Encouragement From The Word

I heard the watch ticking

Donald Grey Barnhouse once told the story of a man who operated an ice house and lost his watch in the sawdust.  (You know it’s an old story when it’s talking about keeping ice cool with sawdust!)  He wanted his watch back badly, and offered a reward to anyone who could find it.  Many people went through the sawdust, by hand and with rakes, but to no avail.

A young boy went into the ice house after all the searching was done, and he came back out with the watch.

How did he find it?

“I just lay down in the sawdust and listened, and finally I heard the watch ticking.”

You may not have lost your watch, but in the busyness of life, you may be missing something else:  your body and soul may be out of sync.  Your relationship with God may be off the rails.  Your spiritual disciplines may be not all you wish they were.

With kids out of school and summer finally here, perhaps this is your opportunity to lay down in the sawdust and hear the watch ticking.  Maybe now is the time to let your body and soul catch up with each other, to re-rail your relationship with God, to beef up your spiritual disciplines.  You have the chance to gain some rest…in the Lord.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Being the Joneses

The great preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse once told a story about seeing a cartoon that illustrated (then – over 50 years ago!) what North American society looked like.  The cartoon depicted a couple having an argument with each other.  The caption read, essentially, “You are not content with trying to keep up with the Joneses.  You want to be the Joneses with whom everyone else is trying to keep up.”

At this time of year, purveyors of everything from toys to vacations are attempting to convince you that you need more…that if you really loved your kids, you’d give them more…that if you want to show your appreciation to someone, you’ll give her or him more.

As Gary Chapman reminds us in The Five Love Languages, some people express their love through gift-giving.  But let’s remember that it’s not the only way to communicate our love for another.  Sometimes, the gift of time is what the other really wants, and needs.

Those same purveyors of everything will likewise attempt to convince you that, while buying for others, you should buy for yourself, too, because, after all, you deserve it.  You’ve fought the crowds in the malls; you’ve dodged several other cars and avoided accidents; you’ve attended every compulsory Christmas gathering.  You deserve something.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, to be sure.  But don’t be sucked in by advertisers’ encouragements to accumulate more.

Followers of Jesus are enjoined throughout the Scriptures to be content, to be satisfied with what we have.  Those who want to keep up with the Joneses, or to be the Joneses, would say that enough is “just a little bit more.”  But we who have Jesus know that what we have in him is sufficient.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you.    I will never abandon you’” (Hebrews 13.5, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The judge steps down

My wife and I have taken to enjoying the half-hour reality show called Border Security.  It chronicles the stories of people who have been “hauled into secondary” at either an airport or at the Canada-US land border, to be examined more carefully by the border protection agents of either country.  The show is a good reminder to be honest about everything, because these guards are smart people:  they are trained to be able to discern if you’re telling the truth or not.

There was one episode recently where a traveller was returning to the US from Thailand, and had not declared a banana in her luggage.  When the banana was discovered, she was assessed a fine for failing to declare that she had any quantity at all of fruits or vegetables.  Angrily, she paid the fine and was released.  Similar story lines get repeated, with different characters involved: tell the truth or pay the price.  Since telling the truth doesn’t make for particularly compelling television, we get to watch the ones who pay the price most often.

The great 20th century preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, told a story, surrounded by an enrapt group of students with whom he was speaking about the Christian faith.  It was about a judge, whose son came before him, accused of reckless driving.  The charge was easily proven, and the judge fined the young man the highest fine permitted by law.

Then the judge adjourned the court, stepped down from the bench, and paid his son’s fine.

One of the students interjected and said, “But God cannot get down off the bench.”

Barnhouse replied, “You have given me one of the best illustrations of the incarnation that I will ever have.  For Jesus Christ was no more or less than God, come down off the bench to pay the fine which he had imposed upon us.”

Jesus paid your fine.  How will you respond?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).