ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL SERIES THIS WEEK (May 27th): We will continue our series on the practical life lessons that can be gleaned from the kings of Israel and Judah. We will look specifically at King Solomon's demise from greatness with the
What the Holy Land trip did for my Ministry…
Wow! Did the Lord use my trip to Israel to work in my heart in ways I had not expected! I naturally thought that I would go, see a site, weep and pray and sing and fall madly in love with everything Israel. NOT EXACTLY! Don’t get me wrong, the Lord gave me a tremendous heart for souls in Jerusalem. I thought on the way things may have played out in Bible times, particularly in the stories of David, Abraham, and the Lord Jesus Christ. But God seemed to show me more by showing me things I couldn’t see better than what I could.
That’s right! I saw, or learned more about what the Lord wants for me to see and understand, because I saw less! By just the third day of my tour, the largest sand storm in nearly 15 years spread out over 6 or 7 countries in the middle east, including Israel. Actual dust from Syria filled the air and the panoramic, full scale scenery of the Holy Land was blurred out! Sometimes, I could barely see more than several yards/ meters out ahead of me! But that very “Cloud from the Ground” of sand and dust that had blown hundreds of miles over from Syria served a purpose.
LESSONS IN THE “CLOUD FROM THE GROUND!”
Don’t feel bad for me, I did see many exact sites and locations! But God made it to where I saw most of them only as we actually got to them. Suddenly, I found my perspective about things changed around; even completely different than I had expected. My great tour guide shook his head time after time telling me what I was missing. I quickly accepted that the Lord was going to let this thing stick around. So instead of whining about it, I thought, “Lord? What’s the lesson or opportunity for me in this storm?” Sometimes the Lord will shroud the big picture a bit so that you won’t get distracted, or discouraged, or both! Here are a couple of thoughts about the storms that life brings AND that God permits to happen:
- Storms change your plans. Just like that picnic activity you had planned that gets rained out, life’s storms may mess up your “5 year plan” to wealth and prosperity. Health problems change the plan. Financial problems come too. Sometimes we lose dear souls in our families very unexpectedly, or you get laid off from work. Everything changes.
- Storms focus your energy and your purpose. When the torrential downpour comes and a leak develops in the roof, you are suddenly committed to finding a bucket…and some towels…and hopefully the source of the leak so you can get through the rest of the event without a washout inside! Maybe a financial or health-related storm hits! Suddenly, you have to divert funds and time to the problem instead of your dream car. Or the next year will be dedicated to fighting cancer, not going on a cruise. Sadly, we often are adrift when the south winds of nothing-much-going-on are blowing.
- And storms make for truly unforgettable memories – especially if there are lessons in them. Everyone always starts a memory-story with something like, “I remember the time when…or the storm of ’79…or when the basement flooded…” What are those? They are memories that are footnoted in a stormy time. I learned where the problem in my car was when the storm of it breaking down happened…not when it was on cruise control one of a hundred times with no problems! Not only do memories seem to be attached to storms, so too, do lessons and problem solving situations come to bear. We learn a lot of “how-to” in the storm!
SO HOW DID THIS SAND STORM HELP ME?
I arrived at the Sea of Galilee’s north side on the third day of heavy, Syrian dust in the air. I had actually driven in close proximity to it all the way from the south side up to the north. But the cloud from the ground simply blocked it out. When I went into the ruins of Capernaum, I saw the various ruins: Peter’s house, the local synagogue, some other village dwellings. I told my guide that I was going to go put my feet in the water. He said, “Fine. I ‘ll wait for you.” So I walked over to the very typical rocky edge of the shore and climbed down toward the water’s edge. It was also very hot and there was no breeze of any kind. The water was perfectly still: like glass. I took a few pictures, pulled off my shoes and socks and dipped my feet. As I looked out into the lake that quickly merged with the haze, I felt all alone…and then very much like God was speaking to me. “Just keep going in Minneapolis to the people and preach and teach my Word. Don’t worry about how big or how famous and known your ministry is or even about the quantities of results. Just preach and try to draw souls unto me.”
I was reminded as my guide had earlier told me that Capernaum was a cursed city. Jesus taught great doctrine there. He healed many people there. He chose to live much of His Ministry years there. But these people, as a whole, let Christ’s teachings, and His great presence fall by the wayside. That’s the reality of our day, too. Minneapolitains have been acquainted with some great, evangelistic eras. Yet, our city is not listening much at all. But I did! In fact, I pastor some great people that let Jesus into their lives as well. Peter and at least six other of the disciples did back then. And how about the unnamed women that supported His earthly ministry?
Those storm shrouded vistas became a lesson to me. Times are not “white already unto harvest”…that’s over with! Souls aren’t primed for revival, the ground is fallow and hard. BUT there are still some to reach. And since when has God lost the power to send a revival like the one that came to Ninevah in Jonah’s day? So the storminess of the world’s wicked philosophies is as loud and thunderous as ever. But God’s grace and mercy is as genuine and life changing as it ever was, too. So I’ll launch out in my little ship and keep giving the doctrine, the promise of, and the hope in Christ’s Word to people.
And as for that sand storm of the decade, well, it got me ready to come home and love my people…and work on reaching my city…one precious soul at a time! I really do think I saw more when I had to accept that I saw less!