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.”