How I gave my wife her new best friend–and helped myself at the time

Dottie came to me for counsel.

I was her pastor and she was battling depression, she said, and had dealt with it for years.

I listened and realized something vital.

My wife and Dottie had a lot in common.

So, after the visit had gone on for a half-hour, I said, “Dottie, there is someone I want you to know.  I’d like you and my wife to talk.  Now, Margaret is not a trained therapist, although she’s a far better counselor than I.  But she knows what you are going through because she’s battled depression, too.”

She assured me she would be willing to meet with her.

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Boredom: How to drive a stake through its heart forever

Scrambled eggs.

I had scrambled eggs for breakfast  yesterday morning and did not enjoy them at all. Having survived cancer of the mouth and then radiation for the head and neck area some years ago, my present reality is simply that some foods are to be eaten for their nutritional value, not for their taste.

But lying in bed this morning early and reflecting on having to determine my own menu for the rest of my days and the necessity of learning to cook a few things since the Lord took my wife to Heaven recently, it occurred to me that I should learn how to make scrambled eggs more interesting.

And I will.

Now, I’m not entirely opposed to a little boredom now and then.  It can actually assist in the creative process. But for the most part I hate it.  Of all the people in the world who should despise boredom in their personal lives, preachers and pastors should lead the parade.

Boring sermons is certainly a matter of widespread concern, true, but I’m not talking about that.

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Memorable texts. (7th segment. Nos. 31-35)

(This is a continuation of a series begun back in February. To find the others, scroll down the page to “Archives” and then click on February 2015 and scroll down to the first one.  The plan is to do one hundred, adding to the list from time to time.)

These are brief but memorable scriptures, often overlooked but essential to the health and well-being of the Lord’s church and Jesus’ disciples.

31. Love is something we do. Luke 6:27ff.

Our Lord was not like some of His children who delight in issuing commands to the Lord’s flock but failing to tell them how to achieve it.  I cannot count the sermons I heard growing up about the need to reach the world with the gospel, starting with my neighbors, but without a word as to how we might do that. We were accused of not praying and not knowing our Bibles, but never given ways to improve.

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The world is always listening and watching.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

“And all the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). 

You’ve been put on the spot.

Someone is challenging you, daring you, cursing you, or slandering you.  You squirm. Nothing about this is pleasant.  You try to think of an appropriate response.

Before you act, I have a suggestion.

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The most frightening thing about preaching

It’s actually several facets of the same thing:  I’m speaking for God.

Imagine such a thing.

Lives hang in the balance.

People are making decisions about God based on something I say.

People are making choices about their eternal destiny based on something I say.

Is this frightening or what?

What if I get it wrong?

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You don’t pray very well. Here’s why that is all right.

“We do not know how to pray as we should….” (Romans 8:26)

My wife and I used to have this running discussion over the philosophy that says, “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing….(what?)”  She would say “It’s worth doing well,” and I said, “Poorly.”  (I would remind her of our friend Annie who says, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!” lol)

Case in point: Prayer.

Prayer is worth doing, regardless how poorly we do it.

And we do it poorly, make no mistake about that. “We do not know how to pray as we should.’

The Apostle Paul said that.

My friend, if Paul didn’t know how to pray as he should, it’s a lead-pipe cinch you and I don’t.

But that’s all right.  God knows this and has no problem with it.  In fact, He did something about it: He gave us a Divine Intercessor.

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The urgent reason for unity in your church

“Father, I pray that they all may be one…that the world may believe that You sent me….that they may be one just as we are one….that the world may know that You have sent me….” (John 17:20-23)

In the churches with which I have experience, unity seems to be a sometimes thing.

We Baptists have been known to pride ourselves on our divisions. “Where you have two of us, you have three opinions.”  A great many of our churches were started, not intentionally but accidentally, the result of division and splits.

To the average church member, it appears that unity is good but not important, welcome but not essential, comfortable but usually inconvenient.

We are dead wrong.

Unity is a huge deal to the Lord, in Scripture, and in our world today.

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Times the Lord tests the preacher

“For You, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver….” (Psalm 66:10).

I have no memory where the impetus for that particular Bible study came from that Wednesday night.  But my topic was “serving God faithfully even when fatigued.”  Perhaps it was John 4 where a very tired Lord rests at Jacob’s well, then encounters the Samaritan woman to whom He delivers a strong witness, and later the disciples remark that someone must have given Him food (4:33).

Anyway, what happened was this.

No sooner had I stepped off the platform to greet a few church members before they scattered for home than Carolyn approached me.  She and her small children had begun coming to our church after we gave them some financial assistance, and they seemed to be genuinely appreciative.  Carolyn was humble and not demanding, and we wanted to do anything for her we could.

“Brother Joe, I need to move tonight.”

How’s that?

She said, “I live in an apartment that is terrible. And I’ve lined up a new apartment that will be so much better for my children and me. But if I don’t move out of the old apartment tonight, I will lose my deposit.”

How much is your deposit, Carolyn?

Several hundred dollars.

About what she made in two weeks of work. A significant amount.

I asked where she lived now and where the new apartment was, and how much “stuff” she had.

It’s a good thing I did not know the full answers to these questions.

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Forgiving hearts and short memories

“…He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10)

“If you should mark iniquities, O Lord, who would stand?” (Psalm 130:3)

I have set records along life’s way for naivete’ and plain-out stupidity.

If everyone kept a record of my flaws and faults and slights and blights, I’d be the least popular person on the planet.

I have said things to people–blurted them out without thinking–that return to me in the middle of the night and put me to shame. “What was I thinking?”  “Why wasn’t I thinking?”

Some remarks were trivial, off-handed nonsense, meant as nothing and, as Shakespeare said, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  And yet, in my  determination to make sure no moment lacked the sound of my voice, I prated on and on.

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What the preacher should say in the wedding ceremony

“…the  two shall become one….” (Matthew 19:5)

The wedding ceremony is a great time–once in a lifetime for most people–for the pastor to get something across to two people in particular while hundreds are eavesdropping.

Not that the couple will remember a thing you say.  (When Margaret and I stood at the altar, our pastor said some wonderful things that I found fascinating and inspiring.  No exaggeration.  I stood there alongside my bride and was blessed by his comments. Alas, no one was recording anything in 1962, and my mind retained his wonderful words for exactly half an hour, so whatever he said is gone forever.)

These days, someone is recording your wedding service.

The bride and groom and close relatives will keep the CD and/or DVD for the rest of their lives and will periodically play it again.

That’s when your words are finally heard and begin to sink in.

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