Last week’s Monday Morning Manna was deleted by Facebook. Some thought it was because I quoted scripture, but I quote scripture in every issue of Monday Morning Manna. Others thought I offended the FB standards because of my comments on “men and women.” Still others believed it was a computer program, not an individual that caused the deletion. Could have been any of these reasons. I requested an explanation from Facebook, and I was ready to apologize if in the wrong. I was/am a guest on their website and whether, or not I believe their regulations are right, I must live by them. They reviewed my post and replied, “We’re sorry we got this wrong. We reviewed your post again and it does follow our Community Standards. We appreciate you taking the time to request a review.” Can we all learn a lesson here? No matter how stringent the standards, nor how strongly the belief in them is, when you make a mistake, you apologize and move on. I appreciate Facebook for their response and will try to pass it forward. After all, “His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4).
My mother was a great student of the Bible, but I’m not sure she cared much for the Book of Esther. She often said that my father was the head of the house, but then added, “I’m the neck, and the head does not turn without the neck.” Not sure where she got that idea, but it was not from Esther 1:22 where the King “sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house” (Esther 1:22). I have a friend who likes to impress others by saying that he always has the last words in his house. Then after the friends seem duly impressed, he adds, “The last words are, “Yes mam.” A lot is being said these days about the role of women in society, and rightly so since we now have women occupying the top positions in everything from politics to church staffs. Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, and playwright. He once wrote, “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men. They are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater … If you give her a house, she will give you a home. If you give her groceries, she will give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she will give you her heart. She multiples and enlarges whatever is given to her.” Come to think of it, a man would have to be about half crazy to write an article on the role of women these days. So, I think I’ll just stick with Mark Twain’s quote – “What would men be without women? Scarce, sir…mighty scarce.”
Do we have to ask God to hear our prayer, or does He automatically hear? When Nehemiah was preparing to go before the King to request permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, he prayed, “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant” (Nehemiah 1:11). Furthermore, Daniel prayed, “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications” (Daniel 9:17). Finally, David prayed, “Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech” (Psalm 17:6). Unfortunately, most of us just begin our prayer as though God is already listening, with nothing else to do except wait for our communication. While God is eager to hear from us, He does have a few other things to do. I once heard a new believer begin his prayer, “God, this is John. Remember me? If so, please hear this.” I know what the Bible also says, for instance in 1 John 5:14: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” So maybe we don’t need to ask God to hear us. Perhaps to be heard by God, all we need is just to pray according to His will. How do you pray? Think about it.
According to Wikipedia, bullying is “the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate.” It is a serious issue in our culture today. While I am totally opposed to bullying, especially when it happens to the young, I think there are times, we can laugh it off and go on with life, thankful that we were noticed. These times come when there is a lighter, less-serious side of bullying that, depending on the recipient, might be called “bantering,” (defined as “to address in a witty and teasing manner.”) In my global travels, I have endured the Mexican people calling me “Gringo” (which I was told meant, “person with the green money, go back home”) the Chinese people calling me “big nose” (for obvious comparative reasons), the little west African children singing to me, “Yovo, Yovo, bonsoir.” (“White person, white person, good day.” But “yovo” can also mean “talking dog.”), and the Hispanic children calling me “Bobo Grande” (“Bobo” meaning “fool” and a big one, at that). I watched teen-agers in Germany laugh as they called my wife, “Big hair” (again for obvious reasons). As for my students, I don’t even want to know what all they called me. Actually, neither bullying, nor bantering, is new. When Elisha went from the spring of water up to Bethel, the scripture says, “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23. Read the rest of the chapter to see the tragic ending for the “youths.”). Again, let’s do what we can to stop bullying, especially among the young, but let’s also take some things less seriously. Lighten up, and have a good day.
A lot has been written on social media recently about sermon plagiarizing – preaching someone else’s sermon, although one of my preaching professors told us if you preach another’s sermon it is called plagiarizing, but if you combine parts of several sermons, it is called research. My pastor-father used to say, “When better sermons are written, I’ll preach them.” Sometimes they were and sometimes he did. A friend began his Chapel sermon at Southwestern Seminary by saying, “If you like this sermon, you can get a copy afterwards in the library. Look under Spurgeon – Charles Haddon.” A faculty member preached a sermon in Chapel and a few months later preached the same sermon in a church pastored by a Seminary student. In the meantime, the student preached the professor’s sermon in his church. The church members were upset, thinking the professor stole their pastor’s sermon. All this to say, show me a preacher who doesn’t occasionally use someone else’s sermon material, and I’ll show you a preacher who may have another problem. I always told my Seminary want-to-be preachers how to use someone else’s material: (1) The first time you use it you say, “Dr. Crawford said . . .” (2) The second time you use it you say, “It has been said . . .” (3) The third time you use it, you say, “I’ve always thought . . .” By then it is yours. I also told them that if they were going to use my material, at least improve on it. One student tried to justify his plagiarism by quoting a verse out of context, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippines 2:4). Many years ago. my pastor preached a sermon that was familiar to me. Following the service, I went by my office and pulled off the shelf a book of sermons by Dr. R. G. Lee and found the sermon that I had just heard. I could have made copies and handed them out at the next church business meeting before making a motion to terminate the pastor, but I chose not to do so. I don’t mean to attempt to justify sermon plagiarism. After all, there is that biblical verse that says, “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor” (Jeremiah 23:30). I just think it is not a big enough deal over which to terminate someone. Here’s another verse that applies – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone . . .” (John 8:7). And another verse – “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Preach on!
It is now legal for Texans (and others) to carry guns without a permit, unless, of course, there are mental or legal reasons that keeps an individual from carrying. Lots of folks are worried about a possible increase in “gun violence.” At the risk of stirring up controversary, I’d like to address the subject of “violence.” I have my grandfather’s gun – a Savage model – that he kept in the cash register of his grocery story in the 1930s 40s and 50s. I never knew him to shoot it. In fact, I wonder if he even purchased it, or perhaps took it in as a trade for an overdue grocery bill (since he sold on credit, long before credit cards were even invented). Apparently, the gun has been shot, at least once, since there is a slight crack in the chamber, making further use unadvisable. It sits, framed, on the mantle over my den fireplace and has been there for many years. In that time period it has not been fired, and thus has not done violence to anyone. In fact, the only way this gun can be a part of “gun violence” is to be in the hands of some violent person. So, it seems to me that we would do well to work on solving “people violence” rather than “gun violence.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to guns. I had several – all used for hunting purposes – until our home was burglarized and all of them were stolen. I still have two handguns and carry a Concealed Weapon License. I know the violence that can be created by guns, but I also know that it is not the gun’s fault. So, call me pro guns, but also call me anti violence. After all, according to the Old Testament, violence existed long before guns were invented – “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11) and the New Testament records an experience it the life of the Apostle Paul when he, “had had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob” (Acts 21:35). I am in favor of gun control, but I am more in favor of people control.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. In spite of having had skin cancer surgery on my forehead on the preceding Monday and having spent the week with swollen eyes and nose, using ice packs for ten minutes every hour, taking pain killers on a regular basis, and sleeping with my head elevated, I preached my morning sermon. It was not that the congregation especially needed my sermon, but it was that I needed to preach on Father’s Day. When I was fifteen years old, I was involved in a Saturday night automobile wreck causing the second vertebra of my neck to be broken. The following Sunday morning, as I lay in a hospital bed, my Dad preached. Others sat by me in the hospital, but he fulfilled what he considered to be life’s highest calling. Some might disagree with his priorities, but I did not. I wanted him to preach that Sunday morning. (He was still preaching three months before his death, at age 84.) A few years after my accident, I would sense that same calling on my life. Over the years and around the globe, I have preached in some unusual places and under some unusual conditions, but I have always preached, when it was my turn. The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). So, I preached on Father’s Day. Whatever your life’s priorities are, if they are in sync with God’s calling on your life, do it: on good days and bad days; on healthy days and unhealthy days; in good circumstances and bad circumstances; “in season and out of season.”
Most of my “Monday Morning Manna” columns are written on the weekend or week preceding their posting. Such is this one. If you read this on Monday, you will be reading it on the day of my ninth MOHS surgery for skin cancer. I once asked my surgeon why I had so many skin cancers. His reply was twofold: “You are fair-skinned and live in Texas.” I tried to blame my mother by asking the same Surgeon, “Is it because my mother kept sending me outside to play in the summer heat?” His reply got my mother off the hook: “If you drive to the mall, park, and go inside, between the time you get out of your car and get into the mall, you could develop another skin cancer.” Well, I’ve tried to avoid it. I gave up golf, stopped going to afternoon ballgames, stayed away from the beach, etc. I even stopped going to the mall. Still, I got another spot, this one on my forehead. So, I will undergo yet another surgery. If you read this in time you could pray for my surgeon and his assistant. Or you could just pray for my rapid and complete recovery. Then again, you could pray for my wife. Today is her birthday. I Know! But I didn’t have a choice of surgery dates. The Surgeon’s Receptionist makes that choice. If my bandage is not too ugly, I will take her to dinner tonight. Meanwhile, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed” (Jeremiah 17:14).
The first two grown adults who disagreed were named Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-8). The most recent disagreement that you observed (or in which you participated) may have been at your workplace, an athletic event, your church, or your home, and it may have been last week, or today. These disagreements are normal. Afterall, God created us with minds of our own – no two alike. We see things through different lens, and we process things through different filters. So, we disagree. The Southern Baptist Convention has a big disagreement going on and it will be on display for the world to see in a week at the annual meeting in Nashville. This is not new. I’ve been going to such conventions since I was eight years old (no, I wasn’t an elected messenger. I went with my parents), so I have seen multiple denominational disagreements. I won’t be in attendance this year since I’m scheduled for surgery that week. My prayer this year is that we can show the world how to disagree without being disagreeable. My fear is that we will not, but rather that we will use our individual, unique minds to display the worst. When I was young, we had a little chorus for times like these. If you remember it, you can sing along – “Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you, Party pooper. Party pooper.” I do not mean to make light of theological disagreements. God knows, I have endured enough of those. I believe in the Truth and my favorite version of the Bible is the Large Print Edition. Seriously, I prefer singing, “We are one in the Spirit,” but we shall see. We. Shall. See.
My little girl had a birthday last week. Birthdays are good for reflections, and I did a few. Not fully understanding the blessings and challenges of raising a daughter, I had asked God for one, and God agreed. One of my favorite memories was when she was four years old. The back story is that her Daddy was a huge Willie Nelson fan, being the only Seminary professor with a personalized, autographed picture of Willie in his office. So, Willie was frequently heard around our house and in our car. On a Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from a rather irate woman who asked, “What are you teaching your daughter at home?” Before I could answer, I heard the rest of the story. Seems at Sunday School that morning, this teacher had asked the children for their favorite song to sing, whereupon, my daughter replied, “Whiskey River, Take My Mind” – not exactly a Sunday School song! The point of my remembrance, and today’s Manna warning, is that you never know what impressions you are making on your children. The real “rest of the story” is that we survived. She is still a Willie Nelson fan, as well as a wonderful mother to my grandchildren and grandmother to my great-grandson, and I am as proud of her today as I was when she was four. “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all” (Proverbs 31:29).