March 31, 2011
I just encountered a local resident who wants to reshape the community, take a leadership role and tell us the errors of our way….and he moved here six weeks ago. On occasion someone joins a church because they feel the congregation is somehow lacking and needs enlightenment. They come armed with a fuller gospel, more charisma, a new language, or faith healing. Too bad the thinking of some of these folks isn’t more aligned with Paul’s, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Ro 15:20)
March 30, 2011
Some letters-to-the-editor reveals that the writers have taken off their Christian hat and replaced it with a political hat. It’s as though theses believers can spew slander and untruth under the guise of being politically active and get a free pass because its free speech. The slanderer/liar can say what he wants to say and write what he wants to write without being challenged by either the community of believers, or by other political activists. Actually, free speech can be rather costly. Jesus says, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:36-37 NIV)
March 29, 2011
Last Saturday some of our folks had a four hour class and demonstration on pruning plants and shrubs from a Master Gardner. They learned such terms as restoration - cutting out the old growth and thinning; rejuvenation – severely cutting a shrub or plant back to the point that only about an inch of stock remains. I fully understand and accept that the Lord prunes believers, but I sort of had in mind a snip here and there. I wonder how many of us would welcome restoration and rejuvenation. Ouch!
March 28, 2011
I’m one of five people who are reading through a huge stack of resumes with directions for each of us to choose the best 12. Our choices will later be reviewed by others and the best of the 12 will be reduced to 5 or 6 and eventually one candidate will rise above the others. Jesus had an advantage in selecting His top 12 disciple candidates…he read their hearts. I’m trying to picture ranking a stack of believer’s resumes…makes me glad Jesus is still in the business of reading resumes of the heart.
March 25, 2011
Sometimes a preacher will use an illustration in his sermon as a means of rebuking or correcting some sin he sees going on amongst the church members. More often than not when we hear the example we automatically think it’s intended for someone else rather than ourselves. We do something similar when we can’t recognize ourselves in a parable. Jesus told the Parable of the Talents and, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.” (Matt 21:45 NIV). It’s interesting that unbelievers are often more astute than believers.
March 24, 2011
A letter to Dear Abby signed ‘Feeling Guilty’ described her problem with organizations soliciting donations. A few times a year she would get mailing address labels, calendars or note pads with a preprinted return envelope asking for contributions. She didn’t want the items and couldn’t afford to contribute to all the solicitations, but she didn’t feel right about throwing them in the trash either. Guilty said, “I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this moral dilemma.” Not to be critical, but I’m having a hard time seeing this as a moral issue, much less as a dilemma.
March 23, 2011
In my study on prayer one author describes the Roman religion and the emphasis of performing the correct rites and ceremonies. “In time the rituals became so formalized that the slightest error in speech would invalidate a ceremony, and the presiding priest would have to do it all over again.” I don’t think of my church practicing rites and ceremonies, but we do have an order of service that that we generally follow. A few months ago one of our men had already started the Communion meditation when the servers discovered that the trays of juice and bread hadn’t yet been prepared. With a little scrambling the meditation was lengthened, we sang an extra verse and moved the congregational prayer. I can’t help but think that the Lord enjoys watching our worship glitches much more than He would watching us do re-runs until we get it perfect.
March 22, 2011
Next week a member of our congregation, who is a Master Gardner, has volunteered to give a hands-on instructional class for anyone interested. The notice in the bulletin gives the time and place for the “Pruning Class”. Actually, for some of us, every worship day can be a time of pruning. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2 NIV)
March 21, 2011
The media picked up on a video clip of a reverse David vs. Goliath confrontation. A scrawny middle-school aged boy had a friend video tape his punching, slapping and bullying a peer that appears to be three times his size. The Goliath, who was backed up against the wall, dodged and deflected blows until he’d had enough. Looking like a participant in WWE, Goliath picked up the bully, body slammed him on the cement and turned away. Even though it was revealed that Goliath was often the target of bullies, a guest commentator on FOX news analyzed the video saying, “We should be teaching kids to turn the other cheek, not to take matters into their own hands.” My assessment is different and I found myself cheering for Goliath. More than a few times Goliath turned the other cheek. When retreat didn’t work and observers failed to intervene, he became strong, courageous and stood firm. Both boys were suspended, but I think it’s a small price to pay for exposing the up and coming school bully.
March 18, 2011
There is a documentary called Drugs and Mugs. The video uses police mugs shots of drug addicts to show the before and after of drug addiction. Each new arrest photo, compared to the first mug shot, shows startling deterioration. Thinking of the reverse, I can just imagine Jesus looking at our mug shots before we became believers…and how much better we look today.
March 17, 2011
There is a lot of TV coverage on the Wisconsin situation involving teachers and union leaders. I know that the media films the most disruptive and vocal people in any group, but as I watch the reports I’ve tried looking for individuals who have the look and presence of being a Christian. Certainly there are believers among the shouters, fist pounders and sign wavers, but they seem to be as elusive as finding Waldo. I’m just not finding the peace that passes understanding in the furrowed brows and angry faces.
March 16, 2011
Japan’s emergency backups designed to supply power to the nuclear power plant failed and now the country has a power plant with no power. We may not always grasp it, but believers put Satan in a similar situation when they come to Christ. Oh, Satan might spew some toxic fumes around, but he truly becomes a power plant with no power. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 NIV)
March 15, 2011
There is a Catholic church in Denver that has a mural of the Virgin Mary in a prominent place behind the altar. A priest determined the mural was drawing attention away from the Blessed Sacraments, so he erected a wall to block of the view of the mural which angered some parishioners. I can’t help but think that the physical wall that the priest erected is really nothing compared to the wall of divisiveness and division he built in the congregation. I’m reminded of Paul’s caution about submitting to the world’s rules, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self–imposed worship…” (Col2:21- 23a NIV)
March 14, 2011
Japan’s earthquake and tsunami has me pondering various Biblical references and examples. Although this tragedy is not the great white throne judgment, for me there is a profound image of people being sucked into sea and then their dead bodies washing back to shore. “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” (Rev 20:13 NIV
March 11, 2011
Libyan rebels fire their guns indiscriminately in the air at the first sound Col Gaddafi's jets flying overhead. One rebel leader/organizer stated, “We need to train our fighters to fire only at things they can see.” At first blush it sounds so obvious; however in spiritual battles I can see where I too miss my target because I start firing before I see the enemy. Paul reminds us, “…do not fight like a man beating the air.” (1 Cor 9:26 NIV)
March 10, 2011
As an interested observer I attended portions of a week-long trial. Similar to the seating arrangement at a wedding, where you either sit on the bride’s side or the groom’s, there appeared to be a litigation Side A and Side B. Fortunately in this instance the court seating arrangement included a middle section. On the last day of the trial another attendee came up to me and said, “I assume you are here in support Side A.” When I told him I wasn’t there to cheerlead for one side or the other, he said, “Well, it’s good you were sitting in the middle.” Later I thought of the political pressure others tried to put on Jesus for eating with tax collectors or talking to the Samaritan woman. Makes me wish I’d sat on one side or the other.
March 09, 2011
I listened to a sermon where the preacher would make his point and then add, “Amen and amen…Can I hear an amen to that...That deserves two amen’s…” Most believers will occasionally say an amen to something they strongly agree with, but soliciting the amen throughout the message seems almost akin to clapping for yourself.
March 08, 2011
Wisconsin’s democratic senators left the state in order to avoid voting on their governor’s budget proposal and now they are trying to figure out a way to get back. A Republican lawmaker observed, “They didn’t think about how hard it would be to come home.” The simple thing would be to just get in the car and turn on the GPS, but the worries of politics cloud the issue. I can see believers responding to the Lord in a similar fashion. We sometimes run away and then let the worries of the world make returning to the Father a lot harder than it really is.
March 07, 2011
There was a letter-to-the-editor about a woman going to the community symphony event, sitting in the front row and playing and hand held computer game (with sound effects) throughout the sold out performance. I cringed at the letter, not because of the woman’s rudeness, but because I think I know her to be a lifelong believer. Whether in the church or the community, her Christianity always shares center stage with her need to be in the limelight by being bizarre. I can’t help but consider Paul’s statement, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Phil 3:18 NIV)
March 04, 2011
News coverage of the wild fires in Florida showed a charred tree stump that began to smolder when the wind changed directions. A short time later the smolder was fanned into flames. I try to work with and use the gifts God has given me, but I’m not so sure I’ve ever tried fanning them into flames. Paul told Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Tim 1:6 NIV)
March 03, 2011
This week I’ve been attending portions of a trial that has to do with a six year-long community ordeal. One of those called to the stand was accepted as an expert witness because of his long work history with the FAA. Unlike other witnesses who might often say, ‘I don’t know or I can’t recall’, an expert knows his topic so well that he can answer any question that’s asked. I can picture the confidence of the experts in the law as they encountered the Lord. Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. “If one of you had a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say. (Luke 14:3-6 NIV). Apparently an expert is in the eye of the beholder.
March 02, 2011
My uncle was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and he said, “I just wish I could live long enough to see my grandkids raised.” I had a similar thought when my children were very young. I didn’t want anyone else to become the mother of my children; I wanted to raise them myself. We can appreciate and understand Paul when he says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:6 NIV) Even though our spiritual side may be ready to be with the Lord, our human side says, ‘Let me clean-up some loose ends first’.
March 01, 2011
There is never a shortage of organizations looking for community funding. In the very near future I’m going to have to voice my opinion on whether or not taxpayer dollars are benevolent dollars. For instance, should taxpayer funds go to support religious community missions? I certainly think that benevolence starts with the family and the church, but I’m not so sure it should be a piece of the government. Although he was addressing hospitality, John makes an interesting statement, “It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans [Gentiles].” (3 John 7 NIV) I’m wondering if, “for the sake of the Name”, churches, missions and ministry outreach programs are making a mistake by looking for worldly funding sources.