Motive can make all the difference, can’t it?
The story is told of a man who knocks on someone’s door saying, “Sir you have got to help! There is a family I know very well that is in desperate need of money. The father has been out of a job for over a year, they have five kids at home with barely a bit of food to eat. The worst part is, they are about to be kicked out of the house and they will be left on the streets without a roof over their heads!”
“Well,” said the man at the door, “that is terrible! Please, come in.” Continue reading
It is probably the most universally famous thing Jesus ever said. It has been called the Golden Rule and the Mt. Everest of all ethical teaching. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
The passage is usually applied in the context of doing good to others. A friend once suggested that if you are ever in a quandary about what to do, just think about what you would like someone to do for you – drop a note, give you a call, stop in and say hi —and your problem is solved. Now go do it for someone.
But I think the passage can also be applied in a far more difficult context, that of forgiving. Continue reading
“Think before you speak” is sound counsel. One of the reasons this is such good advice is that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). That principle alone is enough to make you want to go mute.
I imagine we are most conscious of our words when speaking to other people. Our family, friends, people at work, and the ones we hang out with outside of work. These are the folks who are the most likely to be victims of our complaints, cutting remarks, and insincere compliments.
But let me add one more listener. God. Continue reading
I can’t say we knew each other well. We worked in the same mill for about eight years and though we were in the same department, our paths seldom crossed.
But when I did happen to venture in his direction, I would make it a point to stop and visit with him and would occasionally share my faith. Sometimes it was from something I was reading, other times the conversations would revolve around some ethical issue.
But I was always careful not to say too much. The reason for my reservation is that the man was hostile of Christianity and critical of Christians. My guiding principle was something Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Continue reading
One of the more difficult stipulations made by Jesus is when he said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This is difficult to reconcile with the more popular “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12).
While this isn’t the place to unpack everything here, suffice it to say Jesus is showing the challenge of following him. Christ’s use of the word “hate” can be understood as a Semitic expression for loving something else less. Read a little further in this chapter, and you find he not only speaks about family, he also speaks of dying to self (14:27), and of relinquishing everything (14:33). These are different ways of saying the same thing. To follow Christ at all is to follow him in everything.
Instead of thinking about the individual who takes this passage to the extreme by giving away everything they own and abandoning all friends and family, it might be more helpful (though more painful) to see how the principle looks when it’s not followed by one of the nicest people you know.
In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis describes a woman that many of us know by a different name. He humorously calls her Mrs. Fidget. He writes, Continue reading
When asked to pray for someone, it’s typical for me to inquire about details. The request “I’d like us to pray for my nephew. He was just diagnosed with cancer,” might be followed up with something like “Sure. What is his first name?” “How old is he?” “What kind of cancer does he have?” “When was he diagnosed?” “How are his parents doing? Maybe we should also pray for them.”
This isn’t intended to be nosy, nor are such details necessary. Even if he didn’t ask me to pray and was just giving me some troubling family news, I would still ask these questions out of concern for my friend and his nephew. Continue reading
Though it is pretty ancient technology now, I remember listening (or should it be watching) to one of my first sermons using PowerPoint. I admit that at first I was mesmerized. The man speaking was quite good, but his slides were even better. As I recall, there was a little figure on the screen who kept running from point to point as the author spoke. Occasionally something would light up and blink or disappear and reappear. I was spellbound.
But when it was over and we were walking out, I had the distinct feeling that I had been hoodwinked. It’s not that the message wasn’t good, it was almost too good. Continue reading
The church tradition I was raised in leans to the quiet side of the spectrum. It’s not a morbid, mausoleum kind of quiet; you do hear kids and the occasional whisper of an adult, but throughout the sermon folks listen quietly.
But I’ve been a guest speaker in churches of a very different atmosphere. I recall speaking in a church when someone in the back row yelled, “That’s pretty good!” I paused for a moment, not sure who he was talking to. When I saw him waving at me and everyone else in the church smiling, I relaxed and said “Why thank you, nice of you to say so” and continued on, thoroughly enjoying my time there.
Every local congregation has its own personality. At some churches, the needle leans toward reverence; while at others it points toward family and informality. No one local congregation is a perfect fit for everyone. Continue reading
Before the age of consumerism, you could pretty much anticipate what you would encounter when you visited a church simply based on its sign or building architecture. While there were plenty of exceptions, if the sign said Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Catholic, and the building was simple or Gothic, you pretty much knew what you were getting into. You could judge the book by its cover.
But the baby boomers changed all that. Suddenly the driving force was relevancy. The local church needed to change; it needed to close the gap between what happens out there and what happens in here. Tempo trumped tradition, volume drowned out tranquility. Continue reading
Those involved in the inner workings of a local church know how difficult it is to be both relevant and timeless. Churches deal in truth and truth does not change. But churches also exist in cultures that change almost daily.
Most church services are held in buildings and most of those buildings have electricity and indoor plumbing. But for some, the technology slows down a little at that point. Some churches have padded chairs while others insist on wooden pews. Some only sing ancient hymns while others pick another era for their songs. Some use Power Point while others eschew it as not only needless but distracting.
And then there is the matter of Bible translations. Almost every English Bible is a translation of the Hebrew (Old Testament) and the Greek (New Testament). Continue reading