February 28, 2014
An upcoming ballot issue will ask voters for a sales tax increase to build a recreation center. The proposed cost is over $25 million, but it is being pointed out that with interest, the total cost will come to over $45 million. Yesterday I was dumbfounded when I overheard a tax-supporter say, “What difference does it make if it is $45 million? No one cares about the interest. When you’re buying a house you don’t think about the interest, you just think about the price of the house.” Unfortunately many who come into fellowship with the Lord are of a similar mindset. They think that the only cost to becoming a believer is to accept Jesus, repeat the Good Confession and get baptized. However, there is a continued interest believers pay and it comes in the form of then doing what the Lord asks of us - obedience, turning away from evil, loving our neighbor, etc. Using an analogy for discipleship Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30 NIV)
February 27, 2014
I understand that many entertainers use a surrogate to warm-up an audience before the headline act takes the stage. Likewise, before beginning a presentation, a speaker often tries to connect to the audience with a story, a joke, or a Q & A welcome. I’m amazed how this practice has taken hold in the worship service, and it’s not simply done by one person. Each person, from the music leader, meditation leaders, to the preacher tries to ingratiate themselves with the congregation before they begin their part in the service. Certainly the congregation doesn’t want to feel like they are in a lecture, but the jokes and fillers seem to enhance the speaker, not the message. I have to laugh when I think that Jonah didn’t need any warm-up to be successful, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” (Jonah 3:4 NIV)
February 26, 2014
I’ve started professionally critiquing speakers, including those making presentations during the worship service – those who give announcements, meditations and preach. I am amazed by how often speakers begin their talk by telling the audience about their preparations. Recently a communion meditation started (paraphrase), “I thought I would talk about … but then I thought that was wrong and I thought of something else … then the Lord put on my mind to talk about what I was going to originally talk about. I think this is what I should be telling you today.” I can’t even imagine Jesus, Paul or Peter prefacing their remarks in a similar manner. Peter stood up at Pentecost, raise his voice and addressed the crowd, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” (Acts 2:14)
February 25, 2014
I just re-watched the apocalyptic movie The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington (2010). Eli is on a 30-year unstoppable mission to get his precious cargo, the only Bible in existence, to a west coast sanctuary. There are hoodlums and thugs along the way, and in one scene Eli, from a hillside advantage, witnesses a gang attack of a woman on the highway below. He did not intervene, but averting his eyes he said to himself, “Stay on the path, it’s not your concern. Stay on the path, it’s not your concern. Stay on the path, it’s not your concern.” I’m reminded that Jesus did not minister to everyone He came into contact with either, rather He stayed on the path that led Him to the cross. I wonder if we believers aren’t often distracted by the cries of the world, but the situations are really not our concern.
February 24, 2014
For the last two weeks TV newscasts have been issuing spoiler alerts to warn viewers they are about to reveal the results of Olympic competitions. It’s understandable that some people want to watch the competition at a later time without first knowing the winners of events. It crosses my mind that there are those who might use the same thought process when it comes to reading the Bible. They just don’t want to know the results of failing to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Spoiler Alert – “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)
February 21, 2014
Our local library recently organized a woman’s writing group for the purpose of encouraging one another to know themselves and the world through their writing. “It will be a safe place to express themselves, without judgment, critiquing, or negativity.” There are those who would like the church to be just such a “safe place”; a panacea of sorts. However, Paul reminds us that with great patience and careful instruction we are to always to be prepared to correct, rebuke and encourage. “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 NIV)
February 20, 2014
“Prospectors” is an interesting program on the Weather Channel that highlights four teams of seasoned prospectors searching for gems in the Colorado high country. The stars of the show are digging for anything from jewelry quality aquamarine and topaz, to museum quality specimens of quartz crystals attached to amazonite. Much of the mining takes place at 14,000 feet and danger comes in all sizes - weather, rockslides and claim jumpers. When the miners leave their digging site, because of nightfall or weather, they often cover it up so no one will find it until they can get back to finish their work. The cast member’s enthusiasm for finding the gems they seek is contagious and the celebration is joyous. Spiritually speaking, we too need to watch out for claim jumpers; and it wouldn’t hurt if we also had a little bit more enthusiasm for the precious treasure we’ve uncovered in Christ. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matt 13:44 NIV)
February 19, 2014
A few days ago a snake handling Pentecostal preacher, whose worship services includes handling poisonous snakes, was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This was not the first time the pastor had been bitten, but it was the last. In an interview an immediate family member displayed genuine surprised at the snake’s quick action. The group had the snake for four months and this was the only time they’d had a problem with it. It does seem a little dumbfounding until you consider how often we believers do the same thing with sin. We keep it caged, but then bring it out to show the world evidence of great faith and that’s when it turns around and bites us.
February 18, 2014
The last few years a local letter-to-the-editor writer has gotten away with spewing toxic waste on conservatives, Republicans and Christians. Interestingly, it is people of faith who began standing up to her by responding to her letters. Those “calling her out” seem to be hitting a nerve because she is now complaining that her objectors are simply not intuitive enough to realize her comments were tongue-in-cheek. Granted, tongue-in-cheek may be hard to identify, but most of us know foot-in-mouth when we see it. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:36-37 NIV)
February 17, 2014
In a recent Dear Abby column a letter writer, who described herself as an atheist, was pressured by her husband to accompany him to church. Apparently the husband grew up attending church, drifted away, is now reconnecting, and wants his wife to join him. However, because the wife was raised just the opposite, she felt uncomfortable in church and with the sermons. Abby considered the situation from both the husband’s and wife’s perspective, and then advised the woman not to attend. It’s interesting that none of the three looked at the situation from the perspective of the church. Certainly the church doors are always open to anyone who wants to worship, but having a person who does not even believe in the existence of God as a pew partner is a little strange. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor 6:14-16 NIV)
February 14, 2014
February 13, 2014
This week’s news headlines included the accidental detonation of a bomb during a training session for how to make car bombs. According to the report, 21militants were killed and two dozen injured. My laugh felt as warped as the idea that terrorists could blow themselves up before they could kill and maim innocent people. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7-8 NIV)
February 12, 2014
Kathleen Parker, columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote about President Obama’s comments during the National Day of Prayer Breakfast. I was struck my Ms. Parker’s opening sentence, “President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast – and one is reluctance to criticize.” I find it fascinating people are “reluctant to criticize” those things that fall under the umbrella of religion. It’s almost as though scrutinizing anything with a hint of religion is somehow scrutinizing God, or at the very least, God’s envoy. Jesus was not so inhibited or reluctant, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt 6:5 NIV)
February 11, 2014
Many believers are kept from publically proclaiming the Good News, not because they are uneducated in the Gospel, but because they lack confidence in presenting the Gospel. Jesus said, “ … For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34b NIV). Because our hearts come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, strengths and weaknesses, the overflow of the heart takes on myriad of possibilities. Recognizing the Spirit in one another is easy, but polishing the overflow that can be tricky.
February 10, 2014
A fellow Toastmaster of mine attended a training session and then gave a report to our club. At the session the guest speaker noted that some people are uncomfortable with the term “evaluation” and that we might consider changing the terminology to “coaching.” Really. I wonder how my college professors would react if I ask them to coach me in my assignments, rather than grading my homework. I see this same temptation of softening our vocabulary in the church. For example, many people are uncomfortable with God in the role of Judge and they would rather demote Him to the position of evaluator, or maybe even coach. The writer of Hebrews said, “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (Heb 10:30 NIV)
February 07, 2014
I’m almost finished with one college writing class, and while I’ve learned a lot, the biggest “aha” I’ve gained is the ability to write honestly and without hesitation. For instance, if I want to write about my childhood, broken fellowship, or sin marching down my street, I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or making someone angry. I can write with complete abandon and even name names because, other than my instructor, no one is going to read what I’ve written. I’m now considering how honest and forthright I am with the Lord. Of course I know that He is omniscient, but His knowing my thoughts is not the same as expressing those thoughts to Him. Maybe the Lord would like me to tell Him about my childhood, broken fellowships and the sin marching down my street. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
February 06, 2014
There are three seats open on the City Council and one unopposed candidate slated for each seat. The newspaper lamented the lack of interested people running for the seats and their editorial headline asked, “Where are the leaders?” Interestingly that same question is often echoed in the church. In both cases it’s not the lack of qualified people, but rather a lack of qualified people who are willing to serve. Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim 3:1 NIV) It appears that we don’t have a leadership problem, we have a heart problem.
February 05, 2014
I’m reading a new book on blogging and it stresses the importance of using photos to accompany a post. Surprisingly, the picture doesn’t even have to relate to what is written, any generic photo will catch a reader’s eye and draw them in. Thankfully the writers of Scripture chose painting word pictures to produce the Word of God, rather than giving us a “Picture Book of God”. Reading Revelation I can’t even imagine the debate that would be raging if there were accompanying pictures. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Ps 119:105 NIV)
February 04, 2014
I have a knack for cutting hair, so I’m the resident barber for my family and a few friends. One friend, Mary, is in her 90’s and every couple of months for the last 20 years we get caught up on our visiting while I cut her hair. Mary called me yesterday to tell me her health has been failing rapidly, so her daughter would be moving in with her. Mary has always been fastidious about her hair and I had to laugh at God’s provision … her daughter just happens to be a retired beautician. “So, I won’t be coming to you anymore to get my hair cut, but I’m really going to miss our visits.” There was a catch in Mary’s weary voice and I wondered if she was not only tidying up the loose ends of lost independence, but if she was also telling me goodbye. I can imagine the disciples having a similar feeling during the Last Supper as Jesus began putting His earthly house in order.
February 03, 2014
Over the weekend our local law enforcement nabbed a couple of evening home invaders who had just attacked an elderly couple. The perpetrators were armed, so this was a serious manhunt, but it was relatively short lived. It seems that the new 7-9 inches of snow lying undisturbed on the ground, except for the men’s fresh footprints, made them easy to track down. You just got to love it. Interestingly, sometimes we believers aren’t all that bright either and we leave a few tracks of our own. “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.” (1Tim5:24-25 NIV)