The Power of a Story

grace, redemption, salvation No Comments

American writers Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker recently conducted an experiment that they called “Significant Objects.”  They bought worthless knickknacks at flea markets or antique stores, contacted a fiction writer to write a story about each object, and then resold the items on Ebay.  For example, an ugly plastic Russian doll, bought at a flea market for $3 was given to writer Doug Dorst.  Dorst wrote a story about a Russian woodcutter named Vralkomir who saved his village from freezing one winter by dancing on a pile of wood until it burst into flames.  The doll with the story sold on Ebay for $193.  In total, Glenn and Walker sold $128.74 worth of useless junk for $3,612.51.  The stories gave the objects a 2,706 percent increase in value (Popologetics, Ted Turnau, p. 11).
The power of a story is reinforced by the hymn, “Tell Me The Old, Old Story.”  This hymn was written by A. Katherine Hankey, of London, in 1866.  It has been translated into many different languages and has been set to different tunes.  Dr. W. Howard Doane (1832-1915) has this to say regarding the music by which it has become popular and the occasion on which he composed it: “In 1867 I was attending the International Convention of the Young Men’s Christian Association, in Montreal.  Among those present was Major-General Russell, then in command of the English force during the Fenian excitement.  He arose in the meeting and recited the words of this song from a sheet of foolscap paper–tears streaming down his bronzed cheeks as he read.  I wrote the music for the song one hot afternoon while on the stage-coach between the Glen Falls House and the Crawford House in the White Mountains.  That evening we sung it in the parlors of the hotel.”

The words to this hymn are:
Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

The content of this story consists of heavenly things.  It is about Jesus and His glory and Jesus and His love.  It is the story of man’s redemption and salvation through a selfless savior.  The content of this story makes it priceless and brings hope and healing to struggling souls.
The presentation of this story is part of the “telling.”  Present it simply “as to a little child.”  Present it slowly “that I may take it in.”  Present it softly, “with earnest tones and grave.”  Present it often, “for I forget so soon.”  Present it always, “if you would really be, in any time of trouble, a comforter to me.”
The story of man’s redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the greatest story ever told.
There is only one thing left and that is the reception of it and commitment to the savior by loving obedience to His holy will (Mark 16:15-16).

Face To Face With God

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In II Samuel 12, one of the most dramatic moments in the life of David is revealed to us.  David is confronted by the prophet, Nathan, regarding his sin with Bathsheba.  David comes face to face with himself, with God’s judgment, with God’s grace and with God’s glory.
Face to Face With Yourself
Facing the truth about yourself is most troubling.  Many avoid it entirely.  The lies we tell ourselves are attempts to conceal the truth about ourselves.  Some questions we must consider are: “Who do you think you are?”  and “Who do you think God is?”  David was the champion of Israel, her greatest warrior, Israel’s most illustrious king, and author of many of the Psalms.  Yet, he was a sinner.  David’s fall began with an indecent thought about another man’s wife.  It grew with site of her unclothed (II Sam. 12:2-4) and it blossomed into lust that concluded in sexual sin.  It developed further in lies and murder.  His sin was accomplished “secretly” as far as men were concerned, but “openly” as far as God was concerned. Nathan was sent by God to confront David about his sin.  God knows all things including the secret things of man. Nathan tells a short story about a man who took another man’s only lamb.  David immediately perceives the injustice of the act and condemned it.  Then, Nathan tells David, “Thou art the man.”  This stunning revelation to David pierced through the lies David had told himself and exposed the truth about him.  This is strong medicine.  But, its design is to save the soul.  David confesses his sin (II Sam. 12:13, Psa. 51:4).  He comes face to face with the truth about himself.  Sin is a great leveler.  David now occupies common ground.  His need for redemption is shared with all others who have succombed to temptation’s power.
Face To Face With God’s Judgment
When Nathan delivers God’s message to David, it contains God’s judgment.  God, through Nathan, rehearses all of the blessings he had given to David.  God gave David everything he needed and more.  He said that, if that were not enough, He would have given him even more.  David’s sin involved ingratitude for all that God had given him.  David was not content.  He desired what God had forbidden. God’s justice rains down hard on David.  God said that the sword would never depart from David’s house.  He told David that He would raise  up adversity against him from his own house.  God would take his wives and give them to his neighbor before all Israel.  Finally, God told David that the child conceived with Bathsheba would die (II Sam. 12:14).
Face To Face With God’s Grace
David confessed his sin (II Sam. 12:13).  Honesty with self shatters pride.  He pleads for mercy, cleansing and grace (Psa. 51).  God answers his plea and pardons his sin (II Sam. 12:14).  God told David, “I have put away thy sin.  You will not die, but the child conceived between you and Bathsheba will die.”  All of the consequences of sin are not erased by God’s forgiveness.
Face to Face With God’s Glory
The Lord struck the child so that it became very ill (II Sam. 12:15).  David pleads for the child’s life.  He prays and fasts.  He lays prostrate on the ground all night.  On the seventh day, the child dies.  David arose, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes and went to the house of the LORD and worshiped.  This moment deserves a long pause for thought.  While many curse God or attack God and turn away from Him after facing similar dilemmas, David in a moment of deep humility and profound reverence, enters into God’s presence and worships.  He enters into the presence of God and contemplates His glory.  There are times in the human experience, when we must let God be God!  David’s loss is great.  His heart is heavy.  His humility before God stays any anger and he quietly draws near to God.  In this act of deep devotion, he reveals his utter dependence upon God (II Sam. 12:16-23).  Here is the man later described as “a man after God’s own heart.”
Before the child died, David hoped in God’s providential will.  He states, “Who can tell whether the child may live?”  David knew God’s revealed will.  But, he hopes in God’s provdential will.  Once the child dies, David knows that God’s revealed will and His providential will are one.  There was no going back.  He must go forward.  Yet, he continues to hope in God’s revealed will–the resurrection of the dead.  David says, “he will not come to me, but I will go to him.”  All is resolved by absolute trust in God.
David’s Journey and Ours
Every person must come face to face with the truth about himself/herself.  Every person must come face to face with God and know His judgment, His grace and His glory.  This is the pathway of redemption.  Everyone who desires to see God and be with Him in eternity must walk it.

Violence: Causes and Cure

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One of the notable characteristics of the world prior to the flood was violence (Gen. 6:11-13).  Here is a formula that may explain the violence of man at this time:  Godlessness leads to lawlessness which in turn leads to violence.  Violence abounds in any society where the fear of God is not present.
Violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation” (Wikipedia).  Globally, violence takes the lives of 1.5 million people.  50% of these deaths is due to suicide, 35% is due to homicide and 12% is due to war or some other form of conflict.  In addition to deaths, there are countless hospitalizations and doctor’s visits.
Violence does not have a single cause.  It has multiple causes.  Consider the following:
1.  Biological.  The National Academy of Sciences just reviewed hundreds of studies on the relationship between biology and violence, and it came to this conclusion, “No patterns precise enough to be considered reliable biological markers for violent behavior have yet been identified.”  Violence does not appear to be biological or genetic.
2.  Sociological.  The following statistics and information indicate correlations rather than direct cause/effect relationships.
a.  Those who commit violence on the street are disproportionately poor and unemployed.
b.  90% of those arrested for crimes are men.  There is no place in the world where men make up less than 80% of those who commit violent crimes.
c.  Violence is primarily the work of younger people.  People in their late teens or early twenties are much more likely to be arrested for violent crimes than those younger or older.
d.  The arrest rate for African Americans is 6 times higher than for white Americans.
e.  The overall crime rate is drastically underestimated, particularly domestic violence.
3.  Psychological.
a.  Major mental disorders account for 3% of violence in the U.S.
b.  We know that while many aggressive children go on to be law-abiding adults, aggression at age 8 significantly predicts violent convictions well into the thirties, in every culture in which it has been studied.
c.  We know that most children who have been physically abused by their parents go on to be perfectly normal adults.  Yet, physical abuse doubles the risk that a boy will have convictions for violent crime as an adult.
d.  We know that failure of a child in school is one of the most enduring correlates of later violence.  Four out of five violent offenders in prison never finished high school.
e.  We know that stability matters.  The more changes of placement a foster child experiences while growing up, the more likely that child will later be arrested for a violent crime.
f.  We know that lack of parental supervision has been consistently related to delinquency, including violent delinquency.  One study, for example, found that 10 percent of non-delinquents were poorly supervised by their parents, one-third of one and two-time delinquents were poorly surpervised, and over three-quarters of repeat offenders were poorly supervised.  Parental involvment in the lives of children makes a difference!
g.  Finally, we know much about the relationship between illegal drugs and violence.  But it is important to remember that the connection between one legal drug–alcohol–and violence is beyond dispute.  About one-third of all violent offenders are alcoholic, and the earlier an adolescent starts to drink, the more likely that teen will be violent as an adult.  (The above information was taken from an article by John Monahan, Ph.D. professor of Law at the University of Virginia, 2/19/10).
4.  Spiritual Factors.
a.  Anger/Malice.  Cain killed his brother Abel because he was angry (Gen. 4).  This is the first murder recorded in Scripture.  God attempted to intervene with Cain and showed him another pathway where he, too, could be accepted.  Cain rejected it and in anger killed his brother.
b.  Envy.  Cain may have been motivated by jealousy and envy as well (Gen. 4).  In Matt. 27:18, Pilate correctly understood that Jesus was delivered to be crucified due to the envy of the Jews.  Envy seeks to destroy its object.
c.  Pride.  Attitudes of superiority over another person or race can produce violence.  Racism is a common motivator for violence.
d.  Lust.  James 4:1-2, James mentions lusts  of the heart as a cause for war and conflict.  Covetousness would belong to this classification.
e.  Lack of empathy and love.  Violence results when the conscience is seared (past feeling).  When a human heart lacks emotional bonding to another human being there is a coldness that can manifest itself in violence.
f.  Violence begets violence.  Rom. 12:19.  Paul warns about revenge.  One act of violence may give place to another act of violence when revenge is sought.  Paul advises that we trust God to be the great avenger.
g.  Alcohol can play a role in violence.  Proverbs 23:29-35.  Under the infuence of alcohol some lose the normal restraint of the passions and violence follows.  Fights, murders and domestic violence have been increased due to the influence of alcoholic beverages.
h.  Selfishness or Convenience.  Abortion is an act of violence against the unborn.  Those who are innocent and defenseless are most vulnerable to the selfish motives of others.  To our shame, we have made this legal in America.
The causes named above are mostly sins of the heart.  We will never solve the problem of violence until the human heart is transformed by the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The Cure for Violence.
The cure for violence is to be found in redemption.  We must turn to God and seek His mercy and commit to walk in the image of His Son–Jesus Christ.  We must trust God.  We must repent of sin including the sins of the heart.  We must commit to follow Jesus in His teaching and His example.  We must slay sins of the heart like envy, jealousy, lusts, uncontrolled anger, wrath, and malice.  The whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccle. 12:13).  We must be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  This will give us a new beginning in Christ.   We must return to the values that Jesus taught.  These include  the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matt. 7:12).  This is the law of love.  We must develop self-control as a Christian grace or virtue (II Pet. 1:5-11).  We must restore the responsibilities of parents in the home.  Parents need to be present and on the job.  They must love their children and invest their time, attention, and affection in them.  We must relinquish revenge to God.  Trust God’s justice even as Jesus did (I Pet. 2:21-25).
We will never solve the problem of violence until we change our hearts and comply with God’s Will for our lives!  We can do this.  We must do it one person at a time.  It begins with you and me.