Why Heaven requires new songs

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Revelation 5:9).

John must have been fascinated by the sights and the sounds of that heavenly vision.

At first, he was treated to a heavenly quartet. The four angelic beings–were they seraphim?–of Revelation 4:7-8 burst into song, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.  Who was and is and is to come!”

This was no little chorus they dropped into the Lord’s throneroom.  We read, “They do not rest day or night, saying (this)” (verse 8).

Imagine that. An endless song.

Either seraphim are amazing singers or the Lord’s patience with the same song over and over knows no limits.

Continue reading

My biggest problem in worship

I can worship anywhere, and often have. A creekbank, a busy sidewalk, a shopping mall, or anywhere in my house.

I can worship alone or with one or two or with a crowd.

My opinion is that I worship best in a crowd of God’s people. I sing better and louder, am inspired by the devotion of others, and enjoy hearing God’s preaching more while I’m with the family.

Our Lord Jesus knew we worship better with our brethren than alone. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

I cannot explain how the Lord is more present when I’m with the family of believers than otherwise, but there it is.  I’ve found that to be the reality.

I love to worship with the Lord’s family.

And that’s the problem.

Continue reading

The pastor who needs a new role model

That preacher does not know me from Adam.

I’m glad, because he would probably not be pleased with anything that follows.

I sat in the church recently where he was filling in for the regular pastor.  It was a small church and the service was poorly done, I regret to say, from beginning to end.  I know that sounds harsh, and I am no judge of anyone’s worship.

But some things are obvious to everyone.

No one involved in that church service–I’m hesitant to call it a worship service–seemed to have a clue of this being a time of worship, of reverence and holiness.  No advance thought had been given to the songs to sing, prayers to be offered, or comments made. Everything was off the cuff. The welcome and hymn-introductions were silly and went on and on.

My opinion is that when those leading a service see it as a community fun time, the failure lies at the feet of the pastor. He sets the standard. But since I do not know the man, this is neither about him or his leadership team.

I wanted to tell you what the guest preacher did.

Continue reading

Take my colonoscopy for me. Please!

“No one can believe for you any more than they can eat your food and make your love.” — Anonymous

As I type this, I’m getting ready for a day and then a full night of prep for my colonoscopy.  I’ve laid in a supply of apple sauce and chicken broth and Sprite, the kind of non-threatening foods the gastro doctor says one can have the day before going through this gut check. (heh heh)

I’ve done this before. Twice, as a matter of fact.  And it’s no fun. So…

I was wondering if any of my friends would like to volunteer to take this test for me.  It wouldn’t be exactly cheating, like taking the SAT in someone else’s name.

Any takers?  Any at all?


I didn’t think so.

Several friends messaged that they’d love to take my place. But Charles has promised his wife he’d take out the trash tomorrow morning. And Elsie has an appointment for a pedicure. And Mike says he will fast and pray about it. The problem is Mike’s fasts are always two-day affairs and the colonoscopy will be over by the time he gets divine guidance.

Fact is, having someone fill in for me wouldn’t work, would it?  Some things you have to do for yourself.

Continue reading

Jesus, the logician

Fourth in a series on the incident of Mark 2:1-12. (Earlier installments are to be found on this website dated May 13, May 14, and May 19, 2015.)

“Some of the scribes were sitting here and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk?'”  (Mark 2:6-9).

One of the most helpful courses I took in college was logic.  The ability to think clearly and rationally about complex issues is a wonderful asset for anyone.

It helps me to realize our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing if not logical. Jesus clearly loved logic.

Again and again in Scripture He shows Himself the Master of logic and rational thinking as He lays the issues before His hearers in orderly fashion and asks them to think about them.

Continue reading

How to use humor in your sermon even if you’re not a comic

Watch this.  This is how it’s done.

Robert Mueller was giving a commencement address at the College of William and Mary.  This former director of the FBI in the first Bush administration is the epitome of dignity and class.  He is anything but a comic or comedian.  That day, speaking on “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity,” which he called the motto of the Bureau, he showed us a great way to use humor in a serious talk.

“In one of my first positions with the Department of Justice, more than thirty years ago, I found myself head of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.  I soon realized that lawyers would come into my office for one of two reasons: either to ‘see and be seen’ on the one hand, or to obtain a decision on some aspect of their work, on the other hand.  I quickly fell into the habit of asking one question whenever someone walked in the door, and that question was ‘What is the issue?’

“One evening I came home to my wife, who had had a long day teaching and then coping with our two young daughters.  She began to describe her day to me.  After just a few minutes, I interrupted, and rather peremptorily asked, ‘What is the issue?’

Continue reading

The most surprising thing about the Apostle Paul’s ministry

“I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore, acknowledge such men” (I Corinthians 16:17-18).

As amazing as he was and as capable in ministry, as brilliant in theology, and as bold in his witness, the Apostle Paul needed people.

Does that surprise you as much as it does me?

Continue reading

Life’s intersections: What if that person had not shown up that day?

I’m 75 years old. Not old or decrepit, thank you very much. And, not ancient or senile by any means, you understand.  But the calendar is what it is and the white hair belies my protestations.  Honestly, l feel like I’m 15.


The time has arrived when it’s perfectly acceptable to look back and remember and give thanks to God for what He has done.

Thinking of all the blessings of people and incidents, of words and books and jobs and churches, I constantly thank God that He did “this” and not “that” or something else entirely.

You are looking at one blest man. (Okay, to the extent you are actually “looking” at me, that is.)

Recently, when members of the old (read that, “now defunct”) West End Baptist Church of Birmingham held a reunion and then the next day, a joint service of worship with Mount Calvary Baptist Church, the congregation now occupying the buildings and campus of our beloved WEBC, it kicked my thinking about these things into overdrive.

Continue reading