Verse of the Day

by A.A. Neale
Some Internet services provide by email or online a Verse of the Day or Daily Verse or whatever they style it. I confess to both liking and despising them, simultaneously.
These little snippets of verse appear all too like the scripture boxes the Pharisees wore on the foreheads, but apparently never read, by virtue of being close to the eyes but out of range of vision.
Good luck charms they were, blessings in a box guaranteed by a literal — and altogether easier — obedience than by installing that same passage of Bible in the heart and living it out daily.
Worse, the clips of Bible verses show us the quick-fix society we are. Gobble down the morning caffeine and a breakfast bar while you drive to work. Zip through an email with a gaggle of words torn from a context or read them on an RSS reader or off a webpage. Check off Bible reading for the day. Easy, wasn’t it?
We’re certainly not ready for Nehemiah’s plan, put into action through hair-pulling and nighttime reconnaissance:
“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God” (Nehemiah 9:1-3 NKJV).
A fourth of a day is three hours. Add to that another fourth of a day, and you have a six-hour church service. A three-hour Bible reading. Standing up. The other three hours was spent confessing sin, and I doubt we today know enough about sin to fill up a five-minute Starbucks break.
We won’t even mention the fasting, sackcloth, head-dusting, and foreigner-separating that went on BEFORE the Bible reading.
No, we’re doing 10-second whiz-bang Bible readings on the Verse of the Day. We can imagine the impact they’re making.
But they are nifty, aren’t they?

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Sameness

by A.A. Neale
Pretty much the same faces greet me each week. The same preacher gets behind the same pulpit every Sunday. The same Bible school teachers take their turns in front of the class.
Sure, there’s turnover. Some folk move on, others die. People from the world are immersed and join our ranks. Once in a while someone falls to the clutches of the dark side.
And there is a variety of subjects to study. The preacher does well in providing a balanced diet of sermons. Even the prayers, where in some locations are stale and rote, in our congregation, show forethought and preparation.
But for all the variation, there is still that … sameness.
And it’s a good thing.
Like the sameness of going to visit your parents after having been gone from home. You feel comforted and comfortable, an easiness that knows how to act and what to expect, a routine easy to slip into but not monotonous or dull.
The church is like that. No unpleasant surprises, no drastic changes, no lurches to right or left. People among whom I can feel comforted and comfortable. I know the direction if not the words of brother John’s prayers. I know the gist if not the specific phrases of brother Mark’s teaching. And even though we vary the order of worship, I know how the prayers will be given an “Amen,” how the singing will sound, how the Lord’s supper will point us to the Cross.
Like the sameness of the eternal truth, like the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17 NKJV).
In a world where every day reveals new and disturbing things, I need that sameness.
And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet a lot of other folk need it, too.

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Where Are the Spiritual Giants?

by A.A. Neale
The maudlin sentiment gets spoken and written here and there among my good brethren.
They ask, Where are the spiritual giants of yesterday? Who will replace people like Cline Paden, Reuel Lemmons, Johnny Ramsey, and Batsell Barrett Baxter?
The names of the giants, obviously, vary with the worrier and his acquaintances.
I suppose I miss as much as anybody many of the spiritual giants who are passing from the scene. And there have been plenty of them.
Many of those I would name you’d not recognize. They don’t appear in the brotherhood eye. I’m tempted to name a few, but that would defeat my purpose.
Now just because we don’t see the well-known giants on the horizon doesn’t mean they’re not there. Maybe we’ll recognize them as such in another 30 or 40 years.
But as much as I respect and give thanks for the marvelous lives of the men named above and for those I would add to the list, let’s remember that our Lord has his own list of spiritual giants.
We know the Lord looks on the heart. We know that only the all-knowing God sees the final results of a life. We know all that.
But we can often forget it.
The real spiritual giants may be people few of us know.
One of them might be you.
But let’s not mourn the passing of spiritual giants and fret over the failure of more appearing to fill the shoes of those passing from the scene.
God gives every single one of us the same opportunity of heroic service in this world, of a gigantic place in his kingdom.
Instead of wailing there are none, let’s hitch up our pants and be one.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great”
(Psalm 18:35 NKJV).
With God’s power, the meek and humble can be a spiritual giant. There need be no shortage, ever, of their kind.

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Discount Victories

General Dwight Eisenhower said, “There are no victories at discount prices.” Churches and Christians win no spiritual victories at discount prices, either. Churches like to cut corners. Go the easy route. Play up the audience. Cater to the common denominator. They may gather crowds, but the victory slips through their fingers. Another discount price is to be happy with what we’ve got. Don’t rock the boat. Take it long and slow. Claim nobody wants to hear the Truth (with a capital “T”). In such places, a ten-year-old Christian is still considered a recent convert. No victory there. Christians, too, pursue … Continue reading Discount Victories

There

Places mean much to us. Where we were born. Where we got married. The first house we lived in as newlyweds. Where we were baptized. Where we had our first job. Places of memories, of special moments, of important connections between people. When the Jews sought to seize Jesus, he escaped from them to a special place. “And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed” (John 10:40, NKJV). This rugged, isolated place would have made it harder for the authorities to grab our Lord. And in these … Continue reading There

Better Bedside Manners

Medical students in the U.S. must now take another test to get their licence to practice medicine. The National Board of Medical Examiners is giving the would-be doctors six chances to prove they have good bedside manners. The students are negotiating for ten. (Just kidding!) As a professional class, doctors are lousy listeners. Maybe they’re just reflecting the general population, but when I spill my litany of bodily ills, I want a doctor to be all ears. I hail this move by the national board because too many doctors act like they are God and already know what you’re problem … Continue reading Better Bedside Manners

The Tally Tells

Time to do some math: outside of meetings on Sundays and mid-week, and not counting your personal devotional time, how many hours do you spend a week in personal evangelism? Count’em up. How many hours INVITING people to a Bible study — public or personal; how much time discussing somebody’s eternal destiny WITH THEM; how many hours in someone’s living room or around their dining room table with an open Bible to bring them to a knowledge of salvation? How many hours? Count’em up. Now count how many hours you spent during the last week doing things like: – watching … Continue reading The Tally Tells

Piercing

I’ve done some piercing in my day. I’ve stapled my fingers a few times with a staple gun. A needle has pricked my thumb when I had to sew buttons on my shirt. A know-it-all doctor pierced my skin once with a scalpel, but I wasn’t awake to feel that one. Piercing in this day and age, in the way it’s practiced now, was, and I suppose still is, another rebellious shake of the fist at authority. After all, you can only vary hair length by so much, and that gets old. So the up-and-coming generation has to think up … Continue reading Piercing

Serves Them Right

by A. A. Neale When the traffic light turned green in Allentown, Penn., Dwight Steidel watched the driver in front of him continue to chat with a pedestrian. Steidel rolled down his window and told him to move or pull over. “He immediately began to curse at me. I believe he did not know I was a police officer,” Steidel said, since he was driving an unmarked police car. The officer pulled the man over. His driver’s license had been suspended. And he was carrying cocaine and lots of cash. And he was driving a stolen car. Bank officers called … Continue reading Serves Them Right

No Harm — An Important Litotes

Nosiree, I didn’t commit a grammatical error in the title. A litotes* is a figure of speech, and a common one at that. It is, according to a Webster clone, an “understatement for effect”, especially when expressed by a negative to the contrary. In plainer words, you use a negative when you mean a positive. An example: You say, “I have not a few regrets.” You mean, “I have many regrets.” Another example: You say, “That’s not bad.” You mean, “That’s good!” A third example, and I’ll get to my point. You say, “He’s no dummy.” You mean, “He’s intelligent.” … Continue reading No Harm — An Important Litotes