Be a Barnabas!

My dad used to tell the story about the time when the devil announced he was going out of business and would sell all of the tools of his trade.  On the day of the sale, he had all of his tools on display.  They were dangerous and bad looking.  On display were greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, sensuality, deceit, pride.  There was a price tag on each one.

Away from these terrible looking tools of his trade, there was a very ominous, much-worn tool.  The price tag on it was much higher than the rest of them.

When someone asked the devil about that tool, he said, “That’s discouragement.”  When asked why it was priced so high, he said, “Because it’s more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a person’s consciousness with it when I could never get near that person with any of the other tools.  Once I get inside a person’s mind with discouragement, I can wreak havoc and pain, and very few people know it comes from me.”

The amazing thing is that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold.  He is still using that tool today!

Discouragement is one of the devil’s most effective tools.  Every person faces it.  The prescription for discouragement is encouragement.  That means to put courage into a person.  Everybody needs encouragement.  It is the best medicine many people could receive.

I read about an interesting survey on the “attention span” for adults.  The average adult attention span will last for about 6 compliments, 5 encouragements, or 1 criticism.  We all have a healthy appetite to receive encouragement, but nobody likes criticism for dinner!

One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas.  His name means “Son of Encouragement.”  Paul may have been thinking of Barnabas when he wrote 1 Thessalonians 5:11, exhorting us to “encourage and build each other up.”  Three verses later, Paul says to “encourage the timid.” 

There is a beautiful parable about a group of frogs that were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit.  The other frogs looked at the situation, saw how deep the pit was, and told the unfortunate frogs that they would never get out.  It was a discouraging situation.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit.  The other frogs kept telling them there was no hope for them.  One of the trapped frogs listened to what the others were saying and finally gave up.  He fell down and died. 

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.  The other frogs continued to yell at him to stop the pain and suffering and just give up.  It made him jump even higher.  He finally made it out of the pit.  When his fellow frogs congratulated him, they asked him, “Why did you continue jumping?  Didn’t you hear us?”  The frog made no response.  They all soon realized that the frog was deaf.  All the time they were trying to discourage him, he thought they were encouraging him, so he never gave up!!

Everybody is looking for some form of encouragement.  Today, you can participate in shortening the attention span of others by criticism, or you can expand their attention span by encouragement.  God said to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:28, “Encourage Joshua for he will lead the people across the Jordan.”  When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch, Jewish leaders sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it” (Acts 13:15).

Be a Barnabas today!

Painting, Poking and Speaking

There’s a poignant story by O. Henry called “The Last Leaf.”  It involves a woman living in a New York City apartment.  It’s wintertime, and she has pneumonia.  She has already convinced herself that she will die and has lost the will to live.

She is bedridden, but from her window, this woman can see a tree in the alley.  She told people that when the last leaf falls from the tree, she will die.  Every day she looks at the status of the leaves.  Day after day, she notices that the last leaf doesn’t fall off.  In fact it never falls off – and she lives!

After recovering her health, the woman examines the leaf more carefully and discovers that an old worn-out artist, her friend and neighbor, had gone outside in the winter storms and painted the leaf on the wall just outside her window.  The artist had given of himself – he had given her hope and the will to live.

Most people today need hope.  The world we live in is bombarded by the negativism of social media, and many people have lost hope.  You don’t have to be an artist to offer hope.  You have to be willing to give of your time, your talent, and yourself.  You can paint a leaf for someone today.

One evening in 19th Century London, a small country boy was visiting family in the big city for the first time.  After supper he sat on the front steps and watched as the streets became dark and deserted.  He then saw a man, a lamp lighter, making his way up the street.  At each corner, the lamp lighter would pause at each lamp post, and there, to the amazement of the boy, a round globe of light would burst through the darkness.  The lad watched in awe and wonder as the man continued down the street leaving a glow of light at every corner.

Very excitedly, the boy ran inside and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy!  There’s a man outside poking holes in the darkness!”

When enough people stand up and poke holes in the darkness, light appears.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).  He also said, “Let your light shine” (Matthew 5:16).  Today you can poke a hole in somebody’s darkness!

Rich Nowakowski is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.  He lives in Hartland, Wisconsin.  Rich was left with impaired speech following a 2012 stroke.  He had every reason to feel sorry for himself, but instead has elected to be an encourager to others.  His speech changed from impaired to inspired!

He lives across the street from a building construction project for an apartment complex.  Every day he sits on his porch and cheers on the construction workers.  He enthusiastically says to every construction worker who passes by, “Beautiful!” and “Good job!”  The construction workers love walking by Rich’s house.

They decided to show their appreciation of Rich.  They pooled all their money and surprised Rich and his wife, Patricia, with tickets to a Packers game.  They even bought some team gear for him.  While Rich made a difference in their lives, Patricia said, “What those guys did made the world for him.”

What if everybody in the world was interested in making somebody’s life better?  You might do it by painting leaves, or poking holes, or speaking encouragement to people who pass by.  It will make a difference in their lives and yours.

Don’t use the excuse, “Someday I will do that.”  Let me remind you that some day is not a day of the week.  (Tweet this)

Make a difference today by painting, poking, or speaking!!

 

Act Today – Get Started

What do you need to start today that one year from now you will be glad you started?  A lot of us have good intentions and good ideas, but we never get started on them.  I Peter 4:17 reminds us, “Knowing what is right to do and not doing it is sin.”

We have to get started.  I remember hearing about a young man who was talking about the possibility of peace in today’s world.  He believed it could happen.  A cynical person said he was just a dreamer and he was unimpressed by that idealistic viewpoint.  The cynic remarked, “The desire for peace does not necessarily ensure it.”

The young man who prayed about making peace a possibility said, “That is true, but neither does the desire for food satisfy your hunger, but at least it gets you started toward a restaurant!”

What are some of the things you need to start today that one year from now you will be glad you started?  Here are some possibilities – you add to your list!

  1. Lose weight. We like to talk about this, but very few people do anything about it.  The reason is that they never get started.  CDC has ranked Alabama #3 in the nation for adult obesity – about 35%.  We need to get started on the problem.  This means it starts with me.  I will certainly feel better and be healthier mentally, physically and spiritually.
  2. Change my attitude. Our attitude determines so much of what we do in life.  Our actions are a result of our attitude.  The altitude we achieve in life is often dictated by an attitude that needs to be improved.  I have discovered that the reality of circumstances in life is not nearly as important as my attitude toward them.  It’s time to change my attitude.
  3. Drop the profanity. Our society has become more and more accepting of profanity.  That troubles me.  I believe the use of profanity is a lack of knowing how to express ourselves.  It’s also a symptom of a lack of self-control and latent anger.  The dictionary offers a lot of words that could be used to substitute for the profanity.  I’ve been around coaches recently who are working to eliminate profanity personally and professionally as a coaching staff.  The best time to start monitoring my speech is today.
  4. Save money. We are living in an age where we are so easily influenced to buy things we don’t need and to spend money we don’t have.  When a crisis occurs, we are in the red.  Our nation needs to start being responsible with our financial resources.  A year from now most of us would be glad if we started today to save more than we have in the past.  Start saving today.
  5. Build a personal relationship. In a day of social media that is driving people to communicate and interact by text, twitter, email, Facebook, etc. we are creating a world of “isolates.”  The second commandment of Jesus is to love our neighbors.  You can’t love someone without relating to them in person.  Start today to build better and more authentic relationships.

I went to see two of my grand kids participating in cross country races with a couple hundred runners from about 20 schools.  The runners had trained; they had received instructions from their coaches; they had stretched, and had spent some time mentally psyching themselves up.  But there was no way to win the race as an individual or as a team until they stepped up to the starting line and started when the gun sounded.  You can’t finish until you start!

Someone has said the best time to plant an oak tree was 25 years ago.  The second best time is today.  When confronted with a challenge, the best thing is to do the right thing.  The second best thing is to do the wrong thing.  The worst thing is to do nothing.

Start today!  You will be much better off a year from now.

I think I hear the starting gun!

A Caring Man

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  We live in a world today where people are looking for someone who cares.

Rev. Si MathisonMy dad was the best man that I have ever known.  I saw him care for the least, the lost, the lousy, and those on the lowest social level.  He didn’t finish college until I was in the 5th grade.  He didn’t talk about caring – he cared and did something about it.

God called my dad home 11 years ago.  I can still hear a lot of his words ringing in my ear.  I really miss hm.  I have some questions I would like to ask him.  I would love to hear him preach again.  I would love to watch him lead congregational singing.  I would love to thank him again for introducing me to Jesus.  I would love to thank him again for showing all of us that ministry is exciting, fun, and worth giving 100% to it.

We moved him to Montgomery where he spent the last years of his life at the Wesley Gardens retirement home.  We used my home address for his home address so I could handle his business affairs.

On September 11, 2017, I received a letter addressed to Mr. Si Mathison at my home address.  I opened the letter and was shocked to discover it was from a great caring organization.  It is relying too much on technology to express how much they care.  It was basically a computer-generated letter to my dad.

The letter began, “We want to thank you for being a member of our family and tell you how much your support was missed this past year.”  The letter was encouraging him to contribute financially and continue praying as a “vital role” in helping respond to the needs of people.

The letter ended by asking him to give again today.  If my dad were alive today, he would give again!  There was a postscript to the letter that said, “If you have already sent your gift, many thanks.”

The letter was about caring about the needs for others, but the technological blip in their mailing list failed to express the authentic care they had for my dad.  I don’t want to be too hard on that organization because it can happen anywhere.  It can also happen with individuals who innocently don’t realize someone has died.

Jesus told a story about a man who was overtaken by thieves.  He was robbed and beaten and left along the highway.  Two men, quite religious and represented an organization that ought to care, saw the man but didn’t have time to stop.  They had other important business to “care” about.  They passed by on the other side of the road.

Jesus then told about a common person from another race who showed genuine care for the wounded man.  He was the least likely person to be the hero who cared.  He did the best he could to bind up his wounds and carried him to a nearby hospital and told the people to look after him and he would be back soon and would be glad to pay the bill.

Am I more like the two religious people who had too many more important things to take care of?  How many of us would be like the man who didn’t preach and teach and talk about caring but cared?  Caring is a mark of greatness.  Jesus said, “Your care for others is the measure of your greatness” (Luke 9:48).

Care is best defined not by what it means as a noun, but what it does as a verb.  (Tweet this)  Care is more about walking than talking.  It’s not about how much you know – but how much you care!

 

Adversity – Friend or Foe

Adversity in life can either be a burden or a blessing.  Adversity is a stumbling block or a stepping stone, an obstacle or an opportunity.  Adversity makes some people – it breaks others.

This summer I spoke at a men’s conference entitled “Men of Steel.”  I had the chance to be on the program and spend time with Sid Bream, one of the most famous and favorite Sid Bream and JEplayers for the Atlanta Braves.  He is an amazing person!  He will always be remembered as scoring the winning run in the 1992 playoffs with Pittsburgh.  It is considered one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

The next year the Atlanta Braves started to slump.  They brought in a new first baseman, Fred McGriff.  He ignited the team.  McGriff took Sid Bream’s place.  He became the toast of the town, and Sid Bream dropped to a supporting role.  But Bream’s attitude was tremendous.  He supported the team and gave extra effort and was ready to be used however the team needed him.  He didn’t complain or find fault.  He was a great example of maturity and discipline.  He handled the adversity of going from “Hero to Zero” – from the top to a supporting role, and he attributes that to his strong faith.  Today he is a powerful Christian speaker.  Adversity was his friend – not his foe.

Another great baseball story of adversity is Dave Dravecky.  He was the all-star pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.  His career was interrupted when he had surgery for cancer on his pitching arm.  You may have been watching TV that night when he was pitching and was making a come-back.  All of a sudden his arm went limp.  On June 18, 1991, he had his left arm and shoulder amputated to remove the cancer.

I went to hear Dave Dravecky speak at the Acadome in Montgomery.  A friend of mine collects baseball memorabilia.  I asked him if he had anything from Dave Dravecky.  He draveckyopened up his jacket and showed me the actual baseball jersey that Dravecky wore when he threw his last pitch.  I commented that is priceless! He told me, “John Ed, it’s going to be more valuable after Dave Dravecky signs it today.

In his book, When You Can’t Come Back, Dravecky wrote, “God built a world that is as mysterious as it is majestic.  I believe God rules over the world, but I don’t believe He gave me cancer.  He allowed it.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t know the purpose of my suffering.  But I do know the results.”

When I compare the Dave Dravecky before cancer and the Dave Dravecky after cancer, there’s no comparison.  He wrote, “I used to be dogmatic and think there was an answer for everything.  Now I realize there are a lot of things that don’t have answers.  I used to think I could put God in a box; now I believe His ways are too big for any box to contain.  I used to depend on myself; now I depend on God.  I used to be preoccupied with my own needs; now I am learning compassion for the needs of others.  I used to view Christ’s death on the cross intellectually; now I view it more emotionally.  Through my own suffering I have become more aware of His suffering, and I love Him more as a result.”  Wow!

Is adversity your friend or your foe?  Paul said, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-5).

Read again these two great examples from baseball.  Apply these lessons and . . .

PLAY BALL!

Change – Friend or Foe

Change can be your friend or foe.  The use of telephones has really changed.  The cell phone was developed and is now standard equipment for most people.  If you are in the business of selling and installing land lines, you won’t do much business in the future.  Today, one-half of American homes don’t have a land line and rely solely on cell phones.  Only 8% of homes rely entirely on land lines.  Change has been a friend to developers of cell phones.

Look how the development of watches has changed.  Back in the late 1960’s, the Swiss made 80% of the world’s watches.  By 1980, the Japanese had 80% of the world market because of the revolutionary watch movement called “quartz.”  The Swiss refused this “new way” of making watches.  The world changed, and the Japanese saw it coming and they changed.  Change was a foe for the Swiss.

Today, digital technology has taken watches to a new level.  I was at a doctor’s office a few days after Christmas.  All of a sudden I heard a phone ringing but didn’t see a phone anywhere.  The doctor looked around for a few seconds then realized his watch was ringing!  His family had given him a watch for Christmas that was also a phone.  He didn’t know how to answer it.  He started saying, “Hello, hello, who’s there? Is that you Mike?”  He never did get the call answered.  I’m not sure how new a watch phone actually is.  In the old comic strip, detective “Dick Tracy” used his watch for a phone.

I’m glad the military is staying ahead of the change curve.  General Steven Kwast at Maxwell Air Force Base has given leadership to training his military leaders in the way consistent with 21st Century culture.  He said it’s essential for everybody to do some things differently.  He said that if a business doesn’t keep up with change, it will go out of business.  He said if the military doesn’t keep up with change, there may not be anything left to change!  I’m glad we have military leaders making change a friend.

The U.S. Navy has developed a super gun that uses magnetic rails to fire 25-pound projectiles at 4,500 miles per hour.  These projectiles have so much kinetic energy they can blow holes in enemy ships, destroy tanks, level terrorist camps and blast enemy missiles out of the sky.  Admiral Mat Winter says, “This is going to change the way we fight.”  I’m glad our military is constantly improving and changing to meet today’s challenges.

Crayola is a business that is constantly changing.  The original crayon boxes in the early 1900s had eight colors.  Today, Crayola makes over 120 colors, and the number of colors doubles every 28 years.  Some of today’s colors are “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” “Denim,” and other exotic names.  They are still selling crayons because they are not doing it like they used to.  Change has been their friend!

Dealing with change affects the Church.  Sometimes churches are the last to be willing to change.  I saw a cartoon about a pastoral search committee.  They were explaining their work and said, “Basically we are looking for an innovative pastor with a fresh vision who will inspire our church to remain exactly the same.”  Unfortunately, that’s the attitude of many churches.  Change has been their foe!

I wrote a book that deals with the subject of change and includes a lot of ideas that people in business, sports and the Church can use to make change their friend.  The name of the book is Change? Change!  It delineates things that must change and things that should never change.  Our website has this book in the Resources section, and you can order it by calling the ministry office at (334) 270-2149.

Remember – there’s no way to avoid change.  You will either stay on top of the wave of change, or you will be swallowed up by it. (Tweet this)

Is change your friend or foe?

Culture versus Christianity

A lot of big battles are being contested today in a variety of arenas.  One obvious arena is in college and professional football.  Many have predicted the winners – we’ll know who will win the battle in a few months. 

There’s a big battle politically.  We see it here in Alabama and in our nation.  Different political ideologies are spending huge amounts of money and energy to win the battle against the “opponents.”  We also see the battle between nations.  There are a lot of major players on the world’s stage today between some big and small nations.  Who is going to win those battles?

I think one of the biggest battles going on today is between Christianity and culture.  The battle involves people, but it is more about attitude, theology, and core values.  Culture appears to be on the offensive and gaining ground.  U.S. Christianity appears to be on the defensive and losing ground.  You pick the ethical issues – then determine who is winning the battle.

The Christianity versus culture battle is not new.  It has existed since the beginning of time.  The most instructive words come from Paul in the book of Romans when he said, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold, but rather transform the world by renewing your minds and hearts through Jesus Christ” (Romans 12:1-2).  Jesus constantly taught that a person cannot serve two masters – you have to make a decision whether to follow Christ or follow the ways of the world (Matt. 6:24).

Our problem is that we Christians have become defensive and silent.  We have become desensitized by the onslaught of ideas, philosophies, and morals that run counter to the Christian faith.  We have become complacent and comfortable!

About 60 years ago, Jim Elliot and five other missionaries were killed when they went to Ecuador to bring help and hope to the natives.  Jim perfectly described our current dilemma when he wrote, “We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the 20th Century does not reckon with.  But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed.  We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places.  The world cannot hate us because we are too much like the world.  Oh that God would make us dangerous.” 

Isn’t that even more applicable today in the 21st Century?  Are we really dangerous?  Do we realize that we are going against powers and principalities?  (Read Ephesians 6:12.)  Do we realize the importance of the outcome of this battle between Christianity and culture?  Are we overlooking the Power that culture can’t reckon with? 

In the mid-1700s, Patrick Henry was willing to stand up and speak up.  He said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”  Why did he say that?  He wrote in his Bible – “I’m a real Christian – that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.  I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator, and I hope to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.”  He understood the battle between culture and Christianity.

We need victory in the battle – which will bring unity.  Christians must get off the defense and begin to move forward to bring light to our world.  Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th Century New England preacher, had 70 resolutions to live by.  The first 2 summarize the other 68.  Resolution #1:  “I will live for God.”  Resolution #2: “If no one else does, I still will.”

Joshua said, “Choose today whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).  Every person is important.  Mark Twain said, “To the world you might be one person, but to one person, you might be the world.  You are the key.”

Who do you think is winning – culture or Christianity?  Which side are you on?

What Is Truth?

Is it true or not?  That’s a question that pops in my mind most every time I read some article.  Today we live in an age where there are so many venues for communication, and much of the social media has no accountability.  Can you believe it or not?  Sometimes bogus reports on social media achieve more credibility than the main stream media.  We tend to believe it.  How do you know?

Is it true or is it not?  With the explosive growth of an “alternative information ecosystem,” we have witnessed fringe views that have gone main stream, and truth becomes whatever a person chooses to believe.  There are a lot of “information and conspiracy” theories that abound.  You can even find “proof” of many of the foolish notions on hundreds of websites, blogs, newsletters, etc.  For example, a bogus video, erroneous chart, a phony story, “passed on from one person to another on Facebook,” seems to have more credibility than legitimate attempts to correct the record.  What is truth?  How do you know?

This year Facebook has also tried to put a “Disputed” stamp on certain stories to help fight misinformation on its website.  But it takes time for a story to receive the disputed tag, which means it could take several days before a patently false story gets tagged.  By that time, it has already been circulated and believed by many.  Robert Mason is a University of Washington professor who is studying the false information that is publicly reported.  He sums up our present situation by saying, “If you say it loud enough or long enough, people will believe it.”

How much can we trust commercial outlets?  This year, a Federal Appeals Court declared a class action law suit accusing a boutique grocery chain of overcharging customers by “systematically and routinely” overstating the weights of prepackaged foods.  You were not getting what you were paying for.  Some news outlets started referring to the grocery chain as “Not Whole Foods.”

I love eating a good Subway sandwich.  We witnessed a class action law suit to force Subway to admit that some of its “foot-long” sandwiches were actually 11 inches long.  They now have to measure sandwiches to ensure they are at least 12 inches!

In November 1914, Financial Times ran an article about how successful the British were at selling war bonds and funding WWI.  A correction was just issued, 103 years later, after examining original documents at the Bank of England.  They discovered that the attempt to sell war bonds was actually a “spectacular failure.”  They surmised that part of the reason the article was “fake news” was that the real news might hand Germany a propaganda victory, so the Bank of England secretly funneled money to close that gap.  The Financial Times is now “happy to make clear that none of the 1914 news item was true.”

The Bible is very clear about telling the truth.  Proverbs 12:13-14 says, “Lies will get any man into trouble, but honesty is its own defense.  Telling the truth gives a man great satisfaction.”  Proverbs 12:19 says, “Truth stands the test of time.  Lies are soon exposed.”  Proverbs 25:18 says, “Telling lies about someone is as harmful as hitting him with an ax or wounding him with a sword, or shooting him with a sharp arrow.”

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).  He also said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  Always speak truth.  Henry David Thoreau said, “Truth hurts, but then heals, while falsehood soothes, but destroys.”

Truth is a lousy club – but a great sword! (Read Hebrews 4:12)

Please Open the Door

Doors can keep people in, keep people out, let people in, or let people out.

A fascinating thing happened in Alabama to start off the month of August.  Walker County Sheriff James Underwood said a dozen inmates escaped from jail by using peanut butter to trick a new prison employee into opening an outside door.  They took the peanut butter from the jail sandwiches, used it to change the numbers above an inmate’s cell to the number identifying the door leading outside the jail.  An inmate then asked a new, inexperienced jailer to open the cell’s door.  The new jailer didn’t realize he was opening a door of escape! 

The 12 escapees, including two who were in jail for attempted murder, were recaptured immediately, except one, Brady Andrew Kilpatrick.  Kilpatrick had been jailed on drug charges.  He was recaptured 2 days later. 

The sheriff said you could not believe how smart some criminals are at knowing how to get out.  The new deputy thought he was opening a door for the men to go through to a cell, but in fact he opened the outside door.  A lot of people become captive to addictions, problems and sins that tie them up.  There seems to be no way out.  Too many people resign themselves to just living “a captured life.”

Jesus said that He came to “set the captives free” (Luke 4:18).  He’s the one who can open the door and release a person from anything that has control of him.  His desire is to always open doors to set people free.

I understand a door is constructed with four panels separated by a long upright center board and a shorter horizontal board.  These two boards actually form a cross.  This was the standard plan for making doors that comes from a carpenters’ guild in England in the Middle Ages.  These craftsmen took as their motto, “I am the door.”

They worked the sign of the cross into doors, and it is still done today.  The cross and the door are a combination of symbols that show there is hope for anybody held captive behind a closed door.  God assures us that any door can be opened through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Jesus doesn’t need peanut butter to open doors!  Jesus doesn’t knock doors down to enter.  He never takes a battering rod to bust His way in.  The Bible says that He simply knocks on the door.  Revelation says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anybody hears my voice and will open the door, I will come in and fellowship with them” (Rev. 3:20).  He gently knocks.

Jesus at the door knockingHere is a beautiful picture by Warner Sallman that shows Jesus gently knocking on the door of a house inside a garden.  The interesting thing is there’s no handle on that outside door.  A little boy asked his father about that, and the father informed him that the door always has to be opened from the inside.  The doorknob is on the inside of the door.

God’s greatest desire is to gently knock at the door of your life and let you open it so He can come in.  When the power of His presence fills your heart, the door stays open.  He then sends you out as a new person.

You don’t have to be extremely creative like those prisoners in the Walker County jail.  You don’t need peanut butter – you just need the cross of Jesus Christ.  And when you walk through the doors that Jesus opens, you won’t be captured again.  As smart as those guys thought they were, they were free for only a few hours.

The Bible said that when Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed!  (Read John 8:36)

How Is Your GPS Working?

When Jesus wanted to teach us about trust, faith and security, and give us a formula for not worrying and being anxious, He used birds as an example.  He said that the birds don’t worry about what to eat.  They don’t need to plant or reap or store up food.  They know that their Heavenly Father is going to take care of them.  Jesus then reminds us that we are far more valuable to God than little birds.  (Read Matthew 6:26, 27.)

A very popular sport today is bird watching.  If we really watch the birds, we can learn a lot of good lessons of life.  One especially important lesson is how God guides the birds and us in our lives. 

Through our television ministry at Frazer I was introduced to a lot of interesting people.  A wonderful lady named Nancy Floyd from Charlottesville, Virginia worshiped each week by television.  She volunteered from Virginia for things at Frazer.  She was known as “the quill lady.”  She made quill pens from Czechoslovakian goose feathers.  Nancy sent me some of those quill pens.  She always signed her notes, “On the shadow of God’s wings.”

She told me that each feather has a barrel, a shaft, and a body.  Each bird’s feathers have a distinctive body shape.  Inside the barrel of each feather is a filament.  This is God’s computer chip.  This enables the birds to have uncanny directional skills like a GPS.

God has placed a tremendous directional device into many of His creatures!  I remember reading about some amazing birds at Midway Island.  These birds built their nests too close to the American air strip.  The military didn’t want to injure or kill the birds, so they caught them and moved them to the Philippines.

It was certainly a safe distance from Midway Island.  It was over 4,000 miles, which is greater than the width of the United States.  Surprisingly, in less than 30 days the flock of albatrosses had flown back to Midway Island.  They flew over open sea and unfamiliar territory.  How did they do that?  How could they navigate night and day in good weather and bad weather to come back home?  That special GPS God gave these birds can do a fantastic thing!

I have been out to Stuttgart, Arkansas to speak several times and met some of the finest Christian leaders anywhere.  Stuttgart only has about 10,000 people, but is considered the rice capital of the world, and also the duck-hunting capital of the world.  Those two go together.

Every year, the ducks come back to Stuttgart.  The duck hunting business is worth over $60 Million to Stuttgart during its 60-day season.  How do those ducks keep coming back there?  I wonder if somewhere high in the sky there must be some road signs or directional lights.  Did the ducks get a GPS before us?   

Faithful little birds named Swallows always come back to the mission at San Juan Capistrano, California on March 19th.  About dawn, the little birds arrive and begin building mud nests amidst the ruins of the great stone church.  The church becomes the house for those little birds that St. Francis of Assisi loved so much.  In the middle of summer, they leave, but everybody knows they are coming back the next March 19.   How do they know to do that?  How do they always find their way back to that church?  It’s their home.

Buzzards have been caricatured as dumb birds, but they are pretty smart!  Something guides them back to Hinckley, Ohio on March 15 every year.  This tradition actually goes back to 1818 when a judge named Hinckley and a dozen of his friends had a roundup and killed a lot of predators on their property.  They took what food they wanted and left the carcasses.  Guess which birds came in to “clean up?”  That was almost 200 years ago.  The buzzards still come back to Hinckley on the same date.  You can count on it.  They are coming home.

God has a great destination for you – a great plan for your life.  Be sure that He is your GPS!  He will lead you safely Home! (Read 2 Peter 3:13.)