December 31, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

A few years ago my daughter gave me a coffee mug for my birthday. The mug depicted a caricature of a woman devoid of facial expression with the caption, “IT’S OFFICIAL…I’ve become my mother.” I wasn’t laughing. I’ve worked hard trying not to be like my mother. It’s not that my mom isn’t a good person, she just has a few personality traits that I don’t want to emulate. I have to admit that I’ve never used the mug…probably because it reminds that in some ways I am in fact like my mother. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the sentiment on the cup was meant as a compliment. Leslie was implying she has become like me. In the spiritual realm we too take on the characteristics of our parent. Actually, there is no greater compliment than to say, It’s Official…I’ve become like Him.

December 30, 2008

Really in Need

This time of year many communities come together and share with those who are needy. However I think it’s sometimes difficult to identify those who are really in need. Paul says, “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” (1 Tim 5:5 NIV) I’ve known folks who put their hope in relatives, in the government and in friends, but I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who prays night and day asking God for help. I’m sure it’s not PC to ask someone about their prayer life, but it could be a nice litmus test to identify those who are really in need.

December 29, 2008

Something to Say

I sometimes struggle with writing a daily blog and have to remind myself, as they say in baseball, ‘you can’t hit a home run every time’. There are days however when my mind goes blank and I feel there is nothing to write about. I chide myself, ‘What…you mean you can’t see God anywhere today? God is Omni-Everything and you don’t have anything to say about Him?’ The psalmist never seems at a loss for words. No doubt the sight of my blank page is enough to make him hyperventilate.

December 26, 2008

You Better Not Pout...

I wanted to get our three year-old granddaughter a pair of boots for Christmas, but getting the right size and also having it be a surprise was impossible. The first pair I purchased was too large and when Lydia was told she couldn’t keep them, she pouted. The second pair fit, but once again she couldn’t keep them because I needed to put them under the tree for her Christmas present. More distraught than ever she added tears to her pouting. Finally on Christmas Eve Lydia opened her gift and pulling the boots from the package said, “Look…I’ve got my boots. They’re mine. I’ve got my new boots.” Even on an adult level I can relate to Lydia’s disappointment and her joy. I’ve known God to give me a glimpse of a perfect gift, only to have Him deny me the gift because it’s not the right time, the right size...or He has something better in mind. It’s hard not to pout…

December 25, 2008

Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV) MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2008

Sing-a-Long

Last week our choir sang ‘Lion of Judah’ for special music. I don’t recall ever hearing the song before, but it is beautiful. Apparently the words and melody settled comfortably in my mind because when I woke up at 2:00 am this morning I was singing with the choir and could not get the song out of my mind. I can just imagine how maddening the Christmas season is for Satan. Songs of praise ringing out from every corner of the world may just be stuck in his head. Do you suppose he and his minions are loosing sleep by being reminded of their failure to kill the Holy One of God?

December 23, 2008

I know What You Need

I helped my grandkids compile their Christmas gift list for family members before we went shopping at the Dollar Store. On the first outing I took three year-old Lydia and it didn’t take her long to get into the groove of being in total control. While she picked out taffy, hot sauce, rock salt and a jump rope, I put a post-it note on each item naming the intended recipient. When a rack of pet pooper-scoopers caught Lydia’s eye, she was insistent that Mama needed one for cleaning. I explained that these were for cleaning up after pets and that she did not have one. She stated, “I have a puppy (stuffed) and David has a kitty (also stuffed).” Undeterred she continued, “…and, I think Daddy needs one too.” In compromise I finally convinced her that if she purchased only one, maybe Mama and Daddy could share. Haven’t we all, at some time or another, received a gift we know we don’t need? Someone thinks they know how to help us utilize that gift, so they assign us to a ministry or volunteer us for a project. Our reaction can be a real test of believer maturity.

December 22, 2008

Swayed

When I was employed as a bailiff I enjoyed listening to lawyer’s arguments. It was a challenge to weigh the evidence to see how my internal verdict compared to that of the jury. Some attorneys were more polished than others in their delivery, cross examinations and performance in the courtroom. Likewise, some witnesses had better credentials or were more believable than others. I think we encounter similar circumstances as believers. It’s our responsibility to be alert and keep the Word from getting lost in the presentation and delivery of the sermon.

December 19, 2008

Changes

We usually take the phrase ‘you haven’t changed one bit’ as a compliment. Perhaps we have some outward characteristics which stay consistent, but generally speaking if we haven’t changed over the years, we’ve got a serious problem. Really, can you imagine being the same person you were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Or worse yet, being the same person you were when you first became a believer. Just as we enjoy watching young people grow to adulthood, we also take pleasure watching one another grow spiritually. I dare say we’re all more comfortable being the watcher than being the watched.

December 18, 2008

Strength for Service

I once had a minister who wrote of the church, “Our resources, specifically human resources, are limited. By limited, I don’t mean that there are so few attending, rather there are so few people available to serve.” Taken literally, I think his comments paint a picture of an elderly congregation whose strength for service was limited. I have to laugh because at the time of his critique we had a thriving congregation averaging over 600 in weekly attendance. The reality was that there were few people available to serve in the manner that he wanted them to serve. Obviously not every believer has a servant spirit, but “…If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:11b NIV

December 17, 2008

Friends

I know a lady who I count as a friend, in spite of fact that she thinks I’m going to hell. Now she has never come right out and said I’m going to hell, but she has hinted her doubts about my salvation. One time I spoke of the collective ‘we’ being secure in our knowledge of our salvation and unable to look me in the eye she stammered, “Well…, well… I don’t know. I just couldn’t say.” Bless her heart, she just couldn’t state with any certainty that those outside her denomination have a place in heaven. It’s no wonder Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…” He’s probably going to have to send some of us to our rooms until we learn how to play together. (John 14:2a NIV)

December 16, 2008

Extracurricular

I once had a minister who sprinkled his messages with data and survey stats. He purported himself to be a visionary who was up to speed on issues relevant to today’s culture. Doubting some of his statistics, I tracked down the source material and learned that the data he presented under the umbrella of ‘Christian’ was not mainstream Christianity, but rather taken from a collection of all the world’s religions. Now, I don’t believe he deliberately set out to mislead his audience, but I do think he failed to check the accuracy of his facts because he needed them to support his current vision. I’m envious of the Bereans. When they heard Paul preach all they had to do was examine, “…the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11b NIV

December 15, 2008

Eye to Eye

After I caught up on the family news with my spunky Great Aunt, we then talked a little politics. Jesting she said, “I have so much [political] wisdom that people could benefit from, but when you’re already seeing eye to eye with those around you, what’s the point of discussion if everyone’s in agreement.” I know what she means. Believers often find themselves in much the same dilemma when they’re with one another. Salvation is just not one of the topics of discussion when everyone’s in one accord.

December 12, 2008

Censored

I don’t understand the criteria used by the media for censoring. In one photo or video clip a face might be blurred-out while body parts are exposed, and then in another clip it’s just the opposite, the sensual parts are blackened-out and the face is exposed. I suppose it depends on who the media is trying to protect - the person in the photograph, the viewing public or themselves. Amazingly believers sometimes take it upon themselves to blur the Word of God. The writer John penned a warning to deal with any would-be censors of Revelation. “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev 22:19 NIV)

December 11, 2008

I Think...

Recently my husband told our three year-old granddaughter, “I think you need to given me a hug.” Quietly and thoughtfully Lydia said, “No, I don’t think we need to do that.” Obviously Bill’s mistake was in giving her an option to think about it. Have you ever noticed that there is nowhere in Scripture (to my recollection) where God asks us what we think? Occasionally Jesus asked the disciples what they were thinking, not because He wanted their opinion, but to expose the thoughts running around in their heads. I’m wondering how our conversation would change if we were to replace the phrase ‘I think’ with ‘God thinks…’

December 10, 2008

He's Already Left the Building

I hate it when I’ve finished a conversation and walk out of the room, only to hear the other person start talking again. I then have to turn around, go back and ask them to repeat what they said. It’s irritating. Part of me is beginning to say, ‘Just keep on walking’, while another part suggests, ‘That would be rude’. I’ve tried to figure out what’s wrong. Do I have so many things on my mind that I’m moving too fast to get on to the next item, or is the other person just unaware that I’ve left the room? On a Spiritual level, I suppose it’s possible to do the same thing to the Spirit. With all the busyness of life going on, I may very well be leaving the building before He’s done talking to me.

December 09, 2008

Anticipation

In the city Holiday Parade of Lights last weekend our church had its début float. One of our members, who just turned 91, was determined to watch the parade and see our entry. Settling in to watch the festivities Sylvia misjudged the curb on the street and fell, breaking her hip. Family members helped seat her into her walker, but she wouldn’t let them call the ambulance. Sylvia had come to see the parade and she was going to see it, besides, “…if I don’t move, it doesn’t hurt.” An hour and forty-five minutes later the parade was over and Sylvia was ready to call the EMT’s. With such determination I’m reminded of both Simeon and Anna who, despite their age, waited and served in the temple at Jerusalem in anticipation of “the Lord’s Christ”. (Luke 2:25-40)

December 08, 2008

Just the Right Size

Our newly forming church has been meeting for almost seven months and the selection of elders and deacons should be completed in the next couple of weeks. Even though we’ve all been praying about the need for a building, it’s startling to see God answering prayers without our help. Yesterday we learned that one person has gifted the church with almost three acres of land and another family has stepped forward to be our ‘banker’…oh yes, and that family just happens to have an architect in the family who will draw up the building plans. After the announcement I and a few others wondered aloud if three acres would be enough. How absurd…if we needed more acreage the Lord would have provided us with a larger parcel of land. Obviously, I’ve since repented and asked for forgiveness.

December 05, 2008

Fading Glory

With all the moisture in the air we are seeing some terrific sunrises and sunsets. Clouds of orange and mauve ripple like waves across an ocean of blue. Unlike fall leaves changing color, the moving sun allows only moments to appreciate the brilliance of the clouds before they abruptly turn grey. I think I can understand why Moses put a veil over his face (2 Cor 3:13; Ex 34:34) both for the people...and possibly for himself. It’s a real let-down to watch God’s radiance go so quickly from glorious to ordinary.

December 04, 2008

Ascending and Descending

Over the Thanksgiving holidays our local hot air balloonists were offering free rides to veterans, but the weather was not cooperating. For three mornings in a row the pilots and crew stood around visiting and drinking coffee while trying to decide whether or not they could fly. Rather than stick a wet finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing, one morning they sent up a PIBAL, a small black pilot balloon. All eyes were on the PIBAL and the higher it climbed, the further everyone’s heads tilted backwards. It reminded me of Jesus being taken up into heaven right before the eyes of the disciples. They looked intently as He was going until a cloud his Him from their sight. Two men dressed in white suddenly appeared. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11 NIV)

December 03, 2008

Pucker

When my husband wants to get everyone’s attention at a large gathering he produces a shrill whistle by positioning his tongue against the back of his teeth and tightening his lips. Hearing that same whistle coming from the garage I charged through the door to discover Bill standing on a half twisted ladder. With one hand he held tight to an overhanging brace and with the other he held a long handled paint roller. And there, teetering precariously on the top of the ladder was a tray full of paint. I have to tell you it was funny. Paul describes the church as being one body, but having many different parts. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1Cor 12:21 NIV) In Bill’s case, neither can the hand or the foot say to the part that whistles, ‘I don’t need you!’

December 02, 2008

Co-Workers

Laura, a Sunday School teacher for mentally challenged adults was telling me about her class. “We screen what we say and how we say it, but the folks in my class just blurt out whatever is on their mind. They say exactly what they’re thinking.” She went on to tell me about Emily, a 52 year-old member of the class. One Sunday Emily prayed, “Lord, work with me on this! Let’s work together and get this done!” Normally I think about working for the Lord, or Him working through me. I appreciate Emily’s insight. It never occurred to me to work shoulder to shoulder with Him.

December 01, 2008

People of Faith

At some time or another I think we’ve all struggled in interacting with folks from different religious backgrounds with whom we are polarized opposites. My fear is, if a group falls in the cult category, does having fellowship with them encourage them to think I’m accepting of their beliefs? Last week I participated in a community Thanksgiving service where those in the program came from all different denominations. We had everything in common as far as Scripture reading, songs, prayers and the messages. It’s undeniable that everyone at the service was a person of faith…even if that faith is not in Jesus Christ as Savior.

November 28, 2008

Traps

A feral cat recently had a litter of kittens under our shed. When I called the animal shelter they said that once the kittens were old enough I could take them to the shelter, but that I’d have to trap them myself. Although I don’t want to trap them, I also don’t want to worry about their survival this winter, or heaven forbid that they start multiplying. My friend Harold loaned me a cat trap and I was all set to become a fearless white hunter when I had a horrible thought, what if I trapped a pole cat instead of a kitty cat. One of Satan’s ploys is setting traps for the faithful and I dare say that at one time or another we’ve all fallen into one. Maybe when we find ourselves caught in one of Satan’s traps we should come out fighting with the determination and the aim of a pole cat.

November 26, 2008

Stubborn Stains

A number of years ago I was shaking my liquid make-up with my finger over the bottle opening when it slipped out of my hand and splattered on the carpet. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to get the stain out, only to give up in defeat and tell myself I’ll just have to live with it. Last week I tried a new carpet cleaner. After the application there was a slight improvement, but overall the make-up still refused to give up its hold on the fibers. It sort of reminds me of some of the stubborn sins in our lives. Even when we feel defeated and decide that we’ll just have to live with the stain, Scripture comes along with a new formula for us to try.

November 25, 2008

Reasonings

The only time in my life when I’ve thrown caution to the wind with dieting was when I was pregnant. I decided that I had a legitimate and justifiable nine-month excuse to indulge. After all, I was eating for two, no amount of calorie counting was gong to bring back my waistline and everyone expected me to gain weight. We see a similar reasoning in the parable of the Great Banquet “…I have just bought a field …I just bought five yolk of oxen …I just got married.” (Luke 14:15-20) Sometimes friends and family accept our lame excuses, but we’re foolish if we think the Lord is going to buy it.

November 24, 2008

Vetting Candidates

Having just gone through the presidential election most of us have become more educated on the process of vetting a candidate. As believers, Scripture tells us that we too must vet men for the position of elder and deacon. Even though Timothy and Titus give us some specific qualifications, some of those qualifications are a matter of interpretation. I think the stickiest qualification is that a candidate must be the husband of only one wife. For some people, that stipulation disqualifies a man who has been divorced and remarried. However, others might accept a man who has remarried because he was married to only one woman at a time. I wish Paul had been more definitive, but he wasn’t. It appears to me that the only way a congregation can properly vet an elder or deacon candidate is for him to inform the membership if he has ever been divorced and remarried. It will then be up to individuals to accept or reject the candidate.

November 21, 2008

Impressions

My 5 year-old grandson was one of only three students in his kindergarten class to be able to write his name in cursive. Pulling his practice sheet from his backpack David said, “You are going to be soooo impressed!” Well, yes I was…and I know exactly how David feels. Whenever I walk away from a temptation, stop a sin in progress or turn the other cheek I have the same desire to tell God, ‘You are going to be soooo impressed!’

November 20, 2008

Mum's the Word

More and more I’m finding myself at meetings where I’m told things that must remain confidential, or that only half of the story can be told. There’s on going investigations, code names for prospective companies or contracts that are being negotiated. I can’t make casual conversation about situations without first stopping to think, ‘Did that conversation take place behind closed doors, or am I at liberty to discuss it openly?’ I laughingly tell people that I probably know just enough information to be dangerous. I do find that I have a whole new appreciation for those who ask for confidentiality and for those who can keep a confidence. On numerous occasions Jesus said, “See that you don’t tell anyone… See that no one knows about this. [Jesus]…warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” Certainly Jesus’ ministry was affected by those who kept a confidence…and by those who did not.

November 19, 2008

Comb-Over

Awhile back I attend a meeting and was seated behind a man who tried to cover his bald head by wearing his hair in a comb-over. Now this wasn’t your normal comb-over. Rather than combing long hair from one side of the head to the other, this comb-over started from the nape of the neck and swept up and over to his forehead. His sparse hair must have been over seven inches long and I couldn’t help but think what the coiffure would like in the wind or the rain. I felt sorry for the man, not because he was bald, but because he is like so many of us. Often our effort to comb-over imperfections just draws more attention to the problem…and to our vanity.

November 18, 2008

Lame Duck

I can just imagine the mental picture that would form in the mind of a six year-old if you were to ask him to describe a lame duck. In politics we understand the President Bush is a lame duck because his presidency will soon end. Webster’s has another definition: one that is weak or that falls behind in ability or achievement. I’ve seen lame ducks in the church…not only that, I’ve been one. There is no doubt that if we neglect the study of the Word, even for a short time, we become weaker and fall behind in our Christian maturity.

November 17, 2008

Baal Worship

Picture this: Your pastor preaches the Sunday morning sermon while sitting on a bed and his challenge to the congregation is for married couples to have sex once a day, beginning today, for seven straight days in a row. Really, I can’t make this stuff up. The Dallas Morning News (Nov 16th) reported that Rev. Ed Young of Grapevine Fellowship Church, a Baptist church of 20,000 members, just preached such a sermon. Mr. Young thinks the ‘whoopee’ will take folks minds off all the problems in America. According to the article, a church in Florida also issued a 30-day sex challenge to its congregation earlier this year. Sort of reminds you of the worship of Baal, doesn’t it?

November 14, 2008

Kibitzing on the Side

Lately I’ve been attending a lot of meetings where, rather than being able to listen to what is taking place, I’m either hearing others carrying on their own conversations, or else someone is trying to engage me in a sidebar. It’s frustrating to hear the answer to a question when you haven’t even heard the question. As Jesus taught His disciples I think these guys were doing a lot of kibitzing on the side also. “Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” (John 16:17-18 NIV) Does anyone else find it strange that they’re looking to each other for the answers, rather than Jesus?

November 13, 2008

Salt of the Earth

I’ve heard it’s disrespectful to the hostess to salt your food before you’ve even tasted it. Most of those in my family are salt-a-holics and unless the cook warns us that a particular dish is salty, we salt before we eat. One time while at my mother-in-law’s for dinner we kept passing the salt shaker back and forth and still the food was blah. Almost apologetically I commented that I didn’t think I’ve ever used so much salt. “Oh,” she said, “I’m using a salt-substitute now.” I know that Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13), but I think I may have encountered a few salt-substitutes in the church shaker.

November 12, 2008

White Knuckling It

Regardless of the travel warnings, the first winter storm of the year always catches motorists off guard. On a trip to Denver last week vehicles were stuck in snow banks, overturned in ditches, and jack-knifed in the middle of the road. In real-time one small car going in the opposite direction lost traction and fishtailed into my lane of traffic. The Fed-Ex delivery truck in front of me clipped his rear quarter-panel sending him through the air and over an embankment. As cars were stopping to help, the situation had all the makings of an impromptu demolition derby, so I just dodged the debris and continued on my way. Going over Monarch Pass the visibility was so bad that even though I was snuggled up to the bumper of a semi-truck, there were times I couldn’t see him or his hazard lights. Once out of the storm I loosened my grip on the steering wheel and got the circulation back into my fingers. There’s no need to tell you that I talked at length with God…

November 11, 2008

Veteran’s Day Blasé

I’ve served in both the US Navy and the Army National Guard. For those of us who have served in the military, Veteran’s Day is an important day of remembrance. However some people, who’ve not been personally touched by war or by service, are often blasé about honoring those who keep our nation free. I think the same can be said of some believers. Often those who’ve suffered for the faith or have been lifted from the depths of sin are to me, more deeply affected by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Whether it’s Veteran’s Day or the Communion Table, both give us an opportunity of remembrance.

November 10, 2008

New Comment

Kris posted a comment on the blog ‘Class Act’ and I had to go all the way back to February 8, 2008 to see what ‘Class Act’ was about. Kris, welcome to the conversation. Gail

Free at Last

I’ve mentioned before that over the years all my volunteer hours were given to the church, or occasionally to some other faith based endeavor. I look back with a certain amount of satisfaction knowing I’ve contributed to the Kingdom and the strengthening of the church. However, in recent months I’ve been serving in the world of politics and I’m no longer surrounded by fellow believers. While I miss the comfort and security of working with those of like precious faith, I think the Holy Spirit within me has a different perspective. All these years, rather than taking Spirit out into the world, I’ve kept Him confined to serving in the church. I can just imagine Him saying, “Free at last, Free at last…”

November 07, 2008

Happy Martyr

At time or another we’ve all probably played the role of a martyr…even if no where else but in our own mind. As believers we may think we’ve suffered persecution, but few of us can claim to have suffered as did Paul. I find it fascinating and also hard to grasp, that Paul’s suffering actually brought him joy, delight and rejoicing. I could understand it if Paul rejoiced as he reflected on what he’d gone through, but he was actually rejoicing during his suffering. Now I know that I too will rejoice in suffering for the cause of Christ…you just might not see it until I get to heaven.

November 06, 2008

Capacity

A couple weeks ago at church I was lamenting about our lack of space and said I hated to invite people because there might not be any place for them to sit. A fellow member gently chided, “Oh no, don’t let that hold you back. Some of the rest of us will just stand up if we need to.” Of course he was correct. However, as one who helps get people seated, I’ve seen people leave, or feel they should leave, just because they can’t easily find a seat. Every Sunday I find myself breathing a sigh of relief once everyone is seated. What is so interesting about this situation is that when some of the regulars are absent, there are visitors taking their place, so the facility is almost always maxed out. It sort of reminds me of the widow of Zarephath who, having run out of flour and oil and was preparing to starve to death. Through the prophet Elijah God said, “…The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.” (1 Kings 17:14 NIV) I’m assuming we will not run out of seating and that God will provide us a larger facility…all before the Fire Marshall declares we’ve reached capacity.

November 05, 2008

Treadmill

A friend came up to me while I was on the treadmill last week and while focusing on her, my left foot jumped the track and I biffed it. Note to self: Don’t try to hang on to the side bars when you can’t get your feet under you. At the encouragement of others, the next time I got on the treadmill I clipped the emergency stop button to my shirt. Things were going well until my hand accidently hit the cord and the machine stopped cold in mid-stride. Once again I grabbed the side bars. Thankfully, rather than doing a face plant, I was able to gain my footing. You know, I sometimes feel like I’m on a spiritual treadmill…and the angels are having a knee-slapping good time watching my re-runs on Heaven’s Funniest Home Videos.

November 04, 2008

Election Day

Many of us took advantage of Colorado’s early voting and mail-in ballots. However, there are pitfalls associated with early voting. A few days ago I heard of a woman who lamented, “I think I voted for the wrong man.” Reflecting on the choice between Barabbas and Jesus, some of those standing at the foot of the cross came to that same realization.

November 03, 2008

Uneducated By Choice

In describing American demographics one TV commentator observed that there are some folks who are ‘uneducated by choice’. I shrug my shoulders in agreement…it is their choice. However, when I see the same thing happening in the church I squirm. It’s hard for me to understand those who chose to be Biblically uneducated. Apparently some people are just satisfied with whatever level of Christian maturity they can get through osmosis. I suppose that rather than trying to understand them, maybe here too I should be shrugging my shoulders and saying, ‘It’s their choice’.

October 31, 2008

Forcefully Advancing

Occasionally we’ll hear reports about how successfully the gospel is spreading in China, Korea or on some other foreign soil. It’s hard to grasp a global view of the kingdom of heaven in comparison to what we see in our local community, city or state. Not that the gospel isn’t spreading in America, but I can’t say we’re hearing anything about a spiritual revival sweeping the nation. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see what Jesus sees. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Matt 11:12 NIV)

October 30, 2008

Pulse of the Church

Even though we’re one body in Christ, the blood pressure of individual churches varies. From the outside looking in, it appears that some of our local churches are clotting, while others are bleeding out. Many people think their church has a strong heart beat, when in reality, it maybe just their membership bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball from one congregation to another. Aren’t we all guilty of diagnosing the health of our churches by the number of people who attend? You’ve got to admit it’s a weird way to measure the Holy Spirit.

October 29, 2008

Spread the Wealth

The early church had its own version of ‘spreading the wealth’ (Acts 2:45, 4:35). Folks with resources occasionally sold what they had and gave the money to the Apostles for distribution to those in need. “There were no needy persons among them.” I’m glad this account is written down because it seems so foreign to the world we live in today. Now-a-days when someone has a crisis donations are sought, fund raisers planned and bank accounts opened for contributions. It does seem as though the church has turned over her needy to the community and the government.

October 28, 2008

Friends Forever

I recently attended a drug task force symposium on methamphetamine. Discussing the intervention process, one speaker said, “We’re taking away their best friend. We need to replace that [lost friendship] with good living, eating and resting.” It seems to me that something similar could be said about all of us before we became believers. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, God begins taking away our best friend –the sinful nature…and replacing it with our New Best Friend, the Holy Spirit.

October 27, 2008

Before and After

You wouldn’t think that a photo would also show the before and after of our spiritual life, but I think they do. Many a snapshot of holiday meals, high school antics and long-ago romantic interests contain shades of gluttony, idolatry, greed and lust…a fact that kids using Face Book seems to be forgetting now-a-days. It sure makes me glad that the Lord isn’t into scrapbooking.

October 24, 2008

Catching Up

When I come home from a trip, even a short trip, it can take days to get caught up on the mail, newspapers and laundry. I think when we’ve distanced ourselves from the Lord (or from the church for that matter) for any length of time, we also have some catching up to do. Although it’s easy to fall back into the waiting arms of the Lord, we’re still faced with re-establishing that personal relationship. We rarely pick up where we left off in the relationship…and I find that exciting. It’s often that catching up that opens our eyes and gives us a better perspective of God’s will.

October 23, 2008

Votes

A few years ago I heard a church leader say, “Your tithe is not a vote.” I’ve also heard the opposite view from an 85 year-old life-long believer who said, “In the church we can vote with our feet as well as our wallet.” At one time or another we’ve probably all had cause to think about withholding a tithe. When I see the church being poor stewards of the offerings that have been collected, I feel my tithe taking on the characteristics of a vote. I’ve discovered that if I give my tithe, for a time, to a benevolent organization other than the church, then my tithe no longer becomes a vote.

October 22, 2008

Captivity

My friend John, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. Recently I reminisced with John’s widow about his love for politics and we both agreed that if he hadn’t already gone to be with the Lord this current election would have sent him to the grave. Regardless of which way this election goes, it’s pretty much assured that those from the losing political party will feel like God has just sent them into captivity. But it’s OK, “He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go…This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” (Rev 13:9-10 NIV)

October 21, 2008

Potter's Wheel

Retirement can be hard on everyone, but I think it’s especially difficult for preachers. Today’s congregations don’t want older ministers in the pulpit on a weekly basis and yet how do ministers stop doing what they’ve done their whole life. I think it would be similar to a prophet being told he was being replaced and would no longer be prophesying. However all of us, regardless of our gifts of service or how long we’ve been serving, are still clay in the Potter’s hands. The Lord retains the right to remake and reshape us for different areas of service. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we find ourselves back on the Potter’s wheel.

October 20, 2008

Uninvited

Last Sunday my previous church held its 100th Birthday celebration and past ministers came from far and wide came to take part in the reunion. Noticeably absent from the presentations were some of the past ministers and staff who are living right here in the community…word has it they weren’t invited to participate. From the outside looking in, it appears to be a deliberate snub. I must say it’s an unflattering picture for Christians who are mandated to set aside differences of opinion on disputable matters. 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)

October 17, 2008

Coupon

When I get a store coupon or a gift certificate I don’t run right out and spend it. Normally I wait to redeem it until there is something I really want to buy or I try to maximize it by waiting for a sale. The problem is I then forget that I have the coupon. I just noticed that I have one such coupon clipped to the side of the refrigerator with an expiration date of June 2007. A few of my family members treat Jesus the same way that I treat my coupons. They think they have all the time in the world to take advantage of His gift of Salvation…what they don’t understand is that they are the ones with the expiration date.

October 16, 2008

Out With the Old

I’m getting ready for new carpet this week and right now my house is turned upside down and inside out. It’s been a challenge to relocate four rooms of furniture. As a last resort I stacked it on the deck and covered it with a tarp. I would have preferred doing one room at a time, but in order to stay out of the carpet layers way, all the old carpet needs to be removed before the new could be brought in. It sort of reminds me of becoming a believer. The Lord wants to make us new all at once and we only want to change our heart one room at a time.

October 15, 2008

Economic Crisis

It’s apparent that no one fully understands the economic crisis we are now experiencing. Most of us are thinking in terms of businesses and individuals losing money, however many of our churches too have been active in the investment arena. It’s entirely possible that the leaders of wealthy churches are sweating bullets over losses in their unsecured funds. I can’t say I have much sympathy. Scripture is very plain about storing up treasures on earth. It should come as no surprise if God decides to tear down the storehouses of wealthy churches through this economic crisis.

October 14, 2008

Be Happy

Frustrated by his independent fiancé, a middle aged man said, “Darn it! If you’d just do what I tell you to do you would be happy.” Even Paul in his discourse on marriage and remarriage said it was his judgment of a widow that “…she is happier if she stays as she is…” (1 Cor 7:40) It’s interesting that in our human nature we think we know what will make another person happy. The reality is that happiness can be so fleeting that from one year to the next even we don’t know what makes us happy.

October 10, 2008

Threats

A while back a recall petition was being circulated in our community. Soon after petitioners began getting signatures it was announced by the opposition that the names of all those signing the petitions would be published in the press. Although I never did see a published list of those who signed, I suspect that the threat had an impact on potential signers. We see a similar situation in the early church and many believers found themselves under the threat of being put out of the synagogue. Scripture’s formula on dealing with intimidation shows us examples of both standing-up-against and running-away-from threats. Our reaction should probably be more a matter of just listening to the Spirit…sometimes I think He wants to see if our fight or flight instinct will kick in.

October 09, 2008

Spotlights

When my grandson was three years old he loved playing with a flashlight. Shining his light on books and toys his sparkling eyes said, ‘Look at this!’ Or in the dark pantry he’d search out the Spaghettios he wanted for lunch. Stuffing the flashlight up his shirt he’d giggle as the spot of light traveled across his chest. In a manner of speaking we adults also play with flashlights, however our tendency is to spotlight ourselves. We’ll shine a light on the work of our hands to impress others and ask leading questions to highlight our latest interest. Maybe we need to get in touch with our inner-child and remember to shine our light before men…not on men.

October 08, 2008

Hush and Shush

During worship services the parents of a young toddler tried to keep him from speaking too loudly. The imp told his mom, “Don’t shush me mama. I don’t like to shush.” I know the feeling. When those of us in the pew make too much noise we’re told by the leadership to hush. On those occasions when I’ve been told to shush, I take courage in the Lord’s words to Paul, “…Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10 NIV)

October 07, 2008

Blind Spot

Last Sunday I lent a shoulder to an elderly woman as she wept. Amidst the tears she choked, “Thanks for listening to me.” Her outpouring of grief began as she signed her name to a transfer of membership to our new church. At her previous church, she’d been convinced by the leadership that as an ‘older person’, she should bow down to the (perceived) needs of the younger generation. Struggling to put it in perspective she said, “It just hurts so much to leave my friends…I’ve been going to that church since the 1950’s…I don’t want to leave, but I know the preaching and the message here [new church] is what I need to hear.” In one way or another we all have a blind spot…thankfully the Lord is still in the business of opening the eyes of the blind.

October 06, 2008

What to Wear

Right now the golden Aspen trees on the surrounding mountains are spectacular. Yesterday while visiting a friend’s cabin however, it wasn’t the groves of Aspen that drew my attention, but rather it was the pine and lush spruce trees. With the help of a gentle breeze, the shedding Aspens had sprinkled all the evergreen trees with leaves of gold. In every direction there were what appeared to be old fashioned Christmas trees adorned with big yellow tear-dropped light bulbs. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:30 NIV)

October 03, 2008

In the Mood

I was coming out of the fitness center as a woman I’m acquainted with was going in. In greeting I asked her how she was doing and unenthusiastically she said, “I’m trying to get in the mood [to exercise].” I can identify. There are times when I feel the same way about some of our brotherly-love responsibilities. Have you noticed that the do-unto-others command gives no consideration as to whether or not we are in the mood? I suppose, like Paul, there are times that we all have to “beat our body and make it a slave’ so that we won’t be disqualified from the prize. (1 Cor 9:27)

October 02, 2008

Indignant

I’m getting more and more tweaked about modern Bible translations. In a book on how to choose a Bible the author lists the reading level of some versions this way: fifth grade level, CEV and The Message; sixth grade level, NLT; seventh grade level, NIV, NKJV, NRSV; tenth grade, NASB; twelfth grade, KJV. Now I realize that part of the motivation for putting the text in contemporary language is an attempt to entice those outside the church to read Scripture. But the truth is that Scripture was meant for believers, those inside the church. You certainly wouldn’t catch national magazines and newspapers risk losing educated subscribers by lowering the reading level to attract new readers. For many years my Sword of choice has been the NIV. While I’m not frothing at the bit to return to my old King James Version, neither do I want to remain solely with a translation that doesn’t move me beyond the seventh grade reading level.

October 01, 2008

Searching for Nourishment

It’s amazing how far tree roots will travel to find their way into the fertilizing properties of the nearest sewer line. There was a time when, within the confines of our individual churches, the search for spiritual nourishment led us to a particular pastor, Sunday School teacher or Bible study leader. It appears to me that the religious landscape has changed. Not only are folks looking for nourishment outside their own church, but they are unhindered in telling others about what they are finding. It sort of reminds me of the woman at the well who, recognizing the possibility that Jesus was the Christ went back to fellow townspeople and told them about what she discovered.

September 30, 2008

Bailout

The media is repeating what politicians in Washington are saying, ‘that the economic crisis is so complicated and multifaceted that it can’t be explained and that most of us can’t understand it’. This seems similar to the one-time platform of the Catholic Church concerning Scripture – that the average man can’t be expected to understand the Word of God, hence the need for a priest to interpret. I’m learning that the prefaces of new Bible translations are actually telling us the same thing. In one sense Bible translators have taken the place of priests. They have convinced today’s reading public that not only is the Bible difficult to understand, it is beyond our comprehension unless they (the translators and interpreters) tell us what they think it says. How offensive is it that leaders/publishers in the religious community, as well as those in the government, presume our ignorance.

September 29, 2008

Nattering

I, along with the help of other family members, have had the grandkids (ages five and three) for 15 days while their parents are on a cruise. Did I mention it’s been 15 days? Lydia, the three-year-old is very articulate and she hasn’t stopped talking since her parents left. She just natters all the time. While with me I’ve taught her how to take a shower (rather than a bubble bath), how to bake muffins and how to wash dishes. In hind sight what I should have been trying to teach her is, Be still, and know that He is God… (Ps 46:10)

September 26, 2008

Obedience

I see fellow believers who know the Word, but seemingly pick and choose which Scripture they chose to obey. I’m not talking about those Scriptures that are shades of gray, but rather those that are so black and white no one can misinterpret them. It’s easy to apply a little righteous indignation toward ‘those who ought to know better’…all in the name of maturity of course. And then I hear Jesus say, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47 NIV) Certainly if Jesus isn’t judging their obedience, then neither should I.

September 25, 2008

Old Friends

It’s been interesting to watch our new start-up church take shape. Even though we don’t have a permanent building, furnishing and equipment are starting to appear. The most recent donations are a hand crafted communion table and both the American and Christian flags, each on a free standing pole. I find it significant that these particular items are ones that the leadership in my previous church, in an effort to contemporize the church, removed from the congregation. For me there is something very comforting in seeing these symbols of tradition return to their place of prominence, it’s certainly worth the effort and inconvenience to bring them back and forth each week.

September 24, 2008

Décor

My friend Rick drools over the full set of Harvard Classics majestically sitting on my bookshelves. Gold lettering identifying the book’s contents gleams on the red spine of each pristine book – they’re pristine because they’ve never been read. Much to Rick’s chagrin, my interest in these particular books is strictly for décor. They just really look good on the shelf. Sometimes when I’ve grown weary of one particular element of Christian service the thought has crossed my mind to treat it like a trophy. I’d like to just set it on a shelf, admire it and polish it up once in awhile when I walk by.

September 23, 2008

TMI (Too Much Information)

I recently met a man who mentioned he’d gone to Seminary. I asked about his denominational background he told me that as a Lutheran he was first a liberal and then conservative, however he’s now back to being a liberal. He currently attends two churches, one of which is located in the metropolitan area. When I failed to react to the acronym for his downtown church he explained it was a gay church. I find it interesting that he forced the conversation down this path, even though I was just making conversation. I’m still wondering exactly what it he was looking for from me - was he wanting validation or rejection. Clearly, having gone to Seminary doesn’t disqualify one from being an infant, “…tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14 NIV)

September 22, 2008

New Language

Lately I’ve been reading about Bible translations. It hadn’t occurred to me that, similar to the way today’s churches target their audience, publishers of Bibles are also targeting their audience. Until the mid-twentieth century the preferred name for new translations was revised. In 1970 everything became new – New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version. I see why Scripture memorization is neither emphasized or encouraged in today’s church…we no longer have the same vocabulary.

September 19, 2008

Passing By

One young mother told me, “I had an abusive husband and for my own protection the police told me I needed to get out of town. I had money and no where to turn, so I turned to the church I’d attended all my life…and they [the leaders] turned away my request for help.” An older lady shared, “More than once when my husband was dying I asked the preacher to come by. He never did.” Certainly there may be another side to their stories, however their rejection and pain is real. In the parable of the Good Samaritan some of us can identify better with the victim, than we can with anyone else. Often requests and needs, filtered through the church office, never reach the congregational level. Consequently, who hasn’t felt that it’s our leaders and preachers who are sometimes passing us by on the other side of the road?

September 18, 2008

Are You Sure?

Last weekend a young lady stood at my front door saying, “I’m an XYZ supporter and I’d just like to ask you if you’ve made up your mind about who you’re going to vote for in November.” I told her I’d be voting for ABC and crest fallen she said, “Oh, are you sure?” Bless her heart. One of the biggest weaknesses believers have is the fact that we’re not sure of ourselves - whether it’s being sure of our salvation or being sure of our Scriptural knowledge. Of course we sabotage each other by expecting the other guy to prove himself to us. I suppose because of our human nature we come by it naturally. Even when Jesus told the disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV), they were saying, ‘Oh, are you sure?’ (vs. 5 & 8)

September 17, 2008

Courtesy

I just watched a snippet of Secondhand Lions (2003) on TV. In a scene at the general store, four young-adult bullies strut in and pick a fight with old timer Hub, played by Robert Duvall. Turning his attention away from the bullies, yet speaking so they can hear, Hub tells his brother and young nephew, ‘[The problem is] everyone’s always been too courteous to stand up to these boys.’ A scuffle ensues and taking on all four punks at once, Hub teaches them a lesson. Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘courteous’ as: general allowance despite facts. I think we believers are often guilty of being too courteous when we fail to stand up to bullies in the church. Oh, we may do pretty good in a one on one situation, but let someone forcefully put an issue before a Sunday school class, a Bible Study or the congregation and all a sudden we’re uncomfortable and don’t want a confrontation. Case in point, when was the last time you saw someone of Hub’s character in action in the church?

September 16, 2008

Fruitless

Figuratively speaking, there may be little difference between a Christian and a fig tree. Like the fig tree, believers are expected to bare fruit in season. On his way to Jerusalem Jesus encountered a fruitless fig tree and speaking to the tree he said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”(Mark 11:14 NIV) Quite honestly, there are times in our Christian walk when we’ve shown no evidence of fruit. How devastating would it be for Jesus to say to us, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from YOU again.

September 15, 2008

Pillars

Aside from Christ, the focus of our new start-up church is on establishing leadership and membership, rather than focusing on mission statements such as, ‘seek the seekers or disciple the disciples’. With few exceptions, all our attendees are seasoned believers and I’ve gotta tell you, it feels very surreal. Now I know we are to reach out to the lost, but I’ve got to confess…it is pure joy to be in worship surrounded by such pillars of faith. Seriously, we’re talking about a really mature Spirit here. I think this may be as close as it gets to being “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (Heb 12:1) at least on this earthly plane.

September 12, 2008

His Will

When I was drowning in the turmoil at my previous church I used any number of prayer combinations asking God to open the eyes of our leaders. A friend recently told me that for years her prayer during that time was always, ‘God, what is your will for this church?’ God never answered. One day in total surrender she prayed “God, what is your will for me [in this situation]?” Without hesitation God answered her prayer and opened her eyes with understanding. Who would have thought the answer could be so simple…some of us are just asking the wrong questions!

September 11, 2008

You're Invited

Leaving no stone unturned, politicians are desperate and impassioned for our vote. Rather than an irritation, I think the next couple of months can be an education in motivational techniques. For instance, if believers were as zealous in witnessing as politicians are for getting our vote, the impact on the church would be huge. I include myself when I say that many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking that if we simply invite someone to church we are somehow ‘witnessing’ for the Lord. Really, can you imagine the response of the Ninevites if, rather than being told to ‘repent’, Jonah had merely said, “If you don’t have a home church, you’re invited to worship with us in Gath Hepher.”

September 10, 2008

Sweat Equity

Webster’s defines ‘sweat equity’ as: equity in a property resulting from labor invested in improvements that increase its value. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked that the cup might be taken from him if it were God’s will. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 NIV) Truly Jesus has sweat equity in those of us who call him Lord and Savior.

September 09, 2008

Watered Down

I have friends who for years have been faithful supporters of various Bible colleges. Over the last few years however, that has changed. Being good stewards of their resources and seeing the caliber of graduates coming out of today’s Bible colleges, they have withdrawn their financial support. It never crossed my mind that some of the problems the church is experiencing are the result of Bible colleges presenting watered down theology to their students. Many of us need to start rightly dividing the truth for ourselves rather than expecting (and accepting) the seminary graduate in the pulpit to do it for us.

September 08, 2008

Reply To All

In my email correspondence I’ve never developed the habit of sending one message to multiple people. When I’ve respond to an email in my inbox, I’ve make it a point to reply only to the sender. In the last few months however, that has changed. I now find myself in many situations where, in order to keep everyone in the loop, I have to use the ‘reply to all’ function. I thought I was finally getting the hang of it but just a few days ago I accidently sent a ‘reply to all’ and then cringed when I realized I should have been more selective in the addressees. It takes skill and focus to reveal information at the right time, in the right place and to the right people. During his ministry Jesus often told folks to keep his identity secret because his time had not yet come. What a relief when he finally allowed his followers to Reply To All.

September 05, 2008

Hard Copy

I don’t mind reading something off the computer screen, but if I really need to digest it, I print off a hard copy. I like being able to pick up a document and put it down, make notations and use a highlighter. To me there’s something more valuable and trustworthy about a document that I can hold onto as opposed to hear-say. When Moses came back down off Mount Sinai, the Israelites didn’t have to worry about whether or not he remembered the Ten Commandments correctly, because he had the stone tablets. Now, that’s what I call a really hard copy.

September 04, 2008

Memo: To The Angel...

It’s easy to get bogged down in the imagery of Revelation and I always feel a sense of relief when I come to a portion that can be clearly understood. The letters to the seven churches are pretty straight forward. We may not be able to specifically point to one of the churches and say it’s a representation of our church, but I dare say we have all seen and are aware of the collective pros and cons mentioned by John. If John had a Revelation for today’s church, I suppose he might say ‘to the angel of the church of the Methodists write…, or to the angel of the church of the Episcopalians write…’. However, critiques of any church are much more personal. Just as Jesus knows the heart of an individual, He knows the heart of a church. For us, with a general understanding of our own congregation, how would we complete this thought, “To the angel of the church that I attend write:...”?

September 03, 2008

Sarah and Goliath

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is no ‘David’. I just happen to love stories of a David and Goliath nature. I think it’s going to be exciting to see a relatively novice elected official going up against the Political Establishment Goliath. It’s reported that Palin and McCain had met only twice and yet Sarah accepted the VP invitation, got on an airplane and jumped into the challenge. While many folks are questioning her lack of experience, her ability to maintain a family life with five kids and being able to serve in the second highest elected position in the land…I think God is smiling, He loves to see leaps of faith. Often we believers know that the Lord is behind us whispering ‘fear not’, but many of us fail to step out of our comfort zone, grab a sling and pick up a few rocks.

September 02, 2008

School Days

Gregg tried to get his son to tell him about the first day of kindergarten, but every time he asked a question five-year old Jason was evasive and noncommittal. After about the third question Jason finally told his dad, “I really don’t need to go to school anymore. I already know everything they talked about.” Ah yes. We believers too have been known to think like a kindergartner. We’ve attended church for years; we can re-tell the stories of Moses, Jonah and Noah and we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We already know everything the preacher is going to talk about. Of course, it only takes a few trials and tribulations to prove we really don’t know anything…much less everything.

September 01, 2008

Labor Day

“… you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58 NIVb)

August 29, 2008

Who's Words?

Today’s sermons are intertwined with video clips, anecdotes and quotes of men…all of which, in theory, are meant to enhance or compliment the message. Sometimes when the sermon is especially convicting we’ll say, “That really hit home. It felt like the preacher was talking straight to me.” When we hear a powerful sermon we realize that the Spirit has a hand in it, however we also compliment the preacher on his skill as a writer and speaker. In speaking to the Thessalonians Paul says, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God,….” (1 Thess 2:13 NIV) When was the last time you heard a sermon where your mind registered it was actually the word of God, and not the word of man?

August 28, 2008

Taking a Congregation's Pulse

There are still a few older congregations around who maintain the wooden announcement boards that hang in the foyer or the sanctuary. Each week the board reports the prior week’s worship attendance, offering and Sunday School attendance. I love those boards. Reading the vital statistics of a church is like looking at the medical chart of a patient. I think you begin to feel the pulse of a congregation when you see their attendance and their offerings. Many churches began abandoning the public display of statistics in favor of putting such information in the weekly bulletin. It wasn’t long before the information was removed from the bulletin and lumped together in the monthly newsletter. Some churches have now quit reporting statistics all together and apparently congregations don’t mind. I guess if your attendance is in the thousands and the offering in the hundreds of thousands it could be hard to take a pulse…and it would take a really big board.

August 27, 2008

Always Learning

Much of my Grandma’s life was spent in rural southeastern Colorado on a ranch she and Granddad homesteaded. Neighbors were few and far between but a handful of folks gathered each Sunday in the community one room schoolhouse for church. Grandma, a self-taught and life-long student of the Bible, was the teacher/leader of the group – that is unless there happened to be a visiting circuit preacher in the neighborhood. When Grandma was nearing the end of her life she was confined to a nursing home and wasn’t often alert or coherent. I decided that reading Scripture aloud to her might cut through the fog and bring her a measure of comfort and peace. One day while reading in the book of John she stopped me and asked, “Now what do you suppose he means by that?” OK I thought, was she being the consummate Bible student to her last breath, or was she in her teacher mode and testing my knowledge of the Word? Having learned from the best I said, “Well Grandma, I’m not sure. Tell me what you think?”

August 26, 2008

Ordinary People

In a newspaper or magazine I always read the Letters-to-the-Editor. Both Guideposts and World are Christian magazines, yet they each get entirely different feedback from their readers. Comments written to Guideposts are always sweet and subscribers never so much as raise their voice. A reader of World magazine however, can become so incensed over a movie review that he’ll cancel his subscription. I appreciate both types of writers who’ve taken the time to expose their feelings and express their opinion. In church, people have often told me that they feel unqualified to speak up on issues because they don’t know their Bible very well. They think others may not consider their opinion credible just because they can’t supply a Bible verse. We sometimes forget that, with the exception of Paul, all the disciples were ‘unschooled, ordinary men’. I think its safe say that the disciples didn’t know their Scriptures very well…but they didn’t let that hold them back.

August 25, 2008

The Not-So-Good Old Days

Rather than a reunion, my high school class just had a 60th Birthday party, cake and all. We didn’t have a designated MC, but one classmate decided we should pass the microphone around and each of us should tell what we enjoyed or liked about being a member of the Class of ’66. I quickly searched my deteriorating memory banks and discovered I could recall more things I disliked than those I enjoyed. There were pimples, feeling like a wall flower and being a poor academic student. As the microphone was handed to me, I didn’t want to go back and talk about the ‘good old days’. I have the same discomfort when it comes to discussing my pre-Christian days, or the side trips I took after becoming a Christian. I envy those who can honestly and freely share their Christian shortcomings and stumbles. They have a tremendous witness.

August 24, 2008

Let's Discuss

The new comments and questions on Bandwagon (August 15th) should give us some interesting discussion.

August 22, 2008

Gigachurches

I’ve naively thought that the megachurch was as big as it gets. Now I’m reading about the gigachurch – churches with nationwide video outlets of more than 100,000 followers. TV evangelists have long competed for the stay-at-home believer’s support, but I have a feeling we haven’t seen anything yet. Can you imagine the celebrity preachers of all theses gigachurches competing for the viewer’s, time, money and undivided loyalty? No doubt one of these ministers will rise to the top of the heap and be ‘greater’ than all the others. Already it’s reported that one of these preachers comes to his satellite congregation in the form of a life-sized, 3-D hologram. Left Behind here we come…

August 21, 2008

Patching the Leak

As a voter I find it frustrating that many of the initiatives put on ballots are combination wish lists. The thought process seems to be if you add on an issue that everyone can buy into, such as education, voters will give their approval. After all who could say no to supporting better education. A few years ago our church roof was leaking. Rather than just fixing the leak, the elders wanted to ask the congregation for permission to replace the entire aging-roof. The senior pastor at that time was relatively new to our community. He put forth the suggestion that they should approach the congregation to ask for a new roof and to refurbish the gym floor with a cushioned surface. (It should be noted that the preacher’s son and a couple of the church leaders were really, really into basketball.) When others questioned the preacher’s reasoning he said, “We’ll, the gym floor is for the benefit of the youth and we know the congregation won’t turn down any proposal if it’s for the youth.” Sometimes I’d just like to see us fix the leak...

August 20, 2008

Blacklisted

Lately with my email I’ve been dealing with failed mail. Apparently my email provider has been blacklisted by another provider. It appears that the only reasonable alternative is to keep my existing service and also get another email account with a different provider to handle the glitches. While it’s inconvenient, it’s not life threatening and I’m not going to take it personal. One reason it’s hard to get off a blacklist is because the keeper-of-the-list works so hard to keep it in effect. I’ve been blacklisted before, and much to the chagrin of church leaders, I’ve lived to tell about it. Actually, if we are honest, we all keep a list of one kind or another. We’re all going to be surprised when we try to hand the Lord our lists and find out He’s only interested in His own.

August 19, 2008

The Smell Test

Church membership was the topic of a recent sermon and our preacher interjected a cute illustration. “The stench inside the ark would have been unbearable if it weren’t for the storm outside.” What a great observation. We in the church are in the never ending process of cleaning up our attitudes and our actions. No matter how dirty, unsightly or smelly we are its better being in the church than it is out there in the world. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life…” (2 Cor 2:15-16a NIV)

August 18, 2008

Impromptu

I’m a member of Toastmasters so when I watched the recent Presidential ‘debate’ held at Saddleback Church, I did so with a critiquing eye. I actually thought Pastor Rick Warren did a good job as a facilitator. The candidates however, were at times driving me nuts. Senator Obama gets rave reviews for his prepared speeches, but it was painful listening to him field questions that called for an impromptu response. I think he had almost more ‘and, ahs and ums’ than he had clearly stated positions. McCain was more decisive and fared some what better, however he used the phrase “my friends” so often that I felt it also fell in the category of ‘and, ahs and ums’. Believers often find themselves searching for the right words, especially when we we’re in a witnessing situation. In a short period of time we’re trying to collect our thoughts, make an impression and do it all without making a slip of the tongue or offending the listener. Paul has a great solution for all speakers and communicators - “…be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim 4:2b NIV)

August 15, 2008

Bandwagon

Richard Lederer, Ph.D. is an expert in the origin of words. In a recent Toastmaster article he defined ‘bandwagons’, “… [they are] high wagons large enough to hold a band of musicians. Early bandwagons were horse-drawn through the streets in order to publicize an upcoming event. Political candidates would ride a bandwagon through a town, and those who wished to show their support would ‘hop [or climb] on the bandwagon.” My previous church developed their own set of rules for riding their bandwagon. A few years ago when Bill (my husband) submitted his name as an elder candidate, he was rejected. Even though he’d served positions of both a deacon and an elder for many years, this time he was told he’d not be put on the ballot as a candidate…unless he was first willing to ‘get on board’ with the current leadership’s programs. Some wagons just aren’t worth hopping on.

August 14, 2008

Serving God or Your Brother...

In Christian publishing occasionally a wanna-be-published writer will submit his work to an editor with the caveat, ‘God told me to write this book. He gave me the words to say and it’s perfect’. Editors tactfully back away from such a manuscript because they aren’t about to edit God’s work. Similarly, in recent years one of the phrases I keep hearing from church leaders is, ‘we [elders] serve God’. You’ve got to admit that that phrase is a great conversation stopper for anyone questioning the direction the church is heading. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought when you serve others you are serving God. Paul brings our acts of serving into perspective when he says, “The God who made the world and everything in it… is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25 NIV)

August 13, 2008

Well Done...

When the doors of service were closed to me at my former church, I found a new niche in politics. I’ll admit it took awhile to emotionally wean myself away from serving in the church. However, God has faithfully sent encouragement my way. The morning after I was officially sworn into office I began my daily exercise regime by turning on my Scripture tape, which resumed from where it had left off the previous day. The narrator boldly said, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things…” (Matt 25:23 NIV) With my spirit soaring I finished my work out, returned home and then opened my Bible to take a closer look at the passage of Scripture. Let me confess that over the years I’ve measured my service in the church as being a sizable contribution to the Kingdom and yet, here’s Jesus saying I’ve been faithful with a few things. Now I’m nervous. What does it mean to be put in charge of many things?

August 12, 2008

The Basics

It’s sort of fun to watch a start-up church begin their worship services in humble circumstances. We don’t have hymnals, but we do have a small wicker basket for tithes and offerings. When we first began meeting a few months ago the worship sing-a-longs were made possible with slides shown on the wall and accompaniment came from a key board with no extra amplification. We’ve now gone high tech and a computer is connected to a flat screen TV to display songs, Scripture and quotes. Things have been going along nicely until the computer had a technical glitch on Sunday. Making a quick recovery the worship leaders picked out a few older familiar hymns that many, but not all of us, knew from memory. For the message the preacher had us to open our Bibles and read along. At the end of the message the preacher wanted to announce our closing song but the worship leader said, “Oh, you’ll all know this one.” Leading the congregation she began, “Jesus loves me this I know

August 11, 2008

This is a Test, Only a Test

I think we often underestimate the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This narrative is not just about the money, or cheating the church, or lying. And it’s more than just testing the Spirit…it is also about agreeing to test the Spirit. In modern times maybe we haven’t witnessed someone dropping dead from testing the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean that testing hasn’t been occurring. Even today there are things happening amongst us that occurs with the full knowledge of more that one person. Conspiracies can range from covering up for pedophiles to understating collected tithes and offerings. Actually, I’m not so sure that there’s not some Spirit testing occurring in the area of today’s marketing strategies and church growth methods.

August 08, 2008

Entitlement

Whether it’s in the political, social or religious arena there are times we all feel a sense of entitlement. Even the disciples wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. By my own volition I do pretty well at putting the interests of others ahead of my own. However, all things being equal, when someone boldly puts their own interests ahead of mine, I don’t do as well. Maybe this is a hold over from elementary school when it seemed I was always picked last. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily want to be first, but if I’m as qualified or as deserving as others, why should I be last. Of course, there is the consolation that the first shall be last and the last shall be first…

August 07, 2008

No Reply

The last few days I’ve been getting emails from my cousin in Texas, but because of a glitch with my provider right now I’m unable to send a reply. Everything I send comes back as failed mail. Ken wrote, “You know if this were a conversation & not emailing, it would just be great.—Having a captive audience to talk to & they don’t get a chance to respond or take valuable time to express their thoughts or share what they know.” I hope Ken enjoys the moment, because eventually the glitch will get fixed and I will have my voice back. I sometimes treat the Lord like my own captive audience. I know He hears me, so I do all the talking. I can imagine the Spirit wanting to respond, express His thoughts and share with me…if I’d only let Him get a word in edgewise.

August 06, 2008

Ephphatha (which means Be Opened!)

When child abuse is discovered other family members in the home will often report, ‘I just didn’t see it.’ It runs through my mind that the victims might wonder, ‘did you really not see it or was it that you didn’t want to see it’? When I’ve pointed out errors, discrepancies and even sin in the church, some in the family of God respond, “I just don’t see it.” You’d think if we don’t see something that others are bringing to our attention that we would petition the Lord to open our eyes. Quite the contrary. It appears that believers think by declaring ‘I just don’t see it’ they are somehow relieved of any responsibility and obligation. When the Son of Man comes there are people who will still be feebly saying …‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison…?’…Matt 25:44a NIV

August 05, 2008

Superheroes

Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all appear to be normal human beings…until they put on their form fitting, crime stopping attire. I think believers too can appear like the average person on the street, until they put on the Full Amour of God (Eph 6:11). Even then however, those around them probably won’t recognize that the believer is dressed up and ready to fight the good fight. For me it actually seems easier to tell when someone isn’t wearing the armor of God than it is to tell when they are. It’s not that the armor is invisible, it’s just that I don’t look at others thinking, I wonder if he’s wearing the belt of truth under his jacket and is that the helmet of salvation tucked under his arm? I think I should be more observant when it comes to a fellow believer’s armor. Maybe if I started complimenting people on their armor just as I would if I noticed them wearing a new dress or jacket. Hey, great looking sword…Wow, that’s a shinny breastplate you’ve got there…, I’m sure Nike can’t compete with those nifty readiness shoes you’re wearing. Just for grins I think when I see the preacher next Sunday I’m gonna tell him he’s got a great looking helmet.

August 04, 2008

No Experience Necessary...or Wanted

During the middle to late 1970’s over 200,000 people were killed in Cambodia. The ruling Khmer Rouge targeted the educated and the professionals for elimination. Those left alive in the country were young uneducated peasants with limited or no leadership skills. Spiritually speaking, I see a similar thing happening in the church today. One of my friends was recently church shopping and after four weeks of visiting a particular church he had the feeling they really weren’t interested in ‘mature Christians’ placing membership in the church. Inquiring of the leadership he was told the church wasn’t looking for adult teachers. “We don’t encourage adult Sunday School because when people get started [in a class] they won’t leave. We don’t want them getting comfortable in a class for a couple of years, we want them out evangelizing.” It appears that the educated and mature members are systematically being eliminated and stopped and from teaching and leading...and it’s all being done in the name of evangelism.

August 01, 2008

County Fair

As a way of community support, our body of elected officials voted to buy a pig at the county fair, have it processed and donated the meat to a local kitchen charity. I thought it was a great idea until I learned that those with expertise in farm animals and auctions were all too busy to attend the sale. Now I know what to look for when buying a ham or pork chops in the grocery store, but I just can’t picture how a pig on the hoof will look once he’s in the package. I understand there are people available to help the novice bidder, however I’ve seen auctions before. People buy animals with the nod of the head, a scratch of the nose or a flick of a paddle. I’d be afraid to even twitch. Spiritually speaking, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Cor 12:4-6 NIV) I think the same can be said about natural gifts. I suppose I could learn how to judge and bid on a pig, but when others are already equipped with that gift, or service or working, I need to let them do their job!

July 31, 2008

Lasting Impressions

For many years my (previous) church sponsored a Boy Scout Troop. Once each year the Scouts would dress up in their uniforms and come to a worship service. Taking a moment before the message, the preacher had the Scouts stand up so the congregation could recognize them. In turn their spokesperson was given time to express their appreciation for the church support. Three or four years ago the troop leaders, Scouts and their families came for their yearly visit, however this time they sat through the whole service and the preacher never once acknowledged their ‘official visit’, much less introduced them. Oh, the preacher knew they’d be there, but he had decided he wouldn’t promote or support them, so he ignored them. Out of common courtesy you’d think the preacher could have, at the very least, told the Scout leaders of his decision ahead of time. I felt sorry for the kids and their families and I was embarrassed for the church. That day the church certainly made a lasting impression on those young minds.

July 30, 2008

Can't Take My Eyes Off of You...

One day a few months ago there was a striking grey haired gentleman working out at the fitness center, I’d never seen before, or since. His stature was similar to that of a six foot-plus tall Marine drill sergeant, perfectly overlaid with sculptured muscles. Most of us in the club were respectful enough not to gawk, however you couldn’t miss the stolen glances mixed with admiration and covetousness that were flying around the room. I can remember past years in the church where I could watch a few fellow believers with admiration and a little bit of covetousness. One person might have rock hard faith, another strong moral character and others possessed unwavering dedication to the Word. I know there are still people in the church with those same characteristics, but I don’t see them very often any more. Most of them have been relegated to the pew or the small group where they no longer have an opportunity to flex their spiritual muscles. I suppose it does keep the rest of us from gawking in admiration.

July 29, 2008

Nailed to the Cross

During last Sunday’s communion meditation the speaker reminded us that years ago our previous church presented the dramatic Passion Play. “At every rehearsal when it came time to nail Christ to the cross, tears would come to our eyes.” Simply hearing the speaker re-tell the event, I found myself swallowing to control the lump rising in my throat. I’ve heard hundreds of communion meditations over the years, but none has ever touched me so emotionally. I just can’t imagine actors/believers having to practice nailing Jesus to the cross over and over and over again.

July 28, 2008

When Did We See You...

I know of young terminally ill women who ask her girlfriend to join her on a girls-only mini vacation. In order to take the out-of-the-country trip, the girlfriend not only set aside her job and her own young family, she also incurred unbudgeted expenses. I also know of an older woman whose husband was terminal. She too had a request. She asked the preacher to come by the house and pray with her husband. The preacher told her no, and then he explained he was just too busy with his other duties to meet individually with people in their homes. It’s not hard to figure out which one, the girlfriend or the preacher, did the will of the Father. The busy preacher still stands in his pulpit, but the widow has left the church and very few people know why. It’s hard to believe that a minister would say he’s too busy to pray with a terminally ill patient…but then again, what do you expect when we congregants accept and tolerate such feeble excuses.

July 25, 2008

Demographics

Because the baby-boomers are retiring there is going to be a huge shift of demographics in our cities. For instance, many folks will not only be downsizing, but they will be looking for specific housing, no stairs, no yard maintenance, etc. Recently I attended a conference session where the speaker said, “The baby-boomers think there isn’t anything they can’t buy, and that’s going to change.” As though it was news to him, a voice from the back of the room said, “Wanna bet?!” Just as some baby-boomers may delude themselves into thinking their lives won’t ever change, I think many churches don’t understand that their demographics will also change. For awhile churches may be able to pull off focusing solely on youth or families, but eventually youth become adults and the family nests get emptied.

July 24, 2008

Coming Again

After an extended visit with his grandpa it was time to take five year-old Jared back home to his parents. On the way Grandpa Kenneth said, “We’re sure going to miss you.” Bewildered Jared said, “Why? I’m gonna be back.” When it was time for the Lord to return to the Father the disciples grappled with His impending absence. They weren’t ready for Him to leave. I can just hear Jesus saying, “Why? I’m gonna be back.”

July 23, 2008

GPS (Global Positioning System)

Although it’s not something I care much about, a GPS was part of the package in my new van. Recently on a short trip out of town I was driving while Bill played with the GPS. Programming in our destination, the female voice of the computer said, “Stay on this road for 16 miles.” When it was time to turn off the highway the voice said, “Turn left. In 750 feet turn right.” Because of construction on a side street I made a slight detour and at each successive intersection the computer was insistent that I make a right turn and get back on course. After six blocks she just gave up and quit talking to me. Finally, when I was able to get back on course, she decided to speak to me again and started giving me directions. Driving up in front of the house she said, “You’ve arrived at your destination.” I think that sounds like something Jesus might say when I finally get to heaven.

July 22, 2008

Speed Bump

Lately in a couple of sermons I’ve heard a contemporary preacher quoted that made me react negatively. As a listener, it was like traveling along a smooth highway and all of a sudden there was this huge speed bump. Oh, I like the quotes. They were good, correct and applicable to the message…I just don’t value the person being quoted. Parking my mind on the side of the road I thought, why was this guy invited into the Sunday morning sermon? I’ve been struggling to understand why I let my worship get derailed by the credit at the end of a quote. However, my personality is one that looks at the actions and motives of the person being quoted. I suppose if the quotes had been from someone who was dead there would be no need for me to question his motive.

July 21, 2008

Fantasy Meets Reality

When my (soon to be) three year-old granddaughter wants to emphasize words she uses sweeping arm movements, hand gestures and raises the tone of her voice a couple of octaves. Recently Lydia told me, “I’m really, really strong.” Of course I agreed with her. Finding support she then said, “I’m stronger than the Hulk.” Well yes sweetie, maybe you are. With great enthusiasm and feeling embolden she continued, “I’m stronger than God!” Yikes. If I’d just have stopped her exaggeration with the Hulk, maybe she wouldn’t have thought she could arm wrestle God and win. I think we in the church are often guilty of overlooking one another’s Hulkiness. Certainly we are to become more Christ like, however all of us, at one time or another, take it a step further and try to become godlike.

July 18, 2008

Hibernation

I was responding to an email on my computer when the screen went black for a moment and then it informed me it was preparing to hibernate. I wasn’t ready for the thing to take a nap, so I nudged it from its slumber and completed my reply. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes later that once again the computer told me it was preparing to hibernate. I think I’ve met some believers who share a striking resemblance to my computer. Over the years many talented, mature and servant qualified believers have joined my church, but their membership comes with the same caveat. Tired and burned out from their previous ministries, they just want to hibernate. So the question is, how long can one self-hibernate before you begin to lose the gifts that God has given you?

July 17, 2008

Be Ready

Because of her health issues my sister now lives with us. I find it interesting and some what maddening that in the morning she doesn’t get around, showered and dressed unless she has somewhere to go or someone is coming to visit. One day last week at 4:00 pm she said, “Well, it’s already so late in the day that I don’t see any point in getting showered and dressed.” It’s not that I care whether or not she lounges around in her comfies, but I’d like to take her with me when I run errands. The problem is that most of my shopping is not planned, it’s spur of the moment. I can’t wait for her to get dresses and put on her make-up if I need to make a quick run to Wal-Mart. I think my sister would fit right in with the five foolish virgins who didn’t think about oil for their lamps until it was time to light them. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matt 25:13 NIV

July 16, 2008

Stench

While visiting with folks before Sunday services began one of the ladies told me she’d gone fishing the day before. Putting her wiggling fingers up to her nose she said, “I didn’t catch anything, but I still have the smell of the bait on my hands.” I can relate. Sometimes, even though I’ve been forgiven, I can still carry around with me the stench of sin. The Lord may remember my sin no more, but for a time I remember it, those around me remember it and Satan certainly remembers it…and he’s in no hurry for the stench to fade away.

July 15, 2008

Ripple Effect

Last Sunday right after Communion had been served to the congregation, the servers were quietly restacking the trays when the top to one of them slipped off the table and cling-clanged to the floor. No doubt those who were just finishing their time of self-examination said a quick Amen so they could look up and see what was going on. Whispers of relief rippled from the front of the chapel and to the back with, “It’s the lid…It’s only the lid…It’s just the lid.” Translation: Thank goodness a tray of grape juice didn’t get spilled all over the light beige colored carpet. I love it when the body of Christ comes together in one thought and one mind. There’s no more appropriate time to be of one accord than when we’re gathered around the Table of the Lord.

July 14, 2008

Lawsuits

My local newspaper recently reported on political candidates in a neighboring county. The platform of one candidate for county commissioner is interesting. He says, “As far as building codes and zoning, I am opposed to them – completely.” The candidate believes if you have a zoning problem (your neighbor puts in a junkyard) you settle it between yourselves and if that doesn’t work, you take him to court. My first thought is, without building codes and zoning, there’s nothing for the court to rule on. It’s surprising how many people, even among believers, think going to court is the answer. Let me confess that a few years ago when the church leadership refused me access to the financials I requested (like the staff salaries and savings accounts) my knee-jerk reaction was ‘let’s take them to court’…but alas, First Corinthians 6: 1-8 got in my way.

July 11, 2008

Change

I see a parallel in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and the direction many churches are going. Both promote change. If Obama is elected, only the future will tell us whether or not his theme of change will work. In the church however, we can look to the past to see if change has been successful. For instance, are those who were attracted to the seeker friendly movement still seeking? Have contemporary churches flourished or have they merely taken over and replaced the traditional church? To me it doesn’t appear that the changes made in the church have improved spiritual maturity…and in some cases we’re actually less productive spiritually than we were 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe rather than saying CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN, the church should be saying BELIEVE IN THE ONE WHO BRINGS CHANGE.

July 10, 2008

Makeover

I find the make-over shows on TV interesting. Sometimes there is such a drastic change that it’s almost impossible to recognize the ‘old’ house, person or car. Extreme Makeover Home Edition is a show whose title is somewhat misleading. The producers find a family in need and rather than refurbishing their dilapidated house, the house is demolished and volunteers build a new house from scratch beginning with the foundation. When some of us came to Christ we were really just looking for a Spiritual nip and tuck. Imagine our surprise when we got an extreme makeover. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV).

July 09, 2008

Worship

After learning that I started attending another church a woman said to me, “I’m so glad you’re back in church and have found a place to worship.” Gulping air like a fish out of water I explained I wasn’t back in church because I’d never left. I’ve always been in attendance. Speaking to me as though I’d been Gospel deprived she continued, “Well at least now you can worship.” It took me a few days to understand what I think she meant. Today’s church will tell you that worship is the celebration in music, hymns and praise songs which precedes the message. According to Webster’s the definition of worship is: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence. I think it’s unfortunate that leaders try not only to define, but also confine worship. I’ve found that over the years my style of worship has changed. Right now simply hearing a thought provoking message or reading Scripture is an act of worship for me.

July 08, 2008

The Real Question

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, preached a good sermon on TV Sunday morning. Many of his comments, supported with Scripture, came from his book Rediscovering God in America. According to Gingrich, as a nation we ask ourselves, “Is God on our side? But the real question is, ‘Are we on God’s side?’” I think we should be asking that same question of the church. Today’s trend for leaders in casting a vision for the church falls in the category of asking God to be on our side. In our efforts to fulfill leadership’s vision, we fail to ask the real question, Are we on God’s side?

July 07, 2008

Dark Secrets

Model Christie Brinkley is being criticized in her messy public divorce. The media seems to think that since her husband has admitted to his indiscretions, and for the sake of their young children, that Ms. Brinkley should not be airing the dirty laundry. I disagree with the media. The footnotes in my NIV study Bible referring to Romans 1:18-27 says, “God’s wrath is not limited to the end-time judgment of the wicked.” Whether or not we are a believer in Jesus, most people believe that God knows all our sins. However since God isn’t in the tabloid business, we think our dark secrets are safe with Him. In the Scripture, as well as in life, the penalty for our sins often begins with exposure.

July 04, 2008

Freedom

With many shedding their blood we’ve been given physical freedom as Americans. With One shedding His blood we’ve been given spiritual freedom as Christians…we are truly blessed. Have safe 4th of July weekend.

July 03, 2008

Size of Faith

In his campaign for President, Obama is now holding Values Parties. I had to laugh when I read one media ticker tape on TV that said, “Obama meeting with small faith groups.” Small faith…? Now we know that in the political arena no one really cares about someone’s size of faith, their only concern is about courting the religious-conservative vote. Jesus, on the other hand, often met people who had small faith, but His ticker tape went something like, “O you of little faith.” …followed by His observations on why their faith was so small. Actually, I’m sort of glad that faith comes in various sizes. It gives me a chance to upgrade.

July 02, 2008

Money Talks...but should it?

We lament when those who are considered pillars of the congregation leave to go to the church down the street. We grieve over the loss of spiritual maturity, knowledge and friendships. There is another loss we mention only amongst ourselves…or if it’s not spoken out loud, it certainly crosses our minds. Those pillars are the biggest givers and when they walk out the door so does their tithe. We look at one another and say, 'Don’t the leaders know they’re loosing the people who tithe the most?' When you think about it, it’s not only a silly question (of course they know their losing tithes and offerings), but it’s an ungodly question. We would do better to take captive the thought of lost revenue and adopt Paul’s attitude when he says, “…what I want is not your possessions but you.” (2 Cor 12:14a NIV)

July 01, 2008

Actions Really Do Speak Louder Than Words

A while back I was seated at a business dinner with two zealous believers, as well as some un-churched folks. During the meal the believers showed their disdain for the speaker by not acknowledging his presence, either by eye contact or applause. It was such an obvious slight that it was uncomfortable for all of us. Later, out of earshot of the believers, the un-churched folks brought out their hypocrisy guns. “They call themselves Christian and this is the way they act? They may call it being religious, I call being a hypocrite.” I didn’t, nor could I, defend the believers because even I thought, so what happened, did you two misplace the Golden Rule? I really wanted to let my fellow believers know that they blew it…but I didn’t. I decided it’s probably more important that I’m the one to learn from their mistake.

June 30, 2008

Failures and Flops

In an interesting article on leadership there is apparently a growing trend among foundation leaders to be more transparent and accountable. When they implement a program that flops, they admit it publically. One foundation executive stated, “If something didn’t work, it is incumbent upon you to make sure others don’t make the same mistake.” Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this type of moral obligation in the church. Over the years I’ve seen many ill advised programs fail, but I can’t ever recall hearing leadership publically admit failure to the congregation. The normal reaction to failures is to just cover them up with another vision or new direction for the church.

June 27, 2008

Anything Goes

No, it doesn’t. I’ve got a lot of clothes hanging in my closet that won’t go with anything I own. When I purchased each piece I thought this will go with everything. Wrong. In trying to mix and match clothing I’ve learn that all blacks aren’t black, nor are all beiges created equal. Yesterday I picked up a dark sage colored blouse to go with my light sage colored slacks. When I held them up against each other neither one looked like sage and they certainly didn’t go together. I sometimes have the same trouble with Scripture. I’ll think of a verse that I’m positive will compliment a thought and when I put them together they don’t match. Now, I realize the world won’t end if I wear mismatched clothes or misquote Scripture, however when they’re not put together properly they don’t always have the desired affect.

June 26, 2008

Price Tag

Many folks want to talk about the exodus from XYZ Church, however lately the conversations have shifted. It may be a different segment of the membership, but rather than asking why people are leaving, some are now telling me why they aren’t leaving. With few exceptions these brothers and sisters say they are staying with XYZ Church because of their particular ministry, or because of their inter-generational family. I can empathize with both situations. Some folks have spent decades building up and supporting a ministry and they feel the need to protect it. Quite honestly, going to another church might well mean that their beloved ministry will suffer cuts in funding, or possible elimination all together. And no one wants to be the one to break the heritage of fellowshipping with one’s own children and grandchildren. Interestingly Jesus doesn’t distinguish between believers and non-believers when He says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matt 10:37-38 NIV

June 25, 2008

Perfectly Timed

I recently returned from a conference where I campaigned for a seat on an executive board. The day before the election there was a ‘meet the candidate’ forum where I was to give a three minute speech. I had practiced my speech to the point that the timing, humor and pacing were perfect. Arriving early at the meeting I overheard staff talking to one another about each candidate having two minutes to speak. With a cranky attitude running across my face and an edge in my voice, I asked what they intended to do with those of us who had prepared for three minutes as we were told to do. “Well, you’ll just have to cut it down. Don’t worry about it. Just tell us a little bit about yourself.” I went for a short walk to collect myself before cutting the jewels out of my speech. I then went to apologize to the staff person for letting my frustration ooze onto the situation. After the speech I received a lot of positive feed back and with effort, I resisted the urge to tell people about the minute they missed. The following day during the election I garnered the most votes in my category…even beating out incumbents. Leave it to God to successfully pull off a three minute speech in less than two minutes.

June 24, 2008

Remember Me

Over the years as we’ve had a variety of automobiles. Similar to the urge to win a lottery, I’ve always hoped that each set of new license plates would have a number that was easy to memorize. One time we purchased an older basic-transportation car for Bill to drive back and forth to work. The price was right, but the car was a really ugly mustard yellow Maverick. Since it was Bill’s work car, I picked up the license plates at court house without giving any thought to the numbers. That evening we went to put the plates on the car and I just about choked when I saw that the plate was numbered 666. I’m sure the clerk at the court house had been trying for days to pawn the ‘number of the beast’ off on some naive and unsuspecting person. In any case, the car is now long gone, but to this day it’s the only license plate number I remember. I have a few sins in my life that are like that. Even though the sins have long since been forgiven, they made such an impression that they are still committed to memory.