Receive a Child

I shudder to think about what’s happening to children at the hand of adults these days. It’s not the world I grew up in.  Maybe every generation says that…

My parents raised me in a community that cared about children and respected a parent’s responsibility to raise them well. My parents invested much in me, but there were other adults who were formative in my life. They received me into their sphere of influence.

The public school I attended hosted the traditional first grade play. From among the 40 or so first graders, one would recite the 23rd Psalm and lead in the Lord’s Prayer. Our teacher Lila McDuffie selected me and helped me prepare. I was confident as I stepped behind the “pulpit” and faced the audience.

Before young Gloria Thurmond (see autobiography “Gloria!”) set out on a lifetime of missionary service in Bangladesh, she visited my church’s Sunbeam class for children. She appeared wearing a traditional Saree, a long cloth garment that could be worn in various ways. Suddenly, the world seemed smaller and less mysterious to me, with fascinating cultures different than the deep South.

Edgar Davis was a pastor to our community. When I was 14, he asked me to play hymns on the piano for the worship service he conducted at the nursing home. Walking those halls my young eyes saw some shocking things, but he talked me through it. He helped me see that ministry includes serving people outside the walls of a church building.

Don Tennyson formed a contemporary Christian youth band and ensemble when I was 16. He selected me for the band. It was a heady experience when we procured a touring bus and took our troupe on the road for 10 days. What started out as fun turned into hard work, problem solving, and relationship management. We grew up a lot on that trip.

Here’s your takeaway.  Invest in a child. Let him or her see your faith in action. Train them by providing opportunities to serve. Protect them from “the serpent of old…who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).

Children matter to God. “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me,” Jesus said. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:5-6).

While the millstone factory is working overtime, you have a better option.  Receive a child. Train him in the way he should go. Give her hope and opportunity. And some day a man in his 60’s will reflect on his life and remember that you did, and he’ll credit you with why he did the same.


Love vs. Power

The whole incident started during the pre-dawn hours in a village in Haiti where I lived. I was shocked at how attractive the lie was.

My job included making the daylong journey to Port-au-Prince to purchase supplies. It was a cash economy so I had $400 in my backpack. I left in the wee hours of a moonless morning. The absence of electricity and the inky darkness masked whatever lurked about.

I drove the Land Rover to pick up a companion. I stopped beside his house and walked a few steps to his front door. Was that a noise behind me? I looked into the darkness. Nothing. As we climbed in for the grueling trip ahead of us, I checked the back seat. My back pack was gone. So were my plans for the day.

I learned later that a healthy young man had followed me, hoping to hitch a ride to the city. Seeing my back pack, he couldn’t resist the crime of opportunity. He had never seen that much cash. The next day, he checked himself into the hospital. A few days later…he died. The Harvard-trained doctor who attended him told me he died from shock and fear. Seriously.

As I tried to get my head around that, Renoll from the village came to see me. I suspected Renoll of petty theft, but never accused him. He said, “Now everybody knows you have power. You know I never stole from you, right?” For a moment, I marveled at my newfound “power.” The culture expected me to exploit it. Then it hit me. To embrace that lie would change my mission and method from love to power. I told Renoll that I forgave the thief, because God forgave me through Jesus’ death on the cross.

The voodoo culture has something in common with our popular culture. They both pursue and abuse power as the supreme goal of human existence. In this cultural moment, history, identity, reality, and language all depend on who’s in power. What a contrast with the Christian worldview of loving God and neighbor by believing and offering truth!

Love does not abuse power or endorse lies. It “rejoices with the truth” (1Cor. 13:6). Jesus promises you power, not for personal gain but for telling the truth (Acts 1:8). The Christian’s calling does not align with a power culture’s denial of the obvious and attempts at mass deception. Now is our time to speak the truth boldly and kindly, whatever the consequences. When you do, “It is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:20).

I regret the death of the young man. If I had gone to his bedside and offered forgiveness, perhaps love might have set him free from the cultural lie that destroyed him.

Doubt to Belief

If you ever doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that’s understandable. The central feature of the gospel is also the most challenging. In fact, Thomas followed Jesus for years and heard Him explain the resurrection, yet Thomas couldn’t get his head around it.

When his friends said, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas didn’t say, “Sure, Jesus will always be alive in our hearts because we remember him fondly.” He didn’t assume they were hallucinating in their collective distress or were describing a “spiritual” resurrection. No, he wanted real evidence for a physical resurrection. “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails…and put my hand into His side,” he said, “I will not believe.”

Jesus heard him and waited eight days. Then it was Thomas’ moment. Jesus appeared and told him, “Reach here your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving.” He invited Thomas to see and touch His physical body. Overwhelmed Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-29).

Today, doubters deny the physical resurrection by appealing to science and naturalism, and thereby dismiss the entire gospel of Christ. Medical science says no mechanism exists by which someone dead for three days can live again. Naturalism assumes that the material is all there is (an a priori argument). That assumption doesn’t work – scientists keep advancing naturalistic hypotheses about origins apart from a pre-existent mind, and prove none. But to the point, “Christians do not claim that Jesus rose by some natural mechanism,” John Lennox writes. “They claim that God raised him from the dead. And if there is a God, why should that be judged impossible?” The God who creates also resurrects.

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ matters. “If it is true, it is the supreme fact of history,” Norman Anderson writes, “and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means irreparable loss.” This can be your moment to adjust from doubt to belief. As Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Was He talking about you?

He Is Risen!

Mystery Revealed

If you like mystery shows, the Poirot TV episodes based on Agatha Christie’s novels is probably on your radar. British actor David Suchet played the title role from 1989 to 2013. During that time, he was trying to solve his own mystery.

In his book, Behind the Lens, Suchet tells his story. He was enjoying his career as a successful actor. In 1986, he traveled to America. In his hotel room soaking in a hot bath, his thoughts randomly settled on the afterlife and resurrection. That surprised him because until then he had been agnostic about such things.

He decided to read the Bible. Not knowing where to begin and having some historical interest in the Roman Empire, he began in the letter to the Romans. Its probing truths attracted him. “If God is for us,” it says, “who is against us?” “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:31, 35). “I came across a passage,” Suchet said, “that spoke of a way of life I wanted to be part of…a coherent philosophy I could really relate to. Christianity offered me that. The Christian worldview is love.”

That hot bath in 1986 began Suchet’s journey as a reluctant convert. He wasn’t sure what to make of the resurrection of Christ. In 2007 after years of analysis, he found the evidence for the resurrection plausible and the way of faith veritable. Mystery solved. He believed in Jesus Christ.

Suchet is right to consider the physical, attested, bodily resurrection of Christ as central to the Christian faith. “The whole of Christianity is based not only on the death, the crucifixion, of Jesus, but also on the resurrection,” he says. “The early Christians believed He was divine because of the resurrection and without the resurrection, there is no faith. You cannot separate the cross from the resurrection, which is the greatest miracle justifying Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity.” That’s a good paraphrase of 1 Cor. 15.

The Bible connects Christ’s love and resurrection. “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” In a grand crescendo it declares that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:34-39). In love Jesus died as a divine sacrifice for your sin, and in love He arose from the dead as evidence of your eternal life. Jesus’ love for you is displayed in history and is no mystery.

Suchet has pursued his new passion by making documentaries about Paul and Peter, and by audio recording the entire Bible. He wants to make it known that Jesus is the Christ, the mystery revealed. Your response? Believe and rejoice!