The busy-body instinct: Scriptural precedents and scary incidents

“Lord, do you not care that Mary has left me to do all the serving alone?  Please speak to her” (Luke 10:40)

The busy-body virus has infected many a good person. Even preachers catch it from time to time.  Some thoughts on the subject….

Have you ever prayed, “Lord, speak to my sister. I’m tired of doing all this work alone.” Martha did.

What was Mary doing? That lazy, good for nothing was sitting at the feet of Jesus, worshiping.  A waste of time?  The pragmatists among us seem to think so. This is the little informal society of activist church members who claim Martha as their patron saint.  (Matron saint? Whatever.)  To them, worship is something we do when the work is completed and we can’t find anything else to occupy us. Only then do they allow themselves the privilege of pausing to read the Scriptures and enjoy a quiet time of prayer.

“Lord, straighten him out.”

“Lord, rebuke her.”

Simon Peter grew tired of Jesus talking about what was ahead for him and pointed toward an apostle standing nearby.  “Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22).

I love knowing that Simon Peter was not above wanting to rearrange the lives of others; but appreciate even more the Lord’s answer. “What’s it to you?  Do your job!”

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What I would say at your graduation

(I have not been invited to speak at anyone’s high school graduation in years, and am not unhappy about that in the least.  Sitting through the lengthy program–sometimes outside in the sun!–and eventually rising to try to convey some heavy thoughts to a crowd interested in a thousand things other than my message, no thank you.  So, I’ll just post a commencement address here. Thank you very much. Oh, and congratulations.)

“Thank you, Superintendent!  Congratulations, graduates. And may I say, you look beautiful today.  Even the fellow on the front row who appears not to be wearing pants under his robe.

Today is a great day in your life.  But don’t let it be the high point. In fact, if you do life well, you will forget almost everything that happens today, as a hundred other great events in your life will crowd out these memories. So, savor the moment. It’s fleeting.

Here is what I’d like to convey to you. Got your pencil and paper ready? This will be on the test!

1) Keep on growing.

You’re not ‘you’ yet; in some ways you’re still an embryo.

When looked at through the lens of your complete life, you are today graduating from the 3rd grade. You have so much to learn, so much farther to go. This is no time to quit growing.

Someone in my high school told of a classmate rowing his boat out into the middle of the lake and dumping all his textbooks overboard.  His new high school diploma was all he would be needing. This is suicidal.  Not to say stupid.

I hope you didn’t love high school too much. One of the worst things that can happen to any of us is to have hit our peak in high school, to have loved it so much that we never want to leave, and to spend the rest of our days trying to recapture those moments.

Far better to have been a little frustrated in your schooling that “they” weren’t teaching something you needed, that “they” were wasting much of your time, that you could do better than this. This angst, if we may call it that, has a way of jet-propelling you out of school toward the next stage.

That’s good. You’re so ready to get on to the next thing.

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The subtle sin of judgmentalism and how it works

“Do not judge, lest you be judged…. Why  do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1ff.)

If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.

It’s that kind of sin. I see it in you; it’s just part of who I am.

I find it fascinating that after issuing the warning about not judging others, our Lord followed with the caution about specks and logs in people’s eyes.

This is precisely how it works.

My judgmentalism of you appears so normal and natural that it never occurs to me that I am actually condemning you.  So, while your rush to judgment is a log in your eye–one you really should do something about!–my human tendency to speak out on (ahem) convictions is merely a speck in mine and nothing to be concerned about.

Ain’t that the way?

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What one new pastor told his church

“(I ask) that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

In fact, almost everything depends on unity.

On April 14, 2012, the new pastor, Dr. Charles McLain, stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, Charles had something to say which they needed to hear.  His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

They needed to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

What follows is his written message, verbatim.  (He shared it with us, alongwith permission to share.)

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“We joined that church because they have the best food!”

“The Lord richly gives us all good things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17).

If that verse doesn’t apply to food, it doesn’t mean anything.

This morning, as I write, a minister was telling me about a conversation with a senior adult in his church. They were discussing the last associational senior adult revival and the fellow just couldn’t say too much about it. It was great. The minister asked what made it so special, expecting to hear about souls saved and lives changed.

“The food!” he said. “On Tuesday they had chicken and dressing to die for! And the next day the gumbo and jambalaya was as good as anything I’ve ever put in my mouth!”

I posted that cute little story on Facebook.

Guess what happened.

My preacher friends jumped all over the guy.

“That’s why revival tarries.” “This kind of carnality.”  “Their appetites is their god.”

That sort of over-the-top spirituality.

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