Let us not add to the Word of God

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy City, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). 

Someone says, “I’ve had a revelation from the Lord, something Scripture doesn’t address.”

Run, as fast as you can.

Scripture calls it “adding to the Word,” and it’s clearly verboten throughout the Bible, off limits to all who take seriously their devotion to the Lord and His Word. Deuteronomy 4:2 reads, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Need more?  Try these: Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:6. The Father is consistent on this point.)

Let’s not go beyond what the Lord says through His Word.  After all, Scripture teaches that Scripture is sufficient.  Some would call that circular reasoning.   That’s a possibility, but a better plan is that Scripture is Holy Spirit inspired. God knew what He was doing.

The church down the street was having some kind of special meeting.  The eminent speaker, a professor or something, preached that we should add an additional book to the Bible, this one addressing the subject of nuclear weapons.  If anyone objected, I never heard.  But I could not help thinking, “Oh yeah.  In the Middle Ages, they would have addressed gunpowder.  In the mid-19th century, it would have been gatling guns. And the process would never end.”  So foolish.

Continue reading

Never on automatic: The test of a champion

You can’t phone it in.

Itzhak Perlman is a champion violinist.  Disabled by polio in early childhood, he gets around on a scooter or with hand walkers and is arguably the world’s greatest living violin virtuoso.

Hear him once and you are a fan for life.

In USA Today for Wednesday September 2, 2015, Perlman said, “If you are a golfer, you have to be reliable.  But you cannot do that as a musician.  The challenge, as I tell my students, is not how you play something the first time.  What about the 10th, or the 50th, or the 150th?  Am I going to play something the way I did last time? Maybe yes, maybe no, but the point is never to go on automatic.”

We preachers know about going on automatic.  It’s what actors call “phoning it in.”

Some of the things we do in ministry, we do for the 50th and 150th time. Consider….

Continue reading

Things that cause God to laugh

“But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations” (Psalm 59:8).

I think it was Erma Bombeck who said, “Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

Or maybe it was Joan Rivers.

Anyway.  It’s right on the mark.

The writer for Our Daily Bread said this:  I was washing my car one evening as the sun was preparing to kiss the earth goodnight.  Glancing up, I impulsively pointed the hose at it as if to extinguish its flames.  The absurdity of my action hit me, and I laughed.

I get a kick out of seeing how prophecy experts bend over backward trying to locate the United States–as well as whatever country happens to be giving us headaches at the moment–in Scripture.  As though our moment in history is so huge and our place in God’s plan so essential, how dare anyone suggest He could have planned the grand sweep of history without our being given a starring role.

As if.

Isaiah 40 has a good word on this.

Continue reading

How to grow a small church

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or by the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Depending on a number of factors, growing a small church may well be  one of the more do-able things pastors can achieve.

Those variable factors include…

–the health of the church (you don’t want a sick church to grow; it needs to get well first!).  I once told my congregation, “There’s a good reason no one is joining this church.  I wouldn’t join it either!” Believe it or not, those words were inspired and the people received them well, and repented.

–the attitude of the congregation (if the people are satisfied with the status quo,  newcomers will not be welcomed).  I’ve known Sunday School classes composed of a small cluster of best friends who felt imposed on by visitors and new members.  No one wants to go where they’re not wanted.

–and the location of the facility   A church situated five miles down an isolated road, at the end of the dead end trail, can almost certainly forget about growing.  Yes, it’s been done, but rarely.

Continue reading

The pastor goes before a search committee

There is no established manual for search committees.

There are no laws on how these things are to be done.

The Bible has no search committees and thus no guidelines for them.

So, the result is often a mess. A hodge-podge of arrangements and a plethora of assortments.

So, lower your expectations, pastor.

And buckle your seat belt.

Continue reading

One thing people in ministry must never do

Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.  First Corinthians 4:2

This position is not yours; you are only a steward.  A caretaker.  A manager.

Get that wrong and you have bought yourself a lot of grief.

The other day I saw where a well-known news anchor was complaining about being fired from her position a decade or more ago.  “I did nothing wrong,” she said.  As if the position was rightfully hers until she was found to be “doing something wrong.”

As though that has anything to do with anything.

Continue reading

Everyone’s least favorite preacher-type: The cocky kind

“Be thou humble, preacher.”  (Stated and repeated and reinforced one way or the other in a hundred scriptures such as Isaiah 57:15, Micah 6:8, and I Peter 5:7.)

It’s a personality type, I suppose.  If Mr. Hotshot were not a preacher, but were a bus driver or school principal, a politician or insurance agent, he would still be full of himself and cocky.  But as unpleasant as that trait is in any profession, it’s ugliest and deadliest in one who claims to be a man of God.

You’re in churc listening to him preach. He’s not five minutes into the message before you realize Mr. Hotshot is on full display before you in the flesh.  His words and mannerisms give him away.  Listen to him:

— “I told my…I want my…My convictions are…I believe…I insist that my staff….”

All church employees are “my staff,”  the new program is “something God told me to do,” and this sermon is “My strong conviction.”

It’s all about him.

Continue reading

Things God enjoys most

I do always do the things that are pleasing to Him. –John 8:29

“Well, I know there’s a lot of big preachers that know a lot more than I do, but it could be that the good Lord likes a little pickin’ too.”  –Tom T. Hall, “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”

Yogi Berra watched as the batter approached the plate.  The Yankee catcher had seen it all, and this guy was like so many: eager to get a hit, but needing all the help he could find.  The batter stood at the plate and made the sign of the cross, then pointed toward the skies, both symbols of prayer as he summoned the Almighty to his aid.

“Hey buddy,” said Yogi from behind his mask, “Why don’t we just let the Lord enjoy the game?”

I’m with Yogi.

That begs the question of course.  We wonder if the Lord enjoys a baseball game occasionally.

Continue reading

Fifteen lies Satan tells you about Scripture

“(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.”

Continue reading