This train got the disappearing railroad blues. –Arlo Guthrie, “City of New Orleans”
The cleaners I used for over two decades has made a decision to go out of business, and has begun doing so very slowly.
They just don’t know it.
It started with a closed sign on the door one morning. I walked away carrying the clothes I had planned to drop off.
The next day, a sign announced they had relocated the business. Since the new site was closer to my house with more convenient parking, that did not make me unhappy.
Next, they began cutting back on the hours. The young man newly hired to run it informed me they were now opening at 11 am and closing at 7. No longer would people be able to drop off clothes on their way to work.
I said to him, “Shouldn’t you have a sign outside with the hours of operation? Since this is a big change.” Why I should care is another question, but I do.
The clerk casually assured me that the small notice on the glass door would suffice.
He was wrong. To read that a customer would have to leave the car and walk to the door. This is an ideal recipe for frustrating one’s customers…and thus for losing them.
I never see a car in front of the store indicating a customer inside.
And now, I’m gone too.
Continue reading “When churches get the disappearing blues” »
“…so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
Preachers used to say ours was a “cut flower generation.” The bloom was still there, all the blessings of our godly heritage, in the same way the floral arrangement on the dining room table carried the colors and delights of the garden. However, preachers would point out, this generation has cut itself off from the faith of our fathers and while we enjoy the blessings of their faith and their labors, we are doing nothing to keep the faith. The next generation would pay for our failure.
We’re there now.
For most of the decades of my life–I arrived in 1940–Christians were in a majority in this country and it was pretty much agreed that ours was a Christian nation. If anyone countered that, we never heard it.
We sang hymns in school and decorated for Christmas and even dismissed classes so those who wished could attend a local church service or see a religious film. As a young pastor, I was invited to preach Christian messages to student bodies of public high schools. No one mentioned a limitation of any kind.
Those days are over.
The nation has changed.
Blame it on whatever forces you choose–immigration, the influx of other religions, the influence of the devil, the encroachment of the world, sin–it has happened and it is here.
This country is never going to be what it was. It’s never going to be the way it was.
The Lord’s people living in these United States have been handed a choice.
Continue reading “God is giving Christians a unique opportunity” »
He’s going to ask what you did.
Recently, in the ongoing clamor about the upcoming election, some Christians have gone off the rails insisting that while there is much to dislike about Mr. Trump, in voting for him they will not have to stand before the Lord one day to give account for voting for the child-murdering, America-betraying, money-grabbing (et cetera, et cetera) Hillary Clinton.
I have a single thought about that, and it’s this.
Instead of asking how you voted, the Lord is far more likely to ask something else, something far more incriminating: Something like, What did you do?
I’m not faultless in this regard, let me say up front. I’m a preacher and thus a member of a profession which talks for a living. We are all liable to say more than we are doing, to preach what we are not living up to yet. However…
I would like to ask a few questions to those who are so dead-set on not voting for the candidate who endorses Roe v. Wade and (ahem) a woman’s right to choose. I understand you are concerned about the unborn, and thank you for that. I am, too.
Continue reading “At judgement, I seriously doubt if the Lord is going to ask how you voted” »
Many say there has never been such an election as this.
Whether that’s the case or not depends on when you lived. John Adams felt that if the country elected Thomas Jefferson as president, it was all over. Much of the country felt in 1860 that if Abraham Lincoln was elected, the nation could not survive. It almost didn’t. And throughout FDR’s four terms, people spoke of him in the bitterest of ways, calling him a dictator, saying whoever assassinated him was doing the nation a favor.
We’ve always had tough elections and flawed candidates.
And now–in 2016–we have the latest incarnation of flawed candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
An evangelist friend said this week that he finds both candidates repulsive. He plans, however, “to hold my nose and cast my vote” on November 8.
Continue reading “What a pastor should tell his people about this election” »
We’ve written on this website regarding pastor search committees and how they should be approached by alert pastors. Perhaps it’s time to say a word on what not to do regarding these church leaders determined to find a new leader for their congregation no matter how many bruised and bleeding ministers they have to leave in their wake.
Just to be safe, you may wish to go ahead and plant your tongue firmly in your cheek. While the subject is serious, my treatment of it will be only partially so.
Okay. Pastor, you’ve been invited to meet with the search committee from the First Church of Butterfly City, and you’re plenty excited.
You’ve been at your present church a number of years now and have about run out of ideas, patience, and life-savings. A change would not only be good, it might save your life, your ministry, your marriage or all three. In fact, your wife might start believing in God once more if you told her He was transferring you to a new church.
Continue reading “Pastors: What not to do with search committees” »
Some years ago, the well-known astronomer Hugh Ross and I were taking part in a radio talk show at Ohio State University. We were discussing some theme related to the origin of the universe when an irate woman called in and began to attack us with a volley of words. Her charge was that our conversation was really nothing more than a smoke screen for reversing Roe versus Wade and taking away a woman’s right to an abortion. Remember, we were talking about the origin of the universe.
Throughout her tirade, she repeatedly insisted, “it’s my moral right to do what I choose to do with my body!” Finally, when she paused for a breath, I said, ‘All right, ma’am, since you brought it up, I’d like to ask you a question. Can you explain something to me? When a plane crashes and some die while others live, a skeptic calls into question God’s moral character, saying that he has chosen some to live and others to die on a whim; yet you say it is your moral right to choose whether the child within you should live or die. Does that not sound odd to you? When God decides who should live or die, he is immoral. When you decide who should live or die, it’s your moral right.
There was a pin-drop silence. (–Ravi Zacharias in The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists)
To me, the amazing thing is that the abortionists will frequently claim to be Christians. In fact, they will claim the exclusive right to the message of Jesus and accuse Bible-believers of usurping His message for their narrow, joy-killing purposes.
When a person sets his mind to deny reality, after that, anything goes. Nothing is a stretch for them thereafter.
Continue reading “God or a hole in the ground: Our choices” »
What started this was something Josh Woo said yesterday.
Josh, a fascinating young friend who grew up in my last pastorate, is a veteran of game shows and quiz programs. When he was 11, he was a contestant on Jeopardy. As a student at the University of Southern California, he hosted his own television program on the campus station. A few days ago, he was a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” In between, he’s done the Wheel and several other shows.
The question that tripped him up on “Millionaire” went something like this: “At 7’7″, So-and-so is the tallest player in the NBA. But he is slightly shorter than what portion of the Statue of Liberty?” The choices were her right arm, her eye, the tablet she is holding, and her finger. Using his final lifeline, Josh asked a buddy to help him, and they missed it. Anyway….
Josh said veteran contestants (like himself) have a name for that kind of question, but perhaps he shouldn’t tell his pastor. I said, “Come on. Give.”
“We call that a Go To Hell question.”
“A ‘Go To Hell’ Question,” he explained, “is one relying on such fine detail that no reasonable person should be expected to know it.”
Ah yes. Who among us is not familiar with such.
Continue reading “Those killer questions search committees ask” »
“Hitherto the Lord hath been our help” (I Samuel 7:12).
We’ve come this far by faith; I can almost see the lights of home from here.
Meanwhile, we who are in this body do groan (2 Corinthians 5:2).
This morning I thought, “I’m going to miss this neighborhood. I’m going to miss my early morning walks down these wide, empty streets.”
Today was the last Thursday I’ll be doing this. The movers come on Tuesday.
I don’t actually live in New Orleans proper. River Ridge–my home since May 1994–is a western suburb, an unincorporated barnacle on the underbelly of metro N.O. I pastored First Baptist Church of Kenner, across the street from the airport, from 1990 into 2004 before becoming director of missions for the SBC churches. Since 2009, my retirement ministry has kept me running. Meanwhile, I have continued living in this house and worshiping at the same church. Now, that is all about to change. Margaret, my wife of 52+ years, died in January 2015. Twelve months later my son Neil moved his family to Mobile to be closer to his job. In February of this year, I met Bertha. The widow of a seminary classmate of mine was teaching English in a community college just outside Jackson, MS. Within a day or two, we both knew that “this” was the Lord’s doing. We’ve chosen a house in metro Jackson MS (the northern suburb of Ridgeland) and as I sell here, I’m buying that one.
I’m moving to Jackson in a few days.
Continue reading “After 26 years, my final week in New Orleans” »
“What are these wounds? I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6).
A year or two back, I wrote an article on pastors’ wives that has traveled around the earth a couple of times. “The most vulnerable person in the church” struck a nerve with a lot of good people, many of them hurting from mistreatment by the Lord’s finest.
If something about that seems backward to you, then join the party.
Pastors’ wives seem to be more at risk than anyone else in church. The expectations on them are the highest, the support the weakest, and the attacks arrive from the unlikeliest of sources.
Periodically, these women send me their stories. Most are happy to be serving their churches, possess a strong sense of God’s call, and are grateful for the love of His people. Once in a while, however, their stories make me cringe. More than once, I have shed tears at the way church people make impossible demands and place heavy burdens upon these sent to lead the Lord’s congregations.
Continue reading “The pastor’s wife: Target on her back” »
Doesn’t Acts 6:3 say that the deacons are in charge of the business of the church when it says “whom we may put in charge of this business”?
That’s quite a stretch, friend.
Assuming the question is serious and not frivolous, I would answer a) the word “business” there means “need” or “lack.” Some translations have it as “this task.” So, we might infer that deacons are in charge of the needs or lacks of the church, whatever is lacking, wherever there is a need.
And b) but neither here in Acts 6 nor in I Timothy 3, where qualifications for deacons are given, do we find specific directions as to the work of deacons. Read on.
Why doesn’t the Bible say what deacons are to do?
It does. It says they are to serve.
Continue reading “Questions Deacons Ask (second in a series)” »