Tasks that are finished and ships that have sailed

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

In a panel discussion regarding the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” actor Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney in the film, tells of the final conversation between Disney and the creator of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers.

“Just after the premiere of the movie, Mrs. Travers said, ‘Oh, we have much work to do on this movie, Mr. Disney. Much work indeed.’ Disney said to her, ‘Pam, that ship has sailed,’ and walked away.”

Hanks says, “It was the last time they ever spoke.”

That ship has sailed.

It’s a wonderful expression to indicate tasks that are over and should now be set aside, events that are now history and cannot be improved on, and projects that are completed and cannot be tampered with.

Continue reading

The number one mistake of the immature

“For the things which  are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

I was sketching this kid and asked him how old he was. “I’m 9,” he said. Then, making conversation to keep him focused, I said, “Do you like being 9, or do you wish you were 12 or 13?”  I thought I knew the answer. Children always seem to want to be older than they are.

“I like being 9,” he said. “I’m still a kid and can still get by with a lot of stuff.”

Now, there’s a 9-year-old worthy of the name!

We all start out in life as immature. The trick is not to grow attached to what should be a temporary status, to camp out there and resist growing up.

Continue reading

Eliminating hurry from my life. Right now!

“Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

The maid told my friend, “The reason you are tired all the time is that you’re always rushing.”

Wisdom is where you find it.

My friend Don Davidson, who pastors the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, quotes John Ortberg who said the best advice he ever received came from Dallas Willard.  “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

My wife says, “It’s easier said than done.”

Indeed. That’s why so few manage it.

Continue reading

Something about celebrity pastors that might surprise you

I know a few of those (ahem) big-shot pastors. And I know some things about them they don’t advertise.

That said, here is my list of what celebrity pastors feel that would surprise you.  (These are generalizations, of course, and do not fit all megachurch pastors.  However, you might be surprised to know how many it does fit! Smiley-face goes here.)

1) A sense of inadequacy.

It goes like this: “All the usual indicators say we’re going a great job, but if that’s the case, why do I feel like a failure, as though I’m missing something as clear as the nose on my face?  Maybe what I’m doing with God’s call is not such a good idea after all. But what about all those people who depend on me for their livelihood and those who say they look to me as their pastor?”

Continue reading

When the preacher needs help and no one will tell him

“But encourage one another, so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

It sounds like such fun, being an encourager of ministers of the gospel. And it is.

Except for when it’s not.

What does an encourager of preachers do when he finds those who need not so much encouragement as basic instruction?  They have fundamental problems in their preaching and need to make some serious changes but you’re in no position to tell them.

Compounding the problem, what if those preachers are being outwardly successful in their Kingdom work (as far as you can tell) in spite of their preaching flaws?

Many would say, “Leave it alone then. Clearly, the Lord is blessing, so maybe you are not the judge of their preaching.”

I happily admit I’m not the judge of anyone’s preaching.


Continue reading

My one wish for every pastor in the new year

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking…..but in your thinking be mature” (I Corinthians 14:20).

I could wish that every pastor would use discernment. That he would “be smart.”

Or, phrased another way, I wish each preacher would determine that in the new year, he is going to work at using discernment and to do nothing impulsively, out of fear, or motivated by false guilt.

The “un-smart” pastor–to coin a term–does things that are unwise and unhealthy and in the long run, not beneficial to the Kingdom nor to his people.  Take what an unsmart pastor does about his preaching, for instance…..

1) The unsmart pastor skips the hard work of sermon preparation. He is lazy.

The smart pastor knows this is his most important work and is always thinking about the next sermons, even to the point of rising from the bed and looking up something that occurred to him.

Continue reading

Marginalizing Jesus

“And she gave birth to her first-born son, and….laid HIm in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

One reason God’s people have made so much of this verse, even to the point of inventing harsh innkeepers who slam doors in the faces of the young couple from Nazareth until they find a friendly face who apologetically gives them room in his stable, is that it so perfectly summarizes what the world has done to Jesus ever since: shunted Him off to the side and tried to ignore Him.

Of course, Scripture mentions no innkeepers, harsh or otherwise, and doesn’t even reference a stable. Only a manger, a feed-trough.

I said to a church in rural Alabama this weekend, “Of course, those of us who grew up on the farm know that stables are where you find feed-troughs! There might be one manger outside in the ‘lot,’ what some would call a corral, but the little family will not be seeking shelter in an open cattle pen. So, our vision of Jesus as being born inside a stable is probably exactly right.”

Ever since that time, the world has tried to keep up that practice, crowding out the Lord Jesus and giving Him tiny places in our world and our hearts.

Continue reading

My worst Christmas sermon

I was 21, a college senior, engaged, and had been called into the ministry.  But so far, no opportunities to preach had opened up.  After all, I was attending a Methodist college and planning to be a Baptist pastor. Not exactly standard preparation.

Then, Rock Creek Baptist Church outside Double Springs, Alabama, called. Well, actually, Pastor Everett Wilson called.  My brother Ron was his Sunday School superintendent and no doubt had put a bug in his ear.

After Margaret and I spent the night at my folks’ farmhouse, on Sunday morning we drove to Rock Creek, arriving in time for Sunday School. (Hey, no one had told me the preacher did not have to attend Sunday School!)

We sat in with the young people, which was our custom at West End Church in Birmingham and it seemed the thing to do. What I did not count on, however, was my presence intimidating the teacher. So, she took the easy way out.

She asked me to teach.

Continue reading

Heaven is preposterous; that’s why I believe in it!

Imagine this scenario.

Sometime before your birth, you are having a conversation (of some type, in some setting, just use your imagination) with someone about your future life in a place called Earth.

You: “And this Earth, it’s supposed to be beautiful, right?  With glorious landscapes and fresh air and it has seasons?  This planet is situated just the exact right distance from the sun to sustain life?  And there are oceans and mountains, rivers and seashores, farms and villages and cities?  You can spend your days fishing or mountain-climbing or flying a kite? And the food is incredible, every kind imaginable?”

He: “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

You: “You know this is preposterous, don’t you?”

He: “Why?”

You: “Because look around at the rest of the universe.  There is nothing like it.  In the entire Galaxy, do you see another planet just like that? They are all balls of stone or globes of fire or poisonous gases.”

He: “That’s right.”

Continue reading

The other reason I believe so strongly

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel….” (II Timothy 2:8)

Asking thoughtful believers why they are so dadburn confident of the truth of Jesus Christ will result in a hundred different answers.

My pastor says for him, it’s the Lord’s resurrection. It’s as historically verifiable as anything in ancient times and perhaps more. And if Jesus rose, then He’s still alive and how good is that!

In a recent blog here, I said that to me the scriptures “fit” and  just “feel right,” providing the number one assurance for this country boy. I recognize the arbitrary and subjective nature of that, but there it is.

Other reasons believers give range from the archaeological evidence to the miracles they’ve experienced or their grandma’s testimony.

But there’s something else that looms large in my mind, a fact that dominates almost everything else.

Continue reading