Monday, August 22, 2022

A Merchant of Time

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator,” quipped Robert Orbin.

The freshman year of college is a big learning curve in knowing how to be disciplined and organize yourself and your schedule. With all of the new freedoms, a lot of freshmen either get way too overcommitted in activities and social engagements, or they seem to major in vegging and hanging out.

Dr. Jack Presseau, my freshman adviser, shared a nugget of wisdom that remains with me today. Perfect for that role, Jack was accomplished enough to earn my respect, thoughtful and pastorly enough to emulate genuine care, and thorough and disciplined enough to challenge a young eighteen/nineteen-year old.

He gave a chart to me with the instruction to write down what I did every half hour of every day for one week. It made me begin thinking in terms of time management and learn to see my time in terms of short segments. Since then, I've learned to think of an hour as four segments of fifteen minutes, and many tasks can be completed in a fifteen-minute segment. It was also a good exercise to begin appreciating the power of keeping tasks and appointments written down. As Adrian Rogers said, "The weakest pen is greater than the strongest mind."

Our Private Worlds

Several thousand books have come through my library the past thirty years. Some stayed. Others found another life via Goodwill. A few helped change my life. One of those in the latter category is Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World

MacDonald shares his experience as a young pastor with lots of talent and a great personality. For most of his latter twenties he rode the wave of those two assets, while ignoring the guardrails of habitual disciplines.

After hitting an emotional-mental wall one day, a sobering reality struck him head-on: he could not coast the rest of his life and ministry on what had made him attractive and outwardly successful in his twenties. His gifts and natural charm would not enable him to be successful over the long haul of life.

He had to learn discipline.

MacDonald writes, "There came a time in my own life when I wanted to make sound decisions about the budgeting of my time, and I wanted to be free of that frantic pitch of daily life in which one is always playing catch-up." 

He learned nine symptoms of disorganization that characterize his life when disorder rules: 

1.  My desk takes on a cluttered appearance. 

2.  The symptoms tend to show themselves in the condition of my car.

3.  I become aware of a diminution in my self-esteem.

4.  There are a series of forgotten appointments, messages to which I failed to respond, and deadlines I have begun to miss.

5.  I tend to invest my energies in unproductive tasks.

6.  Disorganized people feel poorly about their work.

7.  Disorganized Christians rarely enjoy intimacy with God.

8.  The quality of my personal relationships usually reveals it. I may become irritable.

9. When we are disorganized in our control of time, we don’t like ourselves, our jobs, or much else about our worlds.

That first year of college I read Charles Hummel's book 
The Tyranny of the Urgent, digesting the concept that the use of our time will always include two conflicting needs fighting to become our master. Those two conflicts are important things versus urgent things. 

The disciplined person learns to get important things done. The undisciplined person is always a slave to urgent matters.


MacDonald’s Laws of Unmanaged Time

Macdonald writes, "Time must be budgeted!  We must resolve to seize control of our time.  The disorganized person must have a budgeting perspective of time."

In his chapter on time management, he shares four laws about unmanaged time.


Law #1:          

Unmanaged time flows toward my weaknesses.

Law #2:          

Unmanaged time comes under the influence of dominant people in my world.      

Law #3:          

Unmanaged time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies.

Law #4:          

Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation.

The struggle of wisely investing our time knows no age limit. I recommend MacDonald's book to anyone.  I read it again every two to three years. But I especially commend it to anyone age twenty-five to thirty-five. 

May we heed the warning of Hummel, who said, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”

And may we be found faithful with our time, echoing the words of J. H. Jewett: “The disciple of Christ is to be an expert merchant in the commodity of time.”

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.


Monday, August 15, 2022

Raising Children of Integrity

 Our five-year-old son developed a habit of lying, and I was determined to stop it!  After numerous attempts at spanking as punishment, I wanted a creative approach to discipline.  Surely there was something I could do to nip this in the bud.

Finally, I devised my plan.  One year earlier, Hendrix became interested in the Star Wars movies.  One of his treasured possessions was my old collection of Star Wars action figures.  He thought they were gold. 
I decided that when he lied, he needed to feel pain in an area that mattered to him.  So, the new rule would be that he loses one action figure for every lie told.  One evening when he and I were home alone I initiated what I thought was the perfect tactic of creative discipline.  Hendrix told a lie, and I instructed him to bring me one Star Wars man and meet me in the kitchen.  He listened to my speech about the destructive nature of lies.  Then, I proceeded to heat up the frying pan.  I told my son that what I was about to do to his action figure would illustrate what lies do when they are told.  Hendrix and I watched as Han Solo slowly melted away until all that was left was a puddle of oozing plastic goo.

In my mind I thought, “What a great plan.  The little guy will remember this forever.  This may just break the pattern of lies tonight.  James Dobson and Kevin Leman will probably feature this idea in one of their books.”  I looked up at Hendrix, expecting him to break into uncontrollable sobs, wailing, “Daddy, I will never lie again!  I have learned my lesson!” 
Instead, Hendrix, who had not taken his eyes off of the frying pan, flashed his bright eyes at mine and excitedly asked, “Can we do another one, Daddy?”  So much for creative discipline. 
A Pancake House
Children catch many of life’s values as we model them in life – not as we plan the perfect lesson with a frying pan.  Several years after the Han Solo incident our family experienced an object lesson in integrity and truth-telling that Hendrix still remembers.    Vacationing in Pigeon Forge, we ate supper at one of the infamous pancake houses.  The restaurant had a large, separate foyer and gift shop where people paid for their meal.  After eating, we left the dining room and waited for several minutes in the unattended foyer.  My children began looking at some pocket knives for sale.  Finally, a manager entered.  He apologized for the delay and said, “Thank you for your honesty.  You have no idea how many people in your situation just leave the store and do not pay.”  Then, seeing Hendrix looking at the pocket knife, he said, “Please, you all may have the pocket knife at no charge.  That is my way of saying thank you for being honest.” 
Today, my family still has that knife with “Pigeon Forge” carved on its side.  And occasionally, one of the children will say, “That is the knife the man gave us because we were honest.”  That small knife reminds us of the importance of integrity. 
Here are some practical ways we can work at instilling integrity in our children.
Explain what integrity means
Teach children that integrity means to be the same on the inside as you claim to be on the outside.  The word is associated with the testing of metals.  Some rings are gold-plated.  Others are solid gold all the way through.  God wants us to be the real deal.
Read and memorize key verses
During mealtimes or family devotions, review Bible texts about the importance of truth-telling.  Some examples are Proverbs 12:19, Ephesians 4:15 & 25, John 8:44, John 14:6.
Read stories about people of integrity

As a family, read age-appropriate books or listen to radio theater stories of people with integrity (
Gladys AylwardCorrie ten Boom, and George Muller for example).  Then discuss lessons from their lives.  Also recommended are William Bennett’s The Children’s Book of Virtues and The Children’s Book of Heroes.  Three excellent sources for high quality radio theater are Lamplighter TheaterAdventures in Odyssey, and Focus on the Family's Radio Theater.   Our family has enjoyed dozens of hours the past several years with fabulous radio theater dramas!
Jesus is in the room
We try to teach our children that we always live in God’s presence.  At times we will say, “I need you to answer me with Jesus standing in the room with us.”
Sour tongue
When children do lie, take a small dab of vinegar and put it on their tongue.  We call this “sour tongue.”  The awful taste reminds them of how lies taste to God.
Model honesty and integrity
No better training exists than Dad and Mom living lives worth replicating before their children.  Those little ones see us day in and day out.  Remember, they catch what we do and say – and what we don’t.
May our children find us to be people of integrity – the real deal on the inside.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay and Pexels.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Something We’ve Never Seen Before


As I write this, the news is abuzz with the FBI raid of President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago.

Several people have speculated that the Deep State has now officially crossed the Rubicon – passing the point of no return with irreversible consequences. Julius Caesar did so in A.D. 49, declaring war on the state and beginning a civil war.

Buck Sexton commented, “It almost feels like a preemptive coup… this is meant to prevent Donald Trump from being able to run again… This is the Rubicon being crossed. This is something we’ve never seen before. This is something that is outrageous. And the usage of the FBI in this way is really the nail in the coffin for so many Americans as to whether you can trust the FBI or trust the DOJ. Clearly not on political matters.”

Many Americans have suspected the FBI of widespread corruption for several years in various scenes of political theater like the January 6th events, targeting political opponents, spying on Trump, and the crookedness swirling around Hillary Clinton’s server, The Clinton Foundation, and Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Multiple FBI whistleblowers, including those in senior positions, are raising the alarm about the level of deep corruption. Senator Chuck Grassley is hearing from many people who have come forward with testimony about such deception, spanning multiple election cycles and infecting investigative activity. You can contact his office at (202) 224-3744 or if you have something to report, and they promise to protect your identity.

Laurens County’s own Congressman Jeff Duncan shared, “The FBI just raided a former President’s home — but failed to ever go to Hillary’s home for the private server, get Hunter’s laptop, or investigate the Clinton Foundation. . . .We have a two-tiered justice system in this country: one for the liberal elites and one for everyone else.

The weaponization and politicization of federal agencies is egregious and scary. These are Gestapo-like tactics. If the FBI can do this to President Trump, what do you think 87,000 new IRS agents will do to the American people? If this happens, the IRS would employ more than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Border Patrol COMBINED. Americans are in a recession, and Democrats want to weaponize the IRS.”

It's impossible for me to not assume the Biden administration, which is Obama 2.0, would intentionally use a gargantuan IRS to bully, intimidate, and investigate political adversaries. That is the bigger issue at hand.

Franklin Graham shared recently, “This is a step in weaponizing the IRS to act against people, organizations, and businesses who have a voice of dissent against government agendas.”

We are living through days of massive corruption in what has become known as the Deep State. And that is why they must stop Trump, because he is standing in their way.

Roger Simon writes, “Call it The Big Panic. Call it something more insidious—the instigation of one-party rule. The Democrats, the Deep State, the Justice Department, the FBI, and all the intelligence agencies, globalists, propagandists of mainstream media, and all adherents of that one-party rule and enemies of republican government, will do anything—anything—to stop Trump from winning the 2024 election.”

I’ve often wondered the past couple of years how long it took the good people in Germany to realize the rumors they kept hearing about atrocities being done in the 1930s were not conspiracy theories. When they finally woke up, the political machine of Hitler’s party had so weaponized the government that good people were silenced into submission.

Margot Cleveland shares, “Against this two-pronged approach to justice, Americans need not lean conservative or support Trump to spot the scandal. And Americans need not care about politics to oppose the politicization of the Justice Department and FBI: They just need to care about the future of the country—one that cannot survive long if such corruption and cronyism continues.”

Dismally but accurately, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich writes, “The six-year period of corrupt deep state dishonesty by the FBI, many of the intelligence agencies, the Democrats in Congress, and the fake news media have brought us to the brink of a constitutional crisis. . . .

I think we are wavering between restoring the rule of law and the Constitution and decaying into a third world banana republic system of greed, dishonesty, political power, and law breaking on a grand scale. . . . We are watching the corruption spread through the system like a malevolent cancer eating the structure and fabric of our freedoms.”

May God have mercy on us. And may Gideons and Deborahs arise.




Monday, August 8, 2022

Heroes Needed

Our world needs heroes. For such examples, sometimes we look backward.

My youngest son and I are reading Eric Metaxas’ book, 7 Men and 7 Women and the Secret of their Greatness. I highly recommend it. One model is Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), the German theologian and pastor who protected German Jews and participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. For such actions he hung at Flossenburg concentration camp.

Born into an extraordinary family, his parents taught their children to love learning of all kinds and to think logically, acting upon their beliefs. Dietrich “understood that ideas were never mere ideas but the foundations upon which hone built one’s actions and ultimately one’s life.”

A sort of epiphany during his eighteenth year while attending a Palm Sunday Eucharist at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome forged a deep conviction with far-reaching consequences: the church transcended race, nationality, and culture, and that extended beyond German Lutherans.

While a seminary student in America, he participated in the country’s largest church – an African American one in Harlem, New York. He witnessed a people whose God was real and personal – not just philosophical or theological – in spite of their often-hard lives. The pastor, Adam Powell, Sr., challenged hearers to have a genuine relationship with Jesus and to put their faith into action in how they treated others: “Bonhoeffer seemed to link the idea of having deep faith in Jesus with taking political and social action.”

"The Word of God"

Returning to Germany in 1931 to teach at Berlin University, his friends noted a marked change. His faith now was a wedding of both intellect and heart. The seeds of theological liberalism were sprouting in Germany, including the higher criticism movement. In contrast to many Berlin theological circles, he “referred to the Bible as the Word of God, as though God existed and was alive and wanted to speak to us through it. The whole point of studying the text was to get to the God behind the text. The experience could not be merely intellectual but must also be personal and real.” The young teacher discipled his students to meditate on the Bible, pray, and love Jesus.

Adolf Hitler stepped into a vacuum of leadership in Germany, reeling from their defeat in World War I and lacking the experience as a country with governing themselves democratically. He brilliantly played to their felt needs, promising moderation and peace and claiming internal betrayal from Communists and Jews. This false idea of treachery – the Dolchstoss (stab-in-the-back) was the “fake news” of 1930’s Germany, and many accepted it as truth.

Historically, a prophet has divine insight to see beyond public rhetoric – and to distinguish between true and false. Prophets often go unheeded and receive gross mistreatment because their warnings seem out of sync with popular discourse.

Ideas and their Consequential Ends

Bonhoeffer saw things would get much worse for his country, and he realized Hitler’s National Socialists would lead the nation into catastrophic results. Two days after Hitler became Germany’s chancellor, the theologian delivered a radio speech chastising Hitler’s perverse idea of leadership. He warned the Germans the chancellor would mislead the people: he “saw from the very beginning what no one else seemed to see – that Hitler and the philosophy he represented would end tragically, and that Nazi ideology could not coexist with Christianity.”

Though Hitler pretended to be a Christian, he secretly despised it, wanting to slowly infiltrate the church with Nazi theology, unify German churches around his ideology, and “create a single state church that submitted to him alone.” He did so incrementally so most people wouldn’t be alarmed until it was too late.

Bonhoeffer, whose father taught him to think ideas through to their consequential ends, tried to warn fellow Germans. Convinced true Christians had to fight the Nazi movement with all their strength, Bonhoeffer sounded the alarm about the radical growing evil. He knew a “slumbering church would be no match for the Nazis.” Sadly, many German Christians did not understand or acknowledge what was at stake and were unwilling to fight the movement.

By the late 1930’s, Nazis increased the scope of government with many laws and regulations, limiting the freedoms of citizens and especially serious Christians. They eventually prohibited Dietrich from teaching and speaking publicly. As the Third Reich took complete control of society, he and other believers faced incredible ethical-moral choices. How does a Christian act under a government that enforces laws diametrically opposed to God’s Word?

Some of Bonhoeffer’s family were involved in a conspiracy against Hitler. Through immense, prayerful consideration, they agreed with the motto referenced in the American Revolution: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” As Adolf consolidated his power, underground conversations continued about how to stop the Fuhrer. They “believed that to do anything less was to shrink from God’s call to act upon one’s beliefs.”

As World War II began, Dietrich became a double agent, openly pretending to be a part of the Third Reich, while secretly working with the wide network of conspirators to destroy it.

While working underground to save the lives of seven Jews, Gestapo leaders discovered the plan and arrested Bonhoeffer at his parents’ home. At Berlin’s Tegel military prison, he wrote his famous Letters and Papers from Prison. Fifteen months after his arrest, conspirators enacted the Valkyrie plot  - a failed attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer with bombs. The vast conspiracy now exposed, names were revealed, including Dietrich’s.

Taken to an underground high-security prison, he prepared for death, which he called “the last station on the road to freedom.” Later transferred to Flossenburg  concentration camp, under direct orders of Hitler, Dietrich was executed on April 9.

The cost of discipleship for Bonhoeffer was great. Metaxas summarizes, “he lived his whole life to illustrate . . . that anyone who pays a price or who suffers for obeying God’s will is worthy of our celebration.”


Picture used by permission from Pixabay.