IS IT TIME TO GO?

I read an online article from Christianity Today last week that left me somewhat unsettled and a little irritated. The premise of what author and Professor Kutter Calloway suggested is that it is time for baby boomers to pass the torch to the next generation.

I think what surprised me the most about the article was that in the opening sentence the author addresses baby boomers: “If there were ever a time to pay attention to what’s coming out of Hollywood, it would be now.” He then points to a couple of this summer’s blockbusters featuring Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Woody (of Toy Story 4) as examples of passing the torch to the next generation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess I am a baby boomer (age 68) who stepped down after 30 years at my last church at the age of 63. Concluding my ministry, however, was my idea. No one suggested that it was time for me to go or that our church needed a change in leadership. Yet I felt like it was time to begin thinking, talking, and planning for a transition.

I’m uneasy with the idea that boomers should be put out to pasture just because they have reached a certain age. Many boomers still have a lot in the tank and much to offer in the role they have been filling.

It does seem reasonable to me that some boomers have passed their prime and do not realize it. Addressing the situation may be needed, but those who initiate such a discussion should carefully think through how to proceed.

I agree with most of what Professor Calloway notes in his observation “that boomers really do want younger generations to take the reins . . . but they just can’t seem to let go.” But why not be more precise and say some boomers just can’t seem to let go?

I also agree with Calloway’s assessment that “mentorship doesn’t happen by accident.” Then he notes “it doesn’t happen when each generation is pointing fingers over who’s to blame.” Ironically, in his article he seems to be pointing a finger at boomers.

I haven’t researched or studied the matter, but my experience and sense is that the professor is overstating a general resistance from baby boomers to train millennials and Gen Xers and pass on the torch. Nor do I believe those who passed the torch on to us boomers were any better at it that we are.

My sense is that every generation coming into their own have faced similar circumstances as today’s Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. I remember well the 60s and early 70s and the disagreements, conflict, and upheaval between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers.

In the article Professor Calloway quotes the well know challenge from the Apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy not to “let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers . . .” (I Timothy 4:12). I think it is appropriate to encourage baby boomers today not to “let anyone look down on us because we are older, but set an example for the believers.” And that example we set includes wisely and carefully passing the torch.

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For those who are interested here is the link to the article: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/boomers-summer-movies-marvel-iron-man-toy-story-4-yesterday.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=15819991&utm_content=663619272&utm_campaign=email

For those who may be interested here is the link to an article I wrote about our transition when I stepped down after 30 years and passed on the torch: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/february-online-only/handing-off-pastorate.html

 

 

 

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WHY SEVEN TIMES?

I’ve been working my way through Psalm 119 (which by the way is the longest chapter in the Bible) and was struck earlier this week by verse 164. The NIV translates the verse, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” The NLT renders it, “I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just.” And The Message paraphrases it, “Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way you keep everything running right.”

Both the NIV and NLT, as well as most translations, suggest the author’s praising of God is done in response to his instruction to his people in his word. In The Message, Eugene Peterson expands the reason to include God’s oversight and involvement in his creation.

While I like Peterson’s thought, I’m good with the majority opinion as well. My question is, “why praise God seven times a day?” I don’t think the Psalmist is declaring that he will praise God at least seven times a day, but no more. In other words, I think less than seven times a day works, and I think more than seven is good too.

The number seven is used a lot in the Bible beginning with the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest in Genesis 2:2. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is filled with the number seven beginning with the letters to the seven churches in first chapter and throughout the book. I remember from Sunday School as a child learning that the number seven in the Bible is the number of completeness and perfection. 

Most usages of the number 7 are referring to the exact number. For example, in II Kings 5:1-14 the Syrian general Naaman was told by the prophet Elisha his leprosy would be healed if he dipped in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman went and dipped seven times, and he was healed.

Back to Psalm 119:64 – if we follow the example of the writer, do you think we need to keep a count and make sure we praise God seven times a day – no more and no less? I don’t.

I think the Psalmist’s report to God that he praises God seven times a day is a challenge to readers of the Psalm to follow his example. We need to take note of God’s blessings and recognize how he has and is working in our lives. With that recognition we offer our praise and thanksgiving to him on daily basis. It’s not about doing it seven times a day, but about cultivating praising God as a way of life.

To praise God we don’t have to be at church, in a small group, or at a prayer meeting. We don’t have to say something out loud nor do we need to close our eyes (especially if we are driving!)

One final thought – we don’t praise God for his benefit, we do it for our benefit.

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TO WHOM ARE YOU LYING?

It would be a very rare person who could honestly say he or she has never lied. My sense is that anyone who says she or he has never lied would probably be lying. You’ve lied, haven’t you? I know I have.

How serious is lying? Most readers probably know that the ninth of God’s top 10 commandments in Exodus 20:16 is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (KJV). That wording seems to limit the context of a lie, but I don’t think that’s the intent. In the New Testament in Ephesians 4:25 the Apostle Paul instructs, “So stop telling lies” (NLT) and in Colossians 3:9, “Don’t lie to each other” (NLT).

Not to be judgmental, I’m guessing all of us lied to our parents on occasion; and I’m also fairly confident our parents lied to us at times. And chances are those of us who are parents did the same. I’m not accusing everyone, but think of the lies that have been told to teachers, police officers, friends, employers, spouses, and on and on. As unsettling as it may seem, we lie sometimes because we want to be kind and nice – are you always completely honest when someone asks how you like what they are wearing?

Some may try to lie to God himself, but that doesn’t work.

What got me to thinking about this whole idea of lying was something I read in the book of Psalms last night I had never read before. In Psalm 119:29a (in the New Living Translation) the writer asks God, “Keep me from lying to myself.”

That got my attention, and after some thought I began to wonder if that was a petition I too should present to God. Do I lie to myself and do I need God’s help to keep me from lying to myself? My answer – yes.

I think we lie to ourselves without even realizing it. And that’s why reading Psalm 119:29a in the New Living Translation got my attention. We often lie to ourselves when we make excuses for things we shouldn’t have done or said and when we don’t say or do things we should have said or done.

Sometimes we are like children protesting “it wasn’t my fault,” “he/she started it,” “she/he had it coming,” “I didn’t mean it,” “it was an accident,” and many more. We lie to ourselves to feel better about those times when in retrospect we wish we could have a do over.

Lying, of course, is something we are not to do as children of God and followers of Jesus. I do believe there are rare occasions when lying is probably the right thing to do, but I don’t remember a time when it was right for me to do so. Most of us know these things.

What I want to ask you is, do you lie to yourself? If you do, you may want to join the Psalm writer and me in asking God, “Keep me from lying to myself.”

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photo credit: Traveller_40 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/19893353@N00/6888161433″>Pinocchio green hat  – 365 / 047</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

A TRIBUTE TO A CHILDHOOD FRIEND

I was stunned and saddened yesterday to learn that one of my childhood friends had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Charles Bailey is his name, but he wanted to be called Chuck. I appreciated that he let me get away with calling him Charlie.

We met in grade school and became close friends. I was at his house in the summer almost every day and stayed all night on many occasions. He had an above ground pool that we played in for hours and hours. He also had a ping pong table in the basement that gave us many more hours of fun, including games we invented.

We played together on the same Knothole baseball team for several years; he was our catcher and I played first base. One day after practice our manager kidded me saying he’d see me in church on Sunday. Knowing it was within walking distance from my house, Charlie invited me to his church. I went that Sunday and my life was changed by that little church and the wonderful people who welcomed my older brother and me.

Charlie and I continued our close friendship through junior high and high school. He played basketball in high school and I tried football, gymnastics, baseball, and wrestling. I wasn’t very good in any of them and he never was a starter in basketball.

Three things I especially remember about high school include playing a lot of poker, teaching the 2nd grade boys Sunday school class at church, and double dating. He had a blue 1964 Ford convertible that contributed greatly to our dating experience.

As we came to the second semester of our senior year we both decided to attend Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University) to train to be ministers. We were roommates the first year. We both made the basketball team; he was a regular starter, but I started very few games.

Charlie’s first position in ministry was his last. While in college we both became youth ministers. The difference was that my senior minister was supportive and helpful, his was not. Following that experience he never considered going into ministry again.

He got married before I did and I was the best man at his wedding. Three years later I got married and he was the best man at our wedding.

After he married, and after college, our friendship waned. We got together a few times, but I eventually took a church in Philadelphia and after 10 years moved to California. We only saw each other a couple of times and eventually lost touch.

Although we had no contact the last 35 years or so, the news of his death has had a great impact on me. Charlie played a huge part in my life from grade school through college. I wish it would have been easier to stay in touch, but we both went in different directions.

I thank God that Charlie was a part of my life and added so much to it during those early days. I don’t think I ever told him how much our friendship meant to me. Of course it is too late now, but I pray that I will see him again some time and get to revel in our memories of our friendship so many years ago. I am sorry that he is gone.

GOD’S COUNTRY?

With as many at 17 or more genres of music, it isn’t surprising that no one style is liked by everyone. Not everyone likes country music, and it is not necessarily my favorite, but I do like a lot of it. I especially like the songs that honor the Lord.

Country singer Blake Shelton currently has a hit with the title “God’s Country” that intrigues me. In the opening lines the writer says he “got a deed to the land, but it ain’t my ground – it is God’s country.” He then thanks God for the rain that “brings grain and a little bit of money,” and they “put it back in the plate” (referring I’m sure to the offering plate at church). Based on that, he suggests “I guess that’s why they call it God’s country.”

Drawing from an older country song the writer notes “The devil went down to Georgia, but he didn’t stick around – This is God’s country.” Not only that, they “turned the dirt and worked until the week’s done,” only to “take a break and break bread on Sunday” because they’re “proud to be from God’s country.” Towards the end of the song there are references to “getting baptized in holy water,” “saved,” and getting “Heaven bound.”

In the last verse the author tells us “I don’t care what my headstone reads,
or what kind of pine wood box I end up in; when it’s my time, lay me six feet deep
in God’s country.”

I have to admit that in just reading the lyrics, I agree that the song is certainly corny in many respects. Nevertheless, it also expresses an important biblical point. Psalm 24:1 and 2 declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

When it comes to the earth, all of it is God’s Country. Not only does the earth belong to God, everything in it belongs to him, including all of the people. And it all belongs to God because he is the creator.

My take on what the song is saying is that if an area is acknowledged by people as belonging to God, it is his country. And that is somewhat true in terms of some areas and places. But the ultimate truth is that everything belongs to God whether people acknowledge it or not. And that it includes you and me – we belong to him.

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~ Olympic Jumping Complex – Adirondack Mountains</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>photo credit: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7156765@N05/45940154205″>Lake Placid  New York

 

MORE OF THIS AND LESS OF THAT

Since this past March and through today I have been reading and thinking a lot about a couple of subjects that are antithetical. In March I got and read a little book that expanded my understanding of one of the subjects. On Monday I read a challenging article online about the same subject (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/what-psychology-offers-christians-amid-political-polarizati.html); and today I read another one online (https://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/10-sure-marks-of-humility/). Not only have I been reading about these things, this evening I began working on my assigned subject for preaching in a couple of weeks and the passage includes teaching about the two opposites.

The antithetical qualities I’ve been thinking and reading about are humility and pride. It’s entirely possible that I’m giving attention to these matters because at the age of 68 I am still working on cultivating the one and eliminating the other.

Writer Tim Challies begins his article “Traits of a Humble Person” with the question, “Is there any trait more odious than pride or more precious than humility?” Challies is looking for a “no” answer, but I would say “yes” to both parts of the question; not, however, to minimize the odor of pride or the value of humility.

As the title of this post suggests, I’m looking and hoping for more humility and less pride not only in myself, but in all of us. Part of the challenge of making progress in cultivating humility and eliminating pride in our lives is coming to a clear understanding of what these words actually mean.

In a lot of what I have been reading about humility, often writers suggest what it is not rather than saying what it is. For example, in his excellent book Humilitas John Dickson says “Humility does not mean humiliation,” and then adds “Nor does it mean being a doormat for others” (p.22).

I agree with Dickson and question statements that say “a humble person thinks little of himself” or “a humble person thinks better of others than of himself.” Still another writer counters “Humility is NOT low self-image; it starts with a healthy view of self.” I think C.S. Lewis gave the best definition when he wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

What are we to say about pride? I’m thinking pride is the opposite of humility and is often accompanied by selfishness. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul’s warning in Romans 12:3 we get a sense of pride, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves” (NLT).

I can’t give precise definitions of pride and humility, but I want to borrow from what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in 1964 about hard-core pornography. In one of the best-known phrases in the history of the Supreme Court he said, “I know it when I see it.”

I usually know both pride and humility when I see them. Sometimes, however, I’m not sure I see pride in myself. What I do know is that I need more humility and less pride. And maybe you do as well?

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THINKING BACK

Our church’s senior pastor covered the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians in our summer series this past weekend and prompted me to do some thinking back with one of his suggested applications.

In the greeting to what many call his “favorite church” Paul writes in verse 3, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (NIV). Another rendering “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (NLT). Underscoring Paul’s example, our pastor encouraged us to “remember the people who have given you joyful memories.”

Last night and today I have spent some time thinking back with joy about the many people who impacted me in terms of my Christian life and over 45 years of vocational ministry. There’s no way I can remember and list all of them, but I would like to list several whom God used to make a significant impact upon me.

Charles Carter, a young minister of a small church who welcomed my brother and me and baptized us into Christ.

John Russell, our first and only youth minister at that same church until I graduated from high school. No one has had a greater impact on me than John.

Most of the elders at Forest Dale Church of Christ during my junior high and senior high years; and Harvey Bream who was a member at our church and later president of Cincinnati Christian University.

Royce Cheeseman and Paul Lowry, elders at Northeast Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio, where I served as a youth minister intern the summer of 1970.

Jim Irby, minister, and the elders of Bridgetown Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I served for almost five years as youth minister.

Jim Smith and Jack Cottrell, professors at Cincinnati Christian Seminary.

Charly Williams, Jerry Finnie, and Jim Tyler who served as elders during my nine years as minister of Delaware Valley Church of Christ in the Philadelphia area, and Hugh Thomson who was a great friend and father figure to me.

Bruce Metzger, who was Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and one of the smartest and kindest teachers I ever sat under.

Floyd Strater, Ralph Dornette, LeRoy Lawson, Ben Merold, Larry Winger, and Joe Grana – all area leaders in Southern California who welcomed me and encouraged me during my 30 years there.

Max Whiteman, Don Funkhouser, Greg Miller, Joe Anderson, Joe Bunker, Greg Flannery, Dave Hahn and other Vision Planning Team Members and elders who served in leadership with me during my 30 years at Discovery Christian Church.

As I continue to think back I know others will come to mind, but this list is a good beginning point of those who made a difference in my life and ministry and whom I remember today with great joy and gratitude.

As I review this list I am aware that I have not included any women. It isn’t because I don’t remember any women with joy or that I am a chauvinist. My life and ministry would not have been as joyful, productive, and enriched as it has been without the support of and care from many wonderful Christian women who made a difference in my life. I thank God for them, the men I have listed, and many others God has used to bless my life.

Following Paul’s example, and taking our pastor’s challenge, as I think about these and remember them with joy I thank God. Maybe this will encourage you to do some reflecting as well.

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