Monday, January 19, 2015

Dumpster Diving

There were these two people, standing in a dumpster. (No, it's not a joke unfolding.) Were they private investigators, looking for evidence of a crime? No. Were they blackmailers looking for stuff to hold over their neighbors? No. Maybe they were hungry? No. They were two desperate people, looking for a money order that was accidently thrown away.

In their flurry of taking out the trash the night before, a scrap of paper was tossed in the white bag, tied up and tossed in the dumpster. Mercifully, it was not the day the truck was supposed to come. If it had, I would imagine those two friends would've been more frantic and maybe even chained themselves to the dumpster...well maybe not that, it's only money.

So they stood with gloves on and the lovely aroma of other people's trash in their nostrils, looking at probably 30 or more identical garbage bags. The treasure hunt ended successfully. They found it, a little wet and a little smelly. They were very thankful it was not the dead heat of summer or a crazy rainstorm.

I would imagine their neighbors thought they had lost their mind. But these friends knew there was buried treasure there. They knew the price of it and were willing to get dirty to dig it out.

Jesus is like that. He knows the value of people and was willing to go into "the dumpster" to be with them and lead them out.

While traveling, He went out of His way and walked to Samaria. (Samaria was avoided by all upstanding Jews.) He sat at a Samaritan well in the heat of the day, to speak to a woman who had a questionable reputation. (John 4:1-30)

When He was in the midst of ministry, there was a desperate leper who came to Him for healing. Walking near this man would've been out of the question, much less touching him. But Jesus did touch him, and healed him.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” Mark 1:40-41 (ESV)

Even during dinner, He was approached by an obvious woman of ill repute and allowed her to touch His feet. Even with the party host fuming at the invasion, Jesus took the time to show her love.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. Luke 7:39 (ESV)

Have you ever gone out of your comfort zone for Jesus? Have you ever visited someone in prison, gone to the bedside of the dying or said a kind word to the stumbling drunk in the parking lot?

Jesus didn't promise following Him would be soft pews, stained glass and pretty music. He said to leave the 99 sheep and go after the one that is lost.

Expect brambles and mud outside. Expect to be judged by your peers or strangers. You may even have to take a trip into places you never would've thought you would go like a distant land that is hostile to Christians. Because the lost sometimes find the most obnoxious places to run away to. Jesus wants us to go after them, because He did. If you're worried about the smell or the dirt, it will wash off. But the treasure you will find is priceless!

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44 (ESV)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Sometimes the way out is the way inside...

We were heading down the hall out of the movies one evening and saw an obvious couple coming in the EXIT by way of a group of people. The door is usually locked and no entrance is allowed to the theater except by way of the lobby after you pay for your tickets. I remembered kids doing that when I was a teen (eons ago). Sometimes they were caught-but other times they weren't.

At our church we are getting ready to do an outside facelift. We have been entering via an exit door on the parking lot side. It's a little confusing to new visitors, especially if it's closed or locked. That is, until a smiling face opens it from the inside and assures them that's the way inside.

I was a little wistful at the thought of the sign on the door possibly changing or being removed. When I see that exit sign, I feel like I am exiting the World for a couple of hours to meet with God and His people. I can totally focus on music, prayer and scripture and it fills me. Leaving the World and it's worries outside on the hot parking lot asphalt, I welcome the Living Water that refreshes my soul.

There is a gate in Jerusalem that has been sealed. No one can enter or exit through this gate. It's called the Eastern Gate or the Beautiful Gate. Ezekiel 44:1-3 speaks of it staying closed until the return of the Messiah. Once before it was open and this is how God's glory came in to fill the temple. Another time it was when Jesus rode into the city on a donkey and was received as a king. They say when Jesus returns the final time, the Eastern Gate will open to receive Him.

Some think that the door to heaven is sealed shut for them; locked tight and entry is forbidden. Others think this door is wide open for anyone to stroll through--whether they believe in God or not.

Can I tell you something? Heaven's door is like an EXIT door. It's the way God came down to be with us. He exited heaven and became a baby, lived with humans for 30 something years and returned after His resurrection from a horrible death.

And Jesus promises something. He said "I am the Door". So it's not like we have to murmur a special password to St. Peter or do a certain number of good deeds to get in. We simply have to understand Jesus is The Door, the only way inside...the One who exited heaven and stands waiting for us...holding it open to all who want to come by way of Him. Unlike the movie theater,  your ticket to Eternity is already paid. 

There is one more door I'd like you to think is the door of your heart. Many have answered that door when Jesus came knocking. There are several that have sealed that door as tightly as the gate in Jerusalem. There is no entrance for a Messiah there. But when you think about it, there is no exit either.

There is no way for the guilt and pain to leave your life.

Not allowing Jesus entry into your life traps the dark, it bottlenecks within. There are sleepless nights that swirl with the dust of regret. There are outbursts just waiting for agitation to scratch the surface and explode like an over-filled balloon. There are numerous ways to try to forget all the junk, but in reality they only magnify the dark.

The Bible says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Time to throw open that rusty lock, slide back the chain and remove the chair you tucked under the doorknob. You will find you had only taken yourself hostage.

Dear reader, the way out is the way inside. It's not an escape, it's entering in to where God is waiting for his children to return from their awkward exits. He doesn't lock and bar that door. He has provided a way for you to return through His son Jesus Christ.

I pray your exit strategy includes The Door that is always open to receive. And one day I hope we both get to see the fear-filled beauty of His return...when He blows through the doors of that Jerusalem gate at His Second coming.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
John 10:9 (ESV)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Present Joy

I cleaned up Christmas today and tucked it away in boxes for another season. Some of the wrapping was worth recycling, boxes were stowed and the more ragged stuff was tossed.

If you like to recycle like me, your family has experienced the fun of second guess gifts. Some people know exactly what the gift is by the box size, shape and weight. They get their face all ready to "act surprised" until they open the box...and what they thought was inside is not there. So the surprise is as real as the gift that unfolds before them.

Another year is here and it seems to be wrapped up in questions and anticipation. It seems to be the same 12 months, 365 days...Looking back at previous years you know pretty much what is coming. So you brace for the parade of days.

If 2014 was rough, you look for dark clouds on the horizon. The ribbons of fear are hard to break as you struggle through month by month.

Those that had an uneventful 2014 look forward to the year, but not with happy tension that should be peaking out from beneath the folds of the morning.

Have you considered time as a gift from God? When I think of the next day coming, I am tempted to assume I know exactly what the day holds. But God is the gift giver, and He is the best at surprises.

This new year, I challenge you to accept each day as a gift from God. And as you unwrap the day, expect to be surprised by Joy. Especially when you think you have the future already figured out.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 (ESV)