“Another lazy preacher: The last thing we need!”

I awakened the other morning with this scenario playing in my head.

A young friend was being called into the ministry.  He was trying to get his bearings. In my dream–if that’s what it was–I was saying to him, “Please learn to study.  Learn to discipline yourself.  Because we don’t need another lazy preacher.”

So, as I come to full consciousness, I’m concerned about lazy preachers?

Wonder where that came from.

Do we have lazy preachers?  Of course.  Always have had and always will have.  You see laziness in ministers in a hundred ways, including some of these…

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Taking the lazy way out

When the Bible says something unequivocally with no question and without complication, God’s people are on safe ground saying, “God said this and it’s so.”

Such statements would include salvation by grace through faith, the virgin birth of Jesus, and the inspiration of Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus is attested by all four gospels and Acts, plus the various epistles.

Only those who deny that holy scripture is God’s Word say otherwise.

But when good and faithful followers of Jesus see Scripture passages differently, for one to accuse the other of denying the Word can be most unfair and unChristlike. Rather, they should “man up” and do the adult thing and say, “This is how I see it; many good people disagree.”

In teaching our people, we can say, “God’s people differ on this, but I’d like to share with you what I believe this is saying.”

That’s responsible.

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“What I did for love”–Every believer’s two-sided resume’

“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God:  in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of the truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying and behold we live; as chastened and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).

I can imagine picking up this guy’s resume’ and having it say: “In one of the two churches I served as pastor, I endured a four-hour deacons meeting in which some wanted to lynch me for preaching the gospel.  Not only did I frequently preach revivals in some outstanding churches and baptized hundreds of converts, but my wife became the target of a gossip campaign because she wore a pants-suit to church one night.  So, I think I’m qualified for anything now.”

A full resume’ would tell both sides of our story.

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Church: The power of working together

“Don’t try this alone.”  –advice on a thousand exercise devices.

Years ago, the Readers Digest ran an article “What good is a tree?”

When the roots of a tree touch, a substance present reduces the competition.  An unknown fungus links together roots of different trees, even of dissimilar species.  A whole forest may be linked together.  If one tree has access to water, another to nutrients, a third to sunlight, the trees find a way to share.

We could all take a lesson from the forest.

When I was a teen, someone set out a small longleaf pine in my grandmother’s yard.  Year after year, it remained a dwarf, refusing to grow. After her death, an uncle who owned the property set out hundreds of trees across the front yard. Suddenly, that lone, dwarfed pine had company and began to prosper.

The Lord knew you and I would be needing help in living for Him in this fallen world. So, when He saved us, He “added us to the body” (see Acts 2:41).

God never intended any of us to live this life in isolation.

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What laypeople need to know–and seldom do–about speaking in “big church”

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.

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Relationship problems? Common problem.

“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.

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My New Year’s revolution: “To Abide”

“Abide in Me and I in you” (John 15:4).

Resolve….resolution.

Revolve…revolution.

“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.”

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Perhaps the first lesson: “Lose the perfectionism.”

“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.

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The one room in your house no one else knows about

“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.

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How to recognize God’s voice

“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…

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