I was taken aback to see my middle-aged cousin in church on Sunday and being flippant I said, “Whoa…I wonder if the roof is going to fall in!” I then sat through the worship service beating myself up for making a joke at his expense. After the service I apologized, but he wasn’t offended and we had a good laugh when he agreed with the sentiments. Paul said, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5 NIV). Unfortunately, sometimes our thoughts escape and go on the run before we even know we should hold them captive.
October 28, 2016
As we age our physical ailments overtake us and they seem to become the topic of conversation. When we are younger the response to “How are you feeling?” is much different than when we are older. If someone asks how I’m feeling it never cross my mind to tell them how I’m feeling spiritually, but if I were to evaluate my spiritual health I’d say I’m fit, trim and ready to run a marathon with energy to spare. Maybe by borrowing a quote from Jesus I can cover both the physical and spiritual systems checkups and say, “…The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matt 26:41b).
October 27, 2016
As Jesus hung on the cross bystanders mistakenly thought he was calling for Elijah. After giving Jesus a sponge filled with wine vinegar those standing around said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him” (Matt 27:49 NIV). In a similar sense believers can feel the pressure of the cross when non-believing bystanders disparage our faith and smirk, “Let’s see if Jesus comes to save them.”
October 26, 2016
Recently I’ve encountered two women of faith who are under the influence of drugs — one uses prescription pain meds and the other methamphetamines. I’ve dealt with addicted family members before so let me confess I’m somewhat jaded. I tend to see the drug addicted person as a lost cause with no way to cut through the fog of their dependency. With swiftness the Spirit reminded me of Jesus speaking to two blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt 9:28 NIV).
October 25, 2016
Rather than using cash, many people, organizations and entities use in-kind donations to transfer goods, services and gifts. Occasionally believers will try to bring this model into the church. For instance, we might put a monetary value on our volunteer work as a youth sponsor and equate volunteerism with a tithe, or the way God has increased our income. Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor 9:6 NIV).
October 24, 2016
Following the communion meditation, the speaker led a congregational prayer thanking the Lord for His sacrifice on the cross. Then, as though listening to his own words he added, “…but our words are so inadequate.” Certainly our words are inadequate, but our actions speak louder than words. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
October 21, 2016
Often we believers fail to speak up for fear of being PC (politicly correct). We forget that even Jesus was called into account by the chief priests and elders of the people, “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority” (Matt 21:23b NIV)? Paul reminds us, that we too have authority in Christ Jesus, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you” (Titus 2:15 NIV).
October 20, 2016
As it relates to what comes out of his mouth, Donald Trump is unfiltered. However, for the liberal media and politicians to step forward as though they are the moral compass and conscience of America is startling. Similar to the woman caught in adultery, the hypocritical media is setting a trap for people of faith. Jesus reminds us, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7b NIV).
October 19, 2016
Many of us have known a co-worker or a supervisor who doesn’t appear to be worth their salary. When you’ve been in the church environment for years you can see something similar in pastors, youth ministers and paid ministry leaders. Paul said, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages” (1 Tim 5:17-18 NIV). None of us want to muzzle the ox, but it is incumbent upon us to make sure that he is actually treading out grain.
October 18, 2016
Some weeks ago a retired couple moved to our town and when they learned I’d visited all the churches in our area they wanted some recommendations. Similar to directing someone to a restaurant I found out what they were looking for and then rattled off a menu of churches. Last Sunday they re-visited my church and told me they had attended six churches and while comparing our experiences the man said, “We’re trying to find a place where we can serve.” My first reaction was one of human nature…match skill sets with needs. However, Peter puts the believer’s service into a spiritual perspective, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV).
October 17, 2016
Normally when the church loses a prominent contributor we react with grief…grief for the loss of the person and also for the loss to the church. We mentally calculate such a death in terms of the person’s service, financial contributions, personality and spiritual knowledge. In the early church Dorcas, who was always doing good and helping the poor, died. To the joy of believers and the widows Peter then raised her from the dead and restored her to the church. (Acts 9:36-43). Ananias and Sapphira, in spite of the fact that they exaggerated the amount of their donation to the church, were still big financial contributors to the work of the Apostles. However, because they lied to the Holy Spirit, each fell down and died when confronted by Peter. The church did not grieve in the loss of this husband and wife, but rather, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11 NIV).
October 14, 2016
In our church we have a 55-gallon trash can that is used as a drop-off container for non-perishable food items donated to the community pantry. A sign on the can reads, “Sharing Ministries – This is not a trash can.” I chuckle because no one reads the sign and people simply see a large trash can that contains plastic grocery sacks, paper cartons and cans, so they toss in their trash. A few people approach Christianity in the same fashion. While they want to be seen as a new creation in Christ, their life style continues to resemble their old-self. Paul said, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24 NIV).
October 13, 2016
In the Parable of the Talents a man who was going on a journey entrusted his servants with money, each according to his ability. Two of the servants put their money to work and made more; however, the third servant buried his talent and then on the master’s return he simply gave it back. The master deemed the servant wicked, lazy and worthless because at the very least the money should have been put on deposit with bankers and gained some interest. We may look at fellow believers and wonder why they seemingly have so much more than we do — talents, gifts, wealth. We forget that our ability enters into the equation of how much we are given. Through the parable Jesus said, “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability” (Matt 25:15a NIV).
October 12, 2016
When I accepted Jesus and was baptized I receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. I now have the perception that the Spirit is somewhat confined in my body, but ministering to me and through me. It’s not really registered with me that the Spirit has such a free-flowing character; one that is not based on my decision to measure and pour out the Spirit. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus stood up and spoke in the temple courts and said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:38-39 NIV).
October 11, 2016
Jesus often gave a postscript after he healed someone — go wash in the pool, pick up your mat, go show yourself to the priest, see that you don’t tell anyone. Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and my human nature is wondering, exactly how much sinning can a man who has been an invalid for 38 years do? Because of his limitations he probably wasn’t involved with prostitutes, nor was he a thief, or a murderer. I suppose that while laying around the pool at Bethesda he could have been trash-talking, telling dirty jokes, or reading pornography. The man did not know who healed him, but Jesus had yet one more postscript to add to the healing, “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NIV).
October 10, 2016
If I lose track of someone I usually have a general idea where to find them…in the tool section of a store, playing a video game at the mall, or in the fiction aisle of a book store. I can understand how Mary and Joseph lost track of 12-year-old Jesus on their return trip from the annual trek to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. However, I find it surprising that once they got back to Jerusalem it took them three days to find him. Even in his youth Jesus was filled with wisdom and God’s grace was on him. When his parents finally located the young Jesus in the temple and confronted him he asked, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49 NIV)?
October 07, 2016
Jesus healed two demon possessed men and sent the demons into a herd of pigs. When the pigs rushed into a lake and died the incident was reported to the town, “Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region” (Matt 8:34 NIV). I find it very telling that, in spite of freeing the two demon possessed men, no one in the town asked Jesus to stay. In America today there are some groups of people acting in a similar fashion. In effect the environmentalist, the new ager, and the liberal media have all asked Jesus to leave what they perceive to be their region. People of faith can and should reclaim these regions for the Lord.
October 06, 2016
When you feel like you’re starving to death it takes very little to turn something into a temptation. As I continue with my diet friends and loved ones will unconsciously offer me such delicacies as the day-old donuts at church, or a sample of the grandkids stash of sugar bombs in the pantry. I know it sounds harsh, but I’m strongly considering using a quote from the Lord’s playbook, “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”” (Matt 16:23 NIV).
October 05, 2016
I know Jesus has the power to heal all sickness and disease, and he can do so at any time. However, Jesus doesn’t always heal every infirmity so I preface my prayers with, “Lord, if it’s your will…” A man with leprosy used a different approach when he came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy” (Matt 8:2-3 NIV). My sense is there is a difference between Jesus being willing to heal vs. His will that someone be healed. The Canaanite woman with the demon possessed daughter comes to mind. It doesn’t appear it was the Lord’s will to heal the child until He saw the mother’s great faith; then He was willing to grant the mother’s request. (Matt 15:21-28).
October 04, 2016
I have family visiting later in the month and in planning the menu I’m going to make it as easy on myself as I can. Rather than trying to find out what they need, or would like to eat, I plan on having dishes I can prepare ahead of time, that will serve well in a buffet line, and that will store well if there are leftovers. Jesus told Peter, as well as all leaders in the church, that their responsibility is to “feed my sheep.” On occasions I’ve visited churches where the food being served to the flock is convenience food, not the spiritual food that is needed, “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead” (Jude 12 NIV).
October 03, 2016
As a writer I know when I read my work out loud I have a better chance of catching errors in grammar and punctuation. However, it is even more beneficial when I ask my daughter to proofread an article and she reads it back to me aloud and I hear the words from the reader’s perspective. Most worship leaders have set aside the public reading of Scripture, but the importance of reading Scripture aloud should not be underestimated. John said, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Rev 1:3 NIV).