Durke’s Burger and the Tarzan Yell


KOGT’s website announced yesterday:

“What’s going on at the “old Cody’s” near the corner of 16th and I-10? Yes the building is being torn down and land is being cleared.  TxDOT has been in the process of connecting the service road from 16th Street to Bob Hall Rd on both the north and south side of I-10.”

I understand calling it “old Cody’s” but for those of us who voted in the 1972 presidential election it was (and will always be), “Durke’s Burger.” They had great flame broiled burgers, onion rings, chicken and fish dinners, chocolate malts, and best of all, ice cream. Mr. Durke was a really nice guy (he lived close to my cousin in Lowe Addition) and put up with a lot from teenagers who would gather there after church on Sunday night (note: my view of the importance of the Sabbath is higher now than it was then).

The most memorable event that ever happened in that building in the mind of this humble observer was the time when we (the youth group) went from table to table collecting an offering to try to get our youth minister to hop up on a table, beat his chest, and holler like Tarzan. If I remember correctly, about a dollar and half was collected, and lo, and behold, Bro. ___________ did just that. Needless to say, that did not sit well with the powers that be where we went to church (and I still feel a little guilty about egging him on to do that, even after all these years). Needless, to say when I travel to Orange, and pass up that empty lot on 16th street, I will stop and listen, to see if the echo of that Tarzan yell still can be heard in the breeze rustling through the tallow trees.

“It’s that time again”


It’s that time again. The presidential election is only nineteen days away. To be frank, there are not many positive things that I can say about it, other than place in evidence the fact that our country has survived FDR’s decade long assault on the Constitution, Richard Nixon’s criminal behavior, Bill Clinton’s unseemly actions in the Oval Office and perjury conviction, along with his disbarment, and other Presidential misdeeds down through the years, so my hope is that it can survive four years of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Where do I fall when it comes to this year’s election? I think I am simply glad that it is a secret ballot. No good choices here.

I have never considered myself a one issue voter. I believe in limited government (the more limited, the better), fiscal responsibility (we haven’t seen that in decades), I look for someone that I can trust to have their finger on the button (haven’t seen that in a while), and it would be nice if the President actually meant that phrase in his oath of office that says that he will do his best to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I have voted for people who have been further down the continuum on these issues than I would have preferred, but I can live with that, because no candidate if perfect.

However, there is one issue that is a deal-breaker for me: if the candidate supports abortion in any form, he or she will not get my vote. I cannot in good conscience cast a ballot for anyone who is willing to allow the dismemberment and death of another human being, whether they have been born or not. It does not matter if they are fiscal conservatives, if they believe in limited government, or if I can trust them with “the button,” anyone who will not protect the right to life of our weakest and most helpless citizens, cannot be trusted to do the right thing in any other area. So if you consider me narrow minded and rigid, so be it. I can live with that. Life is precious.

Whatever happens, my trust will remain in God, and I will worship Him on His Day, for there is no President who will ever be able to take that away from me.

“When I find myself in times of trouble…”—Paul McCartney


Years ago I heard an apocryphal story about church life that always made me snicker (even before I retired), so for some goofy reason I thought that I would share it with the few people that check out this blog (If I could remember from whom I heard it first I would give him credit, or blame, but it was decades ago). I will give you the Presbyterian version:

A pastor was called to a new church and on the day he arrived he received a phone call from the former pastor. The former pastor said, “I have prepared three envelopes and left them in your desk drawer numbered 1, 2, and 3. Do not open them until a crisis occurs, and they will guide you through the challenging time, but do not open them until you have to, and be sure to open them in order.” The “new kid on the block” thanked the old pastor for his help, and let him know how much he appreciated him caring enough to help.

For several months church life went smoothly for the new pastor, but eventually a crisis popped up. He was at his wits’ end, and decided it was time to open the first envelope. It said simply, “Blame me.” So he did. He blamed the former pastor, and sure enough, things settled down and the church was able to move beyond the trouble.

For the next 18 months things went well until he came to another seemingly insurmountable problem. He went to the desk drawer and pulled out envelope number two. It said simply, “Blame the ruling elders.” (Baptist version: “Blame the deacons.”) So, since it worked so well with the first envelope, he took the advice. He blamed the ruling elders and once again the crisis blew over.

At the beginning of his third year at the church a really big problem arose. With much hope the pastor went once again to his desk drawer to find guidance to help him in a time of great need. He opened the third envelope and read the following words, “Prepare three envelopes…”

Tuesday Hymns: “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”

Last night at our evening worship service we sang as an opening hymn, Edward Plumptre’s hymn, “Rejoice, Ye Pure In Heart,” which is this weeks, “Tuesday Hymn.” Plumptre was educated at King’s College in London, and then at University College at Oxford. He was ordained in 1847 and spent his life in academia and in preaching. This particular hymn is a wonderful reminder that all of us are called to sing praise and thanksgiving to our king whether we are young or old, in “gladness and in woe,” and that it will continue even when we “enter [our] heavenly home.” It is sung to the tune of Arthur Henry Messiter’s tune, “Marion.”

Rejoice, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
Your glorious banner wave on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

With voices full and strong
as ocean’s surging praise,
send forth the hymns our fathers loved,
the psalms of ancient days.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Yes, on through life’s long path,
Still singing as you go;
From youth to age, by night and day,
In gladness and in woe.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

At last the march shall end;
the wearied ones shall rest;
the pilgrims find their heavenly home,
Jerusalem the blessed.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Then on, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
Your glorious banner raise on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing!

On World Teachers’ Day


I noticed on Twitter that today is World Teachers’ Day. Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability. Like any other occupation there are good teachers and bad teachers, and we have all experienced both kinds during the course of our lives. All of us have teachers who made a marked difference in our lives. I have my list: from elementary school, Mrs. Nies; from Jr. High, Mrs. Pinki Riess and Mrs. Matthews; from high school, Mr. Lennie Dauphin; from college, Dr. Ralph Wooster; from seminary, Dr. Tom Nettles and Dr. Curtis Vaughn. Of course, we also have those who robbed the tax payers and had no business being called an educator such as…you really thought I would name names?

There are two requirements of a good teacher. First of all, he (or she) must have a mastery of the material. One can’t “teach” what one doesn’t “know.” However, that is not enough. I once had a geology professor who I am sure knew all there was to know about rock formations, sediments, salt domes, etc. but could never keep any of us awake long enough to pass the information along to us. He was similar to a certain preacher of whom it was said, “could go down deeper, stay down longer, and come up drier than anyone on the face of the earth.

A teacher must also have the ability to pass on his knowledge to his students. He (or she) must be able to communicate, and pass on his love of learning. The best example of such a teacher in my life as a student was Joseph Lambert, a history professor at Lamar University from the early 1970s until his death approximately twenty years later. There was no doubt that he knew the material, there was no doubt that he loved learning, and there was no doubt that he was able to pass on his love for learning to his students. He actually cared for and related to his students. I discovered this when I took his freshman World Civilization course. I had Spanish the hour before his class and often came in whining about Dr. Smith and the misery she was putting us through. So, lo and behold, when I received my blue book back from him after our first test, he had written all of his comments in Spanish (I later found out he took the time to get Dr. Pineda to translate what he wanted to say into Spanish so he could do that).

After two semesters of World Civ, he impressed me enough that I took him for two semesters of Russian history. He never tried to push his political views on us, or endeavor to become some great “change agent” (I am sure he would have been a great disappointment to John Dewey), he simply taught us the cause and effect of history, and taught us to desire to dig deeper, and go “ad fontes” (to the sources). Oh, by the way, you never came into his class late. If the door was shut, just head back to the Setzer Center and play spades because he wasn’t going to let you in.

So on this day that honors great educators, I tip my hat to one of the best, Joseph Lambert. May your tribe increase!

Tuesday Hymns: “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” (One day early)


At our Sunday evening worship service the congregation makes hymn requests and last Sunday night we sang, “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” by Johann Franck (You can always tell when a former Lutheran requests a hymn; right, Beth Poss?). Franck was not a pastor, but a lawyer, and politician (He was the mayor of Konigsberg) in early 17th century Germany. He wrote over 100 hymns, approximately half of them being paraphrases of the Psalms.

Franck’s hymn speaks of the comfort that one finds in Christ, even in the midst of a world filled with evil and suffering. It is sung to Johann S. Bach’s tune, Je¬su, Meine Freude .

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.

In Thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great power guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Evil world, I leave thee;
Thou canst not deceive me,
Thine appeal is vain.
Sin that once did bind me,
Get thee far behind me,
Come not forth again.
Past thy hour, O pride and power;
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whatever we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!




Preach the Word! (and love the people)


Six months ago I quit running every morning because I had gotten tired of my knees and ankles hurting 24 hours a day, seven days a week (they didn’t even stop hurting on the Lord’s Day). So for exercise I began riding a recumbent bicycle in my study. I still get my 30 minutes of cardio a day, and at least I don’t have to run in the heat, the cold, or the dark (during Daylight Savings Time); and, I don’t hurt all the time.

As I listen to my IPod (I am so 1990s) to keep my mind off of my heavy breathing, I look around my study and take in the portraits, photographs, and books. Today while doing that, my eyes fell on my Ordination Certificate. I looked at the date (August, 1981), the church (Morgan Mill Baptist Church), and the names of the ordination council. Names like Adams, Quarles, Nachtigall (Ted, but not Richard; Richard must have been playing hooky), Mayberry, and at the top of the list, Dr. A. J. Quinn. Dr. Quinn preached my ordination sermon, and it consisted of him quoting the first eight verses of 2 Timothy 4 by heart. I could not have been given better advice and direction for the years of ministry that lay before me:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Being a pastor is really a somewhat simple task. Preach the Word, and love the people. Yes, there are still difficult issues, troublesome people, long days, and long nights, but if one does those two things he will “fulfill his ministry” in the Lord.



Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation


We had three young people visit our church this morning from the Netherlands (when I say “young,” I’m guessing mid-twenties). They were visiting Texas and in the next day or two would be flying back to their native land. As we attempted to communicate through their thick Dutch accents and my deep southeast Texas twang, I discovered that they belonged to a free Dutch Reformed denomination, and although I am a “Westminster guy,” we discovered that we all shared a love for the Heidelberg Catechism. Although separated by miles, cultures, countries, years (no one would guess that I am in my mid-twenties and I no longer have to ask for the senior discount, they know), and Confession of Faiths we joined together and sang of Christ’s Gospel, heard His Word preached, and shared the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It gave the four of us a glimpse of that future day when around God’s throne we will sing to our Lord and Savior, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

But today, in time and space we sang Isaac Watt’s beautiful hymn about the love and sacrifice of a holy God for sinners:

Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree!
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes in tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.

On Being a Pastor Part 2


This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) The word translated “bishop” in this verse is a word in the Book of Acts that describes the church office of “pastor.” In my last post, I shared about some of the challenges that make the life of a pastor a difficult one. I wrote about people problems, task problems, emotional problems, and time problems, and because of this, pastors, whether Baptist or Presbyterian, can often be a rather whiney lot (there is also one Methodist pastor that I shared a funeral with in West Texas who moaned to me about how badly the Bishop was treating him, so my guess is this characteristic cuts across all denominations). All that being said, let me go on record after spending 35 years in the ministry that being a pastor in one of Christ’s churches is one of the greatest blessings that one can experience this side of heaven.

When one is a pastor he gets to make his living reading and studying the Word of God. Hours of every week (if a pastor is worth his salt) is spent in mining the treasures of God’s truth. He has the opportunity to dig into the languages of Scripture, to read the commentaries written by the servants of God of all the ages, and to seek to discover how to best communicate that truth to God’s people. Before a sermon is ever preached to God’s people, the pastor has preached it to himself again and again throughout the week.

When one is a pastor he has the opportunity to spend time planning the corporate worship of God’s people. He has the privilege of reading through many Psalms and hymns to discover which ones will help explain the text of Scripture that he will be preaching on that Sunday. “The Trinity Hymnal,” for example, consists of 742 hymns covering hundreds of years of Christian hymnody filled to the brim with Biblical truth. When one adds in “The Trinity Psalter” he also is blessed by the metrical versions of the Psalms that have spoken to God’s people for generations.

When one is a pastor he has the great privilege of baptizing new believers, and the children of believers, pointing people to the grace of Christ as their only hope in this life and the life to come. He has the privilege of breaking bread in front of the flock of God and speaking on behalf of our Lord, “This is my body which is given for you,” and to hold up the cup and say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

When one is a pastor he gets to hear people share how Christ has changed their lives as they communicate their profession of faith, and then to hear them express their commitment to Christ as they take their membership vows. He has the privilege quite often to pray with his brothers and sisters in Christ during their times of joy, and sadness, and during their days of youth, and old age.

And, yes, while there are those who make life difficult for the pastor, there are many, many more that are a great blessing to him. To hear from people in the congregation share that they pray for you every day is a great comfort and encouragement during the challenging times. There are those who share materially, emotionally, and spiritually with their pastor to make his life in ministry easier.

A pastor even has some flexibility in his schedule so that even though there are times when he is absent from the his family during the evening, it is possible (as I often mentioned to my son) to make those 5 o’clock games when some fathers are unable to be there because they can’t get off work in time.

When the time came for me to retire (earlier than I had hoped because of family needs) I was saddened because I miss greatly the work that has filled most of my adult life. Oh, I don’t miss long session meetings, or the slings and arrows that often fly in the direction of spiritual leaders, but I do miss the many blessings that accompany ministering to the people of God. For I learned early in my life that “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

On Being a Pastor (Part 1)






This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) The word translated “bishop” in this verse is a word in the Book of Acts that describes the church office of “pastor.” There have been many articles written lately on the Internet describing how tough it is to be a pastor in the 21st century, and there is some truth to be found in that contention. As one who was ordained in August of 1981 and just recently retired, I can speak with some expertise on the subject.

The pastoral life has its challenges. To begin, there are always people (probably in any church one belongs to) that seem to have the “spiritual gift of criticism.” They criticize every decision that the pastor makes and make life truly miserable for him at times. I still remember a story that Dr. A. J. Quinn once told me about his days as an associational missionary when a young pastor pleaded with him to find him another church because of this lady who hounded him constantly as he tried to do his work in that small west Texas town. The good doctor responded by asking him how many in his church were like this woman. The young pastor said, “Only one. Just that Jezebel.” Dr. Quinn told him that he had better stay put because the next place that he serves may “have a church full of them.”

There is also the pressure of the calling. There are often eternal consequences to the things you do (Of course, I realize only God can change a heart, but the pastor “feels” the importance of the tasks he is called to do). He is called upon to open God’s Word week after week to feed Christ’s sheep with spiritual food (That amounts to approximately 150 sermons, Bible studies, etc. every year). Thankfully, God has given 66 books of the Bible full of heavenly truth. However, a diligent pastor will strive (and that is a good word to describe it) to make sure that he “rightly divides the Word of truth” as he explains, illustrates, and applies that Word to God’s people.

A pastor also feels emotional challenges as he ministers. He is there when the doctor comes out of surgery with bad news from the biopsy, he is there when church members and even people in the community die, he is there when husbands and wives are acting like the Hatfields and McCoys, he is there when the teenager is pushing every boundary that he can push, he is there when a child has been abused and seeks to help that child put the pieces of his life back together, and he is there when…well, I think you get the picture. No pastor feels comfortable when these events happen, but you are there to pray, and to be the Lord’s representative, because that is what you are called to do, and that is what those people need at that time. There are those who say you need to put some space between you and the people, but that is impossible when you are “weeping with those who weep.”

A pastor feels the pressure of time. When he is at home, he feels guilty because he is not out ministering to people, and when he is out ministering to people, he feels guilty because he is not home with his family. And, honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As one older pastor once told me when I was a young whippersnapper, “If you can do anything else other than pastor, do it.”

But, wait,” you may say, “you said that the one who desires to be a pastor desires a good thing.” Yes, being a pastor is not just a great responsibility, it is a great blessing. In my next blog post, [Deo Volente] I will speak of the many positive sides of being a pastor.

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