April 30, 2015
One church I attended is located in a rented space that has full length mirrors covering one wall; think mirrors in a fitness center, or a dance studio. Attendees were seated facing the mirrors so when charismatic expressions of worship began everyone in the room could actually see the frontal view of all worshippers reflected in the mirrors — hands raised, feet dancing, bodies swaying, and faces filled with joy and reverence. I’ve not yet collected all my thoughts on the experience; however, I have to laugh when I imagine a traditional or a liturgical church service with worshippers sitting in front a wall of full length mirrors. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever–increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18 NIV).
April 29, 2015
We had the grandkids for a sleepover on Friday night and I used a Subway coupon, three foot long subs for $12.00, to buy supper. Bill and I split one sandwich, 11 year-old David ate a whole sandwich and nine year-old Lydia ate half a sandwich. After church on Sunday I planned on leftovers for lunch, but when I went to the refrigerator for the remaining ½ a sub sandwich, it was gone. Apparently Lydia and I had both mentally laid claim to the sandwich, but her church gets out earlier than mine, so she beat me to the sandwich. Obviously Lydia and I should take a lesson from the early church. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32 NIV).
April 28, 2015
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue of gay marriage and across America churches united in prayer over the upcoming decision. In the church I visited on Sunday one woman prayed publically, “Father, we pray that you will put the fear of God in the Supreme Court. Reveal to the Supremes that it is You who have Supremacy.” We all know people who do not fear God, but it never occurred to me that I could pray for someone to be filled with the fear of God. “The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23 NIV).
April 27, 2015
I attended a meeting where a group of homeowners opposed a company that wants to build a gravel pit. One of the biggest issues addressed was the state highway ingress and egress, and one woman said, “Colorado Department of Transportation standards for safety are not the same as ours.” As I listened to more than 25 speakers representing the environmentally focused homeowners I began to realize that their “standards,” everything from air pollution to endangered species, were higher than all federal, state and county regulations. I suspect people of faith are guilty of the same attitude. God gave us his standard in Scripture and then we, as individuals or denominations, come along with what we believe to be a higher standard. When some Pharisees wanted to impose circumcision on the Gentiles Peter said, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:10-11 NIV).
April 24, 2015
My friend, an avid reader, accepts everything she reads at face value. At the opposite end of the spectrum I recently did an interview with another woman, also an avid reader, who questions everything she reads. I’m sorry to say that in the majority of the churches I’ve visited, most worshippers are like my friend — they accept everything they hear and take it at face value. It’s not unusual for me to attend a church and be the only one in the room with a Bible verifying the Scripture that is being used. Granted, some worshippers may go home and examine the Scripture more closely. However, I have to believe that if every person in the auditorium turned the pages of their Bible and followed along with the preacher as he gave his sermon the quality of sermons would greatly improve. Paul certainly found himself under such scrutiny, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
April 23, 2015
When TV media replays 911 calls it’s interesting that many people in an emergency situation don’t know where they are and are unable to give the operator a location. Recently a baggage handler found himself in a similar situation when fell asleep on the job while in the cargo hold of an airplane and awoke to find the airplane had taken off. It’s not unusual to hear people who are unsure about their spiritual location to have similar comments. With hesitation they say, “I hope I’m going to heaven. I think I’m saved. I feel I’ll see my loved ones again.” My heart goes out to those who can’t grasp the assurance of salvation. The writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1 NIV).
April 22, 2015
One of the lessons on the DVD series used in my adult Sunday school class focused on the importance of loving one another. The speaker stressed the fact that people will not feel loved if they feel condemned. While I understand what he is trying to say, I’m wondering if the church should be putting more emphasis on condemnation. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 NIV).
April 21, 2015
My sister-in-law is an insular person and has always kept our side of the family at arm’s length — so much so that in 34 years of marriage I’ve never been in her home. It wasn’t until the last six weeks, because my brother-in-law (Ray) was on home hospice care, that an invitation to visit was even extended. Ray passed away a few days ago and now I’m at a loss on how to comfort someone who has limited our relationship to a line in the family tree ancestry book. In the weeks and months to come it will be interesting to see if my sister-in-law tries to break out from her self-imposed estrangement. I’ve always struggled with the “Parable of the Shewed Manager,” but it may be applicable in this situation. The master commended the dishonest manager for shrewdly ingratiating himself to people so when he inevitably lost everything, others would welcome him into their homes. Jesus is speaking to believers when he says, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9 NIV).
April 20, 2015
My brother-in-law passed away Saturday and his Facebook page, although currently active, will soon be closed. It’s been interesting to read the short RIP posts and see Ray through the eyes of others. Shelly, Ray’s step-daughter from a marriage that ended in divorce many years ago, wrote, “Enjoy Heaven. Glad you were my dad for a few years.” In today’s society where fathers go in and out of the lives of children, it’s touching to know that even if a man is not a “forever dad,” he can still impact a child’s life. The fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12 NIV).
April 17, 2015
I’ve been writing and publishing stories on visiting local churches since July of 2014, but I’ve thought it curious that there has been very little feedback, either positive or negative, from the pastors of those churches. This last week I gained some understanding when a friend reveled his church was mad that I’d written about their lack of greeting visitors. However, he went on to say, “But they’ve made some changes [in greeting], so apparently they needed to hear what you had to say.” I sympathize with their prickly feelings. I hate it when I’ve been remiss in some area of life and someone reveals it to me before I see it for myself. “Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12 NIV).
April 16, 2015
I visited a church where the pastor’s wife described their fellowship as a “Full Gospel” church. The Full Gospel movement is associated with Pentecostalism and they believe the activity of the Holy Spirit in the early church (healing, talking in tongues and miracles) is still taking place today. I find it curious that these folks feel they are preaching and practicing the full gospel, but yet when they spoke in tongues they talked over one another, there was no interpreter and I could not understand a word that was said. “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God” (1 Cor 14:27-28 NIV).
April 15, 2015
Not so fast. For the third time I’ve come across photos in the newspaper, or on a flyer, that have been obviously photo-shopped. I’ve seen headshots of politicians that have been distorted to make them appear clownish and dimwitted and landscapes that are manipulated by activists to show environmental damage that comes from their imagination. I understand people removing a zit and adjusting the shading in photo; however, to doctor a photo for manipulation of the truth makes the photo a lie. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior” (Psalm 24:4-5 NIV).
April 14, 2015
Recently I took a writing assignment and when I called to set up an appointment for the interview the woman, a fellow believer, seemed overcome with relief. “You’re an answer to prayer!” It was then I who felt overcome. I know that during my life I’ve been a blessing to others, but I don’t ever remember being described as answer to prayer. “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29 NIV).
April 13, 2015
I visited a church where an older woman had the honor of reading Scripture. Her version differed from my NIV so in casual conversation after the service I complimented on her reading of the Word and then asked which version she used. “Oh, it’s the New St. James Version. I read the NIV at home, but when I read at church I come early to practice because it’s a different version.” I really didn’t think her denomination had their own Bible, so I asked again about the version and sure enough she said it was the, “New St. James.” When I got home an online search revealed no such Bible version and I finally deduced that my new friend had inadvertently elevated King James to sainthood.
April 10, 2015
Earlier this week our county commissioners re-implemented having a time of prayer prior to their meetings. The newspaper reporter covering the meeting chose not to report on the entire meeting, but instead wrote only about the issue of prayer. While half of her article was about the commissioner’s reasoning for implementing prayer, the other half revisited the long historical debate over prayer, citing different courts and the appeals. Even though a 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court settled the issue to allow prayer, the reporter highlighted the dissenting view of liberal Justice Kagan. Rather than simply reporting local news, the reporter went to great effort to arm those who may object to prayer with ammunition to attack the commissioner’s decision and in essence, lay the groundwork for controversy. Whether in society, or in the church, Paul’s warning is applicable. “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self–condemned” (Titus 3:9-11 NIV).
April 09, 2015
A few months ago I listened as a politician publically accused a constituent of being disingenuous. Since it’s not part of my normal vocabulary, I checked out Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary who defined disingenuous as, “Not truly honest or sincere; giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere.” I suspect that had the politician used a more familiar vocabulary (liar, insincere, two-faced, or hypocrite) the accusation would have been challenged by either the constituent himself, or someone in the audience. In this instance the politician got away with his derogatory characterization. Referring to the wicked and evildoers the Psalter said, “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear” (Psalm 64: 3-4 IV).
April 08, 2015
During a recent church service the pastor offered seven different prayers throughout the service and I was surprised by their depth, insight and conviction. Each of the prayers had the composition of a mini sermon and the content was sermon worthy. I was so enamored with the prayers that it took me awhile to realize the prayers really were directed toward the hearts of the audience, rather than toward the heart of God. “But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NIV).
April 07, 2015
April 06, 2015
One day after worship services I overheard one couple inviting another to lunch on the spur of the moment. I was reminded that years ago it was the norm for folks to invite a visitor home for Sunday dinner. It may have appeared to be a spontaneous fellowship effort, but the reality was families planned ahead for the noon meal including putting extra food in the crockpot so they could invite a guest home for lunch. Sadly many of us today don’t plan our Sunday as a day of rest, worship and fellowship. Instead we schedule a couple hours for Sunday worship and our after-church plans include grabbing a quick bite, laundry, yard work, naps and television sports. It’s amazing how far we’ve drifted from the example of the early church's extended worship session. “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight” (Acts 20:7 NIV).
April 03, 2015
A column in a local newspaper titled “You Said It” allows readers to write in and share brief thoughts on activities and observances in the community. Often a writer will comment on the stranger who picked up their tab for groceries, or the anonymous person who paid for their meal at a restaurant. In publically thanking their anonymous benefactor the writer-recipient invariably adds the caveat that they will pay-it-forward by showing the same generosity to another. It strikes me as curious that it’s only when a stranger does a kindness that you hear of people paying-it-forward. I’m now wondering if we sometimes take the kindness shown to us by fellow believers for granted. Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV).
April 02, 2015
As I interview women for a series of articles on leadership I’m seeing a pattern of leadership that starts during a child’s middle-school years with sports, band, or youth groups. Many interviewees point to one person who recognized their characteristics of dependability and responsibility and put them in positions of leadership. I find it ironic that now as adults many of us, even in the church, no longer feel like leaders and we’re looking for mentors, classes and books to help rebuild our leadership skill set. The writer of Hebrews said, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7 NIV).
April 01, 2015
The Republican Party hosted an “Open Mic” session to give the community an opportunity to speak about issues, activities and concerns. Even though I attended as a reporter, the audience didn’t recognize me as such and they were unabashed with their comments. I suspect some people were uncomfortable when they read their own words quoted in the published article. Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3 NIV).