“Don’t draw my wrinkles!”

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!”” »

Tell anxiety to “Get back in your hole!”

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!”” »

My one question to the Ashley Madison registrants

“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….

Continue reading “My one question to the Ashley Madison registrants” »

When God’s people do not live in the word, many things happen. All of them bad.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

The Lord never intended for His Word to collect dust on a table in your back bedroom.

People paid for your right to own a Bible in your own language with their very lives.

What are you doing about that?

Christians who own numerous Bibles which they rarely open are thumbing their noses at the saints of old who paid the ultimate price.

This hard-won treasure lies buried under the dust and detritus of your life.

Continue reading “When God’s people do not live in the word, many things happen. All of them bad.” »

Your weakness is no problem

“He helps us in our weakness….” (Romans 8:26)

I can hear him now: “O Lord, I am so weak.  I am so pitiful, Lord.  How you can ever use a nothing like me is beyond me, Lord. I’m so ignorant, so fearful, such a sinner.”

I was soon tired of his praying and all I was doing was listening.  I wondered how the Lord felt about it.

I think I know.

He takes it in stride.  He knew from the beginning who we were. Nothing about us surprises Him.

God’s word says, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

We keep getting surprised on discovering it.

Continue reading “Your weakness is no problem” »

Nothing for me, thanks

At the end of a long day of touring the big city, the country boy is said to have knelt by his bed and prayed, “Lord, we saw a lot of things today. But I thank you I didn’t see a thing I want.”

“The ruler of this world is coming, and He has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).

Toward the end of His earthly ministry when our Lord was preparing the disciples for the difficult days ahead, throughout this Upper Room Discourse (John chapters 13-16), Jesus assured them He would not be leaving them as orphans. The Holy Spirit would be arriving in full force to supply everything they would be needing.

They should expect difficult days, He said. And make no mistake, He says, the devil is coming, too.  (Perhaps He spotted that fallen angel peeping up from a garbage can somewhere.)

Continue reading “Nothing for me, thanks” »

When we backslide, a dozen things happen, all of them bad

“The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15)  

What started this was a note from a fellow who took issue with something I said about the church.  He had no use for the church, he said. Every church he’d ever attended preached a shallow message, the sermons were mind-numbingly boring, and the people were dull and listless.  After venting, he wondered if I’d be interested in some essays he’d written about the church.  I declined.

In our exchange, I said, “Could I tell you something that happened to me?  IEven though ‘ve been preaching for over half a century, at least twice during that time, I have gotten out of fellowship with the Lord.  What we call “backsliding.”

And when that happened, I noticed something surprising.  I became negative about my fellow church members and critical of the other ministers.  Then, when I humbled myself and repented, I saw them in a new light and found myself loving them. That was a fascinating thing to learn.

This was as gentle a way as I could find to tell the man that my money is on his being in rebellion against God. In his backslidden state, he is down on the Lord’s people.

Backsliding.  Interesting term, isn’t it?  It says what it is, and needs little explanation.

Continue reading “When we backslide, a dozen things happen, all of them bad” »

Rescue your life from bondage to your emotions

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. ” (Galatians 5:16)

Brothers and sisters.  If you would be spiritually mature and successful in the Christian life, you must rescue your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions.”  –J. Sidlow Baxter, speaking to Mississippi Baptists in the mid-1970s.

She said to me. “If I don’t feel like doing something, my heart would not be in it, and the Lord said we are to serve Him with all our heart. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

I said, “So, if you don’t feel like reading your Bible or going to church or apologizing to a neighbor, you don’t do it.  Right?”

She: “Right.  It would be hypocritical.”

Me: “Well. May I ask you, do you ever wake up on Monday morning and not feel like going to work?  Or, when you were a teen, were there early mornings when you did not feel like getting up and going to school?”

She: “That’s different.”

Me: “How is it different?”

She: “It just is.”

Her name is legion.  A million clones believe as she does.  And the most telling thing about her lazy philosophy is how she refuses to examine it to see if it might be flawed.

Continue reading “Rescue your life from bondage to your emotions” »

False guilt: How to inflict it; How to safeguard against it

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home.  So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the door way, and He was speaking the Word to them” (Mark 2:1-2).

The pastor walks to the pulpit, opens the Word, and reads that text. Closing the Bible, he peers over his spectacles at his congregation–filling perhaps half the pews in the auditorium–and begins.

“Did you see what happened here?  The word got out that Jesus was in town and people rushed to hear Him.  You don’t read anywhere about them being told to come. There are no commands given here for those people to assemble together.  And yet, they came. They overflowed the house, so eager were they to meet Jesus and hear His Word for them.”

“Now, contrast that with people today.  They just don’t come to church like that.  If they did, we would not have room in this building to hold all the people.”

From there, this man of God who holds a black belt in guilt, slams the people who did get up and come to church today because some did not.

This is the cheapest kind of preaching.  And the easiest.

Continue reading “False guilt: How to inflict it; How to safeguard against it” »

The church’s dirty little secret

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there…” (Ephesians 4:14).

“Church is the only place on earth where people can throw hissy fits and get away with it.”  –a friend serving his first church after seminary.

I told my minister friend I was sorry he had to learn this dirty little secret about church life.

I asked for his story.  He had two.

A church member attending his class complained because she could not find her workbook. The pastor told her he had borrowed it for another class, and she was welcome to use his.  She said, “Okay. I’ll go home then.”

And she stalked out.

The minister said, “Would she have done that at work?  At the doctor’s office? I think not.”

But she had no problem with putting her immaturity on full display at church.

Continue reading “The church’s dirty little secret” »