Character Matters: George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush was the first President I remember.  I was eight years old when he was elected and I remember he beat that guy whose tank helmet was too big for his head.

George Bush was beacon of civility in a cruel profession.  What I have learned about him since his exit from office is the exact opposite of what we see in politics today.  His character was above reproach and his character mattered to him.  Here are some of the highlights:

He was the son of a wealthy Senator, yet chose to serve as a fighter pilot in World War II.  He could have found a place of service in relative safety far behind the front lines, but he chose to be in the thick of the action.  His character was evident at an early age.

He routinely sacrificed politically advantageous and influential positions to serve at the behest of the current President.  He was elected to the House of Representatives, but resigned his seat to serve at the behest of President Nixon.

He formed a lasting friendship with President Bill Clinton in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.  His goal was to do what was best for those who had been affected.  He was not there to promote himself.  That’s a man of character.

He also wrote a note to President Clinton as he exited The White House.  Clinton said, “I was touched by his kindness.”  Clinton also stated that President Bush was like the father he never had.  The man who befriends his political adversary who took every opportunity to trash his reputation on the campaign trail is a man of character.

In a documentary about The White House and its most recent occupants, the permanent White House staff all praised President Bush and his wife as decent, kind, caring, and affectionate.  President Bush was known to send personal condolences to White House staffers when they had lost a loved one.  In Colossians 3:12, the Bible says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  President Bush exemplified these traits.

He invited Dana Carvey to perform at The White House.  Dana Carvey regularly President Bush on Saturday Night Live.  I’ve seen the footage of Carvey’s performance at The White House.  The loudest laughter came from the man who was being impersonated.  Who does that?  A man of humility and grace.

He sacrificed his reelection bid to do what was best for the country.  President Clinton won the election because President Bush raised taxes.  It was, in his estimate, what was best for the country.  this self sacrificial move probably prevented our country from sinking farther into the recession of the early 90s and many economists believe, set the stage for the economic boom of the mid to late 90s.

He kicked Sadam Hussein out of Kuwait, but resisted the urge to oust him from power. He made a promise to kick him out of Kuwait, not to remove him from power.  He kept that promise, and two decades later, we can see the wisdom behind that decision.

He kept a low post presidency profile.  He went about the business of serving others after he left The White House.  he did not interfere with political affairs though he had ample opportunity.  He spent 24 years as an ex-president and the enduring images of his post presidency career are those of service to others and Houston Astros ballgames, where he had a seat directly behind home plate.  I’m glad he was able to see them win a World Series.

He was a life long member of the National Rifle Association, a bastion of republican support.  He, however, resigned his membership in 1995 when then President, Wayne LaPierre, mad disparaging statements towards federal law enforcement officers.  That requires a man of character.

When our current President insulted the Bush family during the 2016 election, the Bush family did not retaliate.  The whole family emulated the character of President Bush.

The last time we saw President Bush was a this wife’s funeral in April.  His son was pushing him down the aisle as they exited the church.  He elicited love from every member of his family because he showed that kind of love in return.  This man of character loved his family more than his country.

He was a man who served his country and not himself.  He was a man who was gentle but not a wimp.  He was a man who was humble yet supremely self confident.  He was a man who’s character and reputation mattered more than his politics.

He was a religious man and I believe this kind of character can only come from a man who knows Christ as his Savior.  He loved God by loving others.

Our country lost a statesman, a moderate politician and a philanthropist, but most of all our nation has lost a piece of its character.  He was the last President from the greatest generation, and he was the last President who put character above politics.

Do we really want to make American great again?  American greatness was forged in the fires that tried the souls of great men like President Bush.  American greatness will never be found in a surly tweet, or a snarky quip.  It will always seep forth through the pores of men who prize character above everything else.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”.  May God make our country great again with more men like George Herbert Walker Bush.

Why Dave Ramsey Was Not a Waste of Time at the SBC

My wife and I made sure we made it back into the convention hall Tuesday afternoon to hear Dave Ramsey speak.  When we came in, he had already begun speaking.  I was excited to hear him.  I’m always excited to hear Dave speak; I’ll admit I see him as a bit of a hero.  My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans and as soon as we get our house paid off, we’re going to Nashville to do our debt-free scream.  My kids even have the introduction to his radio show memorized.

I was disappointed to hear grumbling in my section, and then murmurings afterward about his appearance.  There were those who thought his speech was a waste of time.  I’d like to give a few reasons as to why his speech was not a waste of time and some benefits to partnering with Ramsey Solutions.

  1. He spoke God’s Word: As far as I know, Dave confines his thoughts on scripture to those passages having to do with money and stewardship.  He does not try to be an evangelist or a preacher.  Any time we hear God’s Word, we are not wasting our time.
  2. He speaks on a difficult subject: He’s not afraid to speak on one of the most difficult topics in scripture.  He’s not afraid to kick our behinds in the right direction when we need it, and let’s face it, with so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, many of us need our behinds kicked in the right direction.  I know I did.  I suspect that some of those who think hearing from him was a waste of time think so because he spoke uncomfortable truths.  He makes us squirm, and we need to squirm.
  3. His program benefits our churches: When pastors and members learn to handle God’s money God’s way, then they have more money to give.  Dave teaches the tithe, and he also teaches generous giving.  How much money would we have for missions if we taught our people to tithe, get out of debt, and give generously?

What are the possible benefits of partnering with Ramsey Solutions?

  1. Financial health: A pastor once told me when I was negotiating salary with a search committee to tell them, “You don’t want me sitting at my desk every Monday morning wondering about how the bills are going to get paid.”  That statement could not be more true.  How many pastors out there go to the office on Monday morning wondering how they’re going to pay their bills?  Financial health allows a pastor to focus on his job.
  2. Fewer funds needed for Mission Dignity: I love Mission Dignity.  I think it’s a great program.  Some of you are going to think that I’m accusing all recipients of Mission Dignity funds of bad financial management.  I am not doing that.  Some of the Mission Dignity participants are victims of churches that did not steward God’s money God’s way and thus could not provide adequately for their pastor and his family.  Mission Dignity is a great safety net, but what if we could move that safety net up 20 or 30 years?  What if we could save pastors and their wives from having to use Mission Dignity funds?  There would be more money for missions.

The Ramsey Solutions group is very open to working with churches.  I hope more leaders use their programs because we have an opportunity to intentionally move the safety net forward for our brothers and sisters in Christ — our pastors and our members.  If more members of the SBC had financial peace, how much more could we do with the Cooperative Program? How many more missionaries could we support? How many pastors could devote their time and mental energy completely to prayer and ministry of the word?

Why Dave Ramsey Was Not a Waste of Time at the SBC

My wife and I made sure we made it back into the convention hall Tuesday afternoon to hear Dave Ramsey speak.  When we came in, he had already begun speaking.  I was excited to hear him.  I’m always excited to hear Dave speak; I’ll admit I see him as a bit of a hero.  My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans and as soon as we get our house paid off, we’re going to Nashville to do our debt-free scream.  My kids even have the introduction to his radio show memorized.

I was disappointed to hear grumbling in my section, and then murmurings afterward about his appearance.  There were those who thought his speech was a waste of time.  I’d like to give a few reasons as to why his speech was not a waste of time and some benefits to partnering with Ramsey Solutions.

  1. He spoke God’s Word: As far as I know, Dave confines his thoughts on scripture to those passages having to do with money and stewardship.  He does not try to be an evangelist or a preacher.  Any time we hear God’s Word, we are not wasting our time.
  2. He speaks on a difficult subject: He’s not afraid to speak on one of the most difficult topics in scripture.  He’s not afraid to kick our behinds in the right direction when we need it, and let’s face it, with so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, many of us need our behinds kicked in the right direction.  I know I did.  I suspect that some of those who think hearing from him was a waste of time think so because he spoke uncomfortable truths.  He makes us squirm, and we need to squirm.
  3. His program benefits our churches: When pastors and members learn to handle God’s money God’s way, then they have more money to give.  Dave teaches the tithe, and he also teaches generous giving.  How much money would we have for missions if we taught our people to tithe, get out of debt, and give generously?

What are the possible benefits of partnering with Ramsey Solutions?

  1. Financial health: A pastor once told me when I was negotiating salary with a search committee to tell them, “You don’t want me sitting at my desk every Monday morning wondering about how the bills are going to get paid.”  That statement could not be more true.  How many pastors out there go to the office on Monday morning wondering how they’re going to pay their bills?  Financial health allows a pastor to focus on his job.
  2. Fewer funds needed for Mission Dignity: I love Mission Dignity.  I think it’s a great program.  Some of you are going to think that I’m accusing all recipients of Mission Dignity funds of bad financial management.  I am not doing that.  Some of the Mission Dignity participants are victims of churches that did not steward God’s money God’s way and thus could not provide adequately for their pastor and his family.  Mission Dignity is a great safety net, but what if we could move that safety net up 20 or 30 years?  What if we could save pastors and their wives from having to use Mission Dignity funds?  There would be more money for missions.

The Ramsey Solutions group is very open to working with churches.  I hope more leaders use their programs because we have an opportunity to intentionally move the safety net forward for our brothers and sisters in Christ — our pastors and our members.  If more members of the SBC had financial peace, how much more could we do with the Cooperative Program? How many more missionaries could we support? How many pastors could devote their time and mental energy completely to prayer and ministry of the word?

Thoughts on J.D. Greear’s Comments on Homosexuality

I was once asked to officiate a wedding for a young couple that had been attending our church.  The young man had waited for me outside the building and he was very nervous.  I knew the couple had been living together, and when he asked, I looked into his face and said, “I don’t normally marry couples who are living together.  That’s against what God’s Word says, so we’ll have to talk about that.”  I’ll never forget that conversation. I was right. However, I did a poor job of loving my neighbor.  I loved being right more than I loved that young man, and it cost me the opportunity to influence a young couple with the gospel.

J.D. Greear has been accused by American family Radio of jettisoning gospel truth in favor of loving his neighbor, particularly those neighbors who happen to be homosexuals.  If you haven’t read the accusations, you can read them right here.  The statement that prompted these accusations seems to have been “We have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on homosexuality.”  Greear went on to say, “We say yes, this issue is important.  I cannot compromise, but I love you more than I love being right.

I’d like to give a few thoughts on this article:

  1. The author says that the number one cultural and social issue of the day is homosexuality.  I respectfully disagree and believe that the number one social and cultural issue of our day is the tribal nature and labeling so prevalent in our culture.  If we could find our identity in Christ rather than a political party or a certain moral position, then, as Dr. Tony Evans said at the 2018 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, “Two hundred year problems would become two-minute problems.”
  2. Loving our neighbor does not mean we have to jettison Biblical truth.  we need only to look at the example set by our Savior to see an example of loving they neighbor and standing for truth.  In the eighth chapter of John, Jesus is confronted with a woman caught in adultery.  Did He shame her for her adultery?  Did he tell her that adultery was against God’s plan for her life?  Did he tell her that she would need to repent of her evil before He could offer His help?  No, He saved her life!  think about that for a minute.  Jesus, who could have rightly condemned this woman for her evil act, saved her life first from the hypocritical religious leaders of her day.  He loved her.  Did he let her sin slide?  No, he instructed her to go and sin no more.  He both loved her and stood for Biblical truth.
  3. We have to learn to live with those who have specks in their eyes.  The author of this attack on Dr. Greear seems to assert that we cannot live with those who are living homosexual lifestyles.  How exactly is Christ supposed to use us to draw others to Himself if we have to live separate from them?  We can live with sinners and not participate in their sins.  We do it all the time.  If we knew everyone in our communities who had been convicted of a crime or spent time in jail, we would understand that we’ve always lived among sinners without participating in or endorsing their sins.
  4. What about millennials?  The author says something about millennials and the election of Greear as SBC President.  I’m not sure what that has to do with Greear’s election other than I guess the author is blaming our generation for the future demise of the SBC.  I’ve been a Southern Baptist since I was born, and if our convention is advocating showing more love to those who do not know Christ, then I will continue to be a Southern Baptist.

Let me be clear, I believe sin is clearly defined in God’s Word.  God has shown us what is right and what is wrong, and we are responsible for communicating God’s truth to the unbelieving world.  We’re also responsible for loving the unbelieving world.  I would be willing to bet that the man who had been beaten and left for dead in Luke 10 was glad that the Samaritan man didn’t read him a list of all his sins before he bandaged his wounds. I’d bet Matthew was glad that Jesus didn’t condemn him for being a cheating tax collector before He asked Him to come follow.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a ringing brass gong or a clashing cymbal.”  What good does it do us to have knowledge of everyone’s sin yet fail to show them love?  I’m afraid AFR is becoming a clanging gong or a clanging cymbal.