August 29, 2014

Added to the Account

I am on Facebook and although I don’t use it to communicate to others, I read some of the comments posted by friends and family. Recently I unfriended a friend, not because of what they wrote, but because they re-posted some unsavory comments from their friends. Unfortunately, the trash talk of their friends is a reflection on them when they think what is said is funny enough repeat, or in this case, to attach to our own account. Paul uses the words from a Greek tragedy to address those who said there was no resurrection, but I think it has a ring of truth in this situation as well. “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor 15:33 NIV).

August 28, 2014

Controlling Interest

It wasn’t long after a Baptist Church in the metro area hired a new minister that the makeup of the leadership switched from being deacon led, to elder led. I suspect that the new pastor couldn’t control a board of deacons and decided a small group of elders would be more manageable. Today the five elders consist of the preacher (head elder), two staff personnel and two men from the congregation at-large. Unfortunately the three paid staff personnel are the majority rule. To address the dysfunction and bring membership together, the church has now hired a facilitator. I can’t imagine the power struggle going on in this body of believers that they have opted for outside counseling. Jesus said, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit” (Luke 6:39 NIV)?

August 27, 2014

Seeking the Righteous

I recently spent a few days in the metro area where sexual immorality is blatant and seems more pervasive than in a rural community. Similar to those with righteous indignation against Sodom and Gomorrah, I shared my distress level with the Lord. “Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know”” (Gen 18:20-21 NV). The Lord revealed His intended actions to His friend and servant Abraham; and surprisingly Abraham took an opposite view of the situation. Rather than focusing on the grievous sin being committed by the majority of the people, Abraham focused on the righteous who were living in the midst of sin. I hadn’t before realized my tendency to overlook righteousness, but yet allow sin to get in my face.

August 26, 2014

Numbered Days

Yesterday Bill took the first of his 23 scheduled radiation treatments. The treatment itself takes only a couple of minutes, but because of a glitch in the computer system he had time to visit with fellow patients in the waiting room. One 92 year-old gent, who was there for his final treatment, was a little impatient that he had to wait an additional 20 minutes for the computer to get back in sync. The old-timer, a mountain rancher, was weathered, worn and riddled with cancer. One might think that this man needed only one more clean shirt; however, I had to laugh when I learned that just last week he bought himself a new horse. From the perspective of King Solomon, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him” (Ecc 3:22 NIV)?

August 25, 2014

A Just God

The video of the diabolical beheading of American journalist James Foley by terrorist captors is disturbing, but not unexpected in a culture that fails to respect life and wants to eliminate those they consider heretics. In his rhetoric on the situation President Obama said, “No just God would stand for what they [terrorists] did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.” I find The President’s sentiments disparage God. Evil is prevalent in the world and God allows it every single day; which, according to Obama’s statement, implies that God is unjust. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deu 32:4 NIV).

August 22, 2014

Avoiding Judgment

In my church the pianist will play a hymn softly while communion is served to the congregation. Respectfully, she keeps a watchful eye and continues to play until everyone has been served before proceeding with the worship service song. I had a very different experience in a church I visited that took their communion in small groups scattered around the perimeter of the auditorium. One group of four people was still in prayer when the worship leader stepped to the stage, picked up his guitar and commenced with another praise song. Paul, referencing a fellowship meal combined with the Lord’s Supper, offers words of correction to the Corinthian church that I think are applicable to this situation, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” (1 Cor 11:33-34 NIV).

August 21, 2014

Pride of Life

I have a few friends and family members who aren’t prepared for the physical limitations that come with health and age-related issues. They are unable to do the things they used to do and, unfortunately, they want to be who they were before. Reminiscing about their past strength, agility, wherewithal, and independence is a lament, blended with a little bit of temper tantrum. However, in their loss there is also an element of pride. “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn 2:16-17 NV).

August 20, 2014

Dimming the Lights

     When my church bought a restaurant/lounge and repurposed it as a place of worship one of the first things we did is upgrade the lighting so people could see clearly enough to read their Bibles. Three of the churches I’ve visited have done just the opposite. In their effort to set the mood for the worship experience, the lights for the audience are dimed. To follow along with the sermon in my Bible I literally had to put it in my face. In their defense, these congregations project words to songs and some of the Scripture used on overheads.
     However, the ambiance felt more like a Christian convention than church worship. The staging was set for performers and one pastor even entered and exited the platform through backdrop curtains. The overhead lighting, which shown brighter on the platform, actually divided the worship leaders and preacher from the congregation. While we could see them, I doubt they could see the audience beyond the first or second row of seats.
     Similar to a movie theater experience, I had space for my own viewing pleasure and while others shared the same experience, it was not a shared experience.

August 19, 2014

A Tithe or a Tax

It gives me pause to read churches publishing their financial shortfall in their weekly bulletin quoting the amount of “needed tithes” to meet their budget. I wonder if their leadership considered the widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. Jesus said of her, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44 NIV). It seems to me that if the widow had been coerced in her giving, her gift would resemble a temple tax, more than an offering or tithe.

August 18, 2014

Meeting All Your Needs

It’s interesting how churches handle reporting weekly income in their bulletins. Some report no data, others record what is received. Still others report two sets of figures — what they received and what their budget calls for. I’ve seen listings for “budget needed/budget received,” “giving/giving shortfall,” “gifts given/gifts needed,” and the one that just screams entitlement, “tithes needed/tithes actual.” I cringe at the implication that God is not fulfilling the needs of these churches. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19 NIV).

August 15, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Lydia, my nine year-old granddaughter, took swim lessons this summer and although she passed her class, she is still really tentative in water. A few weeks ago she was baptized in a local reservoir and I joked it was a good thing she had the lessons or else she would have been too afraid to take the baptismal plunge. Lydia’s granddad on the other side of the family, a Presbyterian minister, laughed, “Yeah, she just might have had to become a Presbyterian!”

August 14, 2014


I’ve been listening to reports of Iraqi Christians being told to choose between renouncing their faith and becoming Muslim; leaving their homes with only the clothes on their back; or facing death at the hand of the terrorists. While it’s tragic, it has a familiar ring. Saul of Tarsus watched and gave his approval to the stoning of Stephen, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:1-3 NIV).

August 13, 2014

Hear, Hear

I’ve always thought the phrase “hear, hear” was a cheer, or a shout-out in agreement with what was said. In looking for the origin, credit is given to the Bible as the first recorded use of the phrase in 2 Sam 20:16 (KJV). I also found a reference to the British parliament in the 18th century using a somewhat expanded version, “hear him, hear him,” which to me implies deeper meaning that implores others to listen to what is being said.  In the church our shout-out in agreement would be Amen. Interesting some pastors have slipped into the habit calling for an Amen when they say something that they think is noteworthy. In my parenting days I said a lot of noteworthy things to my children that appeared to go in one ear and out the other. Now I’m thinking I should have added the caveat, “hear me, hear me” or, “do I hear an Amen to that?”

August 12, 2014

God is Good

My husband’s cancer is now resistant to current treatment and he will soon begin an aggressive regiment of radiation. Bill has had the cancer for 17 years and while none of the treatments or side effects are pleasant, through it all we’ve told others, “God is good.”  I was somewhat taken aback when a friend, a well-founded believer, recently responded (paraphrasing), “Yes, I know all the answers; I know what the Bible says. But when two people have the same cancer and one dies within a few short months and another is spared, the family with loss doesn’t want to hear others saying God is good.” I was just getting warmed up in a response when she cut the conversation short, but I suspect that her sensitivity had less to do with others and more to do with a personal loss. The reality is that regardless of the circumstance, whether life or death, suffering or healing, long or short lived — God is still good. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”” (1Cor 15:54-55 NIV)

August 11, 2014


I experienced an interesting communion service on Sunday. The individual emblems were placed on two tables on opposite sides of the auditorium and after the meditation the presenter went to one of the tables and helped himself to the bread and the juice. When a few people left their seats and went to the opposite table I assumed they were going to serve the congregation, but they too helped themselves. I caught the eye of the man who gave the meditation, shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyebrow questioning what to do and he motioned for me to help myself. After I returned to my seat I noticed people gathering in groups of three and four. Taking communion together, they held hands and bowed their heads prayer. Eventually everyone returned to their seats and we continued with the rest of the worship service. It was touching to see people gathering in groups of friends and family units while sharing the emblems. However, it’s unfortunate that a ceremony meant to bring us together as a body of believers is more focused on biological families, than on the family if God.

August 08, 2014

Victor or Victim

Preachers sometimes point a finger at themselves by using their personal life experiences as examples in their sermons. I like the touch of, “I’m one of you and we all have the same struggles.” However, I’m now detecting an anomaly where one pastor sees himself as a victor, another pastor sees himself as a victim; and unfortunately, those self-induced perceptions are subtly sent to the congregation. Similar to a positive person vs. a negative person, there is a huge difference between one who feels victorious and one who feels victimized. I’m now wondering if all sermons shouldn’t contain at least some element of victory. “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:4-5 NIV).

August 07, 2014


My back deck overlooks my neighbor’s yard and it’s impossible to miss the potted marijuana plant they set out during the day and take into the house at night. The six foot solid wood fence protects their illegal activity from the passerby, but my vantage point puts me in a dilemma of knowing what’s going on — but not knowing what to do about it. I’d like to call the police, but the reality is that I can justify both doing nothing, and doing something. Unfortunately this same scenario plays out in my mind when I accidently see a fellow believer nourishing his sin. The first solution that comes to mind is to turn him over to the spiritual police — the preacher, the elders and the deacons. However, Paul tell us, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1 NIV)

August 06, 2014


The pastor took a rabbit trail and (paraphrasing) said, “When the Lord returns we will live with Him in heaven for seven years, where the Lord will perfect us. After the seven years we will then return to the earth, refurbished to a pristine Garden of Eden, and there we will reign with the Lord for a 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years we go back to heaven for eternity.” The pastor lost me at the seven years of perfecting. I have to laugh when I think that the Holy Spirit might have to endure another seven years trying to whip us into shape. Even in these earthly bodies, when we repent and turn to God our sins are wiped out (Acts 3:20). Exactly what is there to perfect if we no longer sin? “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 24-25 NIV).

August 05, 2014

Pure and Faultless

The pastor seemed all over the map putting a spiritual spin on social issues with his personal opinion and commentary. On the border crisis he feels lawmakers have it all wrong and Christian groups should be allowed to step in and help solve the problem. In his view, Americas who are on long waiting lists to adopt children from foreign countries could adopt the children flowing over the border. I see the pastor’s compassion for those crossing the border illegally, but I find his solution biblically lacking. These children are not orphans, or seeking adoption — and the US is determined to reunite them with their families who are either already in the US, or in their home of origin. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV).

August 04, 2014

Do This in Remembrance of Me

The presenter of the communion meditation began by telling us to clear our minds and focus on Jesus and the sacrifice He made. The gist of the meditation was on Christ; however the message took a turn right before the prayer. Paraphrasing the presenter said, “Everyone has different needs and this is a quiet time for you to draw close to Jesus; think of your needs and your problems and pray about them.” I had the uncomfortable image of standing beneath the cross as Jesus hung in agony with blood dripping from his body — and I’m telling Him about my needs and problems?

August 01, 2014

Offering Plate

Many churches I visit pass an offering plate and the bulletin at one church read:
“Offering of Our Gifts and Lives
    Whether making a donation or not, EVERYONE is invited to touch the offering plates, offering a prayer to give ourselves to God in heart, soul, mind and strength.”
I was taken aback by all the busyness just to take up an offering, but it made a little more sense when the ushers took the plates forward and gave them to the minister. He turned toward the altar and with upstretched arms raised the plates above his head toward the tall illuminated cross and asked a blessing on the offering of gifts and lives. I see the ritual as something of preference, but I’m hesitant when man’s fingerprints appear on Scripture. Jesus was ask about the greatest commandment and he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). I’m just not sure that the greatest commandment belongs on the corporate offering plate.