Flashback. I’m assuming you read A Life Saved in Midstream before coming here. If not, you would be well served if you did, for this story is its sequel. Now, let’s pick up where we left off.
Fast Forward. We’re going to restart the story ten years after the end of A Life Saved in Midstream, but I want to inform you of important events during those ten years which are essential background:
June 1976. Nancy and I, Aaron (2), and Sarah (7 months) moved from New York to Montevideo, Uruguay. My new job with Citicorp was as Chief Personnel Officer for the South Andean and River Plate Region of Citibank. This region covered the six countries of Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. After arriving, I received the added responsibility of Regional Financial Control. My son, David, was born in Montevideo in 1977.
For the first 42 months, I worked out of our headquarters in Buenos Aires, visiting our branches in the six countries, changing hotels daily to avoid the terrorists, and coming home to Montevideo on most weekends.
September 1978. I joined a team to develop a consumer business in Argentina. After doing market research and planning, I was assigned to develop the consumer credit business.
December 1979. Since the danger of terrorism in Argentina had nearly vanished, we moved the family to Martinez, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires. My son, Adán, was born in Buenos Aires in January 1982.
March 1982. During the Falkland Islands war between Argentina and Great Britain, I was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri. My new job was Chief Credit Officer for a nationwide Citicorp business. A month later, I was given the additional responsibility to build “Citicorp University,” a training center for western hemisphere middle management.
March 1983. I was appointed President and CEO of Family Guardian Life Insurance Company, another Citicorp subsidiary. After gaining approval of a nationwide, full-service business plan, we began implementing it by year-end.
Tenth Anniversary: 1984. The following are edited excerpts from my personal journal.
After completing six months as President and Chief Executive Officer of Citicorp’s Family Guardian Life Insurance Company, I entered 1984 on top of my new assignment and enjoying the progress of my career since 1982. However, with success, I experienced a sense of “backsliding” in my spiritual life. It seemed material success ran counter to spiritual growth. Entering the year, I could not, mercifully, foresee that, in 1984, I would transition from being a “babe in Christ” to begin rapid growth toward “spiritual maturity.”
While my sister Josie’s family visited us the prior Christmas, we discovered Adán had a severe hearing problem. We thought it was related to “water on the ear” with which he was having a severe repeat bout. By Spring, after a couple of operations to drain the water, Adán was diagnosed as permanently “severe and profoundly deaf” due to nerve damage. At first, this seemed a simple matter and I took Adán to a “faith healer” and prayed to Jesus that he heal him. After repeated prayers, by summer, I was vexed at Jesus for not lifting this “minor problem” from Adán as he had demonstrated frequently in Israel 1,952 years earlier. Nancy faced the facts and arranged for Adán to go to a Special School where he could begin to learn. I refused to face the facts. I became an increasingly petulant child before the Lord.
In September, while Nancy helped Adán start to begin to learn at the Special School, I had begun to backslide, as my faith was tested by Adán’s intractable problem.
At the end of September, David was struck by a brain tumor, which manifested itself very quickly. Sunday, he appeared fine. Monday, he was losing coordination on his right side. Tuesday, we first visited a pediatrician and learned that he would have to see a neurologist Wednesday morning, and they wanted to meet us at Children’s Hospital. On Wednesday, I sat with the CAT Scan technician as they mapped out a tumor the size of my fist inside the skull of my seven year old son. We checked David into the Hospital immediately and I stated that I would stay with him until I either brought him home or buried him next to Jason. The hospital allowed one parent to sleep by the bedside of his child and I was self-appointed. Nancy was now overloaded and we agreed that she would look after Adán “for the duration.”
Thursday, I followed David through several other test machines where different characteristics of the tumor were mapped out. As I walked beside his stretcher, I was completely at a loss. That second night, as soon as I lay down at his side and the lights were turned out, Satan attacked my soul with vigor and pinpoint accuracy on my spiritual weakness. Satan said, “David’s problem was brought on by your sins. Not by your sins before the events of 1974—but by your sins after 1974. You and I know your vileness. You are unworthy of God’s grace, and David is suffering the consequences for you.” This, of course, devastated me since I was yet a “babe in Christ,” and still comprehended very little about God’s faithfulness beyond the initial promises, and protection in Argentina. I wept quietly as Satan’s “fiery darts” hit home in my spiritual flab. I actually believed Satan’s lie that night.
Friday, I followed David on his gurney through more tests. I met his surgeon, Dr. William Coxe, who appeared quite reserved, but said he thought that he could remove the tumor successfully. This meant nothing to me as I knew that it was cancer and his definition of “success” was quite different than mine. As I followed David’s stretcher, I could not raise my eyes from the floor, watching my feet trod slowly along the hospital tiles.
That night, after the lights were out, Jesus immediately spoke to me, “Richard. You did not believe Satan’s lies last night, did you? You have walked too far and too long with me to believe such lies! David’s tumor is not the result of your sins. That is not my way. David was going to have this tumor as part of his life, and I chose to put him with you and Nancy. You and Nancy must walk with David through this event. But, I am with you always.” At this blessed turn of events, I was overwhelmed with peace and slept like a babe.
Saturday, I followed David on his stretcher through more tests. By the end of the day, the surgeon had mapped out the tumor using CAT scans, the Magnetometer, an irradiated dye X Ray, and had also subjected David to all of the tests needed to operate. The tumor was on the left side of David’s head, thus paralyzing his right side. The tumor had tentacles down into the interstices of the brain. It was massive. I could see this on all the pictures.
Clearly, there was not going to be any complete recovery: either the cancer would be unstoppable, or the surgery would leave David with serious residual incapacity. Or, David would die in the massive operation that would require opening one quadrant of his skull. I saw all of this, but things were now different.
When 10 P.M. came and I lay in the cot by David’s bed, on this eve of the operation, it was time for me to pray. I prayed in these words:
“Jesus, now I understand. I have withheld my children from your sovereignty. You took Jason for your own reasons which included Jason’s needs and mine, and those of many others. However, I thought Jason’s death was something extraordinary in Your Plan. I thought everything would be AOK with my family from then on. That was wrong and infantile. My children are your infant people, with One-on-one relationships with you, just like me. I am a temporary supporter during infancy, and then they become adults and establish the same kind of relationship with you that I have. I am a temporary “shepherd”, the “hired hand” if You will, but You are the Shepherd. I have no special rights to these children and must accept Your Plan for them.”
I continued. “I don’t know why we are going through this. But You know my heart. I was a Marine and willing to die for trivial commitments and worldly loyalties. I would have thrown myself on a grenade to save my comrades. You have now walked with me ten years. You have proven yourself to be my only Friend. Your friendship makes all worldly relationships pale to insignificance. Knowing my heart for you, why are we going through this exercise? I don’t know, but I am on the deck preparing to board the landing craft at your bidding, to assault this beach—and the strength of the enemy forces makes my heart freeze. I trust You to know, and I know You are in charge. So, whatever Your Will for David, so be it. If he is to die, You know I cannot stop loving You. I would not if I could. Your Will be done.”
And, I finished. “But, I know that you are my Friend. And, I know that I can ask You. You will decide what is best. But, I can ask. So, I ask that David be returned to me whole in body, soul, and spirit in the most propitious manner. If this is unacceptable to Your Best for him and me, then do Your Best. But, if my request can be acceptable to Your Best for us, then please grant me this.”
When I had finished, I was at complete peace and went to sleep like a baby. The next morning, which was Sunday, Nancy showed up and she and I, in quiet tears, accompanied David on the stretcher to the prep room outside the Operating Room. They shaved his head and marked it. Then they wheeled him into the O.R. and Nancy and I went down to the cafeteria to wait. It was 8:30 AM when we got there.
My Chief Operating Officer, Mike Hummel, and his wife, Sharon, waited with us in the cafeteria all day. I will love Mike forever for this, and I have prayed and know that Jesus will present him to me also on That Day. I told Mike of the events of my conversion in 1974, of my walk with the Lord in the following ten years, and of the spiritual events of the past three nights. Mike wept quietly with me. Then Mike told me that my story reminded him of that of Abraham and his son, Isaac.
At 4:00 P.M., we were paged over the P.A. system to call the Recovery Room. Mike and Sharon left. It was time to live the Lord’s Will for David and for us. I picked up the house phone and called the Recovery Room.
When the RR answered the phone, they said,” Mr. Burke, could you come down here and see if you can control David. He is out of anesthesia and shouting at us. He says that he wants food and drink and that he wants to go home. He says that we are trying to kill him. Please hurry.”
As we arrived at the Recovery Room, doctors and nurses hovered around David’s stretcher like ministering angels. I shall never forget their kindness. One tested his right side and found strength had returned to normal in his arm and leg. Another was checking his eyes. Another was checking his vital signs. They were marveling at the incredible success that they had experienced in the operation.
Doctor Coxe walked up to me and said, “Well, I got the whole tumor out intact. I froze it and pulled it out without breaking it.” I was speechless with joy.
From there, I kept David company as he was put in the Intensive Care Ward where I shall never forget watching, with uncomprehending eyes, the screen of the vital signs monitor. But David was clearly recovering with incredible speed for a seven-year-old child just out of a seven and a half hour brain operation. I was in awe. But, Dr. Coxe had laid out a game plan for radiation and chemotherapy and I knew that the battle was not over. I did not know if the battle was won and kept importuning the Lord.
David returned to his original room on the third day. On Saturday, I and Nancy brought him home.
Upon arriving home with David, the others gathered around us. Aaron, now 10 years old, said the following to me, “Jason’s dead, Adán’s deaf, David’s got a brain tumor—what’s going to happen to me and Sarah?” I told Aaron that I didn’t know God’s will for the future, but that he should pray about that, as would I and the family.
A week after the operation, the lab test of the tumor type was complete. It was an ependymoma. It was a particularly virulent form of cancer. It normally grew at the base of the skull in the cerebral cortex and was usually inoperable. That it grew on the top of his brain, where it was operable, was an anomaly to the doctors. And it was a blessing to us.
Nancy now took over the burden of David’s care. She accompanied him to Children’s Hospital where he received his lifetime dose of radiation over the next five weeks. Then, she managed the chemotherapy program for him for the next two years. This entailed one “magic bullet” pill every six weeks, which made David nauseous for only one day after each dose. The pill had such benign external effects that I, at first, believed that it was a placebo or, at best, a weak and ineffective therapy. I wanted to nuke the cancer. However, this was the program the specialists recommended.
Nancy also dealt with David’s residual intellectual and emotional problems resulting from this trauma. His short term memory was affected by either the Dylantin drug used to prevent seizures, or the radiation of his brain, or both. Time would be the only indicator of the permanent effects.
The tiles pass beneath my gaze;
I cannot raise my head.
The stretcher rolls my son ahead,
And fear constricts my soul.
The tale of Job constricts my chest;
My arms hang limply at my side.
Recalling David, Peter and Paul,
I know the enemy has his wish.
He’ll sift me till there’s naught or stone;
He’ll burn away the dross or all.
He charges me with every wrong,
And claims my soul this day.
The curtains round my young son’s bed
Create a tent to shroud my dread.
I lie beside my tortured child
And hear accused my life reviled.
My sins are legion like his name.
No value here but only shame.
He charges me with Apostasy,
Condemning me away from Thee.
Too low to ask Your help today.
Nevermore Your friend and son.
Filled with lust for life and sin,
Ever blemished by thought and deed.
Satan’s shadow creates a gulf,
Unbridged and bottomless despair.
Judging as naught my feckless love,
He banishes me to the outer dark.
Unable to speak with heart in throat,
Immobilized by guilt and shame,
Responsible for my son’s dire plight,
The Devil reduces me to fright.
Weeping with agony for my son,
I ask what I must do for You,
To free my son of my earned whip,
To take the lashes on my back.
You ask me how I could forget
The promise of the Cross for me,
Your promise for my family,
The love you gave to me so free.
A cloud is lifted from my mind.
The darkness fades before Thy Light.
The Father of Lies is put to flight,
And I now stand before Thee.
I offer my son to Thy Design,
Putting no falseness on the line.
But make my plea for his sweet life
That I might know Thy mercy’s delight.
Without condition, I bow my knee.
Nothing can separate me from Thee.
My life I put at your command.
A decade’s travel at Your demand.
That hideous evening still lurks beyond,
Craving my soul as food for strife.
Protect my home by the name of Thy Son,
Jesus the Christ and Lord of Life.
Lift this trial from on our backs.
Reconcile Nancy and I with Thee.
Banish the enemy to the dark.
Bathe us in loving Light and make us free.
Abba Father, grant our prayers.
May our prayers seem good to Thee.
Accept the bouquet from Thy church,
And the Love we share in Thee.
Guide my feet towards Thy door.
Put Thy work before my face.
Show me Thy will that I might act,
And serve Thee as You will.
Lift the fear that binds my flesh.
Blow away the obscuring mist.
Shine the Light upon my life.
Open the Door to show the Way.
Bless my life with peace and Joy.
Show me the yoke that is so easy.
Straighten my back bowed low with sin.
Fill me with grace and light within.
I pray for wife and children all.
Nancy, David and Adán,
Aaron, Sarah and the family,
By blood and law.
In Jesus name, drive away
All darkness from our lives.
Help us one and all,
Father! In Jesus’ Name I call.
Richard E. Burke
St. Louis, Missouri
September 30, 1984
While in the hospital with David, I told him that I would buy that airplane that I had long been talking about – and long postponing until “someday.” There was no doubt now: “someday” had arrived. As soon as he was discharged on Friday, October 6, 1984, I started a search for a plane via my friend from the weight room at the gym: Mario, a banker who specialized in airplane loans. Through a broker who did much business with him, he located a 5-year-old PA32-300: a 300 horsepower, 6-seat, 1979 Piper Cherokee Six, N2174S, with about 1200 hours since new, being sold by a lumber company; they had owned it as a corporate plane since new; they had fully depreciated it for tax purposes. It was love at first sight and I bought it. I rented a single hangar for it, which opened directly onto the main ramp at Spirit of St. Louis Airport.
Winter 1984-85. While Nancy was accompanying David to his radiation treatments, she came to know Barclay Plager and his wife. Barclay had an inoperable brain tumor and was receiving radiation treatment. He had been the greatest star hockey player for the St. Louis Blues hockey team. While taking radiation together, Barclay gave David a lot of Blues’ equipment including a jersey, hockey stick, equipment bag, and pennant. David keeps these in his room.
In 1987, a Christian friend told me that Barclay’s wife had been interviewed for an article in the St. Louis newspaper. She mentioned that both her and Barclay’s lives were changed by their encounter with other suffering people at the radiation center. She recalled a woman who came with her young son who had a brain tumor. The woman had a deaf child as well. The woman talked about “trusting the Lord.” Barclay and his wife’s lives were changed by that testimony. I got a copy of the article which had been headlined in the St. Louis Post Dispatch as “Barclay Plager’s Christmas Story. One of Hope, Courage, Joy,” which described Barclay’s long and unsuccessful battle with brain tumors. Within the article was the sub-article in a box shown below.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Plager: “I’ve Done a Good Job So Far”.
When Barclay Plager first began taking treatment for inoperable brain tumors three years ago, he said he went through the same agony as countless others facing cancer.
“I don’t think you ever think about it before you get it,” he said. “I thought about it hard for about two hours and then I told Helen, `I’m going to beat this.’’ And I’d done a pretty good job so far.”
The Plagers remember going for treatments in the early days of the disease and having their eyes opened.
Helen Plager, Barclay’s wife, especially remembers watching a young woman bring her two little boys to the hospital. One was about 7 and balding from the radiation treatment he was receiving. The other child, about 4, wore two hearing aids.
“She would come in there every morning with those two and she would have a big smile on her face,” Helen said. “Her makeup would be just so, and she looked so happy. She said she was taking classes at night so she could learn sign language for her little boy.”
“You think you have it bad until you see other people with problems.”
Barclay said, “If you’ve got any self-pity, you get rid of it fast when you see the little ones. That just tears you up.”
— John Sonderegger (columnist)
During this time, at the request of David’s doctors, Nancy and I became involved with The St. Louis Pediatric Brain Tumor Support Network. We would meet in support groups, with a social worker from St. Louis Children’s Hospital, once a month, in the meeting room at the hospital. We developed a social relationship with these people, and held barbecues at each others’ homes. Our mansion in far western St. Louis County was a favorite, and the site of our annual Summer BBQ. During this involvement, Nancy and I also came to know adults being treated for brain tumors.
During the barbecues at our house, the children would go down to our pond and fish for bluegills and bass—as did some of their parents. Although many of these families were drawn closer together by the trauma, we saw many of the couples divorce, because their marriage could not withstand the test of their child’s condition. I have already prayed for all of these people, and know that the Lord has each situation in his plan.
Also during that period, I began providing airplane rides for these children and their families, and the adults suffering from brain tumors. This was a special ministry provided by you, Lord. I taught each of them to control the airplane in the air, and during its approach, as close to the ground as they had the nerve to manage.
During 1985-86, I took the family on a whirlwind of trips in the plane: day trips, week-ends, mini-vacations, business trips, big vacations. We flew around so much Nancy complained that she needed rest. In truth, I was intent on not wasting whatever time David was going to be with us. My faith was o.k., but my hope was in short supply. Our itineraries included:
Boca Raton, Florida
Des Moines, Iowa
Huntington, West Virginia
Jefferson City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Osage Beach, Missouri
Pierre, South Dakota
Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
During this period, I completed two years under Charlie Williams’ tutelage through Operation Timothy. Charlie was then the St. Louis Metro Director of the Christian Businessmen Committee of the USA (CBMC), which included several states. I had mentored a half-dozen new Christians. By this point, I was well into the Green Letters by Miles Stanford and had been freed from my self-image as the “George Rogers of Christianity”—spectacular runs followed by fumble turnovers. I never figured out how I justified saddling George Rogers with this reputation, because he plays football a lot more consistently than I served as a Christian up until Charlie took me under his wing.
1987. At the beginning of the year, the Spirit made it clear to me that I was going to have an “adventurous” year in 1987. The idea of another “adventure” was not really something that turned me on, given the prior “adventures” that I had been through with the Lord. However, by this point, I knew that I was the worst coach for my own development and was prepared to leave all such matters in the hands of the Lord.
Although I had given one testimony in Saint Paul’s format at the Chesterfield chapter of CBMC, with Mike Hummel (my COO) and Jim Murphy (my CMO) present, it had been in the fall of 1986. I was unsure whether this was, indeed, what the Lord wanted me to do. However, I soon gave another testimony at Westport and Jack Kerls (the Westport chapter chairman) decided that I had my testimony (see Appendix) on sound ground.
After the testimony, Jack approached me on behalf of a friend of his, Jerry Gutierrez, whom Jack had befriended while Jerry was studying for the ministry at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Jerry was currently serving as a missionary in Santiago, Chile, and was looking for a speaker for his “1987 Chilean National Prayer Breakfast.” Jack asked me if I was interested and I told him that I was.
Jack also told me Guillermo “Jerry” Gutierrez had once been the General Secretary of the Communist Revolutionary Front, the Sendera Luminosa or “Shining Path” in Peru. There was a death warrant on his head by the Communists in Peru so he can never return. Part of his testimony was about executing Christian soldiers while a terrorist. This fascinated me, as I saw the Lord’s hand in setting this up to show me his healing power over the still open wound of the Argentine terrorism in my life.
Shortly thereafter, Jerry called me from the Atlanta airport and asked me if I would agree to do the testimony, and I said that I would. He said that they couldn’t afford an “honorarium” but that they would pick up travel costs. I told him that he could count on me. The date for my testimony was set for Tuesday, May 12th, in Santiago. I told him that I would take care of the travel details.
In March, Charlie Williams set me up to give my testimony to the Cape Girardeau chapter of CBMC and decided to accompany me on the journey. We used my plane to save several hours from the trip. The weather required instrument flying, and Charlie was chagrined to find that I was so busy talking to Air Traffic Control that we didn’t have a chance to chat. After descending through clouds, we soon parked and were picked up. The Cape CBMC chapter met at the University and was special to Charlie (as all were). After the luncheon and my testimony to about fifty men, we flew back and I returned to the office at 2:30.
In April, I gave my testimony at the CBMC chapter that meets at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. I took along my CIO, Tom Suttner. There, I met and was introduced by Cliff Buell for the first time. Buell introduced me as a fellow pilot. He told the audience of about fifty men that I would be making the same testimony in Chile next month. After my testimony, Tom Suttner was quite enthusiastic. We were back in the office by 2:00.
On the phone that month, my dad was incredulous that I would travel to Chile to give my testimony, and especially at the behest of a terrorist. My father was afraid for me—his usual attitude in later years, despite my having been a Marine. Perhaps I gave him good reason.
In May, I was ready to go to Santiago. I had struggled since January to translate my testimony into Spanish. Danny Rones (an Argentine who’d worked for me in Argentina – and whom I’d hijacked to the U.S. when I transferred in 1982) had edited the grammar and vocabulary selection for me. However, my boss and his superior (“2-up”) had set me up with job pressures that made May an excruciating month. I owed “2-up” a complete profitability review on Family Guardian’s revolutionary CitiSafeguard program, which, according to him, was to satisfy “everyone’s doubts about its viability.” This study had taken the better part of a month of my time. Making the deadline before my departure for Santiago was a stressful diversion but, with the Lord’s help, I made both the deadline and a thoroughly devastating analysis of not only how the program was sound, but also that the distribution businesses managed by “2-up” were impeding the effort.
Then, at the last minute, “2-up” informed me that I was expected to attend his boss’s off-site to discuss the Scottsdale agenda on Thursday, May 14th. My response to the Scottsdale issues was scheduled for June 1st, in a written report. This was a surprise. Since I had booked “special economy “ tickets at my own expense for $900, and which brought me home from Santiago late on the 14th, I asked my boss if this was important enough for Citicorp to pay the extra $700 in airfare to return me home on the night of the 13th. He said “no,” but I knew that I was taking a risk missing that meeting. Nevertheless, I decided the Lord’s agenda was going to need all day Wednesday and that I was experiencing a diversion in this matter of the unscheduled “off-site.” So, I said that I would make as much of the off-site as I could after my scheduled arrival at mid-day.
I booked the flight to Santiago through an agency that served missionaries. This was my first 3rd class trip to South America, with two plane changes.
Friday afternoon, I departed for Santiago. After sleeping on the overnight legs from Miami to Buenos Aires, I had an interesting conversation with a Chilean seated next to me. The conversation started when he mentioned that he noticed I didn’t drink alcohol and had been reading the Bible. I told him that I had nothing against alcoholic beverages in their proper place, but that I was going to be working in Santiago and this was not the time for me to relax. We talked briefly about our backgrounds and found we had both been on the island of Maui earlier in the year. He had just finished a tour of the U.S. and Mexico. Then he asked me why I was reading the Bible. I told him about Jesus in my life. Shortly after I finished, we arrived in Santiago.
After I cleared Immigrations and Customs, I recognized Jerry Gutierrez from his photograph, just as he recognized me. Jerry had on a black Greek fisherman’s cap and a black felt navy jacket. He introduced me to his companion, Samuel, who he said belonged to the church that Jerry was pastoring. We quickly packed my bags in his car and departed for Santiago where I checked into the same hotel on the square by the bombed out palace where I usually stayed with Citibank. This was the same hotel where I had the bejabbers scared out of me by respectively a 3:00 AM bomb in the square in 1976 and a 3:00 AM earthquake in 1977.
Jerry left me at the hotel to get squared away and returned for me at 1:00 PM. We went to lunch with Samuel. Afterwards, we went to the rectory to discuss our plan. That was the point where I began to realize things were not going to go as planned.
In the rectory, Samuel laid out the agenda for me. Sunday, I was to give my testimony to the church during the morning service. After lunch with Jerry and his family, I was to prepare with Jerry for the subsequent testimonies. They were planning to have me give the testimony in English with Jerry doing simultaneous translation. Sunday evening, I was going to be free. Monday morning, I was to give my testimony before the association of life insurance companies of Chile, and then lunch with the Policy Committee of Citibank, Santiago. After Monday’s lunch, Samuel’s plans got vague. The keynote testimony was to be on Tuesday morning, followed by a press conference with national T.V. Tuesday afternoon was left open. Tuesday evening was to be on a radio interview show. Wednesday was for a guided tour trip to Valparaiso, the beach area, about a two hour drive from Santiago.
What became increasingly obvious to me through the prompting of the Spirit was that Samuel was planning my time to accomplish his own personal objectives—which were not spiritual. I told Jerry and Samuel that I had big problems with the agenda, but that we could discuss that on Sunday after my testimony to the church. Since I was very tired, and since I planned to meet with a guy leading CBMC International, who was also in town, they took me back to the hotel and dropped me off.
Calling the CBMC guy, we agreed to meet the next morning for breakfast, before I went to Jerry’s church. He was going to bring the new and first CBMC regional director for the Southern Cone countries. I had a big steak dinner and went to bed.
At breakfast, things began to unravel even faster. The head CBMC guy told me that Jerry’s group of businessmen were not related to CBMC, and that Samuel was a misfit and working on his own secular objectives (as I’d deduced). Moreover, he told me that the CBMC group would not be attending the Prayer Breakfast, and that I should reconsider giving my testimony to that group. He said that Jerry’s group were heavily infiltrated with “Pentecostals”—as if that should stop me. From my point of view, I didn’t care whether my audience were believers or not, and much less about their denominational or doctrinal beliefs.
After much discussion about their issues with Jerry’s group, I let them read a hard copy of my testimony. They quickly saw my spiritual position was sound, but they said I might shock the Pentecostals with my talk about the security of salvation. This led me to discuss with them my love for my fellow Christians. I pointed out there are a lot of religious beliefs that are “man-made add-ons or subtractions,” and—while sometimes stunting a born-again Christian’s spiritual growth—born-again Christians could not forfeit their salvation, since Jesus had won that for them once and for all. As Jesus said, “No one can snatch you out of my hand.” They reluctantly agreed. We parted agreeing to disagree on their boycott.
Back in my room, waiting for Jerry to pick me up, I knelt by my bed and prayed that the Holy Spirit use me as he intended. I was confident He had brought me to Santiago for his purposes, regardless of whether I knew what those purposes were. Given the way the original plans were unraveling, especially with the boycott by the CBMC, my original ideas about those purposes were already obsolete. However, I was comfortable with the idea that if the Spirit brought me to Santiago for nothing more than to demonstrate to me that I was willing to follow Jesus’ instruction to “go to the ends of the earth” to testify, then that would be sufficient. Again at peace, Jerry showed up with perfect timing to take me to his church.
I gave my testimony to Jerry’s church. Afterward, I met with Jerry, Samuel, and the rest of his elders. Samuel had convinced Jerry my Spanish wasn’t good enough and he would do a simultaneous translation. I said no. Jerry said he himself would do the simultaneous translation. I said no again, then added that since I had purchased my own round-trip ticket, was paying my own expenses, and owed them nothing if they were going to change the agreed arrangements, I was ready to go to my hotel, checkout, and board a flight for home.
St. Paul has a lot to say about paying your own way in ministry. This event proved I was right in emulating him. The elder board had zero options. They let me proceed giving my own testimony in the same Spanish language I’d used every day in that 6-country region for six years, from 1976 to 1982.
I gave the testimony to about 140 locals, including Santiago businessmen and clergy, at the new Sheraton (I was staying at the old Sheraton). There was no problem with the audience’s understanding of my Spanish: 34 signed their cards that they had accepted Christ that morning—one was a Lutheran bishop, another a Lutheran priest. Jerry was jubilant as he told me the number that came forward. Samuel seemed played out and shocked at the number of people who answered the call.
While there for five days, I also was involved in precipitating the fallout of this “wolf” (Samuel) among the “elders” in Jerry’s new church. This guy was using the Prayer Breakfast for his own business purposes. He was angling to be nominated an “elder” in Jerry’s church. Again, I did this with firm charity.
The Lord made a dear friend for me out of a hated terrorist enemy. Such a turn of heart for me would have been completely inconceivable. Like Jesus said, “For man, it is impossible. For God, all things are possible.”
After returning on the 14th, I then flew to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the “essential” meeting with “2-up’s” boss and his off-site on the 15th and 16th, and got in a round of golf at the posh resort where it was held. My company’s plans had never been part of the meeting’s agenda.
October, 1987. David got CAT scans regularly at first, with no evidence of a recurring tumor. Then the CAT scans were made semi annual. Then annual. The 1987 CAT scan, in the fourth quarter, was, praise the Lord, also negative. The Lord’s Will to give me at least four more years with David was clear. I shall ever wait on the Lord on this issue, but I am overjoyed with His loving kindness to us. (I edited this in 2015, and David is still fine.)
Podium copy of verbatim testimony used in the late 1980s in the U.S., and translated into Spanish for Santiago, Chile in 1987.
It’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity to speak before such a distinguished group of men today.
I’ll be talking about the most important thing in my life and about my Best Friend.
But first, I’d like to give you a summary of my background so that you can relate somewhat to where I am coming from.
I was born and raised in Washington D.C.
My father was a government lawyer and my mother a registered nurse.
At the age of 5, I got bulbar polio during the epidemic and nearly died. In the hospital, the boys on both sides of me did die. Their deaths and my two year rehabilitation program had a major impact on my character formation. Death lost its sting at this early age.
And, I lived in Washington during the frenzy of World War II.
I remember my three uncles returning alive and in their prime from the war. There was Frank, my Dad’s brother, from flying fighters over Germany. Click, my Dad’s brother-in-law, from piloting bombers in Asia against the Japanese. And Joe, my Dad’s brother, who was a sailor during the kamikaze attacks off Okinawa. These uncles were the gods of my youth.
And my father was asked to participate in the War Crimes trials in Nuremberg. The family discussions on the crimes of Nazis were indelibly burned into my child’s mind.
In this way, World War II, and my nearly fatal bout with polio, formed my initial perspective on life. I wanted to be a fighter pilot.
As I grew older, I loved to fish for bass and to build and fly model airplanes. And I learned to paint in oils, first, from a private tutor in Georgetown, and, then at the Corcoran Art Galleries in Washington. Notably, all of my model airplanes and the best of my art were focused upon warfare.
At age fifteen, I joined the Civil Air Patrol as a cadet. I was in an Air Force uniform and on track for my goals. On my sixteenth birthday, I soloed an airplane, an old Aeronca Champion, off a grass landing strip outside Rockville, Maryland. I was flying alone before I was driving cars alone.
At seventeen, I joined the Marines and passed a physical and a college equivalency test qualifying me for flight training. I had figured out how to skip college and get right into that fighter cockpit.
But things were not to be the way that I wanted and planned them to be.
After joining the Marines, with orders to Pensacola awaiting my graduation from Parris Island, I discovered in my physical, to my horror, that I was slightly color blind and a career of military flying was no longer possible.
So I finished the 3-year hitch in combat intelligence which took me through the Mediterranean and the Far East. Though I did not do what I had dreamed of doing in the Marines, I received an education in self-confidence, self-reliance, and leadership which prepared me for an aggressive career in the business world.
I decided while in the Marines, that if I couldn’t fly the fighters, then I would design and build them.
I left the Marines a very mature 20 year old and entered the University of Maryland to study Aeronautical Engineering.
Knowing my goals from the day I stepped foot on the campus, and working seven days a week with Marine Corps discipline, I graduated at the top of my class with every honor the school had to offer. I turned down overtures to follow a PhD program at Princeton, Cal Tech and the University of Virginia in order to go to Yale to get a Master’s in business.
After getting the Masters from Yale, again in the top of my class. I joined General Dynamics as a corporate management trainee. I did very well with them and was in charge of over 4,100 men and a $100 million budget at the age of 30. But, instead of building warplanes, I was building warships in New England because that was the area where General Dynamics had a need and wanted me at that time.
I built 15 ships for them, mostly warships, before leaving them after 7 years to join Citibank in New York. At the age of 32, as the Vietnam war ground to an end, I finally ended my career focus on warfare. I joined Citibank to involve myself in commerce.
With Citibank, I have worked both in the U.S. and in South America for more than fifteen years. My assignments varied through line and staff jobs in New York before taking an overseas assignment that covered the countries of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
After 6 years in Argentina, I returned to the US in 1982 during the Falkland Islands War to be Chief Credit Officer for U.S. Mortgage Lending. That’s when I came to St. Louis. In 1983 I became President & CEO of Family Guardian Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Citicorp.
My wife, Nancy, and I are delighted to live in Saint Louis with our 4 young children.
Now, by the standards of the world around us, I’m doing fine.
But, the fact is that I don’t subscribe to the standards of this world. But I am still doing fine. But I wasn’t doing fine back in 1974.
By 1974, two years after I had left General Dynamics to join Citicorp, I was beginning to reap the fruit of the way that I had been living since I joined the Marines.
Now, I began to strive for independence in high school. But it wasn’t until I was in the Marines that my parent’s moral upbringing began to wear off. Since I had heard all my life what was “wrong” but hadn’t the faintest idea of what was “right,” I began to do “what I felt was right in my own heart.”
The Marines taught me self-reliance and a “can-do” approach to any task. I left the Marines with an over-bearing self-confidence.
The universities taught me the scientific method which told me to reject any belief which I couldn’t prove by repeatable experiments.
The universities also taught me to exalt the analytic power of my mind as the highest expression of my humanity.
And for seventeen years, I became more and more a law unto myself. By 1974, I was rejecting every external rule regarding behavior which didn’t carry a civil or criminal or career penalty for non-conformance. And I walked a very thin line.
In fact, I became so independent that by the early 1970s, in that rough and tough shipyard that I was running, I used to misquote scripture and brag:
“Yea, although I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil—because I’m the meanest man in the valley.”
So, by this point, you probably have some idea of just how independent and self-confident and, really, arrogant that I was by 1974.
And I was really on a roll in Citicorp. In my first eighteen months in Citicorp, I had made three presentations to the man who is now the Chairman. After each presentation, he had told me that I was a “very good manager.” And that was, and continues to be, a high tribute in Citicorp. In early August of 1974, I had just completed my biggest proposal to him and had gone on vacation.
As a result, on August 14th, 1974, I was on that vacation and fishing for smallmouth bass with my brother, Robert, up on the St. Croix river in Maine. When we returned to our cabin, I got a call from a state trooper in New York. He told me that my 3 year old son, Jason, had drowned in the brook behind my home.
Jason was my first born son. And, of a sudden, he was dead.
For the first time in my life, I realized that I wasn’t in control.
Why, I had planned for Jason to graduate from Yale in the class of 1991.
Well, that Saturday we buried Jason in the family plot in Washington DC and the seeds that I had planted came back upon my head.
For the first time, I heard the correct words of that scripture that I loved to misquote back in the shipyard.
This time, the minister read that scripture over Jason’s tiny coffin as they lowered it into the ground. These were his words:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for Thou art with me.”
These correct words struck deep into my heart.
For the man that wrote that scripture felt secure during his misfortune because God was at his side.
As for me, during this darkest hour, I had nobody at my side.
Suddenly, I was all alone. Family and friends were no consolation. For, all of a sudden, “I was well aware of my faults. I had my sin constantly in my mind.”
Now realizing that I was not in control of my life, I saw, to my horror, that it was God that was in control of my life. As an enemy of God, as one who had boasted before Him, all I could do was to “fear Him.”
Well, interrupting my fearful solitude, the minister came up to me as we ate at the reception after the burial. He asked me to come to the Sunday church service the next day. He said that he had written a special sermon for me. There was no way that I could refuse.
Now, at that Sunday service, the minister’s sermon was not about the death of my son. No, the subject was Jesus Christ. And I was stunned to hear that minister painting a picture of Jesus Christ which I had never heard. He said that Jesus had been betrayed by artists and the popular press over the years and depicted as a weakling. And I knew from my art gallery experience that he was right.
Then that Minister quoted this Jesus and a few words burned into my mind.
This Jesus said: “Do you suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth? It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword!”
And this Jesus also said: “I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish that it were blazing already.”
… and, again, this Jesus said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Now, that kind of talk obviously didn’t come from a weakling. This new Jesus was a stranger to me. That kind of talk came from a man at war against an irreconcilable enemy. There was to be no “peace” with His enemy. I could relate to this Warrior, Jesus Christ, who had said these words.
After the service, as my wife and I walked out of the church, that minister managed to get to the door first and collar me. He asked me what I thought of his sermon. I told him that I was impressed and wanted a hard copy. He told me to drop by his office at 2PM and he’d give me the hard copy.
When we met at 2PM, the minister and I chatted and he got me to admit that I was shaken by this sermon about Jesus. Only later did I find out that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ.”
This minister had preached Christ to me. The real Christ. He quoted His Words. The real Christ, not the world’s view of Christ, but the real Christ, and what He said, appealed to me at the most profound level. I had never heard the real words of the real Christ. I was in awe.
The minister got me to admit, as well, that I was very uncomfortable at that moment with my past life. He told me the story of how St. Augustine had been a playboy and how St. Paul had been a murderer and how they ended up serving God. Then he told me that if I wanted to change my life and my loyalty to Christ, I should do it. He said this to me, “If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and cleanse you of all your unrighteousness.”
The minister also told me that, if I would accept Jesus Christ as my Boss, that I “would not perish but have eternal life.”
Now, I am a businessman and I recognize a good deal when I see one. In this awesome deal, all I had to do was admit that I was sick and tired of my past life, and admit that I couldn’t straighten my life out by myself even though I wanted to, and accept salvation from the consequence of my sin, which is eternal death, and receive “the gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Then the minister told me these stunning words out of the Bible. The Bible said that to the man who does not work (to justify himself to God) but trusts God who justifies the wicked, that man’s faith is credited as righteousness.”
So, the Bible says that if I trust God at His Word, that is if I trust God that Jesus Christ has taken away my sin, then God will credit my trust in Him as righteousness. So God’s Word says that God only values trust or faith in Him as a basis for making peace.
This concept of how to make peace with God was totally different from anything I had ever heard. In fact, the proposal was alien to all the values of self-reliance and self-effort that I had been taught in this world all of my life. I had done absolutely nothing to earn even a chance at this awesome gift.
The fact was that I was saved through grace, through this new faith that came out of the blue. And this faith did not come out of my own reasoning. In fact, the very idea of faith in God ran contrary to all of my intellectual training and background. Contrary to everything that I had learned and reasoned, this newfound faith in God and in his promise of eternal life was a gift from God also! I hadn’t done anything for God in all of my life.
So I accepted the minister’s invitation and I confessed my sins and promised to accept this gift from God on God’s terms. I also resolved then and there to turn over a new leaf. But I knew that “good intentions” weren’t enough. I left with no program but I did leave unburdened. And I left with a hungry heart to know and to draw near to God now that he had planted this faith in my heart.
And regarding the acceptance of this gift of faith from God, the Bible says that “without this faith, it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
The following Wednesday, a week after Jason’s death, in a way that was unique to me as engineer, businessman, pilot, and Marine, “I found God even though I had not been seeking Him. He showed himself to me when I had not asked for Him.” From that day forward, I knew that Jesus Christ was indeed alive and in charge of everything.
The following Monday, after the first grueling day back at work, on the two hour commute home, “God demonstrated His love for me in that” he showed clearly to me “that while I had still been a sinner, Christ died for me.” Now this idea that this omnipotent God could really “love” a sinful rebel like me was beyond my ability to assimilate at that moment. Nevertheless, not with my head but, at a new level for me, that is with my heart, I understood Him loud and clear.
The following weekend was a 3 day weekend for Labor Day, 1974. At 3AM on Labor Day, 1974, after grappling to understand and let loose of the last vestiges of my intellectual pride, I finally could respond to God.
Net, I responded by acknowledging “that Jesus Christ was the Lord” of my life and that “in my heart I knew that God had raised Him from the dead.” In that moment, I knew that “I would be saved.” In the 14 subsequent years, I have never doubted the security and permanency of my salvation in Jesus.
Immediately, that Labor Day, I picked up the Bible that my sister, Josie, had given me at Jason’s funeral and it came alive in my hand. Where the words had always been opaque and senseless to me, suddenly the entire book made perfect sense. “Like a newborn baby, “I found that “I longed for” this “pure spiritual milk that by it I might grow up to salvation. For,” as you can see, “I had tasted of the kindness of the Lord.”
I could not put that Bible down. I read it on the train commuting back and forth to New York city. I got up at 5 AM to give me more time. I read and understood the entire book in one year. And I still get up very early… every day… to read it … 14 years later.
Shortly thereafter, in early 1976, I transferred to Argentina where, for six years, I learned to “trust the Lord wholeheartedly and not to lean on my own understanding.”
For the first three years, I was under constant terrorist threat.
As Nancy and I arrived in Buenos Aires with our two young children, we were taken to lunch at the Argentine Federal Police Club. The waiters were terrified when my six month old daughter, Sarah, crawled under the table while we were eating. We were horrified to find out that only three weeks earlier, this same dining room had been blown up by a bomb under one of the tables. 37 people were killed including many of the waiters’ friends.
Those were the conditions which greeted me as I arrived, a new Christian, for my new assignment.
So, I put my family under armed guard in another country. I put them in Montevideo, Uruguay, another police state.
But that meant that I had to commute to work in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I finally settled into a routine of flying to Buenos Aires on Monday morning and flying home to Montevideo on Friday nights.
Now, in Buenos Aires, the terrorists threatened me by phone and by mail without respite. They even cut the leather furniture in my office at night. I kept schedules known only by myself. I didn’t even tell Nancy of my travel plans. I changed hotels every day for 3 years just to make the job of terrorizing me a little harder.
But I couldn’t hide from these terrorists. In the first week, they called me in my hotel room at 3 AM. They put a baby on the phone and successfully convinced me that they had one of my two babies in their possession. Since the International Switchboard was shut-down until 9 AM, those six hours before I could call Nancy in Montevideo were excruciating. Of course, they didn’t have my child, but I learned about the terror that these guys were trying to produce in everyone.
In the first year, there was at least one killing a day in the streets of Buenos Aires. The communists were killing businessmen as part of their so-called “class struggle.”
Shoot-outs and bombings became commonplace to me. And I got used to seeing people being taken away by the secret police in unmarked cars. These people disappeared forever.
No one today has an accurate count of the carnage from this so-called “dirty war.” Estimates run from 15,000 to 25,000 people dead or “missing” forever.
But, the first few months were the hardest for me. By the third month, I was a basket case. It was 6 AM and I was crossing a street to look in a storefront reflection to see if I was being followed. We were occasionally “shadowed.” But, now, I was at my limits. So, I stopped in the middle of the street and prayed these words:
“OK, Jesus. We prayed about this assignment. You wanted me down here. I can’t handle this. So from now on, you keep me alive.”
Right on that street, I felt the peace of God displace the fear. Then I walked straight up the street and I never feared for my life there or elsewhere again.
And during the subsequent six years in Argentina, I also lost my fear of testifying publicly as to what the Lord was doing in my life.
In similar ways, over the next 6 years in Argentina, I learned to increasingly trust the Lord with my finances, with my job, with my career, with my increasingly obvious failings in my Christian walk and, after returning to the US, found that there were ever bigger things to entrust to Him.
In early 1984, back in the states less than 2 years, we discovered that our 2 year old youngest son, Adán, born in Argentina, was permanently and profoundly deaf. Now that was really a blow. But, before my wife Nancy and I could adjust to that fact, things got worse.
On September 29th, 1984, the 10th anniversary of those events in 1974, I was at the side of my 7 year old son David in Children’s Hospital in downtown St. Louis. The next morning the doctors were going to remove a tumor the size of my fist from his brain. That was a moment where not only did I have to trust the Lord with all my heart but I also had to be prepared, in advance, to accept His Will regarding the outcome.
But this was ten years later and, by 1984, I knew that Jesus was my Best Friend and my God. Just as the writer of that Psalm which was read over Jason’s tiny coffin ten years earlier, I too could now draw comfort that God was at my side as well. As I lay on the bed at the hospital next to David’s bed on the eve of that operation, I prayed and I received the “peace of God which surpasses all under-standing” and the power to stand and accept His will and His plan for my son, and His son, David.
“With thanksgiving” for that peace, and in addition for His answering my prayerful request that my son David be restored, by the Lord’s graciousness, today, I can tell you that my son David is at home, plays baseball and goes to Pond School. He has hardly a scar to show for the 8 hour operation, or the 3 months of radiation treatment, or the two years of chemotherapy that he went through.
But David knows that “he walked through the valley of the shadow of death” with Jesus, and with his dad, at his side.
And, today, as we begin to make progress in communicating with our deaf son, Adán, my wife Nancy and my children and I are continuing to learn what the “peace of God” means in everyday life.
Believe me, today, Nancy and I know what King Solomon was talking about when he said: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Every day, in His word every morning, the Lord Jesus continues to help me to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind”–in Him.
And personally knowing and trusting Christ, and His love and power, I cannot keep this knowledge selfishly to myself. So… “this is my testimony to you: that God gave us eternal life and that life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life. He who has not the Son has not the life.”
At every televised sports event, you see some guy in the crowd hold up a poster which only says: “John 3:16.” Do you know what that guy is trying to share with you? Here’s what John 3:16 says:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s word also says that “God … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is easily approached. Jesus’ own words are these : “… be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Is God knocking at your door? Have you let Him in? Have you accepted God’s gift of eternal life in His Son?
As I have just told you, I had been blocked from accepting Christ for most of my life by my self-confidence and my intellectual pride.
Is this a problem for you also?
The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Saint Paul spoke of this problem of prideful strength and intellect with the business people of the city of Corinth, a major port city during the Greek and Roman empires and still a major Greek city of commerce today. Paul said:
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those that God has called, both Jews and Greeks, it is Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Saint Paul went on to say: “For God chose what is foolish in the eyes of the world in order to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the eyes of the world in order to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the eyes of the world, even what is not, in order to bring to nothing everything that is, so that no man might boast before Him.”
So, I ask you this question.
By your own wisdom and strength, are you trying to justify yourself and earn for yourself the right to enter God’s presence?
You’ve just seen that God’s word says that self-justification is not God’s way. God says that “it is by grace you have been saved, that is through faith. Not by anything from within yourself, it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no man can boast” in the presence of God.
I am here to tell you that God wants you to trust Him. He wants you to seek a personal relationship with Him. As we’ve seen before, the Bible says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
Do you want to “draw near to God?” Do you want Him to “reward you” with “eternal life?” Do you want to “seek Him?” Are you willing to “open that door” for Jesus Christ to come into your heart?
Are you willing to admit to God that you cannot justify yourself?
And, will you accept his gift, under His only acceptable terms, of His Son, Jesus Christ, to justify you?
Do you understand what is at stake? Do you understand that, yes, “God has demonstrated his love for you” by giving you the option, I repeat “the option,” to accept the blood of Christ on the cross as a substitute for your personally paying the penalty for your own sin. There is no other option. Those are God’s terms.
And, don’t kid yourself, the Bible is very clear about the consequences if you refuse to accept this gift from God on God’s terms.
The Gospel of John in the Bible says this, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but,” listen carefully, “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
We don’t hear much about “God’s wrath” in the churches anymore. However, both the Old and the New Covenants in the Bible are about “God’s wrath” towards unrepentant and rebellious man. So what we hear in the churches is not from the Bible but from man’s wishful thinking. All of us risk grave danger to our eternal souls by listening to this “false prophecy” of the “social gospel.” There is only one Gospel and that is the Gospel in the Bible. You cannot exclude those parts of the Bible which you do not want to hear.
And Saint Luke quotes Paul as he spoke before the men of Athens. Here, Paul says: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man,” Jesus Christ, that “he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
And, putting aside the fantasy preached in too many churches today, the fantasy that there will be no “Hell,” let’s see what the Bible says is in store for those who refuse to “repent” and those who “reject God’s Son.”
Saint Matthew, in his gospel, quotes Jesus words, before His death on the cross, about what he will say from His throne at the final judgment. Jesus said that he will say to these who never accepted Him these words: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
And Saint John, in his Book of Revelation, describes the vision that the Risen Jesus gave him of what will happen to those who rejected Jesus during their lives on earth. John recorded these words:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” … and “If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” … where “They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
So, whatever you have heard and regardless of what you want to believe, the Bible says that there is a terrible destiny in store for anyone who has committed this unforgivable sin.
What unforgivable sin, you say?
The Bible says that God “did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all.”
Gave Him up to what? … To this: to torture and a hideous execution on a cross at the hands of the very men that God had sent His Son to save.
The unforgivable sin is to leave this earth to face God’s judgment having rejected the terrible sacrifice for your sins which God “did not spare his own Son” when He “gave Him up for us all.”
Period. It is clear in the Bible and God offers no other way. His Son Jesus puts an end to all discussion with these words:
Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
If you have not yet accepted the Son, Jesus Christ, as the Lord of your life—what is stopping you from doing it now? Who guarantees you that you will have another chance? How much risk are you willing to run to put this off?
If you are not sure of your eternal destiny, then assure your destiny now and pray with me this prayer. Let’s bow our heads.
I know that I am a sinner and that I need your forgiveness. I believe that Christ died for my sins.
I am willing to turn away from my sins, but I cannot do it without You.
I now invite Jesus Christ to come into my heart and into my life as my personal Savior.
I am willing to accept Your Gift of Faith so that, by that Faith, I can follow and obey Christ as the Lord of my life.
Having made the decision to accept Jesus, just like I did in 1974, you now need to get started in understanding His promises to you. You need to establish your personal relationship with Him through His Word. Just like I started to do in 1974, you need to start reading the Bible. And, as in everything. you can do that in easier or harder ways. But, helping you get started is why I and your fellow businessmen are here today at this luncheon. Somebody helped us get started. We’ll help you get started.
So, if you said that prayer with me, and opened that door to your heart to let Jesus in, then stick around after the luncheon and we’ll talk with you about what to do next.
Thank you for your very kind attention.