Pope Francis The Simplicity of Faith While Traveling in a Little Fiat

In choosing to ride in a little Fiat instead of a fancy limousine. Pope Francis reminded Americans and the world of the simplicity of faith.

In choosing to ride in a little Fiat instead of a fancy limousine. Pope Francis reminded Americans and the world of the simplicity of faith.

Sometimes we make faith so complicated that no one can understand it.

However, a complicated faith is not God’s intent. Put simply, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

The words of Scripture are filled with simple words and concepts that are so deep that theologians spend a lifetime in study trying to understand them, but so simple that even a child can comprehend them.

Therefore, our tasks as Christians is not to be fooled by those who will try to over complicate our faith.

Distorting the faith with requirements of status, grandeur and outright lies about everything from how to be saved to how the faithful should give of their money, time and talents.

As Paul reminds us in Second Corinthians 11:3 “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

Pope Francis, in his visit to the United States, as he has during his papacy, is stressing the humanity, the humility and the simplicity of Christ.

He is calling Christians in this consumer driven, unfeatured capitalistic American society to do the same.

The Pope is calling on us as Jesus told us in Matthew 6:19-21  to break the yoke of materialism.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

While many may view the Pope riding around in Fiat as a potential financial blessing for the car company.

The real blessings belongs to us.

For in every mile driven in that Fiat, the Pope emulates Jesus.

Demonstrating that our faith is not about elaborate theology, mega churches, airplanes for the pastor, or luxury cars.

Rather our faith is simply the belief that God sent His own son to be born in a manger.  And that through Jesus, life teachings and death, we are bound to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Living a life of simple abundance, not of material things, but of an abundance of carrying for the orphan, the lame, the widower and of the immigrant.

All good and simple things to ride around with the Pope and with us in that little Fiat.

My Baseball Teacher- Milo Hamilton

Milo Hamilton was my baseball teacher. He not only expanded my knowledge of the game. But he also taught me how the effective use of language can inform, excite, and inspire.

Baseball for me has always been more than just a game.  Baseball taught me the value of fair play, a love of statistical data, the importance of everyday consistency and the impact of language, storytelling and the spoken word.

Almost daily, during the summers of my youth, I played baseball. Hitting, fielding, and running under the hot southern sky was what I lived for.  With school out for the summer, the sandlot fields of Georgia became my classroom for life lessons and so much more.

At night my classroom shifted from the sandlot fields to the fields and stadiums of the big cities of the major leagues. As almost every night during those summers, I listened to baseball.

The radio would take me to far-a-way fields like Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Wrigley Field in Chicago. My teacher for these baseball lessons was Milo Hamilton.

Milo Hamilton was the lead announcer for my Atlanta Braves.  His descriptions of the accounts of the game produced word pictures that brought alive for me the skill and exploits of players like Clete Boyer, Ralph Garr, Dusty Baker, Rico Carty, Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda and Hank Aaron.

However, it is was Hamilton’s style of calling a game and his use of language that made an everlasting impression on me.

One summer, I broke my arm and was unable to play the game I love.  Instead of playing I spent the summers in the “press box” of the little league field keeping score and acting as the public address announcer.  Soon, those public addresses turned from just announcing the names of the players to full-fledged play-by-play.

And what announcing style did I emulate?  You guessed it…Milo Hamilton.  Surprisingly my announcing became popular and I gained a new nick-name that summer as folks starting calling me “Milo”.

Milo Hamilton, died last week at age 88.  He was a sports casting legend. His broadcast career included stints with the Browns, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, and Pirates.

He spent 27 years as the voice of the Houston Astros. During that time, he was at the microphone for 11 no-hitters, Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit in 2007, and the 2005 World Series where Astros played the Chicago White Sox.

Milo, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.  At his retirement in 2012, Milo held the record for the number of major league baseball stadiums broadcasted from at 59 different parks.

Most famously, Milo was known for calling Hank Aaron’s record breaking 715th career home run in 1974.

However, for me Milo Hamilton was my baseball teacher.  He not only expanded my knowledge of the game. But he also taught me how the effective use of language can inform, excite, and inspire.

Milo Hamilton and the power of his the radio calls greatly increased my knowledge, love and passion for the game.  And for this baseball fan — I will be forever grateful.

Intimacy

The concept of intimacy with God can be a strange thing. After all how can I be intimate with someone I can’t see, hear, or touch? However, these earthly limitations are not a deterrence to God’s strong desire to have an intimate relationship with us.

The concept of intimacy with God can be a strange thing.  After all how can I be intimate with someone I can’t see, hear, or touch?

However, these earthly limitations are not a deterrence to God’s strong desire to have an intimate relationship with us.

Roman 5:8 in the Message Bible provides an amazing description of God’s desire for intimacy.

We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

God wants us to experience the fullness of his goodness love, and grace.

And while there is no magical formula for developing an intimate relationship with God.

His Word tells us to Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.   Matthew 6:33 (New Living Translation)

Living lives where we put God first in all that we do will create an intimacy worthy of what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

For as his Word says in Jeremiah 29:13 (The Message Bible):

When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

With our faith and God’s determined desire, the concept of intimacy with God is not a strange thing.  For when are intimate with God life is so much better because He is everything that we need.

Having A Whack-a-Mole Faith

The actions and faith of the apostles of the early church resembles that of the Whack-a-Mole game. Where despite being “whacked” by the Sadducees, the apostles of Jesus just kept on popping up again and again to proclaim the name of the Lord even stronger than before.

“Whack-a-Mole” is that wonderful arcade game where each time an adversary is “whacked”, the mole pops up again somewhere else.

The actions and faith of the apostles of the early church resembles that of the Whack-a-Mole game.  Where despite being “whacked” by the Sadducees, the apostles of Jesus just kept on popping up again and again to proclaim the name of the Lord even stronger than before.

While we see evidence of “Whack-a-Mole” faith all over the Bible nowhere is it more prevalent in the accounts of the apostles as chronicled in Act 5:17-41.

In these verses we see examples of great faith as the apostles’ deal with the “whacks” – being knocked down and “moles” – getting back up with even more power and greater grace.

Whack: The apostles are arrested by the jealous high priest (Acts 5:17-18)

Moles: During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.  The angel commanded the apostles to “tell the people all about this new life”. (Acts 5:19-21)

Then at day break the apostles entered into the temple courts to proclaim the Word of God.

 Whack: When the apostles were discovered teaching at the Temple Courts instead of being in jail they were rearrested and brought to be questioned by the high priest who said: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (Act 5:24)

Moles: Peter and the other apostles responded by saying “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Act 5:29)

Whack: When they heard this, the chief priest and his associate were furious, and started calling for putting the apostles to death. (Act 5:33)

Moles: Hearing this, Gamaile a respected Pharisee teacher of the law, argued that the apostles should not be put to death saying: “Consider carefully what you do to these men” (Act 5:35)

Gamaile then recounted incidences where authorities killed two apostles Thedas and Judas. The tumult these situations caused increased the passion for Jesus instead of damping them as the authorities had hoped.

Gamaile ended his plea to the chief priest and his associates with this warning: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”  His speech persuaded the chief priest to spare the lives of the apostles.  (Act 5:38-39)

Whack: The chief priest and his associates called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Moles: Then the apostles left, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of the Lord.

 What can we learn from all these Whacks and Moles? 

 1. Believers will be whacked for their faith

Blessing and hardships are part about the Christian life.  The apostles “left everything” to follow Christ, and the Lord promised them “a hundred times as much” blessing in return (Mark 10:28-30).

However, Jesus also warned that all who follow Him must deny themselves and bear a daily cross (Luke 9:23).

2. Despite the whacks we must keep on proclaiming God

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9  puts the whacks of the Christian life in perspective:  “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”   Therefore despites the whacks we should do as the apostles did “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing!”   Philippians 4:4  

 3. The hardship of our whacks have a purpose

God is the source of everything in our lives all the goodness, all the joy and yes even all the suffering.

Like the apostles the purpose of our suffering is to be refined by God for greater service.

God in Isaiah 48:10 explains His refinement strategy on our behalf:   See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this”

For emphasis, God repeats the phase “for my own sake” to remind us that we grow closer to God in our suffering.

The Success Of the Apostles Whack-a-Mole Faith

The Whack-A-Mole game is designed to increase speed as play continues with more moles appearing along the way.

The success of the apostles can be measured by the increase in the “moles” – Disciples of Christ that they produced.   This is the real testament of the apostle’s suffering in support of Jesus call in the great commission. That made “moles” of you and me.

However with this increase in “moles” the forces of evil have also increased the number and the brutality of the whacks.

Despite in what would some suggest a more difficult environment than the apostles faced.  But God is still with us providing, guidance, love and protection against the whacks of our lives

Paul in  2 Thessalonians 3:3   provides us with a template for having “Whack-a-Mole” faith when he says this: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 

What I learned about faith and courage at the Barber Shop

God wants us to do big things, like going to Europe, starting a business, and winning people over to Christ.

During a recent trip to the barber shop my barber Teresa proudly recapped her trip to Europe.  Between the snips, nips and clips she presented lovely pictures of Rome, London and Paris.

As Teresa, discussed the wonders of the European capitals she revealed that she came very close to not going on the trip.  As I enjoyed the pre-shave the hot towel treatment I ask why?  Was it the money? Was it the time away from the shop?  Was it was concerns about family?

While she said no to all of my reasons.  Teresa revealed that “faith” was the reason that she almost did not go on her a trip of a lifetime.

Faith I asked?  Yes, Teresa she said it was faith, because several of her Christian prayer partners did not want to go. They were concerned about the dangers of travel, terrorism, and other bad things that could happen half a world away.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Without question faith is powerful it can supply our lives with so many wonderful things like:

  • Comfort

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 

Faith can supply us with:

  • Hope

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:2    

And faith can supply us with:

  • Love

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

Perhaps most importantly faith can supply us with courage.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God wants us to do big things, like going to Europe, starting a business, and winning people over to Christ.

But these big things are often scary things.

And despite our devotion to faith.  Even those of us like Teresa’s prayer partners may experience a temporary low in our faith and with it a lack of courage.

In these difficult days of global warming, greed, and wars and rumors of wars.  Our faith will be tested, questioned and it may come up deficient.

However, like Teresa our faith can give us the courage not only to do the extraordinary like travel to Europe.

But to do the ordinary like:

  • The grind of rising a family
  • The challenges of going to college and finding the funds to pay of it
  • The difficulties of being in a dead end job with seemly no way out

But we have faith and with faith we have courage.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline 2 Timothy 1:7….   

Therefore the lesson from the barber shop is this: Let’s take the courage that faith can provide to boldly live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.

Tell me about how your courage was increased through your faith.  Send me a confidential email at marben@marbenbland.com