Strangely, events have transpired to complete my earlier thoughts, in a different way.
I had thought to speak on the martyrdom of a pastor in a foreign land, simply for having faith in Jesus Christ and proclaiming the Good News. I found out the report of his demise was false, so I held back. Then, in quick succession, I experienced some personal losses, back to back. One of which was the sudden death of a gentle evangelist I knew. A CPA who did all he could to wisely handle other people's money and a true servant of the kingdom of God.
His name was Paul Sweas. An elfin-featured man, Paul spoke with a kindness and a clarity that usually escapes me. Paul also was aware of a great challenge in reaching people for Christ - it was the challenge of getting them to the simple basics of Christian faith - to the very simplest understanding of the what the Bible says (and doesn't say) about God, His agreements with His people and how He wants the world to know of His love in sending His son to pay for all sins.
Long sentence, but if I stopped it anywhere in between, people come up with crazy variations. Paul understood this challenge of communication, and though he KNEW the answers backwards and forwards, he patiently would open the Bible and point to relevant scriptures, letting each person see what God was saying through ancient writers. He met people where they were, asking them if they were happy, if they had heard of God or Jesus? What had they heard? Did they believe that to be true? Did they know what the Bible said? Would they like to come to a friendly low-key Bible study?
Again and again, with Paul's gentleness and sincerity they would indeed come - and begin a relationship with God they had never had before.
They were called "Alpha Courses" - for beginners to see the plan of God in the Bible in saving us from eternal death and separation from Him.
His funeral is this coming Saturday. I miss him already. He's with Jesus and I am still here.
Paul's biggest compliment to me was sort of backhanded in a nice way. I was teaching in the jail to men who were perfectly willing to get out of trouble with God; he was talking to people who in general thought they had no trouble with God due to physical comforts. So I preached [with some biting humor] and Paul persuaded [with sensitivity and insight.] The goal was still the same: get these souls to Christ! He saved US, He can save THEM!
So were 'geeking' about Christ's redemption and sacrifice and how He makes all things new, but my take is on the semi-humorous way Jesus played with His disciples AFTER His resurrection -playing dumb, asking questions, completely unoffended at their disbelief but committed to them serving Him anyway, and on and on [frankly I don't know WHAT all I covered] and then Paul ends up saying "Justice, you could teach an Omega Course!"
It was a sweet compliment.
Just like the man. Just like the man.
God, I am glad he is in heaven. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
Paul was gift to us all.
And like his namesake, that great apostle, he knew where to begin with the spiritually confused, the carnally fecund and the spiritually feral children of this world - at the beginning.
We'll start tomorrow, hopefully.