December 30, 2011
My husband is learning wood turning on his lathe and he describes one of his projects as a bowl that turned into a plate and wound up being a toothpick holder. His most recent creation is a vase that swapped ends when a chunk of wood fell out of the base and the bottom became the top. I wonder if God has some of the same issues with us when we’re on the Potter’s wheel. “…Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Ro 9:20b-21 NIV)
December 29, 2011
Generally speaking most of us hope to be an example to others around us, but I’m wondering if we sometimes underestimate our simple physical presence. As Paul & Company, (276 men in all) were about to be shipwrecked an angel appeared to Paul and said, “…God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” (Acts 27:24b NIV) Putting myself in Paul’s place I’m trying to wrap my head around God giving me the lives of those with whom I work, or volunteer and serve with. I wonder how many lives may have been saved during war or terrorists attacks simply because there was one God-fearing man or woman who kept their courage and faith in God.
December 28, 2011
In subfreezing weather I took Charlie the dog for a walk and I used considerable caution because the sidewalks were snow packed and ice crusted. When I heard someone approaching quickly from behind I stopped and pulled Charlie off to the side so they could go around us. Breezing past me was a man on a unicycle with a dog leash in each hand tethered to two medium sized dogs. The acrobat had to wait for a few seconds at the crosswalk for cars to pass, all the while peddling backwards and forwards to keep his balance. There was absolutely nothing about this picture that made any sense to me…until I applied it to our work in the church. At one time or another we’ve all tried to juggle multiple ministries - sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not.
December 27, 2011
The other day I was eating breakfast at Denny’s when a family with two rag-a-muffins sat in the booth behind. The children were in the 3 – 5 year old age group and from the conversation it sounded as though the family might be staying in the motel next door. The children wanted pizza for breakfast and the mother put her foot down. “You’ve had piazza three days in a row. You need to eat more healthy. How about pancakes or fruit and yogurt?” The children dug in their heels, incorporated tears with their protest and then mom relented and let them order pizza with hot chocolate. Although it’s not a laughing matter, I can’t help but see shades of God’s people in the character of those children. We too have been known to dig in our heels, and mingle our wishes with tears and sometimes God lets us have our way…even if it’s not in our best interest.
December 26, 2011
My back deck overlooks my neighbor’s yard and her BBQ grill sits directly under her kitchen window. The resident long-haired stray cat will often perch on the grill, slowly waving its tail and looking into the house. Normally I wouldn’t think too much about it, but with snow on the ground and the temperature below zero the visual tugs at my heart. When I consider those who are spiritually lost, I can’t help but wonder if they too sometimes peer into the life-window of the believer and see a glimpse of what they are missing.
December 23, 2011
Gift giving and receiving is often determined by what we feel are needs. I love the fact that it’s not just during the Christmas season, but rather throughout the life of the believer, that God meets all our needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)
December 22, 2011
Since last fall my diet and exercise regime has taken a back seat to meetings, events and scheduling conflicts. I’m not suggesting that my gym partners at the fitness center are judging me, but some might certainly use me as an example for motivation to stay with their own program. It’s easy for us to look at someone else with slipping abs, thicker thighs and wing flaps and say I’m glad I don’t look like them. However, it really never crosses our minds to think that others may be giving us the once over and using us as an object for confidence in their own righteousness. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.’” (Luke 18:11 NIV)
December 21, 2011
Within in a span of one week I had to travel to Denver for two separate meetings. On the first trip it was dusk when I pulled up behind a vehicle at a stop light and a flash went off. I knew it had to be Denver’s street traffic control camera and I, along with the driver in front of me, immediately started looking at the cars around us wondering who the guilty party might be. I didn’t feel I’d broken the law, and yet I kept replaying the situation in my mind fearing that I would be getting a traffic ticket in the mail. On my second trip I watched for overhead cameras like a hawk and I was on my best behavior. However as I was driving on an arterial and keeping up with the flow of traffic we crested a slight rise in the road and there was another flash…this time coming from a van parked on the side of the road. Looking at my speedometer I was a couple miles an hour over the speed limit, but again I couldn’t tell if the camera was taking my photo, or the photo of the cars around me. I couldn’t wait to get out of Denver, because now I was concentrating more on cameras that I was on pedestrians. I was at the last stoplight going out of town when, you guessed it, there was yet another flash. Although paranoia had set in, this time I knew for a fact that I had done nothing wrong. There are times in my life when the Lord sends me a flash right at the moment of sinning which gives me the opportunity to repent and move forward…however, that doesn’t mean that in a week or so I won’t also get a reminder of my sin.
December 20, 2011
As my grandma got older the dishes that she washed by hand weren’t always as clean as they should be. I’m sure there were many contributing factors, such as failing eyesight, loss of concentration and even relaxed cleaning standards. I’ve noticed lately that every once in awhile as I’m washing dishes the person drying them for me will hand back a utensil that needs to be re-washed. I suppose I was focusing more on cleaning the areas that I thought were touched by food. For instance I’ll wash the surface of the plate more thoroughly than the bottom because theoretically, there wasn’t any food on the bottom. Spiritually speaking, we believers are often guilty of just cleaning the parts of our lives that we think have been soiled by the world. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matt 23:25-26 NIV)
December 19, 2011
Today I’m attending the funeral service for a friend I’ve known for almost 38 years. Our relationship has been something similar to the traffic pattern of city streets. We haven’t always been on the same street, but over the years our paths have often intersected and when they did we would pick up our conversation where we left off. I’ve always thought of the holidays as being a bad time for someone’s death because it would somehow mar the season for years to come. But I’ve changed my mind with Mary’s passing. I’ve now been given the opportunity to unwrap the gift of memories that she has left for me and I’m having a Mary’s Christmas.
December 16, 2011
Would you believe that right in the middle of the holidays I’m doing a huge house spring cleaning project? Me neither. It all started so innocently. All we wanted to do was to buy a new bed. When we took the old bed out and moved it upstairs, someone suggested we should steam clean the carpets before bringing in the new bed. Next someone said, “Well, if you’re going to clean the carpet, you really should first paint the room.” So here I am two weeks before Christmas stumbling over bedroom furniture now in the living room, putting masking tape around baseboards and carrying a paint brush around. This is so not what I had in mind. I do however see similarities in the situation with making a request of God. If I ask Him to increase my faith, He’s likely to give me other spiritual projects to do just in order to build that faith. A simple request is not always so simple.
December 15, 2011
While she was in high school my daughter Leslie wanted to be like her friends and she was especially bummed because everyone in her peer group had a curfew and she didn’t. We now laugh at the fact that she even went so far as to plead with me to give her one that would match her friend’s. Because I trusted Leslie, I simply required that she call and check-in with me around 10:00 pm. I thought if she were having a bad time and wanted to get out of an uncomfortable situation, she could use me as an excuse by saying, ‘My mom just told me I have to come home’. If on the other hand if I knew who she was with and that she was having a good time, she could stay as long as she liked. As believers one of the hardest things we have to do it to take ownership of our freedom in Christ. I can hear myself saying, ‘Lord just please give me a curfew and tell me what time you want me home!’
December 14, 2011
Recently I attended the Woodworkers’ Christmas party and their gift exchange was mostly comprised of hand crafted items such as turned bowls, carvings, ornaments and wall decorations. While the expertise of turning beautiful wooden bowls was talked about, the extreme difficulty of turning a bowl while leaving the live edge (the natural edge) of the wood intact was also discussed and revered. My mind turned to the skill of the Carpenter. In the Lord’s hands the believer’s live edge remains intact, all the while our hearts are being crafted into a thing of beauty.
December 13, 2011
There are times I’m confident I know a certain passage of Scripture and what it means, only to discover that it doesn’t say exactly what I thought it said. I find this especially true when looking for a word to direct me to a specific passage of Scripture. In my quest I’ll check my own concordance, brainstorm with another person or go on line to Gateway Bible. I really appreciate the search I can do on Gateway, but it’s not unusual for me to type in my phrase and read the response, “Key word search ‘0’ results.” Recently a friend was into his daily devotional when he began reading about Job’s Reindeer. Bob laughed, “I said, ‘Wait a minute…Job had a reindeer’?” After re-reading the meditation Bob cleared his head and focused on Job’s Redeemer.
December 12, 2011
A few days ago a mugger walked up to a car with a gun and told his intended victim to give him everything he had. The victim refused and was ordered out of the car. In spite of the gun, the would-be-crook (5' 5", 148 lbs) got the tar beat out of him by the victim…an Ultimate Fighter (6’, 250 lbs). I have to confess I love this story and I laughed out loud when I saw the accompanying police photo of a battered and bruised mugger. On the spiritual level, can’t you just picture Satan thinking we are a wimpy victim, but in reality we’re an Ultimate Fighter?
December 09, 2011
There is a TV ad for the Salvation Army that tugs at your heart with images of folks who are weary and apparently without hope. The marketing aspect of the commercial is to encourage donations to the Salvation Army for the upcoming Holiday Season. I was with them on their plea until the final clip of the ad in which there is a young African American man with corn rows sincerely saying, ‘Thank you for your support’. When I noticed a hefty looking ¼ inch gold necklace peeking out from under the neckline of his tee-shirt the illusion of sympathy went right out the door. Whether believers or not, it’s unlikely that this current generation would give up their gold for another’s need. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45 NIV)
December 08, 2011
I’m in the process of signing up for on-line classes through a Christian university. One of the documents that I have to sign and send in with the application is the ‘Life Together Covenant’, which says I agree to accept the stated responsibilities as a participant in the university. There are Biblical responsibilities stated with book, chapter and verse and then there are the university’s expectations. They include illegal substances, tobacco, alcoholic beverages and gambling. The covenant appears to be Ten Commandment-ish – as in chiseled in stone with no waivers. The expectations are directed toward fresh out-of-high school young people. However I’m a senior adult and occasionally I like to have a glass of wine and take a chance on the lottery when the prize money gets high. Using worldly thinking I could get around the alcohol issue because the university would never know, but it would be just my luck to win the Powerball and I’d have to fess-up to breaking the covenant.
December 07, 2011
My daughter’s Shi-Tzu doesn’t like snow and ice covered sidewalks, so she bought some dog-booties that he likes even less. Once Charlie gets his shoes on for a walk his gate and stride is similar to a high stepping tarantula trying to shake gum off his feet. Every footstep is suspended in mid air and thrown out to the side. I can’t help but laugh when I see Charlie’s indignation as he tries to throw off his boots. It makes me wonder if the great cloud of witnesses might just get a chuckle out of us when we are in a similar situation. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb 12:1 NIV)
December 06, 2011
In the Parable of the Talents the master gives one servant 5 talents, another two talents and the third one talent. It just dawned on me that regardless of our position in life, rich or poor, believers are in the role of the servant with five talents. We put our money to work and gain more. We are faithful with a few things, and the Lord has put us in charge of many things. We are the benefactors from the talents of the lazy servants. In spite of everything we have, we are given more and have abundance. Where I am today and how God has blessed me has a direct correlation to my management style. “Well done good and faithful servant!...Come and Share your master’s happiness!” (Matt 25:21 NIV)
December 05, 2011
When TV commentator Andy Rooney recently passed away there were many eulogies. Reporter John Roberts said, “Andy would tell it the way he saw it. You never walked away saying, ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’” Jesus taught in parables, it wasn’t unusual for people to walk away saying, ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’. I can certainly relate. For me, listening to parables would be somewhat akin to hearing someone talk in tongues…I just don’t get them unless someone interprets. Thankfully the New Testament writers spoke a spiritual language that we can all understand. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1Cor 2:12 NIV)
December 02, 2011
In discussing forgiveness, salvation and worthiness, a Bible study member said, “Some people are convinced that they have done such bad things in their past that their unworthiness stays with them even when they stand before the Lord. They are just wired to be guilty.” She makes an interesting observation. Looking back at my re-birth in Christ I didn’t automatically feel at home in my new skin…and even after decades of being a believer, there are times that someone shows me my Christian skin is a little too tight or a little too loose. I suppose we all come to the Lord with some faulty wiring. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:18 NIV)
December 01, 2011
I hate starting a new exercise video because muscles that haven’t been used in a particular discipline rebel very quickly…and they hold a grudge. Following along as best I could with a new series, the instructor encouraged me by saying that I need to learn to ‘be comfortable in the uncomfortable’. What a great thought for me as a believer. Spiritually speaking I often ask the Lord to protect me from evil, to help me run away from sinful situations and keep my mind heaven focused, but it has never occurred to me to ask that He keep me comfortable in the uncomfortable.
November 30, 2011
There is a long-haired grey feral cat in my neighborhood who occasionally takes a nap in a sunny spot on my deck. The other day I caught him grooming himself and was struck that even though he is for all practical purposes alone in the world, his life situation doesn’t stop him from being meticulous with his grooming. I think we believers have something in common with this cat. While this world is not our home, it should not stop us from being presentable in the neighborhood. “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:17-18 NIV)
November 29, 2011
I enjoy watching the reality TV show ‘Storage Wars’ where storage units are put up for auction when the renters of the units fail to make their rent payments. As the door to the storage unit opens to expose the treasures within, the bidders never know what to expect. Certainly each of us has our own standards of value and the old adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ has merit. I now have this disturbing image of the Lord opening up my heart to see the treasures within. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:20-21 NIV)
November 28, 2011
Every once in a while I’ll get a request through the Christian Ear to follow another person’s blog. Normally their motive is an effort to help them build up their own readership. However I find it curious that they don’t at least try to establish a relationship by interacting with comments to the Christian Ear…they just want me to follow them. I can just imagine Jesus saying, “Come follow me” and then not investing Himself in His followers. Thankfully the Lord’s ministry was not about just building up His stats. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:14 NIV)
November 25, 2011
Our church Thanksgiving pot-luck dinner was last Sunday and we asked members and visitors alike to come for the meal and fellowship, whether or not you brought a dish to share. The speaker announced the meal would start at one o’clock, but the bulletin said we would be eating following the service. I suppose because of our affinity for fellowship dinners the tables were quickly set-up and the food ready for the buffet by 12:00 o’clock. What a dilemma. Do we wait until 1:00 in case some people went home to get their food and come back, or can we start early? The compromise seemed to be 12:30. However, I did feel badly for a first time visitor we’d invited to stay for the meal. He had confided in me that he was shy and so he decided to go home and then come back at 1:00. When he came back there was enough food, but he was toward the end of the line and the pickings were slim. The old-timer said, “I guess it would have been better if I’d just stayed and visited.” I was reminded of the Parable of the 10 Virgins where five of the virgins ran out of oil for their lamps, so they left the wedding banquet to purchase more oil. Have you ever wondered if these five foolish virgins might have been able to stay for the festivities with only a smoldering wick? Jesus reminds us, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 24:13 NIV)
November 24, 2011
This morning’s newspapers have articles on holiday shopping and are packed with advertising flyers. Jesus tells us that the Father supplies all our needs, and for that I am thankful. However, when I see hoards of people lined up and pushing one another to be first in line for bargains I have to laugh. Even we believers have a streak of paganism when it comes to Black Friday. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matt 6:31-32 NIV)
November 23, 2011
Six year-old Lydia is in the first grade at our local Christian school and in honor of Veterans Day she sent me a letter decorated with pencil drawn balloons. “To: My loved American Military, I thank you for fighting for our country. My classmates and my teacher have been praying for you guys this year. I do apologize that we/I haven’t been praying for you otherwise. Love, Your Friend Lydia. P.S. Look on the back. From: It’s a secret! (Heehee)” I can so relate to Lydia. Generally speaking our prayer life is focused and it’s only one crisis or prayer request at a time…per person. However, unlike the innocence of a child, we don’t usually go around apologizing and confessing our limited prayer for one another.
November 22, 2011
The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California is facing bankruptcy and the church might be sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese. There are those who say the church cannot survive without the iconic building, but there are others who say the Crystal Cathedral is just a building; it’s the people who are the church. A professor of sociology of religion is quoted as saying, “That Crystal Cathedral has in fact encapsulated them and held them in a Crystal prison.” I picture Jesus Christ being the foundation of the Crystal Cathedral ministry and yet Paul’s warning rings in my ear. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” (1 Cor 3:12-13 NIV)
November 21, 2011
As an elected official I get emails from constituents and recently a woman who is a fellow believer wrote, “Are you really praying about your decisions, or are you going along with someone else?” The implication is that if I were really praying about my decisions God would have me voting differently. I was so tempted to write back, ‘…and did you pray about sending me this email?’ Certainly as a constituent my friend has every right to question my decisions and as a believer she is entitled to question sin in my life. However critiquing another’s prayer life is something best left up to the Lord.“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:13 NIV)
November 18, 2011
I don’t always react well with product changes. The make-up that I’ve worn for years has been discontinued, my new and improved dishwasher powder no longer get dishes clean and my health insurance provider has gone paperless. I can just imagine the Iron Chefs of Israel on the day after Passover when the Israelites ate some of the produce of the land of Canaan. The manna stopped that very day. Just exactly how do you react when your main ingredient is discontinued and you’re left holding a cookbook of 101 Recipes for Manna? (Joshua 5:12)
November 17, 2011
Unlike our votes being cast in secret, when you sign a recall petition it becomes public record. One signer, a local pastor, was questioned by a fellow believer as to why he would sign the petition without first seeing if the charges and accusations behind the recall were true. Fair question since both the pastor and the elected were believers and men of faith. He responded, “They brought the petition to Sunday morning worship and were so passionate, I decided to sign it.” Jesus cleared the temple courts with a whip when He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. I can’t help but wonder if they also used the temple courts to sign political petitions. “… Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16b NIV)
November 16, 2011
An old TV commercial for Life Cereal has three brothers getting ready to eat breakfast. Because the box on the table looks ‘healthy’, the two older boys want their little brother Mikey to taste test the cereal. “Let’s get Mikey to eat it. He won’t eat it, he hates everything.” A group of citizens recently circulated petitions for the recall of three elected officials, but the effort failed because they lacked adequate signatures. As I read over the petition signatures I was surprised to find that some of those calling for the ouster of the elected didn’t even the petitions they were circulating. It sort of reminds me of the Chief Priests stirring up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead of Jesus. ‘Let’s get Mikey to do it…’
November 15, 2011
A neighboring town has a new pastor who was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, but he has served a pastor in other denominations. His new church is described as, ‘a multi-denomination church affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. Does that just not make your head spin? I suppose the pastor could keep unity in the pews if he kept ‘love’ as the topic for all his sermons. Actually this multi-denominational church may be forced to follow in the footsteps of Berea. “…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” (Acts 17:11b-12 NIV)
November 14, 2011
All around town there were many Veterans’ celebrations to choose from and this year I attended (Navy vet) the event at the local high school. I sat next to a young woman who loved to talk about herself. She joined the Army, but it wasn’t up her alley, so after serving two years she got a medical discharge. She was married to a man in the Army, but that didn’t work out, so she divorced him, came home and then married a civilian…more up her alley. She is expecting her first child in March and excitedly laid claim to being the first local pregnant mom to benefit from free Veteran’s medical clinic. I couldn’t help but wonder about her need to be publically recognized as a Veteran and accept those benefits, yet all the while having a distasteful attitude toward the military. I think we see something similar in the church. Many people love laying claim to being Christian, yet to hear them talk, much of the Christian life just isn’t up their alley.
November 11, 2011
Just as the church body is made up of many parts (1 Cor 12:12-27), so it is with smaller bodies within the church. We have a group of ladies who for many years have met weekly to sew and make quilts for the mission field and for shut-ins. Recently these ladies suffered a loss when 89 year-old Bertha passed away. “She was one of our parts…she did the tying.” Certainly God has arranged the parts of the church body just as He wanted them to be. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor 12:26 NIV)
November 10, 2011
It’s not unusual to hear people reminisce about being at, or involved in, historical events like Woodstock, the Berkley riots or hurricane Katrina. Their reflections on the situation stir different emotions such as pride, loss, shame or grief. The old hymn Were You There asks, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord…when they nailed Him to the tree…when they laid Him in the tomb?’ I love the way this hymn brings me to the foot of the cross. However, the prequel to the cross shows us the crowd who gathered before Pilate chose the prisoner Barabbas over Jesus for release. I can easily put myself at the foot of the cross, but it’s more difficult to put myself in the crowd gathered before Pilate. Were you there…
November 09, 2011
When the early church sent disciples to the various outlying towns they often sent along letters of introduction. A few Sundays ago we had a couple of middle aged visitors to church who mixed, mingled and shook hands both before and after the worship service. When they came my way I asked all the normal ‘are you a first time visitor’ questions. It seems they are transients and the Lord brought them to our area. They said they are doing whatever the Lord wants them to do and just trying to serve Him. In the meantime they’ve taken up temporary residence at some old boy’s ranch east of town while they wait for the Lord’s direction. They are unemployed and just doing odd jobs for the time being. Certainly we need to extend the right hand of Christian fellowship and of course it’s possible that we were entertaining angels unaware. However, I would have felt more genuine in my welcoming had these guys brought along a letter of introduction.
November 08, 2011
I think I struggle with the story of the Prodigal Son more than any other passage of Scripture. I recently read an advice column in the paper where a writer was responding to the issue of parental favoritism. The writer observed, “…that parents give their attention to the children they think need it most. To the left-out child, it feels like favoritism, but I truly believe the parents consider that child to be the most loved and think they need to dote on the others.” I’d never considered that the Prodigal’s older brother might somehow be in the father’s ‘most loved’ category. I’m not suggesting that God plays favorites, but He certainly looks favorably and with love on those who are obedient. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIV)
November 07, 2011
The owner of a local jewelry store passed away and his family had a going-out-of-business sale, which included the inventory as well as the furnishings and display cases. During the sale period I would walk past the store, but rather than looking for bargains, my eyes were drawn to the stenciled sign on the window that read ‘All Work Done on Premises’. I began to think about the premises where each of us works - the jeweler in his store and the believer in the world. A few days ago I walked past the store and the lights were on, but for the first time the store was wall to wall empty. The only thing remaining of the proprietor and his business was the gold painted signage on the window. If the jeweler was a believer, the sign is a fitting epitaph, because his work on earth is done. “…for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Heb 4:10 NIV)
November 04, 2011
Most of us grew up with hearing the guiding words, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’. Recently at a going-away party for a colleague people were invited to say a few words. I expected the normal accolades like, ‘you’ve done a good job…, we will miss you…, best wishes on your new job…’, however one speaker said of the honoree, “He doesn’t lie. I appreciate that he’s never lied.” At the time the sentiments struck me as a bit odd and I couldn’t help but mentally question, ‘So that’s the nicest thing you can come up with?’ However, after more thought I decided what’s the big deal…if the Lord is delighted everything is good. “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Pro 12:22 NIV)
November 03, 2011
Many years ago one of the ladies in our congregation was in a long-time abusive marriage. While she is faithful in attendance, her ex-husband will only occasionally come to church. I’m always amazed to see them attending the same service, but sitting in different areas. Although they avoid close contact with one another, the reality is that they are coming together in worship, singing praises and partaking in the communion emblems. I think I see shades of the Messianic age, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isa 11:6 NIV)
November 02, 2011
Many of the current cast members on this season’s Survivor are professed Christians. They openly pray for strength in competitions, endurance for staying in the game and for God’s will to be done. Survivor is a game of strategy and even though manipulation, lying and deceit are all part of the game, believers play to win. In the last episode I think Coach, who highly values his integrity as a believer, crossed a spiritual line. He lied about being in possession of an immunity idol and to get out from under the lie, he then sent his team members on a wild goose chase. The chase ended with Coach miraculously finding the idol. I get the gamesmanship. What I don’t get is that before the search Coach called the tribe together in a prayer circle and holding hands petitioned God in the name of Jesus Christ to help them find the idol…which he had in hip pocket all along! Now the entire tribe is singing praises to Jesus because the Lord helped them find the idol. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7 NIV)
November 01, 2011
A woman I know seldom attends any church worship and yet invariably she asks to be put on the prayer chain with every near miss or crisis that comes her way. In exasperation one of her friends told Jane Doe, “Jane you have to start coming to church for yourself. You can’t keep expecting people to include you on the prayer chain if you aren’t going to do your part. The prayer chain is not a wish list.” Jane is a little hurt and still somewhat stand-offish, however I think her friend was spot on. As harsh as it sounds, the friend spoke the truth in love. Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (Rev 3:15 NIV) A lukewarm relationship with other believers might well result in lukewarm prayers.
October 31, 2011
Stella, a Sunday School teacher from my youth, recently passed away at the age of 94. For a time I lived with my Grandma and our church met in the one-room community school house. After worship we divided up for Sunday school class, with Stella taking the kids out of the building. In the summer our classes were held on the old merry-go-round and in the winter we piled into Stella’s station wagon. With the car running, the heater blowing and the windows fogging up she taught us our Bible lesson. I think Stella and Jesus had something in common when it came to making disciples…both could make a classroom out of any old boat, a hillside or a field of grain.
October 28, 2011
I recently read an obituary where the deceased was described as a pillar of the community. In the church we too have a tendency to elevate people to pillar-status. Our candidates may be those who are generationally faithful in attendance, those extremely knowledgeable in the Word, or even someone whose generosity goes far beyond tithes and offerings. Jesus gives us the qualifications for becoming a pillar in heaven and I love the fact that we are all candidates. “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it...” (Rev 3:12a NIV)
October 27, 2011
I’ve become more aware of journalists writing their news stories and then locating a photo to accompany the slant of their story. Awhile back photos of two of our elected officials appeared side by side in the local newspaper. One person’s photo was the stylish professional official photo, and the other person’s photo was a less than flattering candid shot. Even without the written story, the selected photos were a stark contrast and they told a story of their own. One official was obviously favored and there was an attempt to disparage the other official by making them appear folksy, backwards and unprofessional. In the spiritual arena I can draw a similar parallel. As believers the Lord presents us in our most positive light and then Satan does his best to bring us down by using unflattering candid shots that causes others to question our worth.
October 26, 2011
I think we all understand that when the Lord returns we will be held accountable for our heart and soul, but I was a little uneasy to read Paul’s thoughts on also being accountable for my body. I mean really. I’ve been looking forward to dumping this ageing body with its additional pounds and I fully expected to stand before the Lord as a heavenly new creation. Now I’m wondering what kind of a diet I have to go on to keep my body blameless. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23 NIV)
October 25, 2011
In my previous church the Communion Table was at the front of the auditorium. After the emblems were served to the congregation, the servers would return to the front, serve one another and then place the trays on the table. In our present configuration, the Communion trays are located in the back of the auditorium and after serving the congregation, those serving simply help themselves before putting the trays on the counter. While their self-service doesn’t take away from the meaning of communion, for me there is a more profound spiritual impact when I actually see one person physically serving another.
October 24, 2011
Tim Allen, of ‘Home Improvement’, recently did and interview with Parade Magazine. Tim is quoted as saying, “On a philosophical level, I’m very religious. I call myself an intellectual Christian. I’ve been seeking answers and information about Christianity, as well as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism…” I’m not sure I’d pride myself in being an intellectual Christian if I didn’t know any better than to say I was looking for Christianity somewhere other than the Bible. So often we get skewed ideas because we fail to heed Jesus’ warning, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matt 22:29 NIV)
October 21, 2011
When my daughter and her dog stop by for a visit I often take Charlie for a walk in a nearby park. I always carry plastic bags and clean up any deposits, but it’s obvious that not all pet owners are so conscientious. I’ve noticed that when I’m on the meandering sidewalk I can relax and take in nature, but as soon as Charlie needs to go off the path my eyes are focused on the ground watching every step I take. I can just see this scenario being played out in the life of a believer. If we stray off the narrow path, we’d better be looking out for the poo.
October 20, 2011
The Air Force is taking public comment on the possibility of establishing a low altitude training area in northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. I was surprised to learn that environmental groups are traveling across two states to attend all 17 meetings to not only voice their opposition to the training area, but to also garner disciples. I listened to various speakers who had a not-in-my-backyard attitude that they were applying to the entire region. I really wanted to say, ‘Pardon me, but this isn’t your backyard’. I was reminded of Saul before he became Paul. He wasn’t content with going house to house to destroy the church in Jerusalem, he also set his sights on Damascus, which was some 150 miles away with a travel time of 4-6 days. It seems that the human condition, whether you are a believer or not, is to worry and fret more over our neighbors backyard than our own.
October 19, 2011
Once a year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would enter the inner room and offer a blood sacrifice for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. Rather than having one’s sins forgiven, this was simply a reprieve by rolling those sins forward to next year’s sacrifice. In error I’ve always pictured the worshippers having peace of mind that they have taken care of last year’s sins by boxing them up and putting them on a shelf. However the writer of Hebrews says, “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” (Heb 9:9 NIV)
October 18, 2011
Recently I was in a situation where I not only felt underappreciated, but also unloved. I struggled with confronting the issue because I didn’t want to sound like a child who was having a pity party. Really, how do you tell someone that their actions make you feel unimportant and used like a doormat? In my soul searching I heard Jesus asking Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these…Simon son of John, do you truly love me…Simon son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:15-17 NIV)
October 17, 2011
On the spiritual battlefield believers have to be well rounded and know how to respond both offensively and defensively. Lately I feel like all I’m doing is playing defense. The Armor of God is getting heavy and I’m getting weary. As I re-read Paul’s description on the Armor of God I was struck by the protection we get from the shield of faith. The shield of faith doesn’t extinguish just some of the flaming arrows in the arsenal of the evil one, but rather it extinguishes all of the flaming arrows. I’m thinking that standing firm and standing my ground just got easier…those flaming arrows really are simply smoldering blanks. (Eph 6:16 NIV)
October 14, 2011
This time of year it’s dark when I drive out to the fitness center. The other morning when I saw some small green lights about head high bouncing toward me I knew immediately that it was a jogger out for a pre-dawn run. The apparently safety conscious jogger was also carrying a flashlight, but oddly the light wasn’t focused on the path. Rather the spot of light was weaving all over the place, first on one side and then another, on the grass and under the shrubs. It wasn’t until I drove past the jogger that Fido, wearing a lighted collar, came into view. I have to laugh when I think about some of us acting like Fido. We’re supposed to be the light of the world and where do we see our light shining…off the path, under bushes and behind rocks. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16 NIV)
October 13, 2011
Last week we had reports of an attempted child abduction in our community. The description of the abductor was a man in his 40’s wearing a cowboy hat and driving a white dodge truck with an extend cab. When I ran errands the other day and saw a white truck driving down the road and I did a double take at the driver because he was wearing a cowboy hat. The partial description of a possible child predator will no doubt keep many of us on high alert in the coming days. Isn’t it interesting though that the Bible too gives us a partial description of our spiritual enemy the devil and yet we seem oblivious? “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
October 12, 2011
Febreze air freshener is currently running a TV commercial where two blindfolded women are sitting on a couch. One is holding an accent pillow the other a lap-throw. Because of a spritz Febreze both items feel clean to the touch and smell fresh. When the blindfolds are removed the women are shocked to discover they are on a dilapidated, dirty couch and surrounded by filth and free running pets. I can see this drama played out in the life of believers when we accept Jesus and our spiritual eyes are then opened to reveal a depraved world.
October 11, 2011
Recently at an event I introduced two men to one another. To help them connect I mentioned one’s career credentials, his expertise in fishing and then, knowing that both were men of faith, I tossed in the fact that he too was a Christian. There was an uncomfortable pause and then the other man picked up the conversation ball saying, “Someday I’d like to get back into fly fishing.” As I stepped back from their conversation I felt almost apologetic to the Lord that He had been overshadowed by fly fishing. I suppose that because this was a business meeting my reference to faith could have felt awkward and out of place. However I wonder if our failing to take advantage of such opportunities might well border on denying Christ. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels”. (Like 9:26 NIV)
October 10, 2011
In honor of Christopher Columbus I’m reminded of the many Spiritual explorers who’ve navigated Biblical waters and shared their journey with us. My path has certainly been made easier because of their maps of understanding, such as commentaries, Bible Studies and sermon notes. However, I think we need to resist the temptation to rest on the exploration of others….each of us in our own right must become an explorer of the Word. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11 NIV)
October 07, 2011
As I interview people I often question them about any ah-ha moments they might have had with the Lord. I think we can all relate to personal testimonies, but they are so much more powerful when we actually know the people who’ve had the experience. During Bible study discussion Suzie confessed, “I sometimes expect more from the Lord. I don’t know what, maybe angels, trumpets…feathers”. Mel agreed saying that when he accepted the Lord as his personal Savior it was a grey January day and at that moment in time his rebirth was disappointingly unspectacular. Chiming in on the conversation Gary quipped, “Well at least you weren’t blinded like Saul!”
October 06, 2011
We have a huge recycling controversy going on in the community on whether or not to continue City curbside recycling…and at what cost. We are all speaking a green language, however some of us are speaking through greenbacks, while others are speaking environmentally green. At a public meeting those speaking with an environmental heart compared themselves with others by saying, “We are the good citizens, we do the right thing and we are the good kids and should not be punished for doing right.” As believers we too can get caught up into comparing ourselves with other believers. ‘We’re the good Christian, we do the right thing and we shouldn’t be punished…’
October 05, 2011
It’s sometimes important to resurrect an old committee for the purpose of assessing current needs and updating data. A recent resurrection for my city was the Montrose Improvement Team. The task for this group of folks is to look at the future needs of capital improvements for our municipality. I’m wondering if the Spirit might well look at us in a similar way as He assess our needs and looks for areas that need upgrades. His assembled team might consist of the preacher, an elder, a faithful brother and even a believing spouse.
October 04, 2011
It’s not unusual for older folks to comment that as parents we’re never done raising our kids. We continue to worry, watch and fret over them even when they have left the nest and have children of their own. I recently interviewed an 82 year-old woman who has a 52 year-old son with Downs Syndrome still living at home. Proud of being a mother Eleanor said, “John still needs attention, so I’ve never really stopped raising my children.” Generally speaking we think about God moving us on to different roles and responsibilities as we mature. I now have new insight, admiration and appreciation for those who must remain in their role for a lifetime.
October 03, 2011
Always faithful, last Sunday my morning paper wasn’t in the driveway, on the grass or under the cars. By the time the paper arrived two hours late my day was really out of sync and I was out of sorts. I thought about the Israelites having manna provided to them every morning for 40 years in the desert and I had to laugh. I can just imagine the first day God failed to have breakfast waiting for His people. No doubt there were a few of them too who were out of sorts looking under bushes and behind rocks and knocking on one another’s tent door asking about their morning manna. “The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:11-12 NIV)
September 30, 2011
Driving past a church the particular denomination didn’t register with me, but the message on the marquee gave me whiplash. The statement was, “Question Authority”. Who’s authority…God’s, the government’s, your parent’s? Paul addresses the authority issue saying, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Ro 13:1-2 N IV) I suppose one could argue there is a difference between questioning and rebelling, but I can’t help but wonder if the one who put the message on the marquee is not in fact sowing seeds of rebellion.
September 29, 2011
The teacher wrote the word crocodile on the blackboard and six year-old Lydia raised her hand and politely told the teacher that the word was misspelled. The teacher knew the spelling was correct, but Lydia was insistent and wouldn’t let go of the matter. So the teacher and student got out the dictionary and together they discovered that Lydia was in fact correct, the teacher had misspelled crocodile. It’s hard for me to imagine a first grader in this situation having the ability to stand firm in their own knowledge. Jesus said that we must become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven and I’ve always thought of that childlike character in terms of humble, innocent and trusting. Now I’m thinking that unwavering conviction is also a characteristic of a little child. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17 NIV)
September 28, 2011
A letter writer to Dear Abby was at the end of her rope watching her mother refuse to change some destructive habits. The daughter wrote, “I don’t want to waste my life watching her waste hers.” I can so relate to the letter writer’s conflict, both in the physical realm, as well as the spiritual realm. Many of us do have thoughts of simply turning our backs on and walking away from those who drain us emotionally. It’s amazing though to think that Jesus often watches us waste our lives and yet never walks away.
September 27, 2011
Recently I read the minutes of a meeting where the transcript didn’t seem to reflect the discussion as I remembered it taking place. I called another committee member asking, ‘Did I miss something? Did we agree to that? Do you remember who made that statement?’ I started to ponder the Gospels as if they were minutes of meetings and although I’m amazed by the text agreement and the accuracy of recorded quotes, I also have to laugh. I can just imagine some of Jesus disciple’s later thinking, ‘What did I miss? I don’t remember Jesus saying that.’
September 26, 2011
During our announcement time yesterday the congregation learned that one of our members had a severe stroke while attending a Christian Convention. Our sister is in the ICU in Albuquerque, New Mexico getting the best medical treatment available. The announcer encouraged us by saying, “She is in good care for the situation she is in.” It struck me that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, believers can always say we’re in good care for the situation we’re in.
September 23, 2011
Yesterday I was one of the speakers at an appreciation event for community volunteers. My presentation was at the beginning of the program so I thought seriously about leaving early, rather than staying for the entire event. I decided however, that it was more important that I remain, so I found myself applauding through the silent auction, the recognitions and the service awards. I am so glad I stayed. At the end of the program a special surprise award was given to my organization and I was there to accept the award on their behalf. I think many believers are so intent on just getting to heaven that they sometimes forget that there will be a ceremony. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8 NIV)
September 22, 2011
Sunday morning a man at church came up to me during the greeting time and jokingly said that I looked uptight, that I needed to loosen up a bit and to not look so grumpy. And I’m supposed to respond how? Although this was not what I’d envisioned as a start-up to the worship service, I decided for the moment it wasn’t worth responding to or taxing my brain trying to figure out his motivation. A few days have passed and I’ve contemplated how my lack of response measures up to the WORD. ”For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:15 NIV)
September 21, 2011
An elderly man in our community thought a certain sidewalk curb was a hazard to drivers. Rather than waiting for the city work crews to respond to his concerns he took matters into his own hands and spray painted white XX’s and arrows on the curb. At first blush there is some humor in seeing an older gent taking matters into his own hands. However on another level, his actions are purely and simply a defacing of public property…graffiti. Had this tagging been done by a teenager we’d have felt indignation, condemnation and at the very least expected him to do community service and remove his handiwork. In the church we too have a tendency to think that our age should somehow give us a pass if we don’t want to follow established standards. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Ro 2:1 NIV)
September 20, 2011
Long after the sermon had started a couple of teens obliviously carried on with their whispered conversation. They were so engaged that the caustic glance of a worshipper two rows in front of them was totally wasted. It wasn’t until I shushed them for the third time that they modified their conversation by writing notes back and forth. It’s easy for me to get irritated with people who steal my worship time and I have to remind myself that the Spirit probably feels the same way. No doubt He too tries to shush us when we are being disruptive and not paying attention to what He is trying to tell us. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Ps 46:10a NIV)
September 19, 2011
As a church grows, so does the number of staff. The church board gives a lot of consideration into hiring associate pastors, youth ministers and senior’s pastors. Paul describes the church as being one body made up of many parts, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Cor 12:18 NIV) I find it amusing that we, in all of our wisdom, set about to hire a foot, a hand or an eye. I’m trying to think about what type of questions I’d ask if I were to interview an ear.
September 16, 2011
Each week our church bulletin gives a report on the previous week’s donations. Recently we had a sizeable first of the month offering and a member asked me, “Wow, where does all that money come from? That’s a lot of money. Does the church get interest on some kind of investments?” She was somewhat taken back when I told her the money was simply donations. I can so relate to her astonishment. I have the same reaction every time I encounter someone who has conquered a discipline that I didn’t even know was a part of Christian maturing.
September 15, 2011
Recently some folks in our community began a recall of the County Commissioners. At first the political wind seemed to be favoring those circulating petitions; however the momentum now seems to be changing because another group has come out in opposition to the recall. I am reminded of the chief priests and Pharisees going after Jesus, “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” (Matt 21:46 NIV) I find it interesting that the chief priests and the Pharisees weren’t afraid of Jesus himself, they were afraid of the crowd. Whether it is in the political or the religious arena, we often underestimate the power we have over others when they perceive we are united in thought.
September 14, 2011
A friend of mine taught in public school for 30 years so the community is full of past students, parents and fellow educators whose lives she has touched. Interestingly I’ve head people criticize this former teacher’s retirement saying, “I’m tired of hearing about her students and that she was a teacher. She needs to get over it and move on.” Recently I overheard this same teacher in a one on one conversation with a young man, who was a past student. Exuding enthusiasm the former teacher said, “I am so proud of you…of where you have come from and where you are going.” Trumpeting our accomplishments aren’t always synonymous with tooting one’s own horn…sometimes it’s merely an extension of our giftedness in being an encourager.
September 13, 2011
Our downtown area has gone through a traffic makeover to make it a safer place for pedestrians and drivers. Not everyone is happy with the design of the traffic flow, the bulb outs and the narrowed down street. Recently a constituent complained, “You’ve made it too hard to drive downtown…you have to be so careful.” Exactly the point! We need to go no further than looking at the tire marks on all the street curbs to know that more than a few of us are not staying in our designated lane of traffic. I can see similarities with the Word. Many portions of the Bible are designed to slow us down, make us cautious and show us how to navigate obstacles of sin. Often our attempts at obedience are marked with curb checks, but thankfully the curb is there.
September 12, 2011
In Internet speak a ‘troll’ is a person who tries to bait others on message boards. I am excited about the word with this definition and I plan to add it to my religious vocabulary. We’ve all been in Sunday School classes or Bible Studies where the discussion is deliberately derailed by someone throwing in controversial thoughts just for sport. While we can’t stop others from derailing a discussion, it’s possible that identifying their comments as trolling will shine a light on their motivation.
September 09, 2011
Recently two men gave money to help bail out different organizations. Billionaire Warren Buffett gave billions of dollars directly to a bank, while California school superintendent Larry Powell gave up $800,000 in salary over the next three years to the Fresno County School District. Both men can be credited with giving back to their circle of influence, but there is one big difference - Mr. Powell didn’t see his gift as being newsworthy. His generosity was motivated by he and Mrs. Powell asking themselves, “What can we do that might restore confidence in government?” I love the fact that Mr. Powell is also an ordained Baptist minister…chalk one up for Christian witness.
September 08, 2011
Those who passed by while Jesus hung on the cross hurled insults at Him and said, “…come down from the cross and save yourself!” (Mark 15:30 NIV) We know that Jesus took our sins to the cross and figuratively speaking that’s where they are today – still hanging on the cross. Yet not a day goes by that we don’t sense the world telling us the exact same thing that was told to Jesus, ‘…save yourself.’
September 07, 2011
After being forced to amputate his toes because of an accident, Jon Hutt had the wherewithal to recover the detached body parts and take them with him as he raced to the hospital. Unfortunately the doctors found that the crushed toes were not viable and couldn’t be salvaged. I think many of us do something similar on a spiritual level. We might heroically and stoically cut off the body part that causes us to sin, but then we turn right around and take it with us trying to figure out how we can get it reattached. Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matt 18:9 NIV)
September 06, 2011
Local logger Jon Hutt was involved in an accident that pinned his toes under a piece of heavy equipment. Unable to get help Mr. Hutt did the only thing he could do to free himself, he cut off his toes with his pocket knife. Mr. Hutt has a great attitude, “I don’t feel bad about what I had to do, because it could have been a lot worse. I lost my toes; it’s not going to end my life.” On the religious landscape I love this image of Jesus offering us similar advice. “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” (Matt 18:8 NIV)
September 05, 2011
We all place value on our labor for the kingdom, but Jesus has a way of putting things in their proper perspective lest we become boastful. “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:38 NIV)
September 02, 2011
The media, local officials and rescue personnel are showing a little aggravation toward people who have had to be rescued because they failed to evacuate when they were told. I can so relate to their frustration. Believers are always sending out spiritual warnings that fall on deaf ears. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on board with Fanny Crosby’s cherished hymn that goes, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” However I can’t help but measure the difference between rescuing someone who is clueless and someone who has been warned.
September 01, 2011
I found it interesting that water pressure from street flooding can actually lift manhole covers up and off of the holes that they cover. People walking or driving cars are looking to avoid debris and obstacles that they can see, but few think about falling into an unseen hole. Spiritually speaking I can see many of us being similarly naive. Some of us may feel pretty confident at resisting temptations, taking thoughts captive and fleeing from immorality. However, nothing humbles us faster than standing firm over an uncovered manhole.
August 31, 2011
In the Disney animated movie Tangled, Rapunzel was held captive for 18 years. It wasn’t until she escaped the tower that she learned her real parents were the king and queen. I think we’ve all had those times in our life when we didn’t like our parents and wished for the fairytale experience of getting a new mom and dad. Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on God being our Father, but I wonder if we sometimes fail to grasp our role as a child of the King.
August 30, 2011
Recently, while traveling to Australia, a country western singer/songwriter had a bad experience with an airline. Not only was he overcharged on his luggage containing his CD inventory, but the luggage was then lost. His efforts for reimbursement fell on deaf ears until he wrote a song about the experience. When the song became public, the airlines immediately made a reimbursement of $2,500. It’s amazing how quickly we change our tune when we are faced with exposure. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2 NIV)
August 29, 2011
We’ve heard many elected officials give evacuation plans for hurricane Irene. However I think New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took the emergency preparedness playbook plans one step further and overlaid it with Biblical principles, “First go to your family and your friends and save the shelters for those who have no other place to go. Don’t make a shelter your first resort, but make it your last resort.” No doubt many of us fail to practice ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ because we’ve abdicated our responsibility to the government.
August 26, 2011
There are times when I seem to be having one tumultuous situation after another and I find myself asking, ‘What next?’ and then telling the Lord it would be nice to have a one day reprieve where I weren’t bombarding Him with prayer needs. The reality is that it’s during those stressful situations that I depend more fully on the Lord, rather than depending on my own abilities. I think many of us are a lot like Peter walking on the water…we have to be sinking before we cry out, “Lord save me!” (Matt 14:30b NIV)
August 25, 2011
With the new school year upon us some pastors in a neighboring community are sending kids back to school by having a ceremony and blessing their backpacks. One Reverend is quoted as saying that the items a student carries every day are, “items that are symbolic of whatever is going on inside of us. They are important.” I find this whole situation odd. Although I’m sure that the ceremony is well intentioned, blessing inanimate objects just doesn’t connect for me. But aside from that, I really have to wonder if the Spirit isn’t just cringing at the thought that the tools we use are somehow symbolic of whatever is going on inside of us.
August 24, 2011
This year we planted a few different varieties of small round and pear shaped tomatoes. Now I know a ripe red tomato when I see one, but I’m still trying to figure out these little yellow-orange fruit guys. Every couple of days we’re picking and eating a small handful of fruit, but we continue discussing what constitutes ‘ripe’. Should I pick the fruit when it’s yellow or when it’s golden? After I’ve eaten it I wonder if it would have tasted better had I waited another day or so. I think we sometimes have a similar problem in the church. Figuratively speaking, a believer will sometimes be picked for a ministry before he’s spiritually mature. If he’s too green we can no doubt let him ripen on the window sill, but you have to wonder how much better he would have been if we had left him to ripen on the vine.
August 23, 2011
When my kids were young and would get into a spat I’d ask, “What are you arguing about?” I could get an earful from each side as they defended themselves, their actions and lobbied for my support. As we get older we continue to have disagreements, but seldom do we hear anyone ask the question, ‘What are you arguing about?’ I suppose we hold back because we think it’s not our business to get involved or mediate division between adults. On the way to Capernaum the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. Interestingly Jesus had no qualm about asking, “What were you arguing about on the road?” (Mark 9:33 NIV) The disciples didn’t respond, but kept quiet. It’s intriguing to think that if we were to use Jesus’ tactic, we too might be able to squelch a few of today’s arguing factions.
August 22, 2011
To illustrate repentance for eight year-old David, his dad took a piece of paper that he said represented sin, wadded it up and let it fall to the floor. Walking away he explained that when our sins are forgiven they are nothing more than a piece of discarded trash. Later that evening while getting ready for bed David picked up the wad of paper and asked, “Daddy, do you want me to recycle your sin?”
August 19, 2011
There was a recent news report about a wealthy Arab man who owns a private island. Mr. Hamad memorialized himself by designing a two mile long waterway that spelled out his name in capital letters. The name HAMAD is in such large print that it can clearly be seen from space. Someone needs to tell Mr. Hamad that shouting at God won’t get him noticed.
August 18, 2011
I recently heard a presentation where an organization that is dependent on government funding justified their fee increase by changing their formula for assessing dues. Then I read where the State implemented a new formula for calculating ACT scores and now records are being set for the highest scores Colorado has seen in 10 years. Sadly we in the religious arena are no different. Rather than being obedient to God’s Word, individuals and denominations offer up changes in formula to one another so that we are socially acceptable and can continue in our sin.
August 17, 2011
I have a teacher friend who reminds her students coming in from recess of the need to tone down their volume and use their inside voice. Now I know as mature adults we can’t (or won’t) use that tactic on one another, but I think the idea has merit. All too often what is in our heads comes right out our mouth. Because we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, imagine how much better off we would be if we were reminded to use our Inside Voice.
August 16, 2011
One of our political activists is such a bully that my wishful thinking leads to thoughts of ways to marginalize his attacks. I’m not thinking anything too serious, but laryngitis, job transfer or a doctor imposed quarantine might all offer a reprieve. Lately this particular activist has uncharacteristically missed some local meetings, so a few of us were asking one another, “So where’s Waldo?” Would you believe it…God, with His sense of humor, sent him on a three week vacation.
August 15, 2011
A service man returning from Afghanistan told the media that that their unit’s mission was accomplished. Forming a leading question one reporter then asked the soldier about the men who were lost on the mission and would not be returning. The soldier confidently responded, “Their mission was accomplished.” In the church we often grieve over what seems to be the untimely loss when a faithful servant dies. Maybe our faith would be better served if we too looked at a fellow believer’s passing as being a mission accomplished.
August 12, 2011
Six year-old Lydia was only moderately impressed with her craft project of six paintable refrigerator magnates. Trying to generate some enthusiasm I showed her the prince, princess and the enchanted castle. In a sing-song voice she said, “They’re OK…I’m just not a very good painter. I can’t stay in the lines all the time.” I finally eased her worries by showing her the lopsided ceramic bear (or dog…depending on your imagination) with one short leg that her daddy made when he was a child. Once her spirit of perfectionism was neutralized, she had a great time being creative. I can’t fault Lydia’s initial reaction. Even as an adult, God will sometimes give me an opportunity and I can hear myself unenthusiastically saying, ‘I’m just not very good, I can’t stay in the lines…’
August 11, 2011
My grandkids were having a sleepover so I picked up a couple of craft projects to help keep them entertained. Eight year-old David was beyond ecstatic with putting together three pre-cut wooden race cars. Following the instructions he and his granddad glued, sanded, painted and applied stencils. I knew I’d hit it out of the park with the craft selection when David continued to be excited and even started imagining himself being skilled enough to now start building furniture. Jesus said, “If you…know how to give good gifts to you children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11 NIV) I can only imagine the pleasure God gets watching us get excited over the gifts He gives us.
August 10, 2011
A letter writer to Dear Abby said, “I don’t want to waste my life watching her [mother] waste hers.” I think many of us who have friends and loved ones captive to addictions can relate to the writer. I’ve certainly experienced times when it seemed like another person’s addiction was draining the life out of me. Carrying that thought into the spiritual realm, I’m now wondering if we don’t have the same sort of feelings when it comes to non-believing loved ones. Are there times when we are so desperate for others to come to the Lord that our life gets consumed by their failure to accept Jesus Christ? It seems possible that some of us might be wasting our life by watching a non-believer waste his life.
August 09, 2011
In the next 60 days petitions will begin circulating to recall our three County Commissioners. I find the more pressing issue of a recall is the proposed candidate replacements. Without candidate competition and a campaign the voter doesn’t have time to fully vet the proposed replacements. So my question would be, could we be worse off with replacements? Reasoning that they wanted to be like other nations, the Israelites asked for a king to rule over them rather than the Prophets. God let them have their kings – the good, bad and the ugly.
August 08, 2011
The average life expectancy for a US citizen is 78 years-old and I think many of us live with that measure in mind. When I heard of a Birthday celebration for Mary Phelps who just turned 111 years-old, I couldn’t help but wonder if she had ever prepared herself to live 33 years beyond her average. In the generations from Adam to Noah the men lived anywhere from 700 to 900 years old. As a general rule people procrastinate, can you imagine how long people might put off accepting Christ if they lived to be 700 years old?
August 05, 2011
Some of those in Congress were elected because of their campaign promises to their Tea Party constituents. I listened to reporter and talk show host Geraldo Rivera bemoaning the fact that he is losing money on his retirement funds and insisting that it’s time for these newly elected officials to forget about those constituents back home and to do what is best for the nation. In the church we too are sometimes encouraged and pressured to do what seems best for the majority. However, I think it’s good to remind ourselves that it’s actually the minority who gains eternal life. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:14 NIV)
August 04, 2011
When my children were young they would occasionally try to boss each other around and I would have to step in and remind them of their position…that neither of them were the parent, nor the adult. I now find myself in an interesting position where a colleague wants to boss me around, which then triggers the childhood reaction that says, ‘You’re not my boss and you can’t tell me what to do’. In time we may get our differences worked out, but I can’t help but secretly wish that God would step in and remind both of us of our positions.
August 03, 2011
Learning to pry my fingers off of my tithe was a defining moment in my Christian maturity. As believers we can help each other turn the other cheek, doing unto others and praying, but when it comes to giving tithes and offerings we don’t ask for help. We hold our pocket book close to our chest, not wanting anyone – friends, family or foe – to know our tithing habits. Jesus cautioned us not to be boastful when giving to the needy, but I have to chuckle when I think of modern day titiers…most of us have little to boast about.
August 02, 2011
A letter writer to Dear Abby was divorcing her husband of 10 years for infidelity. The writer wanted advice on letting other people know the reason for the divorce and that she was not responsible. Abby’s advice was to consider the feelings of the children and take the more dignified high road by saying that it was a mutual decision. I am so glad Abby wasn’t handing out advice to those who wrote the Bible. Somehow I can’t imagine Paul looking the other way in regard to sin in order to take the high road.
August 01, 2011
My local Toastmasters’ Club dissolved because we don’t have enough committed people attending to take leadership positions. Over the last few years the standard justification has been, “My schedule is so busy that I can’t commit to regular attendance, but I’ll come when I can.” There is sometimes a similar attitude in the church. Not only is it used as an excuse, but surprisingly we accept it as a perfectly reasonable explanation. Really, can you see any of us getting away with telling the Lord that were pretty busy, but we’ll drop in when we can?
July 29, 2011
Recently I was caught in bumper to bumper, stop n’ go traffic on I-70 for over 40 minutes. My irritation level climbed as some drivers snuck around the pack by driving on the left shoulder of the road. I found myself snuggled up to the car in front of me just to keep other drivers from forcing their way in as they jockeyed for position. Eventually the logjam cleared and my attitude improved. An hour later I came upon an accident that required traffic to merge into one lane and I willingly held back so the semi-tractor trailer next to me could move in front of me. He smiled and waved a thank you and it felt really nice to have done a simple courtesy. I pondered the difference in my reactions between having a choice to let someone merge and being forced to let someone merge.
July 28, 2011
I saw a bumper sticker that read, ‘An Obedient Dog is a Happy Dog’. Watching a dog being totally absorbed in pleasing his master brings a smile to one’s face. I think something similar could be said about believers. We really are happy when we’re obedient…it’s just the obedience training that sometimes wipes the smile off our faces. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:3 NIV)
July 27, 2011
Recently I watched a handful of adults maneuver to exclude a colleague from their focus group. Their tactics included moving a name plate to another location, tightening their circle of chairs so there was no room for anyone to join and turning their backs toward the one they wanted to ostracize. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we too can be guilty of not maturing. “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:12-13 NIV)
July 26, 2011
A metal barricade, warning signs and fellow hikers yelling words of caution didn’t stop three young Christians from challenging a dangerous waterfall at Yosemite National Park. I suppose the death of these young people will be listed as accidental, but their actions were certainly deliberate. Spiritually speaking we too crawl over barricades, ignore warning signs and downplay the wisdom of others. And the danger doesn’t have to be the size of a 317-foot waterfall; it could resemble a simple irrigation ditch.
July 25, 2011
It’s not unusual to see inspirational thoughts, Bible verses or quotes posted on the walls of the church facility. Last Sunday I saw a dozen or so little silver picture frames scattered about the building each displaying the same verse. I was somewhat taken back to read, “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6a NIV) In a flash I had my very own Mary-at-the-tomb-moment and thought, ‘I’m at church, what do you mean He’s not here?’ I really do have to laugh when I think about how many of us began our search for the Lord by going to the church and expecting to find Him there.
July 22, 2011
I can’t help but wonder how Saul/Paul felt after he regained his sight and Ananias told him about his new job description. “…This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 19:15-16 NIV) I’m not sure I’d like the advanced warning on the suffering part. However, there is one consolation. At least I’d be able to differentiate between the suffering I brought upon myself by making poor choices and the suffering that I did for the cause of Christ.
July 21, 2011
This week I attended a local government meeting where an angry constituent told his elected officials, “If you don’t vote ‘no’ for being a pass-through organization for grant funding, then you don’t love your country.” I was embarrassed for the constituent on a couple of different fronts. 1) He is a fellow believer and 2) he sounded remarkably similar to many email chain letters that say, ‘If you don’t forward this email then you don’t love God’. It’s amazing how far off base we can get when we are left to our own reasoning and wisdom. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)
July 20, 2011
After children’s church last week a visiting student excitedly told her grandpa what the lesson was about. Grandpa was having a hard time relating to what he was hearing, so he asked the teacher about the lesson. When he learned it was about Eglon and Ehud (Judges 3:12) he was a little taken back, “Isn’t that story a little gory for kids?” It’s interesting that we think skewering a fat king, hammering a tent peg into a man’s head or being eaten by worms is gory. I think much of our weakness on today’s religious landscape can be attributed to our sanitizing Scripture and retelling only the warm fuzzy stories.
July 19, 2011
A listening ear can sometimes be interpreted as an agreeable ear. For many of us it’s hard to distinguish that fine line between hearing someone out because everyone is entitled to his own opinion, or stopping an opinion by pointing out when statements are in error and not factual. In hindsight I usually regret not speaking up and thereby giving the impression I’m in agreement. When I find myself in this, ‘I wish I’d said…’ reflection, I can’t help but think of Saul watching over the stoning of Stephen. I can only imagine (Saul) Paul’s later regrets at keeping silent in the midst of false witnesses making false accusations. (Acts 7:54 - 8:1) I can’t help but wonder how often the clothes of false witnesses have been laid at my feet.
July 18, 2011
Recently I was at a social event where a man was bending my ear with a lot of misinformation, rumors and unfounded statements. My efforts to tell him the truth and refute his accusations didn’t get far and he insisted his statements were accurate. He referenced his source of information as being the local coffee groups in town that were saying the same things. We are all familiar with the Timothy passage (1 Tim 5:13) about idle women being busybodies and gossips. However after a little Scripture research, I’m comfortable with putting this particular man, his actions and his thought processes in the category of being a gossip…quite the unmanly picture.
July 15, 2011
Fairly often I hear of older folks who need errands run or shuttle service, but they don’t want to inconvenience their family, so they ask for help from the church. Certainly we in the church have an obligation and a responsibility to help one another, but I have to laugh at the rational. Exactly why is it OK to inconvenience fellow believers and friends, but we don’t want to inconvenience our family members? “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Tim 5:8 NIV)