Sunday Sermons

What could Hillary have been thinking?

The story has apparently been around a few days but I just saw it this morning, then checked it at the Washington Post website for verification. This week Hillary Clinton claimed that back in 1996 when, as First Lady, she flew into Bosnia, they were under hostile fire and the welcoming ceremony had to be called off. Everyone was told to put their heads down and run for the cars. However, Sunday morning’s Fox News with Chris Wallace re-played Hillary’s claims at the same time they ran the actual video from that 1996 event. The video showed a crowd was gathered to welcome her, little children were presenting her with flowers, everything was all peace and joy. People along on that trip have spoken out this week, remembering that it was nothing like what Hillary now says. The reality was as far from what she is now claiming as it’s possible to get.

I suppose she’s trying to show how she functions well under fire. Maybe trying to contrast her “courage under fire” toughness with Barack Obama’s lack of military experience. If that was her aim, she might want to back off, because if she wins the Democratic nomination, she’ll then have to try to match the record of American hero John McCain and that ain’t gonna happen.

You would think that by now she and her advisors would know that every public moment of her life has been caught on camera somewhere and it’s hazardous to claim anything they’re not sure she did.

Is there a sermon in here or what!

What if we all had to endure this kind of scrutiny and public airing of our “misspeakings.” Some newspapers–the Washington Post among them–have “fact checkers” on their websites. It’s a great help to the average citizen who listens to politicians and have no idea to what extent they’re being conned.

Back in 1976 when Jimmy Carter was running for president, he promised he would never lie to us. He said this country was looking for a president who was an honest as our people. And he said it with a straight face. Coming after Watergate and the lies of Nixon, the message resonated with the country and he was elected—but for a single term. It turns out that it’s almost impossible to keep that promise in politics.

What was it Churchill said, something to the effect that in wartime, truth is so precious it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies. Not that this is what Hillary was doing this week.

In fact, Hillary may wish she was in New Orleans yesterday.

Saturday, March 29, 2008, was Expungement Day in the Crescent City. The event, sponsored by the Orleans Parish public defender’s office and held at the Treme Community Center, drew some 400 people eager to get their criminal records cleaned up. You have some old charge still on your record, but it’s false or has been dealt with and should not be left on the records, you brought your evidence and made your case.

Consuello Anderson, 41, knows how important this can be. According to the Sunday, March 30, 2008, Times-Picayune, this resident of our city had a good job as a personal care attendant in which she cared for the elderly and sickly. “I love doing it,” she said. Then, a background check revealed a quarter-century old charge against her for theft and she was fired. The fact that the thief was actually her baby did not matter.

On Expungement Day, Consuello presented her evidence and told her story. Back in 1984, as she was leaving her pediatrician’s office with her 14 month old son, the child grabbed an otoscope, the lamp used to examine children’s ears, and carried it with him. She was holding him in one arm and the baby bag in the other as they were rushing to get into the elevator at Charity Hospital. She was late for work and sprinted down the sidewalk, just making her bus. She noticed her son was carrying the otoscope–“he was at that age where they pick everything up”–and she meant to return it.

The next she thought about it was when the police knocked at her door. She was 17 years old. She gave the scope back, but the cops arrested her. She says she didn’t get the best legal help and was convicted of theft. It was a minor rap, she said Saturday, but getting fired recently “made me feel like I got a lifetime sentence without parole.” A lawyer helped her file for expungement.

It’s a two-step process. You file a motion in Criminal District Court. If the judge okays it, an order is filed with all area law enforcement groups. It’s not cheap: $325 per charge. The sponsoring groups are hoping the courts will waive the fees for the Treme Center applicants.

Some of the people in line told the T-P reporter they were there for old crimes of drug addiction, abetting in a crime, and such. They are now leading reputable lives but the old charges hold back their opportunities for jobs and career advancement.

Good for you, District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson and the public defenders office.

Bible students remember the practices in Israel from Old Testament days. Annual Days of Atonement, the seventh year release, and the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year) were all means God established to allow people who had done wrong or fallen onto hard times to get back up and start afresh.

When the Lord Jesus showed up in Galilee and began preaching, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” He was reading from Isaiah, chapter 61. As He closed the scroll, He handed it to the synagogue official, took His seat, looked at the congregation before Him and said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4)

The Day of Expungement for all who come to Jesus Christ is still in effect.

Those old sins, crimes, rebellions, neglect, and hurts can weigh you down and hinder your freedom. But there is one who can loose you and let you go free. His name is Jesus, and there is no one else like Him.

This is not because God is being nice for a brief season either. It’s because–and this is a key point–your sins, crimes, rebellions, neglect, and hurts have been paid for. They were dealt with by Jesus’ death on Calvary and His resurrection a few days later, and you should not carry their burden any longer.

One caution: you have to ask. God will not force the expungement on you. In fact, Jesus puts it this way: “I stand at your door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in….” (Revelation 3:20)

He does everything but force it on you, friend. Brings it right up to your front door and knocks. No wonder we call this “Good News.”

The ball’s in your court. What do you want–to go on the way you have or to start anew?

This morning at one of our local churches….

As I walked into the sanctuary, I was handed a church bulletin by an usher. Nearby, a woman was walking up and down the aisles handing out a paper that was obviously important for the service today. I took one and sat down in a pew. It turned out to be an e-mail message. Here it is, verbatim:

“Saw a billboard that read: ‘Need help? Call Jesus.’ 1-800-005-3787. Out of curiosity I did. A Mexican showed up with a tow truck.”

I mentioned that to the pastor–it’s a funny piece–and he rolled his eyes.

As the director of missions for all the Southern Baptist churches in metro New Orleans (from the tip of the Mississippi River northward through the city and west to LaPlace), I’m in and out of a lot of our churches and always have my antenna out for signs of health in our congregations. Today, the spirited singing and joyous fellowship spoke well of this church. The sermon was excellent and the invitation time saw a lot of people “down front,” praying at the altar or praying with one of three ministers. One lady was introduced as joining the church today. I don’t blame her. Anyone would love to be a member of Riverside Church in River Ridge where Jim Caldwell is pastor.

Jim says they baptized on Easter Sunday and have several more to baptize next week. More signs of health.

The lady sitting in front of me said she and her husband moved here from Georgia recently, and that they found this church just by driving Jefferson Highway. They spotted it and liked what they saw. Pastor Jim and his wife Susan have visited in their home, and she sounds like they have found their church. I could tell she loved to sing and suggested she join the choir. After the service, I was pleased to see her chatting with the church pianist Rebecca Hughes.

We sang a chorus I’ve heard in a lot of churches, so evidently it’s pretty popular. “I am a friend of God,” the line goes, over and over. “He calls me His friend.” In every church where they sing it, those lines are repeated some 15 or 20 times. Today, something jumped out at me that someone ought to add to that song. In John 15:14, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

I expect a lot of people sing that song and comfort themselves with its assurances who have no intention of obeying the Savior. As with many of our songs, they’re sung by everyone but their blessing is meant only for the faithful.

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” If that were spoken by anyone other than by the loving, gentle Lord Jesus Christ who always has our best interests at heart, we would have cause to hold back and say, “Hey, wait a minute.”

We have sometimes teased my oldest brother Ron–who is invited to defend himself below–for the manipulative ways he dominated his five younger siblings when we were children at home. I recall him saying to Charlie, the baby of the group–Ron might have been 16 and Charlie 7 at the time–“Charlie, are you my buddy?” The little boy, wise beyond his years in assessing big brothers, groaned, “What do you want me to do?”

I would have been 11 then, and remember it like it happened last week. I laughed out loud and said, “Ha! He’s got you figured out, Ronnie!”

I’m sure there is a sermon there, too, but I’ll let you work it out.

20 thoughts on “Sunday Sermons

  1. Can you guess who said this?

    “Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America, a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life, or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star on the battlefields of Vietnam?”

    It was Howard Dean, in 2004. Oops!

    John McCain has the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

  2. “Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America, a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life….

    That’s exactly what we did in 2000, why not do it again?

  3. Leaving Iraq now will mean the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis either in civil war or in reprisals against those that have cooperated with both the elected government in Iraq and the United States Armed Forces.

    Yes we are loosing people there almost everyday. However, responsibility is not an easy thing.

    Please vote however you feel necessary but understand the consequences of your actions.

  4. What Hilary is doing is what most politicians do: Whatever they think will get them elected. They lie, they overpromise, they exaggerate, they pander to the lowest common denominator in whatever group they are talking to. What does it take to wake people up? There is no “right” candidate so we have to settle for the best of the three who had the support and money from their parties and rich supporters. I keep looking for a STATESMAN but unfortunately few of them will risk their good names, their families, their character, their careers, and whatever else because the mud-slinging will begin immediately when a noble man or woman begins showing promise of being electable.

    For my money, I’d like to see Zell Miller be someone’s running mate. I know he’s a Democrat but John McCain would be well served to have this gentleman run with him on the Republican ticket. We have too much at stake to be overly concerned about a political party.

  5. From the San Francisco Bay area of California, I am swimming in an ocean of “liberalism”. The greatest fear I have about the election is that Americans will not take a stand, even in the ballot booth. Higher taxes, more government programs to pay for, and lack of knowledge on international affairs all give me cause for concern. But the greatest pause I have for all three candidates is very simple. For two, questionable morality issues and for one, the issue of a wife stating “I am now proud to be an American” or something of that nature. Need I say, pray, pray, pray and read and reflect on 2 Chronicals 7:14. “God, please give all Americans the wisdom we need to vote appropriately.”

  6. “Expungement.” I like that. I John 1:9. Some sinner folks like me need an “expunge bath” everyday. Thanks, Brother Joe, for the illustration. I’m sure it’ll end up in a sermon of mine eventually.

    Greg Loewer

  7. The small number of Americans who still believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do will not be swayed by the truth, facts or lies. The country is 70 percent Shi’te which makes very little chance of democracy there ever. In 5 years we’ve caused the deaths of over 4,000 American patriots and over 600,000 Iraqis of all stripes and ages. That pretty much trumps anything our old ally, the evil Saddam ever did in 20 years.

    There is one thing you can take to the bank…We will never defeat radical Islam with the world’s most powerful military. Only the love of Jesus will defeat the extremists and that can not be forced upon those people anymore than democratic beliefs can be. Let me date myself and ask who sang “war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate…”?

    I grew up in a nation made paranoid by the Communist Boogy-man. I refuse to be frightened into supporting any particular party. I’m not going to look for terrorists under every bed. Only once in history have the American people ever rose up and peacefully, in one voice, forced their will upon their elected servants. No matter who is chosen President, be it Curley, Larry or Moe, it’s about to happen again.

    May God continue to bless us, the free people of the United States.

  8. How to Catch Wild Hogs

    You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. Pigs find it and begin to come every day. Put a fence down one side and after a time put the second side of the fence up around the area. Continue until all four sides of the fence are up an add a gate in the last side. The pigs who are used to the free corn start to come through the gate to eat the free corn. Slam the gate and catch the whole herd. The wild pigs have lost their freedom. For a brief time they will react but soon go back to eating the free corn. They no longer know how to forage the woods for themselves and accept captivity. It seems that is what is happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward socalism and keeps spreading free corn out in the form of programs. There are supplemental incomes, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, CRP programs paying farmers not to plant crops, welfare, medicine, drugs all put inside the fence. We are losing our freedoms a little at a time.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. Gobvernment and politicians will not provide a service for you cheaper than Americans can do it themself.

    In this election year, listen closely to the candidates and their promises. Just maybe you will be able to tell who is about to slam the gate on America.

    “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”

    Thomas Jefferson

  9. DD: “Only once in history have the American people ever rose up and peacefully, in one voice, forced their will upon their elected servants.”

    Wracking my brain and I just can’t come up with it. Tearing down the Berlin Wall comes close, but then, those weren’t Americans…

    Do tell?

  10. Marty,

    I like to say that what brought down the Berlin wall was American Rock n roll and blue jeans. Fact is that we “won” the cold war only after we started talking with our “enemies”. Remember detente? The more we opened up to each other the more we saw each other as neighbors on this little earth. American products had already flooded their black markets and their people wanted more. Mainly, the Soviets were bankrupted by their 10 year war in Afganistan and couldn’t even provide their people with toothpaste. It was sort of their own Vietnam.

    Reagan and Gorbechev were the right men in the right place at the right time in history and thankfully, together they prevailed against the many doubters and hardliners in both nations.

    The wall fell in late 1989 after months of protests (the “Peaceful Revolution”) by millions of East Germans.

    14 years before that, Nixon bowed to the political pressure of our own “Peace Movement” and ended our intervention in the affairs of the Vietmanese people.

    Some lessons are never learned. But, I believe that God will give us many chances.

    I love you, man. Peace!

    David Davis

  11. In any case, the American people were hardly of one voice — much less “peaceful” — when it came to Vietnam and Nixon.

  12. How I regret that you have chosen to use your extensive following for a political purpose. Politics and the pulpit, church and state, do not mix.

  13. Thank you, Jeannette. I sincerely appreciate that comment, although if you will review what I wrote, you will see that I’m not following “a political purpose.” I’m commenting on integrity, and I can guarantee you that I’ll turn that laser on anyone who makes a good target (while trying not to be caught in my own snare, always a threat when anyone begins to pontificate on virture). However, some of our readers have most definitely taken political sides, judging by the comments above. In fact, I said to my son Marty (he’s one of the prime offenders!) that apparently if I want to get a lot of comments, just mention politics and that will do it.

    Only the comment from Greg Loewer (of the Northstar Network in Annandale, VA) pertained to a much better subject in this article, the “day of expungement.”

    Marty said to me, “You weren’t going to mention politics again.” I didn’t think I was, but reviewing the above, perhaps the paragraph mentioning Hillary/Barack/McCain was a little over the line. I apologize. Thank you, Jeannette. Help me stay on track here, and always feel free to call me down.

  14. Heh, re: “Marty (he’s one of the prime offenders!)”

    If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that on a weblog, I’d run for office!


  15. I agree with Jeanette, that church and state do not mix, but I also believe that as Christians, we should be well read and spoken on political issues, so we will be able to keep our elected officials accountable for their actions.

    The voting decisions we make in our lifetime, will affect our children and future generations, may we vote wisely.

    If anything I have written has offended anyone, I apologize, no offense was intended.

  16. Ok I know I should not do this.

    (I really want that title of prime offender)

    My recollection is that congress cut off the funds so that Nixon had little choice but to pull the troops out of country (by the way Nixon resigned in August 1974). If you consider 1975 to be the year the war ended then wouldn’t that be the Ford administration?

    At the same time support was also removed from the government of Cambodia allowing a communist regime (Khmer Rouge) to ascend into power. Estimates are that the Khmer Rouge was directly responsible for the deaths of between 800 thousand to 2 million Cambodians. Looks to me as if the “Peace Movement” is responsible for the deaths of at least 800 thousand Cambodians. I would really hate to see history repeat itself with the Iraqi people.

    While I am all for peace, those of us who desire peace at any price had better understand the consequences of what they are asking for.

    By the way I also believe in hind sight that the Iraqi invasion was a mistake but I don’t mind being lumped into the minority. It isn’t about minority or majority opinions. It is about doing the right thing.

  17. Good comment Randy.

    For the record, I was not in favor of invading Iraq on the day before it happened. But once we crossed the border, I was behind our boys 100% and still am. You don’t open a can of worms and then walk away from it when things get all tangled up.

    That said, I recognize that after 5 years, we’re more than half-way through. If we’re still doing active military operations 5 years from now, I’ll be at the front of the “bring em home” movement. At that point we can safely assume that either a) it’s an impossible job, or b) we are just too incompetent to do it.

    But at this point I’m still supporting our leaders who (being much better informed about such things than me) decided that it was a worthwhile mission, possible to accomplish, and our boys are perfectly capable.

    I still pray they are right.

  18. Supporting and appreciating our service people doesn’t mean you have to approve of or agree with how they are used. I have great respect for our military personel and I have great respect for those conscientious objectors. The bad guys were in Afganistan and everyone supported going after them there. We had no “enemies” in Iraq. We do now. We’ve set that country back 50 years even though they had no designs to harm us.

    Omar Shariff has said that there will never be a democratic Muslim country as Muslims are a tribal people and will never embrace the concept of “nationality”. In Iraq, as long as the Shia are the vast majority, they will never share the oil and power equally with the Sunni and Kurds.

    Congress cut the funds for the Vietnam War because the people demanded it. By one voice I meant Americans of all partys, all ages, all colors, all religions, etc. With the Nixon Doctrine and Paris Peace Accords, all American combat troops were out of Vietnam in early ’73. Although we continued to supply them with the most modern arms, Saigon fell almost exactly 2 years later. I think I remember that my lottery number in the ’71 draft was 63. They didn’t get that high that year.

    Self-defense for a Christian should be, I believe, an agonizing fine line. I don’t see how any follower of Jesus could support a shoot-first “pre-emptive self-defense” policy. Maybe that’s just me but, I don’t think so.

    Brother Joe, your regular readers know that seldom do any of your blog entries result in this kind of back and forth. I try to refrain but, in weak moments..well, can I be expunged please?

  19. Okay – another voice. We had no enemies in Iraq? Hussein was an enemy to his own people with killers and rapist roaming the streets. Is the world a better place without Hussein? I think so. We set Iraq back 50 years!!!!!!! I think not. How many men and women would have simply disappeared because they displeased the big man? How many women would have been raped and abused at the pleasure of “leaders”? Would Amercia have been attacked again had we not said enough!? I think so. Only in strength does the USA stand strong. We are not bullies. We are the first to come to the aid of any country suffering tragedy.

    Two of my grandsons have gone to Iraq and I am so very proud of what they have done to move a country forward.

    Unlike the Rev. Wright, I say God Bless the USA!!!

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