Monday, June 30, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

Don't mess with Mr. In-Between. At least that's how Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters used to sing it. Some of you may remember the old song, "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive." The words and music of this song came by way of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer in the 1940's. What an appropriate time for the thought of the song, since our country was immersed in World War II.

This song was also performed and recorded by such stars as Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Al Jarreau, but I prefer the version by Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. I'll give you the lyrics in case you don't remember...

Gather 'round me, everybody
Gather 'round me while I'm preachin'
Feel a sermon comin' on me
The topic will be sin and that's what I'm ag'in'
If you wanna hear my story
The settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?

(Man, they said "We'd better accentuate the positive")
("Eliminate the negative")
("And latch on to the affirmative")
Don't mess with Mister In-Between (No!)
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

(Ya got to spread joy up to the maximum)
(Bring gloom down to the minimum)
(Have faith or pandemonium's)
(Liable to walk upon the scene)

You got to ac (yes, yes) -cent-tchu-ate the positive
Eliminate (yes, yes) the negative
And latch (yes, yes) on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, don't mess with Mister In-Between

Those of us who are Christians need to remember to rejoice. There are too many good things about Christianity to be negative all of the time. If you are down and out, remember your spiritual blessings, remember heaven, remember your God and Savior, and remember your Christian friends.

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between!

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, 'Rejoice.'" ~ Phil. 4:4

Monday, June 23, 2008

Negative Communication

One of the fastest ways to tear a local body of Christ apart is with your mouth. If you want to split the church, use your tongue. Negativity is one of the worst things that can come upon a family of believers. If you engage in negative talk about a brother or sister in Christ, you should be ashamed.

I have been guilty of this sin myself. It is easy to get pulled into this pit by your closest friends in Christ. It starts innocently, with just the remarks about a person's habits or weaknesses. But before you know it, you stop looking for the good in people and you accentuate the bad.

Consider how negative communication affects:

1. The elders. They have the most difficult position in the church. They usually only get to hear the negative. People don't come to them to say "Great job!" or "What can I do to make your job easier?" Instead they usually say, "Why did you do that?" or "I don't like it when...." or "You all need to do something about..." Negative talk about the eldership is hurtful to the ones who serve, and it discourages younger men from ever desiring the position. A constant critique of the eldership will eventually cause division in the church.

2. The preachers. If you want to get a new preacher or youth minister every 2-5 years, then be highly critical of their activity. Try not to understand the anxiety and stress of their job. Spread a rumor about them. Pick on their sermons. Correct them whenever you get a chance. Challenge their work ethic. Preachers are involved with the members at a high level. When they are the objects of negativity, it always gets back to them. They begin to lose confidence, feeling that they are ineffective or unwanted. Negative talk about the preacher will do more than pack his bags, it will take him out of the pulpit for good.

3. The members. In order for families to be healthy, every member needs to find their place and purpose. When members of the body of Christ feel unloved, judged, or inadequate, the whole family will be in turmoil. On a daily basis, members of the family of God gossip, complain, note weaknesses in brethren, and dismiss the viability of certain people within the body of Christ. Not only is this sinful, but it contributes to Satan's most important work - the attempt to destroy the work of Christ. The church is often in more danger from within than from without. Every child of God must take responsibility for how they treat fellow Christians. May God help us to avoid any negative communication concerning our brethren.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." ~ Ephesians 4:29

Friday, June 20, 2008


On March 31, 2008 I posted an article on this blog that was printed in our bulletin. Evidently it was picked up by some other church bulletins. From that article I recently received the following letter. I am going to print it word for word just as it was written. I will protect the name of the author and the church of which she is a member.

Dear Sir,

Your article on lack of Respect toward George Bush. This was printed in our church bulletin, _______________________, June 15, 08 and I wish I had not read it before church began, because it made me angry. This man does not deserve any respect. He lied for a solid year to the American people about "Weapons of Mass Destruction." The inspectors returned after a two year search and reported to him. There were no weapons found.

In an interview approx. two wks. ago the reporter ask George Bush, "Why did you take this country into a war when you knew there was no weapons found." His answer was, "I thought they would find them later."

Sir I respect Hitler as much as I do George Bush. We were taken into that war because Saddam tried to have Bush Senior assassinated after the war of 1991. So after all the pain and suffering, our economy destroyed. This man will never admit to the harm he has caused. So there Mr. Tatum.
___Name Here Signed_______

I am not at all upset about receiving this letter. I keep every negative letter or email I receive. It helps to keep me balanced and reminds me that criticism is a part of personal growth. I encourage any of you to go back and read the article itself, to see as to whether or not this interpretation is correct. What she got out of it was no where near the point I was making. But to her that was the point just the same. For me it had nothing to do with politics, but rather it had to do with respect for authority. But I digress.

It is important for each one of us to remember that criticism can be very valuable. We should not look forward to it, and we should not hope to get it. We should not be controversial for the sake of trouble. But at the same time, if we are never criticized, then we are not living the Christian life.

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing ~ Elbert Hubbard

"Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound"
~ 2 Timothy 2:9

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'd Rather Have Jesus

Most every Monday morning David Pinckley and I arrive at the office at about the same time. Nobody is calling yet and nobody else is usually there. We get to talk about our lives for a few minutes. We talk about things that are going on with our families, things we need to get done that week, and sometimes we talk about our relationship with God. I enjoy talking about that last subject the most. I love and respect David and I appreciate his dedicated work. He puts a lot of time in calling people and doing church work all week.

One of our discussions surrounded faithfulness to the Lord. I mentioned that our 210+ on a Sunday night on Father's Day really represented a group of people who know where they belong. You see there are some people that are always going to choose spiritual opportunities and responsibilities over anything else. I am very thankful for these people. If it were not for the Sunday evening crowd we would be weaker as a church. Another hour of worship and study binds us together and helps us mature in Christ.

As we were talking, David made a statement that has been running through my mind ever since. He said that if he were to suddenly stop attending the worship, it wouldn't be very long before he wouldn't know what to do with himself. He knew he would sorely miss the assembly, and he knew that the concern he would have about his estranged relationship with God would be difficult to bear. While it is true we are creatures of habit, some things are more than a habit. Some things we do identify who we are, and what matters to us the most. I know that the Sunday night crowd loves to worship. I know they are wanting to go the second mile. I know they are glad when people say, "Let us go into the house of the Lord."

One other thing...I understand exactly how David feels. I really had no business coming back to services the Sunday after my surgery. But I was already feeling a great need to be with God's people and to worship Him. There are many things in this life that we could exchange for Christ. There are hobbies, occupations, relationships, and other things to keep us busy. But the only thing of lasting value is Jesus Christ. I'd rather have Jesus.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

~ Rhea F. Miller

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." ~ Philippians 3:7

Monday, June 9, 2008

How Hot Is It?

Well, the answer to this question is, "Pretty Hot!" How do I know? 1. The temperature hit 100 degrees at 5:00 P.M. on Saturday in West Tennessee, where I was preaching a gospel meeting. 2. I have not seen any dogs outside of the shade recently. 3. I burned my hand on my child's car-seat. 4. People are taking too many clothes off in public.

It is number 4 that is disconcerting to me. Modesty is a real problem these days. We live in a state of undress in America. Why are we surprised? Internet pornography is rampant. "Girls Gone Wild" is a T.V. ad you will find on virtually any station after 11:00 P.M. Nudity is all over the entertainment scene. Even Christians allow themselves and their children to be immodest all over the country - at the beach, at the pool, at the ballpark, and at school and community functions. I have seen some amazingly immodest outfits even in worship.

A new place of immodesty in our culture is the social network. Whether it be MySpace or Facebook, or some other internet spot, folks are putting up pictures of themselves to entice the opposite sex. Skin is still in, and when the temperature rises more clothes come off. I have heard many excuses for inappropriate dress: "People shouldn't be so lustful or look long at a woman or man." "I want to show off my tan." "If you look good, what is the point if nobody can see it?"

Well, there is a point. Vanity is the point. We have to get away from being so concerned about the physical if we are going to please God.

The child of God who wants to please God will dress appropriately for eternity. How hot is it really? We may find out for sure if we are not careful.

"...that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein...~ 1 Corinthians 14:15

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Change in Policy

I am not sure who said it first, but it used to be said that "Honesty is the best policy." One of the trademarks of a nation that was once largely of a moral conscience was that the common man could be found to be truthful. It was honesty in business. It was the surety of a handshake. It was knowing that a man's word was his bond.

Unfortunately, as we are witnessing a breakdown in morality within our culture we are also witnessing a change in moral policy. It may be as was written by Shakespeare in Hamlet - "Ay sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand."

One of the blessings of going to Freed-Hardeman University straight from California was that I no longer had to lock up all my things all the time. While attending there I rarely locked my car. If I left something on campus I could always go back and get it with no problem. When we lived in New Providence, Kentucky, we were never worried about burglars. In this small farming community the church doors remained unlocked. When we moved into the preacher's home, I tried to lock the door the first night. I had no key, so I called up the former minister, who had taken a job with a larger church in town. He said he didn't know where the key was. He had lived there for six years, and had never even locked up the house!

But things are changing. Monday evening my wife had to do some late shopping at the Lawrenceburg Walmart. She accidentally left her cell phone at the cake counter and had to go back for it. When she got there it was gone. So she called the number. The person who had picked up the phone was rude with her and at first refused to give it back. Finally when she did get it from him, he used foul language and showed her little respect. He was guilty of stealing, dishonesty, hatred, slander, drunkenness, and wickedness, just to name a few.

I would like to tell you all that you can trust the common man. I would like to tell you all that people are generally honest about most everything. I would like to tell you all that you can depend on most people for anything. But I cannot tell you that. Until we as a nation turn back to God, starting with our individual homes, we must realize that the policy has changed. With all of this, I know there are so many good people out there. But it is time for these good people to speak up.

"An honest man's the noblest work of God" ~ Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

"...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." ~ 1 Timothy 2:2