Our pastor is not very friendly. What to do?

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  –Proverbs 18:24

When someone told me she belonged to the First Baptist Church in a certain city, I said, “I know your pastor very well.  Great guy.”

That’s what started it.

“Great guy?  I guess so.  Yes, I’m sure he is,” said the new friend.  “However…”

I did not like the way this was going.  This pastor is pure gold, I was certain, and surely there were no glaring negatives.

“However, he’s not very friendly.”

I said, “What do you mean?  I always thought he was.”

“I’m sure he is to you and other preachers.  But he is reluctant to walk up to someone and greet them, never seems to know anyone’s name, and will sometimes pass you on the street without speaking.”

Oh my.  Not good.

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Gluttony: My favorite sin

Let all things be done in moderation.  –Philippians 4:5 

I read somewhere that Diamond Jim Brady, a character in American life a few generations ago, loved food so much, his stomach was 6 times the size of a normal belly.

Now, that, we think, is a glutton!

Can we talk?

How ironic that the season during which we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus provides us the perfect excuse to over-indulge.

Like the megalopolis that now stretches from Washington to Boston or from Dallas to Fort Worth, this eating holiday dominates our calendar from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

Walk through any modern large-box store, and study the edibles they’re offering during this season. It’s not just turkey and dressing and yams and egg nog any longer. It’s chocolates like you would not believe, in every kind of assortment and combination. It’s cookies and cakes and pies coming out your ears. Books pour off the shelves telling homemakers of new recipes for the latest taste sensations for these holidays. Restaurants offer special smorgasbords for the holidays with prices approaching $100 per person.

The wonder is that Americans are not all 400 pounds.

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“Lord, that’s not how we do things!”

“‘…your ways are not my ways,’ saith the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8)

Keep an eye on how the Lord works in your life. You might learn something useful for the next time He wants to use you.

This little couplet seems to sum up 90 percent of what Scripture and life teach us concerning the operation of God in this world….

When God gets ready to do a thing,

He loves to start small

Using ordinary people

With whatever methods He chooses,

And take HIs own good time about it.

Only people of faith will still be standing there at the end

To see what He has done

And to behold His glory.

That’s how He does things.  You can see it all through Scripture and by looking back over your lifetime.

But here is the problem.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are different from ours.  He is in fact light years above and beyond us and our techniques. (He said that very thing in Isaiah 55:8-9.)

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Truths the devil uses to stop us from praying

The forces of hell will do anything to keep us from praying.

Satan tells lies to keep us from praying.  He uses pleasures and misinformation and our laziness to keep us from praying.  He uses false teachers and busy schedules and great television to keep us from praying.

He also has been known to use truth.

Don’t miss that:  Sometimes he speaks the truth.

Here are eight true statements Satan uses to put a stop to the most powerful force in the world, the prayers of God’s people…

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Humanity: A special creation of God for His own purposes

I don’t know what you think about in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eludes you, but this was on my mind this morning.

People are different from all other animals God made.

We sit in front of the television watching nature shows and swoon at the images of baby tigers, baby baboons, baby anythings.

We are wired that way, to love the creation around us.

I walk the path in our little neighborhood and breathe in the Autumn air and delight in all the hues of the leaves in a hundred trees.  They carpet the ground where I walk our dog, and they are enchanting.

The dog, however, never noticed.

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Ten reasons I believe in Heaven

“Heaven is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.”  –Stephen Hawking

I’m afraid of the dark.

If we’re talking about the endless kind of darkness that offers no light anywhere, no hope ever, and nothing but nothingness, who among us would not panic at the thought of that?

I expect people like Mr. Hawking simply find the idea of Heaven too good to be true, and thus conclude that it must be a product of man’s delusional yearning for “pie in the sky by and by.”

And yet, there are solid reasons for reasonable people to believe in the concept of a Heavenly home after this earthly life.  Here are some that mean a lot to me.  By no means is this list exhaustive.  It’s simply my thinking on the subject.

I can hear someone protest that I am merely a Baptist preacher and no authority on anything.  You wonder by what right I do this.  Good question and it deserves a good answer.  Here is the one Jesus gave.  “Father, I thank Thee, Lord of Heaven and of earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25).  I’m a babe, spiritually speaking.  He shown them to me.

One.  Jesus believed in Heaven.   In fact, He claimed to be a native.

The Lord said to Nicodemus, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man.” (John 3:13).  No one knows a place like a native.

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Let’s say you are considering becoming a Christian

You almost persuade me to become a Christian.  –Acts 26:28

Let’s say that’s you.

You’ve been seriously considering inviting Jesus Christ to become Lord of your life. It’s a big step and you’re taking your own good time dealing with it.

You know some things about Jesus and you find yourself drawn to Him.

You wonder what to do now, where to start.

Here are some suggestions…

One. Go to the primary source, not a secondary one.    A primary source is one that is close to the subject, that is the basis for what we know and believe. A secondary source is one written about the primary source.

Two.  In other words, read the Bible and not just books about the Bible. Start by reading the Four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These are the opening “books” of the New Testament, and give us all we know about His earthly life and ministry.  I suggest you read them again and again.  — You will find a lot of similarities.  Mark’s was the first one written, according to some of the earliest believers, at the dictation of the Apostle Peter.  But each gospel is different in interesting ways.  Read them several times.

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What search committees say when they mean something else

Never volunteer for the pastor search committee unless one of two things is true: Everyone agrees that a beloved former staff member, who is now serving a church in Podunk, is going to be the next pastor, making this the easiest job ever–or, you have a death wish.

It can be the hardest, most thankless assignment you’ll ever undertake.

It can also make a world of difference for good in a church that needs just the right combination of visionary pastor, anointed preacher, competent administrator, and down-to-earth friend.

If your church is selecting such a committee, pray big time for the Lord to lead in filling the slots. Never volunteer for it.  Accept it if the Lord leads you and those making the decision.  If you are a member of such a group, then this little piece is for you.  Think of what follows as a cautionary note, exaggerated in places, attempting a little humor at times, but with much truth.

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Word Wrangling: Not for this rodeo

Many of us pastors have trouble staying out of the ditches and onto the road.

A scholar friend says, “Truth is a ridge on either side of which are vast chasms to be avoided at all cost.”  One side is called liberalism, the other legalism.  Rigid fundamentalism on the right, worldly compromise on the left.  In between is the road.  The way.  It’s narrow.

Truth always is.

It’s one thing to love word-study and to delight in finding a particular word in Scripture that yields a well-spring of insights and applications, but a far different thing to fight over the meaning of some obscure Greek word.

Somewhere I encountered a translation of I Timothy 6:5 that warns God’s leaders about “word-wrangling.” This morning, looking that passage up in various translations and commentaries and other study helps, no one has it that way, but more as “constant striving” and “chronic disagreement.” (The Greek word—ahem, here we go now–is disparatribai, a double compound word which according to Thayer, means “constant contention, incessant wrangling or strife.”)

“Thayer” refers to a well-respected Greek-English lexicon used for generations. In the above quote, he used the word “wrangling”. Maybe I got it from him.

The image of wrangling suggests a cowboy roping a dogie, jumping off his horse, and wrestling the animal to the ground.

Some of us do that with words. We capture them, hogtie them, and put our own brand on them. The result may be to make the word mean something entirely different from the writer’s original intention.

And since our audiences–that would be the men and women of our congregations–are not knowledgeable about the Greek and Hebrew (most don’t have a clue what a lexicon is!), when we start parsing (ahem) these words in sermons, they either shift into neutral intending to catch up when we return to the main highway or they stand in awe, assured we must know what we’re talking about since we use phrases like “the original Greek says” and “my Hebrew professor used to say this word means.”

Why our people put up with this stuff is beyond me.

They shouldn’t.

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How to give thanks—and how not to!

It is said that when Maureen Stapleton won the Academy Award, she gushed into the microphone, “I want to thank everyone I’ve ever known!”

That got a laugh, I’m sure, and everyone understood the sense of gratitude that threatened to overload her nervous system. It’s a grand feeling, no doubt, although few among us have ever been in the position she was at that moment.

However.  Does anyone think that Ms. Stapleton’s friends and family members, her co-stars and colleagues, her producers and directors, immediately felt appreciated and properly thanked by that statement? I think not.

No one took it as a personal word of appreciation.

Impersonal, general, generic one-size-fits-all thanks does not do the job. A message on the sign-board in front of a place of business saying “Thanks for your patronage” does not communicate thanksgiving.

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