May 31, 2007

Two Whale Tale

Delta and Dawn, the mother and calf whale who took a wrong turn up the Sacramento River, now appear to be getting their bearings and are headed back towards the ocean. I’ve been interested in the efforts put forth to save them. The whole situation reminds me of Christians trying to save friends and loved ones. We sometimes stand at a distance wringing our hands while we watch those we care about swim in circles. Other times we come along side of them nudging them in the right direction. We aren’t above trying to scare them in to turning around by shooting threats over their heads or banging loudly on our Bible. We can’t save others any more than we can save whales if they insist on going in the wrong direction.

May 30, 2007

Staying in Shape

I haven’t been able to walk for exercise for over two months because of a foot injury. Normally I walk two miles a day while listening to a dramatized version of the New Testament on my IPOD, it’s my way of multi-tasking. I regret not finding an alternate way to exercise and study Scripture while waiting for my foot to heal. Since I’ve resumed walking, I’m amazed at how out of shape I’ve gotten in such a short period of time, both physically and Biblically. Hopefully it won’t be long before my stamina returns. In the mean time, Advil gives relief to my stiff and sore muscles, while the concordance is helping to sweep away the Biblical cobwebs.

May 29, 2007

Really Good Person

We often talk about getting to heaven and being surprised by who we find there – other denominations, the born-again former atheist and even the thorn in our side. I can just imagine the, “I can’t believe you made it” look running across some faces while the mouth is stammering out the, “I’m so glad you’re here” greeting. Actually, I think I’ll be even more surprised by who I don’t find in heaven. I know I’ll be searching for some loved ones who aren’t there. While on earth we can cloak ourselves in good deeds, respectable positions and acts of righteousness – but salvation isn’t weighed on the he’s-a-really-good-person scale.

May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

For many people Memorial Day doesn’t seem to personally touch their lives. They’ve not lost a loved one on the battlefield or served in the military themselves. Often there is no understanding of the sacrifice and blood that was shed for this country – and for them. As a Military Veteran, I honor those who’ve lost their lives in service. I’m also a Christian Veteran and I honor those who, in persecution, gave their life for the cause of Christ. The church, not unlike many organizations today, lives in the moment and plans for the future. However, we are remiss if we fail to look to the past and honor those who’ve left us a Christian heritage.

May 25, 2007

The Mandate

The back of our weekly bulletin asserts WE ARE A “CONNECTING” CHURCH. It then proceeds to list Our Mission, Our Mandate, Our Methods and Our Motive. I’ve never been comfortable with the Mandate, which reads “Grow up and Move Out”. Really now, doesn’t that just sound like something a parent would tell a kid who just lounges around the house and won’t get a job? Actually, a mandate as defined by Webster’s is an authoritative command; a formal order from a superior court or official. So, my question is who is giving this authoritative command? I suppose you could argue Jesus, Paul or the Gospels expect us to mature or grow up - and they do. However, I can’t think of any Scriptural context in which believers are told to move out. Personally, I think many of today’s church leaders don’t want the responsibility of shepherding the flock. It’s much easier to bottle feed the lambs and tell the older sheep to grow up and move out.

May 24, 2007


Fox News reported that a Bakersfield, CA school district will once again put Christmas break and Easter break on the school calendar. These titles were previously removed in favor of generic terms such as Winter and Spring break. According to a school board representative, “We don’t want to be incorrect in order to be politically correct.” The speaker went on to say that going back to traditional holiday titles represents the view of the [predominately] Christian population in his school district. I think the church too has removed traditional words from its vocabulary for the sake of society’s acceptance. For me, ‘worship’ is not the same as, nor can it be replaced by ‘celebration’.

May 23, 2007

I'd Rather Die

Some people have to be in control and no one, including God, is going to tell them what to do. As my aunt’s physical and mental heath deteriorates, she’s distraught about the prospect of going to a nursing home. In a last ditch effort to remain in control of her destiny she angrily said, “I’ll do myself in before I go to a nursing home.” Please hear my exasperation, she’s not going to do herself in. I’d almost like to call her bluff though and ask, “What do you need help with?” Bless her heart, what she doesn’t understand is she’s already doing herself in by refusing to cooperate with those who love and want to help her.

May 22, 2007

From the Grave

Jerry Falwell was a political thorn in the side of politicians and their platforms. While his opponents often tried to silence him, it’s ironic that in death the media gives him another chance to speak as they replay sound bites from his religious and political life. I find God’s timing for Falwell’s death fascinating. Just as the 2008 presidential campaign debates begin we’re hearing his voice from the grave reminding us that conservative Christians can and do make a difference. At times Jerry Falwell was careless with his words. Like the rest of us, he too will be held accountable for the careless words he has spoken. In Jerry’s case he just happens to have his recorded on earth as well as in heaven!

May 21, 2007

Unfinished Business

According to Washington Post reporter Joe Holley, Mel White quit his position as speechwriter and ghost writer for Jerry Falwell in 1994 when he [White] announced he was gay. White continued to attend Falwell’s church and they remained friends. In the interview White said, “I invested so much in believing he could change, but he went and died instead.” My first reaction was, why would you even think that a Christian of Falwell’s character would ever consider changing his stance on homosexuality? Then, the more I thought about it, I realized it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. We’ve all seen the homosexual agenda forcing change in religious leaders and denominations. Apparently Mr. White thought if it can happen with others, it could happen with Jerry Falwell. Hopefully, when the time comes for someone to eulogize Mr. White they won’t be saying, “…but he went and died instead.”

May 18, 2007

Meeting God

I caught a snippet of a TV interview with a deep-sea diver who found himself in deep trouble while swimming with sharks. Describing his fear he said, “It’s as near to God as you can get. The trick is to stay near to God - and not meet Him.” Obviously the man has some level of understanding about God, mortality and judgment. Eventually we’re all going to meet the Lord, but for believers the trick is to stay near to God - and be ready to meet Him.

May 17, 2007

Creative Editing

We know there are always two sides to every story. Whether it’s a news program, a reality TV show or the retelling of a story, there’s an element of creative editing involved. Although we might hear only portions of a story, the reality is we’ll never know all the details behind every situation. It’s my perception that Christians often feel an obligation to know the whole story before they can offer an opinion or view. After all, who wants to be labeled a gossip or be charged with leading someone astray for not having all the facts? Actually, I think God has told us just enough of the story so we’ll have the desire to express our opinions and views.

May 16, 2007

Leveling a Church

More and more we’re hearing about denominations breaking up. Whether a major congregational split, a small group splintering off, or a local body ignoring their higher authority, denominations are showing signs of stress fractures. Discussing the turmoil a friend recently said, “If God can destroy His own temple, then He certainly isn’t above destroying a church.” Say what? We usually think in terms of God disciplining and pruning the church, but few of us can imagine God destroying my church. Can you envision God destroying your church?

May 15, 2007


Vying for a million dollars the final three contestants on Survivor Fiji got an ear full from the jury of their peers. I was especially interested in the confrontation between Boo, a member of the jury, and Dreamz, a runner-up. Not only did Dreamz seal a promise by swearing an oath to God , he portrayed himself as a street survivor, a man of faith, a truth teller and one who wanted his son to be proud of him. In reality, he was none of those. Boo verbally confronted Dreamz’s by comparing his actions with his professed Christianity. It was hard to listen to, but what a powerful statement. On one hand I felt embarrassed for Christianity being publicly flayed on primetime TV, but on the other hand, Christian hypocrisy needs to be exposed. Later during an interview Boo was asked about his aggressiveness toward Dreamz. He said, “I think Dreamz wants to do the right thing [to be a man of his word]. I wanted to pull that out of him.” When we fail to do the right thing, we need others who are willing to pull it out of us.

May 14, 2007


An older preacher told me about serving in his first congregation. As a young man he’d inherited a couple of elders who were on the calling committee, but they were terrible at calling. “Their hearts were in the right place, but you just can’t go around telling people they’re going to hell [if they don’t respond to your efforts]. I’d try going behind them with a follow-up call and nobody would talk to me.” Out of respect for age and eldership, it was a touchy situation for the young minister. “I thought if I tried to stop these particular elders from calling, I’d be loosing two while I was trying to reach one.” I ask how the situation was finally resolved and he said, “Preachers can just let a program die, and that’s what we did.” Believers really do have good intentions - just not always the best bedside manner.

May 11, 2007

Now I See the Difference

During a recent forum I used the word Spanish in reference to a local non-profit program. As soon as the group took a break a woman approached me saying, “You shouldn’t use the word Spanish. We don’t want to be called Spanish, we’re Hispanics. People from Spain are Spanish, we’re Hispanics.” Although she probably thought she was helping to correct future faux pas, I was caught off guard. Jesus wants us to look at the heart, without seeing culture or nationality. I’d never seen any difference between us, until she pointed it out.

May 10, 2007


Whether in person, on the phone or through the mail, I really dislike salesmen. At the top of my list is the car salesman. On a car shopping trip my daughter encountered a creative salesman who used flattery as a hook – he told her the interior of a car matched the color of her eyes. Recently I’ve been seeing a podiatrist who could double for a car salesman. Although I went to him concerning nerve pain in one foot, he’s pushing me to buy orthotics. Discovering I have a high deductible medical insurance, he was quick to let me know that many of his clients prefer purchasing orthotics out of pocket. I’m hoping my foot heals soon, because I dread every high pressure appointment. I wonder how often non-believers view the Christian as a salesman. Are we so zealous about saving souls that people feel we’re trying to hook them for Jesus?

May 09, 2007

Accepting Leadership

It’s not unusual to see men who don’t or won’t, for what ever reason, take on leadership roles. Years ago a member of a congregation asked the newly hired preacher what his plans were for the church and he said, “Build up the men.” Not that the men were weak, but out of an attendance of 360 people [including children], there were only 39 men. The preacher recalled, “It was an interesting little church. If it weren’t for the women holding it together, the doors would have closed. They kept the church going. It was amazing though, when men started attending, the women were thrilled to turn over the leadership responsibility to them.” A church is blessed when men step forward and accept their leadership-birthright - and when women let them fulfill their role.

May 08, 2007

Dress Code

I recently had the opportunity to be in the audience during the videotaping for Liz Curtis Higgs’, ‘Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible’ and ‘Embrace Grace’. The dress code for the women only event was, “Sunday attire. Brightly-colored clothes are best. No hats, please, so we can see your beautiful faces.” The audience represented a broad spectrum of ages, but I was surprised to see how casually many of the ladies were dressed. Obviously in today’s church we each have our own interpretation of what constitutes ‘Sunday attire’. One elderly lady walked into the auditorium wearing a hat and taking a seat behind me said to her friend, “I know they said not to wear hats, but I didn’t wash my hair today.” With the way we bend or even ignore instructions, I can see how Scripture falls victim to man’s individual interpretation.

May 07, 2007

On the Back of the Missionary

Once upon a time there was a church that gave 50% of its tithes and offerings to missions. Each week members put gifts in offering envelopes, checking off the designation where they wanted the money directed. A new preacher was hired who wanted a larger and more modern looking building. According to one member, “There was a lot of ego in the mix - and it didn’t all belong to the preacher. When the building fund was added as a designation on the offering envelope, money shifted. It wasn’t long before missions dropped to a small fraction of what it had been. We got a new building, but I think it was built on the backs of our missionaries.” Interestingly, attendance has never grown in the new church building. I guess the old church was adequate after all.

May 04, 2007

The Invitation

As a child growing up I loved getting invited to a girlfriend’s house, but I rarely reciprocated. My somewhat dysfunctional family (alcoholic father) and home life wasn’t conducive to having friends over. Similarly, when the church has periods where the congregation resembles a dysfunctional family I feel my childhood anxieties and embarrassment returning. I just can’t bring myself to invite someone ‘home’ while the family is in upheaval. By its very nature, evangelism dictates we invite people to church. During troubled times saying my church is wonderful would feel like presenting an invitation under false pretense.

May 03, 2007

Field of Dreams

One of the quotes in Kevin Costner’s baseball film Field of Dreams is, “Build it and they will come.” I think the mindset of today’s church finance committee might well be, ‘Budget it and they will give.’ Our church financial report lists the amount of tithes received, the amount budgeted and the amount spent (year to date). When the monthly offering falls short of the budget, the report in the newsletter becomes a not-so-subtle reminder that we’ve failed to meet an obligation. On occasion I’ve been guilty of tithing to the budget rather than tithing to the Lord. I have to remind myself it’s not my budget, responsibility or obligation. My only stewardship responsibility is to the Lord.

May 02, 2007

Phew in the Pew

The last few years I’ve stopped going to church on holidays like Mother’s Day, Christmas and Easter. Not that I’m avoiding the crowd caused by once-a-year folks, but I’m keeping my distance from ladies bathed in perfume. We’re not talking about the scent of just a couple roses here, but rather being surrounded by a combination of honeysuckle, herbs, lavender, spices, strawberries, lemons, sea breezes, tropical sun, musk and lilacs. I can’t be sure, but I think I’ve even detected Evening in Paris in the mix. Many habitual perfume wearers are desensitized, but for those of us suffering from chemical allergies, the saturation of fragrance makes us sick and in my case, it also distorts a Christian attitude. Rather than being in a worship service, I feel like I’m sitting in the middle by a blooming garden with a headache, itchy eyes and congestion. Quite honestly, it’s not worth attending church if I’m going to be sick the rest of the day. It’s one thing to be a pleasing aroma to the God, it’s quite another to be a phew in the pew.

May 01, 2007

Serving Hash

Sometimes people get weary of listening to others hash and re-hash a situation. Their attitude becomes, ‘It’s in the past… I’m tired of hearing about it… and I don’t want to listen to it again, so move on.’ For some however, hashing is the way to sort through a problem or a burden while trying to put it to rest. I think Peter needed a listening ear after his thrice-denial of Christ, and likewise Paul for his role in persecuting the church. I can image Martha telling and re-telling her friends she regretted doing household chores when she should have been focusing on the Lord. We wouldn’t tell Peter, Paul or Martha to just ‘get over it’, nor should we turn a deaf ear to someone who needs a listening ear.