Monthly Archives: March 2010

People Behaving Badly

When the Temple soldiers, led by their priests, arrested Jesus, Peter cut the ear off one of them. Peter was not aiming for the man’s ear. It is a wonder a soldier did not kill Peter on the spot. Rather Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” said Jesus.  Then Jesus touched and healed the wounded guard.

I am growing so weary of all the recent emphasis on people behaving badly. I confess I have guiltily enjoyed the public shame of the hypocrite on many occasions. I enjoy irony and take pride in feeling superior as I pass judgment on the haughty, even if I do not have all of the facts. I constantly have to confess my sin and pray for my own forgiveness. People have always and will always behave badly. We used to call it sin. So why are we so surprised at the latest reports?

We have moved into a time when one way to become a “celebrity” and make a lot of money is to behave badly in private and then have it revealed in public. That is the motive behind many of the sex scandals involving athletes, entertainment and music industry personalities, and “the rich and the useless,” which is what I like to call a certain daytime soap opera.  Greed, fame and the trappings of power are also interwoven into the shameful stories of the politicians, CEOs and religious leaders of our day. Manipulation, maliciousness, and money-raising are behind many of the unfortunate outbursts and ugliness demonstrated in the name of politics. The tone of this rhetoric is not Christian.

I am not scandalized when non-believers behave badly; it’s the religious who know better that bother me. Unbridled bigotry and anger lead to very bad things. Religious people, in the name of God, Allah or any other deity, who force politicians to act on their side only, tend to behave badly and dishonor their faith.  Look at Pilate. Look at the crowd that yelled “crucify him.” Look at Jesus, who brought civility, compassion, and a healing touch as his adversaries yelled “crucify him,” and He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate Easter.  And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Weather or Not

If I were the one in control, the weather would always be beautiful on Sunday morning. God and I have had this discussion for years now. Mostly I talk. God doesn’t say much about it. All I ever get is, “It rains on the just and the unjust alike.”  You would think that God would make it as easy as possible for people to go to church on Sundays. On the last day of winter it was 72° in Tulsa. Saturday and Sunday it stayed around 30° and we had 6 inches of blowing snow. Monday was a beautiful 60° day, of course.

Maybe it is all a test of my character. Or maybe God just didn’t want to go to church in Oklahoma last Sunday. God may have been in North Dakota helping take care of people facing flood waters, in Iceland in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption, or maybe there were too many basketball teams praying for a March Madness miracle. Most likely God does not micromanage the weather at all. It’s probably more about strengthening our character.

I have discovered through the years that I have no control over most things. I have no control over the weather, the world economy or even other people. I have no control over who decides to get up and come to church on Sunday mornings, whether people tithe or give an offering, or who will share a witness of faith on any given day. Some days I barely have control over my own impulses and decisions. What I do have is influence, both positive and negative. I have the influence of example, and the opportunity to model my life choices before others. Self control is the test of life. So let it snow in the springtime, for all sunshine makes a very dry desert.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Pass today’s test. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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My Preaching Bible

My preaching Bible started falling apart a few months ago. I tried pretending it was just a cosmetic problem and that with a little tape here, some glue over there, everything would be just fine. It was worse than I thought. I love my old preaching Bible. I’ve been using it now for 18 years. I’m like the Peanuts character Linus trying to give up his blanket. Most likely a professional needs to get involved—for the Bible.

The King James Bible given to me at my ordination in 1973 and the New International Bible that I received on March 1, 1992 have served me for my entire ministry at the church. I changed to preaching from the NIV Bible that year because I realized I was translating the old English into modern English before I could talk about most passages.  I have used that KJV Bible for every funeral in which I have spoken. There is something about the tradition and majesty of the old English that is timeless and seems most fitting for those occasions.

I have ultimately postponed my “duct tape” solution for further consideration. Maybe it was time for a fresh start. I went Bible shopping. I needed to find a Bible exactly like the one that fell apart because it was large print and the page numbers correspond to the church’s pew Bibles. The price of a Bible has risen dramatically. They showed me a “Minister’s Bible” for $229! It had so many “helps” I had trouble finding God’s Word.

It seems most of the Bibles today are study Bibles, specialty Bibles or have extensive commentary by famous writers. I finally found what I was looking for. The binding is not genuine leather, but I got it for 25% off. Should I go through the old Bible and transfer all my little notes and markings, or do I just start fresh and see what happens over  these next 18 years?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Make a fresh start. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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First Card Catalogs, Now Google

In my life long ago, I served as the full-time Serials Librarian at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  That’s serials with an “s” not with a “c.” I did not serve breakfast. Serials are periodicals, magazines and annuals. I had a staff of eight people to supervise and over 4,000 different titles to catalog and file. It was an amazing and diverse job with the opportunity to help students, professors and Biblical scholars research the most current materials available in religious studies.  I held that position from 1969-1973, and I am continually grateful for the skills I learned there. I learned about the budgeting process and living within its constraints. I learned about managing a staff and scheduling. I learned how to read quickly and accurately, and how to research current ideas through periodicals.

I went to the library of the local theological seminary recently to check out a couple of books. I had not been in a theological library since the late 1970s. Over the years my personal library, the church media center and the kindness of friends, has seen me though. Now I was embarking on a sermon series on Jesus and his relationship with his mother. I needed to find very specialized books and articles. But I needed help. The card catalog was recycled long ago; now everything is on computer. The student librarian patiently showed me how I could find anything that I needed in this library from any computer in the world!

Sergey Brin has put in motion a dream to make the content of every book available to anyone in the world. Never heard of Sergey Brin? He’s the co-founder and president of Google, Inc. Many people never go to a public library any more. It is cheaper than a bookstore, and more technologically advanced than many homes. There will always be a place for holding a good book in your hand, but one day soon, you may be reading your favorite author from a hand-held computer. Google already has 30,000 e-books you can read for free. Our world, literary-wise, may never be the same again.

“We want to make smarter search engines that do a lot of the work for us.  The smarter we can make the search engine, the better. Where will it lead? Who knows? But it’s credible to imagine a leap as great as that from hunting through library stacks to a Google session, when we leap from today’s search engines to having the entirety of the world’s information as just one of our thoughts.”  Sergey Brin, September 2004.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Visit the library. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Clean and Sweep

They came to me with a proposal I could not refuse. Company was coming and I had to do it, even if I thought everything was just fine the way it was. My eldest daughter, echoed by my wife, told me it was time for a “clean sweep” of my office.  If you have ever seen one of those TV shows where people live in overstuffed places and a team comes in and throws all of their stuff away, then you know what I was facing. The church’s anniversary was coming, and someone might want to visit me in the office. Besides, chairs are for sitting in, not storing boxes, books and paper. Can you feel my pain?

They chose a Saturday morning when they knew I would be distracted by other chores. I had to be in two places at once. That is harder than it might sound. When the fateful moment arrived, they were paralyzed with indecision. Where to start? They recovered. Once they started in on the chairs, they found their courage to head for my desk. Now let me explain. I use a RAM filing system for keeping track of my paperwork, mail, magazine articles, reference material and notes to myself. My Random Access Memory filing system works very well, thank you. I can find exactly what I am looking for on the first try at least 80% of the time. Some things do take a few more tries, but I find nearly everything eventually—most of the time.  I have excuses.


So I was called in to help them make piles of similar stuff and group paperwork by topic. I surprised them with my pre-written supply of categories that I could line out on the floor for their convenience. I was there to guard my stuff. We put two or three sacks of trash in the paper recycle bin, other things in boxes, moved more supplies to other areas of the church, and then it was time to go home. They instructed me to spend 30 minutes each day sorting my stuff, and I would be happier and have a deep feeling of accomplishment. Every time I do this my allergies act up, and I am not happy yet. I find that when I clear out one area of the office, it just makes room for all of the other piles that I have hidden away to become visible. And no one came by to see the office. Sometimes dealing with our everyday sins can be that way—confess one and then you see another. Apparently I need to do this a lot.

After the first try

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Clean and sweep. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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