January 29, 2010
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been writing a newsletter for our church. The main article each week is a mini-biography of a member of the congregation and it has proven to be a great tool for getting us acquainted with one another. I was a little caught off guard last Sunday when one of our senior citizens said, “I like these. You’re doing a damn good job!” Stifling a laugh I graciously accepted her compliment. “…in Christ we who are many form one body…If a man’s gift is…encouraging, let him encourage…” (Romans 12:4-8a NIV)
January 28, 2010
Last Sunday a woman wanted to stand in our church foyer to get signatures on a petition. Though she had a worthy cause, I think she also had poor motives. She wasn’t looking at us as a body of fellow believers worshipping God, rather she just saw us a group of people where she could get numerous signatures in one fell swoop. For her we were no different than the customers coming and going at the grocery store. It sort of reminds me of Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers. “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matt 21:13 ESV)
January 27, 2010
I recently had a conversation with someone who thought that the preacher ought to have a sermon encouraging all of us to become more politically active. He assured me he wasn’t interested in party platforms, but rather that Christians need to make their presence known on the political landscape. I’m still chewing on our conversation. While I agree that believers should exercise their political voice, I disagree with the idea that we should be encouraged to do so from the pulpit. For me this is a case of “...render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matt 22:21 ESV) The worship service belongs to the Lord…and the message from the pulpit should be about the spiritual landscape of our lives.
January 26, 2010
Believers are creative when selecting a name for their church, or re-naming an established church. They try to be respectful to the Lord, identifiable to the world and unique in their community. In 1578 Catholic Mass was outlawed by the Dutch, but Protestant authorities allowed Catholics to worship as long as it wasn’t in public view. A wealthy merchant purchased a tall, narrow canal house in Amsterdam and built a lavish chapel on the top floor naming it, Our Lord in the Attic. I know these people were forced to worship in secret, but for me the parish name conjures up a humorous vision of them trying to keep the Lord in captivity.
January 25, 2010
There was an interesting report on Fox News about current Voodoo practices in Haiti. Predominately Catholic, the recent earthquake in Haiti has the country’s Voodoo priests focusing their worship on the, “Big God of the Catholics”. Those same priests however feel that once the country settles down their Voodoo worshipers will return to them asking for help to invoke spirits. Regardless of one’s religious persuasion, when things get rough, people turn to the ‘Big God’.
January 22, 2010
Leslie and Charlie (the four legged guy in her life) stopped by for a visit the other day and when they left they forgot to grab his dog leash. I emailed Leslie to tell her we had the leash and she responded, “No big, I had another one (two actually) they're just not as long as that one and not as much fun for him.” I couldn’t help thinking that the Lord has a variety of leashes for us too. Sometimes in exploration we go so far out on our leash that we feel total freedom, but I think most of us would agree with Charlie, the short leash just doesn’t seem like it’s as much fun!
January 21, 2010
A sister church in a neighboring town is getting ready for its 5th annual Talent Contest. Growing up we used to have talent nights and the great thing was that you didn’t have to be talented to participate. The congregation found pleasure in the more seasoned performers and enjoyed the up-and-coming. They were always an encouragement to even the most untalented amongst us. In a sense the audience had a ringside seat in the potter’s house where they could watch the Lord mold and shape His vessels. “Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand…” (Jeremiah 18:6b ESV)
January 20, 2010
My mother-in-law gave me her wiz-bang sewing machine that does everything from embroidery and monograms, to darning and surging. The only problem is there are so many bells and whistles that I have to read the instruction book before I can even thread the needle or wind the bobbin. I’m not really into sewing and I don’t want to read the manual every time I need to mend a simple seam. The frustrating feelings take me back to being a new babe in Christ. When all I needed was an answer to a simple spiritual question, looking at the Bible was daunting …just give me the Cliff Notes. For a long time it was easier to go to someone like the preacher, who had all the answers. I think there’s an unwritten law somewhere that requires all children to master the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16…which I did. But it wasn’t until my teen that I really took a verse and made it my own. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2Timothy 2:15 KJV)
January 19, 2010
Few of us can resist looking out the window when there is a storm. We’ll look out the front window and report what we see, and then invariably someone else will go to the back door and say, “Wow. Come here, you gotta see it on this side”. It’s only 20 feet from one side of the house to the other and yet the weather watchers are talking like the storm is somehow worse on one side of the house than the other side. No wonder Noah didn’t open the windows on the ark for forty days. (Genesis 8:6)
January 18, 2010
The other evening Bill was doing some work with his table saw when the board he was cutting kicked back, making a direct hit on the index finger of his right hand. There was a lot of blood, the fingernail was split both vertically and horizontally and his ego was terribly bruised and battered. It also doesn’t help that the monthly Woodworkers Guild meeting is coming up where the program includes a safety talk…no doubt he’ll make a very good object lesson. Talking more to himself than to me Bill said, “I knew better, I needed to be using a kick-back block…you can’t lose respect [for power tools] for an instant.’” Maybe that’s something we should be doing in the church…having spiritual safety talks. Who knows, I’m sure we could learn a thing or two from each other.
January 15, 2010
My friend continues to struggle with her husband’s one-time-only infidelity even though the adulterous situation happened a few years ago. From the outside looking in, it appears to me that she expects her husband to forever be in a state of repentance. Many of us go through situations where we put a price on forgiveness and we want the offending party to earn their way back into our good graces. The question then becomes, at what point do we mark it Paid in Full? The other day a quote caught my ear, “Forgiveness isn’t earned…it’s given.” And that’s what Christ does for us, over and over again.
January 14, 2010
State and local governments often depend on grant funding to bringing a project to fruition. Recently I attended a meeting where a group of citizens wanted to reprioritize some grant funds for a specific need at the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration representative explained that you don’t just keep grant funds and decide where you want to use them. “When you take federal money you have to comply with the regulations. You can’t save them [funds] and if they aren’t used, they disappear back into the general fund.” Sounds like a modern day version of the Parable of the Talents. Obviously there were some regulations attached to the talents of money that the master entrusted to his three servants. One servant, the wicked and slothful one, decided to just sit on the funds. Sure enough, when the master returned the funds that he hid in the ground went back into the general fund…where they were then redistributed to the good and faithful servant. (Matt 25:14-29 ESV)
January 13, 2010
Even after we’ve become adults, many of us never lose that childlike need to explain ourselves. We feel if we have a good reason to shove little Johnny, come home past curfew, or disregard our employer’s directive then our actions are justified. As one who works hard to do things correctly, the skill of justification can almost feel like an inalienable right. Actually, making excuses is a really bad habit to get into. Somehow I don’t think the Lord will be overly impressed with any attempts to explain away our actions.
January 12, 2010
During the winter the neighborhood cat can easily spot doves sitting on the limbs of our leafless trees. I recently watched him climb up on a limb and the closer he got to the doves the more bold he seemed to become. His focus never wandered from the birds, yet their feathers remained unruffled as they sat on their perch and watched him creep closer and closer. The birds were in striking range, but there was one problem, they were about a foot and a half above the cat. It seems the cat had taken the wrong fork and he and the birds weren’t even on the same branch. Should believers keep their eye on the prize? Absolutely…but we also need to make sure we’re on the right road.
January 11, 2010
Occasionally we encounter a person who boasts endlessly about their grandchildren. You can’t get past a generic greeting before they are telling you about the superior family genetics and breaking out the photos. As if they are the only ones with grandchildren, the one-sided conversation never seems to come around to you or your family. I don’t think the Lord faults me for saying that I’m really tired of hearing their embellishment. I have a self-absorbed friend with a similar problem, the only difference is that she gloats over her ministry. It’s all about her ministry and what they are accomplishing for the Lord…as though other ministries are just somehow not as noteworthy. I have to wonder if the Lord finds fault with me for being really tired of hearing the accolades of a ministry done in the name of Jesus.
January 08, 2010
It’s rare to see someone stumble and fall and then nonchalantly pick himself up and dust himself off. Normally we jump up quickly like nothing happened and then we glance around hoping no one was watching. I think we go through something similar when we sin. Of course we know that God sees us when we sin, but He forgives, and He doesn’t laugh. In our pride we prefer that others think we’re perfect and we really don’t want them to see our sin. James says, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2 ESV)
January 07, 2010
In our family it’s never a good sign when you hear someone say, ‘Why don’t you sit down, we need to talk’. You know immediately that the conversation is either bad news, or else the discussion will be about a behavior that needs correction. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of a sit down talk, but harder yet if you are the one with the burden of correction. Paul often used the Epistles as a means to tell the churches ‘we need to talk’. I wonder how my congregation might react to a letter saying, “So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you.” (2 Cor. 2:1 NIV)
January 06, 2010
A recent AP report says that more than 30 million adults in the United States have some degree of hearing loss and most could be treated with hearing aids, but only about one in five people use them. The report states, “Many people simply don’t know, or accept, that they need one.” I think this sounds remarkably similar to those who are spiritually hard of hearing. According to Jesus, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47 NIV)
January 05, 2010
We just had the funeral for my Great Aunt Cleo. Knowingly, and yes even unknowingly, this staunch believer has given me some great anecdotes for the Christian Ear. She was also a zealous member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union - an organization of women concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society. Laughing one of her friends said, “We all ought to be glad that Cleo took to religion rather than to alcohol…she’d have been one mean drunk.”
January 04, 2010
Most worship centers are fairly sterile and I’ve always liked that. To me it seemed appropriate for the worship environment to be beige, clean, and orderly. I’m now changing my mind. Our new facility has a lot going on visually. Bold colors accented by directional lighting, a clear glass wall and sunken seating area. With octagon, rectangle and angled open spaces and alcoves, the auditorium ceiling varies in height from 8 feet to12 feet to 20 feet. I’m realizing there is a real benefit to the visual busyness of the facility. During the worship service, whether consciously or unconsciously, eyes don’t search the room to see who coughed or sneezed, nor do heads turn to follow a child whose leaving the room to get a drink of water. Even during the meet ‘n greet time the aesthetics, rather than being distracting, actually brings more focus on those with whom you are talking.
January 01, 2010
Webster’s defines resolution as, ‘the act or process of resolving’. I think the Apostle Paul has given us a great resolution for 2010. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2 NIV) This gives a whole new meaning to the catchphrase, 'I know nothing…'