Several years ago Anita and I traveled to Nigeria to speak to a group of pastors and wives in the city of Lagos. It was a great gathering and we discovered the problems these pastors and wives faced were similar to the problems pastors and wives face in the US. They asked questions about unfaithful church-hoppers, discipline of immoral church leaders, and how to get the older folks engaged in reaching the younger generation. These are common issues everywhere.
As we were departing, we got settled in our seats on the airplane. From toward the rear of the plane there was a commotion. This was before 9/11 so we weren’t concerned about terrorism. There was yelling and arguing. Pretty soon the head stewardess came charging by from the scene saying, “I want them both off my plane!” Moments later, two security guards came aboard and escorted the two unruly men off the plane. Then we had to wait a half hour for them to remove their bags from under the plane.
It seems that in Nigeria, they still have a tribal mentality, and one tribe is always competitive with another. These two men lost their seats because they couldn’t agree on an overhead space for their carry-ons. They both lost because both insisted on winning.
Sometimes its better to compromise in order to win, rather than lose altogether. Don’t lose your ticket to heaven because you can’t agree with your brother/sister. Work it out.
While visiting Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House, Republican Wendell Willkie asked him, “Mr. President, why do you keep that frail, sickly man, Harry Hopkins, at your elbow?” Roosevelt replied, “Mr. Willkie, through that door flows daily an incessant stream of men and women who, almost invariably, want something from me. Harry Hopkins wants only to serve me. That’s why he is so near me!”
In Romans 12:1, Paul advised us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice…which is your reasonable service.”
Since Jesus paid such a dear price to pay the penalty for our sin, it is only reasonable that we should be expected to live above that sin. When we consider the price, it is nothing short of betrayal to walk back into that same bondage we have been delivered from. That’s probably what the Psalmist was talking about when he said, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool returns to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
Will the Lord find you faithfully at His elbow tonight?
When I first surrendered my will to recognizing that God had called me to ministry, I thought God was calling Anita and I to assume pastoring of a new church plant in Bryan, Ohio. Spiritual leaders confirmed this was God’s leading. But the doors closed and that never materialized.
A year or two later Anita and I felt led to take a new church plant that was opening in Marion, Indiana (where Pastor Steve Houser is now). Again we had many confirmations from people in spiritual leadership. Again those doors closed. Rejection is always a big pill to swallow, but we both knew we had to wait on God.
Some time later the Church of Christ in Waterloo, where we had been serving all this time, went through a painful split, and the group that maintained possession of the building asked me to be their pastor. Pastoring a small church (45 people with kids) in a small town that just was divided by a split is not easy ministry, but we walked through the open door set before us and the rest is history.
When God closes one door, don’t pout and quit. Walk through the door God sets before you in His timing, forget about your pain, and quit griping. Open doors (even small ones) are a new beginning.
Malta oranges of India have an unusual origin. Growers start with a lime tree, whose dark, unimpressive branches bear a small sour fruit. A shoot of the lime is grafted into a branch of the orange tree. The fruit of the lime is changed by the blending. When the grafted branch matures, it bears a lime-green fruit that is one of the finest and juiciest oranges in the world.
Likewise, when we become Christians we are grafted into Jesus Christ, who is the Special Olive Tree. We begin bearing the fruits of righteousness instead of the sour fruits of sin. This new fruit of the Spirit is not produced by our own efforts any more than the orange tree strains to bear oranges. It comes naturally as Christ’s nature flows through us and blends with ours.
Paul taught us in Romans 11:17 (TLB): “You Gentiles who were branches from…a wild olive tree, were grafted in. So now you, too, receive…God’s rich nourishment of his own special olive tree.“
Oral Roberts told of a missionary doctor in a third-world clinic who removed cataracts from a blind man’s eyes and restored his sight. A few weeks later, the doctor was surprised to see 48 more blind men coming towards the clinic. Each one held onto a rope which was guided by the man who had recently gotten his sight back. He had led them on the rope 250 miles from one of the interior provinces to the doctor who was able to help nearly all of them get their sight back.
The first blind man came to the doctor, put his trust in him, and received his sight. He then went out to share his healing and to lead other blind men to the same doctor for help. Get the message?
Every day we are surrounded by people who are blinded by sin, without hope. Jesus, the Great Physician, has opened our blind eyes so that we can walk in His light and help lead other spiritually blind men and women to Christ so that they, too, can be healed.
Father, use me like that!
I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.
I know I shall see in His beauty
The King in whose law I delight;
Who lovingly guards all my footsteps,
And gives me a song in the night.
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
His child and forever I am.
No one says it better.
Redeemed how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.
Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me does continually dwell.
Sometimes I just need to be reminded.