Jul 20

Fill In The Blank

Untitled-1In a moment, I am going to give you the opportunity to “fill in the blank” with either the word, “and” or the word, “but.” Although you may not recognize the passage I am about to share with you, I want you to insert the word you think best fits the context and belongs in the blank.

Okay, here it is…

“For a great and effective door has opened to me, ______________ there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). So, what word did you think best fits, “and” or “but?”

If you filled the blank with the word “but,” you chose the wrong word. The translators used the word, “and.”

The significance of this is that Paul wasn’t necessarily making a contrast between the good and the bad in his life – (e.g. I have an open door, but I also have many adversaries).

Instead, of translating the word, “but” and making these two thoughts stand in contrast with each other, the translators used the word “and,” allowing for us to join the two thoughts together and see them as complimentary. In other words, the “many adversaries” Paul had can be viewed together with his “open door.”

My point? Let’s stop complaining about our adversaries and take advantage of the opportunities with which they present us. Return good for evil; love for hatred; compassion for brutality; and justice for prejudice. The darker the “backdrop of our culture” becomes, the greater the contrast as we show people the “light of the world” (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:16). Stop feeling hopeless and worrying about present and future persecution directed toward children of God. Instead, consider how that adversity can be an open door!

Instead of simply lamenting the direction our government and politics have taken, use that as an opportunity to point dissatisfied and disillusioned people to a better kingdom and a better King.

In short, open your eyes to the open doors AND the many adversaries we have. Take advantage of both of them to glorify God!

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Jul 15

Why Christianity Is So Offensive

 

The real reason so many people find Christianity offensive, and why they want nothing to do with it may not be what you think.

I’m convinced the one thing so many people find offensive about Christianity is “LOVE.”  Yes, “love.”

  • You see, it’s because of love that Christians must be willing to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians must bless and treat their enemies with kindness (Romans 12:20). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians must rid their lives of racism and prejudice (James 2:1,9). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians confront sin and sinners (Proverbs 27:6 ; Ephesians 5:11). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians practice church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians make great monetary sacrifices for the kingdom’s sake (Acts 4:32-37). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t judge their motives (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). But many people don’t want to do that.
  • It’s because of love that Christians commit themselves to absolute allegiance and obedience to all that Jesus commands (John 14:15). But many people don’t want to do that.

Do you see my point? It’s not that Christianity is too harsh, too narrow, too judgmental, too irrelevant; it’s because Christianity commands “LOVE” and love is hard to obey. That’s why Christianity is so offensive to some people. It’s because the two greatest commands of Christianity, which undergird all of it, are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves…and many people just don’t want to do that.

Give it some thought.

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Jun 27

Nice Try

doorQuite possibly, one of the greatest nemeses of a preacher is the “back door” of the church building.

You see, it’s at the back door that some of the most hurtful words a preacher will ever hear are spoken. It’s at the back door where “grenades” are lobbed, and the preacher has no other choice than to throw himself on them and absorb the blow to protect bystanders. It’s at the back door that the preacher’s knowledge, devotion, and effectiveness are sometimes challenged. And consequently, it’s at the back door that many preachers conclude they’ve had enough and decide to quit.

While I’m not a “Pollyanna,” and don’t want to underestimate the carnage that has taken place at the back door, I believe that far more good than harm is done there.

Trust me; I know the “pain” of the back door.

  • There have been times I’ve longed for a word of affirmation, only to be met by 450 silent handshakes. On those occasions, I would have even preferred a “Nice try!” or “Better luck next Sunday” over the silence and indifference I received.
  • I’ve stood at the back door while someone attempted to belittle my preaching ability in front of others by saying, in a condescending voice, “You know, you preach on about a fifth-grade level!” On this occasion, I kindly thanked the man for his compliment and left him totally bewildered.
  • I’ve had to resist chasing after the occasional “hit and run” assault that leaves you stunned and wondering where that came from.

So I’ve been there and done that. However, I still believe the back door is far more a place of joy than dread. How so? By making the choice to make it so.  It’s as simple as changing our perspective. We, as preachers, need to stop remembering every criticism and forgetting the encouragement we receive. We need to quit giving weight to baseless critiques and begin giving weight to the fact that we did our best to speak the truth in love. We need to stop listening to the dissatisfaction of the spiritually immature and start listening more to the evaluation of the spiritually mature.

When we do these things, the “back door” won’t be a place of dread, but of anticipation! Whatever you do, don’t let the back door keep you from preaching the word of God in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

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Jun 20

Shame On Mom…Or Me?

boymomLast week, I was on a mission trip to the island of St. Croix.  While on the island, several of us handed out flyers inviting people to hear some preaching that was taking place that week.

As usual, I found the responses I received rather interesting.  Some people refused to take a flyer from us. Some not only refused to take a flyer, but they felt compelled to lecture and insult us. Others were polite, and some even promised to attend. But of all the people I talked to, I remember a mother and her young son (who was approximately 5-years-old) the most. She was exceptionally polite and enthusiastic about what I handed her. Here’s how our brief exchange went.

Me: “Hello, ma’am. May I give you a flyer?
Mother: “Sure! Thanks so much! I really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s so hot out here today. Thanks!”
Me: “You’re welcome.”

(She was so polite, I turned my head to watch as she and her son walked away, talking about the flyer I gave them)

Mother: “Look, son, that man gave us a flyer about the Bible.”
Son: “Bible?”
Mother: “Yes, Bible.”
Son: “What’s a Bible?”

I was stunned when I heard her young son ask her, “What’s a Bible?” This woman was the most polite woman I met all week, and yet her young son didn’t even know what a Bible was. At this point, the mother in this story becomes an easy target. We could all “pile on” and shame her for her lack of instruction. But before we “jump,” we might want to read and reflect upon Paul’s statement to the entire church at Corinth. He said:

“Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

Did you see that? Paul stated that Corinth’s ignorance of God was, at least in part, the blame and shame of the church. They hadn’t done enough. They knew the truth, but they had been too silent in broadcasting it to others.

While I was appalled by the lack of spiritual instruction this mother had given to her son, I also felt convicted when I asked myself, “Have I done enough to dispel biblical ignorance?” “Have I remained silent and missed opportunities?” The easy “mark” in this story is the mother, but maybe the more poignant “mark” is you and me.  Give it some thought!

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Jun 08

Love What He Loved

cronin (234 x 374)Yesterday marked the anniversary date of my mom and dad’s wedding day. They enjoyed 59 years of marriage before my dad passed away in 2013. Following his death, I saw some papers that belonged to my dad from his high school days. One of the things that caught my attention was that my dad said that his favorite author was a man by the name of A.J. Cronin. A.J. Cronin? Who was A.J. Cronin? I had never heard of him. But since he was my dad’s favorite author, and I loved my dad, I felt compelled to Google him, download, and read a couple of his books. Why? Because anyone my dad thought that much of, was consequently, of interest to me too.

If you can understand my interest in A.J. Cronin, then you can also understand my great interest in the church. I sometimes find it difficult to understand the apathy some people exhibit concerning the church. How can one who loves the Lord be apathetic to what the Lord loved?  Jesus loved the church so much that he gave his life for it (Acts 20:28). Consequently, I love the church too, because I love the Lord.

Maybe we all need to spend more time thinking about our Lord and how much we love him. If we do, I am convinced that we’ll find it easier to love the things that he loved.  Give it some thought.

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