After Ash Wednesday worship, Stan and I stopped for dinner to go. As we waited for our order, I saw a young man with ashes on his forehead standing near us.

I said, “You’ve been to worship.” He seemed surprised that I knew. I pointed to the ashes on my forehead, and he smiled.

“My name is Johnson,” he said. We introduced ourselves and asked about his church. He gave us the name and location of his church.

Johnson said, “I don’t know what I’d do without the church. I’d probably be dead or in big trouble, maybe in prison.”

Johnson talked about the Bible and the things he is learning from it about life. With earnest conviction, he said, “The world is an evil place; Satan is out there ready to trip you up.”

More than once, Johnson told us that he is thirty. He did not seem to expect he would live so long. And he is convinced that the Bible and the church and his pastor have made all the difference in his life.

“I’ve been oppressed,” said Johnson. “People have walked up and disrespected me. They have taunted me, hoping I will retaliate.”

Johnson said, “I am tempted to react. I want to get even, but the Bible says to walk away. So I do, but it’s hard.”

Johnson talked about spiritual warfare and the effort it takes to do the right thing. He said, “I couldn’t do it without what I’m learning from the Bible and at church. I don’t know what I’d do without my pastor – he’s helping me live a good life.”

I am always happy to hear that a pastor is helpful. But keep in mind, that before the pastor helped, someone invited Johnson to church.

What a difference the invitation to church can make! Johnson said, “People do wrong all the time; they don’t know any better.” And I say to you, how will they know any better, how will they hear the word of God, unless they are invited?

Pastor Lynn Westover

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