The “as for me” element in preaching

But as for me and my house…. (Joshua 24:15).

As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness…. (Psalm 17:15). 

While reading my way through the Psalms, I was tripped by a little comment I’d read right past the previous hundred times I’ve traveled this landscape. Right in the middle of a discussion of some theological point, the Psalmist will say, “But as for me.”

When he does that, you know you’re getting something personal. This is not theoretical, not philosophical, and not “out there” somewhere. If you are like the rest of us, you perk up at this and get ready for something you can identify with.

Case in point. In the remarkable 73rd Psalm (there’s nothing else like it in all the Bible; if you’re unfamiliar with it, we encourage you to check it out), the writer brackets his discussion with that phrase.

Continue reading

The eternal difference your prayers make

“So, you were the one praying for me!  Thank you!”

In Heaven, two things will happen, I predict–

–1.  People will be coming up thanking you for praying for them.  You barely remember calling out their names to the Father, but He heard and used your prayer and they are living forever because you were faithful.  Sure makes you want to be faithful, doesn’t it?  (See Luke 18:8)

–2. People will be coming up telling you they had prayed for you. And that will answer a question that had bugged you for years:  Was it someone’s prayers that caused those wonderful things to happen in your life?  And now you know. Sure makes you want to be grateful, doesn’t it?

This was brought home to me by a testimony in Christianity Today for July/August 2014.  (I wrote about it then and still treasure it.)

Continue reading

Why we must not quit when God’s people mistreat us

“Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

We hear of it too frequently.

He used to be a pastor. But the people in the churches were so mean–undercutting him, criticizing, backbiting, slandering, and then kicking him out–that it ruined him forever.  He vows he’ll never enter a church again.

If this is how God’s churches are, I want nothing to do with any of them.

Makes me wonder if the Lord even cares.

The variations on that sad theme are endless.

But the result, while tragic, is needless: Some of these “wounded warriors” have given up on the Lord and His church.

No one should ever quit Jesus when God’s people mistreat him.

The Lord told us to expect this. The servant is not above his master. The pupil is not above his teacher.  If they called the Master a devil, how much more should His disciples expect it. (see Matthew 10)

The Lord was crucified by the religious people, some of whom were convinced they were doing God’s work.

What would knock you out of the game?

So what would it take, we ask the Christian workers in the audience, for you to walk away from the Lord’s work and cause you to turn your back on Him?

How badly would they have to treat you to make you give up on Jesus?

Continue reading

The five people you can count on most

If you would take a leadership role in the Kingdom of God, you will be needing fellow workers. You will not be able to do this alone nor will you be asked to do so.

The question will arise as to whom you can trust. You will have to decide the quality of the men and women with whom you are surrounded, particularly in determining your inner circle of leadership and responsibility.

Paul answers this for us by citing the examples of Onesiphorus, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Stephanas, and, if you will, Aquila/Priscilla.  See what he said…

Continue reading

Suffering: But wouldn’t a loving God always please us?

Some guy in Alabama ticked me off.

I was driving back to New Orleans from two weeks of ministry in Tennessee and Kentucky when I bought a Birmingham (AL) News in Tuscaloosa. At a rest stop in Mississippi, I scanned it and was snagged by a letter to the editor written by an outspoken agnostic.

After reading it and steaming a little, I tossed the paper in the trash. Later, wished I’d kept it just for reference here. So I’m going by memory.

The writer wanted the world to know that the tornadoes Alabama had just experienced proves beyond doubt either that there is no God or if there is, He is a tyrant who delights in doing cruel things.

He was clearly proud of his great letter. Betcha he clipped it and is displaying it somewhere prominently in his house.

I’m wondering now if anyone responded to the editor and answered the letter. Probably not. The Bible cautions against answering fools, and this guy surely belongs in that category.

Continue reading

Christians, lose the naivete. This world is not your friend.

Is this vile world a friend to grace, to lead me on to God? (Isaac Watts)

God’s children keep getting surprised.

On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout his religious views without protest from the students or interference from the dean. Let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.

At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. Let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.

Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility that those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ.

It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.

Continue reading

The Apostle Paul’s surprising gift to preachers

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (I Corinthians 2:3)

For reasons I cannot explain, this line from the great apostle has lodged itself in my heart over the past few days. The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate Paul’s admitting it.

In this and every other case where Paul mentions some kind of physical infirmity, we wish we had more information. Was he sick? Ailing? Still healing from previous beatings?

John MacArthur writes: Paul came to Corinth after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, run out of Thessalonica and Berea, and scoffed at in Athens, so he may have been physically weak. But in that weakness, he was most powerful. There were no theatrics or techniques to manipulate people’s response. His fear and shaking was because of the seriousness of his mission. (The MacArthur Study Bible)

I suppose we preachers are a lot like horses and mules and dogs: hit us often enough and we become “gun shy.” We want to stand and deliver with boldness and power, but we’re ready to duck.

Thank you, Paul, for telling us this. And if you will allow me, I will draw a few inferences from it that I find helpful to all of us who stand to proclaim God’s Word.

Continue reading

The one trait great pastors and coaches have in common

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil. –Job 1:1

Job, you have instructed many.  You have strengthened weak hands; your words have upheld him who was stumbling; and you have strengthened the feeble knees.  –Job 4:3-4

Authenticity: Job had it.

It’s my observation that in sports the best coaches and in church the most effective pastors are all authentic.

They are the real deal.

They don’t try to be someone else.  While they have surely picked up traits and lessons and insights from others, they do not do their imitation of other people.  They are themselves.

The word–I love finding the root meaning of words–comes from autos, meaning “self,” and hentes, Greek for worker, doer, author.  So, we might say “authentic” means “coming from the author” or “genuine.”

The Bible is authentic.  It comes from the Original Author (of all things!).

What started me thinking about this was a sports discussion on the radio one morning recently.  A former UCLA coach made the observation after the LSU-Alabama slugfest back in November, that both coaches, Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron, are authentic.  They are originals, copying no one, imitating no one, just being who they are.

Continue reading

Why the righteous suffer

…and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:25)

They’re always listening.

The world is constantly watching when God’s people go through disasters, experience heartaches, and deal with bankruptcies and setbacks.  How will the so-called “God people” handle these trials?  Will they grow angry and curse, lose their temper and drown their sorrows in the bottle? Or will they live up to this heavenly rhetoric they’ve been spouting?

The world wants to know whether our faith in Jesus Christ is just so much talk, just another religious alternative, or the real deal.

God is going to give us the opportunity  to convince them.

This might not be pleasant.  But it will be worthwhile.

Continue reading

The team member who is your biggest headache

“…a thorn in the flesh was given to me …lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

They’re standard equipment, these “thorns in the flesh.” Burrs under the saddle.  Pains in the, well, you know.  They come with the territory.

I’m reading Jack “Dusty” Kleiss’ memoirs of his service in the Second World War.  “Never Call Me a Hero: A legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers The Battle of Midway” is the lengthy title.  I recommend it highly.

As a student of the Second World War, I must have read a dozen or more of such books, memoirs of veterans of this greatest of all conflicts.  In spite of the title, Kleiss deserves the recognition and accolades of a hero as much as anyone ever has.  Again and again he risked his life flying planes of all kinds throughout the Pacific in the war against Japan.  He kept good records, his team did great research, giving us details on the days he served, the planes they flew and the men he served under alongside, which included Admirals Kimmel, Halsey, and Nimitz.

All is good, except for one guy who keeps popping up throughout the story.

Lt. Clarence Dickinson was his thorn in the flesh.

Continue reading