People Treated Differently. How Do We Live Justly in an Unjust World?

No photo description available.

There is a difference in how people are treated no matter how much respect they offer. There is also a difference in how people with some power perceive the reactions they receive.

It is filtered through experience, preconceptions, and invisible biases that have been taught and ingrained in our minds.

Whether we are on the defensive or offensive is due, in part, to our programming. It colors our hearing and our seeing.

The reason I brought this up today is because, I found this among my memories from three years ago when I journaled this thought:

For 5 years in the 90s, I taught close to 15,000 traffic school students, mostly middle class, not sure of the racial demographics, perhaps more Caucasian than any other single group.

Many told of being belligerent, uncooperative, and rude with the officer giving them a ticket.

They were proud of it.

Half had a bad attitude.

Some were physically intimidating. I might have felt at bit fearful with them. None were choked to death as they were immobilized and pleading for their lives.
------------------
They felt in charge and empowered and safe.

Imagine growing up in an environment where you never felt that way about anyone in authority.

-----------------

"A study at New York's Stony Brook University found people who are scared do indeed give off “fear pheromones” in their sweat. These hormones trigger parts of your brain that are subconsciously associated with fear. ... The fear pheromone can trigger similar emotions in others who happen to catch a whiff. - "Sep 15, 2014

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4344325/

-----------------

It is an unjust world in many ways, but that does not precent us from striving to live justly in it.

Living Justly in an Unjust World


It is not a concept, but a thrust to be just.

In a word it is to love that which is above us, surrounds us, envelops us, has created and is creating us and to love those who also are created and are being created.

But it is an unjust world, you cry, protest, and flail.

We can try, resist, and ultimately fail to live justly in such a world. Why try?

If it were not possible to swim against the tide, there would be no more salmon on the planet.

Grant it, it is hard and our charred, scarred, burned and battered selves must energize, prioritize, and optimize, but we can live justly in an unjust world.

In the end, -and at the beginning- it is all we can do

And it is what we cannot be stopped from doing.


Posts Along the Shores of My Life

Derick-daily-yxpsD_FC_cI-unsplash

Photo by Derick Daily on Unsplash

I post daily. 

I also read daily.

Often, I read what I have posted on a certain day over the years.

Here is a digest of 15 years worth of quotes and observations from May 25.

“The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"You are not able to keep a thought from occurring in you, but you don't have to entertain it either." - Timothy Keller

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”  ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

"People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to." - Malcolm Muggeridge

You do not just have a right to speak your mind; you have an obligation.

No one else has your point of view, namely your vantage. That is your advantage. It defines your responsibility to participate in the democratic process.

Without your point of view, we have a blind spot.

You did not come by your convictions lightly and you likely will not walk away from them lightly.

If they are misinformed, that can be fixed, but not by hiding or denying them.

This is not comfortable and it makes you vulnerable, but it is necessary. I do not enjoy disagreement at all, but it challenges me and sometimes, sharpens me. Sometimes, it even helps me change my perspective.-

---------------

A great flaw in preachers, like me, if that we always feel compelled to solve all the open-ended questions with three short points and an illustration in 30 or 40 minutes. We measure success by handing out easy answers that people can apply with simplicity in their lives and little thought.

Yet, Jesus often left people scratching their heads.

Matthew 22:41-46


Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?"


They said to him, "The son of David."

He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet" 

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

--------------------------

"It is easy to turn our religious life into a cathedral for beautiful memories, but there are feet to be washed, hard flints to be walked over, people to be fed. Very few of us go there, but that is the way the Son of God went."—Run Today’s Race =-Oswald Chambers

“Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.” ― Walter Brueggemann

“In normal life, we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As a child, my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. - Buddy Hackett
--------------------

Born this day in 1803 – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and philosopher (d. 1882).

"There are two classes of poets — the poets by education and practice, these we respect; and poets by nature, these we love."

"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered."
"The cup of life is not so shallow
That we have drained the best
That all the wine at once we swallow
And lees make all the rest."

"The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man's."

"He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses."

"If the colleges were better, if they … had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents, — if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound, — we should all rush to their gates: instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude."

"Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity."
-------------------

On this day in 1521 – The Diet of Worms ends when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

What would you expect of people who only ate worms?

Bad joke, but I have always wanted to make it.

"... I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens. " - Psalm 89:1

May your days be filled with the joy and expectancy
that playfully wrap the gift of purpose.

May your wheels never spin

except to take you deeper into the grounding of truth.

May grace supply you with every need.

And may your dream always be greater than your present reality.

"We have to bear witness to moral principles which the world owned yesterday and has begun to turn its back on today...So we must know what are the unalterable principles we hold, and why we hold them; we must see straight in a world that is full of moral fog." - Father Ronald Knox

"The more I studied and learned, the less I needed 'answers' to every possible question." - Pastor @Mario_A_Russo

“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” ~@ANNELAMOTT

"Pain is not eternal, but praise is. Ashes will be replaced with hymn sings. The Spirit redeems and restores..." @LukeAPowery

"In Christ's body, every body is a somebody. Any church will be known by how they treat the most vulnerable in their midst." @LukeAPowery

"Those who are despised are destined to make their home in God." @LukeAPowery

"God never intended people to be the church's projects." @LukeAPowery

"A true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty." - Charles Spurgeon

“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”
― Walter Brueggemann

Flip the Greatness Switch

When you dream great, worthy dreams,
you connect to a place in your heart
where you flip the switch
that turns on an attitude of expectancy
and wonder,
thus activating imagination
and motivation.
When this happens,
you engage your mind and
your feet
and your hands in the pursuit of your goals.
You rally all of your resources and,
if you will, by faith,
God's.
Greatness is yours for the believing,
receiving,
and achieving
when dreams partner with
thoughts, deeds, and
prayer.
You are ready for an explosion of
possibilities
and I am
your cheerleader!

"It is easy to turn our religious life into a cathedral for beautiful memories, but there are feet to be washed, hard flints to be walked over, people to be fed. Very few of us go there, but that is the way the Son of God went.—Run Today’s Race" - Oswald Chambers

-------------------------------

The flaw here is that having the knowledge of how to be a safe driver does not insure that I actually AM a safe driver. Knowledge + Skills + Attitude will do it - or as we used to teach at National Traffic Safety Institute: Values + Attitudes = Behavior.

Pondering Possibilities

I am prayerfully wondering and wonderfully praying as I mull over multitudinous opportune obstacles and consider a universe of options the Creator of options has imagined. That is how my morning devotions have progressed this day as I pray about the needs and possibilities of our congregation, our coalition of congregations, our various ministries, and our sphere of influence over the internet. God grant me wisdom, direction, and courage to move forward.

Perhaps I could bounce some ideas off of some of you here and bring you into the experience of seeking God's will in a kingdom we daily pray will come on earth as it is in Heaven.


It has been my practice and spiritual discipline for several years to read a chapter of Proverbs each day that corresponds to the day of the month. That landed me in Proverbs 23 today.

It is also become a discipline to apply some of what I have read to the realm of business and incorporate these truths into my coaching. Let me briefly touch on several today that seem to fall under the category of things that impede our success. What they all seem to have in common is the avoidance of the lure of instant gratification and all of it's manifestations: gluttony, drunkenness, envy, and the like. These are enemies of success.

Read it here:


Out on a Limb of Controversy

Download controversy.png (111.5K)

Controversy

Only the fear of the Lord begins a process of wisdom.

There is no wisdom in any other sort of fear, only poor choices that seem right in the moment. All other fears are cast out by that awe-some, jaw-dropping, knee-popping, head-bending, body-trembling unveiling experience of His power, holiness, and love. Then, in that love, all fear is cast out.

So, fear of anything or anyone else produces bad decisions whether personal or policy driven. We live by the liberating law of love.

Fear and love cannot coexist equally in our attitudes toward others. Fear imprisons us and constricts us.

Love sets us free. God’s love intervenes when we are inclined to retreat from Him and the hand of Jesus draws us toward Him. His Spirit fills us and we come. And we come that we may go, fearless into the world.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Several years ago, I posted, in social media, some provocative comments about a controversial topic. I used the term, “dominant narrative.”

Even that was controversial as a concept.

The next day, I wrote the following response:

I find myself getting a few comments on my provocative observations from last night’s forum — Good! Some reflect an honest belief in what we are calling a “dominant narrative” of reality. We generally believe the story in widest circulation among people who share our common experience. Then, some exposure or new information from sources outside our own experience challenges our embrace of that narrative and creates new conversation.

Most narratives are based upon some truth, but none, by human limitation, on all the truth or necessarily the most determinate truth. As the old cliche speaks to me about my assumptions of reality, “Follow the money …” whatever “money” means in a specific context.

Who benefits and how?

Do we get the results we really want for what we really want and do we really want what we should be wanting?

What if we are getting neither what we want or ought to be wanting? What many good people are working for something that we think is getting what is not being delivered and there is enough temporary reinforcement to train our thinking and behaviors to keep things as they are?

Well, then, we have described the human condition at any given time in history.

So, we must dialogue, seek, challenge our thinking, and create a new story for a future reality. For those who walk in the light of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, this is always an imperative because He always challenged the narrative with a completely new, yet old way of looking at everything.

I’ll probably comment on the comments at some point, but the specifics, while important, are secondary to the principle. All were given with honest conviction and all hold or reflect at least some part of the reality we must consider as we move forward. All have to be considered, respected, addressed, challenged, and/or/and examined beyond the first layer of reality.

Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness which a entirely different from the kingdoms of the world which are systems that can usually boil down to self interest and perpetuation of someone’s sense of need to preserve wealth, power, or a false sense of security and safety.

In like manner, it is a different sort of righteousness that is based upon a paradigm flipped over to draw a new picture of laws and principles that all must hang upon our call to vertical and horizontal love of God and neighbor.

Who is my neighbor?

That becomes the question with which we must wrestle in all of our personal and social ethics as they touch our relationships with people and communities.

So, it is no small consideration to ask the right questions and continuing to stir the pots.

I have often wrestled with the difficult consequences of not stirring the pots on my stove adequately.

Stirring is hard work, but scraping the bottom of a burned pan is sheer torture!


Reflections on the Prison Industry

Prison

Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash

We Start with Questions; We Move to Ideas — A Problem-Solving Pattern

And — We keeps that cycle going. Here is one arena and the questions can apply to other problems in society as well.

Some problems are more emotional, personal, and loaded with “other agenda” than other problems.

However, if we can learn to do problem-solving in one arena, we can practice the art in others

“He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.” — Psalm 102:17

On the evening of May 22, 2014, I attended a forum in our community on race, incarceration, and the California penal system.

One of the panelists, was The Rev. Michael McBride who reminded us that it is OUR system. We all drive it if I hear this right and we all have some voice in fixing it. We are also all prisoners of it. Local officer just spoke of how he is also a “prisoner” of the system which seems to run its own fuel and assumptions. No one us can change it alone, but together we can make a difference. People of faith can and must act in some sort of concert. More questions than answers so far, but that is ok.

McBride gave us a choice, “…fear and retreat or love and lean in.”

I made a lot of notes in the course of the panel discussion. I did not quote them all exactly or attribute all. Some were just impressions. Here they are in a disorganized report:

Disproportionate effects of system being were cited by former Fresno City Councilman and former police officer, Oliver Baines who observed this from life and law enforcement experience.

What do we have in common for creating the common good ? This question is being probed.

What is the role of fear in perception and the role of perception in fear? It can be a vicious cycle.

What if we changed labels as often as clothes just to keep things off balance enough to create balance?

Challenge our own perceptions as well as those of others. I am always feeding mine and yours. How do we change dominant narrative?

Personal versus systemic biases must be examined. What are their intersection? Personal experience can drive us to solve systemic problems, but we need systemic solutions.

Is the prison industry perpetuating prison gangs by insisting on categories and segregation by regional and ethnic gangs and assumptions? It is common “knowledge” that gang “headquarters” are behind bars. This is counter intuitive to the message of reconciliation in the gospel.

What if prison paid inmate labor fair wage and taxed for rent, child support, restitution, and left some for life rebuilding? What if the business of incarceration applied some of the legitimate rules of the free market within its walls in a well-regulated manner rather than operating as a monopoly? What if?

Those were my questions. My assumption is that it is an industry with lobbying power, labor unions, private businesses, contractors, and others vested in its growth and prosperity, but fixing prices for those caught up in the system.

It is OUR system. We all drive it and we all have some voice in fixing it.

We are also all prisoners of it.

A local officer spoke of how he is also a “prisoner” of the system which seems to run its own fuel and assumptions.

No one us can change it alone, but together we can make a difference.

People of faith can and must act in some sort of concert.

While alternatives to incarceration exist, are there not more that would make the system more effective, redemptive, restorative to victims, efficient, cost-effective, and safe while acting as a deterrent to crime? Is this really the best we can do?

Would not our own lives improve, along with our communities, if we did better?

What do we really want to accomplish when we stop and think clearly about it?

More questions were asked than answers given, but that is ok.

Thoughts on Ideas

You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. Shirley Chisholm

A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. Norman Cousins

If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied. Alfred Nobel
Synergy is what happens when one plus one equals ten or a hundred or even a thousand! It's the profound result when two or more respectful human beings determine to go beyond their preconceived ideas to meet a great challenge. Stephen Covey

If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves. Howard Zinn

The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter - for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. Nikola Tesla

Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least, for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form. Leonardo da Vinci

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. John Steinbeck

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. Thomas Jefferson

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. F. Scott Fitzgerald

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. Robin Williams

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion. Max de Pree


Cabbage Soup and Meatless Meatloaf

I humbly offer you my recipe for Cabbage Soup and Meatless Meatloaf.

347893033_519615496889350_7760837493842402743_n

This can even provide the basis for a stock for other soups. I like to slow cook it with onions, garlic, peppers, a few carrots, a little veggie bullion, and whatever other veggies are hanging around.

Then, if you like, you can pour off the broth to drink, leaving some or all solids.

Set some solids aside and use a hand blender to pulverize them. In a bowl, add any combination of these (or all) - cooked black beans, lentils, or other seeds/grains/crushed nuts, sunflower seeds, cumin, salt, pepper, Italian herbs, oats, bread crumbs, molasses, tomato paste, vegan cheese, mushrooms (preferably browned, olive oil, and a little corn.

Mash some of the black beans.

(NOTE - Seeds, nuts, and Corn will help the mix have more lightness and air).

Aim for the consistency of hamburger. Then form it either into burgers or into a loaf.

If a loaf, bake it at 400 degrees until it is solid and browned on the top when you can sprinkle some croutons or vegan cheese on top. I like to add some tomato sauce or homemade catsup for the last few minutes. Adjust the temperature if you prefer.

It makes a great meatless meatloaf --- or, cooked on the grill, makes great burgers.

Don't trust me, try it yourself.

This works with any sort of vegetable pulp as well.


A Confident Life



Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Living a Life of Confidence

Excerpts and Paraphrases from “The Confidence Factor” by Thomas B. Sims

We so often stagger through life encumbered by the pressures of everyday problems and phantom concerns. We are sensitive to slightest slight and the subtlest gesture. We are quick to take offense and slow to receive healing when offended, much less to extend forgiveness. 

We step gingerly into new experiences and tremble at the very suggestion of risk or danger. We take our cues about our self-concepts from other people’s words and evaluations. We speak our minds and hearts with question marks. We timidly go where many have gone before and wouldn’t think of venturing where none have trod.

I decided the write a book about confidence because I sensed a great deal of timid living around me. It seemed to me that many people were stumbling cautiously through life and missing daily opportunities by avoiding challenges.

Through the years, I have fleshed out concepts and principles through stories. Many of those stories take place in a town that exists in a realm resembling a valley in the High Sierra near the intersection of my experience and imagination, Polecat Hollow. In Polecat Hollow, through twists and turns of history, people have become accustomed to the sweet smell of skunk.

In Polecat Hollow, people tend to be a tad timid. They’ve lived around western “skunkery” for so long that they have adopted some of their shy demeanor. Some call it cautious, but others see it for what it is, lack of confidence. Take Mayor Byron T. Simpleton, for instance. Every word he speaks outside his home, and some within, is calculated to be just ambiguous enough that none can take offense. Sometimes at the end of the day he feels absolutely exhausted and disgusted with himself. How he wishes he could find a balance between being rude and being a wet rag.
His sister, Billie Blueblood and her husband, Billy Bud Blueblood are equally guarded in their speech and their actions. When asked an opinion, Billy always answers with what might be a strong statement if it did not have a question mark intoned at the end. For years, the Bluebloods have dreamed of expanding their restaurant and branching out into new ventures, but their timidity is so overwhelming that they agonize over simple changes in the menu.
That’s just the way folks are all across Doubleback County. It must be something in the air.
Of course, there are some among the townsfolk who are not so timid. Miss Prudence P. Love, can be seen on any day boldly prancing about town, tapping her cane with each step as if on a mission. Looking only a fraction of her ninety plus years, she speaks her mind and exercises her autonomy with a gracious flair.
Uncle Hinkey always kindly, yet truthfully speaks his mind, whatever the subject. If the coffee at Mable’s Teacup is cold, he diplomatically declares, “I declare Mabel, you served me a fine hot cup of coffee yesterday. I appreciate that. Do you suppose you could warm this one up a bit the same way? I sure enjoyed that one.”
He has always lived that way, sure of who he was, confident in his deeds and speech, assured that he was loved by a God who never fails, fearless in the face of danger, and gentle in his quiet strength. Over 100 now, Hinkey exudes confidence.
Some have it; some don’t — at least in Polecat Hollow.

I wrote the book while doing a sermon series of the New Testament book of Philippians.

Philippians is a book that oozes with confidence in God. It is the Epistle of Joy and that joy is rooted in deep faith in an unshakeable God. From confidence that “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus” to the ringing confidence that “I can do all things through Christ,” there is not a hint of vacillation or wavering in the Apostle’s resolve to trust in God and act on faith.

Out of the study came three grand affirmations:

I can through Him!

You can through Him!

We can through Him!

When we speak the word, “can,” we are making a declaration.

“Can” is a powerful word because it is affirmative. It is strong and hearty. It is robust and proactive. It is a dreamer’s word, but even more so, a doer’s word. It is so often taken for granted that even its pronunciation is often shortened so that it does not stand out. When we say, “I can,” we are making a commitment. We are going out on a limb. When we say “we can,” we are agreeing to work together in cooperation with other people who share a common vision and hope.

When we say, “You can,” we are also saying, “I believe in you and I will support you all the way.” We are investing ourselves in the progress of another person and implying an investment of soul energy to help her accomplish her goals. I can. We can. You can. It grounds our resolve. It announces our belief. It colors us and marks us. Can becomes a badge of honor in that it signifies a person of integrity and conviction who is willing to take a stand and believe in something beyond the realm of sight and proof. It identifies an individual willing to march alone to the beat of a distant drummer and keep in step with the heartbeat of God (despite expected outcomes).

In the long run, confidence is a matter of the heart. Without heart engagement, we are not fully human. Unless we open our hearts to others, we grow cold, brittle, and timid in our faith. We must become vulnerable if we are to grow confident.

Many of us have control issues. We are most confident when we call all the shots. Moving confidently through life requires letting go of some things we cannot control — including other people and their choices. However, we cannot do it all without them. Success is something we do in community. It is not just about “I can,” but also, “we can.”

I have a dream; you have a dream; we have dreams together. Dreams are long term, but the decisions we make about our dreams are daily and moment by moment.

There is always an urgency to confident living. Without a sense of timeliness, we miss opportunities that are for now and for no other moment.

The consequences of not acting in the moment are grave; the dream could die — or at least slip into a coma. Can it live again? Of course, but it will take new inspiration — i.e.… the Spirit breathing new life into it — and He can! Remember: Do it now because …

Delay — Delay of a dream that has come to the birthing point is not prudence, but foolishness.

Overcomes — Anything overcoming our initiative to act in faith is toxic to our spiritual health.

Initiative — Initiative is that quality that gets our engines started. Exercise it!

Till — The clock is ticking, but not forever. “Till” is a sure destination.

Never — It is a tragic thing to say of a God-inspired notion, “I just never was,” or “It never will be.”

Overwhelms — There comes a moment when we give up because we feel overwhelmed.

Will — Don’t let it happen to your dreams. 
 
The inspiration to act is renewable, but it requires an immediate response. Do it now!

Toward the end of the book, I offer an acronym for Confidence.

A New Spelling for CONFIDENCE


Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

C = Courage

You have it in some degree or another, but you’ll lose it if you don’t spend it. Have the courage to move forward and God will give you more.

O = Overcoming 

You are not called to be a victim, but a victor. If you must whine, set an alarm clock to go off after fifteen minutes and follow it with thirty minutes of praise and affirmation. You cannot afford the luxury of thinking of yourself as a loser. You are a winner and over comer!

N = Neutrality

I am not talking about becoming a moral wimp in a sea of ethical ambiguity. I am declaring to you that all events are neutral as far as your confidence factor is concerned. Circumstances are powerless to rob you of your confident joy if they are rooted in the right attitude — the attitude of Christ.

F = Faith

That’s the point. That is the “fidence” in “confidence.” Never abandon faith. Nurture it, exercise it, live it.

I = Independence

Take personal responsibility for your life, your attitude, and your choices. There are some things that no other human being can do for you and God will not do. The main one is choose. You must make your own choices.

D = Dependence

In the Christian life, opposites can be true at the same time because truth so often lies in the tension between poles. While we must have a fair dose of independence in our decision making and personal responsibility, we must also consider that the course of life is a concourse. We are neither alone in the journey, nor are we equipped to go it alone. We must develop a relationship of dependence upon God and interdependence with our brothers and sisters.

E = Eagerness

Confidence is, in part, about enthusiastically embracing the challenges of life because they lead us to the goals which are mileposts along the way to the realizations of our dreams which are but steps toward the big prize before us. Why wouldn’t we be eager? That eagerness will become manifest as confidence.

N = Nationality

Christians, according to Philippians hold a citizenship in the Kingdom of God which means all the power of God’s Kingdom is behind us and within us. We can hold our heads up high because we know that we belong to something greater than ourselves. Whether you are a Christian or not, you can embrace a higher purpose for your life that is beyond you and your time.

C = Consistency

Starting and stopping in the process of discipleship and success-building will not aid in the development of confident living. We must keep on keeping on. We cannot, must not, will not quit. We may need to stop to reflect, redirect, or reconnect, but never to defect. Consistency of commitment and effort will make us stronger.

E = Elimination

Some things have to go. And house cleaning in our lives can never be a onetime process because spiritual and emotional dust tends to accumulate. Acknowledgement of our frailties and willingness to change are life time disciplines and joyful ones at that. Make regular self-evaluation a part of your life and readily let go of whatever is holding you back, whether that is a sinful practice or a sinful attitude.

The bottom line is that you are going to make it because there is a God who believes in you who has begun and will complete a good work in you and you can do all things through the one who gives you strength.

---------------------------------

The Confidence Factor: A Journey through Philippians
Confidence is about living with and by faith. It influences everything. The Apostle Paul taught a posture of confidence…www.amazon.com

Or Read it on Kindle:





Deborah, Mother of Israel

Happy Mother’s Day


Photo by Sidney Pearce on Unsplash


I recorded a 25 minute sermon from the notes below, but … somehow, there was no sound.

It was silent.

I replaced it with a shorter version.

Here is the text of the sermon I first recorded — Rough Notes.

Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day is an American tradition started by a daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, who felt one day needed to be set aside for children to honor their own mothers.

Paul reminds us that we are part of a larger family as well and that the call to honor is even broader.

“[Treat] the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” -1 Timothy 5:2

Just who is your mother?

Timothy had his own mother and grandmother, but as a pastor, he was to set an example to all the church to treat all the elder women as mothers. They were to be respected, honored, and treated with care and affection.

Who is your mother? Who do you honor on Mother’s Day?

First, it would be the woman who gave you birth. While giving birth to a baby may not make you a mother in every sense, it is a pretty amazing contribution to life. She carried you for nine months, twenty four hours a day. Every bit of nutrition and all of your protection came from her.

She gave a big chunk of her life to give you all of your life.

Then, it is the woman or the women who raised you or helped to raise you — natural mothers, foster mothers, big sisters, aunts, babysitters, teachers, Sunday School teachers and, in some cases, your friends’ mothers or your neighbors. It may have been grandmothers.

We honor them today.

We honor the mothers we had.

We honor the mothers we wished we had as well, those perfect mothers that we dreamed about. We honor the ideal that no one ever realizes because everyone is human and imperfect.

That ideal is found only in God whose Fatherliness also includes the qualities of motherhood that can be reflected in our earthly mothers.

We honor the mothers (and fathers) we want to be. We honor the aspiration and the ideal and hold it high.

We honor the mothers of the future that we are training our girls to be.

We honor motherhood and all of the women of the church who have been, might have been, never were, or will be mothers — especially the older ones. The younger, we honor as sisters and mothers-to-be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” — John 19:26–27

Jesus was living through the darkest moment of His life. Lesser men would have thought only of their pain. One of the men being crucified with Him could only curse and fix blame on others. Jesus could only love for love had taken Him to that cross.

He looked down from Him place of suffering and saw His mother. He remembered how she had exercised faith in welcoming the Holy Spirit’s work in her life as she had conceived Him. He remembered how she had traveled so many miles with Joseph to Bethlehem for His birth and how they had fled to Egypt, far away from home and family, to protect His life from Herod. He remembered how she and Joseph had despaired when they misplaced Him in the Temple when He was a boy. He remembered her sacrificial love and the warm home she had made for Him and His brothers. He reflected on her grace and humble service. She had cherished the memories of His birth and life in her heart all these years. She had raised her children, taught them the things of God. She had buried a husband and she had left all to follow Her son, the Son of God as one of His disciples.

She was His mother and He loved her from the cross. And so, in one of His last earthly human deeds, He presided over an adoption,

“Behold your thy son … Behold thy mother.” — Jesus from the cross
“… despise not thy mother when she is old.” -Proverbs 23:22b

Your Mother When She Is Old

We need as many “old mothers” as we can get in the church and in our lives. We need to honor the older mothers among us and change our thinking about the word, “old.”

For some reason, we have attached a stigma to old age such that people do not like to be called, “old.” Yet, in the scriptures, it is a badge of honor and a sign of God’s blessing.

Perhaps some thought ought to be given to reviving the old custom of honoring the eldest mother in the church on Mother’s Day. In the New testament, older women were all considered mothers of the church. That had something to give and the church was tuned to receive it.

One can think of three reasons why we might learn from and honor the eldest among us and they spell O-L-D.

O — Older mothers have gotten OVER some things.

There is no substitute for experience. The most important and valuable advantage of experience is that it teaches us that wherever we are in our journey, we are stuck. We might be going through some difficulties, but we can and will get through them. We might be laboring under some burdens, but we can and will get over them. We can know this because our elders could and did get over theirs.

L — Older mothers have LEARNED some things.

Life has taught them some lessons and most are willing to share those lessons. We all know more today than we did yesterday. The longer we go, the more we potentially learn. We can honor our mothers by listening to their perspectives. They know some things we do not know because they have had time to learn them.

D — Older mothers have DONE some things.

They have had time to accomplish some goals, to have a few failures, and to enjoy some victories. When we look at their lives, we take courage in knowing that we can also accomplish some things. In fact, they sometimes did what seemed impossible, but with God’s help, they did them anyway. We need them as role models.

These are three reasons to honor our older mothers and to strive to someday be old mothers and old fathers.

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” ~John Wilmot

Any parent, worth his or her salt, will readily admit to ignorance on any number of subjects — especially parenting. It can be frightening when we consider the consequence for our children and the perpetual admonition to them to pay attention to us. We step back from overhearing them being told to do so and remember how many parental lessons we missed, ignored, or discarded along the way. How much easier would life have been if we had been mentally and emotionally present in the parental school of wisdom?

Homer doesn’t make things easier when he remarks, “It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.”

Perfection eludes us and the quest for perfection haunts, us, but grace equips us to take the risks involved in doing our best and letting go of the rest. We are hard put to find all the right words or address all the important issues in parenting. Robert Fulghum landed squarely on the truth when he said:

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Our children are always watching. It is up to them whether or not they will listen. That is their responsibility and capacity, especially as they grow old. It is also ours, who have grown older, not to forsake the wisdom of the past as no longer relevant. Solomon wisely said:

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. “ -Proverbs 1:8–9 NIV

He then enters into an extended teaching about the dangers or rejecting that teaching and pursuing a life of riotous activity without regard to ethics and morality. The bottom line is that you are more attractive, effective, and fulfilled if you take the time to learn what is being taught. And our children have a better shot at life if we take the time to teach them. Furthermore, we have a better chance of teaching them well if we revisit what we have been taught and take it to heart.

As a rock song from the 60s put it, “and the beat goes on.”

A Joyful Mother!

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.” — Psalm 113:9

On Mother’s Day, we are first grateful for our mothers, but deep within the heart of every mother for whom we show our love and appreciation is an even deeper gratitude. She is grateful to be a mother. She is blessed and joyful for what she considers to be the greatest gift and privilege of her life. Mothers cherish their children. So do fathers, but mothers do so with a special kind of flair. 
 
Your mother knows that you are a gift from God. Your life is something that emerged out of barrenness and you are very special. Your life has brought her joy. She sees the light of God’s love and grace in your eyes. She praises the Lord for you and you praise the Lord for her.

She taught you about love. She taught you life skills. She taught you to be responsible. She taught you the difference between right and wrong. She taught you that a person needs something to do and that there is no value in just sitting around and doing nothing. he taught you that there are consequences to bad behavior and rewards for good behavior. She taught you to love and reverence God and most likely taught you your first prayers.

She taught you so much and she taught it all to you because she loves you and because she knew that you were God’s gift to her. She did it with joy. Now take that same joy and show her your appreciation.

And today, we praise the Lord for her.

We love her because she first loved us. In fact, we most likely first learned the love of God from her and we love God because He took the initiative to love us fist. In that way, mothers point us to the Father.

We appreciate our mothers because they first appreciated us. We brought no special skills to our families when we arrived. We could not do our fair share or pull our weight, but our parents thanked God for us. That is amazing!

Our mothers valued us, affirmed us, and let us know that we were special. They prayed for us and taught us to pray. They managed our homes and let us watch and learn. They taught us how to perform basic skills, how to resolve conflict, and how to care for our own personal needs.

Best of all they were present for us and we are present for them today as well.

Mothers of the Church

“… the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”– I Timothy 5:2

Our brother Paul alludes to a tender and respectful relationship that Timothy and his brothers can easily understand. It is the relationship between a son and his mother or his sister. It is a relationship of affection and honor. It is the picture of the relationship that ought to exist in the church between the body and the precious women we call mother and sister.

On this Mother’s Day, let us pause to honor all of those who have been the mothers of the church whether or not they have biological children. They, whether right or wrong, have set our tables, cleaned our dishes, tended our babies in the nursery, and given us hugs and encouragement in times of sorrow, grief, or discouragement.

They have sent out the cards on special occasions, made the phone calls to the sick and absent. More often than not, they have taken the lead in matters of prayer and communication. They have kept us aware of our missionaries and have challenged us to be more mission minded.

They have taken far more seats in the choir than our men, been far more faithful in church attendance, and have brought pies and soups to the elderly and infirmed. And one might be reminded that the early disciples actually gave that job to six men.

It has been nineteen hundred years since men actually did as much as the mothers of the church for widows and orphans. These women have taught us in Sunday School and may have been the first to tell us about Jesus. They have organized our files, decorated our sanctuaries, arranged our flowers, cleaned our bathrooms, and made most of our visits. They deserve the title of mother and they deserve great honor this day.

Besides everything else, the mothers and sisters of our church have brought a sense of beauty and warmth into our presence. They have reflected the love of God into our lives in a unique way. Here’s to you, Mother. Here’s to you sister. We love you very much. Happy Mother’s Day!

God Is a Family

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. “-John 14:20

Family is a vital connection to what it means to be connected with God. God expresses the divine mystery of God’s very essence in terms of family.

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit exist as one, but three, all sharing the same nature, but also relating to each other in community and in love. God is in fellowship with God and God invites human beings to join the family.

Some of God’s qualities are mothering; some are fathering. Some of what the Spirit does in the world is what mothers do in families. The only point is this; it is not about gender or roles; it is about fellowship, love, relationship, bonding, loyalty, and joy.

God wants our company and God chooses human families to point us toward the reality of eternal and heavenly relationships.

Jesus says that his disciples are his mothers and brothers and sisters.

It is so appropriate to recognize and honor these earthly relationships on days such as Mother’s Day.

Mothers are responsible, in Judaism, for the perpetuation of the faith in the early stages of every child’s life. In fact, the primary definition of a Jew is a person with a Jewish mother.

Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s mother and grandmother, were cited by Paul as his earliest and most primary faith influences. The faith first dwelt in them and then, in him.

We are taught to regard the women in our congregations with the respect and love that we would afford our mothers and sisters.

The role of motherhood is profound in the scriptures. The writer of the last portion of Proverbs, King Lemuel, credits his mother with the wise teachings that have guided his life.

We thank God for our mothers today. Not only do they give us life and guidance, but they also help us understand the Holy Trinity as a family of God where we are invited to the table.

Calling Her Blessed

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed …” — Proverbs 31:28

King Lemuel had an amazing mom. She was like a super woman, great household manager, loving mother, loyal wife, sharp business person, and woman of righteous integrity. She was the ideal wife and mother.

To her children, she was Mom. MOM — Model for living, Organizer of our lives, and Magnifier of the truth.

She was all of those things. She provided a model for how to live. She brought order, organization, and direction to the household. She exemplified, magnified, and taught what it meant to live a godly life in this world.

Her children called her blessed.

Mary, when learning that she would become the mother of the Messiah proclaimed that all generations would call her blessed. In fact, the angel told her that she was blessed among women.

Mothers are a blessing to us, but the bible says that motherhood, in itself, is a blessing.

Today, we honor mothers for their motherhood. We rise with Lemuel and his siblings to call our mothers, “blessed” and to bless them for their gifts to us. It is trite but true to say that without them we would not be here and would not have become the people that we are today.

“God, give us Christian homes! 
Homes where the mother, in queenly quest,
Strives to show others Thy way is best, 
Homes where the Lord is an honored guest.
God, give us Christian homes; 
God, give us Christian homes!”
- B.B. McKinney

God bless our mothers!

The Love of God

“The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.” — Judges 5"7

Deborah was no stereotypical mother. But a mother, she was.

She was a leader in Israel. She was a wife. She was as tough as nails and yet, sensitive to the things of God. Her prayer and song of praise tell her story and God’s story.

God raised her up for His purposes and used her mightily. She did what Barak would not do and received honor that he might have received.

She was a woman of courage, a woman of faith, a woman of praise, and a woman of wisdom — a lot like many of our mothers.

We need mothers with courage today because times are hard and the attacks on our families are profound. Sometimes, it is only the mother who will stand up for her families. Some fathers have defaulted in their responsibility. All fathers need her by their sides.

We need mothers of faith today because our children need to learn it. What better place to be introduced to faith than at a mother’s knee?

We need mothers of praise today who fill our homes with songs of praise, objects of praise, and occasions to praise the Lord. We need mothers who will turn off the televisions and radios and turn on the gospel.

We need mothers of wisdom today who will take the time to teach their children. Parents are the best wisdom teachers that God made. That is why we are told throughout the book of Proverbs to listen to them so carefully.

Buried in the sometimes dark stories of Judges is an example of a mother who can point us to some qualities of motherhood that we need to encourage in our young women today. Our pews are full today of exemplary models of motherhood. Let us honor them today.

Happy Mother’s Day!


If My People Pray

452px-Dou_Old_woman_in_prayer

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/Dou_Old_woman_in_prayer.jpg

If My People 

I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. – I Timothy 2:1  

I am as put off as any by the empty words, “thoughts and prayers” whenever those words are empty and used to dismiss one’s own responsibility to act with justice, mercy, and resolve.  

Thought, however, is a very good thing, especially compassionate thoughts about others. Likewise, prayer is good, especially when one opens one’s life to being used by God to help others.  

With echoes of II Chronicles 7:13-14 in the background, Paul is not calling for extraordinary prayer, but for daily, ongoing, consistent, persistent, passionate prayer for the lives of men and women and the welfare of society.  

This call to prayer is for all people first. Then Paul becomes specific in commanding us to pray for people in civil authority that the church might enjoy, with the larger community, quiet, peace, godliness, and honesty.  

 Furthermore, we are adjured to pray because it is God’s will to bring all men to salvation and truth. God invites our cooperation, participation, and conversation in task and mission of rescuing the world.  

It is sad that we need special days to remind us that we ought to be praying all the time.  

I have some pills that I must take every day by prescription. I try to minimize these with good nutrition and vitamins, but because of the wear and tear of the years, my body needs these medicines to function properly – at least for now.   

If I forget to take a pill for a particular malady, I can get by with it for a few hours, but at least by the second day, I will be hurting, and the reminders will be evident.   

If I forget my blood pressure pill, however, I will have no symptoms whatsoever. In fact, I might be able to take my blood pressure that day and notice extraordinarily little difference. I will have no symptoms over time, but my blood pressure will begin to creep up and I will place myself in danger of a sudden heart attack or stroke down the road.  

God has prescribed prayer for our own well-being, for others, and for our society. If we live in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we will most likely notice it if we miss a day of prayer. But the larger implications may show no symptoms at first.   

We will lull ourselves into complacency and false comfort. In the meantime, our spiritual lives, and the spiritual climate around us will erode until there is some great catastrophe as the natural result of the absence of supernatural intervention.   

God’s message to us on this matter is that prayer matters.  

 It makes a difference.   

Pray.  

1 Timothy 2:1-6 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all-- this was attested at the right time. 


The Ask

Slide1

"Ask and it will be given you." (Matthew 7:7a, NKJV)

At the risk of seeming obvious, have you asked God for anything lately? Have you with some heart for a pure motive and unselfish desire asked for Him to supply your needs, lead you according to His purposes, given you strength and wisdom to become all He wants you to be, and to help you delight in Him so that He may give you the desires of your heart? "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 - NIV)" That being in place, perhaps the word in James 4:2 is operative; "You do not have, because you do not ask God. (NIV). As a community of believers, as individual members of the church, and as individuals before God, it behooves us to learn to ask.

 "Seek and you will find." (Matthew 7:7b, NKJV)

Emily Daniels, my high school Sunday school teacher used to remind us to put legs on our prayers. I always wondered if that was a bit unspiritual until I realized it was very true. God expects us to seek after what He is supplying for us. He hides treasures in odd places. He invites us to participate in His provision. He calls us into a mystical and practical partnership. Where are you seeking for God's best? What are you seeking? How are you seeking? Are you limited what Good can provide for you and do through you by refusing to seek diligently and turn over all the rocks? Embrace the promise of more today and find God's best.

"Knock and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7c, NKJV)

All of the imperatives in this verse describe continuous action: Keep on asking. Keep on receiving. Keep on knocking. By the time we get to knocking, it is obvious without even knowing the verb structure that persistence is the key to laying hold of the promises of God. We cannot stop short of our goals. We dare not quit before the finish line. To do so would be to diminish the meaning of all past efforts, prayers, and discipline. Our quest is a lifetime process, not a quick and easy fix. We are called to step up and to keep stepping up. My wife once hired a young man, not because his resume was impressive or because he was an outstanding candidate for the job, but because he proved his desire to do that particular job by coming in several times a week to inquire about it. God wants us to deeply desire His best and to demonstrate that desire with persistence.

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11)

God is good. That is a theological fact. We are sinners, broken by the fall. That is also a fact. But even as sinners, we know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more will a God who is 100% good give good gifts to His children whom He loves? We are His children. He loves us. He wants to give His best to us. He is waiting for our to do our part for own good so that we will not just be receptacles of blessings, but participants in His purpose. It is about the character of God and the love He has for us.

 "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

If God were a man, this is how He would treat us. It is how He treats us. It is also how He mandates that we treat each other. It is a positive command to be proactive, not a caution of restraint. It is the essence of all He has ever sought to reveal through the scriptures. It is what makes God's people salt and light. It is the secret of true prosperity and fulfillment. It is the Golden Rule. How will you go out of your way today to observe it?

 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13, NIV)

Destruction is easy. It is the path of least resistance. The call to step up to call of God is a call to reject the easy path, to shun the downhill slide, and to despise call to mediocrity. God has no interest in our earthly comfort zones or addiction to convenience. He values those qualities little in our lives or churches where we often value them much. Whether Jesus is speaking of the destruction of our eternal souls, of our dreams, or our earthly lives, the principle holds. It is easy to get shipwrecked by esteeming ease about all other values. Could we decide today to be suspicious of every broad path and path to which the masses flock? If we see the crowds gathering, let us look further for a path of life.

"But small is the gate and narrows the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:14, NIV)

You will be in a distinct minority to the extent to which you choose the path of life. It is a gate you may have to squeeze and contort yourself to get through. You will not shape it. It will shape you. Most people are intimidated by the potential of being odd or out of step with the crowd. But when we step up to God's plate, we often stand alone. Life, in all its dimensions, fullness, and implications is experienced only by a few who are willing to be different and to fit into some pretty tight places for God. But once through the gate, it is the path of greatest freedom and joy. We wonder why we didn't choose it all along.


The Fallen Blue Jay and God's Care

Patrice-bouchard-o9nUUJ04QF4-unsplash

Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash

 

There was a little blue jay lying lifeless on the ground when I went out to feed my chickens this morning. While I could not tell him apart from the other jays that I feed and enjoy watching, I was reminded that my Heavenly Father knew him personally. 

 

My dog sniffed him curiously and I was sad. 

 

That blue jay had not spent one moment of his life worrying about anything. He probably had not seen death coming. He was pretty much always in the moment. 

 

I like to think I know my own motives and that worry, and the cares of life do not occupy too much of my mind’s real estate. 

 

The truth is, I need some growth. 

 

Jesus’ teaching on the mount continues with the discourse where he connects our worries to our ultimate values. He challenges us to be more connected to value than fear of loss and to examine our motives.  

Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.

 

What motivates you?   

 

What energizes your imagination and activates your soul?   

 

Are you paralyzed by the fear that you will not be able to provide the necessities of life for yourself and your family?   

 

Are you enslaved by the need to move forward economically or to build earthly security? 

 

God cares for His own, for birds and lilies, and people who seek HimHis kingdom and His righteousness are of such great value that nothing else compares with them. 

 

Our task is to check in with what motivates us as we make important decisions and view the realities of life.   

 

By keeping first things first, we can eliminate the need to juggle multiple priorities or to fret over things that ultimately perish.

 

 


 


One of the great words in scripture is "Nevertheless."
--------------------------------
"Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity."
"Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love."
(Psalm 106:43-45 ESV)

Don't Be Foolish

Fool

"The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.'”

First, this verse is not really or primarily about atheism, because it is not about an intellectual conviction or doubt. It is an assessment of a heart inclination that knows one thing and behaves in an oppositional manner toward truth. There are many theists who have said in their heart that there is no God.

Second, it is not about intellectual deficiency. The biblical context for use of the word, "fool" is almost always the absence of wisdom and moral discretion. In fact, it self-defines in this verse as, "they are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity."

In other words, "You act as if there were no governing truth or Governor of truth in the universe. You live your life in contempt of God."

I used to call this "practical atheism."

Some of my friends would argue that morality and theology have no correlation and I would remind them that I am preaching to the choir who feels that because their theology is sort of OK, that they are OK.

But then, it gets more inclusive than that. Do you like inclusiveness? Try this:

"There is none who does good."

None.

Is it "psalmistic" hyperbole, the exasperation of a godly soul who is fed up with all the ungodliness or is it the reality of human depravity and universal susceptibility?

Maybe both.

Does he include himself?

I do not know, but I count me among those who have worn the jester's hat and played the fool.

Every time I forget my Center, I am among the company of spiritual, oral, and ethical idiots who are saying in their hearts (mission control of the decision-making process) that there is no God

"The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.'”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good." (Psalm 53:1 ESV)

So, after the initial exasperation of verse 1, where the fool says in his heart that there is no God, the psalmist processes things and processes them some more and lands on hope and redemption.

"Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad." (Psalm 53:6 ESV)

Another Loosely Related and Relatable Thought

One of the great words in scripture is "Nevertheless."

--------------------------------
"Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity."
"Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love."
(Psalm 106:43-45 ESV)

What? Me? Worry?

Mad30

EC Publications; web source: http://www.madcoversite.com/mad030.html - Fair Use

…  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. – Matthew 6:28 

Someone has said that weeds are flowers we didn’t plant. 

That is not always true, but it sometimes is. We get so orderly and systematic in our gardening that we forget that there is nothing more beautiful than a field of wildflowers in an untended meadow. 

Untended? 

Indeed not. They have the most proficient and attentive gardener of all, the Lord God Almighty, our Father, who created them. 

What Jesus wanted us to know is that we also are part of God’s garden and God is tending and caring for us. 

He wanted us to know that we can trust God and that in trusting Him, we abandon the need for worry. 

I love the word, “kindergarten.” We all know what it is, but we don’t all know what it means. It is, literally, a “children’s garden,” or better still, a “garden of children.” It is a place where children grow. 

Are we not God’s children? Is God not watching over us as a dedicated kindergarten teacher watches over the young lives in her charge? 

That leave us with another question: 

“What am I so worried about?” 

Good question. 

------------------

At some point, we join Alfred E. Newman in declaring, "What? Me worry?" We do it for different reasons but by following the same logic trail, ours on the premises of truth. The answer is that nothing can be done to us by man that can destroy us."

" The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me."
(Psalm 118:6-7 ESV)

 


Hope of Glory

800px-Harleianus_5557_(first_page_of_Colossians)

Christ in You; Hope of Glory

Riches of his mystery,
Struggling, but encouraged,
United in love,
Assured,
Faithful,
Continuing,
Abounding,
Christ in you,
Hope of Glory.
Amen.

Prayer and statement of reality.


Epistle Reading Colossians 1:24-2:7



I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.

I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
---------------------------------

Art - The first page of Colossians in Minuscule 321 gives its title as προς κολασσαείς, "to the Colossians". British Library, London.


Beloved and Accepted

David Prays for Deliverence Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_136

Christology and "Humanology"

A Prayer on Tap 

There is nothing that stands between us and the God of the Universe as we honestly pray. 

I need a prayer song and I need it now! 

So, the heart has insisted with restless desperation more than once. 

Psalm 38 is a template of timely prayer for anyone who has suffered or is suffering. It gives voice and emotion to the cry of the heart that struggles to emerge. It holds a mirror before our souls so that we can know what we may be feeling within. 

The psalm takes our innermost thoughts and makes them accessible to us so that we might express them to God. 

We do not always have words. The prayers of the ancients provide us with words that we can borrow on the occasion of our pain.  

We do not always have a keen sense of what we are feeling. The psalms suggest possibilities. 

We can pray these words and feelings with confidence that, whether or not they are accurate for our lives, they received by God with acceptance and love. 

Furthermore, they assure us that we are not alone. 

Whatever we may experience, others have experienced it as well. Whatever mountain we must climb, it has been climbed by others before us. Whatever horror we face, has been faced. Whatever assault we see coming, it has been overcome by others with God’s help. 

The grace of God is more powerful than your challenges. 

The mercy of God is greater than your guilt. 

The love of God is stronger than any darts of hate tossed in your direction. 

The song of God is more melodic and unhindered than any cacophony of bitterness. It harmonizes with God’s theme and crescendos above the dissonance of any oncoming threat. 

The song is a prayer, and the prayer is a song we are invited to sing to and with God. 

It is in the singing and the praying that we approach the place of peace. 

There is nothing that stands between us and the God of the Universe as we honestly pray. 

Psalm 38 Domine, ne in furore 

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; * 

do not punish me in your wrath. 

 For your arrows have already pierced me, * 

and your hand presses hard upon me. 

 There is no health in my flesh, 

because of your indignation; * 

there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin. 

 For my iniquities overwhelm me; * 

like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear 

 My wounds stink and fester * 

by reason of my foolishness. 

I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; * 

I go about in mourning all the day long. 

My loins are filled with searing pain; * 

there is no health in my body. 

I am utterly numb and crushed; * 

I wail, because of the groaning of my heart. 

O Lord, you know all my desires, * 

and my sighing is not hidden from you. 

My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, * 

and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me. 

My friends and companions draw back from my affliction; * 

my neighbors stand afar off. 

Those who seek after my life lay snares for me; * 

those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin 

and plot treachery all the day long. 

But I am like the deaf who do not hear, * 

like those who are mute and who do not open their mouth. 

I have become like one who does not hear * 

and from whose mouth comes no defense. 

For in you, O Lord, have I fixed my hope; * 

you will answer me, O Lord my God. 

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense, * 

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.” 

Truly, I am on the verge of falling, * 

and my pain is always with me. 

I will confess my iniquity * 

and be sorry for my sin. 

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty, * 

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me. 

Those who repay evil for good slander me, * 

because I follow the course that is right. 

O Lord, do not forsake me; * 

be not far from me, O my God. 

Make haste to help me, * 

 O Lord of my salvation. 

 

If God Had a Face  

 I repeat: There is nothing that stands between us and the God of the Universe as we honestly pray. 

This is because of who God is more than because of who we are. 

How do we know this God who is ready to hear us and receive us? 

Jesus, the Christ. 

 "Jesus Christ is the human face of God." - Jürgen Moltmann 

This is profound Christology, finding its basis in our epistle reading of the day from Colossians 1. 

It is good news according to Paul. 

It is transforming. 

 It draws in those who have been "afar." 

 "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things..." 

 At the center of the Christ event activity is the cross, reaching outward, reaching upward, drawing in, extending down, lifting up. 

This Christology shatters the walls of estrangement and explodes the remnants of all hostility. 

The call to action is to "continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. " 

 This is our epistle lesson for the day. 

Colossians 1:15-23 (NRSVU) 

He is the image of the invisible God, 

the firstborn of all creation; 

for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, 

things visible and invisible, 

whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-

- all things have been created through him and for him. 

He himself is before all things, 

and in him all things hold together. 

He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him-- provided that you 

I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

 Because Jesus, the Christ is beloved and is the very human face of God, humanity is accepted in him.

God’s Christology – My Beloved Son 

 Matthew 3:13-17 

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  

And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 

 God is well pleased with Jesus and Jesus brings us along to meet God at the place of grace and acceptance. This is Christology and “humanology” wrapped into one person and event. 

 

Art - David Prays for Deliverance, 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

 

 


Made Low and Crowned High

Psalm 8

We have been made low and crowned high.

It is a mystery that can only be explained when framed in the unconditional, covenant love of God for undeserving humanity.

The merciful love of God elevates us and causes us to behold His majesty in a whole new light.

We have been given dominion over, and the power to enjoy, all that God has made.

More important, we have been equipped with the capacity to see God in it all.

“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Psalm 8 (NRSV) Domine, Dominus noster

O LORD our Governor,
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Out of the mouths of infants and children
your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,
to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him?
the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels;
you adorn him with glory and honor;

You give him mastery over the works of your hands;
you put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen,
even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

O LORD our Governor,
how exalted is your Name in all the world!


Let's "Do" Lunch with Jesus

1024px-Floris_Claesz._van_Dyck_001

Sharing a meal is something intimate, conversational, relaxing,enjoyable, and community building.

Here are two, very similar messages  on being nintentionally inclusive about sharing meals, inclusive of Jesus and of others.

 

When I think about church, I think about the sentiments in this song.

And true enough, for the last several plus years, thinking and rethinking church has been on my agenda.

It is not to recreate as much as to rediscover whatwas and what was intended.

When church and p;ace intersect, I am singing these words.

A People Place by William J. Crocker, sung by Ken Medema, describing what the church ought to be and sometimes is not ...


"If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where do I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirits can take wing,
Where do I go to fly?
If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Where do I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
Where do I go to speak?
If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
Where can I go to be?
If this is not a place where I can try to learn and grow,
Where can I be just me? "


Times of Manna

undefined

When we have a diet of manna we are tempted to think that we work for it.

We sink into the assumption that our efforts are indespensible

We cover our minds with forgetfulness that every day, manna is a gift.

We turn legitimate work ethic into work ego.

We need rest from that -- a day of utter dependence.

We need a day of emptying, releasing, and reflecting.

"See the LORD has GIVEN you the sabbath."

Yes, it was a specific gift to a specific people, but it was also a broad principle for humanity.

The story is a lesson for living and the law is a sign-post for eternal and temporal truth.

When we live off yesterday's manna, we are reminded that today's manna fell from heaven and all we did was gather it.

It expands our hearts of humility, generosity, and trust.

We can engage in futile arguments over calendar questions, definitions, and fine points of interpretation or we can embrace the gift and lesson of sabbath rest ... and enter in.

You will have a sabbath whether or not you observe one. You will either die early of stress or lose years to anxiety, and unproductive flailing in an effort to create manna that only God can give.

Exodus 16:22-36
On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.'"

So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none."

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. The LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? See! The LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day."

So the people rested on the seventh day. The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Moses said, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'"

And Moses said to Aaron, "Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations."

As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. An omer is a tenth of an ephah.


Monday Night Ponderings from Journal Entries

Do You Journal?

What Matters

 

In the course of a day, you have many thoughts.

Some matter much, matter more, matter enough to remember. If they should,l be remembered, might they not be written down somewhere?

May they not even be shared at some point?

Here are a few of my thoughts over the last fifteen years.

What they have in common in April 8.

That is when I wrote them down.

 

 

Doubts in the Midst

Even Moses doubted in the midst of the mission.

Even while performing signs and wonders, having seen what he had seen and having experienced what he had experienced, he doubted and questioned God.

But he dealt directly with God about the matter. He did not skirt the issue or complain to others. He took the matter to YHWH Himself and this was also a part of that later reflection that he would speak to God like no other had before, face to face.

When he brought the matter to the Almighty, he was heard and he was answered. Greater glory would come by letting the process play itself out.

"Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, 'O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.'"

"But the LORD said to Moses, 'Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.'" -
(Exodus 5:22-6:1 ESV)

Forgiveness and Getting By

God does not let us get by with our sins; He forgives them. That is two different things.
 
Being forgiven is not "getting by" with something.
 
It is a mystery that, for the follower of Jesus, makes sense in the drama and reality of the cross and which always leads to awe and worship.
" O LORD our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Exalt the LORD our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the LORD our God is holy!"
(Psalm 99:8-9 ESV)
 
But As for Me
 
"But as for me ..." It is my response to truth for which I am either culpable or commendable. I am not in charge of anyone else's opinions or choices. I can care, but I cannot control. I can converse, but I cannot coerce. I can seek to convince the mind, but I cannot convict the heart. Neither need I be swayed by the resistance of another. I need not the validation of peers in order to believe that which resonates truth in our hearts. We can relax in this because trust is resting in God and waiting for Him.
 
" But as for me, I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me."
(Micah 7:7 ESV)
 
Justify, Why?
 
The longer we live in and with faith, the less we feel compelled to justify, prove, or vindicate God for being God. We come to rest, not only in God's goodness, but in the unshakable reality of the truth God embodies and exercises. Truth shall been known and shall not be tilted nor shifted by our words or opinions.
 
Sometimes we just need to wait until it is made known and not be rattled by the rantings of nations or pseudo nations.
 
" Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases."
(Psalm 115:2-3 ESV)
 
No photo description available.
 
There is more to do than can be done.
A smorgasbord of fun.
The race is longer than can be run.
Face it; we are under the gun.
So ... do what you can while you can.
 
"As long as it is day, I must do the work of Him Who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” - John 9:4
 
"Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind.
Sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all of these in Thee, I find.
Oh Lamb of God, I come."
".... waiting not ...
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot .... I come."
I come.
"Just as I am. Thy love, unknown has broken every barrier down.
Now to be Thine, yea Thine alone, oh Lamb of God, I come."
I come.
 
We fall; we rise.
We are adjudicated and found guilty and then ...
The Judge steps down from the bench to plead our case.
It is as if we cannot lose; every loss becomes a win.
" Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication."
(Micah 7:8-9 ESV)


 
There is so much more abiding I must learn and practice, so much more.
 
" Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5 ESV)

Holy Hope

Holy hope

Refer to I Peter 1:1-16

Visionary people are holy and hopeful people.

It is hard to talk about vision without mentioning hope. And it is difficult to find a great deal of hope without seeing a manifestation of some type of holiness in the lives of those who invest everything they have and are in the source of that hope.

Holiness is about setting aside something for one and only one use. To do that with one’s whole heart, one must be rooted and grounded in trust and faith that the reason for hope is strong and stable.

Our confidence is not contingent upon sight nor is it upon our flesh and blood resolve. Guarantees are not the food of faith and absolute assurance does not produce authentic Christian hope.

Rather, hope produces assurance.

When you have hope, you commit everything and focus upon God’s promises and calling.

That kind of holiness, consecration, and giving values the vision that God has given us above every other desire.

In giving, committing, and entrusting ourselves to God, hope grows in intensity and strength.

See the vision through the eyes of hope, faith, and holiness.

Let the vision fill your heart and head and let it inform all of your decisions.

Never again act or choose without a clear understanding of the hope we have in Jesus Christ for every challenge and situation.  

Care-Free Living in a World of Cares 

“…Casting all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.” – I Peter 5:7

Imagine yourself adrift upon a sea of trouble, tossed furiously by its waves and sinking under the load of care. Along comes Jesus inviting you to cast every care upon him and guide your ship into the current of his protective care.

What nobility would there be in continuing your present course, in being capsized by the waves, or sunk by the load? It would be presumptuous and foolish to refuse his rescue, but we refuse throughout the course of our lives preferring to carry our concerns alone as if there were some rewards for useless anxiety at the end of the journey.

No one is totally exempt from anxiety. Some people have learned to manage it while others ignore it. Still others labor under its oppressive load and are haunted by its tormenting voice. Anxieties, worry, and care haunt those who lives are dominated by worry and compulsively dwell on “negative faith.” It is negative because it focuses on the worst. It is faith because it believes that no matter what, that which is most dreaded will come to pass.

The answer to anxiety is neither management entirely, willful ignorance nor oppression. The answer is to cast it upon the loving, strong arms of a God, who cares for us and is adequate to meet all of our needs in spite of us,

This great word of comfort is preceded by verse 6 and can be accomplished only by first doing what it commands.  It is a call to humble ourselves under God’s almighty hand so that the lifting up can and will be done by Him. When I walk among the wonders of nature, I become aware of two great theological truths. First, there is a God.  Second, it’s not me. I must come to understand my inadequacy to change the circumstances that are beyond my control and agonize my soul. Once I have come to grips with that reality and humble myself in his presence, He can lift me above the fear to positive faith where I can know the joy of the companion verse to this

"Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved" -Psalm 55:22 

The psalmist knew that when the humble person casts his or her burdens on God, His sustaining power kicks in and the righteous simply do not fall. We may be shaken, bombarded, assaulted, beaten, bent, swayed, scarred, and wounded, but we remain standing.

Might bad things happen? Of course. You can pretty much count on them. Will they defeat us?

Never!

Cast those cares on God. He cares for you.

Turn the pages back to John 14.

Picture the upper room and the somber mood of twelve friends hearing the ominous words from their Master that He will soon die and that they will soon fail Him.

“Not I,” protests Peter.

“You will,” declares Jesus, “But let not your heart be troubled …”

And then He offers hope, that He is going to prepare a place for them, that He will come again to receive them to Himself, that He will ever be with them and they with Him, and that they really do know where He is going.”

At that point, Thomas interrupts, “No we really don’t know where you are going. How can we know? Show us the way.”

Thomas felt that in order to follow Jesus, he must become more of an expert in navigational theology to traverse the diverse paths leading to God. It was a frightening prospect, “How can we know the way?”

Indeed, how can we?

Jesus simplified the answer. He would be their compass. He would be their guide. It was not necessary for them to know anything more that Him. If they would follow Him, He would provide the way, the truth, and the life within His own person.

The message of Jesus to us as we stumble in the darkness of uncertain ambiguity is, “Follow me.”

He will lead us through the darkness. He will lead us to our eternal home. We can trust Him and follow Him.

Grace Will Lead Me Home

“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” – John 14:2 

Home! Home, sweet, home! That’s where we are going. That is where we belong. Anything short of home is still part of the journey. Anything that is part of the journey is subject to dangers, toils, and snares. But after the journey is complete, those things will have no power at all.

Jesus went away to prepare a place for us, a place with plenty of room and place where he himself will be present.

He promised to come to get us when He is ready for us to join Him. We don’t have to keep checking on our reservations and we don’t have to worry that we will miss the summons.

Let not your hearts be troubled,” he said.

There is no room for fretting; just trusting. There is no way to become worthy; it’s all by grace.

I was lost once. I didn’t think I’d ever find my way home. I didn’t. Home found me. So, it is with grace leading us home. So, it is with Him coming for us. Wherever we are at the time, he will find us. We may feel we are buried under a mountain of ambiguity and complexity, but if we are his, he will find us. We may sense that we are not ready; our ducks are not neatly lined up in a row. Yet, if we are in the faith, it is not our preparation that counts, but his.

He prepares the place; we trust Him and follow Him wherever the journey leads, meandering through dangers, toils, and snares. We follow without certainty as to duration or difficulty. We follow and sometimes we get sidetracked, but He puts us back on the path.

Where we are, he is and where he is, we will be.

And grace will lead us home.

The Indwelling Spirit

“… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” From John 14:17

God is whispering in our ears, “Give me your hands and let me move them in my rhythm.”

God thinks of everything. God's purposes are complex, but not complicated. God's plan is to work in and through believers to accomplish God's work in the world. To do this, the Holy One intends to inhabit us.

The Holy Spirit is the very presence of Jesus among us today. It is by the Holy Spirit that we become the Body of Christ in the world and that the world is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment and hears the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Knowing that they might consider that a once and for all filling and forget the need for constant refreshment and refilling, he told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. As we celebrate Pentecost this year, let us focus on the necessity of the Spirit-filled life if we are to see God accomplish great things in and through us.

When Jesus called Paul, he had a plan for Him. But Paul needed the power of the Holy Spirit in his life to realize his calling and act upon it.

When Jesus restored Peter after breathing the Spirit into him, He questioned him about his love. Three times, he commissioned Peter to feed His sheep knowing that if Peter were to act upon his love and follow the Master, he would need the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.

By faith, allow the Spirit of God who dwells in you to overflow within you and spill out His blessings to the world.

Today, God is calling us to the next level of following, serving, and bearing witness in the world. We need the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have no choice but to rely on the Promise and Presence of the Spirit.

Today's Readings  NRSVU

Psalm 1
Beatus vir qui non abiit

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Psalm 2
Quare fremuerunt gentes?

Why are the nations in an uproar? *
Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?

Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,
and the princes plot together, *
against the Lord and against his Anointed?

“Let us break their yoke,” they say; *
“let us cast off their bonds from us.”

He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; *
the Lord has them in derision.

Then he speaks to them in his wrath, *
and his rage fills them with terror.

“I myself have set my king *
upon my holy hill of Zion.”

Let me announce the decree of the Lord: *
he said to me, “You are my Son;
this day have I begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance *
and the ends of the earth for your possession.

You shall crush them with an iron rod *
and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”

And now, you kings, be wise; *
be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the Lord with fear, *
and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish; *
for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all *
who take refuge in him!

Psalm 3
Domine, quid multiplicati

Lord, how many adversaries I have! *
how many there are who rise up against me!

How many there are who say of me, *
“There is no help for him in his God.”

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me; *
you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

I call aloud upon the Lord, *
and he answers me from his holy hill;

I lie down and go to sleep; *
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

I do not fear the multitudes of people *
who set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O Lord; set me free, O my God; *
surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face,
you will break the teeth of the wicked.

Deliverance belongs to the Lord. *
Your blessing be upon your people!

Exodus 14:21-31
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.

At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty.

The Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt."

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers."

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

1 Peter 1:1-12
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-- being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look!

John 14:[1-7]8-17

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going."

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also."

"From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."

Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ’show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."

 


Moments in the Light

Casey-horner-265UjRsLgd8-unsplash (1)

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

The mystics have "studied" the works of the LORD. They have engrossed their hearts, minds, and eyes in the intense delight of sheer observation.

The reverence of a John Muir, the childlike joy of a St. Francis, the eager eye of an artist studying the works of the LORD humble me.

More delight and less compulsion to be right may be the path to insight. Today, LORD, may I bask for a few moments in the light of Your revealed glory and simply worship.

" Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them."
(Psalm 111:2 ESV)


Not in Vain

Not in vain

 

"Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - I Corinthians 15:58 

We gathered in the shade of an old oak tree that stood sentinel over the neatly placed markers that signified the lives of ten or twelve souls whose earthly remains were interred beneath its shadows.

We joined hands as we sang together:

God be with you till we meet again, till we meet at Jesus feet.”

Minnie had labored hard for many years in God’s vineyard. It was time to say goodbye and consign her to that sacred place of memory that occupies such precious real estate in every person’s heart.

Her soul was safe. She had committed that decades before to the care of a redeeming Savior.

Her body, beyond our care, we committed to the earth.

I opened her well-worn Bible to a passage she loved.

“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

Thoughts of her unsung heroism passed from one person to the next with memories of kind words and deeds, encouraging notes, and humble service. Minnie had achieved neither fame nor fortune in this life. She had written no books, created no fine art, nor founded any great institutions.

She had simply loved those who came across her path and lived a life of quiet devotion to God and others. This was her life’s work; this was her great contribution and even now, it was bearing fruit in the lives of those who would carry forth her legacy from this place.

God loses nothing. God wastes no effort, no labor, and no tears. Not one moment of our lives is misplaced or discarded. We who honored Minnie that day were reminded, by her example, to be steadfast, consistent, and abounding in God’s work.

Her labor in the Lord was not in vain; nor is yours.

 

 


God’s Delight

Smile of god

“For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people...” – Psalm 149:4a


God cares for your soul.

Do you care for the souls of others?

Do you care for your own soul?

Sometimes the way we treat our physical, emotional, and spiritual health is an affront to God. The soul is the totality of a person and God takes pleasure in all that you are. For you to decide that some aspect of your life is not worthy of being nurtured is not an act of sacrificial worship but of negligence.

We have seen that God cares for our souls and that we must exercise care as well – for our own lives and for the lives of others. Now we see the reason: God takes great delight in his people. He receives pleasure from his relationship with His children.

It is hard to fathom, but it is true.

Have you ever given someone you love a precious gift, something that you have received from another generation and a passing on through that person to subsequent generations? That gift is not really the possession of the person holding it as much as it is the heritage of the family line. You expect the recipient to care for it, protect it, and pass it on with care. You delight in seeing it displayed and honored. You are offended when it is treated with careless disregard for its significance and handled with common contempt.

It is a very imperfect example, but it points to some truth. We are not our own, the scripture says, but bought with a price. We belong to God and have been made trustees of our lives in time and space. God’s purpose is to enjoy us and have a love relationship with us. He expects us to care for our own lives and nurture our souls with his Word, with fellowship, with healthy food and habits, and with life affirming relationships.

It grieves the heart of God when we do not take care of ourselves.

It also grieves the heart of God when we do not nurture and take delight in his other children. He expects us to see the loveliness of other people. When we find that difficult, he promises to help us and to love them through us.

Let us worship God by taking pleasure in him, in our own lives as consecrated to him, and in his children.


George Herbert - Poet - Rise Heart!

George herbert birthday

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=QKGLvRPe_V0&si=SMW_z7GSjMgrpmyK

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
         In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
         To do it as for Thee.
 
         Not rudely, as a beast,
         To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
         And give it his perfection.
 
         A man that looks on glass,
         On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
         And then the heav'n espy.
 
         All may of Thee partake:
         Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—"for Thy sake"—
         Will not grow bright and clean.
 
         A servant with this clause
         Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
         Makes that and th' action fine.
 
         This is the famous stone
         That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
         Cannot for less be told.

Death

Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
                           Nothing but bones,
      The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.
 
For we considered thee as at some six
                           Or ten years hence,
      After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.
 
We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
                         Where we did find
      The shells of fledge souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.
 
But since our Savior’s death did put some blood
                           Into thy face,
      Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.
 
For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
                           As at Doomsday;
      When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.
 
Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
                           Half that we have
      Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poore:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
 
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
 


Still Dreaming

Dream on

Dreaming is the mental and spiritual activity of visualizing something invisible. perhaps. spiritual, that has not yet been actualized, but to which we are committed.

Welcome to the Dream Factory.

I decided to slightly revise and repost the first post I ever  published on this blog.

It was October 10, 2006.

There has been some water pass over, under, around, and through any number of bridges.

I was coaching someone slightly older than myself the other day and encouraged him to keep dreaming. I let him know that I was still dreaming as well.

These days, my dreams are bigger than they used to be.

They extend beyond my lifetime.

They require the next generation and the generation after that to carry them out.

I dream. On a restless summer night in a pool of my own perspiration, I dream.

In the quiet slumber of an October evening, I dream.

In the quickening of the morning and the settling of the evening, I dream.

And when I am awakened and as I move through the appointed day, my dreams do not die.

Yes, they are tamed by civility and harnessed by realism, but they persist through the day.

My dreams have been cooled by the drenching rain of discouragement, but not quenched.

They have been temporarily diverted by the icy onslaught of negative criticism and stilled by the paralyzing power of self doubt, but they emerge from the cold and persist.

I dream on.

I refuse to stop dreaming.

I do not subscribe entirely to the “All your dreams can come true; it can happen to you if you’re young at heart” philosophy. But I believe that our core dreams can drive us on to their own fulfillment in us as we submit to the One who has given them to us and who alone knows how to interpret them in our lives.

I believe that we were made to dream and that our dreams are the impulses that alert us to our significance. Yes, dreams can become distorted, self-centered, and wrongly inflated, but those distortions point to a deeper reality. Just as perversions of reality validate reality, dreams off center cry out for centering.

I dream on because my dreams are the impulses that validate my living. They remind me that I am not an accident, that my life has meaning, and that I am a part of a larger dream.

 And if dreaming is so vital for me, I want to help others dream and refine their dreams, fleshing them out with goals and strategies, reinforcing them with prayer and conforming them to the divine will from whence their essence is derived.

I dream of a life as an encourager of the dreams that have been planted in your heart. That is why I will spend the rest of my life and ministry as a coach to those who dream.

 I am not where I want to be. But I believe that where I am is not where I am going.

 I dream on.

 Come join me..

Since those who wait on the LORD renew strength and youth without weariness, perhaps that waiting and working and dreaming actually defines youth itself. If that is so, then maybe I do believe that, “All your dreams can come true; it can happen to you if you’re young at heart."

 

 


Resurrection Dawn

Ressureeection dawn

Grab your Easter basket, put on your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, and don your Easter duds. Hop in your car and head to the nearest church, but stop a moment along the way and reflect. You can go through all the motions of Easter and fill yourself with Easter goodies and still be carrying perfume to a hole in a rock if you do not believe that this celebration is more than a seasonal exercise in dead ritual.

Life began and ended in a garden and it is in a garden that life began again. It can for you today as well! The tomb is empty and the earth is full of the glory of God. Messages and indicators of death surround us, but this day, and all who have met Him alive in the garden testify to this reality: Life overcomes death

Come to the garden!

“If a man die, shall he live again?” (from Job 14:14)

The age-old cry of humankind is for eternal meaning. Is there anything beyond this world of pain and tears that brings meaning to these moments while transcending them? Is there a life beyond the grave or is all futile?

Perhaps Job did not really know the answer, but he did have a glimpse. We do know that, unlike most men and women, Job was willing to serve God for nothing. He was willing to worship the Lord with or without reward or promise of life.

Job’s God was not running for office. His status did not depend upon human referendum. He was God and that was that. Because He was God, He deserved praise. Job would come into a deeper understanding of God’s Sovereignty, but the seeds were present even before his testing.

As is true of Job’s pressing questions, the answers come fully in Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the final statement of death’s final defeat. For the one who follows Jesus, there is hope beyond death. John said that he was writing his gospel so that we might know we had eternal life.

There are countless men and women in our communities yearning for answers to the ultimate questions of life. God sets Job up as the ultimate example of an earnest seeker. He records Job’s search so that we might identify and be led toward a relationship with Jesus Christ. Job’s story is our story. His yearning is our yearning. His needs are our needs — not to be free of pain and discomfort, but to see God face to face and find our answers in Him.

“ For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven …” II Corinthians 5:1–2

 


It was on a Saturday

The Dark Silence of God

Holy Saturday, Stepping into the Darkness with Jesus


Photo by Ruel Calitis on Unsplash

The point of Saturday is that God enters our darkest darkness, our most silent silence, our deepest sorrow, our most fearful horrors, our harrowing despair, our relentless guilt and self-loathing loneliness.

God enters boldly, willingly, humbly, and moved by nothing more nor less than love.

He enters having checked one more time to see if there is another way.

God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, God in Christ, suffering, God in Christ, buried and laid aside, this God in Christ, is preaching to the dead.

And in that timeless, timely entering into the realm of the dead, He still preaches and draws those who are dead toward a glimmer of hope of life when only a glimmer is all that is needed to open the door of faith and hope.

God has entered my darkness and your darkness, our lonesome solitary darkness and our collective darkness and … in our bleakest moment, we see enough light to calm us and cause us to wait one more day.

One more day … the dawn.

 

If a man die, shall he live again? ( from Job 14:14)

Yahrtzeit candle, a candlee, lit on the Hebrew anniversary of a loved one’s death. Thanks to Epilongo.

The age-old cry of humankind is for eternal meaning. Is there anything beyond this world of pain and tears that brings meaning to these moments while transcending them? Is there a life beyond the grave or is all futile?

Perhaps Job did not really know the answer, but he did have a glimpse. We do know that, unlike most men and women, Job was willing to serve God for nothing. He was willing to worship the Lord with or without reward or promise of life.

Job’s God was not running for office. His status did not depend upon human referendum. He was God and that was that. Because He was God, He deserved praise. Job would come into a deeper understanding of God’s Sovereignty, but the seeds were present even before his testing.

As is true of Job’s pressing questions, the answers come fully in Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the final statement of death’s final defeat. For the one who follows Jesus, there is hope beyond death. John said that he was writing his gospel so that we might know we had eternal life.

There are countless men and women in our communities yearning for answers to the ultimate questions of life. God sets Job up as the ultimate example of an earnest seeker. He records Job’s search so that we might identify and be led toward a relationship with Jesus Christ. Job’s story is our story. His yearning is our yearning. His needs are our needs — not to be free of pain and discomfort, but to see God face to face and find our answers in Him.

“ For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven …” — II Corinthians 5:1–2
 
Easter Sunday Reflections on a Dark and Holy Saturday

Posted on a Saturday night, years ago, with a call that perpetually continues into Sunday and Monday.

Incarnational embodiment of the missional cross-call of Jesus requires a movement through the laments of Saturday and a daily dying to again take up the cross of the burdens of suffering humanity.

There is no room for an ethic of self-preservation and self-satisfaction at the cost of the marginalized, the wounded, the sinner, or those who most represent that ugliness from which we most desperately hide our eyes.

It demands that we seek to hear the voices of those whose attitudes and arguments we believe we have processed and refuted.

It is a call to stand beside the discredited, the disenfranchised, the disinherited, and yes, the disrespectful as well as the disrespected.

It requires of those who would follow Jesus, something more.

We cannot be satisfied to be right.

We cannot be comfortable that we are justified, sanctified, verified, certified, or codified in the validity of our positional righteousness.

We must step into the sorrow of another and go beyond what is expected.

We must become vulnerable enough to stand beside those whose presence may place us in danger of being misunderstood and maligned.

Our chief identification on this earth must be with whom Jesus sympathized, empathized, and called to be brothers and sisters. We must stand with compassion before the Syro-Phoenician, the leper, the tax collector, the adulterer, the demoniac, the Samaritan, the woman of questionable standing, the enemy centurion, and unclean woman with an issue of blood — the hungry, imprisoned, poor, and naked — the company of beloved souls, the lost and found of the Kingdom of God.

It is a bias of the highest order and the most radical sort.

It is the demand of discipleship, the cost paid by one crucified between two thieves to enter into the dark realms of death and lead captivity captive.

Despised, rejected, and defiled and we ask to be excused in favor of a more respectable, dignified, and comfortable religion.

And what of truth telling?

I have nothing to say to my neighbor from afar that is worth saying or hearing.

But if I stand with him or her and can look into that one’s eye, soul to soul, there is no truth I cannot speak in love. And if I weep over my neighbor, my neighbor can hear and perhaps, receive.

We are called to have the mind of Christ, the compassion of Christ in these closing hours of Dark Saturday as we lament and sit and wait through the Requiem of supreme sacrifice.

Amen.

 
Visiting with Peter in the Vortex of Time, Looking Backward, Inward, Forward.

Before the rooster crows,
three times thou wilt deny.
Three times you’ll disavow my name
and swear by earth and sky.
Three times, not one or two or three,
you’ll vow we’ve never met
Three times you’ll protest, shout, and curse,
three times, three times, and yet …

And yet I know your love is real
as real as fear, and as this night.
I know that you’ll return to me.
I know you’ll see the light.

I know these things and know know them deeply
and you were meant to follow.
But this is the pill of bitter pain
that you must somehow swallow.

Three times you will deny me now
though now you vow to stay the course.
I know that you believe your strength
but this you cannot win by force.
Three times you’ll drink the cup of failure
and choke upon its grief.
The cock will crow and you will weep
But there will come a moment of relief.

I will meet you in a morning
when your head is hung in shame.
I’ll meet you by the seashore
and you will call my name.

I’ll meet you where your pain meets mine
and walk the miles with you once more.
I’ll ask you once again, my friend,
“Do you love me, like you said before?”

This time, Peter, don’t you know
that love is calling ever stronger?
It calls the servant who feeds the sheep.
It calls to walk a little longer.

Three times you nodded, “No. No. No.”
Though just before you were so brave.
Today I tell you, “Go. Go. Go.”
Your “yes” will take you to a grave.
But you will go, though bound and tied
to bear a cross in a distant place.
You choose the path for you choose me.
I go with you … No more disgrace.

 

Take It, Eat it, Remember, Drink All of It - Maundy Thursday Meditations

Last supper kertoly

Art - Kernstok, Károly, 1873-1940. Last Supper, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. 

https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57337 

The Table of Love

“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. “ – John 13:1

Jennifer was on the phone with her best friend, Lillian as her mother, Sue, decided to eavesdrop. The subject was the love lives of their friends and acquaintances. Amidst the giggles and gasps, hearing only one side of the conversation, a tapestry of love found and lost began to be painted.  John was in love with Sally even though he was in love with Myrtle last week. She told him that she was no longer in love with him, so he had to find someone new. Sue blushed and considered the “talk” she would be having with her daughter later that evening.

Jesus was no faint-hearted lover. He was not subject to likes, dislikes, and mood swings. He did not start things and leave them dangling. He understood that human love could be flighty and fleeting. But His love was eternal and unconditional. He wanted His disciples to understand that and internalize it. If there was one message He wanted to leave with them, it was the message of His love.

So, he took a towel and washed their feet. It was not only a menial task, but one that could be tedious and disgusting. In the moments that followed, He taught them more about how to receive and give His love than they could absorb in one sitting. They would reflect upon His words and deeds for the rest of their lives as we do today.

Whenever we come to the Lord’s Table, it is a table of love. It is a reminder that having loved us, Jesus’ love continued to the cross and, from the cross, through the resurrection and into eternity.

O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
(George Matheson, 1882)

Knowing What Jesus Is Doing

“What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know thereafter.” – from John 13:7

The great wonder of the Christian life is that we can come to know what our Lord is doing. We don’t start out knowing; we come to know “thereafter.”

There is a bowl at Jesus’ feet and a towel in His hand and He is doing the unthinkable, taking on the role of a common house slave and scrubbing the filthy feet of His disciples. Peter is resistant. He cannot cope with the indignation to the Master. After all, there had been some terrible oversight that no servant had been scheduled for this task. He is offended for Jesus that this menial role had seemingly been thrust upon Him, but He was, as yet, unwilling to take it upon Himself.

He did not know then that Jesus had thrust it upon Himself. He much less knew why. He could neither know nor imagine that He would take the bowel and towel himself in the days to come and embark upon the life of a servant.

None of it makes sense in the old way of thinking that says a person must assert himself or herself and claw a way to the top of the heap. None of it figures for the man or woman trapped in the faded notions of superiority, rank, caste, or position-endowed significance.

What was Jesus doing? He was teaching, leading, demonstrating, and modeling a new way of thinking and a fresh lifestyle that had to be caught more than taught. He was introducing His disciples to another way of looking at leadership and meaning for life. He was elevating the lowest to the highest, the last to the first, and the spirit of servanthood to the place of greatness.

It was a preamble to the cross and only by reflecting on the cross would Peter or any of us, ever begin to know at Jesus was and is doing.

Master

“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” - John 13:13

“…  The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” - John 11:28

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.” - John 13:14

“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” - John 20:16

He is our Master, who so identifies Himself. But he is also the Master who calls us by name and washes our feet as a lesson to us that the true Master is he who serves.  He is our Master and Lord and example. If any could demand mindless obedience, it is he.

From the beginning of His ministry as He began to call out disciples, He was recognized as the Master-Teacher of life. When he came to Bethany for Lazarus and called for His sisters, it was as the Master. When he gathered with His friends in the upper room (for he had come to call them friends), it was the Master who bent down to perform the role of a slave.

Then, at the garden tomb, the one who had endured the indignity and pain of the cross called for Mary. And she recognized him as Master.

It is not our knowledge of Him or recognition of His position that makes Him the Master, but His knowledge of us and His call in our lives. The Risen Christ stands before you. He is calling your name.  Can you see him? Can you hear him? What shall you call him?

Acknowledge Him today as the only rightful Master of your life.

Glorified

“Now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in Him.” – from John 13:31

You must take it all as a package or there is no glory. Jesus understood that these final days were one great redemptive event – from mingling with the crowds and teaching them, to provoking the Sanhedrin with His very presence, to the upper room, the washing of feet, the prayers in the garden, and on to the cross. It was the process of God glorifying Himself in His Son. It was all part of the package: His life, death, and resurrection were one magnificent demonstration of the power of God.

Jesus had spoken similar words when some gentiles had come looking for Him. He responded that the coming of these men was an indication that He was soon to be lifted from the earth and to draw all men unto Him. Lifting could mean exaltation or crucifixion. In this case, it meant both. He moves from tragedy to triumph in a split-second intersection of time and eternity.

This time he speaks of being glorified as He confronts the one who will betray Him. This is strange to our warped thinking. But this is Jesus who donned the apron and wiped His disciple’s feet. This is the one who taught that the path to greatness is servanthood. This is the Master of great reversals.

Our Lord never lost sight of the big picture. He didn’t stop with cross in His panoramic view of His mission. He didn’t even end the story with rising from the dead. He taught His friends that He was going to the Father through this path of glory and that He would come to them in a new way to indwell them, that they might do even greater works. He promised further that He would come again visibly to introduce a grand new eternal day. It was about glory. It is still about glory.

Take a walk in the garden this morning where there is an empty hole in a rock, a barren place where death once dwelt. What do you notice but emptiness? He is not there. He is risen! The work of redemption is done. It was worth it all. The pain and the suffering have accomplished their ends. He is alive and we can live also. What name do you give to your pain of the moment, your struggle of this hour? Call it suffering or call it glory. It all depends upon whether you view it from the present or from resurrection.

Now is the Son of man glorified

Urgency

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. -Exodus 12:33

Immature people act upon urges and are, thus, moved by a spirit of urgency. It is the inner prompting of the flesh to act in haste or panic. Like the Egyptians, we are tempted to react in horror to the manifestations of God’s power rather than respond in faith and obedience.

Urgency is a poor substitute for priority. When we establish an understanding of what is truly important based upon God’s abiding principles and mission, we need to stick with it. The reality is that the moment we prioritize our ministries, diversions will emerge, distractions will appear, and urgency will shout in our ears, “Stop and take care of me NOW!”

We need to be able to say “no” to urgency any time it steps outside the boundaries of our priorities. Yes, there will be emergencies that must be faced as they arise. There will be extraneous details that must be handled. The problem arises when every urgent matter presents itself with the same emergency motif and ministry life becomes one great series of emergencies. We have fire departments to put out fires.

What is your focus? Make sure it receives a prominent place on your calendar and that you do your best to follow your calendar. Leave time for incidentals. Leave cushion for emergencies. Live by grace because you won’t meet all of your goals. But, know this, if you heed every urgent cry, you will meet none of them because your life will be controlled by something far less than your God-given priorities. Let us live lives that are driven by God’s purposes through us. Let us patiently and with great determination, allow everything else to fall away.

Unspeakable Gift

“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward    I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” – Psalm 116:12-13

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” -  II Corinthians 9:15

Listen to the cry of the psalmist: “How can I give anything to God that would come even close to expressing my gratitude for all His blessings.  What can I bring Him that He has not first given me?”

“I cannot even describe the matchless gift He has given,” Paul seems to say, “but I thank God.”

Here is the power of our commitment to give of our resources and our selves: God's indescribable gift. It is His gracious "givingness" that informs, inspires, and infuses us with the wherewithal to be giving people with the capacity to make and keep commitments. In fact, any commitment we make to God is in the form of a trust. We know that we are incapable of the necessary follow-through, but He is and is faithful to continue His work in us as we express the desire of our hearts to Him in commitment. First, He gave and then He lights a fire of grace within us that makes us giving people who are committed to Him.

What shall we give Him? Let us bring Him hearts that are prepared to receive His grace. Let us offer our old lives in exchange for His new life.  Let us take the gift of salvation and call upon His Name. We can bring Him no greater gift than our willingness to receive all that He offers through His love.

We cannot begin to speak of His saving goodness, but we can give Him thanks in spirit and in word. On this Thanksgiving, thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

The Hour I First Believed

“I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted” – Psalm 116:10

“ We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” – II Corinthians 4:13

When did believing begin for you? Can you trace its progression through the stages of development? Can you identify a moment or an hour when all came to fruition and declare that as the hour you first believed?

For most of us the progression is a series of disjointed memories, but we can go back to a time when we made a statement of faith, a profession of our belief. That was, for us, the hour we first believed, and in that hour, grace was most precious.

Let us return to that hour and renew our faith. Let us return to that moment and reaffirm our commitments.

Let us return to that time and recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. Let us go back and remember how precious that grace appeared.

Let us gaze upon the beauty of grace as we once beheld it.

Let us receive grace anew with joyful hearts.

Let us be thankful again, as we once were, for the marvel of it all. Undeserving, unlovely, unrepentant, unbelieving as we were, grace invaded our lives. Everywhere we turned, we encountered grace. We sought to flee from its pursuit only to be hunted down at every turn by the Hound of Heaven.

And then we stopped running. That was we hour we first believed. And as Francis Thompson testified, we heard His voice:

"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."

And we joined in the song of Charles H. Gabriel,

“How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be.
How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love to me.”

We Show Forth

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” – I Corinthians 11:26

As we eat and drink earthy elements of simple substance, we proclaim an eternal truth that transcends all formality and exalts the lowliest of deeds to the loftiest meaning.

Every day, we take a little nourishment to feed our bodies and drink a little something to refresh us in our thirst. Without food, we have no energy and our cells cannot reproduce. We die. Without water, we quickly dehydrate and our bodies cannot sustain life.

Jesus said that when we eat the bread we are to think of His body and to do so in remembrance of Him, His life giving, life affirming, and yet lifeless body on the cross, given for us. Certainly we do so in anticipation of His resurrected body on the third day and His living body on earth beginning at Pentecost. But nothing erases the image of His broken body given for us.

We drink the cup and the sweetness of the grape does not cloud the memory of His poured out blood. We are to “drink ye all of it” as a reminder that He poured out all of His blood for us. Without the shedding of blood, sin remains. Without blood in our veins, we have no life. We drink willingly and reverently and remember Him with gratitude and love.

But Paul says that every time we do this, we are making a visible announcement to the world that He is coming again in His glorified body. He promised to come to us and He has in the Spirit and He will in person. He promised to never leave us and He never has. He promised to prepare a place for us and come again and receive us to Himself and that is what we show forth every time we celebrate His presence at His table.

 

 

 


It Is Prayer Time

Prayer is our humble answer
Everything is a prompt to prayer, every observation, every thought, every event, every circumstance. Laught, tears, disgust, appreciation, sinsults - I could go on - All of these shout in my ears, "It is time to pray! God is here wand waiting for you to start.
 
God comes ... into the scattered dust of our existence and there is something metallic in us and magnetic in Truth that draws us from randomness to reality and purpose.
 
Sometimes, it is an angel voice that calls and sometimes our own random seeking that draws, but always, always, always, there is an invasion of divinity into our little conclaves of humanity that speaks with clarity ....
 
If we will hear, we will hear.
 
"Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise." = Brother Lawrence
 
No photo description available.
 
And, On Another Topic ...
 
Is it urgent? If so, what is the source of the urge? Is it essential? Then of what is it the essence? Things are not always as locked in as they seem. This is the soil in which I will prayerfully dig at the crest of a new day. Perhaps I will hit bedrock
 
"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
(Psalm 82:3-4 ESV)
------------------
It is in finding the message and meaning in our circumstances that make them most worthwhile.
 
 
 
 
 

Rejoice! Selected Readings and Reflections for Palm Sunday

Rejoice Greatly

Rejoice!

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” -Zechariah 9:9

It was Palm Sunday. No one knew it was Palm Sunday. Only years later would it be called that, but years before, the day had been foreshadowed.

The King would come; the donkey would bear His weight; the daughters of Zion would rejoice.

And when He came, He would be just and lowly, but with Him, He would bring salvation. And that is exactly what happened so many years ago. Jesus climbed on the donkey and rode into Jerusalem welcomed by the Hosanna shouts of the people. They lined the path and spread the palm branches and he rode on.

Cheers accompanied His grand and humble entry accentuating the contrasts of his passion. Cheers would become jeers, and welcoming would give way to rejection. Coronation would take place on a cross of pain. His crown would be made of thorns. His scepter would be the rod that tore into his flesh. His throne would be Golgotha, the hill of death. The announcement of his reign would be nailed above his head on the cross by His executioner. Contrasts abounded.

Judgment would look a lot like forgiveness and forgiveness would be accomplished as God judged his own Son for the sins of the world.

It is Palm Sunday again and we cannot celebrate it in its fullest meaning without looking beyond it to the cross and beyond the cross to the resurrection. The great cause for rejoicing we have, as Zechariah predicted, is that on that beast rode the salvation of the world. He came willingly of His own accord to the place where he knew he would die a horrific death.

He came humbly to the city where he ought to have been acknowledged as King to be put on trial, convicted, and crucified.

It is Palm Sunday again and we understand these things. We have much to remember, much to grieve, and much to celebrate. The contrasts are still with us, but his humble mission has been accomplished.

The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary … – Isaiah 50:4

As we celebrate the beginning of spring, we do so with hearts ready for a change. We have grown weary of winter and anxious for a change of seasons.

Spring is the season of hope and new life. It is a season of encouragement.

God’s Word reminds us often of the power of the tongue to build up or to destroy.

What a gift to be able to use the tongue of the learned, as a gift from God, to encourage and strengthen a weary brother!

He goes on to exclaim that God awakens him every morning with new instructions and wisdom.

You can have the tongue of the learned as well if you will listen to God, read His Word, keep an open heart and mind, and be willing to share a word of blessing with those who have grown tired of living.

The greatest privilege in the world is found in lifting someone else up and moving them forward on their road to spiritual success. There is no greater honor or joy than to be a part of someone else’s life story of God’s blessings through grace.

Often, all it takes is a word to bring springtime to someone’s winter of discontent. To give it, we must be willing and ready to receive it from God, to listen intently, and share generously.

The God We Worship

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” - Psalm 24:1

Everything belongs to God. We have known this most of our lives as a theological truth. It is in the dimension of application that we are challenged to confront our ignorance on this subject. We have constructed exception clauses to make room for self-ownership and control over this and that. We want to think that some little ditty of a thing is ours and that we can have power over it. To this deception, the voice of God speaks clearly and forcefully, “No. It is mine. It always was and always will be.”

“For he hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods.” - Psalm 24:2

For starters, it is all His because it was His idea from the drawing board to the factory. He thought of everything, planned everything, made everything, and retains sovereignty over – you guessed it – everything. He made the world and all that it contains and filled it with wonder and surprise. He is the owner, but that is not the whole story. He is a generous God who shares all that He has and is with us and invites us to discover the wonder of it all and celebrate creation with Him.

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? ” - Psalm 24:3

When a soul discovers the wonders of God and His Sovereignty in creation and stands amazed at the glory of His Lord, there is but one response that rings true: worship. “I must worship this great God,” is the heart cry of the honest seeker,” I must know Him! I must come into His presence! I must some how get connected with the source and object of my being.” And things, brings for the question of the ages, “Who can come before Him? Can I?” You can, but you must come His way.

The People Who Worship

“He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” - Psalm 24:4

There is a lifestyle connection to worship. We cannot tolerate inconsistency in our lives that draws an arbitrary wall of separation between our relationship with God and those that we maintain with others. Nor can we divide our loyalties between false gods that give us temporary gratification and the only True God who has rightful claim to the world and all that is. Our hands are dirty and our hearts are divided. We are in dire need of the mercy and grace of God and His power to transform us into worshippers.

“He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. ” - Psalm 24:5

When one is qualified by God through grace to enter His presence, a blessing follows. In a moment of immediate transformation, we are fashioned into pure hearted worshippers with clean hands, and we enter a new era of our lives that makes all that came before moot. God’s vindication covers our record, and we simply stand before Him in awe. Our voices are lifted in worthy praise, and we are blessed.

“This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. ” - Psalm 24:6

There is something powerful that happens in our lives when we seek God. Jesus promised that all those who truly seek will find Him. This requires an open heart. Purity of heart and cleanliness of hands means that we bring no other motive or agenda, nothing in our hands or hearts, save the yearning to know God and worship Him in His fullness. Seek His face today as you begin and as you continue. In every face you encounter, seek His, in every circumstance, in every thought, word, and deed.

The Way We Worship

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” - Psalm 24:7

Expectancy calls for preparation. If our awareness of God’s glory is deep and our desire to worship, desperate, we will be anxious to lift up our heads to behold His face, to open the gates of our hearts for His anticipated entry. We will welcome Him wholeheartedly into the center of our lives and will exalt in His coming. The spirit of celebration and joy characterizes Old Testament worship, likewise, authentic Christian worship. The presence of God calls for singing and dancing. Lift up your heads!

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.” - Psalm 24:8

“Who is this King of glory?” We tend to grow smug as we “mature” in the grace and knowledge of God. We hear the questions that we ought to be posing ourselves and point to the pages where we answered them in our notebooks years ago. We have gone shallow and are settling for yesterday’s encounter with God. If we think we really have a grasp on God, we are far, far away. Let us keep seeking and, as we seek, meet God in worship where the encounter is always new.

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” - Psalm 24:9

It is a refrain, and we could simply overlook it and move to the next verse for commentary, but that would be an exercise in shallow worship. Something has changed in the last few days. We have a new way of singing this song, a fresh encounter with the Living God. We have deeper insights into what it means to lift our heads and open the gates. We have a more intimate relationship with the King of Glory having sought Him. We can never sing the same song twice the same way and call it worship.

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. ” - Psalm 24:10

Don’t assume that you know the answer just because you read a few sentences of devotional comment or thought the matter over. The Lord is Almighty – we shall never begin to fathom the riches of who He is or plumb the depths of His character and love. Glory annotates weight – a weight so heavy that is transcends gravity and displaces everything that comes across its path. He defies definition and demands reverence. When given the choice between shallowness and depth today, choose to go deep.

The Form of a Servant

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. - Philippians 2:5-7 -

To have the mind of Christ is to think like He thinks. And Jesus was and is always thinking “service.” Everything about His coming, from His humble birth to His lowly life to His sacrificial death was wrapped in humility much as He was wrapped in swaddling clothes,

What Jesus knew about His rights was that He was God – coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, deserving honor, reverence, and worship, and owing nothing to anyone. The angels worshipped Him; the shepherds bowed low; the Magi honored Him with gifts, and He humbled Himself.

He was not deluded and did not suffer from an inferiority complex. In His thinking, He knew that He would be perfectly justified in assuming His role on earth as God-come down.” But it was also His thinking that caused Him to empty Himself of His prerogatives and take on a different form and role as He walked among us – one of us – and not just one of us, but also the lowliest of us.

It takes a pretty healthy self-concept to lower oneself. You have to be very secure to be a servant. And Jesus was. And we can be too.

You are a child of the King. You have princely prerogatives. For instance, you have a standing invitation to enter the throne room of Heaven in prayer at any time of the day or night. Yet, if you take the mind of Christ, you will not assert those privileges as a way of lording over others, but as a reason for service.

He became as we are to lift us up to His level that He might bring us back with Him into the fields of service as servants of His to our fellow human beings. This is a reason to celebrate. This is a reason for Christmas. Have this mind in you this season and enjoy the wonder.

He Humbled Himself

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.-Philippians 2: 8

John could not help but notice that the “new” tie he opened from Aunt Myrna was not as “fashionable” as those he had been seeing on the racks at Sam’s Fine Men’s Clothiers this season.

We judge the term from a human perspective with other people as our standard for fashion. God’s ways are different. For God to be found in fashion of a man meant to be humbled. Rather than flamboyant, Jesus was simple in His style and mannerisms.

Whatever our outward pretense, “fashionable” for the sons and daughter of Adam means brokenness and sorrow, weakness, and temptation, pain and grief. It means the frailty of flesh and the inevitability of death. He took on that fashionable form knowing that it was not His ultimate reality or destiny.

For Jesus to be found in fashion as a man meant servanthood and obedience to the point of death. Death meant a cross and for that reason He came and to that end He set His compass.

What then does it mean for us since we are to have that mind in ourselves?

For one thing, it means shedding our pretense of “having it all together.” It means being vulnerable, transparent, and humble. That is hard for most people. We want to project and ideal image of ourselves and live in a state of denial about our humanity. It means service and obedience and it means confronting our own mortality.

We must face the reality of death in our lives and live with the understanding that we have a temporary lease on life in this world. With that in mind we must live with purpose as Jesus did and align ourselves with His cross. We do not have to do what He did; we cannot. But we must allow His cross to do its work in our lives and take up our crosses and follow Him.

What gifts did you receive for Christmas? Some were no doubt fashionable and some were out of fashion. As you watch the old year pass and enter into a new year, consider Him who was found in your fashion that He might, through His death, resurrection, and indwelling Spirit, fashion you into something new as you conform to His way of thinking. Commit to that and be truly fashionable.

Exalted

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. Philippians 2: 9 

“Wherefore” takes us backward and forward. It is causal and resultant. Because He humbled Himself, He is now exalted in a new way. Because of His inherent glory, He was able to humble Himself.

He is exalted and He has a name above every name. These two statements of faith rally us to loyal devotion and invoke a chorus of praise and adoration.

It’s not that He wasn’t already exalted and it is not that He didn’t already have a high name. Yet, somehow this invasion of time and space that we call the incarnation with all that it entails calls the sons of earth to worship at a new level. What we once acknowledged as theological truth, and affirmed as a philosophical construct, we now shout from the heart.

The humility and sacrifice of Jesus translate “the Name” into a present, approachable reality for human beings. Jesus gives God a human face and God gives His Son a name that we can pronounce, unlike when He told Moses His Name and it was thought to sacred to say out loud. God-fearers would come to that Name in the sacred text and substitute the word, “Lord,” in Hebrew. Now we gladly affirm that, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

It is above every name and He is exalted.

The mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation are beyond the capacity of the human mind to contain or explain. Our response is not to understand, but to worship. God lifts up Jesus Christ in our midst as the center of all Christian worship and draws us to Him by His Spirit. As we begin a new year, may it be a year of praise. Let us join the Father in exalting Him with our words and our deeds as we call upon His high and wonderful Name.

Let Us Bow

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2: 10- 11 

At the name of Jesus we bow – now or later. We will all confess Him as Lord – eventually. God will be exalted – before all is said and done.

The question is, “Will you do it now with wiling joy or later under the duress of inescapable truth?”

This is what God desires: that His exalted Son be worshipped by those He came to save. He wants every living creature to recognize His preeminence, and acknowledge His Lordship. He purposes to gather all things in Heaven and earth around Him for Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of all history and all creation.

There are three categories of “things” that will bow to Jesus Christ who humbled Himself obediently unto the death of the cross. There are those manifestations of God’s created power that dwell in heaven – spiritual beings that inhabit the presence of God for certain, and of course the material forces that constitute the universe, known and unknown.

The second is all that is in the earth. That includes us. You can stubbornly resist His claims upon your life for now. For a short season, you can avoid His grace, and ignore His authority and love, but not forever. To acknowledge Him as Lord today is a saving act of faith. To wait too long is disaster – but you will confess Him. Do it today; you are not promised breath tomorrow.

Finally, all that is under the earth will confess Him. This most likely means the realm of death. The book of Revelation says that death and hell will give up their dead and that all will stand before God. And that means that there is no escaping the truth. Even the grave cannot hide you. Let us bow down now and give Him the glory He deserves and enjoy His presence forever.

A Memorial

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, [this] also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” - Mark 14:9

God wants us to remember some things. Some memorials are mandated in scripture, but the principle is always active. Lessons from life that are worthy of learning once are worth remembering and revisiting again and again. We remember because in remembering we grow in grace and in character.

This woman did what she could in remembering Jesus. For that, Jesus said she would be remembered. Hers was an act of simple devotion and profound love. We remember her because she reminds us to remember Him.

“Greater love hath no man …” Those who have laid down their lives on the battlefields of the world for friends and country need to be remembered for their sacrifice and because their sacrifice points to His.

We take courage from them as we take courage from Him. They challenge us as He challenges us. The values for which they died, freedom, justice, peace, are the values that we cherish to this very hour. If the call came, would we lay down our lives for them … from Him?

How great is our love? How great was theirs? How great is His?

Let us set aside some silence for remembering and reflecting. Let us remove us from the noise and madness of the world to a quiet place of gratitude. Let us renew our own commitments to the things that count. Let us ask our God what we can do today to love our neighbor more and preserve the freedom for which so many died.

Let us remember.

And let us Rejoice

 



Sections on Philippians are from The Confidence Factor.

 


Hosanna! Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the LORD!

Hosana
"... Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." - John 12:13b
 
In Judaism, to shout "Hosanna," was a call for help. It was a cry for salvation. It was deep and guttural.
 
While Christians sing it in songs of praise, for the Jews, it was an utterance of both faith and desperation.
 
Yet, John paints a portrait of the shout as one of jubilant hope and praise. It is the sound of a people who believe that their cry for help has been heard by God and that God has sent his very own representative to deliver them.
 
So, on this day, as the multitudes of those who had come to Jerusalem for the feast heard that Jesus was arriving, they went out to meet him.
 
They waited for the one who would arrive on a donkey as foretold by the prophet. They took palm branches to welcome the conquering hero. They incorporated an age--old song of victory and sang with full voice, "Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name do the Lord."
 
It was a suitable welcome. It suits him. It is a recognition of who he is.
 
It was appropriate. Rocks and hills and trees and all nature would cry out if the people remained silent.
 
It was prophetic. It was the fulfillment of promises made centuries before,
 
This Palm Sunday, we know the whole story. We know the rest of Holy Week and beyond.
 
We know the story of the teachings of that week, the last supper, the prayer in the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, his appearances, his commission, and his ascension into Heaven.
 
We have the whole narrative and still, we can enter into the celebration of that moment as we wave our palm branches and sing our praises to the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
 
And we can cry, "Hosanna! God save us!"


 

Hosanna! Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the LORD!

Hosana
"... Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." - John 12:13b
 
In Judaism, to shout "Hosanna," was a call for help. It was a cry for salvation. It was deep and guttural.
 
While Christians sing it in songs of praise, for the Jews, it was an utterance of both faith and desperation.
 
Yet, John paints a portrait of the shout as one of jubilant hope and praise. It is the sound of a people who believe that their cry for help has been heard by God and that God has sent his very own representative to deliver them.
 
So, on this day, as the multitudes of those who had come to Jerusalem for the feast heard that Jesus was arriving, they went out to meet him.
 
They waited for the one who would arrive on a donkey as foretold by the prophet. They took palm branches to welcome the conquering hero. They incorporated an age--old song of victory and sang with full voice, "Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name do the Lord."
 
It was a suitable welcome. It suits him. It is a recognition of who he is.
 
It was appropriate. Rocks and hills and trees and all nature would cry out if the people remained silent.
 
It was prophetic. It was the fulfillment of promises made centuries before,
 
This Palm Sunday, we know the whole story. We know the rest of Holy Week and beyond.
 
We know the story of the teachings of that week, the last supper, the prayer in the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, his appearances, his commission, and his ascension into Heaven.
 
We have the whole narrative and still, we can enter into the celebration of that moment as we wave our palm branches and sing our praises to the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
 
And we can cry, "Hosanna! God save us!"


 

Peace and Justice Thoughts

Berkeley _California._University_of_California_Student_Peace_Strike_-_NARA_-_532103_(cropped).tif


The thirst thought I have is to eliminate the "and" because an adequate definition of "shalom" includes "well-being" of all and that includes justice. Furthermore, an adequate definition of justice implies well-being and the righting of wrongs.

Peace is not the absence of conflict. That is an inadequate definition of peace. There is plenty of conflict on the road to and in the quest for peace. It is how we manage conflict that shows whether or not we are at or in peace.

Peace is not at odds with truth and justice. It is a byproduct of both and a means to both.

We cannot let detractors define what peace is. Real peace is a spiritual reality first, but it is also a social reality and both dimensions are the concerns of God and God's people.

Peace is hard, complex work. The easy road does not lead there. The militaristic road does insure it. The political process does not fully facilitate it. I am not denying the place of simple thinkers, politicians, or military powers in the process or at the table. They are just not the ones who will get the hard work done of sorting out the complexities.

It is hard work because, usually, everyone is right and everyone is wrong. All interests are valid and some interests can be laid aside. All parties are human and all are endowed with dignity as a gift from their Creator. It is complicated and it is simple.

Peace is a goal because peace is just and comprehensive. Peace protects all people's rights to life and liberty as well as the pursuit of happiness as long as peace is properly understood and defined.

Peacemaking is a calling for followers of Jesus and cannot be denied. It is a primary calling that we have in the ethical realm. When we speak the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of peace is part of the package. We speak of and offer peace with God through Jesus, we declare a Kingdom message as well.

Did I mention that peace is hard work? It is, but it is also a grace-gift. The capacity for peace is available to all individuals and peoples.

Peace and peacemaking align us with a cause greater than ourselves and place us in the realm of the miraculous where all things are possible, even those things that are un-imagined and unimaginable. When we actually follow Jesus and obey His lifestyle demands in our relationships, things happen that defy logic.

Of course, we could get beaten up or we could die ....

... but our survival (I speak now only in the context of following Jesus) is not an ultimate value for our lives and choices. We have died already and the life we now live is by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. So, if our bodies are sacrificed along the way, we have gained.

That is not to say we invite abuse.

It is to say that we shall not abuse in order not to be abused.

Peace and Justice are not two sides of the same coin. They are both on the same side of the same coin.


Everlasting Love

Eeverlasting

An Everlasting Love

 

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. - Jeremiah 31:3.

 Sentimentality suggests that human love can be eternal. In the genre of romance literature, film, opera, and popular music, the theme is often repeated with lyrical style and sweet harmony. We come to believe that “true love” lasts forever without great effort, commitment, or struggle.

The fact is that human love is fickle, self-serving, and often lazy. Separation may not make the heart grow fonder; it may in fact, make it wander. Hard times often drive a wedge between even the most starry-eyed lovers. Many a marriage, friendship, business relationship, or family tie has been severed over some petty disagreement. Harsh words have been the precipitating cause of animosity between people. Even churches have split over selfish and petty disagreements. Where is this everlasting love?

Only God’s love is eternal for God is the ultimate lover who, though spurned, loves on.

“God is love,” and “God so loved the world …” These are expressions of His very nature and yet, it cost God to love so profoundly and so persistently. We see some of that price paid on the cross. It is expressed in the real-life allegory of Hosea’s life and God taught the prophet the meaning of unconditional, relentless love.

If we are going to experience long-lasting love, we have to connect with the source. A relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ is essential to building life-long relationships that can weather the storms of life. From God we learn that real love is a commitment of time, energy, and faithful service to another person. It is work, but it is worthy of all our effort and stubborn perseverance.

We are amazed that God would love us as He does. We are encouraged that He can teach us to love. The man we know as St. Valentine is one of about three historical characters who performed many, many weddings – but it is God Himself who can make a relationship stand the test of time. Trust Him and His everlasting love and let His love be the endless supply of love, through you to others.

The Grand Courtship

Everlasting love. It is as much of a quality as it is an expression of duration. In fact, what makes God’s love endure is that it is durable, patient, passionate, and aggressive. That is the character of His love. God actively pursues the object of His love in the way described by Francis Thompson in his immortal poem, “The Hound of Heaven.”

God appears to us of old with this romantic word of wooing, He has been loving us all along. It is new only by its freshness. “Yes, I have loved you …” He affirms with conviction and passion, “and my love never ends.”

Not only does He love us, but He courts us. With loving kindness He reaches out to us and draws us to Himself. Loving kindness is an inadequate English translation of a Hebrew word, which is best translated, “covenant love.” It means that God’s own character, word, and integrity are at stake and that He loves us simply because He has chosen and committed to do so. He will not back down. He is relentless in loving us. It is about who He is that He loves so deeply.

God is a jealous lover—not in the immature sense of one who is insecure, but with the confidence of one who knows that He is the only one for us and that all other suitors are bent on our destruction. The jealousy of God is selfless and generous. He will settle for no less than the best for us.

Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God so fair

Would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the part contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky.

- F.H. Lehman

© 1917, 1945, Nazarene Publishing House

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
            Up vistaed hopes I sped;
            And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
           But with unhurrying chase,
           And unperturbéd pace,
       Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
           They beat—and a Voice beat
           More instant than the Feet—
       “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

   I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
    Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
            Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
    The gust of His approach would clash it to:
    Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
    Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:
            Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
    With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
            From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
   I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
    Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
    Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
          But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
        The long savannahs of the blue;
            Or whether, Thunder-driven,
          They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
            Still with unhurrying chase,
            And unperturbéd pace,
        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
            Came on the following Feet,
            And a Voice above their beat—
        “Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”

I sought no more that after which I strayed
            In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
            Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
            With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;
            Let me greet you lip to lip,
            Let me twine you with caresses,
                Wantoning
            With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
                Banqueting
            With her in her wind-walled palace,
            Underneath her azured dais,
            Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
                From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”
                So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
            I knew all the swift importings
            On the wilful face of skies;
            I knew how the clouds arise
            Spuméd of the wild sea-snortings;
                All that’s born or dies
            Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
            With them joyed and was bereaven.
            I was heavy with the even,
            When she lit her glimmering tapers
            Round the day’s dead sanctities.
            I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
            Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
            I laid my own to beat,
            And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
            These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
            Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
            The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
                My thirsting mouth.
                Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
                With unperturbèd pace,
            Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
                And past those noised Feet
                A voice comes yet more fleet—
            “Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.”

Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
                And smitten me to my knee;
            I am defenceless utterly.
            I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
            I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
            Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
            Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
            Ah! must—
            Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou can’st limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
            From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
            Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpséd turrets slowly wash again.
            But not ere him who summoneth
            I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
            Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
            Be dunged with rotten death?

                Now of that long pursuit
                Comes on at hand the bruit;
            That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
               “And is thy earth so marred,
                Shattered in shard on shard?
            Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
            Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting:
            How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
            Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
            Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
            Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
            All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
            Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
    Halts by me that footfall:
    Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
    “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
    I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Francis Thompson (1859-1907)







 

 

 

 


I Intend

  The Power of a Positive Intention

Statement Of Intention by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Statement Of Intention by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Psalm 119:9

By living according to God’s Word a young man can keep himself pure. That is no small thing. If there is any creature on earth prone to impurity, it is a young man. For that reason, Solomon spends no small amount of energy and no few words in the Proverbs instructing young men on this very matter.

The psalmist asks the question with the intention of learning and complying with the answer and God inspires the answers that flow in the verses that follow. All revolve around the one great call to live according to God’s Word.

By seeking God wholeheartedly, verse 10 assures us, we will avoid straying from His commands.

By hiding God’s Word in our hearts, verse 11 promises, we will not be as likely to sin.

By asking for guidance with praise, according to verse 12, we will have God Himself as our teacher.

By speaking the Words of God, according to verse 13, we will be voicing what He has first voices.

By rejoicing in God’s statutes, as stated in verse 14, we shall be adopting a positive attitude which will recognize the immense treasures of His truth.

By meditating on God’s precepts, as commended in verse 15, we will be considering His ways.

By delighting in what He has said by decree, verse 16 suggests that we will not neglect His Word.

It is really a rather simple matter. We can pursue purity in our lives by living according to the Bible, seeking God in it, absorbing it into our hearts and minds, asking God’s guidance through it, speaking it with our lips, rejoicing in each new nugget of truth, meditating deeply upon it, and delighting in everything it says.

Temptations abound, but God’s Word is always available to purify our hearts as we seek Him with all that we have and all that we are. If it is a young man’s or young woman’s intention to live a holy and pure life, the way is provided.

 

 


Sacrifice and Following

Sacrifice is the essence of following.

Jesus could not shrink from his hour because his purpose in living was wrapped up in his hour of dying.

We die to all that is not our purpose and His purpose in us when we follow.

We empty ourselves of all we perceive to be self-honoring to receive the greater honor of the Father.

Jesus explains it so much better than I do:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him."

"“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” - John 12:24-32 (ESV)


Checkered History

Checkered history 2

My tribe has a checkered history with forced conversions, violent power-grabbing, and militaristic exercise of religious dominance. To deny that is to deny history.

To not care is to ignore scripture.

We are flawed in our common humanity and sin with a lust for power that we are willing to exercise with violence and coercion.

Our religions, no matter how legitimate or illegitimate can be illegitimately co-opted as an excuse for that power-lust and every evil methodology we can muster to acquire what we want and think we deserve. At the moment, the world is experiencing extreme and frightening expression and demonstrations of this.

It is not the first in history and probably will not be the last.

Everyone has a different name for it and the names are debated, but it is all one thing throughout history.

There are political and military battles that shall be waged, but the most important battle is unseen; it is timeless; it is the most real. It is waged in the secret place of prayer, the public place of speaking truth in love, and the relational place of living the life of faith to which we have been called - to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.


Announcement of Things to Come

As often as you eat

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” – I Corinthians 11:26

As we eat and drink earthy elements of simple substance, we proclaim an eternal truth that transcends all formality and exalts the lowliest of deeds to the loftiest meaning.

Every day, we take a little nourishment to feed our bodies and drink a little something to refresh us in our thirst. Without food, we have no energy and our cells cannot reproduce. We die. Without water, we quickly dehydrate, and our bodies cannot sustain life.

Jesus said that when we eat the bread we are to think of His body and to do so in remembrance of Him, His life giving, life affirming, and yet lifeless body on the cross, given for us. Certainly, we do so in anticipation of His resurrected body on the third day and His living body on earth beginning at Pentecost. But nothing erases the image of His broken body given for us.

We drink the cup, and the sweetness of the grape does not cloud the memory of His poured-out blood. We are to “drink ye all of it” as a reminder that He poured out all of His blood for us. Without the shedding of blood, sin remains. Without blood in our veins, we have no life. We drink willingly and reverently and remember Him with gratitude and love.

But Paul says that every time we do this, we are making a visible announcement to the world that He is coming again in His glorified body. He promised to come to us, and He has in the Spirit and He will in person. He promised to never leave us, and He never has. He promised to prepare a place for us and come again and receive us to Himself and that is what we show forth every time we celebrate His presence at His table.

 


Hate? Really?

Hate

"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple….So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." - Luke 14:26, 33

It is a provocative statement.

Did it work? Did it get your attention? Is it hyperbole? Doesn't it contradict almost everything else Jesus said?

Many "yes" answers emerge, but there is also a "yes" to the unasked question. What is the unasked question?

What does it mean to turn one's back on everything to focus on one thing? What kind of hate is this that is absolutely compatible with unconditional love? What kind of dying is this that culminates in eternal living and what kind of emptying is it that fills us?

Everything is redefined in Jesus.

Every value is reordered.

Every love is reoriented.

What looked like love is revealed as dysfunctional, self-serving, enabling much-mush when compared to the true love that transforms us and causes us to live out the Great Commandment -- not only better, but from a new perspective.

This sort of hate and abandonment is the gateway to true love and fulfillment.

How can it be?

Go figure.


Which Is Easier? Mark 2:1-12

In Person and Online

undefined

Faith to Carry

Faith to Be Carried

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVUE)New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Tragedy, Travesty, and Truth

 
 

 

In what President Theodore Roosevelt called, a stain on the frontier that will not wash away,” on March 8, in 1782, the Gnadenhutten massacre took place.

Ninety-six Native Americans in Gnadenhutten, Ohio, who had converted to Christianity, were killed by Pennsylvania militiamen in retaliation for raids carried out by other Indian tribes.

It was also known as the Moravian massacre. The ninety-six victims were pacifist Moravian Christian Indians (primarily Lenape and Mohican).

The act was carried out by U.S. militiamen from Pennsylvania.

Since Moravians were pacifists, they did not take sides in the American Revolution.

Under the command of David Williamson, they were tricked into be rounded up with a false promise of relocation. Then, they were sentenced to be executed. On the night before their deaths, they prayed and sang hymns all night.

They next day, still praying and singing, they were executed one by one.

Though they pleaded for their lives, they maintained their commitment to non-violence and offered no resistance or defense. Before murdering them, the captors raped with girls and the women.

Eighteen on the militia members objected to this crime but were outvoted.

These souls were declared Christian martyrs and they are remembered as such to this day in the Moravian Church.

It is true that both the British and the Colonialists sought alliances with indigenous tribes and some branches of the martyrs’ tribe ad sided with the British. Soldiers in the militia that committed the murder held vivid hurtful memories of loved one who had been slaughtered.

They blamed all indigenous people for their losses.

War and tragedy fuel bigotry, hatred and more war and tragedy and this is the only perpetual motion machine that does not defy the laws of physics.

Following the war, Williamson was elected to several terms as sheriff of Washington County, Pennsylvania.

We are not always noble. We are not always right. Yet, truth always sets us free. That is not just a promise; it is an accurate observation.

The urge to preach is strong, but this is a sermon you can develop on your own.

Read More

“The Poor Defenseless Ones Together Bowed in Prayer”: The Gnadenhutten Massacre
https://ohiomemory.ohiohistory.org/archives/2686

1857 Atlantic Monthly article: https://archive.org/details/atlantic23bostuoft/atlantic23bostuoft/page/184/mode/2up

 
https://www.jstor.org/stable/25096733

History of Gnadenhutten: http://traveltusc.com/files/gene/gnaden.pdf

Day of Remembrance: https://thebargainhunter.com/news/features/day-of-remembrance-highlights-moravian-delaware-perspective

 

 

 


Don't Stop Me; I'm Doing God's Work

Karina-carvalho-fKTKVrNqXQQ-unsplash
 
When the colluded powers sent their collaborating messengers to warn Jesus he was in trouble and that he was likely to be killed, his response was four-fold:
 
I am doing works of mercy and deliverance.
 
I will continue to do them until I am done. I will not be stopped. I will not be intimidated.
 
I won't die here, but I will keep moving toward the place of my death.
 
But there is a third day coming and no matter what anyone does or thinks they can do to me, I will move past it toward that day ... and then, and only then, my work will be complete.
 
Luke 13:32 : “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’”
 
I Will Not STOP
 
S - Surrender to Negative Voices
T - Terminate before The Work Is Done
O -Obsess over Possible Disaster
P - Pivot from My Persistent Pursuit

Help Them Over It

18698258_10158721537815015_3897336060844590820_n


"I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life." - Philippians 4:2-3


How tragic. How sad. How disconcerting it is to see brothers and sisters at odds with each other and unwilling to find areas of agreement.

It breaks the heart of Paul to know that two special women, each occupying a special place in his heart, each of whom has meant so much in his work and in the growth of the church, are in conflict.

It is not that conflict is bad; it is just that unresolved conflict becomes a hindrance to Christian joy and witness. Euodias and Syntyche needed to work things out, but somehow, the challenge was greater than their resolve. They needed help.

Around you in the church are some folks who need that kind of help. They may or may not know it, but the help is needed nevertheless. It is needed for their spiritual health, for the sake of the relationship, and for the health of the church. They may not even realize how their stubbornness, selfishness, hurt feelings, or coldness is damaging the cause of Christ. In refusing God’s healing for the relationship and for their own pain, they are causing a festering wound that impacts the whole ministry of the church.

They need help. Sometimes that help comes in the form of a wake up call. Sometimes it is gentle prodding. More often it is loving mediation and prayer where everyone has a chance to be heard and love is restored.

Our names are written together in the book of life and we can allow no breach to continue in the fellowship. God’s love brings us together whatever our differences and there is seldom an issue worthy of dividing us that invades our ranks.

It may not be enough to say, “Get over it,” but that is what we all must do. It’s just that we may need a little help.


Judgment as a Message of Hope

undefined

A few years ago, I was preparing a message on judgment when I was struck with a surprise - It was a message of hope.

--- Even when there are no signs of life in the tree, the Gardener gives another year --- and lovingly tends the tree to eek out the life that no one else sees but He still believes may be there.

In a message of judgment and destruction, imagine this main message is:

God still believes in you.

Perhaps you'd consider returning the favor!

That being said,

C.S. Lewis observed, in "The Great Divorce," that at the end, there are two kinds of people:

1. Those who say to God, "Thy will be done." and

2. Those to whom God say, "Thy will be done."

And remember,

"Harsh judgement is based not on the sternness of the Holy Ghost, but on my refusal to bear someone else's burden." --Oswald Chambers

-------------------------------------

 

And Entirely "Other" Thought.

Time passes ... slowly at first ... and picks up speed ... progression ... until it cascades!
 
And then, we wake up and know that whatever we must do, we must do now.
 
We have now and, in the precious now, is atomic potential for ...
 
We bring all of our yesterdays and all of our tomorrows into the explosive present ... the pregnant now and ...
 
WOW!
 
We live!
 
If we choose to do so!
 
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (KJV)
"Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom." (NLT)
- Psalm 90:12
 
and ... as The Message translates it ...
 
"Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!" (verses 12-17)
 

All Must Go

The-blowup-5OfPf3_u_2c-unsplash
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash
"What am I willing to lose in order to gain all?"

The parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of unspeakable worth all lead to the question.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Everything must go?

What does that include?

What is best?  What  does your heart desire most? Who are you made to be? What are you made to do? What is worth more than everything else in your life?

What is in the way of you becoming who you really are?

It is one thing to say that I sell it all and divest myself of all my other treasures. That I do in the most generalized possible way. It is a broad stroke, without any threat.

But then I start digging into the piles of specificity and it hurts to part with old ideas, false concepts of who I am, preferences, amusements, possessions, attitudes, and patterns of living. These have been my treasures for a long, long time.



Whether you are a faith walker or a just an honest lover of truth wherever it is found, there is a principle that can aid you in your journey. There is only so much you can carry with you toward your purpose, goal, and ultimate destiny. You have to let some things go in order to gain what you most desire and require.

You have to give up a great deal of good on the quest for the best.

For Jesus followers, this is the kingdom of God. For everyone, it is something and it is right in front of you.


Mother Necessity

Mother of invention

“our need will be the real creator” - Plato, The Republic

 

Necessity may indeed be the mother of invention, but it has, at times, been the mother of injustice.

William Pitt observed:

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Pitt spoke as the ally of Wilberforce in their quest to end slavery in England. Against their efforts were all sorts of arguments including those of necessity.

"We have no other choice."

"We must."

"We have to protect ourselves."

"We know it is wrong, but now is not the right time to correct things."

"If we do this now, everything will collapse."

There has never been a convenient time in history for doing the right thing. It has always been against the tide to stand for the rights of others. Liberty has never been practical. Freedom has never been feasible. Truth has seldom seemed profitable. Justice has never been easy. Light has never been appealing to those whose eyes have grown accustomed to the dark.

Our shortcuts can always be justified by expediency. In business, public affairs, and personal relationships, we can make our case for walking over other people and nations if we can establish that it is in pour best interest do do so.

When we do, we ultimately lose.

It is as if we have created a Greek god, named him "Necessarius," and bowed to him without knowing he is no god at all and will keep none of his far reaching promises.

Only what is right and true and just and compassionate will last beyond the moment. All else is as fleeting as our notions of necessity.

 


Grace that Teaches and Relieves Fear

‘Twas Grace that Taught My Heart to Fear

Deuteronomy 10

"…. Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children." - Deuteronomy 4:10b

School has been in session for a while now, but in reality, it has been in session all of our lives. God has been teaching us through all of our experiences the twin lessons of fear and trust. Some may call this “law,” but the New Testament translates even the law into the schoolmaster of grace through Christ Jesus.

Grace has taught our heart to fear. This is the fear of God, the fear that dispels all other fears. It is the fear that teaches us that God is God and we are not. It is the fear that we experience when we realize how awesome His power is and how pure is His holiness. It is the fear that knows His standards superimposed against our failures. It is the fear that causes us to both tremble and rejoice, to hesitate in His presence, yet approach at His invitation. It is the fear that enables us to be fearless in the face of all other dangers and acknowledge Him as Lord of all. Grace teaches us such fear. It is the gift of God who reveals Himself to us as He is.

 "… what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul ..." - Deuteronomy 1:12

What God requires of us is that we know He is God and behave accordingly. That means that we will walk in His ways, that we will love Him, that we will serve Him, and that we will do all of this wholeheartedly with all of our strength.

He wants us to mean business with Him and not to take Him lightly. He wants us to grow in our appreciation of His mystery and wonder. He wants us to catch a glimpse of His character and not take Him for granted. He wants us to revere His Name and live in awe of His glory.

Grace is our teacher in these matters, because God could have left us in the dark. He could have treated us with indifference as a people of no consequence. But we are not inconsequential in His eyes. We are people for His pleasure and for Him to fully enjoy us, we must learn to enjoy Him. Before we can enjoy Him, we must know Him and that means, as He is. So grace teaches our hearts to fear.

ONLY:

1. Fear the LORD your God
2. Walk in all his ways
3. Love him
4. Serve God with all your heart and soul
5. Keep God's commandments.
6. Circumcise your heart.
7. Stop being stubborn.
8. Love strangers.
9. Clothe and feed them.
10. Worship God.
11. Enjoy your blessings!


Deuteronomy 10:12-22:
So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the LORD your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the LORD set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.