Marcus was a convicted criminal on death row. He had previously apologized to the family of the teenager he raped and murdered. Now, just before he was executed by lethal injection, he said, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” Apparently, during his time in prison he had received Jesus as his Savior. His words remind me of a certain criminal who died next to Jesus 2,000 years ago.
I hate them. They’re _______!” (He used a euphemism for scum.) As I continued to converse with the teen, it became clear that he strongly disliked a certain group of students at school because of the way they talked and acted. The offending ones were unpleasant for him to be around and my young friend had no love for them. Although a believer in Jesus, he couldn’t stand to be around people he viewed as scum.
Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
Marcus Mumford wouldn’t call himself a Christian. At least he declined to do so during a Rolling Stone magazine interview. In that conversation, the award-winning songwriter and musician said that the word Christian is linked with religious images he doesn’t like. He compared himself to people who claim to love Christ and say that Jesus is awesome, but who are not Christians.
Having proceeded with my fellow teachers to our seating for our school’s graduation ceremony, I was amused to find I was sitting directly behind the band. Just 18 inches stood between me and some skilled trumpet players. I wondered how my ears would fare after the first few measures of “Pomp and Circumstance.” And later I stood in wonder as we began a congregational hymn. I couldn’t hear myself singing, however. Only the sound of the majestic brass instruments resonated off the church walls.
It’s popular today to dismiss all religions as merely an accident of birth. If a person is born in Pakistan, the odds are that she will be a Muslim. India produces Hindus, Thailand makes Buddhists, Brazilians tend to be Catholics, and so on. Have you wondered if the only reason you believe in Jesus is due to the influence of your parents or others? Is becoming a believer simply about being born in the right family?
For many years it was believed that Dr. David Livingstone, famed missionary to Africa, had just one convert. The man was a chief from Botswana named Sechele whom Livingstone wrote off, stating that the chief had backslidden. Sechele, however, might in fact have been one of Africa’s greatest evangelists. Missionaries arriving to work with the Zulu Ndebele tribe in 1859 were surprised to find that they already practiced regular Christian prayers. Sechele had taught them to read the Bible and many of the Bakwena had become believers in Jesus.
When my oldest daughter was very young, it was always difficult to get her to admit when she had done something wrong. She was skillfully evasive and seemed to have a knack for explaining away a bad situation. Her indiscretions were usually very minor—she was essentially a “good girl.” But her habit of never admitting her mistakes was a source of concern to us.
My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
In a speech given during the commencement of a newly formed missions agency, my friend—who heads up the ministry—spoke of its mission and vision. He also gave everyone a clear picture of its goals and plans.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!