As I sit here I have been wide awake for the past three hours, pain in mind neck from the accident that took place nearly two years ago is not helping any. Knowing that I need to get some sleep and that there is nothing I can do about it is very frustrating. I imagine I am not the only one who has to deal with this problem.
This level of frustration has got me to thinking about Noah there in Genesis. As we read his story we come to find out that it took him about 100 years to build that ark, gather supplies, gather the animals, and warn people to get in the ark. One hundred years and he only got seven other people to join him. How frustrating! All that work, all that effort for only eight total people to use the ark. He must have been so frustrated and maybe even a little depressed. With all that he did and practically no one cared. That ark was as much for t he rest of humanity at the time as it was his family and yet only they joined him in there.
As a preacher it is also very frustrating to get up behind the pulpit and preach your heart out and see so many in the pews seemingly not paying attention. Laboring to prepare the sermon, soaking it in prayer, and then giving it your all just to feel at the end of the invitation that you missed the mark. It really gets to you. What needs to be remembered is that God’s word will not return void, Isaiah 55:11, someone heard something that will stick with them. The result may not be seen for some time but God will see it through, our frustration will only be for what amounts to as a moment.
I would never desire a bed of roses, even for just one night. No matter how sweet it might smell or how soft it might would be. Whenever I think about such a thing I am reminded of the little rose garden we have in our backyard. There we have a rose bush called a Cinnamon Rose Bush. Now I don’t know if it is every cinnamon bush that is like this or just ours but this thing is covered with thorns. Just to get it out of that plastic tub it came in I had to wear leather welding gloves and I still felt like I was getting poked. It seems to me that even the thorns have thorns on them. So with that image in mind logically, to me, a bed of roses is going to have thorns in it.
Thorns aren’t bad though. No, we don’t like to be stuck by one but that is just the thorn doing it’s job. Thorns are there to protect the plant. Roses are a pretty good source of Vitamin C so it stands to reason that animals would want to get to that vitamin. With a fallen nature the animals would overdo it and there would be no more rose. The sweet smell would be gone and it’s beauty lost forever. Having thorns protects the plant from such wanton destruction.
Thorns are a gift from God. They weren’t there originally. It took man giving into sin for thorns to appear. We read in Genesis 3:17,18 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…” Cursed is the ground for our sakes, not as torture mind you. The thorns were brought about to protect us. Protect us from abusing God’s grace. He could have rightfully killed Adam and Eve then and there but He extended grace. Life is pain and the thorns remind us how much worse it can be. Those little pricks help stear us when temptation is brewing. We can either choose to listen or suffer their wrath.
As I was sitting in the passenger seat of our car waiting for my wife to return from a store I noticed our side mirror. On it was printed these words “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR” and it caught my attention. I have been driving for over twenty years professionally and even longer on a regular basis but it has been a while sense I have paid close attention to those words. When I am driving by habit I incorporate those words into my decisions but nothing more. Their warning is clear and all, but long ago I stopped reading them.
It got me to thinking about James 1:23,24 and the clear warning the apostle is giving us. Those verses say this “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. That word glass can also be translated mirror. We look into the mirror and see what needs to be seen. What do we do with that information though? I fear far too many Christians are on autopilot, we hear the sermon or do our Bible reading and yet instead of applying what information the mirror of God’s word gives us we just keep on doing as we please. And that is the trouble. Even if we recognize that the potential exists for problems to arise we are on autopilot, stuck in our habit, or what not and fail to realize just how close to a wreck, to sin, we are until it is too late. The mirror told us it was closer than we thought but we thought better of our human self. For example, we see that sin and we can handle it or God tells us to do something and we think we have plenty of time to do it. Turns out the mirror was right and we were wrong.
The mirror also makes no bones about it’s message either. In bold letters it declares OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Aside from the possibility of sin I can think of two other things that message can allude to for us the reader. One is that of the destination. In that mirror I can see part of the store my wife went into and when she returns I can see her. Jesus said He will return for us (John 14:3). The mirror of His word tells us this clearly. Secondly because I am close enough to read the message I must be close enough to use it. Which reminds me of a promise made back in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” No matter how far away a child of God gets away from Him we are still closer to Him than we think! Just a prayer away. It’s just a matter of remembering Jesus will always take us back.
John 3:19,20 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
There is a song lyric out there that says “the night is on my side” and I would say the song I am thinking of is talking about being a rebel. Whenever I see a bar or club in a movie or t.v. show they are always pictured as being dark inside. In fact it used to be in westerns the bad guy always wore a black hat. Everything pointing to the darkness and whether people wish to admit it or not the darkness of the soul. Even trying to wear all black clothes is us trying generally trying to hide our weight, which spiritually agains has the potential to suggest we are hiding how lightweight we are in that area of our lives.
Did you know we cannot create darkness? It is true. Even when we turn the lights off we are not in actuality making it dark. Our mind says we are but truth be told all we are doing is turning off the light. We can dim the light or we can turn the light on so high it can blind a person but we cannot turn on the darkness. Darkness is the absence of light.
In the darkness of the womb we are conceived in sin (Psalms 51:5). That darkness reprents the darkness of our souls because thanks to sin we are all born spiritually dead. Contrast that with Jesus, who through the power of the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35) His human body was conceived thus no sin in Him. Jesus came into this sin filled world as the Light (John 8:12). Light to shine into our blackened souls to reveal to us our hellbound condition.
Because of that hellbound condition we are in desperate need of His light. The problem with that is that people kinda like the way they are and don’t want to leave their confortable darkness. They believe the darkness is on their side. It feels good where they are at and they don’t see any need to change. What they are missing because of shortsightedness is that the darkness of this world which has the light of Jesus in it will one day end in Hell which is described as a place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12). That means the darkness will become visible to them, no light at all for the rest of eternity. Darkness so thick you can feel it. Yes I know Hell is supposed to be fire so how can there be such darkness? Because the fire there will be so hot it will burn up the light normally generated and the payment for the sins of this life will insure a person there is never able to finally die (Romans 6:23).
The darkness is on nobody’s side. Jesus asks that we put our trust in Him and His light and be saved. Have you? If not, will you?
In John 4:4,6 we find that the Bible said that Jesus needed to go through Samaria and tgat His body was tired from the long journey so He sat on a well. There to His disciples it looked like He was waiting for them to return with lunch but in reality He was waiting for a certain woman. She had no claim to Him as that she was a Samaritan woman, a half breed at best (part Jewish and part Gentile).
This woman was coming to the well at the weong time of day because even in her own community she was an outcast, a sinner’s sinner. A five time divorcee and currently shacked up with a fellow who she wasn’t married to. Everyone in her village knew all about her. By the way so did this Jew! To make matter stranger He asked her for a drink of water, something no self respecting Jew would do. Good thing He wasn’t into His self like so many humans are.
Jesus was there waiting for her because He loves every human being who has ever lived, is currently living, and is yet to be born. The plan that God has was for Jesus to come and die on the cross so that anyone who was willing to come to where He is waiting for them can be saved.
Saved from what? In a word death and not our physical death. Nor is it our spiritual death either because we were all born spiritually dead. No, I am talking about eternal death where a person will suffer body, soul, and spirit for eternity. Our sins guarantee us this death (Romans 6:23). No one was ever good enough nor will no one ever be good enough (Romans 3:10,23) to escape the sin debt we owe God. There is only one way to avoid eternal death and that is by accepting Jesus as our Saviour (Romans 10:9,10) while there is still breath in our lungs. Yes, Jesus is waiting for you and all tou have to do is ask Him and He’ll do it (Romans 10:13).
I was thinking the other day about what advice I would share with a young preacher who was just starting out. Three things came to mind. Each of which I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out. While I don’t know the extent of the change it would have made for me I know the right advice would have gone a long way.
My first piece of advice would be this. When it comes to what a God called man is to preach, God has already told you what to preach. He has given you 66 books in one volume called the Bible. Stay on your knees in prayer with your nose in the good book. You don’t have to look for the eight-run home run sermon, just give ’em Jesus.
The second piece of advice would be in regards to opportunity. That is, take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t hide behind the line that you are not good enough yet to go out somewhere, that you need more seasoning. If God called you and you have been faithful to study and not just have opinions and traditions then God will be with you. A young preacher may not feel up to the challenge of an invitation, but I would urge them to take it. The opportunity they pass on may be the same one someone like me would be begging to have.
Lastly, and just as importantly as the first two. Please young preacher ask questions. Don’t just assume that the older more experienced preachers will just open up the flood gates of knowledge to you of their own accord. They tend to not remember how it was to be that inexperienced. There is knowledge and wisdom there but you most likely will have to tap into it yourself verses them taking you under their wing.
I am reminded of what Paul wrote over in 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul just listed four generations in this one verse. How much Paul brought out on his own verses how muxh Timothy had to dig out of the apostle on his own I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that there was knowledge there and each preacher has the responsibility to get all that he can and pass on all that he can.
I was thinking earlier about just what it is that I want. Not in a bad way, more of what is it that I want from God. What is the desire of my heart? Such a question is not a bad thing providing our motivation is pure (James 4:3 tells us wrong motives deny us our prize from God). I was thinking about what Jesus said in Matthew 7:7,8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Having a right desire and desiring the things that God can give us is a good thing. For example in Luke 11:1 the disciples came to Him and asked Jesus to teach them to pray. At which point He gave them the model prayer (Matthew grouped together a bunch of Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the mount together but this was the reason why Jesus gave the model prayer). Their desire was to pray and know that what their were asking about was right and would be answered. David in Psalms 51 asked God to restore unto him the joy of God’s salvation, to cleanse him, and get rid of those wicked desires so that he could serve God again.
When I think of Job and all he endured I want so much for him to have asked God for an explaination instead of traveling down the road he went down. For us though it is good he suffered as he did because if we will read the whole book instead of just a couple of passages of scripture we get a better portrait of what we ouraelves go through and how God is in fact trying to help us if we will only lwt Him. Now I know there are people who say we shouldn’t ask God”why?” but didn’t Jesus Himself ask God the Father why He had forsaken Him there on the cross (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34).
If we never ask we will never know. Perhaps we won’t receive the answer we want to hear but we should at least make the inquiry. Or as James put it Ye have not because ye ask not. Which remind me of the minor prophet Habakkuk. When we read his little book we need to keep in mind that tbe first two chapters are really a recording of the conversation he had with God. The prophet was greatly troubled by what God had showed him and he wanted to understand what God was thinking. God didn’t rebuke him for it He answered him. Isn’t it amazing how God will encourage us to seek out what it is that we want from Him? Brothers and sisters keep at it until you get a response.