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.
July 12, 2006
A few years ago a past preacher brought the infamous Howard Stern to our worship service. As Howard was welcomed, his larger than life photo looked down on the congregation from the video screens. The minister described him, told us his history and then, introducing our children to new vocabulary words, he regurgitated quotes from the shock-jock. Following the service one middle-age member said, “I’d never even heard of Howard Stern until today.” If the minister’s illustration was meant to push the envelope in sermons and ‘shock the flock’, he was successful. Stern is a man whose program I’d never allow in my home, yet he was now invited to share the pulpit in my church. No, that’s not correct…it wasn’t a shared pulpit, because I don’t remember Jesus being there. Sadly, it was Howard Stern’s quotes that climbed into my head and went home with me that day.
July 11, 2006
Where’s Joseph when you need him? I speak of Joseph of the ‘coat of many colors fame’ who could interrupt dreams and visions. The other day while on a drive I passed a row of seven ravens, setting on seven consecutive fence posts, all facing the same direction. The posts were each about 20 feet apart, putting 120 feet distance between the first bird and the last bird. Surely Joseph would have been able to uncover some symbolic significance. Left to my own imagination I decided that these birds were just flat riding the fence. Now, if I can just figure out why they made it a group activity…
July 10, 2006
My dad was an alcoholic and there were times when he drank that he physically abused my mom. While mom wore dark colored glasses to cover up a black eye, I as a child, had to wear rose colored glasses and look the other way. I see a similar situation in the church today. Embarrassed that the family of God is sometimes dysfunctional, we put on dark colored glasses to cover up a spiritual black eye. And then of course, looking through rose colored glasses we proclaim the church to be one big happy family where everyone is in agreement. If the only time we take off our glasses is to look in the mirror, we can save face and keep secrets. However, removing our glasses in front of others exposes the truth. I’m thinking contact lenses might help the look and the vision of the church!
July 07, 2006
On a recent tour in Washington, DC we dined formally at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill. After the wonderful meal, our dessert had been served and coming up behind my chair the chef asked our table if everything was satisfactory. Much to my daughter’s horror, rather than getting the attention of our server, I turned and asked the chef if we could have some coffee. Snapping his fingers toward a server the coffee quickly appeared. Mistaken identity happens to the best of us and the Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation when he popped off with, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” Oops…Paul didn’t recognize it was the high priest he was talking to. In his self-correcting apology Paul quoted the scripture, “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.” (Acts 23:1-5 NIV) Unlike Paul, I’m without excuse for not recognizing ‘the chef’. Who else would dress all in white and wear a tall hat. Ugh…I hate it when that happens.
July 06, 2006
It’s fascinating and surprising to me that Global Warming is finding a platform in the church. One has to wonder if saving the planet is taking a priority over saving souls. Scripture states clearly that God controls the elements, yet it’s suggested that humans, by changing their lifestyle, could intervene and fix God’s problem of Global Warming. Personally, I think Global Warming is God just ‘turning up the heat’ in preparation for what’s to come. “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7 NIV)
July 05, 2006
I have little in common with author Mary Pipher, who is an activist, feminist, environmentalist and a liberal. Our collective biases recently crossed paths because of her book on writing. For believers, I found a gem of an anecdote from her book, 'Writing to Change the World'. Mary says, “A Mormon friend once told me that almost no one is converted by young missionaries sent by the church all over the world. Rather naively, I asked her, “Then why does the church send thousands of young men abroad?” She smiled, and said, “After two years of trying to convince others, the missionaries become true believers and never leave the church. This is our way of keeping young people in the faith.” Wow! I must admit I was surprised by this insight, although I shouldn’t have been. Certainly had I not served in both the Navy and the National Guard, my patriotism could have been lackadaisical.
July 04, 2006
Somewhere in my husband’s ancestry the men in the family made great sport of sneaking up on one another to give the other guy a ‘Wet Willie’. Simply put, a ‘Wet Willie’ is wetting the tip of an index finger in your mouth and then sticking it in the ear of an unsuspecting target. At various times I’ve witnessed four generations of men and boys chase each other around the house with fingers in their mouths and hands over their ears yelling, “Wet Willie, No! Stop! Oh gross…I’ll get even with you!” The book of Mark gives us an account of people bringing a deaf and mute man to Jesus and begging Him to place His hand on the man. Taking the man aside, Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s ears and his ears are opened. I’ve noticed in the church there are times when we have deaf ears to what another person is saying. For whatever reason, we seem to be listening, but not hearing. During those times of miscommunication I like to see one of the Lord’s representatives running around yelling ‘Wet Willie’…minus the wet, of course!
July 03, 2006
It’s not unusual for kids to have their own version of turf wars. Growing up in the 1950’s, it was a treat for Bill and his brothers to visit their cousins (also boys) because they had a television. “It didn’t matter what we watched. It could be Ed Sullivan for all we cared; we were just excited to watch TV.” One of the cousins, ignoring the scolding and threats from parents, would stand in front of the TV with outstretched arms obstructing as much of the view as possible. We might sigh and say, ‘boys will be boys’, and ‘kids will be kids’, but embarrassingly we adults do the same thing. It was only a couple years ago that I bought coffee for my area of ministry and hid it in a cupboard so other ministries couldn’t find it and use it. How’s that for Christian maturity?! Our church leadership implemented a budget system requiring ministries to purchase all their own supplies, including coffee, plates, plastic forks and spoons, etc. Ministry team leaders, in order to protect their budgets and supplies, become very creative…and selfish. While I stashed coffee, others stored their supplies at home or put padlocks on large plastic containers at the church. Compared to the early church we have a few shortcomings! Luke tells us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45 NIV)