Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gold from Fort Knox

Located adjacent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, is a vault used to store a large portion of the United States' official gold reserves. Also know as the United States Bullion Depository, this facility holds 4,578 metric tons of gold bullion (147.2 million oz. troy). According to some sources, this is about 3 percent of all the gold ever refined since the dawn of man. That's a lot of gold! But there is another Knox I know that holds more. His name is Knox Holder.

While I was preaching in Lawrenceburg, TN, I knew a couple named Knox and Marie Holder. They were kind and gentle people and they worshiped with us regularly, although Miss Marie's health prohibited her from attending a good portion of the time. This couple always reminded me that if the world were filled with such people, very few problems would exist. Knox was a skilled and hard-working man. He was very active in his old age, always compassionate, and constantly smiling. But in particular there has been one thing about Knox that for years has been his signature: his positive attitude. Anytime you would greet him and ask him how he was doing, he would say the very same encouraging thing. No matter the occasion or circumstance he would say it...it was dependable, and you learned to count on it. To hear his greeting would certainly change your day for the better.

This past Saturday I was privileged to travel back to Lawrenceburg and perform a wedding ceremony for a young lady that Knox and Marie helped raise. Nearing the age of 94, Knox was not only in attendance, but he, with the help of this young lady's father - walked the bride down the aisle! I found out later that Knox had also driven himself to the building that day! And so, when I had come into the church building that morning, with great anticipation I approached him as he sat in one of the pews while the pre-wedding pictures were being taken. The greeting! It was coming, and I couldn't wait to hear those words once more.  So I said, "Knox, how ya' doin' this mornin'? It's been a long time and it's so go to see ya'!" And then the words I had been waiting for came through with the demeanor and delivery perfected by an artist who had spent his entire life on one beautiful portrait. With his indelible grin and humble and sweet tone he replied, "Well, ya' know I'm ashamed to admit it, but I believe I'm the best I've ever been..."

The meaning and direction of our lives are shaped by the things we value. Who we are is determined by what we think, what we say, how we act, and all of these things begin with what is in our hearts. There is a fortress I know of that holds a great treasure. You might even say that hidden within the walls of this fortress there is pure gold. But this gold does not come by weight. It cannot buy anything physical. And it will not be left behind for future generations to enjoy. Because Knox Holder will soon move on to where his treasure truly lies. And then for certain and for eternity, he will be the best he's ever been.

And if you ask me, that's worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox, Kentucky!

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Matthew 6:19-21

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finishing His Work

I have this dream that won't go away. I have been having this dream over and over for years. I had this dream again last night. I am in college and I cannot graduate. I am always a course or two from graduating, and it is late in the semester and I have not been attending some of my required classes. I am destined to fail a class or two and therefore I cannot graduate. Sometimes the dream involves me coming to the end of the semester and realizing I did not take all the courses I needed to get my diploma. I have a term paper due immediately and I haven't started....or I missed some test days....I just can't get finished!

My dream is typical of life's experience on this soil. There is always another day of work, a new deadline, a different task or goal that must be addressed. If we have the perfect garden, new weeds will invade it. No matter how great our work situation is, problems that must be fixed will arise. Bills must be paid, mouths must be fed, and above all of this, people are lost without the gospel and they need the Lord. Sometimes it seems like we are just treading water.

It gives me great consolation to know that our Savior also felt this way. When one man came and pledged discipleship, Christ responded, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Matt. 8:20). To the twelve Jesus once said, "I must work the works of Him while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). Jesus even reminded the Jews, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (John 5:17). Jesus came to the earth with the intention of finishing. He told the apostles, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34).

Whenever I feel defeated and I just don't think I can go another step, I see Jesus. I see Him in that last recorded prayer to the Father before His crucifixion. I recall these words from that prayer, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do" (John 17:4). Somewhere between His birth and His death, Jesus finished the work God sent Him to do. John's gospel tells us the last words of Jesus on the cross before he bowed His head and died were simply, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

Jesus finished. In the history of humanity, the Man who had the most difficult job of all - finished! I believe that no matter how difficult the task, and no matter how discouraging the process, if we are determined to keep on going, we will finish. We cannot stop in the middle. We must endure to the end. If we do not finish all is lost. And so I have decided to finish. The challenge of the work and the duration of the work have become immaterial. It is only a matter of time...

"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." ~ Hebrews 12:1a-2.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Reason to Abstain from Alcohol

Sometimes it is hard to understand why people do the things they do. I have never understood why any Christian would engage in social drinking. The Bible lists passage after passage about the foolishness and dangers involved with alcohol. I have countless personal stories I could share from my preaching career of families torn apart by alcoholism. Lives are ruined. Souls are lost. For me it is a no-brainer. I refuse to have anything to do with any intoxicating beverage.

Beyond the common sense arguments, the apostle Paul gives us another reason why Christians should not drink alcohol (Romans 14:21) - "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." First, note that Paul says we should do nothing which would make our brethren stumble (wine is not the only thing from which we should abstain). Second, understand that influence alone is reason enough not to engage in some things. Christians have places they will not go and things they will not do. This is just a part of holy living. This is what it means to be "called out" of the world and joined with Christ in His church.

The typical response to any discussion like this one from people who want to argue for participation is usually an argument from silence. The one contending for the right to partake of alconol will point out that there is no specific condemnation for having a drink. The Bible says clearly that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10). What make a person drunk? Alcohol. It is enough for me to decide that I am not going to flirt with anything that may lead to my eternal condemnation. It is not a matter of arguing about the degree of something. It is about living in such a way that I can know without a doubt I am pleasing to God.

This principal for holy living applies to every aspect of our lives. What kind of language will I use or allow myself to be exposed to? What content when it comes to entertainment will I permit? What type of attitude will I have towards the laws of my country? What will I put in my body (food or drink) since it is the temple of the Holy Spirit? The list can almost be endless. The pursuit of holiness is a daily and difficult endeavor. But Christians must be dedicated to it. We are supposed to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds. This implies that for the rest of our lives we will allow ourselves to undergo the changing that Christ wants to accomplish in us.

I don't know about you, but I want to be different than the world. I did not become a Christian so that I could try to get away with worldly practices and attempt to use grace as the fallback plan. I obeyed the gospel not only to receive forgiveness - but in the hope that God would begin to work in me and make me more like Him. This is what we were created for in the first place.

"Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise." ~ Proverbs 20:1

Monday, July 8, 2013

Passed Over

Read your Bible. No, seriously, read it! There are so many treasures and truths you have passed over that you know nothing about yet. So you say you have read through the entire Bible in a year? Great! But guess what, you missed some things. I know it. I have been in the church and have been engaged in Bible study for right at 40 years, and some recent Bible readings exposed to me some spiritual blessings and helpful facts I had not yet known or understood. Some of these things I had just somehow overlooked.

For example, the final kingdom parable in Matthew 13:52. I bet you have never studied it and I bet you have never heard it taught in a Bible class. I won't tell you what it is. Look it up and enjoy it! And speaking of things "passed over" - did you know that when Josiah's reforms brought the Passover feast back, that no king of Israel, whether in the united or divided kingdom, had ever observed it before - not even David? (2 Chron. 35:18)! Had you just assumed that David faithfully kept the Passover?

Reading through the gospels, enjoy the different ways the four writers look at the life of Christ. Even a few different words used in similar accounts will reveal things to you that will help you know the Savior better! You will receive a glimpse through a first-century window into the moments when the Son of God visited men. You will see His wisdom, His humility, His reverence to God, and His gentle way of serving and teaching as He changed the world forever.

We watch our television programs and our movies. We spend time on facebook, twitter, and other social media. We listen to our ipods while we play games on our ipads. But friends, the precious Book Divine is getting passed over. None of these other things can prepare you for time and eternity. None of these other things will change you from the inside out. These other things are passing away, but the Bible will last forever, and it will judge us in the last day.

Let's be thankful for the Bible! It is the mind of God in human language! It is the good news! It is the power of God unto salvation! It is everlasting joy and peace!

"I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches." ~ Psalm 119:14