Monday, January 23, 2012

Old Friend's Sermon In Deeds

     I miss my old friend, Jim Johnston, who was promoted to glory about this time several years ago. I thought about him yesterday before preaching a message about children on the 39th anniversary of the despicable Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case legalizing abortion on demand when they found a right to privacy in the Constitution no one had seen there before. In my message I raised the issue of some people loving their children but having no love for anyone else's children (and that such a qualified 'love' is likely not love at all, in reality).
     What I remembered about my dear preacher friend and his love for children was illustrated by an incident that spoke volumes when he hosted a preacher at the church where he was pastor for special evangelistic services. I was in attendance that evening, as were a number of children whose parents did not attend church. One, in particular, was a dirty little boy who was somewhat disruptive from what appeared to be a cold that bothered him. The service was already underway, with my friend Jim Johnston sitting with me in the third or fourth row where we could see the guest preacher and the audience (as preachers are wont to do).
     As the little boy became increasingly disruptive because he did not feel good, my pastor friend left his seat and went to the first row where he scooped the little boy up and cradled him for the rest of the service. At first surprised, the boy soon realized he was in the arms of a friend, a big man who loved him. The rest of the service proceeded smoothly, though I remember little of it. I was caught up in the sermon of deeds preached by my friend Jim Johnston, who showed the love of Christ to that little boy.
     Some men have no love for children and consider them bothersome and disruptive, having little patience for them. Other men love only their own children, yet have no interest save in their own blood kin. Then there are those Christian men who love all children. They love them because they bear the image of God. They love them because they are constrained by the love of Christ. That was the kind of man Jim Johnston was. Oh, how I miss him.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Crises

     A friend recently mentioned to me that there are five main events or passages in life that take someone out of church or sidelines him from anything approaching effective participation in church ministry. Those events are high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, career change (transfer, promotion, etc.), the birth of a child. I might add divorce to that list of crises, but you get the point.
     For the most part, sin's essence is self. Therefore, when a crisis event occurs in the various seasons of life a challenge is presented by God so that He can be greatly glorified by the choices one makes to deny self in preference to Him. Jesus echoed this principle when He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me," Matthew 16.24. So, what crisis event will take you out of play, so to speak? Will it be the new freedom that comes to a high school graduate? Will it be the even greater freedom you experience as a college graduate? Perhaps it will be the diversion of a spouse or a child. It may also be a new career or a promotion or transfer. Sometimes the heartache of divorce or the freedom from a horrible marriage provokes one to stop attending church or to begin attending elsewhere.
     Someone once spoke of character being related to what it takes to stop you. I have often spoken of spiritual behavior typically being planned behavior. As you anticipate a crisis event in your life (or as you prepare for the unanticipated), decide that nothing will be allowed to break your stride, be it a graduation, a marriage, a birth, a divorce, or something job-related. For God's glory and for Jesus' sake, you will press on in service and ministry in your church.