I Hope Somebody Judges!

This morning on my Facebook page, I left a little note concerning a Hollywood celebrity who has been in and out of rehab, in and out of trouble with film studios and production companies, and in and out of favor with the public. He has just taken himself out of rehab and vows he does not need their intervention.

The quote that got me was his saying, “I’m going to quit pretending I’m not special.” I posted that and added, “Can you say delusional?”

The comments from Facebook friends multiplied rapidly. And what got me were the ones accusing me (and friends who indicated their concern for this fellow) of judgmentalism. One even accused us of “hating him.” Of course, that writer was mighty quick to condemn us for hating.

The irony of that is so stark as to not require a comment.

Once again, we hear supposedly right-thinking Christian people warning us against judging. And they all quote the same verse, Matthew 7:1, where our Lord said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

One wonders if such people really and truly mean that, that we should not make judgements at all concerning the behavior of other people.

You’re looking for a babysitter? Fine. Just accept the first person who walks in and applies. After all, you do not want to be guilty of judging.

Looking for an auditor for your company? As soon as she gets out of prison for embezzlement, I know a former church secretary who might apply for the job.

Looking for a pastor for your church? Will you take the first handsome dude with a seminary degree who shows up in a three-piece suit? Or will you look into his background and exercise some discretion here?

Oh, no. You don’t want to judge.

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12 Things Happen When You Get It Right

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you…. (Luke 6:27ff)

From time to time, all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will have it hard. Things will not go right, someone will falsely accuse you, you will be victimized by those who oppose what you stand for, that sort of thing.

In many countries of the world, the opposition believers face will not be nearly that subtle, but open persecution. In fact, surely a third of the governments of this world are repressive regimes in which a religion hostile to Jesus Christ is in control. Martyrdom for Jesus Christ did not go away with the printing of the New Testament; it’s a common occurrence throughout the world.

In America, the opposition to Christ tends to take quieter forms. A neighbor curses you out over nothing. An atheistic neighbor accuses you of being the problem in your community. Liberal unbelieving critics place you on a par with Islamic terrorists simply for believing the Bible.

They go to court to stop you from buying a piece of property for a church. They erect billboards with the John Lennon line, “Imagine no religions,” and this in a city which was fairly well rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina by Christians.

They hate you. They drop their beer cans on your lawn. They discriminate against your children because they are home-schooled by a Christian mother.

All of these and more.

And what are you to do? You are to love them and bless them, to pray for them and do good acts to them. You are to rejoice when you suffer for Jesus’ sake and to count yourself blessed.  (The biblical teachings for this are found in Matthew 5:43-48, in Luke 6:27-42, and several other places. The Lord has not left us in the dark on this.)

Why? Why should you do this when everything inside you cries out to do unto them as they did to you?

Here are the 12 things that happen when a Christian turns the other cheek and loves the enemy, when he blesses those who curse him, when she prays for those who mistreats her, and when we give to those who would forcibly take what is ours.

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How to Discover Your Spiritual Gift

The host pastor welcomes me to the city and begins telling me about his church.

Half the time, the story is the same. The church is weak, they’re running behind the budget, they have a hard time finding enough workers, and the mood is generally poor. He’s been praying that the Lord would use me to spark a reversal of these conditions.

Sunday morning–our first service–I am struck by something at odds with what the pastor has told me. There are plenty of people there. The potential is all around us. But the problem is a great percentage of the people are not giving, not working, not doing anything but occupying a pew and serving as spectators and critics for what the pastor and the overworked few are doing.

This should not be.

God has so arranged matters in His churches that every believer has a job to do and a spiritual gift with which to accomplish it.

I like that statement so much, think I’ll repeat it: God has so arranged matters in His churches that every believer has a job to do and a spiritual gift with which to accomplish it.

So, what’s the problem? There is no one answer. For many, it’s their spiritual immaturity or ignorance or rebellion. For others, it’s laziness or the fact that no one has asked them to do a job or take a responsibility and they don’t know they can volunteer. And for a certain percentage, the problem is they do not know their spiritual gift, that inner proclivity toward doing a certain kind of ministry in the church which was implanted at the moment of their salvation.

The last one is our focus here: Those who do not know their spiritual gifts.

Notice that we are not defining spiritual gifts, not citing all those scriptures that speak of them, describe them, and name them. We’re doing one thing here–answering the question: how does one go about discovering his/her spiritual gift?

The answer is not what you think. In most churches I’ve pastored, the minister of education finds a test people can fill out to identify their spiritual gifts. My opinion–and that’s all it is–is that they have little or no value.

There is a better way. And it’s so much simpler.

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The Pastor’s Comeuppance

My friend David told me what happened. One thing I am sure of, there was a mighty embarrassed preacher (not Dave) in the church building that day.

Here’s the story in my words, not his.

Dave was pastoring a small church in a deep southern town while living in the nearest city. During the week, he worked at the health department.

One day, his church leadership requested that Dave get ordained. He passed this on to his home church pastor in the city.

The pastor said, “Dave, anyone in particular you want to preach your ordination?” Dave couldn’t think of anyone. “I’ll leave that to you,” he said.

The night of the big event, Dave entered the church sanctuary and spotted a colleague from the health department. As they exchanged greetings, the friend said, “Uh, Dave. Have you seen who’s preaching your service tonight?” He hadn’t.

As soon as he laid eyes on the featured preacher, Dave stood there in shock.

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Would You Even Fit in Heaven?

Some people would not be happy in Heaven. Nothing about it appeals to them. They would be forever out of place. So, God is not going to make them go.

The biggest slander I know is that Heaven is going to be one unending church service. Every pastor, every song leader, and every pew sitter groans and thinks, “Lord, I hope not.”

Not to worry. It will not be like that. Or, like anything else you know or have prepared for or imagined in your fondest dreams.

Throw away the categories. Nothing pertains any more. Jesus said in Heaven there’s no marrying or giving in marriage. He said angels are rejoicing each time a new person comes into God’s eternal family. He told us the angels of certain “little ones” do always behold the face of the Father.

The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus Christ is the authority on Heaven. He’s a native. He told Nicodemus, No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, referring to Himself (John 3:13).

The old line goes, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die.” And, according to polls we see published from time to time, most people expect to go to Heaven.

My contention is most people not only are not going to Heaven, they don’t even want to go. They just want not to go to the other place. And since Heaven seems to be the only alternative, it wins by default.

I’d like to interject a question or two into the next poll someone is taking on who expects to go to Heaven. After the interviewee attests that, “yes, I expect to go to Heaven,” I want to ask, “For what reason? What do you expect to happen in Heaven?”

Since the Scripture is the only solid authority we have–anyone on this planet has!–we look to it for hints on what takes place in Heaven. And the news is not good for a lot of people.

In fact, once they find out what goes on in Heaven and who’s going to be there, I have no doubt that some of them would change their minds and opt for the other place. After all, to be eternally out of place is a form of hell in its own way.

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Don’t Lie to Me About God

Sometimes someone says something to you in the body of a letter than jumps out and grabs you by the throat and will not turn you loose. You have to do something and do it soon, otherwise it chokes the life out of you.

Here’s what happened this morning.

A friend whom I may have known many years ago but who is now active in my circle of Facebook friends sent a message concerning a difficult situation she was facing. Toward the end of the letter, as she made her case for straight-shooting from my direction, she said something I will not soon forget.

Pray for me if you like. Send me scripture if you like. Put me on a prayer chain if you want. But please don’t lie to me about God.”

She was not trying to be dramatic, only to convey how strongly she wanted to know the right answer. Even if it hurt, even if it went contrary to everything she was doing and believed. She wanted to know.

You have to respect that.

My impression is that so many of the inquiries we preachers get via the internet about doctrinal issues want us to confirm what they are already doing and seeking someone to endorse all they have previously believed.

Don’t lie to me about God. God help us not to do that.

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Praying All Wrong

Tonight, a realization threw me out of the bed and drove me to my note pad. I was lying there in the post-midnight hour doing what we preachers do, going over my sermon for later this morning.

The sermon is a beginning message for a four-day revival meeting I’ll be preaching for the First Baptist Church of Crowville, Louisiana. This congregation runs 80 to 100 in attendance and is made up largely of farmers and their families. The pastor, Dr. Keith Dowden, and I had dinner tonight and prayed for the Lord to give me the messages and do something special in the hearts and lives of his people.

My text is the parable of the mustard seed, Matthew 13:31-32. It’s a strong insight that a lot of the people in our pews need to hear, that God loves to use small, ordinary things and churches and people and acts and offerings. The mustard seed is a reminder that what God begins to do may be unimpressive on the outside, ordinary to the human eye, and not big by any means. However, being God, He can do amazing things with small beginnings.

I love to encourage small congregations with the assurance Jonathan gave his armorbearer just before the two of them took on a nest of Philistine warriors. “It matters little to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many.” (I Samuel 14:6)

I like the question the prophet Zechariah raised as he spoke of the rebuilding of an economical version of the Temple and the coming of a Messiah who would ride in on a colt and be pierced for our transgressions: “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10)

The answer to that is: “We do.” We like big things, dramatic results, impressive crowds, celebrity guests.

However, that happens not to be God’s way. He loves to use the small and the ordinary.

That’s when it hit me that I’m praying all wrong about this revival.

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“Dead Man Walking” — My Easter Sermon

Since I’m no longer a pastor, and pastors want to be in their pulpits on Easter Sunday for good reason, I rarely preach an Easter sermon any more. But I love this wonderful day and all it represents.  Here is a message on one aspect of the Lord’s resurrection…

The text is John 12:9-11….

“Now, a great many of the Jews knew that (Jesus) was (in Bethany at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus); and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”


When the family goes with dad to a convention, they hope it’s in a location like Orlando so there are plenty of activities for everyone. If possible, they like to arrive a couple of days early or stick around after the meeting for fun activities.

It has always been this way.

In the first century, Jewish families traveled long distances for Passover in Jerusalem. This was their big event of the year. The family’s calendar revolved around the Passover Trip. And, lest we misunderstand at this remote distance, the trip–all on foot or by slow animals–was not all drudgery either. Families joined up together and crowds made the trek over several days. Cousins who had not seen each other in a year excitedly hugged and chatted and played. Romances were formed among young people on these annual outings.

Once the families arrived in Jerusalem’s outskirts, they erected makeshift tents and set up housekeeping for a week of religious and social activities. And then they began looking.

The parents were giving in to the cries of their children. “What is there to do here?” “Is there anything for the children!”

And then someone told them.

Over in Bethany–just on the back side of the Mount of Olives–there is a man who was dead for four whole days. And yes, it was Jesus, the Nazarene, who raised him to life.

“Let’s go see!”

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Before you tell them, Christian, SHOW THEM.

Show and tell. Sounds simple enough.

Every kindergartner knows the process. You bring something to school and then tell the class what it is. What it means to you. How it works.

A few years ago, I sat at the head table when veteran lineman Frank Warren was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. His agent paid tribute to his star player.

We live in Dallas. I’ll never forget the day my five-year-old son took Frank Warren to his school for show-and-tell. Frank flew to Dallas just to do that for my child.

I sat there not quite believing my ears. This football player went to all the trouble of flying from New Orleans to Dallas for no other purpose than accompanying a preschooler to kindergarten for show-and-tell.

No wonder the agent was still speaking of it, years later. Who would not remember that?

A few years back Henry Blackaby spoke to Louisiana Baptists about post-9/11 life for Christians in America.

After 9-11, business as usual would be an affront to God…. So far, we are not being the salt and light God intended…. We have had very little effect on this society.

It should matter to every Christian that the world around us ignores us, that it does not take us seriously, and even scoffs at our faith.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

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The Apostle Paul’s Gift to Preachers

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (I Corinthians 2:3)

For reasons I cannot explain, this line from the great apostle has lodged itself in my heart over the past few days. The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate Paul’s admitting it.

In this and every other case where Paul mentions some kind of physical infirmity, we wish we had more information. Was he sick? Ailing? Still healing from previous beatings?

John MacArthur writes: Paul came to Corinth after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, run out of Thessalonica and Berea, and scoffed at in Athens, so he may have been physically weak. But in that weakness, he was most powerful. There were no theatrics or techniques to manipulate people’s response. His fear and shaking was because of the seriousness of his mission. (The MacArthur Study Bible)

I suppose we preachers are a lot like horses and mules and dogs: hit us often enough and we become “gun shy.” We want to stand and deliver with boldness and power, but we’re ready to duck.

Thank you, Paul, for telling us this. And if you will allow me, I will draw a few inferences from it that I find helpful to all of us who stand to proclaim God’s Word.

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