Sometimes the salt of the earth needs sweetening

While researching a subject on-line the other day, I found myself reading some preachery attacks on other ministers. These men of God, assuming that’s what they are and I’m not saying they’re not, were taking no prisoners.

“That pastor is a liar!” “Preachers lie to you when they say….” “Ten lies preachers tell you.” “That preacher is an agent of hell!”

That sort of thing.

When those sent by the Father to be shepherds of His sheep use such blistering rhetoric, we fail our assignments in many ways: we dishonor the Lord, we shame the church, we needlessly slander our brethren, we set poor examples for the people in the pew, and we hold the gospel up to ridicule by the world.

How about a little sweetening, I wonder. And then I remembered something.

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Fatherhood: Gift from a loving God

My friend Paul took up golf so he would have something to share with his boys when they became teenagers. Smart man. Fathers find fewer and fewer activities in common with their children as they grow up and mature.

When my children were small, we connected on every level. I helped them learn to swim, taught them to ride bikes, and every night, told them bedtime stories (with one lying enfolded in each arm). We flew kites and dug for sharks teeth and collected rocks. We made up silly songs in the car and they sang out as loudly as I did. We visited the zoo and played ball and worked in the yard. We visited grandparents and they slept over with cousins.

Then they got to be teenagers. Sing in the car? Dad, you’re kidding, right? Be seen in the mall with you, Dad–do I have to? Oh, and drop me off a block before we get to school so my friends won’t see me getting out of the family car. Family reunion? Boring!

They did let me teach them to drive the car. Usually, it was a Sunday afternoon in an empty parking lot, or down some deserted road. But as soon as they received their license, they preferred to be left alone with their friends.

Life had changed.

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Suddenly the speaker says something that doesn’t sound right

This has happened to me more than once.  I’m sitting in some huge meeting with hundreds of the Lord’s people representing churches across our state or country. A large number of preachers are in the audience. The speaker is sounding forth on some subject of importance to us all.

Suddenly, the speaker comes out with a statement that gets a hearty “amen,” something that sounds profound and undergirds the point he is making. He goes on in the message and everyone in the room but one person stays with him. Me, I’m stuck at that statement. Where did he get that, I wonder. Is it true? How can we know?

The speaker says something that stops us in our tracks.

Ever happen to you?

If “Facebook,” that wonderful and exasperating social networking machine, has taught us anything, it’s to distrust percentages and question quotations.

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How a new minister can gain the trust of the congregation

Your assignment, new pastor, is to love God’s people and earn their trust.  Nothing else is more important.  Eventually, when they know you love them and are trustworthy, they will follow you.  But not until.

Elton was a new pastor of a small church I’m familiar with. To call him excited is an understatement.

Early in the process, Elton announced to the deacons they would hold an overnight retreat and talk about how things should be done. So far, so good, I suppose.

At the retreat, this new pastor informed his leaders that he would be calling the shots and making all important decisions and their job was to support him.

Elton was fired the next week.

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On the King’s Highway, going “first class”

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

As a college student in Birmingham, I worked weekends for the Pullman Company, the people who operated the sleeper cars on passenger trains.  It used to fascinate me how people who wished to travel by Pullman had to pay through the nose.

I found it out the summer I worked in the ticket office for Seaboard RR taking phone reservations.

First, to qualify for the privilege of reserving space in the Pullman car, the passenger’s standard ticket had to be upgraded to first class.  Which means they were paying extra for the privilege of renting space in the sleeper car.  Then, they paid for the suite or roomette.

I wondered if the riders did not know the company was sticking it to them.

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When the minister is tired, watch out!

(Written a few years back. I decided to leave it intact and post it as is.) 

“Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat down by the well….” (John 4:6).

Jesus grew tired, so don’t be surprised if you do, too.

Jesus needed rest and wanted a little solitude, and you and I are no different.

Give yourself permission to be human, friend.

As for me, it’s Monday night and I’m tired.

How did I get this way?

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If you’ve been in the Lord’s work very long, your scars prove it

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

“…I bear branded on my body the owner’s stamp of the Lord Jesus” –the Moffett translation.

“…I bear on my body the scars that mark me as a slave of Jesus” –Goodspeed.

At Mississippi State University, the Kenyan student carried horizontal scars across his face.  “Identification marks for my tribe,” he explained to me.  Wow.  Tough clan.

We were returning from the cemetery in the mortuary’s station wagon.  The director and I were chatting and perhaps could have been more observant.  We did not notice the pickup truck coming from our right and running the stop sign at 30 or 40 mph. We broadsided the truck.

My forehead broke the dashboard.

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“I need to apologize to our former pastor,” he told me.

Bob is the pastor of a small church in another state.  He told me this story.

As a layman he was put on the search committee to seek the next preacher.  Then, they elected him chairman of the team.  Soon he began to gather information to present to prospective pastors.

“What is our salary package?” he asked the church treasurer.

The old gentleman had controlled the purse strings for that little congregation for several years.  He said to  Bob, “We don’t want a preacher who thinks about those things.  He should settle with the Lord if He’s calling him here, and come no matter what it pays.”

Bob said, “I don’t think so.  The laborer is worthy of his hire, Scripture says.”

Because Bob wanted to do this right, he insisted that the church pay an adequate salary with benefits.  And did what was necessary to put it together into an acceptable form.

And then, something interesting happened.

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Demanding that the pastor preach your message

The angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them forth, and said, ‘Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts  5:20).

Go. Stand. Speak.

Preach the Word. Preach “all the words.”  Preach the Word as the Lord leads.

A denominational website reprinted an article of ours.  Most readers were appreciative but one guy left a comment instructing me on what to preach.

“You ought to be preaching on racism,” he said.  “The churches are full of it.”

He came back later with a post script.  “After the church shooting in South Carolina, the sale of Confederate flags and guns went through the roof.  Yet the churches were silent. This is sinful.”

Interesting.  He says the churches are full of racism and silent on the subject. You wonder how he knows this.

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When church members insist on their rights

“Why not rather be wronged?” (I Corinthians 6:7)

Ask any pastor.

We hear it all the time.  Variations on this theme are endless…

–“All these years we have belonged to this church and given our money to support these preachers, and now when we need him, he’s in Israel on a holy land tour!”

–“I went by the church.  I needed to see the preacher then, not the next day.  And you’re not going to believe this, but he was on his way out the door, headed to his son’s little league game!  And me a member of his flock.  What kind of preachers are we getting these days?”

–“The preacher needs to apologize to me for what he implied in that sermon on Sunday.  I know he was talking about me, even though he used someone else’s name.”

And one that happened in my last pastorate…

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