Tuesday, October 4, 2011



I honestly do not remember the man’s name, but I do remember that he quickly identified himself as an atheist. His wife and two children were Christ-followers, a part of the local church for which I was preaching a Bible Conference that week. The host pastor and I had gone to his home to try to impress on him the reality of God’s unconditional love and life-changing grace. After 20 minutes or so, we decided we should draw the interview to a close. We were not being well received.

Early in the conversation, I had learned that the summer before, his 10-year old daughter had gotten her feet caught under the deck of their riding lawnmower and almost amputated. The man said there had been a lot of blood. As we were leaving I asked him, “Mr. Jones, would you mind if I asked you a personal question?” He said, “What is it?” I knew this was potentially a defining moment of truth; regardless, it would certainly be my final chance to influence him. We had tried to breakthrough his defenses [intellectually] to create faith, using evidences and reason, but without much success. So, I fired one final shot over the bough of his boat. As I looked him directly in the eye, I asked as gently and respectfully as I could, “Last summer, when your daughter got her feet under the deck of the lawnmower, and you saw all the blood, and you wrapped up her nearly severed feet, put her in the back seat of your car and raced to the hospital….as her father, her daddy….honestly…. did you pray to God?” He was pensive before responding to simply say, “You got me.” I commended him for his honesty.

He admitted that, although a professed atheist, in a moment of crisis, he dismissed his own philosophical arguments and abandoned his defensiveness to ask God for His healing and His help. In an unguarded, high stress moment, his mental gymnastics were overruled by the instincts of his God-created nature. Of course, my purpose that day was not to win an argument, but rather to win a soul. I learned that even atheists pray and desire intimacy with God in moments of desperation.

Years ago I remember reading eyewitness accounts of deathbed confessions and appeals for salvation from those who had, all their lives, rejected faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I remember the illustration of Erwin [Desert Fox] Rommel, Field Marshall for Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. He cried out in stark terror as he faced the prospect of dying in his lost condition. I witnessed, second-hand, the deathbed conversion of my maternal uncle who had resisted any talk of God or Jesus throughout his life, but in his final hours, having lost his voice, in a weakened condition, mouthed the good confession of faith. I pray it was sincere enough.

That’s the thing about atheism. You don’t really know you are one for sure until it is tested by the reality of sickness, loss, grief or death. It’s easy enough to profess, but it is really hard to maintain in the crucible of living and dying. I suspect that the instinct to cry out for the mercy of the loving and merciful God in the face of suffering or death is so strong that it cannot be suppressed by the average garden-variety atheist.

Pray with me…. Our Father in heaven, you are so patient, so kind, so good…. We thank you. Your desire is to be bound to us, yoked with us, united with us, for time and eternity. We cannot fully absorb the fact that we, who often don’t even like ourselves, could be loved unconditionally by You. Give us Your peace and presence. Thank you for adopting us so we can share life with you and be borne by the darkness of death itself into your eternal light and life…. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Pastor Ken

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