Saturday, July 06, 2019

Tell Those Who Don't Know

The story is told of a Christian college where the preacher students took turns speaking in chapel every Thursday. There was one freshman preacher student, though, who had avoided the dreaded task of preaching at chapel long enough that it came to the attention of the Chapel Master. The following conversation ensued:

"I'm scheduling you to preach at chapel next Thursday."

"Oh, please. I'll do anything. I'll write a paper, do extra homework assignments, even clean the toilets. Just please don't make me speak in public yet."

"You are not getting out of this, and there will be no excuses."

Thursday rolled around and, with desperately quaking knees, the young student stood up to preach, and asked, "Do you know what I'm going to say?" Everyone shook their heads no. "Neither do I. Go in peace."

The Chapel Master was really angry. "That is not acceptable. You are right back on the schedule for next Thursday, and this time you will preach, and it will be an example of diligent preparation, and there will be no excuses."

Thursday rolled around and, with yet more quaking, the young man stood up to preach and asked, "Do you know what I'm going to say?" Everybody nodded their heads yes. "Good. Go in peace."

The Chapel Master was absolutely outraged. "There will be no more of these shenanigans. You will preach the word of God next Thursday. You will not fail, or you will be removed from school immediately."

Thursday rolled around and, barely able to stand, the student got up to preach and asked, "Do you know what I'm going to say?"

Some shook their heads no; others nodded their heads yes.

"Good. Those who know, please tell those who don't. Go in peace."

Not a bad summary of the Great Commission and our task of evangelism. Those who know ought to tell those who don't.

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' " (Matthew 28:18-20).

If you are among those who know about the gospel, share it today with someone who doesn't.

Learning Life's Lesson

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except the one wall covered with small index cards files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different readings.

As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then, without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have Betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At," Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I Have Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done In My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath At My Parents."

I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I'd hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting and was signed with my own signature. When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of the music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me.

One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them." In an insane frenzy, I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I couldn't dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I have Shared The Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. And then the tears came. I began to weep.

Sobs, so deep, that the hurt started in my stomach, and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as he began opening the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over to me and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things.

But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was, "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up and He led me out of the room.

There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16

Thursday, July 04, 2019

When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol J. Kent

What would you do if God called you to completely entrust your son or daughter to Him? God used Isaac to test Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22. How will you respond if He pushes your faith to the brink of falling apart? Carol Kent’s life changed forever when her twenty-five year old son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a lieutenant in the navy with an impeccable military record, shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband. For the first time, Carol Kent tells her heartbreaking story and opens her heart to share priceless lessons on choosing hope over despair.

Change the way you think about personal challenges.  Sometimes we make sacrifices to help us get ahead, to allow us more time with family, or because we believe in the cause. And then there are sacrifices in which we have no say— “Isaac experiences” as in Genesis 22— thrust upon us without warning or survival instructions.

Join author and speaker Carol Kent as she shares her personal story of unshakable faith in unthinkable circumstances in this interactive curriculum. This teaching companion to the best-selling book When I Lay My Isaac Down comes with everything you need for facilitating life-changing small-group discussions or leading a soul-transforming retreat.

Carol and Gene Kent’s son is in prison. When I Lay My Isaac Down tells their story and shares the transformational principles they learned about forgiveness and faith.

Dealing with her anger, grief, and shame, Carol could have given up. Instead she tells a highly personal, heartbreaking, and uplifting story that will bolster your faith. Updated and revised, this edition contains a new chapter about what God has taught Carol since her son’s imprisonment.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Only the Strong by Cec Murphey


After Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting boys at Penn State and sentenced, a reporter asked one of his supporters how Sandusky was doing.

“Staying strong,” he said.

About a year ago, I heard the shocking news that a writer I know well, and who was also a professor of a midwestern university, had molested females. He had tenure and “retired” so the university didn’t have to set up legal proceedings.

When interviewed, he said, “It was all a matter of misunderstanding between us.”

I point out these two examples to make my point: both men stood strong.

Or did they?

Although my dad was a functional alcoholic, he was also a man of principle. Here are two things he instilled in me: (1) “A man’s word is his bond,” and (2) “only the strong can admit mistakes.”

Only the strong? I recently read an online article that said, in effect, the weak can’t admit mistakes. They blame others, point fingers, or make excuses, but they’re unable to acknowledge their own failures and weaknesses.

The author pointed out that to admit wrongdoing causes a crack in their defensive walls. And once the crack appears, they can’t hold the structure from complete collapse.

Sad, isn’t it? Not only that, but they can’t experience the sense of being forgiven by God or by others. I write that because if they can’t admit failure (as in sin or wrongdoing), how can they accept divine forgiveness?

In the past, when I admitted I was wrong, I felt weak and often worthless. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to arrive at inner cleansing.

(Taken from Cec Murphey monthly newsletter)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

What Does Love Mean?


A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all even when his hands got arthritis, too. That's Love."
Rebecca - age 8

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss."
Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears iteveryday."
Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."
Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."
Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."
Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her oldclothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you"
Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."
Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
Jessica - age 8

And the final one - author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."