Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009

Every once in awhile when I am getting my change at a drive-thru window, I will fumble the handoff of the change. Have you ever done that?

If it is a penny that gets dropped, I’ll drive on. If it is a nickel that gets dropped, it will drive on. If it is a dime that falls, I’m moving on. BUT, if it is a quarter or more I am putting the car in neutral, opening the door, and looking for the change. Usually when I get down there I see a bunch of pennies, nickels and dimes lying there!

What am I talking about? I am saying that I consider the value of something before I decide how to respond. I act differently toward the things I value more highly. You do, too.

That is the point of the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15. During the month of September we are studying that portion of Scripture in an attempt to examine our attitude toward lost people.

So far we have learned that God places high value on lost people and He sent Jesus to prove it. God expects us to place high value on lost people, too.

Last week we looked at the Lost Sheep and the shepherd who valued him so much that he left the rest of the flock and went searching until he found the lost sheep.

Why did he do that? Why did he put himself at risk and venture out of his comfort zone to find this one lost sheep. He searched until he found it and brought it back. That is how people act toward what they truly value.

Similarly, the religious leaders made it clear they did not value lost people by their refusal to get involved and by criticizing Jesus when HE DID!

Today I want you to join me in looking at the second parable Jesus told – the parable of the Lost Coin and reinforce this truth that we search for what we really value. I don’t care what you claim about lost people, if you are actively searching for them, you don’t value them like you should.

A woman was leading a horse that bit her 2 Caret Diamond off it's gold setting while she standing near a coral fence. Now what would you do if your horse swallowed something that valuable? Well, that customer of mine finally got the diamond back, but it took a lot of dirty work, because they had to wait for the diamond to go through the horse's digestive track and then... well you know... they had to go searching with rubber gloves on their hands. They did however, eventually find the diamond that was very valuable. What if that horse had swallowed some cheap costume jewelry? I guarantee you that those dear folks would not have searched at all for that stone. Why, because it would not be valuable.

Here’s the story – Read Luke 15:8-10.


When you understand the background behind this story you appreciate why she valued that lost coin as much as she did. This coin was likely part of her dowry. Brides often took the coins from their dowry and made them into a necklace or a headpiece and would wear it as evidence that they were married - much like a wedding ring nowadays. So, one of those coins would be very valuable to her - much more valuable than it would be to anyone else. Therefore, when it was lost she had the greatest motivation to find it.

By it’s very nature this story implies that this woman would care much more about her lost coin than anyone else. It certainly meant much more to her than anyone else. She was the most logical person to find it. And, find it she did! In the tradition of the Little Red Hen, once she found the coin everyone was happy to celebrate with her.

Bill Adams, CEO of a large hospital in Virginia, received a frantic call from a woman. "My mother came into your hospital with her wedding ring, and now we can't find it," [she] said. … "I want to make an appointment to discuss this with you." …

At the meeting she explained that her mother had died a few days earlier as a result of cancer. With moist eyes, she described how her father and mother had been married for 50 years and what a wonderful loving couple and caring parents they had been together. Then she told Bill how the day before, her dad, with tears in his eyes, had said to her, "It would mean so much for me to be able to slip that ring back on her finger before we bury her."

"So," the woman continued, "I was hoping that there was some way you could help me fulfill his dream of putting that ring back on my mother's finger. Is there anyone you can think of who may be able to help us find that ring?"

Bill was deeply moved by the woman's story and her sad, but calm, manner, and he promised to do all he could to locate the ring. "In my heart, I yearned for a way to help them," Bill told me. "I left my office and stopped by the ward where the lady had spent her final days. The staff told me how the deceased had lost so much weight during the time she was there that they suspected her ring might have fallen off her finger. … They had looked on the floor underneath the bed, around the room, and in the bathroom. They had searched everywhere they could think of, but it was all to no avail. I went back to my office disappointed. But I was restless and not ready to give up. I just had this strong sense that there was something more I needed to do. Then I got an idea. I went into the basement of the hospital and located the laundry chute. I climbed into the bin and tumbled amidst the wet, soggy, dirty laundry. To my surprise, I found the ring. I almost cried right there and then. I will never forget the look on that woman's face or on her father's face when I handed them the ring the next day."


I think one of the reasons that people don’t get more excited reaching lost people is that there is a limit to how many people we can highly value. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission he told us “to go into all the world and preach the gospel” was He suggesting that each one of us should go to the whole world and try to reach people?

That sounds pretty overwhelming. I don’t know anyone who could actually do that. We aren’t wired that way. Jesus knows that. I don’t think that He ever expected every Christian to try to reach all the lost people in the entire world. But I do think He expects us to reach the lost people who matter most to us – the other sheep in our flock or the coin that belongs to us. We will naturally be most concerned and motivated to reach those lost people that we value the most. That’s what He means when He says begin in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, etc.

Here’s the principle that I believe summarizes the truth of what Jesus is saying here –


The Shepherd focused on one sheep – and rescued him.

The woman searched for one coin – and found it.

If we try to reach the whole world we will burn out, wear out, get discouraged, or become overwhelmed. But we can concentrate on two, or three, or five people who are important to us – whom we highly value. We can reach them. We can begin by praying for them and ask God to give us favor in their lives and invest in their lives with kindness and love. We can do that! We should do that!

I believe that is the principle that Jesus is teaching in this parable.

I want to tell you about a little girl who loved the Lord and longed to share the message of salvation with those who had never heard it. So she contributed a penny to a missionary to help with the work of evangelizing the people of Burma. That small coin was all she had, but it was given from her heart. The worker on the foreign field was deeply touched by the child’s earnestness and decided he would do the most he could with the money. After careful thought, he purchased a Gospel tract and personally gave it to a young chieftain. Apparently the Christian did not know that the tribal leader was not educated well enough to read it. God instilled within the ruler a burning desire to know the meaning of the leaflet, however, and he traveled 250 miles to find someone who could translate it for him. After he heard the Gospel message, it wasn’t long until the young chief was gloriously converted. Returning to his people, he told them what the Lord had done for his soul. Later he invited missionaries to come and preach to his entire village, and many tribesmen who heard the good news accepted the Savior. All this and probably more resulted from one dedicated penny given in Christ’s name by a little girl who wanted the lost to hear about Jesus The moral of the story is you don’t have to wait until you can do "great things" to start working for the master. God can do wonders with dedicated little things. Little things like having a meal with sinners.

What did she do? She concentrated on a focused few and made an eternal difference. That is what I am talking about!

A young man learns what's most important in life from the guy next door. It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said."Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He' d reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said."You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said."He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important... Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said. As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown.
Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture....Jack stopped suddenly."What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked."The box is gone," he said."What box? " Mom asked."There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said. It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it."Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

"Mr. Harold Belser" it read.Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside. "Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: "Jack, Thanks for your time! Harold Belser.""The thing he valued time."

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked. "I need some time to spend with my son," he said."Oh, by the way, Janet...thanks for your time!"
If you are willing to concentrate your prayers, your time, your kindness and some attention, you God can use you to reach some people that you value.

Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf's edge and and the beach. Back and forth this person went. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide.

The man was stuck by the the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.

As he came up to the person he said, "You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can't possibly make a difference." The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, "It sure made a difference to that one!"
God wants you to make an eternal difference in the lives of a few people that you AND God highly value!