The Log and the Splinter

When I see on the news or hear people within my circle lamenting incidents of Islamaphobia, I have to scratch my head. There is a principle that Jesus taught, and it does well to keep society balanced. The principle is, “First remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye.” You can see the humor in the statement. Someone running around with a huge log stuck in their head knit-picking about someone else with a tiny splinter in their face has a problem with denial and reality.

I am aware that many Middle Eastern people are not Muslim. Large populations of Arabic peoples are of varied religions or no religion at all. Some are Christian, of varying sects; some are Hindu, Buddhist, or follow regional and tribal religions; some are secularists, espousing no religion; but most are Muslim of varying degrees. Some Muslims are in name only; others are radical fanatics, and so on. It is the same in Christianity. Some sects are Christian in name only. Some are obviously fanatical, such as the KKK, for example, who espouse some elements of Christianity while in truth practicing a rather warped, garbled, and ungodly doctrine, cloaked, ostensibly, in Christianity.

For the most part, the era of the KKK reigning terror on society is gone. Many good and authentic Christian people helped bring about an end to that era. Simply not participating in the actions of the KKK was not enough. True Christianity demanded that we as a people stand against it and help bring it to an end. The same was true of Hitler’s regime. He claimed to be operating out of some form of Christianity; however, regardless of what he claimed, he obviously did not follow the teachings of Christ. Many true Christian young men died on the battlefields to help bring an end to Hitler’s reign of terror.

Now, the terrorism that we face is the radical elements of Islam. So when episodes of terrorism occur in which certain elements of Islam are on display in all of their murderous, horrendous gory, and certain elements of that culture are lamented as being biased against, I have to swallow pretty hard.

In a culture where deception, lying, and propaganda are used as means of presenting a front to the public in the hopes of gaining converts (the truth of that culture and religion would make people run); in a culture where “honor killings” are permitted and endorsed; in a culture where beheadings, mutilations and terror are condoned, used as weapons of war, and are often considered as ‘bonus packages’ in recruiting warriors; in a culture where  unnamed horrors are inflicted upon captives, enemies, and non-combatants, ummm….let’s see….where terror and mayhem get you into “heaven”, hhmmm…Can someone steeped in this culture have a legitimate gripe? I don’t think so. Their complaining of not being liked and accepted is tantamount to someone who kidnaps and dismembers children and then complains about the neighbor who spanks his/her child.

That’s not so say that we as a country do not have areas that need improvement. We certainly do have a few splinters in our face; but Islamaphobia is not one of them.

This brings me to the word “religion”. What is religion? It is a construct made by human minds that has taken bits and pieces of the Truth (the Great I AM, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and the One True God) and built an ideology that appeases the particular culture where that construct has been built. In other words, the Great God Jehovah, who came in the Person of Jesus Christ, is beyond human ability to understand. However, He has revealed Himself to us in various ways, including through His Holy Spirit, the Bible, and through the lives, writings, and words of those who are faithful to Him (the word of their testimony).

Because He is so big, and beyond human comprehension, humans often create what we think we know of Him and construct a framework that says, “Okay, this is the God we serve. He wants us to do this and this, etc. and to act in certain ways.” This framework is what we call religion, and those who agree with that framework follow the same religion. Unfortunately, throughout history, religious zeal and fanaticism has often forced a particular framework of religion (ideology) onto others, using the sword, shame, imprisonment, ostracization, etc. In effect, in trying to please God by following what they think they know of Him, zealots and fanatics go around terrorizing those who don’t follow Him correctly, in their opinion, and end up doing the opposite of what He is…killing, maiming, terrorizing in His name…to force people to follow a benevolent and merciful God…hmmm. I see a problem with this.

Any religion that through “honor killings”, “blood atonement”, or any such practice that purges their society of people who challenge the tenants of that religion cannot be a religion based upon the One True God. An honor killing is the legal or condoned murder of a woman in Islam because the woman shamed or dishonored the family or a member of the family by violating a precept of the family’s religious practices. Honor killings are usually carried out by the woman’s husband, father, brothers, sons, and other male relatives. Honor killings are typically justified because the woman has refused to enter an arranged marriage, she has been accused of being in a relationship that is not condoned or approved of by the family, she is accused of having sex outside of marriage, she has been a victim of rape, she has been accused of dressing inappropriately, or she has renounced her family’s faith (i.e. become a Christian, etc.). Some victims of honor killings are male, but this is a rare occurrence. In most cases, a male who has violated a precept of the religious community is ostracized or perhaps imprisoned, or his wife and children are taken from him and given to someone else who is a faithful follower of the religion.

In early Mormonism, “blood atonement” was a similar practice. It teaches that the blood of Jesus is not enough to remove someone’s guilt, and so that person who has violated a precept of the religious law must be killed, and his/her blood shed in a manner similar to a lamb being slaughtered. Most of the time, these killings were done in a “sacrificial” manner, such as the person being held down, and his/her throat slit. Often, the victims were women who refused to practice “plural marriage” (polygamy) or were men who refused to participate in various tenants of the religion. In modern days, blood atonement killings are rarely carried out and typically occur only in certain sects of fundamental (radical) Mormonism. I personally know a family who was a victim of such. But, in this case, the family members were shot and killed, not having their throats cut. They were guilty of leaving the religion and were required to “pay for their sin.” They had actually not committed any kind of a crime that would require that they receive the death penalty. In Christianity, the reason someone would receive a sentence of death is just the opposite. The “death penalty” is practiced only when the guilty party has committed an actual crime against someone. Usually the death penalty is reserved only for murder. In Christianity, the perpetrators of honor killings and blood atonement killings would be the ones to receive the death penalty—not the victims of such plots.

Culture(s) in which ungodly religious constructs are nurtured can become more and more horrific and off-based, resulting in outright barbarism. The precepts of God are constant, but the human application of such precepts can become horribly bent. In such cases, true Christianity steps in and says, “Hold on. You are no longer allowed to force people to do such and such, neither are you allowed to punish people for not doing such and such.” An example for us in this country could be the issue of homosexuality. For those who espouse it, they are not allowed to force others to participate in it; neither are they allowed to persecute those who choose to abstain from such practices. We, as a culture, are not forced to do it, neither are we punished for not doing it. In cultures whose religious constructs have gone so far, those who do not participate in a certain behavior are punished.

As horrific and off-base as some of these religious systems can get, not all of the precepts of those religions are false. This is a fact that often perplexes people. Why are some tenets of various “other religions” similar to tenets of Christianity? The answer is simple: Because there is only One True God who made heaven and earth, you will find elements of His truth in all religions, and among all peoples in all regions of the earth. Elements of His Truth are even found in humanist and communist teachings (belief systems that espouse varying degrees of atheism). Why is that? Remember that religion is a human construct of what humans think they know about the One True God, but the construct is faulty because of two factors: human ambition and doctrines of demons.

Human factors run the gamut from accidental oversight to gross corruption with obvious and knowing violations of the Truth. Additionally, demonic influence can take the Truths of God and pervert them so shamefully as to accomplish the exact opposite of what God actually intended, thus creating major diversions from the Truth and still cloaking these diversions in religion. One of early Christianity’s main influences, the Apostle Paul, warned followers of Christ about doctrines of demons and the garbled mess they can make of truth (I Timothy 4), blinding people and seducing them to follow the untruths of “religious construct”, rather than the Truth of the Living God, the One and Only Creator God Who came in the Person of Jesus Christ. Only one religion is founded on the Rock—all other religions of the world have bits and pieces of gravel in it (pieces of the rock, but not the whole rock). A solid rock is vastly different than a bed of gravel. One is stable, one is shifty, depending on where the weight is applied.

Sadly, as “Christianity” becomes more of a religion, it also slides further and further from the Truth of its Founder, Jesus Christ. Christianity, wrested from the headship of Christ, and placed into the hands of humans, twisted with doctrines from hell, becomes more and more of a religious construct, with fewer elements of the pure Truth. In the beginning of the Church, believers in Christ were called Followers of the Way, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; however, once followers diverge from the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then “Christianity” just becomes another religion (a construct of bits and pieces of the truth).

Because of the corruption of truth, we have seen throughout history, and still see today, warring religious factions, so called “holy wars”, “jihad”, etc. This is because those who follow one construct of truth want to force everyone else to follow that same construct. In order to do so, they must conquer through war, brainwash through ideology, and bring into submission those who do not subscribe to that particular ideology.

But, there is hope. There is such a thing as pure religion. It is found in the Living person of Jesus Christ. It is found in the Great I Am. In this pure religion, there is Truth, there is a Way, and there is a Life where the Holy Spirit reveals, guides, cleanses, and inspires. This is an arena free of “human religious construct”, but few there be that find it. Why is finding this pure religion so difficult, and why do so many people not find it? The answer is again simple—to do so, they must give up the “religious construct” that they so cherish. They must give up man’s religion to follow Christ. Man’s religion promises so much, and it is hard to put down. Man’s religions promise “virgins”, “paradise”, even your own planet where, if you are male, you can become your own god and have as many wives as you desire. Man’s religion promises power, money, and authority, in the here and now. Man’s religion promises knowledge and immortality, etc. Notice how these fantasies often center around sex and power for males. These things are very seductive. But, they are just that…they are not Truth…they are tempting fruit that many swallow, and it is a delusion. But, because these seductions look so real, they are fought over, killed for, etc.

You can see that the promise of “paradise” is close to a Christian promise of a heavenly home. In the various religions that offer paradise outside of Christianity, the person who subjugates others and who works hard enough on this earth will eventually be his own ruler or god in paradise. In the Christian paradise, Jesus is ruler supreme, where, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.” Additionally, men and women will not be in marital relations in heaven. So, there go the fantasies of sex and power in paradise. You see the difference?

Jesus understood that religious men tend to “strain at gnats and swallow camels”. This means that while they would themselves commit atrocious acts against their own family members, community, and other members of humanity, they would fuss and fume over a minor detail that someone else was not adhering to—this minor detail may or may not even be a real issue in God’s eyes, but it may be an issue in the eyes of a certain religion (human construct).

Another tenet of various religions that is close to Christianity is that “good works” get you into heaven. In Christianity, only a person who has allowed Christ to remove the sin and replace it with Himself gains heaven. After that conversion has occurred, then the person lives out his/her life not serving self, but serving Christ (good works). In religious constructs outside of Christianity, a person does not need a religious conversion in which he lays down his self and allows Christ to enter in and replace the sinful self with Him. In man’s religious constructs, only a self-realization that one should be good is necessary, and therefore, one must work hard to do “good works”. You see the difference? One is because of Christ and is done through Him. The other is because of self and done in your own strength.

Because Jesus is a living person, He is not an abstract construct of theologians or prophets who formulated a theory of a deity. Jesus is God who came in the flesh. Because He showed the falseness of the religious constructs made by man versus the Truth of pure religion, He was murdered by the very religious people whom He revealed as false. After He was killed, He was buried. After three days of being dead and buried, He rose out of His grave. His resurrected body ascended into heaven. Skepticism of such incredible statements in warranted and welcomed. I understand how this seems impossible. However, all of this was recorded by witnesses who saw these actual events. After his ascension (last week was Ascension Week and is celebrated in various countries around the world), He sent his Spirit to guide people here on earth in the absence of his physical body. His comforting Spirit is well known to his followers. The Holy Spirit guides, speaks, directs, and enlightens. Once you encounter the Holy Spirit, you will understand what I mean. It’s one of those things where you have to experience it to understand. Trying to tell someone who hasn’t is a bit impossible. But, the good thing is, it’s not an exclusive club. He is available to anyone who calls on His Name. He and all of the angels in Heaven rejoice when even one person lays down his/her religion and turns to Him in truth.

Let’s Pretend to be Real, so we don’t come across as Fake.

We read some dialogue between two theologians recently. I use the word “theologian” with a grain of salt. You will understand in a minute. Dr. X and Dr. Y (seminary professors and pastors in our locale) were discussing the youth of today. In that discussion, they mentioned that regarding religion, youth “just want realism today”. Ironically, the solution that these two “theologians” agreed upon was that religious leaders in churches and colleges should mold themselves into, and present themselves as, what the youth are looking for because, “youth can spot ‘fake’ a mile away.” HHHmmm. Okay, so, let’s pretend to be real and sincere because that is what the youth want. Because, let’s see again…oh yeah, they don’t like fakes. What can you say?

This is on the heels of another conversation yesterday with an individual who has been a religious leader for decades. We have known this person for many, many years and have never really heard them express gratitude for much. In fact, the opposite was often true. Their attitude was obviously, “you owe me that and a lot more.” Imagine our surprise when this person was loudly expressing thankfulness and gratitude for multiple things that we and others had done over the years. I sat in slightly stunned surprise. What had created the change? Even some tears accompanied the platitudes. Later, I spotted a book that this person had been reading and that they recommended to me. The book was, “Be Thankful or Lose Your Mind…Literally”. The book went on to explain that because of the way God made us, expressing gratitude is important to mental health. Okay. I get it. I agree that thankfulness is indeed important, just as forgiveness is. Holding on to bitter or negative emotions is dangerous to one’s health. But, I sadly realized that this person, although well intentioned, was not expressing gratitude because they were truly grateful…they were expressing gratitude out of a mental health exercise. They wanted to be sure they had healthy mental attitudes…Wow. What can you say? Just the fact that they are doing that shows that they are already in a sad state mentally.

This is the kind of “fake” that youth can indeed spot. Christ doesn’t need “fake” representatives. He is the real thing. He expects the real thing from His followers.

This is along the same theme as another article we wrote but wanted to wait for the Memorial Day weekend to pass. The article is about “Selling” the Gospel. We will post that one a little bit later.

Just a Few Thoughts on an Evening Campfire with Friends

Last night, we enjoyed a pleasant evening with a small group of friends who brought all of the fixings. We grilled hamburgers, made homemade french-fries, and sipped on our drinks of choice. Each friend who was there has a particular talent or passion that often enriches their own lives and the lives of others. As we sat around the campfire, I began to think of the various parts that were brought together in this circle of friendship.

Two of them are excellent gardeners. In fact, one had brought some starter oak trees that he had grown from acorn seeds. I hope to plant them and have some great shade in years to come. Another friend had brought lettuce and onions from his garden. They were delicious on the hamburgers. One is talented in baking and homemaking; she had brought the homemade hamburger buns as well as a special homemade herbal beverage that was delicious and fresh tasting. Another friend is kind of like the glue that keeps the group together. Among her many, many talents, skills, and passions, she is deeply compassionate for people. But, the one talent that she has that came to mind as we sat around the campfire, was her talent with knitting and crochet. She is highly skilled and has created many masterpieces with yarn.

As I thought about each friend in turn, I realized that each one replicated a little bit of what God does with each of us. We are all familiar with the gardening aspect of the Gospel—planting, watering and nurturing seeds into fruition and harvest. Another way the Gospel is represented is the taking of small parts that seem insignificant, such as individual elements of a recipe or a small piece of yarn, and mixing or spinning, until a beautiful end is achieved. No one wants to sit down to a bowl of flour and baking powder—but you add a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and apply some heat, and a delicious loaf of bread is achieved. No one wants to wear a spool of yarn on his head; but you pull a little piece here, and wrap a little piece around this needle, and soon a beautiful cap, sweater, or perhaps a pair of socks emerges.

One of my husband’s talents is taking pieces of junk that once were valuable and restoring them. One of his passions is lights. He has always liked making lamps. His equal passion to lamps is lanterns. Some of the lights in our home are made of old lanterns that were either salvaged out of the pasture or trash, or redeemed at a flea market for very little money. With time and expertise, that rusty, valueless piece of junk slowly begins to emerge a masterpiece that graces a lampstand or mantle. If the lantern is fixable to run as a lantern, then it is restored to its initial purpose; however, if the lantern is too far gone to function as a lantern, then it is often turned into an electric lamp. Either way, it is no longer scrap metal destined for the furnace to be melted down. It is salvaged and beautified.

This is also an aspect of the Gospel. God takes what was perhaps supposed to be, but due to sin and corrosion of the soul, it became damaged and is not able to function as it was meant to do. He sends someone along to salvage and redeem. This person then brushes away the rust, repairs the bent parts, replaces the missing parts, and turns it into something that lights the way for others.

 

The Recital

Monday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a piano recital at which my young nephew performed. The piano students came from a wide variety of backgrounds: homeschooled, public school, private school, rural, urban, tiny tots, high school aged, financially strained, financially privileged, etc.

The recital was a necessary element in each student’s progression toward the next level of learning. They had to earn so many points before moving on, and the recital was worth X number of points. The students were not graded on their performances at the recital—that was reserved for another time. Simply showing up and playing before the audience was what was required.

The auditorium was large and modern. The stage was high. The lights were low, except for the spotlight on the piano. The interactive audience was polite and applauded at each appropriate moment.

The youngest and least experienced students performed first. The older, more experienced and more skilled students were reserved for later in the program. As I watched the students perform, one by one, I began to notice something extraordinary.

Each student, from first to last, sought to please only the teacher. Yes, the parents, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas were in the audience; however, each student eagerly sought the teacher’s face for approval or displeasure at the performance. The teacher remained slightly out of the spotlight in the shadows, but near enough to the piano for the students to hear encouragement, correction, or instruction.

This really touched me and brought home a beautiful lesson on how Father God instructs, teaches, admonishes, corrects, and encourages each of us. He often does remain in the shadows. In fact, He stays out of sight so much that some doubt His very existence: however, those of us who have felt and heard His guiding hand know that our Teacher is there—all the time—and it is He whom we should strive to please—not so much the others watching our lives—although they are important, too. But, it is to His standards that we must perform. The others applaud or approve (or maybe they disapprove). But, it is He who grades and allows us to move on to the next thing He has for us.

At the recital, the students were not in fear of not performing well because they might not receive a good grade—remember, no grades were given at the recital. However, each student eagerly wanted to please the teacher—and that is what it is all about.

Who Decides Right and Wrong?

I have stated many times that man or humanity cannot deem what is right or wrong; it can merely determine legalities according to the laws created by the morality of that society. Like it or not, only God determines right or wrong, and we as humans are subject to his decisions. Recently our nation has recognized the legality of same sex marriage, while it is now legal according to our laws and accepted by many as legitimate, these actions do not , I repeat do not, make it right. Why? As I stated before, God determines right and wrong.  We, as individuals, and as a collective (society), are not sovereign over God, but rather, are subject to Him. He does not have to accept our laws; we have to accept His.  God doesn’t have to accept something as right just because it is now legal in our country.

The strength, health and legitimacy of a society are really judged on how its laws align with God’s laws. If its legal system is based on God’s principles, all of that society’s judges and courts should be the same in determining right or wrong based on God’s stance not their political viewpoint. There is one standard. If the standard was followed, there would be not liberal or conservative judges with personal and political viewpoints coming in to play.

We tend to think of religion (following God’s way) or anti religion (against God’s way) along political lines—if someone is “liberal” he or she tends to be anti religion (not religious themselves and not friendly toward individuals and institutions who are); if someone is “conservative” he or she may be more religion friendly, if not also religious themselves. This is not always the case. Just because someone is “conservative” does not make them godly. In fact, there are such things as conservative atheists who are not hostile to religion but who do not espouse it themselves. There are “conservative” humanists and secularists who believe more in man’s power than God’s power. And, just because one is liberal, does not make one against God. Churches are full of Christians who tend to lean toward a liberal political viewpoint. One cannot be grouped merely by their political affiliation or their religious affiliation.

People on both sides and all along the political scale (from far left to far right) have ideas on what this country should look like in the future and where we should go from here. They have ideas of what laws we need to pass, what laws we need to abolish, and so on. When one side of the political scale gets their way and a law is passed, the other side weeps and mourns, proclaiming doom and gloom; when the other side gets their way in the political system, the first side proclaims that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The truth is, the only hope we have as a nation is to bring ourselves back in alignment with God. Try as we may, we will never bring God into alignment with us. We must be One Nation, Under God or we will become fragmented along the cracks that have already begun to develop in our society. As much as I urge my fellow countrymen to do so, sadly, I do not see us uniting under God. We will continue to try to unite under laws passed by man and man’s strength, which, in time, will result in a fractured nation that may or may not stay intact. In truth, our country now resembles a broken windshield—pieces of shattered glass barely held together and technically still in place, but obviously very broken. Again, our only hope of our nation’s repair is in God. This is achieved by giving Him His rightful place—Sovereignty over us.

The Scriptures are full of episodes in different nation’s existences that can be summed up best in this verse: Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” Throughout history, many nations have risen and fallen as the Lord has seen fit. He can call into existence a nation out of nowhere, and He can cause the mightiest nation to fall. It seems like the stronger a nation gets, the more independent of God it thinks it is. It becomes its own god and offers up a plethora of false deities to its masses to please different regions and groups.

I mentioned Psalm 33:12 in particularly to a man who attends church regularly and who identifies politically as both a Christian and a liberal Democrat. He said that he does not accept that verse because it implies that if the Lord God is not the God of our nation, we will not receive His blessings, and that’s not fair. This person’s beliefs toward God were that He is fair, and like a social program that doles out benefits equally to all, God should do the same. He (God) should not have preferences or dole out His blessings selectively to people who accept Him and follow His ways.

I was speechless. How can one argue with that (ill)logic?

Right now, our nation has many gods. But there is only One Sovereign God, and we seem to want any other god except Him. Ultimately, we want to be our own god.

In Article 3 of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” approved in 1789 by the French National Assembly, a statement reads, “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” This socialist, humanist, atheist world view governed the actions of the notable and infamous French Revolution. Clearly, they had become their own god. And, history tells us where that leads.

 

Why I Like Tozer: “Have Fun, Little Man”

God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I have always related the non belief and/or non recognition of God to that of the non belief or the non recognition of gravity—just because a person chooses not to recognize or believe in it, does not make that reality any less true, neither does it make that person immune from the laws thereof. I don’t magically start levitating if I no longer believe in gravity. A.W. Tozer is a little more blunt. He states it like this:

“God is the first and the last. Man in the plan of God has been granted considerable say; but is never permitted to utter the first word, nor the last. That is the prerogative of the deity and one which He will never surrender to His creatures.

Man has no say about the time or the place of his birth; God determines that without consulting the man himself. One day, the little man finds himself in consciousness and accepts the fact that he is. There his volitional life begins. Before that, he had nothing to say about anything. After that, he struts and boasts and utters his defiant proclamations of individual freedom, and, encouraged by the sound of his own voice, he may declare his independence of God and call himself an ‘atheist’ or an ‘agnostic’. Have your fun, little man; you are only chattering in the interim between the First and the Last; you had no voice at the first, and you will have none at the last. God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you are in the hands of God, whether you will or not.”

Set Free

This is another pawn shop story. We have a lot of those, but this is one of our favorites. One day while in central Texas, we stopped in. We wanted to look at their camping equipment, etc. In the display case was a hunting knife that caught my wife’s eye. We waited for an attendant. When he appeared, we just had to laugh. We knew right away why God had sent us to that pawn shop. The guy had white supremacy tattoos all over him. He made a few white supremacy comments while showing us the hunting knives.

Finally, my wife asked him about one of his tattoos. He proudly said he belonged to the devil. My wife shrugged. “Oh well. I guess you’re okay with choosing the losing side.” He countered with, “Oh, Satan isn’t losing.” She said, “It may seem like that now, but in the end, he definitely is the loser.” He said, “Ya’ll sound like my grandma. She says stuff like that.” We replied, “Grandma was telling you the truth. You ought to listen.” We bought the knife and left the store that day.

A couple of weeks later, we were in the same town and decided to stop back in. The same attendant was there, and he actually remembered us. He said, “Back to look at another knife?” To which we replied, “We thought we’d see what you had new since last time.” He said, “There are a couple of things you might be interested in. But, I can’t get ya’ll out of my head. What you said to me last time really stuck. I’ve been wanting to ask you something.” I guess our first meeting had more impact than we thought. He said, “I’m getting disgusted with all of this evil in my heart. I don’t want to belong to the devil anymore, but how do I get him to let me go?” We replied, “You can’t get him to let you go without help. You let him in, but you can’t kick him out. It takes one stronger than you and one stronger than him. Are you stronger than he is?” The attendant replied with a nervous laugh, “No way. He’s scary.” We replied, “The only way to remove his hold from you is to call on the One who can. And I think you know who that is. Remember Who your grandma told you about? Satan has already been defeated, and he knows it. But, he doesn’t want you to know it.” He said that someone had once told him that if he let God into his heart he would be freed. I said, “It’s not just any god. It’s the God. In your condition, only Jesus Christ can set you free. You have to call on His name.” He stumbled backward slightly and sat down on a stool. He said, “I thought so. I may be walking around free now, but, you see, I’m still in prison. My heart is still in prison, and the devil has the keys.” We explained to him that Jesus holds the keys—that He had earned that right by His death, burial, and resurrection, and that Satan did not want people to realize that fact.

He asked us to pray for him. We said we would and asked him if he had a Bible. He said he could get one easily enough but that no, he didn’t have one. We said we had an extra one, and would he like it? He said he would. We gave it to him and left, telling him that we would keep him in our prayers. Several months later, we walked into the same store to a strange scene and a strange greeting. This attendant was talking to an African-American woman. When he saw us walk in, he pointed to us and said loudly, “There they are!” We looked quite surprised. He told the woman, “They are the ones who told me how to be set free.” We looked down at where his hands were on the display case. The Bible we had given him was open. He began to tell us that he had been telling the woman that she could be set free also from the things that bound her heart.

Just a few months ago, this same attendant proudly said he belonged to the devil. He wasn’t witnessing to just anybody, but to someone who represented the target of his prior hatred and anger. God can truly change hearts and set people free. He did for this man. We were in contact with him many more times over the next couple of years. His whole demeanor had changed. On one of these occasions, he shared with us that he had a son who was about nine years old. He said that he had decided that he needed to be part of the boy’s life and was actually taking him camping that weekend. He said, “My life has completely changed, and I have something to offer him now. I’m looking forward to being a good dad. I just wish I didn’t have all these tattoos.” What he once wore proudly, he now tried to keep covered.

We said, “We all have our scars. Some are more visible than others. Some will fade, some we’ll carry forever.” He said, “Someday I’ll have to explain mine to my son.” The shame could be seen in his face. We said, “Let God guide you through that valley when the time comes. He’ll give you the words.” He replied, “I know.” We bid him farewell and went on our way. Shortly after that, we left for an extended period of time out of state. Upon our return, he was no longer working at that pawn shop, and we haven’t seen him since.