I'm sorry that I've been slow in posting new stories the last few months. We've been distracted with life recently. Like Bilbo Baggins, "I feel stretched out and thin, like butter spread over too much bread." I appreciate all of your encouragements to get back on track, and I always enjoy hearing your feedback. I want to present to you a story that I've been hesitant to submit. This attacks many popular opinions, and when you attack the popular, you become very popular yourself--but maybe not for the reasons you want!
“Okay, people, people!” A distinguished elderly gentleman in a dark suit was standing at the end of a long table that was sitting on stage in the center of a large coliseum full of excited people. “Hello? Everyone? Can I have your attention, please?” He taped on his lapel mic to ensure that he was being heard. The roar of the crowd began to fade as five men emerged from backstage and began to find their places around the enormous table. “I’m pleased to see such a large crowd. It touches my heart to see so many that have a heart for the lost.” His voice was drowned in a chorus of amens and clapping hands. “As you all know, my name is Reverend Black…” again a round of cheers and applause. “Thank you, my children, you humble me.” He held up his hands to contain the clapping. “As you all know, I have assembled a panel to discuss our concerted efforts to win this world for Christ in this new DECADE OF HARVEST!” On queue, the crowd erupted and settled down only when Reverend Black demanded that they do so. “In my panel, I have requested that Brother Jack Parvo, whom you all know and love from his television broadcast, which reaches over 13 million people daily, to be present.”
Jack Parvo stood and the crowd went wild. He waved them down and said, “If you’re not careful, I’ll take up an offering!” He was greeted with laughter.
Black continued. “I also invited Dr. Ben Aziz, whom you know as the cutting edge of today’s healing ministry.” The crowd roared when Aziz stood and laughed when he pretended to lay hands on Reverend Black. Meeting expectations, Reverend Black pretended to be slain in the spirit, stopping short of actually falling to the floor. The crowd ate it up.
“I am also pleased to introduce Dr. Paul Jonas, founder and CEO of Jesus University, now proudly announcing an attendance of 20,000 students.” Applause greeted him as he stood, but he was too stiff to entertain the crowd. He sat down awkwardly.
“Next to him, Mr. Stoney Henchman, host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show, ‘The Violent Take it by Force.’” The multitude loved Stoney. His program was radical and confrontational with frequent debates from occultists and demonically influenced guests. His program was sensational and exciting.
“Finally, just to keep us humble, I have requested the presence of a young man whom I think you will appreciate as much as I do once you get to know him. He is the associate pastor of a small church in West Texas. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Pastor David Simpul.” An obligatory applause trickled through the auditorium. Embarrassed, David lifted a hand to the crowd.
“Now, as we get started, I want to ask the crowd to control its clapping, as we will try to record this session. After all, this is an historic gathering of the greatest minds in Christianity today. Now gentlemen, as you know, the members of the Unified Christian Movement, which includes all of us present, are requesting that we develop a unified salvation message. This message will take a tract form and will be used in our new Decade of Harvest efforts to evangelize the world. Our goal tonight will be to pool our experience and knowledge to develop a perfect Gospel message. Brother Parvo, why don’t we start with you?”
“Thank you, Reverend. First, let me say how much I appreciate an opportunity to serve on your board. It is both an honor and a privilege to be included with such giants of the faith.”
“You’re welcome, Jack. Tell us, what do you consider the most important message out there? Over the years, you have influenced more people than all of us combined. What is your secret?"
“Well, God, of course.” The panel nodded reverently. “We try to tell the world about God’s love. Just that simple.”
Dr. Aziz cleared his throat and spoke in his characteristic Jewish accent. “God’s love is sufficient. It’s his love that draws men unto Him. That is why we must proclaim God’s love through healing.”
“Amen brother.” Parvo redirected his thoughts. “Not only healing, but also His promises. After all, the riches of His Kingdom are available at our fingertips. We only have to ask of Him to receive.”
Stoney Henchmen spoke. “God does promise us prosperity, but He also promises us a victorious life that is free of demonic oppression!” The crowd cheered.
“Yes, of course,” Reverend Black pointed to Dr. Jonas. “What do you think, Doctor?”
“God also promises wisdom. If we present God to intellectuals, they will want to know about the knowledge that God will grant them.”
“Knowledge is fine, but their lives, homes, and bodies are broken. They need healing first!”
Jonas sighed. “Dr. Aziz, I must surrender your point, but how do they get healed unless they first know how to be healed?”
“Just what I was saying,” said Parvo. “God’s riches abound in His healings. Perhaps we should present a message on how God can prosper them.”
“What good is prosperity if they are in bondage?”
“Well, Stoney, that is why we should give them God’s wisdom.”
“Yes, Dr. Jonas, it is the love of God that leads men to repentance.” Reverend Black glanced down at David Simpul. “Pastor? We haven’t heard from you yet.”
“What about sin?”
“I believe that God is against it!” Jack Parvo nodded to the crowd, who was clapping furiously at David’s expense.
“I mean,” David waited for the crowd to settle. “I mean, shouldn’t our message be about sin and repentance?”
“Well, of course, my dear boy, but all in due time.”
“Thank you, Reverend,” nodded Aziz. “After you pull someone out of a wheelchair, they are willing to listen to you about sin.”
“Not to mention God’s riches.”
“Of course, Jack. They need to understand that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives.”
“Great idea, Reverend. Why don’t we start our message with the Jabez Prayer?”
“But?” David interrupted. “The Jabez Prayer isn’t meant for sinners. In fact, an entire theology has been developed around two little verses in the Old Testament. That verse has nothing to do with a call to repentance or salvation. The Bible says that all men have sinned…”
“I can see why you brought this young man into our discussion, Reverend” Dr. Aziz interrupted. “The Jabez Prayer won’t do. The world is sick. It needs to be healed.”
“What better way to heal them than to present God’s wisdom on the subject?”
“Wisdom? Sure,” Stoney’s tone hinted sarcasm. “They will know wisdom once they are set free from demonic influence. Free from their deception, I say.”
“I was deceived once; most miserable experience of my life. I was very unhappy.”
“Now you’re on to something, Jack. Happiness. That’s the common thread.”
“Amen, Reverend. We all want to be happy. Our experience and our life…, well it all boils down to happiness.” Jack nodded at Dr. Jonas for approval.
“Well,” he reasoned in his mind. “Knowledge can produce happiness. I’ll go along with that.”
Black looked over at Aziz. “What say you, Doctor?”
“And you, Mr. Henchmen?”
“Amen, you aren’t happy when you are in bondage.”
“And for the last member of our committee, Pastor Simpul.”
David cleared his throat nervously. “It’s been my experience that an individual, who can’t do anything by himself, joins a committee so that they can do nothing together.” After several amens, he continued. “It seems to me, that happiness is the wrong approach. Jesus didn’t really come to make you happy, He just…”
“Well, now, I don’t know about you, Reverend Black, but Jesus has made Jack Parvo plenty happy.”
David nodded. “I’m sure. If I were as rich as you, I might have fewer things happen to me to destroy my happiness. But where you happy last year when you were under investigation for embezzlement?”
A shocked, hushed crowd leaned forward to watch Jack Parvo react. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” His eyes flashed for a moment, and then he caught himself and immediately softened his tone and waved nonchalantly. “Of course I was happy, because I knew that Christ in me would prevail.”
“What about you, Dr. Henchmen, when you were sued for millions by the Church of Satan?”
“Was I happy? Naturally. It was an opportunity to demonstrate the deliverance of God.”
“Dr. Aziz,” David redirected. “Were you happy when your daughter died of pneumonia?”
“Well, I…” he hesitated. “I can’t see how that figures into this panel of discussion.” The panel and the crowd were all frowning in disapproval of David’s blatant attack against the character of these super giants of the faith.
“Gee, I don’t know,” David shook his head. “Maybe it’s me, but I don’t see a lot of happiness in Paul’s life, or even in Jesus’ life. Ya’ll seem to be better off than Jesus himself.”
Dr. Jonas waded in. “Paul said that for him to live is Christ. He had Jesus in him. Of course he was happy. ‘With joy I run the race set before me.’”
“But, Doctor, the other half of that verse is, ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain.’ Would a truly happy man perceive that dying is better than living? Wouldn’t he want to enjoy his happiness as long as he could?”
“Paul wrote about happiness while in prison. Why, Philippians is all about happiness.”
“No, Dr. Aziz, its not. It’s about joy, not happiness. Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, snake bitten, whipped, beaten, and imprisoned on numerous occasions. In II Corinthians 1:8, Paul was so happy that he wanted to die.” He looked around at the frowning panel. “Well, Jesus himself told us ‘what great things we would suffer in His name.’”
Reverend Black jumped in. “Well, you can see why I like David so much.” He swallowed. “Now, let’s get back on track here. We all agree that the world lacks happiness, right?” The men nodded in agreement. David, who was looking confused, didn’t acknowledge the question. “What if we said something to the effect of, ‘has the world got you down? The trials of life can be overwhelming, but God is the true source of happiness?’”
“That works for me.” Parvo interjected.
“Great, then let’s vote. All in favor raise your hand.” Black frowned. “What’s the matter, David?”
TO BE CONTINUED.....