January 31, 2014
In 1517 the Protestant Reformation turned the Roman Catholic Church on its head. No longer was the Catholic Church able to control the Word of God and the religious thinking of the masses. I see a similar situation erupting between the media and social media. There was a time when almost all of our information came from mainstream media. To their credit they do have a code of ethics; however questionable it is at times. The “real” media is now struggling with their loss of control over information and literally no control over social media types who have no rules. In the world of texting anyone can say anything they want to say regardless of proof, facts or basic standards of good behavior – and they can text it in real time. In the long run it may serve us well that the media, particularly the liberal media, is losing their stronghold. Consumers will need to be on their discerning-toes, but that is the case whether we are reading local newspaper or reading someone’s interpretation of the Word of God.
January 30, 2014
I wonder if we sometimes hear a phrase so often that it loses its impact. Our preachers will talk in terms of Jesus taking upon Himself the sins of the world, but I’m not sure that I personalize that thought to be “my sins.” Martin Luther (1520) wrote that when we accept Jesus, as a bride is united to the bridegroom, Christ and the soul become one and have everything in common. “This means what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul; and what the soul possesses belongs to Christ. Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul. The soul possesses lots of vices and sin, these now belong to Christ.” Paul’s words to the Corinthians is similar, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21 NIV)
January 29, 2014
I’m studying the Holy Spirit and in my text, A Faith For All Seasons, author Ted Dorman said, “During his earthly Incarnation Jesus was uniquely the bearer of the Spirit.” Subconsciously I know the Spirit dwelled in Jesus during His earthly ministry. However, what sticks in my mind is Jesus telling his disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17 NIV) I now have this image of the Spirit being downgraded. The Spirit goes from the earthly vessel of Jesus, a spiritual mansion by anyone’s estimate, and has to move into a fixer-upper, the earthly vessel of man.
January 28, 2014
In a neighboring community a man in his 30’s drove through a neighborhood during the wee hours of the morning throwing large firecrackers out the window of his car. Unfortunately one firecracker exploded in his hand. When his car came to rest against a fence, neighbors ran up to the vehicle and found the man holding his handless wrist saying, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” I’m just guessing, but I think it’s safe to say there is a lesson in there somewhere. This whole scenario gives me pause when I hear Jesus saying, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt 5:30 NIV)
January 27, 2014
In writing about the atonement, Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033-1109) said that without the sacrifice of Christ, the only possible way to correct sin would be punishment. “…not to punish it, is to leave it uncorrected. But God cannot properly leave anything uncorrected in His kingdom. Furthermore, to leave sin unpunished would be tantamount to treating the sinful and sinless alike, which would be inconsistent with God’s nature.” In Scripture homosexuality is no different than any other sin. However, since participants openly practice and celebrate this particular sin; it is quite easy to see that there is not even the smallest resemblance of repentance. We really shouldn’t be uncomfortable asking a practicing homosexual, “Don’t you know that your sin will not go unpunished?” Really, when you stop and think about it, labels like intolerant, judgmental, and bigoted may be thrown around, but they just don’t stick to God.
January 24, 2014
Every once in awhile we’ll look at another person through our spiritual glasses and think, “You just don’t get it.” It’s intriguing that God doesn’t give all of us the same sight, even though we all have the same written Word. On the third day God raised Jesus, but rather than being seen by all people, Jesus was seen only by, “…witnesses whom God had already chosen…” (Acts 10:41b) In my college class, Historical Christian Belief, I continue to struggle to understand the writings of theologians, both past and present. Even though they back up their theory with Scripture, their thoughts make no sense to me…I just hate it when I’m the one who just doesn’t get it!
January 23, 2014
Last year Colorado legislators passed stricter gun control laws and people who were angered by the restrictions responded with a first ever recall of two of the legislators. One of the recall organizers is quoted as saying, “If the people had been listened to, these recalls wouldn’t be happening.” I love seeing democracy being played out right before my eyes; however, we believers sometimes drag elements of democracy into the church. Aaron fell victim to such a predicament during the golden calf incident when he listened to the voice of the people, rather than following God through the voice of Moses. Church leaders today are no different than Aaron, in the sense that they too can be pressured and burdened by the will of the people. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb 13:17 NIV)
January 22, 2014
Many congregations have annual meetings where they allow members to submit questions to the board of elders and deacons. More often than not the questions have to do with music, ambiance, facilities, and the direction of the church. On the bright side, the lack of any theological questions probably indicates the church teaching and preaching is on a firm foundation Biblically. I’m sure the church leaders get weary of such topics as the hymn vs. praise songs controversy, but the reality is that these types of issues are not new, nor are they going away. Even in the early church, “…the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” (Acts 6:1 NIV) Not a very spiritually thought provoking issue, but none the less, an issue that was important to church members.
January 21, 2014
Last Saturday I spent a few hours helping my 90 year-old mother-in-law thin out her closets and kitchen cupboards. I wasn’t sure how the day would go. Would she easily let go of things, or would this be a traumatic exercise in getting rid of possessions? Our walk down memory lane in the clothes closet was filled with history, laughs and bewilderment over pieces of clothing that had no linage. We had honest discussions on her need for eight house coats, 20 night shirts and a couple dozen knock-around shirts. After we finished for the day, any reservations I had evaporated when Ruth said, “Now I won’t feel so guilty if I want to go out and buy something new!” I had to chuckle. Ruth wasn’t as concerned about losing her treasures as she was about gaining new storage space. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21 NIV)
January 20, 2014
An incident was reported in the newspaper about Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in the 1960’s. Both President Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy, worked behind the scenes to help garner Mr. King’s release. It’s interesting that King tried to minimize their participation in his release from jail because, campaign-wise, he didn’t want the Kennedys to benefit from his name recognition. I was reminded of the disciples trying to stop a man from using the Lord’s name to drive out demons simply because the man was not one of them. Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50 NIV)
January 17, 2014
I stumbled onto an interesting phrase that apparently has been around for a long time, but it was new to me. “If I owe you $1,000 I’m in trouble; if I owe you $1,000,000 you're in trouble.” The thought provoking observation has a familiar sound. Jesus was having dinner at the home of a Pharisee when he told his host about two men who owed money to a moneylender. One man owed 500 denarii, the other 50. Neither had the funds to repay their loans, so the moneylender cancelled the debt for both. Jesus then ask Simon, “Now which of them will love him [moneylender] more?” Simon judged correctly when he said, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” So, now I’m wondering about our debt in salvation and whether one person’s debt is greater or less than another’s. (Luke 7:42-43 NIV)
January 16, 2014
One of my on-line college classes is titled “Historic Christian Belief” and it has my head spinning with all the theories and heresies that have been handed down through the centuries. On the day of Pentecost, A.D. 431, during the Third Great Ecumenical Council, Nestorius was excommunicated before his supporters could arrive. Then, “When the bishop of Antioch and his party arrived a few days late, they in turn excommunicated the Alexandrians!” And today we get heartburn and change churches over hymns vs. praise songs…seriously?
January 15, 2014
We recorded the Denzel Washington movie Déjà vu on our cable box and the movie it true to its title because now it refuses to be deleted. Apparently it has taken up permanent residence on our movie list. As believers we also deal with a spiritual déjà vu of sorts. We have inactive sin issues sitting on the shelves of our minds and while we may not always be able to erase the identifying titles, we don’t have to replay them just because they are there. Paul addressed this struggle, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Ro 8:5 NIV)
January 14, 2014
In this type of weather Charlie the dog climbs over snow banks and gets snow packed between his toes. Then he stands there with his paw in the air waiting for you clean off his foot. When we’ve put booties on him, he gets indignant and sidesteps down the sidewalk shaking first one leg and then another trying to throw off the booties. If you think a one-dog Conga Line you get the picture. Charlie’s antics remind me that I too have a few things I need to throw off. “…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)
January 13, 2014
A Utah man, who is one of 1,058 applicants, is one step closer to getting a one-way ticket to Mars. The proposed flight is more than a decade off, but if chosen he would be leaving behind his wife and four young children; the youngest of which is now only six months old. The man admits to being, “kind of selfish”, which at first blush is a good assessment. Surprisingly, the wife is trying to be supportive. However, she feels rejected and has considered divorce so that she can go on and make a life for herself and the children. This scenario does give me pause when I consider that believers also hold a one-way ticket which was purchased for us by the blood of Christ. It’s curious that the loved ones we will be leaving behind don’t seem at all concerned. No one knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return, but He says we are to plan ahead and keep watch, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matt 24:40-41 NIV)
January 10, 2014
In a letter to a newspaper advice column a woman wrote that she is not a confrontational person, so she didn’t how to confront an ongoing family issue. The columnist prefaced her response with, “You don’t need to be confrontational. You need to be assertive.” I love this change in vocabulary and thought. Many of us, including myself, often confuse the two. Without going into deeper study on the subject, my sense is that Scripture would have us be confrontational with sin and the believer caught up in sin, but be assertive in matters of faith and obedience. I’m wondering if my Christian character and witness might be strengthened if were I to adopt these two words as my new best friends.
January 09, 2014
During a potentially confrontational meeting the audience was silent and the chairman then complimented them saying that their silence on the matter was a “show of support” for the work that went into an agreement. I love the way this was handled on all sides because it toned down and defused the situation. However, when I apply this same scenario to the Church I come away with a different feeling. Around every corner people of religious convictions avoid awkward situation with silence, not only in our beliefs, but for any and every potential demonstration of the faith we have in Christ. Our keeping quiet on Scriptural matters results in a show of support to those who want to silence the Lord.
January 08, 2014
The lines between various Christian denominations are getting more blurred all the time. There are some leadership-types who would have believers compromise away our differences, all for the sake of their version of a unity. I like the fact that during the foundation of the Church Peter and Paul were sent to different audiences; Peter to the Jews, Paul to the Gentiles. These pillars of the church didn’t ask their respective followers to give up their own culture or history for one another. For instance, Paul would not let the Jewish believers impose their practice of circumcision on the Gentiles. Maybe rather than having a “denominational demolition derby” we should take a page from the early church and realize we can have unity in Christ without giving up our identity in fellowship.
January 07, 2014
My newly married niece, who is gay, recently sent out invitations for a wedding celebration. I was disappointed that one of the invitations, along with an RSVP, went to her 90 year-old grandmother. This older generation did not accept homosexuality and grandma found herself in an impossible situation. Trying to run interference, I discovered it was my sister-in-law who actually suggested to her daughter that she send the invitation. At first blush I thought there was a terrible lack of judgment all around. However, I then realized that God has already passed judgment in sexual immorality, so the issue is not with the gay niece, her marriage, or the invitation. The real problem is with those who encourage others to take part and celebrate sin. Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. (Luke 17:1 NIV)
January 06, 2014
I am amazed at the number of gays coming out of the closet and how they are welcomed with open arms, even in the church. One pastor recently lamented that he can see how his past sermons were hurtful to gays. If a believer in the church is a practicing homosexual, Paul says, “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1Cor 5:1-13 NIV) We all have sin in our life, but if a person in the church is practicing adultery, practicing greed, practicing homosexuality, etc. we are not to associate with him. The Word of God is not negated because someone may find it hurtful.
January 03, 2014
An on-line article in Leadership Journal was about fighting Christians calling a truce during the holidays. I liked the premise of the article because sometimes we do look for reasons to pick a fight with one another over interpretations, denominations, and doctrinal points. The author, Pastor Bob Hyatt from Portland, Oregon called for a one week holiday truce saying, “Let’s forget, just for a moment that we are progressives, conservatives, emergent, Anabaptist, young-restless-and-reformed -that we are pro-gay marriage or pro-traditional family, that we are egalitarians or complimentarians, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox…and just be followers of Jesus Christ.” For a moment there I thought maybe the author wanted me to play the game of “what doesn’t fit in this list”. Scripture is pretty clear that God has already passed judgment on same-sex relationships. It’s wrong for the pastor to put up a stumbling block by asking believers to reconcile with the sin of homosexuality, rather than reconciling with God. I have to wonder if the writer wants a truce with the pro-gay marriage contingent, would he object to a truce with the pro-abortionists, or pro-idol worshipers.
January 02, 2014
During a TV interview a woman lamented she needed to dust off her resume because her unemployment benefits would soon expire. The AP is also reporting that even though jobless rates would drop, analysts were concerned that stopping the long-term unemployment benefits would result in less money, “…for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars.” Sadly many people in our country have become enslaved by government subsidies. Paul talks about the slave/master relationship for believers of his day, “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” (1 Cor 7:21 NIV) It will be interesting to see if eliminating the 96 weeks of long-term unemployment benefits might somehow force people to gain their freedom from government entitlements.