Longevity in ministry: How to stay as long as God wants!

“Certainly, I will be with you” (God to Moses in Exodus 3:12).

Poor Moses.  He served the same congregation for forty years.

During all that time, Moses had no opportunity for advancement. And instead of getting easier as the years came and went, the work seemed to never let up.  One challenge after another.  It was enough to age a fellow prematurely.  Which is why, perhaps, the Lord chose a fellow who was already old–like eighty!–at the start.

Think of that.  Just at the time most people are getting fitted for a rocking chair and ordering their walk-in bathtub, Moses took on a new assignment.  Clearly, the Lord did not ask a committee of Israeli leaders what they wanted in the next shepherd.

Not only was Moses’ congregation the largest one around, it was the only one!

During those forty years, Moses did not receive a single raise.  And not the first award or recognition.  Well,  other than from God, which as it turned out, was more than enough.

The writer of Hebrews said we should ‘consider Jesus “who endured…” (Hebrews 12:3).  True. But we may also want to “consider Moses.”  He was a lot like us and demonstrates a hundred lessons on how to hang with a difficult job through good times and bad until you get the people of the Lord to the promised land.

Here are a few of those lessons.

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The team member who is your biggest headache

“…a thorn in the flesh was given to me …lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

They’re standard equipment, these “thorns in the flesh.” Burrs under the saddle.  Pains in the, well, you know.  They come with the territory.

I’m reading Jack “Dusty” Kleiss’ memoirs of his service in the Second World War.  “Never Call Me a Hero: A legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers The Battle of Midway” is the lengthy title.  I recommend it highly.

As a student of the Second World War, I must have read a dozen or more of such books, memoirs of veterans of this greatest of all conflicts.  In spite of the title, Kleiss deserves the recognition and accolades of a hero as much as anyone ever has.  Again and again he risked his life flying planes of all kinds throughout the Pacific in the war against Japan.  He kept good records, his team did great research, giving us details on the days he served, the planes they flew and the men he served under alongside, which included Admirals Kimmel, Halsey, and Nimitz.

All is good, except for one guy who keeps popping up throughout the story.

Lt. Clarence Dickinson was his thorn in the flesh.

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The Lord takes care of His own

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits!” (Psalm 68:19).

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). 

A friend prompted me to write something about how the Lord takes care of His children.  And he gave me story after story of the Lord doing that in his life.

–Like the time he asked the church leadership to help him get that needy family into a house and pay the deposits, requiring an outlay of $468.  When they refused, he paid the sum himself.  A few days later, the bank informed him they had misfigured his mortgage insurance and refunded him in the amount of $468.

–Or the time he asked the leadership to purchase a new van for the church.  He explained that he and the youth minister were racking up heavy miles on their personal vehicles and the church should do this.  When they refused, God gave him a vehicle.  The local power company gets rid of one of their passenger-hauling pickup trucks each year, and our friend won it.  “It had 200k miles on it,” he said, “but had been meticulously maintained.”  Last year, he put 20,000 miles on it in the Lord’s service.

That sort of thing.  On and on.

Yes, He does take care of His own is my response to my friend.  But….

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What praise is and what it does

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His name.  Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget none of His benefits….  Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1-2,22).

Again and again throughout Holy Writ, we are enjoined, instructed, commanded and reminded to praise the Lord. To bless His name.  To burst forth in worship during which we say things like “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessings” (Revelation 5:12).

How come?  What good does this do to tell the Lord and Master of the universe that He is Lord and Master of the universe?  Sure He already knows who He is (see John 13:1-4).  Being complete within Himself, God does not need our praise.

So, what’s this all about?

It’s a fair question and one that has been asked and answered by disciples far better than this poor child.

As a new believer, C. S. Lewis had trouble with the question.  “I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.”  (Reflections on the Psalms)

This being my blog, and Psalm 103 having been dealt with on these pages in recent days, it now falls to me to make an attempt to answer the question:  What is it to bless the Lord and what good is it?  (Again, I’m grateful to Dr. Lewis whom I shall quote below.)

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The insecure pastor

“I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty” (Luke 17:10). 

I’ve noticed that actors seem to be an insecure bunch.

On the reruns of the old Match Game show (Game Show Network; these shows were run in the 1970s), celebrities are asked to supply answers that match those given by the contestant.  Invariably, the guest celebs are so frightened their contributions will be laughed at (in the wrong way) by the audience.  Their nervous laughter betrays them.

It’s understandable.  And even endearing.

The longtime “mayor of Hollywood” was Johnny Grant, who died in 2008.  It was an honorary position since Hollywood is a district of Los Angeles.  But Mr. Grant was known for his participation in the Hollywood Walk of Fame when a star would be placed on a sidewalk to honor a celebrity.  I heard him say once that in all the years of his involvement, he had never met one celebrity–not one–who was not insecure and afraid no one would show up for the little ceremony.

My wife and I were watching the PBS series on Queen Victoria last Sunday evening.  This segment dealt with the publicity the queen received which threw everyone for a loop.  An artist had sketched her giving one of her seven children a bath.  A print shop made hundreds of copies and sold them on the streets. The public was crazy about the drawings.  But Buckingham Palace was not so sure.  The queen’s advisors were alarmed and they upset the queen by assuring her the mystery and dignity of her office, of “the crown,” were being undermined.  She was torn, unable to decide what to do, until she learned that the public adored this image of her.  It personalized their queen and they loved it.

Insecurity in anyone is a frightening thing and can actually cause a ton of problems.

Pastors can be among the world’s worst at handling their insecurities.

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The Old Testament’s “love chapter”: Psalm 103

“Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1,22).

If I Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter” of the New Testament, then Psalm 103 gets the honor for the Old Testament.   It’s all about the love of God, from beginning to end.

Over twenty years ago, I preached a series of messages from Psalm 103 and encouraged our people to memorize it.  Memorizing this great psalm is one of the better things I’ve done in my brief years of ministry.  I love Psalm 103 and recite it often, usually in the car when I’m alone or lying in bed unable to sleep.

One day, going through my grandmother’s Bible–Bessie Lowery McKeever (1895-1982)–I happened to notice she had written beside verse 17 “One of Papa’s favorite verses.”  Her “papa”, who would be my great-grandfather, whom I never met, of course, was a Baptist preacher named George Marion Lowery.  I know almost nothing about this beloved ancestor other than Grandma used to say when she was a little girl, he would take her with him when calling on church families.  “If the father was at work and the wife there by herself,” she would tell me, “he could not enter the house. But with me along, it was all right.”  Grandma grew up  to be a powerful force for the Lord and may have been the greatest Christian I ever knew.  I’m so happy to own her Bible which is well marked-up and written throughout.

Back to Psalm 103.  Here are a few observations to encourage a reader to discover it for oneself…

One.  Psalm 103 begins and ends with the same refrain.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

Is there another chapter in Scripture that does that? I can’t think of one.

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Ten things seniors need to be writing for future generations

“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).

“A posterity shall serve Him.  It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation;  they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this” (Psalm 22:31).

The piece of paper will outlive you.

Papers exist which Abraham Lincoln wrote on, even letters from George Washington.  It’s amazing how long a simple piece of paper may hang around.

If you and I will take the trouble to handwrite a message and leave it in a somewhat permanent spot, it may be there to speak its truth long after we have arrived in Heaven.

Here are ten suggestions for seniors–or those in training to become such!–on what to write and where:

One.  Write your testimony in your Bible.

That’s what those white pages in the front and back are for.   And it’s why the Bible on your phone isn’t remotely in the same class as that thick, black-bound, leathery Bible you can write it and hold and touch and drop a tear or two on.

Two.  Read through the entire Bible and mark it up good.

I suggest you then pass that Bible on to a child or grandchild.  Then, buy another and spend a year reading it through and marking it up, and pass it to another.

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Why I hate arguing about religion

“An overseer (pastor) then must be…gentle, not quarrelsome….” (I Timothy 3:3).

Friends think I love to stir the pot and incite people to argue. I do not.

What I am trying to do with the days the Father has left for me on this rotating ball of sod is to take a public stand for things I believe to be scriptural, right, and good.  And needed.

Invariably, that will stir up some folks.

Always has; always will.

I wrote an article a few years ago that is still circling the planet and daily doing two big things:  blessing all who believe Scripture and take God at His word, and enraging those who are wed to their denomination’s warped/dwarfed doctrine and want to argue.

I know that sounds egotistical, but if I thought otherwise I would delete the article and be quiet.

I’m turning 79 years old in a few short weeks and believe I’ve finally learned a few things about God, about the Lord Jesus, about His Word–and about His people.


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The most overlooked part of funerals and church services

“Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Not long ago, my wife and I attended the funeral of a distant in-law kind of relative.  We enjoyed meeting friends and making new ones, and were blessed by the service.  It was all great except for one thing.

Something big was missing.

Not a single prayer was uttered.  Not the first one.

One wonders if the leaders remembered later and said something like, “Oh my–I forgot to pray.”

It would appear that a lot of people are forgetting to pray these days.  We should find that extremely disturbing.  And more than a little revealing.

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Random observations on The Seven Churches of Asia minor

(14th article on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor)

FALSE REPUTATION.  Back then as now, people fake their credentials in order to fool the gullible.  

I’ve known of people to create Christian testimonies and pass themselves off as having had a sordid past.  Why? To manufacture empathy, perhaps, or to impress the more timid souls in church who would never venture to live such a ragged, rugged life.

There were a lot of impostors in these seven churches.  Consider…

In the church at Ephesus, they had people who called themselves apostles and they were not. (Revelation 2:2).  Who were they fooling?  They were trying to fool the membership of the church. God’s people are known to give great honors and generous gifts to those they esteem highly.  These impostors wanted the reward they were not entitled to.

In Smyrna, they had people who called themselves Jews and were not, but were actually a synagogue of Satan.  (2:9).  (Who would know this better than the Lord of Heaven and earth, who knows the secrets of everyone’s hearts!)  Who were they fooling?  Themselves and no one else.

Thyatira had a woman whom Jesus calls a Jezebel.  She called herself a prophetess, but was a deceiver.  (2:20)  Who was she deceiving?  Perhaps herself,  but clearly a good number of people who were in big trouble if they did not wake up and repent.

The Sardis church had a reputation that they were alive, but they were dead.  (3:1)  Who were they fooling?  The chamber of commerce, probably.

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