July 31, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
July 03, 2008
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
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
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.