About that blind fellow Jesus healed. (John 9)

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But because you say you see, your sin remains.”  And the Pharisees said, “Huh?”  (John 9:41. Sort of.)

My pastor preached on the Lord’s healing of “the man born blind” from John 9 yesterday.  Pastor Chip Stevens did his usual superior job with it.  He spoke of how Jesus saw people whom others overlooked, saw circumstances in a different way, and saw his purpose clearly. And, the people standing around that day were blessed to see the work of God right before their eyes.

I did what I always do when listening to a good sermon: I opened my notebook and let my mind roam far afield.  I’m like the hunting dog who never stays close to his master when he’s turned loose, but is always on the prowl.  That’s me.  I listened and thought and jotted down things.

I find myself wondering about that fellow, the one formerly blind….

–I wonder how he felt being the object lesson of the disciples’ theological discussion?  (9:1-2). They talked about him as though he were not there.  Ask any blind person. They know that feeling.

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Waiting is work. Hard work.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  –Isaiah 40:31

I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  –Psalm 40:1

Wait on the Lord.  Be strong. Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait upon the Lord.  — Psalm 27:14

Everybody’s waiting for something. We wait at red lights, wait on the phone, wait for the bus. Mama’s waiting for the family to come to supper.  Dad’s waiting for sis to get out of the bathroom.  Junior is waiting until he’s sixteen and can drive; Sis is waiting for that cute boy to look her way.  The teacher is waiting for the students to settle down; the students are waiting for her to grade their papers.

On and on it goes.  Everyone is waiting for something.

In 1951, Hank Williams wrote a cute little thing he called Just Waiting.   It wasn’t a song exactly, but a recitation he recorded under the name Luke the Drifter.  Part of the lyrics…

The old maid is waiting for leap year to come.  The crooner is just waiting  to sing.  The old cow is standing by the Bull Durham sign, just waiting for the grass to turn green.  The barn flies are just waiting for an easy mark.  The hitchhiker’s just waiting for a ride.  The life termer’s waiting for a prison break. The beachcomber’s waiting for the tide. 

The groom’s just waiting for the June bride, and the bride’s just waiting for June. The sunflower’s waiting for the sun to shine.  Violet’s just waiting for the dew.  The bee’s just waiting for the honey. And honey, I’m just waiting for you.  

Doctors and dentists have waiting rooms.  Hospitals post waiting times.  Restaurants employ waiters.

Waiting is a big deal.

Scripture is filled with waiting.

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Five mistakes preachers make in choosing sermon material

I hate the way these things work, but it is what it is.

I’ll post something on here such as “the three best decisions I ever made in the ministry” and few people will bother to look at it. But come out with “the first worst decisions” or “the meanest deacon” or “my biggest regret” and it gets all the attention.  Human nature, I suppose.

Motorists slow down to gawk at the wreck on the highway, but no one bothers to study the driver who did well. Obviously.

So, rather than announce “five great decisions preachers make in choosing sermon material,” we will talk about errors they make while doing that.  Here are five that come to mind.

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Discovered: The secret to a great marriage

God brought her to Adam.  And Adam said, “At last!”  –Genesis 2:22-23, pretty much.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.  — Romans 12:10  In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.  –Philippians 2:3

My wife and I each think we got the better part of the deal.

That’s it.  That’s our “secret.”

After 52 years of marriage–she to Gary and I to Margaret–Bertha Pepper Fagan and I met four years ago, February 15, 2016, and knew that week that the Lord had put us together. We were married the following January 11.  Next week we celebrate our third anniversary.

Everyone on my side of the family delights in my bride. And, as far as I can tell, Bertha’s side all seem okay with her pick of a hubby. So, we’re doing great.

We could wish every couple felt this way.

Have you ever known anyone who felt they married beneath themselves? That they could have done better?

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Looking back: Unfair criticisms I’ve received over the years

Your sermon was too long, too short, had too many stories, not enough stories, too deep, and too shallow.

Ask any pastor.

They’re criticized because their wives do not play the piano, but if she does “it looks like she is running the show.”  Pastors are criticized for wearing the same suits but if they have a variety, they get slammed for spending too much money on clothes.  Their kids are either too unruly or too something. The critics will always think of something to focus on.

Anyone who cannot handle unfair criticism should find another calling.

Recently, Dr. Thom Rainer invited ministers to post unfair or ridiculous criticism they had received in their ministries. The responses flew in, and when I reposted it on Facebook my friends chimed in with theirs.  It made me think of a few of my own.

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Some childish things I did not put away when I became an adult

When I became a man, I put away childish things.  Paul in I Corinthians 13:11.

Maybe Paul did, but I didn’t.

Well, some I did.

Paul was referring to childish understandings and utterances, of course. We do indeed put those away as we mature and grow in understanding, just as we laid aside the diapers and toddler’s costumes we needed as infants. As a five-year-old, I wore the army jacket with the flyer’s wings to school for picture-taking day.  It’s still a favorite photo. However, I can still recall the tears when it became obvious I had outgrown that coat.  I wanted to wear it forever.

A lot of things we outgrow.  If we are wise and strong, the things we outgrow will be aspects of our lives we should indeed leave behind. Pity the adult who is still harboring his/her childish understandings, prejudices, pleasures.

But some wonderful things of childhood never leave us.  Here are some that are still with me today…

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Let’s pause to say a word in favor of courage

Do not be afraid of them.  If you are, I will humiliate you in front of them.  –God to Jeremiah, chapter 1. 

Be strong and of good courage.  –God to Joshua.  Moses to Joshua. Israelites to Joshua.  (6 times at the end of Deuteronomy and through Joshua chapter 1. Apparently, the man had some issues with shyness.) 

Agree with Colin Kaepernick, the editor of Christianity Today, or the editor of Charisma magazine or not; you have to admire their courage.

They didn’t have to take the stand they took.  It cost Kaepernick his job in the NFL, meaning zillions of dollars.  The editorial from Christianity Today calling for the removal of President Trump has cost the magazine a ton of cancellations.  The editor of Charisma magazine? Aw, probably nothing.  It’s just a personal thing.

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Looking back: I wish I had asked for help

And He sent them out two by two.  And He added to the church those who were being saved. It is not good for man to be alone.  And a lot of scriptures like that.

Sometimes when I look back–hey, it’s what you do when you get as many years behind you as some of us have accumulated!–I think of several instances when I suffered or my work was weak because I insisted on being a lone ranger.

People would have been glad to help me. But I didn’t ask.

I’m reading the most amazing book. I Wanted To Write is the autobiography, of a sort, from Pulitzer-Prize winning author Kenneth Roberts. Whom you never heard of.  Pam Stewart of Colorado Springs was visiting with us over the Thanksgiving holidays and introduced me to him.  I am so hooked. (He lived 1885 to 1957.)  The book’s subtitle is: An Intimate, Entertaining Account of How An Author Lives and Works.  Every would-be novelist, of which I’m not one, would benefit from reading it.

When  Roberts was deep in the throes of trying to write his historical novels–not the potboilers, bodice-ripping fake histories, but genuine history with fleshed-out stories of the actual persons–he struggled mightily.  That’s when a friend stepped in.  Novelist Booth Tarkington was some 20 years older than Roberts and a neighbor in Kennebunkport, Maine (later the home of President George Bush the first).  Tarkington would come over and say, “Read me a few chapters of your book.”

Now, what makes that special is that Booth Tarkington, remembered by few today, was as popular as Mark Twain in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. His book The Magnificent Ambersons was made into a movie and is considered one of the best all-time by people who rate these things.  Anyway…

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Choices we make. And “the” choice we make.

“Choose you this day” (Joshua 24:15).  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  

The human mind is a scavenger.  It loves to pick at dead things, and will not leave road-kill alone.

You find yourself sleepless in the wee hours.  Your mind roams around looking for something to dwell on.  It settles on the wrong things:  Someone who betrayed you, disappointed you, offended you, hurt you, mistreated you, failed you.  You reflect on that person for a moment or two and realize this is no fun.  It is upsetting you.  This is no way to get back to sleep.  You pray for them, telling God “I forgive them Lord; please do not hold this against them.” Bless them, Father.

Your mind then moves over to the other side of those road-kill memories.  Now you find yourself conjuring up people whom you betrayed, those you disappointed, someone you offended, a person you hurt, some people whom you mistreated and failed.  For the umpteenth time, you ask God to forgive you and you lie there praying for each of those people, that they will do well and not remember your sins and your failings.  You think “Please God!” that they will not awaken in the night remembering the unkind thing you did or said so long ago.  Bless them, Father.

And then, after a bit it dawns on you that if you are going to get back to sleep, you’re going to have to choose a better memory or a more pleasant subject to dwell on.  You have to make a better choice.

Something we all do every day of our lives.

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Things even a lost man knows

The natural man does not comprehend spiritual things.  I Corinthians 2:14

An unsaved guy misses a great deal.  He’s on the outside looking in and so he will not value some of the things Jesus said or God did.

However…

Some unbelievers have a sharp sense as to what is right and what’s utterly stupid. Case in point…

A friend messaged to say the last line at the end of chapter 3 in our book “Pastoring” deserves its own treatment.

We were talking about a pastor goofing off when he should have been studying, fooling around in the pulpit when he should have been feeding the flock, and glorifying himself instead of Jesus.  An unsaved fellow who was in the congregation one day when the preacher did some dumb stuff told his family afterwards, “That pastor is a joke.”

And we said, “Some things even a lost man knows.”

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