Category Archives: Dr. Charles Wood

On Biblical Ignorance in Churches

I just read something that my dear friend, Dr. Charles Wood, wrote in his daily musings and thought it worthy of sharing….

For three semesters I attended Faith Seminary in a suburb of Philadelphia.  On the first day of classes, we were given a one hundred question test of “general Biblical knowledge.”  Having spent my entire life in a Bible-preaching and teaching church and having done all of my college work in fundamentalist settings, I assumed I was being handed a “piece of cake.”  How wrong I was!  I only managed to get 49 out of the 100 questions correct (made a little easier to bear by the fact that only two others of my twenty classmates had better scores – both in the low 50′s).  I honestly think the test was designed far more to show us what we didn’t know than it was to find out what we actually did understand.  Whatever, it got my attention.

Were that same test (and I can’t find my copy) to be given today in the average local church, I doubt if there would be many, if any, scores higher than the low teens.  I am often utterly appalled by the lack of basic factual knowledge when it comes to the Word (I recently heard of a “church leader” who didn’t even know that a Pastor and an Elder were one and the same).  There are likely many reasons for this ignorance: too busy lives, too many demands on time and energy, lack of personal Bible study, shallow preaching, a steady pulpit diet of John 3:16, a reduced number of weekly services, and such.

Whatever the reasons, it seems to me that there is absolutely no excuse.  We have more Bible study helps readily available to Joe Average Christian than ever before.  There are enough translations and versions to cover every aspect of American dialect, study Bibles proliferate, study guides are available in abundance, computer programs(many of them free) make the most infant Christian actually able to check Greek and Hebrew meanings, and seminars and “satellite conferences” abound.  In addition, we have the excellent Bible teaching on radio and T. V. that is provided by men such as Charles Stanley, John Piper, Josh McDowell, Dave Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll and a multitude of others, most of whom are solid exegetes, doing expository preaching in one form or another.

It isn’t really clear to me how the reasons and the lack of excuse correlate, but what is clear to me is that a great many professed Christians know little or nothing about Biblical teaching.  Ignorance is bliss?  Absolutely no way!  Ignorance is an open door to the enshrinement of human reason, the acceptance of false teaching and recruitment to the latest slickster seeking to lead God’s people in any given situation.

But, there is a step beyond Biblical ignorance, and that is the dismissive attitude toward Biblical teaching so often evident in our churches.  This phenomenon appears to take the form of, “I don’t really know what the Bible says about that, and I guess I really don’t care.  I let the Preacher or some loud-mouthed layman do the work (or, more often, the talking), and I just assume they must be right.”  The work of Bible study and interpretation is deemed not worth the effort when there is a sense that the individual won’t agree with what the Bible says when all is said and done.  Although this is an old note that I have often sounded, I think some preaching in our churches contributes to this situation.  We recently heard an otherwise excellent sermon on the need to move from Christian 1.0 to Christian 2.0 (with just enough computerese involved to make it “catchy”), but the sermon simply ended with the call for us all to download the newer version.  Not one word was said about how to do so.  It was like a Nike commercial, “Just Do It!”

When the Word of God is preached without application or specific instruction concerning how it applies to life, it seems to me that it leads to the kind of indifference against which I am speaking.  We are once again listening to others preach, and a couple of sermons we have heard recently have left me wanting to yell out, “So what?”  Ignorance may not be excusable, but it does tend to be explainable.  Indifference?  It seems to me to be more of a choice than an accident.

How I wish it would all stop there (if you’ve read this far, you likely do also), but it moves on one more step to deliberate defiance of the Word.  There are more than a few in our churches who would gladly eliminate any part of Scripture with which they disagree.  This deliberate defiance can be annoying or frustrating.  It can also be the source of intense conflict in a local church.

She sat across from me about fifty years ago.  She was a fine person with good background and greatly involved in the church.  She was talking with me about her impending wedding when I asked the “fatal” question, “Is he a believer?”  Her answer was rather convoluted, but it boiled down to a simple “No.”  I asked how she could be considering such when she knew the Bible taught otherwise.  She said that she knew what the Bible taught, but that God had told her that she was right in pursuing this relationship.  It took a while, but I finally got her to articulate the fact that she really didn’t care what the Bible taught; she was simply going to do what she had decided to do (without any participation on my part).  This is the annoying, frustrating part.

Unfortunately, however, there is more.  There is an attitude that says that the Bible cannot possibly mean what it appears to mean because it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t fit in with current trends in society, doesn’t take into account changing cultural customs and mores, etc.  This is embodied in The Jesus Project and the New Perspectives on Paul.  If you don’t like it, say it wasn’t so or create an imaginary division between Jesus and Paul or write The DaVinci Code.  Whatever!

The conflict part of this attitude often shows up in the church when there are those who know better (or have been informed of the correct Biblical position on an issue) press forward in a wrongful course of action with an attitude that essentially says, “I know (or have been informed of) what the Bible says about this, but I really don’t care because the Bible disagrees with me or with what I am planning to do.”  Pretty harsh words?  I could readily make them seem tame simply by revealing what I know about a couple of situations.

It would be extremely easy for me to cite any number of cases (by church name and location) where ministries have been destroyed or seriously damaged by this attitude of defiant refusal to obey God’s Word. The “new kids on the block” are very likely to run into something of this nature before they are far into their ministries because of the anti-authority attitude so prevalent in our society (and which has been allowed to seep into our churches while we have been jousting with windmills over matters that really don’t qualify as genuine worldliness).  The old catechism said that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  Instead, it has been turned into something resembling a guide book or even a series of chapters provided for us to select those with which we agree or those which support our desires, plans and programs.

Young graduate, “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus,” but there will be times when you will wonder.  You will help yourself a great deal, however, if you will decide from the very beginning what you will and will not tolerate regarding the Word of God.  I find myself, at least temporarily, without a church home, ministry opportunity, etc., on the basis of a decision I made more than fifty years ago.  It is not pleasant, particularly at this time of life, but I will stand before the judgment seat confident in my stance on the Word while those who violated it will be seeking to explain why they decided that they were exempt from Biblical obedience.

The Bible is the Word of God, and that means exactly what it says.  God has spoken.  It is mine to determine – as exactly as I am able – what it is that He has said.  Beyond that, I have no right to ignore, change, disregard, etc., anything that He has said, and if I do so, I do so at my own risk of eternal loss.  How tragic would it be if what the gates of hell could not accomplish was complicitly done by those supposedly in the army!”

You Betchya’ Doctrine Matters!

We’re still unpacking boxes after our big move over the week-end, but I thought I’d jump back into blogging for a couple of minutes to touch on a couple of thoughts regarding doctrine.  In our Christianity “Lite” generation, many of the Emergents have willfully chosen to de-emphasize doctrine — some even going so far as to declare doctrine “transient” and to be examined in light of current cultures and worldviews.  This denigration of doctrine comes in the backwash of the 1990′s mantra of avoiding denominationalism.  While I don’t believe a church has to have Baptist on its sign to be doctrinally sound, denominational distinctives built on sound doctrine aren’t something to be glibly dismissed.

Today, the Pew Report on Religion in Public Life issued findings that included the disheartening statistic that stated that 57% of “Evangelicals” believe that there is more than one way to get to heaven.  The seeker-driven mentality of the modern church growth movement has created a generation of alleged “believers” who don’t know what they claim to believe and why they believe it.  Apparently John 14:6 isn’t “friendly” enough to be taught to those who must deny all except Christ for Salvation.

Dr. Charles Wood also offered some additional thoughts a couple of days ago that I found important in his “From the Woodchuck’s Den”.  I’ll leave his ruminations with you in closing….

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    Generally, I read (or more accurately, scan) Christianity Today at Barnes and Noble.  This week I actually bought the June, 2008 issue because of a number of items I saw while scanning.  When I got it home and went through it carefully, it had even more interesting information than I had realized.

 

    Previously, I mentioned the controversy surrounding the termination of a professor at Wheaton College.  That situation involved a procedural issue without any discernable (at least to me) doctrinal overtones.  I also mentioned the so-called “situation at Cedarville” which started out centered around a doctrinal/philosophical matter.  At the end of the day, however, it was also a procedural matter that brought about the termination of two faculty members.  That story made its way into the June issue of CT!

 

    These two stories were absolutely eclipsed by other items in the magazine.  A female faculty member at Southwestern Seminary was dismissed by Paige Patterson because he saw the role she was playing (or had arrogated to herself?) as in violation of Biblical teaching regarding the proper role of women in ministry.  That is somewhat a question of practice, but it is based on doctrinal concerns.  [The woman moved on to Taylor University but filed an unlawful dismissal suit against Southwestern Seminary.  The suit was dismissed – as almost all such suits are, at least currently – on the basis that the court has no jurisdiction in matters that involve the doctrine or internal workings of churches or even of church-related organizations.]  So maybe Paige Patterson ought to join the rest of us dinosaurs as we sit in that cave and read ancient manuscripts.

 

    But just a minute!  Venerable Westminster Seminary in the Philadelphia area (founded by J. Gresham Machen as a partial answer to the departure from the faith of the old Princeton Theological Seminary) has, by a split decision of its Trustees, dismissed two professors over positions they have taken on the doctrine of inspiration.  This one is a full-fledged difference over doctrine.  The Trustees voted 18-9 for dismissal so I guess we may have to make our cave a little bigger.

 

    And then the bomb was dropped.  The “Head Lines” page includes an article titled “Willow Creek’s Huge Shift.”  This is only my opinion, but I think the matters reported caught CT a bit by surprise (or may have occurred just before publication deadlines). and I expect a much fuller treatment of the subject in a future issue.  The article appeared to me to be a bit “thrown together,” and had a distinctly negative slant toward Willow Creek, but it was literally a bombshell.

 

    For some time it has been public knowledge that Bill Hybels has not been happy with the state of discipleship at the church.  It appears now that he has decided to do something about it.  The article begins, “After modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, Willow Creek Community Church plans to gear its weekend services toward mature believers seeking to grow in the faith.”  The next paragraph may mean that I will get to have fellowship in the cave with Bill.  It says, “The change comes on the heels of an ongoing four-year research effort first made public last summer in Reveal: Where Are You?, a book co-authored by executive pastor Greg Hawkins.  Hawkins said during an annual student ministries conference in April that Willow Creek would also replace its midweek services with classes on theology and the Bible.”  Further on in the article we read, “Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, told CT the church sporadically has recognized it was not teaching a robust enough theology and needed to turn the ship around.”

 

    There is more to the article than I have quoted, but much of it seems to me to belittle the change at Willow and to indicate that it very likely will not work.  For those of us, however, who have long been unimpressed by many of the aspects of the “seeker-sensitive” paradigm, this all comes as a striking admission that at least some of our concerns were legitimate.  I greatly admire Bill Hybels for recognizing and admitting an area of weakness or failure and for taking steps to correct it.  Actually, the “seeker-sensitive” approach of Willow appears to have produced little more depth than the very different. but no less “seeker-sensitive” approach of Jack Hyles and First Baptist of Hammond.

 

    E. F. Hutton is no more, but when they were and spoke, everyone listened.  I’m not sure everyone listens to Bill Hybels, but when he speaks and Willow Creek changes, hundreds – if not thousands – of pastors and churches are going to listen (and, in the majority of instances), respond to at least some degree.

 

    In our postmodern world that some of the various manifestations of the emergent churches would reach by down-playing or even elimination any attention to doctrine, it is refreshing to find that one of the largest and most influential ministries in evangelicalism is about to issue by example a call for increasing the importance of and stress on doctrine (just another name for “theology).  I rather think that the Apostle Paul would be pleased.  After all, he said, “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine, continue in them….”

 

    Hang in there, Bill.  You’re going to take some hits and lose some people, but you may be the means of turning the church back once-again to stressing theology for what is was once known as, “The Queen of the sciences.”  May God grant us a steady-stream of well-trained men who can “rightly divide the Word of truth” by study of the systematic approach to the content of the Word and also by consulting the history of doctrine, and may they come to stand in the influential pulpits and places of leadership in a day when post-modernism appears not only to dominate in the public square but also to have seriously infiltrated the church.  God bless you Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, John MacArthur, John Piper, Warren VanHetloo, and now – apparently – Bill Hybels (and others).  May your tribe increase until the Word of God rather than the (mis?)perceived needs of people dictates our agenda and our approach!

Are Natural Disasters God’s Judgment?

Folks ranging from Pat Robertson to Sharon Stone to Jerry Falwell have gotten into trouble over the years for presuming to “know” why natural disaster occur or if God is sending a particular message when bad things happen. The question, “Is XYZ Disaster God’s judgment on [insert name of city/country/region/people/deviation here]?” is one that has often left me relying on verbal double-speak so that I can avoid giving a specific answer.

My friend, Charles Wood, offered the following perspective in today’s edition of “Woodchuck’s Den” from his good friend Warren Van Hetloo. His perspective is quite good in my opinion. It follows:

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From a reader: Dear Dr. Vanhetloo, In light of the recent cyclone in Myanmar and the great earthquake in China, man is given opportunity to ponder the ways of God (Isa. 55:8–9). Would you please address the issue of God’s judgment in this age? Is it unwise for believers today to view natural disasters of such proportions as connected to the judgment of God? I realize there is both a present and progressive aspect of God’s judgment (John 3:18–19). Likewise I realize Christians should be very careful about equating any natural disaster with the hand of God’s judgment. Therefore, is there a connection? Any insights you offer would be greatly appreciated.

 

A few comments:

1. Too many fail to distinguish between penalties and consequences. Any temporal penalty by a just God will be properly related to what is deserved. Natural disasters are among the consequences of the fall of Adam, and are not directly related, in most cases, with any deserved penalty. One generation in San Francisco was no more wicked and deserving of an earthquake than another. We cannot judge that certain sections of Myanmar or China are less sinful than these which were hit. We certainly cannot assert that believers who may have been caught in such disasters are more backslidden than others.

2. The purpose of God’s law is not to give basis for divine judgment. By the law comes knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20), that men might seek God’s grace. By “natural” disasters should come the realization that God is supreme over all forces in this world, that He can fully protect His own, and that there is a purpose for what He allows. Believers are not always delivered and sinners are not always distressed. The God who is concerned about every hair on my head is fully able to handle any disaster.

3. Also, many tend to think of God as actively anxious to stamp out evil. He is, admittedly, a God of wrath and judgment, but predominantly He is a god of grace. He is longsuffering, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Abraham was told that his descendents would be in a strange land and be afflicted four hundred years, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Gen 15:13-16). God’s patience with individuals and nations far exceeds just deserts.

4. We do well not to proclaim that we know God’s mind and purposes. Jonah announced coming judgment, and the people of Nineveh repented. We are unable to judge that one generation in Nineveh was any more ungodly than another. We can, on the other hand, boldly proclaim that God’s offer of eternal life is for “whosoever.” We can lovingly warn that whosoever fails to accept God’s provided deliverance can be sure of eternal suffering in hell.

5. It appears from Scripture that natural disasters will not occur in the millennium. The law will still define God’s instructions, and Jesus Christ Himself will be the final interpreter of details of that law. Even during that time of international peace and outward allegiance to truth, some will not accept the Savior. Disasters serve a minor purpose in the divine dealings with humankind. “To the law and to the testimony” will be the primary tool for doing the Lord’s work even in millennial surroundings.

Mistakes We Make

My good friend, Dr. Charles Wood, offers some great observations in his latest missive that I thought would be of interest to my readers.  Take some time and read his ponderings on the mistakes we make in churches — from the pulpit to the pew.  He stepped on my toes in several areas and I’m guessing he might step on some of yours as well.

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There are very, very few areas in which I could claim expert status (I do have an uncanny ability to anger people by what I write).  There is one area, however, in which I am absolutely expert and that is in making mistakes.  If a mistake could be made, I have probably made it. especially in ministry and the life of the church.  Possible “saving graces:” I have tried to correct what I could, learn from them all and not repeat them if at all possible. I have been thinking lately about some of the mistakes I have made and observed, and out of that thinking cones this column.

Mistakes pastors make:

    Playing “Johnny one-note”   It’s great to be fascinated by the Book of Revelation, but preaching through it over a two-year period may be a little much for a congregation to bear (yes, I have actually known of someone who did so).  There is certainly a “list” of themes that should be regularly repeated, but that list is long enough that no hypnotic repetition should be necessary.

    Incorrectly estimating one’s popularity:  As I have stated many times before, I think the average pastor has far more support in the church than he thinks he does.  Those who are upset usually make it known (loudly and frequently).  The satisfied rarely say much of anything until they have an opportunity to vote on something.  They then almost always come out on the side of a good pastor.  There is a flip side to this, however, and that is when a pastor over-estimates congregational support.  I have watched pastors approach certain issues  of decisions with absolute confidence, only to be shocked by a rebuff (if I remember correctly, that happened to me a couple of times early in my ministry).

    Failure to have friends in the congregation: I once heard a pastor brag that he had never eaten a meal in the home of a member or been taken out to eat by any of his congregation.  I asked for his rationale; he replied that a pastor could not afford to be closer to anyone than to everyone.  I didn’t say anything, but I thought that Jesus evidently didn’t know this (think Peter, James and John), and that Paul had so many friends he could hardly list them all.  I had many friends in my four pastorates, and some from all of them including the current one continue to be close to my heart and involved in my life.

    Preaching personal opinions as if they were Scripture: This may be the most common error of all those made by preachers.  It can – and does – arise from several possible causes.  One is pure arrogance in which a man is so convinced that he is right that he needs no Scriptural basis for a,”Thus saith the Lord.”  Another cause of this phenomenon is the practice of deciding on a subject rather than first identifying a text.  Still another cause is the failure to do careful exegesis (which takes time and effort).

    Making decisions on the basis of potential consequences:  Although I always tried to think through to worst-case scenarios, I also tried constantly to make decisions based on right or wrong, Biblical principles or other valid consequences.  I didn’t want to be “blind-sided” by consequences, but I refused to let potential consequences determine what I did or didn’t do.  When I came to the conclusion that the ban on women wearing slacks had no Biblical basis, I simply got up and explained what had led me to make that change.  (In that instance, the consequences were far less than I had anticipated because almost everyone was already ignoring the ban except when at church.)

Mistakes church leaders make: 

        Making major changes at inappropriate times: The worst time that major changes can be made or initiated – in my opinion – is when a church is without a pastor.  Such “interim” changes are often made with the best of motives, but they make the search for a new pastor much more difficult.  Changes made to satisfy a departing pastor may be totally unacceptable to a new man.  Changes made to correct the excesses or shortcomings of a departing pastor often backfire in that an incoming pastor is very different from his predecessor and will be unnecessarily handcuffed by restrictions that he doesn’t need.

    Trying to keep matters “secret:”  I worked with more than thirty-five deacon boards over the years, and I can only remember two or three of them that did not have a “leak.”  I was never troubled by leaks to people who had at least some claim of a right to know (former deacons, former pastors or other Christian workers in the ongregation,etc.).  But…”secrets” rarely are such for more than a few days, and when they get out,.they usually cause more trouble than straightforwardness would have caused in the first place.  “Secrets” also create the “dancing bear syndrome” in which people who know them are forced to avoid, evade or deny what they know to be true or false.  Remember: secrecy is the breeding ground of deceit.

    Underestimating the intelligence of the congregation:  To some degree, this point is a byproduct of the last one.  It is dangerous to assume that people are too dumb or naive to figure out what is going on in a particular situation.  I have been sometimes amazed at the perspicacity of some unassuming church members who saw through someone or something being promoted by church leadership.

    Inadequately “vetting”  a pastoral candidate:  So he can preach!  Big deal!  Thousands of men who have proved to be awful pastors can preach.  There’s a lot more to it than that.  Careful examination of a man’s character, marriage, family life, community reputation, organizational and leadership skills, and myriad other qualities must be considered.  A single day’s candidacy is hardly adequate for even the smallest churches or most difficult fields.  Researching resumes and lists of recommendations is essential, and a good question to ask any candidate about these instruments is what places and which names are not on them and why?  Calling a new pastor is not rocket science or brain surgery, but it is a very precise decision that must be bathed in prayer and operated with extreme caution.

    Failure to provide adequate compensation, assistance and “down-time.”   Although many pastors wear “Superman” shirts, they are actually as human as anyone else.  The ministry is important and time-consuming, but the family is even more important.  If a man’s wife doesn’t wish to work, she should not have to do so, and a working wife’s compensation is utterly unrelated to that of a church staff member.  Days off and vacations ought to be mandatory (no one ever had to make me take a day off or head out on a family trip – I only wish I had taken a “sabbatical” to update my education).

Mistakes congregations make:

    Selecting lay leaders based on financial or business success:  I don’t believe this has ever been a problem in the church here, but in one of my pastorates, I always had men who were not qualified for office, but who were placed there because they had money or were successful in business.  A very close friend came into a lot of money very quickly.  He was a good Christian and a great church member, but suddenly just about every Christian organization in his area became aware of his godliness and great spirituality.  The same groups decided he was not nearly so desirable when the money was just as quickly taken away from him.  A man may be a great success in business or profession and an utter failure at home or in his own heart.

    Failing to realize that you simply can’t out-give God:  My years in a particular pastorate left me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding people of a certain nationality.  There were wonderful exceptions, but most were cheap, stingy and devoid of compassion on anyone or anything but their own bank accounts.  I have always felt that if there was a need, and I had the ability to meet (or assist in meeting) that need, it was my Biblical obligation to do so. I continue to believe and live that way, and God’s blessing in response has been beyond measure.  I feel so sorry for some people who do not understand or experience the joy of giving!

    Spreading discord among brethren:  I could write a book, but I’ll stop with just one more.  I have watched people treat the Church of Jesus Christ as if it were their own fiefdom.  I have heard discord spread in the form of “prayer requests.”  I even knew of a group of people who covered their discord sowing by calling it a “prayer meeting for the church.”  We love our church and want to do everything we possibly can to promote it and its well-being.  I simply can’t understand and have no patience with people who think nothing of trying to create problems or damage the church (normally because they have not been able to get their own way in some area). 

Dr. Charles Wood on “Pastoral Qualifications” and a Quick Personal Update

In recent weeks, I received word of yet another peer in the ministry who has lost his pastorate due to a personal failure.  Sadly, I have seen these things happen far too frequently over my lifetime and it never fails to break my heart and frankly, surprise me.  Often, my first response has been unbelief as in “surely not HIM!”.  At the same time, it also reminds me of my own need to be accountable, be careful and be perseverant as none of us is beyond the potential for a ministry-ending decision.

Coincidentally, Dr. Charles Wood wrote on the topic into today’s “Woodchuck Den” and I thought I’d share a few of his thoughts here:

The fact that I hold the pastoral ministry in such high regard is not a result of any form of “pastor-on-a-pedestal” thinking.  I was disabused of that line of reason many years ago by the notable failures of some very prominent men in fundamentalism.  In fact, my concern lies in the opposite direction.  I see no difference between the spiritual standing before God of a layman or a pastor.  I think both stand on absolutely even ground and really see no basic difference at all between clergy and laity (which is why I am comfortable with the younger pastors today who prefer to be called by their first names rather by some formal title).  I do think, however that there are certain obligations that fall on a pastor that do not fall on a layman (feeding the flock, guarding the sheep, etc.).  I also think that there is some Biblical reference to at least some small measure of  authority involved in the leadership roles of the pastor.

This leadership authority is the point at which my concern for the highest of standards for pastoral leadership comes into play.  I don’t think there is much, if any, exercisable authority that goes with the position or office.  I think the primary authority of the pastor lies in his influence and his ability to influence others to move in the direction that he believes the Lord has directed him to go.  Influence does not come with office or position; it is the product of good character displayed over the long-haul in all the circumstances of life (which is why I tend to prefer longer pastorates).  A careful look at the requirements for pastor/elder in the Pastoral Epistles quickly reveals an emphasis on unassailable character.

Once a man has violated those “canons of character” in any significant way, it seems to me that the strength of his influence is greatly diluted, if not totally lost.  If the matter is not revealed, he will spend the rest of his ministry with the nagging realization that someone could step forward at any moment and either reveal his past or use a threat to do so as a means of “blackmail” (if you don’t believe this can happen, ask Gordon MacDonald).  If the matter is known, there will always be some measure of doubt, however slight, in the minds of thinking people regarding his trustworthiness.  Forgiveness is not a question; God forgives totally and completely and so should we.  As many a former alcoholic has found, however, there are sometimes lasting natural effects from bad practices of habits that have been  readily and immediately forgiven by God.  David was forgiven and even allowed to stay on the throne, but his influence – particularly among his own children – was forever limited (with dire consequences).

The question of the point at which character is so damaged that it can no longer be exercised effectively is another subject, and a very subjective one at that.  This is just my opinion, but the occasional use of a postage meter for one’s own personal mail is hardly the stuff of which disqualification is made, but I do believe that an accumulation of “minor” infractions can amount to serious questions about qualifications.  Character is no one single issue, and it is not limited simply to sexual purity and/or fiscal integrity; it is the accumulation of all our reactions to the stimuli and temptations of life.  A pattern of seemingly minor aberrations can actually be a symptom of far deeper problems.

The “pastor-on-a-pedestal” concept is invalid (and more and more churches are coming to that conclusion).  Unfortunately, in some situations, the “pedestal pastor” has been replaced by the “charismatic clown.”   We have men who are talented almost beyond belief, personable to the ultimate degree, able to communicate like the angels and a variety of other “goodies.”  The shame of it is that they often are almost completely devoid of character or have issues or incidents in their past that would raise questions in any rational mind (not all Christian minds are rational minds – I give you the followers of Ted Haggard who would happily have kept him in the pulpit and the continuing limited popularity of Jimmy Swaggart – and I can even think of a now-deceased “fallen fundamentalist” who appears to have an on-going group of adherents).

Perfection in a preacher?  You’re simply not going to find it.  A shortage of pulpit skills, a somewhat distant manner that makes him appear less that truly compassionate, and other such things are detractions, but they hardly disqualify for ministry.  I continue to think that a man who can no longer be a pastor may well be able to serve in other capacities in ministry, but I do think it essentially that safeguards be built into any such situation.  Some have been given a second chance in the pastorate and failed miserably, but others have been given opportunities in other areas of ministry and have failed equally as badly.

Bottom line?  “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

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Now on a personal note, Julie and I appreciate the prayers of those who have been aware of some medical concerns we’ve had with her health and her necessary surgery.  She had her surgery this morning and I was able to bring her home late this afternoon.  She is resting in relative comfort in her own bed tonight.  The surgery went without any surprises and we should know the results of the biopsies within 3-5 days, but we remain positive and absolutely confident in God’s Sovereign Grace and Authority regardless of the results.  The Lord gave me the most spiritual and consistent woman I’ve ever known to be my wife.  In the last year, she has been an absolute rock for me on every level and I am the most blessed man around to have her as my partner.  Thank you to many of you who were aware of her situation and have offered prayers and encouragement for and to us.  We’ll keep you posted here on any results and I’m sorry I can’t call everyone with a personal report.  Your friendship remains a great encouragement to both of us as we conclude one of the most challenging years in our life.

Dr. Charles Wood on Christian Education

I received a lot of positive feedback on my reprint of Dr. Charles Wood’s take on the “Biggest Problem among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists” last week.-á I’ve tried for years to get Dr. Wood to take up blogging and he is still resisting.-á I frankly think he has a lot to say that we need to hear, but until he decides to start his own blog, I plan on giving you some of his best stuff to “chew on”.

Christian Education is something that I appreciate and in which I believe — from preschool to grad school.-á The vast majority of my educational experience has been in Christian schools which would include all but twelve of the last forty-one years in some form or fashion.-á It has long been a frustration of mine that some seem to imply that to get a “good” education, one must attend a secular school — preferably an “Ivy-League” school or some prestigious school like Duke University or Notre Dame.

In one of his recent essays, Dr. Wood takes aim at that notion and I feel inclined to share it with you today.-á Here’s what he thinks…

-á-á-á-á-áRepeatedly over the years parents have vindicated their decision to send their children to secular colleges (which they had every right to do)-áwith the remark, GÇ£I just want him/her to get the very best quality education possible.GÇ¥-á There is usually another disclaimer added to that statement (for instance, GÇ£So he/she can make a positive contribution to our worldGÇ¥).-á All-too-often, however, lurking beneath the surface, not buried far enough to be invisible, was the real reason for such a decision; GÇ£I want my kid to able to make lots of money so he/she can enjoy a lifestyle equal or superior to mine.GÇ¥-á Frankly, for all our efforts to inveigh against it and to point out the Biblical approach to materialism, we have not done a very good job of educating (or convincing) a lot of believers.
-á-á-á-á-áThe materialism involved, however, isnGÇÖt what troubles me.-á It-áis the sheer naivete that assumes a GÇ£qualityGÇ¥ education can best be obtained at a prestigious secular educational institution.-á-á Obviously, there are notable exceptions, but fifty plus years of experience have convinced me that it is much more likely that a young person will obtain that GÇ£qualityGÇ¥ education at an academically solid Christian college or university than at a secular institution.-á I am aware that there are career tracks – although not very many – that are not covered in the Christian educational arena.-á I am also aware that certain departments in secular universities are much more likely to be acceptable than others, but I still stand convinced that the education in many Christian colleges is equal or superior to that to be obtained in some of the best-known secular schools in the country.
-á-á-á-á-áLed by Duke and Columbia Universities, secular higher education has cowered under more than its share of the spotlight recently, but the egregious violations that have transpired at those two schools appear at least somewhat typical of conditions in many, if not most, of their sister schools.-á The Duke lacrosse players have been exonerated, the prosecutor has been disgraced and disbarred, the President of the University has delivered a half-hearted apology (which well-placed sources suggest was part of the agreement reached between the falsely accused young men and the UniversityGÇÖs bank account), and the lacrosse program has been reinstated.-á There remains, however, the issue of the eighty-eight faculty members who declared themselves prosecutor, judge and jury and rendered a guilty verdict before even the most embryonic aspect of the story were known.-á One of them has recanted and distanced himself for the others.-á One other of the eighty-eight has said that if he knew then what he knows now, he never would have signed the letter.-á The other eighty-six?-á They sit securely in their class rooms, enjoying tenure (or steadily progressing toward that magic kingdom) without sanction, rebuke or any type of formal action by the University
-á-á-á-á-áAm I too harsh in my assessment?-á I think not.-á Some of the signatories of the original letter, in spite of everything that has now been clearly explicated, continue to maintain that GÇ£something must have happenedGÇ¥ because the situation involved interaction between GÇ£privileged white malesGÇ¥ and a person of minority status. These people are competent to provide a GÇ£quality education?GÇ¥-á Again, I think not!-á IGÇÖm sure this group comprises just a small portion of what must be a vastly larger faculty roster, but it is hardly a small cadre, and it is doubtlessly highly influential in the disciplines it represents.-á In at least some areas, the modern secular university is no longer a place for learning and the free exchange of ideas; it is far more a place for the indoctrination of young people, and the imposition of a rigid set of ideals, most of which are far from the thinking of mainstream Americans.
-á-á-á-á-áWhen viewed in its full scope, the situation at Columbia is even more illustrative of the depth to which GÇ£higher educationGÇ¥ has been debased by an ideology based on presuppositions.-á-á The obviously demented head of a foreign state that is committed to destroy our nation is invited to speak on the campus and given something of a heroGÇÖs welcome by a portion of the student body and much of the faculty.-á The President then introduces this maniac tyrant by asking him a series of GÇ£hard questionGÇ¥ (most of which the man never actually answers), and we are supposed to believe that the GÇ£free exchange of ideasGÇ¥ has been facilitated?-á The illustrations mount up and include such schools as Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of California at Irvine, and an host of others too numerous to name (even a Catholic school, Ave Maria, and supposedly evangelical Oral Roberts are in the news).
-á-á-á-á-áShould believers eschew all secular institutions as a result?-á Probably not (I donGÇÖt know of a pharmacy program or a medical school that I would be comfortable calling genuinely Christian), but Christians might be wise to stop using the GÇ£quality educationGÇ¥ mantra when vindicating enrollment at secular institutions.-á In general, there is no need whatever for conservative evangelicals to apologize for the quality of the education being offered at many of their schools.-á I am personally familiar with Cedarville, Liberty, Bethel (Indiana), Grace, Taylor, Indiana Wesleyan, and a number of other schools (I am sure I am inadvertently omitting some institutions that are well-worthy of inclusion).-á In my opinion, they all offer outstanding academics and also maintain a serious spiritual emphasis (even though many of us would not agree with all aspects of the doctrinal assertions of their various GÇ£statements of faithGÇ¥).-á Since my fundamentalist credentials were rescinded several years ago, I have lost touch with most of the fundamentalist schools, but I am sure there are some among them that would also qualify for the term GÇ£excellentGÇ¥ in the context in which they operate.-á-á-á-á-án++
-á-á-á-á-áThere are believers teaching in many of the more secular schools.-á In my opinion, whether or not they should be doing so is entirely within the province of their own individual soul liberty, and I donGÇÖt believe anyone else is obligated or even privileged to judge their decision to do so.-á They are, however, GÇ£strangers in a foreign landGÇ¥ and are worthy of our prayers!-á Many of them seek to keep at least a little candle burning in the neon atmosphere of “education as indoctrinationGÇ¥ that dominates in so many situations..
-á-á-á-á-áWant your child to have a quality education?-á By all means do what you can to assure it!-á Just donGÇÖt assume that the only place it can be found is in a secular setting.-á Quite frankly, the quality of the education to be secured at many highly-regarded institutions is suspect at best and a myth at worst.-á There is quality to be found in Christian schools.-á Although beliefs may be slightly different, there is Biblical undergirding for the academic programs, and an active and enthusiastic spiritual atmosphere is treasured.

Charles Wood: “The Biggest Problem in Conservative Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism”

Dr. Charles Wood is a dear friend and mentor to me and any time he takes the time to write something or tell me something, I listen and I listen intently.-á He sends out an almost daily challenge called “The Woodchuck’s Den” in which he thinks outloud and often stimulates my musings for the day.

Today, he really invited discussion and thought with a headlines that starts off with, “The Biggest Problem…” which is a sure-fired way to get discussion going.-á Frankly, I don’t even know that I think what he wrote about is the biggest problem in the circles he mentions, but I do think it is a major problem and I appreciate the challenge.

So without further introduction, here’s Dr. Wood’s comments…

———-From the Woodchuck’s Den — 9.28.07———-

-á-á-á-á “Last week I mentioned that I would tackle this subject this week so here goes.-á There is a lot of discussion today about social drinking and the Bible (the discussion-á was around more than fifty years ago when I can remember some rather heated exchanges around the coffee pot when in seminary).-á I donGÇÖt think that is the biggest problem we face by far.-á There is much discussion today about seeing movies in theaters (just about everyone watches them on DVD and other technological advances at home).-á IsnGÇÖt it neat how technology has enabled so many to agree to – or even sign –á GÇ£church covenantsGÇ¥ and other agreements without having to take then seriously?-á But this also isnGÇÖt, in my opinion, our greatest problem.
-á-á-á-á-áThe music wars continue to rage (and, again in my opinion, do little to change the tastes and preferences of anyone, including those who readily sign statements on the subject and just as readily violate them at home, in the car, etc.).-á But no matter how much importance certain educational institutions attach to the subject, IGÇÖm not convinced that this is evangelicalismGÇÖs greatest problem.-á There are also battles about other issues such as-á standards, versions of the Word of God, degrees of separation, etc., but no matter how vehemently such peripheral issues are debated, they do not constitute the greatest problem we face.
-á-á-á-á Our society is beset by social issues of significant concern to evangelicals.-á Same sex marriage, school sex-education programs, the decay of modern higher education (so amply shown in recent headlines), and even abortion on demand (as horrible and dangerous as that matter is) are all current issues.-á I am not convinced, however, that even these issues with cosmic significance comprise the greatest problem we face.
-á-á-á-á-áThe greatest problem?-á I am convinced it is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people sit in the pews of evangelical churches on a weekly basis who have never even so much as shared their faith with anyone else much less personally led anyone to the Lord.-á I serious doubt if many of these multitudes have even so much as ever invited someone to church (unless it was on the GÇ£pack-a-pewGÇ¥ night of an evangelistic meeting when they invited someone from another Bible-believing church to be their guest.)
-á-á-á-á-áThe last words of Jesus didnGÇÖt include any mention of alcohol consumption, dancing, movie-going, Bible versions, standards, same-sex marriage, abortion on demand or even a diatribe on musical tastes and preferences.-á Surely some of those matters are of importance to many and some are to all who name the name of Christ, but they were not included in the words spoken during those precious last few days spent with His disciples.-á I have always attached greatest importance to the words spoken by someone who is in His right mind and knows he is dying.-á Jesus fits that picture, and it is interesting to note that His concern was with sending His disciples into all the world on a quest to make more disciples.-á How easy it is to get involved in GÇ£goodGÇ¥ things and even GÇ£betterGÇ¥ things and to leave the GÇ£bestGÇ¥ things undone.
-á-á-á-á-áMight it not be possible that some of the problems plaguing society now would yield to a greater body of believers who truly believed what they claimed to believed and who lived out their Christianity in the world in such a way as to gain the respect of the unsaved world (rather than its reprobation as is so often currently the deserved case)?
-á-á-á-á-áUnfortunately, this problem is made worse – in my estimation – by the fact that many believers, especially in fundamentalist churches – donGÇÖt even really know anyone who is unsaved.-á Surely they work among the unsaved and have relatives who do not know the Lord, to say nothing of lost neighbors, but they donGÇÖt really know their neighbors or co-workers and stay fairly clear of many of their unsaved relatives.-á Often, they are encouraged in this evangelism-discouraging conduct by pastors who teach, at least by example if not by word, that preservation of a specific religious culture is more important than presentation of the glorious Gospel.-á GÇ£Stay away from the world lest you become infected.GÇ¥-á GÇ£Now that you are saved, youGÇÖre going to need a whole new set of friends.GÇ¥-á GÇ£Come to church every time the doors are openGÇ¥ (even if it keeps you from ever getting to really know someone you might have otherwise led to the Lord).-á How different from the approach of the Lord Jesus!-á He went to dinner at more than one tax collectorGÇÖs home.-á He would not take the cured GÇ£Maniac of GadaraGÇ¥ with Him when he departed from Gadara; telling him, instead, to go tell others in his town what had been done for him.-á He told a big-time female sinner to go tell her friends and relatives (can you image what most of them must have been like?) about the man who knew all about her.-á A woman taken in adultery was told simply to go and sin no more.-á Obviously, Jesus simply didnGÇÖt know that contact with the world might cause some of them to violate some aspect of a code of conduct that is at best derived from Scripture rather than specifically declared in it!
-á-á-á-á-áYes!-á There is room for teaching on some of the issues evangelicals – and especially fundamentalists – hold dear, but I really do question if those matters actually out-weigh the basic purpose for which Jesus came: to seek and to save the lost.-á Would we really have someone who smokes, drinks socially, goes to movies, dances, etc., go to hell rather than risk contamination by trying to get close enough to reach him or her with the Gospel?n++
-á-á-á-á-áAlthough I have reservations about the mega-church movement as a whole and about some particular churches of that genre in particular, I also have some personal first-hand observations that I think are interesting and revealing.-á There is a major mega-church near our church.-á Granger Community Church is a Willow Creek spin-off that operates much like Saddleback.-á Several people that I could not reach for Christ for one reason or another have now found the Lord through that church.-á When I run into them, I am always warmly greeted, and I find that all they want to talk about is the Lord and what He is doing in their lives and in the life of their church.-á I also run into former members of our church who have left us because of our GÇ£liberalism.GÇ¥-á They are also usually very courteous, but I find it almost impossible to engage them in any meaningful conversation about spiritual things that lasts more than two or three minutes.-á Asked about what God is doing in their lives of the life of their current church, they often respond with a blank look as if I had just spoken to them in Chinese.-á Maybe some of the time we spend criticizing the mega-churches for their GÇ£John 3:16 onlyGÇ¥ approach and their :shallowness,GÇ¥ could be better invested in trying to win people to Christ.

Right at the moment – and this is not just my opinion as it is backed by statistics – we are not doing a very good job of what I consider to be our most important task.-á This – to me – is the greatest problem of conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism.-á”

——————-

If you’d like to receive Dr. Wood’s daily email challenge, write him at LORCHUCK@aol.com — and tell him that you read his stuff at “Whirled Views”, will you?

Charles Wood: Simple Truths; Profound Implications

Once again, Dr. Charles Wood gives some great counsel and thought-provoking wisdom for his readers…

SIMPLE TRUTHS; PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS:
The truly profound is often really quite simple. Whenever I think of that truth, I think of the preaching of Warren Wiersbe. I have often come away from hearing him with the impression that the message was so simple that it was hardly worth the time, only to find myself a week later still thinking through all the implications of what he had said. There are some simple truths in the Christian life that have profound implications, and the tragedy seems to be that these simply truths are seldom grasped by a significant portion of God’s people. The following forms just a little sampling of the phenomenon.

No one can make me do anything I choose not to do. Simple? Yes, but the issue at the heart of martyrdom. Everything I do or don’t do is a matter of personal choice. That choice may be subconscious, the result of habit or even reflexive, but it is a choice none-the-less. Children have a tendency to defend themselves on the basis of, “he/she made me do it.” It’s a nice ploy, but it is uniformly untrue. Unfortunately, we carry that same defective thinking into adulthood to our own detriment.

I am responsible for my own choices and actions. This statement arises out of the previous truth, but it goes down hard. The problem with it is that it establishes individual responsibility and strips one of all possible “blame-shifts” and excuses. Scripture is very clear that each of us will appear at the judgment seat of Christ to give account of his own performance, etc. It is also quite clear that none of us will answer for anyone else, nor will anyone else answer for us. We are responsible for the choices we make and the actions we take. If such is the case, then we also bear the full measure of responsibility for the consequences of those choices and actions. This is a tough truth in a victim-oriented world as it puts the blame squarely where it belongs – on each of us as an individual. It is also, however, a very liberating truth as it takes control of our lives away from others and places it in our own hands. For instance, I grew up in poverty caused by the “Great Depression” and in what was in some ways a rather dysfunctional family. It would have been easy to accept a “loser” role in life (victimized by the childhood poverty) and to replicate my own unhappy childhood family situation, saying that it’s just the way I am because that is the way I was raised, and there is nothing I can do about it. I didn’t chose to be born three years after the great stock market crash, and I didn’t chose a father to whom I was almost completely unable to relate, but choices regarding my response and reaction to those outwardly-imposed circumstances were entirely mine. My responses have been far from a model of such, but I have chosen to rise above the poverty and to structure a family far different from what was patterned to me as a child (my brother and late sister also made the same choices with essentially the same results). Without meaning to be arrogant or self-congratulatory, I grow tired of the whining excuse-makers and their endless wails of, “I can’t help it….” I often want to say – and sometimes have said – “If you can’t help it, exactly who can?” Tragically, so many of my own generation are living in self-imposed misery because of their unwillingness to take responsibility for the choices and responses that have led them to the situations in which they find themselves “trapped.” If it is someone else’s fault, then there is nothing I can do about it. If it is the result of my own choices, then I can change the choices and at least alter the outcomes (and this is true at any point in life – it is never “too late”).

No matter what anyone else does, I am responsible to do right. I am responsible to treat others in a Biblical manner no matter how they may treat me (the Bible tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; it does not say that we are to do unto others as they have done unto us). Fifty years of involvement in ministry have taught me that there is a “mean streak” in fundamentalism (likely related to the strong stress on separation, which is negative by nature). I have experienced my share of insults, false accusations, hypocrisy, “friendly fire,” and the like. I have even endured deliberate “black-balling” that has somewhat limited the scope of my ministry. Because of my own carnality in the flesh, I have not always responded well to such treatment, but I have always known in my heart that I was responsible to do right no matter what anyone else did or said. There is so much clear Biblical teaching on this subject that it shouldn’t be necessary to make specific citations, and Scripture also provides us special assistance with its frequent assurances that God will right the wrongs and settle the scores (“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”). I have lived long enough to know that “what goes around, comes around,” as I have seen it happen numerous times. Natural impulse pushes us to respond in kind, but succumbing to such inner drives only increases the amount of evil in the world. It also violates the Word of God at a variety of points.

Right is its own reward. In fairy tales everyone “lived happily ever after.” In real life it frequently doesn’t work out that way. I have seen people do right and be rewarded with salary increases, bonuses, and heaps of praise. I have, however, seen others do equally as right and be rewarded with “a kick in the teeth,” job termination, slander, and other forms of great loss. Over the last few years I have watched someone repeatedly face choices and chose to do what is almost beyond right rather than even skirt the edges of ethical conduct. As the situation has digressed, there has been no tangible “reward” (although God has done someobvious internal”reconstruction”), but the commitment to right has remained firmly in place. Reward will come, but it may not be in the areas in which the losses have been suffered. Regardless, the individual involved has the very satisfying reward of knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that right has been done. For the child of God, that knowledge, in itself, ought to be sufficient reward to keep one going until the time when the eternal reward will exponentially overshadow any possible earthly reward. How we need to teach our children and young people this simple truth as its implications are profound. Right is often – even usually – rewarded in some tangible way. When it is not, however, the very fact that right has been done must be seen as itself the reward.

Trivial Pursuits

My good friend and mentor, Dr. Charles Wood recently wrote something in his email journal and commentary that I found to be very challenging and convicting. I share it with you below:

TRIVIAL PURSUIT, ANYONE?

More than fifty years ago God called me to preach the Gospel and made it quite clear that my venue was to be the local church. This calling has been a consuming passion throughout all the years (and remains the “main thing” even now). Somewhere along the line, I read a simple statement that has guided me for many years, “Always be sure to make the main thing the main thing.” Now, Satan is wise enough to know that all preachers aren’t going to turn intoTed Haggards, so he alters his approach accordingly. One of the most subtle forms of temptation against which I have struggled over the years has been the temptation to substitute the good for the better and the better for the best. If Satan can’t get us to fall into major sin, it is my sense that he will then switch tactics and get us involved in things that are not wrong in themselves but which draw us away from making the main thing the main thing.

For a long time I had a reader who regularly (just about every time I wrote anything) corresponded with me to point out where I was wrong, why I was an idiot, how he couldn’t believe that anyone who had as much education as I could be so incredibly dumb, and such. He simply could not allow anything that he disagreed with to pass without responding in an effort to set me straight. At one point I removed him from our mailing list. He then wrote, apologized for much of his attitude and asked to be reinstated. Within a relatively brief period of time, however, the “same old same old” began again. We don’t normally eliminate readers simply because they disagree with my position, but I was about to eliminate him again when he wrote and said that he had seen all he could stand from me and requested removal himself (praise the Lord!). The frequency and nature of his attacks (and they were just that) made me curious. I did some research and found out what I expected. To be kind (and not to respond “in kind”), it appears to me that time invested in his church and in reaching his community might accomplish far more than trying to correct the uncorrectable (and appears to be even more needed). If you want to be known as “Mr. Letter To The Editor,” that is your business, but be sure you aren’t pursuing trivia rather than your calling.
There are a thousand “good causes” that cry out for our attention (and participation). Most of them are worthy and involve positive contributions to our culture. Throughout the years, however, I quite consistently declined to become involved because such involvement – to my way of thinking – did not fit with my philosophy of making the main thing the main thing. I was at one time, however, deeply involved in a successful effort to ensure religious liberty for the churches and Christian schools of Indiana. When that goal was reached, the group involved decided (and it was absolutely their right to do so) to become involved in tax abatement and other fiscal issues. Fiscal conservatism is simply not within the boundaries of my calling, and I decided my retirement from the pastorate was a good time to terminate that relationship (on the very best of terms). If you are a crusader type, that’s fine, but be sure the crusade doesn’t draw you away from you primary calling. If we were more ardent at preaching the Gospel and more deliberate at discipling our converts, some of the current causes might not be nearly so urgent as they really are.
Along the same lines, political involvement is always a great temptation. The forces of “Secular Progressivism” appear to be overwhelming Biblical values in our land, and we may well be under some forms of specific attack in the near future, but I still stand convinced that political action is not the answer to the problems we face. Again, a better job of evangelism and – especially – discipleship will likely accomplish far more than “getting out the vote.” God is still in control, and He can even overrule the Supreme Court. I was always wary of the smiling person with the microphone in hand. I not only knew that I would almost certainly be misquoted (even though recorded), but I also knew that I was probably being led into something that would take time, effort and energy away from my primary calling.
“The internet will get you if you don’t watch out!” What a mixed blessing! There is a plethora of useful Bible study tools accessible in seconds without charge. There are Christian “blogs” and web-sites that are very worthwhile, and libraries full of research are available to “google” or check in Wikipedia. On the darker side, there are tens of thousands of porn sites (many of which are available at no or minimal charge). Yes, the internet can be a valuable source of information and thought-provocation, but it can also be a wasteland of time and morals. Assuming you stay away from the porn and chat rooms (how many marriages and ministries have been damaged or destroyed in those places I can only imagine), the temptation is to waste large amounts of time simply surfing and tracing down hyper-links, many of which are little more than “rabbit trails.” Even in retirement I have to limit legitimate use of the internet, or it consumes chunks of time that I really should be devoting to ministry. I haven’t even mentioned on-line games. They are sometimes nice diversions and stress-relievers, but they can also easily become addictive. I know I should stay out of your personal space in this regard, but could I at least appeal to you to give some thought to the possibility the internet is causing you to substitute the good for the better and the better for the best (or even causing you to sin seriously)?
Finally – for now, at least – there is the tendency to do the things we like to do rather than the things we need to do. What a battle this is in retirement! After all, I’ve earned a bit of leisure, haven’t I? But I am still reasonably well and healthy and have some skills and an enormous store of Biblical knowledge (in brain, on disc and in filing cabinet) so I think I should keep on serving Him. I was always known as a good delegater when I was in the pastorate, but there were certain things that I simply liked to do, and I had to battle with myself to give them up to someone else capable of doing them, so I could do things that others were not able to do.
Really, I’m not trying to live your life for you. I’m just sharing the observations of all these years in ministry. It would be awful to get to the end of the course and discover that one has been a champion, but the championship was in trivial pursuit.

A Few Quick Notes and Thoughts

I had hoped to post something of substance before I head to Florida this week, but I’m not optimistic about getting to it. I’ve got a full schedule, about 45 papers to grade, some errands to run and fewer than 20 hours before my flight leaves. So here’s just a few random notes…

I’ll be in Orlando, FL at the Orange County Convention Center for the FLorida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools Convention. I’ve been there 22 of the last 23 years as a delegate, the President of FACCS or a speaker. I’ll be speaking three times and introducing the current President, Dr. Dino Pedrone, as he gives a keynote address. If you happen to be at the convention or in the area, let me know and we’ll try to link up.

We had a great day Sunday. Attendance was up, we had a large number of guests, 88 of us went to lunch at Logan’s Restaurant (where the service ended up being only marginally better than it was at Max and Erma’s, so we’re going to try a third restaurant this week), we had a very good offering, Sunday night attendance was very strong and there’s a good spirit all over the campus.

This coming Sunday night, there will be an information meeting at Northside Baptist Church to discuss the motion to give final approval for the massive church parking lot repaving and road expansion project. I’ll be giving all the details after the evening services at 7:15 in the main auditorium and I’ll post them again on this blog for Northsiders next week. These are exciting days for our church and you won’t believe the change this project will make in the look of our campus.

As details come out about the sad killings in the Amish school house in Pennsylvania this week, it seems like there is no safe place for innocence or innocents any more. I grew up right outside of an Old Order Amish Settlement (these folks were even more conservative than the PA sect) and they are decent, hard-working (albeit, peculiar) folks. They have the same kind of problems in their homes and community and churches that we do — maybe worse. We often look at them with a sense of detachment due to their odd beliefs, but they deserve our prayers and compassion.

Speaking of the loss of innocence, my revulsion over Mark Foley and his vile, predatory, criminal conduct just expands with each new wave of information. I’m outlining an article I’m planning on completing for my syndicated column which I’ll post here as well. The GOP is a mess these days. (For the record, if Foley had been a Democrat, he could have been schooled on how to survive this scandal by Barney “the Pimp” Frank who allowed a homosexual escort service to be run out of his house by his gay lover — so spare me the hand-wringing by Pelosi and pals. Frank is a chief spokesman for the Dems these days and should be named the Patron Saint of Hypocrisy so as to represent their parties handling of past moral scandals in comparison to this one.) It’s just sickening and in my opinion, this would be a good year to clean out the entire Congress from top to bottom. And for those who are trying to rally the Christian Conservatives to protect the Republican majority, I say, “There are worse things than having a Democratic majority in Congress for a couple of years. One of them is becoming comfortable within a political party that has lost it’s moral will and direction in the swirl of desperation and arrogance that comes with wanting to stay in power at all costs.”

Finally, my good friend, Dr. Charles Wood will be speaking at Northside tomorrow night at our WOW (Worship on Wednesday) service at 6:30. If you are in the area, you should come hear him. And now, I’m off to have dinner with him. I’ll write more from Orlando if I get the chance.