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Archive for September, 2020

Adam D. Wright in his book, “God Moments,” gives several fascinating examples of times when God intervened in the lives of people in a way that can only be described as a “God moment.” Such moments, when looked back upon, will impact our lives in a powerful way for as long as we live.

Everyone has pivotal experiences of God’s loving activity in their lives. The longer we live the more meaningful they become. Have you ever had a narrow escape from a tough situation by some strange protection? Have you ever gone through a hard time only to discover later that it prepared you for something greater in your life? Have you ever received a blessing that you know you did not earn?

Wright tells the story in his book of a “God moment” experienced by Randy Reed in May 1995. Reed, a 34-year-old construction worker, was atop a nearly completed water tower outside Chicago. The God moment happened when he unhooked his safety gear to reach for some pipes. A metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding on which he was standing. The scaffolding tipped over, and Reed slipped.

Reed landed on the ground below in a pile of dirt, barely missing some rocks and construction debris. When the paramedics arrived, he was still breathing. When they hoisted him onto the backboard and began carrying him to the ambulance, he spoke. He who had fallen 110 feet and lived had enough energy to speak. And you are not going to believe what he said. He said, “Don’t drop me.” He came away from a 110 foot fall and only had a bruised lung. For the rest of his life I am sure he thought of the experience as a “God moment.”

I look back over my life to 1951 when I had what I am certain was a “God moment.” My 14-year-old brother was with me as we were traveling through the small town of Dudley, Georgia at around 10 p.m. one night. We were no more than 70 to 80 feet from a major railroad crossing that had no warning lights. I assume there was a warning sign at the edge of town that was designed to tell an engineer to blow his horn in plenty of time to warn any driver approaching that intersection that a train would soon be speeding by.

Approaching this railroad crossing is where I had my “God moment.” A locomotive was approaching the intersection and the engineer had not blown his horn until he was 50 or 60 yards away. I heard the horn, turned rapidly to the right, saw the locomotive coming out from behind the last row of buildings, literally stomped my brake pedal and skidded to a stop. My front bumper was no more than two feet from the train, and it had to be traveling at least 60 mph.

After the last car of the train passed, it was almost a minute before I could say, “I’m weak! “ At least 20 seconds later my brother said, “Me too!” Scared nearly out of my wits I cranked my car again and we traveled on down the road. For the last 69 years I have thought a lot about that night. Why did the engineer not blow his horn sooner as he should have? Why did he blow it at the precise moment that he did? If that horn had blown one half second later my life would have ended that night – and the life of my brother as well.

Some have said to me, “You were really lucky!” Was it just luck? Absolutely not! I strongly believe it was a “God moment.” God had something for me to do. He had called me to serve Him as a Christian minister. In the years since that night I had the joy for 49 years to serve 6 wonderful churches as their pastor. Following retirement in 1996 as a full time minister I served 10 more churches as interim pastor. It was a joy.

I challenge you to look back over your life for your “God moments.” Those were the times God touched you in a special way. Having reviewed the “God moments” in your past, why not take the time to get down on your knees to praise the Lord a while? After you have done that you should stand up and sing the Doxology!

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Church members would be surprised to find some of the things that are tucked away inside pulpits behind which ministers stand each Sunday to preach. Dr. E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), Christian missionary and theologian, once told of finding a fire extinguisher. As you might imagine, when he told this story it evoked a lot of laughter. What an unusual place to find a fire extinguisher!

Any minister who stands behind the pulpit to preach is supposed to be on fire with devotion to God and to the gospel. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, said: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). The goal of every person who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ should be the building of a fire, not to extinguish one.

I am reminded of the old Greek legend of Prometheus, the man who stole fire from heaven and brought it to mortals on our earth. Fire has been a symbol of divine presence and power from untold centuries. Think of Moses before the burning bush in the desert, and of the prophet Jeremiah when the fire of God was “shut up in his bones”. This leads us to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit’s invasion was “in tongues like a fire” (Acts 2:3). As a New Testament scholar once said, “On that day the fire was lit.”

Wherever the gospel has been genuinely preached, the good news of Christ has been described as a fire. Sins have been burned away in the Savior’s love, and worthless accumulations from a self-centered past have been consumed. Men and women and boys and girls who have heard that message have said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” When God’s love is genuinely proclaimed as demonstrated at Calvary and on the morning or our Lord’s resurrection sinners are forgiven of their sins and begin to walk in a new direction.

Preaching that fails to exalt Christ is not worthy of being called Christian preaching. Knowing this, when I was pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Wilmington in the mid-1970’s I had a brass plaque made and attached it to the back of our pulpit containing five words that were spoken by some Greeks who had come to the Passover Feast. They came first to Philip and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus!” Philip took these Greeks to Andrew, and Andrew carried them to Jesus. I had a plaque made containing those five words and attached it to the pulpit approximately 45 years ago. It is still attached to the back of the Temple Baptist Church pulpit.

I wanted those five words to remind me of what my primary mission was every time I stepped behind the pulpit to proclaim the gospel. It was not my task to send people away from church saying, “That was a lovely sermon” or “What an eloquent appeal the pastor made today.” The one question of importance for me was: “Did they, or did they not, meet Jesus Christ today?” There will always be those who will prefer what G.K. Chesterton described as “one solid and polished cataract of platitudes flowing forever and ever.”

The preacher should not have as his primary goal to be eloquent, or clever, or sensational, or skilled in logic. He must be real. He will be preaching to people who have been grappling all week with stern realities. In the congregation there will be stories of heavy anxiety and fierce temptation, of loneliness, of overwork and lack of work. To fail as a pastor to realize that this is true is to fail to fulfill your primary mission.

As an elderly retired preacher let me close with this personal word to you young sky pilots who are still preaching: Install a plaque on your pulpit where you stand to preach that says, “SIR, WE WOULD SEE JESUS.” Keep that as your central focus. The Holy Spirit, as at Pentecost, can set your church on fire.

For that kind of fire you will not need to keep a fire extinguisher stored in your pulpit.

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There is an old story about a man who was meeting a visiting clergyman at an airport. He didn’t know the visitor so he went up to one stranger who was getting off the plane and said, “Pardon me, sir, but are you a clergyman?” “No,” the man replied, “It is indigestion that makes me look that way.”

Since I am a Christian minister myself I think his characterization of ministers was both erroneous and unkind. Some of the happiest people I have known and still know are Christian ministers. This doesn’t mean that everything happens perfectly for ministers, or that we are always exponents of positive cheerful thinking. How could this be true in our kind of world?

One of the marks of a practicing Christian should be joy. Even though ministers are engaged in spiritual warfare against all forms of evil, we who believe in the great and loving God should always demonstrate that we have a deep inner joy. This doesn’t mean that we have to be a perpetually bubbling personality, with a grin from ear to ear, and have a backslapping joviality. Some of the most radiantly joyful Christians I have known had little to make them happy. Some were chronic invalids. Some were incurably ill. Some were restricted in one way or another. And some were overworked.

G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, “Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” This is true because joy is one of God’s greatest gifts. The question every Christian should ask is this: “How can I as a believer in Jesus Christ encourage growth of genuine joy in the lives of others?” I suggest the following four ways:

  1.  Start every day off on the right note. It is not easy to get out of bed every single day on the right side. Still, why should any Christian begin a single day expecting the worst? If you do, chances are that you will find it. Don’t begin any day by saying, “Good God! Another morning!” Begin every day by saying, “Good morning, God!” When you start every morning with God you will have His presence with you for the rest of the day.
  2. Offer your day’s work to God. Whatever you do, dedicate it to God’s glory. When you work not just for money and for your employer, but especially for God, your work will be more productive. This is what is meant by vocation: that you believe you have been called to do what you are doing by the Spirit of God Himself.
  3. Send down deep roots into the wisdom, and love, and greatness of God. Daily prayer, quiet spaces at certain times in the busy day – these recharge your spiritual batteries by contact with the unseen resources that are made available by the Holy Spirit. All of these help keep us serene and filled with joy.
  4. Remember that every week begins with Sunday. There is an old saying, “A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” Wherever you happen to be on the Lord’s Day – on vacation or out of town for some other reason – seek out fellow worshipers who have gathered for the purpose of worshiping God and join them.

If you lack the joy that Christ can give you I recommend that you try this suggestion made by an anonymous poet:

“If you are on the Gloomy Line,
Get a transfer.
If you’re inclined to fret and pine,
Get a transfer.
Get off the track of Doubt and Gloom,
Get on the Sunshine Train,
Get a transfer.”

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Are You a Workaholic?

The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. Work isn’t work if you enjoy it. It is both necessary and productive when viewed as a means to a worthy end. However, when work becomes an end within itself, it is counterproductive. Those for whom work has become the only important thing are called workaholics.

Workaholics are a blur as they rush by, rapidly moving from where they are to somewhere else, talking on their cell phone, looking at their watch, and increasing the pace of their walk as they head out the door on the way to their next appointment. Hustle and hassle are daily realities in their lives. It is a trap into which many of us fall.

Workaholics are constantly in motion. They work hard, but not all hard workers are workaholics. Hard workers have specific objectives for what they do: they would like to be promoted, earn more money, provide more adequately for their family, or have a desire to please someone.

Workaholics are totally lost when they have time on their hands with
nothing to do. If they have a few minutes when they are not working, they are thinking about work. Workaholics love working! They come in both male and female editions. You will find them in every vocation and
profession, and they all have a singular passion – work. While they generally give the appearance of being very happy, the people who are closest to them are often unhappy. Workaholics are seldom home, and when they are at home, their mind is back at the office or wherever else they happen to work.

Workaholics have several standard characteristics: they are intense, energetic, competitive, and highly motivated. They enjoy what they do. They get out of bed in the morning with their motor running, and can’t wait to get started. They have just two forward gears – high and over-drive – but no reverse gear. They both compete with others and compare with others the number of hours per week they invest with their nose to the grindstone. It has been said that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It also makes Jack exhausted, and often a nuisance.

Many workaholics are troubled by strong self-doubts. You would never suspect this by observing them, because they hide their inner feelings by being constantly on the go. They put in extra hours to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. They think that the way to overcome self-doubts is to do more and more.

Workaholics prefer work to leisure. They have difficulty enjoying holidays because they see them as needless interruptions from the one thing they do enjoy – work. They make their home a branch office or extension of their work.

They sleep less than they should. They look at mealtimes as times for eating, not socializing with their family or with others. They make schedules well in advance, and have a hard time waiting for traffic lights to change from red to green.

Workaholics often suffer from high blood pressure, tension, ulcers, and many other physical problems. Those who suffer most, however, are the members of a workaholic’s family. The workaholic’s mate has to beg and/or complain to be placed on the agenda. They have little or no time to offer guidance to their children, and then wonder why they get into trouble. All of this happens needlessly, and for one reason only – the workaholic has given a higher priority to his work than to providing the kind of example, love, and guidance his wife and children so desperately need.

Is there a better way to live? Absolutely, yes! And it can be described with two words: The first word is priority – we do what we do because of the priorities we have chosen. When that which is most important has top priority, other things fall into line. The second word is balance – enjoying life, enjoying each member of your family, and setting aside time to enjoy a meaningful relationship with God. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9).

Remember: your work is a portrait of yourself. It is both God’s will and to your best interest that you give it all you have – just don’t try to give it more than you have! If you do you will miss out on most of life’s greatest joys.

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