Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb itself, compared to the city, was quite small; the devastation is still at the front of many minds today.
There is a lot of evidence on earth of multiple meteor impacts. It is chilling to watch re-creations of how those impacts would have affected the earth. A meteor just six miles across has the potential ability to destroy most of this planet, which is 24,901 miles in circumference. So, something just 0.024% of earth’s size can potentially destroy it entirely.
This country has 321,400,000 people. The church makes up about 0.03% of the US Population. We are ahead of meteors in terms of our ability to make an unforgettable impact.
It is far too easy for us to think, “I’m just one person,” or, ”We’re just a couple hundred people in a community of thousands,” but God can do mind-blowing things with just one person. With His Son, He gave all humanity across eons of time the ability to be saved. With just 12 apostles, the church grew into a global fellowship. With just one faithful Christian, an entire community of lost souls can be reached.
When a meteor strikes the earth, it’s not the crater that creates such devastation: it is what happens afterward. Maybe you convert just one soul. That soul turns around and converts his/her family. That family reaches out to their connections and shares their newfound faith. Before you know it, hundreds of lost souls are now in Christ. All because of the effort of one person to convert one soul!
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).
One of the first verses that we tend to think of when it comes to youth being active in their faith is I Timothy 4:12. Most teens have heard, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness” at some point in their lives. What about the second half of the verse? In I Timothy, Paul had been instructing Timothy on how to deal with men like Alexander and Hymenaeus. These men had been blaspheming and teaching false doctrine. Paul clearly states that the goal of their instruction should be love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1:5).
Skipping down to chapter 4, Paul tells Timothy that no one should look down on him because of his age. Timothy is charged to teach the gospel and handle the men that have been teaching false doctrine. To do so, he can’t let others’ views of him cause him to stop doing his job. When Paul says “youthfulness,” the original text uses a word that could be ascribed to someone as old as 30. Paul’s main point is that in “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” This is what Timothy should have been doing. Forget your age, forget what other men are saying, and LIVE as an example. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “tupos” or “type” that men could follow. Timothy could do nothing about his age, so his effectiveness was to be rooted in his example.
So, young Christians today, what can we do to be an example? There are five ways that we can do this.
First, your speech. This is external. People can hear the way you talk in your everyday life; Make sure it is blameless and pure. Don’t give someone a reason to reject you because of how you speak in your private life.
Second, your conduct. Once again this is external. Having proper conduct is vital if people are to see you as something more than just a youth. Be a man/woman of God whether you’re being watched or not.
Third, in love. This is more internal than external. This love is an agape love, sacrifice for others at the expense of your own good. This also goes back to 1:5 and “love from a pure heart.”
Fourth, in faith. This is also internal. Work on your own faith. Build your own relationship with God.
Finally, in purity. Be pure in your relationships and in your life when no one else is around. Do these things as “an example (type) to those who believe.”
Paul continues on in verses 4:13ff to discuss other ways he can be an example: giving attention to the public reading of scripture, exhorting and teaching, and using his spiritual gift he had been given by the Holy Spirit. Paul wanted Timothy to be a living example. When these men were looking down on him for his age, Paul didn’t tell him to focus on his experience, but on the source. Focus on your own spiritual life, your own personal reading of God’s Word, your own prayer life. Don’t blame others or use them as an excuse. Be an example they can respect and follow. Show them what a true Christian looks like.
Timothy had a hard job on his hands; he was facing false teachers and blasphemers that were tearing apart the church. He had to work and be the proper influence for the Christians there at Ephesus. As teens today, you also have a hard task ahead of you. Many in the church think that you don’t need to be working yet. God says otherwise. You can and should be an example for others to see. Each one of you have your own group of friends that only you can influence. So, be the example. In your speech, in your conduct, in your love, your faith and your purity. Show them the truth, and never neglect your own Christianity
Have you ever researched famous people born on your birthday? I have. I share a birthday with Babe Ruth, Bob Marley, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Queen Anne, Isidor Strauss, J.E.B. Stuart, Tom Brokaw, and, of course, a great many others. Two of the more fascinating, by contrast, were born a year apart. The one born in 1911 was a man. The one born in 1912 was a woman. He was an American patriot and two-term president. She was the companion of a Nazi dictator. He was shot, but survived. Her end was presumably self-inflicted. He lived into his 90s. She died in her 30s. He was Ronald Reagan. She was Eva Braun.
Both were born in two-parent households of modest means. Both had Catholic backgrounds. Both were second-born children. Both were athletes in their youth. Both possessed a talent for the arts. Both were fiercely loyal.
There is much more that could be said by way of comparison and contrast, but consider this. They were born and raised into the world at almost the same time. They were both born with the freedom to choose. Both found themselves in a place of great influence. Why was their ultimate influence so different from one another? It is surely more complex than can be measured from so great a distance of time and geography. Yet, it is a question played out an infinite number of times every day.
The day you were born, you were given a set of resources: time, talent, inclinations, opportunities, and influencers. For all of us, some of those resources present challenges and some present advantages. In other words, all of us have problems to overcome and privileges to leverage. In every case, we get to decide what we do with what we are given.
One of the applications of the parable of the talents (Mat. 25:14-30) is stewardship. Each man was given resources. Each was held accountable for what he did with them. Each made choices regarding them. Each reaped what he sowed.
I do not know how my final epitaph will read. It will certainly not be American president or German dictator’s companion. For that matter, it will not be Hall of Fame baseball player, British royalty, actor, composer, or broadcast journalist.
I know how I want it to read–Faithful Christian, faithful husband, faithful father, faithful preacher, and faithful friend. Am I using my resources to work toward that goal? The only way I get to choose my legacy is by building it day-by-day, decision-by-decision. The same is true of us all. That means we must all use time wisely (Eph. 5:16) to forge it. By doing so wisely, we can be numbered among those to whom the Lord, at the end of it all, says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mat. 25:21).
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:
We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.
Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).
Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).
Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.
Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).
Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).
People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!
We need to know the Bible, to study and apply,
And teach and share with others, their faith to solidify.
But often, before they’ll listen to a consonant or vowel,
They need to see us on our knees, with our basin and our towel.
For fine speech can lose its luster, and argument its shine
When its power in our own lives, is unseen and unapplied.
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,”
Is the common man’s mantra, as he’s searching for the way.
And a teacher whose compassion and listening ear is offered,
Will open up a heart before one single verse is proffered.
For the adage, often spouted, is a proverb we need to share,
People do not care how much you know til they know how much you care
The way to reach an eternal soul involves more than the mind,
And every servant of Jesus knows it takes service pure and kind.
Loving care that costs us in terms of money, effort, and time,
Will soften hearts made hard by worldly greed and grist and grime.
Dear Christian as you pray to God, “Lead me to some soul today,”
Keep your eyes peeled for a struggling, straggling soul astray,
Then be a neighbor, show him mercy, you just might be surprised,
When he listens to the truth of God you have actively exercised.
May 14, 2004, was the day I preached my maternal grandfather’s funeral. It was a signal honor to do so. He had passed away early on Wednesday morning, May 12. The morning he passed, I wrote this about him:
Within you today are a temper and trends
A view toward the unfolding tomorrow
Have you stopped to question on what that depends
From what spiritual bank you do borrow?
Though each person forges his own internal road
Based on unique decisions and conscience
Before him to help pave it is an influence to goad
A role model, an example bestowed.
For those so endowed with a godly loved one
One righteous, driven by the Giver of grace.
To see their own faith is to look at one done
A journeyman who victoriously ran his own race.
I know one like that, a follower of Him
Who led much family both of flesh and of faith
Who shaped hearts and lives in times good and times grim
Who laid course that to follow was safe.
When we all get to heaven and give praises unending
Who knows what will be or how we’ll appear?
I know that for anyone in that Paradise spending
That all who shaped our faith will be clear.
Everyone that knew Harold Edward Mitchell, Sr., was closer to heaven because of his influence. He lived over 90 years, converting from denominationalism in young adulthood and ultimately serving decades as an elder. At his funeral, I shared five facts about my “Papaw Mitchell.”
I saw grandpa the Monday night before he passed away. He was able to talk, but it was the first time I saw him that I felt he might not live forever in that earthly body he took such good care of. It was probably the first time I thought seriously about my own mortality. Our spirits are engineered for eternity, but our bodies of clay wind down more each day. In the fifteen years that have passed since then, I am more aware of that than I was even then. Our pilgrimage here won’t go on indefinitely, though we’ll live as long as God lives.
Examples like my Papaw motivate me to clear the hurdles from my path and stay dependent upon God to help me, like him, to finish my face. To die faithful and prepared means to live faithfully and make preparation. One day, someone will speak at your funeral and mine. What can they honestly say about the example and influence we will have left on others?
None of these are overly time-consuming. Pick as many as you can. If you cannot get to them all today, then pick up where you left off tomorrow. Grow your list. Use your imagination and creativity. Find yourself looking and acting more like Jesus! See yourself in Matthew 5:13-16.
Some years ago an AP wire report yielded this incredible, true story. Apparently a dirty joke was sent by a company employee to 6,000 people! What was so unusual? The perpetrator, intending to send a daily report to reporters and government officials, was a federal communications commission employee! The headline read, “Joke Is On The FCC” (via Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/9/99). The FCC, charged with setting decency limits on various media outlets, was guilty of that which they are employed to prevent. Ironic!
The jokes abound. Plumbers have the worst pipers. Electricians have the faultiest wiring. Doctors are the sickest people. Preachers’ kids get in the most trouble. They learn it from the elders’ kids. While these are more axiomatic than true, there are guilty plumbers, electricians, doctors, preachers, elders, lawyers, politicians, and the like out there. They get such attention because they fail at that which is supposed to epitomize and characterize them!
Christians become Christians through grace and obedient faith (Eph. 2:8-10). But Christianity is more than a state of being. It requires certain characteristics to be in one’s life. A Christian is part of a spiritually “chosen race, royal priesthood, and holy nation” and is a person “for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). Moreover, a Christian is one redeemed from all iniquity, purified unto himself, and zealous of good works (Ti. 2:14). A Christian is one who has put fleshly deeds to death (Col. 3:5). A Christian takes on “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), which means assuming a code of conduct and disposition of heart that is clear before the world’s eyes (Matt. 5:14-16).
There is an irreconcilable irony when a Christian is indistinct, indifferent, immoral, and inconsistent! Like salt without taste, a Christian who dresses, talks, and behaves like a worldly person cannot be properly used by God (cf. Matt. 5:13). A Christian without ethics, morality, honesty, and integrity is a walking oxymoron. A Christain who talks one talk and walks another makes no sense and draws no following, at least none leading to Christ (cf. John 12:32; 1 Cor. 11:1).
Will the “Great Report” reveal that we, as Christians, spoke and showed the saving message or the wrong message? What message are we sending to others? Let it not be the irony of wearing a name we are not honoring.
By: A blessed fish
Let me tell you about the greatest fisherman I have ever known.
He has always found success at his favorite fishing hole. A special place where the inlet was fruitful, and many fish loved to be caught. His technique is simple. A welcoming lure. A handshake, a hug and a smile. Just to let you know you’re wanted.
He will always catch-n-release and the fish always feel better for the experience. Many wide eyed and spiritually young fish will enter the inlet, hoping that someone would catch them and show them the kind of love this great fisherman offers. He never judges a fish – their size, beauty, wealth or position. He only lets them know how glad he is to see them at the inlet.
His success is solely based on persistence, perseverance and patience. Three times a week you can always count on him being right there at the inlet. Waiting for the opportunity to hook’em and hold’em. He always makes every fish feel welcome and wanted.
He knows every fish by name. If he thinks a fish has drifted off down steam, he will go in search, armed with a tackle box full of Christian love and do his best to bring them back to the inlet. Not for him, but for their sake and for God’s sake.
He hooked this fish over 11 years ago. My wife led me to the inlet. But, he hooked me and let me know that I was welcome here. He helped save this soul for eternity.
I think he is getting tired now, but few may notice. So many years of fishing, but he is still there almost every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I think he wants to share his favorite inlet with others who share his passion. Man, woman, or child, he wants us to join him. We don’t have to wait. We don’t have to be assigned the duty. We just need to step into the water and follow his lead. There is plenty of room at the inlet. Let’s all join this fisherman at the Bear Valley inlet and make sure every fish that enters knows they are wanted and welcome.
The great fisherman’s name is Clint and this fish will always love him.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
NEAL’S NOTE: This was submitted to me by someone who wants to remain anonymous. Truer, more fitting words could not be spoken about one of the most special people any of us have ever known. We’re very blessed to have Clint Stephens as a member at Bear Valley, one of the men who was at the time a shepherd when I was hired. Enjoy!