Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Behold, a Blower Went Forth to Blow

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth. It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  Isa 55:11

"We got your balloon a couple days ago in Coweta, Oklahoma," the email said.  The father went on to write, "It was giving our one-year-old entertainment from her bedroom window. it finally came down into the yard, and we saw the card.  Thanks."
That balloon was given to a child here in Keller, Texas, on April 14, 2012.  The Keller church of Christ was reaching out with the gospel that day to families who came to attend the annual "Crawfish Krawl" here.  Wearing our church T-shirts, we met hundreds of people, sharing God's love and message.  We put flyers on all the windshields in our parking lot.  We provided a "bounce house" in which kids could play.  We served cold water and warm invitations.

Inside each balloon was a business-sized card, with our invitation, logo, website, and contact information.  The card even had a code that smart phones could scan in order to reach our church website.

Several balloons got loose from the little hands that held them and wandered off into the sky.  We could only imagine how far each might travel and whose heart it might touch.  We may not hear anything about what happened to most of them.  However, thanks to this father's email, we know where one of them landed after two days in the air.  Just where is Coweta, Oklahoma, anyway?

Coweta, north of Muskogee, is over 270 miles from Keller, Texas.

That precious baby girl watched as that helium-filled balloon descended from heaven.  Because she noticed, her father noticed.  When it landed it still contained the life-changing "seed," the message within.  And he felt compelled to contact us with their story.  We answered his email right away, in hopes of further opportunities to share the gospel.

Keep on going, sowing, and ... blowing.  Or at least sending God's wonderful message to the four winds.  Only He knows where it may land.

Cory Collins

Shooting the Moon: Lottery Fever

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, to “shoot the moon” is British slang, going back to about 1823, that originally meant “to leave without paying rent.”  In card games it now carries the idea of risking everything for a possible but unlikely reward.  It may be influenced by the gambling phrase, “shoot the works” (1922), and the dice slogan, “go for broke.”  It conveys the image of aiming for something that is very hard, if not impossible, to reach.
Last month (March, 2012), millions of Americans across the country plunked down an estimated $1.5 billion in the hopes of winning the Mega Millions jackpot, which reached a record $656 million.  That takes “shooting the moon” to a whole new level.  Oh, the lottery did have guaranteed winners; the people that organized the operation collected a fortune.  Just subtract the $656 million spent out from the $1.5 billion taken in.  If you and I really wanted to win a lottery, we should not buy into one; we should run it!  You know I’m not serious.

Could you have had any reasonable hope of winning, if you had bought a $1 ticket?  Based on U.S. averages, you were about 8,000 times more likely to be murdered than to win the lottery and 20,000 times more likely to die in a car crash.

California statistician Mike Orkin, the author of “What Are the Odds? Chance in Everyday Life,” put the real chances of winning in perspective.

By the numbers, you had a 1 in 175,711,536 chance of picking the winning numbers.  That means the following, according to Orkin:

If you bought 50 tickets a week, you would win the jackpot every 68,000 years.

If every time you drove a mile, you bought one ticket, you would have to drive the equivalent distance of 370 roundtrips to the moon before you would win the jackpot.  (There we go again, “shooting the moon” …)

If you bought one ticket and had one friend in Canada, and you put the names of every single person in Canada in a container and drew one name at random, you would be five times more likely to draw your friend’s name than to win the jackpot.

If you bought one ticket, you would be 33 times more likely to be killed in the next year by a wasp or bee than you would be to win the jackpot.

Orkin, an associate vice chancellor at the Peralta Community College District, said you could guarantee a win, but only if you bought 176 million tickets and selected a different combination of numbers for each one.

Even if you had the money to do that, there would be one problem: If you filled out three tickets a minute, 24 hours a day, it would take 110 years to fill them out.

Believe it or not, Orkin said that it’s still worth a try.  “For a $1 bet, you can change your lifestyle if you win,” he said. “One dollar isn’t going to make you go bankrupt. Here you have this very, very small chance of completely changing your lifestyle, so why not spend a dollar on it?”  Orkin said that most people recognize that they aren’t going to be that one extremely lucky person who gets the $540 million jackpot. But they play anyway because they don’t want to be left out.  “It is sort of a public frenzy,” he said. “People like to get into the action.”

I must disagree with him there.  Why “get into the action,” when the “action” is losing money?

Tongue-in-cheek, Orkin urges losers to take heart, because they are in good company. They have become part of a massive social network.  “This is like the Facebook for gambling,” Orkin said. “For every winner, there are 176 million losers. You are just part of that group.”  Is that supposed to make losers feel better?

Also heartbreaking is this irony.  Rather than pulling the poor from the pit, the lottery in effect sinks them deeper and deeper in it.  A report from The Consumerist a few years back indicated that those earning less than $13K a year in the U.S. spent a whopping 9% of their income on lottery tickets.  According to author Jonah Lehrer, poor folks spend extravagantly on such “get-it-quick” propositions.  Their spending ensures their ongoing poverty, which keeps them buying tickets.

As for me, I’d rather invest in a sure thing.  Jesus said, “… lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matt 6:20-21

In the Kingdom of God, there are no losers.  Sign me up.

Cory Collins

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stuck with Cockleburs

Remember the times that you have returned from hunting or from a walk in the woods, only to find cockleburs stuck to your clothes? Some people may wonder why God made such “nuisances.” Surely He had a purpose. What could it be?
As Tom Childers notes, life has its cockleburs. These may include a handicap, illness, unpleasant work environment, unhappy home life, financial difficulties, or the illness or loss of a loved one. The Bible says: “… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 16-18). By faith we know that God can bring triumph out of tragedy. He can cause all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).
One curious man examined cockleburs more closely under a microscope. After considerable research, he developed a revolutionary product now used in space suits, surgical clothing, tennis shoes, and thousands of other items. In the 1950s, George de Mestral patented what became “Velcro.”  Today countless products stick together as a result, for our benefit.

There is a reason why cockleburs attach themselves to everything they touch. They are seeds, hitching a ride on our clothes in order to reproduce. In God’s amazing plan He uses you and me to carry them to other places so that they can take root there and multiply.
In the same way, because we are attached to Jesus Christ, we carry Him wherever we are, whether at home or at work, whether across the street or across the world.  The result is that the seed of the gospel of grace is planted in fertile ground. “The farmer went forth to sow …” (Mark 4:3) Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” We must attach ourselves to people and build deep, genuine relationships in order to win them to Christ.
Second, people attached to Christ become attached to each other. As we become like Him, as we worship Him with joy and reverence, as we obey His unchanging, authoritative Word, and as we carry out His mission, we will find ourselves bound by a common goal. “ … make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2) Hearts become “encouraged, knit together in love.” (Colossians 2:2)  That’s what’s happening among the Lord’s people. It’s special. It’s wonderful. It’s God’s doing. Thank you for getting stuck! Let’s stay that way.
-- Cory Collins