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…