#137 (11/07/04)
Parables for Everyday Living Part VIII

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

Dr. Johnson is best known as the medical editor for ABC news, where among other things, he reported on health care issues for Good Morning America since 1976. He holds joint positions in medicine at Harvard University and Mass General Hospital in Boston. His personal and spiritual lives are equally important to him and Dr. Johnson is proud to say that he is a follower of Jesus and the assisting minister at the Community Covenant church in Massachusetts. Dr. Timothy Johnson’s spiritual journeys has been one of questions and he tells us about his personal journey in his new book, “Finding God in the Questions.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" From All Who Dwell Below the Skies "
" God Make My Life a Happy Song "

HOUR OF POWER ORCHESTRA – “Count Your Many Blessings”
“How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings (Requiem)”

Guest Choir
THE BELIEVERS - "Plenty Good Room"
THE BELIEVERS - "Sommarpsalm"
THE BELIEVERS - "Lonesome Road”

Acticle of The Message

We are continuing the series of messages on the parables of Jesus and today, I'm looking at a parable which many of you, who are Bible students, know. It is the Parable of the Pharisee and the publican. (Luke 18:9-14). Now a Pharisees is an autocratic power leader in the church. A publican is a common person, maybe a farmer, a layman or a tax collector. These two men come to the altar and there the Pharisee looking down at this publican, prays, "Oh God, I am not like he is. I give my tithes regularly! I am in the church faithfully! I pray without ceasing! I follow the Holy Book! I am a righteous person!" Then the publican begins to pray. He is humiliated. He doesn't attend church as faithfully as he should. He knows he doesn't live up to what he believes God wants him to do and be. So he looks up to the heavens, he pleads, "Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner." That is the parable. It is fictional. Jesus then concluded the story saying, "Who do you think was most revered in the heart of God?" Not the arrogant religious leader, but the humble person who honestly said, "I am a sinner. God, be merciful to me."

The Phenomenon Called Memory

Studying for my message this week, it struck me that the real problem with the Pharisee was his faulted memory system. I mean, he was remembering all the good things he did, but he didn't remember all of the good things he still had not done. And he didn't remember all of the sins he had committed. He totally forgot, and did not remember, that arrogance, that lack of humility is the single most important grievous sin that we should all be aware of. I want to suggest an unusual, but important thought of the focus of this parable, that is, our attention to how honest our memory is, especially when we stand before God and review our comings and goings, and our hearts?

This has been a period of remembrance as our country was grieving over the death of a beloved President, Ronald Reagan. All the memories that came from so many people became a very touching experience and brought tears to our eyes. For the past ten years, that beloved President lost his ability, gradually and completely, to remember who he was, where he came from, what honors had been given to him. It is amazing.

I have a very dear friend who is also suffering from Alzheimer's, and it hurts me. So I'm prompted today to share three thoughts about memories that come out of my fifty years of studying this phenomenon called MEMORY.

1) The MYSTERY of memories
2) The MINISTRY of memories
3) The MANAGEMENT of memories.

The memory is a mystery: We really don't understand it. In the National Academy of Neuroscience Research at the Jonas Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, brilliant people are learning more about the memories and we are coming to understand what parts of the brain affect the memory system. That is true, but the memory system still remains a mystery. This we can say, the human being is the only creature designed with a memory system. We are unlike any other creature on planet earth. Now that is amazing. Why did God create such a thing called the "memory" system in human beings? And what is it? The mystery is that we cannot recall all of our memories. However, none of our memories are ever lost, not even to Alzheimer's people. They will suddenly come through, like President Reagan who opened his eyes at the very end of his life, and for a moment, looked at his beloved wife, Nancy, with the same look of love that she had known all of her life. That is phenomenal.

1) The Mystery of Memories

It is true that many Alzheimer's patients have not lost their spiritual memory. My friend, who I mentioned, cannot recall a lot, but when we sing a song together, he knows the hymn. He comes out of his complete confusion and he sings the melody perfectly, with the words and notes correctly. His pitch is perfect. It is beautiful ... oh, the mystery of memory. We never lose the memories, but only lose the power to recall and recollect.

This past week I was asked to participate at remembrance service for Dr. Arnold Beckman, one of the greatest men ever to live in Orange County, California. He was born to a blacksmith and his wife in the small farming community of Cullom, Illinois. One day Arnold was browsing through the attic of their tiny house. In the attic he found a red book, picked it up and looked at it. It was all about chemistry. What is chemistry, he wondered. He started reading it and comprehended it. By the time he finished the book, he said to his mom and dad, "I'm going to be a chemist when I grow up." Now that impact in that little brain, at the age of ten, became the single most life shaping destiny, a powerful memory in his life. And Dr. Arnold Beckman came from nowhere to somewhere. He came from a place that had no prestige, but that memory kept Arnold Beckman on course to become one of the most powerful scientists of the century.
At his remembrance service, it was my honor to share a few words in tribute to him. The large assembly of friends, colleagues and family, included three Nobel Laureates, and scientists who came from different parts of the world to be there to salute Arnold Beckman ... all because of the memory of that little red book! Hopes, dreams and accomplishments are driven by a positive memory. It is true for me. I was told at the age of four I would be a minister. I never forgot that. That statement became a memory that motivated me all my life. That's phenomenal.

But there are also many people whose brain system carries some pretty negative memories and these negative memories can produce depression. Memory is not always a positive healing force. It sometimes is a very depressing, negative sinful sickness-generating force. So years ago psychiatry developed a system to try to wipe out the memories that could be causing depression. Electric shock therapy hopefully would be such a shock that people would forget, and oftentimes it was successful, but the side effects were not pleasant. Oh, the mystery of memories ... positive and negative.

Finally at the bottom line, we ask the questions: Who are you? ... Who am I? ... What is a human being? We are a collection of memories ... either motivated to great achievement, or if the memories are not healthy, to depression.

2) The Ministry of Memories

This is my life and I testify that I believe in God because I have felt God live in my work, through me, through my memory system. Again and again an idea would come out of the blue and it would inspire me ... a melody that I sang when I was a boy ... or a Bible verse that I memorized ... and now it comes to me just at the appropriate time. It is amazing. God is in the business of using the memory system to motivate us to what we should be, to use our memory system in the ministry of justice and in the ministry of mercy.

What is in your memory system? God speaks through it. That is why we put Bible verses throughout the Crystal Cathedral gardens. It is a sidewalk of scriptures that we hope to complete for the 50th anniversary of this ministry in 2005. People tell me that they walk along and suddenly they see a Bible verse that they heard as a child, or it was read at their wedding or at a funeral of a loved one ... father, mother, child or perhaps a husband or wife. These Bible verses are designed to connect to the memory systems of people. What a beautiful ministry to give to people, wherever they come from, whoever they are. The ministry of our memories is phenomenal. It may be a scripture verse ... it may be a song ... it might be a certain melody or sometimes it is a slogan.

Just this week I was thinking about the graduating seniors. Today, I have the great honor of giving the Baccalaureate address at the high school graduation of one of our 18 grandchildren, my granddaughter, Christina Schuller. Then suddenly, out of the blue, I am remembering the slogan that was chosen for my graduation from high school. I don't know who picked it out. I don't remember voting on it, but it was displayed on a large banner across our high school auditorium. "Tonight we launch, where shall we anchor?" I like slogans. I've written many and used others, and slogans have motivated me through the years. They are easy to remember!

Plan Happy Memories

Fill your memory system with positive input. We are all equal, not in I.Q., but we are all equal in the capacity to decide what to put into our memory systems. That freedom of choice is equal to everybody here. Now what happens is some people neglect that opportunity. They don’t plan happy memories.

When I was married and we started our family, we would use our vacation time in the summer to travel. And I said to Mrs. Schuller when we were driving to Yellowstone National Park, "I wonder if this experience will leave the children with a happy memory?" Again and again we asked that question. If we had music in our home, "Will this leave them with a happy memory?" When we take them to church every Sunday, "Will this leave them with a happy memory?" Decide to make decisions that you can be sure will impact the memory system with ministry power. The ministry of memories ... wow!

3) The Management of Memories

First, understand that some of the worst memories will not be recollected. That’s a miracle. I’ve learned in my study through these years that many of the most horrific things that happen to you, you will be most inclined to forget. You tend to forget what you don’t want to remember. You may not totally eliminate it, but the intensity of its impact into our emotional system in the moments of brief and faltering recall will have lost their negative power to a great degree. That is a gift of God. Yes, God made us capable of being forgetful. Many of us have to forget things that should not be remembered, and that is possible when we get close to God. I believe in God so much when I talk about the memory system. God does so much for me on a day-to-day basis through my memory. God works through our memories. So how do you manage your memories?

First, decide on the kind of memories you are going to live with. So you decide what books to read and put in front of your children. You decide what television programs to listen to and which ones you are not going to watch. You decide what kind of movies you will see and which kind of movies you are not going to put into your memory system. You need to decide that you are not going to be shaped by culture, which will probably introduce you to some shocking things that you will never be able to forget and will probably leave you with guilt. Guilt is an ailment in a memory system. Give yourself healthy food for the body, and your memory system also needs nutritional food. Especially young people, plan to go to church on Sundays.

Memories; why do some memories change us completely and some don’t? First, it is the emotional impact of the experience when it happens. I’ll never forget standing on the eleventh floor of a hotel in Las Vegas looking out of my window at the MGM Grand Hotel, a quarter of a mile away, when suddenly I saw flames come out of that hotel’s windows. I was stunned as I watched helicopters land, I watched people try to escape by hanging down a cord made of bed sheets and then seeing the bodies fall. That was such a dramatic event, I can’t forget it. The shock power definitely is the most impacting memory.

Next to that, the second thing that impacts your memory system is repetitions ... seeing something and then seeing it again and again and again. Hitler knew this; he knew that if he told a lie long enough and often enough, pretty soon some people would believe it. Repetition is why the tradition in Catholic and Protestant churches is used extensively. Families that join the church went to church every Sunday repeating the prayers and songs ... every Sunday ... every Sunday. Their children were in church or Sunday school every Sunday ... Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. My five children have all grown up following this tradition and today as parents with Christian families, their faith is strong. I think largely because every single week they were exposed to the faith concept and it impacted their memory system and they can never get away from those memories. They are a part of them.

Impact your memory system with positive repetition

Manage your memories by choosing the right habits. Choose the right kind of entertainment. I know actors and actresses, famous ones. Some of them were friends, Bill Holden, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne; the list goes on and on. And they always were proud to be in the entertainment business. Their definition of entertainment is that entertainment should enlighten, amuse, challenge, educate, or bring delightful humor to the memory system of their audiences. That is creative, constructive entertainment. Well, that wouldn’t apply to much of the entertainment that comes out of Hollywood today. What you choose will become a permanent part of you. Whatever you must know before you allow yourself to be enticed, seduced, or tempted, just check it out first and see what it is like. Know this, after you’ve been exposed to it, it will become a permanent part of you. Choose what will bring pride to yourself, not disgrace. I tell young people, live in such a way that if you ever ran for President, they couldn’t come up with anything against you. Manage your memories!

Finally, how do you manage your memories? To do that, you need God. Believe in God, you need one. You need a Savior who can help you with the guilt that is in your memory system. He will forgive you. You need a God who can set you up so you meet the right people, at the right place, at the right time. This church is a success because the right people came along at the right time and they did all the work. I don’t think I’ve done much except show up for work a little longer than most people ... like fifty years! Manage your memories. You can manage which ones you will invite into your life by deciding the kind of experience you are going to go after.
Your emotional system is like a great underground pool and every experience will influence the size and the quality of what is in that memory pool. Shape it ... choose it ... be motivated by it. It is your decision. You and you alone will create your memory system. I can’t create it for you. Your father and mother will not create it. Oh, there will be some things happening that are out of your control. Your eyes saw it; your ears heard it on television or on the Internet. When that happens, you need help. It is called "salvation" ... salvation from guilt, salvation from shame, salvation from the "put me down" attitude.

The Publican’s Prayer

We all need to pray the publican’s prayer: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." We all need that humble attitude. I offer to you the most supreme religious teacher that ever lived, and His name is Jesus Christ. He will come to you to be a friend to you and you’ll never be alone. You can talk with Him. He will help you. He will save you from your sins. And any guilty memories you have that gives shame, all you need to do is look at the cross and know that He died to save you and ask God to lead you. Your memory will be driven by motivation and forgiveness. You will be happy of who you are because of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God, Give me the wisdom that comes to me from the teachings of Jesus. God, You created me with a memory system and the life I have lived is still all there. Some of it I may not be able to be recall, but it is all there. It is my soul. It is eternal, nothing can destroy my memories. Thank You, Lord; I am making a decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ. Wow. That is going to give me memories filled with love and happiness for the rest of their life. Hallelujah. Amen.

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