Something That Can’t Be Taken From You

Something That Can’t Be Taken From You

Not long ago, I needed to water some plants in my backyard.   Mia, my granddaughter, was over for a visit and she wanted to help. I felt a little bit like Tom Sawyer, handing that hose over to her, but I didn’t have to convince her that it wasn’t every day that a child had a chance to water plants. She took the job on with a smile.  I gave her instructions on where to point the water. But like most new things, it wasn’t long that the novelty wore off and she said, “Here P-Paw. You do it.” She was hot and tired of the heat, so she began to make her way to the house. She was about halfway there when I turned the hose in her direction.  To her delight, it rained a few drops on her head.  “Do it again,” she said.  It rained some more. “Do it again,” she said.  This exchange continued until she got an idea of her own. She wanted to have control of the water hose.  When she turned it in my direction, she laughed even harder.  But it didn’t just rain; it flooded on me. As I danced around trying to escape her surprisingly good aim, I was caught up in her laughter and the joy of the moment as I got wetter and wetter.  It was pure joy, innocent, spontaneous, and playful. After a while, she realized that I might be having more fun getting wet than she was using the hose, so she handed the water hose back to me and asked me to turn it on her. Before...
I Place My Life in this Hope

I Place My Life in this Hope

We have a golf cart at our church that the staff uses to move around campus on occasions. It can sit for several days, sometimes for a week or more before we use it. That’s long enough for wasps to find it be a suitable home for their home. Last week I told our office manager that I had some business in a couple of the buildings on campus. I had several items to deliver, and the cart was helpful. The last thing she told me when I picked up the key was to check the cart for wasps. I deposited the items in the back of the cart, did a quick look for wasps, and seeing none attempted to sit down in the driver’s seat. My butt had not even touched the seat before a wasp came off a hidden nest like a kamikaze and stung me on the tip of my nose. I said a few things unbecoming of a preacher and walked around, holding my face in my hands before I began to look for the nest that I had overlooked. My office manager must have heard my painful moans. She didn’t even have to wonder what happened. She came out of the door with a can of wasp spray. She was kind enough not to say what she had to be thinking: “I tried to warn him.” “Men, you can’t tell them anything.” Or “It’s his own fault.” I could have easily seen the nest had I taken the time to inspect the cart from all sides, but from the driver’s side, it was hidden....
I Need to be More Like My Dog

I Need to be More Like My Dog

I Need to Be More Like My Dog Our thirteen-year-old Labrador Retriever, Dixie, died a couple of years ago. We loved our dog! She was a part of our family when our boys were teenagers. After she died, it was the first time in almost 30 years that we had no children and no pets in the house. After two years, I had grown content living with my wife alone. Alas, my wife said one day, “I really would like to have a dog again.” So what does a husband do? He does the only thing a sensible husband can do. He gets a bird dog, so he has another reason to go hunting! We are now three months into our new dog experience. My wife seems less enamored with our dog than I had hoped. Puppies have bad habits that are easily forgotten in the infatuation stage of having a dog. Yet this dog has already proven to be a great teacher. Despite his small bladder and great desire to chew on anything that makes his gums feel better, here’s something important I’ve learned from our dog, my wife and I named “River.” Our dog wants to be where we are. River has learned that we are the ones that will care for him, feed him, love him, groom him, protect him, and give him companionship. He’s never far from us. Even after we let him run outside, soon he’s at the door, wanting to be with us—and where it’s cool, of course. Even as I train him on birds in the field, he never wanders far from...

Without Compassion, We Lose Our Humanity

I have spent a lot of time in Liberia, a country on the Western coast of Africa. I wrote a book about a 12-year civil war that devastated that country. There has been unspeakable savagery through the years, but there has also been Christ-like sacrifice, like the compassion and sacrifice of Napoleon Braithwaite. Napoleon worked for the Minister of Health in Monrovia, so he was well schooled about Ebola, a disease of severe internal bleeding that is spread through infected body fluids and is frequently fatal. Napoleon was also well schooled in the Liberian way of life, a life of suffering and hardship.  His first wife died during childbirth. His second wife died because of a lack of medical care.  During the war, the rebel soldiers invaded his home and took everything he owned. They even removed his toilet. However, throughout the war, Napoleon and his third wife raised a family of eight children, and he preached hope to his people. After graduating from the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary, he became the pastor of Peaceful Baptist Church in the early 1980s. One September morning, a very sick woman knocked on his door and asked to use his phone to call an ambulance. She knew he was one of the few people around who had a phone. An ambulance was called, but she was told they could not respond. Knowing the risks of what he was about to do, he put the woman in his car and drove her to a hospital. He knew he would be able to make it through the various checkpoints along the way. Napoleon’s compassion...
The Church is a Hospital for Sinners

The Church is a Hospital for Sinners

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. Despite being a Hindu, Gandhi admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practicing Law in South Africa. After studying the Bible and teachings of Jesus, he was attracted to the Christian faith and seriously explored becoming a Christian. He decided to attend a church service. As he went up to the steps of a large South African Church, an elder barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the elder asked. Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here, or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.” From that moment, Gandhi decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but he never again considered becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (storiesforpreaching.com) One of the Church’s greatest problems is poorly representing the Christ we profess to serve. Our judgmental attitudes towards others, while we have sin in our own lives, is clearly seen and turns people...
God Speaks Through Whomever God Wishes

God Speaks Through Whomever God Wishes

Standing beneath a tent beside a freshly dug grave on a very hot May afternoon, I listened to the granddaughter of the deceased read the 23rdPsalm. After sharing how she would remember her grandfather, she comforted her family with words beyond her years that indicated she understood grief. She was pastoral in her delivery, with compassion in her words and tone of voice. The way she described God being present with us in our suffering resonated with me. I had never met this young woman, but I knew she had gifts of ministry. Later, when I spoke to her, I discovered she recently graduated from Campbell UniversityDivinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. She said that she been able to preach on a couple of occasions. I wondered, had she been a man, would she have been given more opportunities to preach by the time she graduated? Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, stirred the pot again recently when he said he said that women should not be allowed to “preach in the church gathered for the Lord’s worship.” So, it seems that what this young woman was doing out by the graveside was acceptable, according to Mohler’s standards. Yet, if she had said this in the church on Sunday morning, behind a pulpit in the role of a preacher with a “Rev.” before her name in the bulletin, and especially if she had been called to preach as the congregation’s pastor, that would not be OK in his view. Mohler parses his words carefully because he doesn’t want to offend people like...