Fri, Feb 24th - 11:10PM
A Short Story
The Little Old Man
Our caravan stopped in Jericho. Of course, we needed to rest and water the camels, but we also needed the city. One can only look at so much hot sand. We were a little ahead of schedule so we decided that we could spend the day. First I found out where the Roman soldiers were and moved as far away as possible. I found a place for the animals. I put our money in a bag and slung it over my shoulder. After two weeks of traveling by camel, I certainly didn't look like I had any money, so I wouldn't be a mark for anyone. And I can handle trouble better than most.
I walked through the market without much interest. I wasn't really shopping, just wandering. A vendor gave me a taste of dates rolled in sweet spices and I bought a handful. I hadn't tasted anything sweet in months. Eventually I felt like I had a feel for the city, where it was safe and where to avoid, and what mood it was in. I found a low wall in the shade of a large tree and sat down to watch the women pass by. One thing I hadn't seen enough of on this trip was women.
Many of them passed by alright. After endless hours of watching camels sway, the people were very interesting. The sun was very hot. The men seemed to scurry about, making money, and the women moved slowly. They argued and laughed. They wore many layers of very colorful clothes. I ate sweet dates and enjoyed the scenery.
Two young women and a boy came by, moving faster than everyone else. The girls laughed constantly, a beautiful sound. The boy seemed caught between them, trying to impress them both. As they moved from vendor to vendor, they seemed to sample everything but didn't buy anything. Something caught the eye of one of the girls and she pointed and laughed. Soon all three were staring and laughing.
A moment later I saw the object of their laughter. A very old, very small man was coming down the main street, dragging a small barrel behind. He was so old, so small, so frail, shimmering in the heat, that I thought for an instant that he might just fade away. But he continued slowly down the street, dragging the barrel behind him. He wore mostly white. His head was uncovered. there were a few grey hairs left on his head that shone with sweat.
I watched with great interest, honestly wondering if the old man would die before he finished his journey. He staggered closer and closer until he stopped at the very tree that was giving me shade. It was a tall sycamore, strong and healthy despite the desert heat. It was one of the finest trees that I had seen for hundreds of miles.
The man stopped next to it, under its shade. He leaned one gnarled hand against the thick trunk. He had thin arms and fingers with huge swollen knuckles between them. He was panting. With a pull of all of his strength, he drew the barrel closer to the tree. This close, I was able to hear something inside the barrel slosh as he pulled.
The man knelt down and began to shape the hot dust in his hands. He clawed at the ground with his bony fingers, raking the dirt into a wall that he formed into a well at the base of the tree. When he was satisfied, he stood with great difficulty, and again rested one hand against the tree trunk to rest. Huge drops of sweat rolled down his face. Then slowly, he lowered the barrel towards the base of the tree.
Sparkling, clean water splashed from the barrel, into the well around the tree. Instantly the musky smell of wet dirt filled the air. I breathed in the welcome smell deeply, somehow feeling refreshed by it. The water sunk into the sandy ground almost instantly and it was quite a while before it started to collect behind the dirt walls he had built. Finally it filled the well, then slowly began to sink into the dry ground.
The barrel hadn't even been half full and was soon almost empty. The man sighed loudly when the water stopped flowing. He looked up and saw me for the first time. Gradually he smiled. "There is a little left in the bottom," he said. It was an invitation.
I jumped from the wall. I reached into the dark bottom of the barrel and felt a full handful of water. It wasn't cool, but it was wet. I carefully pulled it up and poured the handful on my head, and washed my blistered face with my wet hands. The old man also seemed to crawl inside the barrel and emerge with a handful of precious moisture. He annnointed himself and smiled a huge smile. Many of his teeth were gone. Water dripped from the strings of hair on his forehead.
I looked at him without saying a word, but he knew. "Why?" he said. I nodded. "I take care of this tree because it is very special," he said. "This is the place where I met Jesus," He was looking fondly into the branches, remembering a time long ago. "My name is Zacchaeus. Do you know Jesus?"
Thu, Feb 23rd - 11:50PM
Good news/ Bad news
Luke 15:17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20 So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
This is some of the parable of the prodigal son. I left out the parts that told how bad the son became and the older brother's reaction, because I wanted to focus on one thing. The Father's love. Many have pointed out that the Father was watching for his lost son. And that when He saw him, He ran to him. Brennan Manning points out how undignified He acts. The Father here is crazy in love. He forgets his dignity, his pride, the offences, the irresponsibilty, everything. He hikes up his robe and runs to his son. He even interrupts his humbling speach of confession He doesn't let him offer to work off his "debt"
If we were grading this parent, would he get high marks? Wouldn't we take him aside and suggest that He let the son repent, apologize and offer restitution? He could learn a lot as a servant. Besides, it isn't fair to the other son (there's that unfairness again). But He didn't do any of those things. He even let His faithful son be offended. Because He loved too much. He was overjoyed. You might even say hysterical. Because He loves us so much. Which way would you want to be treated if you were a prodigal son? Do you enjoy those humbling speaches? Would you prefer to be a servant for a while, at least? If you would, too bad. Your God loves you too much. He knows that you will fail. He, more than anything, wants you to know that HE LOVES YOU.
Oh, the bad news? He expects us to love each other the same way.
Wed, Feb 22nd - 6:53PM
This is 'Love Song" by Third Day
I've heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done.
I've never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of calvary
Just to be with you, I'd do anything
There's no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I'd give anything
I would give my life away.
I've heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
How may times has he broken that promise
It can never be done
I've never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea
(Bridge) I know that you don't understand
the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know that you don't realize
how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again.
Just to be with you, I've done everything
There's no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away.
Tue, Feb 21st - 12:57AM
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
7" 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
This is a well known parable. We usually look at it from the point of view of the first hired. But try it from the view of one of the last hired. Maybe you (and I) were saved as a young person, but look a little deeper. Its really about how much work we have done. By that standard I can see that I'm probably not God's (the landowner) best worker. In fact maybe well on towards the afternoon. Billy Graham may have started at dawn, but not me. Looked at this way this isn't a story of God giving someone Heaven that they didn't earn, its about God giving me grace that I didn't earn. It is about Him saying "Don't I have the right to love you this much? To give you all of this that you didn't earn." Notice how it mentions what I was doing before I went to work. I was sitting around in the town square, not even looking for work (salvation) That sounds a lot like me.
Its another case of God's Kingdom not being fair. But this time its not fair FOR me. He saved me when I wasn't even looking for salvation. He gave me everything, even though I deserved none of it. He loves us that much.
Thu, Feb 16th - 10:52AM
We are off on a "weekend". It would be a vacation but its not long enough, less than a week. We're going to Pacific Grove, then San Francisco. It is part of my goal for this year of more relaxation and more time with Taryn.
Tue, Feb 14th - 9:31PM
I promised to keep you updated on the young lady with anorexia that I mentioned a while ago. Much has happened. Our community held a huge fundraiser to send her to an eating disorder place in Arizona (No, I don't know how many eating disorder places there are in Arizona) They raised $20,000. It was an awesome (Stuart) response from our community. I saw another way that God can use tradgedy. How many times does a town get to respond like that?
We heard last night that she is now in Arizona. Her condition was getting pretty bad and this place is seen as THE solution (with God's grace, of course) It is intense. They almost cut off the family for a while. If you get a chance please pray for Kristin, that she would be emptied of the lies of this world and the spirit that opresses her and she be filled with the Holy Spirit. She is a believer.
Sun, Feb 12th - 6:43PM
Confession and Forgivness
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[g] was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.[h] He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
In this parable Jesus makes a connection between being forgiven and forgiving. The point here is that we are the servant who has been forgiven much. Ten thousand talents is a huge fortune. You might as well say millions of dollars. 100 Denari is about $20. We have all been forgiven so much. How can we fail to forgive someone else a pittance?
There was a breakthrough for me in confession. When I really analyzed my actions, I saw that I was not innocent. I was not blameless, I had not done everything that I could have to fix things, There were things that I had done that seemed as inexcuseable as the things that had been done to me. If I was ready to seek reconciliation and someone else wasn't, it just means that I was ready. There were surely many that would have been ready long before me. All this made it very easy for me to forgive. When we search ourselves it humbles us enough to see His will. This is why communion, with its self-examination, is so valuable. It serves as an attitude check.
None of this is fair. But then, Christianitty is not fair. Picture two people in a church in conflict. Imagine one good and one evil. Mr Evil would be free to spread lies and accusations to anyone who listens. How would Mr Good respond? It would be inappropriate to go to people and say, "Mr Evil is lying." In fact Mr.Good whould probably find some fault in himself and confess it. In a church, unless things went far enough to require church discipline, Mr Good would remain undefended, Mr Evil unchallenged. In the end, it would be up to God to deal with. "Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord."
The conclusion, we can only get ourselves right with God. That is a big enough job as it is.
Thu, Feb 9th - 9:44AM
To those of you who tried to figure out my vague, now deleted post a week ago about my struggle with confronting someone in the church - its done. I was vague because the whole story is very long, and pretty messy. I really was just posting the issue, that we should do everything possible to keep peace in the Body, and I got caught up in my own thoughts. I finally yesterday went to four people and apologized. They recieved it well and we seem to be moving on.I did learn a couple of more things in the process.
God's plan often doesn't have anything to do with being fair. Although I was not innocent by a long shot, there is no way I should have been the one to aplogize. But I was the one ready to. I finally saw how bad my part in all of it was, and sincerely apologized. The didn't offer one word of their part and it was fine.
Apologies are little miracles waiting to happen. I never imagined that these hardened hearts (mine included) would respond so easily to a few words. It went so well, I can't wait to apologize to someone else!
I don't mean this to sound heroic. I was wrong. I should have seen this and aplologized a long time ago. But God if faithful.
Thanks for your prayers. Even if you had no idea what I was talking about, God did.
Mon, Feb 6th - 9:24PM
Brenning Manning makes a suggestion in "The Signature of Jesus" that, while it may not be meant to be taken totally literally, sounds like a great solution for some common church problems. It would be great if the Church would submit to a discipline of silence. In other words, just shut up for a while. The world has heard our words. They have been used a lot of ways. Some of them harmful. Maybe the Church should stop talking, stop preaching at people, just for a while. Just until we can clean up our acts a little
Jesus said that we should be known by our love for each other. John 13:34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It worked for the early church. They couldn't go around preaching, they would have been thrown in prison. The kept silent and let their lives talk.
"Let us present to the world the image of a servant community, and let us preserve the beauty of the gospel not with showy, defensive fervor, but with an intense interior life of prayer and worship, service and a manor of living that only can be explained in terms of God." Manning says. Imagine the result inyour church if everyone focused for a time one loving each other. Making sure that no one was left out. No one's needs weren't met. That fellowship became a priority. That everyone was comforted and prayed for. Wouldn't that be better publicity than a full page ad in the local paper?
As for how to show love to non-believers, "When you encounter someone in grief or desolation, do not speak the biblical language known to you and available to you; stand with the wounded man or woman in his or her lonliness and brokenness, weep and mourn with them, and let your silence be your compassion." Yes, of course, eventually we could tell of God's love. But what if we listened first?
What he is getting at isn't so much against our words as it is saying that we need to focus on our actions. How would you show God's love if you couldn't speak for a month?
Go ye therefore into the world preaching the gospel. Use words if necessesary.
Sat, Feb 4th - 7:46PM
(Paraphrased from "The Signature of Jesus" by Brennan Manning)
A certain old man made a habit of meditating by an oak tree next to the river. One day he saw a scorpionfloating by, upside down, struggling ofr its life. He reached out his hand to help it and it stung him. Instictively, he snatched his hand back. He reached out again, more determined. As he grabbed it, the scorpion stung him again, harder this time. His hand instantly began to swell.
A man walking by saw his rescue efforts and shouted, "Old fool, that's what you deserve for trying to save such an ugly, nasty creature.'
The old man set the scorpion an the river bank. He said," Just because it is the scorpion's nature to sting doesn't change my nature to save."
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Wed, Feb 1st - 9:51AM
I think that I didn't even come close to conveying the issue.
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