Sometimes the opposition of the world works for the best

“And they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:66)

For good reason, God’s people learn to rejoice in adversity and to thrive under persecution.

Fire burns brighter under pressure.  Ask any ninth grade physics student.

Sometimes those intent on stamping out Christianity end up assisting it.

Scripture teaches  that the opponents of the Lord remembered that He had predicted He would rise from the dead. (Matthew 27:62-63)  It appears the wrong guys were taking literally the things Jesus had said! The poor disciples, forgetting the Lord’s promises, were mired down in their sadness and grief, all  of it the direct result of not understanding and believing Jesus’ promises..

When the opponents of the Lord went to such lengths to secure His tomb, they inadvertently provided additional evidence for His bodily resurrection.  Note their three actions: they made the grave secure, they put a Roman guard in place, and they set a seal on the stone.

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Forgive? Of course! It’s what I do.

Freely you have received; freely give.  –Matthew 10:8

Dr. Watson was complimenting Sherlock Holmes on a brilliant observation no one else had noticed.

“Of course,” Holmes remarked. “It’s what I do.”

Forgiveness and grace—that’s what we believers do.

Here is one page from Ruth Bell Graham’s 1989 book, “Legacy of a Pack Rat,” with a parenthetical, explanatory remark of my own.

“Someone has said, ‘If there had not been a Stephen, there might never have been a Paul.’” (Paul watched Stephen being stoned to death for nothing more than preaching Jesus. As the stones beat the life from him, with his dying breath, Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” –Acts 7:60 Paul never recovered from seeing this good man die.)

“A tribal war was raging in Uganda. The soldiers led a line of prisoners to a bridge over a crocodile-infested river where they could shoot them and dump their bodies into the water for the crocodiles to dispose of.

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Assumptions people make about Jesus and His People

Who but God can forgive sins? (Mark 2:7)

A while back I wrote the author of a book on the political events of 1940 to express my appreciation.  I added this note:

That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940. But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.

Later, I wondered why I’d gone to the trouble to say that, as I do not know that author and don’t expect to meet him. Why did that matter?

I decided it’s a personal thing.

None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, and not  for preconceptions or ignorance. Being a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude.

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The sufferings of Jesus are beyond us. Unimaginable.

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Mark 15:37

The old gospel song says “None of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, nor how dark the night that the Lord passed through ere He found the sheep that was lost.” (“The Ninety and Nine”)

I’m one of the ransomed.  I have no clue.

You and I stand outside the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear His prayer in the Garden on the night before He was arrested. We see the sweat drops of blood and we sense His agony. Then we see Him hanging on the cross in great pain as He bore our sins and paid the ultimate price. But we have no way of knowing what He was enduring.

We stand outside, at a distance. We stand in awe.

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The Father’s will: You never know where He will lead

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42

God sends no road map to His obedient; we walk by faith.  He gives no GPS to the faithful so they will always know where they are and what’s going on.  They will see “through a glass darkly,” but walk on.

Thy will be done will be their guide.

Those four words.

Take the Lord Jesus, for instance…

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Finding resolution to everything in life

In novels, every loose end must come together and be tied up.  In real life, they almost never do.

My friend Holly, a wife and mother and piano teacher, was telling us about her son Andrew’s snowglobe.  The music it puts out “drives me nuts,” she says, “as a musician with certain OCD tendencies.”  The snowglobe’s music apparatus plays “White Christmas,” but not completely.. After the line “May your days be merry and bright….” it just ends, then repeats itself.   Holly asks, “What evil genius in the music box factory decided they couldn’t put in those final nine notes? Gaaaah!!!

I smiled.  Holly’s father is a pastor and her heart belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s why I felt comfortable in sending her my little lesson on Andrew’s snowglobe music box.

“What a great metaphor for life, where maybe ten  percent of anything ‘resolves.’ Novelists must make all the threads come together at the end, but in real life, that rarely happens.  So, Andrew’s globe is sending him a message: ‘Get used to it, kid.’

“Only at the end, the ‘real end,’ will all things come together and all accounts be settled.  When that happens, every eye shall see Jesus, every knee bow before Him, and every tongue confess Him as Lord. Amen.”

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To a friend going into denominational work

In a sense, I could be writing this to myself some 15 years ago as I transitioned from pastoring (for 42 years!) into the office of the Director of Missions for the SBC churches of Metro New Orleans.  These days, it applies to friends such as Louisiana’s Dr. Steve Horn, who left the pastorate of FBC Lafayette to become Executive of that state’s SBC churches or Dr. Shawn Parker, who left FBC Columbus MS for the Executive office in Mississippi. 

You’ve been pastoring churches all your adult life.  And now the Lord–with the assistance of an executive search committee–is moving you out of the pastorate into a denominational office where your constituency will be churches and pastors instead of deacons and Sunday School teachers and the WMU.

I have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt.  And maybe a scar or two.

Eighteen months into my five-year tenure with the New Orleans Baptist Association, Hurricane Katrina flooded our city, ruining  vast neighborhoods and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents while destroying many of our churches.  Every day was a challenge. The blessings came in waves, the frustrations never left.

I came by these grey hairs honestly.

Ideally, in your new position you will have just enough difficulties to challenge your strengths without crushing you, and enough encouragement and prayer support to compensate for your weaknesses without making you self-satisfied or complacent.

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Think God can’t use a nobody like you? Bite your tongue!

“And Moses said, ‘Who me, Lord? In the first place, I’m way past retirement age.  I’ve not been to seminary. I didn’t even finish college. The other preachers won’t respect me. Pulpit committees won’t have anything to do with me. There’s a bounty on me back in Egypt. I stutter a lot, and tend to freeze up in front of groups. You’ve clearly dialed a wrong number, Lord.”

“And God said, ‘Hush.  Now,  listen.’” (My rather free version of Exodus 3-4.)

The Lord can’t use a nothing nobody like me.

Ever heard that? Ever said it?

Repent, sinner.  You underestimate God! And, you might just be overestimating your own importance in the equation.

The Lord delights in taking nobodies and doing great things with them.

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Secrets pastors don’t want you to know

A deacon told me he and his wife witnessed a fist fight their first Sunday at our church.  The story comes at the end of this.

Now, perhaps a better title of this should be “Secrets some  pastors perhaps don’t want you to know.”

It goes like this…

Let’s suppose  you are considering joining Clearview Springs Church.  The ministers and leadership are glad to welcome you.  Your presence can fill a pew, your offerings can fund the work, and your efforts can enhance the ministries.  So, yes, they want you.  And that’s why the pastor might keep certain things from you, at least when you are visiting.

Some things the pastor would rather you not know; some he doesn’t want anyone to know, period.

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How pastors can keep from falling into sin. (The rest of us too!)

….considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Galatians 6:1

A young pastor was shot to death by the cops in a drug crackdown. From all reports, he was not buying or selling the stuff. So how did he get involved and how in the world did it lead to his death?

Everyone wonders; every pastor needs to know, and we all need to learn from this guy’s mistakes.

Undercover cops had been monitoring the behavior of a few suspicious characters who were dealing dope in that neighborhood. When they spotted a young man with a woman in his car, recognizing her as a druggie, they approached the car with guns drawn. Now, bear in mind, these law enforcement officers were not wearing uniforms. Undercover cops often look like the very criminals they are shadowing. So, in a panic, the car speeds away and almost hits one of the narcs. The law enforcers interpret that as assault with a deadly weapon, we are told. In a sense, it’s like handing them a license to kill. So, they did. They shot the young man who turned out to be a pastor. He died in the hospital later.

No drugs were found with the man of God or in his system. The woman in his car tested positive.

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