“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3).
You cannot do this on your own.
Don’t try this by yourself.
The Christian life should come with a warning label.
“Try this without the Scriptures as your constant guide and you will fail.”
Many a well-intentioned child of God has gotten off on a detour in life by denying themselves the guidance of a daily time with an open Bible. Some have strayed into wickedness because they lost their spiritual compass. Millions have lapsed into a religion of feelings and opinions and hunches due to their ignorance of God’s Word.
–I met some women who told me they no longer worship with other Christians. One said, “God showed me that I am the church.” Because they did not know their Bible (or had rejected what they did know), they turned their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
We cannot say this too strongly: he who rejects the Lord’s people is rejecting the Lord Himself. See Luke 10:16.
Continue reading “Living for God without reading your Bible? Don’t even try it!” »
(At the request of the editor of a magazine we referenced in this article, we are removing all references to a recent event concerning them.)
Imagine this scenario.
I get a letter from the Honda Financial Services each month. That part is not imaginary. At the end of 2012, I purchased a Honda CR-V for my wife and me. We paid most of the price in cash, and financed the balance for two years. So, even though the Honda people receive my payment by a bank draft without my having to do anything, they still send me a receipt each month. At this point, I still have about four months to go on this contract.
But suppose I received a letter from Honda saying something like this:
“Dear Customer: It has been our pleasure to receive your bank draft for $428.51 each month over the past year and a half. We here in the corporate offices of Honda Financial Services have come to a decision and want to inform you that we wish to continue receiving this amount from you after the contract has expired. We know that you are enjoying your Honda automobile and therefore will want to do your part to maintain this wonderful relationship. However, our legal department informs us that we should alert you to the reality that if you discontinue making these monthly payments, we will be forced to repossess the car. Have a nice day.”
Even after it’s paid for, I must keep making the payments if I wish to continue owning their car. Miss a payment and they take it back.
Continue reading “More about “Once Saved Always”” »
Lily has been in Heaven for some 15 years or more. She left no children, so there’s no one left of her family to read this and no good reason not to tell it.
Lily was a classy lady, about the age of my father and the widow of an executive who left her fairly well off, although not rich. Before retiring, she had put in a full career as a public school librarian. Because she had no children she was generous with her two nieces, with her church, her college, and her pastors.
When I announced I was leaving and would no longer be her pastor, she invited me to lunch and handed me a check for $1,000. “I want you to come back and do my funeral.” I forget my exact promise to her, but it was probably along the lines of “If I possibly can, I will be here.” Pastors are unable to make long-range open-ended promises because of the nature of their responsibilities. (Complicating the matter was that I had taken a leave of absence from that church with no knowledge of where the Lord would be sending me next. Distance could be an issue on returning for her funeral, as well as unforeseeable circumstances.)
Over the next few years, she would repeat the “agreement” we had, that I was expected to do her funeral.
Continue reading ““Lily”” »
Here are twelve things we church leaders do on Easter Sunday that undermine our own effectiveness in reaching people for the Lord Jesus….
1) We fuss at those who come.
“Well, good morning! We would like to welcome those of you we’ve not seen since Christmas! Hope you had a good winter!”
2) We put on a “dog and pony show” instead of preaching the gospel.
Never forget that what we use to attract people to our church will be required to keep them. So, if we put on a spectacular to get people in but follow it with our normal run-of-the-mill uninspired preaching/singing/etc., we are doing no one any good.
Continue reading “Easter Foolishness” »
It never fails.
We’ll write something about pastors who are under pressure from wrong-headed church members and how they should stand tall and be strong, and someone will respond with a “Yes, but” scenario.
Their preacher is a terror, they’ll say. Or an embezzler or adulterer or a bully of the first rank. Several have told me how their pastors have serious illnesses which have incapacitated them for ministry, but who insist on clinging to their pastoral jobs (along with the paycheck) to the detriment of the church. “People are leaving in droves,” they say.
What to do?
You get the impression that people think this is a new thing. Or that being as pro-pastor as I am (unabashedly!), I do not see that some preachers should be sent to pasture and immediately. (My cartooning mind wants to make a remark about sending a pastor to pasture, but I think I’ll pass.)
Nothing about any of this is new.
Continue reading “When to fire a preacher and change the locks on the door.” »
On my birthday last week, granddaughter Darilyn sent a message from her home in North Carolina. “I have gotten my drivers license today.” I said, “For my birthday you sent me another worry?”
What I found out later was that the same week, Darilyn’s cousin (and our second granddaughter) Jessica had gotten her drivers license. The next Monday, our youngest granddaughter JoAnne got hers.
Only 12-year-old Jack is still unable to drive. The rest of our eight grands–Leah, Jessica, Grant, Abby, Erin, Darilyn, and JoAnne–are all qualified (by the state at least!) to slip behind the wheel of an automobile and drive it anywhere.
Nothing moves one’s prayer life to warp speed like seeing his child or grandchild pull away in the family automobile. The prayer is usually a constant repetition of the same panicky words: “Oh, Lord, protect her!!”
It’s time for Grandpa Joe to put in writing what he would like to say to each of the grands, if we could sit down for a session on the subject of “your new drivers license.” Here goes….
Continue reading “Seven of my eight grandchildren now have drivers licenses. Oh my.” »
“Without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). And then there is this: “And those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
Faith is not natural to earthlings.
We want to see, to know, to be certain. We shy away from struggling with nebulous concepts such as belief and doubts, convictions and educated guesses and worrying about whether we have enough faith.
Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer of a generation ago, whose television program “Cosmos” riveted the nation, was firm and outspoken in his atheism. However, his numerous Christian friends witnessed to him and tried to reason with him. One asked his wife, “Doesn’t Carl want to believe?” She answered, “No! He wants to know!”
Reading that many years ago, I remember thinking, “Of course he does. We all do. But God has not set things up that conveniently for us.” Scripture says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” and “We walk by faith, not by sight” (Hebrews 11:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:7).
Continue reading “Why we do not like to live by faith” »
Many of our churches have a love-hate relationship with the concept of strong leaders.
Some will say they want a strong leader but find themselves unable to work with one when they get him.
–”He acts bossy.”
–”He announces the direction for the church but without talking to me.”
–”The minister of music was here before the pastor and is not used to taking orders.”
–”We have to approve that 35 cents he wants for stamps.”
–”We didn’t vote on that program.”
Other churches have terminated pastors because they say the ministers were not giving strong leadership.
–”We didn’t know where we were going.”
–”The staff seemed directionless.”
–”We were just floundering.”
Continue reading “A strong dose of leadership” »
“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
I leaned over to my grandson in church yesterday and whispered, “I remember when Brother Ken brought the drum set into the church. Some almost died. Now look.”
On the platform was the usual dozen or so musicians–pianist, keyboard, several guitars, two or three drummers, one violin, a couple of horns, and this time, for a special emphasis, a mandolin and banjo. The music was great.
What I thought was, “What if we had given in to the critics? What if Dr. Ken Gabrielse–now the dean of the Warren Angell School of Fine Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University–and I had feared the criticism and buckled?”
There are times when church leaders need to pay attention to the criticism, and times to ignore it.
Knowing “what time it is” is the hard part. For God’s children, that’s a function of the Holy Spirit.
Continue reading “When to submit, when to insist” »
“The (shepherd) calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” (John 10:3).
The evangelist had held a revival in my church one year earlier, just before I arrived as the new pastor, and it had gone well. Since we had been seminary classmates and the congregation appreciated his ministry, I invited him to return a year later for a repeat engagement.
He walked in and began calling people by their first names.
I was floored.
I said, “James, how many meetings have you been in since you were here last year?” The answer was something like 36, as I recall.
I said, “Then how in the world can you remember the names of our members?”
“I work at it,” was all he said. (Looking back, I wish I had not let him off so easily but insisted on learning what he did.)
His words stuck with me. A few months later, I preached a revival in Edison, Georgia, in a congregation that ran 130 in the morning service. By the end of the week, I was calling all the people–every person in the building–by their first names.
Pastor Gene Brock said, “I wish I had your ability with names. How do you do this?”
Continue reading “How to remember people’s names (Pay attention, preacher!)” »