What the cowardly pastor does

The preacher knew he should clean up his act, get right with the Lord and apologize for his past laziness and start taking his ministry seriously. Instead, he took the cheap way out.

He used his sermons to slam anyone thinking of leaving the church.

“It would be a sin against the Lord for you to leave this church at a time like this when it needs your faithfulness so much,” he said. “And I can promise you this, if you do this rebellious act, you will never find happiness in another church.”

When someone asked me what they should do–stay or leave such a church–after learning that the lay leadership had no intention of doing anything, I said, “Whenever a church decides it will accept shoddy pastoral leadership and refuses to abide by scriptural principles, unless you have strong reasons for staying, I would ask the Lord for permission to leave.”

“And,” I added, “if He does lead you to join another church, I can promise you almost anything will be an improvement over what you have there.”

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Why Paul didn’t tell us certain things

“A thorn in the flesh was given me….” (II Corinthians 12:7).

For two thousand years people have speculated on the nature of Paul’s thorn. But their efforts come to nothing. The Lord clearly did not intend for us to know what Paul’s handicap was.  For good reason…
“Well, Paul had this same problem too, so if he did you surely can’t expect me to conquer it.” You can just hear some husband justifying his failures (and unwillingness to deal with them) to his wife in those words.

“At least I don’t have Paul’s weaknesses.  His were awful and yet God used him.” Just so easily we would excuse our problems and cling to them.

We can be glad we do not have a clue what his problems were.

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What confidence looks like in the pulpit

In an old radio program, a woman listens as Sherlock Holmes tells her exactly how a crime came about and how he exonerated her fiance’.  At the end, she exclaims, “Oh, Mister Holmes! You are wonderful.” Slight pause, then the master sleuth replies, “Quite!”

I do love to see confidence on display.

As Ali said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

A generation ago, after actor Jack Palance won an Oscar for his supporting role in the movie “City Slickers,” his celebrity was revived for a short time. Suddenly, he was in demand for commercials and more movie roles. In an ad for some after shave lotion, I think, this rugged star, by then in his 70s, squinted into the camera and said through his whiskey-voice, “Confidence is sexy. Don’t you think?”

There is something most attractive about confidence.

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Humiliated before the world….on a daily basis

My friend Barbara Smith of Tuscaloosa tells of a college lit class in which the professor sat and lectured the entire time without a word of response from the class.  There was a reason for the silence.

Early in the semester, the professor told the class that under his teaching they would learn to love Shakespeare so much they would eat, sleep, and drink Shakespeare.  Barbara says, “Some idiot in the back of the classroom said, ‘Yeah, right,’ and that set the professor off.  He yelled and screamed at that student for a while, then announced, ‘You sir do not deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us. Get out!'”

Barbara says, “After that public humiliation, no one dared open their mouth the rest of the semester.”

No one enjoys being publicly humiliated. And most of us will go to great lengths to make sure it never happens.

We use deodorant, never wear some of the things in our closet, take a shower each morning, brush and floss and use mouth wash, and we carry a handkerchief. In almost every case, the reason we do these things is not because we feel a sense of personal need, that we are dirty, etc.  We do not want to risk giving offense to others or humiliating ourselves.

Anyone who has spent any time in front of the television has seen videos of gymnasts on balance beams and high crossbars falling in the most excruciating and embarrassing manners.  To master their difficult art, these courageous athletes must throw off all caution and abandon themselves to this jump or that twist or that somersault.  They know going in that before they get the precise path correct, they will fall again and again, providing film enough for a dozen television shows. That they persevere to triumph is a testament to their incredible courage and steely determination.

If the worst thing that can happen to you is to publicly humiliate yourself, then you will never want to–

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The successful preacher’s constant temptation

Just because people look at us when we stand to deliver a homily, we must not automatically think we possess knowledge, authority, or anything not available to the least among us. They could be listening for God.

Just because they fill the pews to worship God and in the process, listen to our sermons and say good things afterwards, does not mean they are there to hear us. They could be there for greater reasons.

If they laugh at our jokes and weep at our stories, we are not to think of ourselves as gifted communicators who have mastered our craft. It could be they are people of grace and graciousness.

We are messengers for Jesus Christ.

Anything more is wrong.

And could be dangerous.

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Why I don’t believe in atheism

“In the beginning, God….” (Genesis 1:1)

Nowhere does the Bible try to prove the existence of God.  He is. Period.

Deal with it, earthlings.

Humanistic evangelists and atheistic peddlers are sure that we mindless theists have never considered the superior evidence for the positions they hold. Surely, if we did, they think, we would renounce the church and join them.

Once again, believers are lumped together by those who  “just don’t get it” as the terminally naive, the hopelessly hopeful, the unthinking uneducated and the irrationally illiterate.

Most of the solid believers I know have considered atheism at one time or other. I did, while in college.  This is not to say I joined the humanist society of Birmingham or majored in skepticism at Birmingham-Southern. But I read some of the stuff, talked to a few of the people, thought about the ramifications of it all, and made my choice to take my stand with believers.

I’ve never regretted it.

Here’s why.

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Sexual lines no pastor should cross

Recently on this blog, we did an article on “7 women pastors need to watch out for.”  Someone who just read it wanted to know why we put the blame on the women when pastors are more likely to be the sexual predator.  “Google that,” she suggested, “and see for yourself.”  My only defense is that in the body of the article, we said, “Sometimes women are the victims; sometimes they are the victimizers.” However, my critic is correct. And thus, what follows….

I’ve known more than one pastor who was a sexual predator.  And, if it makes the reader feel any better, every one of them is out of the ministry now.

My observation however is that no serial adulterer occupying the pastor’s office entered the ministry with such sordid intentions.  He fell into sin and one thing led to another. (Sound familiar? It’s how life works.)

So, what follows is for young ministers in particular who have not been snared in the lust-trap and wish to make sure they don’t. (For your information, I invited my wife Margaret to add her observations.)

Here are 7 lines pastors do not want to cross.

1) Do not use cologne. Women are sensitive to fragrances, my wife says, which is why they wear them in the first place. When a man wears them, he sends out a subtle signal, the type no wise minister needs to be emitting.

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Anger lying just beneath the surface taints everything

Some people can fool you.

From the outside, they look so put-together. But scratch beneath the surface and they explode all over you.  The resentment and ill will were hovering barely out of sight, just waiting for a victim.

This was your lucky day.

We see versions of it on Facebook all the time.

Someone will make a statement of faith, a simple praise that the Lord loves an unworthy child like himself. After a few “amens” arrive from friends, some impatient soul cannot take it any more and chimes in, “Brother, God has made you worthy in Christ. Get that negative thinking out of your system!”

Where did that come from, you wonder.

Some sweet individual will post a statement on how good it is that Scriptures are inspired of God and how they bless me. Before long, the naysayer arrives to correct such a simple-minded believer, reminding him/her that Martin Luther called the Epistle of James a “book of straw,” or that certain passages in the New Testament are “spurious.”

They cannot allow a friend simply to rejoice in the Lord without coloring in the dark side.

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Your pain has an expiration date.

“For this momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory, far beyond all comprehension….” (II Corinthians 4:17)

President John F. Kennedy had severe back problems and often experienced excruciating pain.  He used to say he could endure any pain so long as he knew it was temporary.

Your pain is temporary, my friend.

In this life, we all know physical ailments. “We who are in this body do groan” (II Corinthians 5:2).  We also know psychological and relationship pains. Financial, environmental, mental, you name it. The list is endless. Life on this wonderful miracle-saturated planet brings with it an endless array of sufferings.

But they are temporary.

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Are beauty pageants Christian? Or from the other place?

“…but let it be the hidden beauty of the heart…” (I Peter 3:4)

My wife said, “How did you get on this kick about beauty pageants?”

I had been in revival in the lovely little town of Eutaw, Alabama, all week and had brought my program on “lessons on self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people” to three schools, a private academy, the local high school, and two combined middle schools. And after telling the kids that the first lesson I learned from sketching people of all ages for nearly a lifetime is that “everyone is beautiful in some way,” I point out that “each one is different, and therefore, comparing one with another is pointless and can be destructive.”

That’s when I will often remark as an aside that “this is why beauty pageants can be so foolish.”

Suppose you have 20 young ladies, all of them lovely and winners in every way. But the judges tell only one that she is the winner and send 19  home as losers.  What have we done? And why have we done it?  And should Christians do this?

I posted a paragraph on Facebook suggesting that such pageants might be a sin against humanity.

The comments poured in.

Most agreed, but the comments of two groups deserve mentioning.

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