I Disagree

Words have no wings but they can fly a thousand miles. ~Korean Proverb

I was asked to give a devotional thought at a meeting.

There was disharmony in the group, and my devotional addressed that. I wasn’t asked to speak again for ten years.

It hurts to have your toes stepped on. You know deep down you are wrong, or maybe pieces of what you are doing is wrong, but you just can’t admit that your dance is out of step with the Lord.

I believe the reason I was asked to speak later was that I never- never– said anything bad about the leadership or the organization. They were my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we had different opinions. I still loved them and they still loved me.

Paul and Barnabas were good friends. They liked each other, traveled together, shared bread and drink, and called Jesus Lord.

In Acts 15, they had a disagreement that caused them to part company. I don’t know who was right. Maybe both were right.

But I suspect both of them were also wrong.

Their disagreement isn’t what I want you to notice. What I want you to notice isn’t there.

Not once- not one single time– does Paul condemn or slander Barnabas. We have many of Paul’s writings. We have historical records of the early church. If something was said, you can bet we’d know it.

You know what I mean.

You’re new to town, trying out a church, and within weeks you’re told the dirt on all the screw-ups. It doesn’t matter that the arguments started in 1986 when someone thought a new song book was a good idea. There are people you should just stay away from.

Your kids’ new friends from the Northeast don’t address their elders with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir,” and they borrowed their neighbor’s garden hose without asking when the grill caught fire. The scuttlebutt is that the teen is a druggie and they’re all headed to jail. Better steer clear.

Maybe some of what others are saying is true. Maybe the family with the bright purple house is an eyesore and they don’t use their money wisely. But is it helping anyone to say it?

Sometimes the Bible tells us a lot by not telling us anything.

And sometimes we shouldn’t say anything either.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NIV

Where to?

Christians are not limited to any church. ~Billy Graham

I was just nineteen and out of my element. The woman I worked for as a nanny needed someone to take over a business trip for her private company. She asked me, and in my youthful naivete, I thought of it as an adventure.

It was my first plane ride, and my first experience with a taxi. The doorman at the airport, seeing my dazed look, helped me hail a cab. He loaded my things in the trunk and gave me some directions and advice.

I thanked him and climbed in the cab. It was too late when I realized that his frown was because I didn’t tip him.

The three-day conference didn’t get any better. Money was stolen from my wallet. The speaker- whom I was representing- was a drunk. And I didn’t get to eat often.

My problem was that I didn’t know where to go for help.

Herod was trying to make some friends and discovered that killing Christians was a popularity booster. He threw Peter in jail intending to have him executed.

God had other plans and sent an angel to rescue Peter from prison. The angel lead Peter out of the city, but instead of running for his life, Peter headed to Mary’s house, the mother of a disciple named John Mark.

Everyone was there praying for Peter.

Peter knew where to go.

He knew who would pray. He knew where friends would gather. He knew where safety, encouragement, and food would be found.

That’s what the church does for its members.

It cries out to God. It gathers and encourages. It rejoices and supports.

Whom do you call when your child is injured 1500 miles from home and family? Whom do you depend on to watch over your aging mother? Who brings you food when you’re too weak from the flu to cook?

And where do you go to sing and rejoice and dance when you discover you’re pregnant after seven years? Who hugs you and laughs and cries when you finally finish your degree? Who meets you with cupcakes and balloons to help you celebrate that thing you’ve been waiting for?

Do you know where to go?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:10-16 NIV


“The Church is the source of joy because Jesus stayed on the cross and Syria is on the cross and awaiting the day it will be resurrected. No one in any society has this joy except the Church.”~ Syrian Pastor

Occasionally someone has said mean things to me about being a Christian. That’s it. That’s the extent of persecution that I have suffered.

Stephen was a young man who believed in truth. He spoke truth. He lived truth. And he died for truth.

The early church was not yet hiding. Disciples were telling others about the good news of Jesus. The Messiah had come. He had been tortured and killed, but he also had been raised again to life.

Now everyone could have a relationship with the Father. Now everyone could experience true life.

That didn’t go over very well.

Fear of the government made the rulers wield their power. Fear of the rulers made the people turn in their brothers.

Fear was left at the doorstep by the first recorded martyr- Stephen.

Fear is still a contributing factor to the church’s persecution. Leaders fear losing power over their citizens. Neighbors fear being drawn into incriminating relationships. Family members fear their community will ostracize and isolate them.

It has been nearly two thousand years since Stephen stood up for Christ. His example lives on in those Christians who refuse to surrender to fear.

Christians in over 40 countries face persecution. There are about 300,000 Christians living in North Korea, the most dangerous place for Christians. During 2017-18, over 3,000 Christians were killed around the world; nearly 1300 were abducted; over 1,000  Christian women were raped or sexually harassed; and nearly 800 churches were attacked.

November 4 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Churches across America and around the world prayed for our brothers and sisters who are finding creative ways to disguise their worship.

Perhaps, like me, you have only been taunted. Suffering for the cause of Christ is as foreign to you as Monday Night Football would have been to Stephen. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

Prayer is a weapon of mass destruction. Prayer strengthens the Army of God. Prayer sinks Satan’s battleships. Prayer shields soldiers of Christ and camouflages special forces.

Will you fight for your Christian brothers and sisters?

Will you pray?

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 NIV

Growing and Giving

I try to live my life like my father lives his. He always takes care of everyone else first. He won’t even start eating until he’s sure everyone else in the family has started eating. Another thing: My dad never judges me by whether I win or lose. ~Ben Roethlisberger

If you give a mouse a cookie, you better have crayons and cleaning supplies handy, as well as a glass of milk.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

An old friend was bemoaning the state of her church and that “young people just don’t seem to care” about being involved in church life.

Many times what seems important to one person is brushed aside by others.

A Christmas pageant is planned and only half the children are involved. A community yard sale for charity is scheduled and not enough people participate to make it a success. An elderly couple’s home needs to be weatherized before winter and only the two oldest men in the congregation show up to help.

Our lives are so busy that it’s easy to pass by these opportunities. We have our own schedules, priorities, and problems.

What can be done?

The early church seemed to have an answer: eating and praising.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Yet, when we take time to eat with people, we also take time to talk. Talking leads to concern and compassion. That leads to reworking our schedules and serving others.

And THAT leads to encountering Christ.

So grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. It’s time to share Jesus with the world.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

Loving a Church Family

church people“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” Barbara Bush

Surrounded by a large group of old, white men, I felt deflated. We had spent the last year living with my in-laws while Matt finished his dissertation and looked for a job. Now we were interviewing, and I wasn’t feeling the love. The interview was lackluster in my opinion.

The questioning was nearly over and we were asked if we had any concerns. “Yes,” I said. “I am moving my family halfway across the country, away from all of the family they have ever known. What will you do for us?”

Their blank stares told me all I needed to know. This was not the place for us. One rotund man began singing the praises of the school system. My kids were toddlers.

Finally a quiet man in the rear of the room spoke up, “If you are wanting someone to step in and be surrogate grandparents, my wife and I would be happy to do that. Our grandchildren live halfway across the world.”

“Thank you. That is what I was asking.”

I told Matt later that I was voting “NO” for the position until that gentleman answered. We took the job and moved. My initial instinct was right. We should have stayed home.

Our current church has not been without its own lackluster moments, but our rubber has never had to meet the road because when it comes to “family” they have it right.

They have attended our son’s plays. They have visited school programs. They talk to the boys about school, work, plans, ideas, books, whatever.

But it isn’t just the kids. They have embraced me, and I am not the quiet, submissive, stereotypical preacher’s wife. Embracing me has been prickly for some of them, I know.

But they love me. They pray for me and my plans, dreams, and aspirations. They ask about my parents’ health. They let me cry and dance. They celebrate with me. They listen to me, offer help, rescue me when the dog sitter doesn’t show, and most importantly . . . They love my husband.

My church family is just that: a family. We have squabbles, disagreements, controversy, and discord. Of course, so does my biological family.

But just like the blood family, my church family has fun together, works together, defends each other, encourages each other, loves each other.

One of our family members says that our biological families share the blood of our veins, but our church family shares the blood of our souls.

I quite agree. I love you, Church Family.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13 ESV