Friday, May 21, 2004

What's That Smoke?

William Tecumseh Sherman was a US General whose march to the sea in 1864 from Atlanta to Savannah were crucial to the success of the Union forces in the Civil War. During one of his engagements, Sherman was having difficulty breaking through the enemy front. He decided to send General Cox's division to attack the opposing left. Sherman positioned himself on a high hill to watch the operations and gave Cox his final orders for the circuitous march: "See here, Cox, burn a few barns occasionally as you go along. I can't understand those signal flags, but I know what smoke means." He knew what smoke means. I guess that Sherman had seen enough burning in war to know that smoke meant that his men were successfully destroying the enemy.
You and I have been around a little. We've witnessed some things in this life that enable us to identify what is going on. We need to be sure, though, that we let the smoke register with us. Here are some examples of smoke that means trouble.
Drinking is trouble. Robert Elliot reported that alcohol is used by a majority of the adult population and creates more problems than all other drugs combined. Broken marriages, brawls, neglected children, crashes on the roads, misspent money, uncontrolled passions all from alcohol. Everybody sees these things yet many still lift a beer to their lips and ask, "What is all that smoke?"
Gambling is trouble. Maybe some of us have seen this smoke a little more than others. I moved here from Mississippi. I still have many friends there, some of whom live along the Mississippi River and on the gulf coast. Gambling boats now line the shores at Vicksburg and Gulf Port. Families are broken and broke. Children are left in gambling boat day cares while their parents cash paychecks next to the roulette tables. The suicide rate is climbing because husbands can't face their wives or their creditors. Crime is on the increase. Don't forget what Jesus said in Matthew 6, "You can't serve God and money." He said later through Paul's pen, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Yet some in Tennessee would cast a vote for legalized gambling asking, "What is all that smoke?"
Bad companions are trouble. 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, "Evil companions corrupt good morals." You see some kid trying to buy cigarette paper from the convenience store. You find out that a young person at your kid's school was caught vandalizing public property. That turns out to be the same kid. Then that kid comes to your house on Friday night, he opens the car door and a beer can falls to the street. He takes a long look at your daughter and says, "You ready to go?" You clear your eyes from the smoke, then say, "Have a good time, Sweetheart." "What is all that smoke," you ask. You know what it is. Stay clear.

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