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Joe McKeever Christian Blog and Commentary

Joe McKeever

Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.

senior woman with face mask on during coronavirus with open Bible praying for churchPhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/kzenon

No one ever told Superman, “You be strong now.” Strong was his middle name.

No one ever told Adrian Rogers, “Preach a good sermon now.”

They never told Warren Wiersbe, “Give us a good Bible study.”

It was what they did.

Words such as “Be strong” and “Be courageous” were given to the weak, the hesitant, the young. Take the words “Be strong and of good courage.” Moses told Israel to do that in Deuteronomy 31:6.

One verse later, Moses told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage.”  Same chapter, verse 23, Moses commissioned Joshua to lead God’s people and said to him, “Be strong and of good courage.”

Are you with me now? Then, get this…

Biblical Leaders Are Repeatedly Called to Be Courageous

In the first chapter of Joshua, the Lord said to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6). One verse later, He repeated it “only be strong and very courageous.”

Then, after issuing more instructions to the new leader, God said, “Have I not commanded you–be strong and of good courage…” (Joshua 1:9)  And then the people of Israel say to Joshua, “We will indeed follow you. Only be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:18).

How’s that for repetition? You get the impression Joshua needed this. He had worked under Moses for a lifetime, content to be “Moses’ servant,” as he is called several times. But, now in this passage, those days are in the past. Now, at some indeterminate age (we know Moses’ age at various points, but not Joshua’s) he takes over.

It’s a huge adjustment. And he’ll have no superior officer to run to and ask what to do.

He’ll need to be strong in the Lord and with his people. They will not follow a weakling. And he will need to be courageous in the decisions he makes and the route he takes.

Only the strong and courageous can do this. And make no mistake, throughout Holy Scripture, it is a big deal with the Lord God that His chosen leader(s) be strong and be courageous.

Okay. Now, to the business at hand…

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/enginakyurt

Pray for the Embattled Pastor

Heavenly Father, give your church leaders the courage to do the right thing, the loving thing, the Christ-honoring thing during these critical days when counsel is contradictory, truth is illusory, advice is constant, and the know-it-alls hound the humble servant of Thine who wants only to obey Thee and bless people. Amen.

During these days when the coronavirus is spreading at alarming rates across the world, when some entire nations are under lockdown orders, and when otherwise right-thinking, well-intentioned people are growing tired of the restrictions and wanting to pretend everything is normal and life should go on as before, the Lord’s pastors have a target on their backs.

I get notes from pastors telling me what is being said about them. They’re hearing:

“You’re operating from fear, Preacher! And God is not the author of fear. Where is your faith?”

“The church across town has been meeting for two weeks, Pastor! People are beginning to ask what’s wrong with our church that we are still doing these little live-streaming things you seem so fond of.”

“I read about one pastor who never let up, his church has gone on meeting every Sunday just like before. And nothing happened. Now, that’s faith!”

“What’s your problem, Pastor? We can’t let the government dictate to the Lord’s churches. Let’s obey God.”

On and on it goes...

“Our God is a God of miracles, of armies of angels. Whom shall we fear?”

What’s left unsaid is:

“Why are you not boldly leading this congregation to defy the authorities and throw away the masks and trust the Lord?” 

Lord, Help Your Pastors, Please 

Some people look at love and call it fear. They want action! Meanwhile, others look at bold, courageous action as presumptuous and dangerous.

Some see their leader exercising godly caution to care for the sheep and are upset that the shepherd isn’t risking everything and everyone to avoid criticism or to outdo the church across town that is getting all the publicity.

I have seen it up close.

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans, most of us in the New Orleans area had evacuated and were not allowed back in the city for a full four weeks. Those who lost their homes and neighborhoods had nothing to come back to.

One of our pastors had wisely evacuated to another state with his family. During that time, the pastor’s father grew seriously ill and died. The pastor delayed his return to minister to his family and conduct the funeral. When he returned home, the criticism was relentless. Church members had seen other pastors remain in the city during the storm and continue their ministries.

Some saw their pastor evacuating as cowardice, and his delayed return as unforgivable. Before long, he was forced out. A ministry in another state invited him to join their staff. He later relocated to his home state and continues to serve the Lord’s churches.

Meanwhile, that New Orleans church brought in a pastor and a few years later forced him out. These days, due to the changing neighborhood and other conditions, that church no longer exists.

Bullying from Some Church Leaders is Nothing New

Those who “love to have the pre-eminence” (3 John 9-11) have been with us from the beginning.

Bullies always know the right thing to do.

Bullies dress up their tactics in holy language.

Bullies have no use for humility, kindness, gentleness, or other Christlike characteristics. They pride themselves on their forcefulness, their keen vision, their leadership.

God, Deliver Church from Bullies, and Protect Pastors from Them

Dear God, May Thy pastors be strong and courageous even when that may mean staying quiet and not answering the charges of the bully, when it may require a closed mouth and kind heart, when the church members gravitate toward the know-it-all loudmouths and not toward the soft-spoken, servant of Christ. Amen.


Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.


senior man looking thinking at beachPhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/Ridofranz

“What is the best time you ever had in a long lifetime of ministry, Joe?”

Wow. I don’t know. Let me think about it….

Riding in an Air Force Jet?

The only reason that plane ride in the T-38 was so much fun is that I did it, survived it, then looked back and remembered it with pleasure. Columbus AFB Wing Commander Colonel Chet Griffin said, “You’ve been ministering to these student pilots all these years; you ought to learn something of what they go through.” As I say, it was great fun—in retrospect. (Smiley-face goes here).

Chet and his lovely bride, Eva Lee, are beloved friends now for nearly half a century. I was their pastor twice, during their  two assignments at Columbus, and we forever bonded. Over the years we have visited with each other, and still keep in touch.

Chet is a Sunday School teacher of the highest grade, and was used of the Lord to reach numerous Air Force officers for Christ. He still teases me about that plane ride. By the way, my pilot that day was Captain Bob Orwig, now a Ph.D. professor at North Georgia and a dear friend of mine, along with his wife Linda.

A Particular Mission Trip? 

The 1977 trip to Singapore (via Chicago, Anchorage, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and finally my destination) and back was part of a long, long process of drawing an evangelistic comic book for the missionaries there...then coloring each of the many pages (with acrylic and tiny brushes!), and printing 10,000 copies for their use. It was a job!

It was fun mainly in retrospect because:

- we did it
- it was most unusual
- we would never be doing anything like that again
- we survived it

Getting to know missionaries like Bob and Marge Wakefield, as well as Ralph and Ruthie Neighbour, was a special delight. 

That Deacons Meeting? 

That deacons meeting that went on for four hours with me as its subject (“to fire or not to fire, that is the question”) was exhilarating only in looking back after we saw how God used it and what He did with it.

But at the time, no fun.

In fact, I have an admission to make.

There are no times in my 52-plus year ministry that I can say were sheer fun.

Well, perhaps the times of silliness sitting around with the staff in someone’s home, opening gifts we were sharing and acting crazy, that sort of thing. But in actual ministry, I can’t think of a time when it was total enjoyment without a strong element of burden/anxiety/something.

Ministry is  hard work, demanding of me more than I could produce at any given moment, thus throwing me on the mercy of the Lord for strength. It required total commitment.

The joy comes in looking back, knowing we did it, we survived, and that something good was accomplished.

My Holy Land Trip?

Such as the trip to the Holy Land in 1984. I had to delay my departure 24 hours due to a funeral, so I took the same route as our group (and my wife) one day later. A taxi driver held up a card with my name in the Tel Aviv airport and whisked me to the Intercontinental Hotel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, arriving around midnight.

The next morning when I walked into the breakfast room, one entire wall was a window overlooking the city. It was the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen.

Several times that week, I “bowed on my knees and cried holy,” as the song goes. And wept.

I used to say that for weeks or months after visiting the land where my Lord walked, I ran a low-grade fever every time I even thought of where I had been and what we had seen.

But fun? That’s not the word for it.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

The Youth Choir Trip to England?

In the summer of 1982, we took our youth choir to England for two weeks and stayed in people’s homes, performing at night and seeing the sights in the day. Wilson Henderson, peerless  minister of music, had done this numerous times before (an exchange with British Pastor David Beer) but it was a first for me.

As I recall, we had 55 in the choir and took along another 30 or so adults. It was as memorable as anything I’ve ever done. 

Bill Glass Crusade?

Going back farther, however, there was the Delta-wide Crusade for Christ with Bill Glass in the summer of 1969, held in the high school stadium. We ran into a world of obstacles. The school board had a policy against such religious gatherings on the football field; so we asked for an exception—and they came through! We met them head-on and saw the Lord do some wonderful things.

Margaret ran the office for the crusade from a house trailer in a shopping center (for six months!) while I was pastoring our church and heading up the crusade effort.

Former All-Pro football player, Bill Glass, preached. The amazing Doug Oldham sang. And we brought in various celebs for testimonies. The attendance on the two Sunday afternoons reached 5,000; and we averaged 3,000 each evening.

Several hundred people responded to the invitation to come to Christ. This was one year after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. But Mr. Glass said ours was the most integrated crusade he had ever conducted.

A wonderful thing.

Was it fun? It was exhilarating, educational, wonderful in a hundred aspects, and a great deal of hard work. The fun part came when we stopped to look back.

back view of man climbing over mountain range at sunrisePhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/TFILM

Ministry of Valleys and Peaks

There are lots of mountain peaks across over a half-century of ministry. And more valleys than I care to remember.

The main thing I can say about the “fun” part is what Scripture says of our Lord as He looked at the cross:

Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).

The cross was no fun, but on the other side of it was endless joy and eternal satisfaction. Some things you just have to get through because you know they’re right, they come with the territory, and you were put here for that purpose.

Ministry is such a thing.

I do not want to leave without making one important observation: As far as sheer fun goes, I’m having more of it now in retirement than I ever had in pastoring and denominational work. I did love pastoring churches—if you know me, you do not question that!—and the five years of denominational service was very hard (think: Hurricane Katrina) but I would not have been anywhere else.

But the fun part is now.

Once again, the Lord saves the best part for the last, doesn’t He?

The Lord Saves the Best Part for Last, Never Lose Sight of That

My friend Mary Ellen Logan (widow of one of the finest deacons ever, member of the search committee that brought me to my final pastorate, FBC Kenner, LA) said to me one day, “You have more fun than anyone I know.” I didn’t deny it.

In fact, I (ahem) humbly said, “I tell people that if I wasn’t me, I’d be envying me.”

How come? No business meetings, no deacons meetings, no administration, no committees, no budgets to deal with, and no headaches at all. I go to schools and churches and sketch people, I get up and preach, and I go somewhere else and do it again!

I’m married to Bertha (over 3 years now), we live in the sweetest little neighborhood just north of Jackson, Mississippi, surrounded by dear friends and a thousand delights. My children (and hers!) love me, my grandchildren (and hers!) think I hung the moon, and at the age of 80 (wow! the stratosphere of age!) all my annual physical exams come back perfect.

God is beyond good to me. Soooo blessed.

The best time I’ve ever had in ministry? Well, that would be…today.


Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.

rear view of silhouette man running up hill toward sunsetPhoto Credit: ©Pexels/Dom Gould

Now, no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11

Do you know Jimmy Doolittle?

He flew bi-planes in World War I for the United States, and then barn-stormed throughout the 1920s, thrilling audiences by taking risks you would not believe. He led the retaliatory bombing of Tokyo in early 1942, a few months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

He played a major role in the Allied victory over the Axis, eventually becoming a General. His autobiography is titled I Could Never Be So Lucky Again. It’s well worth reading.

Doolittle and his wife Joe (that’s how they spelled her name) had two sons, Jim and John, both of whom served in the Second World War.

The general wrote about the younger son:

John was in his plebe year at West Point and the upperclassmen were harassing him no end…. While the value of demeaning first-year cadets is debatable, I was sure “Peanut” could survive whatever they dreamed up. (p. 284)

Later, General Doolittle analyzes his own strengths and weaknesses and makes a fascinating observation:

(I) have finally come to realize what a good thing the plebe year at West Point is. The principle is that a man must learn to accept discipline before he can dish it out. I have never been properly disciplined. Would have gotten along better with my superiors if I had. (p. 339)

What Is Proper Discipline?

“I have never been properly disciplined.”

What an admission. It takes a mature person to say that.

From all I’ve read, Doolittle was not exaggerating. He was a man with a thousand strengths, but a few glaring weaknesses that kept creeping up and blindsiding him. Even after he became a national hero, his superiors would sometimes ground him because of crazy stunts like buzzing airfields upside down and flying under bridges and endangering his passengers.

Prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the actual place and time were the biggest secrets on the planet. Everyone was sworn to silence. Doolittle tells of a general who shot his mouth off in a bar, talking freely about the invasion, speculating on when and where, even though he personally had not been briefed.

General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of this invasion, had no patience with such foolishness.

The next day, that general was on a plane back to the States and demoted to a colonel. He learned self-discipline the hard way.

What Lack of Discipline Looks Like

Doolittle observed that had he ever been properly disciplined, he would have related to his superiors better.

That’s one way you can tell the lack of discipline–how one relates to the authority over him.

Those who teach these things say that in checking out prospective ministers for your church staff, you will want to look into the relationship of that individual with his father.

If he is improperly related to his father, look for trouble with you his supervisor.

Lack of discipline shows up in so many ways:

  • Sloppy workmanship
  • A rebellious, rule-breaking attitude
  • An immature resentment of authority
  • Being unable to say ‘no’ to oneself

 

Two Examples from Scripture

 The story of Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas from 1 Samuel 2 illustrates the kind of lawless behavior which a lack of discipline produces.

1. Eli’s Weakness
Now, Eli was very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel (referring to their sinful behavior as priests in the Tabernacle). And he said to them in 1 Samuel 2:23-25, ‘Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? No, my sons, for the report is not good that I hear the Lord’s people circulating. If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’

But they would not listen to the voice of their father.

We read that and think, “Eli, you are the high priest, their superior officer. You are their father, their authority. These sons are accountable to you. You can fire them, demote them, and send them home. Instead, all you can say is ‘what I hear is not good’ and ‘God will judge you’? Is that it?”

In one sense, the sons paid dearly for the father’s failure to discipline them from an early age.

2. Absalom’s Absence
Then, there is the story of Absalom, son of King David. In 2 Samuel 13-18 we read, sadly, how this gifted, intelligent, beautiful young man broke David’s heart.

After his death, we have David’s mournful cry: O my son Absalom–my son, my son Absalom–if only I had died in your place! O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33).  Even reading it is painful.

But Absalom’s wretched behavior can all be marked down to one huge cause: David was an absentee father.

He should have disciplined Absalom numerous times and didn’t. He and the nation paid dearly for his negligence. 

Whose Job Is it to Teach Discipline?

Answer: The parents, teachers, coaches, scoutmasters, choir leaders, pastors, grandparents, and bosses. Anyone in authority.

Those to whom we looked for guidance growing up did us a great injustice if they did not hold us accountable for our work and make an honest effort to teach us self-discipline.

In the absence of being taught discipline in childhood, we have to do it the hard way: Teach ourselves. We work to  become our own teacher, put ourselves through the paces, learn to say ‘no’ when tempted to take the easy way out, and ‘yes, you will stay and do your job’ when quitting and going home looks so attractive.

hand drawing self discipline on chalkboardPhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/golibtolibov

It’s Not Called ‘Self-Discipline’ without Reason

The Bible puts a high prize on this kind of discipline. So many Proverbs speak to this…

A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.Proverbs 13:1

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who roles his spirit, than he who captures a city.Proverbs 16:32

The hardest person to conquer is often ourselves.

Understanding is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly.Proverbs 16:22 

Some People Cannot Be Disciplined

My friend Perry Lassiter, now in Heaven, pointed out that “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5) makes the same point. The Greek praus (meek, gentle) refers to those who are so strong they control themselves.

The word is the opposite of uncontrolled, self-indulgent, or self-assertive. Jesus called Himself meek in Matthew 11:29, and Numbers 12:3 calls Moses the meekest man on the earth. Perry reminded us that praus was used of tamed animals. They are mighty in strength, but are able to do wonderful feats because that strength is controlled and focused.

Paul told young Timothy:

With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. – 2Timothy 2:25

The fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23, involves nine Christlike qualities, with the eighth being “self-control.” The believer who cannot control his impulses still has miles to go before attaining maturity and effectiveness in the Kingdom.

The most perfect picture of the strength-under-control which is the ultimate self-discipline is our Lord on the cross. While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23).

So, What Does Discipline Look Like?

Discipline looks like Jesus on the cross.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:2-3

Discipline stays with the hard job because the payoff is worth it.

Discipline looks like Jesus when arrested.

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Jesus said to him:

Put your sword back into its place...Do you think I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?Matthew 26:51-53

Discipline does not retaliate, but keeps its focus and its cool.

Discipline looks like Jesus on trial. Like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). On trial, (King Herod) questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing (Luke 23:9). Discipline controls its tongue. (James 3

Pity the Church with an Undisciplined Pastor

The undisciplined pastor will get some things right, but not consistently. He will often produce great sermons for which he did the requisite study and preparation, but he will also be lazy for long periods and repreach old sermons without reworking them.

The congregation with such a pastor will never know whether to count on the pastor or not.

His word, given quickly, cannot be depended on.

He will initiate programs but not follow through, make commitments which he does not keep, and have good intentions which come to little.

The undisciplined pastor will set goals and forget them, begin disciplines for self-improvement and church health and grow tired of them, and become a poster child for overeating, underexercising, and chronic excuse-making.

work team leader conferencePhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/julief514

The Well-Disciplined Pastor Is a Winner

He reminds us of the praiseworthy woman of Proverbs 31. She sees a field and buys it. She plants a vineyard. Her lamp does not go out by night. She is not afraid of cold weather for she has prepared warm clothing for the family. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

The disciplined spiritual leader is able to lead the people of God because he has conquered himself.

He does not retaliate when accused, but stays the course. He is able to pray for His accusers and show love to his attackers.

He does not carry grudges or harbor resentments when offended or mistreated. He is able to forgive and go forward.

He uses his time wisely, takes care of his health, and leaves no part of his ministry unattended.

In fact, the more I think about it, my pastor friend Dr. Mike Miller may be the perfect example of a disciplined man of the Lord.

Before coming to Christ, Mike flew jet planes in industry and was forced to learn early on the value of self-discipline and the dangers of its omission. Mike is a great student of the Word, is well-acquainted with current theological trends, and keeps up with important books in his field.

When he stands to preach, the congregation never doubts that it will receive a well-studied and thoroughly thought-out message. As one who has wasted more than a little time over my life, I look with great appreciation at the great way this pastor—any pastor!—invests his life.

Maybe Pastors Need a Plebe Year

Let’s say it’s the first year of seminary. The upperclassmen (men and women) yell at them, harass them, and act like self-righteous church members who demand their rights. They call them all hours of the night, asking them to get out of bed and meet a family in the ICU at the hospital.

They catch the seminary student just before worship and criticize him, threaten him with the loss of his job unless certain adjustments are made, and see that his mind is on anything but worship.

In the short run, it’s painful. In the long run, it’s what we signed on for.

Twice now in the past four days, godly pastors with proven track records have contacted me to say their deacons are pressuring them to obey their list of requirements or to leave. In both cases, the pastors are taking strong stands for the Lord and are paying the price.

A Word of Insight to Non-Pastors

My question to non-pastors: How would you like to have to stand up next Sunday, look out at the congregation, open the Word and preach the Gospel knowing that your critics are sitting in front of you, sending hostile looks and ugly thoughts your way?

Could you go on loving them and ministering to them as though none of this happened, even though at the moment, you know they are plotting to end your ministry in this church and to severely cripple it for years?

Welcome to the ministry. Serving God while enduring hostility is not par for the course; it is the course.

Press On, Good Pastor

To all who are laboring on faithfully under such harassment, I have a word for you from God’s Word: God is not unjust so as to forget your work, and the love that you have shown toward His name, in having ministered to the saints and in still ministering. (Hebrews 6:10)

Do not grow weary in well-doing, my friend. God is using you. Believe it and go forward by faith. The work you do now, under such constraints and against such opposition, is golden, the best you will ever render to your Savior.


Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.

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