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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Collateral damage: Hurting the little ones

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea…. Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that in heaven their angels always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 18:6,10)

A friend texted this with an all-too familiar story.

The church has just run off a good pastor for no apparent reason other than the so-called powers wanted him gone.  When a little senior lady stood to protest and declare love for her pastor, she was ordered to sit down and be quiet.  Off to the side sat a young couple who did not stand up and protest, but who were grieving.  Their story, I was told, involves the pastor reaching her for Christ when she was  about to give birth out of wedlock.  In time, as a member of the church,  she married a fine young man and they had a child of their own.  They’ve been growing in the Lord, and they love their pastor devotedly.  Then suddenly–with no warning–they had the privilege of seeing him  brutally mistreated by a few church members who refuse to be accountable. Their beloved pastor was gone and no reasons were given.

No one cared about the senior lady and no one cares for the young family.  They are merely collateral damage.

Thus the Lord’s church gets mauled by the bullies and the “little ones who believe in Me,” as our Lord called them, are despised and abandoned.

There will be a reckoning, friend.  Mark it down in big letters.  The end of this story has yet to be written.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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