Tag Archive | atheist

The One

woman in depression

A while back, I saw the story of a man who was discussing his childhood. He revealed the fact that he had been brought up in a family that attended church fairly regularly. As this boy grew older, he became inquisitive about things of faith, the Bible, and the concept of God. His inquiries took a darker tone of skepticism, and he challenged the belief system being taught at his church. I would love to say that the leadership of that church reached out to him, and tried to guide him in a path to faith. According to his account, that was not what happened…

The adult leaders in the church sent him home, and asked his parents not to bring him back. This man is now a very outspoken atheist who mocks the existence of God, the accounts of the Bible, and the idea of faith.

Such a sad story. As a pastor for nearly five decades, I wish I could say that this story was an isolated incident. I wish I could say that such things happen so seldom that it can merely be defined as an anomaly. It’s just not the case.

The fact is that this story is repeated all too often, and often with much more tragic results. We all have a desire to belong, but for the formative years of adolescence, this time is critical in developing peer groups, self-worth, and core belief systems. Children gravitate to acceptance. The desire to be loved and accepted can never be discounted or marginalized. For everyone, that desire looks a little different. In schools, the outlet to fit in takes the form of clubs, special interest groups and elective classes such as music, art, etc. In schools and rec leagues, young people participate in sports because of mutual interests, camaraderie, and the desire to be a part of a team. We all want to belong.

The church has something for everyone, and all are accepted. Unfortunately, oftentimes our actions don’t bear out this fact. Sometimes, we don’t reach out to everyone the way we should. Sometimes, people fall through the cracks. Sometimes, someone leaves the church and their absence goes — for weeks — unnoticed. Sometimes we categorize people based on social standing, stereotype, or limited perception, and never take the time to find out who the person inside really is.

I have a friend who spent many of his school years in Christian schools. He once told me that some of the kids who acted out the most, and were the ones most often in trouble, were the preachers’ kids. Sometimes, the ones who we think should be the examples of obedience and Godliness are the ones struggling the most with acceptance and trying to deal with the unrealistic expectations of others. I know the struggles my own children faced being “preacher’s kids”. There is no “yellow brick road” of ease promised to any of us, regardless of our lot in life. Our struggles may look different, but they are struggles nonetheless. Anyone from any strata of society can be “The One”.

So how do we deal with it? In the end, does God put those we helped in one column, and those we lost in another, and if the gains outnumber the losses, we’re ok in His eyes? Is our success ratio the golden standard? Do we write off “acceptable losses”, and pat ourselves on the back for the majority we kept in the fold?

Good ShepherdNot according to the Bible. In Luke 15, Jesus tells us a story…

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

To the Good Shepherd, all of his sheep were of equal importance. To him, there was not an acceptable win/loss ratio. To him, getting back the one was just as important as staying put with the ninety-nine, and making sure they were ok. For many of us, we would focus and feel good about the ninety-nine we saved. To the Good Shepherd, however, his focus was on the one… any loss was unacceptable.

In the movie Schindler’s ListOskar Schindler is saying goodbye to the Jews he saved. The Jews had made him a gold ring. On it was an inscription from the Talmud that read, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” As Schindler begins to speak, he breaks down in tears…

Oskar Schindler:   I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern:   Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Schindler:   If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Stern:   There will be generations because of what you did.

Schindler:   I didn’t do enough!

Stern:   You did so much.

Schindler:   This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

Schindler:  This pin (referring to Nazi party pin). Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. He would have given me one. One more… One more person. A person, Stern. For this… I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t! (breaks down sobbing)

NE ChurchFriend, when was the last time you mourned for the lost? When was the last time your heart broke for those emotionally wounded and bleeding souls who came across your path — possibly through the doors of your church — and left untouched and unchanged? For the Good Shepherd, his reaction was immediate. He didn’t wait until it was convenient. He didn’t wait until he had gotten the ninety-nine to the safety of a barn or pen; the Bible says that he left the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and went after the one. I think the Good Shepherd understood that time was of the essence, and saving the one depended upon his deliberate and swift action.

So who is the one for you? Who is the one that God has put in your path that needs a friend, an advocate, or a Saviour? We may say, “The mistake people make is judging Jesus by His followers.” That is true. However, as His followers, it doesn’t let us off the hook of trying to be like Him, and love people the way He does.

Look around you today.

Identify The One.

Go after them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Listen to them. Talk to them. Make a difference in their life.

Blessings,
Pastor Ron

The Cross and the Bystander

Chalk outline - personWe have now in America what is referred to as The Bystander Effect. This “psychological phenomenon” was brought to light on March 16, 1964 when a young woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally stabbed to death while walking to her apartment at Kew Gardens in Queens, New York City. A man named Winston Moseley had decided he was going to kill a woman that day, and it didn’t matter who it was. Driving around, Moseley spotted Genovese, and followed her to a parking lot. He got out of his car, and when she began to flee, he quickly caught up to her, and began stabbing her. As Genovese screamed, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!“, Moseley continued his attack. Amid her cries for help, a neighbor eventually yelled out of his window, “Let that girl alone!“, at which point Moseley fled the scene of the crime. Lying wounded and dying, not one of the estimated three dozen+ people who either heard her cries or saw the attack came to help Genovese. After ten minutes of lying there wounded, her attacker returned, and continued to stab, rape, and rob Genovese. By the time Moseley left, and help finally arrived, it was too late. Twenty-eight-year-old Kitty Genovese took her last breath en route to the hospital.

Was her life nothing to those that heard her cries
and did nothing in those early morning hours?

Wikipedia describes the Bystander Effect as…

“… a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.”

There once was a man who walked the dusty roads of the Middle East. He was kind, compassionate, and full of wisdom. Crowds large and small gathered to hear him speak, and his words brought life and hope to those who heard. However, regardless of the words he spoke, kindness he showed, and good deeds he did, the “Establishment” hated him. He rocked the boat of their belief system, upset the apple-cart of their status-quo, and for that — they deemed — he was worthy of death. Accusations were brought, false witnesses told lies, a friend betrayed him, he was given a mockery of a trial, and sentenced to die.

But death wasn’t good enough. The Establishment needed to make an example out of him, if for no other reason, to discourage copy-cat rabble-rousers.

They began by striking him and mocking him. They blindfolded him, hit him, and made sport of his captivity. Since this cruelty wasn’t enough to elicit a response, they ramped up the abuse. He was tied to a post and whipped 39 times with a device designed to tear the flesh from his body; nine strips of leather, embedded with broken pottery, bone, metal, and any other sharp edge that would help accomplish its goal. This “scourge” was raised by the muscled arm of a soldier who showed a knack for inflicting the most pain and damage, and 39 times it fell with the ferocity of a pack of wild dogs descending upon its victim.

When he survived that unimaginable beating, the rest of his sentence of death could be carried out. The “electric chair” of that day was called a cross — a heavy beam of lumber with a cross beam. The victim would be nailed to it, forced to hang naked before the world, dying from his wounds, exposure, and asphyxiation. To add insult to injury, the soldiers tasked with his execution forced him to carry his own instrument of death through the dusty streets, being mocked, spit upon, and humiliated along the way. At one point, when he finally collapsed for the last time under its weight, the soldiers accompanying him pulled a man from the crowd, forcing him to carry the load the rest of the way to the spot of execution.

Upon arrival at a place known by the locals as “The Place of the Skull“, his cross was dropped onto the ground, and he was forced on top of it. Spreading his arms out on the cross-beam, massive spikes were driven through each wrist, with one being driven through his overlapped feet. Once it was certain he was secure, they raised the cross and dropped it into a hole in the ground, the velocity of his body weight jerking hard against the spikes.

And for six hours, Jesus hung between Heaven and Earth… and died… for you.

Chalk outline - crossIs His sacrifice nothing to you?

If you could cure AIDS, wouldn’t you want everyone to know it? If you could stop cancer, would you keep quiet? If you had the method to put an end to Alheimer’s, would you keep silent?

If you are a believer in Christ, you have a testimony.

As one saved by Jesus’ precious blood, you have an amazing story to tell.

As a Christian, you have the incredible witness of a Gospel that
transforms lives… and it is criminal to keep it to yourself.

Are the lives of those around you who are dying — lost without Jesus — nothing to you?

In a YouTube video, illusionist, comedian, and renowned atheist Penn Jillette had this to say about Christians who share their faith…

And I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people that don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a Heaven and Hell, and people could be going to Hell — or not getting eternal life, or whatever — and you think that, “Well, it’s not really worth tellin’ ’em this, because it would make it socially awkward”, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, “Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself”… How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it —that truck was bearing down on you — there’s a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.

At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His triumph over death, Hell, and the grave! What better time to introduce a friend to the risen Savior that can save their soul, and transform their life. Christian, it is time to get serious about our witness. It is not enough to be a bystander, watching the masses pass by — beating a path to Hell — and waiting for someone else to tell them of Jesus’ love. He has called YOU. You are the one to tell His story. You are the one they are waiting for.

Is it nothing to you?

Maybe not… but it is EVERYTHING to them.

 

Easter header