Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Under-appreciated Faith

As I looked back down West End Avenue, all I could see was a ocean of people. Over 32,000 had gathered to run the Country Music Marathon and Half-Marathon. All I can tell you is, "That is a bunch of human beings!"

The start was staggered, with 33 different corrals going off one at a time. This was done in order to give more space to the runners and to help the race go smoothly. Every participant was measured by a special race chip on their shoe to record the actual time it took them to complete the race.

Even with all of this organization, it was still quite chaotic. For many it was hard to move without bumping into other people. With that many people on the streets of Nashville, you can imagine there were some who got sick, some who needed medical attention, and some who simply could not finish what they started.

Looking behind me from the third corral, just before the race began, one thought came into my mind: The Israelites crossing the Red Sea. I began to think about what it took for the estimated two million people to travel together in unfavorable circumstances. We were only 32,000! We only had racing gear and bib numbers. These people had all their livestock and were moving their every possession.

Hebrews 11:29 reminds us about God's chosen people - "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned." We only think about the mumbling, the doubt, the fear, and the backwardness of this nation during the exodus. Have we ever considered what kind of faith would have been required to walk two million people and all they had through the long miles of that miraculously walled-up sea?

Maybe some faith is under-appreciated. We champion the faith of great ministers of the gospel, but what of the men who preach in anonymity? We celebrate great accomplishments, but what of the simple daily tasks that summon the same courage? We call to mind great lessons taught to us by famous men, but what about the lessons we have learned from little, elderly women?

We need to give the common Christian more credit. It takes an uncommon measure of faith to enter the spiritual race, and more to finish. You have to believe that God will offer safe passage. You have to keep going when you want to turn back. You have to believe that the end is going to be better than the beginning, and that the entire process will be worth all the effort.

It is going to cost every person the same price to cross over - Faith! "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith" (1 John 5:4).

"But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle." ~ Exodus 13:18

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Welcome Home!"

He was at the end of his rope. He was disillusioned. His plans that once seemed so perfect were now only broken dreams. His friends had left him. He had disrespected his roots. He was now alone in a strange place and was struggling to survive.

This story is a story once told by the Savior of men. Many people can identify with it in a spiritual sense. We want to make our own decisions, and to find our own way. Sometimes the search for ourselves has caused us to abandon who we were raised to become. Then, with some distractions and failures we find ourselves so far away from home that we wonder if we can ever get back. We wonder if our lives will ever be fulfilled and special. The answer comes to us in the same way it came to man in this parable.

Luke 15 tells us that the prodigal son came to himself. He realized an essential truth always present in his life. It was the nature of his father. Even if in his own mind he felt like he deserved not to be forgiven, he knew that his father would take him back. This is the confidence that took him from doubt to determination, from heartbreak to home. "I will rise and go to my father.'

The prophet Isaiah reminds us, "All we like sheep have gone astray..." Although each of us have left our Father in our own way, God has called us all back in the same fashion. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He reinstated us fully. He rejoiced at our return.

Do you ever ask yourself, "Can I really go home again?" If you do, you are not alone. But our guilt is not as great as our God. Our grief is not as gripping as His grace for us. God not only wants us to come home, He is waiting for us, longing for us, and looking for us.

So today, if you are thinking of making a return, we humbly say in the name of our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ, "Welcome Home!"

"'It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'" ~Luke 15:32

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Significant Stones

Some rocks are just nothing more than rocks. Others have great value. They may be valuable in their natural state - whether it be a ruby or a diamond or some other precious stone. They may be valuable because they were a gift...people receive rings set with stones for engagements, and anniversaries, or just as a symbol of a relationship. They may be valuable because of a special occurrence. I knew a man who once led his girlfriend out on a picnic to a rock on which he had engraved his marriage proposal.

About 3500 years ago, God and Israel were united by some of their own significant stones. The Israelites had just miraculously crossed the Jordan river on dry ground, even though it was the flood season. At God's command, as the priests who carried the ark of the covenant entered the mighty river, the waters stood still. By a mighty hand God had delivered his people from slavery and had brought them into the land that he had promised to Abraham.

Joshua was then commanded - "Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, 'Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet stood firm.'" (Joshua 4:2-3). He later explained - "that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever" (Joshua 4:6-7).

These stones were significant in their natural state. They were created by God to exist in the midst of an important river. It was the river which constituted the boundary of their freedom. It was the river of Naaman's cleansing through obedience. It was the river where the Son of God was later baptized.

These stones were significant because they represented a gift and a relationship. More than any diamond has ever told a bride that her husband loved her, twelve river stones declared - "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts" (2 Chron. 6:14).

These stones were significant because of a special moment in time. As the years passed, these stones reminded every Israelite about the goodness and providence of God in their lives. Perhaps this is why just a little while later the prophet Samuel set up a stone during a great battle and said, "So far the Lord has helped us" (1 Sam. 7:12). He understood that God had delivered them, and would deliver them all the way.

As Joshua once did, we should leave behind symbols that remind us of our God. We need to do this for ourselves. We need to do this for our children. After all, God has left a most precious Stone behind for us.

"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation...'" ~ Isaiah 28:16

"And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." ~ 1 Cor. 10:4

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


In the work, "Evangelism, A Biblical Approach," by Mike Corcoris, evangelism is defined as - "communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ with the immediate intent of converting the hearer to faith in Christ, and with the ultimate intent of instructing the convert in the Word of God so that he can become a mature believer." This is a good definition. Evangelism is more than just preaching. The end pursuit is to help people develop a deep and personal relationship with God

When one looks into the original word, evangelist means "bringer of glad tidings" or "bearer of good news." The fact is that evangelism is effective because of the message. It covers such a wide variety of blessings: salvation, hope, forgiveness, peace, joy, and ultimately eternal life with God in heaven.

Every Christian should understand that the work of evangelism must be a priority in their life. We have such a great story to tell. It is not a fable or a fantasy, but the real and historical fact of the death, burial and resurrection of the only Son of God. Who, being truly saved can keep from sharing the news? God has smiled on us. He has been so good to us.

If you are Christian, I want to make an appeal to you to tell others about what God has done for you. Jesus made this same plea to the man he healed amongst the tombs - "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you" (Mark 5:19). With the coming of spring as a reminder of the life that God has freely given to us, people are already thinking about God's blessings. What better time is there for us to invite them to worship or to study the Bible with us?

Let's count our blessings! What a great and wonderful God we have who has freely given to us all things! It should be on our minds to extend these same blessings to others. People need the Lord. We have the opportunity to give to others the most important message they will ever receive. Let's go!

"And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." ~ Mark 16:15-16