September 30, 2008
The media is repeating what politicians in Washington are saying, ‘that the economic crisis is so complicated and multifaceted that it can’t be explained and that most of us can’t understand it’. This seems similar to the one-time platform of the Catholic Church concerning Scripture – that the average man can’t be expected to understand the Word of God, hence the need for a priest to interpret. I’m learning that the prefaces of new Bible translations are actually telling us the same thing. In one sense Bible translators have taken the place of priests. They have convinced today’s reading public that not only is the Bible difficult to understand, it is beyond our comprehension unless they (the translators and interpreters) tell us what they think it says. How offensive is it that leaders/publishers in the religious community, as well as those in the government, presume our ignorance.
September 29, 2008
I, along with the help of other family members, have had the grandkids (ages five and three) for 15 days while their parents are on a cruise. Did I mention it’s been 15 days? Lydia, the three-year-old is very articulate and she hasn’t stopped talking since her parents left. She just natters all the time. While with me I’ve taught her how to take a shower (rather than a bubble bath), how to bake muffins and how to wash dishes. In hind sight what I should have been trying to teach her is, Be still, and know that He is God… (Ps 46:10)
September 26, 2008
I see fellow believers who know the Word, but seemingly pick and choose which Scripture they chose to obey. I’m not talking about those Scriptures that are shades of gray, but rather those that are so black and white no one can misinterpret them. It’s easy to apply a little righteous indignation toward ‘those who ought to know better’…all in the name of maturity of course. And then I hear Jesus say, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47 NIV) Certainly if Jesus isn’t judging their obedience, then neither should I.
September 25, 2008
It’s been interesting to watch our new start-up church take shape. Even though we don’t have a permanent building, furnishing and equipment are starting to appear. The most recent donations are a hand crafted communion table and both the American and Christian flags, each on a free standing pole. I find it significant that these particular items are ones that the leadership in my previous church, in an effort to contemporize the church, removed from the congregation. For me there is something very comforting in seeing these symbols of tradition return to their place of prominence, it’s certainly worth the effort and inconvenience to bring them back and forth each week.
September 24, 2008
My friend Rick drools over the full set of Harvard Classics majestically sitting on my bookshelves. Gold lettering identifying the book’s contents gleams on the red spine of each pristine book – they’re pristine because they’ve never been read. Much to Rick’s chagrin, my interest in these particular books is strictly for décor. They just really look good on the shelf. Sometimes when I’ve grown weary of one particular element of Christian service the thought has crossed my mind to treat it like a trophy. I’d like to just set it on a shelf, admire it and polish it up once in awhile when I walk by.
September 23, 2008
I recently met a man who mentioned he’d gone to Seminary. I asked about his denominational background he told me that as a Lutheran he was first a liberal and then conservative, however he’s now back to being a liberal. He currently attends two churches, one of which is located in the metropolitan area. When I failed to react to the acronym for his downtown church he explained it was a gay church. I find it interesting that he forced the conversation down this path, even though I was just making conversation. I’m still wondering exactly what it he was looking for from me - was he wanting validation or rejection. Clearly, having gone to Seminary doesn’t disqualify one from being an infant, “…tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14 NIV)
September 22, 2008
Lately I’ve been reading about Bible translations. It hadn’t occurred to me that, similar to the way today’s churches target their audience, publishers of Bibles are also targeting their audience. Until the mid-twentieth century the preferred name for new translations was revised. In 1970 everything became new – New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version. I see why Scripture memorization is neither emphasized or encouraged in today’s church…we no longer have the same vocabulary.
September 19, 2008
One young mother told me, “I had an abusive husband and for my own protection the police told me I needed to get out of town. I had money and no where to turn, so I turned to the church I’d attended all my life…and they [the leaders] turned away my request for help.” An older lady shared, “More than once when my husband was dying I asked the preacher to come by. He never did.” Certainly there may be another side to their stories, however their rejection and pain is real. In the parable of the Good Samaritan some of us can identify better with the victim, than we can with anyone else. Often requests and needs, filtered through the church office, never reach the congregational level. Consequently, who hasn’t felt that it’s our leaders and preachers who are sometimes passing us by on the other side of the road?
September 18, 2008
Last weekend a young lady stood at my front door saying, “I’m an XYZ supporter and I’d just like to ask you if you’ve made up your mind about who you’re going to vote for in November.” I told her I’d be voting for ABC and crest fallen she said, “Oh, are you sure?” Bless her heart. One of the biggest weaknesses believers have is the fact that we’re not sure of ourselves - whether it’s being sure of our salvation or being sure of our Scriptural knowledge. Of course we sabotage each other by expecting the other guy to prove himself to us. I suppose because of our human nature we come by it naturally. Even when Jesus told the disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV), they were saying, ‘Oh, are you sure?’ (vs. 5 & 8)
September 17, 2008
I just watched a snippet of Secondhand Lions (2003) on TV. In a scene at the general store, four young-adult bullies strut in and pick a fight with old timer Hub, played by Robert Duvall. Turning his attention away from the bullies, yet speaking so they can hear, Hub tells his brother and young nephew, ‘[The problem is] everyone’s always been too courteous to stand up to these boys.’ A scuffle ensues and taking on all four punks at once, Hub teaches them a lesson. Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘courteous’ as: general allowance despite facts. I think we believers are often guilty of being too courteous when we fail to stand up to bullies in the church. Oh, we may do pretty good in a one on one situation, but let someone forcefully put an issue before a Sunday school class, a Bible Study or the congregation and all a sudden we’re uncomfortable and don’t want a confrontation. Case in point, when was the last time you saw someone of Hub’s character in action in the church?
September 16, 2008
Figuratively speaking, there may be little difference between a Christian and a fig tree. Like the fig tree, believers are expected to bare fruit in season. On his way to Jerusalem Jesus encountered a fruitless fig tree and speaking to the tree he said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”(Mark 11:14 NIV) Quite honestly, there are times in our Christian walk when we’ve shown no evidence of fruit. How devastating would it be for Jesus to say to us, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from YOU again.’
September 15, 2008
Aside from Christ, the focus of our new start-up church is on establishing leadership and membership, rather than focusing on mission statements such as, ‘seek the seekers or disciple the disciples’. With few exceptions, all our attendees are seasoned believers and I’ve gotta tell you, it feels very surreal. Now I know we are to reach out to the lost, but I’ve got to confess…it is pure joy to be in worship surrounded by such pillars of faith. Seriously, we’re talking about a really mature Spirit here. I think this may be as close as it gets to being “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (Heb 12:1) at least on this earthly plane.
September 12, 2008
When I was drowning in the turmoil at my previous church I used any number of prayer combinations asking God to open the eyes of our leaders. A friend recently told me that for years her prayer during that time was always, ‘God, what is your will for this church?’ God never answered. One day in total surrender she prayed “God, what is your will for me [in this situation]?” Without hesitation God answered her prayer and opened her eyes with understanding. Who would have thought the answer could be so simple…some of us are just asking the wrong questions!
September 11, 2008
Leaving no stone unturned, politicians are desperate and impassioned for our vote. Rather than an irritation, I think the next couple of months can be an education in motivational techniques. For instance, if believers were as zealous in witnessing as politicians are for getting our vote, the impact on the church would be huge. I include myself when I say that many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking that if we simply invite someone to church we are somehow ‘witnessing’ for the Lord. Really, can you imagine the response of the Ninevites if, rather than being told to ‘repent’, Jonah had merely said, “If you don’t have a home church, you’re invited to worship with us in Gath Hepher.”
September 10, 2008
Webster’s defines ‘sweat equity’ as: equity in a property resulting from labor invested in improvements that increase its value. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked that the cup might be taken from him if it were God’s will. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 NIV) Truly Jesus has sweat equity in those of us who call him Lord and Savior.
September 09, 2008
I have friends who for years have been faithful supporters of various Bible colleges. Over the last few years however, that has changed. Being good stewards of their resources and seeing the caliber of graduates coming out of today’s Bible colleges, they have withdrawn their financial support. It never crossed my mind that some of the problems the church is experiencing are the result of Bible colleges presenting watered down theology to their students. Many of us need to start rightly dividing the truth for ourselves rather than expecting (and accepting) the seminary graduate in the pulpit to do it for us.
September 08, 2008
In my email correspondence I’ve never developed the habit of sending one message to multiple people. When I’ve respond to an email in my inbox, I’ve make it a point to reply only to the sender. In the last few months however, that has changed. I now find myself in many situations where, in order to keep everyone in the loop, I have to use the ‘reply to all’ function. I thought I was finally getting the hang of it but just a few days ago I accidently sent a ‘reply to all’ and then cringed when I realized I should have been more selective in the addressees. It takes skill and focus to reveal information at the right time, in the right place and to the right people. During his ministry Jesus often told folks to keep his identity secret because his time had not yet come. What a relief when he finally allowed his followers to Reply To All.
September 05, 2008
I don’t mind reading something off the computer screen, but if I really need to digest it, I print off a hard copy. I like being able to pick up a document and put it down, make notations and use a highlighter. To me there’s something more valuable and trustworthy about a document that I can hold onto as opposed to hear-say. When Moses came back down off Mount Sinai, the Israelites didn’t have to worry about whether or not he remembered the Ten Commandments correctly, because he had the stone tablets. Now, that’s what I call a really hard copy.
September 04, 2008
It’s easy to get bogged down in the imagery of Revelation and I always feel a sense of relief when I come to a portion that can be clearly understood. The letters to the seven churches are pretty straight forward. We may not be able to specifically point to one of the churches and say it’s a representation of our church, but I dare say we have all seen and are aware of the collective pros and cons mentioned by John. If John had a Revelation for today’s church, I suppose he might say ‘to the angel of the church of the Methodists write…, or to the angel of the church of the Episcopalians write…’. However, critiques of any church are much more personal. Just as Jesus knows the heart of an individual, He knows the heart of a church. For us, with a general understanding of our own congregation, how would we complete this thought, “To the angel of the church that I attend write:...”?
September 03, 2008
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is no ‘David’. I just happen to love stories of a David and Goliath nature. I think it’s going to be exciting to see a relatively novice elected official going up against the Political Establishment Goliath. It’s reported that Palin and McCain had met only twice and yet Sarah accepted the VP invitation, got on an airplane and jumped into the challenge. While many folks are questioning her lack of experience, her ability to maintain a family life with five kids and being able to serve in the second highest elected position in the land…I think God is smiling, He loves to see leaps of faith. Often we believers know that the Lord is behind us whispering ‘fear not’, but many of us fail to step out of our comfort zone, grab a sling and pick up a few rocks.
September 02, 2008
Gregg tried to get his son to tell him about the first day of kindergarten, but every time he asked a question five-year old Jason was evasive and noncommittal. After about the third question Jason finally told his dad, “I really don’t need to go to school anymore. I already know everything they talked about.” Ah yes. We believers too have been known to think like a kindergartner. We’ve attended church for years; we can re-tell the stories of Moses, Jonah and Noah and we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We already know everything the preacher is going to talk about. Of course, it only takes a few trials and tribulations to prove we really don’t know anything…much less everything.