October 31, 2014
Lydia, my nine year-old granddaughter, recently had the end of her middle finger cut off in some play equipment. It was traumatizing and I worried about how she would react when the bandages were removed and she saw for the first time that her three middle fingers were now all the same length. The bandages were removed and a blackened nub, topped with black stiches was revealed. Lydia studied her finger and said, “Oh…It looks like Frankenfinger!” Obviously the length of her finger is not a priority. “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children” (Proverbs 17:6 NIV).
October 30, 2014
Many churches have an area known as a fellowship hall, or an activity center. Recently I drove passed a church with signs and arrows pointing to two separate buildings; one to the Sanctuary and the other to the Life Center. The connotation that a building is a life center would no doubt give the Apostle John heartburn. John’s gospel made it clear to Jews and Gentiles alike that life is in Jesus. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4 NIV).
October 29, 2014
Bill had an appointment at the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver and because we’d taken a trial run the month before, we knew exactly where to go and how long it would take to get there. Knowing the layout of the land removed a huge layer of stress; even if all of our preparation did cause us to arrive 45 minutes earlier than necessary. Over the years I’ve lost friends, loved ones and acquaintances and I’m always bewildered by those who, by all appearances, approach death without some sort of a plan — either earthly, or spiritually. I’m now wondering if these folks have ever considered the lay of the land, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV).
October 28, 2014
Recently while driving in Denver during rush hour I tried to leave space between me and the driver ahead of me, but cars taking advantage of the space I’d left and kept cutting in. It wasn’t long before I started snugging up to the bumper of the guy in front of me — just to keep other cars from invading my space. I know my attitude was wrong, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find a Scripture that might somehow justify my actions. Paul said, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7 NIV)?
October 27, 2014
In the recent newspaper comic strip, “WuMo” a cartoon character returned to his apartment to find a note taped to the door which said, “I knocked and knocked – sorry I missed you! [Signed] Opportunity.” For me the cartoon character is a perfect illustration of the self-deluded church in Laodicea. The Lord says to this church, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20 NIV).
October 24, 2014
I visited a church that offered open communion, but the setup had me curious. The communion table was set with individual wafers and two large goblets of wine. I assumed all the worshippers would drink out of a communal goblet, with the rim of the cup wiped after each use. However, before the worshippers went to the altar they filed past two ushers holding communion trays. Each person picked up an empty thimble sized cup which was then filled from the larger goblet. What struck me was the image of the ushers serving empty cups and understanding that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:25 NIV).
October 23, 2014
In a recent sermon a pastor said, “The Ten Commandments direct us in a way that is good for us.” I suppose there is nothing wrong with the statement, but it seems to make the Ten Commandments somewhat discretionary. Moses delivered the Commandments amidst thunder, lightning, the trumpet, and smoke on the mountain — and the people trembled with fear. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20 NIV).
October 22, 2014
A current television commercial is selling dental insurance and their unfortunate choice of words, “If you like your dentist you can keep your dentist,” only serves to remind consumers of the false promises of Obamacare. On the spiritual level we hear the same message from new age folks who purport that all religions lead to God, “If you like your god you can keep your god.” Many people forget that our God is a jealous God, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3 NIV).
October 21, 2014
In the middle of giving Bill a haircut he said, “I’m listening to the snip of the scissors and picturing in my mind how each cut looks, but I just realized I’m picturing black hair!” We both had a good laugh because Bill hasn’t had black hair in years. Now I’m wondering what exactly he sees when he looks in the mirror every morning. James shares a similar observation, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24 NIV).
October 20, 2014
On an individual basis we’re not surprised when people outside God’s will, those who deliberately practice sin, fail to receive God’s blessing. In my mind the same thought process applies to denominations that choose to embrace sin. The Vatican recently ended an assembly focused on the family and they are still struggling with their stance on gays. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy compared the gay issue to the woman caught in adultery, “Like Christ with the adulteress, his response is to welcome her, but then to tell her not to sin again.” Not all of the Catholic leadership were on the same page and the final document to come out of the assembly says that gays must be met with respect and sensitivity — which goes along with Ravasi’s thought of welcoming. Interestingly there was no reference to, “don’t sin again.” When Jesus wrote on the ground all the accusers left the scene and no one remained to condemn the woman caught in adultery. Jesus declared, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV).
October 17, 2014
Before Bill can begin a new vaccine treatment for prostate cancer he must have a special heavy-duty port surgically installed. Unfortunately he keeps getting sent to surgeons who thought they were dealing with a normal size port, and when they realize they can’t do the installation we have to go through another referral process. Taking this scenario to a spiritual level I wonder if something similar happens to new believers. We want to help them mature so we refer them to devotional books, DVD’s of prominent preachers, or to a fellowship group. Seldom do we send them to the right place for maturing — the Bible and Jesus.
October 16, 2014
Every once in a while my grandkids will come to visit and, like carrying their backpacks, they come carrying their punishment. The last time 11 year-old David came over he had lost his TV and video privileges for a week and he still had two more days to serve on his sentence. The punishment may have fit the crime, but the grandma in me wanted to pardon David and let him start over with a clean slate. We cannot know the mind of God, but it gives me a warm feeling to think that He too wanted to just wipe our slate clean.
October 15, 2014
I’ve heard quite a few sermons where the message gets derailed with extraneous examples and sidebars. Lately I’ve listened to a couple of expository preachers and was surprised to see that they too take rabbit trails — biblical rabbit trails. If I weren’t knowledgeable in the Word I’d have been clueless as to the references. Unfortunately many speakers and preachers fail to realize that when they take detours in their message we in the audience don’t simply wait for them to get back on track, we follow them down the rabbit trail.
October 14, 2014
While visiting with a member of the clergy we discussed the number of churches in town and he brought up the fact that his friend had a home church. I soon realized the church he was describing was one I had tried unsuccessfully to contact. I told the pastor I was bewildered because I intended to visit the church or do a telephone interview, but the phone number was incorrectly listed and I had no response to my email on the web site. “Oh no, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be interviewed for an article; they’re just a small home church.” Curious. There are a lot of people who favor a home church over the collective church, but I don’t understand putting a listing in the newspaper if you didn’t want visitors or exposure. I can’t help but wonder if these folks are trying to legitimize being a church in their own mind, to their friends and family, or to the IRS.
October 13, 2014
“The Walking Dead,” a television horror drama series based on a comic book series, is about flesh-eating zombies. “Dead Man Walking” is a movie about a murderer on death row. It strikes me that both of these titles are a startling and an apt description of those who have rejected, or not accepted Jesus. When the Sadducees questioned Jesus about the resurrection and He said, “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”(Matt 22:31-31 NIV).
October 10, 2014
When I was raising my children I knew the incubation periods for measles, mumps and chicken pox; and what symptoms to watch out for. Today we are becoming acutely aware of the symptoms and the 21 day incubation for Ebola. It strikes me that sin has some similarities to a deadly virus — unfortunately we don’t take it as seriously. James said, “… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NIV).
October 09, 2014
Sermons about the great white throne of judgment often reference how surprised people will be when they stand before the Lord and the books are opened to reveal what is recorded about the things they have done in life. During a recent sermon the pastor put forth an interesting suggestion that potentially puts people before the Lord now. He suggested we pray asking God, “To show you your standing before Him.” I know that my name is written in the book of life, but I think maybe I’d just rather be surprised on that Day to see which of my works will be burned up in the fire. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor 3:12-15 NIV).
October 08, 2014
I’m getting interesting and encouraging feedback from people on the articles I’ve written about visiting local churches. After reading the online column one friend emailed me, “I read your church article. Excellent coverage, non-judgmental, and very specific.” Another was impressed that I wrote about my experience without bias or slamming other denominations. I value these opinions, but it crossed my mind that these friends feared the analysis of worship services would be judgmental. The concept for reporting on worship services is similar to the disciples of John the Baptist who were sent out to see if Jesus was the one to come, or if they should expect someone else. When they came to Jesus He told them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see …” (Matt 11:4 NIV).
October 07, 2014
A recent headline in the newspaper announced, “Gospel meeting led by Holy Spirit.” I had to laugh imagining the Spirit trying to corral any and all speakers who show up ready to talk as they are inspired to speak by the Holy Spirit. The leader of the meeting said they will have some readings out of the Bible, but added, “We speak from the heart; we don’t write anything down.” I’m sure these folks are well intended, but unfortunately not everything that comes from the heart can be trusted. Jesus said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt 15: 18-19 NIV).
October 06, 2014
I attended a liturgical church that interspersed Scripture and responsive readings with two extra-biblical readings. One reading was from Anselm of Canterbury, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109); and the other from medieval spiritual writer and English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342-1414). While both readings contained theological insight, the passages were read in unison with no time to reflect on the content or to measure the thoughts against Scripture. Although Paul was specifically referring to the subject of talking in tongues, I found myself in a similar position where I was unable to say amen to what was said. “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying” (1 Cor 14:16 NIV)?
October 03, 2014
I’ve visited one church that had cigarettes butts littering the sidewalk, and another church had a cigarette butt receptacle prominently stationed outside the entrance. Last Sunday a newer member in my congregation, who occasionally steps out for a smoke, decided this day to smoke an electronic cigarette during the worship services. I’m beginning to wonder if people aren’t taking the lyric in the praise song, “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” just a little too literally — “Come just as you are to worship …”
October 02, 2014
Virginia, who is 102 years-old, has been attending a local church for two years. Last Sunday she walked unaided to the front of the church auditorium and placed (transferred) her membership. Speaking to the congregation she said, “I want you to know you have been a blessing to me, and I hope I will be a blessing to you. I’ve felt like a visitor for the last two years and now I feel like I belong.” I had to laugh because Virginia, who has been a Christian for over 80 years, immediately became the oldest member of the congregation. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 18:31 NIV).
October 01, 2014
Sometimes I grow so accustomed to a biblical story that I overlook the obvious. During a recent sermon the pastor spoke about God’s test of Abraham which required him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The pastor said, “As soon as God spoke to him, his only son Isaac was dead to him.” His comment did not fit my image of Abraham’s mental struggle to fulfill God’s requirement. After rereading the text (Gen 22:1-19) I think the pastor was spot on. From the moment God delivered his decision to Abraham, Isaac was no longer a son, but a sacrifice. For Abraham there was no hint of hesitation, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about” (Gen 22:3-4 NIV).