Sometimes the opposition of the world works for the best

“And they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:66)

For good reason, God’s people learn to rejoice in adversity and to thrive under persecution.

Fire burns brighter under pressure.  Ask any ninth grade physics student.

Sometimes those intent on stamping out Christianity end up assisting it.

Scripture teaches  that the opponents of the Lord remembered that He had predicted He would rise from the dead. (Matthew 27:62-63)  It appears the wrong guys were taking literally the things Jesus had said! The poor disciples, forgetting the Lord’s promises, were mired down in their sadness and grief, all  of it the direct result of not understanding and believing Jesus’ promises..

When the opponents of the Lord went to such lengths to secure His tomb, they inadvertently provided additional evidence for His bodily resurrection.  Note their three actions: they made the grave secure, they put a Roman guard in place, and they set a seal on the stone.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Let’s pause to say a word in favor of courage

Do not be afraid of them.  If you are, I will humiliate you in front of them.  –God to Jeremiah, chapter 1. 

Be strong and of good courage.  –God to Joshua.  Moses to Joshua. Israelites to Joshua.  (6 times at the end of Deuteronomy and through Joshua chapter 1. Apparently, the man had some issues with shyness.) 

Agree with Colin Kaepernick, the editor of Christianity Today, or the editor of Charisma magazine or not; you have to admire their courage.

They didn’t have to take the stand they took.  It cost Kaepernick his job in the NFL, meaning zillions of dollars.  The editorial from Christianity Today calling for the removal of President Trump has cost the magazine a ton of cancellations.  The editor of Charisma magazine? Aw, probably nothing.  It’s just a personal thing.

Continue reading

Choices we make. And “the” choice we make.

“Choose you this day” (Joshua 24:15).  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  

The human mind is a scavenger.  It loves to pick at dead things, and will not leave road-kill alone.

You find yourself sleepless in the wee hours.  Your mind roams around looking for something to dwell on.  It settles on the wrong things:  Someone who betrayed you, disappointed you, offended you, hurt you, mistreated you, failed you.  You reflect on that person for a moment or two and realize this is no fun.  It is upsetting you.  This is no way to get back to sleep.  You pray for them, telling God “I forgive them Lord; please do not hold this against them.” Bless them, Father.

Your mind then moves over to the other side of those road-kill memories.  Now you find yourself conjuring up people whom you betrayed, those you disappointed, someone you offended, a person you hurt, some people whom you mistreated and failed.  For the umpteenth time, you ask God to forgive you and you lie there praying for each of those people, that they will do well and not remember your sins and your failings.  You think “Please God!” that they will not awaken in the night remembering the unkind thing you did or said so long ago.  Bless them, Father.

And then, after a bit it dawns on you that if you are going to get back to sleep, you’re going to have to choose a better memory or a more pleasant subject to dwell on.  You have to make a better choice.

Something we all do every day of our lives.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

Why the Lord may be tougher on you than others

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a strict judgment….  (James 3:1)

To whom much is given, much is expected.  (Luke 12:48)

When the pastor said God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear, some fellow said, “I know. I just wish He didn’t have such confidence in me!”

God’s best students are held to a higher standard and graded more strictly.

The ones with greater potential are dealt with more severely.

Ask any coach.  The mediocre player gets a mild reprimand and slivers of the coach’s attention.  Although he does poorly,  the expectations on him were low.  The star athlete, however, regularly gets reamed out by the coach and is constantly held to higher standards, stricter disciplines, and greater expectations.

Continue reading

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?”

Continue reading

The cultural accommodation crowd has a lot to answer for

Do not marvel, my  brethren, if the world hates you…. They are of the world.  Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God…. (I John 3:13 and 4:5-6),

First, they told us our language was too churchified and we would need to jettison such terms as justification, sanctification, and washed in the blood.

I remember Arthur Blessit. The hippie-looking, jive-talking, cross-carrying brother in Christ took the young churches by storm.  We stayed most of the night with Arthur at the local youth hangout witnessing for Christ, trying to look and sound cooler than the teens, picking up the drug culture’s language in an attempt to bring the gospel into a foreign land.  Heaven alone knows whether we did good. 

Then, they came at our music. Away with organs and pianos, and in with drum sets and keyboards and guitars.  Amplification on steroids and heavy metal, ear-assaulting, nerve-rattling instrumentations were not far behind.

No one is insisting that pipe organs and upright pianos are scriptural. But when ushers have to hand out ear plugs at the door, something is bad wrong. 

Continue reading

Wait on the Lord: What it means, Why it’s so hard

We have three primary texts (and a dozen secondary ones)–

“Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord.”  –Psalm 27:14  This is a command.  Waiting on the Lord takes real strength. 

“I waited patiently on the Lord and He inclined unto me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a solid rock and established my footsteps.  He also put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”  –Psalm 40:1-3  This is a testimony. Waiting on the Lord is the gateway to so many blessings.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint.”  –Isaiah 40;31.  This is a promise. Waiting on the Lord–in time–makes us stronger and more confident.

Question: What would it take for you to quit believing in God? What would it take to make you quit going to church, stop reading your Bible, and no longer consider yourself a Christian?

–A fellow left a note on my website saying “I’m no longer going to church or believing in God.  The last two pastors I have had were terrible and treated me awful.”  I read that and thought, “That’s all it took to knock you out?  Just two bad preachers?  I can show you twenty-five monsters in the pulpit, and you quit after only two?”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading