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.