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.