Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Sheep hear my voice

Forty years ago I became a Christian and about one month later Jesus called me to work with Russian speaking young people. I was 17 at the time.

Christ called me to himself from within the small "German" Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Luke, where I grew up. I had been catechized and confirmed, but I had not then come to know Jesus as a living person.

I was forced to read The Plague by Albert Camus as a part of an English literature course. I wrestled deeply with the plot. The Black Death comes to a small town in North Africa. The antagonist, a French Roman Catholic priest says that the Muslims deserve to die, since they have rejected Christ. The protagonist is a French medical doctor, who must decide whether he will stay in this small North African town and fight the plague or whether he will leave Algeria and flee to France to save his own life.
The book is long and has many twists and turns, but the main point is in the form of the classic question of theodicy or the goodness of God in the face of evil. If God loves these people, why does he allow this plague? If God loves these people why is this priest such a miserable person?

The first question is the main point of the book. It is a classic Existentialist question: How can we assert that God exists when the world is a mess? The Existentialists, though, go further and say that, since there is no God, which is their answer to the first question, we must make meaning ourselves in a meaningless, random world. The Existentialists preach altruism.

Altruism, helping others selflessly, I could understand, but I couldn't understand why anyone would help anyone else at risk of their own life, if there was no one to reward them if they did or punish them if they did not. I couldn't make sense of their call to altruism if there was no God. I struggled to see how any small, insignificant human could make any difference in the vast universe, if the universe was a random, chance concatenation of atoms.

With the help of the listening ear of Dave Hrach, our youth sponsor at St. Luke, I finally decided God must exist and there was meaning in the universe. That night after a Bible study in our church I prayed and asked God to take my life. I knew he always existed and I believed as far as I understood that Christ had come and died for my sins.

What I didn't have was power to live life in a holy, God honoring way. I needed strength to overcome my sins and shortcomings. I said, "Lord, if you exist, and I think I have always believed that you do, take my life and make me what you want me to be. I cannot live up to what you ask. But, if you can cure the lame and the blind and raise the dead, take me and make me what you want me to be."

Immediately I experienced a deep peace such as I had never felt before. My soul had been in torment. But when I asked him to take my life, he did and I received peace. I heard God's voice say, "I have heard your prayer and I will answer it." I heard his voice as clearly as I have heard any human voice.

To be continued...

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