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)
July 14, 2011
Elections seem to be all about ‘throwing the bums out and replacing them with someone who will do what we want them to do’. It appears to me that the threat of not being reelected to another term just doesn’t seem to working. I’m wondering if, rather than throwing them out of office, the existing elected officials should be pressured and forced into doing the will of the people. It’s really not such a farfetched idea. When we come to the Lord we more often than not fail in our role as Christians. But the Lord doesn’t say, ‘throw the bums out and get replacements’, instead He molds and reshapes us into His likeness. Surely if sinners can be turned into saints, there’s hope for bums being turned into productive public servants.
July 13, 2011
When I served as President of the local Toastmasters Club I was admittedly a little sensitive when the District Office put pressure on us to increase our membership. I understand the importance and the benefits of having a larger club; however I’ve never known anyone to place membership because they wanted to grow the club. Most of us joined to improve our public speaking – to get over fear, to polish a presentation or to be able to think fast on our feet. I think the same can be said about the church. Believers don’t come to Jesus because we want to grow the church; we come because we want a personal relationship with the Son of God.
July 12, 2011
A colleague and I are seldom on the same page and I thought that going to lunch together might help us mend a fence or two. He publicly rejected my invitation saying, “I’m not going to eat lunch with someone who doesn’t like me.” I have to laugh…my colleague’s sentiments almost make the Pharisees of Jesus’ day seem righteous. Their complaint was merely that Jesus and the disciples were eating with tax collectors and sinners. (Matt 9:10-11)
July 11, 2011
I recently interviewed a gentleman who is 96 years-old. When Bob was single and 35 years-old, he took his neighbor on a hunting trip that ended in tragedy. Their car hit black ice and plunged into a canyon killing the friend. It was apparent that even though 60 years had passed, it had not dimmed Bob’s grief, “I hated it. I hated to go back home and face the widow…she had four small children.” Then with a sudden lift in Bob’s voice he continued, “It ended up that I married the widow with the four kids.” Bob and Gladys never had any children of their own, but they were married for over 50 years when she passed away. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV)
July 08, 2011
Every once in awhile I’ll get a response back from an email that says, ‘Out of Office Reply’ and I appreciate knowing it may be a day or so before I hear back from them. When I send out a spiritual-email I don’t always expect an immediate response from the Spirit, but I know for a fact that He is always in the office. When the Spirit sends messages to us I’m wondering if we sometimes let them fall into the category of spam, failed mail or blocked mail. Worse yet, we’re cautioned to not open a message unless we know the sender. It’s possible that we don’t even open the message simply because we didn’t recognize the Sender.
July 07, 2011
Many of us take ownership of our ministries and believe we have power to keep them or give them away whenever we want. However there are times when our ministries are snatched away from us or someone removes us from service. As I read about the passion that John the Baptist had for his ministry, I’m struck by how effortlessly he relinquished his role to Jesus. John might easily have thought that he and Jesus could be co-leaders or that they could each keep their ministry, but work in different locations. John might even have suggested that he take the seniors and Jesus take the young adults and children. When changes of leadership come to our personal areas of ministries, we should be as gracious as John was toward Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30 NIV)
July 06, 2011
During the Last Supper Jesus told Simon Peter that Satan asked to sift you [Peter] as wheat. Peter responded, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33 NIV) I suppose Peter’s response could have applied to the sifting remark, but it seems to me that he just skipped over Satan’s request. Had it been me I think I would have asked Jesus, ‘What exactly does it mean to be sifted as wheat? How long does it last? Is it anything like what Job went through?’ Scripture tells me what to do when I’m tempted by Satan (resist), but I’m not quite sure we’ve been given sifting instructions.
July 05, 2011
Last Sunday one of our ladies fainted right before church started and the ambulance was called. The responders included the police, fire department and EMT’s numbering about 10 people. Virginia was accompanied to the hospital by her husband Don, an old time preacher/overseer/shepherd of the flock. Once the emergency was past and Virginia was safe in the doctor’s care, I’m pretty sure Don was thinking we should be able to add those emergency personnel to our attendance for the week. So the question begs, exactly how long does a warm body need to be in the building before you can add them to the count?
July 04, 2011
We had the grandkids (ages eight and six) for a sleepover this weekend and they enjoyed a little taste of freedom. They played on the slip n’ slide until they decided to quit, chose to eat corn dogs and Cheetos over broccoli and stayed up two hours past their normal bedtime. Our grown-up feelings of freedom aren’t quite as easy to come by. However, as believers, we are told that creation will be, “…liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Ro 8:21b NIV)
July 01, 2011
Our neighbor’s large tree branches were hanging over into our yard so this spring we did some serious tree trimming. A few of the limbs had to be cut off from the main trunk and were well over a foot in diameter. Not wanting to miss an educational opportunity we let the grandkids count the rings on the stump, showing that the trees were well over 40 years old. We pointed out the growth pattern of wider rings indicate a good water cycle for that year. I’m wondering if sometime the Lord cuts into my heart just to check out my spiritual growth pattern.