By: Norm Rasmussen
When I was a young boy, there was an elderly gentleman who lived down the road a ways who delighted in telling me heroic bear stories and I absolutely loved hearing him tell them. This awesome wild-west survivalist always seemed to have a new bear story to share when we ran into each other, and the way he shared them, they usually happened to him the previous night or day before. Of course I was able to eventually discern that they were all fictional, but the creativity in which he shared them enabled me to see the whole episode in my mind as clearly as watching a recent movie I had enjoyed. He was a very gifted vocal communicator. The actual details of the bear stories never left that much impression on me as did the excitement and passion that came from him as he shared.
However, I recall a particular story he shared with me one time. It was a hot-off-the-press bear encounter. The meat of it pretty much went like this:
He came walking up to me with a noticeable limp that I had not ever noticed before. I knew I would get a story out of him, which was my thrill for the day when it happened, so I asked him how come he was limping so bad.
'Got in a fight with a bear last night. The bear got in a few good licks on me, but when I walked away, he was lying on the ground not moving.'
To this day I love the simplicity in which he communicated to me that wild-west survival heroes never lose, especially in bear fights.
Others may say it simply: 'I got hurt, but I wasn't killed. And you should have seen the OTHER guy.'
Some 60 years later as of this writing - now that I've been allowed by God to understand some things that I didn't understand years earlier ' I don't recall once of this master heroic bear slayer story teller ever telling me that Jesus helped him whup a bear. That's not a putdown on him in the least, because he may well have discerned that had he mentioned the name of Jesus to me in a favorable light, I might have run away and never listened to him again. (More than likely that was the reason why Jesus was left out of the stories he told me ' giving him all benefit of the doubt).
I'll give you the moral of this story so you don't even have to read to the end if you would like that. The moral is this: You can tell a good story in this life, but will it impress Jesus when you give an account to Him on the Judgment Day?
Please allow me to expound on this just a little, if you would. I've heard a lot of stories over the years that made a big impression on me, and I've sure told my fair share, but God is trying to get me to understand ' the ONLY stories told by you that will matter to others on their Judgment Day would be asked by them at some future time:
'Why didn't you ever tell me about what Jesus did for me by dying on the cross for my sins? How come you just always wanted to just make me laugh and/or entertain me but conveniently left out the most important story that has or could ever been told on planet earth: 'That Jesus is the ONLY important hero that will matter on the Judgment Day.'
Whoooooooaaa ' that's teeth-grinding talk! Back off, dude! Can't anymore. Jesus determines my destiny. Always did. Always will. No bear ever gave his/her life that I might be saved from my sins against The Creator and Judge.
Yep ' that's going to be the REAL punch-line of any story that will ever get shared in eternity - just in case no one has shared that with you recently. So elaborating just a little more -- on our Judgment Day, we won't be remembering hilarious bear stories nor will we be trying to tell them and hooting it up because someone got the best of a bear.
What the lost will be asking ' 'How come you didn't tell me Jesus kept you from getting mauled by that bear ' not what you did - instead of conveniently leaving His name out of your bear hunting stories, without using it as a swear word anyway?'
So I got some hot-of-the-press 'bear experience advice' of my own to share here. Never walk away from a wounded bear. Tell him about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross before it's too late, because it's wiser to show compassion for hurt bears instead of just letting them stay wounded without hearing the real truth of things. Hurt bears don't really forget, and you have no proof there won't somehow be paybacks in the next life.
We can tell our humorous stories and conveniently leave out mentioning the name of Jesus Christ in a favorable light. Or ' we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us be creative and bold and try to somehow interweave our stories with The Greatest Story Ever Told and be remembered by those we told the stories to so that we didn't HAVE to mention Jesus at all when we told our stories, but we CHOSE to. People in heaven won't forget through eternity that someone told them about Jesus while alive on earth. Can't prove it, but I suspect the folks suffering in hell for eternity will remember them also, gnashing teeth in regret that they wished they would have not rejected Jesus. The rest of the stories we tell about our heroic earthly adventures won't amount to a hill of beans unless they are pleasing to the Creator and Judge, that I'm totally persuaded of, and I hoping by now you know who that clearly IS.
God clearly tells us that a cheerful heart is medicine to the soul and spirit. (See: Proverbs 17:22). Some might translate that to think that God is talking about perverted and/or blasphemous "creatively" yet subtle demonic evil humor (and it's becoming less subtle as each year passes) they now call comedy around the world and especially out of Hollyweird across TV airwaves and through the Internet. I'm totally convinced that Andy of Mayberry (and his infamous deputy sheriff companion Barney) is the funniest TV program ever produced but then I'm a small town southern boy at heart from out west still wishing the 1950's in America would return but won't. Good old fashioned - very creative humor and amazing God given talent displayed - where morals were respected and honored and dishonoring and mockery of Jesus or the F-bomb dropped (and what Satan may introduce to the world beyond that because there currently is no lack of eager comedians and actors and actresses nor advertisers who would like a bigger audience) would never have been allowed to be spoken and if you are having a challenging day, a half-hour dose of Andy of Mayberry could help you rediscover a cheerful mind and spirit. Thus I believe wholesome comedy is a gift to mankind from God, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with a funny bear story. Yet let's keep matters in perspective. Through all the times God used Andy of Mayberry to help give me a more cheerful heart from laughter, I don't recall of ever hearing - being told about Jesus and His story of the Cross on that broadcast. That was to be expected, because I always assumed I would have to attend a church service to hear about that story. Andy of Mayberry wasn't the place to hear about it I'm guessing the producers of the program determined, so it was what it was.
And ' when I went to a church service, I wasn't expecting to hear about Andy or Barney or Floyd's haircut specials or Otis' love for a safe place to sleep in the local jail. I was and still expect to be reminded ' taught ' exhorted ' comforted ' inspired ' warned - of the Truth from God's Word ministered with wisdom from a gifted Bible communicator when I go to church if one is to be found wherever I was/am at the time.
So to repeat like they do with profitable TV advertising to reinforce their message no matter how irritating it gets to us at times: I chose to believe God is very pleased when we tell a funny story to someone else to help make their day better. Making others laugh is an awesome gift from God, I fully believe. But brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, let's keep in wise balance our story telling and/or our ability to make people laugh. Let's work diligently at being available to the Holy Spirit at all times to try harder to have people remember us NOT solely by our ability to make them just laugh, but that it was very important to us - (because it's critically important with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and the heavenly angels and the redeemed saints waiting for us to join them) - for them to know that we loved talking more about what Jesus Christ did for humanity (for THEM) by taking the punishment for their sins and our sins on the cross than trying to give them a wholesome laugh and end it there. We'll be remembered and rewarded for eternity for doing that - not telling exciting, hilarious, heroric bear stories - though I have some personal encounters I had with bears years ago I delight in sharing if I can find anyone who will listen. People are so busy and so easily distracted these days they just don't have time to hear good bear stories, though maybe if I started texting, Tweeting or Facebooking (next technologies to razzle - dazzle the masses, etc.) them bear stories as they stood nearby they would take the time to read or listen to them - suppose?
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