If you can believe in earth, everything else should be a cinch

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

I don’t know what you think about when lying awake at night unable to sleep, but recently my mind has dwelt on the wonders of there being a planet Earth in the first place, and all that this means for the children of God.

The Psalmist said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I read that and think, “If you only knew, King David. You spoke those words three thousand years ago. What if you knew what we know now!  The human body is truly the marvel of the ages.”

And yet, the earth is also just as fearfully and wonderfully made.  Just as awe-inspiring, with as much the signature of the Divine on it as any human carries.

Consider this one thing:  HOW MANY FACTORS ARE REQUIRED FOR EARTH TO SUSTAIN LIFE?

Any one of the following not being in place could kill the whole deal. And yet, they’re all there, in place, doing their job, while I sit here at a laptop in my dining room, with a cup of Dunkin Donut coffee to my right and earth all around me, requiring absolutely nothing from me.  I am completely in awe of this.

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How I overcame my fear of public speaking and learned to love it

Good title, right?

Now a confession. I was never afraid to stand in front of a group and speak. In fact, quite the opposite.

In our little West Virginia schoolhouse, teacher Margaret Meadows would invite her fourth-graders to share a story they had read recently. I recall Violet Garten (love that name!) was so good at it. But when she called on me–I’m the kid frantically waving my hand–and I walked to the front of the class, I broke the rules.

I did not tell a story I had read somewhere.

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The intimacy of a pastor and people

(I wrote this a few years back, so it’s dated.  Nevertheless, I’m going to leave it as it was.  Pastor David Crosby and Pastor Jay Wolf have both retired from their churches, although they’re still around.  David is interim pastor at FBC Gatesville, TX and I’m sure Jay is preaching around Montgomery, AL somewhere. Okay…..) 

Not long ago, on a Sunday when I wasn’t preaching anywhere, I dropped in on a church service not far from my house. A luxury of being retired from pastoring and denominational service is that–with the okay of my pastor–sometimes I visit churches led by friends of mine.

That day, I saw something that struck me as precious and extremely rare.

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How the preacher can give them something they will never forget

I’ve thought about that conversation ever since.

A friend whom I know only from our internet exchanges wanted to know if in all the articles on my website, there was anything on a text he was researching.

I responded that I could not recall dealing with those verses, but suggested where he might find help. Then, I said, “Are you preaching on that text?”

I had no idea whether he was a pastor or not.

It turned out he was a layman and had been asked to bring a message that Wednesday night to his church. The Lord had laid on his heart a text, and he was trying to find out all he could on it.  Good for him.

Then he said something which has lingered with me ever since: I want to give the people truths from this passage which they will remember the rest of their lives.

Wow. Big assignment he has given himself.

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Strategy for pastoral success: Make a mistake, a big one

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg makes a confession. You get the impression that it was not easy in coming.

The church where I work videotapes most of the services, so I have hundreds of messages on tape. Only one of them gets shown repeatedly.

This video is a clip from the beginning of one of our services. A high school worship dance team had just brought the house down to get things started, and I was supposed to transition us into some high-energy worship by reading Psalm 150.

This was a last-second decision, so I had to read it cold, but with great passion: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!” The psalm consists of one command after another to praise, working its way through each instrument of the orchestra.

My voice is building in a steady crescendo; by the end of the psalm I practically shout the final line, only mispronouncing one word slightly:

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Burned biscuits and grace

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

My friend Chet Griffin passed this on to me some time ago. My notes do not indicate whether this was his personal story.

When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast for dinner every now and then. I remember one night in particular when she had had a long hard day at work, then did the breakfast thing for us.  Dad and I were seated at the table when she brought in plates of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and some extremely burnt biscuits.

This was so unlike my mom.

I sat there waiting to see if Dad noticed or would say anything.  Yet, all he did was to reach for his biscuits, smile at my mom, and ask how my day went at school.  I don’t recall what I told him, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!

Later, I heard Mom apologize to Dad for burning the biscuits.  I’ll never forget what he said.

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Non-leaders: How to spot one a mile off

“So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God” (Exodus 24:13). 

Always referred to as the servant of Moses, Joshua was used to taking orders as opposed to giving them.

That’s why, when the day arrived for Moses to announce that his earthly work was finished and God was recalling him and that Joshua would have to carry on (“Get these people into the Promised Land!”), he, Joshua, must have panicked.

For four decades Joshua has been warming the bench; now, he’s being sent into the game as the clock ticks down and everything is on the line.

What would he do without a boss over him, someone telling him what to do and how to do it, someone to whom he could report, who would grade him and pat him on the head when he did good or chew him out when his work fell short?

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Preacher: Let’s say you’re on a big program; Find out whom you follow

After the death of comic genius Robin Williams, someone was reminiscing about the time he preceded Bob Hope on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.

For some reason, Bob Hope was late arriving at the studio that night. So, instead of Robin Williams following him, which had been the plan, Williams went on stage first and did his hilarious knock-em-dead routine.  People were beside themselves with laughter.

The great Bob Hope arrived and had to follow that.

Robin Williams said, “I don’t think he was angry, but he was not pleased.”

As Bob Hope walked out onto the stage and settled into the chair, Johnny Carson said, “Robin Williams. Isn’t he funny?”  Hope said, “Yeah. He’s wild. But you know, Johnny, it’s great to be back here with you.”

Let’s talk about me. I smile. Even the great Bob Hope could not handle that.

No right-thinking person would voluntarily follow Robin Williams on the program.

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My candidate for hypocrite of the year

“Evil people and imposters will become worse (in the last days), deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

Can we talk about imposters?

There are so many to choose from, but today I’m thinking of church-dropouts who say they love the Lord.

Nothing of what follows is intended to be mean-spirited. But I would like to speak plainly.

I’m not angry, just perturbed. I don’t want to banish anyone from heaven, from church, from “the island,” or even from this room.

I just want to say to certain ones, “C’mon, people. Get real.  You don’t mean that, so why do you keep saying it?”

Recently, we were having a lively Facebook discussion about church and whether divorced people–specifically those with a whole string of divorces–should be considered for the honored church office of deacon.

Most comments were sweet-spirited, godly, well-informed scripturally and solid doctrinally.  But some were angry for reasons I doubt if even they know.  They want to banish all divorced people from anything.  But these are not the hypocrites I had in mind, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they qualify. It’s another group.

“People like you are the reason I no longer go to church.”

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What I wish for the Lord’s church

“That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The Lord wants the best for His Bride. And so does every right-thinking child of His.

Here is my wish list for the church of the 21st century….

One. I wish the church were less of a business and more like a family.

Our Lord looked around at His disciples and followers and said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brothers and sisters and my mother” (Mark 3:33-35).  The obedient are His family.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.  The local church should be a smaller expression of that larger, forever family.  I wish more of them were.

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