The 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship

John guiding in Bavaria 1975
John guiding in Bavaria 1975

This Friday, May 6th, I will be teaching a class, “Five Minutes on the Back of a Napkin: A Visual Approach to Sharing the Gospel,” at the 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship in Malibu, California. Sharing the Good News shouldn’t be a program. We don’t need to learn a “sales pitch” or use some kind of gimmick to share the Gospel. When my daughter was born, I had to tell someone the good news. It was 3:00 in the morning! So I went to Denny’s and burst through the doors shouting, “It’s a girl!” Everyone shared my joy and someone bought my breakfast!

Do you remember the story of the Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:28-43)? When the religious leaders tried to tell Jesus to quiet the Master’s joyous celebration,  “He answered, ‘ I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Likewise, Jesus used this principle with the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). When the man was cured, he asked to go with Jesus, but the Lord said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”

The apostles used this principle with the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-22). When the politicians told the apostles not to talk about Jesus anymore, they replied they couldn’t help but speak.

You know your own story of how God saved you, but what many people struggle with is a framework. Where do I begin? What do I need to say? That’s what this class is all about. If you happen to be at the lectureship, I hope you’ll join me. Meanwhile, several people have asked me to share more about sharing the gospel on the back of a napkin. Stay tuned!

Holy Bug Zappers

My Grandmother use to say, “Where there’s light, there’s bugs.” By that she reminded me that if you start a good work, there would always be someone to criticize what you’re doing. So don’t get discouraged if people are complaining.

That’s great in theory but I’d also like to get a hold of the person who first said, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me.” He was wrong. Words wound.

My Grandfather, John D. McKeel

Let me tell you a story about my grandfather, “Papa.” Papa and Meemaw lived in Oklahoma City. They had a giant backyard (long but skinny) with a couple of great cherry trees to play in and lots of horned toads for grandsons to catch. We loved playing in the backyard but one-day Papa’s neighbor brought home a dozen beehives. He thought it would be great to raise them in his backyard. The bees might have been great for the cherry trees but they weren’t great for barbeques or little boys.

Papa went and talked nicely with his neighbor who could have cared less. He was a greasy-haired young man who always had a cigarette dangling from his mouth who only owned torn t-shirts. He laughed and slammed his door.

Papa checked with the city and yes, you couldn’t raise cattle in the backyard but there was no ordinance pertaining to bee keeping. As strange as it sounds Papa’s neighbor was fully within his rights to keep the hives back there.

Time stretched on and things only got worse. The gruff neighbor didn’t even share his honey! And then Papa got an idea. He went to the hardware store and bought several electric bug zappers and lined them up on the fence that divided their yards. I can still remember the little grin that use to cross Papa’s face every time we heard a “crack!” “Pop!” or “Sizzle.”

The church isn’t full of perfect people. In fact we have a few that call for more grace than you might expect. There aren’t any “Holy Bug Zappers” so that tells me God expects us to act otherwise. Here are a few rules I’ve found helpful when I’m called on to show a little extra patience with people.

When dealing with problem people, don’t become a problem yourself. (See the Golden Rule for a further explanation.)

  1. When you are being drawn into a conflict, draw closer to God!
  2. Even though that person may express himself in an annoying way, listen to what he has to say. He might just be right!
  3. The object is not to “squash the bug,” or run them away. The goal is always “transformation.” (See Romans 12:1, 2.)
  4. God doesn’t call on us to only love the nice people. We are to love people – stingers and all!

Changing Times

I can’t keep up with it all: MP3s, JPEGs, Memory sticks, G3 is now G4. (Were there ever G1s or G2s?) Do you remember vinyl records? You know those big, round things that look like black CDs? Oh that’s right CDs are now DVDs or are they Blue Ray? The conversation goes on: Beta, VHS, cassettes, and Eight Track. It seems the one constant is change!

The other day I was driving up the hill to Canyon View and I noticed Epiphras riding up Balboa on his donkey. Frankly, I thought he looked pretty good for a two-thousand-year-old man. He waved at me and I rolled down the window. “I’m looking for the Church,” he said.

“Well, you’re in luck,” I told him. With a sweeping gesture I pointed to the building up on the hill and said, “That’s the church over there.”

“But that’s a building,” he said.

“Oh, of course,” I blushed, “that’s the church BUILDING. It’s where the Church meets. Would you like to come in?”

“Yes, thank you. It’s been a long ride from Colossae.”

We walked in and I showed Epiphras our facility. “What are those?” he asked.

“That’s the pulpit and that’s where we sit during services. You know, when the communion trays are passed.”

“The what?”

“You know the communion trays.”

He looked at me with a blank stare so I changed the subject. “We’re pretty modern here. I’m sure there have been a lot of changes in the last two millennia. Why we even use PowerPoint slides for our song service!”

Another blank look.

“Perhaps you would like to walk over to my office and have a soda. I’ll just put your donkey in the courtyard.”

Poor Epiphras looked so bewildered until we sat down in my study. I took out a directory and we began to talk about the members. Epiphras revived. His face lit up as we shared stories about the people and how the Gospel changed their lives. That’s when we discovered some things never change! It’s always been and always will be about the people and God’s unchanging love.