The Turnip Congress

By Kevin Cauley

“On the twenty-fifth of July, Sow your turnips, wet or dry.”

There may be a few among us that remember President Harry Truman. I am currently reading a biography about his life. While President Truman brought a swift end to the war with Japan and deftly handled United States foreign policy, Mr. Truman did not start off as a popular president domestically. In fact, half way through his first term the nation elected a republican congress to express their disapproval with his efforts. Four months before the 1948 election his approval rating was down to 36 percent. The republican candidate, New York governor Thomas Dewey, was considered a shoe in. But Truman wasn’t beat yet. He called a special session of congress during his democratic nomination acceptance speech calling for the congress to pass bills on social security, health care, and civil rights. They were to convene on the twenty-fifth of July, Turnip Day in Missouri. Dubbed the Turnip Congress, they failed to get the bills passed. Truman’s campaign speeches became highly critical of the do-nothing republican congress, and Truman, against all odds, was re-elected president in the fall.

The turnip congress was a complaining congress. They griped and complained about how poorly Truman was doing his job, but they failed to do anything better. Perhaps we ought to consider if we are a turnip Christian. Are we so preoccupied with the poor way that others are doing their jobs in the church that we fail to see our own failures and inabilities? Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without murmurings and questionings” and James 5:9 states, “Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the judge standeth before the doors.” Where is our focus? If all we can see are the other guy s failings, without considering our own and without offering an alternative plan for improvement, then we may be a turnip Christian.

The turnip congress was a do-nothing congress. Truman really gave them an opportunity to shine in that fifteen-day session beginning July 26th, of 1948. If they had passed some legislation and done something, Truman would have been finished. Instead, they did nothing. Are we do-nothing Christians? Jesus said, “Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock” ( Matthew 7:24). James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves” ( James 1:22). As Christians we are not to sit idly by and wait on someone else to do our job. We must be willing to do it ourselves. If we cannot get busy and do what we have been called to do, then we may be a turnip Christian.

The turnip congress was a defeated congress. Not only did Truman win the Presidency in the fall, but the republican congress was kicked out and a democratic congress took it’s place. Are we destined to be defeated Christians? There’s a serious question to ponder. It reminds me of what Jesus said about the one talent man who did nothing with what he had. “Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away. And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” ( Matthew 25:28-30). If we cannot find a way to use our abilities to serve the Lord profitably, then we may be a turnip Christian.

God wants us to be successful in our Christian walk. However, we must have the right attitude and make a modicum of effort in that walk. We have all the tools we need to do the job before us; we’ve been called by God into special session; now what will we do with it? Will we simply be a turnip Christian or will we work to accomplish God’s goals on earth through faithful service? May we all seek to be more than a mere turnip.

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Labels

By Kevin Cauley

On the outside of an old fruit crate sitting in my office is a label: “Liberty Brand / Grown and Packed by Escondido Lemon Assn. / Escondido – Calif. / Sunkist.” I understand that these fruit crate labels today are collectors’ items, though this one has been damaged to the degree that it wouldn’t be all that valuable. Nevertheless that label had a purpose. It identified the original contents of that crate, the grower, packer, and the brand name of the distributor.

There are some people who do not like labels. Usually these are individuals who do not want to be characterized as subscribing to a particular point of view, though they do. I had a professor in college who refused to be identified by the label of his philosophy, though, that was his philosophy. A life certainly can’t be described in one word. However, I believe that he missed the point. A label isn’t supposed to tell you everything about a person’s life. It tells you what is responsible for that person’s beliefs. My lemon crate label tells me who is responsible for the product. So also, certain labels tell us what is responsible for the beliefs and decisions made in an individual’s life. Let’s consider for a moment our lives as crates. What we have in our crates are our beliefs and decisions. What label would we put on our crate?

Some would have to put the label “hypocrite” on their crate. The outside of their crate appearing pure, but the inside being full of wickedness. This is what Jesus labeled some of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” Hypocrisy had become the characteristic that was most responsible for how these men lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some would have to put the label “lawless” on their crate. Seemingly there are more and more individuals in society today who behave as if there are no standards of decently and morality by which we must live. Jesus said about such individuals, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness)” ( Matthew 7:23). For these individuals, lawlessness had become the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some, however, could put the label “honest” on their crate. Some individuals in the world, when confronted with God’s truth, have the integrity to listen and respond appropriately to God’s word. Jesus said of such individuals, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” ( Luke 8:15). For these individuals, honesty became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some also could put the label “faithful” on their crate. These are individuals who believe the gospel and live by it, refusing to hide their talents, and by using their abilities bring increase to the Lord’s kingdom. Jesus said of such individuals, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” ( Matthew 25:21). For these individuals, faithfulness became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

There is one label by which I wish to be recognized when my life is done: Christian. If it can be said of me that I magnified Christ, that I exemplified His words to those around me, that I honored and glorified Him in His church on a regular basis – if it can be carved upon my headstone, “He was a Christian” – then it will be enough. There are many today who take that name and denigrate it either through verbal castigation or through hypocritical living. May such never be said of us who desire that holy label.

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The Silence of the Scriptures

By Kevin Cauley

“I don’t understand the concept of the silence of the scriptures.” This is an increasingly voiced sentiment. However, we do understand the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures to some degree. For example, take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” This is a positive command. Jesus didn’t have to explain who NOT to remember. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t remember Abraham. Don’t remember Moses. Don’t remember Joshua. Don’t remember David. Don’t remember Hezekiah. Don’t remember John the baptizer.” I don’t know of any religious group observing the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of anyone but Jesus. Would it be sinful during the Lord’s Supper to remember someone other than Jesus? Yes. That shows a basic understanding of the silence of the scriptures.

It is not difficult to apply this same principle to other areas of worship. When it comes to singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, the New Testament doesn’t equivocate. The passages that speak of music in the church are limited. None mention instruments. All mention singing. Conclusion! The positive command regarding music in the church is: “Sing!” No one denies this. All agree that singing occurred. So why conclude that singing only is God’s desire? The scriptures are silent on the use of instruments.

Is that silence permissive? Is that silence prohibitive? Can the scriptures answer these questions? Yes. The examples of Nadab and Abihu teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Leviticus 10:1-2). God’s commands to Noah to build the ark teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Genesis 6:22). Silence prohibited the church at Corinth from calling themselves Paulites ( 1 Corinthians 1:13). Silence prohibited Jesus from being a priest under the law of Moses. ( Hebrews 7:14, says “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.”) Silence prohibited the exaltation of angels to positions of divine authority ( Hebrews 1:5, 13). In each of these examples God’s positive commands limit what may be done. “This do in remembrance of me.” No explicit prohibition is further necessary.

When we consider that man is not authorized to do anything he wants to do in worship ( John 4:24), that worship becomes meaningless when we elevate human tradition (i.e. the use of instruments) to doctrine in worship ( Matthew 15:9), that we cannot approach God in worship with a display of our own righteousness ( Romans 10:2-3), and the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures, we conclude it is sinful to worship God with the instrument.

May we strive to make our worship pure, holy, and acceptable to God. May we prostrate ourselves before His majestic throne with glory, honor, and thanksgiving. May we have the utmost spirit of humility as we contemplate His sovereignty, magnificence, and beauty ( Revelation 4). May we realize that we are created for His pleasure and we do not live to serve self in offering worship ( Revelation 4:11).

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