Saturday, November 30, 2013

Swords Into Plowshares

Isaiah 2:1-4
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days
the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths."

The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Matthew 24:36-44

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.   As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.   For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.   Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” NIV

Christmas – the celebration of the birth of the one we call ‘the Prince of Peace.’

And yet, there is no peace in the world.

Have you seen the videos of those terrible attacks on people in cities and communities.  It is a game called “knock out,” and young people, mostly gang members, approach an unsuspecting person from behind and hit them as hard as they can in the head, with the goal of knocking the person out.  These are terrible attacks.
When will we have peace on earth?

Last week there was a video of children in Syria.  CNN reporters were interviewing these children about the war in that country.  One of the children described how one day she saw an explosion and a man’s head flew overhead.  What a terrible way to live.  And during the interview, there was yet another explosion in a building behind the children and everyone was knocked on their feet.  Once the dust settled, the video camera was turned back on and these children calmly continued to answer the questions of the reporter – war and violence are so much a part of their lives that an explosion that knocks them down is no big deal.
When will the fighting in Syria end?

The War in Afghanistan has been going on for 12 years, 1 month, 3 weeks, and 3 days.  When will that war end?

In fact, on Christmas Day – that first one, the one when there was a baby in a manger and shepherds watching their flocks by night – the angels sang about “peace on earth.”

Well, when is that going to happen?

Our Old Testament lesson was written by the prophet Isaiah. 

It was some 400 years before the birth of Christ, and it was a time of war and violence.  The kingdom was divided – Judah in the South and Israel in the North.  There was civil war between the two.  Judah was in revolt against super-power Assyria under King Hezekiah.[i]

You can imagine the people of Isaiah’s time asking the same thing the people of our time ask, “when will this war end? When will violence stop?  When will there be peace on earth?

Isaiah answered by recalling the words of another prophet, Joel, who some 2 or 3 hundred years earlier had called the people to prepare for war by telling them to beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears.[ii]

What Isaiah does is to lift that phrase out of the writings of Joel and he turns them around. 

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

What an idealist dream!

Imagine taking the weapons of today and recycling them as Isaiah proposed, turning guns and bullets and missiles and jets and tanks – into farming equipment, medical tools, building materials for schools.

Can there ever be a day when “nation will not take up sword against nation,” or “train for war anymore?”

When will wars end?

In Matthew’s Gospel, the people asked Jesus about when the Kingdom would arrive on earth. That’s more than just the end of war.  That’s the end of poverty, disease, injustice, racism, violence, hatred – as well as war.

And at first glance, the news is not good.  Jesus looks at the disciples and gives us the straight news.  “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living through these birth pains.  I want the end of the age to come, and with it, I want Jesus to establish his kingdom on this earth.

In the early years of the church, the disciples expected Jesus to return at any moment.  They thought it would be “6 days, 6 weeks, probably not 6 months.”

But the months turned into years.  And the years turned into centuries. 

And we are still waiting.

Waiting for an end to racism.  Waiting for an end to injustice.  Waiting for an end to poverty and disease and hunger.

Waiting for war to end.

We’ve waited so long, that it seems almost useless to continue to wait. 

Why work for peace, when wars will not end?

Why fight this war, when ten years later, or 20 at best, another enemy will appear?

Several years ago I was teaching a 3rd grade Sunday School class.  We were studying our New Testament lesson for this morning, from Matthew’s Gospel.  The memory verse was from the lesson we read just a little while ago.  “So watch, for you don’t know when the Son of Man will come.”

Geeze, I couldn’t believe it, but one of the kids memorized it incorrectly.  Instead of saying “So watch,” the child thought it was “So WHAT.” 

And that is the way many of us live our lives. 

“So what, we don’t know when the Son of Man will come.”

“So what.  We don’t know when Christ will establish his kingdom.

“So what.  We don’t know when poverty, injustice, hate – and war – will end.”

You reach a point at which you feel like giving up.

“So what?” There will always be hate.  There will always be crime.  There will always be racism.  There will always be war.

But against this, the Word of God calls us to work for peace.

Psalm 122 says, “Pray for peace.”

II Timothy, chapter 2, calls on us to pray for our nation’s leaders, “that we may live in peace.”

In fact, we are to do more than pray for peace, we are called to be actively seeking peace.  The psalmist said that we should “seek peace and pursue it.”[iii]

Jesus promised a special blessing to those who worked as peacemakers, promising that those people would be called children of God.[iv]

But it is so easy to just say, “So what?” 

It is so easy to think that things will never improve, and that things will never get better.

But to say that is to have no hope.

More than that, it is to have no faith, and to call Christ a liar.  For He himself promised that he would establish peace and that he would establish his kingdom.

Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of a new year in the Christian calendar.

Advent is a time to anticipate the day when we can celebrate the first coming of Christ and to celebrate his birth on Christmas.

But Advent is also a time to anticipate the return of Christ.

The day will come like a thief in the night, as unexpected as we could possibly imagine.  But it will come.

And then all wars will end.  And so will injustice, and crime, and hate.

Meanwhile, so what?

What difference does this make?

This past week I read a book that was published in 1858, TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE.  It is now a movie which is currently in the theaters, which I have not seen, but in the book the author is telling about his true experiences as a free Black who is kidnapped and taken to Louisiana where he lives as a slave.  A dozen years later, he is finally able to send a letter to friends and family who are able to secure his freedom and return to his home in New York. 
As the book is coming to a close, Solomon Northrup, after 12 years in slavery, is leaving Louisiana and is saying goodbye to other slaves.  Among the friends he leaves behind, some have a sense of hope that someday they will be free.  They absolutely no idea how that will happen, but they have that hope.  It is a hope that any reasonable person would say was vain and senseless.

But – the modern reader knows something that back in 1858, the writer of that book had no clue.  In just two years, the Civil War would begin.  In less than 5 years, Lincoln would issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in ten of the states that made up the Confederacy.  In 7 years, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would forever outlaw slavery in all of the United States.  Slowly, freedom came to all of those who in 1858, had hope, but no evidence, that such a day would come.

We live in an age of violence.  There are wars and rumors of wars. 

But it is our task to live in hope, and not to let hope die, that someday there will be true peace.  And while live in hope, it is up to us to live out peace within ourselves and within our relationships with others. 

In his New Testament letter to the Romans, Paul said, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


Copyright 2013, Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved. 
For copies of other sermons, visit

[i] Von Rad, “The Message of the Prophets” pages 118-144.
[ii] Joel 3:10
[iii] Psalm 34:13-15
[iv] Matthew 5:9

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Mark of Spiritual Friendships

New Testament Lesson                                                          II Corinthians 1:1-5
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.

In the movie “Castaway,” Tom Hanks plays an employee of Federal Express.  Early in the movie, he boards a jet plane and says good-bye to his girlfriend.  He gives her the keys to his car and says, “I’ll be right back.”

Well, everyone who bought a ticket to that movie knew that wasn’t going to be.  Because we all knew from the advertisements that this movie was about a man trying to survive on a deserted island after a terrible plane crash.

When the character played by Tom Hanks gave the car keys to his girlfriend, you wanted to scream out at him to keep the keys.  Because hooked to the key chain was a Swiss Army knife. 

Alone on a deserted island, you could use a knife like that.

After the crash, the lonely man walks the beach gathering debris from the crashed Federal Express plane.  He opens the boxes looking for something to help him survive.  Perhaps a Swiss Army knife or two.

But no.

Instead he finds things that, at least on the surface, seem useless. 

Ice Skates.  Yep, they would come in handy on a small tropical island.


A volleyball.

Yet, in time each becomes useful.  Including the volleyball.  Tom Hanks draws a face on it one night and begins talking to it, in order to pass the time.  He even addresses this volleyball by name – Wilson.

At first this seems to be just a way to entertain himself.  But after five years of being alone on that island, this light-hearted source of entertainment becomes an obsession. 

Right before making the decision to try to get off the island in a homemade boat, the character played by Tom Hanks becomes angry and frustrated and to express that anger he takes the volleyball named Wilson and throws it away, into the sea.

The marooned man watches the ball as it falls into the sea and suddenly realizes, “That was stupid.”  And he goes after the ball.  He risks his life rescuing his friend (the volleyball), swimming against the tide and among the rocky beach until at last he has in his hands his friend (the volleyball). 

He looks at it and says, “Wilson.  Wilson.  I’m so sorry.  I’ll never do that again.  Forgive me!”  He says this to his friend (the volleyball).

Yep, at this point the viewer of the movie knows, this man has been alone on that island way too long.

There is a silliness in that moment, but the way Tom Hanks plays his part, it’s more tragic than silly.

We all desperately need friendships.

And it doesn’t matter whether we are the only person on an island far from anyone else, or if we are in a crowd.

Our church has identified seven marks of discipleship.  These are seven characteristics that every Christian, every Presbyterian, ever member and visitor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church should exhibit.

One of these seven marks is Spiritual Friendship.

Friendship is important to us all.

We sing songs about friendship.

We write poems about friendship.

We love stories about friendship, especially when it involves loyalty under pressure.

And yet – we are painfully aware of our loneliness.

It is not God’s will for us to be alone and lonely.  In fact, in the opening verses of Genesis, God makes that very observation – “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

We need people who can show friendship to us, and we need people to whom we can be a friend.

But not just friendship, you need a spiritual friendship that can only be found in a church.

I want us to look at several passages of Scripture that can teach us about a different key to building successful Spiritual Friendships.

The first key is CONSISTENCY, and we find it reflected in Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times.”

One of the reasons why many of us may feel lonely is that in what friendships we have, there is a lack of consistency.

We can’t depend on them, and they can’t depend on us.

But in building a true spiritual friendship, God would have us to be consistent.  “A friend loves at all times.” 

Not sometimes.

Not when it is convenient.

But at all times.

I heard about this incredible story several years ago. 

In November of 1992, a 65 gentleman suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf.

As his body lay on the 16th green, covered with a sheet, and while course officials tried to contact his wife and funeral home personnel, the three men who had been playing with man had called 911 to report his death, but then continued onto the 17th and finally the 18th tee to continue their game.

"Life goes on," said one man, "so we had to keep going."

How deep were those relationships? They were shallow because real friends put aside self-serving agenda and help where it’s needed.

“A friend loves at all times,” says Proverbs. 

So often our friendship is based on convenience.  But in spiritual friendships we need to be friends at ALL times, convenient or not.

The second key to successful Spiritual Friendship is MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT.

Jackie Robinson was a baseball player from many years ago. He was a great player, but he is perhaps best known for having been the first African-American to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s "color barrier," he faced the boos and insults of crowds in every stadium.

While playing one day the fans began booing Robinson – which was not unusual, but this day it was particularly bad.

He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans booed him.

That’s when shortstop "Pee Wee" Reese called for a time out and walked toward Robinson and stood next to him. This man put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd.

The fans grew quiet.

Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

How often do we need the friendship of another person?  Someone who can simply be there for us.  I’m not talking just about those nights when there is an ambulance in the driveway or the boss has fired you or your teenage son has been arrested.  I’m also talking about those days when nothing tragic has happened, but you’ve just had a no-good lousy miserable day.

Paul said in one the first letter to the Thessalonians, “So encourage one another and build each other up...” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Or to put it in the words of our Old Testament lesson:  "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

This is a tough world, and we need each other’s encouragement to get through the day. 

The third key is HONEST AUTHENTICITY.   

Authenticity means that you’re real. You are honest about who you are and how you feel.

Most of us spend so much time and energy trying to be something we are not in the eyes of others.  We deceive others about who we are.  We pretend to be something we are not.

There is a story of a newly promoted colonel had moved into a makeshift office during the Iraqi War. He was just getting unpacked when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a private with a toolbox coming his way.

Wanting to seem important, he grabbed the phone and pretended to be in the middle of a conversation:  “Yes sir, Mr. President.  I’ll be happy to do that Mr. President.  Well that’s kind of the First Lady, you give her my regards as well.”

He hung up the phone on that none existent conversation and looked at the private.  "And what can I do for you?" he asked the young soldier.

The private looked at the colonel sheepishly and said, “Well, sir, I’m just here to hook up your telephone."

We need to be honest with ourselves and others.

If we’re all about making good impressions and keeping up appearances we’ll never go deep in our Spiritual Friendships.

Why do we put up the fronts? Even Jesus Christ admitted to his closest friends when he was in need. The night before his crucifixion, knowing what was about to take place, Jesus revealed his true feelings to his friends.   Looking at Peter, James and John, he told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death." (Matthew 26:37-38)

Jesus was real.

He never tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t.  He was never dishonest with who he is, even when he was in deep despair.

In his New Testament letter, James said, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  (James 5:16)

Spiritual friendships are honest and authentic.

The final and most important key to any strong Spiritual Friendship is THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST.

There are many kinds of communities. Fraternal Organizations abound. Groups like Kiwanis; Lions; Jaycee’s; and the Masons. Even Fred Flintstone was part of the “Water Buffaloes”. There are many Local Clubs and Youth Gangs - all of which have community. Even prisons become communities.

In a small town in Iowa, a lonely 76-year-old ex-convict demanded two $50 bills from a bank teller and then announced he would be outside in his car smoking a cigarette -- waiting to be returned to prison.

Bank employees were not sure he was serious, but they gave him the money. As Stewart left the bank, he said he would be in his car, smoking a cigarette, which is where police found him.

Stewart said he had no family and wanted to go back to federal prison.

Prison is a poor substitute for real community! Youth Gangs are a poor substitute for real community.  And even positive groups like some of our social organizations fall short of the fellowship found in the church.

Spiritual Friendship always includes the presence of Jesus Christ in the relationship.

Join us in Conway Hall after worship for friendship AND coffee.

For the ladies there are circles.
For men and women there are Bible Studies.
For all ages there are Sunday School Classes.
There are youth groups – and if you aren’t so young any longer, volunteer to help be one of the leaders.

 “It is not good for anyone to be alone,” so said God when he created us.  And that is so true.  Why, therefore, would we choose to be alone when God calls us to build Spiritual Friendships?
Copyright Maynard Pittendreigh, 2012
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Mark of Sharing the Good News

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."  Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

Luke 5:1-11
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." 
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch people." 
This is the Word of the Lord!

My 11th grade homeroom teacher came into our class one day and called us to order. "I need some volunteers. The Christmas parade is coming up soon and I'm in charge of getting drivers for some of the floats. I need some volunteers.”

We all slide down in our seats.  Crossed our arms, looked down avoiding eye contact with the teacher.  And as we best we could, each of us tried to find within us the ability to become invisible to the naked eye.

The homeroom teacher continued: “The state beauty queen will be in the parade. She'll be riding in a convertible waving at everyone. I need someone to drive the car. Who volunteers for driving the state beauty queen around in a convertible for an hour?"

"Me I'll go. I'll be glad to do it."

The teacher picked out a volunteer.

"I need another volunteer. The homecoming queen is in the parade. Who wants to be the driver of that convertible?"

"Me, pick me." Most of the class wanted that assignment.  At least, all of the boys.

"All right. I have one more assignment. It is the most important one of all.

“Our school's teacher of the year will be in the parade. MISTER Johnson will also be in a convertible. With him will be our principal.  Who wants to volunteer?"

The class suddenly seems to have decided to observe a silent prayer. "Oh Lord, don't let him ask me."

It's one thing to drive a beauty queen around. It's another to drive the teacher of the year – AND the principal!

There are some things in this life that you want to volunteer to do. There are other things that you want to be left out of.

Now in the church, we have a number of things for which one can volunteer.

As a minister, I sometimes feel like my homeroom teacher from my 11th grade, "I need a volunteer! Who's going to drive this program? I need a Sunday School teacher, or an elder, or someone to clean Silver Hall. Who volunteers?"

Most of the time, we have ample volunteers to serve in our church.

Now in a Presbyterian Church, you will almost always find enough Sunday School teachers, enough elders, enough people to cook and enough to clean up. One thing you will NOT find enough of -- evangelists.

I need a volunteer -- or several volunteers. Who will share the good news of Christ with other people?

We do not have enough people who are willing to share the Good News with others. We do not have enough volunteer evangelists.

Now why is that?

Reason number 1 – no one asked me to tell others about Christ.

If it's your reason, I suggest you pick another. Because I’m asking you right now.

And more than that, Jesus Christ has asked you to tell others about Him. Time and again we read the mandate that Jesus has given us to go and to tell the world the Good News. Nowhere is this more clearly stated perhaps than at the end of Matthew's Gospel when Jesus issues what has become known as the "Great Commission."

Standing with his now 11 disciples, Jesus said, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Now one of the reasons you call pastors and fund missionaries and hire youth directors is so that someone ELSE has this job of going into all the world and making disciples of others.

But we need to do this work too. We all need to do it. Because Christ has asked all of us to do this.

This is one of the few things that ALL Christians are expected to do. We are all expected to pray, and to love, and to study the Word.

We are NOT all expected to be Sunday School teachers. We are not all expected to be elders, or to be cooks at a congregational dinner - or to clean up. Well, maybe we do want all of you to clean up after yourselves.

But my point is this, we all have our different ministries within God's church. But we are all expected to be able to share the Good News of the Gospel with others.

So you can't use as your excuse, "No one asked me." You have been asked to be an evangelist for God.

Reason #2:  It may be embarrassment.

Evangelists do crazy things. They knock on doors at the homes of strangers. They hand out booklets in front of the movie theater.

They preach on street corners. They operate multi-million dollar television ministries. All of which are things that might not appeal to us. These are things with which we might not want to be personally involved.

It would be embarrassing for us to knock on the door of a stranger's home. It would be embarrassing for us to hand out pamphlets, preach on a street corner, or address a television audience.

But, you know, that doesn't hold much water.

For one things, we do crazy things at football games, at parties, at high school reunions --- If we can do crazy things at those times, we can do crazy things for Christ as well.

BUT another reason why this doesn't hold much water is that evangelism doesn't have to be something crazy. It doesn't have to involve television, or pamphlets or shouting on street corners.

Evangelism is sharing the Good News of Christ. Pure and simple. Sharing some news. We all do that. We share good news and bad news.

We go to work and somebody says, "Hey did you hear about Thelma. She's getting married!"

“Oh really,” someone else will say.  “I didn’t even know she was dating anyone.”

Or maybe you go to your favorite restaurant and see someone you know and they say, “Hey, did you hear about Thelma.  She’s getting divorced.”

"Oh really,” someone else will say.

"Oh yes, let me tell you all about it.”

Or -- "did you hear about the accident at the intersection? Did you hear about the award my grandson received?  Did you hear about that new book everyone is reading?  Let me tell you about it."

We share all sorts of news with each other. We don't do it by doing crazy things. We don't buy television time or shout it at strangers on the street corners. We just share it with our friends.

We can share the Good News the same way.

“Come with me to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church.  We’ve got a great preacher this week – our usual preacher is on vacation.”

Or …

“Come with me to church.  We have a new Sunday School class for adults and I want to go, but I don’t want to go alone, so come with me.”

“Come to Grace Covenant.  It’s good for the soul.”

Reason #3 for not wanting to volunteer to do invite people to come to church…is because of the danger of it being so futile. Let's say, for example, that you ask people to come to church. And no one comes. Then you ask others, but they don't come. So ask still others, and still no one comes.

Evangelism is a frustrating experience. It is like beating your head against a brick wall sometimes.

Or, like our New Testament lesson, fishing.

Simon Peter and his gang have gone across the street to the bait shop, then they hit the beach and started fishing.  They’ve been out on the water all night long and have caught nothing. Jesus comes along and tells them to give it another try. And they do. I think they do it because they are humoring him, so they can pull up empty lines and say, “You see, nothing.  Let’s go home and get some sleep.”

But they catch so many, that the story almost sounds like a fish story. Catching so many fish, the boat is in danger of sinking!

And that is the way it is with evangelism. You can plug away at it over and over and over and over. Then one day, you have some results. And when you have results at evangelism, you have the greatest productivity in the world. Like casting out your net and catching an unbelievable amount of fish -- even one soul salvaged through your efforts becomes a memorable experience.

Reason #4 as to why a person might not want to become a volunteer evangelist is because of a sense of unworthiness.

You are sharing the Good News about Christ. You are telling people about God. And you are telling this to people who know you. And who know what you have done and who you've done it with.

For several years after I became a minister, I believe my father delighted telling people who he knew that his son had become a minister. Not so much because he was proud to have a minister in the family, but because he delighted in the reactions that he would get when he'd say, "You remember my son Maynard. He's a minister now."

"THAT boy? A minister? HIM?"

They know a little boy who, shall I say, had a mischievous streak. They know a teenager who, shall I say, had a taste for adventure. And they find it difficult to picture that same person just a little older, now preaching the Gospel.  Because they know all the things I used to do.

Same thing with you. People look at you and they know your shortcomings. WHO are YOU to share the Good News with ME. You aren't worthy.

And of course they are right.

We can ridicule Jimmy Swaggart.  You remember him?  He had the gall to preach the Gospel. He talked about God's plan for families. Then he went out and got caught in a motel room taking pictures of a prostitute. He asked for forgiveness, continued to preach, and then got caught with another prostitute.

     Some people would call that hypocrisy.  And probably rightfully so.

          But you know, we best be careful. Because like it or not, Jimmy Swaggart is a brother in Christ. He had his short comings and failings to temptations, just as all of us do. He just had more colorful shortcomings than most of us, more public notoriety.

A common tread in both our Old and New Testament lessons is the awareness that one has of his or her own sinfulness when face to face with God.

In the Old Testament, the prophet says, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on his throne, high and exalted, and his robe filled the whole Temple...and I said, "There is no hope for me! I am doomed because every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose every word is sinful. And yet, with my own eyes I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."

Then, the prophet goes on to describe a great thing. An angel comes to him and says, "Your guilt is taken away, your sin is atoned for.”

A similar thing happens in the New Testament lesson when Simon is confronted with Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish. He tells Jesus, "Go away from me
Lord! I am a sinful man."

Christ's response is, "don't be afraid. From now on you'll be catching people," referring to their souls.

In both cases, the individual becomes acutely aware of his sinfulness and confesses that sin. But for both Isaiah and Simon Peter, the sin is forgiven and the person is told to go and share the Good News. To go out and be a messenger. To go out fishing for the souls of others.

So our shortcomings should not be a good reason for us to keep from becoming volunteer evangelists for God.

There really is no reason-- valid reason--for us not to volunteer with enthusiasm for sharing the message of salvation with others.

I need a volunteer.

There is a parade of souls marching on. There's a fellow at work whose wife died last year and he has spent recent months grieving without comfort. There is a woman down the street who feels the burden of guilt for a lifetime of mistakes. There is young person in our schools. He's never attended church. Who will invite him?

The parade is already on. The souls are marching down through time. When are we going to volunteer?

Copyright 2013, Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved.