literary genius Tolstoy was considered average. During his life Van Gogh sold
only one painting. Golfer Ben Hogan was a klutz as a kid. Famous Photographer
Cindy Sherman failed her first photography class. Walt Disney was fired from
the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
After performing at the Hi Hat club, a young Elvis was told that he should go
back to Memphis and drive trucks.
where I am right now, but I am not where I will be.
that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make
it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider
that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
give up. Don’t get stuck. Keep pressing forward! It took you a lifetime to get
to where you are. It’ll take a while to get where you want to be. Never give
warn about those people who “tickle itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) and water
down faith, but we shouldn’t let this warning confuse us about another Biblical
told Titus that the church should be “showing all good faith, so that in
everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our savior.” (Titus 2:10 ESV)
phrase might not be immediately clear. Let me show you some other translations:
order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything” (New
every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (NIV,
the commandments in Titus 2:1-10 have an eye towards how outsiders will
perceive them. Young women should live in such a way “that the word of God may
not me reviled” (2:5). Young men should be “in all respects” a “model of good
works” (2:7), in a way that will put opponents of Christ to shame.
Christians behave either makes Christianity attractive or unattractive. Our
lives cause outsiders to ask questions. “Why is that slave being so kind to his
master?” “Why is that mom so patient with her husband and kids?” “Why is that
college kid acting so differently than everyone else at the frat party?”
lives should make Christianity attractive and cause people to ask big
questions. What do they have that I don’t? How can I get it? How is she at
peace in such a difficult time?
Let’s make Christianity
attractive by living questionable lives!
the school calendar drives our lives. It determines when we take vacation and
travel. In the 1800s, life drove the school calendar. Classes met during the summer
and winter, not during the spring and fall, because in an agricultural society,
every single person was needed to plant and harvest. Planting a little too
early or a little too late could have disastrous results. Every day longer that
it took to complete the harvest meant the produce was a little less ripe and the
work was a little less profitable. Every worker was needed. Too much delay
could cause the loss of the entire crop.
9:36, Jesus looked at the incredible task in front of him. He preached and taught
and healed and loved. He felt compassion for the people, because “they were harassed
and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Then he spoke to his followers and said, “The
harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the
Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
said that the harvest is huge—but it will be lost without workers.
Jesus and pray that prayer. Let’s ask God to send us workers and helpers and
people who can get the job done. God has answered that prayer at Burns time and
time again. Let’s pray it some more!
the answer to the prayer, too. Let’s pray that God makes us into
workers. Let’s look past our excuses and our fears and step out and become harvest
workers. People are depending on us!
know that Theodore Roosevelt taught Sunday School classes?
Sunday, one of his students came to class with a black eye. He confessed that
he had been fighting—and even worse, on a Sunday! Roosevelt asked the boy what
happened and the boy explained that a bigger, older boy had been pinching his
sister, so he stood up for her—and ended up with a black eye.
told the boy that he had done well defending her and gave the boy a dollar. The
Sunday School superintendent thought this was inappropriate, so they relieved
the future president of his Sunday School teaching duties.
certainly want our kids to learn to solve problems with their words more than
their fists. (“A soft answer turns away wrath” Proverbs 15:1)
them to be willing to turn the other cheek when they are insulted or abused (“If
anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39)
also want our kids to know Psalm 82:3: “Give justice to the weak and the
fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the
weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).
wrong to defend the defenseless. It’s exactly what God himself has done.
We don’t really need more technology, better educational
systems, or more promising politicians. Do you know what the world really
We need people who are called to a radical simplicity of
lifestyle, to remind the rest of us that we don’t need what we think we need.
We need people committed to celibacy, to tell us that sex is
neither a necessity nor a god.
We need people who are lavish in prayer and spiritual
disciplines, in order to remind those of us with harder spirits of where our
real help comes from.
We need communities of Christians willing to commit
themselves to support each other in risky, venturesome ways, to goad the rest
of us out of our autonomy.
We need Christians willing to resist the many ways in which
the dominant in our world crush the weak.
We need Christians who find a thousand joyful ways to take
the screwed-up values of this world and turn them upside-down.
“The greatest need for our time is for the Church to become
what it has seldom been: the body of Christ with its face to the world, loving
others regardless of religion or culture, pouring itself out in a life of
service, offering hope to a frightened world, and presenting itself as a real
alternative to the existing arrangement.”
(Excerpts from Van Gelder, Confident Witness, 139,
and Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus)
loves huge displays and dramatic moments. We are moved by stories of incredible
sacrifice or the image of one man staring down a line of tanks. We like the
we’re so moved by the “impressive” – sometimes we don’t recognize the power of
the little and the individual. Remember that Jesus stood at the temple and saw
the rich people with their 6-figure checks, but it was the poor widow and her
pennies that earned his praise. “She gave more than all those rich people,” he
said (Luke 21:1-4 ERV).
discount the power of the little!
No drop of rain believes it is to blame for the flood. But without each drop—there would be no flood!
Many husbands promise that they would die for their wives. In reality, they don’t really want us to die for them. They’d appreciate it if we’d do the dishes, though!
Little things add up.
Little things matter.
Never forget that one person can make a difference.
Never forget that one straw can “break the camel’s back.” One pebble in the shoe can cripple the strongest mountain climber.
sit on the sidelines because you can’t do much. Remember that little is much
when God is in it!
there was a beautiful bird who spent his life inside a luxurious cage.
another bird from outside flew in, when the bird’s owner had accidentally left
the cage opened.
second bird asked the first, “Why don’t you fly away with me to freedom?” But
the caged bird answered, “Each day I receive wonderful food from my master.
Each day my home is cleaned. I am safe and secure and happy. And when I see my
reflection in the mirror, I sing! I am free!”
are a prisoner!” said the second bird.
not!” said the caged bird. “How could I be a prisoner when I enjoy all of
the second bird flew away to freedom while the caged bird remained happy,
singing in his cage, unsuspecting his true condition.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The
slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the
Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)
world is full of birds, fat and happy, unaware of their cages. We come to
announce the good news of the liberating king!
Have you ever shot Silly String at someone? I have memories
of camps and birthday parties with silly string fights and the annoying cleanup
that always followed.
Silly String is one of those accidental products. The inventors
were trying to formulate a hardening foam that could be sprayed on a broken leg
to form a cast in the field. The medical product didn’t pan out, but the
researchers noticed how much fun it was to shoot—and so the product lives on as
a kid’s toy.
In 2006, a soldier named Todd Shriver wrote home asking his
parents to send him some Silly String. He didn’t want to ambush his friends,
though. He wanted to save their lives from ambush.
Shriver and his unit realized that silly string made the
prefect booby trap detector. When entering a suspicious place, the soldiers
could spray the silly string across the room. If there were any tripwires to
IEDs, the string would land on the invisible wire harmlessly and identify its
location. There’s no telling how many lives this silly invention has saved.
I wish there were a spiritual version of silly string that
could be sprayed across our lives. Real dangers surround us. Forces of evil are
at work in our world, and too often we walk around totally blind to their destructive
potential, until we trip the trap and it is too late.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
There’s a simple recipe. Place three Oreos in the middle of
a room with four 5-year olds. Tears will ensue.
Even as children, we default to selfishness. The things we
do initiatively are the things that are self-gratifying or self-preserving. We
don’t teach kids to be selfish. We teach them to share.
Youth is temporary. Immaturity can last a lifetime. There
are an awful lot of grownups who never got taught that the world does not
revolve around them. Too many adults throw temper tantrums and feel justified
in gratifying every impulse they have. If we assume that our kids will grow out
of impulsiveness and selfishness, we’re probably going to be disappointed. We
need to teach self-discipline and generosity.
That’s why the early church is so impressive to me. Listen
to how Luke described them:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and
the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon
every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were
selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all,
as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking
bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their
number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
None of this is “natural” or “normal” human behavior. They
learned it from someone. I wonder who that might have been…