December 31, 2007
My friend teaches an adult Sunday School class for the mentally challenged. She loves her class, but her husband is sometimes resentful of the extra time spent on her students outside the classroom. “I’ve been doing this class for five years and I’m not going to give it up until the Lord takes it away from me.” I like her spirit. Personally, I’d rather have the pain of the Lord prying my fingers off of a ministry, than having the regret of giving up on the Lord’s work prematurely because of the insistence of others. However, I do think when the Lord takes a ministry away from us it would help if He’s tell us to, ‘take two aspirin and call Me in the morning.’
December 28, 2007
German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens is the creator of Body Worlds, the exhibit that displays dissection and plastination of the human body. I don’t know what I expected when I first saw the exhibit, but I was surprised that bodies stripped of outer skin and fat all look the same. For instance, with the exception of one specimen that had a tuft of grey hair, all the exposed triceps and biceps looked, well…young. I’m wondering what God sees when He looks at us as individuals. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. Heb 4:12 NIV
December 27, 2007
Recently my sister came to live with me and my mother became a nursing home resident. In closing down their apartments I’ve tried to absorb their things, so I now have multiples of everything. Together we have three irons, five coffee pots and nine vacuums of various sizes and descriptions. Our combined plethora of cleaning supplies can’t even be condensed into a few bottles because they’re all different brands. I’m struggling with my inheritance of household duplications. Trying to find God in the situation made me think of how Jesus absorbed our collective sins on the cross…and I thought I had multiples to deal with!
December 26, 2007
For me, Christmas day was spent shoveling snow. We had 12 inches of light and fluffy, however the town 10 miles north of here had no snow. “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” (Ro 9:14-15 NIV) I’m now pondering which town is the beneficiary.
December 25, 2007
December 24, 2007
Warren Cole Smith’s article published in the December 1st issue of World has a great sidebar titled, ‘Seeking but not finding: The mother church of the seeker movement has a midlife crisis.’ Mr. Smith reports on a study and a book (‘Reveal: Where Are You?’) co-authored by Callie Parkinson and recently published by Willow Creek Church. The study suggests, “Most churches are not doing a good job of true discipleship.” Apparently not overly concerned, Ms. Parkinson boasts the suburban Chicago church is not just, “seeker-focused. We’re seeker-obsessed.” No doubt the Willow Creek obsession will continue to filter down to the leadership in our churches. It just seems to me that the seeker focused movement is looking more and more like a golden calf.
December 21, 2007
‘Numbers Racket’, an article written Warren Cole Smith, was published in the December 1st issue of World. The article exposes survey results showing mega-churches ‘notoriously inflate their numbers’ (membership). List publisher Lynne Marian admitted to the discrepancies, but then justified her lists by saying, “It’s not about the numbers. It’s about taking a look at what God is doing.” I wonder how God feels about churches padding survey results in order to make Him look better.
December 20, 2007
The lead paragraph in a Colorado Springs AP article says, “A church member who suffered minor injuries in the fatal shootings at New Life Church was escorted off church grounds by police a week later because New Life officials thought he was ‘volatile’ and might be disruptive.” The article goes on to quote Senior Pastor Brady Boyd, “We felt he was a bit volatile this morning, and we didn’t want any disruption to our service.” Adding insult to injury, the police told the man he wasn’t welcome back on the property and the church is also going to seek a restraining order. I realize the report doesn’t give all the details, but you’ve got to wonder, ‘What would Jesus do?’
December 19, 2007
I find I’m in a political quandary. No, it’s not with the 2008 election, but it’s with my church’s election of elders. First let me say that biblically the new candidates are qualified. However, when they were selected as nominees, additional criteria were used. So…do I now base my vote solely on their biblical qualifications, or do I also evaluate the candidates with the additional criteria used in their selection? Maybe it’s self-imposed, but in the past I’ve felt bound by the Scriptural requirements of elders and deacons. I’m now re-thinking that position. It seems to me that whatever standard of measurement is applied (biblical and/or extra-biblical), shouldn’t the same be used by both the selection committee and the voter?
December 18, 2007
It doesn’t do much good to question a friend’s choice in a fiancée. Once she’s made a commitment, she expects everyone to happily give a blessing. It doesn’t matter if you think she’s making a terrible mistake, her mind is already made up. My church will soon be electing new elders to serve along side the current elders. The three men recommended to the congregation are, “to be confirmed by ballot on January 13th.” Although membership is permitted to raise questions about a nominee prior to the election, we’ve already been told that those selected are to be confirmed. No doubt along with the confirmation they expect us to happily give our blessing.
December 17, 2007
It seems to me that in today’s church, the more we’re encouraged to personalize and individualize our relationship to God and Jesus Christ, the less accountable we become to one another. For instance, confessing and repenting privately is much more comfortable than confessing and repenting to one another. And it’s easy to justify, because everyone knows the Lord sees what is done in private. Peter tells us to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). I can just see those in our do-it-yourself world trying to baptize themselves…at their leisure and in the comfort of their own home, of course.
December 14, 2007
Reading some promotional material on why someone would place their membership at my church caused me to pause. I looked up the Scripture referenced in the flyer, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…” (Eph. 2:19 NIV). As though the passage needed further explanation, the benefits of membership were then identified as: “1) Personal sense of belonging, 2) Personal voice and vote, 3) Personal significance, 4) Personal relationships, 5) Personal development, and 6) Personal rewards.” Sounds similar to what could be found at Weight Watchers, Anytime Fitness or the Elks Club. Too bad the writer of the promotional material didn’t cite the remainder of the Ephesians passage. “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph 2:20-22 NIV) It’s no longer about ‘me’ when we are joined together and built together.
December 13, 2007
The Christian Communicator is a magazine for Christian writers and speakers. In the October issue Dr. Stephen D. Boyd, a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University, has written an article titled ‘Let Your Ethics Show’. In it he says, “In addition to the fundamental issue of honesty and credibility, a speaker must meet other ethical standards to maintain the trust and respect of audience members. Speakers might just as well quit if their audiences don’t respect them and what they have to say.” It’s a struggle to listen to a speaker in the church who isn’t trusted or respected, but it’s out of respect for the WORD being preached that I try to listen. In reality I probably do a disservice to the speaker by giving them an audience...which they misconstrue as validation.
December 12, 2007
A few years ago I knew a husband and wife who had concealed gun permits and each carried a gun. Both were in their early 30’s and not members of law enforcement. I have to tell you, I didn’t like sitting in a pew next to a purse containing a gun even if it was stacked on top of a Bible. I know there is a time and place for concealed weapons, I just question the need for taking a gun to church. And now we have the recent church shootings in Colorado. While I’m thankful the security woman had a gun and was able to stop the shooter, I cringe at how this incident will impact churches across the US. Will we now start arming volunteer security people ‘just in case’?
December 11, 2007
During a time of jesting and verbal sparing my husband Bill noticed an undeniable family characteristic in our daughter. “It must be in the genes because you’re acting just like a Marvel.” Leslie responded, “Yes, but those genes were dormant until someone started aggravating them.” I can so totally relate…I go along pretty well in my Christian walk until someone stirs up the genes of my sinful nature.
December 10, 2007
When you ate at grandma’s table the meals often included a dab or two of leftovers from a previous meal. Her attitude was ‘waste not, want not’, and those leftovers would continue to appear at successive meals until someone finished them off. I tried to implement grandma’s tradition with my own family, but my children resisted the reruns. Today I still struggle with throwing food out if there is enough leftover for a single serving. If I’d been on the wilderness trek with Moses I’d probably have been one of those trying to serve leftover maggot-manna. (Ex 16:20)
December 07, 2007
CNN is broadcasting the program ‘CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute’. The presentation honors 18 finalists of ordinary people who CNN deems as heroes. It seems to me that the promotional clips for the program are more about the performers and the star-studded presenters than it is about those being honored. In speaking of the honorees, one reporter said, “We may not know their names, but they are heroes.” She goes on to say, “This was the guy who jumped onto the New York subway… Remember the man who saved… I really like his story…” I think her accolades would have sounded a bit more genuine had she at least given us her hero’s name (Wesley Autry). Imagine how the Lord would be perceived if we said, ‘This was the guy who stopped the stoning of a woman caught in adultery… Remember the man who saved… I really like his story…’ What was his name anyway?
December 06, 2007
In the space of three months I’ve had to close up two apartments, one belonging to my mother and the other to my sister. Both of them have had to go from one bedroom apartments to single bedroom living spaces. I’ve had to make decisions on what needs to be kept, what I know they want kept and what things we have space to keep. It’s been traumatic because everything they own is something they like and really want to keep. I know they are grieving their losses, but my house is bulging at the seams as I try to incorporate their treasures into my home. Jesus cautioned, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19 NIV) There are days when I like to hand the keys to a thief and save him the trouble of breaking in.
December 05, 2007
Over the last few months both my mom and my sister have had health issues which put them in the same nursing home and in the same room. Although they roomed together for only about six weeks, it wasn’t a situation that either had expected or would have wanted. Both seemed to experience an emotional death of sorts. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words to Peter, “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) I wonder how Peter took this bit of news about his impending physical death…probably better than if the Lord had told him he’d be checking into a nursing home.
December 04, 2007
Although it happens occasionally, we don’t often see deer in town. Last week when I was returning home from the fitness center a six point buck crossed the four lane highway in front of me. It was just before dawn, so this normally busy stretch roadway had very little traffic at the time. Once safely across the road, the buck took cover in a forest of evergreen trees leaning against a fence at the farm supply Christmas tree lot. Maybe man can’t always see the forest for the trees, but his poor fellow saw trees and thought it was a forest. I can relate to the buck. I’m guilty of trying to take refuge in the church and amongst other believers…I need to remember that my refuge is in Christ.
December 03, 2007
Today my church doesn’t do as well in communication as it has done in years past. There was a time our worship service was broadcast on the radio each week, there was a weekly newsletter and bulletin, and even the minutes to the monthly elder’s meetings were posted on the bulletin board. Yesterday when I picked up the now monthly newsletter for December 2007 I read, “The XYZ Church Catalog, which is released twice a year, is the most comprehensive communication tool that we produce.” The article goes on to say the next catalog will be released in January. What a relief! I’m not really out of the loop after all…just comprehensively communicated with biannually.
November 30, 2007
Growing up my daughter described me to her friends as being the FBI, CIA and Santa Clause all rolled into one. From her perspective that’s probably an accurate characterization. My kids knew that any illegal activity, such as underage drinking, would not be tolerated. I went so far as to tell them not to worry about the police catching them if the broke the law, because if I found out something was amiss, I’d turn them in myself…and I would have. Applying the same principles to their friends, it’s understandable they had lots of friends hanging around our house after school, but they didn’t get invited to the ‘in-group’ parties. I think Paul offers great parenting advice, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:33 NIV
November 29, 2007
In the November 10, 2007 issue of World magazine Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek Community Church fame, is mentioned in the ‘Quotables’ column. Apparently a study showed that the Willow Creek church model had not produced spiritually mature Christians. Mr. Hybles is quoted as saying, “We made a mistake.” My church, like many others, adopted portions of the Willow Creek model and we too are showing signs of spiritual immaturity. I’d really like to point an accusatory finger and at Willow Creek for leading us astray, but it’s not their fault that my leaders jumped on their train. Many of today’s church leaders desire to be at the helm of a megachurch. I wonder if it ever crossed their mind they might also have to deal with mega-immaturity.
November 28, 2007
Jude says, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 22-23 NIV) I think we’ve all tried our hand at snatching others from the fire and we’ve got the burns to prove it. If you’re like me, you have at least one relative who doesn’t want to be snatched from the fire…they’d rather play with it instead. My Sunday School teacher has a theory on witnessing. He believes we often fail in our witnessing to family members because they know us too well. I suppose to relatives some of our rescue burns could have a self-inflicted appearance…and in some cases they’re right.
November 27, 2007
Several years ago when my great uncle passed away friends volunteered to provide a meal for the family after the service. The meal never arrived and someone finally made a hasty trip to the grocery store for cold cuts and chips. The next day my aunt called the meal organizer to let her know about the miscommunication. Things became murkier when my aunt learned that the food had indeed been delivered. The volunteers took the food the house and finding it locked gained entrance from a neighbor who had a key. The meal was put in the oven and the refrigerator so it would be ready for the family when they returned from the graveside. Unraveling the confusion it was learned the meal was delivered to a house with the same address…only the house was on a different street. In a Godly coincidence, the meal had gone to a family who also had just returned from a funeral service. Not recognizing any of the names on the dishes, they didn’t know who to thank or where to return the dishes. “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:8b NIV)
November 26, 2007
The October 2007 issue of Toastmaster magazine has an article on political communication written by Linda McGurk. One paragraph subtitled ‘Be a Visionary’ says, “While politicians often deal with many complex issues, it’s generally easier to captivate an audience and mobilize voters with big, sweeping visions of where you want to go and what you want to get accomplished than to present a laundry list of detailed changes to the tax code.” I’m thinking this same thing is taking place in the church. We, the congregational audience, are hearing more about where leaders want to go and what they want to accomplish than we’re hearing about sin, redemption and the blood of Christ. Whether political or religious, it’s interesting how easily captivated and mobilized we can be when it comes to men’s visions.
November 23, 2007
We always turn off the outside house light when everyone is in for the night, but a few days ago the trash had to go out and the last person in forgot to turn off the light. Around 7:00 pm an elderly lady, who appeared to be in her late seventies, rang the doorbell. She was lost, cold and frightened. I learned she’d just moved to Colorado from North Carolina and on the spur of the moment she decided to walk to the grocery store. Almost apologetically she said, “I didn’t realize it got dark so quickly here.” It was already dark when she finished shopping and left the store. Pulling her small cart loaded with groceries she’d taken a wrong turn and had been wondering around for some time. Showing me a map she’d torn from a phone book she ask to be pointed in the right direction, but the poor thing was well over a mile from her destination. We took her home and offered to help put her groceries away, but she said they could wait until the next day. She was tired and just wanted to go to bed. I don’t think angels live in houses, but if they do she just might qualify as one.
November 22, 2007
November 21, 2007
I live on a fairly busy street and on several occasions people have come to the door asking for help. A few years ago around 11:00 pm an intoxicated young man stumbled up the stairs and pounded on the door. It was the dead of winter and he was sopping wet and muddy. Judging by his tracks in the snow he’d failed to navigate the drain ditch while taking a short cut across the park. His breath hung in the air and through chattering teeth he ask if he could come in the house and use the phone. Surely Lord, this can’t be one of those strangers we’re supposed to be entertaining (Heb 13:2). I just couldn’t let him in…but I did offer to call the police so they could help. Shivering uncontrollably he declined my offer. As I closed the door his muddy feet slipped on the redwood steps and he ricochet to the bottom coming to a sprawling stop. He got to his feet and staggered down the road. I suppose this stranger could’ve been an angel…nah!
November 20, 2007
In my recollection of the ‘old days’, soda pop came in redeemable bottles. Kids could get five cents for every empty bottle they returned to the local grocery store. People driving cars were always throwing empty bottles out the window and I could pick them up on the side of the road, cash them in and buy penny candy. It was a great way to make spending money. Some bottles not acceptable for returning to a bottler were stamped, “No Deposit, No Return”. Who would have thought that an empty soda bottle could teach a child about deposits, returning and redeeming. The Lord left the Spirit as a deposit. Without the Spirit…no deposit, no return.
November 19, 2007
My husband Bill thought he’d given the Postal Service plenty of notice about his planned retirement date. Much to his surprise the fine print stated he must give 60 to 90 days notice. Oh, he could still retire all right…he just wouldn’t get any checks until the paperwork was completed in 60 to 90 days. Since his coworkers had already sent out the invitations for the retirement party, they decided whether or not he actually retired, the show must go on. Bill was left having to explain to his postal customers why he kept hanging around after his send-off party. Many of us struggle with and often avoid fully reading documents. Even the Bible can fall victim to our methods of skimming. I’m wondering how well failing to read the fine print will play on Judgment Day.
November 16, 2007
Our church attendance continues to drop in spite of the leadership’s spin that we are growing. Many of those leaving are prominent leaders in their own right – youth leaders, committee members, ministry leaders, etc. Because they are qualified servant leaders they quickly settle into positions of leading and teaching at other churches. It’s our loss and their gain. I find it interesting that these folks are slipping out of the boat without rocking it. To their credit they would rather leave quietly than add dissention to the dysfunction. Their explanation about leaving and needing a change sounds as benign as taking a Sabbatical – only we both know that once they’ve connected with another body they won’t be back. Personally, I’d like to see a few of them do a cannon ball off the boat…maybe then someone would yell ‘man overboard.’
November 15, 2007
The first show on Broadway to be affected by the stagehands strike was “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.” Now that’s what I call prophetic for those with reserved tickets and everyone connected with the show. I know the Grinch all too personally. For me he shows up uninvited the day after Thanksgiving and won’t leave until Christmas day. He plays on the fact that I never feel completely ready for the holidays. Even without putting Christmas on the calendar, my month of December would be full. The gifts I’d like to buy I either can’t find, or can’t afford. Entertaining family and meal preparation seems more work than pleasure. I do love the decorations…if someone else puts them up and takes them down. Maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe if I’d really let the Grinch steal Christmas then I could focus on the birth of Christ.
November 14, 2007
Some prominent televangelists are coming under scrutiny because they’ve not been forth coming with financial accountably. Sunday morning I caught a portion of an interview with Dr. Michael Lindsey on Fox News. Paraphrasing he said, “We need to know if a widow’s mite is paying for an evangelist’s Bentley.” I dislike the lavish lifestyle of ministers who preach the ‘prosperity gospel’, but then again, I don’t support them financially. When Dr. Lindsey puts the widow and her mite in the equation, it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture. Of course, neither does hearing about a criminal conning his victim out of their Social Security check.
November 13, 2007
Last weekend I read an article written by Associated Press Writers Oskar Garcia and Elliot Spagat about sexual abuse across the US. The article contained an interview with Mary Jo McGarth, a California attorney who has worked on teacher sexual abuse cases for three decades. Ms. McGarth said, “Rumors are gold. Rumors truly will light the way to tangible evidences of what’s going on.” Our tendency in the church is to equate rumors with gossip. And, as we all know, nothing will put the breaks on a rumor faster than someone hinting that it is gossip. Rather than squelching a rumor, if we investigated it for the purpose of shedding light on what’s going on in the body the church might be healthier.
November 12, 2007
I’d never been out of Colorado until I joined the Navy and was sent to Bainbridge, MD for basic training. Upon arrival each new batch of recruits was assigned a Company Aid (CA) who stayed with them for the first week to help them adjust to military life. My CA was a petite, soft spoken blond who, I later learned, was just barely out of basic training herself. The first night as I lay in my bunk for bed check I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. The firm voice of the night watch echoed through the barracks, “Lights out” and the quiet was deafening. I felt like I dare not move, much less whisper to other bunkmates. As the CA was leaving for the night she called out from a distance, “Good night Company 30…God bless you.” And so we were.
November 09, 2007
Twenty some years ago an elderly couple moved into a small house a couple doors down from my house. One of their friends helping them settle into their new home let me know right away that I could now look after them...seeing as how we had Christianity in common. I let our relationship be neighborly, including being available to them for emergencies, but I always kept them at arms length...I didn’t want to look after them. A few years back the husband passed away and more recently his widow sold her home and moved into assisted living. Even today she calls every few weeks to chat and hear the neighborhood news. All these years I’ve felt guilty for not doing more and resentful for feeling I should have done more…seeing as how we had Christianity “in common”.
November 08, 2007
On my way to an appointment one morning I got behind a slow moving white mini van that eventually pulled over and stopped in front of an apartment complex. A few moments later when I stopped at a stop sign an impatient Chevy Blazer roared around me and took a right turn speeding down a different road. I continued on and came up behind a pick-up truck with a camper shell, which I then passed. Although using alternate roads, the Blazer and I hit Starbuck’s parking lot at the same time. Getting out of our vehicles the young red headed diver said, “If I’d known you were coming here I’d have followed you.” We walked toward the coffee house as the white mini van, along with the passenger she picked up, drove in. Looking over my shoulder as I opened the door, I saw the little pick-up pulling into the parking lot. We all had the same destination…just a different pace. Sort of reminds me of becoming a Christian.
November 07, 2007
Last winter I found a Ladybug on the kitchen floor and I really didn’t know what to do with her. Temperatures were well below freezing for over a week so who knows where she came from. I wanted to send her on her way, “Ladybug, Ladybug fly away home…”, but if I put her outside she’d be freeze dried before she got home. I had no inviting habitat to offer since my green thumb is limited to glass flowers and dry pussy willows. The only thing I could offer was the trash compactor. I reasoned she might be happy crawling around in there if she could avoid being squashed when someone turned on the compactor. Then maybe, just maybe, the weather would warm up before the next time the trash had to go out. Believers aren’t immune from being in the wrong place at the wrong time either. I think the Lord spends a lot of time trying to put some of us in places where we won’t get squashed.
November 06, 2007
In yesterday’s blog I quoted my church leaders who’ve said they would like a prospective elder candidate who is, “…also concerned about what ramifications their present decisions have on the cause of Christ in the future.” Generically speaking, I should hope so. However Biblically speaking, if a person is overly concerned about ramifications, they may be thinking politically, or even second guessing the Spirit’s leading. Leaders may like to think that the decisions made today on behalf of the church will be written in stone. In truth, it only takes a new minister and new staff to do a re-write.
November 05, 2007
It’s the time of year when my congregation selects and elects elders. In addition to the Biblical qualifications, our leaders would like elder candidates to have other ‘practical and spiritual characteristics’. One of the things they are looking for in a prospective elder is, “He should be a visionary leader. Our elders are to be men who are not only concerned with the present but who are also concerned about what ramifications their present decisions have on the cause of Christ in the future. Our elders are expected to cast a vision that the church can follow. (Prov. 29:18 KJV, NASB; 1 Peter 5:1-4)" I looked up the Bible references and they just don’t support the ‘visionary’ statements. Personally, I think the Lord has already cast a vision for the church…and He expects us to cast nets.
November 02, 2007
I’m an election judge for the upcoming election and I spent the day working on early voting. There are many safeguards in the election process, one of which requires we have multiple judges from both the Republican and Democrat parties. I have confidence in the election results because of the accountability that’s in place. My church is also in the process of doing their annual election of elders…I wish I had as much confidence in it as I do in the local county election. I feel a conflict of interest is a very real possibility anytime all nominations and voted ballots are submitted and returned to only one person rather than to an independent committee. In the church, men filling the position of elder are to be above reproach (1Tim 3:2). It only seems fitting and reasonable to expect those handling the election should also be above reproach.
November 01, 2007
My normal practice for banking is to use the drive-up window. On Halloween however, I needed to do my business inside the building. A sign scotched taped to the front doors read, PLEASE REMOVE MASKS BEFORE ENTERING. Good idea! I’m thinking the same signage on the church doors might be applicable.
October 31, 2007
One of the newer buzz words today is ‘coach’. Training sessions have been refurbished into Coaching Clinics. In promoting a scheduled Coaching Clinic my church bulletin said, “If you are responsible for the health of your family, small group, or ministry team this gathering is for you.” Certainly when my children were young I did have a responsibility for their spiritual health. Since both are now thirty-something, neither of them would let me have that responsibility…even if I wanted it. No doubt small group leaders and ministry leaders have obligations as teachers; however the spiritual health of the body actually lies with the elders, who are the shepherds and overseers. Personally, I think we put undo pressure on the lay leader’s service if we impose the criteria of elders on them.
October 30, 2007
Addressing anger and reconciliation, Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24 NIV) I find it interesting that the Lord says ‘leave your gift’ rather than, ‘take your gift with you and bring it back when you’ve reconciled’. I’ve never seen this passage of Scripture literally practiced in the church. However, if the Lord is speaking spiritually, there could conceivably be lots of invisible gifts strewn about the altar. I think I should probably do some soul searching…maybe there’s a gift or two of my own waiting for me to return
October 29, 2007
In 1998 we purchased a near new, previously owned mini-van that had all the bells and whistles. The owner’s manual resembled a correspondence course, so I thumbed through it just enough to learn the basics. Ten years later I still haven’t learned about all the gadgets. While shopping alone one day I somehow locked myself ‘in’ the car. Oh, I could get out of the car alright…but not without setting off alarms. It took 15 minutes of pushing buttons before the car finally released me from captivity. Recently on a trip with my husband, where I did all the driving, I had to re-adjust the position of my seat and side mirrors every time I got into the van. It was maddening until I realized the settings were automatically changing when my husband used his clicker to unlock the doors. Apparently each set of keys has personalized settings. I think when many of us become believers we assume we can walk the Christian path by just learning the basics. Thankfully embarrassing alarms don’t go off every time we make mistakes.
October 26, 2007
The California fires are a tragedy, and yet I find them a powerful Biblical visual. Paul tells us to be cautious when building on the foundation of 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.” (1Cor 3:12-14 NIV) I’m not sure if I’ve ever thought about the church being burned up. However, it makes sense because I can identify some of the building materials used in today’s church as being, ‘gold, silver, wood, hay and straw’. We can expect some churches to suffer loss, but the good news is they will still be saved, “but only as one escaping through the flames.”
October 25, 2007
The subject line on a junk email I received yesterday read, “It’s time to treat yourself.” My father-in-law (now deceased) subscribed to a similar thinking. It was almost impossible to buy gifts for him because every time he wanted something he went out and bought it for himself. It’s exasperating and frustrating to buy a gift for someone who seemingly has everything. There’s not much joy in giving someone a gift they don’t want. I wonder how God feels when I treat myself rather than waiting for His good gifts.
October 24, 2007
Years ago I sat in a Catholic hospital wringing my hands during a family crisis. There I met a crusty old Nun, whose nursing skills were generously seasoned with advice. As one believer to another and without mincing any words she said, “You know…we all carpenter our own cross.” Isn’t that the truth? And then I hear Jesus saying, “…and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matt 10:38 NIV
October 23, 2007
About four miles east of Cimarron Colorado the road curves around an out cropping of rocks. In the summer water cascades over the rocks and drops about 30 feet and it’s not unusual to see people stop their cars at this picturesque spot. They get out, climb across the barbed wire fence, stand at the base of the falls and fill containers with water. Unbeknownst to the tourist seeking ‘pure Rocky Mountain spring water'…and much to the amusement of the locals…the stream is in fact only an irrigation ditch which winds its way through cow and sheep pastures before free falling over the rocks. Sure makes me thankful that the water from our rock is pure Living Water.
October 22, 2007
I traveled to Denver last weekend as a weather front was passing through the state and the understated high wind warnings ricocheted through the mountain canyons along I-70. I’m accustomed to seeing Aspen leaves shimmering in the wind, but I’ve never known hearty dense evergreens to move with such seeming ease. Animated by wave after wave of gusting winds, the landscape did hip-hop as they slapped each other on the back and gave high fives. I was blown away seeing God breathe life into his Word. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12 NIV
October 19, 2007
I recently heard a speaker who took us down his personal memory lane. As a young child he practiced self-discipline in order to please his father. “Later, as a youngster,” he said, “I decided I was going to lose my discipline”. He was so matter-of-fact in his statement that it reminded me of hearing a teenager casually say they ‘lost’ their virginity. I appreciate the speaker’s admission that he made a conscious decision to become undisciplined. Paul says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7 NIV) The truth is that we all stand guilty of giving away, throwing away, and walking away from God’s good gifts.
October 18, 2007
Almost without exception when someone asks, ‘How are things going?’ we respond in generic terms like ‘fine, not bad, or things could be worse.’ For the most part no one has time to listen to a lengthy reply and actually we’ve conditioned ourselves to expect very little from the cliché courtesy question. We might be surprised if we began asking one another, ‘Spiritually speaking, how are things going?’ Personally, I think the Spirit within us is just itching for the opportunity to share and somehow I just can’t picture Him saying, “Oh, I’m fine…I’m doing pretty good considering…things could be a lot worse.”
October 17, 2007
If the Nobel Peace Prize were renamed the Nobel Political Prize it would be more understandable that Al Gore was awarded a portion of the prize. I’m sorry, but from a believers perspective I’m just not overly impressed. According to the media Mr. Gore believes global warming will not get the attention it deserves until people realize that it’s a moral and spiritual issue. Excuse me…I’m all for being good stewards of the earth, but exactly what does that have to do with morals and spirituality? I’m thinking environmentalists must be desperate if they are trying to manufacture market shares in morals and spirituality.
October 16, 2007
Occasionally I’ll get a forwarded email from someone who inadvertently included my address in the CC. For instance one day I got a porn calendar pin-up from a rogue family member who later protested it was sent by mistake. More recently I received an email on the church prayer chain which was neither a prayer request nor a prayer update. Apparently the originator accidentally used her prayer chain directory when sending a political joke to a friend. I doubt if the Democrats on the prayer chain would agree, but from the Republican persuasion, the joke was funny. Taking liberty to update and paraphrase Matthew 12:34 shall we say, ‘For out of the overflow of the heart the finger forwards.’
October 15, 2007
Awhile back my aunt had a stroke, was in a coma, on a respirator and had no evidence of brain activity. The family began talking about how to deal with her affairs and property. Among other things there was a 14 year-old mangy mutt that none of us could…or would adopt. With the guidance of the doctors, the decision was made to turn off my aunt’s respirator. Lo and behold, against all odds she began breathing on her own. She continued to improve and after many weeks of therapy she recovered enough to go home. PTL no one had yet put the dog to sleep! Lazarus died and was in the tomb for three days before Jesus brought him back to life. I feel sure the family had already begun the disbursement of his possessions. It makes me laugh to think about the resurrection celebration mixing with the urgency to replace all Lazarus’ possessions before he knew they were gone.
October 12, 2007
I know life isn’t fair…but I want it to be. A few weeks ago one of our ministers, with no immediate plans other than feeling God calling him in a new direction, turned in his resignation. He was quickly let go with a severance package. Last week another minister, feeling God’s call to plant a church, turned in his resignation to be effective five months from now. While I don’t feel personally affected by either resignation, for me the appearance is that one gets to pick his departure and the other had his departure picked for him. Certainly my ‘that’s not fair’ is showing. I think Peter had a twinge of fair and unfair when he questioned Jesus about John by asking, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”(John 21:21-22 NIV) No doubt where I see unfairness, Jesus would say to me, ‘what is that to you?’
October 11, 2007
Because of health issues my sister has just been told she can no longer live alone. She’s out of options, frustrated at the situation and unhappy with me for making decisions on her behalf. Closing her apartment and disposing of items she can no longer keep has been not been an easy task for either of us. Striking me with attitude and tone of voice one too many times I finally said, “None of this is my fault and you can’t blame me for what is happening. If you want to be mad at someone, then get mad at God!” I needed to pass the buck and I thought God could handle it. Besides, I don’t think Shelly has been very communicative with the Lord, maybe getting mad at Him could serve as an ice breaker.
October 10, 2007
According to our elders and the IRS regulations, in order for a tithe to qualify as tax deductible, it must either go into the general fund or be designated to a specific elder approved project. For instance you can’t just give your tithe to a church youth project and expect it to be a deductible donation unless the project has first had elder approval. From the viewpoint of both the IRS and the elders, I understand the need for no-strings-attached donations. However, I can’t help but wonder if the Spirit’s leading isn’t somewhat stifled by the regulations of the IRS and the pet projects of leaders. Certainly the apostles distributed money to those who had need (Acts 4:35), but we also see Cornelius the centurion giving personally to those in need (Acts 10:2). I wonder if Cornelius sought elder approval for his generosity.
October 09, 2007
The current make up of my adult Sunday school class encourages discussion. We have one member who, from the moment he walks in the door, seems to come to class arm in arm with the world. Don’t misunderstand, I know he is a believer and I’m not questioning his salvation. However his comments and sidebars seem to always pull my mind away from the Gospel and send it out into the world. I suppose his use of life experiences and illustrations are meant to imply that he is ‘in the world but not of the world’. John, in warning us about false prophets and telling us to test the spirits says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” (1 John 4:4-5 NIV) It’s not unusual for us to fall into the trap of speaking from the viewpoint of the world - especially when we we’re trying to avoid an overly religious appearance.
October 05, 2007
During his discipleship years Peter often missed the mark. Who knows what he was aiming for when he cut off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Because we’re told Jesus healed the ear, rather than restoring it, I picture Malchus going through life with his wound healed, but earless and highly recognizable. I can only imagine the stigma, accompanied by the preverbal grapevine, which forever identified him as one who took part in the arrest of Jesus.
October 04, 2007
Since I no longer have school age children I’m somewhat out of the loop, but it appears from the church bulletin that we no longer offer any children’s Sunday school. I find that shameful on so many levels. I still see a few young families coming and going on Sunday mornings, but I can’t help wondering how they feel about a church that no longer ministers to their children on a child’s level. I think Jesus makes it perfectly clear how he feels, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14 NIV)
October 03, 2007
Last week a community committee I serve on received a letter from a concerned consumer. Although we gave the letter consideration, it would have carried more weight if it had been signed by the sender. I know it’s the practice of many preachers and staff to disregard unsigned letters or notes and just throw them in the trash. Thankfully for the church, Paul was bold enough to sign the epistles or they too might have been tossed.
October 02, 2007
In Harry Potter and the Soccer’s Stone, Dumbledore the headmaster of Hogwarts awards Neville Longbottom 10 points for standing firm in the face of peer pressure. “There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” Speaking from experience, we Christians will do just about anything to avoid standing up to another Christian. Never mind that Jesus and Paul gave us plenty of examples of how to stand up to a brother – and why we need to do so. Normally we just sigh and pass the buck by saying, ‘The Lord can take care of it.’
October 01, 2007
Leslie Nease, a Christian Radio Talk Show Host is a contestant on CBS’s Survivor China. In the season opener contestants were welcomed to China in a traditional sense and were asked to bow and kneel before Buddha. Although billed as a non-religious activity, Leslie deserves kudos for not bowing down before any other gods. In the second week of competition a short clip shows Leslie tearfully explaining she misses not having her Bible with her because it brings her such comfort. I can understand Leslie’s feelings, but I wonder if she forgot the Comforter isn’t confined to the pages of the Bible. I pray Leslie does well in the competition, that she is a good representation of Christianity…and that she’ll let the Spirit push her Scriptural recall button.
September 28, 2007
I think some of the things I consider to be burdens wouldn’t be a burden if it weren’t for the fact that I’m a Christian. There are times I just get weary of playing by Bible rules and I’d like to ignore the ‘do unto others’ stuff. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29 -30 NIV) I suppose Jesus does have a point. Certainly my soul is at rest. Now if I could just find rest for the rest of me!
September 27, 2007
I enjoy doing puzzles and games that challenge you to find something missing or hidden. There’s definitely something missing from the description of my church as put forth in the weekly bulletin. It says, “WE ARE A CONNECTING CHURCH. It is our desire to connect people…to Jesus Christ and to one another…thus, providing the opportunity for life-change! Our Mission: To Make and Mature Disciples for Christ to the Glory of God! Our Mandate: “Grow Up and Move Out” Our Methods: 1. Celebrate in large group settings! 2. Study & serve through small group settings! 3. Reach out in all settings! Our Motive: We are compelled by the Love of Christ! II Cor 5:14.” What ever happened to ‘worship’? I suppose it’s just another one of those traditions riding off in the sunset.
September 26, 2007
The 2007 September/October issue of Israel My Glory published an article by Renald E. Showers titled ‘Critical Issues Facing Today’s Churches’. Showers says, “…Christ commanded believers to go ‘into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:15). He ordained that the church evangelize primarily by going out into the world where the unsaved are. If you want to catch fish, you go where the fish are. Evangelism is not to involve the church changing its nature to attract unsaved people into its services to get them saved. The method reverses the order of evangelism that Christ ordained.” So that’s why we’re not catching any fish! And here we’ve put all that effort into building and equipping such attractive fish ponds.
September 25, 2007
I hate coming across a cartoon or comic strip where I don’t get the punch line. Sometimes I can get the gist of the illustration, but still not find the humor. For the most part, it seems to me that Scripture has a serious and somewhat humorless tone. I keep thinking surely there is some levity, or a comedian of record, somewhere in the Bible. I suppose a camel going through the eye of a needle, or straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel might have been considered a knee slapper in NT times. Maybe modern commentators have so dissected and analyzed every word of the Word, that they’ve lost the seasoning salt of humor.
September 24, 2007
As children our teachers trained us to come in, take a seat and follow directions. Many of us still carry that patterning whether we’re in the church auditorium, Sunday school classroom, or a pot luck dinner. We’ve been conditioned to sit and wait for someone to give us directions. In a sense I envy those who usher, greet or serve communion. They can move freely about the auditorium making personal contact with others because it’s their job. I think as adults we should rebel against ‘taking our seat’. We should give ourselves permission to move around, shake hands and visit with one others until it’s time for an event to begin – of course that’s after you’ve put your Bible and jacket down in the pew to save your seat.
September 21, 2007
Years ago in our small community it seemed everyone was so inter-connected they were either related by blood or very well acquainted. While Peter was making his third denial, “One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?’” (John 18: 26-27 NIV) Not only was Peter denying his relationship with Jesus, he was being questioned by a relative of the man whom he de-eared. I can imagine him thinking, ‘This guy wants to defend the family honor because I embarrassed Malchus when I cut off his ear.’ It appears Peter momentarily forgot he was a rock.
September 20, 2007
Paul gives instructions on customs in the worship service saying, "Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering." (1 Co 11:13-15 NIV) I’ve known some women with such sparse hair that it won’t cover the top of their head, much less anything else. I just can’t grasp the picture of thinning, limp, sparse hair being a woman’s glory. Isn’t it interesting the images of Christ handed down through the centuries portray him with long hair? Thankfully Paul quantifies the issue of hair as something which is practiced in the churches, rather than stipulating it as a command.
September 19, 2007
Grace is often described as ‘not getting what we really deserve’. Having been a recipient of God’s grace when I hear of someone suffering the consequences of their actions, I’ve sometimes felt guilty for doing a ‘you-deserve-what-you-get’ dance in my head. However, that was before I read about the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18. “In one hour she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’” (Rev 18:19b-20 NIV) Maybe I don’t feel so guilty after all.
September 18, 2007
There’s one verse in the parable of the 10 Virgins that seems, well…unchristian. The five foolish girls didn’t bring enough lamp oil, so naturally they asked the other five to share. “No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.” (Matt 25: 9 NIV) Doesn’t this just fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught by our mothers, grandmothers and Sunday School teachers? Aren’t we supposed to share? Now, if this parable were written about 10 young boys it would be more understandable…
September 17, 2007
Years ago while mentoring an un-churched man one of our members encouraged his friend to attend the Young Singles Sunday School class where he might meet some nice Christian girls. As the sponsor for the class I found myself in an awkward position. Not only was the visitor 20 years older than the rest of the class, but he’d bolstered his courage to come to church by having a drink or two. The following day I contacted our visitor and recommend another, more age appropriate class. Then as gently as I could, I made him aware that having a couple drinks and going shopping for nice Christian girls at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning just doesn’t work. I think one of the biggest fallacies in our attempts at evangelism is the idea that the Holy Spirit will miraculously rub off on the un-churched once they are in close proximity to believers.
September 14, 2007
One time our women’s ministry did a program titled, Dress for Success. The program covered everything from hair and make-up to clothing and accessories. A stifled chuckle ran through the audience when the Master of Ceremonies introduced me for my segment of the program by saying, “You all know Gail, she’s the one who always wears black”. Taking the podium I semi-smiled at the ‘what not to wear’ introduction, but my mind was saying, 'So what’s wrong with black? Black goes with everything, its slimming and disguises lumps - maybe you should try it.’ I’d like to be mature and report I’ve gotten over what I perceived as a public chiding. However, even though I can hear Jesus telling me not to worry about what I wear, the truth is this incident resurrects itself every time I see this other woman.
September 13, 2007
While vacationing for a week in Las Vegas my daughter’s dieting regime was sorely tested. Stepping on the bathroom scales when she returned home she announced, “What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.” I’m thinking calories and sin have something in common - they often don’t bite you until a week later. “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” 1 Timothy 5:24 NIV
September 12, 2007
While vacationing for a week in Las Vegas my daughter’s dieting regime was sorely tested. Stepping on the bathroom scales when she returned home she announced, “What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.” I’m thinking calories and sin have something in common - they often don’t bite you until a week later. “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” 1 Timothy 5:24 NIV
September 11, 2007
I think it’s safe to say that revivals have gone out of favor in today’s church. It’s probably been over 25 years since our church has held one, but I can remember week long events where contests were used to encourage members to ‘fill a pew’ on a specific night. The focus seemed to be on getting friends, family and the un-churched into a service where the Spirit had a chance to work on their hearts. Looking back I think our efforts may have been somewhat misguided. Webster defines revival as ‘an act or instance of reviving; a new presentation of something old’. The heathens we invited had nothing to revive - it’s we believers who need spiritual CPR.
September 10, 2007
Last week my life was like a roller coaster with one family crisis after another. Even though the Lord’s hand was evident at every turn I kept thinking things couldn’t get worse, but they did. On Sunday I telephoned Aunt Cleo, the reigning spiritual matriarch of the family, for support, encouragement and words of wisdom. Her advice, “Give it to the Lord, but don’t let Him have all of it. Save a little of it so you’ll have something to worry about.”
September 07, 2007
Although she has a whole laundry list of problems, my 61 year-old sister seldom shows a hint of having a bended knee toward the Lord. Diagnosed bipolar, she’s also addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. Over the last few years she’s undergone surgery, radiation and chemo at separate times for both lung cancer and a brain tumor. At one point her prognosis was six months to a year – that was 17 months ago. Right now she is in ICU after having mixed a cocktail of wine and prescription meds. Physically and mentally her outlook is grim. Spiritually speaking, you’d think that any one of the obstacles in her life would have sent her on a quest for the Lord. No wonder the Lord is patient – He’s dealing with a lot of slow learners!
September 06, 2007
The path I take on my daily walk goes past a neighbor’s desert garden of cactus and rocks. This spring I watched four stinging nettles as they inched their way up through a group of tightly packed barrel cactus. The nettles were no match for the cactus. Trying to avoid the cactus needles, the stems of the nettles became bent and distorted. I’ll have to admit that I loved watching the thistles get a dose of their own medicine before they withered and died. Too bad Christians aren’t as tightly packed together as the barrel cactus – the thorns of the world wouldn’t stand a chance.
Daniel is a new contributor and has just posted comments on ‘Roped Off’ and ‘Anonymity’ [past blogs]. I appreciate your comments Daniel. Sharing a different view, insight or experience gives us new perspectives. It certainly makes me more sensitive to ‘do unto others’.
September 05, 2007
Television segments about the food crisis in Africa and other programs depicting starving children pull at my heartstrings. I find them difficult to watch for any length of time before flipping to another network. There’s a similar situation taking place in the church. Rather than look upon spiritual starvation, our leaders simply flip our attention to a new program, motto or method. By focusing on the hand clapping, smiling faces of the contemporary crowd we don’t have to look at our gaunt, neglected and spiritually malnourished brothers – nor must we calculate those who’ve already starved to death.
September 04, 2007
An article in the September 3rd issue of the Montrose Daily Press reports on a Nigerian priest who will begin serving in our local Catholic church. Reporter Kati O’Hare writes that Rev. Augustine, “… ‘came to serve where he is needed,’ and with a background strong in spirituality, he hopes to provide an authentic expression of his culture’s humanity.” [I’m sure this is one of the items at the top of the Lord’s priority list.] Augustine said, ‘…the Catholic religion in the United States is much like it is in Nigeria, practicing the same rites.” [One would think so.] “He also wants to work with the youth ministry and develop charisma to Christian music.” [Contemporary worship leaders are going to love hearing they need more charisma.] The current priest, Father Malin, says of his new co-worker, “We’ll be talking a lot, dreaming a lot and visioning a lot.” Welcome to American churches where everyone seems to have a vision.
September 03, 2007
August 31, 2007
Not only does the truth hurt, it’s often friend-costly. There are times I struggle with finding a balance in ‘speaking the truth’ and ‘speaking the truth in love’. Although Paul instructs us to speak the truth in love, he also understood the cost of truth. Writing to the Galatians he said, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal 4:16 NIV) Apparently the other guy doesn’t always sense the love.
August 30, 2007
Our city needs to add more teeth to an ordinance that will protect the taxpayer from shoddy developers. As a representative for the taxpayer I’m on the committee, made up mostly of members in the building industry, who will make recommendations to the City Council. One of the developers stated that he’s losing sleep over the wording of the proposed ordinance which says the city has sole discretion whether or not to accept and sign off on a completed project. It’s easy to relate his anxiety to the struggle man has with God. Whether in this life or the next, many resist the fact that the Lord has Soul Discretion
August 29, 2007
Over the years I’ve found it interesting to hear up-and-coming leaders tout a new program idea by saying, “We’ve never done anything like this here before.” The truth is, if they talked to the right people or visited with the old-timers they might discover that in fact it has been done before, many times. Next year my church celebrates its100th Birthday. I wonder what these newbie leaders think we’ve been doing all these years.
August 28, 2007
Years ago during the evening session of family camp the main speaker stopped his message in mid-sustenance. Glaring at those sitting in the front row of the chapel he said, “If you kids can’t behave, go sit with your parents.” Much to my horror two of the four being targeted for discipline included my own elementary-age children. When the service ended we learned their offence was chewing Double-Bubble Gum and blowing bubbles - an irritant which could only be seen by the speaker. Later, hoping my kids weren’t as traumatized by the public correction as I was, I downplayed the minister’s verbal rod of correction. On more than one occasion Peter was publicly chastised by Jesus and I marvel at his response, or shall I say lack there of. Peter doesn’t appear to be ‘wounded in spirit’, traumatized or angry. I can’t tell if he’s thick skinned or just doing the guy thing.
August 27, 2007
Some Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce and he said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt 19:8 NIV). Fast forward to Paul’s instructions on worship, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Tim 2:12 NIV). It appears that in both cases the ‘permitting’ is a result of leadership for a specific time and culture. I won’t argue with Paul’s prohibition for women to be silent in the church, but I can’t overlook the fact that God has gifted many women with the ability of teaching and public speaking. I wonder how Paul feels about women breaking their silence outside the church.
August 24, 2007
While disposing of my deceased aunt’s personal possessions I came across a letter I’d written to her 40 years ago. Always one to share an opinion, I boldly wrote that I thought another family member was way too young to be getting married. History proved me wrong, but I think it would have been just as well if my comments on the engagement had been disposed of 40 years ago. It’s unnerving to think more of my cards and letters may be lying dormant in someone’s old trunk. Jesus told his disciples, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:2-3 NIV
August 23, 2007
When I read Paul’s instruction concerning virgins (1 Cor 7:25-39) I form a mental picture of an older fiancée waiting patiently for years for her man to get on with the wedding. Expounding on the situation brother Paul says, “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.”(Vs. 37-38 NIV) Excuse me? I think Paul is overlooking engagement etiquette and good manners here. Exactly where does a 40 year-old rejected virgin go? From what we know of NT society I doubt if her daddy is thrilled that the wedding has been cancelled. No doubt Paul knows what he’s talking about, but for me his advice fails to dovetail with other Scripture – for starters, ‘Do unto others… and Letting your Yes be Yes…’
August 22, 2007
When it comes to eating meals at large family gatherings many of us overindulge. Then, just about the time we’re stuffed and can’t eat another bite someone says, “Don’t forget to leave some room for dessert.” I noticed when Jesus fed the 4,000 and the 5,000 the people ate and were ‘satisfied’. Apparently there was no need for Weight Watchers, South Beach or dessert.
August 21, 2007
‘Big Bucks Ministries’ is the cover story for the July 28th issue of World. The article introduces us to Rusty Leonard, founder of Wall Watchers, an independent watchdog organization that reports on the finances of Christian ministries. Mr. Leonard began Wall Watchers because his requests for financial statements from ministries were not forthcoming. “I realized these ministries had no accountability, and that the donor was completely unrepresented in the transaction that goes on.” I say ‘Amen’ to Leonard’s hope that, “…donors will consider diverting donations to organizations that are more transparent with funds.” While Wall Watchers is concerned with large ministries, there is also a need for watchdogs in the local church. A word of caution however, church authorities often send watchdogs to the doghouse.
August 20, 2007
My adult Sunday school teacher is one of our older preachers. He recently told the class that 45 or 50 years ago Standard Publishing produced a hymnal in which they had removed all the ‘blood’ songs. “The brotherhood raised questions. Churches either didn’t purchase the books or returned the ones they had purchased. The company was close to bankruptcy - and I’m glad they almost lost it all. Without the blood there is no forgiveness. ” Maybe it’s time we started asking today’s worship leaders, ‘Where’s the blood?
August 17, 2007
According to the media, Angelina Jolie is now changing her preferences. With Brad Pitt in her life and for the sake of her children she decided she’s no longer bisexual. I can only imagine the reaction in the gay community when they learn Jolie is making the decision to change. In the church, as well as in the world, we’re been force fed the ‘I was born that way’ justification for homosexuality. I appreciate someone- anyone – who acknowledges their sexual lifestyle is a personal choice.
August 16, 2007
An old weathered sign on a deserted building gives you a clue about the building’s former use. I’ve noticed we’ve got a few weathered signs hanging around the doors and walls in my church. There was a time when we were bustling with so many activities that you had to work around conflicting schedules and events in order to use the facility. Now, except for an occasional meeting, some classrooms once used for Sunday school, Weigh Down groups and choir practices go unused. Some of these activities haven’t taken place in years. On a positive note, we’re no longer doing a tug-of-war over space.
August 15, 2007
The early New Testament churches each had different problems, issues and personalities. However today’s churches and denominations are beginning to look alike because they’re all on the same page and reading the same how-to-books. I suspect there’s not a church bookshelf (pastor’s office, library, etc.) in America that doesn’t have at least one copy of the Purpose Driven Church. By embracing and subscribing to the techniques of others, our churches have lost their claim of independence and being a Spirit Driven Church. I think I'd feel a lot less cloned if leaders followed Paul’s example to avoid building on another’s foundation (Ro 15:20).
August 14, 2007
“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” (1 Cor 9:19a NIV) is another way of saying, ‘let the ox eat while he’s working’. Paul refers to this passage of Scripture to illustrate that ministers of the gospel should be allowed to eat (or be paid) while doing their work. I think muzzling is more than just keeping workers from earning a respectable wage. A muzzle is also a means to keep people from speaking. In some cases we use self-imposed muzzlement in order to stay politically correct. However in other instances, a man’s ego and pride may be used to muzzle what he sees as opposition. We can hinder the voice of the Spirit by simply putting a muzzle on it.
August 13, 2007
To demonstrate that ministers of the gospel deserve a share of the material harvest of their ministry Paul says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” (1 Cor 9:19a NIV) I understand his illustration and point, but I think there are other ways to look at the statement. I’m not so sure the classification of one who is ‘treading out the grain’ applies only to those who are on the church payroll. I’ve known many unsalaried people who can pick grain from between their toes.
August 10, 2007
A Veggie Tale fan, four year-old David saw the ogre Shrek on a TV advertisement and asked his momma, “What kind a vegetable is that?” This sounds like a reasonable case of misidentification to me. I’ve asked myself similar questions when encountering false teachers in the church.
August 09, 2007
In the church hallways people are recycling the mantra of leaders who say, ‘just look at all the new faces we’re having in the worship services’. I’m glad we have visitors but for me, having new faces doesn’t necessarily translate into reaching the lost for Christ. Rather than rejoicing in the sea of new faces, I’m concerned with the lack of familiar faces. For a time I reasoned some people were on vacation, attending one of the other service times, or that I’d just overlooked them. With a few telephone calls I learned that some of the old faces are just MIA because they are tired of treading water of today’s church environment.
August 08, 2007
My aunt, who was cantankerous and uncooperative, just passed away. She could have, on so many levels, lived a better life. A few weeks ago she told a family member, “You guys just don’t know how bullheaded I can be.” Trust me, we knew. For Zelma, stubbornness was like a badge of honor. Even as she neared death she did not allow anyone to help her make decisions. When I filter Zelma’s life through Christian eyes it’s sad and discouraging. Now I can only hope that her life choices haven’t kept her from Life.
August 07, 2007
When I tell house guests ‘make yourself at home’ I want them to be comfortable, not take over my home and rearrange it as if it were theirs. I see this scenario being played out in the church. We’ve discarded the communion table, removed the flags (American and Christian) and changed the music. For the sake of the seeker, we’re told to toss traditions, shut down Sunday schools and avoid altar calls. Personally I think today’s church has been lulled into believing that accommodation is the same thing as evangelism.
August 06, 2007
More and more I hear of ministers and ministries rising and falling on the basis of one man’s philosophy. Today’s religious environment is such that men and programs are expendable if they aren’t on board with the senior pastor’s direction for the church. Acts 18 tells us that Apollos, “…a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures… taught about Jesus accurately…” When fellow believers Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos speaking in the synagogue, “…they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Thankfully they didn’t demand that Apollos accept their philosophy or insist he discontinue his ministry.
August 03, 2007
The early New Testament churches each had different problems, issues and personality. However today’s churches and denominations are beginning to look alike because they’re all on the same page and reading the same how-to-books. I suspect there’s not a church bookshelf (pastor’s office, library, etc.) in America that doesn’t have at least one copy of the Purpose Driven Church. By embracing and subscribing to the techniques of others our churches have lost their claim of independence. I think we’d feel a lot less cloned if leaders followed Paul’s example to avoid building on another’s foundation (Ro 15:20).
August 02, 2007
Occasionally the disciples had to ask Jesus to clarify what He was telling them. I found myself in a similar situation when I took my three and a half year-old grandson to the park to feed the ducks. As we walked on the sidewalk toward the ducks I told David more than a few times, “Watch where you’re stepping and look out for the duck-do.” We finished feeding the flock of fine feathered friends and began walking back to the car when David asked, “Grandma, what does a duck do?”
August 01, 2007
Two weeks ago a letter of resignation from our Family and Outreach Minister was read from the pulpit. Going to the source, I learned he doesn’t have a new job waiting on the horizon. He has no idea where his next ministry will be, but he knows he wants to preach and teach. Similar to a funeral and tidying things up quickly, the church had a ‘Farewell Reception’ last Sunday where well-wishers could sign a card and say their good-bys. It’s ironic that the church tells a man ‘here’s your hat what’s you hurry’, when he’s not yet made any plans to leave town. I also discovered the minister’s resignation was a mutual agreement between him and the church authorities. By definition, ‘mutual’ is something that’s directed by each toward the other. It’s hard to tell whether or not God played a role in this resignation decision, but historically I don’t see God doing things by mutual agreement.
July 31, 2007
Although I’m a fairly new member in Toastmasters International, I accepted the position of Area Governor for our district. I’m obligated for one year and I guarantee it will take me that long to learn the meaning of all the acronyms in the leader’s guide. I think they used the whole alphabet in abbreviating titles and programs for the individual, the club, the area and the district. I’m going to need either a decoder or a cheat sheet in order to speak the language. I’m so glad the Apostle Paul didn’t know text messaging – shall we say PTL?
July 30, 2007
Because of a family crisis my Mormon friend hasn’t attended church on a regular basis and now she’s in no hurry to get back into the groove. “When I start again there won’t be anything new, it’s always the same thing. I already know what I need to know. And I just don’t feel like having a calling right now - even though it’s good for me [to be involved].” I find it interesting that she feels her church has nothing new to offer and she already knows everything she needs to know. Not to put her down, but with Christianity I’m always finding something new and I’ll never know all I need to know. “For the word of God is living and active…” (Heb 4:12 NIV).
July 27, 2007
In the DVD video message ‘Indescribable’, Louie Giglio uses the universe as an object lesson to help explain the magnitude of God. Comparing man and earth to the rest of the universe Mr. Giglio said, “I’m not trying to make you feel small – I’m telling you that you are small!” As one who is geographically challenged, I always viewed the earth as being pretty big. In fact, when God kicked Satan out of heaven I thought He [God] was being generous to give this rebellious angel rule over the whole earth. The vastness of the universe was once Satan’s playground, now he’s grounded.
July 26, 2007
In Joel Osteen’s televised message of 7-22-07 he explained he didn’t have all the answers to Biblical questions. He told the audience it’s important to recognize your gifts, but to also accept your limitations. I appreciated Joel’s honesty in saying he’s an encourager rather than a theologian. As the camera panned his audience I chuckled at the thought of what it must cost the largest church in America to be encouraged each week. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t begrudge Joel his salary. He’s earning his salary by doing and saying what his audience wants to hear. In 2 Timothy Paul says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (NIV) Who would have ever though that ear scratching paid so well?
July 25, 2007
You don’t have to be a professional movie critic in order to evaluate a movie. When our family enjoys a movie we start discussing it while leaving the theater. It’s not unusual for good quips of dialogue to become part of our vocabulary. The better the movie, the more we critique, but that’s not to say we don’t also discuss movies that are a bust. I find somewhat of a similar situation when leaving church Sunday mornings. I like to talk about thought provoking, convicting and insightful teaching, but I also have opinions about sermons and classes which fall short of the Truth. I think it’s too bad that people feel they can’t comment on a sermon or lesson that’s a bust. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t take much to squelch a Christian’s critique. All you’ve got to do is substitute the word criticize for critique you’ll stop us in our tracks every time.
July 24, 2007
The Rocky Mountain News ran an article on July 7th with the heading SUSPENDED Episcopal priest says she’s Muslim. According to the report, Rev. Ann Holmes Redding of Seattle, a priest for 23 years, has been a practicing Muslim for 15 months. If that won’t give you a religious migraine I don’t know what will. I have a hunch some parishioners may have known something was amiss, but they had to wait on the church hierarchy to take action. For me the real kicker to this story is that Ms. Redding has been suspended from the priesthood for one year. Suspended, what does that mean? Do the leaders think a year will give her time to pull her head out from under her arm pit?
July 23, 2007
The media reports that after years of negotiation the Los Angeles archdiocese has agreed to a $660 million settlement in sex abuse claims. I have trouble with this situation on so many different levels. One thing bothering me is seeing Catholic priests and Cardinals continue serving in their designated roles during these ongoing investigations. Legally men are innocent until proven guilty, however Jesus said even if you remember that someone has something against you, "… leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matt 5:24 NIV) I wonder if their gifts, whether service or tithes, have any value when reconciliation hasn’t first taken place.
July 20, 2007
Commenting on Christian fiction writers, novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote, “For [the author] to ‘tidy up reality’ is certainly to succumb to the sin of pride.’ I’m no fiction writer, but her words smarted when they penetrated my mind. I must confess I stand guilty of trying to tidy up reality. Wanting things to be seen in a good light, I help friends, family and yes, even the church, save face by making excuses for their attitude and behavior. I suppose covering up and making justifications began in my childhood while dealing with an alcoholic dad. I can now see how embarrassment for myself and for others would lead to the sin of pride. Ignorance was bliss…
July 19, 2007
When the last Harry Potter books hit the shelves an over zealous letter carrier accidentally delivered some books too early. With the final book in the series now coming out the Postal Service has taken precautions to make sure Harry doesn’t arrive before his appointed time. I find it humorous that ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ is just under 800 words, but the government’s simplified instructions telling letter carriers how to deliver the book is 25 pages long. Reading portions of the Old Testament I often get bogged down in the lengthy instructions and repetition. I suppose the scribes of Leviticus and Numbers thought they too were writing simplified instructions.
July 18, 2007
I’ve often heard older preachers and teachers jokingly say to their audience, “You have a right to disagree and be wrong it you want.” While we laugh at the statement, the truth is few will openly disagree with them in a class setting. The average person in the pew may suffer from a self-imposed inferiority complex when confronted with those who have Bible College credentials. I remember when I began shaking off the shackles of Biblical inferiority. A friend in my Bible study called and asked me to help her find a particular passage of Scripture. She could have called the pastor or the teacher, but she called me. What a compliment – both to me and my trusty concordance.
July 17, 2007
My uncle, now deceased, referred to himself as ‘Slop bucket Dutch’. In good natured fun my ¼ Choctaw Indian mother-in-law is called a gut-eater because she likes to eat the gristle off the chicken breast. Labels which once added color to a person’s character are stricken from our vocabulary because we’ve become so PC. I’ve noticed a similar thing happening to churches. We’re told that new titles and names are needed in order to appeal to a wider audience and depict the personality of the today’s modern church. Personally I think changing a church name for the sake of marketing gives a church an identity crisis and dulls the color of her true character.
July 16, 2007
Today many service clubs are bemoaning the drop in their membership. A member of the Lion’s Club recently told me, “We have members who pay dues and financially support the club, but they’re the older folks who no longer want to participate and be active. We are trying different methods to bring in younger members.” I see the same thought process in the church. Looking for young blood, the older generation expects the next generation to become their replacements. I think we’ve failed to realize the Lord is in the new creation business, not the replacement business.
July 13, 2007
My grandparents homesteaded in southeastern Colorado. Church was held the one-room community school house where folding chairs were transformed into pews on Sundays. There was no running water, but we did have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ outhouses. The school had a piano, but we didn’t have a pianist. I don’t ever recall having communion and if someone wanted to be baptized they’d go to a church in town that had a baptistery. Occasionally a circuit preacher would visit and if we were really lucky his wife knew how to play the piano. I’d like to see a church experiment with using circuit preachers. Many organizations pay speakers for a one time presentation, why wouldn’t the same work for preachers? Filling the pulpit with a different preacher/teacher each week would challenge the speaker to do his best and also challenge the audience to develop a discerning ear.
July 12, 2007
Because of my analytical personality I sometimes seem uncompassionate. I don’t want to appear hard hearted, but for me compassion has a direct correlation to how much pain and suffering is brought about because of a person’s own actions. For instance, I have a different level of compassion for someone contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion than I do for someone contracting the disease because of their lifestyle. Even though we serve a God of compassion, I really appreciate the glimpse into His analytical nature when He says to Moses, “…I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15 NIV
July 11, 2007
When people move to a new location they are often starting over. Although they may be excited to move on, they may also want to leave behind unhealthy relationships and bad habits. We have similar situations in the church. I’ve heard qualified leaders, ministers and musicians place membership in our church with the qualifier, “I’m not going to be as involved in this church as I was in my last church. In XYZ Church I did everything – that’s not going to happen here.” I understand the hazards of burn-out and the need for a sabbatical. However, I’m surprised by the premeditated withholding and rationing of their gifts.
July 10, 2007
We once had a music minister who week after week force-fed ‘spirit’ to the congregation. His praise team gave repeated demonstrations on when to sway, when to clap and when to raise holy hands. I felt like I was back in high school at a pep rally – ‘Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!’ On more than one occasion I became a casualty of the worship service and sat down before the 30 minutes of music came to an end. To me overuse of praise jingles becomes mindless. Although Paul was specifically addressing speaking in tongues, I think his directions are applicable to repetitious praise choruses. “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” 1 Cor 14:15 NIV
July 09, 2007
On June 1st a story by Lynn Allen appeared in the La Junta Tribune Democrat. Her article reported on a third generation rancher whose family homesteaded in southeastern Colorado. The 74 year-old rancher and his wife are in danger of losing the family ranch to the US Army. “But it doesn’t matter. If they want it, we can’t stop them. The military I served will come and escort me off my land at gun point. I don’t think I’ll go.” If I’m reading his words correctly, the rancher is saying he’ll sacrifice his own life before letting the government take his land. Having grandparents who also homesteaded in the same area, I understand how this rancher feels about his beloved land. However, thinking about the situation from a Biblical perspective, is the land becoming an idol to the rancher?
July 06, 2007
Parents often caution their children to think before they act. When doing woodworking projects that requires cutting angles, my husband mutters to himself, ‘OK stupid - now stop and think’. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in a dish and handing it to Judas said, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27b NIV) Quickly? Knowing what Judas was contemplating, I would’ve been saying, “Whoa Judas, stop for a minute…let’s think this thing through.” Apparently the time for thinking had already passed.
July 05, 2007
A life long Christian, my great-aunt normally offers sound Biblical advice. Recently when I called her to vent a frustration she listened patiently and then said, “I try not to get angry with God, but I do offer Him advice once in awhile.” Even though I chuckled at her matter-of-fact statement, I couldn’t help but wonder if God lets her get away with giving Him advice because she’s 87 years-old. I finally concluded that auntie’s advice giving is probably no different than the disciples trying to tell Jesus what he should do. Personally I relate better to those disciples who dared not ask Jesus any more questions, but secretly I’m jealous of people who can talk to the Lord about whatever crosses their mind.
July 04, 2007
July 03, 2007
I watched a TV news segment on tattoos and was surprised at some of the reasons people gave for getting tattooed. For some, tattoos are a reminder of their children, their faith and loved ones. One person spoke of the permanency of a tattoo, “It’s a life long commitment, its forever.” Although I’m not a candidate for a tattoo, I think it makes a good illustration for those of us who accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Even though we don’t wear a visible image, our being sealed to Jesus is permanent, life long and forever.
July 02, 2007
There was a time when our church newsletter was considered an evangelistic tool and was sent to active, in-active and prospective members. The last several years however, it seems to be dying a slow death. In cost cutting maneuvers the mailing list was purged to reflect mostly active members. Then we went from a weekly to a monthly publication. The most recent change eliminates mailings all together. According to the staff, “… we have decided that since those of you who get the newsletter are actually attending on Sundays that it makes sense to hand out the newsletter rather than mailing it.” While the newsletter may still have a slight pulse, I’ve prepared for its funeral. Look at the money we’re saving.
June 29, 2007
I read an online reprinted article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal written by Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The article was written July 1, 2003 and titled ‘The Uncertain Leader’. The theme is leadership and it addresses the decision of the church leadership group to build adult education around small groups and discard the traditional adult Sunday school model. After a year of trying to implement the small group strategy, questions from membership continued. Commenting on one woman’s concern Mr. Stanley answered the woman’s question and then said, “After tonight we are not going to discuss ‘if’ anymore.” He continued, “Feel free to question our implementation, but not our direction.” Excuse me? I’d like to know the chapter and verse that says we can’t question our leaders on the direction they are taking the church.
June 28, 2007
We often see public service commercials encouraging teens to talk to their parents about sex and drugs. I can think of a few reasons teens won’t talk to their parents - fear, intimidation, or maybe a history of not being heard. I’ve known authority figures in the church that are unapproachable for the same reasons. When Jesus healed a man who was born blind, the Pharisees demanded some answers. Not satisfied with the man’s response they turned to his parents. The parents dodged the questions, “…because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22 NIV) Sadly, similar situations still exist. I can identify with these parents. I hate feeling someone is lording their authority over me – it makes me feel like I’m back in high school.
June 27, 2007
The other night my husband shattered a drinking glass when he dropped it on the kitchen floor. The large pieces were easily swept up. However in cleaning up the small pieces I vacuumed, dust mopped, wet mopped and even used a sticky lint roller. The floor is clean enough to eat off of, but occasionally when the light is just right I’ll still find a shard of glass. I’m wondering if sin, like the water glass, can shatter. That would certainly help explain the slivers of sin I chew on when I put my foot in my mouth.
June 26, 2007
When I read a book for entertainment, I read it only once. Actually I don’t understand people who read their favorite authors and stories over and over again. Reading for information is another matter and I often revisit the same text many times. In our adult Sunday school class last week a woman told us of a conversation she’d had with one of her friends in the mid-west. The friend received a telephone call from her pastor and in the course of the conversation she revealed she’d been reading her Bible when he called. The pastor asked, “Haven’t you already read that once?” This came from an older gentleman, who was quite serious. The woman was dumbfounded. Who knows, maybe he reads his Bible just for entertainment.
June 25, 2007
In Christian circles it’s not uncommon to seek prayer from one another. We often cloak our request in terms of ‘When you think of it…, Could you add this to your list…, and even, If you run out of anything to pray about, you can pray for…’ It’s as though we’re asking someone to put a prayer need on their To-Do list because we don’t want to inconvenience them in the moment. Recently my friend Charlie called to share some good news and he took time to ask for an update on a situation I’d been dealing with. As we prepared to say our good-bys Charlie caught me off guard when he said, “Gail, how would it be if I prayed for you right now?” After his ‘amen’ and my ‘thank you’, I hung up thinking, ‘Why can’t I ever remember to do that?’ I’d like it if Charlie’s attitude of ‘there’s no time like the present’ would rub off on me.
June 22, 2007
My family and another family at church find ourselves in a similar crisis where we are trying to care for an elderly at-risk relative. However, our efforts are being thwarted and undermined by acquaintances outside the family. In my case these intruders convinced my aunt to appoint them as guardian and conservator. We are now in the process of going through the court system in order to protect my aunt from her meddling ‘friends’. Since the courts move at a snails pace I have plenty of time to look for Biblical insights, but I’m coming up with more questions than answers. As Jesus hung on the cross, he “… saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26-27 NIV. It sounds to me like Jesus just gave guardianship of his mother Mary to his disciple John. If Mary were being neglected, abused or had no other living relatives I could readily understand Jesus making provisions for her care. I wonder if James and the other siblings were as frustrated as I am when their mother’s guardianship was given to someone outside the family?
June 21, 2007
On my kitchen counter was one big piece of leftover cake. I thought it was too large for one serving, but to small for two servings if it were cut it in half. I was home alone so it was easy to justify eating the whole thing by calling it lunch. It’s not my practice to pray before eating snacks, but I do pray before meals. Bowing my head over the mega-sized piece of cake my prayer was interrupted by a conversation going off in my head, “You’re not really going to ask God to bless this to the nourishment of you body, are you?” I stumbled and fumbled trying to come up with words of thanksgiving for the bounty God had provided. While I enjoyed every bite of my cake-lunch, it did cause me to stop and think about how often I ask God to bless things I know aren’t always the best for me.
June 20, 2007
My church no longer subscribes to its weekly denominational magazine, but I remember at one time there was a column for reporting baptisms and transfers of membership. Individual churches submitted their statistics to the publisher, who then, along with the church name and her pastor, reported the stats. Personally, I always enjoyed reading the number of additions made in churches across the country. I felt it was a good indicator of where the Spirit was working in healthy, successful ministries. Recently an older pastor startled me by saying, “The reporting of baptisms and transfers is nothing but fuel for a preacher’s ego. It’s a way to tell others in the brotherhood, ‘Look at me and what a good job I’m doing’.” That thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but from a preacher’s perspective I see what he’s saying.
June 19, 2007
For many years I’ve served as an election judge for the local electric co-op. The association uses a mail-in ballot, but members can also vote in person on the day of the annual meeting. In an election, only the person registered or on an account has a vote. Every year a few women who’d like to vote are turned away because their name is not included with their husband’s on the membership account. I feel terrible telling people who’ve made an effort to go to the polls that their name isn’t listed. I wouldn’t want to be an election judge overseeing the Book of Life. I can’t imagine scrolling down the alphabetized list of names and having to tell a soul that their name isn’t there.
June 18, 2007
I think society has so stifled our ‘judgment skills’ that we’ll all need a refresher course when it comes time to judge the world and angels (1 Cor 6). While I can formulate in my mind scenarios for judging the world, I’m at a loss, and at the same time intrigued, at the thought of judging angels. The NIV study Bible cross reference points toward men judging fallen angels, however it seems to me fallen angels have already been judged by God. In any case, whether fallen or not, how would you judge an angel? Without specific criteria, I feel ill equipped for the task. Right now I could do no better than vouching for the attentiveness of my guardian angel.
June 15, 2007
Immigration is a hot topic today. One of the talking points for various aspects of immigration is the labor force. We’re told that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are doing jobs that the average American won’t do. I think I see a similar attitude in the church. People want to be part of the body without serving one another. We salve our conscious by hiring additional staff to do the ‘spiritual’ work that we don’t want to do. The staff then determines their job is to educate and train us to do the work we didn’t want to do in the first place. It’s not that we’re uneducated about serving, teaching, evangelism, etc., it’s that we don’t want to do it – that’s why we hired someone else in the first place.
June 14, 2007
A while back I watched a broadcast of TV evangelist Ed Young, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church in Dallas. The sermon contained excerpts taken from his book ‘In The Zone’. Mr. Young said people who are mature get out of their comfort zone. They ‘get it’ and understand it’s time to grow up when they realize generosity is over and above a tithe. Conjuring up enthusiasm Young said to his audience, “If you smile when I talk about giving, you’re getting it. You’re in the zone.” About that time in the presentation I zoned out. Apparently in Mr. Young’s world smiling is an affirmation that you agree with his message. Wouldn’t you just love to see someone in the audience turn around in their seat to see how many people are really smiling?
June 13, 2007
Over the years I’ve seen at least three churches in our community transformed. They became a business office, a bar/tavern and a junk store. From an article in Scottish Life, author Keith Aitken says that many historic churches in Scotland are falling into disrepair. “The Scottish Civic Trust lists at least 300 churches in Scotland as being ‘at risk’ and the Executive’s heritage agency, Historic Scotland, has served grim notice that it alone cannot be expected to save the nation’s stock of unwanted houses of worship.” It’s a sad commentary that churches built as a labor of love are now ‘unwanted houses of worship’. In America when a house of worship closes its doors it’s often because the congregants have moved to new facilities or they are combining their membership with another church. That’s not the picture seen in Scotland. Aitken states, “Attendances are falling annually by 2-3 percent. The Church of Scotland alone reckons that its congregations are declining by 17,000 a year.” Scottish communities are running out of churchgoers. We in the US are naive if we think the same thing can’t, or won’t happen to us.
June 12, 2007
I recently watched the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The pirate ship is headed into the drink and both ship and crew will be lost. Captain Barbosa is at the helm and in true pirate form says, “The best day to die is a day worth living for!” What a great Christian eulogy. I think I’ll write this one in my Bible.
June 11, 2007
There are some things that just aren’t in a person’s character or make up. Maybe they can’t sing, they’re too shy to pray out loud or too nervous to speak at a microphone. During the worship service I’ve seen many who are uncomfortable with clapping, raising holy hands and being moved by the spirit of the worship leader. Actually, I find it a form of bullying when a worship leader stands at the pulpit and “encourages” the congregation to become more charismatic. Now that’s what I’d call a bully pulpit.