Most believers are diligent to bring Jesus into their little corner of the world, but even with all our efforts some towns, communities and regions fail to welcome the Lord. It is then that some of us become afflicted with the James and John Syndrome. When a Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus these two disciples offered, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Then as now, “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village” (Luke 9:54-56 NIV).
August 30, 2016
Next year my friends need to relocate to be closer to their adult children and their choices are North Dakota, where they have never lived; or Wisconsin, where they were from originally. Laurie said, “Wisconsin has become so liberal that it would be really hard for me to go back.” I understand her desire to live in a conservative community with people of like faith and I suspect most of us would feel the same way. However, I remember Jonah and his resistance to go to Nineveh and proclaim the message the Lord had for that community. The Lord said to Jonah, “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city” (Jonah 4:11 NIV)?
August 29, 2016
My children are grown and have their own homes, so as an empty-nester I no longer have to have a plan for supper. Consequently, when it’s time to think about the evening meal Bill and I talk in terms of what sounds good — Mexican, Chinese, Italian. It’s as though we must tempt one another with different suggestions before we can make a decision. It’s a little embarrassing then when I hear Jesus say, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:29-30 NIV).
August 26, 2016
My 13-year-old grandson fertilized our grass, but his grandad forgot to tell him to keep the spreader moving and dispense the chemicals evenly, so we now have a couple of burned places in the lawn. Sometimes mature believers, in our zeal to help others grow, do something similar to babes in Christ. It’s not a case of burning them with extra-biblical teachings, but many of us have forgotten what it was like to be that new creation in Christ and the need for having the Word spread evenly. Jesus said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46 NIV).
August 25, 2016
The articles I write for an online newspaper aren’t always appreciated. I report the facts of what I see and hear, but there are those who don’t want to hear that truth. They prefer I spin the situation to put them in a good light. In other words, they would rather have a press release than a news release. The situation is biblically familiar. The soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus experienced the violent earthquake and the empty tomb and reported what happened to the chief priests. “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (Matt 28:12-15 NIV).
August 24, 2016
Mentally my friend Betty has always rejected aging. Recently after an all-day senior outing she emailed me and said, “Do you think my body is saying, “No more trips for you, Old Lady?” Actually, yesterday was the first day I admitted to feeling 92!” I laughed and told her I was shocked by her admission, but she quickly pulled me up short and wrote back, “I said YESTERDAY was the first day I admitted to feeling 92. Today is another day. Slower, perhaps, but still…” Betty and Caleb seem to have a similar zest for life. Caleb, who remembered the promise from the Lord 38 years earlier said, “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then” (Joshua 14:10-11 NIV).
August 23, 2016
When shopping for some new shirts and blouses I found very little that appealed to me. The racks of clothes were screaming with bright multicolored prints, paisleys, flowers and geometric shapes. Quite frankly I don’t see such attire in church, the grocery store, at community events, or at business meetings, so I can’t help but wonder, who buys this stuff anyway? The church is not immune from following trends. I may have overlooked something, but the last big trend I witnessed on the religious landscape was the Purpose Driven Church movement of the mid-1990’s. Paul describes what we are like when we attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph 4:14-15 NIV).
August 22, 2016
A little boy about five years-old lives next to the bike path and rides a small bike with training wheels. Sometimes as I passed by he’d show me how fast he could ride, do a wheelie, or race his brother down the sidewalk. Last week he charged up to me and dropping his bike on the grass, he crouched down beside it and showed me where his training wheels used to be attached, “Look here, look here! I took ‘em off. I don’t need ‘em anymore!” I can pinpoint the day I became a babe in Christ, but I’m now trying to recall the monumental moment when I took off my training wheels. The writer of Hebrews said, “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 5:13-14 NIV).
August 19, 2016
My mom and sister, both now deceased, played the lottery. When Powerball reached a payoff of $50,000 mom would always buy two tickets with no power play — anything less was not worth her time. My sister, on the other hand, would buy two tickets with power play because she thought it increased her chance for a bigger payoff. While neither of them ever won anything, they always expected to win and dreamed of how they would spend their winnings. James reminds believers that motives play a big part in what we receive, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3 NIV).
August 18, 2016
Many Republicans are stressed because Donald Trump is off message and rather than going after Hillary Clinton and the economy, he is attacking the media. I not only see his actions as a brilliant strategy, I believe it will be a blessing to believers. The liberal media is Hillary’s true running mate, her left hand man if you will…and the real enemy to Christian conservatives. Win or lose, Donald Trump should be given credit for calling out the liberal media, labeling them for who they are and shining a light on their hypocrisy. The Psalmist wrote, “How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever” (Psalm 74:10 NIV).
August 17, 2016
An unkempt man with long grey hair riding a bicycle passed me on the bike path and for several feet his aged sweaty body odor hung in the air. The stench lingered so long that I began to wonder if the aroma of faith lingers with others after I pass by them. Paul tells us there is a fragrance associated with the knowledge of Christ. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Cor 2:15-16a NIV).
August 16, 2016
A woman new to the political landscape appears to be trying to make her mark by picking public fights with individuals and organizations. I was stymied by her motivation until someone pointed out her tendency to attack when she detects weakness. I’m now wondering if those same optics might apply to Christians in America. Are the attacks on our faith due in part to the fact that the world sees a weakness in believers? Paul said, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Cor 16:13-14 NIV).
August 15, 2016
Bill wanted a bike mount to put on the garage wall that could have been purchased at Harbor Freight for $9.99. However, he found one on eBay for five cents and it was a bargain he just couldn’t pass up. Unfortunately, he won the bid and is now licking his wounds because with shipping and handling we now have a $20 bike mount. Believers are sometimes guilty of bargain shopping when it comes to the Gospel. Paul brings us up short, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Gal 1:6-8 NIV)!
August 12, 2016
Hillary Clinton claims that if she becomes President she will have broken the glass ceiling proving to young girls that anyone, even a woman, can become President. And then recently 50 heavy-weight Republicans signed a declaration against Donald Trump sending a message to boys and girls, “No, no…we don’t want you to think that just anyone can become President of the US. We deem the Donald Trumps of the world unqualified and unfit.” American believers often fall into the trap of thinking it is we who determine who has authority over us. Paul said, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Ro 13:1 NIV).
August 11, 2016
Recently my brother-in-law came for family visit and while taking his mom out for a hamburger he pulled a California stop and rolled through a stop sign. When the police officer came up to the car he asked Jim if he knew why he was being stopped. Caught between two figures of authority Jim said, “Yes, my 92-year-old mother just told me!” The officer let him off with a warning. “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9 NIV).
August 10, 2016
My local school district will put a referendum on the November ballot to increase the mill levy in order to build a new middle school. While I understand the need to replace the current 60-year-old facility, I’m disturbed by the fact that over the years the school administration has elected to showcase the deterioration rather than cover it up. No doubt the optics of the sinking floor separating from the foundation, the cracks in the walls, and the exposed temporary foam insulation plays to their advantage. However, most of us in this area have homes that are also settling and shifting and we do not leave our homes with such optic defects. To the contrary, we patch the cracks, caulk seams and cosmetically conceal damage cause by shifting soil. Similar to showcasing a building’s deterioration, the Jews of New Testament times showcased their fasting by putting ashes on their heads. Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt 6:16-18 NIV).
August 09, 2016
During my evening walk a woman strolled my direction wearing flip-flops. We spoke a greeting and went on our way; however, about half way through my walking loop we ran into each other again. She joked, “With all this walking you’d think we’d lose more weight.” I agreed, but as I continued on my walk I just couldn’t wrap my head around wearing flip-flops and exercising. I now have this image of the prescribed footwear that completes the Armor of God and some of us deciding to show up in house slippers, sequined slings and cowboy boots. Paul said, “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” (Eph 6:14-15 NIV).
August 08, 2016
For over a year I’ve been serious about diet and exercise and now that my weight loss is more noticeable it’s often the topic of conversations when I run into friends and family. Recently a friend lamented about her more mature body shape, “I’m the same weight I was in high school, but everything has shifted.” Many yearn for the youthful things of this world — physique, physical strength and hair color. However, Paul remind 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. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3 NIV).
August 05, 2016
My local newspaper is consistently making publishing errors — typos, erroneous information, misspelled names and misquotes. My first reaction was one of sloppiness and lack of proofreading. However, as it continues I now see the issues as a blatant disrespect for their readership. If these journalists were writing for a prominent national publication their submissions would be the best they could offer, polished to perfection. On the religious landscape believers too can be guilty of offering less than our best, whether to one another, or to God. Paul reminds us, “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 Tim 2:15 NIV).
August 04, 2016
Recently a member of the local Humanist, Atheist, Free Thinkers and Agnostics (HAFTA) objected to the sign on our church marque which read, “Put God’s Truth over Political correctness.” In a letter to the church Mr. Read ranted and raved about God’s laws and then ended his missive, "So look, I understand that most of your congregation don't actually read the Bible or obey what it says, but I just wanted to point out how horrible out lives would be if we actually obeyed God's laws!" Secretly I wish enemies of the church would not make themselves known because then I’m obligated to love and pray for them. Jesus said, "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt 5:44-45 NIV).
August 03, 2016
All right, my words are coming back to haunt me and I’m now contemplating my own spiritual needs. I’ve written before about my struggle with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Coveting is not my problem, but I now suspect my perception and obsession with fairness may lead to envy. In The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard the workers began to grumble against the landowner who paid all the workers the same wage regardless of how much work they had done. The landowner responded, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous” (Matt 20:13-15 NIV)? Obviously my focus on fairness and equality keeps me from seeing generosity.
August 02, 2016
One man in my church normally prefaces congregational prayers with, “I don’t know what your need is, but God knows. Whatever your need is, bring it to God.” The invitation is stated in such a way that my thoughts always turn toward material, financial, physical or emotional needs. At that particular moment in the worship service the thought of bringing spiritual needs to the Lord never occurs to me. Today we believers rarely talk to one another about our spiritual needs, but that is not the example we see portrayed in the New Testament where we hear, “Lord increase my faith…help me in my unbelief...give me this living water…show us the Son…tell me so I can believe…what must I do to be saved?”
August 01, 2016
On multiple occasions I’ve watched a slight built woman walking her muscular dog in the park. Actually, she’s not walking him, he’s walking her. She leans back against his pull and even with a sturdy harness and heavy duty leash he drags her along going where he wants to go. One day they were close to the bike path and when he approached I asked if he was friendly. She said, “Oh yes, he’s my service dog!” It occurs to me this dog illustrates the actions of many believers today. We call ourselves servants and refer to Jesus as our Master…and yet we strain to drag and pull the Lord to every tree, bush and friendly face we see. The psalmist wrote, “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me” (Psalm 3:18 NIV).