February 28, 2013
I would be remiss if I didn’t share at least one good take-a-way from the gun safety class. The instructor reminded the class that you are responsible for every projectile that leaves the barrel of your gun. “With a hand gun, that may mean only one bullet. But if you are using a shotgun, that means you are responsible for every projectile in the shotgun shell.” Vice President Biden’s thought that citizens could better protect themselves by using a shotgun rather than a hand gun takes on a whole new meaning. Spiritually speaking, I thought of every projectile that rolls off our tongues and out our mouths. We are responsible for every word spoken whether the intended target is hit, missed, or there is collateral damage to others. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23 NIV)
February 27, 2013
The politically incorrect instructor for my gun safety class decided to use Sunday School teachers for his verbal target practice. “How many of you know the Sixth Commandment; what does it say?” The old timer didn’t really want an answer, but he caught us off guard because we were all packing guns, not Bibles. He quickly moved on, “I’ll tell you what it says. It says, ‘You shall not murder’. For years all your Sunday School teachers have been lying to you. They’re liars because they continue teaching you that the Bible says, ‘You shall not kill’ when they know it says murder, not kill.” Although there were many believers in the class, it was not the time or place for any of us to challenge the accusations, but his comments did send me to Scripture as soon as I got home. The King James Version of Exodus 20:13 quoted, “Thou shalt not kill”, but the NIV quoted, “You shall not murder.” According to the NIV study notes, murder is a more accurate translation and the Hebrew for the verb usually refers to a premeditated and deliberate act. I’d love to take his class again if for no other reason than to set the record straight. It is interesting how an unbeliever can help prepare us for the next spiritual battle.
February 26, 2013
Last weekend I, along with 20 others, took a gun safety class that is required for a concealed weapons permit. Our instructor was a crusty 87 year-old firearms expert who owns a gun shop, firing range, and stays physically fit by doing 200 sit-ups a day. At the beginning of the class the teacher was up-front in declaring that he works hard at being politically incorrect. His intolerance, racial slurs and pot shots at religion were startling. Finally one member of the class got tired of the commentary and asked, “What does all this have to do with gun safety?” Taking the question in stride the teacher reminded us of his disclaimer, that he was not PC and that no one was required to stay if they wanted to leave. Had the teacher been an entertainer most of us would have left the theater, but the reality was that his class was reasonably priced and we needed it in order to get a training certificate. This was one of those instances where I had to remind myself that even though I am in the world, I am not of the world. Jesus prayed to his Father on behalf of his disciples, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15 NIV)
February 25, 2013
During the early Middle Ages those observing Lent were forbidden to eat meat, eggs and dairy for 40 days. I can relate to their Vegan experience because in December my acupuncturist put me on the same diet. I wish I could say that the last nine weeks have been a spiritually sacrificing experience, but the reality is that I’m obsessing about the foods that I can’t have. The diet restrictions, while a test of my will, have not brought me any closer to the Lord. Certainly I would feel differently if it were the Lord who asked me to sacrifice meat, eggs and dairy, rather that the acupuncturist. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:15-16 NIV)
February 22, 2013
Last Tuesday my post was about a woman in my community who publically stated in the newspaper, “I don’t think the Creator had anything to do with the institution of marriage. It’s a societal necessity, not a rite of ‘God’.” She also stated that because of today’s standards, we should extend the ‘commitment ceremony’ of marriage to same sex couples. Her comments have caused quite a stir in our faith community, but I was really caught off guard when I learned she is a member of a local mainline, protestant church, albeit a very left-leaning church. I can’t begin to imagine how her church leadership and fellow worshippers were feeling after having read her comments. Certainly the Bible gives us church discipline instructions, but normally the need for correction isn’t newspaper fodder. Let me confess that the first thing to run across my mind was, ‘I am so glad she’s not a member of my church.’ Of course the Spirit immediately chastised me with Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee who was confident in his own righteousness stood up and prayed about himself, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11 NIV)
February 21, 2013
At one of the recent funerals I attended the Hispanic pastor was the grandson-in-law of the deceased. Apparently 29 years ago there was some reservation on the part of a few to accept a Hispanic into the family, but he recounted Grandma Rice’s stamp of approval when she laughed and said, “Well, he’s better than trailer trash!” We all had a chuckle, but then the pastor wove the same anecdote into the service two more times. I began to wonder if his intent was to show that Grandma was all inclusive, or was he still healing from some age old discrimination wounds. I suppose he could have been taking a potshot at someone, or even subconsciously elevating himself above others. Regardless of the intent or motivation, there is a distinct possibility that there were people in the audience who, at one time or another, lived in a trailer park. I suppose there are shades of Pharisee in all of us and in this case a paraphrase might be, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners…and trailer trash?’ (Matt 9:11)
February 20, 2013
I recently scanned an obituary that was a full half page tribute to the deceased. The 91 year-old man, an accomplished athlete, coach and teacher, had his career summed up saying that coaching was his passion, but teaching was his calling. The dates and the titles of his worldly accomplishments were all listed, but the accolades had no hint of a Spiritual foundation, other than he attended a Catholic high school. The end of the tribute reads, “In lieu of flowers, the Coach would appreciate a couple of prayers on his behalf or, if you choose, donations to either…” I just have to wonder, what type of prayers Coach would appreciate and exactly what good would come of the prayers.
February 19, 2013
In a recent letter-to-the-editor a woman used a shotgun approach to attack every conservative stance that she found objectionable. On marriage she said, “I don’t think the Creator had anything to do with the institution of marriage. It’s a societal necessity, not a rite of ‘God’.” She went on to suggest that by today’s standards, we should allow the ‘commitment ceremony’ of marriage to be extended to same sex couples. Certainly she is entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to go unchallenged when she elevates her opinion to be above the Word of God. People of faith understand that God instituted marriage between a man and a woman, not as a rite, but rather as a right. The letter writer is a stumbling block when she asks us to believe that today’s standards somehow overrides God’s Word.
February 18, 2013
A recent submission to an advice column was about a married man having an affair with a single woman for over a year. Apparently the wife is unaware, even though it is a small town. The question from the writer is, ‘should I write an anonymous note to the wife, or should I MYOB’. The advice given was that if you are not close to the situation, you should MYOB. I have a completely different take on the issue. I feel the writer should go, not to the wife, but rather to the offenders – the husband and the mistress. It is acceptable to go to the perceived offenders and not only warn them about the rumor mill, but also let them know sympathies are favoring the wife. Exposing the rumor will give the offenders an opportunity to stop the rumor, stop the affair, or stop their deception because eventually someone in town will tell the wife. Paul’s directives on giving a warning are applicable to anyone who should feel ashamed of their actions. “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Th 3:14-15 NIV)
February 15, 2013
As my family matriarchs and patriarchs pass away my extended family is not in contact with one another like we were years ago, but I was still a little surprised to read of my great aunt’s passing through a death notice in the paper. When I went to the funeral home web site to find out about the memorial service schedule for Aunt Dene I was shocked. Not only was she listed in the obituaries, but so was her sister, Edith. Ninety-one year old Dene died February 8th, 95 year-old Edith died February 9th and their services will be held on the 14th and the 15th respectively. Let me confess that it has been years since anyone had any news about Aunt Edith, so we all assumed she had passed away and no one bothered to let the rest of us know. Both of these great aunts were strong women of faith, but the image of them being greeted at the Pearly Gates by their six siblings who passed on before just cracks me up. They too probably thought their sisters died years ago.
February 14, 2013
The situation of people living together outside of marriage is becoming more prevalent in the church, but the real shocker is that it is being done by elderly folks. Sadly, many of us are buying their arguments and understand the rhetoric they use that it is based on finances and income. If widows and widowers were to remarry they would lose their combined income and respective homes and would then have to live in one home and on a single income. Neither person wants to give up their own financial security, but neither do they think they should be deprived of love and companionship. I see two glaring issues. 1) They don’t trust God to supply their financial needs, and 2) They feel they are entitled marital benefits outside the bonds of marriage. Awhile back I had a discussion with a fellow believer on the current trend and when he talked about the need for intimacy and he said, “I just don’t think God wants us to be lonely and to suffer.” When I questioned his correlation between suffering and abstinence he decided suffering probably wasn’t exactly the right word to use. Jesus cautions us to put the temptations of the world in their proper place, “For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:30-31 NIV)
February 13, 2013
Our local newspaper is reporting on a situation of a man in dispute with the city over some property. “He’s been trying to get the city to buy it from him for years and maintains he can’t get an answer on the subject.” I have to laugh at the obvious. The man has been trying to sell the property for years and the city has not taken him up on the offer, so the answer is ‘no’. At one time or another most of us have heard the little ditty that God answers our prayers with ‘yes, no, or wait’. Sometimes our prayer requests are well thought-out, seemingly justifiable, and yet unfulfilled. We too can be seen stamping our feet and maintaining that we can’t get an answer on the subject.
February 12, 2013
From my kitchen window I can watch my neighbor’s dogs in her backyard. They are playful with one another, but more often than not I see them standing or lying at the back door. It’s interesting to watch what they do in order to get their owner’s attention. The younger dog gives a single bark and then cocks an ear to the door to hear if he is getting a response. The older one does a semi-scratch with one paw on the door as though giving a nudging reminder to the owner that he is still waiting. The Lord said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20 NIV)
February 11, 2013
There are a couple of vacant lots down the street from my house and our recent thaw has left them a quagmire of adobe mud. The other day three middle school youngsters, one girl and two boys, decided to cut across the lots and quickly got bogged down. About half way through the girl turned back, but the boys were having a grand time. Helping one another keep their balance they would lift first one foot and then the other all the while admiring the amount of mud accumulating on their shoes. “Whoa dude look at this. I can hardly lift my foot.” I told Bill if they would have been my kids I’d have scalped them. Bill laughed, “I did the very same thing when I was a kid. I was wearing my boots and I was invincible.” Reminiscent of David’s song to the Lord, “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” (Psalms 18:33 NIV)
February 08, 2013
This week at Toastmasters a participant used his two minutes of podium time by talking about those occasional jingles and songs that get stuck in your head and they just keep going around and around. Don then went on to say how discouraged he was by the constant upheaval on the political landscape where the attacks on one another never cease and seem to be getting harsher by the day. Don had a great antidote, “When we start hearing it [trash talk] we need to have a response that makes us think and feel better. Don then began singing, ‘O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesties, above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee. And Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!’” (America the Beautiful, lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates and melody, Samuel Ward 1913)
February 07, 2013
Our newspaper has a daily column titled ‘Out of the Past’ that publishes snippets of their archives from one, five, ten and thirty-five years ago. Most of us like having our memories jogged about past events and situations, but unfortunately this column is often used to pick scabs off of old wounds. Spiritually speaking, we can do the same thing to ourselves and to others when we just won’t let go of past. Paul uses his persecution of the church is an example of turning a sinful scab into a simple scar. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Phil 3:13 NIV)
February 06, 2013
I just read an interesting article about ‘gaslighting’, a term that was made popular in the 1944 film Gaslight. The plot of the movie is about a husband using deceptions, beginning with the brightness and dimness of a gas light, to convince his wife that she has lost touch with reality and is losing her mind. His diabolical plan was to have her committed so he could get his hands on her inheritance. I’m wondering if the first recorded incident of gaslighting can be found in Genesis when the crafty serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1 NIV)
February 05, 2013
I've seen video clips of music concerts where entertainers do a swan dive off the stage and into the arms of adoring fans. They are then passed along above the heads of the crowd by people with up stretched hands. One video making the rounds is of a fan who gets up on the stage after a show and arrogantly assumes he too is worthy of being passed around. His wings are quickly clipped when he flies off the stage, the crowd separates beneath, and he lands spread eagle in a face plant on the ground. Believers sometimes attempt something similar, only we lovingly call it a leap of faith. I thought of Jesus standing on the highest point of the temple and Satan telling him to throw himself down, because after all, the Lord’s angels would lift him up in their hands. Jesus’ response is a good reminder for us as well, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt 4:7 NIV)
February 04, 2013
Twenty-five year old freestyle snowmobile rider Caleb Moore died from injuries in an accident at the Winter X Games. Many of those being interviewed about the young man reflect, “He lived his life to the fullest.” Our church body recently lost an 80 year-old Christian stalwart, and we too would say that he lived a good and impactful life. Interestingly, the 55 years age difference between the two doesn’t change our view of a full life. There was and is grief associated with Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, but it is comforting to remember that He lived His lift to the fullest. . “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
February 01, 2013
For over a week now I’ve been housebound with the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my life. My old friend Marvin, a Southern Baptist teetotaler, told me that he and his wife had also been out of commission and they finally resorted to two teaspoons of gin every two hours. “I don’t like the stuff, but it was the only thing we had on hand. We don’t ever drink it, we just use it for soaking our raisins.” My grandma was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and her home remedy for a cold or sore throat was a mixture of Jim Beam and honey. Isn’t it interesting that even though Paul had the ability to perform miraculous healings, he encouraged young Timothy in the use of good old home remedies. “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Tim 5:23 NIV)