Dying For Christ

Bulletin article to appear in May 8, 2011, bulletin:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Juan Carlos Ortiz, an evangelist in Argentina was fond of declaring as he baptized people: “I kill you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Now there are some doctrinal places where we might disagree with Mr. Ortiz, but I like this statement! There should be a distinction, sharp as a north wind in December, between the person who is plunged into the baptistery and the one who rises out again that extends beyond the location of their next place of worship! A change so fundamental is supposed to occur that the Apostle Paul calls it a “new creation altogether” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Christians are to be distinguishable from their neighbors. They are also supposed to be distinguishable now from the people they were then! The same foul attitudes and language, the same selfish actions should be disappearing. Sweet dispositions of love and service, self sacrifice and submission to whatever God has to say should be emerging.

Of course we hope for growth, but it should be emphasized, the change that Christ calls being “born again” (John 3:3,4) is the principle premise of Christianity.

Not only can we become better people, we must! God calls us to! The same old carping and criticisms, arrogance and thoughtlessness so common in the world should not be so with us!

When you were baptized, when you were “killed” in the name of Jesus Christ, who was raised? You? Or Christ?

-Stan Mitchell

There Are None So Blind …

* Buttery yellow daffodils and dogwood, redbud (which seems to me to be pink), and azaleas, like a dreamy parade, springtime in Tennessee is a wonder to behold.

* Ridged bark on a trunk as wide as an eighteen wheeler, the leaves so high above that your neck becomes stiff looking upward, the California Sequoia is the largest living organism on the planet (their relative, the California Redwood, is taller, but not larger). These giants have received hardly a drop of rain for a thousand years. How do they survive? They slake their thirst in the winter, under twenty feet of snow in their high altitude fastness.

* An elephant’s trunk is so powerful it can reach up the trunk (no pun intended) of a towering Zambezi teak tree and shake it so the sweet fruit falls to the earth. The same trunk, around eight feet in diameter near his mighty head tapers to the other end where the elephant can now pick this fruit, one by one like the deft hand of a pianist and bring the fruit to his mouth.

Everywhere we look, if we care to pay attention, there are signs of a powerful, intelligent, incomparable creator.

With typical English irony, C.S. Lewis explains: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises … God is, if I may say so, very unscrupulous.” (The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 47).

In other words, you have to be blind … in order not to see evidence of God in creation.

Paul expressed the same idea this way: “For what can be known of God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:19,20).

Note that “what can be known of God” ought to be “plain” to us. We can see in creation God’s “invisible attributes.” So powerful are these evidences that in the end, those who remain unmoved will “be without excuse.”

Your mamma was right. There are none so blind … as those who will not look.


-Stan Mitchell


Liz Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor died recently. There was a time when she was reckoned by most to the most beautiful woman on the planet. You might remember her for her role as Cleopatra, the iconically beautiful queen of Egypt.

She was best remembered, however, for being serially married, and divorced. Famously she was married eight times to seven men. These, uh, fortunate men were Nicky Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton (twice), John Warner and Larry Fortensky. She must have been very good at being married – she certainly had plenty of practice.

Movie stars have frequently taken their wedding vows a little less seriously than they should. Commentator Will Rogers once declared, “I’m not a real movie star; I’ve still got the same wife I started out with twenty-eight years ago.”

It’s not hard to get married; all one needs are some raging hormones and a Justice of the Peace. We should be more concerned with the marriage, however, than the wedding. A wedding is bright and flashy, and over in a day. Marriage is the long haul, the day-to-day living. There will be days when remaining married will take courage, selflessness and discipline.

Young people think, “If I could only get married, I would be truly happy.” Yet a person beset with problems when single usually brings those problems to the marriage. I often tell a young person, “Be choosy; you can afford to be.” The converse is true, too. “Be choosy, you can’t afford not to.”

I don’t know if Ms. Taylor ever found the love she was looking for. Sadly, had she found love in the Man from Galilee, she might have found the romantic partner with whom she could spend a lifetime too.

In many ways, her story is very sad. She was rich beyond our deepest avarice, as famous as the Beatles, but not as wise as she could have been.

So long, Liz Taylor. Had I ever spoken to you I might have told you that you were already loved, long before you tried to find it in all of those relationships; but you never returned that love.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).


-Stan Mitchell


Of Coaches and Preachers

“There’s only two kinds of coaches, those that have been fired, and those that are going to be fired” (Bum Phillips).

Bum Phillips was the colorful coach of the New Orleans Saints and Houston Oilers, and he possessed a deep well of country wit and wisdom. He had also been fired several times in his career.

I know there are some differences between gospel preachers and football coaches, but there are some similarities, too. Just for fun, allow me to draw some analogies:

* A good coach does not blame his players for a poor performance. The church wins as a “team” and loses as a “team.”

* A good coach is good at spotting talent and developing it. Even while he coaches this year’s games, he is thinking about the young player who might become the team’s key player in years to come. A preacher, too, seeks to develop and train leaders for tomorrow.

* When things go wrong, it is frequently the coach who gets fired.  That’s unfortunate because the coach misses neither shots nor tackles; I’m not suggesting a coach should never be fired … or for that matter a preacher who has moral failures or teaches false doctrine, but I think church members might look into their own hearts before reflexively blaming the preacher.

* Coaches could use some encouragement, too. There they are, clapping for the players, encouraging and comforting them. Do coaches ever get their hearts broken? Or preachers?

* Coaches can make mistakes and still be good coaches. Coaches can also get better over time. Preaching, too, is a difficult and complex task. The demands are continual; the time is urgent. Most preachers have four deadlines a week – two sermons, two Bible classes, and that is on top of hospital visitation, counseling and home Bible studies. Sooner or later, he will make a blunder.

Is it any wonder that young preachers seem like guinea pigs for the first twenty years of their careers? That is, if they make it that long.

Why is this important? Please answer this for me. Does the church need more, or fewer Gospel preachers? What about for the next generation?

This week say or write a good word for a preacher you know.

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no grounds for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).


-Stan Mitchell


A Visitor’s Impression

After visitors attend our services, does it ever make you wonder what impression was stamped on their minds?  Numerous people visit for the purpose of “checking out” our services and to examine that for which we stand.

A church newsletter mentioned a man who visited eighteen different churches on successive Sundays.  He was trying to find out what the churches were really like.  He said, “I sat near the front.  After the service, I walked slowly to the rear, then returned to the front and went back to the foyer using another aisle.  I smiled and was neatly dressed.  I asked one person to direct me to a specific place: a fellowship hall, minister’s study, etc. I remained for coffee if served. I used a scale to rate the reception I received. I awarded points on the following basis:

10 for a smile from a worshipper

10 for a greeting from someone sitting nearby

100 for an exchange of name

200 for an invitation to have coffee

200 for an invitation to return

1000 for an introduction to another worshipper

2000 for an invitation to meet the minister

On this scale, eleven of the eighteen churches earned fewer than 100 points.  Five actually received less than 20.  The conclusion: The doctrine may be Biblical, the singing inspirational, the sermon uplifting, but when a visitor finds nobody who cares whether he’s here, he is not likely to return.”

Your first response may be that this is being extreme or ridiculous, that no visitor would be so meticulous.  Maybe not, but you can be assured of the fact that they note everything. They observe from the time they initially drive by or upon the parking lot.  Impressions can be formed by their preconceived notions. They notice everything from how well the building and grounds are kept to how neat and modest the worshippers dress who are arriving.  It is very significant to visitors how warmly they are received and to just be recognized as not being a regular member.  We all make some of the same observations when visiting somewhere on vacation.  Since we do not get the “second chance to make our first impression,” we must insure that it is positive.  This is where church growth begins and every member plays a part.