Lose the naivete, Christian!

On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout religious views and opinions without protest from the students or interference from the dean. However, let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.

At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. However, let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.

Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ. And they call themselves open-minded champions of free speech.

It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.

That hatred is born of a fear of Jesus.

If in reading the gospels you have wondered how in the world things in that remote day came to the point where reasonably-minded people moved to arrest and crucify the Lord Jesus Christ, He who never lifted a finger against a human on the planet, the Prince of Peace, then take a look around you.

Human nature has not changed in the last 2,000 years.

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How to clean out a garage–and unclutter your life

(This was first posted in 2009 as I was preparing to retire from the active, paid ministry. I’ve tweaked it a little. –JM)

Margaret and I were talking about my upcoming retirement from this position with our association. I said, “What do you want me to do when I retire?” She said, “Clean out the garage.”

And then? “The attic,” she said.

My wife has learned to lower her expectations concerning tasks around the house by her spouse of nearly 47 years.

The other day, our oldest son Neil was over. He’s being ordained as a deacon in our church on Sunday night, April 5.  We’re all excited; if ever a man had a servant heart, he does.  He said, “I decided that being ordained deserves a new suit, so I’m going to treat myself.” After suggesting a good men’s store, I said, “I’ll give you some financial assistance on that suit if you will help me clean out the garage.”

Sneaky, huh.

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Jericho’s blind beggar: Responding to the Bible’s critics

Critics of the Scriptures want to have it both ways.

If they find an inconsistency in Scriptures–the numbers seem not to agree, or a story is told in two or more different ways–it proves the Bible is man-made, filled with errors, and not to be trusted.  If however they could find no inconsistencies this would prove the church authorities in the distant past conspired to remove all the troublesome aspects of the Bible in order to claim it to be inspired of God.

Either it is or it is not.

When one is determined not to believe a thing, nothing gets in his way. He can always find a reason not to believe.

Take the matter of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho.  His account is told in three of the gospels, but he is named in only one (Mark 10:46).

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Changing standards for changing times? Not so fast.

Gail was still laughing about it, some fifty years later.

Fresh from college and seminary, Gail had arrived in Columbus, Mississippi, to be interviewed for the position of director of the Baptists’ college ministry. She would be the BSU director for the local campus of Mississippi State College for Women, now called Mississippi University for Women, or MUW. Since the position was paid by the First Baptist Church, Pastor S. R. Woodson was interviewing her and would be her primary supervisor.

After the interview, Dr. Woodson wanted to show Gail the nice center on College Street, some half-dozen blocks away.

The question was how to get her there without the two having to sharing the automobile.  A man alone in a car with a woman not his wife was unthinkable.

“I walked the entire six blocks,” Gail laughs. “With him driving his car alongside to make sure I was safe.”

Changing times? You bet. These days, almost every pastor I know would have said, “Come on and get in, and I’ll run you over there,” and not given it a second thought.

Changing standards? That’s another question altogether.

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A case of the simples: Beware

We do like things simple, to be sure.  K.I.S.S. has long been the rule for a thousand disciplines.  But some things are simply not simple and to imply otherwise is to mislead.  Let’s talk about that.

Watching our nation’s politicians as they propose, dispose, impose, expose, compose and, of course, suppose regarding the economic crises our country seems to be forever facing, we wonder how many actually know what they are talking about.

Listening to pastors and denominational leaders arguing over something called “critical race theory” and other divisive issues raises the same question:  How many know what they are talking about?

I hate to be skeptical about Congress, but common sense — forged by six decades of dealing with churches, finance people, and my own situations — informs me that most people do not relate to budgets, debts, and deals in the millions of dollars, much less billions and even trillions. The economy of such a large nation is composed of complexities and ramifications and intricacies that baffle even the greatest minds.

That, however, does not prevent the lowliest politician from sounding forth on the matter, usually to tell the world all that is wrong with whatever the nation’s leaders are proposing at the moment. That’s how he got elected and what keeps him in office.

A long time ago, Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) said, “The worst disease afflicting my constituents is a thing called ‘the simples.’ The folks back home want me to come up with simple solutions to their complex problems, answers that resolve all their difficulties without it costing them anything.”

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Anybody can love good folks; our business is tougher than that!

Fred Harvey was a name almost every American knew in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This son of Britain had come to America and made his mark in the food industry. Working with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, he built a chain of restaurants across the great Southwest which became legendary for their commitment to quality and their devotion to the customer.

In his book, Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West, Stephen Fried says Harvey originated the first national chain of restaurants, of hotels, of newsstands, and of bookstores–“in fact, the first national chain of anything–in America.”

You may be familiar with the Judy Garland movie The Harvey Girls (1946), which illustrated another innovation of Fred Harvey’s. He recruited single young women in the East, then sent them to work in his restaurants from Kansas City to California. In doing so, he inadvertently provided wives for countless westerners and helped to populate a great segment of the USA.

All of this is just so we can relate one story from the book.

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God is making plans for you.

“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

We don’t begin to have a clue.

God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to reveal to us mortals.

It’s not our business to know, for one thing.  Most of what goes on in the universe He is keeping to Himself.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”  (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Everything we know about the operation of the created world is but a sliver of the full story. (And yes, isn’t it fun to make these discoveries. Scientists get to see what God has done before the rest of us!)

How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?

I do not know. Neither do you.

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The last lesson of Ravi Zacharias

By this deed, you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme….  (2 Samuel 12:14).

I loved the writings and messages of the late Ravi Zacharias.  In 2009, when I discovered that a longtime friend, whose wife had at one time been my secretary, was working for Dr. Zacharias, I contacted him and we had a great phone visit.  Since I had none of the books RZ had written, my friend sent me several.  I loved them and quoted from them often.

Ravi Zacharias was a powerful voice for theism, a effective apologist for the Christian faith, and a comfort to believers everywhere.  He was, that is, until he wasn’t.

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Some assumptions are nothing more than prejudice. However….

The book focused on the year 1940 and all the war-related events of that brief period: Hitler’s invasion of the Low Countries, Churchill’s coming to power, Dunkirk, the Blitz, FDR’s election to the third term, and the isolationism in the USA.

I emailed the author of my appreciation for the book and added, “That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940.”

After thinking about that a moment, I added, “But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.”

Later, I wondered why I’d said that, since I do not know the author or expect to meet him. Why was that important to me?

It must be a personal thing.

None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, nor for preconceptions or ignorance. Just because you are a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude.  All Democrats are not socialists nor all Republicans idiots.

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The best encouragement to pray

“O Thou who dost hear prayer, to Thee all men come” (Psalm 65:2).

God hears prayers.  It’s what He does.

God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Scripture is consistent on this.

The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  And Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father….’” (Luke 11:1ff).

Slow down. Do not rush through the “Our Father” (what most of us call “The Lord’s Prayer”).  Look how it begins.

You are praying to the Father.  He is not just yours, of course, but “our” Father.  He has quite the large family.

He is the Father.  He birthed us.  Created us.  Redeemed us Knows us.

God is on your side.  He is not impartial toward you and definitely not antagonistic.  He wants to do well for you, to bless you in every way.  Jesus said, “Fear not, little children. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

The concept of God as your Heavenly Father is the personal gift to you and me from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  He knew the Father as no one else, and revealed Him to us that way.  He frequently spoke of the oneness–the intimate relationship–He had with the Father before time began.  (See John 17:5ff.)

A couple of times the Old Testament refers to God as the father of Israel, but nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures does anyone look toward the skies and address God as Father.  We learned that from Jesus.

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