February 29, 2008
When I attended my 40th high school class reunion there were a few people I didn’t recognize. Some had changed dramatically, while others I had known just by name only, not personally. In spite of a time of questions and answers, there was one woman with whom I just couldn’t make a connection even after I asked her name. So I can sympathize with the Jews when they tried to discover the identity of John the Baptist. John freely confessed, “I am not the Christ.” So the Jews asked, “Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? Who are you?” John identified himself by speaking the words of Isaiah, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23 NIV) What a great response. I would have probably said, ‘You know me, I’m John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah.’ Who we are by the world’s definition is not who we are as a Christian. As a Christian, who are you?
February 28, 2008
I just read Exodus, a non-fiction book by Dave Shiflett. Through interviews Dave introduces readers to a variety of people in the US who are fleeing liberal churches and finding refuge in conservative Christianity – Catholic, Orthodox Church and Southern Baptists. Two interviewees, former Episcopal priest Gary and his wife Frederica believed they’d been called to the Episcopal Church. They felt that even if their church was lost to apostasy, there might still be a role for them to play. Frederica’s thought process was, “Didn’t God need chaplains on the Titanic? Hadn’t we better stay where he planted us? I found myself understanding Frederica’s planted theory until a few paragraphs later in the same chapter Gary said, “You know what God needed on the Titanic? Lifeboats.” Gary too has a point. So, do you chaplain a sinking ship or take the lifeboat? For some of us it would be easier if God would just put a paddle in our hand.
February 27, 2008
Having developed a thick skin in church politics I thought, how hard can real politics be? I’m about to find out as I’m now a candidate for city council. The Lord knows I’m not a campaigner and has graciously allowed me to run in an election where I’m unopposed. Now I know how competitors on the reality show Survivor feel when they have the Immunity Idol. It’s exciting. Too bad we don’t have the same excitement about our Christianity. Salvation means we can’t be voted out of the Kingdom of God and our souls are out of Satan’s reach. The blood of Christ has freed us from the law of sin and death…now if we’d just start acting like we have immunity. (Rom 8:2)
February 26, 2008
At one time an elderly neighbor gave me the names, addresses and phone numbers of people to contact if she were ever incapacitated. In case of an emergency I was to call her only two living relatives, who lived in other states. Spelling out her wishes in case of her death, all I had to do was call the funeral home, who in turn would call her attorney. At the end of the note she scrawled in bold letters, “NO Family Dinner! NONE.” My ex-neighbor is still alive, alert and residing in an assisted living facility. I decided it was no longer necessary for me to keep her emergency information, but I can’t help but wonder what a funeral dinner for two might look like.
February 25, 2008
As we travel along the road of Christianity we often search out experts in faith to help us along the way. As a kid when I had a Bible question there were three people in my life who knew everything - my grandma, my first preacher and the church secretary. If I couldn’t find a verse, they knew where it was located. If I didn’t understand a passage of Scripture, they could explain it. The first time someone asked me to help them locate a verse I was honored, but somewhat taken back. In an instant and for just that moment, I was elevated from being a student to being a teacher. What a compliment to be recognized for your knowledge of Scripture. Today there are times I still have to ask a friend or family member for help, especially when I’ve cut and pasted a phrase of Scripture in my mind and then can’t find the verse in the concordance. I find it interesting and somewhat disconcerting that I don’t seek out elders in the church for help with a Biblical or spiritual questions. Have elders become our administrative shepherds rather than our spiritual shepherds?
February 22, 2008
A questionable story about presidential candidate John McCain appeared on the front page of The New York Times. For me a portion of the report jumped off the page, “A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his office and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisors intervened to protect the candidate from himself – instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him…” Whether or not these were the actual actions of McCain’s top advisors, we in the church could learn a lesson. We’ve all watched brothers and sisters slip into sin, but do we intervene, protect them from themselves, or confront them? Nooooo. We’re more worried about being accused of judging, meddling and gossiping.
February 21, 2008
Growing up if you had a meal at Grandma’s you were expected to eat what ever was put on the table. If you didn’t like a particular dish, when it was passed you just didn’t put any of it on you plate. I don’t think Grandma ever asked anyone what they wanted for supper. Quite the contrary, if you smelled something good coming from the kitchen you asked Grandma, ‘What’s for supper?’ Today, whether cooking for my family or company, I’m always trying to pleased everyone…and it just doesn’t work. I think we’ve become so accustom to having it our way that if Jesus were here to feed the 5,000 most of us would miss the miracle. We’d be asking for special order fish and chips - baked, fried, broiled or sushi.
February 20, 2008
Under today’s church organizational plan when someone accepts the Lord we immediately try to get him connected or plugged in. The new believer fills out a personal profile so we can match his strengths with the church’s needs. We encourage him to attend indoctrination classes, serve in ministries and join a small group. Certainly no one wants a baby Christian to get lost in the crowd and it’s important for everyone to be a functioning part of the body. However, I sometimes wonder if we’re telling the Spirit, ‘You called him and he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Thanks, but we can take it from here.’
February 19, 2008
For years I have been friends with Jane Doe, a woman in her late 70’s. Jane and I were visiting one day when she used a four-letter word. More than a little shocked I said, “Jaaane!” She responded, “Whaaat?...It’s not like it’s a swear word. My family’s always said it. It doesn’t mean anything.” A week or so later, still bothered by my pronounced judgment on her family-friendly word, Jane decided to get a second opinion. Going to someone with more authority, she said to the preacher’s wife, “Gail’s trying to tell me that *----* is a swear word. I say it’s not, what do you say?” Gasping the preacher’s wife said, “Jaaaaaaane!”, and Jane said, “Whaaaaaaat?” In all innocence Jane still doesn’t categorize her expletive as a swear word…but she’d feel so much better if she could just find another person who agreed with her.
February 18, 2008
I just received an email Urban Legend about a worker who had a heart attack at his desk and it took five days before coworkers noticed he was dead. As the story goes, 51 year old George Turklebaum was always absorbed in his work and kept to himself. No one thought it was unusual that George stayed in the same position and didn’t say anything. In an article debunking the story we’re told that a dead body starts stinking after three days, so his coworkers most certainly would have noticed George had a problem. I got a chuckle out of this fabrication and then I considered the possibility of a spiritually dead person setting in a church pew for five weeks before any of us noticed him. I know it’s not our job to judge whether or not someone is spiritually dead, but we might be a little more attentive to them if they’d start stinking.
February 15, 2008
When going to the movies you often see previews of coming attractions. At one time the slogan was, ‘Coming soon to a theater near you’. Whether through training seminars, printed materials or video presentations, the mega church influence is coming soon to a church near you. It’s not surprising that mega church trends and philosophies filter down and seep into mid-size churches, but I hadn’t thought about them walking through the front door in the form of transplants. In our mobile society we can expect to inherit members from Willow Creek, Saddleback and Lakewood. I think it would behoove us to learn what these churches are teaching and preaching, whether it’s the milk or the meat of the Word.
February 14, 2008
When I was team leader for the Adult Education Ministry I published a weekly newsletter for the adult Sunday School program. One column in the newsletter was interviews with individuals in the congregation. Recently one of the interviewees told me, “I really miss reading those newsletters. I still have the one you wrote on me.” She laughed, “I’m saving it for my obituary!” My stint in Adult Education ended when the preacher told me that unless I went to worship services I couldn’t be in a leadership position. I was taken back because at the time I was attending and monitoring two adult Sunday School classes, leading Women’s Ministry and participating in the evening fellowship program. I now read the church staff is seeking ‘skilled creative communicators in writing to communicate real stories of how lives are being changed…’ for the new Publications Ministry. A word of caution to creative writing applicants: Read the fine print on leadership qualifications.
February 13, 2008
I just had a BFO…a blinding flash of the obvious. Today’s church philosophy is if you’re struggling with issues in your church and disagree with the leadership you’re encouraged to find another church down the street where you’ll be happy. While I continue to lament the loss of good solid mature Christians, it just dawned on me that when they leave they’re not leaving alone. They’re taking their indwelling Holy Spirit with them. Yikes! It’s no wonder churches are spiritually weak and anemic, we’ve sent the Holy Spirit packing!
February 12, 2008
When I’ve talked to folks who’ve planted new churches the underlying thought seems to be that it’s a lot more work than they imagined. Most say they’d resist any future opportunity to do it again. I visited with pastor and author Bob Hostetler about the church he helped plant. His church purchased property close to the school where they’ve been meeting, and now after seven years, a new auditorium is taking shape. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’d rather plant a new church any day than try to reshape or change an existing church.” After 10 years my own congregation continues to undergo changes. Our character is looking more and more like a building that’s been repeatedly added on to; the roof line doesn’t match, the windows are a different style, and the front door seems out of place. In hindsight I wonder if the re-modelers wished they’d planted a new church rather than undertaking an extreme make-over on the existing church.
February 11, 2008
There’s an interesting conversation between Steve Corey and Anonymous on the February 6th blog. In one post Anonymous said, “I hope that someday I will have the courage not to be Anonymous, but to be a stronger voice for the Lord…” Let me assure you, we’ve all been anonymous at one time or other. In the church, leaders cleverly and sometimes boastfully, tell us that all comments made by Anonymous are disregarded. You’ve got to admit it’s an effective way to stop people from speaking their opinion. Trust me it’s OK to be anonymous. Personally I’d rather hear the opinions of Anonymous than guess at what the silent minority is trying to say.
February 08, 2008
At the Christian writer’s conference I recently attended, Randall Atcheson was the special guest musician. A Juilliard graduate, Mr. Atcheson has performed eight times at Carnegie Hall and is on the international roster of Steinway Artists. For our general sessions we sang hymns and let me assure you, contemporary praise songs can’t hold a candle to these spine tingling hymns so creatively performed. The dry cold Colorado air played havoc on Atcheson’s hands. During one performance he rubbed his hands back and forth on his trousers legs saying, “I made the mistake of using hand lotion and now I’m sliding all over the keys.” By the third day of the conference he ended with a concert and his fingers were bleeding all over the keys of the Steinway. I know many of us bleed for our ministries…I just didn’t expect something quite so literal.
February 07, 2008
During the worship time at the Writing for the Soul conference in Colorado Springs there was a medical emergency. Right below the stage at the front of the banquet hall a middle aged woman collapsed while we were worshiping in song. From my vantage point I could see six paramedics hurrying past my table and disappearing below the crowd as they treated the patient. Without missing a beat the worship leader respectfully changed the selection to a quieter and more appropriate song for the situation and we kept on singing. Thankfully we weren’t right in the middle of ‘When we all get to heaven…’ As we were singing and silently praying, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘if she doesn’t make it, what a way to go’. Can you imagine being ushered from this life while being surrounded by a 500 member interdenominational choir…and then being welcomed into heaven by a chorus of angels? I’m happy to report that our sister in Christ is still with us…but she’ll never again have another send off like that one!
February 06, 2008
I met a woman from Chicago who told me her church had gone through a split. The more traditional members went one way and the younger, more progressive crowd went the other. My new friend found herself in the position of being one of the older members in the progressive group. “After the split neither group had enough women to make the Women’s Ministry effective. The traditional folks had all the mature teachers and we had all the young students.” She laughed, “Now the women from both churches meet together in order to have our Bible studies.” So much for thinking we control the choice to separate and divorce ourselves from one another. Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!
February 05, 2008
At a Christian writer’s conference I recently attended I sat at a table with a writer who, among other things, writes fantasy, children’s books, and biographies. She’d never been to a writer’s conference, but she had enough enthusiasm for both of us. “God gave me (helped me write) this fantasy book. It’s similar to Harry Potter, but it will be bigger than Harry Potter. Everyone who reads it will become saved. All the young people who read it will come to Christ.” There’s no doubt people can and do read books which lead them to the Lord. I didn’t want to burst her bubble, but if there’s one book that can bring salvation to all, I think it’s already been published.
February 04, 2008
Even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, believers don’t always agree with one another. Nor do we have to agree on disputable matters. Thankfully we don’t have to have consensus before we worship and fellowship together. Some of today’s church leaders on the other hand, have set a different sort of standard by requiring consensus among themselves. Their wisdom seems to imply that once consensus is reached, their decisions have God’s stamp of approval. Any resistance to their consensus and they need only apply a liberal dose of Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (NIV)
February 01, 2008
A relative asked us to deliver a belated family Christmas gift. The gift was a black wire-mesh lumbar support that slipped over the back of a chair and was held in place by elastic straps. Receiving his gift Troy raised an eyebrow and said, “So, what is this?” My husband took the lumbar support and plopping it on Troy’s head said, “It’s a hat.” Watching this exchange, two and a half year-old Lydia excitedly clapped her hands together and said, “And it fits!” Paul told the Corinthians that some are called to be preachers, teachers and administrators. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor 12:29-30 NIV) I think many pastors, whether by personal desire or by delegation, are trying to wear all the church hats…and then we in the congregation clap our hands and say, “And it fits!”