A Question of Dignity

Much is said about how people should dress, like “dressing down” and dressing for success.” But how should a minister, a pastor, a “reverend” dress? For that matter, how should a pastor behave in public? How should his position affect his demeanor? Ever thought about that?

It’s a question regarding the appropriate level of dignity exhibited by those in ministry.

Differences

Some of you may disagree with me on this, but I do believe that there is something to be said about the differences between pastors and the congregation. If you are Catholic or main-line Protestant this is probably a non-issue, but it is an issue in other circles, specifically in evangelical churches.

Many of us are well aware that Scripture teaches that there is no essential difference between one believer and another: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Furthermore, many of us treasure the biblical doctrine of the “priesthood of the believer” that confirms all Christians have equal access to God, not needing the intercession or mediation of an earthly priest (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19; and 1 Peter 2:5). Some folk, especially many of my Baptist brethren, even refrain from using terms such as “clergy” and “laity” because, in essence, we are all the same.

anthony politicalHowever, if we are all the same, if there is no difference at all, no difference in expectation or qualification, why then do we have such passages as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9? Why would Paul have instructed Timothy and Titus to ordain godly men to the work of “bishop” in the first place if there were no need for men of distinction?

The truth is that there is a biblical mandate of conduct for the role and specific offices of pastor, bishop, elder, teacher, and deacon. Those persons should be known as set apart, qualified, mature, devoted, and serious about the work (Titus 2:7).

I Struggle

I will admit, I struggle with this issue from time to time. You may not think it’s a big deal, but I think it is. The thing I don’t want is to be legalistic, prideful, arrogant, or aloof and never fun, accessible, down-to-earth, and humble.

But where does one draw the line? At what point can one say, “That [activity] is not appropriate for a person in that position” without coming across as elitist?

vbs ice cream headLet’s face it, when it’s time for a fall festival or children’s activity, every one wants a pastor who is not afraid or too proud to look like a fool for the sake of a smile. It was Jesus who had little children running up to him, sitting on his knee, and enjoying being in his presence. The pastor who never laughs, never takes a shaving cream-pie in the face, or dresses up like a farmer for Vacation Bible School will never win the heart of a child.

On the other hand, the one dying in a hospital (or on the side of the road) wants more than a clown or a hip public speaker to kneel by his side or take her hand.

I struggle with where to draw the line, where being like everybody else must give way to the demeanor of one elected to lead. Sure, context is always going to make a difference, but is there no place for  gravitas in the modern church?

I’d love to read what you think! Where is the line between dignity and doofus? Or is there one?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, clothing, General Observations, legalism, ministry

5th Anniversary!

Can you believe that it was five years ago, today, that I first started this blog?!

anniversaryYes, today is the 5th anniversary of The Recovering Legalist. I wish there could be a little more fanfare. Oh well.

2012 was my best year. I did a lot more writing then, so I got a lot more views. That was also the year when Building 429 linked one of my posts to their blog – big boost in views. This year hasn’t been bad, but I’m currently running 22% less than last year. Guess I need to be a little more active…or write more intriguing posts.

Friends

In the five years that I have been doing this, a lot of friends have been made. Believe me when I say that some of you have really been more of a blessing and encouragement than you will ever know this side of heaven. There are several of you whom I will probably never meet on this earth, but I praise God that He has allowed me to come to know you through this medium.

Since it has been five years, I’d like to send a special shout out to the first blogger who encouraged me, Heather Joy (Vires). She was the first blogger to comment on my blog. And, if I remember correctly, hers was the first blog I followed, and a blog we certainly miss. Thank you, Heather.

Non-Friends

Blogging can also introduce you to folks who are not necessarily on your side. In fact, when one chooses to put one’s thoughts on the world wide web, one should expect conflict, if not to make enemies.

One such person whom I fondly refer to as my “token atheist” is actually a pretty decent guy. However, being that I am a solid believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior, promote a Christian worldview, and ardently oppose the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions, Andrew Marburger, at one point, elected himself to be the one person, if no one else, to protect all my groupies from my narrow-mindedness. But, you know what, I still pray for him.

Top Posts

I have written nearly 600 posts over the last 5 years. Some have gotten good response, while others simply bombed. However, the top posts over the last half-decade show how wide a range my writing covers.

The #1 most frequented post is “What to Wear to Church.” Evidently, I struck a nerve with this one; people are constantly being linked to it as a result of Google searches. Obviously, people don’t know how to dress for church.

The #2 most frequented post is “Dinosaur Bones Found On the Moon!” I don’t know for sure, but I really think that this post helped to create an urban legend. Why else would anyone type into a search engine, “Were bones really found on the moon?

Rounding out the top 10 of all time (the last 5 years) are the following:

Honorable Mention: The most hated post of all time had to be episode 28 of the Monday Monkey series, “What do you get when you cross a monkey with time?” OMG! The comments were absolutely hateful.

So, thank you for reading my posts and watching my stupid little monkey videos. It has been a joy meeting and encouraging so many people from all over the world. My prayer is that God will continue to use this medium to bring glory to His name and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace, to even more computer screens.

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Bless You, Dadgum It!

“When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.

By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” - Proverbs 11:10-11

It’s Not Political

It is so hard to comment on these verses without sounding political. And believe me, as a pastor, the last thing you want to do is sound political – that’s when they start sharpening the blade on the guillotine.

But let’s get real, folks. The world is coming apart at the seams and we’ve got everybody from the military (urged on by Mikey Weinstein) to elementary school teachers trying to remove every vestige of faith from the public square. And whether you want to admit it or not, it all started free-falling right after the election of Barak Obama.

Don’t they realize it is by the “blessing of the upright” that the city (or county, or state, or nation) is “exalted?” Yet, the righteous are being forced into silence, while the “mouths of the wicked” broadcast night and day.

“Don’t bless me!”

It wasn’t long ago that few people sued to force employees of different retail stores to quit saying, “Have a blessed day.” They said it made them feel “uncomfortable” to have religion “forced” on them. They said that “a business is no place for religion.”

Just recently a school teacher in Tennessee disciplined a student for saying “bless you” when another student sneezed! Talk about being hyper-sensitive!

These “wicked” people could not stand the thought of being “blessed” by God? Why wouldn’t anyone want to be blessed?!

Sadly, because of government administrations that encourage immorality, the “wicked” have developed a stronger voice with which they have been shouting down the righteous. However, if the peoples of the world would only listen to Solomon, they would spend far less money fighting gangs, crime, drug abuse, violence, abuse, and internal corruption, and more time rejoicing.

If the “cities” and their leaders would only let a few more “upright” bless them, they might not be overthrown.

Have a blessed day!

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Filed under America, current events, Faith

Ferguson Justice

It seems to me that the only “justice” the rioters, the looters, the lawless, the race-baiters, and the opportunistic politicians in Ferguson, Missouri will accept is the public execution of a white man.

Evidently, the public execution of a Jew wasn’t good enough.

 

"Father, Forgive" by Gustave Doré

“Father, Forgive” by Gustave Doré

 

Would somebody please remind the “Reverends”?

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Filed under America, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, current events, General Observations, places, politics

The Arrow Is Launched (My Daughter Is Going to College)

As a Parent

As a parent, it is very difficult to let my daughter go off to college.

Frankly, it feels like my heart is being ripped out, much like the first time my heart was broken by a girlfriend when she left me. It’s a painful feeling of loss, something that can never be cured, fixed, or done over.

Katie Baby Picture June 96Katie is my firstborn daughter. I was there at her birth…changed one of her first diapers…rushed her to the hospital when she was sick…threw a dog (Spot) across a room when he bit her…cried when she got injections…rejoiced when she accepted Christ…cheered her teams to victory and protested in defeat…cried again when I had to discipline her…listened with amazement at the first song she wrote…felt like a rock star when I played with her on stage…felt like an un-spiritual pagan when she spoke of her walk with God…bristled with anger when she got a boyfriend…and said, “That’s my girl” when she intimidated her own youth director at church.

Now, she’s grown up. There’s no more time. She’s leaving. My heart is breaking like never before. The pain is real.

As a Christian Parent

I once posted a comment on Facebook about my feelings. But the things people kept telling me had the same general theme: “She will be fine.”

IMG_3010Let me set the record straight. I KNOW she will be fine. I KNOW she will be OK. You don’t have to tell me that someone will be there at college to look after her, because I know darn well she can take care of herself! I am not worried in the least about her safety, her relationships, what she may or may not get into, or anything like that. She WILL be fine because she is prepared and God is with her. I am not going to worry. My problem is simply the fact that she is leaving.

But you know, that’s what children are supposed to do, right? They are supposed to leave, to get out of the nest, etc. What kind of parents would her mother and I be if we never prepared her to be a God-fearing adult? She was an arrow in my quiver, and now’s the time to let her fly.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. – Psalms 127:4-5 NKJV

As an Archer

Fellow parents, let me tell you exactly why I am not worried about my daughter, Katie. First, when she was just a baby, I dedicated her to the Lord. I covenanted with my wife to raise her in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” To the best of our ability, we have done just that.

Secondly, we have done with her as a warrior does with his arrows. We kept her safe and protected, just as the arrow is protected in the quiver. Just as the warrior makes sure the flights on his arrow are straight, we made sure she learned the Truth (John 14:6) so that she could navigate through the winds of life toward her specific target. Like the shaft of the arrow, we trained and molded her character. And like the all-important arrowhead, we made sure Katie was as sharp as possible, as effective as could be, to make her mark on whatever target was propped in front of her.

Katie with guitarNo, I am not worried; I am painfully proud. I have prepared a weapon for God’s glory, one that is now leaving the bow in flight toward her God-given goal. I have done all I can do, including aim her in the right direction. Now that she is on her way, I have complete confidence she will stay on course.

Train up a child in the way [she] should go: and when [she] is old, [she] will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Confront the “enemies in the gate,” Katie! Victory is yours!

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Homeschool, Parenting, Relationships and Family

Up-coming Posts

For several weeks my brain, or at least the part that initiates writing, has been numb. I have been wanting to sit down and write about things that interest, concern, or humor me, but life has had a Novocaine-kind of effect. All I’ve been able to do is look at my computer and then say as shake my head, “I’m too tired.”

There are, however, a couple of things about which I want to write, especially within the next couple of days. One has to do with my daughter going off to college. Another has to do with going to church on Sunday nights. On top of that, I am working on finishing another book I’ve been working on: a shorter, mostly humorous collection of thoughts from driving a school bus.

I did recently write about Robin Williams. I would like to share a few more thoughts regarding depression, suicide, etc.

By the way, just the other day a young lady – a teacher – came up to me and personally thanked me for the first volume of Proverbial Thought. She said it made a big impact on her life and drew her closer to God. Seriously, now THAT’S a compliment.

Please, friends, try to go to church somewhere this Sunday morning (if it’s not already Sunday morning where you are). And, if possible, go somewhere to church in the evening.

Until my brain gets a little more feeling back, may God be with you all!

Oh, and please pray for those being killed because of their faith, looted because of race, and sold because of their gender.

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Thoughts On the Death of Robin Williams

Mork

My earliest memories of Robin Williams are of him battling with Fonzi on “Happy Days.” Later, I always wanted to have some rainbow-colored suspenders (before rainbow-colored things took on a whole new meaning), just like Mork from Ork, the character Williams brought to life on the hit TV show “Mork and Mindy” (btw, I had a crush on Pam Dauber, too).

Mork, evidently, was the quick-thinking, ultra-intelligent alter ego of Robin Williams. It was difficult to tell whether or not Mork was Williams, or if Williams really was an alien from outer space. He was brilliant.

Loss

Losing Robin Williams was a kick in the gut. I mean, he has been part of our culture for over three decades, 30+ years! Even though some may righteously brush his death off as just another celebrity gone from the stage, he was a genuine human being with a truly God-given talent to make people laugh.

I have lost money before. Once I lost a $100 bill. Oh, I cried, but I never felt a piece of me get yanked out soul. Even though I lost that $100 bill, there were others like it in the world. Robin Williams, however, was exquisitely unique, a singular work of art formed by the Master. There will never be another like him.

Depression and Suicide

It seems that for years Robin Williams battle depression. For many, especially those who have never had to go to counseling, they think of this battle as insignificant. But I have been there, and believe me, I have the t-shirt. As a matter of fact that “demon” still bites at my heels from time to time.

Apparently, Robin Williams committed suicide. He has been called a “coward” by a few. But what’s most concerning for me is that some in the Christian community (of which I belong) have been all too quick to attribute Williams’ suicide to a Hollywood lifestyle, drugs and alcohol, or just a life of sin.

Here’s a shocker: even Christians can become depressed AND commit suicide.

There were two times in my life when I came close to suicide, the closest being when I was a teenager – I literally had the weapon in my mouth when my dad knocked on my bedroom door to see if I was OK (can you say “divine intervention”?).

Depression can come upon one unexpectedly, even when life seems perfectly fine and happy. Now, I ultimately believe that depression is a tool Satan uses, but I don’t believe it is simply a creation of his. The onset of depression can be the simple result of overworking, too much pressure, poor diet, or physical pain. Depression is NOT a Hollywood demon that attacks the godless.

And when it comes to suicide, all it takes is one getting to the point where he/she feels hopeless and out of control. It can even be the cry for attention from someone who only wants others to recognize his or her pain. I am not quoting a text book; I am speaking from experience.

The Answer

What is the answer? Is there any help for those suffering with depression or considering suicide? Of course! Frankly, one doesn’t necessarily require biblical counseling or direction founded in a Christian worldview to find help. However, I personally feel that when we look to the Bible we can find more than enough strength for the weak, more than enough comfort for the hurting.

Let me just stay that it is unfair to judge Robin Williams when we don’t know what was in his heart. All we can say at this point is that regardless of circumstances, there is always hope in Jesus Christ. Despite our self-evaluations, His sacrifice proves our immeasurable worth. Despite our earthly circumstances, the purpose and future He offers can fill us with hope and expectation. However, we don’t know, at this point, from what well Robin Williams drew his strength, his hope, and whether or not he ever drank of the Water of Life.

“At times I wondered how a perfect God could ever understand

The pain I feel when I know I’ve failed time and time again

I wondered how my Lord could know all the loneliness I feel

He never felt this painful shame, no wounds of sin to heal

But that was what the cross was for!

There, in love, He opened Heaven’s door.

His own Father had to turn His face from the sin our Savior bore.

What He never knew, there He became,

And all the guilt He bore the same.

How could He understand the sinner’s place?

That was what the cross was for.”

- Anthony Baker

 A final note…

There is an Enemy, the father of lies, who loves to bring pain through heartache and loss. Never forget that even though suicide may be the result of our own faulty perceptions, Satan loves to be the one distorting reality. Remember, he is like a roaring lion, roaming about, always on the prowl, seeking whom he may destroy.

Never underestimate a powerful enemy, but rest in the victory won through an empty tomb.

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Filed under current events, Do not judge, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials