What immaturity does and what to do about it

“For the things which  are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Sketching this kid, I asked how old he was.

“I’m 9,” he said.

Then, making conversation to keep him focused, I said, “Do you like being 9, or do you wish you were 12 or 13?”

I thought I knew the answer. Children always seem to want to be older than they are.

“I like being 9,” he said. “I’m still a kid and can still get by with a lot of stuff.”

Now, there’s a 9-year-old worthy of the name!

We all start out in life as immature. The trick is not to grow attached to what should be a temporary status, to camp out there and resist growing up.

I heard about a two-year-old who rebelled when her parents announced plans for her third birthday party. “I’m two and I don’t want to be three!”

Eventually, after she had stubbornly made that point over several days, they canceled the celebration and went right on saying she was two years old.

Some people love being babies.

The immature–those claiming squatters’ rights on juvenility–are all around us. They will go into debt for expensive toys while skipping payments on the mortgage. They will pour hundreds of dollars into shiny wheels for their pickup when the children need dental work or the family lives in a shack.  They live for their own pleasure and grow pouty when asked to consider others.

Pity the person married to the immature. Pity the employee whose boss has never grown up. Pity the pastor sent to shepherd a congregation of two-year-olds.

Pity the congregation saddled with an immature pastor!

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Tasks that are finished and ships that have sailed

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

In a panel discussion regarding the movie Saving Mr. Banks, actor Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney in the film, tells of the final conversation between Disney and the creator of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers.

“Just after the premiere of the movie, Mrs. Travers said, ‘Oh, we have much work to do on this movie, Mr. Disney. Much work indeed.’

Disney said to her, ‘Pam, that ship has sailed,’ and walked away.”

Hanks says, “It was the last time they ever spoke.”

That ship has sailed.

It’s a wonderful expression to indicate tasks that are complete and should now be set aside, events that are now history and cannot be changed, projects that are finished and cannot be tampered with.

When a movie is “in the can,” as they say, it’s done.

Here are a few other over-and-done things that come to mind, ships that have sailed….

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When God’s people shoot one another

On last night’s news, the Israeli army admits that in the war with Hamas, many of their deaths are self-inflicted, resulting from “friendly fire” as they say.

I know the feeling.

Two hundred years or more ago, the British Navy arrived in the Canadian waters near what is now Quebec. They were instructed to wait for reinforcements before attacking the city, then held by the French.

When the commanding officer saw his men growing bored with the waiting, he decided it would be worthwhile for them to get in a little target practice. In the distance, he could see numerous statues of saints atop the cathedral. “Let’s see you hit those,” he ordered.

By the time reinforcements arrived, the British had used up most of their ammunition, and they were found to have insufficient military resources to defeat the French.

Two hundred years later, Quebec is still a French city, because the British decided to fire on the saints instead of the enemy.

In military parlance, “friendly fire” is when soldiers fire on their own buddies by mistake.

It happens in churches far too often.

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When you feel like an outsider, remember He intends you to be one!

We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him…. (Hebrews 13:10-13)

Have you ever felt like an outsider?

Good. You need to.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not only walking in the footsteps of the Ultimate Outsider but you have been called to a similar way of life.

The Lord Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not (John 1:12). He was an Outsider even in His own place, among His own people, attending His own party.

He came to His world and it did not recognize Him.

He walked into His house, found it to be the haven of thieves and con-men, and proceeded to cleanse it, only to be confronted with demands of “by what authority do you do this?”

You’ve got to love His answer: “It’s my house.”

He came to His people and they crucified Him.

No one taking up his cross and coming after Jesus should be surprised when the world turns its back on him and writes him off as a loser and irrelevant. In following Jesus Christ, one should expect the path to be uphill, the company few, and the flow all in the opposite direction.

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10 ways a pastor can know he’s lazy

My friend and mentor Dr. James Richardson used to tell of a neighboring pastor who constantly griped about how busy he was.  “That was the laziest preacher on the planet,” said James.

In reflecting on over sixty years of service in the Kingdom, I suspect that what sometimes comes across as laziness is more a lack of focus.  When a minister goes through his days without a clear purpose other than reacting to everything that comes up, he will accomplish so little that he and others may see him as lazy.

Here are a few ways a minister can tell he is lazy.  (Synonyms would include apathetic, lethargic, sluggish, slothfulness.  But “lazy” communicates, doesn’t it?)

1. Procrastination. You cannot bring yourself to do the unpleasant tasks, but keep putting off the difficult tasks.

I’ve read that successful people in the business world determine to tackle the hardest, most unpleasant jobs first. They get them out of the way so they can enjoy the rest of their day.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

That would take a self-discipline many of us lack.

2. Impatience. You will not do any ministry that is not easy or does not have an immediate payoff.

If that family down the street says they want to join my church, okay, I’ll go see them. However, if they do not go to church and show no signs of ever wanting to, and a friend suggests we call on them, the lazy pastor will beg off. He just cannot bring himself to do it.

When my daughter lived in a small New Hampshire town, one day I walked with my granddaughters to the Baptist church two blocks down the street.  I informed a staff member that the daddy had no interest in church and the mother, my daughter, was working and going to school all the time, but these children would love church. And they needed a loving congregation.  When I returned home to New Orleans, I wrote that pastor two letters.  Not only did I never get a response, no one ever reached out to my family.  I confess I find it hard to imagine how these people thought they were serving God.  In my mind, they were working for a paycheck and little else. Am I being too harsh?  Maybe so.

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10 ways to know you’re becoming more Christlike

The marks on the back door tell of the growth of the children over the years.

The clothing in back of the closet the kids can no longer wear speak of the growth of your young’uns.

The escalating cost of schoolbooks as the kids move into high school and then into college bear eloquent testimony to the maturation of the offspring.

They’re growing up.

But how can you tell when spiritual growth is taking place? Where are the markers? How are we to know if one’s development as a disciple of Jesus Christ has plateau’ed or is even regressing?

To my knowledge, there is no answer book for this question. There are only indicators.

Here is my list of ten signs–indicators, markers–that we are growing in Christ, that we are getting it right.

10. A Changing Appetite.

My taste for spiritual things is changing. I find myself loving to study the Word of the Lord and looking forward to it. Far from it being a chore, it’s literally fun.

Job said, I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).

At the same time this is happening, my thirst for a trashy novel, an entertainment magazine, a sexy movie or a television celebrity expose’ is drying up. My appetite for spiritual junk food is diminishing. And that’s a good thing!

Radiation for cancer in the early months of 2005 changed my life forever. Since the cancer was under my tongue, the radiation was directed toward key spots in my head and neck. Although the oncological team did everything they could to program the computer to save saliva glands and taste buds, some were zapped and are gone forever. My doctor said, “Food will never taste as good to you again as it used to.” He was right. But that is a small price to pay to go on living and loving and ministering. Some foods–especially dry stuff like chips and fries and breads–have almost no taste. On the other hand, my taste for ice cream and sweets came back with a passion! There’s probably a spiritual lesson in here somewhere.

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7 laws of servanthood in the Kingdom

“I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).   “A disciple is not above his teacher or a slave above his master” (Luke 6:24). 

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, Rudy and Rose traveled to New Orleans to help.  Unable to find a place to serve, Rudy walked into the kitchen of Williams Boulevard Baptist Church and volunteered.  That church was strategically situated next to the Highway Patrol headquarters which was hosting hundreds of troopers from the nation, as they protected the darkened city. The church had become a hotel for the troopers and the women of the congregation were serving three meals a day.  They welcomed Rudy and assigned him to the garbage detail.

Not exactly what he had in mind.

Prior to this, Rudy had been pastoring a church in southern Canada.  When he saw the suffering of our people on television–entire neighborhoods flooded, thousands homeless, people being rescued off rooftops–he resigned his church, sold his gun collection to fund the move, and he and Rose came to help.

Now, after all that sacrifice, he ends up emptying garbage cans.  By his own admission, Rudy was developing an attitude problem.

One day he was lifting a large bag of garbage into the dumpster.  The kitchen workers had been told not to put liquid garbage into the bags, but someone didn’t get the message. As Rudy was hoisting it up, the bag ripped and all kinds of kitchen leftovers showered down over him–gumbo, red beans and rice, gravy, grease, whatever.  

Drenched in garbage from head to foot, Rudy stood there crying like a baby.

“That’s when the Lord broke me,” he said later.  “I told the Lord, ‘If you just want me to empty garbage cans for Jesus, I’ll do it.’”  

That was a Thursday.  That Saturday night late, a minister from that church phoned.  “Rudy, our pastor is sick. They tell me you are a preacher.  Can you preach for us tomorrow morning?”

That turned the corner.

In time, Rudy became pastor of one of our churches.  He turned his congregation into a center for training teams to go into the devastated areas sharing the love of Christ and the message of salvation.

The Lord gave Rudy and Rose French an unforgettable ministry to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  But it all began with his “baptism of garbage.”

You will be a servant.

You have no choice if you are to follow the Lord Jesus.

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The part of salvation most people overlook

It’s risky talking about the typical anything in church–people are as varied as their fingerprints, voice patterns, and DNA–but once in a while, it’s safe to draw a few general conclusions. Here’s one:

The average Christian who goes forth to witness for the Lord leaves out fully one-half of the equation between God and man.

Here’s what that means.

Let’s suppose I decide to join my favorites, the New Orleans Saints football team. For many years I lived about two miles from their facilities, and pastored some of the players.  But, let’s say one morning, I drive down, park my car and walk inside. A guard meets me.

“I’m here,” I tell him. “It took some doing, but I finally relented. I’m ready to give myself to this team.”

Being of a suspicious bent, the guard looks me up and down and says, “What are you talking about, mister? Why are you here?”

“I’m joining the Saints,” I say. “I’ve heard by the commercials that you need the support of the community. So, I have studied up on everything–talked to people, read the books, watched some games on tape–and I am now ready to join the team.”

“Oh, you are, are you?” he says.

“Yes sir,” I announce confidently. “In fact, I want Gayle Benson (she’s the owner) to know that I trust her. I believe she has the good of the community at heart. And the coaches and players? Well, they are the best. This is a big day for me.”

“There is only one problem, mister,” says the security guard.

“How could there be a problem?” I ask. “I think I’ve got everything figured out.”

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Turning putdowns into motivation

Jesus said, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” No prophet is welcome in his own hometown (Luke 4:24).

John Fogerty’s group Creedence Clearwater Revival is unforgettable to anyone who has owned a radio in the last 50 years.  A few years back, in an interview with newsman Dan Rather, Fogerty was remembering a key moment in the 1960s.

The group was one of many bands to perform at a particular event.  As the final group to warm up, and thus the first band to appear on stage, suddenly CCR found they had been unplugged.  John Fogerty yelled to the sound man to plug them back up, that they weren’t through.  The technician did so reluctantly, then added, “You not going anywhere anyway, man.”  Fogerty said, “Okay.  Give me one year.  I’ll show you.”

One year later, the group was so hot with hit record after hit record (“Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising”) that “we were too big to play in that place any more!”

Turning a sarcastic putdown into a healthy sic ’em!

I’m remembering the first day I began pastoring a church on Alligator Bayou some 25 miles west of New Orleans.  In April of 1965 I was in my first year of seminary.  The church was running 40 in attendance, and had done so for the two decades of its existence.

After the service, I’m shaking hands with worshipers as they exit the building.  Behind me, coming through the doors, two men were talking.  They had no idea I could hear them.  One said, “Well, this little church is doing about all it’s ever going to do.”

The other fellow agreed.  But it was like a spark to my powder keg.  Everything inside me went on full alert and I said, “We’ll show you!”

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My sin is just a little thing

A pastor in Haiti tells about a fellow he knew who wanted to sell his house for $2,000. In time, he found a buyer, but the man could scrape together only half the asking price. The owner agreed to sell for that amount but with one reservation: he would continue to own one nail above the front door.

A couple of years later, the first fellow decided he wanted to repurchase the house. The new owner declined, saying, “I like this house; I don’t want to sell.”

The previous owner found the carcass of a dead dog on the street and hung it from the nail he still owned above the front door. Soon the stench became so strong no one could go in or out of the house, and the family had to leave. They sold the house to the former owner.

The Haitian pastor said, “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making our lives unfit for Christ’s habitation.”

–I sure am enjoying my new life in Christ. Bible study is great, my new friends at church are wonderful, and I’m loving the new relationships. I wish I’d done this years ago. Some nights I’m down at the church til 10 o’clock with my friends there. Sometimes we are praying, studying the Bible, or working on various projects. I hope no one finds out what I’m watching on the internet at home. I know it’s called pornography, but it’s such a little thing and as long as no one knows, what can be wrong with it?

–My wife and I have this wonderful relationship. After 20 years of marriage, we know each other completely and have learned to work together as a team. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s so good with our kids, and I’m always proud of her when we go out in public. I don’t want her to find out about the harmless little flirtation I’m having with this girl at the office, though. She wouldn’t understand.

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