Take time for a child: How the elderly doctor did it

This is the story of Dr. Joe Bailey of Tupelo, Mississippi.  He told it in 2004 as a tribute to his mentor.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

His family were farmers, says Dr. Joe Bailey, but since his mother refused to live anywhere but in town, they lived in Coffeeville, population 600. That was precisely across the street from the town doctor, H. O. Leonard.

As far back as Joe Bailey remembers, he wanted to be a medical doctor. In fact, when he was 10, his father suggested that it was time for him to begin helping out on the farm. Young Joe took a deep breath and told him that “if I was going to be a doctor, it would be better if I had a job that would teach me about people.”

The truth is, I really enjoyed the farm, but at age 10 I went to work in the local grocery store for 25 cents an hour (in 1957). I kept the job until I finished high school in 1965. By then I was making $1 an hour and the experiences of dealing with people those eight years have proven invaluable to me.

In the middle of that vocational experience, however, little Joe Bailey began his medical training. Here’s how it happened.

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Lessons about Heaven from my favorite opera

Someone has said that good music is music which is written better than it can be played.

I’m on a Turandot kick right now. I love all the Puccini operas, but this one has been special after I found how different it is from all the others. I’m not a musician, cannot read music or play an instrument.  But I do love good music. I swoon at certain kinds of music, however, and this is one of them.

For years Turandot was not as well known as Puccini’s other more popular operas (La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly). In fact, few people had even heard of it. One day I found out why.

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Preaching about America in the worst possible 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.

After the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals can marry in any state in the union, we all agree that this has forever changed this country.  For better or for worse depends on who’s talking.

Christians I know are justifiably concerned. But once the SCOTUS rules, we are stuck with their decision.

Since then, things have continued to go south.  I’ll spare you the list.

So! Does all 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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Rescuing your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. (Galatians 5:16)

Brothers and sisters.  If you would be spiritually mature and successful in the Christian life, you must rescue your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions.”  –J. Sidlow Baxter, speaking to Mississippi Baptists in the mid-1970s.

She said to me. “If I don’t feel like doing something, my heart would not be in it, and the Lord said we are to serve Him with all our heart. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

I said, “So, if you don’t feel like reading your Bible or going to church or apologizing to a neighbor, you don’t do it.  Right?”

She: “Right.  It would be hypocritical.”

Me: “Well. May I ask you, do you ever wake up on Monday morning and not feel like going to work?  Or, when you were a teen, were there early mornings when you did not feel like getting up and going to school?”

She: “That’s different.”

Me: “How is it different?”

She: “It just is.”

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Life’s intersections: What if that person had not shown up that day?

Last evening and today, I’ve been texting with a friend of 60+ years as we set up the reunion for the church in Birmingham that ministered to me so thoroughly when I was a student at nearby Birmingham-Southern Baptist Church.  Everything that follows below is relevant to that. 

I’m 81 years old. Not decrepit or senile, thank you very much. And, not ancient or feeble by any means, you understand.  But the calendar is what it is and the white hair belies my protestations.  Honestly, l feel like I’m 15.  Okay, sort of.

However.

The time is here when it’s perfectly acceptable to look back and remember and give thanks to God for what He has done.

Thinking of all the blessings of people and incidents, of words and books and jobs and churches, I constantly thank God that He did “this” and not “that” or something else entirely.

You are looking at one blest man. (Okay, to the extent you are actually “looking” at me, that is.)

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Should we live each day as though it were our last? Are you sure?

This happened years ago but David and I still laugh about it.

David was a deacon, a lawyer, and a young Christian who wanted to grow in his usefulness to the Lord. One day he asked to accompany me on my hospital visitation. “I’d like to get more comfortable visiting in the hospitals,” he said. “Sure. Great.”

A good thing for a deacon to do. For any of us to do.

The next morning around 7:30 we met in the medical center parking lot. We greeted each other and I made a couple of suggestions. “The first few patients we see, I’ll introduce you, but don’t say anything. Just pay attention.” Then, we went upstairs.

In 99 percent of the cases, hospital visitation is not difficult. It’s simply a Christian friend calling on another friend. Sometimes it’s big brother ministering to a hurting brother, and often nothing more profound than two old buddies chatting. Normally, my plan was to visit with the person no more than a couple of minutes, and if all was well, to share a verse of scripture (from memory) and lead in a brief prayer of praise and commitment.

After the third or fourth patient, as we headed upstairs, I said, “David, in the next room, I’ll call on you to pray.” Fine.

A few minutes later as we left the patient’s room, in the hallway he said, “How was that?”

I said, “Well, normally that’s a good thing to pray. But a hospital room may not be where you want to pray ‘Lord, help us to live this day as if it were our last.’  The patient is facing some heavy medical stuff.”

He said, “Did I say that?” I laughed, “It’s all right. She didn’t seem to mind.”

It’s a cliche’ and not a bad one. According to the book, that line originated in the decade of A.D. 170-180, thanks to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. (He lived April 26, 121 to March 17, 180. A Stoic philosopher, he seems to have been the type of ruler Plato had in mind with his concept of “philosopher-kings.”)

The exact quote from Marcus Aurelius: And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as it were the last.

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The compliment that wounds a pastor

This is from my journal of Tuesday, March 30, 1993. I had been at that church two and a half years…

At 2 pm, I had a visitor. A former church member who will go unnamed here wanted to apologize for his being so critical of me in my first year.  He couldn’t identify why he was, except a certain resistance to authority.

I forgave him.  The pain is that he is a minister of sorts, someone I had a lot of confidence in and did not know he was doing this. He said, “I hear from people in the last month that you have changed.”  Why am I offended by that? I said, “I haven’t.  I’m the same person I was then.” Which is true. 

Reminds me of the pain in (my last church) when people would write and say, ‘We love you now, but for your first year here, we hated your guts. You were in our pastor’s pulpit.’ (The previous pastor had stayed only 3 years and had left for another church before they were ready to release him.) And these would be dear people whom I had valued.  They got It off their chest but left me bleeding.

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7 ways pastors discourage their people from using Scriptures

(For this article, we enlisted the aid of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting them here, but not verbatim. They will recognize themselves. Thanks, guys.)

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul… They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…. In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)

The Bible loves the Bible.

From one end to the other, God’s word tells us how wonderful is God’s word. Better than gold and sweeter than honey it is. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

We preachers believe this. And we say those words to our people. We like our people to bring their Bibles to church, open them as we read and preach, and use them when they return home.

There is nothing wrong with our aspirations in this regard.

However, when it comes to connecting our people with God’s word personally to the point that they will become ardent readers and diligent students of Scripture, we should give ourselves a C-minus. And sometimes, an F.

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Some things the New Testament does not tell us

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.

Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.

Is there a verse of Scripture on that?

Stay tuned.

These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with many of the positions we hold in these articles.  They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.

I wrote something about tithing for this website.

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How the preacher can give them something they will never forget

I’ve thought about that conversation ever since.

A friend whom I know only from our internet exchanges wanted to know if in all the articles on my website, there was anything on a text he was researching.

I responded that I could not recall dealing with those verses, but suggested where he might find help. Then, I said, “Are you preaching on that text?”

I had no idea whether he was a pastor or not.

It turned out he was a layman and had been asked to bring a message that Wednesday night to his church. The Lord had laid on his heart a text, and he was trying to find out all he could on it.  Good for him.

Then he said something which has lingered with me ever since: I want to give the people truths from this passage which they will remember the rest of their lives.

Wow. Big assignment he has given himself.

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