As I sit here I have been wide awake for the past three hours, pain in mind neck from the accident that took place nearly two years ago is not helping any. Knowing that I need to get some sleep and that there is nothing I can do about it is very frustrating. I imagine I am not the only one who has to deal with this problem.
This level of frustration has got me to thinking about Noah there in Genesis. As we read his story we come to find out that it took him about 100 years to build that ark, gather supplies, gather the animals, and warn people to get in the ark. One hundred years and he only got seven other people to join him. How frustrating! All that work, all that effort for only eight total people to use the ark. He must have been so frustrated and maybe even a little depressed. With all that he did and practically no one cared. That ark was as much for t he rest of humanity at the time as it was his family and yet only they joined him in there.
As a preacher it is also very frustrating to get up behind the pulpit and preach your heart out and see so many in the pews seemingly not paying attention. Laboring to prepare the sermon, soaking it in prayer, and then giving it your all just to feel at the end of the invitation that you missed the mark. It really gets to you. What needs to be remembered is that God’s word will not return void, Isaiah 55:11, someone heard something that will stick with them. The result may not be seen for some time but God will see it through, our frustration will only be for what amounts to as a moment.
I was just reading in Genesis chapter 19 about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and it got me to thinking about Lot. Back in chapter 13 both he and Abraham had become so rich (wealth back then being defined by cattle not gold) that they had to go their separate ways in order for them to find enough pasture for their flocks. In chapter 14 those cities are conquered, Lot and his family are captured, and uncle Abraham has to ride to the rescue. Then chapter 19 takes place. There is no mention of Lot’s wealth only his civic job (judge at the gate) and the angels tell him to get all his family together and run, but no mention of all those servants he had had back in chapter 13. We know from the closing verses of chapter 19 that he has no more wealth otherwise his virgin daughters would not have had to get him drunk in order to have kids (on a side note, what would have happened if their plan failed the first time?).
What happened to those servants? Had they left his employ after the events of chapter 14? Did Lot buy his seat by trading them for it? Had they lead the mob to Lot’s door to rape the angels? Were they just so discussed with Lot that they didn’t believe him when his warning came (remember the angels asked if he had sons and whosoever thou hast v12)? Could that be why Abraham when he was pleading with God to not destroy the cities started with 50 because he figured a good part of Lot’s servants would be believer’s? Surely these missing servants died with the rest in Sodom, or even perhaps some had already moved on.
As I draw this to a close I can’t help but think about people who I have met over the years at church. People who have left the local assembly. Not those who moved away or relocated to a different church mind you. I am talking about those who have just gone missing. For whatever reason they left. Perhaps because they had their feelings hurt. Maybe they had come expecting one thing and when it didn’t go their way they gave up on their idea of God. Some left because of sickness or work and even after that stretch was over they just stayed where they were. Comfort can be a bad thing for a Christian and many have fallen into that trap as well. We need to pray for the missing, pray that they come back on the scene before God starts lighting His fire.
As I was sitting in the passenger seat of our car waiting for my wife to return from a store I noticed our side mirror. On it was printed these words “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR” and it caught my attention. I have been driving for over twenty years professionally and even longer on a regular basis but it has been a while sense I have paid close attention to those words. When I am driving by habit I incorporate those words into my decisions but nothing more. Their warning is clear and all, but long ago I stopped reading them.
It got me to thinking about James 1:23,24 and the clear warning the apostle is giving us. Those verses say this “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. That word glass can also be translated mirror. We look into the mirror and see what needs to be seen. What do we do with that information though? I fear far too many Christians are on autopilot, we hear the sermon or do our Bible reading and yet instead of applying what information the mirror of God’s word gives us we just keep on doing as we please. And that is the trouble. Even if we recognize that the potential exists for problems to arise we are on autopilot, stuck in our habit, or what not and fail to realize just how close to a wreck, to sin, we are until it is too late. The mirror told us it was closer than we thought but we thought better of our human self. For example, we see that sin and we can handle it or God tells us to do something and we think we have plenty of time to do it. Turns out the mirror was right and we were wrong.
The mirror also makes no bones about it’s message either. In bold letters it declares OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Aside from the possibility of sin I can think of two other things that message can allude to for us the reader. One is that of the destination. In that mirror I can see part of the store my wife went into and when she returns I can see her. Jesus said He will return for us (John 14:3). The mirror of His word tells us this clearly. Secondly because I am close enough to read the message I must be close enough to use it. Which reminds me of a promise made back in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” No matter how far away a child of God gets away from Him we are still closer to Him than we think! Just a prayer away. It’s just a matter of remembering Jesus will always take us back.
I was thinking the other day about what advice I would share with a young preacher who was just starting out. Three things came to mind. Each of which I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out. While I don’t know the extent of the change it would have made for me I know the right advice would have gone a long way.
My first piece of advice would be this. When it comes to what a God called man is to preach, God has already told you what to preach. He has given you 66 books in one volume called the Bible. Stay on your knees in prayer with your nose in the good book. You don’t have to look for the eight-run home run sermon, just give ’em Jesus.
The second piece of advice would be in regards to opportunity. That is, take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t hide behind the line that you are not good enough yet to go out somewhere, that you need more seasoning. If God called you and you have been faithful to study and not just have opinions and traditions then God will be with you. A young preacher may not feel up to the challenge of an invitation, but I would urge them to take it. The opportunity they pass on may be the same one someone like me would be begging to have.
Lastly, and just as importantly as the first two. Please young preacher ask questions. Don’t just assume that the older more experienced preachers will just open up the flood gates of knowledge to you of their own accord. They tend to not remember how it was to be that inexperienced. There is knowledge and wisdom there but you most likely will have to tap into it yourself verses them taking you under their wing.
I am reminded of what Paul wrote over in 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul just listed four generations in this one verse. How much Paul brought out on his own verses how muxh Timothy had to dig out of the apostle on his own I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that there was knowledge there and each preacher has the responsibility to get all that he can and pass on all that he can.
So after several days of below normal cold weather that basically guaranteed Northwest Indiana a white Christmas, the temperature has risen above freezing. That or course means the compacted snow and ice are starting to melt a little. The resulting slush is heavy but it can be moved if necessary.
At our depot the snow removal crew did a lousy job of keeping up with the snow before our cars started showing up. That lead to everything still being covered with that same compacted snow. Now with the warmer temp my boss decided to go out and try to shovel some of it himself. Soon as I could I went out and took over, he has a heart condition. While I was out there I could actually see the guys playing around with their equipment and yeah it burned me a little because I was now doing what should have already been done.
It got me to thinking about the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth. When one reads these two letters you kind of get the impression he was a little steamed himself at this bunch. There is a great deal of doctrine in those two letters but also a great deal of correction for those folks. In fact as you read 1st & 2nd Corinthians you come to realize this is more likely 2nd & 4th Corinthians with possibly a little bit of 3rd Corinthians added in. Paul was time and time again dealing with stuff at this church that should have been done already. People were on sight who shpuld have known better but it just wasn’t happening. They all had a heart condition, their hearts wanted to act worldly and not saintly so Paul had to step in yet again.
How many of us act that exact same way? Far too many I am afraid. God sends messengers to correct us and we straighten up for a couple of minutes. Then boom! Back to our “normal” whixh is no good. Let’s try to get ourselves right with God before He has to deal with us again on the same matter.
I heard a preacher say one time that we had best learn to get along with our co-workers because if we don’t God will make sure you two get stuck together. With that in mind I must confess that there is a group of men where I work that I don’t see eye to eye with. For the record I am a union member, where I work is a union business, my local is in need of more members, and I was always taught that if you work at a union shop you must be a union member. Long story short this group of guys are not union member, which puts me at odds with them.
However over the past few months I have had to deal directly with them more than normal. Yes they are just as human as I am, which is no surprise, but they are still non-union workers in a union shop but I am getting over that. I can’t change what they are but I can work with them, even dare I say work a little with them. As part of my transition back to my normal job I have had my hours changed to where I come in earlier and help our shippers ship the product to the drivers. Part of this new responsibility includes shipping some of their product. For me that is a little weird, bad enough I am shipping but also shipping to these guys!?! We do have a common goal though. All of us want to make a living to support our families.
This got me to thinking about who in the Bible were some “opposites” who had to learn to work together? David and Jonathan come to mind. Jonathan is the crown prince yet he knew David had been choosen by God Himself to be the nect king, 1 Samuel 23:17. These two agreed to work together even though Jonathan knew he was getting the short end of the stick. The over all goal was more important, they knew they had to follow God’s will for their lives and for their nation.
Still though they didn’t have that difference of opinion like me and the non-union guys. That lead me to think about to of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew the publican and Simon Zealotes. Simon Zealotes was as pro-Israel as you can get while Matthew the publican had “betrayed” Israel by going to work for the Roman’s as one of their tax collector’s. Early on it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for these two to work together. Not even much of a stretch to think that they did their best to be as far apart as possible but still they hung in there. Personally I kinda picture it taking Jesus at the last supper washing everybody’s feet before it really started to click for them. The idea that they have a common goal and a common employer (God). Their past was in the past and now a day would soon come for them when they would work together, Pentecost, both giving out the good news that Jesus saves. Then one day coming to understand that salvation was not just for the Jews but for all mankind, so long as they would accept the free gift. Yeah even those two could get along, they needed common ground and that was found at the foot of the cross.
Recently we had a weekend filled with snow. As the weather allowed I did my best to keep up. With my daughter being in a wheelchair it is all the more important that we keep the walkways clear. However it came to the point on Sunday afternoon where I had to go to bed, this meant there would be more snow to shovel when I got up around midnight for work. Sure enough there was about an inch of heavy weight snow. As quickly as I could I cleared a path to our cars and headed off for work.
When I got home though things were different. That heavy weight snow had frozen up due to the drop in temperature. The good news was that everything I had shoveled before work was still clean. While the bad news was the snow plow had come through and pushed some snow back over the section of road that had been cleared dor my daughter to get on and off the bus in her chair. Cars had driven through and the neighbor had also backed over the freezing snow turning it to hardened ice. There was no time to try using salt to melt the ice. Experience had taught me that at this point I need my ice breaker and shovel. That ice breaker would chip away at the ice and the shovel would move the broken off pieces put of the way.
I would love to say I cleared the area of ice by the time my daughter came home, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Still though I did bust up some ice which opened up a little of needed area. Those parts where the ice was too hard I worked on chopping grooves into it to allow our boots a means of gripping the ice instead of only dealing with that super slick surface.
While I was working away I got to thinking about John the Baptist. Over in Mark 1:3 he was described as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” his call was to “prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” He wasn’t the voice of all nor were multitudes gathered saying the same thing as he was, he was just one voice doing what he could. His task was similar to mine in a way, we both had to prepare the way for the arrival of someone important, it’s just that his person was vastly more important than mine. For the brief amount of time he had John did what he could with what little he had. We actually have more than him as that we have the complete Bible and that Jesus has already come the first time. Whixh brings me to my next point, that being Jesus is coming again soon. It is our duty to prepare the way for Him into people’s hearts. Because the next time He comes for those who are not saved it will be too late. Chip away at the cold hearts with what you got about eternal salvation, it might make all the difference and keeping them from falling into Hell one day.