After he confessed a sin in which he had been caught, the student seated across my desk, shrugged his shoulders, and with a sigh, exclaimed, “Oh well, God has forgiven me!” While I could not disagree with him, in regard to the possibility of God’s forgiveness, I could assure him that, even though forgiven, he must now live with the consequences of the sin. I have a Bible Reading Group on Facebook with a little over three hundred members. We read one chapter in the Bible per week and comment with our thoughts, sometimes with our questions. (BTW, if you are interested in more information about the group, send me a private message on Facebook.) In the later part of this month, we are reading Hosea. In fact, we just read Hosea 3, a very short chapter of only five verses. Yet in those five verses sin and punishment is presented. In his book entitled, “Studies in Hosea,” Dr. K. Owen White, for many years Pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, wrote, “To enjoy sin’s pleasures, is to know its penalties also.” Do not take sin lightly. Whereas God stands ready and willing to forgive, the aftereffects are devastating, sometimes to the point of deadly.
I spoke recently at a Men’s Breakfast for a nearby church. Present at that gathering was a man who had been a member of a neighboring church where I had served as Interim Pastor thirty-two years previously. Unfortunately, his wife was having memory issues, and it prompted him to share a story with me. A few days earlier he had been going through one of his wife’s purses in an attempt to help her find something, when his hand felt a cassette tape at the bottom of a purse. Removing the cassette, he looked at the writing on the side, which said, “Dr. Crawford’s Sermon” followed by a date. Following a brief “Wow’ and a comment or two from me, he said, “Dr. Crawford. You have no idea how many of your sermons are at the bottom of women’s purses.” This man went on to recall in some detail, another sermon I had preached as his Interim Pastor – 32 years ago. What an awesome encouragement that was to me and a timely reminder that we who preach and teach need never take our presentations lightly. Some who hear us, will remember. The writer of Ecclesiastes was correct, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).
I completed another Interim Pastorate yesterday. I only served as Pastor of two churches before I went to work for the denomination, but since then, I’ve served as Interim Pastor of twenty-six churches. This time I was asked if this was my last interim or if I planned on taking on another one. Since number twenty-seven may be only a week or so away, my response was that one doesn’t quit preaching because he gets old, but rather he gets old because he quits preaching. I think that is a paraphrase from a quote in another field of endeavor, but it works here as well. I will soon enter a new decade, and unless God has another idea, I don’t plan on slowing down. When I retired from my Seminary faculty position, I said I was retiring from a position, not from a calling. So, I’ll keep on working, following my calling. The elderly professional baseball pitcher, Satchel Paige said, “When I works, I works hard. When I plays, I plays hard. And when I stops, I falls to sleep.” I know what he means. I’m claiming Isaiah 46:4 (NASB), “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will carry you! I have done it, and I will bear you; and I will carry you and I will save you.” Carry on, Lord while I preach on!
Last week’s Monday Morning Manna was deleted by Facebook. Some thought it was because I quoted scripture, but I quote scripture in every issue of Monday Morning Manna. Others thought I offended the FB standards because of my comments on “men and women.” Still others believed it was a computer program, not an individual that caused the deletion. Could have been any of these reasons. I requested an explanation from Facebook, and I was ready to apologize if in the wrong. I was/am a guest on their website and whether, or not I believe their regulations are right, I must live by them. They reviewed my post and replied, “We’re sorry we got this wrong. We reviewed your post again and it does follow our Community Standards. We appreciate you taking the time to request a review.” Can we all learn a lesson here? No matter how stringent the standards, nor how strongly the belief in them is, when you make a mistake, you apologize and move on. I appreciate Facebook for their response and will try to pass it forward. After all, “His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4).
My mother was a great student of the Bible, but I’m not sure she cared much for the Book of Esther. She often said that my father was the head of the house, but then added, “I’m the neck, and the head does not turn without the neck.” Not sure where she got that idea, but it was not from Esther 1:22 where the King “sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house” (Esther 1:22). I have a friend who likes to impress others by saying that he always has the last words in his house. Then after the friends seem duly impressed, he adds, “The last words are, “Yes mam.” A lot is being said these days about the role of women in society, and rightly so since we now have women occupying the top positions in everything from politics to church staffs. Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, and playwright. He once wrote, “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men. They are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater … If you give her a house, she will give you a home. If you give her groceries, she will give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she will give you her heart. She multiples and enlarges whatever is given to her.” Come to think of it, a man would have to be about half crazy to write an article on the role of women these days. So, I think I’ll just stick with Mark Twain’s quote – “What would men be without women? Scarce, sir…mighty scarce.”
Do we have to ask God to hear our prayer, or does He automatically hear? When Nehemiah was preparing to go before the King to request permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, he prayed, “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant” (Nehemiah 1:11). Furthermore, Daniel prayed, “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications” (Daniel 9:17). Finally, David prayed, “Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech” (Psalm 17:6). Unfortunately, most of us just begin our prayer as though God is already listening, with nothing else to do except wait for our communication. While God is eager to hear from us, He does have a few other things to do. I once heard a new believer begin his prayer, “God, this is John. Remember me? If so, please hear this.” I know what the Bible also says, for instance in 1 John 5:14: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” So maybe we don’t need to ask God to hear us. Perhaps to be heard by God, all we need is just to pray according to His will. How do you pray? Think about it.
According to Wikipedia, bullying is “the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate.” It is a serious issue in our culture today. While I am totally opposed to bullying, especially when it happens to the young, I think there are times, we can laugh it off and go on with life, thankful that we were noticed. These times come when there is a lighter, less-serious side of bullying that, depending on the recipient, might be called “bantering,” (defined as “to address in a witty and teasing manner.”) In my global travels, I have endured the Mexican people calling me “Gringo” (which I was told meant, “person with the green money, go back home”) the Chinese people calling me “big nose” (for obvious comparative reasons), the little west African children singing to me, “Yovo, Yovo, bonsoir.” (“White person, white person, good day.” But “yovo” can also mean “talking dog.”), and the Hispanic children calling me “Bobo Grande” (“Bobo” meaning “fool” and a big one, at that). I watched teen-agers in Germany laugh as they called my wife, “Big hair” (again for obvious reasons). As for my students, I don’t even want to know what all they called me. Actually, neither bullying, nor bantering, is new. When Elisha went from the spring of water up to Bethel, the scripture says, “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23. Read the rest of the chapter to see the tragic ending for the “youths.”). Again, let’s do what we can to stop bullying, especially among the young, but let’s also take some things less seriously. Lighten up, and have a good day.
A lot has been written on social media recently about sermon plagiarizing – preaching someone else’s sermon, although one of my preaching professors told us if you preach another’s sermon it is called plagiarizing, but if you combine parts of several sermons, it is called research. My pastor-father used to say, “When better sermons are written, I’ll preach them.” Sometimes they were and sometimes he did. A friend began his Chapel sermon at Southwestern Seminary by saying, “If you like this sermon, you can get a copy afterwards in the library. Look under Spurgeon – Charles Haddon.” A faculty member preached a sermon in Chapel and a few months later preached the same sermon in a church pastored by a Seminary student. In the meantime, the student preached the professor’s sermon in his church. The church members were upset, thinking the professor stole their pastor’s sermon. All this to say, show me a preacher who doesn’t occasionally use someone else’s sermon material, and I’ll show you a preacher who may have another problem. I always told my Seminary want-to-be preachers how to use someone else’s material: (1) The first time you use it you say, “Dr. Crawford said . . .” (2) The second time you use it you say, “It has been said . . .” (3) The third time you use it, you say, “I’ve always thought . . .” By then it is yours. I also told them that if they were going to use my material, at least improve on it. One student tried to justify his plagiarism by quoting a verse out of context, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippines 2:4). Many years ago. my pastor preached a sermon that was familiar to me. Following the service, I went by my office and pulled off the shelf a book of sermons by Dr. R. G. Lee and found the sermon that I had just heard. I could have made copies and handed them out at the next church business meeting before making a motion to terminate the pastor, but I chose not to do so. I don’t mean to attempt to justify sermon plagiarism. After all, there is that biblical verse that says, “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor” (Jeremiah 23:30). I just think it is not a big enough deal over which to terminate someone. Here’s another verse that applies – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone . . .” (John 8:7). And another verse – “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Preach on!
It is now legal for Texans (and others) to carry guns without a permit, unless, of course, there are mental or legal reasons that keeps an individual from carrying. Lots of folks are worried about a possible increase in “gun violence.” At the risk of stirring up controversary, I’d like to address the subject of “violence.” I have my grandfather’s gun – a Savage model – that he kept in the cash register of his grocery story in the 1930s 40s and 50s. I never knew him to shoot it. In fact, I wonder if he even purchased it, or perhaps took it in as a trade for an overdue grocery bill (since he sold on credit, long before credit cards were even invented). Apparently, the gun has been shot, at least once, since there is a slight crack in the chamber, making further use unadvisable. It sits, framed, on the mantle over my den fireplace and has been there for many years. In that time period it has not been fired, and thus has not done violence to anyone. In fact, the only way this gun can be a part of “gun violence” is to be in the hands of some violent person. So, it seems to me that we would do well to work on solving “people violence” rather than “gun violence.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to guns. I had several – all used for hunting purposes – until our home was burglarized and all of them were stolen. I still have two handguns and carry a Concealed Weapon License. I know the violence that can be created by guns, but I also know that it is not the gun’s fault. So, call me pro guns, but also call me anti violence. After all, according to the Old Testament, violence existed long before guns were invented – “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11) and the New Testament records an experience it the life of the Apostle Paul when he, “had had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob” (Acts 21:35). I am in favor of gun control, but I am more in favor of people control.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. In spite of having had skin cancer surgery on my forehead on the preceding Monday and having spent the week with swollen eyes and nose, using ice packs for ten minutes every hour, taking pain killers on a regular basis, and sleeping with my head elevated, I preached my morning sermon. It was not that the congregation especially needed my sermon, but it was that I needed to preach on Father’s Day. When I was fifteen years old, I was involved in a Saturday night automobile wreck causing the second vertebra of my neck to be broken. The following Sunday morning, as I lay in a hospital bed, my Dad preached. Others sat by me in the hospital, but he fulfilled what he considered to be life’s highest calling. Some might disagree with his priorities, but I did not. I wanted him to preach that Sunday morning. (He was still preaching three months before his death, at age 84.) A few years after my accident, I would sense that same calling on my life. Over the years and around the globe, I have preached in some unusual places and under some unusual conditions, but I have always preached, when it was my turn. The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). So, I preached on Father’s Day. Whatever your life’s priorities are, if they are in sync with God’s calling on your life, do it: on good days and bad days; on healthy days and unhealthy days; in good circumstances and bad circumstances; “in season and out of season.”