November 29, 2013

Condemned Already

We often worry about the salvation of people who are riding the fence, but we know that as long as they live, they still have the opportunity to accept the Lord. One of my college textbooks was thought provoking when it noted, “Believers enjoy eternal life in advance of the age to come, so unbelievers stand under the sentence of condemnation in advance of the Last Judgment.” It’s interesting that we have some level of comfort thinking that the unbeliever is somehow living in a continual stay of execution until they actually come before the judgment seat of Christ. We are so sensitive to the possibility of someone labeling us ‘judgmental’, that it’s hard to look at the unbeliever and know that today they are condemned.

November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Early Tuesday I had a breast biopsy and late yesterday afternoon the doctor called to say that it was benign. I told the doctor I had already made mental plans for a double mastectomy and he laughed and told me to cancel the appointment. I really didn’t think I’d been that worried, but the good news was followed by a huge sigh of relief and rejoicing. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:30-31) Giving Thanks in all things.

November 27, 2013

Giving a Pass

A mainstream newspaper reported on the firing of a university student newspaper editor for plagiarism. The situation was newsworthy, but when the information was released the former editor was not named. The adviser for the students said, “We just felt like college is a time to make a mistake, not have to pay for it for the rest of your life.” Really? Extended plagiarism is not simply a mistake, or an accident – it’s deliberate. The issue that really caught my attention was the advisor giving the university student a moral pass that seems more age appropriate for the elementary or middle school student. Paul reminds us, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Cor 13:11 NIV)

November 26, 2013


My friend’s adult daughter was trying to return from a mission trip to the Philippines at the same time the typhoon hit the islands. Betty breathed a sigh of relief when her daughter landed safely back on US soil, however, she also felt a pang of guilt, “It just doesn’t seem right that I’m rejoicing when so many people in the Philippines are suffering.” It is curious that we sometimes stifle our rejoicing out of respect for others who are hurting. I have to wonder if our lack of rejoicing in certain circumstances translates to withholding our praise to God. “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11 NIV)

November 25, 2013


I’m allergic to perfume and in my attempts to avoid people who wear it I sit in the back of the auditorium during worship services. My personal pew consists of one lone folding chair situated away from other people. I wouldn’t consider myself to be seated in the bleacher section, but neither do I consider the location a position of honor. A few weeks ago I was bowled over when one of the ladies came up to me before service and informed me she would be sitting in my usual spot. I located another folding chair and sat it behind her, with my back almost against the wall, but I had to laugh. Apparently I only ‘thought’ I had been sitting in the lowliest of positions. Jesus said when you are invited to a wedding feast, “…take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke14:10-11 NIV)

November 22, 2013

What You Ask For

Three months ago my friend had a breast biopsy and I prayed was that no cancer would be found. My prayer was answered, but the radiologist called her back last week for another biopsy. In hindsight I realize that my prayer should have been, if there is cancer, please let them find it. God does have a sense of humor. No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I received a call from my own radiologist wanting to re-do my mammogram for clarification. Well there you go now; at least I know what to pray for in this situation.

November 21, 2013


A medical report out of the UK is causing debate on whether or not newborns should be swaddled. It is suggested that restricting leg movement in developing bones might cause hip problems in the future. One doctor who is against the practice said, “When a baby is growing let him grow.” I think the same can be said for the Gospel. When I hear something that isn’t quite in sync with the Word, my first reaction is to either restrict what is said, or correct the person saying it. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have handled the situation with Apollos quite as delicately as did Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos knew the Scripture, spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately; however, he lacked understanding in the area of baptism. “…When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:26b NIV)

November 20, 2013


At the Passover meal Jesus revealed that one of his disciples would betray Him. Interestingly the reaction from the disciples was not one of anger, but one of sadness. One after another they said to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matt 26:22 NIV) Certainly at this particular Lord’s Supper Judas was the only betrayer. However, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, the question might be asked, ‘Is there a Judas among us today?’ One who may be dipping his hand in the bowl as an act of ritual, rather than an act of remembrance. One who refuses to examine himself, or one who takes the emblems in an unworthy manner. ‘Surly not I Lord?’

November 19, 2013


The communion meditation was given by an old-time preacher with a deep, rich voice. I was struck by how he affectionately caressed the Lord’s name every time he said ‘Jesus’. Similar to a singer holding a note, the speaker held the ‘e’ in Jesus and his emphasis delivered an unexpected depth to the Lord’s name. I tried to recall how I’ve said ‘mother’ and I realized that tone, inflection and intensity can all convey different types of affection. More importantly it occurs to me that when I use the name ‘Jesus’, it’s often very matter of fact and lacking emotion. I’m wondering if all of us should be giving the Lord’s name a little more vocal consideration. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11 NIV)

November 18, 2013


I have always heard that the word blessed means “happy”. However, one of my New Testament text books calls that a mistake noting that those who mourn are not happy. The text says blessed actually means “congratulation to” and it reflects God’s estimate, rather than human emotions. The Lord’s words take on new meaning when read:
Congratulations to the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.    
Congratulations to those who mourn, for they will be comforted.    
Congratulations to the meek, for they will inherit the earth.    
Congratulations to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Congratulations to the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.   
Congratulations to the pure in heart, for they will see God.    
Congratulations to the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Congratulations to those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Congratulations to you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:3-11 NIV)

November 15, 2013

Out of Poverty

A fellow believer lamented she would be lowering her financial support to the church because of a recent, long-term medical crisis. I sympathized, knowing that her reasoning was shared by many, but all the while the voice in my head was saying, our giving corresponds with our income, not with our expenditures. However, after further thought, I decided that my friend may have been saying that her current giving far exceeds that of a tithe and she regrets that she’ll no longer be able to be as generous. My thoughts turned to the widow who put two copper coins into the temple treasury. Jesus using the situation as an object lesson for his disciples said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark12:43-44 NIV) I’m not sure that I’ve ever known someone to ‘give out of their poverty’.

November 14, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

The Associated Press is reporting that America is following in the steps of Great Britain and establishing atheist mega-churches, supposedly for those folks who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. One of the co-founders, Sanderson Jones, said the idea stemmed from a Christmas carol concert he attended six years ago. Apparently Jones loved everything about the concert, “…but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in.” Apparently Jones and his fellow atheists think they can replicate a spiritual feeling in their fellowship without the Spirit in attendance. My first thought is to be indignant, but the truth is that these folks are no different than some of our churches today who try to enhance their services by borrowing elements of entertainment from secular concerts. The real danger I see here is the atheist trying to hijack spirituality – painting themselves as being spiritual and labeling believers being ‘religious’.

November 13, 2013

Palming It Off

Next week we’ve scheduled an all-church potluck dinner to celebrate not only Thanksgiving, but also paying off the church mortgage. There was a need for a presenter to recap our journey for the last six years, but a couple of men jokingly declined the position saying that they thought others were, ‘trying to palm something off on them.’ It’s interesting that rather than seeing this as an opportunity, it was viewed as an unwanted responsibility. I was reminded of Moses trying to squirm out of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. In order to help with Moses’ credentials, God gave him three different miraculous signs to perform in front of the people. Still hesitant, Moses responded that he was not the right man for the job because he was slow in speech and tongue. I have to laugh…Moses had three miraculous signs in his arsenal and he references his lack of eloquence as a speaker. Certainly miraculous signs are not warranted for our little potluck celebration, but it’s good to be reminded of the Lord’s words to Moses, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Ex 4:11 NIV)

November 12, 2013


As I sample different apple varieties, the seeds popping out when I cut into them make me think of Johnny Appleseed – the legendary John Chapman, who planted apple trees and orchards across America. I know this pioneer seed-planter saw some of the fruit of his labor, because he made return trips to the orchards he planted. In one way or another, we today are still reaping the benefit of his labor. I’m now considering picking spiritual fruit from trees planted decades ago by our Christian forefathers. While I have this image of the Apostle Paul being the spiritual Jonny Appleseed of his day, I do wonder what history will reveal about the seeds planted by our generation. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1Cor 3:6 NIV)

November 11, 2013

Veteran’s Day

Serving our country in the military is a badge of honor and we are grateful to all those who make that sacrifice and commitment. Recently there have been a couple of awkward Veteran’s stories making headlines in my community. Speaking as a Veteran myself, I’m somewhat embarrassed that these fellow vets would use their prior service as a weapon to fight against the rules of establishment. If you were to take away the military status from their argument, no one would listen to their entitlement agenda. I thought of the incident in the temple courts when Jesus, in righteous anger, turned over the tables of the money changers. No doubt the Lord also felt disappointment and embarrassment that these men would put their own occupations above temple worship. Jesus said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” (Matt 21:13 NIV)

November 08, 2013

Passing Through

On occasion we’ve had people ingratiate themselves into the church and then after a time they abandon our fellowship and move on to another body of believers. It appears to me that rather than looking for a place to worship, they are looking for a place with a readymade audience of followers where they can teach, lead, and serve without oversight. This scenario happens frequently enough that I have this image of the congregation being assessed as a pitiful lot who needs someone to guide us into enlightenment. Unfortunately these pass-through folks don’t understand that the open arms of fellowship are not the same thing as an open door of opportunity for them to step into a leadership role. The Apostle Paul warned the church in Ephesus to stop giving false teachers a platform, because they were promoting controversies rather than God’s work. “Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Tim 1:6-7 NIV)

November 07, 2013


On a recent hospital visit Bill took a step back when he was told he couldn’t enter the room unless he put on a gown, mask and gloves. Our friend Judy, a fellow believer, had a staph infection that was resistant to antibiotics. Speaking loudly from across the room she laughed, “It’s for your protection, not mine.” Even though she is not yet cured, the antibiotics finally started working and she is no longer contagious. I find it interesting that medical community understands infectious disease and they respond quickly with treatment and precautions. However, we in the church don’t even want to acknowledge the existence of spiritual diseases, much less try to protect ourselves and others.  Paul reminds us, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Cor 7:1 NIV)

November 06, 2013

Bad Tree

My friend gave me a couple sacks of Golden Delicious apples from the tree in his backyard. They were so good that they caused me to go on an apple kick. When I went to replenish the apple stock I bought a variety of Gala, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious. The apples were blemish free and beautiful, but they were also mealy and lacking flavor. So now I’m wondering if the apples were simply picked at the wrong time, or if they were left setting in shipping crate for too long. Jesus often uses fruit analogies, but I’d completely missed the fact that a bad tree is still capable of bearing fruit – bad fruit. “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matt 7:17-18 NIV)

November 05, 2013

Casting Your Cares

Every Sunday before communion one of our men will give a brief meditation that leads the congregation to remember that the emblems, the grape juice and the wafer, represent Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Each meditation is unique as to how the speaker wants to unite our thoughts with the Lord’s Supper. Occasionally a speaker will grab my attention with the pre-prayer statement, ‘If you are burdened, you need healing, or maybe you have a friend with problems, now is a good time to bring those prayers and petitions before the Lord.’ I’m not saying it is wrong to cast all our cares on Jesus, but I’m just not convinced that during communion is the right time to lay personal needs before Lord. Jesus did not tell us, ‘Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup tell me your problems and your needs.’ Rather he broke the bread saying, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:24-26 NIV)

November 04, 2013

Mind Reader

In preparation for getting married, selling her condo, and moving to the Front Range, our daughter and her dog, Charlie, lived with us for four months. For weeks I’d been trying to read Charlie’s mind as he demanded my attention by sitting at my feet and staring up at me with big brown eyes. Does he need to go for a walk, is he hungry, does he want to play, or is he asking for a treat? I have to admit that lately I’ve been more attentive to Charlie’s nuances than to those in the family. Thinking of this on a spiritual level, I’m now questioning my attentiveness to the Spirit. I stay active in the Word, so I’m not neglecting the Lord; however, I’m wondering if I should be looking for ways to be more sensitive to the Spirit. “However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor 2:9-11 NIV)

November 01, 2013

Princess Bride

During the weeks leading up my daughter’s wedding we brainstormed on the preparations, but all the suggestions stopped with the caveat, ‘this is your wedding, so you need to have things the way you want them.’ The choice in bridal gowns styles was almost overwhelming - long length or tea length, sleeves or sleeveless, white or off-white. Interestingly, Leslie made her final selection based not on current trends, or a specific look, but rather on feelings. “I want to feel like a princess.” All believers have given some consideration to the Lord’s return, that wedding feast of the Lamb, when He claims the church as the Bride of Christ. There will be rejoicing, however, I’m now wondering if I have been remiss in not thinking more about how I will feel. “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV)