A Message from Pastor Craig

Did you see this? A headline from the Associated Press around Halloween time announced: “Pennsylvania prosecutors have dropped a felony theft charge against a man who underpaid for a soda by 43 cents.” What?! That doesn’t seem reasonable!

Makes you kind of question the Justice system, right?  They were calling an underpayment of 43 cents a crime!  Not a misdemeanor, but a crime, worthy of jail time?

The story goes that the guy was at a gas station, saw that Mountain Dew (which I believe is the best drink ever) was 2 for $3.00. So, he grabbed one, put 2 $1.00 bills on the counter and walked off. Seems reasonable. But because he only got one, the register demanded $2.29 plus tax. At this point he had walked away. So the clerk reported him to the police. For $.43 – that doesn’t seem reasonable.

Well, the guy had two other misdemeanors on his record, and in Pennsylvania, the home of the city of brotherly love, a third misdemeanor automatically becomes a felony. Seems reasonable. I think. So the dude, for miscalculating 43 cents, was charged with a felony. Bail was set at $50,000 cash, and he sat in jail for a week till a public defender could convince a judge to let him go. That doesn’t seem reasonable.

But then, come to find out, besides the two petty thefts from years ago, this guy had been caught stealing items from Hobby Lobby with his wife just this last summer, and had recently paid $2,000 bail and was working on a “diversion” program that the State offers. 

So now, what’s reasonable?

The Bible encourages us to be slow in judging what might be reasonable or not.  In Romans 2:1 the apostle Paul says: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Jesus was more direct: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37,38a).

The Bible doesn’t teach that you don’t judge at all (Jesus also is quoted as saying “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? Luke 12:57).  We have to pass judgement all the time. Do I trust someone with my money?  Do I trust the person when they motion for me to go first in traffic? Do I trust the neighborhood to go walking in it?  They’re all kinds of judgements we have to make from day to day. But when it comes to other people’s behavior, the Bible asks us to slow down. Partly because we tend to want leniency when it comes to ourselves, but strict justice when it comes to others. The Bible also asks for some pause because we have to recognize that God is the only One who sees the whole picture. Like the story about the dude and the Mountain Dew, with each turn in the story, you kind of change your mind. God not only knows all the facts in the story, He knows the heart of that individual.  You and I don’t.

We live in a world so chalk full of information that we have to quickly judge what matters and what doesn’t. The Lord asks us to look beyond the headlines however, and towards the people behind them, and then seek to relate to them.

Words to live by!

Reserving judgement,

Craig

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  John 8:7,8

A Message from Pastor Craig

Growing up in Costa Rica, I did not grow up with any Halloween traditions. I remember dressing up once or twice when I was little – it seemed more fun for my parents and more torturous to me – I don’t remember what the costume was, I just know it didn’t make sense to me at the time. And again, when we moved abroad, the tradition never really registered.

Coming back to the States I have had mixed reactions to the holiday, sometimes as a parent, sometimes as a pastor, but right now, as an adult male. You see, as a kid, you go and you try to collect as much candy as possible. You grow the stash as high as possible. And you try to keep it from your parents, who you just know steal from your stash. You suspect that it’s because they don’t want you to have all the sugar, but you wonder if Dad isn’t just consuming it. But anyway, eating the candy is of great delight, and of no consequence physically.

But now? Now the left-over stash from the trick-or-treaters that didn’t show up is a real problem. Even if you managed the amounts well at home (which we didn’t), a stash will still appear in the office, where some co-worker or another brings their leftovers to lead the rest of us into temptation.

That’s what the Snickers down the hall are – a basket-full of temptation. I don’t eat that much candy, I shouldn’t eat ANY. The
physical implications of the candy debauchery are much more evident as an adult as they were when I was a kid. I know, Snickers told us over and over “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” And those ads were funny.  Truly good comedic stuff. But I’m not me
AFTER I eat a Snickers.  I become more of me.

The Lord’s Prayer says “Lead us not into temptation.” We don’t want to fall into temptation, just like I don’t want to consume
another one of those Snickers bars. But it’s hard. My Dad, a seminary trained theologian, had us pray that line of the Lord’s prayer as “Let us not be led into temptation.” Theologically that version makes sense – God does not lead us into temptation. The devil does. Or we ourselves do. Or whoever it was that put that dreaded basket on the table down the hall!

Ultimately, the resistance to temptation is an act of the will though. I cannot ask God’s help in that, regardless of how you interpret the phrase, if I don’t intend to resist the urge myself. Asking God to not lead us into temptation is to ask God for strength as we
exercise our wills against whatever the temptations are that lie before us. The prayer, all of the Lord’s Prayer really, is a recognition of my dependence on God. In all aspects of my life. Including the Snickers down the hall.

Trying to walk past them,

Craig

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

A Message from Pastor Craig

We celebrated All Saints Day last Sunday (October 31, 2021). Whenever I think of the saints who have gone before us, I think first of my grandparents. All four of them were dedicated Christian people. The outward signs were more visible to me in my grandfathers, although they couldn’t have been more different.  One was a missionary in Costa Rica, another a newspaper man for the Altoona Mirror – not a huge rag by any means.

Both loved their Bibles. Both prayed fervently.  And both loved to hike. I hiked with both of them, and happier days I have not spent than those days conversing with them while traversing the hills of Pennsylvania or Costa Rica. I suppose that’s why I like to walk so much.

The other day while walking my regular path at Emerson Point Park (this is in Manatee County), I started taking pictures of all the signs you encounter along the way. The first one was kinder, it said “Please stay off the grass—Restoration in Process.” The next one was similar: “Shoreline Restoration in Progress—Please use Boardwalk.”  The next one spoke more directly: “KEEP OUT–Restoration in progress–Please Use Marked Paths to Access Water.” Next: “Foot Traffic Only Beyond this Point.” (I love bicycles too–this one bothers me). “All animals must be on a leash.”  “No Fishing and Cast Netting” (I wondered if you only did one or the other, if it was OK). Then specifically the bicycle hater sign, just a bike symbol crossed out. Cancel culture at its worst!  I think the rest of the signs around the park were just repeats of these.

We are reading through Pilgrim’s Progress as a congregation. And as I walked through the park, I felt that many people, a few non-Christians included, think that the Christian Way, or the Pilgrim’s Progress, is just one series of do’s and don’ts—mostly don’ts.  Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery are the first ones. “Don’t smoke or chew, or go out with girls who do” comes from the Book of Hesitations, but it follows that basic idea.  Don’t drink, don’t cheat, don’t miss church, don’t, don’t, don’t. The Pilgrim’s Progress seems like a daunting, no fun, uphill walk on the very straight and narrow–both questionable attributes for this day and age.

Is that what it is? No.

For one thing, the signs at Emerson Point are there so that the largest number of people can enjoy the park for the longest time possible. The rules God set forth were so that the largest number of people could live in harmony with one another for the longest amount of time. We should take note.

Also, I took pictures of those negative signs. But the VAST majority of the park does not have those signs. Most of it is unadulterated vistas of mangroves, river, Gulf, Indian mounds, etc. The park is for the delight of the humans that roam it. So it is with the Bible. Read the synoptic Gospels. They are about the “Yes” of God towards this Earth, and the “Yes” of Jesus towards individuals. They are not about don’ts, or a big potential “no” from God. Does God love us? Yes! He came and visited with us. “Jesus, will you heal me?” “Yes.” “Jesus, can I live a forgiven life?” “Yes.” “Jesus, can you feed me?” “Yes.”  “God, is there hope?” YES! What did Jesus say? “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 KJV).

And, well, yeah! What about those promises spread throughout the Scriptures? Some suggest there are 3000 or more of them. Eight of the Ten Commandments are set in negative terms, yes.  But they are far outweighed by the positive words of God in Scripture. Just look!

Oh, and then there’s the love that you develop for the park, I mean the Christian Way, when you spend more and more time in it. But that’s for another sermon.

Walking under the cloud of witnesses,

Craig

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1

A Message from Pastor Craig

I’m not into post medieval writers. Really. I know that I have introduced this guy John Bunyan to y’all, and I’m about to talk about another person from the 17th Century. But I am not well versed in these things—I just like to know a little about the greats in our faith, great saints who have gone before us who contributed to who we are today as Christians. Brother Lawrence is one of those.

Brother Lawrence was a Catholic monk, born in 1614, who led a peasant life as a boy, and gave himself to an ascetic monastic life as an adult. He had a reputation of truly loving God and walking with God continuously.  He never wrote a book (wasn’t particularly educated enough for one thing), never preached, and spent his life working in the kitchen and mending people’s sandals (he himself was left lame in the war). He was known for walking with God continuously, or as he put it, Practicing the Presence of God.

In a letter to a friend, he once wrote:

“We must always work at it (walking with God continuously-that’s my note), because not to persevere in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the Lord who reposes in it. He will quickly calm the sea.”

“If the vessel of our soul is still tossed” not only is a picturesque way of describing how many of us have felt spiritually, it connects us to that wonderful story of Jesus calming a storm (Mark 4). Ever since I went to Israel and saw a 2000-year-old boat from the Sea of Galilee (it was a real big row boat), I have marveled at how Jesus could have been asleep in such a little boat in such rough seas. Brother Lawrence reminds us that the Jesus who slept completely unfettered by the storm that night so long ago, remains unrattled by the storms in our lives today. That Lord is in us, and while the “vessel of our souls” often is disquieted by the things of life, Jesus isn’t. And if we turn to Him, He is still the Word through whom all things were created (John 1:3), and will speak to Nature itself to quiet the storms of our lives.

The question Brother Lawrence would ask us is, “are you Practicing the Presence of God (I capitalize that because his writings and teachings were compiled into a book by that name) enough to where you can ask Jesus to do so?”

A boat is a great illustration of being in the world but not of the world (ref. John 17:14-16 or John 15:19).  A boat is in the water but can’t be of the water.  Too much water in the boat means it won’t be a boat anymore.  We know the world serves up storms.  We can’t avoid that.  We are not satellites that hover over the Earth and get to watch it from afar.  Sometimes we are more like the Hurricane Hunter planes that have to fly into the storms.  Sometimes we’re the boats that get caught by the storms.  But in either case, with Jesus in the boat, we can awaken Him “who reposes in it.”  And He will “quickly calm the sea.”  I love that language.  And the idea.

God is good. And is with us. Hallelujah!

Checking the back of the boat,

Craig

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose. 
Philippians 2:12,13

A Message from Pastor Craig

Walking the other day in Nashville brought me, quite serendipitously, to a recreation of the Parthenon. Seeing that sight brought back memories of taking church folk to Greece and Italy as recently as a couple of years ago. I remembered fun times traveling with friends and discovering new things.

It also reminded me of some of the quirks of the original building. It was designed to look like a massively solid, perfectly square, structure. Massive it is but square it’s not. The floor of the building slopes down towards the corners.  Why?  To make the massive columns look straight when viewed from a distance. The columns themselves don’t stand perfectly straight. They are ever so slightly tilted to, again, give the appearance of a perfectly linear building when looked at from a distance. Even the columns themselves were given a little bulge in the middle because pillars can appear to get skinny in the middle when viewed all together.

Crazy, isn’t it? Architects and historians have speculated about why they did this. Did they do it to give the temple a sense of breathing, of being alive?  Or was it about the optical illusions? The more commonly agreed on reason is that they were “striving to achieve… true perfection; a quality of perfection worthy of the gods.” (ref.: greece-is.com).

All Christian cathedrals have been built with that idea – that you offer to God the best that the architect, and the builders, and the people financing it, have to offer. I get that. I want to present myself as perfectly before God as I can. After all, Jesus called us to be “perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). But do I alter the outward
appearances, hiding the appearances of imperfection, to give the appearance of perfection? Is perception more important than reality?

I really got stuck on this in Greece. And it turns out that in Nashville the architect charged with making the Parthenon a permanent structure replicated all these visual tricks as well. He did a great job. So is it perfect?

At the end of the day, what I want in my life is for God to measure not the appearances, but the truth of my standing before Him. Are my decisions and thoughts right? Are they straight at right angles, or do they just appear so from a
distance? Upon closer inspection do they tilt off in one direction or another?

I marvel at the architecture in Greece and in Nashville. In Nashville they built the thing on a slope! In Athens it lies on the flat top of a knoll. In both places it’s really cool to look at. Both of them made me think of my relationship with the Lord. Is that not the purpose of a temple in the first place?

Our church is a little more modest. But its purpose today is the same. Will it be a place where we can encounter God, a place where we entertain grander thoughts, a place where we understand ourselves small in relation to the God we
worship, but immensely privileged to be provided for, and loved by that amazing one true God?

That’s what brings us together. Let us worship Him. In Spirit and in Truth, and with a little wonder.

Still working on that perfection thing,

Craig

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:46-48

A Message from Pastor Craig

I woke up this morning laughing.  Seriously.  I was laughing hysterically; it was the laughter that woke me up.  Fortunately, I didn’t wake Janice up, but I was really laughing.  Has this happened to you?

In my dream a person, who couldn’t jump any higher than a steamroller could, was trying to hook a banner up by taking a running jump up at the hook on a wall.  The person was laughing as they attempted the feat, onlookers laughed too, and being a person who can’t jump much either, so was I.  To the point where it woke me up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we woke up to laughter every morning?  The world would be a better place!  Sadly, I can’t say that happens to me much.  As a matter of fact, I rarely remember what I dreamt about in the first place.  I wish I did.  At least most of the time I wish I did.  Sometimes you don’t want to remember your dreams!

I read somewhere that the Bible records 21 dreams.  In the course of thousands of years of recorded history in the Bible, that only 21 are recorded seems pretty sparse.  Half of those come from Genesis, and six from Matthew.

The Bible teaches about dreams too.  In Numbers 12:6 it says, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.”  So God speaks through dreams.  Both in Joel and in Acts it says: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;”  Now, it doesn’t say what kind of dreams the old men will have, so I guess last night proved the Scriptures true!

Humans have long been fascinated with dreams.  They are mysterious to us, and I have no new insight to add.  I will say that I have always understood Biblical dreams to be serious, to be directives that God gives to His people.  Having said that, the imagery in Judges 7:13,14 is pretty hilarious – look it up!  The interpretation was quite a leap!

So what if the dreams the old men have turn out to be just funny?  What if God provided dreams not just to instruct, but also to reassure, to comfort, to entertain?  What if we looked for God in our dreams, all of them?  Maybe, once in a while, we would actually hear/see/remember something of significance.  I really want to remember more of my dreams – how about you?

Still smiling,

Craig

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  Proverbs 3:24

A Message from Pastor Craig

The hill is called Chilhowie and it starts at the Ocoee River and goes up, and up and up. The ascent tests your car’s strength on the hairpin turn-filled road up, and tests your brakes on the way down. On both sides of the road little turnoffs invite you to see out to the four cardinal points, miles upon hundreds of miles of mountains, hills and valleys and rivers and lakes below. I love that road. And every time I get to Cleveland, TN I go up there.

For the view. And for a walk up at the top. Once you get to the top, or close to, there is a little lake and beachfront, created by a dam with a drop inlet (I think that’s what they’re called) feeding a creek below. Long ago folks carved out a path down the mountain along that creek, and where the creek is at its deepest point from the path, a stairway down to the bottom of a beautiful waterfall. Benton Falls they call it.

Being in Nashville for pret’ near two weeks, I had to go back to Chilhowie. And Saturday I did. Halfway down the trail (it’s about two miles down) I came upon 5 people walking together. Two ladies brought up the rear. They struck me because, out there in the woods, they wore long flowing dresses and nice shoes. Two guys walked ahead of them; they too were dressed kind of like they had been to church.  The guys were talking church. I smiled and greeted them as I passed but did not enter the conversation – I had these visions of Pilgrim’s Progress somehow. Of Christian and Faithful talking to each other.

And leading the pack was a boy of about 7 years, dragging a stick intentionally making a deep mark in the dirt. I had seen his markings. So I smiled and told him that I had been following his trail for a long time.

That made him look at me, and smile, and instead of letting me pass, he picked up his pace, carefully watching that I follow his lead. I played along until I got a little worried that our game was distancing him from his parents. So I stopped, and said “Don’t get too far ahead of your parents,” pointing back at them. Right then the dad said “Thank you!” and beckoned for his son to rejoin them. Which he did.

I smiled, waved, and kept going down the hill. As I walked away, I thought about how many kids don’t get to hear those words of wisdom – “don’t get too far ahead of your parents.” Oh, that little boy didn’t understand the deeper meaning of that. That kids get into trouble when they get too far ahead of their parents. Physically like on a mountain path, as well as socially and spiritually. Problems happen when we lose sight of our children – literally and figuratively.

I wanted to go back and underscore the thought for that little boy, but I decided to just take the advice personally, and heed the word as it relates to me and my Heavenly Father. If I get too far ahead of Him, I get in trouble. Mine is to follow Jesus, not try to get ahead of Him.

And come to think of it, the line the young man was leaving in the sand had a lesson in it too. Everything we do leaves some kind of marking in the pathway of life. History is lined with your story and mine.  What have we left for others to follow, or, if not to follow, at least to see?  The witness of our lives is made up of every little increment we have advanced on the path of life. What are we leaving behind as evidence of our faith, our character, our love? The young man in Chilhowie was surprised to learn that someone was paying attention. So might we.

Back from the mountaintop,

Craig.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6

A Message from Pastor Craig

Staying in this part of Nashville means that Methodism secretly surrounds you. To the north of my room here at the Scarritt-Bennet Center is the center of finance for the United Methodist Church—the General Council on Finance and Administration. Across the street to the west—all the Discipleship programs have their central command, as does the support for Higher Education and Ministry. There also is the Upper Room with their famous Last Supper carving. The biggest of all these is where I am staying, the Scarritt-Bennet Center. I won’t tell you all it’s history—it looks like a Medieval English boarding school—its architecture lending to its original educational purposes. Who knows the servants that prepared for ministry that lived in this little dorm room I’m staying in!

All of this, however, lies in the large shadow of Vanderbilt University. Founded by a Methodist bishop, and aligned with the Methodist church till the early 1900s, it still has a seminary, but is simply a large and prestigious research university that looms even larger than its 330 acre campus would indicate. Into this milieu walks this simple Methodist preacher from Boca Raton.

The place is beautiful. Lots of trees and old buildings (many filled with antiques) line the quad of the school, and many of its streets.  Walking towards the west end of campus, a ‘fer piece’ away, I saw a large tower. It looked like a church steeple only bigger. In Chicago and in Oklahoma City I have seen churches built into towers, so I wondered if this was one of them. As I got closer, porticos and walkways gave the feel of an old English city street. Looking at the corner sign, which simply said “Vanderbilt University” I figured this must have been the original building of VU. Really, I thought that to myself. After all, I’ve been to the Biltmore Estate, and this was at that scale and appeared from the same vintage.

Content to stand in amazement no more, I stopped a young man and asked him what this place was. He said it was the newest dorm on campus. “What?” I asked with an incredulous chuckle. “Yeah. Finished last December. We are the first residents.” I shook my head in disbelief at how wrong my call was. “Look, the twin building is still under construction” he said before walking off.

Wow!  How does the old saying go? “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” The oldest looking building was in fact the newest. Blew my mind! And let me tell you, they are going to hate, hate, the maintenance costs on those buildings in the decades to come. A dream to look at today, a nightmare for tomorrow. (That’s something I’m learning about in the facilities discussions this week). And completely irrelevant to where I’m headed.

God sent the amazing prophet Samuel to find a new king for Israel. He told him to find one of Jesse’s sons. Great choice, but God kept saying no. God said – “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

If I had looked at the inside of the building, I would have seen the modern accoutrements and design. I would have seen the green (eco-friendly) touches. I would have talked to a kid in the dorm and found out more. Samuel hadn’t looked on the inside of Jesse’s sons.  Just the outside. And God had to correct that.

I think we should do the same with everybody we meet, not assuming anything till we visit with them, get to know them, and them us. The sociologists call this “proximity.” When we get closer to people, we get to know them, and our attitude changes towards them.  Maybe it’s your next-door neighbor – our physical proximity doesn’t always mean social proximity! Maybe it’s somebody an aisle over in church. Say hi to them. You never know who they might turn out to be!

Saying hi to folks,

   Craig

Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.  John 7:24 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig

Do you remember the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral? How long ago was that? COVID has messed up my sense of time – so it’s hard for me to intuit how long ago things like that were.

Last April marked the two-year anniversary of that fire. The other night Janice and I watched a couple of documentary presentations on where things stand today. It’s taking a long time to fix. Archeologists sift through every bagful of debris collected. They find 15th Century nails, for instance, and preserve them. That takes time. Off-site carpenters construct replacement beams, and the beams to support other beams. It all takes time. One of the most time-consuming tasks involve the removal of damaged structure. You can’t just go up there and start tearing things down. You will fall through undetected damaged walls or ceilings just trying to get at the visually damaged structure. It’s a huge task.

The process of dismantling the charred ruins from the fire fascinated me. They have to start at the top if they are to preserve as much as possible. So, they decided to build scaffolding all around the building including all the way around the top. (That structure in and of itself has its own beauty.) Carpenters, precariously hanging a hundred feet up, hang down like cave divers to access the charred material.

So… hanging from scaffolding on a rope more than a hundred feet up, secured by a harness around their waist, they are expected to yank out big pieces of wood, sometimes charred, sometimes not. But what do they brace against to pull on these things? They can’t hold on or plant their feet on the actual building. It might all come crashing down. When you rope down a cave, the cave wall serves as an
anchoring point. But not for the spidermen of Notre Dame! It’s nearly impossible work.

Which led me to think about our lives. Sometimes we feel like we are hanging from a thread. And the struggles of life make us feel like we are hanging way above a terrifying precipice. Now, God has gifted us with skills and gifts to “hang in there.” Those gifts and graces enable us to get through all of life, not just the scary parts.

But with all that equipment, with all those skills and resources, it’s really hard to navigate without anchor points. What’s going through my head is the image of launching a boat. If you’re on the dock and you put one foot in the boat and then push off with the other foot, the boat will drift away from the dock. Why? Because the dock is anchored in the ground and you can push away from it. However, try to launch the same boat while you’re floating in the water—how well is that going to go? You can’t push it because you have no solid point from which to push.

So it is with life. It’s hard to launch without an anchoring point. There has to be some solid reference point for leverage. We live in a fluid ever-changing world where things that we thought grounded us shift all the time. But God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). God is immovable (Psalm 144:1). In our lives, when we need an anchoring point or when we need an immovable reference point—God is that.

And that’s what church is for. It’s so that children can learn where the reference points of life are. Knowing where the ground is allows you to fly with confidence. Knowing what is immovable allows you to press against it and move the things that need to move. Not having those strongholds to stand on makes life hard, like pulling remnants of a fire while dangling on a rope way up in the cupulas of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Scriptures only serve as reference points for us when we know them. Singing the Psalms and reading the Gospels, and hearing the Word proclaimed will offer us those handles to hang on to when confronted with the realities of this life we know as the present.

Leaning on the anchor points, Craig

Bless the Lord who is my immovable Rock. He gives me strength and skill in battle.  He is always kind and loving to me; he is my fortress, my tower of strength and safety, my deliverer. He stands before me as a shield.  Psalm 144:1,2

A Message from Pastor Craig

So, it was Labor Day and we drove down to Lake Boca Raton. It’s funny how people buy boats to get away from it all, and then end up all bunched together on one sand bar. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great seeing hundreds of boats, and jet skis, and paddle boarders and kayaks, and… well, something I had never seen before.

Have you seen kids being pulled behind a boat sitting in some kind of inflatable tube? They buzz right along, flying at the speed of the boat, bouncing with the waves or the wake of the boat, holding on tight as the driver tries to knock them off with vertical or lateral g-forces. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the ultimate defeat as you fly off into the water. It’s fun.

Well, I saw someone, it appeared to be a larger adult, following behind a boat, but on his stomach. He wasn’t sitting on an inflatable—he was head-first, skimming his tummy on the water. That seemed either one, uncomfortable, or two, a great challenge (or both). But as I watched him, I didn’t see a rope behind the boat he was following. And then, he took a left turn, and just started wandering around the big blob of boats and people on the sand bar.

What?!? His speed did not decrease. He was just skimming along, he looked like he was swimming at some outlandish speed, except that his arms weren’t moving and neither were his legs. He kept going, and going, till he disappeared from sight. Again, what?!?

Earlier I had seen two guys on electric hydrofoils. Have you seen those? They look like they are walking on water. Standing on a board, an engine and propeller below the water elevates the board above the water surface, and off they go. That looked like fun!

It also made me think that if you took that apparatus to the Sea of Galilee, some might think that you were walking on water like Jesus did.  The thought almost sounded sacrilegious, but I started thinking about how technology nowadays can make routine of what seemed miraculous years ago. Advances in medicine for instance. Or the speed of travel. Or talking to someone on another continent while sitting up in a tree.  Or…. technology has certainly changed our perspective on things.

I think that we have grown accustomed to taking our needs to technology instead of to the Lord. Blame can fly all over but technology has not solved the COVID problem. Technology has not solved the hunger issues of our country and the world. And technology helps us mitigate the power of nature, but not solve its disasters. And technology has not solved the condition of my soul. My body can hover over the water while on my feet or on my belly, but without the miracle of Grace, I cannot remedy the hurts, hang-ups and habits of my life. I can appear in front of a group of kids in Sunday School class in Florida while I am standing on a rural street in Kenya, but I can’t fix the mistrust created by a broken relationship. Through technology we can do amazing things (like read any translation of the Bible on my phone, or watch a streamed worship service), but only God can solve the true condition of our humanity.

Jesus walked unaided by technology on the water one night out on the Sea of Galilee. He calmed the storms of the waters and calmed the fears in His disciples’ hearts. He can do the same today. Jesus is still in the healing business today. Ours is to reach out to Him, and not the latest technological advances (cool as they may be!). Test your faith. Pray. And see what God can do. Not the hydrofoil.

Preaching to myself,

Craig

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6