Monday, July 7, 2014

While it is Called Today

Hebrews 3:13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
         "Pastor, may I speak to you for a moment?"
         It was after third service, and frankly, I was tired.
         To be honest, I was already thinking about going home, and resting; in a few short hours, I would be returning for the evening service, and looked forward to a brief rest in the afternoon. But there was something about the way he asked me, and though I had never seen him before, I felt I should give him the few moments he was asking for.
         After finding a quiet place to share, he began by giving a brief testimony.
         He told me that he had visited our fellowship over a year earlier. He had appreciated the music, enjoyed the warmth of the fellowship, and had been left with an overall first impression that was positive. 
         The only problem he had had that day was, he did not like me
         "When you came out and taught, I frankly thought you were arrogant and opinionated. I disliked you immediately", he said. "I left the services that day convinced that I would never return to this church"!  
         As he shared this with me, I could not help but wonder how it was that he had returned. If he was so negatively impacted by me, and what I had to say, how is it that he had come back to the church?
         Immediately, my silent question was answered.
         He said, "Three months ago, I was driving by this church. I did not know that during the intervening year, you moved. It was Easter Sunday, and I was looking for a place to go to church. I noticed a long line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot, and thought that if so many people were coming to this church, I should give it a try. Because it was so crowded just getting in, I decided to leave, go to another church, but was determined to return the next week."
         He went on to say, "Once again, I enjoyed the music, and was attracted by the people. You can't
Imagine my surprise when you came out to speak! I was so upset, but I decided I really should listen to what you had to say. At the end of the service, I heard the invitation, and gave my heart to Jesus".
         I was blessed to hear that he had given his heart to the Lord, but he was not finished.
         "This is what I want to share with you, Pastor", he said.
         "A few weeks ago, an old girlfriend called me, and told me to have myself tested for HIV/AIDS. I went, and was tested, and have turned up positive". "What am I going to do?"
         My heart went out to him, and we prayed, and I encouraged him to hold on to the Lord, and to trust and serve Him for as long as God gave him strength.
         I could not help but think that, in the year between his first reaction to the message of the gospel, and the day that he finally surrendered to Jesus, he had continued a lifestyle that ended up infecting him with a disease that ultimately ended his life. Why did he find it necessary to wait? Why did he not give his heart to Christ, that day instead of waiting a year before yielding to Him? 
         From that time until he died from AIDS, my friend served the Lord with a complete heart, taking missions trips and serving here at our church. Ultimately, I had the sad task of performing his funeral service. I still think of him, and still grieve over his death.
            Today, you will have many opportunities to make decisions, to follow Jesus, or to disregard His word. It is my hope and prayer that today, you will hear His voice; that today, you will dedicate you life to serving Him. I pray that today, you will resist the deceitfulness of sin. Please, do not harden your heart; follow Him, obey Him, but most of all, love Him. As Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments".  

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