Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
Fun fact about myself… I would be a whole lot more comfortable running into a burning building than I am standing up here speaking. But just like any situation on a fire ground, the job will get done.
James 5:19 says, “My Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
There have been countless times in my life where help was not only desired or needed, but necessary. As a Fireman I’d like to tell you that I’m made of iron, nothing can hurt me and I don’t need help from anyone, “I got this”. Problem is, this would be the furthest thing from the truth. In order to get the job done it takes a team. We have guys that fight fire, guys that search for victims, guys that drive the trucks, pump the water, we have guys in charge of the operational strategy, and so on. We even have guys that their only job on a fireground is to go in and save a fellow firefighter in trouble if they get stuck, disoriented or hurt. This is called a RIT team. We as Christians work in a similar fashion. Ok, so we don’t have the ranking system, but we all have duties. We all have jobs and responsibilities, right?
Robert Muszynski was a fire chief in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. He had worked at multiple fire departments throughout his career but this is where he finally decided to retire in 2014 at the age of 58. I do not know specifically if he was a follower of Christ. I do, however, know of his dedication to his work and his firefighters. He was recognized several times in magazines and various fire department-related web articles for his encouraging quotes and respectable works in the fire service. I’d like to share with you a couple of his quotes and how I’ve related it not only to my job but my spiritual life as well.
Bob said, “Always stay hungry for the job, and you will never get full.” Complacency causes you to become bored, disengaged, and think that you know it all. Keeping interest and staying engaged is very important. You could say for us as Christians to always stay hungry for the word of God, read as often as you can and you’ll never get full. There is always more to learn from scripture. Create discussion among your friends or host a Bible study. Always Stay Hungry for the word.
He also said, “Good firefighters will know their job. Great Firefighters will also know the job of the person above them as well as teach their job to the people below them.” As an Engineer I am in between the ranks of firefighter and captain. I have a great relationship with my captain. He’s been a fantastic guide, teacher, mentor, and leader of our crew. I know his job and what it entails, and I strive to be in that position someday. As with the firefighters below me I try to be that role model that teaches them everything it takes to become an engineer and give them ample opportunities to come to me for guidance. A good Christian will know what it takes to be a good Christian, but is that where it stops? No. To be great Christians we need to be aware of what our elders and deacons have in the works. They do so much for us already; maybe there’s something you can help with? Take a task off their plate so they can work on the next important project. What about the people who need saving? You might not see yourself as a great teacher, but there is something inside every one of us that we have to offer to someone else. By creating conversation with our visitors you might reveal their needs. You could be the one to lead them to where they need to be and teach them something along the way.
As hard as it is to admit, sometimes a Fireman can use a little help. Christians can too. Leading up to the scripture reading above, James has been talking to fellow believers in Christ, encouraging them to never give up faith. It’s so easy today for us to stumble and fall. We have people and priorities tugging and pulling us in every direction away from God. James knew this. He makes it clear that we are to help our fellow Christians who may wander from the truth and become worldly. It’s our job to help them get reconnected with God. Like addressing and correcting poor behavior in the firehouse this can be a difficult assignment. We need to be careful in how we complete this task so we don’t fall into the same sin or come across as too “high and mighty” (Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”) This means be tactful not attacking. Genuine love and care must be the tactic.
There was a famine in Samaria and everyone was desperate. The need for food was more pressing than the danger they faced in looking for it. Elisha predicted the end of the famine but Jehoram’s right hand man refused to believe it could happen so quickly. The prophet tells him he’d see it happen but that he would not eat of it (2).
Four lepers decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans, but God caused the besieging army to hear the sound of enemy armies. They imagine the worst and leave their camp in pursuit. So, when the lepers arrived at the camp, it was abandoned. They found food and riches beyond their wildest imagination. They start to hoard and gorge themselves, then had second thoughts. They say to each other, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (9). Several things stand out here.
THESE MEN HAD GOOD NEWS.
IT WAS WRONG FOR THEM TO KEEP SILENT ABOUT IT.
THEY EXPECTED PUNISHMENT IF THEY DIDN’T URGENTLY SHARE IT.
THEY ADMONISHED EACH OTHER TO TELL IT.
They did and they helped save the nation. God caused it to happen but He worked through these four lepers. The famine ended (and the royal officer was trampled at the gate—he saw the famine end but died before it could benefit him).
I am reminded of my task as a Christian, one spiritually sick with sin but in a similar situation. I have found good news. It is wrong for me to keep silent. I must not just share it but do so urgently! I also need to admonish you to realize you are in the same predicament as me. You cannot afford to keep silent! A feast awaits!
Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person.
He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer.
Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25).
Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.
Such powerful words describe it. The words “convert,” “save,” “restore,” “recover,” and the like depict the job God left Christians to do (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:26; Js. 5:19-20; etc.). The awesome business of God’s people is to be builders in the kingdom upon a foundation originating in eternity (1 Cor. 3:9-15). Each child of God is a private engaged in spiritual warfare against a tactician only God has the power to defeat (Eph. 6:10ff).
There is ample reason to be filled with excitement and dread at the task before us! God has entrusted the business of snatching souls out of eternal fire and transferring people out of darkness into His marvelous light to us earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). The moment we come out of the waters of baptism, we rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). That life entails culling out negative things, bad habits, poor attitudes, old ways of living. Yet, it also calls for actions and ambitions that a non-Christian could not begin to comprehend. The sign of genuine faith taken root is the desire to share the good news we ourselves have learned.
Soul-winning is the frontline focus of the family of God. All else that we do should be an extension or support of this primary work. Benevolence, though done simply for its own sake, can be a springboard of evangelistic opportunity. Fellowship is designed to not only build up the saints, but be an atmosphere — be it worship or fellowship outside the corporate assemblies— that honors God and creates hunger and thirst for righteousness. Non-Christians who come to our assemblies can then believe (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-24). They share our company, see the light of Christ in us, and want the joy and peace that the world cannot provide (John 14:27; Mat. 5:16).
Everywhere we go, mingling in groups and having various associations, there are opportunities. There is that person who seems to stand out from others who are more frivolously engaged in life. There is the one who, when others have long shut their ears to truth, is open-minded enough and respectful enough of truth to believe and accept the Bible. A song that is used in many soul-winning campaigns is Lead Me To Some Soul Today. God is not going to “lay” anything miraculously on our heart, leading us through some direct operation to some particular person or to say some particular thing. Yet, providentially, He can open doors that leads us to find the one in search of God’s way. Our active desire should be to cultivate our hunger and optimism for this great, primary work of the church.
With all else to distract us or compete with our attention and affection, may we never forget the prime objective! We are saved to save (2 Tim. 2:2). Find the searcher and lead the lost! It’s why we’re here.
Some times it can feel like our life is a ship on the verge of breaking apart in a violent storm. Maybe we placed too much trust in the now creaking wooden planks that buckle and groan over dark turbulent waters. In a last stitch effort to stay afloat, we madly rush about throwing any non-essentials overboard.
At times we turn to anything or anyone in an attempt to discover some lifesaving advice— perhaps a miracle? If you’re a child of God, you’ve got access to salvation even in the storms. Jonah 1:4-5 depicts chaos, panic, and overwhelming fear. Those sailors on the boat with Jonah had no idea where they should turn for their salvation. With each passing moment their ship threatened to burst into splinters and “each one cried out to his god” (v. 5).
But Jonah? He’s asleep. He has some kind of knowledge and relationship with the Creator, but he doesn’t fully understand how powerful his God really is.
The application, then, is humbling. Today our communities are filled with people whose lives are rocked and they’re looking for a savior with lifesaving power. They turn to the things in which they’ve placed their trust, and to no avail. How many of us hold the answers they need, but at times find ourselves spiritually sleeping— selfishly keeping this message to ourselves?
Writing to a church filled with multiple ethnic groups, Paul has a broad goal in mind in writing the Roman epistle. Having dedicated himself to “world-wide” evangelism, as Acts and his letters show, his heart was on more than winning Jews in one small part of the world.
In Romans ten, Paul is reaching the crescendo of the doctrinal argument he makes in Romans 1:15-17 about salvation through faith in Christ. In the middle of the chapter, he states some principles that are worthy of our attention. Consider briefly Romans 10:5-17.
Here, we have the message expressed (5-10). It is the message Paul has been stressing throughout the letter, a message of “righteousness based on faith” (6). It is a word of faith (8), one emphasizing what the scriptures say (Paul quotes Deut. 30:12, 14, 21, Psa. 19:4, Isa. 28:16, 52:7, 53:1, 65:1-2, and Joel 2:32 just from Rom. 10:6-21), and a message meant to touch the heart (8) and lead one to eternal salvation (9-10). Thankfully, the same word that tells us to “make disciples” tells us to do that through the divine message of scripture.
We also have the men envisioned (11-13). Twice, Paul says that “whoever” (11,13) calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The Lord’s riches are for “all who call on Him” (12). He makes no distinction between Jew and Greek (12). That underscores the biblical idea that God wants all men everywhere to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).
We have the means executed (14-16). Paul exalts preaching and preachers. This is honorable work requiring honorable people. They are an indispensable part of God’s soul-winning plan (14). They are divinely sent (15). They are positively described (15b). They dispense good news (16). As Paul writes Corinth, preaching is God’s medium for saving men’s souls (1 Cor. 1:18).
Finally, we have the mission embodied (17). The word of Christ must be heard, and faith results by hearing that word. People do not teach themselves. Societies are not won accidentally or incidentally. There must be deliberate, often sacrificial, activity—preaching, planting seed, and perseverant persistence—to fulfill that mission.
We have mission work to do right here. We have it to do daily at our jobs and in our more immediate communities and neighborhoods. Whether you are going across the street or around the world, fulfill your mission!