December 31, 2014

The Pulpit

On his web site a pastor had two erroneous comments: “Churches who do not give prayer a high priority are churches without God’s power.” And, “A church member not in a small group or Sunday school class is not fully committed to the body.” During a recent sermon the speaker, an older gentleman, was substituting for the regular pastor. He humbly said, “If I speak anything from the pulpit that is my opinion please forgive me. A man is to get up and speak the oracles of God and if he can’t do a little of that, then don’t stand up and speak.” It occurs to me that many web sites and blogs have an identity problem. They give opinions, but they do so under the guise of the pulpit — the power, respectability and authority associated with the pulpit.

December 30, 2014

Shades of Baal

The Winter Solstice Celebration I attended at a New Age church had 20 people assembled in a circle around an altar. The altar, a raised circular platform about 12 inches off the floor, held a large lit candle surrounded by a green wreath. On the floor around the mini-altar were tambourines and small drums. During the appropriate chants and songs worshippers were invited to pick up the musical instruments and participate. The gist of the worship was to imagine that your feet had roots growing down deep into the ground where you could tap into the energy of mother earth. The energy would come up through the body, out through heads and form a collective light of worshippers. A subdued image of the prophets of Baal came to my mind. “Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made" (1 Kings 18:26b).

December 29, 2014

Two or Three

I continue to visit all the churches in town and write about the experience. Right before Christmas I attended a New Age church that had a smattering of Christian elements mixed with pantheism — an Advent candle, revised verses of the children’s classic “This Little Light of Mine,” a song sheet with wishes for a joyous Christmas. During various meditative segments of the service the lights were turned off and the room glowed by candlelight. I searched for signs of the Lord’s presence, but unfortunately the room wasn’t the only thing dark. The worship service was for mother earth and it was obvious Jesus wasn’t invited. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20 NIV).

December 26, 2014

A Gift From God

I recently saw a photo collage of elderly people (ages 79-107) and their thoughts on staying active and vibrant. Most of them attributed their longevity to personal lifestyle choices. All of the pithy sayings were good, and 99 year-old Ida, who is still doing push-ups said, “Do what you need to do, not what you want to do.” The writer of Ecclesiastes takes a different view and puts God in the picture. “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him” (Ecc 3:12-15 NIV).

December 25, 2014

His Kingdom Will Never End

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33 NIV).

December 24, 2014

All Inclusive

Many of today’s churches are on the all-inclusive bandwagon and I believe their intent is, “regardless of your religious persuasion, everyone is welcome to worship with us.” It’s almost as though all-inclusive has become a marketing tool for the church. It strikes me as arrogant that these churches would think God, gods, or any number of religious belief systems would even want to be included in a co-op worship service. “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).

December 23, 2014

Silent Night

I timed my visit to an all-inclusive New Age church for last Sunday because I wanted to see how they handled the Christmas story. Unfortunately the service didn’t celebrate the birth of Christ, but rather a Winter Solstice Celebration and the worship of mother earth. After setting through a gathering that seemed to lack any presence of the Lord, I was surprised by the closing song selection. They sang all three verses of “Silent Night.” While I felt this song was intended as a token gesture for the Christmas season, it was much more. “Silent Night” actually tells the entire story of Christ’s birth — the Virgin, Holy infant, shepherds, heavenly hosts, Son of God — Christ the Savior is Born!

December 22, 2014

The Perfect Gift

Do not … I repeat do not, send a grandma to buy a football. I picked out an attractive buff colored leather, NCAA ball, but I wasn’t sure if it was regulation, so I ask another shopper if I had the right thing. Impressed with my selection he said, “Oh yeah, any kid would love to have this. If it were for me [for an adult] I’d want the NFL ball, but for an 11 year-old kid this is perfect.” I went to check out and the man at the register said “Whoa! Leather. This is a grrrreat ball for a kid. Now don’t let him play with it in the street because the asphalt will tear up the leather. He has to play with it on the grass.” Both of these men were so smitten with the football, it was as though they were rediscovering their11 year-old self and imagining getting such a Christmas gift. I have to admit I just about croaked when the cash register rang up the price, but at that point I wasn’t about to put that football back. After all, I had it on good authority that this football was a perfect gift. I’m now wondering if some of us, when we talk about the Lord to others, have forgotten that emotional moment when we ourselves received the Perfect Gift of Jesus.

December 19, 2014

Memory Lane

My address book is old and over the years I make changes by putting a big “X” through the old entry and writing a new entry. Consequently, every year when I send out Christmas cards I’m reminded of deaths, marriages, divorces, changing residences, and friends with whom I’ve lost communication. It’s often a bitter sweet walk down memory lane. As believers our names are written in the Book of Life and it gives me pause to think of the memories that are attached to our names. “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Rev3:5 NIV).

December 18, 2014

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner

One of the questions I ask when interviewing women is whether they have experienced any gender equality issues. One woman employed in the judicial system gave me an interesting analysis, “Most discrimination is formed because they are unhappy with my decisions and my rulings; but they don’t say they are unhappy about the decision, rather they look for an explanation as to why I ruled against them.” I think she may be on to something. When I get tweaked about a political or religious decision, it becomes more about the person who made the decision, than about the decision itself. I may label the decision maker in such terms as jerk, bully, or chauvinist. Maybe this new insight will help me get a better handle on hating the sin and loving the sinner.

December 17, 2014

Speaking the Language

Speaking through a translator a woman was interviewed about the pressing issue of immigration rights. She has lived in the area for more than 25 years, her husband has worked in the US for 28 years, and their three children range in age from late teens to a 5-year-old. The woman, in spite of Obama’s executive orders, is still fearful of deportation. I have to admit that I suffer from indignation when I hear people living in the America for a quarter of a century, they haven’t bothered to learn the language, and yet they want permanent residency. Then again, we have believers who’ve been attending worship services for over 25 years and they too haven’t bothered to learn the language of Christ.

December 16, 2014

Hold My Hand

I recently talked with a woman who told me about a three year-old who was leaving preschool and her dad told her to hold his hand so he could help her down the steps. Putting her hands together the child rejected her dad’s offer and said, “I’ll hold my own hand.” I have to admit that I love the tyke’s independence streak. However, from an adult’s spiritual perspective, I’m now wondering how often I’ve told the Lord, I’ll hold my own hand. “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him …” (Nahum 1:7 NIV).

December 15, 2014

Be Filled

The church I visited Sunday has had an interim pastor for a few months and the search committee, as well as the man the Lord has in mind for the pulpit, were on the prayer request list. Although nothing was said, I had the sense that the church may have lost some members when the previous pastor retired. As a visitor I arrived 15 minutes early, sat through the worship service, and took my time exiting the church. The 80 people present were visiting before and after the service, but only one man nodded in my direction as he took the seat in front of me. Beyond that, no one else made eye contact or spoke to me. I was somewhat conflicted when the pastor prayed for the church, “That this house of worship would be filled.” Certainly the Lord can answer their prayer, but I wonder if He expects a little help from the faithful. “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV).

December 12, 2014


Mormons refer to the LDS church as the “true church” and most of us are familiar with the dogma that Joseph Smith received a revelation and restored the church. However, during my recent visit to an LDS church I was surprised to hear more than one member give Joseph Smith credit for restoring the church that was “lost for centuries.” Really? In my college studies of theologians and their writings no one wrote of a lost church, or grieved over the lost church. Speaking to Peter Jesus said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt 16:18 NIV).

December 11, 2014

Devaluing Others

A friend introduced me to a Christian web site that offers information on church issues and asks readers to comment and share their experience. Almost on a daily basis surveys, updates and discussion issues arrive by email. I’m starting to see a pattern where pastors and staff are chiming in, but lay people are less forthcoming. There have been a couple of times I went to the trouble of composing comments, but then I didn’t send them. I suppose past experiences of sharing my opinions with church leadership only to have them discounted or marginalized is in the back of my mind.  I think I need to put myself in Timothy’s place and take Paul’s message to heart, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12 NIV).

December 10, 2014


I recently attended a church where the worship service, aside from taking sacraments and singing three hymns, was made up of impromptu testimonies. The speakers had an eclectic collection of thoughts — everything from Jesus being the Son of God, to personal confessions, walks down memory lane, Christmases past and persecution of their denomination. Obviously some of these folks were a little confused about the components and purpose of a testimony. Jesus said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid” (John 5:31-32 NIV). The work Jesus came to finish testifies that He was sent by God.

December 09, 2014

Give an Accounting

Each January my church treasurer hands out a white legal size envelope that contains a record of a person’s financial support and tithes during the last year. The first of December I visited an LDS church and a man handed out a couple of white envelopes to members prior to the service beginning. Announcements were first on the agenda and the speaker said, “The Tithing Settlement is happening, so see what day works for you and take time to sign up for one of the available days to meet with the Bishop.” I feel confident that the white envelope also contained a tithing record — a record of unpaid and past due tithes. Makes me think we should be grateful that the Lord expects an accounting of our life at the Judgment Seat of Christ — and not before the end of each year! “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10 NIV).

December 08, 2014

Bearing His Name

Last year I donated my large commercial cookie sheet to the church because my days of making massive amounts of peanut butter cookie bars are over. Recently Bill had coffee with the guys at church and he came back with the cookie sheet in hand. I’d failed to remove my name from the bottom of pan, so the guys were sending it home. As believers, many of us fret over loved ones that have drifted away from the Lord; we seem to have forgotten that a name has been written on them. “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Rev 3:12 NIV).

December 05, 2014

The Saints You Know

Prayer warriors have played a huge role in Bill’s ongoing cancer issues. Yesterday while he finished the last of the most recent course of treatment, I visited with patients and staff at the cancer center and ran a couple errands. On three different occasions women I’d never met before wanted to pray for Bill. I’m familiar with the generic “I’ll pray for you,” but in each instance these woman specifically ask, “What is his name so I can pray for him?” These three ladies were a good example of praying for all the saints — even those we do not know. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph 6:18 NIV).

December 04, 2014

Making Disciples

My friend is a retired teacher of 30 years and when the name of someone in the community comes up it’s not uncommon to hear her say, “They were one of my kids; I taught them in school.” In some cases she also taught a second generation of the same family. Years ago we heard something similar from Sunday school teachers whose ministry was to teach Bible stories to generations of children. “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” ( Psalm 71:17-18 NIV).

December 03, 2014

Go and Make Preparation

When I hear conversations about a pastor’s work hours and heavy load, one interesting factoid that always seems to find its way into the discussion is that it’s not unreasonable for a preacher to spend up to 20 hours a week preparing his sermon.  I’ve heard pastors speak at conventions and their presentations reflect many hours of preparation, but unfortunately the weekly sermon does not get the same level of attention. I can’t remember when I’ve heard a sermon that was polished with 20 hours of preparation. Of course fillers such as illustrations, jokes and stories do take some thought, but Paul reminds us, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).

December 02, 2014

Humbly Proud

When I read a news report heading that a sports figure was, “proud, humbled by Hall of Fame induction,” it caused me to contemplate the coexistence of pride and humility. In the same vein, as I interview women for a series of articles on leadership, they often say they are humbled and honored to be interviewed. Certainly our resident New Testament tax collectors, Zacchaeus and Matthew, experienced a similar experience when Jesus invited Himself to their homes for a meal. I’m now wondering if I’ve been remiss in not putting a cloak of pride and humility around salvation. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Ro 8:28-30 NIV).

December 01, 2014

Kind and Gentle

For many years I’ve watched Betty wring her hands and try to interject Jesus into the life of an unsaved friend. Her friend is new age and has no interest in religious innuendo, devotionals or spiritually slanted greeting cards. Usually our prayer for the unsaved is for someone to come into their lives and help bring them to the Lord. I think it’s interesting that we pray for people to intervene, rather than praying for God directed circumstance. It is a frightening to think of asking God to bring about circumstances that will bring the unsaved to the Lord — that could be so harsh. We would rather people be saved through the kinder and more gentle means of testimony, witnessing and invitation.

November 28, 2014

Ready to Go

Recently my husband’s elderly aunt was hospitalized with a deadly strain of pneumonia. When she understood her condition was not survivable, she told the doctors she was ready to die and they stopped all treatment. We often see such a thought process in the elderly who have lived a long life, or in those who are weary of physical suffering. It strikes me that at baptism we symbolically say something similar. We are ready to die — die to ourselves, and be raised to a new life. The emphasis is usually placed on the new life we have in Christ, but I wonder if we’re lightly dismissing the death of the sinful nature. When we enter the waters of baptism we are saying, “I’m ready to die.”

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Aroma

We are having a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, thanks to the efforts of my son, Troy. While I appreciate not having to cook, I must confess I miss the smell of the Thanksgiving Day feast baking for hours in the oven. I'm reminded of the consecration of the priests, when Aaron and his sons were given specific directions for the slaughter and dissection of a ram that was to be sacrifice to the Lord. “Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire” (Ex 29:18 NIV). As believers we still make sacrifices to the Lord, but I wonder how many of those sacrifices have actually gone through the fire and produced a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

November 26, 2014

Love Those Enemies

Police detectives on television crime dramas always interview friends and co-workers of the murdered victim. More often than not the interviewee reports that victim was well liked and, “didn’t have an enemy in the word.” Most believers would love such sentiments written as their epitaph. However from a spiritual perspective, I’m wondering if our enemies are more valuable to us than our friends. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 NIV).

November 25, 2014


Since my childhood there have been changes to Halloween and some alternatives offered are church parties where kids dress up as Bible characters, or Fall Festival activities. I appreciate choices for parents, but I have fond memories of Trick or Treating and if I were raising kids today I’d probably still take them around the neighborhood. A recent television news segment interviewed a man who wanted people to consider having an “Alternative Christmas.” Basically he wanted people to donate their traditional Christmas to his suggested benevolent cause. I’m no more impressed with his suggestion than if an environmentalist ask me to give up my Birthday or Anniversary for global warming. Paul warns us about people who delight in false humility, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16 NIV).

November 24, 2014

Those in Need

Sunday I visited a church where empty seating was scattered throughout the auditorium, however none of the available seats were contiguous enough to accommodate more than three people. When a family of six arrived after the service had already started and I witnessed the Golden Rule in action. The whole back row of worshippers, without being asked, picked up their belongings and gave up their seats to the family and then they dispersed throughout the auditorium. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. … Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Ro 12:10, 13 NIV).

November 21, 2014

Giving Thanks

This week I attended a meeting where the topic of discussion for one segment of the agenda was to share a memorable Thanksgiving experience. The impromptu exercise garnered four volunteers, but one man who normally enjoys such opportunities sat silent. When the meeting was over I ask my friend why he didn’t contribute. Looking a little sheepish he said, “I didn’t have anything to say. Anything I said would have been boring.” He paused, “The truth is I have nothing memorable because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.” Say what — what’s not to like about Thanksgiving? I’ve heard reasons why people choose not to celebrate Christmas, Halloween and Veteran’s Day, but eliminating Thanksgiving is a new one. The writer of Hebrews reminds us why we are to be thankful, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29 NIV).

November 20, 2014

Meet & Greet

There is an on-going conversation about church friendliness — or lack thereof. In the process of visiting local churches, I’ve discovered each church has their own level of outreach. I’ve observed that people who are shy, introverted, anti-social, disconnected, newer members, or those carrying heavy burdens tend to sit around the perimeter of the sanctuary. Interestingly, visitors also gravitate to the perimeter of the room. Not surprisingly, those who meet & greet visitors are often the very people who are most uncomfortable in that situation. It would behoove those of us who are more outgoing to follow the example of Jesus and look at our perimeter. Passing through Jericho “…Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV).

November 19, 2014

Keeping Watch Over the Flock

I talked with a woman who told me she has attended the same church for nine years and even though it’s the denomination of her youth, in this particular church she still feels like a visitor. Because this is one of the churches I’ve visited, I knew exactly from whence she came. Interestingly a few weeks ago she began attending another church and she said, “I’ve been moved to tears by the outpouring of fellowship and biblical teaching.” The simile of a shepherd and flock with the church comes to mind. “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations” (Proverbs 27:23-24 NIV).

November 18, 2014


In the advice column “Ask Marilyn,” columnist Marilyn vos Savant differentiated between lying and acting. “Say you’re a soldier and an enemy asks you for information that would aid the opposition. Should a person of high moral character tell him the truth? Of course not.” Personally, I’ve never understood liars, but I’m now wondering if some people I’ve heard tell lies have convinced themselves that in certain circumstances they are simply actors playing a part. “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22 NIV).

November 17, 2014

Opinion, Theory, or Fact

I recently interviewed a woman whose pet peeve is people presenting their opinions as fact. After some thought I realized that whether a speaker or a listener, the difference between opinion and fact is seldom clearly stated. What I find even more interesting is that society tells us to accept what is said on the grounds of “to each his own,” rather than asking others to quantify statements. I now have a greater appreciation for Paul’s clarification about his own opinion, “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are” (1Cor 7:25-26 NIV).

November 14, 2014

Comfort Received

Part of Bill’s current cancer regiment is similar to dialysis and for two and three hours at a time he is hooked up to machines and IV’s. The length of time required for treatment makes it easy to build relationships with nurses, doctors and other patients. Most of us subconsciously divide the patients from the medical professionals; the sick from the healers. However, during a recent treatment I learned that many of the medical staff themselves have had cancer, including one young female doctor celebrating 12 years of living with cancer. “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).

November 13, 2014

Guest or Host

I visited a friend’s church and as I sat in the auditorium people around me visited with one another, but no one spoke to me. When I told Dave about my experience he said, “I know what you mean. I go in and sit down and no one ever comes around to talk to me either.” Dave wasn’t being critical, but he was serious. It cracked me up because he has been a member of his church for about two years. It occurs to me that even as we sit in the pew we resemble our namesake body parts — feet, hands, ears, eyes, unpresentable and presentable parts. “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18 NIV).

November 12, 2014


Recently we dined at an Italian restaurant and our waiter Gavin introduce us to a trainee who was shadowing him  for the evening. Unfortunately, Gavin was not the best example of good service. Rather than reaching around us to serve our food, he reached across the table. He served the entrées and topped them with grated cheese, before removing the empty salad plates and soup bowls. Thinking of church discipleship in a similar manner to server training, it strikes me that many of us are just like Gavin. We may know the Gospel message, but our example and the way we try to teach others to serve it leaves a lot to be desired. However, we can take comfort in knowing that the Apostle Paul also lacked a certain finesse. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple” (Acts 9:26-27 NIV).

November 11, 2014

We Need

I’m still cogitating on the woman who feels everything she needs is right in front of her, all she has to do to succeed is open her eyes and see it. So often in the church we tell ourselves, and even those outside the church, about the needs in the body of Christ. We need teachers, music directors, qualified elders, bigger buildings ... and especially young families, because without them the church will surly die! I can only imagine how the Lord must feel when we verbalize to the world about things we think our individual churches need; implying that our needs are not being met. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:7-8 NIV).

November 10, 2014

Open My Eyes

Recently I interviewed a woman whose unstructured personality was filled with enthusiasm, inspiration and motivation. Her spiritual compass included being open to any creative force that keeps ideas, imagination and creative juices flowing. Offering a unique perspective she said, “Everything I need is right in front of me; everyone I need is right in front of me — I just have to open my eyes and see.” While I don’t subscribe to her view on spirituality, I’m intrigued by the resolve that she is fully equipped for whatever comes her way. As believers we are so busy trying to equip ourselves for the Lord’s work that we fail to see He has already given us everything we need to be successful. The message in Michael W. Smith’s song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” is about our seeing the Lord. For many of us, seeing the Lord is not the issue; the issue is seeing what He wants us to accomplish.

November 07, 2014

Pouring the Water

I visited a Presbyterian Church which began their service by “Pouring the Water.” A young girl in her early teens stood in front of the congregation with a pitcher of water. My view was blocked by the podium, but she poured a portion of the water into some type receptacle. Because no explanation was offered, I was left to my own imagination as to the meaning of the ritual. At the time I thought the symbolism might be connected to washing the disciple’s feet; then when I got home I went online and found a reference to the Holy Spirit being poured out. Finally I called Steve, who is a member of the congregation, to ask for the meaning. When he told me it was for baptism it cracked me up because that particular symbolism was not on my radar.

I’m now wonder if something similar happened in the Corinthian church. The intention was for the Corinthians to come together for the Lord’s Supper, but the meaning was lost because the people were eating and drinking without waiting for one another.

Paul had to remind them not only of the symbolism attached to the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but also the purpose. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:26-27 NIV).

November 06, 2014

Cold Turkey

Recently, after decades of chewing tobacco, my friend quit cold turkey — and now the doctor wants him to lose 30 pounds. Comparing the two it seemed logical that if he could quit chewing, surely losing weight should be a cakewalk. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery and the way Jesus responded to her. He didn’t condemn the woman; nor did He tell her to make a plan, taper off, or gradually leave her adulterous ways. He did however, tell her to quit cold turkey. Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11b NIV).

November 05, 2014

I Was a Stranger

The pastor gave instructions for people to leave their seats and greet one another. A few empty chairs separated me from a middle-aged man who hesitantly, and almost apologetically, approached me saying, “Are you a visitor?” We introduced ourselves and when Dan volunteered that he is usually very introverted, I complemented him on greeting a stranger. It was clear that Dan was completely out of his comfort zone, and he humbly credited the Spirit with motivating him to reach out. We returned to our seats and I had to smile when the pastor then revealed his sermon title, “Do Not Neglect the Gift You Have.” In determining who will be allowed into heaven the Lord will say to those on His right, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in …” (Matt 25:35 NIV)

November 04, 2014

Continued Rejoicing

I was overjoyed and relieved to find my gold ring. Bill rejoiced with me, in part because I didn’t ask him to put on rubber gloves and become a Crime Scene Investigator to help me go through the trash piece by piece.

Bill lamented his experience with losing things in his 20 X 30 woodworking shop. “I know it’s in there; I just set it down in the wrong place, or else I’m looking right over the top of it.”

It strikes me that with the missing ring, the coin and Bill’s tools, none are totally lost — they each were somewhere in the house or the shop. We all have family and friends whom we suspect are spiritually lost, yet we can take a measure of comfort in the fact that the Lord always knows exactly where they are. “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands” (Psalm 119:176 NIV).

November 03, 2014

Dumpster Diving

The other day while doing chores around the house I discovered the gold ring I had been wearing was missing. The ring has family significance and I looked in all the obvious places, while being thankful I had not gone out of the house other than to go to the mail box. As the day wore on, the more obsessed I became and I retraced my steps with greater determination.

I felt a kindred spirit to the woman in the parable of the lost coin; however, I think Jesus understated her search. I’m certain the woman did much more than light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully for the coin. I made multiple dumpster diving trips through both large and small trash cans; inspected the garbage disposal; crawled on hands and knees with a flashlight looking under furniture; swept a path through the leaves to the mailbox  — and begged the Spirit for keen eyesight and wisdom.

The next day as I sorted out the curlers I used for giving my mother-in-law a hair permanent I found the ring in the thrice searched bowl of curlers. And yes, I called others to rejoice with me!

The point of the parable is finding the lost, but I’d never considered the Lord dumpster diving in order to find some of us. Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 NIV).

October 31, 2014


Lydia, my nine year-old granddaughter, recently had the end of her middle finger cut off in some play equipment. It was traumatizing and I worried about how she would react when the bandages were removed and she saw for the first time that her three middle fingers were now all the same length. The bandages were removed and a blackened nub, topped with black stiches was revealed. Lydia studied her finger and said, “Oh…It looks like Frankenfinger!” Obviously the length of her finger is not a priority. “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children” (Proverbs 17:6 NIV).

October 30, 2014

Life Center

Many churches have an area known as a fellowship hall, or an activity center. Recently I drove passed a church with signs and arrows pointing to two separate buildings; one to the Sanctuary and the other to the Life Center.  The connotation that a building is a life center would no doubt give the Apostle John heartburn. John’s gospel made it clear to Jews and Gentiles alike that life is in Jesus. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4 NIV).

October 29, 2014

Yea Though I Walk

Bill had an appointment at the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver and because we’d taken a trial run the month before, we knew exactly where to go and how long it would take to get there. Knowing the layout of the land removed a huge layer of stress; even if all of our preparation did cause us to arrive 45 minutes earlier than necessary. Over the years I’ve lost friends, loved ones and acquaintances and I’m always bewildered by those who, by all appearances, approach death without some sort of a plan — either earthly, or spiritually. I’m now wondering if these folks have ever considered the lay of the land, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV).

October 28, 2014

A Case for Road Rage

Recently while driving in Denver during rush hour I tried to leave space between me and the driver ahead of me, but cars taking advantage of the space I’d left and kept cutting in. It wasn’t long before I started snugging up to the bumper of the guy in front of me — just to keep other cars from invading my space. I know my attitude was wrong, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find a Scripture that might somehow justify my actions. Paul said, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7 NIV)?

October 27, 2014

Knock, Knock

In the recent newspaper comic strip, “WuMo” a cartoon character returned to his apartment to find a note taped to the door which said, “I knocked and knocked – sorry I missed you! [Signed] Opportunity.” For me the cartoon character is a perfect illustration of the self-deluded church in Laodicea. The Lord says to this church, “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).

October 24, 2014

Empty Cup

I visited a church that offered open communion, but the setup had me curious. The communion table was set with individual wafers and two large goblets of wine. I assumed all the worshippers would drink out of a communal goblet, with the rim of the cup wiped after each use. However, before the worshippers went to the altar they filed past two ushers holding communion trays. Each person picked up an empty thimble sized cup which was then filled from the larger goblet. What struck me was the image of the ushers serving empty cups and understanding that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. “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” (1 Cor 11:25 NIV).

October 23, 2014

Fear of God

In a recent sermon a pastor said, “The Ten Commandments direct us in a way that is good for us.” I suppose there is nothing wrong with the statement, but it seems to make the Ten Commandments somewhat discretionary. Moses delivered the Commandments amidst thunder, lightning, the trumpet, and smoke on the mountain — and the people trembled with fear. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20 NIV).

October 22, 2014

If You Like Your …

A current television commercial is selling dental insurance and their unfortunate choice of words, “If you like your dentist you can keep your dentist,” only serves to remind consumers of the false promises of Obamacare. On the spiritual level we hear the same message from new age folks who purport that all religions lead to God, “If you like your god you can keep your god.” Many people forget that our God is a jealous God, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3 NIV).

October 21, 2014

Figment of Imagination

In the middle of giving Bill a haircut he said, “I’m listening to the snip of the scissors and picturing in my mind how each cut looks, but I just realized I’m picturing black hair!” We both had a good laugh because Bill hasn’t had black hair in years. Now I’m wondering what exactly he sees when he looks in the mirror every morning. James shares a similar observation, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24 NIV).

October 20, 2014

Go and Sin No More

On an individual basis we’re not surprised when people outside God’s will, those who deliberately practice sin, fail to receive God’s blessing. In my mind the same thought process applies to denominations that choose to embrace sin. The Vatican recently ended an assembly focused on the family and they are still struggling with their stance on gays. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy compared the gay issue to the woman caught in adultery, “Like Christ with the adulteress, his response is to welcome her, but then to tell her not to sin again.” Not all of the Catholic leadership were on the same page and the final document to come out of the assembly says that gays must be met with respect and sensitivity — which goes along with Ravasi’s thought of welcoming. Interestingly there was no reference to, “don’t sin again.” When Jesus wrote on the ground all the accusers left the scene and no one remained to condemn the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus declared, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV).

October 17, 2014


Before Bill can begin a new vaccine treatment for prostate cancer he must have a special heavy-duty port surgically installed. Unfortunately he keeps getting sent to surgeons who thought they were dealing with a normal size port, and when they realize they can’t do the installation we have to go through another referral process. Taking this scenario to a spiritual level I wonder if something similar happens to new believers. We want to help them mature so we refer them to devotional books, DVD’s of prominent preachers, or to a fellowship group. Seldom do we send them to the right place for maturing — the Bible and Jesus.

October 16, 2014

Wiping the Slate Clean

Every once in a while my grandkids will come to visit and, like carrying their backpacks, they come carrying their punishment. The last time 11 year-old David came over he had lost his TV and video privileges for a week and he still had two more days to serve on his sentence. The punishment may have fit the crime, but the grandma in me wanted to pardon David and let him start over with a clean slate. We cannot know the mind of God, but it gives me a warm feeling to think that He too wanted to just wipe our slate clean.

October 15, 2014

Rabbit Trails

I’ve heard quite a few sermons where the message gets derailed with extraneous examples and sidebars. Lately I’ve listened to a couple of expository preachers and was surprised to see that they too take rabbit trails — biblical rabbit trails. If I weren’t knowledgeable in the Word I’d have been clueless as to the references.  Unfortunately many speakers and preachers fail to realize that when they take detours in their message we in the audience don’t simply wait for them to get back on track, we follow them down the rabbit trail.

October 14, 2014

Faux Church

While visiting with a member of the clergy we discussed the number of churches in town and he brought up the fact that his friend had a home church. I soon realized the church he was describing was one I had tried unsuccessfully to contact. I told the pastor I was bewildered because I intended to visit the church or do a telephone interview, but the phone number was incorrectly listed and I had no response to my email on the web site. “Oh no, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be interviewed for an article; they’re just a small home church.” Curious. There are a lot of people who favor a home church over the collective church, but I don’t understand putting a listing in the newspaper if you didn’t want visitors or exposure. I can’t help but wonder if these folks are trying to legitimize being a church in their own mind, to their friends and family, or to the IRS.

October 13, 2014

The Dead

“The Walking Dead,” a television horror drama series based on a comic book series, is about flesh-eating zombies.  “Dead Man Walking” is a movie about a murderer on death row. It strikes me that both of these titles are a startling and an apt description of those who have rejected, or not accepted Jesus. When the Sadducees questioned Jesus about the resurrection and He said, “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”(Matt 22:31-31 NIV).

October 10, 2014


When I was raising my children I knew the incubation periods for measles, mumps and chicken pox; and what symptoms to watch out for. Today we are becoming acutely aware of the symptoms and the 21 day incubation for Ebola. It strikes me that sin has some similarities to a deadly virus — unfortunately we don’t take it as seriously. James said, “… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NIV).

October 09, 2014


Sermons about the great white throne of judgment often reference how surprised people will be when they stand before the Lord and the books are opened to reveal what is recorded about the things they have done in life. During a recent sermon the pastor put forth an interesting suggestion that potentially puts people before the Lord now. He suggested we pray asking God, “To show you your standing before Him.” I know that my name is written in the book of life, but I think maybe I’d just rather be surprised on that Day to see which of my works will be burned up in the fire. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor 3:12-15 NIV).

October 08, 2014

Judge Not

I’m getting interesting and encouraging feedback from people on the articles I’ve written about visiting local churches. After reading the online column one friend emailed me, “I read your church article. Excellent coverage, non-judgmental, and very specific.” Another was impressed that I wrote about my experience without bias or slamming other denominations. I value these opinions, but it crossed my mind that these friends feared the analysis of worship services would be judgmental. The concept for reporting on worship services is similar to the disciples of John the Baptist who were sent out to see if Jesus was the one to come, or if they should expect someone else. When they came to Jesus He told them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see …” (Matt 11:4 NIV).

October 07, 2014

From the Heart

A recent headline in the newspaper announced, “Gospel meeting led by Holy Spirit.” I had to laugh imagining the Spirit trying to corral any and all speakers who show up ready to talk as they are inspired to speak by the Holy Spirit. The leader of the meeting said they will have some readings out of the Bible, but added, “We speak from the heart; we don’t write anything down.” I’m sure these folks are well intended, but unfortunately not everything that comes from the heart can be trusted. Jesus said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt 15: 18-19 NIV).

October 06, 2014


I attended a liturgical church that interspersed Scripture and responsive readings with two extra-biblical readings. One reading was from Anselm of Canterbury, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109); and the other from medieval spiritual writer and English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342-1414). While both readings contained theological insight, the passages were read in unison with no time to reflect on the content or to measure the thoughts against Scripture. Although Paul was specifically referring to the subject of talking in tongues, I found myself in a similar position where I was unable to say amen to what was said. “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying” (1 Cor 14:16 NIV)?

October 03, 2014


I’ve visited one church that had cigarettes butts littering the sidewalk, and another church had a cigarette butt receptacle prominently stationed outside the entrance. Last Sunday a newer member in my congregation, who occasionally steps out for a smoke, decided this day to smoke an electronic cigarette during the worship services. I’m beginning to wonder if people aren’t taking the lyric in the praise song, “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” just a little too literally — “Come just as you are to worship …”

October 02, 2014

Still a Blessing

Virginia, who is 102 years-old, has been attending a local church for two years. Last Sunday she walked unaided to the front of the church auditorium and placed (transferred) her membership. Speaking to the congregation she said, “I want you to know you have been a blessing to me, and I hope I will be a blessing to you. I’ve felt like a visitor for the last two years and now I feel like I belong.” I had to laugh because Virginia, who has been a Christian for over 80 years, immediately became the oldest member of the congregation. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 18:31 NIV).

October 01, 2014

From Son to Sacrifice

Sometimes I grow so accustomed to a biblical story that I overlook the obvious. During a recent sermon the pastor spoke about God’s test of Abraham which required him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The pastor said, “As soon as God spoke to him, his only son Isaac was dead to him.”  His comment did not fit my image of Abraham’s mental struggle to fulfill God’s requirement. After rereading the text (Gen 22:1-19) I think the pastor was spot on. From the moment God delivered his decision to Abraham, Isaac was no longer a son, but a sacrifice. For Abraham there was no hint of hesitation, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about” (Gen 22:3-4  NIV).

September 30, 2014

Scratching the Itch

Recently I was pleasantly surprised by a rich sermon from a Ugandan Presbyterian preacher. Based on Philippians 2:12-16, the theme of the pastor’s message was, “working out your salvation” and it contained the urgency of the day. What first captured my attention was how he illustrated his points. Rather than using modern day examples, anecdotes, and jokes; each point was illustrated with other passages of Scripture. The message was absent of filler and point after point was supported with a different biblical text. We don’t hear such sermons in America, but I suspect our preachers are simply delivering what the audience wants to hear. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3-4 NIV).

September 29, 2014

Prayers of the Saints

An insert in a church bulletin listed special prayer requests for individuals, the country, and our military personnel. The list also included the amount of their last month’s offering, along with the budgeted amount needed. In this particular case the offerings exceeded the budget, so I mentally categorized it as a praise, rather than a prayer request. However, I’m conflicted when the church budget is listed as a special prayer need. It leaves me wondering if the prayer is directed to God, or the membership.  Jesus said we should pray to the Father, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt 6:11 NIV).

September 26, 2014


Many of the sermons I’ve been hearing lately are based on only 2-3 verses of Scripture. While there may be additional verse thrown in here and there, most of the Bible text is surrounded with stories, illustrations, and anecdotes. I wonder what Paul’s audience in the Jewish synagogue at Berea would have thought about today’s sermons. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 NIV). I think I’m a little jealous of the Bereans; not only of their great eagerness, but also because Paul’s sermons had infinitely more Scripture to examine.

September 25, 2014

Letting Your Light Shine

For many years I’ve interviewed members of the church and written their stories of faith for a newsletter. With many people it was like pulling teeth to get the interviews. Even when I assured them they would have final approval over the story and that I wouldn’t write anything they didn’t want me to write, they remained hesitant. In fact two people, after they had given their approval to the finished story, changed their mind at the last minute and decided against having it published. I’m now writing a series of leadership articles for a local online publication and I have yet to have anyone turn me down for an interview. I’m bewildered by the difference in responses. Those in the world are excited to share their strengths, weaknesses and successes; but sadly, people of faith often fail to take advantage of opportunities to share their testimony. Jesus said, “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 5:15-16 NIV).

September 24, 2014


I read over the counter medication labels in order to match my symptoms to the medication stated purpose — whether it’s for pain, burns, or itching. On more than one occasion I’ve swallowed the pill or rubbed on the ointment before reading the “do not warning.”  Lately I’ve had a lingering itch on the back of my head so I grabbed a tube of anti-itch medication and it was only after I’d applied the medicine that I read the full label, “Do not use on scalp …” Many of us do something similar when we read the Bible looking for a spiritual cure — we simply don’t read the spiritual warnings. Jesus healed the man who had been an invalid for 38 years and later found the man at the temple. Verbalizing the warning label Jesus said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NIV).

September 23, 2014

Lost Rewards

Recently I attended a church that was in the midst of a pledge drive and the preacher made an impassioned plea for the audience to put their faith in action with their giving. However, I think he went a little too far when he told the congregation the weekly dollar amount that he and his wife had pledged to give. It became even more awkward when he went on to say that he didn’t expect anyone else to match his contribution. Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt 6:1 NIV).

September 22, 2014

Barefooting It

A few weeks ago the President took criticism for showing up at a press conference without a necktie. His casual swagger was un-presidential and inappropriate for the seriousness of the situation being addressed. Yesterday I attended yet another church where the worship leader, or a member of the team, was barefoot. I really don’t get it. These folks didn’t come to church without wearing shoes, so they are removing them before taking their place on the platform. I suppose they could be having a God-to-Moses type conversation. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5 NIV).

September 19, 2014

Murderous Heart

Australian authorities thwarted an ISIS terrorist plot that included abductions and videotaping civilian beheadings. Although the 15 people arrested had not yet murdered anyone, it wasn’t for lack of preparation. I’m reminded however, that Jesus equates the anger these people harbor in their hearts with the actual deed itself. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matt 5:21-22b NIV).

September 18, 2014

Hall of Fame

Fox News hosted a panel discussion on how deserving, or undeserving, today’s tarnished sports figures are to be in the hall of fame. Justifying the lack of role models one commentator remarked, “Ok, so what you are saying is that it’s the hall of fame, not the hall of saints.” I’ve got to laugh and wonder who exactly he expects to find in the hall of saints. “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:9-10 NIV).

September 17, 2014


Recently I received an anonymous comment on a blog post that said, “WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for boat mooring covers.” First I laughed at absurdity, then I laughed at the spiritual truth contained in the sentiments. As believers we find what we are looking for in Christ — but many of us didn’t start out searching for a Savior. Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19 NIV).

September 16, 2014


My church leadership is considering writing a purpose statement and I suspect the gist of the statement will have something to do making disciples for Christ. Looking objectively at the current church dynamic, we are an older demographic who encourages, supports and ministers to others — but discipleship in not in the fore front of our minds. I understand the purpose of a purpose statement. However, I have to wonder if man’s efforts aren’t in some cases trying to re-purpose the body of Christ. Paul can be speaking individually or collectively when he says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Cor 12:18-20 NIV).

September 15, 2014


I’ve put off washing the windows in my house because every couple of weeks a few rain drops mixed with dust blew would in from Utah. Finally last weekend Bill and I started washing the windows and the whole world became brighter. It really was as though a veil had been lifted. I could see my neighborhood more clearly, but strangely, I felt a venerability that neighbors or passers-bye could also see into the house more clearly. According to Paul, a veil covers the hearts of those who are under the law and it is only through Christ that the veil is removed. It had not registered with me that the veil being lifted is not merely for the benefit of the one who can now see clearly, but also for the passers-by. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever–increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18 NIV).

September 12, 2014

Serving the Gospel

When the greeters of a local church learned I was visiting their church in order to write an article about the experience, they stumbled all over themselves to make me welcome, “Come in, come in. We’ve got the best coffee and food in town.” I laughed and caught them off guard when I ask, “So, how are you with the Word of God?” They were quick to tell me the regular pastor was out of town and pleaded with me to come back in two weeks when he would again be back in the pulpit. I understand where these ladies are coming from since we all want visitors to the church to experience the best the congregation has to offer. Unfortunately, many of us are like Martha and more focused on first impressions than we are on the one thing that is needed. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

September 11, 2014


After visiting some churches it’s been interesting to shake hands with pastors who seem to look through me, rather than at me. There is no recognition that I might be a member, nor is there any attempt to make a connection, it’s simply, “Have a good day.” The analogy of the shepherd and his flock comes to mind. So often we focus on the sheep hearing and knowing the shepherd voice, but there is also the element of the shepherd knowing his sheep. These pastors are oblivious to whether I belong to their flock or someone else’s flock. For all they know I could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a thief or a robber; someone who is there to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15 NIV).

September 10, 2014

Hand in the Cookie Jar

Some months ago an extended family (parents and adult married children) placed membership and our church has ministered to them in various ways. Their attendance is somewhat sporadic and even when they attend, they often come in late, leave early, or go out in the middle of services to answer a cell phone call. Recently, while attending another church, I stumbled into these same folks and immediately recognized the, “getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar” expression that ran across their faces. There was no doubt they were established in this other congregation and my mental knee-jerk reaction wasn’t very Christian. However, after some thought there is a sense of relief. I can now offer them the hand of fellowship, without the feeling the obligation of discipleship.

September 09, 2014


I visited a large congregation that seemed to be a combination of High-Church and Low-church, seasoned with a touch of modern secularism. On the back of their 10 full-page newsletter/bulletin were blocks of advertisements from local businesses — everything from a realtor, to a plumber, to a liquor store. Among the advertisements was a larger banner ad that said, “Support our Advertisers.”  I was reminded of the Lord arriving in Jerusalem, “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves” (Matt 21:12 NIV). I’m wondering what the Lord thinks as He walks through today's house of prayer and worship.

September 08, 2014

The Lord’s Payer

When we say the Lord’s Prayer in a congregational setting many of us are tentative about which translation to use, whether it’s, “Forgive us our trespasses…” or “Forgive us our debts.…” Recently I attended a Catholic church where we were collectively saying the Lord’s Prayer when two times during the prayer the priest deviated from the text, inserted his own words, and then picked up again where he left off in the original prayer.  I suppose the priest may have been trying to personalize the prayer to his congregation, but I found the revision disconcerting. This was not a situation of commentary, nor of expository preaching, but rather re-writing.  I wonder how the Lord feels about someone remodeling His model prayer.

September 05, 2014


I hate hearing that some churches are cliquish, but there is some validity to the charge. In high school teens develop a group identity that excludes others, but that’s not the scenario I see in the church. I sense that cliques in the church are the result of people trying to shape and mold the church. For instance, if the leadership determines the focus of the church is on families, those who are not a family unit with children — empty-nesters, singles, childless or seniors —will naturally gravitate to others of similar status. It’s not that they don’t care about families, but building their niche fellowship results in the appearance of a clique. Shaping a church is self-serving and I can’t help but wonder if the focus will change when the leadership themselves become empty-nesters, widows or seniors.

September 04, 2014


During a luncheon last week I sat across from a woman who lost her husband two years ago and she was having a hard time adjusting to being single. “It’s not that I’m not social, but it was my husband who usually started conversations and I joined in.” The woman has no family or church family in the area, and although she visited a couple of churches, none were a good fit. I invited her to my church, but I also told her about my project of visiting churches and reporting on the experience. I was a little taken aback by her enthusiasm in wanting to read the articles in hopes that they would help her find a place to worship. For most of us, evangelistic efforts revolve around inviting people to our own church. I have to admit that it has never crossed my mind to offer anyone a referral.

September 03, 2014


The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) hides behind a religious structure to justify their terrorist behavior. It’s going to be interesting to see how the flower children of the 1960’s and the New Agers are going to include ISIL into their visions of world peace and “all paths lead to God” mantras. Actually, all people of faith will be tested on their views of acceptance, inclusiveness and tolerance. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6-7 NIV).

September 02, 2014

Basking in the Glory

Last night I watched a segment of the American Ninja Warriors finals. This is a timed run through an obstacle course and the contestants will often play to the crowd before they attempt some obstacles, or after they accomplish the feat. It’s not unusual to see the contestant get cocky about his prowess, take a misstep, fall into the water below and become disqualified. One young man made a perfect run, but failed to realize how much time was being eaten up by adoring fans. Time ran out two-tenths of a second before he hit the buzzer. In disbelief and with tears welling up in his eyes he managed a brief interview with the show’s co-host; then turned to his friends waiting on the sidelines and in emotional distress collapsed in their arms. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1 NIV).

September 01, 2014


During a church visit I ran into a familiar face with whom I’d fellowshipped with for many years. I was taken aback because our past church and her current place of worship are at opposite ends of the denominational scale. Her new place of worship practices infant baptism, absolution of sins, closed communion, and liturgy. It was nice to reconnect with her, but she was quick to say, “I left the other church because of the music. The music here is a better fit for me.” I’m really glad that my friend found a comfortable place to worship, but it does give me pause to think of others who have been alienated from their home church. I realize I’ve been naïve to assume that people who disassociate with one fellowship will always seek out the same denominational bent elsewhere. I can’t help but wonder if many of the drastic worship changes imposed in mainstream churches haven’t in fact sent believers into the arms of cult religions.

August 29, 2014

Added to the Account

I am on Facebook and although I don’t use it to communicate to others, I read some of the comments posted by friends and family. Recently I unfriended a friend, not because of what they wrote, but because they re-posted some unsavory comments from their friends. Unfortunately, the trash talk of their friends is a reflection on them when they think what is said is funny enough repeat, or in this case, to attach to our own account. Paul uses the words from a Greek tragedy to address those who said there was no resurrection, but I think it has a ring of truth in this situation as well. “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor 15:33 NIV).

August 28, 2014

Controlling Interest

It wasn’t long after a Baptist Church in the metro area hired a new minister that the makeup of the leadership switched from being deacon led, to elder led. I suspect that the new pastor couldn’t control a board of deacons and decided a small group of elders would be more manageable. Today the five elders consist of the preacher (head elder), two staff personnel and two men from the congregation at-large. Unfortunately the three paid staff personnel are the majority rule. To address the dysfunction and bring membership together, the church has now hired a facilitator. I can’t imagine the power struggle going on in this body of believers that they have opted for outside counseling. Jesus said, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit” (Luke 6:39 NIV)?

August 27, 2014

Seeking the Righteous

I recently spent a few days in the metro area where sexual immorality is blatant and seems more pervasive than in a rural community. Similar to those with righteous indignation against Sodom and Gomorrah, I shared my distress level with the Lord. “Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know”” (Gen 18:20-21 NV). The Lord revealed His intended actions to His friend and servant Abraham; and surprisingly Abraham took an opposite view of the situation. Rather than focusing on the grievous sin being committed by the majority of the people, Abraham focused on the righteous who were living in the midst of sin. I hadn’t before realized my tendency to overlook righteousness, but yet allow sin to get in my face.

August 26, 2014

Numbered Days

Yesterday Bill took the first of his 23 scheduled radiation treatments. The treatment itself takes only a couple of minutes, but because of a glitch in the computer system he had time to visit with fellow patients in the waiting room. One 92 year-old gent, who was there for his final treatment, was a little impatient that he had to wait an additional 20 minutes for the computer to get back in sync. The old-timer, a mountain rancher, was weathered, worn and riddled with cancer. One might think that this man needed only one more clean shirt; however, I had to laugh when I learned that just last week he bought himself a new horse. From the perspective of King Solomon, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him” (Ecc 3:22 NIV)?

August 25, 2014

A Just God

The video of the diabolical beheading of American journalist James Foley by terrorist captors is disturbing, but not unexpected in a culture that fails to respect life and wants to eliminate those they consider heretics. In his rhetoric on the situation President Obama said, “No just God would stand for what they [terrorists] did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.” I find The President’s sentiments disparage God. Evil is prevalent in the world and God allows it every single day; which, according to Obama’s statement, implies that God is unjust. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deu 32:4 NIV).

August 22, 2014

Avoiding Judgment

In my church the pianist will play a hymn softly while communion is served to the congregation. Respectfully, she keeps a watchful eye and continues to play until everyone has been served before proceeding with the worship service song. I had a very different experience in a church I visited that took their communion in small groups scattered around the perimeter of the auditorium. One group of four people was still in prayer when the worship leader stepped to the stage, picked up his guitar and commenced with another praise song. Paul, referencing a fellowship meal combined with the Lord’s Supper, offers words of correction to the Corinthian church that I think are applicable to this situation, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” (1 Cor 11:33-34 NIV).

August 21, 2014

Pride of Life

I have a few friends and family members who aren’t prepared for the physical limitations that come with health and age-related issues. They are unable to do the things they used to do and, unfortunately, they want to be who they were before. Reminiscing about their past strength, agility, wherewithal, and independence is a lament, blended with a little bit of temper tantrum. However, in their loss there is also an element of pride. “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn 2:16-17 NV).

August 20, 2014

Dimming the Lights

     When my church bought a restaurant/lounge and repurposed it as a place of worship one of the first things we did is upgrade the lighting so people could see clearly enough to read their Bibles. Three of the churches I’ve visited have done just the opposite. In their effort to set the mood for the worship experience, the lights for the audience are dimed. To follow along with the sermon in my Bible I literally had to put it in my face. In their defense, these congregations project words to songs and some of the Scripture used on overheads.
     However, the ambiance felt more like a Christian convention than church worship. The staging was set for performers and one pastor even entered and exited the platform through backdrop curtains. The overhead lighting, which shown brighter on the platform, actually divided the worship leaders and preacher from the congregation. While we could see them, I doubt they could see the audience beyond the first or second row of seats.
     Similar to a movie theater experience, I had space for my own viewing pleasure and while others shared the same experience, it was not a shared experience.

August 19, 2014

A Tithe or a Tax

It gives me pause to read churches publishing their financial shortfall in their weekly bulletin quoting the amount of “needed tithes” to meet their budget. I wonder if their leadership considered the widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. Jesus said of her, “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” (Mark 12:43-44 NIV). It seems to me that if the widow had been coerced in her giving, her gift would resemble a temple tax, more than an offering or tithe.

August 18, 2014

Meeting All Your Needs

It’s interesting how churches handle reporting weekly income in their bulletins. Some report no data, others record what is received. Still others report two sets of figures — what they received and what their budget calls for. I’ve seen listings for “budget needed/budget received,” “giving/giving shortfall,” “gifts given/gifts needed,” and the one that just screams entitlement, “tithes needed/tithes actual.” I cringe at the implication that God is not fulfilling the needs of these churches. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19 NIV).

August 15, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Lydia, my nine year-old granddaughter, took swim lessons this summer and although she passed her class, she is still really tentative in water. A few weeks ago she was baptized in a local reservoir and I joked it was a good thing she had the lessons or else she would have been too afraid to take the baptismal plunge. Lydia’s granddad on the other side of the family, a Presbyterian minister, laughed, “Yeah, she just might have had to become a Presbyterian!”

August 14, 2014


I’ve been listening to reports of Iraqi Christians being told to choose between renouncing their faith and becoming Muslim; leaving their homes with only the clothes on their back; or facing death at the hand of the terrorists. While it’s tragic, it has a familiar ring. Saul of Tarsus watched and gave his approval to the stoning of Stephen, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:1-3 NIV).

August 13, 2014

Hear, Hear

I’ve always thought the phrase “hear, hear” was a cheer, or a shout-out in agreement with what was said. In looking for the origin, credit is given to the Bible as the first recorded use of the phrase in 2 Sam 20:16 (KJV). I also found a reference to the British parliament in the 18th century using a somewhat expanded version, “hear him, hear him,” which to me implies deeper meaning that implores others to listen to what is being said.  In the church our shout-out in agreement would be Amen. Interesting some pastors have slipped into the habit calling for an Amen when they say something that they think is noteworthy. In my parenting days I said a lot of noteworthy things to my children that appeared to go in one ear and out the other. Now I’m thinking I should have added the caveat, “hear me, hear me” or, “do I hear an Amen to that?”

August 12, 2014

God is Good

My husband’s cancer is now resistant to current treatment and he will soon begin an aggressive regiment of radiation. Bill has had the cancer for 17 years and while none of the treatments or side effects are pleasant, through it all we’ve told others, “God is good.”  I was somewhat taken aback when a friend, a well-founded believer, recently responded (paraphrasing), “Yes, I know all the answers; I know what the Bible says. But when two people have the same cancer and one dies within a few short months and another is spared, the family with loss doesn’t want to hear others saying God is good.” I was just getting warmed up in a response when she cut the conversation short, but I suspect that her sensitivity had less to do with others and more to do with a personal loss. The reality is that regardless of the circumstance, whether life or death, suffering or healing, long or short lived — God is still good. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”” (1Cor 15:54-55 NIV)

August 11, 2014


I experienced an interesting communion service on Sunday. The individual emblems were placed on two tables on opposite sides of the auditorium and after the meditation the presenter went to one of the tables and helped himself to the bread and the juice. When a few people left their seats and went to the opposite table I assumed they were going to serve the congregation, but they too helped themselves. I caught the eye of the man who gave the meditation, shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyebrow questioning what to do and he motioned for me to help myself. After I returned to my seat I noticed people gathering in groups of three and four. Taking communion together, they held hands and bowed their heads prayer. Eventually everyone returned to their seats and we continued with the rest of the worship service. It was touching to see people gathering in groups of friends and family units while sharing the emblems. However, it’s unfortunate that a ceremony meant to bring us together as a body of believers is more focused on biological families, than on the family if God.

August 08, 2014

Victor or Victim

Preachers sometimes point a finger at themselves by using their personal life experiences as examples in their sermons. I like the touch of, “I’m one of you and we all have the same struggles.” However, I’m now detecting an anomaly where one pastor sees himself as a victor, another pastor sees himself as a victim; and unfortunately, those self-induced perceptions are subtly sent to the congregation. Similar to a positive person vs. a negative person, there is a huge difference between one who feels victorious and one who feels victimized. I’m now wondering if all sermons shouldn’t contain at least some element of victory. “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:4-5 NIV).

August 07, 2014


My back deck overlooks my neighbor’s yard and it’s impossible to miss the potted marijuana plant they set out during the day and take into the house at night. The six foot solid wood fence protects their illegal activity from the passerby, but my vantage point puts me in a dilemma of knowing what’s going on — but not knowing what to do about it. I’d like to call the police, but the reality is that I can justify both doing nothing, and doing something. Unfortunately this same scenario plays out in my mind when I accidently see a fellow believer nourishing his sin. The first solution that comes to mind is to turn him over to the spiritual police — the preacher, the elders and the deacons. However, Paul tell us, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1 NIV)

August 06, 2014


The pastor took a rabbit trail and (paraphrasing) said, “When the Lord returns we will live with Him in heaven for seven years, where the Lord will perfect us. After the seven years we will then return to the earth, refurbished to a pristine Garden of Eden, and there we will reign with the Lord for a 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years we go back to heaven for eternity.” The pastor lost me at the seven years of perfecting. I have to laugh when I think that the Holy Spirit might have to endure another seven years trying to whip us into shape. Even in these earthly bodies, when we repent and turn to God our sins are wiped out (Acts 3:20). Exactly what is there to perfect if we no longer sin? “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 24-25 NIV).

August 05, 2014

Pure and Faultless

The pastor seemed all over the map putting a spiritual spin on social issues with his personal opinion and commentary. On the border crisis he feels lawmakers have it all wrong and Christian groups should be allowed to step in and help solve the problem. In his view, Americas who are on long waiting lists to adopt children from foreign countries could adopt the children flowing over the border. I see the pastor’s compassion for those crossing the border illegally, but I find his solution biblically lacking. These children are not orphans, or seeking adoption — and the US is determined to reunite them with their families who are either already in the US, or in their home of origin. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV).

August 04, 2014

Do This in Remembrance of Me

The presenter of the communion meditation began by telling us to clear our minds and focus on Jesus and the sacrifice He made. The gist of the meditation was on Christ; however the message took a turn right before the prayer. Paraphrasing the presenter said, “Everyone has different needs and this is a quiet time for you to draw close to Jesus; think of your needs and your problems and pray about them.” I had the uncomfortable image of standing beneath the cross as Jesus hung in agony with blood dripping from his body — and I’m telling Him about my needs and problems?

August 01, 2014

Offering Plate

Many churches I visit pass an offering plate and the bulletin at one church read:
“Offering of Our Gifts and Lives
    Whether making a donation or not, EVERYONE is invited to touch the offering plates, offering a prayer to give ourselves to God in heart, soul, mind and strength.”
I was taken aback by all the busyness just to take up an offering, but it made a little more sense when the ushers took the plates forward and gave them to the minister. He turned toward the altar and with upstretched arms raised the plates above his head toward the tall illuminated cross and asked a blessing on the offering of gifts and lives. I see the ritual as something of preference, but I’m hesitant when man’s fingerprints appear on Scripture. Jesus was ask about the greatest commandment and he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). I’m just not sure that the greatest commandment belongs on the corporate offering plate.

July 31, 2014


I recently heard a sermon about “Salt and Light” based on Matthew 5:13-16. The theme of the message was how believers can change the world. The accompanying illustrations were examples we’ve all heard many times before, and they were being served to a seasoned audience. I think many of our preachers could take a lesson from the Food Network reality show “Chopped.” Four guest chefs are given a basket of 3-5 secret ingredients and they must incorporate all the ingredients into a dish that is restaurant quality. There chefs compete in three category rounds — appetizer, entrée and dessert, using everything from pound cake to tuna fish. The contestants cannot expect to win the contest if they simply put a chunk of tuna on a slice of pound cake and serve it to the judges. Likewise, preachers should not expect to motivate mature believers by simply telling us about the properties of salt and light.

July 30, 2014

What We Believe

As I visit churches and engage people in conversation they often want to give me their denomination information, or send me to a web site that explains what “we” believe. I’m now realizing I do the same thing when I greet visitors at my church. It’s as though the denominational information helps define the church character. However, telling a visitor that my church is an independent Christian Church doesn’t really reveal what we believe. I’m now thinking I need to change my introduction to something more reflective of Jesus. So what do I believe? The confession I made at baptism may be a good place to start, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”