Start a Conversation with a Stupid Question

“And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?” (Luke 24:17)

Have you ever wanted to start a conversation but didn’t want to look ridiculous or stupid? I know I have.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus started the conversation with a ridiculous sounding question. It prompted Cleopas to ask, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” Jesus followed up with, “What things?”. If Jesus can ask ridiculous questions to start a conversation, so can we!

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God’s Keys: the Privilege of Infirmity

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9)

No doubt, his parents waited expectantly for their baby’s first sign of sight. At a month, a baby usually can focus on your face, and within six to eight months he can see the world almost as well as you. Probably his parents were still waiting after a month and hoping after eight months. But by and by, coping must have replaced hoping. This baby would never laugh at his mother’s smile. This boy would never play with friends. This adolescent would enter adulthood blind to the brilliance of a sunrise or the entrancing gaze of a sweetheart.

He is introduced in the narrative when Jesus saw him, a man blind from birth. The disciples asked, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said no one had sinned “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Did you get that? God withheld sight from this baby, this boy, this man, until adulthood so He could give it back in a personal and extraordinary way. God withheld sight to get glory.

This man might have lived and died an ordinary life, instead God made him a case study, a demonstration to the world of His almighty healing power. To this man, personal fringe benefits included having his story published in the pages of scripture, personal contacts with Jesus (at least two), and the gift of belief in Jesus. Yet, these benefits are only fringe compared to the purpose that Christ mentioned, “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” This man was privileged to be a key in God’s hand. A key that would authenticate the Almighty Himself into the hearts of men. In this case, God kept the gift of sight for 40 years, or until adulthood, in order to give it. For His own glory, God kept to give.

If God can glorify himself by keeping to give, He can also glorify Himself by giving to take. With his “thorn in the flesh”, Paul the Apostle must have had a weakness or condition which he asked God three times to take away. He received this final answer, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” God is one of those who already has everything. Yet God just told Paul “…my strength is made perfect in weakness”, as if God needs our weakness to perfect his own strength.

Job was a man who had much, and lost much. From the depths of his loss, he said “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” The next verse says, ” In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Paul said, upon receiving his final answer, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Which is better, to live and die an ordinary and trouble-free life? or, in weakness and adversity, to perfect God’s own incalculable strength, to be a key giving God access to the locked heart of mankind?

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Why Do You Go to Church?

Some go to church to take a walk, some go there to laugh and talk,
Some go there to meet a friend, some go there their time to spend,
Some go there to meet a lover, some go there a fault to cover,
Some go there for speculation, some go there for observation,
Some go there to doze and nod— the good go there to Worship GOD

The New Zealand Evangelist, Vol. 2, no. 13 (1 July 1849) Why Do You Go
to Church? — by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Of the reasons in this list, some are interesting; some are good. To meet a lover is a good reason. After all, what is a better place than church? Of all these rhyming reasons, it is the final reason, to worship God, which echoes in the silence. To worship God represents our Christian intuition. To worship God is the duty and privilege to which our collective conscience binds us.

Yet, to worship God is not the reason of scripture. There is one reason, and only one reason, which bears mention in the pages of scripture. The reason of scripture did not make the list. In Hebrews 10 it is written: …let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

It has been said, “When I attend church I get nothing from it. I feel closer to God in the forest or the desert”. True perhaps, but a feeling of closeness to God is no prerequisite. The passage commands our meeting for mutual exhorting and provoking, an entirely horizontal purpose between man and man. From the passage, the purpose is to give and not only get, to participate and not only observe, to serve and not only feel.

While we laugh, talk, love, and worship God, let us remember the command of scripture, to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…exhorting one another”. Let each of us move from casual observer to intentional participant.

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The Ultimate Gift

Solomon had a once-in-a-lifetime chance; God himself did the asking. God said, “Ask what I shall give thee”. When Solomon asked for the right gift, God gave him everything.

Wisdom was that gift. Wisdom delivers from evil men. Wisdom is life to the soul, better than gold, sweet like honey, and the principal thing. Wisdom is the tool God used to create the earth. Wisdom is like a flowing brook. It is soothing, refreshing, transfixing. It is art. It is music.

Yet, there is a gift better than power, better than honor, better than wealth, better than wisdom, better than Jesus’ personal presence — the gift of God’s own spirit. Jesus said “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” I can’t describe the Holy Spirit, but I can see what he’s done. We need not look beyond the lives of Elisha, Jesus, Peter, Stephen, and Paul to see the Holy Spirit give comfort in pain, contentment in poverty, unselfishness in wealth, expectation in disappointment, meekness in honor, strength in weakness, courage in fear, purpose in vanity, security in adversity, power in death, heaven on earth, certainty of eternity.

God is eager to give certain gifts to certain people. God eagerly gave wisdom to Solomon. Today he is eager to give the Holy Spirit to us who ask.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)

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Building (Poem)

I watched them tearing a building down–
A gang of men in a busy town–
With a yo-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman: “Are these men skilled–
The kind you would hire if you wanted to build?”
He laughed and said: “Why, no indeed,
Just common labour is all I need:
They can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”

I asked myself, as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried today?
Am I a builder, who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square,
Shaping my deeds by the well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labour of tearing down?

— Author unknown

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Good Gifts

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Scott was owner and sole proprietor of Scott’s A/C in Coolidge Arizona. He was preoccupied, gruff, smelled of cigarette smoke, and seldom paused to look you in the eye. Scott owned a crane to lift roof-mounted air conditioning units into place. I needed to lift a 375lbs air conditioner onto a roof. While the going rate of $150 for crane service did not break the bank, I hoped Scott would lift my equipment at the discounted price of $100, or maybe even $75. After all, my project was mere blocks from his business. I used my best attempt at persuasion, pointing out the closeness of the project, the ease of access, and the single-story simplicity. Scott refused to do my lift for any price, citing the cost of liability insurance and the risk of accidents. As a last ditch effort in persuasion, I suggested he allow me to borrow his crane, so he wouldn’t need to worry about liability. This idea got his attention; he glanced away from his work and looked me in the eye just long enough to simply refer me to Wilson Crane Service, saying they would treat me well.

Ten months later, I hoped Scott would bend my flat sheet metal into a custom flashing. In the past, he had done this for an unbeatable price. This time, instead, he exclaimed, “There’s the brake!”

A sheet metal brake is a hand tool which could almost be called a machine. Scott’s break stands about four feet tall, ten feet wide, and looks to weigh a little over 2,000lbs. Yet this shop tool is operated by hand. Leverage and counter weight allows the force of an average bicep to smoothly and precisely bend metal up to eight feet long. For the first time, I was holding my metal and looking a real shop brake in the face. The brake seemed to sprout control rods, counter weights and levers like a porcupine. With care, I figured out how use the brake and make my flashing. While it took more than twice the time that Scott would have taken, I left that day with not just the flashing but with the satisfaction of learning myself to use the tool.

image: crane accidentSatisfaction turned to consideration as I realized God often responds as Scott did. While our request may get God’s attention, he might simply tell us to go do something else. Perhaps he’s simply protecting us from a mistake like this. He’ll remember your desire, and later on, he’ll give you a less risky but equally satisfying assignment.

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)

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A Happier You

Practical Happiness: A Young Man’s Guide to a Contented Life. Bob Schultz. Eugene, OR: Great Expectations Book Co, 2008 223 pp.

Can you name one dozen reasons to be happy? In Practical Happiness, Bob Schultz gives three dozen compelling reasons to get out of the emotional doldrums and into the trade winds of productive living. From Solomon, to Aesop, to Schultz, lessons stick when taught as bite-sized stories.

Schultz was husband of one, father of three, laborer, employer, contractor, coach, but ever a student. Bob spent 40 years observing people and cataloged his observations in 57 journals. For fifteen years, Bob seriously observed the things that make men happy. For your convenience, the highlights of fifteen years have been condensed into 36 short chapters. Like Solomon, Schultz drew great lessons even from bad experiences. Like Aesop, he relates each lesson simply and directly.

The back cover summarizes it well, “True happiness is not found in money, power, or fame. It is a precious gift from God, available to all who learn to hear His voice and obey His call.” True happiness is found in your attitude and response to life – especially during the trying times.

Solomon writes from the pinnacle of success, Aesop from the station of slave, and Schultz from the position of “Everyman”. His target audience, “everyman”, is neither at the top, nor on the bottom, but is the vast majority of us somewhere in between. Schultz does not hold happiness out as a distant goal to be reached after prerequisites are met, instead he makes happiness a present responsibility.

This title helped me, a young man who looks forward to serving a wife and raising children, to realize my role in setting the atmosphere for my home. Not only is intentional happiness a duty, it is a privilege and a ministry. Each short chapter begins with a gem of a quote and concludes with an appropriate bible verse and discussion questions. Schultz’s bold inclusions of lessons from his own shortcomings gives a decidedly self-deprecating tone which is both heart-warming and convincing. Practical Happiness, the third Bob Schultz book, follows Boyhood and Beyond and Created for Work. Throughout his writing, Bob pulls insights from sources as diverse as a spider’s web, a marauding bobcat, comments of the Apostle Paul, and contemporary psychology together into a cohesive and credible lesson.

In Practical Happiness, I found fresh and lasting inspiration to be diligent, take responsibility, and practice contentment. You will too.

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