It’s bittersweet that I’ve just finished visiting 62 churches in the area and publishing articles about my worship experience. While my visits only lasted an hour or two, I have a better understanding of Paul’s strong desire to return to the churches he’d visited. “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36 NIV).
December 30, 2015
I have a friend who I seldom see, but recently we ran into one another and she said, “Every time I drive by your house I think of you.” Her comment gave me pause. The Holy Spirit resides in every believer, but yet when I encounter people of like faith it’s only on the rare occasion that I think about the Spirit living within them. Paul said, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Ro 8:11 NIV).
December 29, 2015
A man of meager means is a dishwasher in a neighboring town. When he found an envelope of cash he turned it over to his boss, who returned it to its rightful owner. The story of his honesty has spread not only across the community, but around the nation and to other countries. People are rewarding the man’s honesty with financial gifts and now, rather than couch surfing, he may be able to buy a home of his own. Beyond his honesty the local paper reported that the man qualifies for food stamps and other assistance, but refuses to accept government help insisting, “…he will work for his money.” Seldom do we hear of someone forfeiting something they are entitled to. Paul wrote that our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)!
December 28, 2015
Our local newspaper recently ran an editorial chastising leaders and citizens for keeping a current controversy alive. The underlying theme of the editorial was there is nothing that can be done, let it go and move on. This is the same newspaper that goes through their archives looking for propaganda to republish about people and events in the community so they can keep stories alive that happened one to 10 years ago. The words of Jesus can just as easily be applied to businesses and organizations, as to individuals, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:3-5 NIV).
December 25, 2015
Many of us lament that the true meaning of Christmas is lost in commercialism. We are particularly critical that the marketing of Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving…and in some cases holiday displays can even be seen right after Halloween. It occurs to me that in times past proclaiming the name of Christ was confined to the month of December. However today, even though it is not the intention of marketers, the name of Christ is publically proclaimed throughout November and December. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11 NIV).
December 24, 2015
Every once in a while we’ll hear about mothers going into labor so quickly that they are unable to get to the hospital in time. A baby being delivered on the side of the road in the back seat of a car by a policeman is a much more compelling drama than the birth of a baby born in a sterile hospital surrounded by medical personnel. So vivid and memorable is the birth of Jesus that even young children know and repeat the story. While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, “...the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7 NIV).
December 23, 2015
Last week the Denver metro area was hit with a snowstorm that dumped over eight inches of snow in some places. A few days after the storm we visited my daughter and when I took her dog for a walk I was surprised that so many homeowners either didn’t shovel their walks, or simply made a narrow swipe through the snow. In and out of shaded areas the walks were treacherous and I found myself praying with every step as I went from snow pack, to sheets of ice, to gullies of slush. Spiritually speaking I’m now wondering if there are times when I’ve not maintained the sidewalks in and around my life leaving obstacles for others to traverse. The writer of Hebrews said, “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Heb 2:13 NIV).
December 22, 2015
An older man in our church suffers from Alzheimer’s and although names of people are difficult for him to remember, he is cheerful and faithful in attendance. Jim’s progressive disease has not stopped him from serving communion. I marvel that even in infirmity not only is there a desire to serve, but God has a place for us to serve. Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the temple where Simeon, a righteous and devout man, blessed the Child. There was also a prophetess, Anna who was widowed after seven years of marriage and was now very old at age eighty–four. “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:37b-38 NIV).
December 21, 2015
When my sister passed away I inherited her jewelry and one of the pieces is an ostentatious gold ring. I felt self-conscious wearing the ring even on special occasions, so I decided to get comfortable with the flamboyance by wearing it all the time. Consequently it now no longer bothers me that the ring may sometimes look out of place even when I’m dressed in casual attire. I think something similar happens to people when they first accept Christ. We tend to wear Christianity to church and on special occasions, but feel self-conscious about being a new creation out into the world. Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV).
December 18, 2015
My daughter, Leslie, lives in an older subdivision in the metro area and directly cross the street from her house are two neighbors who compete with each other in decorating their houses for Christmas. Every inch of both properties, from rooftops, to shrubs and trees, to backyard privacy fencing is aglow with lights, garland and larger than life Christmas characters. As soon as it’s dark a steady flow of buses and cars tour the neighborhood. Even if Leslie and Tim tried to decorate their house it would be paltry compared the extravaganza across the street. I’m now wondering if it’s possible for a believer to let their light shine to excess. “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).
December 17, 2015
A pastor whose denomination advocates for prophesy, speaking in tongues and faith healing told the audience that although believers major in one spiritual gift, everyone is equipped with all of the spiritual gifts. He said, “If I only have the gift of prophesy, what happens if someone comes to me who needs healing? Do I send him to the house down the road [to someone who has the gift of healing]?” I don’t completely agree with the preacher’s interpretation on gifts today, however, I was reminded of the disciples who were unable to drive a demon out of a young boy. Jesus then drove the demon out and later the disciples came to Him privately and ask why their attempts were unsuccessful. Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20-21 NIV).
December 16, 2015
Speaking about adoption a pastor said, “Did you know that by law when you write a will you can disinherit your children…but that you can’t disinherit an adopted child? God choose us. We are adopted and we cannot be disinherited.” Paul wrote in Ephesians, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Eph 1:4-6 NIV).
December 15, 2015
I’ve encountered too many churches that have their names in a public directory as though they are open for business, but their phones are disconnected, they’ve shuttered their doors, or moved and left no forwarding address. Recently I received the following reply from an email I’d sent: "Gail, Sorry it took so long to respond. We are not doing the prayer center at this time. I'm sorry. Mark" It's not unusual to hear people say that the Lord has moved them on to a different ministry. However, to say, “We are not doing the prayer center at this time,” sounds like something you’d hear from the owner of a kiosk when he wanted to close up shop for the winter. Jesus said to the self-deluded members of the church in Laodicea, “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).
December 14, 2015
In my last two church visits the congregations went to the effort to find out about my visits and then classified them as a ministry. At the close of both services these congregations took time to pray over me and pray for the outreach of the stories. I was both honored and humbled by their blessing. It’s not unusual for churches to set apart people for works of service, but we usually think in terms of someone going on the mission field, or taking a position in church ministry. I’m wondering if we underestimate the need to set people apart for any ministry into which they have been called. The disciples in the church at Antioch experienced such direction, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2 NIV).
December 11, 2015
Writing is a sedentary lifestyle and my exercise and nutritional consultant wants me to move more. She suggested that at a minimum I get up from the computer at least once every hour and that I should fidget. Immediately I could hear a chorus of mom’s voices saying, “Sit still. Stop fidgeting.” Sometimes mothers are God’s messengers, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).
December 10, 2015
The young woman felt she was stimulating a spiritual conversation when she ask a man what he thought about a particular passage of Scripture. He responded, “Why are you asking me what I think? It’s in the book [Bible].” The man made a point that all too often we let thoughts and opinions trump the Word of God. James speaks to the same issue, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely” (James 4:4-5 NIV)?
December 09, 2015
Speaking on a secular level, if I want to avoid someone I don’t make eye contact with them. Unfortunately we do something similar in the church when we don’t want to engage, or we’re uncomfortable reaching out to others. Jesus could have sent his disciples to fetch Zacchaeus out of the tree, or he could have come to the base of the tree and spoke generically to those standing around and told them about his intentions. However, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV). As believers we often underestimate and undervalue the importance of eye contact.
December 08, 2015
More and more I see speakers, both secular and religious, trying to be interactive with their audience. They say, “Can I hear an Amen to that?” “Thank you Jesus…right?” “Jenny, you had similar experience do you want to share anything with us?” I’m not sure if this type of inclusion is intended to build a rapport, to let people have a feeling of participation, or if it’s a prop. During the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus drew the audience into the message without making them active participants. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt 7:28-29 NIV).
December 07, 2015
I attended a church that began with the pastor inviting people to come forward to give testimonies about what God has been doing in their lives. One man had only a few words out of his mouth before he switched from giving a testimony to preaching. His mini-sermon wasn’t bad, but it lacked the power found in a testimony. Using John the Baptist as an example, “Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34 NIV).
December 04, 2015
I’m working on an article about emergency preparedness and many state and federal organizations suggest the importance of having an emergency supply kit on hand in case of a natural disaster. Generally speaking they all recommend that you should have enough food and water to last each person 72 hours. Certainly the Lord wants believers to be prudent, but not to the point of worry. Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:31-34 NIV).
December 03, 2015
Our city imposed a 25 cent per month surcharge on each resident’s sewer bill to help citizens cover the cost of cleanup if they have a sewer backup. On the surface some people bought into the reasoning put forth. However, in six months the fund has accumulated almost $13,000 and to date no money has been paid out, even though there are a couple of claims pending. I’m reminded of Judas Iscariot objecting to Mary pouring expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Judas suggested the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6 NIV).
December 02, 2015
I was forced to change my email address when my service program glitched and would only allow me to receive, but not send. Unable to send my address book to the new email system I’ve jumped through all kinds of hoops, including manually inserting some of the contacts. As I’ve scrutinized the names in the list I’m surprised by some of the contacts listed that I have no idea who they are, much less how the wound up in my address book. I now have a different understanding of how the Apostle Paul could so easily dismiss the names of all the people he’d baptized. Knowing his priorities, Paul said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17 NIV).
December 01, 2015
Many of us may feel uncomfortable with the direction taken by elected officials and government administrators, but when we question their decisions they always have a plausible explanation. They can easily justify their actions because constituents don’t have all the facts needed to counter their statements. I’m reminded of the parable of the Great Banquet and the invited guests who made excuses and justifications for not attending. One had to inspect his newly purchased property, another had to try out his new oxen and a third was a newlywed. On the surface, and without knowing each situation, I would probably have accepted their explanation. Spiritually speaking however, plausible excuses don’t work. Jesus said, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet’” (Luke 14:23-24 NIV).
November 30, 2015
In today’s society it seems common practice for people to value themselves above others. As an example of humble service Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show them what they should do for others. I’d always felt Jesus reinforced his illustration when he told the disciples what they already knew, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16 NIV). However, I now believe those in Jesus’ time were as self-centered as we are today. Apparently this truth revealed by Jesus was a new teaching, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (vs 17).
November 27, 2015
Bill received a weather station as an early Christmas present and son-in-law Tim helped him install the sensor on the peak of the house. With the wireless remote now on a shelf in the house we don’t even have to poke out nose out the door to know what the weather is like…wind speed, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and rainfall totals. As much as were going to enjoy our new toy, I’m also reminded of Jesus’ thoughts about the weather watchers of his time. When the Pharisees and the Sadducees demanded Jesus give them a sign from heaven he said, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matt 16:2-3 NIV).
November 26, 2015
The world is in turmoil, but even in the midst of chaos both here and abroad, the Apostle Paul tells us to be thankful. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess 5:16-18 NIV).
November 25, 2015
During a contentious public meeting the men were loud, confrontational and accusatory…each tried to outdo the others with their ego and diatribe. However, one woman sprinkled her comments with swear words. I suspect this was her attempt to make her mark amongst all the men, but I doubt they were impressed. “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you — for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecc 7:21-22 NIV).
November 24, 2015
The news reported on an Amish man who runs marathons in his traditional clothing of slacks, long sleeve shirt and suspenders, along with non-traditional sneakers. He went through a rebellious streak in his teens and his brother-in-law introduced him to running. The young man said that whenever he is tempted to sin he runs. Well now that’s a concept! Paul said, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22 NIV).
November 23, 2015
A public meeting was billed as finding candidates to run for elected office and a member of the audience made a veiled threat that boarded on candidate intimidation. He said, “Any candidate you run will look like fools when we call them out. We will ask them questions about what they don’t know! If you run a candidate, they better be able to answer [our] questions.” The Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law devised questions for Jesus with the intention of discrediting Him and making Him out to be a fool. The Lord was not intimidated, but rather responded in a manner that exposed the folly of His questioners. “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Proverb 26:5 NIV).
November 20, 2015
I have major email issues and in order to solve the problem I wound up with four different email servers, each doing a different function. With two I can receive emails, but not send out. With another I can send and receive, but none of my contacts are in that email address book. One is selective and will receive some, but not all emails. Currently I am cutting and pasting messages onto different servers until I have time to consolidate and get everything in one place. I have this image of the Spirit being similarly frustrated when He sorts through the mixed messages of believers…are they sending, receiving, deleting, saving…or simply dealing with junk mail. Paul said, “…but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1Cor 2:10-12 NIV).
November 19, 2015
I get irritated when my grandkids get in my car and start poking buttons. Occasionally my husband Bill will also change some settings and forget to put them back — rearview mirrors, seat position, radio station, dash lights. When I hop in the car and start down the road I either have pull over and do some resets, or just continue driving with a bad attitude and things out of kilter. Last night I had an evening meeting and as I drove out of the driveway I realized Bill had dimed the intensity on the dash board and I could hardly see the speedometer, much less any of the other controls. It took me about three blocks before I realized that even the street lights and house porch lights were not as bright as they should be. It’s amazing how things look when you’re driving at night with your sunglasses on! “Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12).
November 18, 2015
I’ve mentioned to a few people that I scheduled a meeting with an official and each and every one of them has cautioned, “Do not meet with him alone.” Their reasoning is not that something inappropriate might happen, but that anything said might be twisted or manipulated. I’ll keep the scheduled meeting, but being mindful of the counsel from others I intend to record the conversation. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).
November 17, 2015
Disconnected phone numbers and incorrect addresses are a couple of reasons I’ve had difficulties finding some of the churches I’ve wanted to visit. One address turned out to be a tattoo parlor, so I called the phone number listed and the man laughed and said, “Well, just get a tattoo and then come on upstairs to church!” The church, which was in a strip mall, had relocated to an upstairs room. However, in order to find the church entrance I had to drive through the alley, locate an industrial door with a small church sign and then climb a flight of stairs. At the conclusion of the service I told the pastor about my difficulty in finding them and he said, “Well we used to put a sign out front on the sidewalk, but we just got tired of putting it out.” I suspect that as individuals may of us are of a similar mindset. Having been believers most of our lives we forget the importance of putting out our own personal sign of hope and salvation. The writer of Hebrews said, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:19 20 NIV).
November 16, 2015
In his sermon on temptation the pastor took us back to the Garden of Eden, “In our mind we think the temptation of Eve took only a few moments. The truth is we don’t know how long it took — a day, a week, a year.” It’s a new thought to me that Eve may not have been so weak-willed that she jumped at the slightest temptation; and also that Satan might well needle us with the same temptations, the ones we are most vulnerable to, over long periods of time. Whether the temptation period is long or short, the antidote prescribed by James is the same, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV).
November 13, 2015
Leif Babin, former Navy Seal and co-author of “Extreme Ownership,” spoke about leadership during a FOX News segment. He said those in leadership positions need to “…acknowledge failure and own their mistakes.” We rarely see that from politicians, but the same can be said about Christians. It’s easy for me to say I’ve failed, made mistakes and sinned…but quite another matter to take ownership and cite details and particulars to someone else. I’m not sure I can even remember the last time I confessed my sin to someone. James said, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
November 12, 2015
Recently a library ballot referendum was defeated by 519 votes and some in the community, including some Christians, are furious with the 519. A fellow believer even wrote a letter-to-the-editor saying that these people should be embarrassed by their vote. Those who villainize these folks are overlooking the fact that the vote was actually 5,618 to 5,099. I guess it’s easier to rationalize being angry with 519 than it is being angry with 5,618 voters. I’m amazed people can become so impressed with themselves that they think they can direct the lives of others, up to and including how to vote. In Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders he warned, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).
November 11, 2015
Fairly often I’ll get a forwarded email that has been doctored and fluffed up by each consecutive reader. There will be highlights, bold and underlined words, and fonts so large that a word wraps around to the next line. I normally delete the collage because it’s distracting to read and quite honestly I don’t need someone else telling me what they think is important. Thank goodness biblical scribes weren’t allowed to highlight portions of Scripture that they thought needed added emphasis. John wrote, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18-19 NIV).
November 10, 2015
It was frosty early Sunday morning as I looked out my kitchen window into my neighbor’s backyard. Three young adults dressed in jackets and hoodies were moving around trying to stay warm while they shared a joint and lite up a pipe. I know I’m naïve, but seriously, who smokes marijuana for breakfast? Although Proverbs 7 is a warning against adultery, marijuana might well fit the image of an adulteress, “At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment” (Proverbs 7:6-7 NIV).
November 09, 2015
The topic of our Sunday school lesson was “serving” and the teacher encouraged us to follow the example of Jesus and serve one another. As I reflected on how I serve others I thought of the many times people stopped me in my tracks by trying to repackage my service. For example, if I offer to bring a vegetable dish to the potluck, but the organizer of the event says she would rather have me on clean-up duty. Or, if I volunteer to serve as an adult Sunday school teacher and someone tries to assign me to the nursery. It is curious that people think they can be in charge of directing another person’s service. Peter did something similar when Jesus began washing the disciple’s feet. “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me...I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:8, 15 NIV).
November 06, 2015
Amongst local government agencies and community organizations the term “partnership” is used so liberally that it has become an illusion. The public perception presented is that everyone is working together; however, the reality is that not only are they working around each other, they often work against one another. Their actions seem remarkable similar to the deception Jacob perpetrated on his father Isaac when he disguised himself as his brother Esau. Unfortunately many of us in the community have weak eyes and are as blind as Isaac simply because we take the concept of partners that is presented to us at face value. “Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied” (Gen 27:22-24 NIV).
November 05, 2015
Many of us think in terms of spreading the Gospel to the whole world, reaching our community for Christ, or bringing someone to salvation. I had not thought in terms of my relationship with one person impacting their sphere of influence. For instance, I’ve befriended a single woman and while I sense my Christian witness has touched her life, I hadn’t considered that my witness might be extended through her to her young children, co-workers and extended family. I suspect I’ve underestimated the power of the Spirit to multiply my witness. Jesus said, “Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32 NIV).
November 04, 2015
Being on the do-not-call list hasn’t stopped my getting unsolicited phone calls. Normally I simply hang up, but the other day in frustration I called the number back. To my surprise the recording said, “If you think you have been called by mistake and want to be put on our no-call-list press five.” I now return unsolicited calls and often I’m able to get on the individual organization’s no-call-list. I haven’t stopped all the calls, but eliminating even a few has given me a sense of empowerment. Spiritually speaking, the devil is also on my do-not-call list, but that hasn’t stopped him from calling either. James said, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV).
November 03, 2015
Some of my older friends are rebelling against age and they refuse to use walkers, oxygen tanks, and install handicap ramps. In spite of two broken hips and two fractured ribs my aunt, who is in her early 80’s, refuses to use a cane because, “She doesn’t want to become dependent on it.” It occurs to me that in many instances believers have a similar mind set. We don’t completely turn our lives over to the Lord because we don’t want to become too dependent. The Psalmist reminds us, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge” (Psalm 62:5-7 NIV).
November 02, 2015
At the close of Sunday morning worship a visitor came forward and wanted to offer his testimony. In a nutshell he was born in the Czech Republic and had been in the US for almost two decades…sometimes legally, sometimes illegally. With a few rabbit trails he took us on his journey of finding God and included his concern for America’s decline and fear that if the US didn’t wake up we would someday resemble his former homeland. His testimony/political commentary in broken English was lengthy and while some people took their seats, others exited the building. I found it to be an awkward and worrisome situation that a man, whom none of us know, could simply walk in off the street and gain an audience with the congregation. Paul’s charge to Timothy is applicable to us today, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge…” (1 Tim 6:20 NIV).
October 30, 2015
My friend is a self-proclaimed Christian Feminist who considers herself de-churched because of what she sees as inequality in the church between men and women. With rapid fire justifications she defended her position and I couldn’t tell if she wanted endorsement, acceptance or debate. I give credit to the Spirit to help me jump over the worldly controversy and look beyond positions on earth. When our focus is on the end game of salvation and eternal life, there is no inequality. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
October 29, 2015
Years ago I knew a youth minister who impressed upon students that once you accept Jesus as your Savior you have the indwelling presence of the Spirit. The Spirit then reads what you read and goes where you go. Illustrating his point the minister said that if you view pornographic material, watch X-rated movies, or go to a weekend beer bust, then you’ve taken the Spirit along with you. I’m now contemplating how the Spirit feels as He and I attend different worship services of all sizes, shapes and denominations. It occurs to me that He might be edified, grieved, or even bored. Just as the Spirit spoke to each of the seven churches in Revelation, he speaks also to my church today, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:29 NIV).
October 28, 2015
Without introduction the speaker/preacher stood behind the podium and told of his fear and uneasiness about speaking in front of a group with whom he was not well acquainted. Beginning his message he recounted telling his wife he would, “…build a message when I get up there to the podium. God will expand on the Scriptures that have touched me, He [God] wants to move me along, move us forward.” I continue to be amazed at how often I hear speakers tell their audience that they are relying on the Spirit to put the finishing touches on their message. Some of these men may be confusing sermon preparation with words that are needed when one is under persecution. Jesus said to the Twelve, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt 10:19-20 NIV).
October 27, 2015
In doing a follow-up on a story a government employee got a little defensive at my simple question. While he answered my question there was a hint of indignation and he suggested I take any further inquiry to someone else. Even though I know the employee as a fellow believer, it didn’t keep him from having a worldly reaction to the situation. The Genesis account of the Fall of Man came to mind and I heard God asking simple questions — “Where are you?” “What is this you have done?” Although Adam answered, he implied further questions should go to Eve. Likewise, Eve answered God, but implied further questions should be directed to the serpent. Unfortunately even people of faith sometimes look around for a serpent when we don’t want to fully answer a question.
October 26, 2015
Children often pester, poke and shove each another just to see what they can get away with. Believers deal with something similar when people in our lives try to force us to embrace homosexuality, turn a blind eye to abortion, and accept that all paths lead to god. These folks want to wear us down with their arguments, but in reality they are not simply needling us, they are poking God. Paul makes an apt description of such people. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ro 3:18 NIV).
October 23, 2015
A number of churches have their adult Sunday school class prior to the worship service. I’m surprised by how often the Sunday school lesson then becomes the opening segment of the worship service. This is a common precursor in my own church and only recently have I realized how disconnecting it is for those coming in just for the worship service. During one of my recent church visits I felt completely left out when the pastor spent 10 minutes doing a recap of the Sunday school class to which I had not attended. Think of attending an English class where the teacher spends the first 10 minutes recapping his previous Algebra class.
October 22, 2015
It’s not unusual in an obituary to read that someone battled cancer for either a short, or long time. For 17 years Bill has had prostate cancer that metastasized to the bone. While he deals with it as a progressive disease, I’m not sure either of us would classify the life experience as a battle. To me a battle is all consuming and cancer has not consumed our lives. Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12 NIV).
October 21, 2015
An anonymous family in the church is going through a difficult time and a specific request went out for help with food, diapers and grocery store gift cards. As so often happens, our benevolent mind jumps over the stated need and races to what we have that that we can offer…clothes, cash, toys. I’m reminded of the poor widow who put two small copper coins in the temple treasury. Jesus could have asked the widow what she needed, or even ask the disciples what they thought she needed — food, money, caregivers, or another husband. However, in order to teach a spiritual lesson Jesus went beyond the obvious physical needs and looked at the widow’s heart. “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).
October 20, 2015
No one would deny that there are many different parts in the body of Christ. However, when it comes to placement of those parts, church leadership often takes it upon themselves to determine where they want those parts to function. If believers are allowed to participate in the body only as leaders determine, we may start looking more like Frankenstein than the Bride. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor 12:24b-25 NIV).
October 19, 2015
When a group goes out to a sit down restaurant it’s not unusual for one person to pay the bill and for another person to offer to leave the tip. Regardless of the size of tip left, there are times when someone in the group will leave a few dollars more on the table. It’s not like they offer to help with the tip, they just add to the amount already left. The person who volunteered to leave the tip in the first place is put in an awkward and uncomfortable position. He can’t tell if they think the tip is inadequate, if they are trying to trump the tip by being more generous, or if they think they are better judge of service than anyone else. Believers are to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12 NIV).
October 16, 2015
Minutes of a meeting, once they are approved, become an official record. I recently attended a meeting where some of the trustees of the organization approve minutes of a previous meeting which they had not attended. One woman said, “I can’t make a motion because I haven’t even read the minutes.” All of the trustees voted to approve the minutes and in essence their lackadaisical attitude qualifies as giving false testimony. The psalmist said, “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies” (Proverbs 12:17 NIV).
October 15, 2015
I like to watch crime drama TV shows, but find them frustrating when investigators at the crime scene look for evidence with a small high-beamed flashlight. I want them to turn up the lights so I can see the whole area and any clues that may be in the shadows. It occurs to me that when witnessing to unbelievers many of us are like investigators — we put a beam of light on select characteristics of Jesus like love and forgiveness; while we leave obedience and repentance in the shadows. Jesus, the light of the world, said, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open” (Mark 4:21-22 NIV).
October 14, 2015
On the local level a controversial article published online received very few comments, but generated well over 700 separate views on the first day of publication. It appears that many people are interested in the topic, but they don’t weigh in because they don’t want others to know they are interested. I’m reminded of Zacchaeus, who climb a sycamore fig tree and peered through the leaves hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus. Zacchaeus would never have revealed himself had the Lord not looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5b NIV). So often we believers are satisfied to simply peer through the leaves of a tree rather than coming down and letting our position be known to others.
October 13, 2015
I’ve attended a fair number of churches that use the auditorium for the adult Sunday school class prior to the worship service. Consequently, I’ve found myself standing alone in the foyer for 10-15 minutes waiting for the class to dismiss. I understand utilizing the facility space, but what I don’t understand is the lack of accommodations for visitors. My sense is that many of these churches simply don’t expect uninvited visitors. Jesus sent the 12 apostles out into towns and villages where they were not known with the caveat, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matt 10:14 NIV). I can’t help but wonder how many visitors dust off their shoes as they exit our churches simply because they were not welcomed.
October 12, 2015
I’m seeing a pattern of speakers and preachers going to the podium with unprepared messages. However, what is even more troubling than their being unprepared is that they are putting the blame on the Lord. Time after time I’m hearing ministers of the Gospel say, “I had another message prepared, but at the last minute the Lord told me He wanted me to share a different message with you.” Certainly the Lord can on short notice redirect a preacher’s sermon topic, but one would think if the Lord did so, He would also supply the cohesiveness needed for the new topic…and that the new message would be timely, impactful and Spirit filled. Paul gave Timothy this 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).
October 09, 2015
In doing research for an article I had to scrutinize the official minutes of an organization. For a special meeting the president of the trustees set the agenda, but one member simply didn’t attend because she felt “…the topic presented to her,” was a job for the personnel committee and the executive director. I was taken aback at the woman’s lack of responsibility, but even more surprised that the president didn’t hold her accountable. Webster defines trustee as: an individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified. It occurs to me that as believers, we too are trustees. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor 4:1-2 NIV).
October 08, 2015
I recently attended a cowboy church that held worship services in a barn. A stall in the barn held an injured horse, Charlie, who had to be separated from the other horses. I took a seat next to the stall gate and throughout the services the mare munched hay over the top of my head, snorted down my neck and spit water on me after drinking water. As though on cue Charlie punctuated praise songs, prayers and the message with whinnies and neighs that resembled Amen! Hallelujah! and Praise the Lord! I was reminded that the Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence his disciples, but Jesus let them know that even God’s creation has a voice. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV).
October 07, 2015
The man opening the worship service cradled a large shofar in his arm and spoke heavenward, “Shout to the Lord! Bring everything that is good in here; blowing the shofar brings the Spirit.” He then blew a long sustained blast and worshippers applauded his skill. The trumpeter is a seasoned believer, so I feel confident that he knows the Spirit dwells within believes and is not summoned to a church assembly with the blast of a ram’s horn. However, in his zeal to connect OT worship with NT worship he may have confused the fact that it is people who are called to worship. “On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets” (Numbers 29:1 NIV).
October 06, 2015
A notice in the newspaper for a house church reads, “We have left the institutional church and are meeting as simple believers in Jesus Christ.” Recently at an assembly of about 50 I heard, “We have left the traditional church; we are not the traditional church.” So what does that mean? These folks have elders and a board, they gave announcements, had a worship service of praise songs and hymns, presented a message by an ordained minister, served communion, offered multiple prayers, and enjoyed a fellowship meal following the service. The only thing untraditional about the gathering was the location and setting. Too bad the book of Revelation doesn’t contain a letter to an eight church, “To the angel of the church of the Non-Traditional…”
October 05, 2015
In stark contrast to the Mennonite ladies who wore longer dresses in subdued hues and black scarves on their heads, I wore slacks, a royal purple jacket and no head covering. There was no doubt I was a visitor and even a few young children sent side glances my way. Two women, each with a young child, approached me hesitantly. One ask if I lived in the area and the other asked if she could sit next to me in the pew…but neither introduced themselves. The worship service was segregated; the men and boys sat on the right side of the church and the women and girls sat on the left. After the service a few women stood in close proximity while two of them introduced themselves, engaged me in conversation about my church visits and invited me to come back again. However, even as I stood amongst the cordial ladies, their reserve held a heavy sense of segregation. Paul reminds believers, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor 1:10 NIV).
October 02, 2015
I have a friend who is angry with a local church because they failed to make an appearance at his father’s funeral. For decades the father was a faithful and generous supporter of the church; however the graveside service, which was held over 100 miles away over mountainous roads, was not conducive to the dad’s contemporaries making the trip. My first reaction was to feel the church may have been negligent; however, after some thought it occurs to me that the son is not rejoicing in his father’s welcome in heaven, but is simply hanging on to the trapping of the world. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess 4:13-14 NIV).
October 01, 2015
For over a year I’ve written for the Montrose Mirror, a free online newspaper. I find it curious that I get more feedback for interviews and articles on community activities than I do on articles about my church visits. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that the church articles reveal a few blots and blemishes on the Bride of Christ — and most believers want to see only the perfect bride. Most of us aren’t comfortable with examining ourselves, much less with examining the church, and yet God sees it all. “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21 NIV).
September 30, 2015
A dark stained oak table, approximately 3’ X 8’, had large relief letters across the front edge that read, “This Do In Remembrance Of Me.” The table, a shadow of its former self, was relegated to the church foyer and used for pamphlets, tracts, pens and pencils. There is nothing sacrilegious about re-purposing church furnishings, but at the time I had mixed feelings that the embossed table, which once held the bread and the cup representing the body and blood of Jesus, was now nothing more that a display for sign-up sheets, quarterlies and extra Bibles. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that I had elevated the table above the emblems. Jesus put the situation in its proper perspective when he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table” (Luke 22:20b-21 NIV).
September 29, 2015
Two churches with similar sounding names, Mesa View and Sunny View, happen to be located in a rural area within a few miles of each other — and on the same highway. For a church visit I arrived at the right time, but the wrong church. I waited in the foyer for what I thought was the end of an adult Sunday school class, but I later learned it was the tail end of the worship service. Reminiscent of the five foolish virgins who failed to take extra oil for their lamps, my preparation for the service was lacking. Jesus cautioned, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matt 25:13 NIV).
September 28, 2015
Political pundits tell us what they think is behind Speaker of the House John Boehner’s recent resignation of both his position, and his congressional seat. It’s easy for everyone, including Boehner, to say it’s the dysfunction in the House of Representatives; however, there is also a spiritual perspective. Boehner, a devout Catholic, listened to the Pope’s address to Congress that all life has dignity. It’s entirely possible that he could no longer stand under the burden of hypocrisy by being a man of faith and also supporting funding for Planned Parenthood. However, we also must look at the biblical reality put forth by Daniel in his praise of God, “He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them” (Dan 2:21a NIV).
September 25, 2015
During a community initiative to discuss city elections a large number of county residents, as well as some from neighboring counties, packed the room. It’s hard to imagine people taking it upon themselves to go from one county into another county thinking they have the right to weigh in on municipal government. Although I can’t say for certain, I suspect a few pot-stirrers in the city wanted to bolster their own power base so they invited outsiders to come and play in the political arena. Someone made these non-residents feel welcome and I wonder if something similar took place during the early church. Jude wrote, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4 NIV).
September 24, 2015
In an interview on Fox News Robert F. Kennedy Jr. expound on the Pope’s US speech. Kennedy’s interpretation is that climate change is a moral issue and the Pope placed it in the category of sin — the sin of global warming; the sin of pollution. Jesus talked about those who would burden us with undue and heavy loads. He said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matt 23:2-4 NIV).
September 23, 2015
Fairly often I’ll read an obituary for an older person that says they passed away peacefully and the sentiments somehow bestow a sense of peace and comfort on readers. King Zedekiah was given insight into his own death when the Lord sent the prophet Jerimiah to him with the message that he would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. However, there was a caveat, “Yet hear the promise of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully.” (Jer 34:4-5a NIV). As New Testament believers Paul instructs us to live a peaceful life, but I’m thinking I’d also like a peaceful death.
September 22, 2015
In an attempt to justify political decisions one councilman wrote in an editorial, “In summary, this council and staff have made difficult decisions based on the direct requests and needs of our citizens. For now, suffice it to say that while these changes have been hard and painful, today, our City government is the envy and the model for other cities around the state.” Not only is it mind boggling that he would think other communities are envious, but he also entices taxpayers to relish the idea that their community is worthy of being elevated and envied. James tells us of two types of wisdom, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16 NIV).
September 21, 2015
Sunday I visited an LDS church and because they use a denominational hymn book rather than a traditional hymnal all the selections were unfamiliar. When I don’t know a hymn I tend to focus on the words and this one began, “Have I Done Any Good Today?” I laughed to myself, it was only 9:00 am and I hadn’t even been awake long enough to do any good! Obviously I could take lessons from the Proverbs 31 woman. “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls” (Proverbs 31:15 NIV).
September 18, 2015
There are several people in the community who regularly attend public meetings, speak up at forums and write letters-to-the-editor. They get a lot of ink in the newspaper, so it seems logical that we should know a little bit about them and whether their opinions are meant to hold others accountable, enlighten, sway, or spin the issues. It’s interesting that out of that vocal group there are a handful who turned down my request for an interview. Some did not returned my call, one man abruptly said, “I’m not interested,” and another said he had no reason to say no, but, “No.” I’m now wondering if some of these folks only speak their minds when they are in a situation where they can control the medium. It occurs to me that believers do something similar when we are hesitant to proclaim the Gospel unless we are in a friendly environment. Paul felt no such reservations, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Ro 1:16-17 NIV).
September 17, 2015
In researching broadband for the local community I interviewed various entities to understand their piece of the multifaceted puzzle. When I gleaned information form one source and sought to verify it with another source invariably I’d hear, “Well, that’s not exactly right.” I was taken aback that each entity not only had their own perspective, but they disagreed with their counterpart’s view. Not only were these folks not on the same page, I wondered if they were reading the same book. Hmmm…not so unlike believers reading the Word and coming up with different denominations. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor 1:10 NIV).
September 16, 2015
I’ve had multiple interviewees point out the fact that in yesteryear businesses, banks and stores were locally owned and the owners had a strong voice in the community. Today big boxes and national chain stores are operated by managers who are invested in climbing the corporate ladder, but not necessarily invested in the community. One man observed that elected officials and their administrative staff have now replaced business leaders and they have become the voice of the community. He said, “… we’ve defaulted to political people making all the decisions.” I’ve seen something similar occur in the church when believers default to the staff to make all the decisions. Paul reminds us that the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12:27 NIV).
September 15, 2015
My friends, who opted to live in a South American country, must return to the US for three months out of the year in order to maintain their visa. Certainly financial considerations come into play in their decision; however, I find it curious that when they are back in the states they weigh in on politics (local, state and national), criticize how far America has fallen and push those of us who live here to get involved. We know America is deteriorating, but she still offers an element of security found nowhere else in the world today. “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home” (Proverbs 27:8 NIV).
September 14, 2015
I’ve seen any number of ways to serve and partake of communion — individually, in small groups, in unison, or at one’s own leisure and discretion. Certainly we are collectively at the Lord’s Table whether it takes five minutes or 10 minutes to serve everyone. However, I know that if I’m one of the first to receive the emblems, by the time the last person is served my mind has likely jumped ahead to the next order of service. Recently one pastor had people come forward and pick up the emblems, “Return to your seats and when all are seated we’ll eat the bread together and then together we will drink the cup.” For some reason the pastor’s use of the word “together” placed even greater emphasis for me on Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians about waiting for one another. Whether it’s strictly communion, or communion mixed with a potluck, the mental-togetherness of remembering the body and blood of Christ is of great importance. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not” (1 Cor 11:20-22 NIV).
September 11, 2015
My grandma was a staunch believer. However grandpa, as well as most of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren kept the Lord at arm’s length. When grandma passed away, I wound up with some of her religious themed items simply because no one knew what else to do with them. The eclectic collection includes a famed lithograph of the Lord, a big letter (unread) Bible, and a decorative Scripture plate. Most of the items came from special occasion gift stores and were given to grandma by family members who were without spiritual understanding. It didn’t matter who gifted her with a new generic gilded Bible, grandma would never have traded it for her well-worn American Standard Study Bible. Proverbs reminded me that in some cases gifts can in fact resemble a bribe. “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great” (Proverbs 18:16 NIV).
September 10, 2015
The Pope recently weighed in on US immigration policy and said he feels America should be more compassionate toward illegal aliens. It’s as though he thinks our higher standard of living somehow obligates the US to open its boarders. While I appreciate the Pope’s passion for the disadvantaged, it is not his place to judge a nation or direct its path. He should be mindful that positions and wealth, or lack thereof, of all the nations is controlled by God. The psalmist said, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted” (Psalm 7:7-9 NIV).
September 09, 2015
The city of San Francisco can ignore federal immigration laws and there is no penalty. The state of Colorado can ignore federal laws on marijuana and there is no penalty. However, when Kentucky county clerk and recorder Kim Davis ignores federal laws for not issuing same sex marriage license, she is jailed and placed in solitary confinement. It seems the rule of law is flexible. While I don’t support anyone going against federal law, in Ms. Davis’ eyes she taking a stand to place God’s law over the law of man. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matt 5:11 NIV).
September 08, 2015
Prior to being arrested Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was grilled by reporters for ignoring federal laws on issuing same sex marriage licenses. One shouted, “By whose authority are you refusing to issue marriage licenses?” When she responded, “God’s authority” the reporter shot back, “Well, your God is not my god!” I see a number of similarities between this situation and the early church. Rather than simply reporting the news we have Pharisees running around posing as reporters and making themselves part of the story. “Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority” (Matt 21:23 NIV).
September 07, 2015
Prior to worship a little four year-old girl stood in the fellowship area of the church and told the pastor’s wife about a bee sting she’d gotten on the end of her finger. Her fingers were so delicate and tiny that I can only imagine how the sting must have hurt. A few feet away from the conversation the little girl’s mother prompted, “Yes … and ask her how it happened?” The child was a little timid and slow to respond so her mother answered for her, “She was petting a bumblebee.” Looking up at the pastor’s wife a half-smile crossed the little girl’s face and she nodded her head in agreement. I love this image of innocence and trust, but it caused me to consider that as an adult I’ve lost some of those qualities. When Jesus sent out the 12 disciples he said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16 NIV).
September 04, 2015
When I do an interview I ask questions that help draw out the character and personality of the interviewee. However, because I write only what they tell me, the article is based on how they view themselves. Recently a reader said of one article, “Oh that person sounds like someone I’d like to know…Right?” I had to laugh because my experience with the subject did not match his perception on himself. I’m reminded of the Lord’s critique of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt 23:27b-28 NIV).
September 03, 2015
Recently an extended family member had a baby; however, the lack of family resemblance has prompted the young father to ask for parental testing. A similar situation played out when some of Abraham’s descendants claimed God as their Father. Jesus saw that they too lacked a family resemblance and He applied a paternity test. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:42-44 NIV).
September 02, 2015
I visited a church that reveres the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. In open discussion I heard such comments as, “We are studying the Torah to make the Jews jealous. We are saying that it doesn’t just belong to Judah … it is our heritage and our right to have it too. We can, through the blood of the Lamb, keep the Torah. We are grafted in and have a part in the Torah. The Torah gives instructions on how to live; it’s guardrails on each side to keep you on the road.” I left the two hour worship service feeling depressed and wondering why anyone would want to go back under the law. Paul spoke of freedom from the law, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1 NIV).
September 01, 2015
When our church held an ice cream social and old-time singalong 10 year-old Lydia, who loves to sing, sat downcast throughout the medley of hymns. It dawned on me that although the words to the songs were displayed on the overhead, it was hard for her to join in because she didn’t know the songs. I know exactly how she feels because many of the churches I visit sing praise songs that are unfamiliar to me. On the occasion when they do sing a familiar hymn or praise song, I have an instant connection in worship, rather than simply being a bystander. The psalmist, when referring to the Babylonian captivity, taps into a similar disconnect when he says, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land” (Ps 137:1-4 NIV)?
August 31, 2015
I’ve known youth ministers who’ve used sexual situations in the Bible, particularly OT Scriptures, to shock their youth groups and give themselves a springboard to discuss sexuality. Recently I heard an older pastor doing something similar. It’s disheartening for someone to justify putting a salacious spin on a presentation by implying they are simply quoting the Bible. Those who proclaim the Word to others should follow in Paul’s example, “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2).
August 28, 2015
We just bought some new cordless phones for the house and while checking out the young sales clerk asked if we wanted to purchase an extended warranty for $39. I told her no thanks and in her sales-clerk-knows best attitude she said, “Are you sure?” No doubt corporate headquarters trained her to push for the warranty and if I had hemmed or hawed around I could understand how she might have thought I was on the fence. However, I didn’t hesitate and my enunciation of “no” was pretty clear. Jesus instructed believers that they were not to swear oaths, but I can almost hear this generation saying, “Are you sure?” Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt 5:37 NIV).
August 27, 2015
As the Ashley Madison adultery list of names is published the tentacles of sin can be seen reaching into the church. The reaction form many believers may be to wring their hands, others will dwell on the hypocrisy, and still others will formulate a biblical response and work toward forgiveness and restoring the offenders to spiritual health. However, looking at the big picture we would be remiss if we failed to praise God for this exposure of sin and the repentance that will follow. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Eph 5:11-14a NIV).
August 26, 2015
My interviewee, a man who is active on the political landscape, acknowledged that in public meetings he often asks questions for which he already knows the answer. He said, “I want the audience to be as informed as I am.” My first reaction was had a hint of indignation, but it caused me to ponder the motivation behind the questions. There are any number of reasons: to gain knowledge, show superiority, to show humility, clear up miscommunication, to inform others — and even to demonstrate your own, or another’s, strength or weakness. Jesus was a master at asking and responding to questions, however my favorite question comes from God. As applicable today as it was at creation, the Lord God still calls to man, “Where are you” (Gen 3:9 NIV)?
August 25, 2015
I’ve heard presidential candidate Donald Trump ask audiences, “Don’t you want to be rich [too]?” As I pondered his question I wondered if it might, in a strange sort of way, be motivational to those who seem to accept living off a life of entitlements. I’m trying to imagine someone asking, “Don’t you want to live off welfare for the rest of your life?” Many people in America are in generational slavery to government entitlements. While the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about physical slavery, his instructions are applicable to all types of slavery. “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor 7:21 NIV).
August 24, 2015
Last year the federal government listed the Gunnison Sage Grouse as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. I have to pause at man’s desire to put himself in the place of God and presume that we have the power to manipulate creation and be the savior of the planet — whether it be a species, the environment, or the weather. Jesus reminded us that God is still the Caregiver of creation. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matt 6:26a NIV).
August 21, 2015
My interviewee talked about how to get people on the same page and he said, “Most people identify the problem, but they are not problem solvers. The vision is the problem — reasons for differences are that everyone has a project, but they’ve never articulated a vision of where they are going.” A few years ago on the religious landscape the talk was all about the church vision and making vision statements. Leaders tried to articulate where they wanted to go, but I suspect many visions failed to came to fruition because the stated goal was not the real goal. For instance, the publically stated goal may be to “make and mature disciples,” however, the real goal in the heart of the leadership may be to build a mega-church. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD” (Proverbs 16:2 NIV).
August 20, 2015
My interviewee, a very intelligent and well-read man, told me his two favorite people of all time were Thomas Jefferson and St. Paul. He said, “Do you know what is written on Jefferson’s tomb?” I admitted that I didn’t and before he could share the famous quote I said, “But, I can tell you what the Apostle Paul wrote!” He was somewhat startled, but recovered and we both laughed. I have to admit the confidence boost I received from that brief exchange was neat. Most of us do not give ourselves enough credit for our continuing education in the Word of God. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15 NIV).
August 19, 2015
I’m being inundated in the mail and email from political hacks who want to fight Hillary Clinton. Their request is not for me to get personally invested by writing letters or making calls to Congress, but rather for me to dig into my pocketbook and make donations that will pay for producing videos, buying air time and paying lobbyists. The church is not immune to such a tactics and thought processes. On the religious landscape many believers find it easier to support another person’s vision rather than open their own eyes to the kingdom. We want organizations to feed the hungry, give someone a drink and extend an invitation. Jesus said, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you” (Matt 25:37-39 NIV)?
August 18, 2015
We know that while He hung on the cross Jesus forgave those who crucified him, but the pastor said he believed Jesus forgave those who took part in the crucifixion even before the first nail was driven, before the first stripe on his back and before the first slap. I’m now wondering what it would be like to always be in a state of forgiveness. In his model prayer Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12 NIV).
August 17, 2015
A man and a woman stood at the entrance to Wal-Mart with a cardboard sign that read, “Homeless Couple.” I wondered if I would have felt differently if the sign said, “Shelter less.” Maybe it’s a matter of semantics, but it seems like someone who is without shelter is more desperate that someone who labels themselves homeless. Spiritually speaking, those of us who accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior are never homeless. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Cor 5:1 NIV).
August 14, 2015
My kitchen window overlooks the neighbor’s grassless backyard and occasionally I’ll see two middle school aged boys using a shovel to tackle some sparsely scattered patches of weeds. Last evening while doing dishes I watched the boys stirring up dust as they rode their small bike around and around in circles. The image of a witch riding a broom flashed through my mind. Taking a closer look as they passed between a tree and a shed I realized they had tied a long handled hoe to the frame of the bike and were dragging it behind them as they circled the yard. I’m not sure they ever did connected with a weed, but they sure had fun trying. “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” (Ecc 11:9 NIV).
August 13, 2015
Bill spent last weekend in a booth helping fellow wood turners sell their creations at a local event. Some of the works of art (bowls, candlesticks, vases, and platters) were priced in the thousands. Shoppers appreciated the aesthetics of the pieces on display, while at the same time learning about the type of wood used, how segmented pieces were crafted using different types of wood, and how a live-edge on the natural wood was retained. I’m embarrassed to admit that more often than not I fail to recognize and appreciate God’s workmanship in fellow believers. Paul said, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10 NIV).
August 12, 2015
A pastor was in the middle of his series on the seven letters of Revelation and he noted that with the church in Smyrna Satan’s tactic was to work from the outside in. However, with the church in Pergamum, Satan was trying to destroy the church from within. Jesus said, “I know where you live—where Satan has his throne” (Rev 2:13 NIV). The pastor said, “The church was under tremendous pressure. You may think your city is bad, but you haven’t lived where Satan lives!” While the church itself was holding onto the name of Jesus, there were people in the congregation who were holding on the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.” Unfortunately many people today are trying so hard to be PC and inclusive that they too are allowing pagan teachings to infiltrate their thoughts and the church. The warning Jesus gave to Pergamum is applicable to us today, “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:16 NIV).
August 11, 2015
The pastor told worshippers about the importance of getting into the Word of God. “We often say it is all about love, but dive into God’s Word, find the truth.” The pastor threw out multiple passages of Scripture to support the message; however, the rapidly fired references left absolutely no time to look up the Scripture. Rather than diving into the Word with him, all we could do was float along on the surface of message. “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 1:22-24 NIV).
August 10, 2015
Yesterday I tried to attend a Baptist church that was listed in a church directory, but when I finally found the building it had been absorbed by another denomination. Thinking the Baptist had moved to another location I tried the phone number, which I discovered had been disconnected. I now have an inkling of how the Lord feels when He knocks on the door of an individual’s heart and finds no one home and no forwarding address. The Lord said to the church Laodicea, “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).
August 07, 2015
During one communion service worshippers formed a single line and stood before the reverend as he served the elements. As each person pulled a piece from the loaf of bread and dipped it into the chalice of grape juice he reminded partakers that it was the body and blood of Christ, “Take, eat and be filled.” Transitioning from communion he implied he didn’t want to appear irreverent and untraditional, but rather than neatly covering the elements with a cloth, he would leave the table as it stood. He said, “I want to leave a messy table to show that the table is always open.” I had this image of Martha trying to pull Mary out of the pew so she could help tidy up that table. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42 NIV).
August 06, 2015
For over two years a local business has tried to secure a special use permit for a gravel pit in the county. The first application was rejected and the land owner returned with a new application that addressed the previous concerns. There is at least one more public meeting to be held before a final decision is made to approve or reject the application. All the questions have been asked and answered. It’s now just a matter of each side, the business community vs the environmental community, presenting closing arguments and the county commissioners making a decision. Yesterday in a letter-to-the-editor a writer noted his objections and posed questions. He said, “Until these questions have been answered completely this application should not be approved.” I was reminded of the ruler who ask Jesus what he must do, besides keeping the commandments, to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the question and told him to sell everything he had and to give to the poor. The rich man didn’t like the answer and I always pictured this being the end of the discussion. However, I now have an image of the man going back to Jesus, or the disciples, and asking the same question over and over again. “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:22-23 NIV)!
August 05, 2015
During a church visit I sat down in the pew in front of four older ladies. Just prior to the start of the service one woman said to the others, “What happened to our other pastor?” Apparently the woman failed to get the memo that the church not only interviewed and hired a new minister, but he’d been filling the pulpit for the last four weeks. Words from the writer of Hebrews seems appropriate, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:25 NIV).
August 04, 2015
The gist of the sermon was that many believers have forgotten what it’s like to be a child and the pastor took worshippers down memory lane to help them reconnect with the kid inside. Chasing butterflies in the morning and fireflies at night; being able to play in a bedroom that is still a mess and splashing in mud puddles. He described children as spontaneous, genuine, open and vulnerable. The pastor said, “You have to take along the little child within you; not childishness, but childlikeness.” Jesus was indignant when his disciples rebuked people for bringing little children to have him touch them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14b-15 NIV).
August 03, 2015
I interviewed a former Colorado State Senator who is in a good position to compare and contrast local politics with state politics. “It seems that in our community it’s hard to disagree on issues and still be friends. In the Colorado Senate you work on issues, not personalities.” His comment struck home when an area newspaper this week reported on a disagreement between the city and the county. The chief of police, referring to the county sheriff, is quoted, “[the battle] has been hard on relationships. Rick and I had been friends up to this point.” Had been friends. Unfortunately believers are not immune from letting issues become personal. Case in point, both the chief and the sheriff are Christians — and members of the same church. The Apostle Paul said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32 NIV).
July 31, 2015
During my consultation with a nutritional/fitness professional she recommended I get a pedometer in order to understand and document my physical activity…or lack thereof. The goal she sets for her clients is to take 10,000 steps a day. I have to admit the pedometer is making me acutely aware of my sedentary life style. I can now, in a worldly sort of way, relate to the Jews who wear phylacteries strapped to the forehead and left arm as a reminder for them to keep the law. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. … Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deut 6:5-6; 8 NIV)
July 30, 2015
Yesterday at Walmart a man came up behind a woman and told her that he liked the Ephesians verse written on the back of her T-shirt and she said, “Thanks, I do too.” Assuming they were kindred spirits she then asked the man what church he attended. He shrugged his shoulders and with downcast eyes admitted he wasn’t attending anywhere at the moment. Immediately the woman went into outreach mode and told him where she worshiped. She not only invited him to church, but invited him to the Wednesday night Bible study that would be convening in a few hours. I find it fascinating that Scripture stenciled on the back of a T-shirt yields seeds for the sower. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 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” (Isa 55:11 NIV).
July 29, 2015
In an article about a local man I wrote, “John has trophy room full of stuffed animals, accolades and organizational pins representing his endeavors and volunteerism.” John appreciated the article, however he emailed me with one minor error. John good naturedly wrote, “You “stuff” a turkey and “mount” a trophy.” I really do feel bad that I unintentionally demeaned John’s trophies by relegating them to teddy bear status. Spiritually speaking God does something similar to all of man’s trophies. “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame” (Isa 44:9 NIV).
July 28, 2015
On a recent shopping trip to the metro area I was taken aback by so many young women sales clerks covered in tattoos, piercings and multicolored hair. If left unattended the piercings could eventually grow back together and the hair color grow out, but tattoos last a lifetime. I can’t help but wonder if heavily tattooed individuals won’t in some respects be trapped in an age-type time warp and mindset that they can never outgrow. Many of us like to reminisce with the music of our generation, but I can’t imagine being stuck in a certain generation with permanent clothing, hairstyles and social experimentations. “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Heb 6:1-2 NIV).