It was a warm summer night. The beautiful sky was filled with stars as far as the eye could see. Mary was relaxed in the passenger side starting to doze off, confident that her husband would get them safely to their destination, Myrtle beach, South Carolina. She was already starting to dream of the perfect beaches, fine restaurants and championship golf courses. Then suddenly something started to bother her.
They had made this trip many times and this time things looked a little different. “Tom, this doesn’t seem right. Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Tom patiently replied, “Of course sweetie, just relax and take your nap.” “Tom, I tell you we are going the wrong way where’s that map?” She started looking for the map and Tom just a little more frustrated insisted “You have nothing to worry about. I know where I am going. I am right!” Mary gave up looking and exclaimed “Yeah you’re right. Well I can’t find it anyway.” She made herself comfortable and went off on her nap.
A sudden stop woke Mary up, “We’re there already?” Tom sheepishly answered, “No dear, we’re lost.”
It took a brief stop at a Gas station for directions and a costly 2 hour detour, but Mary and her husband did arrive safely at Myrtle Beach.
What is worse than going the wrong way? Stubbornly insisting your right, while going the wrong way in the middle of the night, on a long trip to South Carolina is definitely worse. What is better than believing your right? Discovering the truth that sets you on the right course and sets you free from a blind belief in deceptions that can only lead to failure and destruction is definitely better.
Jesus tells us that “The truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) He was speaking of the truth that He is the savior that came to sacrifice His life that all could be saved. When we discover the error of our beliefs, what we are left with is the treasure of truth. The truth that Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate price that has been paid so that a world lost in sin could be saved is the greatest truth of all. A multitude throughout history have discovered this great truth, that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are forgiven from all sin and immediately become part of God’s kingdom forever.
The power of truth continues to work in all our lives, knocking at our hearts and minds. However it is often hindered by our pride. When we are set in our beliefs and guided by misconceptions it can be difficult to see beyond these cherished beliefs. Sometimes we stubbornly argue like Tom, when all along we are headed in the wrong direction.
“Yeah! Grandpa is here.” Grandpa had traveled many miles to finally reach the home of his only grandchildren, Robby, Luis and Mary. He loved them greatly and was constantly calling to speak to them. But now he had actually come. He was in their home. What a magical day. They all gave grandpa a big hug and then grandpa just collapsed into the sofa. He was so tired from the trip. He began to tell wondrous stories of his journey, through valleys and up mountains. How could he have endured such a journey at his age? He was truly a remarkable man. Now Mary had found her way to the kitchen and was preparing some mighty fine sandwiches for all. While she worked diligently in the kitchen she could just barely hear the stories. She thought “this is not fair at all”. After a couple of minutes she could endure it no more. She stormed into the living room and demanded the boys to help out. For a moment there was silence. Then Grandpa spoke, “My dear why don’t you come here and sit right beside me. Don’t you know I miss you? Everything else can wait.”
Often even the most hardworking among us can get our priorities mixed up. Mary got caught up in her many responsibilities but forgot that this moment was special because grandpa had come.
In the life of Jesus we see similar events unfold when He visits the house of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42) Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing all that the guest would need. But Mary knew that a visit from Jesus was like nothing else and there would be time for work later. She listened intensely for every word from the Master, but Martha busied herself with other responsibilities. Martha soon was frustrated with her sister and asked Jesus to encourage her sister Mary to help her. Jesus did quite the opposite and defended Mary. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
In our lives we too can occupy ourselves with activities that at the time seem worthy of our attention; possibly work, school or some other responsibility, but the people in our lives should not be forgotten. The times we spend with loved ones are essential and are the memories that we want to make. It is the stuff that makes life worth living. The most important person in our life should be God himself.
Our relationship with him will take time. I am not suggesting we quit our jobs and move into a monastery, but we all need to reach a happy balance, where there is ample time for work, family, friends and most importantly God. Have we all taken some time to pray and read our bible today? Is a visit to our local church part of our schedule this week? The more we put into a relationship the more we will get out of it. Jesus reminds us of the power of our relationship with Him. He said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
The wind was howling fiercely that night upon the sea in 1902. All the men even the bravest seemed frightened as we hovelled together below the deck, except for the brave captain. He was made for the seas. They say he was born at sea and had never spent more than a day on land on account that he could not stand it. He was at the helm and was not about to give into the storm. He bravely steered through the night. Meanwhile I was shivering below with the rest of the frightened men.
It was a while before I realized a young boy in the corner sleeping. Was it really possible that someone could sleep through this storm, knowing that at any moment we might meet our end? I would march right over there to ask this young boy, but the ship rocked so furiously it made it impossible to walk at all. I studied the boy from across the room. He seemed so much at peace in the midst of all the howling, rocking and crashing of the waves. Then he smiled. I could not believe my eyes. The boy must be mad! I knew I had to know the secret. I made my way across the cabin, climbing over other men, receiving nasty looks while trying to stay on my feet. Finally I was beside him. “Hey boy, are you aware of the storm? It feels like the ship is going to be torn apart.“ The boy rubbed his eyes and yawned as if he was bored and responded, “Don’t worry Mr., we will be fine, now let me rest, there is still plenty of night.” I couldn’t believe my ears, this was either the bravest or the most naïve boy I had ever known. I gave the lad a good shove and said “Boy don’t you hear the sea; it’s tearing the ship apart!” The boy patiently looked at me and with a peace I could not perceive said, “I know who steers the ship. He has never failed me. He is my captain and my dad. Go rest and in the morning we will all see the sun.”
Life is filled with storms, difficulties, trials, and problems that seem so immense they are like storms threatening to destroy the ship that is our life. But if we can have faith in the captain of our ship, Jesus Christ, we can still rest easy and be at peace knowing that He is guiding us through the storm and is taking us on the course that He knows is best for us. Sometimes we might perceive that another course might have been easier and with fewer difficulties. But we cannot forget that the destination is even more important. God is leading us where we must go and regardless of how hard it may be at times it is what is best for us. We will arrive safely and will be grateful He delivered us to a most desired and blessed place. Joseph (Genesis 37:18-36, Genesis 39:19-21), Moses (Exodus 2), Daniel (Daniel 1, 6), Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (Daniel 3), David (1 Samuel 19) and countless others suffered though horrific events, persecution and frightful challenges, but He had a great purpose for their lives. He will fulfill his purpose in our lives and we will sail through the storms with our faithful Captain. (Psalm 138:8)
“Oooo! You’re in trouble Betsy, when dad and mom find out what you’ve done.” Michael was scaring his younger sister who had broken his mother’s vase. “They’re here Betsy. Daddy is carrying a Duncan Donuts bag. Aren’t Duncan donuts your favorite? I don’t think you’re getting any today. Besides you’re so fat.” Betsy started crying. Michael started laughing. Michael could hear the door opening. “Oh I can’t wait to see this,” Michael said with a huge grin on his face. Then he took off running towards the door.
“Mom, Dad you’re not going to believe this but Betsy broke your vase.” Mrs. Deed’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her face. Mrs. Deeds ran into the living and gasped for air. Then she dropped to her knees and carefully began to pick up each piece one by one. Mr. Deeds came in with his hands on his hips and asked, “Bets you did this?” Betsy still crying shook her head yes and before her father could say another word dropped to her knees besides her mother and said “Mom I’m sorry I know how important this vase was. It was great grandma’s and she gave it to you. I can’t believe I did this. I can’t make up for this. I don’t know what to do mom.” Betsy was crying with her head bowed low. Mrs. Deeds looked up and it was as if she was seeing her daughter for the first time. She freed one of her hands and reached out and wrapped her arm around her daughter. She leaned her head towards her daughter’s and whispered “you’re forgiven.”
When Michael realized what was happening he erupted “What is going on here! What, no yelling, no punishment; she should get what she deserves!” Then Dad spoke, “Michael did you see Betsy break the vase?” Michael amazed at the question, “Dad I didn’t, but she admitted to it.” Calmly dad asked “Where were you when your little sister broke the vase?” There was dead silence. Dad did not have to say another word. Michael realized he had disobeyed. He was not supposed to leave his little sister alone. Now he was wondering, “What do I deserve?”
Paul explained in his letter to the Romans, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:22-23). It is easy to be tempted and at times looked down on the faults and failures of others. But we must all remember that we all have sinned and it is actually a good thing that most of us will probably never get what we truly deserve. God in His mercy has forgiven all those who have sincerely repented and accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior. We are forgiven and will not suffer the condemnation we deserve. Instead we have received a priceless treasure, eternal life with God.
“Johnny just do it!” Marcus said. Johnny contemplated the stink bomb in his hand and wondered. He desperately wanted to get out of it. Johnny was popular in his own way. There were certainly enough classmates that thought he was cool and really looked up to him, although he was not as popular as the starting quarterback of the varsity team. Now He had the unenviable assignment of throwing a stink bomb into Mr. Bender’s classroom, while he was teaching. The smell although not destructive would certainly disrupt the class. Although it was risky, what Johnny hated most was that it was Mr. Bender. He was a demanding teaching that often would assign the longest Homework and give by far the hardest exams. But he taught American History and Johnny loved the course. He had aced it and his work had been routinely praised as “well thought out”, “an in depth analysis” “highly developed” and “especially creative”. Johnny had enjoyed his moment in the light with Mr. Bender and all those good memories were floating in his head. He could hear his favorite teacher discussing the causes of the American Revolution. Johnny thought to himself “I can’t do this to Mr. Bender.” Then a sweet voice carried across the hall, “Hey Johnny what you got there?” It was Marie, the prettiest girl in his official class. She was Johnny’s dream girl. No way could he appear to be soft in front of her. Now his best friend Marcus repeated the order “Johnny just do it” and added “What are you chicken now, scared of old Bender?” Johnny looked at his friend and then at Marie and released it. Like the cowards they were they all took off running.
Soon Johnny found himself in the school yard and thought it best to just head home. That evening Marcus called “Man that was a thing of beauty. Why did you take off? Dude nobody knows who did it. Just Marie and she has a thing for you.” The guilt was so great Johnny didn’t even realize what Marcus had said about Marie. Johnny didn’t want to talk about it. Johnny told Marcus “I’m not feeling well Marco, talk to you later” and he hung up.
Two weeks later the guilt was still driving Johnny crazy. Now he stood before his favorite teacher, frozen and speechless. Old Mr. Bender, grey haired and bearded and wearing a brown cardigan sweater looked up and smiled. “Nice seeing you Johnny, few students had such a deep and extensive grasp of American History. I sincerely enjoyed our discussions. I really thought you enjoyed the course as well.” It’s as if he knew and just wanted to make this more difficult for Johnny. Now came the icing on the cake “Hey Johnny didn’t I write a letter of recommendation for that summer job you wanted. How did that go?” Johnny could not bear to look at him and while he hung his head low, he finally just came out with it. “I did it Mr. Bender.” Mr. bender decided he wasn’t done with it and added “What are you talking about Johnny.” “ I threw the bomb the other day.” “I knew you had done it Johnny.” “Why didn’t you report it?” Johnny asked. “In a couple of months you’re going to start applying for colleges. Would you like something like that on you record?”
Johnny now realized he had given in to peer pressure and made a victim, of not only his favorite teacher, but a teacher who was merciful and considerate of his future. He was undeserving of such kindness and even after the apology still felt there was more he should do. Fortunately, wise old Mr. Bender had an idea. “You know Johnny I was thinking my car is going to need a good cleaning this weekend.” Johnny smiled. “It’s going to be shiny as new by Sunday Morning Mr. Benson.” Mr. Benson responded “Excellent, just in time for my niece and I to go to Sunday school.” Johnny was satisfied and headed for the door when Mr. Benson stopped him “Oh Johnny you know my niece right.” Johnny answered “No sir.” Mr. Benson with a smile said “Oh you do, her name is Marie.”
Solomon said it perfectly “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.”(Proverbs 1:10) God does not want us to fold to the pressures of others or this world. We must remain strong and listen to the Holy Spirit that guides our actions. (John 16:13, Romans 8:14 ) It is God himself who speaks to our conscience so that we can do what is right. When we fail it is that same spirit that convicts us. Let us ask God to make us strong that we may resist temptation and live a life that we need not be ashamed of. Peter wisely adds “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
It was Judy Pinkleton’s 17th birthday. She was a rather refined young lady who had an eye for precious things. She knew her fashion and insisted on only wearing the best. Some of her friends were not aware of this. Tom had befriended Judy most recently. They were lab partners in High School. Tom had a little crush on Judy and hoped to impress her. He had found what he thought to be the loveliest scarf he had ever seen. It was red with all kinds of bears on it, in a variety of positions all holding hearts. Surely this would express Tom’s affection. He wrapped it up and it was all prepared for Judy.
Into the classroom she came. With her head held high, wearing the best and smelling like a breath of fresh air. For Tom she was perfection. He swallowed hard and felt his heart racing. She went passed Tom quickly, without saying a word, but did manage to give him a quick look. She immediately started a conversation with her childhood friend Samantha Hoogens. Samantha’s taste was a bit more down to earth, but she knew Judy had a good heart if you could get pass all the high price gear. Judy talked fast and was obviously excited, explaining all her wonderful plans for the evening. Tom sheepishly made his way to her and somehow blurted out “Happy birthday” as he handed her the gift. The conversation came to a halt and a moment of awkward silence followed. Then Judy took the gift and said thank you Tom, how nice of you. I guess I’ll open it.” As she opened it a rather disappointed look came over her as she stared at the scarf. She seemed lost for words and finally said “Well thank you Tom this will definitely come in handy” and she quickly hid it back in the box and then continued her conversation with Samantha.
Tom quietly walked away feeling very much like a fool. Later while Judy and Samantha were walking home they noticed Tom sitting on a bench looking miserable. Samantha turned to Judy, “Isn’t that Tom? Do you think he likes you?” Judy laughed and then paused. “You think?” Judy had always thought Tom socially awkward, yet handsome. She walked over to Tom and just asked him “Hey Tom I’m having a party tonight would you like to come over?” Tom’s face lit up “Certainly, Judy I would love to.” Judy simply said “Great. I’ll see you then.” She started to walk away when Tom stopped her “Judy, if you didn’t like the scarf I can take it back and get you something else” Judy turned and looked at Tom. It was, as if for the first time she realized the importance of the gift. It wasn’t the quality or the price tag that mattered. The value was in who had given it. She looked at Tom and then at the box and said “No Tom, I think I’ll keep it. It’s starting to grow on me.” She gave Tom a smile and added “Make sure you come Tom” and she turned and walked away.
Jesus said “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31) He also said, “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:26) Scripture makes it clear and Jesus specifically revealed the great value of every life or soul. According to Jesus you could take everything of value in the world and make one big pile of it, and it still would not compare to the value of a life or a soul. We are of incredible, immeasurable value. Imagine if we could treat each other with our true value in mind. Judy came to realize that the scarf may not have had much monetary or fashion value, but the gift giver, Tom, had much value indeed.
“Marylou I saw the pastor hanging outside the bodega this morning, must have been around 9 ,” whispered Susan into the phone. Maylou excited asked “What was Pastor doing?” Susan quickly responded “I don’t know, could have been anything, but I think he had a bottle in his hand?” Marylou’s imagination just started to run;”Oh my I got to let you go.” She hung up and called her husband over, “George come quickly!” A bit flustered from rushing over George gets out “Honey what Is it?” Marylou rather excited spoke quickly “George the pastor was outside the bodega drinking and hanging out with someone!” George’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. George sat on the board of officials and he was going to do something about it. He picked up his phone and called Sister Delores. “Sister Delores you better sit down for this one. My wife saw Pastor Smith drunk and outside the bodega, hanging out with some good for nothings from the neighborhood this morning! You know who I’m talking about. ” George did not hear a thing for what seemed like forever. Then Delores asked a question, “around what time was that George?” George turned to his wife and while covering the phone asked softly “She wants to know the time?” Marylou answered just as softly, “around 9 this morning.” George was quick to answer “around 9 this morning sister, so what are we going to do?” Dolores rather calmly responds, “well George considering that Tom and I were with the Pastor hanging out at the Bodega this morning, and I should add drinking coffee and waiting for a cab, I believe we will do nothing except have a long talk about gossiping at our next meeting!” George heard a click and that was all.
The tongue is truly a powerful tool that can be used to benefit, construct, buildup, heal, council, enlighten, teach and reveal the truth. Unfortunately like so many other things meant for good,it can also be a destructive weapon. (Ephesians 4:29)Paul explains how difficult it is to control and compares it to an untamed animal. (James 3:7-8)