Twelve Things

12. Ever wonder what makes a person blog? I think I know.

Nothing makes me feel better than a friend saying something I wrote in an article was used of God to touch his life or to encourage him. One said today, referring to the words of Job 4:4, “Your words really did stand me on my feet.” That’s as good as it gets.

However, I confess to you that at no time do I ever sit at this computer and begin a blog with, “What can I say to help someone?” Rather, it’s all about what’s going on down inside me, what have I been struggling with, what is eating at me.

The blogger blogs for himself. (That is to say, something is inside and he has to get it out.) When it helps someone else, that is lagniappe.

11. Have you ever decided you would register to leave comments on a website–particularly for an online news media outlet–and found that there are too many hurdles, and that their machine keeps kicking your registration back asking you to fill in information you’ve already filled in three times? Happened to me today. I finally got enough and clicked off.

Makes me wonder how all those extremists (that would appear to sum up most of the commenters on those things) managed to negotiate those hurdles when a normal person like myself (ahem) can’t figure out how to do it.

10. More scandals in New Orleans. A number of members of the New Orleans Saints football team, including Coach Sean Payton, invested big money in a startup movie studio that was to be built here. Turns out the guy in charge was mainly looking out for himself. says tonight that fellow used the first half-mil of their investments to pay off a court judgment against him for failing to follow through on a similar plan from a couple of years back.

And now–you’ll love this part–the fellow says he plans to pay off all the Saints just as soon as he lines up more investors. Oh yes, that’s one scheme I want to get in on! I look for that guy to go to jail.

9. Last night, deputies from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office caught an armed robber after he pulled a heist at a tobacco store in Metairie. Turns out he had already robbed that store several times in the last few weeks, and has 13 armed robberies to his credit. This time, one cop was inside the store and others had staked out the parking lot, just waiting for the crook.

The guy entered, showed a gun, robbed the cashier, the cop inside alerted his colleagues outside, they let the fellow finish his business and he walked outside where they confronted him. When he pointed his gun at the deputies, that was the wrong thing to do. They turned his body into a sieve. He’s still alive, but I’m betting he wishes he wasn’t, considering what’s ahead of him.

8. Tomorrow, Thursday, the federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, instructs the jury in the Bill Jefferson (our former congressman) racketeering trial. Then, the jury will be sent into deliberation and we will watch to see what happens. If “Dollar Bill” is convicted on all charges, the sentence could be as high as a couple hundred years. That’s probably not going to happen, but with so many charges against him (thirteen?), chances are strong that he is not going to walk.

No one can predict what a jury will do. I have jury duty in a couple of weeks, and remember vividly the last time, maybe six years back. I was elected foreman of that jury in which a fellow was being tried for armed robbery. It was open and shut, with eyewitnesses and everything. But in the back room, some of the jurors started in with lines like, “I think the police framed this guy” and “The victims did identify him, but I just think they wanted closure.” I wanted to scream, “Where were you people? Didn’t you hear the witnesses? And when the cops arrived at his residence to arrest him, he ran like a scared rabbit!”

Late that night, about the time I was penning a note to tell the judge that he could either call it a hung jury or bring us back the next morning, the bailiff came for us. The defendant had pled guilty to a lesser charge for seven years in prison. Had he been patient an hour longer, he might have walked away.

7. With the massive government spending to revive our economy and the almost-trillion-dollar projected cost of a national health care program being discussed in congress right now, I’m remembering a line from a speech once given by President Gerald Ford. “Government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you’ve got.”

6. Nothing feeds depression like fatigue. (So, you know what I’m feeling today, huh?)

5. Monday night at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, I began the message by directing everyone to Luke 14:14. Our Lord says, “When you give a banquet, invite the lame, the blind, the halt, the kind of people who will not be able to repay you. And you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” A great line.

I asked, “Do you believe that? Is that enough for you? Can you serve the Lord now, knowing you will be repaid then?”

That feels a little like someone saying, “If you will cut my grass for me today, I’ll repay you in a thousand years.”

The question is whether we value the kind of reward only Jesus Christ can give sufficiently, and whether we are willing to serve Him faithfully in this life knowing the reward is out there in the future?

At the end of the service, the church business manager (treasurer?) handed me an envelope containing the honorarium. He smiled, “We thought about telling you we’ll pay you at the resurrection!”

Nothing gives the preacher a comeuppance like turning his own words back on him! 🙂

4. Tuesday morning, speaking to the children and house parents and staff of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe, I said, “Usually, a pastor will walk to the pulpit and preach one sermon for about 25 minutes. However, I want to give you five very short sermons.” (I’ve observed what we used to call the MTV generation long enough to know what they want!)

The last of my five mini-messages began with this: “Five or six years ago, when Dr. Perry Hancock was new as the Executive Director of the LBCH, he invited me to speak at the annual banquet. Someone had cancelled and I was a fill-in.” (Perry laughed; it was true.)

I told them, “I asked the Lord to give me just the right message He had for you. That night I spoke on ‘Four Things God Wants You to Know About the Rest of Your Life.’ Well, ever since, I have preached that sermon everywhere, in many churches in several states. And I added one to it, to make it ‘Five Things God Wants You to Know.'”

An hour later over lunch, Perry said, “By the way, Joe, after you preached that message at that banquet, I have preached it everywhere too.” I was stunned. Don’t think anyone has ever done that with anything I’ve preached.

Then he smiled, “But I reduced it to three things!”

That was the best laugh I had in a day filled with them.

3. Tommy Frost is the director of family life at the LBCH. He’s been there 15 years or more, I’m guessing. Previously, he pastored Highland Baptist Church here in Metairie. There is not a nicer guy or finer Christian gentleman on the planet.

I told the LBCH family that when I think of Tommy, I remember something Dr. Bob Anderson said about Jesus in seminary chapel one day years ago. “We know Jesus was a happy person because children loved him. Children do not like to be around an unhappy person.” So true.

2. Dr. Robert Magee was the longtime pastor of Ruston’s Temple Baptist Church. He went to Heaven a few years back, maybe ten, but left behind a permanent legacy in that church and and a deep imprint in the hearts of all who knew him. Monday night, his lovely widow Vivian handed me a small book containing some of his patriotic messages she and the children had printed.

On the drive home, I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Clinton, Mississippi, and read some of them. And I had an epiphany of sorts.

In a couple of sermons delivered around 1970, Dr. Magee was coming down hard on the political liberals in this country who were soft on Communism and who undermined America every time it stood up for the underdogs of the world. Dr. Magee was unrelenting in his opposition to Communism and uncompromising in his support for America.

He had no way of knowing then that in the late 1980s, the USSR would cease to exist and Communism as we had known it for decades would cease to exist.

Politically, champions like Ronald Reagan and George Bush (senior) are given the credit for their leadership against the Communists that contributed to the system’s collapsing upon itself. However, there is no doubt in my mind that faithful leaders like Robert Magee share the credit, too, for keeping this country strong in its God-given role. In many respects, he was a prophet and deserves every accolade he received for his keen insight, bold preaching, and faithful service.

1. I read today that the “iPod” is on its way out. And one day last week someone said the same thing about the “Twitter.” Evidently, people today can only handle so many high-tech devices to do cutesy things.

There’s an old line that goes “be not the last to put away the old, nor the first to put on the new.” (That’s the reason I would never buy the first model of a new kind of car. Too many bugs to work out; too many improvements still to be made.)

There’s a lot to be said for conservatism, when properly understood. I am not one of those who worships the word “Conservative” and despises the word “Liberal.” In our denomination, the word “Moderate” has come to signify hated liberalism for many. I once heard Evangelist Bailey Smith said, “There’s not a moderate bone in my body!” He got a chorus of ‘amens’ but he was wrong.

Anyone looking at Dr. Smith could tell that he clearly ate moderately; he was not overweight in the least. I wouldn’t be surprised if he exercises moderately.

The word “liberal” is a good word. If someone is handing out the checks in my direction, I want them to be liberal. “Liberality” is a synonym for “generous,” and don’t God’s people believe strongly in giving generously.

“Conservative” these days too often means “standing for the status quo,” and opposing every new idea that arises. Do that consistently and you lose all influence. No one bothers to ask what you think because they know you oppose everything.

God’s children must not look to the prevailing political forces or the most outspoken political talkers for their directions in this life. We must not think the Kingdom of God cometh from Washington. It doesn’t.

The greatest prayer we will ever pray is the first one Paul prayed: “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9)

It’s a wise Christian who refuses to parrot any party line except Jesus’s.