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.