Sunday, October 19, 2014

Constitution?....What Constitution?

   It is almost always alarming when people we elect to office, who vow to protect and preserve the constitution of the United States, get in office and then start acting like the constitution doesn’t exist.  We have had such a case with the Mayor of Houston in the past week.   My readers know that I will never pass up an opportunity to point out poor leadership for our “elected leaders”.  I always hope that the lessons learned can be applied in our churches, where we often see more examples of poor leadership than anywhere else.  As I have pointed out before, nowhere in the educational system for pastors is there a course on leadership.  That might explain why there seem to be so many really poor leaders in our churches.
 
   But, I digress.  This post is about what happened in Houston this past week.  It seems Houston is trying to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to the one implemented in San Antonio this past spring.  Houston’s mayor, a proudly professing lesbian, has been given the rap of demanding copies of sermons from preachers who have preached against that ordinance.  I have not read the ordinance, but I understand it would permit people who were born male to use ladies rest rooms in Houston.  San Antonio never quite got to that point, but they have passed an ordinance that would bar any preacher who preached against homosexuality from ever doing business with the city, or serving on a council, commission or committee of the city.  Houston took it one step further, demanding sermons that would prove the preacher spoke out against what they believe is an abomination to God.  Most of those preachers believed, as I do, that ordinances like this are intended to legitimize the gay and lesbian community, by punishing anyone who does not wish to see it legitimized.
   What both these cities are doing is seeking to legislate what people should believe.  I believe this is unconstitutional.  One of these days it will actually be adjudicated by the courts, but not until somebody has been denied in their effort to work with the city in some way.
   While Houston’s mayor did finally back down, even denying she had anything to do with the demand, you can be assured this will be her legacy.  As a lesbian, she would legislate you and everyone else believing that homosexuality is O.K. and we should not speak against it.  That last part, of course, is unconstitutional.  No one can be stopped from speaking against what they believe God hates, which is the sin, not the sinner.
   I just wonder why it is that so many elected officials, people who have pledged to defend, support and preserve the constitution, end up violating it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Does Prayer Really Change Things?

   O.K., am I the only one who thinks we Christians are sometimes hypocritical when it comes to prayer?  We preach, we give testimony, and we encourage others to pray and seek the intervention of God in our affairs.  But, it appears we only believe prayer is the right step in certain areas of life. 


   We are totally committed to prayer when we have a loved one who is sick or hurt, or when we seek comfort for someone who has lost a loved one, or when we are looking for God’s direction in matters of church.  These are areas of life that we are eager to commit to prayer, knowing God will indeed respond.  However, as I read my Bible, particularly the Old Testament, one of the things God’s chosen people were often chided for was that they did  not trust God in matters of state.  How often the prophets spoke out t9o rebuke the people for not including God in their plans.
 
   We Americans decry today the fact that God is being slowly removed from all our institutions.  But, I believe the greatest offender in this God removal are His own people.  Instead of going to our knees to ask God’s direction and intervention in matters of state, we seek answers to our problems within our own military might and our weapons of war.   I have been saying for some time that I believed God would judge America  in some way, just as He did His chosen people in Bible times.  Sometimes God put up with their unfaithfulness for centuries before finally tiring of it and allowing heathen nations to conquer them.
   Now, remember this.  It was the people of God that caused Him such grief that he destroyed their nation.  It is the people of God in America that will cause God to judge this country.  I believe we are still under the mandate of 11 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If my people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
   I ask you—do you really believe the Christian community believes that admonition today?  God asks four things from us—humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways.  Many of us believe that unless we do those four things, America is doomed.  And it may be sooner, rather than later
   When faced with a crisis in our country, a crisis like ISIS, our first thoughts should be to ask God to intervene.  Prayer should be our first response, but it is often way down the list.  If we really believed prayer changes things, we should be counting on prayer to do just that in the affairs of state, as well as in the church. 
   What about it?  Do you really believe prayer can make the difference?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Who Is God?

    The world is coming to understand that the radical group of Muslims known as ISIS or ISIL, who claims to be following God’s orders, are an evil, misinformed group.  Their claim that lopping off people’s heads is directed by God, Who in the Koran said to put the knife to the neck of unbelievers, is a perversion of their own scripture and an affront to the God Christians serve.  Our Bible says, “God is love.”   The God Who is love does not exhort His believers to cut off anyone’s head.
 
   ISIS looms as the greatest threat to peace we have seen since Nazi Germany.  Just as the Nazis felt they were doing a service by exterminating Jews, ISIS claims to be doing a service by killing anyone who does not accept their version of  religion.  This includes men, women and even children.  Whereas the Head of the Christian church said, “Let the little children come to me…”, ISIS says, “Kill the little children if they do not come to us.”  Such evil—such evil.
   In my opinion, a war against ISIS would be a just war, which is the only kind of war we should ever get into.  This radical ideology must be expunged and anyone who refuses to give it up should be exterminated.   They should be exterminated, not because of their religion, but because of their interpretation of their religion.
   These people are not worshippers of God, they are the enemies of God.  Their perverse ideology is an affront to anyone who seeks to know The Higher Power that created the universe and loves His creation profusely.  Mankind is part of His creation, and He would like to have a relationship with all mankind.  However, He is not commanding anyone to kill those who refuse that relationship.   He has commanded us to seek to reach into the mind of all humanity with His message of love, not separate their brains from their bodies if they will not listen.
   This evil is spreading and there are few powers in the world that are able to stop it.  Those who have that power must work together to eradicate this devilish ideology.  Do not be deceived.  What ISIS is doing is not Islam.  It is a perversion of Islam that must not be allowed to stand.  This means that countries who know of young men and women who leave to go fight must not be allowed to return.  If we know someone who has gone to fight for ISIS, their passports should be revoked immediately so that they cannot return to do their dirty work in our homeland.
   America has an all volunteer military.  These men and women have volunteered to fight the enemies of America.  While we refuse to admit that we are at war with ISIS, they have no problem saying they are at war with us. 
   All ofg us should be praying that Goid wojld give clear leadership to what must be done about these evilo perversions of religious truth.

After Further Review....  I find that I left something out that I should have put in and put something in that I should have left out.  I should not have advocated the extermination of anyone.  Instead, I should have encouraged all my readers to spend some time praying for these people and for God to have His will with them.  I believe in the power of prayer and I believe if we would leave these people up tyo God, He would lead our response to this evil.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Supreme Court To Get Into Religion Once More

   The Supreme Court this week will hear a case that will determine once again whether or not the constitution gives people the right to dress however they wish and work in a store which has set dress code policies.  The case involves a Muslim woman who wants to wear her traditional head-wrap, while working in a department store that has a strict dress code for all employees.  The store insists that the employees who will meet customers must look like the clothes they sell, while the woman insists that her religion should trump that dress code.  It is a classic clash of rights, protected rights, that both the woman and the store have, according to the constitution.
 
   This brings to mind the airlines employee who was fired for wearing a visible cross with her uniform.  The question the justices will have to answer is “Whose rights are paramount, the business or the individual?”  It’s probably a good thing I am not a judge because this would be an easy case for me.  I would say, “Look, there are lots of places to work that will allow you to wear your religious garb.  The company has a right to insist on a dress code for their employees.  Go to work some other place.” 
   Here’s the thing.  If a woman who is not a Muslim wanted to go to work in a Muslim-owned business, that business would have a right to insist that she cover her head, because she is likely to be interacting with a lot of Muslim customers and an uncovered female head is an affront to them.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 
   When I moved to Ft Worth in 1961, I heard stories of young Southwestern Seminary guys working at Convair.  They were very evangelistic and spent a lot of time trying to lead their co-workers to the Lord, some even during work hours.”  Some of them were let go because they took too much time not doing their job, instead preaching to their co-workers.  In other words, religion and work got in each other’s way.  The workplace is primarily a place to work, not preach.  I apply the same doctrine to the head-wear issue.  If one’s religion forces one to dress a certain way, do not seek to work at a place that will not allow one to do so.
   I know my solution may not be in accordance with law, but it works for me.  One thing our constitution could use in a little common sense.  When the rights of two entities come into conflict, use some common sense instead of going to court.  I am a preacher.  I believe in trying to lead people to Christ.  I believe in witnessing in the marketplace.  But, I also believe in a business’s right to insist on certain behavior and dress while on the job. 
   Suppose I wanted to work in a place where they sold party supplies.  I was told that if I came to work there I would need to wear a clown costume on the job every day.  Does that company have a right to ask that of me?  Absolutely!  Do I have a right to take the job and then protest wearing a clown costume?  Absolutely not!  If I didn’t want to dress like they required, I should not accept the job. 
   I do not know how the court wil decide this case, but I suspect a little common sense would help.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Apostle’s Most Important Words


I remember well my course of study on the Life and Writings of the Apostle Paul.  It seems to me I remember my professor saying that the fourth chapter of Ephesians may have been the great missionary’s greatest words.   While his letter to the Ephesians may have had that city’s name on the letter, I believe, as do many scholars, that this was a book written for all the churches.  In fact, I suspect it was probably copied and sent on to others of the churches where Paul had preached and taught because it had so much truth and instruction on how the early churches were to carry on the work of the Lord.  Perhaps no other of Paul’s writings gave us more instruction on unity in the Body of Christ.

   Simply put, we need to understand that we are never in the will of God when we are fussing with each other.  Somebody once said, “Put two Baptist in a room and there will be at least three opinions.”  That may be true about some things, but not about the main thing.  When it comes to reaching out to people who do not know Jesus, Baptists are pretty unified.  And that is exactly how the Lord wants it.
   An oft-mentioned subject of the Apostle Paul was unity in the Body of Christ. In virtually all of his letters he had something to say about unity in the church.  The reason is obvious.  The churches he started and wrote letters to all had to be taught about unity.  More than anything, Paul wanted these churches, whom he loved with all his heart, to know the joy of unity in the Spirit.  I believe that is still true.  Today’s churches must be taught about unity.  They need to be taught what the Bible says and what the Bible means regarding the unity of the Spirit.  For that reason Unity is becoming a popular subject in modern church circles. When Christians get together in their meetings they like to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” It says, “We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.”  To many, unity would be the dissolution of denominational lines and all  celebrating together. 

While the reality of churches where they sing that song may be less than the song says, the song does constitute a wonderful vision.  Rather than painting a picture of the church the way it is, it paints a picture of the church as it should be.  Some say a more accurate picture comes from the song, “The Church’s One Foundation”—It says “Though with a scornful wonder, men see her sore oppressed by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.”   That is a more accurate picture of the church, and always has been.   

Since New Testament times the unity of the church has been a subject talked about, a spirit that is desired.  Unity may seem elusive, but it is not.  It is just misunderstood.  If we are ever going to keep the unity of peace, it is important that we learn about it, how we can achieve it, and how it is ruined.   Unity is more about all of us trying to accomplish the same thing than it is about all doing it the   same way.  Unity in the spirit is about purpose, not necessarily methods.   This unity is not the kind negotiated by men; it comes from doing the will of God. If we are in Christ, we are one with all others who are also in Him. This unity is not something man creates; God does. We are simply to maintain, guard, and preserve it. 

   About this I am absolutely certain—God desires unity in the Body of Christ.   The word “unity” appears in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:13.  “…until we all reach  unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”   Although this unity exists, we must still strive to reach it in the full sense that God desires.  According to this verse, that unity is achieved as we approach spiritual maturity.  Ephesians 4 helps us to understand the difference in a mature Christian and an immature one.  Mature Christians have discovered their spiritual gifts and are using them to build up the church.  These spiritual gifts are sovereignly given by God at the point in which the believer has the Holy Spirit…the point of being born again. 

   How is unity demonstrated in the church  today?  Not at all like some people think.  I have preachers tell me all the time that their church experiences unity because they never have a “no” vote in a business meeting.  Well, let me tell you this—you can be in a church where there is never a “No” vote and still not be experiencing unity in the Spirit.  It is possible to have unanimity without having unity.

Unity is not necessarily demonstrated by agreement on issues, but by being loyal in faith. Essential doctrines cannot be compromised (Ephesians 4:3-6, 13-15).  Agreement on these essential doctrines is more a demonstration of unity.  A body cannot be divided where these issues are concerned.  

Also,  it is not enough just to love others; we must also tell them the truth. Paul tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). 

This suggests another way in which we demonstrate this unity—by being loving in spirit. Paul is equally emphatic that simply teaching truth is not enough; it must be done in love (Ephesians 4:1-3, 31-32). How we treat those with whom we differ is indicative of the Spirit’s rule in our lives.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Another Leadership Principle

   Several recent posts dealt with leadership issues, and today I would like to add another principle to that list.  As stated before, more than sixty years of training and experience should, and I believe has, provided some insights into the whole subject of leadership.  There are many things that leaders have in common.  By saying that I am saying that the things I have been talking about here are common traits of all the great leaders I have known.  Here is a partial list of these things:
·        The person in the position of leadership is quite often not the real leader.
·        Effective leaders have no problem saying, “I was wrong….”
·        Real leaders think strategically and are able to communicate a vision—a vision developed from many hours of prayer and consultation with elected leadership.
·        Real leaders hire the best they can find, even though who they hire may take some of the starlight from his/herself.
   Today I want to add the issue of competency.  While I tend to think of leadership in the context of the pastorate, we have all seen how incompetent people somehow rise to the highest levels of corporate, military, or government environments.  It would be real easy for me to take out after government “leaders” who, I believe, are in over their heads.  They simply do not have the skills to do the job they were either elected to or chosen to lead by someone who was elected.  This nation has been rocked by the incompetency of academics who have been hired to lead huge government agencies, but who were no competent to do so.  But, I do not want to spend m y times further denigrating government.  Most people who read this blog are more concerned about their churches.
   When I train Pastor Search Committees we spend quality time trying to determine what kind of pastor would be best for that particular church.  Some want a great administrator, while others want a great preacher.  Still others want a shepherd who will walk among the sheep and come to understand their needs, both spiritually and physically.   Usually, I tell a committee to pick one of these three things that is most important to their church, because it is extremely rare to find a pastor who does all three well.  The problem comes when the committee gets bowled over by a great preaching performance and start convincing themselves that this great preach is also good at the other two…or, at least, good enough.
   When we finish talking about these three things, we talk about leadership.  How important is it that the pastor, who will be in the prime leadership position, is a good leader?  Good leaders will always consider the stakeholders (church members) in the making of decisions.  Good leaders think strategically.  They are able to lead in the development of a strategic plan for one, two, and three years.  They are able to lead in revising that plan as needed. 
   I often ask Search Committees to develop scenarios about their church and ask pastoral candidates how they would respond to that scenario.  That will let them know whether or not that person is actually a leader.  The worst Search Committee mistakes are related to leadership issues.  Bringing someone into a church who is not competent to lead that church is a disaster waiting to happen.  Discerning that competency may be the most important thing a Search Committee will do.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Request For Prayer

    A group of about a dozen people left Sunday for South Africa.  Under the auspices of Christian Unity Ministries, the group will teach unity principles in churches of multi-denominations.  Their leader, Blake Coffee (Yes, I am related to him) will be speaking at some pastor’s conferences made up of ministers from several different denominations.  This man infestation of unit5y among the churches is remarkable.  They will also have the opportunity to renew fellowship with a group of convicts who occupy a prison where they will minister, both men and women.
 
   Blake, who gave up his law practice about a year ago, created this ministry of unity about a dozen years ago and for some reason God led him to an international presence.  He and others have been to Ukraine, Romania, and for the past six years South Africa.  Along the way some stateside churches also latched onto this ministry.  One of the things almost everyone says when they return from one of these international sojourns is that the church in America could learn a thing or two about how churches should function from these other countries.  To a person they come away feeling like the American churches are spoiled and out of touch with its spiritual roots.
  When you live and function in a country that does not pamper churches, in fact, persecutes them, you quickly learn that your faith is all you have to sustain you.  Persecution strengthens a church.  The church in America has faced little such persecution, and, therefore is pretty weak in comparison.
   Christian Unity Ministries bases its teaching on a book written by Blake Coffee.  The book is Five Principles Of Unity.  It has been translated into Spanish, Russian, and Japanese.  As a gift to the Christian bodies to whom he relates in these countries, Blake has give the rights of his book, free of charge, to these countries, to print and use as they see fit.  In English the book is in its fourth iteration, presently.  The book ios available at Amazon and can also be purchased  from the ministry web site, which is www.christianunityministries.org.  
   As a board member of the ministry, and the father of its leader, I am requesting prayer foir God’s protection over this group as they head towards South Africa, where they will be ministering for approximately three weeks.  I know I can count on my readers to voice a prayer when they read this post, and I thank you for it.