Monthly Archives: October 2015

Not Everyone Who Claims to Speak for God Really Does

 

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“I will give you peace in this place” (Jeremiah 14:13).

Beautiful sentiment, right? Even better when you realize that it was supposedly God making the statement to his people. Better still when you realize the actual quote in the New International Version says, “lasting” peace. Better and better! What a hopeful statement!

This quotation from Scripture adorned the cover of our church’s worship bulletin one Sunday in midsummer. It really was nicely designed, the type and colors all blending well and superimposed across a picture of a breathtaking waterfall. Really nice! The company producing these bulletin covers has done a consistently high quality job for us for years, and this one was certainly another nice effort.

Well, I thought it was. And they’re still way ahead on their batting average, but . . .

The next Wednesday evening following a meeting at church, a good friend and church member, a very astute fellow, came up to me smiling a little.

“I almost didn’t say anything,” he said a bit wryly, “but did you notice anything funny about last Sunday’s bulletin?”

I had not. But he showed it to me. Nice-looking pic. Encouraging Scripture quotation. I found myself looking for a typo. Nope.

Then he said, “Take a look at the full quotation on the back.” So I did.

Jeremiah 14:13-16, NIV.

The voice of Jeremiah begins as he says to the Lord God, “But I said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord! The prophets keep telling them [the people], “You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, [here comes the quote] I will give you lasting peace in this place.”’”

And then comes God’s verdict about that beautiful sentiment being forth-told by “the prophets”: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore . . .’”

Well, therefore, the Lord goes on to say in no uncertain terms, the false prophets preaching peace on their own, without God’s authority, when God was telling Jeremiah to announce impending disaster, those false prophets are about to get it in the throat! Famine is on the way. The sword is coming. And God says, “I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.”

Oops. Peace really sounded good. Sure was a pretty bulletin back. But I think it was the first, and, I hope, the last, our church has ever published highlighting the encouraging—and absolutely false—words of false prophets who found themselves on God’s hit list!

God has warned his people time and again to be careful who they listen to. It’s still really good advice. Not everyone who claims to speak for God does.

I still think that waterfall was really pretty, though.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Drop Thy Still Dews of Quietness…”

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“Drop Thy still dews of quietness / Till all our strivings cease.”

The words rang out last weekend in a little sanctuary in Springdale, Arkansas. They still echo sweetly in my ears. Their beauty continues to wash across my soul. And I pray, I believe, that the precious afterglow will remain for many, many days. Indeed, I do not think I will ever forget the beauty of that time, those moments as I lifted my voice and heart with people whose love is far dearer to me than life itself.

I don’t remember a time when I more needed to be bathed in the dew of God’s quietness, to feel the mantle of the deep, rich peace and gentle, timeless strength of the Eternal One descend and wrap itself warmly around my soul. His peace is real, his deep joy present, no matter the “strivings” that threaten the vessels of our lives. His course is clear, his path sure, his calm genuine, even in rough waters and stormy seas.

But, oh, how often we need to be reminded! I so needed to feel his hands enfolding mine, to know yet again what is always true, that not for a single moment of my life have I ever sailed alone. Those sweet syllables, lifted heavenward by loving and lovely voices, joined together in a cacophony of words woven from the hymns, prayers, and readings we shared that day, affirming our faith. All rich and resonant, they were polished to lustrous perfection by layer upon layer of years and years of love.

“Take from our souls the strain and stress / And let our ordered lives confess / The beauty of Thy peace.”

The words rolled on, reverberating in rich tones, connecting us in voice, heart, mind, soul with the Author of that peace, the Giver of that quiet, the Father wrapping his arms around us and enfolding us together with his great “cloud of witnesses.”

Who are those “witnesses”? Surely the great heroes of faith whose names we’ve long known and honored. But also so many more whose lives and stories are joined into cords of courage and commitment to become gifts of God to make all his household strong and united.

I felt myself lifted also onto the shoulders of the particular predecessors of my own heritage’s stream of faith, heroes whose lives are graciously blended by our Father into the mighty rolling flood of his eternal kingdom. Even when those specially loved heroes were present in the flesh, breathing this world’s air, I’ve rarely felt their presence more real, their faith and ours more truly woven by the Spirit into one tapestry of blessing.

The words of the hymn I’ve mentioned were written by John Greenleaf Whittier in 1872. How many times as a child did I sing them in church, or as a boy around my family’s table? But I’ve never sung them with a fuller heart than as a worshiper last Saturday. So, “dear Lord and Father of mankind,” yet again for your “still dews of quietness” and the deep “beauty of Thy peace,” I thank you.

   You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“He Was Gathered to His People, Old and Full of Years”

 

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What my wife had in mind, a long time ago now, was simply to collect and display some old family photographs. Specifically, she wanted me to scan an old photograph of my maternal grandparents, a little picture that has long sat on a shelf in my study at the church. So I did.

I knew I’d had that little framed photo for a very long time, but I’d forgotten just how long. When I carefully pulled it out of its frame to place it on the scanner, I noticed the handwritten inscription on the back of the picture. I recognized the distinctive hand immediately. It was Grandmother Key’s writing, for sure.

“To Curtis Kline, 1965. Granddaddy and Grandmother Key.”

One look at that script launched me on a trip down Memory Lane. I remembered my little grandmother’s gentle but raspy voice and how she always called me “Curtis Kline.”

You know how names work. They morph a bit. To a couple of brothers and a few friends, I’m “Curt.” To some of my larger family, I’m “C. K.” And I come to “Curtis” just fine.

But to Grandmother Key, I was always “Curtis Kline.” And, as I saw that fountain-penned script, I could almost hear Grandmother saying to my mother, “This is for Curtis Kline for Christmas, and here’s one for Jimmy.”

You see, I’m pretty sure my younger brother Jim got one, too. And I’m sure his would be inscribed to “Jimmy.”

Looking closely at that picture, I was also struck by the fact that, though I’ve always looked something like Granddaddy Key, the resemblance is definitely increasing. The mouth. The eyes. Well, the whole face.

And, yes, increasingly, the white hair! I never knew his hair to be any other color. He had all of his hair, thick and full, but he ran out of pigment early. For as long as I remember, Granddaddy’s hair was snowy white cotton.

Granddaddy ranched and trucked all of his life. He died in 1975. Six years later, in 1981, Grandmother followed. But Grandmother and Granddaddy don’t seem that long gone. They’re still a big part of who I am every day.

I’ve always sort of liked the way the writers of some books of the Old Testament, after they’ve told the story of someone’s life, will say something like this: “And he was gathered to his people.” Sometimes they add this further description: “old and full of years.”

I don’t think I’m all that old yet. I will admit that claiming to be “middle-aged” is becoming a little tougher than it once was. I’m 58 now. It could be the middle, I suppose, but I very much doubt I’ll make it to 116. At least, with all of my heart, I hope not. Enough really is enough, and I’m looking forward to something much better.

I’ll admit it! I’m in the process of filling up with years, but I don’t think I’m quite full just yet.

But, you know, being “gathered to my people,” in God’s good time, strikes me as not at all a bad thing.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Success: What Does It Really Mean?

 

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I wish we would consider being a bit slower to trust our culture’s methods of evaluating “success.”

In our terminally shallow society, absolutely the only thing you have to possess in order to be considered “successful” is—this will not surprise you—a big pile of money.

In our culture, if your bank balance is almost as vast as your ego, very few will pause to notice how many vows and hearts you’ve broken, how many times you’ve stabbed colleagues in the back, and what your word is truly worth. Your name may be listed as the first example under the dictionary definition of “hubris,” meaning “extreme pride and arrogance” (the kind that leads ultimately to disaster), but our society will be too impressed by what you possess to care much about what you are.

Why, then, should we be surprised at all if even Christians buy into a similar lie with regard to the “success” of churches, believing that absolutely the only thing a church has to be in order to be successful is BIG?

If it’s “mega,” by which most statisticians mean over 2,000 in membership, most folks will figure a church simply must be mega-successful. (Maybe some of those churches really are, and in ways that God values.) But many of the folks who buy this particular lie “hook, line, and sinker” are themselves “pastors,” if you use the term very loosely, who like the idea of a big flock a lot better than the messy reality of walking through life alongside individual sheep. So they rush to embrace every temptation of Satan that Jesus eschewed in the wilderness—temptations to glory and glamor and glitz.

I’m thankful whenever Christ and his cross are truly being preached. But I’m suspicious when the church uses Fortune 500 methods of determining value.

I’ve been enjoying Brandon J. O’Brien’s book The Strategically Small Church. He says that “mega-churches” make up “less than one half of one percent of churches in America.” The vast majority of churches are small, and yet ministers allow “the ministry experience of 6 percent of pastors to become the standard by which the remaining 94 percent of us judge ourselves.”

Hmm. I wonder if, at the very least, churches might not be wise to consider enlarging our view of “success” to accommodate more factors than just our numerical size? I wonder if we might not be wise to ask, once ever blue moon or so, what factors might be most important not just to a modern consumer but to a crucified Lord?

We might find that churches don’t have to be enormous to beautifully and genuinely touch lives. Small churches, often feeling beaten down as failures, might learn that the Lord of the universe, beaten down, derided as worthless, and hung on a cross, has a special place in his heart for small and seemingly powerless little groups of his people who love him and his little ones with a love that is large.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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