Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture

Confused

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9

So have you ever been confused before?  Well, if we are being honest, the truth is yes, we all have.  It just goes with the territory of being human.  In fact I am sure it gets worse the older we get.  More than once, I would wake up thinking it was Sunday and it was Monday.  Gratefully I haven’t mixed the years up—yet.

Several years ago…or was it five or six…anyway, I had the opportunity to go and hear Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant in concert. They were going to be in Paducah and the tickets were—get ready—free.  You know I love free.  On top of that they were on row five or six.  Just awesome seats.  Judy had something going on and at first I thought, “Well, I really don’t want to go by myself.” But you know that free thing kept rolling around in my head and in the end it won out.

I was excited. I really enjoy music and these two artists were both very popular during my younger years.  It was like a flash back Friday thing.  As I drove I began listening to some of the songs that they sang in my mind.  One of my absolute favorites was “The Great Adventure.” And that is where the confusion started. I think it is one of those times when you believe something strong enough it becomes real.  Well, here we go.

I really can’t explain this, but in my mind I had the idea that Michael W. Smith was from Paducah and that was why such a pair of well-known artists were in town.  You know, local boy does well, comes back and sings for the home folks.  I was looking forward to hearing some of the hits that he had sung. Strangely, he never sang any of the songs I was expecting to hear including my favorite. Then, later in the evening he said something about being from West Virginia.  I said, “What?”  I was confused. And then throughout the whole evening he never sang what I thought were his greatest hits. I said, “What?”

Just about that time I realized that I had gotten my wires crossed, and indeed I was totally confused.  You see it wasn’t Michael W. Smith who was from Paducah, it was Steven Curtis Chapman.  And it wasn’t Michael W. Smith who sang, “The Great Adventure” it was Steven Curtis Chapman.  And all those songs that I had been singing in my mind on the way to the concert—well, they were all hits from Steven Curtis Chapman, not Michael W. Smith.  That would explain why the guy on the stage didn’t sing them that night—because he never sang them at all.  You might ask, “Well, how did you get those two confused?”  Well, I’m not sure but I think it had to do with the fact that we often believe what we want to believe.

Getting confused about who you are listening to at a concert can be an excuse for a good laugh and a decent story. It’s a whole different animal when it comes to the game of life and eternity.  I am certain that too many people confuse religion and Jesus, and believe me they are not the same.  I like to put it this way: Religion is man’s attempt to reach God–which never works and Jesus is God’s way to reach mankind–which never fails.  Big difference, yes?  One is all about works and the other is all about grace.  One is all about ritual and rules and the other is all about mercy and forgiveness.

Paul, one of the writers in the Bible, said it best when he wrote, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” And I don’t know about you but I am glad it doesn’t depend on how good I am because frankly, I’m just not that good.  None of us are.

So anyway, I had a great time at the concert regardless of who was singing. Fortunately I wasn’t confused about Amy Grant and she sang several of her many hits. And Michael W. Smith is no pushover either. He has sold over 18 million albums and has had  multiple #1 hits.  And, of course, it was all free thanks to a friend. So there you go.

I couldn’t wait to call Judy and tell her about my little mistake.  We both had a great laugh.  But remember sometimes a little mistake can get you in a bunch of trouble.  Make sure, make double sure, that you are counting on Jesus and not religion to get you to heaven.  And as a matter of fact, make sure you are leaning on Him and not religion as you walk through these uncertain times.  Make sure you are resting on Him and not on some counterfeit.  And make double sure you know that HE has this.  

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture, thankful

Miss Pauline’s Sour Cream Raisin Pie

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:7

Try it. You’ll like it.  Over the years I have met so many incredible people.  I have learned that people are not perfect but people add spice and challenge to life.  People make life…life.  I am a pastor by call and by trade and I love it.  There are many reasons that is true but one is the people I get to serve with.  One of those was Bob.  Bob is a friend from my past but at the same time Bob is a friend that I could see tomorrow and we would pick up right where we left off.

Bob is one of those people with a quirky sense of humor.  I love that because I do too.  I remember one time he showed up at the church office and beeped the horn.  I went and opened the door and went out.  He told me to come around to the other side of the truck and hop in. Well, I went and opened the door and what greeted me was a five or six foot rattlesnake coiled up on the from seat.  We almost had a natural disaster there on the spot.  Turned out the snake was headless.  Bob liked snakes so I don’t think he did the honors but why miss the opportunity to scare your pastor to death?

Now Bob and I are Baptists.  One thing you need to know about Baptists is that we believe food is the cure all for all things.  If we are sad—we eat.  If we are happy—we eat.  If someone dies—we eat.  If someone gets married—we eat.  And sometimes, well, we just eat for fun.  Well, Bob and I were at one of our meetin’ eatin’ times and I was eating some raisin pie.  Now this wasn’t your normal raisin pie.  This was Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie and it was incredible.  I was working on my second piece when I invited Bob to have a taste.

“Nope,” he said, “I don’t like raisin pie.”  Well I began to persuade him with all of my preacher passion.  “This,” I explained, “is like no other raisin pie you have ever eaten.”  I went on to explain how this pie would make your tongue slap your face.  So after about five minutes of “you really need to try this,” he did.  The results were as expected and immediate.  Two or three pieces later Bob was an official member of the Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie fan club.

Here is what he and I came to discover.  There is raisin pie and there is Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie and the two are not the same.  And once I tasted Miss Pauline’s pie, I wanted him to experience it too.  I just knew that if he did, he would be a fan for life.  And do you know what?  I think that is true about Jesus too.  I find a lot of people are not too keen on God or Jesus.  The reason is simple.  They have tasted religion and decided pretty quick that wasn’t too tasty.  I agree with that one.  Some have tasted church and depending on their experience it was either a disaster or a delight.  At any rate, church isn’t the fix all that people think that it is.  Religion or church are just plain ole raisin pie.  You need more…you need Jesus.

Yup, Jesus is like Miss Pauline’s raisin pie. He is so much more than religion and so much more than church…He is the One who knew the price for sin was death and then willingly paid the price for that sin.  He died on a Roman cross to pay the price for our sin and then came back to life three days later to prove He was the Son of God. It is a pretty amazing story.  If you have never read about it let me suggest you get a copy of the Bible read about Him.  You will find Him in the first four books of the New Testament.  You will find He is like sour cream raisin pie…delicious and irresistible.  But you can’t know that if you don’t take a taste.

David (he is one of the Kings of Israel from Bible times) was on the run from one of his enemies when he wrote, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” David was saying if you will take just one taste of the real deal you will like what you taste.  Its not religion, its not church—it is the Man who died on the cross because He loved me and you.

So, if you ever get the chance to taste sour cream raisin pie, especially if somehow you can find a piece of Miss Pauline’s, well don’t wait and don’t delay.  Even if, especially if, you have tried plain ole raisin pie you are gonna be surprised!  And if you haven’t read the story of Jesus, well don’t wait and and don’t delay.  Even if, especially if, you have been turned off by church and religion, you are gonna be surprised. You are gonna find out that He is the real deal.  You are gonna find out when and if you decide to follow Him, He will be your new BFF (best friend forever) and He will never leave you sitting beside the road.  He is the kind of friend that you can call at 2:00 am and never get a busy signal.  He is the kind of friend who invites you to sit and chat on the front porch and rest a while.  He is the kind of friend that is like a strong, big brother who loves you.  Strong enough to say, “I’ve got this” and pull it off.  Try Him…You’ll love Him.