Archive | September, 2014

Focus on the Record, Not the Salute

30 Sep

Before this article goes any further, let me make one thing perfectly clear: This writer does not like Barack Obama.

As a Christian, does he pray for him? Yes.

Does he feel Obama deserves respect? For his office, yes.

But he does not like him. He did not vote for him. In either election.

There are many reasons why he does not like the man. The writer is a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. And President Obama represents everything he is against.

He is for abortion. To the Christian, abortion is the taking of human life. The Christian believes that life begins at conception. To one who holds that view, the federal funding and authorization of clinics that do that very thing is criminal.  Even more heinous is the idea that the leader of the free world supports it because, in his own words, he would not want his daughter (if she should get pregnant out of wedlock) “punished with a baby.”

The Christian does not support the homosexual lifestyle. He does not consider himself better than the homosexual nor does he believe that homosexuals will go to Hell because of their lifestyle. People only go to Hell for the rejection of Jesus Christ. He simply understands that word of God stands in opposition to that very thing that the American government is now making legal and acceptable.

These, to the Christian, are acceptable and perfect reasons to stand in opposition to the current Chief Executive of the United States. A Christian who is truly following Jesus cannot separate his faith from his politics. His faith permeates every part of his life. He cannot compartmentalize because that would not be self-denial according to Matthew 16:24. He must stand on biblical principles regardless of his comfort zone or how others are pressuring him.

However, a latte salute is not a reason to dislike the current President. It is not something that should have garnered this much attention.

Was it wrong? Absolutely. It was disrespect in its purest form. Our military stand ready to put their lives on the line with just one order from this man. They stand in harms way so that we can be protected.

Now, don’t misunderstand. Technically, he does not have to salute. This was a tradition reportedly started by Ronald Reagan. However, anything worth doing should be done correctly  and not halfheartedly. He’s is not the first and probably won’t the last politician to be guilty of this.

The problem is his disdain for the American soldier. He traded five terrorists for one traitor & then leaves a good Marine in a Mexican prison. This cannot be seen as anything but very disrespectful and it just adds to the list of things he has done to disgrace this great nation. When a  military general was killed in Afghanistan, who was absent from the funeral? Where was Obama? Playing golf.  Some things are more important in life.

Criticize his total disregard for the American military. Criticize what at times appears to be a total lack of patriotism on the part of his wife. Criticize that he goes overseas and apologizes for his country. All of those have merit. But a botched salute just doesn’t seem worth it.

Even Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly said it was a tempest in a teapot. On the morning show “Fox and Friends”, the well-known acid-tongued conservative journalist seemed to come out in favor of the President.  He said that every once in a while, Obama had to be given some slack and that he honest felt that nothing malicious or condescending was meant by Obama.  He went on to say that he realized why the vent angered some but said that it was “small stuff” and people shouldn’t fret with it.

Yes, there is definitely much to find fault with when it comes to the current leader of the free world. Much of it could affect our nation in a permanent fashion. Some of it could threaten the national security if not the very future of democracy. But a half-hearted salute while coming off of a helicopter? Hardly makes the list.

One of the biggest problems in political infighting and the voice of criticism on either side has been the total lack of decorum. If one is going to criticize, concentrate on the true issues. And above all, be fair.

Already, a picture has surfaced of George W. Bush giving a similarly awkward salute while in office. He was not holding a coffee cup. Instead, he was holding his dog.

Lately, the President has come under fire for his vacation time.  For as long as there has been Camp David, there have been pundits who criticize every time a President makes use of these facilities.  He is never far from the ability to launch nuclear capabilities and there are always advisors who are close. It is completely unfair to criticize any occupant of the Oval Office for taking too many vacations.

What about the amount of vacation time that was taken by George W. Bush?  So far, Obama has taken 125 full or partial vacation days while Bush’s count at the exact same point in his presidency was 407. Others may recall when liberals castigated President Dwight David Eisenhower for his time spent on the golf course.

Presidents never get to completely retreat from their responsibilities. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, it is possible that those days away from the Executive Mansion could never really be called vacation days.  In truth, the President of the United States is never technically away on vacation. The job, along with all of its overwhelming responsibilities and powers is always present regardless of where the President is or what he is doing.

It again needs to be stated that this is not an article supporting Obama. However, credibility in criticism seems to be vanishing in today’s political world.

And not just with Republicans. In 2007, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee released a campaign commercial sending Christmas greetings. Behind him on his shelf was a cross. Many made a big deal out of this saying it was his attempt to insert religion into the race. Really?  As presidential pundit Dick Morris pointed out at the time, it was simply a Christmas decoration. Nothing more.

When silly accusations such as Christmas decorations, vacation days, or half-hearted salutes are where the focus is set, then the real issues fade away in the midst of heated rhetoric and shallow insults.  The accusers end up looking silly and the target comes across as a victim and gains even more of a standing. This is not always true (consider Sarah Palin). However, it is true more often than not.

It is the record that deserves the attention. Not the salute.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO NOT LOSE A PASTOR

16 Sep

The statistical data concerning pastors is not very encouraging.  One authority says that up to 40 percent of clergy will not even last five years in their field of ministry. Up to eighty percent will no longer be doing vocational ministry after ten years.  Nobody knows for sure how credible these statistics are, but they do represent the fact that there are struggles for those who are in ministry.  Many statistics show that 60-80% of those who enter the ministry will no longer be laboring in the ministry 10 years later. Whether these statistics are right or not, it is clear that there are struggles with persevering in the ministry.

One of those struggles is conflict. Conflict is a regular visitor to the church body.  Oftentimes, clergy are called to mediate but more often than not, they are actually the target.  It will often be found out that many congregations have members who are rude, arrogant, and petty.  The saddest part is that most of those the ones who display these traits are believers. Even sadder is when the clergy if often the main source of the conflict because of mistakes in administration or lapses in judgment.

To survive conflict, a pastor must learn to not shoulder every single conflict that comes his way.  Rather, they must learn to release it and continue on with their calling.  A pastor must have a tender heart and a think skin simultaneously.  Without fear, the word of God must be taught regardless of who may choose to take offense.

Discouragement can also be an issue. In fact, it can be a real enemy. It can drain all the joy out of ministry. Many times, a Pastor will work hard for years following his calling and then see very little fruit. Yet, their instruction from God is to continue to labor. People under their watchcare may continue to disappoint. It may be thought that progress had been made only to find out that the opposite is true.  He can soon doubt his own calling and definitely question his effectiveness.

To combat this, a Pastor should look for those little moment sof grace that are often sent our way. They are often missed. But it cannot be forgotten that the work being done is spiritual and should not be measured by the world’s standard.

The number one reason that many Pastors give as to why they leave their vocation is burnout.  It is a calling of long hours, late night phone calls, unending concern, no long weekends, and few vacations. It can be both spiritually and emotionally exhausting.

A Pastor must take a weekly day off. He must be diligent about doing this and cherish the time.  He should understand that he cannot possibly be at every event and tend to every single situation. He is not all knowing and cannot be all present and should not act like this is the case. Family vacations are a must.  Regular private prayer retreats are a great idea. In addition, they should look for colleagues in ministry with whom they can relax.

The Pastors office can be a lonely place. Everyone thinks they know the Pastor but yet they really do not. A pastor can often forget that there are times he needs ministry as well.

A Pastor should allow his congregation the blessing of ministering to them. He should not be scared to ask for the help, love, friendship, and support of his congregation.  Yes, it is essential that it happen. Ultimately he should trust his spouse and allow her full access to his feelings.

Finally, there is moral failure which is unfortunate. Lying and adultery tend to be at the top of this list. There can be nothing more traumatic for the local church as it has the potential of damaging a plethora of lives.

A Pastor must not forget that he is not just working for the Kingdom but living for it as well. He must have an active prayer life and be diligent in his sermon preparation. He must allow others to hold him accountable.

To persevere in the ministry is a constant challenge and it should be so.  In many ways, this is a blessing. However, knowing these challenges are going to come is half the battle.  When a Pastor overcomes these obstacles, he shows his congregation another example of how to “stand in the gap”. This is an incredible blessing for the church.

A SEPTEMBER 11 DEVOTIONAL

11 Sep

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:9-13)

Everyone can remember where they were when they heard our nation was under attack.  They can remember the footage of the planes flying into those towers. We remember the shock, the confusion, the intense feeling of vulnerability, and the anger. All of a sudden, terrorism was at our front door.  Our nation was changed forever.

In this scripture, Paul is encouraging us to be steadfast in our faith.  Anytime we are faced with difficulty, it is real easy to lose sight of the goodness of God. We are surrounded by suffering and so much sin that we can often feel overwhelmed. But God’s goodness and grace is present even in the darkest times. And he is always in control, even when, especially when, everything else seems so out of control.

Because of this, we know that there is hope. Through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, our joy can be healed and restored. He is the provider of true peace. When we embrace the Cross, we can rise above the confusion and see clearly God’s plan. We are given hope for the future. No more tears. No more pain.

Paul closes by saying that the greatest of these is love. We gain such freedom when we love those around us. We love in prayer those who are hurting and alone.  If we do not open our hearts and attempt to love  even our enemy, we allow bitterness and hatred to take over. Love trumps Satan everytime.

A  9/11 remains a difficult day for countless families and friends who have lost a loved one. Please take a moment to pray for them. Also remember to pray for our enemies.

 

WHAT KIND OF WORLD ARE WE LIVING IN?

4 Sep

What kind of world are we living in when the idea of asking teens to be abstinent until marriage is considered restrictive, oppressive, and controlling?

I’m not just pulling this out of thin air. One Samantha Pugsley wrote a blog saying that very thing. She tells about taking the “True Love Waits” pledge when she was ten years old and believing now that it was oppressive and demeaning.

Really? So it would be better to raise your child to throw herself to whimsy and have sex “whenever it felt right” and thereby bring a lot of comparison, heartache, and not to mention disease in to the marriage bed? Even if you took faith and religion out, wouldn’t abstinence until marriage just make sense?

What kind of world are we living in?

What kind of world are we living in when homosexuality is considered an acceptable lifestyle? Do not get me wrong (but you probably will… liberals always seem to do that). I have friends who are of that persuasion. I do not hate them. You can’t hate a friend. I do not walk around attempting to shove a Bible down their throat.

However, the scripture is clear on this issue and when we start legalizing one immoral lifestyle, what’s next?  I am sure this will get me in trouble but some of the most heinous offenses could be legalized using the same arguments for homosexuality (“You can’t help who you fall in love with!” “It’s genetic!” “Some people are born with that type of wiring”)

What kind of world are we living in?

What kind of world are we living in when it’s okay for a sitting American President negotiates with a known terrorist organization for the release of five terrorist prisoners in exchange for one American soldier. Until that time, we have never condoned or helped this brutal, horrible, regime. But now? Now, apparently it is okay. We barely give notice to the men and women fighting and dying for their country. And as a slap in the face to all active and retired (and even deceased) soldiers, we allow for the release of five men who are part of the world that they fought to keep away from our nation because of the horrible tactics they promote.

What kind of world are we living in?

What kind of world are we living in when there are American people supporting the Hamas?  I will grant you that in their tactics, the Israelis may have been brutal,even vicious. But that is only because others are trying to force them out of a land that rightfully belongs to them. The Hamas are terrorists! We cannot support terrorists and we must always support Israel because they have always been our allies? But many armchair political experts are talking about how the Israelis deserve what they’re getting (they get their news from the liberal media and have no apparent knowledge of how to research for themselves).

What kind of world are we living in?

Someday, God is going to call me home. Someday, He is going to call all of us who are believers home. In the meantime, we must do more than just sit and lament. We must get involved in the political process. We must let our voices be heard. We must not sit meekly by and let the secular society run us down, make fun of us, and transform our political system. We are citizens, too. We have a right to be heard. And to not speak out is wrong.

So quit telling me that I should be quiet. Quit telling me that I am promoting some hate filled Gospel. There is nobody I hate. And because I have a heart to love, I love people enough to say when they are wrong according to Scripture. Just like many have done for me many times in the past.

It may not be my permanent home but for now it is the world that I live in and I will continue to speak out!congregation