October 31, 2008
Occasionally we’ll hear reports about how successfully the gospel is spreading in China, Korea or on some other foreign soil. It’s hard to grasp a global view of the kingdom of heaven in comparison to what we see in our local community, city or state. Not that the gospel isn’t spreading in America, but I can’t say we’re hearing anything about a spiritual revival sweeping the nation. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see what Jesus sees. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Matt 11:12 NIV)
October 30, 2008
Even though we’re one body in Christ, the blood pressure of individual churches varies. From the outside looking in, it appears that some of our local churches are clotting, while others are bleeding out. Many people think their church has a strong heart beat, when in reality, it maybe just their membership bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball from one congregation to another. Aren’t we all guilty of diagnosing the health of our churches by the number of people who attend? You’ve got to admit it’s a weird way to measure the Holy Spirit.
October 29, 2008
The early church had its own version of ‘spreading the wealth’ (Acts 2:45, 4:35). Folks with resources occasionally sold what they had and gave the money to the Apostles for distribution to those in need. “There were no needy persons among them.” I’m glad this account is written down because it seems so foreign to the world we live in today. Now-a-days when someone has a crisis donations are sought, fund raisers planned and bank accounts opened for contributions. It does seem as though the church has turned over her needy to the community and the government.
October 28, 2008
I recently attended a drug task force symposium on methamphetamine. Discussing the intervention process, one speaker said, “We’re taking away their best friend. We need to replace that [lost friendship] with good living, eating and resting.” It seems to me that something similar could be said about all of us before we became believers. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, God begins taking away our best friend –the sinful nature…and replacing it with our New Best Friend, the Holy Spirit.
October 27, 2008
You wouldn’t think that a photo would also show the before and after of our spiritual life, but I think they do. Many a snapshot of holiday meals, high school antics and long-ago romantic interests contain shades of gluttony, idolatry, greed and lust…a fact that kids using Face Book seems to be forgetting now-a-days. It sure makes me glad that the Lord isn’t into scrapbooking.
October 24, 2008
When I come home from a trip, even a short trip, it can take days to get caught up on the mail, newspapers and laundry. I think when we’ve distanced ourselves from the Lord (or from the church for that matter) for any length of time, we also have some catching up to do. Although it’s easy to fall back into the waiting arms of the Lord, we’re still faced with re-establishing that personal relationship. We rarely pick up where we left off in the relationship…and I find that exciting. It’s often that catching up that opens our eyes and gives us a better perspective of God’s will.
October 23, 2008
A few years ago I heard a church leader say, “Your tithe is not a vote.” I’ve also heard the opposite view from an 85 year-old life-long believer who said, “In the church we can vote with our feet as well as our wallet.” At one time or another we’ve probably all had cause to think about withholding a tithe. When I see the church being poor stewards of the offerings that have been collected, I feel my tithe taking on the characteristics of a vote. I’ve discovered that if I give my tithe, for a time, to a benevolent organization other than the church, then my tithe no longer becomes a vote.
October 22, 2008
My friend John, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. Recently I reminisced with John’s widow about his love for politics and we both agreed that if he hadn’t already gone to be with the Lord this current election would have sent him to the grave. Regardless of which way this election goes, it’s pretty much assured that those from the losing political party will feel like God has just sent them into captivity. But it’s OK, “He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go…This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” (Rev 13:9-10 NIV)
October 21, 2008
Retirement can be hard on everyone, but I think it’s especially difficult for preachers. Today’s congregations don’t want older ministers in the pulpit on a weekly basis and yet how do ministers stop doing what they’ve done their whole life. I think it would be similar to a prophet being told he was being replaced and would no longer be prophesying. However all of us, regardless of our gifts of service or how long we’ve been serving, are still clay in the Potter’s hands. The Lord retains the right to remake and reshape us for different areas of service. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we find ourselves back on the Potter’s wheel.
October 20, 2008
Last Sunday my previous church held its 100th Birthday celebration and past ministers came from far and wide came to take part in the reunion. Noticeably absent from the presentations were some of the past ministers and staff who are living right here in the community…word has it they weren’t invited to participate. From the outside looking in, it appears to be a deliberate snub. I must say it’s an unflattering picture for Christians who are mandated to set aside differences of opinion on disputable matters. Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24 NIV)
October 17, 2008
When I get a store coupon or a gift certificate I don’t run right out and spend it. Normally I wait to redeem it until there is something I really want to buy or I try to maximize it by waiting for a sale. The problem is I then forget that I have the coupon. I just noticed that I have one such coupon clipped to the side of the refrigerator with an expiration date of June 2007. A few of my family members treat Jesus the same way that I treat my coupons. They think they have all the time in the world to take advantage of His gift of Salvation…what they don’t understand is that they are the ones with the expiration date.
October 16, 2008
I’m getting ready for new carpet this week and right now my house is turned upside down and inside out. It’s been a challenge to relocate four rooms of furniture. As a last resort I stacked it on the deck and covered it with a tarp. I would have preferred doing one room at a time, but in order to stay out of the carpet layers way, all the old carpet needs to be removed before the new could be brought in. It sort of reminds me of becoming a believer. The Lord wants to make us new all at once and we only want to change our heart one room at a time.
October 15, 2008
It’s apparent that no one fully understands the economic crisis we are now experiencing. Most of us are thinking in terms of businesses and individuals losing money, however many of our churches too have been active in the investment arena. It’s entirely possible that the leaders of wealthy churches are sweating bullets over losses in their unsecured funds. I can’t say I have much sympathy. Scripture is very plain about storing up treasures on earth. It should come as no surprise if God decides to tear down the storehouses of wealthy churches through this economic crisis.
October 14, 2008
Frustrated by his independent fiancé, a middle aged man said, “Darn it! If you’d just do what I tell you to do you would be happy.” Even Paul in his discourse on marriage and remarriage said it was his judgment of a widow that “…she is happier if she stays as she is…” (1 Cor 7:40) It’s interesting that in our human nature we think we know what will make another person happy. The reality is that happiness can be so fleeting that from one year to the next even we don’t know what makes us happy.
October 10, 2008
A while back a recall petition was being circulated in our community. Soon after petitioners began getting signatures it was announced by the opposition that the names of all those signing the petitions would be published in the press. Although I never did see a published list of those who signed, I suspect that the threat had an impact on potential signers. We see a similar situation in the early church and many believers found themselves under the threat of being put out of the synagogue. Scripture’s formula on dealing with intimidation shows us examples of both standing-up-against and running-away-from threats. Our reaction should probably be more a matter of just listening to the Spirit…sometimes I think He wants to see if our fight or flight instinct will kick in.
October 09, 2008
When my grandson was three years old he loved playing with a flashlight. Shining his light on books and toys his sparkling eyes said, ‘Look at this!’ Or in the dark pantry he’d search out the Spaghettios he wanted for lunch. Stuffing the flashlight up his shirt he’d giggle as the spot of light traveled across his chest. In a manner of speaking we adults also play with flashlights, however our tendency is to spotlight ourselves. We’ll shine a light on the work of our hands to impress others and ask leading questions to highlight our latest interest. Maybe we need to get in touch with our inner-child and remember to shine our light before men…not on men.
October 08, 2008
During worship services the parents of a young toddler tried to keep him from speaking too loudly. The imp told his mom, “Don’t shush me mama. I don’t like to shush.” I know the feeling. When those of us in the pew make too much noise we’re told by the leadership to hush. On those occasions when I’ve been told to shush, I take courage in the Lord’s words to Paul, “…Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10 NIV)
October 07, 2008
Last Sunday I lent a shoulder to an elderly woman as she wept. Amidst the tears she choked, “Thanks for listening to me.” Her outpouring of grief began as she signed her name to a transfer of membership to our new church. At her previous church, she’d been convinced by the leadership that as an ‘older person’, she should bow down to the (perceived) needs of the younger generation. Struggling to put it in perspective she said, “It just hurts so much to leave my friends…I’ve been going to that church since the 1950’s…I don’t want to leave, but I know the preaching and the message here [new church] is what I need to hear.” In one way or another we all have a blind spot…thankfully the Lord is still in the business of opening the eyes of the blind.
October 06, 2008
Right now the golden Aspen trees on the surrounding mountains are spectacular. Yesterday while visiting a friend’s cabin however, it wasn’t the groves of Aspen that drew my attention, but rather it was the pine and lush spruce trees. With the help of a gentle breeze, the shedding Aspens had sprinkled all the evergreen trees with leaves of gold. In every direction there were what appeared to be old fashioned Christmas trees adorned with big yellow tear-dropped light bulbs. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:30 NIV)
October 03, 2008
I was coming out of the fitness center as a woman I’m acquainted with was going in. In greeting I asked her how she was doing and unenthusiastically she said, “I’m trying to get in the mood [to exercise].” I can identify. There are times when I feel the same way about some of our brotherly-love responsibilities. Have you noticed that the do-unto-others command gives no consideration as to whether or not we are in the mood? I suppose, like Paul, there are times that we all have to “beat our body and make it a slave’ so that we won’t be disqualified from the prize. (1 Cor 9:27)
October 02, 2008
I’m getting more and more tweaked about modern Bible translations. In a book on how to choose a Bible the author lists the reading level of some versions this way: fifth grade level, CEV and The Message; sixth grade level, NLT; seventh grade level, NIV, NKJV, NRSV; tenth grade, NASB; twelfth grade, KJV. Now I realize that part of the motivation for putting the text in contemporary language is an attempt to entice those outside the church to read Scripture. But the truth is that Scripture was meant for believers, those inside the church. You certainly wouldn’t catch national magazines and newspapers risk losing educated subscribers by lowering the reading level to attract new readers. For many years my Sword of choice has been the NIV. While I’m not frothing at the bit to return to my old King James Version, neither do I want to remain solely with a translation that doesn’t move me beyond the seventh grade reading level.
October 01, 2008
It’s amazing how far tree roots will travel to find their way into the fertilizing properties of the nearest sewer line. There was a time when, within the confines of our individual churches, the search for spiritual nourishment led us to a particular pastor, Sunday School teacher or Bible study leader. It appears to me that the religious landscape has changed. Not only are folks looking for nourishment outside their own church, but they are unhindered in telling others about what they are finding. It sort of reminds me of the woman at the well who, recognizing the possibility that Jesus was the Christ went back to fellow townspeople and told them about what she discovered.