Tell people the truth about God. Even when it’s hard.

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  –Acts 20:27

A friend going through a difficult time sent a message concerning a situation she was facing. Toward the end of the letter, making a case for straight-shooting from my direction, she said something I will not soon forget.

Pray for me if you like. Send me scripture if you like. Put me on a prayer chain if you want. But please don’t lie to me about God.

She was not trying to be dramatic, only to convey how strongly she wanted the truth. Even if it hurt, even if it went contrary to everything she was doing and believed, she wanted to know.

You have to respect that.

My impression is that so many doctrinal inquiries we preachers get are merely asking us to confirm what the questioners are already doing, to endorse all they have previously believed.

God help us not to lie to others about God.

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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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Things even a lost man knows

The natural man does not comprehend spiritual things.  I Corinthians 2:14

An unsaved guy misses a great deal.  He’s on the outside looking in and so he will not value some of the things Jesus said or God did.

However…

Some unbelievers have a sharp sense as to what is right and what’s utterly stupid. Case in point…

A friend messaged to say the last line at the end of chapter 3 in our book “Pastoring” deserves its own treatment.

We were talking about a pastor goofing off when he should have been studying, fooling around in the pulpit when he should have been feeding the flock, and glorifying himself instead of Jesus.  An unsaved fellow who was in the congregation one day when the preacher did some dumb stuff told his family afterwards, “That pastor is a joke.”

And we said, “Some things even a lost man knows.”

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Can you make an exception for me?

“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12)

My wife is a career schoolteacher.  Either in high school or college, she has taught English all her adult life.  (She has a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones and a Master’s from Rhode Island College.)  And I hear the tales…

Toward the end of the semester, at the time when term papers are due and tests are scheduled, invariably some student wants to be late or to be allowed to skip something or have a deadline rescheduled.  And they always have excuses.

When the student has shown himself/herself to be conscientious and serious about their work, the teacher is disposed to want to help them.  But in the case of a lazy student for whom this is a pattern, a loving, faithful teacher will refuse to make allowances.  Give in to the lazy, self-indulgent student on this and all you do is reinforce that ugly pattern.

“Can you make an exception for me?”

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No one to blame but ourselves

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…. (from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  Act I, Scene 3.)

We did it and we are to blame.

Christians are forever complaining about the increasing secularization of America.  To listen to them in the year 2019 one would think the “old days”–say, some fifty years back–were the golden time of perennial revival.

The only problem is I lived through those days of the ’50s and 60s.   I can tell you the preachers were constantly railing against the decline in religion, the weakening of the churches, the surrendering to the world.

There has never been a golden age of faith in this country or any other that I have heard of.  Men have always loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  The narrow way is always trod by the few while “broad is the way that leads to destruction.”

Don’t be overly impressed–or too discouraged–by statistics and percentages showing the swings of church attendance, the number of Christians in Congress, and such.

The greatest mistake of the past generations of Christians in this country  was trying to Christianize the culture without evangelizing the people.  We put prayer in the schools, made the church the social life of the community, instituted blue laws so that no liquor could be sold on Sundays, and basically shut down secular life on the Lord’s Day.  We protected the morality of the cities and towns.  The citizens were no more Christian than previously, but we were making them behave like it.

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Something important you should know about Matthew 10

Matthew 10 and Luke 10 are joined in the same yoke.  They may well refer to the same incident in which our Lord sent the disciples out to practice preaching while He was still with them.  The main difference is that  Matthew says the Lord sent out the 12 apostles and Luke says He sent out seventy.  Same event? There’s no way to know. The similarities are many, although Matthew devotes the entire chapter to the instruction Jesus gave them, for which we can be eternally grateful.

Luke, while abbreviating the instructions, does something Matthew does not do: He tells what happened on their return.  That is Luke 10:17-24.

Now, pastors in particular should find the following helpful…

The first 15 verses of Matthew 10 do not apply to us today. After naming the twelve apostles, our Lord gives them  specific instructions on what to do on this mission.  Those instructions were for them, not for us.

–To repeat, the first 15 verses of Matthew 10 were directed only to the original twelve apostles about to go on a preaching mission.

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How to manipulate people to do big things

“….not grudgingly or of compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver…” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Have you ever done something big, then the next day had “buyer’s remorse”?

Welcome to the club.

The important thing is that we who lead the Lord’s churches not be guilty of perpetrating that kind of thing on people.  We were not sent to coerce or con anyone into anything.  We are messengers of the King and are all about integrity and love.  What Scripture calls “grace and truth” in the Lord Jesus (John 1:14).

They called him Tommy the Cork.  Thomas Corcoran was a political fixer, fund-raiser, and go-to guy for many politicians of the post-War years.  Robert Caro interviewed Corcoran for his books on Lyndon Johnson.

He had once told me one of his most effective fund-raising techniques.  When the man he was asking for money wrote a check and handed it across the desk to him, Mr. Corcoran, no matter what the amount–no matter if it was more than he had hoped for–would look at it with an expression of disdain, drop it back on the man’s desk, and, without saying a word, walk toward the door.  He had never once, he told me–exaggerating, I’m sure, but how much?–he had never once been allowed to reach the door without the man calling him back, tearing up the check, and writing one for a larger amount.  

Manipulation means getting people to do your bidding whether they want to or not.

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The Jehovah’s Witnesses and me

I don’t have a good track record of my dealings with members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion.

First story. During my seminary years, while pastoring a small church on a Louisiana bayou, a man in my congregation asked me to accompany him on a visit with a neighbor who used to be a member of the JWs and was not going to  church. I was green, eager, and clueless. Even though that man was no longer a member in good standing of the JWs–for reasons I have long since forgotten–he knew all their arguments, bought into their philosophy, and was a master of their combative attacks on what we might call traditional Christianity. He was brutal in the way he mauled me.

I was savaged.

As we left, my companion, a fellow who was to put a few grey hairs in my head over the decades for other reasons, tossed it all in my lap. “You have to answer him, Joe. If you don’t answer him, I’m never going to believe in you again.” Something like that.

Thanks a lot, friend.

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The Lord’s biggest competition

“My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed out for themselves cisterns–broken cisterns, which can hold no water.”  Jeremiah 2:13

You make a very small god, friend.

An executive with Wal-mart  made an observation before a group of businesspeople recently  that has stuck with me.  “You know who our biggest competition is?”  People suggested Target, K-Mart, Best Buy, the, malls, and such.

“Dollar stores,” he said.  “That’s what Wal-mart started out to be and they are now eating our lunch.”

Well. Makes sense.  Those little stores are everywhere.

You know who God’s biggest competition is in this world?

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Why our churches are not using vocational evangelists–and why they should reconsider

“And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers….” (Ephesians 4:11)

An evangelist proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers.  While the commission for this was given to the whole church, and every Christian is charged with spreading the Word, some are called specifically for this purpose. Presumably, those called are specially gifted for the task.

For me personally, the names that come to mind include Angel Martinez, Eddie Martin, Homer Martinez, Vance Havner, J. Harold Smith, and E. J. Daniels.  Billy Graham and his colleagues Grady Wilson, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows.  Mordecai Ham, Billy Sunday, Dwight L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, George Whitefield.  Roy Fish, Jim Ponder and Joe Atkinson, Bob Harrington, Gray Allison, and John R. Rice.  Billy Smith, Richard Hogue, Wayne Bristow.

I suppose there was a “golden age of evangelism,” at least in our Southern Baptist Convention, when most churches scheduled annual revivals or evangelistic meetings and brought in a well-known evangelist.  If so, the sun has set on that day.  In our denomination, fewer and fewer churches schedule these meetings and the typical full-time evangelist has a hard time filling his calendar with meetings and then has a difficult time making a living from the offerings these meetings bring in.

“Why are pastors not scheduling vocational evangelists for meetings in their churches?”  

I tossed out that question on Facebook.  Answers flooded in.  Many pastors were only too happy to say why they were not inviting these preachers into their churches.  (Forty-eight hours later, that question has received two hundred responses.)

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