Christianity 201

July 23, 2014

The Quest for the Purple Fish

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:22 pm
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Before we begin, here is Psalm 23 in The Voice translation.

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.

You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

In conjunction with Thursday’s review at Thinking Out Loud, I wanted to run an excerpt from Wisconsin pastor Mark O. Wilson’s book, Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus, a book about how everyone can develop a heart for fruitful evangelism. Using an anecdotal approach, Mark’s stories should provide the ‘nudge’ many need to step out of their familiar territory, their comfortable turf, and make a verbal declaration of their faith to coworkers, neighbors, extended family, and even complete strangers.  Perhaps you’re a regular reader here because you love the “201” approach that gets into doctrine and theology but you may come up a bit short when it comes to sharing the hope within you with others. I encourage you to get this book, available in paperback from Wesleyan Publishing House.

“Can you come visit Harold?” the young woman pleaded.  “He’s dying of cancer.”

Purple Fish - Mark O. WilsonHarold was an ex-convict who had lived a violent godless life.

“Of course, Harold probably won’t receive you well,” she continued. “He’s likely to cuss up a storm and kick you out.  He’s done that already with a few hospice workers, but a visit from you might be good for him.”

I agreed to go and invited my friend, Randy, to come along as my bouncer.  I brought my Bible, anointing oil and a prayer shawl.

The young lady met us at the door of Harold’s bungalow.  “I told him you’re coming, but he’s shut down and won’t communicate.  I’m afraid you won’t get anywhere.”

In the living room, frail Harold sat hunched on the couch in his pajamas.  He didn’t look up.   “Harold, I’m Pastor Mark from the Wesleyan church, and this is Randy.  We came to encourage you today.”

No response from Harold.

“I brought a gift for you Harold.  It’s a prayer shawl.  Some wonderful women in our congregation make these, and while they knit, they pray for the ones who will receive them.  Would it be alright if I placed the shawl over your shoulders and prayed for you?”

Harold didn’t say anything.  He just sat there.  Since he didn’t say no, I took it as a yes.  Placing the soft shawl over his shoulders, I said, “Harold, if you don’t mind, I’d love to share some Scripture and anoint you with oil.  Then we’ll pray.”

Still no response, so I moved forward.

I opened my black leather Bible to Psalm 23, handed it to Randy, then gave the bottle of anointing oil to Harold’s friend.  “I would like for you to anoint Harold when Randy reads the part that says, ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.'”

She seemed honored, though a bit nervous about doing it right.  I gave her simple instructions and she was ready to go.

Harold didn’t look up or say anything.

Randy read Psalm 23 with passion, and as he got to the fifth verse, the young lady reached forward tenderly, making a cross on Harold’s forehead.  Then I prayed.

Harold needed some faith, so I loaned him mine.  I prayed, on Harold’s behalf, for salvation, with as much faith as I could muster.  “Harold needs you, Lord.  Please come right now and help him.”  I asked God to forgive and cleanse all his sins.  I prayed for Harold to be completely enfolded in God’s gracious love and peace.  I concluded by thanking God for the depth and width of his mercy.

When I said amen, Rand whispered, “Look.”

A tear trickled down Harold’s wrinkled cheek.  He didn’t say a word., but that tear testified to something.

I remembered Philip Yancey’s observation, “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”

Two days later, Harold died.  The family called to make funeral arrangements.  “Everything changed after you came,” they said.  “He settled into a deep peace and wasn’t agitated any longer.  It was exactly what Harold needed.  And here’s the most amazing thing. That prayer shawl you gave him?  He held it tightly and wouldn’t let go.  Even when we tried to take it from him, he just clung to it like a life preserver, and so it stayed wrapped over his shoulders till the moment he died.”

I was astounded.  When this man, who lived so far from God, passed away, he was wrapped in holy love.

Jesus is a friend of sinners.  He is not willing that any should perish and takes great measures to grant grace to needy souls.

The best way to share your faith is to loan it to someone who needs it.

“Come, every soul by sin oppressed; there’s mercy with the Lord, and he will surely give you rest by trusting in his Word.”

 

 

 

 

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