“Nobody Killed Me. I Had a Wreck.”

Twenty-five-year-old Jamie Peavy had a job working at a barbecue restaurant. One day, after work, she got in her pickup and drove to meet a friend. She tried a new route that day, thinking it would be a shortcut. What she didn’t know was that the road was under construction, and she ended up driving her truck down into a ditch that was ten feet deep and filled with water in the area of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

For approximately 60 hours (two-and-a-half days), Peavy remained trapped inside her pickup with her legs pinned and the steering wheel keeping her upper body pressed tightly up against the seat. She knew that no one else would be foolish enough to drive down that road while it was under construction. Even if they did, her truck was hard to spot down there in that deep ditch. So, she figured that she would be dead before anyone ever found her. The only thing she had going for her was the fact that she could move her arms a bit. That allowed her to scribble a small note to her friends and family. The note read: “Nobody killed me. I had a wreck.”

Fortunately for Peavy, her story didn’t have a fatal ending. After those two-and-a-half days, an airport worker happened to get close enough to hear her faint voice saying, “Hey, help me.” The worker went to investigate and found Peavy still clinging to life. A rescue was begun, and Peavy lived to tell about her terrible ordeal.

The fact is, though, that many a person has a life story that could be summed up with the words: “Nobody killed me. I had a wreck.” Fatal “wrecks” happen all the time. They go by names such as: alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, greed, lying, theft, idolatry, murder, pride, stubbornness, refusing to forgive, etc. These sins and others surely have the potential to leave you wrecked in a figurative ditch.

Here’s hoping that you don’t ever find yourself in such a ditch, but if you do, that’s the time for you to surrender yourself 100% to Jesus Christ and cry out to Him for help. In Psalm 40:2, David provides us with a helpful word about what the Lord can do in the life of a person who yields himself or herself to Him, and it’s this word that I’ll leave with you. David says of the Lord:

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.

 

Posted in Addiction, Adultery, Alcohol, Drugs, Extending Forgiveness, Gambling, God's Love, Greed, Lying, Pride, Rebellion, Submission | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Kicking At the Goads

When the risen Jesus met Saul of Tarsus – who would become the apostle Paul – on the Damascus road, one of the things He told Saul was, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). At the time, Saul was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), and was on his way to Damascus to locate any followers of Jesus and bring them back in chains to Jerusalem (Acts 22:4-5). This was a part of him making “havoc of the church, entering every house and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

Saul had the legal right to do all this because he was operating under the auspices of the Jewish High Priest and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council). At the time, Saul was one of the most promising young Pharisees in Jerusalem (Acts 26:4-5). He was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5) who had studied under the famous rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He had devoted his life to the Jewish law and to zealously living out the Jewish religion of Judaism. In his way of thinking, Jesus had been a false Messiah, and those who continued to promote His cause even after His crucifixion needed to be stopped at all costs.

But what did Jesus mean when He told Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads”? Well, a goad was a pointed instrument that was used to prod livestock to go where they didn’t want to go. No animal liked being stuck with a goad, and sometimes the animal would kick back against the goad. In the case of Saul, God was prodding him with a goad in an attempt to get him to change his direction in life, and Saul was kicking back hard against that goad.

But the question is: What was the goad that God was using on Saul to get him to change his course? The answer is: the martyr’s death by public stoning that Stephen had recently died just outside Jerusalem. Saul himself had been a player in that stoning. He was most likely a member of the Sanhedrin council that had ordered it, and he had certainly been in agreement with the sentence (Acts 8:1). He hadn’t personally thrown any rocks, but he had looked after the garments of those who had pulled off their cloaks to do so (Acts 7:58).

In other words, Saul had been a personal eyewitness to Stephen’s execution. He had heard Stephen’s powerful defense of himself, a defense that had retraced much of Israel’s history (Acts 7:1-53). He had heard Stephen say at the trial, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56). He had heard Stephen pray, even as the rocks had begun to fly, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). And he had heard Stephen request with his dying words, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60).

Saul had been running on too much raw emotion at the trial and the stoning to let all of this affect him, but ever since then his conscience hadn’t let him forget the way that good man had died. No one will die for what they know to be a lie, and yet Stephen had died singing the praises of Jesus. This was the goad with which God had been prodding Saul since Stephen’s death.

Saul’s problem was that, like a raging animal, he had been kicking against the goading. Rather than admit that he was on the wrong side of this “Jesus thing,” he had stubbornly dug in and doubled down on his wrong mindset. Years later, he would admit to causing the imprisonment and subsequent deaths of many Christians (Acts 26:10-11), and say of himself, “I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13).

That’s how it works with goads of conviction. If you kick at the them and refuse to change your course, you will instead start running all the harder in your wrong direction. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in peoples’ lives. God brings them under conviction over their sin, but rather than yield to that conviction and repent of the sin, they plunge even deeper into it. The thing about goads of conviction is that once God starts prodding you with them, your situation will have to change one way or the other. You’ll either yield and go God’s way or go your way all the harder. What you won’t do is remain the same.

So, I ask you right now, is God prodding you with some goads of conviction these days in an attempt to get you to change your course? And if He is, how are you responding to those goads? Are you giving into them and making the necessary changes in your life? Or are you stubbornly digging in your heels, kicking back against the goads, and picking up speed in your wrong direction?

Truth be told, Saul had quite a bit of initial worldly “success” while he was kicking at God’s goads. He became famous in the land as the great defender of the Jewish faith, and his work in rounding up Christians produced prolific numbers. This isn’t surprising considering how the devil just loves to bless those who are doing his bidding (Matthew 4:8-9). But such worldly “success” can never last, and the bill for it will always come due at some point. Saul’s came due that fateful day as he traveled to Damascus. Do you have one that is about to come due today as you make your way down your wrong road?

Posted in Change, Choices, Conscience, Conviction, Disobedience, God's Chastening, God's Will, Obedience, Rebellion, Repentance, Submission | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Terms of Salvation

A businessman was trying to win his banker acquaintance to Jesus. After the businessman had shared the story of Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection, he pressed the banker to place his belief in Jesus right there on the spot. But the banker was appalled at the whole concept. He asked the businessman, “Are you telling me that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and that me getting into heaven has nothing to do with my own efforts other than believing in Him as Savior?” The businessman said, “Yes, that’s right.” To that the banker replied, “That’s crazy. I just don’t believe that getting into heaven works like that. It has to have something to do with me living the right kind of life.”

At that point the businessman could see that he wasn’t getting anywhere, and so he decided to try a different approach, one to which the banker could relate. He said to the banker, “Okay, suppose a man comes into your office today and says, ‘Mr. Banker, I need your bank to loan me some money.’ Tell me, who would have the right to set the terms of that loan – you or the man who needs the loan?” The banker replied, “I would.” “Well then,” said the businessman, “you need to see God as the great Banker and you as the one who needs the salvation. You don’t get to dictate the terms of that salvation; HE DOES.” It was then that the banker understood the error of his thinking, came under shame and conviction over the sinful manner in which he had so arrogantly rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus, and placed his belief in Jesus as his personal Savior.

Of course, the great thing about salvation is that it is not a “loan” that must be paid back. Neither is it a down payment after which the one who takes out the loan must keep up the monthly payments or else forfeit the down payment. No, salvation is a gift, pure and simple, and like any gift it can only be accepted or rejected. The moment it becomes “pay” or a “reward” it ceases to be a gift.

Jesus, through His death on the cross, purchased the gift for you and now offers it to you to either accept or reject. The way to accept the gift is to accept Him by placing your belief in Him as Savior; the way to reject the gift is to reject Him by refusing to place your belief in Him as Savior. Those are God’s terms of salvation, and you, like that banker, must make a choice concerning them. But, also like that banker, what you can’t do is rework the terms.

Posted in Belief, Choices, Christ's birth, Christ's Death, Christ's Resurrection, Evangelism, Heaven, Salvation, The Gospel, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Would You Describe Your Walk With The Lord These Days?

Renowned preacher Vance Havner once told the story of a writer who knew an elderly lady who loved to give her testimony in church. The lady would always begin by saying, “Forty years ago…” After hearing her do that many times, the writer said, “I felt like asking her, ‘Lady, hasn’t anything happened since?'” Havner then played off the illustration to say:

We thank God for the happy day that fixed our choice on Him our Savior and our God, but there should be more happy days all along. Christian lives sometimes become like some married lives – they get to where there is nothing left but anniversaries.

Let me ask you something: What is your spiritual condition right now? How is your faith in Christ? How is your trust in Him? How is your confidence in Him? Have you recently been overjoyed about the way He is running the universe? Or do you currently find yourself somehow disappointed in Him, perhaps even mad at Him? Have you seen some prayer requests met recently? Or has it been a while? Are you happy serving Christ lately? Or has it become like clocking in for work?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: There have been various times in my life when I could have answered each question on that list with, “Yes.” Sure, I’ve known mountaintop experiences with Jesus, but I’ve also known some valleys. There have been times when serving Him was the greatest passion of my life, but there have been other times when I was hurt at Him, disappointed in Him, and (I’ll admit it) downright ticked off at Him. I’ve seen prayer requests answered the very next day after I made them, but I’ve also seen seasons when my prayer life didn’t seem to have any effect at all upon my daily life. And my guess is, if we would be truthful, all that makes me normal.

One thing I don’t do, though, is dwell on spiritual anniversaries. Even though I remember the day I got saved, I don’t remember the exact date. Even though I remember the evening I got baptized, I don’t know that exact date either. Even though I remember the time of my life when the Lord called me to preach, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I yielded to that call. Rather than dwell on what happened umpteen years ago, I just get up each day and do my best to fully submit myself to Jesus afresh and anew that day.

I once met with the pulpit committee of a church that is located on the North Carolina coast. I saw their pastoral vacancy in an online ad, submitted my resume, and made the cut down to their last three candidates from a stack of resumes. At that point, their pulpit committee asked me to drive down to Denver, NC, and meet with them in the conference room of a hotel.

The interview went fine as those things go, but in the end the committee chose another candidate over me. That stung a little, but it wasn’t the first time I had been turned down by a pulpit committee. However, the one thing I remember the most about that meeting was a question one of those fellows asked me as a part of the interview. He asked, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”

I’ve gotta tell you, that question struck me like a harpoon that day. It did so because at that particular moment in my life I was still reeling from a time when the Lord had allowed a certain group of men to perpetrate some evil stuff on my oldest son, Ryan, in the realm of athletics. I’m not talking about physical abuse or anything like that; I’m talking about emotional, mental, and psychological abuse. I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice is to say that it had been by far the worst experience of Ryan’s young life. And what had made it all the worse had been the fact that during it all Tonya and I had begged the Lord each day to deal with those men and right their wrongdoing. He simply hadn’t done it, though, and that had really hurt our faith, trust, and confidence in Him. So, I was still trying to process all of that when I drove down to Denver that day and had that man ask me out of the clear blue, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”

Now, I could have painted some glowing, flowery picture about the awesome times that the Lord and I had recently been having, but that would have been a lie. So, I just gave the man an honest answer. I started out with something like, “Well, right now I am coming out of the hardest time that I’ve ever had in my walk with the Lord.” Then I went from there. Did my answer cost me the opportunity to pastor that church? Possibly. Then again, I’d like to think that a pulpit committee member insightful enough to ask such a probing question was appreciative of an answer that was obviously genuine.

Anyway, my purpose in writing this post is to motivate you to set aside some time to do a thorough spiritual assessment of where you are with Jesus Christ right now. Ask yourself, “What is my spiritual condition at this very moment?” You see, what I’m doing is playing the role in your life that pulpit committee member once played in mine. I’m looking you squarely between the eyes and asking, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that if you will drop your guard long enough to be REAL about your answer, you will then be able to talk things over with the Lord in prayer and thus take your prayer life to a much deeper level. Never forget that the Lord doesn’t want anything fake from you, and whatever difficult conversations you need to have with Him, He is more than willing to have them. I’m not saying those prayers will be pleasant and leave you feeling like you’re ready to take on the world, but I am saying they will keep your walk with the Lord authentic and fresh. Most importantly, they will keep you moving with Him, and that’s infinitely better than becoming locked in place concerning some experience (either a good one or a bad one) that happened to you way back there sometime in your past.

 

Posted in Adversity, Belief, Disappointment, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Honesty, Parenting, Personal, Prayer, Prayer Requests, Problems, Sports, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Temporary Victim

The story of Joseph has been told again and again. As you might know, when Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery, a series of events was initiated by which God, over the course of 13 years, caused Joseph to become the second highest ruler in Egypt. Nine years later, after Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt seeking grain during an intense famine, Joseph revealed himself to them. That revealing and the events that followed it allowed the entire family to be reconciled in Egypt. The climax of the story comes when Joseph says of his brothers selling him into slavery:

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Genesis 50:20).

This quote from Joseph is the Old Testament version of Romans 8:28, which says to Christians:

And we know that ALL things work together for GOOD to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

It is fair to say that Joseph was a victim because, unquestionably, he was victimized by the actions of his brothers. However, it is also fair to say that he didn’t remain a victim. Unlike so many people who have wrong turns done to them, Joseph didn’t allow himself to bathe in self-pity and self-centeredness. Rather than fade into bitterness and isolation, he made the best of his new life in Egypt. How was he able to do this? The answer is simple: Joseph had faith in God. He knew that God was big enough to take the evil that had been done to him and actually use it as building blocks to accomplish His good purposes in Joseph’s life.

As is so often the case with scriptural truths, the prime example of this one can be found in the life of Jesus. The Jewish religious leaders and the Romans were in sin when they worked in unison to get Jesus crucified. We know this because Jesus’ first words as He hung on the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But Jesus understood that God the Father would use His death on that cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the entire human race (1 John 2:1-2).

You see, God the Father, in His perfect omniscience and foreknowledge, saw the sinful actions of those Jews and Romans coming far in advance (even before the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8), and He devised a plan whereby He would use that evil to accomplish His good purpose. In Acts 2:23, Peter even says that Jesus was “delivered (to the cross) by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” 

So, was Joseph a victim? Yes, he was, but only temporarily. In the end, God used the evil done to him as building blocks to transform him from VICTIM to VICTOR. Was Jesus a victim? Yes, He was, but only temporarily. In the end, God used the evil done to Him as building blocks to transform Him from VICTIM to VICTOR. And are you a victim if someone or some group has sinfully wronged you? Yes, you are. The key, though, is to see yourself as a temporary victim as opposed to a permanent one, and claim God’s promise to use the evil done to you to transform you from VICTIM to VICTOR.

 

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Christ's Death, Comfort, Disappointment, Encouragement, Faith, God's Omniscience, Patience, Persecution, Perseverance, Problems, Revenge, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God, Uncategorized, Waiting | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

God: Your Captain

Thomas Stevenson was the father of the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. That in itself will get you a brief mention in the history books. Actually, though, Thomas was a touch famous himself, especially in his day. His fame came from his groundbreaking innovations in lighthouse designs. In all, he designed more than thirty lighthouses around the rocky coastlines of Scotland.

One stormy night, Thomas Stevenson was aboard a ship that was drifting perilously along a dangerous coastline. He and the other passengers were down below, and they were all panicked with fear, certain the ship was going to be bashed against the rocks at any moment. When Stevenson couldn’t take the suspense any longer, he went up on deck to examine the situation for himself. There he saw the ship’s captain standing tall and firm, with his hands firmly at the ship’s helm as he fought inch by inch to turn the ship away from the rocks. When the captain noticed Stevenson, he just gave Stevenson a smile and carried on with his business. But that smile was enough to calm Stevenson’s fears. So he went back down to the other passengers and said, “It is all right; I have seen the captain’s face, and he smiled.”

Perhaps today you find yourself in some kind of frightening storm, and you are thoroughly convinced that your ship is going to be broken up against the rocks. My question to you is, have you gone up top and consulted God about your situation? He is, after all, the Captain of your “life” ship regardless of whether or not you acknowledge Him as such.

Isaiah 6:1 opens up with the prophet Isaiah reporting that Judah’s King Uzziah has died. Uzziah had become king when he was 16 and had reigned for 52 years. He wasn’t perfect, but he is frequently described by commentators as Judah’s last great king. His life story – the good and the bad of it – is told in 2 Chronicles 26:1-23.

For the purposes of Isaiah 6:1, though, the thing to understand is that a long-reigning king has died, and his death has brought the people of his kingdom, including Isaiah, to a new era. It’s not that the people of Judah don’t know who their next king will be. (Uzziah’s son, Jotham, has reigned with his father as a co-regent for the last years of Uzziah’s life.) The issue is that the people are now in uncharted territory. Many of them have never known a time when Uzziah wasn’t their king, and they are now asking questions. What will the future hold? Will Jotham be a good king? Will their lives get better or worse under him?

Sometime in the middle of all of these transitional worries, Isaiah goes into the temple in Jerusalem and has a vision. In Isaiah 6:1-4, he writes:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim (a seraph is a type of angel); each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

This scene is awesome enough to make the godly Isaiah say, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Be sure to notice that last part of his quote. He says, “…my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” I don’t have to tell you that he’s not talking about Uzziah or Jotham there! You see, Isaiah’s vision reminded him that the TRUE, ETERNAL King was still on His throne. Yes, Uzziah was dead, and, yes, Judah’s future was looking fairly cloudy at the moment, but everything was perfectly fine in heaven. There was no fear, panic, or worry there. God was still firmly in control of His creation.

And, friend, what you need to realize right now is that the same mighty God that Isaiah saw sitting upon His heavenly throne is still seated upon that throne. He’s not dead. He’s not old and past His prime. And He’s not perplexed by your situation. Like the captain of Thomas Stevenson’s ship that night, God is faithfully manning the helm of your life, and nothing is going to happen to you that doesn’t first pass through the loving hands of what He will allow and won’t allow to happen. So take heart today because the King is still high and lifted up on His throne, and the Captain is still steering your ship’s wheel through the teeth of your storm.

Posted in Adversity, Angels, Comfort, Courage, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, God's Love, God's Omnipotence, Problems, Trials, Trusting In God, Worry | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

John Wesley’s Pound Notes

The great preacher/evangelist John Wesley heard of an associate who was having serious financial problems. Wesley wrote the man a note that quoted Psalm 37:3. The note read:

Dear Sammy,

‘Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.’

Yours affectionately,

John Wesley

Wesley then placed several English pound notes in the envelope and mailed the letter.

A few days later, he received the following reply:

Rev. and Dear Sir:

I have often been struck with the beauty of this passage of Scripture quoted in your letter, but I must confess I never saw such beautiful expository notes as those you enclosed…

Titus 3:8 says: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”

An encouraging word. A heartening phone call. A complimentary email. An uplifting text. A nice Facebook comment. A sweet card. A kind letter. A check mailed. A “$100 handshake.” A meal. A visit. An act of service. These are all “good works” that are “good and profitable to men.”

Someone you know right now needs you to live out Titus 3:8. I have no idea who it is, and I have no idea what God wants you to do for them. But if you will simply open your heart to His will and seek His mind on how to carry that will out, He will make your job clear. “Sammys” are everywhere. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough “John Wesleys” to go around.

Posted in Doing Good, Encouragement, Giving, God's Will, God's Work, Influence, Ministry, Money, Needs, Service | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment