Responding to criticism

We have all been stung by criticism. It hits us blindside, a wallop seemingly out of nowhere. Perhaps we assumed that all was well, that our hard efforts were appreciated, and then it came: someone suspects our motives, someone takes work that was profoundly meaningful to us and tore it to shreds.

We stumble outside, sit on the steps and try to take it all in. Were they right? Did we truly, deeply wrong others? Continue reading “Responding to criticism”

Where would you like him to be?

Worship is well under way when it begins: A restless child has been thwarted from some contraband he craves, and he begins to cry. It begins low and soft and crescendos into a full-blown wail. Somehow, the preacher, with his mature lungs and microphone cannot compete with the little fellow’s howl. Neighbors stir restlessly. Surreptitious glances are cast his way; when will he stop? Will his overwhelmed mom be able to handle this?

Can I make this point as clear as a bell? I want junior to come to church. I want him here! What better place is there for the little fellow to be? Jesus wants him there too: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Continue reading “Where would you like him to be?”

God bless faithful grandparents

I see it more and more in churches these days. Grandparents enter the building, their hair grey and their bodies a little worn, preceded by bouncing, rambunctious grandchildren.

I note that there is a generation missing.

Please don’t misunderstand. I know many good parents who move heaven and earth to lead their children spiritually. The parents of my grandchildren are both good, faithful Christians. But you and I both know this other phenomenon exists, too. The grandchildren suffer broken homes or parents who have fallen away from their faith. It is at this delicate juncture that grandparents intervene. “Can I take the kids to church?” “Can I pay for their church camp?” Grandparents do what they can to keep their grandchildren faithful. Continue reading “God bless faithful grandparents”

Preaching: the Rodney Dangerfield of worship

Is the term “Long-Winded Sermon” a redundant expression?

I remember telling a brother, in jest, that according to Acts 20:7, I had biblical precedent for preaching until midnight. He laughed, then said, “That’s fine. You can preach until midnight, as long as you can also raise people from the dead” (in a reference to the sleep-deprived Eutychus). I had an answer for him. I reminded him that Paul did not stop at midnight, he was merely interrupted at midnight. He continued to talk to the brethren at Troas until the next morning! Continue reading “Preaching: the Rodney Dangerfield of worship”

What members wished that preachers knew about members

In the interest of fairness, I follow last week‘s article on what preachers wished their members knew about them with the inverse, what members would like preachers to know about them.

In this list, I will not include demands that are either selfish or unspiritual. Demanding that a church be all about serving “me” is not a legitimate demand to make on the preacher. Demands to do unbiblical things are neither legitimate nor fair. And yet there are some things that preachers should know about their members. Continue reading “What members wished that preachers knew about members”

What preachers wish congregations knew about preachers

He stands in the pulpit every Sunday. He must be deeply spiritual. Never has any doubts, never feels discouraged, because he is a spiritual leader, right?

Well, you might be surprised to find that your preacher is human. Have you ever wondered what he wished you knew, but was afraid to tell you? Continue reading “What preachers wish congregations knew about preachers”

Church should make you feel good

“Church should make you feel good” (Tammy Faye Bakker Messner).

Well, yes, Ms. Bakker. When we look at the cross and see the love of the Lord exhibited there, that feels good. Being forgiven feels good. Having someone listen to our prayers feels good. Being with other people of faith feels good. Is there something to celebrate when we worship God? Absolutely everything! No Super Bowl national championship compares with the grandeur of being in God’s presence.

Church should make you feel good. Continue reading “Church should make you feel good”

The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947 Bedouin shepherds discovered the caves where thousands of Old Testament manuscripts were stored. There is no price you could put on the value of this archaeological find. It is, without comparison, the most important discovery in biblical studies. At first, the Bedouins kept a couple of texts in their tents, unaware of their potential value. When news got out of their existence, the curator of the Jerusalem University, Mar Samuel, purchased four of them. He bought the Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule, the Habakkuk Peshar (Commentary on Habakkuk), and the Genesis Apocryphon. He checked them for their veracity, and found them genuine.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now located in the “Shrine of the Book” in Jerusalem. They originally belonged to the Essenes, an aesthetic Jewish movement that believed mainstream Judaism had sold out to secular interests. Continue reading “The Dead Sea Scrolls”

Neither hot nor cold

Revelation 3:14-16 is the classic Bible passage on half-hearted Christianity. Any preacher who is concerned his congregation lacks zeal for the Lord might choose this passage as his text for a sermon. Here the Lord memorably condemns the church at Laodicea for being “neither hot nor cold,” they were instead, “lukewarm.” He further warns them that this distasteful condition will cause him to “spit” them out of his mouth.

Interestingly it seems the Lord was reflecting an urban reality in that location. Several of the seven churches he addresses in Revelation chapters 2-3 indicate this. Archaeologists have discovered that the nearby town of Hieropolis, six miles distant, was blessed with extensive hot springs. Continue reading “Neither hot nor cold”

The witness of Josephus

Josephus Flavius (38-100 A.D.) was a Jewish historian and wannabe general. He was given a rabbinic education and joined the sect of the Pharisees.

When the Jews revolted against Rome in 64 A.D., he was placed in charge of the Jewish garrison in Galilee. When his forces were overwhelmed by the Roman general Vespasian, he was captured and brought before the gritty general. He impressed Vespasian by predicting he would one day become Caesar. Apparently not immune to flattery, the Roman general spared the life of Josephus and made him an intelligence officer. Continue reading “The witness of Josephus”