God is making plans for you.

“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

We don’t begin to have a clue.

God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to reveal to us mortals.

It’s not our business to know, for one thing.  Most of what goes on in the universe He is keeping to Himself.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”  (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Everything we know about the operation of the created world is but a sliver of the full story. (And yes, isn’t it fun to make these discoveries. Scientists get to see what God has done before the rest of us!)

How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?

I do not know. Neither do you.

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10 big things Jesus said which we keep forgetting

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things I tell you” (Luke 6:46).

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

I apologize for the title. Everything our Lord said was “big.”  It’s just that some of His statements in particular seem to have been muted in recent years.  See what you think.

1) We keep forgetting the second commandment is a command.

We want our religion to be private, just “me and the Lord.”

Jesus refuses to play that game. After being asked to identify the “greatest” command, He said, “And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). We must note that this is a command, not an option, an opinion, a wish, a Facebook “like,” or a good idea. To love one’s neighbor strongly is a key component of the kind of witness Jesus envisioned His people extending to the world.

So, why don’t we obey it? Answer: We have found it inconvenient, difficult, and demanding. When we love people–truly care for them to the point that they know it–they might need us and that would interfere with our schedule. It’s much easier to love the lovely, to care for the appreciative, to give to the deserving, and to reach out to those who need little or nothing.

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Is it okay not to “enjoy” the sermon?

Can you think of any place in Scripture where someone compliments another on his message?

I can’t think of a one.

Nowhere, to my knowledge, in the Word does anyone say “Peter preached a powerful sermon” or “Paul’s message was well received” or “The Macedonian crowd got a lot out of Titus’ sermon on the Lord’s Day.”

Now, some in the audience did pick up rocks to throw at the preacher on more than one occasion, but those were the rabble, the wicked, the hostile outsiders and not the congregation of the faithful.

I have a suggestion.

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The last lesson of Ravi Zacharias

By this deed, you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme….  (2 Samuel 12:14).

I loved the writings and messages of the late Ravi Zacharias.  In 2009, when I discovered that a longtime friend, whose wife had at one time been my secretary, was working for Dr. Zacharias, I contacted him and we had a great phone visit.  Since I had none of the books RZ had written, my friend sent me several.  I loved them and quoted from them often.

Ravi Zacharias was a powerful voice for theism, a effective apologist for the Christian faith, and a comfort to believers everywhere.  He was, that is, until he wasn’t.

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God loves you everlastingly

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

What part of ‘everlasting’ do we not get?

These days, we are learning through science a little of what unending and infinite look like. Space seems to be continuous, going on and on.  The lineup of galaxies across the heavens staggers our imaginations, considering their size, makeup, and number.

The Psalmist who said “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord” had no clue just how much they say about the majesty and might of our Creator. That’s not to imply we do, only that we have far more information on the complexities and delights of the universe which the Father has wrought with His own hands than biblical writers ever imagined.

“From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” (Psalm 90:2)

From everlasting in the past to everlasting in the future, God is God.  There never was a time when God did not exist; there will never be a time when God does not reign.

I cannot get my mind around that. To my puny intellect, infinity of any kind is fearful.  To think of being snuffed out upon death, that after our last breath, we are extinguished forever, is frightening and painful beyond belief.  I think of loved ones whose passing took with them a huge hunk of my heart and soul. The thought that I would never see them again strikes me with a sadness that is incalculable.

But infinity of the other kind–living forever and ever, world without end–is just as mind-boggling. How could that work? How could we exist knowing that nothing would ever end?

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Reading the fine print in the gospel

Getting ready to face the day, I happened to notice an ad for “hair club for women” playing on the television.  Photos flew by of before and after shots of women. Most had been afflicted with bare spots or thinning mane and the “after” photos showed them with gloriously full tresses.

Then I saw it.  Down in the corner the small print said, “Results may vary.”

Ahh.  Yes, indeed.  Results may vary.  The old “caveat emptor.”  Let the buyer beware.

The ad might as well say “these are not typical,” as advertisers are forced to do by truth-in-advertising laws.

Sadly, you and I are used to such come-ons and slick sales spiels. No one expects the used car salesman to tell you why we should be cautious in buying this particular car.  We’ve learned to turn a suspicious eye toward the seller of the house who cannot quit raving about all its fine points.  What, we wonder, is he not saying?

Which brings me to my point…

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The compliment that wounds a pastor

This is from my journal of Tuesday, March 30, 1993. I had been at that church two and a half years…

At 2 pm, I had a visitor. A former church member who will go unnamed here wanted to apologize for his being so critical of me in my first year.  He couldn’t identify why he was, except a certain resistance to authority.

I forgave him.  The pain is that he is a minister of sorts, someone I had a lot of confidence in and did not know he was doing this. He said, “I hear from people in the last month that you have changed.”  Why am I offended by that? I said, “I haven’t.  I’m the same person I was then.” Which is true. 

Reminds me of the pain in (my last church) when people would write and say, ‘We love you now, but for your first year here, we hated your guts. You were in our pastor’s pulpit.’ (The previous pastor had stayed only 3 years and had left for another church before they were ready to release him.) And these would be dear people whom I had valued.  They got It off their chest but left me bleeding.

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Ten lessons I’ve learned (the hard way) on leading Christ’s church

Anyone who begins to pastor a church should recognize two big things:  There are lessons to be learned if you are ever to do this well, and most of them are learned the hard way.  Your scars will attest to your education.

Most of this is counter-intuitive; that is, not what one might expect.

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, want to lead big churches, want to grow their church to be huge, or wish to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than one would ever think.

Small bodies can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

A friend says, “At judgement, a lot of pastors are going to wish they’d led smaller congregations.”

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So many reasons to pray for the pastor

A friend and I were having a discussion about preachers. We both love our preachers, and years ago, I was her pastor, so we have a mutual understanding about a lot of things.

The conversation went like this.

She: “One of the things I’ve enjoyed in our church lately is an enhanced understanding of every phrase of the Lord’s prayer. So much so that I was offended recently at a funeral when the minister asked us to stand and ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think it’s something to be recited; it’s something to be prayed diligently!”

She added: “Now don’t go getting the wrong idea. I think that preacher is a delightful person, and I like him very much.”

I said, “Asking someone to ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer reminds me of something similar that drives me up the wall. You’ll be in a moving worship service, and the leader will say, ‘Now, let us have a word of prayer,’ or ‘I’m going to ask Bill to lead us in a word of prayer.’ I don’t know why that bothers me so much. I feel like calling out, ‘Hey friend, pray! Don’t just have a ‘word’ of prayer. Go to the Heavenly Father and pray!’ Somehow, it minimizes the importance of prayer, as though we’re all tipping our hats to the Almighty, then going on with the important stuff.”

We branched out to discussing how we preachers sometimes say foolish things without a clue as to how it’s being received. I told her about a recent internet conversation with a friend in North Carolina.

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My favorite things in church

My favorite place in church is the altar area.

When I was pastoring, sometime in the middle of a weekday, I would slip in and kneel there and spend time with the Lord.

The question arises as to “Why? What makes that place special?” After all, even though we call it the “altar,” it isn’t, not in the Old Testament sense or even the New Testament sense. Calvary is the ultimate altar for believers. The only answer I can find is: “I don’t know. I just know I need it and love it.”

What I do not understand is believers who never come to the altar and pray. It seems that only the most spiritually sensitive do, and I sure want to be among that number.

I love, love, love those times in church when for reasons unknown the congregational singing comes together like never before and everyone is singing at the top of their voices, the hymns are circulating around the room, bouncing off the ceiling and coming back to fill us, and our souls are lifted. It feels like we have touched the hem of the garment of our Lord, and makes us long for Heaven all that much more.

What I do not like is when the worship leader tries to manufacture this on his own. I’ve seen them do that, and the result is fake, hyped, unworthy.

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