Overlooked Scripture No. 5: “Who is my mother?”

“One said to Him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with you.’  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are my brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'” (Matthew 12:47-50).

I’m so sorry, Catholic friends. But Scripture will not allow you to worship Mary.

There is no place for Mariolatry, as it is known, in the life of Jesus’ disciples.

We will give her the honor Scripture gives her. We have no trouble calling her blessed, for who would not be blessed by being chosen to bear God’s Son into the world. But no, she is not “the mother of God.”  Any way you slice it, the only way you can make Scripture justify worship of Mary is to ignore everything but a few selected verses.

A woman called out of the crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you! And blessed are the breasts that nursed you!”  Jesus’ answer is significant.  “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28).

Jesus would not allow people to make of Mary more than she was.

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Does it matter how the preacher dresses?

(I posted a paragraph on Facebook calling for pastors to dress “to inspire confidence”–and not look like they’d been out hitchhiking all night. It’s important to note that I did not say he should wear the uniform of the previous generation–a coat and tie–but merely to “dress one step in front of most of the men in the church,” whatever that means.  Twenty-four hours later, we had 245 comments. Clearly, people have strong feelings about this.)

“If I see you standing at the pulpit wearing a suit and a tie, I’m out of there.”

I smiled at that.  The fellow who said it is so dead-set on making sure the church does not put too much emphasis on appearance that he…well, puts too much emphasis on appearance.

As I write, the television set in this motel room is running the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses.  At some point I noticed something about the men candidates for nomination for president.

All were wearing suits and white shirts and ties.

Why?

Watch any newscast. The anchormen are wearing suits and ties.

How come?

This cannot be accidental.  It cannot be because they are stuck in a rut.  Nor can it be because they are trying to flaunt their wealth or impress the world.

These people never do anything–repeat, never do anything!–without good cause.

So, why do the candidates and the anchor people dress up when they go to work?

We will pause here while you consider your answer.

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5 words to those who minister in nursing homes

My brother Ron, age 80 as I write, is still active in the ministry after over 53 years.  In addition to preaching at a church near his home, he holds services at a nursing home. Ron says, “For the past 23 years, I’ve done a monthly service at a local nursing home. I enter, knowing that this may be the last message they will hear and I act accordingly. They love to hear me sing Fa Sol La and I accommodate them. No messages on tithing or knocking on doors but a message from the Word that will help them cross the bar a little easier.” (Note: Fa Sol La is also known as Sacred Harp Singing.)

My friend Charlotte Arthur flies under the radar in her nursing home ministry. Few people know of her ministry to these invalids. Charlotte visits and ministers and devotes herself to comforting these who are in the declining years of life. As her former pastor, I accompanied her on one occasion to visit an elderly friend who had served our church for decades. Charlotte and a friend or two had pulled the strings to get Cleve Davenport into that nursing home where he was being cared for night and day. I asked her how she got started in this work.

“When I was six years old,” she said, “my mother took me with her to visit people in nursing homes.  So, I’ve done it all my life.”  She paused and said, “I love it.”

Here are five statements on nursing home ministry to encourage you.

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Overlooked scripture No. 4 “Second-hand faith”

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word. Then, they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world'” (John 4:39-42).

Paul Harvey used to call this “the rest of the story.”

We preachers dearly love the Lord’s encounter with the woman at the well, given in the first half of John 4.  It’s insights and teachings, its power and pathos, make it one for the ages.  But the story does not end the way we generally conclude it, with her rushing back into the town to tell her friends about the Man she had met. There is more.

As the townspeople flowed out to meet the Lord, they begged Him to stay, which He did. Then, two days later, when He left, Jesus left behind a lot of new believers.  That’s when some of them gave us the memorable statement which I’m calling “overlooked scripture.”

“Now we believe…not just because of your testimony that He told you everything you ever did…but because we have met Him for ourselves, and we know that He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

That’s strong stuff.

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Note to pastors: Your audience is always changing.

Al Maury pulled the old beat-up Volkswagen bus into the bank parking lot on Decatur Street and killed the engine.  As the six seminary students bailed out, he opened the rear door and took out a microphone-on-a-stand and flipped a switch, turning on the transmitter.  “McKeever, you’re preaching tonight!”

Oh my.  A baptism by fire. Thrown into the deep water without a life preserver.

We were preaching on the streets of New Orleans’ fabled French Quarter.

The very thought struck terror into my heart. And yet, I had volunteered for it.

The year was 1964 and I was a new student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  All first-year students were required to participate in one “field mission” ministry.  Each Tuesday, the student body gathered in Frost Chapel for a report and testimony time.  Choices for these ministries included helping start-up churches, hospital and nursing home ministry, the New Orleans Seamen’s Service, neighborhood mission centers, after-school tutoring, and such. Determined to rise above my fears of cold-turkey witnessing, I had chosen the scariest thing on the list.

Street preaching.

Yikes.

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Is it possible to manipulate people into the Kingdom?

“…and make disciples of all the nations….” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In my opinion, the deacon was brow-beating people into praying the sinner’s prayer with him, then accompanying him to church the following Sunday to make public this “commitment” and be baptized.  The whipped look on their face told all one would ever need to know.

So, one Sunday I asked this lady, “Do you really want to do this?  You know, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”  She said quietly that this was her choice. So, we baptized her and never saw her again.

Eventually, we changed the way we received church members to make certain we were not baptizing someone’s converts but were making disciples of the Lord Jesus.

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Overlooked Scriptures No. 3: “Jesus baptized no one.”

“The Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)….” (John 4:1-2)

Baptism has bumfuzzled God’s people from the first.

Where did the practice originate?  Answer: Evidently from the Old Testament practice of drenching a newly ordained priest (Leviticus 8:6). Later, some say, the “pouring” was given to proselytes coming into the Jewish faith from the world.  So, when John the Baptist arrived and began calling people to wade into the Jordan for a dip (which is the literal meaning of “baptize”), while people thought he was strange, no one seems to have questioned the practice.  Oddly, he was baptizing Jews, not Gentiles and not proselytes.

When our Lord was baptized, it signaled His coming out, His going public, His announcing to the world His identity.  That moment, in my thinking, was the first time Satan knew beyond a doubt who the Messiah was. He knew the Lord was there somewhere, for he could read Scripture. But Jesus had done no miracles and singled Himself out in no way that would cause the enemy to identify Him.  But Satan was on the alert.  He listened to John preach and knew to be expecting the Christ.  And then one day, Jesus of Nazareth walked into the water and the heavens opened and a voice from the sky shook the landscape.

And that’s when Satan knew.

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Overlooked Scriptures No. 2: “Why Jesus is the authority on Heaven”

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).

Jesus knows about Heaven.

He should. He’s a native.

When He speaks of Heavenly things, everyone else on the field should retire and every mouth be closed.  No one else carries the credentials Jesus does regarding the divine.

I wonder if people have ever considered the width and breadth and depth of this statement, given by our Lord to Nicodemus.

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My “Super Bowl” sermon 20 years ago

(My journal for January 1996 records this message as the one I preached on Super Bowl Sunday, January 28.  After reading these notes, you may be interested in the post scripts.  Every pastor will understand the final one…and will shake his head in amazement at the littleness of some people in church…in every church, let us emphasize.)

Title:  THE GOSPEL FOR SPORTS-AHOLICS

Text: Hebrews 12:1-2  “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, national day of worship for a country crazy about sports. I’m a sports fan too, altho’ a bigger baseball fan than anything else.  For one thing, you can carry on a nice conversation with your neighbor and they don’t have cheerleaders and there is very little rowdiness.

Margaret and I have been amazed to see that the second word our grandson (Grant) learned was ‘ball.’ I’ve said to his mother Julie that if he grows up to be involved in all kinds of sports, don’t be surprised, that apparently he came to us that way.

It will interest you to know that much of the world has always been sports-crazy. We know about the Olympic Games–which were started in 776 B.C.! The rest, as they say, is history.

The Apostle Paul knew about sports and apparently loved them as most men do.  Tonight we will look at I Corinthians 9 where he talks about sports as illustrating some spiritual points.

Here in Hebrews 12:1-2, a great sporting event is going on.  This one is the Super Bowl to end all Super Bowls. And you and I are playing in it.  I want you to see 5 things….

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Overlooked Scriptures No. 1: “Does Jesus believe in me?”

(It’s not that certain scriptures are lost, misplaced, or denied.  Rather, they’re usually surrounded by other better-known texts that tend to suck all the air out of the room.  We’re going to present a few articles on some of those overlooked scriptures. No particular order.)

“Now, when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

Is it possible that for some to believe in Jesus and still not be saved?

Doesn’t Scripture make belief in Him the essence of salvation?  Immediately after our text, we have the Lord’s encounter with Nicodemus with the iconic John 3:16 which states that “whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Earlier, John 1:12 had said “…to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

And yet, our text makes it clear that some who “believed” in Jesus were not born again.  The reason given is a fascinating one:  Jesus did not believe in them.

When have we ever given thought to whether Jesus believes in us?

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