After years of marriage my wife has successfully trained me to watch for coupons. We recently received an oil change coupon in the mail and the timing was perfect as the reminder light had just appeared on my instrument panel. However, I noticed there was a lot of fine print at the bottom of the card. I’ve been burned before by not reading the fine print relating to expiration date and other exceptions so I reached for my glasses, but they were not where they were supposed to be. My attention immediately shifted from the card to the search – where did I put my glasses? After about fifteen minutes of turning my place upside down and accusing everyone, including the dog, of moving them, I stopped to collect my thoughts. And when I scratched my head I realized that I had been wearing them on the top of my scalp! Yes, I was that guy! I didn’t come to my senses until I stopped long enough for a moment of self-awareness.
As Luke followed Jesus and recorded his teachings, he recorded the familiar parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.
Notice the repeated words/phrases until and and when. These key words form what I call the Celebration Equation. Start with until add and when and these equal a celebration when what was lost has been recovered.
The celebration cannot begin unless we have an until moment. This part of the equation begins when we realize something of value has been lost. Repeat – until signifies value. Think about it, if we’re not searching for something that is lost, it’s probably not important to us. And in today’s disposable world, we often think, “I’ll just get another one.”
This realization triggers an urgency which requires an expenditure of energy, resources and an allocation of time. We put things on hold until the lost is found. We leave the ninety-nine, we light a lamp, sweep the floor and search diligently. We think,“I’ve got to find this coin” or “I’ve got locate this sheep.” Until releases a wave of energy that fuels perseverance. We are willing to look high and low, far and wide, over and under, until…
Until doesn’t begin unless we notice that something or someone is missing. The sheep didn’t realize it was lost. The coin had no idea how it got under the couch or in the crack in the floor. Could it be in our multi-tasking, always-connected culture that we fail to notice that someone is lost?
The great thing about until in these stories is the promise of and when. “And when she found the coin.” “And when he found the sheep.”Until paid a dividend of and when. It’s not “if” she found the coin or “if” he found the sheep, but and when…
We need an and when moment in our churches. But this will never occur unless we have an until moment. When we realize and understandthat something valuable has been lost. When we’re willing to expend more time, effort and resources outside of our buildings than inside. We need to be re-convinced that what is lost is so valuable it requires an all out until effort.
God’s and when promise is still good if we’ll engage in the until phase.
Remember, celebration is the result, the sum of until when added to and when. There’s something exciting and fulfilling about finding what was lost! The shepherd returned home and called his friends and neighbors to “rejoice with me.” “And when” she found her coin, she did the same.
Maybe the reason we’re not celebrating more is we’ve omitted part of this equation? Without until there can be no and when. And without and when there is no celebration.
We are in the until stage of history. “Until He comes.” This should energize us and motivate us to go wherever and whenever to proclaim the message that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.
That is why efforts such as Here for You are so important. When Jesus said go into the highways and hedges, He meant keep going to the highways and hedges until… Putting this in a modern setting I believe Jesus is challenging us to keep going to those intersections of life where people live and where people work and compel them to come in – that is, give them a reason to check out the Gospel.
Using current communications platforms Louisiana Baptists are meeting people where they are – in their homes, at their offices, on their devices – and planting a seed of God’s truth. While we don’t know what happens to all the seeds, we do know that some of them find good soil. And those seeds generate a harvest thirty, sixty or even one hundred times more that what was planted.
Since the state-wide launch of Here for You in February, we are beginning to see some of the seed sprouting its head above ground level of people’s hearts. Over the last six months, more than 2,500 people have viewed the gospel presentation on HereforYou.org. Just under 425 of those have indicated a decision for Christ. This does not include the thousands of people who have seen the commercials on television and digital platforms. God’s seed is being scattered and it’s finding good soil.
Louisiana Baptists live in a culture that enjoys a good celebration. But these celebrations are short-lived and one dimensional – that is they’re limited in their geography and duration. But God’s celebration is different. It’s ongoing and occurs whenever one person repents and receives His gift of eternal life through a relationship with His Son. It also occurs in multiple realms – i.e. the celebration takes place in heaven and on earth.
The celebration equation begins with us. We must take note that someone valuable is missing. A missing person is a valuable thing and demands an until search. As we expend spiritual and material resources in this until search, God will open the door to the and when promise and as the old hymn says, “what a day of rejoicing that will be!”