January 31, 2012
John the Baptist was not one to mince words and in the account of the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to where he was baptizing, John said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matt 3:7; Luke 3:7 NIV) I’m intrigued by John’s question. Maybe John had a touch of Jonah running through his veins and he wanted the Pharisees and Sadducees to endure wrath. Was his question in jest, or did John really want to know who among the disciples was brave enough to give a warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees? As a believer it seems like it’s our responsibility to warn people about the coming wrath…and that their only salvation comes by way of fleeing to the Lord.
January 30, 2012
Recently I listened to a presentation on Hospice, where speaking to a largely secular audience about death, the presenter said, “There really are no pat answers on why people die.” Knowing that the speaker is a person of faith I wondered how difficult it must be for her to talk generically about death. For the believer we need only go to Scripture to find the pat answer for death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV)
January 27, 2012
Whether it’s in the family, at work or in the community it can be maddening when people do a flip-flop and go 90 degrees in a different direction. Certainly as we gather information or see things from a different angle we have the right to change our mind. However we need go no farther than the political landscape to see candidates jumping from one platform to another with little or no thought to their previous commitment. Sadly the church is not immune to this scenario. I’m thinking about the person who confesses Jesus as his Lord and Savior, makes the good confession and then flip-flops. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:21 NIV)
January 26, 2012
I was intrigued when I recently heard a speaker mention scary Scriptures in the Bible. I’m wondering if, similar to losing our fear of God, some of us have also lost our fear of Scripture. Personally speaking I don’t usually focus on the consequences of a passage when I’m already obedient to its instruction. One of my picks for a scary Scripture is, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5 NIV) I think do pretty well at taking my thoughts captive. However keeping them captive and then making them obedient to Christ is another thing.
January 25, 2012
Many of us struggle with our weight. One minute we’ll reward ourselves with a dognut and then the next we are saddled with guilt for bowing to temptation. I both love and hate Paul’s thought process as he sends me back to reflect on the moment of indulgence. “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” (Romans 6:21a NIV)
January 24, 2012
As the political landscape heats up, so does the rumor mill. There is an undeniable wickedness in men who perpetrate lies about others and Paul describes men who oppose the truth as having depraved minds. What’s aggravating is that once a lie starts making the rounds it’s almost impossible to get the truth out. However I’ve just found some comfort in the account of Jannes and Jambres, two men who opposed Moses. It’s reassuring to know that sometimes we’re simply dealing with folly and that others can see it clearly for what it is. “But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.” (1 Tim 3:9 NIV)
January 23, 2012
One of the visitors at church yesterday is a nurse I’ve known for many years who just happens to work in the nursing home where my mom is a resident. Not feeling totally connected in her current church, the visitor and her husband came to our worship service hoping to feel comfortable and get re-connected. We greeted one another and taking a seat next to mine she shared her struggle with knowing she needed to visit our church. “Boy, the Lord just won’t let it go. He’s really been working on me to come here…and so has your mom!” It’s interesting that whether you are an evangelist like the Apostle Paul or an elderly nursing home resident, kingdom work on earth is never done. You can still sow seeds of invitation that produce fruit. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 2:21-23 NIV)
January 20, 2012
For a church newsletter I interviewed a woman in her mid 60’s who in her teens had a child out of wedlock. Being sensitive to the situation I tentatively asked her if I could include that part of her life in the story. She laughed, “Oh yes! God already knows about it and I’m not ashamed of it.” I love her attitude and the example she is setting. Many of us allow pride to keep us from acknowledging shortcomings, missteps and the sin in our lives…and yet God already knows.
January 19, 2012
The accounts we are hearing from the recent shipwreck near Giglio off the coast of Tuscany really causes me to pause. It’s hard to understand why the crew did not sound a warning, but rather encouraged passengers to stay calm and stay on board. Paul sounds the alarm for us to fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience, “…Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” (1Tim 1:19b NIV) I’m now picturing our luxury cruise ship Faith being run aground on the rocks. She is lying on her side and taking on water. The wreckage doesn’t look repairable and salvage will be a long process. And to think the shipwreck of Faith could have been avoided.
January 18, 2012
I’m attending a 10 week Citizen’s Academy whose focus is on our local Police Department. At our last meeting I was struck by the fact that a murderer can eventually serve his time and be released from prison, but a sex offender has to report either quarterly or yearly and forever will be listed on the sex offender list. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all feel more comfortable knowing if there is a convicted felon in the neighborhood, be it murdered or sex offender. On a spiritual level, if it weren’t for repentance and forgiveness through Christ, we too would be on the lifetime sinner offender list. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” (Ro 3:22-23 NIV)
January 17, 2012
Recently a relative of mine had a lottery scratch ticket and because of the confusing instructions she thought she was a winner. Even knowing that she might be mistaken didn’t stop her from mentally spending the $27,000 jackpot. It’s interesting that even with our minds on spiritual things we are not immune to such dreams. If we suspected we were in line for a windfall maybe we would pay off the church mortgage, fully fund an orphanage or support a Bible college. We could convince ourselves that we were giving back to God, but I wonder if subconsciously there is an appeal to put ourselves in the place of God by meeting the needs of others. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt 6:26 NIV)
January 16, 2012
I watched the movie Vantage Point and throughout the entire drama the only two constants were the shooting of an American President and a bomb being detonated in a plaza. Other than the two foundational events, the movie changed the point of view from one character to another. At the end of each character’s segment you understand what they saw and felt for that moment in time...and that things weren’t always what they appeared to be. I found myself anticipating how each new point of view would differ from that of the others. The story and plot was a good reminder to me that it is God who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent ...and I am not.
January 13, 2012
Prints of the Last Supper or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane often adorned the walls of the homes of our parents and grandparents. When our loved ones pass away we find ourselves in a dilemma of what to do with their religious wall hangings. The prints may be worn, faded and soiled with age, but we just can’t bring ourselves to throw Jesus in the trash or send Him to the Salvation Army. Such items are often gifted to the church and then the church struggles with what to do with them while also trying to avoid hurting the donor’s feelings. As believers we give gifts to the Lord, but are they worn, faded and soiled, or are they items that we would hang in our own home?
January 12, 2012
While driving early one morning the traffic was sparse and I was behind a car that was creeping up to a red light. Apparently the driver was trying to arrive at the light just as it turned green so that he wouldn’t have to stop. I chuckled when he had to chicken out and tap his breaks because his timing was off. We believers play a similar game with God. We manipulate our timing in hopes that it will be God’s timing and He’ll give us a green light. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NIV)
January 11, 2012
Many years ago my husband gave me a Christmas gift of a ream of expensive personalized paper and envelopes. The printing is in script and the letterhead not only has my name and address, but it also includes my phone number. I’ve been so selective about using the stationary only for important correspondence, that here I am 30 years later with envelopes that are yellowing and letterhead with a telephone area code that no longer applies. Spiritually speaking I’m wondering how many of us have personalized gifts from God that we’ve kept sitting on a shelf collecting dust and turning yellow with age because we’re saving them for just the right occasion.
January 10, 2012
Years ago my in-laws owned two Siamese cats; they also had a friend who detested cats. Whenever Darlene came to visit the cats would look up at her with adoring eyes, rub up against her leg and caress her with their swaying tails. There is no doubt in my mind that the cats knew they weren’t liked and they were deliberately trying to aggravate Darlene. I found the encounters humorous because, quite honestly I wasn’t invested in the cats, nor was Darlene my favorite person. I now have a Christian friend who reminds me of those cats. She floats in and out of my life on a regular basis, is high maintenance and irritates me beyond belief. I just know God is laughing at my discomfort and forced tolerance.
January 09, 2012
Recently an editorial in our newspaper paper referenced the lack of candidates willing to run for local public office. They highlighted part of the problem stating, “Admittedly, running for and serving in public office is not a game for the weak at heart or those who lack commitment.” I had to laugh because the same organizations that encourage a person to be civic minded and become a candidate are the ones that then use the elected official for target practice. In the church we too have elections for elders and deacons and I could say the same thing of these candidates. However after the election there is a startling difference between the treatment of those serving in public office compared to those serving in the church. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim 5:17 NIV)
January 06, 2012
When a fellow believer didn’t like the way I approached a particular situation she personally took me to task saying, “I am disappointed in what you have done…I decided that you were working against me.” Most opinionated people believe they are always right and if you don’t agree with them, then you are the one who must be wrong. Columnist Marilyn vos Savant had an interesting observation; “…people get freaked out by the notion of being wrong about anything. If you can be wrong about this or that, what about all the other stuff you think you know?” I think about Saul of Tarsus after he encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus and discovered he was wrong in persecuting those who belonged to the Way. No doubt it was humbling for Saul to be shown the error of his ways, but I can’t imagine how disconcerting it was for him to then question the other stuff he thought he knew.
January 05, 2012
Every once in a while a situation will come up where I’ll come hear someone say, ‘I have to pray about it and see if it’s what the Lord wants me to do’. While there is something to be said about waiting on the Lord for His direction, the flip side would be those who say they are going to do such and such, ‘The Lord willing.’ With the Spirit living within us, I’ve been contemplating which position He finds more challenging – that of motivating the believer into action or that of stopping them when they are headed the wrong direction.
January 04, 2012
The marquee sign on a local financial investment company reads, “Don’t keep up with the Joneses, drag them down to your level.” I can’t totally put my finger on it, but I’m having an adverse reaction to this message. No doubt there is supposed to be an investment connection as well as some humor in the message, but I just don’t get it. I can however, see that the church is not immune to such thoughts. The disciples were indignant with the sons of Zebedee for asking for positions of honor to sit at the right and the left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. Jesus responded to the ten, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave…” (Matt 20:26b-27 NIV) Most believers don’t have much trouble lifting up the weak and serving the downtrodden, but when someone in our midst thinks they’re superior, being their servant is the farthest thing from our mind.
January 03, 2012
On the corner of our property we have three large golden-tipped arborvitae shrubs growing closely together. In the summer I hate to trim them because they sting and are loaded with spiders and cobwebs. In the winter when they are covered deep with snow they appear to be one large rolling mound of dirt. I came home from the store last week and found two middle school boys with their sleds having a grand time using my arborvitaes as a ramp, while a third boy was poking his head up through the dense branches. I sent them packing and now I’ll have to wait until spring to see how much damage was done to my flattened shrubs. We don’t always know why kids do the things they do, but after some thought I realized that these boys had their armor on. They were so well dressed and protected for their winter sledding that a romp through the prickly bushes didn’t faze them in the least. I’m thinking that’s the same way I should be feeling when I put on the Full Armor of God.
January 02, 2012
On January 1st the media always does a look back over what they consider to be the big events of the year. Usually the stories revolve around tragedy, scandal and political gamesmanship…or lack thereof. As individuals we too can fall into the same trap by mentally highlighting the past year’s losses and failures. However Paul reminds me of the importance of putting on spiritual glasses when I look back on 2011. “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)