Monday, November 24, 2014

Peace on Earth

Driving through the city today making the stops necessary to complete my list of things to do, I listened to a lot of radio. I prefer talk radio - sports talk, specifically - because the music stations that play what I like are very sparse. Honestly, I spent too much time behind the microphone on my own radio show. Some of what I hear irritates the programmer in me. I should get over that, I know.

So as I listened to talk radio I heard local and national news broadcasts a few times. A particular lead-in really caught my attention. There was a confrontation between a white guy and an African American guy. I really don't have a problem calling races by color or continent of origin, but can't we be consistent? Some are offended when called a color. If a news network has determined that calling a particular race by a color may be offensive (and so they avoid it) then why don't they apply that decision to all races?

Either we're all colors or we're all continent of origin. In my opinion, both are silly. If you live in America, are an American citizen, have family roots in America, etc., then why can't we just say that you are an American? Remember the idea of being a melting pot?

In the news story I heard, the continent of origin and the color of the skin had nothing to do with the conflict. Two guys had a disagreement and settled it with force. One guy was black..or brown, the other guy was white..or beige. One guy was African American, the other guy was European American, I guess. Doesn't that sound silly?

The brokenness that sin brings upon us is most evident in this area. And it's a shame.

Later in my tour across our city I heard that the grand jury in Ferguson has made a decision and it will be made public later today. I can only imagine how the tensions between the races will be manifested after this.

I pray that the peace of Christ will rule in the hearts of all believers. Those who profess to follow Jesus should really try hard to follow Jesus during these days. The brokenness that engulfs our world can only be made right by the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed so that our sins could be forgiven.

Sins of racism can only be made right through Jesus. Hatred between people can only be made right through Jesus. We can only be "color blind" or "continent of origin blind" through Jesus who came that there could be peace on earth.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ruling or Leading

I just read a tweet that set apart leading from ruling. The President made a speech last night. I guess that's the reason for the tweet.

But it causes me to think about my role as a pastor. I must confess that there have been times in my 32 years of ministry that I have tried to rule rather than lead. I apologize for that! People are much more receptive to leaders than to rulers. (Should I remind you that the President made a speech last night?)

The Bible refers to pastors as shepherds. God's people need to be led toward fulfilling the Great Commission, to confess sin, to love one another, to live moral lives, etc. I could stand in the pulpit (sadly, I have) and demand action and response. That almost always results in no response or the opposite response I was demanding. But shepherds lead the sheep. Once the shepherd gains their trust the sheep will follow him anywhere. They trust him to be looking out for them and leading them to the right places.

A church will follow a leader much better than obey a ruler.

Years ago I worked as a training manager for call centers. One of my trainers was a bit of an independent type. She was a good trainer but not so much a good employee. Finally, I had to sit down with her to develop an action plan based on her misconduct. I had a couple of options. I could call her in my office and tell her what the rules were and demand she toe the line or else.

Instead, I chose to sit down in the training room with her. I had a blank piece of paper on which we would outline the action plan. In my mind I knew what I wanted to write on the paper and usually I would have already written it down. But as we talked about the situation, the company's policies, and the expectations for employees, she crafted an action plan that was almost identical to the one in my mind. By asking questions and getting her involved in the problem-solving process we walked away with a plan we both owned.

I felt like I had been a good leader.

People in your workplace, school, family, club, or church will follow a leader. They might rebel against a ruler. (Remember the speech last night?)

OK, I'm headed to Google to find articles on effective pastoral leadership.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Reactions

Deana and I left for Israel on November 4. We'll be home on November 13. It's been a great trip with 52 friends and new friends - all of us associated with Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock in some way.

I married in.

It's time to pack for the trip home so I'll make this short. But I'll share more in the next few days…or weeks. Actually, I'll share my experiences for the rest of my life.

  1. The blue-ness of the Mediterranean is unbelievable.
  2. Being in a boat on the Galilee was emotional.
  3. The Via Dolorosa is a bit too commercial.
  4. A trip to Israel really does make the Bible come to life.
  5. I felt safe the entire time.

I plan to come back and bring some of you with me. Who wants to go?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Telling Anecdote

As a preface, I'm not bashing individuals. I'm not ranting. Just making a statement based on three anecdotal observations.

Halloween is a fun time for lots of people. I'm an introvert so I don't really want to draw attention to myself by dressing up and parading anywhere. When I was a kid I loved Halloween because of the candy. As I think about it, that's still why I like the day. But I'm not going to a costume party and since Riley's a teenager, I don't have to go trick-or-treating…which really cuts down on the candy!

You can't see another house from our house. We live on a fairly busy road but there's not much reason for people to trick-or-treat our house. Trick-or-treating works better in neighborhoods where kids can score a pumpkin full of candy in a few minutes. But we turned on the porch light and had candy waiting for any kids whose parents would risk the one-house-stop. We had four kids and I loved seeing them, getting hugs from them, taking their pictures, and handing out candy. It reminded me of riding on the tailgate of my grandfather's pickup truck as we headed down Fifth Street in Paris, Arkansas forty years ago.

Halloween is not really a holiday, is it? Businesses don't close. Governments don't shut down. I'd guess that few people miss work on October 31 because they get to show up dressed however they want.

But I've read on social media that some people claim Halloween is their favorite holiday. And some of these people are Christian - maybe just cultural Christians. My concern is that people who claim to be Christian would put a day that has very little if any Christian significance (I do realize that this is also Reformation Day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door) above the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior - the Incarnation of God. Secular pleasure overtakes spiritual significance.

Then I heard a news broadcast on the radio. The anchor was reminding people to set their clocks back one hour Saturday night / Sunday morning as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end. On the lighter side, I thought, "Hey, that's my job! These twice-a-year reminders are about the last thing the government and culture allows pastors to do without harassing us!"

On a more serious note, she went on to say that if you didn't adjust your clock Saturday night / Sunday morning you would be an hour off schedule MONDAY MORNING. And she said to take advantage of the time change by sleeping in SUNDAY MORNING. Our culture has long ago left the perspective that church matters. I knew that but when the news broadcast totally ignored a worship service possibly being on someone's Sunday schedule…

I shouldn't be surprised. Even last weekend should have prepared me for this weekend. The NFL season has included playing one game in London the last few years. That was last weekend. Last Friday, the sports radio show I listened to hailed the idea of televised football on Sunday at 9:00 A.M. since the morning would otherwise be void of any usefulness. Again, church attendance and participation (and importance) are ignored.

So Halloween is the favorite holiday and Sunday mornings have little to do with going to church.

If we ever were, the United States certainly is not a nation of Christians today.

I heard a story this week that I had heard before that is appropriate for our situation. A shoe company sent a salesman to an African country. After a few weeks the company received a telegram from the salesman: "I quit! Nobody wears shoes over here." The company sent another salesman who sent this telegram a few weeks later: "Send more shoes. Prospects everywhere!"

I'm not lamenting (much) the state of Christianity in America, but recognizing the sobering reality that the fields are white unto harvest. Just look out the front door. OK, maybe I'll have to drive a quarter of a mile to see the fields.

The Great Commission demands that those who are truly followers of Christ are to make disciples. My pastoral ministries professor aptly defined this as "winning people to Jesus and building them up in the Lord." Let's don't cry in our cereal; let's pray for workers for the harvest and let's be those workers.