Start writing, pastor: The three most important steps are also the hardest!

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in a book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua…'” (Exodus 17:14).

Pastors say, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.”

It’s like a mantra.  What are you going to do in your retirement, pastor?  “Write a book.”

And he thinks he will.  A book of his best sermons.  A book of his most memorable stories.  A book recounting the headaches, heartaches, and blessings from all the churches he has served.

That’s the plan.

Most never will write that book.  And the big reason is inertia.  It’s so hard to make ourselves do something we’ve never done before.

So, the best advice is: Get started now.

Step one: Do it.  This is the hardest.   

Make yourself take the first baby steps. Open your computer.

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Speaking in my defense….

“Oh that you would bear with me in a little folly–and indeed you do bear with me…. I say again, let no one think me a fool.  If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little” (2 Corinthians 11:1,16).

Even the great Apostle Paul thought it was all right once in a rare while to indulge his need for self-defense. So, I have good scriptural precedent.

When one of the on-line magazines called Church Leaders.com posted an article of mine, a critic accused me of doing anything to get an article on that website.

I replied that I write only for my blog and never know when one of several online mags will be picking up something from it.  The first I know is when it shows up in my email inbox.

When you cannot find fault with someone’s reasoning, attack their motive. Ask any trial lawyer.

When an online magazine called Charisma posted our article on a doctrine we call “security of the believer”–which others refer to as ‘Once saved always saved’–you should have read the comments.  Or, maybe you shouldn’t have. They were as mean-spirited as anything I’ve ever seen.

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When all else fails, go to Plan B. If you have one.

You do have a Plan B, don’t you?

You always have to have a backup plan.

–What if the guest speaker does not show up?  Who speaks? Should we line up the alternate speaker just in case?

–What if the power goes out in the middle of the party?

–What if it rains out the church picnic? Do we cancel or go inside? If we cancel, is there another day on the calendar that would work?  If we go inside, how can we create the fun atmosphere of the outside picnic?  Do we even want to have a church picnic?

–What if the school board does not approve our request to have the crusade at the football stadium? What then? Is there another place to meet that will hold a crowd?  Will people drive to that location?  Is it equipped to deal with our needs?  What other possibilities are there?

–What if we schedule that meeting and line up the singers and guest speakers but no one shows up, how do we cover expenses? Is there a way to know in time either to do some last-minute heroics to get people there or to cancel the meeting?  Are we showing lack of faith by even considering these things?

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Why you would not want to have been Mister (Fred) Rogers

“Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

They were always watching him to catch him in a hypocrisy.  An inconsistency.  A dual standard.

Mister Rogers–i.e., Fred McFeely Rogers of TV fame–personified the command of Scripture to love thy neighbor and to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  An ordained minister, this creator of the television program “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” never preached his beliefs that I know of. But he certainly appears to have lived them.

I didn’t know him personally, other than through television, what I have read about him, and the recent movie about his life.

People who went to work for him on the show watched to see if he really lived in private the virtues of love and acceptance he taught.  Reporters interviewed him relentlessly and constantly besieged staff workers looking for a chink in the armor, a crack in the façade.  An evidence that he was less than he seemed to be.

The formula says: The more visible you are and the higher virtues you preach, the more you will be examined, questioned, pursued, and investigated.  So, if you become well known to the public–whether as a political figure, a government appointee, a celebrity of any kind, or a minister in a church–you should expect it and prepare for it.

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Thanking God for the pain. It can be a great friend.

This morning, as we were sitting at the breakfast table discussing memories good and bad, my Bertha said something I wrote down so I’d get it just right.

We have a wagonload of memories of God’s people who have loved us and cared for us. But we also have painful memories that we wish we could edit out of our lives.  But the Holy Spirit has shown me that if He took out the pain and strife, He would also be removing the lovely things that happened during that same time. Or, that happened as a direct result of the bad event. 

It brought up a painful memory from my junior high days.  A teacher said something really harsh that forever left its mark on me. Over the years as I have sometimes reflected on that incident, my primary focus has been on the offense. I’ve wondered about that teacher, why he did what he did, what it meant, and so forth.  But I realized something from what Bertha said today.

The teacher who scarred the kid 

Early in the semester of the 7th grade, all the students–perhaps a hundred of us–were  herded into the gymnasium. The band director, a Mr. Keating, called everyone to order and announced that today we would be electing class officers.

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10 things Christians do not ask the world

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the world, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”  (Psalm 1:1). 

“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…” I Corinthians 2:14

Around Easter or Christmastime polls, surveys, and magazine articles all indicate the world has given up on Jesus, on God, on Christians, on the church, or on preachers.  But let not your heart be troubled, Christ-follower.

We may as well ask a blind man what he thinks of the sunrise I enjoyed this morning, a deaf person how they appreciated the symphony, or my unbelieving neighbor what he thought of my sermon last Sunday.

The world is lost.  Never lose sight of that, follower of Jesus Christ. So, we should not be asking it for direction or seeking its counsel. When the disciples told Jesus the Pharisees were offended by Him, he said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.”  (Matthew 15:12,14)

And yet, how often do we hear of people polling the neighborhood of a designated area to find out what people see as their greatest need, what they would like most from a church, or why they no longer go to church. Then, they build a church program around the results of their poll.  What’s wrong with this picture?

They are called ‘lost’ for a reason. (See Luke 15.)

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What seniors should do with those old, painful memories

Turn them off, turn them over to Him, or turn them into gold.

“Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17). 

God has a healthy forgetter; we should too.  The things that need forgetting, we give to him and walk away from.  Even if they are not entirely forgotten, we are free from their effects.

My wife Bertha and I were talking about memories the other day.  We each have a lifetime of remembrances to share with each other since we were in our 70s when we met.  We were each 75 when we married.

She said, “Each of us has a wagonload of memories of God’s people who have loved us and cared for us.  But we also have our share of painful memories that I sometimes wish I could edit out of my life.”

She continued, “But the Holy Spirit showed me something.  If He were to remove all the memories of the pain and strife, He would also be removing the lovely things that happened during the same time.”

So, we keep all the memories.  But we treat them differently.

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Why the Lord gives us appetizers of Heaven

Often, as we serve Him on earth, the Lord gives us these little glimpses of Heaven, special moments when we know “the Lord is in this place!”

Pastor Perry Sanders decided to witness to his seatmate on a plane bound for Richmond.  “Do you know the Lord?” he asked the elderly gentleman.  “I sure do!” the man said.  “I’d love to hear about it,” said Perry.  The man said, “Years ago, I was traveling the highways of South Carolina in sales. As lost and miserable as it’s possible to get. And one day I picked up a hitchhiking college student.  He told me about Jesus and led me to the Lord.”  Perry said, “Sir, do you recall where you let that student out?”  “Yes sir.  He got out in Bamberg, South Carolina.”  Perry Sanders, longtime pastor of Lafayette, Louisiana’s First Baptist Church, said to him, “Sir, I’m that boy. I was a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and always tried to share my faith with anyone giving me a ride to my parents’ home in Bamberg.”  A little foretaste of Heaven.

In Heaven, they ‘re going to be coming up to you: “Do you remember that time you witnessed?  Preached a sermon? Prayed a prayer?  Gave an offering?  Wrote a note?”  And God used it.  So, He lets that happen just a little in this life in order to prepare us, to encourage us, to keep us faithful.

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter 1:16). 

In the middle of His teaching on discipleship, the Lord Jesus paused to utter a one-of-a-kind prophecy, one that would be fulfilled within the week:  “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).   The gospels of Mark and Luke phrase it slightly different.  “…will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1).  “…shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).

The prophecy was fulfilled a few days later when the Lord took with Him the three disciples of His inner circle–Peter, James and John–to the top of the mountain where He was transfigured. Several things happened…

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Listen to the experts, but don’t take it to the bank.

“How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?  When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). 

Someone said to me, “He may be an atheist but he has a Ph.D. in Greek and has studied the Scriptures in their original languages.  That gives his views a great deal of weight.”

I laughed.  And so did “Someone” on the royal throne (see Psalm 2).

On the back of a book on prayer, a blurb described the pastor/author as an expert on prayer. I’m not sure why that offended me.  I felt as if one of my five siblings had announced that he/she was an expert in communicating with our parents. “What’s so hard about that?” I would have replied.  “They love us and are always available.”

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just anyone calling himself an expert that bothers me.

I have read that FDR had an innate distrust of anyone called an expert. It’s not a bad philosophy.

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