I want to say a word about the pastor’s difficult situation. The hope is someone may decide to cut him a little slack when he does something you disagree with or does not come through the way you were counting on.
You have no idea what tough calls pastors have to make.
As an example, take the Judge Brett Kavanaugh situation. This controversial appointment for the Supreme Court is sucking all the air out of newsrooms these days and dividing the nation. Few people are neutral.
Recognizing that this piece will still be on our website long after this crisis has been resolved and fades into history, I need to give a little background.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is a staunch conservative, we’re told, and his rulings over the years on the bench seem to bear that out. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, endured a few days of their grilling, and seemed to be set for confirmation, albeit from a nearly evenly divided Senate. Then, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor, came forward saying that when she was 15 and Kavanaugh two years older, he sexually assaulted her at a party when he was drunk. He denied the charge.
So, on Thursday, September 27, 2018, Ford and Kavanaugh each appeared before the Judiciary Committee to answer questions. She was “100 percent sure” that Kavanaugh was her attacker. He was just as adamant that he was not.
And that’s where the matter stands as I write. The American people seem torn as to who is telling the truth and what it means.
“He pled the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well. Is not this what it means to know the Lord?” (Jeremiah 22:16).
People base their politics on their values, their beliefs. What they truly believe.
In the current event taking over all the news–the crisis du jour of the Trump years–Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday to charge Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh with sexual assault when she was 15 and he 17. That was some 35 years ago. She was “100 percent sure it was Kavanaugh.” Speaking in his own defense later in the day, he was just as certain she was mistaken. She may have been assaulted, said he, but not by him.
Shortly thereafter, I asked Facebook friends for a simple yes or no response to this: “Do you believe Dr. Ford?” As of this moment, less than 24 hours later, I have received 464 answers. The overwhelming majority say “No.” Some go into detail on their answer, unable to render a simple yes or no.
“And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6).
Wounded in the house of “those who love me” is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew there, according the footnote in my Bible.
It’s called friendly fire in military lingo.
Recently, after our article “Why professing Christians never attend church,” the responses poured in, positive and negative. The latest note, however, prompts what follows.
A reader wrote, “What about those who have been hurt by the church? Your article doesn’t address that (as a reason for believers dropping out of church).”
He listed several instances of people wounded by the church….
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and will sup with him and him with me” (Revelation 3:20).
That verse, with its promise and visual image, has been a mainstay in my evangelistic presentations for as long as I can remember. But lately, it’s been under attack.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard self-appointed critics insist, “That statement was made to a church! It’s not to be used for evangelism.” “Jesus is not talking about coming into the sinner’s heart; He’s talking about coming into a cold, complacent church!” “You’re taking it out of context to use in soulwinning.” “Careful scholarship would prevent you from misusing this verse.”
A professor of Greek in a well known, conservative seminary calls it scripture twisting to use Revelation 3:20 in evangelism.
And so forth.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:16-17).
Congressman Thaddeus Stevens brought a grieving mother to see President Lincoln. Her son had been condemned to die as a result of some unnamed crime. She wanted to intercede for his life. After hearing her out, Lincoln turned to the Congressman and said, “Mr. Stevens, do you think this is a case which will warrant my interference?” Stevens answered, “With my knowledge of the facts and the parties, I should have no hesitation in granting a pardon.” “Then, I will pardon him,” said Lincoln and he signed the papers.
A few minutes later, as Congressman Stevens and the mother walked down the stairs, she turned to him and exclaimed, “I knew it was a copperhead lie!”
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).
Humility is a strange bird. If you think you have it, it’s a pretty good indication you don’t. If you think you do not have it, it’s possible you do or that you do not. Hard to tell.
Humility is known more by what it does and refuses to do, how it works and serves, and what it talks about and refuses to mention. You can see it better in someone else than in yourself.
I said to 78-year-old Marguerite Briscoe, “You are the most Christ-like person I know.” She said, “Oh honey, if you just knew.” I was 45 years her junior at that moment, but am now the same age as she. And I do know.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)
There is a reason the Lord makes humility step one to living for Him.
He is going to be asking a lot from you, more in fact that you will think you can humanly give. Unless you have humbled yourself before Him and received what He has for you, you will balk at the demands, insist on your own rights, and insert your own methodology. In so doing, you will mess it all up.
Be humble or go home.
Only the humble can pull this off.
“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The thought that flitted through my brain that night scares me to this day.
It had rained heavily the previous day, the kind of West Texas downpour they write books about. Next morning, very early–4 am or something–I was leaving the Alto Frio Baptist Campground for a very long drive home (to central Mississippi). Anyone familiar with that remote retreat facility knows that the main route calls for you to drive down a highway and then cross over to the primary highway. Oddly, that crossover is a humble, one-lane road of perhaps half a mile. The thing to bear in mind is that it crosses a small creek, and oddly, the bridge curves as it passes over the creek. I made this drive several times during my few days at the camp speaking to senior adults, mostly to drive into the town of Leakey, Texas.
So, now it is pitch black out there, and as I am about to turn off the first highway and drive the small trail over to the main highway, I notice the entire area is flooded. The whole area around the little road was completely submerged. Assuming the bridge was still there, it would be flooded also.
“Blessed is he who endures.” — James 1:12
Often, at the start of the first service for a protracted meeting –revival, prayer conference, deacons retreat, Bible study, whatever–I’ll say, “Now, everyone wonders at the end of a meeting, what was accomplished. Did we get our money’s worth?
“It’s a good question. And I want you to know that there’s a way to tell.”
“I want to tell you how to measure the effectiveness of this meeting. There are several principles. Some of you may want to write this down.”
“First principle: Wait a hundred years….. And I don’t know what the other principles are.”
It’s a light-hearted way to make a valid point. Please read on.
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
Want to see anxiety demonstrated? Get on any highway in the country during morning rush hour traffic. One out of every ten drivers is either running late, in a hurry, under the gun from the boss or the school kids, and taking it out on every other motorist on the road. They’re not wicked, just stressed.
A friend wrote to thank me for an article on depression. “I’m not really depressed,” he said, “but anxious. I have a lot of problem with anxiety.”
I could write a book on that subject myself. (A friend, Dr. Larry Kennedy–now in Heaven and a member of the great cloud of witnesses–did just that. I told him he might have thought of a more uplifting title than Down With Anxiety, but he felt the play on words worked.)
I’ve been anxious. It seems to go with the job of pastor.
Ask any pastor how well he sleeps on Saturday night.