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
June 09, 2009
With computer technology I understand the need for passwords, but they can be taxing and annoying. If I haven’t used a site in awhile, I have a hard time remembering my password, but writing it down in a book defeats the purpose of security. When I’m denied access to a site the prompt comes up saying, “Forgot you password? Click here.” And then after filling out all the needed information there’s a message telling me they’ll get back to me within 24 hours. Believers have a Password of sorts. Whether you’re walking faithfully with the Lord, or you’ve been adrift in the world for years, in times of desperation the name of Jesus comes to the forefront of your mind. Actually, Jesus is not a totally secure Password because even unbelievers call on His Name. Jesus is, “… written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.” 2 Cor 3:2 NIV
June 08, 2009
Hilary Clinton said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the church we’ve gotten into the pattern of thinking that says it takes a committee to do anything. Actually I think we use the committee system because there’s a measure of protection. It’s much more difficult to find fault with a group of people than it is with just one or two. As we clean and refurbish our new church facility, we’ve been hearing behind the scene questions of, “So who is it that’s making all the decisions?” Speaking from the voice of experience…It doesn’t take a committee to clean the urinals.
June 05, 2009
Before reading a magazine article I usually turn to the end of it and read the snippet about the author. For me, the little tacked-on bio adds weight (or not) to the trustworthiness of the article. I’m sure there are logical and aesthetic reasons for ending an article with a bio, however I prefer the format used in the epistles where the author identifies himself and his qualifications at the beginning of the letter. It’s interesting that we wouldn’t think of accepting a story in print without knowing the source, but give us a piece of hearsay and we accept it as gospel. There’ve been times when someone will tell me some bit of information with the caveat of, “I can’t tell you who told me, but…” Jesus knew the importance of giving the source of His words, “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:10b NIV
June 04, 2009
It’s not unusual for some of us to get weary of this life. Older folks who are spiritually healthy but physically suffering will often say, “I don’t know why the Lord doesn’t just take me home.” We know in our mind that our timing is not the Lord’s, but that doesn’t keep us from trying to tell Him when we think we’re used up and good for nothing. Even the disciples would have opted for heaven sooner rather than later. Jesus has another plan, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17:15 NIV
June 03, 2009
When I met Tom, we shook hands and he asked me to “come into the light” so he could see what I was saying. Obviously he used lip reading to supplement his hearing aids. Tom stopped by the new church building while some of us were cleaning and he wanted to know if he could clean the windows. In his verbal resume he mentioned that he’d learned to wash windows at a church in Denver. He stated that God had taught him how to do a really good job and that white vinegar was the best thing to clean with. Understanding that we were all cleaning and painting volunteers ourselves, he was quick to say he didn’t expect be paid, he just wanted to serve the Lord. We welcomed Tom, his bucket and his squeegee. When it was time for him to leave he said he’d be back tomorrow to finish the job. "…I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matt 25:35b NIV
June 02, 2009
Before officers or members of a body can legally transact business a quorum must be present. In the case of our County commissioners, two members together make a quorum. With the City Council three need to be present to constitute a quorum. I know that I have the Lord’s attention when I pray as an individual; however my prayer life can also have elements of a quorum. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”Matt 18:19-20 NIV
June 01, 2009
The restaurant we are turning into a church has been vacant for two years. Even though we haven’t yet changed the large outside sign, on the marquee underneath the name of the restaurant one of our men put, “Thank You God!” The exterior of the facility is in remarkably good shape and looks so inviting that on two separate occasions we’ve had tourists come in wanting dinner because they thought we were open for business. I think when we’re finally ready to hold worship services we should change the marquee to read, “Now Serving: The Bread of Life”.