Where the light shines.

Cover Photo:  Union Pacific Steam Challenger Series 3985: ©2000; Jeff Bass, Costa Mesa, CA.For my lesson that week I picked a good heuristic.  I elected to do a listening exercise using an episode of Tales of the Texas Rangers, “Last Stop” from August 10, 1952.  During the period of the 2020 pandemic shut-in, I had to adjust my teaching style to an online presentation.  I miss having hands-on heuristics like Tech Deck races or team building heuristics like moving the reaction crucible to the cooling chamber before melt-down.  Nonetheless, I have found ways to maintain engagement through three phases of a lesson heuristic, dialectic and interpersonal interaction using Zoom.  This night I was successful in that and yet still missed the mark. Maxwell Smart would have held up his index finger and thumb showing a gap of about a half-inch and said, "Missed it by that much." 

While the club members were listening to the radio show as the heuristic, I was typing questions in the chat window, which meant the dialectic and heuristic portions of the lesson were happening simultaneously.  I was also feeding them Bible verses relevant to their answers and preliminary conclusions about portions of the story. I was delighted to find out I had some truth-tellers in the group who were willing to call out the Texas Rangers for intimidating a witness who was mentally challenged.  At the same time, the Texas Rangers were truth-tellers and dug deeper to understand that Carl’s confession was the false confession of a mentally confused individual.  The club members were willing to call out Dan for being weak and lying.  The club members  recognized that Floyd was the worst kind of liar, the kind who maintained his lies even when evidence to the contrary was presented.  Floyd’s first reaction when confronted with the truth was to throw his friend under the bus and blame Dan. 

Through the heuristic and dialectic, we were able to ascertain some powerful truths like: A person may have his actions completely justified in his mind, but the result is wrongful death (Proverbs 16:25).  We learned the dangers of hanging around liars (Exodus 20:16) because they can lead us away from what we know to be right to being partners in their crimes (1 Corinthians 15:33). Most importantly we learned that the divine nature is truth (John 14:6) and that embracing truth that sets us free (John 8:32) from a life of personal destruction and bringing destruction into the lives of others. 

Now my friends who are full time teachers, especially those who have been teaching online during the pandemic would say my lesson was successful just in being able to maintain enthusiastic engagement of a group of young people for a full thirty minutes during a zoom call.  I went a couple of minutes overtime, but my fellow leaders most graciously gave me a pass because they got caught up in the story and the message.  However, I had forgotten that large group time is really the warm-up act for the main feature, the two-minute gospel share at the end. It was during that moment, I realized I had missed the mark.  The leader sharing the lesson that night was doing a very artful job connecting the dots between the large group lesson, the theme night and the gospel message. However, as she spoke, I realized I had failed to give her the thread that made it easy to connect those dots. 

I had failed to shape my message to fit the light of the world theme for the night illuminated by Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Granted I only saw the theme twenty minutes before club, but that is no excuse because there have been times I have developed lessons within a couple of hours of being called to teach.  I am confident that if I had been in tune with the spirit, I would have seen the obvious bridge between the lesson I had prepared and the theme verse in only minutes.  The bridge is set up in the preceding verses (Mathew 5:14-15) 

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

As Christians we are to bring light into the lives of others by speaking, living and in all ways embracing truth. When we don’t, it is like putting our light under a bowl.  If we come under the influence of a liar that puts our light under a bowl.  A person who lives and speaks lies is under the influence of the evil one, the father of lies (John 8:32).  When someone associates with such a person their values become corrupted and not only do they start to lie, but, if under the influence of a liar long enough, they may be lured into other misbehavior, sometimes with tragic or deadly consequences.  This is a cascade of error. 

In “Last Stop” the cascade of error started when Floyd’s father failed to discipline his son, such that Floyd started getting into trouble. When discipline failed at home, he sent Floyd to military school. When that failed, he foisted his errant son upon Mr. Morton, his tenant farmer, to watch for the summer.  By that time Floyd was an inveterate liar.  Instead of the Mortons having a positive influence on Floyd, he had a negative influence on Dan leading him to not only lie but to participate in an atrocious act of derailing a train leading to the death of the train engineer and injuries to many passengers.

Dan missed a great opportunity to be the light in the story. He could have been the light by standing up to Floyd and speaking the truth when Floyd suggested putting the railroad tie on the tracks.  Being the light is not always easy.  Floyd was older and bigger than Dan, so that would have taken courage.  For Christians, being the light of the world means having the courage to stand up and speak the truth even when the liar we confront has more friends, money or political power than we do. Failure to speak the truth can lead to our own destruction or the destruction of others.  Even worse failing to speak the truth hinders others from hearing the Gospel, the truth that will set people free bringing glory to our Father in Heaven. 


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