Living and dying up to date

Have you ever thought of a story to tell someone when it was too late?

Recently, while guest-preaching at the First Baptist Church of Natchez, Mississippi, I should have told this story because it’s about someone many of the older members will remember.

Some forty years ago, the minister of education of that church–his name escapes me–told in their weekly mailout of a senior lady stopping by the church office that week. She had read a book, found it helpful, and thought the pastor would enjoy it, so had dropped it off at his study. As long as she was in the building, she ran by the bookkeeper’s desk to check on her giving for the year. “I like to stay up to date,” she said.

She was.

Before the weekend, she had died.

The minister telling the story noted, “She died up to date.”

I like everything about that story. For all these years, I have treasured that line about this saint of the Lord whom I never met and do not know.

She died up to date.

Yesterday at lunch, my friend Lonnie and I were sharing about a hundred subjects. That’s what happens when you get two right-brained people together for an hour. No one subject gets more than a 5-minute treatment; we flitted from one thing to another. A story of his made me think of one, and so forth. No one was trying to top the other; neither of us is into oneupsmanship. We just enjoy the fellowship. Iron sharpening iron, perhaps. (Nerf sharpening nerf?)

Lonnie has been teaching young people to “keep short accounts with God.” That means, when God tells you to do something, you do it then. When His Spirit convicts you that something is out of place in your life, you deal with it then. No delay, no procrastination, no “I’ll get back to you on that later, Lord.”

By keeping short accounts, we stay fresh in our fellowship with the Savior and everything about that is good.

Lonnie told of the time many years ago when he became convicted of taking a five-dollar bill from his little sister’s dresser and never telling her or repaying it. So, even though it was ten years after the deed, he confessed it to her, asked her to forgive him, and gave her five dollars. She said, “I knew you took it.”

I told him of the time at my 40th high school class reunion when I sought out a classmate and confessed stealing money from her in the seventh grade. Dixie said, “No. Not you. Anyone but Joe McKeever.”

Sticking the knife in and turning it.

I told her how it had happened. I was new at the school and for a few weeks ran with a fellow who played hookey and soon became a dropout. That day in class, he pointed out to me that Dixie had left her billfold in a vulnerable spot. If I were to move it to a vacant desk, she would leave the room without it. He would then take her money and later divide with me.

I think my part was three dollars.

“Dixie,” I said, “that was 45 years ago. I need to ask you to forgive me and let me give you this twenty-dollar bill.”

“Absolutely not!” she said. She remembered nothing of this and would take no money.

I said, “I’m asking you to do me a favor here, my friend. Twenty dollars is a small price to be free of that guilt.”

A few days later, I received a note saying Dixie and her husband had bought Bibles with the money.

The issue is not my three dollar debt or Lonnie’s five. It’s about being current with the Lord, confessing and making right anything His Spirit calls to our attention.

None of this is about deserving anything of God’s or meriting His grace. His forgiveness is absolute and His cleansing is perfect. His grace truly is amazing.

However, from time to time, the Lord will show a faithful disciple something he/she needs to address for reasons only He knows.

Perhaps these are tests, to see if we will obey Him in weightier matters. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).

Keeping short accounts with the Lord. Staying up to date in our obedience.

6 thoughts on “Living and dying up to date

  1. And once again your words have helped a fellow pilgrim get his day started on the right foot. I must have you come to our church.

  2. Joe I’ve really enjoyed reading your devotional articles as well as your thoughts about pastoral issues. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year.

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