“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Facebook friend had written something about Scripture and people were leaving comments. One person in particular was giving her a hard time.
I suppose the critic was her friend, because after his unkind and cutting remarks, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.
But nothing worked. This guy was determined to be mean-spirited.
When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.
He had found a contradiction in Scripture, he said, that convinced him the whole business of Christianity was nothing but a con.
What was his “contradiction”?
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)
I don’t know what you think about when lying awake at night unable to sleep, but recently my mind has dwelt on the wonders of there being a planet Earth in the first place, and all that this means for the children of God.
The Psalmist said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I read that and think, “If you only knew, King David. You spoke those words three thousand years ago. What if you knew what we know now! The human body is truly the marvel of the ages.”
And yet, the earth is also just as fearfully and wonderfully made. Just as awe-inspiring, with as much the signature of the Divine on it as any human carries.
Consider this one thing: HOW MANY FACTORS ARE REQUIRED FOR EARTH TO SUSTAIN LIFE?
Any one of the following not being in place could kill the whole deal. And yet, they’re all there, in place, doing their job, while I sit here at a laptop in my dining room, with a cup of Dunkin Donut coffee to my right and earth all around me, requiring absolutely nothing from me. I am completely in awe of this.
For by grace are you saved through faith…. (Ephesians 2:8)
Anything that puts us down, we automatically shy away from. For many, grace does that.
Oh, we don’t mind singing about it, but the concept of grace itself is repulsive to our natures and offensive to our pride.
Something in me wants to be self-sufficient, to believe that whatever comes up, I’m able to handle, that as the poem says, “I am the captain of my soul.”
The cry of a four-year-old–“I can do it myself!”–is the insistence of the stubborn will of the adult child.
That’s why, even though we sing about it and say we love it, something inside us resists the idea of grace. That same something insists that I am sufficient for my needs, that my good works will accomplish everything necessary to land me in Heaven, that the rest is just so much religious talk.
The sinful heart of man is an atheist, an egotist, an idolator.
I stepped inside a diner a few blocks from my house to pick up the sandwiches I’d just called in. The place was busy–it was Friday evening and suppertime–and I spotted two kids at a table with their mother, so took my sketch pad inside.
“Ma’am, may I draw your sons?” showing her my pen and sketchpad.
“You’re an artist?”
I said, “Cartoonist.”
“Sure. That would be fine.”
The first one, a boy about 9 or 10, looked up with a killer smile and eyes aglow, so I drew him first. It takes 90 seconds. Then, I sketched his big brother while we made small conversation. Last, I drew the mom. She was friendly and trusting and we talked about that. I get a lot of skepticism when walking up to complete strangers asking, “May I draw you?” People worry that someone is going to try to con them into something. It’s understandable.
A few minutes later, while in the line to pay for my order, the mother came over to give a takeout order, and we continued our conversation. One of her sons goes to a local Christian school, but she does not go to church anywhere.
“I’m skeptical of religions and churches,” she said.
This notice appeared on the front page of the July 4, 2004, issue of the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader:
It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.
When that newspaper’s staff decided to prepare a special edition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, they began combing through their archives looking for local material. That’s when they discovered a complete lack of such information. The newspaper had simply not covered the civil rights movement, period.
A local African-American leader said, “The white community just prayed that rumors and reports (of the civil rights movement) would be swept under the rug and just go away.”
As odd as that is, it will not come as a surprise to many that a lot of churches lived through the same revolution in this country without the first mention of it from the pulpit. (And we wonder why outsiders found our sermons irrelevant.)
Churches are prone to forget the things they do not want to acknowledge.
I began serving the Lord when I was 11 years old, began preaching the Word when I was 21, and began pastoring a year later. At the moment, I’m a solid 80 years old. These are a few lessons this life of ministry has taught me….
One. Never tell anyone anything you don’t want repeated. The single exceptions are the Lord in prayer or your wife in the bedroom.
Two. Never put anything negative in a letter. It will still be circulating and driving the case against you long after you’re in the grave.
Three. Never fail to check all the references of a prospective staff member. And then check a few more.
Four. Differences of opinion–in a church or on a staff–can be healthy, but dissension should be nipped in the bud. Anyone who cannot sit in a staff meeting and disagree lovingly does not belong there.
Five. Neglect your family and you will have a lifetime to regret it.
I send you forth as sheep among the wolves… (Matthew 10:16)
After my departure, savage wolves will come…. (Acts 20:29)
You’re getting scared. Your enemies are making fierce noises. There are so many of them. You are shaking in your boots, your time may be up, the end may be near, and as pastor, you have nowhere to go. Whatever will you do? This is so awful.
Or, maybe not.
In the mid-1840s, Ulysses S. Grant was a Second Lieutenant in the war between the U.S. and Mexico, with the prize being Texas. Grant’s Memoirs make fascinating reading. We’re told that Grant was the first former president to write his memoirs, and these are generally conceded to be the best of the lot. (Note: Before reading Memoirs, I read Grant’s Final Victory, an account of the last year of his life when he penned his story to earn enough money to provide for his wife after his impending death. Great story. He was a far better man than he is often given credit for. )
At one point, Grant and some troopers were in west Texas, which was sparsely settled except by the Indians and varmints. One night, they heard “the most unearthly howling of wolves, directly in our front.” The tall grass hid the wolves but they were definitely close by. To my ear, it appeared that there must have been enough of them to devour our party, horses and all at a single meal.
Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! (Genesis 28:16-17)
Have you ever walked out of a church service knowing today’s sermon had your name all over it? You should feel so honored that the God of the universe maneuvered everything to minister to your need. Does He do that as a regular thing? My experience says He does. Every day. God is at work.
What a mighty God we serve!
This is from my journal from May 3, 1999—
“We preach Christ….God’s power and God’s wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:23-24).
Rick Warren says a lot of what pastors are feeding their people is “ain’t it awful” preaching.
I am so in agreement on that.
Once, guest preaching in a church, before I rose to speak, a member of the flock with “a gift for continuance,” as a friend put it, addressed the congregation on the latest Supreme Court ruling concerning marriage. The lady was upset, and she had a bad combination: strong convictions and the gift of gab. She went on and on about the sad state of affairs in this country.
Ain’t it awful.
To hear her tell it, the country is going down the tubes, the Supreme Court is out of hand, our freedoms are all in peril, the end is near, and God’s people are in huge trouble.
She said that and then sat down.
I had to follow it.
“You have covered the heavens with your majesty…. When I observe the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that You remember him…? Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!” (Psalm 8)
After the New Horizons spacecraft did a fly-by in the area of Pluto traveling at a comfortable 30,800 mph, I jotted down a few thoughts, which follow.
The rocketship sent back snapshots for our enjoyment.
Pluto is handsome and a little small for his age, but still quite the character. He’s definitely someone we wanted to know.
Pluto, we are told, is two-thirds the size of our moon. Its gravity is about 7 percent of ours. Its polar caps are made up of methane ice and nitrogen ice. A year on Pluto–one orbit around the sun–equals 248 of our years. (On Pluto, I would be not quite one-third of a year old!) Each day there–the time needed to rotate once on its axis–is the equivalent of 6.4 of our days. But that’s nothing….
On Pluto, the average temperature is a MINUS 365 degrees. Lordy!
Completely fascinating. I sat there watching the televised news conferences and a one-hour history of New Horizons in awe and wonder. I do love this.