Practicing What You Preach

I was reading the Gospel of Matthew in the New International Version the other day, and noticed that Jesus talked about the very subject of our devotion today.  He was condemning the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law as they were in the process of condemning Him to death:  “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3).

The matter of practicing what you preach is a huge challenge for those of us who are pastors, preachers and teachers.  It’s constantly an issue for me.  Yes, I get crabby and irritable around home, and it happens more often than I care to mention.  And yes, I tend to be a bit lazy about getting things done around the house now and then, so it makes life difficult when you’re supposed to be living up to the high standards of the Word of God.

So I sent you all a letter the other day that you could use to thank the folks who are on the frontlines fighting the Coronavirus Pandemic.  It would be easy, perhaps, to think that I had done my part.  I’d written the letter.  Now you guys can distribute it. 

But my conscience wouldn’t let me get away with that. 

So I had to ask myself, “Who do I know who is unchurched or an unbeliever whom I could give the ‘Thank You’ letter to? 

Fact is, between recovering from my ruptured Achilles tendon, my “dead” immune system, the government’s orders to stay home and the truth that I’m extremely high risk if I get infected, I just don’t get out anymore.

Unless it’s to a doctor.

Well, the Lord fixed that. 

So much for my excuses!

Wednesday morning I woke up and my right ankle (Achilles tendon) was stiffer and more sore than usual.  It had already been pretty stiff and sore, but it seemed unusually so.  Finally, after hobbling around with even more difficulty than normal, I decided to take a look at it.  And sure enough, there was a tell-tale redness around the scab that covers the surgical scar. 

I’ve been down this road before.  I ruptured my left Achilles tendon almost 40 years ago.  I had surgery then as well.  Nine weeks after the surgery, my surgical scar got sore.  Finally, one morning I got up feeling achy, with a fever, and soreness in my groin.  I thought I had the flu.  Then it occurred to me that there was probably a connection between the sore ankle, the soreness around my lymph nodes and the fever and body ache I was experiencing.  Yep, my body had gone septic—the infection was now in my blood.  I ended up in the hospital for nine days.  My foot turned black and the nurses were checking for gangrene.  I could have lost my foot!  Thank God I didn’t.

So, as you can imagine, I was on the phone to my surgeon right away—actually a number of my different doctors.  I not only called the surgeon, but Sierra Infectious Disease doctors and my oncologist as well. 

Well, guess what?  Now I had an opportunity, if there had not been before (and there probably had been).  I talked to a nurse at Sierra Infectious Disease, got her e-mail to send her a photo of my foot, and realized I had just what I needed to send her my thank you/evangelistic letter.  That night I did.

When I finally got a call back from my surgeon’s assistant the next morning, they wanted me to come in for an appointment today.  Of course, I agreed.

I realized this morning that this was yet another opportunity to thank these healthcare workers for their service and share the Good News with them at this time of great fear.  So, though time was tight, I copied a dozen of my own letters to give to these folks, signed them, and found five generic greeting cards to use as Thank You notes in which I would enclose the letters.  I put a personal note in each one, along with Romans 5:8 and blessed them with my signature.

At the last second, I figured the five letters enclosed with cards would be all that I would probably need.  It was unlikely that I would encounter more medical personnel than that in one doctor’s appointment.

However, a funny thing happened on the way into the Reno Orthopedic Clinic.  I encountered five people, including three or four nurses at the door, who were screening for anyone who might have symptoms, have travelled or had been in contact with someone who has Covid-19.  After one screened me, I offered her an envelope with a “Thank You!” on it.  She asked “What’s This?” in both the hearing and view of the other four.  When I explained it was a thank you for her service, she gladly received it (germs and all!).  A couple of the other nurses looked interested, and already, before even getting into the doctor’s office, I had distributed three of the five thank you cards I had!

Then they called into the office to see if they were ready for me, and yes they were.  Then, and only then, was I allowed into the waiting room, where I was the lone patient waiting to be called.

So I saw the nurse and the physician’s assistant, and each one received the remaining two cards.  One would later thank me for it.  And I would yet see two more individuals—the cast expert and the woman at the appointment desk.  But I had nothing for them.

I know I’m just planting seeds.  But who knows; someone may actually trust Christ.  Or the Words of Scripture in the heat of this deadly crisis–which has yet to hit our area as we’re told it surely will– may be brought to mind when the moment’s right.  The Holy Spirit will see to it.

And when I go for my IV immunoglobulin infusion Sunday afternoon, a process which takes three to four hours, I will be better prepared.  I’ll have plenty of thank you cards and letters to distribute, and I’ll invite them to our online Easter Sunday Service.  After all, what do I have to lose, when they have literally everything, including heaven, to gain?    

Oh, and by the way, my infection is improving—the redness, the pain and the swelling have largely dissipated.

I guess what it really was all about all along was just another divine opportunity.

And the Lord directs me to pray you’ll have some of these, too.  “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

And if there has ever been a time when the harvest is ripe, it’s now!

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:35-36).