Slide, Christian, Slide!

Baseball has an overlooked play if the spectator is one who merely accompanies a friend to the local park softball game. The slide. When my son was in high school he decided to try his skills at baseball. I remember the alarm bells sounding in my head the day he came home and said, “Coach taught us how to slide today.” Well, there is a right way, a wrong way, and all slides look dangerous to me. They are dangerous. Due to many injuries at homeplate, the professional rules changed this year. The catcher now must position himself in front of the plate. Catchers are prime positions for runners doing their best to beat the ball in order to score.

Some slides are head first, some feet first, and others on sides; they all involve risk. Then, there are the fielders who slide. They dive, roll, and even do sitting slides in order to capture a fly ball. They leave the spectators bug-eyed when the glove comes up with the ball snuggly held. Were the windows open, the neighbors might wonder if I have an attacker! Well, I never can watch a game quietly.

Risk. It is more than a board game. It is more than the thrill of watching a practiced, expert in a baseball game. What will I risk for the cause of Christ? It costs—saying something or being silent in conversation when it turns to the Bible. Speaking up in a cubeville office may risk a reprimand from the boss. Some students have been suspended from school because they dared to silently bow the head in a prayer of thanks before eating in the cafeteria. We risk ridicule for standing on a corner with a political sign supporting the candidate of our choice particularly if the candidate is a bold pro-life, freedom of speech, freedom of religion believer.

Without hesitation the player my decide: slide, or not, and be pronounced out, or let the ball safely drop and let the runner take a double? The professional players do what it takes, or be sent to the showers, or home. The Believing Christian should do no less than to speak for the name of Christ.

“Thou therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier. . .” II Timothy 2:3 expresses the attitude held by those who are willing to take the risk of carrying the gospel to a workplace, school, recreation center, and neighborhood. Slide, Christian, Slide!

Riding in the Van with Moses

The visits I make approximately every eight weeks, to the retina specialist are most interesting. I could drive myself to the doctor, but I could not drive myself home. For the first two hours or more I identify only shapes in the distance. I remedy this problem by making use of the local senior services van. In my many trips in the van service, I have never yet had the same driver, nor have I ridden with the same passengers. It must be God’s way of broadening my horizons and giving me opportunities to speak of the love of my life, Jesus.

The trip this week allowed me to ride with a fellow passenger who had long white hair that blended with a long white beard. He wore a skull cap to cover his balding head. Your immediate response might be Santa Claus. Well, he was not rotund enough for Santa. The cincher was that he walked with the aid of a walking stick. Now, this was not an ordinary walking stick that one might buy. It was not a short cane. It was a long, sturdy straight branch from which the bark had been peeled. It was a stick that I envision an Old Testament person might carry on the terrains of the Middle East. Moses might carry such a walking stick. The Bible describes it as a rod.

In my bemused mind, I called him “Moses” although he introduced himself as John. Well, maybe John the Baptist, my mind said. Because I am a civil person, I said, “Good morning John” but my mind said Moses.

I did not have the pleasure of his company on the trip home. Someone else had that pleasure. I did have the same driver, however, so I asked about John, er. . . Moses. My driver said that John looks more like Grizzly Adams to him. It’s all a matter of what we tend to think about throughout the day, isn’t it? Since I spend a portion of my day everyday with Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Paul, John, and other numerous Bible characters, my mind leaped to Moses. Proverbs 13:20 says in part: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise. . .” and although I have no quibble with Grizzly Adams, I prefer Moses.

Yep, I rode in the van with Moses!

James 4:3 and Me (and maybe you)

The Bible, of course, is full range on how we relate to God and His ways. For some reason, the book called James tends to be my “go to” place for personal revival. Of the Twelve disciples, I see an inner circle of those closest to Jesus: Peter, James, and John. James is so practical; the text niggles into the needy heart.

After the topic of unsurprising trials and temptations, the view of faith and works, the danger of the mighty tongue, James approaches peaceful living and prayer. Selfishness plays a large part in that section of our daily living. If I likened these five divisions within the book to an orchestra, this section would be the section that causes the most discord. Take no offense brass section, but if you are off tune just an itty bit, it throws everyone off.

Wow, you say, prayer can be discordant? It can. Imagine that your Bible has no verse divisions. In that case, prayer is tucked right into strife. So many times the little phrase, “. . . ye have not because you ask not . . .” is lifted out of context. It is followed by an explanation. “Ye ask and receive not because you ask amiss; that ye might consume it upon your lusts.” Wrong reason to pray.

Years ago I managed to offend someone who came to me seeking an answer to her plea that God save her husband. She went on and on about how much better the family would be if only her husband would yield to Christ and become a Christian. I took her to this verse. “Are you asking,” I spoke, “because you are concerned about his soul, or because you want a more peaceful life?” She left me with a huff. Some months later he did come to Christ for salvation. Her praying may have changed. I just decided not to stir up a potential hornet’s nest by asking.

Yesterday on my way to the doctor’s office I was riding in a van and looking over the vast population of the city we were approaching. I wondered about the souls represented there. Lost souls, souls searching, souls in discord, souls in rebellion all floated into my heart. I wondered, are American Believers praying for revival because we just want things to be more comfortable? Do our hearts break for the souls that will perish into everlasting separation from God and the splendor of Heaven? I heard in my heart the compassionate, compelling words of Jesus: “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . .” and echoed in my heart the name of my city. Of course, I want things better, but more than that, I don’t want to see folks facing eternal punishment because I did not at least pray for them.

We must not ask amiss.

Meet Coralynn

Two healthcare facilities welcome my visits each week. They are bright spots in my week. In each of those facilities residents receive 24/7 care. Although some of them go out regularly to shop at local stores, attend movies, and visit families, a majority of them do not have someone to take them to church. I take the Bible to them.

Among those residents are people who bring the Bible to me!

They are walking witness to the faithfulness of God. Just as we all hold different temperaments and personalities, they are the same. Some bring Christ to the study group in song; some in quiet affirmation, some with burdens, some in afflictions. They all have needs.

Enter now: Coralynn. She walks with the assistance of a walker that has a built in shelf on which she carries a Bible. A smile graces her countenance. Her hands have a healing, comforting touch as she pats shoulders along the way to finding herself a seat. Once seated, she looks at the handout sheet I have prepared for them and opens her Bible to the assigned passage. Out of a group of twelve on an average visit, only Coralynn and Gladys always remember to bring a Bible. Of them I can say, along with the support of Romans 8:16 that “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

A week ago Coralynn pulled me aside and told me that she prays for me every day. No one can give me a greater gift. I know that since the loss of her last child, Thelma, told me that Coralynn comes to her room everyday and reads some verses to her and prays for her.

When I am in my 80’s and perhaps confined to 24/7 care, I want to be like Coralynn. Don’t you?

Hit By a Pitch

Regretfully, sometimes a wild pitch is intentional!

When a batter is hit by a pitch the batter gets to advance to first base automatically. Never mind the nasty bruise the batter will sport for several days. Last year, an Atlanta Braves player was on the disabled list with a broken jaw by a pitch that went astray. We may assume that the pitch just did go astray and of course is flying with tremendous speed. However, I heard John Smoltz, once an ace Atlanta Braves pitcher and now announcer, admit that there were a few times when the stray pitch was intentional. Ouch!

Our words can be like those pitches. Most of the time, they are thoughtless but hurtful words. There are times when hurtful words are also insidious. In fact, there are times when words fly with barbs that are masked in joking. Words of truth filtered through joking can also bring serious and long lasting injury. The Apostle Paul admonished the believers in Colosse to “let your speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Salt seasons to something tasteful. Just this week I mentioned to my grandson that he should always taste something before adding salt. That way he would not over salt it and make it difficult to swallow. Maybe we should do the same. Try the words silently on the tongue before we fling them out to others. As I read on a poster once, “Engage brain before loosing tongue.”

Please never be guilty of hitting the batter. You may well become the loser for doing so. That free base may become a run scored to your account. Words spoken thoughtlessly are impossible to retrieve.

The Swirl of Things

It takes so little to make a difference!

There are more than leaves swirling around us these days. The news is so full of ugly stuff: scandals, political chaos, sports figure failures, muckraking, can all make our heads spin and our hearts ache.

There used to be a little bi-weekly newspaper called the Grit that published only good news. It features stories that gave us the “warm fuzzy” feeling. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like that good, warm feeling of sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and something crunchy to eat. Foodies call them “comfort foods.”

I have made a personal challenge to myself (who else can I made a personal challenge to?) that I will say or do something positive everyday that will give another person that warm, pleasant feeling. For now, that challenge is just for a week. It may go longer.

Just perhaps as lights in this world of darkness a warm, pleasant, fuzzy feeling will melt some despondent heart and turn then toward Jesus, the Light of the World.

Anyone else game?

The Baseball

I like the game of baseball. Since my days of playing softball in the Chain O’Lakes country school yard, to neighborhood games, to following the Atlanta Braves since my youth, I enjoy baseball.

It is that time of year. From the time of spring training forward professional baseball players always have their eyes on October. This weekend I watched the grit and determination of the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles. Repeatedly I saw the camera pull a close up of the baseball in the pitcher’s hand. The ball is behind the pitcher’s back, and he rolls is around and around, feeling for the seams. Often the baseball is a new ball, yet the baseball is a familiar object in his skillful hand. When the pitcher and the catcher agree on the next pitch, the ball is brought forward, tucked into the pitcher’s glove, grasped exactly where he wants it, and quickly the pitcher goes into his stretch, and lets it go with speed and accuracy.

Some pitchers are known as groundball pitchers. They effectively pitch the ball in such a way as to cause a groundball rather than a potential homerun. Many skillful batters study hours of pregame tapes of the pitcher they are facing. They learn to read the pitcher’s stance, so that they will not be surprised when that ball comes at them at 90+ miles per hour. Then the batter spends countless hours in a batting cage and with a batting coach. Sometimes just moving a hand position a half inch makes a difference in the swing and hitting ability.

The ability of the pitcher, batter, and the fielding ability of all the positions put together makes up a successful team. It takes all of them. No one player should have to carry the weight of the whole game. Sometimes a manager will keep a player in position because of his fielding ability while his batting average will look dismal. A fielding error can cause a loss. Well-rounded players are sought with many numbers on the contract.

Now, back to the baseball itself and not the game. The pitcher knows how to grasp that baseball in a special technique that will create the best pitch possible for a particular situation. They know the baseball. Last night as I watched two ace pitchers and the ball deftly circling in their hands, it occurred to me that I need to know God even as that pitcher knows the baseball. I have known God, in His three persons, for a long time. I came to know Christ as my Savior in 1960. In those 54 years since, I have never turned my back on Him. What’s really important is that He has never turned His back on me. Struggles have come and gone and will come again, yet, I know Him, and He knows me. He knows my every thought and better, He can control my thoughts if I trust Him for that.

When TBS repeatedly put that close up shot of the baseball in the pitcher’s hand, I developed a stronger desire yet, to know, to love, to handle effectively the Word of Life. The life I live is not mine alone. I do not live just unto myself. I am on a team. You are on a team. We do not live for October as the baseball players do, we live in light of eternity.

“Between Heaven and Ground Zero:

“Between Heaven and Ground Zero”
Author: Leslie Haskin
Bethany House Publishers, 2008

Haskin’s book has a long subtitle: One Woman’s Struggle for Survival and Faith in the Ashes of 9/11. It was published early in 2008 by Bethany House Publishers, and is 204 pages long.

Haskins owns a winsome and grammatically correct writing ability. She worked as an insurance executive on the 36th floor of Tower One and was at her desk when the hijacked plane hit the tower at 8:46 that Tuesday morning 2001, September 11. The book took some time in deliberation because seven years passed between the initial event and the decision to go ahead and publish her bare heart presentation.

The book is divided into two sections; the first section is a vivid recall of her escape from the 36th floor. She writes with graphic detail first describing the original building in all of its glory. Then, Haskins proceeds to the horrific terrorist attack and her route to safety. Section two of the book reveals a heart that battled with the aftermath of such an ordeal. She holds nothing back. Her faith, once weak, became a stronghold of God’s mercy and grace. The path that led her to fullness of life in Christ is a journey the reader feels along with her.

Today Haskins is involved in a ministry of giving others hope in their own struggling lives whether in poverty, battered, or in the depths of sinking depression.

So, why did I pick up a copy in the first place? I do not want to forget the day. When I found a book that embraced faith in the aftermath of such survival circumstances, I knew the book would be a worthwhile read. Haskins had what she had dreamed. Then, poof, it was gone. She lost personal friends and co-workers that day. Many of them were crushed between the falling floors of Tower One. In total, she counts 22 in the number of friends who lost their lives. That alone gave me reason to keep reading.

She has spoken at some Women of Faith conferences and that gave me confidence that I would not have to weed out theological irregularities. When she comes to covering forgiveness, her pathway is correct and shows the courage it takes to forgive those who tried to destroy you when they never even knew you.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely.

“John 3:16–I Don’t Understand It”

I am using this story with my Bible study group at the retirement centers I go to this week. You may enjoy the blessing of the truth of this story, or might want to use it for an illustration of this lovely verse in your teaching this week. The author is “unknown” and as far as I know, it is not copyrighted. Like the story I put on this weblog last week, it is from my story file I purchased for $2 forty-five years ago!

In the city of Chicago, one cold, dark night, a blizzard was setting in. A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, the people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers. He walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and it’s awful cold in there, at night. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.”
The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say “John 3:16″ and they will let you in.”
So he did, he walked up the steps to the door, and knocked on the door and a lady answered. He looked up and said, “John 3:16.”
The lady said “Come on in, Son.”
She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace and she went off. He sat there for a while, and thought to himself “John 3:16…. I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.”
Later she came back and asked him “Are you hungry?”
He said, “Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.”
The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more.
Then he thought to himself “John 3:16… Boy, I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy full.”
She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself, “John 3:16… I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean. You know, I’ve not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big, old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.”
The lady came in and got him, and took him to a room and tucked him into a big old feather bed and pulled the covers up around his neck and kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he laid in the darkness and looked out of the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself, “John 3:16… I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a tired boy rested.”
The next morning she came back up and took him down again to that same big table full of food. After he ate she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and she took a big, old Bible and sat down in front of him and she looked up at him and she asked, “Do you understand John 3:16?”
He said, “No, Ma’am, I don’t. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it.”
She opened the Bible to John 3:16 , and she began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there in front of that big old fireplace he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought, “John 3:16. I don’t understand it, but it but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.”
You know, I have to confess, I don’t understand it either… how God would be willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don’t understand it either… but it sure does make life worth living.
——

John 3:16
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

“Who Kissed Me?”

This interpretive reading is from my story file and has been there for more than forty years. It has no copyright, and you are more than welcome to print it and use it yourself is you happen to be teaching on compassion, it makes a wonderful illustration.

“Who Kissed Me” by Eva Booth

Eva Booth, an earnest Christian service worker in Great Britain, remind us the little effort it sometimes takes to touch what we might believe to be a heart of stone. But let her tell you about it.

One morning I stood outside the large iron gate of a local police court and temporary prison. There were people waiting there with me. Some of them were waiting out of curiosity and others were waiting because they had relatives inside the forbidding walls.

I waited that morning expectantly, hoping for an opportunity to reach some hungry soul with the Gospel. Suddenly I caught the sound of the shuffling of heavy feet. It came closer and closer, and then I distinguished the noise of loud voices mingling with the shuffling. One voice stood out above the others. It became louder and louder, shriller, and shriller. It was the voice of a woman.

The gates opened, and then it was that I witnessed a sight which only eternity can wash from my mind, for time never can.

There came through those gates a woman. Two policemen walked in front of her and two walked behind her. One stalwart man held firmly to the woman’s right arm while another held her left arm. The prisoner’s hair was uncombed, matted and disheveled. Her right temple was blackened with bruises; clots of dried blood stood upon her left temple. Her clothes were torn and bloodstained as she came forward she tried to wrench her arms from the grasp of the police. The very atmosphere of the morning was laden with her curses and her oaths. She tossed her head wildly as the six policemen dragged her down the passageway and through the gates.

I felt that I must do something—something to help this poor soul, and quickly. The moment was golden and soon my opportunity would be gone. What could I do? My mind worked hastily. Could I offer a prayer? No, there was not time. Could I sing? That would be absurd. Could I give her money? She could not take it. Could I quote a verse of Scripture? She would not heed it.

It seemed an angel whispered to me telling me what I should do, and I did not stop to question the wisdom. The impulse of a burning desire took possession of me. As the bedraggled woman passed, quickly I stepped forward and kissed her cheek.

Whether the police were taken off their guard by my extraordinary action and relaxed their grasp, I do not know, but with one wrench the woman freed her arms, and clasping her hands, as the wind caught up her matted and disheveled hair, she looked toward the gray skies and said, “My God, Who Kissed Me? My God, who kissed me? Nobody has ever kissed me since my mother died.”

She lifted her tattered apron, buried her hands, and like a little lamb was led to the vehicle which was to take her to the Crown Prison.

A few days later I went to the prison for a visit in hopes of seeing the woman I had seen so recently being taken through its portals. As the door I met the warden. “I would like to see the lady who was brought here from the city prison a few mornings back” I said, and then tried to describe her as best I could.

“I believe I know who you mean” the warden slowly began. “I’m sorry, but we think her mind is gone. She does nothing but pace up and down her cell, asking me every time I go in if I know who kissed her.”
“Would you let me go in and speak to her?” I asked. “I am her best and only friend. Would you let me go right inside her cell?”

“Why yes,” was the puzzling reply. The warden then opened the door and I went in.
The now quiet woman looked up at me as I came in. Her hair was smoothly combed, and eagerly she beset me with a question.

“Do you know who kissed me? The other morning when the policemen were bringing me in here someone in the crowd stepped up and put a kiss on my face.”

She did not wait for an answer, but went right on talking.

“When I was a girl, seven years of age, my widowed mother died; she died very poor, although she was of gentle birth. She died in a back basement in the dark. When she was dying they called me to her, and taking my little face in both her hands, she kissed it and said, “My poor little girl, my defenseless little girl. O God. have pity of my little girl, and when I am gone, protect and take care of my little girl.” From that day until the day the stranger kissed me, nobody ever put a kiss upon my face. Tell me, who kissed me?”

And then it was I said, “It was I who kissed you. I kissed you in the name of Jesus, the Savior. Jesus loves you with a love so much more tender than mine could ever be. It was He who went to the Cross for you.”

In Him, this poor woman found light and joy and comfort, and healing and love and salvation. Before she was released from the prison the wardens testified not only to the change in her life, but to its beauty. Through God she was made the means of salvation to numbers of others who were down as low as she herself had been—all because on that bleak morning, before the prison gates, in my great desire to reach a lost soul for God, I kissed her

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