Saturday, August 23, 2008

It’s All In The Mix

Another week and another handful of churches have contacted us. I have, much to the relief of my family, told the church in Ohio that we do not feel the Spirit leading us there. That leaves on our active list, the churches in Cassatt, and Olanta in SC, and Perkins and Toccoa in GA. One church in NC called to ask me about their position. “We haven’t elected any women deacons yet, but we have ordained a woman in the past month.” I respectfully told them that I was not their man. Inconceivably, not one church in Atlanta has called us. As we suspected from the beginning, we are small town folk.
We have been asked to preach in view of a call at Beaverdam on September 7. I believe that they will call us, and I believe we will accept. It is ironic that we are excited about Beaverdam. It is the smallest church in the mix. It has the oldest congregates in the mix, and it has the lowest number of youth of any church in the mix.
But aren’t mixes by themselves to be taken as individual negatives that make a positive whole? Stevie called me last night and asked me to bring home some baking supplies. Her concoction ended in a strawberry cake. Think about the mix. Raw eggs? Negative. Flour? Negative. Vanilla extract? Oil? Artificial strawberry flavored andyhexoflenin? All negative. One strawberry cake with cream cheese icing? One very positive. Puppy pulling freight train positive! Slap your grandma positive. Ok enough.
I hope you take the point. It is not what goes into the mix, it is what comes out of the oven. Hopefully the folks at Beaver Dam Baptist Church and our family are the mix that will make a strawberry cake experience for the community of Cassatt, SC. That is our prayer, and I would ask that you pray that as well.



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Promises, Promises

When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fires, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3 NASB)

That is a promise verse. I have several. Someone said that there are 365 promises in the Bible, one for every day of the year. Of course the Jewish calendar is only 360 days long, so it really doesn’t add up right, but anyway… Promises. God makes them and God keeps them. It is our part in this play to claim them for our own situation. I have several. Many I have already shared in this forum. Jeremiah is full of promises. God knows the plans that he has for us. He will not let our enemies have the last laugh. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 51:17, which says, “For all men are stupid and devoid of knowledge.” (NASB) OK, so it’s not a promise, just a truth I go back to often. Especially driving in the ATL.

I was reminded of this promise of God today when a storm came through and caused the ceiling to leak…Though the waters pass over you…and remembered God’s faithfulness. Many times the floods have come. Many times the fire has ravaged. For the last two years it seems that we have been in one drawn out hurricane. But I can honestly say that God has been with us, every step of the way. Through each wind worn day and every fire plagued situation, God has never forsaken us. He is simply teaching us. As we walk through the waters of impatience and doubt.

We have been asked to go to South Carolina and meet with the folks at Beaver Dam Baptist Church. They will show us the church and parsonage and we can explore the area. We have not been asked to preach on Sunday, but I would expect that if everything goes well Saturday, that would be the next logical step.

It really must be a God thing. The Psalm 23 message didn’t hit the mark. As I’ve said, Crestview is a tough crowd. I am reminded of Jesus saying something about prophets, hometowns, and no respect. I don’t think there is a lack of respect, but I never seem to flowwwwww when I preach there.

I guess they liked it. It certainly wasn’t the delivery I would have liked. Crestview has one of those Garth-Brooks-aircraft-controller-head pieces instead of a lapel mike. I envisioned the thin, translucent headpiece. Oh no. We’re talking about 8th grade dental headgear with a windscreen the size of a softball. I would have looked like I was trying to eat a black orange! (A blorange?)

So we will trust God for one more trip (at least) and hope that He will give us that elusive sense of “This is it!” we have been longing for, for seven months. We trust. We obey. And we know that He will continue to give us more that we deserve, or are able to conceive.



Friday, August 1, 2008

No Fear

I have decided that I will use the 23rd Psalm for my message at Crestview this Sunday. I am going to concentrate on verse 5 only.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”

The symbolism is wonderful, but then everything about the 23rd Psalm is wonderful. It is why it is our favorite Psalm. But in studying for that one verse, I noticed something else.

In verse 4, David says that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Now, if you read the first three verses, you will notice that David is using the third person to describe his relationship with God. Then suddenly, in verse 4, it shifts to the first person. The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me to still waters…He causes me to lie down…etc. Then in verse 4, he says, “for You are with me.” Why the shift? Simple. We have nothing to fear, not even death.

What are we afraid of? Death. Embarrassment. Crisis. Actually, a study done before 9/11 by Newsweek listed the third greatest fear of Americans as being the fear of public speaking. 4th was death. I can’t remember the first two; just that public speaking was higher than death. That has probably changed post 9/11. #1 Fear in America? A Muslim on an airplane.

The point is that we have nothing to fear. Why? Because He is with us. David got to this part about the shadow of death and realized that God is always with us and we have nothing to fear, so he switches the tense and is reassured that God never forsakes us or leaves us. “You are with me” emphasizes the relational character of Jesus. God doesn’t care about offering, or rituals, or sacrifice. (See Psalm 40:6) What He does desire…no, require…is a personal relationship with Jesus. And Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” It’s Lo, by the way, not low, even though the valley is a low time.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place in the Kidron Valley. It is actually called the Valley of Shadows. (It sounds like something off Shock Theater. "Boris Karloff staring in The Valley of Shadows.") The valley is so deep and the crevasses so narrow, that the only time light gets to the bottom is during the midday, for about a half an hour while the sun is directly overhead.

But even here, in a place that some would refer to as “God forsaken”, David knew that God was there with him. What is the opposite of fear? Peace. What is peace? It is not the absence of trouble, fear, or worry. Peace is simply the presence of God. “You are with me.”