When they say “somebody” ought to do something, they’re calling your number

“Somebody ought to do something!”

I was second in line at the traffic light. My lane and the one to my right were all turning left onto Dauphin Street in Mobile. The third lane was turning right.

Nobody was moving.

We sat through three sequences of lights. Meanwhile, the line of cars behind us grew longer and longer.

Clearly, the light was malfunctioning, but only on our side. Traffic from the other directions was receiving the correct sequence of lights. Our light stayed red.

I was traveling back to New Orleans from a revival in Selma, Alabama, and had stopped for a late-morning breakfast at a restaurant in Mobile.  After a fairly demanding week with 1500 miles of driving, I was actually relaxed and willing to sit there in the traffic without getting impatient.

But not all day.

Finally, I had had enough. The light was not working and the cars in front of me were showing no inclination to move.

So, I got out of my car.

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Homefront #6: Coronavirus lessons and amusements

We each do what we can.

One thing I have done is take out cartoons from my huge stock (from 50 years of drawing for Christian publications!) and tweaking some of them, then posting on Facebook.  I’ll photograph one, then make a few minor changes on it and photograph that, then post both cartoons with the caption: “There are 4 differences in these drawings. Can you find them?”  People are playing along with this and telling me it’s great fun.  A nice little diversion.

These days, we can use all of that we can get.

I asked Facebook friends to help me come up with the TOP TEN LESSONS FROM THIS PANDEMIC.

I did the first two, and they suggested the rest…

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Homefront #5: Things we definitely know are true.

Praying worldwide prayers…

I don’t know that I have ever prayed for the whole world before.  We read that God so loved the world and we know He did, but to pray for the whole world previously would have felt so general as to be worthless.  Until now.

We know that we are of God and the whole world lies in under the sway of the wicked one (I John 5:19).

In praying for the entire world–as the Coronavirus works its way into every land, every community–let us pray…

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How the pastor can learn (and remember) people’s names

“The (shepherd) calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” (John 10:3).

The evangelist had held a revival in my church one year earlier, just before I arrived as the new pastor, and it had gone well. Since we had known each other in seminary and the congregation had appreciated his ministry, I invited him to return a year later for a repeat engagement.

He walked in and began calling my people by their first names.

I was floored.

I said, “James, how many meetings have you been in since you were here last year?”  The answer was something like 36, as I recall.

I said, “How in the world can you remember the names of our members?”

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In my pain, I said, “Lord, I’m ready for that life-changing phone call.” The phone rang.

My ministry in that church was uphill all the way.  Everything was hard, it seemed. There were few rest stops, places where we could take a breather and enjoy a sense that we are accomplishing something significant for the Lord.

The church had few financial resources due to a heavy debt load, made worse by a major split in the congregation 18 months before I arrived as pastor.  The ministerial staff had little money for the outreach and educational programs they wanted to do.

It was a tough time in the life of that church.

Perhaps I was tired.  Or discouraged.  Or needed a boost of some kind.

Anyway, one day,  on the way back to the church office from lunch I prayed a prayer unlike any I’d ever prayed before.

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The Homefront #4: Monday

Sunday morning during my nearly three-hour drive up to Columbus, Mississippi (where I preached for the 10 am service at First Baptist, to a near-empty sanctuary), I listened to the BBC’s World News Service.  Some scientists were talking about–what else?–but the pandemic that has taken the world by the throat.

“We knew this was coming,” said one scientist.  “But we did not know what form it would take, so there was no way to be prepared.”  Another said, “And there will be others after this one.”  We hope–and pray–that the scientific community, the health leadership, and political leaders worldwide will have learned what to do and what not to do.

It reminds me of what a tour-guide in Naples, Italy told us.

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Have you ever been arrested? Did anyone pray for you?

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them…. (Hebrews 13:3) 

This was my morning radio program (“Phone Call from the Pastor,” Lifesongs 89.1 FM.  Christian radio station in New Orleans)….

Have you ever been arrested? Imagine the devastating impact on your family.

Last night the television news showed the arrest of a fellow on the Northshore for the murder of a convenience store clerk several years ago.  In handcuffs, he was being escorted into jail by a couple of sheriff’s deputies.

As he passed the camera, the man paused, stared into it and said, “Pray for me.  And pray for my family.”  I confess to being shocked. I mean, he was a fairly rough-looking man–the word ‘burly’ comes to mind–and I was expecting anything but that.

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The Homefront #3: Sunday’s coming.

A great scripture for today….

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.  (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

And you thought you were the only one who appreciated Psalm 1.  Turns out the Old Testament prophets read the Psalms too.

The Lord appreciates steadfastness and treasures those who remain true when everything around them is turning loose, dropping out, or wilting.

This too shall pass, Christian. Be faithful.

Doing Church

Pastors are running around trying to find the best way to have a worship service that will involve people but not require closeness and contact.  What a job!

Some churches have dusted off the old concept of drive-in churches, popularized over a half century ago, and are getting licensed-up to be able to broadcast on an FM frequency.  The posts on Facebook would indicate this may be the start of a huge trend.  Stay tuned.

I’ll be preaching to an empty sanctuary at Columbus Mississippi’s First Baptist Church Sunday at 10 am.  The plan right now is to drive up that morning–it’s almost 3 hours each way–do the service, and then turn right around and head home.  I’ll pick up a snack at a drive-through in Starkville and eat on the drive home.  My sermon is not on the pandemic that is dominating our existence these days, but something better than that.

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Those little “O My Goodness!” moments

The Homefront #2: And so it begins….

Two messages have arrived in the last few hours, telling of friends diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.  We’re kicking them to the top of our prayer list.

The headline in this morning’s Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger reads: “Unprecedented, uncharted waters.”  True enough.  But many who read those words are doubtless remembering a promise that has never been more precious:  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you (Isaiah 43:2).

The full verse(and part of the next) reads: When you pass through the waters I will be with you.  And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fires, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I type those words–and posted them earlier on Facebook–and think to myself: I am not doing this to minister to anyone; I’m writing this to myself.

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