March 31, 2008
In describing her painting, a woman on the Antiques Roadshow said, “I’ve had it for 20 years and still haven’t finished looking at it.” What a great sentiment for believers to use in describing our relationship with the Lord. We may have walked with the Lord since we were children, but we haven’t finished learning the Truth, our faith hasn’t finished growing and we’re still learning obedience. Now here’s something even better. Turn the sentiment around and imagine the Lord saying to you, “I’ve had you for 20 years and still haven’t finished looking at you.”
March 28, 2008
My house is situated within walking distance of three public schools. One summer while mowing the front lawn I spied a ball of blue paper about the size of an Easter egg under a shrub. The paper couldn’t have been there very long because it wasn’t weathered. I unrolled the paper and read a memo dated the same day. It was from a 2nd grade school teacher, written to little Johnny’s mom and grandmother. Paraphrased, the note said Johnny was misbehaving and not turning in his homework. Johnny’s mom and grandma were asked to call the office and schedule an appointment with the teacher. I could just picture this little guy walking home from school thinking, if I ditch the note, no one will know and I won’t get in trouble. I took the memo, along with an explanation of where it was discovered, and mailed it back to the teacher. A week later she sent me a note thanking me for taking time to help hold her student accountable. Sometimes we adults are just like Johnny when we try to dispose of our sins. We convenience ourselves that if we just throw sins into a dark corner no one will see them and we won’t have to openly repent. You’d think we’d learn that it’s less painful to confess our sins than it is to have them exposed.
March 27, 2008
Some of my family members are ‘clippers’. In their prolific reading of newspapers, magazines and newsletters they’re always clipping an article or a tidbit of information to give to others. Now I know my family clippers mean well, but quite frankly, I’m not always interested in the things that they think I should read. Many believers do a similar thing when ordering sermon tapes or purchasing Christian books for others because they think their friends have a need to hear a particular message. Often these friends are backsliders or someone who’s not a Christian and we want to throw them a lifeline. Certainly spiritual messages have the potential to impact lives…if the recipient is willing to listen to it or to read it. So, how do you know when it’s OK to send Sunday’s sermon? If a friend asks you to send clippings.
March 26, 2008
Some educators want to leave their mark on public education by implementing innovative new models for the school system. I think this same creative bug has bitten many of our ministers. Pastors and church staff can spend hours working up new church models. The suspicious corner of my mind says, ‘Ah-ha, someone wants to be the author of the next Willow Creek or Saddleback’. Actually, I think those of us in the pew have good ideas also, so here’s my church model. I’d like to see salaried elders (full benefits) shepherd the flock. Since many of today’s preachers want to specialize only in preaching, I think we could contract with preachers and pay them by the sermon (no benefits). There are many qualified speakers [including retired and associate pastors] who’d like to pick up a weekend paycheck for giving a message on a one time basis - with no other obligations or ministry strings attached. The congregation could enjoy a variety of preachers and still have continuity with their elders. Membership however, would need to become attentive and scripturally knowledgeable. Similar to the Bereans who searched the Scripture daily to see if what Preacher Paul was saying was true (Acts 17:11). Inadequate preachers/speakers who failed to rightly divide the word of truth would simple not get a return invitation. Realistically I know my church model wouldn’t be taken seriously, but I do think it has merit.
March 25, 2008
I found Obama’s speech addressing the controversy surrounding the Rev. Wright interesting. According to Obama, people should not be surprised when a political view occasionally finds its voice on Sunday mornings in the pulpit. He noted that we’ve all heard pastors, priests and rabbis say things from the pulpit that we strongly disagree with. Sadly, Obama’s assessment is true. We’d all like to think that our pastor isn’t as bad as some other pastors, but a preacher doesn’t have to speak as vilely as the Rev. Wright to be just as guilty of misusing the pulpit. On a few occasions I’ve exited the auditorium when I thought the preacher’s message was off base. I’m sure my mini-protest was lost on those around me. They probably thought I was just going for a drink of water or to the restroom. More often than not though, I remained seated in the pew wondering why the elders were tolerating the errors…or perhaps they weren’t detecting them.
March 24, 2008
Obama’s church is certainly under the religious, political and social spotlight. The topic for the Easter sermon at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ was, ‘How to Handle a Public Lynching’. I can’t even begin to imagine how a preacher could possibly stretch that title so it would actually wrap itself around a resurrection message. Either the preacher is a really creative guy, or else the congregation is satisfied listening to political and social messages rather than the gospel. Today’s ministers, so unlike the John the Baptist type, preach what our itching ears want to hear. During the same sermon, Fox News reported that this pastor also took the opportunity to ask the congregation for money because there was a need to ‘defend the church’. Now that’s what I call a unique ploy for soliciting donations. I think someone should tell him that Obama and others have already been defending the church in the national media...and without the need for a designated defense fund.
March 21, 2008
On April 1st we will hold the City Council election, in which I’m a candidate. This last Sunday a friend was walking across the gym when she waved to me and said, “Oh, I see you’re running undefeated.” We both laughed as she quickly changed undefeated to unopposed. I know how Paul feels about running a race, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24 NIV), but I wonder what he would say about running in a race unopposed. Is it truly a race? Is the prize diminished? Must there be competition to qualify for the prize or is strict training enough? Of course in the case of a political race one might ask, ‘So, what’s the prize?’ As an aside, the fact that the election is being held on April Fool’s Day is not lost on me.
March 20, 2008
March 19, 2008
Democratic presidential candidate Obama has said that while he was in the pew he hadn’t personally heard his pastor’s (Rev. Wright) inflammatory sermons. Setting aside the political spin and looking at this in the church arena, what a blow to a pastor’s ego. Whether it’s someone of Obama’s stature and education, or a high school drop-out, can you imagine having someone say they’ve listened to you preach for 20 years and never heard the message? Even the Ninevites, who heard Jonah preach for only three days, didn’t have any trouble understanding the spiritual message…much to Jonah’s chagrin.
March 18, 2008
Senator Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright is an interesting character. It’s reported that this pastor, before his retirement in February, led a congregation of 8,000. The sermon sound bites in the media are, I think at the very least, an embarrassment for the Lord and Christianity. Quite honestly I don’t see how the gospel can punch its way through the reverend’s political and personal agenda. In the video clips I’ve watched, I focused on those in the background - the choir and the audience. I’ve noticed that not everyone is clapping, nodding in agreement or offering an amen…and some of them look really, really tired. Maybe they are the ones who’ve grown weary of reminding the pastor of what Scripture says.
March 17, 2008
A couple of Sundays ago I noticed a huge prefab storage building has been placed at the back of the church. Actually, I didn’t just notice it, it’s impossible not to miss. The building, positioned right outside the kitchen, sits in front of two exit doors. Hopefully there’s never an emergency where EMT’s are trying to get in, or we’re trying to get out. I wonder if the church insurance company has given its blessing for this obstacle course. Safety aside, my wicked side says, ‘Ah-hah! Someone’s laying the ground work to prove we need to build a new church because look, we’ve outgrown the present building.’ OK, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. At one time the elders worried about people joining the church through the front door and then loosing them out the back. Maybe this is just a new method to lock the back door.
March 14, 2008
Are you sitting down? I’m going to support the elders… Christianity Today has an article titled ‘What Makes A Church Missional?’ by J. Todd Billings [March 2008]. The author gives an anecdote of a pastor friend who wanted to change the focus of her ministry and was met with resistance from the elders of her church. Shaking an accusing finger at those elders the author, Billings, says, “…the elders were locked into an internal mode, fixated on members’ desire rather than on God’s ministry in the world.” Huh? Elders hire church staff to meet the spiritual needs of their congregation…that is what they are paid for. I’ve seen numerous help-wanted ads for qualified men to pastor a church, but I’ve yet to see a church search committee looking for a man for God’s ministry in the world. It seems to me that if a preacher wants to minister in the world shouldn’t he/she be willing to leave the comfort zone of the local church?
March 13, 2008
I may get tired of reruns on television, but at least I can turn off the TV. When it comes to speakers and writers rerunning the same material I feel cheated and shortchanged. On more than one occasion I’ve become a fan of an author, but when I hear them speak at a conference they use the same stories and illustrations that appear in their book. Or I’ll hear a great speaker, buy her book and then be disappointed to discover that the most memorable chapters were in her keynote address. In the corporate world you’d have very few attendees if the audience heard the same presentations and jokes every year for two or three years in a row. However, those participating in Christian venues seem to think that our love for one another will cover over a multitude of presentation sins. It doesn’t. Thankfully Paul’s Epistles recognized each of the churches as a different audience. He wasn’t into recycled Epistles.
March 12, 2008
In her video series The Confident Woman, Joyce Meyer says, “Like Adam in the garden, men want authority - but not the responsibility.” In context Ms. Meyer isn’t putting men down, but rather making an observation about why she thinks women have trouble submitting. I can relate. My family tree has situations where husbands didn’t or wouldn’t accept head-of-household responsibilities and the wives stepped forward and become the breadwinners. Their marriages were like a juggling act with authority, responsibility and submission always up in the air. I see a similar situation in the church. The Bible clearly puts men in positions of authority, however there are instances where men don’t or won’t accept the responsibility. When women come forward to fill the void it’s not surprising that responsibility overshadows submission.
March 11, 2008
I recently learned that I may have an opportunity to visit with a young Jehovah Witness who is being oppressed by her family and her church. Wanting to be prepared when she called I re-read some books on cults and the teachings of the JW’s. I hoped that I might be a listening ear, an example of Christian concern…and show her that there is an exit door to her church. Giving me an update, our mutual acquaintance said, “I gave her your phone number and she seemed relieved. She has no one to talk to; her family and church have told her that she and her children are going to hell. Before when she’s talked to anyone outside her church they just try to get her to change churches.” God does have a way of bursting my ‘I know what you need’ bubble. OK, so how about this strategy. I’ll give her a crash course on what the Bible says about judging one another’s salvation…she’ll just have to find the exit door by herself.
March 10, 2008
It’s not surprising to read five different commentaries and find five different interpretations of a specific verse. Occasionally I’ll even read a footnote in a study Bible that seems to be stretching or slanting the context a little. However, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a footnote in a Bible that blatantly contradicts the verse it’s trying to explain. The Ryrie Study Bible, Acts 22:16 says, “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away you sins, calling on His name.” The footnote re-words the verse and then adds a comment, “Baptism does not wash away sins.” Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. How confusing for the new believer.
March 07, 2008
Every once in a while I come across someone who claims to be Christian, but there is something missing. On the political landscape Gov. Huckabee’s speeches and interviews leave me with no doubt that he has a personal relationship with the Lord. However, other politicians seem to show just enough of a religious side to be acceptable to the conservative voter. Almost apologetically they down play their worship attendance and spiritual life. Speaking to the church in Smyrna Jesus said, “…I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Rev 2:9b NIV) Slander is a pretty strong word. I hadn’t considered the possibility that a person’s false claim to Christianity could constitute slander.
March 06, 2008
Paul warns the Ephesian elders, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”(Acts 20:29-30 NIV) One Sunday after an intimidating and confrontational sermon I overheard an older, normally quiet and reserved man say, “I never thought I’d see a wolf in sheep’s clothing wearing a three piece suit!” I guess even wolves can be fashion conscious.
March 05, 2008
The church kitchen has needed refurbishing for years and it looks like it’s finally going to be a reality. A note in the recent newsletter says, “The elders have set up a designated fund for the kitchen remodel. If you would like to donate to this fund, make your check to XYZ Church and put kitchen fund on the memo line.” Sounds like a worthy cause…unless you know that the leaders have an enormous stockpile of funds for other dreams and visions. Since members get only limited accounting reports - what comes in, what is budgeted, what is spent - most of us are not privy to where the church stands financially. However, well over a year ago we had more than a quarter of a million dollars in a California lending institution earning interest…unsecured no less. I’m no accountant, but it just seems to me that if we can afford to store up treasures on earth we certainly should be able to do a kitchen remodel without having to ask members to contribute to a designated fund.
March 04, 2008
Can you imagine your spouse driving home in a shiny new sports car when you didn’t have a clue they were even thinking about a new car, much less that they were actually car shopping? I think some people in my church will have similar feelings when they read the March newsletter. We’ve just been told the staff and elders have hired an additional pastor, which is certainly their prerogative. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not against the man selected. I don’t know…it just seems to me that the leadership could have included the congregation in their plans by asking for prayers, comments and support. But hey, CEOs don’t ask for a company’s blessing when they make management decisions, so why should we expect it from church leaders?
March 03, 2008
I belong to a fitness club and while waiting for someone to vacate a treadmill I scoped out the vending machine. You can buy everything from athletic socks to lip balm. On the lowest tier of the machine were two types of tanning lotion for use with the tanning bed that is also available to members. The lotion seemed pricy at $33.00 for a 16 ounce bottle until I realized there was an added spiritual value. The lotions were labeled Worship and Sheer Wisdom.