“But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)
It’s so easy to become a modern Pharisee.
We start out with good intentions, desiring only to encourage people to serve God faithfully. We end up setting in stone our requirements and holding people responsible for disobeying God when they violate them.
That has happened in our denomination. When Southern Baptists decided to update their “creedal statement,” a document we call The Baptist Faith and Message, it was said loud and clear that these were not to be tools by which we were to judge the doctrinal faithfulness of our people. That soon went by the wayside. These days, if professors and pastors do not subscribe to that document, they are not considered for that open position or vacant pulpit.
The sons and daughters of the Pharisees are alive and well and active inside your congregation, too, friend.
“He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much….” (Luke 16:10)
“Let him deny himself and take up his cross….” (Luke 9:23)
Legalism is a bad term. It implies someone is living by a list of rules even though violating the spirit and intent of those rules.
Years ago, a lady in my church told of a conversation she had with her sister-in-law. They were Baptist (my member) and a Pentecostal of some type (the SIL).
The kids were off to school and they were sharing a morning coffee in one of their homes. The Baptist lit up a cigarette. The Pentecostal said, “Did you know that one cigarette will send your soul to hell?”
The Baptist: “Are you serious?”
The Baptist said to her Pentecostal SIL, “Then explain something to me. How is it you can hate your mother–I’ve heard you say it!–and you’re all right, but smoking one cigarette is going to send me to hell forever?”
She had no answer. (Note: We do not intend to imply all Pentecostals are this way, or that all Baptists approve of cigarettes. We do, however, approve of morning coffee with friends.)
I suppose it’s safe to say we all need some rules. And, the first of those rules should be, “While obeying the rules, don’t forget to love, stay humble, and walk faithfully with your God.”
We have three primary texts (and a dozen secondary ones)–
“Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord.” –Psalm 27:14 This is a command. Waiting on the Lord takes real strength.
“I waited patiently on the Lord and He inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a solid rock and established my footsteps. He also put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” –Psalm 40:1-3 This is a testimony. Waiting on the Lord is the gateway to so many blessings.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint.” –Isaiah 40;31. This is a promise. Waiting on the Lord–in time–makes us stronger and more confident.
Question: What would it take for you to quit believing in God? What would it take to make you quit going to church, stop reading your Bible, and no longer consider yourself a Christian?
–A fellow left a note on my website saying “I’m no longer going to church or believing in God. The last two pastors I have had were terrible and treated me awful.” I read that and thought, “That’s all it took to knock you out? Just two bad preachers? I can show you twenty-five monsters in the pulpit, and you quit after only two?”
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. And no sickly animals, please. (Malachi 3:10 and 1:13)
If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, your checkbook should reflect it.
There are people of His who need your help. You show love to Him by giving to them. Do it “unto the least of these my brethren,” said Jesus, and “you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
The Old Testament says when we give to the poor, we “lend to the Lord” (Proverbs 19:17).
Some people read the story of the widow giving her two small coins all wrong (Mark 12:42). Some see it as Jesus okaying giving the Lord next to nothing while the fact is He is applauding the woman for giving her all to God.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God…. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. (Hebrews 11:16,37-38)
It’s commonplace these days for the older generation–let’s say those of retirement age and beyond–to point something out: This generation of young people mistakenly think things have always been this way. Always this affluent. Ever this easy. Always this prosperous.
This generation has no way of knowing, other than being told or reading about it in histories, how recent are smart phones, laptops, rear-view cameras, airbags, and GPS. We not only got along without them for most of my lifetime, we didn’t even give it a thought. We thought we were doing very well, in fact.
I was born in 1940. I was a teen in the 1950s, the “Happy Days” generation, when a decent new car could be purchased for $2,000. When a relative once drove his new Lincoln Continental to a family get-together, we were stunned to see it had air-conditioning: Two plastic tubes coming up over the back seats blowing cold air into the interior. The car, someone said, cost $5,000. More than a year’s salary.
This is not going to be a “back in my day” retrospective, but give me a moment here please.
“We who are in this body do groan….” (2 Corinthians 5:4)
“Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on….” (Philippians 3:12).
A young pastor sent me a question. Two churches have contacted him about their search for a new shepherd. Both are in the same general area, both about the same size, and, in his words, “both have issues.”
I told him, “Every church has issues.”
They all do. Of the six congregations I pastored, none was completely filled with mature, loving, solid Christians. All had issues.
The first one, Unity of Kimberly, AL lacked a group of mature leaders to work with their green pastor (moi!).
The second, Paradis of Paradis, LA, was asleep and needed awakening.
Saturday night in North Mississippi as I sketched couples attending the church banquet where I would soon speak, the woman said, “You are from Alabama?”
She said, “We’re from Alabama. Winston County.”
I said, “I’m from Winston County. Graduate of Winston County High School at Double Springs.”
She said, “We’re from Haleyville.” A much bigger town at the edge of the county.
We chatted about that, making connections. Afew minutes later, she was back.
“Your Facebook profile says you are from Nauvoo, Alabama.” A small town to the south in Walker County.
I said, “We lived five miles out of Nauvoo on a rural route. But I never lived in Nauvoo itself. We lived just inside Winston County, which meant we went to high school in Double Springs instead of Carbon Hill.”
Later, I changed the note on Facebook to say my hometown is Double Springs. Which it isn’t, of course. In one sense, I have no home town, having grown up in the open country, some 13 miles from Jasper, AL and 10 miles from Double Springs. And not only that….
Someone once said a mega-church pastor must be willing to live on $300,000 a year, be considered a celebrity in the community, and put up with an all-paid country club membership.
I’ll pass, thank you.
The skills a mega-church pastor actually does need will depend on the congregation, I expect, but would include:
- Strong preaching strength. This will be the pastor’s sole contact with most of his people. So, he’d better get this right.
- Administrative ability. In most cases, there will be an executive leadership team represented by four or five heads of ministerial teams. They meet with the pastor once a week to set directions for the church and make important decisions, then each one gathers his own team to plan their work.
The best thing in the Bible might be Exodus 34:6-7.
And the Lord passed before (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation. “
It’s the best because it’s God’s self-revelation and it reveals Him to be pure love. Exodus 34:6-7 is the Old Testament corollary to I John 3:8,16 which say “God is love.”
Exodus 34:6-7 is the best because it’s quoted all through the Old Testament. Moses prayed it in Numbers 14:18. Nehemiah sang it in Neh. 9:17. Joel held it out as the reason God’s people could expect revival, in Joel 2:13. David sang it in Psalms 86:15, in 103:8, and in 145:8. Jonah complained about it in Jonah 4:2. And we find fleeting quotes from it throughout Jeremiah, such as in 32:18.
The goodness of the Lord leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
I sit on my back deck in the early mornings with my coffee and I worship the Lord. Some fifteen years before I bought it, the Lord had someone build this house for me. It is so right, everything about it–including the wonderful lady who shares it with me. She’s a gift from Him too.
I am so blessed that Heaven may take some getting used-to.
I sit out there taking in the birdsong, the sweet air moving gently across the pond, the ever-changing colors of the sunrise, and I think. I think of the Lord who made this. I see that clump of reeds at the edge of the pond and think, “If just that was found on Mars today, it would be front page news across the world tomorrow.” And yet we rarely think of the richness of Earth and the legion of gifts that are ours as a result. God is so good.