They Only Heard the Report….

They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me. (Galatians 1:23-24)

I read this passage today, from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  He’s referring to Christians in Judea, not knowing who he was, other than what stories they’d heard.  They had heard that he who was persecuting the church was now a champion for Christ.  And they praised God!

This reminded me of a gathering I was at a few years ago.  It was a small church in St. Michael.  The pastor directed our attention to a single lit candle by the altar.  He told us that the candle is lit every time someone reports another lost soul is led to salvation through Christ.  I have to tell you, I got major goosebumps hearing this – someone who was destined for eternity in hell was now redeemed by believing in their heart and confessing with their lips “Jesus is Lord”!

As the pastor talked of this, and told the story of the person who committed their lives to Christ, we all applauded.  And we praise God for them.  What a joyous occassion!

And if you think about it – what could be more joyous??  I’m reminded of some of the parables Jesus tells of finding the lost….

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Yet for some reason this free gift – a gift we have the option of recieving or declining mind you – is looked upon by the world as something “exclusive”.  Something not necessarily everyone gets, or something only saved for those special few “elite” people, or the “do-gooders”.  Well – there is no “elite” among us.  None of us are do-gooders.  Only God is good, and we’re only good because his Son took our sin and gave us His righteousness in return.

This free gift of salvation is not exclusive – it’s INCLUSIVE.  There is not one person worthy of it – yet there is not one person denied it.

But they have to want it.  I’ll never, ever “convince” someone to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  If I’m ever present when someone does, it’s a PRIVELEGE.  But I’m not responsible for it – only the Holy Spirit.  So no amount of “convincing” or “selling” on my part will get the job done.  They have to want it – and that does come from God alone.

But oh, when they want it!  Oh, when the lights come on!  Oh – when we finally open the door, and he comes in!  Joy!

I will always praise God when I hear the report…..

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I Remember……

I remember coming into work that morning……  Hearing about an airplane plowing into some building…..  I was still midly asleep, and in my head it was some puddle jumper, and somehow it got off course, and plowed into some building that doesn’t affect me.  “Idiots…  As if I care…..”

But my buddy kept telling me about this, as if it were important.  “Come on, man, I DON’T CARE!”

Then, as I walked into our office, and everyone was huddled around a television, watching the second plane (NOT a puddle jumper…) crashing into the World Trade Center- my heart stopped.  This was not some “idiot” who fell asleep flying his Cessna.  This was – I don’t even know…..

People were crying.  Afraid.  We were being attacked.  We were at war.  We were – vulnerable…..  Our safe, impenetrable home on American soil was no more…..  And what am I going to do?  I have a five year old and a two year old – what about them????

I remember the vigils.  I remember taking Stella to the corner by our home, and standing with candles to remember and mourn for the poor vicitims of this atrocity.  I remember singing at the top of my lungs, and feeling some sort of “unity” with other Americans.

I remember a country that was united, for a brief moment.  I remember how it felt like the WORLD was united.  Boy, how things have changed……

I wonder what this day will be like, now ten years later.  Will we at all feel united?  Will we put aside our differences, for just a moment?  Will we again humble ourselves, and look at our brothers and sisters with different eyes?

Or will this be all about our political agenda, or maybe to make a buck on some memorial merchandise?  Will the hate-mongering and fear-mongering continue?  Will we ban all prayer at memorial sites?  Will we Christians get our panties in a bunch over such banned prayer, forgetting that we can pray any time – RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW?  That we are free to do so anywhere, any time we want?  That the Lord is always there when we cry out to him?  That we don’t need to have some “organized event”?  Are we going to be so caught up in whether or not people organize to pray on this day, that we ourselves forget to actually PRAY???

Are we going to continue to divide, and stand sutbbornly on our side, forgetting that HE is for all of us?

He is for ALL of us.  He died for ALL of us.  Not one is to be left behind.  Not even the “radical muslim”.  Not even the leftie pinko commie who is spewing progaganda about how this was some consipriacy by the government.  Not even the greedy politician who is taking advantage of this for his political gain.  Not even the right-wing conservative theocratic bible-thumper, who can’t see past his big judgemental nose to see those who are STILL hurting, ten years later, and have just a shred of compassion.  Not even the people trying to build a mosque by the site of ground zero – or even those threatening to burn the koran in some sort of “rebellion against these radicals”.  Not even the child who is so afraid to tell her parents she’s pregnant, that she’s willing to kill her unborn baby – or even those advising her it’s ok and right and morally responsible to do so.  Not even the “christian extremist” who calls this girl a heathen and wishes her an eternity in hell…….

Not one of us is to be left behind – it’s his plan, not ours.  So I certainly do not want to look at the things you or anyone does, that might be counter to what I understand as “good” and form a divisive, hateful opinion.  I will speak truth – but I will speak it in love.  I’m not to sit here and tell you all the things you do wrong, while I myself still have a plank in my eye.  I’m to LOVE you, and if you don’t know Christ, hopefully reflect him, ever so slightly in my life so you can see that HE loves you and desires nothing more for you than life eternal, freedom, JOY!!  I’m not here to point out your flaws – I’m here to point you to HIM….

I’m to look at you through God’s eyes – to see you as he sees you, as his child.  I’m certainly not perfect at this, but I strive to do so, and I strive to love as He loves.

Today especially, I pray we forget those things that have divided us, and instead remember those things that united us.  Sure, we were scared.  Sure, we were confused.  Sure, we responded emotionally.  But for the most part, we responded with kindness, gentleness and love.  We put our agendas aside for a moment and put our fellow man’s needs before our own.  I pray we do just THAT, even now……

Re-Post – “Silly Goose”

I dug up some of my old blogs from a year or two ago. As they are like journal entries, that everyone could see, I thought it was kinda cool to read some of them – and kind of difficult to read others….

Still – I thought it might be cool to share some with you here. Enjoy!

Silly Goose – Originally posted May 18, 2010

This morning, as I drove in, I (and other cars) were stopped, because a family of geese were crossing the road. Not a big deal, and kind of fun to watch as the litle guys waddle about. Very cute. But what struck me most was the father, taking of the tail end of the train. It was a four-lane road (two each way), and i was in the left lane of my side. The geese were crossing, and ended up on the side opposite of me (going in the other direction). So I “could” have just gone by.

But the father did something I thought was very cool. Maybe I’ve just never paid that much attention – but he pretty much started to “slow down” as they crossed. And he kept making this backwards, “jerking” motion with his neck. He was in my lane until they were almost crossed on the other two lanes. I felt like he was saying “I’ll stop your car if I have to, don’t make me stop your car”.

He put himself in harm’s way for his family! He “laid his life down”, if you will. How many of us fathers really do that? OK – maybe we don’t have to cross a road like that, standing in traffic to insure our kids don’t get hit. Or maybe we do, depending on where we live. But I’m talking about intangibles too. Prayer. Purity. EXAMPLE. Putting aside our pleasures, for their benefit. Putting their salvation before our, or even THEIR, instant gratification. That father goose showed me a great example today, and got me thinking about my life as a father. May sound silly to you. But to me, it’s pretty good stuff I tell you what!