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.”