First, before I get to my topic, let me say “Thank You” to all those who prayed for me and my ailing hip, (see Preacher on a Stick). After many prayers and two weeks of convalescence, I am mobile again with very little pain. Thank you Lord and thank you for your prayers.
On Christmas evening, after a wonderful Christmas meal with some members of the church, I returned to the residence here at the church building. A couple of hours later, about 6:30 PM, I went into the kitchen to get some lemonade and I heard something. (The small studio residence is housed in the “Fellowship” hall building and consists of a bedroom, private bath/shower, and a small kitchen I share with the church at special events). I opened the door and stepped into the fellowship hall to investigate the sound and saw nothing. I then opened the side door from the residence which leads outside and noticed my 20 lb. LP Gas bottle (which is connected to the stove inside) was sitting about three feet away from building and its normal resting place. I moved it back to where it belonged and opened the valve that had been closed and then it occurred to me what was going on... I had interrupted a theft!
Undoubtedly, the sound I heard was someone moving the LP Gas bottle away from the outside wall of the kitchen. He had turned the gas valve off and was about to remove the hose when I made a noise in the kitchen alerting him to my presence.
The next morning, I realized I had missed the bigger picture… the 20 lb. LP Gas bottle was not the only item the thief were interested in. The starting battery of the church van was gone… stolen. Understand, the church van is parked right outside the kitchen window. If I would have opened the blinds to that window I would have come face to face with the thief!
I tell you this story to punctuate something that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, stateside and abroad. On CHRISTMAS DAY, someone was willing to steal the property of a local church… a church that has been helping this community for years and making the community a better place to live. A church that proclaims God’s word and is the family of the Almighty God of heaven… this man was willing to steal from God and His people…ON CHRISTMAS DAY!
Wise men bring gifts… A THIEF STEALS!
I have now struggled with this for 36 hours, (well, not really… I did sleep a few hours). I feel violated in some sense. This man was probably hiding nearby, watching me when I went outside to investigate the noise I heard. There is a heavy equipment yard right next to the church and it’s likely, he was hiding among the heavy equipment WITH OUR CHURCH VAN BATTERY in hand… watching me. That freaks me out a little bit!
Stateside and abroad, there is a waning respect and a diminishing reverence for things considered holy and/or associated with God… be it people or property. (My situation is minor compared to recent church tragedies).
The Almighty God you and I serve and the Christianity we embrace is fast becoming an outdated philosophy to be pushed aside, disrespected, ignored, and even injured by many in the world. Fifty years ago, even the most worldly of men would shy from breaking in and stealing from a church. Violence and crimes against Christian churches and its members are on the rise.*
So, how should I feel about this? The old southern redneck in me wants to find this guy and teach him a good southern lesson in “Thou shalt not steal” with fist and foot. BUT… I’m way too old for that, but mostly, I’M WAY TOO CHRISTIAN for that.
I MUST follow the Master and His will and His teachings are clear on something like this:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matthew 5:43,44
“And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Luke 6:29,30
I must resist the temptation to even want to hurt or harm… if I fail to do so, that would make me more like the thief I disdain than the Christ I follow. I must pray for him.
Within an hour of the Christmas night theft, I wrote a note and put it on the 20 lb. LP Gas bottle he did not have time to take... thinking he might come back later to finish the job: It read,
“If you need the LP Gas so bad that you would steal it from the church, just take it. I will be praying for you. The Preacher.”
Did I mean it? Well… yeah… I guess... I heard a long time ago some preacher somewhere say this: “The guts follow the brain.” Maybe if I DECIDE to DO what Jesus says I should do… my guts (heart) will eventually follow my brain.
Though I struggle with it, the Master of my heart cannot dwell in a heart filled with anger, un-forgiveness, and vengeance and I would much rather have Him in my heart than those negative emotions that reflect a lost and dying world.
My hope and prayer for the thief is he will see his great need and like another thief almost 2000 years ago, will turn to the Savior and find amazing grace.
God bless you.