What my dad said about fathers

“Who can find a virtuous man? For his price is far above diamonds” (Not Proverbs 31:10, but it well could be.)

My father was Carl J. McKeever (1912-2007).  No one who met him ever forgot.

Like two of his four sons–the two who became preachers!–Pop was a talker. He was interested in a thousand things and enjoyed good food, hearty laughter and great conversation with friends. And he loved to write.

What’s interesting about that is he had a seventh grade education. As the oldest of an even dozen children, he left school to help support the family when he was 12, and entered the coal mines to work alongside his father two years later. His formal education may have ended, but dad was always learning and thinking and paying attention.

Most of his writing was done on note pads, in a lovely script which schools taught back in the 1920s. Something called the Palmer Method. Up to his death at the age of 95, his handwriting was impressive. Those notes he wrote were legible and intelligent, and remarkable for a coal miner.

I’m leading up to sharing one of them with you. My brother Ron handed me this in Pop’s handwriting during our brief visit at the restaurant in Jasper, Alabama.

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Jesus was nothing if not logical

“Some of the scribes were sitting here and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk?’” (Mark 2:6-9).

One of the most helpful courses I took in college was logic. The ability to think clearly and rationally about complex issues is a wonderful asset for anyone.

It helps me to realize our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing if not logical. Jesus clearly loved logic. (That probably provokes a “well, duh” response from readers.  The Lord Jesus not only loved truth, He claimed to be Truth itself!)

Again and again in Scripture Jesus shows Himself the Master of logic as He lays the issues before His hearers in orderly fashion and asks them to think about them rationally.

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7 reasons Heaven requires new songs

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Revelation 5:9).

John was surely fascinated by the sights and the sounds of that heavenly vision.

First, a quartet…

At first, John was treated to a heavenly quartet. The four angelic beings–were they seraphim?–of Revelation 4:7-8 burst into song, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come!”

Eat your heart out, Bill Gaither.  No quartet ever sounded so heavenly.

And then we read, “They do not rest day or night, saying (this)” (verse 8).

Imagine that. An endless song.

Either seraphim must be amazing singers or the Lord’s patience is boundless to enjoy the same song over and over, forever.

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How to use humor in your sermon/speech even if you’re not a pro

Watch this. This is how it’s done.

Some years back, Robert Mueller was giving a commencement address at the College of William and Mary. This former director of the FBI in the first Bush administration is the epitome of dignity and class. He is anything but a comic or comedian. That day, speaking on “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity,” which he called the motto of the Bureau, he demonstrated a great way to use humor in a serious talk.

“In one of my first positions with the Department of Justice, more than thirty years ago, I found myself head of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. I soon realized that lawyers would come into my office for one of two reasons: either to ‘see and be seen’ on the one hand, or to obtain a decision on some aspect of their work, on the other hand. I quickly fell into the habit of asking one question whenever someone walked in the door, and that question was ‘What is the issue?’

“One evening I came home to my wife, who had had a long day teaching and then coping with our two young daughters. She began to describe her day to me. After just a few minutes, I interrupted, and rather peremptorily asked, ‘What is the issue?’

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How to preach about America in the worst way

Preacher Driftwater told me, “I want to preach about America in the worst way.”

I told him it’s been done.

What he said is not what he meant, of course.

The worst way to preach about America is negatively.

“The world is going to hell.” “America is decaying from within.” “The country is becoming socialist.” “The president is our worst enemy.” “The Supreme Court is ruining America.” “The home is breaking down. Marriage is a thing of the past. You can’t get a good two-dollar steak any more.”

Okay, strike that last one.

The U. S. Supreme Court has issue ruling after ruling that has changed the character of marriage, definition of gender, responsibilities of employers, and a hundred other things.

Conservatives are justifiably concerned. We are stuck with their decisions.

Does this mean the United States is through? Will God write ‘Ichabod’ over what used to be a great country? Should we preachers deliver its eulogy from our pulpits?

Not so fast.

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Biblical ignorance and spiritual immaturity: How to tell

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the sayings of God.  You have come to need milk and not solid food.  (Hebrews 5:12)

By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one–baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! (paraphrased from The Message)

What I’m about to do here is no fun.

I’m about to accuse some Christian friends of spiritual ignorance.

Earlier today I was looking over my wife’s textbook on effective writing for college classes.  Bertha has been teaching English (literature, composition, etc) all her adult life, either in high school or on the college level.  And I was struck by something…

The authors of the textbook, both college professors, gave examples of essays written by students and then subjected to intense editing and improvement by teachers.  They showed the first draft, how a professor critiqued it, the second article, and so forth.  The final results were excellent examples of effective communication.  The point being…

Editing and rewriting is painful. But editing and rewriting are necessary. (Case in point: This little article of mine.  I’ve worked on it several days–deleting, adding, changing, pasting.)

Editing and grading are hard work for the teacher and sometimes offensive to the student.  Those who “know” point out the errors in those who are learning and suggest ways to improve.  This is basic education. We do it from kindergarten and up.

Why then do we shy away from that in church?  When is the last time you heard a veteran teacher or preacher pointing out the errors in a young Sunday School teacher’s presentations, a young believer’s prayers, a young warrior’s witnessing?  I know the answer:  You’ve never seen it.

It does not happen.

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The one quality of a leader no one mentioned to you

I remember it like it was last week.

It was the mid-1970s and we were living in Columbus, Mississippi, where I’d gone to pastor First Baptist Church. A seminary professor who had taught some of us was in town for a few days, bringing a series of Bible studies in a local church. On Monday morning, we had gathered in my church and were sitting around drinking coffee and visiting.

The professor told us that Dr. Landrum Leavell had just been announced as the new president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was currently pastoring First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas. I knew him slightly, having met him a couple of times in the company of his college-age son Lan, whom I taught in Sunday School.

It seemed like a good choice to me.

The professor had his reservations.

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What if denominations quit numbering and counting?

“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

Those who believe that every human is indwelt by God–and therefore, everyone is divine–love to quote (misquote) this passage. “The kingdom of God is in you.”

“I have god in me,” they will say, and reference this saying from our Lord.

The clear meaning of this teaching is that rather than God’s kingdom being something earthly, visible, and measurable, it is spiritual and inner, and therefore invisible and immeasurable.

Now, look at the context.

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What to do when a church staff member becomes a problem

This was written some ten years ago.  Rather than update the references, I decided to leave the stories intact.  Have tweaked the writing somewhat for clarity.

This week President Obama fired his top general in Afghanistan. Therein lies a tale which every pastor and staff member ought to take to heart.

General Stanley McChrystal is a case study in a lot of things: militarism, athleticism, patriotism, gung-hoism, machoism, and egotism.

What got this commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan sacked was a lengthy article just published in the July edition of Rolling Stone magazine. Since the article is online, anyone can read it. I did last night.

Can you say “insubordination?” In a sentence, McChrystal was openly critical of Obama and his diplomatic team. He held nothing back, said exactly what he thought, and had little favorable to say about anyone he works with.

Now get this. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces, which makes him the boss of every general.  So, what we have here is an officer publicly criticizing his superior officer.  McChrystal would not stand for one of his staff doing such a thing.

Obama had previously dealt with General McChrystal, telling him to bridle his mouth. But some people cannot be told anything; they are a law unto themselves.

The writer says McChrystal prides himself on being sharper and guttier than anyone else. But his brashness comes with a price: he has offended almost everyone with a stake in the Afghan conflict.

The title of the article says it all: The Runaway General: The top commander in Afghanistan has seized control of the war by never taking his eyes off the real enemy: the wimps in the White House.

Assuming this account is accurate–and a layperson like me has no way of knowing–you cannot fire a guy like that fast enough. Get him gone now.

Now, we’re addressing pastors and church leadership here….

Have you ever had  a church staff member like that?

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The three mysteries of divine intercession

“…seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). 

We hear it all the time and we preachers are not shy about proclaiming divine intercession.  One member of the Trinity interceding with the other Two, or even two members of the Trinity interceding with the Third.  If I sound unsure about this subject, it’s because there is much that eludes me.

One.  The mystery of divine intercession: What does it look like?  What’s going on in Heaven when it happens?

This would be a good time for me to describe what I think goes on at the Throne when intercession is taking place.  I’ll pass, thank you.  This is far beyond my poor powers to imagine.

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