The abrasive Christian

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance, leading to the knowledge of the truth…” (Second Timothy 2:24-25)

In Lynne Olson’s book Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, she has this interesting depiction of Harold Ickes, a member of FDR’s cabinet during the Second World War:

“According to T. H. Watkins, Ickes’ biographer, ‘a world without something in it to make him angry would have been incomprehensible to him.’ A disgrunted Republican senator who had been the target of one of Ickes’ verbal assaults called him ‘a common scold puffed up by high office.’ To one cabinet colleague, Ickes was ‘Washington’s tough guy.’ To another, he was the ‘president’s attack dog.’”

Olsen tells how an assistant secretary of state once refused to shake hands with Mr. Ickes and described him in his diary as “fundamentally, a louse.”

Having such an irritating person in high government office is one thing; having them in church leadership is quite another.

I’m remembering a woman had a reputation for being a strong witness for the Lord, even to the point of teaching classes on faith-sharing.

One day I called her office following up on something her boss had told me.

I was amazed by her reaction.

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Church hospitality: It’s hard to get it just right

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers….” (Hebrews 13:2)

This fellow wrote to newspaper advice columnist Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, describing a strange situation….

“My wife and I received three unusual invitations.  In the first, we were invited to a cocktail get-together (not a formal party) where I was told that since I do not drink alcohol, I should bring something for myself to drink.”

“The second was from a friend who insisted that he and his wife wanted to get together for dinner, but he did not want to have it at his house or at a restaurant.  He went on to say he did not care if our house was not in order for a dinner party (construction is going on), but that it would be the best place for us to get together.”

“The third was from a man I have done outdoor activities with who invited me to lunch, told me he would stop by my house, and we could make something for lunch there.”

Gotta love it.

According to Miss Manners, such rudeness mocks the whole idea of hospitality. The couple should reply to these requests with, “I’m afraid that won’t be convenient,” and nothing more.

She has never heard of such before, the columnist says, and hopes she won’t ever again.

Ah, but we in the church get that all the time.

Many visitors come to church expecting to be treated royally, often carrying a list of what they require from churches lucky enough to have them in their midst.  And if those conditions aren’t met, they never return and bad-mouth you to their friends.

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Pulling rank: What some pastors do which Jesus never did

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshipping and shooting the (sacred) bull, someone came out with this:

“I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God sent me here as the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel it.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Now, God the Father didn’t seem to mind doing it.  Throughout the Old Testament the Almighty give commands and instructions to His people, then frequently added reminders that “I am the Lord!”  The idea being that “I have a right to say this, I have the authority to back it up, and you disobey at your own peril.”

Take the fascinating 19th chapter of Leviticus, the source of our Lord’s favorite “second greatest commandment” about loving your neighbor as yourself.  That chapter, thirty-seven verses long, contains numerous commands about treatment of foreigners, the poor, the vulnerable. Throughout, sixteen times we find God saying “I am the Lord.”

But the Lord Jesus did not pull rank on people.

When the religious big-shots grew rebellious over His abuse of the Sabbath as they saw it, Jesus reasoned with them: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? to save a life? or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) Make them think.

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Getting people to “buy into” the kingdom of God

Some years back, while watching a news program, I was struck by a statement about our country’s war in Afghanistan.

Less than 1 percent of our (military) people are in that country fighting. The American people are not invested in this war.

I thought that was an interesting phrase.  Invested in a war.

What exactly does that mean? and is there a message here for those of us in the ministry?

The statement meant the American people were not aware of what was going on in that Middle-Eastern country, which meant the struggle there felt remote and distant, and consequently were not supporting it as they would normally.

Most Americans had no personal stake in that war. When we’re unsure of the issues and uncertain of our goal, when we do not know anyone who is putting his/her life on the line there, and when we have no personal ties to anything, we are uninvested.

Who remembers the Second World War? 

World War II movies, especially those made during the early 1940s, actually pulled American citizens together to support their fighting men and women.

In the 1940s, every town in America sent the cream of its youth to the fight. Every radio was tuned to the latest news. Gold stars shone from windows to say this family had lost a son in the service of his country. Dads and grandfathers followed developments with maps on the wall. Drives for metal, rubber, paper and even fats and grease were conducted in every community. Schoolchildren bought savings stamps and housewives contended with ration books.

It seemed that every citizen of this country was enlisted to fight that war. They were invested.

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What ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ means

The epitaph for this generation could read: They Didn’t Know.

Nothing new about that, however. Reading the New Testament, one is struck by how often significant players in the Lord’s drama were said not to have a clue.

On the cross, the Savior summed it up when He prayed, “Father, forgive them. They do not know….”

Here are instances throughout the New Testament where that can be said.

Prayer. Matthew 20:22

The disciples did not know what they were asking for.

Ever pray that way? I have. I’ve asked the Lord to grant me success in this venture or that without ever checking to see if it was His will in the first place.

The brothers James and John wanted the places of honor in the Kingdom. And, who knows, they reasoned–perhaps it will be given to the ones with the moxie to ask. After all, isn’t it true that “you have not because you ask not”? And, they further reasoned, the worst that could happen was that the Lord would say, “No.”

He said, “No.” And more. That it was reserved for those whom the Father chose. And that they did not know what they were asking.

One wonders if a few weeks later when they saw the two thieves dying on crosses–one on the Savior’s right hand, the other His left–if they remembered this sad conversation.

The Apostle Paul said, We do not know how to pray as we should. Boy, is that ever the truth.

Help us, Father. We say as the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

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The 5 most frustrating things pastors do

I believe in pastors. That does not however mean I endorse everything every pastor does.

They’re human.

They tell us the typical pastor in our denomination serves a church with 100 or fewer in attendance, which probably means the offerings are inadequate to provide much of a living for him. In some cases he holds down a second job or his wife works. Or both. Or, most amazing of all, he manages to live on what they pay him.

I believe in these guys. They are my brothers and my admiration of them knows no bounds.

Most of them.

But at times ministers will do the most self-defeating things. Not all of them, thankfully. But enough to warrant our addressing the issue as a caution to the rest of the Lord’s shepherds.

Here is my personal list of the 5 most frustrating things pastors do.

FIRST: It’s frustrating to see preachers cut corners on sermon preparation.

The bizarre thing is that to the congregation the Sunday sermon is 50 percent of his job.

In the more liturgical churches that may not be so, with the ministers’ homilies often appearing as 5 minute reflections thrown together just prior to entering the sanctuary.

But in the world I live in, the only time 90 percent of the congregation sees the pastor is on Sunday morning. If he does poorly there, he has just about sealed his fate with the membership as a whole.

And yet.

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You are not the judge of your own work. For good reason.

(Note: This article first ran on our website in September 2012.  Some of the identifying notes are dated, some of the people have moved, that sort of thing.  But I’m going to reprint it as it ran then with a few tweaks.  Thank you.)

“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening; for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)

A great many ministers are sitting in judgment on their own work. And it’s not looking good for them.

They will decide their portion of Kingdom work is not going very well, feel guilty because they are so ineffective, and grow discouraged. Instead of giving their all day in and day out over a long life of service and obedience, they turn inward, give less and less of themselves, while the visible results they so long for become more and more scarce.

Stop it.

You’re not the judge, just a worker in the field of the Lord.

Now, get back out there and trust that the Lord knows what He was doing when He assigned you to this corner of the Kingdom.

Jeff Christopherson knows.   Jeff loves to tell about something that happened to his parents.

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Why God called you into the ministry. Some will be surprised.

Let me tell you what happened to my friend Jon recently.

Jon was hired by one of the pro football teams as an assistant coach.  Jon is a lifelong athlete, all-pro in his own career, and after retirement became a coach.  So, now he was excited about the new position and moved his family to that city.  He settled his stuff into the assistant coach’s office, got to know everyone, and turned to take a look at his players.  That’s when his rude awakening came.

He told me, “Joe, I was so shocked.  Some of those guys are lazy.  Some of them are not doing their preparation for the games.  They are lagging on their reps and resent being reprimanded.  I was so disappointed that I went to see the head coach, my boss.”

“And what happened then?” I asked.

Jon said, “I told him, ‘Coach, I wanted to come to a team that was excellent, that was poised to win the big games, to go all the way.  Instead, what I found is that a lot of the players are unmotivated, are in this work for the big salaries, are lazy, and are not up to speed on the fundamentals of the game.  I’m big-time disappointed. Honestly, coach, I don’t know how you can take this.”

“Was he upset?” I asked.

“No,” Jon said.  “In fact, he just smiled.”

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To touch the world, be a writer

I’m a sucker for a great beginning of a book.

Here is how Kelly Gallagher kicked off his outstanding work Teaching Adolescent Writers:

You’re standing in a large field minding your own business when you hear rumbling sounds in the distance. The sounds begin to intensify, and at first you wonder if it is thunder you hear approaching. Because it’s a beautiful, cloudless day you dismiss this notion. As the rumbling sound grows louder, you begin to see a cloud of dust rising just over the ridge a few yards in front of you. Instantly, you become panicked because at that exact moment it dawns on you that the rumbling you’re hearing is the sound of hundreds of wild bulls stampeding over the ridge. There are hordes of them and they are bearing down right on top of you. They are clearly faster than you and there is no time to escape. What should you do? Survival experts recommend only one of the following actions:

–A) Lying down and curling up, covering your head with your arms.

–B) Running directly at the bulls, screaming wildly and flailing your arms in an attempt to scare them in another direction

–C) Turning and running like heck in the same direction the bulls are running (even though you know you can’t outrun them)

–D) Standing completely still; they’ll see you and run around you

–E) Screaming bad words at your parents for insisting on a back-to-nature vacation in Wyoming

Gallagher, who teaches high school in Anaheim, California, says experts recommend C. “Your only option is to run alongside the stampede to avoid being trampled.”

Then, being the consummate teacher, he applies the great attention-grabbing beginning: “My students are threatened by a stampede–a literacy stampede.”

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