Monthly Archives: September 2013

All Things are Ready, Come to the Feast

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

What would you do if you had planned an expensive and stylish wedding reception for your daughter, only to find out that the wedding was cancelled only six weeks out? Many of us would get on the phone and try to argue, cajole, and negotiate our way out of the reception costs. Perhaps, if we couldn’t change the fees, we would invite our friends and neighbors to have a party anyway…and why not? We’ve already paid for it!

But Carol and Willie Fowler chose a different option. They lived out Christ’s words (Luke 14:12-14) by deciding not to invite friends and relatives or rich neighbors. Rather, they called an organization that helps feed the homeless, and they told them their plan: replace the 200 person guest list with 200 homeless people (primarily women and children).

Buses transported residents from three area shelters to the restaurant where they had punch and lemonade, hors d’oeuvres of beef tenderloin kabob, coconut shrimp, and a main meal of salmon and chicken. Children were greeted by a clown, a juggler and a face painter. Kids ate mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers, french fries, and fresh fruit.

In this real life “making lemonade of lemons” story, this couple fulfilled the most basic principle of Christianity: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal with friends, what a blessing it is to invite those who could never reciprocate.

Auctioning Emptiness to the Highest Bidder

 In Luke chapter 12, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who had a great harvest. He then built bigger and bigger barns to hold all his gains. He was comforted in knowing he had acquired more than he could use. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’

In recent days, we have heard a lot about “hoarding.” There is even a show about how people try to help others with their hoarding problems. If we are honest, most of us are probably “storing” plenty of things we could do without. Why do we collect things beyond our needs? Some people are so driven to get “stuff” they will even steal to get more!

The recent fall of the disgraced former Congressman, Jesse Jackson, Jr., is a good example. Congressman Jackson was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison for buying $750,000 worth of personal items illegally with campaign funds. Not only will Jackson serve prison time, but he must pay back the money. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn’t seem to have that much in petty cash!

Since Jackson hasn’t paid up yet, the US Marshall’s Office said they would recoup part of the money Jackson owes the government by auctioning off his ill-gotten property. Included in the items to be auctioned are: mink-lined cashmere capes, a fur, a mink-hooded parka, a woman’s mink black jacket with silver fox sleeves, Michael Jackson signed posters, sports memorabilia, and other odds and ends.

Of course, Jackson got his gain illegally, and will be watching from prison as others now enjoy the benefit of his “barns.” Jesus closed His parable saying, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Most of us aren’t stealing or committing fraud to fill our barns with things. But it does raise the question…if someone were to confiscate and auction our items of “value,” what would they find? Things that were used for God’s glory? Or barns stuffed beyond our needs?

I’m thinking I might need a little “spring” cleaning this fall! How about you?

 

Bought and Sold in a Broken World

One of my favorite songs is, “What a Wonderful World.” God has given us such indescribable beauty in His creation. But as beautiful as this world is, it is marred by the ugliness of sin. And perhaps there is nothing uglier in this world than what Niki Grover saw at a recent exhibit at Kansas State University. “It makes me feel sad, disgusted. It makes me realize how broken the world is,” said Grover, a junior in psychology.

What could cause that kind of absolute morality from a college student in a post-modern world? Grover had just been to “Empathy Week,” put on by iEmpathize, an organization that raises awareness about sex trafficking. And, as if awakening from a deep slumber, America is learning how severe this sinister profession has become. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today.” And it is the fastest growing.

Worldwide, there are nearly 2 million children in the commercial sex trade according to UNICEF. According to the Department of State there are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders annually, and approximately 80 percent are women and girls. Perhaps the most sickening thing about this industry is that over 50 percent are minors.

In the book of Hosea, we read of Gomer, a woman who was caught up in “sex trafficking.” God instructed Hosea to buy her back, illustrating how He will “buy back” His people (Hosea 3). I used to read Hosea and ask whether I would have bought Gomer back. I see now that I am Gomer, and you probably are too. Sold into slavery by sin and Satan, each of us has been bought back from the market by the blood of Jesus. How will we respond? Will we turn a blind eye to the precious price God paid for us? If we have been redeemed, what will we do to protect Gomers being sold into sin today? He paid the price, it is up to us to go get them (MT 28:19).

A Mind Changing “Walk & Talk”

If you are following the news on Syria, you are probably aware that the President had a significant “change of mind” on Friday. Until Friday, President Obama seemed to be on an unchangeable path toward military conflict in Syria. Then, after a stroll on the South Lawn with his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, the President changed his mind. He reversed his previous statements about going into Syria without congressional backing and decided to put the decision to a vote.

No matter where your political loyalties reside, his decision may have left you scratching your head and wondering, “What did this adviser say that made the leader of the free world change, his mind? Perhaps their conversation will be made public one day. Perhaps, by the time I write this, it already has. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if most of us would be willing to change our firm positions based on the counsel of a trusted adviser.

Often times, leaders are too stubborn to listen to trusted advisers. I imagine that Pilate wishes he had listened to his wife’s words of wisdom when she told him not to have anything to do with punishing Jesus  (Matthew 27:19). I imagine that Felix, Festus, and Agrippa wish that they had listened to the wise counsel that Paul gave about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come (Acts 24-26). David was wise to follow Nathan’s sound counsel about his abuse of power (2 Samuel 12:6-8).

I can’t say whether the President was right to change his mind or not. But I am interested to know, what would an adviser have to say to you to get you to correct your course? What about “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38)? Each of us has received wise counsel from the only adviser who is never wrong. Will you consider the evidence given in scripture? Won’t you be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)? Perhaps a walk and talk with Jesus is in order. Just a thought…hopefully, a mind-changing one!