If you can’t speak the truth in love, be quiet. Please.

“Speaking the truth in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15)

Facebook members are well acquainted with the way some who call themselves Christians can be brutal in the way they present truth to the world.

Their words are usually on target but their spirits are harsh and unloving. They defend the biblical family but damn anyone with a different point of view. They affirm the right of the unborn to live while consigning the “pro-choicers” to the farthest reaches of Hades. They hear that someone is making a film or writing a book or giving a speech against Jesus as Scripture presents Him and they lose their Christianity attacking such blasphemers.

Such people do more damage to the Lord’s cause than good.

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A few of my least-favorite things

Sometimes, what makes an article, a conversation, or a sermon interesting is giving the dark side, the reverse of the ideal picture you had been presenting.

On this blog, I’ve been presenting “a few of my favorite things” (also people and places). That list would be incomplete–and probably boring–without a nod to the opposites, some things that we find most uncomfortable and unpleasing.  No doubt, we’ll think of others, but here is the list this Thursday morning, the last day of January in the year of our Lord 2013.

1) I dislike movies or books that were enjoyable until the makers decided to insert a sex scene to increase their sales.

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A few of my favorite places

(I started this little series–my favorite things–a few days ago, and promised to end with this piece on my favorite places. We all have our favorite places. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

Chartwell, the country home of Winston Churchill.

We were there in 1982 and I recall every detail of the visit. Roaming the campus, it was fascinating to see the brick walls Churchill himself had built (after working to learn how) during the 1930s when he was basically unemployed.  William Manchester’s second volume of the trilogy “The Last Lion” chronicles this period in WC’s life as “Alone.”  While we were there, I bought a book on Churchill and had Margaret snap my photo sitting under a tree reading it.  These days, I’m reading a book “Dining with Churchill” in which the author talks about the many meals at Chartwell attended by the greats of the world, what they ate and talked about, how those experiences affected history, etc. (In my den, you’ll find an entire shelf filled with books on Churchill. I’ve had to be more selective in buying more since several new ones come out every year, with no sign of stopping.)

Nauvoo, Alabama the family farmhouse and the surrounding environs.

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10 reasons not to quit abruptly, pastor

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.” (II Corinthians 4:1,16)

From time to time I receive notes like this:

“I resigned my church tonight. Just couldn’t take it any more. The bullying from a few strong men (or one family in particular) finally wore me out. So, I got good and fed up, and tonight I tossed in the towel and told them I was through. It feels good to walk away and leave all this stress behind. But now, I will be needing a place to move to, a way to support my family, and when the Lord is ready, a new church to pastor. Please keep me in mind if you know of a church in need of my services.”

Nothing about that feels right. I want to call to my friend, “You resigned in a fit of temper or or a moment of discouragement? You walked away from the place God sent you? You quit a well-paying job without knowing where you will move your family or how you will support them? Have you lost your everloving mind?!”

I guarantee you the pastor’s wife is thinking these thoughts, no matter how loyally she supports her man and aches to see him struggling under such a heavy load.

I would like to say to every minister I know that unless you are sure the Holy Spirit inside you is saying, “This is the time. Walk away now,” don’t do it. Do not resign abruptly or impulsively.

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Seven prayers of a lazy pastor

I know a lot about lazy preachers, being one myself. Every “prayer of a lazy preacher” below I have probably prayed in one way or another, to one degree or the other.

It’s easy to point at do-nothing pastors as being the anomaly and call for them to leave the ministry and stop being a blight on the name of the Lord. But in truth, many of us who work hard and long in serving Him are basically lazy and have to fight the urge to vegetate all the time. And, don’t be surprised if some of the real over-achievers found in the Lord’s work fight the same battles and are always working to compensate for those Beetle Baileyish desires to rest and then rest some more.

Consider these prayers of a lazy preacher.... (and, at the end, leave us yours)….

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A few of my favorite people

“Preachers with sermons and children with laughter, deacons with stories and relative disasters…”

(In the previous post “A few of my favorite things,” we referred to the Julie Andrews song we all know so well. That started this little series and accounts for the not-serious attempt at song-writing above. Now, one explanation: In what follows, I am leaving out my best-loved people on the planet, my wife and children, our eight grandchildren, and all of my siblings but one, Ronnie, who just had to be mentioned.  Margaret says I’m going to slight some other well-loved friends by not including them. I assure her they will not mind, because anyone who calls themselves my longtime friend has been slighted by me so many times they’ve long since come to expect it, and nothing surprises them any more. So, why am I doing this list of a few of my favorite people? Answer: I have no idea. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. Next will be “A few of my favorite places.”)

I am what you would call a people-lover.  I am gregarious by nature (Ginger, that means I love being around them) most of the time, although after a while I’m ready to shut down and be alone. In the words of a friend-now-in-Heaven, Dr. Frank Pollard, I’ve learned to enjoy my own company.

But I love people. I love to talk with them and hear their stories, love to laugh with them and share their tears. I love to make new friends and renew old ones. And, I love to amuse myself remembering conversations with friends of past years who are no longer around to defend themselves. Up in Heaven, they are visiting with the great story-tellers of the ages–imagine sitting in a cluster at the feet of Moses or Abraham or Peter or Paul for a few years–and then, eventually someone turns to them and says, “Tell us your story, about the time you fell in the pond when you were preparing to baptize,” and they’re off and running.

I can’t wait.

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A few of my favorite things

“….when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad…..”

If you are a songwriter, you make a list of your favorite things and include them in the lyrics and people everywhere know your heart and will sing your list.

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….”

If you can’t compose songs, however, you may need to be more inventive to pass along your list.

Like, maybe, write about them in a blog.

So, on this Tuesday morning, the first day of President Obama’s final term in office (good news/bad news, depending on your perspective–“Lord bless and lead him, please!”), here is my favorite-things list. (Expect it to be followed with a list of my favorite people and favorite places. After that, we’ll see.)

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Jesus the ultimate Outsider.

“We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him….” (Hebrews 13:10-13)

Have you ever felt like an outsider?

Good. You need to.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not only walking in the footsteps of the Ultimate Outsider but you have been called to a similar way of life.

The Lord Jesus “came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:12). He was an Outsider even in His own place, among His own people, attending His own party.

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Dealing With Congregational Phobia

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Did you see in the news this week where a schoolteacher is trying to get approved for medical disability because she fears the students in her class?  The anxiety is so strong that she is unable to function, she says.

If she is able to pull this off, watch as plenty of teachers as well as practitioners of other professions jump on that bandwagon.  I can see it now: doctors who fear their patients, parents who fear their children, drill sergeants with a morbid dread of recruits–all will be able to go home and start drawing their pay.

Someone told me about his pastor the other day. His first analysis was that his preacher is simply lazy. He preaches one sermon a week and often gets someone to fill in for him. He canceled the midweek service because so few people were coming, and turned over the Sunday night service to a layman. He moved his study into his home, but cannot be reached by phone because he turns his phone off and studies wearing headphones which bring in music.

As we chatted further, the man said, “This is the pastor’s first senior pastor position. Previously, he was a youth minister. I’ve noticed he has a great anxiety about facing the congregation on Sunday morning.”

Congregational phobia. There it is.

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How to treat a champion in your church

“You know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints….” (I Corinthians 16:15)

Thank God for encouragers and healers in the church, those men and women whose calling in life seems to be to find a niche and fill it, find a need and meet it, find a hurt and comfort it. As they enter a room, their focus is not on who is present, what is going on, or who’s in charge. Rather, they are drawn to anyone in pain,in need, or in trouble.

They are godsends. They are living proofs of the goodness of God. They are the ones who keep overworked pastors and their stressed-out spouses from giving up and walking away.

Here’s William Barclay on this passage: To Paul in Ephesus there had come Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, and they had brought him first-hand information which filled in the gaps in his knowledge of what was happening at Corinth. Paul’s commendation of Stephanas is very interesting. Stephanas deserved respect because he had put himself at the service of the Church.

Paul says three things about the ministry of Stephanas and his friends:

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