Saturday, March 18, 2006

Lost and Found - Chapter 2

Not long ago, when I was teaching, one of my student's brought me a box of his treasured collection of coins. He had coins and notes from many different parts of the world. I could see that this collection was very special to him, and in his case, I have no doubt that if one of those coins went missing, he too would search thoroughly in case it had fallen out of his box. I'm sure Sean could easily identify with the woman in this parable.

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says "Rejoice with me; I've found my lost coin." In the same way, I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Verses 8 -10)

Again, we see that the item that was lost was of value to the one who lost it. We live in a world of put downs. We live in a world that pays lip-service to equal rights for all. It is a world that wants to conform us to its image of beauty, value, or success. It's a hard world, we are told and you either have to "get with the system" or you will be brushed aside. If you want to be successful in life, we are told, you have to do things in a certain way (the non-God honouring way), you have to get one over your colleague, you have to lie, to cheat, or steal, and even kill if necessary - yes if you get get caught - you will face the full wrath of the law, but the trick is not to be caught, but if you are then, if you are wealthy, you can pay a lawyer to lie and to manipulate the law to get the outcome that you want.

Friends there is a day coming when everything that is done in secret, will be made plain and every unconfessed or secret sin will be brought into the light of day - exposed for all to see. But there is a better way friends, that is the way of repentance.

You see the world measures us according to our performance - and ascribes a value to us accordingly. But God is the one who made you, and he is the one who placed a value on us. Think about a coin. How do you know what value a coin has - it's easy - what does it say? - $1. 50p. R5.00 It's stamped on the coin at the time that it is minted, and whether the coin is shining new, or twenty years old, it maintains its value. God has stamped His image on you, and you have a value to him. Yes, you may fall and get mixed up in the dirt to the extent that it is hard to see you in the dust. But you are still worth a great deal to God and He will keep looking until He finds you. Like Sean's collection of coins, we can tell not only what the face value of the coin is, but also its country of origin. Friend you are a person of great worth - the Bible says that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps 139:14) Not only did our Lord make us with such great care, but he made us with a clear purpose in mind. Jer 29:11 says: "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, " plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Has someone ever said to you or implied that you were "an accident" or the result of an unplanned pregnancy. I want you to know that no matter how much of a surprise you were to your parents, your birth was no accident. God created you deliberately and he has placed a great value on your life.

Let us think about what the woman does to find her coin. She lights a lamp. In Psalm 119:105 - it says "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. " It may be that there are issues in your life that need closer examining - Bring the light of God's Word to the subject and you'll be amazed at what He brings to light. If you are dealing with an area of temptation, go to the Scriptures - Jesus did each time he was tempted by Satan, He said, "It is written." Where is it written, - In the Scriptures. The light of God's Word will reveal two things:
1) Where you (the coin that is lost) are.
2) Your true value.
The woman also swept the house. Maybe Jesus needs to do some sweeping in your life. Maybe there is so much mess in there that it is obscuring your true value - nobody can see God's image that is engraved into you. Just like the woman, Jesus is willing to sweep your house clean. You can't do it. But He can, and He will if you let him.
I really feel that I need to stress that you do not derive your value from the things you do, but that value comes because You were created in God's likeness- His image is on the coin that is you. That image is on every coin that is minted (Every person who is created, regardless of their religion or background bears the image of God - from the moment of conception, but every coin is different.) You are different to everybody else that exists. You may want looks like the person you idolise, but that is to deny your own individual value. This has two lesson for us:

1) You are valuable and special to God and He has created you for a special purpose.

2) Everyone you know know and those you don't know as well all bear God's image and are wonderfully and fearfully made for a certain purpose. Now the exterior may look a little less value, but in God's eyes - everyone has a special role and we must not underestimate how God can use people who seem to be less capable than we are.

I have a friend called Joy, and she has Down's Syndrome, and yet she has taught me many a lesson in the Spirit, through her love and simple faith in Christ.

It's possible friend that you have felt lost. You feel that you are not wanted, tossed aside like some insignificant coin that when it falls to the ground the owner doesn't even notice. You might feel that like that lost coin lying in the dust or in the street, people walk all over you, and take you for granted. It is possible my friend, that many of the people you see each day, and the people you work with, don't even know your name. And yet the truth is, God not only knows your name, but he knows everything about you, every experience you have had, has not gone unnoticed, and God wants you for His own. He will pick you, wash you and display with pride. He says "This is my treasured possession." "I love her" "I love him."

The Lord says in Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to me and I will answer and tell you great and unsearcheable thing you do not know."
Are you lost? Call on the Lord. He has promised that he will answer you.

Have a great week! "Stay tuned" for the next exciting chapter of "Lost and Found!"

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Let's return now to the Bible, and look at the theme of LOST and FOUND. Luke 15 has three parables that Jesus told.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Parable of the Lost Coin

The Parable of the Lost Son (also known as "The Prodigal Son").

First let's read the introduction, which gives us the context:

Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathered around to hear Him (Jesus.) But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Verses 1 -2)

In First century Palestine, tax-collectors were people contracted by the Romans to collect taxes from the inhabitants, and from then until now, it has not been a dearly loved profession. There was some reason for the Pharisee's disdain of tax-collectors as they were notoriously corrupt, taking more than they were due, from their own people (tax-collectors were themselves Jewish). Those referred to as Sinners - well I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect that at least in the eyes of the puritanical Pharisees, they were people of questionable morals. The Pharisees had a severe case of superiority complex. They were generally accepted as taking the Law of God very seriously indeed and would not associate with "known sinners" at all. They looked down their noses at such people. The thing is about the Pharisees, was that they were blind to their own faults. Jesus had a different approach.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, "Rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent. (Verses 3 -7)

The meaning of this parable is plain, but I would draw attention to one or two things that I feel are significant.

  1. Every sheep is important - the man was aware that the sheep was missing - he kept count. Not only that but when one went missing even though he had ninety nine others - he went looking for the one. To own 100 sheep, I think, was something only wealthy people could afford. No-doubt at some point lambing season would come around and many little lambs would be born. But still this man was concerned about the ONE sheep. You may be reading this today, and you may feel, that you are not very important, that nobody cares about you and that no-one would notice if you were gone. You may be a young person thinking about running away from home. You may be thinking of trying to kill yourself. Friend, if that's you - Your heavenly Father wants you to know that He loves you and YOU ARE SPECIAL to Him. There is no-one else in this whole entire world who is like you. You have special qualities, and God made you the way you are, and He accepts you, the way you are. Yes, you may have blown it but nevertheless, God will come after you. He wants to put you on His shoulders and take you home. You can fight it, but I'd suggest you let him do that.
  2. "until he finds it" - God will persist until he finds you - though in fact, he never "lost you" in the sense of not knowing where you are, but you are/were not where you needed to be, spiritually speaking. I think again about my experience in the forest. God spoke to me and I responded and then He took me back to safety. Today God uses different ways of rescuing his lost sheep. He sometimes has them encounter a Christian who is willing to share the Gospel with them, sometimes through a radio broadcast or a TV programme that they happen to be listening to, and I suppose it may be through a Christian blog or website that people are confronted with the Word of God. There is many a testimony of a Gideon Bible in a hotel room, or gospel tract, found "lying around" that has stopped someone in their tracks.

God has not given up on you friend - don't give up on yourself. You, like that little boy in the forest, may not be aware that you are lost, or that you are in any particular danger - but you are, if you have wondered away from God. The Bible says that the devil, like a lion prowls around seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) You may be walking down a street called "Experimentation with drugs," or "Internet Avenue", and be captivated by what you see in the shop windows, but beware my friend, these are very misleading and dangerous. You may have got snared by abuse (somebody else abusing you sexually, verbally or physically), and need help to get away. Reach out - tell someone what's going on and get help. The help is there friend. If you are a child or a teen there is a childline in most countries where you can phone or drop in and receive counselling. Don't hesitate to use these services. Don't accept the guilt trip that the abuser wants to lay on you.

As I write this, the words of Sunday school song I learnt when I was little come to mind:

We've got a great big
wonderful God, We've got a great big wonderful God

A God who is always watching over
, always.... A Great big worderful God

He never, never leaves us,
always standing by

to pick us up when we stumble,

we're in the apple of His

That song is so true - We're in the Apple of His eye, and He is standing by to pick us up when we stumble - the does say WHEN and not IF - We will stumble, that's for sure, but God will pick us up.

I'm sure the sheep that was lost didn't look around and say to itself, "Oh I wonder where everyone else went, I must be lost..." No - lost sheep would have just continued to walk and graze, walk and graze, it seemed to be familiar territory - but it wasn't; we lost sheep had wandered away from the flock. You may think you're not lost, you may even say you know exactly where you are, and that you are quite happy and content. You may be regularly attending a place of worship, but you are not in touch with the Lord - you have wandered away from the truth. You no longer read the Bible as you used to. Friend, it is possible to be lost and not be aware that you are lost. Turn around and look for your Saviour Jesus Christ, if you can't "see" him, you are lost. The great news is that you don't have to stay lost. Repent of your sin, and then you will be found.

I interrupt this meditation to bring a News Break - A Good News Break - this morning (Sunday) at Church God had a theme at the service I attended. It started out with the leader of the service sharing a message for those who were feeling inadequate, and that was that God was saying "you are special" - and then the Youth brought a skit, re-enacting the parable of the Ungrateful servant, who although He was forgiven much refused to forgive his fellow servant the little that he owed him. Then the word was preached and the text 2 Cor 10:3 -5 was about how to demolish strongholds - but coming through everything was that we need to remember who we are in Christ, that we are more than conquerors. I sense that God is saying something along the same line with my sharing on the lost sheep.

We are all valuable to God - yes we come with our baggage, our past hurts, our sins, our inadequacies, our weaknesses, and the Lord says to us as we enter through His gate, "You can leave all of that right here, all of it is taken care of. Take off your dirty shoes and walk barefoot on the grass."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Themes Continued

Hello Friends,

I have just finished writing this week's blog and it is the longest without doubt. Almost 5000 words. But don't lost heart friends, I intend to "chapterise" it and over the next few days send out a chapter at a time so you can think about each bit on its own. This email will contain the introduction Then every three days, i will post one of the chapters (There are three) until you have the whole blog.

With this blog, I encourage you to share it with your friends. I really sensed the Lord was speaking to people through this and so feel free to share it with as many friends as you like. Friends, please don't feel that I am getting at you if this blog gets a bit personal - I have sent this email out to a lot of people, and I trust that what i have written was what the Lord laid on my heart for me to write. If it touches a nerve, talk to the Lord about it.


YOur friend and brother in the Lord,


Dear Friends,
Last week I wrote about Themes. From an educationalist perspective, the use of themes in education are a useful tool. So from time to time a school may decide on a specific theme and the various teachers in the school work to tie in the various lesson to fit with the "the theme" whatever that may be. Themes can be a useful technique to aid learning. Some themes impose themselves on the system, for instance, "The Olympics" when these are going on is a favourite theme. After big events, and at the anniversary of a big event a natural teaching can emerge. Last year, 2005, being the sixtieth Anniversary of the end of WWII, had a lot of historical themes. Then there are Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Valentine's Day themes.
But, I don't think it was just a good educational idea, but the Lord Himself, teaches using themes. Look at Luke 15 - three stories - with a common theme - being lost and found. What's the theme in John 15? "I am the vine, and you are the branches." Yes the Lord taught, sometimes according to a theme back then, and he still does. Look again at last week's blog, God bringing about discussion on a particular theme over a period of time, in different contexts, until we  get the message.
I was planning to write more about 2 Tim 3:14 - 4:6 as thought I had more to write about it, but I sense that God is steering me in a different direction, so I shall leave you to mull over the implications of this text for yourselves, and what follows is my meditation on "lost and found".
Just this evening, I have been looking for a booklet in which I writing a journal for my university studies - I've put it down somewhere but cannot find it. People have said about me, "John, if your head wasn't screwed on, you'd lose that." It seems to be a particular weakness of mine, losing or mis-laying things, that is.
Let me relate to you a story that happened in my early chilhood, when I was lost. This story is related from my memory and from what my mum told me about the occasion as I was very young, about four or five.
It was the beginning of the bush war in Rhodesia, where I grew up. We as a family had gone to Inyanga and were camping in the National Parks camping site which was in amongst a forest of pine trees. The one day, my family had all gone out, fishing or walking at one of the dams in the National Park. I was left with a minder, at the camp, quite content to play by myself at the camp site. For some reason, my minder was not watching me (perhaps he had gone to relieve himself or maybe he was preparing for the evening meal, ) and I took it in my head to go for a walk - I wondered off into the forest, oblivious of the potential danger I was getting into, and I wondered quite far away from the campsite and there was no distinct path to follow. I'm sure my sense of direction, or common survival skills were not that great. At some point, I heard a voice coming out of the trees. I looked up but didn't see anything, but I answered the voice. The voice said, "My name is Abba." We talked a bit more and the voice said he had a son, called "Amma" - I had a new invisible friend and we talked and played together, and a little later, I emerged from the forest, back where I had started, by the campsite only to find a frantic family who were looking for me. I told my Mum about Abba and Amma. It was only many years later that I learnt that Jesus called his Father, Abba - "Daddy." I believe that God revealed himself to me, a little boy, when I was in great danger and brought me back to safety. I was lost in the forest, God found me (not that at any point in time was He unaware of my location), and he steered me very gently back to safety. At no point, as far as I can remember, was I anxious or did I feel lost. I certainly didn't get any big scares, and if I did come close to dangers, such as snakes or wild animals, God must shielded me from them.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Thorn in the Flesh" marvelously and painlessly extricated.

Dear Friends, a couple of weeks ago i got the results of the three exams I wrote in January. I shared with most of you at that time that I had managed to pass the two of them but that the one foxed me - and that the particular module was one that I had repeated last year, having failed it once before. I called it my "thorn in the flesh." Well I reregistered immediately for the module to repeat it ths year and immediately wrote to the lecturer responsible for that course asking him to please let me know where I was going wrong so that I could tighten up in that area as each time it was just a few percentage points short of the pass mark. He informed me that he would look at the scripts and would get back to me. I was looking at the materials for this year and noticed that this year, the assignment mark counts for 10% of the year mark, where previously it didn't.
You can imagine my surprise and delight today when I checked E-mail to find that the lecturer had reviewed my paper and decided that he could give it a better mark, giving me the required 50%. This is such a blessing, and I am over-joyed.
THanks to those friends who wrote and encouraged me.