The missing

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.

Get all you can

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.

Getting along

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.

Breaking the ice

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.

A quick take away: How?

Philippians 2:12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Not to work it into our lives, Ephesians 2:9, but to work it out by our lives, by our obedience, by our daily behavior, or to show what is on the inside. The Christian life is a working concern. We should have an eagerness to show it off like a child would do with a new toy. In other words displaying fruit, Galatians 5:22,23. Just like one would a gold mine operating, exploiting, and getting top value for what is securely your possession.

A quick take away: Our own salvation

Philippians 2:12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Does that mean we save ourselves? Nope. It is His salvation that He has purchased for us, Psalms 96:2. He planned it before the beginning of the world, Ephesians 1:4. It is our greatest possession, Romans 6:23b) “your own salvation”. it is the salvation that He has offered, John 3:16; Revelation 3:20. We can have it if we accept it, Romans 10:13. (Kinda like a vacuum cleaner salesman, only God ain’t dumping dirt on your rug it is already there Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23.)

Avoiding God’s will

Often times we avoid God’s will due to just how scarry what we see is. The seemingly unavoidable destruction of what we hold dear is neyond our willingness to surrender. In Acts 27 we read a couple of interesting things in regards to God’s will for the 276 people on the boat.

First in verses 14 & 15 we read how the ship that was carrying the Apostle Paul was caught in a terrible storm, a hurricane. Then after many days Paul stood up and told every one that Jesus had promised to bring all the people ashore and that Paul would stand before Ceasar but that it was the will of God that the ship be destroyed (v22) and that they all would be cast on a certain island (v26).

The another thing we see is the crew doing what they could to preserve that same ship. Then finally the crew began to check the depth of the water and soon learned that even though they couldn’t see land that they were indeed approaching land. Big rocks and big ships don’t mix and they didn’t want that boat being destroyed if they got too close, so ww read in Acts 27:29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

It was God’s will for them to reach that island but they couldn’t do it with the boat. They loved it too much! Thus they did what they could to stop or avoid the will of God. This last time they threw overboard 4 anchors. Here us what I believe each of those anchors represent in our lives.

1. Fear. That unknown us too great. Faith is nice when things are going swell but when they ain’t what do we do?!? How can God let us come so close to ruin? Our minds focus solely on the negative aspects and we forget that God knows all and loves us so much that He Himself paid that aweful sin debt for us. Fear is indeed the opposite of faith.

2. Frustration. We get this way usually hecause we have been working so hard on things to go our way. All of our ducks are in a row then suddenly things begin to fall apart yet again. How can this constantly be happening we wonder. It seemed like this had been God’s plan and now it appears that He has changed His  mind. The best laid plans of man are not God’s plans and we must learn to accept that truth or we will never know the victory He has for us.

3. Fraility. As humans we are very frail when it comes to sin and we have tendencies to love our sin more than God. We carry this crutch around predominantly on display. I’m just a sinner saved by grace and I still sin. While it is good to acknowledge that stop trying to use it as an excuse to avoid God’s sovereign will for your life. Remember Jesus told that woman in Jihn 8:11 to go and din no more. He wasn’t telling her to never sin again but to stop habitually sinning, stop relying on her frailty.

4. Foresight. Our foresight. We think we see something better and instead of going with what God has for us we go with what we know. Trouble is what we see is very shortsighted and misleading. Going back to faith, it is not what we see that counts but what God sees. We are told to walk by faith and not sight for a reason (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our foresight can’t comprehend eternal truths and will always fall far short because of it.

Bear in mind that Paul declared that the people were all going to end up on a CERTAIN island and not just any old place. God’s will was for them to reach that certain island. It ended up with some swimming ashore while others arrived using broken pieces of the ship to help them stay afloat. How much time and energy are we wasting by avoiding God’s will? Had they just gone forward the ship would have been lost on the shore of the island and they would have arrived a bit more safely than they did.