Rescuing ourselves from bondage to our 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.

The church lady 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.”

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The three mysteries of divine intercession

“…seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). 

We hear it all the time and we preachers are not shy about proclaiming divine intercession.  One member of the Trinity interceding with the other Two, or even two members of the Trinity interceding with the Third.  If I sound unsure about this subject, it’s because there is much that eludes me.

One.  The mystery of divine intercession: What does it look like?  What’s going on in Heaven when it happens?

This would be a good time for me to describe what I think goes on at the Throne when intercession is taking place.  I’ll pass, thank you.  This is far beyond my poor powers to imagine.

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Those blessed frustrations: How God matures us!

I don’t handle frustrations well. A story or two to make that point…

When we lived in the New Orleans area, a few blocks from my house was a diner which had received rave reviews from the Times-Picayune. The owner, a master chef from some New Orleans restaurant, knows his business, we read. So,  when a pastor friend suggested we meet for lunch, we decided on that cafe.  When he had to cancel at the last minute, I went alone.

I entered, saw the place was fairly crowded, and took a stool at the counter. After maybe two or three minutes, I hailed a woman busing tables and asked for a soft drink. She brought it, I studied the menu, and I waited for a waiter or waitress. Ten minutes later, I dropped a couple of bucks on the counter and walked out. With service like that–okay, a lack of service–they’ll not be in business long. If that is indeed indicative of how things are there.

As Yogi Berra said of a certain restaurant, “Nobody goes there any more; it’s too crowded.”

So….

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They had the greatest message ever, but needed one thing more. So do we.

I told a friend once that if I have gone to seed on anything in Christian theology, it’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m about to qualify that. As essential an element in the Christian faith as it is, the resurrection of our Lord did not end the fears, settle the nerves, conquer the phobias, or break the chains with which the early disciples were bound. It took one thing more.

To be sure, when the Lord Jesus Christ walked out of that garden tomb on the first Easter Sunday morning, it settled a lot of issues. His identity was forever established. His claims were solidly substantiated. His promises had just received the guarantee of Heaven.

When Jesus arose victorious from the grave, His enemies were routed. His opponents were silenced (or should have been, had they possessed a smidgen of integrity). His executioners were shamed. A bamboozled Satan and his imps were beside themselves with rage.

The resurrection of Jesus answers our questions, excites our hopes, and escalates our anticipation. It draws us back to the Scripture, back to the Church, and back to a new reality.

No wonder the disciples’ later preaching centered on the single key ingredient of belief in Jesus’ return from the grave as an essential element of saving faith. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Settle that–that Jesus actually died on that cross, that He lay in that grave from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, then walked out whole and healthy–and so many things fall into place.

Everything, that is, except one. And we see it in the Lord’s disciples, as recorded in John 20.

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They’ve asked you to speak in church. Here’s what you need to know.

This is about what laypeople need to know about speaking in “big church.”  You’ll understand that by big church, I mean you’re addressing a large group in the sanctuary.  And laypeople means non-preachers.

Many non-clergy are outstanding (pun intended) on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers and other educators come to mind.  But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his,her element when suddenly thrust in front of the whole church.

They walk onto the platform (let’s not call it  a “stage”) and stand at the pulpit, then look around.  Wow.  Things sure look different up here, they think. They open their mouth and begin to speak.

Anything can happen.

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How to be a Christian who never offends anyone

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous or extortioners or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  (I Corinthians 5:10)

They accuse me of stirring the pot, of introducing subjects sure to draw fire, of intentionally being controversial.  Nothing I say convinces them otherwise, even when all I did was to state something God’s people hold dear.

Almost all the key doctrines of the Christian faith someone will find objectionable and some will take offense at.

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Things I wonder about Holy Scripture

I love God’s Word.  Love to read it, think about it, talk about it, and preach it.  Oh, and yes, I love to “do” it.  Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  That’s John 13:17.

Even so, I wonder some things about God’s Word.

This might be a good time to pass along something given me a generation ago from a New Orleans lady who had a lapful of questions: “The Lord knows I’m only a wondering child, not a wandering one.”  There is a huge difference.

One: I wonder if the Lord ever wants to put beside particular scriptures the Facebook line: “Just saying.”

I sometimes wonder when to take a teaching literally and when the statement in Scripture was intended to be less than a command, or even simply a side remark.

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When God says ‘no’

Now, when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.  Acts 16:6-7

I was 33 years old and minister of evangelism at the largest, most prestigious church (of our denomination at least)  in the state.  A few months earlier, our pastor had left and the leadership had handed me the assignment of preaching every three Sundays, every Wednesday night, and doing the Tuesday men’s Bible study for 150 fellows. All of that in addition to my regular duties.

I loved it.

One day, the chairman of the pastor search committee visited my cubby-hole of an office.  “Joe,” said Paul Moak.  “Do you believe God wants you to be pastor of this church?”  What a question.  Definitely a stunner that caught me off guard.  But I knew the answer.

“No, sir,” I said without hesitation.

“Neither do we,” he said.  (That seems funnier now than it did at the time.)

“But there’s a movement to make you the pastor of the church,” he said.

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The heart-cry of every child of God

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find…. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God…. (Romans 7:18,24-25).

Any of us can undo all the good we have done at any moment.

No believer is incapable of messing up and doing so royally.

Even though we are saved and saved forever, nothing about that prevents us from doing something truly stupid and harmful.

It’s that knowledge that keeps the faithful man and woman of God ever alert, constantly watching, forever on their knees.

Each believer struggles with our limitations, our humanity, our fallen nature, with what Scripture calls “the old man.”  Scripture says…

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God told me I was to come to your church staff–and other crazy stuff like that.

“Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string….” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Emerson meant well.  But boy, did he ever miss it by a country mile.

Your heart can do crazy things to your guidance system.  Giving it free rein to set the direction of one’s life can be risky.

“Trust yourself” is good advice for some people in some situations.  As a blanket rule for all people in all situations, no sir.  Not even close.

The letter came from a minister of music in the next state.

I see that your church is looking for a minister of music/worship leader.  I serve (name) church in (town, state) and am enclosing my resume.  Not long ago as I was in your city, the Lord told me I was to become your next minister of music.  I look forward to hearing from you.”

That hit me like some woman saying God told her she was to be my next wife.

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