For a while I wore a step-monitor to make me aware of the level of my physical activity...or lack thereof. I compared exercise notes with a young health professional and she admitted to being obsessed with her wrist monitor and checked it constantly. She loves her monitor so much she won’t end her day until she has reached her goal of a certain number of steps. Paul warns us of such obsessions, “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).
September 29, 2016
Hunters and fishermen have trophies of their successes hanging on the walls, but more often than not the stories they tell are about the one that got away. We believers, as fishers of men, sometimes have a trophy experience when we are trying to make disciples, but it is only Jesus who can tell the story of the ones who got away. 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 7:21-23)!
September 28, 2016
I took part in the national prayer event for women, Cry Out 2016 simulcast. Thirty of us assembled at my church for the three-hour event and we prayed for the nation, the church, our families and for ourselves as individuals. In small pods of three we shared needs, desires and goals. One segment had us ordaining one another to what we perceived to be our mission. I admit to being a little uncomfortable ordaining someone when I knew so little about them, or their calling. However, my mind was put to rest by the Psalmist, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:15-16 NIV.)
September 27, 2016
Paul wanted those who are strong in the faith to accept those who are weak without passing judgment and he specifically mentioned personal opinions about food and drink. In today’s church we encourage each other to express ideas and opinions about all manner of things with little or no regard to the strength or weakness of others. Those of us who are mature in the faith have so much knowledge we want to share with others and yet Paul said, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Ro 14:22 NIV). That’s one way to get mature believers to have a one on one with God.
September 26, 2016
The executive director of a government agency took exception to the summary report I’d written for publication. Saying there were misstatements in my account the woman wrote a letter-to-the-editor with clarifications and corrections, which in essence calls into question my work as a reporter. Fortunately, there were about 20 other people in the room and the meeting was audio recorded. Rather than worrying about defending myself, I can let the record speaks for itself. Jesus said, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:11-12 NIV).
September 23, 2016
The teachers of the law who were Pharisees took exception to Jesus eating with sinners. Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). As a tax collector Matthew knew he was a sinner and if he had any doubt the Pharisees reminded him of his status. The Pharisees on the other hand thought they were righteous. I’m trying to put myself in the mind of the Pharisee and hearing Jesus say to me, “I’m not calling you.”
September 22, 2016
I see a pattern in my community where certain individuals steer organizations and boards to do something other than their assigned mission. The library board wants to offer classes in leadership and Civics 101; the recreation district wants to teach the community how to be civil to one another; and the city wants to work on economic development and tourism rather than maintain streets. While these may all be worthy endeavors, they lead the organization astray. Even within the church there are some who would draw us away from our mission. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard” (Acts 20:30-31a NIV)!
September 21, 2016
With the busyness of life our daily focus is often on the things of the world. Politics, government and physical ailments can consume our minds. It occurs to me that even Sunday mornings the sermons we hear and the Sunday School lessons we’re taught are more about earthly things than they are about things above. “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).
September 20, 2016
Math equations are not my thing and if you add apocalyptic literature to math my eyes glaze over. I thought John was pretty straight forward when he said that number of the beast, man’s number, is 666. I get that. But what am I supposed to do when he says to calculate the number…add, subtract, multiply, divide? “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” (Rev 13:18 NIV). Obviously not all of us have the wisdom and insight needed for biblical interpretation.
September 19, 2016
Regardless of how carefully I put them up, when I get ready to go for a walk I have to untangle the earbuds I use with my cell phone. I’m now contemplating the disciples who fished all night and never caught anything. I suspect that each time they drew in their nets they had to untangle them before they cast them out again. Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19 NIV). As believers we want to focus on the catch, but many of us spend a considerable amount of time untangling our nets.
September 16, 2016
Struggling with the lesser of two evils voters don’t seem to want Trump or Clinton as their President. I see something similar in the Parable of the Ten Minas. A man of noble birth went to a distant country and had himself appointed king, “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’” However, he was made king and when he returned he demanded an accounting of how his money was invested. We don't yet know who will reside in the oval office, but Jesus’ parable tells me that established rulers, whether Clinton or Trump, have a long memory, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” (Luke 19:14, 27 NIV).
September 15, 2016
A mill levy is the revenue stream for many taxing districts. During a recent board meeting of one such district a trustee said he would like to see revenues increased with a ballot issue, “…and then [we’ll] see what we want to spend it on.” As individuals many of us have a similar attitude…we want to win the lottery, or have God bless, and then we’ll decide what we want to spend it on. God is more focused on our needs than our wants. Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:8b NIV).
September 14, 2016
This election cycle has brought many of us to our knees. We are worried about terrorists, the economy, the American Dream going down the tubes and the next President. We hear the mantra about making America great again, but even as people of faith many of us fail to grasp why a great nation should be important to us. Paul said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim 2:1-2 NIV).
September 13, 2016
On my exercise walks I’ve become semi-acquainted with an older woman who sits on the back step of her apartment. We wave at one another when I pass by and on one encounter she gave me a verbal pat on the back by recognizing I’d lost weight. She went on to say that she too had been working on her weight and had lost 20 lbs. We now have this encouragement thing going on and she recently said, “You’re looking good!” I appreciate the support from a total stranger, but I’m now feeling guilty for not acknowledging Christian attributes in others when I see them. It would take so little effort to say to another believer, “You’re looking good!” Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16 NIV).
September 12, 2016
The Jews thought Jesus spoke blasphemy and declared, “He is worthy of death” (Matt 26:66 NIV). Even Paul said, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them” (Acts 26:9-10 NIV). Most of us can identify with wanting to an enemy put to death, but what I grapple with is the manner of death. I can’t image wanting even someone who I call an enemy to be tortured. When Pilate asked the people what he should do with Jesus the people shouted, “Crucify him” (Matt 27:22 NIV).
September 09, 2016
Through an educational program the city had an intern position in the planning department. However, it wasn’t long before the intern was snatched from the planning department and put into administration. While some might view the situation as climbing the ladder of opportunity, others view it as elevating a person to a position for which they are unqualified. We believers allow something similar to happen in the Body of Christ. In today’s church it is often the leadership who determines when and where people serve, which gives the appearance that leadership is responsible for arranging the body parts. Paul wrote, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18 NIV).
September 08, 2016
In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet the king went in to see his guests and noticed one man was not wearing wedding clothes, “‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:12-13 NIV). As I consider the problem of illegal immigration the same question comes to mind, Friend, how did you get in the US without the proper documentation? America has always invited immigrants to her shores, but similar to the biblical example, immigrants must follow proper protocol if they are to gain entrance.
September 07, 2016
Over the holiday weekend I attended my 50th class reunion and the photographer had a hard time getting everyone corralled. As requested, I positioned myself according to height, but then one of the former popular kids, with his beer in hand, bulled his way in front of me and others. The man was intent on being photographed with one particular classmate and had no regard for those behind him. The second photo was in another location and I stood next to a landscape barrier where no one could stand in front of me…or so I thought. One of the popular girls standing on a ledge below me called to her friends to come and stand on the landscape barrier itself. I did my best to shake the feeling of being back in high school and the sense of being overlooked, pushed aside and invisible. The story of Zacchaeus is a good reminder that Jesus always sees me. Jesus was passing through Jericho, “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore–fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:2-5 NIV).
September 06, 2016
In a small obscure park in my neighborhood there is an area where the grass just doesn’t seem to grow. This spring the city parks department re-planted the 16 X 24 foot area and then staked an orange plastic cargo fence around it to keep people out. For months the parks guys have mowed the grass around the cordoned-off area, but I think they have forgotten the plot itself. The grass is still not growing, but the weeds on the inside are flourishing. As I go passed the area on my early morning walk the crickets sing their little hearts out…their sanctuary is green, has lots of shade and they are out of reach of the local predatory ducks. We too have a sanctuary in the One who sits on His throne, “A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary” (Jer 17:12 NIV).
September 05, 2016
September 02, 2016
One of the criminals who hung on the cross next to Jesus hurled insults at him, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39 NIV)! One would think the disciples would have a little more faith than the criminal. However, I hear the same words from the disciples when they were on a boat with Jesus. “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown” (Matt 8:24-25 NIV)! Whether nailed to a cross, or on a sinking ship, our faith can be measured.
September 01, 2016
I picked up a 1 ½ inch wood screw laying in the roadway, but it wasn’t just a screw…it was a flat tire in the making. Things, as well as people, aren’t always what they seem. Spies went to Jesus and tried to trap him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar, but they failed because he saw through their duplicity. Unfortunately, some believers also practice duplicity and they too are under the misguided impression that no one can see their motives. Proverbs says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3 NIV).