Tag Archives: Christian Living

Restoration Moments – The Conversion of Blue Dick

A miserable drunk.  A congregation who wanted nothing to do with him.  And the power of the gospel.

Today’s Restoration Moment comes from the book, The Life of Knowles Shaw: Singing Evangelist (by William Baxter).  This book is available as a free download from the Gravel Hill church of Christ (scroll down to “Biographies”).  Enjoy!

Knowles Shaw was holding a meeting at some point on the Ohio River, where it was necessary for him to cross frequently. The first night of his meeting, he went down to the river, but found the only ferryman to be a poor, ragged, besotted wretch, no hat on his head, his hair matted, his whole person filthy in the extreme, and giving evidence that he was even then under the influence of drink. His appearance was so forbidding, and his condition such that Shaw was doubtful as to whether it would be safe to entrust himself in a frail skiff with such a ferryman. And had there been any other and safer means of getting across he would have availed himself of it. But there was no other chance, and with some misgivings as to the result, he entered the boat. He soon found that, though under the influence of liquor, the ferryman knew how to manage his skiff, and feeling at ease on that matter, he began to talk with him. He asked him his name.

“Blue Dick,” was the reply.

“But,” said Shaw, “that is not really your name.”

“Well,” said he, “if I have any other, it has been so long since I heard it, I have almost forgotten what it is.”

Changing the subject abruptly, he asked, “Why don’t you quit drinking?”

“I can’t,” said the poor wretch.

“Yes, you can,” replied Shaw.

Wondering that a stranger should take any interest in him, he said, “Mister, do you think I could?”

“Of course you can,” said Shaw, in a kind and assuring manner.

The poor fellow sat for some time in silence. It was long since any word of sympathy, interest or encouragement had fallen upon his ear, and the kind words of the stranger reached the heart which all his neighbors thought had ceased to feel. Deeply moved, he looked up and said, earnestly:

“Mister, do you really think I could quit drinking?”

“Have you a wife and children?”

In a voice choked with emotion, and weeping bitterly, he said that he had. The way was now open. Shaw told him he was a preacher, and asked him to come and hear him.

“Why,” said he, “you would not let such a one as me come; and if you were willing, others would not like to see me there.”

Shaw urged him to come, assured him that he should be welcome; that instead of being out of the reach of mercy, that it was such as he that Jesus came to save. Tenderly and earnestly he besought him to change his course, until the poor ferryman began to think that there might be hope even for him. On reaching the other side, Shaw paid him his fare, and, as he did so, he pointed to a saloon that was near, and said, “I do not like the idea of this money going to such a place as that; can’t you promise me that you will not drink any tonight, and I will come back, and you shall take me over the river again.” Blue Dick gave the required promise and they parted; the preacher going to the house of God, and the ferryman, with emotions such as had not stirred in his heart for years, standing in deep thought by the rapid river under the watching stars.

After meeting, Brother Shaw went down to the river, found Blue Dick waiting for him, showing by his manner that he had kept his promise not to drink. He gave him a few words of encouragement, and obtained his promise that he would come and hear him preach the following night.

Great was the astonishment of many to see Blue Dick at church, and greater still to see the preacher, who had seen him come in and drop into the first empty seat that he found near the door, come up to him, take him by the hand, speak a few kind words to him, and ask him to come again. Night after night he came, and the warm hand of the preacher never failed to give that of Blue Dick a friendly grasp, and the fitting words spoken did not fail to strengthen the new purposes that were beginning to take shape in his mind.

The coming of this one, and the marked attention shown him by the preacher, led some of the brethren to fear, yes fear, that this poor outcast might offer himself for membership. They even expressed their fears to Brother Shaw, and predicted that it would ruin the church if one such as he should attempt to enter the fold. Brother Shaw, however, did not fail to show, in their loveliest colors, the tenderness and compassion of Him who came to give hope to the hopeless, to seek and to save the lost. The lost sheep, and the wayward, wretched, ruined prodigal seemed to point to Blue Dick, and Blue Dick himself began to think they meant him; and one night, when the preacher, with even more than his wonted earnestness, urged the despairing and lost to come to Christ as their only hope, Blue Dick rose to come forward and accept the gospel offer. The preacher went half-way down the aisle to meet him; angels doubtless, too, at that moment gave expression to their joy in glad song, and He who died to save the lost was, doubtless, glad to see that the lost was found.

But, alas! while there was joy in heaven, the coming of poor Blue Dick to confess his Lord, to strive to lead a better life, did not send a thrill of joy through the church; some there were who, like the elder son in the parable, thought that the returned wanderer would never be other than a disgrace to the family, thought that Blue Dick had gone too far to retrace his steps, and that his newly-formed resolutions would be broken on the very first invitation to take a drink, and that he would soon sink to even a lower depth, if possible, than before. Such was the feeling of opposition with regard to him that Brother Shaw did not take his confession and baptize him for several days, feeling, doubtless, that until he could change their views on the subject, that their coolness would repel and discourage, rather than help and save.

Before the meeting closed, to the wonder of the whole community, Blue Dick made a public confession of his faith in Christ, was baptized, and by his consistent life soon disarmed whatever of objection remained, and was regarded as a standing proof of the power of the gospel.

Years passed by; the faithful evangelist revisited the same place. Blue Dick was no longer there; he was transformed into Brother George M., one of the best members of the church.  He was living in a comfortable home, surrounded by a loving and happy family, with every mark of neatness and thrift about them. As soon as Brother Shaw had entered this happy Christian home, the one who had been Blue Dick said: “Brother Shaw, kneel down and thank God for what he has done for me, that I, who when you met me was a poor, miserable, drunken sinner, have been lifted up, and, by the mercy of God, am what I am today.” Down they knelt; preacher, husband, wife, and children, all, all wept; but they were tears of joy; and when they parted it was in the glad hope of meeting in that blessed land where no partings shall be.

Spreading the Good News About Gas

One person I know used to call the local radio stations every morning and let them know which gas stations had the cheapest gas that day.  He wasn’t paid to do it, nor was he ever asked to do it.  Instead, he viewed it as a public service to let others know where they could save five or ten cents per gallon on their gas.  If you add that up, in a normal SUV, that’s perhaps $2.50 you can save!

The man did this every day.  Why?  Because he wanted to help others.

Sure, $2.50 isn’t much, but people sure do feel like ten cents per gallon is a big deal.  In fact, they’ll drive a mile or two out of their way to get their gas cheaper…never bothering to consider that they wasted a gallon of gas doing it—and thus wasted more money than they saved.

Because he thought they would be interested.  Saving money seems to interest most people, even if it is a little amount.  I know of one person (I won’t mention his name) who uses a calculator at the grocery store to figure out how much things cost per ounce.  And if it happens to save him a penny, he’ll buy the big container instead of four of the little ones—even if he’s not going to use all of it for months.

Because he hoped it would be important to them.  For some people who are on a very tight budget or a fixed income, every little bit helps.  And hearing about the best price in town is very useful.

Now, answer honestly: have you ever told a total stranger where they could find something cheaper?  I was in a grocery store once, and heard someone complaining about the price of Ritz crackers.  I then heard someone else say, “they have them for half the price over at _________.”

People spread this kind of news all the time, and many times it is to total strangers.

About this point, you’re either wondering where I’m going, or you’ve already figured it out.

Why is it that people (including Christians) are so eager and unafraid to spread the good news about cheap gas, but are so timid and scared when it comes to spreading the REALLY good news about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Do you want to help others?

Of course you do!  But what is more helpful, telling people how to save $2.50, or telling them how to save their eternal soul?

Do you find Jesus and the Bible and salvation interesting?

There’s a lot of other people out there who do as well.  What do you think is more interesting to most people?  $2.50 or freedom from the guilt and consequences of their past sins?

Do you think salvation is important?

If you don’t try to talk to others about it, then the answer is “no.”  Most people have no problem telling total strangers about good deals, all because they think saving money is important.  Do you think saving souls is important?

If you want to be helpful—truly helpful—to other people, tell them about Jesus.  And if you want to tell them how to save $2.50 while you’re at it, then they will have two things to thank you for: helping their pocketbook, but also helping their soul.

–Bradley Cobb

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 5)

Don’t forget to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 first!

The preacher laughed in teenage Victor Cross’s face when he said he wanted to be a preacher.  It was over 25 years later before Victor finally overcame his sadness and bitterness towards the church.  But when he came back to Jesus, Victor started working and never looked back.

We saw in yesterday’s post how Victor used the power of a simple question: “Do you read your Bible every day?” to open doorways of opportunity.  We saw the power of using tracts to spread the gospel throughout the world.  In this, the final installment of The Life of Victor Cross, we look at the power of the postal service in evangelism.

There are millions of people around the world who would love to receive letters from the United States.  Victor Cross learned this as a result of his tract-spreading activities.  He was contacted by someone in Nigeria who had received a tract he left on board a ship, and that led to over 100 correspondence courses completed within a year, with many of them obeying the gospel.

Once, a ship was actually beginning to pull away from the harbor when Victor quickly rushed up the gangplank to ask if anyone read their Bible every day.  A British man on board said “Sir, I read my Bible every day.”  So, Victor handed him a tract—“The Old Paths” by Batsell Barrett Baxter.  The man said, “If this is of any value, I’d like to hear from you further.”  So Victor quickly wrote his name and address on the back before running back to the dock, just barely making it.  Another fifteen seconds, and he would have had to swim back to the dock.

It was nine days later that Victor received a letter in the mail, stating: “your ‘book’ impresses me very much.  I can’t bear to part with it, but I’d like my wife to have one.”  He gave her address to Victor, and that same day, copies of the tract, and four Bible courses were mailed to the British West Indies.  Within a few short years, 16% of the entire island had completed the correspondence courses!

Victor Cross has since gone on to his reward.  But his life should be an encouragement to each of us to do what we can to spread the gospel.  We don’t have to be pulpit preachers.  We don’t have to be eloquent.  What we have to do is make the opportunities, and use what God has given us.

So, next time you go to church, pick up some tracts and hand them out.  Ask people “Do you read your Bible every day?”  Help get people interested in taking a Bible study course through the mail.  You can even help to spread the word about Bible study courses through email, Facebook, text message, and many other forms of communication.

You, too, can be an international missionary without leaving your hometown!

(Note: Victor Cross and his evangelistic efforts were discussed in Firm Foundation, March 12, 1968.  Much of the information in this series came from that article).

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 4)

To get caught up, read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Victor Cross wants to do more for Jesus.  There are so many lost souls out there that need the gospel, but how can I do it? Once again, Providence intervenes.

Victor took a job operating a crane, unloading cargo from ships that came into the bay near Houston, TX.  This job put him in contact with seamen from all over the world.  His first day on the job, he met some Germans who were bringing in a shipment, and he asked them about studying the Bible.  They were very enthusiastic about it, but not being fluent in English, a study would be difficult.

That very night, Victor wrote to Otis Gatewood, a preacher in Germany, asking for Bible material in German.  Within a few weeks, Victor started receiving tracts and Bible study materials in German, Finnish, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages.  Victor went to work.

He invited some of the sailors to his house for fried chicken (these foreign seamens had never had fried chicken before), showed them the filmstrips, and then gave them some tracts in their own language.  He soon had Bibles, tracts and materials in 17 different languages.

Victor met with thousands of foreign seamen each year, giving them tracts, Bibles, and encouraging them to read them.  But sometimes the people aren’t so friendly.  One day, he went aboard a Greek ship, and every single person refused to talk with him.  So, he simply left three tracts on the ship and left.

It was over a year later that the same ship came into port, and Victor again went on to see if he could talk with anyone.  He entered the mess room where he saw a man reading something.  It was a tract!  It was one of the tracts that Victor had left over a year earlier!  As Victor said “hi” and sat down, the man spoke to him.

“The Americans are the most wasteful people on earth.  Over a year ago, when we were here, some American threw this little book away.  And it’s the greatest message I have ever read!  Three weeks after we departed from Houston last year, we docked in Japan where I got a Bible, and I checked all the references given.  And everything in it is true!”  The man continued, “I will be discharged soon.  And when I get home, I’m going to tell the patriarch in our church that he has been teaching us a falsehood all these years!”

Victor never told the man that it was he who left the tract.

The captain of another Greek ship was asked by Victor, “Do you read the Bible every day?”  The Captain said he had no Bible, so Victor gave him one, along with a tract.  Later that week, the captain invited Victor to dine with him on the ship.  He told Mr. Cross, “This book is the greatest thing I have ever read!  Why didn’t you come along 25 years ago?”

Curious, Victor asked why.  The answer was astonishing.

“My father was a Greek Orthodox priest, and said that it shouldn’t be a Catholic Church or a Greek Church, but Christ’s church.  My father said the Lord’s Supper should be observed every Sunday, and that it should be accompanied with prayers, and songs, and study of the Bible.  But he could never find anyone who would agree with him.  Now he’s gone.”  Then the Captain concluded with these words: “I’m going home to establish the church that belongs to Christ, and maybe someday we’ll send missionaries back to evangelize the United States.”

To be concluded tomorrow…

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 3)

If you missed it, here’s part 1 and part 2

Victor Cross is discouraged.  He wants to preach.  He wants to help bring others to Jesus.  But each time he tries, he runs into the same question: “What denomination are you with?”

It was late afternoon as Victor started to leave the doctor’s office.  He stopped before leaving, and asked the secretary if she’d be interested in studying the Bible.  And, as always, the question came, “with what denomination, Mr. Cross?”

After pausing for a moment in silent prayer, asking God, “How do I answer?” Victor turned and said, “Look at me.”

Confused, the secretary replied, “What do you mean?”

Victor turned again and said, “Look at me!  Do I look like a denomination?”

“You surely don’t.”

Victor quickly responded with a smile, “Then will you study the Bible, with me?”

She did, and later was baptized.

Victor has done the same thing with multiple thousands of people, and the success rate is amazing.  Others have followed his approach and found that it works for them too.  Why?  Because even people who aren’t willing to go inside a church building to save their lives are open to talking to an individual about the Bible.

It’s interesting that when you look in the Bible, you won’t see a single person converted by a sermon preached during the worship.  They’re all converted outside of the “church building.”

And though Victor Cross brought several people to Christ this way, his biggest impact for Christ—one that was felt world-wide—hadn’t even begun.

To be continued tomorrow…

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (part 2)

See part 1 here

Victor Cross has left the church.  He has no intentions of ever going back.  He’s incredibly cynical and jaded because of the way he’d been treated by some preacher.  But let’s fast-forward a couple decades.

Victor has been without the grace of God for twenty years, despite his wife’s best efforts to encourage him to come back.  One day, as providence would have it, Victor met a couple men.  These men were kind, sincere, and godly.  They also happened to be elders in the church.  After learning Victor’s story, they said they understood why he would make that decision, from a human standpoint.  But they also encouraged Victor, and told him, “Don’t give up on Jesus just because someone else treated you that way.  Jesus didn’t do that to you.”

And Victor came back to the Lord.

His desire to work for Jesus came back fiercer than ever before.  And in his very first prayer after coming back to Christ, Victor uttered these words: “Lord, make me a fisher of men.”

Because Victor knew that he had to help be the answer to his own prayer, he began to study the Bible, and collected a modest library.  He wanted to preach, but knew that he would also need to work a “regular” job to pay the bills.  He bought a film projector and a set of filmstrips, and showed them to anyone who would watch.

But again discouragement struck.  He tried many times to get people to take a Bible correspondence course, but every time he did, the same question was asked, “what denomination?”  He learned quickly that regardless of how he said it, as soon as the words “church of Christ” left his lips, the door was shut, and people’s minds became closed.

To be continued tomorrow…

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (part 1)

Quick!  Who is Victor Cross?

Here, I’ll give you a hint: He’s a powerful evangelist whose influence has been felt around the entire globe.

Still don’t know who he is?  That’s just how he’d prefer it.  You see, Victor Cross doesn’t want to be a big name.  He wants Christ to be the focus.

But the way that Victor has gone about it—the way he has influenced people all over the world—is something incredible, because it is so simple.

And you can do it too.

Victor came from a family of Christians.  Both of his grandfathers were gospel preachers, and he wanted to follow in their footsteps.  When he was 18, he was baptized into Christ and in less than a week, he announced that he wanted to preach for Jesus.

But then discouragement hit—and it hit hard.  The local preacher laughed at him for wanting to preach.  Laughed in his face!  This same preacher (who was also the one who baptized Victor) later accused him of stealing the typewriter that Victor had loaned to the church.  Then Victor had to watch the drama unfold when it came to light that the preacher had actually sold Victor’s typewriter so he could buy himself a better one.

As a result of these constant discouragements, and seeing this poor example of a preacher, Victor left the church, and therefore left Jesus too.

As Providence would have it, Victor got married.  He started going to church with her, and when she decided to be baptized, he went forward to publicly repent for being unfaithful to the Lord.  But the preacher demanded that Victor itemize all the sins he’d committed while he was away from the Lord.  This didn’t sit well.  Victor left the church, and this time it was for good—so he thought.  He was bitter.  He was angry.  He was resentful to all things related to the church.

To be continued tomorrow…

Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

A year ago today, I wrote this article.  The message is still timely.  I pray that it is encouraging to you.

Who’s gonna fill their shoes?  Who’s gonna stand that tall?   Those words were made famous by George Jones, the legend of country music who died Friday morning.  The song was written mourning the passing of many classic country singers.  It was also written mourning the fact that the “new country” of the time was becoming more and more like pop music instead of country.

When the song was first released, there were people who were up and coming in country music who still held to their musical roots.  There were people like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Randy Travis, and others who kept more traditional county music alive.  If the question were asked today, however, the answer might well be “none.”  Real “country” music has just about disappeared from the airwaves, and all that is left is pop/rock music with an occasional fiddle or steel guitar.

Those country singers who truly play country music have been ostracized and rejected.  Even though the soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou” sold over a million copies, it was deemed “too country” for country radio.  Two of the most popular country artists of the 90′s (Alan Jackson and George Strait) accused the record companies of killing country music in their song “Murder on Music Row.”  Brad Paisley gathered together some legends of country music and recorded a song in protest called “Too Country.”

But George Strait and Alan Jackson are rarely heard on the radio anymore and Brad Paisley has defected to the synthesized pop side.  And again, the question lingers, Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

What does this have to do with the Bible and Christianity?

As more and more preachers, elders, and other faithful Christians pass on, we need to seriously consider the question of Who’s gonna fill their shoes?  Who is going to step up and continue to carry the banner of true Christianity?  It seems that a lot of Christians think that somehow the church will just keep on going strong without them—so they do nothing.

Jesus pointed out to a group of disciples that there is much work to be done, telling them “The harvest is truly great, but the laborers are few.  Because of this, pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).  Jesus was concerned about who was going to carry on when He was gone.

Today, there is a massive push to leave real Christianity behind and go with a man-made imitation.  The ones who stand for the truth are labeled with such epitaphs as “legalists,” “boring,” “outdated,” and even “dead.”

There are Christians who speak out, but their voice is being marginalized.  Even when “big name” preachers speak out for the truth, their words are given little attention.  And more preachers and Christians continue to defect to the imitation Christianity that is supposedly more “popular” with people.

So, the question again rises and smacks each of the faithful in the face: with more preachers, elders, and Christians passing on, Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

Are you willing to stand up and say, as the great prophet Isaiah did, “Here am I, send me!”? (Isaiah 6:8.)

Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

I am.  And I pray that you will too.  You are needed.

The Blame Game

When a team loses a big game, the fans always want to pin the blame on someone.  When there’s a problem at a job, the boss looks for someone to blame (so that the blame doesn’t fall on him).  When things were going bad for the nation of Israel, they looked for someone to blame (sometimes Moses, sometimes they blamed God Himself!).

The blame game dates back to the garden of Eden.  After both Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, God came walking by, and that’s when it started.  “that woman you gave me caused me to eat!”  “That snake tricked me!” (and of course the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on…).  But notice there that from the beginning people have been wanting to avoid responsibility for their actions.  Adam blamed Eve and God!  Eve blamed the serpent.  None of them would fess up and say, “it’s my fault.”

We see the same problems in relationships today.  If a marriage isn’t going well, you can almost guarantee that the husband knows it’s mostly the wife’s fault, and the wife knows it’s mostly the husband’s fault.  Instead of looking at themselves to find a solution to their marriage problems, they are placing all the blame on the other.  Things will NEVER get better if this attitude doesn’t change.

In Revelation 16, there is a nation being tormented with plagues, but through it all they refused to repent.  In fact, they said it was God’s fault that they were undergoing these plagues.  But they ignored the fact that if they had repented, the plagues could have stopped.  But still, even at the end, they blasphemed God for the trouble they had gotten themselves into.

If you’re having a difficult time with someone, ask yourself these questions:

1. What could I have done differently that may have kept this from getting to this point?

2. What can I do now to improve this situation?

There is plenty of blame to go around.  We don’t like the thought of being wrong, and so we fight against it, trying to run through every imaginable possibility to lay the blame somewhere other than at our own feet.  But in the end, we still must shoulder at least SOME of the blame.  Examine the situations and take responsibility for your part in the mess.

For the husband, the answer is probably to treat your wife with love, patience, compassion, and understanding.  After all, she’s got a lot to deal with–including you.

For the wife, the answer is probably to show your husband some patience, respect, and understanding.  After all, he’s got a lot to deal with–including you.

If all married couples treated each other this way, marriage problems would shrink tremendously.  After all, God is the one who said to treat our spouses in these ways.  And He knows best.

–Bradley Cobb

I’ll Procrastinate–Starting Tomorrow

Nobody enjoys getting their taxes ready.  This is especially true for those—like preachers—who are required to save every receipt, and write down the mileage from every conceivable work-related trip—regardless of how short it may be.  It’s even more true when that person (won’t mention any names here) kept putting off the collection of those receipts and the writing down of that mileage until the last minute.  Because of this, he had to get a year’s worth of work done in one day.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s impossible to remember every little trip you made over the past year.  So, putting off preparation until the last possible minute actually costs you some of your tax deductions.  And we all know that if you don’t organize your receipts, some of them are bound to disappear over the course of a year.  Which means that also affects your taxes as well.

Most of the time people have grand plans to get organized or to lose weight (or to get their taxes ready), but those plans are always later.  We don’t want to do things starting right now because we know those things are going to be difficult.  We dread the diets.  We dread the massive cleaning and going through boxes and boxes in order to get organized.  But the longer you put things off, the more they pile up—and the harder it is to finally convince yourself to do it.  After all, if a small pile is enough to convince you it is too hard, what’s a big pile going to do?

Here’s a little secret—a lot of those things wouldn’t be that difficult if we started doing them now.

If one were to keep track of the mileage and receipts throughout the year, entering them into the computer or ledger book, then come tax time, everything would already be ready and waiting for them.

Why do kids dread cleaning their rooms?  Because they usually wait a week (or a month) before they actually start on cleaning it.  By then, it is a monumental task just to find the floor!  But if they would simply pick up their mess each night, it would be easier and quicker, and they wouldn’t have anything to dread.

The apostle Paul spoke about the need to start doing things now.  He told the Corinthian Christians, “On the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store [put money aside] as he has been prospered by God, so that there will be no collection when I come” (I Corinthians 16:2).  He was telling them that there was going to be a time when he would come to collect this money they were putting aside to help the poor Christians.  But he was also telling them to start putting aside money for it now—don’t procrastinate!  It’s much easier to do a little each week than it is to have to do a lot all at once.

The saddest thing about procrastination is watching people put off obeying God.  I have heard people say, “I’ll become a Christian later, but right now I want to have fun.”  The longer they put it off, the harder it will be for them to finally follow through.  Most people who continually put off obeying God never get around to doing it.

Change can be hard, but it isn’t near as hard as it will be if you keep putting it off.  Stop procrastinating and start making your life easier by doing things now.  It will help with your taxes, your weight, your organization, your family, your job, and it will help with eternity.

“Behold now is the accepted time.  Behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

–Bradley Cobb