July 31, 2013

Not the Judge

I’m surprised by some candid remarks from Pope Francis. The Associated Press slants their report to say that the Pope is referring not just to gays, but to priests, “Who am I to judge when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests…We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society…If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Good grief. How does the Pope get around 1 Timothy 3, which tells us an overseer (elder, deacon, priest) must be above reproach, husband of one wife, and have a good reputation with outsiders?

Integrating gays into society is one thing, integrating gays into the position of church leadership is quite another.

The Pope is right in one respect, he is not to judge the salvation of someone who is gay, seeks the Lord and has good will – the position of Judge is already filled.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Ro 12:2 NIV)

July 30, 2013

What Sets Us Apart

Without using a direct quote, the Associated Press credits Pope Francis with saying, ‘…a church that doesn’t go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group’.

This makes me wonder about some of the local ministries that my church supports – the food bank, soup kitchen, and so on. While these are worthy programs established on Christian principles, believers and non-believers alike support these activities.

I realize that we can spread the Gospel through our actions, but do recipients and non-believers recognize it as the Gospel in action?

July 29, 2013

Worth the Investment

Out of the blue with no context seven year-old Lydia said, “Momma, I really am worth raising.”

While I got tickled at her self-evaluation, I can’t help but think that we should all be so confident.

It’s interesting that we sometimes suffer feelings of worthlessness even though God says and shows us that we were worth being created.

During Jesus’ life the market value for two sparrows was a penny and yet they were valued by the Father. Jesus said, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:31 NIV)

July 26, 2013

Know It All

It’s not that I’m never wrong, but I really do have a pretty good track record for being right. Consequently, my family takes way too much pleasure in highlighting when I’ve been wrong about something.

It’s my observation that many of us downplay our knowledge, wisdom, and intuition, and yet we celebrate the demonstration of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).  I suppose we are cautious to expose our wisdom for fear of being labeled a know-it-all.

Rather than downplaying the gift wisdom, perhaps we should acknowledge the source of the wisdom…the One who truly is the Know It All.

“For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6 NIV)

July 25, 2013

Generational Blessings

I would describe my grandma as a woman who was righteous, outspoken and a pillar of faith. However, because she walked the walk and talked the talk, her adult children sometimes resented what they thought was her ‘peachiness’.

I know my mom, aunts, and uncle appreciated and loved their mother as a mother, but I’m not sure they ever considered that the blessings they experienced in their lives might well be a direct result of their mother’s righteousness.

“The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.” (Proverbs 20:7 NIV)

July 24, 2013

Devising Injustice

President Obama continued to weigh-in on the Trayvon Martin case by saying that he could be Trayvon. Reflecting on his youth, Obama remembers walking by cars and hearing a clicking sound as people locked their car doors.

Really? It seems the President wants us to equate locking car doors with racial slurs. I can’t imagine a teen going home to their parents and telling them they felt persecuted because someone locked their car door as they walked by. Even if locking one’s doors had a racial connotation, what teen - black, white, or brown - wouldn’t simply blow the offender off and move on?

“Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58 1-2 NIV)

July 23, 2013


Sorting through decades of photographs from multiple generations is overwhelming. I wanted to give some of the pictures to cousins, nieces and nephews, so my first thought was to divide them up according to branches on the family tree. It didn’t help that I also had to deal with broken limbs of marriage, divorce, remarriage and re-remarriage.

I couldn’t always identify who belonged to what side of the family and the holiday and reunion photos began to look like intertwining vines rather than branches. 

I finally decided to lessen my heartburn by simply taking out the photos that I want to keep and boxing up the remaining collection to pass on to the next person in line.

However, as I sorted the photos I throw away many that were of people I don’t know - those with no names or dates written on the back, no family resemblances, and no identifiable homesteads and outbuildings.

Discarding a photograph is much different than discarding a soul, but there is a commonality. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt 7:22-23 NIV)

July 22, 2013

Destinations on Faith

My son and daughter-in-law have decided it’s time to look for a larger home, so they listed their house with a realtor and, thinking positively they immediately started packing.

When 10 year-old David and 7 year-old Lydia began showing signs of anxiety about moving out of the only home they have ever known their daddy gave them a reassuring talk. However the talk still didn’t calm their fears, so he asked, “What exactly is scaring you?”

“Well,” said Lydia, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to pack up and move when you don’t know where you are going.”

I chuckled in agreement with Lydia’s worldly wisdom…that is until I thought about Abraham. “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” (Gen 12:1 NIV)

July 19, 2013

Making Room

My daughter has recently become engaged and will be moving to the metro area in October. However, in the interim she has moved back in with us while she tries to sell her house.

Even though Leslie is moving into a spare bedroom, all of my things had to be moved out of the closets and dresser drawers to make room for her things.

I suppose I could have asked her to live out of boxes for the next three months, but the mannerly thing to do is to give her a place to put her shoes, hang her clothes and brush her teeth. 

When I consider the Spirit moving in and living in the heart of the believer, I wonder if we’ve gotten rid of some of our stuff to make a place for Him, or do we have Him living out of a suitcase.

July 18, 2013

Serving Justice

Even though a jury acquitted George Zimmerman, it hasn’t stopped people from having their own opinion about his guilt or innocence. It’s interesting that those weighing in on the verdict didn’t set through the whole trial, they didn’t hear all the evidence, but yet they want to be the judge.

We believers get caught in the same trap when we give our opinions on people and situations without having the complete picture…even if that situation happened 2000 years ago.

If we stand at the foot of the cross we see two criminals who not only were found guilty under the law, but one of them actually confesses his guilt while hanging on the cross. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41 NIV)

Maybe, just maybe, this thief hanging next to Jesus was not a career criminal, but rather a one-time-got caught criminal.

Public opinion would say that the criminals were both headed for hell and yet Jesus, knowing all the facts and the evidence, told one of the men, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV)

July 17, 2013

Advocating Anger

Reportedly Trayvon Martin’s parents did not stay around to hear the jury’s verdict because they wanted to get home and be able to go to their church the following day.

When interviewed about the verdict their pastor said (paraphrase), “We’re angry. The Bible says ‘be angry, but sin not’, so we’re angry. We’re not going to forget Trayvon, we’re not going to forget the verdict, and we’re not going to forget Trayvon’s parents.”

Interestingly the pastor is promoting anger that has no statute of limitations. I’m thinking he should have quoted the entire verse when Paul said, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph 4:26-27 KJV)

July 16, 2013

Just Another Project

One Sunday after church a woman stopped by the table where I was counting the offering and in an effort to make casual conversation she said, “Oh, that’s something we need to do - make a contribution. But we already support so many other projects.” With a half-chuckle she continued, “And of course you know we’re always helping out our kids too.” I don’t know whether or not she expected a response, but I didn’t have one.

However, Paul’s words to the Corinthians may fit the situation. “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor 8:12 NIV)

July 15, 2013

Trashing Your Treasures

          Getting new carpet has been the catalyst in doing a major purging of clutter, which includes sorting through containers of mementos belonging to my deceased mother and sister.
I’ve struggled with discarding their high school diplomas, old love letters and envelopes full of photo negatives. However, the reality is that their treasures hold no sentiment or value for me, or for other family members.
Jesus said, “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)
My catchphrase, “If you can’t store it in heaven…don’t store it at all.”

July 12, 2013

Branches of Ministry

I’m fascinated by trees, particularly old cottonwoods in the summertime. As abundant as their large green leaves may be, they cannot hide the dead branches that emerge as a reminder of growth and bygone days.

Normally they seem to have more leaves than dead wood, but recently I drove by one huge tree situated by an irrigation ditch that was dead except for one tuft of life in a single branch.

I wonder if the trees might be symbolic of our Christian walk. In years past I served in the church nursery, taught children’s Sunday school, and sponsored teams of junior and senior high Bible Bowlers. At one time those branches of ministry were thriving and alive, but those days are now over.

Looking at the silhouette of a tree there is a distinct difference between the live and dead branches, but they are still all attached to the root of the tree. It reminds me of past ministries interspersed with current service.

July 11, 2013

Like a Good Neighbor

My neighbors of over five years just moved back to South Carolina, but it was only recently that I even learned their last name and I’m kicking myself for not being a better neighbor.

I didn’t get to know the single mother and her homeschooled teenage daughter very well, but we would visit generically back and forth over the fence. One time I tried the standard Christmas invitation to church, but it was brushed aside when the mother told me they didn’t celebrate holidays.

With their car loaded and ready to get on the road, we gave our good-bys and well-wishes and then the mother gave me a hug and said, “You’re the best neighbors I’ve ever had.”

I don’t think that I really deserve the compliment, or that I adequately applied the second greatest commandment. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Matt 22:37-39 NIV)

July 10, 2013


We recently had some carpet damage, so now I’m in the middle of replacing the carpet on one floor of the house – two bedrooms, an office, the hallway and the dining room. The rooms had to be completely emptied before the carpet layers arrived and I won’t be able to put the furnishings back until they’ve finished – a three day project.

As I look in the empty rooms I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching about the evil spirit who was evicted from a man’s heart. When the evil spirit was shopping around for a new residence he discovered that his previous abode was still unoccupied, so he and seven of his evil buddies reclaimed the cleaned up residence. (Luke 11:24-26)

It just dawned on me that I feel like I’m in constant clean-up mode when it comes to my heart. I focus on wanting a pure heart, swept clean and put in order…rather than on a comfortable place for the Spirit to reside.

July 09, 2013


Most of us have at least one family member that we’re not necessarily ashamed of, but that we’d really rather not claim. In our family tree, Bill’s goofy second cousin is his cousin, not mine.  Bill in turn disavows any family connection to my strange aunt.

The writer of Hebrews notes God’s reaction to heroes of faith, “Instead, they [heroes of faith] were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:16 NIV)

I’m struggling a little with this verse. If God is not ashamed to be called their God, the antithesis would be that God might well be ashamed of some people who call Him their God...

I suppose it could be those Jesus referred to when he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt 7:21-23 NIV)

July 08, 2013

Weighing Compassion

Throughout the day on the 4th of July the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) ran a huge television ad campaign. Videos of abused dogs and cats were meant to pull at the heart strings and the plea for donations was both passionate and urgent. 

For me the placement of the ASPCA ads was misguided because they were interspersed with television programming featuring patriots, wounded warriors, and those who suffered the cruelty of war. Veterans, who lost arms and legs, literally gave up their freedom of mobility for their fellow Americans. Groups supporting these disabled veterans also voiced an urgent need for financial aid and adaptive housing.

Certainly we can have concern for the animal kingdom, but one thing that sets us apart from animals…“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:32 NIV)

July 05, 2013

Policy Maker

A recent letter writer to Dear Abby asked advice about her gay son saying, “I tried reading my Bible, but the wording was hard to understand. I don’t want to talk to my pastor about it because, even though I accept my son for who he is, I still have trouble talking to people about it because I’m not sure how they will react. Do you believe a gay person will go to heaven?”

I find it strange that the letter writer would turn to Dear Abby rather than a pastor to ask about God’s policy on entering heaven. However, what I really grapple with is the fact that she has a pastor and a church…and that the wording in the Bible is hard to understand.

Paul may not be as socially sensitive as Dear Abby, but he certainly is not hard to understand. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10 NIV)

July 04, 2013

Independence Day

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
(2 Cor 3:17 NIV)

July 03, 2013

Maintenance Required

If I buy used equipment or get something as a hand-me-down, I expect it to someday quit working or wear out. However, I find it painful when I buy something new and it dies, needs to be replaced or needs to be repaired.

I remember moving into a newly constructed home and thinking it would always be new. As I stood outside and admired the house it never crossed my mind that in 20-25 years the house would need new shingles, siding and windows. In my world, ‘new’ should last forever.

 I love that Paul paints a picture of believers in Christ being a new creation, but I wonder if for some of us the newness becomes comfortable, rather than new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV)

July 02, 2013

Expecting Something

During our Sunday School hour a transient showed up on the church doorstep looking for more than the hand of fellowship; she wanted money. Her car had broken down, she was in need of food, she had no family support, she had some past encounters with the law, she was down on her luck…etc.

I’m reminded of the crippled beggar, who was carried every day to the temple gate to beg for money. One day when Peter and John were at the temple, the beggar looked at them expecting to get something. However, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 NIV)

So often the church today feels obligated to offer silver and gold in the form of gift cards for groceries, gas or motel rooms to transients. I can’t help but wonder if we would do better to give these nomads what we do have…Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

July 01, 2013

Leading a Rebellion

Recently a local veteran group installed a retired colonel as their new leader. Reading his quotes in the newspaper the commander isn’t satisfied with simply leading the local chapter of veterans. Taking issue with the government for not listening to the people, he is prepared, if necessary, to start a revolution, overthrow the government, and run all the non-patriots out of town.

Apparently his new found authority has gone to his head and he hasn’t yet noticed that the troops he is trying to rally are no longer on active duty. They don’t have to obey his leadership…nor do they have to pay their dues to the organization. “A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good.” (Proverbs 16:29 NIV)