September 21, 2017

Sowing

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

Walk Down Memory Lane

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

Voice of Thunders

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

Cleaning the Inside

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

Bigger Barns

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

Perspective

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

Know That I Am God

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

When She is Old

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

Food at the Proper Time

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

Opening the Eyes of the Blind

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

Which Ones?

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

Altar Call

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

Some Churches

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

Prophecies Will Cease

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

Producing Fruit

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

Fading Glory

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

Mandatory

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

Sending Rain

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

Praiseworthy

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

Surveillance

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

God’s Provision

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

Supplying Pods

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

Signs of the End of the Age

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

Eclipse

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

Late Bloomer

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

Praise of Men

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

Good Reputation

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

In Weakness

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

Firsthand Experience

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

All Who Sail With You

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

The Potter

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

Worthless Treasures

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

In My Father’s Name

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

I Have Found the Messiah

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

Public Display of Affection (PDA’s)

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

Lifetime of Serving

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

Chain of Command

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

Invoking the Name of Jesus

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

Along the Path

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

Crumbs

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

Never Forgiven

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

No Comment

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

Running With the Bulls

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

Warning

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

Eye Contact

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

Jealous

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

An Unknown God

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

In Season

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

Teaching With Authority

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

Spectators

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

Reconnecting

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

Zeal For God’s House

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

Sowing the Word

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

Missed Opportunity

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

Class Dismissed

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

Deserving

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

It Rocks!

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.  

July 04, 2017

Spiritual Independence Day

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (Rev 1:5b-6 NIV).

July 03, 2017

How Great Thou Art

During a recent visit to an acapella church the 30 people in attendance sang, “How Great Thou Art.” After the hymn the speaker noted that he had just come from a gathering of 630 people who sang the same hymn. He said, “A song has the same meaning whether you are in a crowd, or just with a few people. Our numbers are few, but that doesn’t hinder the power of God, or our acceptance of how great God is!” The psalmist wrote, “For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:3-7a NIV).

June 30, 2017

Three Shelters

It is amazing the number of churches, denominations and fellowships who identify with the body of Christ, yet separate themselves from one another. Peter, James and John witnessed the Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Jesus. “Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)” (Luke 9:32-33 NIV). Obviously, since Peter did not know what he was saying, neither do we. Jesus came to draw all men to Himself, yet Peter in essence suggested the Son of God share some of His honor and glory with prophets and patriarchs. The suggestion to put up three shelters has a hint of putting up three denominations, each with their own religious leader.

June 29, 2017

Transforming

Actor Josh Duhamel, who starred in Transformers, took his three-year-old son to see the first Transformers movie. The actor didn’t tell his son ahead of time that he was in the movie because he wanted the boy to be impressed with his acting ability. When the child saw his dad on the big screen he turned to him and said, “You know them…YOU know the Transformers?!” Duhamel laughed, “He thinks they are really real.”  I’m now trying to imagine people looking at us in awe because not only do we know God, but we have a personal relationship with His Son. Paul said, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever–increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:19 NIV).

June 28, 2017

I Thank God for You

In my evening prayers I always thank God for my husband, children and grandchildren. I just realized that my thankfulness stems from having them in my life, that we have a good relationship and that they love the Lord. The Apostle Paul had a different priority and while he had family (Acts 23:16) and was apparently married at one time, there is no record of him thanking God for his personal family members. Rather, he thanked God for fellow co-workers in the kingdom. Paul said, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints” (Philemon 1:4-7 NIV).

June 27, 2017

Shown for What It Is

In Portugal more than 60 people were killed in their cars as they fled a wildfire. Certainly there were believers among those who perished, but the blackened skeletons of burned-out cars stranded on a bridge show that there was no escaping the flames. One cannot look at the devastation without recalling Paul’s words, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor 3:12-15 NIV).


June 26, 2017

Enduring

During my church visits as I listen to the average 30-minute sermon it appears that extra-biblical content (articles, online jokes, denominational resources, anecdotes, illustrations and current news) outweighs the Word by about a three to one ratio. It occurs to me that many of today’s preachers are leaning on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) rather than the Word of God.  Peter said, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

June 23, 2017

Judas in the Till

In yesterday’s post the Saints and Sinners Encore event charges $30 per person, which includes a glass of wine. Since the “tunes of debauchery, doctrine and fun” are held in the Connection Church, one can assume tithes and offerings are used to some extent to sponsor the event. John wrote, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4-6 NIV).

June 22, 2017

No Longer Acting in Love

An excerpt from a newspaper ad for Connection Church, a neighboring community church, reads: Sinners and Saints Encore...[organizers] present a rousing evening of drinking songs, gospel songs, and other tunes of debauchery, doctrine and fun in an all-new larger venue! Tickets: $30 per person (Glass of wine included with each ticket).” It should come as no surprise that entertaining and embracing the world is becoming more and more blatant in the church. Paul wrote, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall” (RO 14:19-21 NIV).


June 21, 2017

As One Who Has Authority

I keep encountering preachers who continuously ask the congregation for feedback during the sermon. It’s more than just prompting the audience to respond with an Amen, Hallelujah, or Praise the Lord. Pastors are coming across as though they are leading a Bible study rather than preaching a sermon. They ask members their opinions about passages of Scripture, “I think this is what is says. Don’t you agree that’s what it says? Do you know God loves you? Are you free? Can you be yourself?” These are not simply rhetorical questions, but the pastors actually wait for a congregational response. I suppose there could be some sort of edification or comfort zone in an interactive worship service. However, I’m trying to imagine Jesus, Paul or Peter stopping their message in mid-thought and asking for a collective Hallelujah. “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” (Matt 7:28-29 NIV).

June 20, 2017

Strengthening the Church

I’m having BFO — a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. We don’t all go to church for the same reason, or with the same expectation. Recently I visited a charismatic church that had 10 big boxes of Kleenex dispersed at intervals amongst 33 chairs. These folks were passionate about healing, laying on of hands and the emotional experience. Another charismatic congregation wanted everyone to have their own experience…worshippers were invited to dance, sing, move about, or just meditate in their own space. While I enjoy church fellowship, my church attendance is not about the experience, but rather to hear the Word of God taught. Paul reminds us the reason we come together is not for ourselves, “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Cor 14:26 NIV).


June 19, 2017

When You Come Together

Occasionally when I reflect on a church visit I realize I’ve gotten very little out of the worship service. Last Sunday the congregation I visited was attentive and respectful during Sacraments, but as soon as communion was finished it was as though someone hit a light switch and no one was engaged in the service, or in what was being said. This particular denomination doesn’t have preachers per se, but rather speakers that give talks and both speakers this day were women. Two thirds of those in the audience were younger children and while they weren’t disruptive or jumping up and down in their pew, there was a constant buzz of conversations amongst siblings and with parents to the point that I couldn’t always hear the speakers. Each lady read from her prepared script which included testimony, quotes from published articles, minimal Scripture and brief commentary. However, from my vantage point very few people appeared to be listening to the talks. Although it’s foreign to my thought process, I’m now wondering if some folks just attend worship services for the Lord’s Supper. Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26 NIV).

June 16, 2017

Measuring By Faith

During a recent church visit I introduced myself to the pastor and told him I would be writing an article about the worship service. When I asked about the average weekly attendance he said, “Oh…about 40.” The service that day had under 20 present, which is not unusual considering the unpredictability of summer church attendance. However, as I scanned the cozy auditorium I had to laugh — there were only 33 chairs set up for normal worship. All too often we in the church fall into the trap of using numbers as a measure of our ministry success. 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” (Ro 12:3 NIV).

June 15, 2017

It Depends on You

A lot of old-timers lament that rural areas no longer seem as friendly as they once were where people waved at everyone they passed on the road, whether or not they knew them. A couple of days last week I incidentally made eye contact with drivers and bicyclists and to my surprise each one acknowledged me with a smile, a wave or a tip of the head. I suspect that friendlessness in the community, and for that matter in the church, has more to do with our effort to make eye contact than it does with waiting for others to be the first to extend the right hand of Christian fellowship. Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Ro 12:18 NIV).

June 14, 2017

Loaded Question

Prior to the sermon the Pentecostal pastor said, “Leave your place and pray for your neighbor…move around and lay on hands.” The pastor’s wife, who was setting in my pew, turned and said, “Do you need me to pray for you for anything?” While I appreciated the gesture, I was uncomfortable with the thought of putting myself under the authority of those I did not know. James said, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16 NIV).

June 13, 2017

Time and Chance

I arrived at a church at 9:45 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. service. The time was posted in a public directory and on the front window of the facility, but as the pastor welcomed me he said, “Services don’t start until 10:30.” I asked about the sign in the window and he said, “Oh we really should change that. People kept coming into church late, so we just moved the time to 10:30. An awkward situation, the pastor made an effort to introduce me to people as they came in; however, the reality is that for me, what should have been a two-hour worship service took three-hours. In my frustration Solomon reminded me, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecc 9:11 NIV).

June 12, 2017

Setting Traps

Perverting the Word of God, the marque of a liberal congregation said, “Ruth & Naomi the first same-sex couple.” The gay pastor said he wanted to highlight to the community that there is a local progressive voice in Christianity and that the church will be posting similar messages throughout the month of June. However, the pastor then revealed the real motivation for the messages were in part due to the local association of churches attempt to change bylaws that would exclude churches that accept same-sex unions. He said, “Welcome to the First Amendment.” I can imagine Jesus dismissing such justification by putting the First Amendment in the same category as a denarius, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt 22:20-21 NIV).

June 09, 2017

Straight Paths



For exercise I walk in an event center that is about the size of three basketball courts. I always walk clockwise and a few days ago a small beetle was walking counterclockwise around the edge of the polished cement floor. As our paths crossed with each lap I thought of the expansive floor that lay in front of him and the image of the children of Israel learning to trust God as they wandered in the desert for 40 years came to mind. “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).

June 08, 2017

Shall We Pray

In worship when someone says, “Will you pray with me?” or “Let us pray,” I assume the position…head bowed, eyes closed, ears attentive and an amen on the tip of my tongue. In liturgical churches prayers are scripted and worshippers read along with the prayers as the father or priest reads them aloud. I know because I peeked during one such corporate prayer and discovered I was only one with my head bowed while everyone else was reading along in the book. Let me admit that the Spirit within me leaped for joy when one of the prayers was the Lord’s Prayer and I could close my eyes, pray in unison with the congregation and say amen!

June 07, 2017

Sovereignty

I continue to be amazed and offended by reporters, political pundits and news anchors who tell President Trump what he needs to do, how he needs to act and what he needs to say. It’s not that they are questioning the President, but they are elevating themselves and their opinion above the office of the Presidency. People of faith do something similar when they try to tell God how to be God. Paul puts this type of scenario in its proper place, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use” (Ro 9:20-21 NIV)? 

June 06, 2017

Public Reading of Scripture

Responsive readings in the liturgical church service came from a Book of Common Prayers, a denomination hymn book, and a bulletin insert. In order to participate worshippers followed along with 23 different elements such as The Decalogue, the Doxology and The Prayer of Obligation — all located in different places and on different pages. In stark contrast, when it came time for three Scripture readings, one from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, no one consulted a Bible. Certainly there is no right or wrong way to hear and read the Word of God. However, I was struck by the fact that worshippers appeared to be active participants with the extra-biblical content, yet passive participants as the Bible was read aloud to them.

June 05, 2017

Presentation

Sunday I attended a liturgical church and the sermon itself, which was preached from a pulpit, was fairly brief. However, much of the service with responsive readings and scripted text were presented by the pastor having his back to the audience. Standing before the altar and facing a cross the pastor’s voice was carried throughout the small auditorium by bouncing off the wall in front of him. Presentation wise, I got more out of the brief sermon than the scripted text. I’m now trying to picture Jesus having his back turned to listeners as he taught in the temple, on the hillside, or from a boat on a lake.

June 02, 2017

Served on a Platter

Kathy Griffin calls herself a comedian, but I think a more apt description is terrorist. According to the dictionary a terrorist is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” To see Griffin’s portrayal of a decapitated President Trump brings to mind the recent beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS and the Bible account of the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod. As an excuse for terrorism ISIS hides behind religion, Herod behind saving face and Griffin behind comedy. A media terrorist, Griffin may have just made the fatal mistake of decapitating her own career.

June 01, 2017

Spiritual Virus

I clicked on an internet forward and immediately receive a virus warning saying Armageddon would begin if I turned off my computer. The warning instructed me to immediately call the Microsoft help center and I handed the laptop over to Bill who spent the next 30 minutes wavering between whether or not it was a scam. When the “Microsoft” representative wanted to take total control of the computer Bill hung up on the deceiver and it took another 30 minutes of talking to a real Microsoft representative to undo the few changes made to the computer. I’m reminded that believers must guard against a spiritual virus — cults, new age philosophy and modern day culturalism. Paul warned, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Cor 11:3-4 NIV).

May 31, 2017

No Marriage in Heaven

Jesus explained there is no marriage in heaven, but the example presented to him by the Sadducees, which is not listed as a parable, has always bothered me. According to my NIV Study Bible being childless was, “…generally considered to indicate divine disfavor and often brought social reproach.” The prominent barren ladies of Scripture are Sarai, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah and Elizabeth. In my mind I’ve always included the woman who in succession was married to, and widowed by, seven brothers. When putting myself in her place I can only imagine the disgrace she endured being passed from one brother to the next and never having children. However, a closer look at the text doesn’t describe her as barren. Luke wrote, “Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too” (Luke 20:29-32). These brothers no doubt had other wives, but still no children. It’s possible that the woman did not endure as much disgrace during her life as I had originally envisioned.

May 30, 2017

Recalling the Word

About halfway through the sermon the pastor said, “Some of you may think things in your life are going good right now, you may not feel like you need this message…but six months, a year from now you might need this message!” I thought of Jesus taking the Twelve aside and predicting his death — that he would be mocked, insulted, spit upon, flogged, killed and raised on the third day. “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:34 NIV). I can imagine Jesus thinking, “Six months from now you’re going to need this message.”

May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

For believers Memorial Day occurs not just once a year, but every time we gather at the Lord’s Table and partake of the emblems of bread and juice that represent the sacrificed body and blood of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was in Bethany a woman poured expensive perfume on the Lord’s head and the disciples were indignant and objected at the waste. “Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”” (Matt 26:10-13 NIV). It gives me pause to wonder about the things I’ve done for the Lord and what, if any, will be told in memory of me.

May 26, 2017

The Word of the Lord

I’ve just discovered how often the phrase, “The Word of the Lord came to me…” appears in the major and minor prophets. As a mature believer I’m familiar with Scripture coming to mind at just the right time for the needed situation. However, I’ve not considered that, like waiting for an expected phone call, I should be waiting for and recognizing the Word of the Lord coming to me on a daily basis.

May 25, 2017

Soapbox

It is our job as believers strive to become more Christ-like. However, I’ll admit there are times when I can’t resist the temptation to publicly get on my soapbox and fight for justice, speak out against misuse of tax dollars and confront elected officials who fail to uphold their sworn oath of office. Jesus did not stand on a soapbox, but rather fulfilled the what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.” (Matt 12:18-20 NIV). 

May 24, 2017

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Last week Roger Ailes, the 77-year-old founder of Fox News passed away. Ailes is credited with discovering and hiring commentators, news anchors and weather personalities. In reflection commentator Sean Hannity recalled that during auditions for the network Ailes would turn off the sound and see if an interviewee could communicate without words. We believers often forget that it’s our actions that are read by others. Paul said, “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden” (1 Tim 5:24-25).

May 23, 2017

Fact-Checking

A local opinion columnist seems to always disparage President Trump and it strikes me that the writer has no connection to Washington DC, or firsthand knowledge of the President. I’d be curious to know if his readers ever fact check his column, or if they are content to let him simply recycle what he has learned from other news sources. During my church visits I’ve developed a great appreciation for those pastors who are not intimidated by people who fact-check the message and encourage their members to use their Bible. Paul was not speaking about immature believers when he said, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 NIV). 

May 22, 2017

Judging the Judges

Within the space of 30 minutes I listened while elected officials displayed a double standard when dealing with two different vendors. One vendor, who always stayed within their budget, was verbally spanked for not being more progressive. The second vendor was a friend of the officials and there was not one word of chastisement even though he had falsified marketing data and had nothing to show for $8,750 of taxpayer funds. “These also are sayings of the wise: To show partiality in judging is not good: Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent”— peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them” (Proverbs 24:23-25 NIV).

May 19, 2017

Testimony

I spoke to a woman on the phone to verify their church worship time and she suggested I avoid the first Sunday of the month because that is a time set aside for congregation testimonials. “I don’t want to discourage you from attending, but sometimes people get carried away and you can’t control the message.” I appreciate the candor and I understand where she is coming from. John said, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son” (1 John 5:9 NIV).

May 18, 2017

Continued Plowing

I realize that I sometimes irritate family and associates by repeating an opinion. In my mind when people don’t respond I feel they haven’t heard me, so I re-state the situation. In their mind they’ve heard what I have to say, have no comment and want to move on. I’m now trying to apply the words of Isaiah, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field” (Isaiah 28:23-25 NIV)?

May 17, 2017

Willful Disobedience

My friend’s cat strolled up to the dining room table while we were visiting. Shaking a verbal finger to the cat Cathy said, “I recognize that look. Don’t you even think about jumping up on this table.” As though the gauntlet had been thrown down the cat jumped up on the table between us, flipped its tail and nonchalantly walked the length of the table before hopping off to the floor. There was no pretense of being sneaky, this cat was displaying in-your-face disobedience. Obviously the cat did not fear her master. It occurs to me that sometimes people of faith display a similar a characteristic when we fail to fear the Lord. "My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in fear of your laws" (Psalms 119:120 NIV).


May 16, 2017

The Body of Christ

I recently attended a church where a member declared that their denomination is the only one that has the Truth. Interestingly, during my various church visits I keep running into some of the same people that I just encountered at a different church. These folks are mature believers, one of whom is a retired pastor, and by all appearances the place they worship is not as important as the worship itself. People of faith need to be reminded that the body of Christ is not a building, a denomination or a particular fellowship. The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:23-25 NIV).

May 15, 2017

Spiritual Valuation

The media reported that local residential property valuations for 2017 would increase an average of 15 percent. When my valuation came in with a 29 percent increase, almost double the average, I filed an appeal. In my mind the assessor’s valuation is far afield from market value. I’m now contemplating God’s assessment of my spiritual valuation and wondering how much my value has increased between 2014 and 2017. “May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children” (Psalms 115:14 NIV).


May 12, 2017

Pablum

During my church visits the sermons I’m hearing are on the soft and gentle side — peace, love and self-improvement. Rarely do I hear a message about the importance and immediacy of obedience to the Word of God. However, I can’t place all the blame on pastors when we in the pew seem to be satisfied with pablum. The Lord speaks to us today. “They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 30:10-11 NIV)!

May 11, 2017

The Cure

My friends and family who are diseased are in the forefront of my mind and I preface my prayers by asking God to heal them. However, my prayers for those who’ve drifted away from the faith take on a different form as I pray for them to come to their senses and return to God. It never occurred to me that those who are diseased and those who are backsliders have something in common…both need healing. “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God” (Jer 3:22 NIV).

May 10, 2017

New Name

I took a photo for an article and one of the subjects immediately let me know that she takes it as a personal insult if her name is spelled incorrectly. I have no idea if the woman is a person of faith. However, if she is a child of God, she may be in for a real shocker when she gets her new name. Jesus said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Rev 2:17 NIV).

May 09, 2017

Unopposed

During elections some candidates face criticism for winning when they run unopposed. It’s as though if they had any competition at all, they would not have won. Recently, after receiving an email from a critic, an elected official changed the narrative with her response, “It appears I need to also remind you that due to my proven actions/interactions, decision skills, reputation & direction, no Party chose to run a candidate against me.” Although Paul was speaking to a young Timothy, his words should encourage even mature believers that we too have the power to silence our critics. "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 3:12 NIV). 

May 08, 2017

The Righteous

The older we get the more we deal with the death of friends and loved ones. My grandma was a rock of Christian faith and there are still times I wish she were here and I could share with her my milestones. I know those who die in Christ are at peace with Him, but I’d not considered that in death we are also spared from evil. “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV).

May 05, 2017

The Money Bag

When a 501c3 (non-profit) starts making financial decisions that I can’t support I redirect my tithes, offerings and contributions to other charitable organizations. I’ll confess, if I were one of the early disciples I would not have contributed to the Lord’s 501c3 as long as Judas was in charge of the money bag. John said, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4-6 NIV).

May 04, 2017

Political Flamethrowers

Small communities are notorious for power struggles and people wanting to be in control. Generally speaking citizens can ignore small pockets of divisiveness, but political flamethrowers are not satisfied with staying in a small pocket…they want to set the city on fire. People of faith are not immune from either being the pot-stirrer, or the pot that is being stirred. At Antioch, “The Jews incited the God–fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region” (Acts 13:50 NIV).

May 03, 2017

The Interest of Others

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what I dislike about worship services that lack structure and I am finally seeing a similarity between that type of church and a bar/lounge. In a lounge you can sit alone at the bar, or you sit with others in large or small clusters around a table. You are free to walk around, get another drink, or strike up a conversation with anyone else in the facility. You can lean against a wall and watch others play pool or throw darts and even though you are just an observer, you are included as part of the overall experience. You can listen to the music, join in with karaoke, or talk above and around the music. Everything is fluid, and everyone looking to their own interests and comfort. Paul said, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like–minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:1-4 NIV).

May 02, 2017

Daily Bread

I always thought the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread,” was a request for the Lord’s provision and sustenance. It then stands to reason that I offer thanksgiving for the food the Lord provides. However, it never occurred to me that having either more or less than enough to meet my daily needs could hurt my relationship with God. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9 NIV).

May 01, 2017

The Lord’s Supper

Following the communion meditation worshipers were directed to the front of the auditorium where the bread and juice were available on tables and we were given three options. 1). Take the emblems back to your seat. 2). Pick up the emblems and take them to an area of the facility where you can partake of them in your family group. 3). Partake of the emblems when you pick them up at the table. In theory communion is made personal when worshippers are given time to examine themselves and then partake of the emblems when they are ready. However, my time for reflection was shattered as family groups talked amongst themselves, finished at different times and turned back to other activities. While some folks were still in line to pick up the emblems, those who had finished their communion went back to drinking coffee, eating grapes and bagels from the café and walking around the auditorium. Paul cautioned about taking the Lord’s supper in unworthy manner. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk…So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment” (1 Cor 11:20-21, 33-34 NIV).