Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Looking through New Lenses

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Cor 5:16-17

Sometime back I visited an optical supply – not a retail store – to pick up new lenses for my frames.  In addition to trees, birds, and highway signs, I saw something else more clearly that day than I ever had before.


These folks – a father and daughter – knocked themselves out to greet me and make me glad I came.  They offered me a seat and a cup of coffee.  They apologized that they would need just a few minutes to install the lenses.  They stopped what they were doing and chatted with me, as if they had all the time in the world.  As we visited, they even showed me pictures of their family, including some fine-looking grandchildren.   We had never met before, and we knew only one person in common – my optometrist.  


They weren't trying to sell me anything.  I had already made the purchase and was just there to pick it up.  I think they were kind and thoughtful because of who they were, not because of who I was or what I had to offer.  My guess is that that welcomed everybody just as warmly as they did me.


What do people see when they first meet us who claim to follow Christ?  How do we see them and want them to see us?  How shall we treat someone new who walks through our doors to visit our services?  What might he or she want to tell us?  An author unknown to me has written the following piece.

I Am A Newcomer.  Won't You Please …

SMILE AT ME as I walk in the door.  You are my first impression of the church during the first few moments I am in your building, and this first impression will probably stay with me a long time.  HELP ME find my place in the service.  I will not think of your help as an intrusion.  In fact, I will remember your kindness.  SPEAK TO ME during the fellowship time before and after service.  I will know that if you care for a stranger, you care for your church family deeply.  TELL ME GOOD THINGS about the church, your elders, deacons, and minister.  I want to believe that I have come to a place where people love each other and where they believe that they are doing something exciting and important for the Lord.  NOTICE ME even if I am not a "family."  I don't want to feel invisible just because I am unmarried, a single parent, a teenager, or an older person.  TALK TO ME AGAIN the second week when I come back, and the third and fourth.  I am still not a part of your church family.  INVITE ME to become a part of some church activity or small group.  I need more contact with the church family before I can feel that I belong. 

I was a stranger, and you invited Me in … to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.  Matt 25:35, 40

Cory Collins

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hanging On For Dear Life

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  Heb 2:1

In September, 1987, the New York Times reported an unusual mid-air incident.  It happened on a commuter flight to Boston from Portland, Maine.  The plane, a 15-seat Beechcraft 99, belonged to Eastern Express.  The pilot was Henry Dempsey, 46 years old, of Cape Elizabeth.  When he and his co-pilot heard a rattling sound toward the rear, Dempsey left his partner in the cockpit to go and check it out.

Suddenly the aircraft hit turbulence.  Dempsey leaned against the rear stairway door, which was hinged at the bottom, and it flew open. That rear door had not been properly latched prior to take-off. 

The co-pilot, Paul Boucher of Lynn, MA, saw that the ''door ajar'' indicator light was on and realized something had happened, so he changed course and flew to the Portland International Jetport.  He radioed ahead to report the emergency.

Thinking that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane, the staff at the jetport control tower requested that a helicopter crew begin a search.  ''A man called, and said a pilot had been sucked out of a cockpit through an open door and had fallen into the sea,'' said William Falk, a Coast Guard duty officer in South Portland.

People assumed that, when Dempsey was powerfully sucked from the plane, he let go.  
He did not.

Somehow he managed to grab the outer door ladder of the aircraft and hang on to it for the longest ten minutes of his life.  He tumbled forward, grabbed the railings as he fell, and lay upside down on the stairs as the plane cruised at 190 miles per hour at an altitude of 4,000 feet.  During the landing, Dempsey's face was only about 12 inches above the runway.

It took airport personnel several minutes just to pry his fingers from that ladder.

Dempsey, having suffered cuts and bruises, was treated at a local hospital and released.  He had learned firsthand the vital importance of hanging on, no matter what pressure he might have allowed to pull him away.

As Priscilla J. Owens wrote: 
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

Check your grip on Jesus Christ.  Read the Word.  Pray fervently.  Get involved.  Share your faith.  As you do, you will secure your hold, even through forceful turbulence, until you land safely home by His grace.

Cory Collins

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mower than Expected

Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.  Phm 1:21

John Deere tractors are expensive to buy, beautiful to behold, fun to drive … and maybe sometimes hard to resell.  Last year Tanya and I purchased the D110, with a 42-inch cut, a double bagger, and a 19.5-horsepower engine.  We adapted the fence structure at our house so that we could reach both the front and the back parts of the yard.  With joy and pleasure, and attempted humility, I drove that baby up and down, back and forth, again and again.  I was a big kid with a new toy.

When the elders in Keller, Texas, invited us to work with God’s people there, we knew we had to make a tough decision.  Should we move?  There was another question, among many.  If we did go, what would we do with our almost-new John Deere?  After arriving in our new location, we realized we would either rent an apartment for awhile or buy a house with a much smaller yard than the one we had.  So it just made good sense to try to sell the riding mower.

Initial efforts accomplished little.  We set a fair price, below what the dealer would charge for a similar used model.  We asked our Alabama friends if they knew of any potential buyers.  We even listed the mower on Craigslist.  Nothing happened.  Of course, it was January, after all!

When March 1 came I posted the photo of the mower on a Facebook page called, “Shoals Sale Barn,” which is used for selling and buying items in that part of Alabama.  Next thing I knew, I heard from a fine young lady there who had been in a Bible class that I had taught years earlier at Mars Hill Bible School.  She said, “My mom needs that mower!  Consider it sold!”

Our former next-door neighbor in Florence took our mower from our garage, added some gas, cranked it up, and drove it to his garage.  The young lady sent a family friend to see the mower and take it away in his truck.  It was all done on the honor system.  No bill of sale was signed.  No money was exchanged.  However, she told us on Facebook that her mother would mail us a check.  I gave her our new address.

Well, today the check came, as promised.  Actually, it was “mower” than promised!  The figure on the check was $100 higher than our asking price!

Since when does that happen?  Aren’t we accustomed to the buyer negotiating for a lower price?  After all, “The mower’s not new.”  “What’s that scratch?”  “This seat is not the most comfortable.”  “What’s the very least you will take?”  We almost expect people to try to get by with the absolute minimum.  We may even act that way ourselves.

You know I was thrilled and thankful to get that check.  It also got me to thinking. 

God is in the “mower” business.  And I should be, too.

I should give people “mower” than they ask.  I should work and serve “mower” than expected.  I should go the second mile.  I should add value, as much as I possibly can, to people’s lives.  Isn’t that the greatest joy of all?  Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive?

Lord, thank you for giving me “mower” than I could have asked or imagined.  Thank you for the cross, where Jesus paid enough to save me, not just for today, but for eternity.  Help me to become just like you … generous, compassionate, open-hearted, and open-handed.  Let me not settle for the least, but let me aim for the most and the best, as You have done for me.  Let me offer people the gospel, going beyond what I have ever done before.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.  2 Cor 8:3-5

Cory Collins

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Skunk’s Descent

… even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief … 1 Tim 1:13

My friend Martin Mosley has a story to tell, and boy, does it smell!  When he was in high school, in the 1950s, he made himself a belt from a snake he had killed.  His fellow students could not wait for him to do the same for them.  Martin enjoyed trapping snakes along the river and turning their skins into belts for his friends.  It became a nice little business for a teenage boy.

One evening, however, while looking for snakes, Martin came across, of all things, a skunk.  Fearless and courageous, apparently throwing caution and good “scents” to the wind, he grabbed the critter by the tail.  Actually, young Martin thought the skunk was safe and harmless, as long as its feet were not touching the ground.  That was actually not correct.  The truth is that a skunk whose tail is raised is quite able to fire, whether he is on the ground or in the air!  However, Martin was still able to get the skunk home without being sprayed. 

Appropriately, he named his new pet “Stinker.”

In addition to the cage where he kept Stinker, Martin devised a harness and a leash so he could walk the skunk and take him on outings.  Just imagine how people must have reacted when they saw this unlikely pair coming their way!  How fast they must have run!

Then Martin activated a permanent solution.  He took Stinker to a vet, who held his tail down while injecting him with anesthesia.  The skunk’s efforts to raise his tail became weaker and weaker, until he succumbed to the medicine.  Then the doctor removed Stinker’s stinker.  Without his equipment, the little guy would never again be able to make others reek with his odor.  Stinker experienced what this article calls the skunk’s “de-scent.” 

Years ago a friend told me that some people can be like skunks.  Instead of addressing their own problems, confessing their sins, and drawing closer to the Lord, they look for someone to spray.  Through criticism and gossip, they fire away, potentially hurting precious, innocent people.  Then they go on their way, feeling relieved and even justified in what they have done, leaving a terrible odor in their wake.  Such behavior can become natural, habitual, and almost instinctive.  Everything is someone else’s fault.  There are plenty of targets at which to aim the blame and the accusations.  “Hit-and-run” is not just for skunks; it can be a great temptation for God’s two-legged creatures as well.

I want to be “de-scented!”  I want to be harmless, helpful, and honest about my faults.  I want to pray, asking the Lord to change me so that I will never spray again.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.  Ps 139:23-24

Cory Collins