Push People, Around Here?

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At our boss’s staff meeting years ago, I suggested we give an employee’s son a job for the summer. Everyone thought it was a good idea – everyone except the manager of the department I proposed the young man work in. That manager made it clear he didn’t like me getting into his business. One of the others around the table spoke up and said he could find something good for the student to do, so we moved on.

After the meeting, the aggravated manager told me he thought I was “always pushing people around, here.” (note where the comma is.) Since, at an electric utility, system reliability (my job then) involves everybody, I replied I thought it was part of my job to “push people, around here.” (note comma location change.) He obviously couldn’t see where my verbal comma was placed, so he thought I agreed that I pushed people around and I thought it was my job to push ‘em around whenever I wanted. So, we parted and went back to our offices.

I thought of that exchange the other day when I read Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (KJV.) Other translations use “stir up” or “stimulate” instead of “provoke.” So, I’m thinking that “push” would work just as well. I could go back and tell that manager I was following the Bible when I pushed him to do a good work and hire the employee’s son, couldn’t I?

Of course, I couldn’t. I neglected the key phrase in the verse – “let us consider one another.”  Those years ago if I had considered the other manager and asked him what he thought of the idea before I sprang it on him in a meeting with our boss, he probably would have agreed to give it a try or given me a reason why it would be difficult to make it work. Then, if necessary, we could have worked on the difficulties together.

Brother Emerson Proctor once said: “In our Christian walk, if we’re not moving forward, we will begin to move backward. There is no standing still” I find it can be easy at times, after a bit of discouragement, or fatigue, or laziness, etc. to drift backward from acting in love and doing good works.

At those times, we should trust God, pray, and follow the Holy Spirit to turn us around. But, do you know what else helps a lot? A loving push from a Brother or Sister. The push may be just from their example of faithfulness, or a word of encouragement and thanks. But it can also be a stern warning to avoid something or a strong encouragement to do something (yes, those can be loving, too.) (See Col 3:16, 1 Th 5:11, Heb 3:13, and other “one another” verses)

In a church, we need others to push us and we need to push others for the Body of Christ to be what it’s called to be. As we consider one another, the difficult part is figuring out the best way to push them, around here. (Yes, the comma placement is critical.) The “how to” varies from person to person, and from situation to situation, but it always has its foundation in what Jesus told us: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

Captain Ahab, Khan and Diotrephes

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I thought of the novel Moby Dick today. In case you forgot – Moby Dick, the great white whale, bit off Captain Ahab’s leg, and Ahab spent the rest of his life in hatred, peg legging around his ship as he sailed the ocean chasing the whale. The most memorable lines from the book were the epithet that Ahab screamed at Moby Dick as they battled to the death (or at least Ahab’s death).
I think it was memorable, also, because those same words were what Khan cursed at his longtime nemesis, Captain Kirk, in the final battle of the movie Star Trek II– the Wrath of Khan, as Kahn set off the Genesis machine to destroy both of their spaceships. (Captain Kirk and the Enterprise survived of course)
Ahab and Khan said: “To the last, I grapple with thee. From hell’s heart I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.”
What a terrible way to spend and end a life.
Alistair Begg is preaching a sermon series called “Useful to the Master.” He was preaching from 3rd John and mentioned Diotrephes, who the Apostle John describes as a malicious malcontent. Then John mentions Demetrius as having a good testimony from everyone. Alistair Begg said Demetrius, unlike Diotrephes, was useful to the Master. And then said, to the effect, “wouldn’t that be a great testimony to be able to have on your gravestone – “He (or She) was useful to the Master.”
So, I thought of the end of life, and with the description of Diotrephes, Ahab’s and Khan’s final words came to mind. I thought of, instead of hatred, ending life like Demetrius, having been useful to the Master.
So rather than ending so pitifully with such hateful words, like Ahab and Khan, may we work every day to be useful to the Master and may the Lord bless us to be able to say “To the last, I have fought the good fight. From Heaven’s doors, I behold Your glory. For love’s sake, with my last breath on earth, I will praise thee, my Lord and Savior.”

The Gospel and Cheers

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(After some misunderstandings I’ve found I need to say “please read it this to the end. It’s not about how a bar is as good as a church”)
Life can be mighty tough and sometimes it takes all we’ve got just to make it through the day. Sometimes we just want to get away from our worries – you know, go somewhere to be with friends, be where they’re glad to see you and be where everybody knows your name.

You can do that by going to church…or going to the bar down the street. I’m sure many of you recognized the paraphrase above of the Cheers TV show theme song from years ago. Cheers was the bar down the street. “You want to be where you can see, the troubles are all the same, you want to be where everybody knows your name.”

I’m reading the book “The Gospel Driven Church” by Jared Wilson. At one point he             emphasizes a statement by James Gilmore – “The only thing of value the church has to offer is the Gospel.”

When I read that, I felt like telling Mr. Gilmore that the church can also offer, in fact we’re told in the Bible to offer, love for one another, bearing one another’s burdens, laughing and crying together. Then the Cheers theme song started running through my head. And I imagined Mr.        Gilmore agreeing that the people in the church can, and should, provide love, and fellowship and support for each other, but without the Gospel to go with it, those actions might as well be found at a bar down the street, or in a bowling league, or the Kiwanis club – take your pick.

So, as we strive to love one another, laugh and cry together, and bear one another’s burdens, let’s make sure we remember the main reason the church is here – to proclaim the Gospel (the Good News) that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man and died and rose again to save His people from their sins.

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

 

Black Widow Bite

black-widow-spiders_thumb.ngsversion.1482872403820.adapt.1900.1My wife, Sharon, is the only person I know who has been bitten by a black widow spider. One day she took her sweater from the coat rack, put it on and felt a sharp sting on her arm. She smashed her hand on the stinging spot, shook her sleeve and the flattened spider fell out. The telltale red hourglass-shaped marking on its shiny black body confirmed what it was. Sharon sealed her attacker in a plastic bag and took it with her as she drove to the hospital.
Everyone at the emergency room was excited because no one had ever seen, much less treated, anyone with a black widow bite. It seemed to Sharon the entire hospital staff stopped by to inspect the spider and the bite marks on her arm.
I was excited too when summoned from an out of town meeting to take a phone call. Sharon told the story and assured me the doctor said everything was okay. The anti-venom was on its way from Atlanta and would be at the hospital in a few hours. Most importantly, she had no extreme symptoms. I trusted her assurances, but it was still a long trip home to see for myself.
The doctor administered the anti-venom when it arrived that evening. Sharon spent the night in the hospital for observation and was released the next morning. Thankfully, the worst effects of the bite were the five days of mental fog she endured from the prescribed mega-doses of antihistamines.
“How did a black widow spider get in her sweater?” I claim the dubious honor as the agent of that. It was winter and we were using the fireplace. At times, I brought in pieces of wood and stacked them on the floor next to the wall. If you picture the wood piled on the floor next to the wall, and move your gaze up, you come to…the coat rack. Apparently, the spider hitchhiked inside on a piece of wood, crawled up the wall looking for a dark hiding place and chose Sharon’s sweater sleeve.
Like most people, it wasn’t our practice to bring poisonous spiders into our house. However, the one that got Sharon was sneaky – we didn’t notice it because it was hiding in something useful that we often brought inside.
Spiders aren’t the only sneaky things we need to watch for. Every day we bring useful things into our homes through television, books, and the internet. These can help us learn and grow, make us think, or simply entertain us. Most importantly, these media are powerful tools that can help us as we seek to be closer to God.
But there is a negative side to the words and images they contain. Those that are blatantly evil are more easily avoided, but we might miss the sneaky ones unless we’re diligent. Subtle messages can hide among the action, information and laughter.
A scene can have a funny line, but the action may portray sex outside of marriage as not only acceptable but expected. Scripture can be taken out of context or given a slight twist to make a misleading point. Tolerance of sin (sin, as defined by God) may be constantly presented as a greater virtue than living by Biblically based standards.
As subtle messages like this sneak into our mind, they can eventually harden our heart to what is truth. Thus, we should constantly watch for them and as Proverbs 4:23 says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ESV
Sharon and I don’t have poisonous spiders sneaking into our coats or sweaters anymore because I carefully examine all the wood before I bring it in. Perhaps that’s the process we should follow with all things we bring into our homes.