Getting tough at the funeral

“And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men” (I Thessalonians 5:14).

At the funeral, as at every other place where you rise to serve the Lord, preacher, tell the truth.

The gospel truth.

You have an obligation to comfort the bereaved, true. But you have an even greater duty to obey your Lord by declaring the whole counsel of God.

The Holy Spirit can guide you on how to do both; the flesh doesn’t have a clue and will lean to one extreme or the other.

My pastor friend R. J. did something rather bold the other day.

Continue reading

The courageous leader: Now more than ever

No one ever told Superman, “You be strong now.” Strong was his middle name.

No one ever told Adrian Rogers, “Preach a good sermon now.”  They never told Warren Wiersbe to “Give us a good Bible study.” It was what they did.

Words such as “Be strong” and “Be courageous” were given to the weak, the hesitant, the  young.

Take the words “Be strong and of good courage.”  Moses told Israel to do that in Deuteronomy 31:6.  One verse later, Moses told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage.”  Same chapter, verse 23, Moses commissioned Joshua to lead God’s people and said to him, “Be strong and of good courage.”

Are you with me now? Then, get this…

Continue reading

Some believe we can lose our salvation. Here’s what they are missing.

In an article on this website, I shared a couple of the strongest affirmations of Scripture which declare that our salvation, once given by the Lord Jesus Christ, is forever secure.

Our salvation in Christ is safe, solid, secure.  This is called the doctrine of the security of the believer.  We are saved forever.  It’s basic scripture.

Or so I thought.

Some readers objected and even protested.

I should not have been surprised. After all, I was raised in a denomination of the Arminian persuasion which teaches the possibility of losing one’s salvation and then regaining it.  Now, I never heard our home church pastor say anything like that.  But it seems to have been part of that church’s doctrine.

I recall hearing a family member speaking disparagingly of Southern Baptists.  “They believe you can get saved today, go out tonight and get drunk, and still be saved tomorrow.”

Which is true, of course.

Continue reading

They had the greatest message ever, but needed one thing more. So do we.

I told a friend once that if I have gone to seed on anything in Christian theology, it’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m about to qualify that. As essential an element in the Christian faith as it is, the resurrection of our Lord did not end the fears, settle the nerves, conquer the phobias, or break the chains with which the early disciples were bound. It took one thing more.

To be sure, when the Lord Jesus Christ walked out of that garden tomb on the first Easter Sunday morning, it settled a lot of issues. His identity was forever established. His claims were solidly substantiated. His promises had just received the guarantee of Heaven.

When Jesus arose victorious from the grave, His enemies were routed. His opponents were silenced (or should have been, had they possessed a smidgen of integrity). His executioners were shamed. A bamboozled Satan and his imps were beside themselves with rage.

The resurrection of Jesus answers our questions, excites our hopes, and escalates our anticipation. It draws us back to the Scripture, back to the Church, and back to a new reality.

No wonder the disciples’ later preaching centered on the single key ingredient of belief in Jesus’ return from the grave as an essential element of saving faith. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Settle that–that Jesus actually died on that cross, that He lay in that grave from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, then walked out whole and healthy–and so many things fall into place.

Everything, that is, except one. And we see it in the Lord’s disciples, as recorded in John 20.

Continue reading

Two great illustrations from the Amazon

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

One of the most productive things any minister does is spend time with a good friend bouncing ideas and stories off each other.

Their wives might not appreciate what they are accomplishing–it looks a lot like fun and if she is the left-brained pragmatic one in the family, she can cite a list of a hundred things her preacher-husband could be doing. But let the ministers insist. Resist.  Persist.

A pastor friend and I were in my office one morning, bouncing ideas and stories off each other. My favorite thing to do.

Somehow we began discussing the Amazon River. I have no idea how that happened.

Continue reading

Have you met the members of my congregation?

I belong to the greatest church in the world.  We have an eclectic group of members and leaders. You would love them.  Here are some of their names….

First off, our pastor is Rev. Turner Byrne.

The deacons are Rod(ney) N. Staff, Moe Love, Noah D. Word, and Ruffin Tumble.

The Sunday School teachers are I. M. Humble, Chester Drawers, Hal E. Looyah, and Shuck D. Corn.

The church council includes I. M. Wright, R. U. Ready, H. Evan Sent, and Joiner R. Flock.

Continue reading

A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery

If you’re ever sitting around with two or three preachers, ask for their funniest stories, the most memorable wedding or funeral they’ve done, something like that.  Pull up a chair because you’ll be here for an hour.

I don’t have any funerals where the “honored guest” got up and walked out, or where the wrong person was discovered to be in the casket, or such foolishness as that. And for good reason.

Funerals are highly structured affairs, regulated by state law and overseen by a whole battery of mortuary employees and family members.

When we gather at the funeral home, the family has already been in conference with the mortician on how they want things done. The funeral directors stand nearby to make sure all goes according to plan. As a result, there is usually very little wiggle room there, space for the unexpected to occur.

And that’s not all bad.

I did this one funeral…

Continue reading

Want to hear a funny story about a wedding?

When you’ve been in the ministry as long as I have–I began pastoring when JFK was president!–there are few things you haven’t seen or experienced.  This one is about weddings I have done (or had done to me!).

There was this one wedding….

–Which was attended by Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know it at the time, and learned it later. The famous movie star was all of 10 years old. The bride was her aunt or a cousin of her mama’s or something. (I wonder if she remembers me. lol. )

–Where I called the groom by the name of the best man. Oops. (Thereafter, I wrote the names of the bride and groom in large letters at the top of my materials.)

–Where I dropped the ring. For years in rehearsals, I would instruct the bride and groom, “If it drops, let it go. No one will know and we’ll get it later.”  So, when it happened  I’m the one stooping down to pick it up. Oh, well. Not that big a deal.

–Where the groom was wearing cowboy boots with his formal tux. During the picture-taking, I said to the bride, “Debbie, you should have worn yours.” With that, she hiked her dress up and showed me. She was wearing her boots too.

–Where the bride fainted. See below.

Continue reading

Be patient: You never know what that fellow has gone through

While attending a conference on the campus of a Christian college, I sat in the auditorium with several hundred other ministers and their families.  The pre-session music was provided by a man playing a violin, and doing it rather poorly, I felt.

I am not a musician nor the son of a musician, but I can usually tell when a violin is being played well.  And particularly when it isn’t.

As the music ended, our host stepped to the microphone. “We want to thank Mr. Hoskins for playing the violin for us tonight. One month ago, he was in an automobile accident in which his car was totaled. In fact, for a while it appeared that he had lost the use of his hands. So, the music tonight was special for a lot of reasons.”

As the congregation applauded, I slumped down in my seat and hoped the shame I felt did not register on my face.

Continue reading

The best time I ever had in nearly 60 years of ministry

“What is the best time you ever had in a long lifetime of ministry, Joe?”

Wow. I don’t know.  Let me think about it….

A ride in an Air Force jet? The only reason that plane ride in the T-38 was so much fun is that I did it, survived it, then looked back and remembered it with pleasure. Columbus AFB Wing Commander Colonel Chet Griffin said, “You’ve been ministering to these student pilots all these years; you ought to learn something of what they go through.” As I say, it was great fun–in retrospect. (smiley-face goes here)

Chet and his lovely bride Eva Lee are beloved friends now for nearly a half century.  I was their pastor twice, during their  two assignments at Columbus, and we forever bonded. Over the years we have visited with each other, and still keep in touch.  Chet is a Sunday School teacher of the highest grade, and was used of the Lord to reach numerous Air Force officers for Christ.  He still teases me about that plane ride. Btw, my pilot that day was Captain Bob Orwig, now a Ph.D. professor at North Georgia and a dear friend, with his wife Linda.

Mission trip? The 1977 trip to Singapore (via Chicago, Anchorage, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and finally my destination) and back was part of a long, long process of drawing an evangelistic comic book for the missionaries there, then coloring each of the many pages (with acrylic and tiny brushes!), and printing up 10,000 copies for their use. It was a job! It was fun mainly in retrospect because we did it, it was most unusual, we would never be doing anything like that again, and we survived it.

Getting to know missionaries like Bob and Marge Wakefield as well as Ralph and Ruthie Neighbour was a special delight.

Continue reading