The 10 Best Things About Being a Senior Adult

I noticed the old man just now as I drove down the street to my office in the church library. He was ambling along, clearly having difficulty walking. My heart went out to him. As I drove past, I tried to estimate his age. “80-something,” I said to myself. Maybe 10 years my senior.

It’s no fun getting old. My dad, who lived into his 96th year, had cut out of a magazine and posted on a door facing his philosophy on the subject: “Growing Old is Not For Sissies.” Art Linkletter wrote a best-selling book by that title.

Growing old is not for everyone either. In fact, it’s a privilege denied to many who were far better people and more deserving than any of us.

We would do well to focus on the privilege of aging instead of the burdens. In fact, here is my list of the top ten reasons I love being a senior adult and cannot wait to delve deeper into seniorhood!

There’s no order, just as they occurred to me.

1. You get to see your kids grow up and raise families and begin to mature.

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What Joy Looks Like

First, a warning: this is not an article about the “gifts” of the Spirit.

Further, this is definitely not an article about the “fruit” of the Spirit.

However, it might be fairly close to “the evidence” of the Spirit. That is, how one can know that the living God is actually indwelling his life and the body of believers with whom he/she associates.

We can sit here all day and talk about gifts of the Spirit such as healings and prophecies and tongues, and for the most part we will be spinning our wheels. We’ll probably agree on little and disagree on much.

But there are three evidences of the indwelling Holy Spirit, around which I’m thinking all God’s children can come together. Surely none will find reason to opt out of these.

When the Lord is in your life and when He daily “lords it over” you, and when you are actively serving Him in a body of believers of the same sort as yourself (so to speak), then you should expect to see these three incredible gifts from the Holy Spirit making their presence known….

1. Joy in your heart.

2. Sweetness in your fellowship.

3. Passion in your service.

Call these fruits or gifts of the Spirit, whatever. But they are most definitely evidence that the Lord is in this place and flying His flag high.

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Lord, help your church please.

The Harold Camping episode of this past weekend–he predicted the world would come to an end on Saturday and bet millions of dollars he knew what he was talking about–demonstrates two disturbing facts of the church in these latter days: The overwhelming pride of many who call themselves leaders of the church and the mind-numbing gullibility of millions who call themselves disciples of Jesus.

Lord, help your church please.

Help us to know a Godly leader when we see one and to learn how to tell when he’s not one.

Help us to check the teachings of our leaders by the Word and to have the courage to say “Not so fast.”

It’s easy for the fellow in the pew to blame this kind of fiasco on false leaders. And that’s what Camping is, let me hasten to say. The Bible clearly says that if a man makes a prophecy that does not come to pass, he is a false prophet. That’s Deuteronomy 18:22, and it’s still in God’s Word.

But if people like Camping found no one to follow them, they would get tired of hearing themselves speak and shut up.

After his prophecy about May 21 failed, I said to some friends, “Okay, watch now. He’ll come back and say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I misfigured,’ and give out a new date. That’s what false prophets do.”

According to the daily papers (I live in New Orleans, so it’s The Times-Picayune), that is precisely what he did. Well, he did two things actually. He did say that the real date is something like October 21. And he said, “Well, the Lord did actually come back on May 21 in a spiritual way. The processes have been set in place beginning on that day.”

Uh huh. And I’ve got some Louisiana swamp land to sell you.

People who study these things will recall that the Jehovah’s Witnesses did this very thing nearly a hundred years ago.

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Worship: Going About It in The Wrong Way

Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name. (Psalm 29:2)

It’s Sunday around noonish. As the congregation files out of the sanctuary heading toward the parking lot, listen closely and you will hear it.

It’s a common refrain voiced near the exit doors of churches all across this land.

“I didn’t get anything out of that today.” “I didn’t get anything out of the sermon.” “I didn’t get anything out of that service.” “I guess her song was all right, but I didn’t get anything out of it.”

Sound familiar? Not only have I heard it countless times over these near-fifty years in the ministry, I probably have said it a few times myself.

This is like dry rot in a congregation. Like a termite infestation in the building. Like an epidemic afflicting the people of the Lord, one which we seem helpless to stop.

But let’s try. Let’s see if we can make a little difference where you and I live, in the churches where we serve and worship. We might not be able to help all of them, but if we bless one or two, it will have been time well spent.

1. You are not supposed to ‘get anything out of the service.’

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Special Word to Older Ministers

Sometimes when I’m speaking in churches for what is variously called “senior adult Sunday” or such, I’ll say to the congregation as a whole….

It’s great being a senior adult! If you knew what fun we have, you’d be chomping at the bit wanting to be one.

One of the best things about it–I don’t know if this is common knowledge, so you might want to keep this to yourself–is that every month, the government sends you money! I’m not kidding.

It’s really kind of amazing. Toward the end of the month, you’ll call the bank to check on your balance and find that your account is almost bare. Then, the next day, boom! There’s more money in the account. The government did that just for you.

Is that nice or what?

And if that’s not enough, being a retired pastor (that’s what I am, ever since my 69th birthday two years ago) brings a special kind of reward most other people don’t have: We get to preach all over the place! Really. People call and invite us to their church for a revival or banquet or prayer conference, to speak to the deacons–boy, do I ever get a kick out of that!–or do a senior adult emphasis. All these churches we used to drive by and think, “Hey, wonder what it would be like to pastor there,” well, they invite us in and we get to preach there. It’s more fun than anything.

Honestly, if I’d known retirement would be this much fun, I think I’d have gone straight from ordination into retirement.

There is one downside to all this getting older business, however. And that’s what brought me to my soapbox this morning. Something I need to say to my brethren in the ministry who are moving into those senior years.

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There is a Good Reason for Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

I believe in rejoicing.

I believe in rejoicing when things are going great and when they are falling apart.

I believe in rejoicing when you feel like shouting “God is good!” and when you wonder whether He knows you are still in this mess and still needing His help.

I believe in rejoicing in worship services and in private.

My favorite–and most often preached lately–sermon I call “Rejoice Regardless,” based on three texts which loom larger and larger in my mind as the days and years go by.

The basic “regardless” text: Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines. Though the yield of the olive should fail and the field produce no food. Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet, I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The Lord Jesus emphasized the same point: Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20) You won’t always have great results and big numbers to report and rejoice over, but if we are rejoicing in our salvation, we will never be without joy.

The third text shows how it’s done. But at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25) In the Philippian jail, locked into stocks and with their bloody backs beaten and left untreated, these two disciples of Jesus broke into prayer and praise. As a result, wonderful things happened.

It occurs to me, that the missing note in almost every sermon I’ve ever preached or heard on rejoicing is the practical aspect. There are good reasons for the Lord wanting His people to rejoice at all times.

Here are three of the most important.

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The Hardest, Best Thing for a Preacher to Do

(Please don’t miss my story at the end of this article on how the principles in this article work together.)

Malcolm Gladwell is speaking at a forum in New York City soon. The promotion describes him thusly:

The Canadian-born ‘New Yorker’ staff writer Malcolm Gladwell is the author of such best-selling books as “The Tipping Point,” “Blink,” “Outliers,” and “What the Dog Saw.” Gladwell is known for taking a unique perspective on seemingly well understood topics and generating new patterns of thought about them. This provocative thinker joins Luminato to share his latest brainstorm.

Do you ever read a sentence and a day later, it’s still with you, hounding your steps, disturbing your sleep, probing your spirit? That’s what that description of what Gladwell does did to me.

He takes seemingly well understood topics and generates new patterns of thought about them.

Anyone who can do that–who can show us a different perspective on something we thought we knew well and then can draw fascinating conclusions from it–that is someone I want to know.

You probably already know this writer. Many of my friends cannot wait for Gladwell’s latest books and eagerly snap them up as they hit the bookstores. There’s something about his unique way of looking at things that produces “aha!” moments and leaves readers gasping, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

In “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell wrote about how little things can make a big difference. What turns an unusual clothing item into a hot new fashion trend? What are the forces at work to cause strange shoes to go from being oddities worn only by oddballs one day to (ahem) Birkenstocks the next?

Gladwell tries to find the precise act when that change occurs. He calls that moment the tipping point.

In “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” Gladwell focuses on intuition. Far from being a glorified hunch, he says intuition is the result of long hours of work and searching and concentration. His examples are worth the price of the book.

“Outliers” is his latest hot book. Subtitle: “The Story of Success.” Gladwell examines achievers for what they have in common. He says we should not ask “what are these achievers like?” but “where are they from?” That is, what went into making them different from the rest of us? He finds commonalities for them.

Okay, pastor. Malcolm Gladwell is your new role model from now on. Go forth and do with your ministry what he does with the mundane things of everyday life.

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Deceiving and Bewitching as Careers

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Gal. 3:1)

The bewitchers are among us, hard at work.

I see it all the time.

Beautiful people sit (reluctantly) before me for me to do a quick sketch. I say, “Look at me please. Could I see a smile?” But getting a smile from them–or even eye contact–is next to impossible.

They say variations of, “I don’t smile” or “I don’t like my smile.” Sometimes, it’s “I’m shy” or “This is really difficult for me.”

And I wonder who has done a number on this person to warp their psyche that severely.

A man told me a few days ago, “I had a teacher in high school who said to me, ‘You do not have a nice smile.’” That was all it took, he said. Thereafter he went out of his way to avoid smiling.

Aarrgghh! That’s a good comic book expression that means, “This is awful! I cannot believe this!”

I see intelligent people–men and women and young people who are really brilliant with great gifts and talents–who seem to think they are stupid. Ask them to do something that requires reading or writing or thinking and you will hear a variation of “I’m not good at that” or “You’ve got the wrong person for that.”

Who bewitched them into believing they were dumb? Take your pick: a teacher, a parent, a friend. But someone did it to them. No one comes into the world automatically believing they are morons.

I see godly people oppressed by needless guilt over forgiven sins.

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How a Nobody Can Change the World

I’m not anyone big or famous. I’m not an over-achiever. Not a Phi Beta Kappa, never voted “most likely to succeed,” and not even close to being a Fortune 500 CEO. No one is ever going to look my way and be impressed that they are in the presence of a mover and shaker.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

But if you are a serious follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can literally change the world and do it in a significant way. This is not unrealistic, not a dreamy preacher-type overstatement, and not out of the realm of possibilities.

Now, there are a few presuppositions we need to lay out before we name the three actions which you can do to change your world.

1) We’re talking about people who have genuinely received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

2) Okay, you’re a Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Next, we’re talking about you taking seriously Christ’s mandate to be salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) and light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

3) And, finally, we’re talking about you being willing to obey the Lord in whatever He assigns to you. That is, you read something in the Word and sense in your heart a tugging (pushing?) from the indwelling Holy Spirit that this one has your name all over it, and you get up and obey.

If that’s you–if you have received Christ and you are serious about making a difference for His sake and you are willing to obey Him–then, here are three actions for you to take which will be used of God to change your world.

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“We Want You as Our New Pastor. Just as Soon as We Get Rid of Our Old Preacher.”

My pastor friend told me this.

“From time to time, members of my old church–the one where I came to know the Lord and was baptized, was ordained as a deacon and later to the ministry–will tell me they want me to be their new pastor. That is, they do, just as soon as they get rid of the one they’ve got.”

He said, “I will confess that I’ve thought from time to time maybe the Lord might send me back there to pastor. It’s just a thought, you understand.”

“But when people say that to me, I tell them, ‘Okay, here is the only way I would want to become your pastor. Go see your present pastor. Tell him that you are going to support him 100 percent, that you are going to pray for him every day and be his biggest encourager. Then, if and when the Lord leads him away, if God tells me to become your pastor, I would be honored.’”

“Invariably, though, they say to me, ‘But he’s not giving good leadership. The church is suffering under him. He needs to go.’”

“I tell them, ‘Maybe he would if you would love him and encourage him and pray for him. If you would go out of your way to assure him you are supporting him and that he can count on you a hundred percent. You’d be amazed what that does to a pastor.’”

“Frankly,” my friend admitted, “That is not what they want to hear.”

Maybe not. But it’s the wisest counsel possible to God’s people in that circumstance.

Here’s why.

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