My childhood memories of many sermons in church were from men who seemed angry about a lot of things. They preached long and hard about world conditions and the imminent battle of Armageddon. I greatly feared the nations of Gog and Magog! Late at night, I thought I could hear those evil armies crashing over the hills right where we lived. Some pastors instructed the young people to not go to college because that battle, and the coming of Jesus in the middle of it, was going to happen before we could even get our college degree.
Sermon memories also include hearing a super long list of our personal sins that were going to put us straight into the lake of fire. At that time, the list was often about the way I dressed and combed my hair, about brightly colored clothes, going to movies, dancing, roller skating, bowling, and anything having to do with competitive sports. I was convinced my future was totally hopeless and that I certainly would be tossed into hell-fire — and at any moment!
At a youth camp in the mountains of Oregon, one of our less angry pastors preached about Jesus’ love for every sinner. He explained how His shed blood on the cross brought each of us personal reconciliation, the complete removal of all our sins. Hope, joy, and peace filled my heart! The preacher simply stated that Jesus loved us and accepted us into His family, just the way we were.
The fear of marching armies was silenced! Long-range plans were a joy to make. Our heavenly Father wanted us to live joyfully and free. He wanted us to develop optimism about our future and become anything we wanted to be, because God would support our plans and us throughout our lives.
This simple understanding of the undeserved grace of God and Jesus’ love for every one of us flooded my soul. At that moment, I truly accepted Jesus Christ. The world I lived in didn’t seem ready to smash and grind me into the dirt. Peace came into my soul and life.
During that week of youth camp almost sixty years ago, God called me to become a pastor. At age 76, I still work under that joy, peace, and thrill of His calling. I urge every young man and woman in our church to answer His call on their lives. Do not hesitate to make plans to enjoy love and life and a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He will come back; He promised He would. With joy, let’s all actively serve Him and do His work without the fear and anger that immobilize our hope and salvation.
Let’s never allow the angry political climate in our nations, the fear of spreading viruses, the threat of climate change, or anything else in this world to discourage us from making plans to serve our Creator and His Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. When He calls, go! Serve Him with peace, joy, and optimism in your heart.