Helen, one of our older ladies has donated her extensive library to the church and we just completed a 19 foot bookshelf to accommodate all the books. We're going to catalog all the books she gives, but because she is such a student of the Word one thing we won’t need to do is scrutinize each book to make sure of its theological footing. However, this isn’t always the case with donated books. There are those who do judge a book by its cover and they sometimes give books to the church based on spiritual appearance, not on the content. In Paul’s day some new converts took it upon themselves to have a public book burning of inappropriate books that were once prominent on their library shelves…today we just send them to the landfill. (Acts 19:17-20)
December 30, 2009
Recently there was a letter-to-the-editor in the newspaper and the writer was complaining about the manhole covers in the streets. The pavement around some of holes slopes into the covers, so when you drive across them your shock absorbers get a little exercise. It’s not like you’re hitting a pothole, but there is a bit of a jar. I find it interesting that the gentleman wants to make an issue out of level manholes. Most of us who are familiar with the road usually straddle them, drive around them or just take the bump in stride. It sort of reminds me of the highway to heaven. Most of us would like for the path to be smooth, without obstacles or pitfalls. However the reality is that the road is narrow and believers must learn to be defensive drivers.
December 29, 2009
It’s reported that a Priest in northern England during his Sunday sermon condoned shoplifting for people who are desperate…as long as they steal from a national chain, rather than a family owned business. The Rev Tim Jones says he doesn’t regret what he said from the pulpit, he just regrets that the media is focusing on the shoplifting and not on the underlying problem, i.e. homelessness and unemployment. This guy obviously needs to go back to the basics, like Ten Commandments 101…‘thou shalt not steal’. As a spiritual leader this Priest is held to a higher standard than others, but the truth is many of us are just as guilty of worming our way around Scripture. In attempting to justify our actions we deceive ourselves by creating loopholes in the Word.
December 28, 2009
Steve Corey posts comments on the blog and I’m always amazed at his in-depth response. I have to admit that I’ve often wondered, ‘Where and how does he come up with so many different facets to something that I think of as being just a simple observation? Do his thoughts from many years of study just float around in his head and when he needs to write them down they just spill out?’ Well, I recently learned Steve’s secret...and I’m so relieved. Using the blog for his daily devotion time, he makes it an opportunity to dig into the Word to fully understand what the Bible says on the topic of the day. Who would have thought that even in our devotional time there’s opportunity to go the extra mile?
December 25, 2009
The shepherds spread the word concerning what they had been told about the child and, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” We too treasure these things and ponder them in our hearts, “…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:1-29 ESV)
December 24, 2009
My Great Aunt Cleo just passed away from a heart attack and I am REJOICING for her! A strong willed, card-carrying American Baptist her whole life, she spoke her mind to everyone - including the Lord. She’s always said, “They may not like what I have to say, but at least they’ll know what I think.” These last few years Cleo has been unhappy with the Lord because she’d made up her mind she was ready to go to heaven and He wasn’t cooperating. Having to go into an assisted living facility it was like the last straw. She refused to use a walker and much to her disappointment when she fell all she got was a few bruises. I really think she was just trying to give the Lord a hand…you break a hip, go to the hospital…and then you die. Right now I can picture Aunt Cleo bending the Lord’s ear wanting to know why it took Him so long to bring her home and the Lord saying, “Patience Cleo, you needed patience.”
December 23, 2009
Last Sunday at the end of the worship service a woman came forward to place her membership with the church. In a quick side bar conversation with the preacher, she was asked if she were an immersed believer. Affirming that she was, he then asked her to repeat the good confession, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” I appreciate these steps taken by the pastor. Many folks today want to be accepted as a believer by simply saying, ‘I’m a spiritual person…I have faith…’ Lydia, a seller of purple and a worshipper of God, listened to Paul preach and her heart was opened. After she and members of her household were baptized she said to Paul, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” (Acts 16:15b NIV) I feel Lydia’s story delineates the difference between being a worshipper of God and a believer in the Lord.
December 22, 2009
The 19th season of Survivor just ended and one contestant was consumed with the game. Russell H. dubbed himself the greatest player ever to play the game. He lied, cheated and manipulated…and came in second place. Obviously the jury, consisting of players previously eliminated from the game, didn’t share Russell’s opinion of his greatness. So distraught at loosing the title of Sole Survivor, Russell even offered winner Natalie $10,000 if she would sell him her title. Sort of reminds me Simon the Sorcerer who boasted that he was someone great. He become a believer, was baptized and then tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from Peter and John. After being chastised for his wickedness, Simon came to his senses…I think he realized the need for becoming a Soul Survivor.
December 21, 2009
This year my four year-old Granddaughter put Jesus on her Christmas list. Her mother explained to her that she didn’t need to actually buy something for Jesus, but that even giving someone a drink of cold water could be similar to giving Jesus a present. Armed with her own money and her shopping list, I took Lydia to the dollar store. She picked out a roll of painter’s masking tape for her Daddy, iced animal cookies for 86 year-old Great-grandmother Ruth and a wine glass for Granddad. I thought we’d completed our shopping when Lydia informed me there was still one more, she still had to get something for Jesus. When I tried to reason with her she simply said, “Hmmm. We need to find the stuff for boys.” A shoe shine kit really took her fancy, and it took a little convincing on my part that Jesus didn’t shine his sandals. She finally decided that something in the food isle might work, because Jesus did feed people. The wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh…Lydia’s Spaghettio’s should fit right in.
December 18, 2009
Our state voted to approve the use of medical marijuana and now unregulated dispensaries are springing up all over the place. A couple days ago I heard a legislator say, “The people have spoken. Now it’s our job to figure out [the] legislation to carry out the will of the people.” Voters feel it’s a good thing for our leaders to respond to the demands of the people, but not always. “Build us a golden calf…Let’s build a tower that reaches to the heavens… Give us Barabbas”. We can point fingers at a person or group for the national situations we find ourselves in, but really the one to blame is the will of the people.
December 17, 2009
Because the authorities feel that all hope of survival is gone, the search for two lost hikers on Mount Hood has been called off. I have a mental picture of God searching for us and I take comfort in knowing that He would not suspend the search. God is not the only one who searches however. Scripture also obligates us to be the ones to search for the Lord, as David charged Solomon, “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9b ESV) How often are we guilty of calling off the search?
December 16, 2009
There are differing opinions about the upcoming Census, but despite the controversy, it will take place. USA Today has an article about the efforts to get the Latino population (legal and illegal) to participate in the 2010 Census. The promotion tells the Christmas story from the book of Luke and the message on the posters reads, “This is how Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph participated in the Census.” No doubt the message of the Census will be strengthened by tying it to birth of Jesus. You have to admit that this is a clever way for the Lord to show His presence. Who would have thought of using the 2010 Census to spread the Gospel?
December 15, 2009
When it came to eating a T-bone steak my dad’s motto was always, ‘If you eat the best first, then you’ll always be eating the best’. My dad was a worldly man with a selfish attitude. However I think his philosophy can work when we’re giving to the Lord. If we start by giving the Lord the very best we have, anything more will still be the best we have to give.
December 14, 2009
Lately I’ve been skimming a book titled Do-It-Yourself Advertising. One section states, “Practically no one buys anything solely because of its features – it’s the benefits that sell.” The example the author gives is that you shouldn’t advertise, ‘the world’s best seeds,’ but rather, ‘the world’s best lawn!’ I think I see some spiritual application that can be made. In the world we live today, they would have us consider Jesus based on his features, such as being a teacher, a prophet and the son of Mary. What the world doesn’t was us to promote is the benefit that Jesus is to each of us personally.
December 11, 2009
Last night ABC Nightly News had a segment on faith. The crux of the reporting revealed that when it comes to religion, Americans want a smorgass board to choose from. For instance people are blending yoga and astrology in with their mainline theology. One woman interviewed considers herself a Catholic, however she regularly attends protestant churches, ‘because God is bigger than one denomination’. This certainly brings home the point that Jesus makes when he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21 ESV)
December 10, 2009
Worldly Conduct The other day a friend critiqued the actions of another fellow saying, “And he calls himself a Christian...” Apparently my friend has a mental check-off list for Christians and in his evaluation, this fellow came up short. There wasn’t any point in trying to defend this guy, or to tell my friend that he misjudged. I did however find consolation from Paul, “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world… in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” (2 Cor 1:12 NIV)
December 09, 2009
With all the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, evangelism is probably the last thing on our minds. I would hope that I don’t overlook a ministering opportunity if it comes my way, but the reality is that I’ve never gathered up my family for a trip to the mall saying, ‘Let’s look around…maybe we’ll run into someone we can share about the Lord with.’ Paul tells Timothy to, “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching…” (2 Tim 4:2 ESV) Maybe I should put the Lord’s name at the top of the shopping list as a reminder that any season is the season.
December 08, 2009
In promoting his new book Grow Your Church from the Outside In, George Barna states that it’s unethical to steal people from other congregations. Personally, I’m not sure we can actually steal members from one another, but if we could, would it really be unethical? I think Mr. Barna’s comment smacks of applying political correctness to the body of Christ, in other words, if you invite those of a different denomination to you church you are labeled unethical. I don’t think so. The disciples of John the Baptist weren’t thinking ethics when they went to ask Jesus, “…Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk 7:22b ESV)
December 07, 2009
What mother at the end of her rope hasn’t uttered the phrase, ‘You just wait until your father gets home.’? Deep within exasperated hearts we want the disobedient child to experience fear and dread, and then to receive the punishment they deserve. Sometime we have similar thoughts about one another’s spiritual disobedience. We may get so exasperated with a wayward brother that we anticipate their penitence, repentance and yes, admonishment. It’s interesting that we all seem to forget that our Father is always home…
December 04, 2009
Occasionally I’ll leave a conversation regretting that I wasn’t as convincing as I could have been. Maybe my witness seemed vague, that I didn’t speak clearly or I just stumbled and fumbled for the words I wanted to use. We’re told to, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1Peter 3:15b ESV) In trying to make a good defense, I think I fall into the habit of trying to tell others who Christ is to me, rather than just telling people who Christ is. No doubt I’m making this harder than it needs to be. The answer may simply be to quote Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:16 ESV)
December 03, 2009
Most of us do not live our lives day to day. Sometimes our plans, appointments and dreams are scheduled years in advance. I just flipped my calendar over to December and saw that my sister Shelly has an appointment with the pulmonary doctor on Dec. 7th. Since she passed away on October 27th, I called and left a message on the doctor’s answering machine that Shelly won’t be making the appointment. It was strange making the cancellation and it brought to mind the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). His land produced such a good crop that he decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones…All for the purpose of having plenty laid up for many years so that he could, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” The man died while making his grandiose plans. I can sympathize with his family having to cancel meetings with the developer, the realtor and the city planning department.
December 02, 2009
I picture Dorcas as a faithful servant, albeit older, tired and weary. Not only was she was always doing good and helping the poor, but she took great care with the widows in her community making them clothes and robes. One day Dorcas became sick and died. I find it interesting that it wasn’t until after her body was prepared for viewing (washed and placed in an upstairs room) that someone got the idea to send for Peter and urge him to “Please come at once!” When Peter arrived he sent everyone out of the room, got down on his knees and prayed. Telling Dorcas to “Get Up”, she opened her eyes, sat up and Peter then presented her back to her friends alive. Because Dorcas was brought back to life many people believed in the Lord. This is a good thing, but I can’t help but wonder if Dorcas herself wanted to come back. Do you think she might have had a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order on file? (Acts 9:36)
December 01, 2009
As a means of encouragement we hear believers tell one another ‘Don’t worry. God will not put more on you than you can bear’. I think the Scripture they are trying to use as a comforter comes from 1st Corinthians. The problem is that this verse is about being able to bear temptation, not about being able to bear burdens. “…And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…” (1 Cor 10:13b NIV) It seems to me that God does in fact give us burdens we cannot carry. Honestly, if we were capable of doing all the heavy lifting of our own burdens there would be no reason to seek the Lord’s help.
November 30, 2009
As a little girl my Grandma would look through the Sears & Roebucks sales catalog and show her daddy things the family could save money on if they would just place an order. Impoverished, Granddad Reed always responded, “Honey…they’ll always be another sale.” Personally I’m more of a ‘needs-shopper’, but I’ve noticed that this year the economists and the government are trying to make me feel guilty for not doing my part to bolster the economy. But I have to say I’m really not in need and Jesus is right, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:8 ESV)
November 27, 2009
I just watched a TV program on cats where the expert discussed different breeds and their characteristics. I found it interesting that when you bring a kitten into your home there is only a short time where they are open-minded. It’s during this window of opportunity that they are moldable and they should be introduced to children, dogs, etc. I see some similarity between kittens and children. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:14 ESV) I know it’s not impossible for an adult or a mature cat to be open-minded…but they are rare creatures.
November 26, 2009
I need this Thanksgiving reminder. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1Tim 2:1 NIV) Interestingly, this was written by Paul when the notorious Roman emperor Nero was in power.
November 25, 2009
Being well organized and usually over-prepared for most situations, I can picture myself as being one of the five wise women in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. That is until it comes to the point in the story where the foolish women ask me to share my oil because their lamps are going out. Rather than sending these clueless girls to town to buy more oil for themselves, I’d probably be saying, “OK, let’s share.” Isn’t that the way many of us are when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven. We want everyone to go to the wedding banquet so we think sharing our oil with them will somehow make them prepared for the Bridegroom. This is one of those times when we are released from the charge of ‘do unto others…’
November 24, 2009
There is an interesting cost to evangelism. Bringing others into the church means we also have to be on guard against the secular baggage that comes with them. Even our elders and deacons can sometimes get a little paranoid as they try to protect the flock from false teachers and leaders. I recently read an article about atheist groups on college campuses that are running into a similar problem. Victor Stenger, an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado said, "The trouble is, any time you start working with other groups, religion starts coming in. People bring up Jesus…” I find it strangely satisfying to know that atheists have to work at trying to keep the Lord out of their gatherings.
November 23, 2009
Because it was once a restaurant and bar, the interior of our church is pretty non-traditional. Probably the best way to describe it is to say it has the ‘feel’ of a lodge. However the woodsy paraphernalia hanging on the walls and displayed on shelves are now sharing space with a few Christian symbols and art work. The décor really is very eclectic. High up in the foyer there is a large wooden cross spray painted gold and illuminated by a spotlight. The arms of the cross are cloaked and draped with a purple swath of cloth. Looking up at the cross my four year old granddaughter Lydia said, “Look…that cross looks like a Super Hero Cross!” Well…yes it does.
November 20, 2009
There are many people who want nothing to do with the Lord…until they find themselves in a desperate situation. I think it’s interesting that these people refuse to have a personal relationship with the Lord, but yet they look to people of faith and ask for prayer support. While it’s a compliment when someone turns to you because you are a believer, it’s also sad knowing that they themselves have a tentative relationship with the Lord. I know that our prayers on their behalf are important, but I can’t help thinking how much better off they would be if they were seated at the Master’s table rather than just settling for crumbs. (Matt 15:21-28).
November 19, 2009
Last week I was in a public arena and started to interject something about the Lord when I was bitten by the PC Bug. I choked back my comments and made them ‘acceptable’ to anyone and everyone who might be in the audience…and I’ve been repenting ever since. What I find especially aggravating is that in hind sight, I doubt if anyone in attendance would have called me on the carpet for bringing the Lord into the conversation. I know I’m not alone. Many of us are so victimized and traumatized by the media that the spirit of the PC police doesn’t even have to be present for us to cave under perceived pressure.
November 18, 2009
My sister Shelly passed away a couple weeks ago and we’re trying to re-adjust to life minus the care-giving responsibilities. Even though Bill mentally deleted Shelly from our evening prayer list, occasionally her name will just pop out…and we laugh. It’s as though she’s retaining her place on the list even though she’s no longer in need of prayer. In time, all those who have passed on come to mind less frequently. Eventually they will be remembered no more, unless of course their last name da Vinci. Jesus made sure we would not only remember Him with the Lord ’s Supper, but that we would also proclaim his death until He returns.
November 17, 2009
Sometimes a music leader will introduce a new song to the congregation and it takes a few weeks of singing the same song over and over before we can really sing with confidence. There are some praise songs that, for whatever reason, I just don’t do well with and I need more practice. When the Lamb returns, we’ll have a new song to sing before the throne. “No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” (Rev 14: 3 ESV) I’m really hoping God has set aside some practice time for us.
November 16, 2009
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave them a sample prayer - The Lord’s Prayer. Even today this prayer plays a role in the believer’s life, although we are more likely to recite it in unison as a congregation than we are to use it as a personal prayer. No doubt when some of Jesus’ followers stood at the foot of the cross they were at a loss for words. I wonder if perhaps in their time of grief they turned to this prayer, which seems to me, very prophetic. “…Father…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6: 9-13 ESV)
November 13, 2009
Speaking as a Veteran I appreciate the recognition that comes with Veteran’s Day, which was November 11th. It may be because of the recent tragedy and loss of life at Fort Hood, but I found this year to be especially meaningful as friends and strangers alike made more of an effort to personally say, ‘Thank you for your service to America.’ Perhaps we in the church should consider doing something similar. It might be interesting to greet other believers, especially those outside of our own denomination, with, ‘Thank you for your service to the Kingdom’.
November 12, 2009
We all know who the thief on the cross was, but I’m not sure we can say he was a thief. Scripture describes him and the other man crucified with Jesus, simply as criminals. We can’t call him by name, but the criminal who feared God said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42 ESV) That day Jesus granted his request and took him to Paradise. Because he was a changed man I can’t see Jesus saying to the saints in heaven, ‘Let me introduce you to my friend the thief on the cross.’ Thankfully when we get to heaven we won’t be known by our sins either.
November 11, 2009
Apparently the teachers of the law were unaware that Jesus could hear the language of their hearts. When they saw Jesus healing a paralytic and telling the man that his sins were forgiven, they questioned in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7 ESV) We know that the Lord has the authority to forgive sin and while we can’t, we still have the obligation to forgive each other…“But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:15 NIV) Most of us work hard on forgiving others…but I dare say we give little thought to those who have forgiven us.
November 10, 2009
Court ordered attorneys are often called upon to defend criminals who've committed unspeakable acts. I suppose some of these lawyers turn their defense into a mental game where the only thing important at the end of the day is the win/loss column. I really don't understand defending the indefensible, even if you are ordered to do so by the court. Unless you were on a debate team, or just loved playing the role of an antagonist, how do you defend someone you believe to be guilty? And then there is Jesus, who defends us in spite of all the unspeakable acts we've committed...our court appointed Attorney.
November 09, 2009
When a child makes a mistake for which there is no excuse an adult will often say, ‘You know better than that.’ That same thought crosses my mind when I learn of a believer who has abandoned the faith. It’s difficult to see someone turn away from the Lord and personally, I just want to understand how they got off track. I want there to be an explanation, a reason or an excuse. I don’t want to think that they are willfully turning away and yet Paul says there is no excuse, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him… Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (Ro 1:21, 28 NIV)
November 06, 2009
I’m still wrestling with the Parable of the Prodigal Son because of a book titled The Cross and the Prodigal – Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The author maintains there are two types of sin shown in the parable. “One is the sin of the law-breaker and the other is the sin of the law-keeper.” In my legalistic mind I know that no one is capable of fully keeping the law, but I’m not ready to hear that there can be sin in attempting to keep the law. For me, keeping God’s commands is an act of obedience and Jesus said if you love me you will obey my commands. Translation: I’m showing love to the Lord when I obediently keep the His commands and sin is just not part of the equation. Mr. Bailey thinks otherwise, “Each son returns to the father either defining (the older son) or intending to define (the prodigal) his relationship to the father as that of a servant before a master. The father will not accept this definition. He offers costly love to each, out of his determination to have sons responding to love rather than merely servants obeying commands.”
November 05, 2009
Our church has been established for a little over a year and a half and we have a terrific, yet unpaid, preaching elder. Gary has opted to take Fridays off from his ‘real’ job in order to prepare the sermon and many of us struggle with the fact that the church is not yet in a position to pay him a salary. Gary however is content and dedicated to current situation…and he’s in good company. Paul, Silas and Timothy also had day jobs while they ministered to the Thessalonians. “…we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.” (2 Thess 3:8b–9 NIV)
November 04, 2009
Before my sister Shelly passed away she told the pastor that she knew Jesus was the Son of God and that all of us are sinners. However, she also told him, “We don’t agree with each other on baptism.” Shelly’s not alone, many people argue that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation and they avoid looking at baptism as an act of obedience. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 ESV) Personally I want all that the Lord can give me, whether in this life or the next. I can’t imagine wanting ‘just’ salvation. I have to wonder if folks who refuse and reject baptism are in essence forfeiting the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (that indwelling presence of the Spirit) while on earth.
November 03, 2009
I needed to drop off some papers at a local business and although I’d never been to the office, I’d seen the owner come and go, so I knew where the business was located. The first time I went to the office a quizzical look crossed the faces of a couple of the staff, but on my second visit a week or so later the secretary politely directed me to the waiting room reception area at the 'front' of the office building. I felt a little sheepish and embarrassed. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1ESV) I know a few people who seem oblivious about the tactics and means they are using to get into the sheepfold…I’m thinking they’re in for a real surprise when they’re shown The Door.
November 02, 2009
The other night a young man on the phone ask me to do a survey on environmental issues. Even though I don’t have a green bone in my body, I agreed to answer his questions. He began by asking what year I was born and I told him 1948. “Oh, I’m sorry.” he said, “But, we’ve already filled that year’s quota.” I choked back some of my incredulous laughter…which I’m certain was totally wasted on the kid. The conversation brought to my mind Rehoboam. When the elders who had faithfully served his father Solomon didn’t give Rehoboam the answer he wanted, he simply turned to the young men he’d grown up with. (I Kings 12:1-15) Believers too can be caught up in going from one person to another until we get the answer we want.
October 30, 2009
Today we will have the funeral service for my sister Shelly. A couple months ago the radiation doctor told Shelly that there was no cure for the cancer in her spinal column. When the doctor left the room Shelly said, “It’s OK. I’ve lived a good life.” Shelly thought she lived a good life because she in fact did everything she wanted to do. It’s certainly a matter of perspective. I too think that I’ve lived a good life…but it’s because I haven’t done everything I wanted to do.
October 29, 2009
We tell ourselves and each other to, ‘just turn it over to the Lord’, but that’s easier said than done. Right after my sister passed away, some of the family sat with her for a couple hours in the nursing home just reminiscing before we called for the mortuary. When the funeral home did come, it was with abandon and great relief that I emotionally turned Shelly’s body over to the Funeral Director. My job was done and there was no more that I could do for her. Now if I could just learn to give my problems over to the Lord as easily. Rarely do I feel that same relief when I turn a problem over to the Lord…obviously I’m neither letting go of them quickly, nor permanently.
October 28, 2009
My 63 year-old sister Shelly, who’s been a nursing home resident since July, passed away yesterday morning at 5:15 am. She died in her sleep, alone. When the Pharaohs died they went to great lengths trying to take an entourage with them into the afterlife. As believers we’ve all been taught that passing from this life into eternity is an individual journey. Now I’m not so sure. Yesterday morning Shelly and two others from our relatively small nursing home passed away within five minutes of each other…maybe theirs was not such a solitary journey after all.
October 27, 2009
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son I’ve always felt that when the prodigal returned home the older brother had hurt feelings mixed with righteous indignation…and I couldn’t fault him for that. I’m now seeing this parable from a different angle. When the older brother heard that the father had killed the fatted calf and received the prodigal back with peace, it meant that he and the father had reconciled and the prodigal paid no penalty. By the prodigal taking his share and leaving, he had control over his money. The older son also had his share, but it wouldn’t be under his control until his father’s death. Adding insult to injury, the position of the older son dictated that he be ‘head waiter’ to receive and serve the guests. No wonder he was angry and refused to enter the banquet. I’ve always given the older son kudos for being obedient and serving his father for years. It now appears that his actions were not done out of love, but out of obligation…and for gain.
October 26, 2009
I’ve always struggled with the Parable of the Prodigal Son…probably because I can identify with the older son. Between my sister and myself, I’m the good child. Recently I’ve been reading a book on this parable and I don’t like what I’m reading. The author is saying there’s not much difference between the older son and the younger son. Ouch! 1) When the younger son wanted to leave, the older son should have stepped forward to be the ‘mediator’, the go-between for the father and the younger son. From the Middle East perspective, the family and the community demand that the older son be the ‘reconciler’. By staying silent he shows that for some reason, he does not want reconciliation to take place…neither for the sake of his brother, nor for the sake of his father. 2) The older brother may have been part of the reason for the younger brother wanted to leave. Because the older brother was entitled to the lion’s share of the inheritance, it’s possible that he was arrogant and unbearable. 3) If the older brother tried but couldn’t accomplish reconciliation, at the very least he should have told his brother he would say prayers on his behalf and for him to have a safe journey and hurry back. So much for being proud of being the good child…
October 23, 2009
It’s not unusual to see motor homes and trucks camping overnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Normally the big rigs park on one side of the massive lot, however the other morning there was a motor home that was obviously out of place. When the occupants bedded down for the night I doubt that they expected to wake up the next morning completely surrounded by cars and trucks belonging to commuters and employees. Unknowingly the travelers had set up camp where the local residents always park. And the locals didn’t cut the visitors any slack; they just squeezed into their regular spots right up next to the motor home. It sort of reminds me of how we park ourselves in our pew at church…heaven help the visitor who tries to park in our space.
October 22, 2009
Until recently I thought fulfilling the will of God would be the same as fulfilling Scripture…but I have since changed my mind. As Jesus was hanging on the cross and, “…knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Jesus didn’t say he wanted a drink because was thirsty…he said he was thirsty in order to fulfill Scripture. Even as Jesus was about to draw his last breath he still attended to the slightest of details by putting on this finishing touch…He left nothing undone. (John 19:28-30 ESV)
October 21, 2009
It’s amazing to me that you can be friends or fellowship with someone for years and after telling them a tidbit of information, they don’t believe what you’ve said. It would be one thing if you have a reputation of getting facts wrong, but if your track record is speaking truthfully, it just doesn’t seem like a friend would doubt you. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them rushed to tell the apostles that the tomb was empty. “…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:11 ESV) So Peter got up, ran to the empty tomb and then went away wondering to himself what had happened. Didn’t the ladies just tell him what happened?
October 20, 2009
In our lifetime many of us have attended only one church, or been affiliated with one denomination. When your church is the only church you’ve ever known, mature believers often wear that fact as a badge of honor, like old-guard member status. It wasn’t until recently that my sister Shelly took an interest in attending church with us. As she began getting acquainted with folks she said, “You know there are just some really nice people there.” I’m still wondering what exactly she’d expected to find. Now under hospice care, Shelly has only been able to attended worship services a handful of times, but we are her church…we’re the only church she’s ever known.
October 19, 2009
When we bought our new church building in May the parking lot was in serious need of attention. Among other defects, you could barely see the parking space lines. One of the first things we did was rent a small machine and tried our hand at striping. I’ll admit that the finished project was obviously the work of a novice, but for a temporary fix it wasn’t too bad. Last week we hired a company to resurface the whole parking lot, but the new striping couldn’t be done until the oil had time to set. So yesterday morning with no delineation we parked on a sea of black. Now you’d think because we’ve all been parking in the same lot for the last six months that we’d have a fairly good idea of where the parking spaces were…wrong. It appeared that the first car to arrive made an educated guess about where to park and then the next incoming car just gauged where to park by the previous car. I’m telling you, angle parking morphing into parallel parking is not a pretty sight. Tell me believers don’t need boundaries, parameters and striping…Biblical and otherwise.
October 16, 2009
We’ve all seen pictures depicting a gentle Jesus with a lamb on His shoulders, but in the lost sheep scenario it says nothing about a lamb. The shepherd is looking for a sheep. I can’t imagine the physical strength needed to hoist a full grown animal up on your shoulders and carry it back home. If the shepherd were a hired hand I think he’d almost be relieved to find the animal dead so that he wouldn’t have to carry it home. Our Good Shepherd doesn’t just find us, He carries us home.
October 15, 2009
I hate those email chain letters that tell me I have to forward the message to all my friends and then I’ll experience God’s power within five minutes. Or, an email blessing telling me to pray for the sender and if I don’t, my left leg will fall off. Often the inspirational message is good, but when I get to the tacked on blackmail-ending it’s hard to hold back my frustration. These emails make threats and promises that they can’t deliver. God does have a considerable amount of ‘if-you-do-this, then I’ll-do-that theology’. But that’s understandable…He delivers.
October 14, 2009
I think the Parable of the Ten Minas is pretty straight forward. To me the moral of the story has always been stewardship. The Lord gives resources, opportunities and money, and then He expects us to use them. Basically, use it or lose it…and the Lord expects an accounting when He returns. I’m excited because I think I just found a loophole. For those who’ve wrapped up their mina and put it on a shelf there’s still hope. They won’t actually lose their mina until the Master returns. There’s still time to put it to work. (Luke 19:11-26)
October 13, 2009
When I get dressed in the mornings I’d like to be dressed for the day, but sometimes I feel like I’m going in and out a revolving closet door. My around-the-house work clothes aren’t proper for an afternoon meeting, neither is my business attire always appropriate for an evening event. Spiritually speaking, believers aren’t supposed to change clothes like an actor on a stage. Jesus says, “Stay dressed for action…be like men who are waiting for their master…open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:35-36 ESV) I think this means that when He returns, the Lord expects us to be wearing something more than a spiritual nightshirt.
October 12, 2009
Roland McCook, great-great grandson of Chief Ouray, was one of the guest speakers for the 10th year celebration of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison becoming a National Park. Overlooking the majesty of the canyon Mr. McCook opened the event with a ceremonial blessing…in his native tongue. I probably should have spent those moments praying to the Lord in English, but I didn’t. Instead I just stood there listening to the beautiful language and not understanding a word of it. When the blessing ended I wondered, ‘What exactly did we just pray about?’ While my situation was an intellectual problem of not understanding the language, we all have the responsibility of hearing spiritual language. Either we understand the spiritual truth of Jesus, or we listen to the devil ...“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44b NIV)
October 09, 2009
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘I love you from the bottom of my heart.’ I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I get to the bottom of anything it means it’s all used up and the only thing remaining is a few dregs. Now if we considered love to be in the category of a first fruit, then we should love the Lord from the top of our hearts. But alas, Jesus is not satisfied with just the bottom or the top of our hearts. He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” ( Matt 22:37a ESV)
October 08, 2009
I know some folks who use their Internet so infrequently that if they were to lose service they wouldn’t even notice. Not so for those of us who consistently use our computers. If I lose Internet service I’m checking the computer every few minutes to see if my service provider has me back up and running. I think the same can be said about our relationship with the Spirit. Some of us don’t even realize when were disconnected, while others are so dependent on the Spirit that we put ourselves in a tizzy if we feel we’ve lost the connection. Who knows, maybe the Lord let us experience a few glitches just because He like us checking in with Him every few minutes.
October 07, 2009
In the courtroom when an attorney doesn’t get the response he wants from a witness he often rephrases the question and asks it again. I see something similar when Jesus questioned Simon Peter. Jesus says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Simon, son of John, do you love me? Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17 ESV) We know that Peter answered correctly because three times he said, “Yes Lord…” But interestingly, it wasn’t until Peter answered the third time that he was grieved by the questioning. I believe it was then that Jesus got the response He was looking for.
October 06, 2009
Have you noticed clothing advertisements for teens and young adults lately? The jeans and t-shirts look like they’ve been piled on the floor, picked up and given half a shake and then photographed. In his day, Peter was concerned that the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes might obscure the beauty of the inner self. Not so today. Now we just have to look past the rumpled clothes-basket look in search of that ‘unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit...’ (1 Peter 3:3-4)
October 05, 2009
October is Pastor Appreciation month and although cards and monetary gifts are easy to give and always well received, they simply don’t have that long-lasting encouragement factor. I know I contributed to the pastor’s gift-card basket last year, but I hazard to say that neither he nor I remember the sentiments that were written in the card. Much of a pastor’s time is taken up with study of the Word, prayer and preparation for the delivery of the Sunday message, but for the most part the only feedback we give him is what we toss over our shoulder as we go out the door, “Good job…Powerful sermon…That one hit home…” I think our ministers deserve more...and that they actually need more if they are to give us their best. Pastors need to hear specifics about how their study has impacted lives, pierced hearts or strengthened faith.
October 02, 2009
In advertising a catchy phrase is called a tag line. Recently I read an article by advertising copywriter John Cadley who said one of his favorite tag lines is, “solving tomorrow’s problems today”. In a business sense the phrase is meant to project control and foresight, but on a personal level many of us worry ourselves to death trying to fight tomorrow’s battles today. Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt 6:34 ESV) Good advice…Besides, what on earth would we do if tomorrow’s problems showed up a day early?
October 01, 2009
Our preacher can best be described as an unpaid preaching-elder. Each week his sermons just get better and better. His messages have had a powerful impact on me, but I’m also seeing folks in their 70s and 80s leaving the worship service with a tear in their eye and a priced heart. It’s somewhat startling to see seasoned believers, both in faith and years, being convicted of sin. I know this sounds naïve, but I’ve always thought that our elders have a handle on Scripture and they don’t easily fall into temptation. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the elderly being like the rest of us and needing to daily repent and confess…
September 30, 2009
Many believers today are floating in and out of churches rather than putting down roots. Because of this transient nature I’ve started inviting people to come and just visit our church, whether or not they have a regular church home. It’s been interesting to note that some ‘older’ folks that I’ve invited have heard by through the grapevine that our church has more older folks than younger folks...in other words, they don’t want to attend a church full of old people. Good grief…from that perspective you’d think Christians come with an expiration date. I don’t think that Jesus would find this criteria acceptable for worshipping together.
September 29, 2009
I have an acquaintance who was meddling in my affairs. One day I happened to pick up the phone when she was calling to talk to someone else and flippantly she said, “Well Gail, have you forgiven me?” I was a little taken back because she hadn’t so much as apologized, much less asked for forgiveness so I said, “I’m thinking about it.” Actually, that wasn’t true. I hadn’t thought about forgiving her because I didn’t think she was done meddling. I know, I know. That’s no excuse. But with some people you just can’t help feeling that if you combine turning the other cheek with forgiving seventy-times-seven all you’re going to do is get whiplash.
September 28, 2009
I just got a new Bible and can’t do a thing with it. The pages all stick together in clumpy sections, there are no familiar handwritten notes in the margins and it doesn’t automatically open to favorite New Testament books. Since it’s a different translation, the Scripture is sometimes beautifully foreign to my mind. While I’m entrenched with the phraseology of my old Bible and not yet comfortable with the new one I catch myself comparing the two translations. It’s sort of like when Daylight Savings time comes around. For a week or so after the time change I keep asking myself, ‘Now what time is it, really?’
September 25, 2009
My cousin belongs to a Baptist church and one of the responsibilities of deacons is to call on members of the congregation. Laura has been her congregation for over 25 years and never had a deacon visit. When she mentioned this fact to her current deacon he said, “Oh, we’ve hired someone else to do that.” I have to admit that when I learned the church paid a retired pastor $400 a month to do all the calling I felt a twinge of indignation. Really, I don’t know why you’d want to be a deacon if you’re going to pay someone else to do your job. It didn’t take long before I had a ‘plank in the eye experience’. I was reminded that just a couple weeks ago I offered to buy the all ingredients for a potluck side-dish if one of the other ladies in the church would just please make the dish. I wound up making a dish myself…and I’m glad that I didn’t forfeit the rewards for my labor.
September 24, 2009
There is an old joke that says doctors are called practitioners because that’s what they’re doing…practicing medicine. As patients, we want our Physicians to leave medical school being proficient, not just practicing. I think it’s interesting that we have high expectations for professionals; however as believers we give little thought to one another when it comes to practicing the Word of God. As noted by Dr. Luke, Jesus however does have expectations for his followers, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21 NIV)
September 23, 2009
Last week former President Jimmy Carter stated that those who criticize President Obama do so because he is a black man. Carter played the race card to stop comments, however a guest commentator on a talk show trumped him by saying, “America doesn’t want a President that we can’t criticize.” Personally I’m weary of being told I must follow politically correct rules, but I’m also worried that those rules keep seeping into the church. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” …and against political correctness! (Eph 6:12 ESV)
September 22, 2009
I’m not much one for all the bling in today’s fashions, but the other day I found a pair of glitter encrusted silver shoes on sale so I bought them for my four year-old granddaughter. Lydia was thrilled with all the sparkles and had a hard time admiring her shoes and walking at the same time. She told her momma, “I think these are my new glass slippers. Now my tennis shoes will just be my white shoes.” I love that fairy godmother feeling. “If you then…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11 ESV) God knows that feeling too…
September 21, 2009
A few years ago I bought a Steiff Teddy Bear at the Salvation Army for ten-cents. He was about 6 inches tall and had patches of hair rubbed off in a few places because he was so very well loved. I wasn’t emotionally attached to Teddy so I put him on EBay and he sold for $65.00. The little guy was worth way more than I imagined and you have to wonder what he’d have been worth if he’d been in good condition. Jesus said, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:31 ESV) And to think, none of us are in the best condition…
September 18, 2009
It’s not unusual to see folks who are down on their luck standing on a highway median holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Will work for food…Need money for gas…Homeless, please help.” While I feel sorry about their circumstances, let me fess up and say that I don’t have an abundance of compassion for the situation. I blame my reservations on the stories of my Dad’s riding the rails and hobo wonderings. For some free spirits asking for a hand-out was preferable to holding down a job. Recently I saw a vagabond’s sign that stated, “Why lie…I need beer.” I like this guy’s honesty and wit…even if he doesn’t move my charitable heart strings.
September 17, 2009
The other day while walking I noticed a couple of doves sitting together on a telephone line. When one bird flew away a ripple ran through the line leaving the other bird struggling to keep his balance. While the bird on the wire was trying to get his bearings, another dove flew in and settling next to his teetering friend, stilled the swaying phone line. I don’t know about you, but occasionally I find myself spiritually unsteady…and it takes another believer to come along side to give me balance.
September 16, 2009
Often people will tell half-truths in order to justify their position. Sadly believers are not immune from embellishing half of a story, but sadder yet is that we let one another get away with it. Not too long ago I was at a dinner party with other believers, when some partial truth was given out. I felt that if I interjected the truth it would only make matters worse…and put a huge damper on dinner. I’m still kicking myself for keeping quiet. Obviously I need a refresher course on, “…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2 ESV)
September 15, 2009
When ministers preach they will sometime use the caveat, “What it says in the original text is…” The preface sounds so benign that in my mind I thought they meant, ‘our Bibles are in agreement with the original text…but they aren’t using the same vocabulary.’ Boy was I wrong! Preachers are actually warning us that some of our Bible translations are NOT saying what the original text says. I’m grateful to ministers who bring us back to the original. However, if Sunday after Sunday the preacher has to ‘correct’ the text of my preferred Bible, then there is a loss of confidence in my translation and cause for concern. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15 ESV)
September 14, 2009
Our church shares a common parking lot with a triplex Cinema movie theater. We’re pretty compatible as neighbors since our hours of service are so different. Offering information to the community, we both have large marquee signs in front of our respective establishments to tell about events and times. This week’s line up for the movies is: Sorority Row, Julie and Julia and Inglorious Basterds. Well now…I can see that Christ’s Church of the Valley is going to be continually challenged to come up with some creative counter-culture advertising. “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” Rev 13:10b ESV
September 11, 2009
I finally finished reading, ‘The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translations’ by Leland Ryken. I now have a better understanding of the different Bible translations available and what we, as readers, have gained and lost in the translation process. One of the more striking points made is the attempt to make Scripture uniform, standard and readable for all people. Translators have ‘flattened’ out the Word of God and many our Bibles now read like the daily newspaper. There is little for the reader to ponder or meditate upon when the text is in short sentences and everything is explained. I’ve used the NIV (1978) extensively for years; however Ryken’s book convinced me I needed to change. Last Sunday I used my new English Standard Version for the first time…oh my goodness. It’s like coming home to the King James Version…minus all the thees and thous.
September 10, 2009
When I was growing up the old Frances Crosby hymn, ‘Rescue the Perishing’ was a congregational favorite…well, maybe not a favorite, but we sang it often. “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;…” I used to think these lyrics were telling me it was my job to do the rescuing and Jesus’ job to do the saving. My stats aren’t very good when it comes to rescuing people who don’t want to be rescued. Actually, throwing out the life line has much less pressure. “Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline! Someone is sinking today.” (Edwin Ufford)
September 09, 2009
My sister Shelly has never met a prescription drug she didn’t like. Since she has lived with me for the last couple of years I’ve made it my mission to fight her drug usage…basically for her life, even if it meant fighting her. Sadly Shelly is now going through her third major bout with cancer in a nursing home and will be going under Hospice care this week. I’m handling her terminal diagnosis well because we’ve known the disease would return. However, one of the goals of Hospice is to keep the patient pain-free…medicated. And I’m not handling that well. Oxycodone, Vicodin and Percocet are the archenemy and it feels like they are getting ready do a victory dance. Scripture tells us to fight the good fight, stand firm, resist evil and don’t give up…I wish it also instructed us on how and when to stop the fight.
September 08, 2009
In an effort to reach out to school children there is a video that has actors giving their support the President and then encouraging our youth to make a pledge to serve Obama. I heard a great response from one commentator who pointed out, “When the President took the oath of office he pledged to serve us. We don’t pledge to serve him.” I think the Obama public relations team might learn something from Scripture, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:26-28 NIV)
September 07, 2009
September 04, 2009
Many years ago I belonged to our women’s group that was called The Guild. The name had existed for as long as I can remember and the title seemed, well…a little out of date. In order to refurbish and energize the group a few of us younger gals petitioned the older ladies for a name change. While the new name helped to better describe us as a group, it really didn’t change us, or our mission. The new title did however have a personal affect on some of our older ladies. In their eyes I’d hoped to see enthusiasm for the make-over, but what I saw a certain loss of identity. It was a good lesson for me and is one of the factors for my current resistance to name changes just for the sake of change…like changing Sunday School to Bible Fellowship or Worship to Celebration. What we gain is not always worth what we lose.
September 03, 2009
As a parent there is very little that can compare with knowing your children are believers. It has crossed my mind however that the spiritual burden for two children was really hard work and I’m glad I didn’t have more kids. I can’t grasp the responsibility the Apostles felt toward all their disciples...nor can I imagine their reward of joy. John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”. (3 John 1:4 NIV)
September 02, 2009
The unfolding story of Jaycee Lee Dugard who was kidnapped and held as a slave for 18 years is unfathomable. I doubt that most of us will be prepared to hear the truth of this tragic story when it’s finally revealed. More than a few people are commenting that there’s a ‘special place in Hell’ for the likes of the captors. Isn’t it strange that some of us find comfort in thinking there are degrees of Hell. Though Hell was established by God, it’s the separation from God that makes it Hell. Sure makes one appreciate that our place in heaven is being prepared for us by Jesus…
September 01, 2009
Many years ago my husband and I purchased 300 paperback Kiamichi Favorite Songs and Hymns for our church. Every month or so on a Sunday evening we’d break out the books and folks picked their favorite old-time hymns to sing. During the 1990’s there were quite a few turnovers with ministers and one new youth minister took it upon himself to clean house by throwing all the books in the trash. Needless to say I was hurt, distraught and angry that this young man hadn’t bothered to ask anyone in the congregation if they wanted to keep the books or to even give them to another Christian group. Last Sunday evening we had our first sing-a-long in our new church and lo and behold there were the green covered Kiamichi books that we’re purchased over 20 years ago. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Unbeknownst to me, one box of the books had survived on a family’s storage shelf because every year they were being used for the church camping trip. I can so relate to the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin …Just as the parables say, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my Lost Kiamichi hymn books’. (Luke 15)
August 31, 2009
I know Senator Edward M. Kennedy accomplished a lot in his life and by the number of folks who turned out for his funeral he was loved, respected and revered. My perspective of the Senator is tainted because I view him through the Chappaquiddick incident and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. I guess I just have a hard time honoring someone who, in spite of their good deeds, seems so...well, dishonorable. In sorting out my thoughts and feelings about Kennedy, King David came to mind. David seduced Bathsheba and then in a cover-up had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed. David, ‘a man after God’s own heart’, was loved, respected and revered. I imaging the friends, family and men serving alongside Uriah found that a little hard to take.
August 28, 2009
My sister just received her third cancer diagnosis in six years. First a lung was removed, then a brain tumor and now a tumor on her spine. Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe Shelly as optimistic, I would say that she has never been pessimistic. A week ago when she learned about the tumor on her spine she said, “Damn…I was hoping for better news than that. Oh well, I’ve prayed about it and that’s all I can do. But even if it’s bad, it’s OK. I’ve lived a good life.” Now I know we all have our own skewed view of life, but Shelly has also battled alcohol and prescription drug addiction for years…and yet she feels she has lived a good life. I suppose to one degree or another everyone thinks they’ve lived a good life. Guess we’ll all find out for certain when it comes time for us to stand before the Lord.
August 27, 2009
There are times when church attendance can fall under the umbrella of obligation and we grudgingly attend services. Maybe it’s during our teens when our parents tell us we have to go, or it could be when we’ve overcommitted and have nursery duty for six months. And then there’s the spiritual dry spell when you leave a worship service feeling no different than when you walked in the door. I think even the faithful can occasionally find themselves being unfaithful. “Still others…hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19 NIV) I hate it when the worries of the world follow me into worship.
August 26, 2009
When we commit a traffic infraction while driving in town we normally avoid eye contact with other drivers. For instance, if you take the right-of-way from another driver you don’t want to look him in the eye because you know, that he knows, that you are in the wrong. Or haven’t we all rushed a yellow caution light and wound up running a red light. We don’t want to see the reaction of other drivers so we look out the window, fiddle with something in the car seat or stare straight ahead…it’s as though we believe, ‘if I don’t look you in the eye then you don’t know what I’ve done’. Sort of reminds you of Adam in the Garden of Eden…he probably thought, ‘If I don’t make eye contact with God, He won’t notice’.
August 25, 2009
I think it’s safe to say that at one time or another we’ve all asked God, ‘Why?’ Some people have countered this question with, ‘Why not?’ which I’ve always thought that was a good response. Recently however I read an even better response. The ‘Why?’ was turned into ‘What for?’ I think God might be pleased if we asked Him ‘What for?’ when we are in the midst of a crisis.
August 24, 2009
A woman in distress called 911 because she was locked inside her car. “Everything on my car is electrical and nothing’s working”, she told the operator, “It’s getting hot in here and I’m not feeling well.” Calmly the operator said, “Ma’am, do you have a lock on your door and have you tried pulling it up?” Problem solved…the captive was set free. I can so identify. The Spirit often answers ‘end-of-my-rope’ prayers with a similar, ‘have you tried pulling up on the lock?’
August 21, 2009
Years ago when we laid sod in the backyard we just piled the excess dirt by the fence. Depending on our landscaping needs, a shovelful of dirt here and there was added to or taken away from the pile. For the most part though, the heap just weathered in the elements and took on the shape of a mini-volcano. One summer a colony of entrepreneurial ants came by and couldn’t pass up the pre-formed anthill. With a little interior remodeling they made the dirt mound livable and took up residence. Our adding and subtracting eventually took its toll on the colony. Just goes to show that there is something to be said about, “building on someone else’s foundation”. (Ro 15:20)
August 20, 2009
For the last couple years my sister has lived with me and I’ve been her caregiver. I worry when she’s not feeling well, but I have a confession to make…she’s easier to get along with when she’s ill. I know it sounds bad, but when she’s really, really sick she doesn’t complain, criticize or demand…she appreciates everything I do for her. When you think about it, it’s not much different than when God allows challenges (physical, financial, spiritual, etc.) to come into the lives of believers. We really are more cooperative with the Spirit’s leading when we’re feeling under the weather.
August 19, 2009
I heard a story on the news about 90 year-old Martin Alvey who, because of degenerative eye disease, has been blind for two years. A recent dizzy spell sent Mr. Alvey to the hospital and while being examined his sight miraculously returned. Giving credit where credit is due Martin said, “God gave me back my sight.” Wanting more of a personal anecdote the reporter asked what had changed since his sight had returned. “Well,” said Martin, “When I go to shave in the morning I look in the mirror and say, ‘Hello there Buddy…Nice to see you.’” Jesus didn’t opened the eyes of the blind just so they could see the world around them…He opened their eyes so that they might see themselves.
August 18, 2009
I get frustrated with Senators and Representatives who are prepared to sign a health care bill without first having read it. Apparently many of those in Congress rely on their staff to do the reading, research and help formulate opinions. In reality I suppose it’s not much different than those of us who never crack open our Bibles…we rely on preachers and teachers to spoon feed us their opinions and interpretations. You wanna bet that the Spirit Himself just might be a little frustrated with us?
August 17, 2009
Because my church is a relatively new congregation the mission’s ministry is in its formative years. Other than thinking in terms of three different outreach directions - local, national and international – we haven’t settled on what or who to support. In the past I think the trend in churches has been to support people on the mission field, with a few projects thrown in here and there. However I’m wondering if supporting projects rather than missionaries might be closer to New Testament teaching. The disciples were sent out with no money in their purse or extra provisions and even Paul was not financed by the church, but supported himself as a tentmaker. I think I personally like the idea of supporting projects because they are measurable. Similar to the situation in the parable of the talents, most of us want to see evidence of our investment in the kingdom.
August 14, 2009
Most of us feel a certain amount of responsibility toward our children, our best friend or even our Sunday School class, if we’re the teacher. Generally speaking however, we don’t feel the same obligation towards those who fall in the category of an acquaintance. As Paul was sailing to Rome a wind of hurricane force came up and an angel of God said to him, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” It’s entirely possible that Paul didn’t even know the names of some of those on board. Here’s a scary thought…maybe the Lord has given you the lives of all your co-workers or your friends. What are you going to do with the lives God has graciously given you? (Acts 27:24 NIV)
August 13, 2009
I recently joined 13 fellow believers for a pot-luck dinner. At one time we had belonged to the same church, but today we attend five different local congregations. At the time of our separation from one another, it was somewhat painful. None of us wanted to leave the church we had in common, much less the fellowship we shared with one another. I suppose the Apostles and the 72 disciples (Luke 9:3, 10:1) may have had similar feelings as they were split up. I think my pot-luck group shares a bond with those in the early church who were sent out…you cannot be returned to one another with joy unless you’re first separated.
August 12, 2009
Recently two obituaries published in the paper on the same day caught my eye. Interestingly both deceased men, one 54 and the other 76, died of natural causes. I’m sure most of us believe we’ll die in that way…when we’re in our 90’s. Somehow dying at 54 years-old seems, well…un-natural. No doubt the warning, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”, is just as applicable to our life on earth as it is to the Second Coming. (Matt 22:42 NIV)
August 11, 2009
My great-aunt Cleo fought going to the nursing home tooth and nail. While I was trying to encourage her by telling her God could still use her, she was telling God, ‘I’m useless, I’m ready to go to heaven and You’ve left me on earth long enough…I don’t understand why you won’t let me die’. It’s now been a month since Aunt Cleo took up permanent residence in the nursing home and all of a sudden life is worth living. It seems a fellow resident admired her strong faith and wanted a private conversation to see if Cleo could help her with her weak faith. The two of them visited for over an hour. Cleo said, “She’s elderly…well a couple years older than I am. I just hope and pray I said the right things; the things the Lord wants me to say.” Thinking that I needed to be praying for both of them, I asked Aunt Cleo the name of her new disciple. “Well, I’ve been calling her Doris, but I think others are using a different name. I need to find out who she is.” Hey I’m good with it, the name Doris works for me…besides, the Lord can sort it out.
August 10, 2009
When I enlisted in the Navy, boot camp for women was located at Bainbridge, Maryland. As new recruits, character building was an important and ever present element of our training. An impressive sign positioned over the entrance to the drill hall read, “Through These Portals Pass the Women of the Greatest Navy on Earth”. Every time we marched through those doors we were reminded of who we were. As believers it might be good to have a reminder over the doors of our churches that read, “Through These Portals Pass the Greatest Sinners on Earth”.
August 07, 2009
Because of health issues my sister has had to live with me for the last two years. I’ve prayed, hoped and kept my fingers crossed that the Spirit might somehow rub off on Shelly enough that she would come to the Lord. Strangely she got excited about the new church and made a personal investment in it by cleaning and working alongside believers as we prepared the facility for worship services. Without any prompting…or manipulation on my part, she began attending services the first Sunday in our new building. The last couple of weeks have seen Shelly’s health take a turn and she’s now in a nursing home deteriorating rapidly. The only functioning body of Christ she’s ever known is the five Sundays she’s worshiped with us. I’d like to think that some Gospel residue is sticking to her.
August 06, 2009
We all have friends and relatives who we suspect do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. Rather than our trying to witness to them through conversation, we often rely on the Holy Spirit to use our Christian life style to point them toward Christ. Not that talking to them couldn’t be productive. It just seems counterproductive to ask someone if they believe that Jesus is the Son of God knowing full well that they don’t even believe in God. Another reason I’m hesitant to ask someone if they believe that Jesus is the Christ is because I’m afraid of the answer...What if they say, “No”? I know this is skewed thinking, but somehow it seems that as long as a person doesn’t outright verbally deny Christ, then the Spirit still has an opportunity to work on them. Or maybe it’s that I really don’t want a loved one to confirm my suspicions that he’s forever lost…
August 05, 2009
I don’t have a green bone in my body and I attribute my lack of being politically correct to my formative years. I grew up with outdoor plumbing, taking turns bathing in used bath water and no nighttime heat in the Warm Morning stove because everyone was supposed to stay cozy in bed and under the covers. I’m not bothered by ecologists who warn against leaving a carbon footprint; I am however concerned that many of us seem to shy away from leaving a spiritual footprint. We are so busy trying to keep our faith and beliefs politically correct that we don’t even stir the dust…much less leave a footprint.
August 04, 2009
One thing TV crime dramas have in common is that the bad guy just doesn’t walk into a detective’s office and make a confession. Once he’s caught there’s a certain amount of interrogation, testimony, and verbal arm twisting that goes into getting him to admit his guilt. You’ve got to emphasize with the Holy Spirit. It takes a lot of time and effort to get the ‘good confession’ out of some of us.
August 03, 2009
Colorado Governor Ritter was one of the speakers at the funeral for our police officer who was shot in the line of duty. Speaking about all those who’ve sworn to serve and protect the Governor said, “The day after the Sgt. David Kinterknecht was killed, men and women across Colorado woke up, put on their uniform and went to work.” I think this same message is applicable for believers. We may be struggling, weary or grieving, but with each new day it’s the Lord’s desire that we get up, put on our armor and follow Him.
July 31, 2009
As I see it, the only thing all obituaries have in common is the fact that someone has died. Beyond that, our emotional reaction to each obituary is decidedly different. For instance our sympathy level may be much higher for a twenty-something than for an octogenarian. We’re likely to have more empathy for a mother with a young family than for a grandfather. I think most of us mentally use our own age as a gage to determine when we think someone is too young to die. At 33 years of age Jesus was crucified…not too young to die?
July 30, 2009
Those of us who are native born Coloradoans often lord that fact over folks who move into our area from another state. And we often show our indignation with transplants when they suggest we change and become like the state they just left. Rather than being irritated, I had empathy for one newcomer who was toting a bumper sticker that read, "Not a NATIVE...but I got here as soon as I could." I can imagine the Jewish indignation toward chosen people who are not native. Maybe my Gentile bumper sticker should read, ‘Not a NATIVE…but I came to Jesus as soon as I could’.
July 29, 2009
The bumper sticker on a small truck being towed by a large motor home read, “Please be patient with me, I’m pushing this big trailer.” Sort of reminds me of how some of us feel when we’re doing the Lord’s work. We think we’re the ones who are pushing forth the Lord’s agenda and doing the heavy lifting, when in reality it’s the Lord who is motoring along and pulling us with Him. Jesus said, “Come, follow me…” not come give me a push.
July 28, 2009
I recently attended a session where participants were asked to give their views on various interests within the community. A couple of people in the group dominated the conversation and seemed oblivious when other participants tried to squeeze in their comments. Believers too can be guilty of hijacking a Sunday school class, Bible study or fellowship. I think most of us know when someone is redirecting a lesson. Normally we feel it is up to the leader to get us back on track, however we also have an obligation to not let ourselves get squeezed out of the conversation.
July 27, 2009
Most careers don’t put us in life threatening situations and I think we sometimes underestimate the cost to those who do serve in dangerous occupations. Yesterday three of our police officers were shot in the line of duty and tragically, one was a fatality. I think many times we believers also underestimate the cost of following Christ…and we fail to realize we are always on duty. It seems appropriate to recall Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)
July 24, 2009
My son wore a Fedora when he was in high school. It really did look good on him, but I developed strong dislike for the hat because when he wore it his personality and mood changed...he was invincible. Similar to Zorro putting on his mask, a motorcyclist rider putting on black leathers or a young woman dressing in revealing clothing, there is a certain suggestive power that has us behaving like we dress. It’s no wonder Paul tells us to put on the armor of God. He knows when we’re fully dressed up were invincible against the devil and his schemes. (Eph 6:10-18)
July 23, 2009
One of the neat things about church planting is that it’s easy to invite people to come and visit you based solely on the grounds that you’re a new church. I recently I ran into a believer that I once worshipped with from XYZ Church, so I invited her to come and visit. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the sheep rustling business. We just have friends in common and I thought she might like to see what we're doing. “Thanks,” she said, “But I’m not into church right now. Oh… every once in awhile I go to the ABC Church and I’ve talked to Pastor Doe. He understands me and where I’m coming from.” There’s not too much you can say when you’ve been given the brush off. I wish I could have said, ‘From the Lord’s perspective it’s where you’re going that’s the issue…’
July 22, 2009
Our Sunday morning sermons keep getting better and I don’t think it’s just because the preacher is gaining more experience in writing and delivering the message. Because we have new faces with unknown hearts, none of us can assume that everyone in the worship service knows the Lord as their personal Savior. I think we’re on our best Christian behavior and preaching the Good News rather than ‘preaching to the choir’.
July 21, 2009
If you’ve been a believer for any length of time you’ve probably invested some effort in inviting people to church. You also know that people just don’t normally attend church without a personal invitation. Last week a man left a voice mail on the church phone apologizing for backing into our wooden privacy fence. He gave his name and cell phone number and asked how much it would cost to have the fence repaired. A couple of our deacons were able to fix the fence and told the man he could donate whatever he felt was appropriate. Going a step further the man said he thought he might as well just come to church…and he did. You’ve got to admit the Lord has an unconventional way of evangelizing.
July 20, 2009
I think the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah just has the feel of God’s judgment. You can almost smell the burning sulfur raining down from heaven as a dense smoke rises from the land. For me the scene has Revelation written all over it. It’s sort of ironic that just being annihilated doesn’t spare these towns from having to go through the judgment. There is some not-so-bad news for Sodom and Gomorrah however…it will be more bearable for them on the day of judgment than it will be for the towns that did not welcome the disciples or listen to their words. (Matt 10:11-16)
July 17, 2009
We’ve all experienced a time when we could tell we weren’t as loved as someone else. Maybe it was realizing that brother Bob was Mom’s favorite, or finding out that our best friend in the whole world has a new best friend. In our human nature some of us work very hard to keep the favored status or regain what was lost. Jesus very pointedly tells us where He expects to be on our love-scale, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matt 10:37 NIV)
July 16, 2009
The old Mission Impossible TV series of the mid-1960’s started out each week by giving the operatives a mission. A portion of the pre-recorded instructions to IMF leader Phelps had the caveat, "Your mission, should you decide to accept it..." Believers are often given assignments by the Holy Spirit, but many of us think that we too should have the option of refusing the mission. Jonah refused his assignment, but it only took three days and three nights in the belly of a fish for him to reconsider and become “a sign to the Ninevites”. (Luke 11:30 NIV)
July 15, 2009
Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how we should pray to the Father. I find it interesting that as children we memorize this model prayer, but we rarely recite it as adults. I have a feeling that some of us feel it’s a sign of our ‘maturity’ to leave the model prayer and to be able to craft our own eloquent public prayers on the spur of the moment. Considering the current financial and economical crisis we might want to think about going back to the basics, “Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” (Matt 6:9, Luke 11:2)
July 14, 2009
In talking about unity in the body of Christ, Paul tells us to speak the truth in love. Now I know the ‘in love’ phrase is important, but I think it sometimes keeps us from speaking the truth at all. When we expose a weaknesses or sins in one another, the last thing we’re going to be looking for is the love factor. Too bad Scripture didn’t also instruct us to listen to the truth in love. (Eph 4:15)
July 13, 2009
My Mom has been a nursing home resident for a couple of years. Even though at the beginning of her ‘incarceration’ I consolidated her belongings, I still find myself going through boxes to locate pertinent papers. I was on such a search last week when I came across a file folder containing a health and vitamin magazine. The lead article on the front cover boldly stated, “How Not to Have to Go into a Nursing Home”. I’d really like to share my discovery with Mom…but I’m not sure she’d see the humor in it. One of the things that often attract people to the Bible is the, ‘How to Stay out of Hell’ sections. Too bad the rest of the Book gets filed on a shelf.
July 10, 2009
I like the motivating thought that ‘you can’t expect to walk on water unless you first get out of the boat’. I think some of us are slow to get out of the boat because we don’t want to go alone…we really do want everyone else to come with us. When Jesus called James and his brother John without delay they left to follow him. They not only didn’t ask anyone to come with them, “…they left their father Zebedee in the boat…” Sometimes we just need to leave others in the boat…and throw them a life preserver.
July 09, 2009
In relinquishing her position as Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin said in a news conference, “It would be apathetic to just hunker down and ‘go with the flow.’ Nah, only dead fish ‘go with the flow’.” Maybe that’s why some of us are failing discipleship 101…we’re trying to evangelize folks who just want to go with the flow.
July 08, 2009
Last week a couple from Texas sent a gift to our fledging church with a note saying, “You may use this check for the building or use it to go toward your budget – wherever the need is the greatest.” I think this generosity is reminiscent of the early believers sending collections to needy churches in other areas and communities. Paul is speaking of folks like these when he says, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Cor 9:12 NIV)
July 07, 2009
Ever since we planted an apricot tree we’ve experienced a spring frost that has killed all the fruit. This year I was excited to see that about 3 dozen apricots had survived the frost, but my happiness was short lived. Yesterday I discovered that every piece of fruit had been pecked by birds and not one piece was left untouched and hanging on the tree. Now I don’t begrudge them their share, but I’m a little miffed. I can’t even tell if this is a tree that bears ‘good fruit’ because I’ve never had a chance to taste it. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matt 6:26a NIV) I appreciate God feeding the birds…and He feeds them so well.
July 06, 2009
As we settle into our new church facility there are some things that aren’t yet running smoothly. Because our house of worship isn’t quite in order I’m struggling with distractions during the service. For instance, the feedback from sound system contributes some squawks and screeches and serving communion doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as it should because we need a couple more serving trays. We’re unable to offer Sunday School for the young children because the classrooms aren’t yet prepared and if you want a fairly comfortable seat in the worship center you need to come early…or bring your own cushion. I can identify with Martha who was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Clearly the Lord is talking to me when he says, “Martha, Martha,…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” That is, to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen. (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)
July 03, 2009
Recently I attended an open forum meeting where the topic of discussion was community growth. One Christian man used some of his microphone time suggesting the group’s efforts could be better spent on helping the homeless and serving food at meals sites. Boasting of his own service to the poor, he in effect chastised others for their lack of compassion and service. I don’t know how the audience felt about his assertions, but as a fellow believer I was embarrassed for the man and cringed at the shadow of pride he cast.“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt 6:2 NIV)
July 02, 2009
Most of us have an opinion on how money should be spent or how projects should be funded, especially if we’re talking about the government, a community organization or the church. Speaking from a leadership perspective a church newsletter reported, “We have somewhat of a built-in cushion in our checking account [and] We’d rather not dip into Capitol Improvement funds, [but] a portion of the funds have been pulled and kept as an emergency fund…” Whether or not congregants agree or disagree with leadership’s stance really isn’t important, but can’t you just picture the Lord doing an eye roll and saying repeat after me, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”(Matt 6:26 NIV)
July 01, 2009
Some church administrations have cut back on programming by eliminating Sunday evening services, youth groups and Sunday School. The leaders of one congregation describe their actions as more of a philosophical shift than a financial one and feel they are pro-active. In light of the current downturn in tithes and offerings it is a shift they’re happy to make. However, their newsletter attempts to add weight to their current position, “I feel sorry for the organizations that are driven by a high volume of expensive programs and whose people have become accustomed to having them feel they are essential to their ongoing church experience.”
June 30, 2009
Whether as an individual, or as a church, we’re all feeling the pinch of the current economic situation. One church reported, “…we have cut many of our ministry budgets by 50% effectively immediately. We are not a staff who believes that money is the key to ministry...” With all due respect to being frugal, I’m not sure how an ongoing ministry survives an immediate 50% cut in their funding. Maybe there are some positives here. This tightening of the belt could result in volunteers looking for new places to serve. I suppose we could also view this as a sort of pruning of ministries…and we know how the Lord feels about pruning.
June 29, 2009
For the last year our church shared space with a funeral home which is located in a semi-industrial area of the city. The facility we recently purchased is in a business area on a highway and everyone is excited about the high visibility. We’ve all agreed it will now be easier to give directions to the church. Interestingly the local Church of Christ is doing the opposite of our congregation. They sold their high visibility property and will soon be moving into a new building, which is located in a residential area. Concerned about her church moving to a secluded suburb, one of their older members remarked, “How are people ever going to find us if we’re not on the main thoroughfare?” Not to worry. God determined the times and exact places where every nation should live, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27 NIV).
June 26, 2009
Six years ago it was determined that my Great Aunt Cleo could no longer live alone, much less take care of her large home. She moved into an assisted living facility and after a month she decided that she’d be better off back in her own home. For over a year her family, friends and some hired help rallied around to enable her to stay in her home. Eventually running out of options, she was forced to move to Texas and live with her daughter and son-in-law. After four years it was once again determined that she needed to be in a facility with fulltime nursing care. A few months ago arrangements were made for her to spend one weekend in a nursing home in order to just get a feel for the place. That’s all the time Aunt Cleo needed to decide she would not be one of their residents. This last Wednesday she grudgingly moved into an assisted living facility. I sort of think she’ll stay this time, in part because she had to put down a $2000 non-refundable deposit. Believers think we can’t move mountains...who says the powerless don’t have power.
June 25, 2009
Don’t you just hate it when someone learns how to push your buttons? People can really get under a Christian’s skin by characterizing them as holier than thou, hypocrites or Bible thumpers. Recently a person said of me, “…ya know that you sound pretty judgmental and sarcastic for being such a ‘good christian’.” At one time I would have defended myself against this type of criticism. And most likely I’d also have felt discouraged, dejected and worried that I’d somehow devalued my Christian witness. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t defend himself or react when he was called a blasphemer, law breaker, or criminal. I think Jesus is a good example of how not to let your buttons get pushed.
June 24, 2009
Last Sunday was our first service in the ‘new to us facility’ and we had 162 members, visitors and well-wishers in attendance. Naturally, there are a few glitches to work out. In the old facility we were fairly well compacted and had only one isle going down the middle of the church. Those serving communion would send the emblems down a row and the person seated at the end of the line would pass the trays over the shoulder of the person seated in front of them and the trays would work their way back to the server. In our new facility however, we need a new system. We now have two isles, along with double rows of seating on an upper level balcony. Since some of us are still in the ‘let me help you pass the tray’ mode, Sunday’s servers had to do some quick juggling and fast foot work. Communion trays seemed to have a mind of their own zigzagging over shoulders and around the auditorium. Placing the trays back on Communion Table a chuckle went through the audience as one of the elders broke the contemplative silence saying, “Now I’ve just got to ask...Did everyone get served?”
June 23, 2009
I admire those who can make a Christian defense on the spur of the moment, but for many of us our best thoughts come to us only in hindsight. I think some of us can learn something from a technique used by Jesus. Rather than always defending the Father or Scripture, he would sometimes defer to them. “Haven’t you read this scripture…, You are in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God…” Sometimes being able to make a case may not be as important as knowing when to defer to the Authority.
June 22, 2009
Our paper reported that two weeks ago a local congregation split off from their denomination. While many people of faith are saddened when congregations divide, God may very well view the situation as an opportunity - for both the old and the new congregations. Normally we wouldn’t consider church-division as being church-planting, but that’s exactly what is taking place. If the splinter group were to walk away from the Lord and abandoned worship altogether, then believers everywhere should indeed grieve the loss. In reality however, those who’ve split are starting another church and simply multiplying the Kingdom of God. This is a time of rejoicing, not grieving.
June 19, 2009
I received a letter from a man who wanted to raise $1,000 for an event. Rather than letting the prospective donors decide what they felt like contributing, he set the amount for them. Taking it a step further, the solicitation letters listed the names of the ten people that he expected to contribute $100 each. I think there are times when we believers also fall into the trap of looking at others with thoughts about how they should spend their money. We mentally critique folks when we think they spend too much, save too little, or just in general should and could be putting their money to better use. God gives us talents (money) according to our ability…and we have the audacity to think we can manage another person’s talents better than he can.
June 18, 2009
The local Episcopal Church had a split and the majority of the congregants have walked away and started a new congregation…and the pastor went with them! It’s my understanding the left-behind group had fewer than a dozen attendees last Sunday. I know this was a hard decision to make for those who left, but I congratulate them for taking a stand against the direction their former parent church is taking. Paul says, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt 5:30 NIV) Rather than just cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye, I think these folks did some serious amputation.
June 17, 2009
In our younger years most of us were guilty of seeing a gray-headed man driving a new Corvette convertible and thinking aloud, “That guy can’t possible appreciate such a smoking hot car as much as I would if it were mine. What does an old geezer need with a car like that anyway?” Or, we’d see some empty nesters rattling around in a five bedroom home and think, “They couldn’t possibly use all that room. Just think of what I could do if I had that much space.” Maybe our thought wouldn’t run so wild if we took Scripture to heart and actually realized that coveting is a sin…not just a mental exercise. Even Paul admits, “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” (Romans 7:7b NIV)
June 16, 2009
As we continue refurbishing the restaurant and transforming it into a church and we’ve had some interesting visitors drop by. A few days ago a woman stopped in to tell us that her prayer group began praying about the facility when the restaurant closed two years ago. “I just wanted you to know that we were praying that a Christian business would come into this building.” Tell me the Lord doesn’t plan ahead. We’ve only been a church body for one year…two years ago none of us even knew we needed a building. “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matt 6:8b NIV
June 15, 2009
Once when I had nursery duty I looked out the window and there, dangling from the tree were leaves, feet and legs. Hanging in the high branches was a group of unsupervised preschoolers having a grand time. Plucking the last one out of the tree I breathed a sigh of relief and borrowed a quote from Jesus. “…I have not lost one of those you gave me.”John 18:9b NIV
June 12, 2009
For $660,000 our congregation purchased an upscale facility for our new church home, however not everyone in the community is supportive. There are a handful of folks who think we have too many churches in the area and they really wanted to see the restaurant and bar resurrected. One citizen said, “For a church to pay that much money to obtain real estate is absurd. That money could have actually gone to helping people instead of towards a monument to someone’s ego.” Now let me think, I’ve heard that before…Oh of course, now I remember. At Bethany Mary anointed Jesus with perfume and it was Judas Iscariot who objected. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” John 12:5 NIV
June 11, 2009
Recently I visited with a thirty-something man who manages a local business. He disagreed with some of the city’s ordinances and codes, so his solution was to simply ignore them. “I guess you could say this is just my little protest. I can’t change the rules, but I don’t think I should have to follow them when I think they’re wrong.” I was somewhat taken back by his attitude, especially since he’d had a tour of duty with the Marines. By all appearances he is someone who doesn’t like rules, so I imagine his superiors were glad to see him leave military life and become a civilian again. Many believers are no different than the store manager when it comes to God’s requirements. If we don’t agree with a Biblical mandate, we protest by simply not complying with the ones we think are wrong. Whether in the physical world or the spiritual world we sometimes have arrogant attitudes. What’s unbelievable is we seem to be telling God, “It may be wrong, but first you have to catch me in the act…”
June 10, 2009
We haven’t yet gotten the sign changed on our new church facility, so to the passer-by it still appears to be a restaurant. We did however put a mark of ownership on the marquee which reads, ‘Thank You God’. Yesterday a middle-aged man named John (not Tom in the June 3rd blog) was driving by when he read the marquee and had to stop. Unassuming and soft spoken he said, “I hope you don’t think it’s weird, but the Spirit told me I needed to come in and ask if I could do anything to help. Sometimes I avoid doing what the Spirit tells me to do…but this time I decided I was going to be obedient.” I felt a little funny asking him about doing windows, but he was willing. I was comfortable with the task I’d given him, because it required climbing an eight foot ladder – something that would have been difficult for our ladies. Engaging John in conversation I found out he belongs to another local congregation, he didn’t know that our building was a church…and by profession he is a building contractor. I have to tell you that I felt sheepish having asked a contractor with his own thriving business to simply wash windows. I was reminded of the passage in Hebrews, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Heb 13:2 NIV