Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Expand (07/18/13)
TITLE: How Wide is God's Grace
By Noel Mitaxa
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This guy is so narrow he could probably look through a keyhole with both eyes – at the same time! Jeff thought, as the guest speaker droned on.
Pulling a pen from his pocket, he reached for a paper napkin. Maybe it would look like he was taking notes…
Jeff listed the other men he’d invited in good faith to this breakfast, and all their excuses. He was relieved that only Steve had accepted, but after this morning even Steve’s awakening spiritual hunger would require piles of repair work. How much worse could it have been if the others had also been subjected to all this negativity?
Gratitude switched to disappointment that he and Steve could not right now be enjoying a round of golf, or helping out on a home project with them. Yes, he could be building on their responses…
But no. This was a waste of time. The meal had been basic at best. “We’ve invited them here to feed their spirits,” the pastor had explained to him in sepulchral tones, “for the bible says in Philippians 3:3 ‘to put no confidence in the flesh!’ We don’t want to sink to the world’s assessments.”
But how insulting to serve up tepid toast; made soggy by scant layers of baked beans or spaghetti, or a tired, greasy sausage and eggs - crowned with lukewarm coffee? Couldn’t they stretch their thinking to respect what would make non-church guys feel welcome? Had they been relying on the fire in the impending message to warm things up???
He almost burst out laughing as damning indictments continued to flow from the podium, for he suddenly recalled a sales training one-liner: “Samson once killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. And as many sales are killed every day in the same way!”
As many sales—and souls—lost the same way, he mused. He could tell that the speaker was sincere, and he was heavily biblical. But this guy was hammering his collection of targets whose body language showed Jeff that they were turning off in droves. If only his preparation had expanded to include something that actually related to any unchurched men who were unlucky enough to be there...
Mercifully, he finished. Jeff stood up as soon as the three-point benediction prayer concluded, ready to sprint into the fresh air of the parking lot and escape this disaster.
Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he turned. To find himself face to face with the pastor, who seemed ordained to display spirituality in a constantly-serious guise. A faint smile ventured towards his mouth as he inquired rhetorically, “Wasn’t that the most challenging message you’ve ever heard? I’m sure that God is working in all these unsaved men’s hearts.”
Jeff had to let the poor guy down as gently as he could, without getting locked into any post mortems. He shook the man’s hand, “Pastor, out of all the messages I’ve ever heard,” he said with a smile, “that one would have to be the most… recent!”
He quickly released his grip and motioned to Steve, eager to complete their escape.
At the church doors, he felt another hand pulling on his shoulder. He turned.
“Hey Jeff, why are we leaving so soon?” It was Steve, looking puzzled.
“Why not? I thought you’d be happy to get out of here.”
“No, that guy’s got me thinking. You’ve always made sense to me Jeff, but I’ve never thought about heaven and hell like he described it. I’d like to ask him a few questions—if that’s okay with you.”
Jeff gulped in surprise as he watched Steve walk back in through the foyer.
A gentle voice stirred in his heart, “Jeff, I trust you with Steve and all your friends. Your flexibility gives them room and time to respond to me. But this speaker says what doesn’t come easily to you. Keep expanding your appreciation, for if you keep judging others, you will also be judged—by the same measure.”
Jeff gulped again, swallowing large helpings of pride.
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