Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are You a Bible Bully?


A Bible Bully is someone who uses scripture as a weapon. Maybe in their youth Bible Bullies were the “sword drill” champions of their Sunday School class (anyone remember “Sword drills”?). They learned to find scripture verses in a hurry. Now they use (misuse?) their Bibles like literal swords. They seem eager to slice and dice any who might disagree with their slant on life. They learned to find Bible passages (chapter and verse), but sadly like playground bullies, they missed the important Bible lessons on kindness and gentleness.

Offer a differing opinion on life, scripture or politics to a Bible Bully and take cover. They will whip out a Bible verse faster than a gunslinger with a six-shooter in the old West. Locked and loaded with their pet Bible verse bullets, they are armed to “Biblically” shoot down anyone who disagrees. “Biblically” is surrounded by quotation marks in the previous sentence because one can argue that their approach is far from “Biblical.” Cherry picking Bible verses that support their positions is a Bible Bully’s favorite tactic.  Sadly, too often such scriptural manipulation misses Jesus command to “Love one another” (John 13:34) and it completely misses the point in the whole of scripture.

Bible Bullies are found on both sides (all sides) of the current divides and debates festering in our country. Neither side is free from Bible toting yet (ironically) unbiblical fanatics. Be wary of those who weaponized scripture to suit their own causes. Refuse to accept their challenge to a dual. Don’t likewise weaponized Scripture that suits your slant. No one comes out the winner in such sword fights, and generally the Gospel is the loser as the world watches dueling Bible Bullies. Instead remember these verses representing the whole of Scripture generally not found in the Bible Bully’s repertoire:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Be kind and compassionate to one another Ephesians 4:32

Encourage one another and build each other up 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:1

Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sisterRomans 14:13

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7

And of course,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39

Don’t be a Bible Bully.

Be Like Jesus.

Love God.

Love People.

The End.

What Will You Do with Today?

January 15 is the 15th day of the new year (1.15.2021 can’t get here soon enough, can I get an “Amen”)

February 15 is the post Valentine chocolate let down day

March 15 is the Ides of March 

April 15 is Tax Day (Boo)

May 15 is one month from the prettiest girl’s birthday.

June 15 is Karla’s birthday (duh)

July 15 is exactly 11 days after July 4th and exactly 31 days before August 15th

August 15 is India’s Independence Day.

September 15 is Prince Harry’s birthday (by the way, we celebrate several Prince birthdays at my house and ironically Prince Harry’s birthday isn’t one of them). 

November 15 is the 320th day of 2020 (and one of the best 366 days of this entire year)

December 15 is National Cup Cake Day (if you can’t celebrate cupcakes, then you my friend are in trouble).

But what’s October 15?

October 15 is TODAY!  

Psalm 118 tells us that today is the “day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  The author of Hebrews said, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.”  

As far as I can tell, neither the author of Psalm 118 nor the author of Hebrews, put any disqualifiers on their words. They didn’t say rejoice only if everything going great or do not rejoice if there is a pandemic. They just wrote that we need to rejoice and to encourage one another as long as it’s called today.  Depending on when you are reading this, you have a few more hours to do just that today—encourage and rejoice!

Don’t look at what’s wrong with today. Don’t snarl up a fist and bemoan all of the world’s troubles. Don’t even wish for tomorrow. Let’s be happy in today. The Lord made today! Whatever the Lord makes is good. Can you name something the Lord made that is not good?  Even mosquitoes are good. Birds and bats say they taste like chicken. So let’s encourage one another and rejoice! The world needs to see that no matter the circumstance, followers of Jesus are people of hope, not despair. If we have “our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfecter of our faith” (more great words from the author of Hebrews), then we “won’t grow weary and lose heart.”

Covid Church Couch Potato Varieties

Yesterday’s blog listed the “Couch Potatoes” as one of the groups in the 60% of people who have not returned to in-person worship services. Here is a light-hearted breakdown of those “spuds.” While I know the pandemic is serious and deadly, there are times we need to smile and remember that God is in control. If potato humor isn’t your thing, you will still love the verse at the bottom!

Church Couch Potatoes O’Brian. Worship with only Celtic music, please.

Church Couch Shredded Potatoes. Exercising while worshipping.

Church Couch Potato Wedges. Four worshippers sitting on a three-person sofa.      

Church Couch Au Gratin (or as my boys called them growing up “All Rotten”) Potatoes.  These Sunday morning sofa critics find plenty of reasons to complain: the tech team’s tin ears, the sermon stinks, blah, blah, blah. 

Church Couch Baked Potatoes.  They like their worship and marijuana too (non-Nazarene of course).

Church Couch Potato Chips. When the munchies hit during the service.

Church Couch Potato Skins. Not wearing their jammies. 

Church Couch Potato Casserole. Dreaming of the days when the church pot-luck followed the Sunday morning service.

Church Couch Potato Salad. A pandemic is no picnic, but at least we have potato salad and our hope is in God Almighty!!

My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:3-5

Who are the 60% Pre-Covid Worshippers that haven’t come back to church? And the Bigger Question: Will they Return?

The church I pastor has been open for worship services since Father’s Day. We moved the service times to allow for between service deep cleaning, roped off every other pew to allow for social distancing, added some mask requirements and committed to procedures for keeping our people safe. As far as I am aware, not one person in our congregation has contracted Covid-19 since we’ve re-opened (Praise the Lord). Our attendance has been running about 40% from where we were pre-Covid. So the Big Questions: who are the 60%? Will they return? Here’s my best attempt to describe the missing 60%:

Arnold Schwarzeneggers

Embodying Arnold’s famous line from the Terminator movie “I’ll be back,” these warriors will return. They were super involved before Covid and they can’t wait to get back. They hate that they are missing services. On-line is Ok, but it’s not the same. They hate that they feel guilty about missing services. They hate that they sometimes feel resentful that others are in church and they are not. They hate feeling guilty and resentful. They miss talking face-to-face with friends. They can’t wait for whatever “all clear” means for them, and they will be back.

Couch Potatoes

These formerly very faithful attenders have gotten used to worshipping on-line. They like it. They like not having to clean up for church. They like sipping on coffee in their pajamas as the pastor preaches. They may not be back. If they do come back, staying at home for the slightest reason will be a whole lot easier. 

Black Friday-ers.

These formerly regular attenders are using the pandemic as “cover” to search for a new church. Not satisfied with the pastor, the music, you name it, they have been shopping the other local churches’ on-line services. They aren’t coming back.  

Hansel and Gretels  

They are not coming back. They thought they would when the pandemic started. They left a proverbial bread crumb trail. But finding alternative things to do on Sunday mornings has eaten up their time. They loved this additional “family time,” and have convinced themselves that they don’t really need church after all. They haven’t recognized the slow fade in their heart for the things of God. They love Jesus, but have chosen to ignore the Biblical mandate to gather together. You could make the case, the Hansel and Gretels are lost, in more ways than one.

Sometimers 

“Sometimers” are so called because just as some people refer to Alzheimer’s as “Altimers,” “Sometimers” seldom remember Jesus and His church. Pre-Covid, these folks attended only occasionally. They still will. Their attendance patterns are not that much different than before the pandemic. If they were showing up once every six or eight weeks, they’ve only missed church a few times since March. If you don’t tell them (as far as church attendance is concerned) they might not even know there is a global pandemic. 

C&E-ers (Christmas and Easter-ers) will become CU L8ers (See You Later)

Like the Hansel and Gretels even though they have technically only missed one of their regularly attended services (Easter), it seems like more. They are even more distant and more disconnected than ever. Besides coronavirus won’t be gone by Christmas. There won’t be an available vaccine by Easter (at least they aren’t taking it). A crowded church will be too dangerous. A full church isn’t in their future– see you later.  

Never came, never will

These folks didn’t come before Covid. With the negative press regarding church fights over masks or no masks; un-Christlike attitudes displayed by their “Christian” neighbors in this election season; and any other excuse the Enemy can put in their mind, getting non-church goers to come to church will be harder than ever.

We will likely not go back to a pre-Covid attendance numbers. If churches were struggling amid apathy and inconsistency before the pandemic, our current reality will make things even worse in the short term. “Short-term” because God is still working. Could it be that following this current pruning of the leafy yet unproductive church, God will strengthen the remnant readying these faithful ones for a revival and a new out-pouring of the Holy Spirit? Could it be that the shrunk down church might be a stronger, better church? I hope so.

The Four Most Surprised People on Judgement Day

Folks love to imagine Jesus turning on a huge neon “Vacancy” sign on a cloud in the sweet by and by and throwing open the pearly gates welcoming anyone and everyone to their eternal reward. When asked most people will say, “I’m going to a better place when I die.” But are they? Jesus said many people will NOT– presumably including some of those convinced their “heaven ticket” has been punched. These surprised people include:

Wide Road Travelers

Plenty of people travel on the wide road. It’s popular. There are many opportunities and distractions on the wide road. But no worries on the wide road, even when your attention is diverted and you swerve too far right or too far left. The road is wide enough for all sorts of deviations. It’s easy too. Easy to get on and easy to find. The wide road can be so enjoyable. No speed limits. No limits of any kind (Think: a spiritual autobahn). Switching gears (do you see what I did there?), traversing the narrow road is hard. Travelers must remain focused and aware of the tight surroundings. There are only few on the narrow road. It can be lonely. Jesus said “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

One handed Camel Squeezers. 

I’ve known a lot of rich people who think it’s easy to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Have you tried it lately? It’s hard. Camels are big. Needles are small. In fact, it’s impossible. Shockingly, I’ve known a few rich folks who have done it. Their generosity has opened their wallets and also opened a huge hole in the needle’s eye. Wide enough that miracle of miracles, a camel can pass through. The impossible is made possible by God. Sadly, I’ve known more rich folks who have flaunted their wealth as poor college students were in reality more generous. Squeezing a giant camel (or fancy sports car) through the eye of a needle is a two-handed job You can’t hold onto your money in one hand and squeeze the camel through the needle with the other. It’s easier to appear to be “a camel squeezer” (read: Generous) than to actually be generous. By the way, before you sneer at those “evil, greedy rich folks,” BREAKING NEWS: most of us are considered rich by the world standards. Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25

No Jesus-ers

Most of us have never seen Jesus thirsty. A few women and the Roman guards on Golgotha did. They saw him naked too. I have never seen Jesus hungry and homeless. I’m not sure when he was sick, I’ve never seen it. I haven’t noticed Jesus in prison. But here’s the rub, we’ve passed by others whose names aren’t Jesus who were hungry, sick and lonely. Passed right by them and maybe even muttered, “Get a job” under our breath. Jesus said, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  Matthew 25:41-43, 45

Childish? Most likely. Child-like? Not even close.

There are plenty of boisterous, me-first (Jesus second, maybe third, certainly not lower than twelfth) church goers who are mentally drawing up their heavenly mansion blueprints. Like a bully on the playground, their chests are puffed out, arrogant, and hungry for control and power. They may have more Bible knowledge, theological swagger, and church-life experiences, but humility, gentleness, and child-likeness is missing. To all of us, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes meMatthew 18:3-5

Are you travelling the narrow road? Do you have open hands, heart and wallet? Do you look for opportunities to help the troubled? Are you humble, gentle and childlike? 

Surprise!!! 

It’s a fun greeting for a birthday party. It’s a terrible bon voyage on Judgement day.  

2020 Fatigue-itus Remedy Plan

If Laffy Taffy were making jokes for their candies based on 2020 these would not make the cut: 

What do you can a black and white bear doctor? Pandemic

What did Princess Leia say to Commander Solo when he was looking good in his uniform? Wuhan

How did the camera crew abbreviate the old film of former Olympian Sebastian Coe?  Covid

How did the camera crew abbreviate the new recording of tennis star Coco Gauff? Cocovid

What do you call a hungry college freshman racing through an exam before the cafeteria closes? Rapid Testing

What do you call four glasses of Ovaltine? Quarantine

What did the other letters call the second vowel with a bladder condition? PPE

What do you call an old Mazda commercial in the back ground of a teleconference call? A Zoom zoom zoom

What is another name for grown men name calling, stretching the truth and being mean? Presidential Debate

Those are all dumb (the last one is sad not funny). 

Anyone sick of 2020?  Me too. Anyone afflicted with the new disease (not COVID-19 but…) 2020 Fatigue-itus? I’m weary of hearing about pandemics, elections, isolations, quarantines, PPE, virtual learning, Zoom meetings, people unable to gather or locked in nursing homes, social distancing and all of the rest. If I am about to enter one more store only to discover my mask is back in my car, I’m going to scream! Can I get an “Amen!”?  

We have three months to turn this year around. How are we going to do that with an election looming and more people being afflicted by Covid-19 daily? While we might not be able to make a vast difference, we can determine to do our part. 

Here’s my 2020 FATIGUE-ITUS REMEDY PLAN: 

Pray. Love. Refuse to be sucked into the ugliness of the day. Pray some more. Dream. Write a note to a senior citizen. Vote. If able, get to church. Take a neighbor a plate of cookies. Socially distance from social media. Buy a child an unexpected gift. Did I mention pray? Go for a walk. Text some teenagers a Bible verse and tell them that you are praying on their behalf. Enjoy the fall colors. Read a Psalm a day and from the Gospels too. Eat ice cream. Watch funny dog or cat videos. Tell someone about Jesus. Call an old friend. Find a reason to laugh every day. Boycott the news. Oh yes, don’t forget to pray. 

Will Bill and Gloria Gaither need to re-write the lyrics to “The Family of God” after 2020?

Do you remember the old Gaither song, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God”? If so, are you?  Are you “so glad” you are a part of the family of God? Please know, I love Jesus and I love Jesus’ people. But there are some distant relatives in God’s family whose behavior, words and/or posts on social media make me less than “so glad”? If Bill and Gloria could rewrite the ditty in 2020, in lieu of those attitudes and actions I wonder if they would pen, “I’m so sad I’m a part of the family of God”? Am I permitted to tell you, “Sometimes, I’m deeply saddened by the attitudes and actions taken by my cousins in the family of God?

I’m not so glad when some fellow family of God members who ought to know better; have been in Sunday school their whole life; and sat through (and theoretically not snored through) their fair share of sermons, still don’t get it. They treat one another badly. Are mean, rude, angry or arrogant. Have a “me first” attitude. Get their cues from news channels and social media instead of the Bible.  Those things don’t make me “so glad.”

Pastoring has never been tougher in my 30 years in the ministry. Most church folks are great, but some in the family of God are like a weird second cousin twice removed. They think they can bully and threaten to “take their tithe” to the church down the street if the pastor doesn’t capitulate to their version of the way things ought to be (I didn’t realize bribing God was an option). Every pastor I know has had an “I quit” letter, phone call or conversation. One week, years ago, I had an “I quit” conversation with a family because the church was too liberal, and a different “I quit” conversation because that family thought the church was too conservative. Same week! It really upset me. Many pastors are having those conversations every week these days. When the family of God seems more like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, I’m not so glad to be a part of it.

I’m not sure if it’s the pandemic, isolation caused by the pandemic, parents stressed from their kid’s virtual learning during the pandemic, racial unrest, election year politics or if all of the above has created this mess. Maybe it’s just plain old fashioned, garden variety carnality. I just know the family of God is suffering. Sometimes I think we are heading for divorce court. Can you divorce your family?

Who’s kidding who?  I’m old. For me even if the family of God seems more like the Adam’s Family than Leave it to Beaver (proof of my “oldness” is in those two classic TV references), I’m not going anywhere. You’re my family, weird second cousins twice removed and all. It’s not me, I’m worried about. It’s our kiddos who are watching Christians behaving badly. It’s our grandkids who are hearing over the continuous drone of the news channel how terrible the pastor is or the music leader or youth worker. It’s the non-Christian co-workers who listen to the vile talk, gossip or justification of blatant sinfulness from people who claim Jesus on Sunday but apparently forget about Him the rest of the week. 

Dear brothers and sisters, joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod (Excuse me, Bill and Gloria, I know it rhymes with “God,” but… “travels this sod”? If you’re going to re-write the song, could you re-write that line too? Sorry, I digress). Let’s start acting like the family of God again. Love one another. Care for one another. Forgive one another. Bear each other’s burdens. Our kids, grandkids and the world is watching. Let’s not give the devil any help in leading our young adults to exits of the church. Let’s make the family of God something to be glad to be a part of once again!

Jesus wept… In a pandemic… In Flint… What are we doing about it?

There are only two places in the Bible where Jesus wept.  The first (as every Sunday School kid who was ever given a prize for memorizing a verse, any verse, knows) is “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, had died. Jesus goes to the cemetery with Lazarus’ sisters and before raising his friend back to life, Jesus wept. 

The only other place where Jesus weeps in in Luke 19.  It’s the day we call Palm Sunday. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem. People are shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna.” Everyone (sans Pharisees) is excited in this tickertape parade-like atmosphere and Jesus weeps. These are not tears of joy, because everyone is praising him. Far from it.  Luke describes the event this way:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If youeven youhad only known on thisday what would bring you peacebut now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44

The people of Jerusalem don’t get it. Jesus sees Jerusalem’s future without Him. It’s not pretty. In fact, Jerusalem is facing utter destruction and, as these things usually happen, the children will suffer the most. It’s heartbreaking. In that moment, while everyone is happy, Jesus weeps.

Like Jesus we’ve all wept in a cemetery when a family member or friend has died, but when was the last time you looked over our city and wept? When have you imagined the future, and thought, “without God’s intervention, my city is in deep trouble?” 

The church I’m privileged to pastor is in Flint, Michigan. When people from Flint talk to folks not from Flint, invariably the first question asked is, “Can you drink the water?” Everyone knows, Flint has had its share of troubles. We also know our city’s kids have been the most negatively affected by these ills. When one lives, works or loves Flint, it’s easy to be like Jesus on that first Palm Sunday, and with deep anguish see our city’s enemies circling (poverty, drug abuse, unjust systems, crime, violence, lack of educational and employment opportunities) and weep. At times, it may feel like these negative forces have us hemmed in on all sides. The pandemic has only made the enemies stronger and more formidable. There are plenty of reasons to cry. 

But there are more reasons to hope! Jesus is at work in the Flint. 

Central church’s moto is “In Flint…” We have bumper stickers and T-Shirts with those simple words. We hope people ask us, “What does “In Flint…” mean?” So we can tell them that Jesus taught us to pray that his Kingdom would come and His will would be done in earth as it is in heaven. We can’t work in the entire planet, but we can in Flint.  Hence, we long to see God’s work and will accomplished in Flint as it is in Heaven.

Sometimes the Bible refers to heaven as a banquet.  I think that means that in heaven no one is hungry. We’ve done our best to end hunger here too. In fact, since our food distribution program began in July every Tuesday and Friday we’ve distributed tons of food. How much? Hold on to your hat this will blow you away, 120 tons (240,000 pounds) of food. Additionally, we partner with the food pantry next door (HIS Ministry) to end hunger in Genesee county. The Bible talks about mansions. I think that means, there won’t be homelessness or drug abuse in heaven. We partner with Carriage Town Ministries and the East Side Mission to stamp it out here too. A lack of education won’t be a problem in heaven, so we partner with Dillon Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club of Flint. Racism won’t be allowed in heaven, so our mostly white church partners with our mostly black brothers and sisters at Joy Tabernacle for joint projects. In heaven, there will be convicted but restored-by-Jesus felons. We partner with Re-Connections that has a 90% success rate in keeping released felons in Genesee County from going back into prison. Since, there won’t be sickness or death in heaven, we figure there won’t be medical debt either.  We’ve partnered with RIP Medical Debt and have (hold on to your hat again) eliminated 10 million dollars in medical debt in seven counties (SEVEN!!!). Do you see what all of this means? It’s happening. In a pandemic, it’s happening! God’s Kingdom work is happening in Flint!

Our city still has problems. But God is at work and He is not done! We aren’t done either. I hope you are at Central church this Sunday (or on-line) as we celebrate what God is doing in our city. God’s Kingdom (slow but sure) is coming in Flint! Praise the Lord! Please consider partnering with us in prayer, in service and financially (fill out a pledge card in church or fill out an on line pledge card here ), so that we will continue to see God’s will done and His Kingdom Come in Flint (and other places like in Panama too) as it is in heaven!  

America’s New Favorite Pandemic Pastime (Hint: It’s not baseball) and How to Overcome It

People have always judged others. It’s as old as Cain and Abel. But like everything else in 2020, it seems worse now. People are so quick to judge and draw conclusions over just about everything. Who’s wearing masks? Who’s not? Why not? How could you ever vote for—fill in the blank? My pastor is too – fill in the blank. Forget baseball, judging is the new American pastime. 

Ironically, Americans do not want their individual behaviors and attitudes to be judged. Everyone (judgers included) loves to quote Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). I’ve heard it from every side and every angle in these hyper sensitive times. “Don’t judge me!” Then their ironclad argument stopper is invoked, “Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge me.’”

Jesus did say that. Jesus also said, just a few verses later, the following: 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

Evidently to “watch out” for ferocious wolves who are dressed as sheep; and to ascertain whether I’m picking grapes and figs and not thorns and thistles; and to determine if a tree is good for fruit or firewood– a certain amount of judging needs to take place. 

Apostles Paul and John (both weighed in on the topic of judging) wrote:

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  (1 John 4:1)

There’s only one way to “test everything” and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”—that’s to make a judgment call. Which is it? Judge or not judge? 

Here’s my simple answer: Yes. Here’s my more developed answer:

1) Judge the person in the mirror not the one in your bullseye

Jesus said, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then (then, then, then) you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:5 the extra three “thens” are mine). Your brother has a speck in his eye. That’s no good. Have you ever had a speck in your eye? It’s irritating. Help your brother. But first take care of your own irritating habits. First, inspect your motives, motivations and habits.

2) Judge with an eye on mercy.

Jesus previously had said:  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2). Jesus doesn’t mean that we are to ignore sin, but rather we are to judge with extreme caution. Judge as you would want to be judged. We all want mercy. Who among us hasn’t wanted the police office to ignore our slightly heavy foot on the gas pedal and give us a warning not a citation? Judge with mercy,

3) Judge but don’t be judgmental.  

We need to discern right from wrong (obviously) but we don’t need to be judgmental in doing so. It’s tough to do.  Here’s how Paul instructed young Timothy on such things:  

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Don’t be quarrelsome. 

Don’t belittle anyone’s opinions. 

Don’t become resentful. 

Don’t bestow a social media rant against anyone (seriously, no one). 

Instead, be kind. Gentle. Hope and pray for God’s grace and intervention in the life of everyone. We aren’t called to be judgmental, but we are called to judge right from wrong. We are called to love God—as holy and true as He is– and to love people—as unholy and untrue as they may be. 

Five Important Lessons that My Non-clergy Dad Preached

Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday. Coincidentally, over the weekend, someone tagged me into a thread on Facebook commenting on how my “dad” was an awesome pastor. The author of the post thought my brother, Fred, was my dad. I love letting Fred know these things. He is always so encouraged when people think that his seven-year-younger kid brother is his son. Ha!  

While the post was mistaken, I am thankful for a faithful dad who never pastored a church but trained two pastors (and my two sisters – both wonderful Christ followers). Likely none of us would be Christian if my dad hadn’t made the decision to follow Jesus (well, I would not have been born. My parents would have been divorced before that “glorious” day arrived). But Jesus found my dad and, as they say, the rest is history.

My dad worked for Ford for 42 years and never pastored a church, but I do remember on one occasion when he was drafted into preaching. The pastor was sick and someone had to do it. My dad was the choice—I don’t remember one word he said. It may have been his only “official” sermon, but he preached plenty to my siblings and me every day. It made all the difference. We were watching and listening.

So what are the main lessons that my dad “preached”?

1). Consistency. My dad was the exact same person at home, at church, anywhere.

2). No Job for the Lord was too small. When you attend a little church, there are few people to do all of the jobs. My dad did a little bit of everything. Served on the board. Taught Sunday School. Usher. Janitor. Lawn Mow-er. Maintenance man.  You name it. He did it.

3.) Don’t rob God. Tithing was important. Generous with our money—but also generous with our talents and time. 

4). No talking bad about church folks in general and pastors in particular.  I don’t think it’s a shock that Fred and I became pastors. We never heard a bad word about the pastor in our house. Looking back, not all of our pastors were gems. In fact, one embezzled money from the church and took off; another left the Church of the Nazarene on unfavorable terms, and still another one’s marriage fell apart while pastoring the church. I only had five pastors at that church. So (as the math whizzes among us can calculate) 60% of the pastors had issues and yet I don’t remember a bad word spoken about any of these men. Ever. Not in front of us kids anyway. 

5). Love God. Love your family. Love the country. Work hard at serving them all.  My dad’s generation could teach this current generation on how to be faithful. He lived faithfulness before us, and I am a far better person because of it.

Happy Birthday in heaven, dad!