Series 37


Fragile Economy Takes Toll?

I thought I knew how Rob would answer. 

Rob and his wife Tabitha have a small shop which sells kitchen and bath cabinets. Right now they have at least three strikes against them.

The local economy just endured an 87 day strike by the city’s largest employer, building of new homes is near zero, and a new home supplies mega-store opened nearby. Too near.

And this is what I’ve read in the newspaper: “The collapse of the housing bubble is slowly sinking more and more sectors of the economy...Total (job) losses for the year to 438,000 ...The economy has entered a slow-motion recession."

Still I asked: “So Rob how’s business?”

“Business is great. We’re ahead of last year.” Rob said, “And I had a really good year last year.” Adding: “I attribute it all to God...He’s the one who got us into this business.”

The Bible says: “Be steadfast, immovable, always bounding in the work of the Lord; knowing that your labor is not in vain if it is in the Lord.” Sounds just like Rob and Tabitha.

Steadfast.  This carries a weighty significance: loyal, dependable, firm belief, determination. Businesswise, the implication is a knowing-trust that the job will get done with excellence. Attention to detail blended with a take-care-of-it-now attitude when problems arise.

Immovable. This is the ability to endure the inevitable adversities of owning a business. This attitude embraces: “If God got me in this business, I’m sticking it out until God wants me to exit.” Faith, faith, faith.

Bounding in works of the Lord. An engaging, energetic contributing and partnering with God’s work. Locally and around the planet. This defines Rob and Tabitha’s business.

Steadfast, immovable, and bounding has added up to “business is great.” The toll of the fragile economy has passed by Rob and Tabitha.


Can Man Too

Seeing them up the road as I rode my bicycle, my mind flashed back to four years prior.

On that day…an oversized car crept into the nearly abandoned park. Distracted from my early morning on-the-go Bible study, I watched as the driver sprang from his well-worn ride. He looked a little worn himself.

He quickly went from trash can to trash can searching for aluminum pop cans. Their ten cent deposit, which is a nuisance to many people, was the can man’s mission.

I thought–“I bet he lives in his car.”  When he approached me, I assumed he wanted money.

The can man plowed right into telling me his story–he was excited. He was collecting the cans for his kid’s college education—one dime at a time: “My kids are going to college; they’re definitely going to college.” His next words left me hanging from the gallows of my condemning thoughts: “I don’t care what people think.”

…my mind then popped back, focusing on the two, looked-the-can-man-part men just ahead. I could have whizzed by semi-unnoticed. Except? Except I was hearing a voice inside; the Holy Spirit saying: “Stop.”

I smiled at them: “How are you guys doing?” I wish I could claim my kinder reaction was simply because I’ve grown as a Christian.

I wish…

Proverbs 27 had crossed into my mental view. The seventh verse says: “The full soul despises a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”

Here’s the can-man version: “If you have enough money, returnable cans are trash; but if you’re really broke, you’re seeing a bunch of dimes on the ground—maybe your next meal.”

I know because I already had two cans. They weren’t my next meal…but not far from it.

Jesus said “Stop judging by mere appearance.”


Becoming a Christian—But Not Here

The construction activity had caught my eye as I was passing by. So I stopped. The offices of a Christian retreat center were being connected to their church/chapel building which was about sixty feet away.

The maintenance man saw me watching the concrete being poured.  I asked him: “Does a person have to be a Christian to work here.” He said it wasn’t a requirement, adding, “It helps.” He affirmed that he was one. So I asked a favorite question of mine: “How do you become a Christian?” 

He motioned with his head toward the offices, “Maybe someone in there can talk to you.” Then near-instantly, essentially recanting his offer, he said: “You should stop at a church; that’s what I suggest.”

A couple of years prior I engaged four teenage Christians at a coffee shop while visiting a southern state.  I approached them, asking basically the same question. I didn’t reveal my Faith-in-Jesus status.

Later I found out they attended the top academic high school in their state and were members of a church known around the world. Yet, by their own admission, not one of these four outstanding teenagers offered a fully correct answer to my inquiry. One of them even e-mailed me two days later saying: “We sat there for a couple of hours discussing our inability to answer your simple question.”

Way, way too many Christians are incapable of instructing a person in the essential how-to’s of becoming a Follower of Jesus.

The Bible says: “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.”

Beyond that, be prepared to give an answer to someone desiring the same Hope. Someone who needs Jesus.


Crying Out to God

Well, I wasn’t actually crying out to God…but I was close.

Have you ever knocked on doors trying to sell something? That’s what I was doing—a book I had written.

It was so hot. And no one was home or they pretended they weren’t. If they did answer the door, it was like the last guy I talked to: “I’m a Buddhist.”  Though kind in his rejection, he wasn’t buying a Christian book.

I prayed silently: “God, I need a blessing around the next corner.”

Why would I pray this way? Because I was tired? Discouraged?

Yes, but more importantly, because the Bible has these kinds of prayers. For example:“May Jesus Himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence,  put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.”

Trudging up the incline of the next driveway, I heard a friendly, exuberant: “Rick Leland, what are you doing here?”  Smiling, I didn’t immediately recognize the person. The hot sun was glaring in my eyes. I was twenty miles from home; in a neighborhood I had never been in.

It was Jon Booko.

I had only seen Jon a few times in the last six years.  Prior to that, he had worked for me as an apprentice carpenter. Now he owned a thriving construction business. His father Pastor Paul Booko had baptized me, mentored me, and was in my book.

We stood in the garage of Jon’s beautiful home talking for thirty-five minutes. Words of encouragement and of faith in God flowed. Leaving, I told him our time together was an answer to my prayer. A blessing which would carry me for many miles.

Just like the Bible said: “A fresh heart…invigorated my work…enlivened my speech.”


Harry Gets Saved. Part 2

I remember the first words Harry ever spoke to me: “I need the Lord and I don’t know how.”

As I stood there outside our downtown ministry, a quick discernment of what  the Holy Spirit wanted me to do was vital.

My decision to schedule a meeting with Harry the following day included sound reasoning. First, I didn’t sense he was ready to make Jesus Christ his Lord. Rather he needed a spiritual band-aide for the moment. Second, Harry had zero understanding of what salvation entailed. Plus, he seemed intoxicated.

Even though Harry never showed up at our scheduled meeting, over the course of the next months we discussed spiritual matters several times. And God also enlisted others in the fight for Harry’s soul. Terry and Gary were two of them.

I heard all three talking one day. Gary said, “I got saved three weeks ago; it’s the best thing I ever did.”

Terry added: “You need God in your life. You can’t do it on your own.”

Harry responded: “This is the day I’m going to make a change.”

They agreed to attend a Jesus-centered meeting that evening geared toward people struggling with destructive lifestyle issues.

Harry never showed up. A couple hours before the meeting a hit-and-run driver jumped the curb, striking the rear tire of Harry’s bike. This slammed him to the ground. Though not seriously injured, pain and abrasions short circuited his plans to attend the meeting.

The Bible says: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.” 

Harry got bit.

We need to do as the Bible instructs regarding those facing the devil’s schemes: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers…be alert and always keep praying for all…”

Pray for Harry.