Who’s Your Authority?

Heard a great sermon today on the principle of authority and respect. Pastor mentioned three sources of authority we can choose.

  • Our own authority. We can say “No one is going to tell me what to do. I am going to do what I want. I have my rights”
  • Other’s authority. We can decide to do what everyone else is doing, what is popular, what our crowd believes.
  • God’s authority. We can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Hmm. You mean things like “pray for those who persecute you” or how about “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

Or, how about A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as they had their last meal together just before He went to the cross. He said it was a new commandment. Yet He had told them before that they should love others. He had said that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

What was new about this commandment?

It appears to me that Jesus was giving us a standard by which we could judge how we love our neighbor. It was more than just how we love our self. It was as He has loved us.

As we listen to the social and political world right now, we see little of love and kindness. But what disturbs me is that many of our evangelical Christian leaders are as guilty as non-believers in this battle of words.

Following the authority of Jesus is not easy. I am afraid I have failed a lot on that one. My prayer today is that God will help me put a watch on my tongue.

And I pray that those who claim to speak for the church will also return to following Jesus rather than following the example of the rest of society.

More Wisdom or Laughter

Continuing with my Friday’s list of quotes to bring wisdom or laughter (this one I confess will be more laughter than wisdom), here is a list of things you will NEVER hear in church.

  1. Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!      
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.      
  3. Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.      
  4. I’ve decided to give our church the $500.00 a month I used to send to TV evangelists.      
  5. I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.      
  6. Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.      
  7. I love it when we sing songs I’ve never heard before!      
  8. Since we’re all here, let’s start the worship service early!      
  9. Pastor, we’d like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.      
  10. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign.

If you like the laughter, check out my other lists.

Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)

Do You Take Your Shoes Off – or Pluck Blackberries?

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Where is Your Bible?

In our devotions today my husband and I read about a king in Judah who began his reign following two very corrupt kings who had set up idols to pagan gods in the Temple and one had even sacrificed his son to Baal.

This godly king, Josiah, began his reign by ordering the priests and Levites to remove all the pagan idols from the Temple and began cleaning up the clutter that was there and to restore proper worship.

As the workers cleaned up the Temple they discovered a scroll. Looking at the scroll they realized it was the Book of the Law that Moses had given to the Israelites when they were set free from bondage in Egypt and given the land of Canaan for their inheritance.

The priest brought the book to the attention of the king and his court secretary read it to him. As he heard the Law of Moses apparently for the first time, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized how far from this book the nation had gone.

He immediately called for the nation’s leaders to come to Jerusalem and hear the Law and made plans to celebrate the Passover which they had not done in generations.

As I thought about this discovery, I wondered how long had the Book of the Law been missing. Had no one realized it was gone? Had no one searched for it? Did this generation even know such a book existed? Did anyone care?

Fast forward to today.

I have to wonder: How long has the Word of God been neglected in our homes, our churches, our families? Our children know the super heroes – Batman, Super Woman – do they know the heroes of the Bible – Joseph, Daniel, Stephen?

Many Christians today say we have made an idol out of the Bible. That it is Jesus we need to be concerned about, not the Bible.

But I have to ask: How would I know about Jesus if not for the Bible? Without John 3:16 I would never have known that God sent His son for me. Without the Sermon on the Mount, I would never know what being a part of God’s kingdom really looks like. Without Matthew 28 I would never know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news with the entire world.

Depending on what study you look at you will find that kids today spend 3 to 5 hours watching TV or on the internet. I realize that varies from home to home and many parents do limit their children’s screen time. Still, I wonder if in our Christian homes our children spend even one hour a week in God’s Word.

Do we really know what we believe and why we believe it? Do our children know?

  • The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
  • The followers of Jesus in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
  • The writer of Hebrews tells us that “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
  • When Jesus was tempted by Satan he answered each temptation by quoting Scripture. In one instance he said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Today we have many that claim to be speaking for God. To know whether or not what they say is true, we have to go back to the Word of God. That is our guide.

Do you know where your Bible is?

Quote from Charles Spurgeon

Benjamin Franklin Could Not – Can You?

Most Americans know all about Benjamin Franklin. His many inventions – the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals as well as organizing the postal system are all well known. Perhaps less well known was his desire to reach moral perfection.

At the age of 20 he decided he would strive to become a perfect moral man.

“It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.”

To achieve that faultlessness, he made a list of thirteen virtues which he thought, if perfected, would make him a perfect man. That list was:

After completing his list, he drew up a chart where he could keep track of his progress each day.

Realizing how hard achieving perfection would be, he chose to tackle only one virtue at a time. He would evaluate his conduct at the end of each day and give himself a black mark for every time he did not succeed at the virtues on his list. After a week he checked his progress. If he had few black marks for the virtue he was working on he would move on to the next. If, however, he had a lot of black marks he would keep working on that virtue. He would continue this until he had completed all 13 virtues – and then start all over again.

It was not long before Franklin realized achieving perfection was not possible. The Apostle Paul years before Franklin had also understood that perfection on our own was not possible.

I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway….I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 

This inability to be the good we want to be is a common part of our nature it seems. So what do we do?

Paul had the answer.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

It is only when we realize we cannot be good enough on our own and turn to Jesus Christ for help in our struggles that we find the strength we need to be what we desire to be. Perfection is not something we will achieve in this life, but when we stop trying on our own and look to Jesus for help, we can begin the growing process of becoming all that God intended for us to be.

One Sentence for Wisdom or Laughter

Some wise – and perhaps some funny – sayings I found in my devotion book. Hope you enjoy them.

  • Lighthouses don’t fire off cannons to draw attention to their light – they just shine
  • If your service for God is worth anything, it’s worth everything
  • By the time you get your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone and your ear to the ground, it’s time for lunch
  • Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship
  • What you possess will go to someone else when you die, but what you are will be yours forever
  • The devil’s best tool is not an active sinner, but an inactive Christian
  • Failure is something we can avoid by doing nothing, saying nothing, being nothing
  • If you realize you are not as wise as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.
  • Some people never change their opinion because after all it has been in their family for generations.
  • Some people pray like God is an aspirin tablet – they only pray when there is a problem.

The Morning After

This beautiful painting is by my husband Paul W Lane

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

(Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)

Sorry We Didn’t Recognize You Jesus

Today the church remembers the death of Jesus on the cross. As we read the story we often denigrate the Roman soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate and even the followers of Jesus.

How could they not know that this was the Son of God we ask? How could they mock Him as He hung on the cross and died?

I recently read an article by Steve Cordle in his book A Jesus-Shaped Life which I would like to share here.

A forty-year-old white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap found a spot next to a garbage can near the entrance of the Washington metro station. He pulled a violin from a small case and placed the open case at his feet. As most huskers do, he threw in a few dollars as seed money and began to play.

He spent the next forty-three minutes playing immortal classics by Mozart and Schubert as a parade of people streamed by. This violinist was no ordinary street musician, however, and he didn’t need the money. His name is Joshua Bell, and he is one of the finest concert violinists in the world. The violin he was playing was a Stradivarius made in 1713 and worth over $3.5 million.

The Washington Post newspaper had arranged for him to play at the metro as an experiment in whether people would recognize greatness and beauty in unlikely places. That day, 1097 people passed by Bells concert. Seven people stopped to listen to him play. Only one person recognized him.

That same week, Bell played to capacity concert hall crowds paying at least $100 per ticket. At the subway Bell collected a total of about $32 from the twenty-seven people who stopped long enough to donate.

It is understandable that most people did not recognize Bell. Even if they were classical music buffs, no one expects to come upon a world-renowned virtuoso playing in the subway.

No one expected that God would appear on earth in the form of a servant either.

But are we any different today? How often do we go about our busy lives – doing our own thing – and take little or no time to communicate with Jesus? How often do we make decisions without even bothering to seek His direction? How often do we fail to see His mercy, His love and His grace all about us? How much of our time is devoted to our own pursuits with little time left over for Him?

As we reflect on His death so long ago, help us to not be guilty of giving Him a few moments this weekend and then go back to our own routines with little or no acknowledgment of Him.

Are We True Servants?

Today in many churches there will be a service called Tenebrae. This is a Latin word meaning “darkness.” These services share the story of the suffering and death of Jesus from the Gospel of John. The lights in the church are dimmed and candles are lit at the front. As each portion of scripture is read, a candle is extinguished. The final story of the burial is read in near darkness. As the service concludes everyone is encouraged to leave in silence and to spend time thinking of the death of Jesus – and of the celebration waiting on Sunday.

As we ponder this day we remember that it was on Thursday that Jesus washed the disciples feet. He did this to emphasis His purpose in coming to earth – and also to set an example to us of what true Christianity was all about – being a servant.

In Mark’s Gospel we are told:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When His disciples were arguing about who would be first in God’s kingdom Jesus told them that His kingdom would be different than any kingdom.

You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 

“Be a servant.” “Be a slave.” That hardly fits with our culture today. We are encouraged to “get ahead”, “be successful”, “rise to the top.”

Many times before we commit to something we want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Jesus has called His followers to be different.

In Philippians we are told:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

As we reflect and celebrate what this weekend means to Christians, let us renew our commitment to be “like Jesus” and be a servant.

What does a servant look like:

  • They do not seek the limelight
  • They often work behind the scene
  • They do not expect a payback
  • They put the needs of others before their own

I think perhaps the best statement of a servant was by Rick Warren who said:

The real test of whether we are a servant is how we act when we are treated like one.