A Business…?

‘Rich in Faith’, a new reality show appearing on Wednesday evenings, is a program developed for Oxygen Media by MTV executive, Rod Aissa.  Serving a targeted audience of an 18-34 year old female demographic, ‘Rich in Faith’ seeks to turn the viewer spotlight on young media type pastors.  One episode features Rich WilkersonJr. and his wife DawnChere and follows them as they grapple through decisions faced as they balance family and home life, during the process of starting a youth-oriented, celebrity Miami church plant.

“The Wilkersons are appealing”, said Aissa.  “And the fact that their ‘business happens to be religion‘, brings an added dimension”.

Hmmmm…Their ‘business happens to be religion‘.

Is that the way the world is now perceiving the church?  Do they see the ‘Gospel Bearing Ambassadors of Jesus’, the church, as a business venture bringing the goods?  Really…?  Dave Johnson, Parents Television Council Advisory board member commented that TV executives are now beginning to produce a mixture of reality TV and faith that appears to be more like the ‘old circus, with a sideshow tent’ than it does the real church.

But, can we hardly blame culture?  They simply read our actions and react to our preoccupations.

We say that we are all about the Person of Christ, but we seem to be preoccupied with marketing a package to consumers.

We say that we are all about adoring Jesus, but we seem to be preoccupied with advertising Him–the greater the shock factor the better.

We say that we are all about faith–how Jesus is proclaimed, but we seem to be preoccupied with focus groups–how we are perceived.

We say that we are all about giving compassion, but often we seem to be preoccupied with gaining contributions.

Let’s consider our Lord’s words, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’.  Matthew 16:24.   A good call is that, if we are to be more than a business in search of customers…



One of my favorite Bible prayers is one of Paul’s recorded for us in Philippians 1:9-11.  There Paul says that he prays for the Philippians’ …’love to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, that they may discern what is best and be pure and blameless until the Day of Christ Jesus…’.  (NIV)  Paul wanted, among other things, for the Philippians’ love to abound in order that they may discern what is best and be pure.

This virtue was one that was not only essential for genuine spiritual life, but one that could be tangibly verified.  Some Bible versions translate the word for pure as ‘sincere’, ‘unalloyed’ or ‘genuine’.  If we translated it literally, we would say it was ‘judged by the sun’.  Now what does that mean?

For some time now, I have been looking to find a good used washtub.  I used one as a kid, before indoor plumbing came to our region of Southern Illinois.  (Yes, I am that old.)  (And no, we didn’t walk to school without shoes, in the snow, uphill both ways…)  And until 1963, Saturday evening bath time found me making the most of soapy water in an old wash tub that the rest of the week was used mostly for washing clothes.  Call it nostalgia, if you will, but I’d just like one.  A few years ago I filled one with ice and put canned soda in it to keep the pop cold for our use at a harvest parade in our village.  But, it has long since become useless because of holes in the bottom.

I haven’t been picky in my search.  But, I have wanted the tub to have two good handles, little or no rust, no sharp edges anywhere and most of all NO HOLES.  A wash tub isn’t much use for anything but decoration if it has holes in it.

Recently, on a birthday trip to Door County, Wisconsin, my wife and I shopped–more like poked around–in a second hand store that had more than it’s share of antique type utensils and old shed stuff in a lower level.  As it happened, the owners had a couple wash tubs to choose from.  As I looked them over, I found myself instinctively walking over to an open garage, loading bay door.  Once there, I put the tubs, first one then the other, over my head and turned toward the sun to see if there were any holes in the bottoms or seams.  The sunlight would soon reveal any holes, even pin tip sized ones.  Unfortunately, though both tubs looked very serviceable, neither passed the sunlight test.  So the search continues.

Spiritually speaking, we daily go through this same process.  But this time, our lives take the place of the tubs and Jesus, the Son, takes the place of the sunlight.  We measure the ‘purity’ of our spiritual lives by lifting them up and placing them in the light of Jesus, through prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service to Him.  Those areas that reveal weakness become our areas of concern and sanctification.  We seek the Lord’s grace to grow in strength beyond the weaknesses that His light reveals.

This is what Paul was praying for with the Philippians.  He wanted them to grow in genuine love so that they could discern any areas of spiritual impurity that would be holding them back in their walk with the Lord.  As they found and addressed those areas, they would then become ‘pure’ and ‘blameless’ until the day of Christ Jesus.

As God mentions through Peter in I Peter 1:22:  ‘…now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for the brethren, love one another deeply from a ‘pure’ heart…’.

May we seek the Lord, today, to become more like Him–full of purity.  And may we resolve to not shrink from the task of seeking the light in order to reveal those ‘holes’ in our spiritual lives that hold us back from the spiritual maturity that we all want.

A Search for Answers…

By now, no doubt, we all have heard of the tragic shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  We quickly learned that nearly a score of victims either lay dead or were injured in the wake of the shooting event.  Our collective hearts ache for the families of those who perished.  And our prayers ascend for the healing of those who survived their wounds.

Just as quickly, it seems, many have begun to search for answers as to ‘why’ and ‘how’ such an event could happen.  Others have already answered those questions for themselves and have begun to assign blame.

Those who cling to the assumption that weapons are the problem reason that the shooter would have had no opportunity or inclination to kill IF he had had no access to a gun.  Those who champion pro-life causes find fault with the brutal death industry of Planned Parenthood and assume that no incident could have occurred IF the abortion office did not exist.

And although each group feels that their rationale is correct and that they can site logical reasons supporting their convictions, both are wrong.  On the surface, both appear to be right.  But, let’s ask ourselves these questions:  1)  Are we to assume that the absence of a gun would have prevented the act of violence of a man against another adult man or woman?  And 2)  Are we to further assume that the absence of an abortion clinic would have prevented the act of violence of a man or woman against a helpless baby?

No.  We know the answer.  The perpetrator of the shooting, in the absence of a gun, would have found another vicious way to harm the people he hated.  And the propagators and purchasers of abortion, in the absence of a clinic, would have found another vicious way to kill their babies.  Of this we can be certain.

But if these answers do not accurately explain ‘why’ this happened, then what does?  What is the real reason this event happened?

Simply this–The shooter and the clinic workers WERE TRYING TO PLAY GOD!  Yes, that’s the reason.  The shooter felt justified in playing God by deciding who lived and who died AND the clinic workers felt justified in playing God by deciding what babies lived and what babies died.  And regardless of the supposed well-intentioned point of view of each, their glaring arrogance prove all that needs to be understood about this event.


The shooter AND the clinic workers should have shuddered in fear of trying to assume God’s role as the Giver of life.  As it is, they all grossly overestimated their own importance in life and while acting on their own impulses and self-will left on the landscape of our culture another grotesque picture of what we all are like whenever we push God away and attempt to take His place and become the ‘gods of our own fabrication’.  And what a wretched sight it is.  The gunman’s weapon was wielded over helpless people caught in his sights and helpless babies were pulled from their mother’s womb by doctors wielding a scalpel–both hideous sights are they of the results of ruthless, Godless violence.

But thanks be to God, He can and will have mercy on all who call on Him out of a pure heart for salvation.  Let’s purpose to bow before Him, invite Him to be our God through faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him in all His ways, thereby, leaving a better, more worthy picture for others to see when they look at how we lived our lives here–lives lived with love for God and love for those created in His image, both born and pre-born.

No One Knew…Imagine That

The title of the blog caught my attention and spawned several questions in my mind.  It read:  ’15 Famous Athletes You Didn’t Know Were Christians’.  And though the title interested me, I had decided to simply pass on without study or comment.  However, my soul is still stirred by this declaration to such an extent that I decided to respond to it in writing.

My question is this:  ‘Is it possible for someone to be converted and no one notice?’

I once read a story of a modern day ‘doubting Thomas’ that refused to step foot on church property or give any credence to people’s faith.  One day the church building began to burn due to the careless actions of a gardener who was burning off his old refuse nearby.  The gathered parishioners were astonished to look around and see the defiant man standing among them watching the emergency responders deal with the blaze.  Bewildered by his presence, one bystander asked why he had decided to come to the church and watch.  His response was quite telling.  ‘This’, he said, ‘is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire’!

We can hardly miss the irony in what he said.  And we can’t mistake his understanding:  ‘a Christian should look different than anyone else’.  ‘But how?’, we ask.

Please, allow me to suggest a few ways.

First, there should be a visible sign of REJOICING.  The Psalmist used phrases like ‘I will awaken the dawn with my song’ or ‘Shout to the Lord all the earth’ or ‘Come before Him with jubilant song’ to express his desire to sing with rejoicing.  If someone is sincerely in touch with the fact that they have been ‘delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’, Colossians 1:13-14, shouldn’t saved people be overwhelmed with the desire to jubilantly rejoice?

Second, there should be a visible sign of REPENTANCE.  Someone who is sincerely converted will be experiencing a new awareness of right and wrong and should have an increasing desire for a changed life.  THAT SHOULD SHOW.  It has been passed down to us that on one occasion, while visiting the town of his birth and early life, that Augustine once encountered Monica, a friend with whom he had shared an immoral relationship.  As she meet him on the street, Augustine passed without so much as a glance.  She called after him, ‘Augustine, it is I’.  ‘Yes’, he replied, ‘but it is not I any longer’.  If we are ‘putting to death whatever belongs to the sinful nature’, Colossians 3:5, we will both experience and exhibit change.  It will show.

Third, there should be a visible sign of a new way of RELATING to old friends.  God puts it like this through the Apostle Peter: ‘For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery and they malign you’, I Peter 4:3-4.  The point is clear:  the sincerely converted person should expect old friends to notice your change and react to you because of it.

This brings us full circle.  If a person is truly converted, will anyone notice?  Will we have to list the names of ’15 Famous Athletes Who are Christians’?  Shouldn’t it show?


Holy Matrimony…

‘Etymology’ is the study of how words are used over a period of time.  Sometimes a word’s meaning/use does not change.  Others seem to suffer from lack of use.  Still others fall from use altogether.

I’m a sort of ‘geek’ when it comes to how words are used.  Because one of my daily routines is studying how Bible words are used, this fascination with ‘terms’, ‘meanings’ or ‘uses’ has served me well.  But I have always been curious about how some Bible words fall completely out of use.

While reading the Bible as a youth, I was often interested in the use of such words as ‘froward’, ‘untoward’ or ‘wimple’–none of which still remain in the Bible.  Centuries of use has given way to the adoption of words with a more modern equivalence.  Another example is how we’ve dropped the use of ‘thee’, ‘thou’ or ‘thine’.  After all, don’t we all know who ‘you’ is?  Pardon the grammar.  🙂

And though some of this change is appropriate, other similar changes are a bit more troubling.  Say, for example, the use of some of the words in wedding ceremonies.  Case in point.  When was the last time you heard an officiant ask the congregation gathered for a wedding ceremony, ‘If anyone present can show just cause why this couple should not here and now be joined together in Holy Matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace’?  Has it been a long time?  Have you ever heard it?  How about the words, ‘wedlock’ or ‘betrothed’?

Sadly, these statements have begun to suffer from lack of use.  And while I have no beef with upgrading our word’s usage in order to clarify our meaning when we use them, some words seem to have been set aside precisely BECAUSE of what they mean.  Could it be that the word ‘wedlock’ reminds us that a wedding is a ‘locking’ of a man and woman together into one indissoluble union?  And could it be that such an understanding challenges our desire to have marital options in place if we ever become disgruntled in our marriages?

How about the use of the word ‘matrimony’.  It literally means ‘to join a man and woman in marriage’.  It’s meant that since it was first used in 1300 in France.  Little wonder our culture doesn’t like that one.  Maybe the SCOTUS should have been asked to uphold ‘matrimony’.

Similarly, the word ‘holy’ is rarely used in marriages.  Have we, because of its lack of use, forgotten that marriage is ‘sacred’–holy–before God?  And have we understood that  marriage is one of God’s most useful tools in helping us become more ‘holy’ in our lives?

We might do well to take God’s advice offered through Jeremiah the prophet:  ‘Stand by the road and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is;  walk in it and find rest for your souls’.  Jeremiah 6:16.

Whenever appropriate, let’s renew the use of words that remind us of the sanctity of marriage and that remind us of our accountability to Him for how we live out our marriage vows.


Growing up on a central Illinois dairy farm near Decatur, Illinois, I spent more than a little time working before sunrise and long after sundown.  As primary caretaker for our ‘flocks and herds’, I frequently worked in the dark to care for the needs of our animals.  And as any normal youngster, I often heard things go ‘thump in the night’.  In my imagination, an unfamiliar sound could become the thundering hooves of an angry dairy bull bearing down on this little skinny farm kid to turn the place where I was standing into a fight scene or it could become an animal rustler trying to make off with one of my prize cows or it could even become a wolf trying to steal a lamb out of our flock right after he finished me off and got me out of the way.

On our farm, there were places illuminated by pole lights and all the barns had lights.  But, many farm venues were marked by darkness that I couldn’t see through but I knew animals could see me in.  It was all a little unsettling for a young mind.

So when dad rousted me out of bed at 5 a.m. to go feed and bed down the animals, it took a bit of courage to walk into the darkness and do the job I was given.  On more than one occasion I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up accompanied by that uncomfortable feeling that something I didn’t want to meet was watching me work.  Over the years I just learned to do the work and gladly welcome dawn and work really fast in an attempt to finish before dark.  Now, understand that I’m not looking for delayed sympathy.  And I certainly wasn’t a victim.  I’d simply like to ask you to think about this.

The little bit of courage I mustered up on the farm to do my chores should not even be compared to REAL courage–the type that helps a man run headlong into enemy fire to retrieve a fallen companion on the battle field or that helps a policeman brave open hostility and gunfire to arrest a criminal in order to protect us or that helps a fireman enter a burning building to rescue a person suffering from smoke inhalation or immobilizing burns.    That, and many other acts of selflessness, are true marks of heroic courage.

So I really don’t use the word ‘courage’ to describe my actions.  And with all due respect, I do not believe that we should use the word ‘courage’, hallowed by so many acts of real heroism, to describe what Bruce Jenner has done.

Now that I have said that, please let me explain.

In one sense, I do understand how someone might think of his actions as heroic, considering the fact that by this act he has entered a potential suicide pool that is 20 times greater than that of the general public.  These types of activities do not leave someone ‘better off’ than they once were.  One type of bondage has simply replaced another.  And that new entrapment will  inflict far more suffering on the participants than the first.

The problem is this.  Whenever someone believes that they can improve what God has done in creation, they enter the realm of pride where it is impossible to find someone or something to truly meet your real needs.  Granted, you can make choices that give you an immediate sense of ‘power’ or ‘popularity’ or ‘pleasure’.  But, that sense of accomplishment is only TEMPORARY.  And the sense of disillusionment is staggering that comes one day when you wake up to realize that all you trusted and hoped to make you happy doesn’t.

God was right when He said:  ‘There is a way that SEEMS right to a man, but its end is the way of death’.  Proverbs 16:25.  And that is a word of truth that will never change, regardless of how fanciful our thoughts or how fanatical our insistent efforts are to prove it wrong.

Please understand that my comments are not rooted in criticism, bigotry, hatred or fear.  None of us would benefit from that.  They simply are rooted in the reality that only Jesus and His ways lead to life and fulfillment.  Any other path leads to disappointment and disillusionment.  As He said:  ‘I have come that they might have life and have it to the full’!  John 10:10.  By faith, let’s believe that and live.

In the chorus of a familiar hymn, we hear these words:  ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand’.  (Words adapted from Psalm 40:1-2).  TRUST HIM.


The Apple Watch

It hasn’t reached fever pitch yet, but there is significant interest being generated about Apple’s newest invention: the Apple Watch.  Apple’s savvy marketing scheme presents this product as the latest/greatest/newest invention that is sure to gratify  ‘techies’ interests and satiate the appetites of those who want to own the current ‘craze’ in electronic devices.

Among the Watch’s unique apps  is one that enables the wearer to record their heart beat by placing two fingers on the face of the watch.  The wearer can then transmit those pulses to another person and share their ‘heartfelt’ emotions.  Granted this is an interesting advance in technology, but what is the curiosity here?

Why are we wanting to communicate our affection to someone else via a watch when we refuse to receive the ‘heart beat’ affirmations and affections from a baby in the womb?  Why do we want to kindle the affections of one and kill the affects of the other?

For some reason, it just doesn’t make much sense to me to desire to transmit an adult heart beat to someone else hoping to engender their affection, while at the same time refusing to receive an even more intimate heart beat signal from a baby in the womb who just hopes to be recognized as a ‘human being’ that is infinitely worthy of protection and love.

It is clearly past time to acknowledge and protect the precious gift of life in the womb and lay down our incessant fascination with and pursuit of the ‘electronic stimulation’ from the world.

All life is sacred, don’t you think?

Another ‘Sanctity of Human Life’ Sunday has arrived and still people refuse to logically consider the reality that pre-born babies are children in the womb.  Startling how callous our national heart has become to the needs of these ‘little ones’.  Shocking how we so ruthlessly deal with these precious little children while we so delicately cherish our right to choose who lives and who dies and pander our own self-pursuits.  Our culture has blinded itself to reality by sacrificing the truth concerning life in the womb.

As a result, we can no longer see how much we share in common with the little ones.  We have lost our ability to see and value life in the womb and have become a culture of death.

In this blog, I wish to compare and contrast the only differences that exist between a 30 year old adult and a baby in the womb and appeal to you to defend the sanctity of life from conception to grave.  Consider these differences.

First, there is the difference of SIZE.  Granted, there is quite a difference in size between a 2 pound baby and a 200 pound man.  But, does size alone make us a human possessing the right to life?  Ask yourself this question:  DOES SIZE DETERMINE humanness?  Recently I watched the announcement for the new Guinness Book of World Records acknowledgement of the record for the tallest/shortest men in the world.  The tallest man, Sultan Kosen of Turkey, standing a ginormous 8′ 9″, was introduced (for a photo op) to the smallest man, 21 1/2 inch tall Chandra Bahadur Dangi of Nepal.  The contrast is breathtaking.  Yet, is one MORE human than the other simply because he is bigger?  NO!  And the same is true with babies.  Yes, we are bigger in size.  But, that does not mean that they are less human…does it?

Second, there is the difference of the LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT.  Think about this:  a five year old little boy or girl is not fully developed yet.  They are not fully developed emotionally, physically or mentally.  Does that mean they are less human than us?  NO!  The same is true of babies inside their mothers.  They are not fully developed yet, but that does not mean that they are less human…does it?

Third, there is the difference of ENVIRONMENT.  A baby in the womb and an astronaut in the International Space Station are in completely different environments.  Are they both human?  Yes.  WHERE you are does not change the realities of WHO you are as a person?   Babies in the womb AND astronauts in space deserve the same honor and protection as humans, because both of them are.   The developmental confinement of babies in the environment of the womb does not make them more or less human…does it?

Fourth, there is the difference of DEGREE OF DEPENDENCY.  Some say that babies in the womb aren’t really human yet because they are so dependent on their mothers for life.  If this is true, doesn’t it follow that many hospital patients are not human either because of their dependence on IVs, medications or breathing tubes for life?  Wouldn’t the mortality rate of those patients be quite high if someone removed the apparatus upon which they were so dependent?  A baby’s dependency doesn’t make them more or less human…does it?

Psalm 139 teaches that GOD is responsible for creating life in the womb.  HE has determined the degree of dependency.  HE has determined the environment.  HE has determined the developmental rate.  He has determined the size.

Perhaps we would do well to allow HIM to attend to those issues of life and WE should attend to the task of protecting, honoring and preserving that life.  What do you think?

If this acronym S. L. E. D. seems useful, please send this to a friend.

They’re just dumb animals aren’t they?

Occasionally, we’ll read a Bible account of God’s working in human lives and notice that some of His sovereign action involved animals and birds.  We can think of Noah’s raven and dove, Abraham’s ram, Balaam’s donkey, Samson’s foxes, Job’s leviathan, Absalom’s mule, Jonah’s big fish, Amos’ sheep, Peter’s fishes or Jesus’ victory horse, to name a few.

Possibly, though, we have never really thought about Elisha’s oxen.  The account is found in I Kings 19:19-21.  There, God reveals to us that Elijah is about to be called to appear before Him.  His ministry is almost complete and Elisha will be taking the prophetic mantle of responsibility.  When he arrives near Elisha’s home, Elijah finds Elisha farming–plowing his field.  In use is the plowing equipment and twelve yoke of oxen, one pair of which, Elisha himself is driving.  Elijah approaches, casts the prophet’s mantle around Elisha’s shoulders and awaits a response.  Immediately Elisha prepares to follow.

In waiting are the oxen.

Certainly these fine animals enjoyed a sort of ‘break in the action’ as the two prophets conferred with each other and God made apparent His choice of Elijah’s successor.  What happened next certainly significantly altered the oxen’s  meager existence and opens our eyes to a spiritual lesson.

As God grabs hold of Elisha, Elisha grabbed hold of the plowing equipment to make a fire and grabbed the oxen to make a sacrifice–perhaps not exactly the way the oxen had thought the day might end up.  Yet here they stood:  on one hand was the field of work and on the other was the fire of sacrifice.

In my imagination, wondering what it would have been like if the oxen would have possessed a rational mind to logically think through the options, they might have had reason to pause.  At this point in the account, for them anyway, fresh bedding in a stall, fresh water in a bucket and fresh hay in a manger might have been a pretty good ending to the work day.  But, as it was, they willingly walked to the fire of sacrifice as willingly as they had earlier walked to the field of work.  WOW!

In a way, I deeply admire the oxen.  And I find myself agreeing with a thought taken from the nineteenth century preacher C. H. Spurgeon.  In a prayer, he calls to God and says:  ‘Jesus accept me.  I here present myself to Thee…Like [Elisha’s] bullocks, I stand between the plow and the alter, ready to work or to be sacrificed.  And my motto is simply, “READY FOR EITHER”!’

May this ‘new year’s resolution season’ find us saying to our great God and Savior, ‘TAKE ME AND USE ME, FOR I AM YOURS!  USE ME TO BRING GLORY TO YOUR NAME AND GLADNESS TO YOUR HEART.  I’M READY FOR BOTH’.   Amen.

Last Advent Devotional

Our scripture reading for this last Advent comes from Luke’s Gospel:  Luke 2:8f

The shepherds were approximately 2 miles away from Bethlehem when the angels appeared to them.  Though surprised by the unexpected visitation, the shepherds responded to the angel’s message by taking three steps of faith:

First, they HEARD the ANNOUNCEMENT:  they really heard it not just listened to it.

Second, they HASTENED on the ASSIGNMENT:  they went to diligently search.   It is a misconception that Jesus was born in some out building belonging to an inn similar to our hotels.  This was not the case.  They were hastening to enter a ‘search’ for ‘a baby’ in ‘swaddling cloths’ in a ‘manger’.  Most everyone in town would have owned animals that were fed in a trough.  No easy task to find the baby.  And if our Christmas carol is true (doubtful) which contains the lyrics ‘…no crying he makes…’ then there wouldn’t have been a sound to help give direction to their search.

Third, they HERALDED their ASSESSMENT:  convinced that what they had seen, heard and found was absolute truth, they shared it with others who would listen.  The result was that ‘all who heard them WONDERED at what the shepherds told them.  In other words, they were amazed—a sort of astonished, gasp of wonder.

The  Christmas season has ended for this year, however, left us not cease in following the shepherds example.  May we be a people who  heralds  the absolute truth of Jesus all year long.