Monday, September 28, 2009

Playing Favorites

“One day the famous orator Henry Ward Beecher had to be absent from the Plymouth church where he usually preached. His brother was invited to speak for him. The auditorium was crowded, but when it became evident that the eloquent Henry Ward Beecher was not going to appear, many started to leave the building. The brother of Beecher was not disturbed. He stood up before the murmuring crowd, called for silence and said, “All who came this morning to worship Henry W. Beecher may leave now. The rest will remain to worship God.” No one left after that” (David Lusk, The Beacon, Pensacola, FL.).

It is so easy to let our assembly times be driven by personalities rather than praise. The church of God in Corinth battled this very problem. “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). The apostle Paul would have none of their “preacher-itis” (even if they favored him, by the way!). With strong words, he calls them to re-focus. “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name” (1 Corinthians 1:13-15).

If we are not vigilant, we can develop the same problem as Corinth. Our gatherings should be an opportunity for joy instead of judgmentalism. Lord, please help us never to be divisive over personalities, abilities, or status. Help us never to “play favorites.” May we take to heart the exhortation of James: “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:1,9).

God loves you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Team Effort

I had the opportunity last night to watch a professional baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies. The tickets were a birthday gift from my family. I was reminded once again that baseball truly is a team sport. While the focus is usually on the battle between pitcher and the batter, a whole lot more is going on. Fielders are constantly adjusting their positions. If a runner is on base, the defensive baseman is working to keep him from getting too big of a lead. The field coaches are constantly relaying signs to key people. A relief pitcher may be warming up in the event he is needed. In anticipation of a throw to a particular base, someone is assigned to back up the play in case the initial catch is missed. When everyone on the team is doing their part, it really is amazing to watch. Many individual players and coaches, working together, make a very difficult task look very easy.

Periodically, I need to remind myself that serving God is also a team effort. The apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 help me out: “For the body (team) is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body (team),” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body (team). And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body (team),” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body (team). If the whole body (team) were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body (team), just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body (team) be? But now there are many members, but one body (team).” Go team!!!

God loves you!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Prisoner Of The Body

Rachel Todd was a normal teenager with grand plans for her future. But that changed a few months ago. A rare medical condition has caused the 18-year-old to become what some are describing as “a prisoner in her own body.” Here is one account of Rachel’s story: “The British teenager suffered a stroke last December, which left her paralyzed from head-to-toe. She can hear and think, but can only communicate by blinking and rolling her eyes. The condition, known as locked-in syndrome, has been described by doctors as "the closest thing to being buried alive”…The condition is a rare neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles in all parts of the body except for those that control eye movement, the National Institute of Neurological Disorder said on its Web site. There is no cure for locked-in syndrome or a standard course of treatment” (, 9-8-09).

It seems that the apostle Paul suffered from a spiritual strain of this same illness. As he writes to Christians in Rome, he speaks of an intense battle with his own body. Listen to his words: “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death” (Romans 7:21-24)?

While there is no known cure for Rachel’s physical condition, Paul goes on to tell us that there is hope in the spiritual battle with the flesh. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2). Praise God that we no longer have to be prisoners of our own body!

God loves you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

As time goes on, more details become available concerning the story of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped at age 11 near her South Lake Tahoe home and has spent the last 18 years as a prisoner of her abductors. I can’t even begin to imagine physical, mental, and emotional torment this woman has endured. Some have wondered why she didn’t escape when she got older and had the opportunity to do so. Psychologists tell us that, over time, a captive can even begin to bond with their captor as a coping mechanism. That may have taken place in Jaycee’s case. There is even a name for it. It is called Stockholm Syndrome. It is “…a psychological shift that occurs in captives when they are threatened gravely but shown acts of kindness by their captors…When subjected to prolonged captivity, these captives can develop a strong bond with their captors” (

In our battle against sin in our lives, it is possible to suffer from our own form of Stockholm Syndrome. When we are first taken hostage by a particular sin, we are traumatized and struggle against our captor. But as time goes on and the assaults of sin continue, it becomes easier to rationalize and justify what once terrified us. We can even begin to convince ourselves that the sin somehow benefits us. The will to fight begins to subside and we start to form a bond with the very kidnapper that seeks to enslave us.

I hope that Ms. Dugard is provided with all the help she needs to work through this horrific event in her life. I don’t believe she can be faulted in the least for anything she did, physically or mentally, to cope with her ordeal. But we who are children of the King have no reason to bond with what seeks to hold us hostage. Through Jesus Christ, we have been set “…free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). And, “…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

God loves you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Good Places To Grow Up

This past week, I read an article promoting “America’s 10 Best Places to Grow Up” (; 8-19-09). The criteria used to compile the list included a low crime rate, a strong school system, lots of other children, expansive green spaces, and an abundance of artistic and recreational activities. Using those factors, the authors came up with the following list of cities: Virginia Beach, VA., Madison, AL., San Jose, CA., Overland Park, KS., Boston, MA., Denver, CO., Rochester, MN., Cedar Rapids, IA., Plano, TX., and Edison, NJ..

Frankly, I’m suspicious of any list of good places to grow up that doesn’t include a single place from Nebraska. How could such a list even pretend to be credible? When you enter the state on any major highway, you will see a sign proclaiming Nebraska as “The Good Life.” The state has thousands upon thousands of acres of various agricultural crops. Doesn’t that count as “expansive green spaces?” Are you telling me that Edison, NJ. is a better place to grow up than Edison, NE.? I don’t think so!

May I let you in on a secret? The absolute best place to bring up children is “…in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The best thing about this “location” is that it produces the results that God desires regardless of external circumstances. Throughout human history, countless children have grown up in high crime rate areas, attended poor schools, and didn’t have many playmates their age. They didn’t have access to beautiful parks and recreation facilities. Perhaps the only “art” they were exposed to was graffiti. But many of these same children went on to live godly, productive lives because their parents made the choice to raise them according to God’s principles, regardless of their surroundings.

It’s not the physical address where children grow up that determines their destiny. It’s the spiritual address that makes the real difference during their formative years. Whether you live in a gated community or the ghetto, make sure your children come to know and love God.

God loves you!