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

 

The Cricket in the Bushes

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On a Columbo TV show the other day, a car drove by in a night scene. The camera was in the edge of the woods so we (the viewers) were, in effect, standing in the bushes as we watched. The car was too far away to hear the motor, but you could hear one of the cast members making noises in the bushes. The sound of a cricket’s chirps rang out, trying to convince the viewers they really were outside at night.

I’m sure he wasn’t listed in the credits, but he was probably the main cricket cast member for Columbo. Anytime there was a nighttime chirping part to fill, I imagine the sound effects editor pulled out the “cricket #1” tape and over-dubbed it on the soundtrack. Perfection every time. Never had to do a re-take.

I wondered if this cricket was featured in other soundtracks. Had I heard him before but didn’t         recognize him? Maybe he was a mega-star among crickets, and recordings of his chirp were shared among the studios and his “voice” heard in hundreds of shows and movies. Or was he even an international star – you wouldn’t need subtitles for that, because they all seem to speak the same in any language. (Actually, not speaking, of course, but rubbing their wings together.)

I don’t know the answer to the cricket’s stardom status. It’s likely he’s just another “extra” that remains unknown. Like the extras I point out to my wife, Sharon, now and then. I’ll pause the TV, rewind a bit, start it again and excitedly say “See me? See me? There I am, over the star’s left shoulder!” as someone walks through the background of the scene. Only him (or her) and their family has a clue who they really are.

I once read extras are there to enhance the ambience (the mood or character) of the scene – to make it more enjoyable. Most of us are extras in the sense we remain unknown to most folks. We may be heard and not seen, like the cricket, or seen and not heard like the person in the background of the TV scene. Now and then, we may be seen and heard for a few minutes as we pass through. And, in all those moments of  being extras, our job is to enhance the mood or character of the scene and make it more enjoyable to those involved.

Jesus gave us instructions to enhance the ambience of any scene we’re a part of when He said “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Then, He made it clear that we are the extras, and the glory goes to where it truly belongs:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

Joseph and Our Hard Times

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Last week my Bible reading included Genesis chapters 39 and 40. Joseph’s brothers had sold him to a caravan of travelling merchants, and he ended up in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes” on Joseph and tried to seduce him.    Joseph refused her over and over but one day she caught him alone in the house and grabbed him. He pulled away and ran but she held onto his coat and he left it behind. Potiphar’s wife yelled out and lied that he had tried to assault her. The result was that Joseph ended up in prison even though not guilty.

After two years, Joseph was released from prison because God enabled him to interpret  Pharaoh’s dream about seven good years and seven years of famine that were coming. Joseph told what the dream meant and also gave a plan to deal with the famine. The plan pleased Pharaoh and his advisors, and Pharaoh made Joseph second in command because it was obvious to him that     Joseph was wise because God was with him.

About that time in the chapter, my brain began wondering about a possible scenario. Say, two or three months after Joseph became second in command, he called his administrative assistant. “Here, Hapusenaram, take this note over to Mrs. Potiphar. Tell her to come to Pharaoh’s palace, where I’m second in command, by the way. I’d like to talk with her a few minutes.”

Wouldn’t that get her excited about what Joseph might do and say? I have a hint of what I might do and say in that situation and it might not be nice (We can deduce that because my mind wandered in this direction in the first place). But I also think we can deduce what Joseph would say based on what he later told his brothers about being sold by them: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Those words can easily roll off our tongue, but it takes a work of the Holy Spirit and much work by us to have them come from our heart. So, we pray and work against our wandering mind so that we can mean it when we say “God is good—all the time!” – no matter what situation we’re in.