1506) Challenge Accepted

     The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it.  The changed lives of Christians does not prove the historical truth of Christianity, but it is an important piece of supportive evidence; and, it is consistent with the Biblical promises and descriptions of what can happen when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

     In the later part of the nineteenth century, political activist Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was one of the most outspoken atheists in London.  During those same years, down in one of the slums of London, was a Christian evangelist by the name of Hugh Price Hughes (1847-1902).  Hughes was investing his life in the poor people of London.  He had gone to those who were alcoholics and others who did not have a place in society.  He started homes for women who had been abused, and many other ministries to those who were down and out.  All London was aware of the miracles of grace accomplished at his rescue mission.

     The atheist Charles Bradlaugh publicly challenged this Rev. Hughes to a debate on the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  Both men were well known, and London was greatly interested.  What would Hughes do?  Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition.

     Bradlaugh was a lawyer, and Hughes pointed out that in a court of law you are always allowed to bring witnesses.  Hughes therefore agreed to debate Bradlaugh if Hughes could bring one hundred witnesses-– people whose lives had been changed because of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  They would be people who once lived deep in sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents.  Hughes said these people would not only tell of their conversion and how their lives have been improved since trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior, but would also submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories.  

     Hughes told Bradlaugh that he could also bring one hundred witnesses, non-believers whose lives had been changed because there was no God, and they could tell how they have been helped by their lack of faith.  Hughes said, “I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching.  I will bring one hundred such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same.  If you cannot bring one hundred, Mr. Bradlaugh, to match my one hundred, I will be satisfied if you will bring fifty men and women who will stand and testify that they have been lifted up from lives of shame by the influence of your teachings.  And if you cannot bring fifty, then bring twenty people who will say, as my one hundred will, that they have a great joy in a life of self-respect as a result of your atheistic teachings.  And if you cannot bring twenty, I will be satisfied if you bring ten.  Nay, Mr. Bradlaugh, I challenge you to bring even one, just one man or woman who will make such a testimony regarding the uplifting of your atheistic teachings.”  All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved be atheism, and Hughes, who could bring one hundred people improved by Christ, would agree to debate him.

     Mr. Bradlaugh withdrew his challenge.

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Hugh Price Hughes

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The ‘evidence;’ early residents of the West London Mission whose lives were improved by knowing Jesus

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“It is because the spirit of Christ has not been introduced into public life that Europe is in a perilous condition today. . . My wish is to apply Christianity to every aspect of life.”

–Hugh Price Hughes, in Social Christianity, 1890.

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The West London Mission continues to serve the needy today.  This is from their website:  

The West London Mission was established in 1887 as part of a new initiative within Methodism – the mission movement, which combined evangelism with radical social action.  The driving force behind WLM was the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes.  The opening service was held in October 1887 in St James’ Hall, Piccadilly, and over 2,000 would come to services each Sunday.  At that time the West End was rife with poverty and vice alongside great wealth and riches.  WLM developed a wide range of ‘social rescue’ alongside their religious activities.  Early work included ministering to the sick, a dispensary, a nursery, children’s clubs, a soup kitchen, a ‘poor man’s lawyer’ and a hospice.  Hostels and homes were run for unmarried mothers and their babies, ex-offenders, those on bail, elderly people, and recovering alcoholics– all pioneering projects long before any general public provision.  Professional social work of high standard, alongside a worshipping centre and a strong Christian motivation are WLM principles that continue today.

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I Peter 3:14-16  —  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Romans 12:9-13  —  Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

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O loving Father, we pray for all who get left behind in the race of life.  We pray for those worn with sickness and misery, those wasted with addiction, for the dying, and for all unhappy children.  May they come to know the suffering love of Christ, and may they have a heart that trusts you even in the dark.  We ask this in the name of Him who took our infirmaties upon himself, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

–A. T. Fisher  (1906-1988), Chaplain, Magdalen College, Oxford.

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1448) Who Will Help the Homeless?

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By Eric Metaxas, on Breakpoint Daily, March 28, 2017  (www.breakpoint.org)

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     In his new book, The Benedict Option, my friend Rod Dreher makes a sobering and sadly accurate claim: “Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage, have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.”

     Rod says that it is inevitable that believers in Jesus Christ will lose their jobs— some already have— and face other forms of bullying if they don’t go along.  Many in our increasingly secular culture want to chase Christians out of the public square altogether.

     Among other things, that would be a disaster for half a million homeless people.

     According to a new study out of Baylor University, faith-based organizations provide 58 percent of emergency shelter beds for the homeless in eleven cities across the nation.  In Omaha, faith-based organizations (or FBOs) provide a whopping 90 percent of the available emergency shelter beds.  In Houston, it’s 79 percent; in Indianapolis, 78 percent; in Baltimore, 74 percent.  So where would all these homeless people go if Christians who do acts of compassion out of a faith perspective are no longer around?

     But it’s not just the quantity of work that Christians do for the homeless day in and day out.  It’s also the quality of the work.  Baylor researchers Byron Johnson and William Wubbenhorst found that FBOs are “at the forefront of innovation” in helping to transform homeless people and their families through a variety of education, healthcare, job training, and addiction recovery services.

     Many government programs see the primary cause of homelessness as a simple lack of affordable housing.  Most FBOs, however, know the problem usually runs a lot deeper, and they do a better job of getting to know their clients and what they really need, leading to better outcomes for their clients and their cities.  Many of the homeless, for example, have no meaningful relationships.  FBOs can begin giving them the relational capital they need.

     Jim Reese, who is the president and CEO of Atlanta Mission, which serves 1,000 homeless people every day, told Christianity Today that “Instead of being a kitchen cook, you’d be out at the tables with the people.  How do you change lives?  It comes from creating a relationship with them and building trust.”

     As Byron Johnson notes, “In most cases, people become homeless due to a range of complex personal and societal factors, not just because they cannot afford a home.  Our conclusions demonstrate that faith-based organizations are in a unique position to treat the systemic issues that create homelessness to develop sustainable solutions for both individuals and municipalities.”

     Indeed.      I’ve seen the same dynamic at work at the pregnancy care ministry run by my wife right here in New York.  Yes, relationships matter— and so does faith.

     And this isn’t just touchy-feely talk.  The Baylor study estimates that FBOs create $9.42 in taxpayer savings for every dollar spent by the government (in grants to these FBOs).  It also shows that the 11 cities in the study achieved around $119 million in tax savings during the first three years after the faith-based Residential Recovery and Job Readiness programs were implemented.  So faith is not only good for the soul, it’s good for taxpayers and the bottom line.

     But according to Christianity Today, churches and other FBOs can face hurdles from local governments and communities as they try to provide hope for the homeless—everything from ordinances restricting the distribution of food to attempts to regulate shelters out of existence.  Given all that faith-based organizations do for the homeless— and all the money they save taxpayers— that’s just crazy.

     So the next time someone tells you that society would be better off without Christian influence, do not believe it.  Then go volunteer to help at, or at least write a check to, your local faith-based organization that helps the homeless.

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To read about the Baylor study of Faith-Based Organizations go to:

Faith-Based Organizations Shoulder Majority of Crucial Services and Develop Creative Solutions for Homelessness, New Baylor University Study Says
Baylor Media Communications | Baylor.edu | February 1, 2017

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Why a Christian Approach to Fighting Homelessness Pays Off
Kate Shellnut | Christianity Today | March 6, 2017

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Luke 9:58  —  Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

James 1:27  —  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Hebrews 13:2  —  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

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God of compassion, your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus, whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:  we hold before you those who are homeless.  Draw near and comfort them in spirit, and bless those who work to provide them with shelter, food and friendship.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

–www.churchofengland.org

1414) The Real Stars

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Ben Stein (1944- )

For several years Ben Stein wrote a biweekly column called “Monday Night at Morton’s.”  Morton’s is a famous chain of steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the world.  Ben Stein knew many of them and would write about his visits with them at Morton’s.  In July of 2004 Stein wrote his final ‘Morton’s’ column.  Today’s meditation is taken from that column. 

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     I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important.  They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated.  But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.  How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a “star” we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?  Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.  They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

     A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq.  He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets.  Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.  A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad.  He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.  A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordinance on a street near where he was guarding a station.  He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded.  He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

     The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on television, but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.  We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines.  The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.  I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

     There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament.  The policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive.  The orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery.  The teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children.  The kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.  Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse.  Now you have my idea of a real hero.

      In my previous column, I told you a few of the rules I have learned to keep my sanity.  Well, here is a final one to help you keep your sanity and keep you in the running for stardom:  We are puny, insignificant creatures.  We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important.  God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.  In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

      I can put it another way.  Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald.  Or even remotely close to any of them.

    But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me.  This came to be my main task in life.  I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife, and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help).  I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years.  I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma, and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

     This was the only point at which my life touched the type of heroism of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York.  I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters, and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path.  This is my highest and best use as a human.

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There is the old story of the man stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world.  “Dear God,” he cried out, “look at all the suffering, the anguish, and the distress in your world.  Why don’t you send help?” God responded, “I did send help.  I sent you.”

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Luke 22:24-27 — Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.”

Acts 20:35 — In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:  ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

I Peter 4:10 — Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Revelation 14:13 — Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
     “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

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You are never tired, O Lord, of doing us good; let us never be weary of doing you service.  But as you have pleasure in the well-being of your servants, let us take pleasure in the service of our Lord, and abound in your work and in your love and praise evermore.  Amen.   –John Wesley

1401) The Good Samaritan (b)

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     (…continued)  Jesus was also a teacher of morality and goodness.  Jonathan Swift himself was, of course, a servant of that Jesus, so in Gulliver’s Travels he was merely passing on what he learned about life from Jesus; and doing so by telling a story.  Jesus also told stories to teach us how to live, and one of the many such stories he told was the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live?”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

     Did you notice that Jesus isn’t telling us anything new here?  The lesson of the story can be summed up in three words: Help other people.  Jesus wasn’t the first person to say that, nor has he been the only one to say that, nor do you have to be a Christian to do that.  The most important thing about Jesus is not his moral teachings.  Yes, Jesus did teach about obedience and goodness and morality. And yes, he did preach a morality that is beyond even the most famous of history’s moral teachers.  Jesus taught us things like forgiving and praying even for our enemies, and he taught us to do good even to those who do us wrong.  But even those things had been said by a few others.

     What makes Jesus unique is that he is so much more than a moral teacher.  He was the Son of God Himself, here to die for us to forgive us of our sins— because it is impossible for any of us to perfectly fulfill the moral law of God.  God’s commandments were revealed to humanity long before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, Romans 2:15 says that God has written the Law on our very hearts, and even on the hearts of those who have not yet heard of Him.

     So the idea to help others wasn’t new with Jesus.  Neither did Jesus come up with anything new about telling the truth or not stealing or obeying your parents or staying away from false gods or anything else.  It had all been said before.

    What Jesus brought was forgiveness for our failure to obey that moral code, and eternal salvation for all who believed in Him.  That was new with Jesus, and that we can receive only from Jesus.  And no other religious leader rose from the dead to validate their claims and promises, as did Jesus.

     But that doesn’t mean that the story of the Good Samaritan is unimportant.  It just means that it is important for other reasons.  Just because we know what is right, doesn’t mean that we are going to do it.  We all try to get out of it and live only for ourselves as much as we can.  And then we try to justify our disobedience.  We try to convince ourselves that it was necessary, in that situation, to do what was not right.

     The young lawyer who was questioning Jesus in Luke 10 knows very well what is right and what is wrong.  Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law?”  And the young lawyer answered, “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

     But then the lawyer wanted to justify himself, so he said, “But who is my neighbor?”  There is the problem.  The lawyer ‘wanted to justify himself’ (v. 29).

     We all know we should love our neighbor and help each other out, but the lawyer implies that we need to put some limits on that.  We just can’t be helping everybody with everything, can we Jesus?

     But Jesus doesn’t define neighbor and he doesn’t get into the specifics of who we should help and who we don’t have to help.  Jesus simply tells a story, a story of a man who actually needs help, and is in the path of three men who would be able to help.

     What’s more, the one man who does help, the Samaritan, is the last person any Jew would put on their list of ‘neighbors’ to love and serve.  Samaritans and Jews disliked and avoided each other.  But this Samaritan is the one who helped.  At the end of the story, Jesus asked the expert in the law to answer his own question:  “Which of the three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

     “The one who had mercy,” said the expert.  What else could he say?  And then Jesus told him to, “Go and do likewise.”

     Jesus shows himself to be very different here from that other ancient teacher of wisdom, Socrates.  Socrates taught not so much by telling other people what to do, but by asking them question after question, thus teaching them to think for themselves.  That also can be a good way to teach, and Jesus also teaches that way sometimes.  He does it for a while in this story, asking the lawyer three questions before he concludes this lesson.

     But the difference between Jesus and Socrates is that Jesus does not end with the questions.  He will not allow us to just talk about our faith.  Jesus applies the lesson and gives everyone something to take home and work on.  “Go and do likewise,” Jesus said to him, thus concluding the lesson.

     I think the young lawyer would have liked Socrates better.  They could have sat around all day just talking about whether or not it was one’s ethical obligation to help a needy man on the road, not ever getting around to actually doing anything.  But Jesus says, “Get at it; there are people who need your help.”  (continued…)

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 Dear God, You constantly pour out Your blessings on us:  help us to be a blessing to others.  You gave us our hands:  help us to use them to work for You.  You gave us our feet:  help us to use them to walk in Your ways.  You gave us our voices:  help us to use them to speak gentleness and truth.  Help us to please You, Lord.  Amen.

–author unknown

1280) An Ornery Guy

Matthew 25:14-10:

     (Jesus said), “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold.  See, I have gained five more.’  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.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’  The man with two bags of gold also came.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’  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.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’  Then the man who had received one bag of gold came.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.’  His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.  So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

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     Some of the parables of Jesus are difficult to understand, but not this one.  The first two servants put their master’s money to work, got double on their investments, and were praised for their faithful service.  The third servant did not even put the money in the bank where he could have at least received interest, but he buried it in the ground where it did not do anyone any good.  He was not praised, but was cast out into the outer darkness.  The lesson is clear.  The master wants his servants to use what he has given them to do his business.  And Jesus said this is what Gods’ kingdom is like (Matthew 25:1, 14).

     Therefore, as citizens of God’s Kingdom here on earth, we are to use what we have been given– our time, our talents, and our treasure– to do God’s business in His world.   The whole world and all that is in it belongs to the Lord.  He lets you use a little bit of it for a little while, and he wants you to use it well, doing his work with the blessings he has given you.  Of course, a part of God’s work for you is to sustain the life he has given you, to take care of those people in your family that he has given you to care for, and to support the communities in which you live.  But once that has been done in a reasonable and modest way, God wants you to use your time, abilities, and money to serve your church, and, to serve others who are in need.  God does not want you to bury the gifts he has given you.  The story that follows has to do with making good use of one’s talents and abilities.

     Melvin was the most ornery, contrary, and difficult man I have ever worked with on a church council, and I told him that one day.  Every conversation for Melvin was an argument, and so no matter what we had to talk about at council, Melvin found a way of turning it into a fight.  Worse yet, we were in the middle of a building project and there were a lot of things to talk about and decide, and therefore, many fights.  One morning, after a particularly unpleasant council meeting the night before, I went out to visit Melvin at his farm.  I found him out in the machine shed, and I could tell he was not happy to see me.  He was never happy to see anyone.  So after the usual “Hi, how are you,” I told Melvin the first part of what I came to tell him.  I said, “Melvin, you are the most ornery, contrary, and difficult person I have ever worked with on a church council.”  It didn’t surprise me that he got mad, because he got mad about everything.  I could just see the old schoolyard bully come out in him, as he tensed up and leaned forward, almost ready to pounce on this little preacher.  So I quickly added, “But you know what else, Melvin?”  And he said slowly and menacingly, “No… What else?”  Then I told him the second part of what I had come out to say.  I said, “You are a grouch, Melvin, but as far as getting things done between meetings, you are the best council person I have ever worked with.  When there is something that needs to be done, everyone else starts hemming and hawing and going on and on about how busy they all are; but not you.  You always say you will do it, and you always get it done, and it is done right.  And I want to thank you for that.”  Melvin wasn’t expecting that.  I caught him off guard, so he loosened up, first looked a little puzzled, and then he grinned a little— kind of like he was proud of himself.  “So,” I said, “I just came out here because there are a few things I need to have someone do on this building project, and I knew you would be the best person for the job.  Can you help me out?”  He said he would, and we talked some more, including a little bit on how he would be listened to more if would express his opinions more calmly and respectfully.  From that day on, Melvin was a different guy on the church council.  I’m not used to seeing people change that quickly, but it was a night and day difference with Melvin, and it was a pleasure to see.

     To use the imagery of the parable, Melvin was a one talent guy.  The Lord didn’t give him a lot of natural talent.  He probably didn’t do real well in school, his communication skills were poor, he had a bad attitude, and he had a complete lack of any compassion or tact.  But he knew his way around a construction site, he was a hard worker, and in spite of all his faults, he did make the best use of the one talent he did have.  He didn’t bury it like the servant in the parable, but made good use of it for the Lord’s work.  And then, along the way, he even learned a little bit about getting along with people.  Being a part of the church helped him with that, and he helped the church by making good use of that one talent God did give him.

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Almighty God, you have blessed each of us with a unique set of gifts, and you have called us to specific occupations, relationships, and activities in which to use those gifts.  Enable us to use our talents to serve you and to witness to our faith in you.  Keep us steadfast in our commitment to serve in your name.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship: Occasional Services, (#504) (adapted) 

1279) The Party Boys and the Kid

Image result for william willimon images

William Willimon  (1946- )

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       William Willimon was the Campus pastor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina for several years.  He tells this story of an evening visit to a fraternity house on campus.

    The residents of many of these college fraternity houses have done much to deserve the bad reputation they usually have.  The University Dean at Duke requires each fraternity to have a certain number of programs each year to give them at least some semblance of respectability, and, in the hope that someone might learn something.  One of the fraternities invited Willimon, the campus pastor, to do a program.  He was to come to the frat-house and give a lecture on “Moral Character and College.”  Willimon thought to himself, “I can’t believe these guys are dumb enough to invite an old guy like me to talk to young men like them on character.”  I can’t believe it either, because I have heard Willimon preach.  He is brilliant, articulate, has a powerful personality, and, when he wants to be, can be blunt and intimidating.  Those boys had probably never been to chapel service and did not know what they were in for.

     On the appointed evening, Willimon went to their house and knocked on the door.  The door opened and he was greeted by a young boy about nine or ten years old.  “What is a kid doing over here at this time of night?,” Willimon wondered.  Surely, he thought, there should be rules against children even being at a place like that at any time of day.  He had visions of the frat boys getting this poor kid drunk for a few laughs.

     “They are waiting for you in the common room,” the boy said politely.  They went back to the common room and there all the young men were gathered, glumly waiting for the presentation.

     Willimon says he then hammered away at the boys for an hour about the failures of their generation.  He talked about morality and character and responsibility and faith, and how fraternity houses like that one gave little evidence of any of those things.  When he finished his talk he asked if there were any questions.  There was dead silence.  So he thanked them for the honor of inviting him there, and headed out. As one young man walked him to the door, Willimon overhead him say to the little boy, “You go and get ready for bed.  I’ll be back to tuck you in and read you a story.”

     When they got outside, the fraternity boy lit a cigarette, took a long drag on it, and thanked the pastor for coming out.  “Let me ask you,” Willimon said, “Who is that kid and what is he doing here?”

     “Oh, that’s Donny,” said the young man.  He said, “Our fraternity is part of the Big Brother program in Durham.  We met Donny that way.  His mom is on cocaine and having a tough time.  Sometimes it gets so bad that she can’t care for him.  So we told Donny to call us up when he needs us.  Then we go over, pick him up, and he stays with us until it’s okay to go home.  We take him to school, and we buy him his clothes and books– stuff like that.”

      The pastor stood there dumbfounded.  He said, “That’s amazing.  I take back everything I said in there about you guys being bad and irresponsible.”

      “I tell you what’s amazing,” said the college boy as he took another drag on his cigarette, “what’s amazing is that God would pick a guy like me to do something this good for somebody else.”

     There are a couple interesting things about that reply.  First of all, he believed God picked him for that task, and that God had placed that boy in his care.  It wasn’t that the college required a program, or that his girlfriend worked for the Durham Big Brother program and talked him into it, or whatever other external circumstances led to that boy being there.  It wasn’t any of that.  It was God, he believed, that picked him out to do that.  And secondly, the young man was amazed that God would pick a guy like him.  Even though Willimon said he took back all he said, the young man probably saw the truth in a lot of what he said about him and his friends, and he didn’t see why God would pick a careless and irresponsible frat-boy to do something so important and so good.  He didn’t think he deserved it or was even up to it.  Humility, service, goodness, and even faith were all evident in that reply.  Not bad, thought Willimon, for a college kid.

     “The time has come,” Jesus said in Mark 1:15 as he began his public ministry, “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news.”  Jesus was going to need some help to get this movement off the ground.  What he should have done is put an ad in the paper, taken applications, done interviews, and then carefully select the most qualified candidates.  But Jesus did not do that.  Instead, he saw a couple fisherman, said “Come follow me,” and they did.  Then he saw a couple more, and said, “You come too,” and they did.  He then had one third of his staff in place, and chances are none of them could even read or write.  What kind of way is that to put together a leadership team?  And they all, like the college boy, would wonder why they were picked.  Some time later, Peter, after one of his many blunders, said, “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

     And Paul, selected later, also did not feel up to it, calling himself, the “least of all the apostles.”  God would not have had to depend on unqualified amateurs.  He could have brought his own staff from heaven– Michael and Gabriel the angels, and a few more of their kind.  They knew how to get things done, and they were experienced.  They had been on God’s staff for a few thousand years already.  But Peter, who always had his foot in his mouth?  And James and John, who both had problems with pride and a fierce temper? And Paul, who at one time was arresting Christians and having them killed?  Why depend on the likes of them?  And if God was the one who was really arranging for the care of Donny, why put him in a frat-house full of boys interested in little more than partying?  Why not arrange for foster care with some wealthy and responsible young couple in the suburbs?  Peter, Paul, James, John, the boys at the fraternity, you and me, all chosen by God to accomplish what he wants done in the world.

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Mark 1:16-18 — As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.

I Corinthians 1:26-27 — Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

II Timothy 1:8-9a — So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.  But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life– not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace… 

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O Lord, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity.  Make me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought to be used according to thy command.  Grant me, therefore, to pass the time which Thou shalt yet allow me in diligent performance of thy commands.  Amen. 

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

1231) One Woman’s Mid-Life Changes

Maggie Gobran (1949- ): The Mother Teresa of Cairo

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By Eric Metaxas, March 11, 2015 blog at:  www.breakpoint.org

     Next to the Bible itself, perhaps the best source of spiritually nourishing reading material is what many call “the lives of the saints.”  That is, stories of fellow believers in ages past whose extraordinary lives convict us, inspire us, and draw us closer to Jesus.

     Perhaps you have read Augustine’s Confessions.  Or maybe Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.  Or Elisabeth Elliot’s books about her missionary husband Jim Elliot, who found martyrdom in the Amazon.  And dare I add Bonhoeffer?

     While it’s great reading about the lives of the faithful who have gone before us, I find it especially inspiring to read about those who still walk among us.

     And inspired is what you’ll be if you pick up a copy of a new book released just this week by Maggie Gobran, the so-called “Mother Teresa of Egypt.”  The book is called Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums.

     In this sense, Mama Maggie is very much like Mother Teresa:  She has given her life to serve Christ by loving the poorest of the poor.  And like Mother Teresa, she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times, including this year.  We’ll see what happens.

     But there the comparisons should end.  Mama Maggie is Egyptian, a Coptic Christian.  Married with two children, Mama Maggie was never a nun; in fact, she came from a wealthy Egyptian family, was a very successful businesswoman and university professor, and had a love for fine jewelry, cars, and clothing.

     But as detailed in the book, all that changed with a visit with some church friends to one of Cairo’s garbage slums.  In the midst of unbelievable filth, stench, and depravity— scenes we cannot imagine here in the U.S.— lived thousands of men, women, and children, many of whom are Coptic Christians like Maggie.  And Maggie was instantly drawn to them.  Especially to the children.

     After repeated visits, Maggie reached a decision point.  She could remain a professor and continue to enjoy the material fruits of her labor.  But, as is told in the book, the thought hit her:  “We don’t choose where or when to be born.  We don’t choose where or when to die.  But we can choose either to help others or turn away.”

     “God wanted to promote me,” she relates.  “He said ‘leave the best, the smartest, and go to the poorest of the poor.’”

     And that is what she has done with the determination and savvy of a top-flight businesswoman— and with the profound, tender, and intensely personal love of Jesus.  The organization she founded, Stephen’s Children, builds schools and vocational centers, runs free medical clinics, houses orphans, and teaches children about Jesus.  Because of her obedience, loving heart, and humbleness, Stephen’s Children now has over 1,500 workers and volunteers, and has helped over 25,000 families.

     In fact, what the authors Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn convey so powerfully in Mama Maggie is Maggie’s serenity, her deep prayer life, and her trust in God, even when dealing with the brokenness, the child abuse, the disease, the catastrophic injuries she and the staff and volunteers of Stephen’s Children encounter every day in the garbage slums.

     This is a remarkable book about a remarkable sister in the Lord.  The majority of the book’s proceeds will go to Stephen’s Children, to help Mama Maggie continue her work to bring real hope and help in Jesus’ name to the children who live in the slums of Cairo.

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“I liked to be elegant.  But I found to be elegant comes from the inside, to love.  With God’s grace I left everything and found Him shining, waiting for me with a crown of love.”

“We don’t choose where to be born, but we do choose either to be sinners or saints; to be nobodies, or the heroes.  If you want to be a hero, do what God wants you to do.”

–Mother Maggie

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I Samuel 12:24  —  Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

Romans 12:10-13  —  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

Matthew 23:11  —  (Jesus said), “The greatest among you will be your servant.”

Mark 10:45a  —  (Jesus said), “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

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O Lord, let my life by useful, and my death be happy; let me live according to thy laws, and die with confidence in thy mercy.  Amen.

–Samuel Johnson  (1709-1784)

1210) Going Overboard for Jesus (c)

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     (…continued)  Our faith in Jesus is not just one aspect of our busy lives; it is not just one of the many plates we have to keep spinning as we run around doing all kinds of other important things.  Our faith in Jesus is the source of our life, the ground of our very being, the guide for all that we do, and our only hope for anything beyond our few, short years here.  Everything you are and everything you have will one day disappear.  As Job said in the Old Testament, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away;” and then in an instant it will all be gone and you will be gone. 

     But along with this brief life, God gives a promise of an eternal life in his heavenly home to all who will hear it and pay attention to it and believe it.  Only your faith in that promise found in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior will last.  You must not go overboard in your dedication to your job, you must not go overboard in an obsession with a hobby, you must not go overboard with sports or TV or movies or yard-work, and there is a hundred other things you must not go overboard on.  But it is not wrong to go overboard with Jesus.  Jesus is already everything.

     Yes, one can be wrong about religion and go overboard for Jesus in all the wrong ways.  One can even make the mistake of using religion to neglect other legitimate God-given responsibilities.  That is something different, and we do have to be careful.  But then the challenge is to follow Jesus better and smarter— but not with less devotion or enthusiasm.

     This certainly does not mean that everybody has to drop everything and go off to Sudan or Kenya.  But it does mean, as Paul says in Colossians, that “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father… working at it with all your heart… for it is Lord Christ you are serving.”  So whatever you do, seek to please God— whether by honesty, when it would be more profitable to cheat; by telling the truth, when it would be easier to lie; by staying faithful even when tempted to be unfaithful; by being contented and thankful, when you might have a tendency to be dissatisfied and jealous; by keeping your promises, in sickness and in health, even when sickness goes on and on, year after year; by doing your work, even when it seems like it is more than your fair share; by being gracious when it would be so easy to be peevish and mean-spirited; and by taking the time for regular prayer and worship, even when you would rather be doing something else.  “Whatever you do,” says the Bible, “do it all in the name of Jesus.” 

          As a pastor I get to know a lot of people.  I hear their stories, and I know that the crosses some of them are called to bear in this life are even more difficult than going to Sudan.  Sometimes we have to be willing to go overboard for Jesus just to hang on.

     But it is an eternal Lord Jesus that we serve, and he has promised us an eternity to work all things out for our good.  So do look to Jesus in the time that you have been given.  In John 12:8 Jesus said to Judas, “You will not always have me;” or in other words, “You will not always have the opportunity to put your faith in me.”  Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call on him while he is near.”

     If you keep on looking to Jesus, keeping him in mind in all that you do and all that you say, he will give you the strength to hang on.  And you will be all right, now and forever.

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Colossians 3:17  —  Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Romans 12:1-2  —  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God— this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Matthew 22:37-40  —  Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Luke 9:23-26  —  Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

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 Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

–Frances Havergal, 1874

1209) Going Overboard for Jesus (b)

       (…continued)  Whose side would you be on in this story? 

     William Willimon spoke at a seminar one time at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.  I was there and I heard the story from him in person.  I am retelling it from memory so it is not word for word, but the gist of it is true.  There was a challenging sermon, an inspired young couple, and some disgruntled parents.  I remember the story was a thought provoker for me.  It still is. 

     I am a minister, so I am big on following Jesus, and I am big on telling you to do with your life what God wants you to do.  I have also been in Brad’s position, and one time had started filling out the application papers to go to Nairobi, Kenya as a short-term missionary for two years with my wife and two children.  I did not go, but still wonder sometimes if the call of God was somewhere in that; or, if God was calling me to stay at my little rural church, which is what I did.  And Brad’s parents, though they are the ones resisting this call of God, are not the bad guys in the story for me.  I am a parent and a grandparent, and I would hate to see any of my children or grandchildren go off to the other side of the world to live in a shack with a war going on all around them.

          So there are no bad guys in this story.  But there does seem to be a call from Jesus; Jesus, who calls on each of us to take up the cross, to serve others in his name, and perhaps even to go to the ends of the earth.  We see a lot of that in the Bible.  We even sing about it, don’t we?  “Take my life that I may be…ever only all for thee.”   We like that hymn— up to a certain point.

          In the Gospel of John there is a similar story of someone who seems to be ‘going overboard for religion’ as Brad’s father described it.  The story also includes an objection to such extreme devotion, and the response of Jesus.

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John 12:1-8  —  Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.  Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year’s wages.”  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.  “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied.  “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”  

Image of John 12:1-8 from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

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        Jesus is at the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus.  These were friends of Jesus, and Lazarus was the one who Jesus had just raised from the dead in the previous chapter of John.

     After dinner, Mary took a pint of expensive perfume, anointed Jesus feet, and wiped them with her hair.  We don’t do any of that anymore, but back then washing feet was a big deal.  Today we’ll take our shoes off in the house to keep the mud off the carpet, but in those days that would not have done any good.  You could take your sandals off, but even then your bare feet would still be caked with dirt from the dusty paths.  So, you would take your sandals off and you would wash your feet– or some servant, or the even host might do that for you.  But Mary goes way overboard.  Jesus is already in the house, so his feet have probably already been washed clean.  But then Mary anoints his feet with perfume and dries them with her hair.  This isn’t just begin a good hostess.  This is an extravagant act of devoted worship. 

          It was far too excessive for Judas who objected saying, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It is worth a year’s wages.”  The next verse informs us of his real motive, telling us that Judas was the keeper of the money bag and would steal from it. 

          But apart from that unpleasant little detail, I always thought Judas had a point.  After all, the equivalent of a year’s wages certainly could have made a significant contribution to the local food shelf.  Mary does seem to be going overboard in this act of worship and devotion.

          But Jesus did not criticize Mary, and he said to Judas, “Leave her alone.”  Jesus then started talking about the day of his burial, and how he would not always be with them.  

     Think about the context.  Jesus just raised Mary’s brother, Lazarus from the dead after Lazarus was in the tomb four days.  In just a few more days, Jesus himself would be arrested and killed and put in a tomb.  Even though he would then rise from the dead, his time on earth with the disciples would soon be coming to an end.  Jesus said “The poor you will always have with you,” but this did not mean “So don’t worry about them.”  Jesus had already said too much about helping the poor to mean that.  Rather, this was said in the sense of, “Yes, you do indeed need to be concerned about those in need, so keep doing what you can for them from now on.”

          But, Jesus said, “You will not always have me with you.”  Those last few days with Jesus were special, and what Jesus was about to do for the world was not only unique, but was to be the most important event in all history, and it was worthy of Mary’s extravagant act of devotion. 

          In other words, there is nothing wrong with going overboard for Jesus.  (continued…)

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Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

–Francis Havergal, 1874

1208) Going Overboard for Jesus (a)

 

Duke University chapel, Durham North Carolina

UN Mission Camp in South Sudan

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   William Willimon is a Methodist minister, and for many years was the chaplain at Duke University.  Duke, like many colleges and universities in the United States, was founded by Christians, and still offers worship services for students in their beautiful chapel.  As chaplain, Willimon was the main preacher at these services, and since he was talking to students in the process of deciding what to do with their lives, he would sometimes preach about the call of God on one’s life.  He would discuss all the usual topics:  like how Jesus said to his disciples (and to us all), “Follow me;” and how Jesus sent the early Christians (and sends the church yet today) to the ends of the earth with the Gospel message and to serve others in the name of Jesus; and how Paul said God has called some to be pastors and some to be teachers and some to be healers and how God equips all kinds of people for all kinds of works of service.  And I would suppose that sometimes in their chapel service they would all join in singing old traditional favorites like “Take my life that I may be, consecrated Lord to Thee… Take myself that I may be, ever, only, all for Thee.” 

     William Willimon is a great preacher, listed oftentimes as one of the ten best in the whole United States.  But even though he is a great preacher, he was surprised when a student one time took him seriously and decided to actually act on something he heard in a sermon.  Brad was a graduate student in engineering and one day came into the chaplain’s office to tell Willimon he had contacted a Christian mission organization about going to work for them in the African nation of Sudan.  He had done some research and learned there was a great need in South Sudan for someone with his engineering skills.  He said he wanted to serve Jesus by serving the people there.  Brad said he was deeply moved by one of Rev. Willimon’s sermons, and believed the Holy Spirit was calling him to the mission field. 

     The pastor said to him, “Have you really thought this through, Brad?  I know something about that organization, and they don’t pay much.”

     “I know that,” said Brad, “but what about all those sermons you given about how money isn’t everything?”

     “Well, yes, I guess I have talked about that,” said the pastor.  “But did you know there is a war going on in Sudan.  It’s dangerous to work there these days.” 

          “Yes, I know,” Brad said, “but I have also heard you preach about how God protects us.  And I’ve even heard you praise those many people in church history who were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  Shouldn’t at least some of us still be willing to do that today?”

     “Well, yes,” Pastor Willimon said, “but what does your wife think?  And you have a little baby now, too, don’t you?”

     “My wife is also feeling called to this by God, and we think our baby will be all right.  I’ve known some students around here that grew up on the mission field and they’re just fine.  So,” Brad continued, “I just want to thank you for the influence you have had on my life.  I really think God has been speaking to me through you.”

     Sometime later, Pastor Willimon was visited by two very upset people.  It was Brad’s parents.  The father was angry, and said, “I’ve been paying a lot of money for my son to go to this University and learn to be an engineer.  He’s done well, and I know he could get a good job here in this country, and make big money.  Now he says he wants to be a missionary, live in some shack in Africa, and work for peanuts.  I don’t know what’s the matter with that boy, but he said he has been talking to you about all this.”

     Brad’s mother wasn’t as angry as she was sad, and said, “Pastor Willimon, Brad is our only child, and now he wants to go live on the other side of the world— and with our little grand-daughter.  We love her so much, and we’re just heart-broken about this.  We’ve always been a close family, and now we will hardly ever see them.”

     Willimon saw the tears in their eyes and replied, “I understand how difficult this must be for you.  I have kids too, and I love to see them as often as I can.  But yes, I have talked to Brad, and I do think there might be something of the call of God in this.  Brad told me he was brought up in the church and his faith has always been an important of his life, and I think there is much to admire and be proud of in his decision to serve Jesus in this way.”

     Brad’s father shot back, “Don’t go making it sound like this is our fault because we sent him to Sunday School.  Yes, I’ve always said religion was important—up to a certain pointBut you just can’t be going overboard with this sort of thing.”  (continued…)

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Matthew 4:19a  —  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.

Isaiah 6:8  —  I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Matthew 19:29  —  (Jesus said), “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

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Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

–Frances Havergal, 1874