I shocked myself when I admitted to a friend that I felt more appreciated and respected in the world than in the church. I suppose the thought has been in the recesses of my mind, but I’d never verbalized it before. The structure of today’s church is to grow volunteers who will follow the vision of leaders; however, secular organizations have systems in place to grow leaders, encourage leadership and pursue leadership replacements. Jesus said, “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 16:8b-9 NIV).
May 30, 2016
The intent of Decoration Day, Memorial Day, was to honor and remember those who lost their lives in military service to our country. However, the memorial focus has changed into sprucing up and putting flowers on every family member’s grave. I suspect, without knowing for certain, that somewhere along the line people felt guilty for honoring only a military grave and not paying homage to their parents or grandparents graves. Meaning no disrespect to those who honor loved ones with flowers adorning grave and manicured cemeteries I find the imagery of Jesus’ illustration to be thought provoking, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! 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 23:27-28 NIV).
May 27, 2016
The series of articles, with an accompanying photo, on locals who own classic cars and trucks has lots of interest. It occurs to me that unlike politics, hard news or religion, classic cars bring people together because they don’t have to pick a side. In that same vein, Paul wants us to set our minds not on what divides us, but what unites us, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1-2 NIV).
May 26, 2016
I’m writing articles about classic car collectors and their labor intensive restoration projects. One man has been working on his pickup restoration for 11 years and the pieces and parts are scattered all over his garage. Another man, who spent three years stripping his 4X4 Ford down to the frame and doing a complete restoration, now drives his truck to car shows. Paul wrote about the need for restoration of a believer caught in a sin, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Gal 6:1a NIV). I’m not wondering how many of us might have started a spiritual restoration with a fellow believer and then rather than finishing, we left spiritual pieces and parts scattered all over place.
May 25, 2016
During my church visits it became obvious that some organizations were misrepresenting themselves with their tax-exempt 501(c) (3) status. While I know God will hold those accountable who perpetrate fraud under the umbrella of doing kingdom work, I’m taken aback by other believers (family, friends and church leaders) who turn a blind eye to the manipulation, misuse and deception. Paul pointed out that there are those who preach Christ, not sincerely, but out of selfish ambition. It’s easier for me to set aside my indignation when I hear Paul say, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Phil 1:18a NIV).
May 24, 2016
Paul said, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1 NIV). In my mind I always though the implication was, as with the woman caught in the act of adultery, actually catching someone sinning. It just dawned on me that Paul is probably referring to someone caught up, or entangled in, a specific sinful behavior — pornography, adultery, embezzlement. The treatment for a onetime caught-in-the-act sin calls for repentance and forgiveness. However, someone ensnared in a sin becomes a long-term restoration project.
May 23, 2016
After more than two years of petitioning the Lord, my daughter Leslie’s condo is finally under contract to sell. I’m reminded of God’s patience — whether it is waiting for one more soul to come to know Jesus, or to sell a condo. Peter said, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).
May 20, 2016
My elderly friend is a staunch Republican who feels she can’t, on moral grounds, support Donald Trump. I understand her hesitation, but when I put it in a historical, biblical and spiritual context I don’t see the problem. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. Saul, who became Paul, persecuted the church and gave his approval to the stoning death of Stephen. Both of the men, in spite of a lack of moral character at the time, were called by God to be his chosen instruments. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).
May 19, 2016
David, my pre-teen grandson, is helping me with yard work and he continues to resist wearing gloves. He’s boy tough…Who needs gloves? He cut down last year’s growth of Pampas grass and little hairy stickers attacked his hands. The next day he cut back the Juniper bushes and received welts all over the backs of his hands. I’m reminded of Paul telling people to put on the full armor of God and I can imagine a few of the guys in the crowd saying, “Nah, I don’t need to put on the breastplate for this little job. And today I don’t think I’ll be needing the shield of faith, maybe I’ll take it up tomorrow.” The Scripture wants us fully dressed, spiritually equipped, and ready in all situations, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:14-17 NIV).
May 18, 2016
A red-headed House Finch (I think) constructed a nest on top of my outside patio lights. I assume he is trying to attract a mate as he is regularly perched on the deck railing singing his little heart out while keeping a watchful eye on the nest. Early Saturday morning the neighborhood quiet was shattered when my new neighbors got into a 20-minute backyard shouting match attacking one another with four-letter words. The heated argument took place only 15 feet away from the finch, but he wasn’t frightened away, or distracted…he stayed focused and continued singing his song. I wish I could block out worldly turmoil as effortlessly as did the finch. Paul said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:17-18 NIV).
May 17, 2016
Jesus used a parable about yeast permeating a batch of dough to explain growth in the kingdom, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matt 13:33b NIV). In my mind I’ve always imagined a woman preparing a daily portion of bread for her family. However, 60 pounds of flour seems more appropriate for a local bakery, than for a single family dinner table. I’m now wondering if the parable indicates more than just the permeating qualities of the kingdom and that the quantity of the kingdom should also be considered.
May 16, 2016
During a television food show a bread baker demonstrating the ingredients needed for making bread said, “Don’t let your salt and yeast touch…your salt will kill your yeast.” I find the spiritual implication startling. Jesus warned his disciples to be on guard against the yeast (the teaching) of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt 16: 5-12). Jesus also said of his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt 5:13). For me the spiritual connotation is that I can do more than just be on guard against erroneous teaching. If I maintain my saltiness I can actually kill the false teaching of the modern day Pharisees and Sadducee!
May 13, 2016
Many Christians are beside themselves at the thought of Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee, much less the President of the United States. Their distress is so great that, similar to the Babylonian captivity, you’d think America is being led into captivity and were all about to be executed. It’s important to remember that regardless of who becomes the next Commander in Chief, that person can only attain the position if it is God’s will. Daniel said, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:20-22 NIV).
May 12, 2016
For a medical test at the VA hospital I was restricted to clear liquids for 24 hours and then nothing for 12 hours before the procedure. When my test was competed I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription that was ordered 2 ½ hours earlier; however, the prescription was not ready and the pharmacy technician blew me off about how busy they were. I marched down to the Patient Advocate who opened his door with his fast food sandwich in hand and jokingly said, “I’m out to lunch.” Excuse me…I haven’t had anything to eat for over 24 hours. Once I had the advocates attention, three hours after the fact, the prescription was quickly filled. Contemplating advocacy, I’m grateful that Jesus, who is the believer’s advocate and intercessor, is never out to lunch. “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Ro 8:34 NIV).
May 11, 2016
For years now there have been lawsuits and community upheaval involving the county, the airport fixed base operator (FBO), and the political pot-stirrers. It was just reported in the media that the FBO has been sold, which in effect eliminates the catalyst for all the angst. I now have this image of the pot-stirrers being at a loss without a cause. In some respects, the disciples found themselves at a similar loss when Jesus was crucified. On the third day after the crucifixion Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and walked with them. The men were downcast and explained about Jesus of Nazareth, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21a NIV).
May 10, 2016
When someone ignores my good advice, and it turns out I was right, it’s hard for me not to say, “I told you so.” The Apostle Paul was taken to Rome by ship when the sailing weather turned bad and his warning that the voyage would be dangerous to life and a great loss to the ship and the cargo was ignored. At first blush it might seem that Paul did the I-told-you-so-dance, “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss”” (Acts 27:21). However, I see Paul using this I-told-you-so as a way to take charge of the situation and establish a foundation of authority and leadership. When the captain, the crew and the centurion finally took Paul’s advice, everyone reached land in safety.
May 09, 2016
Generally speaking, Christians are hesitant to evaluate the spiritual attributes we observe in others because we don’t want to be accused of being judgmental, or unqualified. The Apostle Paul encountered a man in Lystra who was lame from birth and had never walked. The crippled man listened to Paul as he was speaking and, “Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk” (Acts 14:9-10 NIV). During this brief encounter Paul not only saw faith in the man, but he evaluated the man's faith. I’m now wondering what faith looks like. Can I see the faith to be healed in others… and can they see it in me?
May 06, 2016
Yesterday I attended a National Day of Prayer breakfast and was seated with the “Arts, Entertainment and Media” group. Amongst the almost 80 attendees were many prominent community leaders…those of the world and those of faith. Interestingly it was the local newspaper publisher who garnered the most attention, recognition and respect. I came away from the event with the vision of the church bowing before a modern day asherah pole. It was as though people of faith felt they needed to ingratiate themselves to the media in order to get their message out. Jesus did not send the 12 out to meet the press, but rather He instructed them, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matt 10:7 NIV).
May 05, 2016
I’ve been attending board meetings of an organization whose executive director, rather than delegating work and training others, continues to put on more and more hats. There is no doubt he feels he is doing a good job holding things together. However, from a public perspective the situation is taking on the appearance of an unhealthy one-man-show. Rather than holding things together, things are falling through the cracks. Today’s church is not immune to the one-man-show scenario and many leaders of faith focus on control, rather than on the mission. In the early church the Twelve Apostles understood the importance of the mission, “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4 NIV).
May 04, 2016
My husband finished his ice cream and then added water to the bowl and sat it in the sink to soak. The next morning only chocolate residue was left in the empty bowl. Apparently one of us tossed the dishcloth into the sink where it landed half in and half out of the bowl. All night long the dishcloth wicked the water from the bowl into the drain. I now have this image of sin’s tentacles, those not completely dealt with, being able to wick away at the believer’s faith. Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes…” (Isaiah 5:18 NIV).
May 03, 2016
Just prior to my adult Sunday school class a man complained to me about people on the internet cherry-picking Scripture to support their ideas. However, during the class he himself did something similar when he declared, “You don’t have to be baptized to be saved. Just look to the thief on the cross…” The man then went on to cherry-pick Scripture which related to salvation, but excluded the act of baptism. Paul said, “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 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 Timothy 2:14-15 NIV).
May 02, 2016
I attended a meeting of an astronomy club and the scientific presentation was way over my head. I later called the presenter to get some clarification and he was taken aback that his information came across as deep. I can understand his discomfort. On the religious landscape mature believers would cringe if our presentations were over the heads of our audience. However, it occurs to me that many of the sermons we hear today have shifted to shallow simply because teachers fear talking over the heads of those in the congregation. Jesus proved that a simple message can have depth (parables). However, Jesus also knew his audience — the Pharisees and little children were not taught in the same style, or manner.