May 30, 2014
In young adulthood my daughter, Leslie, received a nasty-gram from girlfriend, and she kept the letter. Later, when there was another rough patch in the strained friendship, rather than taking all the blame, Leslie produced the letter to a mutual friend who was acting as mediator. The letter helped put personalities in their proper light, but the mediator was aghast that Leslie had kept the letter. She implied that since everyone involved was a Christian they should keep no record of wrongs and the letter should have been destroyed immediately. It’s interesting that believers are quick to serve grace in order to let one another save face. Thank goodness Timothy didn’t take Paul’s epistles and destroy them so there would be no record of wrongs.
May 29, 2014
A few years ago my former church eliminated regular youth activities and opted for “family activities” only. Not surprisingly, the church experienced loss of membership when parents went to other congregations to fill the void left in their children. Last week I visited with some folks new to the community who attend the church. When they first started attending they were surprised by the lack of emphasis on youth programs, but after learning the thought process she said, “It seems to be working for them.” Her observation was interesting and her words thought provoking; not quite a resounding declaration of success. Sadly, many of us evaluate church activities, programs and outreach in a similar manner. I can only imagine Apostle’s reaction if the disciples of the early church reported back such a detached view of the spreading Gospel. “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31 NIV).
May 28, 2014
My grandkids, ages eight and ten, think it is great sport to poke one another in order to get a rise out of each other. Recently Lydia stood behind David in the rocking chair and gave it a nudge. When he ask her to quit she did, but less than a minute elapsed and she did it again. David protested and Lydia said, “What? What’d I do? I didn’t do anything!” I watched the whole drama unfold and I couldn’t believe it when Lydia, without batting an eye, feigned innocence. She was a little shocked when I called her out, not for agitating her brother, but for claiming innocence. This same scenario is played out every day in the lives of believers and we too seem surprised when the Spirit calls us out for making excuses rather than taking responsibility.
May 27, 2014
In Sunday’s worship service there was no mention of Memorial Day, either in word or patriotic song. However, at the end of services two people made an effort to bring the national day of remembrance to the forefront of our minds. One middle-aged woman requested prayers for our military men and women, both past and present. And an elderly woman spoke up to ask if we could sing God Bless America, which we then sang a cappella. As a Veteran I’m appreciative that these two, each from a different generation, stepping up to call attention to the county’s fallen.
May 26, 2014
In all things, even war — “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” (Ro 8:28 NIV). After the devastating defeat to Japan in 1945 a concentrated effort to evangelize the downtrodden country was made. There was a sense that the ravages of war softened the country to the point that they’d eject their gods and embrace God. Although analysts today argue about the long-term success of the effort in Japan, the fact remains that with any war, doors of evangelism open and the Gospel spreads.
May 23, 2014
Burger King changed their tag line from “Have It Your Way”, to “Be Your Way.” The company wants to tell people that, “they can and should live how they want anytime.” Seriously? What does that have to do with hamburgers? The Associated Press report on the BK thought process said, “It's OK to not be perfect ...Self-expression is most important and it's our differences that make us individuals instead of robots." It appears the fast food chain restaurant is adding another whopper to their menu — counseling services. Obviously the message is not about hamburgers and fries, but rather about molding and shaping the thinking of customers to be more inclusive. The message for believers must always be to live the way Jesus wants us to live. “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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4 NIV).
May 22, 2014
Sunday during communion I observed a woman taking the emblems out of sequence. She drank the juice, returned the cup to the tray and then took the wafer and passed the tray back to the server. I considered the Lord’s Supper and wondered if there was any significance in the order in which Jesus presented the symbols to the disciples. It’s almost as though Jesus introduces the bread (body) as a prelude to the crescendo of the blood (wine). Of the bread he simply says, “This is my body.” However, with the introduction of the cup he said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:27-28 NV). The sacrificed body of Jesus is profound, but it is the blood of Christ brings death and life.
May 21, 2014
In first place the bicycle racer from Spain crossed the finish line with his arms held high in victory and the crowds cheering. Unfortunately, he began his celebration one lap too soon. By the time he learned of his mistake he was unable to recover his lead and came in 56th place. It occurs to me that we seniors maybe doing something similar by taking a victory lap when there is still more race to run. “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).
May 20, 2014
A little girl presented her Sunday school teacher with five wadded up one-dollar bills for the offering. The teacher didn’t quite know what to do with the money because normally they don’t take up a collection. A few of us standing around lamented that we’ve lost the element of tithing-training in today’s church. In our day we wouldn’t go into Sunday school without first getting nickels and dimes from out parents for the offering. The teacher continued with a chuckle, “And there’s more — her younger brother handed me three quarters to pay me for being his teacher.” Jesus said of the disciples, “… the worker is worth his keep” (Matt 10:10b NIV).
May 19, 2014
After a year of consideration a church in a neighboring community adopted the statement declaring they were an “Open and Affirming” (ONA) church body. Claiming that Jesus taught inclusiveness, the congregation “makes a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.” Well now, all sexual orientations, come as you are without the need for change? I assume their inclusiveness must then apply to pedophilia, polygamy, incest, bestiality, rape, etc. Jesus is inclusive, but he does not include those who practice sexual immorality. Paul reminds us, “…The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor 6:13b NIV)
May 16, 2014
My on-line math lab Algebra class is beyond challenging. Between the homework, review questions, quizzes, and tests, there are literally thousands of math problems to solve. Added to that curriculum are video lectures, essays, and the requirement that you must have a “C” in order to pass the class. This one-credit class is by far more demanding than any three-credit class I’ve already taken. There is such a glaring misalignment of credits that it seems students are doing the work load for a three credit course, but only receiving one credit. The unbalanced weight of the credits reminded me of the tax collectors in Jesus day. They collected taxes for Rome, but had the reputation for adding their own personal service fee. Proverbs tells us, “The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight” (Proverbs 11:1 NIV).
May 15, 2014
The judge was half way through interviewing a room full of prospective jurors when an elderly lady raised her hand and said, “I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” The court clerk quickly hooked her up with a hearing device and then the judge patiently revisited the pertinent questions while the others listened to the replay. As I watched the scene unfold I imagined the Spirit lecturing on Faith 101 to prepare believers for a test and seeing the lackluster response of some he knew they weren’t hearing a word he was saying. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches ...” (Rev 2:7b NIV).
May 14, 2014
Last weekend 300 volunteers turned out for ShareFest, a daylong event of community helping community. Originally the event was promoted as assisting the elderly, widows and the less fortunate — pulling weeds in the yard, painting fences and building entry ramps. From the believer’s perspective there was great satisfaction in loving our neighbors and doing unto others. Interestingly some larger projects that are now on the to-do list were once done by service organizations and municipalities. Painting the high school baseball fence, picking up trash along recreational trails, and building a gazebo at an elementary school. All are worthwhile and appreciated projects; however, “loving your neighbor as yourself” seems to have morphed into simply loving your neighborhood.
May 13, 2014
Twice a week I go to an exercise class for seniors and the instructor has us stretching, marching in place, and keeping time to oldie-moldy music. I’ve learned that if I keep my eyes on the instructor I do pretty well following the sequences of moves. However, if I look at fellow participants and they happen to make a misstep, I wind up following their example. Something similar can happen in the Body of Christ when we start watching others. Even though we are all in the same spiritual exercise class, if we lose focus of the Shepherd’s voice we’ll be out of sync. “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (Jn 10:3-4 NIV).
May 12, 2014
As with most nationally recognized holidays, Mother’s Day was interwoven in our Sunday worship service. Mothers were acknowledged in the announcements, communion meditation, sermon, as well as with a token flower gift at the end of the service. While we mothers love the recognition, I think these special occasions can sometimes take a commanding presence in the service. For instance, our lengthy communion meditation became more of a tribute to the speaker’s mother than it was a memorial representing the body and blood of Christ. The mother’s story was well told with wonderful imagery, but I wonder which story, the mother’s tribute or the Lord’s Supper, is most likely to resonate with the audience in the week to come. On the night Jesus was betrayed he took the cup and the bread and gave it to the disciples saying, “…do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24 NIV).
May 09, 2014
Earlier this week I visited with member of a New Age church who mistakenly thought we were kindred spirits. As though picking through a sampler box of chocolates, she tempted me with delicacies from Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. Rejecting her “all paths lead to God theory”, I told her I would stick with the Bible being the inspired Word of God. “Oh, I believe it’s the inspired word of God too, I just don’t think it's all black and white. I can’t agree that some people are saved and others are not.” She was so convinced of self-salvation that I finally came right out and ask if she thought she could become like God. She acknowledged God as Creator, yet his position over creation didn’t diminish her views on man’s spiritual prowess. Obviously the same old line Satan used on Eve in the Garden of Eden is still effective today, “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).
May 08, 2014
I’m just about ready to give up on college classes. Seriously, no one my age should have to do Algebra. In desperation I purchased, “Algebra for Dummies” but even then I’m still struggling with the foreign language of mathematics. Aside from doing all the required problems and equations, I must write a short paper exploring the relationship of mathematics to our Christian faith. I’m to answer the question: Did God create mathematics and men discover it or did men create mathematics as a way to understand the amazing structure of creation? Maybe I’m too close to the situation right now, but I can’t for the life of me think of any supporting Scripture for either theory. What does come to mind however, is the parable of the weeds. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared” (Matt 13:24-26 NIV).
May 07, 2014
For a college assignment I interviewed people from four different denominations to find out about their conversion. The object of the lesson was to discover if they experienced a point of conversion, or if conversion took place over a period of time. However, what really caught my attention was that three of the four subjects never mentioned Jesus Christ. It was as though Jesus didn’t factor in and their idea of “conversion” was based solely on a spiritual relationship with God. Somehow I don’t think that idea qualifies as conversion. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Ro 1:20 NIV).
May 06, 2014
Navigating the waters of college I’m overwhelmed with the words, terminology and concepts of scholars and theologians. Their blending of archaic words with newly invented words is beyond maddening for the lay person. I suppose, since they are always quoting and referencing one another, that they are speaking the same language. I have found a whole new appreciation for the unschooled, ordinary fishermen that Jesus called to carry his message. I’m even thinking of the King James Bible as being light reading.
May 05, 2014
Our church attendance was down a little yesterday, but I was surprised at my reaction. For the first time ever, the numbers didn’t mean anything to me one way or the other. They weren’t a measurement of spiritual health, evangelism, or even a vibrant fellowship. I didn’t mentally factor in excuses for weather conditions, vacations, or illnesses. I suppose the detached feelings may be partially attributed to recent studies on cross-cultural evangelism. Globally speaking, I can’t imagine God using numbers as a measuring rod for Body of Christ. I’m now wondering how God views the church’s preoccupation in validating themselves with numbers. Paul said, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor 10:12 NIV).
May 02, 2014
The director of the conference was a powerful woman of prayer. However, her corporate prayers became so burdensome for me that by the second day I quit bowing my head and closing my eyes; by the third day I quit praying altogether. Her practice of talking to God about everything resulted in continually slipping in and out of prayer mode in mid-sentence. As the leader for the conference, and the one with the microphone, we were praying for lost glasses, technical difficulties with the Power Point, travel connections, and lost luggage. Sadly, I began questioning the motive behind the excessive public prayers. Jesus makes a good point when he says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt 6:6 NIV).”
May 01, 2014
A method for old-school preachers in presenting their message is to, “tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” Supposedly the reinforcement helps the listener retain the message; however, it occurs to me this pattern of speaking is unique to the church. If this same methodology were used in writing for publication the article would be rejected by editors, publishers and readers alike. Readers would feel they were being talked “down to” if the point of the article or book was restated three times. Certainly the hearing audience can’t go back and re-hear the message like a reader might re-read for clarification, but I’m wondering if the thrice telling of the point of the sermon leaves me tuning out part of the message.