Remember it was Sunday, the day of resurrection. The room was packed. It was Paul’s first contact with the new church family of Troas and most likely his last. He would be off to Jerusalem the next day. I know he had much to share and preached until midnight. Picture the atmosphere. Probably multiple torches in the third story room creating a stuffy atmosphere, Mediterranean heat, and the possibility of the lack of oxygen. My personal opinion was that drowsiness had to be a factor.
A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting on the window sill, drifted off to sleep. He fell headlong onto the pavement like a sack of potatoes and was dead on impact. People began to cry being overcome by the shock of what had happened. Paul reacted immediately and did what those prophets of old like Elijah and Elisha did. He went down, bent over him and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry he said. He’s alive.” (Acts 20:10)
This was not a Sunday any one of them would forget, most of all Eutychus. He fell asleep while the apostle Paul was preaching, unfortunately, sitting in a third story window. And to add insult to injury, Luke was there to record the whole thing. This is the first recorded incident of someone falling asleep in church. Might I add that there have been thousands of successors, but Eutychus is the only one named. Actually, I have great sympathy for Eutychus and many who have trouble staying awake during worship. You see, some have worked long hours, others are on strong medication and several are experiencing sleepless nights struggling with tremendous loss.
The truth is that some of the most committed children of God have fallen asleep during worship. That doesn’t concern me much. What does concern me is that we do not let our personal relationship with Jesus meander aimlessly, but are always pursuing and strengthening our intimacy with Him. “. . . we will hold the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ . . .” (Ephesians 4:15)
Travelling with Moses to the Swaziland lowveld assured me the opportunity to gain insight into this extraordinary character. Once he began sharing his life’s story I was not about to interrupt. He had me captured.
“I grew up in western Swaziland and as students we walked to school some 10 kilometers. When the river flooded during the rainy season, two things would happen. First, there would be no school for those who lived on the other side of the river, while the remaining pupils continued their classes. Some years the river was impassable for up to a month. Second, when the water level subsided parents would form a human chain and help students across the flowing water.”
He then changed gears by sharing his love for soccer. “Sometimes our opponents’ field was 20 kilometers away, but it didn’t matter. We ran there excited, played the game and ran back. Sometimes we even got back the same day.” I chuckled knowing that where I lived this is beyond our comprehension.
This next revelation really grabbed my heart strings. “God has blessed me so much. I have a lovely Christian wife and three beautiful children. We did have five, a daughter 8 years old was run over by a car walking home from school. We also lost a son at 11 months due to cholera. Through those difficult times our faith in God and the comfort and strength we received from our church family was amazing. My life is filled with abundant joy because God has given us purpose and fulfillment to live this life no matter what comes our way. Added to this is the assurance of eternal reunion.”
In stark contrast are some in my culture who have the completely opposite approach to living. Woe is me! I am a victim. They go through life chained to the negative past. (Whether real or perceived). Even though, compared to the developing world, we live engulfed in affluence, wealth and safety nets. All this is supported by multiple resources that serve the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the human condition.
Listen to the Holy Spirit’s insights into how we are to embrace vibrant, victorious living. “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy meditate on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
I am living “My Way”. Nobody is going to dictate my lifestyle except me. This is truly the moral progressive mindset, self absorbed and inwardly focused. I am god of my life. Maybe you think me harsh when I say that too many today sit around, expounding on how the world should be, but in the end do nothing but serve themselves.
Wally is a rugged former rugby player who participated in his last game at the age of 56. Beneath that rough exterior is a servant heart that is exposed by his love for the elderly. He visits the old-age and retirement homes throughout greater Bulawayo encouraging all. For those that have no family or anyone to care for them Wally acquired a cemetery for them to be buried when their time came. 97 have been laid to rest and he has performed many of their funerals.
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas) she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died…” Acts 9:36, 37a. The Bible tells us how widows who were brokenhearted came to Peter an showed the robes and other clothing she had made for them. In imitating Jesus Christ the apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.
Only in surrender before an Almighty God can true humility be realized. It is the vital component needed to possess the servant mindset. It produces a lifestyle where “God’s Way” becomes “My Way.”
Dorian, Cheri, Wally and twin sister Aileen
With great excitement and anticipation, my wife and I arrived yesterday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Our “adopted” children and grandchildren were overflowing with loving embraces, warm smiles and verbal expressions of joy! Many destinations are blessed places because it is the uniting of people with mutual love and mutual purpose. In southern Zimbabwe, it is the common effort of family to share the love and promises of Jesus.
In stark contrast, I can’t help but think about those who live in such a depressing realm. They are convinced that humanity was an accident. They believe our destiny is 70 or 80 years on earth, die and become extinct. We know that some only live 2 years, 16 years, or 21 years. For them that is their total existence.
“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-3
For the child of God, the final destination is totally celebratory. You see, it is the culmination of a journey ending with the ultimate homecoming. Earthly destinations always have time constraints. But the heavenly? None.
Her life was constantly rigorous and taxing. She was consumed by a tedious daily grind. Truly a member of the poorer class because she had to get her own water from the local well. Wealthy people had others to do that for them. Worst of all she was broken inside. Multiple failed relationships with its heartaches, bitterness, and distrust.
But what a monumental life-changing day at Jacob’s well. She meets the infallible refuge, the source of eternal refreshment and the One who would fulfill her lifelong hopes.
He said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” John 4:10
We all have a past with its history of successes and failures. Once this woman discovered that Jesus not only knew her, but accepted her she became secure. Her healing and ours begins through the “ointment of devotion.” Embracing the one who is the Great Physician. The Messiah rejuvenates, revitalizes and revolutionizes our repetitious, mundane, dysfunctional existence. Its the dawning of a new day for this Samaritan. “The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone. Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did. Can this be the Messiah? So the people came streaming from the village to see him.” John 4:28-30
“There can be no reproach to pain unless we assume human dignity, there is no reason for restraints on pleasure unless we assume human worth, there is no legitimacy to monotony unless we assume a greater purpose to life, there is no life unless we assume design, death has no significance unless we seek what is everlasting.” Ravi Zacharias
Traveling with my father yesterday and absorbing his wisdom, comedy and ancedotes brought me indescribable satisfaction. A life that has almost reached 90 years focused totally on sharing the love of Christ with a world in constant conflict. His passing remark as we arrived at our destination was, “I really enjoyed our time together because life is quickly passing by.”
Oh yes, I do realize how blessed I am to have both of my parents. To still be with loved ones who began this eternal legacy is monumental to me. Icing on the cake is that both are still active players in their family, church and community.
We join in life’s opportunities to serve together. We forgive without the desire of retribution. We rejoice in the earthly reality of sharing Jesus and the perpetual creation of new relationships that it brings. We celebrate the assurance that eternity is our destiny and heaven is our homeland.
“How we praise God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
“Some children are brought to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples told them not to bother him. But Jesus said, Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14
Can’t you see these loving mothers urging their children to join others in the welcoming company of Jesus? His natural qualities of gentleness, kindness and love coupled with his warming embrace blessed them immensely. Boys and girls were immediately drawn to the attractiveness of the Savior. Parents with spiritual insight know that when their kids get to know Jesus more and more a reality sets in. They know he is not out to damage their lives, rather the Son of God wants the very best for them.
Looking from his point of view, Jesus is filled with joy because he sees in children kingdom traits. Front and center are qualities like acceptance, trust and a forgiving spirit emanating from these jewels of God’s creation.
Brother Austine Vimba writes, “The children from around Bulawayo came to be with Grandmother Miriam Vimba to have games, plays, recite memory verses and enjoy Bible quizzes.”
Rose asked if we could talk privately after we had fed the orphans. I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion when she made her request. “Would it be possible for me to receive one of the wheelchairs you recently shipped to Bulawayo? It is becoming very hard for me to carry Aisha wherever I go. A wheelchair to push her down the streets would be such a blessing.” No hesitation in my reply, “Of course.”
You see, Aisha, Rose’s daughter has a smiling face and a loving disposition because of the unconditional love she has received primarily from her mother and her church family. This is in spite of her body being crippled by spina bifida. One journey they have every week together is the Saturday feeding of the orphans at Nkulumane. Rose assists in both spiritual and physical feeding of these children.
She loves, period. Just be around her. It emanates freely to everyone. This love is not just a natural love a mother has for a child. It is a love that long ago recognized the blessings she has received by God through Jesus Christ. She has embraced the wonderful gift of Divine friendship.
Henri Nouwen writes, “There is little or no neutral territory between the land of the blessed and the land of the cursed. You have to choose where it is that you want to live and that choice is one that you have to keep making from moment to moment.”
“I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16,17
The late Dr. Carl Sagan has estimated that the chance of life evolving on Earth is 1 followed by 2 billion zeros! That would take 6,000 books of 300 pages each just to write that number. The late professor, Edwin Conklin, of Princeton University, put it this way, “The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop.” So, one choice is that life was spontaneously generated by accident from inorganic substances. In other words, a freak accident.
Here is another choice.
“From the time the world was created people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature…”Romans 1:20
John gets more specific and tells us Jesus (the Word) did it all.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God and was God… He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make.” John 1:1,3
The story is told of a man heading to a new city. Being unfamiliar with the route, he became confused and took the wrong road. When he realized his predicament, he stopped his car and asked a passing stranger, “Can you help me, I am lost?” “Where are you headed?” the stranger asked. “I am going to Toledo,” the traveller answered. To which the stranger replied, “Then you are not lost. You know where you are going. You just need directions.”
In Jesus, the Holy Spirit is present among us. Through Jesus, He assures us that we are never abandoned. From Jesus, we will know where we are going.
It’s true isn’t it that there is no greater CHOICE than seeing God as Creator and Author of our destiny.
Jackie Deshannon’s hit song included these lyrics,
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
No not just for some but for everyone.”
It’s not surprising that a song with such a positive message has been recorded live by over 100 artists.
In “One Inch From The Fence,” Wes Seeliger writes: “I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room….watching with anguished people….listening to urgent questions. Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of 30 years? The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can’t do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinction of race and class melt away. In the ICU waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor’s next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about.”
When the love of God is fully embraced it is like living in the intensive care waiting room every day. The reason God’s love is supreme is because it is UNCAUSED. Our common experience in life teaches us we must earn love. We must meet certain standards or conditions that will cause others to love us because of our good actions, attributes or attractions.
Paul, the mentor, writes to his protege Timothy, and described God as the One “…who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began – to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:9
And to the church family at Ephesus he expresses God’s love in these terms. “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. ” Ephesians 1:5
Love without motive. Genuine, pure and faithful.It’s what the world needs now.