Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Live A Life of Integrity"

Warren Buffet said this to all of us in leadership roles: “Leaders must have integrity, intelligence, and energy. Without integrity and intelligence, energy is useless!”

To live a life of integrity you live not by default but by design. For the Christians, that design is set out in Proverbs 3: 5-6; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

To be a leader, you are sensitized to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You stop thinking about what you can achieve and instead think about what you can contribute. I enjoy the word “imperturbability”. What does it mean? Grace under pressure. When stress rushes in, my prayer is that I can exhibit something of God’s grace. Practicing the Christian faith is always a mixture of grit and grace. Grit is that tenacity that outweighs the adversity in which I find myself immersed.

When I make a time commitment, I try hard to be on time, start on time, and end on time. I believe that too is an expression of integrity. Pastors attend hundreds of meetings ever year. Integrity surfaces in how we use our time. There are 168 hours in every week. The Bible says we are to redeem the time. Most of us spend upwards of forty hours a week in front of a screen of some kind. By any stretch of the imagination can we label screen time as redeeming the time? There are ninety-six fifteen minute blocks in every day. I try not to waste fifteen minutes at any time during my waking hours.  Time is not only a precious commodity but also a gift of God.

Hopefully, integrity shines through in our stewardship, work ethic, worship, compassion, and expressions of forgiveness. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The Bible does not say pick one! As Christians, we are to exhibit all nine of the characteristics of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, May 12, 2017

"What is Your Favorite Psalm?"

He looked me in the eye and said, “So, you’re a preacher. What is your favorite Psalm?”  Fortunately, I didn’t blink. I fired back, “Psalm 8.”  Naturally, his next question was, “Why?”

As I grow older, I am cognizant that I no longer pursue the fast lane the way I once did. Psalm 8 speaks to the value God places on us no matter our stage in life. This Psalm starts and ends with the same affirmation: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” David uses “our” instead of “my”. He speaks on our behalf.  I love his use of the word “majestic”, meaning great and high. God is no tribal deity but the Lord of all.

David draws a stark contrast between all of creation with its wonder and the vulnerability of humankind. “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”  Is the author really suggesting that Almighty God actually cares for us and pays attention to us?  Surely, running the universe is all-consuming. Yet, the Word of God says we are not forgotten, not ignored, and not overlooked.

Psalm 8 puts life in proper perspective for me. It is humbling to imagine that the Lord of life actually knows me and loves me. When we pray, God actually listens. Our cries for help do not arrive to the Lord’s ear as irritants!

I see God’s grace in Psalm 8. Grace is God’s unconditional love for those who don’t deserve it. This Psalm is a promise that God’s grace in Jesus Christ is always greater than our need.


Monday, April 24, 2017

"Read A Parable"

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London miraculously survived the bombing of London during World War II.  What a magnificent facility dedicated to the glory of God. Sir Christopher Wren was the architect.  He is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, evidence of his genius. On his tombstone is the simple inscription, “If you want to see his monument, look about you.”

Jesus taught in parables. People today know little about the Bible but often know something of the parables, e.g. the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Jesus enjoyed using parables, “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”  Jesus directs our thoughts to God. “If you want to know what God is like, look at the world.” The things of this world can point us beyond ourselves to God.  Sight is a faculty but seeing is a gift of God.

The stories we call parables, give us pictures that help us grasp abstract ideas. You cannot read the parables of Jesus without making a judgement call. Flashes of insight come that somehow we have missed. Could it be that Jesus created these parables spontaneously? They were not edited or crafted perfectly but erupted out of the passion of the Savior’s soul. They are improvisations that grow out of the mud and scum of things.

Remember, the parables are not allegories.  You are not to take a parable and dissect every detail and put it under a microscope. No! The parable is a weapon that stabs our psyche and awakens us to the truth. Often, a single truth that leaps to mind is the intent!  We are not to look at a parable to grasp the whole of the Christian faith.

Suggestion: Now read a parable such as Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:30-32, or Luke 16:1-12.


"Fifty Years in the Gospel Ministry"

The Presbyterian Church of New York City ordained me as a Teaching Elder, Minister of Word and Sacrament, on April 23, 1967. By God’s grace, I will have served fifty years in the gospel ministry on April 23, 2017.

Fifty years as a Presbyterian Minister is some kind of benchmark! Epiphany means the sudden manifestation of Divine Light. My exposure to Epiphany moments needs no exaggeration. God has allowed me many opportunities to experience transformational revelation. The payoff for me has been an embrace of humility.

I quit counting the number of weddings over which I have presided at 1,300. At least 1,000 funerals mark my calendars. My perspective on life has been fine-tuned by being present at both life and death with people I love. It taught me to never take joy and grief for granted. Those experiences color life.

No doubt my teaching and preaching has at times been painful for a variety of audiences. However, as a Teaching Elder, I have cherished every opportunity to teach and preach. Radio and TV have been kind to me. I have had my face on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Amazing experiences!

No matter where I go, I run into friends whose relationships I cherish. My wealth is in my friendships. The Holy Spirit has allowed me to be part of the Body of Christ, and at times, really use me for redemptive ends.

Fifty years! Thank you Lord. Thank you Linda.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Read, Pray, Reflect, Rest"

There are 168 hours in every week. Let’s assume you sleep 8 hours every night, that’s 56 hours. Let’s assume you give 60 hours a week to your vocation or avocation. Subtract those two items from 168 and you get 52 hours. Let’s assume you spend 30 minutes per meal. That totals 10.5 hours per week.  We are now down to at least 40 hours per week of discretionary time. That time is mostly used for cleaning, cooking, laundry, and shopping.

What do you do with your discretionary time? Most Americans spend the vast majority of it in front of a screen. Now, that is not wrong or evil. The question is, are we redeeming our time as the Bible suggests?

If you just carved out 30 minutes a day for reading that would amount to 120 hours per year. In that amount of time you could read a lot of books, or read through the Bible in a year. Time is one of God’s wonderful gifts to us. It is a precious commodity. How does a child spell love?  T – I – M – E!

In every 24 hours, there are 96 15-minute blocks. How often do we just kill time for 15 minutes? I try not to waste a 15-minute block of time.

Self-esteem is related to self-discipline. What is your philosophy of time management? I hope it includes –
reflect, and
–then you can dream holy dreams.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

"The Pomegranate"

Was the pomegranate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden? The Bible references the pomegranate on numerous occasions. In Ancient Israel, pomegranates were believed to be the fruit the scouts brought back to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the Promised Land. The robe of the High Priest of the Hebrews had pomegranates embroidered on the hem. In the Old Testament book of Kings, some of the capitals on the Temple pillars were engraved with pomegranates.

Pomegranates have 613 seeds. No, I did not count them! Could it be that the 613 seeds correspond to the 613 commandments in the Torah?

Pomegranates are a motif often found in Christian decorations. Vestments, paraments, and art often include this fruit.

The fruit is known best in the Mediterranean region and in drier states such as Arizona and California. Pomegranate juice is a marvelous source of Vitamin C. The seeds are used as a spice in trail mix, salads, yogurt, ice cream, and granola bars. The seeds are appreciated for their fiber.

Where does the name pomegranate originate? Some think it was dubbed the apple of Grenada.  Granatum is Latin for the dark red color. The French think the name comes from grenade because of its size and shape.

Asians see the fruit as a symbol of fertility and prosperity. All I know is that POM Wonderful continues to show up on my TV in spite of the fact its claims of anti-disease benefits are suspect.