Monday, October 4, 2010

Hi! You chose a beautiful day to walk!

The comment came from a man delivering a notice of service suspension. The one walking had stopped him briefly to ask if he knew a friend from the same place of employment. The one walking had been listening to an mp3 player on a beautiful fall day. Motioning towards his headset, he asked, “What are you listening to?”

“I’m listening to the Book of Revelation”, he replied. Then, without giving him a chance to explain why he had asked, he continued, “I am listening to it, hoping the Lord will help me understand it better so that I can communicate the heart of its message better in a Bible Study group tonight.”

(He was also thinking to himself, “I am also here because someone didn’t call back to explain why they didn’t call back after a reminder of an appointment, only to find out that their young family had experienced the loss of a pet in the middle of the night. A part of the time spent in the middle of the night, was to explain how the pet would not come back.)

The man making the delivery said, “It sure looks like that Revelation is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes these days, doesn’t it! We are in troubled times. This reminds me that I also have unfinished business with God.” Then, thoughtfully, he said, “By the way, while you are walking, will you please pray for me?”

“I certainly will! In fact, I can do it for you right now!”

“Oh no! No! No!”, he stammered loudly, “Um, Um, I really need to be going now. I am supposed to be working. I really have my own private way of praying anyway!”

As he started the truck, he said, “But, I still do want you to pray for me as you walk. Will you?”

“I’ll be glad to! Have a great day!”

The conversation was over almost as quickly as it had begun, and the man went on his way.

As the walker resumed his exercise, he began to pray for the gentleman, and began to marvel at how the whole incident had occurred.

1. Curiosity had led to the incident. One was trying to understand the deeper message of Revelation, after an appointment had fallen through. The other desired to be kind to someone being given a warning, while also trying to find peace with his Maker. He was surprised at what the one walking was doing at the same time.
2. It was obvious that both were seeking the Lord. The Bible record has many stories of those who sought truth in God, and how they had met those who sought God’s word in order to have a heart for truth.
3. Both were at wits-end corner.
4. Both were attempting to understand the other person’s point of view.
5. Both were attempting to keep a “heart” secret. The man in the truck wanted answers to his prayers, but was afraid that he wouldn’t be accepted. The man walking was seeking God’s heart, not wanting to hinder someone’s search for truth. (Luke 18:10)
6. Both were attempting to live obediently, under authority. In this process, we learn to discern the difference between position and character. As they met, they both discovered.
7. The man walking remembered Matthew 8, where a centurion told Jesus about his compassion toward his suffering servant, asking Jesus to heal him. When Jesus offered to go to his house, he said he wasn’t worthy. Instead he told him that a simple word would bring the healing needed. Rather than condemn the man for not trusting Him, Jesus commended his faith, and spoke the word, and the servant was healed.

Which one do you identify with? One speaks of despairing hope, and the other of hopeless despair. Could it be that the Lord Jesus Himself, by the power of the Holy spirit arranged the entire incident?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Do you Want to be Well?

As we entered the area in Jerusalem close to the Sheep Gate, our tour guide said, this is what is called, “The Pool of Bethesda”, (Greek from Aramaic Beth hesda, meaning, "house of grace"). This was a spring-fed pool with five porches where invalids waited their turn to step in the water that was supposed to have had healing virtue when angels troubled the waters.

I was surprised, thinking, “This is nothing like I had imagined it to be!”

I mused, “I guess there are blind spots in more places than just driving in automobiles!” I just wasn’t making the connection between the old and the modern! The original design of the human mind is good, but not always accurate in terms of a change in culture! This is especially true if the Lord Jesus, Himself, has a special ministry for a man at that pool!

As I tried to imagine what it must have been like for this man who had been there for 38 years, (John 5), my mind went back to the hundreds of times I had played the piano, sung, and ministered in convalescent homes over the years. Gathered together in more modern facilities, the story was the same. Pitifully they would explain to me that they would soon be out, once their family had a place for them to stay; or once the medication they were taking would take effect, or the right doctor would come to see them. It seemed to me that in a sense they were all “waiting for the moving of the water”, the “angel that would go down and stir up the water for their cure, and someone to help them get there.

In this pitiful scene, Jesus comes by and asks him if he wants to get well.

My mind dutifully fills in the rest of the picture again, this time a little more accurate, as I imagine his reply, “Did you ask me if I wanted to get well? Why do you think I am waiting here? The water has amazing healing properties when the angel stirs up the water. I just can’t get people to help me get down there in time!”

Jesus statement now begins to really haunt him, “Do you want to get well?” Several thoughts loom up and clamor for attention, “No one helps me when the water is troubled.”

Much like the sensation of someone telling us that a taxi has arrived, the voice of Jesus rings clear, but full of acceptance, “Get up, pick up your bedroll and walk!” Amazingly he thinks, “Why, yes, I really do want to get well!” He picks up his bedroll and suddenly discovers that he can walk.

In the midst of all this, we need to remember that things are not that different today. What “is” different is the presence of the Lord Jesus as he stops by the pool and asks the man if wants to be well!

It is all too easy to say, “But Jesus cares about sick folk, he is always around places like this. He cares, and we need to care.” That is true, but why would Jesus do it with this man, and not in other cases?

I think there are some folks that are willing to suffer for grander causes, such as seeing their family develop Christian character by modeling what they gave their lives for in the first place. Sure it’s painful, but if it helps to inspire their children and grand children to keep thinking of the legacy they are leaving, they may say, “I’ll suffer and pray, as an illustration of what Jesus did for me on the cross, in implicit trust in the Father.”

Other folks really do want victory over themselves, and their tendency to displease the Lord, in spite of their pain. They want to joyfully accept their circumstances, and be ready for that celestial city.

We need to remember that the curse of death that all are under is permanent. The answer to it is really eternal life, and the ability to address our earthly sojourn in life with that hope.

As I looked at the massive pillars, and the ruins of what had been a beautiful health spa, I thought, “What had been a beautiful, but temporary resting place, had suddenly become a parking lot!”

Once again I hear the clarion call of Jesus’ words, “Do you want to be well?”

As the man leaves the area, he encounters some professionals who challenge his healing, “It is illegal for you to pick up your bed-roll!”

“What? Illegal to be made well?” You almost hear him mutter under his breath, “I am sick of things that do nothing to make a person any better!”

Jesus later meets the man and tells him not to sin any more, lest something worse happen to him.

The man had no authority problems – people who were “control freaks”, so to speak, who had authority problems themselves, had failed to acknowledge their own weaknesses in not telling the sick to call upon God.

It seemed that the reason the man got well, was because he had a God-ordained mission that was to demonstrate that God was bigger than any program.

Accountability and programs are helpful, but always have limitations. They are not the ultimate cure, only places to serve one another in love. Christ is still the Author of all life!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hope and Healing

This morning I could not get away from the story recorded in Mark 5:24, where Jesus, walking ahead of a throng of people, experienced the touch of a woman, who had had an issue of blood that had plagued her for twelve years. She had said within herself, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” (verse 29) Immediately the issue of blood dried up, and she was healed.

But Jesus wanted to know who had touched his clothes. The disciples ridiculed him because of the crowd that was around him. She, however, was so afraid that she trembled as she acknowledged what had happened. Jesus then told her that it was her faith that had made her well.

It is obvious that she had turned the right direction with her problem, as Proverbs 23:17 says, "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Victor Frankl said, “A single moment can retroactively flood an entire life with meaning.”

There is a tug-of-war in the human heart! Anyone who has been on a diet, or has decided to start a new exercise program, or tried to get out of debt, knows this! It is even more pronounced when one seems short of the “Love Provision” necessary to life.

As Esther Kerr Rusthoi wrote,

Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Sometimes the sky looks dark with not a ray of light,
We're tossed and driven on , no human help in sight;
But there is one in heav'n who knows our deepest care,
Let Jesus solve your problem - just go to Him in pray'r.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrows will erase,
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ.

Our verse in Proverbs 23:17 says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Envy is different than jealousy, in that it refers to a superior achievement, possession, position, or privilege that could be ours. If it is not possible to have it, human tendency is to wish that the other lacked it. Quite often envy lurks when someone says, “It is not fair . . .”

James speaks of envy in a different light, however. In fact many translators avoid the word “envy”, and use terms such as “Jealously Yearn”. God, through the Holy Spirit yearns enviously that we embody our true privilege as “cross-bought” people! What is that privilege? It is that our souls might be well.

The woman’s body was a portrait of the death struggle that waged in her soul!
Both the King James Version and the NET Bible retain the word, “envy”.

James 4:5 Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?

What is the hidden truth here? I think it relates to the hope expressed at the last of this proverb, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

The woman, like all Jews, probably understood that the fringe of Jesus’ garment, something like a prayer shawl, included four special tassels, related to the whole law. (They were named, “tzit tzit”; “fringes”; and were also known as arba kanfot, “four corners”, Numbers 15:38-40)

When she “broke protocol”, so to speak, and touched the “tsit-tsit” of Jesus’ garment, with faith in its intended meaning, she was healed in soul and body!

Intrinsically she knew that Jesus embodied the whole law, so she touched that particular fringe or tassel that expressed that, for her own special healing!

She went right to the root of the matter. The lawyers had broadened this aspect of religious life, without expressing its true, intended meaning. (Matthew 23:5); (Luke 11:52).

When our system no longer brings soul-healing to people like this, it is in danger of being done away with. That is where you and I come in. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in this battle.

Psalm 103:1-3 indicates that God’s goal is always soul healing. John’s prayer is that it would also include bodily healing. (3 John 1:2) Thus, the woman who touched Jesus’ garment represents the soul-healing potential of every Christian.

Our task as the people of God, is to embody the spirit of the woman. She had a “cross to bear”. It was simply that she might embrace the true meaning of the Cross of Christ as her own, and glory in that! All else would flow from that.

And, yes, often that will cost us as well.

Monday, September 6, 2010


The employee walked into the manager’s office, and set the boxes of photocopies on the floor. “There, they are done!” He then started to leave.

The manager stooped to examine a few of the copies, and said, “What’s this? I can’t even read them!”

Then, turning to the employee, he said, “That is totally unacceptable! Unless they make it right, I will never have them do a job for me again!”

“Uh, but they really were not that good to start with,” the employee remonstrated.

“Well, at least the photocopy shop should have refused to do them, or done them without charge. I am not going to let them by with this, they will either refund my money, or do this job completely over”, the manager replied.

Turning to the administrative assistant, he asked for the phone number, and called the manager at the photocopy shop, saying, “You didn’t even try to make them readable, I want my money back, or an honest attempt to make it right!”

The employee found himself thinking, “How do people who wreak havoc, always seem to come out smelling like a rose?” That is opposite to nature!

The employee was in the middle of it, and had not asked to be at all!

A thought came to his mind, “I did not choose to be in this dilemma all by myself. I am just the messenger. After all I am attempting to respond as Christ would have responded. Just maybe He will help!”

A little doubt crept in, but then another thought counteracted, “Don’t be ashamed of the Good News of Christ, trust Him!”

The employee took the order back, and found a place to wait at a nearby coffee shop. The coffee didn't taste good, and no one was friendly. But, as he waited, he was praying that somehow God would make this all turn out for good. A light turned on in his consciousness, “That’s it, the Good News of God's paying the total price for all sin will help this come out alright, somehow.”

It was then that a thought came to him, “Why not check to see how the job is going?” As he did, the young man doing the work, wanted to know what might be acceptable to the manager, knowing that the original was not that good in the first place. The thunderclouds of anger and the poisons of bitterness that had started to fester in his doubting heart, (and stomach), finally started to respond to the “medicine” of praise to God for answers that were beginning to come his way.

Soon, the employee began to think differently about the situation. Does not a mother who has nearly lost her life in the delivery of a child have some “say” in what that child does with their life in the end? Does not God have some “say” in the formation of the character of one who has just trusted God’s son’s death as an opportunity for life change? A person with a servant heart does not bury his talent in the ground, but does what he can with what he has.

Jesus told the story of a manager who had negotiated a wage with those who had come early in the day, and had simply told those hiring in at the last minute, that he would pay them what was right. When he decided to pay them all the same, he was accused of being unfair. His answer was simply, “Does not a manager have the right to be good when he chooses to pay for a given service? Both of you got what you negotiated for.” Those who had arrived early, were more interested in themselves, than they were in the manager. Those who came late, were willing to help regardless of the outcome. (Matthew 20:15)

The manager appeared cruel in sending the employee back, but in reality saved face for everyone, and allowed everyone to give decent service for an expected wage, by learning to give all of one’s expectations to God, and then asking for His Grace in time of need. (Psalm 62:5)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Why were Jesus’ followers drawn to ask Jesus about prayer? (See Luke 11) Were they really wanting Him to take their needs to God? Was it curiosity as to what went on between He and God? Was it the broader implication of the national situation they were in?

Or, was it because they knew they were in the so-called, “elite” group, somehow better than those following John the Baptist, and may have felt they had been short-changed in some of the things John taught his disciples?

Was it his basic disposition – the peace, contentment, and sense of having things together that was always there? Was it the evidence that God always seemed to listen to Him? Or was it really a desire to discover more about His ways that made them want to learn more about the sacred space of His prayer life? Was it because they had already seen God at work in their own lives in ways they couldn’t understand, and couldn't adequately explain? Were they being emotionally drawn, or was there genuine interest?

Whatever the reason, they were both respectful and courteous when they asked Him if He would teach them “to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Why would Jesus attempt to teach them the intricacies of an intimate prayer life with a sixty-five word model prayer that could be learned and quoted with relative ease? Or, was this a test of their hearts?

Could it be that Jesus saw that the Holy Spirit was presenting Him with an opportunity to address the relentless needs that drove them to ask Him the question in the first place. In John 17, we learn about the heart of Jesus, as he communed with His Father, but here, it seems to me, that we see Jesus capturing the heart of God the Father.

“Our Father”. Jesus starts out by referencing the Fatherhood of God. This concept would be infinitely more than they had experienced in their culture, where women were downtrodden, and children lived in dread of their fathers. He demonstrates that prayer is first of all acknowledging God as Father. He is both distinct from - and apart from - us. He is bringing a kingdom, which needs to be discovered, and a will that needs to be cooperated with – in earth as it is in heaven.

“Give us this day our daily bread”. Jesus understood why they really needed to learn about prayer. He was to be the open access to “God, the Ultimate Provider” for every conceivable human need in life. He had already explained how God desired them to be happy, in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Is this not the first test of prayer? We need to have been offended, yes, offended enough in order to need to forgive another. Is this what clarifies their motive in learning how to pray? If they had indeed wondered about being treated differently than John's disciples, their sense of equilibrium had already been damaged. They had failed the first basic test of all religious endeavor – realizing that a sense of being treated unfairly was really a blessing. (Matthew 5).

The condition of the world was desperate, and headed for destruction. So, in order to vindicate His own nature, the wonder of His own creation, and the desperate state of affairs, God sent His own Son both to picture what human life was designed to be, and allow Him to be brutally put to death, and to pay the price of redemption for a restored relationship, and a restored image, and a life that could be enjoyed in eternity.

If indeed it was their need to see God, in the beauty of this new relationship with Jesus, their own vision or sense of appreciation for the way life was supposed to be, had now been suddenly ruined again by their own sense of justice. However, under Jesus’ instruction, they began to see and practice mercy towards each other, as they began to observe where life came from, and how prayer related to life.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (or the "evil one"). They then would discover that temptation was designed to demonstrate dangers and vulnerabilities, and was meant to provide further opportunities to learn about themselves. The plea to God would be that He would not find it necessary to lead them into temptation, but would rather provide an opportunity for them to experience deliverance from the grip of the evil one. This proves areas of understanding that need to be developed, in light of the Glorious Good News of the coming of Christ.

The illustration that follows about the neighbor who found it difficult to get a benevolent loan of food in an emergency, proved that the problem wasn’t there because of insufficient resources, but rather because of a limited view of its availability, and the reasons why it was being withheld. A new viewpoint was essential!

All around us are friends we have never met. Their desire is the same as ours, and ours the same as the disciples, because we have nothing to set before them in the hour of their need. We also feel the irritation, since we view ourselves as needing to be left alone with what we already have. It is such a distorted view of who the human race is, after the provision of God's sacrifice for sin. The average view is that the human race has been befriended by God, but demonstrate that they do not understand true friendship.

If we have reasoned correctly, the desperate need, then, is the window through which we see our encouragement to ask God for His resources in the hour of our need to avoid being "impossible" when faced with the needs of others. (Like a stone, instead of bread.) To seek God for His wisdom in the hour of our need to avoid giving dangerous counsel to others, (A serpent instead of a fish). And finally, to knock on God's door of Grace with, or on behalf of our friend, in order to demonstrate life and not destruction. (An egg, instead of a scorpion.) All of these represent the work of the Holy Spirit in life. Luke 11:1-13.

If this is what Jesus meant, why don't we all avail ourselves of the Friend called Jesus, who shows us the true nature of God?

Friday, April 2, 2010


The phone rang. As I picked up the receiver, I recognized my friend from a nearby town. He offered to meet me in the early evening for a physically challenging “jog”. I had just begun to be more serious about caring for the body God had entrusted me, and welcomed the encouragement. This man had attended our church, and had been faithful to encourage me in the Lord.

But jog with him? He was a disciplined runner, regularly running more than I ever did. He didn’t weigh as much as I did. I could never keep up! I wanted to be “private” in my exercise, even though I wanted to make sure others knew I was doing it!

I thought I could lead a church; preach; teach; play an instrument; visit and encourage people; keep our yard presentable, and so on, but I couldn’t exercise in front of someone I knew! What would he think of me? He would know that I wasn’t self-disciplined. He would know that I was too fat because I was too lazy. I knew I couldn’t lose weight enough to satisfy him. On top of that, I couldn’t free myself from these mind pictures!

I also felt that he wasn’t walking as close to the Lord as he should be. (Was that a word from the Holy Spirit? The irony!) My heart kept thinking, “How can I trust him?” He is arrogant, self-sufficient, and frequently speaks of how he is more successful than I!

I just couldn’t make the mental transition over my mental block! Momentarily I acknowledged that I might just have a blind spot concerning his willingness to jog with me! But I avoided it!

You see, I didn’t really know that he was thinking all of these things, but my heart “felt and told me” that he was! His normal “heart” was speaking a message to me that I didn’t like, but that did not necessarily mean that he had not chosen to be different that day!

Psalm 45:1 was revealing that “my heart” was writing its words on “his heart”.

David’s words in Psalm 36 seemed to reflect the real conflict, (see KJV and NIV): “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” My heart just knew it, this was a “set-up”!

But God’s spirit didn’t agree with my heart. The Holy Spirit took the side of the Psalmist, “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.”

I had promised to meet him, so, I was stuck, right? As I prepared to meet him, my fear got the best of me, so I tried to practice up a little! How foolish! You can’t correct a life-time of “stinking thinking” with one deliberate exercise routine! This meant that when I met him, I was already half worn out!

I wasn’t thinking properly! If he had been “worried” about incapabilities, he would never have invited me at all! He had been sent to encourage me, and I blew it! Truly, a lazy person cannot spend all the money he made winning the lottery! (Proverbs 12:27)

God doesn’t ask us about our abilities and accomplishments – He sends Christ to us! Our lives either have the potential of being hidden “with Christ in God”, or already have it deposited to our spiritual bank account, on the basis of faith! In fact, it delights Him, when we bring our incapabilities to Him!

I should have viewed my friend as being sent by God to help me in some of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I didn’t!

I am writing this at a coffee shop on a major intersection where an accident just occurred. From what I can tell, it looks like a young person on a bicycle challenged heavy traffic, causing a couple of vehicles to collide while attempting to avoid hitting him. The thought in my heart once more turned to Psalm 36. Perhaps he, too, felt he was invincible and could challenge automobiles, not realizing that they would do all they could to avoid him!

Could this have been my problem as I went to meet my friend? I was no match for his chosen compassion towards me! I was probably fighting the Lord Himself. No wonder I failed!

I forgot the words of this scripture: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Friday, March 12, 2010


“Don’t pray! Oh, no, don’t pray!”

I looked at the neatly dressed nun in total surprise. I thought surely she knew the value of prayer, and would thank me for my kindness in offering to pray.

But her words echoed as if she was speaking in an empty football stadium, “. . . don’t pray; don’t pray; don’t pray”.

We were a part of a group that had just experienced a time of reflection, We were learning how to love others at the level of their deepest needs. Two or three of us had just acted out a visit with a hospital patient. The rest of the group had critiqued the role play.

It wasn’t easy for any of us to be told that we were more interested in ourselves than the patients.

I remember a time when I took up a free offer to experience an exercise room. Here came the trainer, with a nice tan, excellent posture, and muscles bulging all over his body. He took me to a treadmill and began to tell me how I should begin. I was totally exhausted in less than ten minutes!

He had experienced the benefits of exercise, but had forgotten how he felt in his own early experiences.

If he had offered me private training, I would have said, “Oh no, I don’t want to train!” I realized the truth of Proverbs 28:16 that says a leader who lacks understanding is very oppressive, but one who hates unjust gain prolongs his life.

The nun needed to learn that prayer could be an amazing treasure, but I also needed to value the understanding I could gain in practicing certain disciplines, but it wasn’t happening! I was still reeling under the pain of someone who had told me not to pray!

We are in pain, and it looks like others want to gain from that pain! We don’t get it. We must be deaf. We don’t know how to respond. We are dumbfounded.

We can identify with Jesus while being accused of telling people he could destroy a magnificent temple that had taken years to build, and rebuild it in three days. (See Psalm 38:10 and Matthew 26:61). That isn't what he really said. No wonder he didn’t answer. They were way off base! But he did answer the high priest’s question in the affirmative, when he said, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?”

How do I build an appreciation for prayer in someone? How does a trainer build an appreciation for exercise in a lazy person? Understanding is the missing link, and that is sometimes costly.

I don’t naturally hear cries for help during pain, until I myself have experienced it. Pain is an unrelenting authority where my weakness is used against me. That is when I learn to pay exacting prices for truth, wisdom and understanding, without selling it as a piece of merchandise. (Proverbs 23:23)

Understanding is like a warrior's shield, and the person who neglects the discipline that invites it, loses great treasure. (Proverbs 2:2-6) (Proverbs 15:32)

Monday, February 8, 2010


As a teenager, I spent a summer working in my uncle’s poultry processing plant in Indiana, called, “Wilson Poultry Company”. I stayed with my paternal grandparents, who lived next to the main building.

I was born in Swaziland, Africa, so I did not realize how much my grandparents loved me.

An overhead line facilitated the process of dressing chickens, which were soon packed in ice, ready for sale and delivery. I couldn’t help but notice that others had stools that rested their feet as they worked all day. I mentioned this to my grandfather, who then personally built me a stool. I appreciated the stool, but after a few weeks, I was asked to help my cousins deliver to grocery stores and restaurants all across central Indiana.

So, the new stool sat in a corner.

Soon a co-employee asked me if I wanted to sell it. I liked the thought of some extra money, so didn’t think twice, as I accepted the low-priced offer! However, I was totally unprepared for the grief of my grandfather when I told him I had sold his love for a few coins!

Several weeks ago, in a similar kind of spirit, I accepted the loan of a sermon on CD. After listening to a small portion of it, I put it on a shelf for “a more convenient season”.

I was not ready for the urgent request to return it after several weeks, so that someone else might enjoy it. Promising myself that I would finish listening to it before I saw them again, I looked for the CD, but it was not where I had laid it.

I had no peace as I frantically searched, in regret, for the CD. While I was readily forgiven, I lost a little more of the “treasure of trust” that day, that I could not afford to lose!

Towards the end of the day, a friend and I were enjoying coffee and a bagel at a local coffee shop. A nicely dressed lady approached us, with a dozen beautiful roses in her hand. I was surprised when she said she wanted money for food, and a place to stay. She implied that she would give a rose in exchange. As she explained it, she said, “Please, I ask for help in the name of Jesus!”

I told her that I didn’t give out money in this way, but that I would buy her a meal. I asked her for her preference. She said, “Buy me what you want.” I went to the counter and bought her soup, a roll, and pastry.

Upon return, I said, “I noticed that you asked for this in the name of Jesus, and I give it to you in His name, please enjoy it! But, always remember that you cannot ‘use’ Jesus like a commodity!” As she took it, she immediately asked for money for a place to stay. I immediately recognized the spirit of ingratitude that I had personally demonstrated towards both my grandfather, and the people who had loaned me the CD, so I forgivingly offered a chance for her to get such assistance through the Salvation Army where I volunteer in such programs. She looked at the floor, shuffled her feet, and walked away.

No wonder things were not working for the religious leaders of Jesus day – they understood sacrifice, but did not understand mercy. (Matthew 9:13) They came, hoping to impress Jesus to buy into their scheme.

Jesus was acting according to his Father’s plan of mercy, in the spirit of the Love of God. This would eventually cost his very life. Why would he cater to someone’s preference? (Matthew 19:16-21)

Mercy implies that we demonstrate knowledge of another’s genuine need. If I attempt to sell the love of a grandfather for a few coins, God may put me under the discipline of learning the needs of others. If I attempt to explain my lack of gratefulness by saying, “I’ll listen to the sermon on CD when I get the time”, God may put me under the discipline of trying to find it in order to return it.

Can you see how it must have saddened Jesus to see the rich young ruler choose his own wealth over the wealth of the universe? Picture Judas regretfully trying to return thirty pieces of silver. Appreciative love is still the highest law, and it cannot be bought.