I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. The hometown of my youth had segregated schools, racially separated water fountains, entrances to the local theater separated according to race, and sitting in the back of the bus if you were black. It was a big deal when LR Central High School integrated, and a cultural sea change began.
It’s no surprise to me that formal debates were a common means for taking on your opponents and proving them wrong. My parents would take me to religious debates at a large local auditorium. The air was charged like at a high school football game. The object was not to learn something new but rather to crush your opponent and make him look like a fool.
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Any organization that requires money to fulfill its mission goes through the regular discipline of closely examining its profit and loss statement. The P & L is a financial statement that summarizes the revenues, costs, and expenses incurred during a specific period of time – usually a fiscal quarter or year. Organizations that neglect to do this fail.
Using the same financial analogy, Jesus said that a man does not begin building a tower unless he first calculates the cost of construction as well as whether his venture could financially support itself. Nor does a king declare war unless he has enough resources to fight it.
Calculating the cost of a venture seems self-evident.
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A few years ago I was sitting in a coffee shop not far from a 30-something friend of mine.
“Hey Bruce, how long have you and your wife been married?”
“Wow. That’s a long time.”
The brief conversation ended, and I went back to what I was doing. But not without reflecting on what had made it possible to live with the same person for that long. And now in the year of our upcoming 45th anniversary I’d like to suggest 5 of the secrets to that longevity. Continue reading →
I lived in Minnesota in the 70’s when the movie, The Exorcist, made its debut on American screens. The movie terrified audiences, and some people even imagined being stalked by demons trying to capture their lives.
When I first started working on the sermon I will deliver on February 24, my mind floated to that movie and Linda Blair’s head doing a 360. I concluded long ago that the movie only trivialized the possibilities for evil in this world. And the greatest evil is not something that makes your head spin, but rather which causes you to hate everything that is noble and beautiful. Continue reading →
Keeping another person engaged in conversation is an art. It cannot be assumed that others will be interested in what we are saying, and failing to pay attention to that fact can cause a person to become boorish, irritating, and repelling. Who wants to be the person that sends others scurrying for the nearest exit?
There are some disciplines or tools that will keep others engaged. Paying attention to these tools requires some attention and work, but it pays high dividends. Continue reading →
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) conducts a survey of American households every ten years and surveys 17,000 households,matched by the American Census Bureau to reflect the total American population. In 2006 the NEA reported that “reading has declined among every group of adult Americans: every age group, educational group, income group, region and race. In some cases the declines have been precipitous.
This has been going on for the last 20 years, but the trends are getting worse.” From On the Importance of Reading: http://www.csub.edu/ah/AH_matter/importanceofreading.pdf. Continue reading →
Two of the “characters” in my childhood church were a couple of sisters. They were in their sixties or seventies at the time and well-respected by the rest of the congregants.
When anyone wanted a good illustration of what being faithful or serious about faith was, these two sisters were often mentioned because they were so consistently present in the life of the church. We children were told, “even when they don’t feel well they are present at worship services.” Continue reading →