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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Expand (07/18/13)

TITLE: How Wide is God's Grace
By Noel Mitaxa


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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This article has been read 498 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen07/26/13
That absolutely took a direction I did not expect at the end — and I love the direction it took! How true that God uses many different voices and methods of delivery to reach people! What may not touch one, is just right for another! Funny, how Jeff spent the whole time thinking the speaker to be narrow minded, when in reality, it was him! But, I am glad Jeff was able to swallow his pride and expand his outlook — in the real world, many never will. I really enjoyed this, it was so well written and with a very powerful message!
Dannie Hawley 07/27/13
Wonderful article, full of truth! This is exactly what we need to realize as we continue to witness to, and pray for, our unsaved friends and family. it's the holy Spirit Who draws all men unto Him, not the cleverness of our own words. When it's time; it's time. I love it!
lynn gipson 07/27/13
Beautifully written with a strong message. Thanks for the reminder. Jeff needed to be at that meeting as much as Steve! I smiled at the ending. Excellent.
Judith Gayle Smith07/28/13
One of those great "aha!" moments! Enjoyed this very much.

Praise YHWH! Hebrews 10:26-31, Revelation 12:17
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/28/13
This is a great story and a powerful message. I delighted in your sense of humor. Though the ending was a tad predictable (for me the title gave it away) I still could feel the suspense build. I think you did a wonderful job of making your MC feel so real. The message is a great one too. It can be easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut, but God will tug and pull to try and help us out of that self-imposed ditch.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/28/13
I try not to read other comments so to not influence my opinion, and obviously the ending wasn't predictable to everyone. That shows how the Holy Spirit is using your words to bless people in different ways!
Bea Edwards 07/30/13
Great message in this engaging story. Reminds me of a story I heard of someone aghast that his neighbors first visit to church was to sit through a sermon from the book of Numbers. As he later bemoaned the fact to his neighbor he was informed that this fellow was so impressed that God had carefully numbered everything that he was going to begin to read the Bible.
God uses the weakness of our assumptions in the most wonderful Divine ways!
Bea Edwards 07/30/13
PS 'sepulchral tones'
lynn gipson 08/01/13
Congratulations on your well deserved HC! I loved this story. Blessings.
Dannie Hawley 08/01/13
Congrats on both an H.C. and the coveted E.C.! Well-deserved!
C D Swanson 08/01/13
Congrats Noel! God bless~
Colin Swann08/01/13
Congrats on your EC placing.
Linda Goergen08/01/13
CONGRATULATIONS NOEL on your well deserved EC placing!!
Leola Ogle 08/01/13
Congratulations, Noel, for placing with your entry. Good job -- God bless!
Yvonne Blake 08/01/13
Yay, Noel! Good job on stepping on toes. *smile* (Sometimes we need to be reminded that God can work in ways we never even thought of.)
Bea Edwards 08/01/13
Yay Noel!
Danielle King 08/01/13
I'm late and it's all been said so I'll just add my congratulations. I never got to do my cock-a-doodle doo did I!
Genia Gilbert08/01/13
Wonderful message here! Congratulations on your Number 7 spot overall and HC in Level 4. Well Deserved. God bless!
Beth LaBuff 08/14/13
There is much to think about here! Congratulations on your EC for this excellent and engaging story!