Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Playing the Part

July 18, 2017
JUST THINKING:  It is fun to temporarily assume a new identity or culture, like we do for our Cowboy Chowdown, and entering Medieval times like we are this week  At VBS (Over the Moat).  We dress the part, assume the vernacular, and step into character for a short time.  Then we return to our true nature and character, feeling much more comfortable at home.
Jesus left His heavenly throne and all that made Him ‘God,” took on the form of a servant in humility, and for a brief time walked this earth as a human being.  He dressed the part, assumed our vernacular, and made Himself nothing for a short time.  In fact, while in character He laid down His life for you and me; and it was effective because the one characteristic He did not assume UNTIL HE HUNG ON THE CROSS was sin, and even then it was ours, not His.  The spotless One became our sacrifice.
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBIBLE GIFT.

What’s Behind Old Glory?

June 29, 2017

by Dr.. Steven J. Callis

Last week I had the privilege of attending our church’s global quadrennial conference held in Indianapolis.  With organized churches in 162 world areas, nearly 20,000 representatives gathered from around the world for times of worship, fellowship, and administrative decisions that will guide the denomination for the next four years.

            One of the highlights was the opening session which featured the march of flags.  It was awe-inspiring to watch as 162 national flags paraded up and down the aisles to a rousing anthem.  Every person in the auditorium swelled with as much pride for their country’s flag as you and I do for ours.  I am blessed to be part of a global church.

            The oldest national flag still in use has represented Denmark since 1478.  Its cross design has been used on the flags of many other countries. 

            The flag of the Netherlands is the oldest tri-color flag.  Its three colors of red, white, and blue trace back to the days of Charlemagne in the 9th century.

            Our American flag, also bearing the red, white, and blue, has been modified 26 times throughout its existence.  The current design was introduced in 1960, and it is the longest-used version of the American flag in our history. 

            The flag is more than a mere piece of cloth.  It is a symbol, and a symbol never shines its own light – it always points to a greater object beyond itself.  When we see our American flag, what we really envision is a nation of unity, freedom, courage, and strength. 

            When that flag is abused, then, it strikes at the heart of our emotions because of what it represents.  Our outrage is not about the flag itself; it can be replaced.  We are offended because we take it personally.  The perpetrators are denouncing our liberties and national pride.  Their intent may have more to do with making a political statement, but to us they scorn our very lives.  Whether it is by burning, or stomping, or refusing to honor it, we who pledge our allegiance to the symbol of our nation take offense.

            As we celebrate our nation on July 4, we not only celebrate our declaration of independence, but we also declare our unity, tenacity, and strength.  We too often demonstrate our ability (and freedom!) to focus on divisiveness.  However, the greater exhibition of courage and strength is found in creating unity.  It often requires more work, resourcefulness, and concession to agree than it does to divide.

            I recently saw a placard which read simply (in the context of marriage), “Unity over Preference.” If we could adopt that idea as a nation, life for us all would truly change.  Unfortunately, we are too headstrong promoting and fighting for our own personal agendas to even consider such an ideal.

            Nevertheless, you and I can do our part everyday.  Let’s give thanks for our blessings and privileges.  Let’s show our colors on July 4.  Let’s strive as one for the sake of our country.  Let’s pray for God to bless the USA.    

When Almost Clean is not Enough

June 9, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

Washing cars to raise money is an idea that has been around for many decades.  You have seen people, usually teenagers, holding hand painted signs and trying to capture the attention of passersby.  Somewhere near their location is another group busily soaping and rinsing cars, and occasionally soaking each other.

                Often the price for a car wash is largely emblazoned on the homemade sign, maybe $3 or $5.  Some organizations simply ask for a donation which, in my mind, easily could exceed the standard rate.  From time to time there may be an organization such as a church youth group advertising a “Free, No Gimmicks” car wash.  Thoughtful youth leaders are teaching their students to give back to the community, and this event serves as their community project or ministry event.

                I distinctly remember a car wash our church youth group held when I was a teen.  We gained permission to use the parking lot at Third National Bank on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee.  This busy 4-lane road was a great location, and the bank was situated on the corner of two busy streets.

                Our 40-voice youth choir was planning a tour through the southeast all the way to Florida and back, singing in local churches each night and enjoying a few day trips for fun and exercise.  I was among the younger of the team members, and this would be my first big tour and my first car wash fundraiser.

                Somewhat late in the day a nice, large conversion van pulled in for a wash.  It was comical to watch the older teens try to reach the roof of the vehicle with their soapy sponges.  There were several students surrounding this van in hopes to finish it quickly.  Once it was washed and dried, our youth leader came over to inform us that the driver was unhappy with the job that was done, and that we were to do the entire vehicle again.

                After a more careful going over, the driver complained again that there still remained a couple of spots that needed washing.  Dutifully striving to make the customer happy, I suspect that there were murmurings amongst us that were out of the earshot of the owner.  Once satisfied, he laid out the cash – – a twenty dollar bill, probably 5 times what we were charging other vehicles.

                Of course, we suddenly loved that big van and its generous owner.  That’s when our youth leader informed us that the driver had planned all along to create that scenario.  He was impressed by the attitude of the kids who did what they were asked to do, yet with no glaring looks or smirks at the owner throughout the task.

                That day we learned that even though most customers were stopping simply to support the youth group, they should be able to expect a job well done.  Further, we learned that our behavior reflected on the entire group, in fact the entire church, and ultimately Jesus himself.

                Well, it is car wash season.  I hope you will find it in your heart to support youth organizations whose causes are worthy of your generosity.  After all, don’t you deserve to be driving the streets of your town in a shiny, clean vehicle?!

It’s Time to Take Out the Trash

May 23, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

In May 1987, the Bobro 400 set sail from New York Harbor with 3,200 tons of garbage. The barge travelled 6,000 miles in search of a place to dump its load. It returned to New York Harbor after 8 weeks with the same load.
 
That is an apt description of people who want nothing to do with Christian religion, or people who go to church but refuse the advances of God’s grace on their lives.  They live every day loaded down with guilt, sin, frustration, brokenness, bitterness, shame – and all the while, Jesus is waiting to take their garbage upon himself and bear that load in their place. 
 
Picture yourself leaving the house every day with a couple of bags full of garbage, carrying them on your back everywhere you go, and then returning home in the evening with those same two bags of trash.  Why would anyone do that?  They wouldn’t!  So why would we carry around our spiritual (sinful) and emotional garbage when there is Someone willing to take care of it for us?

The Choicest Seats are not Always the Most Comfortable

May 8, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

On a first date with the girl I would eventually marry, our ticketed seats to the gospel music concert in the large auditorium were located on the front row, the first two seats on the center aisle.  She was impressed that I had secured the best seats in the house.  It was as though we were being given an exclusive personal concert!

            One pastor told me that people in his church arrive early in order to get the best seats.  He explained that the sanctuary fills up quickly – from back to front!  It turned out that he was not exaggerating.  Five minutes before starting time there were literally no seats occupied in the front half of the auditorium.

            Over recent decades I have observed that the choice seats in an auditorium for most people are the aisle seats.  I just returned from a ministry leadership conference, and there truly were no bad seats in the house.  It was an excellent design with the floor slanting towards the platform, theater-type seats with removable drink holders; every seat provided quality sound and a good view of the stage.

            The rows near the back had about 20 seats in them, and I found a row with only two persons sitting in it: one in each of the two aisle seats.  The gentleman on the aisle I chose did not seem bothered when I asked if I could get by him to take another seat in the row.  However, by the end of the session he had grown obviously weary of people climbing over him to get in or get out of the row.  I wanted to remind him that he was the one who chose the end seat, but I knew he would not appreciate my helpfulness.

            What is it about the end seat that makes it so valuable and popular?  Is it the freedom of not being sandwiched between two persons?  Is it the convenience of being able to easily get up and leave?  In most cases the aisle seats are the first to be occupied, and then later arrivers must maneuver their way to the vacant spaces in the center of the row, stepping on as few feet as possible.

            You may have been at an event so crowded that someone on the stage had to ask everyone to move towards the center of the row to make room for those still arriving.  Yes, I am aware of the law known as squatter’s rights.  “I got here first.  If they wanted the choice seat, they should have come early like I did.  I planned ahead for this seat, and I am not moving.”

            I realize this is just a small, simple thing.  It does, however, expose the “me-first” attitude that our society has exaggerated over recent decades.  The apostle Paul wrote that being likeminded with Christ includes humbly considering others better than ourselves; that we should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interest of others.

            At a dinner recently someone at our table had already visited the dessert section before starting his meal, informing us that the sweets may be gone if we waited until the end of the meal.  Without thinking about it, I went on over and picked out a slice of my favorite choice, and another for a friend seated with me.  Of course, I had as much right to dessert as every one else at the event.  But I did wonder later if my somewhat selfish gesture kept another person from having dessert.

            When we view things from a Christ-minded perspective, it is no longer about our rights, but about others.  I selfishly hurried over to claim a small plate of 800 calories that I did not need in the first place, just so I would not miss out on that little treat to which I was entitled.  Yet, what I experience over and over again is that I am more at peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment when I live a life that is not primarily about me.  The deeper, truer joy is always in the giving. 

Funerals Bring out the Best in Us

March 17, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Being a pastor has afforded me many opportunities to preach or attend funerals over the years.  While these occasions provide some truly interesting stories, one common theme connecting them all is the goodness of the deceased remembered by family and friends.

In one instance where I had no personal connection with the deceased, I listened to the personal remarks of a couple of people and concluded that this person was truly a blessing to his family and church.  That’s when an elderly lady seated in front of me leaned over to her friend and “tried” to whisper, “Do you think they’re talking about another Bill Davis?”  Apparently, they thought that what we heard was too good to be true!

I recall only a handful of times when the obvious negative traits of the deceased were acknowledged.  Those speaking on behalf of the individuals were realistic and honest about the rough, sharp-edged, and even mean-spirited traits portrayed in these person’s lives.

These courageous friends and family dared to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’  Yet, their acknowledgment opened the door to also recognize some of the redeeming qualities in these individuals that may often have been overlooked by others or overshadowed by their own difficult personalities.

I was unacquainted with the deceased at the funeral I attended yesterday, but it was another of many instances where I sensed a missed blessing by not having the opportunity to know the deceased.  Though it was indicative that he persisted on having things done only his way, his love for family, friends, and church – along with an over-active sense of humor – endeared him to many people, and especially his teenage grandchildren, most of whom referred to him as ‘the greatest person they had ever known.’                 Our society has conditioned us toward suspicion, hesitant to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  We are quick to find fault and slow to look for the redeeming qualities in people.  We tend to make assumptions based on what we see (appearance) rather than what we could observe (character).

Further, we are swift to judge and unwilling to forget.  We are prone to allow a person’s single lapse in judgment or behavior to taint forever their image in our minds.  We typically are not big on mercy or second chances, which is part of our own unpalatable qualities.

The speakers at the funerals where the true colors of the deceased were stated unknowingly taught the listeners a lesson: look for and encourage the redeeming qualities of those present around us rather than waiting until they are no longer here to realize how their goodness impacts others.

I want to live my life in such a way that those who come in support of my family and to bid me farewell will readily remember the redemptive traits of behavior and attitude that, by God’s grace, I was enabled to portray.  The Bible teaches us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves.”  That is what it means to live redemptively.

Marriage is a Great Way to Fly

February 24, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

A hot air balloon sighting in our area is a rarity, so I was delighted a few years ago to see one in close proximity to our home.  It was flying lower than others I have seen, and by the time it was above our house, the vessel was within 400 feet from the ground.

                My middle school daughter and I decided to follow it in my truck, as it seemed to be searching for a place to set down.  About a mile down the road was a large clearing surrounded by a wooded area on three sides.  We stopped to watch, and as the balloon neared the ground it hit hard with a thud, and then its momentum dragged the basket across the lea, bouncing it along the way and, at one point, nearly toppled the occupants out completely.

                Then I heard a loud “whoooosh” and the balloon began to rise, barely missing the tree tops as it ascended back into the air.  We followed it into a neighborhood, and then to a public park where it skimmed slightly above the large pond before again ascending towards the sky.

                Finally, the pilot successfully landed the aircraft in a lot much smaller than the field in his earlier attempt.  He quickly anchored the vessel to the ground with large ropes, and then asked the bystanders for his location so that he could radio his son to come retrieve the balloon.

                There were about 15 of us watching with great interest.  While he waited for his son to arrive, he offered to take any interested onlookers up in the balloon about 200 feet while still anchored with the ropes.  My daughter took advantage of that opportunity.  Having seen his earlier attempted landing, however, I opted to be the videographer for her keepsake.

                It turned out that the young man and woman on board with him on this excursion were engaged to be married, and this balloon ride was a wedding present from one of their friends.  It must have been a friend with strong connections, because each of them was actually allowed to pilot the balloon, and one of them attempted a landing!   That explains the near disaster back in the open field!

                I thought how this almost married couple’s balloon ride paralleled the marriage on which they were about to embark.  There are high points, low points, and occasional bounces and rough spots along the way.  However, when a man and woman give themselves completely and unselfishly to the other, marriage can and should be an absolutely amazing journey!

                Unfortunately, we tend to get caught up in busy schedules, careers, debts, and other distractions that force the relationship to take a back seat where it is sometimes ignored, and at other times is a seeming nuisance.  The attention and efforts it received during the dating phase becomes crowded out by other concerns, and far too often both man and wife gradually change their quest from pleasing each other to satisfying their own ideals and ambitions, which inevitably leads to conflict

                I was not there, but I am quite sure that the people in the balloon were not wildly flapping their arms in the wind to make the aircraft fly.  They let the balloon and the wind do what they were meant to do, and the occupants simply enjoyed the ride and the beautiful view.  Marriage can be like that when we give ourselves completely to each other.