Overturning the Wrong

Elias sat at his booth in the marketplace with great anticipation.  This was the best season of the year for business.  His family had owned this place right inside the front door of the market for years.  His father, and his grandfather had brought him up and taught him the way to help people with their offerings to the Lord.  They were shrewd merchants who knew exactly what was needed to make a good living. Elias had learned well.

He was a small man, standing 5’3” short and stocky.  His mustache rolled over his lips so it was hard to see the top one as he spoke with his rough, gravelly voice.  His eyes were bright and looked very honest as he would look out over the people coming into the marketplace.  He had a wife and three children to care for, so was hoping for a good day on this bright sunny morning.  On a normal day he would help over 500 people with their offerings, but this was no normal day.  It was only 10:00 AM and he had already sold 300 sheep and 200 pigeons to people who had imperfect offerings, or so he said.  In reality, he had tricked those people by telling them their offering was not pure enough for the sacrifice, and sold them one of his sheep.  But then once the people were out of sight, he would sell their lamb to an unsuspecting couple, calling it pure.  He did this all day long and made good money as a result.  His table sat with a large balance to weigh the money, which was much faster than counting it.  However, his weights were slightly altered in his favor, so he made a little extra money with his unjust weights also.  And being right inside the temple gates made him one of the first merchants people saw.

It was three days before the Passover, and Elias knew there would be throngs of people in Jerusalem for this blessed time of year.  He was daily in the temple, and business was always good.  But this year was different, and Elias knew this was going to be a boom for business.  He had heard the commotion the day before as a man named Jesus came into town bringing a huge throng of people. There must have been 10,000 who greeted him at the main gate.  They shouted Hosanna and laid palm branches before him.  It seemed they thought he was some kind of King.  Elias had heard stories of him healing people and teaching extraordinary lessons.  There was even a rumor going around that he had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.  It seemed many were running after him, hoping he would set up some kind of kingdom.  Elias scoffed at the idea.  It was ludicrous.  But he knew all those people would eventually have to come and offer their burnt offerings to the Lord during Passover, and he was grinning ear to ear.

A young man walked up to his booth without a sacrifice, and Elias knew he would need one this day.

“How can I help you, young man.”  Elias softly said.

The young man looked excited.  “I need a pigeon for the offering today, sir”

Elias went over to his pigeon cage, opened the door and was about to take one out when a herd of people swarmed into the marketplace, led by a man with a white tunic on.  All the people were shouting “Jesus, Jesus” like he was something so special.  They were a wild bunch and the birds in the cage starting flying around like crazy, making it hard to get one out.  Jesus stood there, looking out over the marketplace and all the booths that were set up to sell sacrifices to the people.  People were buying and selling just like he was about to do.  It was an eerie scene; one he had never encountered before.  The whole crowd had stopped behind him, yelling his name and holding out their hands to him.  For a moment it seemed time stood still as Elias reached in to get one of the pigeons for his customer.  Before he could grab one, this man called Jesus walked up to his booth, picked it up and turned it over.  The balance and money went flying all over the ground.  Elias, shocked and furious turned to try and save things and the birds starting flying out of the cage.  There was no hope to recover them as they scattered far and wide.  He scrambled on the ground, looking for his money as others in the crowd started to pick it up and run off with it.

He heard the commotion as Jesus proceeded through the marketplace doing the same to every table. The noise was unbearable.  Merchants screaming at him to stop, people scurrying to try and get the money that fell to the ground, sheep running all over bleating as they were freed from their cages and pigeons everywhere, cooing and making a mess.  Total chaos took over the marketplace.  But above all the noise and ruckus I could hear Jesus shout out “It is written: my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  How dare he make such an accusation, Elias thought.  Elias was helping people get what they needed to present an acceptable offering to God.  So, he made a little profit.  That was what fed his family.  Now He would have to try and find all his sheep and pigeons again – an impossible task.  His money was gone to the hoards that grabbed it off the ground.  What he thought was going to be a great day turned into a disaster.

I wonder how many of us need our lives overturned.  We are busy in the church doing what we have always done not realizing God has a bigger task for us.  We have become so tuned into our own little way that we don’t realize we have walked out of the will of God for our lives.  Sin has crept in and we have allowed it to, justifying our deeds by our seemingly righteous acts.  While we teach Sunday School, or lead worship, or serve on the church board, or lead the ladies’ group in the background we are satisfying our own selfish sinful desires.  No one around us knows what is going on beneath the service of our seemingly holy lives.  This was Elias.  This was me.

There was a time that I was so eaten up with pride that I could easily defy God and justify it in my own mind.  I served in many roles within the church and no one knew that sin knocked at the door on a daily basis, and that many days I let it in.  Elias sold lies on a regular basis, justifying it as providing for his family.  I lived a lie, justifying it by the good works I was doing.  There was no excuse for my behavior, but I gave plenty of excuses.  This went on for years and then was discovered.  After a period of repentance and renewal, I turned right back to it, as dog returns to his vomit.  5 more years of deceit went by before it was discovered again.  This time God overturned the tables in my life.  My marriage nearly ruined, fired from my job and rejected from my church, I went on a sabbatical that changed my life and set my course straight again.  God redeemed me once again through His overwhelming mercy and grace.

If you have sin inside the door of your life, don’t wait for Jesus to come and overturn the tables.  This can cause deep losses on your part.  Tackle the problem now.  Ask for forgiveness now.  Repent now.  Turn your own table.  You will thank yourself for it.  Because if Jesus comes in and overturns the wrong, you could lose everything, just as Elias did.

Jumping Bridges

As a crazy 19-year-old, I used to do some wild things with my car.  I am not going to get into all the wild things we did in this post, but maybe I’ll revisit those days sometime in the future.  This post will concentrate on the bridges we used to jump.  You heard me right – jump.

I loved to drive fast – really fast.  On the Interstate, I hated it when anyone would pass me.  It was pedal to the metal all the way.  We were rarely sober too, so that heightened the fun.  A bunch of us would pile in the car and just go.  It didn’t matter what day or what time of night, we were just going to have fun.  We explored the back roads all over central Massachusetts and knew every one of them.

One spot we particularly enjoyed was full of dirt roads that had old bridges which crossed the streams throughout the marshy area.  I had a 1965 Ford Fairlane that I had bought from my Mom for $1.  The reason she sold it to me so cheap was that I had gotten into an accident with it and the radiator needed replaced, plus some body work on the front end.  She bought a newer car and I got the one I wrecked.  I loved that car mainly because 1 could jam 5 other friends in there and we could drive and party.

One night we decided to ride off to that marshy area and just cruise around.  There was one particular bridge that offered the most fun.  The road rose sharply on both sides of the bridge, and the actual wooden bridge was about 25 feet across.  After driving over that bridge a few times, I told my buddies that I thought I could completely jump that bridge!  They all laughed and dared me to do it.

We had practiced similar stunts on a dirt bike track.  My friend went one direction in his VW Bug car, and I went the other,  We sped around that track, passing each other going the opposite direction, over the hills and valleys of a dirt bike track.  There were some close calls, but we always came out all right.

I could not resist such a dare.  We lined up with the bridge as far back as we could. Then I stomped on the accelerator, speeding toward that rise that came before the bridge.  There was absolutely no view of the other side – only the top of the hill and a glimpse of the railing on one side of the bridge. 

Faster and faster we went, the other guys in the car whooping and hollering. Dust was rolling up in the air as we sped up the hill.  We could only hope another car was not coming the opposite direction.  There was no view to see if there was, and once we hit the top t would be too late to back out.  If there was another car, we would have to hope to jump it as well!  (There was little traffic on these roads, so we felt fairly safe)

When we hit the top of the hill, we were going about 70 MPH on that dusty dirt road. The car left the ground for what seemed like 30 seconds (it was actually only 1 or 2).  We were off the ground until all four wheels hit the other side at the same time.  We did not hit wood, we hit dirt. We had made it!  WE never tried that again, though.  The thud at the end was so forceful we thought we would blow all 4 tires, but we didn’t.

Today, daredevils do different things with bridges.  They don’t jump over them – they jump off of them!  That is something I would never do!  With a bungie cord attached, people jump off perfectly good bridges, diving downward just the right distance so they don’t hit the ground below, and then rocket back up to the top again. 

I am not sure the science behind measuring the bungie cord, but it has to be precise. I have seen videos of people jumping off bridges 100 feet or more above the surface below.  Since the cord stretches so much, it must take some real math figuring to know how long that cord has to be before it is stretched out.  These people put a lot of trust in that cord, just as I put my trust in my car to jump over the bridge.

Bridges have much better purposes than this! They are built in strategic places so that two sides of a road can connect once the road is built.  They can be built over culverts, rivers, streams, roads, railroad tracks – anything that would impede the continuous flow of the road.  The can be over the obstacle or under it.  They serve a great purpose in our world.

Just imagine if we did not have bridges!  Commerce would literally stop all over this great nation. All business would have to be done on a local level.  The Interstates would have full access of side roads, and could only travel to the next body of water that crossed it.  Most of us would not drive on vacation like we do now because it would be extremely difficult to get where we were going.  Our little town here has the river on three sides of town – there would only be one road out.  I love bridges!

There is another gap that needs a bridge.  It is the gap between sinful man and a Holy God.  It is a big gap! 

When God came down on the mountain to speak the people, the presence of Him was so overwhelming, the people told Moses they did not want God talking directly to them anymore.  They wanted Moses to talk to God and tell them what He said. 

The Israelites had to offer animal sacrifices to cover their sins, and they still could not approach the presence of God in the Holy place.  Only the high priest, one time a year, could go into that Holy Place.  Even then, as consecrated as he was, they tied a rope around him in case he should die in the presence of God.  The gap is big!

God desired to have fellowship with His people, with all mankind, but He would not be around their sin.  So He sent His only Son, Jesus.  Jesus taught us the ways of God and then gave His life for our sins.  He suffered a cruel, torturous death to take the punishment of sin upon himself.  When He died on that cross in our place, He became a bridge to connect us to God.  The gap now had a bridge!

This bridge must be crossed in order to enter heaven.  You must accept the bridge and leave all your sinful ways behind, because sin cannot cross the bridge.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It’s quite simple. Ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, then live for Him and follow His ways, and you may cross the bridge.  If you do not, the gap will remain between you and God and the bridge will not be available.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians must tell others about this bridge.  They must know that the gap is too great for them to jump, to high for them to bungee.  There is only one way to bridge the gap, and that Is Jesus Christ.  No other bridge exists.

His Plan is For Me

Why should I worry
Why should I fret
When I know God is in control
There is no trial
Or test in this world
That God cannot save me from

Why would I falter
Why would I fear
When the enemy comes at me
I have the strength
Of Jesus Christ
And He has a plan for me

His plan is victory
His plan is peace
His plan is perfect
His plan is for me
His plan will take me
To blessings untold
I want to follow His plan

In Him is mercy
In Him is grace
In Him I cannot go wrong
He will protect me
Watch over me
He makes my weakness strong

I pray I will walk
Daily with Him
Not leaving His precious side
I’ll never turn back
I’ll follow His ways
All the days of my life

Meeting Janeen

After I got saved in Iowa, I returned to Massachusetts.  My life and lifestyle drastically changed in the next two years. My language cleaned up. I rose to prominence in my job. I cut my hair to look like a normal human being. I started attending church regularly and getting involved with different groups. I even kind of had a girlfriend in the church. It was late spring in 1978 when I went back to Iowa to visit my friend again.

When I walked into his house he was on the piano and was playing a song. He asked me if I knew the song.

“Yes I do. It’s called You Light Up My Life”.  I answered.

He said “That’s right” and then he immediately started playing another song. “Do you know this song?”

I said “No I don’t.”  He moved over on the piano bench and motioned for me to sit down. There was a hymnal open on the piano and I looked at the title of the song – Blessed Assurance.

“I was hoping you would help me sing the song for church.” He said.

“Sure, no problem.” I answered.  We sang together many times in church and in high school so this was nothing new for us.

We started learning the song and he said “I’ll take the first verse; you take the second verse and we can do the third verse together.” So we practiced it that way a few times.

“You really need to memorize it.” He said.

I said “Well, since I only have to memorize two verses and a chorus, I can probably do that.”

We took a break for a little while and then came back to practice.

My friend piped up.  “Oh, by the way, we’re going to sing this on television.”

I looked at him in surprise.  “I thought you said it was for church?”

“It is” He answered.  We televise our church service.  The recording is done tonight.”

“Well, you got me hooked now.  Let’s do this.” And we continued practicing.

We headed down to Kirksville, Missouri to the TV station with a whole bunch of other people. I think they’re were a dozen of us altogether in 3 different cars. Everything went well at the recording session and we headed back home around 9 or 9:30. We were all hungry, so we stopped at a little restaurant on the way back. At the table I sat beside the pianist from the church and her husband. She had her younger sister with her and I leaned over to the pianist and asked her

“How old is your sister?”

“She’s 15” the pianist answered.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a sister that’s a little bit older, would you?” I asked.  To be honest, I didn’t know why I asked that.  I had a girlfriend back home, but something prompted me to ask.

“Why yes I do.” She answered happily.

Well, have her in church tomorrow!” I said.  I didn’t ask, I told her to bring her to church.

“I will!” She said. 

We finished eating and headed home to hit the sack for the night.   I am told that when Joyce, the pianist, talked to Janeen, the other sister, Janeen was not really interested in going to church.  She got off work at 3 AM, and was going to sleep in.  But Joyce had a way of making Janeen do what she wanted.  The next morning, I headed to church and watched as Joyce walked in with her other sister. They sat right in front of me and, wouldn’t you know that I didn’t say a word to the young lady that I’d asked to be there. At the end of the service I walked back to the guest book that was at the back of the church and I signed it and wrote that I was visiting from West Boylston, Massachusetts. Joyce’s sister came up beside me and said “You came a long way to come to church today”

I said “Yes I did.” and I walked out the door. Joyce told me afterwards that at this time her sister was furious with her but she convinced her to come back to the evening service.

During the afternoon, my friend taught me a few new choruses because we were going to lead the congregation in worship that night.  We had a wonderful time learning those worship choruses and were ready to go to the service. I walked into the church and the Joyce’s sister turned around and looked at us. When our eyes met, my heart fluttered. Something happened. I walked up to the front and we lead the worship service and sat down.

After the service my friend was having a gathering at his house and guess who was invited. Yeah, you got it right.  The mother and father, Joyce and her sister were all there.  It was a nice gathering and I learned the sisters name was Janeen.  At the end of it everybody was talking about a fellowship meeting of churches the next night. They wanted me to sing a solo since I was visiting.

I looked over at Janeen and said “I’ll go if you go”

Janeen said “I’ll go if you go”

I came back again “I’ll go if you go.”

Finally we decided that we would go. It was a night that would change my life.

We went to the fellowship meeting the next night. I sang my solo. On the way home, I sit in the backseat with the Janeen. With us in the backseat was her3 year-old nephew, Jason. I’d been a bachelor for the last 6 years and had not been around kids at all. Jason was a rambunctious kid who was as funny as all get out. And he made me laugh1 I mean really laugh!  You have to understand that for years I had not really laughed. I had made up laughs – I was the king of laughter!  I had a hundred different laughs but I didn’t have a laugh of my own. And then he made me laugh – my own laugh – and it was a wonderful feeling. My head was spinning with all that was going on.

We got back to the town where Joyce lived since we rode with them.  My friend was working at a gas station in the next town about ten miles away. I wanted to go over and be with him for the rest of the night since I was leaving the next morning. Janeen volunteered to give me a ride in her 1965 white Mustang. As we drove over to Fairfield, just out of the blue she started singing You Light Up My Life. I didn’t know what was going on that she would start singing that song for no reason, the same song my friend was playing when II walked into his house.  We got to the gas station and I got out and came around to Janeen’s side of the car. I gave her a little squeeze on the arm and said “See you later” and went inside the gas station. To this day she’s upset that I didn’t kiss her goodnight.

When I got inside that gas station I sat down in the office and I started to weep. I told my friend that I was lost. I didn’t know where I belonged. I had a great job with a wonderful future at a large company back in Massachusetts, but everything within my being was telling me that I belonged in Iowa.  I had to leave the next day early in the morning. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or what I was going to do but I had to go back.

I headed out the next day and drove the usual route across Interstate 80. Usually when I made this trip, and I’ve made it three times before, I just slept in my car when I got tired and then headed out again.  But for some reason this time I decided to stay in a Red Roof Inn in central Pennsylvania. I got into the room and was still pondering what I should do. I reached into the drawer and picked up the Gideon Bible. in the front of the Bible there are some helps.  It said in time of decision turn these verses. One of those verses with Proverbs 3 5 & 6, which says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as soon as I read that scripture that I was supposed to move to Iowa and marry that girl. I picked up a pen and paper at the hotel that night and I wrote her a letter. I was wise enough to get her telephone number and address before I left. In the letter, I said if you’ll be my girl I’ll move to Iowa.

I got back to Massachusetts Sunday night.  Monday morning I put in my two months’ notice at work. I had a very unique position and I know it would take that long to train anybody to take my place. The big boss called me in his office and offered me a promotion and more money.  I told him I couldn’t.  One of my co-workers joked with me and said what are you goin- g to do  – go out there and get married and have kids? I just said who knows. My mom thought I was crazy.  My brother thought well I don’t know what he thought.  All my friends wished me the best – they knew nothing was going to stop me.

Over the next two months Janeen and I shared letters and made phone calls quite frequently. We got to know each other this way. I worked on training my replacement. I worked long hours to get things caught up and organized for my replacement.  In the second week of August 1978 my friend and his wife and Janeen came out to get me. I had a station wagon full of things and that was all. Janeen and I rode together on the trip back to Iowa. I asked her to marry me 2 months later and we got married in November of 1978. We recently celebrate our 40th anniversary and have 3 beautiful daughters and five grandchildren.  The Lord has been very good to us. We are blessed.