She said, “There are some people I need to apologize to.”

The lady is on her deathbed, it would appear.  Her mind comes and goes, according to family members. Sometimes she is lucid, at other times not.

They called me.  Would I come by the hospital to see her?  The daughter said, “Sometimes when she is ‘with us,’ she seems troubled.  Today she said, ‘There are some people I need to apologize to.'”

“We were hoping you could give her some peace.”

Since I was the family’s pastor many years ago, I knew some of the history.  My feeling was that the lady was a genuine Christian although I sensed she had not progressed in spiritual maturity as she should.

In her hospital room I greeted her and we chatted.  I said, “You have given your life to Jesus Christ, is that right?”  The voice was weak, but she was nodding her head.  She had.  “And you love Him?”  Again, yes.

“But you have not always been faithful.”  She shook her head, indicating it was so true.

I said, “Neither have I.  None of us have.  We have all done a poor job of living for Him.  That’s why we appreciate so much His faithfulness.”

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Let’s stop asking the world to do our work for us

Do you want the schools to teach the Bible?  Do you want prayer returned to the schools?  Would you like stores and movies to shut down on Sundays?  Taverns too?

If so, you would have loved life in the South in the 1940s.

Jerry Clower–the wonderful Mississippi comedian and Baptist deacon whom I was honored to call friend–used to say, “My mama wants prayer in the schools. But what she means is she wants a Southern Baptist prayer. She does not want anyone and everyone leading the children in prayer.”

When the city council or state legislature decides to open each session with prayer and they start inviting outsiders to lead those prayers, they are duty-bound to respect all denominations and all religions in their area.  It’s the fair thing to do.

They will get every conceivable prayer and pray-er.  It’s a given, and there is not a cotton-picking thing anyone can do about it.  It’s the price they pay for wanting to begin with prayer.

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The heart-cry of every child of God

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find…. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God…. (Romans 7:18,24-25).

Any of us can undo all the good we have done at any moment.

No believer is incapable of messing up and doing so royally.

Even though we are saved and saved forever, nothing about that prevents us from doing something truly stupid and harmful.

It’s that knowledge that keeps the faithful man and woman of God ever alert, constantly watching, forever on their knees.

Each believer struggles with our limitations, our humanity, our fallen nature, with what Scripture calls “the old man.”  Scripture says…

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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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I’m asking you to believe

Believest thou this?  (John 11:26)  — Where is your faith? (Mark 4:40).  — These things are written that you may believe. (John 20:31). —  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24).

“I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.  Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

I’m asking you to believe that.  And rejoice because you are going to live forever.

“For we know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”  (Romans 8:18)

I’m asking you to believe that. And to look up with hope because the best is yet to be.

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Go Ye Therefore and Serve!

(My commence address at William Carey University. Saturday, August 10, 2019)

“He who would be great among you, let him be a servant.” “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22)

When I was a freshman in college, I learned a sad lesson about myself. It was the second week of the fall semester and the dean brought all the freshmen–several hundred of us–into the school auditorium. He announced we were going to elect class officers. No advanced notice, no campaigning. I thought, “Maybe I’ll be elected president.” I had been on campus all summer, working, and I knew almost everyone in this class. But no one nominated me. “Well, I’d take vice-president,” I said. Again, no one nominated me.

Next, the floor was open for nominations for secretary. A guy named Randy Scott nominated me. I won in a runoff. “Well, it’s something,” I said.

Better than nothing.

One month later, our class met in the same auditorium. Our newly elected class president called us to order, then looked in my direction. “We will dispense with the reading of the minutes of the last meeting.”

My heart stopped.

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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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Things I wish I’d said (and done) differently

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves….” I John 1:8

Looking back.

I do a lot of that these days.  I suppose it’s human, seeing as how I’m about to hit birthday number 79 in a few days. There are a lot of days back there to look at! I’m so grateful to be active and energetic and still in the Lord’s field working alongside younger men and women called to His work.

The days behind me far outnumber those in front.

I do not sit around wallowing in regrets, let me make plain.  But sometimes before rising in the morning, I lie there reflecting on times gone by, experiences in churches I served, remembering when my family was young, calling to mind conversations and decisions.

I have many a regret.

I wish I’d said ‘no’ to a lot of requests.  As a young husband and father and ambitious pastor, I accepted many an invitation to speak or travel or serve on a board because it felt like the very opportunity for which the Lord had called me and for which I’d been prepared.  But it took me away from my young children and my over-wrought wife.

Did I really need to serve as a trustee of that denominational board? It required me to travel out of state a half dozen times a year, two or three days at a whack.  Over a four-year term, that adds up to a lot of time away.

I think about the two weeks I spent in Singapore helping the missionaries conceive an evangelistic comic book at the time my three children were 10, 13, and 16.  Such critical ages, so formative, so needy of their father to be hands-on.  Poor Margaret, looking after them, doing all the things a faithful mother does, chauffeuring them to everything, and all the while working on her degree from the local university.  What was I thinking?

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If there is a God and God is like Jesus, then, what’s the problem?

“Come now and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). 

“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God should raise the dead?”  (Acts 26:8).

If there is a God, and if this God is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, then a thousand questions are settled.

–If God is God, then raising the dead should be no big deal.  After all, He made the universe of nothing and made humans from the dust of the earth, so anything after that should be a piece of cake.

–If this God exists, then the Person of Jesus Christ with all that Scripture affirms about Him is completely logical.  Jesus said, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself (John 3:13).

–If God is God, then a Virgin Birth is no more miraculous than any other birth, which is to say, every birth is a miracle of the highest order.  Ask any new parent holding their treasure for the first time.

–If God is God, then the miracles Jesus worked during His earthly years were little more than child’s play.  Turn water to wine, feed thousands with a child’s lunch, heal the blind, raise the dead.  This is the God who spoke the worlds into being (Hebrews 11:3). What’s the problem?

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Christians afflicted with the “Mamba Mentality “

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). 

No one said it would be easy.

A police lieutenant told me why he could never live the Christian life. “I have to be tough in this line of work. I have to use language that would peel the bark off a hickory tree in order to make myself understood to the people I deal with. I couldn’t do that as a Christian.”

Perhaps he needs to take a lesson from Kobe Bryant, the retired great of the L. A. Lakers, and Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints.

According to an article in USA Today (December 19, 2018), Demario Davis lives by the code found in Kobe Bryant’s book.  “The Mamba Mentality:  How I Play” explains how Bryant adopts an aggressive personality, one different from his normal self, when he walks onto the basketball court.

Get that?  Become someone else once you don the armor.  Become a warrior who takes no prisoners.  Then, later, showered and dressed, you return to the Clark Kent persona.

Most of us might have trouble pulling that off.

Demario Davis, who plays for the New Orleans Saints,  told the reporter how that works out for him.  “For me, it’s like, I have to ask for forgiveness for what I’m about to do on the field.  And then when I’m coming in off the field, I’m asking forgiveness for what I just did on the field, because you have to go to a killing mentality.  A Mamba Mentality.”

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