December 31, 2012
I’ve been studying wisdom literature in the Bible and the concept that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, and that fear must be taught and passed down from one generation to the next. Understanding this heritage in wisdom, I look back on my own genealogy and see where some of my ancestors dropped the ball completely, while others only taught their children to love the Lord. I’m not sure that any of them grasp the responsibility they had in passing on the fear of the Lord to future generations. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7 NIV)
December 28, 2012
I ran into a friend who told me that although there were problems in her church, she would never change churches. “I just couldn’t leave because I’ve been a member there since 1967.” I can remember have similar feelings a few years ago when I felt that church heritage somehow superseded my spiritual need for a change of scenery. I can imagine the Lord shaking his head at our willingness to be fishers of men…just as long as we can stay on the bank of our own familiar pond. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17-18 NIV)
December 27, 2012
Recently a man applied to get a liquor license for the restaurant he owns in Colorado. His background check revealed that he was a Mexican National, his Social Security number was held by at least 13 other people, he was not allowed to work in the US and his border crossing card restricted him from travel beyond a 60 mile radius of the Mexico border. One of the questions that the Liquor Licensing Authority had to determine in the hearing was, ‘Is the applicant of good moral character?’ The applicant has been in this country for many years and numerous people spoke on his behalf saying he is the father of two teenagers and he wants them to have a college education. He is friendly to everyone and all he wants to do is make a living to support his family. I don’t know this man personally, but the fact that he has not abided by US immigration laws speaks volumes of his moral character. We believers do a similar thing when we blur the line of salvation. Even though God’s desire is for everyone to be saved, saying someone is a really good person does not gain them entrance into eternal life.
December 26, 2012
Last week there was a news paper report about two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks when their boat engine died. “The water was too deep to use the anchor and the current too strong to use the oars, so the boat slowly drifted away from Jamaica.” I have this mental image of believers who find themselves in a precarious position spiritually. “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Heb 2:1 NIV)
December 25, 2012
I watched my grandchildren, ages 9 & 7, open their age and interest appropriate Christmas gifts – $15 in one dollar bills, Lego blocks, Polly Pocket doll, and books. I wonder what they, or we adults for that matter, would have thought if we had received gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I can envision some of us investing the gold and re-gifting the frankincense and myrrh. It is not uncommon for people to sometimes receive a gift that they really don’t know what to do with…even the gift of Jesus Christ.
December 24, 2012
Recently my cousin lost her husband and although his was not a lingering death, he was bedridden for some weeks and the encouragement, the get well and Thanksgiving cards all piled up. Laura emailed, “I decided to open the cards tonight while I was alone and it was quiet. As I opened each one, I began to realize that the hard part was that I wasn’t prepared for whether or not I was going to have a Christmas card or a sympathy card.” I’ve always found it comforting in reading about the manner in which David grieved for the son he had with Bathsheba. While the boy was ill David pleaded with God, fasted, wept and slept on the ground. On the 7th day when the child had died, David picked himself up, changed clothes and put on lotion. “now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him [when I die], but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam 12:23 NIV)
December 21, 2012
While shopping in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart I found myself next to man and his granddaughter. The mite of a girl, with a full head of long hair, had her back to me as she was looking up at the shelves of dolls. Apparently she was shopping for herself with her own money, but some dolls were out of her price range. The grandfather suggested that some of the things she wanted might be under the Christmas tree. Although I didn’t hear her response, I smiled when I heard him say, “Well, what did you do to get on the naughty list?” I finished my shopping, and as I was leaving, I saw my two toy aisle friends coming toward me. The little girl was older than I had first thought and I recognized her as having primordial dwarfism. She was such a cutie that I too started wondering what she did to get on the naughty list. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Ro 3:22b-23 NIV)
December 20, 2012
Our library was one of 40 locations across the nation to host a traveling exhibit that celebrates the 400th anniversary of the translation and publication of the King James Bible. This week I attended one of two sessions with professor and author Leland Ryken, a scholar and national expert on the KJV. We were seated together closely at tables and behind me was a stoic, but attractive and smartly dressed woman in her 60’s. At her table sat one of the local pastors who asked her where she went to church. “Oh, I don’t go to church.” Making a smooth transition he told her their church doors were always open and she was welcome to visit them. I turned around in my seat and joked with the pastor about overhearing his snippet of evangelism. I suppose the woman could have been library patron, or simply someone who considers the KJV Bible to be great literature. However, I cannot wrap my head around anyone attending a lecture, and apparently having some sort of relationship with the KJV, and yet not going to church.
December 19, 2012
In reporting on the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting one TV reporter described the first responders as being “trained to be heroes.” My thoughts turned to our training as believers. While I don’t think we are training to be heroes, I do wonder how many of us would consider ourselves to be first responders. For instance, if someone wants to know more about Jesus, do we recommend that they go see the preacher? Or when someone is ill do we tell them they need to schedule a time with the elders to be prayed over? The Apostle Paul gave this charge to Timothy: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim 4:2 NIV)
December 18, 2012
One of our local newspapers has a column titled ‘You Said It’ that encourages people to write in short snippets of anything that is on their mind. One couple wrote saying that when Bush was President they put their postage stamps on upside down in protest of his policies. “Finally in 2008, when we got Obama, we started putting them on right-side-up.” My husband Bill is a retired Postmaster and we both had a good laugh. For starters, no one actually sees stamps on letters today because they are machine sorted. Even our own letter carrier doesn’t look at the stamp, he looks at the delivery address; and if you are making a bill payment, the envelope is most likely opened automatically. Regardless of what type of message we are heralding, nothing is accomplished if it goes unheard. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 4:14-16 NIV)
December 17, 2012
The parents of the children whose lives were lost during the elementary school shooting at Sandy Hook are struggling with their children being taken from them. No doubt families will also struggle with letting go of the children. I find comfort in the image of Jesus welcoming these precious little ones, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14 NIV)
December 14, 2012
Farmers talk about having good and bad years with their crops and I find myself applying the same terminology to the five deaths we’ve had in our family in the last nine months – this has been a bad year. All but one of the deaths were somewhat expected, however with each successive funeral, the grieving process is easier. The world might define the grieving as becoming numb or desensitized, but from the believers perspective there is a spiritual element that should not be overlooked. In our grief none of us can say to the other, ‘but you just don’t understand’ or ‘my sorrow is greater than yours’. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)
December 13, 2012
On the surface an insurance company’s rationale behind a pre-existing conditions clause sounds reasonable; particularly in the case where medical conditions are self-induced, like drug and alcohol abuse. However, according to a California advocacy group, possible situations that could come under pre-existing conditions are acne, hemorrhoids, and bunions. For us, God’s one and only pre-existing condition is simple. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…” (Col 2:13 NIV)
December 12, 2012
Last Sunday’s 3-5 minute Communion Meditation turned into a 20 minute theological message about the preparations and events surrounding the Last Supper. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent message but it had a ripple effect. The audience started getting restless and because there was little time remaining the preacher was forced to cut his sermon almost in half. Looking on the bright side our auditorium is windowless and on the ground floor. “Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.” (Acts 9-11 NIV)
December 11, 2012
The sidewalks were still ice encrusted when I left church last Sunday. Going out the door at the same time was one of our elderly ladies with her cane straddling across the handles of her walker. I cautioned her about it being slick and offered to walk along beside her to her car. “Na-ah.” She said with a chuckle. “If I fall, I just fall.” She wasn’t being cantankerous, but merely implying that if she falls she’ll either pick herself up, or if she can’t get up, then she’ll ask for help. I sort of wish that I could apply more of that type of attitude to my Christian walk. There are times when I am overly cautious because I don’t want to fall, or I don’t want others to help me. I need to be reminded, ‘If I fall, I just fall…and Jesus will be there to pick me up.’
December 10, 2012
My brother-in-law, Ray, was diagnosed with a larger cancerous mass in his esophagus and stomach. He had some chemo and the doctors attempted surgery, but they stopped during the procedure because of liver complications. Ray reached out in all directions for treatment and cure. He started coming to church and the elders prayed over him, he went to an acupuncturist who put him on a vegan diet, where he lost 60 pounds, and he traveled to Arizona for a second opinion. The recent scope of his esophagus showed no signs of the mass and the PET showed only one lymph node to have cancer. Ray is being inclusive in his thanksgiving saying that whether it is God, the diet, the acupuncture doctor, or all of our prayers, he is rejoicing. There are times that we’ve all struggled with giving credit where credit is due. Even in Paul’s day, some who were very religious were careful to cover all their bases so as not to offend any god or object of worship. “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23 NIV)
December 07, 2012
A recent blood test showed my husband’s PSA is on the rise again. Dr. Chipman, his oncologist, is a positive and enthusiastic sort of man and he knew from my questions that I was concerned. “Look, I don’t want you to worry. I’m the one who worries.” He laughed, “That’s what you pay me for!” I told him I could go with that, but only so far, I really hadn’t seen him doing any worrying. We both laughed and he assured me that when it is time to worry, he would worry. Maybe that’s the same problem some of us have when we give our problems over to God. We know the Lord has everything under control, but we’re still looking for evidence that He is doing the worrying. Jesus asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt 26:27 NIV)
December 06, 2012
My mother passed away six months ago and she just got a bill in the mail from CenturyLink, her telephone service provider. The total amount due is $.08. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. No telling how much it cost the company to process the billing and mail it. My options are to ignore the statement, call the company to see if they would reconsider, send them a check, or mail them eight cents. I decided it was worth the cost of first class postage to mail the eight pennies to the company’s outsourced billing department. Companies today always requests that the consumer remit with checks, credit cards and electronic transfers, so I’m wondering if they even have a local bank where they can deposit eight cents cash. Of course the most practical solution would be for the company to simply write off the eight cents, but I suppose this situation is no different than some of us failing to write off wrongs that were done to us.
December 05, 2012
A couple months ago my friend was driving into my driveway when she was rear ended by an SUV. As Sharon’s van spun around 180 degrees, the teenage driver in the other car screeched to a stop, turned to talk to his passenger, then floored the accelerator and sped off. The expression that ran across the driver’s face was, “We’re in big trouble. What should I do? Maybe if we can get out of here fast enough no one will catch us and no will know who we are.” Little did the driver realize that two witnesses wrote down his licenses plate number, and three others were able to make written police reports of the incident. I can imagine that the same image of fear and flight runs across our faces when we sin. We think that a fast getaway from the scene will keep our sin from being exposed…and we too think there are no witnesses.
December 04, 2012
In the limousine on the way to the graveside service the twenty-something granddaughter asked the grieving widow, “When do you read the Will? I’m sure grandpa would have left me something. I need to know if we read the Will now, or if I need to make arrangements to come back later.” Even giving a pass for the selfishness of youth, I’m still left saying, “Really?” However, after a little more thought I’m wondering if the church is missing out on a great opportunity. Just as soon as a new believer comes out of the waters of baptism we should be reading the Will. They need to know that Jesus left them something, they are included in the inheritance and they are an heir.
December 03, 2012
One of our local papers has a weekly column titled “You Said It”, where people write in with little comments about things they see and hear going on in the community. It is amazing how many of the comments are from people thanking others for anonymously paying for their groceries or their bill for a meal. Often the writer is so appreciative that they promise to pay it forward by passing the same generosity on to someone they encounter. Certainly Jesus paid for my salvation by going to the cross and although I try to reach others with the Gospel message, I’ve never thought in terms of paying my salvation forward. I now wonder what those actions would look like.