Sunday, October 27, 2013

Box of Secrets - Dallas Meets Chris

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Two posts ago, we met Dallas, a young man heavily burdened with a “box of secrets”. Dallas comes to church with this box, unsure what to do with it, feeling very out of place because of it, and reluctant to let anyone see what is inside. Andy was no help. Like many church-goers, he was too busy with his own program to get involved in the messiness of someone else’s life.

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In the last post, we saw how Jesus responded to a woman whose “box of secrets” had finally spilled open for everyone to see. Jesus gave this response. “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” The woman left that place forgiven, freed, and with hope that a new life was possible.

Today, we will return to Dallas standing there in the church hallway with his box of secrets. Will he find the help he so desperately needs?

Meanwhile Back at the Church...
With a deep breath, Dallas shifted the weight of his box and trudged on down the hallway. Just then, Chris approached from the opposite direction. His shiny black shoes and expensive suit proclaimed him as a successful businessman.

Chris frowned critically as he approached Dallas. “What in the world are you doing?” Chris asked, motioning toward the box.

“What does it look like I'm doing?” Dallas retorted sarcastically.

“Don't get mad at me! You're the one who is making life difficult for yourself,” Chris shot back with a small smirk.

“I know.  I know.,” Dallas admitted with a sigh. “But I've been carrying this box around for so long that I've almost forgotten what it is like to live without it.”

“What's in the box anyway?” Chris asked curiously.

After a long silence Dallas finally answered. “It's something I've never shown anyone before, but I can't keep going on like this.” He hesitated a moment longer. “If I let you see what's in the box, Chris,…maybe you can help me figure out what to do with it.”

“OK, why not. Let’s see what you’ve got,” Chris agreed.

Dallas set his burden on a nearby window ledge and hesitantly opened up the box. “Here.  I'll show it to you.”

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The businessman looked into the box and gasped. “Dallas, I never imagined you would do something like this!  I thought you were a Christian…or at least pretty good guy. I know I’ve seen you around church every once in a while. You shouldn't be like that!  Remember what the Bible says.  "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone.  The new has come."  You've just got to stop this, man! That's all there is to it. You should be past all that by now. Stop living in the past and get on with life!”

Chris made a hasty retreat from Dallas and his box of secrets. Dallas closed up his box, and silently picked up his burden once more.

The Judge Condemns
In this story, Chris represents one possible response that can be encountered in the church when people take the risk to let someone see their “boxes of secrets”. I have to give Chris credit for at least trying to offer help. But his reaction to whatever ugliness was in Dallas’s “box of secrets” so shocked him that he failed to respond as Jesus did to the woman caught in adultery.

Chris got the second part right. He was really strong on “Go and leave your life of sin.” That is, indeed an important message for Dallas to hear. But he completely missed “Neither do I condemn you.”


Time For Reflection
What do you think about Chris’s response?
  • How does Chris’s response compare to Jesus’s response?
  • Was Chris helpful at all to Dallas?
  • How does Chris's response compare with the way you would respond when faced with someone else’s “box of secrets”?

 “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11b)

In our next post, Dallas will meet Celine, a lady from the church. Will she respond differently than Chris did? Will she respond like Jesus? How will her response compare with yours?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Box of Secrets - The Example of Jesus

If you remember from the previous post, Dallas’s box of secrets stands for things he has done that he doesn’t want others to know about, or it could represent things others have done to him that he prefers to hide from the world. Unfortunately, the longer he carries the secrets, the heavier they get.

The point of this series isn’t so much to encourage people to share their boxes of secrets as it is to help us as members of the church to seriously consider how we react to people we meet who for one reason or other allow us a glimpse into their boxes.

Jesus Meets a Woman With a Box

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Jesus had an encounter with a woman whose box of secrets had spilled out into the street. We read her story in John 8:3-11. This woman had been caught in the act of adultery. In the culture of the time, the penalty for this sin was death by stoning. The teachers of the law and religious leaders brought her and their accusations to Jesus in an effort to trap him.

Jesus told them that whoever had never sinned could be the first to throw a stone at her. Then he calmly bent down to write in the dust on the ground, leaving them to examine their own hearts.

One by one, the accusers disappeared. A lot could be said about their motivation...and their departure from the scene, but I’m not so concerned with them right now. I want to focus on Jesus’s response to the woman.

When all the religious leaders had gone, Jesus looked up at the woman and asked, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?”

“No one, sir,” the woman answered, not daring to look at the one man who could claim the right to throw the first stone.

With deep compassion, Jesus answered, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Suddenly, the woman had a world of hope opened up to her. With those two sentences, Jesus set her free.

Jesus sets an example for us to follow as our lives touch the lives of others with their boxes of secrets. 

Time for Reflection
  •  Take a moment to consider how Jesus responded to the woman and her box of secrets. 
  • Consider how you tend to respond to the boxes of secrets of other people in your life. How does your response match up with the response of Jesus?
In the next post, we will see what happens when a man named Chris meets Dallas in the hallway at church and gets a peek into the secrets contained in Dallas’s box. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Box of Secrets

Dallas peeked through the door into the crowded hallway. “Should I go in, or go back home, or go…someplace else?” Dallas debated the question for several moments as he watched the crowd of smiling church-goers hurrying to their various Sunday School classes. “Look at them,” he thought. “They seem to be so all-together. Not like me. Not like me at all.” Dallas heaved a tired sigh, and shook his head. “What am I even doing here?” he muttered. “Why did I bother to come? I don’t belong here.”

Leaning against the wall just outside the door, Dallas closed his eyes. The fact was that even though he didn’t feel like he belonged, somehow he knew he needed to be there. “I need answers,” the young man finally whispered. “I need help. Nothing else I have tried has worked. Maybe, maybe I can find the help I need here…at church.” 
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The young man struggled to open the door as he balanced a box on one hip. It was a rather ordinary cardboard box, about the size of a college dorm refrigerator, and was obviously filled with something quite heavy. Dallas got one foot into the opening, and with his shoulder, carefully forced the door open wide enough to allow him to pass through with the heavy box.

He had barely made it halfway down the hallway when he heard a familiar voice. “Hey Dallas! Good to see you!” It was Andy, one of his co-workers. “I didn’t know you came to this church.”

“Yeah, well, here I am.” Dallas shifted his load uncomfortably.

“What’s up with the box?” Andy asked casually.

“Nothing much,” Dallas answered without meeting Andy's eyes. “Just some stuff.”

Andy patted the top of the box, causing it to shift a bit in Dallas’s arms. “Looks heavy,” he commented.

“I suppose,” Dallas replied.

“Why don’t you just put it down for a bit and give yourself a rest?” Andy suggested.

“Oh I couldn’t do that,” Dallas stated flatly. “I never put this down.”

“How come?” Andy asked.

“If I put it down, someone might look inside it and see what’s in there…and I don’t want anyone to see what is in this box.”

“We-e-e-e-l-l-l, if that’s the way you want it, I guess that’s up to you. Sorry, I gotta go now. Catch you later.” With that, Andy hurried on down the hallway to find his Sunday School class, leaving Dallas standing alone in the middle of the now-nearly-empty hallway with his box of secrets weighing him down.


In the next several posts, we will be talking about secrets. In this story, Dallas could be anyone. He could be someone who hasn’t been to church in years, if ever, and does not yet have a relationship with Jesus. Or he could be someone who has attended church for years, but has been lost in the crowd. He may even have trusted Jesus as Savior, but there are some things in his life that he has not yet allowed to come into the light. In any case, these things weigh him down in a way that is every bit as real as a heavily loaded refrigerator box.

What might be in the box? What secrets might Dallas be carrying that weigh so heavily on him? Perhaps the secrets are things he has done of which he is ashamed - his own sin. Perhaps the secrets are things that others did to him that wounded and scarred him. Most likely, it is a combination of the two. 

In any case, Dallas has come to the church in hopes of finding help. Over the next several posts, we will do two things:
  1. We will take a look at THE CHURCH through Dallas’s eyes. We will meet several people—four in all—who represent different reactions someone carrying a “box of secrets” might encounter in the church. We have already met one of these people. Andy sees that Dallas is struggling with something, but he doesn’t even try to offer any help. If Dallas wants to carry around his box of secrets, that’s his business. No need for Andy to get involved. 
  2. We will also take a look at an encounter Jesus had with a woman whose box of secrets had just spilled out into the street. (John 8:1-12) We will see how His response compares to the responses we might encounter—or make ourselves. 
I hope that we all will take time to reflect on our own responses to others with their “boxes of secrets”.

Time for Reflection
  • Imagine yourself meeting up with someone who does not yet know Jesus. This person is carrying a “box of secrets”. How do you feel toward that person? Wary? Sympathetic? Critical? Compassionate?
  • What if the person with a “box of secrets” is someone in your church who has been a believer for a good while, but is still carrying burdens from the past? Are your feelings toward that person different than your feelings for the one who has not yet trusted in Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Ask Jesus to help you grow more like Him as you reach out to people carrying their own “boxes of secrets”.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Birthday Walk Down Memory Lane

Yesterday was Rachel's birthday. She is eight years old. The time has flown so fast. I thought that I would share some of the pictures I've taken of her over the years.

This picture was taken the day I picked Rachel up in her village. She was six weeks old and weighed less than six pounds. In this photo, I was feeding her for the first time.  
Here Rachel is sleeping in her bed the first night in her new home.

  I think Rachel is four months old in this picture.

 I just like this one.

 Six months old (or so).

This is the passport photo for her first passport...
age two.

Riding a luggage cart somewhere in Michigan. We were on holiday with my mother and grandmother.


 Don't you love this smile?

On a ferry between Bali and Lombok.

Age four or so.

The two of us when she was age five.


Rachel with my mom and me in June 2013.

Rachel got her hair cut on her birthday. 
I kind of miss the long hair...
But the short cut is cute.

I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane.

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