Saturday, June 10, 2006


I love blackberries. No, I'm not writing about communication devices but about the original blackberries, those succulent dark purple berries that do so well in cobblers and jam. I remember going with my parents and brothers to a friend's farm in Northern West Virginia as a preteen. We hiked across a field and up a hill to a bramble infested area where we discovered a treasure-trove of blackberries. Why does that day linger in my memory?
Earlier this week, as I mowed the grass in my yard, I spied familiar berries in an area that had grown out of control this spring as my sons mowed the grass. So, at noon today, I took a bowl from the cupboard and hiked the the fifty feet across my level yard to the blackberry patch. Picking blackberries carries a cost. The most treasured moments in life do. Scratches on my legs and arms testify that the vines do not give up their fruits without a struggle. I picked only enough to fill my small bowl. Those berries tasted great; I thanked God for this treat.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

666 and Seeking the Will of God

In the beginning, God...
Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness...
Love the Lord your God with all your heart...

These excerpts from the Bible remind us who it is all about - not me, not you, no celebrity, no politician - Life is about God and being his person. When we seek to find ourselves, but leave God out, we ensure we will discover only a shadow of our potential, for we have excluded our Creator and Designer, the one who knows already what we seek to learn.

Recreation, advancement at work, et al. clutter our calendars and our minds. Pop psychology and superstition distort our faith and our view of God. Prime example: Today is June 6, 2006, which may be written 6-6-06. It brings to mind for many, apparently, the number of the Antichrist from the book of Revelation. Revelation is literature written in an apocalyptic figurative style. Taking it literally creates all types of nonsense. Television news reported about a women who had had her child's birth induced a day earlier so it would not be born today. Students in a public school history class didn't want to complete an assignment that came from page 666 in their textbooks. Remarkably, some of those same students had no problem with using profanity, showing disrespect to teachers, being unproductive in their schoolwork, and with making sexually suggestive statements. Their religious mentors had taught them superstition rather than the will of God for a holy lifestyle.

"Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why go to church?

Why go to church? As one man expressed it to me years ago, one can worship God as well alone by a babbling brook. Yet, when we read biblical accounts of the early church, we discover a resounding emphasis on the importance of community: Christians grow stronger when spending regular time together.
Acts chapter 2:42-47 records that the earliest Christians met together in homes daily. Other passages suggest meetings that took place on at least a weekly basis.
Hebrews 10:25 is a frequent focus for discussion on this topic. At times, it is approached as a command - "Don't forsake the assembling of the saints." Certainly, it underlines the importance of assembling with other Christians. It supplies several reasons why such attendance is imperative.
We worship together as a means of drawing near to God. This term often is used to refer to prayer and prayer can be done alone. Prayer in community has great power. We worship together to encourage other Christians. The original readers of Hebrews included discouraged Christians. They were drifting away. The assembly provides a context for remembering that others share our beliefs and that someone else cares about us.
We worship together to "stir up" each other. That expression can mean to provoke to anger, and some Christian assemblies may seem focused on criticism, but the reason for the assembly is to stir up to love and good works. Ephesians 2:1-10 teaches that God created Christians to do good works. "Church" reminds us what our mission is.
Hebrews 10 has horizontal reasons for church attendance (encouraging) but also vertical (we have had our consciences sprinkled with the blood of Christ and our bodies washed with water, drawing near to God through the intercession of our Great High Priest) reasons. This chapter which talks about the importance of church attendance for remaining close to God also describes judgment for those who do not. The verse in this chapter "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" is addressed to Christians about Christians who have turned their backs on their Savior.
I write this not to scold forsakers of the assembly, but to encourage attenders to participate actively in the services, to make the assembly where you are an encouraging experience. Smile at others. Don't rush out the door when the final amen is spoken. Stay and talk. Someone may need your help. The answer to your problem may be in that room. Sing out, focus on the prayers, readings and sermons, be there. Stir someone up to love and good works.