Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Prayer Before Preaching


(John 3:19-21)


Humbled by a blast from the past as well as fear not fully exorcised on the Corner of Lincoln and Main (scroll down), the Lord drove me to my knees much earlier today as I realized again that retirement from the battle is for those that have become cranky and disloyal, have an emotional or medical problem, are pooped, think it's a waste of time, lost something that they never had, banter and moan about their jobs, wanna be begged not to quit, don't like what they're doing anymore, have enough cash to quit, realize they were co-dependent with their jobs at the expense of their families and...

Parenthetically, I wrote "Scratching the Surface of Retirement" for pastors and other politicians along with real people that are considering or should consider retiring juxtaposed to the aforementioned; and if you'd like a copy, I'll send it to you.

Anyway, it all prompted me to pray as I prepare to preach on Sunday with increasing passion, precision, and, I pray, persuasion to Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit who never contradicts Jesus by the book.

Prayer Before Preaching

Father God in Savior Jesus by the Holy Spirit,

I was walking in devotion earlier today and remembered  a very mean man named John that hated me in a Christian kinda way.

It happened long ago shortly after being ordained; and I have never forgotten it and now understand how his meanness shaped so much of my understanding of being a pastor, officer, church employee or member.

While I've never understood emotionally how people in churches, pulpiteers and pewsitters, can be so mean and nasty to each other and pretend intimacy with You apart from the course on original sin, John hated me because, well, uh,...I don't remember.

But I remember him saying, "Preachers come and go and we stay.  You'll be gone before long and we'll look for the pastor that we wanted before you came."

I know it's true.

If I die after this sermon, there will be ham and coleslaw  in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday, and then people lining up next Sunday to be on the pastor search committee so they can get the pastor that they wanted before I came.

I have no delusions about my place in anybody's life.

Actually, I know people want me to go because I get in the way of their idolatries and they really want, as Dylan sang, "an errand boy for their wandering desires."

While I thank You for the authentic Jesus-loving-Bible-believing people in the church that encourage me, I know it's an increasingly decreasing remnant in all American churches regardless of flavor or franchise.

Anyway, while John meant to hurt me by what he said, You used it to remind me of a valuable lesson repeated over and over and over in the Bible with Paul explaining our interdependence in dependence upon You: "We belong to each other and each needs all the others" with the qualifier from the first beatitude being only the totally dependent upon You live happily ever after.

Since then, I have felt privileged not entitled to preach.

And I have understood it is Your plan that everyone but You can be replaced in the pulpit or pew - pastor, officer, CE director, choirmaster, organist, drummer, singing nun, custodian, youth leader, secretary and

It is Your design that everyone can be replaced but You.

Now I understand why churches die.

They focus and rely on people more than You.

When I talk to people in dying churches, I hear lots about...everyone...everything...but You in Jesus by the book.

That's why they die.

That's why America is dying.

The seven letters to the churches of Revelation come to mind.

So Lord, I want to thank You for that mean old man John because You used Him to sober me about my role in the advancement of Your Kingdom.

I am totally dependent upon You in interdependence with faithful women and men to esteem You, enthrone You, and enable intimacy with You for existential relief and eternal life in heaven by grace through faith in Jesus.

Speak in spite of me as I ask You to take this sin-inclined life of mine redeemed only by grace through faith in Jesus and work a miracle so that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable to You, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

This is my prayer as I preach today.

May what happens next be for the glory, laud, and honor of Jesus alone in whose name I pray.


Observations of a friendly critic:

I watched your talk today on YouTube, and was reminded of your skill at the podium.

It was the first time I saw you in motion while wearing a beard (you last had a moustache, if memory serves), and looked reminiscent of someone in a certain David Lean film of the 1960s (Zhivago).

I vaguely remember you being softer-spoken, and maybe the subject called for something stronger on this occasion.  You have a way of speaking in an emotional, somewhat editorialistic manner, reserving oratory thunder for subjects of greatest sensitivity, but using it effectively.

Maybe that's how it's taught in Ivy League institutions of higher learning (no denigration intended).  It's a far cry from some of what's taught at a PCUSA franchise today of which you are familiar.  The formality I remember there is gone, as is Christ, apparently.  It's dying, and, as it is,  is the product perhaps of an intra- franchise war.  You're fortunate to get out of there alive; the stress would kill a man. Your own emphasis on a personal relationship w/Him seemed refreshing by comparison.

Keep it up, Mr. German Shepherd (that derives from a joke I once stole from you).

Darn auto correct - it's a struggle trying to use a hand-held phone for this when my finger width is greater than the size of characters on the touch-screen.  Hope this is legible.

Chuck Gray


For over two years, I have not acted as a nanny or numbskull pretending that I know anything for certain about the CCPC19.

Unlike some that have an idolatry to 45, 46, Fauci, unions, denominations, or the reflection in the mirror, I have never nor will ever pretend to know anything for certain about an unprecedented, fluid, and incrementally unfolding challenge with diametrically opposed "experts" on its magnitude and duration.

In other words, nobody but the deluded or auto-suggested really knows what the anything but heaven is going on.

Unlike too many that only get their news from CNN or Fox, I search for intersecting truth from left, right, up, down, and all around.  When I find agreement, I trust I have found truth.  When I don't, I don't.

Anyway, I mention this because I have instructed our staff in person or by this memo - concomitant to yesterday's message that included a great deal about #9 of the big ten - that it is not our prerogative or right to ask people if they have been vaxed or tested positive/negative or anything that relates to their civil rights of confidentiality between them and their health care providers.

No one on our staff will inquire or pass on any gossip about the health of officers, staff, members, friends, or visitors.

For over two years during the hyperbole, hysteria, and histrionics, we have treated people with respect on the Corner of Lincoln and Main.

We have respected their right to worship and their legal rights to personal health management and confidentiality.

I am writing this as a reminder of how we have deported ourselves for over two years; not because of any pressure from anyone for anything.

I am not responding to a particular request to violate confidentiality or civil rights.

Frankly, or Shirley if you prefer, I'm not easily pressured.

While I will always admit I am wrong and ask forgiveness with a pledge of repentance if I am shown my error by the example of Jesus, Holy Scripture, or common sense, I am not a "like, like" kinda guy to be liked when God doesn't like it (#s 1-3 of the big ten).

My strength is my liability.

I don't agree with the last person that I've talked to and love people enough not to be liked by them as a witness to the only One who is Lord and Savior in a John 14 kinda way.

Yeah, I agree while being just a BB gun compared to Luther's heavy artillery.

Here I stand.

I cannot and will not do otherwise.

Sometimes, I just have a sense about these things; ergo, this reminder.

Blessings and Love!






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