The best reason to believe in God

“Always be ready to give a defense (answer) to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience….” (I Peter 3:15-16).

Knowing you believe is not enough.

You should be able to state why you believe.

(And, it’s not enough to say, as a Mormon did to me once, “This is true because it gives me a warm feeling inside.”)

Most of us would require more reason than that to stake our lives on a teaching or doctrine.

I’ve been loving the last chapter or two of John Ortberg’s 2008 book “Know Doubt.”  And I’ve been doing something I rarely do: Reading the final chapter of a book I never actually finished.

I have hundreds of books I never finished.

In most cases, life intervened and something came up and I just never got around to finishing that book.  At any given time, I’ll have a half-dozen books going.  (At this moment, there are 10 books on the table beside my bed. Ten. I’m embarrassed to admit this.) And some books just get lost in the shuffle and I never finish them, although I enjoyed them and had good intentions.

While searching for comments and insights from Christian writers on the Trinity for a recent article, I found myself absorbed in Ortberg’s chapter on “Why I believe.” I read a page or two and stopped. I would read more and stop.  I found myself wondering: How does Ortberg do this? How can he know these things? How can he read those books he talks about and understand them? (Some I started on, but could not understand and abandoned, but here he is quoting some profundity I had missed.) How can Ortberg fill one page with so many delicious quotations?

Continue reading “The best reason to believe in God” »

Is the Trinity a man-made doctrine?

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

People with no use for the doctrine of the Trinity give as their reasons:

  1. It’s too hard to understand.
  2. It’s not specifically taught in Scripture.
  3. The word Trinity is nowhere in the Bible.
  4. Some people turn it into three separate deities.

We will grant all these factors.  Not only is it “hard” to understand, it’s impossible.  So, let’s concede that up front.  But that does not stop a thing from being true. We are unable to figure out how we are body, soul, and spirit, a tri-unity of its own on a far simpler level. So, nothing about the complexity of the nature of the Creator should stop us from believing it.

Continue reading “Is the Trinity a man-made doctrine?” »

Things they never taught me in seminary.

A pastor friend wrote a book by the title “What They Never Taught Me in Seminary.”  I even drew the cover and inside cartoons for him, which suggests he didn’t learn as much about discernment in school as he might have.

Preachers are always going on about what they didn’t learn in school, and what they should have.  Some of the courses divinity schools now offer resulted from those very graduates mentioning subjects they felt they needed. One required of all masters level grads of my seminary, the direct result of alums’ wishes, is called “Interpersonal Relationships.”  I’ve taught it a few times myself.

Now, let’s point out up front that it is impossible for seminaries to teach their students everything they need to know for future ministry. What they are trying to do is prepare them with enough basic skills that they’ll be ready to face whatever comes.  After all, the Holy Spirit is alongside each one to teach and instruct and guide.

All right. That said, like most pastors I do have my list. Here are the ones that come to mind today….

Continue reading “Things they never taught me in seminary.” »

“I wasn’t lying exactly, just misrepresenting the facts.”

“Do not lie to one another, seeing you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9).

The current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (February 2016) carries a story to keep you thinking for a week or two. You read it and think, “What? How could this happen?”

One of the producers of Meredith Viera’s NBC program fell in love with the famous heart-transplant surgeon on whom they were doing a feature.  Paolo Macchiarini was amazingly accomplished, stunningly successful, and fabulously rich.  He was handsome, suave, and a charmer.

The producer, Benita Alexander, on her second marriage at the time, promptly forgot her altar vows and fell head over heels for this surgeon, who wined her and dined her. Soon, they were flying all over the world, living a life of luxury, and making plans for a wedding of their own.

Meredith Viera said about the surgeon, “He’s the doctor who does the seemingly impossible, going where no other has yet dared.”  The New York Times had done a front page feature on the man.  He was clearly somebody.

So you’ll know, the narrator talks about the conflict of a producer having a relationship with the subject of their feature, but I’ll leave that for other people. There was something else about the story more fascinating.

Continue reading ““I wasn’t lying exactly, just misrepresenting the facts.”” »

You’re a pastor and you’ve found the work tough? No sympathy here, friend.

It’s supposed to be tough.

Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, they’d be lining up to volunteer.

The Christian life is tough to start with. “In this world you will have tribulations,” our Lord said. Then, He added, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Then, the Lord calls certain ones of the redeemed to stand apart from the flock and to become “point men.”  His undershepherds.  Overseers of the flock.  Examples to the rest.  And frequently, His spokesmen.

Targets. In the crosshairs of the enemy.

Continue reading “You’re a pastor and you’ve found the work tough? No sympathy here, friend.” »

Relationship problems? Common problem.

“But I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

They’ll be having the strangest high school football game near here this fall.

The high schools at Bogalusa and Amite, two small towns an hour or so above New Orleans, will play one another on the football field, the way they normally do, but with one huge difference.

The stadium will be empty.

No fans will be allowed near the game.

Continue reading “Relationship problems? Common problem.” »

What little I know about fund-raising

“…see that you abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).

We just finished raising $10,000+ to enable a retiring missionary couple to purchase a good used car, and already some are accusing me of knowing how to raise money.

Oh my.

A young friend who will be moving his family to a distant city to begin a church has asked me to advise him on raising support.

Someone suggested I write a book on fund-raising.

I smile at the absurdity of that compliment.

Continue reading “What little I know about fund-raising” »

Pastor, you are in charge. So, take charge.

Now, nothing which follows should be interpreted to encourage pastors to become bullies or know-it-alls.  Scripture teaches servant-leadership, as exemplified by the Lord Jesus in John 13.  However, our burden here is those pastors who are passive and hesitant to take a strong stand with their people, church leaders, and their staff.

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you,  serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly; not for dishonest gain but eagerly; not as being lords over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock…” (I Peter 5:2-3)

You are responsible to the Lord for the flock, pastor. Numerous scriptures make that plain.

Some will not like that.

Some will accuse you of being heavy-handed.

Continue reading “Pastor, you are in charge. So, take charge.” »

What every pastor’s wife–and one in particular–wishes to say to the deacons

Every pastor’s wife I know would like to say to the good and faithful deacons:

“Thank you.”

“Thank you for loving the Lord, for loving this church, and for loving your pastor and his family.”

“Thank you for praying for us, for being in your place of service on Sunday, and for taking care of the members during the week.”

“Thank you for your servant heart and for not seeing yourself as my husband’s boss, only as his support and helper.”

“We are richer and the work is better because you are faithful.”

Sadly, all spouses of pastors cannot say that. But they wish they could

When the wife of a pastor friend suggested an article on “What preachers’ wives would like to say to the deacons,” I said, “Write me what you would tell them,” and I’ll see what I can do.

Here it is–her list, completely untouched, just as it arrived a few minutes ago.

Continue reading “What every pastor’s wife–and one in particular–wishes to say to the deacons” »

Five things effective pastors should never do

(The article starts off serious and goes downhill from there. Rather than a complete revamping it to make it one thing or the other, I decided to leave it the way it is.  So, halfway through you’ll want to take out your sense of whimsy and make sure it’s in good working order.)

Don’t ever resign your church in a fit of passion. In a rush of anger.

Do that and you’ll inflict great harm on the church and ruin all the good will you have accumulated by years of faithful service.

That’s a huge no-no for preachers.

Continue reading “Five things effective pastors should never do” »