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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Hit the stage a-runnin’ in 2020

So, how are those new goals coming? Oh, I know, we're only half a week into the new year; but I still thought you might need a little nudge to keep you on track. 

Well, maybe I thought I might need a little nudge. I’m just pretending to nudge everybody else. Each morning, I am trying to read a piece – and write a bit on it – by the old-time writer Alexander Maclaren, an eighteen-century minister. I started January 1 on reading from his essays on the book of Joshua, because the early chapters of Joshua are some of the richest and most powerful in the Old Testament. It was after my Thursday reading that I thought of you, so here we are.

The book of Joshua opens with the Lord’s approaching his new leader and saying, “Joshua-boy, get up, we’ve got a river to cross, and you need to hit it on the run.” The Lord proceeds to give Joshua one of the great pep talks in the Bible, and its message is passionate and pointed. Be faithful, Joshua – says the Lord – meditate on the right things, don’t get distracted and turn over there to the right or over yonder to the left, and be mighty courageous, with this latter grace being greater than the first, if it be possible.

It is a pep talk for the ages. I deliberated over it awhile, and it wasn’t long until I got to thinking what I needed to say to help you loyal readers in these upcoming roaring 20s? Then it hit me: You will need what the Lord gives Joshua – a good, old-fashioned Zig Ziglar motivational speech. It was funny how Zig Ziglar abruptly popped into my mind, but you can hardly think about motivation without him.

Reading the first chapter of Joshua, you get the feel that you've somehow left your living room and walked into an arena to listen to a Zig Ziglar speech, just that the Lord’s speech happens to take place just within earshot of the rolling Jordan River.

What is it about the Lord message to Joshua, and what is it about Mr. Ziglar’s ability to motivate that can help us in this dawning of 2020?

I had to remember my going to a Ziglar seminar years ago, and I had to try to recollect what it was that made him so compelling. I remembered that he could capture an audience better than anybody I’ve ever heard. He was able to put a great many words into a minute’s worth of speaking, all in a brilliant Mississippi accent. That, alone, kept the listeners on their toes. Then he would launch into a story, at the end of which you couldn’t help but realize the man could spin a yarn better than Mark Twain – or, if not better, close. Mr. Ziglar hit the stage with a strong purpose, a distinct message, and he didn’t push the slow-down button until he had laid that message out to you both longitudinally and latitudinally, and anything in between.  

But those skills were not the most important reasons the old-time speaker could enthrall an audience and convince it to hit the door running and achieve all of its goals. It was a deep, vibrant, infectious, non-ending energy. Mr. Ziglar would hit the stage on a run, jump into a story to grab his audience before he’d taken two steps, and then talk for an hour that seemed more like ten minutes. He moved purposely from one spot on the stage to the other; and when he wanted really to get you in the palm of his hand, he would kneel, slow down a bit for the first time, and lay out a plan that reminded you of a backyard quarterback drawing a play carefully in the dirt.

That, really, was what the master speaker was doing: He was just drawing a play. It was a “You run this play precisely the way I’m drawing it, and you are going to be successful” message; and I can hear him saying just such a thing in his Mississippi drawl. 

And here’s the play – drawn from two distinct sources – that we wanted to kneel down and draw for you today in this first column of 2020: You hit your goals running the way the then 70-something year-old Zig Ziglar hit the stage. You hit the stage running and don’t slow down until those good goals you have set have no choice but to surrender, much like a Zig Ziglar spellbound audience would surrender five seconds into his speech.

That “hit the stage running” message is the very one the Lord delivers to Joshua: “There”s the river there, young fella, and way out yonder is the other side. You see these people right here. Take them over there. 

“And, Joshua, let's not dilly-dally: Hit the stage running, and don’t slow down ‘til the job’s done.”

Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text 972-824-5197.

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