Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lesson of the Three Servants cont...

The third and last servant was Onesimus, or the “non-believer working for a believer”.

Here is a servant, a non-believer, who is working in the household of a Christian. Although the name Onesimus means useful he is the opposite of his name. Onesimus is quite useless! He doesn’t do his tasks with skill or dependability, he steals and he plots.

Whatever Christianity he is exposed to at his master’s house seems to have no impact on his life. Eventually he executes his escape and flees to freedom – a path that coincidently leads him to Paul. We don’t know how he first heard Paul speak. Since this is around the time of Paul’s house arrest, it is possible Onesimus simply got curious about a crowd gathered at an open window and joined in to listen.

The result of listening to Paul’s message about Jesus is that Onesimus becomes a Christian himself. What a transformation! He did not simply have an intellectual assent to the Message, Onesimus experienced a total life altering transformation. Paul describes him as virtually a “son” so complete was Onesimus’ love and care for others, especially Paul.

But the time came when Onesimus shared about his old life and Paul recognized the name of Onesimus’ master, Philemon! One of many converts of Paul himself. The choice was clear. The transformation of Christ in a life is not for cover-up or simple escape from the past. No, it is for power to confront the consequences of wrong actions taken and the initiation of setting right old wrongs to clear the path of the new creation's purpose.

This must have been a hard journey for Onesimus to take, doubtlessly made no lighter even by the letter in his pocket. Yes, Onesimus carried a letter from Paul himself addressed to Philemon. Paul beseeched Philemon to receive back Onesimus as a brother in Christ, a “useful” servant, even to the point of personally promising to pay back all that was stolen by Onesimus in the past. But the truth is Philemon was legally able to put Onesimus to death because of his escape. He would have been within his rights to do so and Onesimus was aware of this. Risking his very life Onesimus returned, a changed transformed man, to his former master.

The letter leaves us here to speculate on the result. Historical evidence tells us that Onesimus was not put to death by his old master. In fact it is said that Onesimus was eventually stoned for his faith – giving his life for the very Message that so radically transformed him.

So what are the keys to the attributes making up Onesimus’ character?

Before Christ:

Attributes: Unreliable – self-centered - thief – resentful - useless

After Christ:
Servant of Paul

Attributes: Reliable – giving – thankful – humble – useful!

These Lessons of the Three Servants are provided in the Bible for our benefit, insight, and personal challenge.

We all serve someone.

The question is:

“Who do you serve?” & “What kind of servant are you?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lesson of Three Servants part 2

Last Sunday I spoke about the Lesson of the Three Servants.

Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve!”

In the Books of 2 Kings ch 5. We get a glimpse of two very different servants.

The second servant was Gehazi, or the “believer working for a believer”.

Gehazi was the servant of Elisha the prophet. He represented outwardly the faithful servant – putting on a show both for his master and others. He was an Israelite so he knew about the Living God. Gehazi had witnessed the power of God through Elisha.

But in this passage in 2 Kings we see Gehazi’s reaction to his master refusing the incredible riches offered to him by Naaman after he received his cure from Leprosy.

Gehazi was incredulous! To just say no to so much wealth was unthinkable to him. He immediately hatched a plan to gain some of the riches for himself without his master ever knowing.

Of course Gehazi’s concept of God was fatally flawed. Sure he understood God’s vast, incredible power but he was completely unfamiliar with God’s intimacy with His creation. The smallest detail of your life God is cognizant of – not as some would have us believe – to pounce on us or keep a running tally of wrongs, but to take every opportunity to be involved in our lives upon the faintest invitation on our part (Joel 2:32).

Gehazi was completely caught off guard when upon returning from his errand of mischief, Elisha gives him one chance to confess his misdeeds. Then Elisha demonstrates God’s power to Gehazi in providing one more thing from Naaman – his Leprosy!

So what are the keys to the attributes making up Gehazi’s character? As we look at these keep in mind it is a believer we are describing, not just some idol worshiper, atheist or agnostic.

1. Two faced – Gehazi was looking out for himself while representing that he was only concerned with fulfilling Elisha’s wishes.
2. Liar – Gehazi lied to both his master, a believer, but also to Naaman who had become a new believer by that time!
3. Materialistic – Gehazi did not go after the treasure of Naaman to enrich his master. By hiding the booty and returning to Elisha as if nothing happened, he showed his only concern was selfish in nature.
4. Ignorant of who God is – Gehazi knew about the Creator God. He knew God was more powerful than any idol. Gehazi knew Elisha was the prophet of this Living God but somehow compartmentalized this awareness to “God is concerned about great issues and people of status but not aware or concerned with me”.

The ache of my heart is that this servant is a believer! This servant is in the church! This servant may be sitting next to you on Sunday! Two faced, deceitful, a liar, materialistic, “having a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof!” (2 Tim.3:5).

Tomorrow we will look at the last example of a servant from the New Testament – the non-believer working for a believer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Lesson of Three Servants part 1

Last Sunday I spoke about the Lesson of the Three Servants.

Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve!”

The question is what kind of servant are we? Whether we are a believer or non-believer we are all servants of someone
In the Books of 2 Kings ch 5. We get a glimpse of two very different servants.

The first servant is a believer working for a non- believer.

When I get to heaven, this is one of the first persons I want to find. She was a girl captured on one of the Syrian raids of Israel. We don’t know whether her parents also were taken, killed or still living in Israel. What we do know is she was taken to a foreign country against her will and forced to work in the household of the commander (Naaman) of the forces that attacked her homeland. She is in this position when she overhears her mistress lamenting about her husband’s diagnosis of Leprosy.

Her response is one of the most amazing I have ever witnessed. Most of us in the same position would be filled with joy - even vindication at this news. Leprosy! Yes! If anyone deserved it Naaman does! Take that for attacking my country, destroying my family and making me your prisoner! May your body parts drop one by one in front of your eyes!

But no, she does not rejoice. In fact she is greatly distressed for her “master”. Her response is to tell her mistress – not merely how sorry she is – but how Naaman can be healed of this terrible curse!

Incredible! We know so little about her, yet these few sentences tell us just enough to be astounded by the richness of her character. Why? Naaman goes immediately to the King of Syria and tells him with all confidence the solution this servant girl has offered. Why would he do this? His response gives us the key to her character, her attributes.

1. Reliability- She has apparently always been dependable with every task she has been given.
2. Truthfulness She was not one to either exaggerate, lie or mix truth with fantasy.
3. Compassion She was genuinely concerned and grieved with the plight of her master.
4. Forgiveness She held no grudge or secret desire for revenge, but instead freely forgave the wrong that was done to her by living her life continuing to follow the teachings she had as a child to love and honor God even in this circumstance of servitude to a known enemy!

Tomorrow we will look at the next example of a servant.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


• Open your heart for God to touch it.
• Let Him bond your heart with His.
• Evaluate what you can do but don’t be limited by your resources.
• Share the “vision” by giving others an opportunity to experience it through a physical and emotional encounter.

Believe The Impossible

Every great achievement was once impossible until someone set a goal to make it a reality.

Lewis Carroll's famous masterpiece Through the Looking Glass contains a story that exemplifies the need to dream the impossible dream. There is a conversation between Alice and the queen, which goes like this:

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

When you dare to dream, many marvels can be accomplished. The trouble is, most people never start dreaming their impossible dream.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What a summer!

One look at my tires shows we have covered thousands of miles this summer. We did more than 70 sessions for kids at churches and camps. Here are some photos of our summer memories.

Another new venture for me this summer was started by one of the youth who sent me an sms "You need to be on FACEBOOK"
"Well, here goes," I thought.

It was really a God idea.

The responses have been incredible and are still coming in everyday. For example here are a few:

A girl who is a Law school grad "I was thinking today about how much I loved getting hugs from you as a kid. What wonderful memories!"

A young man in Australia "G'day Rainbow!"

A young youth pastor's wife in California "we're friends on facebook!!!! i'm so excited! how are you auntie sue? have i ever told you that you inspired me to work with kids?"

Michael, a pastors kid who is now a youth leader wrote on his Facebook: This is a great ministry, touching thousands of Kids and adults in different countries, every year, with the saving power of Jesus Christ! If you haven't joined this cause yet, I only have three words for you, JOIN!! JOIN!! JOIN!!

Each day I am hearing from youth and young adults around the world who's lives have been touched for Christ through this ministry. The technology of today is also the avenue for uniting Christians like never before. One teen I first met in Cambodia as a missionaries kid now describes himself "I'm livin' like a Jesus Freak!"

Whether it's for prayer requests - praise reports - or building relationships, the "information technology revolution" is being used by God for His purposes too!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Late Spring!

When I flew into Seattle the first of May I was able to see a rare sight. The daffodils that I planted several years ago always bloom and die before I return from Australia. This year was the exception. I arrived at my condo to find not the usual brown dead remnants of flowers but the bright yellow topped stalks themselves in full bloom!

Summer Ministries

Next week starts the 2008 USA summer ministry schedule. We will be at Mountain Kids Camp just outside Idaho City, Idaho. This is an old west town complete with a main street boardwalk, quaint stores, a cemetery for the 1800's and no cell phone reception. It's located about 40 minutes from Boise the capital of Idaho. Mountain Kids Camp is a day camp which starts Monday. Carolyn arrives in Boise at 10:30 that night so she misses the first day of camp. Pray she gets some rest on her long flight to the states. Pray for the kids attending to receive a touch of God's love in their hearts.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Snoqualmie Snow

Family Pancake House

Snoqualmie Summit
Snoqualmie Pass

Sue has wrapped up her missions work in Asia and Australia for this year and has returned to the United States to begin her engagements here. I received a text from Sue today and it reads:

I got back to Seattle Wednesday night. My sister, DeAnn, flew over Thursday to help me drive back to Boise to see our parents. We were amazed at the snow pack still on the pass, twelve foot!

Welcome home Sue and safe travels.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

I checked my mobile phone this morning and was pleased to see I’d received a text message from Sue with her latest update. In her text, Sue writes:

Our puppet stage being set for the Melbourne city outreach at Reach Community Church. Larry and Sue do a take off of the game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grade.

Sue and Larry, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe you’ll do it when you’re in States, please?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Touring Tooradin and Jannali

The Jones' are a wonderful couple that make it a point of blessing Sue and Carolyn. They will periodically plan secret adventures for Sue and Carolyn to provide rest and relaxation for them after they have been out on one of their mission trips.

I received a text from Sue in which she writes:

[The] Jones' stopped to feed us fish and chips @ Tooradin {more} on our mystery tour. This is our "Cannon Beach" sand competition at Tooradin Beach, Victoria.

In her second text she writes:

The B&B they took us to is [in] Janalli {more}. Graeme and Angela gave us cryptic clues months before the trip. As we were traveling we passed the Robin [Hood] Motel (our first clue from Graeme and Angela was Robin Hood and Maid Marion) and our room was decorated oriental style (Our second clue had been Japanese) and the 10 acres of gardens were apparently the reference of the clue Sir Joseph Banks (the botanist)!

We pray that the Lord will give Sue and Carolyn a time of refreshment and rest.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cambodian Children’s Church

Sue’s been good enough to provide an update for all of us. I was so pleased to hear from her. As we learned in Sue’s last text message, Carolyn and she are in Cambodia. Sunday morning Sue and Carolyn conducted a rooftop Children’s Church.

In her text, Sue writes, “They have a great team and eager kids!”

As I looked at the photo Sue sent, I am struck by the broad smiles and joy on the children’s faces. Clearly Christ’s love and the happiness he brings transcend the barriers of culture, geography, and language. We are thankful to Christ for his empowering Spirit and for the work he is enabling Sue and Carolyn to do.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day From Beautiful Cambodia

Sue and Carolyn were in a place where they were able to send a photo and a text to let us know how their missionary trip is fairing thus far. Sue’s text states:

Last week we did a seminar in 160 Bangkok for children’s workers. Now we are in Cambodia at Siem Reap for two days before starting the ministry time in Phnom Penn. Incredible history in this country.

Intrigued with the photo and message Sue sent, I didn’t a little on-line search to learn more about the region Sue is visiting.

Siem Reap English translation is Defeat of Siam. Siem Reap is the capital of the Siam Reap Province. The area was settled in 802. Once a small village, Siem Reap is growing rapidly as the gateway to the Angkor temples, a big tourist attraction. The town is clustered along the banks of the Siem Reap River.

Although Sue doesn’t state the name of the buildings in her photo, the buildings shown in her photo resemble the monastic complex of Ta Prohm. The Ta Prohm monastery was Buddhist and was the monastery for 3000+ villages.

What a beautiful place, thanks to Sue for sharing her photo & information with us. May God bless Sue and Carolyn.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Update: A Boy And His Zebra

Sue and Carolyn continue their missionary journey in Thailand. Sue was able to send the following multi-media text and photo:

Yim and the lil' Zebra bond. It was lovely to spend the day with the child I sponsor.

After their visit with the Compassion children they sponsor, Sue and Carolyn will be heading back to Bangkok where they will minister at a local church. On Monday, they’ll be traveling to Cambodia. We’re praying for safe a journey for both Sue and Carolyn.

UPDATE: Click here to learn more about Compassion International

Saturday, February 02, 2008

There's a Zebra In My Bag

As most of may know, Carpenter’s Cross Ministries typically begins the year ministering in Australia and many nations in Asia. Sue’s missionary journey started in Australia and she’s now winging her way to Thailand. In the text message, accompanying this photo Sue writes:

He’s a little worried about flying, but excited about meeting Yim (My Compassion Child).

We pray that Sue and Carolyn’s journey will be safe and the Lord will use them to greatly bless his children.

Friday, January 11, 2008


When you are tempted to hold on to wrongs and offenses remember what a southern preacher once said: "Son, just because you CAN whip a skunk doesn't mean you'd want to."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Walking on Water

I have a Matryoshka Doll (or nesting doll). I got it in Belarus. It is a doll in a doll in a doll etc. Each internal doll is an exact duplicate of the outside one. As I was looking at it a few weeks back I was thinking about my walk with the Lord.

The Bible talks about our created purpose to be filled with the Spirit of God, to show His life to others – to reflect more of Christ and less of us. That’s an interesting concept “to be filled with His Spirit”. Joshua was described as ‘filled with the Spirit” because Moses had laid his hands on him (Deut. 34:9). Joshua was amazing in all that he accomplished with God. John the Baptist on the other hand was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). He was used by the Spirit of God to prepare hearts for the Messiah. Peter being filled with the Spirit (Act 4:8-13) astonished the people who heard him speak because of the power and anointing of God. Paul was described as “filled with the Spirit” as he exposed Elymas deceptions and pronounced the same judgment he himself experienced – that of temporary blindness (Acts 13:8-12).

I find this nesting doll interesting because inside it is filled with itself. When I shake it there is little noise because it is completely filled. When we ask God to fill us I wonder how much room we give Him? He works on our hearts as we allow removing jealousy, anger, worry, guilt, deceit, fear, rebellion, gossip, self-absorption, offense etc. And like the doll image within an image we start to notice as we downsize internally, there is indeed more room for the Spirit of God in us.

Why is it so important to be filled with the Spirit? I think the answer is obvious – to walk on water! I love the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus went apart to pray after sending his disciples ahead of him in the boat. That night in the midst of a storm, they see him walking on water. Peter calls out “If it’s you Lord, tell me to come to you.” or in other words tell me how to get to you. So Jesus says “come”. Peter steps out and begans walking on the water but when he sees the wind he becomes afraid and begins to sink.

Peter lets the storm fill him. You cannot walk on water when you are filled with the storm. Jesus walked on water being filled with the Spirit! Peter then cries out “Lord save me”. Peter suddenly realizes we cannot “get to God”. God has to “get to us”. He has to do the filling. He has to do the transforming as we give Him permission.

But where does it stop? How much is God satisfied with? My nesting doll always amazes kids and adults as I take it apart. It doesn’t hold just three or four or five figures but again and again I keep opening it finding more – each figure smaller than the last.

In His presence God keeps challenging us to give up more of our old nature, the self-centered, self-concerned, self-justifying, self-gratifying part of our heart. When I start to get down to the seventh or eighth doll I can place them back in the original doll and hear the rattle as I shake it. Now there is so much room, so much space.

So we walk with the Lord and some days we give Him more to work with than others. We mature spiritually and we can see the progress, sense that the Spirit of God is greater in our hearts today than five or ten years ago. But whether we are fifteen or fifty there is still more of our attitude that needs changing, more compassion of Christ, more thankfulness of spirit to develop, more joy, peace, more awareness of His presence than ours.

When I get down to the 9th doll, it looks so tiny. Surely it must be finished at last but no. There is another, even smaller exact replica of the first, hiding within. So I realize at last that there will always be, until my final breath, more of my heart Christ wishes to occupy. And I will gladly yield it for the opportunity like Peter, to “walk on water”.