April 30, 2009
I was once in a class where the teacher tackled a controversial topic and his point of view was not entirely in line denominationally. Although I can’t say that I totally agreed with all the assumptions he made, with the Scripture he presented, I could understand his reasoning. At the end of the class a church leader firmly and publically corrected what had been perceived as errors. A Jew named Apollos spoke boldly in the synagogue. “He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 18:24-26 NIV) Fellow believers Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos teach, but rather than correct him publically, “they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
April 29, 2009
Commentator Matthew Slick makes a good observation when he says, “The man who strikes first admits his argument has run out.” I can see this played out between Stephen and members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen in Acts 6. The Jews argued with Stephen and discovered “they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke”. Being poor losers, they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the law. Stephen was stoned to death, in essence, for winning the argument. In today’s church we’re much more civilized…we just throw verbal stones. If we can’t win an argument we simply stir up others by labeling the perceived offenders as troublemakers, gossips and dissenters. There’s more than one way to stone a person into silence.
April 28, 2009
According to the Associated Press Promise Keepers is making another attempt to reinvent itself. The organization filled stadiums in the 1990’s, but changes in leadership and ministry focus caused a drastic slump in attendance. Their leaders began waiving conference fees and bringing in stand-up comics…and now they want to open up the event to women. Promise Keepers must have found the same change-with-the-culture playbook used by many of today’s churches. From a worldly perspective you can’t fault them. Going from a $117 million budget in the 1990’s to a $7.5 million budget in 2009 would drive anyone to the latest membership building methods. Too bad someone didn’t recommend going back to the basics of the Scriptural Playbook.
April 27, 2009
I’ve known some gentlemen who weren’t very gentle when it comes to shaking hands. When greeting them each week I’d try using various techniques to keep from getting my knuckles crunched…patting them on the arm, waving from a distance or even having my hands full. I even tried matching their firm grip as I grasp their hand, but that only seems to encourage a tighter squeeze on their part. While some of us underestimate our own physical strength, there is no doubt that we all underestimate our Christian strength. I think the Spirit within us could and would show more strength if we'd allow Him to flex a little more spiritual muscle.
April 24, 2009
In contentious situations, yes even in the church, it’s not unusual to feel like you’re in complete agreement with some of your fellow committee members…that is until you get into the actual meeting. Then it’s like the Tower of Babel all over again and no one is speaking your language. The other day I lamented to a fellow believer that I felt I been hung out to dry and he said, “Look at it like this. If you weren’t ever hung out to dry, you’d always be all wet.”
April 23, 2009
During the question answer portion of the Miss USA pageant, Miss California stated that she holds a traditional view of marriage, which is between a man and a woman. Obviously her views are not politically correct and cost her the pageant crown. In an interview on FOX news Carrie Prejean stated that she will not deny her faith, values or opinions. When ask where she goes from here (her career) she said, “Wherever God leads me…I’m fearless.” What a great statement. Scripture gives comfort when it says, ‘fear not’, but there is power in the statement, ‘I am fearless!’
April 22, 2009
There is no right or wrong way to handle grief, but there are times when we (or others) question whether or not our feelings are appropriate. Nathan the prophet told King David that his young son would die. David pleaded with the Lord, fasted and lay on the ground for seven days. As soon as David learned of the child’s death, he got up, washed, put on clean clothes and ate a meal. The servants questioned David’s behavior and he responded, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?...” (2 Sam 12:22-23 NIV) I appreciate David’s example. In a sense it gives us permission to wash our face, put on clean clothes…and go on living.
April 21, 2009
It’s all a matter of perspective. Jesus went and taught in his home town of Nazareth and many who heard him were amazed at his teaching. I find it ironic that at the very same time Jesus too was amazed by the people…amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:2, 6)
April 20, 2009
Today is the one year anniversary of my church. Our preacher observed that for being only a year old some of us sure look a little weathered. While we’ve averaged over a hundred in weekly attendance, we’ve also had our losses. Since the beginning of the year four of our members have passed away…two of them only yesterday. Our Birthday celebration is bitter sweet but Jesus comforts us when He says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28 NIV
April 17, 2009
Most of us mature as we grow older, with the exception of those who are afflicted with the Peter Pan Syndrome. I think in my younger years I may have felt that the Spirit living within me matured as I matured. It was as though we were a team, learning and becoming wiser together. Has it ever crossed your mind that the Holy Spirit doesn’t age? It makes you wonder how much patience is needed to live in the hearts of believers who don’t want to grow up.
April 16, 2009
I don’t feel like my New Year really gets underway until after I’ve filed my Income Tax for the previous year. For some reason it’s like a dark ominous cloud hanging over my head until it’s finally in the mail. I wonder if the Israelites felt something similar when they had to go up to Jerusalem every year to offer sacrifices. I suppose they must have felt refreshed, renewed and relieved by having their sins rolled back for another year.
April 15, 2009
I’m the type of person who likes stability in my life so I have a difficult time understanding the mind set of people who have multiple marriages and divorces. Bill and I hadn’t been married long when I lamented to his Great Uncle about all the broken branches on the family tree. I thought the uncle had been married to the same woman for many years. Come to find out he had divorced the first wife, had a couple of marriages and divorces in between and then remarried the first wife again. My brother-in-law is another example. As he prepared to marry yet again I told my kids half-jokingly, “You don’t have to call her Aunt, because we don’t know how long she’ll be around!” When I go over our family genealogy the stories of the woman at the well (John 4) and the woman married and widowed by seven brothers (Luke 20) don’t seem quite so bizarre after all.
April 14, 2009
My sister is not a believer, at least not a confessed believer. She has been unable to live on her own for the last year and a half, so she is living with my family. You’ll be pleased to know that I have yet to thump her with my Bible. Although at one time she considered herself agnostic, she does bow with us at meals when we say grace and is privy to our everyday faith-talk. Occasionally she’ll mention having said a prayer about a situation or for an acquaintance. She knows she’s welcome to attend church with us, however the closest she’s come to the front door is to ask how many people we’ve had in worship each week. Christianity doesn’t happen by osmosis, but we do have a way of influencing others. Referring to marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, Paul says that if the unbeliever wants to leave, let him (or her) leave. However, his postscript implies that you don’t ask them to leave, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (I Cor 7:16 NIV) Even though we want to see people saved, there can be some encouragement in just seeing a little Christianity rubbing off on friends and loved ones.
April 13, 2009
All churches everywhere prepare for an influx of attendees on Easter Sunday. Sometimes visitors are from out of town, but all too often they are the once-a-year church goers. We who attend regularly know and accept that we’ll likely have to squeeze together and sometimes even give up our seats in order to make room for the visitors. Last Sunday when I didn’t see one of our faithful older couples I asked their daughter where they were. “Oh, they’re at home…they’re making room for all the heathens.”
April 10, 2009
When I get behind on household chores I sometimes hire a woman to come in and help me catch up on the cleaning. Invariably the day she’s scheduled to come, you can find me picking-up, putting-up and getting things out of her way. Now I know for a fact that this is not just a female phenomenon. If some of the guys are invited over to see a project in a man’s shop, you better know that before they arrive he’s going to be doing a little picking-up and putting-up of his own. Believers often use the same thought process when it comes to their spirituality. If we knew when the Lord was returning for us, you’d see a lot of us tidying up our spiritual house.
April 09, 2009
According to news reports Pastor Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) has apologized to his homosexual friends for his past comments in support of California’s Proposition 8, the marriage protection amendment. In a transcript from his sermon in early November Warren tells church members, “…if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8.” Fast forward to Monday night and the Pastor told the audience of Larry King Live that he never once endorsed Proposition 8. Jesus has something to say about those of us who hide behind political correctness, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38 NIV
April 08, 2009
When traveling to a neighboring town I saw sheep on the high dessert hillside and the herder’s camp trailer off in the distance. A few days later I had to make the same trip, but this time all the sheep and the camp were gone…no doubt looking for greener pastures. A spring blizzard was in the making and there in a gully beside the road stood one lone ewe huddled behind some of chico brush. Her head was bowed low to the ground as she braced against the wind and snow. Certainly she would die if she were left alone. Jesus said, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Lk 15:4 NIV) All of us at one time were lost sheep, but unlike the absent herder, our Shepherd knew we were lost and came to find us.
April 07, 2009
With very few exceptions sheep lay silently and motionless while they are being sheared. Recently an article about sheep shearing was in the local paper and I found one of the accompanying photos to be a profound and powerful image. The photo shows the profile of a sheep with a stoic face and downcast eyes. Patches of blood on the sheep’s neck caused by a nip of the shearer’s clippers are in sharp contrast to the white wool, and coming from the tip of the sheep’s ear are droplets of blood hanging in mid-air. My thoughts went to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The prophet Isaiah says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Jesus, the Lamb of God." (Lk 22:44 & Isa 53:7 NIV)
April 06, 2009
I think it’s safe to say that one thing all believers have in common is giving thanks at mealtime. We ask God to bless the food we are about to consume to the nourishment of our body, but it has never occurred to me to give thanks to the God for not eating the food he provided. “…He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Ro 14:6b NIV) Whether it’s dieting or the observance of Lent, I’m wondering if some of us may have misplaced thankfulness. My pattern has been to thank God for helping me resist certain foods (sacrifice) rather than giving thanks to Him for abstinence.
April 03, 2009
Jesus had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come (John 14 & 16). I imagine if the disciples were given a choice, they would have elected to keep Jesus and forgo the Spirit. After all, they knew Jesus and it was with Him that they had built a relationship. Even today I think many of us have a stronger relationship with Jesus than we do with the Spirit. Not that it’s a negative thing, but I wonder if we are underestimating the importance of developing a personal friendship with the Spirit. Jesus is gone and He wasn’t given the prerogative to return, “He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything…” (Acts 3:21a NIV) The Spirit however, is here with us right now. I’m thinking the Lord would be pleased if we were walking side by side with the Spirit just as the early disciples walked side by side with the Jesus.
April 02, 2009
In my experience when service in a particular area comes to an end, or is taken away, it can be a real downer. It’s hard to see a teacher who no longer teaches or a preacher who no longer preaches. For many of us, our service in the Lord is a projection of God’s glory and some day that glory will fade away. I can empathize with Moses, “… who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” (II Cor 3:13 NIV) Regardless of which side of the veil you find yourself on, it’s painful to see the radiance of our service for Christ fading.
April 01, 2009
When I’ve seen photos of garden tombs that are purported to be (or similar to) where Jesus was buried, my eyes are always drawn to the door jams. About two-thirds of the way up both sides of the entrance, the stone is darkened where visitors have placed their hands as they’ve leaned forward to peer into the empty tomb. It’s interesting that we go to a cemetery because we know our loved ones are there…and yet we go to the garden tomb because we know Jesus isn’t there.