Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Among Rocks and Thorns" by Susan Estes











I never pass the opportunity to tell others about Jesus Christ, but riding into that valley, I was headed for a tough time of it. Other circuit preachers said they’d never come here. I accepted the challenge and headed in with my Bible guns loaded.

Standing in the pulpit, eighteen people stared back at me from the pews; some curious while most looked indifferent. Most ranch communities’ congregations were women and children. Surprisingly, the majority here was men and I noted they didn’t check their guns at the door. I prayed silently, “Lord, You know what’s what. Help me to be effective in doing what’s needed here. Be glorified, Father. Amen.”

I opened the proceedings by asking, “How holy are you?”

Chins rose slightly and eyes narrowed.

“How’s your Bible reading? What fruit to repentance have you produced? What in this world are you doing for the glory of God? You’re to be salt and light, so where is your taste or your brightness? Have you asked for forgiveness today?”

One of the wealthy businessmen in the back row stood up and loudly demanded, “Who gave you the right to judge us?”

“Brother, I’m just asking simple questions. If you don’t like your own answer, that’s your lookout.”

His face darkened. “Leave off your manner of speaking. We’re here for a sermon, so quit the questions, and preach!”

I said, “Open to first Timothy chapter six, verses nine through twelve.” A few opened Bibles, but most just sat with arms crossed, waiting. I began reading, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.’”

Looking at them, I said, “I’m takin’ the chance and assumin’ you all know Jesus as your Savior.” I wasn’t all positive to that right then, but I had their undivided attention. “That said, is your Christianity a good witness or a bad example? Do you live with God every day or just on Sunday? Like the publican who prayed with himself, are you too pious to admit you’re a sinner? Are your actions spreading the gospel or hindering the unsaved from salvation? If a stranger came to this church, would they come to know Jesus because of you, or would they leave not wanting Him. Will you be responsible for someone being in Hell-fire for all eternity because you didn’t tell them how to be saved?”

Of the eighteen, maybe five looked guilty while most were downright red-faced angry. I had them squirming.

“Paul commands us to imitate Christ. Have you even read what Paul says about Jesus? Without knowledge, how can you know what to do? It’s impossible to live the Christian life apart from the love of Christ. Chapter thirteen of Corinthians says that outwardly working all manner of signs and wonders can get you attention, yet if love isn’t there first, it all counts as nothing. Christ loves everyone. Can you say the same?”

A long, lanky cattleman stood up, drew his gun, and pulled the trigger. I felt the whiff as the bullet went by my face. Diving for the window, I crashed through the glass. Not knowing if he’d missed on purpose, I wasn’t going to give him another chance to correct his aim. The black horse was standing at the rail and I hit the saddle on the fly. He didn’t need any urging to show his heels.

Beyond the town limits, I slowed and looked back at the black smudge on the horizon. I didn’t feel victorious, but I thanked God for the opportunity. “And Lord Jesus, I don’t know what good I did back there. Sometimes the word falls among rocks and thorns, but if any heard it and were moved, may they manifest You through the fruit of the Spirit in love and good works.”

I tightened my hat on my head and settled the black horse into a mile-eating trot. I wanted to be in Wichita in two days. I had a long ride.


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