March 31, 2014
One of my current college classes is on interpersonal communication. I found it interesting that some social scientists estimate that 93 percent of the emotional impact of a message comes from nonverbal sources – body language, eye contact, gestures. No doubt our charismatic friends would put nonverbal communication as a high priority on their religious landscape. I have a hard time thinking that body language in worship, that seen during fellowship, song and sermon, has such a large emotional impact. I’m afraid if anyone, including the Spirit, used 93 percent nonverbal clues on me I’d miss something. However, I can say to the Spirit, “talk to me” and if I listen, I can hear Him. Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt 13:9 NIV)
March 28, 2014
Occasionally there are known issues of sin within the body of believers and many of us look to the leadership to deal with the situation. I’m not absolving the leadership from their responsibility since the authority given them by God carries a huge measure of accountability. However, Paul addressed sexual immorality among believers saying, “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?” (1 Cor 5:2 NIV) Later in the same chapter Paul includes the greedy, the idolater, slanderer, drunkard, and swindler. To these categories he instructs that we not associate with them, nor even eat with them; rather we are to expel them from amongst us. It occurs to me that I can follow Paul’s instructions even if my leadership fails to do so. I have the ability to put the sexually immoral brother out of my personal fellowship, I can refuse to associate with him and eat a meal with him. These passages indicate expelling the wicked person from the church, but the reality is that “we” are the church. As individual believers we can mentally expel the wicked person from fellowship.
March 27, 2014
Most of us would say that when we’ve listened to a sermon we’ve heard the Word of God. However, as I’ve been analyzing sermons and meditations for their structure and content, I’m taken back with how much of the presentations contain jokes, filler, opinion, illustration, examples and rabbit trails. It gives me pause to compare all this extraneous material to the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews said, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double–edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12 NIV)
March 26, 2014
A missionary friend from Columbia gave me some interesting insight into discipleship. “In America when someone gets baptized you give him a Bible.” He laughed, “It’s like, here you go, here’s your manual. In Columbia we give the new believer a children’s Bible.” Andrew went on to explain that the children’s Bible has lots of pictures, big words, and it gives the reader a panoramic view of the Bible. “After they’ve had time to read the children’s Bible and get the big picture, then they get an adult Bible.” It occurs to me that even though I am a student of the Bible, I might relate better to babes in Christ if I too took a remedial read of a children’s Bible.
March 25, 2014
We can learn the sermon topic from the church bulletin, but we won’t actually know the intent of the message until we hear it preached. For instance, Paul gave Timothy the charge, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim 4:2 NIV) If I had my druthers, I’d opt for the encouragement sermon. However, sermons that correct and rebuke are infused with the Spirit and His presence is convicting. Unfortunately some pastors, under the guise of correction and rebuking, craft sermons of manipulation for furthering an agenda. I guess they just don’t realize the Spirit doesn’t participate in a message that contains ulterior motives and manipulation.
March 24, 2014
For safety reasons Sam, a missionary to the Muslims, was incognito. “I’ve been deported three times; kicked out of the country two times.” He laughed, “There is something to be said about not getting beat up.” It was interesting to hear that Muslims believe man was created the best of the best of the best and they do not accept the idea of being a sinner. If I understood Sam correctly, Muslims consider themselves sinless, yet understand there is a price to pay for sins committed that they don’t know about. According to Sam you can actually see the countenance for the wages of sin in the Muslin faith. Up to the age of 17-18 all children are happy, but after this age of maturity they start paying for sins. Between the ages 25-45 a Muslim become sad and downcast, wondering “did I pay for that sin.” Then between the ages of 45-55 their shoulders drop and they give up realizing they cannot possibly pay for their sins. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV)
March 21, 2014
It’s interesting how words can be in the same context, but a change in the written order makes a profound impact. I normally think in terms of Jesus taking my sins, but inspirational writer Rich Maffeo reorders the words saying, “I asked God to lay my debt on Jesus Christ and forgive me.” The phraseology vividly moves me to the foot of the cross and makes me a participant in the crucifixion. It is at the cross that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
March 20, 2014
One of my college classes requires interviewing missionaries and asking about the “world view” of the country where they are serving. One missionary said, “It is the United States that has an interesting world view; they think they rule over everything.” He laughed, “Americans even think they can change the weather!” I chuckled at the global warming reference. The missionary continued with other examples of American innovations such as creating air conditioning because they’re too hot and central heating because they’re too cold. Other cultures live within their environment, but people in America are always trying to control their environment. I suppose we do have to give Americans credit for taking the Genesis account literally. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26 NIV)
March 19, 2014
During the missionary conference we were told that the effectiveness of the traditional three-point sermon is lost on the upcoming generation and it’s going to have to be replaced. “The only way to grab these kids coming up is with a story.” My first thought was not for the next generation, but for traditional pastors who have based their whole preaching life on the three-point sermon. Oh my! I can just see them struggling to tell a story with three points. Paul was willing to put on different personas in order win people to Christ – a slave, a Jew, one under the law, or not having the law – and maybe we could add storyteller to the list. “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9:22-23 NIV)
March 18, 2014
One missionary I spoke with had changed the focus of his ministry from planting churches to making disciples. “The Great Commission doesn’t tell us to evangelize and plant churches, it tells us to make disciples.” This change of direction appears is taking hold on more than a few mission fields and missionaries are talking in terms of building relationships, rather than building church memberships. “The idea is that we are to multiply, to reproduce ourselves.” The concept has merit, but I told the missionary it was a scary thought when you consider that there are some of us that just should not be reproduced. He laughed and made a great point, “Then maybe they need to be discipled!”The Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20 NIV)
March 17, 2014
I came away from a recent missionary conference with some thought provoking ideas. One missionary referenced Paul’s evangelistic tactics during a meeting of the Areopagus in Athens. Paul was distress by all the idols in Athens, but among the altars to various gods was an altar with the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. Many of us in that situation might focus on all the false gods and how we could eliminate them. Paul, however, did not attempt to discredit the false gods, but rather showed missionary wisdom by using the cultural idols of the day to point to God. Making the unknown known, Paul said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25 NIV)
March 14, 2014
The trial for the captain of the Costa Concordia, the cruise liner which ran aground off the coast of Tuscany two years ago, is still underway. His defense for abandoning ship and leaving 32 passengers to perish is that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat. The defense seems absurd, but it made me think Jonah who “slipped and fell” into a boat headed for Tarshish. Both of these men abandoned their duties and will forever have a record of desertion. Unfortunately, there are shades of the captain and Jonah in all of us. On the night Jesus, “…Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” (Matt 26:56b NIV)
March 13, 2014
One of my college classes required me go to public place where I was to survey strangers with four evangelistic questions. I chose to go to the senior meal site where I knew I could at least find a few friendly faces willing to help me complete the assignment. Seven of my eight “new friends” grew up in religious homes and are still active in their respective denominations. All of these folks were happy to talk about the influence of parents, their beginning faith and their personal witness. Interestingly all of the participants reference a strong faith, but a faith they are now reluctant to share unless someone else approaches them first and begins the conversation. At first I thought their evangelistic spirit must also have mellowed with age, but then I recalled the observation made by Jesus concerning his disciples, “… the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matt 26:41b NIV)
March 12, 2014
The majority of my congregation is made up of the older generation. Recently a church leader remarked, “If we don’t do something this church is going to die.” Really? Certainly some of our older folks are passing away, and I would agree that most of those coming in the front door are not getting baptized or placing membership. However our attendance remains consistent and from my perspective we are far from being terminal. I find it interesting that my friend speaks in terms of “we” need to save the church, as though “we” have the power to control the size of the body. Similar to God breathing into Adam the breath of life, the Spirit blew the breath of life into our congregation. I’m sure God has his finger on the pulse of the church and if necessary He is capable of CPR.
March 11, 2014
In recently published articles the Mormon Church wants to divert attention away from their idea that in the afterlife the members get their own planet. Rather, they would prefer to focus on the belief that in eternity their faithful will be like God and have creation abilities. Unfortunately these folks are walking down the same garden path taken by Adam and Eve. The serpent, craftier than any other wild animal, convinced Eve to eat the fruit by saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5 NIV) It seems the serpent and the church leadership speak the same language when they tell their members they can become like God.
March 10, 2014
Tinkering with time has been going on for years, but interestingly it wasn’t until the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that everyone in the US got on the same schedule. Even though Daylight Savings Time is on my calendar and happens twice a year, I’m just never quite ready for it. We know the time has already been set for the Lord’s return, but even Jesus does not know the day or the hour of His will return. I’m thinking a good time for the Lord’s return would be on one of the days when we change our clocks. I can just imagine people trying to figure out if they were “left behind” or if they simply forgot to set their clocks to spring forward, or fall back. “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:1-2 NIV)
March 07, 2014
I’m still chewing on why a congregation would forgo Biblical leadership and choose to be directed by a steering committee. Scripture gives elders the charge of directing the affairs of the church and that position excludes women. It occurs to me that instituting a steering committee as the authority in a church might be a clever way to put women in leadership roles. After all, who could possibly object to women serving, or even being the chair of a steering committee? Unfortunately manipulation of Biblical authority in many churches is getting more common place and acceptable – women serve as priests and ministers, and homosexuals are ordained. Clearly Jesus is the head of the church, but we can anticipate that one of these days the church is going to experience an extreme body makeover.
March 06, 2014
My friend, who is an elected official, has worked single mindedly to build a reputation as a fiscal conservative. However, in a recent editorial concerning her support of a tax increase she said, “I’m a strong fiscal conservative and ordinarily oppose any effort to raise taxes or increase fees. Concerning the recreation district initiative I am making an exception.” Certainly we all have the right to change our minds on issues, but I’m surprised by the flip-flop. What I find really interesting is that regardless of her decision, she still wants to hang on to the label of “strong fiscal conservative.” Believers are not immune from such shades of hypocrisy. We set ourselves up on a biblical foundation as strong people of faith and then we make exceptions on abortion, adultery, co-habitation, and homosexuality. Speaking to his disciples Jesus gave the warning, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1b NIV)
March 05, 2014
I’ve started another set of college classes and one class, a pre-algebra class, is about to drive me over the edge. I never understood algebra when I was in high school and in the years since there has been no improvement. Paul tells me, “For by him [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:16 NIV) I’m not one to ever disagree with Scripture, but I have to tell you I’m having a real hard time thinking that algebra is something the Lord created!
March 04, 2014
As I continue to analyze and critique speakers I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone is entitled to an off-day when it comes to the presentation, but we are not entitled to a pass when it comes to lack of “preparation”. For instance, if you’re not feeling well during a presentation the audience will cut you some slack. However, if the presentation is weak because you’re not prepared, the listeners will not be as understanding. Surprisingly, most speakers fail to realize that the audience is pretty savvy and can tell the difference. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17 NIV)
March 03, 2014
My daughter, who recently married, moved to the metro area is now church shopping. During one such church visit Leslie noticed that the bulletin did not contain any information about elders, deacons or communion. When she had the opportunity to ask, a friendly woman said, “We have communion once a month, but we don’t have elders or deacons - we have steering committees. They seem to do a good job directing the church.” I’m at a loss for words. I can just imagine the Lord cringing at the thought that the direction of the Body of Christ is in the hands of a steering committee. Paul tells us, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim 5:17 NIV)