Preaching about America in the worst possible way

Preacher Driftwater told me, “I want to preach about America in the worst way.”

I told him it’s been done.

What he said is not what he meant, of course.

The worst way to preach about America is negatively.

“The world is going to hell.” “America is decaying from within.”  “The country is becoming socialist.”  “The president is our worst enemy.”  “The Supreme Court is ruining America.”  “The home is breaking down. Marriage is a thing of the past. You can’t get a good two-dollar steak any more.”

Okay, strike that last one.

The U. S. Supreme Court regularly hands down some strange rulings, most  of which generate a backlash.

However, this being a constitutional government, we are stuck with their decision.

Does their weird ruling mean the United States is through? Will God write ‘Ichabod’ over what used to be a great country?  Should we preachers deliver its eulogy from our pulpits?

Stay with me here…

When a friend sent his sermon outline for the July 4th message he planned to preach–it was mostly a litany of what’s wrong with America–he was not asking for my opinion. He said, “What do you think is the future of America?”

I mulled that over a few hours before replying. Then I did something he had not asked for.

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The remedy for “ain’t it awful” preaching

“We preach Christ….God’s power and God’s wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:23-24).

Rick Warren says a lot of what pastors are feeding their people is “ain’t it awful” preaching.

Couple of years back, guest preaching in a church, before I rose to speak, a member of the flock with “a gift for continuance,” as a friend put it, addressed the congregation on the latest Supreme Court ruling concerning marriage.  The lady was upset, and she had a bad combination: strong convictions and the gift of gab. She went on and on about the sad state of affairs in this country.

Ain’t it awful.

To hear her tell it, the country is going down the tubes, the Supreme Court is out of hand, our freedoms are all in peril, the end is near, and God’s people are in huge trouble.

She said that and then sat down.

I had to follow it.  Moments like that, you do not envy the preacher.

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What the Bible does not need from you or the government

A Louisiana state legislator had a bright idea. Since that state, like all the others, has an official state bird (the brown pelican), an official flower (the Louisiana iris), plus an official fossil (the petrified palmwood, whatever that is), why not have an official book and make it the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Great idea, huh?

He must have thought so.

The (presumably) well-intentioned lawmaker introduced the bill to make this official and promptly announced it to the world. Most everyone seemed to react in surprise and some with a good deal of negativity. “This is the last thing we need,” many felt.

And they were right.

But this being Louisiana, not my state of origin but the one where I lived for a full 30 years, the bill actually cleared a house committee even though opponents predicted it would attract lawsuits. “Adopting the Bible as our official book is tantamount to making Christianity the official religion,” one representative said.

I imagine that was the whole idea.

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On July 4, while waving your flags, give thanks for this…

A fellow interrupted our Facebook discussion on apostasy/faithfulness in my denomination to slam various denominational leaders and then veered a half-mile off-subject onto his lasting loyalty to the Confederate cause.   Each year, he said, he travels to the Confederate cemetery back at home and honors the people, the cause, the flag, etc.

I don’t know the guy, so this is not so much to him  as it is to all those unreconstructed Southerners who still cannot get past the CSA, who idolize Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, and who would die for the Stars-and-Bars before they would the Stars and Stripes.

We have no argument with honoring the dead.  I’ve stood at the gravesites in Columbus Mississippi’s Friendship Cemetery and shed more than one tear for those on both sides buried there.

But no matter your position on the Southern Cause, my friend, there is something you should give thanks for.

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10 reasons not to pray for Donald Trump–and one “huge” one for

All right. It’s Wednesday, the day after.

If you stayed up for the election returns last night, you’re experiencing something like a hangover today.

Donald Trump has been named President-elect of this country.

Like it or not, he won.  And half the country does not like it, let us admit.

Which statement we could just as easily make if Hillary Clinton had been elected instead.  Half the country either way.  The very definition of divided.

I want to say a word to my friends who are trying to get their minds around this development which all the polls and most of the media said would not happen. 

Next January, Donald Trump and his wife Melania will move into the White House and he into the Oval Office.  Everything inside you weeps at the thought.

When friends (like me) urge you to pray for Mr. Trump as we are commanded, something inside you rebels at the thought.

Here are some reasons that may explain why some among us do not wish to pray for the man…

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“Honor the king.” And other impossible commands.

“Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (I Peter 2:17)

The Lord seems to delight in calling His disciples to do impossible things, actions which the flesh rebels against, the world scoffs at, and we sometimes question.

I expect He’s trying to shock us out of our comfort zone and into the freedom of the Spirit where obedience to Him is as natural as breathing and where we do our best work.

His is a big job.  To our detriment, we find ourselves questioning most of our Lord’s commands and dragging our feet about obeying some in particular.

For most, the four brief commands of I Peter 2:17 rank among the least doable and most unpleasant.  Nor are we allowed to dismiss them as “not from Jesus but from Peter.” We either believe in the inspiration of Holy Scripture or we do not.

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At judgement, I seriously doubt if the Lord is going to ask how you voted

He’s going to ask what you did.

Recently, in the ongoing clamor about the upcoming election, some Christians have gone off the rails insisting that while there is much to dislike about Mr. Trump, in voting for him they will not have to stand before the Lord one day to give account for voting for the child-murdering, America-betraying, money-grabbing (et cetera, et cetera) Hillary Clinton.

I have a single thought about that, and it’s this.

Instead of asking how you voted, the Lord is far more likely to ask something else, something far more incriminating:  Something like, What did you do?

I’m not faultless in this regard, let me say up front. I’m a preacher and thus a member of a profession which talks for a living.  We are all liable to say more than we are doing, to preach what we are not living up to yet.  However…

I would like to ask a few questions to those who are so dead-set on not voting for the candidate who endorses Roe v. Wade and (ahem) a woman’s right to choose.  I understand you are concerned about the unborn, and thank you for that.  I am, too.

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What a pastor should tell his people about this election

Many say there has never been such an election as this.

Whether that’s the case or not depends on when you lived.  John Adams felt that if the country elected Thomas Jefferson as president, it was all over.  Much of the country felt in 1860 that if Abraham Lincoln was elected, the nation could not survive.  It almost didn’t.  And throughout FDR’s four terms, people spoke of him in the bitterest of ways, calling him a dictator, saying whoever assassinated him was doing the nation a favor.

We’ve always had tough elections and flawed candidates.

And now–in 2016–we have the latest incarnation of flawed candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

An evangelist friend said this week that he finds both candidates repulsive.  He plans, however, “to hold my nose and cast my vote” on November 8.

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Observations on politics, race, and other non-controversial subjects.

When I posted a cartoon on Facebook, even though it was innocuous and intended strictly for laughs, the barbs were quick in arriving.  A friend said, “Your politics are showing.”

I should have expected it.

Some people see offense where none is intended. People will read meanings into artwork that the “real” artists never intended.  Ugly as well as beauty seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

Some would say that I am naïve, that anyone who thinks he can make a statement involving the President or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and not have it taken to the full extremity of meaning is not living in the real world.

If that’s the case, I hate that about us. Whatever happened to our sense of humor?

I have no trouble showing my politics.

In fact, I’ll tell you where I am at the moment.

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My favorite patriotic story

It was July 4 in our Mississippi town–possibly in other places too–and I was doing what we pastors often do, even on holidays, heading to the local hospital to check on a church member in crisis.  Along the way, I flipped on the radio and found myself listening to a patriotic rally being aired by the station in Houston, Mississippi.

A candidate for sheriff was speaking.

“One morning recently, I was driving the back roads in the southern part of the county looking for voters.  All morning long, I kept passing the same little yellow car.  I figured it was another candidate out trying to scare up votes.

“At lunchtime, I stopped at a country grocery and bought a soft drink and took my sandwich outside under the shade tree. A few minutes later, that same yellow car pulled up. The driver got out, went inside and bought some lunch, and came out and sat down under the same tree.

“Making conversation, I said, ‘What office are you running for?’

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