• sonnyholmes


Spur of the moment buying may empty the bank account, enlarge the waist, occupy the garage, or dress-up our appearance. Unless it becomes compulsive, however, it's relatively harmless. Impulsive thinking, however, is a danger to our lives, relationships, and commitments. It's one of the reasons Scripture counsels us to guard our hearts and minds. An unguarded heart produces impulsive words and actions. It's manifest most when we speak before we have all the facts, or when we believe everything we hear or read. Impulsiveness hurts others. Mostly ourselves. Paul wrote, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7, ESV).

Here's an example. Years ago we were at a local restaurant. We bumped into some people we knew, though they were more acquaintances than friends. I introduced Harriet to the other people in their party as "My first wife". One of the unguarded hearts in that group spread the rumor that I had been married before. Several weeks later a group of deacons approached me about it. Impulsive thinking had ignited a brush-fire of gossip that caused discomfort for a lot of people, especially the person who started it. Harriet and I just laughed. The joke was on them.

Mythbusters,, and other truth detectors maintain a steady client list because some people will believe anything. Why? It's an onion, of course, peeled lay by layer. At the heart of this cultural anamoly, however, is the personal need for recognition, the drive to publish something first, or be the life saving whistle-blower about a situation. The impulsiveness is, therefore, a self- esteem issue, the need for recognition. As a result, social media has become the infectious carrier of so much dis-information. It's not a value judgment of social media, but of the people who like to light fires. They are truth arsonists.

It's one of the ugly things about the dark underbelly of local churches. Someone told me recently they were sick of church drama. I told them there really is no church drama, but, there's plenty of human drama. Of the 1,700 pastors who leave the ministry every month, not to mention hundreds of church staff members, a good many have been demonized by impulsive talk and actions, the telling of half-truths, uninformed opinions, and unsubtantiated facts. There are, of course, concentric circles that move from this destructive center---a man called of God is marginalized, his family is injured, the church is distracted from mission, and the church's mission in the community is hindered. The blast area just grows.

The heart at peace doesn't need the personal strokes and recognition that impulsive words and actions often bring. When we're at peace we can see, hear, analyze, and react in a more secure and peaceful way. When us mere humans are at peace his church is more missional and sensitive to a dark culture than when we're moving impulsively.

Paul wrote, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1, ESV). It is the season when we herald his birth. Let us also herald his peace.

Merry Christmas!

  • sonnyholmes


After attending Christmas at Northwood we were anxious to put up our new nine foot slim line Christmas tree. It may be somewhat of a metaphorical display, you know, the slim line part. What we didn't expect was the way our new tree spoke to us as we decorated it. You see, most of the ornaments on our tree were given to us by wonderful people who have imprinted our lives over the past forty-two years. Rather than the tedium of getting it done on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it was a dialogue wth the past. We both learned that our new Christmas tree speaks.

With a strong future orientation in my top ten personal strengths, listening to the past isn't one of the graces I handle all that well. Yes, there's an occasional glance in the rear-view mirror to help navigate where I'm going. But, in this current transition, I'm learning that there's health in listening to the past. What a blessed afternoon, listen to our Christmas tree speak. How on point were the words it spoke!

Elizabeth't first handmade ornament, Brian's bug, others they made in childhood spoke words of affirmation and joy, memories of our wonderful past. Kole Helvie cross-stitched a Santa Clause in December 1982, a treasured time of ministry and great friendships. Mary, Phil, Candie, and Charlie Charping gave us a new handmade nativity ornament every year when we lived in Greenville. As we carefully situated each wonderful ornament we rehearsed the joys and blessings of our life and ministry. Almost every ornament speaks of a person, event, or time that is momentous in our epoch. It was like each one was a spiritual marker of significant realities in our journey. The hand knitted snow flakes, dozens of them, made by sweet Annie May back at Woodland Baptist Church, circa 1980, told us about our earliest days in ministry. The Girlfriends Christmas ball from Northwood Baptist spoke to us about more recent relationships. For several hours that tree spoke words of blessing and affirmation.

There are a few dark memories in our notches of time too. Every journey has some detours and road damage, pot-holes, missed turns, wrong routes taken, and other traveling hazards. These ornaments spoke of precious people who had died, tragic circumtances, broken relationships, misunderstandings, and all the debris we humans can leave in the wake of our road drama. It's the stuff of living in a real world again. Our tree told us about all of them too.

Even now, as we prepare once again to celebrate the Incarnation, some of us are in dark times. Life is harsh. As the holiday veneer shines and glitters, there's trouble back there behind the facade. Many truly dear people are agonizing over important decisions while others are suffering the darkness of broken dreams, relationships torn apart, expectations not met, finaincial ruin, health issues, or family distress. Many ministry brothers and sisters are dealing with doubts about their calling, questons about their performance, termination of a position, or other significant mission questions. Trouble doesn't go on sabbatical during the holidays.

Take a moment and let your Christmas tree speak, or your wedding pictures, or the notes in the margins of your Bible, or your school yearbook, or the church directory, or that drawer full of pictures. Rehearse the spiritual markers in your life and remember the faithfulness of the one who called you and works in your life. You see, even as our Christmas tree spoke so clearly about the past, it spoke most distinctly about him, the one who was there at every turn. Paul reminded us, "...he who calls you is faithful..." (1 Thess. 5:24, ESV).

Sometimes we have to let even a Christmas tree speak to us about it!

  • sonnyholmes


Convenience stores and super-markets arrange their goods to appeal to a dark side of fallen human nature. They want us to make impusle purchases. So, I just read an article about being an impulse buyer and what makes that kind of response so easy for me. Fughedaboudit! It was about chemical and electrical synapses, the science of neurotransmitters, and physiological stuff way beyond my pay-grade. I wanted to know why I reach for a candy bar on the way out of Wally World, and what I could do to alter that irritating behavior pattern.

Exit the bio-science section and sort through the files in the science of the mind drawer, or better yet, though the pages of systematic theology. This dark heart of mine, until re-created by Christ, is totally self-absorbed and so my impulsiveness is a deep seeded implant into my selfish psyche. Impulsiveness is basically a result of chioces that are all about me. So, it makes me, and all of my other spur of the moment soul brothers, speak before we know the facts, purchase items we really don't need, pledge commitments we cannot fulfill, make touchy-feely decisions that are factually unrealistic, and all other manner of quick-draw, at-the-moment reactions to the moment. Factor in a shortage of the deliberative strength, and we're Simon Peter with a verbal miscue, or worse, a sword in our hand.

Right now I'm concerned with why so many quit, especially the 1,700 pastors who leave the ministry every month. It's not just a ministry phenom, however,this tendency to walk away from things. No, it's a cultural marker, affecting relationships, marriages, careers, church membership, civic and community commitment's, parenting, balance sheets, and just about every other entanglement that requires some kind of attachment. Suddenly, we're a Post-It Note world, not intended to stick forever.

It is, however, a ministry concern, why the exit ramp from pastoral ministry is so crowded. And, impulse may actually be a small factor. Research indentifies pages of reasons pastoral minsitry ranks are thinning. Most are dreadul truths about the dark underbelly of church and the massive mistreatment of pastors and church staff. Impulse is perhaps a minor deal here. Still, many pastors and churches act on impulse when making important staffing and ministry decisions. Our system of ministry assignment and calling doesn't always go deep or permit extensive review. All too often it's a first blush kind of deal, a decison made on the run, a process that we cover through expedient pressures rather than incisive deliberation. If the average tenure of Southern Baptist pastors is actually somewhat over three years, there must have been some impulsiveness in the decision. And, on the other end, there's may be impusiveness also in the closing drama too, talented and called people who exit stage left at the first sign of trouble.

We are given the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). He paced his ministry and measured his words. What is more, he practiced the step down, step up, step back, step aside, and step away, (which I will address in the future) to guard against impulsive words or actions.

So, we're in the season that glorifies, even honors, impulsiveness. We can pick up last minute items and stocking stuffers right after Black Friday and get one day delivery on the day before Christmas. One click shopping, "Buy Now" buttons, adding to your shopping cart, and any number of quick links expedite a world on the move, or on the take. Most ministry decisions and mission opportunities require more thought than the instant take.

OK, the synapses are firing. My impulse neurons are activated. I'm praying for the heart that will help me seek truth and fact before I speak, encourage me to count the cost before I commit myself, and help me make informed, Godly decisions as I'm seeking to follow Him.

And, put cuffs on my urge to buy any of the appealing stuff at the check out counter.

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