Points to Ponder: Truth Really Can Be Stranger Than Fiction and More Reliable
Points to Ponder
Truth Really Can Be Stranger Than Fiction
and More Reliable
Weird, strange, or otherwise peculiar events can happen in a person's life. Some people sound like they live a soap opera type of existence with incredible stories of love, loss, and amazingly complex accounts of this and that, and how it happened when and where.
I reflected on my previous article (The First Point to Ponder) as I had been reluctant to submit it for publication. If you missed it last week, you can go to our website, listed at the end of this column. I tried to read my own testimony from the perspective of someone who doesn't know me. I began to wonder what people might think. It is a strange story, a briefly summarized account of several significant portions of my faith journey. But as I think of it, these things are "strange" because we seldom hear such stories from people we know or from within the circles where we work, study or play. It's tabloid-sounding stuff, or the stories you might read about in religious publications. But I submit that these accounts are more typical than most of us realize. Look out over a crowd of people in a mall, or a park, or at a church, or in a stadium. There are numerous untold stories. People aren't sharing their personal experiences for the same reason I almost didn't: people will "think I'm weird." (With me, it will simply confirm opinions already held by some.)
Yet what were we told to do in scripture? If you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, you are not called to argue or convince people that what you believe is the truth. The simple command we received is this: be My witnesses. Don't argue. Don't be a defense attorney. God doesn't need that. Just tell what you have seen and heard, and experienced.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
When the authorities and skeptics of their day tried to shut up the apostles' witness, Peter's response was calm, forthright, and honest.
"But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard'" (Acts 4:19-20).
Being thought of as weird, or radical, goes with the territory. Not that you have to be obnoxious; it's just that things of the Spirit are "foolishness" to those operating from a fleshly perspective (see I Corinthians 2:9-14).
I recall when I lived according to that worldview. Reading my article again from that perspective struck me. My story sounded weird, but I had lived it. The message had been clear to me: God would be there, guiding me through the rough uncertainties and uphill struggles of life. Not so much economic hardship, but the absence of integrity in things one should be able to trust. Many reject the faith, and even God, because of such things. God would not let me turn away without first planting a seed of assurance for me to find later.
Church as an institution impressed me as irrelevant. Some of the biggest hypocrites I knew were Christians. I also met corrupt pastors. While working in management at a fitness center, I caught a pastor trying to sneak in without paying the guest fee. When I sat him down in my office, he proceeded to offer me a deal. Having been through professional sales training, I recognized that so had he; trying to "close me" on the value of giving him a free pass in exchange for "advertising" our club through his sermon illustrations.
Then one of the top radio preachers, from whom I'd learned so much, fell morally. Ironically he had authored books on love and marriage. Despite this and other similar experiences, God began calling me back to church, and then into pastoral ministry. But why would I want to join this crowd?
While I was in seminary I discovered that one of the pastors who had discipled me had also committed adultery over a decade before. Then I kept encountering preachers, professors, student pastors, and even bishops denying basic beliefs and core doctrines. But the call on my life kept at me. And I kept remembering God's assurance to me through that childhood dream. He's never let go of my right hand. Though others do fall, His steps have always held firm. As I have watched many who "claimed the Name" embarrass that Name and fall away, the message to me has been clear: "Don't follow my followers; follow Me."
I found that if I sincerely sought the truth and was willing to receive it, someone would cross my path with a well-timed word, an amazing testimony, a scripture, a thought-provoking question. God was (and is) there. I have learned that my response to God can not be determined or hindered by the behavior of others. Why do that? It's kind of dumb to not attend church because of the hypocrites. That's like refusing to see a doctor because his office is full of sick people. And am I so supremely "well"?
"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5b).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.