Sunday, April 15, 2018

What is an Elder?

This morning we are continuing our study of elders. So, this morning, I want us to answer a fundamental question. What is an elder? That sounds like such a simple question, doesn’t it? But, in reality, it’s not that simple.

Though the New Testament does talk about the kind of people who should be elders. And we looked at some of those passages last week. The Bible doesn’t really provide a comprehensive job description of what elders should do. So, congregations of the church over the centuries have asked elders to do all sorts of things.
  • Teach
  • Govern
  • Serve as delegates at church councils
  • Pastor
So, here’s a potential problem: What if my job description for what an elder should do is different from the one my elder is working from? Church, that is a recipe for conflict! And, over the centuries (and recent history), the church has experienced some of that conflict.

This morning my goals are simple, and perhaps a bit ambitious! First, I want to go to the Text and see how elders functioned in the earliest days of the church. I’ll admit straight away, we don’t have much to go on. For all of the emphasis we put on “Church Leadership.” Our world is enamored with the subject of leadership! We have seminars and books written on leadership all the time! The Bible, however, doesn’t say a whole lot about it! At least not in the way we think of leadership. But we will look at what is there. Second, I want us to answer this questions: What should we expect from our elders here at Glenwood? Those are two ambitious goals, and we only have three hours left, so let’s get started.

First, how did elders function in the Early Church? Most of what we know about early church leadership comes from Paul. The first thing I am going to say about Paul’s understanding of elders sounds too academic, but it is an important statement. Paul’s ecclesiology was greatly informed by his eschatology! In other words, Paul’s understanding of church had a lot to do with Paul’s understanding of how the world would end. Or, more precisely, “when” the world would end. In some of Paul’s earliest writings (I Corinthians, I Thessalonians), it is apparent he believed Jesus would return at any moment. He tells the Thessalonians that many of them would still be alive. He tells the Corinthians they shouldn’t get married because Jesus was returning soon. In those earliest writings, Paul didn’t say much at all about church leadership. Why? The apostles had leadership well in hand.

As the years and decades passed, however, Paul’s language about Jesus’ second coming changed a bit. Yes, he still believed Jesus would return. But, he began to accept the fact that it might not happen during his lifetime. So, he wrote to Timothy about his pending death. He began to think about the church after the departure of the apostles. That is when Paul began writing about church organization. Only in some of Paul’s very last writings does he discuss elders or deacons or anything else related to how to the church should organize itself.

So, what exactly did he say? Here is a nearly exhaustive list of elder functions in the New Testament:
  1. The elders lay their hands on people to impart spiritual gifts (I Tim 4:14)
  2. The elders pray for the sick and anoint them with oil (James 5:14)
  3. We also have examples of the elders making decisions about the direction of the church. In Acts 15, the church is wrestling with how to integrate Gentiles into the primarily Jewish church. Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss that question with the apostles and the elders.
  4. Many times in the New Testament, elders are associated with teaching. Listen to the last half of I Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders who lead well be given a double honor (probably money), especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” The first half tells us that elders were paid!
  5. Part of the service of an elder did include some kind of authority and oversight. Listen to I Timothy 5:17 again: “Let the elders who lead well be given a double honor…” I Peter 5 says, “In the same way, I urge the younger to accept the authority of the elders…”
I think I should stop here and address something that has developed in recent history in our movement. Several years ago, Lynn Anderson wrote a book entitled They Smell Like Sheep. A fabulous book! A book that helped move many of the elderships in Churches of Christ more toward a shepherding model. But, one of the unforeseen consequences of that book is that many took Lynn to mean that elders should have no administrative function whatsoever! This left a huge vacuum in many congregations. Many congregations that had historically been led by elders. The elders had functioned as boards of directors. And then, suddenly they didn’t, but no one else stepped in to fill that gap! I think many congregations went too far: the Bible does speak of some “authority” and “order” that comes from elders.

But we should acknowledge this: Paul is reluctant to talk about authority in the church, unless he is talking about the authority of God. Paul is even reluctant to assert his own authority as an apostle. His second letter to the Corinthians is filled with examples of this. Over and over again, Paul downplays his “authority” over the Corinthians. He criticizes false teachers in Corinth who are using their authority to lead the people in wrong directions. There were some who were using their speaking ability. Or their position as teachers. As Paul says, “to place themselves over you…” (II Corinthians 11:20). Paul criticizes them for that. Instead, Paul says: I may not speak like they do. I may not assert my authority over you like they have. But I have cared for you and loved you and led you just the same. Robert Banks, a scholar who wrote an essay on Church Order and Government in Paul’s letters, rightly points out:
“In view of the widespread use of this term [authority] in Greek for those in positions of influence over others, Paul’s reticence in using the term can only be intentional.” (Robert Banks, “Church Order and Government,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters)
Yes, elders have authority…BUT…Paul modeled a different kind of leadership and authority. A kind built on humility. A kind built on service. This is the kind of leadership he set up in the congregations he established all over the Greco-Roman world.

All that to say, church, elders in the 1st century and in the intervening centuries wore many hats!
  • Teachers
  • Preachers
  • Administrators
  • Counselors
  • Anointers of the sick
Let me ask you a question: Know any one person who is gifted to do all of these things? The reality is that over the centuries the church has found many ways to accomplish these goals. Many people within the church have come together to perform these important functions. Though each elder may not wear all of these hats, the elders are given the responsibility, the charge, to oversee these important functions. And, as congregations have grown, this task has become more and more difficult. The congregations that Paul worked with had no more than a couple of dozen people in them! In our own time, with congregations much larger than then, the job of an elder is much more complex.

So, the next question…

What should we expect from our elders? We use the word “shepherd” around here more than we do elder. But when we use those terms we are referring to the same person. That doesn’t mean elder is a bad word. It’s a good word. It’s a biblical word. But the reason we refer, most often, to our elders as “shepherds” is because “shepherd” more naturally describes their primary function. Shepherd is a good word too. Shepherd is also a biblical word.


This is my favorite passage about elders in the Bible. I know we typically camp out in I Timothy 3 & Titus 1 when we talk about elders. But those passages, as we’ve said, don’t tell us much about what an elder should do. I Peter 5 gives us the closest thing to a job description for an elder that we have in the Bible. And notice what stands at the center of an elder’s job description: shepherding (as a verb)! And what does the writer of I Peter mean by shepherding?
  • “Tend the flock…”
  • “Watch over the flock…”
  • “Protect the flock…”
  • “Don’t rule over the flock…but lead by example…”
And to us:
  • “Accept the authority of these elders…”
  • “Clothe yourselves with humility toward each other.”
  • “God stands against the proud, but gives grace to the humble!”
How would the church be different if we simply lived by the last words of this passage? When I think of elders, I think of a man I hardly knew. Jack Garner was a long-time elder at Southside Church of Christ in Rogers, AR. My mom and dad attended Southside years ago, when I was an infant. I learned many years later, when I was an adult, that my parents (and specifically my dad) had some tough times early on. He didn’t grow up going to church. He didn’t grow up having any kind of faith. My mom did! She was the product of a strong Christian family—parents and grandparents. She was in church every time the doors were open. This dissonance caused some problems early on in their marriage.

One afternoon, Jack Garner went to visit my dad. I don’t know what was said. I don’t know what methods he used. But I do know why he went. He went because he loved my family. He began to mentor my dad in the faith. He was one of the most instrumental persons in the earliest stages of my dad’s faith journey. My dad eventually became an elder. His children are all believers. Almost all of his grandchildren have now been baptized. I think our family tree owes a lot to Jack Garner. In my mind, that is what an elder is.

Church, being an elder is an important job! I pray for our elders every single day, and I encourage you to do that same thing. I pray that we respect them because of the way they love this family. I pray that when they mess up (because we all mess up), I pray that we will love them all the same. That’s what it means to have humility with one another. Another way to say it is to echo the words here in I Peter 5. We need to give grace to each other. Because God have given grace to us! Join me in praying for God’s guidance as we continue our process to recognize the elders among us.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Shepherds in God's Pasture

Who in their right mind would want to lead a church? A recent posting in a Christian journal advertised the need for a church leader…
WANTED: Shepherd
The applicant will serve as manager, administrator, and correspondent. He will have experience as a preacher, teacher, and also evangelist. He will be a competent writer and speechmaker, and will serve as a decorative piece at public functions. He will also be something of an editor. He will have experience as a social worker, counselor, spiritual advisor, visitor of the sick, and comforter of the bereaved. He will serve as theologian in residence, interpreter of the church at large, and official delegate to all conferences. He will serve as a one-man emergency squad. He will be qualified as a commissioner of oaths, and will offer occasional legal advice, arbitrate disputes, and serve as public relations officer. He will have a basic business sense, and will be a capable salesman. He will also be skilled in marketing and program planning, and will recruit and train workers where available. The applicant will also be called upon occasionally as a garden supervisor, caretaker, and artist. He will lead a blameless life and spiritual walk. The applicant should expect to remain on call 24 hours a day. It is, of course, assumed that the applicant's WIFE will be included under the above arrangements, to work half-days.
I ask again: Who in their right mind would want to lead a church? Well, there must be some people out there who want to lead the church…

At Glenwood, we really just have one qualification: You have to be able to do this without dropping the baby!

That takes a lot of practice!

The apostle Paul wrote about elders nearly 2000 years ago! But his description of these folks does not make the job sound any more appealing! He told his young protégée, Timothy, to appoint elders in his congregation. And judging by Paul’s words, it seems that there were actually some men who were crazy enough to do it. Here was Paul’s “advertisement for church leaders”…

READ I TIMOTHY 3:1–7 The Message

Have you ever wondered what this list is all about? I’ve read this passage from The Message, because I think we hear the other translations so often, we may miss what Paul is saying here. How did Paul expect us to find anyone that would fit in this box he created? Above reproach? Hospitable? Gentle? His children obey him? Well, now that we’ve eliminated everyone in this room, we can begin! What do we do with this list?

Over the centuries, the church has been tempted to do one of two things with this list. Some in the church have given into the temptation of treating Paul’s list as a legalistic checklist.

Hospitable? “Well, I saw Brother Jones in the hall last Sunday, and he never said “hi” to me. He passed right by me and acted as if I wasn’t even there.” Cross him off the list!

Gentle? “I would put down Brother Smith, but I saw the way he spanked his child out in public all those years ago. That doesn’t seem gentle to me.” Cross him off the list!

Self controlled? “I guess we’ll have to omit Brother Jenkins from the discussion. Remember the Super Bowl party last month with Brother Jenkins? I don’t think you can describe what he was doing as ‘self controlled.’”  Cross him off the list!

In all honesty, I think we’ve done a lot of harm reading Paul’s words that way. Some have described elder selection like deer hunting. During elder selection, we all go out with our guns, and we shoot the very best bucks around! I know some very good, godly people who have been hurt (almost beyond repair) because of bad elder selection processes!

Some folks have recognized that difficulty, and so they’ve gone in the complete opposite direction. They have recognized the difficulty in finding anyone who can actually conform to Paul’s list, so they’ve simply discarded it all together. They’ve treated his words much like some folks treat the Sermon on the Mount. “Well, sure Jesus said all of those things, but He certainly didn’t think we could follow through with them. Paul didn’t really mean for us to take this list seriously.” Before long, this list becomes nothing more than an old worn out church bulletin. Wadded up, and discarded. You know it’s the Bible somewhere, but you haven’t seen it lately.

What should we do with this list? The first thing we need to recognize is this: It’s not a list! Paul has not given us a list at all. In fact, what Paul has given us is a portrait—a portrait of a leader in God’s church. When we treat this as a list, as a “checklist,” I think we miss the point. For one thing, that gives the church the impression that this list is exhaustive. As if these are the only qualities we should look for in a church leader. What about humility? What about compassion? What about a sense of justice? What about a forgiving heart? You know, these things are not included in Paul’s list. Does that mean we should appoint unforgiving, unjust, uncompassionate, and proud people as our elders? Certainly not! What Paul has given us here is a portrait, God’s picture of what a shepherd should look like.

Have you ever looked at a classic impressionist painting? This painting by Claude Monet for example.

This has long been one of my favorite paintings. It is entitled “Sunrise”. From your vantage point this morning, you have the ability to see what Monet wanted you to see. A beautiful sunrise. Two small boats stopping to admire God’s creation! So peaceful, so wonderful, so majestic!

What would happen if you took this painting and pushed it right up to your nose?

Examining every brush stroke? Carefully dissecting every millimeter of this painting? Does this even look like the same picture? If we pay such close attention to the details, it’s easy to miss what Monet was trying to show us! I think sometimes we do the same thing to Paul’s painting here in I Timothy 3. Paul has painted for us here a picture of what a shepherd should look like.

As you look at his painting, what do you see? I see a picture of a man who loves God and loves his family. I see a man who is steady and strong. I see a man who has the respect of everyone—his family, his church, his community. As I look at this painting, I see a man that I would follow. Paul has given us so much more than a list here—he’s given us a picture of a shepherd in God’s Church.

Being a leader in God’s church is a high calling. Glenwood has been blessed over the years more than most congregations I know of. God has raised up some mighty warriors to lead this church over the years. I’ve told this story a few times, but it is worth repeating (especially on a day when we are talking about elders). When I was a graduate student at ACU several years ago, I took a class on church leadership with Charles Siburt. He told us then about a church he knew of that installed a 28-year-old elder! I learned only later that that man was Edwin Rasco. And that church was West Erwin Church of Christ—the same church that a few years later planted Glenwood. Edwin served this church for many years as one its elders. This church has had some tremendous elders over the years! Many of them are still in this room! From personal experience, I can say that our elders today are pretty special.

This morning, we begin a new “Elder Recognition” process. This is always an interesting time in the life of a church, largely because God doesn’t give us any instructions. In fact, the closest thing we get to instructions in the Bible is for the preacher to appoint elders. Don’t believe me?


I am not lobbying for that role! I cannot imagine bearing that responsibility. In truth, we are not given anything resembling a road map. Just as there is not a “job description” for elders in the Bible. Neither is there a template for selecting elders. So, I’ve seen it done countless ways in different congregations.

Here is how we plan to do this over the next few weeks. This morning, and the next two weeks, I am preaching on the topic of elders or shepherds. What is a shepherd/elder? What is a shepherd here at Glenwood? What should we expect and not expect our shepherds to do for this family? On April 22, forms will be handed out. On these forms you’ll be able to indicate who you believe should shepherd this family. Who has the “gift” of shepherding? And here is an important part of this conversation: Who is already shepherding? The best shepherds are those who have been shepherding long before they took a title! We will give everyone a week to fill out those forms. We’d like to have them back the next week, April 29. In fact, we will probably devote some special time to that service on the 29th to allow people to complete the forms. Once they are received, the elders will spend time going through those forms. They will spend time in conversation and prayer. They will meet with prospective elders. They will allow those men and their families to spend time in conversation and prayer.

On May 20, those men who choose to be considered will be brought before this church body. They will not become elders at that point. For the next two weeks, we encourage you to affirm those men. Speak words of blessing and encouragement into their lives! If there is a reason you think anyone should not serve, we encourage you to go to them and talk about it. If you are uncomfortable doing that, bring someone with you. This goes for our current shepherds too. They are entering this process as well. So, affirm them and encourage them as well. If there is something you need to work out with one of our current shepherds, we invite you to use this two-week window to do that. If there is a reason you think one of our current elders should not serve any longer, go to them and have that conversation. If you are uncomfortable going alone, bring someone with you.

On June 3, we will have a special service here to ordain our new elders for service in this church. We’re exiting a challenging time for our family. And, now we are headed into the next chapter of this congregation’s history. This is an important time for us. I think God has been preparing some of you to lead us into the future. I can’t wait to see where God’s Spirit will lead us.

So, church, I want to encourage you to be in earnest prayer about this process. Pray that God will raise up shepherds for this church. Men of integrity and prayer. Men who look at awful lot like Paul’s painting! Let me say one more word about this. You may think you do not “fit the mold.”
  • “I’m too young.”
  • “I’m too old.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I don’t want to attend a lot of meetings.”
Remember, I’ve already said: we were not given a job description for “elder” in the Bible. In fact, elders have performed many different roles for the church throughout history. That means each congregation is free to decide what an elder will look like in their family. We will talk more about the role of a shepherd in this family over the next couple of weeks. But let me say succinctly, in this family, our shepherds will shepherd. They are not a board of directors.  So as you consider which names to write on the form. As you consider whether or not to become an elder. Consider this: Is this person a shepherd at heart? Considers this: Are you a shepherd, or not? Regardless of age. Regardless of life station. Is that the gift God has given you? May God grant us wisdom, and may we see through His eyes throughout this process.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday: Living a Risen Life

This morning people from around the world are filling Christian church buildings. Most of the world agrees that today is a special day. The day Jesus rose from the grave. The day God defeated sin and death once and for all. The day our sins were finally wiped off the face of the map. Because of an event that took place two millennia ago, you and I have the hope of eternal life.

But I have to tell you this morning, in all honesty, I’m not sure we really get it. I mean, yes, our buildings are full. More people will attend church this morning than any other Sunday of the year. More people remember Jesus and His sacrifice on this day than any other occasion. But I’m convinced we still just don’t get it! Sometimes the Easter story becomes like rote memory. We can recite it. We know it backwards and forwards. We believe it! But have we lost sight of its significance?

Sometimes, it helps me remember the significance of my story by hearing my story through someone else’s words.

Some of you may remember a movie that came out in 1997 called Amistad. Amistad is the true story of a group of Africans who were captured from their homeland and sold into slavery. They were forced upon La Amistad, a slave ship that was bound for America. During the journey, however, they overtook the slave traders and gained control of the ship. Eventually, however, they are captured and put on trial for murder, knowing they might die for their actions, or worse yet, be turned over once again to the slave traders. There is a great scene in this movie. Two of the these Africans lay awake at night, the night before their trial. One of them has obtained a copy of the Bible—a book he’d never seen before. He began reading it. And in this moment, he is sharing the story—that he has learned simply through the pictures—with his friend. Watch with me as we see our story through someone else’s eyes.

I have a question for us church. If Easter is so special, if this event means so much, if this event is not just a “story,” why do so many of us live our lives with our heads down as if we’re chained and headed toward certain doom? I call you this morning, on Easter Sunday, to take the advice of Sinque, this African prisoner. Pick your heads up, because you are no longer dead. You have been alive in Christ! You life may seem dark right now, but remember, the best news the world has ever heard came from a graveyard near Jerusalem!

READ LUKE 24:1–12 (CEB)

Don’t you just love Peter? I love Peter because I am able to empathize with him so often. A man who made so many mistakes. A man who wanted to do right, but so often found himself in the wrong place or making the wrong decision. If you remember, the last time Peter was mentioned by Luke, Peter was denying Jesus! Look at that passage with me.

READ LUKE 22:54–62 (CEB)

Look, it doesn’t get any worse that that! Peter blatantly rejected Jesus and then had to look Him in the eye. Don’t you wonder what the next 72 hours must have been like for Peter? In the mire of depression. Thinking he had messed up beyond repair. I imagine Peter sitting in a room and not saying much for these three days. Wishing he could make it right. Wishing he had just one more chance to speak to his friend, to say he was sorry, to say he didn’t mean it. Wishing the world would just end so he could escape the pain and humiliation.

The next time we see Peter is here in Luke 24. It’s no surprise to me that when these women return with this news that Peter is the first one out the door. While everyone else was doubting the story of the women, Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He saw for himself the rolled away stone and the fallen strips of linen. Later that day, he would speak to Jesus face to face. Do you know why Peter got up and ran to the tomb?
  • He, perhaps more than anyone else, needed a resurrected Jesus.
  • He, perhaps more than anyone else, knew what “lostness” felt like.
  • He, perhaps more than anyone else, needed a reason to live.
  • And Jesus’ resurrection gave him that reason to live.
Church, Jesus is risen! The question for us is this: Does His resurrection instill within us a will to live? Yes, Jesus’ resurrection gives us the promise of eternal life in heaven one day. But Jesus’ resurrection gives us even more than that. It gives us the will to live today! News of His resurrection made Peter get up and run. News of His resurrection ignited a fire in the lives of those disciples. Those timid, scared people turned the world upside down. Jesus’ resurrection changed their lives. Has it changed yours?

Are you still sitting in that dark room with those first disciples? Shrouded with fear. Feeling sorry for your actions. Without a purpose for life. Or, have you heard the news: Jesus is alive!

During the Second World War, the US Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Some of their soldiers were left behind, and they became prisoners of the Japanese. The men called themselves "ghosts." They were “souls unseen” by their nation. They were forced on the infamous Bhutan Death March, forced to walk over 70 miles knowing that those who were slow or weak would be bayoneted by their captors, or die from dysentery and lack of water.

Those who made it through the march spent the next three years in a hellish prisoner-of-war camp. By early 1945, 513 men were still alive at the Cabanatuan prison camp, but they were giving up hope. The US Army was on its way back to help. But the POWs had heard the frightening news. Prisoners were being executed as the Japanese retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. Many of the POWS gave up all hope for survival. Their wavering hope was however met by one of the most magnificent rescues of wartime history. In an astonishing feat, 120 US Army soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas outflanked 8,000 Japanese soldiers to rescue the POWs.

Alvie Robbins was one of the rescuers. He describes how he found a prisoner muttering in a darkened corner of his barracks, tears coursing down his face. “I thought we'd been forgotten,” the prisoner said. “No, you're not forgotten,” Robbins said softly. “We've come to take you home.”

So many of us live our lives like this scared POW in the corner, feeling we’ve been abandoned by God. I don’t know all of your stories. Some might be in the midst of a broken relationship. Some might be in the midst of an addiction. Some might be like Peter (having rejected God outright). Some of you might even wonder why you came this morning. Well, it’s Easter, that’s what people do. Can I share with you some good news?

Easter is more than an international holiday. It’s more than Easter eggs and bunny rabbits. It’s more than nice Sunday clothes and high worship attendance. Easter is our annual reminder that we’re not forgotten. You’re not forgotten. God came to rescue you.

Let me leave you all with the advice given by an African prisoner, bound in chains on the way the trial that would determine his fate. Lift your head up. See the cross of Christ. And notice something: Jesus is no longer hanging there! He’s alive. Won’t you join Him in that life?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday: Even These Stones Will Cry Out

READ LUKE 19:29–40 (CEB)

All over the world this morning, Christians are reading this text. This is Palm Sunday. On this Sunday we remember the last time Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem. In the span of the next week, a lot would happen:
  • Jesus would take the Last Supper with His disciples.
  • He would pray with them in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • He would be arrested and killed.
  • Next week, we will remember and celebrate His resurrection.
The Triumphal Entry (as it has been called) was an ironic moment in history. On the one hand, we grieve that Jesus had to travel the road that would lead to His death. On the other hand, we are so grateful that Jesus made that trip! So, this morning, as we worship, we sing songs of praise—thanking God for this tremendous sacrifice. We acknowledge at the same time our sin that made that tremendous sacrifice necessary in the first place.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Deliverance: Turning the Boxes Over

She was never the most moral person. Her family, however, was filled with saints! Her father a minister in a local congregation. Her mother an active Bible class teacher. Both of her siblings were active members in the local church. Deborah herself was named after the mighty judge of the Old Testament. But she did not turn out to be a mighty woman. At least not in the way the biblical character was mighty. Church never interested Deborah very much. Maybe her family burned her out. Maybe she got lost in the shuffle. Or maybe she just chose to take another path. She was in trouble from day one. Her siblings were “angel children”—you know the type! But Deborah stayed on the wrong side of the rules. Constantly being reprimanded by her teachers at school. By her parents at home. When she was old enough, the local authorities took this responsibility. She got involved with drugs at an early age. She had a little girl of her own at age 17. Eventually, her family would have nothing to do with her anymore. By the time she was in her early-twenties, she was alone. No family. Few friends. Isolated from everything she knew on the cold streets of the big city. And it was at this time that she learned her fate. She did not have long to live. Her mistakes had caught up with her. She would die in a matter of weeks from AIDS. Can you see Deborah in your mind? Have you ever met Deborah?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Deliverance: Worrying About Tomorrow

Have you ever had a really rotten day? A day when nothing goes right. A day that you would never want to live again. A day that started out bad from the very beginning. There are warning signs for days like this.

You know it will be one of those days when:
You see a 60 Minutes news team waiting in your office.
Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
You turn on the news are they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
Your twin sister forgets your birthday.
You arrive at the office and the boss tells you to not bother taking your coat off.
Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill,” and your name is George.
Or, worse yet, you may have had a day like this:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Deliverance: Treasuring the Right Kind of Treasure

Kim and I took a trip to New York last weekend. We had an interesting experience on the subway one evening. A teenage boy came onto the train and asked for everyone’s attention. He then presented us with his story: “I am going to be honest. I am not homeless. I have plenty of food. I hope you’ll respect my honesty; I need money to buy weed.” That young boy left the train without any money to help his cause!

We tend to think everyone asking for money is like that young boy. But some are different. It was November of 2003, and I was walking with some friends in downtown Atlanta after an evening session for an academic conference. The day had gone just as I expected: Meetings, lectures, presenting papers. But, there was one unexpected thing that day: Lester. As we walked in the shadows of Atlanta’s multi-million dollar skyscrapers, we were suddenly blocked from going any further. Because a smelly man in rags was yelling at us! He was just talking out of his head, rambling on about who knows what. We, being the good Christian men that we were, tried to get away from him, fast. But we soon realized Lester wasn’t going anywhere. I know his name was Lester because, he proceeded to tell us his story.