Shortly after the Civil War General Robert E. Lee was visiting in Kentucky. One day a woman took General Lee to see the remains of what had once been a beautiful old tree standing in her front yard. The woman loved the tree and Lee listened patiently as she cried and cursed the Yankees whose artillery fire had destroyed the trees’ limbs and much of its trunk. When the woman finished her rage she looked at Lee, waiting for some denunciation of the Yankees, or at least a word of sympathy. But Lee paused for a moment, and said to the woman: “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.”
Is there something you are hanging on to? Were you mistreated in the past and you are still hanging on to it? Did you make a mistake and you are still talking about it? Sometimes, we can hang on to something in the past and never move forward.
In Deuteronomy 1:6-7, Moses said, “You Have stayed at this mountain long enough…now move on.” God was telling Israel their time of wandering was almost done. They needed to move toward the promised land.
Maybe you have been circling a mountain. Not a literal mountain, but something in your mind. Maybe a wrong that was done to you. Maybe a hurt from the past. The loss of a job….a divorce…a mistake…it happened, it’s done but you are rehearsing it. You talk about it a lot.
Friend, listen to what Moses told Israel…” You have stayed at this mountain long enough…move on.”
In the words of General Lee, cut the tree down and forget it
Living the Christian life is challenging. We live in a very selfish, materialistic world. In this selfish, materialistic world, we are called to live spiritual lives… lives honoring Jesus. Although we know the right things to do, it’s not easy.
Paul talked about this in Romans 7. Paul wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do; but I am doing the very thing I hate.” I don’t know about you but, I can identify with Paul. I have good intentions of doing the right thing but, I’m human and I don’t always do the right thing.
Paul was talking about the struggle of the flesh and the spirit that we all face. The Holy Spirit guides us and leads and shows us the right thing to do. But, we still struggle with the power of the flesh.
For example… we can say to ourselves that we need to keep our mouths shut. But that doesn’t always happen We know, that we need to control our tongue but, we slip up.
Or, maybe there is some area of the Christian life that we struggle life. We know that we struggle with it… and we are determined not to slip up… but we do it.
Like Paul, we can know the right thing to do but it doesn’t always mean it gets done. We can know the things we need to stay away from but it doesn’t always happen. It is because we are human and we struggle with the power of the flesh.
This is a struggle that will last all our lives. It’s not something that will go away tomorrow. It is a daily battle.
So, you may say, “Ok, I hear you… but how do I deal with it?”
Every day you ask the Lord to give you the strength to do the right thing. You strive to walk with Jesus. You strive to control your thoughts. Ask the Lord for help because you must have supernatural help.
And while we don’t plan on slipping… when we do, we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us.
Joe Frazier was a boxer who competed in the same era as Muhammad Ali. He and Ali had a couple of memorable bouts. Frazier once said regarding training for a fight; “If I cheat in the early morning hours, it will tell on me under the bright lights.” Frazier was saying that if he cheated during training…during road work…it would hurt him later in the fight. If he hadn’t trained well, he wouldn’t fight well.
The same is true for us. While we may not be training for a boxing match, if we have secret sins, they will tell on us. In Numbers 32, Moses said, “Be sure, that your sin will find you out.”
Our sin will find us out as well. If we are cheating in business…our sin will find us out. If we are padding our expense account…our sin will find us out. The list could go on and on.
If we cheat in our training in the early morning hours, we will be exposed under the lights. The same is true in our Christian lives. We can be sure, our sin will find us out. But, the good news is, our sins can be forgiven. Confess your sin, repent of it and the Lord will forgive us.
What is important to you?
If you are like most people, your family is important… your job…. your health. And all of those should be important. But, Jesus should be more important than anything
Psalm 63 expresses that. The Psalmist writes, “O God, you are my God; and I earnestly search for you.. My soul thirsts for you… in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
There was a song that was written that was based on this Psalm. The song goes;
“Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You’ll lead me And I will follow You all of my days.”
Think about those lyrics… “I will seek you in the morning…. My soul thirsts for you..”
What does our soul thirst for today? If it’s anything other than the Lord, it will not satisfy us. It will not last.
Was there a time when Jesus was more important than anything to you but you back-slidden some? If so, whatever has crept into your life that’s more important than the Lord, repent of it and put Jesus first.
People will let us down… but Jesus never will.
Our team will lose when we had our hopes all built up…. but Jesus never will.
Money will run out…. but Jesus never does.
May our soul thirst for the Lord… in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
When we are young, life is simple… or at least, it’s supposed to be. We aren’t worrying about paying bills, or job demands or raising kids… we are young. We are enjoying our youth.
But then, we graduate from High School… some go to college… some get jobs… some to junior college… we begin trying to determine what we want to do with the rest of our lives.
Some get married and begin raising children. Others put off marriage for a few years.. they have some things they want to do before they begin building a family. They are still young… they aren’t ready for responsibilities just yet.
Then, life happens. Those who got married… some at least, begin having some problems. Marriage isn’t quite what they had thought it would be. Maybe they are let down by their spouse. Maybe they reach a point where they get a divorce.
Others may lose jobs or, deal with addiction problems or go through some bad experiences. As they do, they begin to ponder life. It sure has gotten tougher. They remember their youth.. just a few years ago for some… and life just seemed simpler. They kind of long for those simpler days when life seemed so grounded.
Yesterday, I had a flash back like that. We were worshiping at Cartersville FBC and singing an old hymn… “The Old Rugged Cross..” As we sang, my mind went back to East Fork Baptist church… In my mind, I could see the church… singing that old hymn. I admit, I teared up.
I thought about those simpler times… and part of me kind of wanted to go back to them. You can’t, of course… you press on… you grow the tough times of life. But that old hymn reminded me of days in my youth when my rock was East Fork Baptist Church. That little country church and it’s message of Jesus’ love, represented my roots.
Today, maybe life has been a little tough on you. Maybe you have longed for simpler times… perhaps more stable times. You would kind of like to go back… but you can’t. Those days are done.
But the message that was preached then is still preached today. The spirit of that old church still exists today. And it helps us… strengthens us… sustains us.. in the tough times of life.
Last night, Holli and I watched the movie “A Brief History Of Time” about Dr. Steven Hawkings, who passed away recently. Dr. Hawkings was a Physicist and an extremely intelligent man. He was diagnosed with ALS early in his life and he gradually lost all body functions. But, the disease had no impact on his mind. Using a specially equipped wheelchair, Hawkins wrote the book “A Brief History of Time” which was a best-seller.
Dr. Hawkings was an atheist. On one occasion, he was invited to speak to a gathering in America. Someone asked the question, “Do you believe in God?”
Dr. Hawkings response was he believed there were no boundaries in the cosmos which led him to conclude there was no divine being.
I am FAR from the intellect of Dr. Stephen Hawkings. He had a brilliant mind. But for him, like many, if something couldn’t proven, it didn’t exist. He could not prove the existence of God. Scientifically, he could not prove that God exists so, he concluded that God did not exist.
Obviously, I disagree with Dr. Hawkings. While there may be no scientific formula to prove that God exists, as we look at God’s creation; as we witness the birth of a child, to me, at least, these things prove that God must exist. I have never seen God. But, by faith, I believe that God exists.
Can I explain all the suffering in the world? No, I can’t.
Can I explain why bad things happen to good people? No, I can’t.
Can I explain some of the things that happened in the Bible? No, I can’t.
But, in spite of those things, I believe that God is real. I do not always understand the ways of God, but I know that God is real.
Dr. Stephen Hawkings had a brilliant mind. And I am very sorry he could not believe in God. Many others are like him. If you struggle to believe in God I ask you this; though you may not be able to prove that God exists, can you prove definitively that God doesn’t exist? Personally, I would think not.
I encourage you to accept by faith… not scientific equation… but by faith that God exists.
Are you growing as a Christian? Are you reading the Bible and learning more about it? Are you growing in Christian character? If you aren’t growing, you should be. The Bible tells us that our Lord grew. In Luke 2:52, the Bible says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.”
Now, someone may say, “Well of course Jesus grew! He was God!”
And yes, you are right.. He was God so it was expected He would grow. And He provides an example for every Christian that we too, should grow.
We should grow in wisdom. Wisdom enables us to be more discerning… it enables us to make better decisions…
We should grow in stature… that means physically. Are you an active person? Getting some exercise? Exercise is good for us. It can clear your mind and gives you energy.
We should grow in favor with God and all people. This refers to growing socially. Do you have good relationships with others? Do you have a few close friends?
Jesus was a well-rounded child… He grew in every aspect of life and we should do the same.
There is an old story told about a man who had been with a company for thirty years. An opportunity for advancement came open and he applied but a younger employee got the job instead. He was angry!
He went to talk with the supervisor and said, “That’s wrong! I have thirty years of experience with this company!” The supervisor said, “No you don’t. You have three years of experience ten times over.”
What he meant was, the man had stopped growing years ago. He wasn’t learning more about his job. He wasn’t becoming a better employee.
How long have you been a Christian? If more than a few months, then you have had plenty of time to read the Bible and learn more. Is your Bible knowledge limited? If so, that means you should study the Bible more.
So, maybe you haven’t grown like you should. Ok, you can fix that. Develop a plan to grow and start today! Grow in every aspect of life like Jesus did!
Years ago, I was Pastor of a small church in Mississippi. I started a Masterlife discipleship group. On the first night, an elderly man came in who was the men’s Sunday School teacher (we didn’t have but one men’s class). He was very well respected by the other men in the class as knowing His Bible.
I was surprised to see him. I said, “Mr. Ralph, I’m surprised to see you.”
He replied, “Well, you’re never too old to learn.”
You aren’t. So, get started today!