Get all you can

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.

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Getting along

I heard a preacher say one time that we had best learn to get along with our co-workers because if we don’t God will make sure you two get stuck together. With that in mind I must confess that there is a group of men where I work that I don’t see eye to eye with. For the record I am a union member, where I work is a union business, my local is in need of more members, and I was always taught that if you work at a union shop you must be a union member. Long story short this group of guys are not union member, which puts me at odds with them.

However over the past few months I have had to deal directly with them more than normal. Yes they are just as human as I am, which is no surprise, but they are still non-union workers in a union shop but I am getting over that. I can’t change what they are but I can work with them, even dare I say work a little with them. As part of my transition back to my normal job I have had my hours changed to where I come in earlier and help our shippers ship the product to the drivers. Part of this new responsibility includes shipping some of their product. For me that is a little weird, bad enough I am shipping but also shipping to these guys!?! We do have a common goal though. All of us want to make a living to support our families.

This got me to thinking about who in the Bible were some “opposites” who had to learn to work together? David and Jonathan come to mind. Jonathan is the crown prince yet he knew David had been choosen by God Himself to be the nect king, 1 Samuel 23:17. These two agreed to work together even though Jonathan knew he was getting the short end of the stick. The over all goal was more important, they knew they had to follow God’s will for their lives and for their nation. 

Still though they didn’t have that difference of opinion like me and the non-union guys. That lead me to think about to of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew the publican and Simon Zealotes. Simon Zealotes was as pro-Israel as you can get while Matthew the publican had “betrayed” Israel by going to work for the Roman’s as one of their tax collector’s. Early on it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for these two to work together. Not even much of a stretch to think that they did their best to be as far apart as possible but still they hung in there. Personally I kinda picture it taking Jesus at the last supper washing everybody’s feet before it really started to click for them. The idea that they have a common goal and a common employer (God). Their past was in the past and now a day would soon come for them when they would work together, Pentecost, both giving out the good news that Jesus saves. Then one day coming to understand that salvation was not just for the Jews but for all mankind, so long as they would accept the free gift. Yeah even those two could get along, they needed common ground and that was found at the foot of the cross.

Breaking the ice

Recently we had a weekend filled with snow. As the weather allowed I did my best to keep up. With my daughter being in a wheelchair it is all the more important that we keep the walkways clear. However it came to the point on Sunday afternoon where I had to go to bed, this meant there would be more snow to shovel when I got up around midnight for work. Sure enough there was about an inch of heavy weight snow. As quickly as I could I cleared a path to our cars and headed off for work.

When I got home though things were different. That heavy weight snow had frozen up due to the drop in temperature. The good news was that everything I had shoveled before work was still clean. While the bad news was the snow plow had come through and pushed some snow back over the section of road that had been cleared dor my daughter to get on and off the bus in her chair. Cars had driven through and the neighbor had also backed over the freezing snow turning it to hardened ice. There was no time to try using salt to melt the ice. Experience had taught me that at this point I need my ice breaker and shovel. That ice breaker would chip away at the ice and the shovel would move the broken off pieces put of the way.

I would love to say I cleared the area of ice by the time my daughter came home, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Still though I did bust up some ice which opened up a little of needed area. Those parts where the ice was too hard I worked on chopping grooves into it to allow our boots a means of gripping the ice instead of only dealing with that super slick surface.

While I was working away I got to thinking about John the Baptist. Over in Mark 1:3 he was described as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” his call was to “prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” He wasn’t the voice of all nor were multitudes gathered saying the same thing as he was, he was just one voice doing what he could. His task was similar to mine in a way, we both had to prepare the way for the arrival of someone important, it’s just that his person was vastly more important than mine. For the brief amount of time he had John did what he could with what little he had. We actually have more than him as that we have the complete Bible and that Jesus has already come the first time. Whixh brings me to my next point, that being Jesus is coming again soon. It is our duty to prepare the way for Him into people’s hearts. Because the next time He comes for those who are not saved it will be too late. Chip away at the cold hearts with what you got about eternal salvation, it might make all the difference and keeping them from falling into Hell one day.

Traffic control

Garrett Morgan is a name many don’t know but I’ll wager given our fast paced society people would love to have a “little talk” with him. He is credited as the invented of the traffic light or red light or stop light. Amazing we don’t call it a more pleasant name such as the “go light” or the “green light”. Our view is negative because it has the ability to stop us dead in our tracks. Of course that is pretty much what Mr. Morgan had in mind, keeping traffic under control to make the road safer. This device takes away our complete freedom of recklessness in exchange for a measure safety for all. All those stop lights are timed with the legal speed limit to keep traffic flowing at it’s optimum rate. Sometimes it means we have to stop and be inconvenienced to allow for other to also be allowed to go.

I have noticed a nice little fact about those lights and side streets. It is that quite often if we will go to the red light instead of the shortcut to a street with no light we find ourselves moving along sooner than if we did do the short cut because of the flow of the surrounding traffic. Those nuisance traffic lights can be our friend. Our disobedience to them though can be costly such as a police officer catching us going through the light, red light cameras, or out right accidents. Traffic control devices are meant to be obeyed all the time and not just when we feel like it.

In the Bible we are given a “traffic control signal” known as the law. Galatians 3:24 says “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” That schoolmaster or instructor was a slave who generally had proven himself enough to be trusted to guide the development of the future master(s) of the house of the upper class. These young boys were not allowed to even leave the house without the schoolmaster; that is until their graduation day. 

God’s law is that schoolmaster in our lives. Though when we are first born into this world that same law condemned us all to Hell because we were all born sinful. Yet that same law also shows us our need for Christ and His salvation to get to Heaven. Once we do repent of our sins and ask Jesus to save us we still have that schoolmaster of the law, the difference is now it no longer condemns us to Hell but condemns our hearts over the sins we commit after our salvation. When we obey the law it doesn’t mean the signals are in our favor but it does mean that our life (traffic) can flow properly in God’s will. At the same time disobedience, running the redlights, causes accidents and gets us spiritual traffic tickets. If we avoid the light so we can just go already we find that it doesn’t go our way, we may have to wait even longer, we have an accident, or worse. Maybe it works out but is it really worth the cost of avoiding what the designer has given us to keep us where we need to be?

A quick take away: Which way are you leaning?

Philippians 2:12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

The christian life is not by any means a picnic but rather one of responsibility both towards God and towards others. It is easy to do it when the going is smooth but when trials come, when our leaders are unavailable to us, or tragedy strikes we must know which way we are going. Obedience to God before hand helps considerably when these things come

There is something there

Recently I was on my way to visit a local church and as I was driving down a side street something didn’t seem right. In the middle of this block was a beautiful four foot tall iron fence that was painted glossy black. The lot that it guarded looked to be two maybe three times the normal size of a piece of property. I am not sure because I had no reference point, there was no house or any structure on the land. It did have some very healthy looking green grass.

I couldn’t figure why such a fence would be necessary since there was nothing to protect, at least as far as I could see. Then I got to thinking about it made perfect sense. While I had at first been speculating on what might have been there in the past, what was really sitting there was the future. Sure that open area didn’t look like much to me but that is because I don’t own it. I’m sure the fellow who does not only knows it’s past, sees it potential, and expects to realize it one day soon. Exactly what he will build there I don’t know but he does.

That got me to thinking of another owner who built a fence around His property. He knew the storms would blow through and cause some damage and that people would come by and declare the property worthless. There would be those who would come by and speculate if anything could be done with it given the shape it was in. None of that mattered because His eyes were looking squarely at the future. We read about that fence He built in Luke 22:31,32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to haveyou, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Jesus built His fence around His property (1 Corinthians 6:20), Simon Peter. Peter thought one thing about himself. Satan looked to destroy him in the storm that was coming fast and hard. People looked at him as just an uneducated man (Acts 4:13) and no possible future. His owner saw different. He saw a flawed man who could be turned around and lead that first way of disciples out to win souls. A future project that would see him preached his first sermon and 3,000 souls saved. A future where Simon Peter would be used to write two books of the New Testament and have a hand in helping other books of the Bible be written. What God Almighty would build on that property would be a testimony that would indeed 2,000 years later still be strengthening the brethren.

Oh it’s there in you too. It may seem like God hasn’t done anything with you nor does it look like He plans on doing anything any time soon but remember His time line is different from ours and that we have to first allow Him to build us His way. How often has He had to stop construction because we deny Him the permit to build? What grandeur can He do with a person who is completely yielded over? When Jesus bought you with His precious blood He bought all the property He needed to build with, it is there. Will you let Him have at it?

Avoiding God’s will

Often times we avoid God’s will due to just how scarry what we see is. The seemingly unavoidable destruction of what we hold dear is neyond our willingness to surrender. In Acts 27 we read a couple of interesting things in regards to God’s will for the 276 people on the boat.

First in verses 14 & 15 we read how the ship that was carrying the Apostle Paul was caught in a terrible storm, a hurricane. Then after many days Paul stood up and told every one that Jesus had promised to bring all the people ashore and that Paul would stand before Ceasar but that it was the will of God that the ship be destroyed (v22) and that they all would be cast on a certain island (v26).

The another thing we see is the crew doing what they could to preserve that same ship. Then finally the crew began to check the depth of the water and soon learned that even though they couldn’t see land that they were indeed approaching land. Big rocks and big ships don’t mix and they didn’t want that boat being destroyed if they got too close, so ww read in Acts 27:29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

It was God’s will for them to reach that island but they couldn’t do it with the boat. They loved it too much! Thus they did what they could to stop or avoid the will of God. This last time they threw overboard 4 anchors. Here us what I believe each of those anchors represent in our lives.

1. Fear. That unknown us too great. Faith is nice when things are going swell but when they ain’t what do we do?!? How can God let us come so close to ruin? Our minds focus solely on the negative aspects and we forget that God knows all and loves us so much that He Himself paid that aweful sin debt for us. Fear is indeed the opposite of faith.

2. Frustration. We get this way usually hecause we have been working so hard on things to go our way. All of our ducks are in a row then suddenly things begin to fall apart yet again. How can this constantly be happening we wonder. It seemed like this had been God’s plan and now it appears that He has changed His  mind. The best laid plans of man are not God’s plans and we must learn to accept that truth or we will never know the victory He has for us.

3. Fraility. As humans we are very frail when it comes to sin and we have tendencies to love our sin more than God. We carry this crutch around predominantly on display. I’m just a sinner saved by grace and I still sin. While it is good to acknowledge that stop trying to use it as an excuse to avoid God’s sovereign will for your life. Remember Jesus told that woman in Jihn 8:11 to go and din no more. He wasn’t telling her to never sin again but to stop habitually sinning, stop relying on her frailty.

4. Foresight. Our foresight. We think we see something better and instead of going with what God has for us we go with what we know. Trouble is what we see is very shortsighted and misleading. Going back to faith, it is not what we see that counts but what God sees. We are told to walk by faith and not sight for a reason (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our foresight can’t comprehend eternal truths and will always fall far short because of it.

Bear in mind that Paul declared that the people were all going to end up on a CERTAIN island and not just any old place. God’s will was for them to reach that certain island. It ended up with some swimming ashore while others arrived using broken pieces of the ship to help them stay afloat. How much time and energy are we wasting by avoiding God’s will? Had they just gone forward the ship would have been lost on the shore of the island and they would have arrived a bit more safely than they did.