Stop reading scripture so fast. Slow down and savor it.

So, you’re reading the Bible through in a year?  Or, like a few people I’ve known, you read it through every year for the umpteenth time.

Fine. But after you have done it two or three times, that’s enough. Don’t ever do it again.

Just my suggestion.

Reading the entire Bible in a year is like seeing Europe in a week: You will notice a lot of things you don’t see from ground level, but it’s no way to get to know a country.

After a few flyovers–two days in Genesis and one day in Romans, for instance–land the plane and get out and make yourself at home in Ephesians or Second Timothy.  Move in with the locals and live with them a few weeks.

That’s the only way to learn a country. It’s the only way to really learn a book of the Bible.

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Some preaching is a waste of time

I love some of the specialized channels on Sirius XM satellite radio. Recently, however, they replaced the channel playing big band music of the 1940s with one devoted to Billy Joel’s music. At first, that sounded all right. He had some great hits we all love. The problem is he also recorded a whole lot of junk.

To get to the occasional hit, you have to endure all the mediocre stuff.

Same with novelists.  Our favorite writers can turn out some real bombs.  You wonder why they don’t write only best-sellers.

The answer, of course, is that when they’re writing the books and recording the music, they have no way of knowing. If, as Paul said, “we see through a glass darkly,” it’s equally true that we write books and compose songs without a clear idea of the result.

When I was young in the ministry, I spent three years on the staff of a large church and got to see upclose how things are done.  Most of it was great and educational; all of it was interesting.

On more than one occasion, I chaffeured our pastor–a young man himself and unfortunately a little too impressed with his accomplishments, it turned out–on short trips where he would address a group of ministers in some nearby county.  I can still hear him saying, “Why am I wasting my time doing this? That bunch is never going to do anything.”

Now, I disagreed with him then–and said so, leading to some interesting conversations–and do so to this day.


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“This is not about you, pastor.” What that means.

“We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

The expression “This is not about you, pastor” is not something you and I need to ever say to another human being. Rather, it is something a minister should say to himself frequently.

Think of it as a mental adjustment, a refocusing.

It’s easy to think it is about me.  The search committee wants a preacher with impressive credentials, a glowing record of accomplisments in previous churches, and strong abilities.  Good teeth and a pretty wife will help.

The congregation welcomes you, applauds, “pounds” you (ask any preacher), and compliments you.  They pay you fairly well, and when the church does well, they brag on you. When it does poorly, they blame you.

It’s easy to conclude it’s all about me.

And that would be wrong.

Bad wrong.

Let’s talk about it….

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You asked about praying in Jesus’ name in public

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

“…that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).

“Pastor, would you lead our city council in prayer for our opening session next Tuesday? We would really appreciate it. Oh, and, I hope you won’t mind–but please keep it inclusive. Thank you.”

Ever get one of those invitations?

What to do.

Marilou is a friend of my cousin in another state, and she was facing a difficult situation. So, cousin Mary Elizabeth invited her to run this one by cousin Joe. .

“I’ve been invited to bring the invocation at this public gathering and I know they would rather I not mention Jesus’ name in my prayer.” She is a serious believer and wants to be faithful to the Lord.

She assured me that no one had actually warned her off the Lord’s name by using that little joke they call “making your prayer inclusive.”

She was free to do whatever she pleased. The thing she was trying to settle in her mind was “what exactly did she please?”  Are Christians duty-bound to pray always in Jesus’ name?  Or, is it all right not to use the actual words?

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I suppose this guy thought he was doing the Bible a favor

One of our Louisiana state legislators, who shall go unnamed here, had a bright idea a few weeks ago. Since our state, like all the others, has an official state bird (the brown pelican), an official flower (the Louisiana iris), an official fossil (the petrified palmwood, whatever that is) and so forth, why not have an official book and make it the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Great idea, huh?

He must have thought so.

The (presumably) well-intentioned lawmaker introduced the bill to make this official and promptly announced it to the world. Most everyone seemed to react in surprise and some with a good deal of negativity.  “This is the last thing we need,” many felt.

And they were right.

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How the preacher can do weddings he’ll not regret

My first wedding didn’t turn out too well.  My sister and the fellow she chose for her life-mate asked me to marry them.  I was ordained and trying to pastor a tiny church outside Birmingham, but other than that, was as green as it’s possible to get. I bought a Pastor’s Manual (yep, they make those things) and in someone’s living room, as I recall, read every word of the ceremony.

I sometimes wondered if the fact that the marriage didn’t last had anything to do with the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Sometime–when we both have the time–I’ll tell you some of my wedding stories. I have quite a few, some embarrassing to me (like calling the groom by the best man’s name) and some embarrassing to the participants (like the time the bride fainted), and some just funny.

I have done hundreds of weddings in almost every conceivable situation–sanctuaries, college chapels, parks, living rooms, and back yard patios–and so have learned a few lessons on how to do this right. (And twice that many on how to get it wrong!)

Here are my pointers. Use any that work for you, and ignore the rest.

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Some people cannot take ‘yes’ for an answer

“For as many as may be the promises of God,  in Him they are yes….” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

In my last pastorate, on three occasions my congregation hosted foreign mothers and their babies who had come to New Orleans for life-saving surgery for the child. Once or twice, they also took in the interpreters.

This was a considerable undertaking.  For as long as three months, families in our church had these two adults and one infant as house-guests, with others in the congregation shuttling them to and from our Children’s Hospital each day and helping with expenses.

It was a huge event, but one my people did well. I was proud of them, and am to this day.

But I will not soon forget the first time we did this.

I took a phone call from a representative of an international ministry based here in the states and headed by a famous minister.  My name was one of several he had received from our local seminary as a pastor who might be interested in helping to host this mother, child, and interpreter. He said, “I’ve called six or eight pastors in the New Orleans area. So far, most won’t even return my calls. One or two showed interest but nothing more.”

I said, “You can quit calling. You’ve found the church. We can do this.”

We swapped information and I promised to share this with my people, who I knew would jump at the chance to help.

A few days later, after hearing nothing more from the man, I learned he was still calling pastors in the area.  So I phoned him.

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Letter to our grandsons on choosing a wife.

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”(Proverbs 18:22).

Let’s talk about finding a wife.

The simplest thing to tell you two boys is to do what your dads did.  My sons and your dads, Neil and Marty, chose excellent women for their wives and your mamas. I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose better than they knew and that may well have been the result of your Grandma’s prayers.

For a long time, Grandma prayed that God would pick the right women for our sons.  He came through in flying colors, as you know.

Now, try to do as well as your fathers did and we’ll be through here.

Background: Grant is about to turn 20 and Jack is 12.  Jack lives outside Charlotte, NC, and Grant the same distance from New Orleans.  Grant works in Zoes Kitchen, a trendy restaurant near here and takes courses at Delgado Community College, while Jack is doing what 12-year-old boys do.

We’re some years away from either of you choosing a bride, I fully expect

But now is the time to begin thinking about it, particularly Grant.  Before falling in love with “the” one and your hormones beginning to smother your brain and blocking out all judgment, now is the time to make some decisions and establish some standards.

By “standards,” we mean you should say “This is what I will will insist on in the woman I marry and I will settle for nothing less.”

The other side of that coin, of course, is that you should dedicate yourself to becoming a husband worthy of her. After all, what’s the use of finding the ideal wife if she decides you are an unfit husband?

But, that’s another article. This one is about you choosing her.

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The day I quit cartooning and gave it to the Lord.

I’m not sure exactly when this was, perhaps sometime around the late 1970s.  I would have been in my late 30s.  I’d recently been to Singapore to draw a full-length comic book for the missionaries and was doing a regular cartoon feature for our foreign mission magazine out of Richmond, Virginia.  Cartooning was getting to be a big thing in my life, even if it didn’t always fit in with my work as pastor of a Southern Baptist church in a county seat town in Mississippi.

At some point, it began mattering too much.

That’s when I quit.

I recall giving it back to the Lord–literally laying it on His altar–and saying, “This is yours, Father. If I never draw again, it’s fine. Thy will be done.”

Now, I had started drawing as a preschooler.  Mom put my little sister Carolyn and me at the kitchen table with pencil and paper and told us to sit there and “Draw!”  Her intent was not to teach us to do anything other than stay out of her way as she cleaned the house.  But I made the discovery that day.

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13 things to do when your church is hurting financially

“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

A lot of things can happen when a church experiences a money crunch, most of them bad.

The finance committee can get upset, deacons can get angry, church members become scared, and staff members start honing their resumes and looking for a safe place to jump.  Nothing about this is good.

Can anything good come from a financial crisis? It depends on how you handle it. Read on.

Keep in mind that sometimes a financial crunch results from a too-aggressive program outstripping the resources. Perhaps the church has become too-invested in a project and the crisis sounds a wakeup call.

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