For the past few months, our adult Sunday School class has been taught by Andy Naselli, who went through the book of 1 Corinthians. He led us in some very intriguing and helpful discussions about a wide range of topics sparked by this engaging epistle. He has the entire book memorized, and each Sunday he recited the passage that we were to discuss on that day. The emotion he put into Paul’s words made this part of each class a highlight.

Andy is thoughtful, caring and knowledgeable, and he’s also quite funny. I started writing down some of his more humorous statements.

Here are 28 of them, all completely taken out of context:

28 Funny Quotes from Andy Naselli

1. Microsoft Word doesn’t like Greek words. They’re all underlined in red.

2. [Describing what a diatribe is] You do both sides of a conversation. Like it’s kind of fun after an argument. You do this and come back and win it.

3. You guys are ESV Study Bible owners, probably. It’s the inspired study Bible.

4. [Regarding mocking Christianity] I’m sure it’s all over TV. Can any of you testify? Now be careful – don’t say “yes”.

5. I’m memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 and I’m saying over and over again “Love is not irritable” and then I have to spend time with my kids.

6. So Don, you’ll probably get this in Year 4. So don’t write all this down.

7. [Attempting to recite part of First Corinthians] Nevertheless … [to class] Right? … Yet? … Same thing.

8. I’m all about processed food.

9. I’ll answer my own question, it’ll be faster.

10. Tom is a hard core guitarist who likes drums, so he can be our stronger brother.

11. I’m not saying you should grow long hair. We’ll talk about that in chapter 11.

12. You might think your dog has a conscience. It doesn’t have a conscience.

13. Some people like to say, “Don’t go to fast food. Don’t go to fast food.” My response is, “What if it’s Chick-fil-A?” Gotcha. Because that’s Christian fast food.

14. [regarding the shortness of time] We’re on page five of eight. This is hopeless!

15. [While talking about the ‘Do not deprive one another’ section] Everyone’s afraid to talk right now.

16. This is the section I wrote my paper on [on head coverings]. This week I went back and read it. And you’re not going to see it, so don’t ask for it.

17. I wanted to show you my [wedding] vows. My vows have footnotes.

18. [When Andy found out his handout sheets were put together wrong – while reciting the “One body with many members” section] Someone’s head’s gonna roll. Just kidding! Just kidding! We don’t want that part of the body.

19. Did you say prophesy? No? I read your lips wrong. But you were thinking it, weren’t you?

20. If we’re late, and we are, it’s her fault.

21. Since you’re the longest standing member, I’ll give you the last word.

22. [at the end of a class] We’re done… But I’ll let one more [ask a question] because you have a sad face.

23. [After someone gave some advice to help with getting his computer working] Thanks, ‘reseat-your-cable’ guy.

24. [Regarding a controversial part of the Bible] We might think that, but is there any other text that might clarify? Let’s just read the next three lines and see what happens.

25. Do you know how big a question you just asked? I teach a whole course–four credits, and it’s basically that question.

26. [Regarding a portion of the last chapter of 1 Corinthians] If you think that was hard to follow, try memorizing it.

27. If this has any interest for you, there’s a book that I’d recommend that came out this month. I forgot the title but it has the word ‘trinity’ in it, somewhere, I think.

28. [After attempting to explain a confusing part of the text] I know that’s kind of lame. You try! [whispering] Really, I have know clue what this means. [Louder] Ready to move on? …. No, this isn’t of first importance, it’s of tenth importance.

By the way, if you’re interested in reading some Funny John Piper Quotes, here you go.

I thought you might be interested in an odd thing that is happening with this, the Responsible Puppet blog.

Last September, I posted a Tuesday Stand Alone Statement about not wearing sunglasses when you’re talking to someone. To be honest, it was an inconsequential post.

So I was surprised when it slowly became one of my more popular post. I didn’t get it.

I have since learned, thanks to a helpful commenter, that if you go to Google Images and search on ‘sunglasses’ the third image links back to that post. For who knows why?


In the last month, it’s gotten more than 860 hits.

And here’s what makes me feel guilty: I just grabbed that photo off the internet somewhere. I can’t find it. I’ve tried, because I’d like to update that post to link back to it.

For the record, I no longer do that. I’ve learned my lesson: Now I try to make sure photos link back to the source (often Wikipedia).

In any case, I’m letting you know. Maybe you could go to the google search and click on my link. If enough people do that – it could go to position 2!

Update: Okay in creating the image for this post, I’ve found the source, but it just brings you to an error page if you click on it. So maybe I feel a little less guilty.

 

In the mind of Americans, there are two kinds of wealthy people: Those who are blessed and a blessing, and those who are cursed. For every story of the healthy-minded wealthy person, you hear two about rich people who have great wealth that does not give them joy–those who are in fact being destroyed by their own actions as a result of their wealth.

“But I”, you say to yourself optimistically, “I will not be like that if I ever come into money. I will enjoy it and share it and not let it morph me into a greedy, angry, depressed, or destructive person”.

That’s our hope, anyway. Some of us live for that hope. And some of us despair of ever enjoying those kinds of benefits. And for others, it is an idol.

But what if you could have the blessings of this blessed (i.e. non-destructive) kind of wealthiness where you are, with the income you have* right now?  You can. There are ways you can experience the goodness without using your financial resources. Here’s how:

Four Ways To Feel Rich (Without Spending Money)

  1. Sit

When you think about the happy rich people, those who are enjoying the blessings of financial resources, what are they doing? Are they frantic? Are they overly busy? No, you picture them experiencing leisure time. Relaxing. Enjoying life. You see them feeling the blessing of substantial margins.

Do you know that you could enjoy this right now? You could turn off the computer and close your eyes and rest. Or read a good book. Or take a bath. Or talk to a friend or a family member that you like. And these are all activities that cost no (or almost no) money.

Now certainly you can do all of these things to excess, but I bet there are some of these that you haven’t done in too long of a time.

  1. Declutter

As you consider the wealthy and their home, there is one thing that might jump to your mind: Space. Mansions have open areas. They are not cramped.

Now think of where you spend most of your time at home. For no cost at all, you can make your life more like theirs by getting rid of stuff. By clearing away items on the floor and on any flat surface. Put it away, throw it away, sell it.

You may be thinking, “If I don’t have a knickknack on that decorative shelf, it’s a waste of that resource.” No. The best use for that for that decorative shelf (or coffee table, or counter) is to show that you have space.

And this one might actually save you money; the next time you’re at a shop and see something you think is cute–something that you’re tempted to buy and bring home and find the perfect place for–say to yourself: No, I don’t have a perfect place for this.

  1. Pray Before Meals

One thing the rich have: Easy meals. As you watch the upstairs people on Downton Abbey, it’s clear; they don’t have to shop for food, they don’t have to cook, they don’t have to do dishes.  They just sit down, and the servants do it all for them. The modern-day rich go out to eat, and the restaurant staff brings their meals to them.

But you…you don’t have servants and you don’t have the resources to go out to eat as often as you’d like.

But every meal you ever eat, there is a moment – a moment where everything is prepared and on the table and you’re sitting down (maybe with your family) to eat it. At that moment, you’re just like the wealthy who have their food made for them and presented at the big dining table. Your food is ready to for you to enjoy it. And if you don’t stop to think about it, you miss this glorious moment. So stop. Pray. Give thanks. You have food. It’s ready for eat. Enjoy the moment.

  1. Seek to See Grace

I get the feeling that the wealthy people who are happy are the ones who feel lucky.

There’s a scene in “That Thing You Do”, the Tom Hanks movie about a 60’s pop band that goes from nothing to being famous over the course of the summer. Just as they are about the play their big song on the big nationally-broadcast television show, one of the band members asks another, “How did we get here?”

I’m pretty sure that’s how many of the healthy and joy-filled wealthy feel: How did I get here? I don’t feel like I’ve done much to merit this. The fact that I’m getting this is a gift that I have been given to enjoy and not take for granted. So I should enjoy it and not take it for granted!

And you can experience this. Some of you who are reading this experience chronic daily pain, but most of you do not. If you don’t, do you think about that and feel blessed?

Some of you are currently experiencing family crises, but many of you aren’t. If you aren’t, do you thank God that you have peace with your family right now?

Some of you are unemployed (or underemployed), but most of you are not. Do you think about that? Do you remember the day you got the job – the feeling of relief and joy? Feel that now.

There are people in the world who don’t even have a bed to sleep in. But you probably do. It’s probably as comfortable as what the rich sleep in. Neither the rich, nor you, deserve a bed more than those who don’t have one.

As I say, these (and many, many other things) are gifts from your Maker. They are works of grace on your behalf. Consider them, enjoy them, be thankful for them.

You could do that for hours; it might give you a lot of joy and peace and feelings of thankfulness for what you’ve been given, and it wouldn’t cost a penny.

Non-rich person, live in that spirit, and you won’t be troubled that you don’t have a mansion, a yacht or a limo.

* I believe that while almost all Americans are not poor by worldly standards, there is a non-zero set of authentically poor people in the US, and there are many who don’t have a good idea where the resources to pay for next month’s food or lodging is going to come from. I do not mean to belittle their experience in this essay.

I’m glad you’re here. Please take a look around.

And please follow me on Twitter.

Also, I’d love it if you’d take a look at the information about the Bible Memorization Song CD that our family has been a part of.

Here’s a sample video. It’s bluegrass!

When my dad married into my family when I was 12, he married into a family of musicians and singers. He was neither. Some might have described him as a bad singer, but he used to joke, more accurately, that he was a fine singer, he just had a very small range. In any case, his lack of vocal ability didn’t stop him from singing “Happy Birthday” in a non-timid way at my kids’ birthday parties. I really miss that, despite his inability to sing the song in tune. It added to the joy.

There are two kinds of bad singers: Those who know they sing poorly and those who don’t. This second kind are highlighted in comedy shows and the beginning of each season of American Idol. People chuckling knowingly as they watch: “He actually thinks he’s good!”

They are easily mockable, those ignorant of their out-of-tune-ness. But here’s the thing: I’ve worshiped at several churches, and I’ve never met one (a bad singer who didn’t know he was a bad singer) at any of them. The bad singers generally know they aren’t vocalists. Believe me, they know. Some of them would like to sing on the worship team or in the church choir, but they know that this isn’t their gift. God is not calling them to that ministry.

I further split this group of bad singers (those who know they are bad singers) into two more categories:

There are those who keep quiet. Muting oneself is understandable – no one wants to draw attention to one’s lesser gifts, and one might fear that he’ll ruin worship for those around him.

But then there are those who want to sing out. They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to glorify God. They want to avail themselves of the opportunity to join into corporate worship. Let me go on record: I find this commendable.

Recently I found myself standing near one of these people, singing out strongly, and I felt honored. I thought, this man doesn’t sing perfectly, he knows it and still he’s willing to sing with strength. And he knows I’m within earshot. He doesn’t want to keep his love of his Heavenly Father a secret. He wants to worship. May God encourage him and those like him.

I have a video of one of my children being presented with a birthday cake, and you can hear our whole family singing to him. This video was filmed just before my Dad died and on it, you can hear him say, as the candles were being blown out, “This particular grandfather can’t sing worth a hill of beans.”

Maybe. But he still sang. He was still a part of the celebration. To his benefit and ours.

This Sunday, if you find yourself standing next to someone who is not a perfect singer but is still entering into worship, do this: Smile, sing with him or her, and thank God for that person’s courage and love of their Creator. And if you’re a less than ideal singer, sing loud, do your best to glorify God and thank him for the way He accepts imperfect gifts.

A while back I wrote a post over on my dad blog suggesting …

If you’re going to be in a situation with your kids where you’re afraid that they’re going to behave in a certain way, set them up for success – tell them what’s going to happen and what you expect from them.

I would recommend this as an action for any adult to do to themselves as they walk into a bad-behavior-provoking situation. Ask:

In this situation, what might I be tempted to do?
What should I do instead?

(Please see my post about Levels of Wrongness.)

I mentioned Andy Naselli in my last post. I regard him as an authority on the biblical view of the Conscience. He (and many other respected theologians) define Strong and Weak Christians this way:

Strong Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is not sinful – and they are right.
Weak Christians: Those who feel that the Bible says a certain act is sinful – and they are wrong.
Note: Both the Strong and Weak Christian are attempting to live by the Bible – i.e. they aren’t disregarding what it says.

I agree with these definitions – but I think they yield imbalances in our thoughts about those who disagree with us.

Consider the following chart (click on it to see it bigger).

StrongWeak1Please notice – nowhere in this grid do I think I’m a weak Christian. If I think an act is biblically sinful and you don’t, I think I’m right and the strong and weak paradigm doesn’t fit. So Romans 14 largely doesn’t apply.

Also note that, generally speaking, that is the only situation where I’m most likely to have negative emotions. If (1) we agree, then everything is fine, and if (2) I don’t think it’s sinful and you do, then that’s fine, you’re just more strict that me – go live your life like that, no big deal.

But if I think it’s sinful and you don’t, well, I might feel distrust, or fear – or I might feel threatened.

And obviously in both cases negative emotions are turned up if people start trying to enforce their different views.

But let’s think about a person’s views about what is sin compared to the Bible

StrongWeak2Again, in none of these situation am I a weak Christian. This is because no one ever thinks they are a weak Christian. Either I’m a strong Christian, or I’m a biblically strict Christian, or I’m an unbiblical Christian (or a non-Christian). This is probably one reason why Paul spends most of his time speaking to strong Christians.

The third chart is about a person’s opinions and his actions.

StrongWeak3One thing I’ll point out here is the uncertainty. I believe that very few physical acts are inherently sinful or unsinful. It doesn’t matter what your view of the biblical stance is on any issue, all acts can be done in a sinful way.

But in the grid above, the situation most fraught with danger is where you think an act is not sinful, and you do it – because there are so many situations where you can do harm with that act. This is almost certainly another reason why Paul spend so much of his writing dealing with this situation.

Let the actor beware.

I believe most division in a church over the rightness or wrongness of a certain activity is not due to disagreement over whether the act is right or wrong but (assuming that at least one person thinks it’s wrong), the extent of its wrongness.

Given this, I think there is some merit in being mindful of the many levels of wrongness that a person can attribute to a given act. And it just seemed to me that the following list might prove helpful.

How wrong do you think a certain act is?
A Loose, Incomplete Hierarchy
(From Least Wrong To Most)

Question: That act that you think is wrong – how wrong do you think it is?

Answer: I believe choosing to do Act X is unwise (wrong, inappropriate, sinful) to this level:

Act X is Unwise – at least for me (or my family) – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should challenge close acquaintances to reconsider the wisdom of doing Act X
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in certain circumstances
Act X is Unwise – for all people – in all circumstances
I should advise close acquaintances not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in certain circumstances
Act X is Sinful – at least for me – in all circumstances
I should advise all Christians not to do Act X
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in certain circumstances
My Pastor should speak out against doing Act X from the pulpit
Act X is Sinful – for all people – in all circumstances (It’s inherently sinful)
I should advise non-Christians not to do Act X
I think unrepentantly doing Act X is a sign that the person is not a Christian
Someone who does Act X is almost certainly not a Christian
Act X should be illegal – I’d vote for it to be illegal
Act X should be illegal – I’d campaign for it to be illegal
You aren’t a Christian if you aren’t actively campaigning for Act X to be illegal
I think a person who does Act X should be imprisoned for [1,5,20,50] years
I should kill a person to prevent them from doing Act X

With this hierarchy in mind, I have a recommended three step exercise for Christians reading this:

1. Consider where your conscience places certain acts on this hierarchy. Some acts (which you think are acceptable choices) may not land anywhere on the list.

For example – consider these:
Getting a tattoo
Wearing a bikini
Wearing jeans to church
Physical abuse of children
Bombing an orphanage
Swearing
Wearing a tie to church
Drinking alcohol

2. Now consider your thoughts about people who would place an act on a significantly different level in the hierarchy.

3. Now go read Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 (and following) to read the biblical ways to peacefully and wisely handle these differences.

(For the record, many of these thoughts were inspired by the helpful teachings about the conscience from Andy Naselli, who’s teaching about 1 Corinthians in our adult Sunday School class right now.)

Also, please go read my newer post about the Absense of Weak Christians.

 

I would be very hesitant to begin a sentence with, “My Spiritual Gift is …”.

There are two problems with declaring your spiritual gift (assuming you’re being serious):

1. It’s pretty close to acting like you have direct access to the mind of God on this issue.

2. It’s pretty much straight up bragging.

I’ve been aware of two good reasons to stop when you see the stop sign open out on the side of a bus:
1. You don’t want to hit kids.
2. You don’t want people to think you’re an over-rushed weasel.

But I recently witnessed (at my daughter’s bus stop) a car drive past one of these stop signs and was shown another reason:

3. Bus drivers have radios at their disposal with which they can call in your license plate number. And as you drive by them, they are not moving, making it very easy for them to do so.

It might be wise, when choosing the shower head that you might be using in the years and decades before you move out of your house, to choose one that costs more than six dollars.

I’d just like to note in passing that the word “comfortable” is one that almost all speakers …
1. Mispronounce (Comfterble vs. Comfortable)
and
2. Use incorrectly or non-literally.

When we say someone is comfortable, we don’t mean they are are able to be comforted, but they are already comforted.

I’ve already listed two reasons why I wear a tie to church.

Here’s a third reason: My wife thinks I look good in a tie.

Your mileage may vary.

(By the way, Andy says this should be my first reason.)

Hello, Manufactures of Gasoline – while I appreciate the low prices of the current market, I’d be willing to pay more on average. Could we just compromise and agree to a fixed moderate price of, oh say, $3? For the next five years?

The Internet’s Contravolution of a Popular Idiom

The idiom “Apples to Oranges” is a phrase I like because it is such a helpful and efficient way of saying (to most English speakers) a fairly complex idea. It expresses the idea that two things are different enough so that comparison between the two is somewhat ridiculous.

But what about a situation, in arguments or discussions, where “Apples and Oranges” doesn’t work to capture the situation adequately? What if (for example) the two items are significantly disparate and different that comparing them is significantly more wrong-minded than comparing Oranges and Apples? Both of them are fruit, after all. And they’re both round and … so forth.

What idiom do people use in such a situation? I’m glad you asked. For as I did a Google search, I learned that people have (many, many times in internet history) wanted to express this but they’ve done it in different ways.

Very different ways.

For example …

ApplesandOranges1A. Some writers use a creative way to say the items in question are okay to compare (and the compared items really are just apples):

[For the record – all of these lists include only real examples I found on the internet and I have kept the italics untouched. Also the spelling and punctuation]

— It’s not apples and oranges, its granny smith vs golden delicious.

— It’s not apples and oranges; it’s two different kinds of apples.

— … were not apples and oranges, but more like apples and half apples.

— it’s not apples and oranges. McIntosh and Granny Smith might be more apt.

— It’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and exploding apples

— Success and failure, as far as hedge funds were concerned, were not apples and oranges, but perhaps, first-rate apples and second-rate apples.

ApplesandOranges2— It’s not apples and oranges, it’s 300 green apples vs 1 or 2 red ones.

— Like I’ve said, it’s not apples and oranges – it’s just a lot a little tiny apples – or applesauce – but it’s still apples.

— For in fact it’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples all the way down.

But most of them need a way to indicate comparison of the objects is more unwise than comparing Apples and Oranges. For example ….

ApplesandOranges3

B. Some of them choose foods that are more disparate than Apples and Oranges:

— That’s not apples and oranges. Its Apples and Lemons.

— It’s not apples and oranges…its more like apples and bacon

— It’s not apples and oranges, its apples and turnips

That’s not apples and oranges, that’s apples and Tang.

— But when heterogeneity becomes too large, you might end up combining not apples and oranges but apples and onions.

— Ironic it may be, but this is not Apples and Oranges, it’s Apples and Meat in some sort of funny way.

— Our personality contrast is not apples and oranges – it’s apples and three-month-old-leftover-tuna-casserole.

— When we look more closely at The Body’s Way, strength and flexibility are most definitely not apples and oranges, but rather … um … a delicious layered apple and orange parfait.

— That’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and BBQ ribs or something.

(It’s the ‘or something’ that makes this my favorite of this group).

ApplesandOranges4

C. Others feel like comparing food to food is still too similar to compare to what’s happening in the debate at hand.

— Its not apples and oranges, its apples and cars.

— ‘It’s not apples and oranges; it’s apples and bricks

— It’s not apples and oranges its apples and jackhammers.

Thats not apples and oranges, thats apples and astroids in another solar system.

— WOW thats not apples and oranges thats apples and the the space shuttle!

That’s not apples and oranges. That’s apples and prostitutes.

— You can’t compare puppies to babies. That’s not apples and oranges, that’s apples and babies.

That’s not apples and oranges; that’s apples and decorative bars of soap.

That’s not apples and oranges. That’s apples and elephants, maybe even apples and

aircraft carriers.

— it’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and friggin hand-grenades.

— That’s not apples and oranges. That’s apples and monkeys. Not even the same species*

— That’s not apples and oranges, its apples and flying space monkeys.

For brevity sake, I’ll just say that other items that writers thought were more different from apples than oranges include ..

(That’s not apples and oranges – that’s apples and ….)

Chartreuse, doorbells, row boats, panzer tanks, telephones, pear trees, porcupines, moon rocks, BMWs, Rocks, Sewing Machines, hex bolts, turtles, carburetors, screw-drivers, playing a piano, cement, ICBMs, ammo, rocket ships, light bulbs, tablecloths, orangutangs, and lugnuts.

 

D. But for some, comparing apples to any object was too coherent. They chose more esoteric paths:

— That’s not apples and oranges – that’s apples and playing a piano.

— It’s not apples and oranges. It’s apples and black holes.

… not apples and oranges but apples and ideas about apples.

— HTML version and CSS version are separate and unrelated things: not “apples and oranges” but “apples and green”.

— Stop. You’re comparing apples and unicorns. Not apples and oranges; oranges exist in reality.

— That’s not apples and oranges; it’s apples and non-Newtonian physics.

— It’s not apples and oranges: it’s apples and buses, where one party can’t begin to imagine buses.

That’s not apples and oranges, that’s institutionalized segregation/wage slavery and oranges.

— They are not apples and oranges. They are apples and the French Revolution.

E. I feel here I must include the set of those whose author didn’t want either apples or oranges in the second half of the phrase.

— That’s not apples and oranges; it’s cars and coconuts

— That’s not apples and oranges. It’s cupcakes and anvils.

— It’s not apples and oranges. It’s magnolias and six-shooters.

— It’s not apples and oranges — it’s covered wagons and starships

— Seriously though…it’s not apples and oranges. It’s like saying you can’t compare a sports car and communter car.

— … is comparing not apples and oranges, but bananas to lawn chairs.

— That’s not apples and oranges, its a spec of dust and the entire planet.

— It’s not apples and oranges, it’s watermelons and glockenspiels.

— it’s not apples and oranges. it’s a human body with a dog head. In proportion. In proportion!**

F. And then there are some that had appeared to have lost the path altogether. Like they started out in the right mindset with the apples and oranges idiom, but something went really wrong.

— Its not apples and oranges, its whether or not a country is being held to reparations.

— It’s not apples and oranges, its religous freedom.

That’s not apples and oranges, that’s chicken and egg. [This one kind of warps my brain a little bit]

— Its not apples and oranges, its common **** sense.

— Its not Apples and Oranges, Its truth and lies.

— Space and time were not apples and oranges, but mates—joined, homologous, inseparable.

G. And here are category-defying entries that I threw in, just for the fun of it.

— It’s not apples and oranges. it’s apples and carrots. the only things that are similar are batman, video game and arkham universe.

— This is a book about fruit, but not apples and oranges. The other fruit. This is a book about sex, but not just sex. Sex is never alone.

— Kanye interrupted an acceptance speech. Chris beat on his girlfriend. That’s not apples and oranges. That’s apples and domestic battery

— It’s not apples and oranges, it’s where Magic Hat stole the name of that beer. Period.

— It’s not apples and oranges. It’s more like bananas and sucking out the inside of an orange with a shop vac.

And finally, from a Superman Vs Goku discussion:

— It’s not apples and oranges. It’s applying a principle to a feat and then applying the same principle to other feats

In any case – I think it’s clear – humanity can get very random when it wants to.

* Yes, for the record, in case you weren’t aware of it – apples and monkey are a different species.

** Second ‘In proportion’ added.

I’ve already mentioned one reason I wear a tie at church. Here’s another:

I wear a tie so that other guys who wear ties don’t feel goofy or out of place.

We’ve all been there. We’re talking to one of our pastors who is soon to be giving a sermon and we want to say something that will encourage and inspire them as they prepare to open the Word for our congregation. Maybe they’re an associate pastor who very rarely gives the sermon. Maybe ‘speaking in public’ isn’t their forte. Or maybe they place ‘speaking in public’ between ‘being crawled on by large spiders’ and ‘dying’ as they rank their list of fears.

So you want to be helpful. But be careful – there are some remarks that aren’t as encouraging as you might think. And since lead pastors might be taking vacations during the upcoming holidays forcing non-lead ministers to give the Sunday message, I thought now might be a good time, as a handy resource, to list a few of them. So here are …

Five Comments you might think are encouraging/helpful for a pastor about to give a sermon, but actually aren’t:

1. The Video:

Hey, Reverend – you may notice the video recorder in the back, saving for all of posterity every single word you say as you expound on Second Chronicles. But don’t worry – most likely only a few people will see it when they post it on the church website next week. Like your mom. Oh, that’s right, she doesn’t use the internet. So it might be nobody. That is, unless you accidentally say something horrifically embarrassing. Then it’ll go viral and the whole world will watch that seven second clip over and over. But then you’d be famous. So it’s win/win.

Reason it’s not helpful: People in the pews might be distracted by his strained and singular focus on the camera lens.

2. The Research:

I must say, I’m really impressed. The massive amount of inquiry it must take to give a sermon on Matthew 5 … well it must just occupy weeks and weeks to read all of the commentaries to make sure you’re not saying something ridiculous about the text. Studying the greek, listening to famous 19th century preachers exposition, reading the text (and the context) in several different versions (including the ‘Message’). And don’t forget the really popular bloggers! Why, if I hadn’t spent a whole bunch of days exegeting, I’d be sure I’d missed something crucial, decisive, fundamental and/or essential. I’d feel like I was flying blind. So it’s just great that you’ve made sure to do all that.

Reason it’s not helpful: Your pastor, knowing that he’s done each of those things, might be tempted towards pride.

3. The Obvious:
Pastor, I was just reading James 3 the other day – you know the part that says, “Not many of you should become teachers because we know that teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” Yeah, that part. Well, you’re a braver man than I am. I’d be all – what if I say something about the church (for example) that’s different from what the bible says? A great, big, extra helping of judgment in the form of a rabid jaguar, recently escaped from the local zoo, that’s what, maybe!

Reason it’s not helpful: Some scholars feel the word “teacher” here only applies to those speaking to modestly sized groups of people of less than a dozen or so*.

4. The Inflammation.

What’s that, Reverend? It’s not your goal to offend this Sunday’s service attenders? No, no, that’s your job! You want them to think, and the best way to do this is to dive headlong into really, really controversial topics. No, no, I don’t think it will get you into trouble with the elders. They’ll just say, “What happens in the pulpit, stays in the pulpit.” The very angry letters you receive you can just laugh off as “small-minded”. And really, letters from our church constituency to the denominational leadership demanding forced resignations are fairly rare.

Just think over and over – “Not peace, but a sword …. Not peace, but a sword.”

Reason it’s not helpful: What if he says something you disagree with?

5. The Equipment:
I can’t help but notice that you’re using one of those teeny tiny very-near-your-face skin colored stick microphones. Well, be careful. My wife’s brother’s mother in law once was using one of those and it slipped and she accidentally stabbed herself. In her ear**. She had to go to the emergency room and everything. The doctors were calling other doctors over: “Hey, this lady split open her eardrum with something other than a q-tip!”

So, you know… Don’t do that.

Reason it’s not helpful: Your pastor might be tempted to use the “pierced eardrum” excuse to get out of preaching.
===

In short, if the pastor you’re “encouraging” cringes or starts to back away as you’re talking with him, you might want to try a different approach. Like maybe just, “I’ll pray for you.”

Did I miss any?

* Actually, no scholars feel that. And I don’t know why a zoo’d even keep a rabid jaguar.
** True story. And no, the pastor I told it to was not encouraged.

After more than a year of writing, recording, mixing and mastering – we’ve finally finished the new set of songs.

Here’s our sample video (it’s bluegrass!)

..

Here’s the link to the Amazon page

Here’s the link to the iTunes page

And here’s the official description:

“This CD contains 39 helpful and encouraging songs – passages from fourteen books of the Bible.
Featuring the talents of 35 musicians (adults and children), the musical styles are varied, including folk, jazz, pop, blue grass, doo-wop, string quartet and even Gregorian chant. The arrangements are designed so that you will enjoy listening to them and will learn the songs quickly and easily.
 
Here are some of the familiar passages on this CD: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) — The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vein (Psalm 127:1) — “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26) — Fear not, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10) — “My Sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10:27-30).
 
Every Fighter VerseTM Songs CD includes word-for-word Bible passages (English Standard Version) set to music. These passages are specifically selected to help believers fight the fight of faith. The Fighter VerseTM Songs also coordinate with the Fighter VerseTM Bible memory program from Children Desiring God. Your children will memorize scripture without even trying-and so will you!”

The next time someone in your sphere of people bothers you because they are too nice, or too harsh, or too happy or two-level headed or too flighty or too … consider:

Perhaps God put them in this situation as a counter to your effect on it.

There is a non-trivial subset of the population that experiences a temporary loss of peace and sanity (if only at a low level) if they have to eat food on a styrofoam plate. I recommend other materials for serving food to your guests.

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