If Parking Cars Is Required…

1 Peter 5:1 – 1To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder,

Life has a way of knocking you down a peg.  Lt. Gary Malcolmson was stationed on a destroyer in Long Beach, Calif., and his wife’s parents came to visit. They arranged to take them to a waterfront restaurant for dinner right after he returned from an official Navy function, still dressed in his crisp white uniform, complete with colorful rows of ribbons on his chest and black shoulder boards displaying gold stripes.  While waiting for their table, Gary stood outside by the main entrance with his father-in-law, a World War II veteran, and began explaining the
responsibilities of a Navy officer.
Just then, an attractive woman got out of her car and walked toward them.  “Here,” she said, handing Gary her car keys,  “and be careful not to scratch my car when you park it.”  (Contributed to “Humor In Uniform” in Reader’s Digest)

Today’s passage shows how Peter was willing to knock himself down a peg or two.  “Fellow elder!”  This seems odd to me coming from Peter… the loud, brash, foot in the mouth, braggart of the Gospels.  The one who once grandstanded by saying:  “Though every one else forsake you (I’m sure he made a sweeping gesture with this point) I will never forsake you.”  But he did.  And the Disciple (formerly known as Arrogant) is now a humble “fellow elder”.  He calls himself here a “Sympresbyteros”…  putting himself on the same level as the pastors he is writing to. Displaying great humility as a shepherd just trying to care for sheep like any other farm hand.

One person put it:  “This is Pavorotti joining the barber shop quartet.”

But a good leader never sees himself as above those he is leading.  He is called to labor alongside them…  parking a few cars if that is what is required… and being extra careful not to scratch them.

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Changing Careers

John 21:1-17

For all Peter knew he was fired.  Sure Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to them all.  But it was only a matter of time before Jesus was going to ask him to clean out his desk.  His rise to the self appointed title of “Chief Disciple” had proved to be an embarrassing period in his work history.  Peter sure hoped his next employer wasn’t going to call his references.  “Liar!”  “Likes to Curse!”  “Folds When the Pressure Gets Too Much!”  was likely to be what they were going to hear.

Fairly certain he was out of the group… What was he to do?  Well a man has to earn a living… so he went back to what he knew… fishing.  It wasn’t much, but it was honest work.  He lowers his expectations as he lowers his nets.

But,… you know the story.  Jesus recreates the events that caused Peter to leave those nets in the first place.  And as the other disciples sit on the bank counting fish, Peter sits at the feet of Jesus.  And the Master gently restores him to his destiny.  Replacing his fishing pole with a shepherd’s crook.  His mission statement altered from “Clean those fish” to “Feed my sheep!”

Strange recruitment on the part of Jesus.  What does an old fisherman know about being a Shepherd.  There will be a learning curve and lots of training ahead.  But he had already learned all he needed to know about forgiveness… and second chances… about grace.

With a heart full of joy and amazement, he picks up his lunchbox and begins his second career.

[To Be Continued]

Worshipping a “Mighty-Me”

Romans 1:18-32

E. Glenn Wagner in his book The Church You’ve Always Wanted  tells of an unusual temple in Kyoto, Japan.  It is called  “The Temple of the Thousand Buddhas.”  He writes: “On display sit more than a thousand likenesses of Buddha, each a little different from all others.  Devotees can come in, find the one that looks the most like himself or herself, and worship it.  …how much like humans the world over.  Left to ourselves, we naturally opt for whatever Buddha (or church) seems most like ourselves.” (The Church You’ve Always Wanted, p. 29.)

Paul declares in the book of Romans that the wrath of God comes against mankind because they set up little gods to worship.  “…although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,..”  They instead “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”  Idolatry is a way to circumvent worshipping the true God… setting up litte Mighty-Me’s to worship instead.

I’ve heard it said that Augustine defined sin being “caved in on oneself.”  When one worships and serves “created things rather than the Creator,” (including oneself-created in God’s image) then that person fails to join with the rest of creation to proclaim His “eternal power and divine nature. (v.20)”

How do you know what you truly worship?  Speaker and author Louie Giglio has an idea how to find out:  “”Follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money and your allegiance. At the end of that trail, you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whomever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.”  (The Air I Breathe)

So go ahead and take that journey in your mind.  Who is that sitting there on the throne at the end of the trail?  You or God?

I Am For Going On

Romans 1:16-17

John Bunyan could no longer speak freely in England.  A resurrence of the monarcy and Anglicanism in 1660 found John in prison for “pertinaciously abstaining” from Anglican services and for holding “unlawful meetings.”  Because he could not promise them he would hold his tongue, his 3-month sentence became eventually 12 years.   Much like the Apostle Paul, John Bunyan wrote a number of works while in prison including his spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Cheif of Sinners.  (Read it here:  http://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/bunyan-grace-abounding/

In this work he speaks to this issue of perseverence.  He wrote: 

 “I am for going on, and venturing my eternal state with Christ, whether I have comfort here or no. If God doth not come in, thought I, I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven, come hell, Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do; if not, I will venture for thy name.”

I hear the same spirit here in Romans where Paul declares:  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”   Paul has not yet visited the jail in Rome, but he will.  He will also face shipwreck, beatings, other imprisonments and many heartbreaks.  (2 Corinthians 11:23-33)  But he was “for going on.”  cashing in everything including his freedom for the sake of the Gospel.  He made it his goal to be most clear in his life about explaining salvation to all.  We can learn from the boldness of these two men.

I found a website with a group of people sharing their stories of “Not Being Ashamed of the Gospel.”  One story by a man that went by the name AWRETCHLIKEME was very powerful.

If You Deny Me Before Men…

Posted March 28th, 2010 at 4:57PM

One of the first issues I first had to deal with as a new Christian was what others would think of me. It wasn’t as big of a problem for me while I was in the Marines. But when I was discharged I soon discovered that what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is true: “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” I hadn’t completely stopped the party scene. I still wanted to be around my old friends even though I knew I would have to stop engaging in the life style I had been use to. And can you believe it, I found that my friends didn’t care to hear about my new found faith in Jesus.

One evening I became painfully aware of how my faith in Jesus would cause problems in my social life. My cousin was having a party. Me and another friend decided to go. We were in the kitchen with a few people sitting around the table. I suppose the word was out that I had “found religion”. I’m not sure how the conversation got started but the people around the table where asking me about the “End Times”- what the Bible says about the end of this world as we know it. I did not realize that other people could hear me.

Before too long my cousin came to me and asked me and my friend to leave. She said that our discussion was upsetting everyone at the party- that we were spoiling the mood. My friend started to get angry. He was not a Christian. He did not understand why we were being asked to leave. I did. I knew that what I was saying about the Bible and Jesus was convicting others. But it did feel strange -being kicked out of my own cousins home. I soon began to keep my mouth shut- to avoid loosing friends.

But despite my attempt to put Jesus on the back burner of my life, He did not go away. One night I was sitting in a bar. I wasn’t even drinking. I was just sitting there thinking about my life. A friend from high school came in and sat down beside me. His name was Rusty. He started pouring his heart out to me. He was having difficulties in his life and for some reason he wanted to tell me all about it. He actually said at one point that he wished he was like me, cause I had it all together. I almost laughed! He had no idea the amount of inner turmoil I was going through because I knew I wasn’t living for the Lord.

As I was sitting there listening to Rusty tell me about his problems there was a little voice that kept telling me to “tell him about Jesus”. But I refused. I felt like a hypocrite. I couldn’t see how I could tell Rusty about Jesus. What would he think? So I didn’t say a word. I left the tavern that night without sharing with Rusty that which could have made all the difference in the world. 

The next day I stopped by the bank on the way to work. I over heard someone talking about the accident. It was a two car accident- a head on collision with two men in one car and two men in another car. Both carts left that tavern the night before headed in opposite directions. Then both cars turned West and went about a mile out of town. They then turned toward each other- not knowing it. They meet each other in the middle of the road at the top of a hill. Two young men died that night. One of them was Rusty.

I could not stop thinking about Rusty pouring his heart out to me the night before, and that voice that kept telling me to tell him about Jesus. I was probably the last person who had a chance to tell him about how Jesus can save us from our sins- so that we don’t have to fear death. But I wouldn’t do it because I was ashamed. I felt terrible.

I attended the funeral. There were a large number of young people also there-young people who don’t expect to die. We were all tragically reminded again that day that we are just one heart beat away from eternity. And I knew that I had to do something different. I knew that the Lord was telling me I needed to wake up.

I went home that day and fell down at the foot of my bed, broken. The guilt from my from my failure to share with Rusty what I knew about Jesus and from the way I was living my life was too much. I cried out to the Lord. I didn’t know what to do. I was still a new Christian. As I was knelling there by my bed I grabbed my Bible in desperation and opened it up. My eyes fell on these words of Jesus from Matthew 10:32&33 which says: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven . But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I confessed my sin, and I determined that with Gods’ help, I would no longer care about what others might think of me because of my faith in Jesus.

The interesting thing is, shortly after that day I was able to completely stop the use of drugs and alcohol- something that had been dogging me for the past 6 years of my life. And despite my failure, I felt free- free from the need to get high. I began to realize that I didn’t need an altered state to have “fun”, what a discovery! I truly began to experience a joy that I could not explain!

How about you?  Are you ashamed of the Gospel?  Or are you ready to go on and venture for his name?