December 29, 2006
You want to know the real reason why people make a New Year’s resolution to start dieting on January 1st? It’s because they just watched the family Christmas video and can see themselves as others see them. Normally when I look in a mirror I give more attention to hair and make-up, and overlook the less controllable body parts. It’s always a shock to see myself in full frontal, side and rear-end video clips. The truth really hurts! Looking in the Scriptural mirror, it’s also easy for me to focus on areas where I’m already obedient and avoid looking into the full length mirror of God’s Word. I can imagine getting to heaven and hearing the Lord say, “Gail I’ve got a video for you to watch.”
December 28, 2006
John the Baptist is probably someone I wouldn’t seek out as a friend. The whole wilderness thing is not cup of tea. My idea of roughing it is staying in a motel where the maid changes the sheets. With some friends we may have a lot in common, while with others there’s just one common denominator that binds us together. If you’re like me, you have a few family members with whom you’d never have a relationship with if it weren’t for the fact that we’re related by blood. The same can be said about relationships within the church body. God knew that some of us wouldn’t naturally be friends, so He made us family.
December 27, 2006
As a safeguard for our church, the Bylaws state that an elected elder will serve a three year term and then take a year off. A few years ago this requirement began being set aside for such situations such as too few elder candidates, health reasons and for continuity. For 2007 we now have multiple elders serving an additional year for the sake of continuity. I think there are times when continuity has a striking resemblance to the status quo. Unless there is an emergency situation, shouldn’t the church adhere to the safeguards established in their Bylaws?
December 26, 2006
I detected a slight sigh of relief when the current chairman of the elders told me he would be taking the next year off. In the past as he and I have discussed church issues, we laughingly and lovingly talk of our relationship as being ‘thorns in the flesh’ and ‘body parts that need each other’. Even though we don’t always agree on the church’s political landscape, we are one in Christ and I couldn’t help but tell him, “You’re going to miss me, I know you will!” I’m reminded of the strained relationship between the Apostle Paul and John Mark. One Bible commentator feels that their tiff may have lasted as long as eight years before Paul tells Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11b NIV). Just goes to show you that even Christian relationships can be built and strengthened with a pain in the neck.
December 25, 2006
December 22, 2006
December 21, 2006
False witnesses were brought against Stephen in order to silence him before the Sanhedrin. Paul recounted, “And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” (Acts 22:20 NIV). Although the Stephens in today’s churches may not have to shed their blood, they can still be silenced. Just like Paul, we don’t have to throw a stone to be guilty of giving our approval and guarding the clothes.
December 20, 2006
Mothers quote it so often that it seems to have Biblical authority, ‘If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.’ While swallowing our words may be an important skill to learn, it can also be taken to extremes. The world is so saturated in political correctness that we are afraid to speak truthfully to one another…especially in the church. Whether addressing friend or foe, Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul didn’t always bite their descriptive tongues, “You hypocrite, brood of vipers, you of little faith, dogs, pagans, deceitful, betrayer and even…Satan [get behind me].” Today believers would be aghast and offended at such name calling within the church, but I’m not so sure that we don’t need to hear a few spiritual truths like, “You’re blind, nearsighted, dull, foolish and weak!”
December 19, 2006
The Seeker Sensitive movement has caused a flip flop in preaching and teaching in the church. Where once the sermon was directed toward the mature, we now find it is lighter in tone in order to attract the un-churched. Mature believers are told to look for deeper truths and instruction in the small group environment. What’s wrong with this picture? We have preachers who are qualified in explaining the Scripture, serving the milk of the Word to the spiritually immature, and then we have lay teachers trying to serve the meat of the Word to the spiritually mature. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems remarkably like a PhD teaching kindergarten, while the teacher’s aid takes over the lectern in a college.
December 18, 2006
The pastor of Kathy’s church in northern Colorado recently resigned. For two years he worked on transforming the conservative congregation into a contemporary church. Supported by the elders, the pastor made considerable changes even though some of the membership resisted a total make-over. In sharing her thoughts Kathy said, “Now that he’s gone we’re hearing that he left because the elders wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do. I’m really surprised and I have to re-think what we’ve gone through. Maybe they [elders] really were holding him back and we just didn’t realize it.” It’s interesting to see how easily men weave politics into their Godly vision, mission and purpose for the church.
December 15, 2006
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim. 3:1 NIV) This year five men in my congregation have come forward to place their names on the church ballot as an elder candidate. This being their first eldership in our congregation shows me the church is developing new leadership. That being said, I find it interesting that none of our past serving elders are on the list of elder candidates. Understandably, there are a variety of reasons a previously qualified elder is unable to serve for a time, or needs a longer sabbatical. However, when year after year I see the wisdom of qualified men sitting in the bleachers or on the sidelines, I’m alarmed. I can’t help but wonder what has caused them to lose heart and no longer desire a noble task.
December 14, 2006
Promise Keepers was an important movement for the men in my family…until the year its theme was ‘Reconciliation’. That year the concept of building men of integrity seemed to give way to the social agenda of race relations. For my guys the PK flame of enthusiasm went out when the organization no longer identified who they were. A trend in the church today seems to be the adoption of a purpose, a vision or a mission statement to shape the church’s identity. Rather than defining the character of a church, many mottos are an attempt to fulfill a leadership’s desire to re-defining the church’s personality. Psychologically speaking, it’s no wonder we feel like we’re suffering from an identity crisis of multiple split personalities.
December 13, 2006
Next week my church will hold its election for elders. The currently seated elders sent a letter to the membership saying, “…[we are] giving you the opportunity to affirm through a ballot vote the men we have chosen to join the team of elders in the coming year, as well as individuals who will fill the roles of Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, and Secretary.” The letter continues, “We welcome your input in regards to any or all of these individuals.” If I imagined a comparable scenario to this situation, it would go something like this: ‘My daughter informs me she was getting married in two weeks and that the preparations are already made. She expects my blessing and, if I have any comments about her betrothed, she’d welcome my thoughts.’ Perhaps I will just keep my ‘input’ to myself.
December 12, 2006
One Christmas my friend Terri purchased clothes for Jani, her adult special needs daughter. A week before it was time to open the gifts however, Terri removed the old clothes from the closet to make room for the new clothes. Not understanding why mom was getting rid of her ‘work clothes’, Jani was agitated and she tried to explain that she needed those clothes. When it appeared that Terri wasn’t listening to her protests, Jani said in frustration, “Wake up your eyes!” (Translation: open your eyes). Evangelistically speaking, I can think of more than a few people that I’d like to tell, “Wake up your eyes!”
December 11, 2006
Our church Bylaws require we hold a congregational business meeting once a year. Over the years the annual meeting has taken on various shapes, everything from lengthy dinners to quick gatherings in-between the worship services. This year’s annual meeting, to my knowledge, will be the first of its kind. In a letter to the membership the elders have explained that since we now have three services, “…there will not be enough time in between services to hold the meeting.” Their solution is, “…adding the meeting to the already existing Sunday morning service times. Basically that means that we will spend a portion our time in each of the services …. to conduct the Annual Meeting.” It seems to me that squeezing a business meeting into the worship service short changes both events.
December 08, 2006
I’ve not even started Christmas shopping and I can tell that I won’t be ready by the time it arrives. My friend Kathryn on the other hand, is so organized that her gifts are sometimes purchased two years in advance. She even has a set of new crystal glasses ready for her still-single granddaughter’s wedding…and the glasses are now 10 years old. Her daughter Charlene says, “When mom dies we’re just going to put her in the coffin with all the gifts and everyone can pick theirs up as they go by!” God too plans ahead and He has good gifts for those who believe. They’re wrapped and sitting on a shelf just waiting to be picked up.
December 07, 2006
Jack and Donna felt it was important to build good memories for their grandchildren. A special time for Jack was taking two of the children, then aged five and six, to McDonalds for pancakes on Saturday morning. One day Donna decided she’d join the group. When the children sat down with their hotcakes and began to eat Donna said, “Oh no…You’re not to do that. You can’t drink your syrup!” With quiet resolve and making eye contact with Donna, Jack said, “If you’re going to be like that, then you might not be invited again.” The children giggled and continued to slurp their containers of syrup. Jesus tells us the importance of being childlike. He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3-4 NIV). Please pass the syrup.
December 06, 2006
My friend Betty and I were returning home from a trip to Denver when we stopped at a diner for lunch. The soup special of the day was ‘Split Pea with Ham’ and Betty asked the waitress if it was good. Sliding into the booth next to Betty she whispered in confidence, “I’ve got to be truthful, I don’t think so. Now, I haven’t really tasted it, but it looks terrible.” Taking the risk Betty ordered the soup and when it arrived it indeed looked anemic and unappetizing. Just as we finished saying a blessing the waitress walked by and said, “I know why you prayed over that soup…you think it needs all the help it can get!” As it turned out, the soup tasted much better than it looked. While serving others, the young waitress continued to throw quips our way. Revealing that she was a PK she said, “The only hell my folks raised was me!” It’s refreshing to hear an unabashed critique…whether it’s on one’s Christian heritage or on Split Pea soup.
December 05, 2006
During my years as a youth sponsor we traveled to Lincoln Christian College in Illinois. One of the requirements for staying in the dorms was to have a sponsor in each room. The room I shared with two students was sparse. It had two single beds and a mattress on the floor, a desk and chair, and a huge 4’ by 4’ mirror on the wall (a girl’s dorm needs big mirrors after all). Coming from Colorado, the girls had never seen fireflies before and they set out with paper cups to capture as many as they could. Having no glass container to keep the fireflies in, the girl release them in our room. In the dark there was a sparkle here and a sparkle there…until the fireflies sparkled in front of the mirror. The reflection in the mirror magnified their twinkle and lit up the whole room. Eventually the girls drifted off to sleep while I stayed awake watching Star Wars played out in the mirror. Similar to fireflies, Paul tells me that I too will be a reflection. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18 NIV)
December 04, 2006
No one has a choice on how they die, but I’ve always thought cancer would at least allow a person time to get their personal and spiritual house in order. My sister Shelly has brain cancer and six months ago was given the prognosis of a few months to a year to live. Her recent tests however reveal that the areas of concern have improved, disappeared or are unchanged (PTL). I couldn’t help but ask, “Well, now that you’re not checking out anytime soon, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?” Laughing she said, “I really don’t know!” Even as Jesus’ words come to mind, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34 NIV) I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, just wait until she realizes she’s gonna have to file income tax after all!’
December 01, 2006
I appreciate Fox Television cancelling their scheduled interview with O. J. Simpson. It’s refreshing that, at least in this particular situation, the media listened to public opinion and responded. Whether it’s with elected officials, the media, or even with church leaders, there’s a certain level of frustration when people feel they’re not being heard. I believe that the hymn vs. praise chorus controversy continues to be one of those frustrations. In our church the rumbling in the ranks of membership over contemporary music has not gone away, it’s just been submerged. Rather than ‘getting on board’ and embracing the new style of worship service, many folks continue to tread water while waiting for a life vest or a raft. The good news is that people may be water logged, but they haven’t yet drowned.
November 30, 2006
Every year during the holidays many women come down with Martha-itis. Doctor Luke records, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…” (Luke 10:38-40 NIV) Some of us just can’t seem to sit down at the Lord’s feet until the work is done, the meals are cooked and the decorations are in place. The weary Martha asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” What Martha should have asked was, “Lord, shall we order in KFC, Domino’s or Taco Bell?”
November 29, 2006
I hate being at a stop light when the stereo in the car next to me is blaring so loud that my car starts jumping to the same beat. I’m irritated that another driver forces his music on me and I mentally label him as rude, inconsiderate, and offensive. His motives on the other hand, probably have more to do with wanting to bring attention to his car, his stereo system…and to himself. The situation reminds me of the Pharisees, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ (Matt 23:5-7 NIV) Can’t you just imagine amplifiers and woofers in the hands of a Pharisee?
November 28, 2006
In our community there is no public transportation. For us, a car is not only a necessity, but it also represents independence. Over the years I’ve seen friends and family forced to stop driving because of age or other physical limitations. Honestly, I think that some of them would rather give up their left leg than relinquish their car or their driver’s licenses. The other day my great aunt, who hasn’t driven for many years, got a catch in her throat as she recalled giving away her car to her grandson. “It was my decision to finally quit driving and I was OK with that…until I saw my car drive away. It was like giving up my past and letting go of what my life had been.” Moses too was forced to relinquish his ‘driving credentials’. God told Moses to climb Mount Nebo and view Canaan in the distance. Unable to accompany his fellow Israelites into the Promised Land, I'm sure Moses felt like he was watching ‘his car was drive away.’
November 27, 2006
A developer bought a fixer-upper house in my neighborhood with the intention of improving it cosmetically and ‘flipping’ if for a quick profit. He removed siding from an outside wall and then quickly poured a 4 X 12 foot cement slab extension onto the house. As the cement was curing the building inspector dropped by and spoke to the workmen. Not only had they failed to submit a site plan for approval, but the new slab was not up to building code standards and had to be removed. As I watch the ongoing saga from my kitchen window, the slab was removed and in the process the workmen unearthed an old foundation. In what appears to be ‘Plan B’, the workmen, now turned archeologists, gingerly cleaned around and swept off the old foundation. I’m only speculating, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a new addition miraculously appear on the old foundation. Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 4:28-30 NIV) Although it’s not my intention to ridicule the developer, I do catch myself laughing at the lack of planning and his effort to circumvent building codes. Jesus warns believers to estimate the cost of becoming His disciple. As evidenced with fallen religious leaders, ridicule is part of the price that’s paid.
November 24, 2006
Legendary actress Angela Landsbury is the star of the television show Murder She Wrote. During an interview she complemented fellow actors she had worked with by saying, “We’re as good as the people we’re with.” Certainly there are relationships where we can bring out the best in one another, however the Apostle Paul puts a twist on this thought when he cautions the Corinthians, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor 15:33 NIV) We can’t always pick and choose the people we associate with, but we must pick and choose character building relationships wisely, including those relationships within the church.
November 23, 2006
November 22, 2006
Paul says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Ro 12:6-8 NIV) I’ve always thought this passage of scripture meant that we are to use whatever gift each of us may have. However, I’m now considering a different facet to this gem. Whether it’s accidental or intentional, there are times in the life of the church when we keep one another from using gifts. We’ve all known people who, through no fault of their own, have lost a particular ministry or had it taken away from them. Is it possible that when Paul says, “let him serve… let him teach..., etc.” that he’s really saying ‘don’t hinder him from serving… and don’t hinder him from teaching…’?
November 21, 2006
I recently met a lady who needed a listening ear. In a nut shell, her 18 year-old grandson has had a hard life and she’s trying to compensate for the lack of nurturing he’s received from other family members. The grandson lies, “But he knows that I know, so it’s not like he’s getting away with anything.” Deliberately leaving a window unlocked, he snuck back into the house and took money out of her cookie jar, “But it was only $12.00 so it’s not like it’s a really large amount of money.” Grandma was spinning the situation trying to make it understandable, excusable and in a strange way, acceptable. The church is not immune from spinning as Paul reminds us, “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Col 2:4 NIV)
November 20, 2006
I’ve been in kitchens where every inch of the refrigerator door is covered with magnets, photos and shopping lists. Not that the items aren’t interesting, but it’s easy to think in terms of ‘bulletin board’, rather than refrigerator. There are times when the front of the church auditorium reminds me of a refrigerator door. The large lighted silver cross hanging over the baptistery simply becomes the non-descript backdrop for the props on the stage. There are posters, banners, drapes, drums, music stands, stools, speakers, amplifiers, electrical cords, keyboards, guitars, music stands, dangling projectors and projection screens…and that’s all before the praise team members and preachers take their places. Looking through the entire menagerie it’s easy to lose sight of the cross. As the church tries to be relevant to the world, I wonder if there aren’t times in which we also lose sight of Christ.
November 17, 2006
Many people in the church today have joined the ‘think outside the box’ campaign. The first question I want to ask is, ‘Who built the box we’re talking about?’ Scripture clearly puts Christians in a box on topics of homosexuality, obedience, murder, etc., yet outside-the-box-thinkers want us to ‘discuss’ the issues. Personally I think there’s a warning label on the outside of the God-built box that says, ‘thinking outside this box could be hazardous to you health’.
November 16, 2006
Living in a small community I read law enforcement reports in the newspaper and I’m always sorry when I see the name of someone I know on the list. However, if it’s the name of a close friend or family member I’m likely to be embarrassed that their ‘dirty laundry’ is hanging out there for the whole world to see. I think there’s a similar situation within the church. We desperately want to protect the ‘reputation’ of our particular church. It’s easy to talk about another denomination’s problems, but for heaven’s sake don’t let the neighbor or the community hear about problems in my church. I think Jesus wants transparency in our lives and in the life of the church. “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:22-23 NIV
November 15, 2006
Some of my family and friends are frustrated with getting older because they just can’t do the things they did when they were younger. It’s as though they have a 50 year-old mind trapped in an 80 year-old body. Although Jesus was speaking specifically about Peter’s death, I think His words sum up the aging process for all of us. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18 NIV) When I get old I hope I can remember to be grateful that at least there is someone to dress me and lead me…even if it isn’t where I want to go.
November 14, 2006
My sister once had an older man in her life who liked to be in control. Exasperated with his semi-feminist girlfriend he once told her, “If you’d just do what I tell you to do, you’d be happy!” There are times we’re all guilty of thinking we know what’s best for another. At the Transfiguration Peter was in such awe with what he was witnessing that he said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matt 17:4 NIV) I just love the fact that we have a fisherman offering to build a shelter for the Carpenter!
November 13, 2006
Our church leaders provide a financial summery sheet to anyone who requests it. However, I wanted to see more detailed financial information including approved budgets with specific line items, such as individual staff salaries. The chairman of the elders turned down my request because he couldn’t be sure how I would use the financial information and that my use of such financial information would not “glorify God”. With paranoia stirring in my head I just had to ask if this applied only to me, or to others as well. I was told that others could have the information on a need-to-know basis, for instance “if they were an elder candidate wanting more specifics.” It’s interesting that government entities publish their financial records, including individual salaries, in the newspaper, yet the church restricts its accounting to a need-to-know basis. I think I now know all that I need to know.
November 10, 2006
Many men and women in the military have paid the price for America’s freedom with their lives. Christ is also a casualty of war and His death on the cross was the price paid for all who believe. In life I see a ‘Christ’s likeness’ in other Christians, but in death I see ‘Christ’s likeness’ in our veterans. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV).
November 09, 2006
Last week an article by Associated Press writer Matt Curry reported that three Baptist preachers have ‘misused’ as much as $1.3 million which was intended for planting churches in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Investigators noted, “The 2.5 million-member denomination missed numerous red flags – including an FBI probe – that should have prompted an internal investigation earlier… It is difficult to understand why the overall longevity of complaints and their volume did not attract more serious attention.” Actually, I find it easy to understand. A few years ago our leaders failed to guard the financial chicken coop and a hefty sum of money was ‘misused’. Feeling responsible for not maintaining closer oversight, some of the elders took it upon themselves to repay the funds. I believe that had we had full financial disclosure in our church then the membership could have shared in the responsibility and accountability.
November 08, 2006
Recently two friends gave me their insights on a family situation. One thought I had a pride issue and the other thought I had a control issue. Right off the top of my head I didn’t think those applied to this particular situation, however there must be something to their observations. We’ve all heard comments about Job’s friends that go something like, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies.’ But, these were his friends and in one sense I think they were helpful in Job’s situation. Even though they didn’t offer the best counsel or the correct advice, they caused Job to reflect and evaluate his life. As for me, I’m still looking under the rocks in my heart for evidence of pride and control.
November 07, 2006
After an investigation, the leaders of New Life Church in Colorado Springs removed the Rev. Tom Haggard from his position as Senior Pastor. I applaud their swift disciplinary action and the manner in which they are handling this very public sin. In a television interview I was especially impressed when one of the pastors at New Life Church who spoke of Mr. Haggard saying, “If he can, we hope that he’ll come and worship with us.” Rather than calling on the congregation to ‘treat him (Haggard) as a pagan and a tax collector’, the leadership has immediately started the process of restoring a brother. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1-2 NIV)
November 06, 2006
The news reports about Rev. Tom Haggard are disturbing and discouraging. I grieve for his family and his congregation, yet as the allegations prove accurate I rejoice at the exposure. King David is a perfect example of God exposing indiscretions in order to bring about repentance. It’s hard to think where David’s life would have gone if God not confronted him by revealing his sin to others. In time Mr. Haggard too will heal, but right now I imagine he’s feeling like he’s been chewed up and spit out. Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matt 18:8-9 NIV) As tragic as Mr. Haggard’s situation appears to be, there are things worse than exposure.
November 03, 2006
As a young teen I went before the congregation and committed my life to fulltime Christian service. I thought I’d go to Bible college and then on to some foreign mission field. Upon graduation from high school it became apparent that I’d been thinking with my heart and not with my head. I just wasn’t college material. At a loss for a career direction, I packed up my guilt for ‘failing the Lord’ and joined the Navy. After completing three years in the service, I returned home, married, had children and actively participated in church, all the while carrying guilt for not going into ‘fulltime’ Christian service. One Sunday the sermon had my name written all over it and I was released from self-imposed guilt. The preacher said, “Just saying you’re going to do something for God doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s what He wants you to do. God may have other plans.” Thankfully, God had other plans!
November 02, 2006
I have an Aunt who has always been eccentric and difficult to get along with. She’s now in her 70’s, widowed with no children and addicted to prescription drugs. Her sisters would do anything they could for her, but she refuses their help and won’t cooperate with available social service programs. I’m not suggesting that my Aunt has an evil spirit, but her situation reminds me of the demon possessed man in the region of the Gadarenes (Matt 8, Mark 5, Luke 8). This man lived in the tombs, didn’t wear clothes, cut himself with stones and cried out day and night. He was so strong he couldn’t be subdued and so violent that no one could pass by the tombs. While I have sympathy for the demon possessed man, I really identify with his family. Surely they grieved and were at the end of their rope trying to help someone who couldn’t, or wouldn’t be helped. I need to be reminded that despite all effort, only Jesus can bring our loved ones out of the tombs.
November 01, 2006
A few years ago a former minister implemented a program called ‘New Vistas’, which consisted of four, four-hour sessions of lecture and discussion led by preachers and elders. The material started with basic Christianity 101 and progressed through to Christian maturity. I thought the program was especially good for new Christians and new members, but it also provided a refresher course for the old timers. The material itself was Biblically sound, but at the end of each session was a commitment page which participants were asked to sign and turn in to the church. Each commitment page was progressively more demanding as to the member’s responsibility and accountability to the church and it’s the leadership. For me, the commitment page resembled a contract and I questioned why it was needed. The minister explained that when people sign a contract, they are much more likely to follow through on their commitment. Just leave it to man to complicate the simplicity of Christianity.
October 31, 2006
This is the political season for my church, as well as for the nation. Our potential elder candidates are required to complete a lengthy nine-page questionnaire and submit it to the Senior Pastor. In all fairness some of the questions are well founded, both Biblically and spiritually, and will give insight into a candidate’s character. However, I find a few of the questions better suited for finding ‘rubber stamps’ than for finding qualified elders. Candidates are asked if they understand and support the ‘mission’ of the church, what they think is the best way to realize the ‘vision’ of the church, and if there’s anything that will keep them from functioning in harmony with the current leadership. Going on to more personally probing questions they’re asked if they are upset or angry with anyone in the church and about their tithing record, specifically, “Do you think tithing should be a prerequisite for becoming an elder?” Probably the most revealing of all the questions is # 31 which asks, “What should the relationship be between Elders and Ministers?” The status quo appears to be in no danger for 2007.
October 30, 2006
A short article by Lisa Miller in the October 23, 2006 issue of Newsweek makes note that Pastor Rick Warren is getting some negative press. Ms. Miller states, “Has Warren gotten so huge – with 400,000 pastors trained in the art of being purpose-driven … – that he’s an easy target?” I’m not interested in the negative press, but I am struggling to get a handle on why 400,000 pastors are coveting Warren’s successes. I can’t help but see shades of Simon the Sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8. We’re told that Simon became a believer and was baptized. When he later saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles hands, he said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:19 NIV. Am I really hearing 400,000 pastors say, ‘give me also this ability’?
October 27, 2006
At one time my only concern at a potluck dinner was trying to determine if venison was being passed off as beef in a casserole. Today it’s not just a matter of likes and dislikes, we also need a nutrition label and drug facts on every dish served. It’s all but impossible to accommodate the ‘special needs’ of everyone when you consider the diabetic who needs sugar free foods, those with various food allergies, and dieters restricting their calories or counting their exchanges. For me there’s a certain level of frustration when I’m interrogated about the ingredients in my dish. I find I don’t like being told that my entrée would be more acceptable if I’d substitute low fat, eliminate a topping or just use a different brand name ingredient. I can see why God went with manna in the wilderness…too bad He didn’t hand down the recipe.
October 26, 2006
We’re all familiar with the little ditto that goes, ‘God answers prayer by saying Yes, No or Wait’. I recently heard a new one that says, ‘God answers the prayers that He thinks needs answering’. It brings to mind a child asking mom if he can have a candy bar 30 minutes before supper. He already knows the answer, but that doesn’t stop him from asking. Rather than responding verbally, the look that crosses mom’s face says, ‘I can’t believe you just asked that question.’ The Apostle Paul tells us when we don’t know what we should pray for, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”. No doubt some of my prayers give the Spirit cause to groan, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’
October 25, 2006
During my childhood school years I never raised my hand or volunteered to answer a question that the teacher asked. I was always afraid of giving the wrong answer and looking stupid. In church, I find adults also withhold answers because they ‘know what they believe’, they just don’t know where to find it. In the early church Apollos is a good example of one who had a “thorough knowledge of the Scriptures”. Yet, when Priscilla and Aquilla arrived on the scene, they “invited him to their home and explained the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18: 24-28, NIV). Later in First Corinthians we find Apollos mentioned in the same leadership company as Paul and Cephas. I appreciate and admire those who can quote chapter and verse, however God doesn’t require us to have that ability before we’re allowed to give an opinion.
October 24, 2006
John describes the great multitude in white robes as those, “…who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14 NIV) Sometimes after changing out of my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, I’ll hang them back in the closet rather than tossing them into the laundry. I’m thinking, ‘I only wore them for a couple hours and I can get another wear out of them before they need washed.’ It sounds reasonable, but I’m gambling that I haven’t overlooked a soiled spot that’s waiting to be revealed the next time I wear it. Since I can’t always remember whether I’ve worn something before, there’s the possibility of re-wearing clothes more than once. Sin can be a lot like Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Rather than repenting, we hang it back in the closet of our heart thinking, ‘it’s really not that dirty’. There’s never any end to laundry…or sins, but if I wash them after each wearing there won’t be any soiled spots to worry about.
October 23, 2006
When I first started using a computer I expected to hit a key and have it respond immediately. If nothing happened, I’d push the key again. I’d have multiple windows open at one time and my husband would say, “Just wait a minute, give it time, its thinking.” I’m happy to report that I’ve learned to be more patient, but now I find myself waiting for the computer to do its job only to discover that it’s waiting on me to do something. Apparently I need to be more observant when it comes to all those little twitching icons. I sometimes have a similar problem in communicating with God. I’m thinking its God’s turn to respond and He’s telling me I still need to perform another function.
October 20, 2006
I’ll admit that I have a few family members with whom I wouldn’t be friends if it weren’t for the fact that we were related by blood. The same can be said relationships in the church. If we weren’t related to one another by the blood of Jesus, some of us wouldn’t be friends. However, Jesus doesn’t always bring people together. In some cases not only does He cause division (Matt. 10:35-36), but He also creates relationships that are strange bedfellows. For instance when Jesus was brought before Pilate and handed over to be crucified scripture says, “That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23:12 NIV) Whether for unity or division, Jesus is the common denominator.
October 19, 2006
An anecdotal phrase that is often heard in sermons on tithing says, ‘Show me your checkbook and I’ll show you where your heart is.’ I’m thinking this could also apply to the church checkbook. It doesn’t take a CPA to understand that staff salaries, lumped together with general administration, make up the bulk of the church budget. Thankfully the church checkbook doesn’t represent the ‘heart of the church’, but it does give insight into the heart of those controlling the purse strings. The Psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm139:23-24 NIV)
October 18, 2006
‘The church is dying, the church is dying…’ A few years ago our leaders began saying, “If we don’t make some changes, this church is going to die.” At that time the worship attendance averaged 600, which to my mind is not even close to a near death experience. Given the potential for church growth in our area, I believe our leaders began to equate the lack of notable growth to that of a dying church. The marketing prescription for increased attendance is to build bigger buildings, start new programs, and be more relevant to the culture. To walk the political, social and religious line of correctness while focusing on numbers and entertainment. ‘The church is dying, the church is dying…’ This must be startling news to Jesus, because He said, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt 16:18b NIV
October 17, 2006
Driving alone in the mountains late at night during a state-wide blizzard I found myself stuck behind a car creeping along at 35 miles an hour. Even though the highway striping wasn’t visible through the snow, I mustered the courage to pass. Just as soon as I took over the lead position mesmerizing daggers of snow shot directly into the windshield and I knew why the other car traveled so slowly. Struggling to see the road, I took my half out of the middle of the highway. While I was now under more stress, I pictured the other driver finding relief with a set of taillights to follow. With my new role I added an unimpressive 5 miles an hour to the trek. Sometimes we need to take the lead, but other times God wants us to be content with just following.
October 16, 2006
Let me recommend the book ‘Lord, He Went - Remembering William H. Hinson’ by Stanley R. Copeland. William H. Hinson, “a key leader in the United Methodist Church during a period of renewal and turbulence.” passed away in December 2004. I appreciate Mr. Copeland introducing me to Bill Hinson and giving me insight into the United Methodist Church of today. I’m ashamed to admit that after reading media reports about the turmoil in the Methodist Church (homosexual issues), I simply shook my head, shrugged my shoulders and wondered, ‘What’s going on in this denomination?’ Regrettably I should have been on my knees in prayer for the strengthening of godly leaders like Bill Hinson in their fight to stay true to God’s Word within the disunity of his beloved fellowship. I would like to have known Bill Hinson and experienced firsthand the character of this faithful and unwavering man of God.
October 13, 2006
One of my favorite photographs was taken by photographer Betty France and is titled ‘Decisions, Decisions…’ The photo is of two fenced off pastures separated by a 20 foot wide area of grass. Snaking through the middle of the grass is a single, well worn cow path that forks and divides into two separate trails, forming a ‘Y’. Coming down the single path and standing at the fork is a white faced Herford cow. The cow’s dilemma is to decide which trail to go down, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter which one she uses. The single path and the divided paths are all still confined within the borders of both fences. Like the cow, I sometimes spend too much time at the fork in the road trying to make a decision. I need to remember I can take any trail, or for that matter make a new one, and still remain safely within the confines of God’s fence.
October 12, 2006
In my youth I attended a tiny community church where Mrs. Smith (name changed) regularly brought her knitting and knitted during church and Sunday school. Although we might consider her behavior distracting, rude and a bad example, she probably felt she was just multitasking. I sometimes think the busyness displayed in today’s worship service can be as disconcerting as Mrs. Smith knitting during the sermon. For many, being bombarded with sights and sounds meant to enhance the worship experience, has in fact left us distracted and thirsting for a time of quiet, reverent communion with the Lord. I don’t foresee changes to the current worship service on the horizon, so maybe I should take up knitting.
October 11, 2006
At my church the wives of prospective elder candidates are asked to complete a one page information sheet. Among the things the wives are asked, “Do you understand the mission, values, vision, and strategy of XYZ Church (name omitted)? Describe your level of support for them.” And also, “Are there any doctrinal or spiritual issues that you would like to address, things that keep you from functioning in harmony with the current leadership?” Understand, support and harmony with the current leadership. Oh, I get it ladies. Just get on board, be prepared to row in unison and don’t rock the boat.
October 10, 2006
Currently our church doesn’t have men serving as deacons, even though the Scripture and the church Bylaws make that position available. We do however have men being groomed for leadership by serving as ‘elders in training’. I find the concept of training men to be elders…strange. As I read over the list of qualifications for overseers in 1Timothy 3, it seems to me that the men selected as elders and deacons are appointed because their character is already formed and they’ve met the Biblical qualifications. I wonder if there is a probationary period is for being“…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (vs. 2-3 NIV). So, that begs the question: What becomes of a trainee that’s untrainable?
October 09, 2006
Prospective elder candidates at my church are asked to complete a nine page questionnaire. Question 29 reads, “Do you believe you are able to commit the time and energy necessary to be an effective elder? Elders at XYZ Church (name omitted) will be asked to a) mentor two or three other men; b) lead a small group or shepherd a group of leaders; c) meet weekly to pray with the other elders; d) meet once a month to confer concerning the overall health and direction of the church.” Where once elders were to ‘direct the affairs of the church’, now they need only ‘confer’ on the health and direction of the church. Maybe it’s time someone took the church’s temperature and blood pressure…I think we’re coming down with something.
October 06, 2006
Very few of us will ever share grief as publicly, or reverently, as the Amish community is now doing. Their demonstration of peace and forgiveness glorifies God and is a tremendous example to the world. “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:15 NIV) Within this tragedy, my faith is refreshed and strengthened.
October 05, 2006
Each fall I purchase a large desk calendar for the coming year, but rather than putting it on a desk, I hang it on the backside of my pantry door. This calendar is my life organized on paper and anything not on the calendar, doesn’t get done. Before hanging it up at the beginning of the New Year, I pencil in birthdays, paydays and vacation plans. The year is relatively ‘clean’ of activities, however looking toward the next 12 months I can’t help but wonder what the Lord has written on my calendar that I can’t see. Have my vacation plans been altered to accommodate a crisis? Which days are blocked out for discouragement or grief? What surprises or moments of joy are waiting to take place? I know, I know…Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34 NIV) I’m really not worried about tomorrow, nor am I looking for trouble. I just want to be ready for it…whatever ‘it’ is.
October 04, 2006
I was a bailiff for the courts in our Judicial District for a few years and part of my job required that I remain with the jury at all times, unless they were in the jury room. I heard testimony and re-lived crimes through the ‘eyes of evidence’ presented at trials. Even though I heard the same evidence as the jury, there were times I was surprised by the verdict they handed down when the trial was over. The time will come when the evidence of our work and deeds will be presented before the Lord. Paul tells us, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Cor 3:11-15 NIV) Searching my heart, one question remains, will I really be surprised when the verdict is read following the trial of my works and deeds?
October 03, 2006
In her October Guideposts article titled ‘The Diagnosis’, author Kay Warren makes an interesting statement about her husband Rick (pastor of Saddleback Church). “Rick had enjoyed great success with his books and ministry, and he had big plans to use Saddleback’s resources to train pastors around the world.” Notice it’s not ‘training men to be pastors’, but ‘training pastors’. Assuming that most preachers are educated in Bible College and seminary, you’d think their degree meant that were already ‘trained’. Aside from the teacher/student academic community, I can’t imagine a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) having enough chutzpah to say they want to ‘train CPA’s’, or an MD saying he wants to ‘train Doctors’. The Apostle Peter was sent to the Jews and Paul was sent to the Gentiles. I suppose it’s possible that Pastor Warren is being sent to the pastors.
October 02, 2006
The cookies in the bakery department at the grocery store were marked down from $2.99 to $1.99. Yum…Maple Leaf Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, I can see why they were on special, just reading the label made my taste buds recoil. I think four decades of manna in the desert probably produced some of Israel’s most creative cooks. Boiled, fired, sautéed, steamed, dried, baked… Seasoned with sage, dill and desert greens. Smoked, dried and BBQ. Can’t you just imagine yearly Manna Cook-Offs? Even though the older generation of Israelites complained about the food staple God provided, I can just hear some of the younger survivors of the desert wonderings saying, “Boy, I wish we could get good manna like we had in the old days. My mom made the best Maple Leaf Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Manna you’ve ever tasted.”
September 29, 2006
This is the political season for the church, as well as for the nation. In my church, under the present administration, elder candidates are selected by the current leadership and then the congregation is expected to ratify their choice. With this method of election every candidate listed will become an elder because those in authority are picking the leaders. Scripture clearly states that mature Christians are discerning and we can make ‘judgments about all things’, 1 Cor 2:15 NIV. By limiting the field of elder candidates to only those that the leadership selects takes away my right of spiritual discernment. Personally speaking, I think qualified men with elder credentials shouldn't be eliminated from service by means of a controlled ballot.
September 28, 2006
The feature cover story in the October 2006 issue of Guideposts is written by Kay Warren. Kay is the wife of Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California. I found a couple of quotes in the article intriguing. Kay says, “We were announcing a new focus for the church – serving the dispossessed, including people with AIDS at home and abroad.” And later she says, “I even persuaded Rick to make AIDS one of the church’s priorities.” Certainly AIDS is a worthy cause and I know the Lord opens the eyes of the church to new mission fields. However, from a Biblical perspective, I find it fascinating that anyone would think that the focus for the church and the church’s priorities are subject to change. It seems to me if the church is looking for a new focus, it should consider re-focusing on Christ.
September 27, 2006
Question of the day: How does a half-a-glass become a full glass? Simple…pour the contents into a smaller glass! More and more we’re doing the same thing in our churches. Take out some pews and the sanctuary becomes fuller. Turn Sunday School classrooms into office space and storage areas and you’ll be bursting at the seams in no time. Re-stripe the parking lot with fewer spaces and when the lot becomes full the overflow will have to park on the side streets. Isn’t growth exciting?
September 26, 2006
I’ve heard preachers say they try to avoid using religious jargon like ‘sanctification’ and ‘justification’ because it confuses people who are new to the church. Personally I think learning a new vocabulary word is beneficial. Today’s word is ‘ratification’ and it means: to approve and sanction formally. As our annual congregational meeting approaches we are being told that rather than having an election for elders, as we’ve done in the past, our leaders will present their, “Recommendation of new elders to [the] congregation for ratification”. Oh, I get it…the congregation just needs to endorse those already chosen by the leaders. I can see how ratification is more palatable than abdication.
September 25, 2006
My clothes closet has a real identity crisis. I’ve always had one foot inside the home and one outside. The last few years I’ve not needed a large assortment of professional clothing, yet I keep hanging onto suits and jackets ‘just in case’ God needs me to get dressed up for something. I think Moses might have had a similar problem (Acts 7:20-30). Smartly dressed, Moses had a closet full of leadership clothes that represented his position, his wisdom and his education in Pharaoh’s household. When he was 40 years-old he mistakenly thought the Israelites would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. After being exposed for killing an Egyptian, Moses packed his bags and fled to Midian where in fact he did become a leader…of sheep. I can imagine Moses’ closet with leadership clothes hanging on one side and sheepherder’s clothes on the other. Four decades passed by the time God was really ready to use Moses to rescue the Israelites. Now the prestigious attire with the bling was no longer appropriate, nor was the shepherd’s clothing. God dressed Moses for success, both mentally and physically, in His time.
September 22, 2006
The bike path corridor running through our town travels near a drainage ditch that has running water year round. In one section of the walkway a large population of ducks, both domestic and wild, have taken up residence. The ducks are great at providing entertainment, keeping insects under control and fertilizing the grass. In the summer the automatic sprinkler system keeps the sidewalk washed off, but some days you really have to watch your step. The other night I walked later than my usual time and found myself dodging duck doo in the dark. I should have remembered Jesus’ words to the crowd, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” John 12:35 NIV
September 21, 2006
For some time now the leaders have been nurturing a little nest egg that has grown to a considerable size. Rather than investing the church money in an FDIC insured account, the elder’s elected to sock it away in unsecured funds. In justification they’ve explained they’re investing in a California institution that helps build other churches. “It’s going to help grow God’s kingdom, whereas, if we stick it in a local bank, we don’t know where it’s being used. Even though it’s not insured, we think it is a better use [for the money].” Personally I think their decision is unwise, but that’s beside the point. I have no emotional or spiritual connection to ‘their’ nest egg, because we, the congregation, have had no part of its conception, or in its on-going incubation. We have no ownership, nor will we have any voice in how the nest egg is spent. When the egg hatches I suppose the leaders will expect us to ooh, ahh and pay child support.
September 20, 2006
Our elders are telling us that our Bylaws are not only outdated, but that they are in violation of new state requirements and statutes. “We’ve got to get the Bylaws updated because we do not meet current state requirements for the new tax laws that are now in place.” I’m a little confused by that comment. Now I’m not sure, but I think we’re mixing apples and oranges. Wouldn’t you think if we were in non-compliance with some state requirements that we’d hop right to it and fix the problem? Apparently not, because our leaders are working to ‘update’ the Bylaws. They’ve explained, “We’re looking at the Bylaws of other churches and searching out what will work best for us.” Hmm…This sounds suspiciously more like creating new Bylaws rather than just updating. Anyone want to take bets that they’re looking at Bylaws from Saddleback and Willow Creek for inspiration? Who knows, maybe those churches can also offer us advice on current Colorado tax laws.
September 19, 2006
I love this parable from Jesus, “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 NIV The moral of the story is: When someone starts poking around your roots and throwing fertilizer at you, it’s time to examine yourself for fruit.
September 18, 2006
The word ‘savings’ was never a part of my family’s vocabulary when I was growing up. As the saying goes, ‘we didn’t have a pot or a window either one’. Even in marriage, it’s only in the last few years with our children grown, that we’ve been in a position to save. Of course retirement breathing down our necks is a great motivator for making specific plans. Our church is financially healthy above and beyond substantial operating capital. The leaders are investing in what they refer to as, “basically our savings account”. This rainy-day-fund is close to a quarter of a million dollars, but the leaders aren’t sure exactly what they’re saving for. “We haven’t decided yet, maybe the money will be for a new building or for expansion sometime. We can get to the money anytime we need it, say for a new roof or like when [recently] the parking lot needs paving.” A financial planner might say ‘Amen’ to the church’s growing savings account, but with no specific plan in place I can’t see that the leaders are doing anymore than storing up treasure on earth. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matt 6:26 NIV
September 15, 2006
When I was in grade school our district decided to drop phonics and teach sight reading. Another fiasco in public education was the introduction of modern math. The church also goes through ‘new concepts’ and my science fiction plot for the future church goes like this: The church becomes just a clearing house for believers. As new believers come in the front door they’ll be farmed out and assimilated into self-sustaining small groups. The clergy’s theological backgrounds will lay dormant, because their role will be in organization and administrative matters. Members will accept that the Sunday worship service is not for their edification, but rather for the comfort of the prospective members. It will of course still be necessary to come together once a week to maintain the semblance of unity and to pay a temple tax to the mother church. I’m still working on the ending, but I think a small group splintering off to become ‘a church’ in itself has potential. Now, all I need to do is determine who the heroine is and who the villain is.
September 14, 2006
There was an occasion in the history of our church when a group from a different denomination came in and tried to take over the congregation. In order to protect the church, the Bylaws stipulate that an elected elder is to serve a three year term and then take a sabbatical year off. After a year off, the elder may then run for reelection. In the last few years we’ve seen additional non-Biblical criteria for elder candidates implemented. Now, regardless of past elder service, each candidate must complete a nine page questionnaire to “help the selection team discern where you are at this point in your life.” In defense of this lengthy application the chairman of the elders stated, “I’m not one of those who goes along with the statement, ‘Once and elder always an elder’.” Hmm…elder recertification, that’s a new one on me.
September 13, 2006
I appreciate it when Jesus explains His parables, because quite frankly, without the explanation I’d probably be one of those disciples He refers to as ‘dull’. Right now I’m pondering a financial parable and I’d give my left leg untangle its meaning. The church CPA released a balance sheet covering the last seven months of financial activity. The problem parable is the last paragraph of her cover letter which states, “Management has elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles. If the omitted disclosures were included in the financial statement, they might influence the user’s conclusions about XYZ Church’s financial position, results of operation, and cash flows. Accordingly, these financial statements are not designed for those who are not informed about such matters.” (I’ve edited out the church name). So, how’s this sound? ‘Management’ must refer to the church staff and elders. ‘User’ is probably the reader. ‘Those who are not informed’ could be members or those of us who are thought of as dull. I’m guessing that the meaning of the parable is this: To keep the members of the congregation from knowing the complete financial situation, the elders and staff are omitting information because it might influence our conclusions. How am I doing so far?
September 12, 2006
The reference book, Writing A to Z, edited by Kirk Polking describes a copyright as “A proprietary right designed to give the creator of a work the power to control that work’s reproduction, distribution, and public display or performance, as well as its adaptation to other forms.” This seems remarkably similar to the right of our Creator when we become a Christian. Personally I don’t have a problem understanding that God is the potter and I’m the clay. However, once He’s shaped me into a pot, I want Him to let me get on with my doing my ‘potley-duties’. I forget that His copyright includes reproduction, distribution, public display, performance and adaptation to other forms. “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV
September 11, 2006
I love tables and my favorite is a large round oak pedestal table that I inherited from my grandma. As a young couple starting out, my grandparents bought the table at a yard sale for 25 cents. After her children were grown, grandma turned her large home into a boarding house for men. In keeping with grandma’s motto of everything must be ‘easy to clean’, she covered the table top with heavy duty linoleum and secured it with an aluminum band. At some point a strand of bailing wire wrapped around the base of the pedestal solved the problem of loose glue joints. Bill refinished grandma’s table without loosing years of character marks. Our Communion table at church also brings back fond memories. Positioned prominently in front of the podium, the table held a large white gilded King James Version of the Bible, an 18 inch pedestal gold cross and the communion trays for the worship service. Across the face of the 6 foot long oak table was written in block letters, “This Do In Remembrance of Me”. Our communion table was unceremoniously removed to make room for worship service props and productions. As if to keep protests to a minimum the table sat for a time in the Fellowship Hall covered with a plastic table cloth. Next it migrated to the men’s baptismal area where I last saw it holding laundry baskets containing wet robes and towels waiting to be laundered…This Do In Remembrance of Me.
September 08, 2006
We’ve always had Bible study groups in our church, but in the last few years that’s all changed and we now have small groups. Our church leaders and staff are totally enamored with the small group concept, so much so that the church catalog lists all of them as ‘SMALL GROUPS: TRADITIONAL’. I’m guessing this is meant to imply that even though the worship service is now contemporary, the small groups will be ‘traditional’. We are told in the communication from the elders [church newsletter] that small groups are, “…how to get more people attached. Growth, comfort, and relationships are developed in these. The need for community involvement, perhaps springing up from these groups, was emphasized.” It appears that what was once used to describe the church now describes small groups. I’m not exactly sure what a traditional small group looks like, but as soon as the contemporary small group comes along, no doubt I’ll be able to tell the difference!
September 07, 2006
Recently, on a city street I use often, two stop signs were removed changing a four way stop to a two way stop. At the very least I still find myself breaking at this intersection, but more often than not, I’ll come to a full stop. Thankfully drivers familiar with the area offer each other a measure of grace because many of us are trying to overcome the same habit. A few years ago on a county road the state highway department replaced a yield sign with a stop sign, but my mind still registered ‘yield’. Not surprisingly when I blew through the stop sign the State Patrolman was giving out tickets rather than grace. I’ve noticed plenty of skid marks on the church carpet as leaders replace and remove traditional ‘signs’ from their congregations. Personally I prefer new signs and directions seasoned with a little grace.
September 06, 2006
In an attempt to keep the congregation informed, my elders published a condensed version of the minutes from their meeting. I’m now pondering their statement, “We discussed communion time during the morning worship and how to best spend this important time.” Excuse me….how to best spend this important time? This time is already spent. It’s spent in partaking of the emblems in remembrance of Jesus, in examining our own hearts, and in confessing sin. I have to tell you my imagination is working overtime on this one. I’m having visions of communion being served while entertainment, announcements, and video clips continue uninterrupted. By all means, let the leaders organize the morning worship, but please, let me be the one to determine how I spend my time during the Lord’s Supper.
September 05, 2006
A couple Sundays ago our outreach committee began a new ‘ice breaker’ for making visitors feel more welcomed to the church. The committee’s idea is to have all members wear blue name badges that say, ‘Ask me about my church’. Obviously they expect those wearing the badges to give a favorable and supportive opinion of the church to anyone who asks. However, if we’re as honest as the Lord was about the seven churches in Revelation, we would be sharing not only the strengths, but also the weaknesses of our church. Although not overly enthusiastic about the endeavor, Bill signed us up for a badge. I’m thinking…this badge has potential. Oh please, ask me. Let me share!
September 04, 2006
To my bank I’m a 10 digit number, to the government I’m a nine digit number and to my insurance company I’m a 4 digit group number. One section of our monthly church newsletter is titled ‘Communication from the Elders…’ In the recent issue it says, “We also discussed how formal church membership is not a scriptural requirement; however, there is a practical need for identification in church mailings, etc.” Oh, I see…What we once cherished as belonging to the Family of God has just been reduced to nothing more than a mailing list. Actually I can understand how appealing this concept might be to staff, leaders and elders. After all, there’s less effort required from the elder to follow the Biblical requirements of his office when he doesn’t have to know a sheep from a goat. If membership is now not important, why then, did the elders recently terminate the membership of a couple in our church? I’m not sure they can have it both ways.
September 01, 2006
I’m getting pretty good at recognizing God’s closed doors, it’s those open doors that give me fits. I struggle when I have a choice between door # 1, door # 2 or door #3. At the first sign of an obstacle and road block after I’ve made a selection, I’m second guessing my choice. When Paul arrived in Troas the Lord had opened a door for him to preach the gospel. Interestingly he decided to pass up the open door and to go on to Macedonia because he lacked peace of mind without Titus being with him. (2 Cor 2:12-13) Reaching his destination Paul says, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” 2 Cor 7:5-6 NIV. Apparently Paul didn’t regret passing up Troas. Not me, I’d be wallowing in hindsight saying, ‘Why didn’t I stay in Troas.’ I need to be reminded that the Lord is on the other side of every open door, and the number on the door doesn’t matter.
August 31, 2006
I hate talking to people who, rather than keeping eye contact, look past me to scope out the rest of the room and see who else is there. At my recent 40th year high school class reunion I discovered all of us were practicing this rude behavior. Catching a vaguely familiar face out of the corner of my eye, I’d stop a conversation in mid-sentence and say, ‘Who’s that?’ A tap on the shoulder, followed by bear hug kept people moving from one renewed acquaintance to another. Then of course there are multiple huddles and finger pointing as people tried to put names with faces that no longer match. More than a few times after finally identifying a classmate I thought, ‘No way! That can’t be…’ And then there were a couple of people whose photos never made it into the class annual and my mind refuses to make any connection. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt 16:13-16 NIV. I too know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God…but there are still times when I don’t recognize Him right away.
August 30, 2006
It sounds like our Funeral Dinner Ministry is headed for the chopping block. For well over fifty years this ministry has provided a meal to families of the deceased following the funeral service. Always before these meals were considered an outreach and were served not just to the members of the church, but also to non-members who used our facility. Apparently the new ‘proposal’ (not yet adopted) presented to the committee is to eliminate their service and anyone in need of a funeral dinner will have to rely on friends, Sunday school class members or a Bible study group. The impending death of this ministry is a real mystery to me. This group of ladies has willing volunteers, is highly organized and they require minimal funding from the church coffers. So, what’s the problem? I suppose the motives behind this decision will eventually be revealed, but once again my heart aches for our members who are systematically removed from the service they offer to the Lord. Remember Dorcas who was always doing good, helping the poor and making clothes for others? (Acts 9:32-43) As the widows grieved for her, Peter knelt, prayed and raised her from the dead. In the climate of today’s church, there’d be no need to raise Dorcas from the dead. Let’s just eliminate her ministry all together and hope that her widow friends will organize her funeral dinner.
August 29, 2006
I usually pay little attention to a sign on a fence that reads ‘Beware of Dog’, unless I needed to go into that yard. Recently while walking in my neighborhood I saw signs posted on power poles that read ‘Lost: Brown Pit Bull with three white paws. Please call…’ Oh sure, make it sound like little Fido went out for a walk, forgot where he lived and you want people to help in his return. Let me rephrase what the sign says, ‘Beware: Dog on the loose that can chew your leg off’. Now when I walk the adrenalin is flowing and I’m watching out for anything brown, with or without paws, that makes a move. Until ‘Fido’ is found and those signs come down, I’m nervously looking over my shoulder. I’m sure the Apostle Peter hoped to evoke the same response when he wrote, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) Maybe it would help me to visualize Satan as a Pit Bull.
August 28, 2006
An August 25th CBS morning news segment reported on a movement known as ‘Growing in Grace’ that is sweeping across Latin America and now has 30 centers in the U.S. The group’s leader, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, claims the Second Coming has taken place and that he himself is Jesus. He preaches there is no sin, hell and no need for prayer. Not surprisingly one of the Biblical principals he does encourage is tithing. Miranda’s target group in the U.S. is the Latin community and his movement encourages confrontational protest marches against churches. I’m not as worried about what Miranda preaches as I am about what our mainstream churches are failing to preach. The current trend of feel good, self-help sermons does not equip believers to fight against half-truths and untruths. When the church fails in its responsibility to teach the whole Truth, i.e., false apostles, antichrists, sin, hell and the devil…can apostasy be far behind?
August 25, 2006
Churches today continue to search for programs, methods and trends that will open the floodgates of church growth. I’m sure our leader’s intentions are good, but I can’t help but wonder if they’ve overlooked Paul’s comments to the Corinthians, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Cor 3:6 NIV) It appears to me that churches spending energy on planting and watering don’t have to worry about growing. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but in my church if God did open the floodgates of growth, someone would probably decide it needed to be controlled and managed.
August 24, 2006
Fox News recently had a program segment titled ‘Purpose Driven Life, ‘Can Rick Warren Change the World?’ Hmm…Jesus changed the world, the Word of God changes the world, and the Spirit can change the world …but can Rick Warren change the world? Warren wants to network churches (50 million evangelicals) to fight what he considers to be the five global giants; Spiritual emptiness, Egocentric leadership, Poverty, Disease, and Illiteracy; and Africa (emphasis on Aids) is his new global mission field. The reporter asked the question, “Has he (Warren) bitten off more than he can chew?” Because he is pastor and CEO of Saddleback church, Rick’s followers might not have a choice on whether or not to support his new mission. However as one of the 50 million evangelicals, I don’t want Rick Warren, Billy Graham or Pat Robertson selecting a mission project for my church to support. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe Rick Warren’s endeavor to be a worthy secular project, but I’ve looked at Scripture and I just can’t find his five global giants in the Great Commission, Matt 28:16:20. What say we ‘target’ the United Nations with his project rather than independent churches?
August 23, 2006
My father-in-law tells the story about a cousin who, at six-years old, still nursed at his mother’s breast. “Years ago women nursed as long as possible, but this kid was old enough to be embarrassed. If others were in the room he’d hide around a corner and get his mom’s attention by motioning ‘come here’ with his index finger.” Eeww, I’m embarrassed for the kid and the mother! I now have a new visual for one of John the Baptist’s arch enemies, Herodias. “So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him…” Mark 6:19a NIV. Just how big should a grudge get before you wean it?
August 22, 2006
As newlyweds my husband worked rotating shifts, while I worked 9-5. We met each other coming and going and were unable work together on the household chores. I soon became resentful doing chores at the end of my day when it appeared to me that Bill spent his after-work hours with his feet propped up reading Louis L’Amour books. Diplomacy, begging and temper tantrums failed to generate a helping hand, so I stopped cooking and doing his laundry. I’ve seen a similar shift in attitude at church in the last few years as we’ve hired additional staff. Our heart of willing service is growing weaker, but just how do you cultivate a volunteer spirit while it appears the staff has their feet propped up?
August 21, 2006
My 89 year-old neighbor fell down, and after a few days of misdiagnosis, it was discovered that she’d broken her back. Gwen is a widow and her only living relatives are two cousins in their 70’s living hundreds of miles away. In the world’s eyes she is not my responsibility, but God keeps bringing Scripture to my mind. There are all those verses about ‘neighbors’, and of course the Good Samaritan. Then there is the big one… “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 NIV. After being admitted to the hospital Gwen called and left me the first voice mail. Giggling she said, “They’re treating me like a queen! I have a phone, a TV and I can order anything I want to eat by just picking up the phone. I’m having French toast for breakfast…and don’t forget to pick up my mail.” When additional phone calls began giving me instructions, I began leaving voice mails for God telling Him all the reasons I can’t be a fulltime care-giver to my neighbor. Eventually I heard God saying, “Did I ask you to be a ‘fulltime’ care-giver?” OK God…, for right now I can pick up her mail, take in the newspaper and share in her excitement of the queenly treatment she’s receiving…but is it really necessary to visit with her three times a day?
August 18, 2006
More than 40 men bound themselves together with a solemn oath to not eat anything until they had killed Paul, (Acts 23). Obviously Paul was spared, so I wonder how many meals these guys actually missed before they were released from the oath. Nowadays there appears to be commitment, an oath of sorts, in church eldership. One of our elders described the current leadership by saying, “This is the most unified staff and eldership that I’ve ever seen.” Ah, for the good old days when elders were individually directed by the Spirit, meetings lasted until midnight and agenda items were tabled until agreements could be reached. Factions aren’t all bad, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” (1 Cor 11:19 NIV)
August 17, 2006
Although I haven’t actually visited other churches in town looking for a different place to worship, there are times I’ve thought about it. When our congregation gets out of sync, fed up with church politics and discouraged, we start asking one another, “If we left, where would we go?” Then we start down the list of other churches in town and discuss their pros and cons…and the problems that they too are having in their congregation. In the book of John when some disciples turned back and quit following Jesus he said to the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” To which Simon Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?...” OK, so God hasn’t yet called me to jump over the fence, but sometimes the grass over there really does look greener!
August 16, 2006
Picture this: Cheerfully you put your tithes in the offering plate…and then the church sends your check back to you! At our church if you want an end-of-the-year receipt for a charitable contribution to the church you must give your offerings to the ‘general fund’ or to an elder approved ‘special project’. For instance, I can’t designate funds to the youth group or a visiting missionary because these aren’t elder approved designated projects. I can however, designate money to go toward a new baby grand piano or a new van, because these are on the elder’s approved list. The congregation is told that these restrictions are required by the IRS. What they don’t tell us is that they could, if they chose to do so, approve all of the outreach ministries in the church. I feel that restricting offerings to the leader’s pet projects hinders the Spirit’s ability to work in the heart of the giver. Of course, I suppose if we were given the opportunity to be stewards of our tithes and offerings we might never get that baby grand piano.
August 15, 2006
For years a large white gilded Bible sat openly displayed in front of the sanctuary on the communion table. Seldom used because of its size and weight, the King James Version Bible served as the center piece and focal point for the worship service. One would never suspect this symbol of Christendom was in fact a battle field. On one side was an octogenarian sister in Christ who was a longstanding member, and on the other side, the recently hired middle-aged minister. The disputed territory was 1 John 4:7-21. The senior saint, passionate about this portion of Scripture, wanted the Bible to always remain open to this passage. Just as determined, the preacher wanted the Bible opened to the text he was using in the weekly sermon. Week after week the pages would fly back and forth…at least the Bible was getting some use. Eventually the minister won a victory of sorts by removing the Bible from its place of honor. Interestingly the NIV header for this passage of Scripture is ‘God’s Love and Ours’.
August 14, 2006
There are all kinds of critics - food, movie and book - and I’ve often thought there should be a place for respected church critics. You know someone who could critique the church without being accused of criticizing and complaining. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes a sermon critic. There was once a stretch of a few months when the Sunday morning sermons just weren’t doing it for me. The Biblical content and application seemed lost amongst the preacher’s jokes, illustrations and family anecdotes. Frustrated, I decided to record the amount of time used for ‘fluff’ and the amount of time given to Biblical teaching and instruction. One Sunday, much to my consternation, I discovered that out of the 30 minute sermon only four and a half minutes were used for Scripture and application. I wonder what the Bereans would think of this. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 NIV
August 11, 2006
At one time a priority for our leaders was trying to keep ‘the sheep in the fold’. For instance during a year we might gain 85 in memberships, but loose 75. As new staff was hired one of the questions asked of them was, “Can you help us keep people from going out the back door?” Rather than continue to work on the revolving door issue, our elders have now taken a new position. “We believe that over the years there have been many ways tried, some worked and some didn’t. We have had people over the years come and go (for what ever reason that may be), we’ve had new people visit who found their place in the body elsewhere because we weren’t contemporary enough, and there were some who thought we were too contemporary. Some may or may not like the sermons. Some may or may not like the childcare arrangements…You get the point.” Actually, I think we are missing the point, as well as the happiness and rejoicing that comes with recovering lost sheep. (Matt 18:10-14; Lk 15:1-7).
August 10, 2006
I wrote a letter to our leaders concerning some of the issues surfacing in our church and the direction we were going. In response, their letter to me ended with the following, “We would encourage all members to be a shinning light everyday of their lives and to help the staff work through stumbling blocks that Satan puts in our way.” I’m assuming the ‘stumbling blocks’ are people who question the leadership and the direction they are taking the church. I’m a what? What I do find objectionable is that Satan is brought into the picture. Reading between the lines it’s easy to hear, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt 16:23 NIV)
August 09, 2006
Geico’s lovable talking Gecko tells us, “A gecko can be trusted”. Not only does he sell auto insurance, but he’s an advertising icon on caps, mugs and baby blankets. With that British accent and those big black eyes his mum and dad must be very proud of him. According to his own words, this green bloke knows how to keep advertising from being ‘boring’ so people think they’re actually watching entertaining television. Do you suppose people who say the church and hymns are boring could be entertained by a talking gecko? Wait mate…that gecko already has a job and an ‘unclean’ icon (Lev 11:30) might not be well received. Let’s see, who would we trust?
August 08, 2006
My friend Kathy attends church in northern Colorado where they too are experiencing the tug of war in worship service. “For awhile the leadership was trying to force the music [contemporary] on us, but now it’s settled down a little. Our new minister really cares for people, so he’s trying to find a balance.” The compromise reached in Kathy’s church is that one service is contemporary and the other traditional. “Once a month in our service [traditional], the youth minister preaches and the praise team performs, so we still feel pressure to change.” With a gentle laugh Kathy continued, “But, our old timers just sit there with their arms crossed and wait for it to get over with.” The apostle Paul says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Eph 4:2-3 NIV
August 07, 2006
Because of rebellion, Israel wandered in the desert for forty years while a whole generation met their end and died off. I’m beginning to have an inkling of how that doomed generation must have felt. Recently the topic of hymns (or lack of hymns) came up in a meeting. Exasperated one of the elders said, “…then you’re asking for us, you’re asking for this church to cater to let’s say 200 people who want to hear hymns and tell the rest of us to go fly a kite ‘till these people die off?” Actually, I think I could live with that scenario. Right now I’d like to have a few hymns during the desert worship service, because after I ‘die off’, I don’t think I’m gonna care.
August 04, 2006
The selection process for elders in our church has been revised and stretched beyond Biblical requirements. A few years ago during interviews, an elder candidate was told that we were on the Purpose Driven Church path. The last qualifying question asked of the candidate was, “Can you get on board with that [Purpose Driven Church]?” It’s of no surprise that today all of our elders are in complete agreement with the direction the church is heading. After all, a nominee isn’t considered for the position of elder unless he’s already ‘on board’. Is it any wonder that members of the congregation are jumping ship? Man overboard…
August 03, 2006
I’m having trouble accepting a statement made by one of our leaders during a recent meeting. He said, “…anyone who speaks against the direction the church is going, in our mind [the elders], speaks against God.” Let me say I’m certain our elders honestly believe they are taking our church in the right direction. That being said, the assertion that they feel I am ‘speaking against God’ if I disagree with their direction for the church is mind blowing. One would expect this type of thinking from Jim Jones (Jonestown) and David Koresh (Branch Davidians), but not from leaders of mainstream Christianity. The Apostle Paul says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thes. 5:21 NIV). The direction of the church can be tested.
August 02, 2006
In general, it seems like media coverage of the church and religion is often slanted, lopsided and liberal. Not long ago on a Fox News TV segment, Cal Thomas made an observation that most reporters aren’t educated in theology or church affairs, nor do they want to take time to educate themselves in those areas. Consequently, stories written about issues in the church reflect the reporter’s lack of knowledge. I’d like to say that’s no excuse and demand that the news be ‘fair and balanced’. The reality is that many Christians are just as guilty when it comes to educating themselves. We can’t expect the media to chew on religious meat when we ourselves are satisfied with milk. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
August 01, 2006
Last week our Sunday School teacher told the class about the Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, OK. Their Elder Council is proposing a bylaw change which would eliminate baptism as a prerequisite to membership. WOW…Who would have ever thought that a Baptist church might toss out baptism because they consider it to be stumbling block for membership? My sympathy goes out to members of Henderson Hills who disagree with the proposed changes and are grieving the loss of their Southern Baptist roots. According to their web site, baptism is still important, but not for membership. In its make-over, the traditional church has been implanted, liposuctioned and bypassed to make her irresistible to non-believers. Just one more facelift or series of botox injections and I wonder if Jesus will be able to recognize His Bride!
July 31, 2006
God loves a cheerful giver, but sometimes giving the tithe is about as exciting as making the payment on my credit card bill. I don’t think God wants the tithe to just be a line item on the budget. A few years ago, rather than weekly or monthly tithing, I began ‘saving up’ my tithe. Although Paul’s instructions to the churches in Corinth and Galatia (I Cor 16) can be read to mean that tithes are to be given to the church for the church to ‘save up’, I believe it can also mean to ‘save up’ on an individual basis. I’ve found that giving offerings in a larger lump sum has renewed my joy and excitement in giving. I love the spontaneity of contributing to needs of God’s people as He reveals them me.
July 28, 2006
I recently had the oddest conversation with my sister who is terminally ill with brain cancer. In a quandary about going to the grocery store, she couldn’t think of anything to eat because nothing sounded good. I tried to be encouraging and reminded her how important it was to keep up her strength. With a twist in the conversation she implied that having no appetite wasn’t all that bad. “Well, I really do need to lose a few pounds. If I could get rid of my tummy I’d be able to get back into some of the clothes in my closet.” OK, let me wrap my head around this. With a life expectancy of months, she’s thinking about watching her weight and dieting. If I were terminal, I’d be free from the ‘law of dieting’ and my motto would be a line from the parable of the Rich Fool, “…Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19b NIV) Bring on the Hagan Daas and cheesecake!
July 27, 2006
Wouldn’t it be great if selecting a church home was as easy as picking an entrée off a menu? Looking at both the positive and negative characteristics of the seven churches in Revelation, I wonder which one I’d like to attend. The Philadelphia church sounds like a congregation of older, more mature Christians who are patiently trying to hold on. Thyatira seems moderately progressive even though some of their members are influenced by the teachings of Jezebel. Sardis has a great reputation of being ‘alive’, they just need strengthening in some areas. There are many churches to choose from and no church is perfect… right? Let’s see, do I want to worship and serve, or be comfortable and entertained? Decisions, decisions…
July 26, 2006
A middle age couple who left our community years ago recently returned ‘home’ to retire. After Sunday School the wife approached me asking how to place membership in the church. “There’s no invitation at the end of the service for people to go forward, so how do we go about joining the church?” Would you believe that I all I could do was suggest she call the church office on Monday? In our ‘old traditional’ environment, the worship service always ended with an invitation to accept Christ, to place membership or to ask for special needs and prayer. Without an invitation, I honestly don’t have a clue as to how people place membership with the congregation. I suppose I really should check…maybe membership is one of those things that’s no longer needed.
July 25, 2006
Ananias and Sapphira took credit for being more generous than they actually were and the NIV study Bible notes that this is the first recorded sin in the life of the church. Confronting Ananias about the land he sold, Peter said, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?...” (Acts 5:4) I suppose all of our income is at our disposal, whether or not we think of it as ‘disposable income’.
July 24, 2006
Recently a senior member of the congregation shared with me that he no longer takes part in communion because of the dissention in the church. “I’m not proud of it, but as long as I’m not right with the church and the church isn’t right with the Lord, I can’t take communion. I think it’d be hypocritical.” As if to reassure me that his faith was still in tact he continued, “I don’t blame Jesus Christ [for the spiritually unhealthy atmosphere], I blame the church.” ‘A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.’ 1 Cor 11:28 NIV
July 21, 2006
I think the ability to comment anonymously on a blog empowers us to be more honest and open. When anonymous comments come to the Christian Ear, I’m intrigued by the person behind the ‘blog name’, the significance in the name and how they came up with it. It makes me wonder if the anonymous blogger is someone I know, or someone who knows me. The book of Revelation tells us that Christ will write on us a new name. Left to our own devices, can you just imagine what some of us would pick for a new name!
July 20, 2006
There are times raising children when a husband must come to the rescue of his wife by firmly telling his disrespectful children that they will not be allowed to ‘backtalk their mother’. In the recent past we had a music minister who scolded the congregation when they failed to live up to his expectations. His weapon of choice from the pulpit was ridicule. Once stopping the worship service he demand, “Are you with me or not? You people look like you’ve been drinking pickle juice. Let’s put some smile on out there.” Sure…smile after you’ve been scolded! This man’s father wasn’t in the audience, but his supervisors were and I kept thinking, “Are you really going to let him talk to us like that?” Apparently so, because his attitude never changed…so much for being rescued.
July 19, 2006
I’m sure I appeared monkeyesque as I search the landscape of Shelly’s head for evidence of hair. Bald for the second time in three years, it's going to be awhile before she has any kind of ‘hair day’…good or bad. There was certainly no need for a blow dryer, curling iron or hairspray. I did find some hearty strands of hair that defied radiation, a few fuzzy tufts here and there and a smattering of whiskers beginning to break through above her ears. Even though I would evaluate Shelly as totally bald, Scripture reminds me that the strands, tufts and whiskers are still numbered by God. Jesus said, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30 NIV
July 18, 2006
I’ve played board games and cards with buddies who, in good natured fun, try to change the rules to their advantage. My protest of, “You can’t do that, it’s against the rules.” is often countered with, “New rule, new rule!” Oh sure, make up the rules as you go along. I hate to admit it, but when I become aware of church leadership planning to make changes to the Bylaws, I suspiciously hear, “New rule, new rule.” I suppose I’m uneasy because proposals for tweaking the Bylaws only surface when we hire new ministers. I wonder why church members, without having an opportunity to give their input, are asked to ‘endorse’ changes. Unless there are ulterior motives, I honestly don’t understand why Bylaws that have served a congregation well for many years need to be changed.
July 17, 2006
Recently during an open church forum with the elders someone in the audience asked, “Aren’t you (elders) supposed to serve the congregation?” To which the chairman of the elders replied, “No, we serve God.” I find both the question and the response interesting. In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” NIV Jesus came to serve others and He expects us to do the same. Hearing anyone say they ‘serve God’ in a qualifying tone makes me uneasy. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think if we say we serve only God, rather than serving one another, our ‘serving’ then become Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God). Does saying we serve God negate our responsibility to serve one another?
July 14, 2006
I recently watch the 1989 movie Lonesome Dove and was struck by a scene where Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) was getting ready to hang his friend Jake Spoon (Robert Urich). Jake had taken up with a group of thieves and murderers and Gus was going to administer justice to the whole lot of them. In disappointment Gus said, “Jake, you crossed the line.” Pleading for his life in a child like manner Jake says, “But Gus…I didn’t see the line.” How often in the midst of suffering consequences of sin do we Christians try to justify ourselves by saying “But God…I didn’t see the line.”? I have had times where I think God has ‘moved the line’. I know, I know, God doesn’t move the line, but as I mature in the Word I discover new and different applications to situations. I love those ah-ha moments when I come across a Scripture that makes the line crystal clear.
July 13, 2006
A few days ago our elders informed the church they had removed a husband and wife from membership for the ‘sin of dissension’. I’ve seen church discipline applied, but have never seen a situation go to the degree of disfellowship. It’s easy to be blasé about a phrase in Scripture until we need it or we are forced to use it. As I try to wrap my head around, “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matt 18:15-17 NIV), I recall Jesus eating and having fellowship with tax collectors. Adding to my dilemma is the passage from 1 Cor 12:21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’”. I’m having visions of body parts littering the church landscape.