Perfectionism: The cruelest burden

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect….” (Matthew 5:48)

First, let’s get the theological argument out of the way.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: God knows you are not perfect and will never be this side of Glory.

And even clearer: “God does not expect sinlessness out of you and me. He is under no illusion about us.”  See Psalm 103:14 “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” And Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.”  Or how about, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).

Got that?  The illusion of sinless perfection is all ours, my friend.

However.

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There are several good reasons not to believe

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen…. By faith we understand….” (Hebrews 11:1ff)

There are good reasons not to believe in God, not to believe in Jesus, and not to believe in Holy Scripture.

A wise servant of the Lord will want to learn what they are and why people hold on to them. In doing so, he will better understand his own belief and will be able to respond to the questions/attacks of unbelievers.

This is far more important than the typical Christian realizes.

We cannot effectively counter the resistance of the unbeliever–whether he/she is a seeker, an agnostic, skeptic, atheist, or full blown antagonist–until we learn why they reject the heart of the message of the Christian faith.

Faith.  It starts with this and perhaps ends there also.

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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.

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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.

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This guy found a “contradiction” in Scripture and thinks that disproves God.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Facebook friend had written something about Scripture and people were leaving comments.  One person in particular was giving her a hard time.

I suppose the critic was her friend, because after his unkind and cutting remarks, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.

But nothing worked.  This guy was determined to be mean-spirited.

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.

He had found a contradiction in Scripture, he said, that convinced him the whole business of Christianity was nothing but a con.

What was his “contradiction”?

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If you can believe in earth, everything else should be a cinch

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

I don’t know what you think about when lying awake at night unable to sleep, but recently my mind has dwelt on the wonders of there being a planet Earth in the first place, and all that this means for the children of God.

The Psalmist said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I read that and think, “If you only knew, King David. You spoke those words three thousand years ago. What if you knew what we know now!  The human body is truly the marvel of the ages.”

And yet, the earth is also just as fearfully and wonderfully made.  Just as awe-inspiring, with as much the signature of the Divine on it as any human carries.

Consider this one thing:  HOW MANY FACTORS ARE REQUIRED FOR EARTH TO SUSTAIN LIFE?

Any one of the following not being in place could kill the whole deal. And yet, they’re all there, in place, doing their job, while I sit here at a laptop in my dining room, with a cup of Dunkin Donut coffee to my right and earth all around me, requiring absolutely nothing from me.  I am completely in awe of this.

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The biggest problem preachers and teachers face

“No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). 

“Let’s see now.  How shall I put this?” 

That’s our problem.

Try this sometime. You have an image in mind of a person you have thought up. Now, find someone with some art ability and describe your creation to the point that they sketch him/her exactly as you envision them.

Good luck with that.

It’s almost impossible.

And yet, this process goes on all the time.  Here’s the way it works….

A friend contacts me. “Will you illustrate my book?”  I hem and haw, give non-answers (“Well, tell me what you have in mind.” “What exactly do you need?” “When do you need it?” “How many drawings will it be?”), and look for ways–true confession–to get out of doing it.

Tackling such an assignment is guaranteed to age you prematurely, disappoint the other party, and leave everyone frustrated and exhausted.

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Divine appointments: God is on the job

Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! (Genesis 28:16-17)

Have you ever walked out of a church service knowing today’s sermon had your name all over it?  You should feel so honored that the God of the universe maneuvered everything to minister to your need.  Does He do that as a regular thing?  My experience says He does.  Every day.  God is at work.

What a mighty God we serve!

This is from my journal from May 3, 1999—

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Hubble, Pluto, and reasons to believe

“You have covered the heavens with your majesty…. When I observe the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that You remember him…? Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!” (Psalm 8)

After the New Horizons spacecraft did a fly-by in the area of Pluto traveling at a comfortable 30,800 mph, I jotted down a few thoughts, which follow.

The rocketship sent back snapshots for our enjoyment.

Pluto is handsome and a little small for his age, but still quite the character.  He’s definitely someone we wanted to know.

Pluto, we are told, is two-thirds the size of our moon.  Its gravity is about 7 percent of ours.  Its polar caps are made up of methane ice and nitrogen ice.  A year on Pluto–one orbit around the sun–equals 248 of our years.  (On Pluto, I would be not quite one-third of a year old!)  Each day there–the time needed to rotate once on its axis–is the equivalent of 6.4 of our days.  But that’s nothing….

On Pluto, the average temperature is a MINUS 365 degrees. Lordy!

Completely fascinating.  I sat there watching the televised news conferences and a one-hour history of New Horizons in awe and wonder.  I do love this.

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“Lord,” I said, “I really want this.” And He said, “Sorry.”

One Sunday morning recently, I listened to Dr. David Brooks preach to Calvary Baptist in Alexandria, Louisiana.  “I’ve been wanting to preach this sermon for several weeks,” he said, “and the Lord finally led me to preach it today.”  Based on Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord,” David told of two great disappointments in life where he did not get what he wanted, but God knew best.

As a college student, David Brooks was one of several interviewed by Green Acres Baptist in Tyler, Texas for youth minister.  David’s roommate was chosen.  Big disappointment.  But then he was called as summer youth minister at Spring Hill, Louisiana, a lovely smaller church where he ended up serving throughout college.  One day he met John Alley, pastor of Alexandria’s Calvary Baptist and a native of Spring Hill.  Later, in seminary in New Orleans, David was invited by John to become student minister at Calvary.  Years later when John retired, the church made David the pastor.  He’s been there since the year 2000.  God’s plans were far better than anything David Brooks could have imagined, any plans he might have made for himself.

I identify with that and I’m confident readers will also.  Now, David Brooks’  burden in that message was people dealing with the coronavirus, having their plans changed, and not getting what they had wanted or expected. God’s way is always better, he emphasized.  He can be trusted.

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