During a church visit the pastor used the illustration of the Denver football stadium holding 75,000 people and compared it to believers being on the field with 12 legions of angels (72,000) as spectators watching us (Heb 12:1). Unfortunately, the pastor mixed up his stories. In the wilderness Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels, but the Hebrew passage refers to a great crowd of witnesses, those pillars of faith who have gone on before us. I can correct the pastor’s narrative in my article; however, I’m reminded of the importance of fact-checking even those in our fellowship who are schooled and in authority. Luke reported, “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).
March 30, 2017
While sitting in his recliner my husband Bill dropped a needle. Visually we checked his clothes, the upholstered chair and the carpet. Next we ran our hands over every surface and when that failed we got a large magnet and covered every nook and cranny where it could have fallen. I had visions of someone stepping on, or worse yet setting on the needle. After half an hour, and as a last resort, we went to the Lord in prayer. I then started all over again and retraced our steps, but this time I included turning the recliner upside down. There in the carpet next to the imprint of the recliner’s feet, lay the needle. I immediately felt a kindred spirit with the woman in the Parable of the Lost Coin. However, as I revisited the parable I was surprised that the woman, who lit a lamp, swept the house and searched until she found the lost coin, did not petition God. Jesus concluded the parable, “And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:9-10 NIV).
March 29, 2017
Talking heads, commentators and political-types are in the bad habit of prefacing their remarks to the facilitator with, “That’s a good question.” I’m never sure if they are using the phrase to compliment the facilitator, or if they use the pause as a way to collect their thoughts before answering. I’m reminded of God’s questions to Adam and Eve in the garden and it occurs to me that God could ask these same questions to believers today, “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? What is this you have done” (Gen 3:9-13 NIV)? I can image our stalling to collect our thoughts and saying, “That’s a good question.”
March 28, 2017
Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how to pray. That being said, it’s surprising how few of us follow the model prayer. In corporate prayer people generally do pretty well acknowledging God and thanking him for his provision, but I’ve noticed that the person praying often rephrases the prayer need itself and says “Lord, Miss Sally has been battling cancer for years…” or, “Lord the economy is bad and people need jobs…” It’s as though the one offering the prayer is reminding God of worldly situations. I hate to admit it, but I almost want to laugh. Of course the Lord knows of Miss Sally’s long battle with cancer and that in the bad economy people need jobs. I suspect the speaker unintentionally mixes up who he is speaking to by combining petitions to the Lord with reminding worshippers the need for the prayer. Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7 NIV).
March 27, 2017
Friendliness is one of the attributes I look for and write about when I visit local churches. Sunday I made an unannounced visit to the church my son and daughter-in-law attend. When Lydia, my 11-year-old granddaughter spotted me she hot-footed it back to where I was sitting and with a knowing grin said, “I’m going to sit with you because our church is a frrrrrrriendly church!" 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” (Phil 2:1-2 NIV).
March 24, 2017
A local non-profit 501 3c “health” organization is soliciting funds to help with the defense of an illegal alien picked up by ICE. In my research for an article I realized it is not just political correctness that keeps the ire of taxpayers in-check, but it’s also deceptive terminology that keeps people in the dark. Rather than labeling people as illegal and undocumented, this health organization describes their clients as underserved. Luke, in his account of the early church, has a better example of what it means to be underserved. The Apostles learned that the Grecian Jews (widows) were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4 NIV).
March 23, 2017
In the book of Exodus, after experiencing the plagues, Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for him. I find it curious that Moses did not pray in Pharaohs presence, but rather said when he left that place, or left Pharaoh’s presence, he would pray to God. Contrary to today’s practice, Moses did not make a public production, or offer a prayer where Pharaoh could hear the petition. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt 6:5-6 NIV).
March 22, 2017
I submitted an article to my editor and she changed some words in order to, in her mind, make it more clear. However, rather than clarifying, her edits changed the meaning of a couple of statements. I now have a whole new appreciation for keeping a text as it is written and not allowing modern day editors, commemorators and biblical experts clarify the Word of God. Of Revelation the Apostle John said, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18-19 NIV).
March 21, 2017
In a few instances I’ve had the opportunity to meet the pastors of the churches I visit and I’m starting to see a pattern of explanations when they tell me why the attendance is down on that particular Sunday — people out of town, holidays, illness, etc. Not that they are trying to spin the narrative, but it is surprising that attendance takes a hit on the Sunday that I visit. Maybe it’s a modern day phenomenon, but it’s interesting that in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation the measure of the church is never based on attendance. The Lord said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7 NIV).
March 20, 2017
Woodpeckers are protected and when they stake out their territory it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them...legally. One persistent bird has taken a liking to my daughter and son-in-law’s house, but rather than attacking the wood siding this bird is attacking an attic vent on the roof which has a large metal cap. From inside the house he sounds like Rosie the Riveter. I doubt he can actually do much damage, but it is bewildering that he returns multiple times a day. Sometimes we believers are not much smarter than this woodpecker and it’s not unusual for us to keep hammering on the hard hearts of the unsaved. Jesus sent the Twelve out with clear instructions on how to deal with those in towns or villages who do not accept the Gospel, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matt 10:14 NIV).
March 17, 2017
Sanctuary cities and states are using taxpayer funds to help illegal immigrants and I recently learned of a local nonprofit health network accepting donations under their 501 3c tax exempt status to help with an illegal immigrant’s legal defense. I find it disconcerting that the church does something similar by using tithes and offerings to aid illegals. Certainly people of faith can rationalize that they are helping the poor; however, they are also encouraging those who should and could immigrate legally to subvert federal law. James said, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker” (James 2:8-11 NIV).
March 16, 2017
We believers work hard on being patient and some of us wait months and years before we see a response from God in answer to our prayers. My own impatience was put in perspective when I read the Revelation account of the sixth angel sounding his trumpet. Realizing the four angels have been ready and waiting since creation to play their role in God’s plan gave me pause. The voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God said to the sixth angel, “And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind” (Rev 9:15 NIV).
March 15, 2017
I have a friend who, although he confessed and has been forgiven for having an affair, can’t seem to forgive himself. He continues to grieve over the damage and hurt that resulted from adultery. Some Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to see a miraculous sign from Jesus and he answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt 12:39 NIV). Jesus was speaking of spiritual, rather than physical adultery. However, it occurs to me that all of us, at one time or another, have been guilty of spiritual adultery…and yet we fail to confess and ask for forgiveness.
March 14, 2017
I like to watch “The Voice” on NBC, but I don’t always hear what the judges hear. One young man put on a great performance and the audience loved him; however, not one of the four judges turned their chair during the blind audition. Blake Shelton critiqued the man and asked him if he was performing on the stage during the audition because to Shelton’s ear the singer had a hard time getting enough breath and holding the notes. Shelton said, “You should be singing to the judges, not performing for the audience.” Some leaders of the Jews believed in Jesus, but they would not confess their faith because their perceived audience was the Pharisees. “…for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:43 NIV).
March 13, 2017
I attended a Pentecostal church and the 45-minute song service was spirit filled with praise hymns, raised hands and swaying to the beat of the music. As the children were dismissed for children’s church one little pre-school girl skipped down the aisle singing, “I’m a little teapot short and stout…” Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt 19:14 NIV).
March 10, 2017
In order to get stories for a classic cars series I go to car show events that are held every Friday night in local restaurant parking lots. I photograph the vehicles and then go into the restaurant to track down the owners and get the information about their car. One evening I approached a group of 20 car enthusiasts seated around one long table. With pencil and tablet in hand I took down names and phone numbers so I could later contact the owners and interview them about their cars. I chatted with a couple of ladies and Helen, the elderly mother of one of the woman, handed me her menu and said, “I’ll have the fish and chips.” We laughed and I understood how she mistook me for a waitress. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Even today some people have trouble identifying Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:14,16 NIV).
March 09, 2017
I can’t imagine being responsible for deliberately keeping someone from being saved. However, our predisposition and loyalty to our own denomination may in fact keep others from salvation. Speaking about the Jews who killed Jesus Paul said, “They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit” (1 Thess 2:15b-16a NIV).
March 08, 2017
Our current city administration has systematically dismantled and combined community organizations (Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Authority, the Area Merchants Association, etc.) These entities, made up mostly of volunteers, are being replaced by paid employees of the city. This same scenario plays out in churches. When leadership wants to shape the church they eliminate ministries, volunteers and servant-leaders and replace them with staff who are in agreement with their vision. Even mature believers are not immune from the attempt to disenfranchise us from ministry. I like Paul’s way of handling such situations, “But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super–apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. (2 Cor 11:5-6 NIV).
March 07, 2017
David, my 13-year-old grandson, was upset with himself for fouling out during his last basketball game. I, on the other hand, was proud of his assertiveness and aggressiveness. Comparing the basketball court to the spiritual court, many believers worry about fouling out. We are so afraid of offending others that we hold back, fail to take the shot, or let others denominate the game. Paul reminds us that in the spiritual game of life we should be fearless and support one another, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Eph 6:19 -20 NIV).
March 06, 2017
One of our local policemen wore plain clothes to a youth sporting event and I was surprised by his slim stature. It finally dawned on me that I normally see him in full uniform wearing a bulletproof vest, which gives him more of a muscular appearance. As a believer I’ve always thought of wearing the full armor of God as a personal thing...it’s never occurred to me that on any particular day others can tell whether or not I’m wearing my armor. Paul said, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph 6:13 NIV).
March 03, 2017
The term writer’s block is used when a writer loses creativity to come up with a new or continuing idea for their project. I sense preachers struggle with a similar block when I hear a sermon based on two verses of Scripture fluffed up by filler, video, jokes and anecdotes. Whether a Christian writer or a preacher, if we simply rely on our own understanding and creative ability we underestimate the power of the Gospel. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double–edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12 NIV).
March 02, 2017
I have a friend who needs to make a life altering decision and she asked people to pray that she make the right choice. I’m struggling with the request because all indications are that she has already made the decision. At first blush her lack of sincerity seems to make a mockery out of the prayers offered on her behalf. However, the prayers themselves, misguided or not, may not be as important to God as are those who are offering the prayers. “The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him” (Proverbs 15:8 NIV).
March 01, 2017
People who contemplate suicide often don’t contemplate it all, rather it is a spur of the moment decision. An earthquake opened the prison doors and the jailer guarding Paul didn’t even check the cells, but rather drew his sword and was ready to kill himself because he thought all the prisoners had escaped. I don’t see much difference between the jailer and mature believers when we see our church seemingly going the way of the world. Speaking from experience, when church leadership blows off my concerns my initial reaction is to draw my sword and cut my own throat. Whether it’s physical or spiritual suicide, Paul’s words to the jailer are applicable, “But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here” (Acts 16:28 NIV)!