A couple of weeks ago our senior pastor announced that he would retire at the end of April and we would do a pastor search. However, it was announced on Sunday that the associate pastor is a candidate for the position and will be interviewed. No empaneled search committee, no vetting of candidates, no time for prayerful consideration. By all appearances the church leadership is contemplating a political appointment. When Jesus predicted his death Peter, thinking politically, rebuked the Lord and said that would never happen. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt 16:23 NIV).
February 27, 2017
I had my car serviced last week and while I waited I looked at new cars on the showroom floor. I had questions about a new car, but the salesman and I were not on the same page. He was more interested in selling me a car than he was with my buying a car. Rather than letting me ask questions of him, he questioned me about financing, lease options, and car styles. It occurs to me that believers do something similar when we talk to unbelievers about the Lord. Thinking we know what the unbeliever needs we try to sell him on reading the Bible, going to church and becoming a Christian. Seldom, if ever, do we ask an unbeliever what it is that he thinks he needs. Two blind men were 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”” (Matt 20:32-33 NIV).
February 24, 2017
I hate it when someone takes an unflattering photo of me. Never mind that it is reality, I don’t want reality. I want what’s in my head to be what’s caught on camera. I find a similar reaction in some of the pastors from the churches I write about. They offer to help me write, proofread and edit the article. With bruised egos a couple of pastors have poked back at what they see as mischaracterization and misunderstanding of their worship service. I feel their pain, but I stand with Paul when he says, “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:4-6 NIV).
February 23, 2017
As I took my seat in the church auditorium the room was well lit with an ambiance of warm hues. The backdrop of the stage wall consisted of eight-inch horizontal wood planks from a variety of wood types which gave the room a woodsy, yet modern feel. When the worship service started the lights dimmed and wall-washer spots on the floor turned the wooden planks into purple and blue variegated neon stripes. During the sermon I snapped a photo of the pastor to go along with the article I would later write, but in the picture he faded into the glare. I suspect the lighting was meant to add an emotional connection to the worship service, but it gives me pause to think of the extent churches go to in order to give the Spirit spirit. “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:22 NIV).
February 22, 2017
I reported on a political meeting and after publication a reader wrote the editor, “I was pleased to read Gail's report…Pleased that I was at the same meeting and that her reporting was faithful to what happened.” Aside from basking in the compliment, I’m also giving serious thought to situational faithfulness. Without trying to dredge up an example, I know there are times in my personal life when I’ve not been faithful to what happened — trying to save face, justifying my actions, misinterpreting another’s response. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:34 NIV).
February 21, 2017
As a disclaimer I do not have a charismatic bone in my body, it’s just not part of my makeup. During my visits to charismatic churches I’m becoming more and more aware of public prayer needs and requests that are cocooned in the name of the Lord. “Yes Lord…And Lord we ask you…And Lord we know…Please Lord…Help us Lord…Hear us Lord.” It’s as though the name of the Lord has become a mantra within the prayer. Stylistically speaking, with emphasis added in italics, the model prayer taught by Jesus would sound something like, “‘Our Father in heaven, Father hallowed be your name Father, your kingdom come Father, Father your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Father. Father give us today our daily bread. Father forgive us our debts, Father as we also have forgiven our debtors. And Father lead us not into temptation, but Father deliver us from the evil one’” (Matt 6:9-13 NIV).
February 20, 2017
The millennial generation has people working overtime trying to understand them. My friend’s organization holds special leadership classes on how to supervise them in the work force and pastors are trying figure out how to reach them with the Gospel. Jesus did not cater to any generation, but he did make an observation about those who would neither accept him, or accept John the Baptist. Jesus said, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’… But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-32, 35 NIV).
February 17, 2017
When Herod learned of the birth of Jesus, the king of the Jews, he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under. “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt 2:17-18 NIV). America too weeps for her children…because of abortion they are no more.
February 16, 2017
This last week the handyman for my widowed 93-year-old mother-in-law worked on refinishing her back deck. On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, he showed up for work with a bouquet of flowers. For a moment after I learned of his kindness I felt a twinge of guilt because it never crossed my mind to remember her on Valentine’s Day. However, I soon realized that flowers from a family member would soon be forgotten…flowers from a handyman is a forever memory. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:30-31 NIV).
February 15, 2017
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is conducting raids on criminal illegal aliens and the liberal left is crazed. Criticizing the Trump administration Senator Chuck Schumer (D) said, “I’m troubled by lack of transparency…” It would be hard to conceive anyone counseling David, a warrior king, to be more transparent when he went on a raid, “Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish” (1 Samuel 27:8-9 NIV).
February 14, 2017
The media continues to tell President Trump what he should and should not do — stop tweeting, stick to your agenda, act more presidential. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with the media and public opinion, but the church too offers advice. On more than one occasion I’ve heard pastors say, “I wish Trump would…” As mature believers we know God calls the most unlikely people to do His bidding and He not only gives them a specific message, but in many cases He instructs them on the delivery of the message. I’m trying to imagine telling Paul to quit preaching, stick to the plan and act more like an Apostle. Paul said, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me” (1 Cor 9:16-17 NIV). God has a sense of humor and it’s entirely possible He called President Trump to tweet a particular message.
February 13, 2017
I attended a worship service where the sermon had minimal Bible text, but rather contained a lot of filler — video, jokes, opinion, observation and action items. I’m certain the pastor and church leadership would not appreciate my critique, but I left the church feeling I’d been fed the ambitions of the church, rather than the Word of God. I realize the worship service is not about pleasing those in the body, but I have to wonder if this type of service is pleasing to the Lord. The prophet Amos recorded, “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD”” (Amos 8:11 NIV).
February 10, 2017
Some people can’t acknowledge that their loved one had no relationship with Jesus and they rationalize the person is still heaven bound simply because they were a good person. They hold on to the hope that good deeds and righteous acts are more important than obedience. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel about the house of Israel, “Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys…If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.” (Ezekiel 33:12a-13 NIV).
February 09, 2017
I readily embrace loving the Lord with all my heart, but I don’t consciously have the fear of the Lord in my mind. At least that was until I started reading Jeremiah and Ezekiel. You’d think with Israel’s recorded history, in many cases repeated verbatim, along with the prophet’s dire warnings, that the people would wake up every morning with the fear of the Lord in the forefront of their mind. The Psalmist said, “Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 118:4 NIV). Hmm, maybe I’m more conscious of the fear of the Lord than I realize.
February 08, 2017
As I transcribed my notes from a recent church visit I was taken aback to realize that I had no quotes from the pastor because there was no sermon per se. The basic elements of worship were in place — hymns, short scripture readings, communion, the Lord’s Prayer and taking up the offering. However, the remainder of the service was taken up with a video from the denomination’s hierarchy, an awards ceremony and announcements. On a certain level I regret not hearing the Word preached that day. However, Paul reminded me, “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” (1Cor 14:26 NIV).
February 07, 2017
Informed and Unashamed
I attended a public meeting where the organization’s members did not know their by-laws, or rules of order, and the leader was able to make up rules on the fly. Sometime later I attended a discussion-type worship service where everyone’s opinion was taken as gospel and the comments in the room were not measured against the Gospel. Whether in the world, or in the church, Paul’s words of warning are applicable, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” (2 Tim 2:1516 NIV).
February 06, 2017
I visited a church that seemed to be conflicted in their identity. The best way to describe it is a blend of Jewish, evangelical and mainstream traditional. One man wore a skull cap and when I called the church contact person to fact-check the spelling of his name I asked if the man were Jewish. Hesitantly the woman said, “A lot of us are Jewish…we just don’t advertise it.” I’m still bewildered by her comment, but I also see a parallel with the Jews who witnessed firsthand the miraculous signs done by Jesus. “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43).
February 03, 2017
In November of 2016 one of our local deputies was ambushed in a remote area of the county. The assailant shot at the officer six times at close range, but miraculously the only wound inflicted on the officer was a gunshot to the hand. The officer returned fire shooting the assailant in the head. The motive for the ambush is unclear, but the assailant disliked law enforcement and I suspect he thought he could kill the officer and get away with it because there were no witnesses. Unfortunately, people of faith fall into a similar trap when we think there are no witnesses. “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3 NIV).
February 02, 2017
The pastor, using a form of expository preaching, read a chapter in Second Peter for his sermon text. He gave some historical background, took a few rabbit tails, and used one illustration. After the sermon he revealed he never prepares a sermon per se. Rather, he lets the Spirit move him each Sunday, “Oh, I study all the time, but I let the Spirit guide the sermon. I never know what I’ll be preaching.” I understand relying on the Spirit and Jesus did say, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt 10:19-20 NIV). However, I keep having this image of the Spirit always being blamed for a preacher’s lack of preparation.
February 01, 2017
The new State Representative for the western slope of Colorado is an expert in water, agriculture and natural resources. However, rather than being appointed to the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, the minority leader appointed him to two committees where he has no expertise — Public Health Care & Human Services and the Finance Committee. The knee jerk reaction is one of indignation at the politically motivated move. However, from a spiritual perspective, we know God often puts us in positions not of our choosing. I’m reminded of Esther being taken to the palace of King Xerxes and Mordecai’s words, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b NIV).