Today’s scriptures were truly a gift to me and could not have been timed better. In the Book of Acts, Paul - someone I admire as a wonderful ambassador for Christ - turns a simple church meeting into an ugly riot. Serious enough that the National Guard has to be called in and they have to carry Paul away before the crowd can tear him limb from limb. Yikes. The psalmist cries, “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.” And in the Gospel of John, Jesus prays for the disciples (and for Paul and for you and for me). And in an amazing and touching statement, Jesus says that we are a gift to Him.
I love the story in Acts. You have to wonder if Paul came away shaking his head saying, “How did that happen? I didn’t mean for that to happen. Lord, I’m such an idiot.”
Man, can I identify with Paul. Let me start this story by saying, I am an idiot. If there were an Idiots Anonymous, I would be standing here saying, “Hi, my name is Dan and I’m an idiot.” Much of my life is spent trying to avoid embarrassment and pain. Yet I’m sure if someone were watching me, they would think that is the goal I am pursuing. And quite successfully I might add. Why are we placed in situations of embarrassment and pain? Why do these things happen? Does God have a purpose in letting incidents like this happen?
Recently, I traveled to San Diego for a conference. It was a wonderful trip. Southern California is beautiful. Friendly people, wonderful weather and incredible scenery. I was lucky enough to have my wife accompany me and we were treated to a sunset on a beach. Breath taking. One of the things that I wasn’t used to (or prepared for) were the lines. After a week of standing in line for food, for the elevator, for the bus, at Sea World, my patience was thin. At the end of the week, my wife thought we should rent a car and drive to Temecula to see the orange groves and vineyards. The traffic was incredible. After hours stuck in traffic, we finally made it there. We were standing in line at Rosas in Temecula, CA waiting to order our food when some guy walks right by up to the counter. I couldn’t believe it. I jumped out of line and got between this guy and the counter and turned around and faced him. Thankfully, I didn't say anything. After a moment, he said, “I just want to get my food.” I looked up and realized I was standing under the “pick up orders here” sign. I apologized and got back in line, where Deb chastised me and the two guys in front of us said, “We haven't made up our minds, why don't you go ahead of us.” I'm sure they were reading the “Psycho from Nebraska” sign that must have been flashing on my forehead. I told you I was an idiot. I felt so badly. Even now, I cringe just thinking about it. It’s hard not to look back and beat ourselves up over past mistakes. What was I thinking? Why did this happen? What good could possibly come out of this incident?
Well, the following Sunday, I taught my second graders about the fruit of the Spirit - two of which are patience and self control. The lesson probably meant more to me than it did to the kids I was teaching. I’m convinced God used this incident to teach me a lesson. I guess I’m still the clay in the potter’s hands. The great part is that I can be forgiven for past mistakes. Jesus loves me and prays for me and says that I am a gift. What wonderful reassurance. Even when I view myself as an idiot, Christ views me as a gift. My prayer is that each of us would rejoice in the gift of today. That we would not dwell on past mistakes, but look forward in anticipation of service to God and man.
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