October 30, 2015
My friend is a self-proclaimed Christian Feminist who considers herself de-churched because of what she sees as inequality in the church between men and women. With rapid fire justifications she defended her position and I couldn’t tell if she wanted endorsement, acceptance or debate. I give credit to the Spirit to help me jump over the worldly controversy and look beyond positions on earth. When our focus is on the end game of salvation and eternal life, there is no inequality. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
October 29, 2015
Years ago I knew a youth minister who impressed upon students that once you accept Jesus as your Savior you have the indwelling presence of the Spirit. The Spirit then reads what you read and goes where you go. Illustrating his point the minister said that if you view pornographic material, watch X-rated movies, or go to a weekend beer bust, then you’ve taken the Spirit along with you. I’m now contemplating how the Spirit feels as He and I attend different worship services of all sizes, shapes and denominations. It occurs to me that He might be edified, grieved, or even bored. Just as the Spirit spoke to each of the seven churches in Revelation, he speaks also to my church today, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:29 NIV).
October 28, 2015
Without introduction the speaker/preacher stood behind the podium and told of his fear and uneasiness about speaking in front of a group with whom he was not well acquainted. Beginning his message he recounted telling his wife he would, “…build a message when I get up there to the podium. God will expand on the Scriptures that have touched me, He [God] wants to move me along, move us forward.” I continue to be amazed at how often I hear speakers tell their audience that they are relying on the Spirit to put the finishing touches on their message. Some of these men may be confusing sermon preparation with words that are needed when one is under persecution. Jesus said to the Twelve, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt 10:19-20 NIV).
October 27, 2015
In doing a follow-up on a story a government employee got a little defensive at my simple question. While he answered my question there was a hint of indignation and he suggested I take any further inquiry to someone else. Even though I know the employee as a fellow believer, it didn’t keep him from having a worldly reaction to the situation. The Genesis account of the Fall of Man came to mind and I heard God asking simple questions — “Where are you?” “What is this you have done?” Although Adam answered, he implied further questions should go to Eve. Likewise, Eve answered God, but implied further questions should be directed to the serpent. Unfortunately even people of faith sometimes look around for a serpent when we don’t want to fully answer a question.
October 26, 2015
Children often pester, poke and shove each another just to see what they can get away with. Believers deal with something similar when people in our lives try to force us to embrace homosexuality, turn a blind eye to abortion, and accept that all paths lead to god. These folks want to wear us down with their arguments, but in reality they are not simply needling us, they are poking God. Paul makes an apt description of such people. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ro 3:18 NIV).
October 23, 2015
A number of churches have their adult Sunday school class prior to the worship service. I’m surprised by how often the Sunday school lesson then becomes the opening segment of the worship service. This is a common precursor in my own church and only recently have I realized how disconnecting it is for those coming in just for the worship service. During one of my recent church visits I felt completely left out when the pastor spent 10 minutes doing a recap of the Sunday school class to which I had not attended. Think of attending an English class where the teacher spends the first 10 minutes recapping his previous Algebra class.
October 22, 2015
It’s not unusual in an obituary to read that someone battled cancer for either a short, or long time. For 17 years Bill has had prostate cancer that metastasized to the bone. While he deals with it as a progressive disease, I’m not sure either of us would classify the life experience as a battle. To me a battle is all consuming and cancer has not consumed our lives. Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12 NIV).
October 21, 2015
An anonymous family in the church is going through a difficult time and a specific request went out for help with food, diapers and grocery store gift cards. As so often happens, our benevolent mind jumps over the stated need and races to what we have that that we can offer…clothes, cash, toys. I’m reminded of the poor widow who put two small copper coins in the temple treasury. Jesus could have asked the widow what she needed, or even ask the disciples what they thought she needed — food, money, caregivers, or another husband. However, in order to teach a spiritual lesson Jesus went beyond the obvious physical needs and looked at the widow’s heart. “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44 NIV).
October 20, 2015
No one would deny that there are many different parts in the body of Christ. However, when it comes to placement of those parts, church leadership often takes it upon themselves to determine where they want those parts to function. If believers are allowed to participate in the body only as leaders determine, we may start looking more like Frankenstein than the Bride. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor 12:24b-25 NIV).
October 19, 2015
When a group goes out to a sit down restaurant it’s not unusual for one person to pay the bill and for another person to offer to leave the tip. Regardless of the size of tip left, there are times when someone in the group will leave a few dollars more on the table. It’s not like they offer to help with the tip, they just add to the amount already left. The person who volunteered to leave the tip in the first place is put in an awkward and uncomfortable position. He can’t tell if they think the tip is inadequate, if they are trying to trump the tip by being more generous, or if they think they are better judge of service than anyone else. Believers are to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12 NIV).
October 16, 2015
Minutes of a meeting, once they are approved, become an official record. I recently attended a meeting where some of the trustees of the organization approve minutes of a previous meeting which they had not attended. One woman said, “I can’t make a motion because I haven’t even read the minutes.” All of the trustees voted to approve the minutes and in essence their lackadaisical attitude qualifies as giving false testimony. The psalmist said, “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies” (Proverbs 12:17 NIV).
October 15, 2015
I like to watch crime drama TV shows, but find them frustrating when investigators at the crime scene look for evidence with a small high-beamed flashlight. I want them to turn up the lights so I can see the whole area and any clues that may be in the shadows. It occurs to me that when witnessing to unbelievers many of us are like investigators — we put a beam of light on select characteristics of Jesus like love and forgiveness; while we leave obedience and repentance in the shadows. Jesus, the light of the world, said, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open” (Mark 4:21-22 NIV).
October 14, 2015
On the local level a controversial article published online received very few comments, but generated well over 700 separate views on the first day of publication. It appears that many people are interested in the topic, but they don’t weigh in because they don’t want others to know they are interested. I’m reminded of Zacchaeus, who climb a sycamore fig tree and peered through the leaves hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus. Zacchaeus would never have revealed himself had the Lord not looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5b NIV). So often we believers are satisfied to simply peer through the leaves of a tree rather than coming down and letting our position be known to others.
October 13, 2015
I’ve attended a fair number of churches that use the auditorium for the adult Sunday school class prior to the worship service. Consequently, I’ve found myself standing alone in the foyer for 10-15 minutes waiting for the class to dismiss. I understand utilizing the facility space, but what I don’t understand is the lack of accommodations for visitors. My sense is that many of these churches simply don’t expect uninvited visitors. Jesus sent the 12 apostles out into towns and villages where they were not known with the caveat, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matt 10:14 NIV). I can’t help but wonder how many visitors dust off their shoes as they exit our churches simply because they were not welcomed.
October 12, 2015
I’m seeing a pattern of speakers and preachers going to the podium with unprepared messages. However, what is even more troubling than their being unprepared is that they are putting the blame on the Lord. Time after time I’m hearing ministers of the Gospel say, “I had another message prepared, but at the last minute the Lord told me He wanted me to share a different message with you.” Certainly the Lord can on short notice redirect a preacher’s sermon topic, but one would think if the Lord did so, He would also supply the cohesiveness needed for the new topic…and that the new message would be timely, impactful and Spirit filled. Paul gave Timothy this charge: “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).
October 09, 2015
In doing research for an article I had to scrutinize the official minutes of an organization. For a special meeting the president of the trustees set the agenda, but one member simply didn’t attend because she felt “…the topic presented to her,” was a job for the personnel committee and the executive director. I was taken aback at the woman’s lack of responsibility, but even more surprised that the president didn’t hold her accountable. Webster defines trustee as: an individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified. It occurs to me that as believers, we too are trustees. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor 4:1-2 NIV).
October 08, 2015
I recently attended a cowboy church that held worship services in a barn. A stall in the barn held an injured horse, Charlie, who had to be separated from the other horses. I took a seat next to the stall gate and throughout the services the mare munched hay over the top of my head, snorted down my neck and spit water on me after drinking water. As though on cue Charlie punctuated praise songs, prayers and the message with whinnies and neighs that resembled Amen! Hallelujah! and Praise the Lord! I was reminded that the Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence his disciples, but Jesus let them know that even God’s creation has a voice. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV).
October 07, 2015
The man opening the worship service cradled a large shofar in his arm and spoke heavenward, “Shout to the Lord! Bring everything that is good in here; blowing the shofar brings the Spirit.” He then blew a long sustained blast and worshippers applauded his skill. The trumpeter is a seasoned believer, so I feel confident that he knows the Spirit dwells within believes and is not summoned to a church assembly with the blast of a ram’s horn. However, in his zeal to connect OT worship with NT worship he may have confused the fact that it is people who are called to worship. “On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets” (Numbers 29:1 NIV).
October 06, 2015
A notice in the newspaper for a house church reads, “We have left the institutional church and are meeting as simple believers in Jesus Christ.” Recently at an assembly of about 50 I heard, “We have left the traditional church; we are not the traditional church.” So what does that mean? These folks have elders and a board, they gave announcements, had a worship service of praise songs and hymns, presented a message by an ordained minister, served communion, offered multiple prayers, and enjoyed a fellowship meal following the service. The only thing untraditional about the gathering was the location and setting. Too bad the book of Revelation doesn’t contain a letter to an eight church, “To the angel of the church of the Non-Traditional…”
October 05, 2015
In stark contrast to the Mennonite ladies who wore longer dresses in subdued hues and black scarves on their heads, I wore slacks, a royal purple jacket and no head covering. There was no doubt I was a visitor and even a few young children sent side glances my way. Two women, each with a young child, approached me hesitantly. One ask if I lived in the area and the other asked if she could sit next to me in the pew…but neither introduced themselves. The worship service was segregated; the men and boys sat on the right side of the church and the women and girls sat on the left. After the service a few women stood in close proximity while two of them introduced themselves, engaged me in conversation about my church visits and invited me to come back again. However, even as I stood amongst the cordial ladies, their reserve held a heavy sense of segregation. Paul reminds believers, “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).
October 02, 2015
I have a friend who is angry with a local church because they failed to make an appearance at his father’s funeral. For decades the father was a faithful and generous supporter of the church; however the graveside service, which was held over 100 miles away over mountainous roads, was not conducive to the dad’s contemporaries making the trip. My first reaction was to feel the church may have been negligent; however, after some thought it occurs to me that the son is not rejoicing in his father’s welcome in heaven, but is simply hanging on to the trapping of the world. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess 4:13-14 NIV).
October 01, 2015
For over a year I’ve written for the Montrose Mirror, a free online newspaper. I find it curious that I get more feedback for interviews and articles on community activities than I do on articles about my church visits. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that the church articles reveal a few blots and blemishes on the Bride of Christ — and most believers want to see only the perfect bride. Most of us aren’t comfortable with examining ourselves, much less with examining the church, and yet God sees it all. “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21 NIV).