Psalm 138. New Revised Standard Version.
Thanksgiving and Praise
1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
3 On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.b
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
a Cn: Heb you have exalted your word above all your name
b Syr Compare Gk Tg: Heb you made me arrogant in my soul with strength
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 138.
“When You Give To the Needy” Part 1
A Study Of Matthew 6
By G. Steve Kinnard
We find ourselves at the beginning of the holiday season. First we commemorate Thanksgiving, where we focus on our blessings. Then we celebrate Christmas, where we rejoice that God sent his Son into the world.
During this season of the year, our minds are often drawn to people who are less fortunate than us. That’s a good thing. But, as disciples of Jesus, healing the hurts of people ought not be a seasonal activity. It ought to be a daily mindset.
What does Jesus have to say about giving to the needy? There are many places to turn in the gospels to answer this question. One place to turn is the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Some would look at Matthew 6:1-4 and stop there. Jesus does teach directly on the disciple’s obligation to give to the needy in these verses. However, in Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus continues his thoughts on giving to the needy by helping us with our attitude about money, possessions, and things, and by teaching us what our focus in life should be—God’s kingdom and his righteousness. So it is best to consider these passages together, which is what I will do in this series of articles.
In his sermon, Jesus begins to define his community. He defines what it means to be his follower, his disciple. So, if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you need to know his sermon through and through, from the “Blessed are” in 5:3 to the “with a great crash” in 7:27.
What has happened up to this point in the Sermon on the Mount? In chapter 5, Jesus listed the beatitudes, compared his community with salt and light, and then redefined the law by saying, “You have heard it was said to people long ago … but now I say to you …”
In chapter 6, Jesus moves to a new topic—What does it mean to be a part of Jesus’ kingdom? Jesus focuses on three actions and two attitudes.
What are the three actions?
- Giving to the needy
What are the two attitudes?
- An attitude of caution toward money, possessions, and things.
- An attitude of single-minded focus on God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
I think it is safe to say that within evangelical “Christianity” most churches only teach about two of these five aspects of discipleship. Most churches teach about prayer. And, it has become popular recently in churches to teach about giving to the needy.
The most neglected practice of evangelicals would be fasting. When is the last time you heard a sermon or a lesson on fasting? Also, the Christian perspective toward money and material possessions is rarely discussed. Some churches stress the need for a single-minded focus on God’s kingdom and his righteousness, but I wouldn’t say the majority of evangelical churches make this their focus.
Yet, Jesus did not distinguish between these actions and attitudes in his sermon. He expected his followers to practice giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. He also expected his disciples to show the proper caution toward money, possessions, and things, and to have a singular focus on his kingdom and righteousness. This demonstrates how modern “Christianity” has gotten away from following the teachings of Jesus. We must be careful to continue to explore the teachings of Jesus and practice what he taught.
These five expectations of Matthew 6 are “kingdom” expectations. Jesus meant for them to be practiced by his followers in the first century and in the twenty-first century. Although we live in a different culture from first-century disciples, our hearts should be the same as first-century disciples. In this way, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world just like they were. Jesus expects us to be different from the world and different from other religious people. He expects his community to be unique.
Jesus doesn’t want us to play church. He doesn’t want us to be another denomination that looks nothing like the church of the Bible. He calls us to be his “kingdom” people and to live distinctly and differently from the world and from denominational churches. How can we do that? By practicing these three acts and two attitudes.
In this article, we will focus on action 1. Why? Because I’m attempting to answer the question—What does Jesus have to say about giving to the needy? (If you want a more detailed discussion of prayer and fasting, please see my book, The Way of the Heart of Jesus, The Inward Journey.)
Let’s begin with Matthew 6:1-4,
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Verse 1 is an important verse because it prefaces everything that follows concerning giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. Jesus says we must practice our righteousness not to be seen by others. Instead, there should be a distinct attribute of anonymity when we give, fast, or pray.
What is our secret life like? What do we do in secret?
What we do in secret is revealing. Do we shop in secret, not wishing to reveal to our spouses what we are spending our money on? Do we eat in secret, now wanting others to know the decadent calories we are consuming? Do we log onto the computer in secret, not wanting our spouse to know what we are viewing on the Internet? Do we drink in secret? Do we binge in secret?
Jesus says there are three acts of righteousness we ought to do in secret—give to the needy, pray, and fast. Do we give to the less fortunate and make sure we don’t broadcast it to anyone? Do we sneak away to pray? Do we fast without talking about it? What is our secret life like? What we do in secret says much about who we are and what our character is like.
In verses 2-4, there are at least three points we can learn about giving to the needy from these verses.
First, notice that Jesus begins with “So when you give to the needy.” Jesus does not command his disciples to give to the needy; he expects them to. Jesus expects his followers to practice certain acts of righteousness—giving, praying, and fasting. Jesus expects us to give to the needy.
Many of you know that my Dad passed in September. God blessed me with a wonderful Dad. He seldom commanded me to do anything. Instead, he taught me what was expected of me in our family and in life. He expected me to respect Jesus, my Mom, my teachers, and my coaches. He expected me to go to church with him and the family every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. He expected me to work hard and be responsible. And I did all those things because he was my Dad, and he loved me and I love him.
Jesus expects us to have a heart for the poor and to give to the needy. It’s who he was, and since it’s who he was, he expects his followers to be like him.
Second, Jesus expects his disciples to practice these acts in secrecy, not with trumpet blasts and huge fanfare, but in a clandestine manner, so that God alone knows who is giving to the needy, praying, and fasting.
How secretly? So covertly that your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing. This is a great image. It’s a radical image. It is physically impossible for the left hand not to know what the right is doing. The brain keeps track of both appendages. Jesus is not speaking literally here. He is painting an image that makes the hearer (or the reader) stop and think. So take a moment and reflect on this—Do you give to the needy, pray, and fast to be seen by people? Or, do you do your acts of righteousness in secret?
Please allow me to use my Dad for another illustration. My Dad wasn’t rich. As a child, I would overhear my Mom and Dad discussion finances, and I would get concerned. I would ask for things, like a new pair of shoes, and my Mom would say “What’s wrong with your old shoes?” What she meant was, “There’s nothing wrong with you old shoes so don’t ask for new shoes.” Sometime she would add, “We can’t afford new shoes.” So, I got a job to save up to buy some new shoes. So there were underlying financial concerns in our family. But every Sunday at church, when the contribution plate was passed, my Dad would drop a check into the plate.
Quite often I would ask Dad, “How much did you give?” He always gave me the same answer, “Steve, the Bible says the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing.”
I’d reply, “Dad, I don’t get that. How can your left hand not know what your right is doing?”
He would answer, “It is Jesus’ way of saying that what you give is between you and God. What we give, we give in secret. So I’m keeping what I give between me and God.”
That was that. At least for that Sunday. The next Sunday I’d ask the same question and get the same answer. I never knew how much my Dad gave, but I did know that whatever he gave, we couldn’t afford it. His gift was a sacrifice. Which is what giving should be.
Third, Jesus speaks specifically of “giving to the needy.” The word is eleemosyne. It is based on eleos, which means “mercy.” Rudolf Bultmann notes, “In the NT ἐλεημοσύνη (eleemosyne) is found only in the sense of ‘benevolent activity,’ and always to the poor (‘almsgiving’).” So it is clear what Jesus meant here. He meant for his disciples to help the poor.
Sometimes we lose sight of the poor. That’s easy to do because the poor tend to get marginalized in our society. Allow me to share with you the words of a welfare Mother in Tennessee. Her words will help us see what it means to be poor.
Written by a welfare mother in Tennessee
You say you want to know what it’s like to be poor? Well, you’ve come to the right person. But you won’t enjoy my definition. …
I’m dirty. I’m smelly. And I have no proper underwear beneath this rotting dress. I don’t know about you, but the stench of my teeth makes me half sick. They’re decaying but they’ll never be fixed. That takes money. …
Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirty and illness-stained mattress—a hard, lumpy mattress. Sheets? They have long since been used for diapers, for there are no real diapers here, either.
That smell? That “other” smell? You know what it is—that, plus sour milk and spoiled food. Sometimes it’s mixed with the stench of onions cooked too often. Onions are cheap. …
Poverty is being tired—dog tired all the time. I can’t remember when I wasn’t tired. When my last baby came, they told me at the hospital that I had chronic anemia caused by a poor diet, a bad case of worms, and the need for a corrective operation. …
Poverty is dirt. You may say, in your clean clothes and coming from your clean house, “Anybody can be clean.” Let me explain housekeeping with no money. For breakfast, I give my children grits with no margarine, or cornbread made without eggs or oleo. For one thing, that kind of food doesn’t use up many dishes. What dishes there are, I wash in cold water. No soap. Even the cheapest soap has to be saved for washing the old sheets I use for the baby’s diapers.
Look at these cracked, red hands. Once I saved up for two months to buy a jar of Vaseline for my hands and for the baby’s diaper rash. When I had the money and went to buy the Vaseline, the price had gone up two cents, and I didn’t have another two cents. Every day I have to decide whether I can bear to put these cracked, sore hands into that cold water and strong soap. Why don’t I use hot water? It takes money to get something with which to heat it. Hot water is a luxury. We don’t have luxuries.
Poverty is asking for help. Have you ever had to swallow what pride you had left and ask for help, knowing your children will suffer more if you don’t get it? …
Poverty is looking into a future devoid of hope. Your children wouldn’t play with my children; you wouldn’t allow it. My boys will someday turn into boys who steal to get what they need. I can already see them behind prison bars. … My daughter? She’ll have a life just like mine, unless she’s pretty enough to become a prostitute. I’d be smart to wish her dead already. …
Poverty is an acid that eats into pride until pride is burned out. It is a chisel that chips at honor until honor is pulverized. You might do something if you were in my situation—for a week or a month. Would you do it year after year, getting nowhere, going nowhere? … I did not come from another place, and I did not come from another time. I’m here now, and there are others like me all around you.
Helping the needy should be a characteristic of disciples of Jesus. As Jesus had a heart for the poor, his followers ought to have a heart for the poor. Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider state, “Jesus speaks in vv. 2–4 of almsgiving in order to characterize the disciple’s true piety. What is decisive is sincerity of intention expressing itself in the spontaneity of the good deed not done for the sake of theatrical effect.” Notice he mixes the concepts intentionality and spontaneity together. This idea is expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:9-10, “9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Paul mixes, “As we have opportunity,” spontaneity, with “do good to all people,” intentionality.
With intentional spontaneity, Jesus met the needs of the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, and the demonized. In Mark 1, the whole town of Capernaum showed up at Peter’s house with their sick family members, and Jesus healed them. In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus fed five thousand hungry people who were following him and listening to his teachings. In Mark 8, Jesus fed four thousand. When John the Baptist was in prison, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the true Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell John, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22, ESV).
Jesus was known for his compassionate heart. Jesus gave to the needy. That’s who he was. And, he expects his followers to be like him.
So, as we enter this Thanksgiving/Christmas season, let’s be grateful for everything that God has given us, and let’s make sure we give to those who are less fortunate. But let’s also remember, the expectation to give to the needy is not a seasonal expectation for those who follow Jesus. Jesus expects his followers to spontaneously and intentionally meet the needs of those who are needy throughout the year. Perhaps the Thanksgiving/Christmas season should be looked at as a good time to double up on our giving to the poor. Then, throughout the rest of the year, we can look for opportunities to give to those who are less fortunate.
 The full title is The Way of the Heart of Jesus. The Inward Journey: Prayer, Fasting, Meditation, Bible Study. It can be purchased through Illumination Publishers at 832-559-3658 or http://www.ipibooks.com.
 Rudolf Bultmann, “Ἔλεος, Ἐλεέω, Ἐλεήμων, Ἐλεημοσύνη, Ἀνέλεος, Ἀνελεήμων,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 486.
“Poverty” was written by a welfare mother in Tennessee. It is quoted by C. E. Jackson in Stan Mooneyham, What Do You Say to a Hungry World? in Christian Herald, January 1968. It can also be found in G. Steve Kinnard’s Jesus and the Poor.
Be a Good Fish
The Parable of the Dragnet, Matthew 13:47-50
by Dr. G. Steve Kinnard
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and all kinds of fish were gathered into it. 48After it was full, the fishermen pulled it onto shore. They sat down sorting the fish–keeping the good and throwing away the bad. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and gather the wicked from the righteous 50casting the wicked into the furnace of fire. Where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
The parable of the dragnet is also a parable about the end of time. Unlike the parable of the wheat and weeds, which precede it in Matthew’s gospel, it does not focus on good and evil existing side by side (although that is inferred from the parable). It contains the same lesson as the parable of the weeds among the wheat—at the end of time God will separate good from evil. So choose to be good.
The parable is short and simple. A net is thrown into the sea and it gathers all types of fish. This is the common dragnet, which was used in the first century and is still used today. The net doesn’t discern what it catches. It catches anything within its reach. As the net is pulled to shore, it becomes full of fish. Once on shore, the fishermen begin to look through the net and separate the good fish from the bad. They keep the good and throw away the bad.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he is talking about judgment at the end of days. In verse 49 he says, “This is how it will be at the end of the age.” At the end of the age, angels will appear. They will separate the wicked from the righteous. The wicked will be cast into a furnace of fire. The righteous will escape the flames.
In this short parable, Jesus continues to explain what will occur at the end of time. The Jews were very confused over what was going to transpire at the end of time. One group, the Sadducees, believed there was no resurrection. They believed that after you died, you were dead and gone. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but there was much discussion among this sect as to what was going to happen at the resurrection. Jesus wanted to take the confusion away, so he spoke often about the end of time.
Jesus is very clear on what will happen to the wicked. They will be cast into the fiery furnace. Will they feel pain as they enter this place of torment? Yes, there will much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus makes it clear that hell is a place of pain and torment, a place to be avoided at all costs. Although we are not given quite as dramatic a picture of hell as Dante gives in his Inferno, Jesus gives us a clear enough picture to let us know that we don’t want to be bad fish.
There isn’t much worse in life than bad fish. They aren’t edible. They stink. They make everything around them stink. You can use them for fertilizer, but the smell of fish fertilizer destroys your day; and if you are around the putrid smell long enough, it will destroy your olfactory nerves. I’m not sure that Febreze can handle the smell of rotting fish. Bad fish are, well, for lack of a better word, BAD.
The other night my family was in New York City enjoying a nice birthday dinner for our daughter by marriage, Corinne. We all met at Union Square Park. There were six adults and two grandkids.
–My favorite picture of our daughter by marriage, Corinne, and our grandson, Bradley
It was a crisp November night, cold, but not freezing. The buildings were bright. The lights were sparkling. The Christmas season had begun, and NYC at Christmas is magical.
Our meal was fantastic. We enjoyed amazing ramen noodles and pork buns at a restaurant just off of 14th Street, and then we went to Max Brenner for dinner. Yes, it’s true, Max Brenner makes chocolate pizza. My son by marriage, Rob got some. It’s fantastic when you can end a birthday celebration with chocolate.
The only problem was the walk back to our van. We parked on Thirteenth St. between 5th and 6th. The next day, Monday, was garbage pickup day in that neighborhood. So in the early evening on Sunday, everyone started lining the sidewalks with their bags of garbage. It’s amazing how much garbage can come from one New York City apartment building.
As we reached the van, we had to wait a few minutes to get the grandchildren situated. In those few brief minutes, we were stifled by the smell of rotting fish. There must have been a garbage bag filled with discarded fish, and it stank to high heaven. There isn’t much worse in life than the smell of bad, stinky fish. We couldn’t get away from the reek of bad fish quickly enough.
The moral of that story is the same as the lesson from the parable—Don’t be a bad fish. Be a good fish.
And, how do you become a good fish? Imitate Jesus. Love him. Study him. Learn from him. Think like him. Act like him. Be him.
Imitating Jesus is always the right choice to make in life. And by making that choice, you prepare your heart for the next life.
So, be a good fish. Be like Jesus.
Glen Edward Kinnard
My Dad passed in September. I shared the following at his funeral:
My Dad was my hero. I loved him beyond words. But I want to try to find a few words to honor him.
Dad loved God, his wife, his boys, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He loved the Graymere church, Maury County, golf, football, and Cracker Barrel.
Dad loved to talk and tell his stories. And retell his stories. And retell his stories. He loved people. He was generally positive and upbeat. He rarely complained. He expressed his gratitude for others. To me, he was easy to be around.
Dad loved his mom, Carrie Mae, his dad, Horace, and his little sister, Ruth. He was a family man.
He loved growing up in Columbia, Tennessee.
My Dad was a great athlete. He loved playing football. Once he kicked a 72 yard punt. Bill, Mike, and Doug, my brothers, got those football genes. Dad could crush a golf ball. I loved going to the range and watch his drives sail through the night air. Dad won local golf tournaments. I think Mike and his children got those golf genes.
When his boys were young, Dad gave up golf to be at church with his boys. He also stopped smoking. He chewed on toothpicks most of his life to overcome the habit. I used to chew on toothpicks, not because I smoked, but because that’s what dad did.
He was part of “the greatest generation,” a generation known for hard work and sacrifice. Because of a knee injury playing football, he didn’t have to fight in WW II, but he signed up anyway. He joined the Marines. He shipped out from San Diego to the Pacific on the James K. Polk. Dad said he laughed when he walked up to the ship and saw its name, because he grew up around the corner from the James K. Polk home in Columbia. He re-injured his knee in the Marines. Not while fighting, but while playing football on a navy carrier. He used to love wearing his Marine cap around Columbia. Strangers walked up to him and thanked him for his service.
My Dad’s WWII Marine Uniform
Dad loved my Mom. He adored her. He’d come home at the end of the day and give her a kiss and ask her about her day. He expressed gratitude for her cooking, for her house work, and for her watching the boys during the day. He often did the dishes. I never saw Mom and him fight or argue.
When Mom passed, I wasn’t sure how he’d do. But he did okay. He passed his love for Mom onto his grandchildren. He attended their sporting events, often sitting away from the stands in his car because his knee wouldn’t allow him to climb the steps of the stands. When we talked he’d tell me about how each grandchild was doing at their sport. He loved bragging about his grandkids.
He loved his boys. Everything was about his boys. He’d say-I sure have four fine boys. He’d add-and each of them have fine wives. He loved our wives. My wife, Leigh, called him by his nickname, Slick. She loved my dad as if he were her dad. She’d listen to his stories. He said he picked her out for me on one of his trips to Freed-Hardeman College. He probably did. He always wanted the best for his boys.
He could tell stories. One story was about how he met his wife, Anne. Which would lead to another sorry and another story, but somehow Dad would end up where he began-And that’s how I met your mother. Like a perfect circle. I was always amazed at how he did that.
My Dad worked hard all his life. He was a cobbler. He repaired shoes. He and my Uncle George owned Champion Shoe Shop, a short walk from here. He worked from 7:00 to 5:30 six days a week. That’s over sixty hours every week. He stood on his feet most of the day and hammered heels on shoes and boots. One of his favorite lines was, “I fixed more soles (souls) than any preacher in Muary County.”
My Dad’s work hammer. Notice the groove in the wooden handle that was caused by years of years of Dad hammering on shoes.
He gave me his hammer. He used it so long, his thumb wore a groove into the wood. This is how he provided for his family–hammering on shoes one tap at at a time until over time he had worn a groove into the wooden handle of his hammer.
I loved going to work with my Dad. I still love the smell of leather. I’d wake up early to drive to work with him. He’d wake me up around 6:30. Every morning my Dad would sit at the kitchen table, eat a bowl of all-bran cereal, and read his Bible and go over his Sunday school lesson. I’d sit opposite him eating Coco Puffs and stare off into space. He never pressured me to read the Bible with him. He simple set the example. And without saying a word, Dad taught me the importance of Bible study.
My Dad took one week off of work each year for vacation. Five days a year. For his one-week summer vacation he volunteered to be a counsellor at Maury Christian Bible Camp. This was not an easy way to spend one’s summer vacation. My Dad would sleep in a bunk inside a cabin in the heat and humidity of the Tennessee summer watching over ten to twelve adolescent or pre-adolescent boys who were out-of-control. I know because I was was of those kids. So were by brothers. My Dad volunteered for camp because he wanted his boys to go to church camp, and he wanted to be with them at church camp.
When we were cub scouts, Dad became the Scout Master. When we joined little league, dad became the Official Scorekeeper. This was one way that he could be there for all our games.
When I was just old enough to read, I went on evangelistic Bible studies with Dad. My Dad was the personal work deacon at church. That means he set up Bible studies with people. When he did those studies, I’d tag along.
My Dad showed Jules Miller filmstrips to teach the Bible. My job was simple. When it was time to advance study, I’d turn the film strip. My Dad also used Mid McKnight’s Bible charts to teach people. My job with the Bible charts was a bit more challenging. While Dad was explaining a verse, I would look up the next verse and be ready to read it. Since I could barely read, this was a tough job. During those years of partnering with my Dad in these Bible studies, I learned my way around the Bible. I also learned to love the lost. My Dad taught me by example.
I want to express my gratitude to my brother Bill. If Dad were here he’d say, “Bill has taken good care of me.” I never talked to Dad when he didn’t say that. Bill has been amazing. Dad had to wear tight, knee-high leggings to help the circulation in his legs. Bill went over to my Dad’s house ever morning to put on those socks, and he went over ever night to take them off. He bought dad his groceries, took him to the doctor, and paid his bills.
Bill’s one of the good guys. He was not only a good son to my Dad, he was also a good friend.
My daughter wrote this about her Grandpa Glen, “I have always dreaded this day and teared up just thinking about it. Grandpa Glen was so special to me. He was always my favorite grandparent because he was just such a special man. I loved his gentle-spirit, his deep love for his family (especially his wife), his love and devotion to God, and his service to those around him. He was such an inspiration. I wish he could have met my boys.”
I’m so grateful that I arrived back home in time to say goodbye to Dad. I told him I loved him. He said, “I love you, too.” I’ll cling to that last “I love you, too” for the rest of my life. I expressed my gratitude to him for all his sacrifice over the years. I was there when he slipped away to be with God. It was so peaceful.
My Dad used to ask, “When you coming to see me?” I’d usually answer, “I don’t know dad, but when I get a chance, I’ll come.” I can hear him now, “When you coming to see me?”
“I don’t know Dad. But get my room ready. Someday soon I’ll be there. And I’ll sit and listen while you tell your stories. And we will hit some golf balls and throw the football.”
I always planned on making it to heaven. Now I have extra incentive to get there.
“I love you Dad. I’ll see you when I can.”
A few of my Dad’s items: From left to right beginning with the back row, Graymere Tournament golf trophy, 8mm camera he used to film Christmas mornings, his picture above my Mom’s Bible, his Marine Corp belt, a shoe stretcher from his shop, my Mom’s measuring spoons, his Long Rifle award from the Boy Scouts of America, his cobbler’s hammer, and a private’s strip from the Marines.
A Bible Talk for Athletes (and everyone else)
Name someone who has been a great teammate to you.
I think of a couple of guys. These men help me lead a student athletes’ Bible discussion. The first is Mike Santory. Mike is a committed disciple who loves people. Mike loves to study the Bible with people. He will often start studies with people, and then he’ll call me in to get involved. So we collaborate well in that way. Mike is a busy guy. He has a job as a fitness and conditioning coach, and he is married and has a couple of college-age children. But he makes time for students, and I appreciate the work he is doing on campus.
Then there is Scott Muscat, who is the head coach of the Saint Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) baseball team. Scott is a super busy guy. He teaches history in high school. Manages a team that finished third in the nation last year among Division II schools. And he is married with three children. That means he has a lot on his plate. But he had this idea for a Bible discussion for student athletes, he gets this room for us, and he’s here participating. He is a great example of commitment and discipleship.
Coach Scott Muscat (right) with Hall of Fame Pitcher John Smoltz
Did any of you watch the US Open Tennis Championship in August of 2017? Sloan Stevens won the women’s championship and Rafa Nadal won the men’s. When they were interviewed, they both thanked their team. These were individual trophies they hoisted into the air, but they still talked about their team. Why is that?
What are some of the positions on a team, and why is that position important?
- Coaches. Various coaches. ****In college football they had gotten serious about coaches being on the field. They will flag a coach for stepping too far on the field. I noticed in college football there are people who are assigned to keep other coaches off the field. The defensive coordinator for Clemson is very passionate. He constantly approaches the field to coach up his players. There is a big guy who stands behind this coach. When the coach is about to step on the field, this assistant coach will put his arms around the coach and pull him back. That’s his job.
- Team leaders. Team captains. Senior leadership. Quiet leaders who lead by example.
- Utility players. They play many positions and are ready to play when their number is called.
- Strength and conditioning coaches. Coach Santory. He loves torturing athletes.
- Team sponsors. It cost money to play sports. Someone plays for the field time, for the buses, for the equipment.
- The water person. The equipment person. **I went to a middle school football game and the water boy was there working hard on the sideline. I thought, What an inglorious job. But someone has to do it.
Watch the YouTube video-The Power of Good Teamwork. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd8y2Lvxmo4
- What did that video demonstrate about teamwork?
- When you work together as a team, you can defeat a bigger, more intimidating opponent who isn’t working with a team.
- Also, teams still need leadership. With the ants, one of the ants had to help the team get organized.
- How important is teamwork to success in sports?
- What are the most important ingredients of teamwork?
- Everyone must know their role and do their job.
- You must keep ego out of the picture. “No ‘I’ in team.”
- Teammates encourage each other.
3. Let’s look at a passage about Jesus. Let’s look at Mark 2:1-12.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
- Vs. 1. What is the first thing we see about Jesus in this passage? He came home to Capernaum.
The text says Jesus came home to Capernaum. Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem. Where was Jesus raised? Nazareth. But during his ministry, Capernaum was home.
Capernaum was a fishing village in Galilee. It was Jesus’ base in his
northern ministry. Jesus came home. He had a team. Who made up the
team of Jesus?
- His disciples,
- the women who supported his ministry,
- his followers.
- You could even say the Father and the Holy Spirit. These three have been teammates for all of eternity.
- If Jesus had a team, then certainly we need a team.
- Vss. 2-5. Where do you see teamwork happening in this story?
The friends of the paralytic. What do you notice about these guys?
What attributes do you appreciate in a good teammate? Or a good friend?
*Someone who will tell you the truth. –I called Phil Garrison today because I needed someone to tell me the truth.
*Someone who will encourage you when you are down. –I had lunch with Don Hanson. Talked to Ryan Erbe on the phone.
- Vss. 6-12. Who were these “teachers of the law” and what were they doing in the story?
***They were critics. Negative voices.
Even when you do something really positive, people will still be negative. You need to do your best to keep negative voices out of your head.
4. What are some of the negative voices we hear spiritually?
*You can’t do this.
*You’ll never grow. You’ll never change.
*This is too difficult. Being a follower of Jesus is challenging. But why would you back down from a challenge?
*I don’t know enough Bible to make a solid, spiritual decision. This might be the case right now, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Read the word. Learn what the Bible says.
5. How did Jesus react to these negative voices?
He called them out. Verse 8 reads, “Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’”
Jesus says, “What’s up with you guys?” He doesn’t allow their negativity to keep him from doing what is right.
***In the martial arts, one of the aspects of our school was that it was so positive. Negativity had to be checked at the door. “I can’t” became “Yes I can!”
You can’t control how people are around you, but you can control your reaction to negativity.
- Be a good teammate. What is your role on the team? A great role is to be an encourager, the person who lifts the spirit of the team.
- Build a life team around you who will encourage you to grow to reach your full potential.
3. Be positive. Stay positive. Expel voices of negativity.
4. You can be your best for God, for others, and for yourself. Decide that you will be your best.
The Shaolin Athlete by Sifu Karl Romain and Dr. G. Steve Kinnard
The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
October 31, 2017
By G. Steve Kinnard
Toward the end of the second Star Trek movie,The Wrath of Khan [spoiler alert], Spock, who is about expose himself to lethal doses of radiation in order to save the Enterprise and her crew, incapacitates Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy’s with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Spock then does a Vulcan mind meld with McCoy and places his spirit (his katra) inside McCoy. Spock says one word to McCoy during this Vulcan ritual, “Remember.”
Our memories make us who we are. When our memories begin to fade, we don’t recognize the world around us and we stop growing. When we are able to reflect on our memories, then we can learn from our wise and unwise choices in life and become better people.
On October 31st (Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve) many people in the US, if not most, will don costumes, parade around their neighborhoods, knock on doors, and say, “Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat” with the expectation that their neighbors will open their doors, and hand them candy. The day will come and go without many, if not most, realizing that October 31st is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. They will fail to remember a seminal event in human history that happened half a millennium earlier on All Hallows Eve in 1517.
This was the day when Luther nailed (or perhaps glued) a handwritten document his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther wrote against the Catholic Church and its sale of indulgences. Luther never planned on starting a revolution. He simply wanted to discuss grievances against the sale of indulgences with the hierarchy of the Church of Rome. (An indulgence was a pardon from sin granted by the pope for both sins in the past and in the future. A person could also buy an indulgence to release a deceased family member’s soul from purgatory. Indulgences were sold to fund the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.)
Martin Luther, posting his 95 Theses
Luther wrote his document in Latin. He meant for other priests to read his grievances and discuss them. But someone translated his 95 Theses into German. Then, because of the invention of the printing press in 1450, publishers printed Luther’s complaints, and they spread across Germany and his voice of protest against the sale of indulgences swept across Europe.
Luther has become a fabled character in church history. There is much to appreciate about him and much to learn from him. As far as historical figures go, he’s one of my personal favorites. He kinda like the Batman of church history. He was courageous, bold, learned, and earthy (but not Batman rich).
What do I appreciate about Luther and what can we learn from him?
First, Luther was a student of God’s Word. He believed that the authority of Scripture was primary over the authority of the church. He was a student of the Word. He had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. When he was in exile in the Wartburg Castle, he translated the New Testament from Greek to German in about nine months. His believed regular people, not just the religious hierarchy, ought to be able to read the Bible in their common language. He was an expert on the Book of Psalms and the book of Romans. In fact, his preface to Romans led to the conversion of John Wesley who shaped the face of the Methodist church and thus framed the portrait of the American frontier some 250 years after Luther.
Second, Luther stood against hypocrisy and corruption in the church. Luther went to Rome in his early twenties to visit the center of Catholicism. Early in his visit, Luther became disillusioned with the Catholic church, especially with the papacy and the priesthood. Luther himself was a priest. When he said mass to a congregation, he proceeded slowly through the ritual to allow the congregants to meditate and focus. The priests of Rome hurried through the mass to move as many people through their services as possible. Local priests criticized Luther for taking so long in mass. They pushed him to speed up the mass. Luther did not agree with their criticism.
When Luther went to confessional, he liked to mention any and every sin that came to mind, no matter how big or small. The first time he said a confession after becoming a priest, Luther confessed his sins for six hours. The priests in Rome did not want to take time to listen to such long confessions. Luther was criticized for the amount of time he spent in the confessional.
Luther observed the lives of the priests of Rome. They had taken the vow of chastity, yet some had families on the side. They had taken the vow of poverty, yet some had accrued wealth and lived in luxurious apartments. Some simply went through the motions of being a priest, but their hearts were not engaged. Luther was offended by the attitude and lifestyle of these priests.
Luther left Rome with a heavy heart. He tended toward depression, and his experience in Rome exacerbated his dark, heavy mood (like Batman). He decided he would speak against what he saw in Rome. This would make him an enemy of the pope. Luther was okay with that. He decided that someone had to take a stand against the corruption of the papacy. Luther would be that person.
Third, after studying the book of Romans, Luther elevated and appreciated the role of faith in salvation to heights that had not been seen in over a millennium. Luther protested against the works-righteous approach to salvation of the Catholic Church. Luther believed that salvation was by faith alone, and works proceeded from an appreciation of salvation. In 1532, Luther wrote,
“At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed,’ as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was all together born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” (From Luther’s Works, Vol 34, p. 337 as found in Eric Metaxas’s Martin Luther.)
Luther allowed the phrase “the righteous shall live by faith” to fuel his church work, his writings, and his personal choices. He believed that righteous acts and a righteous life must proceed from faith.
I don’t believe Luther perfectly understood the connection of faith and works. I’m not sure I understand that connection perfectly either. I am grateful that Luther struggled to counteract the human tendency toward legalism and works-righteousness by emphasizing the role of faith in the life of a Christian. I personally need to be reminded that my actions need to be centered in proper motivation. And that my motivation ought to be to please God and to make him happy. I need to remember Paul’s word, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Am I a faithful person? Does faith proceed my actions? Am I guided by faith to live a righteous life? How can I increase my faith? These are questions I need to consider.
Fourth, Luther believed he was engaged in a spiritual battle against the devil and his minions. Legend states that while Luther was in exile in the Wartburg Castle (living under the alias of Junker George (kinda like Bruce Wayne had the alias of Batman) he threw his ink well at the devil. Tour guides point out ink stains on the walls of his one-room study. The stains don’t date back to the time of Luther, so it is unlikely that Luther literally threw ink at the devil. But Luther did throw many uncharitable epitaphs at the devil with ink on paper. He believed the devil was real and the devil was after his soul. He believed this because the Bible said it. Luther believed Paul admonition in Ephesians 6:11-12 to, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The Wartburg Castle
In our modern, humanistic society, it is easy to shrink back from this language. That’s a mistake. Luther knew he was in a battle against the accuser of humanity. He knew it because the Bible said it. He also knew that God had equipped him through Jesus to fight against satan and his demons. Luther wrote, “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know one who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!'” To that, I simply add, “Amen.”
Fifth, Luther loved his wife and his family. Later in his life, Luther became a family man. He never planned on marriage. As a priest, he was married to the church. But after he was excommunicated, he helped liberate a dozen nuns from the Nimbschen convent. He helped find husbands for many of these nuns. And, he fell in love with one of the nuns named Katherine. Luther called her, Kate. They had several children, and Luther relished in his married life and his family.
Luther said many great quips about marriage. One was, “It is impossible to keep peace between man and woman in family life if they do not condone and overlook each other’s faults but watch everything to the smallest point. For who does not at times offend? Thus many things must be overlooked; very many things must be ignored that a peaceful relation may exist.” Well said, Martin.
Sixth, Luther was a prolific writer. During his most productive period, the outcome of his written efforts equaled a book every fortnight. That’s unbelievable, but true. He wrote over 100 books. Phenomenal. And he never got paid for a single page. This was before the day of copyrights. Printers got rich publishing Luther’s works, but Luther didn’t. Luther believed in the power of The Word, and thus published many works elucidating The Word of God.
Luther wrote hymns. He believed in the power of music to move the soul. His most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” I love that hymn. It is majestic.
Luther wrote, “The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God….Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.”
Seventh, Luther was not perfect, and he knew it. No human is perfect, therefore, we should never deify leaders. Luther knew the pope and church councils had made mistakes. Therefore, he did not put his faith in the pope or councils. And, Luther did not want anyone to put their faith in him.
Luther drank too much, ate too much, and cursed too much. On drinking beer, Luther wrote, “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” Luther was earthy. Perhaps earthy to a fault.
Luther picked intellectual fights with people like the reformer Ulrich Zwingli (another personal favorite of mine). He wrote disparaging epitaphs about his enemies, like the Pope Leo X, Johannes Tetzel, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and any and every Anabaptists within throwing distance. When you read Luther, it is as if he has the attitude, “I’m right; you’re wrong; so away with you.” He was crude and brutal in this way (like Batman).
Luther committed egregious errors. Later in his life, Luther wrote anti-Semitic rants that Hitler and other Nazi officials would use 450 years later to fuel their persecution and desired eradication of the Jewish people in Germany, Poland, and Europe. He also sided with the German nobility during the Peasant Revolts in Germany, and called on rulers to wipe out the peasants by any means necessary.
Luther was unable to reconcile the Epistle of James with his own view of faith and works, so he called James’ letter “a strawy epistle” and stuck in the back of his Bible. This was an overreaction to the works-based religion of the Catholic Church. By doing this, Luther picked and chose one passage of Scripture over another and in essence produced his own canon of Scripture. This hermeneutic has plagued the Reformation Movement throughout history down to today.
Luther’s followers founded the Lutheran church in Germany. The Lutheran church would become the state church of Germany. This led to Protestant denominations cropping up all over Europe. Calvinism rose up in Geneva. The Anglican church became the state Church of England with Henry VIII as sovereign. The Church of Scotland with John Knox as its leader became, well, THE Church of Scotland. Catholic leaders criticized this obvious lack of unity among Reformation leaders and Reformation churches. It was and is a valid criticism. In the early 1800s in the United States, Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell cited this disunity among the reformers as a reason to restore New Testament Christianity, and thus the Restoration Movement began.
Barton W. Stone
So, Luther wasn’t perfect. But who is? However, he stood up and spoke out against the failings of Catholicism. He stood against the powers that be to expose the wrongs of the sale of indulgences and the corruption of the Catholic hierarchy. Luther did this at his own peril. He never expected to live into his sixties. And if the Catholic officers could have gotten their hands on him, he wouldn’t have lived to be married, have children, and see those children grow.
Luther never planned on starting a revolution that would spread across the Western world. He had a conviction that what was happening in the world around him wasn’t right, and someone ought to do something about it (like Batman). He wanted to discuss a set of grievances that he had against the Catholic Church, and he would not be silenced. This led him to ignite the fire of the Protestant Reformation.
Remember the best of Luther. Remember the worst of Luther.
Who will be like Luther in the twenty-first century? Who will be like Luther in the modern church? Who will step out on biblical conviction and ask hard questions that will lead to revival in the church? Who will allow the Holy Spirit to lead them on a quest to restore Jesus’ ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing? Who will stand against the policies of evil that continue to devastate the lives of countless innocents around the world? Who will “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God”? Who will stand against violence, racism, hatred, and injustice? Who will lead the way in planting churches in areas of the world where Christianity is not only unwelcome but is looked upon as the enemy? Who will rise up and lead others to rise up and change the current landscape of the modern church?
Who will remember? And who will build on the memories of history and go out and write another chapter of history, a new Holy Spirit-driven and Jesus-centered chapter of history for God and his church?
Copyright © 2017 by G. Steve Kinnard
For further reading:
Patrick Collinson, The Reformation: A History, Modern Library, 2003.
Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, Viking Press, 2017.