Church Membership

from Grace Hills Church

from Grace Hills Church

We live in a world where joining organizations is becoming less and less popular.  It affects us in churches as we invite people to be members of our congregations.  The cultural resistance to joining comes into conflict with appeals to join a local congregation.  Recently I had a young friend who was visiting a church that she liked a lot, but was wondering if she needed to join write to me about joining.  Here is what I said: Continue reading


Angry With God?

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.49.33 AMI have had the regular privilege of being a guest on “Life Questions with Pastor Michael” a radio show that a friend of mine, Michael Bannon produces.  It is a show where he talks about spiritual questions ordinary folks might have.  I that find interesting.  I want a faith grounded in real life so I like to try to answer questions real people are asking.  A recent question was from a person who asked if it was permissible for a person to be angry with God.  It was an interesting discussion.

Michael asked, “Do we have the right to be angry with God?”  I was not sure that was the question that helped me get at the root of the issue.  I believe that at times we are all angry with God whether we have the right or not.  Continue reading

Stuck in the Mud!

My youngest daughter drove a Jeep Wrangler when she was in high school.  What a fun car to drive!   One of our favorite activities was to go 4-wheeling.  Getting off the road and muddy or climbing or dropping off a steep hill made our blood pump a little harder.  I remember one particular afternoon when we were following a trail and came across a particularly muddy path.  There were two tire paths filled with muddy water where Jeeps before us had gone.  We ventured in.  About halfway through we encountered a large rock in the center of the paths.  It lifted the car so we could not get traction.  We were stuck!  We called it being high-centered.  But for the one rock everything was fine, but that one rock held us up. Continue reading

Whose are you?

On January 26, 2012 the electronic newsletter from Emergent Village featured an article by Richard Foster on stewardship titled, ‘Priorities and Ownership.’  My blog “Our money and our souls” was a result of that article.  But it is still rattling around in my brain.  He wrote:

God’s ownership of everything also changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ we learn to ask ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?’ The difference between these two questions is of monumental proportions.

Certainly that quote challenges us in terms of what we return to God as our worship and offering.  That is a quote that challenges me in my stewardship, but it also has challenged me in some other areas of my life as well. Continue reading


Yesterday we received in the mail an advertisement for yet another flavor of toothpaste being marketed by one of the major manufacturers.  There was a day in the not-too-distant past when there were just three or four choices of toothpaste.  Today the toothpaste section of your local retailer is filled with a plethora of choices.  Some offer stripes with mouthwash.  Others have different flavors.  Some promote whiter teeth.  Others fight breath odor.  A single manufacturer may offer all these options.  The same thing is true for potato chips.  There are multiple choices: smooth, ridged, thick, thin, fried, baked, flavored or unsalted.  We have become a people of many choices.  This is true in many areas of our lives.  To quote an old marketing slogan, “Have it your way!”  We like it that way and we expect that kind of option throughout our lives. Continue reading

The Problem With Jesus

Jesus does not create much of a problem at Christmas.  There are those who object to the Christianization of culture and therefore want the greeting of this season to be “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  But the real rub with culture—and perhaps there are those who sense it as they try to push Christianity from the public square—is the exclusivity claims of orthodox Christianity.  This part of Christian teaching is anathema to a culture that suggests the only way to encounter God is through Jesus.  If we were to say that Jesus is one way that women and men can come to know god, or even a way that one can encounter the creator of all that is, there would not be the pushback from others in culture except for the dominant position Christianity has held in western culture and the distinctly Christian residue that helps make western culture what it is today.  If Christianity claimed that Jesus is one of the ways men and women can know God the reaction would be different.  To be sure, men and women can be spiritual without Jesus, the New Testament is very clear that there are other kinds of spirits and spirituality, often a spirituality that is inwardly focused.  But the rub is in the exclusive claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father is a problem in today’s world. Continue reading

Missing What God is Doing

A Tendency to Phariseeism

Some time ago I heard someone say that everyone who has been a follower of Christ for more than three or four years ought to read the New Testament words of Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees as if they were directed at them.  It is true, in my experience that the present day church often reflects the spiritual blindness exhibited by the Scribes and Pharisees.  It would appear that this kind of spiritual behavior is almost hard-wired into us.

painting of Jesus healing a man born blind

In my devotional reading in John 9 recently, I came across the story of a healing that the Pharisees did not want to accept because it did not meet their predetermined criteria of what spiritual truth looks like.  There are, I am sure, hundreds of sermons written and preached about their recalcitrance — how they refused to see Jesus as messiah — how they could not get beyond their limits on how God could act.  They ‘kicked out’ the very one God had chosen to bless with healing because that healing did not fit their scripts. They were so invested in the picture they wanted painted that they missed what God was doing in their midst.  That is the danger of religious systems. Continue reading