Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday's Inspirational Story - Light of the Storage Closet from Max Lucado

Light Of The Storage Closet From Max Lucado’s Book “God Came Near – Chronicles Of The Christ

A few nights ago a peculiar thing happened. An electrical storm caused a blackout in our neighborhood. When the lights went out, I felt my way through the darkness into the storage closet where we keep the candles for nights like this. Through the glow of a lit match I looked up on the shelf where the candles were stored. There they were, already positioned in their stands, melted to various degrees by previous missions. I took my match and lit four of them.
How they illuminated the storage room! What had been a veil of blackness suddenly radiated with soft, golden light! I could see the freezer I had just bumped with my knee. And I could see my tools that needed to be straightened.
“How great it is to have light!” I said out loud, and then spoke to the candles. “If you do such a good job here in the storage closet, just wait till I get you out of where you’re really needed! I’ll put one of you on my table so we can eat. I’ll put one of you on my desk so I can read. I’ll give one of you to Denalyn so she can cross-stitch. And I’ll set you”, I took down the largest one, ” in the living room where you can light up the whole area,” (I felt a bit foolish talking to candles – but what do you do when the lights go out?)
I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice, ” Now, hold it right there.”
I stopped. Somebody’s in here! I thought. Then I relaxed. It’s just Denalyn, teasing me for talking to the candles.
“OK, honey, cut the kidding,” I said in the semi-darkness. No answer. Hmmm, maybe it was the wind. I took another step. “Hold it, I said!” There was that voice again. My hands began to sweat.
“Who said that?”
“I did.” The voice was near my hand.
“Who are you? What are you?”
“I’m a candle.” I looked at the candle I was holding. It was burning a strong, golden flame. It was red and sat on a heavy wooden candleholder that had a firm handle.
I looked around once more to see if the voice could be coming from another source. “There’s no one here but you, me and the rest of the candles,” the voice informed me.
I lifted up the candle to take a closer look. You won’t believe what I saw. There was a tiny face in the wax. (I told you you wouldn’t believe me.) Not just a wax face that someone had carved, but a moving, functioning, flesh like face full of expression and life.
“Don’t take me out of here!”
“I said, don’t take me out of this room.”
“What do you mean? I have to take you out. You’re a candle. Your job is to give light. It’s dark out there. People are stubbing their toes and walking into walls. You have to come out and light up the place!”
“But you can’t take me out. I’m not ready, the candle explained with pleading eyes. “I need more preparation.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “More preparation?”
“Yeah, I’ve decided I need to research this job of light-giving so I won’t go out and make a bunch of mistakes. You’d be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be. So I’m doing some studying. I just finished a book on wind resistance. I’m in the middle of a great series of tapes on wick build-up and conservation – I’m reading the new best seller on flame display. Have you heard of it?
“No,” I answered.
“You might like it. It’s called Waxing Eloquently”.
“That really sounds inter–” I caught myself. What am I doing? I’m in here conversing with a candle while my wife and daughters are out there in the darkness!
“All right then,” I said. “You’re not the only candle on the shelf. I’ll blow you out and take the others!”
But just as I got my cheeks full of air, I heard other voices. “We’re not going either!”
It was a conspiracy. I turned around and looked at the three other candles; each with flames dancing above a miniature face.
I was beyond feeling awkward about talking to candles. I was getting miffed.
“You are candles and your job is to light dark places!”
“Well, that may be what you think,” said the candle on the far left – a long thin fellow with a goatee and British accent. “You may think we have to go, but I’m busy.”
“Yes, I’m meditating.”
“What? A candle that meditates?”
“Yes. I’m meditating on the importance of light. It’s really enlightening.”
I decided to reason with them. “Listen, I appreciate what you guys are doing. I’m all for meditation time. And everyone needs to study and research; but for goodness’ sake, you guys have been here for weeks! Haven’t you had enough time to get your wick on straight?”
“And you other two,” I asked, “are you going to stay in here as well?”
A short, fat, purple candle with plump cheeks that reminded me of Santa Claus spoke up. “I’m waiting to get my life together. I’m not stable enough. I lose my temper easily. I guess you could say that I’m a hothead.”
The last candle had a female voice, very pleasant to the ear. “I’d like to help,” she explained, “but lighting the darkness is not my gift.”
All this was sounding too familiar. “Not your gift?” What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly.” Without asking my permission, she began a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” (I have to admit, she had a good voice.)
The other three joined in, filling the storage room with singing. “Hey, I shouted above the music, “I don’t mind if you sing while you work! In fact, we could use a little music out there!”
They didn’t hear me. They were singing too loudly. I yelled louder. “Come on, you guys. There’s plenty of time for this later. We’ve got a crisis on our hands.”
They wouldn’t stop. I put the big candle on the shelf and took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Four perfectly healthy candles singing to each other about light but refusing to come out of the closet. I had all I could take. One by one I blew them out. They kept singing to the end. The last one to flicker was the female. I snuffed her out right in the “puff” part of “Won’t let Satan puff me out.”
I stuck my hands in my pockets and walked back out into the darkness. I bumped my knee on the same freezer. Then I bumped into my wife.
“Where are the candles?” she asked.
“They don’t… they won’t work. Where did you buy those candles anyway?”
“Oh, they’re church candles. Remember the church that closed down across the town? I bought them there.”
I understood.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Is it socialism or simply being a disciple of Christ? (Acts 4:32)

SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:32 (TM) – larger reading Acts 4:32-37
The whole congregation of believers was united as one - one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything.

A missionary who returned to America after a long imprisonment in a Japanese camp was asked what he thought about during his confinement. His answer was: “I spent such time as I had to think wondering whether I would be worthy of freedom when I got it.”

We live in a free country. We exercise democracy. But are we truly free?

This probably won’t win me any points but … I have to laugh at those individuals who claim to be Christian, but are dead set against anything that comes close to what they label “socialism”. I want to shout: “Hey, have you even bothered to read the New Testament?”

Read again the key verse for today … even better read the larger selection. The early Christians held everything in common. No one had possessions, as you and I would understand possessions. As it says: “They shared everything.”

Bottom line… no one needed for anything, no one went hungry, no one went homeless, no one had to go through the city dump to find something to wear… “they shared everything.”

What part of this biblical reality don’t we get?

Are we truly worthy of our freedom? Jesus would contend that we are not truly free until we give of ourselves… abandon ourselves… is extravagant generosity. As long as there are people who are homeless, hungry, in prison, lonely, or naked … in the world … we won’t be truly free.

Christ died to free us from ourselves so that we can be of greater service to all. Call it socialism if you wish, I simply call it being a disciple of Christ.


Make me a captive Lord and then … and only then … I will be free.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jesus' tough teaching on discipleship.(John 6:60)

SCRIPTURE: John 6:60 (TM) – larger reading John 6:60-71
Many among his disciples heard this and said, "This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow."

Soren Kierkagaard tells this story: I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."
Jesus was talking about sacrifice – his and his followers. It was tough, challenging and a hard teaching to handle. Many of his followers couldn’t handle it. They turned away and simply went home.

Dr. Kierkagaard tried to match up his surroundings and the words from the pulpit. The trappings of our faith seldom correspond with the teachings about our faith.

We want the Savior without the Lord. We desire the reward without the sacrifice. The reality is that we really cannot have both ways no matter how hard we try.

We make a commitment such as “until death do us part,” but when the relationship becomes difficult and demanding … we turn our backs and walk away. Jesus was pointing his followers towards the stark reality of following him. It was symbolic language housed in pointed terms. Eat his flesh, drink his blood. It was a hard saying. The cost was great. For some, too great.

During one particular year of ministry I had taped to my computer the question: “What is today’s cost of following Jesus?” It was a constant reminder that following Jesus should cost me something every day. The tendency is to seek an easier way… the path of least residence. But what is the benefit in following that path? Where are the rewards in doing something that comes easy?

In college students constantly are looking for an “easy A class”. I took some of them during my college years. I don’t remember anything from those classes. But the courses in which I had to work hard, stay up late, read volumes, write tons of pages … are the courses from which I learned valuable lessons.

We are called to be disciples... to follow Jesus. Is it too tough? Is it a hard request?


This disciple stuff sure has a lot of “yikes” moments to it. Lord, help us to follow you regardless of the personal cost.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Discipleship - getting out of God's way so he can do a mighty work through us. (Luke 14:11)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 14:11 (CEB) – larger reading, Luke 14:7-14
All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up

Wakefield tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn't know what to do. Morse responded, "More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding."
Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: "I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me."

At special events in the middle-east position was everything. It told all those gathered just how important or unimportant a person was. There was a definite peaking order within society. Jesus, in the Luke story, illustrates for each of us that we should not think more highly of ourselves.  In fact, he says that it would be better to think of ourselves less than we are allowing the host of the wedding celebration to elevate us to a better seat.

Such is the role of a disciple. Samuel Morse understood that he had a role to play in God’s universe. It was a role that he humbly accepted. He acknowledged that he was the benefactor of God’s blessing to be the one that God decided to use at a particular time in history with a particular idea. To God be the glory.

Isn’t it amazing what God does with what he has to work with! Such is your lot and mine. Whatever happens in and through us is not of our doing, but of God’s plan and purpose.

We’ve all known individuals who like to be seen and heard – out front, up front, and in the limelight (so to speak). God can use those people, but only with limited results because they (we) keep getting in his way.

I remember one particular occasion in my ministry. I was serving my first church after graduating from seminary. Worship had been particularly exciting. There was lots of energy. And I thought the sermon went particularly well. As they say, “I hit the ball out of the park.” Or, so I thought. When I got home we discussed the service and the sermon. My wife’s only comment was, “Well, it was going pretty good until you got in the way.” Ouch!

Jesus taught us that we should get out of God’s way. Samuel Mores understood that. As disciples, called to be servants of the Most High God, we simply should allow God to use us as well as receive all the credit. Any talent or skills or abilities that we have they all came from God anyway.

Here’s to becoming better in this disciple business!


It feels good when we hear people praise us, but remind us that we should deflect all the praise to you. We are servants of your kingdom and followers of the King.