We have a number of older folks coming to church with canes and behind walkers. Some of them seem embarrassed, angry and uncomfortable because they are forced to use such stabilizers, while others have grown to accept their added appendage. No doubt many of these saints think others see only their crutch and physical frailty. The writer of Hebrews paints a very different picture of aging faith, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Heb 11:21 NIV).
January 28, 2016
Foods heavy in fats and sugars that provide more calories than nutrients are referred to as empty calories. On the religious landscape the writer of Hebrews cautioned against spiritually empty calories found in the ceremonial foods of the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifices. “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Heb 13:9-10 NIV).
January 27, 2016
Fire codes require public buildings to have a posted notice of the maximum occupancy and my church has an occupancy of 265. When Jesus preached to the people in Capernaum the fire marshal was nowhere to be seen and the room was so packed there wasn’t even standing room outside the door. A maximum occupancy however didn’t deter the friends of a paralytic who simply cut a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down to Jesus. Sadly, many of us allow the size of a crowd, obedience to a man-made regulation, or a lack of faith keep us from boldly approaching the Lord…not only for ourselves, but also on behalf of others. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son your sins are forgiven”” (Mark 2:5 NIV).
January 26, 2016
The editor of our local paper turned his soapbox into a pulpit when he wrote in a recent editorial, “It amazes me. So much in our community is willing to call itself “Christian,” yet so few want to abide by the very Christian principal of love and understanding…and equally important…forgiveness.” He then calls on the religious community to have a city-wide sermon series on forgiveness. It’s bad enough when people feel they are qualified to judge people of faith, but I think we should draw the line at letting them try to script our sermons. 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).
January 25, 2016
The term “amen” is an affirmation used at the end of a prayer, or used to express agreement. From the pulpit I continue to hear pastors and speakers asking their audience to amen their statements. In their mind they may feel they have made a profound spiritual statement, however, it is presumptuous on their part to ask for an endorsement. While discussing speaking in tongues Paul makes it clear that it is the listener who determines whether or not they are edified and can express agreement in what is said. “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified” (1 Cor 14:16-17 NIV).
January 22, 2016
A major winter storm, with a predicted two feet of snow, is poised to hit Washington DC this weekend. As a weatherman discussed the nor’easter with the TV anchor he said, “People are stocking up on food…but what are they going to do with all that food when the power goes out and there’s no way to cook.” It is interesting what each of us think is important when faced with a situation that is out of our norm. Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to spread the good news and had he left them to their own devises one can only imagine what they would have thought was important to pack for the journey. Jesus removed any ideas of preparedness the disciples might have had when he said, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep” (Matt 10:9-10 NIV).
January 21, 2016
Over the last year and a half I’ve listen to sermons from many different local pastors and I understand their need to make the biblical message relative to today by using stories, anecdotes and illustrations. However, as I critique the messages there is such a potpourri of ideas that I wonder if the audience gives any thought to distinguishing between the word of man and the word of God. Paul commended the Thessalonians, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13 NIV).
January 20, 2016
I’m writing articles on various clubs and service clubs in our community and already I see a pattern in membership participation. One club averages of 100 members, charges dues of about $900 a year, and has an 85% participation rate. Three other clubs with membership ranging from 100-165 charge modest dues and have participation rates of less than 10%. The group with 85% participation is obviously more invested…financially as well as emotionally. It occurs to me that in the church we dismiss membership participation rates by simply saying believers are non-active. Many people claim they have a relationship with Christ, yet they are not invested in fellowship within the body of Christ. 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” (Matt 16:18 NIV).
January 19, 2016
While writing an article on the America Legion I was surprised to learn that it is Congress who sets the policy on membership and it has been determined that only those with wartime service are eligible. Consequently those who served on active duty when there was no declared war or conflict are disqualified for membership. Some veterans are miffed because they feel Congress is telling them their service doesn’t count. On a spiritual level there are many whose service in the kingdom will also leave them disqualified for eternal life. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’” (Matt 7:21-23 NIV).
January 18, 2016
A person relatively new to our area lavishes a mixture of praise and platitudes on influential people in order to ingratiate himself with the community. The manipulation factor, which is reminiscent of the parable of the shrewd manager, is something I struggle to understand. “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:8-9 NIV).
January 15, 2016
We’re all familiar with the make-up of the body of Christ and how those positions are categorized — apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:28). Using the process of elimination we mentally check off those positions for which we know we don’t qualify. Unfortunately many of us then limit ourselves with the only descriptive role that seems to fit. In his letter to Timothy the Apostle Paul added a new category to his list of credentials that of an official messenger bringing news. “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Tim 1:11). We are all appointed to be a herald of the Gospel.
January 14, 2016
I have a hard time separating a person from their actions, consequently when someone has treated me poorly I keep them at arm’s length. When it’s a casual acquaintance I simply avoid them, however if it is a friend or a family member my distance-keeping takes on the form of withholding affection for a time. It gave me pause when I read that Paul didn’t tolerate such behavior from the Corinthians, but rather called them out. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also” (2 Cor 6:11-13 NIV).
January 13, 2016
People make New Year’s resolutions to diet and get in shape for various reasons. When we were younger we strived to get to that perceived perfect size body, but as we age many of us simply want to keep up our strength so we can avoid going into a nursing home. Thank goodness dieting and exercise are temporal and someday they will end. Paul tells Timothy, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8 NIV).
January 12, 2016
I just received an email invitation to join one of our many community groups for a social evening of meet and greet networking. During the evening people can write out their suggestions on how to improve the community and then those suggestions will be categorized and “…given to those entities who have the ability to read those suggestions and make the necessary changes to put them in place.” The reality is that individuals don’t need a surrogate to carry their suggestions, they can go directly to the entity themselvs. Even people of faith can easily fall into a similar mind set thinking they need others to carry their burdens and petitions — Saint Christopher, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mother Teresa. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that through Jesus we have direct access to God, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16 NIV).
January 11, 2016
Illegal immigration is a big problem in America. Rather than obeying US immigration laws, people are trying to force their way into the US by hook or by crook. Jesus warned us of a similar situation when people think they can to get into heaven by means other than accepting Him as their Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:1-3 NIV).
January 08, 2016
We all know folks who will play the race card whenever they lose at something in a social or political arena. After visiting a variety of churches I’ve picked up on the fact that a few church denominations and fellowships are doing something similar when they play a persecution card. They lament that mainstream churches brand them as cults, shunned them for talking in tongues and look down on them for abandoning the traditional church. Paul pointedly reminds us that such arguments lack foundation, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:9-11 NIV).
January 07, 2016
Discipleship is a word used on the religious landscape and it’s a goal for people of faith. Mentoring on the other hand is a buzzword heard in the world and seems more easily accomplished. Reading the definitions it occurs to me that many of us may be better suited to mentoring than to making disciples. As defined by Webster’s, discipleship is, “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another [Jesus]; and mentoring is, “to advise or train.” However, Jesus didn’t commissioned the 11 disciples to be mentors, the Great Commission is to make disciples. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20 NIV).
January 06, 2016
My mother, bless her heart, was one who held onto grudges. When she passed away I sorted through her long-kept grievances which showed up in the form of hand written notes, divorce settlements and unrepaid loans papers. Her grudges were not mine to embrace, so I simply put them through the paper shredder. Unfortunately I get the same gnawing pain of holding someone else’s grudge when I read the local newspaper’s Year in Review of the top stories for 2015. Rather than reporting on the accomplishments and positive happenings in the community, reporters kept grudges alive by reminding us of past scandals, lawsuits and turmoil. In the church Paul says believers are to think and behave differently, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Ro 14:19 NIV).
January 05, 2016
On yesterday’s blog Steve commented on the teaching of Jesus, “His technique was to just use parables that those inclined to seek the Lord would understand and the rest would not…Nobody just stumbles over the Lord…” Taking this thought a step further, I wonder what it says about believers who are not deepening their relationship with the Lord by staying in the Word — those who seek the Lord in nature, through the pastor and in fellowship, but yet they never crack their Bible. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).
January 04, 2016
The local newspaper publisher, a relatively newcomer to town, will occasionally write an editorial. In a recent column he recapped his Christmas holiday beginning with, “For those of you who think I share too much personal stuff about my life in this column; bail out now. For those who enjoy it; read on.” Even just scanning the column I felt like some stranger just sent me his Christmas letter. When Paul wrote to a particular church he referenced his ministry, but the letters also contained instructions, encouragement and warnings for the body of believers…so much so that the letters were circulated to other churches. I’m trying to imagine Paul saying if you don’t like what you’re reading, bail out now. In Paul’s final thoughts to the Corinthians he said, “Finally, brothers, good–by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11 NIV).