In the early church the Apostles endorsed newcomer Paul with the right hand of fellowship once they saw he was entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul said, “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews” (Gal 2:9 NIV). Unfortunately, in today’s church extending the right hand of fellowship is often based on inclusiveness, rather than grace or the mission.
July 28, 2016
Whether it’s in the biological family, or the church family, we believers often unconsciously look the other way when it comes to bad behavior, destructive actions and false teachings. I suspect that many of us confuse looking the other way, with turning the other cheek. It takes someone with the character of Paul exposes our tolerance, “You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face” (2 Cor 11:20 NIV).
July 27, 2016
It’s not unusual to have a themed wedding or party, but a themed funeral service gives me pause. Recently a member of our congregation passed away and the invitation to the memorial service read, “Clair loved to travel and she was particularly fond of taking a cruise. In celebration of Clair’s life, the family is asking for those attending Clair’s service to wear clothing that one might wear on a cruise (casual, Hawaiian, palm trees, no grass skirts, but you get the idea.” My closet is filled with beige, black and tailored clothes; hence if I wear my normal black funeral attire I’ll not be dressed appropriately. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet there is conjecture from modern-day commentators as to the meaning of the wedding clothes and the customs of that period. However, with a literal reading of the text I find myself commiserating with the guest who, at the last minute, was brought into the banquet from off the street corner. Jesus said, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless” (Matt 2:11-12 NIV).
July 26, 2016
A secular-leaning friend recently said, “I think forgiveness is a form of power.” I’m still digesting the thought. When I think of the character of forgiveness, the words humble, compassion, grace, and obedience come to mind. The idea that forgiveness has the attribute of power has never crossed my mind. If anything, and I’m not sure why, I sense weakness in forgiveness. I suppose forgiveness might come naturally to some folks and they could experience a sense of power…then there’s the rest of us who must keep going back to Forgiveness 101. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt 6:14-15 NIV).
July 25, 2016
Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination and the media is now scrambling to explain how they got it so wrong. It’s no wonder the media missed all the indicators…they were too busy trying to build a reality that matched their own world view. On the religious landscape believers do something similar when they avoid passages of Scripture that don’t match their narrative and definition of God. Paul warned there is danger in suppressing the truth. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Ro 1:18-20 NIV).
July 22, 2016
For the last two weeks during my early morning and evening walks, a male Red-winged Blackbird leaves his perch in a tall pine tree and flies to-and-fro over my head chirping out a warning. He then lands on the same cottonwood tree branch and continues his verbal warning until I pass by the territory he’s protecting. The bird is focused, on guard and diligent in his duty. I’m reminded of Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-31 NIV). Paul too was focused, on guard and diligent in duty — for three years, night and day he warned them with tears.
July 21, 2016
Fox News interviewed a former Islamic extremist and his view on the global Islamic problem is that the world has failed to hold darker skinned, people of color, to a higher standard. In essence, the world gives darker skinned people a pass as though we can’t expect anything more from them…which he found offensive. It occurs to me that we do something similar in the church. We give one another a pass simply on the basis of being a believer. And yet, the writer of Hebrews stressed we are capable of a higher standard, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:12-14 NIV).
July 20, 2016
A recent post on social media showed a 15 second video clip of a backhoe in the final stages of cleaning up a demolished building. A viewer commented to the photographer, “Except you missed the interesting part, and wasted our time with THIS!” Seriously…15 seconds out of one’s day is a waste of time? Measuring time with self-importance is a trap that even believers fall into. Paul reminds us, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Ro 12:3 NIV).
July 19, 2016
After Jesus was arrested Peter disowned Him three times. Twice two different servant girls identified Peter as being with Jesus; and then those standing around confronted him, “…Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away” (Matt 26:73 NIV). It wasn’t Peters actions, deeds or spoken witness that gave him away as being a disciple of Jesus…it was his accent. It’s sad to say, but many of today’s proclaimed disciples don’t even have an accent that gives them away.
July 18, 2016
Immediately following Jesus predicting his death, James and John, along with their mother, petitioned Jesus to have the boys sit on the Lord's right and left hand in his kingdom (his glory). I’ve always thought this meant sitting on the Lord’s right and left hand in heaven. However, it occurs to me that when learning of the Lord’s impending death, these boys thought someone needed to be in charge…and it should be them. It stands to reason that if the Lord endorsed them while he was alive, these boys would have a place of authority and honor on earth, as well as in heaven. Jesus called the disciples together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44 NIV).
July 15, 2016
Mary had a jar of very expensive perfume that she poured on the head of Jesus as he reclined at the table. The disciples were indignant at the waste, but Jesus came to her defense, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” No doubt Mary used the perfume as a form of worship and adoration to the Lord, but I doubt she had any inkling that her actions were intended to prepare for the Lord’s burial. Like Mary, many of us underestimate the significance of our actions and deeds. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matt 26:12-13 NIV).
July 14, 2016
A lamp trimmer on a ship specialized in maintaining oil lamps and a poorly trimmed wick resulted in a flame that was dim and smoky. Jesus told the Parable of the Ten Virgins, “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps” (Matt 25:6-7 NIV). The virgins could have simply roused from their sleep, grabbed their lamp and went out to meet the bridegroom with a dim light. However, they took care to trim their lamps so that the flame would burn bright and clear. We know that Jesus, the Bridegroom, is at the door…I suspect that some of us have dim lights and it would behoove us to trim the wicks of our lamps.
July 13, 2016
When I call people for interviews I regularly get their voice mail. People tell me they screen their calls and most want to call me back at their convenience. However, for my convenience I rarely leave a message…I don’t want people returning the call while I’m in the process of interviewing someone else. As believers we constantly hear from the Spirit and I suspect that, for the sake of convenience, many of us are guilty of letting Him hear a recorded message, “Your call is important to us. Leave Your name and number and we’ll get back to You as soon as possible. Have a good day.” The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”” (Hebrews 3: 7-8a NIV).
July 12, 2016
It’s poor manners to talk during a movie and movie goers will sometimes shush the offender, or call theater management to ask them to stop. For some time now our adult Sunday school class has watched video lessons and I’m amazed by all the sidebar comments that take place during the viewing. Individual comments (Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Amen) mingle with conversations between couples. I realize folks are making connections and sharing their insights and emotional experiences. However, when others in the room must strain to hear the lesson over the extracurricular comments it weakens the message. Paul said, “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Cor 14:26 NIV).
July 11, 2016
I interviewed the owner of a 1957 Porsche 55 Spyder, 1600 cc, 120 HP, 4 cylinder, four speed stick. With only a couple of minor differences the vehicle is like the one in which actor James Dean was killed. The car weighs just 1,200 pounds and the owner described the power to weight ratio as “awesome.” As a racing car the vehicle is stripped down to the necessities — it has no top, bumpers, heater, spare tire, radio or luggage space. In a similar fashion the writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1 NIV).
July 08, 2016
During a visit to a local service club I was struck by the need for them to adhere to the national criteria for projects and grants. If they don’t strictly follow the rules, their project is thrown out of the competition. As believers we are so into forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and not judging one another that we sometimes forget that entrance into the kingdom has criteria that must be followed. The rich young man, who expected to gain eternal life by doing good things, wanted to make sure his bases were covered. Jesus responded, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matt 19:17 NIV).
July 07, 2016
Steve’s parting comment on yesterday’s blog about the Clinton’s once again getting away scot-free sparks the ire and high blood pressure in many of us. But will they really get off scot-free? At the judgment of the dead John wrote that each person will be, “…judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev 20:12b NIV). I trust that the Lord has recorded the deeds of the Clintons and will hold them accountable. In the meantime, “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy” (Rev 22:11 NIV).
July 06, 2016
GrammarCheck put out a list of five words that writers should avoid because it makes their writing ineffective. One category was writing, “I feel/I believe/I think.” They explained, “These phrases change the focus of the sentence from the subject to the writer. They make the writer look unsure of what he is writing and do nothing to inspire confidence or persuade readers.” I’m struck by the fact that I frequently and repeatedly hear those phrases coming from preachers, teachers and believers when they are witnessing. Saying “I think” does take the focus off the Gospel and puts it on the speaker…and if the speaker appears to lack confidence people will, even subconsciously, not be persuaded.
July 05, 2016
I talk to those in club leadership who are often oblivious to the history, background and current status of their club. They have stepped forward to volunteer in the administration of the club and understand how to run a meeting; however, they are disconnected from the mission statement. I’m reminded of Paul’s observation of Jews, “Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1 Tim 1:6-7 NIV). It is imperative that we believers understand our mission.
July 04, 2016
The United States of America was born out of the right for self-determination and with that right is the reminder that freedom is never free…it is bought with a price. There are similarities in being an American and in being a Christian. Christians are born again through Jesus Christ and Paul reminds us, “You were bought at a price…” (1 Cor 7:23a NIV). Happy Independence Day!
July 01, 2016
The Obama administration just announced that transgenders may now serve openly in the Armed Forces and they are entitled to drugs that will enhance their sexual preference. I doubt if the President, or members of Congress, would ever consider living with transgenders in an open barracks, with open showers and no privacy. And yet this is what is forced on those who are under the authority of the Commander and Chief because he has determined it to be good. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NIV).