Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I was working on a Bible Study this past weekend and as it got warmer in my sunroom office, I took off my hearing aids and set them down (It is not good to get a hearing aid damp). A couple of hours later when it was nearly dark, I went to put them away and could find only one. I looked and looked, even using my little CSI flashlight. (No, I didn't find any strange hair or "trace" in my searching.)
I found it on the floor under a nearby chair, right next to its roller. If I'd have moved the chair a few inches to the right, it would have been smashed. Whew!
I was quite happy when I found it and told Carol, "Rejoice with me for I have found the hearing aid which I had lost." I was reminded of Jesus' parable about the woman who lost a coin and swept her house till she found it and then invited the neighbors over for coffee and cookies (Luke 15). Jesus' parable had the woman finding a coin, and the fact is, even my economy hearing aids cost a gold coin or two. So I celebrated with a fudgesicle!
I always feel better when I find something that's been lost, and as the years pass more things seem to disappear. Have you ever lost something really valuable and never found it? I once found a woman's 2 carat diamond that had fallen out of her ring while attending a funeral at my church. It was lying just inches from a floor drain!
Whenever Carol or I lose something, we usually find it just about where we think it should be. Does that happen to you, too? When Jesus loses one of His lambs (or does the lamb lose Him?), He goes looking till He finds it. Jesus doesn't give up easily, and we all should be glad of that.
Have you lost anything important lately, perhaps a relationship or a job or money even health? Are you still hoping to find it? If you don't, I pray God will help you find something even better.
If you find it, I guarantee it will be in the last place you look.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Matthew 9:16-17 - “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
John the Baptist had a few disciples left, and though he had baptized Jesus and called Him, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (John 1:29), John still wasn't quite sure whether Jesus was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to Jesus asking, "Why is it You and Your disciples don't keep all the Jewish laws?" (Matthew 9:14, paraphrased) Despite knowing all he did about Jesus, he was unsure of Him because He didn't follow all the rabbinic laws like all the other "good Jews."
Jesus uses a word picture to answer them. "No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made." (Matthew 9:16) He went on to say the entire piece of clothing needs to be replaced. He said the same about putting new wine into old wineskins - a new wineskin must be used.
Jesus is saying He is the new garment, or the new wineskin. He has come into the world to provide for people what the old, rigid and stale ways can no longer provide. If Jesus was required to live by the same old rules about prescribed eating, washing, fasting, and praying, He would not be able to complete the task God had given Him.
Today we may wonder about new ways in the Church, new liturgies, new hymns, and new expressions of worship. We must take care not to think the old cloth or old wineskin is the only one we can use. The important thing is that the message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is present. HOW the Gospel is packaged is far less important than what is in the package. The Good News of Jesus can be explained in many ways. Jesus makes everything new, and for that we thank Him eternally.
Jesus, help us worship and serve You in all kinds of ways. Thank You! Amen.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Chang Shen was a terrible man, known as Wu So Pu Wei Te, meaning "one without a particle of good in him." Gambler, womanizer, addict and thief, he had driven away his family, and when he was stricken blind, people said it was judgment for his evil ways.
In 1886, Chang heard of a missionary hospital where blind people were healed, so he traveled hundreds of miles to the hospital, only to be told every bed was full. But the hospital took pity and gave him a bed. When Chang’s eyesight was partially restored, he heard about Jesus for the first time. "Never had we a patient who received the gospel with such joy," reported the doctor.
When Chang asked to be baptized, he was told, "Go home and tell your neighbors that you have changed. I will visit you, and if you are still following Jesus, then I will baptize you." Five months later, the man arrived at Chang’s home and found hundreds of people learning of Jesus, so he baptized Chang with great joy.
Chang was now totally blind, yet he traveled from village to village, witnessing to hundreds about Jesus, praising God even when cursed and spat upon or attacked by dogs. He learned most of the Bible by memory and could quote entire chapters from the New and Old Testament. Missionaries followed him, baptizing converts and organizing churches.
When the Boxer Rebellion arose in the late 1890s, Chang was taken to a cave for protection. In a nearby village Boxers rounded up fifty Christians for execution. But a resident said, "You’re fools to kill all these. For every one you kill, ten will spring up while that man Chang Shen lives. Kill him, and you will crush this foreign religion."
The Boxers promised to spare the fifty if someone would take them to Chang. When it appeared the Boxers would begin killing them, a man found Chang and told him of their plan. "I’ll gladly die for them." Chang said.
When he arrived, he was told he must worship Buddha. "I can only worship the One Living and True God," he declared. So the Boxers put the blind old man in an open cart and drove him to the cemetery for execution. As he went, he sang the first Christian song he had learned at the hospital.
"Jesus loves me, He who died Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in."
At the cemetery, Chang cried, "Heavenly Father, receive my Spirit!" He was beheaded, and the fearful Boxers burned his body and fled the village. The remaining local Christians were spared, but before the year’s end, 135 missionaries and their 53 children were martyred, along with hundreds of Chinese Christians who would not deny their Lord. Blind Chang's witness, however, led to the conversion of thousands and still lives in the hearts of believers today who repeat this story to others.
Would we be willing to do what blind Chang Shen did for His Lord?
Monday, June 4, 2012
Carol and I enjoy watching documentaries about different countries. With today's amazing photography, it's almost as good as being there. We recently watched "Wild China," a fine series live-streamed into our home via Netflix. We've also enjoyed watching other series that show us about the amazing world we live in.
And we can do it so easily. Just punch a button or two on a small remote control, wait a few moments, and here comes the show. We watch it on a modern flat-screen TV, sitting on easy chairs in a comfortable home in such a lush and green time of year.
How fortunate we are to be living in a free country with plenty of food and water during this amazing time of history. We could easily have been born a couple of hundred years ago, on the barren Steppes of China, or with our mother wearing a burka, or trying to raise our family in a drug-ridden town in Mexico.
We can now take an Icelandic Air non-stop flight to Reykjavik for about the price of of good set of tires. If I don't feel well, there are a dozen places to get excellent medical care within a half hour of our home. The news tells me if I have a few spare million dollars, in a few years I will probably be able take a space flight, even at my age.
We have no control where, when or to whom we are born. The fact that we have been born at this time, in this place, with these privileges and rich blessings ought to make us fall on our knees every day and give God thanks. Instead, we'll probably get angry at Washington politicians, worry about our loved ones or grumble about our aches and pains.
I think most every one of us ought to consider writing God a long letter of thanks that we are alive today. Your life may not be quite what you want it to be, but you are alive, and that makes you richly blessed. Many people who lived just a century ago would have given all they had to live the life we have lived.
Instead of disappointment over what we don't have, let's be grateful for what we do. The poorest American is richer than 75% of the rest of the world. A Christian child has more blessings to come than a child born into a Buddhist or Hindu or Moslem family.
"O give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1)