Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Best Birthday Gift Ever

I often miss things that are right in front of me. I can be standing in the middle of the railroad tracks, and not see the train bearing down one me. Those people always catching on to things just a split second after everyone else? Meet the poster child.

So let me break this very long story down into a bite sized segment for you, because it's really good stuff. This morning I preached on "Four Enemies of Faith." One of those enemies is trusting in what you see, rather than what the Holy Spirit confirms in your heart. After all, II Corinthians 5:7 says that we walk by faith, not by sight.

Nearly 27 years ago, my mother died in a horrible head on car-bicycle accident. Just the day before, mom and I had been having a small argument about the clothes I wore, the choices I was making, and the lack of direction in my life. She wanted better things for her son. She wanted me to let her know when I came home safely from work, even if it meant waking her up. She worried. After she died, God answered my prayer about her salvation when he led me to her Bible. She had written on the inside cover - "Be Saved, Romans 10:9." I knew her future was secure.

Fast forward about 25 years. I was looking through her Bible not too long ago and found a bookmark with her name on it. I assume it's in the last passage she read. So I opened to Psalms 91 and read the verse she had circled, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." I was furious. For the first time, I blamed God for taking her. If He really promised that He would protect her, then where was He that night? Why did He let her die in that accident? Why would He lead her to that scripture only to allow her be killed? I knew better, but I was still very angry with God. However, His Holy Spirit within me told me I had to let the anger go and walk by faith. But the questions prevailed.

Fast forward again to last Thursday. Five times I began writing five different sermons. Nothing stuck. Every Pastor who has preached for any length of time understands that frustration, but this was like hitting a brick wall over and over. It was late Friday night before I finally had the message about faith. As I studied scripture, I was reminded again of my anger over what I found in mom's Bible. That's when God dropped the answer in my heart like a mighty anchor. We walk by faith, not by sight. That verse from Psalms 91 wasn't bookmarked by accident. It wasn't there for mom.

It was meant for me.

God had it there for me to find. He reminded me that through the years, when I wandered from the faith, when my marriage was on the brink, when I came back to God only to nearly throw it all away again when the enemy attacked, He was there to see me through. God has been more faithful and kind to me than I could ever deserve. God answered my mom's prayers. He DID command His angels to guard me. As tragic as the night was, and as much as I wish I could go back and make it all right again, the circumstances have shaped me and molded me into the man I am today. I understand that now. I see it by faith.

So this morning as I fought back the tears, I shared that story with my church family. I did my best to connect my experience with theirs. My prayer is that it helped someone in their faith walk. But you know, God wasn't through putting His exclamation point on His message. My wife teaches Kid's church, and rarely gets to sit in on our worship services. So as I was sharing this story with her at home tonight (and she understood the point before I even got to the good part) I suddenly stopped short. "Do you know," I said, "that mom would have been 70 years old today?" I preached that whole sermon without realizing... today was mom's birthday.

Typical of my mother. She gave me the gift instead.

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