What Happened to Efficiency

by Tom Wacaster

“Postage by Mail!”  That was the banner on the mass mail out by the United States Post Office a few years ago.  Imagine the convenience; avoiding long lines at the post office; you could conduct all your business through the mail using the little order form that was attached.   You could even purchase your 1st class stamps by filling out the form indicating how many books you wanted and then multiply it by the 41 cent cost of each stamp. The only problem was, the cost of 1st class stamps had gone up to 44 cents by the time we received the offer with its enclosed form.  It reminds me of the time the Postal Service wanted to conduct a workshop somewhere in the upper mid-west in order to explain to Mr. Average Joe some of the problems within the Post Office and get some input from the man on the street on how to improve efficiency.  The only problem was the announcements on the workshop were not sent out until four days AFTER the deadline for participants to sign up.  Efficiency!  What has happened to efficiency?  No doubt you have heard someone moan, “The service here is just not what it used to be!”   We have more products on the market than ever before.  But things wear out faster than ever before, too. 

Now, before you criticize the Postal Service, or your local merchant, let's ask ourselves if WE are as efficient and punctual, and “quality-minded” as we ought to be.  Someone noted, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”  The late Vince Lombardi wrote, “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”   Quality in our service to the Lord demands the same degree of intensity and dedication as is demanded in any other walk of life.  The difference is that our eternal destination will be determined to a large degree by our willingness to put forth the effort to achieve such lofty heights.  The apostle Paul expressed the depth of our soul’s devotion with these words:  “And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us...let us give ourselves to our ministry…he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:6-8).  And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10).   The effectiveness of this congregation, or any congregation of God’s people, will be in direct proportion to the total number of members who are determined to provide the highest quality of service to the Lord.   A fellow preacher shared this most fitting illustration:  While on a trip to Switzerland, an American businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock.  As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress.  The business man finally said, “My good man, you’ll never make much money that way.”  The clockmaker replied, “Sir, I’m not making money, I’m making cuckoo clocks.”

Perhaps the quality of our devotion to the Lord would improve if each of us gave greater consideration to exactly what it is we are to do as God’s children.   Solomon admonished his readers: “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might” (Ecc. 9:10).   It is unfortunate that this Biblical ethic has been lost in what we sometimes call “progress” and/or “development.”  Too many are satisfied with “good enough.”  How many of us give our best in every situation?  Oh, perhaps in our service unto others we attempt to couple quality and service together.  On the job we are quite proficient; some are even perfectionists.  But let’s take a look at another area of our lives, and consider this question.  Do you give your best to God?   Do I give my best to God in my attendance with the saints?  Am I diligent in putting forth an effort to “forsake not the assembly,” or do I allow first one thing and another to interfere with that important obligation?  When I habitually miss services can I honestly say that the quality of faithfulness is what it ought to be?   When I am called upon to help in a public way, do I make every effort to be there?  What about my Bible study? Am I really giving my best to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord?   And what shall I say about my appearance on Sunday morning?  Is my dress such that it reflects an effort put forth to make myself presentable to God?  Or do I just throw on some casual clothes, careless about my appearance before God and my example before others?   You see, my friend, when we become careless in our service to God, and become satisfied with “good enough,” we contribute to the demise of efficiency.   I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that once my quality of service to God begins to decline, it is not long before service to my fellow man suffers as well.  For if we are not careful with regard to the more important matters of eternity, what makes us think we will be concerned about the temporal matters that have no lasting value?  Take a close look at yourself in the “mirror” of God’s word (Jas. 1:24) and ask again, “What has happened to efficiency?”  Think about it!

Is God Really Real?

by Doug Martin

David, the man after God’s own heart, had a better understanding and appreciation for God than most of us will ever hope to have.  Notice what David wrote in Psalm 19 about how God declares Himself to mankind…
        1 ¶ The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
        2 Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
        3 There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

First, David affirms that God reveals Himself through His creation.  This planet -- and the whole universe -- shouts the truth that God exists, that He is real.  And in verse 3 David says that this truth is universally understood.  No matter where one lives or what language one speaks, evidence of the God of creation is so abundant that one would have to have help to misunderstand.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that God expects mankind to accept the fact that He is real.  In fact, God will punish in His wrath everyone who would dare to deny almighty God.  Note verses 18-20…
        18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
        19 ¶ because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
        20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being    understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they                 are without excuse…

David and Paul are both in agreement that God has provided more than enough information through His creation to convince anybody that He is who He claims to be!  Paul says that if anyone would deny God’s existence, he is “without excuse.”

The writer of Hebrews echoes this same thought.  Notice 11:6...
        But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He                 is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
If you don’t believe that God exists, you cannot please Him.  And if you don’t seek Him diligently, God cannot reward you.

Speaking of rewards, let’s go back to Psalm 19.  David has said that God has revealed through His creation enough evidence for any (honest) person to know OF God, of His existence.  But there’s more!  God has also provided what we could call “special” revelation, that is, through His written word.  Notice verses 7-11…
        7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure,       making wise the simple;
        8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is       pure, enlightening the eyes;
        9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and        righteous altogether.
        10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey     and the honeycomb.
        11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

David appreciated God’s creation, but he really appreciated God’s revealed law.  Notice the blessings he lists for those who would heed God’s law – wisdom, rejoicing, enlightenment, better than gold or honey, and warning.  Through God’s revealed word, we can go from knowing about God, to knowing God.  And in keeping God’s law there is “great reward.”

However, some folks choose NOT to acknowledge the reality of God’s existence, for whatever reason.  I suspect most of these folks don’t want to be held accountable for their ungodly attitudes and actions, IMO.
Did you know that according to the Bible, there are no dead atheists* or agnostics*?  Note Philippians 2:10-11…
        10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on                earth, and of those under the earth,
        11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the            Father.

Surely this refers to the Day of Judgment.  Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Everyone with a knee, everyone with a tongue.  Everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.  Everyone!  One can go his whole life denying God all he wants to, but after he dies, he will know the truth – but for him it will be too late.

Finally, notice the company that the unbeliever will keep throughout all eternity.  John lists in Revelation 21:8 what I like to call “the Who’s Who of Hell” …
        "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters,            and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the            second death."

I’ve been told by those who know, that in prison the greatest source of dread / stress is not the prison itself, or the food, or the fact of being locked up.  It is the fear of other inmates – people who want to do you harm; those you don’t dare turn your back to.  Imagine having to spend eternity with all those in John’s list, with absolutely no hope of pardon, parole or escape! 

Add in the pain of fire and brimstone, and that’s a combination you want no part of!  BTW, brimstone is what’s on the tip of a match-head; it ignites with just a little friction, and burns very hot.  Years ago, one of the boys in our youth group was jogging to a friend’s house after school with a box of kitchen matches in the pocket of his cargo pants.  As you can imagine, those matches started striking and burning … he couldn’t get out of his pants fast enough!  Right there on the street, with people watching – he didn’t care!  He still has burn marks on his leg.

The choice is simple, really.  Believe and obey the God of creation, who reveals Himself in the Bible, His inspired word – and be blessed, rewarded.  Or deny / disrespect / ignore God, and rob yourself of His blessings; and in eternity – suffer His wrath.

*Atheist:  One who denies that God exists
*Agnostic:  One who is not sure that God exists

That Was Not A Target

by Tom Wacaster

One of the first video game consoles to hit the market was “Intellivision.”  It was released by Mattel in 1979, and more than 3 million of the units were sold during the height of its popularity.  In addition to the console, there were eventually more than 125 games that were sold which could be played on the console, including such game titles as Dungeons and Dragons, Atlantis, and Night Stalker.  One of our favorite games was Buzz Bombers in which the player flew bombing raids over enemy territory.   He would have to dodge anti-aircraft fire as he was repeatedly warned, “Watch out for flak.”   When the player attempted to drop a bomb on a target, but actually missed the target, hitting instead an allied jeep or troop carrier, the computer voice would tell him, “That was not a target!”  Of course, the computer generated voice sounded nothing like a real human voice, and we would get tickled, so much so that we would intentionally bomb allied forces just to hear the computer speak to us.  Over the course of several years my son would remind me on occasions of how those words might apply in different situations in life.   I recall one of my futile attempts to repair a mechanical problem on one of our old automobiles.  My hand slipped and my knuckles hit a bolt, digging deep into my skin.  My son was always ready on such occasions to remind me, “Dad, THAT was not a target!”   In similar fashion, military maneuvers have been known on occasions to strike the wrong target.   During the Viet Nam war there were more than 8,000 incidents of what is commonly known as “friendly fire.”  Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one’s own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, resulting in injury or death.   Sometimes friendly fire in any given war zone is the result of negligence, ignorance, carelessness, or a combination of all three.  Unfortunately, once a rocket or missile has been fired, there is little that one can do to stop it; all that remains is for someone to repeat the words, “That was not a target!”  Lest we be too hard on our military leaders for the horrible fruit of “friendly fire,” perhaps we should give due consideration to the possibility that each one of us might fall prey to the same kind of carelessness and neglect.

How often have we found ourselves in a situation where words were spoken in anger, and after careful reflection we wish we would take them back?  Too late, we learn that the target of our verbal missiles was not deserving of our caustic attack, and deep inside we are reminded, “That was not a target!”  As one author put it:  “Perhaps we have been guilty of speaking against someone and have not realized how it may have hurt them. Then when someone speaks against us, we suddenly realize how deeply such words hurt, and we become sensitive to what we have done” (Theodore Epp).  James tells us that “the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).  Spiritual “friendly fire” comes in all forms and in the most unexpected circumstances.   “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts” (Pro. 18:8).   Parents often fire their misguided barbs at their own children, only to learn too late, “That was not a target!”  Husbands and wives bicker and argue over some of the most insignificant matters, feelings are hurt, and a wedge is driven into the heart of the one whom we love and cherish.  No, “That was not a target!”   Many a congregation has been torn apart because of verbal attacks upon one another, and when the damage has been done we find bleeding and wounded soldiers of the cross who have thrown down the sword and shield because of “friendly fire” from someone whom they thought was on their side.   How often have members wanted to scream out to those who would attack and malign one another with the words in the title of this week’s article, and tenderly tell our attackers, “That was not a target!” 

I’ll close this week’s article with the following. Unfortunately the author’s name is not available:

“Don’t Let Your Tongue Cut Off Your Head”

“The boneless tongue, so small and weak,
Can crush and kill,” declares the Greek.
“The tongue destroys a greater horde,”
The Turk asserts, “than does the sword.”

The Persian proverb wisely saith,
“A lengthy tongue – an early death,”
Or sometimes takes this form instead,
“Don’t let your tongue cut off your head.”

“The tongue can speak a word whose speed,”
Say the Chinese, “outstrips the steed.”
The Arab sages said in part,
“The tongue’s great storehouse is the heart.”

From Hebrew was the maxim sprung,
“They feet should slip, but ne’er the tongue.”
The sacred writer crowns the whole,
“Who keeps the tongue doth keep his soul.”