The insecure pastor

“I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty” (Luke 17:10). 

I’ve noticed that actors seem to be an insecure bunch.

On the reruns of the old Match Game show (Game Show Network; these shows were run in the 1970s), celebrities are asked to supply answers that match those given by the contestant.  Invariably, the guest celebs are so frightened their contributions will be laughed at (in the wrong way) by the audience.  Their nervous laughter betrays them.

It’s understandable.  And even endearing.

The longtime “mayor of Hollywood” was Johnny Grant, who died in 2008.  It was an honorary position since Hollywood is a district of Los Angeles.  But Mr. Grant was known for his participation in the Hollywood Walk of Fame when a star would be placed on a sidewalk to honor a celebrity.  I heard him say once that in all the years of his involvement, he had never met one celebrity–not one–who was not insecure and afraid no one would show up for the little ceremony.

My wife and I were watching the PBS series on Queen Victoria last Sunday evening.  This segment dealt with the publicity the queen received which threw everyone for a loop.  An artist had sketched her giving one of her seven children a bath.  A print shop made hundreds of copies and sold them on the streets. The public was crazy about the drawings.  But Buckingham Palace was not so sure.  The queen’s advisors were alarmed and they upset the queen by assuring her the mystery and dignity of her office, of “the crown,” were being undermined.  She was torn, unable to decide what to do, until she learned that the public adored this image of her.  It personalized their queen and they loved it.

Insecurity in anyone is a frightening thing and can actually cause a ton of problems.

Pastors can be among the world’s worst at handling their insecurities.

Continue reading

The Old Testament’s “love chapter”: Psalm 103

“Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1,22).

If I Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter” of the New Testament, then Psalm 103 gets the honor for the Old Testament.   It’s all about the love of God, from beginning to end.

Over twenty years ago, I preached a series of messages from Psalm 103 and encouraged our people to memorize it.  Memorizing this great psalm is one of the better things I’ve done in my brief years of ministry.  I love Psalm 103 and recite it often, usually in the car when I’m alone or lying in bed unable to sleep.

One day, going through my grandmother’s Bible–Bessie Lowery McKeever (1895-1982)–I happened to notice she had written beside verse 17 “One of Papa’s favorite verses.”  Her “papa”, who would be my great-grandfather, whom I never met, of course, was a Baptist preacher named George Marion Lowery.  I know almost nothing about this beloved ancestor other than Grandma used to say when she was a little girl, he would take her with him when calling on church families.  “If the father was at work and the wife there by herself,” she would tell me, “he could not enter the house. But with me along, it was all right.”  Grandma grew up  to be a powerful force for the Lord and may have been the greatest Christian I ever knew.  I’m so happy to own her Bible which is well marked-up and written throughout.

Back to Psalm 103.  Here are a few observations to encourage a reader to discover it for oneself…

One.  Psalm 103 begins and ends with the same refrain.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

Is there another chapter in Scripture that does that? I can’t think of one.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Why I hate arguing about religion

“An overseer (pastor) then must be…gentle, not quarrelsome….” (I Timothy 3:3).

Friends think I love to stir the pot and incite people to argue. I do not.

What I am trying to do with the days the Father has left for me on this rotating ball of sod is to take a public stand for things I believe to be scriptural, right, and good.  And needed.

Invariably, that will stir up some folks.

Always has; always will.

I wrote an article a few years ago that is still circling the planet and daily doing two big things:  blessing all who believe Scripture and take God at His word, and enraging those who are wed to their denomination’s warped/dwarfed doctrine and want to argue.

I know that sounds egotistical, but if I thought otherwise I would delete the article and be quiet.

I’m turning 79 years old in a few short weeks and believe I’ve finally learned a few things about God, about the Lord Jesus, about His Word–and about His people.

Now….

Continue reading

The most overlooked part of funerals and church services

“Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Not long ago, my wife and I attended the funeral of a distant in-law kind of relative.  We enjoyed meeting friends and making new ones, and were blessed by the service.  It was all great except for one thing.

Something big was missing.

Not a single prayer was uttered.  Not the first one.

One wonders if the leaders remembered later and said something like, “Oh my–I forgot to pray.”

It would appear that a lot of people are forgetting to pray these days.  We should find that extremely disturbing.  And more than a little revealing.

Continue reading

Random observations on The Seven Churches of Asia minor

(14th article on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor)

FALSE REPUTATION.  Back then as now, people fake their credentials in order to fool the gullible.  

I’ve known of people to create Christian testimonies and pass themselves off as having had a sordid past.  Why? To manufacture empathy, perhaps, or to impress the more timid souls in church who would never venture to live such a ragged, rugged life.

There were a lot of impostors in these seven churches.  Consider…

In the church at Ephesus, they had people who called themselves apostles and they were not. (Revelation 2:2).  Who were they fooling?  They were trying to fool the membership of the church. God’s people are known to give great honors and generous gifts to those they esteem highly.  These impostors wanted the reward they were not entitled to.

In Smyrna, they had people who called themselves Jews and were not, but were actually a synagogue of Satan.  (2:9).  (Who would know this better than the Lord of Heaven and earth, who knows the secrets of everyone’s hearts!)  Who were they fooling?  Themselves and no one else.

Thyatira had a woman whom Jesus calls a Jezebel.  She called herself a prophetess, but was a deceiver.  (2:20)  Who was she deceiving?  Perhaps herself,  but clearly a good number of people who were in big trouble if they did not wake up and repent.

The Sardis church had a reputation that they were alive, but they were dead.  (3:1)  Who were they fooling?  The chamber of commerce, probably.

Continue reading

The most revolutionary, world-changing thing the Lord Jesus ever said

“Love your enemies.”  (Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27),

“Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

This article is in two parts.  The first part is an illustration of the principle; the second part explains the revolutionary principle from our Lord.

Part One. 

He sat on the upper deck of the United States warship Missouri and watched the so-called Peace Proceedings that put an end to the Second World War in the Pacific.  General Douglas MacArthur, representing the United States, said something which brought a sneer to his lips.

Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.”

Fuchida’s historian writes: “Fuchida listened skeptically.  He had doubted his own emperor when he spoke of everlasting peace, and he didn’t believe the general now.  no, he thought, you are wrong, MacArthur. Peace isn’t coming to the world.  more trouble is coming.”

Mitsuo Fuchida knew that war is the natural state of mankind. People are selfish, and their interests conflict. As long as people have lived on earth, there have been wars, and there will be wars until the end.  It’s natural and normal.  There’s no way to end it.

Then one day months after the war’s end, Fuchida was talking to some former POWs who had just returned from internment in the United States. That’s when he began hearing of another way.

Some of those imprisoned in the U.S. told of a young American social worker named Peggy Covell who had been so kind to them, even though the Japanese were her sworn enemies

On one occasion, Fuchida learned the reason for her kindnesses.

Continue reading

The people of God are special: Handle with care

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Before the mediator delivered his decision in a church lawsuit which had been kicked into his domain, the adjudicator said, “I am well aware that in rendering my decision, I am dealing with the fine china of people’s lives.”

We interpret that to mean he was taking great care to get it right, knowing that people could be hurt, lives could be shattered.

We appreciate those who exercise such caution and wish the crazy driver on the highway would be as thoughtful.

Every pastor who stands in the pulpit on the Lord’s Day to proclaim God’s word would do well to keep that in mind.  You are dealing with people destined for eternity, souls for whom Christ died, those who were loved from the foundation of the world.  People indwelt by the Holy Spirit, redeemed by the blood of Christ, commissioned by God to do His work in the world.

They are His children and we are to be careful.

Continue reading

My suggestion to the pastors….

“From Miletus, (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.  And when they had come to him, he said  to them, ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house….” (Acts 20:17ff)

I’ve been asked to speak to the pastors.  I’m delighted with the assignment.

Being a lifelong pastor–well, almost; I was called into the ministry 58 years ago this April–this is my group.  I have loved pastors all my life, literally, going back to the earliest memory of my childhood.  When I hear of a pastor being honored by God’s people, I rejoice.  And when I hear of one being turned out into the cold by God’s people–as I heard this week; abruptly, no severance, nothing!–I hurt as though they had done this to me personally.

Two invitations have come in recently which I hope is going to start a new trend.

Dr. Will Wall is the director of missions for the Pine Belt Baptist Association, which is the Hattiesburg, MS area.  Dr. Barry Joiner holds the same position for the Concord-Union Baptist Association in the Ruston, LA area.  Without either knowing what the other was doing, they each issued the same invitation: Spend time with a meeting of their pastors to talk about “things.”

Will’s invitation is for Monday, February 4.  Barry’s invite is for September 19.

I encourage these leaders to invite pastors to submit subjects or questions or issues they’d like me to tackle.  And I’ll add my own.

Here are questions that have been raised, for me to address….

Continue reading

If there is a God and God is like Jesus, then, what’s the problem?

“Come now and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). 

“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God should raise the dead?”  (Acts 26:8).

If there is a God, and if this God is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, then a thousand questions are settled.

–If God is God, then raising the dead should be no big deal.  After all, He made the universe of nothing and made humans from the dust of the earth, so anything after that should be a piece of cake.

–If this God exists, then the Person of Jesus Christ with all that Scripture affirms about Him is completely logical.  Jesus said, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself (John 3:13).

–If God is God, then a Virgin Birth is no more miraculous than any other birth, which is to say, every birth is a miracle of the highest order.  Ask any new parent holding their treasure for the first time.

–If God is God, then the miracles Jesus worked during His earthly years were little more than child’s play.  Turn water to wine, feed thousands with a child’s lunch, heal the blind, raise the dead.  This is the God who spoke the worlds into being (Hebrews 11:3). What’s the problem?

Continue reading