Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dealing with Dust

In Luke chapter nine, Jesus gives his disciples some rather strange instructions. First, he commissions them to go into the community and minister. Then he tells them in verse 3 to "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.” That makes sense. Maybe he did not want them to become encumbered with a lot of stuff as they traveled or possibly he wanted to stretch their faith. But the strangest piece of instruction followed. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them." Why is Jesus preoccupied with dust? I think the answer can be found when you look at its definition. According to the dictionary it is “fine bits of dirt or other matter that hangs in the air and settles on surfaces.” When you think about it nothing is more aggravating than dust.  My wife battles it constantly in our home. It settles on floors, furniture, clothes, and especially your shoes. It builds so silently so imperceptibly.  But we know that Jesus has more in mind here than mere fallen particles that settle on sandals.  If that is not the focus then what is? The answer can be found in a question.  “What happens to us when we face rejection?”  Back in the early days of my ministry I did a lot of door to door evangelism.  When I faced rejection it would inevitably leave me with two impressions; fear of going to the next house, or anger because I thought the treatment received was totally unjustified. Either feeling made it difficult for me to move to my next assignment.  Why? I had been offended. So in essence Jesus is telling the disciples to “shake off the dust that is the residue of offense and move on.” If they let it build it would only get worse. They could not successfully go to the next community until they had left the last. Experience lets us know you cannot embrace the future while being bound to the past. They may not have understood the principle immediately but they soon learned that you get the best results if you adhere to the words of Jesus. Effective ministry can only transpire as we learn to “DEAL WITH THE DUST!”

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It Might Be You

Don’t you love it when you can be the bearer of good news? A few days ago I shared the story of Tiny, the little dog we were trying to rescue.  If you remember he showed up on the front porch of an empty house beside our church seemingly out of nowhere.  All our efforts to rescue him had left us exasperated.  No matter what we did he avoided our attempts at trying to provide for him a safe and comfortable environment.  With the approaching cold days being forecast by the weather man, we became even more concerned about his welfare.  How would he survive? Then the miracle of miracles happened.  One of our neighbors was walking his little dog on Saturday when I happened to see Tiny following him. I could not believe my eyes. He had been so withdrawn and anti-social.  As I watched further he even made his way up the steps near the door of the guy’s apartment. Later when sharing with Art what we were attempting to do I asked if he would be willing to try and befriend the little fellow in an effort to catch him.  He agreed. Little by little over the next four days they began to bond until finally it happened.  Tiny went inside his apartment and stayed.  Needless to say we were overwhelmed with joy—the rescue was successful.  And you might be interested to know as I write this he is laying in his own bed next to my recliner. 

Also you might be asking “What is the point here?” Simply put, just like Tiny there are friends, family, and sinners abroad that are in need of rescuing.  While you have utilized every option in an effort to win them to Christ success has eluded you.  That’s the reason God calls individuals from every spectrum of society brings them into the kingdom and diversifies their gifts. He called a miss-fit Moses, a reluctant Gideon, a fiery Peter, and a loving John.  He commissioned witnesses with every personality type and from every strata of the economic scale. He knew one person’s failure would be another’s success.  What the rest of us could not do, a tender-hearted neighbor did with relative ease.  Consider the fact that there may be someone who is watching your steps whom others have tried for month’s maybe years to rescue but have met resistance.  Just think you may be the one who holds the key to their surrender. Why not lend a helping hand; it just might be you! 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Search of Happiness

This week we will celebrate Happy Valentine’s Day. While we take it all in, the question that will be asked most is, “Where can I find happiness and satisfaction?” Someone or something will be missing. Many may have the experience of the lady in the following story. “A young woman was taking an afternoon nap. After she woke up, she told her husband, "I just dreamt that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine's Day. What do you think it means?" "You shall know tonight", he said. That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it. Inside she found a book entitled "The Meaning of Dreams". Don’t you know her day ceased to be a “Happy” one at that moment? You see it takes more than a necklace, a romantic card, a nice dinner, a dozen red roses, or a box of chocolates to attain happiness.  It takes more than wealth and fame. So many people are in pursuit of happiness but are failing to find it.  I think it is good to study the life and writings of Solomon, a man in biblical history that sought for the same but came up empty handed. And it’s important to note that he was not just any man. He was not a novice. He was the wisest and the richest of his day. When reading about his life you find he sought for happiness in knowledge, pleasure, and achievement.  He found he could not learn enough, drink enough, romance enough, earn enough, or create enough to make him happy. The same applies to us. A new town, a new car, a new house, or a new job will not give happiness; the reason being, it comes from the inside.  It has to do with an emotional and spiritual adjustment not a material, positional, or financial one. So, where does happiness come from? Solomon found that it came by his relationship with God, a truth his own father referenced in Psalm 144:15 when he wrote, “Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!”  If your search has left you empty and the answer remains an elusive secret, why not try God. He can touch your heart making this occasion a real Happy Valentine’s Day!  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Only Way

We have just closed out the football season with another Superbowl. Isn’t it amazing that coaches and teams spend weeks in preparation for the big day?  They watch films, study playbooks, and talk about their strategy in order to find the ultimate secret that will result in victory.   However, when the final whistle is blown signaling--game over, what is it that we hear? As is the case with most games commentators, coaches, critics and thousands of fans talk about the one play that decided the outcome--it’s called the game changer. Maybe it was a run, a pass, or going for it on fourth and one. When I think about it the same could be said in relation to our salvation. Of all the things Jesus did, his victory came down to one play—the garden of Gethsemane. You might say he was on the fifty-yard line and things could have gone either way. But at that moment Jesus decided to go for it; the reason, that was the only way. He refused to call upon the aid of angelic offensive linemen and refused to punt the ball into the hands of someone else. No, he called the play; “Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me, but not my will let yours be done.” That call was the game changer people have been talking about for centuries. It allowed him to win victoriously. The great preacher Clovis Chappell tells a story in his book “Questions Jesus Asked” that helps solidify my point.  “A few years ago a father was plowing in the field while his two small boys were playing nearby.  Suddenly he looked up from his work to see a huge dog coming toward the boys.  He recognized at once that the dog was mad.  Therefore he rushed to meet the oncoming beast, urging his boys to take refuge in a cotton bin.  Thus the boys were saved, but the father was bitten from his face to his feet. So completely was he poisoned that medical skill could do nothing for him.  But I am told that as the end drew near, in moments when he was free from delirium, he would smile into the face of his wife and say: “Don’t you take it too hard.  Remember that the boys are safe and that there was no other way.”  By his sacrifice, Jesus stayed in the game took the beating and won. The win was more than a game and more than a single battle; he won our future. Although it results in winning many question the decisions of a player or a coach because in the heat of the moment they do not understand. Not dissimilar was the experience of Jesus, yet He called the play because that was the only way.