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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).