Once Upon a Time…

In a place not unlike this one, a new minister moved to town, fresh from the seminary.  He soon realized that most of the men, including virtually all of the city’s preachers, regardless of affiliation, gathered early every morning (except Sunday, of course) for coffee at the corner cafe.  Nearly all of them, including the parsons, had lived most of their lives in this little community, and seemed to enjoy the morning ritual.  Wanting to fit in, the “new man in town” decided to join them in an effort to get better acquainted.  And so he went.  Everyone seemed cordial enough, almost welcoming, but it was also obvious to him that he would have to “earn his place” to be really accepted into the group… but how?

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“Traditional” versus “Contemporary”?

In the last decade or so, a struggle has emerged amongst religious folks between “traditionalists” (those favoring the “older” or more “traditional” ways) and “contemporists” (yeah, I made it up, but it means those favoring the “newer” or more “contemporary” ways).   The conflict usually centers on the methods of worship, but extends also to other areas of church function and fellowship. However, since worship seems to be at the center, we’ll concentrate our efforts there for now.

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Why People Change Spiritually….Or Don’t

Change is difficult for most folks, especially major life-altering changes.  This is why repentance is probably the most arduous command given us by God.  Repentance requires a change of mind that results in a change of heart that leads to a change of activity.  But repentance, and the changes it inherently requires, remains a constant challenge for anyone who seeks to grow and mature spiritually because this maturation process demands continual corrections.  Some of these “corrections” are at least marginally easier because they involve only minor adjustments to our attitude or activities, but the degree of difficulty certainly increases when more major alterations are required.  So, what are the most significant factors that allow, or conversely prevent, these spiritual changes in our lives?  While this list is certainly not exhaustive, here are some of the most significant factors…

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Not Speaking Evil of the Dead

We’ve all heard the cautionary rebuke, “Don’t speak evil of the dead.”  Such is probably good advice for a number of reasons:  1) we rarely have sufficient information to issue even a “fair” judgment of their life, cf. 1Samuel 16:7 and 1Corinthians 2:11;  2) we certainly don’t have the prerogative to judge their afterlife (eternal destiny), Romans 14:10-12; and, 3) we really shouldn’t be “speaking evil” of anyone, living or dead, Ephesians 4:29-32.  But…

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Spiritual Math Quiz

This quiz has only one problem to solve:   Bible  +  ______________   =  Christian.

Since most people prefer “multiple choice” to “fill in the blank” questions, here are some possible answers:  A) Creed;  B) GraceC) Faith; or, D) Obedience.  Please take a moment to think about your answer before reading further.

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Spiritual “Do-Nuts”

The title is not suggestive of some sort of “religious” circular dough that has been deep-fried and sprinkled or glazed with sugar, though there are probably points to be made along those lines also.  Instead, the “do-nut” under consideration is the type done with a motorized vehicle- the kind where the front wheels barely move in a tight circle and the back wheels are spinning and squealing in a larger smoking or dirt-slinging circle around the outside.  These “do-nuts” have definite comparisons to some “spiritual” pursuits today…

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Hyphenated People

In writing, hyphens are often used to combine (compound) or divide words.  Interestingly enough, they work pretty much the same way in people.  Though we use them in an effort to combine two names or descriptions into one, they often wind up being more divisive than anything else.  For instance…

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Walking Together

The Old Testament prophet Amos was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs (not like our figs, but a fig-like fruit that had to be pinched or bruised to ripen), Amos 7:14.  He stepped out of the obscurity of his agrarian way of life to preach a much-needed message of reform to God’s people about 755 years before Christ.  Obviously, speaking for God to an apostate people was not something for which his sheep and sycamore trees had prepared him, or was it?  Amos was the perfect “man for the job” to deliver a no-nonsense message of repentance or destruction that Israel sorely needed.  Their so-called prophets had become ear-ticklers who spoke only the soothing words they wanted to hear.  So, God calls Amos to leave his sheep and trees to become what some have called “the first great reformer.”  His message from God was largely one of coming destruction because Israel (used of both the northern 10 tribes of Judah and the 2 southern tribes of Israel combined) no longer walked with God. 

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Hospital Reflective Observations

(As a preacher for about thirty years, I’ve spent considerable time in hospitals- as a patient, and with friends, family, and brethren. While writing this particular article, I am “the night shift” in an Austin, TX, ICU with a friend who had five bypasses of vessels around his heart earlier today.  But, it’s about midnight; he’s had a full dose of pain meds, and is doing well according to all of his monitors, his nurse, and his snoring.)  Some experiences are purely for entertainment purposes, and “fun” is the only real object.  But most of the rest of our encounters hold at least the possibility for lessons to be learned, through reflective observation, that can enrich and benefit future occasions.  Even hospitals contain significant opportunities to learn things about life and the human experience of it.

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Distorting the Scriptures

“Handling accurately the word of truth” (2Timothy 2:15) is about more than just being able to “rightly divide” (the KJV translation) between the Old and New Testaments.  It also has to do with using a verse in the right way, rather than taking it out of context and forcing an application from it that is not under consideration in the framework of the passage where it is found.  Let’s examine some common examples….

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