2010-02-28 Rick - Prison of Pride

Sunday, February 28, 2010 – The attendance at the Sunday Worship Service
was somewhat down from last Sunday but the service was very up with Rick in his
usual good mood thanking the boys for their presence. Since Rick was also going to
be the morning speaker he open with the text for his upcoming message; 

The Beatitudes:

 Mat 5:1-11 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the 
mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began 
to teach them.

The Beatitudes

    3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
      for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
    4 God blesses those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
    5 God blesses those who are humble,
      for they will inherit the whole earth.
    6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
      for they will be satisfied.
    7 God blesses those who are merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
    8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
      for they will see God.
    9 God blesses those who work for peace,
      for they will be called the children of God.
   10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
      for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.

In these verses Jesus promises blessings to all those who follow him.

He closed his opening with two proverbs for the boys to ponder:

1.  Show a man his failures without Jesus and the results will be found in the roadside gutter. 

2.  Give a man religion without reminding him of his sin and the results will be arrogance in a three piece suit.

Dear faithful Cindy led the worship music with “Come Now is the Time to Worship”, “He Knows my Name”, “How Great is our God”, “I Can Only Imagine” and “Trading My Sorrows (Yes Lord). .

Cindy interjected some verses she wanted to share with the boys from Proverbs 28:

 

1 The wicked run away when no one is chasing them,
      but the godly are as bold as lions.

2 When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily.
      But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.

3 A poor person who oppresses the poor
      is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops.

4 To reject the law is to praise the wicked;
      to obey the law is to fight them.

5 Evil people don’t understand justice,
      but those who follow the Lord understand completely.

6 Better to be poor and honest
      than to be dishonest and rich.

7 Young people who obey the law are wise;
      those with wild friends bring shame to their parents.

8 Income from charging high interest rates
      will end up in the pocket of someone who is kind to the poor.

9 God detests the prayers
      of a person who ignores the law.

10 Those who lead good people along an evil path
      will fall into their own trap,
      but the honest will inherit good things.

11 Rich people may think they are wise,
      but a poor person with discernment can see right through them.

12 When the godly succeed, everyone is glad.
      When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.

13 People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
      but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.

14 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong,[b]
      but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.

15 A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor
      as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.

16 A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people,
      but one who hates corruption will have a long life.

17 A murderer’s tormented conscience will drive him into the grave.
      Don’t protect him!

18 The blameless will be rescued from harm,
      but the crooked will be suddenly destroyed.

19 A hard worker has plenty of food,
      but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.

20 The trustworthy person will get a rich reward,
      but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.

21 Showing partiality is never good,
      yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread.

22 Greedy people try to get rich quick
      but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty.

23 In the end, people appreciate honest criticism
      far more than flattery.

24 Anyone who steals from his father and mother
      and says, “What’s wrong with that?”
      is no better than a murderer.

25 Greed causes fighting;
      trusting the Lord leads to prosperity.

26 Those who trust their own insight are foolish,
      but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.

27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
      but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

28 When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
      When the wicked meet disaster, the godly flourish.


Rick began his message asking the boys to pray for Ben Carter and his family who have moved from Lockhart.  He thanked God for how Ben had blest all of us at Pegasus.  He spoke of how the answer to our troubles is the bible and related that to the polygraph test each of the boys have to successfully complete before leaving Pegasus.  Surely “The truth shall set you free.”

Rick once again read the beatitudes found in Mat. 5:1-11 focusing on the second “Blessed our those who mourn for they will be comforted.”  He read a story written by Max Lucado entitled  “Prison of Pride”.  (I usually would pick out high lights of Rick’s reading but I found the story so moving I wanted to share it all with you.)

________________________________________________________________

As Brazilian jail cells go this one wasn’t too bad. There was a fan on the table. The twin beds each had a thin mattress and a pillow. There was a toilet and a sink.  No, it wasn’t too bad. But, then again, I didn’t have to stay.

Anibal did. He was there to stay.

Even more striking than his name (pronounced “uh-nee-ball”) was the man himself. The tattooed anchor on his forearm symbolized his personality—cast-iron. His broad chest stretched his shirt. The slightest movement of his arm bulged his biceps. His face was as leathery in texture as it was in color. His glare could blister a foe. His smile was an explosion of white teeth.  But today the glare was gone and the smile was forced. Anibal wasn’t on the street where he was the boss; he was in a jail where he was the prisoner.

He’d killed a man—a “neighborhood punk,” as Anibal called him, a restless teenager who sold marijuana to the kids on the street and made a nuisance of himself with his mouth. One night the drug dealer had used his mouth one time too many and Anibal had decided to silence it. He’d left the crowded bar where the two of them had been arguing, gone home, taken a pistol out of a drawer, and walked back to the bar.  Anibal had entered and called the boy’s name. The drug dealer had turned around in time to take a bullet in the heart. Anibal was guilty. Period. His only hope was that the judge would agree that he had done society a favor by getting rid of a neighborhood problem. He would be sentenced within the month.

I came to know Anibal through a Christian friend, Daniel. Anibal had lifted weights at Daniel’s gym. Daniel had given Anibal a Bible and had visited him several times. This time Daniel took me with him to tell Anibal about Jesus.  Our study centered on the cross. We talked about guilt. We talked about forgiveness. The eyes of the murderer softened at the thought that the one who knows him best loves him most. His heart was touched as we discussed heaven, a hope that no executioner could take from him.

But as we began to discuss conversion, Anibal’s face began to harden. The head that had leaned toward me in interest now straightened in caution. Anibal didn’t like my statement that the first step in coming to God is an admission of guilt. He was uneasy with words like “I’ve been wrong” and “forgive me.” Saying “I’m sorry” was out of character for him. He had never backed down before any man, and he wasn’t about to do it now—even if the man were God.

In one final effort to pierce his pride, I asked him, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?”
“Sure,” he grunted.

“Are you ready?”

Earlier he might have boasted yes, but now he’d heard too many verses from the Bible. He knew better.

He stared at the concrete floor for a long time, meditating on the question. For a moment I thought his stony heart was cracking. For a second, it appeared that burly Anibal would for the first time admit his failures.

But I was wrong. The eyes that lifted to meet mine weren’t tear-filled; they were angry. They weren’t the eyes of a repentant prodigal; they were the eyes of an angry prisoner.

“All right,” he shrugged. “I’ll become one of your Christians. But don’t expect me to change the way I live.”

The conditional answer left my mouth bitter. “You don’t draw up the rules,” I told him. “It’s not a contract that you negotiate before you sign. It’s a gift—an undeserved gift! But to receive it, you have to admit that you need it.”

“OK.” He ran his thick fingers through his hair and stood up. “But don’t expect to see me at church on Sundays.”

I sighed. How many knocks in the head does a guy need before he’ll ask for help?

As I watched Anibal pace back and forth in the tiny cell, I realized that his true prison was not made of bricks and mortar, but of pride. He was twice imprisoned. Once because of murder, and once because of stubbornness. Once by his country, and once by himself.

The prison of pride. For most of us it isn’t as blatant as it was with Anibal, but the characteristics are the same. The upper lip is just as stiff. The chin ever protrudes upward, and the heart is just as hard.

A prison of pride is filled with self-made men and women determined to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps even if they land on their rear ends. It doesn’t matter what they did or to whom they did it or where they will end up; it only matters that “I did it my way.”

You’ve seen the prisoners. You’ve seen the alcoholic who won’t admit his drinking problem. You’ve seen the woman who refuses to talk to anyone about her fears. You’ve seen the businessman who adamantly rejects help, even when his dreams are falling apart.

Perhaps to see such a prisoner all you have to do is look in the mirror.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just .. .“ 1. The biggest word in Scripture just might be that two-letter one, if. For confessing sins— admitting failure—is exactly what prisoners of pride refuse to do.

You know the lingo:

“Well, I may not be perfect, but I’m better than Hitler and certainly kinder than Idi Amin!”

“Me a sinner? Oh, sure, I get rowdy every so often, but I’m a pretty good ol’ boy.”

“Listen, I’m just as good as the next guy. I pay my taxes. I coach the Little League team. I even make donations to Red Cross. Why, God’s probably proud to have somebody like me on his team.”

Justification. Rationalization. Comparison. These are the tools of the jailbird. They sound good. They sound familiar. They even sound American. But in the kingdom, they sound hollow.

“Blessed are those who mourn…”

To mourn for your sins is a natural outflow of poverty of spirit. The second beatitude should follow the first. But that’s not always the case. Many deny their weakness. Many know they are wrong, yet pretend they are right. As a result, they never taste the exquisite sorrow of repentance.

Of all the paths to joy, this one has to be the strangest. True blessedness, Jesus says, begins with deep sadness.

“Blessed are those who know they are in trouble and have enough sense to admit it.”

Joy through mourning? Freedom through surrender? Liberty through confession?

Want a model? Let me introduce you to one.

He was nitroglycerin; if you bumped him the wrong way, he blew up. He made a living with his hands and got in trouble with his mouth. In some ways, he had a lot in common with Anibal. If he had had a tattoo, it would have been a big, black anchor on his forearm. If they had had bumper stickers, his would have read, “I don’t get mad; I get even.”

He was a man among men on the Galilean sea. His family called him Simon, but his master called him “Rocky.” You know him as Peter.

And though he might not have known everything about self-control, he knew one thing about being a fisherman. He knew better than to get caught in a storm…And this night, Peter knows he is in trouble.

The winds roar down onto the Sea of Galilee like a hawk on a rat. Lightning zigzags across the black sky. The clouds vibrate with thunder. The rain taps, then pops, then slaps against the deck of the boat until everyone aboard is soaked and shaking. Ten-foot waves pick them up and slam them down again with bonejarring force
. These drenched men don’t look like a team of apostles who are only a decade away from changing the world. They don’t look like an army that will march to the ends of the earth and reroute history. They don’t look like a band of pioneers who will soon turn the world upside down. No, they look more like a handful of shivering sailors who are wondering if the next wave they ride will be their last.

And you can be sure of one thing. The one with the widest eyes is the one with the biggest biceps—Peter. He’s seen these storms before. He’s seen the wreckage and bloated bodies float to shore. He knows what the fury of wind and wave can do. And he knows that times like this are not times to make a name for yourself; they’re times to get some help.

That is why, when he sees Jesus walking on the water toward the boat, he is the first to say, “Lord, it it’s you. . . tell me to come to you on the water.”

Now, some say this statement is a simple request for verification. Peter, they suggest, wants to prove that the one they see is really Jesus and not just anyone who might be on a stroll across a storm-tossed sea in the middle of the night. (You can’t be too careful, you know.)

So, Peter consults his notes, removes his glasses, clears his throat, and asks a question any good attorney would. “Ahem, Jesus, if you would kindly demonstrate your power and prove your divinity by calling me out on the water with you, I would be most appreciative.”

I don’t buy that. I don’t think Peter is seeking clarification; I think he’s trying to save his neck. He is aware of two facts: He’s going down, and Jesus is staying up. And it doesn’t take him too long to decide where he would rather be.

Perhaps a better interpretation of his request would be, “Jeeeeeeeesus. If that is you, then get me out of here!”

“Come on” is the invitation.

And Peter doesn’t have to be told twice. It’s not every day that you walk on water through waves that are taller than you are. But when faced with the alternative of sure death or possible life, Peter knows which one he wants.

The first few steps go well. But a few strides out onto the water, and he forgets to look to the One who got him there in the first place, and down he plunges.

At this point we see the major difference between Anibal and Peter—the difference between a man who hides his problem and one who admits it.

Anibal would be more concerned about his image than about his neck. He would prefer to go under rather than let his friends hear him ask for help. He would rather go down “his way!” than get out “God’s way.”

Peter, on the other hand, knows better than to count the teeth in the mouth of a gift horse. He knows better than to bite the hand that can save him. His response may lack class—it probably wouldn’t get him on the cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly or even Sports illustrated— but it gets him out of some deep water:

“Help me!”

And since Peter would rather swallow pride than water, a hand comes through the rain and pulls him up.

The message is clear.

As long as Jesus is one of many options, he is no option. As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken halfheartedly.

But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on him, for he is waiting in the midst of the storm.

As Rick read this story he stopped many times reminding the boys that many of them were prisoners of their own pride.  He closed encouraging the boys to listen to this story and ask Jesus Christ to rescue them.

Ken closed asking the boys to remember Peg Kurtlan who had a surgical procedure this week.  Hopefully it will rid her body of the cancer she has been fighting for so long.  He also mentioned one of the boys, “Franklin” who had left Pegasus in the past week.