Finding resolution to everything in life

In novels, every loose end must come together and be tied up.  In real life, they almost never do.

My friend Holly, a wife and mother and piano teacher, was telling us about her son Andrew’s snowglobe.  The music it puts out “drives me nuts,” she says, “as a musician with certain OCD tendencies.”  The snowglobe’s music apparatus plays “White Christmas,” but not completely.. After the line “May your days be merry and bright….” it just ends, then repeats itself.   Holly asks, “What evil genius in the music box factory decided they couldn’t put in those final nine notes? Gaaaah!!!

I smiled.  Holly’s father is a pastor and her heart belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s why I felt comfortable in sending her my little lesson on Andrew’s snowglobe music box.

“What a great metaphor for life, where maybe ten  percent of anything ‘resolves.’ Novelists must make all the threads come together at the end, but in real life, that rarely happens.  So, Andrew’s globe is sending him a message: ‘Get used to it, kid.’

“Only at the end, the ‘real end,’ will all things come together and all accounts be settled.  When that happens, every eye shall see Jesus, every knee bow before Him, and every tongue confess Him as Lord. Amen.”

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To a friend going into denominational work

In a sense, I could be writing this to myself some 15 years ago as I transitioned from pastoring (for 42 years!) into the office of the Director of Missions for the SBC churches of Metro New Orleans.  These days, it applies to friends such as Louisiana’s Dr. Steve Horn, who left the pastorate of FBC Lafayette to become Executive of that state’s SBC churches or Dr. Shawn Parker, who left FBC Columbus MS for the Executive office in Mississippi. 

You’ve been pastoring churches all your adult life.  And now the Lord–with the assistance of an executive search committee–is moving you out of the pastorate into a denominational office where your constituency will be churches and pastors instead of deacons and Sunday School teachers and the WMU.

I have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt.  And maybe a scar or two.

Eighteen months into my five-year tenure with the New Orleans Baptist Association, Hurricane Katrina flooded our city, ruining  vast neighborhoods and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents while destroying many of our churches.  Every day was a challenge. The blessings came in waves, the frustrations never left.

I came by these grey hairs honestly.

Ideally, in your new position you will have just enough difficulties to challenge your strengths without crushing you, and enough encouragement and prayer support to compensate for your weaknesses without making you self-satisfied or complacent.

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Think God can’t use a nobody like you? Bite your tongue!

“And Moses said, ‘Who me, Lord? In the first place, I’m way past retirement age.  I’ve not been to seminary. I didn’t even finish college. The other preachers won’t respect me. Pulpit committees won’t have anything to do with me. There’s a bounty on me back in Egypt. I stutter a lot, and tend to freeze up in front of groups. You’ve clearly dialed a wrong number, Lord.”

“And God said, ‘Hush.  Now,  listen.’” (My rather free version of Exodus 3-4.)

The Lord can’t use a nothing nobody like me.

Ever heard that? Ever said it?

Repent, sinner.  You underestimate God! And, you might just be overestimating your own importance in the equation.

The Lord delights in taking nobodies and doing great things with them.

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Secrets pastors don’t want you to know

A deacon told me he and his wife witnessed a fist fight their first Sunday at our church.  The story comes at the end of this.

Now, perhaps a better title of this should be “Secrets some  pastors perhaps don’t want you to know.”

It goes like this…

Let’s suppose  you are considering joining Clearview Springs Church.  The ministers and leadership are glad to welcome you.  Your presence can fill a pew, your offerings can fund the work, and your efforts can enhance the ministries.  So, yes, they want you.  And that’s why the pastor might keep certain things from you, at least when you are visiting.

Some things the pastor would rather you not know; some he doesn’t want anyone to know, period.

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How pastors can keep from falling into sin. (The rest of us too!)

….considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Galatians 6:1

A young pastor was shot to death by the cops in a drug crackdown. From all reports, he was not buying or selling the stuff. So how did he get involved and how in the world did it lead to his death?

Everyone wonders; every pastor needs to know, and we all need to learn from this guy’s mistakes.

Undercover cops had been monitoring the behavior of a few suspicious characters who were dealing dope in that neighborhood. When they spotted a young man with a woman in his car, recognizing her as a druggie, they approached the car with guns drawn. Now, bear in mind, these law enforcement officers were not wearing uniforms. Undercover cops often look like the very criminals they are shadowing. So, in a panic, the car speeds away and almost hits one of the narcs. The law enforcers interpret that as assault with a deadly weapon, we are told. In a sense, it’s like handing them a license to kill. So, they did. They shot the young man who turned out to be a pastor. He died in the hospital later.

No drugs were found with the man of God or in his system. The woman in his car tested positive.

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You’re not really the boss until you fire someone. True or not?

On Blue Bloods, the popular CBS series about law enforcement in New York City, a co-worker tells Erin Reagan, Assistant DA, “You’re not really the boss until you fire someone.”

So she did.

The show didn’t say whether she enhanced her position with the team by that act. It’s only a one-hour program and they have multiple storylines.

I’ve wondered about that ever since, whether it’s true that  one is not really the boss until someone is canned.

I think the idea is something like this:  The new boss notices an employee who is shirking his/her duties.  The other employees watch to see how the boss deals with it.  If the boss lets it ride and does nothing, the message goes forth that quality work does not matter, that you can get by with less than your best.  But, if the boss deals promptly with the unfaithful employee, co-workers see that he expects excellence and will deal with ineptitude.  And that’s a good message to convey.

Over six pastorates and one five-year stint in denominational work, I’ve hired a lot of people. And fired several.  But firing them did not make me the boss.  I was already that.

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For all who wonder and fret over death, judgement, and such

My friend Rebecca is the mother of a son, 8, and a daughter, 6.  Here’s what happened the other night.

I was asleep in the dead of night.  Suddenly, I became aware that Mia, my six-year-old, had crawled into our bed and was talking to me.

Mia: “Mom, how old is Jesus?”

Mom: “Honey, Jesus isn’t any age any more.”

Mia: “Mom, did you find Dad and make him marry you? or did Dad find you and make you marry him?”

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How the large church can help the small church, whether it wants help or not

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  — Romans 15:1  (Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. –From The Message, a paraphrase)

I wrote on Facebook something like this:

Sometimes one of our churches is bigger than all the others in their town or county combined.  When that happens, the church leadership has to make a decision.  One, they can say, “We don’t need you small churches.  We’re number one.”  Or, two, they can turn around and help the smaller churches.  One of these choices is Christlike and the other carnal.

The comments came in, in a predictable manner, opting for the obvious second choice.  Someone said, ” Yes, but sometimes the small churches do not want your help and resist any attempt to encourage them.”  True enough.

So, the question is what to do when a large church is willing to assist and encourage the smaller churches but are rebuffed in the attempt? Are there ways for them to show Christlike care and compassion even when the smaller churches are not receptive?

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The implications, once we learn how God works

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So, what have I learned about how God works over nearly six decades of ministry?

In two sentences, it’s this:

When God gets ready to do something great and lasting, He loves to a) start small, b) with ordinary people, c) using any methods He pleases, and d) taking HIs own good time about it.

Only people of faith will work with Him on this and still be there at the end to see what God has done and to behold His glory.

Two sentences that encompass a thousand things God has done and is doing.

It’s important to note that these principles are illustrated all through scripture.

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Church boss Diotrephes is alive and well

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.  Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words.  And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to do so, putting them out of the church.  III John 9-10.

In his book of 1,502 stories and illustrations (The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart), Chuck Swindoll has this:

A. T. Robertson, a fine, reliable Baptist scholar of years ago, taught for many years at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  When he began to write on books of the Bible, he chose on one occasion the Book of 3 John, which talks about Diotrephes.  Diotrephes was a man who became a self-appointed boss of a church. And over a period of time, he was the one that excommunicated certain people and he screened whatever was done in the church.  As the self-appointed leader, he wouldn’t even let John come to speak as a representative of Christ.  So, John wrote a letter and reproved him.

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