Dust in the Wind

Waiting for an appointment the other day, a lady’s cell phone began to ring to the tune, “Dust in the Wind.” A popular song by Kansas during my high school years, I started to hum the lyrics as she took her call. “Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.” The words stung my mind as I thought of their meaning. Are we just dust in the wind?

Isaiah 43:1-2
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.'”

Dust? Would God call out with such a degree of importance, “You are mine,” if we were just aimlessly floating along, driven by the whims of the wind? Unequivocably no! We are created by God who knew us before we were even conceived. We are His. He calls us by name.

Jeremiah 1:5,”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

There are times in life when we might feel like dust in the wind, wondering of our significance; wishing we mattered to someone; trying to find a reason for existence. But what a lie to even consider such.

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

God is telling us not only are we significant to Him, He had a plan and purpose for us before we were even formed. Before our days even began, He had them fashioned just for me and just for you. We can’t even begin to realize the importance we are to Him.

I stopped humming that tune; in fact, I’ve vowed never to sing it again. Not only am I not dust in wind, I wanted to stand and shout in the waiting room, “I am the son of the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords! I am heir to His throne.”

Realize who you are in Christ and never doubt the unconditional, overwhelming love He has for you. Shout it to the mountains, “I am the glorious creation of God!”

Who is it?

Genesis 4:6, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

One of my childhood friends, Riley, went to a different church from me. Despite the fact my dad was a pastor, he and my mom always allowed me to go to Riley’s church when I spent the night with him. And I loved it. His church had breakfast before Sunday School, and we couldn’t wait to get to the cinnamon rolls – homemade, warm, and gooey. As disgusting as it might sound, we’d tuck one or two in our pockets to eat later before church.

I remember vividly a Sunday School lesson with a cartoon picture of sin knocking at the door. It was a drawing of a demonic looking creature standing outside a child’s door. The image bothered me. I had always envisioned Jesus knocking at the door, and the two outside my door didn’t blend.

The reality is we are constantly being pulled. What is right and what is wrong? Should I say this or should I keep my mouth shut? Am I being helpful or am I hurting? Sometimes it can feel like a ping-pong game in our conscience, and the batting back and forth can be overwhelming.

God warns us many times throughout the Bible of the evil lurking around us.

Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Who is knocking at your door? Who are you letting in?

…it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Everyone of us have decisions to make on a daily basis. We like to keep our godliness at church, and during the week, do what is necessary to have our way. Sin is sin whether it is committed on Monday morning or Saturday evening. If you are letting it into your home, your car, your workplace, or your heart, you will pay the consequences for it and possibly destroy those around you because of it.

Listen to the voice of God. Read His word. Ask Him for guidance. Commit to God each day. Know who is at your door so you do not let someone in who doesn’t need to be there.

It’s all about the tree…

I once heard a sermon entitled, “It’s all about the tree.” He was staged surrounded by Christmas trees, and he tied the Christmas tree to the Cross. For several weeks I thought about what the speaker meant when he said, “It’s all about the tree” and its significance in my life. What was God trying to say through him to me?

One evening I took out my Bible and began in Genesis. The symbolism of the tree filled my soul.

Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

Why the tree? Why stir the pot? Rock the boat? Why the temptation?

One of the very first steps Connie and I took before our first child was born was to ‘child-proof’ the home: outlet covers, gates, removal of poisonous plants, locked cabinets, covered corners and all medicines and cleaning products up high. We did those things so that our sweet baby would not be harmed. Why didn’t God just man-proof the garden? Why the test?

It’s all about the tree…even at the beginning of mankind, it was all about the tree. God expects faithfulness and devotion from us. He expects obedience and full reliance upon Him from us. He’s not interested in man-proofing our lives. He wants us to God-proof our own lives, by choice, through loyalty and committment. He wants fidelity.

What is your tree? What is pulling you from God, making you disloyal and disobedient? I suggest you take a chainsaw and cut that thing up. Allow nothing to come between you and God. Remove it from your life for good.

It is ALL about the tree.

Where he wasn’t.

The Shrek movies make me laugh. Meant for children, the adult humor intertwined within is incredible and quite entertaining. One of my favorite parts is when Prince Charming interrogates Pinocchio as to where Shrek is.

Prince Charming: “You…you can’t lie! So tell me puppet, where is Shrek?”

Pinocchio: “Uh, Hmm…well, I don’t know where he’s not.”

Prince Charming: “So you don’t know where he is?”

Pinocchio: “That’d mean I’d really have to know where he wasn’t.”

If only Eve had been as clever with Satan…

Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

If Satan had told her as it was, “Hey Eve! Want to do something really different today?”

“What serpent?”

“Let me help you mess-up all humanity. Let me help you destroy lives, cause pain, grief, suffering, and death. Let me help you curse life as you know it and forever change mankind. Let me make it where every woman on the planet wants to punch you during childbirth. You game?”

I dare to say, Eve would have turned on her heels and run quite swiftly in the opposite direction. But instead, he entices her, seductively, with “Did God really say? Let me get this straight, did He really say?”

Doubt. The emotion that clenches all others – that smothers, suffocates, stagnates, and squelches belief. It only takes one religion teacher in a liberal arts college to say, “The inconsistencies in the Bible leave me to wonder…” And that 19-year-old begins to doubt who God is. Did God really say that?

It only takes one ‘innocent’ lunch outside the office to make you feel young and important again… Did God really say?

It only takes one really cool guy to tell you this drug is the drug of choice and you will feel better than you’ve ever felt…Did God really say?

It only takes one ‘want-to-be’ theologian to tell you the Bible was written so long ago, it can’t apply to the here and now…Did God really say?

Who are we listening to and why do we believe them?

Pinocchio: “I undeniably do or do not know where he shouldn’t probably be, if that indeed wasn’t where he isn’t. Even if he wasn’t at where I knew he was…”

If you do not know what God says, doubt will at some point in your life overcome you. And it has the same destructive power of Eve’s mistake on your life, your family, your friends, your workplace, and your environment.

Know where God wasn’t. Tell Doubt to take a hike, for when we truly understand what God has for us and what Satan has for us – there is no Doubt of the route we’ll choose.

The Holy Day

Genesis 2:3, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”

As a boy, Sundays were different days in my life. The grocery stores were closed. Few restaurants were open. The Ace Hardware – closed. The one movie theatre we had would never be opened on Sunday. No, Sundays were spent at church; home for Sunday lunch; visiting with neighbors; back to church for Sunday night services; a little homework; and to bed. When I was a boy, I loved Sundays, especially if neighbors didn’t come over; then, Dad and I could go fishing in between church services.

God intended for our Sundays to be different; to be days we regroup, reconnect, and refocus. He blessed the seventh day and asked us to keep it Holy.

For many of us, Sunday is just a day. If put it on a schedule, it would look no different from any other day of the week – but it is different. Lately, I have felt in my heart God’s urgency to look at Sunday. How are we spending the time He deemed Holy?

I understand that many of us work on Sunday. It is my job to preach at the church I serve. But I can still make the day Holy. My dad did and still does. God knew what life was all about before He created us. In His wisdom, He knew that we needed a day to recharge, restart, and revive.

What does your Sunday look like? I challenge you to make it Holy. Sit down with your family or spouse or friends, whatever applies in your life, and determine that Sunday will be different; it will look different; it will feel different. Designate the day to honor and glorify God.

He knows what we need

I love the story of the creation: of the stars in the sky, the water, the trees, the animals, and man. What I like most about His creation of man is He knew exactly what Adam needed before Adam even asked.

The other day I had a coupon for a free coffee at Race Track. On my way to Atlanta to visit in the hospital, I stopped and grabbed a large cup of black coffee. We have had snow in our area the past few days, and nothing takes the chill off like a steaming cup.

As I exited the store, without much thought, I took a deep gulp and knew immediately, it was a mistake. My tongue, the roof of my mouth, even my nostrils felt the temperature. I was on fire and knew not to swallow it or I would burn my throat as well.

The toughness of my skin did not indicate the scorching temperature of the coffee. Yet, the sensory preceptors of my tongue, though intended to decipher all the wonderful flavors of food God has put at our disposal, alerted me quickly. How amazingly God has created us! Every intricate detail of our body and surroundings is of Him because He knew exactly what we would need.

Was Eve an afterthought? Some people believe that God looked at Adam and said, “Oh no! I’ve messed up. My man is lonely. I forgot to make him a partner.” But, God doesn’t forget.

Some people jokingly believe He created Eve because He saw all the mistakes He had made with Adam and wanted a second chance. But, God doesn’t make mistakes.

What I love about God is, in creating Adam, He took care of all the details. And when Adam became lonely, before he even knew what being lonely meant, God gave him Eve.

Genesis 2:18-23, “The Lord God said,’It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'”

Sometimes we do not know what we need; but God is always light years ahead of us. Trust Him to know exactly what you need, when you need it.

God’s Searchlight

Proverbs 20:27, “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man, it searches out his inmost being.”

Years ago when our boys were little, we had some of David and Daniel’s friends over for a cookout. The oldest of the boys was probably around 10 and the youngest 6. While I was preparing hotdogs and Connie fixing drinks and plates, the kids decided to have a game of hide-and-seek. There were 8 little boys running around trying to find the perfect hiding spot and one little boy counting. I glanced up from my grill and saw the back of one running into the nearby woods. I didn’t think much of it until 20 minutes later when 7 returned with the seeker, exhausted and concerned. The one who had run into the woods had not been found.

I quickly called Connie. Night had fallen faster than we had anticipated. We grabbed the flashlights, and Connie turned on our outside searchlights. The boys were to stay around the house and look for the missing friend. I went into the woods. Because we didn’t have cell phones, I instructed her to call the sheriff if I wasn’t back in 20 minutes.

As I walked through the familiar forest floor, I thought of God. He is our searchlight, delving into our spirits and finding what is good in us and what we need to change. Every hidden motive. Every self-serving thought. All the imperfections, God sees and if we allow Him, exposes for us the way to make our hearts right. He also knows the tender parts of us. He understands our compassion and desires. He evaluates the choices we make and applauds that which is like Him.

Within a few moments I stumbled upon the wayward boy. He looked up at me, “Hey Pastor! Did I win?”

“You sure did! Now, let’s go eat!” I answered, taking him by the hand.

Ask God today to be your searchlight. Ask Him to scan your body from head-to-toe. I want to know what He finds that I need to change, don’t you? There is no place to hide apart from God. There is no action He doesn’t see. There is nowhere we can go to escape His searchlight.

What happened?

My grandmother used to say, “when things do not go as we planned, they do.”

Has your life ever taken a turn that left you stupefied – standing in the road in utter shock as to how things could possibly turned out this way? I can imagine it is how the disciples must have felt as they saw Jesus being arrested, beaten, and crucified. He was the miracle worker! He was their King! Had they misinterpreted His actions that much? Had others been right about Him? Was He not who they thought He was?

Sometimes we make a decision we believe is from God. We’ve gone to Him in prayer. We’ve studied His word. We feel assured He is with us. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it turns bad and we don’t understand. Were we that off-base? Is God really who we thought He is?

I am a big believer in “the BIGGER picture.” While we may feel we are the ones going through the fire, God knows different. Maybe He is sparing us from something far more tragic than the supposed failure before us. Maybe He is preparing for something much better than we imagined. Maybe what we see as failure is a stepping stone to a greater purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Those are not just words to make us feel better.

In the South, we often greet people, “How are ya?” Everyone knows it isn’t literal. No one would ever stop and say, “Well, my bursitis is flaring up and my septic tank overflowed and flooded the basement.” The response is, “I’m good, you?” And when we depart from one another we add, “Come see me!” No one would ever say, “OK. When? How ’bout Friday night?” The response is, “We’ll do!”

When God says He knows the plans He has for you, He means it! When He says He will prosper you and not harm you, He means it!

The next time your plans don’t fall into place as you expected, praise God for it! He is either preventing you from something painful down the road, setting you up for something much better, or using the process as a step-up to something you’ve never even thought. God is our hope for the future.

When you ask, “What happened?” Know this, God happened. And I’m so grateful He did.

Only the outer fringe

Job 26:14, “And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him!”

The beautiful sunsets with hues of pink, red and orange; the speckled coloring of the Lilly growing in a field; thunderstorms that pound and shake our homes;the bright sparkles of light which form the constellations; the mouse who busies himself in the tall grass; the hawk who soars above; giraffes reaching high in the trees of Africa, extending their long necks; snowflakes falling quietly to the ground; the feel of wind on my face; the roaring sound of a waterfall; all of these come from God, and these are but the outer fringe of what He can do.

A bird flew directly into the window of my home as I sat studying for a sermon one Saturday afternoon. The bobwhite quail, stunned by the error of his flight, fell to the ground. I quickly went to my front yard and scooped the creation of God into my hands. The splendor of his color floored me – different hues of brown, black, grey, and white accented his head. As I stroked him, his eyes opened. His weight was nothing in my hand and with one squeeze of a fist, I could have destroyed him.

Connie got a shoe box and a soft cloth. We sat it on our front porch and just admired the little bird who fed from our feeder earlier that morning. The detail of his design amazed me; I couldn’t help but extend my hands in praise of our Creator. The bird began to stir and within 10 minutes flew from the box and out into the world, a mere “whisper of what God can do.”

What could possibly concern us that God is not powerful enough to handle? He calls the stars by name! Isaiah 40:26, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

What could possibly come against us that God could not defend? Isaiah 50:9, “It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”

Where could we possibly go that God cannot reach us? Isaiah 50: 2, “Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? “

The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe loves us. Of all His creations, we are the most precious. How could we possibly doubt His ability to handle the struggles we face? Trust in Him.

As far as the east is from the west…

Psalm 103:11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a man who had made many wrong decisions in his life. His alcoholism had destroyed his marriage; he had no relationship with his children; his gambling addiction had cost him his business and home. And ten years after he had straightened his life out, he still uttered these words to me, “I can never forgive myself for the things I have done and the people I have hurt.”

My heart ached for him. Here was a man who devoted countless hours to helping men overcome addictions. He studied God’s word, prayed diligently, loved others and yet, he didn’t get it.

Do you know how high the heavens are above the earth? Neither do I. Do you know how far the east is from the west? Neither do I. But that is the depth of God’s love for us and that is the width for which He removes our transgressions.

God is not sitting on His throne with pen in hand reminiscing about my friend’s errors. He isn’t saying, “Oh yes. I remember those days. That man can’t do enough to make up for what he’s done.” Instead, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10: 17-18, “Then He adds: Their sins and lawless acts, I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”  Not only is He not keeping a tally, He doesn’t even remember! He could remember but He chooses NOT to remember.

Past failures can prevent us from having future successes if we do not realize the depth of God’s love for us. When God forgives our sins, He forgets it and removes the guilt. It is our own inability to control our emotions or accept His forgiveness that leaves us feeling as this man does.

Today, recognize the goodness and love of our Heavenly Father. Set aside your past failures. Get control of the emotional turmoil associated with guilt. Choose to accept His redemption and grace.