Your Ministry of Reconciliation

I love the story of Mary Poplin. A sophisticated, scholarly professor at the very prestigious (and very liberal!) Claremont University, right here in Southern California. She was led to the Lord by one of her students! Can you believe it? A young 24-year-old minister of reconciliation. The story came out in an interview with Christianity Today several years ago. 

Mary Poplin was a Professor in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont. She was so successful in her work that she eventually became  Dean of the School. 

As a child, Mary Poplin had attended church with her family back in North Carolina, but by her early teens she had given all that up. She drifted into other religions—Buddhism, Hinduism—and other so-called "spiritual" experiences—Transcendental Meditation; psychic phenomena even paranormal activities. In her classes, she let it be known that she held no regard for the Christian faith. 

But one year—it was 1993, I believe—a graduate student showed up in one of her classes and she noticed right away that this young man was really different. 

"First of all, he kept telling me he was praying for me," she told the interviewer. "And he actually did that for eight long years." 

"He would also say irritating things to me like: 'If you ever want to do something with your spiritual life, I'd like to help you.' That was irritating because I thought I was doing plenty with my spiritual life, thank you! You know, I was trying to bend spoons and communicate with the dead and things like that.

"Even more distressing were the questions he would ask me. Questions like: 'Do you believe in evil?'  It was sometimes disturbing to realize that I had no consistent answers to questions like that." 

After graduation, the young man taught at Claremont for a year, subbing for a professor who was on sabbatical. But when the year was up, he moved on and the two of them lost touch. Somehow, however, she knew he was still praying for her!

Years went by and Mary Poplin's so-called 'spiritual' pursuits all came to a dead end. Her personal life started falling apart and she found herself in a daily struggle with feelings of emptiness, confusion, and despair. 

But one night, suddenly, out of nowhere, Mary had a dream. She dreamt she was in a long line of people, suspended in the air. The line seemed to stretch on forever in both directions. And Jesus was there, going down the line and greeting each person, one-by-one. 

"When I looked at Jesus," she explained in the interview, "I knew immediately what I was seeing. I couldn't even look at Him, and so instead, I fell down at his feet and started to weep, and the only way I can describe the feeling I had in the dream is that I could sense every cell in my body, and every cell in my body was filled with shame! Then Jesus grabbed my shoulders, and I felt a total peace like I had never felt before in my life. When I woke up, I discovered that I had actually been crying."

Mary got up and immediately went to the phone and called the friend: the student who had been praying for her—and caring for her—all those years. 

"I think I need to talk to you now," she told him, "about my spiritual life."  

At dinner the next day, the young student asked her what was going on, and out of her mouth came something she never dreamed she would say to anyone. "I have something black inside of me," she stammered. "And I don't know what it is." 

The student just nodded as if he weren't surprised in the slightest. And then she told him about the dream. 

"Do you have a Bible?" he asked, and then he made sure she had one before they split up that night. He gave her Scriptures to read and they met once a week, from November to January, to discuss what she was reading. 

In January, she went back to North Carolina where she had lived as a child and, just out of curiosity, she looked up the old church she had attended with her family in the old days. 

The minute she walked through the door, the thought came to mind: "I'm going to go up to the front and give my life to Jesus."  Praise God! A College Professor! In a liberal University!

But that day, the minister didn't give an altar call. It was Communion Sunday, and he went right from his sermon to the Lord's Supper.

She did, however, hear the pastor say: "You don't have to be a member of our church to take communion. You just have to believe that Jesus Christ lived, that He died for your sins, and you have to want Him in your life." 

In the interview with Christianity Today, Mary went on to explain: "When he said that, I was so powerfully moved that I actually thought: 'Nothing is going to stop me from taking that communion. Even if a tornado should rip through this building, I'm going to get that communion.' 

"I took the communion and I didn't even listen to what the pastor was saying. Instead, I just kept saying over and over again: 'Please come and get me. Please come and get me!' And when I took that communion and said those words, for the first time in my life I felt truly free. I felt as if tons of things had been lifted off me."

That is the Lord God Almighty at work, "reconciling us to Himself"! Praise God.  

She began to just devour her Bible, and every word just filled her with life.

She went on to tell the interviewer: 

"Romans 1 says that God is obvious to everyone, but that the minds of people who deny Him have become darkened. 'Though they think themselves wise, they are actually foolish'. That was I! But now, with an open heart, as I began to read the Scriptures, the Word of God began to heal my mind so that I could actually think and understand at last!" 

And all because of that one young student. 

Amazing things happen when Christians take seriously their ministry of reconciliation. 

I love worshipping with you every Sunday. 

See you there.                                       RAS

 

 

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