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  • sonnyholmes

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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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  • sonnyholmes

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Last year about this time we were leading our seventh trip to Israel, our first in December. We were all excited to sense the joys of His birth in the month that most Christians celebrate it. Since every previous trip had been memorable and totally unique, we anticipated great things. Little did we know there'd be 20 inches of snow in Judea that week. We made a snow man at the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem. Fughedaboutit!

Which means it was cold there too. Really cold. When we stopped at the southern most Jordan River baptismal site, the water temperature took our breath away. On our way into the alcove for our worship time, our sweet friend Alice Caldwell slipped on the Jerusalem stone walkway and broke her collarbone. On our first day we were learning that this trip would be more unique than the others because it was going to be more weird that any time before. Still, a group of us went into the mighty, cold Jordan River to be symbolically baptized in a site approximating the place of our Lord's baptism. Register this scene: rain, sleet, snow, and the coldest water you can imagine.

Then, as a gift from above, as we were driving across the Jordan Valley, minutes after our cold baptism, this double rainbow appeared, the one pictured above. It was totally unexpected, another anomaly in what was already something of a bizarre trip. In two days we had seen summer heat at Ben Gurion Airport, rain and cold traveling up to Bethlehem, a blizzard, freezing water, a slippery deck, and now a double rainbow.

The trip was awesome in every respect. We visited sites and locales we'd never seen in our previous seven trips, enjoyed incredible times of sharing and worship with our travel partners, and experienced the singular joys of walking where Jesus walked. Looking in the rear view mirror, however, I've reflected on the double rainbow. Was there a message in it? Of course, the answer for me is affirmative. So, what was is about, at that strategic time and place. Here it is. Drum roll please. It was to remind us of His promises.

Let me confess that I'm somtimes a promise slacker! My OCD self always has plan B or C, an escape hatch of some sort, or more than anything else, a way to justify living by contingencies just in case His promises don't work out. I mean, there's always the chance I might have misunderstood Him, or figured it wrong. So, Mr. Promise Slacker occasionally needs a reminder that His promises are sufficient and I don't need a work around if His promise doesn't happen, like now. I think the rainbow was a reminder.

Yesterday I noticed something in Scripture that I hadn't picked up before. In Luke 1 Gabriel spoke to Mary about the birth of Jesus. David Sons, Teaching Pastor at the Church at Cane Bay reminded us in a grat message that the angel made ten promises to Mary. The text is most remembered for one great phrase---"For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). OK, Mr. Promise Slacker, notice the word "nothing".

Here's the deal. Gabriel also told Mary that Elizabeth would give birth to a child, John the Baptist. So, Mary went to visit. Now, get this. Based on God's promise, the entire section of Scripture closes with, "And Mary remained with her about threee months and returned to her home"

(Luke 1:56). Young Mary trusted God's promise to the point she stayed with Elizabeth.

It was just a rainbow. No, a double rainbow. But, on the heels of a winter nightmare, poor Alice's collarbone, uncertain travel plans, and a bunch of cold people, it was a reminder we needed. His promises are real, everyone one of them. It's because "...for He who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23).

WOW!


  • sonnyholmes

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December 7, 1941, in President Roosevelt's words, "...a date that will live in infamy". The picture is the USS Arizona Memorial, one of the places constructed to remember the 2,403 Americans who died that day.

Even though the human mind is wired to remember negative events more than positive ones, we have a tendency to forget truly signifacant historical dates and places. So, in perpetuity, memorial stones and edifices were constructed to help people remember those things that may naturally slip from memory.

It was a threat to God's chosen people too, to forget. So, Moses wrote, "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children---" (Deuteronomy 4:9). In fact, if I could title the Book of Deuteronomy it would be "Don't Forget". Much of the great instruction in the final book of the Torah is aimed at their self- absorbed tendency to permit the might yacts of God to slip to the edges of history.

History is re-written every day. The important people, dates, places, and events of our short history are re-arranged by the revisionist spins of every contemporary culture. What was traditionally significant in my history classes are typically sidelined today. There's a whole new set of politically correct epochs that have moved up the historical date-line. Some of the things that defined my generaitonal cohort have been eclipsed by more current headlines. Perhaps it's a natural shift that us old geezers lament. But, we must learn, un-learn, and re-learn our ability to record history. We don't have to live in the past. We must, however, remember it.

The Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II Journey with Gov. Mike Huckabee, was a primer in this regard. Part of the journey was in Krakow, Poland with another few days was in London and a final stop in Los Angeles, California. Eoth place defined the special balance of remembering the past and aiming at the future. This was especially true, at least for me, in London. It's a thoroughly modern, ceomtemporary city. I counted a Starbucks in almost every block. Then, historical markers were everywhere. Right outside our hotel, a very historic building on the Thames River, equipped with every modern convenience, was a life-sized statue of three sailors. There were memorials in just about every locale. They were stunning reminders of things that had shaped them as a nation.

The Tower of London was particularly moving. In the moat surrounding the Tower, 888,256 ceramic poppies were displayed, one poppy for every British death in WWI. These had been donated by British citizens. It was a visually beautiful reminder of the lives given in support of their nation. It was among my most precious moments.

So, it's December 7, 2014, seventy-three years since that date that will live in infamy. The ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors are thin indeed. But, it's a date I would like to remember, and tell it to my children and grandchildren too.


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