Good advice from the Preacher

Ecclesiastes can be a little tough to take. But I was reading it the other day and this jumped out at me:

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. — Ecclesiastes 9:9

There’s wisdom in that. The spouse whom you love (and the enjoyment of life you share) is your portion.

It’s an interesting word, portion. It means the part that is assigned to you. TNIV renders portion “your lot in life.” NLT/2E over-translates it as “your reward.” The Hebrew word chelek is fairly neutral. It occurs in Scripture 26 times in 22 verses and doesn’t have any emotional overtones that I can detect, although we might be tempted in that direction in Ruth 2:3 when Ruth gleans in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz.

Decent, Orderly Worship

…but all things should be done decently
and in order.1 Corinthians 14:40

This verse from 1 Corinthians is often described as the “unofficial motto” of the Presbyterian church, particularly with respect to gathered worship. The idea behind that description is that the Presbyterian Church is open to new ideas and is willing to experiment–so long as any new ideas are “decent” and “orderly.” The problem with this description is that “decent” and “orderly” are subjective criteria. One person’s decency is another persons’ outrage, and we all have different understandings of “orderly.”

Continue reading “Decent, Orderly Worship”

Summertime Blues

Have you ever tried to explain where Yucca Valley is?

I recently took study leave to attend the Joe Engle Institute of Preaching in New Jersey. Whenever I met someone, they would look at my name badge and ask me where Yoo-ka” Valley was. The first few times I said things like “not far from Palm Springsā€ or between L.A. and Las Vegas.” These both seem like fair descriptions, but they weren’t all that helpful to people from the east coast. In desperation, I started telling them to watch the nightly weather report. Then, I said, when the meteorologist announced the high temperature in the nation, Yucca Valley would be about 50 or 100 miles from there.
Continue reading “Summertime Blues”

The Safety Dance

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. — John 10:10 (nrsv)

Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; … in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. — 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 (nrsv)

When we read Paul’s litany of troubles in 2 Corinthians, it reminds us how easily we misread Jesus’ words in John 10. Jesus came to give us new life, and have it in abundance. It will be a good life. But it will not necessarily be an easy life.
Continue reading “The Safety Dance”

A Spiritual gift i don’t think about much

I saw something new in Judges 14:5-6:

The spirit of the LORD rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid.

I realized I have tended to think of the Spirit of the Lord as conferring gifts and abilities that are, well, “spiritual.” I haven’t usually thought of the Spirit as conferring gifts of strength. This is dumb of me for two reasons. First, when I say “spiritual,” most of the time I’m really thinking “cerebral.” That much even I know is wrong. But the second way I’m wrong is I ask God to give me strength many times a day — sometimes in so many words, sometimes with more flowers. So who do I think is going to give it to me?


This makes me sick:

A homeless man searching for cans in a Rancho Cucamonga parking lot Dumpster made a startling find Sunday morning: a 5-pound baby girl.

The newborn was naked, her umbilical cord still attached, and stuffed in a plastic Target bag full of discarded mail. She was not crying. She felt cold — her body temperature had dropped to 87.5 degrees — but she was alive.

The big question is: will it make me sick enough to do something?