“You’re going to be needing this,” said the Holy Spirit.

“Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.  Surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Sometime around 1996, our minister of education installed a desktop computer in my office.  “You’ll be needing this,” he said.

He was more right than either of us could have ever imagined.

Then, sometime around the year 2002, my son Marty, knowledgeable about computers in ways and depths that elude and astonish me, emailed me. “I have reserved www.joemckeever.com for you.”  He added, “You’re going to be needing it in the future.”

I scarcely knew what a domain was.  But I thanked him.

The website sat there unused for 2 years.

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Be ready for anything: A theology of surprises

“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Anyone deciding to start following Jesus should buckle his seat-belt and prepare to be surprised. Nothing is as you expect it to be.

Consider such statements as…

–“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

–“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

–“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

When I asked my wife for the scripture that comes to mind on this subject, she said, “When Naomi returned from Moab widowed and childless, she said to Ruth, ‘I went out full but the Lord has brought me back empty.’ (Ruth 1:21.)  She had no idea the Lord was about to put her in the lineage of the Messiah, something far better than she could ever have asked or planned or imagined.”

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The Holy Spirit, my editor

“And when He comes, He will guide you into all truth…”  (John 16:13)

A publisher once sent me a book to review for unknown reasons.  The writer at one time had belonged to a church I had pastored, so maybe that was it. (Later, I was to learn that publishers ask authors to give them a list of people they want to review their book and comment.  So, clearly, it was the writer’s idea.)

My review was not what they had wanted. I said, “He had a great idea.  He makes some excellent points. But he desperately needed an editor.”

They never replied and never again asked me to review anything.

An editor can be a writer’s best friend.  It is not politeness that prompts authors to praise their editor in the preface of their books.  A good editor can cut through the verbiage, point out flaws in reasoning, find inaccuracies, and question claims. A good editor can spot a weakness in the plot and suggest a dozen ways to make the book better.

Most of us who try to write and then self-publish (which is what we are doing on the internet) serve as our own editors.

The result is often embarrassingly bad. I will read something from this blog written weeks earlier and spot typos or awkward sentences (the result of my attempts at self-editing, when I tried to cut out excess verbiage or redundancies by combining sentences and made a mess of it).

I read those and think, “I wrote that? Man, I need an editor.  Or a wife.”  (Please smile.)

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Leave room in your theology for mystery

“…I know not; God knows.”  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Some things you will never figure out in this life.

Some mysteries you will eventually see–or the Spirit will reveal them to you or someone much smarter than you will explain it to you–but you haven’t so far.

Until then, humility is the order of the day.  (And, yes, afterwards, humility is still in order.)

Here’s one that has me going.

In Romans 8:26, one of my favorite “prayer” verses, after informing us that “we do not know how to pray as we should”–I knew it; I’m just surprised that Paul admits it!–and after saying “The Spirit also helps us in (that) weakness”–we read that “the Spirit Himself also intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Okay. That sentence carries mystery enough to occupy me for the next few years.

There’s more.

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Stifling the urge to correct others

“Convince, rebuke, exhort….” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Winston Churchill’s wife told him that loosing the election may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened.”

That statement from an online preacher’s magazine set off my inner alarm. The proper word is not “loosing,” but “losing.”

As an old high school English teacher, I know a little about these things.  And I know that these things matter.  (That is not to say I don’t slip up occasionally. I definitely do.

However….

A couple of days ago, someone wrote to Smiley Anders’ column in our paper to bemoan the wrong placement of the word “only” in conversation and print.  Someone may say, “There were five boys, but I only gave quarters to two of them.”  See the problem? “Only” belongs before “two of them.”  It should say, “There were five boys but I gave quarters to only two of them.”

Two days later, Smiley says the language maven wrote a followup note to say that the very day her gripe ran in his column, the editorial cartoon violated the “only rule,” with that word in the wrong place.

And I’m thinking, “Get over this, lady.  If you go through life correcting everyone’s English, you have taken on a thankless job and unachievable task.”

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Rescue your life from bondage to your emotions

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. ” (Galatians 5:16)

Brothers and sisters.  If you would be spiritually mature and successful in the Christian life, you must rescue your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions.”  –J. Sidlow Baxter, speaking to Mississippi Baptists in the mid-1970s.

She said to me. “If I don’t feel like doing something, my heart would not be in it, and the Lord said we are to serve Him with all our heart. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

I said, “So, if you don’t feel like reading your Bible or going to church or apologizing to a neighbor, you don’t do it.  Right?”

She: “Right.  It would be hypocritical.”

Me: “Well. May I ask you, do you ever wake up on Monday morning and not feel like going to work?  Or, when you were a teen, were there early mornings when you did not feel like getting up and going to school?”

She: “That’s different.”

Me: “How is it different?”

She: “It just is.”

Her name is legion.  A million clones believe as she does.  And the most telling thing about her lazy philosophy is how she refuses to examine it to see if it might be flawed.

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Adjusting to the new reality

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I had to rewrite my resume’ today for our blog and for a program where I’ll be speaking soon.  That’s when I realized that somewhere the material should state that I was recently widowed.

How exactly does one do this? And what’s the best way? And is it absolutely necessary? And why does it hurt so badly to type in those words?

One of the decisions I find myself making daily is whether or not to tell the person I’m talking with that everything has changed in my life.  Does the lady at the dry cleaners need to know? Margaret never came in, so they didn’t know one another.

I told a complete stranger at Walmart today.

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Only one thing missing

“God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof….” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Former U.S. Senator John W. Warner used to tell of an experience during his term as Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy (1969-72).  During a visit to an unnamed foreign country, he was impressed by the majestic World War II cruiser on display in the harbor of the capital city.  This major component of the country’s defense system looked to be everything one would expect with its gleaming brass gun mounts, its sparkling paint, its bright signal flags.

When Mr. Warner asked for permission to come aboard and inspect the ship, a routine request almost always granted, he was surprised as the captain nervously informed him that this would not be possible.

Later, an aide told Warner the reason for the denial.

The ship was a sham.

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