February 17, 2009

Well Said Fred!

I get a weekly installment of wisdom from the files of Fred Smith. This particular was worthy of sharing on the blogosphere.

Responsibility of Privilege

Gibbons listed one of the elements of Rome's fall as "getting to the point where they craved excitement. This ultimately led to moral abuse." I am convinced an unbridled craving for excitement leads to moral abuse - - - always. it seems to me we need more Horatio Algers and a whole lot less Supermen. Any time our longing for thrills outdistances our urging for accomplishment, we are in trouble. Whenever we trade entertainment for attainment, we are headed down.

Recently, I was debating at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. In a dramatic moment, he rose to a grand crescendo and declared, "Communism moves forward on an empty belly." I had to refute him. "Communism doesn't move forward on an empty belly --- it moves forward on an empty soul." If it were empty bellies, then our forefathers in Jamestown would have given up hope of democracy. But they didn't. They had something to build for --- they had something in their souls.

We must watch that law remain prohibitive, and not permissive. Our freedom is at risk when the law tells us what we can do, not just what we cannot.

We, as Americans, must not sacrifice freedom for security. I like the difference between the American oyster and the American eagle. When God made the oyster, He put a big thick shell around him, put him deep in the water, and provided him constant nourishment. Whenever he gets hungry, he just opens his mouth, sucks in food, and then shuts his jaws. When God made the eagle, He put out in the mountains and said, "Build your own nest and fight your own enemies, and raise your own young, and provide your own food, and stand against the wind and the rain. But I will give you the great blue sky to fly in and the strength to endure." I am so thankful we are Eagle, not oyster, people.

It seems to me people are talking more about rights, than about responsibilities. The 19th century focused on responsibilities --- we are creating a century of rights. I think difficult times follow the emphasis on claiming our rights rather than recognizing our responsibilities.

Gibbons was an infidel. Yet, as a true historian, he gave this reason for the fall of Rome: the decline of religion. As I travel, I see people who are afraid, yet turning to faith for answers. What happens when people become afraid? Panic breaks loose. What's the cure for it? Faith. Faith in ourselves, each other, and in God.

If there is any lesson I would like to leave with you, it is this: people fail through fear, not inability. We in America must keep our faith. It's our great privilege to be an American. It's our great responsibility because there is the responsibility of privilege.

To that I say, "Well said, Fred!"

February 6, 2009

Wiersbe on Worship Watching

"Whatever we watch on television, including a religious service, we watch in an entertainment context. No matter what the program is, even a devastating documentary, we don't take it too seriously. Why? Because the world of television is not 'real'

"Now we can begin to understand why television is a threat to Christian ministry: ministry isn't supposed to be entertainment, and a preacher isn't supposed to be a performer. True ministry implies involvement: We're worshiping in the holy presence of God, and we're obligated to hear God's Word and obey it. When we put religion on TV, a subtle force goes to work that transforms everything. The viewer does not attend the same service as the people in the sanctuary or in the the TV studio."

Warren Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis

February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Message - Getting Your Feet Wet

Faith has a starting place. There is a moment when we first believe.

Faith has an end. There will come a day, for those who have placed faith in Jesus, when faith will no longer be needed. We will see Him face-to-face.

There is a middle place. It is in the middle where you find the action, the tension, the events that make a story worth telling.

We are in just this kind of place - the middle. This is where the story gets interesting.

Scripture is full of these kinds of stories but we all too often rush right by the middle to get to the resolution of the moment of faith. I hope to explore just a few of these over the next few weeks. Today we simply need to get our feet wet.

In Joshua 3:1-6 & 14-17 is this wonderful story of faith in the middle. The beginning of the story we are familiar with, we're even acquainted with the ending of this chapter of faith, but it is this moment on which it all depends. Decisions are made at this point that set into motion everything that follows. It required a few priests to get their feet wet. Be sure to take a moment to read the story.

Taking a quick look back we recall that at this moment in the biblical story we are keeping company with the second generation of those who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt. These are the children of the folks who experienced the Passover and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. These are the children of those who woke up each morning to find bread on the ground and who had seen water come from a rock at a moment of great need. These kids have grown up on the stories of God's faithfulness and probably went to bed many nights thinking, "I wish I could see God do something like that!"

This people of faith had a destiny to fulfill but there was something standing in their way, namely the Jordan river at flood stage. This 2nd generation had ample proof of God's power from their past, however their past tense faith was not adequate for their present tense needs. They needed someone to put their toes in the water.

Mark Batterson, in his book Wild Goose Chase, makes this statement "You know why some of us have never seen God part a river? Because our feet are still firmly planted on dry ground. We're waiting on God while God is waiting on us."

The question standing smack dab in the middle of this story is, "Would the priests trust God?" These guys took a risk. They laid in on the line. You see, if God doesn't come through here, these guys carrying the ark of the covenant are just going for a swim. Pretty foolish looking possibility for a dignified priest. They took the lead with everybody watching them.

Think about this for a moment. The first priests socks get wet and nothing really noticeable happens. It takes a little bit for all that flood stage water to drain off. It took a lot of faith to step into that river in the first place. I believe it took even more to keep on standing there. The question the priests had to answer standing there with their wet socks was not whether or not it made sense for them to be there with wet socks but the question they had answer was, "Has God instructed us to do this?" They answered in the affirmative. Their actions clearly display this truth.

A little while later in the story the last person from the people of Israel walks across the Jordan with their dry shoes and socks. The only ones who have not crossed all the way over are the priests standing in the now dry river bed with soggy socks and soaring spirits. They, like no one else in all of Israel, had one incredible story to tell. The story about the day they were the only ones who got their feet wet. Sure, everybody experienced the walk across the Jordan, but there were only a few whose faith made a difference on that day. After all, it doesn't take much faith to walk on dry ground. Getting your toes wet while expecting God to dry the water up is a different story.

Anybody out there ready to get their feet wet?