There is a small group of geese—too few to call a flock, I think—that take up residence at our neighbor’s pond every spring. They stay long enough to raise some goslings. It’s fun to watch the little ones make their first appearance and follow the adults around.
The pond is close to the road, so we try to be careful when we drive by. When the geese decide it’s time to cross the road, they cross the road.
The adults are very protective of the young ones. A couple of times when I drove by, a momma goose lowered her head in a threatening manner and took a few menacing steps in the direction of my car. You have to admire her bravery and her willingness to protect her young from any threat, real or imagined.
This is the attitude we need to have toward young Christians in our care. We need to be very protective of them.
On Thursday, April 28, a flight from the San Diego International Airport to Everett, Washington was delayed for an unusual reason. The pilot noticed a pelican sitting right in the middle of the runway. He thought that the bird was injured, and notified the ground crew. When someone arrived to check on the pelican they found that it was not injured. It simply didn’t want to leave its position! The stubborn bird was finally encouraged to leave, and the flight arrived at its destination 18 minutes late.
I guess the moral of this story might be this—don’t be the stubborn pelican in your church! Get on board with the leaders’ vision for where the congregation needs to go!
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”—Hebrews 13:17.
I wonder if funeral directors in the first century got nervous at the sight of Jesus? After all, Jesus did have a habit of interrupting funerals. Let’s look at some examples.
A widow from Nain was about to bury her only son when Jesus came along and stopped the funeral procession. Luke 7:13 says, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” We must agree that she had something to cry about. Beyond the sorrow of losing her only son was the prospect of a life of hardship. There were not a lot of economic opportunities for women in those days, and a women without a husband or children to take care of her needs would find life extremely difficult. But Jesus changed the scenario in a drastic way. He spoke to the dead man, telling him to get up, and that’s exactly what he did! I love what v.15b says, “…and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” What a wonderful gift—to receive her only son back from the dead!
Then there is the time that Jesus raised Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter from the dead. The mourners who had gathered laughed when Jesus said that the girl was only asleep, for they knew she was dead. The laughter of the scoffers was quickly silenced when Jesus took her by the hand and told her to get up and she did just that! (Luke 8:51-56).
Of course there is the time when Jesus arrived at the tomb of his good friend Lazarus. Jesus shed tears of his own this time (John 11:35). But once again Jesus spoke and the dead came back to life. Yes, Jesus had a habit of interrupting funerals, changing extreme sadness to exuberant joy.
Here are some observations about what we see happening when Jesus came to a funeral. First is that life is precious. We mourn the loss of our loved ones because the life of every human being has great worth. From the moment of conception until the last breath a person takes on earth, each human life is of great value. Therefore, we must recognize the right to life, even as ignorant people still vigorously oppose the Word of God on this issue. Don’t ever waver on the basic truth that life is precious!
A second observation is that Jesus has complete control over death. He is, after all, the Author of life. It was through Jesus that everything has been created (John 1:3). He has been given all authority, even the authority over death (Matthew 28:18). What wonderful words Jesus speaks in John 11:25-26—“…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Mary responded that she did indeed believe this. Every one of us is faced with the same question—Do you truly believe that Jesus has the power to give you eternal life? It is the most important question you will ever answer!
A final observation is this—Knowing what we know about the value of life and that Jesus holds the key to eternal life, we had better make sure that Jesus is welcome at our funeral!
An executive hirer, a “head-hunter” who goes out and hires corporation executives for other firms, once told Josh McDowell, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, “What’s your purpose in life?” It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question.
“Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on the desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, “What’s your purpose in life, Bob?” And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless.”
It’s refreshing to be reminded that some Christians are actually aware of their purpose in life.
Jesus says that he came to seek and save the lost. The salvation of lost souls is the top priority for Jesus, and it should also be the main concern of Christians. At the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives the great commission to his followers to go and make disciples for him, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us to do.
Some people who follow Jesus never do really grasp what their main mission is all about. Some churches lose sight of their purpose, becoming distracted by other things, which might not necessarily be bad things to do, but they are not the main mission of the church.
Let’s always be striving to focus on our purpose in life—to go to heaven and take as many people with us as we can.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”—Matthew 28:18-20.
Life can be quite tiresome. The tragic news headlines that bombard us each day can be draining. Witnessing the moral decline of our culture can wear on us. Duties at work can be a grind. Then there are the never-ending household chores that are always demanding to be done. Also consider the family responsibilities we have to shoulder. Add to that mix our involvement in the community and the local church and it’s no wonder we always feel tired! It is quite common for people to feel overwhelmed with burdens that make us extremely tired.
To those who are experiencing such weariness, these words from Jesus are quite welcome—“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus knows full well how tiresome life can be, so he invites us to come to him for some much-needed rest.
It starts with taking his yoke. Farmers in those days often worked with a team of oxen yoked together. Taking on the yoke of Jesus means that we agree to pull in the same direction he is going. He keeps us plowing on the straight and narrow way. Pulling in his yoke, Jesus provides the strength we need to get the job done.
Jesus also says that we must learn from him. As we understand more about his ways–his gentleness and humility–we find rest for our souls.
Jesus refutes the mistaken idea that some people have that the burden of living for him is too heavy. He insists that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When we try life without Jesus is when we get tired and weighed down with life’s burdens. Only by completely trusting him can we find true and lasting rest.
We must also note that the rest that Jesus offers is not one of idleness. We don’t find rest by doing nothing (although the Bible does insist that we take regular breaks from normal activities). We find rest in Jesus by working alongside him. We trust him to set the agenda and to provide the power.
The new missionary on the field was given a car that he could use but was told that it would not start without a push. He got some people to give him a push to get the car started. After that, he either left the car running while making his rounds or parked it on a hill so that he could start it without anyone’s help. He used this ingenious plan for two years.
A health issue forced the missionary to return home, and a new missionary was sent to replace him. When he showed his replacement his arrangement for getting the car started, the new guy looked under the hood and said, “I think the only problem is this loose cable.” He tightened up the cable and the car started right up!
For two years, needless trouble had become the routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection prevented putting the power to work.
So it is with God. If we want to see his great power at work in our lives, we have to stay connected to him!
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”—Colossians 1:28-29.
Barbara Ho writes about the time when she was six months pregnant and her winter coat would no longer fit. She and her husband went into a Sears and Roebuck and found a coat that would have been perfect for her. The price was $69, which would have been about $75 with tax. Since they did not have much income and already had trouble paying their monthly bills, they drove home without purchasing the coat.
On the drive home they lifted up their situation to God in prayer. When they arrived at their apartment they found an envelope in the mailbox. No, it did not have money in it. It contained an anonymous gift card to Sears for $75!
They got back in the car and went to purchase the coat.
God often gives us what we ask for in prayer. Sometimes he answers our prayers in amazingly specific ways!
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”—Matthew 7:7.
We all have decisions to make in life. Some are more important than others. Occasionally we have to make a monumental choice, one that may cause quite a stir. Before we make such a radical decision, it is important to look at the example of Jesus.
One of the most radical things that Jesus did when he walked this earth is when he cleared the temple of those who were buying and selling and exchanging money. When he turned over the tables and benches of those who were doing business there he got some people riled up.
At first glance, it might seem that Jesus made this decision on the spur of the moment. A closer look, however, reveals that this is not at all what happened. Mark 11:11 says, “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” Jesus looked at what was happening in the temple, but he did not act immediately. It wasn’t until the next day that Jesus decided to take action (Mark 11:12-17).
We can learn a few things about decision-making from the example of Jesus here. First, make sure you have good information before you proceed. Jesus did not rely on hearsay. He checked out for himself what was actually going on in the temple. We tread in dangerous territory when we make important choices without having the right information. Make sure you do your research before making a radical decision.
Second, we see that Jesus did not act immediately. He waited until the next day before making his decision. He literally slept on it. Too often we make choices that we soon come to regret because we act too hastily. Many people have sent a letter, email or text message that they would not have sent if they had simply taken more time to think about it.
Jesus also may have seen the benefit of delaying his actions until the next day. Apparently, such a drastic action might have lost some of its impact if it had happened at the end of one day rather than at the beginning of the next day. Always consider the timing of any huge decision you have to make.
Third, we see that Jesus was willing to live (or die!) with the decision he was about to make. He knew that there would be serious opposition to what he was about to do, and yet he did it anyway. Because of his actions, the religious leaders began looking for a way to kill him. We have to be ready for some negative feedback from others over the important decisions we make in life. You have to constantly ask yourself the question, “Am I willing to die on that hill?” In other words, “Is this action worth the price I am likely to pay for having made this decision?”
As always, Jesus is our perfect example in everything, including making radical decisions. Let’s make sure we follow him in every way.
When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, “Does this hurt? How about this?”
If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there’s something wrong, and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some more tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there!”
So it is when preachers speak on financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger. Either the preacher has pushed too hard, or perhaps there’s something wrong. In that case, the one who is in pain is in need of the Great Physician because it’s not supposed to hurt there.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”–2 Corinthians 9:7.
In 1994 Ali Pierce, the fourteen-year-old daughter of John and Anna Pierce of Massachusetts, was diagnosed with liver cancer. She fought the disease bravely for two years, but in November 1996 she passed away.
Her parents of course were grief-stricken. To deal with his loss, the father sought a constructive way to help others. He started running and set the goal of entering the 1998 Boston Marathon. He intended to take pledges for his run in support of the cancer center where his daughter had died.
On October 11, 1997, Pierce entered a half marathon in Hollis, New Hampshire. The 13.1 mile race was the longest race he had ever run. He was fifty-one years old, and so before the race he had a medical exam and was given a clean bill of health.
He almost finished the race. Just ten feet short of the finish line, wearing a baseball cap that said, “In Memory of Ali Pierce”, John Pierce crumpled to the pavement, dead of a heart attack.
Death—what a terrible enemy!
Thankfully, Jesus Christ, through his resurrection from the dead, has defeated death, not only for himself, but also for everyone who is willing to put their trust in him. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Since Jesus has given us such a spectacular victory over the terrible enemy of death, how then must we live? The answer is given in the next verse—“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (v.58).