Why reading a book will always be golden

“I was amazed that some words on a page could change your life.” –Testimony of a woman in rehab last Monday night.  She had been in and out of jail more times than she could count, and in prison three times.  These days, she is a solid Christian woman with a strong testimony and a peace that passes understanding.

“I felt I had jewels in my mouth.”  –Frank McCourt, writing about his youth in Belfast.  When a teacher introduced the teenager to Shakespeare, a new world opened for him.  The movie “Angela’s Ashes,” based on McCourt’s book of the same name, showed him lying in the bathtub reading Shakespeare out loud.

In the last week, I have read five books.  Hey, I’m retired and some weeks the calendar is blessedly empty.  Those are great days for grabbing a book and disappearing into another world.

What’s funny about reading all those books last week–my wife thinks it’s more than a little bizarre–is that I read them all at the same time.  Which is to say, I would read one for an hour, then switch to another.  Some nights my bedtime reading was two of the books.  Friends ask if I mix up the story lines.  The answer is that about two sentences into the reading and I’m back in the world created by that author.

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Why your pastor isn’t as good as those professional speakers

On a website devoted to professional speakers, the author gave advice about “that great killer story you love to tell,” and then “the heart-rending windup.”  I imagine every speaker wants one each of those in his messages.

Then, the blogger dropped the bomb.

“After you get your speech down pat and you’ve given it a number of times and feel you’re effective, it’s time to start working on speech number two.”

I laughed out loud.

Speech number two?

These guys have one speech?  One???  And then, when all is going well, they add one more?

Pardon me while I sit down.

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How to be satisfied with your church no matter what

“What did you go out to see?” (Luke 7:25)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)

The other day during the worship service at our church, I had a revelation.

I now know something that had eluded me before.

I know the secret of people who come to church year in and year out and are never dissatisfied with what goes on there.  They like the preacher “enough,” they’re generally satisfied with the programs of the church, and you’ll not hear any carping coming from their direction.

They don’t require much of the church.

That’s it.  That’s their secret.

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“Hello. I’m the pastor of Crock Pot Baptist Church!”

Wait upon the Lord.  Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait upon the Lord.  –Psalm 27:14 

God’s times are not yours.  He doesn’t use the Gregorian calendar.  His alarm clock is broken.  He doesn’t keep regular hours.

Lose the stop watch.  Take a hammer to the timer.  God is not going to order His actions by your schedule.  Forget about showing Him your day-planner.  He’s not impressed.

God in Heaven has His own plans, His own schedule, and His own purposes.

Got that?

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What I look for in a book

I love books.  At this moment, there are 12 beside my bed.  A western novel is on the table, and the others–dealing with Churchill, the Civil War, the presidential election of 1940, and a novel or two which I started but will probably not finish–await my further attention.

Over the past 15 years, as I moved from pastoring to denominational service, and then into retirement, I have given away thousands of books.  Most went to other pastors and friends, some to family, and a great many were donated to local libraries.

But I keep buying books.

My wife understands my need for books and never mentions it. For which I am grateful.

I bought two books yesterday at the store on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, here in Jackson, MS.

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My granddaughter, the waitress, is learning the hard way

“It’s not about you, honey.  Some people will love you more than you deserve, and some will despise you without ever giving you a chance.  You must not take it personally.”  –My advice to my Granddaughter

Erin just turned 21 and earns a living waiting tables at a nice up-scale restaurant in the Mobile area.  The other day, she came home in tears.

The restaurant had been crowded, with long lines of people waiting to get inside.  The kitchen was running behind and diners had to wait an unusually long time for their order.  Erin ran herself ragged all evening.  She specifically thanked people for their patience and apologized for the slow service.  She didn’t have a moment to catch her breath.

This particular table had two young men and a middle-aged guy.  They seemed nice enough.  Since the kitchen was running slow and they had ordered pizzas which had to be made from scratch, requiring at least a 30 minute time frame, several times Erin stopped by to thank them for their kindness and patience and to assure them the pizzas would be out soon.

Then, when they paid their tab, she found out a different side of them.

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My New Year’s gift to you….and to myself

“What scriptures mean the most to you?”

I’m glad you asked.

Last night somewhere between sleep and consciousness, I went over what was going to be “my top ten favorite scriptures.”  That quickly went by the wayside as I realized that I probably have ten favorite texts for every subject you can name!  So, even though this list will be incomplete–since it’s an ongoing part of my daily walk with the Lord, and He’s not through here, not by a long shot!–here is my list of favorite scriptures that define my understanding of the Christian faith, guide my actions as a follower of Jesus Christ, and comfort me when tempted to vary, stray, or weaken.

On the subject of Jesus Christ Himself:

–“I am willing.”  (Mark 1:41).  If you’re looking for three words to sum up the earthly ministry of Jesus, look no further.  Not willing that any should perish, He made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a servant and…..  He was so willing to bless and help, to love and give and forgive.  Why, in Mark 2, He forgives a man his sin who hadn’t even asked for it!  He was so eager to bless.

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The question of questions for Christians with political convictions

Now that the critical elections of 2017 are behind us–and quickly, before some new ones pop up!–perhaps we can discuss this dispassionately.

You are a serious follower of Jesus Christ.  You take Scriptures seriously and believe God’s people have an obligation to be salt and light in this world.  As a result, you exercise your right to vote and you try to influence others to do the right thing.

So far, so good.

Can we talk?

I have a question for those who take their discipleship to Jesus Christ seriously and as a result have strong political views:

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Unless you are (fill in the blank), you cannot be saved.

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).

Here’s an interesting exercise for you.  You might wish to try it with your Bible study group.

Write out the above verse and leave two blanks in it.  It will read: “Unless you are _________ according to ____________, you cannot be saved.”

Then, see how many ways the group can fill those blanks based on the way people pile up obstacles to salvation.

UNLESS YOU ARE…

–baptized you cannot be saved

–using the KJV Bible, you cannot be saved.

–old enough and mature enough to understand everything, you cannot be saved

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Pastors’ wives: How Cissa and Sonya did it well

First, love the congregation, every single one of them, particularly the hard-to-love.  And second, never underestimate the power of your presence.

Two stories of two great ladies.

Cissa Richardson went to Heaven this week.  She was the beloved widow of Pastor James Richardson who served two great churches in our state for some forty years.  James died over 10 years ago.  We were neighboring pastors for years and great friends since the first day we met.

James and Cissa left quite a legacy.  Their three sons–twins Gary and Jay, and younger brother Ian–are all in the Lord’s work.  The twins have been pastors for decades and Ian was first a worship leader and musician and for years has headed the audio-visual department for our state Baptist convention.

This week at Cissa’s funeral. Son Gary told something about his mother I’d never heard.

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