Archive for June 2015

For Whom the Bell Tolls: a change of heart

June 30, 2015

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

On Father’s Day last week my wife and I attended a church service in South Carolina.  It was a well-orchestrated time of praise and worship that included a celebration of fatherhood and manhood, yet without demeaning the significance of the “fairer” gender.

Uniquely, the service began with a video of a man playing an acoustic guitar, singing from what appeared to be a living room or office.  The song was unfamiliar to me, and I realized the reason as the lyrics unfolded.  They were freshly written to honor the victims of the tragic Bible study shooting in Charleston earlier in the week, and to encourage the families and friends of those who died, as well as all who walk in the faith.  The theme that spoke to my heart was that evil will not triumph where God’s love abounds.

The pastor stood at the conclusion of the song and explained that churches all across South Carolina were ringing their church bells that morning with nine chimes to represent those who were killed in the Bible study shooting.  He called the congregation to prayer and amid the silence clanged the bell nine times in slow, deliberate fashion, and then led us in a prayer for everyone whose lives are impacted by this event.

One would not expect such a somber beginning to fit with the traditional Father’s Day elements of a church service, but I was impressed at the way it all seemed to flow so smoothly and naturally, obviously anointed by divine intention.

Later in the day I saw news coverage of churches in Charleston ringing their bells and gathering for worship.  I appreciated the sentiment, but confess that seeing news reports could not begin to express the spirit of those moments.  In that atmosphere, in those moments, the tragedy became more personal to me than it had earlier in the week.  With each chime echoing across the sanctuary, and reverberating in my heart and mind, I was deeply moved with a mixture of sorrow and celebration; acknowledging the sadness and loss, yet knowing that God would use the crisis for His glory and for the strengthening of the faith community.

The example of wisdom and grace with which the church and its community responded to this act of evil in their midst is a model for our nation, from individual communities and people groups to the high-ranking government officials and group leaders who saw this as another opportunity to win political points rather than offer support for healing.  We witnessed members of various faiths, races, people groups, and political parties come together in Charleston for mutual edification and comfort.  They genuinely cared about each other, and they came with only one agenda: harmoniously seeking God.

If our god is politics, or personal rights, or economic gain – if our god is anything or anyone other than the one true God of Abraham, the One who was and who is and who is to come, The Almighty, then such unity and harmony will never come about.  The writing of new laws or the taking away of freedoms and rights will not cure racism or any other such ills of our culture.  It must come from the heart, not from legislation.

What we witnessed in Charleston is the re-enactment of the love of God through His only Son, portrayed by individuals who have personally experienced the measure of God’s grace and mercy, and who, therefore, cannot help but reciprocate that grace to others.  From the highest official to the common citizen, we each must make this a matter of the heart, for evil will not triumph where the love of God abounds.

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Being Productive Can also Be Energizing

June 11, 2015

by Dr. Steven Callis

There is a local car wash company that offered their basic wash for free during the month of their grand opening.  Five months later, that basic wash is still free, and who does not love the look of a freshly washed vehicle?  One can use the free vacuum, get the free wash, and be back on the road within fifteen minutes, using the savings on a burger and shake.  What a deal.

However, there is also the option of spending two or three hours at home giving the vehicle that personal touch: wash, wax, windows, and detailing the interior.  The average person likely would not notice the difference between the results of the two options, but doing the work oneself seems to instill a renewed love and appreciation for the vehicle.  Thoughts of trading for a newer model dissipate because of the time spent to make it appear newer than it did three hours earlier.

The same principle seems to exist pertaining to lawns.  A freshly mown lawn smells good and looks good.  And while a professional may actually do a better job on my lawn than I could, there is something about sitting back and admiring its beauty, having spent three hours walking behind the mower, edging the driveway, sweating off a pound or so, and sipping on a nice cold (and well deserved) glass of water, lemonade, or tea.

Today there seems to be a trend of entitlement among some people whose expectations have little to do with the principle of sowing and reaping; expecting the harvest without working the soil.  However, as the old adage goes, “freedom is not free.”  Yes, we enjoy the benefits, privileges, and rights that accompany American citizenship.  There is, however, a certain level of ethic and responsibility that is expected in return for those blessings.

The attitude of entitlement does not protect those advantages, but in fact, gradually takes them farther from our reach.  Admittedly, it is much easier and more time efficient to take advantage of the free car wash, but it is not necessarily the better option when all is said and done.  There is a positive kind of pride that comes from doing a thing, doing it right, and doing it well.

You may have correctly guessed that I just spent some time with my pickup truck, now thinking how nice it looks for a ’99 model.  It was tiring, but somehow I feel energized, gratified, and productive.  The principle behind that feeling rings true for most areas of life.

Well, there is more to be said, but right now I think I will go for a drive.  Have a blessed day!

Some Things Should Never Change

June 8, 2015

Dr. Steven J. Callis

There is a well-known story of two construction workers, each of whom built a house.  Unlike the Three Little Pigs, this story gives no detail as to the design and construction of the house itself.  Whether it was made of wood or brick or straw, we do not know.  The focus of the story is on the location of the houses.

One man built his house on a firm, rock foundation.  When it rained so much that flood waters rose, the house built on rock stood firm.  The second man built his house on sand.  When the flood waters came up, the man’s house fell flat because the unsure foundation washed away.  In both instances, the key was not the house, but the foundation on which it was built.

Change is inevitable.  I do not believe there ever will be a time when there is nothing left to be invented or “improved.”  Therefore, we live somewhat in a fluid society where change happens daily.  What many have said about the weather may also be said for the outworking of our daily lives:  if you do not like a thing, be patient; it will soon be an obsolete that is buried in our memories.

A few months ago I was at a conference where the keynote speaker somberly reminded the listeners that things not only change, but they rarely, if ever, go back to the way they were.  If you think your favorite soda tasted better before they “improved” it, you simply will have to learn to love the new taste because the old one is not coming back.

Often the danger of change comes when it disturbs the essence of a thing, or its “foundation.”  Over recent years much has changed in our nation not only in the way things are done; our methods – and in the way we think; our philosophies.  These are changes that, for the most part, are shaped by leaders who hold the power to enact such changes.  That is something which interest groups have had to endure over the centuries.

However, when those changes affect the essence, the very foundation of who we are as a nation, then we have a problem. Our founding fathers were adamant, clear, and unanimous in their understanding of who we are and should always be.  The Bible, the ways of the Christian God, living as a nation under God’s rule, united and indivisible; this is our foundation.

I am not opposed to the freedoms of other religions or other interest groups, but I am opposed to destroying our original foundation in order to accommodate those freedoms.  The story of the builders declares that the rock foundation is Jesus Christ and His Word, and that everything else is sand.  Messing with the foundation endangers our freedoms.

I went into a toy store that sold only toys that were popular when I was a kid, like the Wheel-O-Magic magnetic wheel, a Tiddly Winks game, and a stick horse.  I wondered if one day we might see pencils and paper in a nostalgic store.  Yes, things change.  Many times the change is productive and beneficial.  But I pray every day that the heart of who we are as a nation will always endure.  That is our only true hope.