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...
Maintaining a Healthy Approach to News Consumption

Maintaining a Healthy Approach to News Consumption

When I was a boy, my grandfather worked twelve hours a day pushing dirt with a bulldozer.  When he came home, he was tired to the bone. After he ate his supper, he collapsed in a chair, pulled off his boots, and sat down and watched Walter Cronkite share what had happened in the nation and world that day.  Then he would listen to the local news.  After that, he’d turn to the local paper to fill in the gaps. Before Pop died, cable television was on the scene.  Being confined to his home much of the time, he was watching a steady diet of 6-8 hours of cable news per day.   It seemed that the more he watched, the angrier he became about politics and about living in this country. Rare was the time we got together that he didn’t get off on some political topic that had gotten under his skin from cable news.  If he were still alive today, I’m convinced it would be even worse. I see this often in people I meet, especially those that are retired and find a lot of time to watch television.   However, you don’t have to be retired to be overdosing on the news.  Regardless of which station you choose, if you do not watch the news in moderation, it’s not good for you. Today, more than ever, much of the news is presented with some bias.  Most networks have an agenda.  When news is used to shape the minds of people around a political agenda, good journalism can be compromised to some degree. We cannot get to a point where we are afraid to hear the truth or ask...
Spark Some Laughter In Your Life

Spark Some Laughter In Your Life

Susan Sparks is a breast cancer survivor.  A nurse where she was tested for cancer told her that the Lord would take care of her. Susan reacted with sarcasm, “I think the Lord should have started a little earlier in taking care—like a couple of years ago when these cells started growing!” When the nurse put her arm around Susan and once again assured her that the Lord would take care of her, Susan rolled her eyes and said, “He has never had breast cancer, so I seriously doubt that he has any idea of how to ‘take care’ of this!” In her book, “Laugh Your Way to Grace,” Susan is refreshingly transparent about the anger she felt when she first learned of this devastating news. Anyone diagnosed with cancer or any disease can understand her pain and anger.  But Susan soon learned that her path to healing wasn’t found in her anger.  She began to rise above her pain and transcend her grief through the power of humor. She remembers drinking out of a coffee mug that said: “My Oncologist Can Beat Up Your Oncologist,” and she had a magnet on the refrigerator that said, “Cancer—it’s not just an astrological sign anymore.”  I think the saying would have been funnier if it had ended with these words: “it’s just an ass.” Soon humor became the sieve that allowed her to see, hear, and bear the truth. I saw a video of a parent trying to feed a baby, but the baby wasn’t having the food from the jar. So the parent dangled an ice cream cone in front of the...
Thanks to Our Veterans!

Thanks to Our Veterans!

During the last month, our church veterans have been turning in their photographs. Most have given me pictures in their uniforms from their early days in service. Dennis Elrod actually took a current picture in his old Navy uniform. He said when his unit was discharged they were told to always have their bags packed and their uniforms ready in case they were ever needed again.  He said his bag was still packed, and his uniform was still ready! Many of the veterans in our church served before I was even born.  Some fought in wars I read about in history books. The pictures of these men and women are from every branch of service and from many different conflicts from Korea to Afghanistan. What’s striking to me is how young these men and women were when they committed themselves to service or were drafted into service. That’s the way it almost always. The military takes our boys when they are barely old enough to shave; our women when they’ve just attended their last senior prom. Within three months of training, they can be shipped out to a foreign land to protect our country and even die for a cause they may not completely understand. They must be willing to fulfill their duty to our country, to defend freedom and liberty. That much most seem to grasp. Because they do, our country remains free, and our freedom is something we must never take for granted. As parents who drove our 19-year-old son and dropped him off early one Sunday morning to be bussed off to Paris Island, my wife...
How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

Most of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with work. We bemoan Mondays because we have to go to work, and we love Fridays because we get off of work. Yet, if we didn’t have a job, we’d be poor as dirt and depressed. It would be a major crisis for all of us. I have known people who have looked forward to the day they didn’t have to work only to discover they were miserable once they were not working and they soon found themselves another job. I have known people who were addicted to work, and I have known people who worked hard to keep from working. Work can be virtuous, but it can also lead to a life of dysfunction. What makes the difference? It’s important to keep work in proper perspective. One way to do that is by understanding what place God wants to play in our work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover work was ordained by God as a good thing. We can and should embrace work because God did and does. It’s safe to assume Adam and Eve sweated and were tired at the end of a day in the Garden of Eden and felt good about it. The garden was not going to just take care of itself. Part of the purpose God created humans for was to take care of creation. We were created to work, and work is part of what gave the first humans purpose and joy. If work was a part of Eden before the fall, we should expect work to be a meaningful part of our...