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."
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.
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.
There's a high fence around my friend Mel's garden. And he's got the most incredible fruit and vegetable garden I've ever seen. When Mel or his wife are at the grocery store, they can pretty much sail right past the produce department-they own a produce department. Their garden produces bumper crops of fresh tomatoes, corn, berries-you name it. I have always enjoyed taking a walk with him through what really feels like "God's little acre." But you don't just stroll from the yard right into the soil of the garden. You see, you have to open a gate and then go in. Every inch of that garden is surrounded by this sturdy fence. Now why does Mel have that big old fence around his garden? I suppose someone might say, "Oh, he just doesn't want anyone in there enjoying it." No. He has a fence there, not to limit your enjoyment of the garden, but to protect your enjoyment of the garden. It's not about keeping people from the beauty. It's about protecting the beauty from the things that could destroy it.
It's definitely the age of doctors who are specialists. Including one of the latest new specialties - the spin doctor. The spin doctor is actually to be found in the world of politics. As soon as some news breaks that might be damaging or embarrassing to a political leader or candidate, someone on their staff talks to the press about it - and they find a way to put a positive or undamaging "spin" on those revelations...to put their man or woman in the best possible light. The more powerful you become, the more "spin doctors" you need. And depending on how good the "doctor" is, a lot of people may end up believing the "spin" rather than the truth!
About every five years or so, I run into my scrapbook while I'm going through this closet. Oh, yeah, there's the geeky-looking, eighth-grader there, holding his county spelling bee trophy. Yea! And there's the chubby little Ronnie in his Indian outfit on a vacation in Minnesota. Yeah. And, the picture of our championship Bible Quiz Team. Now it's also a lot of fun when we pull out the old photos of our family. Decades of Christmas eves, scenes from scores and scores of vacation adventures, sons in football uniforms, a daughter all dressed up for her first recital. Ah, the memories. Now it isn't that we haven't had some not-so-great things happen. There was the automobile accident, the painful injuries, the bouts with various sicknesses. You know what? Somehow they just didn't make it into the memory book.
I first noticed it one day when I was mowing the lawn-a little dent in the ground. Over a few weeks, that little dent became a growing sinkhole. The ground was literally collapsing. I asked a neighbor, who was an amateur "sinkholeologist" what caused this phenomenon. He told me it was the drought of rainfall that we'd been having. He said an underground spring had probably dried up. And that dried up the ground, and the roots above it-and my yard went boom.
Look, a lot of toys come and go with this year's fads. But there are a few classic toys that just keep showing up in generation after generation-like Play-Doh, for example. I mean, who hasn't either owned some Play-Doh or bought some for a child or tried to get it out of the carpet? I mean, look, it's great stuff! You take it out of its' can and it's in the shape of the can it came in. But that changes quickly, depending on what you want to make of it. You can make that colored clay round like a ball, or you can make it into a pancake, or you can make it into two or three objects with different shapes. Play-Doh just takes on whatever shape you want it to be.
We have some wonderful Native American friends in the Northwest, and during one of our reservation outreaches, they honored us by inviting us to stay in their home. We had a great stay, but I did have to learn a custom that was new to me. When you walk in their front door, you are greeted with a pile of shoes. Now, in many Native American homes in that area, it's expected that your shoes won't make it past the door. Which makes you think about what socks you're going to wear that day for sure; probably not the ones that look like Swiss cheese. Actually, to come into the house with your shoes on is to really dishonor your hosts. And anyone who has had to sweep or vacuum the trail left behind by dirty shoes knows it's not just about honor. It really makes sense to not track dirt into a clean house!
Mr. Mom! That's what I became when my wife, Karen, was sick with a serious case of Hepatitis some years ago. She was confined to bed for a few months, actually, and we all realized as never before of course the difference that she made in our lives. Now, one little visible evidence of that was our kitchen sink, which seemed to take on a life of its own during those months. Oh yeah, we continued to do our usual good job of getting dishes dirty, but somehow no one was getting around to getting them clean! I remember going into the kitchen for what should have been a simple exercise - getting a drink of water, right? How hard is that? Well, fat chance! I looked everywhere for a glass. Oh, there were plenty of glasses - dirty ones in the sink. I mean a clean glass – not to be found. It was a frustrating search. I was searching for something clean to use and I couldn't find anything.