The Little Cripple and The King

The Little Cripple and the King

This could have been a very sad story but (stay with me here) it has a happy ending. I recently had the special privilege of bringing the message at a dear little cousin’s funeral. He was crippled from birth. He was destined to spend his life as what some people would define as ‘severely handicapped’. With that in mind, as I was contemplating the circumstances in which he lived, and preparing for the celebration of his life, my mind was inexplicably drawn to a short declaration in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are …created equal.”..

Created equal? How could that be? How could my little cousin with his deformed body ever be considered equal while living within the limits of his handicap? In my mind he could never be equal. As I was looking back over all the inequalities in the hand he was dealt, I began to enumerate the many things he was never able to do—things we sometimes take for granted.
He was never ever able to run and play with other kids;
never able to throw a ball or jump a rope.
He could never learn to ride a bike nor have a paper route;
He would never have a girlfriend, nor a date, nor experience his first romantic kiss
He was never able to learn to drive a car;
never leave the nest…. never go out on his own.
He was never even able to tie his own shoes.
Some skeptics might even declare that God was having a bad day when He wove my little cousin’s body together in his mother’s womb—surely God must have made a mistake when He created such a deformed little body. There are those who would have suggested that he should have been ripped from his mother’s womb early in her pregnancy and disposed of rather than spend a life of near total dependency. Surely, to them he would be a considered a curse rather than a blessing—an albatross around his parent’s necks. He was destined spend all his latter years (here on earth) in a wheel chair—always at the mercy of a care-giver. In the eyes of many, he could have easily been a perfect candidate to curse God and die.

Surely we would all agree that if that was the end of his story, it would obviously be a sad, sad story indeed. But as sad as it may seem to us, I’m happy to report that was certainly not the end. As a matter of fact quite the opposite is true. As unfair that may seem to us, Almighty God wasn’t having a bad day when He wove that dear little cousin together in his mother’s womb. As God told Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” He even had a perfect plan for our little buddy,Ron, just as He has for each of us.

As far as we know Ron handled his handicap with ‘amazing grace’. As such he was one of God’s most faithful witnesses. Rarely, if ever, did he bemoan his station in life. He always seemed to be a ‘happy camper’. He was perfectly content to sit and listen to Gospel music all day. He rarely ever wallowed in a pity party—rarely ever displayed a poor pitiful me attitude—never seemed to harbor any bitterness. I would guarantee you that he never ever wished to curse God and die. Such a thought would never enter his mind. I would venture that he loved God with all his heart His life was an inspiration to all of us who came in contact with him and all who knew him loved him. The grace with which he lived should be a sermon to all of us.

Contemplating Ron’s station in life I’m reminded of a beautiful story in the Bible illustrating how our loving King of Glory has a soft spot in His heart for special needs persons.` (Isn’t it interesting how the Bible always has an encouraging word for any and all no matter our station in life.) We find one such story of a little crippled child in the ninth chapter of II Samuel. His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When Mephibosheth was only five years old, both Jonathan and King Saul were killed in a fierce battle. When the little lad’s nurse heard the horrible news, she picked him up and fled—fearing for his life. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled for life.

Soon after King Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David, the little shepherd boy turned great warrior, became king of all Israel. One day King David asked, “Is anyone in Saul’s family still alive—anyone to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” He summoned a man named Ziba, who had been one of Saul’s servants. Then the king asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.” Ziba replied, “Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet.” So he sent for him. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.” To which Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.” And David said, “Don’t be afraid!”. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” Mephibosheth respectfully exclaimed, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Saul’s servant Ziba and said, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and servants are to farm the land for him to produce food for your master’s household. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, will eat here at my table.” (Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Ziba replied, “Yes, my lord the king; I am your servant, and I will do all that you have commanded.” And from that time on, Mephibosheth (who was crippled in both feet, lived in Jerusalem and ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons.

When we took our final look at Ron’s deformed body, we had to realize he wasn’t there. No Siree! He’d moved out! He now lives in his new perfect body, and in a beautiful new home, wearing a crown of never-ending glory and honor. And he’s eating regularly at his Heavenly king’s table—like all the rest of the king’s sons. He is now indeed equal to all who are sitting at our Heavenly King’s table!

Hmm, now that I think about it, he might even greater than equal. In the eighteenth chapter of Mathew we read, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answered, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (verse 4).”

In memory of Ronald Gayle Watkins
1943 – 2015

The Often Unseen God

The Often Unseen God

Wrist watches! It seems everyone of my generation wears wrist watches. To us, they are wonderful little companions. We never leave home without them. If perchance we do forget and leave home without them, we are destined to look at our wrists countless times during the course of day, all to no avail. We are addicted to them.

And some of us of more inquisitive minds (mostly little boys) have actually taken the backs off our watches to see what made them tick. Big mistake! But, have you ever seen the inside of one of those old fashioned wrist watches? Good Heavens! What an intricate network of tiny gears and springs and spindles are necessary to ultimately display the correct time of day. And furthermore, surely we must further realize that all those tiny gears and springs and spindles must be perfectly synchronized together as a single unit in order to achieve their desired purpose. I’m not herein speaking of various new fangled, time-keeping devices powered by modern day electronics, but old fashioned wrist watches that are valued by the number of jewels employed in their movement, the outward beauty of their appearance and/or the country of their origin.

But, I must admit that, for the most part, I couldn’t care less of what’s going on behind the scenes when I look at my little watch; I am only interested in the result. I simply want to know the time of day and it tells me—mission accomplished! That little itch has been scratched; and I am content for the moment. Otherwise, all that behind the scenes stuff is taken for granted.

Taken a step further, some of us have adopted the habit of ‘saying grace’ before our meals. Good habit to adopt! For Instance, consider the mundane task of preparing that meal. Today I made a simple pot of stew consisting mostly of common, garden variety vegetables. No big deal. But as I recited that little obligatory prayer before ravenously devouring about 3 bowls of that scrumptious concoction, I didn’t so much as give a second thought to all the ‘behind the scenes’ happenings necessary to put that meal before me. I had absolutely no knowledge of the perfectly synchronized journeys that each ingredient, the onion and celery stalk, the tomato and ear of corn and the potato, had to be taken in order to reach my kitchen at that exact moment in time. I gave no thought to the farmer who tilled the ground and planted the seeds. I didn’t thank God for the rain to promote the growth nor the bees that pollinated the blooms. I gave no thought to those who reaped the harvest nor those who brought them to market. As far as I was concerned, I was only interested in that eventual pot of stew—and it proved to be delicious. Mission accomplished.

Surely you must know by now where this little soliloquy is headed. That seemingly insignificant pot of stew is just one instance in the myriad of our daily activities that we simply take for granted. How often have we ever looked back at all the events our ‘unseen God’ brought about in order bring us to these particular times and places? Rarely? Yet, that’s the story of our lives. Our unseen Lord God is ‘always working to make all things work together for good in the lives of all us who love Him and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)’. Even the bad stuff? Yep! As Joseph told his brothers after they had double-crossed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:20).”

Obviously, there are times when overt, seemingly unexplainable, unbelievable ‘coincidences’ happen in our lives which cause us to surmise, “It had to be a God thing!”, Well, of course it was! Sometimes I think He makes very visible cameo appearances in our lives just to remind us that He is always working out His plan in our lives. Just like God told Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NLB). King David also wrote, “O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them (Psalm 40:5 NLB).” In God’s overall plan for us, nearly everything happens for a reason—a good reason!

But for the most part, I would venture that we are rarely aware of all the little incidents— incidents with seemingly no significance—incidents that we take for granted. Yet, they are incidents that are necessary ingredients in His overall plans. We fail to realize that in God’s plan, each day He gives us becomes a strand in the fabric of our lives. As in Joseph’s case, our loving Heavenly Father even uses the bad things to produce good things. WOW!

With that being the case, we are admonished to, “…give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:20 NLT).” Our often unseen God is always at work.

With a Song in My Heart

With a Song in my Heart

I love the old hymns. And not only me, but I can’t tell you how many dear old saints of my generation and beyond that I have heard utter “If I had only two books, it would be my Bible and my Hymn Book!”. And, I guess I tend to agree with them to an extent. I have more of them stored in my memory bank than I can count.

Perhaps I developed my love of the old hymns from my dad. I don’t suppose he would have ever been considered an ‘accomplished musician’, but no one loved to sing the old hymns more than he did. I never knew a time when he didn’t sing in the choir. And not only the choir but he carried that love for the old hymns home with him. As was our custom, Mom was the designated chief cook, Dad was the chief bottle washer and it fell my lot to dry ’em and put ’em away. In my mind’s eye, I can still see Dad leaning over the sink, sweat dripping from his brow, ‘warshin’ the dishes, and humming some favorite old hymn while tending away that little chore. That was one of his defining characteristics.

And I feel quite sure that my dad developed his love of the old hymns from his dad. My grand dad was a dear old-time Methodist saint. What a great example he set for his children and his children’s children. I never saw him lose his patience, never saw him angry, never heard him utter a curse word; but I suppose he always had a song in his heart. He too was certainly no ‘accomplished musician’, but his heart was surely in it. He too invariably hummed familiar old hymns as he was going about his chores. That was also one of his defining characteristics. No wonder that I too love the old hymns; I guess you could say it’s ‘in my genes’.

The singing of hymns is a time honored tradition. Our almighty God originated and established the tradition. He loves Christian music—both gospel music (singing the good news about God) and praise and worship (singing love songs to God). God loves them so much that He dedicated a great portion of His Holy Word to the lyrics of wonderful Christian hymns. Most students of the Bible agree that the book of hymns (Psalms) is the longest book in the Bible. If the calculation is based on the number of verses, or the number of chapters, or the number of pages, it would prove to be correct.
Not only did God provide us with the lyrics to wonderful Christian hymns, but He admonished us to sing them! In Ephesians 5:19, the great Apostle Paul wrote, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (KJV).” Again, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Verse 3:16 KJV).” It’s interesting to note that for those of us who can’t ‘carry a tune in a bucket’, He provided an out. He exhorts that particular group of us to ‘make melody in our hearts’. Several Psalms are less complimentary when exhorting us to ‘make a joyful noise’.
Now, our younger generation has developed a new genre of Christian music. It is defined as ‘Praise Music’. It is often viewed with much disdain by older Christians. I suppose many of us old-timers would regard such music as no more than ‘joyful noise’. We are so resistant to change. I’ve heard a number of various senior worshipers describe this contemporary style of music in rather derogatory terms such as ‘7/11 music’ —7 words repeated 11 times. And they don’t like it. (Hmm, I suppose that, by that definition, Handel’s revered “Hallelujah Chorus” would fall into that category). Nevertheless, our sacred old ‘Hymn Books’ are being banished in favor of huge screens displaying the lyrics to these various new ‘praise and worship’ songs. And the youth among our congregations absolutely love them. I must say that watching our future generation singing those new ‘praise and worship’ songs, with such enthusiasm is quite heartwarming to me.

And I must admit that even I have developed a deep love and admiration for several of these new songs. I have no reason not to believe that God is still inspiring songs that speak to our hearts. During this current time in my life when I am enduring trials, and stress, and grief as I watch my precious wife waste away in the throes of dementia, several of these new songs have etched out a permanent place in my heart. One such song is the beautiful praise song written by Matt Redman with the recurring theme:
“Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me
WOW! What a promise! I have no idea who Matt Redman is, but he surely must have also witnessed the loving, powerful presence of God during some time of stress test in his life. Those wonderful lyrics had to be inspired by God Almighty. To this day, I cannot listen to and/or sing that song without tears of worship in my eyes. It eases my sorrow, lifts my spirit, gives me peace, and increases my faith.

Thank you Lord, for giving that wonderful musical testimony to Matt Redman; and thank you Matt, for sharing it with all of us. May God bless you!

I Need a Hug

I Need a Hug!

Is it just me, or do all of us need hugs? I confess that since my dear soul mate has been living within the throes of dementia, the loving hugs we shared daily have long since ceased. But my need for hugs certainly hasn’t ceased. They always made me feel good and I miss ’em. I suppose I’m just a natural born ‘hugger’.

But please don’t feel sorry for me; all is not lost, not by any stretch of the imagination. Even though my dear sweetheart is no longer with me mentally or emotionally, I still get lots of hugs—just not from her. Our wonderful daughter fills in that hole in my heart quite regularly. As a loving father, I get plenty of hugs from that compassionate little lady. I am also blessed to have a number of other surrogate ‘huggers’. Since I have Tuesdays ‘off’, I get to spend my time running errands, casually buying groceries, checking on my rental property, and having a leisurely lunch—home cooking, no less, that I don’t have prepare. YeeHaa! And as a creature of habit I patronize the same little ‘hole in the wall’ diner every Tuesday. They treat me like family. This past Tuesday all three waitresses gathered around me as I walked in the door and showered me with wonderful hugs. They must have thought it was my birthday or something. That little gesture made me feel warm all over! Everybody wants to be loved and treated special.

As I was contemplating that welcome little series of events, I began thinking of all the emotions a simple hug can stir up within us. A hug can be a fantastic way of non verbally communicating with another person. Hugging boosts self-esteem. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. Hugs are good therapy. And, it’s not just all in our minds. Sure enough, hugging therapy has proven to be a powerful way of healing. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues. It even has a positive influence on inflammation and wound healing. Remember when we (as little kids) would skin our knee and our moms would hug us, kiss the wound and make it well. It always seemed to work! Hugging cures lots of ills.

According to researchers at Ohio State University, simple hugs become increasingly more important with age. As we grow older, the more fragile we become physically, so hugging and physical touch play a big role in maintaining our good health. I can attest to that since I am in the midst of that ‘growing older’ phenomenon.. Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have averse health effects. When we’re hugged, we feel less lonely. In both giving and receiving hugs with someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease our feelings of loneliness. Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch give us positive feelings and significantly reduce our worry of mortality

Hugs may not just simply warm our hearts, but according to Better Health Journal, hugs can also be good medicine for our hearts: One study found, for instance, that women had lower blood pressure following a brief episode of warm contact with their partners. In another experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a heart rate of 10 beats/minute compared to the 5 beats/minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment. More hugs = lower blood pressure.

Hmm, inquiring minds want to know how can a simple hug cause all these wonderful things to take place in our bodies? In a word, it’s “Oxytocin!” So you might ask, ”What in the world is Oxytocin? Well, Oxytocin is one of those wonderful ‘happy chemicals’ produced by our brain. It is often referred to as the “love hormone” and/or the “trust hormone” and/or “cuddle hormone”. And, get this! Hugging increases the levels of Oxytocin in our bodies. Oxytocin also increases Serotonin production, which is another one of those wonderful, pleasure causing hormones that reduce pain and sadness, while increasing our good moods and improving our overall feelings of happiness. It also decreases risk of heart problems, extends life and can even help us lose weight. And simple hugs release these pleasure hormone into our bodies. Wow!

Studies have even shown that our propensity for hugs shouldn’t necessarily be limited to the human species. No Siree! For those of us who have pets, it also helps to hug and play with them. Just a few minutes of petting our dogs or cats can promote the release of our body’s “happiness” hormones, Those studies also found that hugging, even if it’s just inanimate objects like teddy bears, has its benefits. A significant number of people sleep more peacefully when hugging their pillows.

Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles. and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases. It has been found to reduce the cravings of drug and alcohol addiction. I speculate that students feel less devastated by academic problems when well-hugged, well-assured, and well-bonded.

Don’t get me wrong: It can be annoying to be touched by a stranger, or even by a friend, at the wrong time. And there will always be people who choose not to touch or be touched. In Ecclesiastes 3:5 we read, “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”. As adults, we can live without hugs, but of course we do seem to be happier with them.
So, the bottom line seems to be, ‘Reach out and hug someone, It will make both of us happier”.

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Feet That Preach

Feet That Preach
The year was 1984. We were in the quaint little village of Oberammergau for the 350 year anniversary of their famous Passion Play. You may have never heard of Oberammergau, but it is an unbelievably picturesque little village tucked away in the foothills of the Alps in the state of Bavaria. Practically all the homes in the village are made of warm white stucco with roofs of Terracotta colored tile. Adding to their beauty is the significant number of them that are enhanced with opulently painted facades. Such murals are permanently applied to wet, freshly laid plaster. The paintings often depict florals around their windows, or figures from fairy tales, or religious characters, particularly involving figures of saints. Absolutely beautiful!

As our tour bus was entering the old historical part of the village, I was so taken with the artistry and uniqueness of the of the various buildings in the area, I asked the bus driver to stop and let me off so I could capture those breathtaking images on my camera. I was literally running from house, to restaurant, to inn in an effort to photograph as many as I could before catching up with the group on our tour. I’m quite sure that even the casual passerby could have observed me in my pursuit and been immediately aware of what I was trying to accomplish. No explanation necessary

Sure enough, soon after we returned home, a coworker at our relatively small company asked if that was me they had seen running around in Oberammergau, taking pictures of those beautifully unique buildings. My immediate thoughts were, “Good grief! Is there no place on earth where we are unobserved?”.What are the odds of being thousands of miles from home, at a specific locale in a remote village on another continent at the exact same time as a familiar coworker? Looking back, I was thankful I had not taken leave from my conscience and moral ethics—thankful I was not doing something for which I would live to regret. I suppose I’ll never forget that ‘chance’ meeting. It will always serve to remind me of the fact that someone is always watching us.

As unlikely as that singular incident may seem, such ‘chance’ meetings are not nearly as rare as we would like to think. Thinking back, I can readily remember a number of ‘chance’ meetings I have had. And, I would venture that all of us could recall similar incidents. That being the case, we should all realize the fact that there is no safe place on earth where we can go to do our ‘smokin, drinkin, and cussin’. Someone will always be watching. When we are tempted to engage in some covert sin (and we surely will be) the devil is an unbelievably adept concierge—he can make it happen! And he will always whisper in our ear, “No one will ever know”. The devil also uses another catch phrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Not true! Absolutely not true! Both are lies straight from the devil himself! ! Let’s not kid ourselves, our covert acts are not nearly as covert as he would lead us to believe. And then when we misstep, we can rest assured that the news will travel fast. The same devil that says, “No one will ever know” is also the one that will make sure that everyone knows!

We can also be assured that everyone who knows us has heard our talk. They have all heard heard us profess our Christianity. They have heard us avow our love for God. Now they’re watching to see if our walk matches our talk. In today’s vernacular, they are watching to see ‘how we roll’. They want to know ‘how we roll’ whether on the mountain tops or the deep valleys of life. They watch to see how we react to the good times as well as the bad times. They are watching to see how we deal with the trials and stresses in our lives. They will be watching to see if we actually ‘take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there’. They are taking note of our tendency to be either arrogant or humble, both in our successes and in our failures. They will be watching to see how we treat all with whom we come in contact; whether friends or strangers, whether popular or down trodden; whether rich or poor. They are watching to see how we handle our finances—are we generous or miserly; are we industrious or slackers in the workplace? They are watching to see how we handle the truth. Are we always honest in all our dealings. They will be watching us during the so-called ‘chance meetings’ when we think ‘nobody will see’. In all such cases, no explanation is necessary—our actions have already spoken loud and clear. A dear preacher friend of mine has told me that his main desire in life is to teach his children how to live and also how to die when the time comes. He is teaching them by his actions rather than his words. In so doing he is also teaching all those who know him the same lessons. I would venture that nearly everyone in the world patterns their lives after someone who they hold in high regard.

Thus, when all the evidence is in, I will guarantee that we will be judged by the sermons we preach with our feet rather than the sermons we preach with our tongues. And sadly, in many cases our lost friends are turned off by the sermons we preach with our feet. And, in many such cases, they don’t choose to be associated with all the ‘hypocrites’ in our churches. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1 NASB),” If I am correctly interpreting that Scripture, that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ would not only include our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, but also many other casual acquaintances. Oddly enough, that great cloud of witnesses often includes people we don’t even know.

The Mark Trammel gospel quartet has released a hit song,“Your walk talks / and your talk talks / but your walk talks louder than your talk talks”. So very true!

Blooming Where We’re Planted

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t know what my spiritual gift is!” What a malady of the spirit that presents. My Goodness, I cannot count the scores of students of the Scriptures who have confessed that they have no earthly idea what their spiritual gift is. And with good cause. As we are reading through the fourth chapter of Ephesians beginning at the eleventh verse, we read, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (NASB),” No help there! Their resumes don’t seem to include any of those categories.

Again, in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians beginning at verse 28, we find another list of such gifts including: apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, healers, helpers, administrators, various kinds of tongues. Once again, they cannot put pair their name with a single gift on that list either. Frustrating!

Continuing on, in that twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, we see that such frustrations are validated. “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (verses 29-30 NASB) In looking through all those Spiritual gifts, they readily declare that their business cards cannot say John Doe, pastor, nor John Doe, prophet, nor John Doe, administrator, etc.

Even If we were to add some positions of service to that list, many would still come up empty. Such persons might be too timid to be an usher or greeter, or too lacking in patience to work in the nursery, nor could they ‘carry a tune in a bucket’, let alone play a musical instrument. Yet they want to fulfill that empty place in their spirit by exercising their gift—whatever that may be.

In search of some answers, let’s bend our minds somewhat and step outside the walls of the church. Let’s just say a Christian brother cannot seemingly exercise any of the gifts listed above but he can sure fix a leaky faucet. And let’s say God had had caused a faucet to leak in a particular home at a specific time—a situation where his ‘secular’ talent would come into play. Our omniscient God would be well aware that as ‘John Doe, pastor’ he would not be welcome to enter that person’s home; but as ‘John Doe, plumber’ he would be greeted with open arms. Once inside that home, he might find his real reason for him being there. The Holy Spirit had already prepared the homeowner’s heart to hear the Word and set up a divine appointment between that homeowner and the plumber. God does not act randomly.

Such appointments are not rare with God. I am reminded of the story in Acts 8:where the Spirit of God led Philip, one of His disciples, out to the unlikely desert road running between Jerusalem and Gaza. God had already worked out a predestined time and place for a divine appointment unbeknownst to Philip. But, there at that specific time and place, he would meet a specific lone traveler who was reading his Bible. (My, my, what a coincidence.) “Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him (verses 34-35 NASB).”

Hmm, the next questions might be, “How does this process work?” “ How can such appointments be met successfully? First of all, we must always be prepared to enter the game. Proper preparation is a key. We must read and learn the ‘playbook’, follow the advise of the ‘head coach’, and “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25 NASB).” Hmm, ‘assembling together’. Interesting! The Bible is instructing us to assemble together with other believers. We might suggest that a Bible believing church is a good place for us to assemble together. Let’s call our assembling together as ‘huddle’. In the ‘huddle we receive instructions, encourage one another, and learn how to work together as a team. Huddles are up lifting and invigorating, and we enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie established during our huddles. They’re enlightening and fun.

But, we must constantly be reminded that no matter how much we enjoy our times in the huddle, games are not won in the huddles—No Siree! Games are won in the ‘field’. In Acts 8:4 we read, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word (NASB) Notice the word, ‘scattered’.If we are to win the battles, we are to break huddle, scatter out, and take our assigned positions in the fields of our calling. That is where we find ourselves planted in the most fertile ground. That is the place where we find ourselves among the lost and dying of the world. We find them in our work places, schools, hospitals, prisons. Those are the secular fields where God, in His infinite wisdom plants us. And then, we are to bloom where we are planted!

Warning! Life won’t be nearly as easy out in the field as it was in the huddle. Rather than encouragement and camaraderie we will be met with resistance and discouragement from the enemy. We will encounter all sorts of opposition and hardships. In many cases we will be shunned by our peers. We will often be called untoward names. But those are the fields in which our secular talents and spiritual gifts come into play; that is where we flourish in God’s sight. That is our reason for being. Just a little side bar, It should also be noted here that the greenery is more lush and the flowers are more bountiful when planted where the ground is rich with rotten leaves and decaying wood along with the refuse and dung from animal life. The harder the battle, the greater the rewards.

“Be Holy, for I am Holy.”

It was a time of emotional praise and worship during a service at our church. The whole congregation was on their feet. Sprinkled throughout the sanctuary a number of worshipers had their eyes closed, hands lifted toward heaven, sincerely singing, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty’. I feel quite certain that many of us were struck with awe of our Almighty God and His absolutely unmatched holiness during that particular time of worship and praise. It evoked a set of feelings I shall never forget.

Years have past since, and as I recalled that memorable worship service, I was suddenly struck with the words, “Be holy, for I am holy.” We find those seemingly impossible words in1 Peter 1:16. Wow! What was Jesus thinking!? In the Greek Lexicon, the very first definition of ‘holy’ indicates ‘perfection, reverence, awe’. According to that definition, only Jesus was and is able to fulfill those lofty traits; only Jesus attained perfection, only Jesus deserves our utmost reverence, only Jesus should be held in awe. That being the case, how in the world could our holiness ever be compared the His holiness? How could we, as lowly sinners, ever be expected to measure up to the attributes exhibited by our Lord? He set the bar too high! As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. We are imperfect, irreverent, and should be considered as no more than lowly sinners saved by His amazing grace. Is He is commanding us to do something we absolutely cannot do! No human alive can emulate the awesome standards set by our Lord and Savior.

Or can we? Is it actually possible? Is it actually possible for us to ‘be holy as He is holy’? Apparently so! He never asks us to do something that we cannot do. So, let’s jump to the next definition in the Lexicon to see if we can find some answers. There we find that ‘holy’ is also defined as ‘Set apart’. Let’s insert those words into that command, “Be ‘set apart’, for I am ‘set apart”:. Hmm, maybe we have touched on the answer to this conundrum. We can do that! Now He is asking us to do something for which He has already set the example. Surely we are all aware that He was ‘set apart’ for a special mission during His time here on earth. And He accomplished exactly what He was sent here to do! It should be noted that we too are to be ‘set apart’. He has specifically gifted us for a special mission while we are here on earth and He expects us to accomplish exactly what we were sent here to do. He further instructs us how to be set apart in 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” says the Lord. “and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you (NASB).”

With that in mind, let’s see if we can find God’s reasoning in commanding us to be ‘set apart’. Set apart for what? Our nature wants to know, “what’s in it for me?”’ It seems that any task is easier to preform when we are aware of its purpose, the eventual outcome and the ultimate reward. Surely God had some divine purpose in mind for each of us when commanding us to be ‘set apart’. Otherwise, why would He purchase us with His own blood, make of us new creations, indwell us with His Holy Spirit, promise us an abundant life, and prepare for us an eternal dwelling place in heaven, only to leave us here, conforming to the world’s standards of living until He finally calls us home? No way! There is work to do, souls to be saved, crowns to be won.

As a fan of basketball, I am reminded of the various roles each member of the team plays. In the NBA each team consists of 15 active players. Each one has been ‘set apart’ for a particular task, but only 5 are in the game at any given time. The other ten are on the bench awaiting their call. They better not be playing checkers, or distracted by their cell phones or talking to the cute chick sitting behind them. No Siree! They better be concentrating on the game, familiarizing themselves with the opponents moves, and planning their strategy of attack. If they are to be successful when their time comes, each and every member needs to practice together with the team, work out in the weight room, and be acquainted with the play book, Then when the coach calls their number, they are immediately prepared to jump up, strip off their warm-ups and run to the scorers table, ready, willing and able to enter the game. The goal is to win the game, make the playoffs, and finally win that highly coveted championship ring. Although they earn millions during the course of their careers, their most sought after possessions from their playing days is that ring.

Consider God’s prophet, Moses. During the entire course of his playing days, surely he would he would have been qualified and considered as MVP of the entire nation of Israel. He was one of their greatest players of all times. His memoirs were so important that they became the complete Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It should be noted that He was ‘set apart’ from his conception till his death.

Although he had no earthly idea what God had in store for him, he was actually spending a whopping four score years in training for the awesome task that lay ahead of him. He would spend the first 40 years of his life training in Egypt, learning every aspect of the Egyptians. While living in Egypt, he became totally familiar with their way of life, their strengths and weaknesses, their habits and vulnerabilities. Then through a personal error of judgment, he was forced out of Egypt into the Sinai peninsula. There he would spend the next 40 years of his life becoming totally familiar with the lay of that land. He learned where all the springs and water wells were located. He became acquainted with the climate, the fauna and flora of the entire region. He became accustomed to life in the desert and how to survive.

Wow! Eighty years! He was in training 80 years before God called his number—80 years old before he actually entered the game. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me (Exodus 8:1 NASB).” After 80 years in training, Moses’ very first assignment was to march right into Pharaoh’s throne room and inform him that the LORD said, “Let my people go!” Good Heavens! According to Exodus 12:37–38, the Israelites numbered “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” at that time. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. One can only imagine how many that would be if all the women and children were added into that figure. That was a huge order! Yet that was the task that God spent 80 years training him for; that was what he was ‘set apart’ to do.

Let’s personalize this illustration. We are all well aware of many who are obviously ‘set apart’, who are visibly exercising their spiritual gifts; pastors, teachers, caregivers, counselors, and the like. On the other hand, many, many of us are seemingly sitting on the bench, awaiting our number to be called. Yet unbeknownst to us, we may very well may be in training at this very hour for a specific task. Our number may be called to enter the game at any time. So Jesus commanded us to “Be holy, for I am holy.” Or, in other words, “Be set apart, for I am set apart.” Here is a little advise on how we can be training for whatever task we are ‘set apart’ to accomplish. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17 NKJV). This is how we can be ready when He calls our name.

Then we can say with the great prophet Isaiah, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 KJV).” Don’t you know God is pleased when He hears those words. And, when we have finally accomplished all that we were ‘set apart’ to do, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV).”

Ah, those ‘championship’ crowns will be our most treasured rewards when our ‘playing days’ here on earth are over.