Friday, September 25, 2009

I've got the solution for the health care crisis. NOT.

I have been thinking about health care literally for 30 years. When I was in high school, I designed all of my course work to fit a career in dentistry. I was not sure if I wanted to be a dentist. I knew I never want to be a preacher. About the only thing I did know for sure was, I was going to be the Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

I had a wise guidance counselor in high school, a man named Nolan Suiter, who advised me to visit with as many doctors and dentists as I could, in order to get their feedback about the direction the health care profession was headed. My friend’s dad, who was also my dentist, frankly advised me not to go into dentistry because of his anticipation of heavy government involvement. Consequently, I have been interested in the health care debate ever since.

Through the years, as insurance premiums have increased and coverage has decreased, I have continued to follow the health care debate. I, like probably many of you, have found myself so frustrated with insurance problems that I have wanted to scream. I, like probably many of you, have found myself amazed at the technological advances that medicine has made.

One example: my guess is, were my daddy to go to the doctor today with the symptoms that he did almost 30 years ago, they would discover his stomach cancer early and easily treat it.

As I watch people debate health care, I cannot help but think about how complicated the challenge is. There is a kaleidoscope of variables involved. I want to address it from a Christian perspective.

To address the myriad of variables, I want to offer diagram with four quadrants to symbolize the tension between four basic categories. I realize there may be more than four categories, but it is Friday morning and I have to get something down on the computer screen. Here is my diagram:

As we process health care, let us remember there are spiritual instincts present that are healthy. The first is we do everything for God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31.) It is noble to pursue excellence in healthcare. We should pursue and expect the best treatment, the best administration, the best insurance companies, the best doctors’ offices--the very best of everything.

Unfortunately, pursuing excellence has a cost. In my diagram, diametrically across from "All for God" lies the category of "Stewardship." God calls people to manage money well. Although, debt is not a sin, it is heavily discouraged in Scripture. This is for one’s own protection. Bankruptcy looms when families owe great debt; nations that owe great debt face catastrophe.

Twenty years ago, when I was living in Argentina, I was amazed when I discovered that earlier in the 20th century, the size of the Argentine economy consistently placed in the top 10 in the world. When we lived in Argentina, the economy was a disaster. Much went into the Argentine collapse; included in the factors, was the nation's debt.

Kingdom Vision particularly lies in tension with Mercy and Compassion. Jesus over and over calls us to serve Him, recognizing him as the king of our lives. Passages such as Luke 9:23 tell us, “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’”

Having a vision for the Kingdom by definition means self emptying and self abandonment. Disciples of Jesus constantly surrendered a good thing -- their physical health -- for a better thing: the expression of their faith in Jesus. Because of their vision, they “knew that [they themselves] had better and lasting possessions (Heb. 10:34b).

In our society, the instinct to avoid "sparing no expense" in the pursuit of prolonging a life that, in God's providence, is doomed, is healthy. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he was told he had only a few months to live. If he submitted himself to experimental chemotherapy, he might have squeezed out two more years. For the sake of his family, he chose to go home and die in peace.

Daddy's vision of the Kingdom caused him not to fear death. His concern for others caused him to willingly, and at much lower costs, surrender his body to God.

(I might add that he could easily have made the decision to undergo experimental chemotherapy, not in the desperate hope of staying alive because this world was all there was to offer, but with a desire to allow his body to serve others of the future. This would have been an equally noble decision, and one which would have honored the Kingdom.)

Mercy and Compassion are the variables I think are the most problematic when it comes to healthcare. No one wants to leave a wounded soldier on the front line facing enemy fire. Our instinct is to risk all to save our buddy, even if the chances are slim that he will survive. It is the same when someone is sick; our instinct is to spare no expense to get her well.

These feelings are good. After all, did not Jesus tell us the story of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10? He emphasized that we should have compassionate hearts of mercy, for God does. It is no accident that a number of hospitals are named Good Samaritan.

Over 20 years ago, Jay Leno had one of the great comedy lines of all time. The context was when Jessica McClure was an 18 month old toddler, who fell in a well in Midland, Texas. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars were spent, thousands and thousands and thousands of man-hours were offered, all in the hopes of rescuing this girl.

Finally, after a few days, she was rescued. Vice president George Bush traveled to Midland and visited the family. He came out saying something to the effect of "only in America" would such an effort be made to save such a life.

On the Tonight Show, Jay Leno, guest hosting for Johnny Carson, said in effect, "Yeah, right. It's like the Swiss would've said, 'Let Her Die!'" The fact is, people in every nation would have exhausted their resources to save a child trapped in a well.

In 21st Century healthcare, our mercy compassion can bankrupt us. Particularly, if our worldview says, “This world is all we have." Mercy and Compassion lie not only in tension with Kingdom Vision, they lie in tension with Stewardship.

Medical technology is advancing at an amazing rate. The cost for these discoveries is astronomical. In any other field, in a free enterprise system, the marketplace would take care of these cost challenges.

In a free market, the early adapters are the ones who pay the high price for new products. Sooner or later, when my 20+ year old bedroom TV, and my 20+-year-old den TV give out, I'm sure I will buy a high-definition TV for the family. I will pay a fraction of the cost of those who purchased these marvels of technology when they first appeared on the market. Time and the marketplace are bringing down the prices.

In healthcare, particularly when it involves our loved ones, we all want to be the early adapters. Back in 1995, our second daughter Abby, almost died immediately after birth. She spent a couple of weeks or so in neonatal intensive care. I can assure you, I wanted the best technology available. I did not want to wait for the marketplace to drop prices.

Never before in history have so many inventions and discoveries appeared so rapidly in the field of medicine. This is expensive! If we want immediate access, someone will have to pay the bill.

Do you see how the solution is not easy when it comes to healthcare? That is why I am going to do my best to discuss this topic, giving my friends the benefit of the doubt.

I want to offer patience in my listening. I want to pray a lot too. I am not so sure that in serving as an agent for the Kingdom of God in a fallen world, if God's providential care is not more concerned about the process rather than the result.
Who Wrote This?
One last thought on elders. This is a quote, do you know who wrote it. The answer is at the end of this blog.*

"A full exhibition of the duties of the elder's office, and of the moral and intellectual qualifications requisite to an appointment thereto, belongs to a commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy, rather than on Acts of Apostles. We will not, therefore, consider them here, further than to observe that the duties were such as can not be safely dispensed with in any congregation; while the qualifications were such as were then, and are now, but seldom combined in a single individual. Indeed, it can not be supposed that Paul found in the young congregations of Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, and every other planted during this tour, men who could fill up the measure of the qualifications which he prescribes for this office. [1 Timothy 3:1-7.] But he appointed elders in every Church, hence he must have selected those who came nearest the standard. It is not an admissible objection to this argument, that inspiration may have supplied the defects of certain brethren in each congregation, so as to fully qualify them; for moral excellencies, which are the principal of these qualifications, are not supplied by inspiration. The truth is, the qualifications for this office, like the characteristics prescribed for old men, aged women, young men and women, and widows, respectively, are to be regarded as a model for imitation, rather than a standard to which all elders must fully attain. It were as reasonable to keep persons of these respective ages out of the Church, until they fill up the characters prescribed for them, as to keep a Church without elders until it can furnish men perfect in the qualifications of the office. Common sense and Scripture authority both unite in demanding that we should rather follow Paul's example, and appoint elders in every Church from the best material which the Church affords."

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. Saw an episode of Jay Leno last week—at least part of one. Didn't do enough to motivate me to watch the whole thing.

2. Watched THE OTHERS for the third time with my two oldest daughters. It's definitely in my top five scary movies of all time.

3. ABC NIGHTLINE is focusing this week on the 10 Commandments. Last night I caught the broadcast concerning adultery. There were four panelists debating. On one side: a woman advocating open marriage and a man who runs a website to help spouses who want to commit adultery connect with a lover. On the traditional side: a man who is recovering porno addict, and Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church, in Grapevine, TX. I was impressed with Ed Young, especially his demeanor and non-verbal communication. He was as good as any I have ever seen in these types of situations. The entire series is available for viewing on ABC News website.

4. The Tyler Morning Telegraph had a nice story on the ETCA volleyball team this week.
They highlighted the four seniors: Hannah Henderson, Morgan Ashbreck, Ally Beth Hannah and Audra Wade. I have all four in my ETCA Bible class and enjoy them immensely. Thanks to their leadership and play, the team has only lost two games, both to public schools that are larger.

5. Since I don’t know how to post photos in FB, I’m going to pass along a photo our ETCA athletic director, Aubrey Ballard, took of my daughter, Haleigh, with his IPhone. He was nice enough to email it to me with these words, “This picture is of Haleigh Edge raining down a ferocious and terrible spike vs ETCS on Tuesday. Zoom in to see how high off of the ground she is.”

Have a great weekend!
*Restoration scholar J. W. McGarvey, from his Original Commentary on Acts, written in 1872. When I was writing these thoughts on elders, I did not realize that McGarvey had already written many of the same ideas.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We’re doing the three sport thing with the kids right now. Three of our kids are each playing one sport: Haleigh and Abby are playing volleyball, while Timothy is playing UPWARDS football. (Each child is allowed to pick one sport a season; Annie opted out for the fall.)

In spite of the one sport rule, the kids are keeping us busy. (I know some of you have been here before.) Last night, Haleigh had a volleyball game in Longview, Abby had a game in Van, and Timothy had his weekly football practice.

I have seen parents run themselves ragged trying to attend every child’s game, even if it is a pick-up tiddley-winks game. Probably, this is a reaction to their parents not ever attending their games, they overcompensate.

Judy and I are determined not to stress out over this. We are going to do the best we can, but obviously there are only two of us and four of them.

All of these activities may be affecting our little kids. The other afternoon, I was taking Timothy and Annie to the umpteenth volleyball match of the fall, and Annie said, “When I grow up, I am only going to have two kids.”

I started laughing and said, “Annie, you want to miss all of this fun?”

She said, “Fun? All we do is go to games.”

Of course, about this time, the parrot, Timothy, says, “Yeah, I’m only going to have two kids too.”

Great, now I’ve got a seven-year-old and a six-year-old contemplating joining PLANNED PARENTHOOD!

I held off saying, “If we had decided that, we would have never welcomed you and Timothy into the family!” Hopefully, they will figure that one out. However, I can sympathize with their cause. I remember my mother talking about how they drug my little sister, Lissa, who was almost eight years younger than me, to a bunch of my games in junior high and high school.

I guess childhood is hazardous to your health—specifically, to your stress level.


HOOKING UP, by Tom Wolfe, is a marvelous book. The title is tricky. Bestowed by the publishing company to increase sales, the title refers to a part of the book addressing the sexual revolution.

In postmodern America, an extraordinary number of teenagers and college students gather at social functions, pair up, and engage in random sex. Typically, they don’t even know the names of their partners. The sexual acts are for pleasure only, and they are void of any humanity or relationship. Young people call this process “hooking up.”

Wolfe’s book, however, represents so much more. Wolfe, for decades now a well-known journalist, writes a series of essays chronicling the profound changes in North American science and culture during the 20th century.

My favorite part is where he addresses the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and explain how they foreshadowed the 20th century. In 1882, Nietzsche announced the death of God. We all have heard versions of that announcement. What I did not know was that Nietzsche went on to write of the implications for a civilization when it believes that God is dead.

Nietzsche wrote that in the 20th century there would be "wars such as have never happened on earth," which would bring catastrophes beyond the scope of anyone's imagination. The reason would be because human beings, having turned away from God, would not be able to deal with their guilt. This guilt would turn inward and cause humans to hate themselves, consequently others.

Nietzsche wrote that the Western world in the 20th century would lose its moral fiber bit by bit since morality had been based upon God and the Bible. Other moral codes would replace these (political correctness, etc.) but they would fail because no deity would back them.

Of course, all of this is happening before our eyes. The void created by the absence of a religious system to deal with humanity's guilt is now being filled with neuroscience, some of which claims that people are not responsible for their actions, since all behavior has been coded in their DNA. Indeed, Wolfe tracks (I loved writing that!) the work of some neuroscientists, who are avidly advocating that human beings have no soul.

I consider Wolfe’s writings to be amazing, since he wrote this book in 2000, virtually a decade ago. He has been “spot-on.”

One final thought here. Wolfe has a graphic warning to those who eliminate the spiritual. Here is his word picture:

I suddenly had a picture of the entire astonishing edifice [civilization] collapsing and modern man plunging headlong back into the primordial ooze. He's floundering, sloshing about, gulping for air, frantically treading ooze, when he feels something huge and smooth swim beneath him and boost him up, like some almighty dolphin. You can't see it, he's much impressed. He names it God.

Can you tell we’re going through an elder selection process?

Last week I discussed the tension churches can feel in an elder selection process. I symbolized that tension in a triangle:

At one point of the triangle, you have the high need for elders. At another point, you have the high calling that elders have in terms of life and example. The third point, lies in tension between the other two. There you have the humanity of an Elder. No Elder is perfect, all elders are fallen and redeemed.

So how do you sort through the tension of the need for elders, the high calling that elders have, and the fault that is inevitable in the humanity of each elder? Two thoughts to answer this question.

1. Remember, Christ is more fully expressed in the eldership than in the individual Elder.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Jesus is the great Shepherd and the great administrator. One elder cannot be both. The eldership is to embody Christ. Collectively, that represents the qualities of Jesus.

2. Take confidence in God's work in the community of faith.

Sometimes people think that in Scripture, whenever God was selecting an individual for service, He shined a spotlight from the sky on the person. Actually, many times in Scripture, the people of God found discovering His will to be just as mysterious as we do.

For example, in the book of Acts, the disciples chose Matthias to replace Judas. Here they consulted Scripture, they consulted godly people, they prayed… and they cast lots.

I conclude by reminding us the Holy Spirit does not work in mathematical formulas. He works through the body of Christ. We look for men with godly qualities. We look for men, who, because of these qualities, have flocks. Together as a church, we must submit to God, trusting that He will work through us in selecting these men. This is a mysterious process requiring Bible study, prayer, fasting, relational conversation, and the life of Christ lived in community, in order to produce communal discernment.

I think our easiest evaluation, and the place to begin, is with this question: who are the men already shepherding people? We identify them. Then, we contemplate their qualities asking, are these men ready to pastor the entire flock.

Let’s put it this way:

Where to Start: Team up with God.

Our assumption is God is at work fulfilling His mission for His kingdom. Let’s seek to identify that work, specifically when it applies to selecting our leaders.

This is not as hard as you might think. Most people look for men with qualifications. That is backwards. You look at men who are leading. Here are three questions we can ask to guide us:

1. Who is pastoring me?

Do I have a man within the congregation who is mentoring and in a way, shepherding me?

2. Who is pastoring others?

As I look around the congregation, do I see a man or men who are shepherding others? Can I identify men who are mentoring others?

3. Who is administrating for the glory of God?

Can I observe men who are organized by temperament, and they have learned how to use their gifts for the glory of God. They use their gifts according to a higher calling than UT Business School, they are modeling their lives after the Christ of Hebrews 3:1-6—Christ the great Steward in the Household of God.

After identifying these men, then ask the question: what kind of qualities do they have? This is where the godly discernment really comes into play. Perhaps, they are ready. Maybe they need some seasoning.

No selection process is full-proof, mathematical, or statistical. This is by design. No matter who we select, no matter if we do a good job or poor one, we can grow from the process. God understands this, and the information Scripture offers reflects this reality. The joy is in the journey.

Journey well.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. Kanye West: crass.
Beyonce: class.

2. I was saddened to see the death of Patrick Swayze. Never saw DIRTY DANCING, but I did enjoy NORTH AND SOUTH. To me, Swayze will always be Orry Main.

3. Thanks Chris Smith for a job well-done over the weekend. Good crowd. Great seminar. Great Sunday.

4. Finished Jostein Gaarder SOPHIE'S WORLD this week. A good read, its vehicle is a novel used to communicate the history of philosophy. Very effective.

5. We’re off to see the Texas Rangers open their series against California tonight. Hope their hitting improves. So far this week, the Rangers have collectively scored one run. That is one more than I have scored.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Phone Boy

Recently, I was reading in ROLLING STONE (I bet that is a line you don't normally hear from preachers) about a teenager named Matt Weigman. He was blind, overweight, and an outcast at school. He was also a genius.

Weigman possessed superior hearing skills. Using them, he could "memorize any phone number by the sound of the buttons, decipher the inner workings of a phone system by the frequencies and clicks on a call," and impersonate any voice. He began to "hack into cell phones, order phone lines disconnected and even tap home phones."

He became addicted to telephone party lines-- a service that allows multiple callers to talk to each other over the phone-- a sort of telephone version of an Internet chat room. Now with this power he had acquired, Weigman begin to terrorize strangers. He would call women and demand they give him phone sex. When they would not comply, he would call local authorities and, disguising his voice, telephone number, and his identity, he would send an armed SWAT team to her home.

In time, Weigman evolved into a telephone terrorist, although it could have been worse. Accumulating experience, he networked his way into accessing AT&T's and Verizon's complete network systems. Had he decided, he could have shut down an entire area of the country. And then, the FBI found him.

One day, Weigman arrived home to find his mother speaking with Special Agent Allyn Lynd. The FBI had been tracking his crimes. However, they were not looking for him. He was a minor. The FBI wanted to convict adults guilty of telephone crimes.

Basically, the FBI told Weigman this: cooperate with us, and we'll forget about all of your past -- but stay clean.

Weigman was free. In spite of his blackmail, extortion, bullying, and depravity, his past was wiped clean. He had a new start.

But he could not hang on. Weigman returned to his life of telephone crimes. The FBI returned after Weigman turned 18. This time he was convicted. He was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Why did he do it? After all he was guilty of, after all was forgotten, why did he risk it all? According to ROLLING STONE, it was for a very spiritual reason. "Weigman didn't like being cut off from the only community he had."

Human beings are creatures who crave community. We have to have it. And if we get it, we risk all to keep it. Obviously, Weigman allowed his fallenness to overtake him; he expressed his desire for community in perverted form.

In a couple of weeks, I am going to begin looking with my congregation at a group of people who were blessed initially with a healthy community. However, they surrendered healthy community for unhealthy community. They allowed their fallenness to overtake them. They were the Christians to whom Paul wrote First Corinthians.

Human nature does not change.

Life with Special Speakers

I mentioned last week that Dr. Chris Smith is doing a marriage enrichment seminar for us this weekend. Whenever we have a guest speaker, people ask me if it makes for a relaxing week. The truth is, it is a trade-off.

While I may not have to prepare for a Sunday morning sermon and Bible class, stress is still involved. I want to make sure things go well for the speaker. No preacher wants to see a guest look bad.

All of this means paying attention to more details. I become aware of things I normally do not think about. Consequently, in some ways it is a more stressful weekend having a resource speaker visit. Still, typically everything comes together and I fully anticipate this weekend being one of our best weekends.

Finding men to serve as elders is a tense process....
I think I can best describe this tension in a triangle:

At one point of the triangle, you have the high need for elders. At another point, you have the high calling that elders have in terms of life and example. The third point lies in tension between the other two. There you have the humanity of an elder. No elder is perfect; all elders are fallen and redeemed.

Some churches emphasize the high calling of the elder; some even do so to extremes. Typically, these churches have few elders. Some have none.

Other churches focus on the need. Consequently, the bar is set low. In extreme churches, young single men in their twenties are selected as elders. In other churches, women are included in the eldership.

Always between these two extremes lies the reality of the humanity of the elder candidates.

In some contexts, the tension is experienced through the felt need for elders. When I was in Argentina, I felt the urge for our churches to have shepherds. Having a small group of American men in their 30s lead a church was not healthy. I believe this tension is what Paul felt for the churches he planted in the book of Acts.

Traditionally, churches in the States do not feel this tension. Members, instead, feel tension when it comes to selecting men who fulfill the qualities they perceive represent the high calling of elders.

Because of the huge quantity of Christians located in the churches of the American south, I believe southern churches typically do not sense a high need for additional elders. Shiloh Road is typical in this regard. We have five elders (one has just moved to another area in Texas) to serve approximately 600 members.

In my opinion, this mentality has contributed to the lack of growth most churches experience. To grow, churches need leaders. Some churches attempt to fill the void with huge staffs that do the work of elders. Other churches ride the backs of the effective elders, but they have one elder for every one hundred people. Ultimately, those elders will burn out.

A church of 500 people will never be what it was meant to be with only five elders. A church of 1000 people will never be what it was meant to be with only 10 elders. A church of 2000 people will never be what it was meant to be with only 20 elders. I don't know what the elder to member ratio should be, I do not know the ideal, but I have seen one elder for every 20 people modeled twice. Let's start there.

That means that a church of 500 people should have at least 25 elders. A church of 1000 people should have at least 50 elders. A church of 2000 people should have at least 100 elders.

So what is holding churches back? As I previously mentioned, in some cases it is the emphasis placed on the high calling of elders. Delving deeper, I believe we have become so accustomed to an eldership serving as a congregation's Supreme Court, we cannot conceive of a church having a large number of elders. Let's be honest, typically in local churches, if decisions made by "lower courts" are not favorable, members will appeal to a higher court. If necessary, a decision will have to be rendered by the Supreme Court -- the eldership. Then the decision is binding.

Another cultural twist has hindered our churches. This view is rooted in the idea that each elder is like a widget -- interchangeable. All the elders must do the same things. The fact is not all elders are gifted overseers. What if the gifted overseers dealt with the primary workload of administration, organization, and, yes, routine decision-making? This would require a great deal of trust and the maintenance off strong relationships. Let's face it; this is foreign to most eldership's and congregations.

We tolerate inadequate oversight and pastoral care, yet we cannot tolerate the anxiety that would come from having large elderships lead the flock, as expressed through pastoral care of those so called, and the administrative care of those so gifted.

I am an optimist. I am convicted that those congregations that can break through the glass ceiling of cultural convention will be sowing the seeds of a great harvest. We should never let habit tyrannize the fulfillment of church leadership.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. Just finished BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin. Actually, it is the second time I listened to it. This autobiography covers Martin's life up until the early 1980s when he quit standup comedy. Although it appears that Steve Martin adlibbed his comedy act, such was not the case. Steve Martin spent years honing his craft. He paid a high price for his success. Although he is truly a talented man-- he is, a Grammy winning musician, an established actor, a marvelous writer, and, of course, a ground breaking comedian. Martin is also a very, very hard worker. His success is no accident.

2. Got to admit I want to play THE BEATLES: ROCK BAND.

3. I wonder if Jay Leno's new show will make it?

4. Good luck to Taylor Potts this football season. Taylor is the quarterback for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Taylor is yet another example of my brush with sports history. For some weird reason, I have been acquainted with the parents of several of the finest quarterbacks in recent college football history. These have included Colt McCoy and Graham Harrell. As for Taylor Potts, I went to church with his parents back in the late 1980s in Abilene. If you wish for your son to become a major college quarterback, make sure you meet me.

5. I am sad to see the leaves fall off the trees in September.

Friday, September 4, 2009

School has started, so that means that we are getting adjusted to the 10 month calendar for the school year. This is the second year Judy has worked full-time outside of the home. We are still adjusting to this routine.

I was reminded, yet again, of that adjustment this week. We are preparing to host Chris Smith, from Nashville, Tennessee, who will lead us in a Marriage Enrichment Seminar Friday night, September 11, and Saturday morning, September 12. Chris is an excellent speaker, and very humorous, and I know he will do a marvelous job. However, Judy will not be able to make it to the Saturday morning session because of a teacher training session with her school.

Time was when Judy and I made an effort to attend every marriage enrichment seminar we could. That will not be possible next weekend because of her schedule. One more thing that is different.

I know most of you reading this have been experiencing this kind of reality for years in your marriage. I respect you for the fact that you have been able to do this for some years. The change of routine continually challenges me. I noticed the other day that every time I am at home, I try to put a load of laundry in the washer or dryer.

For Judy, I think it has been even more difficult. For years, she placed most of her concentration on our children and their needs. Now, by necessity, she is transitioning to place an increasing amount of concentration on her children in school.

I am sure that in many ways this is healthy. I am sure this process helps facilitate our children maturing and growing up. After all, each year they need to learn more and more about making their own decisions and being ready for that inevitable day when they will leave home. Still, I know this goes against some of Judy's natural emotions and temperament.

I appreciate Judy being willing to teach. We have kids going to college soon. Moreover, Judy has a gift for ministry in the public schools.

For Judy and me, spending time together requires more negotiation and planning. Life is never static; it is dynamic and changing. For almost 20 years, a family constant was having Judy at home most of the time. For the next 20 years (or longer), both Judy and I will be working full time outside of the home. Inevitably, the day will come when we will no longer be able to work full-time outside the home. That will bring yet another stage into our lives.

That is another sermon for another day.

Labor Day

In honor of Labor Day, let me tell you about something that happened to me last December. I noticed my transmission was having trouble in my Suburban, and I was very concerned. After all, I knew Haleigh was going to be turning 16 in a few months and I needed to get it fixed so I could give the Suburban to Haleigh.

Of course, Haleigh now tells me that if I give her the Suburban, the first thing she will do will be drive it over a cliff. Everybody's getting ashamed to ride inside the Suburban. Judy loathes to take it anywhere. Just the other day, I had to take our dog, Jack, to the vet, and he would not even get into the Suburban. If your dog even is too proud to ride in a vehicle, you have got problems.

But all that was in the future. My problem last December was my transmission. Now, I had taken that same Suburban to a man back in 2007. He replaced the entire transmission. However, the warranty was only for one year. It had been more than a year, so the warranty had expired.

Nevertheless, I trusted this man and I went back to see him. I left him the Suburban, and a little while later, I got a call back from him. He told me he had to do some major work. He did not need to replace the entire transmission, but he needed to do some major work. Just from the description, I knew this was going to cost several hundred dollars –maybe even over a $1000.

I was disappointed to hear the news, but I was not surprised. I told him, "I know that the warranty has expired, so how much do you estimate you will need to charge me?"

He said, "I know that the warranty has expired, but I feel bad for what has happened. I have no idea why this happened. But it should not have happened. I take pride in my work, and I want to make this right. So I'm not going charge you anything."

Now I felt bad. I tried to talk him out of this, but he would not consider otherwise. I went to a mutual friend who was a mechanic and asked him what I should do. In no way was he surprised by the attitude of the transmission specialist. Still, he also said that it was Christmas time, he knew this guy had a family, and that he should not spend the amount of time that the repairs would require without compensation.

Graciously, our mutual friend agreed to talk to the transmission specialist. Finally, a compromise was struck. The amount the man was willing to receive was still minimal; nonetheless, I felt better.

I told this story to our worship ministry team Wednesday night. They unanimously asked, “What is this guy’s name? We may need transmission work done sometime, this is the guy we want to go to.”

Over and over in Scripture, you hear Paul saying words like this, "23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24.) Your work is an offering to God. Nothing has the opportunity to change the world like your work done well.

By the way, the name of the man who fixed my transmission? Jimmy Hayes of HAYES AUTOMOTIVE.

Last week, I posted for you the quiz that I gave my church. I asked that you place an “x” beside the “qualification” if it appears in Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul’s letter to Titus, or in both. I promised the answers to the quiz, and here they are:

Did you notice the lists are not the same? Theoretically, a man could be “qualified” to serve as an elder in Crete, and be “qualified” in Ephesus, or vice versa. What we have done in the 20th century is combine these two lists into one super list, and then we have codified this super list.

A couple of Sundays ago, I had a little fun with my church concerning this subject. We took a little quiz entitled, “Is It on the List?” Here were the rules: we were to identify the qualities that were on the combined list that Paul wrote to either Crete or Ephesus. See how you do:

The correct answer is all of the above were on the list –except for “loving,” “patient,” “kind,” and “joyful.” Here is the interesting twist. Love, patience, kindness, and joy are part of a list. The list is that of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

For years, I was part of churches, including those in Argentina that I helped lead, that held up the "super list" of qualifications elders should have; however some of the Fruit of the Spirit of were not on that list.

Do we want elders to have the Fruit of the Spirit? I would hope the answer would be “yes.” The problem is, if we have institutionalized this super list of qualifications, we may have overlooked the portions of the Fruit of the Spirit that do not overlap with the qualifications of the super list.

Now, you may be thinking, "Mark, don't you think the Fruit of the Spirit is a given?"

Maybe it should be. But I can tell you this, it was not in Argentina. Nor was it in any church that I had been a part of. I never remember church members asking the question, "Does this man demonstrate that he possesses the qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit."

Maybe the problem for us in Argentina, maybe my problem, was that I was looking so closely at the super list, it became the sole focal point of evaluation.

Frankly, I am sad to say, I have seen churches debate whether or not an elder whose wife died should resign (since he was no longer being the "husband of one wife"), but members never debated over an elder who was impatient.

I have seen churches debate whether or not men whose children had left the faith during their adult years could serve as elders; however, they did not debate whether or not a man whose spirit was the antithesis of joyful should serve as an Elder.

Now, hear me out. I am not issuing a call for lowering the bar when it comes to selecting elders. On the contrary, perhaps we should remember the high calling that the eldership has.

By now, I hope you have sensed the tension that exists when it comes to leadership in the kingdom of God. Churches typically lack pastoral leadership. There is a high need for additional shepherds. Nevertheless, scripture ordains the eldership to be a high calling. This calling does not come with a legalistic checklist of qualifications; on the other hand, the list of qualities that Scripture indicates are important for the eldership extend past the list of qualities found in I Timothy and Titus.

Another important topic is the possession of the Fruit of the Spirit. Should not the question of whether or not elder candidates have these qualities be a consideration?

Finally, you have the humanity of the individual elder candidates. These are fallen men. Reconciling these tensions proves a daunting task in the elder selection process.

Finally, you have the humanity of the individual elder candidates. These are fallen men. Reconciling these tensions proves a daunting task in the elder selection process.

I constantly find myself evaluating and listening to other voices. Just today, I was talking to a sister who helped me see that “Able to Teach” (I Tim. 3:2) and “Holds firmly to a trustworthy message (literally ‘teaching’)” (Tit. 1:9) are referring to the same concept—leadership to assure sound teaching in the church. So I placed them in the category of those qualities that appear to both churches of Crete and Ephesus.

Yes, a tension will always be present. I will discuss this more next week.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. I saw this week that Charles Gibson is retiring from ABC News at the end of the year. I grew up watching him on Good Morning America; okay, I was 27 when he started on that program. Still, I watched him for a lot of years on GMA. By the time he began doing World News Tonight, I had pretty much done away with watching the evening news on TV. The internet was simply too accessible to instant news. Still, it was comforting knowing that Charles was always going to be there if I wanted to watch him. If Walter Cronkite was a teddy bear providing security, Charles Gibson was an old shoe—a reliable, comfortable presence. Don’t tell him I said that.

2. Skimmed Craig Nelson’s book ROCKET MEN. Nelson tells the story of the Apollo 11 crew and their mission to the moon. I want to read it more slowly in the future. For now, here’s the most amazing item from the book. The Saturn V rocket had over 6 million parts. NASA maintained rigorous standards of inspection to insure that 99.9 percent of all parts were reliable. In spite of this high standard of excellence, NASA could meet its goal and still have 6000 parts fail. What incredible risk and courage these astronauts and NASA demonstrated.

3. During my morning quiet times, I am reading EAT THIS BOOK by Eugene Peterson. I came across a convicting passage this morning. Peterson warns us to beware of the individualized personal Trinity—my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings. This Trinity slowly breaks down our spiritual growth and ultimately could lead to disaster.

4. The ETCA Varsity Girls’ volleyball team is 13-0. Today they began a challenging tournament with teams from public schools who are, in some cases, larger schools. This will be a good test for ETCA. They won all three matches today. Your’s truly has a daughter and some students who play on this team. Blessings on the girls.

5. I’m sorry I will miss the Oklahoma State/Georgia game tomorrow. I hope Ok. State wins.