You never know when an opportunity drops into your life. Sometimes it’s a person.
I’m not perfect. Here’s a thought, you aren’t either.
Here’s the rub: I’m comfortable with my imperfections but yours drive me crazy. I’m good at extending grace to myself and quick to excuse my weaknesses. However, there’s lots of people who need to shape up, and they need to hurry.
According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs there is a saying tracing back to John Heywood in 1546. Then in 1738 it was used by Jonathan Swift in his Polite Conversation and appeared in the 1713 Works of Thomas Chalkley. The complete saying goes like this:
“There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”
How true it is that others are blind and deluded, the poor souls.
Here is a partial list of how imperfections are manifested:
- even bigger ego
- compensating for inadequacy
- hiding the truth about themselves
- believing themselves right about everything and everyone
- always thinking they are the smartest one in the room
- quick to give unsolicited advice about what is right and what to do
- ruled by anger, frustrated by disagreement, resentful of different ideas
Their opinions are unscrutinized, there judgements unexamined, their ideas unvetted. They go about life believing that whatever they think is true. The juxtaposition is they tend to be critical of others who manifest the very same peccadilloes.
They speak their judgements openly and without consideration. As if the whole world sits on the edge waiting to hear them speak.
But enough about me.
“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may here your servant cursing you–for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.
Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
We live in an imperfect world but the world’s imperfection is us, the broken and fallen. The world is imperfect because it’s inhabited by imperfect people. I’m one of them. I tend to be blind and deluded.
My wife sent me to the store.
Is That Unusual?
No, it’s not unusual at all. I’m often sent to the store to get a few things that didn’t make it on the list. For this particular trip I was sent to pick up three items.
I went to our local Kroger store and as I was going in a young father was going out. He was pushing a cart with a few bags of whatever his wife sent him to get. Also in the cart was his daughter who was three or four and about as cute as I’ve ever seen.
Well, she noticed me and I noticed her and then she smiled and said, “Hi Grandpa.” She was so exited!
Maybe she was just being snarky and using the “Grandpa” in the way someone says,
“Hey Grandpa, you want to hurry it up or what?”
But I don’t think so. Her greeting seemed genuinely expressed.
I was about to respond with something fun when her Dad said softly, “Honey, that’s not Grandpa.” She looked at me, giggled, and they were out the door. The whole thing lasted 10 seconds.
I can only assume that I resemble her Grandpa. Evidently, he is also good looking and humble. There are so few of us. Or maybe I just looked old and any old guy could be Grandpa. To a three year old, everyone over fourteen is old and I’m so not fourteen.
Okay, this is a pointless Monday morning blog. Except to say that I couldn’t help feeling good about her mistaken identity. She was adorable and I would be proud to be her Grandpa. It made me happy that she spoke to me.
Someone you don’t know may speak to you in the next few days. You can choose to smile and be kind or you can choose to smirk, be dismissive, and go about your day. It’s your choice, and mine.
I don’t know if any children ever called Jesus Grandpa, probably not. But if they did, I’m guessing he didn’t smirk, or be dismissive just so he could get on with his day. Come to think about it, he was never dismissive or rude to anyone. That was his charm. He genuinely cared about everybody. Thank you Jesus!
There are times when I could really use a consultant.
Whom Would I Choose?
I would choose the apostle Paul. Here are some reasons:
- Acts 9-28 are dedicated to his conversion, ministry, and mission.
- After Acts, 13 of the remaining 23 books were written by him.
- He was the apostle to the Gentile world.
- He lived in Roman society: a cosmopolitan, decadent, idolatrous world.
What Would I Consult About?
- how to live Christianity in an increasingly pluralistic culture
- the role of Christianity in today’s social and political arenas
- not the 1st century, but applications of scripture for the 21st century
- his advice about mission and ministry in our modern society
Same or Different
Perhaps his advice would be the same as it was in his day. Or would it? The principles would remain the same, but I wonder about the applications. Our 21st-century, western world represents some conundrums his Roman world didn’t have. Would the reverse also be true?
Did the 1st-century church contend with the same immorality and violence? Christians were openly arrested, persecuted, and killed. Idols temples dotted the corners. Every kind of sexual perversion was accepted and practiced. Yes, the early church struggled.
I live in a nation of sophistication, with a strong rule of law, a deep respect for God, and a place of peaceful coexistence. A country that champions diversity with equal rights for all. A society committed to the highest standards of moral decency.
But lately, it doesn’t feel like it.
I’m sure Paul faced the same challenges, issues, and concerns. He would point me to his 13 letters where all the answers can be found.
I’m also sure he would sympathize with our school shootings, our ripping ourselves apart with rabid infighting, and our culture losing its moral compass.
There are times when I could really use a consultant.
I really don’t know what to say.
Its easier to cope with violence when it’s not in your own yard. Its still tragic, but a little less so when it happens someplace else to someone else. When it happens in your town, to people you know, well, that’s harder to cope with.
From Friday to Sunday people around our nation have died. They have died in car accidents, from gang killings, drunk drivers, and from home invasions.
Last night, a man entered a restaurant, got his family seated, then went outside and crashed his car into the restaurant, killing two and wounding others. Last night a Houston woman was shot to death by a man wanting her cell phone.
I guess the only good thing about weekend violence is that the schools are closed.
Lots of people died last week in America. However, when death happens in our schools, to our children, then we feel vulnerable and helpless.
What People Say
Some say school shootings are the result of guns being too easily available. Some say the violence is the result of decades of violent television, movies, and video games. Others suggest that the perpetrators are kids who have been bullied. Others offer that the shooters are abused kids raised in abusive homes.
That’s what some say.
I Know One Thing
I’m not an expert, but I feel certain about one thing, it isn’t over. There will be more mass murders in our schools.
It’s A Problem
It’s hard to know what to do or how to do it. Are America’s kids at risk? Are the children of our nation in crisis? Are our families broken? It’s a problem we don’t seem to know how to solve. Are we rudderless and lost?
My prayers go out to the families, students, and people of Santa Fe, Texas; a community practically next door to me. I don’t know if my prayers are comforting, but I hope so. I hope their burdens of fear and grief are just a little easier today. I am so sorry for their loss.
I really don’t know what to say.
A story of deep faith, great courage, and the healing of the Spirit
I wish I was better at it, but I’m not.
Better At What?
Better at preaching. I’ve been preaching for forty years and still haven’t figured out what people want to hear. I’ve delivered around 3,500 sermons, a number representing Sunday morning and evening sermons, workshops, meetings, seminars, retreats, and special occasions.
I’ve probably improved over the years, but who knows?
Over the last several weeks, with a few weeks to go, I’ve conducted vision groups with my church. Each group has averaged about 15 people with a total of 27 groups. When finished I will have met with about half of the adult congregation.
I ask each group the same three questions, primarily for their feedback relating to our vision for the future. But one of the questions addresses our worship services, including the sermons. Here are a few of the comments I’ve received about my preaching:
- Sermons are too long.
- Sermons are too short.
- Need sermons that have more heart.
- Need sermons that address personal struggles.
- Need sermons about coping with culture.
- Need sermon series that are topical.
- Need sermon series that go through books of the bible.
- Need sermons with fire and brimstone.
- Need more sermons that step on our toes.
- Need sermon series about other beliefs.
- Need more lessons about family.
- Need more lessons from your holy land travels.
- Need lessons that teach us how to defend our faith.
- Need lessons about coping with failure.
- Need lessons that teach us how to live right.
- Could the sermon notes be printed each week?
- Could you speak louder?
- Could you speak softer?
- Could you preach sermons like I used to hear when I was young.
- We should not have sermons every week.
None of them were critical, negative or unkind. They were just comments.
Well, I appreciate the feedback. I do. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of it, but I appreciate it.
I think they like it that I took the time to ask. In the interest of full disclosure, there’s been many comments about how much the sermons are appreciated.
I can’t please everyone all of the time. Actually, I can’t please everyone any of the time. Perhaps the goal is to please a majority of the people a majority of the time.
I preach what the Lord puts on my heart. I preach what comes out of my study, prayers, and mediation. I preach what the Holy Spirit gives me. Is it effective? Is it what people want to hear? I don’t know. I’ve never been very good at figuring out what people want to hear.
I wish I was better at it, but I’m not.
They brought me the wrong thing, and it took too long, and was burnt.
What did I do?
Take a look.
A Warm and Loving Presence
That’s what it takes according to a four decade study of 350 families with each family having three or four generations. The research was aimed at answering the following questions:
- How is religious faith transmitted to the each generation?
- Why are some families successful at transmitting faith and others are not?
- Can the reasons for success and failure be identified and measured?
An Interesting Project
Social scientists invested 40 years surveying the members of each family’s generations. The same survey was give each year asking about faith and levels of religious commitment. And the results?
This Sunday at the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, TX at 8:30 and 10:45, I’ll be sharing the primary results of the study. You are welcome to come or to watch online from our site: www.southeastonline.org
And if you care to, take a few minutes to watch: VLOG: “I Love Being a Father”
How many kinds of dads are there? What kind of dad did you have or still have? What kind of dad are you? Forgive me if the following seems stereotypical:
- The engaged, loving, attentive dad
- The missing in action dad
- The always too busy dad
- The deceased dad
- The dad who is divorced from your mom
- The abusive dad
- The harsh, bullying, uncaring dad
The best scenario is for every family to have two loving parents who are present, engaged and leading their children well. But that’s not always how it is, is it?
I have deep respect for single parents who strive to provide everything they can for their children, doing everything that normally requires two parents to do. God bless them.
The Apostle Paul commended Timothy for his faith, which he said came from Timothy’s mother and grandmother. His dad was mentioned too but not for his faith. Single moms can raise Godly kids. Single dads can raise Godly kids too. But for each, it’s tougher.
What happens to the home, to kids and to families, if the father is present but unengaged? Or if he leaves and has minimal involvement, if any? How much harder is it for everyone?
Each generation has its challenges for passing faith to the next generation. How are we doing in transmitting our beliefs to our kids and grandkids? What’s our report card?
How true is it that we can’t force our children to love the Lord? We can’t make them believe. We must train, teach, mentor, encourage, support and pray for them. We must make sure they have every opportunity to know the love of God. But in the end, its up to them to decide.
It’s vital for parents to have strong convictions and a good understanding of how to pass their faith to their children, and to their children, and so on. And having a loving father, or father figure, is still the best case scenario for faith transmission.
A Warm and Loving Presence?
We will see.
Tradition: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.”
Growing Up In Church
- Sitting in the same place every time.
- Using only the King James version
- Members urged to “go forward.”
A tradition created by religious leaders and preachers. Also known as “the invitation” or “altar call.” Reasons for “going forward” or “responding to the invitation” included:
- salvation, asking for baptism
- confessing sin
- requesting prayers from the congregation
- repentance for bringing shame and reproach on the church
Tradition or Scripture?
No where in Scripture is a person required to “go forward.” It’s not commanded, nor are there examples of it and it’s not inferred that anyone did. People responded to the gospel at all hours of the day and night, but there is no sense that it happened on Sunday mornings in church. The gospel was preached publicly, in the marketplace, or in homes with people gathered to listen.
But somewhere in our history, the “invitation” was offered whenever the church gathered, and over time it became a tradition and was elevated to the level of biblical authority. It became a sin to not offer the invitation.
Satisfied Our Justice
It’s legalistic practice grew to Pharisaic proportion. People were embraced or rejected based on going forward, or not. Church membership was tied to the practice of “going forward.”
If a member had “sinned publicly” then that member was guilty of bringing reproach against the church, of shaming the congregation. Therefore, they had to publicly repent and ask forgiveness of the church. Examples of shame:
- Public intoxication
- Sexual sins
- Unwed girls who were pregnant
- Rowdy or unseemly behavior
I’ve witnessed unwed girls “going forward” for forgiveness for shaming the congregation. The girls did most of the repenting, I guess pregnancy is difficult to hide. In forty years of ministry I have never seen a young man go forward for getting a girl pregnant.
And the Lord?
Repentance and Godly sorrow are good things. God is looking into our hearts and sees our humility and brokenness. Its good to seek his grace but I’m not sure that any of us has the right to limit it’s access to the front row of the church.
Too many have been judged and rejected because they failed to live up to the traditional expectations of tradition bound believers.
Here’s some sins I’ve never seen repented of in public:
- Judging others
- Self righteous attitudes
- Gossiping about church members
- Factiousness within the church
- Binding traditions as if they were the word of God
I guess those sins aren’t public enough to warrant walking down front.
the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation
Some are good and some need to die and be buried.