My friend Rebecca is the mother of a son, 8, and a daughter, 6. Here’s what happened the other night.
I was asleep in the dead of night. Suddenly, I became aware that Mia, my six-year-old, had crawled into our bed and was talking to me.
Mia: “Mom, how old is Jesus?”
Mom: “Honey, Jesus isn’t any age any more.”
Mia: “Mom, did you find Dad and make him marry you? or did Dad find you and make you marry him?”
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. — Romans 15:1 (Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. –From The Message, a paraphrase)
I wrote on Facebook something like this:
Sometimes one of our churches is bigger than all the others in their town or county combined. When that happens, the church leadership has to make a decision. One, they can say, “We don’t need you small churches. We’re number one.” Or, two, they can turn around and help the smaller churches. One of these choices is Christlike and the other carnal.
The comments came in, in a predictable manner, opting for the obvious second choice. Someone said, ” Yes, but sometimes the small churches do not want your help and resist any attempt to encourage them.” True enough.
So, the question is what to do when a large church is willing to assist and encourage the smaller churches but are rebuffed in the attempt? Are there ways for them to show Christlike care and compassion even when the smaller churches are not receptive?
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
So, what have I learned about how God works over nearly six decades of ministry?
In two sentences, it’s this:
When God gets ready to do something great and lasting, He loves to a) start small, b) with ordinary people, c) using any methods He pleases, and d) taking HIs own good time about it.
Only people of faith will work with Him on this and still be there at the end to see what God has done and to behold His glory.
Two sentences that encompass a thousand things God has done and is doing.
It’s important to note that these principles are illustrated all through scripture.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to do so, putting them out of the church. III John 9-10.
In his book of 1,502 stories and illustrations (The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart), Chuck Swindoll has this:
A. T. Robertson, a fine, reliable Baptist scholar of years ago, taught for many years at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. When he began to write on books of the Bible, he chose on one occasion the Book of 3 John, which talks about Diotrephes. Diotrephes was a man who became a self-appointed boss of a church. And over a period of time, he was the one that excommunicated certain people and he screened whatever was done in the church. As the self-appointed leader, he wouldn’t even let John come to speak as a representative of Christ. So, John wrote a letter and reproved him.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil. –Job 1:1
Job, you have instructed many. You have strengthened weak hands; your words have upheld him who was stumbling; and you have strengthened the feeble knees. –Job 4:3-4
Authenticity: Job had it.
It’s my observation that in sports the best coaches and in church the most effective pastors are all authentic.
They are the real deal.
They don’t try to be someone else. While they have surely picked up traits and lessons and insights from others, they do not do their imitation of other people. They are themselves.
The word–I love finding the root meaning of words–comes from autos, meaning “self,” and hentes, Greek for worker, doer, author. So, we might say “authentic” means “coming from the author” or “genuine.”
The Bible is authentic. It comes from the Original Author (of all things!).
What started me thinking about this was a sports discussion on the radio one morning recently. A former UCLA coach made the observation after the LSU-Alabama slugfest back in November, that both coaches, Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron, are authentic. They are originals, copying no one, imitating no one, just being who they are.
She hath done what she could. –Mark 14:8
The little girl was staring up at Bertha and saying nothing. Bertha and Gary were newlyweds, just beginning in ministry, and Gary accepted any invitations coming his way–sing, preach, teach, counsel, whatever. Today, he had sung in the worship service, and now stood near the piano talking to the accompanist. A few feet away, her little girl was staring up at Bertha.
Finally she spoke.
She said, “Do you sing?”
Bertha: “No. I don’t sing.”
Silence. The child is processing that. Finally, she speaks again.
“Do you play the piano?”
“No. I don’t play the piano.”
More silence. The child is thinking. Then, she speaks and gives this family a memorable line we’ve used ever since.
This is not a test to give someone else. We’re not so much interested in gauging someone else’s Bible knowledge as we are trying to encourage Bible learning. So, this is an exercise for those of us who have preached God’s Word for decades and/or taught it in classes, Sunday School or otherwise.
I. NAME THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ORDER. Write it down in a vertical column. That’s simple enough, right? Give yourself 10 points for getting it right.
It’s good to stop and look around sometimes and ask ourselves some questions. We can think of a hundred such questions to ask ourselves: Where are you going? How did you get here? Are you doing what the Lord intended when He sent you here? Can you do it better? How can you do it better? Are you preaching grace, the cross of Jesus, forgiveness and love or something harsh and unyielding? How would someone who had never heard of Jesus react to your message?
On and on. There is no end to the questions. But I am not suggesting that we burden ourselves with a constant barrage of self-doubt. Only that once in a while, we should stop and take inventory.
Here are five questions that occur to me for every minister to ask ourselves…
Have you ever been cussed out? Ever been a hypocrite? Ever had to go for marriage counseling?
Come on, ‘fess up!
Here are twenty questions for you to answer, then share with your world. Don’t fret over it; just have fun with it.
You have my answers to the right. Copy the page and post on Facebook, your own blog or email, then delete my responses and post your own.
Our last article for this blog was “If your pastor does these 10 things, your church has hit the jackpot.”
Now, here is the other side of the coin.
If your church does the following ten things, your pastor–particularly if he is new–will feel he has won the jackpot. Stumbled onto a treasure. Won the lottery. Been richly blessed of the Lord. Choose your figure of speech.