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Archive for June, 2010

In Luke 16 there is the familiar story of the rich man who lived in luxury and Lazarus the beggar who laid at the rich man’s gate. It stirs me to read that it is the beggar who ends up in heaven. Is that not a picture into where God’s heart is? Do we not all have beggars that have been laid at our gate? Are we not all beggars ourselves at the gate of God? The rich man did not see himself as one nor did he feel compelled to help one. He did not end up with God.

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The Lost

For the past few days I have read Luke 15. It is a classic chapter about the lost. There is the aspect of searching for the lost and the rejoicing when the lost have been found.

One of the stories that Jesus tells is the story about the woman who loses a coin and how she searched until she found it. It reminded me of a time when I was a kid walking to school. I was walking on a dirt bank, as kids will do, and dropped a nickel that for some reason I had in my hands instead of my pocket.

As soon as I dropped it, I looked down but didn’t see it. I looked and looked but could not find it. (A nickel was a lot back then) After a little while, I remember stopping and asking, Lord, could you help me find my nickel’. The next time I looked down . . . there it was.

After thinking about this event that took place about 50 years ago, I thought of the parallel to my life today. I have looked and looked for the lost, but so far I have not been able to find them. I prayed simply, ‘Lord, help me to find the lost’.

Last night, my wife and I had dinner with some friends. The guy has been involved in a prison ministry for years. Today I went to the sheriff’s office and filled out the necessary paperwork to become a part of that ministry team. For that I have to say, ‘Thank You Lord for helping me find the lost’.

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By a couple different means I have become a little more acquainted lately with the homeless and imprisoned; the homeless through a book I read, Same Kind of Different as Me; the imprisoned through a book they read – mine. As a result of being a little more acquainted, I have also become a little more mindful and have the following thoughts in relation to them.

We all have an enemy who wants nothing more than to destroy us. The process of that destruction begins with the regular chipping away at our worth; accompanied by his convincing arguments that we are a disappointment to family, friends and God. Once he gets that firmly established in our minds, he then persuades us to believe, since we have disappointed God, that it is He who wants to destroy us. Throw in enough major setbacks in life and some simply can’t overcome them. Instead, they are overcome by them.

Two end-of-the-line destinations that people can find themselves in are homeless or prison. It is the final nail that our enemy would use to finish us off, trying to convince us that God has finally got us where He wants us; to pay for the disappointment we have been.

His lies never end. The truth is found in John 10:10; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. God has never wanted to destroy. Matthew 9:36 says, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless”. I have no doubt in my mind that he looks on many who are homeless and many who are in prison as some who have been harassed and destroyed by the ‘thief’. I have no doubt in my mind that God wants to restore what has been destroyed.

A person in that situation can, on their own, take a proper stand and look to God for his or her help. They can seek Him by reading His word (the Bible) and from it find the truth of how He sees them. With that truth they can take a stand against the lies that have been used to get them to where they are. A person can do that and some have.

But they can also be helped to see it by those of us who have fought through the lies. Those of us who have not been overcome can help by coming along side those who have. As I said in another piece of writing, we can ‘stop to help even the odds’.

By the time a person finds themselves in either of these situations, it is like being in a hole. Shovel by shovel they are buried until the enemy has them right where he wants them. Surely Jesus must have had something like this in mind when He said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest”.

I write this partly to challenge myself. I write it partly to challenge others. There is a field that is before us. But I will add this with the chance that this might actually reach someone who is at their end. If you can identify with being harassed and destroyed, I promise you that it is not God. As much as your enemy has destroyed, God is able and longing to restore. As much as you may feel nearly buried, if you will bury yourself in the Bible with God, He will bring new life into you. Hopefully someone will come along to help you in that effort.

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I was not naïve enough to think that my first book, would sell millions but I have to at least admit that I had hoped it would. Realistically I felt it would more than likely end up as gifts to family and friends. Actually, after giving a copy to family and some of our closest friends, a few other copies were actually sold. My mom of course bought the most to give as gifts. My brothers and their wives bought a few for the same reason.

It wasn’t long though before I changed my thoughts about selling and promoting my book. I for sure did not want to promote it and I much preferred to give the rest of them away. I had the feeling that of the few that were out there, that if God wanted to use them, He could promote them. I was good with putting into His hands.

In case you’re wondering if this is going to end up a success story of big sales, I’ll let you know now it doesn’t. But what has taken place has been plenty to be thankful for.

As I said, my sister in law bought a few copies. She gave one to each of her Bible study group. Little did I know they would end up using it as a study guide. There was at least one pretty cool story that came out of the study. It was enough for me to say ‘thank You Lord’.

One of the ladies in the study had a jail ministry. She took my book into a women’s prison in Alabama. There was another cool story that came from that and another opportunity for me to say, ‘thank You Lord’.

My mom gave a copy to her, still living, uncle in Texas. He sent it to his nephew (my mom’s cousin). He and his wife are in prison in Texas. They gave it to another who was in with them. All have corresponded with my mom. All have been opportunities to say, ‘thank You Lord’.

The Lord knows who needs it. He knew who needed it when I was writing it. And He knows how to get it to them. He knows much better than I. Resting in that fact I can say, ‘thank You Lord’.

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“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.”

There are quite a few references in the Bible to the ‘hand’ of God. There are some to the ‘strong arm’ of God. But this demon Jesus drove out by just “the finger of God”.

Afterwards Jesus tells the story of a strong man that kept a good watch over his home. But this strong man was attacked and overpowered. His armor is taken and he is utterly defenseless.

Jesus also tells about what happens when an evil spirit comes out of a man; that it goes and finds more evil spirits and goes back to the man it was driven out of. The spirits go in and the final condition of that man is worse than the first.

I believe this ‘man who had been mute’ was once the strong man that Jesus tells about? I believe He knew that at one time he had driven a demon or two out himself but was eventually attacked and overpowered. When Jesus found him, his condition was at its worst. But He did not see weakness and walk on by with criticism; He saw a man that used to be strong and stopped to even the odds.

While away on vacation, I read a book, given to me by a friend, called Same Kind of Different as Me. It is based on a true story that tracks a black man, ‘Denver’, who was born in Louisiana in the 40’s into modern day slavery. He was a good and strong man. But one day he tried to better himself and wound up homeless in Texas.

The book also tracks ‘Ron’, a white man that becomes fairly wealthy and lives in the same Texas area. Fortunately Ron had a wife, ‘Deborah’ that had a heart for God and winds up drawn to help out in a homeless mission where of course Ron and Deborah meet Denver.

Deborah did not see the homeless as weak and worthless. Instead she saw them as people, some of which were once strong and had simply been overpowered by life. They were people who just needed someone to stop and help even the odds.

In addition to the stories in this book, of the difference they made in some of the lives they touched, are the stories in the sequel, What Difference Do it Make, which is filled with stories of what others have been inspired to do as a result. The two are a compelling pair and a modern day example of the same thing Jesus did when He stopped to even the odds.

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