Fertilizer or Yeast

Late last year, I closed “Forgive the Confusion” by asking readers to stay tuned for a follow-up piece. What I did not know when I wrote that closing was how long readers would need to stay tuned. To paraphrase an old saying, one’s best-laid plans sometimes go awry. Thanks to health, family, and health issues, I have just now finished the piece promised months ago.

In closing Confusion, I raised the question, what is our job as believers. That question was raised by a difference of opinion expressed by two large Men’s Bible Study group members. Each study session ends with a time for discussion within the small groups.

One morning, a discussion question triggered a bit of a rant from one fellow. His comments set off a long-winded response from another. The first fellow was upset because, as he understood it, more than three billion people have never heard the name Jesus. He felt Christians were not doing their job.

The other fellow pointed out Christianity has faced this reality from the beginning. Even Jesus did not expect everyone to go out and spread the Gospel. He sent the apostles, as not everyone was called to such work. Also, Jesus made it clear to those who did go; they were not to waste their time on people who refused to hear the message.

So the question becomes which, if either, of these two individuals was correct? Are Christians falling down on the job, or are we doing as Jesus wanted, going out as modern-day disciples or missionaries?

As far as I know, Jesus has not chosen to appear to His followers as he did in biblical times. Yes, there have been testimonies of such incidents from individuals, but Jesus walking among the crowd or preaching on a hillside stopped some 2000 years ago, as I understand it.

I know he has not appeared to me, though I believe I have felt His presence. Since he has not paid the majority of us a visit, we must rely on our understanding of Scripture and our reasoning ability to understand our role in God’s plan.

The idea that believers should be attempting to introduce every individual on earth to the person of Jesus does not appear to be supported by common sense, logic, or Scripture. To accomplish such a goal, millions, possibly tens of millions, of missionaries would be needed. They would need to spread around the world, and each would need to tell everyone in their area about Jesus.

As noted above, even Jesus did not attempt to achieve such a lofty goal. He knew some would not hear and essentially told his apostles to avoid wasting time on these people. Instead, they were to move on to the next town, village, or area, focusing on those who would listen and believe. He even went so far as to tell them to shake the dust from their feet or, in modern terms, wash their hands of them.

Scripture seems to make it clear we are to reach out to those who will listen and let them attract others. If they are believers, they will be a light to the world. Through their good works, they will bring glory to the Father. Even in Jesus’s example of believers being the fruit of the vine, He did not say everyone would become fruit. Rather, He made it clear some would need to be pruned from the vine because they would not become the fruit they needed to be.

So, how does the title of this piece play into the discussion? If Christianity was simply a matter of spreading the Word and letting it raise up believers, one could call the Gospel the fertilizer of belief. As with the fertilizer used on farms, vineyards, and other settings, one would spread the message on everything and let it grow.

Image by Kurt Bouda from Pixabay

What Jesus started was a bit different. He picked a handful of individuals to go out and infuse everyone who would listen with the Gospel. Each of these was to start the growth of local groups of believers who would then influence those around them, hopefully infusing them with the promise of the Gospel.

This would be the yeast method. Yeast is not spread over all of the flour. A yeast starter is prepared, and small portions are introduced to the different recipes through kneading. These small quantities of yeast spread throughout the mixes. The yeast interacts with the dough, and the bread rises, becoming larger than the original dough.

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Scripture seems to make it clear. The Apostles were the yeast. They were sent out to infect the people with the Gospel, and once a group or loaf was big enough, they moved on to the next batch. Not only that but some of those infused with the love of God spread to other groups, creating a growing population of believers.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with the idea that Christians should be working to make sure as many people as possible hear of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Depending on the circumstances, we might need to use both approaches, the fertilizer, and the yeast.

What we should not do is decide ours is the only logical position. Also, we should not condemn others, individually or in mass, for not meeting our expectations. It is God’s expectation we need to meet. He alone will judge how well we do.

© sinerswalk.com – 2022

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Forgive the Confusion

Christianity is a simple yet sometimes confusing belief system. If you do not believe that, consider the following. How many different Christian churches are there in your neighborhood? To be clear, I am speaking about churches and neighborhoods in the United States, but some of what I have to say may apply to other countries as well.

Keep in mind. I am not talking about the First Baptist Church, Second Baptist Church, or some other iteration of Baptist church in a southern town. I’m talking about how many different denominations or traditions you can see going from home to the grocery store in many cases.

In my case, I was quickly able to identify more than thirty churches within a two-mile radius of my home. By quickly, I mean within a few minutes online. And just to be clear, that is the number of churches with a high enough profile to be located quickly in an internet search. Within that area, there are other churches without such a profile.

Those thirty-plus churches represent at least ten major faith groups, as well as smaller less high-profile denominations. Also, this search did not include traditions found in greater numbers in other parts of the country. Are you beginning to understand the title’s meaning and my point in the first paragraph?

To confuse matters even further, consider the following. Have you ever wondered how many different variations of Christianity exist? Here’s something to consider. Depending on the source consulted, there are somewhere between 200 and 1,200 Christian denominations or traditions in the United States. Worldwide, the estimate is between 30,000 to 45,000.

You may be wondering, “How in the world could that many different versions of one faith system exist?” If you are, I completely understand, and I wish I could give you a simple answer. Sadly, there is no such answer, simple that is. The only simple part of it is human nature and our tendency to decide what is right and wrong individually.

That is the bad news. The good news is almost all of those thousands of splintered beliefs have one common thread, Jesus Christ. Yes, some will argue over specific issues with Scripture concerning Jesus. Still, the vast majority believe He is the Son of God, a part of the Holy Trinity, and was sent to earth to die for our sins, and those who believe in Him will have everlasting life.

And that, my friends, brings me to another question. What is our job as believers? While we have many responsibilities as believers, a recent discussion during a Men’s Bible Study brought up a point of contention that deserves a bit of discussion. Stay tuned for that bit of analysis and see what you think.

© sinerswalk.com – 2021

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Tending the Shepherd?

If you read When the Light Fades two years ago, you probably picked up on the fact I had a problem with preachers in the past. While I have, for the most part, outgrown my distrust or skepticism of pastors in general, that does not mean I accept all pastors at face value.

Pastors are human, and humans are still a long way from being perfect. Sadly, that is the reason we often hear of a pastor in trouble, or, stealing a poorly turned phrase from Prince Andrew, conducting himself in a “manner unbecoming.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this piece is not intended to accuse pastors of hanging out with the likes of Jeffery Epstein. Nor am I issuing a blanket indictment of pastors for other cardinal sins. Truthfully, one can find examples of such behavior in many professions or vocations, from the clergy to high-profile politicos.

Thankfully, the most likely failures of those who claim they are called to the ministry do not reach the level of misconduct that will make headlines. Still, those failures are not something one should overlook. For example, consider the story of Pastor Jimmy.* 

Pastor Jimmy was a rising star in the evangelical community. He developed a team that helped build an extensive and effective ministry. A ministry that is still thriving after four decades. His ministry and church helped many a sinner, this writer included.

He helped me find my way back to a faith I abandoned or never really knew. The pastor is as rock-solid as one could imagine in today’s world. Yet, the pastor almost destroyed himself, his family, and his flock at one point.

No! He did not lie, cheat, or steal.  No! He did not give in to the temptation of lust, gluttony, or strong drink.  He gave in to the temptation of self-sufficiency.  He became just a bit too full of himself and a bit too confident of his abilities and gifts. 

As Jimmy admitted later, he began to feel invincible to a degree, and he ignored those who tried to counsel him. He only realized his mistake when God used the sledgehammer of the pastor’s physical and mental wellbeing to get his attention.

The story of Pastor Jimmy is real though condensed for this message. Yet, it is merely the back story for the message I hope to share here. You see, this message is not about pastors like Jimmy.  It is about those of us who know and respect these pastors.

It is about those of us who never miss a chance to tell these pastors how fantastic their sermon was and how much we love them.  It is about the lengths to which we will go to pump up their egos while often overlooking the fact they are fraying a bit around the edges.

I was reminded of Pastor Jimmy and his situation while visiting another large church with a dynamic and loved pastor. As I listened to his sermon and remembered some of his past sermons, I caught a hint of the path he might be walking. 

Like Jimmy, he has a thriving ministry, and his congregants have him on a pedestal.  Like Jimmy,  he has that air of giftedness about him that makes you want to tell him how great his sermon was and how much you love him.  I watched people treat him that way after the sermon, and they meant every word of it.

I cannot swear this pastor is on the path of my old friend and mentor.  Yet, there are signs that he may well be.  Also, given the atmosphere of his church and some things I learned in seminary, I would be concerned if I was part of his flock. Of course, then the question becomes, “What does one do if their beloved pastor begins to show signs of fraying around the edges?”

Hopefully, I will find the words to address that question shortly. Until then, consider what I’ve said here, and pay attention to the pastor you respect and trust. There’s a bit of Jimmy in all of them, and us, for that matter.

* Not his real name.

© sinerswalk.com – 2021

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To the Brim!

Ever wondered what it means to live your life well? If you have, congratulations. Most of the people I’ve known well as colleagues, friends, competitors, or family never gave it a real thought. Instead, they focused on filling life up to the brim, regardless of the consequences.

Whether it was work, sports, avocations, or relationships, they seemed to think the goal was to fill it up to the top, and if a bit slopped over, no problem. You could not have too much of a good thing.

It was easy to identify that aspect of another’s personality. After all, most of us can see our faults in others, but we fail to see them as easily in ourselves. That was why it was so easy for me to see someone working him or herself to death and mutter under my breath, “They’ll never live to enjoy it.”

The Bible provides an excellent example of the point I am trying to make in Luke 12:16-21. If you think anything coming from the Bible is baloney, think of this story as a fable or a bit of philosophical dialogue by an ancient Greek. Whatever the truth, you should be able to find modern examples that will support the story.

In Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a rich man whose fields yield the harvest of a lifetime. In fact, the harvest is so great his barns cannot hold everything. So, he decides to tear them down and build larger barns, thinking he can live the rest of his days off the bounty. Sadly for him, God ends his life that night, and he reaps none of the rewards.

Yes, it is a parable, and no, you do not have to believe in the Bible to understand it. Every day, someone on this earth has worked, hoarded, saved, whatever to have enough. Enough to live the rest of their days traveling. Enough to spend the rest of their days playing golf. Enough to have the rest of their days doing nothing, if that is what they see as success.

To them, they have filled their cup of life to the brim. They are ready to enjoy the benefits of all those years of endeavor, and they go to bed imagining how wonderful life will be now. Sadly, they never wake up the next morning.

That is where I was headed in the past. I was a climber. I set goals, and I achieved them. I ran the race, and I won most of the time. When I didn’t win, I found another race and won that one. That was a life well lived for me, winning. People knew my name. I was invited to places some people never see, much less visit.

Then God, karma, life, the universe, choose your belief, threw me a curve. I realized I was chasing the wrong dream. I was filling my barns with things. Be they titles, awards, letters of appreciation, commendations, or money. They were meaningless in the long run.

What really mattered was who would remember me and what would they remember. The details of how God got my attention are of little importance. The reality is this. I found myself in a place where I could make a real difference in the lives of others. Others close to me, and some I never met. My prayer is they will remember me long after I’m gone.

Perhaps, I am fooling myself, but in some cases, I think that will happen. It will happen because of who I became, not what I was, how much money I had, or what office I held. Rather it will be because I made a difference in their life, and they in mine. If I can keep it up, my life will truly have been well-lived, not just filled to the brim.

© sinnerswalk – 2021

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Hiding Behind Church Discipline?

As a recovering skeptic, I am likely a bit too sensitive to anything sounding like hypocrisy. Two sermons I watched recently, triggered some old thoughts about the habit some churches seem to have of sweeping problems under the rug. To understand my thinking on that issue, you might be interested in Seeking an Excuse.

One sermon discussed Pauls’s chastisement of the church at Corinth for allowing sin to fester in the congregation. The second referred to that sermon several times but took a different approach to the matter of sin in the congregation. At least it seemed that way to me.

The first pastor dealing with church discipline understood Paul’s position to be clear. The church cannot tolerate sin within the body. The second pastor, referred to the other sermon several times, but he was dealing with the process of church discipline. That is where the conflict or confusion seemed to arise.

As noted above, the first sermon was clear, as Paul had been clear. The sinners within the church must be dealt with, publicly if necessary. The second or follow-up sermon covered what the process of church discipline should be and how it should be handled.

The young pastor giving the sermon on church discipline did a good job explaining the basics of church discipline as laid out in Matthew 18:15-20. Where he seemed to stumble was dealing with the idea of removing the unrepentant sinner by putting him out. To me, it was obvious the pastor was saying the problem needed to be handled internally and quietly. That seemed to clash with Paul’s message.

Paul made it clear in his letter to the Corinthians. The unrepentant sinner must be thrown out of the congregation and exiled to the outside world if he would not seek forgiveness and change his ways. Such action would be clear to all including the non-believers and critics of the early church.

The pastor giving that sermon specifically mentioned social media and blogging as problems in the area of keeping internal and, as I understood it, personal struggles quiet. That raised another red flag for me in a way.

This church has an enormous online presence. From live-streaming sermons to its own YouTube channel and Facebook page, the church is square in the middle of the social media culture. I am certain the pastor and the team advising him did not see the hypocrisy in the message, but it does seem to be in conflict with Paul’s comments to the Church at Corinth.

Whatever the intent of the pastor’s sermon it could easily be interpreted as an attempt to quash or forestall the public airing of the congregation’s dirty laundry. Of course, as implied above, that may be my biases welling up from my past. Whatever the truth, one thing is clear.

The Body of the Church, the congregation, and the staff. are not immune to temptation and mistakes. When they come to the attention of the church through the disciplinary process or some other revelation, the church must respond.

That does not mean churches should return to the days of scarlet letters and public whippings. Still, intentionally concealing or down-playing misbehavior may lead to more trouble down the road, internally and externally.

Anyone doubting that only needs to think of the problems encountered by the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts to name just two major institutions heavily tarnished by their failure to follow Paul’s counsel.

© sinnerswalk – 2021

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Of Treasure and Responsibility

A little over a year ago, I posted One Man’s Treasure. It was inspired by the remarks of a lay Bible study leader teaching Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (ESV)

Another unexpected conclusion or hypothesis concerning Matthew 13:44 triggered this piece. However, the statement triggering this piece did not come from a lay Bible study speaker. It came from a senior pastor in a large evangelical church during his sermon.

The sermon was straightforward and covered the bases of most mainstream evangelical thinking on the parable. Then the pastor struck a negative chord. The pastor added a reason for the man’s actions.

The reason was one I had not heard before. Not only was it something I had not heard, but it also seems to conflict with the mainstream thinking on this topic. The pastor remarked that the found treasure might not be the sole reason for the man to possess the field.

Some may read that last sentence and think, “So what?” The “so what” is simple. If the treasure in the field was the Kingdom of God, what else could make the field more valuable? Suppose the man did think something else could make the find more valuable. If true, that challenges the primary message most believe the parable illustrates.

The pastor may have been attempting to make the parable seem clearer to a modern congregation. Many pastors and theologians have suggested the man could have simply taken the treasure home. They feel there was no legal or religious reason requiring the man to buy the field to possess the treasure.

Sadly, the pastor attempted to explain the man’s decision to buy the field with an example one might call greediness. At least, that was my first impression. After watching the sermon again, it seems that was not what the pastor intended. He viewed the treasure as the initial gift received through Jesus, salvation. He wanted to emphasize salvation was just the beginning of what a believer would obtain through accepting Jesus as Savior.

He justified his comment by stating common practice in those days included burying valuables to keep them safe. Also, everything would not be in one location. That practice might lead the man to believe other treasures were buried there. If that were the case, purchasing the land might yield more treasure than what he found.

The bottom line here is this. Pastors, even pastors with excellent, high-level academic credentials, can make mistakes. For example, I was present for a sermon at a megachurch in Austin, Texas, a few years ago. The message concerned the crucifixion. At one point, the pastor confused carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

He was attempting to sound knowledgeable while helping those hearing his message understand the level of Jesus’s suffering. Probably, most in the congregation did not realize he made a mistake, and those who did likely found it amusing. Besides, it made little difference as far as the message was concerned. Jesus died for our sins on the cross. The exact cause of death is of little consequence.

Mistakes such as the one inspiring this piece are different. They can give the skeptics and atheists ammunition to challenge biblical teaching. They may even make congregants wonder about the message, which brings me to the point of this essay. What is our responsibility as believers when we hear a mixed message or something that sounds strange?

Some, including this writer, will feel called to share their concern in some way. If my professors at Seminary can be believed, pastors regularly review and borrow from other’s sermons. I am also aware of pastors and teachers borrowing from the writings of bloggers or Wikipedia at times. While that is understandable, it is also one reason the gospel is preached in varying, even conflicting, ways.

Other believers might feel called to email or speak to the pastor and ask, “How did you come up with that idea?” Still, others may be inspired to research the matter for themselves. Then some folks seem called to remind others that we should base our faith on God’s Word. Not the words of our pastor, a television evangelist, or a blogger, including this one.

Whatever you think about the situation, assuming you misunderstood or the questionable comment or material makes little difference, is not the answer in every case. If nothing else, use your questions as a reason to review or study the scripture more closely. If something is still unclear, seek counsel from someone who knows the scripture and whom you respect.

© sinnerswalk – 2021

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Of Worship, Fellowship and Music

I’ve written previously about the power of music. Whether one is speaking of Hip Hop, Country, or Church, there is power in music. It may be how the beat makes one’s blood race, or the emotion conveyed may bring up memories of past mistakes or triumphs. Music may also draw those hearing it closer. Whatever the case, music can move people, including those performing. Sunday, May 2, 2021, was a hallmark day for my church, my wife, many of my friends, and me.

After months of remote-church, limited church attendance, and quartets or small worship teams leading streaming congregants or small numbers maintaining social distancing in the sanctuary, we took the next step toward normalcy. We held a traditional worship service with a nearly full choir loft, most of our regular orchestra, and a sanctuary filled with members and guests.

I feel I can speak for most of those present on that morning. It was magnificent! It was especially magnificent for those of us in the choir, as we were able to lead part of the worship service en masse for the first time in more than a year. If you have never worshipped in song as part of a choir, it may be hard to understand, but the feeling is amazing.

As you are singing, sometimes fighting back tears because of the feelings the hymns bring up, you can see the congregation singing with you. You are part of a worship experience including the voices of hundreds of people, many of whom are feeling the power of God in the words of the hymn in a way that is hard to duplicate in the rest of their lives. It is especially meaningful when the hymn is one such as “In This Very Room.”

In this very room there’s quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for one like me,
And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power
to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.

And in this very room there’s quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for all of us,
And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power
to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.

In this very room there’s quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for all the world,
And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power
to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.

Choosing this song, on this day, was especially meaningful, because we were all together again, with Him, in that very room. To experience a bit of what we felt that day, click the link below to hear “In This Very Room.”

© sinnerswalk – 2021

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Of a Gift Unaccepted

Some years ago, the story that follows made the rounds of family and friends. Recently, the story came to my attention again, and I felt called to share. The story is a bit long, and neither its veracity nor the identity of the author is known. Still, it is well worth reading.

According to this tale, a small college in the west required all first-year students to take a Christianity survey course. Since the course was not tied to a major field of study, the professor responsible for teaching had a tough job convincing the students to take it seriously. The professor loved teaching the course but felt he was not getting through to most of the students. He did his best to communicate the gospel’s essence, but the students seemed to think the course was sheer drudgery.

One year, a special student turned up in the class. The student’s name was Steve, and he was a good student. In fact, he planned to study for the ministry at seminary after his undergraduate work. Steve was also the starting center on the football team, and physically he looked the part. Some might say he was an imposing figure. To top it off, he was the best student in the professor’s class.

One day, the professor asked Steve to stay after class. When the others were gone, the professor asked Steve how many push-ups he could do. Steve replied, “I do about two hundred every night.” The professor thought that was good, and let Steve know it. Yet, the professor asked Steve if he thought three hundred push-ups was a possibility.

Steve thought for a moment before replying. “I don’t know. I’ve never done three hundred at one time.” The professor did not take that as an answer. Instead, he asked, “Do you think you could?” Steve replied, “Well, I can try.” To which the professor responded, “Could you do three hundred in sets of ten? I have a class project in mind, and I need you to do about three hundred push-ups in sets of ten for this to work.”

When Steve hesitated, the professor insisted, “Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it.” Steve finally agreed he thought he could do 300. The professor was happy and told Steve he needed to be ready the next Friday. Then he told Steve what he had in mind.

Friday came, and Steve got to class early, sitting in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a large box of donuts. These were not normal donuts. They were BIG, extra fancy, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone seemed excited! It was Friday and the end of the semester. Now, they were starting the weekend early with a class party.

The professor went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have a donut?” Cynthia said, “Yes.” Turning to Steve, the professor said, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?” Steve replied, “Sure,” jumping down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve sat back at his desk, and the professor placed a donut on Cynthia’s desk.

Moving to the next person, the professor asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?” Joe said, “Yes.” The professor looked at Steve, asking, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups! Joe got a donut, and so it went down the first aisle. Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, The professor came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team and in good condition as well. He was very popular and never lacked female companionship. When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?” Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own push-ups?” The professor responded, “No, Steve has to do them.” Scott replied, “Well, I don’t want one then.”

Shrugging, the professor turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience, Steve started to do ten push-ups. Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!” The professor said, “Look! This is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” He put a donut on Scott’s desk.

By this time, Steve was slowing down a little. He stayed on the floor between sets. It took too much effort to get up and down. You could even see a little perspiration on his forehead.

The students were beginning to get a little angry. When the professor asked Jenny if she wanted a donut, she sternly replied, “No!” Of course, Steve was asked to do ten more push-ups so Jenny could have a donut that she didn’t want? Steve did ten and Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No,” and there were uneaten donuts on the many desks. Also, Steve had to put forth a lot of extra effort to get the push-ups done for each donut. A small pool of sweat formed on the floor beneath his face. His arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the effort.

The professor asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push-up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set. The professor explained he couldn’t bear to watch Steve work so hard for donuts people did not want. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could watch Steve closely.

When he started down the fourth row the professor realized students from other classes had wandered into the room. They were sitting on the floor watching. Realizing this, the professor did a quick count and saw there were now 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it. Yet, he did not stop. He continued asking students if they wanted a donut, and the strain on Steve was really beginning to show.

Before the next student was approached, Steve asked, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?” Thinking for a moment, the professor replied, “Well, they’re your push-ups. You are in charge now. You can do them any way you want.” Then, he continued to the next students.

A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the door and was about to come in. All the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on. Yet, Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”

The professor said, “You realize that if Jason comes in, you will have to do ten push-ups for him?” Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.” “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?” Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”

“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Finishing the fourth row, the professor started on the visitors sitting on the floor. Steve’s arms were shaking each time he pushed himself up from the floor. The force of gravity was taking its toll. Sweat was dripping from his face, and there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women. They were cheerleaders and very popular. The professor looked at Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a donut?” Very sadly, Linda said, “No, thank you.” Quietly, the professor asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.

Turning to the other cheerleader, the professor asked, “Susan, do you want a donut?” Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Why can’t I help him?” The professor, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone.”

“I have given him this task. He is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me shoddy work.

Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up, he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”

“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him, and he fell to the floor.

The professor turned to the room and said, “And so it was that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, cried out to the Father, ‘Into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’ With the understanding He had done everything required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”

Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat. He was physically exhausted but wearing a thin smile. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”

Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His only begotten Son but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price was paid.” “Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying like a donut on a desk?”

© sinnerswalk.com – 2021

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Sunday After Church: Public Prayer

After church on Sunday is one of my favorite times to dine out. Usually, Sunday lunch is with church friends, and many others in the restaurant will be enjoying a similar time of food and fellowship.

Of course, as I wrote in an earlier piece, Sunday after church is not always a good time. It can be a less than positive experience for the churchgoers or those around them. On the Sunday discussed here, our fellowship time and dining time took a bit of a serious turn when an old friend asked a theological question. Our friendship goes back decades, and sometimes we enjoy jerking each other’s chain a bit.

Thankfully, this conversation was relatively low-key, and others could not easily hear. That kept this from turning into a situation such as those I wrote about previously concerning Christians’ behavior in public. On the other hand, there was a bit of judgment that it wouldn’t hurt to discuss.

Church services that day included a segment our pastors refer to as “open church.” That is a time when congregants may share a story or a bit of their testimony to address a matter of interest in a spiritual or biblical sense. On this Sunday, the pastor asked people to share something inspiring they had experienced or knew about during the February freeze debacle in Texas and other parts of the south.

As will sometimes happen, some of the shares were more about the person sharing than what they saw God or the Holy Spirit do during the freeze. Still, some were moving, others were a bit muddled, but, being a tad judgmental, only one or two were overly self-serving. It was the somewhat self-serving shares that caught my friend’s attention.

He felt the sharing fell into the same area of Christian behavior as public prayer. As I have a seminary degree and have spoken on various matters, including public prayer, he wanted my opinion on the sharing.

To this moment, I do not know, nor do I care, if he was attempting to get under my skin a bit or check my consistency. Either way, the question was legitimate. In the opinion of many, the Bible clearly teaches that public prayer can be undertaken for the wrong reasons. Pharisees and others stood on street corners to pray publicly for less than honorable reasons.

The rich young ruler might be another example of being full of oneself. He seemed to believe his actions made him worthy of salvation, as he kept all the commandments. The way he handled his meeting with Jesus was likely because his claims were a bit hollow.

I believe my friend was right in thinking some of the shares were a bit Phariseetical in nature. On the other hand, he implied that my position on not making a habit of praying in public might be cut from the same cloth. While that is a possibility, I certainly hope that is not the case.

I do not routinely pray, openly at least, in public. On the other hand, I will happily pray in public if it seems appropriate or if someone asks me to do so. Also, I am touched when I see a family bow their heads in prayer over a meal in a restaurant. While I do not know the motivation of the person leading such prayer, I will assume he or she is doing so out of conviction. On the other hand, I realize a percentage of those bowing their heads may be doing so for less than noble reasons.

The bottom line is this. If you bow your head in prayer in public, do it for the right reasons. Do not do it to make yourself look faithful or religious. If you are a follower of Christ, you do not need to pray publicly to prove it. Your life, demeanor, how you handle yourself, and how the rest of your family acts say more about you than a prayer over a burger and fries or patting yourself on the back publicly for something you did during a crisis.

© sinnerswalk.com – 2020

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Letting God?

Recently, I was moved to write a piece with the title “Speaking of Karma?” It discusses the concept of free advice is not worth what you pay for it and was targeted primarily at a secular audience. Still, there is a biblical aspect of it I thought others might appreciate. The problem is I could not publish two pieces simultaneously on this platform. So, if you’d be interested in my thoughts on the concept of “let go and let God,” as it might apply when it comes to personal or professional conflict, click here: Speaking of Karma?

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