Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
Sometimes our television plays to an “empty room.” People are present; they just are not paying attention. I suppose you could say the television just serves to offer “background noise” on those occasions. Today, an action-type show played on a broadcast network. A childhood favorite was playing. Though I might be accused of “hassling the Hoff,” I noted, as an adult, the show I enjoyed as a child was replete with terrible acting from the show’s star and the supporting cast. The only character that retained an air of sophistication was the car voiced by William Daniels. Even with KITT, though, it wasn’t that “he” had great lines, but a great accent.
I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words to the brethren of Corinth.
“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13.11 NASB)
I will explain this verse in its context before I make application of it. In the immediate context of Paul’s discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul was comparing their reliance on spiritual gifts such as tongue-speaking to being like a child. Love was the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12.31ff). The spiritual gifts would pass away. Love would be what would guide the church after the miraculous age had passed. Rather than quibble over who had the best spiritual gift, they needed to grow up and be motivated by love.
Within the context of the epistle, though, Paul’s words in our text serves as a reminder to Christians that a failure to mature as we should, signifies a childish mind (1 Corinthians 14.20). Only in one’s desire to sin is such a childish disposition a positive, since it’s childlike innocence which epitomizes the ideal child of God (Matthew 18.3). Thus, we are innocent like children, but stay like adults in our thinking.
This brings me back to Knight Rider. Why did the show make me cringe? I know some might accuse me of being quite capable of immaturity. Nevertheless, I am an adult now. I see things like plot holes. I can tell I am watching D-list actors. And the entire premise strains credulity. In the episode airing, Michael and KITT had gone to a South American country whose American advisor was imperiled by a coup begun during a volcanic eruption. They were responsible for safely extracting this advisor. Naturally, they accomplished their task with little difficulty within the hour.
Now, let us bring it on home where it counts. How many Christians are easily swayed by the smooth words of a false teacher because he plays on those things appealing to an immature mind? How many base their convictions on how they feel instead of a “thus saith the Lord?” The Hebrews writer admonished his recipients to stop being milk-drinkers so that can tear into the solid food found in God’s Word (Hebrews 5.12-14). That takes spending time in prayer and Bible study.
In closing, I remind you of what God said to Job when He finally granted the latter the audience he had requested: “Now gird up your loins like a man…” (Job 38.3; 40.7). May we heed those words also and make those needed adjustments to become the Christian men and women God would have us be.
Dale and I were recently talking about the marked differences in preference among gun owners, bikers, etc. He made the observation that those who are pro-fill-in-the-blank (revolvers vs magazine-fed, 1911 vs Glock, etc., cruisers vs sport bike, Chevy vs Ford, and so on) are often very enthusiastic about their preference and very hostile to what is the antithesis of their preference.
To use the term in its purest and least twisted sense, there is very little tolerance concerning differences of opinion among those who are passionate about the same things. With motorcycles, those who enjoy cruisers might scoff at those who prefer sport bikes. “They’re more difficult to maintain, you can’t practically go long distances, they’re more dangerous…” Sport bikers might do the same, “Cruisers aren’t as fast or agile, they’re old man bikes, you lose so much power with a belt or shaft drive, they don’t look as cool…” We could go on forever, but if you have any interests where differences of opinion abound (which is just about any hobby or interest), you know what I’m talking about.
We face the same things in the church. Culture influences our preferences in matters of opinion, and I don’t have to go into detail about those opinions or traditions. We’re aware of the range of preferences and the way we can be tempted to respond to opposing preferences. Of course, I’m not talking about doctrines that cannot and should never be altered, but of opinions and traditions that do not affect salvation.
The same responses we observe in every other aspect of our lives – passionate support or passionate opposition – can sometimes be observed in the church. We exist in the world, but we are supposed to be different from the world. Matthew 5.43ff tells us that we should love our enemies. We sometimes treat those with different preferences in the church as enemies; the level of hostility that we (and I mean me, too) can show over those preferences proves this. Do we love them anyway? Are we praying for them?
Matthew 5.46-48 points out (in principle) that if we’re only nice to those on “our side,” it means nothing. In fact, it’s wrong! Twice in this passage we are called to change and be different from everyone else. That is a salvation issue.
The word “tolerance” has become perverted over the last generation or so, but we can’t forget that it does play a role in our faith. We must not tolerate false doctrine, but we must tolerate our differences in matters of opinion. This carries over to everything we’re passionate about!
How we treat those who disagree with us will show others who we serve far more effectively than our professed beliefs will. Does our treatment of those with whom we disagree show that we are genuinely Christian, or does it serve as a perfect deterrent? This is up to us. As things slowly return to normal we can change the status quo in a very positive way – let’s make the best of it!
There was a problem with the shepherds of Ezekiel’s day. They tended to their own needs, but not the flock’s (34:2-3). There were tangible needs and problems, but these shepherds sinned by omission (34:4). The sheep were scattered and these shepherds did not work to get them back or save them from predators (34:5-6). Then, God through Ezekiel utters these harrowing words: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep” (34:10).
In the New Testament, Paul tells the elders of the church at Ephesus to “be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Guard the flock, watch over the flock, and shepherd the flock. What a weighty work! To be on guard means “to be in a continuous state of readiness to learn of any future danger, need, or error, and to respond appropriately” (Louw-Nida 332). An overseer has the responsibility of seeing to the spiritual safety and proper conduct first of themselves but also of those they watch over (Arndt 379). The idea of shepherding indicates care, concern, love, provision, relationship and intimacy, knowledge, and familiarity (see Kittel et al 902ff). These lexicographers who define what Bible words mean give insight into what elders are to be like as they do this crucial work. Isn’t it incredible and encouraging to see spiritual, albeit inevitably imperfect, men who “aspire to the office of overseer” (1 Tim. 3:1)?
Yesterday is a day I’ll never forget. We tagged along with three elders and their wives as they went around to 26 houses of members of our congregation. Exercising due caution under the current medical crisis, they nonetheless drove to see members young, old, and in-between. They visited with, sang to, and prayed for so many face to face, delivering Dana’s delicious baked goods. Seeing their enthusiasm to do this and watching the genuine joy on their faces as they served and ministered was a blessing that will stoke my spiritual fire for a long time to come.
But, that’s just what I got to see. I’m not seeing the other times they’ve done this. I’m not there as they’re making so many phone calls to everyone. Over the weekend, they met together for several hours to strategize about a reopening and communication plan not just to get back to “normal” but to thrive and grow as we go into the future. Another of the elders has since spent hours piecing together that plan to provide clear communication to the church.
All of them work full-time jobs and are hard workers. All of them have families to love and care for. All of them have hobbies and interests. But, all of them have Christ in the center of their hearts and lives. That last fact is what drives them to know about, care about, and reach out to the sheep.
Thank God for the many churches who are being shepherded through unprecedented times like these by engaged, concerned, and involved shepherds. Church growth, doctrinal soundness, examples of Christ-centered living, and so much more depend on elders who shepherd. Will you take the names of your shepherds to the throne of God each day, imitate their faith, and assist them in their work? They are a vital part of God’s plan to touch and transform eternity!
My wife and I were watching an NCIS episode where terrorists attempt to use fake currency to carry out an attack on the U.S. power grid. Their trail was picked up when instead of “United States” on the bills, “Untied States,” was found.
With the pandemic we’re facing, we have briefly enjoyed some unity not seen in seven decades. A lot of the partisan stuff has slowed, a lot of the animosity between political parties has simmered down, and people are beginning to treat each other like neighbors again.
With the cautiously optimistic breakthroughs in our fight against this virus, we seem to be slipping back into the “Untied States.” I think our enjoyment of the peace accompanying this unity will stick around and we’ll be as neighborly as we have been, even after quarantines have been lifted. We’re witnessing the ugliness of a government not unified and perhaps we will have gained some perspective as a result of this global trial.
That feeling of relief, calm, peace, reset, unity, and love has to be what God feels when His church is unified. It is what we experience when we put others above ourselves and treat each other like family.
We have a super cool opportunity once quarantines are lifted! I miss my family at Hebron like crazy – I’m not alone in missing my church family. We have a chance to use that momentum to love more, be more selfless, argue less, and encourage more. If we take these qualities and run with them, the church will grow like wildfire. Beyond that, the world will see the love we have and will want to be a part of it.
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
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?
We read it to our sons when they were growing up. We made up our own tune to the song, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” It’s been hard to remember those days in the rocking chair, reading it over and over to them, without getting tearful ever since they weren’t little boys. It turns out that many people can relate. The book’s author, Robert Munsch, reports that it has sold 15,000,000 copies (http://robertmunsch.com/book/love-you-forever). His publisher didn’t want to publish it because it didn’t seem like a traditional children’s book.
If just reading the title gets you choked up with personal memories, you may not want to read the true story behind the book. Munsch says that the song came first:
I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song
was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and
I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was
very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing (ibid.).
He later built a story around the song, and the rest is history for millions of parents and their children. I imagine Gary, Dale, and Carl would tell you this is their favorite book from childhood. It’s certainly ours.
Isn’t it interesting that such a beautiful, intense love story surrounds something heartbreaking and tragic. Out of pain and sorrow, this incredible, enduring legacy was created. Knowing the backstory only intensifies the power of the words in the book.
Have you ever looked at the story of the cross in that light? Scripture teaches us from beginning to end that God loves us, His children. He cares for us, protects us, and wants us to live with Him forever.
But there is a backstory. In fact, it goes back to eternity. There, the Godhead made a plan to make sure we could live with Him forever. But it would require His Son dying for us in order to make it happen. Discovering that may bring tears to our eyes, but it also melts our hearts. What love! It’s a forever love, one that can make us the best we could ever be.
Here is God’s message throughout Scripture: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jer. 31:3). In other words, “I’ve loved you forever and I’ll love you forever.”
1–Do Something That Is Truly Meaningful To Them (Acts Of Service)(Phil. 2:3-4)
2–Say Something That Is Essential To Them (Cf. Col. 4:6)
3–Pray Something That Is Helpful To Them (When You’re Close Or Not, It Will Benefit You Both)(1 Pet. 3:7)
4–Lift Something That Is Too Heavy For Them (Your Thoughtful Compassion Will Be Appreciated)(Gal. 6:2)
5–Show Them Something That Is Useful To Them (Your Example)(Eph 5:22-33)
6–Give Them Something That Is Appreciated By Them (Forgiveness, Patience, Understanding, Etc.)(Gal. 5:22-23)
7–Go Somewhere That’s Special To Them (Sentimentally; Geographically)
8–Study Something That Pertains To Them (The Bible, Of Course, But Also Other Books On The Subject)
9–Hope Something That Is About Them (Their Best; Their Salvation; Their Happiness)(1 Cor. 13:7)
10–Be Someone That Is Respected By Them (Eph 5:22-33)
My father, from an early age you taught me to be true,
But when I wavered on what that was, I could always look at you.
You taught me how the Lord comes first at work, at school, at play
But how much easier that became when you practiced that each day.
Dear child, I may not perfectly that narrow path traversed
But when you see me fail, dear child, I pray I will reverse
For fathers come, they teach us much, and character is fashioned
By what we think and say and do, by each prayer and passion
Dear Father, help me teach my children to walk in holy ways
But let me do that by my living, I have but a fleeting, few days
May Your lessons, Lord, they come to learn at my feet of clay,
Instill a faith that will survive ’til they get to the Judgment Day.