Thoughts from the Desk of Gene Mims
Have you ever had to defend yourself? Maybe an action or some decision you made that someone took offense to or reacted to negatively? It happens to everyone and it happens often. What can you do whenever you are called upon to give a defense of yourself? In reality, there is very little that can be done. If politicians, athletes, and ordinary folks like you and me would learn to tell the truth when it helps and remain quite when it helps, then situations would be much better.
Anyone who is accused of anything he/she did or did not do is often the recipient of someone else’s anger or agenda. When we do wrong or are wrongly accused then a situation arises that either threatens us, threatens someone else or provides an opportunity for someone else to take advantage of the situation for their own benefit.
We live in world where people who encounter difficulty are taught, coached, or led to “spin” their words so as not to confirm or deny anything. There are “spin doctors” who make a good livings from the misfortunes of others. In the end, however, when the truth comes out (and it will) then what has been said or not said usually creates another crisis of integrity that is often worse than the original one.
We live in a time when we have replaced important words with dangerous one reflecting ideas about ourselves and others that just don’t work. For example: “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” Translated: “I didn’t think I would be found out.” The right statement would be: “I am wrong and I was wrong when I did it. I regret that I hurt others.”
We now live in a world that substitutes character for personality, virtues for values, and shame for guilt. It may seem okay but in the end it is who we really are and what we really do that really makes a difference. There is no substitute for truth and integrity.
I was once told the following about conflict: “If you are right you don’t need a defense and if you are wrong you don’t have one.”
This seems right in a world that often tries to cover wrong.
The campaign cycle is in full force this year as Americans get set to choose the next President of the United States. The types of campaigning we are subjected to these days gives one pause to think about what is and what is not being said, discussed and/or revealed. The type of rhetoric voters are bombarded with rarely has anything to do with issues that are relevant to us. This election is more about what people have done poorly, wrong, immoral or illegal than it is about what candidates will do with crucial issues of the day.
In conversations with friends and family there seems to be a resignation that we will be forced to vote against someone rather than for someone. If you hear enough criticism of others by candidates, eventually your mind is filled with nothing but distrust for everyone speaking. Personally, I would like to hear some civil debate laced with logical views rather than the rude, critical, and useless discussions that seem to be the stuff of reality TV. I’m no longer interested in listening to several people talk at the same time shouting over one another to get some point across. It’s not funny, interesting or helpful in trying to decide how to cast my vote.
As the process moves along I am resolved to:
- Pray as never before for our nation and our world for God to raise up leaders who can fulfill His will.
- Filter through the negative messages and try to determine who is likely to best serve as President.
- Encourage others not to be alarmed but engaged in the process and vote.
- Endure this season and pray that November comes quickly !
Shortly before Jesus was betrayed, tried, and crucified, He told the disciples that difficult time lay ahead for them. Followers of Christ have depended on His words in Matthew 24 and 25 for centuries. Jesus gives a sobering list of trials and tribulations that accompany believers in every generation including; false messiahs, betrayers, wars, and earthquakes. He reminds us that no one is exempt from the trials of life on earth from now until the day He returns.
Christians are often confused by trials and tribulations. Our experiences are as mysterious to us as creation, love, and the trinity. It is not easy to understand why we suffer or endure setbacks or even persecution when our hearts would tell us that our God will protect us from harm because He loves us.
Our minds are often clouded in suffering and distress so that we forget things that we know but generally do not think about when days are good. One thing that we should think about is the power and depth of sin in our world. Death and everything associated with it and everything that leads to it is something that mankind’s rebellion has brought into the world. And sin is universal not only because everyone has sinned, but also because everyone’s sin in someway has an effect on everyone else. This in itself makes life dangerous and often unfair causing good people to suffer while evil ones do not.
Living in an uncertain world filled with terrorism, illness, natural catastrophes and heartache are things we must face no matter what kind of faith we have or how we try to live. It seems as if evil takes away as many innocent people as it does evil ones. The better question is not “why” but “how”. How do we live in a difficult world? Jesus gave His disciples great answers.
- Take care of the people of God and the things of God as a steward and servant of all He gives you. He puts us in charge of our lives and sometimes the lives of others and we are to do our best to take care of what He gives us. We are to be faithful and sensible as we live in a cracked up world. (Matthew 24:45-51)
- We are to live in readiness for His return. Jesus is coming to turn the world right-side-up as a reigning king. He is coming and He exhorts us to be ready each day for His reappearing. This means that our first and foremost focus is on Christ and not ourselves.
- We are to live making the most of our talents, gifts, and opportunities. God created life and He cares about everything in our lives-everything. We are to live in response to God’s gifts to us knowing that every day and everything in everyday is important.
Don’t let anything rob you of your understanding that this world is a place where mankind often fails but God is always faithful and gives us lives filled with opportunities to be faithful and effective living and serving Him.
March Madness is in full tilt and the excitement is greater than ever. The level and intensity of the players makes watching the games compelling. It is entertainment at its best and the conversations between people are a welcome diversion from politics, terrorism and an uncertain economy. While traveling recently I had conversations with complete strangers about the games, brackets, and staying up later than usual to watch teams we knew little or nothing about.
Last Second Shots
As teams move through the brackets the competition gets better because the better team are playing each other. The most exciting games are those won and lost on last second shots. I cannot help sitting on the edge of my seat watching to see who will win. The joy of winning and the grief of losing make the drama of the tournament some of the best television money can buy.
Life and Basketball
While watching one of the games recently I could not help but think how important just one second is when the score of a game is tied and two teams are facing the possibility of elimination from the tournament if that second is lost in any way. The teams that win are those that take care of the seconds they have. The teams that lose often make mistakes, fail to concentrate or foul at the worst time.
Life can be just like that. We only have a certain amount of time allotted to live and although we expect that we have time enough to do what we like and live a long time doing it, we cannot be exactly sure. Just knowing time is running means that it is running out. Because it is running out every second, every moment, every hour, every day, every month, every year counts. Every measure of time counts and everything in those measures count. Everything in life within every second we live is critical.
The Psalmist prayerfully wrote, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (90:12)
As you enjoy March Madness don’t forget that every second of your life is important and everything in every second is important.
Just today I read another blog by someone who has determined that preaching is no longer effective, needed or interesting. This opinion is nothing new. I remember a well known theologian who declared that since there was no regular preaching in New Testament churches after they were established then we should stop the practice and teach only. Then some point to Paul’s qualifications of an overseer in 2 Timothy 3 and note that only teaching is mentioned and not preaching as important in that ministry role.
I have preached and pastored for forty-one years and counting and I would offer the following observations.
1. The style of preaching has changed over the years. Culture is different, attention spans are shorter, and worship services seemed more rushed, calculated, and planned that ever. Preachers change with the times but the task of preaching does not.
2. Many people reach adulthood without ever hearing much preaching. Children are often excluded from worship services while attending children’s church or Sunday School. Youth often come to church and church events but do not attend the worship services their parents attend.
3. Many people attend church for years without hearing a true sermon. They hear lectures, presentations, and watch performances but never hear a true exposition of a passage of scripture.
4. Many pastors have never been trained to preach. In fact many have never been trained or mentored or discipled at all.
Preaching is a skill but it is more than simply a skill. It is an event where one person (the preacher) delivers truth with passion and conviction to persons with a willingness to hear, understand and live out what they receive. It is an event where God speaks through a called and annointed servant to His people. Preaching motivates, excites and moves people. Teaching informs, directs and strengthens people. One drives truth to the heart, emotions and the mind while the other drives truth to the mind, heart and life. They have very similar objectives and results but are very different in how those objectives and results are gained.
When preachers do well the hearer enters into the historical narrative and experiences what the original characters experienced and learn the same truths the original characters learned. The eat the dust of the exodus, and hear the cry of David the Psalmist. They tremble before the Cross of Christ and marvel at the empty tomb. They are breathless as they look into Hell and speechless as the see a glimpse of Heaven. Teaching delivers the same facts but never has quite the same effect.
I think I know what the fellow was trying to do when he called for more creative teaching on Sunday mornings. He just doesn’t understand preaching. I hope he experiences some on a Sunday morning real soon.
Yesterday I heard a news anchor on a major network declare that she would go to church on Easter even if “the walls fall in on me.” She went on to say that Easter is the most attended day at church for believers and non-believers around the world. Thinking about what she said made me stop and wonder why this is true.
Each year Easter services are our best attended at my church with Christmas Eve coming in a close second. We don’t do anything extra special for these services yet I see visitors, family members who live away and return for the holidays, and strangers who just show up. Why? I think there may be a simple answer to the questions.
Jesus Pure and Simple
Easter is the time when our church presents Jesus in the pure and simple terms of His life, death, burial and resurrection. Our message and music is simple, direct and historically accurate. I think people like Jesus best when they see Him presented as He is-pure and simple. When He is dressed up in the clothes of doctrinal differences, Christian organizations, and personal interpretations (no matter how valid) He and His message often gets lost upon those who are intrigued by the Man. For the Man Jesus is the message pure and simple.
I look forward to our Easter celebration tomorrow as we worship Jesus Christ our Risen Lord-pure and simple.