I KNOW IT HAS been used before, and it is not as good an exit line as, "If you are reading this column, I am dead." But I am not dead, or at least I wasn't when I started this piece, and this is my last column, so "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen."
The decision to end this column was not mine, but I receive it, I hope, with the same grace I did when in April, 1990, I received a letter from Phil Kent telling me that he was going to give me a 10-week trial to see how I could handle a weekly column. Phil became a fan of these weekly ramblings and we once laughed that he never did write back and tell me that I had the assignment on a permanent basis, even though this is the 554th installment of "Not For Sunday Only" (NFSO, will still be available every Saturday online at http:/davidsisler.com).
I need also to tell you how that letter giving me a "temporary" assignment came to be written. Barry Paschal, now the opinions page editor for The Columbia County NewsTimes, was an editorial writer for The Chronicle in those days. I submitted a number of columns which landed on Barry's desk and he bludgeoned Phil until he agreed to give me a chance. Except for an occasional letter to the editor, my writing would never have been seen on this page had Barry not believed in me and seen something worthwhile in my writing.
THROUGH ALL OF these columns, through all of the topics, there have been two guiding principles. First, the Christian faith is an every day happening - it is not for Sunday only. I have tried to show that through commentary on news events, sports, popular songs, motion pictures, and personal glimpses.
I had a good example for that approach. "Consider the lilies," the Teacher from Nazareth said one day. Another day he said, "A certain man had 100 sheep." A woman who lost one coin, and started a major housecleaning project to find it, illustrated yet another life-lesson. On another occasion He told us about a builder who did a complete cost-out of a job before he began construction.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon told a group of would-be preachers, "If your preaching is too complicated for a 12-year-old to understand, it is too complicated." Sharing the Good News was not complicated for Jesus. He pointed to the ordinary and by that means pointed to Father.
I have often invited you inside the Sisler family household. One lady who met me when I spoke at her church said, "I feel like I know your entire family. I have peeked into the classroom and watched your wife, Bonnie, teach. I have watched your children, Jennifer, Amy, Michael and Matthew, grow up, graduate from high school and college, get married, and pursue their careers."
I have written about my Mom and Dad (Melvin David Sisler, Sr., was the only person I know who liked all of my columns) and my little brother, Kyle.
Almost two dozen times I have described my trips to Russia and Moldova, sharing with you the humanitarian efforts of MIR Children's Foundation.
I had only recently started my weekly efforts when a letter to the editor appeared, denouncing another religion columnist for "self-aggrandizing, holier-than-thou, pious hypocrisy." That brings me to my second guiding principle (second only in the listing). Whether I mentioned him by name or not, and most of the time I did, Jesus Christ has been the focus of these columns.
You knew during these years that I was a church member, but I never named the congregation, because this column was never a commercial for any specific service or servant (including these final reflective words).
An ad salesman told me recently that the Saturday circulation of The Chronicle is approximately 80,000. If that figure is the average for the last 10 and one-half years, this column has appeared in 44,320,000 newspapers. Twenty-five years ago I was an editor for the Church of God Evangel. According to national statistics which we read at that time, the average piece of print media was read by four people. If that figure is still true, 177,280,000 people have had the chance to read what I have written. What an incredible opportunity, what an incredible audience! To God be the glory, great things He hath done.
Suzanne Downing, the editorial page editor, told me that she is going to seek out several pastors to provide Christian commentary on issues of the day from varying perspectives (and I'll be back for an occasional guest spot).
REMEMBER, brethren, as you write it is all about the Jesus whom we serve. It is never about his servants. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man, no woman, no young person, comes to Father except through him. Point the way to the Cross where God's only begotten Son died for our sins, and you will serve our Lord and your readers well.
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