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.