earnestly contending for the faith

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Mom’s New Dress

I was pastoring a church in the small town of Waurika, Oklahoma not far from the Oklahoma/Texas border. The church was small and root-bound by a lack of vision in some of the leadership that were unwilling to welcome new people. However, there was a core of people, including most of the young people, who wanted to draw near to God and win lost people. It caused a revival to break out that spread into the community and school.

I began praying for a certain section of town people called “the Circle.” It was a housing project built in a circle that was well known for its rowdy tenants. In fact, even the police hesitated to go into the “Circle” after dark. I believed that if I could reach someone’s heart with the Gospel in the “Circle” that we might witness a mighty harvest of souls. My wife and I prayed daily that we could break through the darkness and reach someone in the “Circle.” After many months it seemed that our praying was not working, but we continued.

The winter after we had begun praying for the inhabitants of the “Circle” a great ice storm mixed with snow fell on our area. It was difficult to drive in, but I had to go to town. As I was carefully driving back I was moving too slowly to climb the street that inclined up to the railroad. I backed carefully into a parking lot to get a run at it. There was not much traffic on the roads and I did not see anyone coming when I took off. However, just as I reached the incline to the railroad track I heard a car honking. The vehicle slid sideways as the driver going much too fast for the conditions swerved around my car.

As they passed, an old haggard woman sitting in the front passenger seat was obviously enraged. Apparently she had spilt a drink on her dress. She turned toward me, face white and ugly with anger, and mouthed words that I could only guess about. When she held up her middle finger I knew what she was saying. I was so upset by the experience that I went home and immediately began praying. I prayed for that woman for the duration of my time in Waurika.

That summer we had an evangelist come for revival meetings. One evening we arrived home from a minister’s fellowship meeting in a nearby town. My wife met me at the door and said, “You have to go now to see a woman who said she must talk to you.”

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“Lord, make my love so near the surface that it doesn’t take long to come out.”

I was at the grocery store tonight. Standing in line behind a woman, I noticed that she was buying only two large cans of cat food. A people observer, I notice that her clothing was unclean. Her physical appearance was disheveled. I thought that it was commendable that in her apparent need she was thinking of her cat on such a cold night. Nervously, she pulled a couple of dollars and some change out of a small, filthy, coin purse. With only a few coins left, she paid for the cat food, and took off.

It took a few minutes for it to sink in that she was most likely buying that cat food for herself. I quickly looked to see if she was still in the store, but she was gone. It grieved my spirit so much that I I had to hold back the tears. On the way to my car I wept. I wept partly because she had reached the point that she would eat cat food. To be honest, she appeared to be on drugs. But I couldn’t help it—my heart was broken for her. I also wept because I was not alert enough to recognize the situation quicker.

To be honest, I might have offended her if I had asked if the cat food was for her. Not to go into more detail, I’m close to certain that it was for her. I realize that people need to experience the consequences of their sin or they may never change. But if I had that moment to live over, I would have gotten a cart, took her around the store, and bought her a couple of bags of groceries. I would have told her that the love Christ Jesus poured out in me is also available to her. I would have told her that Satan is the reason for her situation and that God through Christ Jesus wants to give her eternal life and happiness. If only.

I repented and confessed my failure. I know beyond any doubt that I missed a golden opportunity to express the love of Christ Jesus to someone. The truth is that we do not need to get so wrapped up in the Christmas season that we fail to share the love of and for Whom the season exists.

I prayed that God make my love so near the surface that it doesn’t take so long to come out. The souls upon whom sin has struck its severest blows most need the love of Him who bore the cruelty of crucifixion for their deliverance. It was because of love that He died. Love that expensive is too valuable to be hoarded.

The Cat that Leapt Well

It was one of those times when I wish that I had had a camera. But it was before smart phones and it was all over too quickly.

Cheryl and I were sitting on the back porch visiting with an elderly couple. It was a beautiful evening and our spot on the planet was losing its turn with the sun. Birds were everywhere, flitting, chirping, and dipping in the birdbath. The elderly gentleman loved and fed them daily. And the cat loved them as well.

He began stalking a small flock that had landed under a bird feeder. They were pecking furiously at the ground gathering up a final meal before roosting for the night. The cat was a very good stalker. Although the birds glanced nervously about as they feasted, he inched ever closer. The drama was intense.

I did not want the cat to be successful and was about to shout and wave my hands when I realized that he had set his mind on one particular bird. Fascinated by his choice I watched spellbound as he crept ever closer and then pounced. Success! As the little flock took flight the cat hit his prey with lightening precision flattening the bird.

However, there was no explosion of feathers, no death struggle in the teeth of the fearsome creature, and no smug look by the cat as he pranced away to enjoy his feast. No, but something much more amazing occurred.

When cat and bird collided the cat bounced back, shook his head several times, and staggered as he slunk off with an unhappy demeanor. When he glanced back at the fallen bird and contorted his mouth as if he were eating peanut butter, I erupted with laughter.

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