It was an interesting message for a Sunday evening. The title of the sermon was “Communicating a Burden for the Lost.” The visiting minister had provided a solid scriptural basis for his admonition and had shared a number of interesting illustrations. At the conclusion of the message, the speaker likely sat down feeling that he had covered the subject and things had gone well. After the message, the deacon stood and asked if anyone would like to share a testimony. I confess that I really cannot recall who said what in the first several testimonies.
More than twenty years ago, I received an unsettling phone call. The caller was a Mennonite minister that I had met earlier during some church meetings. He shared that he had just concluded a conversation with a group of church brethren in which he had mentioned that a non-Mennonite couple in Pennsylvania had just been baptized into a conservative Mennonite church.
The weather is cooler, the days are shorter and the garden is dormant. All signs of creation herald the onset of fall and remind us that winter is soon to follow. The sign in front of the store was nestled in some straw bales with smooth orange pumpkins set to each side. From the sign itself, smiling snowflakes encouraged the passerby to purchase a variety of products from within the store with the message “be prepared for the holidays.” The arrangement of the sign and decor was simple enough. White snowflakes on an arctic blue background made the sign simple enough to read.
I bought my first computer over fifteen years ago while teaching Summer Bible School in Minnesota. It came with a confusing assortment of cables and software that left me somewhat overwhelmed. As the Brother who sold me the machine set himself to the task of hooking the various parts together; he explained that there was Bible software, word processing software, even encyclopedias that would run on this amazing machine. He confidently declared, “You might not understand it now, but this machine will change the way you live.” I didn’t understand.
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...” (Eph 1:18).
The words are heard from meetinghouse pulpits, the same words appear in devotional literature. “as we go through this life…” Often, these words are used to preface the thoughts that will quickly follow. A speaker may use these words to introduce the need for certain actions that must be taken to assure our readiness for the Lord’s return. A writer may use the term “as we go through this life…” to establish the concept of an ongoing responsibility. The words “as we go through this life…” are intended to prepare the audience for the seriousness of what is to come next.
As a young boy, I can remember the day my father declared I was old enough to cut the grass with the riding lawn mower. I could hardly wait for the grass to grow tall enough to cut. When the day arrived, I filled the tank on the mower from the can labeled “gasoline” and positioned myself be- hind the wheel. Turning the key, the engine caught and ran smoothly. I had just reached the edge of the yard when a huge cloud of white smoke exited the exhaust and the engine promptly quit. efforts to start the engine produced impressive amounts of white smoke, but nothing more.
The apostle Paul recognized that he would soon leave this earthly life when he wrote to Timothy, “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” He clearly understood the importance of the printed word in providing for the needs of the church both present and future. The parchments would continue to speak to church generations long after the hand that scribed them had been stilled in death.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13-14).