I just watched an episode of the Andy Griffith Show (first aired in January of 1964) in which Andy and Helen and Barney and Thelma Lou went on a picnic. Unfortunately for Andy, Helen, and Thelma Lou, earlier in the morning Barney had an embarrassing experience and was in a bad mood. Because of his foul mood, Barney was a wet blanket on the others and almost ruined the picnic for the other three.

Have you ever done anything like that? I have and I am sorry. I remember times when our children were young and I allowed my frustration and stress in getting ready to go ruin the first part of an outing or even vacation.

Before I saw Barney’s downer attitude on TV I had heard a song I thought said “don’t bring me down” that reminded me of times when my attitude and actions brought others down and others have done the same for me. The correct lyrics “can’t bring me down” do not change my request to others “don’t bring me down” or my desire to not bring others down. To me, allowing your bad luck, bad day, or bad mood to rob the joy of those with you in whatever you’re doing is simply being selfish.

I play a lot of golf and sometimes don’t play very well. And when a person enjoys golf as much as I do, to struggle with your game can be disconcerting. Long ago I made the decision that because of my poor play I would not allow my attitude to ruin it for the guys I’m playing with. I wish everyone I play with would make the same decision.

Here are a couple of quotes (edited) from an article by Phil Cooke entitled Stop Wallowing in Negativity and Constant Complaining that sheds light on the issue. “We must be very careful about wallowing in our disappointments and frustrations because negativity can easily build momentum. Don’t let your frustrations and your complaining take control. Find the positive and learn to see the good. You’ll find your attitude will change, and before long you’ll become a positive voice.”

The title of this post is a request for all of us to give some thought to our attitude and actions when things are not going the way we wish they would. Are we going to be selfish and bring others down and ruin things for them? I hope not.

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New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson notes “Belief and faith are closely related but not identical.” I’m not sure what the difference is between faith and belief, but I am sure both are important.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of believe and faith in the Bible. Here are just three:

Hebrews 11:1 gives a partial definition of faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NLT).

Hebrews 11:6 underscores the necessity of faith:  And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (NLT).

John 3:16 is one of the best known verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The words obviously overlap in meaning, and sometimes forms of the words are used interchangeably, but if Johnson is right they are not exactly the same. What further complicates the meaning of the words is that different people mean different things by them.

Having given it some thought, if pushed to differentiate, my take is that belief is primarily about content and faith is more oriented to living according to one’s belief. One writer observes people can believe something is true without it mattering in their lives.

When someone says this is what I believe they are affirming the content of their belief (or faith). Creeds and statements of faith are lists of teachings or body of content of what a person or group believes. When someone says I have faith in something (or someone) they are referring to their trust or expectation about something or someone they believe.

Equally important, faith and belief are lived out in one’s life. What we really believe is shown in how we live. I like two phrases that seem to me to bring it all together: “keep the faith” and “stay faithful.”

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I read an observation today that resonated with my take on things. Lance Witt noted, “In this election year, the amount of vicious attack and trash talking has reached a new high (or low). No matter what your political persuasion, I think you would agree that the political environment has become increasingly toxic.” I then saw the date Witt published his piece: March 11, 2016. The author’s observation was almost three and a half years ago!

Obviously it is not a new concern, but I continue to be concerned about and discouraged by the continued degradation of today’s discourse at pretty much every level. Politicians and those deeply captivated by politics seem to be leading the way, but it certainly isn’t limited to them. Verbal attack and trash talking is widespread.

There is nothing wrong with having strong beliefs and opinions, but how they are held and discussed is important. An arrogant and demeaning attitude towards others can do more damage than good.

When I was fresh out of college I had that ugly disease of thinking I knew it all. Given the opportunity to continue my education in three different graduate schools, I was exposed to a lot of religion, theology, and biblical interpretation that was far different from what I had learned and believed. I wasn’t there, however, to change anyone’s mind, but to learn – and I learned a lot.

I’m not a politician, but in my many years of being a pastor and teaching in a variety of venues, I have been involved often in controversial discussions. When it comes to Christianity, religion, the Bible, faith, doctrine, and theology there are many strong beliefs and opinions.

I wish I could say I have always been gracious and understanding, but that would not be true. In the last several years, however, I’m confident I’ve made significant progress in how I deal with those who come from a different background and have a different understanding or interpretation of the Bible and its meaning.

How are you doing when it comes to discussing controversial issues and matters? Are you respectful or demeaning? Do you listen or dominate? Do you discuss or argue? Do you bloviate? Do you give the impression that you think you know more than you do?

I wish people could say about me what one reviewer said about the author of a book dealing with controversial Christian material: “he means to speak as a friend to friends and he never comes close to being harsh or offensive.” As trite as it may seem, it is true that we can agree to disagree without destroying one another.

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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





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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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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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.