“Compromise: Only the strongest can manage it!”

“I implore Euodia and I implore Eyntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

The First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana is bordered on the western side by Williams Boulevard and on the east by Clay Street.  In between, intersecting the church property is the wonderfully named Compromise Street.  I have no idea why the city planners gave it that name, but I love it.  When I pastored that church (1990-2004), I sometimes called the attention of the congregation to this asphalted reminder of how intelligent people are supposed to work with each other.

God’s people are to agree. We are to live in harmony.  We are to represent Christ in the world and do His work.  By the very nature of who we are and what we are charged to do, we are required to compromise.

God’s people are to compromise. Constantly.

Don’t miss that.

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Minister: You were dismissed from your ministry position and you are angry

God to Jonah: “Do you do well to be angry?”  Jonah: “You’re dadgum right I do! I’m so angry I could die!” (Jonah 4:4,9; my silly little paraphrase) 

A reader reacted to our article on “How to be fired and come out a winner.”

“I was fired from my position. The work was going well.  No reasons were given.  What am I to tell the kids and their parents?”

I began with this: “First, it wasn’t your position.”

That must have stung.

I know the feeling, friend. And have witnessed it a hundred times among colleagues.  You go in to  a church and build the program.  You are “in your place,” doing the best work you’ve ever done, and can sense the Holy Spirit has been preparing you for this for many years.  And suddenly, they terminate you.

How can that be of the Lord?  Surely someone is out of line here.  Haven’t I been mightily used of God?  Hasn’t He blessed my labors?  Don’t the kids love me?

All of that may or may not be true.  But it’s almost beside the point.

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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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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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When you suddenly realize the pastor’s sermon is missing something

My wife was commenting on a sermon she heard recently.  “It was a fine sermon in many respects.  It called for the right kind of actions and spoke of the Holy Spirit.  And then it hit me.  Nowhere does this person’s preaching deal with the gospel, mention Calvary, or call for repentance.”

She said, “I suppose the sermon works if everyone is saved and obedient and has a sincere desire to serve God.  But what if they aren’t?  What if we are rebels, what if our hearts are in rebellion against God? What then?”

“Preaching like this sneaks up on you,” she said, referring to what that sermon was missing.

Much has been said about the sermon delivered by the Episcopal bishop at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.  Most of us enjoyed hearing the sermon, particularly because it was so American and so typical of the African-American tradition we’re familiar with but which presumably the British elite crowd is not.

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However you treat the Lord’s pastors, He takes personally.

Whoever receives you, receives Me.  Whoever listens to you, listens to Me.  Whoever rejects you, rejects Me.”  (Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16)

Pastors are reluctant to preach this because it sounds self-serving.  “People, the Lord in Heaven is taking note of how you treat me.  Whatever you do to me, Jesus considers it the same as though you were doing it to Him.”

He’ll not be saying that.

So, I’ll say it for him.  Because it’s true.

Consider this.  “A king arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding.  And they were not willing to come.  Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready; come to the wedding.”  But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.  And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.”  (That’s Matthew 22:1-6)

We must not miss the reaction of the king in the Lord’s story.  “But when the king heard about it, he was furious.  And his sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”  (Matthew 22:7)

However the people treated the king’s messengers, it was the same as doing it to him.

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The mixed multitude in your church–and what to do with them

“And a mixed multitude went up with them.”   Exodus 12:38

“And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires, and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat?'” — Numbers 11:4

The world is attending your church.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is sometimes we turn it over to them.  Not good.

When the Israelites left Egypt under Moses, they were not alone.  Exodus 12 says a large company of riff-raff seized the opportunity to flee the Pharaoh’s harsh rule also.  (Various translations call them “a mixed multitude,” “a motley mob,” “a mingled array of other folk,” “a crowd of mixed ancestry,” and “a great rabble.”)

Did we think the Hebrews were the only slaves in Egypt?  Doubtless there were slaves from many countries.  So, in the same way a jailbreak might free all the prisoners, many of the Pharaoh’s “inmates” decided they had had enough, that anything was better than the slavery of Egypt, and they threw their lot in with the Hebrews and the fellow named Moses.

Before long, the wisdom of that decision would be put to the test.

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Seven things to understand when discussing religion

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…. (I Timothy 6:3ff).

Some people debating religion are this way, Paul.  Conceited and ignorant, rabble-rousers and mean-spirited.  I’ve sat across the table from them more than once.  It’s no fun, as you know.

But some are sincere and faithful brethren trying to get this right.

Help us, Lord.

If you are a Southern Baptist, as I am, you may find yourself having a problem with the theology of some people whom you happen to like and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ.  You respect them and would like to be closer friends, but this “thing” they believe and teach stands between you. So…

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Ten things lay leaders can teach the congregation

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.  –2 Timothy 2:2

Pastors teach from the pulpit.  Bible teachers will teach in classes.  But in addition, there will be occasions–often sudden, spontaneous occasions–when a lay leader will have the opportunity to teach a biblical truth.

Leaders should always be prepared.

Here’s one way it often happens….

The church member is upset at the pastor.  She calls her deacon to complain about last Sunday’s sermon.  “We don’t need more sermons on (whatever the subject was).”   He listens until she is empty.  Then, he asks her something.

“Do you have a minute to listen to something?”

She is puzzled.  “Sure. What is it?”

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