A Tip of the Hat

1 Peter 2:17

“Show proper respect to everyone;”

In a chapter titled “Why We Aren’t So Popular Anymore,” author Richard Stearns mourns the steady decline of evangelical influence in our society.  Citing Barna research he notes that in 1996, 85% of non-Christians had a favorable view of Christianity.  10 years later in 2006, only 16% held that opinion.  Evangelicals took an even greater beating with a 3% approval rating.

What  can be done to improve our witness?  This writer’s two cents comes from the book of 1 Peter where the apostle tells his audience to “show proper respect to everyone.”  And I think hemeanteveryone.  Not everyone, but non-Christians.  Or everyone but those that disagree with me politically.  Or everyone but those that think well of me.  It means that democrat or republican… that surly co-worker… that Hindu or that Muslim.  Now how does one pull that off?  By treating them with the same level of respect we would give a friend or family member… giving them at times the benefit of the doubt, a hand when they are in need, and a smile… for goodness sake!

We never will know how much that can do for someone.  Tony Campolo shares the story of Desmond Tutu from South Africa: 

“Desmond Tutu was once asked why he became an Anglican rather than joining some other denomination. He replied that in the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. “One day” Tutu says, “when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her! I was more than surprised at what had happened and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”

A tip of the hat to that minister… and to all who would dare to share Christ’s love in that manner.

Giving God Your Best (Day of the Week)

Matthew 6:33

My church (Valley View Baptist in East Nashville) is praying through Matthew 6:33 this year.  What does it look like to put God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness first?  In our individual lives?  In the life of a congregation?  Can we put aside our comfortability and tradition long enough to take what God wants to give us in 2012?

When we give God our best, He has a habit of making it better!  This is evidenced in this story by Steve May:

“Years ago a man named Mike Pilavachi was a youth pastor in a church in England. He and one of the kids in his youth group decided to get together each week to pray, study the Bible, and worship God. Mike asked the student, “What night would you like to meet?” The student said, “Well, Saturday night is the best night of the week [i.e. for a teenager], so let’s give Jesus the best night. Let’s meet on Saturday.”

Mike agreed, and they began setting aside their Saturday nights to meet together and worship God. The teenager in this story, by the way, was Matt Redmon, the writer of songs such as “The Heart of Worship”, “Let My Words Be Few”, “Once Again” and several others. And these Saturday night meetings started a worship movement in this church that has reached literally thousands of young people throughout England.”

What are you willing to set aside for the Kingdom?  For the sake of better, can you give Him your best?

Do Beauticians Exist?

1 Peter 3:15-16

The battle over the existence of God is waged no longer exculsively on college campuses and theological seminaries… it has moved to street level.  Ordinary people are buying the lie that there is no one in the cosmos that sees, knows or cares for them.  It isn’t enough for God’s people to debate it only in Sunday School class.  We have to have an answer for anyone that asks us why we believe.  I love this story shared by pastor John Ortberg:

“A woman I know named Sheryl went to a salon to have her nails manicured.  As the beautician began to work, they began to have a good conversation about many subjects.  When they eventually touched on God, the beautician said, “I don’t believe God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Sheryl, who has MS.

“Well, you just have to go out on the street to realize God doesn’t exist.  Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?  Would there be abandoned children?  If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.  I can’t imagine loving a God who could allow all these things.”

Sheryl thought for a moment.  She didn’t respond because she didn’t want to start an argument.  The beautician finished her job, and Sheryl left the shop.

Just after she left the beauty shop, she saw a woman in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair.  She looked filthy and unkempt.  Sheryl turned, entered the beauty shop again, and said to the beautician, “You know what?  Beauticians do not exist.”

“How can you say that?” asked the surprised beautician.  “I am here.  I just worked on you.  I exist.”

“No,” Sheryl exclaimed, “beauticians do not exist, because if they did, there would be no people with dirty, long hair and appearing very unkempt like that woman outside!”

“Ah, but beauticians do exist,” she answered.  “The problem is, people do not come to me.”

Exactly.  (Faith and Doubt, pp. 117-118.)

With your friend:  Defend with compassion, answer with gentleness, but whatever you do, don’t  forget to give a reason for the hope that you have inside.  Their destiny may depend on it.