Your sermon was too long, too short, had too many stories, not enough stories, too deep, and too shallow.
Ask any pastor.
They’re criticized because their wives do not play the piano, but if she does “it looks like she is running the show.” Pastors are criticized for wearing the same suits but if they have a variety, they get slammed for spending too much money on clothes. Their kids are either too unruly or too something. The critics will always think of something to focus on.
Anyone who cannot handle unfair criticism should find another calling.
Recently, Dr. Thom Rainer invited ministers to post unfair or ridiculous criticism they had received in their ministries. The responses flew in, and when I reposted it on Facebook my friends chimed in with theirs. It made me think of a few of my own.
When I became a man, I put away childish things. Paul in I Corinthians 13:11.
Maybe Paul did, but I didn’t.
Well, some I did.
Paul was referring to childish understandings and utterances, of course. We do indeed put those away as we mature and grow in understanding, just as we laid aside the diapers and toddler’s costumes we needed as infants. As a five-year-old, I wore the army jacket with the flyer’s wings to school for picture-taking day. It’s still a favorite photo. However, I can still recall the tears when it became obvious I had outgrown that coat. I wanted to wear it forever.
A lot of things we outgrow. If we are wise and strong, the things we outgrow will be aspects of our lives we should indeed leave behind. Pity the adult who is still harboring his/her childish understandings, prejudices, pleasures.
But some wonderful things of childhood never leave us. Here are some that are still with me today…
Do not be afraid of them. If you are, I will humiliate you in front of them. –God to Jeremiah, chapter 1.
Be strong and of good courage. –God to Joshua. Moses to Joshua. Israelites to Joshua. (6 times at the end of Deuteronomy and through Joshua chapter 1. Apparently, the man had some issues with shyness.)
Agree with Colin Kaepernick, the editor of Christianity Today, or the editor of Charisma magazine or not; you have to admire their courage.
They didn’t have to take the stand they took. It cost Kaepernick his job in the NFL, meaning zillions of dollars. The editorial from Christianity Today calling for the removal of President Trump has cost the magazine a ton of cancellations. The editor of Charisma magazine? Aw, probably nothing. It’s just a personal thing.
And He sent them out two by two. And He added to the church those who were being saved. It is not good for man to be alone. And a lot of scriptures like that.
Sometimes when I look back–hey, it’s what you do when you get as many years behind you as some of us have accumulated!–I think of several instances when I suffered or my work was weak because I insisted on being a lone ranger.
People would have been glad to help me. But I didn’t ask.
I’m reading the most amazing book. I Wanted To Write is the autobiography, of a sort, from Pulitzer-Prize winning author Kenneth Roberts. Whom you never heard of. Pam Stewart of Colorado Springs was visiting with us over the Thanksgiving holidays and introduced me to him. I am so hooked. (He lived 1885 to 1957.) The book’s subtitle is: An Intimate, Entertaining Account of How An Author Lives and Works. Every would-be novelist, of which I’m not one, would benefit from reading it.
When Roberts was deep in the throes of trying to write his historical novels–not the potboilers, bodice-ripping fake histories, but genuine history with fleshed-out stories of the actual persons–he struggled mightily. That’s when a friend stepped in. Novelist Booth Tarkington was some 20 years older than Roberts and a neighbor in Kennebunkport, Maine (later the home of President George Bush the first). Tarkington would come over and say, “Read me a few chapters of your book.”
Now, what makes that special is that Booth Tarkington, remembered by few today, was as popular as Mark Twain in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. His book The Magnificent Ambersons was made into a movie and is considered one of the best all-time by people who rate these things. Anyway…
“Choose you this day” (Joshua 24:15). “I have decided to follow Jesus.”
The human mind is a scavenger. It loves to pick at dead things, and will not leave road-kill alone.
You find yourself sleepless in the wee hours. Your mind roams around looking for something to dwell on. It settles on the wrong things: Someone who betrayed you, disappointed you, offended you, hurt you, mistreated you, failed you. You reflect on that person for a moment or two and realize this is no fun. It is upsetting you. This is no way to get back to sleep. You pray for them, telling God “I forgive them Lord; please do not hold this against them.” Bless them, Father.
Your mind then moves over to the other side of those road-kill memories. Now you find yourself conjuring up people whom you betrayed, those you disappointed, someone you offended, a person you hurt, some people whom you mistreated and failed. For the umpteenth time, you ask God to forgive you and you lie there praying for each of those people, that they will do well and not remember your sins and your failings. You think “Please God!” that they will not awaken in the night remembering the unkind thing you did or said so long ago. Bless them, Father.
And then, after a bit it dawns on you that if you are going to get back to sleep, you’re going to have to choose a better memory or a more pleasant subject to dwell on. You have to make a better choice.
Something we all do every day of our lives.
The natural man does not comprehend spiritual things. I Corinthians 2:14
An unsaved guy misses a great deal. He’s on the outside looking in and so he will not value some of the things Jesus said or God did.
Some unbelievers have a sharp sense as to what is right and what’s utterly stupid. Case in point…
A friend messaged to say the last line at the end of chapter 3 in our book “Pastoring” deserves its own treatment.
We were talking about a pastor goofing off when he should have been studying, fooling around in the pulpit when he should have been feeding the flock, and glorifying himself instead of Jesus. An unsaved fellow who was in the congregation one day when the preacher did some dumb stuff told his family afterwards, “That pastor is a joke.”
And we said, “Some things even a lost man knows.”
One. “Back in my day.” I’m actually living in my day. Today.
This is my day. I am as alive and active as I have ever been. I vote, I read the paper every day, I blog several times a week, and I’m often on Facebook. I still work–traveling to cities far and near to preach and minister.
I married Bertha three years ago. She still teaches English at a community college across town. Much of her day is spent at the laptop grading papers and communicating with students. She is very much in the present; neither of us is living in the past.
Earlier this month I drove to northern Kentucky (495 miles) to minister and drove back the next day, arriving home in time to sketch for two hours at our church’s Christmas program that evening.
I’m still here.
Two. I’m going to ‘unpack’ this message. Ugh!
For when one says ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? — I Corinthians 3:4
I treasured that young couple in my church. They were attractive, friendly, and faithful. That’s why their letter was so stunning.
We hated you for most of this year. You took the place of the pastor we loved so much. But now, we are gradually coming to love you too.
I was not prepared for that. And here we are, many years removed from that moment, and I am recalling everything about this letter that landed like a blow to the solar plexus. (Note: If you write a love note to your pastor, please do not tell him what you did not like about him at first or how long it took to warm to him. He does not need to know the obstacles you worked through to come to this point.)
The other evening a stranger approached my wife in our church fellowship hall just before a Christmas program.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a strict judgment…. (James 3:1)
To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)
When the pastor said God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear, some fellow said, “I know. I just wish He didn’t have such confidence in me!”
God’s best students are held to a higher standard and graded more strictly.
The ones with greater potential are dealt with more severely.
Ask any coach. The mediocre player gets a mild reprimand and slivers of the coach’s attention. Although he does poorly, the expectations on him were low. The star athlete, however, regularly gets reamed out by the coach and is constantly held to higher standards, stricter disciplines, and greater expectations.
“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12)
My wife is a career schoolteacher. Either in high school or college, she has taught English all her adult life. (She has a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones and a Master’s from Rhode Island College.) And I hear the tales…
Toward the end of the semester, at the time when term papers are due and tests are scheduled, invariably some student wants to be late or to be allowed to skip something or have a deadline rescheduled. And they always have excuses.
When the student has shown himself/herself to be conscientious and serious about their work, the teacher is disposed to want to help them. But in the case of a lazy student for whom this is a pattern, a loving, faithful teacher will refuse to make allowances. Give in to the lazy, self-indulgent student on this and all you do is reinforce that ugly pattern.
“Can you make an exception for me?”