SMALL DEEDS COUNT

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

Zechariah 4:10 NLT

What seems small to you might be huge to someone else. Ask Bohn Fawkes. During World War Il he piloted a B-17. On one mission he sustained flak from Nazi anti-aircraft guns. Even though his gas tanks were hit the plane did not explode, and Fawkes was able to land it. On the morning following the raid Fawkes asked his crew chief for the German shell, to keep as a souvenir of his good fortune. The chief explained that not just one, but eleven shells had been found in the gas tank, none of which had exploded. Technicians opened the shells and found them void of explosive charge. They were clean and harmless, and with one exception, empty. The exception contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it a message had been scrawled in the Czech language: “This is all we can do for you now.” A courageous assembly line worker was disarming bombs and scribbled that note. He couldn’t end the war, but he could save one plane. He couldn’t do everything, but he could do something, and he did it.

So, send that e-mail. Make that phone call. Write that check. David had a sling. Rahab had a string. Dorcas had a needle. All were used by God. What do you have? John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” With God, small deeds count!



CONFESSION

I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32:5 NIV

Confession does for our soul what working the ground does for the soil. Before the farmer sows his seed he works the land, removing the rocks and pulling the stumps. Why? Because seed grows better in prepared soil. Confession invites God to walk the acreage of our hearts. “There’s a rock of greed over here, Father. I can’t budge it. And that tree of lust near the fence? Its roots are long and deep. And here’s some dry soil, too crusty for seed!” Confession seeks pardon from God, not amnesty. Pardon accepts guilt; amnesty, derived from the same Greek word as amnesia, “forgets” the offence without acknowledging guilt.

Remember Peter who denied his Master when he should have defended Him? How did the New Testament writers know the details of Peter’s failure? How did Matthew know Peter’s accent made him a suspect? How did Luke learn of the glance of Jesus that melted Peter’s heart? Who told all 4 Gospel writers about the crowing rooster and flowing tears? Most likely, Peter himself! “Fellows, I’ve got to get something off my chest.” He describes that terrible morning, the fire, the girl, and the look on the face of Jesus. How can we be sure of this? Because Peter couldn’t stay away from Christ! Who was the first man to run to the empty tomb? Who was the first to jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus who stood on the shore? Peter! Those who keep secrets from God keep their distance from God. But those who are honest with God, draw near to God.



“IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH”

 Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV

Richard Selzer writes: “I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy; clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nonetheless, to remove the tumor from her cheek I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will be. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.” All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not old in an encounter with God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate her, and to show her that their kiss still works.”

A mastectomy, an illness, the loss of a limb that changes life forever by confining you or someone you love to a bed or a wheelchair, can transform the words, “In sickness and in health” into one of love’s greatest tests. In such painful moments we discover the truth of Scripture “Love never fails.”



TRUE GIVING (2)

See that you also excel in this grace of giving.      2 Corinthians      NIV

Our giving should be regulated and motivated by— gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Paul writes: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2Co 8:9 NIV). Understanding how gracious and generous God is to us is important, because some of us give Him our leftovers. If we’ve anything left after we’ve paid our bills and done everything we wanted to do, we’ll give. But even if we give God a million dollars, if it’s out of our leftovers, have we given Him our best? (See Mal 1:6-9).

Some people are “re-givers.” Re-givers receive a present they don’t want, wrap it up and give it to someone else. Some folks have whole closets full of such gifts. That’s how some of us approach giving to God—and it’s an insult! In the New Testament you don’t see preachers begging, selling stuff or using gimmicks to raise money for God’s work. What you see are people like the Macedonians responding to God’s grace because they understood and loved the God they served.

Everything God created was meant to give. He created the sun to give light during the day and the moon and stars during the night. He created flowers to give seeds. God Himself is a giver: “For God so loved the world, that he gave” (Jn 3:16). When you understand grace, circumstances take a back seat. Your giving is not determined by your debt-to-income ratios, financial indexes, leading economic indicators, or tax brackets. No, your giving is motivated by God’s grace!



TRUE GIVING (1)

See that you also excel in this grace of giving.      2 Corinthians      NIV

Paul tells the Corinthians “see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2Co 8:7 NIV). Then he challenges them with the example of the givers in Macedonia: “I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people in those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of… generous gifts. . . They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford! —pleading for the privilege of helping  This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives” (2Co 8:1-6 TM). Notice, the Macedonian givers: (1) First gave themselves to the Lord, with no reservations.

(2) Understood that everything they possessed was through God’s grace alone. Paul said that the way he knew the Macedonians had given themselves to the Lord, was that they begged him for the offering plate. Wow! When was the last time you sat in church, anxiously waiting for the offering to be taken because you couldn’t wait to give? This is not giving because the preacher is begging, or the ministry will go under, or you feel guilty, or you’re trying to cut a deal with God. No, this is giving out of the overflow of God’s goodness to you. This is true giving!



ARE YOU MOVING TOO FAST?

One who moves too hurriedly misses the way.  Proverbs 19:2 NRS

John Ortberg writes: “When I first moved to Chicago I called a friend—the wisest spiritual man I know— and asked him, ‘What do I need to do to be healthy spiritually?’ He said, ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’ There was a long pause, and I finally said ‘Okay.’ I wrote that one down. ‘Now, what else do you have to tell me, because I don’t have much time and I want to get a lot of wisdom out of this conversation.’ He replied ‘There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life. You can hardly do anything the way Jesus did it if you’re in a hurry. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried. Hurry is an inward condition in which you’re so frantic and preoccupied that you’re unable to receive love from the Father, unable to be present with other people, or to give love to them.”‘

Understand this: things will not just “settle down.” If you wait to get around to what really matters, you’ll never do what God’s called you to do! Your soul will wither. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Furthermore, no one else can do this for you—not your boss, your pastor, your spouse, your kids, or your best friend. You must do this for yourself. Take a moment and ponder these two scriptures: (l) “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Pr 19:23 NIV). (2) “Desire without knowledge is not good, and the one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (Pr 19:2 NRS).



LEARNING FROM THE PRODIGAL SON

Father, I have sinned.  Luke 15:18

The Prodigal Son didn’t get into trouble until he left the safety of his Father’s house. Jesus pointed out 4 things about him:

(1) “He wasted his substance.” Satan is a bait-and-switch expert. If you heed his call to come out and play, you’ll end up losing the very substance of who you are and what God’s called you to be. (2) “He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country.” Want to know where you are spiritually? Look at who you hang out with and take advice from. Who do you call, who calls you? Solomon writes, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them” (Pr 1:10 NIV). (3) “He began to be in want.” Something’s wrong! In his father’s house he never missed a meal, now he’s eating what pigs eat. He’s trying to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Are you doing that? David said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). Who’s that promise for? Those who live in the safety of the sheepfold and stay close to the shepherd. (4) “He came to himself. ” When his elevator could go no lower he decided to get off. Mercifully, he still could. Some don’t get to. The Bible says: “Today, [not tomorrow] if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3: 15 NIV). It wasn’t too late for the Prodigal—and it’s not too late for you. The moment he changed his prayer from “give me” to “forgive me,” his father opened his arms, welcomed him home and restored him to sonship. And God will do the same for you, if you let Him.



WHY KEEP THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?

God has come to test you. Exodus 20:20 NIV

We don’t hear much about the Ten Commandments these days. They’ve become more like ten suggestions— for others.

“Thou shalt not steal—from me.” Why is this? Because like children, we want to do what we want to do. Ever watch a child learning to walk? She totters this way, then the other way, weaving like a miniature adult who’s had too much to drink. But consider for a moment where that little girl would be with no adults around; if no doors, gates or fences contained her wobbly steps. She might stagger into the neighbor’s yard where the Rottweiler has just gotten loose, or fall into a drainage ditch and be swept away by the current washing down the gutter. It’s vital that she have boundaries. In fact, most children, as well as adults, feel more secure in knowing their boundaries than in having unrestricted freedom. The Ten Commandments serve this purpose. God knows our tendencies like a protective parent knows how to keep a toddler from wandering into dangerous places. Although delivered to the ancient Israelites for their guidance, these commandments remain valid life instructions for us as His modern day children. Instead of seeing them as a list of “Thou shalt nots,” we should see them in terms of protection, guidance, and relationship with Him. After Moses had delivered the Ten Commandments to the people he added “God has come to test you.. .to keep you from sinning.” God desires to make us happy—and holy. And the two go together. Contentment and fulfillment can only be achieved when we walk straight along the path the Lord has set before us.



LIVE IN GOD’S PRESENCE

I have set the Lord always before me. Psalms 16:8 NIV

The words “I have set the Lord always before me,” are the simplest description of spiritual life. When certain thoughts are present, there’s a good chance they’re the result of God walking alongside of us. The first thought involves feelings of reassurance. Whether it’s Joshua taking over from Moses, or Paul going through his worst storm, the message is: “Be not afraid. I am with you.” The second thought you’ll have when God is present is that you’ll get guidance. Maybe you’re stumped with some issue and then an idea comes to you. It might be a big one or a small one, but it will help. Or you’re about to say something that will inflict damage, and suddenly a little voice inside your head says “be quiet.” A third indicator of God’s presence is conviction of sin. You’re going down the wrong road and a little stab of pain says, “no, turn around.” Heed that voice or you’ll violate your values, diminish your influence, and end up guilt-ridden. The fourth kind of thought that will tell you God is present, is joy! “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Ps 16:11 NIV). It works like this: you put in an extra effort, something gets accomplished and you feel a surge of satisfaction—that’s what happened when God created the world, then said, “That’s good!” God can use any of those things to convey His presence. If you “Set the Lord always before [you]” you’ll begin to sense Him in your everyday life.



MONUMENTS

[My] life is worth nothing unless…Acts 20:24 TLB

It’s said that in Mount Hope Cemetery you’ll find several strange gravestones. Farmer John Davis had them erected. He began as a lowly hired hand, then managed to amass a considerable fortune. In the process he didn’t make many friends. Nor was he close to his wife’s family since they thought she had married beneath her. Embittered, he vowed not to leave them a penny. When his wife died Davis erected an elaborate statue which showed both her and him at opposite ends of a love seat. He was so pleased with this that he planned a second monument, with his wife kneeling at his future graveside placing a wreath. Then he had a sculptor place a pair of wings on her back. One idea led to another until he’d spent a quarter of a million dollars on monuments to his wife and himself. Whenever someone from the town asked him to contribute to a hospital or a swimming pool for children, etc., the old miser would say, “What’s this town ever done for me?” After using up all his money on statues, Davis died at 92, a lonely, grim-faced resident of the poorhouse. But his monuments… it’s strange… each one is slowly sinking into the Kansas soil, fast becoming victims of time, vandalism and neglect. Monuments of spite and self-centered living. There’s a certain poetic justice in the fact that within a few years they’ll all be gone. Oh, by the way, only one person attended Farmer Davis’ funeral: Horace England, the tombstone salesman. What a way to go! But not Paul: “[My] life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus.” Can you say that?




 

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