Sunday, March 25, 2012
There is a story told from the Middle East of four brothers who decided to have a feast. Because wine was rather expensive, they concluded that each one should bring an equal quantity and add it to the common supply. However, one of the brothers, thinking to escape the expense of such a contribution decided to bring water instead of wine. "It won't be noticed," he reasoned. But at the feast when the wine was poured out it wasn't wine at all. It was only water. Each of the four brothers had thought alike, "Let the others do it. Water is less expensive." This kind of aversion is not a 21st Century problem or just a North American disease. It runs in every culture as well as every social and religious circle. It without question has become pandemic in today’s church world. Anywhere you go you'll find that everybody wants something for nothing. They love a servant but nobody wants to be one. The common conclusion expressed is “That looks like a job for someone else.” To invest in the financial world is risky business. A person can put their money in stocks for years only to have it all taken away by a dishonest broker or a crash in the financial market. Your bank can go under and your business partner can split leaving you holding the bag. But in the spiritual world there is complete security. Servant hood is something that does not happen without notice. That’s why Jesus said “anyone who gives as much as a glass of cold water in my name will not lose his reward.” The point being made here is that it pays to be a servant. That being said, the question all of us should ask is “Are we bringing water or wine to the party?” If you take this question seriously then truth will drive you to realize that being a servant never looks like a job for someone else.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being lost? A few years ago while on a medical mission’s trip to Ecuador I decided to take an afternoon run. After completing about two miles or so, I decided to head back to the house. Although I had tried to monitor every twist and turn, upon my return I realized I was lost. Needless to say there was a momentary feeling of panic that hit me as several obstacles began to appear in my mind. It was getting dark. I did not speak their language. Added to that was the thought that I did not have an address or phone number for where I was staying. I was thinking “what in the world am I going to do?” After walking around for a few minutes trying to find my bearing a thought suddenly came to me. The house my team and me were staying at had a church nearby, and on that church stood a tall cross. If I could find that cross, it would help me to get to my destination. I found a tall concrete monument on one of the streets close by and crawled to the top. Stretching as far as I could in the distance I saw it and what a beautiful sight it was. I jumped down and began to run as hard as I could in the cross’s direction. In a few minutes I found myself standing in front of our temporary home with a feeling of relief. Each of us has similar experiences in life, especially as it relates to our spirituality. We find ourselves running with the cares of the world and with kingdom responsibilities but losing our way in the process. When this happens, how do we find our way back? We search for the cross. Is this not what Paul was stressing in Ephesians 2:16-17? “Jesus came to reconcile us to God through the cross… 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” All of us need to remember that in temporary times of feeling lost, we should always look for the cross. It is that memorable landmark that will help us find our way and lead us safely home.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Have you ever felt that everything in life has turned against you? Maybe you feel like the person I read about a few days ago. “A skydiver is enjoying his free-fall, when he realizes that he has reached the altitude where he must open his parachute, he pulls the ripcord, but nothing happens. “No problem,” he says to himself, “I still have my emergency chute.” So he pulls the ripcord on his emergency parachute, and once again, nothing happens. Now the man begins to panic. “What am I going to do?” He thinks. “I’m a goner.” Just then, he sees a man flying up from the earth toward him. He can’t figure out where this man is coming from or what he’s doing, but he says to himself, “I hope he can help me. If he can’t, then I’m in real trouble.” When the man gets close enough to him, the skydiver cups his hands and shouts, “Hey, do you know anything about parachutes?” The man coming up cups his hands and yells back, “No! Do you know anything about gas stoves?” While humorous, many people feel as if they are having the same experience. This is exactly how Jacob felt when he declared in Genesis 42:36, “All these things are against me.” To this patriarch it seemed as if he was losing everything. How else is one to feel when he has lost a son at the hands of a wild beast, he is in the midst of a famine, and threatened with the loss of other family members to slavery in Egypt. However, he realized later that God was working in the midst of his apparent crisis. Instead of death there was life, in the place of famine there was a feast, and rather than being slaves his sons experienced freedom. This truth is one that all of us must learn. Although we may not understand everything we face in life, God never lets us face it alone. Somewhere in the background He is working to bring us through. That means when all things seem against you, knowing that God is in control and standing near allows you in the midst of darkness to close your eyes and rest in peace.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Most of you if not all are familiar with the “Guinness Book of World Records.” This publication contains records that have been set by professionals as well as novices relating to a wide range of activities. In doing a search you will find the name of the person who ran the fastest, the person who stands the tallest as well as the one who is the shortest. However, there is one subject you won’t find listed and that is forgiveness. You don’t find anyone trying to set or break this record and if someone were to attempt it and if it were possible no such record would stand for long. The reason being we are all compelled to forgive and keep on forgiving. When Peter asked about his responsibility in this regard Jesus responded by saying, “You shall forgive your brother not seven times but seventy times seven.” If you do the math, it comes up to four hundred and ninety. Some commentators suggest that this number refers to the same offense committed over and over. Regardless of how you look at it that’s a lot of forgiveness to be responsible for. Even greater is the wonderful truth that God always goes beyond human requirement. Because of this it is literally impossible for man to set the record in this area. It was captured by Divinity before the creation of time. God holds the record and He always will. While we can never surpass His ability, we should strive to do our best. This is one area we can experience a great sense of accomplishment in even though we know we can never set the record because the record has been set straight. God is the ultimate champion of forgiveness.