Monday, August 6, 2018


What scenes of upheaval followed these first Christians! The Book of Acts is full of them. There are at least twenty tumultuous accounts recorded. Town after town experienced rioting. Their streets and buildings were full of angry people demanding that these Christians, ‘who have turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6), be driven out, as they were threatening to destroy their unrighteous businesses. We see soldiers carrying a man because of the violent mob trying to kill him, while others are thrown into jail. One is stoned to death while he kneels and prays to God. And why? … This new religion tears people out of his [Satan’s] clutches because it cleanses them of their sins. Such a religion is contagious.” 
 From:  “Foundation of Faith” (Ed. By H D Nimz/
 Unity Press/Flint, MI/3-18/”Fear of the Gospel”/
 Arthur Booth-Clibborn, pp 8-9).

When Jesus launched his ministry, Luke reports that “Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up; and went to the synagogue, as was his custom. When invited to share the leadership that day, Jesus announced:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach
   good news to the poor.
  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovering of sight to the blind,
   to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
   to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
       (Luke 4:18-19 RSV)

Jesus spent three years in his ministry before he was captured, questioned, and crucified. He had to be taken out of circulation because he took his “God-calling” seriously—i.e., personally: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”  Personally rejecting the comfortable religious formula’s then in vogue, he took his message  (his anointing) seriously by making it an issue resulting in good news to the impoverished, sight for those without vision, and freedom from the slavery of oppression and vulnerability.

The Ministry of Jesus is more than a story from yesterday; it narrates an encounter with of a personal call from a Living God that becomes two-sides of the same coin. On one side is the personal discovery of a personal walk with a living God as revealed in Jesus Christ. On the other side of the coin, we find ourselves personally challenging social forces that BIND, BLIND, and CONFINE people to serving such powers as ultimately destroy us individually and/or socially.

Truthfully; it is pretty tough to live as a Christian in life's dark room without turning on the light to see. It begins as a personal, individua experience, but it quickly becomes a social experience involving others. At least that is how I see it ... 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Practicing Right Principles

“Slavery is dead” declared Andrew Johnson in a speech he delivered in Nashville, TN in 1864, “and you must pardon me if I do not mourn over its dead body; you can bury it out of sight” he announced, but “I desire that all men shall have a fair start and an equal chance in the race of life, and let him succeed who has the most merit.”

Johnson then left us this affirmation: “I am for emancipation, for two reasons: first, because it is right in itself; and second, because in the emancipation of the slaves we break down an odious and dangerous aristocracy. I think that we are freeing more whites than blacks in Tennessee.”

It has now been 144 years since Andrew Johnson spoke those words of wisdom to a nation in turmoil. We still have difficulty as a nation in consistently practicing Johnson’s affirmation. We can nevertheless affirm the principle Johnson left us when he added this conclusion: “In the support and practice of correct principles, we can never reach wrong results.”

Chips From the White House
 Compiled by Jeremiah Chaplin.
(Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1881) p. 286

We may often fall short of our objective, but when it comes to day to day living, be it our faith or our politics, we can never go wrong practicing right principles … I am,

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The High Cost of Low Living

Shortly after he married, Scott McDonald woke-up twenty-thousand dollars in debt. The creditors were coming after him after Madison Avenue’s siren song promised his new bride “nothing down and no interest until next Spring.” Responding to her new credit card, she learned several verses of this enticing lyric and suddenly spent more than she intended and faced an angry groom.

How many verses of this pop tune do you know? It is a temptation we all know. It comes with the high price of low living. The Wiseman of the Bible concluded: “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life (Proverbs 4:23 TEV). Impulse buying requires no thinking and little planning. “Buying on impulse” infected King David with this virus when he saw how attractive Bathsheba was and allowed that impulsive thought to become a purchase.  As a result, he spent the rest of his life making time payments (2 Samuel 11:2-5). He paid a high price for his low living.           

Impulse buying introduces the idle minds to the pleasures of the moment. These are often associated with having fun and living pleasurably, like those endured by Mr. & Mrs. McDonald.  They accompany the idle mind that throws preplanning to the wind in favor of an impulsive purchase on the spur of the moment. Mrs. McDonald had no real intention of saddling her new husband with $20,000 worth of debt. But it happened. Fate of the gods: it wasn’t really her fault.

So with David: on impulse he committed adultery. That led to murder. Her husband was one of David’s most loyal military defenders, as happens so often. David’s impulse failed to tabulate the hidden charges of his rendezvous with Bathsheba. She produced a son—unexpected and unwanted. Son Absalom immediately became David’s potential heir to the throne (2 Kings 12:24). Son, Amon later raped his sister Tamar only to be ambushed and killed by Absalom. These hidden charges brought compound interest hidden internally. Consequently, David never got out of debt.

Absalom eventually conspired against his father by attempting a political coup to overthrow his father’s rule. David rejected the sinfulness of his impulsive behavior but was unable to prosper. Only later he admitted his sin, but not until he experienced total exhausted and undeniable anguish, drained of all physical and emotional reserves (Psalm 32:3-4). 

Consider the Florida Lawyer insisting on establishing a new free-diving record off the coast of Miami. Aided by an artificial lung strapped to his back, he plunged the 306 feet required to surpass the record of those returning alive. Dropping to 350 feet, then to 400; he surpassed the French diver that gave his life attempting the record.

Not satisfied with returning to the surface, the lawyer pushed deeper—550 feet. Instruments show he hesitated but continued descending. He set a new record but lost his life. Some think he may have succumbed to “the rapture of the depths,” as the French call it, but no one knows for certain why he did not return to the safety of his ship 

Like the Lawyer descending to the depths, we become captivated by sins both dangerous and obvious. How do we become so insensitive to the prick of conscience that we become drunk on our good feelings, intoxicated by the special love we have discovered, drunk on our adulterous emotions that no one else understands?

With no down payment and no interest to pay; we, like the Forida lawyer, we lose our life eventually. So it is with every woman ever raped or abused, and with every child ever molested. So it is with every alcoholic in the drunk tank, with every greedy grasp for lust or power. So it is with every victim of gossip, thievery, or idleness. Sin never brings a bargain!

Victor Morlan recalled his day off from grade school to attend the County Fair. Warned of Carnival tricks, he read, “Free zoo.” Walking in the large front door, he went from animal to animal until he saw a man at the rear door waiting to collect his fee. Retracing his steps, Vic encountered  the doorman at the front who told him to exit in the rear and pay his fee. Vic paid his quarter having learned the cost comes in exiting the back door. The entrance is always free.

Charles Ludwig grew up in Kenya and described a rogue elephant  that became so mean the natives urged the Game Warden to kill the creature. When finally the Warden was able to kill the much-feared beast, the Warden ordered the hunters to remove the tusks. There, they found an old Arab bullet made in the ancient mold, touching a sensitive nerve. Sin is like that;  it touches a nerve and causes us to do things we would not otherwise do.

Although hopelessly in debt and under the heavy burden of hidden charges there is a solution. Jesus promised to cancel our debt to sin’s creditor’s, but the one thing he requires is that we count the cost before following him. He illustrated this with two examples ( Luke 14:25-33). One man plans to build a tower. A king plans to battle an enemy force. Each must plan how to pay the cost. “In the same way,” Jesus taught, “none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up everything he has” (Luke 14:33 TEV).

Jeffery remembers being in a head-on collision at five years of age. Sitting on his mother’s lap while returning from  a visit to his grandparents, a drunk driver ploughed head-on into their vehicle. He remembers only how he felt upon realizing he was covered with blood. He quickly discovered the blood belonged to his mother, who took the impact when her head slammed against the windshield. She recovered later and young Jeffrey was uninjured.

Like Jeffrey’s mom, Jesus took the impact of our collision with sin. His blood covers our lives. When we surrender to him and recognize it is his blood and not ours, we can recover our wholeness, happiness, and health.

On the other hand, a car salesman invested many hours in a couple wanting to purchase a car. Finally, he was allowed to write up the sales agreement and forward the paperwork into the dealership. When the papers came back, there was no sale for the salesman and no car for the couple. His summary comment said it all: “Good people, bad credit!”

It matters little how good we think we are, we must be careful how we think about life and how we go about experiencing life. David discovered sin is not as simple as adultery or murder; it is self-will flung in God’s face. Promises of “nothing down and no interest” are a seductive enticement, but your sins will find you out. The entrance may promise “no down payment and no interest” or “low interest and easy payments.”   Payday always brings “payday someday” with a high cost for our low living.

This is remembering 
Yesterday is a cancelled check;
             Tomorrow is a promissory note:
Today is the only cash you have—
             Spend it wisely._____

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Walk With Purpose

I walked more than four decades. Whereas I once walked mostly for the pleasure of it, I eventually did it as a health measure to balance the time I spent reading, studying, writing, visiting parishioners, and attending administrative activities. 

Today is Easter and Spring is everywhere in Kentucky, but I remember the peaceful exhilaration I felt as a teen growing up on Lake Michigan shores walking in a snowstorm. With flakes driving down from every direction, the snow crunching crisply underfoot felt so very peaceful to me. I especially remember those late night walks to and from basketball games on cold, crisp, snowy nights.

In my youth we walked everywhere. Dad walked to and from work. I see his portly five-seven frame swinging along in his overalls eighty years ago. From first grade into high school, I walked to and from school, walking to Indiana Avenue grade school an the longer walks to Central. It was a good three-quarter mile to Central and I generally walked it four times a day. I remember often having a joyful few minutes of noon soccer time on the Superior Street playground before the afternoon bell rang.

I still walked occasionally after I became a pastor, but it was not popular. When living in the Mississippi Delta, the church had a PO Box and I occasionally enjoyed a good walk to town and the Post Office. That proved problematic, however; too many people recognized me and I’d have to turn down their ride, if I was going to fulfill my purpose in walking.

Then I had my accident in 1985. I was working inside and mostly alone when we were completing our new church facility in Three Rivers, MI, I was working up inside the gable on the south end of the sanctuary doing something or other and I foolishly attempted to adjust the platform on which I was standing. I caused the steel pipe scaffold to collapse. Fearing impalement, I jumped clear and came down more than twenty feet shattering my ankle and crunching my lower back in a twenty-foot free fall.

It was a careless accident-that eventually left me standing considerably shorter than my normal five foot nine frame, although I didn‘t realize it at the time. While in the military, I had learned to stand rigidly erect and I habitually walked almost “march time;” for many years. You could count cadence with my assertive walk: “Hup, two, three, four . . . “

After I got off my crutches, my son would scold me, “quit slouching, dad, stand up straight.”

“I am standing up straight!” I would snap, squaring my shoulders and stretching as tall as I could--stepping as straight as possible. But I continued having lots of ankle pain and limited mobility until I discovered that walking gave my ankle more flexibility and less pain. This started my intentional walking. 

By this time in my life, I discovered that a brisk walk refreshed me. And that encouraged me to plan a regular walking routine. Admittedly, sometimes I still needed motivation; walking an hour every day can get tedious. I soon learned how to motivate my walks by giving myself occasional treats of hotcakes and sausage at McDonalds--3 ½ mile roundtrip. That may not have been the healthiest breakfast, but it proved motivationally effective. I dearly love hot cakes and sausage.

That was during my final pastorate, and I found that I was often walking 20-25 miles a week, across several mornings. Often leaving the house before breakfast, I walked all over our little town … sometimes intersecting with Roland, my Lutheran pastor friend and we shared a passing Shalom of some kind, without lingering, both of us being serious walkers.   

My favorite jaunt was the abandoned railroad line behind our new sixty-five acre church campus. I could follow that abandoned spur as far east as I wanted, out into open country, but most often turned off at the east rim of town and wandered back to the parsonage via one of several different routes, anywhere from one to three miles, occasionally five, seldom further.

I was still walking past eighty. No longer able to walk like I once did, I found it getting more difficult all the time. Unable to maintain the brisk pace I once did, I did the next best thing; I walked as fast as I could--thankfully. Back problems finally caught up with me and I was finally forced to stop altogether.

I remember when I tried to get my aging father to walk. I wanted to enhance his life, improve his health, and keep him around as long as I could--only to hear him complain, “But my knees hurt.”

That frustrated and angered me. I didn’t doubt that he hurt, but I saw no reason to quit. I remembered when he became City Street Commissioner and drove around town in his pickup, supervising jobs--always accompanied by a box of chocolate candy on the seat. Of course his weight ballooned! When I complained about his 235 pounds, his only comment was “When you get to be thirty-five, you’ll start looking just like me.” He never understood the fire he ignited!

Take care of yourself I heard … exercise. Do whatever is necessary, but stay trim. I already knew my work was too sedentary.

When he finally retired and took to his Lazy Boy, I urged him to walk--at least a little--it’s good for the soul. Walk up and down the driveway! Walk up and down the block! Take your cane, if you need to, but walk … at least walk a little.” He died alone in the hospital, early Sunday morning, the last day of 1990, at 85--the same age my Grandma died, but she walked to town that day!

“I’d just as soon die with my boots on!” I always said. Eventually, I came to the point where most steps I took were steps of pain. I learned take a pain pill before starting a walk, When I got up in the morning I would turn on the coffee pot; I might be as stiff as a board, but I was going to walk anyway, until it got to the point that I could hardly make it back to the house after a walk to town.

As I now approach my ninety-first mile marker, I have rediscovered walking. There were several years of being a caregiver to my mate and many a day I accompanied her with her walker (stroller we called it) or a 4-pronged cane, until she became bedfast. The day she finally died at ninety-one, I rediscovered walking. I was becoming more unsteady on my feet and I decided to pick up her cane and “try" it. 

Very soon thereafter, I decided to “experiment” by walking to the cull de sac at the end of out street. Well! I made it. I made it well enough that I decided I would again start walking rather than spending so much time sitting at the computer. As a result, I renewed my love for walking and am now extending my trips a block at a time, and I am again fulfilling my practice of thirty-minute walks – a little slower but I am keeping on keeping on.

And what’s good for the body is good for the soul. I already know there‘s not much gain without a little pain. I accept that, and I take James 4:14-15 to mean keep walking. Keep walking in the faith that when we do what is right, God will be there doing what He does best--whatever is best for us. I will continue trusting Him, knowing that when I don’t understand His answer, I can lean on Him as my answer.

That’s what Paul told Timothy: I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him (2 Tim. 1:12). Seeing may be believing but I don’t have to peek around the corner to “see” precisely where I’m going. That’s walking by sight rather than faith.

Sometimes I‘d just as soon not see too far ahead, but I can also tell you that from Warner’s World, I’m satisfied to keep on walking--determined actually. It is the only way since I am not yet ready for confinement to my Lazy Boy

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


And he bearing his cross went forth. . . (John 19:17).

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” The speaker wears the white jacket of a physician. From the TV screen he speaks very personally about some health issue. It has come to be an accepted practice, and research suggests that many of us are gullible enough to buy a product relating to our health, based on his word. We take the word of an actor who plays the part of a doctor. It seems a little strange, but why else would coldly calculating manufacturers spend cold cash promoting their product this way?

This same script played out a few years back, during the expose of some of TV’s more famous Celestial Celebrities. “I’m not a pastor, but I play one on TV” became a favorite line for impressionists. There was much public concern over the flamboyant performers who purported to represent God’s church; and, yes, they had their constituents. But did people writing in and sending financial pledges involve them as participants in a meaningful New Testament fellowship? No, I don’t think so! In fact, some called it an outright scam. Others claimed it missed the mark and perverted the truth.

There is yet a further amending of this line, one that suggests further scripting with another slant. This one says, “I’m not a Christian, but I play one on TV.” Pierre Van Paassen’s gripping story “The Days of Our Years” pursued a line similar to this script.

The story shows us Ugolin, the Hunchback, becoming seriously ill. Physically deformed, social deprived, Ugolin never knew his father, and his mother was an alcoholic and an outcaste. Solange, Ugolin’s sister, loved her brother so much that she sold her body to buy the medicine Ugolin needed. On the other hand, the community discussed this scandalous behavior until it drifted back to Ugolin. Consequently, he drowned himself in the river. When Solange heard what he did, she gave way to angry despair and took her own life.

“Christians,” challenged the village priest at the funeral service; “Christians, when the Lord of life and death shall ask me on the Day of Judgment, ‘Where are thy sheep?’ I will not answer Him.”

Using his verbal whip a second time, the offended pastor declared, “When the Lord asks me the second time, ‘Where are thy sheep?’ I will not yet answer Him.”              

Again, he responds, “But when the Lord shall ask me a third time, ‘Where are thy sheep?’ I shall hang my head in shame and I will answer Him, ‘They were not sheep, Lord, they were a pack of wolves.’”

We do not follow Jesus very far without discovering that he walked the way of a cross bearer. Christianity is not a coat of arms that we put on and take off. It is not a marketing strategy that creates a desired effect, whatever the mirage or however illusory. Christianity is not calculated packaging guaranteed to sell a lifestyle image that somehow always manages to include being highly successful in our personal achievements. Nor, is Christianity a piece of jewelry we wear that protects us from bad things happening to us, like a good luck charm.

Jesus came proclaiming and modeling a lifestyle of “peace on earth among men of good will,” a simple--but integrity filled-- “what you see is what you get.” In spite of his exemplary model of simplicity, love, integrity, self-denial, and cross bearing, we do not follow him far without realizing that not everyone who wears a cross follows Jesus in living the life of cross bearing. 

I often wear a cross on my coat lapel or around my neck. On occasion, I have asked another person wearing a cross on their clothing, “Why are you wearing that?” I find it interesting that frequently it is simply a decorative item, a piece of jewelry they wear for the outward enhancement. Although my question sometimes flusters people, they seldom admit to living the life of a cross bearer, although they occasionally admit to being a Christian.

As only one follower of Jesus, I follow him because he wore his cross on his back and not on his coat lapel. He came teaching his followers to live their lives “simply,“ explaining, “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes, ‘ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” To this he added, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). In following his footsteps through life, I find he went out to the Place of the Skull carrying his own cross. (John 19:17). 

These things assure me that how he played the game on the playing field of life matched the game he talked. He was a cross-bearer, not simply someone playing the part to influence me. Following him always involves cross bearing (Matthew 16:24). Yet, the further I follow him, I find that when he teaches his followers about cross bearing, there are those who fail to take him seriously and tell him the cross simply isn’t necessary (Matthew 16:21-23).

In that instance, Peter saw no more need for Jesus becoming a cross-bearer than the villagers in Van Paassen’s story saw any need to risk condoning the scandal of a family that fell between the cracks as needy neighbors.

George MacLeod recasts the story of Jesus in terms of the cross and argues “that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church.” He insists this is necessary and that he is only “recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves.”

Reminding us of that terrible place where Jesus was crucified, MacLeod challenges us to look beyond our lovely sanctuary cross, our glamorous jewelry, and our Madison Avenue marketing of upward mobility and get in touch with the real world. The place where Jesus died was at “the town garbage heap, at a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek.” He further described it as “the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble,” concluding, “that is what he died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be, and what churchmen should be about.”

Jesus carried a cross on his back when he died, although some tell us he could have called a legion of angels to his defense. The way of cross bearing beckons us to follow him, but then we discover he carried his own weight. He was not a Movie Hero, playing the leading role while a professional stunt man did the dangerous stuff. He didn’t simply go in, drive out the moneychangers from the Temple grounds, and make a political statement; he became the sacrifice through his own death.               

The author of the Book of Hebrews caught a personal glimpse of what Jesus was really about and announced, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Viewing this scene from a later perspective, George Bennard, the Methodist evangelist-hymn writer, felt the staggering weight, and penned this testimony,

              Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world,
             Has a wondrous attraction for me;
              For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,
              To bear it to dark Calvary.

Jesus’ death allowed God to use that death as a uniquely sacrificial ministry to humanity. As Peter explained on the Day of Pentecost, “Jesus of Nazareth … accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs … was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross … But God ... raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact … and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:22-24, 32-33).

George Morrison of Glasgow reminds us, “there is one argument that stands unshaken through every age and every generation - it is the triumphant argument of the Cross of Christ.”

In spite of widening knowledge, deepening thoughts, and changing theories, Morrison argues, “yet in the very Centre, unshaken and unshakeable, stands Calvary, the lasting commendation of the love of God.”

Morrison’s reminder reflects the ignominious weight of the sin that brought sorrow to God, killed the Christ, and warped humanity. It is the asserting of an omnipotent self regardless of principles or persons that warps and deranges the spirit of humanity, rather than the circumstances in which people find themselves. It encourages people to pay exorbitant prices for cheap thrills, often defiling the chastity of innocent children, making mockery of womanhood, ignoring the needs of the world’s children, and making animals out of men.

This self-seeking drives individuals toward drunkenness, debauchery, and self-righteousness, all in the name of pleasure. It is a human nature perverted toward creating conditions that escalate wars and rumors of wars into World Holocaust, Middle East Holy Wars between Jehovah and Allah, and ethnic cleansings in Eastern Europe and central Africa.

Calvary, the place where Jesus died, became a signal light marking an all-important intersection for the tourists traveling between the City of God and the World Metropolis. It catches our attention, making us suddenly aware of the fast-moving traffic going through the intersection. It helps us avoid a terrible collision at an intersection we have taken for granted or simply ignored.

In time, Jesus’ disciples were transformed by the events following Calvary. Aroused by new awareness and greater sensitivity, they took up their own crosses. Personally following the Jesus-way of cross bearing, they made their way onto the highways and bi-ways of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They went as God‘s called out ones, the Ecclesia, described in the New Testament as the church.

 But we do not follow the cross-bearer far without learning that his church was not intended as a cold storage plant for the permanent preservation of biblical saints, or a locker plant to preserve them from spoiling. It was never intended to become a private club, offering exclusive memberships in a self-perpetuating world-class country club. It came into being helping people live better lives, beginning with those to whom Jesus ministered and continuing through the servant ministries of his disciples and their descendants.

True church members lose themselves in service to a hurting humanity, people who so desperately need healing--like the abused-lost child in their midst. Not really a resident hospital, the church serves as an emergency room ministering to the spiritually sick and the morally anemic. It offers more than a gymnasium for bodybuilding classes; it assists all manner of people in every kind of circumstance to develop moral and ethical muscles.

The church provides workers mountain-top-moments of vital inspiration--friendly, evangelistic, missionary, and enthusiastic. Representing the Spirit of That One who went about doing good; the church follows Jesus in cross bearing by taking up the challenges of ministry and servanthood.

Judith Harvey told of a Hoosier congregation faced with the task of putting a large cross into place on their new church structure. The cross arrived safely, complete with a figure of Christ on it. However, they had ordered only the cross, without the Christ. The job needed to be completed the same afternoon it arrived, but the additional figure on it made it too heavy for them to put it into place. No one knew how to resolve the dilemma.

When the person in charge finally returned, the cross was already up, leaving only the question of how they did it. The answer is revealing: “We could not lift it with the figure of the dead Christ on it; but when we took him off, the cross was easy to lift.”

Simply put, that describes the superficial kind of Christianity that is worn on the lapel and sung about in the sanctuary, that becomes a baptized sociology that is nice enough, but lacking the power to influence life any more than a political rally during a presidential election.

On the other hand, there are people out there in the real world like Wisedpong, a young Thai. Growing up in Thailand among the wealthy, his upper class parents urged him to educate himself and become wealthy. That only brought the confused young Buddhist to a dead-end in life. He had come to America seeking “the meaning of life.”

Trying to follow his parent’s advice, he admitted, “I started to realize that a good career and good money did not bring happiness, so I quit my job.” Next, he entered a Buddhist monastery, but within six months he realized, “no matter how hard I tried, it was not enough.” Disillusioned, he left the monastery and returned to business. His search now took him to Edmonds, Oklahoma in search of an MBA degree at Central State University.

His family stayed in close touch with him, writing almost every day, urging him to return and take over the family business. However, while still pursuing his degree, he met Dan, a Christian Minister to international students. With the help of a gospel tract he learned the way of salvation and he and his wife accepted Christ into their lives.

Wisedpong later began to feel God calling him. About that time, he met the pastor of a Thai-Lao-Cambodian Mission church. There, he saw Christianity expressed in his own Thai culture. Finding his call from God confirmed, he entered seminary, gained invaluable experience in an area Lao-Cambodian congregation, and made plans to return to Thailand as a bi-vocational pastor using his background in business and Buddhism to reach his Thai people for Christ,

It was H. L. Mencken, the Baltimore editor-atheist who charged religious people with caring nothing about the truth as long as they retain a “hopeful and pleasant frame of mind.” There is much in the religious world that offers people a positive attitude and outlook. Anyone, who knows anything at all about Christianity, knows it represents a viewpoint geared toward positive thinking. However, anyone who truly understands what Christianity is all about would never put his foot in his mouth by charging the Christian Church with being simply a society for positive thinkers.

What Mencken really rejected was the dark side of human nature that the “hopeful and pleasant frame of mind” attempts to ignore. It is in the cross that we see man’s dark side, for that is where we come to understand that man is never so vile as when trying to disguise and deny his evil nature. This is what took Jesus to the cross. We never saw it so clearly, yet we make our way through life like the tourist at Oberammergau.

This American businessman witnessed the Passion Play and was enthralled by the dramatic depiction of the story of the cross. Rushing backstage, he met Anton Lang who played the part of Christ. Stopping abruptly, he snapped Mr. Lang’s picture with his expensive equipment, much to Lang’s discomfort.
“Here dear, you take my picture,” he said as he saw the cross. “I’m going over and lift up the cross. When I get it up on my shoulder, you snap my picture carrying the cross,” he added, concluding, “Won’t that be a novel and exciting picture to send home to our friends in America.”

Seeing Mr. Lang frown severely, the tourist added, “You don’t mind do you, Mr. Lang?”       “This is very unusual …” but before he could finish the thought, the tourist hurriedly attempted to lift the cross and was unable--made of heavy iron-oak beams of two hundred pounds.

Puffing with amazement, the visitor turned to Lang, saying “Why I thought it would be light. I thought the cross was hollow. Why do you carry a cross that is so terribly heavy?”

Anton Lang, drawing himself to his full height, replied with compelling dignity and a bit of rebuke, “Sir, if I did not feel the weight of His cross, I could not play His part” (Let There Be Light/Fleming Revell Co./Benjamin P. Browne).

Whatever one may believe about the teachings of Jesus Christ, the seven last words he uttered at that epochal event of the cross climaxed a life in which he lived as no one else ever lived and his words impact our lives as no other words ever spoken. As I look about today, it is a day not unlike the day the Senator, the Clergyman, and the Boy Scout became fellow travelers on a small charter plane. When they developed an engine problem the pilot announced, “We’ll have to bail out.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “there are only three parachutes. I have a wife and seven small children. My family needs me, and I’m taking one of the parachutes.” Having said that, he bailed out.

“I’m the smartest politician in the world,” suggested the Senator. “The country needs me; I’m taking one of the parachutes.” And, he jumped.

“I’ve had a good life,” said the Clergyman to the Boy Scout, “and yours is still ahead of you. You take the last parachute.”

“Don’t need to,” shrugged the youth. “There are still two parachutes left. The smartest politician in the world jumped with my knapsack.”

Humorous, yes. Funny, no! It is obvious to most of us that someone may be a smart politician, a Wall Street Broker, or any great power broker, but when you parachute you need more than a knapsack! And since September eleven an increasing number of people want something more spiritually secure when they do find it necessary to bail out.

In a world as spiritually dry as the Sahara Desert, the words of Jesus point us to water, from a living well that never runs dry. Without him we live parched lives that are filled with broken relationships and empty dreams. In the end we are slaves to our own selfish whims.

When Harold Boyer married my Irish Cherokee and me in the Gateway City of St Louis, MO the church building in which we were married was located at 4201 North Newstead Street. The congregation later relocated under Pastor Harold Williams. Thus, when Arlo and Helen Newell came to lead the congregation, they became the leaders of a church located where I believe every church ought to be. Adjacent to the front side of the facility was a six-lane highway. The church facility was just off the main thoroughfare and very close to a cemetery.

I believe if I had one sermon to preach, my message would be that God calls his church to intercept those who drive madly by on the Broad Way before they reach the Cemetery. _____