have a friend who was audited by the IRS several years ago. Once he got the letter announcing the audit, he was an emotional wreck for weeks. How could he afford to pay a huge bill? What if he ended up owing thousands? He could see his kid’s college fund and his retirement evaporating into thin air. Maybe he would even end up going to jail. His girls would be without a father. His church would be without a pastor. His wife might leave him for someone who was a better provider (and knew their way around a form 1040).
When it was all said and done, turns out his worrying was all for naught. The IRS ended up owning him a sizable refund. So often we are guilty of doing the same thing. We worry. We fret, even though the Bible tells us not to.
Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; (Psalms 37:1)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
I heard a well-known psychologist once say that “worry is a totally non-productive emotion.” Anger will sometimes stir us to action. Fear will cause us to run faster. Love will inspire us to make great sacrifices. But worry accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Besides as Christians, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Our God is in control. We can trust in Him. If He takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field we can trust Him to take care of us (see Matthew 6: 25-34).
Here’s to a stress-free worry-free day.
Have a great week!
The Sinfulness of Sin
In Isaiah 6 the prophet has a vision of God high and lifted up, sitting on His throne. Immediately, Isaiah falls on his face and cries out, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5) In this sin-tainted world in which we live, few of us see our sin as being all that bad. Sure, we may mess up occasionally. We may lose our temper, or say a curse word, or have an evil thought. We may occasionally be jealous of our neighbor or harbor a grudge against an old rival. But we’ve not that bad. We’re better than most people. We’re on the high end of the morally righteous scale. The problem is we are comparing ourselves to the wrong standard.
Theologian F F Bruce says it this way. (READ THIS SLOWLY AND THINK ABOUT IT)
“The guilt of the offense is proportional to the greatness, the moral excellence, and the glory of Him against whom the offense is committed, and who made us for loyal obedience to Himself. Nothing else, therefore, comes into consideration in estimating the enormity of sin but the infinite majesty, glory and claims of Him against whom we sin.”
Our seemingly tiny sin is huge when held up against the pure white back drop of a Holy God. Let me explain it this way.
Suppose you go to Lowes and buy a new room size rug to cover the hardwood floors in your living room. They’re on sale and you pick up a nice one for a couple of hundred dollars. The next week I come over and spill a bottle of indelible ink right in the middle of it. Now that’s a terrible offense. I’ve ruined your new $200.00 rug. But suppose instead that it was a $50,000 hand-woven, Persian rug. The sin hasn’t changed but the enormity of the crime now seems much greater.
That’s how we should view our sin in light of God’s holiness. God’s holiness cannot even be compared to a $50,000 rug. Its value is infinite, immeasurable. To make it worse our sin of pouring the ink on the rug may well have been intentional. We deliberately chose to act out of pride or selfishness. Our judgmental attitude, our unkind words were deliberate affronts to the holiness of God. It’s as if we intentionally poured out that bottle of ink on the rug of God’s holiness.
Perhaps the first step to pursuing true holiness is to come to grips with the “sinfulness of our sin”. We must confess what we’ve done. Like Isaiah we need to cry out for mercy “woe is me”. The good news is the blood of Jesus is the ultimate spot remover. (I John 1:7)
Have a great week!
In the fall of 1992, a well known American yachtsman by the name of Michael Plant began a solo crossing of the North Atlantic from the U. S. to France. His friends and family gave him an enthusiastic farewell as he set out to sea. No one had any reason for concern. After all, his mid-sized sailboat the Coyote, was state of the art. The best that could be made.
Not only that but Michael Plant had on board a brand-new 406 Megahertz Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (or Epirb) which was capable of transmitting a message to a satellite in case of difficulty. Four short signal bursts from the Epirb would be all that would be needed for ground stations to fix a location on the sender and initiate an immediate rescue. Plant had everything EXPERTISE, EXPERIENCE, THE BEST EQUIPMENT.
But eleven days into his journey something did go wrong. At first, they weren’t concerned. Maybe it was just bad weather. Maybe he was busy riding out a storm. Maybe something was wrong with his radio.
But when the silence persisted, a search was launched. Coast guard planes began to criss-cross the area. Ships were notified. Finally, almost a week later, a freighter spotted the Coyote floating upside down. But there was no sign of Michael Plant.
At first, that was reason for hope. Perhaps he was adrift somewhere in the emergency liferaft, but the liferaft was found still on board. Plant’s body to this day has never been found.
Later it was discovered that eleven days into his journey ground stations in Canada and the U.S. had indeed picked up a distress signal from his Epirb radio, but who were unable to locate the source of the transmission. Not only that, but Plant had failed to register the signal of his new radio with the Coast Guard so that their computers would recognize his distress code. Family members think he was just so confident in his ability that he took those safety precautions too casually.
But the most puzzling question about the whole thing was the fact that the Coyote was found floating upside down. They are built to take the most rigorous pounding the wind and waves can offer.
Once they got it out of the water, the answer was soon discovered. You see, for a sailboat to maintain a steady course, to keep from capsizing, to efficiently harness the power of the wind. THERE HAS TO BE MORE WEIGHT BELOW THE WATERLINE THAN THERE IS ABOVE IT.
When the Coyote was built an 8,000 pound weight was bolted to the keel for that very reason. That kind of ballast was needed for stability. For some unknown reason, when the Coyote was found that four ton weight was missing. Somehow it had come loose.
Without that stabilizing ballast below the waterline, the Coyote was no match for the storms of the North Atlantic.
This story raises a question that each of us needs to consider. How are things “below the waterline” of your life? Not the part of your life everyone can see. Not the part that is on display. But what about the part that no one knows anything about except you and God. When the storms come is there enough ballast to hold you steady?
The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians that Christ might “strengthen” (them) with power through His Spirit in (their) inner being (Ephesians 3:16) at the soul level.
Maybe it would be a good idea to pull into dry dock and examine below the waterline. Are we cultivating a closer relationship with Christ? Are we increasing in the knowledge of His Word? Are we developing a heart of compassion for others? Are we building our faith muscles? How are things below the waterline? Take care of that and you’ll have smooth sailing, even through the storms.
Have a great week!
Clarence Jordon was a radical disciple of Jesus who was a leader in the civil rights movement as early as the 1940”s. Once Clarence came to his brother, Robert Jordon, who was an aspiring young lawyer who later became a State Senator and Supreme Court Justice in Georgia. Clarence asked his brother to represent them in a civil rights case.
Robert responded “Clarence I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”
Clarence reminded him, “We might lose everything too.”
But, his brother protested “it’s different for you.”
Clarence responded, “Why is it different? I remember us joining the church together on the same Sunday as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same questions as he asked you. He asked, do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? I said yes, what did you say?”
Robert began to get uncomfortable with this line of questioning, he said, “Well, I do follow Jesus Clarence, up to a point.”
“Could that point by any chance be the cross”, asked Clarence pointedly.
Robert replied “That’s right. I follow HIM to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”
Then, said Clarence, “I don’t believe you can call yourself a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple.”
Jesus says in Luke 14: 27 “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The cost of discipleship has not changed. There is no such thing as a “casual” Christian or “part-time” believer. There is no sub-category of occasional Christian. We’re either all-in or we’re not. There is no middle ground.
Are you an admirer or a follower? The cost of following may seem high at times, but the ultimate costs of refusing to follow are even greater. Besides, the blessings and the joy of knowing Christ are worth it. The ultimate rewards are out of this world!
If you haven’t already I would encourage you today to follow Jesus. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made.
Have a great week!
Tuesday Morning on the Run
Inspirational thoughts from Pastor Barry Lawson