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).