June 30, 2014
It’s interesting that we seldom question one another’s reference point when we talk about God. We don’t pin each other down with the qualifier that we are talking about “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Similar to casting a god out of metal, people today cast their god out of the phrase “higher power.” This generic, one-size-fits-all concept allows people to mentally shape their own, all inclusive god. It strikes me that one reason for such anger toward Jesus is that people can create their own god, but they are unable to create their own Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6 NIV).
June 27, 2014
I’ve just been given the opportunity to write a religion column for a local on-line publication, the Montrose Mirror. My concept for the column is to visit local churches and report on their Sunday worship services. Think in terms of a food critic going to a restaurant and rating the experience. The intent of the report is not to tell the owner what to put on the menu, or to tell the chef how to cook, but rather to analyze and evaluate the food that is served and how it is being served. I anticipate this “snapshot” in the life of a congregation will be an eye opening experience for me, as well as for churches. My inaugural visit is tomorrow at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who holds worship services on Saturday. Jesus is the Bread of Life and I look forward to seeing how churches serve Him, both literally and figuratively. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (Jn 6:56-57 NIV)
June 26, 2014
Recently I talked to a Christian woman who was trying to justify her stance on a particular issue. Even though each of us had a different recollection concerning a very public and politically toxic situation, she wanted me to agree with her interpretation. I knew what she was saying wasn’t true, but yet I didn’t feel like she was lying. As I grappled with what was happening it occurred to me that this could be a case of “bearing false witness.” In her attempts to justify herself, she was disparaging others. I’d always considered false testimony or false witness, to mean lying, but now I’m thinking it is something more grievous. The ninth Commandment doesn’t say you shall not lie, but rather it says, “You shall not give false witness against your neighbor” (Ex 20:19 NIV).
June 25, 2014
Earlier this week we had a substitute instructor in my exercise class and everything was off kilter. The beat of the music didn’t mesh with the exercises, and the instructor’s cadence didn’t match either the music, or the exercises. When she said reach to the right, she meant diagonally toward the sky. Those same words coming from our regular teacher mean to stretch our arm laterally to the right. In general, the class reminded me of my first day at boot camp where we heard the drill sergeant’s orders, but we looked to one another to see if anyone knew what we were supposed to do. I literally could not wait for the class to be over and I’ll wait until the regular teacher returns next week before I go back. I have a new found appreciation for the illustration Jesus used about the Shepherd and His Flock, “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 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. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (Jn 10:2-5 NIV).
June 24, 2014
As a child I remember fishing for mud catfish at my grandma’s pond, and we cooked everything we caught. I can’t imagine grandma buying into the catch and release practices of today’s recreational fishermen. It strikes me that when Jesus turned the disciples into “fishers of men,” He intended to keep everyone that was caught. Unfortunately in today’s church many of us are into the catch and release mind set. We watch new believers swim in the waters of baptism and mentally release them into the waters of the world. “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him’” (Matt 4:18-19 NIV).
June 23, 2014
I watch my grandkids play video games and sometimes eight year old Lydia gets frustrated. She will ask older brother David how to make a move, but if he goes beyond the how and tells her where to move, she immediately says, “I know. I know David. I can do it!” I understand some of the dynamics because I tend to do the same thing. I want someone else to read instructions, tell me what to do it, and then get out of my way and let me do it. I suspect many people in the pew on Sunday morning have a similar attitude. Too often we rely on the Sunday school teacher and the preacher to tell us what is expected and then we exclude the Spirit thinking, “I can do it on my own!”
June 20, 2014
I can’t imagine that Solomon ever apologized for his wisdom and I doubt if his family or staff ever thought of him as a know-it-all, a Bible thumper, or self-righteous. Sometimes we believers succumb to self-inflicted peer pressure and downplay our spiritual side. We take pride in education, brag about hobbies and highlight our successes, but we say little about our faith for fear of appearing too knowledgeable, too religious, or too righteous. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 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 5:14-16 NIV).”
June 19, 2014
In my college writing class I e-mail articles I’ve written to my instructor and she returns them with track changes. I can then accept or reject the suggested changes and resubmit the article. Most of the recommended changes are grammatical, but occasionally she’ll ask for clarification on content. I’m wondering if my response to the Spirit can sometimes be similar to that of making track changes. I read a passage of Scripture, hear a message from the pulpit, or receive Godly counsel from a friend and then it’s up to me to decide whether to accept or reject what is offered. Interestingly, both my instructor and the Sprit are persistent and those track changes just keep coming. Paul writes, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil 3:1 NIV).
June 18, 2014
The local economic development group is in peril because a government takeover is being hatched. At one time these two organizations were in partnership, but recently the municipality wants to be the sole economic development driver and is focused on eliminating their competition. Part of the takeover includes absconding with land that was bought and paid for by the development group, but that is currently held in trust by the municipality. What I find most disturbing is that a couple of the people orchestrating the land grab are Christians. It’s as though their political prowess is taking precedence over righteousness. The Lord describes a righteous man, “He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Eze 18:8-9 NIV).
June 17, 2014
A friend confided that her family recently confronted her about some changes in her behavior. I asked if she felt their analysis was correct and she said, “Yes, now that it has been pointed out to me. Two of my sisters are Christians and I know they will tell me the truth.” We shared a passing moment of grief as to what her future may hold, but I was struck by her acceptance and resolve. Actually, I think this may be the first time I’ve seen a real life experience where speaking the truth in love was received in love. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph 4:15 NIV).
June 16, 2014
Last week my aunt had a heart attack and rather than conventional treatment, she opted to just take medication for chest pains. She said, “I’m 88, I’ve lived a good life and I’m not afraid to die.” For the family, her blanket statement on her physical wellbeing is comforting in the sense that it relieves us from a certain amount of worry and hovering. Unfortunately she gave no such statement on her spiritual life. I have visions of a blood pressure spike if any of us dare try to and take her spiritual pulse. Certainly it’s not our place to know another person’s heart, but that doesn’t stop us from being concerned about those who are on the verge of being term limited. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt 24:44 NIV).
June 13, 2014
Because we have a personal relationship with the Lord, we sometimes paint Him with brush strokes of human rational. I recently heard a sermon that began with thoughts on the creation of man. The pastor said, “God realized of course [the heart and mind of man]…” I was struck with the concept that God might somehow realize anything. The statement implied that man was a work in progress and God suddenly became aware of new things about his creation. “The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile” (Psalm 94:11 NIV).
June 12, 2014
The text for my cross-cultural evangelism class is a scholarly body of work and as a student I’m conflicted about who the book was written for. The text says it is meant for missionaries on the field. However, the vocabulary is lofty and rather than focusing on missionaries, it spends a great deal of time referencing other professionals in the field of study. Unfortunately even we believers are not immune from losing sight of the objective in order to impress one another. “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).
June 11, 2014
For many years I, along with eight others, have served on a credentials committee for the elections of a utility company. Sometime back one woman left the group and another took her place. As the chairperson either I, or the structure in place for the election, has always rubbed the replacement wrong. Weary of her sarcasm, I opened the door for someone else to step into the role as chair, but the group asked me to continue. Attempts to ignore or sidestep the bombs and darts thrown my way have been unsuccessfully, so this year I specifically prayed for the right words to address the problem. Before I could begin my spiel this foe interrupted me and acknowledged that she and I didn’t always do things the same way. She laughed, “But this year I’m going to be try to good and do it your way!” The Lord literally took the scripted words right out of my mouth and all I needed to say was thank you. “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1Cor 2:13 NIV).
June 10, 2014
Last Sunday’s worship service lacked any resemblance of decorum. Granted, we had a few visitors, but they were not responsible for all the distractions. The same people made multiple trips to the bathrooms, a fussy baby, one family of three adults leaving the building for no apparent reason and returning a short time later, a child getting a doughnut and people arriving late. One woman walked past me on her way out the front door and, as though I were a school monitor said, “I’ll be back.” I know that God’s Word does not return void, but with all the distractions I’m not even sure how much of the Word I actually heard. “… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is 55:11 NIV).
June 09, 2014
With all the turmoil in the world today it often feels like there is little we can do as individuals except pray for the Lord to come quickly. However, it dawned on me that the more society degrades and the darker it becomes, the brighter we shine. Even the faintest flickering believer, one who feels ill-equipped on the religious landscape, is capable of casting a beacon of light in the darkness. “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Lk 11:34-35 NIV).
June 06, 2014
There is a disturbing story of a teenage couple killing the man’s grandparents so he could get an inheritance. Aside from the tragedy, the thought process of the 18 and 19 year-olds is dumbfounding. Their plan was to suffocate the 70 year old grandparents with pillows as they slept, but the teens were caught off guard when these older folks fought back. Apparently the kids thought the 70 year-olds would just lay there and take it. That same view of the older generation is prevalent in the church. Rather than starting their own churches, the younger generation makes it perfectly clear that they want, before their time, to inherit and have ownership of established churches. Unfortunately some of us older Christian simply lay there and take it.
June 05, 2014
Every once in a while my adult the kids do something off the wall and their dad jokes, “I thought I raised them better than that!” A recent obituary caught my attention when it said, “She was raised as a Christian …” The phrase speaks volumes — about the parents. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).
June 04, 2014
Last Sunday my kids and grandkids visited a church in the metro area. They were expecting a contemporary service, but they didn’t expect the bulletin to offer ear plugs to anyone who requested them. Even more startling was the caution about infants needing ear protection. Certainly we are all responsible for our own choices; however, it seems like the leaders of high-decibel churches are merely trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for damaging eardrums by offering earplugs. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17 NIV).
June 03, 2014
The dairy section of the grocery store wasn’t congested, but an elderly woman and I hit the cottage cheese/sour cream area at the same time. I made my selection and as I started to move on I gave a courtesy apology in case I’d been in her way. She said I hadn’t inconvenienced her, but she was having a hard time finding the cottage cheese since all the containers seemed the same. I showed her the different sizes and she held each one in her hands as she decided how much she needed for her recipe. She settled on the small curd in the medium container and told me about the strawberry Jell-O salad with cottage cheese and pineapple she planned for a pot luck lunch. We compared recipes and as I started to leave she said put her hand toward her left eye and said, “Thank you for helping. I’m blind and I can’t always find what I’m looking for.” Completely oblivious to her handicap, I have to wonder if I too am blind. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him” (1 Jn 3:17 NIV).
June 02, 2014
I’m not much of a music fan, but I watched this latest season of The Voice and I was stuck by the repetition of lyrics in the more current songs. Almost without exception they were saying the same phrases over and over and over again. It was as though I was listening to church praise songs — minus the praise. Entertainment wise I see similarities not only in the repetition, but with the drums, clapping, and extended arms waving in unison. It has the feel of a trend, but I’m trying to decide if the church followed the pattern of the secular model, or vice versa. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Ro 12:2 NIV).