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)?