Friday, October 28, 2011

Pray For Rain

It was a dark and stormy night… really.  I had just finished a wedding ceremony and many from the wedding party were meeting for dinner at a Japanese steakhouse.  A torrential rain storm had opened up and just getting from the car to the front door of the restaurant was a swim Michael Phelps would be proud of.  I walked inside and the owner / host greeted me with a question that annoys the bejeebers out of me, “How do you like this weather?”  I answered the only way I know how, truthfully.  “The weather is wonderful.”  The host was completely caught off guard by this jovial response, “So you like all this rain?”  Again, the truth, “I love rain.  I’m looking forward to a great dinner here tonight and I hope all the animals and crops that are on the menu tonight got a whole lot of rain before they came to the kitchen.”  Let’s get a word from our Great Chef… I mean Sponsor:
He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)
This verse explains that God is impartial, regardless of man’s wishes or wisdom.  Pay close attention to the phrasing of this verse.  Read it from the perspective of human thought - “you get what you deserve”. 

The sun rises on the evil… and also on the good. 
He sends rain on the righteous… and also on the unrighteous. 

The bad people deserve bad weather - a scorching blistering drought; the good people deserve good weather - plenty of rain to water their crops and cool the earth.  Jesus basically told us "the weather is wonderful" and the righteous understand the great value of rainfall.

Here’s a fantastic song, Trouble In The Fields, from one of my favorite singer / song writers, Nancy Griffith (second verse and chorus):
There's still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields
There's a book up on the shelf about the dust bowl days
And there's a little bit of you and a little bit of me
In the photos on every page
Now our children live in the city and they rest upon our shoulders
They never want the rain to fall or the weather to get colder

And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They'll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we'll work these crops with sweat and tears
You'll be the mule I'll be the plow
Come harvest time we'll work it out
Nancy, raised in the arid Texas panhandle, knows how desperately farmers need rain.  City slickers eat food, but aren't involved in growing it so they see rain as "bad" weather.  Let’s think about it.  Does NASA send explorations to the Moon and to Mars to see if there is any sunshine there?  No, the search for life is the search for water.  All this is an excellent example of how self-focused we can become.  Followers of Jesus look to Him for guidance about what is good and profitable for us.  Followers of Jesus trust God to be greater than the circumstances of our lives and whether we like them or not.  The next time your picnic gets rained out, take a moment to thank God that you have food to eat at all.

Clark H Smith

ps - Is there wisdom for you in today's post?  Please click the Facebook logo below and share this blog with your world.  Thank you very much!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Through The Ice

Living in Alaska, my dad took my brother and I out ice fishing in the winter of 1969.  We actually didn't go fishing, but it was a good sounding excuse for us to drive out in the middle of nowhere and just play in the forests and on the frozen river ...well, sort of frozen.  My brother was off chasing squirrels or something as Dad and I walked down the frozen river.  In the winter, at 40° below zero, the ice will freeze two feet thick on slow running rivers.  Dad saw that we were approaching a place where the river was running fast and shallow and the river was not frozen there at all; instead it bubbled up through the ice over the rocks.  He told me to wait and let him take the lead, to avoid the thin ice.  He took one step to move even with me and one more step to move ahead.  With one more step he disappeared from sight, down through the ice, and into the brown water of the Chena River.  Dad was gone.  More on this thrilling adventure after a word from our Sponsor:
“…whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b) 
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
Did you ever wonder why Christians believe you can’t be saved (get to heaven) by doing good works?  Think about it, if you get condemned to hell for doing bad works (sin), why can’t you get admission to heaven by doing the opposite, through doing good works?  That’s the whole idea of karma (not a Christian concept) – balancing out the positive and negative work as we go through life.  Why didn’t Jesus set up a points system for works… steal a candy bar, lose 5 points on your eternal tally; kill your neighbor, forfeit 100 points; go to church twice in a month, +10; go on a mission trip to Africa, +50?  That seems so much simpler, at least easier to keep track of.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God.  Ever wonder if you love God enough?

In the Romans verse above, Apostle Paul explains that the problem is not the sin, but the lack of faith that leads to the sin.  Let’s take Adam and Eve as an example,  they ate the “forbidden fruit”.  But why?  They had all the best food in the world available to them right there in the Garden of Eden.  I believe that when Eve was tempted, she lacked faith that all the rest of that food was as good (or better) than the fruit she had in her hand.  What about your sins?  Is it possible that you lied because you didn’t have faith that the truth would set you free.  Is it possible that you stole because you didn’t have faith that God would provide for you.  Is it possible that you lusted because you didn’t have faith that God would give you complete fulfillment with your spouse?  The Bible teaches that whatever is not anchored in faith results in sin.

Followers of Jesus follow Him through faith.  A lack of faith caused our separation from God.  The life of faith is the only path back into fellowship with God.  (see Hebrews 11:6 also)   Now, let’s go up north again and see where this perilous adventure takes us.

In northern climates public service announcements run on TV repeatedly, informing you how to pull people out of the ice.  But there’s a big difference between lakes where the water is still and rivers where the water is flowing.  When you fall through the ice on a river, the current pushes you past the hole you fell through and you wind up trapped under the ice – dying within a couple minutes due to hypothermia and drowning.  The only hope a person has is to, somehow, resist the current and come straight back up through hole that you went down through – in spite of the flowing water.

A lifetime passed in half a second… and as fast as he disappeared, Dad popped straight back up out of that hole.  I laid down, gave Dad something to grab onto and managed to get him out of that frozen river.  Dad recovered beautifully, probably too shocked to even get sick. 

You get my point?  You have to come back the same way you left.  Sin, bad works, is a problem, but it’s not the initial problem – a lack of faith is the start of us moving away from God.  Followers of Jesus come back to God the same way we left – through faith.  Good works are great, but no matter how great a swimmer my dad may have been, he could never swim well enough to get back to a hole he had been pushed away from.

Followers of Jesus live by faith - truly live!

Clark H Smith

ps - This is my favorite illustration of all because it is so terribly personal, it was a moment where life and death was so real in front of me, and because it tells the profound truth of our relationship with God.  Would you do me a favor?  Click that "f" button just below here and share this on Facebook.  Even better, when you share this blog post, share your story of coming back to God through faith.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Glimpse In The Dark

In October of 1982, I was visiting a friend at the University of Missouri.  College kids being all social and everything, I wound up meeting “a girl”.  Eight months later… we were married.  I highly recommend “love at first sight” if it’s really love and if you are seeing things clearly.

We actually only saw each other face-to-face about five times before we got married.  In the Spring of 1983, Alyse was doing “clinicals” in hospitals in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas so I (from Dallas) visited her a couple times when our schedules allowed.  Alyse’s last clinical was at Shriner’s Burn Hospital in Galveston.  At night, we walked along the beach.  I wanted to take a picture of this beautiful gal, but it was pitch black and I couldn’t see her to focus my (old-timey, manual focus) camera.  Eventually I figured out that as cars came down a side road and turned onto Seawall Blvd, the car lights would sweep across the beach and I had a split second to focus.  I think you’ll agree that the image was well worth the wait and the effort.

Now’s a good time to catch a word or two from our Sponsor:
“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel”
(Numbers 24:17a NASB)
 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Corinthians 13:12)
In the Old Testament, the Savior (the Star, the Scepter) was prophesied, but He was yet to be seen.  We got brief glimpses of the Messiah through the prophets.  Then, on that blessed night in Bethlehem, Jesus stepped into our world and we saw Him, full of grace and truth.  But He was only on this planet for 33 short years.  In reality, today our glimpses backward to the time of Jesus are only slightly better than the ancients’ glimpses forward.  But in both cases those brief sightings are rare and rewarding.

Those glimpses of Alyse on Galveston beach were a metaphor for how seldom and precious our times together were.  We actually didn’t even speak together on the phone very much.  Back in the day, long distance phone calls were expensive so we wrote a LOT of letters back and forth.  We still have those letters - among our most prized possessions.   This October, we celebrate knowing each other for 29 spectacular years.  Although we now live under the same roof – going through all the motions of life together – the urgency of those first eight months still lives in our hearts.  Those letters are just as precious to us today as when they arrived in the mail 28 to 29 years ago.

Followers of Jesus are an odd bunch.  We follow a person who was anticipated for a couple thousand years, He showed up for 33 years, and now has been absent from the earth for a couple thousand years.  Glimpses of Him are wonderful and precious.  And those letters!  The writings of Jesus’ words and the letters of the people who knew and followed Jesus are precious to us as well.

On that pitch black beach, even when I couldn’t see the one I adored, I still knew she was there.  We talked and I felt her presence.  Followers of Jesus walk the same way – by faith, not sight – talking with and celebrating the presence of the One we adore - Jesus.

Clark H Smith

ps – Have a favorite photo of a loved one that captures a moment in time?  Visit my Facebook page, post it up, and write a note about what it means to you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revenge of The Cookie Monster

There’s no sound in all the world quite as distinctive as a 6 year-old throwing up in the middle of the night.  (Parents, you know what I mean?)  But that’s what we heard and that’s what happened.  My wife and I rushed into our son’s bedroom to find a wretched mess.  Trying to figure out the cause of the disaster, my wife, a forensic nutritionist, observed some clues that prompted her to turn to my son and inquire, “Noah, how many cookies did you eat at the church fellowship tonight?”  The answer… after a word from our Sponsor:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Did you see that coming?  What do cookies and the Cross have to do with each other?  Little Noah looked up with near-innocence and squeaked out, “I was only going to eat three, but I ate ten on accident.”  Do you know how rare it is for two adults to be busting a gut laughing while wiping up vomit off a hardwood floor?

The definition of “accident” is clearly open to deliberation.  While considerately taking cookies to his friends, did Noah, trip, fall, and accidentally ingest two cookies short of a dozen?  I know church is a place where you’re supposed to believe in miracles, but even that is a reach.  You know what I think happened?  I think little Nonie put ten cookies, one right after another, right down his gullet.  Did he anticipate the consequences?  No.  Had we cautioned him against gluttony?  Yes.  But even though we had published our own family 10 Commandments (one for each cookie?), Noah still did what he did.  And my wife and I still had to clean up after him.

A lot of people walk around squawking stupid things like “don’t let anyone ‘should’ on you”, “it’s my life, it’s now or never”, “I’ve gotta be me, gotta live free”, but there are still consequences to behavior.  The ultimate consequence is that God sent His Son to “clean up” after us, to restore our fellowship with God.

Followers of Jesus don’t consider the commands and cautions of scripture to be an impediment to our freedom and fun.  Followers of Jesus consider the guidance of scripture to be wisdom worth heeding.  Followers of Jesus thank God everyday for cleaning up after us, you know, when we have an “accident”.

Clark H Smith

ps – Do you have an example of how God’s instructions for living has guided your through difficulty?  Visit my Facebook page and share your story.

(The image accompanying this post is one of the most popular shirt.woot designs entitled “The Binge”.  I highly recommend you get one for the cookie monster in your house.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Where You Take Your Stand Matters

I did just exactly what you’d expect.  Standing on the south side of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, I took a giant stride to left, “I’m in the Eastern Hemisphere”; take a giant stride to the right, “I’m in the Western Hemisphere”.  The 0° Prime Meridian is marked by a broad chalk stripe running down the hill to the south.  Two halves of the world collide on a hillside in suburban London.  It’s kind of hard to fight the urge to be utterly silly and predictable. 

There is a small difference between what world you are in and the world you are right next to.  I once had a friend who piously announced that he would not eat in a restaurant that served liquor.  (Nonetheless, he still shopped in grocery stores that sold liquor – they all do.)  He believed he was taking a stand against alcohol consumption by not patronizing certain restaurants, but he never thought for a moment that he might be advocating liquor by where he bought groceries.  Before I continue, let’s catch a word from our Sponsor.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2)
The point is we live in this world we often rub shoulders with things that are not good, acceptable, or perfect.  Scripture only tells me not to be cookie-cutter-ed (“conformed”) by the things of this world – it doesn’t tell me to stand in judgment outside the doors of places that I deem unsavory wagging my finger at people who don’t agree with me.

Followers of Jesus listen carefully to the Holy Spirit as to where to put their feet.  Followers of Jesus… well, they follow Jesus who turned water into wine, but didn’t get drunk; who hung out with hookers, but didn’t sample their wares; who hung out with power brokers, but didn’t get caught up in worldly ambition.  Whether I’m standing in the Eastern Hemisphere or the Western Hemisphere, I’m still who I am.  Whether I travel the continents of this world or walk around in my own house, I am who I am.  Followers of Jesus seek the metamorphosis (“transformed”) from scoundrel to saint that only comes from faithfully following Jesus toward the good, the acceptable, the perfect.  And followers of Jesus influence others by the character of their life, not by the things they boycott.

Clark H Smith

ps – Would you do me a favor?  Whenever someone posts a reference to Follow Illustrated on Facebook, our hits spike up – way up!  Would you click the Facebook icon just below and share this blog with your friends?  I’d really appreciate it!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Go, Sailboat, Go!

“The sailboat will be the last thing to go.”  That was my wife’s and my commitment as we went through some very difficult financial times.  I lost my job, we had just bought a house, our second child was three months old, and one of our two cars was leased.  As the cards slowly fell on the table, I realized that ownership of my wonderful 26’ sloop was about to get transferred.  I’ll never forget the day I towed it to the new owner.  While financial wisdom was swirling all around us, our eyes were on antiques, traveling, and sailboats.  Five years into our marriage, my wife and I were flat broke.  We were so in debt and had so little income, even the crisis credit counselors turned us away (no foolin’!).  Yes, the word “foolish” does come to mind.

Maybe if we had listened to a word from our Sponsor, we’d have been better off: 
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)
It is very difficult to live in this world and not want the things of the world or measure your success by the things this world offers.  We are also addicted to immediate gratification and the thrill of “the new”.  One of our sons worked at ToysRUs over a Christmas one season.  He was trained to offer parents breakage and loss coverage for the toys.  One dad said, “No I don’t want the insurance.  The toy will break in six months and then my son will get something new that he’ll enjoy.”  This dad was actually betting on getting no value for his money.  I told my son we should start a business - if your toy hasn’t broken in 6 months, we’ll come to your house and break it for you.

Some people like to point out that Jesus was successful without owning property or personal possessions other than His clothes.  Jesus, Himself, said “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).  But Jesus frequently stayed with close friends who owned property (Luke 10:38) and he frequently accepted invitations to banquets in the homes of wealthy persons (Luke 7:36).  Jesus even affirmed paying taxes which are a result of earning income (Matthew 22:21).  So let’s not make Jesus out to be some Marxist socialist.  What set Jesus apart, and what will set followers of Jesus apart, is that He didn’t love worldly junk – that’s not where His heart was. 

Many, many times my family has watched me bust into the house exclaiming, “I’m rich in the way of the world.”  They know that I have just bought a carload of something we can actually use at 85% off.  They also know that my wife and I do not (now) waste our income.  We are shrewd stewards of our worldly possessions and income and we look forward to the time when it all goes away – to be replaced by true, heartfelt treasure.

PS: Another son is catching on to all this – or at least the idea of it.  Check out Joshua's band Stop Thief - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  (John 10:10)

Clark H Smith

ps - I'd love to hear from you.  What's your experience with being "rich in the way of the world"?  Ever been stone broke?  And while you're at it, would you mind to click the Facebook or Twitter icon just below and share Follow Illustrated with someone.  THANKS!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shout It From The Housetops!

The genius of Christianity is that it is based on relationships.  I’ve never heard of anyone who sat in their bedroom, read the Bible, and decided to follow Jesus.  Jesus began His ministry by personally inviting people, “Follow Me.”  That same plan is still in effect today.

Today, in this bonus post, I’m asking for your help.  I’d like to get the word about this blog out to more people.  I think it’s a worthwhile effort because this blog is about following Jesus.  Here’s one of my favorite words from our Sponsor:
What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.  (Matthew 10:27)
Would you get up on your virtual housetop (need a hint? what rhymes with SpaceBook… Critter… bee-mail?) and give Follow Illustrated a shout out?  But don’t just link to this site.  Well, do that!, but do it in the context of what following Jesus means to you.  I hate spam emails, but when a friend bothers to write a sentence about why they are passing something along to me, I always check out what they’re sending to me.

I deeply appreciate any effort you’ll make to share this blog.  More importantly, I deeply appreciate your commitment to follow Jesus and to help others follow Him as well.

Clark H Smith

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where’s The Fire? In Your Eyes, Ociffer

Running between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, US Highway 321/441 is just about the prettiest drive in the country… unless you are actually driving on it.  The posted speed limit is a robust 35 miles an hour, but don’t worry, Grandma with her roomatizm could walk faster than you can drive.  It’s a two-lane parking lot most of the year – packed with hillbilly gawkers and discount mall shoppers.  At the north end of Pigeon Forge, a beautiful, four-lane divided boulevard called Teaster Lane splits off to the east carrying hyped-up consumers off to the malls at high capacity.  Late one night, my son, Noah, and I exited Hwy 321 onto Teaster.  I knew the speed limit on the main highway was 35, but I didn’t see any speed limit posted on Teaster.  I made my best guess that 45mph seemed reasonable.  That’s when the red lights started flashing in my rear view mirror.  More on that after a word from our Sponsor:
“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!  (Luke 12:4-5)
 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
A lot of people don’t care for the idea of “fearing” God.  Most people who bother to think about God like to think of Him as only kind and benevolent, kind of like Santa, but with more authority and angels instead of elves.  Jesus didn’t mind telling us to fear God – He thought that was something important for us to know.  In reality, fear is almost exactly like worship.  Worship means you give a person or thing the respect it deserves – you recognize its worth.  Fearing God doesn’t mean being afraid of Him.  It means giving him the respect, deference, and final authority on a matter that He deserves as Creator of the universe.  Fear doesn’t mean you run from God when you do the wrong thing; Fear means always desiring to do the right thing.

Now where was I… oh yes, getting busted in Pigeon Forge.  Smokey saunters up to my car window. “Sir, I stopped you because you were speeding.  Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”  My little passenger riding shotgun was all ears wondering how Dad was going to get out of this one.  With absolute sincerity and innocence I took a deep breath and said to the officer, “Yes sir, I know exactly how fast I was driving – 45 miles per hour.  When I turned off the highway I began looking for a speed limit sign and I have yet to see one.  I know that the limit on that two-lane highway is 35, but I thought very carefully about it and since this is a divided, four-lane boulevard, 45 seemed reasonable to me.”  The officer looked me right in the eye, tamped down a small smile that was desperately trying to crack through, and said, “Well, it’s just 35.  Please drive slower.”  And he walked away.

Here’s the deal.  Most people start fearing consequences when red lights start flashing.  Real fear begins when you start your car.  That kind of “fear” recognizes the rules of our society and chooses to live within them.  That’s also worship – you acknowledge the value (the worth) of rules and that they are designed to protect life, not spoil your joy ride.  God deserves the same worship, the same fear.  We can live recklessly and then worry about how mad God is going to get when He finds out OR we can wake up in the morning with an attitude of seeking what pleases God.  We are all frail humans who are going to make mistakes.  We also have access to wisdom (scripture, Holy Spirit guidance, wise counsel) that guides us away from mistakes and toward seeking to please God in all areas of our lives.

Followers of Jesus know how precious “the fear of God” is.  Followers of Jesus worship God the way Jesus did – completely.

Clark H Smith

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Better

In fourth grade I got the whim to play a musical instrument.  The band director lent me a trumpet for a couple weeks and I took to it immediately.  The only problem was, to play in the band, I needed to have my own trumpet.  My folks were dirt poor and I knew they weren’t just going to go out and buy me a new instrument.  But I had a plan.  For years, I had baked chocolate chip cookies and sold them around the neighborhood and at school.  (You could do that kind of thing back in the day.)  I had the $37 in hand to buy a decent used trumpet.  I never took lessons, but the band leader always told me if I would just practice, even a little bit, I would get better.  I was 10 years old, “getting better” was a relative concept.

For the next seven years, I blew some air through that thing, but I never “got better”.  Then, when I was a sophomore in high school, we got a band director who inspired me.  One day I did an adventurous thing – I stopped by the band room on the way home and grabbed my trumpet.  I took it home and practiced.  The next day I did the same thing.  That went on for several weeks.  One day at marching band practice, our band director was frustrated and angry about the general lack of effort he was getting from the entire band.  From up in the stands he shouted, “There’s only one person who even knows the music and where to stand on the field.”  All of a sudden, everyone looked at me.  I’m sure I blushed with embarrassment.  I had no idea that my piddling efforts at practicing had made any difference at all, let alone that it had been noticed.  More on that after a word from our Sponsor:
“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14)
Every follower of Jesus can get better.  You can ask any pastor in the world whether he wishes the followers of Jesus under his care would read their Bible daily, pray daily for the work of the ministry, share their faith daily… “get better” as believers.  The answer would be “Heavens Yes!”   We can blow air through our instruments (sit in the pews), we can tromp on the grass (throw a few bucks in the plate), but if we are not growing we are not doing our part to advance the Kingdom – and that is what we signed up to do.

My richest experiences in high school and the closest friends I made were directly connected to my life in the band.  As I headed off to college, I realized that I was good, not great, and I put my trumpet away.  But I never forgot the lesson I learned about getting better.  When I began to truly live as a Christian, I opened my Bible, read it, looked up cross-references and key words, memorized key verses, and talked with others about what I was reading.  It has made all the difference in the world.  Not everyone is going to wind up a virtuoso soloist – we aren’t expected to be.  But followers of Jesus are all expected to get better by doing daily what we can.  I guess the simple question is, has the Director inspired you?

Clark H Smith

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How May I Help You?

For better or for worse, I have a reputation for getting the most out of customer service.  Jesus said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…” so I figure AT&T can render unto Clark H Smith that which is Clark H Smith’s.  Make sense?  What makes crappy customer service even less tolerable is the lame script the support personnel is a slave to.  You know the routine, you state the current problem and support replies “I’m sorry that you are experiencing a problem.”  They’re not truly sorry, that’s just what the menu in front of them tells them to say.  After one particularly unfruitful episode, the support tech read the next line on the menu, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”  My response was clear and firm, “You have yet to do the first thing I asked you to do, why would I ask you to do something else?”

More on this after a word from our Sponsor:
“The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”  (Matthew 25:20-21)
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus illustrates a simple truth: take care of the first, simpler things and the reward of being entrusted with greater tasks will be given to you.  Followers of Jesus put flesh and bones on this truth.  Pick up a piece of trash in the hallway on your way into the boardroom.  Put product back in order on the shelves at the grocery store.  Send a caring thought to someone who lost a loved one several months ago.  When someone asks for your assistance, leave nothing undone and be sure to follow up.  Especially when serving others, followers of Jesus should go above and beyond.  If the “devil is in the details” get down into the details, be excellent, and drive him out.

I’m not a perfect person.  “If walls could talk”, the walls (and floors and landscape) around my house would tell you I have a few unfinished projects gathering dust.  At the same time, I would wager that most of the people I have rubbed shoulders with in life would say that I give my best and my all when it comes to ministering to others.  I hope that is my legacy, anyway.  As we go through this life, Followers of Jesus are not just putting our own reputation on the line, we are putting His!  Our testimony reflects the excellence of the One we follow.  Oh, and it was pretty good:

They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”  (Mark 7:37)

Clark H Smith