It's always been challenging to take our "On Eagle's Wings" team of young Native American believers to do reservation outreach. But going to Alaska to do it? Well, that meant a really challenging challenge! There's a suicide rate there 20 times greater than that of the rest of the young people in America. The young Native Alaskans are a desperate mission field. You can probably imagine the logistics of this kind of outreach were pretty exciting-especially when some of the villages you're in are 400 miles from the nearest road! The entire team had to be transported by missionary airplanes and fishing boats! Since the planes are just single or twin-engine aircraft, you can choose between taking less people with more luggage or more people with less luggage. Since we need every seat filled with a team member, the sacrifice is going to be, believe me, in how much baggage each of us takes. The limit is 20 pounds per person for five weeks! It's hard to travel that light, but it's important. When you carry just the basic essentials, you can move more people and go a lot farther!
He was in Singapore when he got word of a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean and the possibility of a killer tsunami that could be headed for land; land that included his own village in India. He knew what he had to do. Desperately, he tried to reach his family there by means of a cell phone, and they answered. He warned them about the approaching danger, and they in turn warned the entire village of some 150 people. Within minutes they all were headed for high ground. The tsunami did hit that village full force. The homes were destroyed, the boats were destroyed, but every single person from that village survived.
When you're a five-year-old girl, going dark places can be pretty scary. When my wife was that age, she lived in the country and she had this long, often dark road that she walked to get to the school bus. Part of the way, there was a grandma, and then there was a neighbor who watched and waved at her as long as she was in sight. See, it was that last stretch that was the problem. Trees covering that road, making it dark on the sunniest day, and sounds in the woods that reminded her of those wild critters that lived in their area. She told me how she made it down that stretch. She said, "There was one thing that got me through every day. I sang this little song, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know.'"
When you get a couple of veteran airplane travelers together, before long you're going to hear some "war stories." In fact, you're about to hear one now. It was one of those days at the airport. I was scheduled on this morning flight from the West Coast back to the New York area with a connection in a Midwest city. When I arrived at the airport, I learned my flight was being delayed for about four hours. Well, that's not that uncommon. but it was killing all my options for getting home for a while. Another flight on the same airline had been canceled, so now there is this long line of us not-so-happy campers at the airline's ticket desk. We're there for an hour and a half in line. The longer we had to wait, the more options were slipping away. Well, I found I had to quietly pray and remind Jesus and me that Jesus is Lord. The men behind me were becoming increasingly vocal about their unhappiness, so being the crazy man I am, I decided to try a little humor and lightheartedness. Pretty soon, we were laughing at our situation instead of overheating about it.
Scotty was just four years old, and he was lost in Brooklyn. A police officer spotted this little guy standing on a busy street corner in this huge city, crying. Of course, he tried to help the boy by asking him his address, and Scotty didn't know. The officer asked him his phone number, and he answered through his tears, "I can't remember." The officer was running out of options. He was just about to take the little guy down to the station when he thought of one last question: "Little boy, is there anything near your house that I might recognize?" That was the moment that little guy discovered the one thing that really helped him finally get home.
My outreach trips to South Africa have been with some wonderful ministry experiences. We saw African young people coming to Christ. We had the privilege of training South African youth workers to reach lost young people. And we were even training people to reach the lost and the young through radio. One afternoon we were able to sneak away long enough to visit one of the gold mines that helped make South Africa the richest country on that continent. Years ago this was the largest and richest gold mine in the world. Today, an old miner take guys like me, puts a helmet on them, gives them a light, and takes them on tours. It was fascinating to hear him describe how gold was uncovered and then extracted from deep inside the earth. At one point, he asked us to shine our light on one wall of the mine, and it sparkled with this bright, yellow gold! It was amazing…it was beautiful! The old miner told us, "Don't get too excited. Real gold is black. It doesn't even look like gold. That stuff that glitters, well, that's just fool's gold."
She's a princess in the royalty of Hollywood; one of the most successful, A-list, admired actresses in America. Behind the glamour, there are unrelenting struggles and unanswered questions. She was given some major recognition at an international awards ceremony, and as she expressed her gratitude, she also opened up her heart in a brief moment of extreme candor. She said, "You know, I play so many roles, sometimes I wonder who the real me really is." I'll tell you this, you don't have to be a Hollywood star to have that going on.
An alarm may be annoying but, face it, most alarms are your friend. The alarm clock in the morning-without which you'd lose your job. The smoke detector. The fire alarm. Most of us don't carry an alarm with us, but for some people, it's a very positive idea. I remember my wife was in a nursing home on an errand of mercy when suddenly this loud alarm went off. Immediately, a nurse came running to a door where she intercepted one of their elderly residents who was headed for that door. The manager explained that some of their residents are afflicted with serious memory loss or disorientation, so much so, that they have left the building and wandered off, not knowing where they were! So the woman who triggered the alarm has been fitted with a special bracelet-one that triggers an alarm whenever she is on the edge of a possible danger zone. Apparently, she does remember what that alarm is for. When it went off, she instinctively stopped where she was because that alarm, I guess she knows, could literally save her life.
I thought she was the cutest little thing in junior high. She didn't think I was the cutest little thing in junior high, though. See, I decided to make an all-or-nothing play for her. I went downtown and I spent all my allowance money on this necklace for her; the finest rhinestones you have ever seen. Then I wrote this eloquently mushy note to go with it and I sealed them both in an envelope which I proceeded to hand her one day as she passed by my desk in study hall. The next day, she passed by my desk again, and I looked down and there was a familiar looking envelope with the note and the necklace in it. Ouch!
It's a battle every mother has fought in every generation. That three-word charge that can mean the difference between getting sick or being well - "Wash your hands." Of course, it would be OK with most kids if washing their hands was a monthly thing, or at most maybe once a week. Our kids did it. I suppose you know at least one other who has done it. They come in from doing who knows what with those hands and they say, "They're not dirty." Now there may not be any brown slime dripping from those little hands, but you can be sure they're carrying a lot of nasty little critters. And it's amazing what happens when you get some soap and water on those hands - the sink is suddenly covered with some pretty yucky-looking stuff coming off those hands. Surprise, kid - you couldn't see it, but your hands were dirty. You just didn't realize how dirty!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Dirty Hands Detector."
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Chronicles 30:15, where some folks who thought they were clean found out about some dirt they didn't know they were carrying. It's the time of King Hezekiah, one of the greatest of Judah's rulers. When he takes the throne, the nation is a moral and spiritual sewer, with idolatrous altars literally on every street corner. But Hezekiah turns his entire culture around and leads the people into a powerful, national revival.
But it started with the spiritual leaders. You know what, it still does today. After cleaning out the neglected and defiled temple of God, Hezekiah calls the people together for a national Passover celebration. It's been a long time since the people of God have observed this holy remembrance of God's deliverance. Listen to what happens to the spiritual leaders, the priests and the Levites, as they begin to prepare for this holy moment. "They slaughtered the Passover lamb...The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord. Then they took up their regular positions." Here the leaders are, in the middle of preparing for a service, and suddenly they stop what they're doing. They're ashamed. Suddenly, they are deeply aware of their sin, their compromise, their failures. What do they do to get over the shame? They consecrate themselves to God...they get rid of the garbage.
There's something pretty powerful here - something that any of us who have been given any spiritual leadership needs to absorb. Like these priests and Levites, Maybe you've been entrusted with some spiritual responsibility. You're teaching or you're leading, you're broadcasting, or parenting, or preaching, counseling, organizing or administering God's work. Look what happened to the spiritual leaders in Hezekiah's day. As they began to handle the holy, they realized they were not holy enough to handle it! They didn't realize what dirt there was on their hands until they began to handle holy things.
That's exactly what should be happening to you and me as we do the work God has given us - seeing the dirt we need to deal with before we handle the holy. First, we need to always remember we are handling the very things of God - our holy, holy, holy God. Do not ever let your work for Him become careless, or mechanical, or self-serving. It's a solemn - even dangerous - mistake to handle the holy without clean hands. That's why God says in Isaiah 52:11, "Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord."
Serving Christ is not fun-and-games or just some little spiritual exercise. It requires a holy life behind it. It produces a holy life, if you let it sink in what an incredible honor it is to be asked by a thrice-holy God to handle what is His. Like a child, you may look at what people can see of you and say, "My hands aren't dirty." But let your Savior begin to show you what you're doing that He can't bless - let Him cleanse your hands before you touch the sacred.
No child should handle food without clean hands. No child of God should handle the holy work of God without hands, without a heart, that God would call clean.