It’s nice to know that the storm is here to strengthen us! https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/peace-in-the-storm/
Each year before the end of the year I have always listed each day the top 10 lightenload stories of the year by your readership. I hope you enjoy the countdown and the eventual #1 story! Blessings, Lewis
We hear the words when someone is explaining a complex problem that we are having trouble understanding. In the step by step process the instructor might see a confused look on our face. That is the time that they will ask “Are you still with me?” It’s a helpful question. If we are confused it isn’t a good idea to keep going on. It is better to go back to the place where the connection was lost. Perhaps it was step three where it became foggy and the instructor has already completed step four. If step three was foggy step four probably found us in the dark. Sometimes it becomes clear that we are still with them by our actions. Perhaps we are following along and the instructor knows that we get it. It’s when that blank stare occurs or we get very quiet that the instructor knows something is wrong and the “Are you still with me?” question comes.
My mom, dad, and sister were in the car making the trip from Michigan to Alabama or Alabama to Michigan. I’m not sure if they were coming or going. My sister was just a toddler and I wasn’t around yet. Up ahead on the side of the road was a hitchhiker. I don’t know why but my dad had a soft heart for hitchhikers. I remember many times he picked them up when we were on our long trip. My dad was from Alabama and at least once a year and possibly two times we were on the road either going to or departing from his beloved hometown. He picked up hitchhikers often but this one episode before my time stood out. Even though I wasn’t there I heard about it many times. They picked the hitchhiker up and resumed their journey. He was a young man and was glad to get a ride. It wasn’t very long afterwards that something happened that put their lives in danger. Without warning as dad was driving to his alarm the gas pedal got stuck. The car raced upwards of 100 miles an hour and as you can imagine fear was everywhere. Without warning not only was my family at risk but also the stranger hitchhiker who was just along for the ride.
It’s interesting how so many are just along for the ride. Moses discovered this when he was trying to lead the Israelite’s to the promised land. It just so happened that many of the group were not the original group. They were just followers who were going along for the ride. These were the ones that first started to complain. It can be dangerous the bigger the following is. The danger comes in the new group who doesn’t have a real stake in the original mission. They just saw something happening and thought that they liked being in the middle of the action. When things don’t go as they expect however, these are the people that let it be known they are unhappy. This unhappiness resulted in poison for the rest of the group. A rebellion was started and it wasn’t only the new people that were complaining. Although they started it many of the originals joined them. As Moses was hearing their complaints he asked the question “Who is with me?” He wanted to know who had the courage to march on through difficulties and who was only there to discourage and rebel?
This whole Moses scenario is an example of why we need to choose our friends wisely. If you think about it many of our friends are friends in thick and thin while many others may be just along for the ride. When times go bad and you really want to count on them they cannot be found or will make excuses not to get involved. Those are the people that sign up for the benefits but not for the bad things that invariably will come. It is like taking the wedding vow “for better or for worse” and changing it to “for better but not for worse.”
Truth be known all of us at one point or another are along for the ride. We may become Christians with the idea that “I’ve tried everything else, I might as well give this a try.” That is fine and good until troubles come our way. Sooner or later they will and that is when people start blaming God. Just like the Israelite’s we can get pulled in the other direction and it is a reason that people get off of the heaven train. Discouragement can come when expectations are not seemingly met and we have “friends” pulling us in the wrong direction. It is in these hard times that God will ask us just like Moses asked “Are you still with me?”
The way that we can tell if we are with God is not in our words but our actions. Our actions are why God is asking us the question in the first place. You see it is not natural for Christians to stop growing any more than it is not natural for a baby to stop growing. When the baby is healthy then it is expected that it will grow big and strong. When this is not happening parents are concerned and a doctor visit is soon arranged. God knows why there can be a stunt in our growth. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life. Nobody can get to Heaven without him. Many though are just along for the ride without any commitment or appearance of taking a side. God shouldn’t have to ask us “Are you still with me?” If we are truly committed our actions will speak much louder than our words!
The car was speeding upwards of 100 miles an hour. Dad was yelling in horror and mom was trying to pull the gas pedal free to no avail. Suddenly without warning the hitchhiker in the back dove over the seat head first almost knocking mom out of the way. He pulled with all of his strength and was able to free the gas pedal up from it’s stuck position. I’m sure there were many thank yous as that hitchhiker who was just along for the ride became a hero. I’m sure it wasn’t that long before the hitchhiker was dropped off to find another ride. Somewhere along the way their destinations came into conflict. Yet in spite of the short time he was with them his heroics were told over and over. His act became legendary to them. He was with them not only in body but also in his heroic actions. His quick actions are the reason you are reading this today because without his efforts there would not be me. His story illustrated exactly what God wants us to be. Not only along for the ride but making a difference in the time we are here!
People have many reasons why they reject God’s gift of salvation. Many times the excuses are actually their unbelief. It sounds so good it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s like that great deal we might see for a car. We’ve all seen these type of ads before. After describing all of the benefits in this newer model and how low the mileage we see a giveaway price on it. “That’s just too good to be true”, we will say and of course we are right. I was talking to a guy one time and I described how beautiful it was within eye sight of where we were standing. I mentioned an example of discovering a beautiful painting with nobody around. I asked him if he discovered this beautiful painting would he assume that somebody had carefully painted it? Or would he think that somehow the wind blew and all of the sand, water, sky, and waves depicted in the painting somehow formed on the canvas from the wind blown paint? His statement to me was a defiant one. He mentioned that though the view here was beautiful what about the ghetto on the other side of town? Let’s face it, some people just are not going to accept Jesus and will come up with all kinds of excuses not to. You might be surprised the variety of excuses you will hear when you actually try to find out why someone has not accepted God’s free gift. One of the more interesting ones I heard about was from a lady who said NO! When asked for a reason she said “I don’t want to be a Missionary in Africa.”
Fear of the unknown is a big reason people don’t do things. I remember when my son was 8 years old he was crazy about basketball. I found out that some pro’s and soon to be pro’s were making an appearance in a town near us to celebrate a big anniversary of the Continental Basketball Association. It was a league that gave many of them their kick start to the NBA. They had an autograph session and we were pleased to get autographs from many of the players. There was a future NBA player that we wanted to sign something for us pretty bad. It was a cartoon picture we had brought that had four local NBA prospects. The picture was funny how it characterized each individual together in one picture. We were able t secure two of the three players that were at the event to sign. It was fun for them to autograph by the funny cartoon picture of themselves. We happened to be talking to a lady in the stands during the exhibition basketball game and found out that she was the grandmother of a third player depicted in our picture. She promised that she would have her grandson sign our picture after the game. When the game ended and the grandson showed up his grandmother showed him the picture and asked if he would sign it for us. He said he wouldn’t and he made the excuse that if he signed it would draw a crowd and he would have to sign for everybody.
This fear of the unknown is just an excuse. Usually whatever fear we have never happens. It’s like when we go on a trip. How many times do we get miles down the road and all of the sudden a fearful thought comes to our mind? “Did I turn the burner off?” we might think. Yet how often do we get home and find the house burnt down? Most of the time the burner we had been so concerned about isn’t even on. The fear factor is a pretty powerful emotion and can cause us to panic. That is why Jesus told us to not fear because he is with us! He also told us he would always be with us! Along with the fear of the future there are many other excuses people give when asked why they won’t receive God’s free give of salvation. Jesus talked about excuses people make in Luke chapter 14 verses 16-23.
16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22“ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”
Jesus spoke in parables so that people would understand the mind of God. The banquet he talks about is in Heaven. He is inviting all of us to come and these excuses we are making are very hurtful. If you have not accepted Jesus into your heart yet what excuses are you making? We need to realize that with God our future is in great hands! What future events can we control anyway? II Corinthians 6:2 tells us that now is the time of salvation. Instead of making excuses pray this prayer with me.
Come into my heart and save me
Forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior
If you prayed that prayer congratulations! You have quit making excuses and are on the path to Heaven! You are not fearing the future anymore because you know that he is always with you! To the lady that feared becoming a Missionary in Africa I can tell her this news. First of all God probably won’t send you to Africa to be a Missionary. There are tons of Mission fields right here in the States or right where you are currently living. You see you can be a Missionary right where you are doing exactly the job you are doing and living in the same house you are living in now. However, if by small chance you were sent to Africa to be a Missionary you would be so happy inside content in knowing that the God of the universe thought you worthy of such an assignment.
By Lewis Hamilton from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” @1997
The Lord asked me why I didn’t
go to church the way I should
I thought for a moment then it came
If not for these reasons I would
The local church that I know
is living such a lie
They don’t fool me for a minute
no matter how they try
The preachers there on my TV
want money every day
That’s not how I really care
to spend my hard earned pay
On Sunday also as you know
I need my day to sleep
I have to work long hours
if my job I am to keep
They put me on a guilt trip
that’s a reason I don’t go
I want to feel good about myself
I don’t like to feel so low
I’m OK here just like I am
I believe in God enough
I don’t need all that preaching
and all that shouting stuff
They want me to give up my fun
I like my life this way
I don’t go to church because
I want to live today
When I ran through my reasons
I knew I had that day
come up with some good excuses
why I should stay away
But deep down inside my answers
had no legs on which to stand,
when I saw his punctured side
and his nail scarred hands
For they all alike began to make
excuses. The first said, “I have
just bought a field and must go
and see it. Please excuse me.”
He was who you went to the movie to see! When he first made his appearance his debut was the same. As a way of uniquely introducing himself he presented his card and said in his familiar voice “Bond, James Bond”…It was his signature statement and when we heard it we knew that action was soon to follow. When confusion and depression about what happened set in James Bond brought hope with those three little words!
Sean Connery played the first James Bond and did it for many years. From 1962 to 1969 Connery played Bond in 7 movies. He defined Bond in how people thought of him. His Bond had a Scottish accent and he had a mysterious masculinity about him He also had many sides as he dressed in his work suit for business and his tuxedo for more formal parties. Connery was also a quick wit who could bring fear to his enemies and love from the opposite sex. The whole package with Connery was known when you saw his movies and his character. How he adjusted to different cases varied depending on how he decided to solve the mysteries. Connery was very popular doing James Bond. He had a good thing going it seemed but there was a problem. Increasing tension between him and the producer was bringing him stress on and off the film set. After awhile it just wasn’t worth it in his eyes. He announced that he wouldn’t be doing Bond anymore and a replacement was brought in. The actors name was George Lazenby and he did not fill the giant shoes that Connery had stepped out of. In 1971 two years since Connery had played his last James Bond film, he was persuaded to make one more James Bond movie. It would be “Diamonds are Forever” and Connery made it clear that after this one he would never play Bond again.
Sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to say never. I have a friend named Jeremy who is also my pastor that faced the temptation of saying never but didn’t succumb to it. Not only is Jeremy our pastor but he is the lead singer of his band and every year they make a tour to England. This tour through the years has resulted in many people giving their lives to Christ. Since the trip takes several hours it is very taxing on their bodies but they make that sacrifice in hopes of reaching the lost. One trip Jeremy was telling us about was an even more unpleasant trip than usual. You see Jeremy was in the back of the plane right by the bathroom. Apparently the toilet overflowed and sewage water flooded the back of the plane. Jeremy was in the middle of all of that sewage and not only did his feet get wet but the smell was almost too much to take. Although temptation came Jeremy would not say the words “I’ll never go on this trip again.” His experience was totally unpleasant but he looked at the mission over his comfort. He also preferred to look at the positive and the good results over this bad experience.
There are times in every day life when people say never. It may be an isolated experience such as I experienced earlier this year. I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant with my son and a close friend. I had never eaten at a Japanese Restaurant before and the food was delicious. It was so good that I was trying everything on the plate and decided to eat this green stuff with a pudding like texture. It stuck together and I ended up putting the whole portion into my mouth. I discovered soon after what an awful mistake I had made. I started gagging as my mouth and throat were on fire. I had some water handy and tried to cool them off by gulping down the water. The water seemed to make the burning increase and I was literally coughing uncontrollably as the tears started running down my cheeks. It took a minute or two to finally recover. I later found out that this dish that I had so quickly stuffed in my mouth was one of the hottest things you can eat. It is called Wasabi and it is a Japanese horse radish. It’s name comes from the Wasabi tree that is grown in Japan. It was intended to be used for dipping very sparingly on the sushi part of my meal. This unpleasant experience could have made me say never again and I do think that never again will I eat Wasabi like I did. However I can see us going back to this restaurant. The food was delicious and I didn’t let the Wasabi incident ruin an otherwise delightful meal!
In Matthew 21 verses 29 through 31 Jesus told a parable involving two sons. 21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30 The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” — NET Bible
This story tells us in short that actions speak louder than words. Many of us in the past have stated that we will never do something again. Often it could be warranted as my Wasabi incident would be. Instead of stuffing the whole portion of Wasabi into my mouth I would be better served eating the stuff in small portions as it was intended. Jeremy may have thought “never again” as he was breathing in the disgusting smell of sewage for hours on his trip. He never let that experience overcome him and his desire to bring others the love of Jesus.
Sean Connery made his supposedly last Bond movie in Diamonds are Forever. The movie was a huge success as Connery brought back the Bond character that was so endearing! True to his word he sat on the sidelines as others filled the Bond role. After 12 years Connery had a change of heart. I imagine that the enormous money deal he received was tugging at his decision. That alone couldn’t have been his only motivation however. He had turned down wealth before in refusing to play Bond again. The truth is that things had changed on the set and his attitude was completely different. The film was called “Never Say Never Again.” The title was based on Connery’s own statement about playing the role. The movie was a massive success and Roger Ebert in reviewing the film said it best! “It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Connery’s announcement that he would “never again” play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.”
Many of you reading this have made the never statement about forgiveness. “I will never forgive them for that!”, you might have said. It’s true that whatever happened might have had a stench comparable to Jeremy’s situation. However, when we use the never word we resign ourselves to limited thinking. It is not in God’s will for us to be unforgiving people carrying grudges. It is his will for us to let things go and let people off of the hook. The results are better for the wrong doers in our lives but more importantly they are better for us! Now we can live in peace with the love of God moving freely in our hearts. In the past you may have proclaimed the old never again slogan. You may have meant it and are on a path to take unforgiveness to your grave. Just because you said it though doesn’t mean it has to be forever. A change of heart is far more powerful than to change your mind. Words can come from an emotional hurt but heartfelt love controls our actions going forward! When God tells us what to do our first response might be NO. The blessings come when we do it anyway!