Robert Caro had a problem.
He was researching and writing an in-depth biography of Robert Moses, the highly acclaimed “master builder” of New York City, who lived 1888 to 1981. Originally, Caro thought the book might take a year.
He was wrong. Bad wrong.
After a couple of years working on the book and with no income to support his family, his wife sold the house to raise money to keep them going.
That money ran out.
He kept working.
In time, he was embarrassed when friends would say, “What are you working on?” and he would tell them he was still on the same book. “How long have you been working on that book?” He would mutter, “Five years.”
Five years. Caro felt like a failure.
Earlier today, I posted a note on Facebook concerning a Ralph Compton western novel I’m in the midst of. Apparently the protagonist, a fellow named Nathan Stone, is riding a super horse.
The novelist has Stone leaving New Orleans heading toward “Indian Territory”–which must mean Oklahoma–and at the end of the first night, he beds down below Shreveport at Winnfield, Louisiana. “Wait just a cotton-picking minute,” I thought and checked the google map.
From New Orleans to Winnfield is 250 miles. Can a horse carrying a rider do that in one day?
The author had them arriving at their destination in two more days.
A few friends opined that this is a novel, it’s fiction, and the author can do anything he pleases. It’s called artistic license. But not so fast…
Believest thou this? (John 11:26) — Where is your faith? (Mark 4:40). — These things are written that you may believe. (John 20:31). — Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24).
“I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)
I’m asking you to believe that. And rejoice because you are going to live forever.
“For we know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
I’m asking you to believe that. And to look up with hope because the best is yet to be.
(Confession: This subject is never far from my mind, and this article was months in the writing. I send it forth not because it’s finished or has “truth,” but in order to light a match under someone else’s thinking.)
I slipped out of the house this afternoon with no particular destination in mind.
I drove to the mall, a mile from my house. I’d not been inside Dillard’s Men’s Store in six months, and I’m always on the lookout for their sales. The “Gold Label” dress shirts are the best anywhere, but I buy them only when they’re half price or less. Today, I bought two shirts that had originally sold for $115 for $9.95 each. Even if they don’t work out–always a possibility with me–I’ll pass them along to nice people at Goodwill.
Then, I stopped at McDonald’s which is a few blocks from home. Inside I ordered a small caramel mocha and sat in the back reading a “business” book I’d bought on sale in Office Depot several weeks ago. That book and one other, bought for 3 dollars each, had been waiting in the trunk of my car for the right moment . Today was that moment.
Note: I love to read outside my field. I’ll find an insight that works for a sermon or has an application for pastoral ministry, and feel confident no one else is using it.
Tracey Kidder’s “Truckload of Money” tells about an entrepreneur who made a billion dollars with his computer savvy, then went out and started over. The insights on every page about how he dealt with people are easily worth the price of the book.
“He honors (God) who has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31). “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what He has given” (Proverbs 19:17). “The poor you always have with you, but Me you do not have always” (Matthew 26:11).
Scripture has a lot to say about God’s people caring for the needy. But it can be twisted and made to say something other than was intended.
A friend sent me a letter from a disgruntled church member who was complaining that after he lost his job the church did not pay his bills and support him. The friend says the church gave him a great deal of help and “I personally gave him money.” But it wasn’t enough for the guy, who is now slamming the Lord’s church and wondering “Where is Jesus after 2,000 years?”
I suggested my friend ask the guy how many needy people he assisted when he had a job.
I think we know the answer.
(First in a series of unforgettable passages in Jeremiah. It’s a huge book–52 chapters–so this series will be ongoing.)
1:4-5 The Foreknowledge of God
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Paul said, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles….” (Galatians 1:15) He’s saying, “God set me apart when I was still in the womb.”
Other scriptures on this subject are Isaiah 49:1, Luke 1:13-17, and Romans 9:10-23. And of course the pre-eminent passage on “before you were born” is the 139th Psalm.
1:4-19 The call of God upon Jeremiah. You will enjoy comparing this call–and Jeremiah’s response!–to Moses’ in Exodus 3-4, Isaiah’s in Isaiah 6, and Paul’s, given in three different places in Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 24).
–First, God gives His plan for His spokesman
Betrayals. Disappointments. Constant conflict. Second-guessing everything you say. Griping. Negativism.
Like herding cats.
It takes a toll.
Most church members have no clue that the constant murmuring (the KJV’s favorite word for it) among the flock is offensive to the Heavenly Father and burdensome to the shepherd He has sent.
Moses is a great case study for us. For forty years–think of it!–he gave faithful leadership to the people of God who, far from appreciating him, were relentless in their eroding, grinding, burdening undermining, questioning, and outright opposition. Scripture gives a reason for this: Among the flock was a group of strangers, aliens to the faith.
They were the main problem.
Scripture says when they left Egypt’s slavery, “A mixed multitude went up with them” (Exodus 12:38). Some translations call them “rabble.” Since the Hebrews were not the only slaves of Pharaoh, when God threw off the shackles it must have been like a massive jailbreak. All who could flee the country did so. And since this Moses fellow seemed to have a glorious destination in mind, with no other place to go, many of the “mixed multitude” decided to accompany the Hebrews..
This bunch became the source of a thousand problems for Moses.
If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me (John 14:21). If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (John 14:23). If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love (John 15:10). You are my friends if you do whatever I command you (John 15:14).
Anyone see a trend in these verses? He wants us to love Him and tells us how: Obedience.
With that in mind, the question before us is this: Is it possible to do something so loving, so affectionate, so Christ-honoring here on earth that Jesus will feel it in Heaven’s Throneroom?
Can I do something loving for Jesus here and have Him feel the love there?
We direct your attention to the woman of Luke 7:36ff.
God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (Second Corinthians 9:8)
Over the years I’ve been doing this website–some 15 years now–I have occasionally written about tithing our income to the Lord through His church. Invariably, among the responses will come some hostile attacks, accusing us of preaching Old Testament doctrine, being legalists, misleading God’s people into a salvation by works, and other such foolishness. They could not be more wrong. Some people–like Judas–just cannot stand to see someone expressing love to Jesus by giving generously to honor Him.
“Why this waste?” said Judas (Matthew 26:8).
I decided I would tell you what I’m doing. I’ll save this draft and come back to it later and decide if I have permission from the Lord to post it or if I should delete it. (Later note: I removed most of the dollar amounts, but left everything else in.)
“How much are you all giving?” I asked that of my sister tonight.
The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
We were told in teacher-preparation classes in college…
–If you are teaching your class and the superintendent of education suddenly enters the room and quietly takes a back seat to observe, go right on with what you were doing. Teach that lesson as though you know more about it than anyone on earth.
–If you do a good job, the children may not remember you in future years, but they will carry skills and knowledge that make them better people the rest of their lives. “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”
–If you are in this work for the money, find another profession. In time society may realize the true value of what you do, but don’t hold your breath.
–Your work does not begin and end with the ringing of the bell. This is a calling and it involves your entire life.
–You are one factor in a never-ending succession of people passing it on. Someone taught you. But someone taught those who taught you. Those whom you instruct today will in turn teach others. Do not be the weak link in that precious chain.
Now, apply that to the church and those called to preach….