August 31, 2010
After the first day of school I teasingly ask seven year-old David if the teacher had given him any homework yet. He proceeded to tell me he wouldn’t have any homework until September 30th. I thought he must have misunderstood the teacher and maybe it was September 3rd. “No I’m pretty sure she said September 30th. Well, I’m 51 % sure that I don’t have any homework until September 30th.” I smiled at David’s percentage, but then realized I do something similar when it comes to spiritual attributes. Because I can’t be 100% perfect, I think in terms like 75% of the time I have self-control, or 95% of the time I have patience. No doubt there are times when my gentleness is only up to 51%.
August 30, 2010
Occasionally I get multiple announcements about the same event. Most of the time, it’s a case of someone not wanting the information to fall through the crack, so as a precaution they re-send it. It could be an email saying, “You may have already seen this” or a phone call saying, “I can’t remember whether or not I told you…” Often these messages contain a caveat apology that says if you are already aware of the situation then just simply disregard the repeated information. Recently a prayer chain email came through that ended, “If you have already received some of these prayer requests, just ignore these!” I find it humorous that we are sensitive about imposing on another person’s valuable time with re-reading a request...thankfully the Gospel writers didn’t say, ‘If you’ve already read this then just disregard.'
August 27, 2010
There are some community conversations going on about whether or not our area has a homeless problem. It appears that those who feel there is a problem want to start proposing the need for a homeless shelter. From a Christian perspective we are to supply our own food and shelter, with the exception of widows and orphans who are unable to provide for themselves. Personally I don’t see homelessness as a problem that requires community solution. It seems to me that the situation is the result of either a matter of choice, or because of choices made.
August 26, 2010
I was listening to a conversation about instilling work ethics in children when one of the guys told a story about his younger brother. The boy really wanted to buy a BB gun, so his dad told him he could work at the family business. The child got his work assignment along with the instructions that he was to clock in every morning and Friday is payday. Half way through the week the young man calculated that he had enough money for the BB gun. Even though his dad suggested that working a few more days would give him money to buy some extra BB’s, the boy had all the money he needed so he quit. When he asked for his pay the dad said, “Sorry son, payday is Friday.” When payday finally came around the boy went to the store only to discover that he didn’t have enough money because the BB gun was no longer on sale. I can see this same attitude with many believers. People try to put in the minimum investment in the Lord…only what’s needed for salvation.
August 25, 2010
I find it interesting in my Toastmasters club that people often join for a specific purpose and when that purpose is satisfied we never see them again. Maybe they just want to conquer a fear, polish a speech or promote themselves. Many of us do something similar when we first turn to the Lord. We come to Him wanting a broken heart mended, a marriage healed or a burden lifted. Jesus wants us to be attracted to Him, but not just because of what He can offer and provide for us in the moment.
August 24, 2010
There are some couples that, for one reason or another, don’t have children. It’s neither right or wrong, good or bad, positive or negative. However, church developers would have us believe that if young families aren’t part of the membership make-up, then you’re becoming a dying church. Even though by all appearances my church is childless, I am pleased that the majority of our folks reject the need-for-youth philosophy. Just as many churches deliberately reach out to minister to youth, my church is ministering to older adults in the community. Some of our folks really are dying, but that does not equate to a dying church.
August 23, 2010
When my children got their drivers licenses I told them that driving under the influence was unacceptable and if I even so much as suspected them of drinking and driving I’d turn them into the police myself. I was of course concerned first with their safety, followed by the car, the insurance and the possible loss of their license. I was shocked when I recently heard the media reporting that the cost of a DUI is over $10,000. I doubt that many of today’s offenders have ever actually counted the cost of driving under the influence. Jesus told his followers, those then and those today, that there is a cost to becoming his disciple. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:22-27 NIV)
August 20, 2010
According to an AP report nearly 1 in 5 teens are losing some of their hearing and the likely cause is loud music and earbuds. It’s doubtful these teens understand that in the future such hearing loss will impact them personally, socially and even financially. Scripture often uses the phrase, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear…’ and yet for the believer many fail to understand that their lack of hearing has a spiritual impact. Jesus said, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt 13:15 NIV)
August 19, 2010
I have a cousin who is depressed about the waning years of his life. He is frustrated that he can’t do things without his walker and he has no appetite, consequentially he’s losing weight and physical strength. During a recent check-up his doctor said, “Nick, we all are going to die sometime. I can’t make you 25 years old. You’re nearly 90, so get over it! I want to come to your 90th birthday party!” Both Nick’s doctor and his wife have encouraged him to think about the things that he’s able to do, rather than dwelling on things that he can’t do. I think even when we are nearing the end of life, Paul gives us a sound example to follow, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13b-14 NIV)
August 18, 2010
We have a young man who we’re paying hourly to help on our house remodel. His lament has been about his struggle in finding a full-time job, he can’t pay his bills and he’d like some benevolent assistance. He has gotten less dependable as the weeks go by. Not only is he living from pay check to paycheck, he now wants the pay check at the end of every day, rather than at the end of each week. Actually, it would not surprise me if he were to ask for an advance on his pay. Believers often slip into a similar pattern when it comes to blessings. If we are practicing faith we want to see immediate results for our efforts. We want our obedience to be rewarded today, not next week or next month. We’ve even been known to ask the Lord for advances on blessings with the promise that our actions will follow. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Heb 10:35-36 NIV)
August 17, 2010
I recently heard a fellow believer comparing a local pastor with a prominent TV preacher. I get the feeling that she secretly thinks the local pastor should and could strive to be more like the polished preacher who she watches on TV each week. Paul took the Corinthians to task for similar thoughts. “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” (1 Cor 3:4-5 NIV)
August 16, 2010
One of the pieces of public art on display in town is a large, ugly fish made out of rusted pieces on metal. The tile of the exhibit is Trash Fish and community art critics all seem to agree that when it comes to appreciation there is no in between, you either like it or hate it. Interestingly the new rusted metal siding on my house is getting similar responses. The comments range from, “It’s really distinctive…, It’s a bold move…I wasn’t sure I liked it, but the rockwork has pulled it all together…, It’s different.” I like the fact that the house is visually set apart from other houses, but I wasn’t quite prepared to actually have it critiqued by the general public. I think there is a lesson for me in this, when I apply it to my Christianity. As a believer we need to be distinctive, bold, and different…and we also need to expect the critique that comes with it because we are set apart from those who are in the world.
August 13, 2010
In planning for the future, local government uses a master plan to project what will be needed in 20-30 years. We have master plans for the city in general, as well as for the sewer and the river corridor. A colleague recently pointed out that his metro-community has a 20-year jail master plan, which will include four more jail buildings on top of the 1,500 new beds that were just built. “My God,” he said, “we are planning jails for kids who aren’t even born yet.” My friend’s vision to turn the situation around and avoid the need for jail beds is to invest in crime prevention alternatives. Even as believers we sometimes try to incorporate our vision to the Master’s Plan… I think we need to be reminded that His plan isn’t just for the present day, but also for kids who aren’t even born yet.
August 12, 2010
I just received a fundraiser envelope from the Disabled American Veterans that included pre-printed address labels, a book mark, a prayer for luck and a gold token. I’ll probably use the address labels. The book mark says, “May angels of love, luck and liberty always smile at you and surround you wherever you go.” I can only imagine how the angels of the Lord feel about the new designation bestowed upon on them by the DAV. The prayer says, “I pray for grace from stars above…” I suppose that might give comfort to those who practice astrology. “May luck and joy be with all who know that what you reap is what you sow.” Exactly how would you go about sowing luck and joy? The coin, which they suggest you keep close to you, is said to be, “a symbol of faith…a sign of courage”. Interesting how the secular community tries to repackage not only angels and grace, but also the armor of God (Eph 6:11).
August 11, 2010
Generally speaking in the church we cut prospective teachers and leaders a lot of slack as they are developing their skills. However, when we come across an individual who wows us with their talk and knowledge we immediately want to know where they received their education. It’s almost as though regardless of their ability and courage to impart the Word, we want to know who certified them qualified. Peter and John had a similar experience when they were before the Sanhedrin who, “…realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NIV) I think we need to be reminded that a Bible college education doesn't trump being filled with the Holy Spirit.
August 10, 2010
In his epistles Paul showered the churches with care and concern. He was always thanking God for them, praying for them, thinking of them and wanting to hear reports on how they were doing. I don’t think I’m alone by saying that when I’m out of town or on vacation I give more thought to what I’m doing, than I do to what my church family is doing. Oh, there may be someone or something in particular that crosses my mind, but in general I don’t spend a lot of time in prayer for them when I’m away from them. Nor do I write them a letter of encouragement, or call them to get a report. I really have to wonder what the character of my church would look like if we had our own Paul hovering over us.
August 09, 2010
I’ve been referring to the new siding on the house as rusted metal, but the other day someone called it patina steel. I like that…it definitely sounds more chic. In Webster’s Dictionary one of the definitions for patina is, ‘a superficial covering or exterior’. We know that Jesus looks at the heart of men, but He also pays attention to man’s patina. As in the case of the teachers of the law and Pharisees, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long…” (Matt 25:5 NIV)
August 06, 2010
During worship I love to stand in the same vicinity as someone who is a gifted singer. Not only can I follow their lead, but somehow it emboldens me to sing out stronger. I’m sure they are thinking, ‘If she can’t sing that well, why on earth is she singing so loudly?’ I’ve recently discovered that when a few weaker vocalist band together we sound pretty good…and we cover over a multitude of vocal sins. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)
August 05, 2010
When you go to conventions it’s not unusual to wind up on someone’s mailing list. Maybe you sign up for their newsletter, put your name in a hat for a drawing, or you give them a business card. For over 20 years I’ve been getting a quarterly newsletter from a ministry in which I have no investment or interest. At one time I tried to stop the newsletter, but it continues to arrive in my mailbox. Sometimes in ministry we can become so focused on outreach that we don’t realize when we are wasting time, energy and resources. When the twelve were sent out they were given clear direction on when their ministry efforts should cease. Jesus said, “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:11 NIV)
August 04, 2010
We can look back to our younger years - sometimes with regret, embarrassment or prowess – and think ‘ah, the days of my youth’. The writer of Hebrews says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” (Hebrews 5:7 ESV) Someday we will be 100% spiritual beings, thankfully we won’t have to be looking back to the days of our flesh.
August 03, 2010
Every evening my neighbors drive their 4 X 4 truck up to our group of mail boxes. Their son, who is 8 years-old, jumps down out of the truck, gets the mail and hands it back to his mom through the open passenger window. Then hunching down on the sidewalk on imaginary starting blocks, he aligns himself with the front of the big red truck. When the signal is given, both boy and truck race around the corner of the block to his house. The dad gooses the diesel engine a couple of times for sound effects causing the boy to grin from ear to ear and run all the faster. Whether or not he wins or loses, it appears that the young man always runs to win. The Apostle Paul wants to see that type of character in believers, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24 NIV)
August 02, 2010
Women can get worn down by children who seem to test them beyond their limits. One of our exasperated anthems becomes, “Wait until your father gets home.” I don’t think we realize that by using that statement we’ve in essence relinquished our authority to our husbands. Certainly women are to be in submission to husbands and to men in authority, however we’re not told to abdicate authority positions than have been given to us.