Mothers Day 2019 and beyond: Everything changes.

“In today’s service, we will be giving roses to  the oldest mother and the youngest mother present.”

Ever done that, Pastor?  I have.

Anything wrong with honoring motherhood in church?  Absolutely not.

We might need to find new ways to do so, however.

I started pastoring in late 1962, not long after graduating from college.  This means I led churches through the massive cultural shifts of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and down to 2004.  I continue preaching at every opportunity, and am deeply involved in our churches. .

To say the ball game has changed forever would be the understatement of the year.

Continue reading

When planning, reading the instructions is a good place to start.

“Our company asks prospective employees to fill out a written application,” a man wrote in the Readers Digest.  “One question said: In one word, describe your greatest strength. This woman applicant wrote: I’m always faithful to read the directions first.”

Recently, Bertha and I voted at the church a few blocks from our house.  As you sign in, the poll workers give you a paper ballot.  Since only two races were left for the runoff, the page was mostly empty.  At the top were these instructions:  “Using black ink, fill in the oval circle beside the name of the candidate for whom you are voting.”  You were given a closed space to mark your ballot, which you then handed to a clerk who fed the paper into the voting tabulator.  Mine went through fine.  Bertha’s was spit back out.  The clerk looked at it, smiled at her, and said, “Ma’am, you put a checkmark by the candidate’s name.  You’re supposed to fill in the oval.”  She laughed, was slightly embarrassed, they gave her another ballot, and she got it right this time.

On the way to the car, I said to my schoolteacher/wife: “Honey, do you tell the students to read the directions before they take their test?”  She gave me that look.

On the drive home I said to her, “I’ve not changed the clock in this car since we went on Daylight Savings Time.  The truth is I’ve forgotten how to do it.  I’ve had the car a whole year now, so I know I’ve done it before. But I don’t recall how.”

Continue reading

The single piece of advice this generation cannot handle

Recently on a college campus where I spent four hours sketching students in the dining area, I noticed posters up and down the hall with the college logo and this message:

DREAM BIG;  PLAN WELL;  BE ANYTHING

Since I kept running into the message, it kept hammering at me. Finally, I realized what was wrong.

It was missing something.  Something vital.

The posters should say:  DREAM BIG; PLAN WELL; WORK HARD; BE ANYTHING.

They left out the crucial step of implementing the plans.  What we call “old fashioned work.”

That’s a most unpopular concept, I am aware.  This generation, much like the one before it, thinks that positive thinking and “dreaming big” will accomplish anything.

Today, while studying Philip Nation’s book on “Revelation 1-3,” a preparation for the January Bible Study on the “7 churches of Asia Minor,” I came across this.  Referencing the word “labor” in Revelation 2:2, Nation said, “The Greek word for ‘labor’ originally meant a beating and the grief that accompanied it.”  I read that and thought, “Then it’s not just this generation.  People have always hated work!”

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve are confronted with their sin, God tells the man, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.  In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread….” (Genesis 3:17-19).

When asked if work is a curse upon mankind because of the original sin, it helps if we remember that before all of this, when God created man and woman, we are told, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (2:15).  John MacArthur says, “Work was an important and dignified part of representing the image of God and serving Him, even before the Fall.”

Continue reading

There are no independent churches and no self-sufficient Christians.

“I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase” (I Corinthians 3:6). 

“Even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities” (Philippians 4:16). 

I have no patience with signs in front of church buildings that read “Independent (whatever) Church.” There is no such thing as an independent church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we need each other.

Some more than others.

The believer or the church that believes he/she/it is independent and has no need of all those others is going against everything Scripture teaches and contradicting what they see happening all around them every day.

Continue reading

Some hurts of this life are so deep they never diminish with time

On our blog, I had given ten suggestions for helping people navigate the transitions of life.  Number 10’s suggestion was to laugh every day.  And that brought a private note from my friend Anne.

“This reminded me of something I did thirty-three years ago,” she said.

Anne had been pregnant, almost in her sixth month, when the doctors diagnosed the baby with a condition called anencephaly.  The news was devastating.

Anne explains that for a fetus to be “anencephalic” means no brain or the brain grows outside the skull.  Of course, it’s incompatible with life. Anne explained that it forms very early, often before the woman even knows she is pregnant.

They had named the baby girl Amy.  They often prayed for her–still in the womb, of course–along with her two older brothers.

“Such babies are often extra active in the womb,” Anne told me, which only adds to the mother’s pain and the cruelty of the condition.  Even so, Anne says, “I relished each time Baby Amy turned or kicked since I knew my time with her would be limited.”

As if that wasn’t enough…

Continue reading

My son and how the Lord roped him in!

As we approach Father’s Day, perhaps I could tell you about my number one son from his father’s perspective.  Incidentally, he’s an excellent father himself to Grant, Abigail, and Erin. 

Neil McKeever is a junior.  Joe Neil McKeever, jr., to be exact. He lives in Mobile and works in Pascagoula at the shipyards, in the HR department.  He and Julie and my three grands are faithful members of the great Cottage Hill Baptist Church, and Neil often teaches a Sunday School class.  Julie is the financial secretary for a nearby church.

Neil is a deacon and has been chairman (in their previous church).  He is a singer and has often taken leading roles as singer or narrator in pageants.

But he wasn’t always rightly connected with the Lord.  This is about two instances in his adult life where the Lord stepped in and remedied that. Big time, too.

Continue reading

For Father’s Day: Most of us have spotted records

….you honor your sons more than Me….” (I Samuel 2:29). Eli was an indulgent father, and God held him accountable for it. 

“O Absalom, my son.  My son, my son Absalom.  Would God I had died in your place!  O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33).  David could be a wonderful father at times and an absentee parent at other times.  A lot like us. 

Often when doing the funeral of an older man, I’ll see adult children showing varying degrees of love and sadness and even anger.  So, sometimes in the service I will say, “Fathers are human.  Sometimes they get it right and leave great memories and bless their families.  And sometimes they get it wrong, just as the rest of us do.  May I suggest that you appreciate your dad for what he did right and forgive him for what he failed to get right.  Surely, you will want your children to do that with you.”

Love your dad.  Appreciate what he got right.  Forgive him where he didn’t.

Continue reading

Ten words to the victims (and veterans!) of the hurricanes

Sunday, preaching in Biloxi, Mississippi, I asked the congregation, “How many of you were living here in 1969 when Hurricane Camille changed this coastline forever?”  A lot of hands went up.

Then, “How many of you lived here in 2005 when Katrina destroyed so much of the area?”  Many more hands.

I said, “So when you think of neighbors dealing with hurricanes, such as Harvey and Irma, you know.  You’ve been there.  You can pray for them with a genuine compassion and a deeper understanding.”

Before they left the building, those people made generous contributions to their neighbors impacted by the hurricanes.

Each hurricane is different. Each takes its own path and blows at its own speed. And each one is similar.  They destroy and uproot and flood.  Those who experience even one such storm forever identifies with the victims and veterans of all those which follow.

With that in mind, it might be in order for those of us with scars from past hurricanes (for my family, it was Betsy in 1965 and Katrina 40 years later) to offer a word or two of encouragement to friends caught in the path of the latest of these monster storms.

Ten words, actually…

(We will try not to insult you with platitudes such as “work hard” or “try not to cry.”  You will work hard and you will cry, and God bless you as you do.)

Continue reading

The pastor and his mother

Most pastors I’ve known have admitted that they were particularly blessed by their mothers.

I certainly was.

Lois Jane Kilgore McKeever grew up in church, met my dad when she and her sister were singing in church, and kept her six children in church until they were grown. (Of her four sons, two became preachers. Ron and Joe together have logged more than a hundred years serving the Lord.)

In those early years Mom got no encouragement from her husband (my wonderful dad), but she had us all ready on Saturday nights. My older brothers would pull out that number 2-1/2 washtub and fill it up.  We all bathed in the same water.  The joke was that the last kid died in quicksand.  Sunday mornings, we would walk a mile from our house to the church.

We were poor, but we were freshly scrubbed and our clothes were clean.  Lois McKeever was forever cleaning and cooking and washing clothes and cleaning house.  She kept the radio on to gospel singing and preaching, and could sing the prettiest alto you will ever hear.

Continue reading

Advice to a young mother. Dad too.

From my journal of Wednesday, December 31, 1997.

In my morning radio program “Phone Call from the Pastor” (Lifesongs 89.1 New Orleans), I told this:

This is a message to a young mother of two boys I saw at McDonald’s on Airline Highway yesterday.  Your boys are perhaps 2 and 3-1/2.  You say they were born 18 months apart.  “They’re killing you,” I told you facetiously. “I hope you survive until they’re grown.”  But what I thought was, “I hope they survive.”

Their behavior is suicidal. They are well on their way to becoming society’s worst nightmare.  They are out of control.

You kept giving orders to the older one–sit down, be quiet, turn around, eat your lunch–and he kept ignoring and defying you.  There was fire in the little guy’s eyes.  He really did look like a miniature devil.

My heart went out to you.  My wife and I raised two little boys who were three years apart.  I know they can be very trying, especially on Mom.  So, what I’m about to suggest to you comes from some experience with this subject.

Continue reading