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Morbus Sabbaticus, or Sunday Sickness, is a disease that afflicts church members only. No symptoms are felt on Saturday night. Those who are affected sleep well and awake feeling well on Sunday morning and eat a hearty breakfast. Then in the neighborhood of 8:00 o’clock the symptoms of the disease show up and continue until just after noon. Those who were affected feel much better and eat a hearty lunch.

Following lunch they feel even better and are able to read the Sunday newspaper, take a walk, ride in an automobile to visit friends or members of their family, play eighteen holes of golf, or even go to the mall to do a little shopping for some things that are needed.

Few churches have Sunday evening worship services any more, but most of the members of those that do, especially those who had a case of Sunday Sickness that morning, begin feeling the symptoms again around 6:00 o’clock and don’t attend. However, knowing they have to go to work the following morning, they eat a hearty dinner, retire early, sleep well, and awake feeling refreshed and are able to go to work. They feel no further symptoms of Sunday Sickness – that is, until the next Sunday morning.

The peculiar features of Morbus Sabbaticus are as follows:

  1. Only church members are affected by it.
  2. It makes its appearance only on Sunday.
  3. The symptoms vary, but never interfere with the appetite or sleep.
  4. It never lasts more than a few hours.
  5. It generally afflicts the head of the family first and continues to spread until every member of the family is affected.
  6. No physician is ever called – or even needed.
  7. It adversely affects the spiritual growth of those who catch it.
  8. There is only one remedy known — sincere repentance.
  9. Total commitment to Jesus Christ is the only antidote.

On an average Sunday in most churches the attendance for worship will be somewhere around fifty percent – perhaps a little higher, but often lower. There are given Sundays when any church member will have a legitimate reason for not attending worship. But it is when skipping church becomes a prolonged habit that it becomes a problem for both the church member and for his or her church. The most expensive piece of furniture in any church is an empty pew.

One thing every church member can do for his or her church is to pray that the messages being preached from the pulpit will contain the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel. When the good news of Christ is preached and believed, three things happen: (1) genuine worship is given high priority, (2) believers will be nourished, and (3) sinners will be born again on a regular basis.

The wife of a pastor once challenged her husband to have in his mind every time he steps into the pulpit: (1) be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and (2) think of the ad for a new washing machine she had seen in the newspaper which said, “After it spins dry, it shuts itself off.” It is excellent advice to every preacher!

 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” We have all heard this statement many times. Perhaps many people believe it is true – but it is not true! Words are very powerful and, if used thoughtlessly and maliciously, can do great harm.

The ability to speak words is a gift from God. No other creature was given this ability. Words have the ability to build up or to tear down, to bless or to curse, to bring healing or to open wounds. We can speak kind words or bitter hateful words. Have you ever heard someone say, “I say what I think?” There are times when inappropriate words should not be said; there are times when appropriate words are needed and helpful.

Proverbs 17:27 tells us “the intelligent person restrains his words.” And Proverbs 26:20 reminds us that “without gossip conflict dies down.” This verse should appear on some church bulletins. The book of James tells used that we put a bit in the mouth of a horse in order to control his entire body. The implication is that if we control our tongue we can avoid both inflicting a lot of pain and causing needless discord. Who has not at one time or another articulated words they wish had not been spoken? I know have.

I recently read the story of a woman who had kept her church and community in an uproar with her gossip. At her funeral it was a dark and stormy day, and the lights were on in the chapel. In the middle of the pastor’s eulogy a powerful bolt of lightning struck nearby that shook the building and the lights went out. The pastor stopped talking and, in the sudden stillness, a voice from the back of the chapel said, “She got there!

There are times when your greatest accomplishment will be just keeping your mouth shut. Knowing the potential for the damage loose talk can cause, an anonymous author penned these lines:

“I’m careful of the words I say,
I keep them soft and sweet.
I never know from day to day
Which ones I’ll have to eat.”

Spoken words, either positive or negative, have a profound effect on us. Perhaps the saddest words in the English language are, “I don’t love you anymore.” I heard a lady in her eighties in one of my former pastorates say to her closest friend, “If you don’t love me, don’t tell me, because I couldn’t bear to hear it.”

A woman in Louisiana wrote after her husband died: “The greatest man I never knew lived just down the hall. He would say ‘hello,’ but we never touched at all. He was good at business, but there was business left to do. He never said he loved me – I guess he thought I knew.” If there are kind or loving words you need to say to someone, don’t delay. It is possible to wait until you will never again have the opportunity.

The important question each of us needs to ask ourselves is this: “How can I eliminate words from my conversation that have the capacity to wound others?” For example, we could eliminate words like: “You disappoint me” – “You will never amount to anything” – “You are always late” – “You are just like your father”.

Let us learn to speak kind words. We will never regret them, and their echoes are endless.

 

A woman was asked why she was so faithful in going to hear a certain pastor preach every Sunday. Her reply is thought-provoking. “He cleans out the gutters of my mind,” she said. Now that is what I call a compliment to preaching! What kind of preaching does it take to clean out the gutters in the minds of those who hear it? Different people will perhaps have different answers, but let me suggest six things:

First, preaching must contain revelation. Otherwise, it is not true preaching. By revelation, I mean that it must have behind it the authority of God’s Word and that authority and power must communicate itself in the preaching event. If such dynamics are not present in what the preacher has to say, the communication could possibly qualify more as a lecture or speech, but hardly as a sermon.

Second, preaching must be relevant. Its content must contain truth that relates to the things that are faced every day by those who listen. The sermons you have heard which you remember as being effective are undoubtedly those that have addressed the issues you face in your daily living. Preaching that is not relevant will soon not have hearers. The person in the pew wants to know what God has to say about the challenges and problems he or she faces daily – the hurts, heartaches, and challenges. The preacher who addresses those issues effectively will always have hearers.

Third, preaching must be realistic. People want and need something to hang their hopes on, not some fantasy to tempt or to entertain them. The sermon must not offer more than God Himself promises. Parishioners are caught in the crossfire between good and evil. Sermons that meet their need must be realistic, and address their problems, pains, and predicaments with eternal truths, not just contain words that sound good. I have heard radio preachers say things like, “If you double your tithe to my ministry this week, God will give you a two-fold blessing within the next week. This is not true! It is not taught in the Bible. It is not a legitimate reason for giving. It misses being realistic by a country mile.

Fourth, preaching must be redemptive. It must offer hope in the midst of despair, insight in the midst of confusion, encouragement in the midst of discouragement, light in the midst of darkness, love in the midst of hate, and life for those dead-end moments. Effective preaching brings grace and the power of God onto center stage. It gives listeners the opportunity to bring the weight of their sin under the influence of a love that will lift, and a Redeemer who will help. There is so much bad news in the world that people are thirsty to hear good news. They are desperate to hear a word that will liberate and set their lives on a new course.

Fifth, preaching that cleans out the gutters of the mind must invite a response. Effective preaching, the kind that accomplishes what God would have it to accomplish must lead hearers to ask, “What must I do with this truth? People need not only to hear the good news, they need to receive it. They need not only to hear relevant, realistic truths, but those truths need to be taken into the stream of their lives and change them in a Godward direction. The most effective preaching will always demand a verdict.

Finally, preaching that cleans out the gutters of the mind of worshipers must be undergirded and empowered by prayer. How often do you pray for your pastor? A praying congregation in the pews of your church will go a long way toward guaranteeing that it will have an effective preacher in the pulpit.

 

Several years ago, a fellow pastor called me on the phone to ask if he might come to my office to talk with me. He said, “I’ve got problems, and I desperately need to talk to somebody.” When he arrived about fifteen or twenty minutes later, he reminded me of a steam boiler about to explode.

He began to unload his problems one by one – and there were many. I won’t go into detail, but it soon became obvious that he was not dealing with his problems in a constructive way. He was obviously suffering what is called “burnout.” The clouds on his horizon were dark and threatening.

After he left my office, I began to reflect on my life as a minister. My view of the work God called me to do moved quickly to the opposite end of the attitude spectrum when compared to the view given by this hot-tempered and emotionally upset young pastor. That God would call me to the Christian ministry fills me with a sense of gratitude. Here are the things about being a minister for which I am deeply grateful:

First of all, I am called to a great cause. I guess the bottom line is whether you primarily want to have material things or to be on mission. I would rather be on mission – in other words, to serve and advance a cause that is both worthy and eternal in nature.

Second, I am called to serve and share with a wide variety of people. No other vocation – and there are many excellent ones – gives the opportunity to work with people quite like the ministry does. By being involved with others — working with them, serving them, loving them, caring for them, suffering with them, rejoicing with them — my life is made enormously meaningful.

Third, it brings variety to my life. What other profession or vocation provides the variety of experiences that being a pastor does? None that I can imagine! The experiences I have had and the places I have been are worth far more than money. At any moment I can stop and call up memories of past experiences and relationships that I wouldn’t exchange for all the gold in Ft. Knox. I am a better person because of them.

Fourth, it meant that my wife could be closely involved with me in my labors. In most other occupations the job is primarily an outside interest with only occasional social opportunities for the wife to touch the working part of her husband’s life. Not so in the ministry. The wife labors by his side as a partner. No minister ever had a finer partner than I had. She went home to be with the Lord on Aril 5, 2016.

Fifth, I have some benefits other vocations do not provide. While it is true that the financial benefits are not comparable with lots of other vocations, there are many other factors on the plus side of the equation. For example, to be recipient of the love and care of a church family is a blessing other vocations do not provide.

Now let me hasten to say that I am not naïve. I realize that there will always be difficult challenges to accept and perplexing problems for ministers to face. When they are handled in the right spirt and with God’s help, the perspective will change, the horizon will brighten, and a minister will be filled with gratitude.

Unfortunately, the pastor who came into my office burdened with problems didn’t have either the right spirit or the proper amount of patience to have any room in his heart for gratitude.

 

There is not a more influential or powerful role on earth than the one God has given to mothers. As significant as the influence of religious, political, military, and educational public figures may be, none come close to having as much impact on society as that made by mothers. Their deeds are never fully forgotten, nor are the truths they taught us to believe and practice.

If you have (or had) a godly mother, you will reap tremendous benefits as long as you live. On the other hand, if your mother neglected your needs and never showed you any love, you have missed some of life’s greatest blessings. For good or ill, a mother’s mark upon her children is permanent. “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (Ezekiel 16:44).

Abraham Lincoln was right when he said: “No one is poor who had a godly mother.” I know this to be true because my two brothers and I had a godly mother. She, of course, was not perfect, but no one is. Jesus Christ was her Savior, and she lived her faith in the context of our home. She knew that her greatest responsibility and challenge was to influence her three sons to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and faithfully serve Him. She lived to be ninety-two before the Lord called her home.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminds us of the high regard that Jesus had for His mother in these words: “Even He who died for us upon the cross, in His last hour on the cross, in the unutterable agony of death, was mindful of His mother, as if to teach us that this holy love should be our last worldly thought, — the last point of earth from which the soul should take its flight for heaven.”

As we approach Mother’s Day I throw out a challenge to every mother who reads these words. Ladies, this is your hour . . . your distinct opportunity to soar . . . your chance to make your mark upon the world! A harmonious marital partnership and a solid, unselfish commitment to motherhood have never been of greater importance to you or, for that matter, to the health and security of our nation than now. Give it the best you have, for there is no challenge more worthy.

God’s Word provides excellent guidance and strength to every mother who would seek to build a godly home. No finer words have ever been written than those in Proverbs 24:3-4 – “By wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is established, and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Every godly home should have a generous supply of these three very important ingredients: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

Wisdom is the ability to see with discernment, to view life as God perceives it.

Understanding is the skill to respond with insight.

Knowledge is the rare trait of learning with perception – discovering and growing.

Both fathers and mothers are responsible for passing on to their children the truths that will equip them to live life well and with a sense of purpose. Mothers, however, have traditionally been the primary nurturer. I challenge every mother with these words written by Dorothy Nolte:

“If a child lives with:
CRITICISM, he learns to condemn.
HOSTILITY, he learns to fight.
RIDICULE, he learns to be shy.
SHAME, he learns to feel guilty.
TOLERANCE, he learns to be patient.
ENCOURAGEMENT, he learns confidence.
PRAISE, he learns to appreciate.
FAIRNESS, he learns justice.
SECURITY, he learns to have faith.
APPROVAL, he learns to like himself.
ACCEPTANCE and FRIENDSHIP,
he learns to find love in the world.”

I recently read an interesting story of a mama skunk that was constantly worried because her two four-legged kitty cat children were constantly getting into trouble. She had originally given them the odd names of In and Out. Whenever In was in, Out was out. And if Out was in, In was out.

One day Mama Skunk called Out in from out on a limb and told him to go out into the forest and bring In in. So, Out went out as he was told and in no time at all brought In in.

“Wonderful!” said Mama Skunk. “How, in all that great forest, could you find In in such a short time?”

“That was easy,” replied Out, “In-stinct!”

The moral of this odorous story? A skunk, even a young skunk, is going to do his thing. Sooner or later he is going to do what he was designed to do and for which he has earned a considerable amount of publicity and respect. You can count on it. Given the right circumstances it is going to happen. It is his nature. Even if you were to find two skunks in church one Sunday morning they would probably be sitting on the front spew with their heads bowed, as if to say, “Let us spray!”

The actions of people, like those of skunks, depend on what they have on the inside. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). In other words, the thoughts which occupy our minds automatically find expression through our actions. Thoughts are seeds which, when full grown, determine what we do. If we love people it will show; if we do not love them that will also show.

Returning to our original story, when In was out, it could have been because he was on the outs with In. They did not lose their individuality. But they had one tremendous thing in common going for them. When the chips were down, when there was a job to be done, they worked together. Their unity of effort gave off a certain air. They definitely altered their surroundings. All the other animals around them took notice of their presence. What they lacked in size, they made up “in-stinct!” They definitely alter their surroundings.

If there is any sense (not “scents”) or any application to be drawn from this “polecat tail” – I mean “polecat tale”, it is that those of us who are Christians have been given the responsibility and challenge to alter our surroundings. We adopt the standard of the world around us far too often. By letting the world squeeze us into its mold, we forget that Christ has given us the responsibility to be salt and light and leaven.

Mama Skunk asked Out to go out into the forest to find In and bring him in. Some of the last words Christ spoke to His disciples included a similar mission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christian missionaries have been sent throughout the world to carry out this mission. Perhaps you have given funds to support them in their work. It may not be possible or practical for you to go to some faraway place to share the good news of the gospel. But you can go across or down the street to talk to a neighbor who does not know Christ as Savior and Lord. You can share your faith with a friend or coworker.

Have you done that? In the last year? In the last ten years? In your entire life? If not, why not?

 

Dr. James Dobson in his book, “What wives wish their husbands knew about women,” shares a class theme written by a third grade girl entitled: “What is a grandmother?” It is a classic for sheer wisdom and utter simplicity:

“A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own. She likes other people’s little girls and boys. A grandfather is a man grandmother. He goes for walks with the boys and they talk about fishing and stuff like that.

“Grandmothers don’t have anything to do except to be there. They’re old so they shouldn’t play hard or run. It is enough if they drive us to the market where the pretend horse is, and have a lot of dimes ready. Or if they take us for walks, they should slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars. They should never say ‘Hurry up.’

“Usually grandmothers are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take their teeth and gums off. They don’t have to be smart, only answer questions like, ‘Why isn’t God married?’ and ‘How come dogs chase cats?’

“Grandmothers don’t talk baby talk like visitors do, because it is hard to understand. When they read to us they don’t skip or mind if it is the same story over again. Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don’t have television, because they are the only grown-ups who have time.”

Children tend to see others without all the veneer adults build into and around human relationships. The third grade girl’s theme about grandmothers gives us the opportunity to express our appreciation for this very special group of people and the role they play. Any woman who endures the training period of being a mother long enough to have grandchildren has earned the right to be a card carrying grandmother.

Though God has given to grandmothers a special sphere of influence within families, the word “grandmother” is mentioned only once in the Bible. Paul, in writing to Timothy, said, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s grandmother was the first member of his family won to Christ. She shared her faith with her daughter, Eunice. Eunice passed it on down the line to her son, Timothy. It is the way God wants Christian families to function.

Perhaps you have (or had) a grandmother like Lois who has (or had) the kind of impact on your family that Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, had on her family. Your grandmother perhaps wears (or wore) glasses and funny underwear and takes (or took) her teeth and gums out at night. But to a significant degree you are the person you are because your grandmother started the ball of positive influence rolling in your family.

A grandmother has been described as a person who comes to your house, spoils your children, and goes home. They have a lot of fun doing it. One grandmother several years ago said to me, “If I had known having grandchildren would be so much fun, I would have had them before I had my children.” God’s plan of growing grandmothers up through the joys, challenges, and hazards of motherhood is a vastly better idea.

Only a woman whom God has trained to become a good mother has the experience and ability to be an effective grandmother. Please join me in thanking God for all dedicated grandmothers!