The Secret of Western Success

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Credit: Wikipedia

Terry and I have been attending a Bible class at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas, our home church. It’s been led by Matt Rochner, a very bright young Christian husband and father. A couple weeks ago Matt shared what I’m passing along to you today.

David Aikman was the bureau chief in Beijing for Time magazine for many years. When he was working for Time, he interviewed people like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham. While in Beijing, he had access to significant leaders in the communist government.

Aikman interviewed a Chinese social scientist disciple of Mao Zedong who had carefully studied the West. The topic was the impact of Christianity on Western culture. His group explored what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.

“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you (the West) had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system.”

“But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful.”

Aikman goes on to say to us in the West: “Now, you don’t think that way. I don’t think that way. We think it’s our economy. We think it’s that we have more airplanes and smart bombs. We stretch from sea to shining sea. We have incredible breadth of landscape, we’re protected by oceans, and it’s too cold in the north. We have all these reasons, and here the smart people in China are asking: ‘What’s the secret? Aha, we’ve discovered it. It’s Christianity.’”

Many of us in the West are saying: “Are you kidding? We’re not even very good Christians. In fact, if you’re not a Christian, you’re saying, ‘Whoa! Don’t throw me in with that bunch of crazy people. I’m not even a Christian. Don’t blame what has happened in our culture on Christianity.’”

But an objective Chinese person stands back and says to us, “You may not know the secret of your power and success, but we’ve looked at it, we’ve discovered it. It’s not your bombs. It’s not your economy. It’s not your democratic form of government. There’s something else. It’s your religion. It’s your Christianity. That’s what makes you powerful.”

“Studies by Chinese sociologists looking at their own country reveal that in rural areas where traveling evangelists/missionaries introduce the Christian faith, opium addiction goes down, crime drops, and Christian families grow wealthier than their neighbors.”

“Chinese social scientists discovered what we have lost sight of. The church matters. The church makes a cultural difference regarding the freedoms we love and the opportunities we have as Americans. We want to chalk it up to a whole lot of different contributing factors.”

“But those on the outside looking in are saying that the secret sauce to Western success is that there’s a belief system, there’s a value system, there’s a dignity given to men and women and children. And it comes from our Christian heritage. That’s the secret of Western success.”

So here’s my word to fellow pastors, professional church workers, and lay leaders. Keep working. Keep praying. Keep passing to your children and grandchildren the simple and even the complex concepts of Christianity. Allow your life to be a living testimony to your faith. And if necessary, use words. It makes a difference! It’s the secret of Western success!

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Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day?

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What’s the correct way to spell the event to be celebrated this coming Sunday? The internet provides a number of options, including all three of the formats in the title of this article.

One website titled Communications Syllabus adds this note: Anna Jarvis, the woman largely behind this holiday, wanted the day to “honor one’s own mother, not mothers in general.” And so the apostrophe fits snuggly between the r and the s, and nowhere else.

Actually, in all transparency, the purpose of this article is not to argue the correct spelling of the day but to share a thought I passed along to a fellow pastor who recently asked how I handled preaching on Mother’s Day. Here’s what I told him, not verbatim, but pretty close to it.

In my humble opinion, preachers make a mistake when they only or even primarily honor the mothers in the church pews the second Sunday in May. That may be well and good for those who just happen to be mothers, but what about those who have never been thusly blessed?

In my pastoral career I’ve encountered no small number of women who have not been blessed with children. Some have learned to accept that reality. Others still grieve deeply.

That grief may be exacerbated when the pastor makes a big deal of honoring mothers in church on Mother’s Day. Doing so may not be helpful to women in attendance who are not mothers.

The suggestion I offered my friend was that pastors do well when they encourage their listeners to honor their mother, whether she is still living this side of heaven or is already a heavenly resident.

Everyone has a mother. Some are still living. Others are not. Mine passed away this past January. Some have or had positive, fulfilling relationships with their mother. Others not so much. Mine was a great blessing. But the reality is, everyone has or had a mother.

Emphasizing on Mother’s Day the importance of thanking God for our mother avoids embarrassment and discomfort experienced by non-mothers when mothers in the crowd are the ones primarily, or exclusively, honored.

Some pastors who read this article may disagree. It won’t be the first time I’ve encountered disagreement with fellow “brothers of the cloth” and I doubt it will be the last. But I betcha’ many women readers, both those who are mothers and those who are not, will say Amen!

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother. I encourage you to do the same.

Lexophile

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“Lexophile” describes those who have a love for words, especially in word games. Examples: “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.” “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”

An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile. One year’s winner is posted at the very end. Here are some of the entries:

  • I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • A girl said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I know I’ve never met herbivore.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
  • A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
  • When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.
  • I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
  • A dentist and a manicurist were married. They fought tooth and nail.
  • A will is a dead giveaway.
  • With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
  • Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
  • A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.
  • The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
  • He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.
  • When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.
  • Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.
  • I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • A crossed-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils.
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

Hope you enjoyed this creative use of words, even without specific theological significance.

Feeling Your Age?

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If you’ve ever looked at others your own age and thought, “Surely I can’t look that old!” you’ll be able to relate to this story:

My name is Alice. I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist.   On the wall I noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name.

Suddenly I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in my high school class some 50 years ago. Could he be the guy I had a secret crush on back then?

Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate.

After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High School. “Yes, I did. I’m a Mustang,” he gleamed with pride.”

I asked, “When did you graduate?” He answered, “In 1969. Why do you ask?” I exclaimed, “You were in my class!”

He looked at me closely. Then, that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled faced, fat, gray-haired, decrepit,  so-and-so asked, “What class were you teaching back then?”

If you’re feeling your age, and even if you’re not, now’s the time to take care of writing your Last Will and Testament, if you don’t already have one. And if you do have a Will, it may be time to take a look at it and see if it needs to be updated.

Estate planning Myth #2: “Our estate plan was completed several years ago. We should be OK.”

The fact is that changes in your age, family situation, beneficiaries, and favorite charitable causes, not to mention changing estate tax laws, often result in a Will that is out of date.

Legacy Deo is pleased to offer Planning Your Legacy … A Guide to Planning Your Will and Trust. For your free copy, call 1-800-880-3733 or 1-512-646-4909 or contact info@legacydeo.org.

Using this guide to plan your estate will spare your family the difficulty of having to go through a much more difficult and costly process than would be the case at a time of sorrow and grief.

Do it now, while it’s on your mind. Provide a copy of your completed Will to a trusted member of your family and/or your independent executor. Your family will be blessed as a result. And it just might make feeling your age a bit more meaningful.

A Memorable Retirement Observance

This past Sunday, March 31, Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Tex. observed the retirement of Pastor Doug Dommer and his wife Delo. Doug had served Salem for 38 years in a number of roles in support of two senior pastors, Wayne Graumann and Tim Niekerk.

The celebration was inspirational. It began with an informal hour of sharing by women and men who had known and worked with Doug over the years. Speakers included one of his brothers; a couple young pastors whom Doug had influenced and mentored over the years; a woman staff member who introduced video reflections of Doug’s sermons and gave her own testimony of Doug’s support and encouragement for women using their God-given gifts; and his former senior pastor. Terry and I were invited to honor Doug’s wife Delo, a wonderfully gifted and talented woman.

That informal hour was followed by a service of worship during which Doug preached his farewell sermon, reflecting on his years at Salem and focusing on Philippians 1:3-6: I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

A few memorable points from his sermon are these:

God’s grace always precedes our peace.
Many churches eat their pastors alive. Salem loves their pastors to death.
The work we do is God’s work. He began it. He will perfect it.

One of the most moving parts of the service was the final hymn, A Mighty Fortress. Immediately after the conclusion of the sermon, Doug went straight to the organ bench and played this hymn as I’d never before heard it played. By anyone. With no notes. Majestically. Worshipfully. Powerfully. Inspirationally. A mighty fortress is our God … the Kingdom’s ours forever!

The concluding moments included words of appreciation and affirmation from senior pastor Tim Niekerk, along with presentation of a cash gift. The amount was not disclosed, but the presentation left no doubt that its purpose was for the purchase of a new automobile.

During these two separate activities, appreciation for Doug’s ministry and Delo’s partnership was articulately and emotionally expressed. Yet throughout the morning it was clear that the real appreciation was directed toward our gracious God … Father, Son, Holy Spirit … for the gifts Doug and Delo have received and the way they have used them to be a blessing to the thousands of people they have influenced for Christ during their 38 years at Salem.

Well done, good and faithful servants!

Estate Planning Myth #1

In my work with Legacy Deo I talk to people about estate planning. Creating a plan is an important step for every person to take, regardless of age or financial status. It can be done by using a variety of methods of current planning for future gifts to family and charitable causes.

Almost every day I encounter people who have misconceptions about how, what, where, when, and why estate planning should occur. Accordingly, a large part of what I do is help people understand what is mythical and what is factual about estate planning.

This week I’m beginning a series on Estate Planning Myths, sharing one each month. Here’s Myth #1: “I’m not wealthy enough to consider planned giving. I just don’t have a large enough estate to worry about planning for the distribution of my assets when I die.”

Here’s the fact: Regardless of the size of your estate, what you have is God’s gift to you. As people entrusted with the management of whatever we have received as a blessing from God, you and I have the responsibility of carefully and prayerfully planning the distribution of what we have to the people and the causes we love.

Read the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30 about the varying amounts of money entrusted to the care of each of a master’s three servants. We’re not all equally blessed. What we do with what we have is important, no matter how much we have or don’t have.

Every heartfelt gift you and I make to our family and to our church or other charitable cause is helpful, no matter the size of the gift.

So whether your possessions are worth $10,000 or $10,000,000, take the steps necessary to be sure they are efficiently and effectively passed on according to your wishes.

That’s the essence of estate planning, also called planned giving. Legacy Deo can help!

Contact us at info@legacydeo.org or call us at (800) 880-3733 or (512) 646-4909 for a free Wills Planning Guide. You’ll be glad you did!

Celebrating Victory in Christ

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Many of you recall that my dear mother went to heaven January 10, just over two months ago. All three of my siblings and spouses, along with their children and grandchildren, spent time, money, and energy caring for our Mom, especially during her last few years on this earth. My sister Carol, whose birthday is today, was the anchor. She lives closest to Mother’s assisted living residence and with rare exception spent at least five days a week caring for her.

A couple months prior to Mom’s passing, Terry and I, with Carol also present, paid a special visit. We surmised Mom’s passing was imminent and wanted to be sure that her memorial service would be conducted according to her wishes. So I asked a few questions about her funeral service preferences, using as a guide a form I had helped prepare a couple years ago. She was glad I asked.

Legacy Deo, formerly Lutheran Foundation of Texas, is pleased to offer to you a copy of that same document — Celebrating Victory in Christ Funeral Planning Guide.

There is no charge for an electronic copy of this valuable tool designed to assist people in planning their memorial service and other important end of life details. Topics include:

  • Introduction
  • Personal and Family Reference Information
    • Your Information
    • Your Immediate Family Information
    • Person(s) to Make Arrangements
  • Planning for Your Celebration of Life Service
    • Type of Service
    • Facility Handling Arrangements
    • Pastor(s) to Officiate at Service
    • Music Selections
    • Scripture Readings
    • Pall Bearer Contact Information
    • Colors, Flower Selections
    • Military Honors
    • People to Notify of Your Passing
    • Meal or Reception in Connection with Service
    • Other Details of Your Service
    • Memorials
    • Significant Dates in Your Life
    • Photographs and/or Videos for Remembrance Service
    • Burial Location
    • Details of Burial
    • Burial Marker
    • Selection of Coffin if Desired
    • Obituary Preparation
  • Location of Legal Documents and Information
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Trust Documents
    • Organ Donation Designation
    • Life Insurance Policies
    • Other Documents
  • Leaving Your Legacy
    • Christian Preamble for Your Last Will and Testament
    • Family Blessing or Remembrance
    • Gift Legacy
  • Appendix
    • Suggested Hymns and Other Musical Selections
    • Suggested Scripture Readings

For your free copy, call 1-800-880-3733 or 1-512-646-4909 or contact info@legacydeo.org. If you use this guide for planning your own memorial service, your family will be spared the difficulty of making these decisions for you without your input, at a time of sorrow and grief.

Do it now, while it’s on your mind. Provide a copy of your completed form to someone in your family and also to your pastor. You and they will be blessed as a result.