Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

By James V. Heidinger II, Chairman Good News Board of Directors

Good News has always been interested in theology. The movement began over 14 years ago out of a concern for theological issues. My initial interest in Good News came as I heard its leaders raise theological concerns in the United Methodist Church. The Junaluska Affirmation was a careful attempt by Good News to reaffirm the historic faith of the Church. More recently, at our summer board meeting, a proposal was passed for Good News to establish a special emphasis, culminating at the 1984 General Conference, on historical Methodist/EUB theology.

The issue is far more than academic. Paul wrote to Timothy, “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” (II Timothy 1:11). The real question is, what is “this gospel” which we have been appointed to preach and teach?

In the service of ordination for elders in the UM Church, each elder promises to “give faithful diligence duly to minister the doctrine of Christ … and in the spirit of Christ to defend the Church against all doctrine contrary to God’s Word” (p. 50, Book of Worship). There are at least three assumptions here. First, that there is doctrine contrary to God’s Word. Second, that it can be identified, and third, that we are morally committed and obligated to defend against it. One might wonder how long it has been since the UM Church has taken doctrine seriously enough to “defend” against any contrary doctrine.

The truth is, friends, that in our United Methodist Church today, nearly anything goes doctrinally or theologically. One can deny nearly any tenet of traditional Methodist doctrine and get away with it in the name of theological pluralism. It is time for a new honesty among United Methodist clergy about what they no longer believe.

The real issue between liberal and evangelical United Methodists today is not a “personal vs. social gospel” issue. It is, rather, the issue of the historic New Testament Gospel vs. a more recently-created religious system that makes use of much Biblical terminology, albeit with different meaning given to the words. Years ago, Dr. Machen called it “another religion.” The Apostle Paul called it “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). We would call it “heresy.” (By definition, “heresy” is doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine of a church or religious system.”)

Now all this may sound like we are not being of “catholic spirit.” But let’s hear Wesley clearly in his often-quoted sermon on “Catholic Spirit. ” His gracious, non-dogmatic spirit was toward “opinion,” and not basic doctrine. Under “opinion,” he included modes of worship, forms of church government, forms of prayer, forms of baptism, and details concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Wesley describes and develops what he means by the question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?” He spends no less than seven lengthy paragraphs, some 64 lines, asking, “Do you believe … Do you believe … Have you the divine evidence …?” Wesley then goes on to deplore the “unsettledness of thought,” and “this being ‘driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine.'” He states a remarkable and unpluralistic affirmation: “A man of a truly catholic spirit has not now his religion to seek. He is fixed as the sun, in his judgment concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine.” In major doctrine, Wesley was no pluralist! He was “fixed as the sun.” (Wesley even sounds a bit dogmatic!)

It is time for theological definition. If you don’t think so, try taking the following statement from Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, and drop it in the midst of a Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for consensus:

The Apostolic proclamation reflects the characteristic elements of the gospel, namely and centrally, God’s offer of forgiveness of sins and new life on the ground of the substitutionary death and victorious resurrection of the divinely incarnate Redeemer. This one Mediator, moreover, now exalted, rules already as the supernatural source of the church’s continuing life and as the invincible Lord. (God, Revelation and Authority, by Carl F.H. Henry, Vol. III, p.64.)

If any two items could be agreed on it would be an amazing accomplishment. Friends, our critical need today is for theological integrity within the United Methodist Church. “For this gospel, I was appointed a preacher.”

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: Conference Celebrates Holy Spirit

Archive: Conference Celebrates Holy Spirit

By Diane Knippers, Associate Editor  

UM charismatics gathered for a second national conference on the Holy Spirit last August 7-10 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sponsored by the UM Renewal Services Fellowship (UMRSF), the conference was intended to witness that “God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is bringing new life to the church.”

Speakers for the main sessions were Joe Harding, pastor of Central United Protestant Church in Richland, Washington; Tommy Tyson, well-known UM evangelist and teacher; Francis MacNutt, a leader in the ecumenical charismatic renewal movement; Bishop Roy Nichols, president of the UM Council of Bishops; and Canon Michael Green, rector of St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford, England. The conference program also included periods of worship and praise, plus selection from some 20 workshops.

During an early session, UMRSF president William P. Wilson announced the appointment of the fellowship’s first full-time executive director. Ross E. Whetstone assumed the new staff position in early September. He had served as part-time director since the group was organized in late 1978.

UMRSF is an autonomous organization with a liaison relationship to the UM Board of Discipleship where its offices will be located. (A Board of Discipleship staff member serves ·on the UMRSF board and a UMRSF representative serves as a member of the Board of Discipleship.)

The purposes of UMRSF include providing an avenue for United Methodists to contribute to the renewal of the church by upholding “the teaching of Scriptural holiness in both its personal and social dimensions to all constituencies of the church,” and also increasing understanding of the “historical relationship between other churches in the Wesleyan tradition, including those of Holiness and Pentecostal doctrinal emphasis and the United Methodist Church.”

When asked how UMRSF differed from Good News, Dr. Whetstone replied, “Purpose. We have good relations with Good News and are not antagonists in any way, but they are issue oriented and we are experience oriented.” Dr. Wilson and some other UMRSF leaders are active in Good News.

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: Winning Out Over Worry

Archive: Winning Out Over Worry

Some helpful thoughts on a universal human problem

by Philip E. Worth, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Collingswood, New Jersey

On the editorial page of the New York Times an article appeared that is typical of the anxiety that grips the hearts of hundreds of thousands of men and women across our nation. Let me just give you the feel of it in a few words: Ed Furey is a 52-year-old, recently fired, middle-management executive in one of America’s top 500 companies. He has sent out over 150 resumes. Less than ten percent of them have drawn a response; five percent asked for additional information. None resulted in a job.

As a World War II veteran of the South Pacific, he knows what fear is and how men deal with it. He doesn’t scare any easier than the next, but to be 52 years old, jobless, with a wife, nine children, and a mortgage is to be frightened! Now, for the first time, his family is not covered with medical insurance. The bank warned that foreclosure is being considered. Bills to utilities are overdue. He lies awake at night and wonders if he is going to lose the home he worked for all his life, the home that represents the only equity he’s been able to accumulate in 30 years of working and raising a family.

As believers, we face the fact that we are living in a time of financial crisis … of social upheaval … of social and moral changes which, for the most part, are unique to our generation. Some are going through situations which their wildest imagination would not have thought possible. An undercurrent of anxiety has penetrated even into the hearts of God’s children.

Worse, perhaps, is the fact that the anxiety of the heart of the individual believer is contagious. Many churches have been affected adversely by individuals who, because of pressing problems in their personal lives, have become bitter and cynical concerning the things of God. I do not believe we fully comprehend the price we pay for anxiety.

In studying the Sermon on the Mount we come to that portion where Jesus sets forth a strict commandment to His followers: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry … ” (Matthew 6:25).

The word “worry” comes from the Greek word merimnao, which is a combination of two words—merizo, meaning to divide, and nois, meaning mind. What a clear description of the result of worry in life—it divides the mind!

John Haggai has written concerning worry. He pinpoints this problem of the divided mind as it results in abulia—the loss of power to decide. He illustrates this extreme indecision with the story of the old mule who stood between two haystacks and starved to death while trying to decide from which to eat. In the extreme form, the victim just gives up—becomes depressed and never again makes a decision. We call it, I believe, incorrectly, a “nervous breakdown.”

Dr. Tim LaHaye, in his book, How to Win Over Depression, describes a person who is seriously depressed in terms of what he calls the depression formula. It is this: injury plus anger plus self-pity equals depression.

Most of us have seen this worked out in terms of life. Here is a man who has been injured greatly. Once he feels the initial impact of the injury he becomes angry at his circumstances. He begins to reason this way: “I was doing a good job. I was an effective worker and yet I was fired—laid off—somebody must have had it in for me.” As that man begins to think about how unjustly life has treated him he begins to feel sorry for himself. Dr. LaHaye suggests that that kind of self-pity leads to deep depression, which no change of circumstance will alter. It is my conviction that the reason we are seeing so much depression today is because we have a nation of worriers.

But Jesus says, “Do not worry.” Some of you right now are saying, “It is my nature to worry. If I didn’t have something to worry about, I’d think of something.” However, I believe that right here in Matthew, Chapter 6, there are three definite steps which can help you move out of negativism, depression, and self-pity to become God’s liberated person.

The first step may seem negative but it is absolutely essential: (1) Recognize worry to be sin. Let me say it another way. Understand that when you worry, you are sinning. There are men and women today who are scrupulously moral. Good men who have never even entertained the thought of any immorality. Godly women who are good wives and good mothers. Teenagers who are determined to live their lives for God. Yet perhaps the sin that is holding them back from God’s blessing is worry.

God says in Romans 8:28: ” … in all things God works for the good of those who love him. … ”

Worry answers: This cannot be, because I sense that I am about to be replaced at work.

God says in Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Worry answers: I cannot face another day now because my strength is failing.

God says in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs. … ”

Worry answers: The mortgage payments are more than I can manage with inflation.

God says in Hebrews 13:5: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

 

Worry says: I am going to be left alone—I know it and I will not be able to cope with it.

God says in I Peter 5:6: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Worry answers: If He cares for me, then why did He allow this to happen to me?

God says in Mark 7:37: “He has done everything well.”

Worry says: Then why did my husband leave me?

When we answer God like that we are really saying, “God, you are lying. You do not mean what you say.”

Recognize your worry to be a sin. We Christians need to stop joking about it, to stop making excuses for it in our lives and blaming it on circumstances or events. Recognize it to be sin. Confess it daily. Satan is a great deceiver and one of his cleverest tricks is to convince believers that it is a good thing to worry.

For instance, a mother who has two sons confides to another Christian in the church, “I am worried about my two boys.” When she says that, inwardly in her heart she is really saying, “I am a good mother because I worry. I am working hard at being a mother because I worry.”

Do you know what the Bible calls a person who worries? When the worrying of Old Testament people is described in the New Testament it is called a “sinful, unbelieving heart” (Hebrews 3:12). Have you committed your financial situation to God? Then you are not worried. You see—faith and worry are mutually exclusive.

Some of you are saying in the quietness of your heart, That is very idealistic. You don’t understand all the things I have to worry about. Worry is only natural. May I repeat what I said before? “Worry and faith are mutually exclusive.” If you are worrying, you are faithless. I didn’t say it—God did! (Matthew 6:25-34).

Wednesday mornings we have a prayer fellowship for teenagers at our house. Once in a while during the prayer requests, someone will say: “Pray for me today. I’m taking an exam. It is an important one.”

Nine times out of ten our youth leader will look directly at the person asking the question and will ask: “Did you study?”

The kid will say, “Yes, I did.”

Then he will answer, “O.K. then we’ll pray that you will pass.”

That is what Philippians is all about: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Jesus says in Matthew 6:28-30: “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Jesus Christ gives here one great overwhelming truth, which presents us with the second step: (2) Realize the provision of God for all your needs. God controls all material things and He distributes them in His sovereignty. It would be pointless for Jesus to say to His disciples, “Now stop worrying” without giving reasons. So He lists how God demonstrates His ability to care.

Dr. James Boice points out that Peter, in the early days of his association with Jesus, was worried about many things. Walking toward Jesus upon the water, Peter began to look at the waves and became so worried that he began to sink. He worried that Jesus might not pay taxes. At one point he was worried about who might betray the Master. He was worried that Jesus might have to suffer and so rebuked Him on one occasion.

Yes, Peter was a great worrier. But after he came to know Jesus better he learned that Jesus was able not only to take care of Himself but also to take care of Peter. Thus, toward the end of his life, he wrote in his first epistle telling other Christians how to live: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).

This applies directly to those of you who know Jesus Christ as Savior, who can say, “I have been redeemed.” Paul replies, “You yourselves are God’s temple … God’s Spirit lives in you” (I Corinthians 3:16). Day-after-day as you struggle along and worry, you are destroying the physical body in which God has chosen to dwell. Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I am worried sick.” They mean it quite literally! How many thousands and thousands are suffering physically from a host of symptoms because they have indulged themselves in the sin of worry? Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry” (Matthew 6:25). Why? Because in so doing you are denying the provision of God for you.

The book, Hudson Taylors Spiritual Secret, tells of a life with all of the trappings taken away. The spiritual secret that Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, learned was simply this: Just as he had trusted Christ and His promises for eternal life through faith, he could mix the promises of God with faith and find God’s perfect rest right here in this life. He was the first white man to enter inland China. He was alone with no human to depend on. He simply trusted God for the needs of each day.

While Taylor was at school studying medicine, preparing for the mission field, he gave away everything he had. He said, “Lord, give me this day my daily bread.” God gave it to him—and even more than he needed. Taylor gave away the rest. He started out every day with absolutely nothing but faith and the promises of God, who had promised to supply all of his needs through Christ Jesus his Lord. During week after week, month after month, and year after year of preparation he found that God was absolutely trustworthy for every need of life. This was his “spiritual secret.” The secret of learning to trust Christ for the daily, practical things of life.

Finally, (3) Begin giving thanks for all things. More than 500 times in the Word of God we are commanded to give praise and rejoice. David said in Psalm 34:1, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Praise was a habit built into David’s life.

You will remember that David had many problems … many difficulties. He had one son who broke his heart. Another son tried to steal his authority. He had an enemy who persecuted him and sought to take his life. He went through great testings and great temptations and he did not always triumph. But he made praise a way of life.

In Greece there was a man who appeared on the stage with the Greek name Titedios Amerimnos. This was a proper name plus a descriptive name, such as Philip the Great, James the Just, and Thomas the Doubter. Titedios was his proper name. The descriptive name was “the man who does not worry.” Titedios, the man who doesn’t worry. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could take your name and add that to it? The person who doesn’t worry. It can be yours if you are willing to listen to the message of Jesus and by faith reach out and appropriate it for yourself.

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: C. S. Lewis: Exmas in Niatirb

Archive: C. S. Lewis: Exmas in Niatirb

(a lost chapter from Herodotus)

A satire from his book “God in the Dock”. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans. Used by permission.   

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north-western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood, and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable member of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are the customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a newborn Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left. And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: How Joyce Got Her Bible

Archive: How Joyce Got Her Bible

A personal testimony by Joyce Eblen, Co-pastor, Carthage Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio

American Bible Society
1865 Broadway
New York, New York 10023

To Whom it may Concern:

I know you receive many stories about what happens to the people who receive ABS Bibles. Many of these people live in foreign mission fields, but some live right here in the United States. I am one of them. My life was changed by Scriptures produced by the Society and I want to tell you my story.

In the fall of 1972, I was living in New York City and trying to make it in the rough, competitive world of the professional theatre. Sometimes I got a part in a play and worked for awhile. Sometimes I didn’t. (During those times I didn’t eat much.) But whether I was working or not, I felt unhappy most of the time. There was something missing in my life, but I didn’t know what it was.

The previous summer I had been acting in a drama in the state of Kentucky. One of the cast members was a Christian and he shared with me about his Lord. At the time, it didn’t make much sense to me. Then, at the end of the summer, I went back to New York. What he had said stuck with me, even though I tried to put it out of my mind.

Back in the city, things weren’t getting any better. Finally, I couldn’t hold out against the Lord any more. One night, alone in my apartment, I accepted Jesus Christ into my life. I went to bed that night with a peace in my heart that I had never before experienced in my entire life.

The next morning I woke up with an absolute thirst to read Scripture. I don’t know why that happened, because I had never read the Bible seriously before. Yet I knew that I had to get a Bible for my own that day. I had seen the ABS building many times in my travels throughout the city, so I started to make my way up there. Now you must understand that I was living on the lower West Side, so a walk to your building meant a hike of over 50 New York City blocks!! Why didn’t I take a subway? Because the small amount of change that I had in my pocket was all the money I had in the world. I was just hoping it would be enough to buy a Bible. When I got to your bookstore, a very nice middle-aged woman (I’m sorry that I don’t know her name) came up to wait on me. I said that I wanted to buy a Bible.

“What version would you like?”

I was stunned. I didn’t know that there were different versions. So I merely answered, “One that I can read easily.”

She handed me the little gray paperback called Good News for Modern Man. I asked how much it was. For some reason, she looked at me and said, “How much do you want to pay?” I counted out some of my change—it totaled 37 cents—all that I had. She said that would be fine. So I left your bookstore with the precious Word of God. Now I had no money at all, but I was very, very rich.

I read the entire New Testament that afternoon. Now I have several Bibles, but none is more precious to me than my little battered, marked-up, dog-eared Good News.

Who could have guessed how much that little paperback Good News would mean? Yet I know that the Scriptures your Society has produced have worked even greater miracles in the lives of countless others across the world.

Once I had only 37 cents to pay for a Bible. Now I can do better than that, so please accept this contribution with my deepest gratitude for your continuing work in bringing God’s Word to those who need it.

In Christ’s Name,

Rev. Joyce Putnam Eblen

United Methodists who are concerned with the spread of Scriptural Christianity have long had an ally in the American Bible Society.

The ABS, whose “only purpose” is to “promote the distribution of the Holy Scripture without doctrinal note or comment,” offers many suggestions for Bible distribution. These include making large-print Bibles available to the elderly or placing racks containing portions of Scripture in public places.

St. Mark’s UM Church in Atlanta, Georgia, purchased 1,500 Scripture selections on postcards and brochures and used them to decorate a large Christmas tree on the church lawn. Passers-by were encouraged to help “untrim” the tree by taking a Scripture selection home.

Opportunities are also open to spread the Scripture through records and tapes. A motel in Orlando, Florida, for example, has begun an around-the-clock reading of the New Testament in Today’s English Version over its closed-circuit television. Find out about the Outreach Program, personalized for your church, and the Good News Bible Order Agreement, where you can order Scripture on consignment.

 

Archive: What is “This Gospel”?

Archive: I Was A Catatonic Christian

How a UM woman exchanged her tepid, cultural religion for a vibrant, Christ-centered faith. She confesses …

I Was A Catatonic Christian

by Margie Jones, Amarillo, Texas

Most nominal Christians do not refer to themselves as lukewarm. I know because I was one.

Nevertheless, I had all the qualifications of an indifferent Christian. I believed in God and knew His only Son had died for my sins and was resurrected. I was a church member and attended regularly. I was busy in church activities and contributed financially, but I didn’t put Christ first in my life.

My faith was part of my culture. I knew it was there and I valued it, but I was careful not to let it flare up to convict me of the truth—that Jesus Christ should be the Lord of my life as well as my Savior.

I was reared in a Christian home, but it wasn’t a Christ-centered one. As a child I was required to go to Sunday school and church where I heard the real Gospel preached, but I was too young to understand what many of the sermons meant. Expressions such as “the blood of the Lamb,” “washed in His blood,” “filled with the Holy Ghost,” not only puzzled me, but frightened me. I couldn’t understand the relationship between blood, ghosts, lambs, and Jesus.

As I matured, I was too embarrassed to ask to have these terms explained. My pride would not allow me to show my ignorance.

During this time I pictured God as a grandfatherly type, a sort of puppeteer who pulled the strings of His people. Most of the time I felt I was one of His favorite puppets! I always seemed to be on the receiving end of the good things He handed out.

I entered college and because honors came to me I was consumed by my popularity and feeling of self-sufficiency. My ambition was to be a social worker, so I majored in sociology with a minor in psychology and began to enjoy the “social gospel” that I heard preached since leaving home.

I could understand and appreciate those sermons because they were so similar to my college lectures. But humanistic sermons offered me no spiritual fulfillment nor excitement and even though I matured in other facets of my life, the most important aspect of all, my Christianity, did not mature past adolescence. I kept a little religious compartment in my life for Christ, never allowing Him to come to the forefront.

Nevertheless, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and two precious children and I followed the pattern set by my parents. We routinely attended Sunday school and church, but its activities bored me. The main reason I continued was a vague sense of “Christian duty.”

My priorities were my husband and children, material possessions, my social life, and some place, buried with my latent faith, Christ. I honestly thought I possessed all life had to offer. I had the outward appearance of a Christian, but I was trying to fulfill His will by my own will and works. As a result, instead of being drawn closer to Him, I was a dried-up, lukewarm, catatonic Christian.

I was an adult woman, a wife and mother, but had no clear-cut idea of what I believed and why. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed to accept personally and appropriate the Gospel of Jesus Christ … humble myself … and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know and follow God’s will.

Of course, I prayed. But my prayers were routines instead of earnest communication. I never knelt to pray, I seldom prayed intercessory prayers, and I never prayed prayers of praise. There were many times when I prayed an S.O.S. to God for what I thought was a desperate need. But when the need ended, so did my prayer life and I slipped back into my routine until the next frantic episode. I didn’t realize I needed Christ as much when I felt secure and comfortable as when I had some special need.

I would have been terrified if I’d been called on to pray in public. When I was in charge of programs that were expected to be opened and closed with prayers, I read one for the beginning of the session and asked the group to repeat the Lord’s Prayer in unison for the closing.

As a catatonic Christian, I didn’t assume any personal responsibility for learning Christ’s message through in-depth Bible study. Neither did I read the Bible; I used the excuse that I couldn’t understand it. I know, now, that there are many translations, paraphrased editions, and commentaries available for help. The Scripture could have been meaningful to me—if I had had the desire to read and study.

During the years my Christianity was lethargic, I thought that turning one’s life over to Christ meant going into professional fields of Christian ministry. I didn’t dream I could totally submit my life to Christ and be happy. The fear of having to give up something was too great within me.

My spiritual life continued like this without any feeling of satisfaction or exhilaration, until after my children were grown. I felt I had fulfilled my obligation as a Christian parent because I had reared them as responsible churchgoing citizens. I was satisfied and comfortable and I didn’t want anyone to disturb me with spiritual truth.

Although I was only on the periphery of being what God wanted me to be, I was too busy occupying a pew and doing the organizational chores in the church to realize that there was more to Christianity than being a statistic in a church record book. I had to go to the very bedrock of sorrow before realizing that God wanted to fashion my life in His pattern.

Our only son, age 25, was stricken with a massive brain hemorrhage, caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, and he died.

During the weeks of my devastating sorrow, I had an intense desire to feel my son’s nearness and because I knew he was in heaven, I was driven to ask questions of my minister, read the Bible, and to study and learn more about my Lord. For the first time, I wanted to be an informed and intelligent Christian. Thus my latent faith became a faith of deep conviction. Each time I called out to God for strength and comfort, my prayers were answered almost as soon as they were uttered. Many events happened that I couldn’t call coincidental. I knew it had to be the fine hand of God working in my life. At last, my eyes and ears were beginning to open and my heart made receptive to God’s will.

For the first time in my life I realized the enormous importance of Jesus’ death for me personally. I quit thinking of God in a grandfatherly image. Now I pictured Him as a grieving Father who loved mankind enough to give His very best—His only Son. I didn’t feel any bitterness because He took my only son, whom I adored. But rather I felt a very special and loving relationship to Him and a deep desire to know Him better.

I seemed to be thinking of Jesus almost constantly and I was relinquishing parts of my life to Him. It seemed that I was trying to make up for all the years I had missed in Bible reading and prayer.

I looked back over my past and saw how God had worked to prepare me for these events. I compared my life to a jig-saw puzzle—God combining events and my responses with other events and responses to reconstruct my life more and more according to His plan. For the first time I realized that what happens to us isn’t so important as the way we respond in each situation.

One day I fell on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive me for all the years I had spent giving Him only lip service. I told Him I had always known He died for me, but now I wanted Him to take over my life completely. I totally surrendered myself and asked Him to use me in any way He wished. I was His.

The ways He answered that prayer of surrender have been amazing, exciting, and joyous. Once I made my depth commitment to Him, it wasn’t difficult to let go of my own strong will. I learned I didn’t have to give up anything, but that I gained more than I had ever possessed before! The activities I surrendered were no longer enjoyable. God replaced my desired for shallow entertainment and materialism with a peace which I thought I had but had never actually attained.

I’ve often thought of the parallel—God gave up His only Son to get man’s attention; He called my only son to be with Him and got my attention. The pain of my son’s death has never left me, but the certainty that God gave up His only Son for me astounds me every time I think of it. (To be continued)