Meanderings of a Minister

Eulogy of A Saint
December 7, 2017, 1:04 pm
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Recently, a friend of mine and a longtime, faithful deacon of our church, died.  As I reflected on his life, the following thoughts came to mind as an example of the kind of legacy every child of God should want to leave behind.

Lord, today Ivan died.  He was 93 years old, had been married for almost 75 years, and had been a deacon for longer than I have been alive.  He worked in the oilfield as a roughneck and then as a driller.  Normally, those statements would not go together, but they did with Ivan.  He knew how to work hard, but also was a very strong believer and a tender-hearted man who loved You and loved people.  Truly, he embraced 1 Corinthians 13.  Ivan knew that no amount of service or sacrifice meant anything without love as the prime motivator.

Ivan was patient.  Whether it was facing the health challenges of his wife at home, or issues at church, he was patient and kind in dealing with them.  He was patient to teach middle school Sunday School for years as well as being a deacon.  I never saw Ivan fly off the handle or even become visibly frustrated.

Ivan was kind.  The tender way he dealt with Martha, even when he was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, he was still reassuring her.  Even when there was conflict in the church among the deacons, Ivan was the voice of reason and of showing kindness.  He was a true example to be in this area.

I have never known Ivan to boast about anything.  As a matter of fact, Ivan much preferred to remain the background and not have the spotlight.  When we made him a Deacon Emeritus, he was embarrassed to receive the plaque and the applause of the congregation.  Ivan was also never rude, demanding, or arrogant.  It just was not his way.

Ivan was also never resentful or irritable.  The only point I was even saw Ivan on edge was in the hospital when he made the decision to stop the heroic efforts to save him.  He had told the doctor, and Linda, his daughter, that he wanted to stop treatment and just be comfortable.  I asked him if he was sure and he let me know it was his decision and was a bit irritated that he was asked again.  Ivan appreciated the God Who provided all he owned way too much to think it was because of him or that God owed him more.

While I know that Ivan was not perfect, he certainly showed the example of being a man of God.  He rejoiced when the truth was taught and was deeply bothered when something was put in its place.

Ivan’s love bore all things.  The death of a son, his wife’s illness, Ivan’s own pain were things he bore because he did not want to burden anyone.  Changes at church, retirement, decline of his own health, were all examples of what Ivan bore in love.  He bore it all and more with grace and composure.  While many others sour on life, Ivan never did.  He did not accuse God, check out on life, or think that God did not care about his struggles like so many others do with lesser problems.

Ivan believed.  He loved God and believed God.  All the way back to his younger days, Ivan believed God is real, Jesus is real, the Bible is true.  He believed the manger happened, miracles took place, the cross was where Jesus died for the sins of the world and for Ivan’s personal sins as well.  He believed Jesus really was buried and really did conquer death, hell, sin, Satan, and the grave when He walked out of the tomb.  He believed Jesus really did forgive his sins when he repented from his sins and placed his faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  He believed he would one day see Jesus and now he has.

Ivan loved God and lived with hope every day.  It is what gave Ivan hope and the desire to love his wife, daughter, and son like Jesus would.  Ivan’s love for God has changed because he has been able to see God as He is, but it will never go away.  That love never failed Ivan and it never will.

Ivan left a legacy of love for God and others.  I am thankful that Ivan showed me what a faithful man, husband, father, deacon, and Christian is supposed to look like.  What legacy will you leave behind?


The Trouble With the Tongue
April 26, 2017, 3:20 pm
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In the 1970’s, the show, Star Trek, introduced an episode entitled, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  The problem with tribbles was not that they were cute or even useful, but that they multiplied until they were everywhere.  Once everywhere, they disrupted the ship’s crew and even the ship’s physical plant.  The clogged up everything and caused the crew to be at each others’ throats.  Our tongue is much like a tribble.  A little slip here, a little slip there and, before you know it, the effects have multiplied and our progress in the faith has completely stopped and we are upset with everyone.  James knew this to be a difficulty as well and he wrote about the trouble with the tongue in James 3:1-12.

The first trouble with the tongue James mentions is that it can take down those that desire to be teachers and leaders in the church.  James makes the statement that we all fall in the use of our tongues, but when teachers fall, the impact is multiplied simply because of the influence they have over others.  When you read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9, and see the high standards Paul, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, put on pastors and teachers, it is amazing to think that they would meet all of those high and lofty ideals only to be taken down by careless use of the tongue.

Additionally, the trouble with the tongue is that it can lead you to a changed life.  It can lead to changes that are good or changes that are bad.  James uses the illustrations of directing a horse with a bit and a ship with a rudder.  Both use small things to change the course of much larger vessels, but think about it.  A horse can be used to rob a bank (in the Old West) or it can be used to deliver mail (Pony Express).  A ship can be used to deliver humanitarian aid or it can be used by Somalian pirates to take lives and demand ransoms.  Our tongue is similar.  It can be used to steer us into deeper relationships (courtship) or it can be used to destroy those same relationships (testifying in divorce court).

Another problem with the tongue is the fact that it is so hard to control.  The example James uses is that of a fire starting with a small spark.  Smokey the Bear used to say it only takes a spark to start a forest fire.  In the 1990’s, a discarded cigarette started a blaze in California that claimed over a million acres, homes and even lives.  The tongue can do this as well.  Think about a time when a careless remark or a word that was not well chosen had serious ramifications for you and you understand completely.

The tongue can also blow hot and cold.  This is what James meant by saying we use it to worship God (hot) and we use it to tear down or curse others (cold).  Sometimes, if we are not careful, that usage can happen in the span of a few seconds.  We use it to sing Jesus Loves Me and use it to criticize, gossip or destroy a person’s reputation.  This may seem normal, but James says it should not be so.

Finally, James closes this section with the biggest trouble of the tongue.  It merely reflects what is in our hearts.  Jesus said so in Matthew 12:34 when he said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  Do you wonder why you are critical?  It is what your heart is filled up with.  Why do you struggle to control cursing?  It is what you fill your heart up with.  Why do you find it hard to focus on Jesus throughout the day?  You are not filling your heart up with Him.

Try something different.  Try spending time in God’s word today and leave off the TV.  Try listening to only Christian music for a week and see if your tongue improves.  Make a list of the good attributes of your spouse and see if you don’t begin to see them in a more positive light.  Spend time thanking God for all He has done for you and see if grateful speech does not come easier.  Try it.  It just might change your life.