A Lovely Story But Wrong Conclusions

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Here is a lovely story that has circulated on Facebook for a while. Unfortunately it ends with a few questionable conclusions.

“Good morning!” said a woman as she walked up to the man sitting on the ground.

The man slowly looked up.

This was a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new. She looked like she had never missed a meal in her life.

His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before. “Leave me alone!” he growled. To his amazement, the woman continued to stand there, smiling — her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows. “Are you hungry?” she asked.

“No,” he answered sarcastically. “I’ve just come from dining with the president. Now go away.”

The woman’s smile became even broader. Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm. “What are you doing, lady?” he asked angrily. “I said to leave me alone.”

Just then a policeman came up. “Is there any problem, ma’am?” he asked..
“No problem here, officer,” the woman answered. “I’m just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?” The officer scratched his head. “That’s old Jack. He’s been a fixture around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?” “See that cafeteria over there?” she asked. “I’m going to get him something to eat and get him out of the cold for awhile.”

“Are you crazy, lady?” the homeless man resisted. “I don’t want to go in there!” Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up. “Let me go, officer. I didn’t do anything.” “This is a good deal for you, Jack,” the officer answered. “Don’t blow it.”

Finally, and with some difficulty, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria and sat him at a table in a remote corner. It was the middle of the morning, so most of the breakfast crowd had already left and the lunch bunch had not yet arrived. The manager strode across the cafeteria and stood by the table. “What’s going on here, officer?” he asked. “What is all this, is this man in trouble?”

“This lady brought this man in here to be fed,” the policeman answered.
“Not in here!” the manager replied angrily. “Having a person like that here is bad for business.”

Old Jack smiled a toothless grin. “See, lady. I told you so. Now please let me go. I didn’t want to come here in the first place.”

The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled. “Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?” “Of course I am,” the manager answered impatiently. “They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms.” “And do you make a good amount of money providing food at these weekly meetings?” “What business is that of yours?”

“I, sir, am Penelope Eddy, president and CEO of that company.” “Oh.” The woman smiled again. “I thought that might make a difference.” She glanced at the cop who was busy stifling a giggle. “Would you like to join us in a cup of coffee and a meal, officer?” “No thanks, ma’am,” the officer replied. “I’m on duty.” “Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee to go?” “Yes, ma’am. That would be very nice.”

The cafeteria manager turned on his heel, “I’ll get your coffee for you right away, officer.” The officer watched him walk away. “You certainly put him in his place” he said. “That was not my intent. Believe it or not, I have a reason for all this.”

She sat down at the table across from her amazed dinner guest. She stared at him intently. “Jack, do you remember me?”

Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes. “I think so — I mean you do look familiar.” “I’m a little older perhaps,” she said. “Maybe I’ve even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry.”

“Ma’am?” the officer said questioningly. He couldn’t believe that such a magnificently turned out woman could ever have been hungry.

“I was just out of college,” the woman began. “I had come to the city looking for a job, but I couldn’t find anything. Finally I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for days. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat.”

Jack lit up with a smile. “Now I remember,” he said. “I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy.”

“I know,” the woman continued. “Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over and saw you put the price of my food in the cash register, I knew then that everything would be all right.”

“So you started your own business?” Old Jack said.

“I got a job that very afternoon. I worked my way up. Eventually I started my own business that, with the help of God, prospered.” She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. “When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He’s the personnel director of my company. I’ll go talk to him now and I’m certain he’ll find something for you to do around the office.” She smiled. “I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always open to you.”

There were tears in the old man’s eyes. “How can I ever thank you?” he said.

“Don’t thank me,” the woman answered. “To God goes the glory. Thank Jesus, He led me to you.”

Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the woman paused at the entrance before going their separate ways.

“Thank you for all your help, officer,” she said.
“On the contrary, Ms. Eddy,” he answered. “Thank you. I saw a miracle today, something that I will never forget. And thank you for the coffee.”

God is going to shift things around for you today and let things work in your favor. If you believe, send it. If you don’t believe, delete it.
God closes doors no man can open & God opens doors no man can close. If you need God to open some doors for you, send this on.

So much for the story. I am sure these sorts of things happen when people are motivated by gratitude and the love of Jesus. One even hears of non-Christians doing kind things like this, out of gratitude or simple human compassion.

But the conclusion, “God is going to shift things around for you today and let things work in your favor,” is very questionable, and it can lead to disappointment when people do acts of kindness, and as is very likely and is borne out by lots of experience, things do not start to work in their favor, if things do not turn around for them today.

As followers of Jesus we are called to act with compassion and kindness without expecting anything in return. We are called to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, not so that they will do likewise to us.

History is full of accounts of saintly people, well known for their kindness to those around them, only to end up in prison or die a horrible death, Jesus himself being a prime example of this.

Yes, we are promised a reward, but it may not be, most likely will not be, today or even in this life. Rather, we follow Christ and live out His commandment to love our neighbors in gratitude for His salvation, and in the hope that one day — probably not today — He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And forwarding stories like this one on social media is not a magic “Open, Sesane!“ charm which will make God open doors for us. This sounds way too much like the chain letters of my childhood in the 1960s.

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Ratschläge zum Beten

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Chad Bird[1] gibt folgende Ratschläge zum Beten:

Viele von uns sind wahrscheinlich mit dem Ausdruck „Herr, lehre uns beten...“ aus Lukas 11 vertraut. Was uns möglicherweise weniger bekannt ist, ist der Rest des Satzes: „…wie Johannes seine Jüngern gelehrt hat.“

Wie Johannes seine Jüngern gelehrt hat. Welche Auswirkungen hat das? Sowohl Johannes als auch Jesus hatten Jünger, die von sich aus nicht wussten, wie man betet. Oder vielleicht wollten sie ihr Verständnis und/oder ihre Praxis des Gebets vertiefen. Oder sie suchten nach konkreter Anleitung. Oder sie wollten die genauen Worte wissen, die man sagen sollte.

So oder so, Beten war nichts, was ihnen natürlich kam, wie Essen, Trinken und Schlafen.

Gebet, wie jede Sprache, will erlernt werden.

Jesus gab seinen Jüngern das Vater Unser. Dieses Gebet fasst im Grunde das gesamte Buch der Psalmen in sieben “Bitten” oder Anliegen zusammen. Betet die Psalmen und ihr werdet ständig Echos des Vater Unsers vernehmen.

Hier sind ein paar weitere Ideen, wie man mit unserem Herrn sprechen kann:

1. Wiederhole mehrmals am Tag ein kurzes Gebet und konzentriere dich jedes Mal auf ein anderes Wort. Mein Favorit ist „Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich meiner, eines Sünders“ (das sogenannte Jesusgebet). Manchmal nenne ich auch einfach die Namen von Menschen, an die ich denke, und sage: „Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich über ________.“

2. Beim Vater Unser kannst du entweder das gesamte Gebet beten oder eine oder mehrere Bitten auswählen und sie ausführlicher behandeln. Zum Beispiel: „Unser Vater im Himmel, danke, dass du mich zu deinem Sohn/deiner Tochter gemacht hast, dass du mein Vater bist, dass du mich in deine Familie aufgenommen und mir deinen Namen gegeben hast, usw.“

3. Mein bester Vorschlag ist, die Psalmen der Reihe nach zu beten. Der Vorteil, alle Psalmen immer wieder zu beten, anstatt nur diejenigen auszuwählen, die man gerne beten möchte, besteht darin, dass der volle Umfang der Psalmen deine Gebete formt. Auf gewisse Weise beten sie dich, anstatt dass du sie betest. Diese Worte von Gott werden zu deinen Worten zu Gott.

4. Eine weitere Möglichkeit besteht darin, andere Worte der Schrift in Gebete umzuwandeln. Es ist sehr einfach. Zum Beispiel: „Im Anfang hast du, o Gott, Himmel und Erde erschaffen. Lob sei dir für das Geschenk dieser Welt, meines Körpers und meiner Seele, meiner Familie, meines Geschäfts, denn sie alle sind ein Geschenk von dir.“ Oder: „Jesus, du hast uns, die wir müde und beladen sind, aufgefordert, zu dir zu kommen. Gib mir Ruhe. Lege dein leichtes Joch auf mich. Hilf mir, von dir zu lernen.“

Mir gefällt auch das, was von Makarios, einem ägyptischen Priester und Mönch des 4. Jahrhunderts, überliefert ist: Abba Makarios wurde gefragt: „Wie sollte man beten?“ Der alte Mann antwortete: „Es ist überhaupt nicht nötig, lange Reden zu halten; es genügt, die Hände auszustrecken und zu sagen: ‚Herr, wie du willst und wie du es weißt, habe Erbarmen.‘ Und wenn der Kampf heftiger wird, sag: ‚Herr, hilf!‘ Er weiß sehr gut, was wir brauchen, und er zeigt uns seine Barmherzigkeit.“

Noch eine Anmerkung von Wolf zu den Psalmen:

Viele davon kann ich nicht beten, so wie wir „Beten“ verstehen. Aber ich kann durch die Psalmen lesen, und wo sie in meine Situation hineinsprechen, werden sie zu meinen Gebeten; auf jeden Fall aber sind sie Gottes Wort und formen meine Gedanken.

Das englische Original dieses Beitrags ist am 25. Juni 2023 auf Chad Birds Facebook-Timeline erschienen. Computer-gestützte Übersetzung von Wolf Paul.

  1. Chad Bird ist lutherischer Pastor, Theologe und Professor für Altes Testament und Hebräisch. Er hat für viele christliche Zeitschriften geschrieben und mehrere Bücher verfaßt.[]
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A Cancer in the Body of Christt

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The Roys Report writes about the arrest and charges against several present and former leaders of a Christian fraternity at several universities in Texas, for “continuous sexual abuse of a child.”

Some people call her a muckraker who craps into her own nest, but I believe that the investigative journalism of Julie Roys and her collaborators, as well as of others in the Catholic and Anglican context, is extremely important for the health of the church of Jesus Christ.

Situations like the ones described in this article are not harmful to the victims alone but are like cancerous growths in the Body of Christ: ignored and untreated they damage the health of the whole body.

A few years ago some Evangelicals looked almost gleefully at the Catholic Church when more and more cases of abuse and cover-up by clergy, all the way up to prominent Cardinals, came to light; but there have always been problematic free church groups like the extreme wing of the Exclusive Brethren[1]. A few years ago massive historic abuse situations were revealed in Protestant and Anglican schools in Germany, Canada, and Australia, and a year ago a series of investigative reports by some Texas newspapers uncovered not only a massive clergy abuse problem in churches of the Southern Baptist Convention but also an abject failure on the part of the denominational leadership to deal adequately and appropriately with this problem, all under the cover of “local church autonomy.”[2]

Today we know, not least through the work of Mrs. Roys and the Roys Report, that these cancerous growths flourish in all church traditions, including Pentecostal churches, the predominantly Charismatic independent churches, and even in the most prominent megachurches.[3] For much too long and much too often leaders in all traditions and denominations have looked the other way, have sometimes shown more empathy with the perpetrators than with the victims, and have worried more about the reputation of their respective institutions than about the well-being and safety of the flock entrusted to them.

I cannot tell to what extent this problem also exists in free churches in Germany and Austria; but statistics tell us that churches with a very conservative theology were men rule their families and pastors rule their churches, and dissent and criticism are discouraged, are particularly vulnerable and prone to both domestic abuse and violence as well as clergy abuse. And we do have such churches on the fringe of the Evangelical movement in the German-speaking countries. But even if everything were in order in our own circles and churches we cannot disclaim all responsibility: the church is, despite its sadly divided state and despite its geographic spread, one body, and “if one member suffers, all suffer together[4]), the whole Body suffers.

So it is high time for us to no longer look the other way but to intercede for these situations and for the victims, and where necessary, have the courage to speak up.

  1. particularly the Raven-Hale group in England, North America, and Australia[]
  2. Fortunately Southern Baptists have now begun, not without some internal opposition, to acknowledge the problem and to take measures to deal with it and prevent it in the future.[]
  3. I am not commenting here on the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Uniate) because I have no information. But I don’t suppose that they are entirely free of this problem.[]
  4. 1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV[]
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How can a Christian avoid compromising his faith?

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I answered this question on Quora:

How can a Christian avoid compromising their faith?

  • By being actively involved in a Christian church and reading a lot in the Bible, possibly with the help of a catechism, commentaries, or similar, in order to know what his faith is all about.
  • By being willing to be ridiculed, attacked, or persecuted by non-believers, and to bear material disadvantages patiently, when he does not participate in certain activities or does other things that are met with incomprehension. Of course he will only achieve this to a limited extent, and only with a lot of prayer—but that’s why he doesn’t rely on his own strength and virtue but on the help, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of our God.
  • At the same time it is important not to be too quick to label every bit of opposition as “persecution”. While I believe that our society is moving in a direction where we will eventually have to reckon with persecution, what we experience is still a far cry from what Christians in countries like China, North Korea, Cuba, and many Islamic countries have to live (and die) with.
  • He also needs to keep in mind what a favorite pastor of mine[1] recently said: There’s a difference between being present in political spaces as the presence of Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior, and being present in political spaces as “Christians,” trusting in politics to solve all the problems we face or to turn our nation into a “Christian country”.

These are just some of the things which can help a Christian live his faith without compromise; there surely are others I have not thought of.

(Of course, these points also apply to women and girls, even though in this post I use the masculine forms for simplicity and style.)

I borrowed the meme at the top of this post from quotefancy.com. The quote from Anne van der Bijl, God’s Smuggler and the founder of Open Doors is of course based on Peter’s answer to his accusers, in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  1. Kenneth Tanner[]
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Remembering a Great Servant of God

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Shortly after my conversion, in 1972 I spent six months working in a Christian book warehouse in the U.K, with Christians from many different nations and church backgrounds, and I was introduced to books like Run, Nicky, Run and The Cross and the Switchblade.

When I came back to Austria, I began to attend a conservative Evangelical church planted and pastored by a saintly Mennonite Brethren missionary from Canada. However, I also regularly visited a coffee bar at a local Pentecostal church, patterned and named Teen Challenge after the ministry from The Cross and the Switchblade. This was a time when Evangelicals in the German-speaking countries were very suspicious of Pentecostals and Charismatics, and very shortly after my pastor went on furlough to Canada the Austrian leaders he had left in charge of the church remonstrated with me for my involvement with the Pentecostals and basically told me stop going there. Having come to appreciate cross-denominational fellowship during my time in the UK I refused to do as I was told and instead looked for a different church home.

I found it in another Evangelical church planted by an equally saintly American missionary who, after I had explained my situation, welcomed me—without trying to curtail my contacts with the Pentecostals. However, as was common practice, after a couple of years he too went on furlough, leaving others in charge of the church. And to my dismay the situation repeated itself and these leaders basically told me to break off my contacts with the Pentecostals. Dismayed, I took my leave from that church also.

Now, while I appreciated the brothers and sisters at the Pentecostal coffee bar, I was not a Pentecostal myself, so I needed to find another Evangelical church. I had heard of an American opera singer who had what was probably Vienna’s first charismatic prayer meeting in his home, and who attended an English-speaking Baptist church in Vienna. Figuring that a church which tolerated a Charismatic as a member would hardly have a problem with my Pentecostal contacts I went and sought out the pastor of that church. I explained my predicament and was welcomed.

I spent the next ten years at that church, with the exception of two years of Bible School in France. I began to work full-time for a literature ministry in Eastern Europe and got married. Throughout this time I benefitted greatly from the pastor’s preaching and from a multi-year, very detailed study of the Gospel of John led by his wife.

In 1984 the ministry I was working with moved my wife and me to Texas, thus ending my very profitable time in that church and under this pastor.

The pastor, Randy Mathews, and his wife Alice eventually moved back to the US and for a long time I was out of touch with them; then Facebook came along and allowed me to reconnect with a lot of old friends, including Randy and Alice.

I don’t know where I would be today if, after my disappointing experiences with two churches, Randy had not welcomed me to his church.

Today found out that a few days aho Randy went home to his Lord and mine, at the ripe old age of 97. Unlike his wife and daughters I cannot really say that I will miss him—too sporadic has been our contact in recent years—but I will remember him with gratitude, gratitude both to him and to God for him.

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Teach Us to Number Our Days

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A Guest Post by Chad Bird

Father, teach us to number our days, as we joyfully reflect upon the fact that, because of Jesus, you are not numbering, not counting, our trespasses against us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19).

The Lord is not a celestial accountant, who keeps an exact tally on our sins, hourly and daily adding them up and sending us the bill to show us how indebted we are to him. What a joyless monster of a deity that would be.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to live completely and perfectly covered by divine love, even as, in ourselves, we incompletely and imperfectly follow him. We limp. We stumble. We fall. And we confess, repent, and pray.

As we do, the Lord’s hand is never withdrawn from our own, nor is his heart ever, even for a moment, turned from us. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:13-14). Dust, to be sure, but dust that is as precious to him as gold.

Lord, teach us to number our days, as days lived solely by your mercy, at the foot of the cross and empty tomb, overshadowed by your love.

Such a life will probably not end, as Jacob’s did, with a spectacular funeral and international march to the cemetery. It will most likely conclude not with a bang but a simple last breath. One more exhalation of the air that we have long breathed in his world. A humble funeral. A final goodbye (for now) from our grieving family and friends. But inside us will be that “heart of wisdom,” of which Moses spoke (Ps. 90:12). A heart formed by the very hands that fashioned the world, that were fastened to the cross, and that filled us with the Holy Spirit that we might follow him.

Lord, create in us such a heart of wisdom, that running or walking or limping or crawling or lying on our deathbed, we might, along with Jacob, be your disciples, chosen, beloved, and precious in your sight. Amen.

This  excerpt from Limping with God: Jacob and the Old Testament Guide to Messy Discipleship” by Chad Bird is Copyright © 2023 by Chad Bird and posted by permission.

Chad Bird is a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor for Old Testament and Hebrew. He has written for numerous Christian publications and authored several books.“Limpimg With God” is his most recent book.
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