Does “touch not mine anointed” refer to pastors?

Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.  –I Chronicles 16:22. (Psalm 105:15) 

A pastor who wants a free hand to come and go as he pleases chafes when told he is accountable to the membership or must report to a committee of members. The very idea!  He pulls out Psalm 105:15 and I Chronicles 16:22 and uses these as a battering ram on his people.

He bellows, “God’s Word says, ‘Touch not Mine anointed!’  It says, ‘Do My prophets no harm.’”

Then, he gives his twisted interpretation to his misconstrued favorite passage.

“This means no one in the church and no group is allowed to criticize the pastor.  God’s messengers answer only to God!”

The only problem with that is it just isn’t so.

No one is above criticism or accountability.  No one has a free hand to do with the people of God as he pleases.

Scriptures call the church by many names: “the Bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2), “the household of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15), and “the Body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12).  But nowhere is it the toy of the pastor, the playground or proving ground of preachers, the personal possession of ministers.

Here is what the Apostle Peter said to preachers:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion, but willingly; not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that fades not away.  (I Peter 5:2-4)

The pastor is not the lord of the congregation.  As the overseer, he is an example for God’s people, the role model.  The people are entrusted to the minister and he will give account for each of them before God (Hebrews 13:17).

Instead of announcing his sovereignty and proclaiming his independence, a faithful pastor will concentrate on showing God’s people how to love and serve, how to humble themselves and bless one another.

I worry about pastors who play the headship card.  He tells the church, “As God has made the husband the head of the home and of the wife, He made the pastor the head of the church.”

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Seven reasons God wants unity in His churches

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

When we call for unity in the church, t’s not just that we don’t want dissent. It’s not that we hate division, although we do that.

Unity is far more than the nay-sayers being gagged or rebellion put down. The old joke goes, “You can tie two cats’ tails together and throw them over the clothesline and you’ll have union. But you will not have unity.”

Unity is a positive quality.

When the oaring team refers to perfect moments in their boat, they do not mean the time they won a race. A perfect moment is when they feel all eight oars in the water together, working in perfect harmony.

At such moments, we’re told, the boat seems to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen call this the moment of swing.

In an old Readers Digest article, Olympic oarsman John Biglow says what he likes most about that perfect moment is it allows one to trust the other rowers. A boat does not have “swing,” he says, unless everyone is exerting equal effort, and only because of that was there the possibility of true trust among oarsmen.

The athletes put it in the form of a formula:

Equal Effort + Synchronization + Lift = Trust.

Now, if we apply this to the body of Christ–a local congregation is usually a lot more than eight people, but regardless of the number–we will see what lessons of harmony and unity it yields.

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The biggest problem I have in worship

I can worship anywhere, and often have. A creekbank, a busy sidewalk, in my car, at the library, anywhere.

I can worship alone or with one or two or with a crowd.

My opinion is that I worship best in a group of God’s people. I sing better and louder, am inspired by the devotion of others, and enjoy hearing God’s preaching more while I’m with the family.

Our Lord Jesus knew we worship better with our brethren than alone. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). God’s word reminds us not to “forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is,” but to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25).

I cannot explain how the Lord is more present when I among a group of believers than otherwise, but there it is.  I’ve found that to be the reality.

I love to worship with the Lord’s family.

And that’s the problem.

Those same people in the room who often bless and inspire my worship may end up as a hindrance to my worship.

–Some may be carrying bad attitudes.  Sometimes, a few are mad at the preacher. Some married couples are angry with each other and have brought that coldness to church with them.  A few husbands were coerced by their wives into coming and their faces are not keeping it a secret.

–Among the rest, not everyone is worshiping. They’ve come for a hundred reasons other than to bow down before the Living God and “give Him the glory due His name.”

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Doing the right thing when no one is watching

“God is Watching.”  –sign over the door of Gwen Williams’ home in Picayune, Mississippi.

Longtime United Methodist Pastor John Ed Mathiston told his congregation in Montgomery, Alabama a story about kindness.

“Not long ago, a man from the Middle East walked into a new car showroom and asked to speak with a particular salesperson.  The receptionist called for him, the fellow walked to the front, and they greeted each other.

The foreigner said, “I’d like to buy some trucks.”

Some trucks. That caught the sales guy’s attention.

“What did you have in mind, sir?”

“I want to buy 750 heavy duty trucks and 250 pickups.”

The salesman is stunned.  Surely someone is pulling a prank.  This cannot be happening.

The Middle Easterner pulls out a letter of credit with a huge American bank.  It is legitimate. This is the real deal.

The salesman says, “Sir, you know you can go to Detroit and buy those trucks at a huge discount.”

The customer said, ”Sir, ten years ago I was a college student in your city.  Being from the Middle East made it hard for Americans to befriend me.  I soon discovered you have to have a car in America, so I came to you.  I picked out a car.  You said to me, ‘I can sell you that car and I’ll make a nice commission. But you would not be happy with it.  It’s more car than you need.’ So you sold me a smaller car.  It was the nicest thing anyone in America had ever done for me.  And I decided I would repay you when I got a chance.  So, I want to buy one thousand trucks through you.”

Sometimes small acts of kindness reap great rewards.  But whether they do or do not, doing right is always the right thing to do.

Historians tell us that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto studied and traveled in America in the 1920s.  He was once turned away from a San Francisco barber shop because he was Japanese.  And he never forgot the slight.  In 1941 and for two years after, he oversaw Japan’s attacks on the United States, at Pearl Harbor and beyond. (He was killed while flying over the Pacific during the war.)

We may assume the barber went home that day without a clue as to the chain of events he had just triggered.  (Or at least, contributed to.)  Just a small thing, showing prejudice to someone with no power.  Surely nothing would ever come from that.  He’d done it countless times.

Showing kindness or acting with malice–just a small thing.  And in most cases, it goes unnoticed.

But the Heavenly Father sees. And it matters to Him.

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A friend asked how I prepare sermons

If you had asked me years ago how I prepared sermons, the answer would have been different from the one I’m about to give.  Forty years ago, I would have been forty-four years old and in the prime of my pastoral ministry, I think we could say.

Back then I would have told you that a couple of times a year I take my Bible and some books and leave town for a few days in order to plan my preaching schedule for the next six months or more. I would decide on topics, scriptures, and themes, and little more than that.  Then, back at home, I would try to reserve a few hours two or three days a week for sermon study, and give thought to the sermons in the hopper for the next month or two.

In the meantime, in all my thinking and reading I was on the lookout for material to flesh out those sermons:  Illustrations, stories, insights, ideas, burdens, conversations with anyone, everything.

I was a sermon producing machine.  You have to be–every pastor knows this–to turn out several sermons a week year after year, and not repeat yourself.  Trying to stay fresh, always biblical, and forever interesting.

And we would laugh at the jokes about how pastors work one hour a week.  My wife (wives) could tell you of the times I got up in the middle of the night to write down something about an upcoming sermon.  Even in my subconscious, I was working on sermons.

But no longer.

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Don’t blame God for your cowardice

“For God has not given us the spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).

The spirit of cowardice lives and thrives in churches these days. It has a corner in the office of many a pastor, and makes whimpering sounds familiar to many of us….

“You don’t want to do that. It might rock the boat.”

“Deacon Crenshaw will be upset if you preach that. I wouldn’t.”

“Back off on that vision God gave you. You’re going to lose some members if you push that.”

“Pastor, you must not oppose the power group in your church. They ran off the last three preachers.”

“The biggest giver in the church is threatening to withhold his tithes if you persist in letting those people come to our church.”

We surely don’t want to offend anyone, do we?

We don’t?  Show me that one in the Bible.  Jesus didn’t mind offending those who were dead-set on flouting the laws of God and blocking the ministries of the faithful.

Jesus did not mind offending those who were stealing from widows and burdening down the hurting and scoffing at the hungry.

Go ahead and offend them, preacher. Even if you lose your job–and many a faithful pastor has indeed found himself out of the pulpit and selling used cars for a time as a result of his obedience to God–you will have all eternity to be glad you were faithful.

In fact, if I may be so bold as to say so, you will be a hero in Heaven.

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Living emphatically: God does not want your spare time or loose change

“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

“The disciples went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

“Nobody ever enjoyed the presidency as I did…. While president I have been president emphatically.”  –Theodore Roosevelt, quoted by David McCullough in “The American Spirit”

The Lord does not want your spare time and loose change.”  –Pastor Brent Thompson, Heflin (AL) Baptist Church.

The Lord wants His people to live life emphatically.  “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” says Ecclesiastes 9:10.

We are to seize the day, live each moment, and to delight ourselves in Him.

Listen to Paul as he seeks to motivate and energize young Pastor Timothy:

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also…”

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth….”

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Grieving and laughing at the same time

“There is….a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

The doctors at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Medical Center confirmed to Ted that the lung cancer had indeed metastasized to his brain.  “Perhaps six months, more or less,” said the doctor when Ted asked how long he had.  The worst news imaginable.

However, that night the doctor called his room.

“I’ve been studying the brain scans,” he said. “And I believe yours is Primary Lung Cancer which has moved to the brain.”  He went on to say that Primary Brain Cancer is not treatable, but a metastasized Primary Lung Cancer behaves differently in the brain and is often treatable.

There was hope, after all.

When he got off the phone, Ted explained this to his family. He was quiet a minute, then said, “Well, you know it’s your basic bad situation when you’re praying for lung cancer!”

And they laughed.

Question: Is it possible to weep and laugh at the same time?

Evidently it is, because many of us have done it.

My weeping, a rarity for most of my years, was kicked into overdrive in 2015 when the Lord suddenly took my wife home.  I am not normally a “man of sorrows,” but soaked many a hankie after Margaret left so abruptly.  That was some years back, obviously, but one never forgets the pain.  And never stops loving.

Weeping endureth for the night; but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30:5). God’s children learn that by experience.

I believe in joy.

Jesus believed in joy. Even though He is called the consummate “Man of Sorrows,” He spoke of “my joy” (see John 17:13).  Jesus was a joyful person.

Joy visible is a smile.  Joy audible is laughter and singing.  Joy palpable is a hug, a friendly touch.

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Preaching about America in the worst possible way

Preacher Driftwater told me, “I want to preach about America in the worst way.”

I told him it’s been done.

What he said is not what he meant, of course.

The worst way to preach about America is negatively.

“The world is going to hell.” “America is decaying from within.”  “The country is becoming socialist.”  “The president is our worst enemy.”  “The Supreme Court is ruining America.”  “The home is breaking down. Marriage is a thing of the past. You can’t get a good two-dollar steak any more.”

Okay, strike that last one.

The U. S. Supreme Court regularly hands down some strange rulings, most  of which generate a backlash.

However, this being a constitutional government, we are stuck with their decision.

Does their weird ruling mean the United States is through? Will God write ‘Ichabod’ over what used to be a great country?  Should we preachers deliver its eulogy from our pulpits?

Stay with me here…

When a friend sent his sermon outline for the July 4th message he planned to preach–it was mostly a litany of what’s wrong with America–he was not asking for my opinion. He said, “What do you think is the future of America?”

I mulled that over a few hours before replying. Then I did something he had not asked for.

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How the preacher feels on his way home from church

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

I feel like I have a delivery to make.

I will drive a hundred miles up the interstate to the church where I’m to preach that morning. Sometimes Bertha is with me, sometimes she isn’t. I’ll greet some of the people and check with the worship leader to make sure we’re on the same page. At the appointed time, I will rise and ask everyone to turn to Romans 8.

All week long, I have lived in Romans 8.  I’ve read it, thought about it, written about it, read about it some more, and talked to the Lord about it.  I feel I have a load to deliver.

An hour later, driving home, I will feel spent.  Empty. Unburdened.  Drained.

I hope I will feel pleased, but that’s not always a sure thing. Sometimes I return from preaching feeling, as the basketball players put it, that I have left it in the locker room (instead of on the floor, in the game itself).  Sometimes we preachers are disgusted that such a glorious message has to be filtered through such an imperfect vessel. As though we had tried to depict a sunset with crayons.  Tried to explain calculus with the understanding of a six-year-old.

The wonder is that God can use such a pitiful attempt.

And yet, we did not volunteer for this.  We did not presumptuously present ourselves to the Lord as capable, eager spokespeople.

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