Jesus has time for you

When I was a kid I received a lot of toys at Christmas, but I don’t remember many of them. What I do remember is how my dad would spend time on Christmas Eve playing with my toys with me. We’d put the Hot Wheels track together and get the train to run. Often we’d try to get the train and cars to go a little faster, and sometimes stuff got broken but that was just seen as how things go. The highlight of Christmas for me wasn’t what I received, but enjoying the gifts with my dad and spending time with him.

Some parents are so busy making money to buy things for their kids that they have no time to spend with their kids. Sadly some are so busy making a living they don’t take time to live. The reality is spending time playing with kids and their toys can do more good than buying more toys. The time my dad spent with me impacted my life more than anything he ever bought me. Time spent playing with kids may not seem productive, but it can actually produce good things in a life, like love, peace and joy, that are far more valuable than money and material things.

The Lord, more than anybody else, would be excused if He said He is too busy to spend time with us. He has the universe to run. But He never says He has too many other things to do and can’t listen to us and care for us. Jesus graciously came to this earth and spent time with us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The Lord took time to put on human flesh and make His home here among us.

The Lord could have done the work of salvation in quicker fashion. He could have entered the world as an adult and gone to the cross and paid for our sin soon after He arrived on earth. But instead He took the time to start at the beginning: as a baby in Mary’s womb. He took the time to experience what it is like to be a human child and teenager. He took the time to face all the temptations and trials we face.

Jesus took time to teach. He took time to eat with tax collectors and sinners. He took time to touch lepers. He took time to talk with women with bad reputations and listen to the cries of beggars. He took time to bless children.

Jesus has time for you today: time to listen, time to teach you through His Word, time to comfort and encourage you, time to go through the ups and downs of life with you. His time is valuable but He makes clear He considers us to be of such value He is willing to give up time and even give His life on the cross for us.

The world is often too busy. We get too busy to encourage one another, too busy to enjoy the blessings of God. But we give thanks that Jesus is never too busy. He is never short on time. He is never rushed. He continues today to have plenty of time for you.

God can use store-bought pies

It was a community Thanksgiving Eve service, held at another church. I brought my mother home from the hospital that afternoon. I was feeling bad about having to go to the service, but my mom insisted she would be fine. Pie was being served after the service. Nobody in our house had time to make a pie, so I picked one up at the store.

Before the service I was in the fellowship area of the church. I overheard one lady say to another, in a rather disgusted tone, “Look at that. Somebody bought a pie instead of making one.” It was my pie she was talking about. I was tempted to grab my unwanted, store-bought pie and go home, but I was the speaker that evening so I figured I better stick around. I avoided the temptation during the closing prayer to pray, “Thank you Lord for the pies, especially the store-bought one.”

For some of us, like me that evening, the best service we can do in God’s kingdom is like a store-bought pie. Some people have special talents. The things they can do may seem like an amazing homemade pie: unique and better-tasting than anything you’ve ever had before. They are able to wow and impress people. We give thanks for those unique gifts.

Most of us, though, may feel more like a store-bought pie. Our talents and abilities aren’t necessarily filling people with awe. It may feel like there are plenty of others who can do the things we do. Our service in the kingdom may seem to be a little insignificant and nothing too special.

In the Gospels we read about a boy who didn’t seem to have anything too special to offer. He only had five loaves of bread and two small fish. The disciples wondered, “… how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9) But Jesus gave thanks for that simple little lunch the boy let be used to serve others, and the Lord used it to feed over 5,000 people.

The Lord can use little lunches and store-bought pies. He treats as valuable people who are devalued by the world. He notices service that is overlooked by others. He can use our talents, even when they don’t seem to stand out from the crowd. We should not be dismissing the store-bought pies and the ordinary gifts that we and others have to offer. Instead let us give thanks when those seemingly simple things are given to God for Him to use. Give thanks for the extraordinary ways God can use ordinary things.

What keeps the church safe?

In the book The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken the story is told of a time when a Communist official in the old Soviet Union broke into a Christian congregation’s worship service, slapped the pastor, threatened him and warned him the church needed to close. “If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you.” As the official started to leave a small grandmother who was part of the congregation waved her finger in the officer’s face and declared: “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will not survive!”

The grandmother’s prophetic word was pronounced on a Tuesday evening. On Thursday night the official dropped dead of a heart attack. The fear of God swept through the community. Attendance at the little house-church doubled from 75 to 150 people.

The death of the official did not deter the Communist authorities. They arrested the pastor, a man named Dimitri, and put him in jail where he would remain for 17 years. He suffered much persecution there, but he kept doing the same thing each morning. He would stand, raise his arms in praise to God and sing a “HeartSong” to Jesus. The other prisoners would curse and jeer and throw things at him to try to shut him up. But Dimitri kept singing the praise song at the start of each day.

One day in prison Dimitri found a whole sheet of paper and a pencil beside it. As was his practice whenever he found any kind of paper, he wrote on it any Bible verses, Scripture songs or stories he could remember. After filling both sides he stuck the paper on a pillar as a testimony and praise to God. The jailer soon saw it, beat Dimitri and said he was going to have him executed.

Dimitri was dragged from his cell and taken down the corridor to the place where they did executions. Before they reached the door that led to the courtyard, 1,500 hardened criminals stood at attention by their jail-cell beds. They all began to sing the praise song they had heard Dimitri sing every morning for the past 17 years. Dimitri said later it sounded to him like the greatest choir in all of human history. The jailers instantly released their grip on him and stepped away in terror, asking, “Who are you?” Dimitri replied, “I am a son of the living God, and Jesus is HIs name!” They returned him to his cell and later released him from prison and returned him to his family.

In the wake of the horrific shooting in the church in Texas some news commentators have described churches as “soft targets” and “vulnerable.” Dimitri’s story reminds us that the church of Jesus Christ has a power of protection that is far greater than the most sophisticated security system or the most powerful worldly weapon. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

The church may seem like a soft, vulnerable target by the world’s way of looking at things. But the church rests in the strong, safe arms of the Almighty Lord. Our first and most powerful means of protection is to pray. God may permit things to happen that cause our body to be harmed and even killed. None of us really know why He lets some of these terrible things occur. But we still trust that in Him our soul is safe for all eternity. “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. … For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling” (Psalm 27:3, 5).

Those who went to that Baptist church in Texas thought they were going to be safe there. That congregation is now suffering pain that is hard for the rest of us to imagine. Sadly, lives on this earth were ended far too soon and families and friends are now heartbroken. But for those who knew Jesus, their souls were still safe and their relationship with the Lord was still safe. Even though it’s a scary, dangerous world, we don’t have to live as prisoners of fear. We live in freedom and peace by faith in our Father’s strong and loving care.