Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
I was intrigued by an article written by Janet Thompson of crosswalk.com. The eye-catching title asked, “Why Is The Church Going Dark?” She meant this literally. Her complaint was about the design of many auditoriums having dim lighting and being windowless, almost like a movie theatre or concert venue. She wondered if this was to reach a younger generation or to set a certain mood.
While I prefer a well-lit room, there is a more significant concern. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16). His words have nothing to do with church building designs, LED lighting, or window sizes. Preaching to His disciples, Jesus wants us to know that those reflecting His light cannot be hidden, but shine in such a way that others will see our good works and glorify God.
It is good for us to constantly challenge ourselves, when setting budgets, making plans, gauging our true priorities, or evaluating the leadership or the pulpit. Are we doing what will help us be “Light-Bearers” or what will cause us to be “Dark Churches”? What an important question! Our actions determine the answer.
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!
Jesus had taught them about money (Luke 16), causing weak, new Christians to stumble (Luke 17), the coming of the church and the end of the world (Luke 17), and prayer (Luke 18). Now, He continues to teach but shifts His focus to attitude and outlook. In doing so, He leaves a pattern for the kind of perspective we should have if we are truly a follower of Jesus.
They had a strange contest in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The prize was a python worth $850. How did they determine the winner? They had a roach and worm-eating contest. Edward Archibald was among 20 to 30 contestants. He won, but soon after the contest ended, he fell ill and started to regurgitate. Eventually, he fell to the ground and was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was choking from arthropod body parts stuck in his airway. Archibald entered the contest to win the python and sell it for a profit. It was foolish and costly. What are we trying so hard to get on this earth and what are we doing to get it? Jesus urges a proper outlook, one that is essential for His disciples. May we embrace that and act accordingly.
Sanctification is one of those words used in more than one sense in the New Testament. It usually means the state of having been made holy (Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pt. 1:2), but it also is used in the sense of moral purity (see especially 1 Th. 4:2ff). There is no doubt that God calls us to live pure, godly lives in Christ. Because of this, we must watch the company we keep (cf. 1 Co. 15:33; 2 Co. 6:16ff).
How do we balance this need of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27) with the ability to reach out to those who are not followers of Christ? David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in their book UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters, discuss several factors that lead two generations—they call them “Mosaics” (born between 1984 and 2002) and “Busters” (born between 1965 and 1983)—to be more radically disconnected from and antagonistic toward “Christianity” as they perceive it. One of the factors is their view that Christians’ lives are too sheltered for them to relate to it or find it desirable as a lifestyle choice. We’re often thought of as living in our own world, providing too simplistic answers for our complex world, being ignorant and outdated, speaking our own, exclusive language, and our outrage and offense at being putdown and mocked by the world. I don’t know how this hits you, but perhaps it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves.
The authors make a great point worthy of our consideration: “Christianity begins to shift its sheltered reputation when Christ followers are engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to the issues people face” (132). The answer is not to replace congregational singing with rock concerts, recruit women, homosexual, or hard-edged shock-sermonizers who are foul-mouthed and irreverent to replace faithful gospel preachers, or the like. The answer is much more New Testament, more aligned with what the early church was. The answer is “engagement.”
That means we engage people in the world. We create opportunities or enter environments where “outsiders” (non-Christians) are to be found and we become salt and light, opening doors for the gospel through relationship-building and our genuine concern for people’s (often messy) lives.
It means we engage ourselves in “active faith.” We let faith have arms and legs. We move from being “believers” to being “doers” (Js. 1:22). We urge, encourage, and enable people to actively serve and live out faith in their daily lives.
It means we engage people like those Jesus and His disciples targeted. That means the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, the lame man, Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the Samaritan woman, and others like them. We cannot forget what Paul said, that God has chosen the foolish, weak, base, nothing, and despised types to be His people (1 Cor. 1:27-28). The people God chose to be heirs are not the pretty, popular, influential, and wealthy (Js. 2:5). The authors of UnChristian specify groups like “loners,” “self-injurers,” and “fatherless” people (135-137). We can add to that list, but people like these do not often top the “prospect lists” we might make.
Divine Truth must prevail and guide us in matters of salvation, our teaching, our personal morality, our worship, etc. If it will guide us in reaching the world with the Word, we had better stop sequestering ourselves and our faith from a world in desperate need of the only message with eternal implications. Reflect on how Paul’s words apply to this, when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We’re not just meant to prove that to each other. God wants us proving it to those outside of Christ.
Good deeds don’t make the nightly news. When a person serves or is nice to others, it rarely goes beyond the circle of occurrence. That’s OK, because Jesus urges us, “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before me, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mat. 6:1).
That probably wasn’t a problem for Titus, since the Cretans weren’t renowned for doing good deeds. In fact, a Cretan prophet said of his fellow-citizens, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti. 1:12). How would you like to live in a neighborhood or work on your job with such charming people as that? Paul calls them lying, wild, evil animals and slaves to their stomachs.
So, Paul spends some significant time in his letter talking about good deeds. There were some on Crete, particularly Jews, who by their deeds denied God and were “worthless for any good deed” (1:16). Thus, he urges Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds (2:7). These deeds were not to earn salvation (3:5), but instead to please God. Notice how Paul emphasizes deeds in this letter.
The old adage is true. “Actions speak louder than words.” Paul writes of some who profess to know God, but in works deny Him. What a reminder that the Lord will not say, “Well said,” but “well done!” Dorcas was a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). The woman with the Alabaster box did what she could (Mark 14:8). What about us? What will be said about our deeds?
In Psalm 15, David shows us who is fit to be pleasing to God. I had a general physical and check up on my 30th and 40th birthdays. I’ll have to say I was more pleased w/the results of the first one. Surprisingly, I found out that I should exercise more, eat less and weigh less. While I didn’t like what I heard, I heard what I needed to hear. Though I’ve taken the exercise advise more seriously than the eating advice, I know that my physical health depends on my compliance.
Psalm 15 is a fitness test regarding our spiritual health. What does it take to please God in my morality and ethics?I find it interesting that what the Lord puts in His battery of tests is surprisingly difficult, and many good people, even basically good Christians, fail miserably at some of them. But if I don’t want to be shaken (5), I need to submit to this check up.
To dwell on the Lord’s holy hill, I need…
The Psalmist calls for an overall clean bill of health. The spiritually healthy keeps his word, doesn’t take advantage of the needy, and doesn’t betray the innocent. This is an exam we must pass. How is your spiritual health in light of this heavenly health check?