October 31, 2012

The End is Near

A few weeks ago my brother-in-law was seriously ill, but refused to go to the hospital. It wasn’t until he was admitted to the ER that he learned how ill he was, and that he was on the brink of death. One day last week my 57 year-old cousin was ill, but that morning she rejected going to the ER until she had a chance to get a shower and pull herself together. Evette passed away at home before noon and the family is now waiting for the results on the cause of death. It is amazing that as well as we know our own bodies, we are lousy at evaluating when death is near. Scripture also gives signs that accompany spiritual death, but all too often they too go unrecognized.

October 30, 2012

The Winds and the Waves

It goes without saying that Hurricane Sandy will be disruptive, but maybe the disruption isn’t all bad news. I can see the storm stopping the plans of some terrorist, thwarting robberies, and cooling down gang member activity. From a spiritual perspective our East Coast friends and their extended families across the nation will spend this next week on their knees praying. During a furious storm on the lake the disciple’s boat was taking on water, but Jesus was sleeping. “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matt 8:25-27 NIV)

October 29, 2012

Civility – Fruit of the Spirit

Our newspaper has started a new weekly Church and Community column and the current topic was public vision and conversation. The author of the article wrote that Christians should be the ones to lead the way to restoring the virtue of civility. I was a little taken back when he said, “It is generally agreed that our public officials are doing a poor job of modeling civility.”  What I find disturbing is that almost all of our elected officials are people of faith who are active in their church and their beliefs are evidenced in the performance of their duties. Although he may be oblivious, the author’s accusation against public officials is really an accusation against his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I think we need to be reminded that people who are in public office do not turn off the Spirit within them when they get elected, and then turn the Spirit back on once they have completed their term of service.

October 26, 2012

This World is Not My Home

The song This World Is Not My Home, written by Jim Reeves, is all about heaven and I love the thoughts that come to mind when we sing this song. However, I’m wondering if I might find even more peace and encouragement if I were to take my focus off heaven and put it back on the world. Especially when I’m struggling with difficult people I need to be reminded, ‘This world is not my home…’

October 25, 2012

As Ohio Goes, so Goes the Election

All pollsters agree that Ohio is a must win state and whoever wins that state will become the next President of the US. Last week before church started I was talking politics with one of our octogenarian members. With the upcoming election approaching she was disgruntled because people don’t take time to be informed about those running for office. “My son is one of them, and he lives in Ohio!” Pat laughed, “I’d really like to ask him for an early Christmas present…which would be to not vote at all.”

October 24, 2012

Hold the Applause

A recent communion meditation at my church turned into a get-out-the-vote promotion and when completed about half of the congregation applauded enthusiastically. Although the speaker’s sentiments were good, well written and applicable to the political season, they were misplaced. Jesus didn’t institute communion so that we would focus on ourselves or our spiritually disheveled country. On the contrary, Jesus specifically wanted us to focus on His spilt blood and pierced body, His sacrifice on the cross for us. When we participate in the communion emblems Jesus tells us, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Surely it’s the Lord who deserves the applause.

October 23, 2012

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The political season is in full swing and locally we’ve heard complaints from both political parties accusing each other of stealing campaign signs. Although a sign in my yard had been untouched, my next door neighbor appears to be one of the victims. His sign would be up for a few days and then missing for a week before another one reappeared. This ‘here today gone tomorrow’ activity has been going on for well over a month. Since we live on an extremely busy street, you would think someone would have seen the thief and reported him. Yesterday I caught the husband in his yard, and I had to ask, “What gives with your missing sign?” My zealous Christian friend laughed, “Well, Sandy and I don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to politics. So we share the yard. She puts up her candidate’s sign…and I take it down.”

October 22, 2012

Weeds of the Mind

Not too long ago I sat through a seven hour Liability Seminar. The presentation was funny, engaging and thought provoking; however, the presenter’s verbal expletives clogged my mental slang-filter. During the lunch break while visiting with another attendee I was surprised at how quickly the heavy dose of expletives we’d been receiving were already planted in our minds and some of those same words were coming out his mouth. Later as I went over my notes some of the off color language resurfaced in my mind. Whatever occupies our mind shows up in our actions and our conversation and Paul reminds us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8 NIV)

October 19, 2012

Follow Me

My friend’s nine year-old asked her mom how she knew for sure if Bible was really true. Rather than going into a lengthy explanation her mother simply explained that men who followed Jesus wrote down everything Jesus did and they put it in the Bible. “Oh,” she said. “You mean Jesus had stalkers?”

October 18, 2012

Be Alert

A damper was put on a recent get-together when I learned that one estranged family member was a registered sex offender. Although I don’t know the specifics of the offense, I kept him at arm’s length - both mentally and physically. I can’t say that it was a relaxed social visit, but by being on guard I found an interesting sense of control and power. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV)

October 17, 2012

Under the Bus

Hillary Clinton is now taking the blame for the Benghazi situation, but I’m a little bit indignant at the White House for not taking any responsibility. It feels like the Obama administration has no problem with throwing a woman under the bus. I see a similarity between him and the patriarch Abraham. Abraham, fearing Abimelech would kill him if it were revealed that Sarah was his wife, told Sarah to say that she was his sister. God intervened and rescued Sarah from Abimelech’s harem, but here too I feel somewhat indignant toward Abraham. He put fear for his own life above the importance of his relationship with his wife. (Gen 20)

October 16, 2012

Dream Job

I visited with a pastor friend who told me his dream job would be leave the pulpit and become a missionary. My friend was forthcoming in sharing what was holding him back, “You can’t become a missionary without being forced into becoming a fundraiser. If I won the lottery I’d become a missionary.” He laughed, “But that’s not going to happen because I don’t play the lottery.” There are Scriptural examples of missionaries financially supporting themselves, missionaries on the field who are supported by the church and even disciples being sent out into the field specifically with no support. I think my pastor friend is well intentioned, but like many of us, we restrict our acts of service by adding to the job description. The Lord doesn’t ask us to be equipped as fundraisers before we can be successful fishers of men.

October 15, 2012

Closet Atheist

An organization called the American Atheist is sponsoring a billboard campaign going after the religious beliefs of both Obama and Romney. Their goal, according to their statement, is to “expose the foolishness of religion in the political landscape” and they are specifically attacking Christianity and Mormonism. I doubt if these folks ever considered how fortunate they are to be American Atheists. I wonder, is there such a thing as a Middle Eastern Atheist?

October 12, 2012

Available Treatment

Information in a recent obituary described a man who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and “He devoted his next six years to the pursuit of sunshine and laughter while being surrounded by a circle of family and friends who loved him enormously.” The life expectancy for untreated prostate cancer is about 10 years, so I assume the recently deceased gentleman chose to pursue sunshine and laughter rather than treatment. Although I’m surprised, I really shouldn’t be. I’m wondering if the Lord had given us a spiritual life expectancy how many people would still reject available treatment. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23 NIV)

October 11, 2012

On a Short Leash

Charlie, my daughter’s dog, was in the yard with us when a car stopped across the street. A friend of the family, who was Charlie’s previous owner, rolled down his window and hollered, “Is that Charlie dog I see over there?” Charlie, oblivious to traffic or anyone trying to stop him took off like a shot. In spite of a close call Charlie was safe, but all his human friends were beating themselves up for letting him off-leash and for calling his name. This is not so unlike what we experience as believers. We can be happy little Christians one minute and then the world stops by and calls our name. The next thing you know we’re off to the races for a moment with our previous way of life. Is it any wonder the Lord keeps us on a short leash?

October 10, 2012

Bringing Your ‘A’ Game

President Obama’s performance in the recent presidential debate is described as lackluster, unprepared and disengaged. I can imagine he is somewhat embarrassed and ashamed at taking the debate so lightly. I feel we can learn something from the President’s overall dismal showing. One should never be deceived into thinking that their public speaking skills and charismatic personality can somehow replace being fully prepared and equipped for presenting a message. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15 NIV)

October 09, 2012

Death Bed Confession

A previous pastor of mine who has dealt with cancer for many years was put in hospice last week. Even though he is weak and his health is deteriorating rapidly, Ronnie telephoned a widow whose husband passed away two weeks ago. “Ronnie wanted to encourage me with the faith we have in Jesus Christ. He himself is dying and yet he is still in ministry and thinking of others.” Occasionally we hear of a death bed confession where people confess their sins, but I can imagine Ronnie’s lasts thoughts being of the good confession, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

October 08, 2012

Columbus Day

A squall came down, the boat was being swamped and there was great danger. Normally a ship captain would take inventory and ask the sailors about the oars, the sail and the life vests. Jesus takes a different inventory when his followers are in the midst of a storm, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25 NIV)

October 05, 2012

Desecrating the Temple

Shaking my head in disbelief at their stupidity I read the report of college students using alcohol enemas at parties to increase the effects of the alcohol. Seriously? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV)

October 04, 2012

Whose Teaching

In the area of teaching and leading not all men and women are created equal and class attendance sometimes depends on whether or not our favorite teacher is teaching that week. I found it interesting that some of the Old Testament prophets prophesied during the same period of time, but they didn’t prophesy in the same place or to the same audience. It was probably a really good scheduling decision on God’s part. Can’t you see some folks skipping a prophetic message just because they were waiting to hear the message delivered by their favorite prophet?

October 03, 2012

Campaign Quarterbacking

It is being reported that a strategy in Romney’s play book for the first debate is to defend his reputation by rebutting the mischaracterizations made by Obama’s campaign. The pundits however are all advising Romney that if he wants to win he should forget about defending his personal character and focus on policy, the economy and connecting with the voters. The Apostle Paul comes to mind and I’m not sure the Corinthians would have been as responsive to his message had he not first defended his character and expounded on his credentials. “…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again”. (2 Cor 11:23b NIV)

October 02, 2012

Discipleship Tax

An interesting article in the newspaper reported that some European governments are taxing registered believers and then turning the collected tax over to the church. Apparently Catholics in Germany who refuse to pay the tax “will be denied sacraments, including weddings, baptisms and funerals”. I can only imagine the Lord’s reaction to supposed guardians of the faith who take it upon themselves to put a price on the basic outward expressions of Christianity. “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Cor 7:23 NIV)

October 01, 2012

I Spy

It’s that time of year when gardens tend to over produce. I am amazed that every day I can find vegetables that I missed picking the previous day. I can understand cucumbers being overlooked because they blend so well with the leaves. But for the life of me I can’t understand ripe tomatoes – bright red, orange and yellow – that are able to escape my contortions of bending, stooping and lifting of leaves. Transferring this image to fellow believers makes me laugh. No doubt I’ve been guilty there as well of overlooking the Fruit of the Spirit that they produce.