Pastors and churches working together? Unheard of!

Need a text for this?  See below. We have several.

I hope the idea catches on.

This week I returned from Hearne, Texas, and a revival involving two churches some 5 miles apart.  Bethany Baptist, pastored by Randy Aly, and Elliott Baptist, Dale Wells pastor, are located several miles outside Hearne, population 4500.

This was their first attempt to join together in a revival, and my first as well.  Randy says he awakened one morning with it on his mind, and felt it was from God.  He called Dale and shared the thought.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We started on a Sunday morning in Elliott and ended  the following Sunday morning in Bethany.  During the week we had noon and nightly services in the same church, on alternating days.  A trailer with a sign reading “Revival here tonight.” was pulled back and forth between the churches.

Interestingly,  Tuesday night being Halloween, the Elliott church hosted “Trunk or Treat” instead of a service.  (A downpour limited the turnout, but a lot of people braved the elements for their kids’ sake. I sketched nonstop all evening.)  Then, Friday night being “football night in Texas,” we had no service.  But on Saturday, we picked back up with noon and night services.

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Jesus and only Jesus. Why is that so difficult?

Only Jesus.

–No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there.  John 3:13.  How clear is that?  He is the One who knows.

–No one can come to God the Father except through Jesus.  John 14:6.  How clear is that?  He is our Mediator.

–No one can know God unless Jesus reveals Him to them.  Matthew 11:27.  How clear is that?  He is the Revealer.

–There is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Only Jesus.  Acts 4:12.  How clear is that?  He is our Savior.

–Jesus said He was given authority over all mankind.  John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2 and Matthew 28:18.  How clear is that?  He is Lord.

Here’s an outline that sums it up for me. 

It got me out of bed in the middle of the night recently.  Use it if you can and if the Lord leads…

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The credentials of those making huge claims

“Trust. But verify.”  –sign on the desk of President Ronald Reagan

Someone wants to invest your money and offers big rewards.  A person has offered to babysit your child for little or nothing.  A stranger wants to tell you how to get to Heaven.

Can you trust them?

How do you know?

The credentials of one making big claims or offering great rewards are everything.  We must not assume because they seem okay, look impressive, drive a big car or live in a huge house, and everyone speaks well of them, that they are trustworthy.  Con men and scam artists succeed by big talk, great confidence, appearing successful, and winning your confidence.  They depend on your naivete, and count on you not asking the big questions.

Credentials.  How do you know this person is who they say they are, that they are trustworthy?

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Destroyed for lack of knowledge–and loving it

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

There is a reason people reject information that is new or different;  they love to be left alone in their comfortable deceit than to have to deal with all the changes required by the light.

Ignorance is bliss, they say.

The problem–whether with mankind or the redeemed–isn’t exactly a lack of knowledge.  If that were the case, we could remedy the situation by sending everyone back to school.

God would send educators to the church.  Instead, He sent prophets and shepherds.  He sent light-bringers. He sent a Savior.

Neither is the problem that people do not know the truth. Nor that no one has come to tell them the truth.  The problem is not that they have never heard the truth.  The problem is that they have rejected truth when it did come.

They are ignorant because they rejected true knowledge.   This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19).

Not knowing something and rejecting the knowledge of something are two different animals.

Over here is someone in darkness who yearns for the light. It comes and he awakens and all is well.  The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live (John 5:25).

Stumbling in the darkness, they spurn the light offered.

The speaker of Truth comes and they run him out of town.  Or scoff and jeer and mock him.

They crucify Him.

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Is there any encouragement? Then, let’s hear it.

“This hope we have as an anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19).

Richard John Neuhaus, a Christian social critic, was picked up at the Pittsburgh airport and driven to his speaking engagement.  The entire drive, his host lamented about the disintegration of the American social fabric and the absence of Christian values in our culture.  Cases in point were too numerous to mention, but the man did anyway.  On and on, he railed against every known failure of humans, particularly his favorite sins.  Finally, as they neared their destination, Neuhaus offered these words of advice:  “Friend, the times may be bad, but they are the only times we are given. Never forget, hope is a Christian virtue and despair a mortal sin.”

Hope is a virtue.  Despair a mortal sin.

If there is one group of people on the planet who should be forever hopeful and expectant, it’s the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you want to see hope in the flesh, find a dedicated fisherman.  Someone asked one of those guys, “How can you stand it to stay out here in the hot sun all day without catching anything?”  The fisherman said, “Hold it–I think I feel something.”  When the line went slack, he said, “He’ll be back.”  Then, he turned to his friend and said, “What were you saying?”

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How to change the world without ever leaving town

“Go home to your friends and tell them what the Lord has done for you, how He has had compassion on you.”  (Mark 5:19).

Start with the children.

Frank Pollard used to enjoy telling about a friend named Claude Hedges of Ollie, Texas.  Mr. Hedges taught a class of 10-year-old boys in the local Baptist church.  Frank said, “He didn’t just teach the ones who showed up.  He thought every 10-year-old boy in Ollie, Texas belonged to him.”

Frank said, “I knew he was coming.  Because I was boy number seven in our house.  Mr. Hedges had led all my brothers to Christ, and three of us became preachers.”

Now, Frank is the only one of the brothers I knew, but let me pause to tell you this about him.  For over 25 years, he pastored the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS.  At one time, he served the FBC of San Antonio and then was president of our Baptist seminary in the San Francisco area.  Sometime around 1980, TIME magazine named Frank one of the 10 outstanding preachers in America. And, for a number of years, Dr. Frank Pollard was the featured preacher on the Baptist Hour, a television production that was literally beamed across the entire world.

Anyway…

Frank said, “I used to go back and visit with Claude Hedges.  I would say, ‘Thank you for doing the best thing anyone ever did for me.'”

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How church members undercut their own best efforts and fail Christ

“Welcome the stranger within your gates. For you were foreigners in Egypt.” — The thrust of Leviticus 19 (see verses 10, 18, and 33-34)

This is one of the greatest frustrations and painful aspects of pastoring.  You try to do well–to prepare sermons blessed of God, to lead your team to present effective ministries, to build powerful worship services, to develop disciples, and reach those in darkness–and then your best people fail to do the smallest thing.  In so doing, they end up negating a thousand good things they do.

They fail to think of the outsider.  They look right past the newcomer.  They give no thought to the first-timer.

My blog from Monday, March 22, 1999—

“I made a number of visits tonight.  Left notes at three homes (no one there) and visited with Carol and Bob Coleman.  They’ve been visiting our church several weeks.  She said, “We love it.  Great music, etc etc–but only three people have greeted us!”

“Three!  Our people think they are friendly but in truth they are friendly to each other.  Bob told me he had volunteered to help Clyde with cooking the wild game supper at church.  Was brusquely turned aside with ‘We already have enough help.’  Then Bob came on to the dinner and brought a friend.  One hour later, they were back.  Said not a soul spoke to them.  So disappointing.”

That church, you will want to know, had a reputation from the previous decade as strong on evangelism and soul-winning.  In fact, when I had asked the congregation to do something heroic and go the extra mile–more than once, our people opened their home to mothers from Third World countries bringing critically ill infants to our Children’s Hospital in New Orleans–they always responded well.  So, they were not uncaring.

They were not uncaring.

They were unthinking.

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Is God interested in making me happy?

“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

“…And now I am happy all the day” (“At the Cross,” a gospel song in our hymnals).

It’s good to be happy.  I’m all in favor of it, and I think the Lord is also.

However.

God’s primary concern is not in making us happy.  He does not fret because someone is displeased with the job He is doing, someone else is .unhappy with the way a Scripture text is worded, and another is complaining about the weather today.

Pleasing us does not appear to be high on His agenda.  He seems not in the least concerned that some of us do not like His methods or the personnel He has sent in our direction as our teachers, pastors, comforters, companions.

I can just hear it now.  “Lord, are you aware that some of us are unhappy with you?  Doesn’t that concern you?”  He that sitteth in  the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2)

Scripture shows that God is far more interested in pleasing Himself and making Himself happy than in satisfying us.

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Don’t give us your testimony; show us Jesus.

“For this purpose I wrote to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

“I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

I’ve been looking back over twenty years of articles, notes, and journals where I recorded happenings in the churches I pastored.  Some of those events left scars, memories, and lessons enough for a lifetime.  Some people in those stories are forever unforgettable, either for their amazing examples of Christlikeness or for lesser reasons.

Recently on this website, I chronicled the doings of a few people who were angry over nothing, raging all the time, finding fault where none existed, then pinning blame when confronted.  I suggested the reason for this behavior: They are lost.  Unsaved.  “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” says I Corinthians 2:14, “for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he understand them for they are spiritually discerned.”

That says it as well as anything.

Today–a week after posting that piece–I was reflecting on some of those people, a few in particular. And, realizing that most are now passed to their heavenly reward (or lack thereof; not for me to say), I prayed the Lord would be merciful to them.  And at that point, the Lord explained something to me.

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The surprises of the prodigal

“A certain man had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’  And he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, where he squandered his estate with loose living….” (Luke 15:11ff.)

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is iconic. That means it is typical, well-known, an accurate depiction of a thousand things about this life.  Understand that story and you know a great deal about how life works and what God does.

If you knew nothing more about God than how He is depicted in this parable, you would love him with all your heart.

You and I are represented by the foolish, younger son.

That son, the subject of a few million sermons and the inspiration of almost as many conversions, received a lot of surprises in this story…

One. He was surprised that the father granted his selfish request. Some lessons we just have to learn for ourselves, and the Father was a good teacher.

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