The Gospel, Andrew, Tattoos

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

Upon encountering Jesus for the first time, Andrew immediately recognized Him as the messiah. He dropped his nets, his profession, and his livelihood and grabbed his brother Peter to go and follow Jesus.

For three years Andrew listened and learned and travelled with Jesus. He assisted personally with the ministry of Jesus. He was there during private moments of personal instruction. Andrew was involved and committed to the work and mission of the Messiah.

Fast forward to the end of the gospels and the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We get a peek into a few of the other disciple's thoughts and actions, but I wonder what Andrew thought when he saw that Christ was arrested, tried and then killed? According to the accounts of Matthew and Mark, we know that when Jesus was arrested, all the disciples fled. We know that his brother Peter hung around in the distance, but I wonder if Andrew hid in fear?

I'm not speculating from scripture, but considering what I would have done in the same situation. If I had followed someone and identified myself with them and their ministry, what would my reaction be to a swift arrest, trial and execution. What was Andrew's response? Did he (and the others) feared they would be next in line for the cross?

I wonder if Andrew ever felt like he had been duped. He gave up everything to follow Jesus and become a "fisher of men" only to end up with his leader being tried and executed as a criminal and blasphemer. Did it (even for a moment) cause him to second guess the previous few years of discipleship?

If so, his questions and doubts were quickly addressed within days as Christ began to make his appearances to the disciples and confirm that He was in fact alive! Then Pentecost and the filling with the Holy Spirit. All the disciples, Andrew included, received supernatural power and spilled out into the streets speaking in the dialects of all the pilgrims who were gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

Church history tells us that Andrew fulfilled his calling. He continued to fish for men throughout the near East and as far north as Russia. His eventual martyrdom took place in Patras, Greece. Legend states that when Andrew was crucified, he was bound on a cross and requested the shape of an X, so as not to find equality with Christ in death.

 Some of the relics of Andrew can be found in Patras, including his cross, but several of his relics are located in a cathedral in Amalfi, Italy. We had the opportunity to travel through Italy last month and although I do not subscribe to saint worship, I loved the opportunity to visit Amalfi and visit the tributes to my favorite apostle.

I was not named after the apostle. My parents did not have hidden plans for me to become an evangelist. At my birth I was named after my Italian grandfather: Andrew Carlino. However, my new life with Christ began with a simple invitation to follow Jesus and along the way I have found many people willing to listen to the GREAT NEWS that Jesus offers to us here, now and in the future. Like Andrew's brother Peter, some of those people continue to follow Jesus with me today!

Was it worth getting the tattoo? You bet. I have more discussions about the calling of Andrew and the good news of Jesus because of that tattoo. Here's the bigger question: Will it be worth an X-shaped cross? Pray for me that the answer will always be yes. 

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

 

 

Classic Repost: I'm Engaged

When I was doing some blog maintenance over the holidays, I found this post from two years ago. It is really cool to go back and read this post and realize where the path of engaging culture has directed me over the past two years. Hope you enjoy the repost.

Quietly Making Noise,
Fletch 

Feeding the Hungry

One of my blogging friends (let's just call her "Cheryl") wrote a post last year that caught my attention and left a year long mark on my life. Cheryl is one of a few bloggers I look forward to reading. She tends to have good insight into life and ministers faithfully to women through her blog and on many occasions I have been the indirect recipient of her wise counsel to my wife.

In this specific post, Cheryl relayed an encounter she had with a homeless fellow. She and her daughter had been doing errands and she wrote how they were able to provide this man with a quick meal from a stack of McDonald's gift cards they kept in their car. I liked reading how they went out of their way to chase this guy down and loved the idea of keeping gift cards in the car to hand out.

Then, the more I thought about what she wrote, the more I was challenged by my own reactions to folks I had seen around town looking for help.

At the time I read her post, our family had recently made a change in churches. We had been attending a small church located in a secluded residential neighborhood. Strangers rarely showed up and when they did, they stood out among the clean-pressed families who attended. From there, we ended up at a very public church located on a busy downtown street. At this new church, we regularly have strangers showing up. From homeless individuals who are just walking the downtown streets to thirsty vagrants looking for a warm cup of coffee, this church is easy to find and often welcomes the less fortunate.

I realized that I had become numb to folks asking for help. I had become very good at saying no and moving on my merry way without batting an eye. I was neither moved with pity, nor was I bothered by them. I had become numb to vagrants, beggars with cardboard signs, and homeless families migrating through my city.

At the same time, I justified this response by supporting ministries that served the homeless and on occasion I even got my feet wet by serving food at our local homeless shelter. To make matters worse, like one of Chery's critics, I questioned the safety of interacting with vagrants. 

It seems I was looking for a safe, controlled environment or an official ministry to support. Yet, when I read this post, I was struck by the fact that she and her daughter saw and met a need.

That motivated me. I happened to have a hundred dollar bill sitting in my wallet, so I jumped in the car and drove to our local McDonalds and bought ten $10 gift cards and split them between my car and my wallet.

It was my goal to be prepared for the next person that asked for help/food/money. Like Cheryl and her daughter, I wanted to be ready to meet the need in the moment.

It was actually humorous at first, I found myself looking for opportunities to get rid of the cards. I quickly realized that the harder I looked for someone in need, the harder it seemed they were to find.

This adventure began as I was getting into my car after church. A young man yelled at me from across the street, asking if I could spare a few bucks for food. To be truthful, in the moment, my initial response was fear followed by a desire to just ignore him and drive away. But as I reached for the door, I rememberd the cards and decided to do more than ignore him. I also decided to do more than just hand out a card. I took the opportunity to do what I thought God was calling me to do.

His name was Chris and he was 22 years old. I would describe him as a ModRocker, dressed in dark black clothing and a dark black trench coat. I think he was just as shocked as I was when I jogged toward him across the street. I asked what he needed. He just wanted money and when I asked why, he told me he was hungry. I decided to press him a little more. At first his answers were short, but as I leaned against the wall and showed no intention on leaving soon, he began to answer the questions with more depth. By the end, I found out his mom had committed suicide when he was 14. He didn't know his father, so his life quickly spiraled into alcohol and drugs.  He had been homeless for six years, moving from place to place.

As the conversation continued, I was able to talk with him briefly about the gospel. It was at least eight blocks to the closest McDonalds, but he was very happy to know that there was a meal waiting for him when he got there.

And that started it.

For the whole year, I began looking for opportunities to not just hand out cards, but meet the people in need. Most of the time I was alone, but often I had one or two kids with me and they sat in the car while I spent the time talking to someone new. It wasn't easy. It wasn't comfortable. I worked through the whole stack and found I needed to replenish it.

It wasn't without incident. I met a few crazy people that didn't want anything to do with me (or a conversation), they just wanted the free food. But for the most part, it was a bunch of real people, with real needs and real stories. The food card was good, but most of them (like me) seemed to enjoy the conversation just as much.

I met Ed (and his dog Joshua) on the front steps of the church. I gave him some coffee and invited him in to worship. He had been homesless for more than 5 years and was just plain hungry. He didn't know what to do with Joshua, so we ended up sitting together and drinking coffee and sharing our stories.

I also met Carl and his wife in front of the grocery store. Somehow God provided twenty minutes in the middle of my day for me to sit and talk with the two of them as they continued to pan handle from cars driving by. (I'd like to think that I helped their situation, but most cars passed by as we sat together). Carl had a normal job in construction until the economy soured. Their living situation disappeared and eventually so did their transportation. Now they just survive. They walk around town, trying to get enough money to eat.

My favorite experience was in the garage of my VW mechanic. This dishevled looking guy stumbed in asking if there were any simple jobs that needed to be done. My mechanic, who is approached regularly, quickly said no, but I quickly launched into a few questions. Why? What do you need? In a few quick moments, I discovered a guy that was lonely, hungry and in need of some help. I ran out to the car and grabbed a gift card.  When I returned, I asked him for his name. Russell. I asked him if I could pray for him, and he agreed. I would like to think my desire to serve this guy helped to meet his need and helped to be an example for my friend that watched our interaction.

What began as a blog post, became an exercise in obedience and eventually an opportunity to engage my neighbors with intention and purpose. Thanks Cheryl!

Quietly making noise,
Fletch 

Gospel Amnesia

***2014 UPDATE TO THIS BLOG POST - IF YOU WANT TO HEAR THE PODCAST OF GOSPEL AMNESIA. FOLLOW THIS LINK.

I wrapped up last year spending three days with thirty-five young men at a leadership conference. I was very thankful for the opportunity and the invitation to speak on the topic of leadership and with these young guys In considering my topic, I was immediately drawn to 1Timothy 4:11-12. I shared that Paul (the old guy) encouraged Timothy (the young guy) to lead by example in five areas: speech, conduct, faith, love and purity. For three days, that is exactly what I did with these young men.(photo courtesy Creative Studios Photography)

On the last day, I uncovered the topics of lust and purity. Often, these topics are not spoken about in the public arena with teenage men, yet I have always found it easy to find a connection and did not waste much time navigating through this discussion. My audience (which had largely been asleep) suddenly began to straighten up and engage in what I was saying. I think they realized I was going to punch through some of the tougher subjects and not hold back.

As I spoke to these guys there was a moment that I tripped on my words. As I was speaking, suddenly what I said caused me to speak and listen at the same time. It was funny, because I had prepared for weeks what I was going to say. I crafted the discussion and I had reviewed it before getting up to speak. It wasn't until I began to speak out loud that it suddenly applied to me.

I wonder if this happens to pastors who preach weekly. Probably.

Anyhow, I stumbled through my words while trying to listen to God speak to me at the same time. I'm not sure if I pulled it off or not, but I'm thankful most of the guys were drifting in and out of sleep and missed my distinct pause. I'm not talking about a monumental life-changing event. This was just a simple truth in life I discovered while I spoke. It began as I was sharing with them about helping fellow believers that are "stuck" in their faith. I suggested one of the ways we can help someone who is stuck in sin or in their relationship with God is to merely remind them of the gospel.

That's when it happened. I had what others describe as a lightbulb moment. Instantly I was able to describe much of what I had been thinking about in 2010 with a single phrase. As I spoke to these young men at the leadership conference, I realized that I had been one of those people that was stuck. It's not that I was stuck in sin. I was not having a crisis in my faith. I was not abandoning the church. I was just stuck. Somehow...somewhere...I had developed a case of "gospel amnesia."

You see, after years and years of ministry and church involvement, I found myself struggling in 2010. Much of the year felt like I was waking up out of a slumber and rediscovering old truths. As I looked back on previous years, I began to question what had taken place. As I looked at my life I realized that I had a form of faith. I also found that I had been tangled in a mess of religion. I had gospel amnesia. For years, I had been working hard at the outward lifestyle of Christianity, but the roots of that lifestyle were established in the fear of man. I was "doing Christianity" because of what I read and saw others "doing." I was saying/repeating what others were saying or sometimes what they thought was important to say. Again, I had gospel amnesia. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that my faith was a sham, but it wasn't authentic either.

Conversation after conversation had taken place all year and I kept trying to pinpoint what I was thinking and what I had learned. I kept searching for ways to communicate what exactly I meant. Then, in the last few moments of the year, it came into focus...and quite unexpectedly. 2010 was a year of curing the amnesia with heaping doses of the gospel. 2011 will be a year of rediscovering how to live out my faith with authenticity and Spirit-led humility.

What are your plans for 2011?

Quietly making noise,

Fletch