Finding a contradiction in Scripture, this guy says he disproves God

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

I was reading comments on a friend’s Facebook page below something she had written about the Bible’s authenticity.

I suppose her critic was a friend, because after each of his statements, each one shallow and several insulting, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.

But nothing worked.

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.

What was his “contradiction”?

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What Jesus was like: A Bible story with many insights

One brief incident in the day of Jesus’ early ministry reveals so much about Him to our jaded eyes.  Everything we see, we like.

The story is found in Mark 3:1-6.

And He entered again into a synagogue (in Capernaum); and a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they have accuse Him.

And He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Rise and come forward!’ And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm? to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent.

And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians (their enemies) against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

I love that story.  It’s a brief encounter that tells us a world of things about our Savior….

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Something preachers keep forgetting

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you…. (2 Timothy 1:6). 

I was sitting on the platform, ten feet to the left and rear of the pulpit, studying the 300 people in the congregation. In five minutes, I would walk to the podium and, as the guest preacher, bring the sermon. The thoughts running through my mind were not helpful.

“They know all these things. My sermon is about the church. And these people are at church on a Sunday night, of all things. I might as well go into a diner and speak on the joys of eating. Or to a gym and talk about the need for exercise.”

Then, sanity returned. I knew this was not the case at all.

I thought about the times when I sat where they sit.  I often needed a strong reminder of the proper value to be placed on the church, of how solidly God feels about it, of the price Christ paid for it, of the assignments He has given it, and yes, reminders of the sorry way the church is being treated by some of its friends.

There was a genuine need for this message, and on this night I would deliver it as strongly as I knew how.

I gave it my all. The response at invitation time–not always the best barometer, I know–indicated the sermon had hit its target.

The best barometer, and one I’m not privy to, would be the behavior of the members of that congregation over the next few weeks and months.

It’s easy for preachers to fall into that little sinkhole which had opened up just in front of me, and think, “These people do not need this; they already know it.”

In such situations, it’s good for the man of God to remind himself of three facts:

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Take time for a child: How the elderly doctor did it

This is the story of Dr. Joe Bailey of Tupelo, Mississippi.  He told it in 2004 as a tribute to his mentor.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

His family were farmers, says Dr. Joe Bailey, but since his mother refused to live anywhere but in town, they lived in Coffeeville, population 600. That was precisely across the street from the town doctor, H. O. Leonard.

As far back as Joe Bailey remembers, he wanted to be a medical doctor. In fact, when he was 10, his father suggested that it was time for him to begin helping out on the farm. Young Joe took a deep breath and told him that “if I was going to be a doctor, it would be better if I had a job that would teach me about people.”

The truth is, I really enjoyed the farm, but at age 10 I went to work in the local grocery store for 25 cents an hour (in 1957). I kept the job until I finished high school in 1965. By then I was making $1 an hour and the experiences of dealing with people those eight years have proven invaluable to me.

In the middle of that vocational experience, however, little Joe Bailey began his medical training. Here’s how it happened.

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Lessons about Heaven from my favorite opera

Someone has said that good music is music which is written better than it can be played.

I’m on a Turandot kick right now. I love all the Puccini operas, but this one has been special after I found how different it is from all the others. I’m not a musician, cannot read music or play an instrument.  But I do love good music. I swoon at certain kinds of music, however, and this is one of them.

For years Turandot was not as well known as Puccini’s other more popular operas (La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly). In fact, few people had even heard of it. One day I found out why.

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Preaching about America in the worst possible way

Preacher Driftwater told me, “I want to preach about America in the worst way.”

I told him it’s been done.

What he said is not what he meant, of course.

The worst way to preach about America is negatively.

“The world is going to hell.” “America is decaying from within.”  “The country is becoming socialist.”  “The president is our worst enemy.”  “The Supreme Court is ruining America.”  “The home is breaking down. Marriage is a thing of the past. You can’t get a good two-dollar steak any more.”

Okay, strike that last one.

After the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals can marry in any state in the union, we all agree that this has forever changed this country.  For better or for worse depends on who’s talking.

Christians I know are justifiably concerned. But once the SCOTUS rules, we are stuck with their decision.

Since then, things have continued to go south.  I’ll spare you the list.

So! Does all this mean the United States is through? Will God write ‘Ichabod’ over what used to be a great country?  Should we preachers deliver its eulogy from our pulpits?

Not so fast.

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Rescuing your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. (Galatians 5:16)

Brothers and sisters.  If you would be spiritually mature and successful in the Christian life, you must rescue your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions.”  –J. Sidlow Baxter, speaking to Mississippi Baptists in the mid-1970s.

She said to me. “If I don’t feel like doing something, my heart would not be in it, and the Lord said we are to serve Him with all our heart. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

I said, “So, if you don’t feel like reading your Bible or going to church or apologizing to a neighbor, you don’t do it.  Right?”

She: “Right.  It would be hypocritical.”

Me: “Well. May I ask you, do you ever wake up on Monday morning and not feel like going to work?  Or, when you were a teen, were there early mornings when you did not feel like getting up and going to school?”

She: “That’s different.”

Me: “How is it different?”

She: “It just is.”

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Life’s intersections: What if that person had not shown up that day?

Last evening and today, I’ve been texting with a friend of 60+ years as we set up the reunion for the church in Birmingham that ministered to me so thoroughly when I was a student at nearby Birmingham-Southern Baptist Church.  Everything that follows below is relevant to that. 

I’m 81 years old. Not decrepit or senile, thank you very much. And, not ancient or feeble by any means, you understand.  But the calendar is what it is and the white hair belies my protestations.  Honestly, l feel like I’m 15.  Okay, sort of.

However.

The time is here when it’s perfectly acceptable to look back and remember and give thanks to God for what He has done.

Thinking of all the blessings of people and incidents, of words and books and jobs and churches, I constantly thank God that He did “this” and not “that” or something else entirely.

You are looking at one blest man. (Okay, to the extent you are actually “looking” at me, that is.)

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Should we live each day as though it were our last? Are you sure?

This happened years ago but David and I still laugh about it.

David was a deacon, a lawyer, and a young Christian who wanted to grow in his usefulness to the Lord. One day he asked to accompany me on my hospital visitation. “I’d like to get more comfortable visiting in the hospitals,” he said. “Sure. Great.”

A good thing for a deacon to do. For any of us to do.

The next morning around 7:30 we met in the medical center parking lot. We greeted each other and I made a couple of suggestions. “The first few patients we see, I’ll introduce you, but don’t say anything. Just pay attention.” Then, we went upstairs.

In 99 percent of the cases, hospital visitation is not difficult. It’s simply a Christian friend calling on another friend. Sometimes it’s big brother ministering to a hurting brother, and often nothing more profound than two old buddies chatting. Normally, my plan was to visit with the person no more than a couple of minutes, and if all was well, to share a verse of scripture (from memory) and lead in a brief prayer of praise and commitment.

After the third or fourth patient, as we headed upstairs, I said, “David, in the next room, I’ll call on you to pray.” Fine.

A few minutes later as we left the patient’s room, in the hallway he said, “How was that?”

I said, “Well, normally that’s a good thing to pray. But a hospital room may not be where you want to pray ‘Lord, help us to live this day as if it were our last.’  The patient is facing some heavy medical stuff.”

He said, “Did I say that?” I laughed, “It’s all right. She didn’t seem to mind.”

It’s a cliche’ and not a bad one. According to the book, that line originated in the decade of A.D. 170-180, thanks to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. (He lived April 26, 121 to March 17, 180. A Stoic philosopher, he seems to have been the type of ruler Plato had in mind with his concept of “philosopher-kings.”)

The exact quote from Marcus Aurelius: And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as it were the last.

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The compliment that wounds a pastor

This is from my journal of Tuesday, March 30, 1993. I had been at that church two and a half years…

At 2 pm, I had a visitor. A former church member who will go unnamed here wanted to apologize for his being so critical of me in my first year.  He couldn’t identify why he was, except a certain resistance to authority.

I forgave him.  The pain is that he is a minister of sorts, someone I had a lot of confidence in and did not know he was doing this. He said, “I hear from people in the last month that you have changed.”  Why am I offended by that? I said, “I haven’t.  I’m the same person I was then.” Which is true. 

Reminds me of the pain in (my last church) when people would write and say, ‘We love you now, but for your first year here, we hated your guts. You were in our pastor’s pulpit.’ (The previous pastor had stayed only 3 years and had left for another church before they were ready to release him.) And these would be dear people whom I had valued.  They got It off their chest but left me bleeding.

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