The head of a large missionary organization told me that they are being sued by two of their members. These people had earlier dedicated their lives to missions.
Now they have various ailments. One man has ulcers. A woman, who lived in the tropics, has skin cancer. A "Christian" lawyer, hearing of their problems, advised them to sue the missionary organization. Their afflictions, he says, are "job related."
The mission director shook his head. "They were willing to give their lives—but I guess that didn't include stomach and skin." The missionaries and their lawyer have been infected with what Paul called "the spirit of the world" (1 Cor. 2:12).
Despite the classic Pentecostal definition, worldliness (the Greek word is kosmos) is far more than cosmetics. It is also more than R-rated movies or X-rated prostitutes. Worldliness is focusing on the things of time rather than things eternal.
by Jamie Buckingham
During my senior year in high school a group of women somewhere in the nation started a movement to have all competitive team sports—especially football—removed from public schools. Team sports, they complained, were too traumatic.
Children, they argued, should not be led to believe their team could win, then suffer the trauma of losing. They should only play games where everyone wins. They did not stop to think that there can he no victory where there is no possibility of defeat.
Who among us, regardless of how we voted last November, did not hurt for Michael Dukakis as he stood with his family on election night and—in a gracious New England way—conceded defeat. Yet the man who tries, even though he fails, is never a loser.
Those women in the early 1950s were right about one thing: defeat is definitely traumatic. But so is childbirth. And graduation. And marriage. Yet all are part of life. To eliminate them simply because they are risky would mean the cessation of life.
The risk-free life is a victory-free life. It means lifelong surrender to the mediocre. And that is the worst of all defeats. In politics the risk-free life leads to Marxism—where all risks are removed.
In religion, it leads to dead institutionalism. The man who is guaranteed against failure will never know the sweet taste of success. Today's youth are deathly afraid of risk. Yet, in what must be one of his-tory's great ironies, desiring safety, they escape into drugs—which is guaranteed failure and death,
Freedom demands risk. Eliminate the risks of freedom and you establish a slave state. Even then, if the risks of freedom are banned, tyranny takes over. Ask the Poles. The Czechoslovaks. The Cubans. Today's liberal is constantly crying for justice. But the question is not justice; it is freedom. Most definitions of justice call for the elimination of risk.
by Jamie Buckingham
Eleven years ago, my daddy died. It was Sunday noon. We had just come in from church and the phone was ringing. It was my mother in Vero Beach, Fla.
"Daddy has just gone to be with the Lord." As long as I can remember she had called him Daddy. The kids all called him Daddy. Only his old friends—and he had outlived most of them—called him Walter.
Jackie and I went back out the door for the 30-mile drive down the Florida coast toward the old home place. My mind was whirling. He was 87 years old. Although his mind had been as sharp as when he taught English literature at DePauw University back in 1915, we all had known the time was short.
Twenty-five years earlier, kneeling in his orange grove, his life goals had radically changed. From making money to giving it away. Now he was satisfied. He owned nothing. He was ready to go home. The week before, I had sat on the side of the bed, listening as he quoted from Longfellow:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
I knew, in his poetic way, he was telling me he was about to die. It didn't seem to bother him. He believed death was a beginning—not an end.
I believed that too. At least, I wanted to. But as I drove in silence, Job's question kept swirling through my mind, "If a man dies, will he live again?"
It's the question we all ask when death strikes. "Daddy has gone to be with the Lord," my mother had said. How did she know? How does anyone know where you go when you die? What's to prove you're not like ants stepped on by kids, or like leaves burned in the fireplace?
We pulled up in the carport and went inside. Mother met us in the kitchen. "He went peacefully, in his sleep. I've already had my cry. He's back there on the bed."
"I'll call the funeral director," Jackie said softly. "You go on back."
by Jamie Buckingham
I was fresh out of seminary and the new pastor of a Baptist church in a little South Carolina town when Martin Luther King Jr. led his famous march from Montgomery to Selma, Ala.
We did a lot of talking about racial segregation in our deacons' meetings those days. Everyone was defensive. "We're integrated," one man said. "When Miss Jessie died we allowed her maid to come to the funeral and sit in the balcony along with her pickaninny."
Not too far away, in Greensboro, N.C., four black college students refused to move from a Woolworth lunch counter when denied service. It was 1961. By September more than 70,000 students, whites and blacks, had participated in sit-ins.
Our deacons appointed a special committee to patrol the street in front of the church in case "the darkies" tried to get in. "They got their own churches," Harry Lemwood, a grocer, used to say. "Let 'em go there."
I groaned over the injustice, but when King marched on Selma, I did not join him—even though I knew he was right. I didn't even stand up in my pulpit and applaud him. I kept silent. I wasn't afraid of Bull Conner. Or the snarling police dogs. Or of being put in jail.
What I feared most was losing my "job" as pastor. I preached against segregation—which was acceptable because of King's sacrifice. But I knew better than to do anything rash—like marching.
I just stayed home and preached the gospel. I quoted Romans 13—that Christians should not break the law—to justify my stance. No matter that the law said blacks were inferior to whites. No matter that it was cruel, dehumanizing and anti-Christ. It was the law.
by Jamie Buckingham
No book influenced my young life more than the Boy Scout handbook. In it I found a wonderful world of semaphore flags, sheepshanks, clove hitches, lean-tos and reflector ovens.
It was my personal guidebook from the time I was 12 until I was 16. It took me from Tenderfoot, through the exciting world of merit badges, all the way to the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
Youth activities in our little town—aside from a spitball fight in Sunday school or a Friday night dance—were non-existent. Scouting was everything. In Scouting, I felt the tug toward manhood. Older boys discipled younger boys.
Scoutmasters took us on camping and canoe trips. I learned how to apply a tourniquet and a splint, salute my superiors, have my uniform inspected and feel pride—with hard-earned accomplishments.
As a Scout, I learned all the important concepts that would later make life rich and meaningful. I learned to relate to a small group in my patrol and troop. I learned to respect—not fear or destroy—nature.
With only a hatchet, knife, rope and compass I could live in the wilderness. I learned Indian lore, loyalty and how to be part of a world brotherhood. A Boy Scout loved God and country.
He respected his parents. He went to church. He believed in good deeds, loyalty, thrift, courage, physical fitness and—most of all—being prepared. I took a vow that I still try to uphold.
He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons and share the home duties. He must do at least one "good turn" to somebody every day. But with the good times were times of disappointment—the same disappointment I have suffered in adult life and in my church.
It wasn't with Scouting; it was with Scouts. Particularly with Scout leaders. One August afternoon five of us—young teenagers—headed for the girly show at the annual summer carnival on the fairgrounds.