Monday, October 3, 2011

Tried By Fire

Fire is used in the Bible a number of times. It represents a lot of things.

Recently, I began cleaning my garage ... again. In the cleaning process, I came across several items I could not fit into a trash bag - like a dresser, a wooden easel I used as a boy and a rocking chair. City wide cleanup was not an option. So, I decided to burn these items in my make-shift three-foot square pit made of discarded aluminum plates from work. Let me tell you, it is quite the chore taking these items apart piece by piece and making them small enough to fit into my burn pit. Lots of karate chops ... sawing takes too much time, plus it is a stress reliever taking out frustration on inanimate objects.

Whenever I see a fire burning, one of the things that always comes to my mind is the reality of that awful place called hell. But then, I remember also that Jesus paid the price to save us from going to that place if we simply put our trust in Him.

Along with judgment, the Bible also tells of fire as a tool of purification as in the book of Psalms describing the words of the Lord are tried like silver in a furnace of earth. Fire is used as a tool for judgment for the lost as I stated before. Fire is also used to judge the works of the children of God.

In both judgments that God implements in the Bible (Great White Throne Judgment and the Judgment Seat of Christ) He uses fire in the judgment process.

The LOST will stand before God in that soul-condemning Great White Throne Judgment of the lost where they are cast into the lake of fire. They never accepted Christ but each in their own way rejected Him.

The SAVED will stand before Jesus in the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of their works that were accomplished on the earth for Him. These saved will not stand before God's Great White Throne Judgment!

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, Jesus will try the works whether they are good or bad. These works that were done did not get these people to heaven. Only by their faith in Jesus did they get to heaven. These works are things they did after they were saved. Jesus will use fire to try the works. The Bible mentions wood, hay and stubble to describe the works that are bad. It uses gold, silver and precious stones to describe the works that are good.

When I burned these items I mentioned above, the dresser, easel, chair, etc., I burned it all. I did not take off the handles of the dresser, the chain and hinge for the easel, the nails, screws or bolts. I burned it all! Of course, you know, the fire did not burn these things. These metal items were left. In the Judgment Seat of Christ, what is not burned in the fire will be a reward. If there are no good works, the Bible says that person will suffer loss ... no reward. He will not suffer the loss of his soul, because the Bible says yet he himself shall be saved. This person will receive no reward, but a loss of a reward.

It would be an embarrassing and awkward thing to stand before this judgment and receive nothing from the hand of Jesus. It would be very sad to realize with all the time He gave you on this earth to do something worthwhile, you squandered it and did not take it seriously. In the Bible, Paul said to the Christians at the Church of Corinth that we must ALL (Paul himself included in the statement) stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you are saved, there is no getting out of it, no excuse, you will stand there.

Get motivated to do something for the Lord. If you are a CHILD of God don't just feed off of God's blessings (THE FATHER - YOUR DADDY), honor Him by getting busy and doing something for Him and you may receive a great reward!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Approaching Ten Years

Time goes by so quickly! This September 2011 will mark the 10 year anniversary of being at the helm as captain of the Oskaloosa bus route for Marion Avenue Baptist Church.

It's still a crazy notion to me ... taking a bus to pick up people just for church ... that's not too crazy, but a church that is over an hour away? Do the math and you'll find that the Osky bus(es) travels, on one Sunday alone, close to 260 miles. The Osky bus travels three counties and picks up riders in nine towns! Yet, I find in the Bible how God uses things that we think are foolish and absurd and out of the ordinary and uses it for His honor and glory.

In these ten years, I've experienced many ups and downs, heartaches and joys, darkness and victory. It's been a rollercoaster ride at times. I've grieved as a few of my bus riders have passed away. I've celebrated with bus riders who grew up on the bus and who now have families of their own. I've tried to comfort ones who have tasted the bitter cup of sin. I've rejoiced with ones who have sought to walk with God. I've seen second generation bus riders come on my bus.

No telling how many riders have stepped onto the Oskaloosa bus route in these ten years. There is not a week that goes by, as I am out visiting, that a face from the past doesn't cross my mind. I think of that person and how they are a part of my life.

Recently, I went through my file cabinet of "bus stuff" that I have accumulated over the years. In the cabinet, I found something that I will always cherish and be of great value to me. I found my original list of bus prospects handed down to me by Dan McCoy, the previous bus captain. My mind flashed back to those days. The list consists of two small notebook pages attached to a map of Oskaloosa that Dan got at the local Wigg's store. I remember the day Marchel and I visited with Dan and Kim McCoy. Dan scratched out all the bus stops in ink on that green Osky map. It coordinated with the names on the notebook pages.

I remember we rode in his conversion van as he explained to me the layout of the city of Oskaloosa, the main streets through town and about the bus riders. I had no idea where I was as he took us from here to there. I had never been in Oskaloosa but on just a few occasions I could probably count on one hand. We would get to a place where a bus rider lived and I would take note of Dan as he talked with his riders. I could see compassion and love in his voice as he talked with them. In his meek-spirited manner, he graciously encouraged them to come to ride the bus to church. Everyone loved Brother Dan and I could easily see why. In the years he was the bus captain he built a good foundation.

I had no idea on how to be a bus captain. I was really in the dark. All I knew was that it was about people and bringing them to hear the gospel and sharing the gospel along the way - and you do it every week. Singing songs is a plus and a game or two is key to a good ride. I witnessed the "Sleeping Game" the first week that Dan was with us showing us the ropes. We've used the "Sleeping Game" many times since then.

The original bus riders are scattered about now. Some still live in Osky and on occasion, still take a ride on the bus to church. They all have good memories of the bus route and church. These will always hold a special place in my heart. They helped to "break me in" on the bus route.

Before I go on with my thoughts, I want to establish this matter right here ... I am not giving myself or my wife glory for any results of any kind that the Oskaloosa bus route has produced. God gets the glory for lives touched, changed, attendance and everything else. I am man, helpless and unworthy in everything I do. I accept no honor or "pat on the back" from anyone, friend or family, for anything good they think I have done. I am just a vessel that is empty for God to use. With that said ...
Looking back now, I realize how serious this matter is: had Marchel and I not taken over the bus route ten years ago, would anyone have taken it? Would it have just discontinued never to be started up again? The children, teenagers and adults that accepted Christ as Saviour through this ministry ... would they still be condemned and in their sin with no hope of heaven? That thought to me is the greatest motivator for me to stay in the race. I shudder and am brought to a stark reality as I think of how serious a matter it is to be a bus captain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's Behind the Door?

When you're in the work of the Lord, you meet many different types of people. As a bus captain, I have come across some really wonderful people, with great attitudes and who are a delight to talk with. There are a few people, however, that are totally the opposite as you will notice in this encounter I had just last week while visiting.

Several months ago, I was "cold calling" for the bus route. I went to several places with some really good visits. I thought I would go to one more stop before calling it a day. It was a place east of Osky just outside of town that I had seen a few children out playing. I pulled in the drive, went up to the door and knocked. A few of the kids came out and greeted me favorably. The dad came out after the kids announced "a guy was at the door."

The dad came out and I introduced myself, "Hi there, my name is Steven Dunbar from Marion Avenue Baptist Church...." I hardly finished the sentence when the man abruptly and quite rudely I might add, told me, "My kids are not going to that @&#(**& church. Get off my property now, you're done, don't you ever come back here again." He said all this as he was walking towards me saying a few more choice words, making sure I was going to leave.

Wow! Something or someone had irritated this guy! I tried apologizing the best I knew how as I was swiftly walking to my car, not trying to further aggravate the man. In a way, I wanted to burst out laughing just because of the situation, but as the Bible says, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...that time was not that moment. I did not feel led to laugh. I believe a smile crossed my face, though. If the guy only knew my intentions were purely innocent. That encounter was a little bit of a downer, but I knew it was just the devil trying to discourage me because of the good visiting day I had.

Interestingly enough, the building they were living in has since been demolished and the place is leveled.


Last week, I saw some kids out in a yard in Osky. One was riding down their hill in a wagon. I had Bethany, my daughter, with me. We went up to the house and I said to the boy, "Hey, that looks like fun! What do think about me taking a ride?" Just kidding, I would probably hurt myself." The boy laughed.

We got to the door and saw a man that was talking on his cellphone. I thought, "This must be the dad." I really dislike introducing myself to people while they are on the phone. Generally they don't want to take the time to talk when they are on the phone. I was about to tell him I would come back some other time, but he seemed to be putting his phone away. He said, "We're getting ready to go, what do you need?"

I said, "My name is Steven Dunbar, and I'm from Marion Avenue Baptist Church... I hardly finished the sentence when the man abruptly and quite rudely I might add, told me, "Nope, No more, I have no time for Marion Avenue! We go to the Nazarene Church. Get away from here." After he said that, I realized I had met the same man I met several months ago! Pity I did not recognize him while he was on his phone. At least he did not cuss at me again. I said, "I'm sorry, I met you a while back, didn't I? I apologize! I didn't realize you moved here." I knew apologies were not going to help the situation, but I threw them out anyway. He said no more, and neither did I. Bethany and I quickly went to my car and went on our way. Bethany really did not understand anything that went on, she did get a good dose of how rude some people can be.

I chuckled and thought to myself, "Wait 'til Marchel hears this story."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Does God Listen to Devils?

My wife, Marchel (or Mrs. Steve for you bus riders) pointed out an interesting thing the other night while she was reading her Bible.
She said, "You know, God listens to the prayers of devils."
At first, I thought, "What?!! God doesn't listen to prayers of devils?"

But she was reading about the man who was possessed by many devils, so many that the devil said his name was Legion "for we are many." The Bible says that this devil "besought" Jesus, but the Bible also says he "besought" Him "MUCH" that He (Jesus) would not send them out of the country. Then the Bible goes on to say that "all the devils" besought Him too. Jesus heard the beseeching of these devils and instead of sending them away from the country, Jesus gave them leave to enter some pigs that ran violently down a hill and killed themselves. When the devils asked God for something, somehow he listened and granted that request. However, Jesus got the glory from it.

I remembered then the account of Satan himself standing before God in the book of Job. Satan told God that Job was just serving because God had a hedge of protection around him. Satan said, "But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face." God told Satan that all Job had was in Satan's power to do whatever he wanted, only he could not kill Job. Though Satan did not directly pray to God for Job's substance to be destroyed, in a way, God gave Satan the request. But once again, God received the glory for all that happened with Job. The end of Job's was better than the beginning, thanks to God.

All these devils did was simply ask.

So what am I saying? If devils can ask God boldly for requests and they get answered, what's wrong with us Christians who are afraid to ask Him for things? Why can't we stand before God's presence and talk with Him about things we desire? We belong to God. Wouldn't He do great things for us, I mean...we're not enemies of God. Wouldn't God do great things for His own children?

Try asking God for things. Keep asking Him. The devils above besought Him "much." It was almost like they were nagging Him. We should be this way with God...constantly return to Him and ask again and again and again. He enjoys getting glory when He answers your prayers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Read The Manual

At my house, I have a file folder full of manuals ranging from the microwave oven to an out-of-date cellphone. Most everything you purchase comes with one, right? Though I'm a guy, I do read the manual before I use my purchased product. However, when it comes to my children's toys, I may have a different approach. How hard can a child's play toy be to assemble? Tell you what, you'd be surprised. Being honest, I have found myself consulting the manual afterall.

I like to read the manual to find out how the item performs. Take a cellphone, for instance, there are so many cool things they can do. The manual shows you all the capabilities and functions detailing the things you can do and things you shouldn't do. Common sense tells me that putting it under water for an extended period of time is not good. Subjecting it to extreme temperatures probably isn't the best for it either. Without even looking at the manual I know it gives these simple instructions.

A microwave is kind of the same way. Putting metal in the microwave is a no-brainer. However, the manual will state that it could cause problems. It may even go so far as to say it could cause a fire.

But the manual also tells you step by step instructions on how to use the item, how to care for it so it will last and where to have it serviced if it gets broke.

Wouldn't it be great if our lives were that way. I mean, what if there was such a manual that gave instructions on how to live our lives so they will last, so we can get the best out of life. What if there were instructions on how to care for ourselves and keep us from hurt. Instructions would be great on where we can get serviced if our lives are broken.

Yep, there is a manual for our lives as well. It's called the Bible.

Just like the manufacturer created the item you buy and knows everything about it, so God who created you knows everything about you and has all the information you need for your life in His manual, the Bible.

God lays out in the Bible instructions on how to live life. If you follow the instructions, your life will turn out to be a blessing and become a life of happiness. However, as with any product, abuse and neglect of the instructions and the product leads to destruction.

When God tells children to obey and honor their parents, He blesses and gives longer life. If this instruction is not followed, it only hurts the life of the child in the long run. God knows what He's talking about!
When God says to stay away from alcohol, you best heed to the what the manual says. The effects of alcohol will ruin you and the ones you love. God even gives examples in the Bible to encourage you to follow the right way.
When God says to keep yourself pure and clean, He is watching out that your life does not end up in shame and regret.

The one who made your cellphone and its manual wants you to get the most out of the cellphone and have a good experience.
The One who made your life and its Manual wants you to get the most out of your life so you can be blessed and have a life that brings honor to Him.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Did You Come For?

People come to church for lots of reasons. I recall the story in the Bible about the palsied man that was let down through the roof to be healed by Jesus. Though not a church building, still Jesus was there and an assembly gathered to hear His words.

Think about all the ones gathered there. Of course, the palsied man and the four men that brought him because he couldn't get there himself. There in itself is an example of an early bus ministry, right?

Then you have the scribes that showed up.....the critics trying to find fault in the preacher or teacher, but ultimately finding fault with God.

The Bible says there were so many people in that house that no one could enter in because of the "press." Even the newspaper showed up....just kidding, different kind of press. This press means it was extremely crowded. I believe these people were from all walks of life. Some came to seriously listen to what Jesus had to say. And because they listened, their lives were made better. Others no doubt came to see what Jesus was going to do next. It's pretty hard to hide the fact of the miracles Jesus did. When you hear about close friends being healed by Him, friends raised from the dead, close aquaintances sharing first hand experiences of how He changed their lives, it causes you to get a little curious. So I am sure there were people there just for curiosity sake.

Without going into detail of the story, a man who was crippled and couldn't walk miraculously had his body healed insomuch that he took up his bed and went home as Jesus commanded him. They couldn't reach Jesus from outside so they uncovered the roof and let him down to where Jesus was. I can imagine the dust and debris falling partially on Jesus and I can see him brushing the dust out of His hair. He marvels at the faith of this man who wanted so badly to be touched by Jesus. What a deal! With a little sacrifice on his part, the palsied man not only got healed of his disease, he also had his sins forgiven! Bonus!

So while others were gathering because of curiosity, criticism and socializing, one person came to get a hold of God and to get his life in the right direction.

So I ask you, why do you go to church? Do you seriously seek God when you go to church? Do you want to find out where you are lacking in your life? Do you go to church to minister to others? Do you go to church to build others up in the faith? Do you want healed spiritually?

Sad to say, many make church a social gathering and leave God out of His own house. I have seen teenagers come to church just to hook-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend because they can't see them any other time. Seeing friends is okay, but worshiping each other instead of God on His day and at His house is repulsive. I've seen others come just to make a show of themselves...they think the Lord's day revolves around them. I say to these people, "Sit down, God's got more important things to say than your worthless fleshly mouth!"

Get serious about God and His Word. Focus on God when it comes time for church and you just might be amazed at what He can do for you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A First On The Bus Route

Over the years, there have been first time experiences, some good, and some not so good. Yet there are some that are funny. I remember times like Max Hawkins swallowing so many goldfish on a Sunday he was a walking aquarium. There was the time a couple of stow-away bunnies tried to make it to church in the morning and we had to return them. I remember on a Candy Hunt Sunday going to Osky and picking up a bunny after the evening church service because the child did not have parental permission to keep one.

I ran across another "first" this Sunday. We went to one of our stops out on a country road. The house is situated on a hill. Mrs. Steve pulled the bus ahead to the top of the hill. Since the bus was pulled ahead a little farther than normal, I went to a different door because it was more easily accessible, especially in the snow. I knocked on the door and a lady came to the door I did not recognize. I thought maybe it was just someone staying with them, relation of some sort.

I asked, "Were the kids coming to church this morning?"

The lady said, "Yes, they are just about ready."

After a minute or so, from the door I normally would go to, came my riders already heading to the bus. Seeing them go to the bus, I proceeded to go there as well. Out of the house from the door I just knocked on came two girls. I questioned the girls as they got on the bus.

"You girls are going to the church in Washington, right?"

They both gave me a definite yes. I said, "Your mom knows you are going on the bus to Washington?"

Again, they said yes.

The riders I pick up at this stop said they have been trying to invite them and they were their visitors. I got names and a phone number after they got on. Come to find out, the house, which looks to be one, is actually a duplex. With all this settled, I was at ease and we were already heading out to pick up the next stop.

We reached the Southern Hills Apartments. I went to my usual stops and got back on the bus to go to the next stop. Mrs. Steve said the two girls came up and told her they didn't think this was the church bus they were supposed to be on. Across the way, the Assembly of God church van was picking up. I pointed to the church van and asked it that was the church they usually went to. They said, "Yes."

I called their mom while flagging down the Assembly church van. I told their mom of the situation. She said, "Well, I thought they were getting picked up a little earlier than normal." I told the Assembly driver that we unintentionally picked up a few of their riders. The driver didn't say much. Having the van show up at that time was a blessing. We were able to easily transfer them to their church and not interrupt our pick-up. We would have needed to drop them off at the Assembly of God building which would have made us late and probably make for a good Sunday morning discussion there.

Just to go on record, I'm glad the Assembly has a bus/van ministry in Osky. All dealings I've had with them have been very good. No, I am not in competition with them every Sunday. I am able to bring people to church that maybe they are unable to. The same holds true with them. I believe they do a lot of things to help kids and adults. More importantly, I know they preach salvation is only through Christ.

I always pray over the weekend many times that God would reach His hand down and draw people onto the bus. I pray that He would bring riders I don't even know their names. I believe this time He went above and beyond!