These are a few of my favorite Proverbs

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, I quickly remember a few of my favorite Proverbs….  (apologies to Luther Vandross who wrote “My Favorite Things”)

A blog is not a sermon, right?  Not necessarily an essay, nor is it a theme written for a class.  Theoretically, a blogger should be able to write about whatever he/she wishes.  That being the case, I herewith submit this sampling from the riches of Proverbs which are among my favorites.  Along with appropriate comments, of course.

I said to my Old Testament and Hebrew professor, “Solomon could not have written these.  They champion monogamy and faithfulness to one’s wife, something he clearly knew nothing about.”  Dr. George Harrison said, “When it says in the opening verse ‘the proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel,’ it could mean something as simple as that he collected these.  It’s not necessarily saying he wrote them.”

Good.  Maybe he did write some of them.  After all, the Queen of the South was impressed by his wisdom (I Kings 10:7) and perhaps these are some of the reason.

Proverbs 3:5-6.  Everyone’s favorite.  My wife Bertha’s favorite. ” Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (some translations say: “He will make your paths smooth.”  Or “straight.”)

That’s a promise.  Not everything in Proverbs that looks like a promise should be considered one.  But this is.  And it’s been time-tested over the centuries.

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Pastor: Start afresh every year

“Now, team, this is a football!”  (Said to have been an opening statement from legendary coach Vince Lombardi after his team’s devastating loss the previous day.)

Coach Dabo Sweeney sits in the catbird seat.  As his team, the Clemson University Tigers, sits atop the latest football poll–making them number one in the nation–they are preparing to face the tough Miami Hurricanes this weekend.  Survive that, as they probably will, and Clemson will be set for the championship playoff, two games to decide the final ranking of the 2017 season.

This morning on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo,” Sweeney was asked how he gets players not long out of high school ready to face these tough challenges.  He said two things worth our consideration:

“I start over every year.”  “I try to get buy-in.”

A college coach trains his leadership just the way he wants them.  Finally, about the time they are functioning at peak level, they graduate.  A new group of freshmen comes in and the coach has to start over.

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The Facebook Syndrome: Alive and well in our churches

“Encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11).

Bertha was in her mid-forties.  She and husband Gary had gone to pastor in central Florida, and the women of their neighborhood had given a welcoming tea for her at a local upscale restaurant.  There were perhaps 20 or 30 in attendance.  It was an impressive event.

Throughout the afternoon, an elderly lady across the table kept staring at Bertha.  Finally, in her quavering voice, the woman said, “My dear.  You are soooo lovely!”

Bertha smiled and thanked her.

A short time afterwards, Bertha was walking home from the tea with one of the women who was a neighbor.  The woman said, “Oh, by the way, the older woman who told you you’re so lovely, she is actually almost blind.  I thought you would want to know.”

Bertha has no memory of how she responded to that.  My own opinion is there is no answer to it.  It’s a show-stopper.

Why, we wonder, did the neighbor feel it important to shoot down the older lady’s compliment?  What kind of mentality prompts one to do such a thing?  Why couldn’t she be content with the pastor’s wife receiving a compliment?  (And a fitting compliment at that.  Bertha is my bride now of nearly 11 months, and people still remark on her loveliness.)

Facebook users see it all the time.

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100 things I’m thankful for this week–and every week.

I began by thinking of the simple, everyday blessings we take for granted.  But the more I give thanks for, the more things and people come to mind….

The first twenty……

I’m thankful for bananas in my local store.  They were picked green in some Caribbean country and shipped here in refrigerated containers, unloaded in New Orleans and then trucked to Mac’s Freshmarket down the street.  I am so blessed.

I’m thankful for crunchy peanut butter.  Wonder if George Washington Carver thought of leaving crunchy peanuts in the butter he invented.

I’m thankful for a faucet I can turn and hot water comes out.  The first eighteen years of my life we did not have that.

I’m thankful for a bed.  Nothing rejuvenates a weary body like a good night’s rest.  And I have a king-sized one. Am I blessed or what?

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Perhaps the hardest thing a pastor will ever do

Speak to the current moral dilemma facing the country (or dividing your community) without making matters worse.

That has to be one of the most difficult minefields a pastor ever has to tread.

One misstep and he’s a goner.

Twenty years ago, it was President Clinton’s infidelity that was dividing the country.  In the same decade it was the O. J. Simpson trial.  These days, the issue is sexual harassment (or any of its various manifestations: sexual molestation, intimidation, assault, etc.) by men in positions of power.

A man–always a man–runs for prominent public office and someone stands up and says, “He attacked me.”  Or, molested me.  Touched me inappropriately.  Took advantage of me.  Raped me.

The media flocks to the accuser and stories are written. Sleuths check out her story and some corroborate it while others trot out family members who say she is a chronic liar or family members of the accused to say they’ve never known him to do anything like that.

Then, next step.  Other women step up and say, “He treated me the same way.”

Quickly, the matter becomes page one across the country.  Leading the nightly news.  Fueling talk shows. Dividing everyone on Facebook.  Splitting families.

Defenders are enraged.  Supporters of the accusers are offended by the way their friends have accommodated themselves to the culture and forgotten Jesus’ call to defend the helpless and bless the children.

So, the poor pastor decides this matter must be addressed in next Sunday’s sermon.  What is he to do?

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A few word studies to bless the Bible student

What made me want to study Greek and Hebrew in seminary was faithful preachers during my college years who sometimes gave us the meaning of a word in their sermons.  Not too much, of course.  It’s easy to overdo this.  And nothing very technical.  The guy in the pew does not care a whit about the aorist tense or pluperfect whatever, or that Josephus used this in one way and Herodotus another.

Pastors should do this sparingly, but when they do it wisely and well, a word study can enrich Bible study and inspire the hearers.  (I suggest no more than one word meaning from the Greek or Hebrew per sermon.  The average worshiper can absorb only so much, and we must not presume upon their kindnesses.)

Here are a few from Pau’s Letter to the Philippians…

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When the church bully happens to be the pastor

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God;  not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (I Peter 5:2-3).

We have written extensively on this website about church members who take the reins of the church and call the shots, who bully parishioners and pastors alike.  But a friend wrote, “What are we to do when the bully is the pastor?”

“What does your pastor do?” I asked him.

His bullying pastor demands his way in everything, tolerates no dissent, and ousts anyone not obeying him.  He intimidates church members and dominates the other ministers.  His opinion is the only one that counts.

We could wish it were a rare phenomenon.  It isn’t.

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10 pet peeves about church from one who loves The Church

By “pet peeve,” we mean only a minor disagreement.  An annoyance. We find certain things irritating, but they are not deal-breakers.  No federal case, no mountains from a molehill.  Okay to disagree.  A personal thing is all.

One.  The pastor rises to begin his sermon, and says to the congregation, “Will you stand in honor of the Word of God?”

It sounds noble.  It is meant to inspire honor for Holy Scripture.

My question is: So, preacher, do you have them jump up every time you quote a verse of Scripture? Then, why do it at the first?  And if you say this practice is scriptural, which it is (Nehemiah 8:5), then why don’t you have them stand up throughout the entire sermon? The Bible says Jesus sat down to preach (Luke 4:20).  And somewhere it says the people stood up while he preached.

What it feels like–to me at least–is the preacher is trying to come across as holier than those who do not ask people to stand for the reading of the Word.  He saw some other preacher do it and thought it was a good idea.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, only that it’s unnecessary and may be motivated by less-than-noble motives.  But it’s not a deal-breaker. Do it if you feel strongly about it.  (Ask them to stand every time you quote a verse, however, and this will go south quickly! Smile, please.)

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Pastors and churches working together? Unheard of!

Need a text for this?  See below. We have several.

I hope the idea catches on.

This week I returned from Hearne, Texas, and a revival involving two churches some 5 miles apart.  Bethany Baptist, pastored by Randy Aly, and Elliott Baptist, Dale Wells pastor, are located several miles outside Hearne, population 4500.

This was their first attempt to join together in a revival, and my first as well.  Randy says he awakened one morning with it on his mind, and felt it was from God.  He called Dale and shared the thought.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We started on a Sunday morning in Elliott and ended  the following Sunday morning in Bethany.  During the week we had noon and nightly services in the same church, on alternating days.  A trailer with a sign reading “Revival here tonight.” was pulled back and forth between the churches.

Interestingly,  Tuesday night being Halloween, the Elliott church hosted “Trunk or Treat” instead of a service.  (A downpour limited the turnout, but a lot of people braved the elements for their kids’ sake. I sketched nonstop all evening.)  Then, Friday night being “football night in Texas,” we had no service.  But on Saturday, we picked back up with noon and night services.

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