Friday, February 29, 2008

Math Joke of the Day!

Q: What do you call a rectangular potato?




Scroll down....






A. A square root.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Cult of Obama

If you had asked me two months ago whether Barack Obama would be in the lead after all this time, I would have strongly said, No. This is why I am not a prophet. Or I would have said only some combination of the following two things could have resulted in this:

  • Democrats actually dislike Hillary Clinton as much as Republicans do;
  • Democrats are actually far more foolish than Republicans think they are.
What has Barack Obama said? What has he done? His record is barely longer than my own. Has he sponsored major legislation? For crying out loud—can anyone even point to major, substantive legislation that he will unabashedly say he supports (getting out of Iraq doesn't count here)?? Can anyone take one of his speeches and extract specific legislative or diplomatic actions he will take when president (if, heaven forbid, he becomes president)?

Or is this Obama-mania merely a cult-like phenomenon? Is it just the result of millions of ignorant voters choosing "sounds good" over Hillary's history of "does bad"? In this article by Charles Krauthammer, passed along to me by friends, he examines the slick, salesman-like approach Obama is taking. It is empty. It has no solid ideas, no solid proposals backed by facts and plans—just an ephemeral sales pitch that might just catapult him into the presidency. And if it does, our country will have elected a man who would have difficulty teaching trombonists to march in River City, much less lead the free world.

I do not totally endorse the article; his view of what we call "salvation" seems quite different from mine. But his analysis is pretty good.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Need a Plane?

Take a look at this article—someone has one for sale!

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (AP) — Dwindling donations to the Living Word Christian Center in this Twin Cities suburb have prompted its high-profile pastor, Mac Hammond, to put his private business jet on the market.

Church spokesman the Rev. Brian Sullivan says Living Word has also cut its hourlong Sunday morning television broadcast to 30 minutes to save money.

He says the church has fallen $40,000 to $70,000 short of its weekly budget in recent weeks, and the church is adjusting its budget accordingly.

Sullivan said the church's problems could be a combination of the recession and the recent bad publicity about churches preaching prosperity gospel, which holds that God wants his followers to flourish financially.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked six mega-ministries that preach a prosperity message to submit financial documents and answer questions about spending and oversight. He is trying to ensure they follow IRS rules for nonprofits.

Hammond's church was not among those targeted, but he is on the board of Kenneth Copeland's ministries, based in Texas. Copeland is one of the pioneers of the theology and a Grassley target.

Sullivan said the church is aggressively marketing the jet, and the money raised from the sale would be reinvested in the ministry.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press.

Hymn of the Week: Lead Me To Calvary

It is currently the season of Lent. As I am Baptist, I do not celebrate Lent in any special fashion, nor do I change my eating habits.

But if anything, this time of the year should remind me all the more of what Jesus Christ did for me in dying on the cross on that Good Friday so many years ago...and of his subsequent resurrection on the first day of the week!

I suppose it might be theologically arguable (although I won't do it) that Christ could have come to earth in some manner other than being born of a virgin, and still saved man from his sins. [Of course, prophecy had to be fulfilled—and God saw to it that prophecy was fulfilled.] But it is absolutely not arguable that I could be saved from my sin without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And hence we come to Calvary.

Without Calvary, there is no salvation. Without salvation, my eternal destiny is damnation in hell. Calvary should be something I thank God for daily. The words of this hymn should describe my attitude.

Lead Me To Calvary

King of my life, I crown Thee now,
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget Thy thorn crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.

Refrain

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

Show me the tomb where Thou wast laid,
Tenderly mourned and wept;
Angels in robes of light arrayed
Guarded Thee whilst Thou slept.

Refrain

Let me like Mary, through the gloom,
Come with a gift to Thee;
Show to me now the empty tomb,
Lead me to Calvary.

Refrain

May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share,
Thou hast borne all for me.

Refrain

Words by Jennie E. Hussey, 1921

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Still MORE Actual IRS Quotes!

There is a small minority of our population who have "devised" what we might call "arguments" that Americans do not actually have to pay taxes to the IRS.

This is, of course, not the case. The government and the IRS certainly do not see it this way.

The IRS has even published a document (it runs nearly 70 pages) that you can find here to "counter" such arguments and to discuss relevant case law, judicial results, and penalties. Towards the end of this document—which I was actually skimming today, between clients—in the discussion of penalties, is this witty quotation:

As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted in United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 499-500 (7th Cir. 1991), “Like moths to a flame, some people find themselves irresistibly drawn to the tax protester movement’s illusory claim that there is no legal requirement to pay federal income tax. And, like moths, these people sometimes get burned.” (pp. 59-60)
Other actual IRS quotes can be found here and here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Review: "The Millionaire Next Door" by Stanley & Danko

Do you want to accumulate wealth? Then read this book.

Doctors Stanley and Danko do a great job analyzing "why" some people are able to accumulate wealth. And although I already knew or suspected some of these points, here are several which are great nuggets gleaned from their book:

  • What I call the "offense vs. defense" illustration: Some people do a great job of maximizing their income; they play "good offense." Other people do a great job of minimizing their expenses; they play "good defense." Those who accumulate wealth typically do a great job at both of these. There are many who make over $100,000/year who also spend it all; there are many who make less than $50,000/year and manage to save and invest what they have for a comfortable retirement.
  • It is quite easy for the children of the affluent to not mimic their parents' wealth accumulation skills. Accustomed to wealth in the family, they can easily become prey to the temptations to spend and exhibit wealth—while ignoring the parental lessons of saving, thrift, and hard work.
  • Many millionaires drive "regular" cars and trucks, buy their clothes at Penney's, and live in average homes. Much of the reason they are millionaires is because they do this! The majority of those who buy fancy vehicles, homes, etc. are merely putting up a facade of wealth and may not have much true "wealth" at all.
  • Those who are wealthy typically spend much more time than the average person researching and studying investment opportunities...which is why their investments tend to do better.
  • If you want your children to accumulate wealth, there are certain practices you should ingrain into their formative minds, and several others you should stedfastly avoid.
Although the book was written in 1996 (ISBN 0-671-01520-6) and its statistics are consequently a bit "aged," the principles learned in this book make it a must-read for anyone who really wishes to accumulate more wealth than they have now. Those who enjoy statistics (me, for example) will find the book an easy read; those who find them tedious may want to skim over them and look for the nuggets of wisdom the book contains.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

U.S. House Democrats: Making the World Unsafe!

Let me let Newt Gingrich explain it...this comes from an e-mail from him:

At issue is the extension of the Protect America Act that was passed last August to allow U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor foreigner-to-foreigner communications without a warrant. Congress has known for six months that this ability under the Protect America Act was set to expire on Sunday. So last week, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority, the Senate passed legislation to prevent the authority from lapsing.

But the House Democratic leadership, led by Speaker Pelosi, refused to let the House vote on the bill. This led to a House GOP walk out led by Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who said, "We will not stand idly by and watch the floor of the United States House of Representatives be abused for pure, political grandstanding at the expense of our national security."

Why? Not because the bill lacked bipartisan support, but because it lacked trial lawyer support. The Senate-passed bill contains a provision granting immunity from lawsuits to telecommunications companies that have been cooperating with the government in the War on Terror.

Instead of putting her fellow Democrats in a position where they have to make a public vote in favor of trial lawyers over the safety of Americans, Speaker Pelosi opted to leave Washington for vacation.

If this makes your red all-American blood boil, feel free to contact your congressman (especially if you live in the San Francisco area).

It is patently foolish to prevent our own front lines of intelligence from doing their job, intercepting the communications of foreign terror suspects talking to others on foreign soil. In time of war, this important task may be called spying...and is generally accepted. And we are at war with the Islamic element in our world that wants to destroy our country, our religion, and what we stand for.

Did she really forget that?

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm Still Wondering What Stage I Am In!

OK...It looks like McCain is going to be the Republican nominee. He was not my first choice. He is still a hundred times better than either Obama or Hillary, of course, so he'll probably get my vote.

This brilliant little article was sent to me recently. I'm still wondering what stage I am in.

The Five Stages of McCain
By John Feehery
Saturday, February 9, 2008; 12:00 AM

As somebody who used to work for Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, two politicians who have somewhat less than high regard for John McCain, I know something of the angst many conservatives are feeling towards our likely presidential nominee. Here, in a nutshell, are the five stages of coming to grips with the John McCain nomination.

The first stage is anger. As in: "I'll never vote for John McCain. He screwed us on campaign finance reform; he's a tool for George Soros. He screwed us on immigration; he supports amnesty. I don't trust him on taxes; he said Americans should sacrifice for the war on their tax bills. He's no conservative. I'll never vote for this guy. I'd rather vote for Hillary Clinton!"

After anger comes despair. "I can't believe that McCain is going to get the nomination. What happened? McCain is too old. Conservatives won't vote for him. We're doomed. I'm doomed!"

After despair comes confusion. "I can't stand McCain. But he's a war hero and authentic. Campaign finance was wrong. But he was right on the surge. He's bad on taxes. But he's good on spending. The base hates him. But independents can't get enough. And even Phil Gramm and Grover Norquist think he's okay."

After confusion comes acceptance. "Well, McCain is going to get the nomination. I guess I can live with it. He's a war hero, after all. He was right on the surge. And he plays well with independents. I know he's old, but look at his energy level -- I couldn't keep up with him. Let's face it: McCain will be our nominee. And Rush Limbaugh is going to have to get over it."

After acceptance comes excitement. "Hey, McCain is going to be great! We need a maverick running our party. Look at those poll numbers! He can beat Clinton! Imagine that. We're going to win! I think I'm going to give McCain some money. What a war hero he is! Seventy-one is the new 61! Let's go! Mac is back! Would somebody tell Limbaugh to shut up?"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Day By Day

Interesting Fact: The song was originally written and sung in Swedish, and was translated to English about a century ago.

The words tell the lesson: Trust God each day for that day. Worry not about what is long down the road...you can trust God today, for the day. He will help you through it. Tomorrow, He will help you again.

Day By Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

A Thought For The Lord's Day—And Every Day

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

—Charles Wesley, 1739

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Financial Prudence

Working in the tax return preparation industry allows one to make the acquaintance of total strangers who will both talk about their own financial situations and take your advice...or at least politely listen to it. This is, naturally, quite interesting.

It is disturbing at times to observe what people do with their money. I saw an adult man today who had no earned income for over two years (according to his own admission). He was a bit disappointed that he had no reason to file a federal tax return—and also no reason to expect any refund. Later in the day he returned to pick up his paperwork (I suspect to take it elsewhere where he could get a more desirable return prepared)....in a truck which might provoke divorce talk if I bought it myself!

Another fellow tax preparer remarked that when a couple with over $100K in income last year saw that they were getting a $6K refund, they were so happy that they would be able to pay off one of their credit cards!

But on the other side of the coin, I had a recently married couple come in (this was their first MFJ return). Both are young professionals—without children—and their combined income exceeded $130K. At the conclusion of our time together, the husband grilled me about what he could do to be in a better tax position next year....and listened intently to my advice.

There isn't always a correlation between income and financial sense. Many times the poor are poor because they make poor decisions—and many times those with sizable incomes make poor decisions, too. Some people could survive just fine on a gross income of $40,000 per year [some would even be thankful for it]; others shudder at the thought. God gives to all what He sees fit, and no matter how much or little it is, we are to be faithful with it. He supplies all our needs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On the Differences Between Being Baptist and Catholic

My mind was wandering yesterday and came to this question: What is the most significant difference between Baptist and Catholic teachings?

Of course, there are many doctrinal differences between the two. The most significant one I could come up with is this:

Baptists believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, alone. Catholics believe that salvation can only come through the Catholic church.
I believe that my church is important and serves many important functions, not the least of which are the evangelistic proclaiming of the Gospel to the lost and the edification of the saved. But my church and my pastor cannot save my soul—only God can do that. I have the eternally-significant responsibility to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and ask Him to forgive my sins. I can do this without the intermediation of any church, and many have, throughout the centuries, done so. I thank God for my church and my pastor, and for Bible-preaching churches and God-fearing pastors everywhere. I thank God that they preach the Gospel and that they edify and encourage me, my family, and my loved ones. The Church of God is an institution of immense importance.

But my church cannot save my soul. Only God can do that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Spring Arbor Concept

2008 continues to remain interesting with yet another new and exciting opportunity: Beginning Thursday, February 14, I will be teaching a College Algebra class at the Kalamazoo satellite campus of Spring Arbor University.

Spring Arbor University is located near Jackson, MI, in the south-central part of the state. (The school's website is here.) It has been around since 1873, founded by members of the Free Methodist Church, and its website tells us that "Spring Arbor University was founded as an outgrowth of the Wesleyan movement in American Christianity." The school also heavily promotes an idea called the Spring Arbor Concept, which says:

"Spring Arbor University is a community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world."
I like this concept. The school's own analysis of it is here, but I would like to make a few comments of my own, that should apply to all Christians:
  1. The phrase "community of learners" should remind all of us that every Christian is to be a "learner." God has not created us to remain static, but to become more and more like Himself—a process that should strongly motivate us to learn more daily about Him and about our world...and to share what we have learned with others.
  2. "Lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts" may strike some Christians as an odd statement, but all of us need to remember that we are to study both God's Word and His world. The phrase does not (in my opinion) supplant the "study and application of God's Word," but merely complements it.
  3. "Total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning" is one of the hallmarks of all true Christian education. All that we are and can be—educationally and otherwise—is due to Jesus Christ. He is the Creator, the Author of the Scriptures, and the ever-present God of this universe. He must be the center of all learning, both biblical and otherwise.
  4. "Critical participation in the contemporary world," in my mind, reminds us that we are to be "salt and light" (Matthew 5:13-16) in this present evil world. We are to make a difference by our faith, our witness, our actions, and our demeanor. Not only should the world see us as different, it should be affected by the differences, and also be changed as a result of God's working through us in them. Only God's Spirit can change the heart and save a sinner from hell...but every one of us who are Christians should do our part to point souls to Him.
I look forward to beginning the class on Thursday evening.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Sunshine In My Soul

Today in southwest Michigan, there are near-blizzard conditions. Although there isn't a lot of snow coming down, there is certainly a lot blowing sideways. Wind chills are double-digit-below-zero. Churches cancelled services; some school districts are already announcing closings for Monday.

Despite this weather, and despite the fact that the sun hasn't been visible for some time, there is still reason for optimism: When Jesus shows His smiling face, there can be sunshine in the soul! Weather doesn't interfere with God's love to us—and neither does anything else.

The words are by Eliza E. Hewitt; the music by William J. Kirkpatrick.

Sunshine In My Soul

There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my Light.

Refrain

O there’s sunshine, bless├Ęd sunshine,
When the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus, listening, can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

Refrain

There is springtime in my soul today,
For, when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

Refrain

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys “laid up” above.

Refrain

The IRS Mission

Yesterday I received my 1040 tax forms and instructions in the mail. I found this odd for two reasons:

  1. They normally arrive at the start of January.
  2. I e-filed my tax return to them over a week ago.
But since I work with tax returns many hours a week now, I took a few seconds to thumb through the booklet to see what was there. And I happened to find a statement called The IRS Mission. It reads:
Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.
Really...I'm not making this up. To the credit of the IRS, their website, www.irs.gov, is actually quite helpful.

Our tax laws, however, are the work of Congress—the IRS merely has the responsibility to see that the tax laws are enforced properly. Don't like the tax laws? Vote for Huckabee (he mentioned yesterday that he wants to put the IRS out of business and replace the income tax with a national sales tax) and/or contact your congressman.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tax Preparer: Republican or Democrat Job?

This evening a friend referred to what I do at H&R Block as a "Republican" job, because I help people to keep more of their money and pay less in taxes.

In one sense, he is absolutely right.

But I had to remind him that at times, it is a very "Democratic" job, because I help 22-year-old single mothers receive welfare in the form of "tax refunds" they did little or nothing to earn. See the preceding post.

I find the "Republican" elements of my job more enjoyable than the "Democratic" ones. It's still a great job, though, and I enjoy it...most of the time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

H&R Block Update

The following is a true story. There are a lot of crazy stories floating around cyberspace, but I speak this one from very recent experience:

Situation: A single girl, approximately 22 years old with two children, has her tax return prepared. Her wages for the year were in the $12,000-15,000 range. Due to the Earned Income Credit and her two children, and the fact that claiming those two dependents reduced her taxable income to zero, she received an IRS "refund" of approximately $5500.

Furthermore, she is not a U.S. citizen. She is in the United States with a resident green card.

A single girl the same age with no children, with the same wages and the same amount of federal tax withheld from her paychecks, would have received a refund of approximately $300...even if she is a U.S. citizen.

Please consider contacting your U.S. congressman on this one. Your tax dollars are possibly the ones paying these "refunds" to folks.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl XLII

Giants 17, Patriots 14
Giants 17, Patriots 14
Giants 17, Patriots 14
Giants 17, Patriots 14
Giants 17, Patriots 14

Savor it. Enjoy it. Congratulations, New York.

Numbers 32:23 is still in effect, New England.

This was the best Super Bowl since......my Steelers won it two years ago.

Hymn of the Week: Soldiers of Christ, Arise

Every day is a battle.

Not the kind of battle most people think about, or put into the contexts of work, health, or even family. Our battle is a spiritual one, and "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal." Every day we must fight Satan as he tries to gain a stronghold in our own life and the life of each person we know.

Many Baptists (including myself) are probably not aware that Charles Wesley wrote twelve stanzas for this hymn, or that there are no fewer than four tunes written for it. Take a moment to read each of these, and consider what you can do to "fight the good fight" better today.

Not only is "fighting" part of what a good soldier of Christ does, these words reference our motivation, our defensive posture, and our direction—as well as our need to pray.

Soldiers of Christ, Arise

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.

Stand then against your foes, in close and firm array;
Legions of wily fiends oppose throughout the evil day.
But meet the sons of night, and mock their vain design,
Armed in the arms of heavenly light, of righteousness divine.

Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
Indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind that was in Christ, your Head.

But, above all, lay hold on faith’s victorious shield;
Armed with that adamant and gold, be sure to win the field:
If faith surround your heart, Satan shall be subdued,
Repelled his every fiery dart, and quenched with Jesu’s blood.

Jesus hath died for you! What can His love withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield, and who shall pluck you from His hand?
Believe that Jesus reigns; all power to Him is giv’n:
Believe, till freed from sin’s remains; believe yourselves to Heav’n.

To keep your armor bright, attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain’s sight, and watching unto prayer.
Ready for all alarms, steadfastly set your face,
And always exercise your arms, and use your every grace.

Pray without ceasing, pray, your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!

In fellowship alone, to God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, besiege His throne with all the powers of prayer:
Go to His temple, go, nor from His altar move;
Let every house His worship know, and every heart His love.

To God your spirits dart, your souls in words declare,
Or groan, to Him Who reads the heart, the unutterable prayer:
His mercy now implore, and now show forth His praise,
In shouts, or silent awe, adore His miracles of grace.

Pour out your souls to God, and bow them with your knees,
And spread your hearts and hands abroad, and pray for Zion’s peace;
Your guides and brethren bear for ever on your mind;
Extend the arms of mighty prayer, ingrasping all mankind.

From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry in all His soldiers, “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord descends from high and takes the conquerors home.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On The Role of the Pastor as Shepherd, Part 2

I see the role of the pastor of a local N.T. church as having two intersecting, complementing facets: Shepherd and Bishop.

As Shepherd, the pastor is responsible for taking his "flock" of church members and leading them from where they are now spiritually toward what God wants them to be and to learn. He must "feed" them spiritually in his preaching, teaching, example, and discipling. He must, as the psalmist beautifully describes, "lead them in the paths of righteousness." And to lead, of course, he must be a mature Christian who demonstrates faith in the Word and its Author.

As Bishop, he must "administrate" the local church. He does need to see that it follows its protocols and by-laws, that the staff of the church performs its assigned functions, and that church services and activities are carried out in proper fashion. He is the one, to paraphrase Harry Truman, with whom the buck stops. But this leadership, while quite necessary, does not exempt him from accountability; he, too, must serve faithfully and righteously.

All of us would do well to learn from this Scripture:

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Pastors, you have your example. Encourage and edify us by striving for it—give us an example to follow.

On The Role of the Pastor as Shepherd

Maybe it's just me...but I don't think so.

A week ago, a good Christian friend of mine, who has been serving in the same Christian school for six-and-a-half years, was quickly dismissed for (as near as I can tell) upsetting a few people. He did nothing to merit such a dismissal—trust me, I grilled him about it—but there were parents who wanted him gone. And it happened. The pastor was described as a "Pontius Pilate:" He washed his hands of the matter while a deacon and the principal broke the news to my friend...right after Sunday morning church.

Back in the 90's, my own mother was railroaded by a pastor and an elder whom she apparently irritated. My parents left that church.

The first Christian school in which I taught was headed by a pastor who showed no love to anyone in his congregation (except perhaps his family). When I confronted him about a lie and some other issues, I was essentially told to shut up and get in line...or leave. We left.

Another good friend of mine, formerly a principal at a Christian school in Indiana, was treated horribly by his pastor, who eventually forced him out because either he felt "threatened" by the year-to-year success of the school or because he wanted his son to get the job...or both.

Another church some of my relatives belonged to some years ago was headed by a pastor who summarily bounced them from his church for disagreeing with him.

And in 2001, several of us at a church in Jacksonville watched in horror as our "pastor" entangled himself in a web of scandal and forced out the principal, and then had several of us wondering if we'd be next. The details of this scandal are still painful to remember.

[Aside: All six of these pastors had the same alma mater....the one I proudly claim. All but the last one are still in the same pulpits. None of the other people involved in the situations described are still in those churches.]

And there are many other similar stories I have heard from my friends over the years.

It both grieves and angers me when I observe these things. Is not the pastor, of all people in the church, supposed to demonstrate the love of God? To demonstrate selflessness? To lift up the weary and comfort the tenderhearted? To stand boldly against the devil—instead of those God-serving Christians in his midst?

Some verses on the matter:

1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
Yes, I know—it's an O.T. passage that has no direct connection to the church. I believe the principle is the same, though. As near as I can tell, the Hebrew word for "pastors" here is a participle of a verb which means "to feed" in the sense of a shepherd leading his flock to pasture. And is this not a proper picture of the N.T. pastor of the local church? And is the "woe" promised of God equally appropriate to pastors of N.T. local churches who "drive away" and "scatter" their flocks?
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Here we have the "classic" passage on the qualifications of the bishop or pastor. Let us notice in the last two verses that "being lifted up with pride" will cause him (or any other Christian, for that matter) to fall into the condemnation of the devil. I am particularly disgusted by a spirit found among some pastors that exudes the aura of "this is my church, and I am its ruler." This is nothing more than naked pride—pride which delights Satan and grieves God. It hurts his testimony both among the flock and among the unsaved. The devil will use this to his advantage.
17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (1 Timothy 5:17-20)
Here is a passage rich in application for this topic. A few observations:
  • There are elders/pastors that "rule well." And they indeed are worthy of great honor. But there is a logical implication that there are elders who do not. Should they be honored because of the position they occupy? Yes. [This also applies to deacons, teachers, parents, governmental leaders, and others who hold God-ordained positions of leadership.] Should rampant and unfounded accusations against them be given credence? No. If they sin, should they be rebuked? Yes...just like any other Christian. I am reminded that Matthew 18:15-17 applies to all Christians, including pastors.
  • Those who labor in the church—and this includes Christian schools—should receive the treatment vs. 18 applies. I have a theory based on my observations: Christian school teachers are the most abused members of many fundamental churches, and it is most often the pastor of the church who is most at fault for this. If the Christian school movement falters and fails, it will, in largest part, be on the heads of the pastors...especially those who drive away the God-serving staff members in those schools.
There are pastors who "rule well." I have one at my church. I count the pastor of my in-laws' church as a good friend...and so do they. There are many others—praise the Lord—who serve faithfully, lovingly, and unswervingly in their local churches. But if they fall into sin, or if they mistreat the members of their flock, I will firmly, carefully, and in Christian love confront them about their sin. It is my duty.