Most of you know, especially those who have been receiving my devotions for a number of years, that the primary focus of my ministry, outside the Garden Gate, has been ONE-ON-ONE. That is, working with individuals and families. 

     Today, in reminiscing, I remembered one particular man I had the privilege of witnessing to him and his wife for a number of years. It came about when his daughter invited my daughter to their house a particular evening for her birthday party. Since my daughter was not yet driving, my wife and I drove her to their house. My intent was to leave our daughter and go to a restaurant not far away for something light. The parents would not have it any other way, than we, too, stay for the party. So we did. Thus started a series of times of witnessing and working with Bob and Joann (fictitious names). I learned that night that they were not saved, yet they had all the right answers to any question I could present to them concerning salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. I visited and witnessed with them for many years. Eventually, I changed my approach to various games and picnics and times of fun, making only occasional quotes from the Bible or sometimes a quote from Billy Graham or other outstanding evangelist.

     The years passed and my wife and I moved to another city for a time. Eventually, as the Lord provided, through a series of events in our lives, we were brought back into a community not far from Bob and Joann. So I called them one evening, letting them know we were back in the area and suggested that maybe we get together some weekend for ice cream and cake. He grabbed the idea immediately. When we did finally have an ice cream and cake picnic, Bob was very anxious to share something with me. He was so excited that I knew it had to be something major. He and Joann had finally, really and truly accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. My wife and I wept and rejoiced with them. Then we had a time of scripture reading and prayer.

     It was only a few months later, early one morning, I received a phone call and it was Joann. Immediately I tensed, because Bob was always the one to call. So I knew something was amiss. In tears, Joann said that Bob had passed away in the night. And she said she thought it only proper that I preach Bob's funeral.

     I pondered the situation with Bob and Joann for a long time. Why is it a person can have all the right answers and yet not have come to conviction of a need for a Savior? I read the parable of the sower and meditated and prayed, as I read and re-read: "And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell on the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it."  Mark 4:4 - NKJV.

     In the parable the seed which fell upon the trodden footpath remained outside the soil. The ground had been so hardened by the constant tread of many feet that the grain never got beneath the crusted surface, and remained until the birds of the air devoured it.

     Is it possible for a heart to be so hardened by the constant tread of evil habits that the precious Gospel seed can find no entrance? Can it be that one of these  evil habits, strange to say, may the constant hearing of the truth in a mere mechanical manner? The soul may be sermon-hardened as well as sin-hardened. Had I besieged Bob and Joann constantly with scripture and lessonettes, and not have played games and had picnics and fun times, would the Gospel seed have found fertile soil? I am inclined to think not. One may get so in the habit of having Gospel truth thrown or preached at them that they become hardened and a decision for Christ is never made. I believe I was guided by the Holy SpIrit to mix in a lot of games and fun and picnics and a little Gospel, eventually resulting in tilled soil, as it were, for the Gospel seed to settle into.

     Let us take heed! We must beware of the sermon that gets no further than the eardrum. Let us implore God's Holy Spirit for Jesus' sake, to prepare hardened hearts for a fruitful sowing of the seed. He alone can make them ready. And when we enter His courts to hear His Word, let us pray with meaning and with purpose:

                                             Thy presence, gracious Lord, afford,
                                             Prepare us to receive Thy Word,
                                             Now let Thy voice engage our ear,
                                             And faith be mixed with what we hear.
                                                              -author unknown- 


       Just a Thought Across The Garden Gate by Parson Don.




                                                                                                     Updated January 13, 2010
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