Friday, August 22, 2014

Manhood

From Elisabeth Elliot, The Mark of a Man
  •  “Stand true to your calling to be a man. Real women will always be relieved and grateful when men are willing to be men” 
  • “The world cries for men who are strong; strong in conviction, strong to lead, to stand, to suffer.” 
  • “Jesus never pussyfooted.” 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All that Glitters is Not Gold

Richard Cory
By Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Perspective from the Pitt

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1999, Brad Pitt shared candidly about the shortcomings of the world’s definition of success. He lamented the rise in secularism, saying, “We are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being.”

Chris Heath, reporter for Rolling Stone, followed up and asked Pitt, “So if we’re heading toward this kind of existential dead end in society, what do you think should happen?” Pitt replied:

“Hey, man, I don’t have those answers yet. The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. [Smiles] I’m sitting in it, and I’m telling you, that’s not it. . . . I’m the guy who’s got everything. I know. But I’m telling you, once you get everything, then you’re just left with yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It doesn’t help you sleep any better, and you don’t wake up any better because of it. Now, no one’s going to want to hear that. I understand it. I’m sorry I’m the guy who’s got to say it. But I’m telling you."


Cited in: Greer, Peter; Horst, Chris, Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches

Friday, August 15, 2014

Odd Jobs and Even Jobs

Learning to work means learning discipline, sacrifice, self-denial, provision and service. Work develops skills and provides experience. Work teaches us how to live in community, how to adjust and how to get along. Lessons for life are gained from our labor. 

There are different kinds of work. Some involve our routine contribution to the family, like picking up after ourselves, making our bed, and a variety of household chores. If your children are not doing these things daily, and doing them cheerfully, and doing them well, then life is going to be difficult for them and those around them. Start by making sure they see you doing these daily  things cheerfully and well. School work is the job of a student and the goal of that labor is ultimately joy. A job well done always results in joy even if some tears were involved along the way. Knowledge, understanding and wisdom are the pay checks that will enable us to accomplish great things for our good, ours neighbors' good and for the Glory of God. Related to this kind of work is the labor and discipline of things like music and sports which, when well done, also bring pleasure and beauty to our lives and our communities. Volunteer work teaches us and our children about self-sacrifice and also that money is not the only kind of payment we receive for our labor. "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). 

Odd jobs, like mowing grass, babysitting, pulling weed, raking leaves, washing cars, etc. open up other opportunities to learn some important lessons for life. Odd jobs provide a little money with which we learn to tithe, save, give and spend. We learn to carry a little of our own weight. We learn the value of a dollar. We can pay for our own summer camp, a bit of entertainment, or some special object of our desire. We learn that money doesn't grow on trees and that other things we have received in our lives as gifts from others meant that their labor was expended for our sakes. Every child should learned to do odd jobs early and often and then taught how to wisely use the money they earn from those odd jobs. All of these kinds of work are essential for us and our children if we are to have any hope of loving God and our neighbors the way we are called as members of one another.

This leads to one other kind of work that I think is missing from the lives of many young people and, as a result, there is a large deficit in their lives which leaves them ill equipped for adulthood. For the sake of symmetry I will call this kind of work "even jobs," which is another way of saying "a regular job." This is about more than simply earning a paycheck, though a paycheck is part of it. Summer jobs, after school jobs, Saturday jobs bring some other things to the table. These jobs involve bosses, co-workers, and schedules, which teach us about authority, how to work together, how to work with difficult people, how to be the low man on the totem pole, repetitious labor, conflict resolution, and that we can't do everything we want to do when we want to do it. Having an even job means I can't hang out as much with my friends and it makes me physically tired, both of which are good for me. Of course there is the paycheck, which provides opportunities of all sorts, and the experience gained, which will open up other doors in the future. Kids who have had these kinds of jobs learn to pay there own way, are not overly indulged, have less or no debt, and they grow up much sooner. Remember, the real job is not to raise children, but to raise adults. Get a job!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Looking Into the Future


This is me today and, according to some age-progressing software, this is me 25 years from now ― if I make that far.

Some Birthday Quotes on Aging:

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.” ― Mark Twain

“Twenty-three is old. It's almost 25, which is like almost mid-20s.” ― Jessica Simpson

“Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out.” ― Phyllis Diller

“Everyday is one less day.” ― Tom Ford

“A life can change in a tenth of a second. Or sometimes it can take 70 years.” ― Charles Bukowski

“Your whole life is ahead of you.” ― Eleanor Brownn

“If I knew I was going to live so long, I'd have taken better care of myself.”― Mickey Mantle

“I'm falling into disrepair” ― Anne Tyler

“It happens to everyone and it happens fast.” ― Joseph Hansen

"Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked." ― Pearl S. Buck

"One pleasure attached to growing older is that many things seem to be growing younger; growing fresher and more lively than we once supposed them to be." ― G. K. Chesterton

“George Macdonald said, 'If you knew what God knows about death you would clap your listless hands', but instead I find old people in North America just buying this whole youth obsession. I think growing older is a wonderful privilege. I want to learn to glorify God in every stage of my life.” 
― Elisabeth Elliot

"Autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I'm not sure that old age isn't the best part of life." ―C.S. Lewis

“I have seen it time-after-time:  whatever we pack in while we are young will ooze back out when we are old. These can be the graceful years or the grumpy years. We either get better or we get bitter.”  ― Randy Booth

“Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.  Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” 
― 2 Peter 1:13-15

"The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
― Psalm 92:12-15

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Gospel of Healing

As I grow older I’m becoming more and more painfully aware of the brokenness of my body, and human bodies in general. Sometimes I go to bed feeling pretty good and then wake up feeling like something really bad happened to me while I was asleep. Conversations with my peers include an increased number of references to medical issues. I’m constantly hearing of some new thing (which, in some cases, I didn’t even know existed), that can go wrong with the body.  When we’re young, we’re often oblivious to what is already at work in our dying bodies. If this situation were limited to the physical body it would be alarming enough, but the problem runs much deeper than this.

The body’s brokenness is symptomatic of something more fundamental or foundational. Our souls are broken as well; broken from the beginning.  Sin originates in the heart [soul] and works its way out. “the wages of sin is death…” Rom. 6:23); its poison defuses itself until every corner is affected, like a drop of poison in a glass of water. Each of us is broken psychologically and emotionally. There are books filled with descriptions of these kinds of “disorders.” “Disorder” is a good word to describe our condition. Even if we can’t find an official psychological or emotions malady with its own label, none of us should be so self-deceived as to think that we have somehow escaped this universal effect of the Fall. Our irrational fears, anxieties, depression, insecurities, anger, crankiness, etc. are all indicators that something is terribly wrong with us. No matter how hard we try to cover these maladies of the soul they refuse to go away completely.

Ailments of the body can sometimes be ignored or lived with, but if they grow worse we will usually seek a remedy through better eating, exercise, medicine, surgery, etc.  Great amounts of time and money are poured into trying to avoid, remedy or repair our broken bodies. We need our bodies to live. Sometimes people are reduced to simply trying to cover-up the physical symptoms with drugs that numb the pain.


Soul remedy requires us to seek something much bigger but it always begins by recognizing the problem. We will never seek the remedy as long as we are covering up the truth. The gospel of grace is the only solution; coming to the Great Physician; touching the hem of His garment with faith. Being forgiven by God (and others) is where relief begins, and this relief is sudden and dramatic. Why did we resist it for so long? It isn’t hard. It isn’t even painful. It is nothing but overwhelming joy. There will still be rehab that needs to be done, but the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God by way of His church will nurse us back to health until it is finished. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Full of Care

One recurring threat to an otherwise happy relationship is carelessness. Other threats might come from malice, selfishness or other intentional motivations, but not being careful to nurture falls into a different category. Sometimes we excuse ourselves of such neglect by say that we “didn’t mean to do this or that.” Being careful requires much more. To be full of care demands that we pay attention to the needs of others and not neglect the nurture our family and friends. It’s easy to take one another for granted and to forget to show gratitude. When someone is being a stinker, when they’re annoying us, they get our attention and usually receive some form of complaint. When someone is being faithful and diligent in routine things they can easily fade into the background. We want to fix the broken things but sometimes forget to praise the things that aren't broken. Our lives are filled with background blessings.


In a good family or in a good church (which is a big family), here are some of the things that happen on a regular basis that we should thank God for and thank people for: faithfulness, kindness, sacrifice, food, shelter, paychecks, clean clothes, chores, laughs, comforts, fellowship, worship, prayer, instruction, hugs and kisses, etc. Thank your wife for all she does, day-in and day-out to manage your household. Thank your husband for going to work and coming home every day. Thank your children for jobs well done. Thank your parents for giving you everything you have. As a pastor, I want to thank my congregation for their routine faithfulness and for the joy they bring to me every time I see them, and I see them often. You are amazing. You are remarkable. You are the best!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Powers of Praise and Criticism

Praise is powerful in more ways than we might think. There is the obvious encouragement that comes from sincere praise, the false inflation that comes from flattering praise, the insecurity that comes from faint praise, and the discouragement that comes from praise withheld. Actual criticism is another matter as it too can serve to help, hurt or destroy. Motives do matter. Calvin Coolidge observed: “The political mind is the product of men in public life who have been twice spoiled. They have been spoiled with praise and they have been spoiled with abuse.” This is a problem, for all “public” men. Self-evaluation is never safe by itself, and the swirl of opinions that surround public men can leave them either over-inflated or discouraged; or worse, fluctuating between both. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to believe. Regardless, preachers need to work harder to present sound, interesting and powerful sermons.

The issues here involve way more than the preacher and his sermons; they also involve the people who are receiving the messages. Their own hearts are always added to the mix. It’s possible to have ears and to not hear, or to hear things that were not said. Was the sermon just for you or was it intended for everyone but you? Was it overly pointed or right to the heart of the matter? Did you think it would never end or were you disappointed that it stopped so soon? These are the kinds of responses preachers get, sometimes from the very same sermon. Both sensitive and insensitive souls are usually present. Some are generous with praise, while others are sparing and, for some, it has apparently never crossed their mind.

There is one form of praise and criticism that is always present while a sermon is being delivered; the same form that is present when anyone speaks i.e., body language. There are moments (for most preachers), when they know that they have everyone’s attention: all eyes are fixed; no extraneous activities; everyone is focused. Now we must readily acknowledge that most everyone has an occasional bad Sunday when they don’t feel well or had little sleep or are under the influence of antihistamines.  Exceptions noted. There is, however, a class of folks who voice their disapproval on a weekly basis with their eyes closed, arms folded or by other expressions of their disregard. Some are more subtle than others. How then should this be interpreted? Is this a deliberate attempt to communicate their disinterest, disapproval and disdain, or are they simply oblivious to how it looks from the front. Would they do this if they were up front and everyone was looking at them or is their body language intended for the preacher’s eyes only? It’s distracting at best and it’s often discouraging. When this is set over against those who are clearly engaged, whose body language and facial expressions flow with the content of the sermon, the messages sent are stark in their contrast.


Now I am especially blessed to, on the whole, have a very encouraging congregation that is generous with its praise, honest in its criticism, and engaged in its worship. Of course none of the observations I have made above apply to those to whom they don’t apply. Nevertheless, I have heard other preachers mention such things and it’s hard for preachers to find an opportunity to address these matters without getting themselves into some hot water. Therefore, as a service to those who might be less blessed than me I offer up these comments on their behalf. You are welcomed.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Christian Healthcare Ministries


What is Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is a nonprofit, voluntary cost-sharing ministry through which participating Christians have helped to pay each other's medical bills for more than 30 years. CHM is based on Galatians 6:2 and Acts 2 and 4. In the last 20 years, CHM members have shared more than $1 billion in medical bills. The ministry is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

Bring-a-Friend Referral Program
More members join Christian Healthcare Ministries through the Bring-a-Friend program than through any other method. For every new membership you bring into CHM, you will receive a free month of membership after your friend submits their third monthly financial gift. Those who bring a friend each month can be a part of CHM for free!

If you choose to sign up for Christian Healthcare Ministries it would be appreciated if you would give my name and member number as your sponsor on your application.

Robert Booth ― CHM #164980

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Harder Than Hard

Each Lord’s Day, as we come to the Family Table to commune, we are admonished to forgive those who have sinned against us. This is such a priority that Jesus says: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). True reconciliation takes two parties being willing and ready (even eager) to be reconciled with one another, which also requires an honest dealing with past sins. Reconciliation, however, can take place very quickly.

True reconciliation is far more than a truce between two parties. Rather, it’s a full restoration of fellowship and communion. Sometimes we might choose just to be wronged; to overlook an offence (1 Cor. 5:7). In such cases it’s important to just accept the wrong and get quiet about it; no lingering bitterness or holding a grudge. Otherwise we have not accepted the wrong. When we extend forgiveness to another, either by directly granting forgiveness for a sin that was repented of or by covering a sin with love (1 Peter 4:8), then that forgiveness needs to be all the way to the bone, forgiving in the same way that Christ forgives us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Jesus doesn't forgive us and then say “…but I want nothing to do with you.” If there is remaining bitterness or even tension, then true forgiveness has not been granted. Sometimes this harder than hard. For us, it can even seem impossible. Nevertheless, Christian maturity (i.e., Christ-likeness), calls us to this supernatural response. Forgiveness means picking up the tab and paying someone else’s bill. Once it’s paid, it’s paid; no more debt.

It’s easy for our churches or families to become places littered with un-reconciled people; places of tension, or even animosity. There is a time and place for cutting off a contentious person (Titus 3:1), but we must remain open for opportunities to pursue peace and to be truly brought back together in full fellowship and communion with one another. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Heb. 12:14-15).

I have been blessed to see many fine examples of this kind of Godly reconciliation, even in some long-standing and very difficult situations. The grace and kindness of God toward us is unbounded and so too should our grace and kindness toward other abound.