August 29, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
August 22, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!