Tuesday, August 27, 2013
When many people decide to work together towards a common goal, they can accomplish great things. In 1981, Herman Ostry and his wife bought a farm near Bruno, Nebraska. The property had a creek nearby and came with a sturdy barn built in the 1920's. Due to its location, however, the barn floor was always wet and muddy. Something had to be done or the barn would be unusable.
The barn needed to be on higher ground. Ostry contacted a building moving company but their bid was too high. One night around the table, he commented that if they had enough people they could pick the barn up and move it to higher ground. Everyone laughed.
A few days later, Ostry's son Mike showed his father some calculations. He had counted the individual boards and timbers in the barn and estimated the barn weight. He also estimated the weight of a steel frame to lift the building, calculating the total weight to be just under 10 tons. He figured it would take around 350 people with each person lifting 57 pounds to move the barn.
In 1988, the town of Bruno was planning its centennial celebration. Herman and Mike presented their barn moving idea to the committee, and its members decided to make it part of their celebration.
On July 30, 1988, shortly before 11 AM, 350 people, including women and several elderly men, picked up the barn and moved it 115 feet south and 6 feet higher up a gentle slope and set it on its new foundation. The actual move took less than a half an hour.
A Youtube video of this actual move is found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o83W0gj_CRE. It is true: when many people decide to work together towards a common goal, they can accomplish great things.
The two key terms here are "many people" and "common goal." If only a few do all the work, it cannot get done. And if they do not have a common goal, the number of people will not matter.
When many of God's people have a common goal, God makes miracles happen. They build hospitals, churches, colleges, nursing homes, schools and work at all kinds of worthy ministries.
It it estimated that there are 2.25 billion Christians living in the world today. Imagine the miracles God would bring about if all of them worked together, prayed together and worshipped Jesus Christ together.
"Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!" (Psalm 144:15)
Seeing 350 people work together is exciting!
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Have you ever lost something valuable and didn't find it? Around our house, I am usually the one who finds lost things. If an earring is lost, or car keys, or cell phone or whatever, I am asked to find it and I usually do. In fact, I have found several very valuable things.
I read in a recent Reader's Digest of a woman named Lena who was tossing some stunted carrots from her garden onto her compost heap. Seeing something glitter, she picked up one of the carrots and found it had grown through a ring - her own long lost wedding band! Sixteen years earlier she had lost the ring and it had apparently had gotten mixed in some dust that ended up in her garden. She had given up all hope of finding it and had never replaced it. Now it had come back to her wrapped around a carrot!
Four years after we were married my wife and I had gotten a box of sweet corn from a member's field. Coming into the house, my she was alarmed to discover the diamond from her wedding ring had fallen out. She had no idea when it could have happened, so I retraced her steps carefully with a flashlight, beginning with where she was standing. I had taken only a few steps towards the garage door when I saw her half-carat diamond upside down on the floor right next to our clothes dryer. Another inch and it would have disappeared underneath, probably never to be found in the dust.
About ten years ago I conducted a funeral for a member who had an adult daughter in a wheelchair. During the fellowship after the service she noticed the large diamond was missing from her ring and told me of it. I asked where she had just come from, and she said the restroom. So I returned there and in less than a minute found the diamond on the floor, right next to the drain. Again, another inch farther and it would have disappeared forever down the drain.
Whenever I am able to find things, it reminds me of the woman who lost a coin and rejoiced when she found it again. Jesus told that story to illustrate the joy in heaven when a lost sinner returns to the Heavenly Father. He said, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7)
No matter how precious a thing may be to us, we are more precious to God our Father. He never wants His children to lose their way, but if one should, He sends His angels out to gather the lost one back. If you feel you have lost your way, look around for God. You will probably find Him already looking for your through one of His other children.
I hope you don't lose anything today!
Monday, August 12, 2013
What inspires us to make changes in our life? Is it what we see others do, or what is in our personal nature? Can we be a positive influence on others, depending on what they see us do? What causes us to do the things we do or make the decisions we make?
About a month ago new neighbors moved in next door. Like us they are a retired couple, so we are glad we'll have others around home during the week. They're friendly and when I'm outside in the yard, we always greet each other. He enjoys being outside and is always doing something to improve his yard or arrange his garage, activities with which I'm familiar.
On the other side of us live friendly neighbors too, but their yard is not a high priority. He mows the front yard a few times a summer, but they have yet to mow their backyard since moving in five years ago. It's getting a bit like the wild kingdom back there with dead branches, tree roots heaving up the lawn and tall weeds I don't recognize. At first this irritated me, but then I realized it was his decision, not mine, and it's better to be friendly than critical.
So I have one neighbor who's tidy and one who's not. I keep our yard as trimmed and green as I can make it for this climate. I don't believe seeing our trimmed yard is going to influence either neighbor much, because the condition of their yards shows their attitudes about yard work. My wild kingdom neighbor just got married recently, and perhaps this will have an affect on his back yard. We'll wait and see.
So, what inspires us to make changes in our life? Is it what we see in others, or what is in our personal nature? Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." He believed that people can change what they do and also what they believe when they see Christians displaying God-pleasing virtues.
I don't know whether or not my wild kingdom neighbor will begin to keep up his yard better, but it won't affect how I keep ours up, and it won't change my attitude towards him. Kind words and acts will show our faith more than how green our lawn is. Being a good neighbor in word and deed will show our faith in action.
How are you letting your light shine in your neighborhood?
Monday, August 5, 2013
A man hailed a taxi to take him to the airport. They were moving into the right lane when a big car suddenly pulled out of a parking space right in front of them. The taxi driver slammed on his brakes and missed the other car only by inches!
The driver of the other car stuck his head out the window and shouted angry words at them. The taxi driver smiled and waved at the guy. The passenger was amazing that his driver was so cool about this, so he asked, "How could you do that? That guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!"
The driver responded, "He's just a garbage truck. Some people run around full of the garbage of anger and stupidity, and they need a place to dump it, so they dump it on you. The secret," he said, "is don't take it personally. Smile, wave at them and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it around."
That taxi driver was a smart man! Contented people don't let garbage trucks take over their day. Life is too short to let the foolish actions of others ruin your day. There are better things to do than absorb other people's garbage. It's better to avoid the garbage trucks and live the way you want to, not with what is thrown at you. Life is half what you make it and half how you take it.
During his three-year ministry, Jesus had piles of garbage dumped on Him and it came mostly from angry religious people who should have known better. But instead of reacting with more anger, He usually walked away. When they tried to trick Him, He ignored them or re-directed their words back at them. He had better things to do than walk around in their garbage.
Jesus' main work was to show people God's love in the Kingdom of God. This He did best on Calvary, the ugliest landfill in human history. He showed us what God wanted to do with human garbage, turning it into a blessing for us. Instead of dumping back on us, He forgave us, and poured out His grace on us.
That's amazing grace from our amazing God.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Christians believe God is all-powerful. We confess in the Apostle's Creed, "I believe in God the Father ALMIGHTY." We learn in the Bible that our God is OMNIPOTENT, meaning He is more powerful than all other gods and the most potent force in the universe.
But how does God use His power? And what does it mean for Him to have power? Does power mean only that He rules over us or has the power to give or to take life?
If a person has done something deserving of death, the person that takes his life is not really exercising power. Punishing someone who has broken a rule or committed a crime is exercising justice, not power.
Power is truly exercised when the one in authority chooses to pardon the wrongdoer rather than punish him. Having ultimate power and not using it is a most powerful force. In that sense God is truly all-powerful.
God chose to use His power to pardon sinners rather than punish them. Yet because He is also a God of justice, He must still punish the sins. This He did by punishing His only Son Jesus on the cross.
When Christ was crucified, He took on Himself the punishment of our sins and the sins of the world. The almighty Father placed the sins of the entire world on His only Son. We should be on the cross, but Jesus took our place instead. God's justice was satisfied by the death of Christ, rather than our death.
God created the world and all of complex life, including human life. That shows His omnipotence, His all-powerful nature. But the greatest example of God's almighty power is shown when He chose to pardon sinners rather than punish them.
How do you exercise power in your life? With money? By giving or withholding love? By enforcing rules? Or do you feel you are powerless? Whatever the case, we have a Savior who has earned our pardon on the cross. And for that we praise and thank Him.
"For our sake God made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
How can you exercise power in your life now?