Monday, December 31, 2012

On Being An Effective Messenger

© Algimantas Balezentis | Dreamstime Stock Photos

In the Bible, although angels were used by God for a variety of purposes, the primary use was to deliver a message. In fact, the very word "angel" means "messenger." Webster's 1828 Dictionary further defines an angel as "one employed to communicate news or information from one person to another at a distance." Angels played a huge role in the story of Christ's birth, delivering messages from God to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and likely to the wise men. But it is the angel's message to the shepherds that has struck me as being very similar to the part that we believers have been asked to play in God's master plan of redemption. Just as God dispatched an angel with a specific message for a specific group of people on a Bethlehem hillside, God has dispatched us with a specific message for a specific group of people. We have been commissioned to bear the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

The problem is, some messengers, while their heart may be in the right place, are extremely ineffective. A few days ago one of the men in our church told me about a "messenger" he saw walking the streets near a busy market. The man, a foreigner, was carrying a megaphone, and his message consisted of two words and one dramatic hand motion.  First he would say (into the megaphone) "Jesus." Then he would slowly extend his arm and point up to the sky. Then he would speak another word into the megaphone, "Heaven." He walked all around the market repeating this phrase and hand motion again and again, and saying nothing else. According to my friend, half the people were amused and the other half of the people were confused. And no wonder! Regardless of the sincerity of the man, he was an ineffective messenger.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Stories Behind The Songs

© Joellen Armstrong | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This morning I finished reading "Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs Of Christmas" by Ace Collins. Many Christmas songs have a way of evoking emotion and deep feeling in our hearts, and it was interesting to learn how they came to be. There are many good stories in this book that are quite detailed and lengthy, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in this type of thing. I thought it would be fun to share a few brief stories that I found to be either particularly intriguing or humorous. 

"O Holy Night"
The words to "O Holy Night" were written by a French Catholic poet who later left Catholicism and joined the socialist movement. The music was written by a man who didn't even believe in Christ...a Jew. When the political and religious "persuasions" of the two writers came to light, the song was officially denounced by the Catholic church, but it was so well-loved by that time that many continued to sing it. About 50 years later in 1906, Reginald Fessenden, former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, broadcast the human voice over radio airwaves for the very first time in history. His first words were the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2. Then he played a song on his violin. The first song ever broadcast over the airwaves - "O Holy Night!" 

"Silver Bells" 
Jay Livington and Ray Evans were tasked with writing the music for "The Lemon Drop Kid" starring Bob Hope. They discussed how most Christmas songs were about scenes of tranquility, but for this song, they needed something that captured the hustle and bustle of Christmas in a big city. While having a brainstorming session about the music, one of them was playing with a little bell, which eventually inspired the song. Before sharing it with Bob Hope, they sang it for Evan's wife, who giggled and laughed throughout the whole song. She said she liked it except for one word...they had begun the song "Tinker bell, tinker bell, it's Christmas time in the city." They changed "tinker" to "silver" and had an instant classic. Interestingly, this same writing team wrote many other classics like  "Mona Lisa" and "Que Sera Sera" and...are you ready for this? The theme song from Mr. Ed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"If King George Possessed Your Hearts"

I recently read the book "Marion And His Men" written by John De Morgan in 1802. It is the story of American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, who was also known as "The Swamp Fox." Marion both made his mark on the Revolutionary War and earned his moniker by his fighting tactics. He and his band of men were too outnumbered to launch a full-scale attack on the British forces, so instead they dwelt in the swamps of the Carolinas and employed guerilla warfare tactics to buy more time for General Washington. The opening line of one of the last chapters tells the whole story in one line: "Day after day Marion and his men so thoroughly harassed the enemy that Lord Cornwallis was put to his wits' end to circumvent the Americans."

Near the end of the book there is an account of a conversation that took place between Marion and a British officer who had been brought blindfolded into their encampment to work out the details of a prisoner exchange. When the meeting was over and the British officer was preparing to leave, Marion insisted that he eat a meal with them. The man was famished (the British were on limited rations as well as the Americans) so he accepted the offer. He assumed, as did many, that the patriots were living off the fat of the land; thus he was disappointed to see that their entire dinner would consist of some roasted potatoes. The patriot's cook pulled a potato from the fire, blew off the ashes, and offered it to the British officer on a piece of bark for a plate. The man tried to eat the potato, but without butter or salt he found it to be tasteless and sat the bark plate down. The conversation that ensued gives us a glimpse into why the patriot's fought, but more importantly, it provides a standard by which we might measure our fervency as soldiers of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Worth Of A Soul

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) The implication of this verse is quite stunning really. You may gain all of the wealth, riches, and treasure that this world has to offer, but if in doing so you lose your soul, then you ultimately are the loser. That is the worth of a soul to one's self. But what about the worth of a soul to God? The soul of a man is worth enough to God that He was willing to give His most precious possession, His only begotten Son, in order to redeem that soul from Hell. The worth that God places upon a soul is undeniable and undebatable. But what about the worth of a soul to you and me? I mean, how much is it really worth to us in terms of time, effort, and money to see that a soul has had every chance to not only hear the Gospel, but come to Christ?

It is one o'clock in the morning, and I can't sleep. I received word tonight that a cancer-stricken woman out in the village where we have a weekly ministry just passed into eternity. I am happy that 11 days ago she placed her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and I am thankful that her pain and suffering are now over. Several of us visited her this past Saturday while we out in the village, and she was in horrible pain. Since then our prayer has been specifically that God would just take her home quickly, and I am relieved in my spirit that tonight He did just that.

As I meditate upon this precious soul who has passed into eternity tonight, little memories keep popping into my mind. Little things that perhaps seemed insignificant at the time, but now in hindsight I believe they played a huge role in bringing this woman to Christ. Although I have known her for about nine years, I am unsure of her name. It is very common here in Cambodia to call someone by a familial title and not their actual name. I call her Ohm (an older aunt). Here are ten factors that I believe ultimately contributed to the salvation of Ohm's precious and valuable soul. Perhaps these thoughts will encourage someone to keep sowing the seed, keep watering the seed, and not be weary in well doing.