May 30, 2008
Today we hear a lot about jobs being outsourced to foreign markets where other countries are touted as being better producers than the United States. In a sense Jesus outsourced the Gospel when He told the chief priests and Pharisees, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matt. 21:43 NIV) It takes very little imagination for me to apply Jesus’ statement to churches in America today. Reportedly the Gospel is exploding in many areas around the world while U.S. churches and denominations are imploding. It makes me wonder if it’s a matter of who’s producing the fruit.
May 29, 2008
According to Webster’s a person can be described as ignorant when they are “lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified.” Although I probably wouldn’t say it to their face, I have some friends and family members who are indeed ignorant of God. However in the church it never crosses our minds as to whether or not someone knows God. After all, if they don’t know God, why on earth would they be coming to church?And yet, that’s exactly what Paul says to the Corinthian Church. “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” (1 Cor 15:34 NIV). I can’t imagine thinking, much less declaring to others, that one of my fellow congregants is ignorant of God.
May 28, 2008
This last Monday at a war memorial dedication it was nice to see some veterans in attendance wearing their military uniforms. There was one 92 year-old gent and his senior citizen son who were each wearing their respective Army uniforms. Since there is no way I could even think about getting into my Navy uniform, I was impressed. I complimented these veterans on their achievement and a voice from the back of the crowd said, “Yeah, now if I could only breath.” I’m thinking it might be a good idea for me to pull out the amour of God (Eph 6:13) and see if it still fits as well as it used to. If I’m truthful, I spend more time polishing and sharpening my sword than I do seeing if my breastplate is in position. And no doubt my readiness shoes could use some attention.
May 27, 2008
As I’ve discussed church turmoil over the last couple years, one reader asked me if some folks are ‘harboring extremely hard feelings regarding their previous church experience’. The inquiry was not judgmental, but rather out of concern for fellow believers. I suppose the answer lies in the word harboring, which means, “to give shelter or refuge; to hold especially persistently in the mind.” (Webster’s). In context with church strife, I believe that what some may view as ‘hard feelings’ are in fact signs of grief. I don’t think there is a prescribed way to grieve over the loss of one’s church fellowship. I’m always one for wanting to tidy things up quickly, whether it is hard feelings or grief. However, the Holy Spirit doesn’t always heal quickly.
May 26, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 23, 2008
I’m finding myself on committees that sometimes deal with time sensitive material. It’s not that we can’t ever tell others the information we’ve been given; we just have to wait for the appropriate time to share the information. This, ‘think before you speak’ stuff is really hard work. I literally have to stop and ask myself where I heard what I heard and when can I talk about it. I can so sympathize with the man healed of leprosy. Jesus warned him, “See that you don’t tell this to anyone… Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places...” (Mark 1:44a, 45a NIV)
May 22, 2008
Years ago my family visited an old, well established Presbyterian Church in a neighboring community. The pastor opened his sermon by telling the small congregation what Scriptures he’d be using for the message. The sound, as we thumbed through our Bibles to find the text, was deafening. No one else in the sanctuary even cracked a Bible. If it hadn’t been for the four of us flipping the pages you could’ve heard a pin drop. I felt like every eye was on me as my Bible hummed, ‘I’m a visitor. I’m a visitor.’ Peter tells us that the angels long to look into the gospel (1 Pet 1:12). Can’t you just imagine an angel peering over some guy’s shoulder while he sits in church with a closed Bible and thinking, “Ah man…Come on.”
May 21, 2008
Sharing an observation, a friend told me he thought there was more gossip, back biting and meddling in the work place when an employee’s job function was one of repetitive work. It was his belief that employees who aren’t stimulated in the work place look for something to break the boredom…even if they have to help create the drama themselves. It’s an interesting theory. Applying this line of thinking to the church, we might then say that believers who aren’t spiritually stimulated could easily fall into gossip, back biting and meddling. I can see that happening, there’s not much spiritual stimulation when we’re all reading the same books, adopting the same mission statements and borrowing one another’s marketing strategies.
May 20, 2008
Last weekend at a college graduation party I met up with an old preacher friend who I’ve not seen for years. We discussed church politics and the recent church plants in the area and he asked, “So then, how are things going at the mother church?” Actually, I haven’t a clue. And what I find really surprising is that I don’t have a huge case of Lot’s-wife-itis urging me to look back over my shoulder and see what’s happening. I’ll admit that for the sake of the church family I considered trying to keep one foot in each congregation. But that was before the Lord and I had the following conversation, “…‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:61-62 NIV)
May 19, 2008
As congregations are being dismantled and remolded there are unhappy faces all around. Those in leadership want carte blanche when it comes to implementing their targeted vision, and those in the layman classification want consideration for all the membership. Both sides have taken the turn the other cheek teaching to a whole new level…we’re turning our backs to one another. One of the accusatory comments directed towards older, more mature people is that they don’t like change. We’ve been force fed this mantra so often that many not only accept it as fact, but they’re starting to repeat it themselves. In truth, people willingly accept change when they see God’s hand in those changes. Besides, how else can you explain all those smiley faces seen in new church plants? Talk about change!
May 16, 2008
I once had to call an ambulance for a family member who fallen and broken a hip. Reeling from pain the patient kept saying, “Jesus help me...Oh Jesus, please Jesus.” When I’m in dire straights my heavenward cries are more directed to the Father or God. And, depending on how much pain or distress I’m in, I sometimes add, 'in the name of Jesus.' When Jesus was on the cross he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” - which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matt 27:46 NIV) According to my study Bible footnote, Jesus’ words are a mixture of Aramaic and Hebrew. Because of the language barrier I can understand those at the foot of the cross not knowing who Jesus was calling out to. But what I find interesting is that they would take a wild guess that Jesus was calling out to Elijah. Not taking anything away from the Elijah, but I find it odd that they would think Jesus was invoking the name of a middle man prophet rather than calling on the God of Israel.
May 15, 2008
During my junior high school years I attended a one room school house. On Sundays the school house became the community church. Everyone came together for a time of worship and when it was time for Sunday school the kids left the building. In the summer our class was held on the merry-go-round and in the winter we’d climb in the teacher’s car and turn on the heater to stay warm. Twisting sideways and putting her back toward the steering wheel Mrs. Harrington used the headrest area of the seat as a lectern to give us our lesson. In today’s church we are so worried about making everyone comfortable that we often forget our service can still be productive even when the environment is lacking. One of the start-up churches just had its first baptism…down in the local river. Do you know how cold the spring runoff is right now? Congratulations to the young man who humbly faced Christ and braved hyperthermia!
May 14, 2008
Since I’m now in the political arena I’m learning a whole new vocabulary. Right now I’m struggling to wrap my head around quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative. According to Webster’s, Quasi is an adjective which means, “having some resemblance usually by possession of certain attributes.” I think my new word also fits in the religious arena. Cults become quasi-churches, false prophets are quasi-prophets and Satan is a quasi-Christ. And I finally know what to call all those really good and kind people who refuse to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior…quasi-Christians.
May 13, 2008
In the February 2008 issue of the Christian Communicator there is an article on self-publishing written by Athena Dean. She says, “We know the saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by the cover’ isn’t true. You can and you do, and so does the buying public.” Ms. Dean points out that if a potential buyer likes the cover they’ll then turn the book over and read the back-cover copy. However let’s face it; we also judge people by their appearances, as well as their actions, before making a personal investment. Haven’t we all known brothers and sisters that upon first glance, we wouldn’t even consider taking off the shelf? What I think many of us fail to realize is just how important they are to the cause of Christ. --Gail
May 12, 2008
In the Letter to the Editor column of my local newspaper a gentleman wrote, “…in my opinion anyone who portrays a half truth as a whole truth is a complete liar. One could even assume the word ‘complete’ [liar] to mean ‘accomplished’ [liar].” I think the writer makes an interesting observation. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you’ve probably heard half-truths spoken in the church. Most of us can’t bare the thought of calling a fellow believer, or even a family member for that matter, a liar. When we hear a half-truth our tendency is to make excuses for the offender by rationalizing that it was an oversight, a misunderstanding, or they didn’t have all the facts. How is it I can so easily overlook the offense in others, when I know that if my children tried to speak in half-truths, I didn’t think twice about applying discipline?
May 09, 2008
We just got a new van and I’m embarrassed to admit how many bells and whistles it has. Suffice it to say as Leslie was exploring buttons in the back seat and the Cartoon Network appeared on the DVD screen. Buying the van on Wednesday and going to Denver on Thursday there was no time to read a two inch thick operator’s manual. I’m not as adventurous as the rest of my family and normally I don’t push a button until I know what will happen. I told Bill, “Just give me the basics. How do you turn on the headlights, operate the windshield wipers and run the air conditioner.” I am literally rejoicing that the gas tank lid isn’t controlled by another button hidden under the dashboard. I had these same kinds of feelings when I became a Christian. The Operations Manual was so thick I was overwhelmed. Thank goodness for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders who started me on the road with the basics.
May 08, 2008
Every once in awhile Leslie totally rejects one of my blogs on the grounds that it’s something I’ve already written. Sometimes I rewrite it, but even if I change a few phrases it may still come out sounding like the original. I empathize with ministers who’ve serve one congregation for years and work hard to keep their sermons relevant, yet different. A friend recently said, “Some preachers seem to be worried we’ll get bored if they keep repeating the same gospel message, so they add other things to it. I think they forget that the Gospel isn’t boring. I never get tired of it. It renews and refreshes me every time I hear it.” Too bad it won’t work with Leslie. --Gail
May 07, 2008
Statistics for a prison ministry reported that in 2007 they had 71 baptisms, 89 first time commitments to Christ and 238 rededications to the Lord. Wow! That’s a great harvest for a limited captive audience. Many of our churches, where there’s opportunity to preach the gospel in the whole community, pale by comparison. In today’s church vocabulary we understand the meaning of ‘first time commitment’ and ‘rededication’. However, I wonder how our Groom feels about his Bride talking of first time commitments, as opposed to second and third, and rededications. --Gail
May 06, 2008
Not long ago at the fitness club I watched a physically fit young woman while she was multi-tasking. She was reading a paperback novel, wearing ear plugs connected to her IPOD and sitting on a weight machine. After about five minutes she came to a stopping place in her book, put in her book mark and laid it down. She then took time to make a different song selection on her IPOD before finally beginning to exercise. The poor thing was oblivious to the fact that there were two men behind her and off to one side waiting somewhat impatiently for her to get off the machine so they could crunch some abs. In the church I think some of us in long held ministry positions need to think about getting off the machine so that others can exercise their gifts and talents. Just as in a gym where there are other exercise machines, we also have other ministry opportunities to take advantage of in the church.
May 05, 2008
An older friend recently phoned to compliment Bill on the communion meditation he’d given during the worship service. Her comments, along with those of a few others, included a rave review of his attire – a sports jacket and tie. She reminded me that her husband Bob (now deceased) was just a plain ol’ dirt farmer, but that he wanted to be clean and shiny for church on Sundays. Bob, a faithful member of the church, survived a heart attack and the coma that followed. “When we got Bob back home [after the coma] he was real clear minded, he’d just lost his memory. He knew he’d be slipping up on some things, but he told me, ‘Just make sure I dress nice for church.’” We all know that worship is not about the clothes we wear, but I think Bob knew that the Lord is pleased when we’re clean and shiny.—Gail
May 02, 2008
During some recent church turmoil the elders descended on my Sunday School class and the evening Bible study. As they fielded questions and comments, they held fast to the party line constructed by the staff. In the Bible study setting an older gentleman boldly spoke up and referring to the present church atmosphere said, “We don’t feel the love at XYZ Church anymore.” The following Sunday, after years on our hymn free diet, the worship songs were all traditional hymns. If the leaders could only understand that it’s not all about the music. Can’t you just feel the love? --Gail
May 01, 2008
I recently met a young man at work who has only lived here two weeks. During our get to know you conversation, he said he noticed one major difference between where he was from and the folks here. He was surprised that people here didn’t glare at you when you went to the supermarket. I can understand his reaction. With things at XYZ Church becoming more and more skewed, I began attending other local churches. As I sampled each church, I found it a bit odd that although I knew people at each church, or in one case went with a friend, no one really went out of their way to welcome me. I have no doubt that these churches love the Lord and His word, but for being more ‘seeker friendly’ (if that term is still being used) they didn’t seem as friendly as I remembered. Since beginning services at my new church I have come to the realization of what seeker friendly truly means. It is the genuine desire of those of like faith to want a brother or sister, flaws and all, as Christ wants us. The last two Sundays, hugs have abounded and my heart is overflowing. Those hugs however aren’t just from those I have grown up admiring, I’m getting hugs from people who I only know in the Spirit. I’m glad I didn’t have to go as far as my young friend to find people who care. You were right here all along.--Leslie