Sunday, May 31, 2009

The God Of The Second Chance.

"And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching I bid thee." -Jonah 3:1-2

For the past several weeks in Sunday school, we've been studying the book of Jonah. It's been a real blessing to me as we've made our way through it, and I've really learned a lot. While reading Dr. J. Vernon McGee's commentary on Jonah I came across these statements he made regarding the first verse of chapter three: " 'And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time'. Our God is the God of the second chance-what a marvelous, wonderful thing that is! God will give you a second chance, and He will give you more than that. I know that he has given me a dozen different chances. He is long-suffering and patient. He is not willing that any should perish. If you are His child, He is going to hold on to you-you may be sure of that."
I jumped right out of my chair and yelled "AMEN!" How true that is; God is the God of the second chance. If it weren't so, all of us would (and by all rights should) be on our way to Hell. But you and I have a second chance (and a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc.). That second chance is Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sin. The book of Jonah is a fore-shadowing of Christs death, burial, and resurrection. That is part of the reason it's one of the most scrutinized books of the Bible, that and the fact that Jonah was swallowed by a "great fish" (but I'll write more on that subject in another post). And just like Jonah, after he spent three days in the belly of the fish(three days...where have I heard that before?), was used to bring the Ninevites to salvation, Jesus did the same for you and me. Jesus willingly gave himself over to death to pay for my sins and yours. He gave me a second chance... "Our God is the God of the second chance." What an amazing gift! To know that no matter what I do or how bad I mess up, if I go to God and acknowledge my sins and ask for forgiveness "...he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."(1 John 1:9) In other words, he gives us another chance. You too can have a second chance if you'll accept Christ as your savior and ask him to forgive you of your sins. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) God has promised salvation to those who'll accept his gift, he's promised you a second chance at life, but this time it'll be eternal life!!! The Ninevites accepted the gift that was given to them, will you?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Ragged Old Flag

The Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash
I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench, an old man was sittin' there.
I said, "Your old court house is kinda run down,"
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town".
I said, "Your old flag pole is leaned a little bit,
And that's a ragged old flag you got hangin' on it".
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down,
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town"
I said, "I think it is", He said
"I don't like to brag, but we're kinda proud of That Ragged Old Flag"
"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there,
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And It got powder burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it,
writing "Say Can You See"
It got a rip in New Orleans,
with Packingham & Jackson tugging at its seams.
And It almost fell at the Alamo beside the Texas flag,
But she waved on though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on That Ragged Old Flag"
On Flanders Field in World War I,
She got a big hole from a Bertha Gun,
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp, and low, a time or two,
She was in Korea, and Vietnam,
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
She waved from our ships upon the briny foam
and now they've about quit wavin' her back here at home.
In her own good land here She's been abused,
She's been burned, dishonored, denied an' refused,
And the government for which she stands
Has been scandalized throughout out the land.
And she's getting thread bare,
and she's wearin' thin,
But she's in good shape, for the shape she's in.
Cause she's been through the fire before
and I believe she can take a whole lot more."
"So we raise her up every morning
And we bring her down slow every night;
We don't let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right....
On second thought, I DO like to brag!!
Cause I'm mighty proud of That Ragged Old Flag!!"

I'm proud to be an American, are you?

Patriotism has become something that you just don't see that much of anymore, which is a shame. It seems that it's no longer a popular thing to have pride in you country. People have forgotten that their rights came with a price. They have forgotten the men and women who have fought and died for over 230 years to protect and ensure those rights. Everyone just wants to criticize everything that this country does.....and look where that has gotten us! The country that I love has gotten farther and farther away from the principles it used to stand for and the pride of living in "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" has all but vanished from the public view. Sixty years ago we were welcoming soldiers home from the battlefield; openly showing our gratitude to them for what they had done for us. Now we have to run television commercials to try to encourage people just to shake a vets hand!!!! It's an outrage! I haven't forgotten what they have done. I haven't forgotten that my Grandfather fought in the Pacific during WWII. I haven't forgotten that he was on two different ships that were Kamikazed, causing one to sink. I haven't forgotten that until the day he died he wouldn't talk about the things he saw and did, or the nightmares he had almost every night! I haven't forgotten that my other Grandfather fought in Europe during WWII, along with his brothers. Or my Great-Grandfather who fought in WWI. If my dad wouldn't have been medically discharged from the Marines, he would have gone to Vietnam. I respect those men and women who fought for my freedom; I appreciate it. And it breaks my heart that those soldiers fighting and dieing today get no respect at all from the people of this great land. And make no mistake about it, this country is great; it always has been, and God willing it will continue to be. But that all hinges on a select group of people; the fighting forces of the United States of America. The people who get no respect or gratitude, but who deserve more than we could ever give them. Because your opinion of the politics of this country wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if you didn't have the right to have it and voice it. Those rights come with a price that someone has to pay; that's why we have soldiers. I'm proud to be an American, are you?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Family Bible

I was reminded of this song on Wednesday night as our Assistant Pastor Jeremiah Williams was preaching. He talked about wanting his children to learn to love God not because it was something forced on them, but because they see what good things God has done in his life. This song talks about the influnece of a parents faith in the life of a child. It's also a reminder of how life used to be in this country, and how it still should be!

Family Bible by Willie Nelson

There's a family Bible on the table

The pages are torn and hard to read

But the family Bible on the table

Will forever be my key to memories

At the end of day when work was over

And when the evening meal was done

Dad would read to us from the family Bible

And we'd count our many blessings one by one

I can see us sittin' round the table

As from the family Bible dad would read

I can hear my mother softly singing

"Rock of ages, Rock of ages cleft for me"

Now this old world of ours is full of trouble

But this old world would oh so better be

If we'd find more Bibles on the tables

And mothers singing "Rock of ages, Rock of ages cleft for me"

Monday, April 27, 2009

When I Finally Make It Home

"I'm gonna wrap my arms around my daddy's neck and tell him that I've missed him,
and tell him all about the man that I became; and hope that it pleased him, there's so much I want to say; there's so much I want you to know....When I finally make it home...."

I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. Most of you who read this already know the story, but for those of you who don't I'll tell you. On December 3rd, 2001, my dad went home to be with the Lord. He'd been sick for over five years; since childhood he was over-weight and had diabetes; For years he unknowingly had "mini" heart-attacks (that's what the doctor called them) that he couldn't even feel, all of which led to his "big" heart-attack in 1996. He had open-heart surgery, which was supposed to be a quadruple by-pass, but due to the car-accident he was in back in 1988 they could only do a double. The force of the crash, combined with the fact that he was thrown backward into my car-seat during it, caused his heart to become lodged into is ribcage. Things looked so bad going into the surgery that my mom was told to get my dad's affairs in order. But, by the grace of God, my dad lived for five more years. It was a wake-up call for him. My dad had been a drinker and a gambler, problems that pushed my parents marriage to the breaking point several times. He was saved as a child, but like many people in the world today he was back-slidden. The heart-attack changed that. He gave up drinking and gambling and did his best to change. He began to read his bible again, thanks to the pastor of the church my mom's boss went to giving him a new large print bible and preaching tapes he could listen to. And though my dad had a re-newed interest in God, his health prevented us from going to church most of the time.

It was during those five years that I started to turn away from God. I couldn't understand why my Dad had gotten sick. It forced me to grow up sooner than a kid should. I had to be my dad's care-giver, and I knew how much he was embarrassed about it and how bad he felt about it. He did as much as he could, but that became less and less over time. It angered him, and I'm ashamed to say it angered me too. I hated that I couldn't do what I wanted to do because I had to take care of about being self-centered. I was angry at God for letting my dad get sick. When my grandfather passed away in 2000, it hit my dad and I really hard. I now understand how my dad must have felt then. By then my dad was in really bad shape. He had been in and out of the hospital more frequently, and my grandfathers death was like the knock-out punch. My dad went down for the count, and this time he wouldn't get back up. He had already been in a nursing home once for a few months before my grandfather died. He would go back three more times in one year.

The night before my dad passed away my mom and I had went to go see him at the nursing home. He had been really bad the week before, but when we saw him he looked a whole lot better. He was glad to hear that I drove to the nursing home (this was just before my 16th birthday), though I knew he wished he could have taught me how to drive. In a way he did, but that's a whole different story (let's just say I had driven a couple of times before I even started drivers training!) ;) . My dad was joking with the nurses and teasing my mom, telling her about how he was flirting with the nurses. He wanted my mom to stay with him that night, like he always did, though he knew she couldn't. He was lonely, and though he knew he would go to heaven when he died, he was scared to die. And as was our custom, I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me too. Then he did something he usually never did, he asked my mom to leave the room so he could talk to me alone. This is what he said to me: "Miles, I'm not gonna be around much I know you'll do it anyway, but I want you to promise me you'll take care of your mom. That's your job now. I can't do it, so you'll have to do it for me. Just remember I love you and I'm proud of you." I said that I would and that I loved him too. We said goodbye and my mom and I each gave him a kiss and told him we'd see him tomorrow. And as we went out the door he called out to me again "Miles, you take care of your mom!" and again I said I would. That was the last time I spoke to him. The next day I went to school as usual. It was a pretty normal day, that is until my 6th hour biology class. I had just finished my work when a messenger came in from the office. He told me to grab my things and go to the office because my mom and grandparents were waiting for me. My heart felt like it had fallen onto the floor. I knew my dad was dead. No one had to tell me; I just knew.

If I was angry with God before, now I was enraged. I knew my dad wouldn't live long, I could deal with that, but to have him die just before Christmas and only a month before my 16th birthday was something else. I wanted nothing to do with God. It wasn't until my grandmother got really sick that God's message to me finally sank in. I couldn't do it all by myself. Ever since my dad's heart-attack I had felt like everything rested upon me. I had to do everything, there wasn't anyone else who could. Oh how wrong I was! I had spent all that time doing everything myself, and nothing want the way I thought it would. I hated myself, I hated my life; I was going nowhere. The very thing that God had used to get my dad's attention, was the thing he was trying to get my attention with. The heart-attack showed my dad his need to have God back in his life, and it eventually showed me that I couldn't do it all on my own. I needed God, plain and simple. The bible says in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." That was me, heavy laden. For years I worried about taking care of my dad, then I did the same thing when my grandmother got sick. I couldn't be angry with God for showing me my need for a Savior. I knew that unless I got saved I'd never get into heaven, and I'd never see him or most of my family ever again. My dad learned that lesson right away; it took me twelve years! I let go, and let God.

I can only imagine what it will be like to see my dad again some day. He'll be the first person I want to see after I meet my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I can here him now saying: "Took you long enough to figure it out!"