Famous Last Words: “I Can Handle This.”

“You will be thirsty. You will beg me for water. But I will not give you any, because your stomach will still be asleep. Until your stomach awakens, I can’t give you water.”

The pre-op nurse stood at the end of the patient’s bed, using her 18 years’ experience to help the surgical candidate understand what lay in store for him.

“You will be in pain. Ask for pain medicine. Take the pain medicine we offer you. You will not get a gold star for resisting the pain unmedicated, and taking it will help you calmly endure the inevitable.”

The nurse continued to describe the different reactions which she had observed patients experience during their revival and recovery process.  No, she had not personally experienced these hardships, but through the years, she had assisted several hundred patients to regain consciousness and to learn to breathe on their own again.

“Do your best to listen to us, and to do what we tell you to do. We are here to help you. We will try to get you off the ventilator as quickly as we can, but you must work with us.”

The patient listened. He heard. He took it all in. He stored it in the back of his mind. Yet the whole time he was thinking, “But I am an exception. You have not witnessed my abilities as a patient. I’m different than all the others. I can handle this.”

These were his thoughts until the first pangs of conscious pain hit him. He believed these thoughts until his parched tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Then he understood that though we are all unique, we are all the same. Then he understood that years of witnessing the inevitable stages of the revival process produced a beneficial wisdom within his friend, the pre-op nurse.

Experiencing his own weaknesses stopped him from saying to himself, “I can handle this.”

Spiritually, we all have many people within our lives who try to help us see the dangers and pitfalls of sin. Some speak to us from firsthand experience, knowing the pangs of addiction or depravity. Some try to convince us from years of  lovingly counseling others who were searching for hope and truth upon which they could rebuild their lives. Some speak from a knowledge of the wisdom which God inspired the biblical writers to expound and preserve for us.

The most helpful adviser is one who combines all three; one who knows the truths of God’s word,  who can beneficially apply those truths because he realizes how he himself has been affected by sin, and he has witnessed many of the same affects in the lives of others.

But so many times, the wise advisers’ advice falls on deaf ears. As they try to warn us of the dangers of sin, we look straight through them and say to ourselves, “But you don’t understand. I am an exception. I am unique. I am strong. I can handle this. This will not be a sin to me, nor lead to my downfall.”

“The things that has the power to addict others will not addict me. That which may lead to depravity and poverty for the majority will not be strong enough to lead me down such a path. I will not allow those things which leave others lonely and empty to desert me in such a miserable condition. I can handle this.”

Then one day, we find ourselves slavishly swilling the alcohol or drugs. One day, we find our marriage broken beyond repair because we enjoyed the endorphin rush of flirting with lust. One day we find ourselves struggling to keep our family fed because we bet our paycheck on the horses.

That’s when we realize that though we are all unique, we are all the same. That’s when we realize that there is a reason why our wise old grandma warned us to flee from sin. That’s when we realize that the Bible’s wisdom applies to every generation of every age.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) ESV

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) ESV

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray ny it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) ESV

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Adjusting To Diabetes and Christianity Isn’t That Tough! Or Is It?

Walking into a hospital emergency room complaining of chest pains, and being diagnosed with vessel blockages and sugar diabetes is life changing. Many everyday habits must be modified to deal with these serious conditions.

Vessel blockages can be cured through intervention or surgery. Prevention of future problems may involve modification of diet and exercise. But the changes to a person’s life style may not be extreme, depending upon his past habits.

Diabetes, on the other hand, offers special challenges since it involves monitoring blood sugar levels multiple times per day, injecting medicines, and tracking carbohydrate intake so that one’s blood sugar may remain consistently level.  One can never be completely cured of diabetes. All he can do is gain control of it.

At first, lying in the hospital room, one experiences denial. He reasons that the lab techs must have made a mistake. He tries to get the medical staff to admit that the established standards vary from person to person and that the levels he is experiencing may not be high for him; that they are peculiar to his health. He may go through a phase of making light of the seriousness of his condition; he tries to convince himself that gaining control of his diabetes really doesn’t make any difference.

But eventually, the fact sets in, and he realizes that he must deal with this undesired condition.

While lying in the hospital room, one begins reasoning that dealing with diabetes will not be difficult. The nursing staff regularly checks his blood sugar levels, and injects the needed insulin.  The hospital dietary staff delivers tasty, balanced meals (yes, I did say tasty) at consistent times each day.  In those circumstances, there is no need for him to count carbs or starches.

So, he reasons, “This isn’t going to be that hard.”

At home, where the food choices are somewhat limited, the diabetic may reason to himself, “This is going to be a little more difficult than I thought, but still not too hard.”  The fact that his RN wife prepares his meals, doles out the portions, and helps him monitor his sugar levels adds to the diabetic’s confidence that he can indeed make these changes with ease.

But eventually, the diabetic must go out on his own. He must monitor his own health. He must make wise food choices.  And he must do so outside the confined room of the hospital or the semi-confined walls of his home.  He must do so in the mega commercialized food world.

The nurses and dietary staff are not around to ensure that he receives a well-balanced diet. His wife is not there to monitor his dietary intake.  It’s just he against the food world.

And the food world isn’t particularly concerned about his condition. Its main concern is presenting bountiful portions of food which the masses consider delicious. The food world spends millions of dollars on advertisement, hoping to draw as many people as possible through their door, or to their grocery aisle.

That’s when the diabetic experiences true temptation. That’s when it finally hits him just how hard it’s going to be to make the healthy lifestyle changes. That’s when he realizes what the rest of his life is going to be like.

And it’s tough.

Spiritually, many people begin searching for Jesus, already suspecting that they have a spiritual health issue.  Through the sermons they hear, they are convicted of their sin problem and they realize that they must do something about it.

The Bible teaches that our hearts are the cause of our spiritual disease. God and Jesus can cure the heart. Jesus can empower a person to transform from a voluntary slave of Satan to a humble servant of God. When one transforms, he realizes that he must make major changes in his lifestyle; he must give up sin. (Romans 12:1,2)

This may not seem difficult as long as the new disciple remains in the presence and worship services of the church.  Preachers and Bible school teachers serve the proper type and amount of spiritual foods. Fellow christians help the penitent sinner identify and keep check on those sinful activities that seem “sweet” to him. When confined within the church, adapting one’s lifestyle to a faithful lifestyle may not appear difficult.

Within the presence of a christian family, living a faithful christian life may not appear to be a difficult task. One’s parents, spouse, and children constantly encourage him to give up old habits, and to replace them with prayer, Bible study, and christian priorities. The temptations which one faces are limited. God designed the home to be a safe place for his followers.  And within the home, a new christian may be tempted to reason that adapting from sinner to disciple will not be difficult.

Then there comes the day when the spiritual babe must face the world on his own. His fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not with him. He is absent from the influence of his family. He, and he alone, must make wise decisions as he purposely resists the temptation of the world.

And the world doesn’t care about his spiritual health.

Satan, through the world simply wants to market bountiful temptations which taste “sweet” to the masses.  He spends billions of dollars trying to entice as many people as he can to try his destructive delicacies.

Facing these temptations alone are the times when a christian will be more likely to give in to the destructive forces of sin. Facing these temptations alone are the times when a new disciple realizes that faithfully living his newly chosen lifestyle will not be easy.

These moments are the times when he must fall back on all the Bible truths he has learned. These are the times that he must appreciate the love and care of his family. But mostly, these are the times that the new disciple must learn to rely on his Master, his Savior, his Teacher, and his Counselor.

For when a newborn babe truly learns to trust Jesus, he realizes that he is never alone, and that the salvation of his soul is worth resisting even the sweetest temptation.

“18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me

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Is That A Flower Or A Weed? Who Knows? I Guess I Might As Well Go Ahead And Cut It Down Just In Case.

Few people can trim and landscape another person’s lawn without destroying at least some plants which the owner purposely set out and fondly values. This is especially true when the owner loves flowers, but the trimmer finds no delight in horticulture.

When a person appreciates the beauty of blossoming flowers and the satisfaction of caring for living plants, she will carefully choose, locate, and plant both perennials and annuals, so that her garden plots remain in bloom from early Spring till late Fall. She will energetically water these beds to prevent the beloved plants from wilting due to dehydration. She will carefully weed the beds to keep her flowers from competing with unwanted weeds for nutrition. She will continue this practice for many years, establishing several permanent beds.

Then one day, the time comes when someone else must mow the lawn and tend to the beds.  That someone else may appreciate the beauty of the flowers while they are in bloom, but he may not be able to differentiate between the emerging blades of a cherished perennial, and that of a distained grass.  He may not be able to differentiate between the broad leaves of a Holly Hock and that of an emerging gypsum weed.

That’s when difficulties arise for both.  The one envisioning the beds to be as beautiful as she once kept them, and the other not knowing for sure how to accomplish that goal.

Spiritually, the Bible clearly teaches us that we are to be our brother’s keeper.  We christians are to help one another become untangled from the world. We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1,2). If anyone goes back into the world, we are to do our best to restore that person, thus saving his soul. (James 5:19-20)

In essence, we are to try to help one another remove the spiritual weeds from our lives, and to cultivate the spiritual flowers which make our lives beautiful.

But this is often difficult. Because many times there are disagreements about which actions and attitudes constitute flowers and which ones constitute weeds. One person may have purposely planted and lovingly nurtured an action or attitude for years within his life, believing it to be a beautiful, fragrant flower, while his brother may deem the action or attitude to be an obnoxious weed.

God has given us a difficult task.

So, what do we do in such a case?

Carefully read God’s word together.  Lovingly speak God’s word to one another.  Then allow God to aid each person to identify the flowers and the weeds within his life. Allow God to empower each person to remove the unwanted spiritual weeds from his life.

When we go beyond this, and forcefully try to “weed” another person’s life for them, we may destroy their flowers as well.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) ESV

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7) ESV

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Our Words Tell More About Us Than Our Words Tell About Others

Unprompted words display a man’s heart more clearly than any of its other random manifestations.

I sat down next to a man I did not recognize at a communal-type table in a small diner. We were the only patrons in the business. We exchanged introductions. I recognized his name as being that of the father of a couple of sisters that attended the same school I did over 40 years ago. The girls were several years younger than me, so I did not personally know them; I knew their names and faces.

I asked the man if he was indeed the girls’ dad. He assured me that he was. I then asked him how they were doing, and where their lives had taken them.  He proudly told me about the girls’ accomplishments, and included the accomplishments of a third sister I did not know existed. All the girls had moved to urban areas and had done well professionally.

We sat silently for a few moments.

Then out of the blue the man said, “The first two girls carry quite a bit more flesh now than they should. The third one has kept herself in pretty good shape, but the older two have let themselves go.”

I nervously laughed, thinking about the 30-plus extra pounds I now carry. But I also took my first good look at him. Although he showed the signs of age, he remained slender and wiry, not having that paunch that so many of advanced age develop.

His words and his physique betrayed at least a portion of his treasures. Looks and body conditioning play a major role in the man’s life.

I also took a good look at myself. What had my words manifested about me?

When we think about our verbal interaction with others, we need to ponder what our words tell others about us, especially strangers? When we feel a need to begin or extend a conversation, what subject does our heart prompt us to broach?

Do we initiate conversations about money and the economy? Do we talk of the world news? Do we try to discuss our opinions concerning the current state of our nation? Do we talk about others? If we speak about another person, especially a loved one, what do our words say about our respect for that person?

Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV), and “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18 ESV).

Want to display your heart?

Just start talking. Your priorities will soon be evident.

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If I Could Only Have a Do Over. I’m Sure I’d Get It Right Next Time.

Our 9-years-old granddaughter moved her finger over the black screen and a multicolored line appeared. She continued to draw lines on the screen until she had ornately written her name. With one push of a button, the screen cleared itself and became blank once more. The next series of screen touches became a work of stick figures and block letters. It too became history with the touch of a button.

Erasable drawing pads have been popular throughout the years. The Etch-O-Sketch could be shaken to make an image disappear. The black wax pad covered by a sheet of gray film and etched with a plastic stylus could be erased by pulling the film away from the wax pad. Then there was the plastic framed electromagnetic pad that could be erased by sliding a bar across the drawing surface.

Each of these – from the wax pad to the high-tech electronic screen – have accomplished the same goal. They each have allowed the user to express themselves in some way, then to erase the expression and start over. From their respective popularity, it is apparent that children and adults of every generation desire the ability to express, evaluate, erase, and edit anew.

Spiritually, Jesus gives us the ability to have our slate wiped clean and to start anew. This has been Jesus’ drawing power for centuries. By his blood, our sins can be washed clean, and although we may have to deal with the earthly, physical consequences of our sins, the eternal guilt is forever forgiven.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) ESV

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What Do You see In a Person? Do You See What Christ Sees? We Will See What We Have Trained Ourselves To Search For.

A hunter can spot a turkey, deer, or groundhog in the middle of a field a half mile away, many times while the hunter is driving down the highway at 55 MPH. Other people only see dark spots, if even that. Why?  The hunter is looking for game.

A fisherman can see fish, sunken logs, algae, and fish beds underneath several feet of water, while others only see the reflection of trees and the sky on the surface of the water. Why? The fisherman is looking for fish.

A real estate agent or investor can spot a potential business investment in a line of rundown shacks and buildings, while others only see eyesores that need to be destroyed. Why? The agent or investor is looking for future potential rather than historical failure.

A salesman sees everyone he meets as a potential new or repeat customer, while others only see them as friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Why? Because he is looking for people who have a need which his product can fulfill.

A disciple of Christ who has truly taken on the likeness of his teacher views everyone he meets as a valuable human being who needs Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Why? Because that’s how Jesus viewed every person in the world. He saw them as wayward sheep who needed a shepherd, lost children trying to find their way home, and sinful souls which needed saving.  For Jesus, every soul demonstrated a need which only his blood could fulfill.

May we ever be disciples of Christ, viewing ourselves and our fellow man through the eyes of Jesus.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) ESV

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) ESV

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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Just How Big Of A Boy Are You? A Tug-Of-War Will Often Demonstrate The Answer.

When I was growing up, the eighth-grade students from our local school annually competed against students from the other schools in our district in track and field events. The contest was held at the county fair. It was an honor to be chosen to represent your school in at least one event.

The year I was eligible to participate, our coach held the trials on a day when I was not at school. On my return, I was disappointed to hear that the team members had been chosen, and that I had not gotten the opportunity to compete for a spot in one of the events.  I knew that I was too slow to race, that I couldn’t throw a softball far enough, or that I couldn’t jump with enough distance to earn a position on one of those teams. But I did believe that I stood a chance of earning a spot on the tug-of-war team. (Never mind the fact that I was one of the smallest kids in the class; standing about 4’ 11” and weighing about 95 lbs. In my mind, I was just as big and strong as any of the other boys in the class.)

Our teacher agreed to allow me to try out for the tug-of-war team by competing one-on-one against the smallest boy on the squad. He gave me three different chances to prove my assertion that I deserved to be on the team. Each time, my opponent dragged me all over the field on which we were competing.

It turned out, I wasn’t as big or strong as I thought.

We often believe that we are just as big and strong as Satan.  We believe that we can defeat him in one-on-one competitions. But so many times, as we hold on tightly to the temptations he has thrown out to us, we find ourselves being dragged around as if we are nothing.  We find that we aren’t nearly as big and strong as we thought we were. The thing which we believed we could control ends up controlling us.

The good news is that we can turn loose of many of the temptations which Satan throws at us.  The better news is that when we find ourselves so intensely involved in a fight against Satan that we can’t turn loose, Jesus is available to be our anchor man.

Jesus will not let us lose the battle.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29) ESV

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:10-18a) ESV

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Treasuring Stuff Will Keep Us From Receiving Authentic Treasures.

A couple of days ago, our granddaughter, Evvy, and I climbed into a hay loft.  The loft is no longer used for storing hay, but it contains lots of “stuff.”  Evvy likes to play with the stuff.

While she was playing, I searched for something I thought she would be excited to find; a litter of kittens which I knew was hidden amongst the stuff.  Evvy loves cats. I located the litter, and asked Evvy to allow me to pick her up so that I could show her something special.

But she refused.

She continued playing with her trinkets and toys, pulling them here, placing them there.  The whole time, she walked and moved within a few inches of the neat surprise. But she never saw the kittens, and never knew that they were within her grasp.

To this day, she still does not know what she missed because she refused to let me pick her up, and because she was too enthralled with what she could see rather than what I offered to let her see.

Spiritually, we often react the same way to the blessings God wants to bestow upon us.  He offers to lift us to a higher level of spirituality.  He offers to help us to experience spiritual excitement and joy which we have never felt.

But we refuse.

We are content to play with “stuff”, the physical things that around us.  The things that we can see.  The things with which we are familiar. The things that we can manipulate and maneuver without the help of another. The things that bring us immediate pleasure and excitement.

The whole time we are on this earth, many of us walk and live within inches of spiritual joy, comfort, excitement, and pleasure.  But we leave this world never experiencing them, or even knowing that they existed. And worse yet, we leave this world unprepared for the joys of heaven.

All because we refused God’s request to allow him to pick us up.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) ESV

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18) ESV

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By Helping Others, We Help Ourselves

Being afforded the opportunity to help Evvy, our 25-months-old granddaughter, learn new abilities provides some of the most treasured highlights of the time we spend together. I especially like intellectually challenging her.  I love to hear her speak new words for the first time, and to correctly use them in sentences. I love being surprised with her imagination and ingenuity.  I especially enjoy hearing her correctly express abstracts as she tells me how she feels. “That car scared me.” “I’m cold.” “I’m sleepy.” “I love you.”

But I also like helping our granddaughter develop motor skills.  Several months ago, she learned to climb a ladder up to a barn hayloft which lies about 8 feet above the ground.  I always climb behind her for protection, and have always set her off the ladder onto the loft.  Today, she learned to dismount the ladder unaided.

Stair steps have been another issue.  For some time, our granddaughter has been able to both climb and descend steps, but only by holding onto a rail on one side, and my hand on the other. Today, she decided she would both ascend and descend a set of steps by herself.  She did not need Pa’s helping hand. She simply needed the railing to brace herself.  After about 15 trips up and down the steps, she could steadily go up them, but was very shaky in walking down. She had to turn sideways and hold to the railing with both hands.

At one point, Evvy decided she needed her baby to play on the steps with her.  I offered to hold the baby, but she insisted that she must carry her. To my surprise, Evvy steadily and confidently walked down the steps unaided.  The baby provided the balance she needed to accomplish her goal.

Everyone faces challenges and trials in life. Many times, we want to try to work our way through these episodes by ourselves. So, we shakily navigate the pathway unaided by a stronger hand, and unaccompanied by a friend or brother.

Then one day, we find someone else who is struggling with the same issue.  He or she may be struggling even more than we are. So, we begin to try to help him. In helping him, we find the support we need to navigate our own troubled pathway. In carrying him, we find the confidence we need to carry our own load. In turning outward to assist another, we overcome the fear which has been overflowing from within.

Sometimes, coming to the aid of another forces us to more confidently deal with ourselves.  When we are responsible for another, failure is not an option.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“So, then as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

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Farmers And Disciples Of Christ Are Provided Daily Opportunities To Use Their Classroom Knowledge

A student asks a school teacher concerning the subject matter she is trying to teach him, “When and how am I ever going to use this?”

“Field trip to the farm!” the teacher proclaims.

On the farm, the student learns that basic math, algebra, geometry, chemistry, biology, physical science, English, and finance are used every day.

Basic math, algebra, and geometry are used to calculate the amount of seed needed to plant a crop, and the size barn or grain bin needed to store the crop or house the cattle. Chemistry is used to determine the type and amount of fertilizer needed to nourish the crop. Biology is used in improving the genetics of the herd, as well as calculating the best feed ration for the cows. Physical science is used in determining sufficient tractor horsepower, and in installing electrical wiring to power the operation. English communication and finance are used to sell a loan officer on the farmer’s financial plans for the future of the operation.

The family farm is swiftly giving way to mega farming operations, but the basic knowledge needed to insure a farm’s success will always involve these areas of study.

We sit in our Bible classes and worship and ask, “When and how am I ever going to use this?”

God answers, “Field trip!”

As you’re getting out of your truck in the Center of nowhere to enter the church building for another Wednesday night Bible study, out of the darkness a frightened, sobbing, feminine voice meekly asks, “Mister, do you have a cell phone I can borrow? My boyfriend promised he’d take me home, but he kicked me out of the car. I don’t have a clue where I’m at. Can you tell me? . . .”

And the Teacher whispers, “This is what I have been training you for.”

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-37) ESV

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