Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 3 December 2019

What does it matter? Only this, that in every way, whether for outward appearance or for the truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Philippians 1:18. (EHV).

I once lived in an Oklahoma town where there are churches named “1st”, “2nd”, and “3rd Baptist Church”.  It’s a little over the top but I’m serious!   So, apparently, are the members of these churches because they all originated with the 1st Baptist Church and, sometime in the last 100 years, split into three churches over small, internal disputes.  But you know what?   It doesn’t matter.   All that matters is that Christ is proclaimed, likely to more people than before the splits.

And over the years, I’ve belonged to quite a few churches; I’ve attended even more.   Yet in Christ I will boast that my current church, Water’s Edge, preaches Christ crucified no matter where you go.   My friend Mark, the lead pastor, openly, enthusiastically, and with tears welcomes new members.   It’s hard for a church to grow without them!   Yet he also enthusiastically gives glory to Jesus when members are led elsewhere because Christ is being proclaimed, then, in other places.   Just worship, even if it isn’t here.

Kanye:   whether or not his conversion is genuine doesn’t matter.   What matters is that so many new people heard about Jesus.

Finally, one of my favorite American legends is that of Johnny Appleseed, the wandering preacher of the early 1800s who went from town to town, ministering to new friends and planting apple seeds as he traveled.   He did this so that other pioneers would have apples to eat.   That’s kind of my model for faith in Jesus.   We’re to believe, follow, and share the faith a little at a time.   Plant some seeds but keep moving forward in faith, in Jesus.

Sharing like Johnny Appleseed so that someone may have something to live on after we’ve done our part.   Sharing like Kanye, who has a giant megaphone to which many people are listening.   Sharing like Pastor Mark, who plants the seed of faith and trusts Jesus to grow it where it needs to grow best.   And sharing like the folks who go to all those numbered Baptist churches in McAlester, moving to where they believe they hear the word of God best.

In the end, what does it matter whether the name on the church is one thing or another, whether we’re worshipping with the LCMS or WELS or whatever denominations, or whether a celebrity is more down for the Jesus struggle than you or me?   What does it matter whether we plant one seed or a thousand so long as the tree grows?   The ONLY thing that matters is sharing Jesus the best we can.   Some will do that boldly, others meekly.   The only thing that matters is that we do it.

For further reading:  Acts 16:7, 2 Corinthians 1:11, Philemon 22, Philippians 1:19

Lord Jesus, I pray Your help to share Your word with others today.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 13 November 2017

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Hebrews 13, verse 7.

As I’ve matured, I’ve developed a great admiration for people who are bold in the Word.  Over thirty years ago, I went to a Billy Graham crusade in Washington DC.   Now, I’m not a Southern Baptist and I find some of their methods to be grating.  My upbringing was far from the kind of approach Baptists and Billy Graham commonly use.  When I was a kid, every few months a Billy Graham crusade would take over one of our three channels of TV and I found it to be hard, boring to watch.   It was ironic, then, that I found myself there that day, listening to Rev Graham exhort the crowd to come to Jesus.   It was even more ironic that I found myself compelled by the things he said.  I met Dr. Graham and I was moved, but not moved enough to seriously consider the things he was saying.  It took me decades before I would come around to Graham’s way of thinking.

The older I grow the more I see the truth in Christ’s command to go and make disciples of all nations.  Our first, best task in this life is to reach out to other people and share Jesus.   EVERYTHING we experience in the next life depends on knowing Him here.  We do our part by living our lives, being ourselves, and being ready to communicate when the opportunities arise.   Even including the fire and brimstone sermons, I’m betting Billy Graham would agree.

I was baptized by a pastor named Reuben Youngdahl, who built the largest Lutheran church in America.   I remember well his son, Paul, who is still the benchmark against whom I measure all clergy.   Reverend Ann Haw confirmed me in Oklahoma and she’s one of the most courageous workers for the Spirit I can think of.  Dr. Guy Newland back in Mitchell, Indiana was the most genuine minister I’ve ever known and the one who, at least in my life, convinced me that faith should be an everyday, practical thing instead of that thing you do on Sundays.   Pastors named Vogt and Uhlhorn in Colorado Springs taught me the depth of faith, and Pastor Vogt’s reading of Romans 8 on the night my father died was actually the first time in my life that I fully understood how all the Scriptures were completely true.   I’ve learned much from the wisdom of my friend, Reverend Gauthier, and men named Schaefer, Miller, McKay, Brimer, Kemp, Celia, Radkey, Kaija and Hartjen all inspire me today as peers, friends, and spiritual guides in the confusing, self-focused world of consumerist North Texas.

We put a lot of faith in our pastors, but do we put as much into the God they serve?

The verse today reminds us to learn from and revere called servants of the Lord.   God picked them out especially for the purpose of being Barnabas – the encourager – to people in need of an encouraging Savior.  They have a special calling and unique education to prepare them for the task of ministering.  We do well when we remember that it’s a Godly calling to life a life of faith, of submitting even our aspirations and career wishes to God.  That’s what they do.   It’s also tough work.  Successful churches aren’t the ones with the cool sound systems, the huge congregations, and the rock band in front playing the latest Chris Tomlin mash-up.   No, successful churches are the ones where the parishioners know they’re close to Jesus because Jesus is close to them.   In such places, that usually starts with the pastor.   If you look close, you find that the pastor is simply walking closely with Jesus and all blessings flow from Him.

Yet we can’t think of our pastors as being supermen because they aren’t.   They are sinners.   They’re strugglers.   They like football and beer and music and barbecue (or queso).   Some of them are jerks.  I know some pastors who are recovering alcoholics.   I know some who have done jail time.   I know of some who struggle with identity, sexuality, and crushing depression.   And I’ve known some pastors who I liked in the pulpit but I couldn’t stand out of it.

In other words, pastors are a lot like me.   Or you.

Just yesterday, Pastor Celia (which still sounds weird) was talking about Gideon.   Gideon was an ordinary, even cowardly, man who was called by God to do extraordinary things.   Gideon had the gifts God needed and God empowered him to use them in big ways.   Yet Gideon was also just a man.   He succeeded when he walked closely with God and he floundered when he strayed back into paganism.  I suspect that, like other pastors, if you met Gideon today you’d find he wore his pants the same way as you or I do.   Or Billy Graham, who is 99 now and no longer preaching in crusades.   In his life, he personally witnessed to millions of people, maybe even as many as a billion.   Yet he still says he could do more.   He’s still hungry for the Spirit.   That’s a good quality to have if you’re going to become a pastor.  In fact, it’s a great quality for any of us.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 16:16, Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 6:12.

My Lord, I am hungry for Your Spirit.  Thank You for the men and women you call as servants here.   Bless their work and their examples to all of us.


Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 19 January 2016

 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13, verses 33-37

I promise:   we’re almost done with the verses from Mark that talk about watching out for the end times. But riddle me this, Batman: do you think just anyone would spend this much time talking about such a subject if it weren’t important?   No, I’m not talking about you or I.   Of course we’re talking about Jesus. But have you considered all the rhetorical pictures He has painted to communicate this message clearly? He spent all of chapter 13 talking about it.

First Jesus talks about how not one stone will be left of the Temple.   He describes an inconceivable vision of extreme destruction, one that the Disciples find hard to absorb.   Then Jesus talks about watching out and being constantly aware, of being on guard so that events (and their fulfillment) do not come as a surprise. In fact, He mentions watching or keeping guard three times just in Chapter 13 alone.

Then Jesus talks about how the persecution of the end times will split families, about how it will be the greatest test man has ever undergone. About how there will be signs in the heavens and miracles that won’t be explainable.   He discusses His return and how, just before it, there will be both signs pointing to its inevitability and false prophets who try to distract believers from paying attention.   Jesus describes in detail how He will return in glory, and about how He has told us all we need to know to be ready to see Him appear.

Finally, Jesus closes, reminding us that He’s not kidding, that these things will really happen because His Words are reliable and true.   He implores us yet again to remain vigilant, to watch out and be ready for it can happen at any time.   He candidly says that even He doesn’t know the specific moment.   He only knows that He will return.

Do you think Jesus would spend so much time talking about this if it didn’t matter a great deal?   I’ve mentioend here before about how my church has a motto, “Eternity Matters Most.”   It’s derived from Mark 8:36, which says “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Having everything you think you want means nothing if you don’t have eternity with Jesus.   A few chapters down the road, Jesus reiterates that theme, imploring us through all of chapter 13 to watch, be ready, and look forward to the day when He returns to make all things new.   He does so because it’s a big deal, because it’s the penultimate point of His time here.   Jesus spends so much time telling us these things because having us with Him in eternity is why He came in the first place.   Because our eternity matters most to the king of all eternity

Lord Jesus, my eternity matters most.   I will believe in You, follow only You, and be ready for Your return.

Read Mark 14, verses 1-11.