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

Storage Wars

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

You’re invited

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

Keep Watch

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

My Apologies

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

Crystal Clear

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

My Father’s House

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

Ask Mikey

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

Daily Examination

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

Suffering and Rejoicing

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

Were You There

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

Letter of Introduction

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

The Good Child

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

Saying Something Nice

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

Peace and Safety

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

Wish List

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.