You’re going through a transition: What to do.

The Lord is my Rock.  Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.  Shelter me under the Rock.  (found all through the Psalms)

You’ve just been released from one job (position, place of service, ministry, etc) and you are preparing for the next one.  What to do in the meantime?

You’ve lost your spouse of many years, whether by death or divorce or something else.  What do you do until the way opens up before you?

You’ve moved from the only home you ever knew to a new city/country, and you’re finding it difficult.  What now?

Keep your eye on the Rock.

Changes can be hard.  But they can be lifegiving and life-altering.

Life is about change.  Anyone who does not like change is going to have a lot of trouble in this life.  Any Christian who cannot handle change is going to have trouble following the Lord Jesus.

Here are our top ten suggestions to you on how to make the most of the transition time…

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Won’t I be your neighbor? And won’t you be mine?

“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you….” (from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Opening theme) 

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Matthew 5:43 and 19:19; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8. 

Mr. Fred Rogers, who left us in 2003, is back in the news these days. Books and articles, television specials and a couple of movies remind us just how special this good man was.

Anyone who reads Mr. Rogers’ words or dwells on his life for even a few minutes comes away thinking more about being a good neighbor.

My wife and I saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Thursday of this week.  There were perhaps 25 or 30 others in the theater, most of them seniors.  This was not the Tom Hanks movie on Mr. Rogers which I had expected, but is more of a documentary or biopic, I think they call it.  The Hanks movie will be out soon, we’re told, and is not so much a biography as a story about Rogers’ interview with a magazine writer.

A couple of observations about Mr. Rogers from the movie we just saw.  One, the man truly was almost too good to be true.  As a result, during his lifetime some had tried to find dirt on him and made accusations against him. All to no avail.  He was “all that,” as the saying goes.  One of his sons said, “I was raised by the second Christ,” with a smile.

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21 ministry lessons learned the hard way (with scars to prove it!)

I began serving the Lord when I was 11 years old, began preaching the Word when I was 21, and began pastoring a year later. At the moment, I’m 78-and-a-half years old.  These are a few lessons this life of ministry has taught me….

One. Never tell anyone anything you don’t want repeated.  The single exceptions are the Lord in prayer or your wife in the bedroom.

Two. Never put anything negative in a letter.  It will still be circulating and driving the case against you long after you’re in the grave.

Three.  Never fail to check all the references of a prospective staff member.  And then check a few more.

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Prayer for our next pastor

When a church is pastorless, no one knows who the next pastor will be. While we pray for the Pastor Search Committee regularly, has it occurred to us to begin praying for the object of their search?  Here is how I’m praying for our next pastor.…

Heavenly Father,

Please send our church a pastor who will be Thy choice first and foremost. Let him know it, let our search committee know it, and let the church be just as confident about it. May the pastor’s family be supportive also, and even excited.  And then…

–protect the pastor and our church from anyone who would rise up later and claim this was a mistake and try to oust him.  Dear Lord, protect Thy church.

Send us a pastor who will be loved as dearly as any pastor has ever been loved. This congregation wants to love its pastor.

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Pastor: A note from your guest preacher

I had the privilege of preaching in your church recently.  As a retired pastor, not far from my 80th year on the planet, I’m honored when a pastor invites me to fill his pulpit. Sometimes, as was the case last Sunday, the pastor is on vacation.  At other times, I’m leading a Friday/Saturday event for a specific group–leadership, deacons, seniors–and the pastor asks me to stay and preach for the Sunday morning service.  I’m always delighted to do so.

First, just so you’ll know….

I’m not coming with my own agenda for your people.  My entire aim is to honor Christ and bless His church.  From the time you first call inviting me to preach, I begin praying for the Father to lead me on what to do and how to do it.

Even if I preach something I’ve used in other churches, this is no so-called “sugar stick.”  I’m endeavoring to be obedient to the Lord with what He has given me.

As your guest, I will not be critical of how you are doing things in your church.  I will leave no suggestions on your desk on how to improve your worship service or ways to deal with certain problems in your church. You didn’t invite me as a “mystery shopper” and I’m grateful not to have that burden.  That said, however…

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Wondering what exactly “freedom of the pulpit” means

“Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). 

Marshall Ramsey, editorial cartoonist for our Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, told recently of his conversation with a colleague on another newspaper.  They were lamenting the rapidly dwindling number of editorial cartoonists. Marshall said, “When I got into this profession, there were less than 200 full-time editorial cartoonists. I’m not sure what an accurate count is today, but I’ve heard it’s a couple dozen.”

As newspapers go the way of dinosaurs–my friends say we who still depend on them for our news are the real dinosaurs!–they keep cutting back on staff.  Editorial cartoonists seem to have been some of the first to go.

Anyway, the two cartoonists were concerned over something that had just happened to a buddy on the staff of the Pittsburgh, PA Post-Gazette.  He’d been fired because his cartoons were “too critical of the President of the United States,” according to his publisher.

Marshall notes, “Saying an editorial cartoonist is too critical of a politician is the worst reason to fire an editorial cartoonist ever.  Critical editorial cartoons are as American as mom, apple pie, and Ben Franklin (he is credited with the first American one).”

So, how are things in Jackson between Marshall and the Clarion-Ledger, we wonder.  In his 21 years here, he says, “I’ve never taken an idea from an editor (or anyone else).  I have taken suggestions that might make the cartoon better or might make me realize I’ve done something really stupid.  That’s how editors edit.  The ideas are mine.”

His editors at the C-L, he says, do not want a cartoon they agreed with.  “They wanted the best cartoon I could draw.”  (see addendum)

Okay, fine. That started me thinking.

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A slanderous lie: “The church in America is dying.”

“…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Have you come across that line yet? “The church in America is dying”?

We hear it from some pollsters and from people all over social media.  They count heads and conclude that if membership numbers are down or if fewer Baptists are serving in Congress or the Catholic church is having internal problems, the church must be dying.

We get the impression that the speaker–the one with the harsh pronouncement–wishes it were so.

Not so fast.

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What “acting on faith” involves

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” ( 2 Corinthians 5:7).

A friend said, “I have atheist buddies who say they live by science.  They like a lot of things about Christianity and what we do at church, but they just can’t do faith.”

I replied to her, “They may think that, but it’s not so.  They do a thousand things a day by faith, just like all the rest of us.  If they get in a car and drive on the interstate, they are showing great faith in the people who build and maintain the highways and the motorists all around them, none of whom they know.  If they eat in a restaurant, they are demonstrating faith in those who prepare the food, people whom presumably they do not know and will never meet.  And yet they open wide and swallow. They go to a doctor, he diagnoses something they never heard of, writes a prescription they cannot read which they take to the pharmacy.  They may never see the pharmacist who chooses what goes into the pill bottle, but when they get home, they do what the rest of us do–pop a pill or two in our mouth and wash it down with water.  It’s all of faith!”

We all live by faith, believer or not.

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A pastor has been wronged by a search committee. What to do?

My friend has stirred up a furor.

Writing on Facebook, my friend Stan told of a pastor search committee that has just angered him by their treatment of a wonderful young pastor.

According to Stan, the committee and the pastor met on several occasions, they heard him preach numerous times, and it was clear that “this was of God.” The process worked itself out over several months. The committee voted unanimously that this pastor was their choice.  The pastor himself agreed.

All was well, it seemed.

And then one day, the chairman phoned the pastor. “I have bad news,” he said.  “While everyone is unanimous that you are our choice for the church, however, when we voted on bringing your name before the church as our recommendation, two members of the committee voted ‘no.'”

The vote was 7 for and 2 against.

Since search committees are expected to bring only unanimous recommendations before the church, the chairman felt he had no choice but to accept his committee’s actions and shut down their dealings with that pastor.

You can imagine how the pastor felt after hanging up the phone.  Disappointment.  Anger perhaps.  Frustration. Puzzlement.

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Is there another side to this issue?

“The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

A friend posted the campaign video from a lady in Round Rock Texas who is running for Congress.  He said, “She’s got my vote just from the video.” So I clicked it open to see what MJ Hegan was saying.

According to the video, MJ Hegan, an attractive brunette perhaps in her late 30s, served three terms flying helicopters for the Air Force in Afghanistan.  During the last assignment, her helicopter was shot down and she was injured.  Doctors refused to let her fly again.  That’s when she found that the military, which had been so welcoming to her, now closed the door on further assignments.  When she worked to get Congress to address this, she found Washington’s doors closed.  Politicians refused to talk to her, she says, because she was not a contributor.  Her own congressman refused to meet with her. And that’s why she decided to run against him.  She is beating the pavement and knocking on doors determined to unseat the incumbent and take his place.

The video was sharp and witty and clever.  With nothing further to go on, it’s easy to see how someone viewing it could want to stand up for this lady.

But wait just a minute.

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