Forgiving hearts and short memories

“…He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10)

“If you should mark iniquities, O Lord, who would stand?” (Psalm 130:3)

I have set records along life’s way for naivete’ and plain-out stupidity.

If everyone kept a record of my flaws and faults and slights and blights, I’d be the least popular person on the planet.

I have said things to people–blurted them out without thinking–that return to me in the middle of the night and put me to shame. “What was I thinking?”  “Why wasn’t I thinking?”

Some remarks were trivial, off-handed nonsense, meant as nothing and, as Shakespeare said, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  And yet, in my  determination to make sure no moment lacked the sound of my voice, I prated on and on.

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What the preacher should say in the wedding ceremony

“…the  two shall become one….” (Matthew 19:5)

The wedding ceremony is a great time–once in a lifetime for most people–for the pastor to get something across to two people in particular while hundreds are eavesdropping.

Not that the couple will remember a thing you say.  (When Margaret and I stood at the altar, our pastor said some wonderful things that I found fascinating and inspiring.  No exaggeration.  I stood there alongside my bride and was blessed by his comments. Alas, no one was recording anything in 1962, and my mind retained his wonderful words for exactly half an hour, so whatever he said is gone forever.)

These days, someone is recording your wedding service.

The bride and groom and close relatives will keep the CD and/or DVD for the rest of their lives and will periodically play it again.

That’s when your words are finally heard and begin to sink in.

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Reasons to believe: There are only ten thousand or so.

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).

I believe in God because I believe in butterflies.

I believe in God because I’ve seen a baby and held one and watched it grow into adulthood.  And I have seen him hold babies of his own in his arms.

I believe in God because I watched the sunrise this morning.

I believe in God because of a lack of turbulence.  As the earth spins around its axis, as the earth speeds around its orbit, as our solar system zooms through the galaxy, and as the galaxy tears across the heavens at enormous speeds, you and I don’t feel a thing.  We can lay a ball on the ground today and it’s still there tomorrow morning, unmoved.  I find that truly amazing.

I believe in God because of Jesus.

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Why I turned off that radio preacher

On the highway the other day and flipping through the radio dial, I came across a Seventh Day Adventist preacher in the middle of a sermon. Within five minutes, he had made two errors that revealed either his biblical incompetence or his spiritual presumption.

So I turned him off.

In the first instance, in trying to make the case for Christians today keeping the Sabbath, he equated the Ten Commandments with all our Lord’s statements in the Gospels about “keeping my commands” and “breaking these commandments.”  In John chapters 14 and 15, for instance, several times our Lord says things like, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15,21,23 and 15:10,14).  That preacher said Jesus was referring to the Ten Commandments.

Not even close.

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What pastors do that cause their members to cringe

“Lord, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us” (Mark 9:38).

Robert Schuller died last week. This founder of the Crystal Cathedral in California and founder/host of television’s “Hour of Power” broadcast was the “media pastor” to countless millions who would never have entered my church.  He wrote books, did a lot of good, did much that was questionable, and drove us traditionalists out of our collective minds.

When I read of his passing, I posted this on my Facebook page:

My favorite Robert Schuller story: When he was a kid, his mother taught him piano lessons.  Once, in the middle of a recital, his mind went blank and he forgot the rest of the piece he was playing. There was nothing to do but walk off the stage in humiliation.  Later, his mother gave him some great advice. “Honey, any time you mess up in the middle of a piece, always end with a flourish and no one will ever remember what you did in the middle.”  Schuller would say, “Some of you have messed up in the middle of your life.  But my friend, you can end with a flourish if you start now.”

 

It’s a great story and a fine sermon illustration.

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Five facts about the sign in front of your church

Since Scripture doesn’t mention “church buildings”–other than people’s homes–we have no explicit teachings concerning their function, architecture, or anything else.  Therefore, a sign in front of the church to identify certain details about the congregation is also foreign to Scripture, a small innovation made necessary by the cultures of which we are a part. So, the principles here are basic common sense…I hope.

1. Your church needs a sign.

When oppressive governments first decide to persecute churches, they require that all signage and identifying insignia be removed.  Mistakenly under the impression that if no one can find a church the houses of worship will soon cease to exist, pagan officials forget that the Christian faith existed for centuries by word of mouth, still the best method of propagating the gospel.

Even so, it’s a good idea to have a sign in front of a church.  In America, that is a given. The church without a sign in front may as well have no door.

Please take a look at the sign identifying your church.  Get out of the car and walk up close to it. Study it closely.

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Some harmless looking things can be deadly

“For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the sin of idolatry”(I Samuel 15:23).

“Oh, he’s so cute. Can I pat him?”

Our little daughter was fascinated by the large black bear that was crawling through the garbage cans near our house.  We were attending a weeklong conference at the conference center near Glorieta, New Mexico, and had noticed signs warning about bears.  Traps in the form of large steel drums had been set for them.  (They would be hauled back into the mountains and turned loose.)  This night, we had just returned from a two-hour service of worship and were going from our car into the duplex when we spotted the bear across the street.

“No, you may not pat him!”  The very idea.  We hurried inside and watched through the window.

What the child considered a teddy bear could have easily been a killer.

My sin was not a big thing.

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Church leader, be the kid brother in the room.

“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:26).

Raise your hand if you’re the kid brother in a large family.

If so, you have been given an insight into this teaching of the Lord that most people miss altogether.

Now, in our family Mom and Dad had four sons and two daughters.  I was the number three son, born between sisters Patricia and Carolyn.  Ron was (still is) the eldest and Charlie was the youngest.  (Charlie died in 2006 and Glenn in 2014.)

Growing up, since he was the eldest in our large household, Ron took the role of the assistant father.  Whether Dad established that rule or not and whether the rest of us liked it or not, when Dad was not around, Ron called the shots.  Once when we were small, some relative came to our house and gave each of us a nickel. By nightfall, Ron had all the nickels. He’d traded or cajoled or something to corner the market on McKeever nickels.

As the baby of the family, little Charlie caught the brunt of everything.  He wore the hand-me-downs and had little say in family decisions.

I still smile at this exchange between Ron and Charlie when they were something like 15 and 6, respectively.  Ron called out, “Charlie! Come here.”  The little kid reluctantly came near.

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What to do, pastor, when you are the victim of a rumor

“Why would you rather not be wronged?…..For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:7,20).

In 1990, after a preacher had served only seven months and tore the church up twice, I arrived as the new pastor.

I  was not the excited new kid on the block as with my previous moves. This was different.

I had endured a brutal three years in my former pastorate and thought perhaps the Lord wanted this broken church (to which I was coming) and this bruised pastor (moi!) to help one another heal.

Some years later, I learned a preacher in our area was telling people that I had torn up this church because of some serious immorality.

I sought him out and asked if he were really saying this.

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Let the pastor respect his people.

“We being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).

Has the Lord ever spoken to you through your own words?

One morning recently, I posted the following on Facebook: Pastors, do not ever say that your people do not like change.  There are no 1947 Packards on your church parking lot. Even your seniors drive late-model cars, own flat-screen televisions, and are on the computer.  They do not mind change, so long as it’s not abrupt, not all at once, and not forced on them.  Pastor, respect your people and they may surprise you.

Where did that last sentence come from, I wondered as it flew off my fingers through the keyboard onto the screen.

That was a new thought.

“Pastors, respect your people.”

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