An odd skill pastors must learn if they are to survive

Pastors must learn to live with loose ends.  Unfinished tasks.  Dangling threads that need to be tied up.

When they lay their heads on the pillow at night, God’s shepherds can think of 38 things left undone and needing attention tomorrow….

Someone needs a call returned, a member needs a visit, a sermon needs more preparation, a program needs planning, a colleague needs encouragement, an employee needs to be held accountable, the pastor’s child needs some dad-time, his wife has been wanting to talk about several issues, he had hoped to begin his physical fitness program this week, the nursing home has invited him to hold a service, the seminary wants him to speak, the denominational committee needs to meet and hear his report, and he should have prayed more today. The family that buried their father last month needs a follow-up visit.  The postponed dental appointment should be rescheduled and his CPA has a question about his taxes.

“There’s always something,” said Rosanne Rosannadanna (the old Saturday Night Live program).  There is indeed.

Continue reading “An odd skill pastors must learn if they are to survive” »

Your Christmas Eve message

A pastor’s Christmas Eve message will have a flavor all its own. Because of the relaxed nature of the evening, the sermon is often directed toward the child in all of us. Hence, the following….

My friend Annette loves to pass along to me her assignments.  Her Mississippi church frequently invites her to give a talk on this or that, and she messages for my take on that subject. She uses nothing I do verbatim, but I suspect some of my responses provokes creative ideas in her.

Some of the most interesting pieces on our website were instigated by Annette.

The other day her message said, “I have to explain the Christmas story to children ages 4-11 in my church. Help!”

Continue reading “Your Christmas Eve message” »

The kind of bridge I want

The Huey P. Long Bridge crosses the Mississippi River a few miles downriver from here.  It was dedicated in 1935, a time when cars were small and narrow and governments needed to put men to work.  That’s why they gave New Orleans its first bridge across the river and named it after this politician of dubious merit.  (That’s a pet peeve of mine, but I’ll move right along.)

The problem with that bridge for all the decades since is that its two lanes were too narrow and curving for modern cars and trucks. Each lane was 9 feet wide, with no shoulders alongside. Signs forbade trucks from passing anyone, and motorists caught up on their prayers driving across it.  It really could be frightening.

Then, in recent years, the government finally decided it was high time to upgrade that bridge, and shelled out something like a billion dollars to widen it and correct some of its flaws.  These days, driving across that huge wide expanse is a pure joy. (The lanes are 11 feet wide, bordered by a 2 feet-wide shoulder to the inside and an 8-foot shoulder to the outside.)

What I wanted to tell you, though, was something an engineer said about the original bridge, something I find fascinating.

Continue reading “The kind of bridge I want” »

Now, take Christmas. That’s certainly not how I would have done it.

(With tongue firmly planted in cheek, let us rethink this greatest of all stories.)

What was the Lord thinking, doing Christmas the way He did?

A Baby is born to an unwed couple after a long, arduous journey.  The cradle is a feeding trough in a stable in Bethlehem.  Welcoming committees of shepherds and foreigners show up. A murderous king sends his soldiers to slaughter babies. The young family flees to Egypt.

And thus Jesus arrives on the scene.

Admit it.  You would not have done Christmas that way.  It’s not just me.

Continue reading “Now, take Christmas. That’s certainly not how I would have done it.” »

Revelation, fabrication, and making it up as you go.

“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses….”  “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16,21).

I’ve been reading books again.

That explains a lot of things.  It explains where my mind is these days, what’s been bugging me, and where I’ve been searching the Word.

I’ve been reading “The Story of Ain’t.”  This is mostly the story of struggles to decide what goes into dictionaries, culminating in Webster’s Third Edition.  Author David Skinner brings us into the inner offices of G. and C. Merriam Company and tells how decisions are made concerning the English language.  If you like that, you’d love watching sausage being made.  (It’s a difficult book to read and only the wordsmiths among us should “rush out and buy this book.”)

Continue reading “Revelation, fabrication, and making it up as you go.” »

Why race issues are so difficult for most Christians

“Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray on its behalf. For as it prospers, you will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

America is having a racial crisis.  Again.  Or, perhaps more accurately, the same crisis we have had for decades continues to the present day.

Here are some thoughts on the subject regarding the Lord’s people….

1) If you and I are of different races, we will see racial matters differently.

2) If your racial group is dominant and mine is in the minority, expecting us both to feel the same about racial matters is unrealistic.

Continue reading “Why race issues are so difficult for most Christians” »

Christmas Wondering

“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before them….” (Luke 2:8ff.)

I wonder a lot about that first Christmas.

I wonder about the shepherds Luke told us about, the men tending their sheep throughout the night in the field outside Bethlehem.

What a magical moment this must have been for them.  I wonder what that was like.

As a farm boy, I can imagine myself outside in that field with them. I’ve kept the calves and cattle, the pigs and the mules and horses. I could keep sheep. It’s basically unskilled labor, we’re told. My pastor said last Sunday that shepherds in Judea ranked on the social scale one notch above lepers.  I could be a shepherd.  What would that have been like that night?

Continue reading “Christmas Wondering” »

The best of Deuteronomy (Part 5. Final)

(The final installment covers 21-25  of the ‘best’ things in Deuteronomy.)

21) NOT EVERY ABLE-BODIED MALE IS ALLOWED INTO BATTLE.  (Chapter 20)

“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you….” (20:1)  “Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them….” (20:3)

Fear is contagious.

One of the oddest aspects about Israel’s armies is that certain people were exempt from conscription.

–A man with a new house that has not been dedicated may stay home (20:5)

–A farmer with a new vineyard from which he has not eaten may stay home (20:6).

–A groom who has not finalized his marriage may stay home (20:7).

–And then, there is this one: “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his home, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart” (20:8).  If you’re afraid, you may leave.

Continue reading “The best of Deuteronomy (Part 5. Final)” »

The best of Deuteronomy (Part 4)

(Following are 16-20 of “the best things in Deuteronomy.” To see the earlier ones, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll back a few days.)

16) THE LORD IS YOUR INHERITANCE. YOUR PORTION.  (10:9 and 18:1-2).

“The Levites will not be getting a portion or inheritance in Canaan; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God promised him” (10:9).

In Numbers 18:20, the Lord told Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land (i.e., Canaan), nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.”

Members of the tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:2), Aaron’s descendants were the priests for all future generations.  All the other tribes of Israel received territorial allotments when Joshua led them to conquer Canaan. But not the Levites. The priests were to scatter throughout the countryside, live among the other tribes, and receive their living from the tithes and offerings.  (Sound familiar, preachers?)

Israel’s songwriters liked the concept of the Lord being our portion, and worked it into three psalms (Ps. 73:26; 119:57; 142:5).

Continue reading “The best of Deuteronomy (Part 4)” »

Something that should never happen to any preacher ever again

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and who is unjust in what is least is unjust in much” (Luke 16:10).

Once I read the story, I never forgot it.

Some preacher in Texas was waxing eloquent (what the kid called “waxing an elephant”) and told of the author of the 1960-ish book “I’m OK, You’re OK” having soured on life and committing  suicide.  It underscored some point he was making and he drove it home.

He got the story, he told a court of law, from an evangelist whom he had heard at some camp meeting or something.

The evangelist, who was sued by the author, sheepishly admitted that he had gotten his facts wrong.

Continue reading “Something that should never happen to any preacher ever again” »