Empty Beer Can

Pick up that empty beer can!

I couldn’t believe it, was God serious?  After I had walked past the empty beer can while walking in the vineyard, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear: “Turn around, pick up the beer can!” I questioned this statement: “Are you sure, let me get it my next walk and I will wear gloves”.  

There was a silence, it was clear this was not one of those “pick it up later” deals, but one of those pesky, “pick it up now” demands. Not so thrilled about the trash I was picking up, I held it with one of those pinching movements using the extreme point of my thumb and index finger, exposing as little of my skin to the surface of the filthy materials as necessary.  

Feeling satisfied I had done my duty, a smaller, and more gently voice of the Holy Spirit then gave me a puzzlingthought, “Tell the Juvenile Hall kids in Juvenile Hall that they are more valuable to me then the beer can.”  

Whaaaat?” The message continued,  “I want to give them grace, love, joy, peace, and eternal life. Tell them I believe in them and that they are valuable to me.  Personally.” While walking and listening and trying to digest this message I was getting, it was only a few feet further when I noticed an empty pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

I said quietly, to the Holy Spirit: “You want me to pick that up too?” The confirmation was clear now and I was carrying two pieces of trash which was harder to manage pinched between my thumb and index finger. The remainder of the walk was uneventful, except for the fog of uncertainty that laid before me.

Thirty minutes later, I was in Juvenile Hall surrounded by an audience of kids between the ages of 12-16 years old. I had basically forgotten about the trash as the Bible lesson moved forward. We talked about the junk that was in our hearts like anger, abandonment, rejection, hatred, and unforgiveness. The kind of stuff that steals the joy out of our lives. And the junk that begins to replace our sense of who God is and the love he has for us.

The story I used to illustrate this sense of being lost by the trash in our lives was the woman at the well. You know the story and her encounter with Jesus. It seemed like for the first time, someone actually seemed to care about her. The her that was inside. Jesus gave her value by asking for a drink of water. She mattered to Him. He was never offended by her attitude, but answered her questions in a deeply personal way. He offered her living water from the well of grace; eternal life, and peace. Jesus never gave up on her and was able to touch her on the inside.

 After we had come to the end of the story, my heart was already prepared, and the confusing moments earlier this morning began to make sense and fit right into the story.  And it seemed like out of nowhere, or more specifically, words that were rehearsed for me came out of my mouth.  

I continued the story, “This morning, I picked up an empty beer can and empty pack of cigarettes. They seemed revolting and something untouchable.  But, as I reached down to pick them up, I heard God’s voice telling me to tell you that  you are more precious to Him then a beer can and empty pack of cigarettes. He loves you and wants to offer you grace, love, joy and peace.”  

You could hear a pin drop. “He is reaching down now to pick you up.”  Suddenly I heard sobs as a girl to the side of me started to cry and didn’t seem able to stop. Then I saw in the eyes of another young teen boy that he had a hard time not crying, and another girl was clearly trying to keep her emotions under control.

There was a Presence in the room, and only God can stir up the human heart in that way. Only God can come up with a plan like this.  And only God can reach in and touch the heart of someone the way He was touching them now.   The Holy Spirit knew exactly what those kids needed even if did not make any sense to me.

That morning two of the kids on Juvenile Hall accepted Jesus. Five others asked to meet with me for a follow up meeting later that week. It is awesome to be used by God even if it did not make any sense to pick up that trash at the time. But Praise the Lord for his ultimate knowledge and wisdom.

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Please pray for these teens that are desperate to feel loved, accepted, and long to be valuable. Pray for the seeds that were planted to be watered. And most importantly, pray for angels to minister to them and for other servants of God to be sent to them. Pray for their wounds to be healed and for their past to no longer hunt them. For them to receive the peace and love and value that Jesus has for them.

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