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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May 30

Memorials

Brief Cases (986 x 730)There are no rules about how to establish man-made memorials. They may come in different shapes and sizes. Really, all that is necessary is that whatever shape they take, they serve as a reminder. The picture to the left is of two briefcases that sit in my office. The bottom one, which has the initials, “A.H.” on it belonged to my granddad, and the one on the top with the initials, “F.H.” belonged to my dad.

For me, the picture to the left is a memorial, of sorts.  These two briefcases sit in my office in plain view from my desk. My granddad served as an elder in the Lord’s church and was the County Assessor of Wetzel County, WV for 16 years. Granddad carried his briefcase to the courthouse with him every day. For years, my dad used his briefcase to carry his Bible and notes to the radio station for his daily radio program on WOHI. Inside dad’s briefcase is a handwritten outline of the last sermon he prepared for a lectureship he didn’t live long enough to deliver. Ironically, it is entitled, “Preparation for Death.”

To me, these briefcases serve as a daily reminder of my heritage, the brevity of life, and the work that every generation has to do. Assuming that if the natural order of events occurs, my son will add another briefcase to this stack. And when that time comes, I hope they will serve to motivate him as much as they have helped to motivate me.

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May 28

Board the Bus & Take a Seat…Or Not

32450372_sIn spite of the clarity of Jesus’ words, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16), there are some who still deny the necessity of baptism.

Some affirm that one is saved at the point of faith without further acts of obedience (i.e. baptism). In an effort to sustain such an affirmation, an illustration is offered as a parallel to Mark 16:16.  It goes like this…

“He who gets on a bus, and sits down, will arrive at his destination.”  But don’t we all know that all that is really necessary to arrive at the destination is simply “getting on the bus?” Whether one sits or stands, he will still arrive at his destination. Sitting might bring him more comfort while on his journey, but it isn’t necessary in order to arrive at his destination.

Likewise, when Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” we are told that all that is necessary to receive salvation is to believe in Jesus. Being baptized is like “taking a seat on the bus.” It might aid your comfort, but it isn’t necessary in order to arrive at your destination.

On the surface, one may be deceived by this “parallel” illustration. But a little examination will demonstrate that the “parallel” isn’t parallel at all.

Consider: If when one believes in Jesus (i.e. gets on the bus per the illustration) he is saved at that very moment, then according to the “parallel” when one gets on the bus, at that very moment, he is already at his destination! You see, the alleged parallel isn’t parallel at all. It breaks down.

Friends, the best thing we can do is simply teach and obey the words of Jesus rather than looking for loopholes whereby we may ignore half of what he said.

“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16).

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