Several years ago there was an elementary teacher named Mrs. Thompson who greeted her fifth grade class on the first day of school. Seated on the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. In the passing days her frustration with Teddy grew to the point that she actually took delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.
The school where she taught required the teachers to review each child’s past records. She put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. At first Teddy’s teachers gave him a glowing report, but things got progressively worse. Teddy’s mother was seriously ill and finally died when he was in the third grade. His fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery store. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class.
A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Teddy went on to graduate from high school, third in his class. Four years later he graduated from college with the highest of honors. He continued his schooling until he received a medical degree. Through the years he kept in touch with Mrs. Thompson assuring her that she was the best teacher he ever had.
One spring Mrs. Thompson received a letter from Teddy saying that he had met this girl and they were going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” Are you making a difference in someone else’s life?
Over forty-seven million babies have been aborted in the United States since 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion in the Roe vs. Wade decision – a figure that grows at the rate of 4,000 every day. About 1.6 million lives were taken just last year – that’s 166 deaths per hour, and one baby lost every two and a half minutes!! One third of the generation born in the thirty-three years from 1973-2003 is missing because of abortion. There are as many abortion deaths each year as there are deaths caused by heart disease and cancer combined. The death toll is enormously high, yet we may recite such statistics without actually considering just how staggering those numbers really are.
Consider this: more Americans have died because of abortion than have died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and the war in Iraq combined! More babies are killed every day in America than the total number of people killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Where is the outrage? Why isn’t there an enormous public outcry over such an immense loss of life? A most perplexing aspect of this is that so many people who support abortion oppose capital punishment. How can people demand that killing an innocent unborn child is legal and out of the same mouth argue that executing convicted murderers should be outlawed? Groups like the National Organization of Women and the ACLU support the continued legalization of abortion on demand and oppose the death penalty. They argue that since life begins at birth it is not the taking of human life to abort an unborn child. The Bible affirms differently in Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:41. Human life begins in the womb and to abort a child before birth is the shedding of innocent blood. That is something the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:17).
Several years ago a panel of Florida judges upheld a $108,800 fine against a man who poached 1088 turtle eggs from a state park. The public defender argued that an egg isn’t a turtle until it hatches; but the prosecutor affirmed that 80-90% of marine turtle eggs are fertile, and therefore each egg must be considered a unit of marine life. The judges agreed with the prosecutor and fined the man $100 for each egg poached! It is legal lunacy to argue that laws protecting unhatched marine turtles are perfectly all right, but laws protecting the life of unborn humans are unconstitutional.
Try as one might to justify this barbaric practice, abortion does not meet God’s approval. Friends, when we can open a newspaper or turn on a television and learn of people protesting the execution of convicted murderers and rapists while “protecting” a woman’s “right to choose,” we have it all backwards. May God help us to stop calling evil good and good evil before it is too late. To prevent an unwanted pregnancy, stop engaging in immoral activity! There are other alternatives besides abortion for those who find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy. God’s mercy is extended to those who may seek his forgiveness for their lack of mercy when they aborted a child. Abortion is wrong, but God is merciful.
An old farmer from the country went to the big city hospital to visit a dear friend. He was told he would have to park in the visitor’s parking lot. He was surprised when he drove up to the entrance that the little gate lifted immediately. He drove right in and parked his car in the shade. He made his visit, returned to his car and drove to the exit, but it didn’t open. It required money to get out. He paid the fare and mumbled to himself as he drove away, “Maybe they changed my oil and rotated my tires while I was there.”
This example accurately illustrates sin. It is so easy to get involved in sin and is very difficult to get out from under a sinful lifestyle. Habits are easy to start and so difficult to break. Satan has always said you can get in now and pay later. Not only does he get the original price back, but with higher interest. The momentary, fleeting pleasure of sin is all the bait the Devil needs with some people. Many people sink into the quagmire of evil without realizing how deadly Satan’s slimy pit can be.
It reminds me of how quickly the gate opened for David’s sin with Bathsheba. He saw her beauty. He sent for her. She came. He committed fornication with her. Then he sent her home, thinking all was well. It would cost him dearly to get out of this parking place. She was found with child from that little night of fun. David committed more sin to cover his tracks. He had her husband, Uriah, killed on the battlefield. David and Bathsheba lost the child they conceived. There was also shame and suffering that came from this sin.
Sin is like a chameleon. That lizard-like mocker can change its colors to meet its surroundings. Such subtlety with regard to sin has overwhelmed many casual souls. Sin is dangerous because the Devil is shrewd and man is gullible.
The Devil causes sin to have a certain allure, but those who nibble at the bait are never really satisfied. The pleasures of sin are deceptive, temporary, high-priced and eternally a poor bargain. They only produce remorse, corruption and heartache.
Young people, how quickly the gate opens for the first cigarette, or that chew of tobacco, that first beer, or that first act of sexual immorality, but it could cost an arm and a leg, or a heart and a lung. You could end up paying the maximum cost – your life and your soul. Sin hides the truth and makes promises that are never kept. Sin is a dead-end street and a hollow, empty, senseless shell.
Let us not be deceived into thinking that just because there is no price at the entrance, there will be no price at the exit. We need to pay attention to Paul’s words to the Galatians in Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Indeed, there is a high cost to low living. The pleasures of sin are just not worth the price that has to be paid. However, the joys of Christianity are too glorious to miss.
A missionary family in China was forced to leave the country sometime after the communists took over. Early one morning a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told the missionary and his family that they had two hours to pack up before the troops would return and escort them to the train station. They were informed that they would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff.
Thus began two hours of family wrangling and bickering – what should they take? What about this vase? It’s a family heirloom, so we’ve got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand new and we’re not about to leave it behind. What about some books? Got to take a few of them along. On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.
At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned. “Are you ready?” they asked. “Yes.” “Did you weigh your stuff?” “Yes, we did.” “Two hundred pounds?” “Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot.” “Did you weigh the kids?” “Um…no.” “Well, you’d better weigh the kids!” And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash. Trash! None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children.
If only it were that easy for us. If we had to make a physical choice, the choice would be easy. What’s worth more – your child or a computer? If you could only take one with you, which would it be? That’s easy; it’s a no-brainer. But seldom does the choice come wrapped in such an easy-to-open package.
Too often, it sounds more like this: What’s more important – spending time with your family or staying at work a couple of extra hours to get caught up? Many say, “Don’t ask me to make that choice! My family is important to me. It’s just that I really need to get this done! After all, I’m only doing it to provide for them.” Still, there are times when the question just won’t go away: Which is more important?
Man has a tendency to misplace his priorities. We tend to major in minors and minor in majors. We place the emphasis of our life on the wrong things and neglect that which is truly important. Many are like Martha in the New Testament whom Jesus said was troubled and anxious about many things, but had neglected the most important thing. Our attention and interests are focused on so many things that are really not all that important from the viewpoint of eternity. On one occasion Jesus said to his disciples, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). Indeed, all the riches of the world do not equal the value of one soul.
There are times when we are forced to admit that we’ve been gathering hundreds of pounds of “trash” while neglecting that which is of greatest importance. The apostle Paul once said, “But what gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).
May God bless each one of us with the wisdom to choose that which is of greatest value.
If you’re not alarmed by the current state of immorality in this country, you have reason to be alarmed about your own spiritual state. In many larger cities there is a murder almost every day. Some parents are using their own children to film pornography. There are couples living together and having children without being married. What on earth is going on? A Denver-area teacher was recently arrested for having sexual contact with a student. A Fox News anchor said, “When will these teachers ever learn their own lesson?”
Fact is, we’ve always had sexual sin, corruption in government, child abuse and out-of-wedlock births. The difference seems to be that no one is embarrassed by it anymore. Is there no shame? Very little, it seems. We’ve been desensitized. It is much like the experience of Samson in Judges 16:20 where the Bible says, “…but he did not know the Lord had left him.” It is sad when the Lord can no longer keep company with a person, sadder still when we aren’t even aware that he left! Like Samson, there was a time when the United States was incredibly strong – militarily, morally, and in most every way. The entire world respected our strength. Today, however, we find that our moral fiber has weakened significantly and the respect that other countries have of us has deteriorated. How long will it be before our military and economic strength will likewise weaken? It would be tragic to wake up one of these days and say as did Samson, “I will go out as before and shake myself free…” only to find that we have no strength left.
You see, we have created a moral climate where nothing is wrong any more. And anyone who has the nerve to say that something is morally wrong is dubbed a “bigoted, narrow-minded, red-neck,wild-eyed Christian fundamentalist.” Call it what you will, there is no denying that when this nation shoved God and the Bible into the background – when we decided that everyone could do that which is right in his own eyes – we got way more than we bargained for. We lit a virtual firestorm that is now being driven by the winds of evil across these amber waves of grain. The fire is raging completely out of control. And if somebody, somewhere, sometime, somehow doesn’t do something to save us from ourselves, our children and grandchildren will see this country fall completely apart at the seams. I can hear some threads already beginning to rip.
Do you recall the story in the first chapter of Exodus that details the hardships of God’s people in Egypt? At first, the God-fearing Joseph had been so trusted and respected that Pharaoh appointed him to the position of Prime Minister. Several generations passed and Exodus 1:6 says, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt…” From that point on, the people of God suffered mercilessly.
In a similar fashion, unless there is a change in direction, future historians may likely record American history something like this: “Then a new President, Congress, and Supreme Court justices, who did not know God, came to power in America…” We have just now raised the first generation of Americans who no longer hold the Bible to be God’s Sacred Word. Young corporate leaders, politicians, congressmen and even some presidents thumb their nose at anyone who dares call anything a sin. These words of concern do not come from one who is disloyal to his country, but from a patriot who dearly loves his country. May God bless America and may America never forget God!