It started out as an unimpressive ripple in the weather off the coast of Africa. By the time it was over, it had become Hurricane Katrina, pummeling Florida as a category one storm, then surprising most observers by becoming a category five monster over the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina's last minute shift to the east nearly destroyed the city of New Orleans. Yes, we saw some of the darkest side of human nature as people looted things that they didn't really need, and some even tried to shoot some of the very people who were coming to help. But on a much greater scale, the aftermath to Hurricane Katrina was a massive outpouring of heroism in many flavors.
As Americans learned of the desperation of the victims of the storm, thousands of us mobilized to give them a chance to live. We won't soon forget the military helicopters, launching and re-launching every fifteen minutes to look for more people stranded in the toxic floodwaters that buried parts of the city. There were those memorable scenes of the rescuers coming down the rope from those choppers to save people trapped on their roofs. Doctors and nurses came from all over the country. So many came and did what they knew how to do-from cooking, to counseling, to contributing, to caring enough to take in whole families because lives were at stake.
Many years ago we were shopping for a place where God wanted us to build a radio studio that we desperately needed. I've got a beautiful one at our headquarters today but back then we needed just something that would get us through. We were looking at a possible location – this big barn of a room with a high ceiling and it was totally bare. Well, when I looked at it I saw a big bare room, but not Kasey. No, he's a carpenter and he started talking about this wall here and that partition there; the control room in that corner, where the doors would be, and how we could soundproof the floor. It was amazing! He was seeing all kinds of things in that room that I couldn't see! But, then, that's the great thing about carpenters!
My wife would have said "creature of habit". I prefer to think of myself as "structured," you know. But I do exhibit some behaviors that are a bit compulsive. I don't think I'm dangerous. For example, it does not matter what time I get in from the airport or the interstate after a trip, there is one thing I will do before I get to bed. I will unpack. Sure, it's 2:00 AM, but I will get everything back to its proper place. An unpacked suitcase will pursue me all night long if I don't. Now sometimes my sweet wife would try to inject a little common sense by simply asking, "Why not unpack tomorrow?" Of course, she didn't understand why that's totally illogical. I'm not home until I'm unpacked. Neither are your children.
Our plane was racing down the runway, preparing to take off from Nashville. I was so exhausted, I was already drifting off into la-la land. Then came those jolts as the front wheels left the ground. The team member who was with me said, "Have you ever felt anything like that?" I said, "No." And I dozed off. I wouldn't sleep for long; the flight attendant suddenly was announcing that we had blown a rear tire on takeoff and we were heading back to Nashville. For the next 45 minutes or so, we were circling the area, burning up as much fuel as possible for what could well be a crash landing. I called my wife from the plane. I asked her to get people praying. My team member joined me in committing this whole situation to the Lord. The flight attendants went into emergency mode to begin to prepare us for the landing. They demonstrated how to brace for the landing. They had us pull out our emergency instruction card from the pocket in front of us; something they had asked us to do before we took off; something hardly anyone did. But as the attendant began her briefing she prefaced it with a simple exhortation, "This time I want you to really listen." We really did!
It's definitely the age of doctors who are specialists. Including one of the latest new specialties - the spin doctor. The spin doctor is actually to be found in the world of politics. As soon as some news breaks that might be damaging or embarrassing to a political leader or candidate, someone on their staff talks to the press about it - and they find a way to put a positive or undamaging "spin" on those revelations...to put their man or woman in the best possible light. The more powerful you become, the more "spin doctors" you need. And depending on how good the "doctor" is, a lot of people may end up believing the "spin" rather than the truth!
If you've ever checked your suitcase when you're about to take a trip by airplane, you know what they do with our luggage. No, not lose it. Not usually. The ticket agent determines what your final destination will be, he prints out an adhesive sticker with that destination on it, and he puts it around your suitcase handle. And then you settle back in your seat, knowing that bag will meet you at the other end of the trip. With the millions of bags the airlines handle daily, it's amazing that most do go straight to the right destination. Now there are some exceptions. Like the one I checked in Idaho. Oh, I checked it through to my final destination-Newark, New Jersey. To this day it's still floating somewhere out there in the Baggage Twilight Zone. Like I said, most of the time they get it to your final destination.
Over the years, I've had the privilege of meeting a lot of men and women who work in law enforcement and man do I appreciate and respect them. Some of them have helped out with security at events where I've spoken. In one city, I met some pretty impressive guys who worked on a SWAT team; those guys were sent in as rapid assault teams in those particularly dangerous situations. Bobby was one of them. They called him "The Slammer." Sounds like someone from the World Wrestling Federation. But they call Bobby that because he's the one who takes out the door when they're raiding a residence. And looking at how he's built (I mean, I think his arm is bigger than my waist) you can see they picked the right man for the job. If you want a door removed, "he da man!"
How did we know it was a stupid question? Our family was in Alaska some years ago and we asked some of the folks there what seemed like a reasonable question, "Where can we go to see a moose?" The only moose we'd ever see in New Jersey were those guys like at the lodge hall. But most folks just laughed at our question. Turns out seeing a moose is really no big deal in Alaska. In fact, some people we talked to had hit one recently! So, they're everywhere. Sure. While I was busy speaking, my wife and kids drove all over the countryside looking for some moose. Nada. Maybe people hit them all! They even went to the Moose Sanctuary and they saw no moose there; frustrated, tired of looking, and pretty sure those moose were only in pictures in the tourist brochures. One morning we walked out of the house where we were staying, piled in the car, started driving down the driveway. Suddenly, one of the kids shouted, "Moose!" And sure enough, there were three members of the antler gang right there at the bottom of our driveway! What we'd been looking for all that time was right in front of us!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Right In Front of You All the Time."
You know this is a time when spirituality is important to more and more people, there's a word you hear a lot and folks use it to describe themselves spiritually – I'm a "seeker" or I'm "searching." I'm searching spiritually, and that's a good thing to be doing. We're created with this eternity dimension by a God who is eternal, and we'll only find life's real meaning by shopping in the store called "spiritual answers". That's right.
Today, as never before, there's a spiritual cafeteria to choose from man. Our search for the truth can carry us to many different religions or a blend of several religions; into New Age spirituality, into ourselves to find the power within us. But like our family hunting for moose, we're looking, but often not finding what we're looking for. Much searching - still no lasting peace, no getting our life under control, no security about eternity.
It was a number of years ago now, but it was stunning if I still remember it, where 39 members of the "Heaven's Gate" cult committed suicide. It was really unsettling because these were bright people, competent people; sincere spiritual seekers hoping to graduate from earth to, yeah, a waiting spaceship. That was their unusual belief. But listen, this is what I wanted to share with you - what one national news magazine observed about them and about us. It said, "Subtract the spaceship and the mass suicide, and you have a yearning and a search familiar to millions of Americans." That's true.
That magazine pointed out what they called universal needs that many people are trying to meet: "the craving to belong, the wish to connect to something larger than oneself, the secret hope of finding an all-caring parent who offers protection and comfort." I'll tell you what, those needs were built into us by our Creator.
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Colossians 1:16. "All things were created by Him and for Him." That simple statement from God could be the beginning of the end of your spiritual search. He says you were created by Jesus; you were created for Jesus. The Savior who's been pretty much in front of you all the time, but maybe you've passed him by because you get Jesus confused with all the religious baggage attached to His name because you thought it was some new spirituality you needed.
But only Jesus died to remedy our central spiritual problem: we're away from God because of our sin. And only the One who paid for that sin with His life can put you and God together. Without that, all spiritual searching must, sooner or later, turn up empty. It all comes together the moment you bring yourself to the cross where God's Son was dying and you say those two transforming words, "For me. What You did there's for me, Jesus. And You, Jesus, You are my only hope."
He's been here all the time, but you've missed Him. Why don't you make today the day you find Him? To belong to Him? Tell Him, "Jesus, I'm Yours"? Get some back up. Get some information to lead you for sure into a confident relationship with Christ. Go to our website, will you? It's ANewStory.com.
Searching is good. Finding is better. Your long search will end in the loving arms of the One who's been patiently waiting for you all this time. Jesus – He is the end of your search.
Spring was planting time on the little farm my wife, Karen, grew up on. And in her early years, that was no small job. Her Granddad actually would hitch up Betsy and Jack-who I thought might have been her cousins but actually Betsy and Jack are mules-and they would start plowing that hard, Ozark ground. Karen would follow behind in her bare feet as Granddad and his team turned up that dirt, broke up those big dirt clods, and smoothed out that broken soil. Then came the seeding…and then the waiting. At that point, it was pretty much up to God-the weather, the warmth, the moisture, and the sunlight. Then, when the corn finally matured, Granddad swung into action again with the big work of harvesting what God had grown. It was really a neat balance of what a man could do and what only God could do.
For a long time, I have been fascinated with the story of the Titanic. The sinking of that seemingly "unsinkable" ship after a collision with an iceberg is filled with so much human drama that has inspired endless movies, books, and documentaries. Finding the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic fueled even greater interest and greater information than ever before. Some of the drama of those discoveries has been within our reach as the Titanic artifacts exhibit went across the country in some of America's leading museums. You could see many personal items recovered from the Titanic's debris field along with displays that recreated the feeling of being a passenger on that doomed ship. And now there's at least one permanent Titanic museum in the country. When I went into this one on the early tour, I was given a boarding pass with the name of a real person who'd been aboard that awful night. At the end of the exhibit, there's this big wall with the names of everyone aboard – first class, second class, third class, crew. Every person is either on the list that says "saved" or "lost." I looked hard for my name, and I discovered that I was one of the few crewmen who was "saved."