Monday, May 18, 2009


I love to see the proud gleam in the eyes of young people as they graduate from high school or college. It is a significant accomplishment that should be celebrated.

I remember how ‘educated’ I felt when I got my high school diploma. I felt a little less educated upon graduating from college. I did not bother to attend graduation exercises for two graduate degrees. My feeling of being ‘educated’ decreased exponentially with every degree I received. Strange! I never thought it would be like that.

For the young people who are graduating from somewhere with a degree in something, just remember: "It isn’t over!" You are not educated yet. You never will be as long as you are alive. Anytime you think you are terminally educated, that will be a sure sign that you have become terminally ignorant.

One of the biggest problems today is the adult aversion to continued learning. We are afraid to think and continue to learn lest we be forced to change.

I have many times had reason to remember a scene from my youth which took place at a high school graduation at Repton High School. I must have been in the 9th or 10th grade. I do not recall why I attended the graduation exercises, unless it was because I had no place else to go. A young woman whose name I do not recall took her diploma from the principal of the school, Mr. H.D.Weathers, and then threw her cap in the air and yelled: "Educated, by God!" I wish I knew what ever happened to her - not much, I expect. She finished her education too soon. Who in the world could be ignorant enough to think they were educated upon graduation from a rural high school in the mid-forties?!

A number of years ago Robert Maynard Hutchinson, long-time chancellor of the University of Chicago, wrote in the Saturday Review: "Almost every fact I was taught from the first grade through law school is no longer a fact. Almost every tendency that was proclaimed has failed to materialize. I am especially embarrassed by the facts and tendencies I proclaimed myself. I ask all my students at Yale University Law School to forgive me, for the courts have overruled and the legislatures have repealed most of what I knew."

Doctors know that at least 75 percent of what they learned in medical school 15 or 20 years ago is obsolete. Ninety percent of the medicines they prescribe came on the market since they graduated. Almost every time I go to my cardiologist and he asks me what was the last procedure done to my heart, he says to me: "We do not even do that anymore. There is an improved technique."

I made my living for almost 50 years as a hired-hand for Christian people who in the main still wish to live as if the list of chemical elements that was on their high school wall were still true. There were 96 elements on the periodic table when I was a freshman in college. I do not know how many there are now because it changes every year. I cannot even pronounce many of them.

It does not matter whether you are a doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, or a person now at some point on your life journey, you are not educated - not yet - not ever. If your education does not continue in whatever you do, you will lose your effectiveness and become obsolete.

A little girl fell out of her bed one night. Her mother asked: "What happened?" She said: "I think I went to sleep too near to where I got in." Don’t let that happen to you. Keep on asking and learning.

The poet, James Russell Lowell, said it well. Sometimes we sing it:
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward,

Who would keep abreast of truth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Abiding in Love, by Dr. Jim Savage

"We Love because God first Loved us." (1 John 4:14-21)

The Father sent the Son, He willed His coming into this world. The apostle attests this. And whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. This confession includes Faith in the heart as the Foundation; acknowledgment with the mouth to the Glory of God and Christ, and profession in the Life and conduct, against the flatteries and frowns of the world. There must be a Day of Universal Judgment. Happy those who will have Holy Boldness before the Judge at that Day; Knowing He is their Friend and Advocate! Happy those who will have Holy Boldness in the prospect of that Day, who Look and Wait for it, and for the Judge's appearance! True Love to God assures us to suffer for Him and with Him; therefore we may Trust that we shall also be Glorified with Him. (2 Tim 2:12)

Obedience and Good Works, done from the Principle of Love, are like that of a dutiful child who does services to a Beloved Father, which benefit his brethren and are done willingly.

It is a sign that our love is far from perfect when our doubts, fears, and apprehensions of God are many. Let heaven and earth stand Amazed at His Love. He sent His Word to invite sinners to partake of this Great Salvation. Let them take comfort from the happy Change wrought in them while they give Him the Glory. The Love of God in Christ, in the hearts of Christians from the Spirit of Adoption, is the Great Proof of Conversion. This must be tried by its effects on their temper, and their conduct to their brethren. If one professes to Love God, and yet indulges in anger or revenge, or shows a selfish disposition, he gives his profession the lie. But if it is plain that our natural enmity is Changed into Affection and Gratitude, let us Bless the Name of our God for this Seal and Earnest of Eternal Happiness. Then we differ from the false professors, who pretend to Love God, Whom they have not seen, yet hate their brethren whom they have seen.

(Matthew Henry)

Monday, May 11, 2009

God Doesn’t Come by Every Day, by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus

In her collection of short stories entitled, "Winter Tales", Isak Dinesen tells a haunting story of a young man who became a rich and famous author early in life. Like most people to whom wealth and fame happen unexpectedly, he developed significant problems. His newly acquired wealth and fame caused problems in every area of his life.

He had written out of poverty about poverty, and now he was rich and estranged from the condition and the people that had given him his first book. He was estranged from his wife, God and even himself. He wandered all night in Amsterdam, trying to sort things out. He decided he could never write again, and gave away the manuscript of his new book. The more his mind wondered, the more it brought home fresh material for suffering.

At the end of his "Dark Night of the Soul", in which he had considered many things, including suicide, he has a strange conversation with God. God assures him that he wants him to write again, "...not for the public or for the critics, but for ME," said God. "Can I be certain of that?" the young man asks. "Not always", said the Lord. "You will not be certain of it at all times. But I tell you now that it is so. You will have to hold on to that".

I saw a lot of people I know in that story, including myself. We want certainty when faith is the only thing available for us. We are afraid of those long dry spells when God does not come by daily, monthly, or periodically to tell us again what God has already told us. Like children, we remember the promise but we want to hear it again. It was to people of this frame of mind that Jesus said, "O ye of little faith".

Perhaps one of the most reliable characteristics of a mature faith is: How long can we hold on to the reality of something without having to see it or hear it again. When I was a child, my father would give me a nickel to put in the offering at Sunday School each Sunday. During the two mile walk to church, I would take that nickel out of my pocket a dozen times and look at it to be sure it was still there, or I would reach my hand in my pocket to touch it to make sure it was still there.

Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson, used to plague Johnson for reassurance of his love and esteem. On one of these nagging occasions Johnson said to Boswell, "Take out your note book and write it down. You are held in my highest esteem. That, sir, remains true until I tell you to erase what you have written".

If God has not come by lately to renew the covenant made with you earlier, remember what God once said, and take courage that it has not been retracted. Neither God, nor the people who love you, are going to come by each day and renew the promise and pledge once made. It is your responsibility to hold on to the promise. The ability to hold on to it is the substance of faith.

How are you doing?
by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ten Rules to Live By, by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus

Erma Bombeck was one of my favorite newspaper columnists. I do miss her! When writing on her favorite subject, "children and family life", she had the wonderful capacity of being able to combine profundity and playfulness. She had the amazing ability of being able to call our attention to serious matters without letting us take ourselves too seriously.

One of my esteemed clergy friends, Dr. Norman Neaves, once introduced a sermon by reading Erma Bombeck’s "Ten Rules to Live By." Since Mother’s Day is just a few days away, perhaps these Ten Rules would be worth reading.

Here they are. First, never have more children than you have car windows! Second, gravity always wins. Accept that. Science is trying to reverse the aging process and the kicker is that you look young on the outside, but on the inside you’re still aging. There’s no advantage to looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger on the beach if you can’t travel two feet from a restroom! And third, never loan your car to someone to whom you have given birth.

Here’s the fourth one: Pick your friends carefully. A "friend" never goes on a diet when you’re fat or tells you how lucky you are to have a husband who remembers Mother’s Day - when his gift to you was a smoke alarm! And the fifth one: Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart! And the sixth rule: given a choice between the man of your dreams and a plumber, choose the latter. Men who can fix your toilet on Sundays are hard to come by!

This is rule number seven: Know the difference between success and fame. Success is Mother Teresa. Fame is Madonna! Number eight: Never be in a hurry to terminate a marriage. Remember, you may need this man or woman someday to complete a sentence for you! And the ninth rule: There are no guarantees in marriage. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a Sears battery! And finally, here’s the last one, rule number ten: Never go to your class reunion pregnant. If you do, they’ll think that’s all you’ve been doing since you graduated!

Well, that ought to get us ready to consider the serious responsibility of child rearing. Now that I am well past the biblical statute of limitations of three score and ten years of age, and soon to be an octogenarian, and my children are married and live 100 miles away I have become an authority on the subject. I can explain the process, and dwell on the particulars with senile rapture! So listen up.

by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church