Thursday, July 31, 2014

The crushing weight of shattered dreams (Matthew 14:17)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 14:17 (TM) – larger reading Matthew 14:13-21
"All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish," they said.

T.E. Lawrence once said, "All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible..."

We are all are taken by our dreams. In the smallest recesses of our spirit lingers the dream’s of the heart. When those dreams are fulfilled we are frightened by their magnitude. When the lay ruined on the shore of what have been we are devastated.

It is a crushing weight of shattered dreams. One wonders if they really could have been that mistaken in understanding the directive of the Spirit of God for one’s life. Therein lies the lesson… not in the fulfillment of the dreams, but working through bits and pieces of what once was or might have been.

Was hope held on to or were we easily sidetracked by sad circumstances that brought us to the miserable state of our present condition? Holding on is hard when at every turn the answer seems to a sounding no.

A young University of Florida ministerial student comes to mind. His answer from our conference was a no. An opportunity rose in another conference and after several attempts in pastoring a church their answer was finally a no as well. Alas, he returned to his mother’s home and attempted to put his life back in order. Could he have missed God’s message? Was the weight of rejection to heavy to bear? Slowly, ever so slowly God began to reveal the valuable lesson that he needed to hear.

Too often we miss the lesson of rejection because of hurt feelings or the sheer weight of the rejection. Some even turn away from those who can assist them the most. One of the real blessings with rejection is the discovery of God’s grace at the end of the painful journey.

On another front: I will testify to the reality that when a life long dream begins to take shape and begins to become a reality it is a scary thing. Questions begin to fly. Doubts emerge. Can we do this invades the spirit. All we have is two fist and five loaves… the rocks along the shore of shattered dreams, but place that meager offering into the hands of the Master and a miracle will take place… a miracle beyond our wildest imagination and far great than anything that we could have ever dreamed up.


It isn’t much Lord, but it is all I have. Can you do anything with the “two fish and five loaves”? I trust that you can.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The danger of stuff displacing God (Colossians 3:5)

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 3:5c (TM) – larger reading Colossians 3:5-17
That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.

During World War II, "Eddie" Rickenbacker, American's most famous army aviator in W.W. I, was appointed special consultant to Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. It was Rickenbacker's task to inspect the various theaters of war.
During one tour in 1942, Rickenbacker and seven companions made a forced landing in the Pacific Ocean. There they experienced 24 terrifying days drifting in a lifeboat until they were rescued by a navy plane. After his recovery from the ordeal, Rickenbacker said: "Let the moment come when nothing is left but life, and you will find that you do not hesitate over the fate of material possessions." Rickenbacker understood that at such a time one is concerned about the fate of something more precious than material goods -- life itself.

There is nothing wrong with stuff… there is nothing wrong with stuff… there is nothing wrong with stuff … you know, no matter how often it is said it still sounds silly and lacks any real conviction. We have a love affair with stuff! And we don’t have to have a lot of stuff, but there are certain things that have gained meaning. We allow it to define our existence.

Such was my library. I loved the feeling of being surrounded by the books. Didn’t have to read the many volumes that made up the library, but there was a sense of security knowing that the volumes were there and could be turned to if needed. But, alas, the day arrived and I needed to cull the volumes to a reasonable number. There were just so much linear feet of shelving once I retired. Parting is such sweet sour. So into the boxes they went, the boxes into the back of my SUV and off to a young minister’s office in North Carolina … and from his home to several other homes.

There is peace in knowing that they continued to have a life beyond my shelves. Oh, the joy of having stuff. But did the books and other stuff in my life define me and replace God’s central role? I might be delusional (no comment from the peanut gallery – please) but I don’t think so. There is nothing presently in my life that replaces God… said he hopefully. Oh, the pictures would be a little hard to part with, even when they simply sit in boxes and haven’t been looked at for a number of years – but I know that they are there. When I am old and gray(er) comfort they shall bring as they help me to go down memory lane.

All the other stuff while it is nice to have around won’t change me one iota nor bend my devotion away from God. God is still a priority and receives more, much more than a tithe of time, talents, gifts and service. It is just a part of my very nature. May it always be so keeping ever before my vision that God meets me at the point of my needs not my wants. Life is more precious than material things… and life being lived in God’s presence even more precious than that!


Keep me focus and help me not to lose my way even when being surround by the stuff of my life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Trying to live a life of praise (Revelation 19:5)

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 19:5 (CEB) – larger reading Revelation 19:1-8
Then a voice went out from the throne and said, "Praise our God, all you his servants, and you who fear him, both small and great."

The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied. "I'd give more praise," he said.

Guilty coming and going. Duke of Wellington’s confession could be mine. How about you?

Habits are hard to break, especially the habit of not giving enough praise to others. Praise is different than saying thank you. But even the “thank yous” could be increased as well.

Revelation is talking about praising God. Again, guilty as charged! I feign business and think that I am off the hook. God says: “Really? That’s it?” And I am nailed against the wall.

I’m his servant. I hold him in awe (ie “fear”). I see him active in the small as well as the great … although most of the time the small stuff gets overlooked.

Here is my challenge: To live a life of praise… a life where every breath I take is in praise of God… a life that directs others towards offering up praise… a life honoring God at every step. It is a big step for this old preacher, but hey, God ain’t through with me yet!

I’m a piece of work. I know that… painfully, I know that – but God keep working on me until I am a finished product!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Parable: Daniel's Gloves

Daniel’s Gloves – author unknown

I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, and “I will work for food.” My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call for some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car.

Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: “Don’t go back to the office until you’ve at least driven once more around the square.”

Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square’s third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the church, going through his sack.

I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s newest visitor.

“Looking for the pastor?” I asked.

“Not really,” he replied, “just resting.”

“Have you eaten today?”

“Oh, I ate something early this morning.”

“Would you like to have lunch with me?”

“Do you have some work I could do for you?”

“No work,” I replied “I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.”

“Sure,” he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. “Where you headed?”

“St. Louis “

“Where you from?”

“Oh, all over; mostly Florida.”

“How long have you been walking?”

“Fourteen years,” came the reply.

I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, ”Jesus is The Never Ending Story.”

Then Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought.

He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God.

“Nothing’s been the same since,” he said, “I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.”

“Ever think of stopping?” I asked.

“Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles. That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.”

I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: “What’s it like?”


“To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?”

“Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of other folks like me.”

My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned to me and said, “Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.”

I felt as if we were on holy ground. “Could you use another Bible?” I asked.

He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite. “I’ve read through it 14 times,” he said.

“I’m not sure we’ve got one of those, but let’s stop by our church and see” I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

“Where are you headed from here?” I asked.

“Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.”

“Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?”

“No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.”

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town square where we’d met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.

“Would you sign my autograph book?” he asked. “I like to keep messages from folks I meet.”

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

“Thanks, man,” he said. “I know we just met and we’re really just strangers, but I love you.”

“I know,” I said, “I love you, too.” “The Lord is good!”

“Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?” I asked.

“A long time,” he replied.

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said; “See you in the New Jerusalem.”

“I’ll be there!” was my reply.

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, “When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?”

“You bet,” I shouted back, “God bless.”

“God bless.” And that was the last I saw of him.

Later that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them.... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

Then I remembered his words: “If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?”

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. “See you in the New Jerusalem,” he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will...

“I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.”