There may come a time when God asks you to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and violates your religious beliefs. For example, what if you are a pro-life conservative, and God calls you to minister to abortion advocates? Or, perhaps you are a pacifist and democrat, and God leads you to present the gospel to Marines, a group trained and willing to take lives. What will you do? How will you explain to all your friends or those like-minded believers you fellowship with about your actions?
Edina Community Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Edina, Minnesota, celebrated Pride Sunday led by their female pastor in reciting the sparkle creed whose words state: I believe in the non-binary God whose pronouns are plural. I believe in Jesus Christ, their child, who wore a fabulous tunic and had two dads, and who saw everyone as a sibling child of God. I believe in the rainbow Spirit, who shatters our image of one white light and refracts it into a rainbow of gorgeous diversity. This creed is a gross perversion of theology. It represents the misguided attempts of a congregation to fit God into their inclusive agenda that will spare no expense to accommodate a world fully intent on making sexual sin something to celebrate and force upon all those who take God’s warnings seriously and strive to obey Him.
Ann faced a challenging situation in her new supervisory role with a nonprofit company that recently hired her. One of the employees, Calista, who worked on a different team, was giving her a tough time. Calista had applied for the job Ann now held and resented that she was not chosen. She used Ann’s inexperience to belittle her on calls (shared by others in the organization) and was rude when speaking to her. Ann realized she needed Calista’s help, but she first had to figure out a way to win her over, and that did not seem easy. So she asked for prayer from her close friends and asked God for His assistance.
Mike and Robbie boarded the light rail on their way to a Seattle Mariners game. A few feet from their seats sat a dirty, smelly man suffering from an addiction, mental health challenge, or both. Mike was repulsed and cautious toward this man conversing with an imaginary person. Mike noted, “He rearranged his clothing and belongings continuously and removed and replaced a fake mustache.” Mike prayed that he would not attack them or be a problem. The Holy Spirit had another plan. He whispered in Mike’s ear that this was a man with a name, a man loved by Him, and that Mike should approach and talk to him. But that was not something Mike wanted to do, and for most of the train ride, he resisted listening to persistent promptings.
Meditation 2 Corinthians 5:11--Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well.
Around 2010, David was having his quiet time on his outside patio when the Lord said, “I want you to give me everything.” He responded, “Lord, You have everything . . . we served You on the mission field . . . ” The Holy Spirit then impressed on his heart, “I want everything in your bank accounts.” David’s heart broke, and he began weeping. Then he conceded, “Lord, it’s all yours.” He went to his wife, Teresa, and shared what had happened. She replied that before emptying their bank accounts, she wanted confirmation. After two days of prayer, Teresa heard from God and agreed with her husband. They emptied all their accounts and wrote a check to Eternal Perspectives Ministries. David told me, “It was fun to write that check but very scary.” About two years later, God directed them to move from Indiana to Oregon. Without funding or a job but full of faith, they obeyed. For six months, with two of their children and a dog, they slept on couches in friends’ homes until the time came when God blessed them with provisions to have their own place and ministry.
Grief is a day shrouded in fog and icy rain fed by a howling wind. It is spoiled fruit no longer fit to be savored. Grief makes its exhausted bed in a hidden cave on a barren mountain ridge called Sorrow. It rests in rare moments of silence and grows weary amidst mindless laughter. Its tears leave furrows unfilled by platitudes. When its memories are roused, new rivers flow, and expectation is uprooted, torn, and damaged.
Janet has her own cleaning service; for years, she had no trouble gaining enough clients to run a successful business because of her work quality. As her business expanded, she hired another worker, and that’s when the problems began. When Janet cleans a room, it is immaculate, but with her new employee Justin, it was not the same. She showed him the cleaning materials to use and demonstrated what “right looks like.” At first, she thought his cleaning lapses merely required on-the-spot corrections. But Justin’s work continually languished. He responded with excuses when she would point out deficiencies rather than learn and improve. After three frustrating months, she had to let him go.
I walked to a church near my home to learn more about it. The service was attended by about thirteen people. Three of them were wearing masks, and most of them were elderly women. Several of them warmly introduced themselves, and after I sat down, Phyliss* came over and gave me a brief history of the church. “We are very small . . . the church split before Covid and over half of the congregation and the pastor left . . . Covid really did a number on us . . . . many still watch the services online.” At least they were blessed with a Liberty University professor who accurately preached the Word of God.
Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects of parenting is knowing when to speak into the lives of our children and when to refrain from doing so. Talking to closed ears is like pouring water on the sidewalk and not on the soil—it does no good. Or consider the coworker who when corrected is appreciative—to be silent in this occasion could be harmful. Some people when frustrated cannot hold back toxic words. Still others withhold thoughts and in quiet feed chaos. Solomon wrote there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b). Tony Evans says “We can sin not just with our words but also with our silence. Knowing when to speak and when to withhold something requires wisdom.” Wisdom should not be neglected.
Janice* called me. Her voice conveyed discouragement, confusion, and a hint of controlled resentment. After listening to her, I felt saddened and angry. Several leaders—male and female from various churches in other states and a school, all tied to a nationally-known pastor and speaker told Karen she was not a Christian. One of those pastors refused to baptize her. Janice shared the statements they leveled against her. They judged a woman suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS) from their presumptuous and self-righteous position, causing grave damage to a young Christian struggling to grow in her faith. Now she was uncertain of her salvation. She felt unsafe and criticized in churches—where she should be most safe and find compassion—not condemnation.
The old prophet Samuel’s sons were wicked, and the elders of Israel were not about to have them lead the nation. So, they visited Samuel at his home in Ramah and demanded he appoint a king to be their judge and leader, just like all the surrounding nations (1 Samuel 8:4,5).
Erwin introduced me to Rojan* an 80-year-old doctor born in Peru. We listened to him as he explained that there is no such thing as hell and that when he dies, he will simply decompose and return to the earth—body, spirit, and soul. There is no afterlife he said. Implied in his words were his belief that there is no God and no accountability for us in how we live. He was firm in his convictions and seemingly unconcerned of a finite life.
What is the source of wisdom? Is it academic institutions? If we want to be wise is the best method to gain the highest degree and be immersed in learning institutions, listening to teachers and professors? Or is it experience? Do we agree with Confucius? “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Will Rogers had a more colorful adaptation, “There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.”
Ralph wanted to go to the movies with his friends but attending cinemas was not allowed in his church. So, he concocted a story and asked his mother if she would give him a ride to his friend Harold's house the next day to attend his birthday party. She mentioned they would need to get Harold a birthday gift, but Ralph said he didn’t want any presents. His mother must have known that was strange. The next night it was pouring rain and Ralph’s mom suggested as they pulled up to a dark house that Harold's party must have been cancelled. Ralph assured her they were in the back part of the house and ran through the rain to the front door and knocked. When his buddy opened the door and let him in, Ralph’s mother drove off. But the night’s adventures were just beginning.
One would think that with the uncertainties of life and certainty of death, people would be intrigued, perhaps even obsessed, with knowing if there is a Creator and, if He in fact, has a plan for His creation. It amazes me how many people I meet who seem uninterested in what happens to them when they die. Yet, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT question everyone should want to know the answer to because one second after death will be too late to decide. For this reason, among many, I value theology.
Zerubbabel by lineage could have been a king of Judah in the line of David. Instead he served as a governor and one who was exalted by God. “‘I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant’—this is the LORD’s declaration—'and make you like My signet ring, for I have chosen you.’ This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts” (Haggai 2:23b). He was a great leader. Yet God made it clear through the prophet, Zechariah, that it was not Zerubbabel’s human power that accomplished God’ will, but rather God’s Spirit.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, coined the term disruptive innovation. Essentially it describes how a product or service begins at market bottom and then inexorably rises in the market until it at some point, displaces well-established competitors. A small, new company that is weak on resources successfully overcomes proven incumbent businesses by offering what the incumbents overlook in providing their more established clientele. An example of this is Microsoft and Apple moving into the computer industry and turning it upside down by providing affordable desktop and laptop computers.
The Hebrew word navel, basically means wither or lose heart. It is used twenty times in the Old Testament. The word describes Moses in Exodus 18:18—warned about wearing out from trying to judge the people alone. Eleven times it refers to plants dying. Isaiah uses it to show people withering from sin (Isaiah 64:6). When you think of the condition of the world right now does it feel like it is withering? Such a thought should not be surprising for God warned us that this would happen.