Looking for an EZ Pass

On many of our nation’s toll roads, rather than stopping at a toll-booth to toss some change in a hopper, you can now purchase a transponder, sometimes called an EZ-Pass, and zip through in the left lanes without even slowing down to the acceptable speed limit. Instead of cash, tickets and paper receipts, it’s a microchip tag placed on your windshield containing pertinent data which eases your way. Your data is quickly read by a tollbooth electronic antenna as your car zooms on through. It automatically deducts your appropriate toll tax. This computerized collection system then sends a monthly statement to your home with tallies of times and places for your records. EZ-Pass is like a debit card for your car, only quicker. No more stopping at the tollgate, the narrow gate.

Jesus says, I am the narrow gate. There’s no quick way in. There’s no shortcut. If he wasn’t the Christ himself already, he’d be the perfect patron saint of tollgates.

Sometimes it seems that everybody wants the easy way to the front of the line, a quick way to glory and fast track to success. Including James and John, the brothers Zebedee, who want front-row seats numbering two and three. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and see if you can identify with their self-centeredness. These guys gave up everything to follow Jesus. They followed Jesus when nobody knew him. They followed Jesus before his miracles. Now that he was popular, James and John were feeling the swell of fame. After all, they were Jesus’ best friends, his disciples! So we can understand why two of them came to Jesus with their request.

David Beckett, EZ-Pass

Why Do We Seek?

A simple test of character is the question: “Why?” Why does the candidate seek the power a political position holds? Why does the actor seek fame in Hollywood or on Broadway? Why does the business person seek wealth or the climb up the corporate ladder? Why does the person of faith seek a position of ministry?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ambition in any of these fields. In fact, most people use ambition to better themselves and their surroundings. But the question must be asked: why do they seek? Do they want to wealth and fame and power for themselves alone? Or do they want to use these ambitions for the greater good? These were the questions Jesus asked his followers when the subject of ambition raised its head among the Apostles.

Larry Broding, The Glory of Christian Leadership



In just a few short weeks we will begin to see people in uniforms in shopping malls ringing bells collecting donations for the poor. They are doing the work of the Salvation Army.

In 1878, when the Salvation Army was really beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. A man who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop in another denomination crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist in the Salvation Army instead. His name was Samuel Brengle. Brengle left a fine pastorate to join William Booth’s Army. At first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, “You’ve been your own boss too long.” So in order to instill humility in Brengle, he made him work by cleaning the boots of other trainees.

Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, “Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?” Then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, uneducated fishermen. “Lord,” he whispered, “you washed their feet; I will black their shoes.”

Samuel Brengle went on to establish the Salvation Army in America. At the time of his death, the Salvation Army was thriving in both the United States and in Canada. Just before his death Brengle sent out a short memo to all of his top leaders. This memo had one single word written on it: “Others.”

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com


I Hate To Leave This Church

A Methodist pastor once wrote about power and politics in his denomination. Methodist preachers, he notes, are under the care of a bishop. Bishops, in turn, are Methodist preachers who are elected by fellow Methodist preachers after an extensive campaign for the office in which the candidate tries not to be caught campaigning. As he observes, It is a long-standing Methodist tradition that bishops must not appear to have sought their office and, once elected, the new bishop must make a public declaration that “I didn’t seek this office and I didn’t want it but, once the Lord calls” … Methodist preachers take all of this with a grain of salt, the same way Baptist congregations have learned to be somewhat skeptical when one of their preachers moves on to a better church claiming, “I hate to leave this church and I would rather stay here, but the Lord calls.” Baptists note that the Lord rarely calls someone out of one church into another church unless that church has a higher salary. Methodists have likewise noted that there have been few preachers who, once they are elected bishop, turn the job down.

“Teacher, we want you to put us on your right and on your left. But keep it quiet. Don’t make it too obvious. Others may become offended that we asked first.” By telling us this story, Mark knows what you and I know: we are prone to the same desire for privilege and protected status. We want a Jesus who will give us what we want, a Lord who can shower a little power on us, a Savior who can make us better than we are.

William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.


What’s in It for Me?

A number of years ago, a small book appeared for ministers. Titled The Penguin Principles, it attempted to help naive clergy get a handle on the people of their congregations. Most of the material in the book was written with tongue in cheek, so it has some truth in it. According to the book, the first principle of church life goes like this: “Despite the pious things we say, at any given time, less than five percent of any group in the church is operating with purely Christian motivation. The other 95 percent is asking, ‘What’s in it for me?'”

William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.

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