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."
Phenomenon Called Memory
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.
The MYSTERY of memories
2) The MINISTRY of memories
3) The MANAGEMENT of memories.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
The Management of Memories
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
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.
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.
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
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"
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
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.