Waiting Tables

One of the common denominators of greatness in our modern world is a stint waiting tables.  Famous and prominent people from all walks of life, from CEOs to Hollywood celebs, learned and honed many of the skills needed to achieve success in their fields while working as waiters.  Actor Jon Hamm commented about lessons learned from waiting tables in a recent interview.

 “It’s important to know how to treat people, and to learn how to respond when someone you’re working with is having a bad day … Understanding other people’s problems is the cornerstone of the service industry, and it’s essential as an actor. Or whatever field you’re in.”

And startup CEO, Jason Wesbecher, writing in Entrepreneur, noted.

“Being a CEO is … about embracing the unpredictable each day and soldiering through the chaos. Which, upon reflection, reminded me precisely of my days waiting tables. As it turns out, there are a number of similarities between the two jobs….  Being a start-up CEO is first and foremost about people. Evaluating them, motivating them, reading them. The four major constituencies that you must serve to be successful in this role are your employees, your customers, your investors and your family. If you can’t engender trust and excitement across each one of these groups, it’s only a matter of time before you are an ex-CEO. Waiting tables isn’t any different.  Waiters aren’t in the food business; they’re in the people business. They have to read the body language of each table to figure out who wants to engage in a dialogue and who wants to be left to their conversation. They have to be prepared to instantly reinvent themselves every few feet as they move to the next table.”

But long before these modern-day success stories, the greatest authority on leadership the world has ever known, Jesus Christ, expressed this same truth pointedly with his followers when they were arguing about greatness.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

The word Jesus used to describe those who serve was later used to describe men appointed in the church to serve the physical needs of those inside and outside the church membership.  These men were called deacons.  When they were first appointed in the early church in Acts 6, the apostles noted that they were men “of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit,” but they were chosen to “wait on tables” by distributing food to the poor in Jerusalem.  They were “waiters’ who were not in the “food business, but in the people business,” meeting the physical needs of people in a spiritual way.

Like any parent, however, God is concerned about the integrity and reliability of those who care for his children.  God’s word sets standards for the character and faithfulness of men who are to wait on the tables of His children.  Join us this Lord’s Day, January 20, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and consider what type of men God calls to wait tables among people inside and outside the church.

We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:45 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.   We look forward to seeing you.

Dirty Jobs

For our children, a stay in a hotel has many charms.  The pool, of course, is at the top of the list.  Hotels without pools fall into the “emergency only” category.  Booking a room at such a venue is seen as a breach of paternal trust.  But our children also enjoy the freedom to jump from one bed to another (before 9:00 pm) as well as the carb-overloaded cereal bins in the breakfast area.  And then there is television.

We have a television at home and recently got basic cable, but we rarely watch anything that does not stream from Roku or spring from a DVD.   Unless we have a hankering for big-pharma or big-auto commercials, we never venture past the evening news into TV land – except when the Olympics are on.  But when we are at a hotel, we enjoy a small dose of cablevision, especially “Dirty Jobs.”  While the show’s host, Mike Rowe glories a bit in the “muck and mire” aspect of each episode, I appreciate the heroic light he shines on those who work these jobs, day in and day out.  But “dirty jobs” are not for everyone.  It demands special people to work these special jobs.  Despite the natural revulsions these jobs may inspire, each one is of value and produces something that makes our lives better.

As far as I know, “Dirty Jobs” has never done an expose on the work of elders in the church, though it certainly might qualify.  A mentor of mine once declared, “working with sheep is a dirty business.”  And, so it is with any helping and caring profession from the work of an elder, to a nurse or caregiver.   But the value of this work extends far beyond the here and now, into eternity.   For this reason, the Apostle Paul writing to his apprentice, Timothy, instructs him to instruct the church in regards to what type of men God calls into the work of elder and deacon.

Paul declares that anyone who sets his mind on this work desires a “noble task,” then sketches the qualities of elders as men who have been tested in life and leadership.  They have a proven track record of living and leading consistent with their creed.  But Paul’s instructions are not just for Timothy and an elite group of executive recruiters in Ephesus.  They are for the whole church, so they may know what type of leaders to desire and how to pray for the leaders they have.

Join us this Lord’s Day, January, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and consider what type of men are to be desired and selected to do the dirty job of shepherding the flock of God.  We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:45 am for worshipGet directions here or contact us for more info.   We look forward to seeing you.

An Evening of Lessons and Carols

The story of the coming of Christ in the Incarnation is the most dramatic story ever told.  While it reaches a beautiful high point with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem,  there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine.  As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man. (Andrew Peterson)

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 24, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  For directions click here or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

Getting Christmas

Our family has many Christmas traditions – the annual tree pilgrimage, dinner at The Grapevine, the Christmas Cake, the advent storyboard calendar, and iconic holiday movies, which for us include Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the ever-poignant, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Despite its ancient vintage, Charles Shultz’ classic cartoon commentary on Christmas confusion is spot on.   What is the point of this ever-expanding season each year?  Lucy touts community involvement, Sally just wants her fair share and Snoopy capitalizes on Christmas commercialism.  But Charlie Brown just doesn’t get Christmas.   His epic fail in choosing a Christmas tree brings his contemplation to a head in the following exchange with Linus.

Charlie: I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about?

Linus: Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Linus goes to center stage, spotlight. Linus: “And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Linus: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Linus points Charlie in the right direction, but there is much, much more to this story – a story that has its origins in eternity past and its implications in eternity future, a story of epic failure and dramatic rescue, a story that reveals a God who is quite different from the one our fears imagine. As singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it.

Gather round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man.

Come and experience the rest of this story in God’s own words and in song as we share in An Evening of Lessons and Carols together at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 24, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  For directions click here or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more details.   We look forward to seeing you there.

The Last Word

The Last Word

As a pastor, few things are harder than preparing for a funeral. Not only are you sharing personally in the grief of beloved friends, but you are bearing the grief of precious sheep. The gravity of speaking the “last words” of a person’s life and the urgency the house of mourning presses upon us to declare the gospel — these are heavy weights upon the mind and heart of a pastor. Last words must declare the faithfulness and goodness of God and prepare those left behind to embark upon the voyage of grief. What we say at the funeral frames life and loss in the context of God’s promises, which are all “yes and amen, in Christ Jesus.”

Especially poignant is time at the graveside. In the quiet intimacy of the grave, we feel the tension between a palpable sense of finality and a nagging certainty that there is more. Andrew Peterson says it well.

This is not the end here at this grave
This is just a hole that someone made
Every hole was made to fill
And every heart can feel it still–
Our nature hates a vacuum

This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain

There is more
More than all this pain
More than all the falling down
And the getting up again
There is more
More than we can see
From our tiny vantage point
In this vast eternity
There is more.
Andrew Peterson, “More”

For the believer, death is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. There is more. The last episode of the first book of the Bible recounts two funerals. Genesis begins with “in the beginning” and ends with “in a coffin in Egypt.” God began by speaking life and beauty into the world, but man’s sinful rebellion has brought death and decay. We see the great distance man has fallen and the fruition of the curse, ‘in the day you eat of the fruit of the tree of [moral autonomy] you will surely die.” We might be tempted to find discouragement in these last words, but nothing should be further from the truth.

The famous statement of God’s sovereignty in Gen 50:20, “what you intended for evil, God meant for good” is one of grace and promise. Sin is not the last word. Grace is the last word. What man has experienced and intended for evil in his fallen, sinful rebellion, God has worked for good by sending a redeemer in the person of His Son, Jesus.

We see this explicitly in Acts 2 as Peter declares,

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

This is the great exchange in the gospel; Jesus who bore our sins, Jesus who through our evil intentions and actions, brings us good and salvation. This is the last word. Don’t let sin and death be the last word in your life, for Jesus came to give life and life to the full.

Join us for worship this Lord’s Day, October 7, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we conclude our conversations from the Book of Beginnings and consider how the God always speaks the last word, and it is a word of redeeming grace to ruined sinners. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Black Package

We all have those friends or family members who pride themselves on “speaking their mind.”  While they think it a great virtue, we find it a grievous vice.  What they really mean by “speaking their mind” is that they feel free to give unsolicited and harsh criticism.  We try to ignore their callous rudeness, but the problem is that they are often right in what they say.   I call it truth in a black package.  I once worked with a senior engineer who was our official team curmudgeon.  His unsolicited invective toward younger coworkers was always pointed but spot on.   Whenever coworkers ignored his opinions because of the black packaging, they met with disaster.  In the same way, many ignore the gospel, because it comes wrapped in the black packaging of sin and repentance, only to meet with disaster that lasts forever.

As Jacob comes to the end of his life, he gathers his sons to speak a word of blessing.  When we look at his words, however, some look more like a curse than a blessing.  They are future blessing wrapped in the black package of their past sins.  He has hard words for his sons as he reminds them of their past failures, but also points them to a gracious future through the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises by a Savior.   At emotional times like these in our own lives, we are often tempted to define ourselves by our past unfaithfulness, but here Jacob reminds his sons that they are defined by God’s future faithfulness.   Like Jacob’s hard blessings, the gospel first speaks words of conviction to us and then comforts us with words of grace.  One ancient preacher said that it is the needle of the law which draws the thread of the gospel.

Join us for worship this Lord’s Day, September 30, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine Jacob’s blessing of his sons from Genesis 49 and consider how the gospel speaks hard words of conviction and gentle words of comfort as God calls us to be his sons and daughters.   For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you there.

What in the World is Happening?

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all nations.  Within the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church one of the ways we are doing this is through the mission and ministry of World Witness.

World Witness is the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Since 1875, we have sent missionaries to Mexico and Pakistan.  Our fields have broadened to now include Chile, Germany, Latin America, Lithuania, Persian Ministry, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, theological training worldwide (MT3) and Eastern Europe.

A primary focus is the Muslim world which includes a Christian hospital in Sahiwal, Pakistan, reaching 40,000 Muslims annually, and Christian schools in Pakistan, educating 500 students annually. In addition, an Iranian satellite TV ministry is planting dozens of house churches, and in Turkey, we are planting churches.

AlexPettettOn Sunday, September 23, the director of World Witness, Alex Pettett will join us for worship to share God’s Word and the mission and vision of World Witness.  He will also be available before and after worship to answer any questions you might have about how you can be involved in this Great Commission work.

Join us for worship September 23, at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church  and see what God is doing through the work of World Witness.   For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you there.