October 6 @ 6 PM several of us will gather for a dinner and fund raiser for the MT. DORA CHILDREN's HOME at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pensacola! A nice meal, time with friends and information gathered will be beneficial. So, what's the big deal? (about) 40% of American children live in a single parent home... (too many) children are in foster care (too many) children do not have good male role models (too many) children are missing meals (too many)………………………..you get the picture! There are (not enough) resources that minister to single parents and their children. There are (not enough) places that take in the orphaned and provide a place to live and a good education with a Christian Foundation. Mt. Dora Children's Home is one of those places that "makes a difference". Join us if you are local (let me know). Join us in financial support if you feel a need. Join us in prayer for a continued success in this mission!
Jonah is the perfect example of a man who knew what God was calling him to do, yet resisted God’s call anyway. We often do that, too, don’t we? There are some things we have no problem handing over to Christ, but when it comes to others, we feel we simply can’t let go. We are blessed when our lives are made completely available to Him, and God stands with open arms, inviting us to trust Him.
SO…Single people! Where is the next event? Who is planning it? When is it? How much does it cost? Why do we even need singles ministry?
Not long ago, one of the single men blasted a few “old, married men” for “leading” a singles discussion. After all, what would we know that would help you in your daily life? Good point!
Her is what I know! Many singles (married people too but this is your ministry) are at a spiritual and social crossroads and you don’t have much support from churches. 1% of churches minister to single parents. About the same (pay for a) …singles ministry. 15% of Single people attend church regularly. And the physical and emotional temptation is greater when you are alone.
I need Singles to step up! Plan the events. Advertise. Mediate and contend for your place in the congregation. Pay for events!
Commitment! Needed! Be Committed!
The United Press International carried a story recently (June 8, 2017) about a man in the UK who purchased a costume jewelry ring (an imitation diamond ring) for $13 back in the 1980s, only to find out it wasn’t what he thought it was. Three months ago the unnamed owner had the ring appraised at Sotheby’s Fine Jewels. After a close examination, Sotheby’s made several determinations about the ring. First, it was not costume jewelry, but a real diamond. Second, it was very old and dated from the 1800s, probably once owned by royalty. Third, the diamond had a total weight of 26 carats and was probably worth over $400,000. When Sotheby’s auctioned it off for the owner, an organization purchased the ring for $850,000. Not only was this a stunning return for a $13 investment. It is also an example of how grossly wrong people can be in their estimation of something’s value.
Our world frequently underestimates the value of many things – revolutionary ideas, burgeoning businesses, new technologies. But its worst underestimation comes when it dismisses the value of people. This is especially true in our culture’s estimation of family relationships and the roles of a father and mother. People who have grown up without a supportive father and loving mother are among the most pain-ridden creatures on the planet. In fact, our culture has waged war on family roles and values and has sent the steady message to mothers and fathers that their children aren’t worth their investment of love, time, and energy. Career, educational goals, and accumulating material wealth are presented as the true signs of success, and nothing – not even one’s spouse or children – should get in the way of these pursuits. Consequently, we now have several generations of human beings who have gone un-nurtured, un-affirmed, un-validated, and unloved by the parents who set them aside for “more important things.”
Just look at the movies we make today, the TV sitcoms, and the entire basis of our entertainment. It’s all marked by a cruel humor that makes peoples’ pain and misfortune the butt of jokes and that fosters finding pleasure in shedding blood and mutilating human bodies. More and more, it seems, we are losing the capacity to be kind, tender, and respectful of each other. More and more, we are overwhelmed by our inner pain and cannot control the anger that keeps erupting from within.
But to help humanity with its pain, we need to first find healing for ourselves. And that healing can only be found in the warm and loving embrace of our Heavenly Father – our divine Parent who created us in His own likeness and made us according to His own specifications.
No matter what others think of you and no matter how badly they underestimate you, your Heavenly Father loves you supremely and His opinion is the only one that matters. Let Him love you. Flee into His loving arms – the only place of true peace, healing, and love.
“The LORD appeared to us from afar, saying, ‘Behold, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Dear Father in heaven, into Your loving embrace I flee. Accept me, O Lord, through You Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Wash me in His blood, cleanse me from every sin. Heal my wounded heart and fill me with Your love. Make me an instrument of Your peace in the lives of others I pray. Amen.
You do not need to face this challenge alone. Jesus has conquered this challenge so that you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.
STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD – CHAPTER FIVE
DEAL GOD A HAND
In any given casino the images are generally the same. Punters place their luckless bets, and dealers, with their oversized rakes, pull it in. I’ve often thought that if there is anything that ought to speak clearly to a gambler about his chances it’s that the dealer is the only one who ever needs a rake. Anything the punter may win… hands will do.
Whether it is Craps, Blackjack, Roulette or whatever, the same old picture is painted upon a canvas of sadness and broken homes: the punters toss it out and the dealers rake it in.
But poker? Well, that’s a horse of different suit. It looks like luck, but it’s not. It has all the earmarks of being luck, but nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why the same few players always end up in the finals of the greatest poker tournaments.
Not too many years ago I had the opportunity for an overnight stay in Vegas. Loved it. What’s not to “love”? Lights, music, excitement and people as far as the eye could see. With a brief stroll through Caesar’s Palace I at least got to see what Rome might have been like, had it been designed and built by 20th century Americans.
All that I witnessed took me back. Before the Father grabbed the reigns of this pitiful life gambling played a minor part in it. Nothing big, for sure. If nothing else, I kept the local bookie in cigars (cheap ones). But this time things were different.
As well as having a good laugh with my namesake brother, Billy (McGuiggan), while driving down the Vegas Strip, I got a good look. A good, long look. Of all the things I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed in this life, little beats the blessing of being in Vegas in the morning. Morning always sheds a whole new light on life and exposes it for what it is. Vegas wasn’t spared.
“You’ll fall asleep to lights and music in your head.
You’ll wake to dusty roads and lies that you’ve been fed
You’ll see too clearly all the signs you should have seen last night.
Oh, you bought the lie.” I was moved to write in a song following my observations of the gambling capital of the world.
My life has changed (I like to think) now that my Father has a grip of the reigns, though sometimes I could swear it hasn’t. It just doesn’t seem like it now and then. Sometimes it looks as though there’s no guidance at all, no direction, and this horse is running free. Then, thank God, I feel the tug on the bit, and this mare is reminded that he’s been bought with a price, that he’s not his own, and that he has a Rider dictating the route.
But what do I do during the times it seems like, feels like, and looks like God’s not in control? When everything around me would seem to suggest I’m running free again? Simple. I open His word, find the passage and read again, Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this, that He who began a good WORK in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Then I take the time to remind myself that He who promised is faithful.
And so I get to thinking, God’s working on me? God? On me? The One who made everything there is out of nothing that was? Him? He’s working on me? The One who SPOKE(?) into the darkness and produced all that we see, with WORDS? The One who painted the pattern on the back of the butterfly’s wing? Him?! The One who took time to place hair on blades of grass? The One who coloured the world and filled our skies with flying musicians? Him? He’s working on me? YES!!!
Isn’t that good? Isn’t that warm? Isn’t it comforting, strengthening? Isn’t that, “Well thank God someone is!”? Sure it is.
We are the only clay ever formed that argues with the potter. We are the only canvas ever stretched that claims to know better than the artist where the paint should go. And yet, in spite of our protests, in spite of our cowardly shrinking from the Potter’s hand, there He is, shaping and moulding. Diligently working to produce something quite beautiful our Potter is busy working a masterpiece so wonderful that when called to comment upon it He says, “They’ll look just like Jesus when I’m finished.”
In “Confessions of a winning poker player”, Jack King said, “Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it may seem. But every player can remember, with remarkable accuracy, the outstanding tough beats of his career.” How true is this of the Christian life?
I’m one of those individuals tempted to dwell on mistakes. So much so, I often lose today because of yesterday’s failures. I’m inclined to write off the good because of the weight of the bad. And I know many feel the same. The evil just seems so prevalent at times. The wickedness becomes so dark that it threatens to extinguish the light. But if this is all we see, we’re not looking hard enough.
Perhaps we should spend a little time thinking about the other side of this coin. Perhaps we should spend more time thinking about the big pots we have won, and forbid our vision to be so clouded. Perhaps, instead of grinding ourselves into whining minnies we should be taking a look at how altogether Christlike we are when we turn at the pull of the bit. Even though sometimes we only turn under duress. And maybe we should do nothing short of basking in the joy that accompanies our Father’s words, “What I began in you I will finish. You have my word on it.”
I used to work in a little recording studio, among other things. For those unfamiliar with recording I have to explain what a “final mix” (FM) is. The FM of a song is when you have all the EQ (bass, treble, middle) and all the faders set to the desired levels. Then you run the song one final time – that’s the final mix. Now, before you reach the FM it’s enough to have all the instruments in their place, even though they’re not sounding particularly well blended. But they serve adequately as a guide.
Every now and then, while I was working away on something, someone would come in and say, “The piano’s a bit loud.”, or “The drums are too quiet”, or whatever. My response was always the same. I’d impatiently look at them and grunt, “I’m not finished yet!” And it’s senseless to think it should sound like the finished article when I’m not finished. Right?
Rolf Harris was a man who captivated the hearts of children everywhere. I remember watching him as a child working with a huge canvas, openly spraying paint all over the place in what seemed like a display of lunacy. Nothing made sense and the canvas was void of anything even resembling art. Then, with a few seconds to spare he took a large brush, and, humming as he went, dabbed a few finishing touches. And to my utter amazement, what looked like chaos only a second or two ago turned out to be a mountain, and a cottage, and a river and more. But if I could have taken him back a single minute I could have said, and quite correctly said, “Rolf. That’s garbage!” And what would he have said?
It is ABSURD to think that we should look and sound like the finished article when God’s not finished. And it’s absurd to expect others to look and sound like the finished article WHEN HE’S NOT FINISHED!!!
Good card players are usually identified by knowing when to release a bad hand. Thank goodness our Father is the worst card player in the world. I mean, He can’t play a lick. Stubbornly refusing to believe that what He holds is useless to win anything He just continues on playing. Thank God.
Christianity, like poker, is not about luck. People who are far from perfect, yet perfected. People who are sinners, yet forgiven. Sick, made healthy. Seven high’s with all the potential of a royal flush. People, who in spite of how it looked, and how it felt, believed their Father’s words and persevered.
Listen, Christian, all good poker players know you’re never down and out until all your chips are gone. So take what you have and play. PLAY!
It’s true, you can’t lose what you don’t put in… but you can’t win much either. So take your life, bravely, and throw it into the pot. Because in the poker game of life your Father has the rake. Stay the course.
Hang in. Rumour has it He’s going for a full house. “No room at the Inn” is a phrase that shall never be uttered from the mouth of our God. He who promised to complete His work in us is faithful, and He will do it. He WILL do it. We’re dealing with a God who doesn’t know how to break a promise.
I love that about God!
STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER FOUR
LIFE AND DEATH
Life, like a military marksman, adjusts her sights, brings the intended target into view, places her finger gently on the trigger and says… “Not as chewy as roast beef, not as boring as chicken”. Bang! Target annihilated.
Two hours and forty-five minutes of cinematic genius, of flawless acting and of a story already told but begging to be again.
Anthony Hopkins and the disgustingly handsome Brad Pitt meet in “Meet Joe Black”. A cocktail of triumph from the word “go”. They combine to tell a tale of wonder and refreshment for the soul. The director of the movie (Martin Brest) had sat on the idea for 20 years, being originally inspired by its predecessor.
One fine, sunny day Death arrives on the scene, anxious after years of observation, to taste life. He takes the body of a young man (Pitt) and calls himself Joe. He needs a guide and selects Bill Parish (Hopkins), informing him that when the tour is over so also is Bill’s life. To make matters more intriguing Bill is to tell no one the true nature of their relationship.
Death is inquisitive to say the least, eager to sample this thing called life that he has thus far observed from a distance. He is a cold, callous and thoroughly removed individual; everything you might expect from Death.
Pondering his role in this adventure, Bill asks, “Why me?” Death numbly replies, “You’ve lived a first-rate life and I find it eminently usable.”
Death lives up to his name and reputation both. He meets a Caribbean lady in hospital and she accurately pegs him; “Oh, Mr. Bad News”, she calls him. But Life has a surprise in store, even for death. Doesn’t she always?
During the course of the movie Life opens her floodgates upon Death, illustrating through her human pawns, life’s wonderful adventure. She showers him with examples of nobility, courage, integrity, friendship, honour, and not least of all, love.
Quince (Bill’s son-in-law) is the first to fire. With no reason at all he welcomes Death into the Parish household – something Bill hadn’t even done, though hardly surprising. Quince is simply one of those genuinely open and honest individuals of whom Jesus would say in whom is no guile. The effect Quince has on Death is trifling in comparison to others, but quite genuine. “Do you like me, Joe?”, he asks toward the end of the movie. “Oh yes”, replies Death, “You are one of my favourites.”
Next up, the common courtesy of a butler, with a teaspoon of peanut butter, impregnates Death with a little taste of kindness. Insignificant? Well, only if you forget that this is Death’s final request before he exits the movie. This trickle of kindness begins to stream.
The movie continues to roll along this theme. Through many little incidents Life threatens to pierce the very soul of Death. Challenging him at every turn, throwing down gauntlets all over the place, convicting him with principle, provoking him with character, and confronting him with goodness, Life, with her many splendid things, searches for a weakness she might exploit. She is trying desperately to get him to betray who he is, to forsake his character and transform himself from the repulsive grub that he is into the resplendent butterfly she knows he can be.
Bill, always unhappy with Joe, teaches him some of the greatest lessons. And it is in conversation with Bill that Life takes her first serious foothold. Death is eating a cold lamb sandwich in Bill’s office and comments on how delicious it is. Upon hearing this Bill’s demeanour changes and he becomes somewhat melancholy. Not particularly focussing upon anything he stares into the space between himself and whatever is front of him. That place where memories dance, and the curtain never falls.
“Cold lamb sandwiches.” Bill finally says. “My wife turned me on to that. Not as chewy as roast beef – not as boring as chicken.”
Joe stops eating, leans his chin on his hand and listens, intently. His face also changes appearance, as though sharing the moment.
“She knew stuff like that.” Bill continues. “Everything reminds me of her. There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think of her. But I guess you’ve heard this a trillion times before.”
“More” replies Joe. But adds, “What was she like when you first met?”
“Thought you’d heard this a trillion times before?” asks Bill.
“This part I’m interested in.” And Bang! Life, like a python, now has Death in her embrace and all that is required is the slow, steady tightening of her power.
Life always finds a way, doesn’t she? Even through a cold lamb sandwich. The simple tale of an “ordinary” love shared between a man and his wife and Death is hooked. Life begins to coil, and Death, increasingly resembling trapped prey, comes closer to Life with every squeeze.
Bill is to be the teacher through which Death would learn many such lessons. However, it is Alison, his daughter, who completes the miracle of redemption within Death. In the early development of their relationship Joe remarks that he doesn’t have any friends. Alison responds by saying, “I can see why.” But all this was to change.
There’s the shyness of her smile and innocence of her language. There’s the charm of her spirit and the beauty of her form. There’s the strength of her character and the devotion of her heart. All of these, like water finding the weakness in a breached hull, begin to swamp Death like a flood.
As the story unfolds Life is beginning to take the upper hand over her archenemy. Death’s heart begins to crumble. Where there was only frost there is now the first signs of thaw. From a seemingly unchanging and bitter winter there breathes the first breath of spring. Where there was only intention of taking and experiencing there are now acts of benevolence and sharing.
Like a relentless tide persistently corroding a coastal rock Life is wearing him down. Death blesses an elderly lady with a dying wish, he honours a promise he earlier broke, he restores a business to the man he’s come to admire and from what was once a stone-faced callous appearance, finally, rolls a single solitary tear. LIFE HAS WON! What began as a trickle of kindness ended in a torrent of love, and death is exposed.
One fine sunny day Death arrived on the scene, anxious after years of observation, to taste life. Life took him and brought him to his knees, transformed and hardly recognisable. His character completely betrayed.
There are many paths down which one could travel with these thoughts. I’m sure you already have your own. Good. The movie deserves them. Bear with me now as I travel down mine.
One fine sunny day LIFE arrived on the scene, anxious after years of observation to taste death. He was called Jesus. Now, this was one fine, warm, compassionate, caring and benevolent individual; everything you might expect of Life. From the moment of His birth there was joy in the world, for the Lord had come and earth received her King.
The sun was smiling, finally realising the purpose of its creation, to warm the face of Heaven’s finest Son. The grass, begging the wind to blow it into position in order to be trampled under His feet. Trees desperately forcing themselves into leaf that He might shade Himself under them. Streams and rivers draining the nearby hillsides of every drop of moisture in order to make themselves more appealing to Him, in the hope he may stoop to drink. Well-trodden paths now thankful for the thousands of feet that shaped them, because HE now walks along them. Birds no longer singing through instinct but in the hope their songs may impress the ears of their Creator – all competing for a place on the branches that stretch to embrace Him. The stones snarling a glance at the birds, jealously longing for a mouth that they may accompany dawn’s daily symphony. Heaven was suffering post-natal depression while the earth was basking in His glory. LIFE!
This is all the story needed to be. This was how Life should have been received, and by all, and always. His entrance into Jerusalem should have been par for the course, an everyday occurrence. That would have been altogether fitting. However, this young man, had more serious matters in mind, and so did His archenemy, Death.
On the day of His birth hell and her captain were aroused into action and opened their floodgates against Him. They unleashed all the powers at their disposal; desperate to crush the wings of this young Admiral; desperate to find a chink in His armour, desperate to reduce Him, break Him, crush Him and ultimately destroy Him. Doing everything and anything, to tempt Him to betray His character.
They offered Him bread. He wasn’t hungry. They came with offers of kingdoms. He refused. He was met by an overly anxious mother. He responded with obliging obedience. They arrived with a storm and He left them with peaceful waters. They came with accusations of demon-possession and clever questions (taxes to Caesar, caught in adultery, work on the Sabbath). He answered with truth spoken in love. They came with every temptation, every lust, every human desire, every human weakness, every human emotion, every single day. Not for a second did He flinch. With His face set toward Jerusalem, Life, uncompromising and true, finished the work His Father had entrusted Him with.
In the movie, Life beat Death to a pulp and loved him into betraying his own character. 2000 years ago Death only proved Life to be the character we always knew was true. Eager to have Him betray His mission and His character, Death served Him a volley of abuse and scorn. Life stood up against it, braved its winter chills, walked patiently through its spring and delivered our eternal summer. With a triumphant cry that would pierce history, Life, seemingly broken proclaimed, “It is finished!”.
Thank God for “Mr. Good News”; The same yesterday, today and forever.
God is as unchanging and unchangeable now as He has always been, calling us from the winters of our discontent, toward our eternal summer.
I love that about God!
STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER THREE
BEHOLD THE LAMB! (not, cow)
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Micah 6:8
With a little sympathy and a lot of laughter I watched the news one evening regarding Mad Cow disease. It seemed after five years of bone-wearying research to discover whether or not B.S.E. could be transferred from cows to humans, scientists were just hours away from publishing their results. After spending $300,000 and thousands of man-hours by the country’s brightest professionals, after endless speculation from worried cow-farmers, after the multitude of panic-merchants who have undoubtedly boycotted wearing leather until they find out the results (because you never know!), we’ll never see the results. They will never be printed or released. Why? Because it seems that for the first five years the scientists, who thought they were examining the brains of cow, were in fact studying sheep brain.
So, what do you know? Even the brightest of us can make mistakes! I can’t decide whether that’s comforting or disconcerting. However, it wasn’t the scientists who were to blame. It was those who provided the brains, all the time assuring the scientists that what they were studying was true. The scientists were true to their studies. Unfortunately those who supplied the materials were not, and although the building looked fine, the foundation was sand.
After my unsympathetic laughter died down I began to think about this a little. I thought of the man, who had spent his entire life thinking he was studying truth until one evening he visited the Lamb. He came to Jesus at night and was informed of his grievous error. Thinking that life was found in the scripture, thinking that salvation lay within the law, thinking that God was impressed by “faultless” religious observance, he was to discover truth was found in the Lamb.
In fact, so useless was the fruit of his labour Jesus told him that he had to be born again. He wasn’t told to brush himself down. He wasn’t told to juggle the figures. He wasn’t even told he was on the right track. He was told to start again – from scratch.
Oh Nicodemus! After being raised in the family of God, surrounded by the countries brightest subjects, and being assured that what he was studying was true, only to find out his labours were pretty much in vain; unless, of course, he would be born again.
But shall we have sympathy for Nicodemus? Not at all. By all accounts, he, like the scientists studying B.S.E., ditched his studies and began again. If we are to have any sympathy, let us have it for all those religious scientists of Jesus’ day, who heard the truth, but tragically returned to studying with their heads planted firmly in a bed of sand.
Rather than ditch their lifetime errors, they continued in their futile, lifeless and empty religious studies. So wrapped up in their own personal “correctness” they rejected the Lamb, no doubt encouraged in their efforts by the standard (or lack thereof) of the twelve scientists who surround Jesus; a bunch of wannabe scientists who didn’t even possess the appropriate credentials.
I’m reminded also of a woman. A woman, who, if our own son brought her home, we’d more than likely throw a fit – though she was fit enough for Jesus. She thought it was important WHERE she worshipped, and she’d been studying this particular course all her life. Her married-five-times lifestyle seemed to indicate that she placed all her hopeful eggs in the basket of “where”.
Her adventure is a remarkable one. Not only did she ditch the advice of her colleagues, but she turned many of her fellow scientists from “where” to the feet of the Lamb. Her inclusion in the Book of Books stands as a sharp rebuke to religious scientists everywhere who still believe the “where” is more important than “spirit and truth”. That the name on the building matters more than the content therein.
Two wonderful examples from scripture, underlining the fact that years of meaningless study are only truly meaningless if we fail to embrace the truth that even meaningless study can reveal.
These two wonderful people (from opposite ends of the religious, social, cultural and moral spectrum), were pioneers in the field of “pearl diving” (Matt 13:45&46), teaching us that TRUTH is worth ditching everything you already hold to be dear.
And yet, in spite of having these two wonderful stories immortalised for us, where are we? Still we struggle to ditch the idea that salvation is to be found in personal righteousness, religious and ritualistic observation or even in the “where” of our worship. Still we struggle to embrace the fact that our salvation rests in a God, whose heart is so tender and so pregnant with compassion, that what He truly requires of us is that we go to Him, humbly, honestly, obediently asking His forgiveness.
Every now and then, during the preaching or studying of His word we come to realise that what we thought to be Lamb was actually beef. Let us, like these two pioneers before us, have the courage to turn our backs on what we’ve previously held to be true when the Lamb teaches differently.
God applauds the bravery of those who are willing to sacrifice all they know to be true when a deeper a truth emerges from their efforts in searching for Him.
I love that about God!
STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER TWO
CAROL & JESUS
Melvin locks his door five times each night, avoids the cracks on the pavement, eats at the same place each day, making sure the same waitress serves him and uses several bars of soap each time he washes himself.
Melvin (Jack Nicholson) is diagnosed as having “Compulsive Behaviour Syndrome”. His life is in a mess. He does what he wants, says what he means, and sadly, means what he says, unconcerned about the havoc he wreaks in other people’s lives. He is abusively direct and succeeds only in alienating himself from almost everyone he meets. He has the ability to offend anybody within a twenty-mile radius. In spite of this, Carol the waitress (Helen Hunt) becomes increasingly attracted to him, as does he to her.
In a restaurant, from which Melvin eventually chases Carol with his less-than-diplomatic honesty, there comes the first in a long line of changes. He actually pays someone a compliment. It comes as Carol, having heard enough insults for one day, says, “Pay me a compliment, Melvin.” He thinks for a moment, smiles, and replies, “You make me want to be a better man.” He goes on to explain that she is far better therapy for him than the pills he had subsequently stopped taking since meeting her. The film is “As good as it gets”, and is worth a watch.
“You make me want to be a better man”. God, bless all the “Carol’s” of this world. All those, who by the things they say, the things they do or the lives they live, encourage us to be better men and women. All those individuals whom God enables to cheer us on our way. Those who will challenge us to forsake ourselves (no minor miracle) and think of others.
When I think about Jesus, at least long enough to stop thinking about myself, this much is true: He makes me want to be a better man. And yet it’s so much more than that.
What is it that leads men into battle? What leads men to sacrifice? What encourages them to think, not of themselves, but of their country, or their people, or their family or neighbours? What enables men to stand face to face with death, and chose it? What is it that enables men to proclaim the virtues of freedom, and to do so with their lives, as opposed to doing it from some political seat far from the battle? More often than not it’s their leaders.
Alexander the Great, on approaching a fortified city, engaged in conversation with the King who made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t about to surrender. As the story goes, Alex then lined up a portion of his men and ordered them to march… straight off the end of a cliff. And they did it! The King? Well he duly surrendered, as you might expect.
What was so Great about Alexander? He made men want to die. He convinced them that greater glory lay in death than in life, if the life was laid down for a greater purpose.
Or what about Sir William Wallace, arguably Scotland’s greatest leader, whose troops bled the ground red at Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, and ultimately at Bannockburn, without him, and won their freedom from the English? What was so great about Wallace? He made men want to die.
Or more recently, Sir Winston Churchill, who led the British forces against the Nazi’s into what he called, and what undoubtedly was, “our finest hour”. What was so great about Churchill? He made men want to die. I mean, men, in their hundreds of thousands were signing up for what looked like certain death. And why? Because their leader had convinced them that as long as a single one of them remained alive they would fight them on the beaches and on the streets. And as long as a single one of them remained they would never surrender.
Good leaders make us want to be better men. Great leaders make us want to die. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
So then, what about us? What about this leader we follow? Is He really that great? Is He really everything we proclaim Him to be? Everything we preach Him to be? Everything we sing Him to be? Is He really, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as great as everyone says He is? Really? Then tell me this: does He makes us want to die? Or are we too busy living to seriously be about the business of dying?
Our problem has always been that we like to live. We like to live to our families, to our work, to our recreation, to ourselves, to our churches even. Whatever it is, we like to live. In contrast to this the Master speaks and tells us the harvest is calling for death. And we so often miss the joyful experience of harvest simply because we refuse to die.
* Wouldn’t we like to be free from the continual worry of financial pressure which so often binds us and would make us fruitless and faithless? Then die! Plant yourself in the soil of faith and die.
* Wouldn’t we like to be done with cowardice of tongue and lead many souls to glory? Then die! Plant yourself in the soil of humanity and die. Lose your life in the service of others and watch the roots begin to grow, and then a stalk, and then the miracle itself – many seeds.
* Wouldn’t we like to stand, regardless of the temptations and the pressures this world throws at us? Then die! Plant yourself in the field of prayer and reap a harvest of strength only dreamt about.
* And wouldn’t we like to stand one day, with baskets surrounding us, excitedly anticipating the harvest of the Lord? Then die, Christian, die! Let us plant ourselves in the Christ and His gospel, and die. For whoever would lose his life, for His sake and for the gospel, will surely find it.
Consider Jesus, who, like the seeds He encourages us to be, led the way, fell to the ground and died. And look! In doing so He produced many seeds. But seeds are not to be stockpiled. We are not to become content with sitting in a sack, in a barn, when we have been purposely designed for the field.
Are we seriously trying to grow without being planted? Are we honestly trying to produce without dying? It can’t be done. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…”
So, let us be done with trying to find contentment in life when we have been assured that it lies in death. Let us be done with attempting to satisfy ourselves with being a useless, ugly, worthless seed when we can die and become a life bearing plant for God in the field of souls. Let’s take Christianity outside the barn and into the place it was intended to grow and flourish – the field. Let’s throw off the contentment of being a caterpillar when our transformation into butterfly’s lies only a change away.
Consider Jesus with the children, and learn to die to inhibitions.
Consider Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, and learn to die to popularity.
Consider Jesus with naming Judas as the purse keeper, and learn to die to materialism.
Consider Jesus with the lepers, and learn to die to separatism.
Consider Jesus with the towel, and learn to die to egotism.
Let us, in all things, consider Jesus, who, for us, fell to the ground and died.
It was always God’s intention for His creation to produce according to its own kind. Die, Christian, die. And from you will come a tree of souls, ready for the harvest of God.
God calls for the greatest of sacrifice from those who belong to Him: death. But He only does so for the benefit of themselves and all those surrounding them; that one day the harvest may be plentiful and truth wins the day.
I love that about God!