651) Doing What You Can– Now

By William Law (1686-1761); adapted from A Practical Treatise Upon Christian Perfection

     Eugenia is a good young woman, full of pious dispositions.  She is intending, if ever she has a family, to be the best mother ever.  Her house shall be a school of religion, and her children and servants shall be brought up in the strictest practice of faith; and she will spend her time and live in a very different manner from the rest of the world.

     It may be so, Eugenia.  The piety of your mind makes me think that you intend all this with sincerity.  But you are not yet at the head of a family, and perhaps never will be.  But, Eugenia, you now have one maid, and you do not even know what religion she is of, or if she has any faith at all.  She dresses you for church, you ask her for what you want, and then leave her to have as little Christianity as she pleases.  You turn her away, you hire another, and she comes and goes, no more instructed or edified in religion by living with you than if she had lived with anybody else.  And all this comes to pass because your mind is taken up with greater things, and you reserve yourself to make a whole family religious, if ever you come to be the head of it.

     You need not wait, Eugenia, to be so extraordinary a person.  The opportunity is now in your hands.  You may now spend your time and live in as different a manner from the rest of the world as ever you can in any other state.  Your maid is your family at present.  She is now under your care.  Be now that religious governess that you intend to be, tell her about Jesus, encourage her to pray, take her with you to church, bless her with your conversation, fill her with your own notions of faith and piety, and spare no pains to make her as holy and devout as yourself.  When you do this much good in your present state, then you are that extraordinary person that you intend to be; and till you thus live up to your present state, there is but little hope that the altering of your state will alter your way of life.

*****************************************

Luke 21:1-4  —  As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” 

Matthew 25:23  —  His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

Proverbs 11:25  —  A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

**************************************
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor:  Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection, and thus may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

573) Fools for Christ (part two)

     

   From Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God, by Tony Campolo, 1997, pages 273-4:

     (…continued)  Some years ago my wife and I had a stopover in Honolulu on our way home from a preaching mission in Australia.  We had just enough time to take a walk along Waikiki Beach.  On our walk we came upon a middle-aged man with long hair and bare feet, holding an open Bible in one hand, and pointing at passersby with the other.  Every so often, he would let fly with a long list of “Woe unto yous.”  Undoubtedly you’ve seen the crazy-looking type of person I’m talking about.  You find them on the street corners of most major cities.  As we strolled out of range of this wild man’s ranting and raving, I said to my wife, “It’s guys like him who disgrace the gospel!  There ought to be some way of stopping people like that.  It’s stuff like he’s doing that turns people off to Christianity!”

     An hour or so later Peggy and I were walking back down the beach to catch the bus that would return us to the airport.  We passed the same crazy man.  But he wasn’t preaching anymore.  Instead, he was praying with two rather dignified-looking men who were dressed in business suits, each with a briefcase.  He had his arms around their shoulders, and we heard enough of the prayer to know that those two men were inviting Jesus into their lives.

     I walked the rest of the way to the bus stop in silence as I asked myself, “Well, Campolo?  How many people did you lead to Christ today?…”

     In our attempt to be accepted by those who seem to be more sophisticated than we are, we sometimes allow ourselves to become despisers of sincere people who use what we consider to be low-class techniques for evangelism.  We must never lose sight of the fact that God uses all kinds of ways to touch the hearts of all kinds of people.

     One of the most touching stories I know was told to me by a pastor friend from Atlanta, Georgia.  He relates how, one Wednesday evening at a prayer meeting at his church, a man gave testimony as to how he had become a Christian while in Sydney, Australia.

     The man said, “I was at the street corner in Kings Cross when I felt a tug on my sleeve.  I turned and found myself face to face with a street bum.  Before I could say anything, the man simply asked me, ‘Mister, if you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?’  That question troubled me over the next three weeks,” the man continued.  “I had to find an answer, and I ended up giving my life to Christ.”

     My minister friend went on to tell me that, three years later, another man came to one of his Wednesday night prayer meetings and gave almost an identical testimony.  He, too, had been at Kings Cross in Sydney, when a derelict had pulled on his sleeve and then asked him if he were to die that night, where would he spend eternity.  This second man too explained that the question so haunted him that he eventually sought and found an answer in Jesus.

     It wasn’t too long after that when my pastor friend himself had to be in Sydney for a church conference.  On one of his nights off, he decided to go to Kings Cross and see if he could find the man who had been mentioned at his prayer meeting by two different people.  He was standing on a corner in Kings Cross when he felt someone tug on his jacket.  He turned, and before the poor old man could ask him anything, he said, “I know what you’re going to ask me!  You’re going to ask me if I were to die, tonight where would I spend eternity?”

     The man was stunned.  “How did you know that?” he inquired.  My pastor friend told him the whole story.  As he finished, the man started to cry.  “Mister,” he said, “ten years ago I gave my life to Jesus, and I wanted to do something for Him.  But a man like me can’t do much of anything, so I decided I would just hang out on this corner and ask people that simple question.  I’ve been doing that for years, mister, but tonight is the first time I ever knew it did anybody any good.”

     All of this leads me to a simple conclusion:  Let each of us judge ourselves, making sure that we live out our convictions with as much consistency, honesty, and intelligence as possible.  And let none of us be condescending or judgmental toward those who are trying to do the same, even when they seem a bit foolish in our eyes.  Let each of us be as wise as serpents as we judge ourselves, and as gentle as doves when it comes to judging others.  What some of us might deem foolish or embarrassing may, in reality, be profoundly effective.  It’s one thing to be an embarrassment to God as we follow Jesus; it’s something else entirely to be an embarrassment for God.  Let us pray for the courage to be willing to be embarrassed for God.

**************************************************

1 Corinthians 4:10  —   We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!

Philippians 1:15-18  —   It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.

**************************************************

Lord, today you made us known to friends we did not know,

And you have given us seats in homes which are not our own.

You have brought the distant near, 

And made a brother of a stranger,

Forgive us, Lord…

We did not introduce you.

–Prayer from Polynesia

572) Fools for Christ (part one)

In 1997 Tony Campolo wrote Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God.  In the book, Campolo discusses several areas in which Christians could be better witnesses to their faith in Jesus Christ by thinking clearer and presenting the Gospel in a more responsible way.  In this interesting conclusion to the book (pages 271-274), he offers these additional thoughts.

     It’s one thing for the world to reject Jesus because the people in secular society consider the gospel to be ridiculous.  It is quite another thing for the world to reject the gospel because Christians are an embarrassment to God.  The Bible warns us against conducting ourselves so that people end up rejecting Jesus, not because of who He is but because of stupid things we do and say.  Hopefully, this book will help us to recognize and stop doing those things that embarrass God and turn people away from following Jesus.

     However, even as I try to address those concerns in this book, I do so with just a little ambivalence.  I am well aware that some of the great saints of the Church have been people whom the world viewed as embarrassments.  St. Francis of Assisi has to be the prime example of this.  That medieval saint readily referred to himself as a jester in the court of the King of kings, and his followers had no problem calling themselves “Fools for Christ.”

     I recall being at a gathering of sophisticated scholars at the faculty club of an Ivy League university where we were engaged in heavy talk about religion.  As I tried to impress my cynical audience with the reasonableness of Christianity, I made a joke of a man who I felt rightfully deserved their derision.  I let them know that I didn’t think much of that guy who holds up the sign with the Bible reference on it at televised football games, and that to me, this man’s attempt to do evangelism was ridiculous and embarrassing.  I remember saying, “You can’t dismiss us evangelicals by equating us all with that ridiculous guy who holds up signs with Bible verses on them, just when it’s time to kick the extra point.  That guy’s idea of an effective witness for the gospel is to hold up a verse like John 1:12 (or John 3:16).  He thinks people are going to become Christians by seeing his sign on TV.”

     When I finished my mocking statement, one of the scholars sitting at the table pulled his pipe out of his mouth and said, “Interesting that you should mention that.  Two years ago I was watching the Super Bowl, and just before halftime, the Dallas Cowboys scored a touchdown.  As the Cowboys got set to kick the extra point, the man to whom you just referred held up a sign citing that exact same verse—John 1:12.  During the halftime break, I got our old family Bible off the shelf and turned to that verse.  Lying between the pages were some notes about that very verse that had been written by my mother a long time ago.  I read over her notes and was reminded of many things I had once believed about Jesus Christ that had been left behind in my intellectual journey.  I reflected on those things and there and then, during the halftime of the Super Bowl, I gave my life to Christ.”

     Score one point for a “fool for Christ.”  Strike one down on me for my readiness to put down a brother in Christ who was trying in his own way to preach the gospel.  You never know what’s going to touch people’s lives.  The moment you are sure that you know what are the acceptable and the unacceptable ways to share Jesus with the world, you can count on being brought down by something that humbles you and shows you how wrong you are.  (continued…)

**************************************************

John 1:9-12  —  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

1 Corinthians 4:10  —   We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!

2 Timothy 4:2  —  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

**************************************************

O Lord, let me not live to be useless.

Strengthen my desire to work and speak and think for you.

–John Wesley