Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today marks the 37th anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. One of the scriptures which was read as a part of the charge to me during my ordination service at Central Christian Church in Portland, Oregon was II Timothy 4:1,2 containing these words, “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season…”

The preaching is the easy part. The hard part comes when that preaching isn’t always responded to. All preaching is about God’s word and the listener’s response to it. Unfortunately, although I have made the gospel message clear, I have been unable to baptize dozens, if not hundreds, of people over the years who knew the truth of the gospel and the extent of God’s love, but who never did anything about it. They all would have said they had faith in the things I have faith in, but without action.

It seems that people don’t really want to act on spiritual things, or at least they don’t see the urgency of doing them now. They are often flattered at being coaxed and cajoled as a sign of their importance. They want you put on full steam and do everything you can to make a thing appealing to them, but then they want to wait for another day when there has never been a guarantee that another day is coming.

Every preacher and Sunday School teacher will tell you that today is the day to make a decision for Jesus.

We have often joked about waiting for an engraved invitation to do something. When it comes to the gospel there is one. It was engraved in Jesus’ hands. Thomas demanded to see it, but we can believe though we have never seen. We do this on the basis of the testimony of God’s word. Don’t overlook this engraved invitation.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Have you ever run up against a lot of “musts” declared by fellow saints which you couldn’t find in the Bible? You “must” meet at this hour, in this way, use this curriculum, use this translation of the Bible, etc. Actually, this practice dates to ancient times. In Judges 8:27 it says: “Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.”

We don’t know how Gideon’s ephod (a priestly garment worn in worship) became a snare, but it affected all of Israel. So did the brass serpent of Numbers 21:8,9 which was later worshipped as an idol in II Kings 18:4. Then there were the seven sons of Sceva who tried to turn the miracles of Paul into a formula in Acts 19:13-16.

There is a common thread to these three accounts. Something which was ordained of God at one time in a single instance or by a single individual now becomes a standard for all saints of all times. We need to understand what God wants us to do now.

The means of victory are never given to us for our own use. When we start to use them in that way they can become a snare to ourselves and others. Only God can wield a means of victory as should be done. Which of us could bear the cross in such a way as to cover all the sins of the world? We might end up hitting the wrong target or being crushed under the weight of what we could not possibly handle in our own strength.

Musts are oppressive because we do not have the power to fulfill them. The Holy Spirit can give us power for anything God requires of us. If we must do something, let’s be like Jesus and walk the way He did.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Burning Issue

I don't want to be an incendiary by any means, but I would like to add my thoughts on what may or may not be taking place somewhere in America today.

There is a lot of unrest over a projected Koran-burning. I don’t think it will really do any good other than as a statement of protest. Unfortunately, we don't respond to protest in America anymore, even though our nation was founded on it as an institution such as was dramatized in the Boston Tea Party.

But we still have such a thing as free speech in our country, even if they don’t in the Islamic world. If a mosque is allowed to be built near Ground Zero, why should others not be allowed to make a statement in their own fashion. At the same time, I know that they wouldn’t let me build a church near where the Ayatollah Khomeini lived in Tehran. Let's be fair here, even if they aren't there. Once we start down the road of controlling free speech, we won't know what words out of our own mouth will destroy us.

What happened to the statement of Voltaire that used to appear on the editorial page of the my hometown paper in Portland, Oregon? Voltaire, the radical thinker, stated that he might not agree with what others had to say, but that he would defend to the death their right to say it.

Let our speech be seasoned as with salt as Paul told us to do. This means we should not make it our aim to offend, but at the same time let us not put off making a statement which we believe merely because others do not believe it. To do so is not good manners either religiously or politically, but it is a clear abdication of belief.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor day is on the sixth day of the month this year. Long before our time, the greatest labor of all occurred culminating on a sixth day.

Creation came together in proper order. Light is the source of all life, and God made that first. Next came the water which we need. Vegetation came as the next building block of animal and human life. The sun and moon made the principle of light become a regulated reality which could govern growth cycles. The fifth day saw the animals farthest removed from man come into being. They occupied the waters and the sky which had been prepared on the second day. On the sixth day God turned to filling the dry land with all the other living creatures.

The sixth day was not over, however, until God created one more being. This one not only had a physical life and a psychological life, but also a spiritual life such as had been placed in no other creature.

What people believe about man tells almost as much about their thinking as what they believe about God communicates. If man is simply a product of chance, then it doesn’t matter what happens to him. If man is an independent being, then he’s on his own and can’t expect help from anywhere in the universe. If man is an animal no better than any other animal, then he lacks priority in any form. But, if man is a special creation of God with a special relation to God then he has something else to consider about both himself and others.

There really isn’t an if. We are what God declares us to be: special creatures unlike any others with special privileges and duties and a special relation with Him alone. Recognizing that will help us to value both ourselves and others.

This Labor Day don’t be concerned only with your job or your picnic, but remember the one who made you and gave you both your life and your livelihood.