Meanderings of a Minister

Hello! Is Anyone Home?
August 21, 2014, 9:38 am
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I have a confession to make.  I hate it when I call someone, with whom I need to urgently communicate, and they are not home.  I hate it even more when they either do not have an answering machine, or the machine is full and cannot take anymore messages.  This is probably a character flaw of some type, but it is true.  The ironic thing is that I can sometimes be a little slow or even irresponsible in returning others’ messages to me.  While most of the time, this is merely inconvenient, at times, it can be dangerous.  For instance, I was told this story by my grandmother, so it may not be totally accurate, but you will get the gist of it…

Once, when I was younger, my uncle called my father to tell him that he was in town and was coming over to visit as he needed a place to stay for the night.  He left the message on our answering machine, but either my father did not hear it or did not check the machine.  Somehow, the message was not received.  At about 1:00 AM, my uncle showed up at our door.  It was December in south Texas and remarkably cold that night.  My uncle had on a long coat with the collar pulled up around his face and was wearing a stocking cap.

My father, roused from a deep sleep by the pounding on the front door, retrieved his gun from his nightstand and proceeded to the front door.  He looked out the peephole to see a man dressed in a dark coat and stocking cap dancing back and forth and jumping up and down and pounding on the door.  My father eased open the door, stuck the gun barrel out the crack and told this “stranger” to leave his family alone or he would be shot.

My father and uncle were on great terms with one another.  What would cause my father to threaten to shoot and kill my uncle?  One simple thing:  Missed communication.

In the book of Joel, we begin by listening to God describe just how He has attempted to get the attention of the people of Judah.  He had been trying to get their attention through famine, drought, locusts and even an invading army.  Sadly, they did not listen, so God ratcheted up the consequences and intensity each time hoping they would hear, repent of their sin, turn to Him instead of their sin, and live in obedience.  This was not to be the case.

This is a lot like the book of Revelation.  While many of us may disagree on the details of who does what when (or doesn’t do what when)(or whether there is a what and a when), you cannot escape the purpose for all God describes will go on.  Consider the following examples and draw your own conclusion:

Revelation 2:5, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first…”

Revelation 2:16, “Therefore, repent; or else I am coming to you quickly…”

Revelation 2:21,”I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality”

Revelation 3:3, “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.”

Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

Revelation 9:20a, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands.”

Revelation 9:21, “and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.”

 I could go on with more examples, but I hope you see that God was doing the same thing in Joel as He was describing in Revelation.  Far from being cruel, He has actually been trying to get their attention in order that they might avoid the destruction that was coming their way.

 That brings an interesting question… “How has God tried to get your attention in the past?”  Is He trying now?  Is He trying to get our nation’s attention?  What will we, who know Him, do?

How Should A Christian Respond to the Suicide of Famous Figures?
August 14, 2014, 4:13 pm
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This last week Robin Williams, the famous actor and comedian, died of an apparent suicide.  He was 63 years old.  With the death of Robin Williams, the internet chatter about the star of family films, raunchy comedy, and iconic television increased exponentially.  Regardless of whether or not you appreciated his “entertainment”, many people are thinking about how a man that is successful, according to the standard of this world, can be unhappy enough to take his own life.  Late night television suggests that Robin Williams has gone to heaven to entertain God.  Even well-meaning Christians are trying to make themselves feel better by insisting he might have repented of his sins at the last moment before death, even though he was an avowed atheist.  So…how should a Christian respond to the suicide of a famous figure?

First, we need to think about the living.  Before we can think about his death, we must have compassion on those he left behind.  Whenever a person commits suicide, they do not consider the pain and suffering they are leaving behind for others.  Robin Williams was a husband, father, friend, and brother.  While his brother died back in 2007, the rest of the roles of his life left behind grieving people left to ask questions, deal with guilt, try to manage the press, and dal with their own feelings on the matter.  We should pray for his wife, children, and friends he left as he apparently hanged himself in his apartment.

Next, we need to think about how a person ends up in Heaven.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  He did not equivocate.  There is only one way to heaven.  It is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  It is not our works that get us into heaven.  It is not enough Mass, Church Services, prayers, stations of the cross, Bible Studies, mission trips, or even good intentions that get us into heaven.  It is whether or not we have repented of our sins, placed our faith in Jesus, and are picking up our cross daily as we live out that professed faith.  It is about faith that produces works.  Robin Williams was once a member of the Episcopal Church because, “it is just like Catholicism, but with half the guilt”.  Whether or not he was once a member of a church has no bearing on whether or not he went to Heaven.  Conversely, the fact that he took his own life is also no true indicator of whether or not he went to Heaven.

For years, the Catholic Church, and others, would not allow a person that had committed suicide to be buried on church grounds.  Since being buried on holy ground is an important part of grace in the Catholic Church, this was seen as a denial of the person from heaven.  The latest Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the church has since reversed that policy and a person that committed suicide can be buried on Church grounds and the act itself does not automatically assign the person to hell, but might give them a deeper debt in purgatory.  But, what does the Bible say?

According to the Bible, salvation not of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  A person does not do enough good to get into Heaven.  (Isaiah 64:6)  Additionally, a single act of desperation cannot forfeit a genuine faith.  (John 10:28)  Job wanted to die.  Jeremiah wished he had never been born.  Elijah wanted God to take his life.  None of these figures from the Bible were excluded from God’s plans, but were used as an example for the rest of us of how desperate life can get.  Robin Williams suffered from depression throughout his life.  There was no amount of money, accolades, crowds, or notoriety that could make up for this.  His desperate act, at a low moment in his life, would not have cost him salvation, if he was saved.

So, where does that leave us?  Rather than using our time and attention trying to turn our sympathy for his family into salvation from God, we would do better to use our time praying for his family and looking around us for the people God has put in our lives that might be suffering from depression and share the love of God with them.  Rather than guess about a celebrity’s ultimate destination, let’s share Jesus with people around us so that they can know where they can find theirs.

Why We Can Never Lose Sight of Veterans


 “Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16, NASB95)

I was asked to speak at last night’s veterans’ recognition event for the Five State Free Fair.  As I thought about what it means to be a veteran, the thought occurred to me that there seem to be fewer and fewer veterans identifying themselves as veterans and fewer and fewer people that understand the importance of veterans to our nation.  As I thought about it, I remember Jeremiah 6:16 and thought about the importance for more than just our happiness.

Why can we never lose sight of veterans?  For many reasons.  First, veterans are the only significant segment of the population that have given up their freedoms so that you can enjoy yours.  They have stood on the flight line, firing line, front line, and chow line to make sure you could hang clothes on the line in peace.  They have been fired upon so that you can enjoy campfires.  They have gone without sleep so that you can sleep peacefully.  They have stood watch on a dangerous world so that your world would not have to be interrupted.  In an age when everyone wants to talk about their “rights”, we need to remember veterans because it is right.

In addition to veterans’ sacrifice, we also need to remember and recognize veterans because veterans took an oath to defend our constitution and kept their promises.  In an age where, increasingly, politicians are seen as more for themselves than their constituents, we need to have examples of truth, integrity, honor, and kept promises.  Veterans help to keep us from growing so cynical of our nation that we stop defending it and supporting it.

We can also never lose sight of veterans because that was our promise to them.  The general population does not want to have to leave their lives, work, families, or hobbies to have to go and fight an enemy.  They don’t want to have to put up with the horrors of death and destruction, so they sent the veterans to represent them.  The agreement was that the general population would stay behind and support their efforts while they charged into battle.  To forget veterans is to break that promise.

Veterans also represent an understanding of “One Nation Under God”.  While not all veterans are Christians, or even monotheists, or theists, they understand that the true strength of our nation, outside of God, is our unity.  When you are on the battlefield, in the battleship, or battling the incoming jets of a foreign enemy, there is no time for Mexican-American, African-American, Native American, or any other such distinction.  Veterans know that we will only stay strong as long as we learn to see each other as Americans.  Period.  There is no dual citizenship when bullets are flying, bombs are dropping, or bayonets are rattling.  There is only “us” vs. “them” and the “us” is U.S.!

Veterans remind us of what it means to work for our goals, dreams and visions of the future.  They remind us that nothing comes without hard work, sacrifice, and time.  They stand as a beacon of responsibility in a sea of entitlement.  They stand up proudly and show what Americans can do when they work hard, work together, and work for the long haul.

Lastly, veterans represent our past, our heritage, and our history.  They represent our future because without the lessons of our past, we will repeat its mistakes.  They represent our present because they have seen where socialism, Marxism, communism, and elitism have taken other nations and what it takes to win a nation back after it has been taken over by one of these or other ideologies.  They represent what is right and wise, which combine to form righteousness.

We can never lose sight of veterans.  Heaven help us if we do!

Our justification is not accomplished by
August 1, 2014, 10:27 am
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Our justification is not accomplished by a profession of faith. The evangelical world has never fully grasped that nobody is justified by a simple profession of faith. Professions of faith are good things, and those who believe are supposed to profess what they believe, but it’s the “possession” of faith – not its “profession” – that translates a person from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. ~ R. C. Sproul, The Center of Christian Preaching

How can Christians think to follow Chris
July 25, 2014, 8:17 am
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How can Christians think to follow Christ in His self-giving love unless our self-concerns shrink while our concerns about God and others grow? ~ Mark Dever

Pastors are to be like mailmen. We shoul
July 24, 2014, 8:56 am
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Pastors are to be like mailmen. We should not make up our own messages, but faithfully deliver the messages we have been given to those for whom it was intended.

Who Gets Promoted and Who Doesn’t and Why (probably not because they read this book)
July 23, 2014, 9:18 am
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Donald Asher is well-known by many in the business community as the author of a book, now in its second edition, that outlines for them how to get promoted.  He includes both how to get promoted and what to avoid to keep it from happening.  His subtitle is “12 Things You’d Better Do If You Want to Get Ahead”.  Since this is a business book, it make sense that he draws all of his illustrations from the business world.  While Asher has some great things to say, many of these are self-evident and his mentioning of them is not all that helpful or insightful.  For instance, he talks about anticipating change and offering yourself as the solution to the problems or opportunities that change presents.  The problem with his encouragement to ride the wave of change comes from the assumption that a person can see all changes and that a person can remain nimble and trained up enough on potential futures to be the answer to anything that might come up.  While this would be the best scenario, it is not always possible, nor practical.  I realize the reader might be thinking that I am merely claiming sour grapes and not wanting to change and that this reluctance is driving my criticism.  My point is simply that it is not always possible to know what is coming, nor economical to train for every potential future.

Asher presents a  pyramid for getting promoted in the second chapter of his book.  I found this both helpful and a little presumptive.  He says that doing your job well is the foundation for future success (again, very obvious), but goes on to say this is not enough.  You have to:

1. Do your job well.
2. Make yourself known to the right people.
3. Develop the skillset needed for advancement (see note above).
4. Be available when opportunity knocks.  Package yourself for promotion.
5. Win the promotion.

While all of these steps are helpful, they are also nothing new.  What is new is that a person would approach their current situation with an eye always on promotion.  And herein lies the true power of Asher’s book.  Asher suggests that doing one’s job is no longer that best indicator of who is eligible for promotion.  For instance, he suggests that anyone who becomes so good at their job so as to become irreplaceable has actually worked against his or herself for promotion.  The military has seen their way around this conundrum for a long time, but they have the endless pockets which come from your tax money.  For businesses with limited resources, and profitability at stake, this is too often the case.  Many employers and senior managers would rather not take a chance on moving someone with a known skill set to a position they may not be able to fill.  They do not want to lose the productivity or mid-level leadership.  So, while a bit confusing, a person is to do their job well, but not too well.

Asher’s main contribution in Who Gets Promoted and Who Doesn’t and Why is that he challenges the average person to be become more than average and to seek to reach their full potential.  He suggests this through being a constant student of the company, people, the art of selling yourself and your company, and the art of reading and managing people.  This is worth the cost of the book for the person that has not considered such things before.  For those that read this type of material, and for those who have worked in the business world for any amount of time at all, this is obvious and need not be shared.

If I sound like I am confusing and ambivalent towards Who Gets Promoted and Who Doesn’t and Why, it is because I am.  The book is the same, so it is fitting.  If you have not read any material on promoting yourself, get the book.  If you have, don’t bother.  If you work in a company that leaves the door open for promotion, and you are not sure how to step through, get the book.  If you don’t work in that environment, save $15.  If you need a motivational push to get going, read the book.  If are already motivated, don’t get bogged down in reading the book.  You are probably already doing what Asher recommends.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Crown Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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