“An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). “Deceiving and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).
I wrote something on an earlier blog calling for transparency and integrity from churches, using as a jumping off point the billboards up and down the Mississippi Gulf Coast which hawk the fun, the shows, the money, the jackpots, etc., they offer without once mentioning the addicted souls, broken lives and destroyed homes that accompany these enticements. In the piece, I was wondering what if the government enforced “truth in advertising” laws that would require them to tell the full story.
That article was directed to the churches. But someone who found it on the internet jumped all over it (and in ALL CAPITALS!) to accuse me of worse things when our churches ask people to give money.
When people cannot see the difference in a church and a casino, forget about trying to reason with them.
Continue reading “Beware of religious people who do not know God” »
“And she gave birth to her first-born son, and….laid HIm in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
One reason God’s people have made so much of this verse, even to the point of inventing harsh innkeepers who slam doors in the faces of the young couple from Nazareth until they find a friendly face who apologetically gives them room in his stable, is that it so perfectly summarizes what the world has done to Jesus ever since: shunted Him off to the side and tried to ignore Him.
Of course, Scripture mentions no innkeepers, harsh or otherwise, and doesn’t even reference a stable. Only a manger, a feed-trough.
I said to a church in rural Alabama this weekend, “Of course, those of us who grew up on the farm know that stables are where you find feed-troughs! There might be one manger outside in the ‘lot,’ what some would call a corral, but the little family will not be seeking shelter in an open cattle pen. So, our vision of Jesus as being born inside a stable is probably exactly right.”
Ever since that time, the world has tried to keep up that practice, crowding out the Lord Jesus and giving Him tiny places in our world and our hearts.
Continue reading “Marginalizing Jesus” »
The title of this piece came from my buddy Jim Graham of Atlanta in a recent email. We’re close to the same age and appreciate so many of the same things–our Lord, our families, our country, our friends, and retirement living. We both love stimulating conversation, to spend an evening with a good book, to take a walk in the park as the sun is setting, and to listen to a good symphony or the harmony of the Everly Brothers.
Jim and I are both enjoying our Autumns.
Everyone knows about autumn as a time of the year. And who doesn’t love that?
Many people agree with Jim and me that autumn is also the best time of life. Consider some ways in which these days–Jim and I are in our early to mid 70s, just spring chickens!–are the very best….
1) We don’t have to go to work. (I am well aware that many seniors do have to work because of a thousand factors, and my heart goes out to them. But most people our ages are fully retired, and if they work, it’s only to do what they love.)
And yes, I am working. I preach every opportunity I get, blog every day, sketch at events to which I’m invited, do a cartoon each weekday for the Baptist Press, and such. But these are labors of pure love.
Continue reading “Autumn: My favorite time of the year and of life” »
Someone–Sister Dee Structive or Brother Big Shott–is stirring up dissension in the church, accusing the pastor of this silliness or that foolishness.
On the surface, their criticism appears to be nonsense, and yet some people will believe anything negative. The congregation is disturbed by this business and outsiders are looking around for other churches to visit.
Somebody ought to do something and do it quickly.
We have said on this website that when someone in the church attacks the pastor and is stirring up strife in the church, a small group of Godly members should visit the troublemaker and do two things: a) ask “what’s going on?” and then b) listen to their complaint. If they have a legitimate beef, or if it appears they may have one, the members of the task force return to the pastor and, with his involvement, begin the process of dealing with it. However, if the individual does not have a sound reason for what they are doing, the visitors kindly but firmly ask them to “cease and desist.”
“Sister Structive, we are asking you to stop this now. It should end.”
To my surprise, several readers went found much to disagree with in this approach.
Continue reading “Why the pastor is the last one who should deal with personal attacks” »
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (I Corinthians 1:27).
The New Testament was written in Koine’ Greek for a reason. God wants the common people (careful now…tread lightly when speaking of “the common people”) to know and understand His truth.
A friend of mine once told his pastor, “Could you preach a little more simply for folks like me? After all, the Lord said to feed His sheep, not His giraffes.”
“Snobbishness” is a loosely understood word that means one thing to Aaron and something entirely different to Zachary. As a Supreme Court justice once said of pornography, however, even if we cannot define it, we know it when we see it.
What follows is one preacher’s note to his preacher friends on guarding oneself against snobbishness, that is, appearing better than others, aloof from the very people we are sent to reach and nurture in Christ.
1) Be careful about telling the congregation–or any audience on the planet!–about the time “When I got my doctorate.” Or, “When the U. S. Jaycees named me one of the ten outstanding young men of America.” Or, “When I won my Rhodes scholarship.”
Continue reading “Things pastors do to make themselves look–and seem–snobbish” »
Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshiping and shooting the (sacred) bull–smiley-face goes here–one of them came out with something like:
“I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God sent me here as the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”
That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel it.
But that pastor is wrong.
If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.
Yet, He never did.
Continue reading “Pulling rank: What some pastors do which Jesus never did” »
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
She said she was 90 years old. Clearly, she was a fiesty little lady, quick to speak up and tell you what was on her mind.
As I began sketching her likeness, making idle conversation and attempting to keep her focus in my direction, I said, “Have you ever been drawn before?”
She said, “WHAT? Have I ever been drunk?”
I laughed and said, “Drawn. Has anyone ever sketched you before?”
A moment later, I said, “Have you ever been drunk?”
She said, “Mind your own business.”
I was spending the weekend at the First Baptist Church of Yazoo City, Mississippi. When the pastor resigned recently for health issues, a longtime friend in that congregation urged the associate pastor to invite me up one Sunday. And, because I frequently do senior events, they scheduled a Saturday night dinner for the older adults where I would sketch and speak.
Continue reading “The people I drew this weekend” »
Anytime a pastor stands in the pulpit to give his opinion on a movie currently playing which he and his wife have just seen, look for trouble.
Some will resent that a pastor goes to the movies. Of those who don’t mind, some will be concerned that he admits it publicly.
Some will be concerned that the movie was not rated G and produced by Good-and-Nice Productions of Hometown, USA.
The balance of the congregation will split between those who agree with the pastor and appreciate his “take” on the movie and those upset because the movie takes liberties with history or offends their pet group, contains a mild profanity or shows the married couple in bed.
“The Butler” is in the theaters now. “Based on a true story” usually means the basic framework is historical but much of the rest has been concocted out of whole cloth. The movie has been out a couple of weeks and so on Labor Day some of my family and I decided to take it in. The reviews we’ve seen have been positive, so we were expecting an enjoyable outing.
Continue reading “The pastor reviews a movie. Uh oh.” »
“Pastor, the minute you decide church must always be exciting is the moment you begin turning the worship services into pep rallies. After that, it all goes downhill.”
I said that on Facebook the other day and enraged a few people.
“Worshiping the Lord should always be exciting,” one person insisted. I replied, “I’m doing the funeral of a 53-year-old man today. It will be comforting, but not exciting.”
I understand where the guy is coming from.
Truth be known, my post probably ticked off the young me, the person I was some 40 years ago.
Continue reading “The excitement factor in church” »
The pastor said to me, “Pray for me. It’s hard out here. But we’re hanging in there, trying not to return evil for evil.”
I teased, “That’s why they pay you the big bucks, to put up with that stuff.” And after a moment’s reflection, added, “It’s why God has to call people into this ministry.”
If it were easy, they’d be lining up to get in on it.
Called by God. Yes, it’s how He fills the ranks of shepherds.
“Now, the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you; and I will make you….” (Genesis 12:1ff.)
“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law…. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush…. (And God said) ‘I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring my people out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3)
“And God said (to Isaiah), ‘Go and tell this people…’” (Isaiah 6:8)
Continue reading “Why the Lord has to call people into this work” »