My 15 Minutes

Fame

photo (40)Once the weekly community paper came out yesterday, I was famous for a moment or two. Just this morning, as I was paying for a cup of coffee at the gas station, the lady behind the counter asked, “Weren’t you in the paper?” “Yes, that was me,” I replied. But I still had to pay for the coffee.

Click HERE to read the article.

The kids on my bus were thrilled to see their bus driver in the news paper. “You’re famous!” “We’ve got a famous bus driver!” One little girl even took my copy of the article I had picked up that morning and never gave it back – she was way too excited, poor thing.

So, yes, I was on the front page of a little paper, got a friend request on Facebook from someone locally famous, and paid for my own coffee. Amazing what can happen when you write a book.

Lasting Notoriety 

But no matter how famous I become down here on this earth, fame is fleeting. Next week there might be a student, parent, or teacher who will comment on my recent notoriety, but in a few days it will be history – I’ll be non-famous again.

What matters most is that my name is not written down on the pages of some local rag, or even the New York Times best-seller list (don’t I wish), but that my name is written down in heaven (Luke 10:20).

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” – Revelation 20:12 KJV

I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame a few times over, and hardly nothing remains to show for it. On the other hand, however, my name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s notoriety that will last forever – and I didn’t even do anything to deserve it.

I wonder if there’ll be coffee in heaven? If so, I bet it’ll be free ;-)

 

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Filed under current events, Life Lessons, salvation

Suicide? Let’s Talk.

“God moment.” 

This morning, before I started working on a post which I had originally intended to write, I did the usual glance-over of posts on blogs I follow. (By the way, when you’re away from the computer for a few days, it’s amazing how many blog posts can be written by other people!) That’s when I came across a post on Conform to Christ, “What does the Bible say about Suicide?

Once I read the above post, I could not help but to lend some kind of response. The article did a decent job of presenting a biblical perspective on the subject, but I felt it needed some additional perspective. So, I wrote my comment, submitted it, then planned to get back to writing a post on my own blog. That’s when I re-read my comment, thought about it, and felt the overwhelming need to re-share my comment here.

I feel this is a “God moment.” Somebody needs to read this.

My Perspective

I am very well acquainted with the issue of suicide – very well acquainted. As a matter of fact, I have had a long history of dealing with the temptation, nearly following through [with a 12 gauge] back in my teen years. Now, even as a pastor, the thoughts still come, they still haunt. Unfortunately, once a person has crossed a certain line, things are never the same.

Nevertheless, I know that I am still here for multiple reasons, the most important of which is the glory of God. But even though I know “the words,” … suicidal thoughts can attack when I least expect them, and especially when I do. But I have come to understand that suicide is a LIE: it will not, it cannot, fulfill its promises. No matter the circumstances, suicide will not accomplish its goals. At most it may get others’ attention, but it robs one of the opportunity to see the problem fixed…to see what God could have done.

For the most part, I believe suicide is an attempt by the hurting to get others to notice, to empathize. But what Satan enjoys doing is blinding us to two very important facts:

  1. We are NOT alone in our pain.
  2. God NEVER wastes a tear.

The One who literally laid His life down so that we could live walks with us, just like Daniel’s friends in the Babylonian furnace. And no matter the pain, no matter the situation, no matter the shame, there is someone else out there who needs us to shoulder up to them and say, “I understand.”

 Seek Help

Coming from someone who has walked down the suicidal road for 30+ years, never try to deal with this on your own. Fight the temptation to put a wall between yourself and others. If you are struggling, God already has someone prepared to be a shoulder to lean on. Seek help!

You may even be a Christian and find yourself thinking, “How does Jesus understand what I’m going through? He never sinned!” I used to think that, too! And if not for my dad knocking on my bedroom door to see how I was doing, I might have pulled the trigger on that shotgun…all because I though God didn’t understand.

But here’s the thing: Jesus not only bore your sin on the cross, He bore your shame, too! As a matter of fact, the Bible even says that He who knew no sin, “became sin” for us (2 Corinthians 5:21)! In other words, if guilt is behind what you feel right now, and you think nobody could understand or has walked in your shoes – Jesus understands!

Your sin is what He took to the cross, and it was the shame of THAT sin He felt as He hung there – instead of you! …FOR you!

If you are feeling suicidal, talk to somebody about it. Find a good, Christian counselor who isn’t legalistic and judgmental, but understands God’s grace and mercy. In other words, if you are feeling suicidal, I’m sure there’s someone available who’s not only sympathetic, but knows the “Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Your life is priceless because of Who was paid for it; don’t throw it away.

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Filed under Christian Living, Life/Death, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

An Honest Salesman?

The following are some thoughts of mine originally posted at my other blog, Proverbial Thought.

The Proverb

“The thoughts of the righteous [are] right: [but] the counsels of the wicked [are] deceit.” – Proverbs 12:5 KJV

It is not often that I choose to quote another author, but I found the following words instructive.

The plans of the righteous are right.” His designs are well-intentioned and morally sound because the mind of the righteous man is disciplined by wisdom. On the other hand, “the counsels of the wicked are deceit.” Their warped minds invent crooked methods for reaching their goals. To them the end always justifies the means.”*

The Ends

Do you ever stop to think about the “ends?” In other words, do you ever stop to think about the results of your actions, or your thoughts? Do you plan ahead? Do you think about consequences?

The “thoughts of the righteous are right” because the righteous have right hearts. And because of their righteous thoughts, the means to an end matter just as much as the result. They want to do what is right, because it is right.

On the other hand, the wicked think only of self-gratifying goals. As the above quote says, “To them the end always justifies the means.” Because of an unwise, wicked heart, what is right does not matter, only the desired result.

The Means

#8 in the nation! Booyah!

I have known many salesmen over the years. As a matter of fact, I was a pretty successful one, too. And if there was anything that characterized the typical salesman, it was the desire to make a sale, to “close the deal,” even if his “counsel” was a little deceitful.

The problem with many salespeople is that they will tell you whatever you want to hear, even things you don’t, in order to sell a product or service. What the customer needs or can afford is rarely a consideration when sales bonuses and large paychecks are at stake. As long as a dollar can be made, it is thought “the end justifies the means.”

So how do you know when you have met a “righteous” salesman? When he won’t sell you something, even when you think you want it. Happily, I can say I’ve walked away from sales, even when the rent was due; taking advantage of customers was wrong. Even though I might have needed the money, the end did not justify the means.

A Prayer

Dear Lord, give us a righteous heart that thinks right things. Keep us from wicked and deceitful thoughts. Give us a heart for others over the needs of self. Reprove us, Jesus, when we are tempted to deceive, for what waits in the end is anything but gain.

 


*James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 12:2–7.

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Filed under Bible Study, blogging, wisdom

Exchanging Time for Power

Continuing in the theme of the last couple of days, I read something last night that hit me like a brick regarding preaching. You see, I have been reading a little book by Andrew Murray (1828-1917), Living a Prayerful Life. I should have read it years ago.

In one paragraph Murray sums up what is probably the single-most devastating reason why our/my preaching is not more powerful and effective than it is.

I pray that each minister of the gospel might understand that he has received this precious space of time from God in order to wait on Him! God must have for fellowship with himself the first and the best of our time. Without this, our preaching and our service will have little power. Here on earth I may expend my time in exchange for money or learning. The minister exchanges his time for divine power and the spiritual blessing to be obtained from heaven. That, and nothing else, makes him a man of God and ensures that his preaching will be in the demonstration of the Spirit and power.*

We are only given so much time. Like currency, we can use it to purchase for ourselves many things, like pleasure, satisfaction, wealth, knowledge, etc. But how much of it do we use to purchase power from the Holy Spirit? How much time to we spend in prayer?

Oh, this is so convicting, is it not? Why is there not more power from the pulpit? Because we are wasting time, flittering it away, spending too much of it on things which we, as ministers, need not. What we need MOST is a “demonstration of the Spirit and power!”

It’s past time we exchange our time in prayer. Pastors, the Church (in America, at least) is weak, and it’s our fault!

 

* Murray, Andrew. Living a Prayerful Life. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002, p. 96.

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Filed under America, ministry, Preaching

The Sunday Sermon

The Prayer

The last post I published was a literal prayer that I was praying as I wrote it. As a matter of fact, I wrote it on my iPhone as I was on my knees beside my bed.

The reason I did it? I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted you guys to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, when no one else is around. I guess I wanted you to get a sense of the humanity in ministry; I’m only human.

Now, thanks to the same iPhone and a little editing with Audacity (free software I would recommend), linked below is the sermon I preached Sunday morning. Incidentally, some of what I preach in this sermon reflects back to a previous post having to do with the “prayer of salvation.”

The Sermon

Since the second Sunday this month I have been preaching through the book of James in the morning services, one chapter a week. The focus has not been on doing a thorough exposition of each chapter, but to seek what it is God would have our congregation hear from Him for such a time as this. Therefore, don’t expect a glittering example of homiletical prowess; I didn’t even go to the pulpit with an outline, only a few notes. All I did was ask God to show me what we at Riverside needed hear.

bibleIf you haven’t read it yet, go back and read the prayer I prayed on Saturday night, then listen to the sermon. Then, from a purely academic perspective, try to answer the following questions: Did the message stay true to the text? Was the message clear and distinct? How might you approach the topic differently?

From a spiritual perspective, could you sense the Spirit moving through what was said? Was the prayer answered? Of course, it’s impossible to know what was going on the hearts of those present when this was preached, but what about your heart? Did God speak to you?

“The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of his church. It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.”  – Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, Vol. 1

Your thoughts would be appreciated. :-)

Click HERE to listen to the sermon, “James 2″

 

 

NOTE: This post is not intended to stir up arguments, heated debates, etc. I will not allow comments which are antagonistic, hateful, or anything the like. This will not be allowed to turn into a battleground for trolls with no respect for faith. Comments will be carefully monitored.

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Filed under Faith, Preaching, salvation, Theology, worship

Saturday Night Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Thank you so much for your mercy and grace! Thank you for loving me, despite everything about me that I’d despise, if I were you. But I’m not You, and I’m glad.

Lord, I’ve been reading and studying Your Word, and I believe I know what it is you’d have me to say to us tomorrow. But even though I think I know, only You know for sure what we need. Please use me as Your mouthpiece to say what’s on Your heart.

I know I’m human. I confess that there will come a point tomorrow when I’ll want to insert my own two cents. If I do, please make sure Your image is on the coins; my currency is worthless.

Lord, don’t let me waste any one’s time in the morning, please. Preach through me in spite of myself. We want to hear You, not me. These are good people who could be going other places, doing other things, or resting in; don’t let me be the reason for them wishing they were some place else.

I want to feel Your presence. I want to be bold, fearless. I need your Spirit to strengthen me, to give my words authority, to break the bread and multiply it, meeting needs I could never supply. Fill me. Possess me. Empower me. Erase me; let them see Jesus.

I’m a sinner, Lord. I’m ashamed of my shortcomings. You deserve more than I’ve given; I’ve held back my all. Help me not to love my self so much, oh God. Help me to love you, to thirst for you, to be enraptured by YOU! If my love for You is lacking, so will be my preaching. Forgive me of my adulterous heart that is prone to wander from Your embrace. I’m ashamed! But You forgive! I’m unworthy!!

Oh that your pulpit will be a lighthouse! May the Light be bright! Guide our folks away from what endangers them! Only You know what they are facing next week.

A lion is seeking whom he may devour, Lord. I hate that scoundrel! He will have his crowd doing their best to hurt, hinder, distract, and all that stuff. Mess him up, Lord! Screw up whatever plans he may have for tomorrow! Keep the fights from getting started. Protect our folk on the road. Protect hearts and minds from temptations that could rob their joy. Despite the devil’s best efforts, help the ones who want to come to church get here, joy and all intact, ready to worship You!

Lord, I’m going to go to bed, now. May I dream holy dreams, encouraging dreams, dreams that remind me of Your power and majesty. May I wake up already pumped, full of expectation, ready to raise my Sword for battle.

Thank You again, Lord, for this opportunity. I don’t know why You chose me, but I want to make You proud. If I don’t get a single response from a single pew, when the time comes for me to step down, may I hear your Spirit whisper “well done.” Be glorified, Father, in spite of me. And when it’s all said and done, because of You, may the congregation honestly say, “I’m glad we came unto the house of the Lord!”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Filed under Bible Study, Culture Wars, Love of God, Preaching, worship

Prayer of Salvation Controversy

Tough Topic

Sooooooo…. Here’s a good one for you guys to debate (atheists, skeptics, cultists, and otherwise non-believers need not participate):

Is the “sinner’s prayer” a good or bad thing?

Just the other day I read a great article by BJ (a follower) on The River Walk. The subject was “The Sinner’s Prayer,” and the text was Matthew 7:21.

Some big names in evangelicalism (David Platt, for example) have a problem with the sinner’s prayer. Many even claim that this type of prayer has led to a plethora of false conversions. Some even go so far as to claim this kind of prayer is a form of “works salvation.”

My Two Cents

Below is the comment I left on The River Walk (tworiversblog.com):

Where do I start? Where do I end? I’m a Baptist. I’m a Baptist pastor. I prayed the “prayer” as a child. I am born again. I have given altar calls. I have invited others to pray the “prayer” during invitations. There’s no way I can know who was born again…or not; only God knows. However, I can tell you about fruit.

No, the prayer doesn’t save; Jesus does. But what I see so often today is an attempt by many to belittle, malign, berate, and denigrate something that is precious and effective if presented in context with the true gospel message. I have seen it so many times: young, intellectual, up-and-coming theologians stirring up strife within the body of Christ, all the while holding on to the banner of grace, attempting to change, as if change itself was something divine. Why not accept the “sinners prayer” with a little more grace and along with it teach the fundamental doctrines on which it depends to be effective?

We ARE commanded to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Rom. 10:13). Is it not a “sinner’s prayer” when a sinner prays for salvation? Yes, I believe that there have been many false conversions brought about by head-hunting preachers and evangelists leading silent, congregational “sinner’s prayers.” That is why when I give an invitation I always explain that true salvation will result in public confession (Matt. 10:32-33). In other words, I never say “Pray with me…” and then ask people to come forward. I say that if one is truly repentant, truly understands his need of new birth, truly finds himself humbled at the foot of the cross, then he will have no problem coming to an altar, making a public profession, and then being baptized.

So, to sum this up…sorry for the length…I was saved at the age of 6 (I’m 47) when I realized that I was a sinner, was going to hell, and that the only way to heaven was to accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t have been able to recite the Apostle’s Creed, the Baptist Faith and Message, or even the Ten Commandments, but I knew I was lost. My dad led me to a little Sunday school room where we knelt at a little table, and it was there that my dad, a humble, former moonshiner, led me in the “sinner’s prayer,” because I didn’t know any better way to say what was in my little heart. That was the day I was saved, and I thank God my dad prayed with me.

That’s my 2 cents.

Well? Let’s discuss it.

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Filed under salvation, Theology