Friday, July 28, 2006

Rabbi Jesus

Did you know that some of the first and last words Jesus spoke to Peter were “Follow me”? Beginning and end. Front and back. Peter’s discipleship was lived in the context of Jesus’ follow-me-parentheses. After he stepped into the non-hypocritical footprints of Jesus, Peter’s life was never the same because Jesus not only taught good lessons, he demonstrated his sermons.

He told stories then he lived them out. In several teachings Jesus told earthly stories about shepherds who constantly watched over their flocks. Then Jesus characterized the shepherds in his stories. He nurtured his band of disciples, both men and women. And others with sin-problems and health issues came to him for care and received his administrations.

Only one person on earth ever matched their talk and walk—Jesus, the Christ. He said if someone hits you on one cheek, don’t hit back but rather “turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). At his undeserved trial, he was struck and did not strike back.

During his day, Roman soldiers could require ordinary citizens to carry a soldier’s belongings for one mile. Jesus said go farther down the road. Do extra. Carry the soldier gear two miles. Rabbi Jesus taught the right way to act even when one is treated disrespectfully. That kind of extending-mercy living can take you down the road.

Jesus mirrored the Father who continually gives to this earth. Jesus taught followers to do more than required, travel extra with your enemy, your spouse, your employer. Demonstrate the unselfish nature of God.

About 100 years before Jesus’ time, a powerful proverb said, “Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself with the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.” Author David Biven in New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus wrote that the words “cover yourself with the dust of their feet” have traditionally meant to sit at the feet of a rabbi and learn.

But Mr. Biven also said for a long term disciple, such as Peter, who would have followed his teacher around Galilee and Judea, those words take on a literal meaning. As the disciples trailed around after the non-hypocrite Jesus they would have been covered with the fine dust of the roads and the dust from rabbi Jesus’ feet.

To have a perfect pattern for anything is remarkable. I don’t know of anything perfect—no recipe, no home, no auto, no government, no person, no business. The only perfection I’ve ever experienced is Jesus Christ who came to give mankind a faultless demonstration, an exact replication of God.

. The word “hypocrite” comes from Greek and means actor or one who is pretending. Several sayings that oppose hypocrisy have arisen in the past years. One is “practice what you preach.” Another is “walk the talk.” Then there are admitted hypocrites who choose not to let go of bad habits, but to their credit, discourage followers. Their motto is, “Do as I say, not as I do”?

To any who are burdened and weary of following Hollywood’s stars or imperfect sports’ icons, or putting their trust in any frail human, Jesus still issues the call to come to him. He promised rest for the soul. He said about himself, “I am gentle and humble in heart . . . my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29ff).

Jesus is not a hypocrite. Grab someone’s hand and get in line to follow him. Follow his examples. Stay up close, so you’ll be covered in his dust.

(I read that the term rabbi, while in use when Jesus was on earth, did not become a formal title until after 70 A. D. )

Friday, July 21, 2006

Celebrate Marriage

A book is titled Life is Short, Wear Your Party Pants. It reminded me of celebrations and joyous marriages.

Barely in our twenties, Dave and I attended a lot of weddings. Then a diaper bag full of baby shower invitations arrived as friends started families. Birthday cake frosting came next. When our children were in elementary school, we ate our way through pounds of Ball Park franks, mustard, chili, and Crisco-laden sugar in back yards.

Lately, we’ve received many wedding anniversary invitations, commemorating 25, 40, 50 years of marriage. In this short-attention-span world, those are occasions worth the party pants.

Since summer is a favorite time for weddings, here is a practical suggestion for newlyweds or long time married couples: Create everyday customs that keep you connected to each other.

After many years, one couple performs a wedding tradition each morning. At wedding receptions, couples often toast each other with their arms linked. This couple continues to do this each morning with their first sip of coffee. If this is too starry-eyed for you, read on.

Our marriage-odometer will roll over 39 in a few days. One of those years, we fell into the habit of shaking hands as we leave the breakfast table. It’s a friendly way to start the day. Of course kissing hello and goodbye are age-old choices of staying connected, too.

A favorite married couple, Donn and Mildred, have learned the secret of honoring each other. Let’s just say they’ve had their wedding rings for a few years.

At a mall the other day, and in the few moments we were together, I heard Donn compliment his wife. Mildred replied with her classy smile. He also undid the foil from the top of a Hershey Kiss and offered it to Mildred. She never had to lift a finger. What a man!

And when we finally said goodbye, they strolled out hand-in-hand. Nothing is tarnished about this couple’s love for each other.

Jacob worked seven years to marry Rebekah, and they “seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20). Agatha Christie suggests that a woman marry an archaeologist because the older she gets, the more interested he gets.

Not married to an archaeologist, try good manners, genuine compliments, sweet rituals and practicing God’s unconditional love. They can add up to a 50th Wedding Anniversary. Bring them on. Press your party pants. Let’s have more of those “until death do you part” marriages.

You may reach Cathy at

Friday, July 14, 2006

Prayer Pagers

Due to cancer, Janice’s father had a stem cell replacement. After I said a prayer for him, I dialed his prayer pager then entered my zip code and hung up. A Baptist church loaned Janice’s dad the pager.

Her dad’s pager beeped over 100 times one day, alerting him that at least that many prayers were said for him. Some churches and hospital chaplaincies offer these pagers to seriously ill patients.

Zip codes pop up in the pager digital display letting patients know where prayers originated, and if a person is gravely ill, family members are given the pager. The pagers can be set to beep or vibrate.

Born with a spinal problem, Brandon Culp from Pennsylvania became paralyzed from a high school sport injury. He recovered and again walked. But in 2005, on his way back to college in Texas, an automobile accident once more paralyzed him. The accident occurred in Mississippi, and he remained in ICU for 11 days.

His dad and mom went to his aid and strangers came to theirs’. A Mississippi Christian placed a prayer pager in their hands. Even in ICU, Brandon’s dad Jack Culp held the pager against his son’s wrist. “Brandon, every time this pager vibrates, somebody’s praying for you. It’s people that you’ve never met. And they’re just praying that God will do just the best for you that he can.”

In 2002, Cordele United Methodist Church in Asbury, Alabama began a prayer pager ministry, now spread to many other states. Joe, who received a pager, had inoperable throat and neck cancer, requiring a year of radiation and chemotherapy. Throughout setbacks and pain, his pager remained with him. Just at times of grueling trial, he would hear a gentle beep, and his spirits lifted. Someone, somewhere just prayed for him.

The apostle Paul often heartened fellow Christians by outlining his prayers for them and letting them know he prayed, but he did it through letters. Friends often carried his letters to others. To reach their destination, they traveled in boats, on donkeys, or walked — extremely slow transport to Ephesus, Corinth, and Philippi.

In one letter to the Ephesians, he sketched his prayers letting them know he gave thanks for their faith, prayed for their enlightenment about God, and that they might come to a fuller knowledge of Jesus (Ephesians 1:15-23). Notice of his prayer support took days and days and more days to reach their ears.

Now, almost as fast as God hears a prayer, activated prayer pagers can notify the ill — someone, somewhere just prayed.

You may reach Cathy at

Friday, July 07, 2006

When Visitors Come to Church

While the Lord sees into Christians’ hearts, an un-churched visitor’s first impression of a church most likely will come from superficial elements: building, greeters, church slogan, location, Website, type of cars in parking lot, “dress code,” signage, leaders/ministers, ethnicity, worship style, and vocabulary. In today’s computer savvy world, church Websites are fast becoming the determining factor of “to visit or not to visit” a congregation.

I recently read Church Marketing 101 by Richard L. Reising and gained the above insights from his book. I like his subtitles better than his title because they better reflect the content of the book: Preparing Your Church For Greater Growth / A Revolutionary Blend of Corporate Marketing Strategy and Biblical Wisdom.

Since the world’s first impression of a body of believers most often comes from outward appearances, Reising, formerly in corporate marketing, points out church-stumbling-blocks that may keep visitors from returning. In one church, members became accustomed to a pink sanctuary with gold bows but male visitors found it overly feminine.

The author demonstrates from scripture how Jesus and Paul managed people’s perceptions, to help guide them to God—Jesus, who prayed outside Lazarus’ tomb for the benefit of the hearers, Paul, who became weak to those who were weak to win them to Christ (John 11:41-42; Acts 17:22-24; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Reising compares modern visitors to the Queen of Sheba, who first heard about Solomon and “his relation to the name of the LORD,” and “she came to test him with hard questions.” When she journeyed to his kingdom, Solomon answered all her questions, but the text says she also saw the order of his kingdom, “the servants in their robes, the cupbearers,” and “the food on his table and the seating of his officials.” The combination of hearing, seeing, and experiencing caused the Queen of Sheba to proclaim “blessed be the LORD your God” (1 Kings 10:4-10).

Reising, not a fan of surveys, watches people at churches, airports, malls, etc, enabling him to give sound advice. He was hired to consult with an affluent church, and in a later session with them, he said they literally spoke in brand names; they discriminated in areas of quality. Instead of hiking boots they said “Timberlands,” instead of sunglasses they said “Oakleys.” One leader kept referring to his drinking water as “my Evian.” Reising explained that a visitor whose basic need was to feed his family would have a difficult time relating to that prosperous congregation. They wouldn’t feel included.

Every church is marketed—from negative to positive, planned or not—visitors and communities receive messages. However, Reising makes this concession: most visitors are willing to overlook an outdated building or inane campaign slogans if when they meet the Christians they see Christ in the people and leaders.

Richard Reising’s first passion is to reach those who need Christ. So, his advice to congregations is straightforward. He encourages churches to better understand people. He urges congregations to prayerfully consider which segment of the masses they are called to reach, and confirms that when God calls God equips. Reising calls congregations to reflect the nature of Christ and to be relevant to the communities they are called to serve.