I don’t have to understand it all in order to believe

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How  unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord….”  (Romans 11:33-34) 

I do not understand all the prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.

Nor do you.

Nor is it necessary that we do.

Sorry if you find that offensive, friend.  After a half-century of considering these things–what has been written and preached and declared as “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” from pulpits far and wide–I feel confident in saying that so far, no one expositor has gotten it all right.

That’s my opinion.  You’re welcome to yours.  But we will go on loving each other in Christ.

The list of other things we do not understand (or agree on!) is extensive.

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One question you must never ask in ministry

“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).

Was it worth it?

You do not know which will succeed.  If both will.  Or neither.

Disciples of Jesus Christ must never try to calculate the cost/benefit of some act of ministry.

Our assignment is to obey. To be faithful.

We have no idea how God will use something we do, whether He will, or to what extent He will.  We do the act and leave the matter with Him as we move on to our next assignment.

Every pastor will identify with the following scenario….

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Let’s say you are thinking of becoming a Christian

You know some things about Jesus and you find yourself drawn to Him.

You wonder what to do now, where to start.

Here are some suggestions…

One. Go to the primary source, not a secondary one.    A primary source is one that is close to the subject, that is the basis for what we know and believe. A secondary source is one written about the primary source.

Two.  In other words, read the Bible and not just books about the Bible.Start by reading the Four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These are the opening “books” of the New Testament, and give us all we know about His earthly life and ministry.  I’d suggest you read them again and again.  — You will find a lot of similarities.  It’s pretty well agreed that Mark’s was first, and was written, according to some of the earliest believers, at the dictation of the Apostle Peter.  But each gospel is different in interesting ways.  Read them several times.

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The preacher disagreed with me. How dare he!

“…they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

When I asked where he went to church, the man working on my house said, “I used to go to church across the river.  But the preacher said something I disagreed with.”

It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.

But he was serious.

After giving him a moment to elaborate, which he did not do, I said, “Man, I would hope so.”

He seemed interested.

I said, “Wouldn’t it be terrible to have a preacher who said only the things that I know and taught only what I believe? What would be the point of going to hear him if I already knew what he was going to say? There’s so much more to God than what little I already know!”

Lord, make us teachable.

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God is giving Christians a unique opportunity

“…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.

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God or a hole in the ground: Our choices

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.

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Leave us with our illusions

“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).

God is under no illusion about us. He knows we are made of humble stuff.  He knew He was getting no bargain when He saved us. When we sin, the only one surprised is us.

Whether we are under false conceptions, i.e., illusions, about God is another question.

One thing is sure. We sure do love our illusions, our pipe dreams, our false ideas and wrong impressions.

“No one should see how sausage or their laws are made,” goes the saying.  The internet traces the quote to Otto von Bismarck, German chancellor of the late 1800s, who is supposed to have said it more like “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

Leave us with our illusions.

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Things God enjoys most

“Well, I know there’s a lot of big preachers that know a lot more than I do, but it could be that the good Lord likes a little pickin’ too.”  –Tom T. Hall, “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”

Yogi Berra watched as the batter approached the plate.  The Yankee catcher had seen it all, and this guy was like so many: eager to get a hit, but needing all the help he could find.  The batter stood at the plate and made the sign of the cross, then pointed toward the skies, both symbols of prayer as he summoned the Almighty to his aid.

“Hey buddy,” said Yogi from behind his mask, “Why don’t we just let the Lord enjoy the game?”

I’m with Yogi.

That begs the question of course.  We wonder if the Lord enjoys a baseball game occasionally.

Does God smile at the antics of a small child?  Revel at the cuteness of puppies?  Does He ever sit back and enjoy the music of an orchestra or choir?  Did God like that rainbow I saw yesterday?

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Your first discoveries in Heaven

“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, amen” (Revelation 1:7).

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a few predictions about Heaven.

As with every religious charlatan who ever came down the pike, there’s no way to prove me wrong for the time being. But unlike the con men, I’m just thinking out loud here. After all, who among us does not like thinking about Heaven, our abode forever and forever?

The first surprise, I have no doubt, will be to find yourself awake.  “Wow,” you think. “I died.  I really did.  I remember everyone gathering around the hospital bed and them all crying.  And I recall that last surge of pain and then everything went black.  And lo and behold, I wake up.  How wonderful is that?”

“As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness.  I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awaken.” (Psalm 17:15)

When I awaken.  A given fact. It’s going to happen.  But as much as we say we believe that, I’m confident the first sensation we will have on the other side of that curtain is to find our eyes open and the new realities of our situation setting in.

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What pastor search committees fear most

“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)

“For we walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

You should read my mail.

Well, maybe you shouldn’t.  You would come away disgusted with the notion that our churches operate in faith, trust God supremely, and always want to do the honorable thing.  Some do; many do not.

A young minister I know is well-trained and very capable, he is called of God and has a heart for ministry.  Some church is going to love having him as pastor.  If they ever decide to call him.

Search committees are deathly afraid of him.

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