Interview yourself. Discover how interesting (or dull) you are!

“Let every man examine himself….” (I Corinthians 11:28).  The women too. 

Toward the end of each issue, Vanity Fair magazine interviews some celebrity.  The questions they pose are good ones.  Consider answering them for yourself.

Here are the questions in the September 2017 issue–

–What is your idea of perfect happiness?

–What is your favorite journey?

–What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

–On what occasion do you lie?

–What do you dislike most about your appearance?

–Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

–What do you consider your greatest achievement?

–What is your greatest regret?

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Destroyed for lack of knowledge–and loving it

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

There is a reason people reject information that is new or different;  they love to be left alone in their comfortable deceit than to have to deal with all the changes required by the light.

Ignorance is bliss, they say.

The problem–whether with mankind or the redeemed–isn’t exactly a lack of knowledge.  If that were the case, we could remedy the situation by sending everyone back to school.

God would send educators to the church.  Instead, He sent prophets and shepherds.  He sent light-bringers. He sent a Savior.

Neither is the problem that people do not know the truth. Nor that no one has come to tell them the truth.  The problem is not that they have never heard the truth.  The problem is that they have rejected truth when it did come.

They are ignorant because they rejected true knowledge.   This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19).

Not knowing something and rejecting the knowledge of something are two different animals.

Over here is someone in darkness who yearns for the light. It comes and he awakens and all is well.  The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live (John 5:25).

Stumbling in the darkness, they spurn the light offered.

The speaker of Truth comes and they run him out of town.  Or scoff and jeer and mock him.

They crucify Him.

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The kind of preaching we like; the type of preacher we want

Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah.  And there eat bread and there do your prophesying!  But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence.” (Amos 7:12-13).

My journal from a number of years back has this:

Got a letter today from a sweet, humble (really), godly lady who criticized the preaching of our Thanksgiving guest preacher.  She said, ‘Notice what he did last Tuesday night.  He told of the 9 thankless lepers and suggested reasons why they did not give thanks. Many people left our church when he was here because of this kind of preaching.”

Our speaker had been the interim pastor before I arrived. For some 18 months he had ministered to our troubled congregation as they tried to recover from a devastating split.  He had been the essence of faithfulness.

She continued, “Our people want line upon line, precept upon precept.”

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Something kind of wonderful in Mark 12

“After that, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “Now, that is the real deal right there!”  (Okay, that’s not exactly how He phrased Mark 12:43, but it’s the point.)

We who take God’s word seriously sometimes get caught up in the minutiae of word study.  As we isolate a parable or story for our Bible study, teaching lesson, or sermon subject, we often end up missing the larger context.  Mark 12 is a great case in point.

The chapter is a chronicle of one frustration after another for the Lord, starting with the chief priests, scribes and elders confronting and questioning Him at the end of chapter 11. Chapter 12 begins with Jesus’ parable to them, putting in context precisely what they were doing and the danger they were risking.

These however were people of power and influence. They weren’t interested in learning about God from a carpenter of Galilee.  God was their domain.  Teaching was what they did.  Receiving truth and wisdom from a common laborer was something they would not be doing today or any other day.

Mark 12:12 says, “And they were seeking to seize Him.  Yet they feared the multitude…. So they left Him and went away.”

Next came the Pharisees and Herodians, a motley merging of political enemies.  The Pharisees were the “moral majority” of their day, the religious right, while the Herodians were compromisers, Jews who supported the tyrant in the palace for the gain that would flow to them.  They are “sent” by the previous group (see 12:13), thus embodying the line about politics making strange bedfellows. What they have in common is a dislike for Jesus.  They asked their question and got their answer.

“Well!” they must have said to one another. “That didn’t go too well.”

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When a private apology is not enough

“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”  “Why are you telling me this?  Get out there and confess to those you hurt.”

Some repentance is cheap, some apologies all too easy.

A deacon pitched a royal fit in a church business meeting.  I’ve long since forgotten the issue.  Afterward, a visitor came to me and said, “I belong to Such-and-such church.  If one of our members spoke to the pastor the way that man did you, the church would have risen up in arms.  But your people sat there and took it.  That is alarming.”

I suppose they sat there quietly because they’d seen it happen so often. Anyway…

A few days later that deacon came to my office and apologized.

Don’t miss this: The damage he did was very public; his apology was in private.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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“I’m very good at what I do,” she said.

This is all about excellence.  Not perfection, but giving your best, leaving nothing in the locker room, cutting no corners.  Whether we are the janitor in the school, the yardman at the church, or serving the President of the United States. 

She was telling me how she came to make the hard decision to change jobs.

“I was working in the fraud division of a financial company,” she said. “They trained me for the position and I was working hard at it.  But for some reason, I just wasn’t getting it.  And that felt bad.”

“I’m very good at what I do,” she explained.

“So this was a new thing for me.  I went to work feeling uncomfortable, like I was not doing what they had brought me there for.”

“Then, a former co-worker who knew me and worked for a bank, recommended me to her boss.  I interviewed and felt quickly this was where I needed to be.”

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Is God interested in making me happy?

“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

“…And now I am happy all the day” (“At the Cross,” a gospel song in our hymnals).

It’s good to be happy.  I’m all in favor of it, and I think the Lord is also.

However.

God’s primary concern is not in making us happy.  He does not fret because someone is displeased with the job He is doing, someone else is .unhappy with the way a Scripture text is worded, and another is complaining about the weather today.

Pleasing us does not appear to be high on His agenda.  He seems not in the least concerned that some of us do not like His methods or the personnel He has sent in our direction as our teachers, pastors, comforters, companions.

I can just hear it now.  “Lord, are you aware that some of us are unhappy with you?  Doesn’t that concern you?”  He that sitteth in  the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2)

Scripture shows that God is far more interested in pleasing Himself and making Himself happy than in satisfying us.

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Don’t give us your testimony; show us Jesus.

“For this purpose I wrote to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

“I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

I’ve been looking back over twenty years of articles, notes, and journals where I recorded happenings in the churches I pastored.  Some of those events left scars, memories, and lessons enough for a lifetime.  Some people in those stories are forever unforgettable, either for their amazing examples of Christlikeness or for lesser reasons.

Recently on this website, I chronicled the doings of a few people who were angry over nothing, raging all the time, finding fault where none existed, then pinning blame when confronted.  I suggested the reason for this behavior: They are lost.  Unsaved.  “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” says I Corinthians 2:14, “for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he understand them for they are spiritually discerned.”

That says it as well as anything.

Today–a week after posting that piece–I was reflecting on some of those people, a few in particular. And, realizing that most are now passed to their heavenly reward (or lack thereof; not for me to say), I prayed the Lord would be merciful to them.  And at that point, the Lord explained something to me.

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When life peels away everything that defines you, who are you?

“Take heed and beware of covetousness.  For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses”(Luke 12:15).

“What do you do?”  In our society, that’s often the first question people ask.  It implies…

–that you do something in the way of a career.  Woe to the unemployed and those who call themselves homemakers.

–that you are what you do.  That your identity is bound up in what you do to earn an income.  Too bad if you lose your job or retire.  You become a cipher, at least in the minds of some.

If you don’t have a job, who are you?  If, like my wife Bertha, you loved being married to a pastor, when God takes him home and you can no longer fill the role you loved so much–the wife of a pastor–then who are you?

In our world, people’s names were often given in accordance with what they did. They received names like Baker, Cook, Weaver, Smith, Taylor, Hunter, Fisher, Farmer, Shepherd, Miller, Marshall, Ward.

I want to call your attention to a little story found in Luke 12.  Then, I’ll be asking you to use your imagination with me…

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You are somebody! Finding our identity in Christ

“I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

We are loved. We are winners.

“I’m me and that’s good. Cause God don’t make no junk.” –from a poster by a child in a ghetto.  (source unknown)

The man said, “I think my wife’s health problems go back to something in her childhood, as to how she was treated.  She seems to have trouble accepting who she is in Christ.”

It’s always fascinating to consider what gives us our identity.  And what conditions robbed us of the same.

“Smart Aleck” is the biography of Alexander Woollcott, drama critic for the New York Times a long time ago.  Published in 1976, the book has been gathering dust in my library waiting for me to get to it.  I started a few days ago.  Woollcott is said to have been a master wordsmith, which is what made me order the book in the first place.

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