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.