Write a play for your church. A short, fun one that fits the sermon.

In the church I was pastoring in the 1990s, we began inserting the occasional drama into the morning worship service, something we had created to fit the sermon.

(Note:  If you do brief dramas like this, you don’t have to purchase them.  And neither do you have to buy videos.  You have a few people in the congregation who would love to do something creative and helpful like this.  Don’t do it more often than monthly, lest it grow old.)

Here’s one from Sunday, July 11, 1993.  We called it the “Low Self-Esteem Anonymous Group.”

Margaret called the meeting to order.

Julie stood and said, “My name is Dummy–and I have low self-esteem.  I’d planned to look for a job this week.  But I didn’t.  Probably wouldn’t have done any good anyway.”

David stood to his feet. “My name is Invisible and I have low self-esteem.  I thought about asking a girl for a date this week. But I didn’t.  Who would want to go out with me?”

Jennifer said, “My name is Zero–and I have low self-esteem.  I thought about going to church.  But I probably wouldn’t fit in, so I stayed at home.”

Throughout this, Neil sits aloof, off to one side, making derogatory comments (which brought laughter).  Finally, he has enough.  He stands up, points to the sign and says, “Look at that–‘Low Self-Esteem!’ I love the initials–L.O.S.E.  That’s what you all are. A bunch of losers! I’m out of here.”

As he turns to leave, Jesse calls to him, “Hey Buddy–Egomaniac Anonymous meets down the hall, third door on the left.”

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Stepping out of the boat: Something Simon Peter did a hundred times

Sometimes it’s scary obeying Jesus.

The incident recorded in Matthew 14–in the darkest part of the night,  the Lord came walking across the wind-tossed sea to the disciples and Peter is allowed, nay encouraged, to leave the boat and walk to Him, managing to take a few tentative steps over the sea before his fears got the best of him–turns out to have been the story of the rest of Peter’s life.

In a manner of speaking.

Leaving his comfort zone to come to Jesus, stepping out of the metaphorical boat and onto the watery surface where no visible means of support presented themselves, thus risking everything, is what Peter did–or was called on to do–again and again for the rest of his life.

One.  Peter, will you confess Jesus?  “Well, normally I would–but today it’s scary!”

He was warming himself at the fire in the courtyard while, not far away, the Lord was on trial. Three times Peter has the opportunity to confess Jesus.  The problem is that was a most scary thing to do.  He would have been hanging himself out there for all to see, he would have made a target of himself, and it would have been uncomfortable.  Luke tells us what happened at the end….

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I’m so glad Peter didn’t walk on water for a half hour. Here’s why.

“But seeing the wind, Peter became afraid and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Save me, Lord!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him….” (Matthew 14:30-31).

It’s like a video of the Boston Red Sox guy letting that World Series game-winning single run through his legs.  Had he caught it and stepped on first base, the game would have ended and the Red Sox would have ended that so-called curse a full fifteen or twenty years earlier than they did.  Ask that player and his family.  It has run a zillion times on youtube and in the minds of the fans.  They have enshrined his failure.  They think of him and they forget all the thousands of put-outs he made at first base, the hits he got, the runs he produced.  That is how Peter must feel.

Think of Simon Peter walking on the water to Jesus that night when the winds howled and the sea raged and far from being impressed–as one would think we should be!–we see only that “he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on the wave,” and began to sink.  As though we would not have!

I’m so glad Peter did that.  Yes, I’m happy he walked those few steps on the Galilee, of course, and really really impressed.  But everything inside me gives thanks that he then had a problem with what he was doing and messed it up.

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Deciding what kind of man you want to become

Every male coming into the world will become a man, if he lasts long enough.  But sometime along the way he should stop and ask, “What kind of man do I want to become?”

“Quit you like men” is how the old version of I Corinthians 16:13 reads.  Modern translations has it saying: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong….”

Be a real man.

Be a man like Jesus.

He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone (Matthew 14:23). 

Our text is the 14th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.  In this passage, we have several stark contrasts in manhood.  We have King Herod Agrippa, we have the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have a disciple named Simon Peter.

Take a look at them…

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How to pastor emphatically

“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

“The disciples went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

“Nobody ever enjoyed the presidency as I did…. While president I have been president emphatically.”  –Theodore Roosevelt, quoted by David McCullough in “The American Spirit”

The Lord does not want your spare time and loose change.”  –Pastor Brent Thompson, last Sunday at Heflin (AL) Baptist Church.

The Lord wants His people to live life emphatically.  “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,”says Ecclesiastes 9:10.

We are to seize the day, live each moment, and to delight ourselves in Him.

Listen to Paul as he seeks to motivate and energize young Pastor Timothy:

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Something I tell students about writing

“This will be written for a generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).

What qualifies me to teach writing is not that I’m all that great of a writer myself.  But I love good writing, I work at learning to do it better, and I know some things on the subject worth passing along.

Consequently, I sometimes get invited to speak at writers’ conferences.  As I did this past weekend in Tuscaloosa. (The Southern Christian Writers Conference, the child of Dr. David and Mrs. Joanne Sloane, has been around for nearly 30 years and each June, the first weekend, enrolls nearly 200 students.  Meeting at Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, the SCWC brings in editors and publishers and all sorts of successful writers to teach.  Oh, and they also bring me in.  Just goes to show, I suppose.)

The text from Psalm 102:18 is the Scripture that fuels their writings, the Sloanes say.  After all, we’re told, more people of the future will read our stuff than will our contemporaries.  In a sense, we’re writing history.

Writing a journal is like taking a 30-minute slice of your today and sending it ahead into the future.  I’m big on journaling.  Journals, we are told, are not so much for our children–who presumably are living the same life we are and have little curiosity about how we view today–as for our grandchildren and theirs.  In time, my journal will be looked upon as something of a record of “the life of an ordinary Baptist preacher in the 1990s.”  I’ll not be around to know it, but in doing those journals–I’m through with journal-keeping except on this blog, something that I wouldn’t exactly call journaling–it has often been with a view toward the future.  There’s a strong witness for Christ throughout all 56 volumes.

Anyone can write; you don’t even have to know good English.  However, if you want people to read what you’ve written, knowing how to make subjects and verbs agree and the difference in they’re, there, and their will come in handy.  Most of us cannot long abide poor writing, so while we may read a few pages, we soon lay it aside because of the assault on our brains.

Therefore, however (I love to put those two words together!), you can get on with writing, without waiting on a certification in proper English usage or the muse to inspire you.  Just do it.

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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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When life peels away everything that defines you, who are you?

“Take heed and beware of covetousness.  For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses”(Luke 12:15).

“What do you do?”  In our society, that’s often the first question people ask.  It implies…

–that you do something in the way of a career.  Woe to the unemployed and those who call themselves homemakers.

–that you are what you do.  That your identity is bound up in what you do to earn an income.  Too bad if you lose your job or retire.  You become a cipher, at least in the minds of some.

If you don’t have a job, who are you?  If, like my wife Bertha, you loved being married to a pastor, when God takes him home and you can no longer fill the role you loved so much–the wife of a pastor–then who are you?

In our world, people’s names were often given in accordance with what they did. They received names like Baker, Cook, Weaver, Smith, Taylor, Hunter, Fisher, Farmer, Shepherd, Miller, Marshall, Ward.

I want to call your attention to a little story found in Luke 12.  Then, I’ll be asking you to use your imagination with me…

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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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