Harold & Ella Mae

Harold and Ella Mae were sitting on the front porch swing. Harold said, “Ella Mae, I wish I had the arms of the strongest man in the world. That way I could hold you like you ought to be held.” Ella Mae just blushed.

Then Harold said, “And I wish I had the voice of the world’s greatest orator. That way I could properly tell you how much I love you.” Ella Mae just smiled.

Then Harold said, “And I wish I had the softest lips any man could have. That way I could kiss you as tenderly as I want to kiss you.” At that point, Ella Mae giggled, moved in close to him, and said, “Harold, why don’t you just use what you’ve got?”

I had only been preaching for a few years when I was asked to preach a revival at a certain church. I went, did my best, and actually thought I had done a fairly decent job of filling the pulpit each night. But that church had one member who was a proponent of a style of preaching different from my own. Whereas I have always been more of a teaching preacher, this man liked “fire” in the pulpit. He thought my sermons needed more emotion, more attitude, and more VOLUME.

So one night, toward the conclusion of the service, this fellow stood up in the congregation and tried to offer me some encouragement. He said, “One of these days Russell is going to cut loose, and I hope I’m there to see it.” Well, that’s been many years ago now and I have to say that I still haven’t “cut loose.” And as for that well-meaning Christian, he died and went home to be with the Lord several years ago.

Immediately following that revival night all those years ago, I had a couple of folks come to me and express how angry they were over the man’s remark. Honestly, though, they were more upset than I was. I knew the deal. That guy was simply wired differently than me. It didn’t make him right and me wrong any more than it made me right and him wrong. It was just the difference in people. In the years since, I’ve met other people with his same mindset, but I’ve also met many others who enjoy hearing me preach and think my style is the correct one. That’s why I don’t fall to pieces when I don’t ring someone’s bell as a preacher. It’s also why I don’t try to be someone I’m not in some feeble attempt to suit someone else.

But why am I telling you all this? I’m doing it to help you understand, Christian, that God will never ask you to forfeit your individuality in order to serve Him. To the contrary, He knows how to use your individuality to reach people that other Christians can’t reach. So, Harold, stop pining away for spiritual gifts, natural talents, and developed abilities that you don’t have, and start using what you’ve got. Remember, there’s an Ella Mae out there somewhere who just wants you to be yourself.

Posted in God's Work, Humor, Individuality, Ministry, Personal, Preaching, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Talents | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Peter, Don’t Try to Be Paul

Have you ever read a passage that was written by the apostle Paul and thought, “That’s too hard for me to understand”? My guess is that most of us have been there. Even the apostle Peter sometimes had trouble with the depths of Paul’s intellect. Don’t believe me? Check out Peter’s words from 2 Peter 3:14-16:

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures. (N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)

Notice please that even though Peter readily admitted that some of Paul’s writings were hard to understand, he also praised those writings. Despite the fact that Peter was an unlearned fisherman and Paul was a scholarly theologian, there was no rivalry between the two. Each man sincerely appreciated the other one’s ministry.

You see, the world needs what both Peter and Paul have to offer. A Peter can reach people that a Paul can’t, just as a Paul can reach people that a Peter can’t. Since God doesn’t use a cookie-cutter when He creates people, we should never confine ministry to one particular type of Christian. That’s why I can report with such confidence that if you are a Christian and you are breathing, God can use you in His service.

It’s been said that when a preacher tries to imitate another preacher, the pulpit stands empty. For one thing, the preacher being imitated isn’t there because no matter how close the mimicking is, no man can perfectly duplicate another. And then for another thing, the man who is actually standing in the pulpit isn’t truly there because he has forfeited his individuality by trying to be someone else.

Never forget, Christian, that individuality is a good thing. My spiritual gifts and talents aren’t yours, and yours aren’t mine, but the Lord knows how to use them all in His service. So, just be yourself when it comes to serving Christ and trust that how He has gifted you and talented you will be more than enough for you to get the job done.

Posted in Doing Good, God's Work, Individuality, Ministry, Preaching, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Talents | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Word About Lighthouses, Fire, & Wood

One foggy night a captain saw a faint light directly in the path of his ship. Accordingly, he ordered his signalman to send out the message: “Alter your course ten degrees south.” The signalman did so, but the return reply was: “Alter your course ten degrees north.”

With his pride hurt, the captain ordered that a second message be sent out: “Alter your course ten degrees south! I am a captain!” But the light still didn’t move, and the reply that came back was: “Alter your course ten degrees north! I am Seaman Third Class Jones.”

At this point, the captain was enraged and ordered that a third message be sent: “ALTER YOUR COURSE TEN DEGREES SOUTH! I AM IN A BATTLESHIP!” The captain had to concede defeat, though, when the return message said: “ALTER YOUR COURSE TEN DEGREES NORTH! I AM IN A LIGHTHOUSE!”

You disagreeing with God’s written word, the Bible, is about like that captain expecting that lighthouse to move for him. In the end, either in this life or in eternity, that’s not an argument that you are going to win. God’s word has stood, is standing right now, and will continue to stand. Therefore, you disagreeing with it won’t change it, you getting mad at it won’t alter it, and you resisting it will only hurt you.

Jeremiah 5:14 is a very interesting verse. It reads:

Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “Because you speak this word, behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.” (N.K.J.V.)

Notice here that God compares His words to fire. When we think of fire, we think of its many advantageous uses. For example, fire can be used for illumination, cooking, warmth, purifying, forging, etc. Interestingly, however, God wasn’t telling Jeremiah that His words were going to be a blessing to the people of Judah. Much to the contrary, those words were going to destroy the people. According to Jeremiah’s imagery, the words would be the fire and the people would be the wood.

Here in America, we have reached a state as low as Judah’s. We argue with God’s word. We disagree with it. We doubt it. We scoff at it. We explain it away. We ridicule it. We ignore it. That’s why we, as a nation, stand as dried wood that is ready to be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment.

Perhaps you are like me in that you wish that you could change this about America. Obviously, we can’t because we aren’t the ones who get to set national policy, but what we can do is remain true to God’s word as individuals and take our stand with it in our own lives. Just as Jeremiah stood in stark contrast to the national trend of Judah, you and I can stand in such contrast to the national trend of America. And the great news is that, as we do this, God’s word will become a source of blessing rather than condemnation to us as we get to experience that word as a source of illumination, warmth, and purification. That, of course, is infinitely better than merely living our lives as dried out wood that is awaiting the fire of God’s judgment.

Posted in Bible Study, Coming Judgment, Current Events, Doing Good, Faithfulness, God's Wrath, God's Judgment, God's Word, Personal Holiness, Reward, Scripture, The Bible, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Training to Be Used Mightily

A budding young soloist went to a great Italian musician for voice training. The master handed him a piece of music and said, “Practice this for one full year and then return here.” The request seemed a bit strange, but for the next twelve months the young man faithfully did his practicing.

At year’s end, he returned to the musician, confident that the master would change his assignment and give him a different grade of music to learn. But it didn’t happen. The master simply said, “Practice the same piece for another year and then return here.”

Somewhat discouraged, the young singer returned home and begrudgingly rededicated himself to his task. For twelve more months he practiced that same piece of music over and over again. Then he returned again to the musician. As he went, he thought, “Surely this time I will be given a new piece to learn.”

Once again, however, the master instructed him to work at the same piece of music for another year and then return. But this time the young man objected. He said, “No, I want to practice something new. I have worked hard, and I deserve to move up to a more advanced lesson.” Stubbornly, though, the master held his ground, saying, “No, my son, the same lesson this year.”

So now the young man had a decision to make. Should he continue to trust in the great musician and keep practicing the same piece of music? Or should he question the musician’s expertise and seek training elsewhere? Two long years had come and gone, and the young singer had worked hard and done as he was told, only to see no fruit for his labors. Maybe it was now time to cut his losses with the supposed master and change everything.

The young man pondered the issue for quite some time, but in the end he decided to stick with the great musician’s training. So, he went back to practicing the same old lesson and faithfully worked at it for yet another year. Then he returned to the master.

This time, however, the singer wouldn’t be given any more preparatory assignments. Instead, the great musician simply looked at him and said, “Go, my son. You have nothing more to learn.” The young man was both shocked and relieved, but he took the master at his word and began auditioning for singing parts. He nailed performance after performance, no matter how difficult the song, and eventually he rose to become the leading singer in all of Italy.

How was such a thing possible? It was possible because that one piece of music the singer had so faithfully practiced all those years held within it a certain combination of notes, and that combination had allowed his vocal cords to be developed to perfection. The master, of course, had known this all along.

Christian, it may be that God has had you working on the same assignment for years now. And it also may be that you have grown very tired of singing it. So you’ve begun to long for something new, something different, something that will break you out of your rut. Perhaps you are right now even contemplating going off and doing your own thing because you are tired of living the life in which God has stationed you.

Well, let me ask you this: Could it be that for the past several years God has faithfully been preparing you to do great and mighty works for Him in the future? And, furthermore, could it be that even now your spiritual “vocal cords” are almost perfectly trained to handle those great works? You see, at this point, the last thing you need to do is short-circuit God’s whole plan by foolishly abandoning your master’s training and making some change that you shouldn’t make.

Call this a warning. Call it a word of encouragement. Call it what you will. But just know that God never sends out His servants unprepared, and if He still has you working on the same old assignment, then your training must not be fully completed yet. You ask, “How much longer will it be?” I don’t know. All I know is that there will come a day when God will send you forth to put all of your training to incredible use for Him.

Posted in Adversity, Choices, Commitment, Disappointment, Discipleship, Doing Good, Faith, Faithfulness, God's Timing, God's Omniscience, God's Will, Impatience, Ministry, Music, Obedience, Patience, Perseverance, Rebellion, Reward, Submission, Teaching, Temptation, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Carowinds

I’m 56 years old now, and it’s been more than ten years since I was forced to come to grips with the reality of aging. On that day so long ago, Tonya and I took our two boys (Ryan and Royce) to Carowinds theme park in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ryan was 14 years old at the time and Royce was 10.

It was July 4th, a day I look back upon now as being my personal Independence Day from thinking that I was still the man I had once been. Whereas I had always been able to ride every ride in Carowinds without any problems, I only managed to ride two that day. I had planned to ride a few more, but things didn’t work out as I intended.

My first ride that hot, summer day was a deathtrap known as The Drop Zone. For this ride, I got strapped into a seat that went straight up vertically into the stratosphere. Then the seat paused for a few seconds at the top to give me time to survey the entire landscape of the United States of America, after which it dropped me back down at about a million miles per hour to where I had started. That straight-line “death drop” transferred half my stomach into my brain. I don’t mind telling you that when I got off that ride I felt very blessed to still be alive. Ryan and Royce, on the other hand, who had ridden the ride as well, couldn’t get to the next ride fast enough.

Well, it wasn’t too long afterward that we came upon a roller coaster called The Carolina Cobra. Much to my surprise, Tonya, who hadn’t ridden The Drop Zone, headed straight for the ride’s entrance. From a few feet behind her, I called out, “Are you going to ride this one?” She answered, “Yes, it doesn’t look too bad.” The ride’s main feature was an upside-down turn, which did seem to be relatively harmless. So, the boys and I joined her in line.

Tonya and I ended up in a cart by ourselves, while Ryan and Royce ended up in another one. Needless to say, when the ride was over, they were in far better condition than we were. Actually, Tonya and I made it through the first half of the ride okay. Unfortunately for us, though, the ride’s slogan was “It strikes twice.” That meant that once the coaster had completed its course going forward, it ran it again backward. It was that backward run, which didn’t allow the rider to see what was coming, that got us. Just as The Drop Zone had taken my stomach, The Carolina Cobra took my equilibrium. As for Tonya, she didn’t feel much better than I did as we staggered off the ride together. Ryan and Royce, on the other hand, were on to the next ride at breakneck speed.

It’s very humbling when you are forced to admit that you aren’t the man you used to be. Of course, I didn’t really need a couple of Carowinds rides to teach me my new limitations that day. The fact was, I had been taking that course for a while. And I’m still enrolled in it. My joints ache. My back is dicey. My right knee is a bit suspect. You get the idea. Despite the absurd double-standard upon which the entire theory of evolution rests, science’s second law of thermodynamics states that everything winds down rather than up. In other words, things move from order to disorder. I assure you that my body is in perfect compliance with this law. As a matter of fact, I’ve now reached the point where I’m doing good just to be able to drive to Carowinds, let alone ride any of the rides there.

I think I can truthfully say, though, that I have successfully begun the process of making my peace with my advancing age. Sadly, that’s a process that many people still need to begin. I call it the “Peter Pan complex” because these folks simply refuse to grow up. The women are trying to hang on to their looks, and the men are trying to hang on to the vitality of their youth. How sad it all is. Furthermore, it is such a starkly different attitude toward aging than the one that is presented in the Bible. Consider the following passages (all from the N.K.J.V.):

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness. (Proverbs 16:31)

The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head. (Proverbs 20:29)

They (the righteous) shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing. (Psalm 92:14)

Now tell me, do any of these passages paint getting old in a bad light? Of course not. Losing your physical strength doesn’t mean that you lose your spiritual strength. To the contrary, the older you get, the more spiritual strength you should have. We make such fools of ourselves when we try to keep up with the appearances and demands of youth. I recall being struck by that thought as I sat there suspended in space in my seat on The Drop Zone, looking down upon the people below as they appeared to be about the size of ants. I thought, “Why have I done this? Have I lost my mind? What am I trying to prove here?”

So, I guess you could say that I had something of an epiphany that day in Charlotte. I realized that my days of riding the “big” rides were over. But I was okay with that then, and I’m still okay with it. I always thought that line, “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse” was stupid anyway. As the Bible says, there is a glory and a splendor in gray hairs. I just need to remember that every time I see my barber sweeping so much of my glory and splendor up off the floor.

Posted in Aging, Change, Contentment, Elderly, Human Life, Parenting, Personal, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Thought for Thanksgiving

Let’s say that a father takes his child to McDonalds for french-fries. Once they have their order and are seated at a table, the father tests the child by asking, “Do you love me more than you love these french-fries?” The child has to think for a moment but finally answers, “Yes.” Do you know why that was the right answer? It’s because it’s better to love the source of the blessing than the blessing itself.

If that father had much money in his wallet, he could buy fries for all the people in the restaurant. But the fact that he only bought fries for his child showed that he loved that child and wanted to have an intimate time of fellowship with that child. You see, the real gift to the child was the father, not the fries.

I raised two wonderful boys, and I always enjoyed filling their lives with pleasing things such as food, clothing, comfortable beds, balls, bats, gloves, toys, televisions, and PlayStation systems. However, every time they received a gift from me, they should have appreciated me more than the gift. After all, stuff gets manufactured and purchased every day, but there is only one me. Ryan and Royce don’t have another earthly father. I’m it. That makes me infinitely more important than anything I could ever buy them.

This Thanksgiving spend some time thanking God for His person. Don’t just be thankful for the blessings He has bestowed upon you, blessings such as family, friends, health, peace of mind, home, money, possessions, etc. That’s just the child thanking the father for the french-fries. Be sure to thank God even more for simply being who He is.

Think about this: If all you can do is thank God for the blessings that He sends your way, what will you do if those blessings get taken away? As you might recall, that actually happened to Job. Chapters 1 and 2 of his book describe how he lost his wealth, his children, and his health. In the aftermath of all that, over the events of the rest of the book, Job learned to thank God merely for being who He is.

That’s a lesson that a lot of us still need to learn. I mean, seriously, could we offer up any heartfelt thanks if we lost the blessings that Job lost? Let’s all ponder that question this Thanksgiving. And as we answer the question, hopefully the thanks we offer to God will be more mature and insightful than any we’ve ever offered.

Posted in Fatherhood, God's Love, God's Provision, Parenting, Praise, Priorities, Thankfulness, Thanksgiving, Trials, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Knows What He is Doing/ He Maketh No Mistake

For a post today, I decided to do something a bit different by combining a couple of short items I’ve had in my files for some time. The first one is a little story that offers one example of the fact that God knows what He is doing. The second one is a poem that was written by a pastor named A.M. Overton. In 1932, Overton was the pastor of a church in Mississippi and had a wife and three small children. In attempting to deliver their fourth child, his wife died and so did their baby. During the funeral service, the minister officiating the service noticed Overton writing something on a piece of paper. After the service, he asked Overton about it and Overton handed him the paper. On it, he had just written the poem “He Maketh No Mistake.”

First, here’s the story called “God Knows What He is Doing”:

A young man went off to college and was exposed to some points of view that questioned the existence of a creator God. By the time he returned home after his first year at the school, he had begun to drift toward atheism. One day, while he was walking in the field with his Christian father, he shared his doubts. He said, “Dad, doesn’t it seem a bit absurd that a supposedly intelligent creator God would have a huge pumpkin grow on a small vine while a tiny acorn grows on a large branch? If I was a creator, I would put the pumpkin on the large branch and the acorn on the small vine.” Just then an acorn fell and hit his head. His father said, “Well, son, I guess you are glad now that God put the pumpkin where it is.”

Now, here’s the poem entitled “He Maketh No Mistake”:

My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache;
But in my soul I’m glad I know
He maketh no mistake!

My cherished plans may go astray,
My dreams may fade away;
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way!

Though night be dark, and it may seem
That day will never break;
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake!

There is so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim;
But come what may, I’ll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make;
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Comfort, Disappointment, Discipleship, Dying To Self, Faith, God's Omnipotence, God's Omniscience, God's Will, Humor, Patience, Perseverance, Problems, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Danger of Silence

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he surely shall live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 3:17-21, N.K.J.V.)

There are a lot of old legends out there, stories that did or didn’t happen. One of them is the account of the destruction of an ancient city. In those days, the cities were surrounded by walls, with watchmen keeping guard atop the walls to warn if an enemy army approached.

As the story goes, the watchmen of this particular city were especially cautious and would sound the alarm anytime they saw anything stirring in the distance. This led to many false alarms. Finally, the citizens complained enough about the false alarms to cause the watchmen to stop sounding the alarm altogether.

You can guess what happened next. A real enemy army eventually stormed the city and destroyed it. Sometime later, someone erected a small memorial where the city had once been. The epitaph read: “Here stood a city that was destroyed by silence.”

The text passage for this post records how God charged the prophet Ezekiel with the responsibility of warning not only the wicked people but also the righteous people about the seriousness of their sins. If Ezekiel was faithful in carrying out his duty, he wouldn’t have any figurative blood on his hands. But if he was neglectful in carrying out his duty, the blood would be there. Anyone who can read those words and not feel some measure of sympathy for Ezekiel isn’t reading them correctly.

Since the days of the Old Testament prophets are long since past, God has now given Christians the responsibility of sharing His truth about sin. This responsibility means that we cannot remain silent about the sin that surrounds our world and threatens to destroy it. We must speak out. We must instruct. We must warn. If we don’t play the role of watchmen to not only the lost but also the saved, no one will.

I’m not going to lie and say that we will win all the cultural battles. The fact is, we won’t. But if winning the cultural war is the only reason we are crying out against sin, we are operating from the wrong motivation anyway. You see, God hasn’t given us the mandate to win the cultural war. Our mandate is simply to be responsible, diligent, effective, persevering watchmen. And no matter how much our fellow citizens complain, that’s a duty we must never shirk.

Posted in Abortion, Adultery, Coming Judgment, Commitment, Communication, Criticism, Current Events, Doctrine, Doing Good, Drugs, Evangelism, Faithfulness, God's Work, Homosexuality, Influence, Ministry, Missions, Obedience, Persecution, Perseverance, Politics, Preaching, Scripture, Service, Sin, The Bible, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flow of God’s Will

In the November, 2002, edition of Focus On the Family magazine, the following letter from Tyson Chastain was used:

One Sunday my wife and I noticed an announcement in the church bulletin about a men’s missions trip to Honduras. Through God’s providence, I went on the trip. Upon my return home, I told my wife that we should pray about going to Bible college and entering Christian ministry. She began to cry and said that while I was gone, she had prayed for God to give me direction. When I went back to work, I received word that my department was being dissolved. That evening I asked my wife, “How strong is your faith?” She simply smiled, “You were laid off, weren’t you?” Needless to say, we are serving God as missionaries to Honduras today.

Over the years, during times when I was seeking God’s will about specific decisions, I have often asked Him to “funnel” me into His will. By that, I meant that I wanted Him to orchestrate my life’s circumstances in such a way that His will about the situation in question would become obvious. For example, if He wanted us to sell our house, He could send along a solid buyer and make the deal easy. If He wanted us to buy a car, He could help us get a payment we could manage. If He wanted me to take a church, He could have the congregational vote go in my favor. You get the idea. Accordingly, when enough of the particulars fell right into line, I would take that as God “funneling” us into His will regarding the decision.

A.W Tozer once said, “When it’s God’s will, it flows.” This simply means that when something is God’s will for your life, you don’t have to knock, beat, and hammer it into place. You don’t have to kill yourself to make it happen, either. You can just get in the current of what God is up to and ride the flow. Admittedly, there are times when the spiritual opposition against God’s will for a situation is so great that the flow is more difficult to recognize. But mark it down, some degree of flow will be there.

That letter of testimony from Tyson Chastain is a classic case of God funneling two submitted Christians into His will for their lives. First came Tyson’s mission trip to Honduras. Then came his wife’s prayer that God would give him direction. Then came Tyson’s God-implanted desire to go to Bible college and enter Christian ministry. Then came the loss of his job. You see, there was a definite flow to all of that. It might not have been a flow that we would have devised, but it was a flow nonetheless.

So, are you right now trying to discern God’s will regarding a particular decision? I would advise you to sit down and trace the flow of what’s been going on with your circumstances. It could well be that for some time now God has been funneling you toward the choice He wants you to make. If He has, don’t fight Him. Instead, just ride the flow and submit to His will. And if He hasn’t been funneling you toward the right choice, then start praying this prayer: “Lord, funnel me into Your will for this decision, and give me the spiritual eyes to spot the flow of that will.” Pray that prayer and mean it, and God will surely take you up on it. After all, He wants you to do His will even more than you want to do it! Why, then, wouldn’t He funnel you into that will if you ask Him to do so?

Posted in Choices, Decisions, Discernment, God's Sovereignty, God's Will, Personal, Spiritual Warfare, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Penny

He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13, N.K.J.V.)

Little Billy had his hand stuck in an expensive vase. His mother tried her best to pull the hand out, but she finally had to resort to breaking the vase. Once it was broken, she saw that Billy had kept his fist balled up the whole time. When she asked him why he had done this, he answered, “Because if I had opened my hand, I would have dropped my penny.”

Many a person is right now holding on to some “penny” of sin. Even when clutching the sin begins to complicate their life, they won’t let go of the sin. Even when clutching it gets monetarily expensive, they still won’t let go. Maybe the sin is drugs. Maybe it is alcoholism. Perhaps it is adultery or pornography. Sometimes it’s greed, pride, or covetousness. The list of potential “pennies” is certainly a long one.

This isn’t just a problem for lost people, either. No, a lot of Christians are out there right now playing the role of little Billy. I don’t figure that repentance has ever made for popular preaching, but its popularity is definitely at a low ebb right now. Many preachers today major on themes such as acceptance, tolerance, mercy, patience, and love. Obviously, these are indeed thoroughly scriptural themes. However, even as we preach these themes, we must guard against allowing our message to become so “mush and gush” that we downplay repentance into oblivion. No matter what the spirit of the times happens to be, God always wants fists opened and pennies of sin dropped.

So, I ask you, what’s that in your hand right now? Is it your personal penny of sin? Well, little Billy, you’re going to have to let go of that penny (repent of it) before God will help you get your hand out of that vase in which you’re caught. You see, He’ll gladly set you free from your entrapment, but He won’t do it just so you can keep a death grip on your penny.

Posted in Backsliding, Change, Choices, Disobedience, God's Holiness, Personal Holiness, Preaching, Rebellion, Repentance, Seeking Forgiveness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment