Heart to Hearts from Gary

December 2009

Awhile ago I wrote myself a note that says, “I hope I never get to a place where we have to reach back in to our past to give testimony of how God has met our needs in a miraculous way.” I hope we will always look to Him and not other resources. I feel uneasy just writing that as my natural inclination is just the opposite. I want to be in charge-I am drawn to my own plans; I want to know the future; to have some money in reserve. For example, today is December 11th, by the 15th we have to have enough money for salaries, custom’s fees, insurance and plane tickets. I would like to have the money now, but we have almost none of it. A part of me wants to be down with the uncertainty we have lived with for the last ten years. But then, we look at the several pages of answers to prayer and remember how these answers have encouraged us and others. That is when I reconsider and say again, “I hope we are always living in such a way that we are totally dependent on God to meet our needs.

June 2009

“…if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say unto this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move….” (Matthew 17:20). If ever I were to write a book it would include a chapter entitled, “The Power of a Little Thing.” It would address things like the mustard seed, a word of prayer; the first step in a journey of faith. It would speak of the tongue, so powerful a single word can lift a person up or bring him down. It would describe the power a child; naive and innocent and yet able to see what the experienced and learned cannot. If you doubt it, try explaining to a child your carefully crafted plan to stabilize an economy by spending more money you don’t have. He will likely give a quizzical look and then return to his play without gracing your proposal with a response.

I would add to these examples the power of a smile. It costs nothing and takes little time or effort and yet a smile has the power to bring the dead to life. I have seen this perhaps most clearly in Honduras among those who seem to have lost hope. They are easy to spot, staggering along the road beneath a massive load of wood; or struggling to move a loaded wheelbarrow down a busy highway; or maybe just shuffling along, aimless and seemingly without life. In any case the head is bowed, shoulders stooped, the gait is slow, eyes are dull and without expression. This is a face that has not smiled in years.

You would expect that such a person would not notice when you come near. Surprisingly, unless the man has completely lost hope, he knows you are there, and almost inevitably, before you pass by seems compelled to take a quick glance at your eyes. His motive is not to exchange a greeting; it is sheer curiosity, because years of experience have shown he will likely receive in return a look of pity, condemnation, disgust, and often anger.

If you can see this portrait in your minds eye, then the stage is set for you to see the power of the smile. Get ready. Prepare yourself. When your eyes meet he will be suspicious at first; noncommittal. But when he sees that you are genuine, you will behold something that could have been brought forth by little else…not by encouraging, coaxing, flattering, teaching, preaching. You will see dead come back to life; you will behold the power of a smile.

I had assumed this to be a third world phenomenon, but during a recent visit to the U.S. I observed the same thing… many opportunities to see the power of a smile, especially among those who might feel unwelcome in our country. I urge you to try an experiment. Try giving a smile to one who least expects it. It will consume none of your time or your resources, but you will be amazed at how it blesses your day.

Heart to Hearts March 2009

Recently, Cheryl and I were invited to speak to a young adult Sunday school class. Since I had already spoken to the group several times, I was wondering what else I could say. During the week before, I was out for a walk. I don’t remember if I was praying or just wondering, but in a flash this thought illumined my mind: “Tell them concerning their future plans, you can do it My way, and you let go; or you can do it your way and I will let go.” That was it. I shared it with the class; there were a few words of discussion and the class ended.

In the days that followed, I could not help but wonder what exactly does this mean? How does it apply to us in a practical sense? This is what I concluded. The first part, “do it My way and you let go”….that is easy to understand. It is a reference to those who are willing to let go of their plans, resources, of everything that brings security, and trust God completely. These are the ordinary people who continue to do extraordinary things.

Then there is the second part, where we do it our way and He lets go. I do not think it means that if we hold on to the right to control our own lives that God will abandon or reject us. The Bible says He will never do that. Nor do I think it means we won’t go to heaven when we die. I think it does mean that if we continue to insist upon controlling our own life, having our own goals, our own plan of action, He will at some point take a step back–not so far He cannot help in time of need, but far enough to let us do it in our own strength. These are the ordinary people who will continue to do ordinary things.

Some Believers would say there is nothing wrong in living an ordinary life; that we are free to choose. This is not exactly true. We cannot ignore the fact there are scoffers, scorners, and honest skeptics watching our lives from a distance. They have heard our claims and now they are examining the evidence. The Kingdom of God is hindered when those people observe that many Christians who are consumed doing things which an unbeliever could do.

The Apostle Peter said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God…” Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” An ordinary person who lets go and lets God is a powerful witness.

Heart to Hearts December 2009

It’s in Mark 14:26-31 that we read the familiar account of Peter’s denial of Jesus. this is a most grievous, yet thought provoking passage.

First, Jesus says, “Every one of you disciples will desert me this very night. Then, Peters says, “Even if everyone else deserts you I never will.” Then, Jesus says, “you will not only desert me once but three times. You will deny you even know me.” Finally, Peters says, “Even if it kills me, I will never desert you.” Yet he did…not once but three more times: in verse 68, again in 70, and a third time in verse 71.

The interpretation of this passage is straight forward. It is part of the narrative of the Passion of Christ. However, there are many applications to glean. The account might be seen to demonstrate that we should evaluate carefully before making a commitment. Perhaps, we should spend more time praying and less time sleeping. When God gives us a warning it should be taken seriously. There are many other applications in this passage. I think one of the most valuable applications is to alert us to the deceitfulness of the human heart.

Peter was not being flippant in declaring his unwavering commitment to his Lord. He was absolutely convinced he would not relent no matter what, even if it cost him his life. Yet when the pressure was on, he did what he swore he would never do–he denied Christ. I suspect no one was more surprised than Peter himself. Now you say, how could this possibly have any application to me? I would like to suggest at least for a consideration that we, too, can be deceived by our own heart, just as Peter was.

Consider the Lord’s Prayer specifically the third petition which says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I dare say every evangelical Christian would say that he or she is absolutely sincere when asking the Lord to grant that petition. But what are we asking? We could very well be asking God to send us to a place we have never been, to do something we have never done, or use skills we have never developed. If He should ask you, would you be willing to abandon your own plans and go? If He should ask me, will I walk away from my own goals and go? Knowing myself as I do, my honest response would have to be, “I surely hope so.”

The fact is, I don’t think any of us are sure what we will do in the moment of crisis. That is nothing new. Jeremiah declared in 17:9 “…the heart is deceitful above all things…who can know…understand his own heart.” It is true we may not know now, but eventually we will know, one way or another. We can wait for the moment of truth to come…and then examine the evidence of our heart as with Peter; or we can pray as David did, “Search me Oh God and know my heart…see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the way of learning.” My challenge is to let God mold our heart; change our heart to help us “Go” when He says “Go.”