Posted tagged ‘church’

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?!

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. 

Martians, Earthquakes, and Reality

December 2, 2016

Dr. Steven J. Callis 

                Maybe it should have been broadcast on April Fool’s Day rather than as a Halloween episode.  News reports of an alien invasion by Martians were aired in 1938 titled, “War of the Worlds,” based on the H.G. Wells 1898 novel by the same title.  A radio drama directed and narrated by Orson Welles, it is said to have caused a mass panic, though some historians claim that “mass” is too strong a word because of the relatively small size of the radio audience.

                A similar event occurred in 1990, and the man at center stage was Iben Browning.  This report, however, was not a hoax or a drama program, but a genuine prediction of a major earthquake that was to transpire in the Mississippi Valley.

                With a doctoral degree in zoology, Browning worked in several scientific fields, including bio-engineering and “artificial intelligence”  – I will refrain from an attempt at humorous zingers here and let you insert your own. 

He eventually focused his interest and research on long-term weather forecasting and climate changes.  His prediction of a major earthquake caused considerable concern across the Midwest part of the country as residents and agencies prepared for a significant natural disaster that never came.  Experts examined his data and determined that his methodology was of a non-scientific character.

                Wikipedia describes him as being most notable for having made various failed predictions of disasters involving climate, volcanoes, and earthquakes, including the collapse of our government in 1992.  He wrote four books and held 90 patents.

                Since the first century, there have been approximately 175 official predictions of the end of the world; Armageddon, The Apocalypse, the second coming of Christ, and other similar terms of identification.  Nine of the predicted dates are still in the future. 

I appreciate the interest in the topic, and trust that the primary motivation is to prepare the general population for this climactic event.  However, speaking as the second person of the Godhead, Jesus declared that no one but the Father knows the time of the second Advent.  The repeated warning of the New Testament is to always be ready; be prepared and watchful, for it could happen at any moment.

Some people keep an emergency kit on hand in order to be prepared for crises such as power outages and water contamination.  The kit may include matches, batteries, flashlights, bottled water, non-perishable foods, and a battery powered radio.  They do not awaken each morning imagining that they will need the kit that day, but they are prepared if tragedy strikes.

Spiritual readiness works that way.  There is an awareness that Christ could return today, and we can live prepared for Him if it happens.  And it is that readiness which gives us purpose and mission to live each day with Him at the center of all we are and all we do.

Celebration of the first Advent, the birth of our Savior, is a reminder and an opportunity to prepare our hearts, evaluate the arrangement of our life’s priorities, and receive the coming of Christ.  Find a place of worship in your community this Christmas season and weekly hear the old but relevant story of God dwelling among us in the person of Jesus Christ.

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time

July 28, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

A blogger recently wrote about the secret of being in the right place at the right time.  The key, he wrote, is persistence.  He declared that a relentless pursuit of one’s goals is the only way to ‘get lucky.’  He claims that winning is inevitable for those who keep doing the things that success demands.  His secret is to “keep on showing up.”  If your right time is not today, keep coming back to the same place, and your time will come.

I am not enthusiastic about placing my hope on “luck.”  Could there be another answer?  It seems to me that being in the right place at the right time will happen by making right choices.  Choosing well is the key, which includes choices to pursue and choices to retreat.

We tend to consider life-changing moments in our lives as the big events, such as choosing a college, or a career, or a spouse.  Indeed, those are crucial decisions.  How much different would life be for my brothers and me if my parents had not chosen to relocate to another state when I was in fifth grade and my oldest brother was a junior in high school?

In a sense, however, every choice is life-changing to some degree.  Small choices often lead to decisions that bear more significance.  My parents did not simply awaken one morning and decide, “Hey, let’s move back to Tennessee.”  Certainly there were other decisions and circumstances that led to this weighty transition of life.

Eight years ago I made the choice to say ‘yes,’ and became the new pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville, Georgia.  This decision was precipitated by earlier choices that eventually led to our relocation.  With a daughter entering high school, my wife and I prayerfully accepted the call, and our first Sunday was August 3, 2008.  This week we celebrate 8 years with our loving church family.

I am also blessed to pastor a church that, this week, celebrates 40 years of ministry in Douglasville.  On July 25, 1976, a choice was prayerfully made by the Georgia District Church of the Nazarene to plant a new church in Douglasville.  It is an honor to welcome friends and leaders from our past, to remember and honor the significant developments of the church over these four decades.

The church is in a ‘good place,’ and I am blessed to shepherd these gracious people.  I am in what I believe to be the right place at this right time because of prayerful choices I have made in the past which led me here and continue to keep me here; because of decisions this church and others have made, and thus it seems to be a God-ordained day in my life and in the life of the church.

Some of the choices have seemed small and insignificant; others were obviously crucial.  Yet all of the choices worked together bringing us to this hour in our existence.  There are yet more options to be considered, more decisions to be made, and more choices to be declared.  They all will work together to lead us on the road ahead as we serve the Lord Jesus in this community.

On behalf of this church, we offer thanks to God and our gratitude to you for the privilege to be part of your community.  We have awesome business neighbors who have become our friends, and we have made many friends across the area.  So, feel free to celebrate with us right now and voice a hip-hip-hooray or a “praise the Lord” as we celebrate God’s hand of blessing.

Mr. T and Gatorade

January 28, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

            Before Mr. T was a television star, and before Gatorade was the popular drink of choice among athletes, I experienced both.  Known to me as Mr. Turentine, this simple, kind old man loved kids.  When we talked about him, he was “Mr. Turpentine;” when we talked to him, he was Mr. T.

            A member of our large church when I was young, Mt. T was faithful in his attendance to services and church activities.  He enjoyed standing out in the foyer talking to people and sneaking candy from his pocket into the hands of young children.  His best suit was old and hung droopily on his medium build frame.

            He lived alone, owned no car, and was an eccentric individual.  He did not hold official positions in the church, though I recall him helping with custodial duties sometimes.  He was not one to be called upon for answers to faith or theology.  But he loved Jesus, and he loved children.

            Our church had a high school age baseball team in the summertime.  Most church leagues played softball, so our team was registered in a community recreational league.  Games were played at various locations across the city.  I loved baseball growing up and was good enough to be in the starting lineup during those elementary years.  But this was big-boy baseball.  I was a small 9th grader seeing my first ‘real’ curve ball, and one bop in the head proved my fear to be warranted!

            I did not get to play much, being among the younger boys, and being a ‘chicken.’  However, I did get on base a couple of times when the opposing pitcher could not hit my small strike zone. 

            We did have one faithful cheerleader who never missed a game.  His name was Mr. T.  No matter where we played, Mr. T found the bus route that would get him to our games, and he always brought a jug of Kool-Aid for us to drink.  At first I thought he used funny tasting water.  One of the older guys said that it was simply not sweetened.  He reasoned that Mr. T could not afford sugar, so he added salt instead!

            That was then.  We tried to be kind and not hurt his feelings, but it tasted awful, especially when we were expecting a sweet treat!

            Looking at it now, I don’t think Mr. T’s potion was a result of his eccentric ways or his lack of funds.  I genuinely believe he knew the effect sugar would have on athletes needing to replenish energy and lost fluids from perspiration.  I think he was providing us his own version of Gatorade, a sports drink that was not yet a staple across America in dugouts and on sidelines.

            In our large church Mr. T was well known and loved, but had no close circle of friends, no favorite people to sit with during fellowship meals, and was never an ‘up front’ person to be publicly noticed.  But he loved Jesus and he loved people, and he found a permanent place in my heart and memory. 

            By now he has long since reached his eternal home where he enjoys fellowship with Jesus forever.  I wonder if he ever knew what a blessing he was to others, and I wonder how long it took others like me to realize that fact, as well.

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.

You Might Be a Disciple

March 17, 2014

by Steven J. Callis

I recently attended a funeral where the life and ministry of a saintly woman was celebrated.  At least twice while highlighting her accolades and ideals, speakers clarified that this woman was not a legalist.  In his remarks, the preacher noted that she was in church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and all revival services, but that her faithfulness was more than a force of habit or legalism – – she just couldn’t get enough of the Lord and His people; she just couldn’t get enough.

As I have pondered that statement, my mind began to imagine…If a company man is an employee who works for the good of the company rather than for mere personal gain or satisfaction, then what is a countryman, or a churchman?  Jeff Foxworthy is famous for his “you-might-be-a-redneck” jokes.  Here is my twist to it: you might be a disciple.

If you research and consult sources other than your Sunday School lesson book to teach or prepare for your class, you might be a disciple.

If you generously give your tithes and offerings rather than giving a token offering or computing the required amount to the exact dollar, you might be a disciple.

If the fact of your conversion is not enough, and you sincerely desire a daily, vibrant walk with Jesus Christ, you might be a disciple.

If you realize that a vibrant walk with Christ necessitates more than a couple of hours each week attending church, you might be a disciple.

If you practice daily spiritual disciplines for the purpose and pursuit of the holy life, you might be a disciple.

If you care about enhancing your knowledge and skills to better understand your ministry focus and implement newly discovered ideas, you might be a disciple.

If you are open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to move you out of your comfort zone, you might be a disciple.

If prayer is a blessing and not a burden, a privilege and not a necessity, communion with the heavenly Father and not a mere list of demands and wishes, you might be a disciple.

If you consider how your absence from a church service or event might affect your fellow believers, you might be a disciple.

             This certainly does not exhaust the list, but it is a good place to begin personal reflection.  The true “churchman” is committed to the purpose of Christ and His way rather than seeking mere personal gain and satisfaction.  For the disciple, it really is about Him, and not about self.

Despondent or Respondent?

November 7, 2012

Despondent or Respondent?

By Steven J. Callis

More disconcerting than who occupies the Oval Office is the obvious implication of how we, as a nation, have transgressed the Word of God by perverting it to suit our own ideologies.  We have shunned the holiness of God, antiquated His Word, ignored His laws and precepts, yet we still expect to receive His grace and mercy.  How arrogant we have become!

Our nation has elected into the highest office of government a man whose personal and political ideas are foreign to the Christian mind.  It directly affects issues related to family, life, and faith-based organizations, but it also trickles throughout every facet of his administration, from foreign policy to economics to healthcare.

I have not experienced this degree of gut-wrenching dread since September 11, 2001.  The fallout from our decision to give this president four more years is completely unpredictable.  But the change we need in America is not in the Oval Office; it is in our neighborhoods and churches and homes – it is in the hearts of the American people.

The church must courageously and strongly lead in the quest for spiritual revival across our nation.  The call is not to preach religion, but to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to true salvation; indeed, our only hope.  Let us, church, not become despondent, but respondent to this latest development in our land.  Raise high the banner of holiness, the way of love.  Let us not forsake the daily practice of prayer for a nation that desperately needs spiritual healing.  Selah.

Are You Ready for Sunday?

January 23, 2012

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

It was a Saturday night ritual growing up at my house.  It probably did not occur every week, but often enough that it holds a place in my memory, as early as kindergarten age.  My dad would spread some old newspaper over the kitchen table and announce the shoe call.  My two older brothers and I would bring our “Sunday” shoes to the kitchen where dad would polish them in preparation for going to church the next morning.  It was fun to watch him work up a shine on our very best pairs of shoes.

Along with shining shoes, Dad also assumed the responsibility of making certain we all had an “offering” for Sunday School – it usually was a quarter in those days. I recall being in the car and, I think on a Saturday, he would stop somewhere to buy a pack of gum so he could use the change from his dollar bill to give us Sunday School offering for the next day.

Of course, mom’s role was to take care of our “Sunday” clothes, and to see that we were properly dressed and looking our best for church on Sunday.  I was not always thrilled about what I wore – I remember crying about it one time in first grade because my “outfit” included shorts, suspenders, bow tie, and knee socks!  I must have been adorable, so much so that it embarrassed me to be seen in public!

The result of all this fuss was that it instilled in me the importance of going to church regularly, and always seeking to give (and wear!) my best for Jesus.  I was raised in a family that made church attendance a high priority – Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, revival services – we rarely missed church when the doors were open.  But what I have grown to realize is that preparing for church is about so much more than having shiny shoes, nice clothes, and a quarter in my pocket.  While physical preparation is necessarily part of the process, the primary focus is preparation of the mind and heart; for attending church is not a social event, but a time for praise and worship with others to the living God who calls us to himself.

That takes me to one more memory of preparing for church as a kid.  On Sunday mornings while we were eating breakfast and getting dressed, gospel music would be playing throughout the house, as well as in the car on the way to church.  I did not make the connection at the time, but the music was part of our spiritual preparation for worship.  It penetrated our ears, minds, and hearts to awaken our spiritual senses and prepare us to hear the word of God through Sunday School teachers and preachers.

So, as you prepare for church this coming Sunday, include a time of prayer for your Sunday School leaders, small group leaders, worship leaders, and your pastor/preacher.  Ask God to prepare your heart and mind for what His Spirit will bring to you through fellowship, praise, and worship.  To often we do not really begin preparation for worship until we walk through the front doors of the church.  Why not begin preparation when you awaken Sunday morning; or begin Saturday, or even today?  When you arrive at church next Sunday, will you be ready?