Monthly Archives: May 2015

Character – the essential part of us

In her autobiography My Life, Golda Meir tells of returning as an adult to the Milwaukee school she attended as a child.  Among other things, she told the children that deciding the kind of people they would be excelled any career achievement.  That meant being involved in what helped others rather than enriched them.  With positive personality development as their priority, their career choice wouldn’t define their worth.

Golda was “right on,” as Christians must know.  What we are as people exceeds how we make a living or how we serve God.  A good attitude elevates any low-position job.  Unbridled egotism humbles even the highest-skill career.  We can be taught to do most anything, however difficult.  Only God can make us the kind of person he honors.

So, Being is superior to Doing.  Bernard Baruch learned that the day he informed his dad he’d made his first million.  His dad looked puzzled and shrugged his shoulders in a “so what” pose.  Only later did Baruch understand his father’s response.  For later in life he wished he’d been a doctor or a lawyer instead of a financier.  As General MacArthur wished he’d been a peacemaker, not a warrior.  Like the late Bear Bryant, we often wish we’d been better Christians.  But we never long to be anything but a Christian.

Even the most successful people have regrets over opportunities missed.  Even they don’t reach all their goals.  We all dreamed dreams that failed to materialize.  As we review our past life, we find that we’ve grown older quicker than we expected and accomplished less than we planned.  And the self-accusatory failure syndrome sets in.

Don’t let it.  What we are and remain as individuals will always be much more significant than what we DO!  True:  we are of the flesh, and we all tread the city streets.  But, as Masefield wrote, “In our hearts we can all be kings and queens.”  Let us beseech Jesus:  whatever we lack in work or intellectual skills, build in us a character equal to any responsibility.


Perseverance – often the essence of success

President Lincoln wrote letters of encouragement to two young people.  One went to a friend of his son Robert, who failed to pass his entrance exam to Harvard.  (Put among Things That Never Change being able to go to a “smart-set” school.)  Among other points of encouragement, the President said:  he could still gain entrance to Harvard; he couldn’t let failure prey on him; he must intend not to fail as the means of succeeding.  To a cadet at West Point, the son of a cousin of Mary Lincoln, he encouraged him to “adhere to your purpose” and he would soon feel as good as ever.  If he instead faltered he could find it a permanent problem in persevering in any resolution.  War Years II, 267

Every disciple committed to developing Christ-likeness faces the same struggle.  How can it be done, when past and present efforts haven’t yet achieved it?  And how can we ever reach a point where we can honestly claim we have achieved it?

Consider three perspectives.

First, and the basis of all discipleship, God demands improvement of our forgiven life.  We don’t give an account for our sins. Jesus has removed them from our record.  We must upgrade all aspects of our personal life:  attitudes, habits, behavior, beliefs.  We have no say about our spiritual gift package.  We have the definitive decision about using the package once we open it.

Second, discipleship-life is a journey more than a destination; more a search than a particular conquest.    The more opportunities seized and employed as we travel, the more certainly we’ll arrive at our destination with greater Christ-likeness.

Third, if we refuse to surrender our goal in discipleship, that very commitment is success.  Consider the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14.  He considered pursuit of his goal, not achieving it, the essence of success.  He declared his intention to:  know Christ; the power of his resurrection; the fellowship of his sharing in his sufferings; becoming like him in his death; and somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Yet, he considered himself a pilgrim seeking and maturing in these great purposes.  He never considered he had achieved them.

So must we say.  Trying to be like Jesus is our greatest challenge.  Succeeding only incrementally thrills us.  Failing to any degree diminishes us.  But only pursuing Jesus Christ gives us a sense of advancing the behinder we get.  Every day let us offer Praise to God as the expression of a glad heart; and Prayer to God as the expression of a needy heart; and Submission to God as the expression of a surrendered heart.

Individual – importance of the

Solzhenitsyn told of a communist official who let his villagers bake bread when Stalin had forbidden it.  Arrested for his effrontery in disobeying rules, he was tried and shot.

An eight year old daughter survived him.  Barely.  Bludgeoned by his loss, she moped to school and all day at school.  When classmates teased her about her father’s death, she adamantly defended him as a good man.

When an old woman watched her walking, head down, sorrowing, she sensed her future.  By her obsession with the earth, the woman predicted, she would soon die.  Though never having been ill, she lived but a year after her father’s death.  In her death throes she kept wailing, “Where is my papa?  Give me my papa.”

Solzhenitsyn shrewdly wrote:  the millions Stalin killed—and they were multiple millions, whatever Hollywood and University effort to defend him—the millions reduce themselves to individuals.  The billions alive now, the billions having lived, began as individuals, even if twins or more.  And all of us came from two individuals!  Those who want to change the rules for our narcissistic generation fail to understand.  Had God not made marriage between a man and a woman, no reproduction would have been possible.  And just because lesbians and homosexuals want to merely adopt children since even they can’t change the rules of reproduction, they can’t change God’s original and only acceptable model of marriage.

God never forgets individuals.  He gives us names and particular giftedness.  None is ever lost in all the billions alive.  If we think of all the people in need we’ll be overwhelmed by the task of helping them.  Only when we stop to aid the individual who might cross our path can we see possibility.  It costs us nothing to think of humanity in the corporate.  Such figures defy personal computation.  But if we think of the millions as persons, it’s a lot easier to do something to help.

Negatives – the value of

In an article written for the New York Times, Pulitzer prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti said it took him nearly 80 years to learn the golden word NO.  He had earlier been an optimist, thinking “no” too negative.  He discovered only in advanced age the deception of a “sunny” affirmative.  Indeed such a “yes” could be cowardly, “full of compromises and illusions.”  He discovered the strength and honesty of a clear “no.”  While it could lose friends, it would liberate the individual using it.  San Diego Union editorial, 5/30/91

How many time have we agreed to a request even though we didn’t have time or interest?  How many parties have party-goers attend against their interests?  Just to keep from hurting someone’s feelings?

That says nothing of the value of “no” when tempted to disobey God.  When God warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, he meant exactly that:  NO; not “Maybe” or “Not yet.”  A lot of our problems with resisting temptation comes from saying it with a hyphen, not an exclamation point!

Every parent should early learn the value of “no” when responding to their children.  Every child needs to be denied with strong refusals.  Jesus certainly used negatives when warning his children.  When he proscribed the sins of Mark 7:20-23, he demanded that his people say a clear, strong NO to evil.  When in Matthew 7:21-23 he warned his people not to come before him with a form of religion deprived of its substance, he demanded that we OBEY his teachings.

Truly, personally saying no to our self-will and ego isn’t easy.  And telling our friends to say no to theirs may not make us friends.  But where God sees merit in refusals and denials, are we to consider contradictory affirmations meritorious?

Behavior – is education the answer?

Everything else is broken in Washington, D.C.  Why would it surprise us that their cops can’t remember to retrieve their personal “piece” after going to the bathroom?  These are men and women who provide security for the Capitol and all its occupants and visitors.  Yet at least three this year they’ve left their gun where anyone could find and fire it.  A child found one of them.

A cop’s weapon is his lifeline, so much a part of him it’s an added layer of skin.  It’s his, and our, sole protection against the bad guys.  It’s what distinguishes him from all civilians.  We don’t have to wear holsters and guns because he does.  It’s the “piece” he keeps with him at all times, even when off-duty.  It’s what he surrenders to anyone only if he’s unconscious or dead.

Yet, D.C. cops can’t even retrieve it from the stool, or floor, or sink after using the restroom?  And the Police Chief has to give them “lessons” on how to go to the bathroom so they won’t forget to re-arm after each nature call?  How can you “educate” what should be “instinctive”?

The Chief said he was considering increasing the five-day suspension for offending cops to thirty-day suspensions for the first offense, and termination for any added violation.  “Considering”?  Do it.  San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/21/15

. . .

Isn’t there a spiritual lesson in this story?  Yes, indeed.  Policemen must be judged by the law they represent and enforce.  We can only say to them, “C’mon, guys, get your act together or you’re fired!”

Christians are judged by the far-more merciful Grace Jesus Christ provides.  We can always say to ourselves, “C’mon, guys, repent of your sin, confess it to Jesus, and get back out there and try, try, again!”


Accountability – PERSONAL in

Well, the U.S. government has filed charges against five major world banks, including America’s Citi-group and JPMorgan Chase, for illegal currency trading.  Four of them admitted guilt and paid a $5.6 billion fine.  That penalty would ruin most of us, but it hardly affected the monster financiers, who have been plundering the currency market for several years.  Billions—BILLIONS—have accrued to their accounts in the process.

The interesting, or maddening, result is a lack of personal accountability.  No executives in the offending banks were charged—though we’re assured they’re being investigated.

Welcome to the brave new world of sinning without accountability.  It’s always the nameless “someone else” to blame for our wickedness.  In this context, it’s the “corporation is wrong” mentality.  As if corporations exist by themselves, with minds of their own, making moral or immoral decisions apart from ethics.  San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/21/15

But no; it’s individuals using their education, their lack of values, their greed to make illegal, sinful decisions.  Readers:  read Revelation 20:11-15 again if you’ve read it before.  Read it now for the first time if you haven’t.  You’ll find that individuals, not companies, corporations, or even governments, stand there, with “each person” judged “according to what he had done.”  Each person.  Wives can’t intercede for husbands, and vice-versa. No mother’s pleading accepted for wayward children.  No elder pleading for a wayward Minister accepted.

The United States Treasury will be satisfied with an infusion of 5.6 Billion dollars from greedy banks.  But those wicked, greedy executives, and whoever worked with them, can be forgiven only as individuals repenting of their sin.

Need – meeting the first priority

It happened in Florida.  A doctor fell from his golf cart and hit his head so hard he almost bit off his tongue.  (He had a more fortunate fall than a golfer at a Fallbrook, California course.  For some reason his cart ran away with him and plummeted down a 50 foot embankment to the road below.  D.O.A.)   Anyway, our Florida doctor was rushed to emergency in the very hospital where he had been a surgeon for 30 years.  Nevertheless, they wouldn’t admit him without “cash or appropriate credit documents.”  He couldn’t believe it.  After some lusty screaming, despite his wound, he finally was admitted for “treatment”—which meant an X-ray of the wrong arm and being prepped for an electrocardiogram that no one administered.  San Diego Union, 3/3/84

It would be hilarious if the incompetence then uncommon didn’t portend the incompetence in health care today, which has multiplied under Obama’s liberal idealism.  And the lack of concern for people has become a rule in some hospitals.  Avarice causes it.  The government pays so much money for Medicare and Medicaid that many doctors and hospitals refuse to treat anyone without cash, credit or insurance.  Make sure he can pay before you help; cash or just go ahead and die!

How differently when we approach our Divine Doctor for spiritual healing.  He subordinates our need to nothing save grace and mercy.  He addresses that need above all and ministers to it immediately, knowing full well some won’t pay him the debt of gratitude owed and won’t keep the promises they’ve made when seeking help.  He helps from the depths of his love.  If his disciples are true to Christ, need is what they also must see.  And ministering to it is all they can have on their mind:  not gain or fame or what it costs them

Language – fractured

Here’s more of the nonsense I started yesterday.  Today’s the end.  From a San Diego Union-Tribune story1/7/02.  Found on resumes.  “OBJECTIVE:  I’m very good on the phone and have patients to work with difficult customers.”  “SPECIAL SKILLS:  Music wrritter.”

In 12/14/01, from a book of mangled moments.  “History, after all, is nothing more than ‘the behind of the present’…This gives incites from the anals of the past.”

From a Dear Abby column, No Date.  A lady wrote that the obituary had the wrong age of her deceased mother.  Should she inform the paper?  Abby replied, “it’s better to leave bad enough alone.”  She offered some “corrected” mistakes as an example.  Here’s one.  (Monday) “FOR SALE” – R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale.  Phone… after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him cheap.”  (Tuesday) in correction, “We regret have erred in R.D. Jones’ ad yesterday.  It should have read:  One sewing machine for sale.  Cheap.  Phone…and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him.”  The Thursday edition included a reply from R.D. Jones himself.  He denied having a sewing machine for sale—he had SMASHED it.  He had not been having an affair with Mrs. Kelly.  She HAD been his housekeeper, but quit after the mistaken ads ran.

Sportscaster Bob Starr explained, “So Williams strikes out into a double play.  And that’s one away.  San Diego Union, 7/12/93

From Ann Landers, San Diego Union 1/24/97.  Answers to a Bible test.  Who was Noah’s wife?  Joan of Ark.  What was Lot’s wife?  A pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.  What is the seventh commandment?  Thou shalt not admit adultery.  Who were the epistles?  Wives of the apostles.

There’s plenty more, but as Bugs Bunny used to say, “That’s all folks.”

Language – on the lighter side

Malaprops in language are named after Mrs. Malaprop, a French stage character from 1775.  They consist of a misuse of words in a sentence.  For example, Mrs. Malaprop, in the comedy “The Rivals”, made the following statements.  “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”  “Illiterate him, I say, from your memory.”  “…I should have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries.”

Richard Lederer, who writes a weekly column on Language in the San Diego Union-Tribune, included a quiz on malapropisms.  He wanted readers to identify the right word in a number of mangled sentences.  Let’s pass part of the quiz to you.

  1. I am privileged to speak at this millstone in the history of the college.
  2. I don’t want to cast asparagus at my opponent.
  3. Who do you think you are, some kind of hexagon of virtue?
  4. The deceased was a vicarious reader.
  5. We have to deal seriously with this offense as a detergent to others. U-T, 5/16/15

Speaking can be dangerous to language.  That’s one reason a preacher should write everything he wants to say.  He’s much likelier to say it right if he repeats what he’s written.  Otherwise, he isn’t protected from mis-speaking in off-the-cuff remarks.

Aging – in discipleship offers benefits to churches

A San Diego Union Tribune article 4/27/15, called Elders of Invention, stressed the creativity of senior citizens.  The people profiled had engineering and business backgrounds that continued to function after their retirement.  They continue in their 80’s to be sharp-minded creationists.

“Good ideas are ageless,” one said.  And women are particularly gifted as creationists.  A “bubbling imagination” in creativity is more important than particular knowledge of a product, the writer said.  And Dr. Gary Small, of UCLA, noted that “an aging brain can see patterns better.”

Naturally, any creative effort demands time, patience and, that favorite word perseverance.  But what lasting good comes without that favorite word?

The spiritual implications are obvious.  As businesses, schools, and organizations see the advantages in hiring Seniors, church leaders remain unimpressed.  Perhaps the last organization to see value in older people, the church can most profitably use their experience, insights, and depth of discipleship.  Consider just three ways:  one, teaching in-depth Bible studies to small groups; two, as mentors of young preachers; three, as tutors of young families.

A lot of us old people are still rarin’ to serve.  And any small amount of money they cost a church is vastly repaid in results.  What church will be wise enough to see their value in helping prepare the next generation’s witnesses to Jesus Christ?

P.S.  A few years ago, The Restoration Herald, reaching hundreds of churches, published my article suggesting that churches should consider hiring Senior Ministers.  I received no indication from any pastor that a call came due to the article.  I doubt if this blog will have any better results.  Nevertheless….