Why we appreciated Warren Wiersbe so much

Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Bible teacher/pastor par excellence.  (1929-2019)  

Some years ago, when Dr. Wiersbe and I were swapping correspondence, I did him a cartoon which he put on his office wall.  Now, most of the Bible study books he had published–one for every New Testament book and a lot of the Old–were part of the “Be” series.  Be Real.  Be Joyful.  Be Faithful.   His autobiography was titled “Be Myself.” So, my cartoon showed his tombstone.  Under his name, it read: “Be Dead.”

At the time I thought it was funny, and he must have also. (That was at least 30 years ago, when you’re still young enough to joke about these matters. I hope someone has thrown that thing away.)

I’m not sure how or when I first heard of Dr. Wiersbe’s teachings on cassette tape.  It would have been in the mid-1970s.  I was serving the First Baptist Church of Columbus, MS and always searching for good resources for preaching material.  His sermon tapes were a pure delight.  Once I took a two-day retreat to a lake house and did nothing but listen to his tapes. At the time he was pastoring Moody Church in Chicago.

One day, sitting around talking with a couple of neighboring pastors, I was amused to hear one of them say, “I’ve found the most wonderful source of sermon material.  I’m reluctant to mention it to anyone because I’m enjoying it so much.”

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Do people tell you not to read those books?

“Take up and read; take up and read.”  (from Confessions of Saint Augustine, chapter XII)

Read widely, pastor.

Read novels, how-to books, histories, biographies, and theological commentaries.

You don’t necessarily have to read the entire book to benefit.  You have only so much time and energy, and you want to put the emphasis on the more important readings.

What are the teens in your church reading?  Ask around, then give it a try.

By all means, read the Word of God.  Read some every day, and have a plan for your reading.  If you’ve never read through the Bible in a year, do it.  Do it several times in a row.  Thereafter, choose books of the Bible you’re unfamiliar with and fill in that gap of your education.

It used to bother me that my oldest son and my wife loved to read Stephen King novels.  Since King loves to get bizarre and even scary–think “Christine” and “Carrie”–in his plots, I felt that this was unhealthy reading for my wife and son.

I still think that.  Mostly.

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Ten things seniors need to be writing for future generations

“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).

“A posterity shall serve Him.  It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation;  they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this” (Psalm 22:31).

The piece of paper will outlive you.

Papers exist which Abraham Lincoln wrote on, even letters from George Washington.  It’s amazing how long a simple piece of paper may hang around.

If you and I will take the trouble to handwrite a message and leave it in a somewhat permanent spot, it may be there to speak its truth long after we have arrived in Heaven.

Here are ten suggestions for seniors–or those in training to become such!–on what to write and where:

One.  Write your testimony in your Bible.

That’s what those white pages in the front and back are for.   And it’s why the Bible on your phone isn’t remotely in the same class as that thick, black-bound, leathery Bible you can write it and hold and touch and drop a tear or two on.

Two.  Read through the entire Bible and mark it up good.

I suggest you then pass that Bible on to a child or grandchild.  Then, buy another and spend a year reading it through and marking it up, and pass it to another.

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Let the pastor create aphorisms…briefly. Memorably.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”  –Anonymous

You may not be what you think you are.  But what you think, you are.”  –Someone very clever.

What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues are yet to be discovered.” –Emerson

“A weed is any plant that is out of place.” –Jerry Clower

An aphorism is a short pithy and memorable statement of some truth or lesson.  It may or may not be funny, clever, witty, or cute.  But it encapsulates a truth and someone thought it worth remembering.

Adrian Rogers loved a great aphorism and used many.  This legendary pastor of Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church received as much acclaim for his preaching ability as it’s possible for this denomination to bestow.  If you were in his audience, you felt the need to grab a pen and jot down some of his great lines.  To my knowledge, he never claimed credit for creating them but rarely did he give credit.  I’ve heard him say many times, “I got this from someone who got it from someone who got it from God!”

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Start writing, pastor: The three most important steps are also the hardest!

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in a book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua…'” (Exodus 17:14).

Pastors say, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.”

It’s like a mantra.  What are you going to do in your retirement, pastor?  “Write a book.”

And he thinks he will.  A book of his best sermons.  A book of his most memorable stories.  A book recounting the headaches, heartaches, and blessings from all the churches he has served.

That’s the plan.

Most never will write that book.  And the big reason is inertia.  It’s so hard to make ourselves do something we’ve never done before.

So, the best advice is: Get started now.

Step one: Do it.  This is the hardest.   

Make yourself take the first baby steps. Open your computer.

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Speaking in my defense….

“Oh that you would bear with me in a little folly–and indeed you do bear with me…. I say again, let no one think me a fool.  If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little” (2 Corinthians 11:1,16).

Even the great Apostle Paul thought it was all right once in a rare while to indulge his need for self-defense. So, I have good scriptural precedent.

When one of the on-line magazines called Church Leaders.com posted an article of mine, a critic accused me of doing anything to get an article on that website.

I replied that I write only for my blog and never know when one of several online mags will be picking up something from it.  The first I know is when it shows up in my email inbox.

When you cannot find fault with someone’s reasoning, attack their motive. Ask any trial lawyer.

When an online magazine called Charisma posted our article on a doctrine we call “security of the believer”–which others refer to as ‘Once saved always saved’–you should have read the comments.  Or, maybe you shouldn’t have. They were as mean-spirited as anything I’ve ever seen.

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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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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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How to read well and fast, and hopefully smart

Or, if you don’t like the title above, try this one: How to read a 500 page book in 30 minutes! And retain 90 percent of what you read!

That’s the come-on which led some of us to pay for the Evelyn Wood speed-reading course some years back.  It was not money well spent in my judgement, although I did discover how a few people in this world manage to pull that off.  (If your experience with that course was better than mine, congratulations.)

A friend who is an editor for a Christian news service suggested that, since I’m a constant reader, I should write a blog on the subject of reading and how to do it faster and better.  As a trained editor, she tends to read critically and thus slower than she’d like.

That hit me like the time another editor asked me for an article on gluttony.  I had consumed three large meals that day.  But I thought, “Who better than me, who knows the subject so well?”  I wrote the article and it’s still circulating the globe in cyberspace.

So, I opened the laptop with that intention.  But first, I decided to put the question to my friends on Facebook.  How to read faster and more effectively.  The answers were many, some helpful and several silly.  For instance, the latter…

–Bob recommended the Jeff Foxworthy method of “reading more gooder fastly.”

–Ken suggested, “Rd onl fw ltrs, dnt dwl on evy wd.  Dnt gv u!”   Someone needs to buy Ken a vowel.

–Luther learned to cut his reading time in one-half, he says, by turning two pages at a time.

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Writing about those painful personal experiences

“If you have known pain, you have a story.  Tell it.”

“This will be written for the generation to come; that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).

Humanity is indebted beyond calculation that in the distant past God told some people to write about their pain.

–Job went through the death of all his children, the loss of all his possessions, and a skin affliction that tormented him.  We have no way of measuring the grief and misery he knew.  On top of that, he was left with a nagging wife and given three burdensome friends.  Eventually, he or someone wrote the story. And we are forever in their debt.

–The story of Joseph in Genesis is a favorite of many.  Sold into slavery by his brothers, he was betrayed and framed and thrown into prison where he was essentially forgotten.  And yet, God brought him out with a mighty hand.  We are so glad someone wrote this.  Moses, we are told (see Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27).

–Someone wrote about Moses’ temper, the Israelites’ shenanigans, and David’s unfaithfulness.  They wrote about Jeremiah’s hardships, Thomas’ doubt, and Paul’s sufferings.  And yes, they recorded Moses’ faithfulness, David’s songs, and Jeremiah’s courage.  Thankfully!

We’re glad they thought to record the dark side.  Think how much poorer we would be had the writers of history chosen to record only the pleasant, “uplifting” events and experiences and left out what Oliver Cromwell called the “warts and all.”

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