Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I get tired of hearing people say, "Oh my god!" (OMG)

It is tempting to suggest that OMG is a transgression of the third commandment.
(Ex 20:7) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
In truth, OMG is worse! In casual conversation - in discussions of the most mundane matters - where the issues of interest are the most pedestrian - OMG begins almost every sentence.

"And I was like, OMG, why would I want to have seconds of broccoli? I mean, MG, it is so green! But, OMG, she was like, 'have some more?' And I was like, 'No,' but she scooped more onto my plate. OMG, how clueless is that?"

What this tells me is that the person isn't so much using God's name in vain - they are just using the word "god" as a filler. As bad as it is to use the name of the One True and Living God in a way that dishonors Him - it is WORSE to not believe in God at all.

"OMG" betrays a diminished awareness of God - a senseless, unseeing, unknowing, blind deadness toward God.
(Rom 11:33-36) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

(1Tim 1:17) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Expository Preaching

I am a fan of expository preaching. The preacher focuses on one particular passage of Scripture and explains in detail what it means. This requires a high view of Scripture, because if it is anything less than the inspired and inerrant word of God, what's the point? It also requires careful study to determine the original intention of the passage. The expositor must look at the text (vocabulary, grammar & syntax), context, historical background, original audience, etc.

Topical preaching is very popular these days, partly on the theory that unchurched people can be attracted by what appear to be self-help messages: "Successful Financial Management," "The Problem Of Suffering," "Raising Well Adjusted Children," etc.

It is theoretically possible to preach an expository message on a topic - if you are preaching a passage of Scripture that deals with a topic - but this is not what most modern topical messages are like. Rather, the topical messages I hear today are built on the preacher's outline of what he wants to say. The Scriptures are usually brought in to support the preacher's points, but they are not usually dealt with in any depth. They are used as "proof texts" and are often presented without any context that would show that they apply to the topic at hand.

I want to be an expository preacher. Most of my sermon series are book studies. I prepare by studying the text to be preached as thoroughly as I can manage. I look for a way to organize the message around the points that are made in the text and in a way that is true to the text.

But I am always nervous. Am I really getting the point of the passage? Am I reading into the passage what I think it should say? Am I guilty of using proof texts when I bring in other passages for support? At the end of the message have I really explained the text at hand or simply promoted my own point of view?

These are serious questions. They need to be asked. They cannot be ignored. But they shouldn't paralyze us - we do our best with the gifts God has given us. And we cannot let them drive us away from expository preaching and into simple topical lectures.

Whatever people may think they need, what they really need is the word of God.

(2Tim 3:16-4:2) ¶ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Husband Of The Year

If I ever write a book, it might be about being "Husband Of The Year." I am the reigning champion, having held the title ever since I invented the concept about six years ago.

The idea is that I want to be absolutely the best husband my wife could possibly imagine - a far better husband than anybody else's husband that she hears about at work or in the community. Lola is the only one who gets to vote.

It all started when we moved to a new pastorate in Ohio. After a year or so, Lola returned to college to finish her teaching degree. My office was in the parsonage and a pastor's schedule is flexible, so it seemed reasonable that I would take up some of the responsibilities that had previously been hers - most notably the cooking. When she finished her degree, she got a full time teaching job and started her Master's program. She was busier than ever, so I continued with the cooking and picked up more of the cleaning and laundry duties.

The experience gave me a new perspective on the life of a housewife and a new appreciation for how difficult it is to run a household. At times I felt frustrated and under-appreciated. Sometimes I would plan and cook a meal that would come out perfectly - only to have Lola come home late. Occasionally I would cook something that Lola and David Andrew didn't enjoy like I thought they should.

I often found that I couldn't get it all done. I did have, after all, a full time job to do in addition to the cooking and other housework. It was easy for me to feel sorry for myself and to whine that Lola wasn't always doing her fair share.

Martyrdom might have claimed me, but for the Husband Of The Year Award. I realized that God wants me to love my wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. (Eph. 5:25) That meant that I couldn't justify all my worries about whether or not I was being treated fairly. Love for my wife means I should do everything in my power to ease her way, serve her needs and benefit her in life. It is not just a matter of doing the right thing, it is also important to have the right motive.

My cooking and other household duties meant that she could give more attention to her studies, finish her education more quickly, and do a better job getting established in her profession. This is not a sacrifice on my part, but a service of love that serves me too. As Ephesians five says, you should love your wife as your own body. Lola's success in education and in the workplace makes her a more confident and interesting person. Her salary benefits both of us. Her happiness contributes to my happiness. Her accomplishments are a source of pleasure to me as well.

I think my "Husband Of The Year" idea might have started out as a desire to get Lola to acknowledge my excellence as a husband. It was a way to get a pat on the back. I recall saying something like, "I will take care of doing the laundry you couldn't get to, but remember to vote for me as Husband of the Year." I am sure when Lola was especially pleased with some meal or service I provided, I have said, "Just remember to vote for me for Husband of the Year."

But Husband Of The Year became something far better than a way of fishing for praise.

The irony is that as my perspective became more biblical and my goals became more pure, Husband of the Year became a way of reminding myself that what I was doing was for my OWN benefit. It is a shorthand way of saying, "I am not just doing this for you, dear wife. I am doing this for me - because I love you as I love myself. It is no sacrifice. It is not a burden. I am only nourishing and cherishing you like I do my very own body - and for the same reason. Because I love you as my own flesh."

Beyond that, I do it for the glory of God. Even if I never mention it to Lola and she never says a word of praise - God wants me to be the Husband of the Year. Why should I focus my love and loyalty on my wife? Not just because it pleases her. Not just because it benefits me. But ultimately, because it is the right thing to do, and it pleases God and brings Him glory.

Being the Husband of the Year is a rush. Lola comes home with stories of her colleagues who work all day, then go home to do all the cooking and cleaning and waiting on their husbands who don't do "women's work" and who expect to be waited on by their wives. She delights in being the envy of her friends who know that I send her love notes in the lunches I pack for her everyday. She sparkles with a radiant beauty as I focus my loving attention and affection on her in my thoughts, words and deeds.

Everyone should want to be the Husband of the Year (or Wife of the Year). And everyone CAN be.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bumps In The Road

I repeatedly remind the church that this world is not heaven.

We have not arrived. Our calling as followers of Christ does not permit us to settle down and make ourselves comfortable. We are renters here. We are strangers and pilgrims on a journey through a foreign land. We are special agents of God, sent on a mission into an alien world.

While we might not have grandiose fantasies of fortune and pleasure, we all want what everyone wants. We want to be safe and secure. We want to be with the people we love and to have them love us. We want to be free from worry. We want good food and clothes and a place we can call our own. We want to be comfortable, satisfied and established.

Here is a basic struggle for the follower of Christ. Where is the line between the reasonable pursuit of life's necessities on the one hand and the idolatrous pursuit this world's values on the other hand?

We need to make a living. We need food and clothes and a place to live. We need to love our families. But we need to love Christ more than any of these. We need to put Christ before everything else... before our career, before our food and clothes, before our home place, before our loved ones.

Somehow we need to let our desire for stability and satisfaction energize us for the service of Christ. Those desires are not bad in themselves. Aren't those desires the things that will be ultimately and completely satisfied in heaven? They are only bad if we try to realize them in this world at the expense of following Christ.

(Matt 6:33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

(1Tim 6:6-8) ¶ Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sunny Days

Today started out kind of gray, but turned sunny in the afternoon. It is amazing how much better I feel with the clean and cleansing light shining down! It lifts my spirits like a big man's hand lifts a newborn kitten. One minute I am tripping along and struggling. The next minute I go sailing up with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Gotta love that sunshine!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Weasel Words

I watch news clips on the web - so I get to see the same commercials over and over again. One of them is for Tylenol PM. It evidently contains a sleep aid.

Don't worry about getting hooked on it, however, because it "has not been shown to cause dependence."

These are weasel words. I can't decide if it is funny or insulting.

Maybe they didn't do any tests at all. That would not show if something caused dependence. Maybe their tests were inconclusive. That would qualify.

At least we know that nobody has proven that it DOES cause dependency. But we are also sure that nobody proved that it DOESN'T cause dependency, otherwise they could have said it straight out.

Instead, all we get is weasel words, and the outbreak of weasel words makes me very suspicious.

How about you?

The Phantom Of The Oprah

Don't you think that Saturday Night Live or Comedy Central should do something on "The Phantom of the Oprah" (as in Oprah Winfrey)? They already have music for it. They would only need to change the storyline a bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why Moving Is Nasty!

Sorting through all of your accumulated stuff is nasty. You find things that you forgot you had and did very well without - but now that you have discovered it again you think you need it. You find out that you have more stuff than whole villages in some countries > and you are keeping most of it "just in case." Most of what you will move hasn't been used, touched or even seen in years.

Packing everything you own is nasty. You make the rounds of local businesses like a beggar - looking for suitable boxes. You wrap fragile things, box everything, label everything, stack everything. You feel like you are living in a warehouse.

Transporting everything is nasty. How do you find enough help - strong enough help - careful enough help? All of the furniture is at risk. Will the glass be broken? Will the wood be scratched? Will the hardware be lost? A move is inevitably hard on furniture - chairs and desks and tables and cabinets.

Figuring out where to put things in your new house is nasty. Upstairs or down? Kitchen or dining room? Basement or closet? Forget parking in the garage for three months after you move. The garage will be full of odds and ends of furniture, tools, and plastic containers.

Cleaning up the old place after you move out is nasty. It is always filthy under things that you haven't moved for a while. Pictures on the walls have left holes. Behind big cabinets and under the beds you will find dust and dirt and spiders. The stuff in the attic is always grimy.

Moving is a huge undertaking. Moving is dirty. Moving is overwhelming. Moving is painful. Moving is exhausting. Moving is nasty.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Moving Is Nasty!

I can say it with authority!

I was born to move. My mom said that they moved 13 times the first year of my life. That was the beginning of a trend. After that we moved to Albany, NY and lived in two different houses in that area. Then we moved to Oneonta where we lived on Chestnut Street for a couple of years before we moved to an apartment on Maple Street.

At about that point we started moving out to Bloomington, IN for the summers. Mom and dad both did graduate studies there. We lived there through the entire year when I was in fourth grade.

Back in New York we moved out of Oneonta to the family farm near Portlandville. We lived in the old farmhouse for several years while we prepared to build a new house down closer to Saddlebag Lake. I think I was 12 when we moved down to the new house (an A frame) where we lived in the basement while the upstairs was being built. Then, after a year or so, I moved upstairs to my new room. And there I stayed until I went away to college.

How many moves was that? 21? (not counting the summer trips to Indiana)?

Then I moved to college in Cedarville, OH. After college Lola and I married and moved to Wisconsin. We stayed put for three years, then moved to Scranton, PA so I could go to seminary. After a year in Scranton we moved to West Endicott, NY for a while to do an apprenticeship, then back to PA - this time to a trailer park in Factoryville where we stayed for four more years.

What are we up to now? 26 moves!

After seminary we moved to Franklin, NY where we lived in a beautiful old house for a year. Then I became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cadosia, NY and moved into their parsonage. We stayed there for almost ten years. Then I accepted a call to pastor New Harmony Baptist Church in Caldwell, OH and we moved here in December of 1996. We have been here longer than anywhere - eleven years.

Three more moves and we are up to 29.

Now we are preparing to move to Canton, OH so I can become pastor of Whipple Ave. Baptist Church. That will be my 30th move. (OK - so I was under one year old for 13 of them. So say 17 moves - it is still a bunch).

I know what I am talking about. Moving is nasty!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Carefree For God's Glory

God is worthy of all praise and glory. He is the Creator. He is holy. He is loving, just, merciful, gracious and everything else that is good. He is infinite and wonderful.

Not only is God worthy of all glory, but the more I get my heart in line with that value, the better it is for me. The closer I come to loving the Lord my God with all of my heart and soul and strength and mind, the more I am blessed with an immunity to distress.

Since I am a 20th century American kind of guy, I like the ideas of personal autonomy, liberty, freewill and self-determination. The problem is that I am a limited and sinful human. My will is selfish. My outlook is short-sighted. My power is extremely limited. When I live for my own will and glory I always come up short. Even my successes are imperfect. My crashes are spectacular. My ability to control the world is nil.

In the rare and fleeting moments when I am surrendered to the love of God, however, I am able to soar above any potential problems of this world. When I want God's glory with all of my being, I have nothing to fear. I relax my grip and release myself, my possessions, my family and friends and even my freedom to God.

I tell Him to use them all for His glory in any way that He sees fit and in that moment, I am finally free of care. Here I know that life and death are already in His hands. Let them be for His glory. Painful things will still hurt, but there is comfort in knowing that God has a perfect sovereign plan and any pain will be for the best purpose in the universe - the glory of God.

In surrendering to God I find rest and peace. I couldn't control anything anyway - I now have turned it over to God, Who CAN! And I can be confident that He will handle every circumstance perfectly. He cares for my loved ones more than I do. He knows the end from the beginning. He is not warped by foolish pride and selfish ambition. He will make things turn out just like He wants them too - and I can trust Him with them all.

(1Pet 5:5-7) ¶ Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.