How does an airliner land at the wrong airport? The recent misfortune of the Southwest Airlines flight headed for Branson, Missouri raises the question. They landed eight miles away from the appointed runway. The pilots apparently noticed their mistake, hit the brakes very hard and stopped their plane at the very edge of a disaster. Everyone was shocked. The pilots were not only shocked; they were embarrassed as well. They soon learned that the runway they had chosen was too short for their airplane to take-off to fly to the right airport; it eventually had to be toed away.
The pilots landed in the wrong place because they insisted on their own way. When preparing to land, the Branson control tower told them they were 18 miles away from the right runway. Recognizing the light configuration, the pilots insisted they could see the runway in front of them and requested to override the control tower and their instruments. The passengers were not happy about taking a bus with all of their possessions to the correct airport.
There is an old saying, Seeing is believing. But not everything we think we see is real. Some people reverse the saying, Believing is seeing. But not everything we may believe is true. The pilots needed to trust the control tower and their own instruments. The pilots decided to trust what they were seeing up ahead. They made an embarrassing mistake that could have quickly turned tragic. Did you know there is a verse in the Bible that speaks to these kind of situations? It is found in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.” It comes down to trusting what is real and true. Trust God. Trust God’s Son. Trust God’s Spirit. Trust God’s Word.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Land in the right place. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
The Children’s Message is a time fraught with great danger and unexpected delight. Sunday’s dialog with the children was one of those occasions. I began with the ordinary observation that many people were wearing green, followed by, “Do you know why?” I was anticipating, “Because it is St. Patrick’s Day.” I was not expecting the boy’s response, “So you won’t get pinched.” Now that I was slightly off balance, he pushed it further with a discussion of “leprechauns cannot see people wearing green, so they can pinch those who aren’t, but people do it for them now-a-days.” “How do you know that?” I inquired. “Because we Googled it up.”*
I tried to steer the conversation towards the story of Patrick, the pirate-abducted teenager who answered the call of God to become a missionary to the people who had enslaved him. “His name was Maewyn Succat,” replied the confident voice. I did not remember that and was not even certain how to repeat his name to the congregation. “It’s one of the Veggie Tales stories.” There was a time I could at least appear to be smarter than a 2nd grader. The children’s message may be the riskiest part of the worship hour. Adults tell me they enjoy it–possibly just to see what might happen next. Worship services can become quite predictable, but danger and delight can suddenly appear when children are involved. Most sermons are one-sided conversations. It is safer for the preacher that way.
On any given Sunday morning I can look out and see people engaged in Smartphone Praying—heads slightly bowed texting, reading, gaming or looking things up. Not too much different from coloring, doodling, passing notes or searching pockets for candy. The reality today is that anyone can check the accuracy of anything a minister says, quotes or asserts. I believe that is good for the minister and good for the people. It keeps the sermonic conversation honest.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Google it up. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
*This story was used with permission from the 2nd grader and his mother.
I was part of a dozen or so gathered in the second floor TV room of the men’s dormitory at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, that summer of 1969. We watched the slightly fuzzy images of the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander Module in total silence. This was not just an historic occasion in the making; it was also filled with intense danger. Would they crash-land? Would they sink into a heavy moon dust? Could a man really walk around on the moon in a space suit? Would they be able to lift back off the moon, dock with the capsule and return to Earth safely? Would President Kennedy’s dream for the decade be fulfilled? Then we heard the words, “The Eagle has landed.”
With Neil Armstrong’s death this past week our world lost a true hero. In a world of self-promotion and the monetization of fame, Neil Armstrong ignored the temptations and lived true to himself. Interviews and public appearances were rare. He lived humbly and well, embracing his love of physics and teaching. There is a debate about what Neil Armstrong said. He claims he said, “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” We all heard it differently. I bet Armstrong’s version is true.
The dream of going into outer space and the endless possibilities for people to achieve impossible dreams have been with me since the days of Buck Rogers, Captain Midnight and all things Star Trek. The Bible is filled with the glory of the heavens above, starting on the first page. Apparently since the beginning, people have been enthralled with the night sky and dreaming about what it would be like on the moon or to see a star close up. I am probably not going for a walk on the moon like Neil Armstrong. But that does not prevent me from celebrating the Creator of the universe, imagining a better future, and reaching for impossible goals and dreams. I believe we are created to explore and discover. Today a vehicle named “Curiosity” is exploring the Red Planet. I wonder who will be first to step on Mars.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep looking up. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I had a bicycle stolen when I was in junior high school, but it was found a few days later. Last month someone slipped into the church unobserved and stole my briefcase along with a case containing my prescription sunglasses. They probably thought they were getting a laptop computer, and it was bright outside. I had just entered the building, trying to go in opposite directions, so I set the briefcase down at the back of the sanctuary. When I came back about 5-10 minutes later it was gone. I’ve used that bag for many years. It serves as my carry-on bag at the airport so it contained all the little things a person needs, just in case. Everything from pens, highlighters and toiletries to sewing and glasses repair kits. It also contained my Kindle e-book reader and my brand new, just out of the box not 24 hours, iPad 3. I won the iPad in a drawing from Associated Baptist Press. The police said there was little hope in finding it. Technology has a way of tracking these kinds of electronic devices, but my iPad has never phoned home.
The verse from Job soon came to mind: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. . .” (Job 1:21) I had bonded with my Kindle, but I had not had the iPad long enough to hardly figure it out. What I found I missed most of all was my journal. I found myself grieving over the loss of my book of lists, ideas, sermon seeds, outlines, projects and notes about some of my imaginary friends from Tepid Springs Baptist Church. (That is my fictional community of life and loss.) So, my special order notebook with six and a half months of scribbling had been taken from me. Then the shooting in Aurora, Colorado took place. Then great fires swept through Oklahoma burning thousands of acres and hundreds of homes and businesses. Perspective matters. In this world I am learning to say “. . . blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Hold things loosely. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.