June 30, 2015
I dusted off my King James Bible (KJV) for my visit to the King James Bible Baptist Church. Right away I was told the congregation had recently voted to change the church name to Bible Baptist Church. One woman explained, “We’ve found that people turn away from the name, “King James Bible” … they won’t even come through the door.” She went on to say that the KJV remains their teaching text, but the title was simply dropped from the church name. I think her observation is correct because even I, out of respect for the church, exchanged my preferred NIV Bible for my old KJV. I also anticipated an aging group of worshippers and was surprised to find that of the 40 people in attendance there was a full spectrum of ages and the elderly were actually in the minority. It is interesting how we are defined and perceived by a name. “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26b NIV).
June 29, 2015
Every once in a while I’ll find myself in a church setting where someone makes a valuable point and another person will take the conversation in different direction basically negating the original thought. Peter did something similar with Jesus when the Lord was explaining to the disciples his path of suffering, death and resurrection. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you” (Matt 16:22 NIV)! Jesus stopped Peter in his tracks by calling him Satan (adversary), a stumbling block, and worldly. Not only did Peter miss the point of what Jesus was saying, he also missed the point that he was still the student and not the Teacher.
June 26, 2015
During a portion of Sunday school class the discussion turned to the recent South Carolina church killings and the man responsible, who purportedly went from being normal to becoming raciest in a relatively short time. One man in the group said, “It’s scary that people can change so fast.” I recalled Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and I can imagine Ananias had a similar thought. One minute Saul was persecuting the saints in Jerusalem and the next minute both Ananias and Saul had a change of heart. Ananias said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17 NIV).
June 25, 2015
A recent newspaper editorial criticized the community for their “lackluster” involvement in the process of searching for a new school district superintendent. Fifty people in the community have been involved in meetings and 22 applied to serve on a search committee, which could only accommodate 16 members. It begs the question of exactly how many involved citizens there needs to be in order to satisfy participation standards of the newspaper editorial staff — 75, 100, 150? I’m reminded of Abraham pleading with God for Sodom and asking how many righteous people there needed to be in order for God to spare Sodom — 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. It’s curious that man feels numbers somehow validate him and his opinions.
June 24, 2015
I’m writing a series of articles titled, “Lightning Rods” where I interview people in the community who spark conversations. One outspoken government watchdog-type man declined my request for an interview with a curt, “I’m not interested.” Okay, let me get this straight. You can spew all manner of accusations in public meetings, be quoted in the local newspaper and yet refuse to give the community any personal background information, or reveal your credentials. Paul cautioned that even we in the church are not immune to such deception, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:10-11 NIV).
June 23, 2015
ABC’s news 20/20 reported on a recently released documentary film, “The Wolfpak.” The film is about a family of nine imprisoned by their father in a NYC apartment. The paranoid man, who had the only key to the apartment, kept his family locked away for 14 years. In the cultish environment the children were home schooled by their mother and entertainment came through watching countless movies. One day the oldest boy escaped the apartment and the captivity ended. What I find astonishing is that the father was not employed and his lifestyle of imprisoning his wife and seven children was made possible through welfare and public housing. Paul warned of idleness, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess 3:10 NIV).
June 22, 2015
K-9 police dogs are being used in the Vermont manhunt for two escaped New York convicts. During one television news segment a woman anchor remarked she was glad the dogs were on the job and doing, “their due diligence.” Misnomers are often bestowed on Christians too — sinless, judgmental, hypocritical, timid, intolerant. Unfortunately many of us buy into such descriptions. To help with our identity in Christ I think a good exercise would be to ask the Lord the same question that He ask Peter, “[Jesus,] Who do you say I am? (Mark 8:29b NIV).
June 19, 2015
When a pastor retires, or is relieved of his duties, he often finds a different place to worship out of respect for the incoming pastor and the congregation. It’s difficult for a congregation, who may feel loyalty toward the old pastor, to fully support the new preacher. During one of my church visits the new preacher, who is around 50 years old, has served the church for only a year. Of the 10 people in the service, one was the former pastor, a man in his 80’s who had filled the same pulpit for 38 years. I don’t know the leadership dynamics of the church; however, I felt a definite patriarchal vibe when I was introduced to the former pastor. I’m trying to imagine Timothy never getting out from under the tutorship of Paul, or Aaron entering the Promised Land and staying in the shadow of Moses.
June 18, 2015
I’m interviewing opinionated people who have a strong presence in the community. Each interviewee has commented that they don’t speak up before doing their research and having all the facts because they don’t want to “embarrass themselves.” I suspect that same reasoning can be found in people of faith. When we are biblically unsure of ourselves we remain silent for fear embarrassment. Paul’s charge to Timothy applies not only to those in church leadership roles, but to each of us as well. “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).
June 17, 2015
The head of the Spokane NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, identifies herself as African-American and she even produced a photograph next to an older black man claiming him as her father. However her biological parents, who are both Caucasian, have just exposed her deception. It’s interesting that she rejected her white biological father and, because of the lies and deception, it appears that she has also rejected her Heavenly Father. “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 8:44 NIV).
June 16, 2015
It’s not unusual for locals to complain about people moving into our area who then want to change the community so that it resembles the place they moved away from. During the interviews I’ve been conducting I discovered that retirees who move here arrive with a void in their life and join organizations in order to connect to their new home. These organizations, in an effort to get the transplants involved, suggest they serve on this or that committee, run for a board position, or better yet, run for elected office. One man said, “I didn’t really want to run for county commissioner, but they talked me into it.” I’m now wondering if we in the church don’t do something similar when try to get new people plugged into fellowship, and even encourage them to run for the position of deacon, or elder. Paul warned the Ephesians to be on guard, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30 NIV).
June 15, 2015
While my kids are on vacation I’ve been dog sitting. Most of last week it rained and one torrential downpour lasted over six hours. When it finally cleared enough to get out of the house to walk the dog, I stepped across gutters that continued to run full, walked past a prairie dog colony where one drenched dog sounded a soggy alarm, and watched robins plucked drowned worms off the sidewalk. “He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call” (Ps 147:8-9 NIV).
June 12, 2015
I visited a church where the pastor explained their low attendance by telling me of the congregation’s former glory. Some years back people left his congregation and established two other churches. I had the distinct feeling that being the original church from which the two others were derived, even though they weren’t planted by the founding church, was an important credential. I’m reminded of the Exodus and the Hebrew children arriving at the Dessert of Sin were they had freedom from slavery, but all they could do was remember the past and the greatness of Egypt. “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death”” (Ex 16:2-3 NIV).
June 11, 2015
I’m visiting quite a few churches whose attendance is low and their demographic elderly. It goes without saying that the tithes and offerings are also low and the membership is not physical able to take care of the facility's upkeep. I’m wondering if the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” is applicable (Luke 10:30-37). Some wealthy congregations and mega-churches might easily be identified as the priest and the Levite who, when they came upon the man that had been beaten and robbed, walked to the other side of the road and passed by. The Samaritan traveler on the other hand took pity on the man, bandaged his wounds, transported him to an inn to be cared for — and the Samaritan even footed the bill. Jesus said, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”” (Luke 10:36-37 NV).
June 10, 2015
When I'm in a dilemma I call on the Lord and ask those around me for help, but it never really crosses my mind that someone or something has already been sent out ahead of me. Those someone’s and some things going ahead of us come in various sizes and forms — the Lord, an angel, a star, a messenger, John the Baptist, a servant, the ark of the covenant, a hornet (Jo 24:12). While it is comforting to know the Lord walks with me, I’ve completely missed the point that He walks ahead of me in the present … as well as in eternity. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 NIV).
June 09, 2015
A hospital complex in a neighboring community has a winding driveway and in less than one city block there are five speed bumps and four stop signs. I understand the need for drivers to go slow and watch for pedestrians, but none of these obstacles are near the marked crosswalk. My frustration was tempered once I realized that the driveway leading to the southern entrance of the facility has no speed bumps or stop signs. Unfortunately many of us forget that there are ways for us to get around spiritual obstacles as well. Paul said, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people” (Ro 16:17 NIV).
June 08, 2015
In tabloid mode, the media is in a frenzy over recently revealed molestation charges against 27 year-old Josh Duggar, concerning events which took place in 2002-2003. The Duggar family, who are Christian and star in a conservative TV reality show, are now feeling the fallout from Josh’s actions as a teenager. When analyzing what is transpiring many believers will look for Satan’s fingerprints on the exposure and think this is an attack on Christianity. The reality is that God often exposes past sins in order to bring us to repentance; case in point David and Bathsheba. I suspect there will be a rippling effect associated with the Duggar situation. Others, who’ve also had teenage indiscretions in their past, can’t be too confident or comfortable that their actions will remain concealed. “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Cor 4:5 NIV).
June 05, 2015
I found a source that credits the “Three Stooges” (1941) for the line, “If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it.” Unfortunately in today’s society we have taken that idea to heart and we don’t give advice unless someone first asks us for it. Although a few people asked Jesus for advice, more often than not he offered unsolicited advice, and he did so without hesitation of how it would be received. For many of us, receiving unsolicited advice is similar to planting a seed — somethings just need time to germinate. The writer of Proverbs said, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Pro 12:15 NIV).
June 04, 2015
The last few days I’ve had email conversations with a public relations (PR) person for an organization. Twice she patted me on the head, assured me all is well and sent me on my way with my questions still unanswered. It’s curious to me that a PR person would engage in a condescending attitude, particularly in this day of social media. However, even we believers forget that our bad attitude and actions are not overlooked, nor do they remain closeted away. “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:13-14 NIV).
June 03, 2015
Bruce Jenner’s transformation from a man to a woman is all over the news, so I was somewhat perplexed when the friend of a friend posted a comment on Facebook and included Jenner’s glamor shots. I don’t have an issue with the man’s posted comments, but why he would propagate the photographs by adding them to his own Facebook post is beyond me. According to Jesus, disciples are to be childlike [trusting]. We don’t need such material delivered to our inbox, particularly by others who purport to be people of faith. Jesus takes a dim view of those who cause believers to sin. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt 18:6 NIV).
June 02, 2015
In many churches I’ve visited the membership has splintered and some people have moved on to plant one or more additional churches. I can view this as God’s kingdom growing, but I’m struck by the church that is left behind. It reminds me of a hermit crab that needs a bigger shell in order to grow, but in the process he leaves his old, empty shell behind. Churches with an attendance of under 10 are a shadow and a shell of their former selves. This is not to say that the message, music and the Spirit are no longer in these churches, but the members themselves are often downcast and burdened with being caregivers of a large facility with few volunteers. In some cases the bulk of the members are in their 80’s and physically unable to clean the building or maintain the yard. During announcements one pastor, who is himself disabled, reported he sprayed the weeds and will start pulling them in hopes of getting the yard in better shape. I gave pause at his offertory prayer, “Father we are just grateful that our utilities are low.”
June 01, 2015
I visited a charismatic congregation that, because of low attendance, was somewhat lacking in charisma. There were 11 of us present and while there were a few head-nods of agreement during the music and sermon, only one woman occasionally raised her hands in worship. However, throughout the service this same woman repeatedly said, “Halleluiah. Halleluiah. Halleluiah. Praise you Jesus. Praise you Lord. Thank you Jesus. Glory to God.” I didn’t find her interjections intrusive during the sermon, but I did find them distracting when she continually punctuated the pastor’s public prayer. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by using the example of the Lord’s Prayer, so as an experiment read this model prayer inserting, “Halleluiah, Praise you Jesus, Praise you Lord, Thank you Jesus, Glory to God.” For me the extemporaneous expressions drown out the meaning of the prayer.