The older I get the more I make lists to remind me of what I need to get done for the day. We have company coming for the holiday weekend, so I have a list for the grocery store, a list for household chores, and a to-do list for Bill. I’ve never compiled, nor do I know anyone who has ever compiled, a spiritual list of to-do’s. I get the sense the Paul is recommending we add spiritual things to our to-do list. “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).
June 29, 2016
Yesterday when leaving Home Depot an elderly woman, who appeared to be 80ish, sat on a walker under a tree on the grassy median. She was alone with no transportation in sight and held a cardboard sign that read, “Hard times, need help.” I’ve seen a lot of men of various ages and transient couples with their dogs panhandling, but this was a first. I wondered, “How did you get yourself situated on this grassy knoll? Where is your family? And why are you begging on the street?” I couldn’t help but compare the woman to the widow who put two very small copper coins worth a fraction of a penny into the temple treasury. Jesus called his disciple to him and said, “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 NIV).
June 28, 2016
On the religious landscape when believers feel they are being led by the Spirit to start a mission they consult with friends, family and church leaders. It’s almost as though we’re looking for blessing, approval or support from others…or that we feel inadequate and want others to help share the load. Embarrassingly, not many of us are as confident and obedient as the Apostle Paul, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (Gal 1:15-17 NIV).
June 27, 2016
It was the Apostle Paul’s ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known and he had already preached from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum. Paul wrote in Romans, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…” (Ro 15:23a NIV). The United States is a Christian nation and I’m now trying to wrap my head around Paul telling my local community that there is no more place for him to work in this region.
June 24, 2016
At an event I sat with a fellow believer who ministers to the homeless. He introduced me to one of his acquaintances and after the man left Jim encouraged me to write a human interest story about the man. The man and his wife, who was recovering from a miscarriage, had been homeless for two months. They recently found housing and were trying get their children back from social services. I told Jim I had reservations about writing a story because the man reeked of alcohol. Disappointment spread across Jim’s face, “Really, was he drinking?” The real story of a prodigal is not that a man is homeless and wanting to eat pods with the pigs…the testimony and story lies in a man coming home to the Father.
June 23, 2016
Ron talked to me about his brother, Bob, who hasn’t taken very good care of himself physically. After a recent life threatening situation Ron said, “I think Bob knew he had problems, but he was afraid to go to the doctor. He was afraid of what he might hear.” Ron then went on to say, “I’m wondering if that’s why some people don’t go to church…they are afraid of what they might hear.” Ron has a point. I have this image of the men who were furious and gnashed their teeth at the testimony of Stephen. When Stephen said he saw the Son of Man Standing at the right hand of God it was more than they could take and I suspect there was an element of fear. “At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57-58b NIV).
June 22, 2016
Some veterans have a hard time transitioning to civilian life and they yearn to once again be in command of men. Recently one such Marine put out a call to local veteran organizations to rally at a county commissioner meeting in order to verbally ambush a county commissioner. The circulated email stated, “Please work your schedule around this meeting as it’s important for us to support each other as veterans…” Interestingly the targeted commissioner is himself a veteran. Even in the body of Christ denominations have been known to target one another and go after each other. John saw a man driving out demons in the name of Jesus and tried to stop him. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50 NIV).
June 21, 2016
The topic of our Sunday school lesson was redemption and the presenter used the story of Hosea (prophet) and Gomer (prostitute) as an example of redemption. By marrying the prostitute Hosea redeemed her; however, after bearing him children, Gomer went back to her profession. Hosea once again redeemed Gomer by purchasing her out of slavery. It strikes me that Gomer had a lucrative career in prostitution, was apparently able to feed and clothe herself, and felt she could take care of herself. It’s no wonder that evangelism is so difficult…we’re often witnessing to people who are so self-sufficient that they don’t even know they need to be redeemed.
June 20, 2016
A local middle school is in desperate need of replacement and the school district is getting ready to launch a campaign for a ballot initiative. The print media is championing the cause and praised the county for stepping up with additional funding, and the city for the promise to look for ways to support, other than financial. A recent editorial said, “So how about the remainder of the organizations — public, private nonprofit, churches or organizations? Where do you stand?” I’m startled by the suggestion that churches should step up to the plate to help fund schools. Public schools are the same organizations that removed prayer in classrooms, Ten Commandment plaques from walls, and now require restroom use to be based on sexual identification. The writer of the editorial apparently does not understand the mission of the church. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matt 22:21 NIV).
June 17, 2016
Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, pleaded with Jesus to come to his house because his only daughter was dying. As Jairus made his plea word came that his daughter had already died. Jesus went on to the house and when he arrived people were wailing and mourning. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep” (Luke 8:52b NIV). It occurs to me that we might diagnose those who blatantly reject Jesus as being spiritually dead; however, Jesus might see them as simply being asleep.
June 16, 2016
Fifty people were killed and 53 wounded in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando by an Islamist terrorist. While President Obama called it terrorism, he avoided using the word Islamic. The Islamic terrorist attack on our military base was labeled as “workplace violence.” I’m only guessing, but I suspect the LGBT community will hold the administration’s feet to the fire and demand the attack be labeled this for what it is, Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, we in the church can be just as guilty of watering down our own words, and those of Scripture. Paul wrote, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4 NIV).
June 15, 2016
My mother-in-law, who will soon be 93, is not happy that she can’t do the things she used to do. During a recent doctor visit the doctor was sympathetic, but told her she was in better shape than some 60 year-olds. The doctor said he didn’t want to prescribe any mood altering drugs, but then paused in mid-sentence and said, “On second thought I think I will give you a prescription. Do you have a Bible at home?” When she told him yes he said, “Okay, this is your prescription…go home and read the book of Ecclesiastes.” And she is doing as he prescribed.
June 14, 2016
During an evening walk I stumbled across five elementary children who appeared to be in the process of vandalizing a local school. I took photos of the kids and some of the damage and told them I might publish the photos in the local newspaper, or give them to the police. I went on my way and when I was a block away from the school the mother of two of the children came charging down the road on her bicycle screaming, “Why are you messing with my kids? I’m calling 911!” Please do. She jumped off her bicycle, got in my face and demanded to see the photos I’d taken. Implying I had accosted her children and said, “You’re a disgusting old woman.” Her children were privy to their mother’s menacing outburst and she continued to throw verbal bombs at my back as I ignored the rant and simply kept walking. In hind sight I wish I had had the wherewithal to ask the mother, “Are you a Christian?” Peter reminds women, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).
June 13, 2016
Over the years a local funeral home changed ownership on multiple occasions. The newest owners were in the process of remodeling the facility when they discovered 170 unclaimed cremains sitting on shelves in the basement of the building…50 of which had no identification. The new owners made an effort to not only locate the next of kin, but then to have a memorial service for the cremains that remained unclaimed. I’m trying to imagine the moment of death and those souls that will go unclaimed by the Lord. 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 7:21-23NIV)!
June 10, 2016
During a communion meditation the speaker wanted the congregation to focus on the emblems that represent the body and blood of Jesus. He said, “Stop worrying about lunch, what you didn’t get done this week, and what you will do when you get home.” Immediately my mind went to thinking about what I should fix for lunch. Paul understood how our thoughts, or the thoughts of others, can lead us down a rabbit trail. He said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:8 NIV).
June 09, 2016
Many folks today are in dire financial straits due to rising health care costs and insurance premiums. While we might like to point an accusatory finger at Obamacare, the reality is that throughout time healthcare expenditures often shipwreck people financially. The woman who was subject to bleeding for 12 years was caught in such a dilemma. By the time she learned of the healing power of Jesus and got close enough to touch his cloak, her situation went beyond her physical ailment, “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26 NIV). In the narrative she had faith to be healed and Jesus then sent her on her way, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” We don’t know the end of the woman’s story. I wonder if she rejoiced in her healing, or did she lament to others about the lousy doctors and her loss of financial stability.
June 08, 2016
When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”” (Matt 22:38-39 NIV). It occurs me that today’s church focuses more on the second commandment, than it does on the first. The religious landscape is saturated with sermons, Bible studies and books on believer’s relationships with one another. However, expository teaching, preaching and instruction is sparse when it comes to loving God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.
June 07, 2016
Often a praise hymn sung on Sunday gets stuck in my head for the remainder of the week. Lately the replaying praise song in my mind is, “I Am a Friend of God.” The chorus and bridge say, “I am a friend of God…He calls me friend. Lord of glory, you have called me friend.” I’ve never been fond of lyrics that put God on a human level, such as being a friend. However, I was taken aback when I read the account of Judas betraying Jesus, “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for” (Matt 26:48-50 NIV).
June 06, 2016
Muhammad Ali is quoted as saying, “It’s hard to be humble when you are as good as I am.” I can see the Lord’s wisdom in doing whatever it takes to keep believers humble. The Apostle Paul had a lot to boast about — a man who had visions and revelations from the Lord and was caught up to paradise. Paul readily admits that it is the Lord who kept his ego in check, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:7-9 NIV).
June 03, 2016
At a press conference presidential candidate Donald Trump lambasted media reporters and did some name-calling. Naturally the reporters became indignant and took offence. In true Trump fashion the candidate simply dismissed them and their indignation. I thought of a similar situation when the Pharisees and teachers of the law accused the disciples of breaking the tradition of the elders because they failed to wash their hands before eating. Jesus not only took the Pharisees to task for their accusation, but he called them hypocrites. The disciples then came to Jesus and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:12-14 NIV).
June 02, 2016
My mother-in-law, who will be 93 in September, is self-sufficient, lives alone and still drives. However, she occasionally has trouble with the TV cable remote and when she hits the wrong button her cable goes out. In her frustration she’ll start poking all the buttons, not just the cable remote, but the TV remote as well. Bill has told her not to touch the TV remote because it makes matters worse, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying it as a last resort. Devising different ways to remove temptation Bill put the TV remote away in a drawer, another time he taped a cautionary note to it, and then finally he took out the batteries. The other night mother called and said, “I did what you told me not to do. I got out the TV remote…I put batteries in it.” I’m starting to get an inkling of how God might feel when believers insist on being in control.
June 01, 2016
During a DVD video lesson the seasoned pastor took a passage of Scripture from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Before reading Ephesian 2:1 he apologetically prefaced the verse with, “The NASB is very literal. It’s hard to understand.” He explained that paraphrased versions, such as the Living Bible and the Message, are easier to understand. All too often I hear pastors and teachers say that elements associated with being a Christian are hard — a hard teaching, hard to obey, hard to understand, hard to accomplish, hard to walk the walk, etc. Jesus disagrees, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:29-30 NIV).