By laypeople, I mean non-preachers.
By speaking in church, I mean before large groups of the Lord’s people.
Many non-clergy are outstanding on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers come to mind. But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his element when suddenly asked to deliver a talk in front of the whole church.
Marlene said to me, “I’m sorry I took the entire service, Pastor. But the Lord was leading me.” Translation: She really got into her talk and couldn’t control it. As a young pastor, I had invited church members to share testimonies in the morning worship service, something along the lines of 5-7 minutes. (Later, I learned to interview the individual and retain hold of the microphone the entire time!)
Since Marlene had not prepared adequately, once she got going, she couldn’t find a convenient stopping place. She kept on for a full 40 minutes.
Personally, I would not blame my failure to prepare on the Lord.
I see it happen all the time. It’s almost embarrassing.
Continue reading “What laypeople need to know–and seldom do–about speaking in “big church”” »
“But I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
They’ll be having the strangest high school football game near here this fall.
The high schools at Bogalusa and Amite, two small towns an hour or so above New Orleans, will play one another on the football field, the way they normally do, but with one huge difference.
The stadium will be empty.
No fans will be allowed near the game.
Continue reading “Relationship problems? Common problem.” »
“Abide in Me and I in you” (John 15:4).
“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:7).
A pastor I know asks the Lord for a one word theme for his church that year. One time it was “one,” referring to unity, and another year it was “missions.”
The word the Lord has given me for the year 2016 is “abide.” Or, to say it another way, I feel “called” to abide in Him this year as never before.
My threefold goal for this year can be stated: “I will abide in Christ; I will let His word abide in me; and I will abide in the moment.”
Continue reading “My New Year’s revolution: “To Abide”” »
“Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The goal is perfection. Of course.
However, you will not attain it in this life.
That does not change the goal. It just means we keep trying, keep aiming high, and never stop getting up from our failures and trying again.
What we have here is a paradox: The goal is and always will be perfection, but we are not to be perfectionists.
We are sinners. Flawed humans of whom it is said, “There is none righteous, no not one.”
That’s the reality. We fall short.
The goal is heaven. But we are earthlings.
But we are going to heaven. We will see Him. We will be like Him. And we will finally be perfect.
That’s Scriptural. It’s the reality.
But in the meantime, we’re here.
Continue reading “Perhaps the first lesson: “Lose the perfectionism.”” »
“I’ve got a secret!” –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.
Recently, a man I know wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.
“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place? The guest is impressed. He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”
“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter. If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”
That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.
They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.
It’s about family secrets.
Everyone has them, he said.
Continue reading “The one room in your house no one else knows about” »
“The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4).
The problem, says a friend, is that the voice of the Lord sounds a lot like me.
Maybe for him. Not for me.
In speaking to my heart, God has a tendency to say things I never thought of, revealing insights new to me, calling me to tasks outside my comfort zone. Not once has He asked if i would “like” to do something or “find something convenient.”. He commands; I obey. It’s what servants do. His way is hardly the obvious, rarely the easiest and never the smoothest, but always the wisest and smartest. My constant prayer is “Not my will but Thine be done.”
I wrote that on Facebook last night. Then, this morning while doing my pre-dawn walk, the Lord kept it on my mind.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. The way to tell that the voice you are hearing in your spirit is the Lord and not yourself involves the following…
Continue reading “How to recognize God’s voice” »
(I send this forth in all sincerity and with the kindness of Christ. If you disagree, please respond graciously also. Let’s see if Godly people can have a serious and Christ-honoring discussion about this hotly debated subject. Thank you.)
Let me set the table with something the Lord Jesus said. When the disciples returned from preaching with glowing reports of amazing victories over the devil, our Lord called them back to earth, so to speak, with this:
“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you. But rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
See what He did there? The Lord changed the basis of their joy and thanksgiving from something that fluctuates–like the visible results of missions, which can be good or bad, up and down–to something permanent, our salvation.
Jesus thought our salvation was secure. Otherwise, wouldn’t He have chosen some other basis for our joy?
No other conclusion is possible. Jesus clearly thought salvation was a one-time-and-done proposition. Something permanent, solid, irreversible.
As far as I am able to tell, you will not find one place in the utterances of the Lord Jesus that say otherwise.
Continue reading “10 questions for those who reject “Once Saved, Forever Safe.”” »
I’ll be sketching a long line of people at a church dinner or community party, and in the course of an hour or two will hear it a dozen times.
“Don’t draw my wrinkles.”
Usually I laugh it off. “You don’t have any wrinkles.” Or I tease that “I take the wrinkles from the women and give them to the men.”
Sometimes I say, “Hey, they don’t call me ‘Botox Joe’ for nothing!”
Why do people hate facial wrinkles so much?
Some child called them “crinkles.”
Continue reading ““Don’t draw my wrinkles!”” »
A friend once wrote a book titled “Down with Anxiety.” The contents were excellent and the suggestions were helpful, but I teased him that the title was a real downer!
Scripture has two primary texts dealing with anxiety, that I know of. Doubtless there are many others, but these two have meant a great deal to me, personally…..
First, the lesser known of the two…
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
That’s self-talk. And it comes highly recommended.
The Psalmist knows about anxiety. He is saying: “Get back down there, anxiety! Go back to bed! Quit worrying! You’ve been blessed far more than you deserve. So, how about being strong and stopping this needless worrying.”
Anxiety, they say, is worry in search of a reason. Or perhaps, fear in search of a cause.
Continue reading “Tell anxiety to “Get back in your hole!”” »
“What things were gain to me, those I have counted loss for Christ…. all things loss…. count them as rubbish….” (Philippians 3:7-8)
Rubbish may not be the best translation of skybala, a word found only this one time in the New Testament. Various scholars make it “refuse, rubbish, leavings, and dung.”
Dung. Get it? Our culture has stronger names for this. (Someone asked Bess Truman about Harry’s use of the word manure. “Can’t you get him to say something instead of ‘manure’?” She said, “You don’t know how long it took me to get him to say ‘manure’!”)
Skybala is manure. Dung. Human refuse. Okay….
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