This pastor’s favorite guilty pleasure

Everyone knows what a pleasure is. A guilty pleasure is some activity that you enjoy but over which you feel a tiny pang of regret, as though perhaps you should not be enjoying it quite as much as you do.

Okay with that?

Most of my pleasures are completely unrelated to guilt. I love a good meal, a wonderful visit with a friend, an old 1940-ish black/white movie, a ball game, an hour on the patio enjoying watermelon with my grandchildren, and a social at church with two dozen freezers of home-made ice cream in every flavor imaginable.

But I do have one guilty pleasure.  This activity makes me feel good but I feel a tinge of guilt associated with it, like maybe I shouldn’t.

I love to watch a bully get his comeuppance.

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Second Timothy, chapter One

(A few weeks ago, I began a series of articles on Second Timothy for this website. However, after some reflection, I’ve decided not to do a laborious study on each verse, but to back off and take larger sections at a time, looking for key insights.  Since the primary audience for our blog is pastors and other church leaders, if we light up someone’s mind with only one idea in what follows, we’re pleased.)

Verses 1-2  Greeting

How did Paul get to be an apostle? “By the will of God.” And who is Timothy? “My beloved son” (in the ministry).  I have a few sons and daughters in the ministry, and I am the son of several godly men and women who poured themselves into me. (How did you get in the Lord’s work? Same way: God’s will.)

“Grace, mercy, and peace.” That’s a standard greeting, but I’ll take that any day of the week. I need all three–His grace for its gifts of generosity, His mercy for its restraint of judgment, and His peace for its guarding of my heart.

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Scriptures to camp out on

“…let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

The practice of reading through the Bible in a year or less is good for a time or two. But then, once we check that off our bucket list, we would do well to master the art of living in one book of the Bible for a solid year, one chapter for six months, one verse for a week, one phrase for a day.

This verse has snagged my attention today and one part in particular…

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (Second Corinthians 5:19).

The first part–what God was doing in Christ–is the essence of the Gospel, Christ’s assignment in this world, if you will.  The last part–He has given us the word of the Gospel–is our assignment, our calling in this world.

In between, we have the unanticipated blessing of the Gospel message, that as a result of what He did in Jesus, God is not holding our sins against us.

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I saw the secrets of a thousand people yesterday

This week, my dentist and I have worked to compensate for the continuing deterioration of my teeth, all part of the natural process by which my earthly body gradually sloughs off parts that will not be needed for my final flight to Heaven.

In Heaven, an all-new body will be provided, one which we are not told but presume will not be subject to tooth decay and arthritis and hearing loss.

Thursday, Dr. Jim sent me to the lab across town where I left a piece of my confidence–well, okay, a bit of dentures–alongwith instructions to the lab on what they were to do. Twenty-four hours later, I returned to pick them up, presumably allowing me to resume a more or less normal existence.

The laboratory is an interesting place. Not laid out to impress visitors, this is a working space, upstairs, reached by something much like a fire escape. The few desks were unoccupied at the moment, but were messy and crowded with papers and sacks and boxes.  Along several rows up and down the large room were literally hundreds of plastic trays, each holding a work order along with molds of teeth, dentures, bridges, etc. It was an ugly sight, I’ll tell you.

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Bearing the storms’ scars in our lives

“I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus….” (Galatians 6:17).

My son is trying to find a good used car for his daughters. Since their big brother graduated this year, Abby and Erin will be driving themselves to school this fall.  Twice Neil has found possibilities, but wisely took the cars to a trusted mechanic for his appraisal.

Today, it fell to me to drive the second of these cars to the repair shop. Our mechanic friend studied the car, drove it a bit, then recommended we not buy it for a number of reasons. Then, he said, “Come here, Reverend. I want to show you something.”

“See those dirty stains on the seats?”

Each seat carried rust-colored stains in wavy lines.

“This car has been flooded,” said Rick.  “And here is something else.”

There were scratches–horizontal, odd-looking lines–on the hood and the trunk. “This is where things scraped over the car,” he said.

I thought of the 100,000 automobiles that were ruined in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. In many cases, the water was six to ten feet deep, and lingered for weeks. I’ve seen photos and heard stories from friends who drove boats over parking lots where all you could see were the tops of cars. It’s easy to imagine something being dragged across a flooded car.

Eventually, the cars were towed and left under bridges and interstates for months before being disposed of.

Later, we learned that some people were doing hasty repair jobs on the flooded cars and passing them off as normal. “Buyer beware” became the mantra.

I said, “Thank you, Rick. I would not have known what to look for.”

Our mechanic friend saved us a lot of headaches and heartaches, and doubtless a good deal of money in repair jobs.

People go through storms in this life, and like that car, carry the scars and stains for the rest of their days.

Some of those stains and scars are visible, if you know what you are looking for….

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The problem is not with the Lord, but with us

“…but you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37).

Why doesn’t God do this, why doesn’t He do that, what’s wrong with God, where was God when this happened?

One would think, from our constant griping and questioning of the Almighty, that we have a handicapped Deity, one who suffers from a lack of information or some chronic disease which limits His ability  to come through for us as we have (ahem) ordered.

We certainly seem to be a dissatisfied bunch.

The problem is not with God. We are the problem.  He is more than willing to do “abundantly above what we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Here are instances where Scripture makes crystal clear that we have a willing Lord and the problem is not with Him….

–“I am willing,” said the Savior to a seeking leper, as He reached out and did the unthinkable and touched the untouchable and made him well (Mark 1:41).

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What to do after your moronic two minutes

Pastor, have you ever had a meltdown in the pulpit?

In the news this week, two Atlanta radio jocks were fired for the on-air mocking they did of a New Orleans icon, former Saints football player Steve Gleason who has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) and lives in a wheelchair and speaks through a computer.

They made fun of him, parodied his situation, and someone role-played Steve speaking of his coming death and such.

It was the ultimate in offensive.

In the article which ran here in New Orleans, one of the terminated idiots (I’m so objective in this story, as you can see) said, ‘What were we thinking?” The jocks apologized, and in a subsequent story, Gleason said he accepted their apology.

One of the men called it “a moronic two minutes.”

No argument.

I have had a few moronic two minutes in my long lifetime, and expect some of our readers have also.

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Suggestions for the young pastor: Your pulpit speech

Most young people mumble.

I’ll be sketching children and young adults and try to engage them in conversation or learn their names and have to ask someone what they said.

And the problem is not my hearing either!

When you come across the exception–a person who looks up, looks you in the eye, and speaks up clearly and confidently–you know you have a winner here.

Some of the best advice we can give to anyone, young or old, is to learn to stand up straight, look into the eyes of the person we are addressing, and speak up clearly. Enunciate.

How much more necessary it is for those whose very lives involve speaking to get this right!

Young minister, give some serious attention not only to what you say from the pulpit but also to how you say it.

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10 pointers on giving an invitation

“Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…” (Matthew 11:28)

“…as though God were entreating you through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20).

A pastor I once knew said Second Corinthians 5:20 changed forever how he extended an invitation following a sermon. “We beg you on behalf of Christ,” Paul said. As a result, the pastor said, he no longer gives unemotional and passive invitations, but pleads with people to come to Jesus.

In the wing of the Christian faith where I dwell and minister, when a pastor preaches, he expects people to respond, either publically at that moment or later in private. Or both.

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Pastor, that was a great message…if we could have only heard you.

“Let everyone be quick to hear….” (James 1:19)

Patricia Clarkson is an award-winning Hollywood actress and a well-loved native of our New Orleans. Her mother Jackie is a longtime political leader in the city. In Friday’s “The Advocate,” Patricia was reminiscing about when she first became aware she could act.

“I’ve had this distinctive voice since I was 5,” she said. “I remember the first play I did, in 8th grade, I brought the house down. I don’t think it was because I was good.  It was because I was the only person who could be heard in the auditorium! Deep voices are on my father’s side of the family. My grandmother had a beautiful deep voice.”

The only person who could be heard!

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