Written and preached by David P. Nolte

MATTHEW 7:12-23

When he first met Mr. Jim Lemon, Rick Phillips was a seventeen-year-old freshman at Houston's Jackson Junior High School and the chances of his finishing high school were slim to none. He was a troubled teenager with an attitude, living in a neighborhood that fostered troubled teenagers. Mr. Lemon taught American history and it was clear from the first day that his classroom was not going to be disrupted. It was very quickly apparent that Mr. Lemon was quite different from the other teachers he had known. Not only was he a disciplinarian, he was a great teacher. He would never settle for Rick's usual standard of classroom work. Mr. Lemon pushed and prodded and never tolerated the mediocrity that had become his standard. He was truly a teacher. Jesus Christ has been called "The Master Teacher" and such He was, and is. He taught with authority, and didn't merely echo the teaching of some previous Rabbi. He astounded, unsettled, and even upset some with His teaching. He told earthy stories to illustrate heavenly truth, He told pointed parables to drive home poignant lessons, His teaching challenged the status-quo, chastened the self-righteous, comforted the down-trodden. His lessons are timeless and enduring. Truly Jesus Christ is the Master Teacher.

Mr. Lemon expected a high standard, even from Rick. On the occasion of the first semester report cards, Mr. Lemon called Rick aside and asked how it was possible that he was a B student in his class and a D and F student in the rest of his classes. Rick was ready for that question. He passionately told him about his divorced parents, the local gangs, the drugs, the fights, the police -- of the evils he had been subjected to. It was then that Mr. Lemon patiently explained that the only person responsible for his situation was Rick. And the only person with the potential to change his situation was Rick, and that when he personally accepted that responsibility he could make a significant change in his life. He convinced Rick that he was failing not because he was a failure, but because he was not accepting the responsibility for his results in those other classes. Mr. Lemon was the first teacher he had who made Rick believe in himself. He inspired Rick to become a better student and he changed his life. Jesus never lets us pass the buck to someone else. He encourages us to our best, our utmost effort. He always calls us to fulfill our own duty and to be personally involved in the lessons He teaches.

Mr Lemon wouldn't let Rick forget his personal responsibility. Ten years passed and Rick was preparing to graduate from Chaminade University in Honolulu when he spoke to Mr. Lemon again. It had taken weeks of telephone calls to find him but he knew what he had to say. When he finally did get him on the telephone Rick explained what his classroom toughness had meant to him, how he finally graduated from high school, and how he was a staff sergeant in the Army, that he was married and had a daughter. Most of all he wanted him to know that he was about to graduate Magna Cum Laude after going to school for four hours a night, four nights a week for three years. He wanted him to know that he could never have done it if he had not been a part of his life. Finally, he told him that he had been saving money so that he could invite him and his wife to come to Hawaii at his expense to be a part of his graduation. Rick never forgot his response. Mr. Lemon said, "Who is this again?" Then it dawned upon him. Rick was just one of hundreds of students whose life Mr. Lemon had changed and he had no idea of his impact. Mr. Lemon never came to Rick's graduation.

Mr. Lemon didn't remember Rick. But his absence at graduation taught Rick a valuable lesson. He taught him that we will probably never know or understand or realize the impact we have on other people's lives for the better or for the worse. We may not even remember the people we influence. They man never remember us. What Jesus wants you to know is that you ought to benefit other's lives whether they know you or remember you or repay you or not. But here is a comforting truth: Jesus Christ will never forget you. To the Christless, Jesus will indeed say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." Matthew 7:23. But to the faithful, the fruitful, He will accord a welcome and a blessing. Mr. Lemon didn't remember Rick and didn't attend his graduation. Jesus will not forget you, and will be there when you graduate from earth to heaven. It depends on what you do with Him now. Will you take up your cross and follow Him? Will you take His yoke upon you and learn of Him? Will you allow Him to direct and discipline your life? Will you lead where He follows? The Master Teacher has much to teach, who is ready to learn?

Rick Phillips in "A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup For The Soul," Canfield & Hansen, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield, Florida.

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