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Love sacrificially

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NIV)

In the Billy Graham film, Shiokari Pass, a young Christian was working with the railroad company, far away from his fiancee.  He worked diligently until the day came to return to his fiancee and marry her.  As the train climbed a steep hill on the way home, it suddenly shook hard and stopped.  Running to the front of the passenger car, he discovered that it was disconnected from the rest of the train.  Slowly, it began to roll backward down the steep slope.  Having worked on the railroad, the man knew there was a sharp curve behind them that the car could not handle.  Feverishly, he tried to stop the car by using the hand brake, but it would not stop.  Soon, the car would be thrown off, killing the passengers.  It was at this point that he remembered his favorite verse in the Bible, John 15:13 and it motivated him to do what was necessary to stop the car.  While he had everything to live for, he jumped on the train tracks and stopped the passenger car with his own body.  He gave his life to save the lives of others.

Lord, thank you for the sacrificial love of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2021 in Gospel of John, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Guard your heart

I am currently preaching through the ministries of Elijah & Elisha (1 Kings 16 – 2 Kings 8) at my church in Chicopee, MA. Last Sunday we were in 2 Kings 5 looking at the story of Naaman. I made the point of “Don’t let pride keep you from grace.” Naaman had to let go of his pride and humble himself in order to be healed of leprosy. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was overcome by pride when he lied in order to profit from Naaman’s healing. His punishment was that he was afflicted with Naaman’s disease.

I was sobered by Gehazi’s actions. He had been the servant of Elijah before he was the servant of Elisha. He saw numerous miracles performed by the two prophets. He heard the word of the Lord proclaimed by these men. And yet, he still maintained a materialistic attitude. I was struck with the fact that it is possible to be close to the people of God and the things of God and still be far away from the heart of God.

As you read and study the Scriptures, allow the material to penetrate your heart. Don’t allow the Bible to become just another academic textbook. Allow it to transform your heart and mind.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2021 in 2 Kings, Elijah & Elisha

 

The folly of pluralism

Many people view religion as Shoe does.

Pluralism

This stands in contrast to what Scripture says in Acts 4:11-12.

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Rather than try to cover your bases, commit to the One who can forgive your sins and save your soul.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2021 in Acts, Scripture, Shoe

 

Strange, but true

Being in ministry means you see people at their best and their worst. You experience all kinds of situations. And you have a few stories to tell. Here are a few of the strangest things I’ve encountered in the past 40 years.

When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary in the early 80’s, I received a phone call out of the blue. A woman asked if I was Mark Wheeler. When I said, Yes, she asked if I was from __________ (I don’t remember the city or state). I said, No, I was not from that area. She went on to explain that she was looking for a long lost grandson. Her son/daughter had moved away and she lost track of where they lived. She was searching the phone book trying to locate her grandson. I was sorry I could not help her.

I received a very strange phone call one day in my first pastoral position. When I answered the phone, the person said, “Father, forgive me.” I responded, “Excuse me?” The voice said again, “Father, forgive me.” I said, “What do you need forgiveness for?” The voice said, “I killed someone.” CLICK. They hung up. I spent the rest of the day in a daze wondering if it was a prank or real. I even scoured the newspaper for the next few days for stories about crimes and murder. I never found out one way or another.

During my time in Seattle , I taught a class for young families. One of the couples was expecting a baby. I received a call one morning asking me to come to the hospital. The child was born with a genetic defect and was on life support. I quickly went to the hospital and spoke with the mom. The baby would only live a few short days. The parents had to make the difficult decision to take her off life support. They invited me to be present in the hospital with them and their family when they did that. It was a very surreal experience of feeling like I was standing in the doorway of heaven watching someone depart.

Three or four years ago, I received a phone call at 2:30AM. The voice on the phone asked for Mark Wheeler. When I said it was me, they said, “This is April. Marky was in an accident and is in the hospital.” Clearly feeling groggy, I said, “Say again?” “This is April. Marky is in the hospital.” “Which hospital?” I asked. “Bay State,” they responded. I had no idea who Marky was, but I knew an April who served in the church’s AWANA program. I quickly got dressed and went to Bay State Medical Center. I talked my way into ER saying that I was Mark Wheeler. The nurse took me to appropriate cubicle. When she pulled back the curtain, the people there stared at me dumbfoundedly and I stared back at them. They had no idea who I was and I had no idea who they were. The nurse asked what was going on and I tried to explain. It turned out the patient who was in an accident was named Mark Wheeler and his father was Mark Wheeler. April looked in the phone book and called the first one she found. It just wasn’t the right one. I was back home by 3:30AM with a story to tell.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2021 in Ministry

 

Beware of scammers

Last night I received an instant message from a 90-year-old friend who I’ve not heard from in 20+ years. The message asked if I had heard of the International Development Association Grant program. I had not. The message went on to tell me that the individual had received $7,000 tax free and didn’t need to pay it back. The message went on to tell me to click on a link and apply for the grant.

Being curious, I googled the organization and discovered that, yes, there is an International Development Association affiliated with the World Bank that does give grants. However, the grants and loans are for the world’s poorest developing countries. The more I researched, the more I was convinced it was a scam.

I also messaged one of my friend’s children to ask if they knew anything about this. They responded that my friend didn’t chat and it was probably a hack.

This morning, another message popped up asking if I had contacted the agent yet. I responded that I believed the message was a scam. They responded back that it was legit and they had just opened the account. I wrote back and asked them to tell me something that only my friend would know about me.

The message responded a few minutes later with some details which are common knowledge. I finally said goodbye and blocked the sender from my account.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2021 in Character, Personal growth

 

Be a reconciler

God . . . gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19,  NIV)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s parents disapproved so strongly of her marriage to Robert that they disowned her and would not speak to her.  On an almost weekly basis, Elizabeth wrote love letters to her mother and father, asking for a reconciliation.  Yet never once did they reply.  After ten years of letter writing, she received a huge box in the mail.  Opening it, she discovered to her dismay that all of her letter were returned unopened.

Today those love letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature.  If her parents had only opened and read a few of them, a reconciliation might have taken place.

The Bible is God’s love letter of reconciliation to a world estranged from him.  Not only should we read it, but God also has given us the assignment of sharing it with the world.  We are his intermediaries, his ministers of reconciliation.

Father, help me to share your message of reconciliation with someone today.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2021 in 2 Corinthians, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Effective missionaries need to leave home

I recently corresponded with a missionary who made a comment about a Jim Elliot quote I include in my email signature.

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Jim Elliot

The individual said,

Can I just comment on the Jim Elliot quote below? I love it, and it is so appropriate to this topic! Do you know that is one of the biggest problems of why many, many missionaries are not making it overseas today? They are not “all there”. We used to go to the field and it would take 2-3 weeks for letters to go back and forth, and phone calls were so expensive that you just didn’t call. Now so many missionaries never really leave home. They spend so much time online with friends and family that they are not forced to cleave to the new culture. You cannot live in two places at once. It is easier emotionally to never leave home, so to speak – but you will never fully fit into the new culture. And, friends and family don’t leave them go, in the same aspect. They want constant communication. So, thanks for that quote below.

To be effective, missionaries need to leave home and be fully present in their new culture. And their family and friends need to let them leave so that they can fully focus on where they are.

A very perceptive and insightful comment.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2021 in Missions, Quotes

 

Be a people blossomer

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

Thomas Monaghan, the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Domino’s Pizza, Inc. made a profound statement regarding the growth of his company.  From 1970 to 1985, Domino’s grew from a small debt-ridden chain to the second largest pizza company in America with sales of over one billion dollars in 1985.

When asked to account for the phenomenal growth of the company, Monaghan explained, “I programmed everything for growth.”  And what was his plan?  “Every day we develop people–the key to growth is developing people.”

Monaghan realized that the secret to success was not special cheese, a tasty crust, or fast delivery schedules.  It was people.

Father, help me to love my neighbor by building into his or her life and helping them to grow.

 
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Endure sorrow for what it brings

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Posted by on September 15, 2021 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Listening = Loving

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he has turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116: 1-2, NIV)

Having developed the art of concentrating on the newspaper or television and tuning out those around, we become a master at tunnel vision.  Has your son or daughter ever called “Daddy” three or four times before you acknowledge them with a grunt?  On occasion, have they snatched the newspaper out of your hands or grabbed your cheeks and forcefully turned your head until you look them in the eye?

But when we put down the paper, turn off the TV, pick them up and put them on our lap, and look them directly in the eye, they leave saying, “I love you, Daddy.  Thanks for listening.”

One of the best ways to demonstrate our love for our spouse and children is simply by listening to them.  We give them the gift of presence, of being fully engaged in their conversation.  We communicate our love by listening and it bonds us closely together.

Father, help me to pay attention and listen to my wife and children.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2021 in Communication, Parenting, Psalms, Scripture