Caught Short

So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. Matthew 25:10 (GNT)

I had out the buttermilk, flour, and chicken on the counter.  I had a taste for fried chicken.  I went to get the oil from the cabinet, but I couldn’t find it.  I thought for a moment.  I wish I could have kicked myself because I deserved it.  I had never picked up the oil.  I had been out a couple of times but had decided I didn’t want to get out of the car.  I just wanted to go home.  There would be another opportunity I had thought.  However, there was not.  The stores were closed, the chicken was floating in buttermilk and my desire for fried chicken would have to be satisfied with oven-fried.  

Procrastination and the idea that you will always have another chance is a dangerous game.  Eventually, your next opportunities will be no more. This includes your salvation.

In Matthew, (25:1-13), Jesus tells a parable.  It is of the 10 Virgins.  Mostly it is taught as a parable to always be ready for the coming of Christ.  However, I think it is more than just a parable of the end time.  I think it is a lesson for every day. Five of the virgins had their lamps lit and carried an extra jar of oil.  The five foolish virgins had very little oil in their lamps and no extra.  They panicked.  Begged for oil from the other virgins, but there was nothing the others could do, time had come.  The bridegroom waited.  Finally, panicked ran out to find an open merchant.  By the time they returned the door to the feast had been closed and they were denied entrance. 

It seems a simple enough parable.  Be prepared daily for you do not know when your days will come to an end.  It is a bit more I believe.  I think the virgins didn’t just suffer from procrastination, they had doubt and were arrogant in believing that the other women would help them or that the door would be opened though they had failed to be prepared and ready.  I think we are the same.  We take for granted that tomorrow will come.  That God’s mercies will extend.  The truth for all of us to consider is that eventually our opportunities and our tomorrows will end.  There is no second chance then. 

Daily we should live as if it is the last.  We should take time to share Christ, do what is right, live as blameless as we can, and tell those in our lives how much we love them. Forgive those that have hurt you, ask for forgiveness, and forgive yourself. 

Keep the oil lit and do not be caught short.

Typist for Jesus   

Faith as Big as an Ark

Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God – Jesus, the Son of God. Hebrews 4:14 (GNT)

I was back on the road again this weekend.  This time I visited the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in Williamstown, Kentucky.  If you have the opportunity you need to visit.  https://arkencounter.com/noahs-ark/

I felt like a kid as I leaned forward in my seat to see the Ark rising out of the rolling knolls of the Kentucky landscape.  With every revolution of the car’s tires, the Ark grew bigger and so did my excitement.  I doubt you are much different from me with respect to the many questions you have pondered when thinking about Noah’s Ark.  How did Noah keep them from eating each other and what do you do with all that pooh? (yes, I went there.) There are more questions but these are my top two.

The Ark representation has been built to the specifications in Genesis. (see Genesis 6:15) It is massive, rising into the blue sky and wider than my camera can take in.  As you walk down the pathway to enter this behemoth, animal-shaped topiaries are spread out and for a moment it is like you are joining them in the march. The closer you get, the real magnitude of this feat is revealed. It was more than I anticipated. I was excited to search out and study the secrets hidden within.  

As much as I enjoyed the exhibits, amazing animatronics, and geek-out opportunities,  my mind continued to return to thoughts of what this family must have gone through during the preparation.  The Ark took Noah and his sons decades to finish and then there was the collection of animals, stores of food, and water for a vast array of beasts and themselves.  However, there was more they had to face and cope with.  I imagine the ridicule they suffered was relentless and cruel.  Daily they worked toward a goal that was of salvation yet they knew that the world was about to change forever. 

On part of the tour, there is a massive door that had been used to load rations and animals.  It towered above me.  As I posed for a quick snap in front of it, I thought about the day that this door closed and Noah and his family waited inside for seven days.  Outside life carried on.  Day after day past and the sky was as blue and clear as the day I visited.  Years of preparation and work for this moment and nothing was happening. Not one drop. Then on the seventh day, rain began to fall and the earth was swallowed by water.

Faith is hard work,  It is a daily struggle sometimes.  We see so much going on around us.  We pray and do the right thing and yet nothing happens.  To say you have faith is not enough.  You have to walk it out, live it and chose it.  Faith like so many other things, it is a choice.  A choice that you stand with and persevere through. Noah and his family chose to have faith in God.  A faith as big as an Ark.

Typist for Jesus

Stagnant Existence

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

It was terrific to get out of the house this weekend.  Since the pandemic, like most, I have stayed close to home.  However, this weekend, I took a half-day trip just an hour and a half away to a popular landmark.  I have never been, but almost everyone I know has, so I thought I would take a friend and check it out. 

The Lost Sea was discovered in 1905 by a thirteen-year-old boy.  Though the caverns themselves were well known to the Native Americans in the area, the water body was unknown until a drought exposed a small opening. Filled with curiosity, the young boy pushed his way into the opening.  A chamber filled with blackness stretched out before him. Tossing a rock into the dark, he heard the plunk of the rock hitting the water’s surface.

Extensive exploration has proved the caverns are void of life.  Today only a few bats visit the chambers that are not part of the tour. Rainbow trout, introduced in the late 1960s, is the only life that live 14 stories below the surface.  The trout were stocked in the cavern to see if the fish could find a way out to a lake or stream.  The experiment was a failure and the trout never found a way out of the cavern.

The trout live a stagnant existence.  Because there is no other life in the water, they do not hunt but depend on the tourist boats to come by with handfuls of liver pellets.  The underground lake is more like a reservoir.  It does not have a current and a smooth bottom.  Without moving water or craggy formations, the trout cannot reproduce.  They live in darkness except for a few artificial lamps.  The lights only penetrate the inky black a couple of feet. The silence of the cavern is almost deafening.  Nothing stirs.  There is no breeze or varying temperature.  It is 58 degrees year-round.   Living without sunlight, the trout have lost 25% of their eyesight and 75% of their pigmentation.  They hang suspended in 58-degree water, the vibrant rainbow skin they are named for is a ghostly gray.  They are not living but instead existing in darkness without hope of anything more. 

Life without the light of Jesus is the same.  Dark, cold,  and without hope.  Unlike these fish, you have the freedom to make choices to escape the cold darkness.  It begins with recognizing you need Christ’s love, light, and forgiveness.  He can bring you into the warm sunlight and restore you to who and what you were created to be. Do not ignore the Holy Spirit’s call but come out of the darkness.  He is waiting to remove you from a stagnant existence.

Typist for Jesus

Schwartz on Duty

Schwartz on Duty

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

My friend sent me a picture of her beloved lab mix Schwartz.  In the photo, he was sitting in a chair on her back porch.  She explained to me that he sits in it daily and casts his eyes over the backyard and the neighborhood.  He surveys everything around acutely aware of any changes.  Vigilant and ready for whatever may dare to step foot in the yard or wander uninvited onto the street.  Schwartz does not allow anything to distract him from his duty because he knows that his family’s safety is in his vigilance.  In his vigilance, he can see and deal with issues before they become more.

We should be as vigilant in our spiritual lives. There are so many distractions being hurled at us every day.  The constant news feeds of death, crime, politics, and tragedy.  It is very easy to get caught up in it.  I find myself getting depressed and, honestly, frightened by what I read and see in the news and the people’s changes throughout our society. Do not allow these things to fill you with fear and doubt. Instead, focus on his Word and be vigilant in what you feed your mind.  Be mindful of the media that you interact with.  Do not allow yourself drawn into arguments that entice you to anger—the same with politics and news reports.  Protect your heart and mind from the constant flow of negativity.  

I am not suggesting that you stick your head in the sand and ignore what is going on in our communities. Instead, I am encouraging you not to lose yourself to it.  Be always vigilant in what you are exposed to, whether it is social media, television, or merely those around you. Do not lose hope or be consumed with fear. 

Be vigilant.

Typist for Jesus

Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables

Don’t miss the opportunity to order your copy of Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables. During this time of uncertainty, we should be encouraging one another. If the Mustard Seed has been an encouragement to you, please order a copy for yourself and a friend.

You can follow this link to order your copy from Amazon. It qualifies for Prime so you can look forward to free shipping as well!

https://www.amazon.com/Mustard-Seeds-Melissa-Levi/dp/1950034712

The Second Mile

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:41 ESV

I was asked for a ride the other day.  I was happy to help, and off we went.  I thought I was only taking them home, but they asked if we could stop by the store.  So I sat in the parking lot and waited.  Back on the road, they asked for another stop before we reached the final destination.  I sat in the driveway of an unfamiliar neighborhood and waited.  As I sat there, I grumbled.  I heaved sighs.  Fidgeted and made faces as I sat in the car.  When they finally emerged, I was more than ready to go.  When I left them at their house I had spent over an hour of my time with what I thought would only have been 15 minutes tops.  I fussed all the way home.

You may say, “Well, I don’t blame you for being upset, that person was taking advantage of you.”  However, Jesus has a different point of view.

In the sermon on the mount, (Matthew 5), Jesus outlines how we that claim to be his followers should behave in humility, meekness and kindness, especially to our enemies. In verse 41, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” Jesus is referring to a law that the Jews and any occupied people of the Romans had to comply.  A Roman soldier could force any subject to carry his baggage, or anything else for up to one Roman mile (1,000 paces), and the person could not refuse.  Refusal meant grievous punishment.  It was especially humiliating for the Jew.  They hated Romans and suffered under their thumb.  To willingly summit and then freely give more than what was required would have been hard to swallow, to say the least. 

So why did Jesus say to go that second mile?  

As a Christian just doing what is required or acceptable is not enough.  Anyone can fulfill the requirements making sure not to inconvenience themselves.  However, as  Christians, we should be willing and eager to extend ourselves that second mile.  Whether it is giving a ride, taking on another task at work, letting a car in front of us, or stopping to say good morning, Christian should consistently be not just meeting but exceeding the acceptable bar.  We should be willing to give of ourselves to others as Christ gave His very life for us. 

Never settle for the requirement only, but strive to exceed the expected everywhere, in relationships, at work, in school, and in your daily routine.  You represent the Savior of the world shouldn’t you be going the second mile to show the unsaved His love for them?

Enduring Grace

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

I ran out to Walmart to get a few things for the week. It was about 7:30 pm, and the sky was heavy with threatening skies.  Dark gray clouds bubbled.  I hurried to get to the store before these boiling clouds released their load.  I passed through the doorway, nodding to an attendant who checked me in her little tablet.  Grocery list in hand, I got a cart and got to business.

Things have changed so much in a short amount of time.  Everyone in masks, including children,  standing six feet apart, plexiglass shields between you and the cashier and police in the stores and standing outside.  I find it to be very oppressive and sad. 

The intercom announced the closing of the store, and every five minutes reminded the shoppers that it was time for our little hamlet to shut the doors.  I finished up and got in line, making sure I was observing the distance rule.

I checked out and left the store.  At the doorway, an employee checked me off as leaving on her tablet as she kept count of people in the store.  As I made my way to my car, I noticed a young woman dressed in black with green hair staring into the sky behind me.  I glanced back and saw the reason for her pause.  A brilliant rainbow shone across the sky. It was perhaps one of the largest rainbows I had seen.  People began to stop in the parking lot, cars stopped, and even an officer walked from the entrance to see what was going on.  Though it had never rained in our area, the rainbow had still appeared.  I stood in the parking lot, staring at the rainbow, reminded that its beauty was much more than just a visual treat; it is a reminder that God’s Grace is enduring.  

Despite everything you are experiencing, God is still very much in control and is extending his grace to all.  God is very much on the throne and is working. It is not his desire to see any perish or suffer, but rather to give every opportunity for people to recognize and accept his forgiveness and grace.  The rainbow is a reminder that God is still extending his grace to all.

Typist for Jesus

Recognizing Truth

Photo by Joseph Redfield on Pexels.com

 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 ESV

Read: 1 John 4

I dropped by my office the other day, it sounds strange to type that. I have been on work from home status for the past 19 weeks amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  In some ways it is hard to imagine that much time has passed yet in other ways it seems like forever since I pulled into the parking lot.  I was there to pick up some plants.  With no definitive date for our return the plants were suffering.  There was no one to enjoy them and they spent their days in darkened hallways and boardrooms. Many of the plants were struggling and in need of care.

As I walked the hallway gathering them in my cart, a coworker apologized for the plant’s condition. I assured them it was fine, not to worry.  They then boasted that at least one of the plants had done well.  Pointing into the adjacent office, they smiled.  

“The ivy?” I questioned.

“Yeah, that one.”

“Ah”, I stammered.  “It’s not real.  That one is silk. You’ve been watering that one?”

I felt bad as I saw their shoulders droop. “Yeah.” 

If you are like me, that made you giggle.  But, in their defence, they do not know much about plants and they were doing what they could to help.  The same thing could easily happen to us in our spiritual lives. We are easily taken in by fakes and lies.  The only way to protect ourselves is to rely on our discernment and most importantly do what the Bible instructs. 

You are hearing many different things from your friends, co-workers, neighbors and the media.  Much of it will not be true but someone suppositions. Many of us are trying to make sense of the events that we have experienced over the past seven months.  It can be a difficult time trying to figure out what is or isn’t true.  

One thing you can be sure of is that God’s Word has not changed and neither has His love for you.  He provided His Word so that we have a handbook to help us navigate this world.  In addition, Jesus left with us the Holy Spirit to comfort and council us during difficult times.  Whatever you hear, take it to the Lord in prayer.  Look to His Word for answers.  By studying His Word and making time for quiet prayer you will be able to discern the fake from the truth.  If you are familiar with God’s character through  His Word, you will recognize truth.  

Typist for Jesus

Weighed Down

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

I was on my way to meet my friend.  As I topped the hill, I saw something in the road.  I slowed and squinted to take a better look.  It was a little turtle.  He was in the middle of the opposite lane just sitting there with his neck extended looking around.  I stopped the car and backed on to the side of the road.  Just as I got out, a car came over the hill.  I put up my hand and he slowed.  Fortunately, he came to a stop and waited as I ran to pick up the turtle and move him to the safety of the grass.  Just I reached for the turtle he took off.  I had to give a little chase.  They are faster than you think.  I picked him up, all four limbs and head disappeared into the carapace.  I placed him in the soft grass across the road.  By this time there were four cars waiting.  I sheepishly waved and got back in my car and continued on my way. 

 As I drove to my appointment, I thought about that little turtle and how he tucked in when I came to help him.  I thought about how he trusted that shell.  I think that many of us trust our shells. Push our pain, guilt and shame in that shell and carry it around on our backs.  I imagine several of us are lugging around some pretty big shells and those burdens weigh us down.

Jesus wants to free you of the burdens you are carrying.  Romans 8:1 reminds us that because our sins are covered in Christ’s blood we do not suffer condemnation, shame or guilt.  However, in order to have this we must lay down these things and accept the freedom that his blood gives.

Stop carrying weight that is no longer yours to carry.