“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was reading comments on a friend’s Facebook page below something she had written about the Bible’s authenticity.
I suppose her critic was a friend, because after each of his statements, each one shallow and several insulting, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.
But nothing worked.
When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.
What was his “contradiction”?
“(The devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
If I were the devil, I would do everything in my power to keep you from the Word of God. I would say anything I could think of, anything I thought you would believe, anything that works, to get you to read other things.
As Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). We know how he works. And here are some of the lies we have noticed pouring out of his factory, all geared toward destroying confidence in God’s Word.
One. “You already know it, so don’t read it.”
He’s lying to you. You do not know it. I’ve studied the Bible all my life and in no way could I say I “know” it. I know a great deal about it, but there is so much more. For the typical church member to shun the Bible because “I’ve been there and done that” is laughable.
Two: “No one can understand it, so don’t read it.”
He’s lying. Even a child can understand a great deal of Scripture. Meanwhile, the Ph.D. will find plenty to challenge his thinking. Only a book from the Almighty could touch so much at every level of their existence.
“Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him….” (Colossians 3:9-10).
I hate to admit this, but it needs to be done.
Preachers sometimes misrepresent themselves.
Some claim to have degrees that sound authentic but were bought on the sly somewhere for the simple reason that they have learned laypeople in our churches are unsophisticated about that sort of thing but are impressed by high-sounding degrees. Some ministers claim to have been places they merely flew over, to know people they shook hands with, and to be more than they are. Some give the appearance that they know the original languages when they are merely quoting something they picked up in a book.
There is no substitute for integrity in those called to preach the Word and lead the Lord’s flock.
A surgeon must have cleanliness in all he does; a teacher must have a love for the students at the heart of all she does; a carpenter must have the blueprint at the heart of all he does; and a pastor must have integrity at the heart of all he does.
Integrity. Truth. Honesty. No deception. No embellishment. No twisting of the fact. No irresponsible reporting. No claiming what is not so, no declaring what we do not know, and no using what belongs to another.
The temptation is ever with us to do otherwise.
“Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins” (Psalm 19:13).
In the months leading up to the U.S. involvement in the Second World War, our country broke the Japanese secret code. This means that Army and Navy personnel were reading Japan’s messages. We actually knew where their forces were most of the time and what they were planning.
All signs indicated they were going to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor.
And yet, when they did just that–December 7, 1941, that day of infamy–we were completely unprepared. Our battleships were parked side by side close up and made a great target for the Japanese torpedo bombers. Our planes were parked in rows, as though for the sharpshooters at the county fair.
The Japanese had a field day. A turkey shoot.
How had this happened? How had they managed to catch us so completely off guard when we were reading their coded messages and knew what they were up to?
We did not believe what we were reading. This could not possibly happen.
One brief incident in the day of Jesus’ early ministry reveals so much about Him to our jaded eyes. Everything we see, we like.
The story is found in Mark 3:1-6.
And He entered again into a synagogue (in Capernaum); and a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they have accuse Him.
And He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Rise and come forward!’ And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm? to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent.
And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians (their enemies) against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
I love that story. It’s a brief encounter that tells us a world of things about our Savior….
I’ve been thinking about cartoonists, abortion, and theological liberals lately.
My friend Diane was sitting in a doctor’s office when a young woman came in to ask about an appointment. She wanted an abortion, she said, because she had plans for Labor Day weekend and wanted to get this done.
After a quick conversation with the receptionist, she left. My friend sat there in shock and then began to weep.
Diane and her husband Mitch are in line to adopt a baby due soon. To say they are excited and prayerful does not begin to describe them. Seeing the callousness with which that young woman wanted to be rid of her baby because “I have plans for the weekend” left Diane broken-hearted.
At this point, some in our audience will quit reading. They already “know” where it’s going and know they do not wish to go there.
That’s why there is little authentic conversation about abortions today.
And, may I say, I understand that.
81. Just as no one knows you better than your spouse, your co-workers on the church staff will see you as no one else does. Make sure they respect you as a person of integrity and compassion who keeps his word, has a sincere heart for God, and treasures each of them.
82. Watch for certain scriptures–a verse here, a verse there–that impress themselves upon you in a special way. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, a personal gift even. He is inviting you to study this area more, to seek His insights and receive His teaching.
83. Humility. Do not hesitate to apologize. If you made a mistake and everyone knows it, to stonewall and refuse to admit it will end up enraging a few and disappointing everyone else. By humbling yourself and asking for forgiveness, you endear yourself to everyone who matters. (I’ve known of pastors who gained so much love by publicly apologizing, they started looking for some other dumb mistake to make just so they could apologize.)
84. When you require the approval of a committee, if the chairperson tells you, “Oh, just go ahead and do that, pastor,” don’t do it. Instead, you should respond, “Thank you, my friend. But I’d really like the entire committee’s input on this.” Never allow the chair to act as if he/she is the committee. (Just so subtly are church tyrants created.)
85. Always err on the side of conservativism in finances and of grace in relationships.
61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. Some of God’s greatest champions have that on their record. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry. Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. If this happens to you, own it, give it to the Lord, then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.
62. If you are terminated–or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter–read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own. The way to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors is to practice what the Lord commanded: do the four actions the Lord commands in this passage. Do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and give to them.
63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated or for any reasons, find themselves “between churches.” A pastor friend ousted from his church had trouble re-entering the ministry. One day he asked, “Why don’t other pastors help me?” I said, “Tom, how many unemployed preachers did you help when you were pastoring?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”
64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member, and what to do about a pastor or staff minister who has gone rogue. When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.
41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work..
42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.
43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. You’re being given a rare opportunity to return to something you have preached and improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite message you preach in many places.
44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally–asking the Father to feed your soul–every day. Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.
21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will be exceptions once in a while.)
22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so enamored with that church that you fail to do your homework–such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.
23. Mentors. Find at least two older ministers and ask them to be your mentors. That word means different things to different people; to me it means “a resource, a friend, someone I can call and run things by.”
Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry. You will be needing them. I promise.
24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.
25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.