Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Dead dog lessons
Things are busy here on Westbrook Farms. The Lord has blessed us in many ways but challenges always remain before us. I had the privilege of spending two days at the prison in Fort Stockton. Was asked to speak and the subject was on spiritual fellowship. The scripture suggested by the Kairos guidebook is out of Acts chapter two. In it we find a description of the early church forming immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is fascinating for me to read about how they all gathered together, ate meals at each other’s houses, and considered all their individual possessions as community property. Later we read of how many were selling their property and donating the proceeds to the church. Why did they do this? Why is this attitude so foreign to us in these days? Read what it says in Acts chapter 2, starting at verse 42
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So back to the question, “Why?” It goes to a question I often ask, “Do you really believe?”. There was this sense of awe, coupled with miracles that cannot be denied, magnificent wonders that there was no question about being normally impossible and coming from the God who created all things. For those who believed and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord there was the clear understanding that they now have the gift of eternal life. As Cherie and I read the bible we become increasingly aware of the living life here on earth do. For most of us we live a “lifetime” that is full of heartache, struggle, joys, and pains, and then there is the inevitable and inescapable end, death. We work to pay bills, and some of us gather great riches and belongings.
If someone among us sold all he had and gave it away to the poor, to others who had needs, they would be labeled as a nut and I am sure relatives or others would take them to court and seek to have them declared incompetent to handle their affairs. I remember a teacher in a Sunday school class one time stating that he was glad that God didn’t require Christians to sacrifice in their giving. In fact he seemed to indicate that it was irresponsible for a follower of Christ to do so. This was quite a while back and I remember biting my tongue, holding my thoughts back because I didn’t want to cause controversy.
Jesus is clear in so many ways on this subject. He said to lend and expect nothing in return, told the rich man that if he wanted to be perfect to sell everything he has and give to the poor, and spoke of the Pharisee who gave money with great show and pomp for everyone to see versus the widow who gave only two mites, everything she had. Jesus said "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mathew 6:19-22)
Then in Luke chapter 12 we find Jesus saying “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What we find here, and throughout the scriptures, is this eternal thinking. For us, here on earth, mired with our day to day tasks of survival, it’s hard to do. What I know is that on that final day, that moment when we stand before the living God, the day of judgment we must all face, on that day what we think is important will suddenly change. No longer will getting that nice car matter, no longer will impressing those around us be important, for to God the only thing that is important is what we did for the Kingdom of God. But along with that we will be judged on what we did not do as well. There is a day of accountability, a day of judgment. The commonly preached concept that if you had an emotional experience at some point in your life and “accepted” Jesus as your savior, there is nothing to worry about, is a dangerous and false doctrine.
You see, throughout the scripture we find that we are judged on what we do, on our actions. Paul, who wrote so much of what we find in the new testament, said that he buffets his body and makes it his slave, lest after having preached to so many he himself should be disqualified. It is stated in the bible that in the last days people, desiring to have their ears tickled, will draw to themselves teachers after their own desires, who will tell them what they want to hear. Jesus said there is a broad and easy path, that leads to destruction, and many are on it, but there it is a hard and narrow path that leads to eternal life, and few find it.
We are not judged on what we say we believe, though we will be held accountable for every idle word, but we will all be judged on what we do. In the reality of life, what we really believe is revealed by what we do, with the exception of those who put on a big show to impress others. God judges the heart ultimately. Read the words of Jesus as found in Mathew chapter 25.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Understand this folks, bring it down to your heart. How we treat others, even the least, the one you think so little of, in God’s eyes is how we treat HIM. I feel so sad for those who have despitefully used us, who have had so little good to say regarding me and schemed and gossiped, for they must answer to God. So I pray daily for them, that they may realize what they have done and repent before God, and thus be made whole. They are confident in their religiosity, their self-righteousness, yet are blind to what Jesus thinks regarding it, ignoring the truth they know for it is not convenient for them. Such is the way of self-deceit.
There is so much I want to say, so much on my heart, so many truths that need to be preached, but I don’t want to weary my readers with too much at once. Let me relate what happened in the last two days. I was driving home from getting the mail and as I approached the intersection where our farm is there was a Chihuahua dog running around in the middle of the road. It seemed to have no fear or concept of the danger vehicles posed despite me blowing my horn. I slowed and was careful not to hit it. There was a truck pulled over with a guy who seemed to be rearranging things inside the cab, so I hoped the dog belonged to him and went on. From the house I watched as he drove off and could see that traffic had to slow down and stop so realized that he didn’t take the dog with him. As I plowed later I saw this little dog in the field between our house and where it had been before.
This disturbed me greatly. I knew that this little dog was in great danger, I knew that the odds were against its survival if it remained out there alone. There was the danger of the highway and other dangers as well. Coyotes would make a quick meal of it if they had a chance. I called from the tractor “Here puppy, come here dog” and saw it stop. But it headed back towards the spot I had first seen it. Now I was torn. We have rescued many dogs. Dogs dropped off at the farm or abandoned in other places, but with that has come heartbreak and great sorrow when they were later shot, poisoned, or run over on the highway. There was anger I felt, that someone cared so little for this dog that had obviously not been exposed to the dangers of highways and had probably been a house dog, but their heart was so cold as to abandon it where its odds of survival were so slim.
“Do I go and rescue this dog” I contemplated. “No” was my conclusion as I considered the problems it would cause here at home. Racal was still dealing with the jealousy he has over Duke being in the house and this little Chihuahua would certainly not fit in. Yet there is that part of me that cares for all life I had to struggle with so I hardened my heart and didn’t go get the stray. It bothered me all night. When I headed to town the next day, sure enough, there was the mangled remains of this little dog, run over where it was crossing the highway onto our farm.
It broke my heart but spoke to me as well. There is a lesson here I need to take to heart, and a lesson for all of us as well. Remember that scripture I used a few paragraphs up? The one where Jesus says “I was hungry, and you did not feed me, naked and you did not give me clothes”? This little dog represents all those people out here in our lives, who do not know God. Just as that little dog was lost and in danger of losing its life, so are so many around us. I knew that without help that dog was doomed, but I hardened my heart and did nothing about it. Now it is too late to do anything. The dog is dead. Done. Gone.
Understand how God, who so loves the world that He gave is only son to die, so that we may have life, feels regarding all these people we meet. I bear responsibility for not saving that dog. Oh, you, and I, can rationalize that away and make it OK, make excuses why it was not our responsibility, but the reality was I was the one who knew the dog was there and I was the one who did not want to make the small personal sacrifice to go and pick it up, to save it from death. How much more will God hold us responsible for the lives around us. Think about it. Go and read that scripture again and understand God’s heart and will. The early church was committed to helping each other out, committed to feeding the poor and mostly loving others as God loves us. At the prison this weekend I several times said “We are the only Jesus people here can ever see” for anyone who is a true believer understands that God desires we work to do His will, to bring life and save the lost from the certain death that comes without God.
Pray with us, that God meets our needs. Cherie’s teeth are continuing to get worse. To get all of them pulled would cost a bundle and then she would need dentures, to get them fixed is astronomical, and not something we can come close to being able to pay for. She was in great pain yesterday so I would greatly appreciate your prayers. Also pray that God makes a way for me to start a bible study here in town, for there is great need among those considered less desirable by some.
I have a widow to cut wood for and a 1929 Ford truck to work on today. Time to get moving. Remember, God is, and God loves each and every one of you.