It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago today that Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson led Los Angeles police on a low-speed chase. The infamous white Bronco took off on the day he was supposed to turn himself into police, a suspect in the deaths of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman. The chase went on for 75 miles and two hours. The drama on this day in history led to the more infamous trial that ultimately led to Simpson’s acquittal. Despite what seemed a mountain of evidence against him, Simpson went free until, ironically, he was charged in an armed robbery case in 2008 that him imprisoned until two years ago (some facts via cbsnews.com).
The Bible records several notable chases:
- Laban and Jacob (Gen. 31:26)
- Esau and Jacob (Gen. 32)
- The Egyptians and the Israelites (Josh. 24:6).
- Barak and Sisera (Jud. 4:22).
- Asahel and Abner (2 Sam. 2:19).
- Saul and David (1 Sam. 23:25).
- Absalom and David (2 Sam. 16-17).
- Joab’s men and Sheba (2 Sam. 20).
- Benaiah and the lion (1 Chr. 11:22).
These pursuits were the result of military conflict, personal vendettas, and familial disputes, but they all were matters of life and death. Many other chases outside of the biblical record are famous, from the great locomotive chase of 1862 to the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East during World War I. But, there is a chase with infinitely more at stake than any of the ones I’ve mentioned already. What is it?
Paul says, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). Paul tells Timothy that so many people pursue material things, and their love for such is the cause of their own hurt and destruction. So, Paul encourages Timothy to run from those things and run after those qualities that lead to eternal life (6:12-13), preparation for the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (6:14), and storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future and life indeed (6:19). All of us are either chasing the things of this world, which pierce us through with many sorrows, or the things of the world to come, where eternal life awaits those who pursue it.
A lonely soul was crying out
For someone to direct
Their mind to know the will of God
But I chose to deflect.
An edgy soul was acting out
Intimidating and coarse
Yet they were searching for the truth
I recoiled with too little remorse.
A hopeful soul was reaching out
And attended our worship service
But I was busy, too much to do
To connect, plus I was nervous.
A hurting soul, in time of loss
Crossed my path today
I felt so bad that he was grieved
But still I hurried on my way.
A lost soul was needing Christ
She is destined for eternity
I was busy, nervous, no zeal for her
Guess I was too caught up in me
The next soul that I come upon
Lord, may I try with zeal
To share your grace and teach your Word
And your matchless love reveal.
The partisan vitriol ramps up whenever subjects like border security and immigration are mentioned. It is a subject as much a part of the political divide as “Russian Collusion,” tax reform, and affordable health care. Let the politically passionate debate all those topics, but did you know Scripture talks about the importance of having a properly-built, fortified wall? There were walls erected around a city to protect it from external dangers. If the citizens inside were righteous, they were kept safe even against all seeming odds (2 Kings 18-19). If the citizens inside were wicked, no wall, however seemingly impregnable, would hold (Joshua 6). But, I’m referring to a different kind of wall.
Scripture tells us that the individual must build a wall and properly maintain it, too. The way Solomon put it is, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Prov. 25:28). Words flow without restraint, many of which wound, offend, and separate. Anger and even rage can erupt over even the slightest or even perceived infractions. Personal conduct that indulges the flesh, from overeating to pornography to fornication, can be impulsive and destructive of self and others. Indecent thoughts, fed and fueled by the thinker, can crumble this vital hedge.
What a challenge for me on many levels! How easily do trials and setbacks in the normal functions of life, from standing in line to driving in traffic to dealing with customer service, set me off in unrestrained thoughts, words, and actions? How do I handle words of opposition, face to face, by written correspondence, or through some form of social media? How strong is my wall when I disagree with my mate, children, neighbors, or brethren?
Solomon teaches me that I can have control over my spirit. No cop out or blame game changes that. Whatever sinful thing I allow over that border into my life is guaranteed to be harm me! So, I must build a wall that preserves my spirit. My eternity literally hinges upon it.
Today marks 16 years since the most infamous and iconic attack rocked our collective consciousness. Each year, there is a solemn ceremony conceived in such wisdom and executed with a poignancy that never abates. That is the reading of the names of those who died in the 911 Attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The soft music playing behind the readers accents the mood, punctuated by every reader mentioning the name of a family member they lost that fateful day. September 11th resonates with us so deeply because it was an attack on our country, but also because of the death of each and every individual who perished that day. Behind each name are family members, memories, joy and sorrow. Each person, in such a dramatic, untimely way, was taken from time into eternity. God loved and loves each one with an infinite, eternal love and wanted each one to be saved. Christ gave His life to provide salvation for each one. The Bible was written for the benefit of each one. The Lord’s church was meant to pursue and teach each one.
Though each individual is numbered among such a large group, around 3,000 of them, each one means more than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). This touching memorial is a tribute to the overall value of human life. It reminds us that we are surrounded by individuals all possessing an eternal soul. Everyone you see today is heading toward eternity. Each one will either hear “well done” or “depart from me” (cf. Mat. 25:31ff). What is said about God’s attitude toward those victims specially remembered today is true of every person we meet and see today.
May we have our hearts stirred by the sobriety of that truth. May we never lose sight of our urgent responsibility to share the message of Christ with the people in our lives. As moving as the ceremony that occurs each year in New York City on September 11th, we really cannot imagine what the Day of Judgment will be like. Each person who ever lived, including you and me, will hear our name called (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). As important as our own name is, every name is important. Let us pray that this realization will propel us to tell the best news of human history and help someone find the only way, truth, and life.
I was asked by a preacher from Texas to go and provide emotional support to a family of brand new Christians he reached with the gospel. In a tragic circumstance, the matriarch of this family was in the hospital Sunday morning to have a gallstone removed and doctors accidentally severed the hepatic portal vein going into her liver. This led to multi-organ shutdown that ultimately ended her life. In this atmosphere of unanticipated emotional pain and suffering, family had gathered from all over the country to see her before doctors removed the lines keeping her alive. I was unable to communicate very much comfort or support because most of them spoke no English and I speak virtually no Spanish. I sat in the waiting room with them throughout the afternoon, watching their anguish but having little more than smiles and sympathetic looks to offer. The matriarch’s granddaughter spoke good English, but it was hard to expect her to continually provide translation as she struggled with her own grief. Hopefully, they knew I cared and will allow the church to provide further encouragement. Thankfully, we have several members who do speak Spanish fluently who could help in ways I cannot.
As I was driving home and thinking about the best way to quickly learn Spanish, I had another humbling thought. How many opportunities do I pass up with people with whom my communication barrier is not language? There are some other, more sinister barriers that can keep us from speaking up for Christ in situations He is counting on us to take advantage of. There is fear—fear of rejection, opposition, or being ostracized. There is apathy—failure to consider or care about the eternal destination of the souls of those we encounter. There is selfishness—as we are so absorbed in our own pursuits that we do not open our hearts to the lost in our lives. There is sin—the presence of personal lifestyle issues for us that render us ineffective as sharers of the gospel message. These and other matters are much more frequently the roadblocks that keep us from reaching out to the people we encounter.
It will help us, I believe, to remind ourselves daily that this world is not our home and that every person is heading to an eternity that swiftly comes. We must have the courage to share with people how to prepare for that, to understand the great love God has for them and His desire to save them. We must keep the conviction strong that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that His applied blood is their only hope for such. We must care about people, enough to pray for boldness and wisdom, enough to walk through our open doors, and enough to share the good news with them. People are at the heart of our purpose as Christians. Let’s serve them by sharing the good news whenever, wherever, and however we can.
- Pray, specifically, about having opportunities to share your faith. Think about the people in the various places you spend your time and ask God for inroads with these individuals specifically. Pray for courage, wisdom, and your words (cf. Col. 4:2-6). Pray for their hearts. Pray to pick opportune times to approach them.
- Cultivate your fields. Spend time thinking about who you have or can build a relationship with. That will be your area of greatest success. Be involved in their lives (see below). Work at growing the number of people you could share Christ with.
- Develop genuine interest in the lives of the people in your life. Learn spouse’s and children’s names, occupation, interests, hobbies, and passions in their lives. Ask about those things. File away and remember those facts, as your specific recall with them will impress them with your sincerity and concern. How is trust won? Time and transparency.
- Be able to speak openly and wisely about religion with them. That means picking your battles wisely. You will hear people spout misinformation and false ideas when religion is being discussed. Always maintain control and calm, being gentle in discussing religious matters (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26). If asked (and you eventually will be) about some specific, like salvation or church organization or what “denomination” you are a member of, be winsome and kind but courageous enough to give a biblical answer.
- Work at working in your faith and the church into your conversations naturally. This may require prayer and thought, but practice turning your conversations with people toward the spiritual. Like anything, if you’ve not had practice, it may seem clunky and awkward initially but not ultimately. If something is going on at church that relates some way to what your friend is saying, bring it up matter of factly. If their issue or struggle concerns something you have come across in your recent Bible study, share the verse with them.
- Be prepared to serve and help. So many of our co-workers, associates, neighbors, and other friends have messy lives. They are struggling and, without Christ, have no bearings on how to address their problems. As human beings, they inevitably struggle with the same things all people struggle with—relationships, family, finance, uncertainty, health, fear, etc. Remind yourself that you are here, on earth, to serve (cf. Mat. 20:28; Gal. 5:13).
- Watch yourself. Your example, especially under the pressures and fires of life, can make or break your evangelistic opportunities. Your temperament, reaction, attitude, and the like are a display case for the Lord or the world. Regularly remind yourself of this (Ti. 2:8; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:12).
- Remember the mantra, “It’s not a matter of ‘who’ is right, but ‘what’ is right.” I received this counsel decades ago, as a young preacher, from David Sain. I have used it countless times in soul-winning circumstances. Truly, ultimately, all religious questions must be settled upon the foundation of Scripture. Feelings, opinions, what churches teach and practice, what religious leaders say, and such must be subjugated to what the Bible says. Those other standards may fail us. Scripture won’t!
Evangelism will always be intimidating because it ultimately calls for courage and conviction. Not every specific situation will be a success story, but if we can remind ourselves of our purpose on this earth and how much people need what we have learned we will act! And there will be success!
The New Oxford Online Dictionary defines trajectory as “the path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces” (n/p). The term is used of everything from ammunition to astronomy, but in its figurative sense can be used to speak of the law of sowing and reaping or cause and effect. There appears to be three elements to this definition: the path, the object, and the action of given forces. Apply this to a person’s life and the discussion becomes eternally serious.
- The path: Jesus teaches that there are really only two paths to take, “the broad way” and “the narrow way” (Mat. 7:13-14). Some have given no thought as to which road they are taking. Others convince themselves they are on the narrow way when an honest, objective look reveals it to be the other way. Some change roads, for good or bad. However, we cannot successfully argue that we are not on a path leading somewhere, whether the destination is “destruction” or “life.”
- The object: Friend, the object (projectile) in this path of trajectory is the individual. It is you and me. We are moving closer to eternity every day and to some eternal destination. God created a never-dying soul within us (Mat. 25:46; Ec. 12:7). As it was with the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), we will lift up our eyes in either Abraham’s bosom or in torment. That soul was precious enough to God to pay the highest price to ransom it (John 3:16), but we may choose to give it away by allowing the trajectory of our life to miss the intended target (cf. Mat. 16:26).
- The action of given forces: We are not helpless regarding this, but force implies pressure, resistance, and influence. The decisions we make, the people we allow to have prominence, our choices, what we prioritize, and what values we establish become the forces moving us to the destination. It’s not what we say is important, what we know is right, or what we intend to do. It is seen in our attitudes, words, and actions.
The earlier we figure this out, the sooner we will make it our aim to do everything we can to head in the only right direction. We can change paths, but the longer we are aimed the wrong target the harder we make it on ourselves to change course. This is true with finance, physical health, occupation, marriage and family, but nowhere are the stakes as high than as concerns our eternal destiny. Let’s give thought to the trajectory of our lives and be sure that where we are heading is where we really want to go.