During a church business meeting the congregation was asked to pray about a decision where the answer has already been determined by the leadership. Since the decision has been taken out of the God’s hands the need to petition the Lord is a moot point. I can’t shake the feeling that in this instance the practice of prayer is either being mocked, or it’s being used simply as busywork for the congregation. God looks for sincerity in worshippers, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:15 NIV).
April 27, 2017
I recently visited a family-friendly church where children played on the floor with dump trucks, elementary age girls danced in aisle, and people walked back and forth with food and drinks while visiting one another. Teens huddled together in conversation, young parents swayed with babies in their arms and bounced them on a knee. All this while the praise team lead the congregation in the worshipful praise song, “Here in Your Presence.” Needless to say, the lyrics were apropos, “Here in Your presence, we are undone; Here in Your presence, heaven and earth become one.
April 26, 2017
I arrived at a church at 9:15 a.m. for the scheduled 9:30 service only to read in the bulletin that the start time was 9:45. In fairness to the members, when they entered the auditorium they greeted me warmly; however, their normal routine was to have fellowship and café in the foyer prior to worship. I’ll be honest, I felt like a guest who misread the invitation and arrived 30 minutes early to the party where the host wasn’t quite ready and didn’t know what to do with me. Paul charged 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). I’m beginning to think mature believers are more capable and comfortable with testimonials, meditations and witnessing than we are playing host to a visitor.
April 25, 2017
I’m seeing a pattern of elected officials having to publicly admit, “It’s the first I’ve heard about it.” Employees seem to be waiting days, and in some cases weeks, before telling leaders about potentially explosive situations. It’s hard to know the employee’s rationale — stalling in order to come up with an excuse, thinking the situation will just blow over, or hoping with the passage of time it will soften the seriousness. I’m now wondering about Adam and Eve in the garden. Did they think God would never find out they had eaten from the tree in the middle of the garden? Would their punishment have been less severe if they had gone to God immediately? How long did they play hide-n-go-seek in the bushes before being confronted by God; a day, a week? Certainly it was long enough for them to sew fig leaves to cover themselves. It occurs to me that many of us maybe spending time sewing fig leaves and yet we know the day will come when God calls to us, “Where are you” (Gen 3:9 NIV)?
April 24, 2017
Yesterday in his opening prayer the pastor said, “Father, I pray for those who go to church today for the second week in a row…the week after their annual obligation [Easter].” I chuckled to myself and then realized even we who are mature in the faith are not immune from feeling of obligated. The writer of Hebrews said, “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 10:24-25 NIV).
April 21, 2017
The last few years our city government started moving employees from one position to another, often creating positions and handing out flashy new job titles. It has gotten to the point where citizens are realizing that many employees are not qualified for the title they have. During a recent meeting one committee member said, “In the city you have a lot of people wearing a lot of different hats. Eventually your programs will fail.” I’m reminded that in the body of Christ where we are uniquely qualified for our appointed position. Paul said, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor 12:28-31 NIV).
April 20, 2017
Some retail business owners look to local government and the chamber of commerce to help market their business. During a recent community meeting one retailer rejected that idea and said, “It’s businesses who are responsible for bringing customers into their own business.” The point made by the retailer is applicable to the body of Christ. It is our responsibility to offer the same type of hospitality in the church that we would offer to a visitor in our home. Paul said, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom 12:10-13 NIV).
April 19, 2017
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross replaced the Mosaic sacrifices. Describing the Mosaic sacrifices the writer of Hebrews said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made)” (Heb10:8 NIV). It gives me pause to think that even today many of us classify ministry, time and tithes as a sacrifice to God, but these could qualify as sacrifices and offerings that He does not desire. The psalmist David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17 NIV).
April 18, 2017
Like most believers I’ve committed Psalm 23 to memory and all phrases are impactful — green pastures, quiet waters, and paths of righteousness. However, it wasn’t until I listened to an audio version of the psalm that I was struck by the phrase, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (vs. 5). I have to be honest, walking through the valley of the shadow of death sounds more appealing than being at a table in the presence of my enemies. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6 NIV).
April 17, 2017
There are always differences of opinion amongst believers and between various denominations. Recently in a public setting a liberal pastor in my community took to task a group of more traditional pastors for what he sees is their lack of loving support for gays. I find it very telling that the liberal pastor used the media to bolster his position, chastise his brothers in Christ and in essence, solicit community support. Although Paul may be talking about property disputes, I find his words applicable to this situation. “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers” (1Cor 6:1-2; 4- 5 NIV)?
April 14, 2017
April 13, 2017
My new car is packed with technology and it wants to save me from myself. If the cruise control is on and I drive to the left or right of center, it keeps trying to pull me back to dead center. I can set the cruise control on 65, but if the car in front of me is driving 55 my car will slow down if it feels I’m getting too close before I turn on my turn signal to pass. I recently drove on winding mountain roads and occasionally cut a curve and dodged a few rocks. My car assumed I was getting sleepy and the cup-of-coffee icon appeared on the display with the caption, “Please stop and take a break.” I’ll be honest, I’m tempted to disable all these helps because I don’t like a car telling me how to drive. Hmm…Guess that’s a similar reaction I have when the Spirit tries to keep me from sinning. “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5 NIV).
April 12, 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 on the house this bird is attacking a large metal roof vent. I doubt he can actually do much damage, but from inside the house he sounds like Rosie the Riveter. Sometimes we believers are not any smarter than this woodpecker and we just keep hammering on the hard hearts of friends and loved ones with our own wisdom. Paul said, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21 NIV).
April 11, 2017
My friend rails against the misuse of the word “homeless.” She contends that many panhandlers, vagabonds and transients are not really homeless, but rather living a chosen lifestyle. Today we hear a lot about the homeless and in many instances the label is used as a way to shame society. Paul told the Corinthians, “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (1 Cor 4:11-13 NIV). Paul’s intent was not to shame, but to warn them as dear children of his way of life in Christ Jesus.
April 10, 2017
In the early years of my marriage major purchases such as appliances and vehicles where basic, low-end and no frills. I can now afford better quality; however, when I purchase high-end rather than mid-range I sense Judas whispering in my ear, “You should have gone for the economy model and the money you saved could have been given to the poor” (John 12:5). Recently I mentally lamented on an extravagant purchase, at least extravagant for me, when I heard a different voice say, “You’re worth it!” Believers can get into a similar mindset as we wrestle with Christ dying for us…we're sinners. Are we worth the price He paid for us? Well yes, yes we are!
April 07, 2017
In a proclamation my city leaders announced April 17-22 as Earth Week with this year’s theme, “This Land is Your Land.” The earth is not really our land, but rather it belongs to God the Creator. Paul cautions believers about God’s wrath against mankind, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Ro 1:25 NIV).
April 06, 2017
The enemies of President Trump are going to great lengths to make him out to be a failure in everything he does. At first I thought the sabotage would, in time, come to an end. Now I’m not so sure that making America Great can be accomplished in two four-year terms. In the book of Ezra the enemies of Judah and Benjamin were not allowed to help rebuild the Lord’s temple and they took offense. If my calculations are correct these enemies carried a political grudge through multiple reigns lasting 73 years. “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5 NIV).
April 05, 2017
A company in Sweden uses microchips to tag employees, similar to chips used in pets. The implanted chip allows employees to “…open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a swipe of the hand.” In my mind I’ve always assumed the mark of the beast was a visible mark that would allow people, at a glance, to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Now I’m not so sure. John said, “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Rev 13:16-17 NIV).
April 04, 2017
During a church visit the pastor asked visitors to raise their hand and an usher would give them an informational packet from the church. As the usher walked down my aisle he focused on the opposite side of the room and went past my raised hand. With the collection of tithes and offerings the same usher again walked past my outstretched hand and looked in the opposite direction. I didn’t need the packet, nor was my token offering significant. However, after the second instance, rather than simply feeling overlooked, I felt ignored. I couldn’t help but wonder who or what was on the opposite side of the room that was of such importance. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Pr 19:11 NIV).
April 03, 2017
After reading the sermon text the pastor noted he had three points to make. Point 1). Believers are called to follow Jesus. From there the pastor took us on a Bible Wilderness Tour with one passage of Scripture after another. While he did tie all his leapfrog thoughts together with Bible references and illustrations, I kept listening for point number 2). and 3). Realizing his time was up he made a quick summary and admitted, “I have a couple more points to make…” Worshippers laughed when he continued, “We’ll get to them someday.” The sermon was reminiscent of watching a movie I’ve recorded only to discover the last 10 minutes failed to record. “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”— when you now have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV).