Sheriff’s officer Sgt. Sanders introduced the audience to Oxx, his K-9 narcotics dog. “In a criminal apprehension you have three chances to surrender…after that you’re fair game. We will send in the dog and he will bite…but we never send in a dog to fight by himself.” It’s a good reminder to believers that the Lord too never sends us into battle by ourselves. “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Ps 144:1-2 NIV).
February 26, 2016
I overheard a speaker admitting to his friend that portions of his presentation were self-serving. I chuckled to myself because he wasn’t revealing anything that the audience hadn’t already picked up on. In the church we are to be on alert to those who are self-serving. 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 naive people” (Ro 16:17-18 NIV).
February 25, 2016
Many of us have our eyes fixated on ISIS and Islamic terrorists as they forcefully advance across the Middle East. The media provides graphics and maps showing us, often in real time, how the movement is spreading. I think we believers are often guilty of being shortsighted because we fail to recognize, or entertain the thought, that the kingdom of heaven is also advancing and spreading. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matt 11:12 NIV).
February 24, 2016
An event organizer encouraged a community leader to attend a meeting and after it was over he said, “Tell me again…Why am I here?” It occurs to me that we often have a similar situation in the church. We invite friends and family to join us in worship, but they then leave the service thinking, “Tell me again…Why did I come?” Unfortunately, in today’s culture the functions of the early church are often swallowed up by programs, entertainment and tradition. The fellowship of believers is described by Luke, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles… And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Luke 2:42-43, 47b NIV).
February 23, 2016
I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Gary Grappo, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman. Ambassador Grappo related how difficult it is to get information on time sensitive threats out to the public. “When you are an Ambassador you are concerned for the safety, security and welfare of the Americans where you are assigned. The worst news an American Ambassador can get is a phone call in the middle of the night that something has happened to an American citizen.” For me, the ambassador’s comments offered an interesting perspective that can be applied to believers and our role as Ambassadors for Christ. Paul said, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20 NIV).
February 22, 2016
The political landscape is littered with candidates and their campaign personnel accusing one another of lying, distorting records and manipulating the truth. Such tactics are prevalent in the world, but it’s disconcerting to also find them in the church. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about a similar situation, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…” (2 Thess 2:2-3a NIV).
February 19, 2016
I attended an Archaeological Society meeting and the topic of prehistoric rock art panels had the potential to be dry, dusty and over my head. The speaker said, “If you know your topic you can talk about it in terms that people can understand.” Jesus often spoke figuratively using parables, which at time confused even His disciples. Jesus was a master at using parables as a tool, but for those of us entrusted with spreading the Gospel, speaking so people can understand is imperative. Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (John 16:29-30 NIV).
February 18, 2016
Sometime I’ll run into someone I haven’t seen for a long time and I’m taken aback by how their kids have grown. It’s hard to believe the children have gotten so big…and so fast. I suspect many of us have a similar reaction when we come face to face with the sin in our lives. We’re shocked by how quickly it is becoming full-grown. James tells us, “…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NIV).
February 17, 2016
As Jesus was led away to be crucified the soldiers forced Simon from Cyrene to carry His cross. It occurs to me that we believers sometimes put our own spiritual expectations on others and in essence try to force them to carry a cross that is not theirs to carry. Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24 NIV).
February 16, 2016
A man wrote a letter-to-the-editor in which he said, “Years of problematic government affairs has reached afar and spread uncertainty. While preparing this area to welcome new business investments, we must prioritize efforts and reinstate quality and credibility.” In a nutshell the man is blaming local government affairs for our reputation across the state as being a dysfunctional community and he feels new business investments will not be drawn to the community because of our lack of credibility. I’m reminded of the reputations of Nazareth and Galilee. Speaking to Philip, Nathanael said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there” (John 1:46 NIV)? In another situation the Pharisees scolded Nicodemus, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee” (John7:52 NIV). Similar to thinking our community defines us, many believers want to let the reputation of their church define them.
February 15, 2016
In a recent letter-to-the-editor a man put his own spin on Lent and suggested that those who abstain from animal foods during Lent should continue on after the 40 days of Lent and make “vegan” a lifestyle choice. He said, “But meat-free Lent is much more than a symbol of religious devotion to Christ. It helps reduce the risk of chronic disease, environmental degradation, and animal abuse.” Paul reminds believers, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self–imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col 2:20-23 NIV).
February 12, 2016
We’ve all been in situations where we’re not really sure about something someone has told us, but we have no reason to doubt them, so we take them at their word. When Jesus went to Galilee the Galileans were more interested in miraculous signs and wonders than they were in believing in Him. At that time a certain royal official, whose son was near death in the town of Capernaum about 20 miles away, begged Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed” (John 4:50 NIV). Today many of us are like the Galileans…rather than taking Jesus at his word, were looking for miraculous signs and wonders.
February 11, 2016
We all have friends or loved ones who have no relationship with the Lord. While our prayer is for their salvation, we often ask the Lord to send someone into their life who can influence their spiritual thinking. I’m reminded of the “Rich Man and Lazarus.” Both men died and the rich man went to hell, while Lazarus went to the side of Father Abraham. A great chasm separated them and the rich man was in agony and fire with no one to comfort him. The rich man said to Abraham, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28 NIV). I have to admit that I too fall back on asking God to send someone…when what I really should be asking is for God to send His Spirit.
February 10, 2016
Occasionally worshipers will complain about their seating. From their vantage point they can’t hear or see well, the temperature is either too hot or too cold, and the chairs are not as comfortable as those in another location. I once suggested to a friend that she arrive earlier and she could have a seat more to her liking. She said, “But I can’t get around any earlier.” It strikes me that the invalid at the pool at Bethesda might have had a similar thought process. The man had been an invalid for 38 years and Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7 NIV). I’m reminded of those in Scripture who would do anything, and risk everything, to be healed…their preparations and perseverance were rewarded — the woman with an issue of blood, the man lowered through the roof and the synagogue ruler Jairus pleading for the life of his child.
February 09, 2016
One of my church visits included visiting a Spanish speaking church that was scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. I don’t speak Spanish, but the temporary sign written in Spanish on the locked front door had an apparent time change to 12:15. Thank goodness Arabic numerals are universal and 12:15 doesn’t come in Spanish and English. John tells us that love also has universal properties that transcends cultures and language barriers, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18 NIV).
February 08, 2016
My cousin Laura was working in the church foyer when a man came in asking for a food box. The secretary made a copy of the man’s driver’s license, gave him a food box and he left the building talking on his cell phone. Laura though it strange that he could afford a Galaxy S6 phone, but yet needed food assistance. Unfortunately for Laura it was her phone walking out the door. Just goes to prove that even stupid criminals go to church and leave a copy of their driver’s license with the secretary. “Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is” (Ecc 10:3 NIV).
February 05, 2016
When my weight plateaued while dieting I pulled out all the tricks found in a dieter’s toolbox. One maneuver was asking for a to-go-box from a restaurant to bring part of my meal home. However, it recently occurred to me that I should ask for a carryout before my meal arrives so that when I’m served I can box up half of it and remove some of the temptation from my plate. It’s not lost on me that after 40 days in the wilderness Jesus was hungry and the devil used bread as a temptation. For some of us our mealtime blessing should include what Jesus said to the devil, “It is written: ‘Man does not live by bread alone’” (Luke 4:4 NIV).
February 04, 2016
Because of the actions of one man, and the in-action of his supervisors, the reputation of a local organization has been tarnished. The news and social media exploded with the details and while most comments reveal disgust, there are a few that expressed grief and sympathy. However, the sympathy is not for the offender, or those who turned a blind eye, but rather for the families and current employees who are left to deal with the fallout. One man told me, “It wasn’t their fault and they are having a hard time holding their heads up.” No doubt some of those who are hanging their heads are believers. Paul would tell them, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).
February 03, 2016
Recently a decade long situation of hazing and intimidation within a local organization came to light. While most people are disgusted and angry, there are a few who defend the employees and attest to their good character. The incidents revealed in a court document was reported on by three news media outlets, all of whom had the same basic story. However, one woman on social media protested, “Don’t believe all that you read.” On the religious landscape we hear something similar when people want to negate the Word of God. The Gospels, written by four different men, testify that Jesus is the Son of God and yet those who are anti-Christ would tell us not to believe everything we read. “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies” (Proverbs 12:17 NIV).
February 02, 2016
I have Windows 10 on my new computer and in some instances the program calls for additional steps that weren’t needed in previous versions. Rather than making the program more user friendly, I’m having to retrace steps and go in and out of folders trying to figure out where I am and how I got there. Something similar can happen with the Word of God. A children’s Bible is easy to follow and with fewer concepts needed for a beginner’s Christian walk. However, when you upgrade to a study Bible there are more verses to connect, greater spiritual depth and additional steps required. Eventually I may learn Windows 10, but Paul reminds me that as a Christian there are always more steps to be taken, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25 NIV).
February 01, 2016
My friend Betty and I discussed our different writing styles and where I write more factually, her writing leans more toward the creative side. What we read takes a similar course in that I like news and she prefers poems and inspirational. I suspect when we read the Bible there is a similar pattern and she is edified with the feel-good, heart-felt elements of Scripture and I feel spiritually fed from the concrete thou shalt and shalt not passages. In spite of a believers preferred style of reading or writing, Paul’s charge to Timothy is applicable to everyone, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim3:14 NIV).