May 29, 2015
A recent offertory meditation given at a local church began, “Less than a third of the people in the church tithe. One tenth of what you make is holy money and it belongs not to you, but to God. Anyone who withholds his tithe is stealing from God.” The speaker was passionate, but I’m just not convinced that we can steal from God. Even Ananias and Sapphira, who held back funds, were not charged with stealing, but rather with lying to the Holy Spirit. In exposing the less than honest contribution Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4 NIV).
May 28, 2015
A standard question I use when doing interviews is, “Do you think you are respected in the community?” More often than not people respond with, “I think I am, or I’d like to think I am.” One man, who didn’t follow the norm said, “That’s really not important to me.” Believers are often told to give respect others. However, we are also to strive to be respected, both inside and outside of the church. Paul said, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thess 4:11-12 NIV).
May 27, 2015
Years ago my dad was living in another town when he passed away. He had very little in the way of possessions, but as I sorted through his things my uncle and a cousin came to me and said that my dad promised them his guns. I had no way of knowing if their claim was true, but I gave them the guns, which left me with the bitter taste of doubt. I thought of Peter’s confession of Christ and how important it was that the disciples were gathered around when Jesus told Peter he would be given keys to the kingdom of heaven. Had they not heard the Lord’s proclamation with their own ears I can imagine them saying, “Yeah right … Jesus promise you what?” Jesus said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:18-19 NIV).
May 26, 2015
When I delete something on my computer it goes into the trash and then the computer synchronizes the trash. I don’t get it. I suppose there could be some sort of computer dumpster in the cloud that requires my trash to be organized. Thank goodness God doesn’t synchronize our sins. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25 NIV).
May 25, 2015
In the Parable of the Sower some seed fell along the path where the birds came and ate it up. Jesus explained the parable, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matt 13:19 NIV). I’d not contemplated how the evil one snatches away the message about the kingdom until recently. After listening to a spiritually thought provoking presentation, the MC of the event took over to close out the session and in a matter of a couple of minutes she completely redirected my thoughts. Just as quickly as a bird snatches seed from a path, she turned what had the potential to be a heart convicting moment into a worldly evaluation exercise.
May 22, 2015
I’ve visited four different Pentecostal churches and one commonality seems to be that it is the women and girls who display an outward manifestation of being spirit filled — dancing, arms swaying, hands lifted and in some instances talking in tongues. These churches often reference Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12). For me, as a visitor, a dichotomy arises when two chapters later Paul gives instructions on orderly worship, “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Cor 14:33b-35 NIV).
May 21, 2015
I interviewed a successful business woman whose approach to higher education is to take specific classes that pertain to areas where she is lacking. Early in our Christian walk most of do something similar and work on our weaknesses — prayer, forgiveness, turning the other cheek. However, it seems that once we have a pretty good grasp on Christianity we spend more time identifying and strengthening our gifts, rather than working on areas of spiritual weakness. James says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:4-5 NIV).
May 20, 2015
In my visit to a charismatic church one of the leaders shook my hand in greeting and said he hoped my worship would be Spirit filled. I responded with something akin to knowing the Spirit was in this place. With a bit of an authoritative air he said, “But we want the Spirit to be in you.” Well now, not exactly the evangelistic outreach I expected. Certainly the Spirit of God dwells within a believer, but He also makes His presence known and felt in the collective. Jesus assured believers, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:19 20 NIV).
May 19, 2015
The Parable of the Sower uses four different soil types to illustrate the understanding of people who hear God’s Word when it is presented — a path where birds eat the seed, rocky places with shallow soil, among thorns which choked the plants, and good soil which produces a healthy crop. It occurs to me that these soil samples can change from bad to good; and unfortunately good to bad. Applying the parable to sowing seeds in a nation, I see that America began as good soil, “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matt 13:8 NIV). However, today our US soil is a mixture of weeds and thorns, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matt 13:22 NIV).
May 18, 2015
I’ve visited a few churches that have gone well beyond a two-hour worship service. I suspect that leaders/preachers were caught up in their own presentation and lost track of time, or they were extending the service in order to garner a spiritual experience for the worshippers. Whatever the reason, they seem oblivious to the fact that they no longer held the attention of some in the audience. Recently during a sermon about “worshiping in spirit and in truth” some attendees simply got up and left, and I eventually followed suit. It is somewhat difficult to focus on the church's idea of worship when your stomach is growling, you’re late to meet others for lunch, or you need a bathroom break. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV).
May 15, 2015
As genetics go, it’s possible that I have another 20 years left in this earthly body. In our retirement years it might be interesting if we were to ask ourselves that familiar question we heard when we graduated from high school, “So, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?” Many of us don’t have future plans in the forefront of our mind and rather than being in the race we’re sitting on a cushion in the bleachers. Paul said, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14 NIV).
May 14, 2015
Elm seeds piled up in the threshold of my front door, but unfortunately the only place I could sweep them to was the gravel driveway, the lawn, or the flower bed — all three places a welcoming habitat because elm seeds will grow anywhere, even in the crack of a sidewalk. I thought about the parable of the sower. The farmer sowed seed and birds ate some of the seed on the path, but other seed fell on rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil. I just realized that I’ve always been so focused on the landscape, that I’ve overlooked the seed itself. The seed, which is “the message of the kingdom,” will struggle to grow and survive regardless of the environment it falls into. (Matt 13:16-23 NIV).
May 13, 2015
I heard from a fellow writer/journalist who said, “We comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, which is what we are supposed to be doing!” Such a job description is not only reminiscent of Jesus, but applicable to all believers as well. People of faith do very well at comforting the afflicted, but when it comes to afflicting the comfortable with truth we turn the responsibility over to the preacher, the elders, or the Bible. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph 4:5 NIV).
May 12, 2015
Recently I went to an “invitation only” event. A man who was not on the list of attendees, made the situation awkward for organizers when he tried to bully his way into the event. He was turned away, but rather than simply leaving, he defiantly hung around outside the gate. My thoughts turned to the return of Christ. John wrote, “Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God” (Rev 19:9 NIV).
May 11, 2015
There are a variety of competitive cooking shows on the Food Network and some require contestants to uses selected ingredients for their dish. The show “Chopped” is comprised of three rounds (appetizer, entrée and dessert) and for each round contestants have a mystery basket of four items which they must incorporate in their dish. It’s not unusual for participants to take something out of their basket and say, “What am I going to do with this? I don’t even know what this is.” I’m wondering if the Lord doesn’t sometimes present us with a mystery basket of evangelistic tools. I can picture opening a basket containing obedience, grace, mercy and repentance and then giving me 30 minutes to combine these ingredients into something that tastes good to an unbeliever. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV).
May 08, 2015
I’d written an editorial and accidently put it in the wrong computer file folder. When I then tried to drag it to the correct folder it disappeared. I searched everywhere and finally called my daughter for help. Leslie suggested we do a video chat on our cell phones which would allow me to point the camera at my computer and she could look at my files in real time. However, nothing she suggested worked. I’d given up all hope and knew I’d have to reconstruct the document when Bill started poking around on my computer and found it in an obscure folder with an extension on the original file name. I immediately put on the persona of the woman in the parable of the lost coin and called my family to rejoice with me in finding the lost document. I now have a new found appreciation for heavenly rejoicing. Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 NIV).
May 07, 2015
Our City Council just voted to add a $ .25 monthly “fee” to every resident’s sewer bill. Their reasoning is to establish a fund to help offset expenses for residents who have a sewer backup that is not the fault of the city. Interestingly the income generated for the fund will be just under $20,000 a year, which is a hefty pot of money. Similar to the tax collectors in Jesus’ day, the Caesars of the world make up taxes and fees at will. However, Jesus never said taxes must be justifiable, but simply that we are to pay taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt 22:21 NIV).
May 06, 2015
Every once in a while I’ll have a physical issue that I suffer with for months — a strained muscle, an outbreak of eczema, bursitis. Often I’m caught off guard when all of the sudden I realize that my ailment is gone. Unlike Jesus healing the paralytic, the blind and the demon possessed, I’m not aware of exactly when the pain stopped, so I feel guilty for not acknowledging answered prayers. The story of Jesus healing 10 men of leprosy helped me realize it’s never too late to return to the Lord in thanksgiving. Jesus sent the leprous men to the priests and as they went they were healed. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16 NIV).
May 05, 2015
When I visited one liturgical church I found it so fast paced and choreographed that I had no time to look up the Scripture text in my Bible and follow along. There were no overhead projectors displaying the passages of Scripture and I found it somewhat disconcerting to listen to a sermon that lacked documentation, reference and foundation. However, no one in the congregation carried a Bible and they seemed content to just listen to the message as it was presented. The image of Paul addressing the Corinthians came to mind, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Cor 3:2 NIV).
May 04, 2015
A few weeks ago I attempted a visit to a Baptist church, but when I walked in the small congregation was holding a business meeting. They were in turmoil because their pastor had either abruptly resigned, or had been fired. Last Sunday I went back for a re-visit, knowing they were still most likely in pastor-search mode. However, when I arrived at the church I was greeted by a sign on the door that said, “Sorry No Services Today.” There is no way of knowing what is happening in congregation. However, the lack of any type of simple service, either a Bible study, Sunday school, or prayer meeting, speaks volumes about their leadership overlooking the need for assembly in spite of their loss. After the crucifixion Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and once the Lord revealed himself to them they went immediately to Jerusalem. The disciples had abruptly lost their Rabbi and yet, “…There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:33b-34 NIV).
May 01, 2015
A recent newspaper article reported that Mormon missionaries are now going to spend more time trying to “reconvert” people who strayed. The thought is to put more focus on retention and reactivation, rather than on conversion. For followers of Christ such an idea would compromise the Great Commission, which is to make disciples for Christ. To re-make or reactivate wayward disciples benefits the church, but making disciples benefits the Lord. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20a NIV).