A local museum got caught up in being promoted as a place for paranormal activity. While they are receiving worldwide PR, they now feel the label may detract from their stated mission of history and education. The ghost branding may well stick simply because there are a couple of people in the administration who, by all appearances, believe in the paranormal. I suspect the museum will try to find a way to straddle the line, which is a similar tactic we see in liberal churches, as well as in individual believers. For instance, those who stand on the Bible yet practice astrology and rely on their horoscope. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt 6:24 NIV).
November 20, 2017
I find the upcoming Alabama election with controversial candidate Judge Ray Moore fascinating. The uproar reminds me of same atmosphere that was present when Jesus was before Pilate. The religious and political leaders conspired to have the Lord crucified and Barabbas released…and the people in the crowd, the voters of that day, believed that they controlled the narrative. We would do well to remember that whether it is Obama, Trump or Moore, it is God who purposed these people for their position. 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).
November 17, 2017
Scripture often uses repetition to emphasize the importance of an issue, but generally speaking we don’t see New Testament writers reviewing their own material. I’m seeing a pattern with today’s preachers, similar to a teacher reminding his students of a previous instruction, where they review past lessons. The pastor will refer to information given in the adult Sunday school class, the Wednesday night Bible study, or last week’s sermon. Such refreshers work well if preacher is talking to the same audience; however, it is of little benefit to those who missed the previous lesson. Often these reviews overshadow the actual lesson, which leaves one with the feeling that the speaker wasn’t prepared and fell back on old material. Paul sets a standard and serves as an example to those who preach the Word, “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:6-8 NIV).
November 16, 2017
I recently watched an old western on TV where Sam Elliot’s character talked about riding for the brand. In essence the brand was a ranch’s trademark and riding for the brand meant you signed on to the mission — loyalty, dedication, duty, etc. It is becoming more and more obvious that people in the media, politicians, civil servants and yes, even people of faith, are trying to become their own brand. Sometimes people of faith start writing and believing their own press and forget the brand they ride for is not their own, but that of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor 7:23 NIV).
November 15, 2017
During a recent visit to a struggling church there were only three of us in attendance. One man was at retirement age and the other man was well beyond retirement. Both gentlemen have had heath issues and are unable to keep up with the facility maintenance. The pastor said, “Once in a while we have visitors and can fill a [pew] row. We don’t have any youth programs, so I can see why people with children want to go other churches. We continue to be faithful here until God says shut the door…which may be sooner rather than later.” As an observer it appeared to me that the Lord had already shut the door. I couldn’t help but wonder if, rather than praying for the Lord to shut the door, they should be praying for the Lord to open a door. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Cor 16:7-9 NIV).
November 14, 2017
More and more people try to tap into the Christian Ear for referral traffic. Their messages are often written in a foreign language, or with broken English lacking basic grammar. Not surprising, the comments have nothing to do with the subject even though they say, “This is just what I needed and will you write more on this subject.” As believers we too must filter out Satan’s referral traffic that would have us believe that all religions lead to God and, as the bumper sticker purports, all faiths can “coexist.” Jesus states clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7 NIV).
November 13, 2017
In honor of Veterans the small congregation sang the hymn, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” The pastor said, “There are also veterans of the faith who are Christian soldiers in His kingdom. As a military veteran (US Navy and Army National Guard), the comment gave me pause. A veteran is someone who has had long experience in a particular field; however, I’ve never applied that title to my Christian walk. 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).
November 10, 2017
The last few weeks I’ve felt overwhelmed with coordinating my life, as well as the lives of my husband and mother-in-law. We’ve had an overnight hospital stay, multiple doctor appointments and visits to an attorney to cross our T’s and dot the I’s. I finally told the Lord that I’ve reached my limit and I can do no more. You wanna know what he told me…My grace is sufficient you. The Lord’s words to Paul should strike at the heart of all believers, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9a NIV).
November 09, 2017
The banner in an inclusive spiritual center displayed a potpourri of beliefs, but the only two I recognized were the Peace Sign and the Star of David. The leader said, “All faiths and all religions welcome you on your unique path to the Creator.” One need read no further than the first two Commandments to understand what God demands from those love Him, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand ‹generations› of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex 20:3-6 NIV).
November 08, 2017
The recent mass shooting at the Southern Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas is tragic; as was the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, the loss of life is not the same. Generally speaking people of faith are comforted knowing that those who died during worship are with the Lord, but we don’t know about those who died while on vacation. While some would have been believers, others would not have accepted Jesus before their life was taken. Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours… None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:9,12b, 20, 21 NIV).
November 07, 2017
In a telephone conversation I spoke to a liberal minded woman who moved to the area a couple years ago, “We didn’t know this was such a religious community. We should have done our homework better.” I defended the community’s right to practice religion, but I’ll admit that my first reaction was one of indignation that a perceived overly religious community factored into a site selection for retirement. I then remembered my husband and I once talked about relocating, but decided against a move because of the lack of medical facilities, grocery stores, and yes…the absence of a church that taught the Bible, rather than the denomination. It gives me pause to consider Abraham’s only consideration for relocation was God’s direction, “‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you” (Acts 7:3 NIV).
November 06, 2017
Yesterday I visited a church whose publicly scheduled worship time was 1:30 p.m.; however, when I arrived the doors were locked. The worship time listed on the door was 2:00 p.m., so I went shopping for 30 minutes and returned. Still the doors were locked, but it just so happened that members of the church dropped by at the same time and explained that they no longer have afternoon services. I suppose it was no big deal from the church leadership’s position, but from a visitor’s point of view the lackadaisical attitude spoke volumes. John reported on the schedule for the New Jerusalem, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there” (Rev 21:22-25 NIV).
November 03, 2017
Jesus told his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NIV). I know the Spirit reveals to us as much as we can absorb, but there are times when I just don’t understand what God is doing, or why He is doing it. In those instances, I feel more servant-like simply because I’m doing what the Lord commands, but not fully understanding the purpose.
November 02, 2017
In my first visit to a local Mennonite congregation some of the ladies welcomed me; however, none of the men spoke to me, nor did they make eye contact. For my second visit to the same church two young fathers introduced themselves and shook my hand. During the service the speaker welcomed guests and I laughed to myself because out of 125 people, it was obvious I was the only visitor. The women of this denomination wear mid-calf dresses, long hair concealed by black head scarves and no jewelry or make-up. Needless to say I stood out like a sore thumb. This congregation separates themselves by gender during worship with the men sitting on the right side of the church and woman on the left. Following the service, I complimented the speaker on his message and told him I appreciated the welcome from the two young men. He said, “Maybe none of the men spoke to you the first time because of your perfume.” The man’s calculated attempt at superiority was both wasted and transparent...I happen to be allergic to perfume. Paul said, “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. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:3-5 NIV).
November 01, 2017
We have so many power sources in the house that I literally do not need a flashlight or nightlight to walk through the house when it’s dark. Those glowing red, green, blue and amber LED spots show the computer, the printer, the TV cable box, coffee pot, CO2 detector, alarm clock, cell phone charger, etc. In the spiritual arena it’s no wonder that people fail to see the light of Christ in us when we walk around giving credit to so many other power sources — natural talents, finances, health, social status, heritage, linage, and self-esteem, self-righteousness. Jesus told his disciples, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36 NIV).
October 31, 2017
During a church visit a man stood up in front of his electric wheelchair to give a brief witness and testimony, “I’m grateful to God that I am here today. It is only by His grace that I’m able to get out among God’s people. I need to be better about serving God because He is so good to me.” It struck me that most of the lame, the blind and the crippled in the Bible wanted to follow Jesus only after they were healed. I see Paul’s thorn in the flesh as the best example of a person determined to serve the Lord within the confines of their disability. “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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:7 NIV).
October 30, 2017
There was an element of displeasure from a pastor on the article I wrote about my visit to his church, “You write some unflattering comments…I suppose you are writing from the truth of what you experience.” When I looked at the flipside of his comment it became obvious he expected me to use flattery when reporting on his congregation. Paul puts such worldly attitudes in their proper perspective, “On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thes 2:4-6 NIV).
October 27, 2017
I visited the Church of the Firstborn who, generally speaking, does not seek medical treatment, but relies on faith for physical healing. There was no structure in the service, but one of fluid individual testimony, witness, confession, repentance and thanksgiving. The group shared their burdens, pain and grief and asked for prayers that they might be overcomers. However, I was struck that the service lacked joy, praise or even the opportunity to say amen. It occurs to me that the Lord’s instruction on fasting could and should be applied, “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).
October 26, 2017
I burned my thumb taking a pan out of the oven and spent the next two hours sitting around with an ice bag on it to stop the pain. I was reminded of my Grandma Colby, who was a no nonsense, black and white believer. Grandma accepted that some people would go to hell; however, it was the pain associated with a small burn that caused her empathy for those who would suffer in eternity. Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matt 18:9 NIV).
October 25, 2017
During a church visit a young woman greeted an elderly woman who then apologized for not immediately recognizing the greeter, “My eyes don’t focus and my memory is not good. I have pressure in my head and I think if that would go away I’d have more room for my memory.” I’m going to tuck that gem away for future use…It’s not that I can’t remember, I’ve just run out of storage space. “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot” (Proverbs 10:7 NIV).
October 24, 2017
A member of a local organization retired and as a parting gift he received one of the large signs of the organization’s retired logos. The recipient said, “Logos have always been a transition...they show where we are going and where we’ve been.” My old church changed their logo every time there was a change in preachers. Albeit there were not many administration changes in 50 years; however, looking at the history of the church logo they can be traced to the presiding preacher. It occurs to me that the logos have one thing in common — they are about the leadership’s vision, rather than the mission of the organization. I suspect that the change in logo, church or otherwise, has more to do with human legacy than with mission. Believers need to be reminded that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV).
October 23, 2017
The local print newspaper is promoting it’s annual “Vote for the Best of the Best 2017.” Readers are to vote for the best restaurant, the best dry cleaners, the best insurance company, etc. The contest appears somewhat slanted because the newspaper gives you the list of candidates to choose from; however, that’s not to say they would reject your entry if you submitted a name that wasn’t on their list. One of the categories is for the best church and in order to win the title a church membership simply needs to vote for themselves. I can imagine God doing an eye roll. Paul said, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor 10:12 NIV).
October 20, 2017
Mary anointed Jesus with perfume and those present protested that it was a waste because the perfume could have been sold and the money given to poor. Jesus came to her defense. I find it interesting that immediately following this incident Judas Iscariot went to the chief priest with a plot to betray Jesus. It’s possible the loss of revenue was a concern for Judas; however, I suspect his motivation had more to do with Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9 NIV). I wonder if Judas was trying to make a name for himself and he felt his notoriety might somehow overshadow the worldwide memory of Mary.
October 19, 2017
I attended a meeting where only three of the six committee members were present and for my report I pulled the list of committee members from the official website. Much to my chagrin one of the men I reported as absent for the October meeting had died in August. Hopefully the error didn’t add to the family’s grief; however, the reality is that when we die we will all leave unfinished business. Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Fool, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21 NIV).
October 18, 2017
Many of us contemplate heaven and the reward for our faithfulness, obedience, loving our neighbor, displaying the Gifts of the Spirit, etc. However, as I read the Lord’s model prayer it occurs to me that we don’t have to wait until heaven…the Father’s kingdom and His will can be done on earth. Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Matt 6:9-13 NIV).
October 17, 2017
As my mother-in-law settles into our home she frequently asks, “What can I do to help?” Often I can’t think of anything she can help with because what I prioritize as needing done are things that only I can do — writing, organizing my work space, coordinating schedules. I never thought of helping others as being a God appointed position in the body of Christ, but there it is tucked between some of what many of us consider to be the weightier positions described by Paul. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:27-28 NIV).
October 16, 2017
One media headline read, “The Harvey Weinstein cover up: How censorship, settlements and silence kept the allegations out of the news.” Cover ups are not unique to Hollywood, the media and politicians, we also find them in the Bible, in today’s church and in our families. Wives engage in cover-ups for husbands, parents for their children and people of faith for their religious leaders. Paul said, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat...So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro 14:10b, 12 NIV). We understand that sins which have been covered-up will be exposed. However, not many of us consider that the part we played in covering up the sins of others will also be exposed.
October 13, 2017
Once again I attended a public meeting and heard a civil servant take a condescending tone with members of the community…and get away with it. Government employees who look down on the citizenry seem to forget that they work for the people. Similar situations can be found in the church where sometimes we too forget Who we work for. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12 NIV).
October 12, 2017
For exercise I walk in an event center at the county fairgrounds and fairly often I encounter a county deputy supervising inmates in orange jumpsuits who are working to set up, or dismantle, the structures used at community events. I know the inmates are incarcerated for an offense, but because I don’t know the nature of their offense it is easy for me to say, “Good morning. How’s your day going? Nice day today, isn’t it?” It occurs to me that if I actually knew what each man was sentenced for he would no longer be just an inmate, he would become a thief, a sexual offender, or an abuser in domestic violence. Something similar happens when believers look at one another. Knowing that we are all sinners is not the same as knowing the sinner’s sin. The idea of sinners wearing a generic orange jumpsuit sounds more palatable to me than having other believers know we are hypocrites, liars and adulterers. Paul said, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Ro 3:22-24 NIV).
October 11, 2017
We listed a five-year-old chest freezer on a Buy-Sell-Trade site for $250, which I thought was a bargain. It didn’t surprise me when people emailed to ask if we would take less, but I was outright offended when one guy offered to take it off our hands for $100. We did sell it at our price, but some people just don’t understand the value of an item…even the Gospel. The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (Heb 4:1-2 NIV).
October 10, 2017
Jacob (Gen 47:29-30) and Joseph (Gen 50:25) both died in Egypt and each was adamant that their bones should be removed from that country and buried with their fathers. I never fully appreciated the burial request of Jacob and Joseph until we moved my mother-in-law into our house and realized that we’d inadvertently left Grandmother Ethel’s urn buried in the flower garden in the backyard. The house is for sale and we can’t leave Ethel with foreigners, so naturally we’ll go back, dig up the urn and bring her to a new resting place. “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place” (Exodus 13:19 NIV).
October 09, 2017
I attended a worship service where the pastor’s sermon contained no illustrations, antidotes, jokes, examples, or any other extra-biblical material. I found the verse by verse message refreshing and as I left the service I complimented the pastor to his wife. She said, “Thank you…but I wish he would use some of them sometimes. He’s not formally educated [Bible college], he just learned at his mother’s knee.” I’m reminded of the sincere faith of young Timothy, a faith which also lived in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. I don’t know whether the pastor’s mother is still living, but the generational faith she passed down to her son lives on. Paul told Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self–discipline” (2 Tim 1:6-7 NIV).
October 06, 2017
My strategy in moving Ruth, my mother-in-law, into our home was to first move the personal items that she needed, and then gradually move the things she wanted to keep. In essence, with each load we left behind things she didn’t want, or didn’t know what to do with. Last weekend other family members came to help and their strategy was different. They wanted to see what they were dealing with so they pulled everything out of cupboards, closets and drawers. I have to admit that even I was overwhelmed looking at a lifetime of miscellaneous items, treasures and memories all strewn across countertops, tables and chairs. Some items had Ruth asking herself, “Why do I have that and I wonder who gave it to me?” Sayings of the wise from Proverbs, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw…” (Proverbs 24:32 NIV).
October 05, 2017
A pastor spoke on forgiveness and how to love our enemies, “Loving our enemies can be hard because so often when we look at people and see their sin. Stop looking at the sin, look at the person and our hearts will change.” His comments gave me pause and I’ll admit that I often can’t see beyond a person’s sin, particularly when it is blatant — homosexuality, lying, stealing, hypocrisy. Paul said, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col 3:13 NIV).
October 04, 2017
During a press conference a reporter asked a Las Vegas sheriff what law enforcement could have done to prevent the mass shooting. Without judging the question, the sheriff simply said, “We can’t prevent something we know nothing about.” I’m reminded of Paul struggling with having a full understanding of sin, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead” (Ro 7:7-9 NIV).
October 03, 2017
The pastor’s new sermon series was on living for God with your whole heart. “Oh, you may have asked God into your heart when you were saved, but have you given your heart to him? Have you asked him to give you a new heart?” His comment gave me pause. If we are honest, most of us like our hearts, even though we admit they need to be improved, cleaned-up, and strengthened. We just don’t think in terms of needing a heart transplant. Ezekiel wrote, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze 36:26 NIV).
October 02, 2017
My husband’s Great-great grandmother’s rocking chair was passed down through the family and for the last 30-years the chair has sat unused, but on display, in my mother in-law’s living room. “We brought it from Oklahoma and left it as it was. I never did anything to it.” When the chair came into my house I removed a variety of thin cushions that were 10 layers deep…cushions of feathers, foam and quilted throws. When I finally got to the original seat of the chair the webbing was stretched and concave leaving one to sink well below the frame. Next I began removing layers of fabric from the back of the chair that had accumulated over the years. Each new layer had been carefully safety pinned to the old layer and the layers included a bath towel, a curtain and a thin quilt. The last two coverings of cotton and upholstery material literally disintegrated in my hands as I removed the pins. I’m reminded of the Old Testament sacrifices which had to be offered over and over and over again. In essence the burnt and sin offering sacrifices covered, but could not remove sin. As Christians we are made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews said, “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Heb 7:26-27 NIV).
September 29, 2017
I’ve attended many Christian conferences and conventions where I experienced dynamic, Spirit-filled worship services. Recently during a local church service, the worship leader said, “Worship like you’ve never worshipped before!” His words were an attempt to solicitant an emotional response, but I really didn’t know what to do with them. By charismatic standards, the approximately 50 worshippers seemed subdued and the praise song selections just didn’t match the motivational words of the leader. Jesus said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV).
September 28, 2017
When there is a conflict with another person many of us petition the Lord to settle the grievance. Naturally, we want Him to look favorably on us and get the other person in line with our point of view. In the Parable of the Rich Fool a man wanted Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15 NIV). I suspect that in our personal prayers many of us fall into the habit of asking the Lord to be an arbitrator. However, it now occurs to me that rather than simply solving an issue there is a form of greed behind those requests.
September 27, 2017
In an act of defiance NFL football players decided to take a knee rather than pledge allegiance to the American flag and honor the National Anthem. I am offended, but rather than have my angst spew all over the blog I looked for a spiritual application. Eureka…Maybe the Lord is putting these guys on the field to practice taking a knee. “It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro 14:11-12 NIV).
September 26, 2017
As a pastor prepared for communion he tried to put the Lord’s Table in historical context. I knew he wanted to wind up with Jesus at the Last Supper; however, he was all over the map with Moses, Passover, killing the lamb, the blood on the door jambs and the Lamb of God. Certainly the pastor knew his material, but he failed to present it in a succinct manner and the importance of communion was lost in the Old Testament desert. Paul said, “…The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:23b-25 NIV).
September 25, 2017
During a church visit my pew-partner explained that she too was a first-time visitor. She shared with me that years ago she had joined her husband’s church out of obligation; however, he was no longer living and she knew she needed a connection to God. “I’ve gained a lot of weight and I worried that I might not be dressed right, but the woman who invited me to this church said my clothes wouldn’t matter.” The pastor’s welcome from the pulpit could not have been more profound and appropriate as he noted that we are all on the same journey, “We’re just going at a different pace.” Paul reminds us, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Ro 14:1 NIV).
September 22, 2017
A pastor explained that as time went on in his marriage he got used to his wife doing things and began to expect it. “When I opened my dresser drawer to get out clean clothes I never thought about how they got there. I took it for granted.” Making a spiritual application he continued, “Even in our church walk we begin to take God for granted. We stop saying thank you to the Lord!” Paul reminds us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col 2:6-7 NIV).
September 21, 2017
With fall around the corner one pastor reflected on farmers and their harvest. “Farmers reap a harvest in the fall because they planted in the spring.” Making a spiritual application with a profound twist he said, “You cannot sow un-forgiveness and expect to reap forgiveness.” In my mind failing to forgive is a personal, internal issue between believers and the Holy Spirit...and I place sowing a category of being a deliberate act. I’ve not considered, although I should have, that we can unconsciously sow un-forgiveness, as well as other sinful attitudes. Paul said, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7 NIV).
September 20, 2017
In an act of defiance NFL football players decided to take a knee rather than pledge allegiance to the American flag and honor the National Anthem. I am offended, but rather than have my angst spew all over the blog I looked for a spiritual application. Eureka…Maybe the Lord is putting these guys on the field to practice taking a knee. “It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro 14:11-12 NIV).
I visited a Pentecostal church and as I settled into the pew I had an immediate feeling of homecoming. While I have no connection to the denomination, I do have a relationship with the pews themselves. For over 30 years I sat in these same pews at my previous church. Apparently when my old church was remodeled they passed the pews on to the Pentecostal church. The Lord blessed me with wonderful unexpected memories. “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3 NIV).
September 19, 2017
Late Sunday evening our community experienced an extended period of lightning and window rattling thunder-bumpers. As I watched and listened I wondered what these particular thunders were saying. John reported, “And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” (Rev 10:4 NIV.)
September 18, 2017
My mother-in-law’s upright freezer resided in her garage and was layered with dust. As I prepared to move the freezer to my house I removed the contents and started to wash down the outside, but after one swipe it was obvious the water would be filthy in no time. Remembering how I was taught as a child to wash dishes I switched course and started on the inside first. For all practical purposes once the inside was clean, the freezer was clean…especially considering that it was going back into a garage setting. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt 23:25-26 NIV).
September 15, 2017
As elderly folks relocate to assisted living or nursing homes it is often up to the children and grandchildren to dispose of their lifetime collections. My 94-year-old mother-in-law, who just moved in with us, is in remarkably good shape for her age. While we physically moved her possessions, we are leaving it up to her to sort, discard, save, or give away her treasures. She continues to say, “Why do we save stuff? Why did I keep all these things?” I’m reminded of the parable about the rich fool. The man produced a good crop, but lacked storage space, “He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods” (Luke 12:17-18 NIV). The fool’s life was demanded of him that night, so not only was all his planning for naught, others were left to either benefit from, or dispose of, what he had prepared for himself.
September 14, 2017
Friday my mother-in-law moved in with us and that night our water heater died. Of course it was weekend and we needed a specific type of water heater. On Monday the plumbers located the right unit in a town 200 miles away, but it was inadvertently shipped to Denver rather than Montrose. Laundry piled up, we heated water on the stove to do dishes and took showers at the homes of family members. Last night we rejoiced when we had hot water for the first time in five days. However, God has a way of putting our trials in perspective and I need look no further that Texas or Florida to realize that five days without hot water is really not that big of a deal.
September 13, 2017
I visited the Quaker Silent Worship Group who have no introductions, announcements, hymns, prayers, or preaching. For an hour we sat in meditation with only a cough, a sneeze and stomach growls breaking the silence. The lack of a preacher might be explained by a poster on the wall which read, “Be patterns, be examples in countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone (italics included).” George Fox, Quaker 1624-1691. There was no mention of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or any higher power. However, the Spirit within me spoke loud and clear, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalms 46:10 NIV).
September 12, 2017
There have been a few times in my 47-year marriage when I’ve threatened to send my husband back to his mother, but she has always turned me down. Recently we made the family decision that Ruth, 94-years young, should give up living alone and driving her 1986 Lincoln and come to live with us. I may not be able to send Bill back to his mother…but I can bring his mother to him! Proverbs speaks today, “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22 NIV).
September 11, 2017
Last week nine ducks visited my back yard and I made the mistake of feeding them. After only two days of giving them a hand-out the flock gathered in the breezeway and quacked until I came out. The situation felt remarkably similar to the boy who drove up in front of his girlfriend's house for a date and rather than walking to the door and ringing the doorbell, he honked the horn and she came running. Good grief…now I have duck poo to wash off the sidewalk. The psalmist wrote, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16 NIV).
September 08, 2017
Being a person of faith is no guarantee that we understand what we need. As Jesus left Jericho there were two blind men sitting by the roadside. “Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him” (Matt 20:32-34 NIV). Even in the lives of mature believers there are still spiritual areas where we are blind and we too should be telling the Lord, “…we want to receive our sight.”
September 07, 2017
The rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to get eternal life and Jesus told him to obey the commandments. In typical young adult fashion, the man inquired, “Which ones?” (Matt 19:18a NIV). His question makes me laugh…heaven forbid that he should try to follow all the commandments. Today’s believers do something similar as we parse out Scripture looking for the minimal requirements needed to be called a Christian.
September 06, 2017
I recently visited a church that was more of the faith-healing and talking-in-tongues variety. Clapping, swaying, dancing to a tambourine and waving flags apparently loses something in small groups and we numbered only 10. There was an altar call following communion and an older couple went forward where there was laying on of hands and anointing with oil. It seemed to take considerable time before the Spirit moved visibly in these folks and they returned to their seats. When no one else went to the altar, the leadership then went into the audience and approached people in their seats. It became uncomfortable and awkward as I began to realize that if you don’t go to the altar, the altar comes to you!
September 05, 2017
I attended a church who described themselves as a full-gospel church. “Some churches just want to use the New Testament, but we use the whole Bible. They say we don’t need that stuff back there [Old Testament].” Holding up her Bible she said, “This is the Word of God…the whole thing. Jesus is in the Old Testament as much as he is in the New Testament.” Her comments were intended to elevate her own church and/or cast a shadow of discrepancy on other churches; however, I must take exception to the statement. In two years of visiting over 120 churches I have yet to find any church that teaches only from the New Testament. The body of believers understand that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16 NIV).
September 04, 2017
I was unfamiliar with a body of believers who identified themselves as a Five-Fold Church, but have since learned they take their charge from Ephesians 4:11. Paul said, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers...” Prospective members are asked to fill out a 100-question survey that helps identify one of the five categories in which they are best suited, or qualified. I wonder how this body of believers reconcile Paul’s thoughts, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears” (1 Cor 13:8-10 NIV).
September 01, 2017
As we reflect on our Christian walk we can sometimes identify the fruit we’ve produced in the kingdom and many of us measure ourselves by the Fruit of the Spirit — love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). It gave me pause when I came across the fruit of lips, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb 13:15 NIV).
August 31, 2017
I normally wear shirts and tops that have long or ¾ length sleeves. Recently Lydia, my 11-year-old granddaughter, said, “I can’t believe you wear long sleeves in the summer.” I didn’t explain the reasons for my wardrobe choices — cold-blooded, fair skin that burns, thin skin that bruises easily, parched arm skin and sagging biceps. Nor did I tell her that, similar to Moses, we aging Christians are not immune from having fading-radiance-syndrome. According to my NIV Study Bible notes, “Moses put a veil over his face, “So the Israelites would not see the fading away of the radiance but would continue to honor Moses as the one who represented God.” (Ex 34:33 NIV).
August 30, 2017
As I watch TV coverage of the flooding in Texas I’m stymied by those who are given a mandatory evacuation notice, yet before making a decision on whether or not to leave they consider their own evaluation, or they ask for prayer on their decision. While I understand petitioning the Lord for direction, the word mandatory seems pretty self-explanatory to me. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).
August 29, 2017
A woman interviewed on TV shortly after abandoning her home to the flood waters from Hurricane Harvey said, “We have no electricity and no water.” She sighed, “I’m humbled…if people aren’t humbled by this something is wrong!” 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 28, 2017
In the epistles Paul teaches, rebukes, offers encouragement and gives praise to the churches. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thess 1:2-3 NIV). It occurs to me that in all the worship services I’ve attended, in my own church as well as those I’ve visited as a reporter, I hear praise for the work of individuals and their performances, but I’ve not heard leadership praise the Godly character of their church. I’m now wondering why church leadership fails to give praiseworthy sentiments about the body as a whole.
August 25, 2017
On weekdays I take my exercise walk in a fairgrounds facility. Occasionally there are a few senior-age walkers, but normally it's only the fairgrounds staff doing upkeep and maintenance. One-day last week there were about a half a dozen of us in the facility when a pair of newly purchased sunglasses went missing. The owner of the glasses questioned everyone to no avail. A couple days later I learned that surveillance tape clearly showed a man in his 80’s keeping his eye on others while he stashed the glasses in the waistband of his pants. I’m surprise and disappointed because I’ve visited and been cordial with the man on many occasions. Often we are too trusting, even amongst fellow believers. Paul warns, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thess 3:6 NIV).
August 24, 2017
It offends me to see a panhandler holding a cardboard sign that says, “Veteran…anything helps.” As a veteran myself I am well aware of all the numerous organizations available for helping vets. I also see beggars holding signs that say, “Christian needs help.” While there is no way of actually knowing whether the sign-holder is a veteran or a Christian, soliciting handouts implies that they are not being provided for. The Philippian church had sacrificially given to meet Paul’s needs and he reminded them of God’s provision for Christians, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19 NIV).
August 23, 2017
In my community we hear very little in the media about the homeless situation until winter approaches and then people and organizations scramble to keep transients from freezing — tents, sleeping bags, blankets and food. I don’t want to downplay the efforts of people helping those in need; however, at some point the homeless, like the Prodigal Son, have a responsibility to make different lifestyle choices. Reading the parable, I suspect that if the owner of the pigs had given the prodigal some of the pig’s food to eat this lost son might not have returned home to his father. In my mind the items collected for the homeless may be no better than the pods used to feed pigs. “So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death” (Luke 15:15-17 NIV)!
August 22, 2017
Some believers look at the recent eclipse as an end-times sign. Jesus said, “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” It remains to be seen whether or not this event is a precursor of the Lord’s return as mentioned in Scripture. However, I have to give these folks kudos for looking into God’s Word rather than simply looking at the sun to experience the solar eclipse. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt 24:29, 30-31 NIV).
August 21, 2017
I didn’t try to find special glasses, construct a homemade viewing box, or consider driving hundreds of miles to get the best view of the full eclipse. No doubt there will be plenty of news video available to show the event. However, I do find it interesting that people are going to such lengths to look at the sun…yet so many ignore the Son. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11 NIV).
August 18, 2017
The other day a friend asked me if I wasn’t about ready to retire. I had to laugh because career-wise I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I started collecting Social Security before I began writing for an online newspaper, so now receiving Social Security and also having to pay into it at the same time. The retirement question made me think of God sending Moses back to Egypt to free his people from slavery. “Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh” (Ex 7:6-7 NIV). I can almost hear the Hebrews telling Moses, “Aren’t you about ready to retire?”
August 17, 2017
President Trump has a thick skin when it comes to his critics. However, I also see him as thin skinned when it comes to his desire for praise. While many people crave praise from men, in Trump’s case it’s as though if people won’t praise him, he will simply praise himself. It occurs to me that President Trump may in fact, “…love praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:43 NIV). To his credit the President is a quick study and a fast learner, but when it comes to his love of the praise I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a Road to Damascus encounter with the Lord to get his attention.
August 16, 2017
Recently a local resident, who is an in-your-face community activist and a constant thorn in the side of many, had a fire in his home. The man’s caustic and condescending character has left him with a bad reputation and when his children tried to raise funds for him on social media one Facebook post simply said, “karma.” Most of us cherish our reputation among people of like precious faith; however, we often underestimate the importance of a good reputation in the world. Although Paul was speaking directly to overseers and deacons, his words are applicable to all believers. “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Tim 3:7 NIV).
August 15, 2017
I have a hard time being around people who are boastful and talk about themselves all the time. The Apostle Paul was compelled to boast even though he knew there was nothing to be gained by it, but unlike most of us, Paul boasted about the things that showed his weaknesses (2 Cor 11:30). On a human level this just makes me laugh. Most of us can’t even acknowledge we have weaknesses, much less boast about them. So often I fail to grasp that the Lord’s power is made perfect in weakness. Paul said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10 NIV).
August 14, 2017
On the road to Damascus Paul’s encounter with the Lord resulted in blindness and he was led by the hand into Damascus where he remained blind for three days (Acts 9:1-9). Paul’s “come to Jesus moment” was profound. I can’t help but wonder if that experience played a role in Paul’s thought process when he encountered Elymas the sorcerer. Elymas opposed Paul and Barnabas and Paul sentenced him, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:10-11 NIV).
August 11, 2017
The Apostle Paul warned the pilot and owner of the ship not to sail from Crete, but they did not heed his advice. The ship was caught in a northeaster and battered for many days. When the crew gave up all hope of being saved Paul said, “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’” (Acts 27:23-24 NIV). I’m now pondering the lives of unbelievers who sail through life with me — co-workers, associates, neighbors, acquaintances, etc. We believers may never know if we’ve ever saved another person’s life, either physically or spiritually, but God is gracious to let others sail with us.
August 10, 2017
I have a certain level of frustration with religious leaders who want to shape the church’s demographic. Likewise, the mover-shakers in my town have a similar thought process and lament that, rather than retirees, we need to attract younger people, businesses, entrepreneurs and tourists. Recently a vacancy on city council necessitated the council appoint a replacement and during the interviews a councilmen asked a candidate to give her thoughts on those in the community who want to make our town a retirement community. Leaders fail to understand that God is not just the potter in the lives of believers, but He is the potter of organizations, governments, churches and towns. “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing” (Isaiah 29:16 NIV)?
August 09, 2017
A man caught in a flash flood was on top of his truck when rescuers arrived in a helicopter to lift him to safety. On the verge of being swept away the video clip of this young adult showed him trying to convince his rescuer to not only save him, but rescue his skateboard as well. “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame” (Isaiah 44:9 NIV).
August 08, 2017
During a church visit the pastor used the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) as his text. I have to admit I was taken aback when three times he told the congregation that the account was a parable. Placing this miracle in the category of a parable allowed the pastor to put his own spin on the account and he determined that the people assembled to hear Jesus would have brought food and water with them. His interpretation was that rather than a miracle, this was a matter of organizing the mass of people and getting them to share their abundance with others. He said, “If we read it carefully, it wasn’t Jesus’ idea. The disciples did all the work to feed the people with the little food they had. It was as though Jesus dared them to feed the 5,000. They tapped into something deep inside of them that rose to the dare.” I cringe at the thought of anyone discounting the Lord’s miracles, but then recalled what Jesus said to unbelieving Jews, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:25-26).
August 07, 2017
Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman and at the end of their conversation the woman said she knew that the Messiah (called Christ) was coming and he would explain everything. Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he” (Jn 4:26, 29b NIV). The woman went back into the town and rather than telling the people she found the Christ, she said, “Could this be the Christ?” In contrast to the Samaritan woman, Andrew went to his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah (that is the Christ)” (Jn 1:41b). Many of us who are mature in the faith are often timid in public and, like the Samaritan woman, we fail in our testimony to tell others, “I have found the Messiah!”
August 04, 2017
I recently attended a church that places great emphasis on family and the service attendance had more youth and children than adults. A teenage boyfriend and girlfriend who were seated in the middle of the auditorium whispered in one another’s ear, rub each other’s back and arm, and look dreamingly into each other’s eyes. While the communion emblems were being served the young lady leaned over for a moment of kissy-face. Those of us sitting in the back pews were waiting to be served and I found myself wishing the man sitting behind the twitter-pated kids would have thumped them on the head. Paul said, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29 NIV).
August 03, 2017
In my teens when I accepted Jesus and in my mind I feel like a lifelong Christian. However, I fall short and I’m humbled when I stand alongside of Simeon and Anna who spent a lifetime waiting, watching and serving in the temple. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple on the eighth day when it was time to circumcise him. Along with Simeon, “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty–four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:36-37 NIV).
August 02, 2017
Retired General John Kelly is the new White House Chief of Staff. By all reports he runs a tight ship and has put the administration on notice that no one gets to President Trump without first going through him. This includes the President’s family, confidants and the Cabinet. This chain of command has a familiar ring to it. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV).
August 01, 2017
Some denominations will read Scripture and then conclude by stating, “This is the Word of the Lord.” The people reading the Word leave no doubt in the listener’s mind that the message comes from the Lord. During a recent church visit I listened to five different speakers whose presentations included personal experiences, testimony and witness. Each speaker concluded their remarks with sentiments such as, “I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ,” or “I bear my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ.” I was reminded of an incident in Ephesus, “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon–possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you” (Acts 19:13-15 NIV)?
July 31, 2017
I’ve attend a number of churches and listened to pastors whose message is vague, cryptic and poorly sourced. These preachers seem unaware that they open the door for Satan when their message fails to be understood. Jesus explained the Parable of the Sower to his disciples and referring to seed sown along the path he said, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” (Matt 13:19a NIV).
July 28, 2017
The Gospel was first meant for the Jews, but a Canaanite woman came to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. “The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” It occurs to me that before each of us developed ears to hear the Gospel we too benefited from the crumbs that fell from the table of the righteous. Likewise, as we are now entrusted with the Gospel, we too are leaving crumbs of righteousness for others to consume. Jesus answered the woman, Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matt 15:25-28 NIV).
July 27, 2017
According to my NIV Study Bible an example of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was when, “…the teachers of the law attributed Jesus’ healing to Satan’s power rather than to the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 328-29 NIV). I’m wondering what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit looks like today and if we are even cognizant of that sin. Giving credit for the Spirit’s healing power to man-made gods, luck or astrology might well border on blasphemy of the Spirit.
July 26, 2017
The rumor mill in town is reporting on a sexual harassment situation lodged against a community leader. Numerous people saw the incident, which took place at a concert where alcohol flowed freely, but witnesses closed ranks protecting the victim, the perpetrator and themselves. Wearing my reporter hat I tracked down multiple leads who verified the rumors; however, the verifications came with a price…they were off the record and official the response was, “No Comment.” Many of us, particularly as it applies to believers, underestimate the burden of silence. The psalmist wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4 NIV).
July 25, 2017
Driving home from Denver a contingent of about 30 Porsches merged onto the four lane highway for a road rally. I admired the cars, which were evenly spaced and driving the speed limit; however, I was soon in a quandary. By Colorado law you’re supposed to drive in the right lane unless you are passing another vehicle. Occasionally I squeezed into the Porsche conga line, but I was completely out of place and the sports car drivers behind me were determined to pass me in order get back into formation. It took me about 20 miles to figure out that I didn’t need to be a Porsche to drive like one. In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager Jesus said, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:8-9 NIV).
July 24, 2017
My adult kids live in a subdivision that borders open space trimmed with a bike path. During a recent visit I took Charlie the grand-dog for a walk and as we approached the prairie dog colony the sentinels sounded the alarm. A magpie perched on the large power line running parallel to the path screeched a warning to his compadres. One six-foot-high wooden fence did nothing to deter the German Shepherd and Pomeranian duo from alerting the neighborhood as we passed by. Similar to Paul reminding the Corinthians of the warnings from Israel’s history, we believers have a responsibility to warn one another, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11 NIV).
July 21, 2017
As Peter denied Jesus for the third time, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” I can’t begin to imagine the eye contact between the two, but it gives me pause to know that when I stand before the Lord He will look straight at me also. No doubt my response will be similar to Peter's, “And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61,62 NIV).
July 20, 2017
James cautions believers that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. While most of us know that in our mind, I’m not sure we understand it on an emotional heartfelt level. James said, “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely” (James 4:5 NIV)? God is a jealous God (Ex 20:5), so it stands to reason that his Spirit within us is also jealous. We pray to God to feel the Spirit’s love, peace and joy, but I doubt any of us have prayed to feel his jealousy.
July 19, 2017
I know a few people who describe themselves as spiritual, intimating that they know God, yet they are so inclusive that any belief system is acceptable to them. They claim to know God, but their actions deny Him. I see very little difference in these folks than the Athenians of Paul’s day. “Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23 NIV). I suspect that even in today’s church God remains unknown to some.
July 18, 2017
During some church visits I get the distinct feeling that a few pastors feel I’m there to judge them, rather than to write an article about the worship service. Recently I was greeted by the pastor prior to the service and when he publicly welcomed visitors he introduced me to the congregation joking, “I think she is here to critique this old boy!” The pastor exuded confidence and preparedness that reminded me of Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim 4:2 NIV).
July 17, 2017
The pastor had us open our Bible and read along as he read one verse of Scripture, which was the foundation for the sermon. He then kicked the sermon into full gear and fired off no less than two dozen other passages of Scripture in rapid succession without hardly taking a breath. I was reminded of the crowds who went up on the mountain side to hear Jesus and his subparagraph sermon text included Salt and Light; The Fulfillment of the Law; Murder; Adultery; Divorce; Oaths; An Eye for an Eye; Love Your Enemies; Giving to the Needy; Prayer; Treasures in Heaven; Do Not Worry; Judging Others; Ask, Seek, Knock; The Narrow and Wide Gates; A Tree and Its Fruit; and The Wise and the Foolish Builders. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29 NIV).
July 14, 2017
In prison Paul was torn between his desire to depart and be with Christ, but the necessity of continuing to live in his body and have fruitful labor on earth, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). I’m trying to imagine someone of Paul’s character coming to the point of death yet feeling they still had kingdom work to do. In essence being pulled out of the race and forced to become a spectator. 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV). I suspect that many of us, especially as we age, fix our eyes on the Lord to take us home, rather than to keep us in the race.
July 13, 2017
I was warmly greeted by the members of a small church; however, as I waited for the services to start it was the instrumental medley played on the piano that truly welcomed me and made me feel that I’d come home to the church of my youth. As each selection was played the words to the familiar songs flooded not only my mind, but my heart as well. “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Morning Has Broken,” “This is My Father’s World,” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The psalmist, who seems to understand the yearning many of us have to reconnect with spiritual and emotional past, wrote, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2 NIV).
July 12, 2017
Prior to the start of worship, a man welcomed me and with pride said, “We love our pastor!” He paused and added, “And we love each other too.” Following the service, I was getting into my car when an older gent came up to the door and wanted to talk with me. He said, “We’re a family here. I’ve been to every d*** church in this area and this is the best one. Three-years-ago I came for the first time and I haven’t missed a Sunday since!” Mentally I laughed because the old-timer was completely unaware of how easily the swear word rolled off his tongue. Obviously there are many different ways to express zeal for a house of worship. Jesus cleansed the temple of the moneychangers, “To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:16-17 NIV).
July 11, 2017
Generally speaking pastors preach to their immediate audience, which for the average church in America today is about 75 people. It occurs to me that pastors fail to give consideration to the secondary audience that will hear their message when it is retold. When I write articles about the churches I visit I listen carefully to capture good quotes from the sermon so that I can pass them on to readers. Once published in the online newspaper the pastor’s words have the potential to reach over 10,000 subscribers. It’s easy to underestimate the nuances of sowing the Word of God. Paul recorded, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:48-49 NIV).
July 10, 2017
Our local print newspaper has invited pastors to take turns being a guest columnist each week. A couple of the columns have had powerful messages and a few of them proved thought provoking. However, some of the columns have had the consistency of a Twinkie — full of sugar and fluff. The newspaper circulation is about 4,000 and while not every subscriber will read the preacher’s column, every column is an opportunity to spread the gospel to a new audience. Too often we forget the example of growth in the early church, “But the word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12:24 NIV).
July 07, 2017
I attended a Mennonite church and after the corporate Sunday School gathering in the auditorium the speaker dismissed the group in an orderly fashion — first preschoolers, then primary children, followed by juniors. I laughed to myself when the next class to be dismissed was the women. It occurs to me that this denomination, by allowing the women to have their own discussion class, has found a way to work within the confines of Paul’s instructions for the church of his time period, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says” (1 Cor 14:33-34).
July 06, 2017
Twenty-two-year-old college student Otto Warmbier, who was held for 18 months by the North Koreans, was returned to the US in a coma and passed away. In a Facebook post Kathy Dettwyler, University of Delaware adjunct professor, said Otto Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved.” Certainly it was not Dettwyler place to make a judgment on the college student and she has since been fired for her comments. The situation brought to mind the thief on the cross. For believers, confession and self-evaluation play a role in the Lord’s decision on what we deserve. One criminal said to the other, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:41-43 NIV).
July 05, 2017
Many churches have a traditional service and a contemporary service. I recently visited the contemporary service of a liturgical church and most of those in attendance were over 70-plus years-old and a number had appendages of canes, oxygen tanks and walkers. As I sat in my pew a woman welcomed me, “We're so glad you are here. You’re going to love the service. It ROCKS!” In my mind I couldn’t help but laugh. I know what rock means in a charismatic church, but I wasn’t sure what to expect in liturgical church. The song selections, led by a five-member praise team, were praise songs, hymns set to a faster beat and one hymn set to an upbeat tune. While there was no toe-tapping, hand clapping or hands raised in praise, I have no doubt that by High-Church standards the service rocked.