19 DEC 09: Oral Exam
(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)
A Monday memorial service is planned for legendary preacher Oral Roberts. It will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he founded Oral Roberts University. Critics might say that name is evidence of ego and arrogance. After all, St. Anne didn't have a Columbus school named after her until long after she died.
Oral Roberts indeed was a lightning rod in the religious community. As someone who once reported news in Oklahoma, I realize he gave Tulsa national attention. It was known for decades as the "Oil Capital" -- but Roberts went farther, by offering anointing oil.
My mother had a religious fling with Oral Roberts during my youth, even while teaching United Methodist Sunday School classes. She went on the ministry mailing list for awhile - but she had enough when Roberts offered anointed water from the Jordan River in exchange for a donation. You have to understand, this was back when bottled water was only found in upscale office buildings....
(I think it was around that time when I started asking if Oral Roberts had a brother named "Written.")
I lived in Oklahoma when Oral Roberts battled the state for approval to build the City of Faith Medical Center. But even then, the university campus included the nicest sports arena in Tulsa - nice enough to be used for state high school basketball playoffs. It's called the Mabee Center. Come to think of it, Mabee isn't exactly a word of faith....
But I admittedly lost a lot of respect for Oral Roberts on a Sunday morning in January 1987. While I waited to watch another religious telecast on cable superstation WWOR, Roberts made his infamous "God will call me home" appeal for money. He later said he meant phrases like "save my life" spiritually -- but churchgoers knew better than that. Shouldn't this long-time minister be saved already?
I mentioned Oral Roberts's TV appeal to co-workers at CNN Headline News the next day. Little was made of it in the newsroom - but by Wednesday it was a national sensation. This may explain why CNN was considered the superior channel to Headline News for decades....
A woman in the newsroom made a comment about that incident which I remember to this day: "He gives religion a bad name." I repeated that statement when Roberts came up in a church speaking club "Tabletopics" session, and added: "He gives God a bad name." Yes, I meant that - because Jesus never made appeals like that. In fact, the Bible indicates He healed people without asking for money first.
Jesus Christ never asked people to preserve His life, by making financial pledges. Instead, Jesus gave His life willingly when the proper time came. His only final appeal was directly to God the Father in the garden of Gethsemane - and it was for God's will, not a thousand-dollar seed offering.
Oral Roberts indeed met his 1987 financial deadline, and went on to live 22 more years. But this past week, God DID finally take his life. And the truth of life is that we're all bound to die someday. The book of Hebrews warns after death comes "the judgment" - and what Judge Clay Land is giving federal prosecutors may be only a taste of what Jesus could give you.
It's important to have that judgment in mind now - and Acts 2 says it begins by repenting of sin, and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. If you examine your life carefully, you might find there's plenty of things needing repentance. At this time of year, some people only need to examine their credit card statements.
From what I see on the Oral Roberts University athletics web site, the side of the basketball court no longer has one of its founder's favorite phrases: "Expect a miracle." It's good to expect miracles from God - but one lesson of Oral Roberts's death is that God sometimes will say no. My years seeking romance taught me that lesson a long time ago....
But God promises the final miracle of all - that after death, there's eternal life for those who find favor at God's judgment seat. You can only pass if you turn from sin to the One Isaiah 9 calls the "wonderful, Counselor." With Jesus as your intercessor, forgiveness of sin can come - and we all can give God a good name by the lives we live.
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