Empty Pockets

IMG_0077Old Joe sits on the edge of his bed and struggles with arthritic hands to fasten the cufflink on his shirtsleeve. He does pretty well for a 91-year-old man. The people at the assisted living center help him into his wheelchair, for the church bus is soon coming. Today is a special missions Sunday service and Joe hasn’t missed one in 82 years.

As they roll him toward the door, he reaches over to a small wooden box sitting on his bureau. He takes something out and puts it in his change purse. Returning the empty box to its place, he leaves for the bus.

Later at church, he sits in his wheelchair at the end of the front row, and his mind is flooded with memories. The singing ends and the Pastor begins his sermon about the missionaries they support, some of which are in attendance.

Again Joe’s memories take him back, to a time in his childhood at the age of nine. He sat in this same church on this same missions Sunday, and listened to songs calling men to service for God, and testimonies of the glorious works of God overseas. When they passed the offering plate, though inspired, young Joe had nothing to give. This saddened him, so on that day he purposed in his heart to never again have empty pockets when the missions offering plate is passed around.

So young Joe got himself a paper route and the next year he placed a brand new silver dollar in the missions offering. Every year thereafter, Joe continued to give. The church grew and prospered and so did Joe. It seemed like the more Joe gave, the more he prospered and the more he prospered, the more he gave.

Years passed and he became a successful manufacturer, owning his own factory. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t out-give God. Missions’ projects flourished around the world for years through his giving, and God blessed him in all his ways.

In time, Joe retired, sold his factory and enjoyed his latter years with his beloved wife Bernice. Now she is with the Lord and his possessions have been reduced to one small room in an assisted living center. Through insurance, his expenses are paid but he has no income and therefore no spending money. So, after all those years of blessing and wealth, old Joe sits in the mission’s service once again with empty pockets.

He thinks back to his first wedding anniversary, the mint condition silver dollar dated the year of their marriage that Bernice gave him, and the small wooden box he kept it in all those years. Today, old Joe would reach beyond his empty pockets and into his change purse.

As the Pastor prayed over the special missions offering, Joe struggled with knarled bony fingers to open the clasp on his small change purse. He reached inside and held his treasure tightly between his thumb and forefinger. As the offering plate was presented to him, he held his feeble hand over it and raised his thumb to reveal that precious silver dollar that Bernice had given him so long ago.

A tear rolled down his cheek as he lovingly placed his last offering in the plate for the Lord. His pockets are empty once again. As the service continued, Joe’s hands rested in his lap and his chin rested on his chest. Joe entered his rest and his reward.

I suppose as he entered heaven he was met by his heavenly Father, who embraced him and said, “Son, you started with empty pockets and ended with empty pockets, but in between, you have been faithful. Multitudes of souls rejoice here today because of your generosity. Like the widow who gave all she had, though small, it was counted as great. So well done Son! Great is your reward in heaven, and you don’t need pockets!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Luke 21:3-4 NLT).

Can God change your life?

Is Your Faith Worth Squat?

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The tensions of this earthly life become unbearable in disobedience to the word of faith. But simple submission into obedience relieves the stress that the world, and disobedience impose. Doubt is crippling. Faith is empowering. Faith in action is victory! The Bible says that faith without works is dead. I have learned that faith with works (action) is alive. Faith without works (action) becomes an unfulfilled fantasy. For if I have faith that God is leading me but do not follow, my faith becomes doubt and my inaction leads to death, the death of my faith and the death of my dream. This is a horrible state in which to exist.

Unfulfilled faith creeps into one’s life like oil into water. It pollutes, leaving a nasty film, which ruins the purity of the water. Doubt solidified by inaction covers the purity of faith and renders it polluted, unfit, unusable, and something to be avoided. Faith activated by works (action) skims the doubt that covers the water of life, cleans it, and recovers the purity of the gift that obedience brings to fruition.

We must be doers of the word and not just hearers. It is so human to hear the word, rejoice in what we hear, then…. ponder. Pondering grows into procrastination, the tree that bears the poisonous leaves of inaction.

We must be like good soldiers and jump to attention, springing into action at the orders of our commander, the Lord. But what do we do? We hear the order, then squat to jump, but inaction and hesitation causes us to get caught in the squat and we fail to jump. What a sad sight, to see the army of the Lord squatting before Him! How undignified!

Better to jump and fall than be stuck in the squat. The squat is a horrible place to stay. You can’t sit down. You can’t rise up. You can neither rest in your success nor stand in the knowledge of a job well done. Go ahead and jump! You can ask how high on the way up! Better to relieve the tension and stretch in the jump than the constant strain of being stuck in the squat. Obedience in the jump is the better way. Disobedience isn’t worth squat!

Where’s Jesus?

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Photo by Jake Colvin on Pexels.com

We’ve all heard stories of missionaries of the past who traveled to the most remote areas of the earth searching for lost souls, people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Once I met a man who originally came out from one of those remote areas, searching for Jesus. His name is Yume, and he is a Pygmy from a remote village in the rain forests of South America. I had the privilege of interviewing him on Christian TV in Nashville, Tennessee.
Yume appeared the way you would imagine a Pygmy would look, less than five feet tall, slight of build, with facial features of someone from the remote regions of a South American Jungle. Yume had so much love of Jesus in his heart that it sparkled out of his eyes. His firm handshake and broad smile was infectious. His story is incredible.

Yume was born and raised in a Pygmy tribe deep in the rain forest of South America. Back in the 1960’s Yume came of age, which meant he had to submit to secret rituals and initiations, like every boy did, in order to be recognized as a man. In the final portion of the initiation, the elders of the tribe took him to a secret place in the deepest, most foreboding part of the Jungle. Wild beasts thrived there, and danger lurked behind every tree.

Young Yume’s challenge was to survive the night alone, armed only with his fear. They believed that sometime during the night, the spirit of the forest, a mystical being of terror, would find Yume. With his touch, the boy would die. Then the spirit of the forest would bring him back to life… as a man. Every boy feared this transformation from death, to life as a man, as much as the wild beasts from the unknown jungle.

So they left Yume there…alone. His thoughts soon turned to the boys who never returned. Did they get lost and die? Did wild beasts devour them? Did the spirit of the jungle find them unworthy to be brought back as men? What would happen to him? These were his thoughts as he waited in the night, naked, cold, defenseless and alone, curled up on the ground under a large tree between two protruding roots.

Then the miracle happened. A man of light appeared. His skin was lighter than Yume’s and he had long brown hair and a beard. Clothed in a white garment from neck to toe, he shined like the sun. Yume thought, “This must be the spirit of the forest. I am going to die.” With that, he curled up even tighter as fear gripped him.

The man spoke and introduced himself as Jesus. He told Yume that he had come to save him and give him eternal life. Yume loosened up some. Jesus comforted him, protected him, and stayed with him through the night. At daybreak, Yume looked around and Jesus was gone!

After a harrowing run through the forest to his village, Yume told his family and the elders what had happened. How this man Jesus came to save and protect him. Nobody believed him. Yume told me that neither he nor anyone from his village had ever seen a white man before. He was ridiculed and abused, so he left.

He set out through the rain forest to find Jesus. He traveled through dangerous forests and jungles, climbed unknown mountains and swam across rivers. He searched from villages to settlements asking the same question of those he met. “Where’s Jesus?”

Every place he went, he would tell his story and ask the same question, “Where’s Jesus?” Weeks turned into years, and Yume grew up, but he never gave up. Eventually Yume found his answer and discovered where and whom Jesus is, but not before walking through South America, Central America, Mexico, and into the United States!

“He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 KJV). Yume became an evangelist and a missionary. Not one who went to the jungle, but one who Jesus brought out of the jungle. Now everywhere he goes, he shares the answer to where’s Jesus, “He’s in my heart!”

“And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him” (Deuteronomy 4:29 NLT).

Overcoming the Four D’s

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Roy was the Senior Pastor of the church he pioneered, when his marriage came to an end. This most significant disaster in his life nearly destroyed him. Feeling like he could not go on, Roy left his church of nineteen years and moved to Virginia to live with his sister and brother-in-law.

In the months and years to follow, Roy describes what he went through as the four D’s, Depression, Despair, Defeat, and finally Despondency. Though he would not admit it at the time, Roy was, in fact, a man of faith with the strength of a lion. God would not let him languish forever. Oh no. Christ was in him and scripture helped him keep his sanity.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

Roy began to attend his sister’s church and eventually headed up the men’s group. He had one consistent message. It’s not too late, God is not through with you yet, and the best is yet to come. I was in that men’s group and witnessed the optimism and faith that sustained him.

Roy went on a short-term mission trip to Romania, and developed relationships there with Christian leaders. On a subsequent trip to Romania, God sparked a vision in him and Roy began to stay for extended periods of time, preaching in churches all over the country.

He found the Romanians to be a poor people with a rich hunger for God. All day they would work in the fields, and afterward eagerly come to his meetings at night. The people touched his heart and he realized God’s purpose for the next phase of his life.

He received the vision and calling to reach the Nation of Romania for Christ. With only his small minister’s pension, he turned his face from retirement and set out on his greatest adventure with Christ as his only partner.

He bought an old house with a barn and declared it Apa Vie, which means living water. He repaired, and renovated the building into a conference center. From this commitment began Evangelistic meetings for youth, and Pastors conferences training hundreds for ministry. Roy has spoken before the elite political and scientific leaders in the country, including major Universities.

He developed an outstanding reputation among Romanians from all walks of life. Pastors and churches in the US have partnered with him and use his Apa Vie conference center as a base of operations for mission trips.

God proves through Roy that we do not have to wait until everything is in place to start. We must face the reality of our circumstances, hold faith in God and His plan for us, and act! You do not have to languish either. Don’t give up hope. Your dreams may seem impossible to accomplish. The four D’s may be your daily companions, but don’t quit!

Remember what the Bible says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

Roy’s dream is still in progress as he has plans for further expansion. We are all part of God’s expanding Kingdom, so don’t fall prey to the four D’s. Take your rightful place in the Kingdom. With Christ, your dream is possible! In Roy’s words, “You are significant! The best is ahead of you! You never know what God is up to! Keep the faith, and trust God!

Servant of All

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

One evening John was sitting in his nice middle income home reading a book on church history when he came across a passage describing famine and starvation which afflicted the early church. It stated, “Many sold themselves into slavery, and with the price received fed others.”

John was stunned as well as shamed by this account and said to himself, “Boy do I not measure up.” As he searched his conscience, and prayed to the Lord, he made a promise. “Lord, I can’t do anything tonight but before I go you bed tomorrow night I will have fed somebody.”

The next day at work he asked around if anyone knew someone in need of food. No one did. So John prayed for God to lead him as he was desperate to feed someone. In his mind he saw the front of a modest brick home in great detail. Not recognizing it, he asked God to show him the house.

A few minutes later a coworker came and told of an elderly widow in his church in need. John said “Lets go shopping!” So the two of them piled into John’s pickup and headed to the grocery store. As John pushed the basket down the isle, he asked the Lord to guide him in what you buy.

Neither knew exactly what she needed so they just began to put staples in the basket; varieties of food, cleaning supplies, and whatever caught John’s eye. The Bible teaches us, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23 NLT) He surely delighted in their enthusiasm because of what came next.

With the pickup filled with bags, they headed to the widows home. Now some might call what happened next a coincidence, but John knew for sure that it was a Devine mission when they pulled up to the house and it was the exact house that he had seen in detail while in prayer! “Hallelujah! This is it,” John exclaimed, as his coworker went up to the porch and knocked on the door.

When the dear sister was told what was happening she put her hands over her gaped open mouth and stood to the side on the porch. The two young men began to carry bags into the house to the kitchen as she raised her hands, praised the lord, and did a little dance. It turns out her daughter and kids had just came to stay with her out of their need, and there was no food in the house.

She stopped them at one point and said, “I was on my knees praying to God to meet our needs and I told him, “Lord, you ain’t never let me down in all these eighty years, and I know you ain’t gonna let me down now.” Then you young men knocked on my door.” They all praised God and continued carrying plastic grocery bags inside. Coming in with another load she asked, ”How did you know that this is my brand of flour? Look! That there is my favorite cereal!”

She could see through the bags as they had brought all her favorites. It was as if she had given them a list. They replied “We had no idea what to buy Sister. We let the Holy Spirit guide us. He knew what you needed and what you liked.” Praise God!

John had followed the leading of God and received the miracle of answered prayer.

From this humble beginning, fulfilling a promise to feed someone, John went on to found a food ministry which delivered more than a million pounds of food to the poor and needy in his community. Though this is a true story, few people know John’s real name, at his request.

Jesus taught this lifestyle to His disciples. “And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 30:35 NLT).