Month: Dec 2013

What Does the Savior Look Like?

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jesus-christSome may wonder or ask, “What does the Savior look like?”

I do not believe that the Savior has blond hair and blue eyes as depicted in a lot of Hollywood productions. Furthermore, I do not believe that He is Black either as He is depicted in such publications as the African Bible. I have a large picture of the Savior hanging in the entrance way of my apartment. In the artist’s depiction, the Savior has an olive complexion (representative of the complexion a person who lives in the region where the Savior was born and ministered would have). Is the portrait an accurate portrayal of the Master? In the heart, mind, and eyes of the one who painted it, yes it is.

Each person has their own idea of what the Savior looks like. A child’s description of the Savior will differ from that of an adults’ for example. A young adult’s description of the Savior may differ from that of someone more advanced in years. None of the descriptions can be counted as incorrect, as everyone envisions the Savior according to what He means to them at their particular station in life. When all is said and done, it does not matter if the Savior is Black, White, Red, or what have you. What does matter is that He is the Son of the True and the Living God. He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. And He loves each of us, regardless of our race, equally and unconditionally. Personally I do not serve a Savior who is concerned about a person’s “race”, but rather, I serve a Master who is concerned for the salvation of the souls of all humanity regardless of their race.

~ Keith Lionel Brown; 5 December 2013; Annapolis, Maryland

What Mormons Believe

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Have you ever wondered what Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) really believe? Are Mormons Christian? Do they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the True and Living God, and that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world? Do they believe that the Bible is the Word of God? These and other questions are answered in the video above. Your comments and questions are welcomed.

Here are a few more videos that will help answer questions about what Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe and teach.

Be ye therefore perfect. . . .

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Be ye therefore perfect. . . . When most of us think of what it means to be “perfect”, we normally associate perfect as being flawless or without blemish. A dictionary definition of the word “perfect” would be rendered as that which is correct to the last detail. Oftentimes we refer to things as being picture-perfect, letter-perfect, or word-perfect. For example, “That was a letter-perfect rendition of the soliloquy” or “He was word-perfect in his part.” And so, in our minds, to be perfect is to be right or correct one hundred percent of the time, and especially when conforming to fact or truth.

In all fairness, when we apply this definition of perfect or being perfect to our own lives, none of us can say that we are perfect. In a very literal sense we are all a continual work in progress, striving to reach perfection, but not yet having obtained it. Perhaps it is because of this interpretation of the word “perfect” in a spiritual sense, such as “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), that we may give up even before we try, realizing how far short of the perfection of the Father we fall. However, a better understanding of the word “perfect” will allow us to see that it is indeed possible to become perfect.

But, how is it possible to be “perfect” when Scriptures clearly teach us that, ”There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? This is a truth that we cannot deny and John is very clear on this subject when he says in 1 John 1:8-10,

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Job, a true servant of the Lord, was a man who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (see Job 1:1). When Abram was ninety-nine years of age, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). The Psalmist David was able to declare in Psalm 18:20-23,

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

Therefore, is being perfect, upright, and of integrity only for the Bible greats such as Job, Abraham, and Noah? Is this perfection something that we have no hope of obtaining? What does it mean to be perfect? The Greek word “perfect” as found in Matthew 5:48 is telios. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means “brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, perfect, full-grown, adult, mature.” The following uses of this word in the New Testament illustrate what it means to be perfect:

1. Beyond keeping the Ten Commandments, perfection is having love and concern for the poor by giving to them. – Matthew 19:16-22.
2. Perfection is being a daily living sacrifice of service, and not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the Holy Spirit to act upon the perfect will of the Almighty. – Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 2:1-16.
3. The purpose of the ministry is for the perfecting of the saints, that we will be united in the one true faith, complete in the knowledge of the Messiah, a perfect man like He is perfect, no more children tossed about. – Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:27-29.
4. Those who are becoming perfect have the Creator’s mind – a mind of humility and service to one another. – Philippians 2:2-5, 19, 20; Philippians 3:15. Epaphroditus, or Epaphras, is an example of perfect service to the brethren. –  Philippians 2:25-30; Colossians 4:12-13.
5. Unless we have advanced beyond the basic doctrines and beyond the milk of the word, and are able to teach others, we are not mature believers. – Hebrews 5:9 to 6:6. Notice the words translated “of full age” in Hebrews 5:14. The Greek word is telios. We who have been schooled for so many years in the truth ought now to be teachers, skilled in living and practicing the Word and able to teach others.
6. Patiently overcoming trials and temptations results in perfection. –  James 1:2-8,12; I Peter 5:10.
7. Perfection comes from the Father who is perfect. – James 1:17- 18.
8. The spiritual law is a perfect law of liberty. Those who obey it are perfect. – James 1:23-25, 2:22.
9. The perfect man holds his tongue. – James 1:25-27, 3:1-18.
10. We must have perfect love – the bond that makes us perfect. – I John 4:18; Colossians 3:12-17. The Almighty’s love is to be perfected in us. – I John 2:3-6. How is this done? By loving the brethren. – I John 4:11-21.

“Nobody is perfect” is a common expression that is used even among Christians. However, perfection is not an illusory goal; it is our daily way of life. Our every effort is directed toward becoming perfect even as He is perfect. The Savior is the captain of our salvation, made perfect through suffering and obedience. Once we take our eyes off our Savior, perfection at once seems to be out of the realm of reality. Indeed without Him, perfection is impossible, but because of Him and all that He done for us through the atonement, we can be perfected in Him.

The Christ of Christmas

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The Birth of Christ MormonAnd now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness. – Alma 38:9

C – The Christ child who in Bethlehem manger lay. Born of a virgin, a choice and blessed daughter of our Heavenly Father. Not an ordinary child by any means, but One who was born King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He whose name is Immanuel – God is with us.

H – He was born of a humble birth and in humility Christ our Savior came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. He who knew no sin paid the ultimate sacrifice for sin by becoming the Sacrificial Lamb for the slaughter, thus taking upon Himself all the sins of humanity – past, present, and future – for those born, and for those yet born.

R – His Resurrection was glorious. Death and the grave could not hold Him. On the third day He triumphantly arose from the grave and lives forevermore seated at the right hand of God the Eternal Father. Because He lives we too shall live and one day we shall behold Him and see Him and know Him as He IS – our Lord, our Savior, our Master, and our King.

I – His atoning love for each of us is infinite, unconditional, and matchless. No greater love hath any man than He who willingly laid down His life for those whom He loves. For a few, men may willingly give their lives, but none will ever pay such a high price as this One who with His life, and because of His infinite love for us, paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe, and one that we could never pay on our own.

S – He is the Savior of the world. Read and meditate upon the words of John 3:16 – 18,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He is the Life and the Light of the world for “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (see John 1:4,5). “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

T – In a day and time when it sometimes becomes difficult to discern between what is truth and what is not, some may ask the pointed question, “What is truth?” He is the embodiment of all truth. He declares in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” And again in John 8:32 He declares, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). He is the God of truth and He cannot lie. “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45).

 

Seeing Through the Eyes of Faith

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Seeing Through the Eyes of FaithI have always been blessed in life to have full use of my extremities and five senses. As a result, it has become easy over the course of my life to take having those things for granted. I could never imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning without the use of them, but yet there are people who live their entire lives without the full use of their extremities, or with the loss of one or more of their five senses. To live their lives in that manner has to be frustrating at best, but yet if you were to speak to some of them they could tell you stories of how their life limitations have not only blessed them, but have allowed them to be a blessing to others.

Of the five senses, I would have to say that the most important one for me is my vision. I love to read and write and so I greatly depend on being able to have my vision. I never realized just how important that is until the vision in my right eye started to give me major problems in October 2010 leading to cataract surgery in November 2010 in hopes that the vision would clear up. Unfortunately, things did not go as well as expected.

For the past 3 years, since my cataract surgery, I have been coping with extreme vision problems in my right eye. Several physicians from both the Veterans Association Hospital, as well as physicians at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland, have worked with me trying to figure out why it is that no medication that has been prescribed or procedures performed seem to make any difference as far as being able to clear up the vision in that eye. A biopsy was performed to see if anything might be discovered that would help shed some light on this situation. The biopsy did show that there is a small infection growing in my right eye and I was given several antibiotic injections in my right eye in hopes of combating the infection.

The good news is that the inflammation and bleeding in front of the eye seem to have settled down, and the swelling in back of the eye decreased significantly. However, all that I am able to see with my right eye are hazy shadows of objects at best, and that is only when the objects are extremely close to me. My line of sight with that eye, as compared to my left eye, is extremely narrow, as objects literally appear to be washed out or disappear altogether as they are moved further and further away. Real bright lights being shined directly in right eye have become my arch nemesis because of the blinding effect that it causes. That has become one of the main reasons that I have had to curtail a lot of late night driving other than in areas that I am most familiar with. Also there appears to be no discernible color distinction with using only my right eye and so everything that I am able to see with that eye is in black and white.

Some people may look at my situation as a major setback. Others, if faced with a similar challenge, may even give up hope altogether. I choose; however, to be thankful that I still have one good eye, and with that eye I am still able to function and do the things that I need to do with minor limitations. Yes, it may be true that I may never regain full vision in my right eye, but that is not a reason to lose hope and quit. Frank A. Clark whose instructive and insightful “The Country Parson” sermons were treasured by loyal fans once said,

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

Someone has also said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.” To me, my situation is just a small bend in the road that I am traveling, and by faith and determination, I choose to make the turn at the bend to continue on my journey.

I will admit that it does get frustrating at times when I want to do things and even my left eye after being put to the test after so many hours of the day grows tired and irritated prohibiting me from doing all that I have planned. Nevertheless, I am still blessed to be able to continue with my writing and to share the things that I write with others who have in turn been blessed.

As I think about my own minor infirmity, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul when he asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in the flesh that had been given him and the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul responds by saying,

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

We are also taught in the Book of Mormon, in Ether 12:27,

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

In this life each of us will have our challenges to face – our own “thorns in the flesh” as it were, but we must decide whether we are going to give in and claim defeat, or become determined to continue to carry on. I may only have one eye that is functioning at an hundred percent at the moment, but I will humbly continue to press forward with the sure knowledge that the Lord will give me the strength that is necessary to do the things that are required of me. Yes, physically I may have only one good eye, but spiritually by His grace which is sufficient; I am able to see clearly with both eyes because I am seeing through the eyes of faith.

My Life is in His Hands

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It was Franklin D. Richards who once said, “Life is God’s greatest gift to man, and what we do with our life is our gift to God.” (CR, April 1971, p. 38). Stephen L. Richards taught, “Life is a mission and not a career.” (Quoted by Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1988, p. 54). And it was President Boyd K. Packer who taught,

No matter what citizenship or race, whether male or female, no matter what occupation, no matter your education, regardless of the generation in which one lives, life is a homeward journey for all of us, back to the presence of God in his celestial kingdom (Ensign, May 1987, p. 24).

On Friday evening, 17 October 1958, at about 10:17 PM, a boy was born to John Wallace Brown and Frances Mae Harmon. He would become the second child born to the proud young parents, as John was only 23 years of age, and Frances had barely turned 21 years of age on 24 September 1958.

Keith Brown Baby PictureHaving already begun raising a now one year old son, these young, but still rather new parents, welcomed their newborn into the world with both joy and realizing the the challenges in being the best parents that they could be to him and his older sibling. Throughout his early childhood, and well into his early adult years, these loving parents would nurture and instruct their son in the way that he should go. They had their own hopes and aspirations of what he would one day become, but at the same time, like his brother before him, they had dedicated his life into the hands of the Lord, and they were confident that as long as he never let go of God’s unchanging hand and was obedient to God’s will for his life, everything would be alright.

Hugh Nibley once said, “No matter where we begin if we pursue knowledge diligently and honestly, our quest will inevitably lead us from the things of earth to the things of heaven.” And it was President David O. McKay who taught,

Knowledge comes through personal effort. Its acquisition involves labor. Exact and definitive knowledge comes to us in exact ratio with the amount of diligence, moral courage, and perseverance we put into the active search for it.

At a very early age this son became a seeker of knowledge and truth. He developed a love for books and learning, and even during his elementary school years, he was fascinated by the treasures of knowledge that were found within the pages of not only his school textbooks, but other volumes that were available to him as well. Whereas most young boys tend to have a want to get actively involved in some type of sports activity, he was more of an academic and preferred spending time in a library or looking through the encyclopedias and books at home to glean any morsel of knowledge from them that he could. However, even with his new-found discoveries, he never seemed fully satisfied. There was still a hunger and a thirst to know even more.

Keith Elementary School YearsIn school, he devoted many hours to his studies, always wanting to do his best to obtain academic excellence. As he moved from elementary school into Junior High and High School, he became an even greater seeker of knowledge. Oftentimes he would be found studying different subjects on his own, outside of the subjects that he learned in the classroom. He soon learned that he had a special passion for learning anything to do with mathematics and foreign languages. By the time that he graduated High School he had successfully passed one year of Latin and five years of Spanish. In fact, he had participated in a national Spanish exam in his senior year of High School and tied for fifth place. He was not a straight ‘A’ student, but he always managed to keep most of his grades in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ range and his name was very often found among the list of names of students who were on the honor roll. It was also in High School when he discovered a love for the English language and thoroughly enjoyed writing essays, short stories, and research papers. Oddly enough, some of his least favorite subjects were history and the sciences, although he enjoyed chemistry class mainly because of the mathematics involved in solving and balancing formulas and equations.

Keith High School Graduation 1976His quest for knowledge did not end with his graduation from Wicomico Senior High School in Salisbury Maryland in June 1976. At the young age of 18 years, having a love for learning new things in mathematics, he became interested in computers and how they functioned, and so he enrolled in a local community college and began his studies in Data Processing Technology. While working full-time as a dishwasher in a local family restaurant, he pursued his studies at Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown Delaware, completing all of his requirements for graduation two weeks ahead of schedule, and graduating with an A.A.S. degree in Data Processing Technology in June 1979.

Hugh B. Brown once said,

Every landing field is also a runway for a new take-off. We must resist the temptation to abide upon arriving at an intermediate goal. There can be no loitering on life’s airfield. One must get on the plane or be left behind (Address, Brigham Young University, May 24, 1962, p. 3).

After graduating from Delaware Technical and Community College he decided to put further traditional classroom training and learning on temporary hold and continued working full-time in the local restaurant. This; however, did not put an end to his quest for knowledge. He continuously pondered what he would eventually do with his life and began setting goals for some of the things that he hoped to do. Perhaps he would become a teacher or even a preacher of the Gospel, as he also loved reading and studying the scriptures, and at the young age of 21 years had already read the Bible several times in its entirety.

King James Bible and Book of MormonEven with his vast knowledge and study of the Bible, he felt that there was still much more that he needed to know. There were many questions in his young mind that seemed left unanswered. And so, one day while watching television he saw a commercial for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and at the end of the commercial they offered a free Book of Mormon. Having no knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and curiosity about the Book of Mormon, he sent and asked for a copy.

Mormon MissionariesAbout a week later two young men dressed in suits and riding bicycles arrived at the door of his parents’ home where he was living at the time. They introduced themselves as missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said that they had the Book of Mormon that he had requested. Wanting to learn more about the Church and the Book of Mormon, he invited them in. This was in October 1980, and shortly after he had joined the Navy under the Delayed Entry Program. Leaving home and traveling the world while serving his country was one of the goals that he had set for himself. As President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Goals are good. Laboring with a distant aim sets the mind in a higher key and puts us at our best.” (Regional Representatives’ Seminar, April 3, 1974.) And as Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “To reach a goal you have never attained, you must do things you have never before done.” (Ensign, May 1990, p. 76.)

He met with the missionaries often over the next 6 months, and even began reading the Book of Mormon. Finally, in March 1981, he thanked the missionaries for the things that they had taught him and promised that he would continue investigating the Church and reading the Book of Mormon later. For now his mission in life was join the Navy serving his country. He did not realize that his mission would actually become his career.

Keith Lionel BrownDuring his military service he was blessed with the opportunity to travel to many foreign lands that he had only read about in books. He also continued his quest for knowledge by continuing to take courses in different subjects. He even enrolled in Bible College in the Tabernacle Baptist Church Theological Seminary while stationed in Norfolk Virginia with hopes of someday becoming a Baptist minister. He only had the opportunity to study in the Seminary for a little over a year, and during that time, he again realized that there was so much more that he wanted answers to. It would not be until 1997, some 17 years after his first investigation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while stationed in Keflavic, Iceland, that he would finally find the answers that he had been seeking when he again began reading the Book of Mormon and meeting with the missionaries. On Tuesday evening, 10 March 1998, in the little LDS Chapel in Reykjavík, Iceland he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the rest as they say is history.

My name is Keith Lionel Brown. I am the one of whom this narrative refers. The first 54 years of this journey called life have been truly amazing. There have been many mountain top experiences, as well as many valley experiences. Nevertheless, all the experiences have helped to mold me into the person that I am today. Truly I stand all amazed at the love that the Savior offers me.

In a  short 54 years I have been blessed to travel all over the world, meet influential and interesting people from all walks of life – entertainers, authors, movie directors, actors,  and producers, a former President of the United States, and General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have also been blessed with many wonderful opportunities – things that as a young boy I could have only imagined.

My two goodly parents were indeed right in their humble estimation that as long as I hold on to God’s unchanging hand and do what His will is for my life, everything is going to be alright.

I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I do know the One who holds all of my tomorrows in the palms of His hands. He never sleeps and He never slumbers. He is always right there beside me and has promised never to leave me alone. I don’t have to worry or be afraid. I know that I can make it. In Him I know I can stand. For no matter what may come my way, my life is in His hands. Of this, I do so testify. In the sacred name of our Lord and savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Who is this person that I should know him and love him?

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Old Country Church

Pastor Joseph Wallace Brown, or “Pastor Joe” as he was lovingly referred to by his congregation, sat quietly in his study this particular Friday afternoon contemplating and reflecting as he was gathering his thoughts for the sermon that he would deliver to the congregation on Sunday morning. This Sunday was a special Sunday, as all Sabbath days are; however, this Sunday was Independence Day and it would also mark the twenty ninth anniversary of his serving as Pastor.

At the young age of 46, Joseph Wallace Brown had been selected to be the Pastor of the congregation of the Robinson Street Baptist Church in San Domingo Maryland. For the past 29 years he had spent many hours reading and studying the Scriptures and preparing sermons that he felt would edify and strengthen his congregation. During those 29 years he had seen many members of the congregation come and go. Many had moved away to find better employment. Some had left to go to college and decided not to return to San Domingo after graduating. Others had left the church for various reasons. And there were some dear ones, both family members and friends, who had passed away over the years, including his beloved wife Frances Mae. Some of the adults in the congregation who were only babies when Pastor Joe preached his first sermon on Sunday morning, July 4, 1981, were now leaders in the congregation.

As Pastor Joe continued to ponder what his sermon would be about on Sunday morning, he recalled that first sermon he had preached. He had titled the sermon “Blessed Is The Nation.” The sermon was based on the Scriptures found in Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance”, and 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” His first thoughts were to preach a sermon using this same theme, but then he began to reflect more upon the years gone by and some of the events that had taken place in his own life, as well as, the lives of the members of his congregation and decided that might not be the way to go. He also thought about preaching a sermon in honor of being the Pastor for the past 29 years, but soon decided against that idea as well. Neither of the ideas seemed to fit. Somehow he felt that God had a special message that He needed him to deliver to the congregation on this special Sabbath Day morning. Suddenly he felt impressed to take a walk.

The community of San Domingo where Pastor Joe lived was small and close knit. Everybody knew who lived in the community and when a stranger came into the community it drew everyone’s attention. Just about everyone who lived in the community were members of the Robinson Street Baptist Church with a few exceptions that attended church elsewhere. As he walked around the community he observed neighbors at work and children at play. He stopped and spoke to several of them as he passed by. As he continued to walk through the community he still could not help but wonder what the special message was that the Lord would have him preach on Sunday morning. The words from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin” suddenly came to mind and it was as if a small voice whispered to him at that moment, “Not all things are as they seem. Watch and listen.”

In a short time he began to see, hear, and understand what the voice was telling him. As he passed by one neighbor’s house he saw some children playing in their yard. A young boy who he knew to be in town visiting some relatives saw the boys playing and asked if he could play too. Instead of inviting the boy to join their group, they began to mock and tease him to the point that the boy ran away in tears. Pastor Joe wanted to stop and say something to the boys, but noticing that the mother had come outside, he felt that it was best to let it be and let the mother handle it.

As he walked on a little further he saw Mrs. Dashields, one of the elderly ladies of the community, struggling to carry some heavy bags of things that she had gotten from another neighbor to her home. Two teenage boys on bicycles, Timothy Wilson and William Johnson rode past her, but not one of them bothered to ask her if they could lend a hand and lighten her load. Instead they just looked at her and laughed and rode on by. Just as he was going to go help her another neighbor who had looked out his window and had seen her, came running to her aid.

Moving on a little further he saw and heard a father, Mr. Beckett, yelling and screaming at his son. Pastor Joe knew the boy well and knew that he had a difficult time at learning and understanding things. Obviously his father knew this as well, but things must not have been going well for the father that day and he decided to take it out on his son. Not only was he yelling at the boy, but he was calling him dumb, slow, stupid, and other such names. The boy repeatedly said that he was sorry for whatever it was he had done but the father would not hear of it and sent the boy in the house in tears and shame. Pastor Joe felt sorry for the boy and wanted to stop and say something to the father, but seeing the angry mother coming out of the house to confront the father, he thought it best not to get in the middle of it.

As he walked towards the end of the community and was turning around to start walking back towards home, he was in awe of some of the things that he had seen and heard from the members of his congregation. By the time he reached home and returned to his study, he knew exactly what the special message was that the Lord would have him preach on Sunday morning. He opened his Bible and turned to the passage of Scripture that he would use as his text. He also had the title for the sermon. Now, the question was how to make the sermon effective and meaningful. He thought for a moment and then he had the answer. He paused and gave thanks to God for opening his eyes and allowing him to see some things as they really are. He also thanked Him for the message that he had been entrusted to deliver on Sunday morning. Then he ended the prayer by asking a special blessing for his congregation and for those who would be visiting on Sunday.

When members of the congregation arrived that Sunday morning they greeted one another with the usual smiles, hugs and handshakes. As they neared the entrance of the building they stopped as they noticed an old man sitting against the building. No one knew what to think of him. He wore an old overcoat that was dirty and torn. He wore an old hat that looked like something that had been taken out of the garbage. The clothes he had on were filthy, ragged, and torn. Even a few of the patches were beginning to come lose and were in need of mending. He had a scraggly beard and he wore dark sunglasses to cover his eyes. His shoes had holes in the soles and had cardboard in them to cover the holes. In spite of his appearance the man seemed friendly enough as he stood to his feet to greet the members in a scruffy voice with “Good morning! How is everyone this fine Sunday morning?” He reached out his hand to shake hands with some of them as another friendly gesture, but no one would accept his offer. This man was a stranger. He was dirty. His dress was deplorable. Surely he was not thinking of coming inside to worship with them. And, what was it that he was carrying that had been so carefully wrapped in a brown paper bag?

The old man just stood there and looked at the members. Some of the children were beginning to snicker, point, and whisper jokes about this stranger. Some of the adults were no better as they too began whispering amongst themselves. “Who is this person?” some asked. “Do we know him?” “Why don’t the deacons and trustees just ask this person to leave so that we can go in and have our worship service?” others asked. Mrs. Dashields spoke up and asked, “Does the pastor know that this man is here? Why don’t someone go and tell him?” Then Mr. Beckett, one of the deacons, looked around and said, “That is odd. I don’t even see the pastor’s car here yet. It is unusual that he would not be here by now. I hope he is not ill or something.”

A couple of the other deacons finally asked the old man to stand aside and allow the members to enter while they had a talk with him. The man cordially agreed. Before the deacons could say anything the old man assured them that he was not there to cause any trouble or to cause anyone any harm. He only wanted to attend worship services and then he would go quietly on his way, The deacons agreed to let him stay and told him that he could sit in one of the back pews and enjoy the service. The old man thanked them and went inside. Still the deacons wondered, “Who is this person? Do we know him from somewhere?”, and “Where is the pastor this morning?” They too went inside and took their usual seats.

The congregation sat reverently awaiting the arrival of Pastor Joe. Mrs. Chandler, the church pianist, played hymns as they waited. One of the hymns that she played was “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”. At the conclusion of the playing of the hymn, the old gentleman in the back stood up and started walking towards the pulpit. The congregation was in uproar that this person would dare think of entering the sacred pulpit. What made him think that he was even worthy to do so? One of the deacons asked him to please return to his seat, but the man would not listen. He continued walking towards the pulpit.

Once he was in the pulpit he sat the package that he was carrying down and stood and gazed at the congregation. Then he opened the Bible that was on the pulpit. He gazed at the congregation once more and then he read these words to them: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:34-36). The congregation sat in silence and wonderment that this stranger had chosen this particular passage of Scripture to read. He continued and then read these words, “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” (Matthew 25:37-39) The old gentleman paused and reached down for the package. Carefully he unwrapped the package and then revealed its contents to the congregation. What was inside the package was a picture that he now held up for all to see. As he held the picture high with one hand, he continued reading starting with the verses that he had just read: “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:37-40).

He paused and laid the picture down. Looking into the audience with tears now welling up in his eyes, he stood in silence for a brief moment and then said something that the people did not quite understand. He simply said, “Not everything is always as it seems.” He then turned around and walked towards one of the seats on the stand. The people thought he was finished, but much to their amazement, this stranger, with his back to the audience, first took off the old overcoat that he was wearing. Next, he took off the dark glasses, followed by the fake mustache and beard and finally the hair piece that he was wearing. Pausing for yet another brief moment, he turned and faced the congregation. This supposed stranger was no stranger at all. This man was none other than Pastor Joe, their beloved Pastor who had faithfully served them for the past 29 years. Some were a bit angered that Pastor Joe would deceive them in such a cunning manner, but no one said anything. Pastor Joe went back to the pulpit, picked up the picture once again, held it high for all to see, and then read once more the last verse which he had just read: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren. . . .” (he motioned with his free hand waving it over the congregation and then pointing to himself), ye have done it unto me (now raising the picture high with both hands). Having read that verse, he sat the picture down once again and turned to go to the seat on the stand. Nothing more needed to be said as Pastor Joe had delivered the special message that the Lord needed him to deliver. He motioned for Mrs. Chandler to come to the piano and play the closing hymn and then invited Timothy Wilson to give the closing prayer.

Disclaimer: I wrote this article/short story and posted it on an older blog that I used to maintain, on 23 July 2010. It is shared here because I believe that the message contained therein is powerful, and needs to be repeated from time to time, especially within the body of Christ. It is interesting to note that recent news stories based on the same theme as the message of this article have recently appeared about an LDS Bishop who disguised himself as a homeless person to teach his congregation a lesson on compassion (see the picture and related articles below). Please feel free to comment as to whether you believe that this is a good method of illustrating a Biblical principle.

mormon-bishop-homeless-compassionRelated articles

Pentatonix – Carol of the Bells

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I love a cappella music, and recently discovered this group known as Pentatonix on YouTube. Pentatonix is an a cappella group of five vocalists, Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola, originating from Arlington, Texas. The video below is of Pentatonix performing one of my personal favorite Christmas carols called “Carol of the Bells.” You can hear more of their great music by visiting their Official YouTube Channel, and you can also visit their Facebook page.