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PITY - Been There, Felt That, Feel That - Psalm 22 and Mark 1:41

Compassion pity

He has been there and is there.

The Sermon:

 

Personal

Intense

Transformational

Yielding

 

 

Psalm of the Abandoned and Forsaken

Psalm 22:1 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

We have the retrospective luxury of knowing the messianic significance of this psalm in. It is messianic because the Messiah took these words to the cross as He identified with the sinfulness and despair that were already resident in humanity. He expressed the root of our hopelessness: abandonment - the awful sense that the God whom we ourselves have forsaken has forsaken us. To be separate from God is to be isolated and alone. It is the very terror of the night and it is the chief horror of the cross, which Jesus bore for us that this statement might never need to be ours again.

Psalm 22:2 - O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

It is the hallmark of persistent prayer that it perseveres in silence. It is neither required nor assured that the believer will always “sense” the presence of God. What is called for is that we will remain faithful and not be silent when God is silent. In fact, God is not quieted. He is merely speaking on a frequency that we are not, at some given point in time, receiving. Keep praying – even amidst despair and doubt. Faith is found in the persistence and assurance and awareness emerge from the process. No matter how you feel about life, yourself, God, or others today, pray on!

Psalm 22:3 - Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

Immediately, out of dark despair, the worship leader of the psalms teaches us what drives persistent pray: It is the knowledge of the Holy One who is Other than us, enthroned, exalted, and worthy of praise. God does not need to earn our faithfulness in prayer and praise by making regular payments of blessings to our accounts. The starting point is that praise is due Him because He is the praise of Israel and the United States, the world, and the universe. If we can but come to some understanding that God is God no matter what we think or feel, we will begin to become messianic people.

Psalm 22:4 - In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

History is an anchor that stabilizes faith by reminding us that God can and does act to deliver His people. He, who never changes, takes a personal interest in those who trust in Him. He is a faithful God. We can count on Him to do again what He has done before. The heritage we receive from our believing fathers and mothers is a legacy we must pass on to our own children. It is an intergenerational gift that passes through our hands. Take courage from the experience of others, but never let that experience substitute for one of your own relationship with God. Build on their stories.

Psalm 22:5 - They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

What was it that our fathers did that brought them into the experience of God’s deliverance? It was very little and very much. It was very little of human effort or initiative. However, it was a great expression of faith in two parts. First, their attitude was one of trust – that resolute act of resting on God’s grace. Second, the volitional action was crying out for mercy, help, and salvation in desperate resignation. We who scatter ourselves about in frantic frenzies of futile flailing exclaim, “Is that all? It can’t be!” It is. Unless it becomes that alone, nothing we DO matters. Only God saves.

Psalm 22:6 - But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

Maybe today is your worm day. You have adopted the vision of yourself that you perceive others to have of you. You have resigned to the world, the rather than to God. It has become vitally important to you what others think of you and you are devastated. If, at any time, you allow yourself to be defined by others or even yourself, you will be depressed. Jesus identified with our struggles to understand self but overcame the temptation through a strong sense of who He was in relationship with His Father. We have the same mirror to our souls available, filtered by grace and the love of God.

Psalm 22:7 - All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

Consider Jesus today as you evaluate the evaluations of others and deflect their insults. Rather than lash out in reactionary anger or retreat in despondent silence, look to Him who endured. He was never shaken within by the opinions of people. He never lost His sense of standing with the Father or His assurance of His mission. He did not come down off the cross, nor can we. Our lives are nailed there, and our identity is securely fastened to His. Bathe in His love and acceptance when friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers mock your motives. You are cherished by Him.

Psalm 22:8 – "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

You can expect to be attacked in that area where you are most vulnerable – your faith. The world will taunt you with that which troubles you most within – the nagging suspicion that God will not come through for you. This is the real test of faith whether the taunts come from within or without: Can you withstand them and find your trust deepened? Your lips may declare firm belief that God can deliver you from and through any trial, but do you believe it for this current trial? The answer is that faith is, also, a gift delivered amidst fire. Receive it today in your present circumstances.

Psalm 22:9 - Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.

We started with a capacity to trust God because we had no other choice. As we experienced autonomy and choice, we chose to go our own ways as did our first father and mother. But the starting place was childlike trust. It is our first and greatest capacity and our one and only connector to God within our souls. It is the essence of the image of God within us - the plug through which He reconnects us in relationship within by His mercy, grace, and love. When we first chose to sin, we pulled the plug by trusting ourselves. Let God revive your trust today and choose to trust Him.

Psalm 22:10 - From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

This is the psalm of the cross, which our Master chose to identify with us as He bore our sins. There were three great acts of emptying in His earthly life. The first was His birth. He divested Himself of all His self-sufficiency as God and became dependent upon God –even in Mary’s womb. The second was His baptism-temptation where He conspicuously stood in the place of sinners to face every life temptation and overcome only by the power of the Spirit and the Word. Finally, the cross – and there, He remembered who He was and who He trusted. We must trust God also.

Psalm 22:11 - Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

You will find yourself in circumstances, as did our Lord, where there are no solutions, alternatives, or assistance. There is no one and nothing to help. You are empty and alone. You cannot even depend upon yourself because your resources are depleted, and your energy is sapped. You can presume nothing in that moment. No one hears your plea, but God and your only non-negotiable request is that He remains near you. That is a powerful place in our lives. We cannot go on spiritually until we have been there. Embrace it and from that place, call upon God. You will find Him all-sufficient.

Psalm 22:12 - Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

The imagery may not be familiar, but it takes little imagination to see the precarious nature of these circumstances. What are yours? The idea of bulls surrounding you does not bring to mind the thought of a passive environment with benign enemies. These are angry bulls, poised for attack. They are frightening and intimidating, and they can do you great physical harm. But they cannot touch your soul. Only you and God know the depths of the battle you are in but know this: Jesus was there on the cross and He is with you now.

Psalm 22:13 - Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

You can see the lions devouring their prey and their eyes are now on you. You envision yourself being eaten alive by the forces within you and outside you that attack without mercy. It is a helpless feeling. Jesus experienced it fully on the cross. He placed Himself in that position willingly. He emptied Himself and “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We cannot choose our end, nor can we know if this crisis is our end, but we can know God in the midst of it and trust in Him. There is no lion, no problem, no weapon of Satan that can defeat God or destroy His child.

Psalm 22:14 – I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

What do you trust in a practical way to make it through the day? Do you count on your human resources, talents, ingenuity, or personality? You can be poured out like water. Do you trust your physical strength and fitness? Every bone can be dislocated from the others. Do you trust the strength of your character, perseverance, courage, and inner strength? Your heart can melt like wax and you will be left with nothing but God. This is the cross and Jesus has gone before us to show us that we can bear through His resurrection. Do not despair. You may be empty, but you are not alone.

Psalm 22:15 - My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

The cross is not a position of personal strength. It was not for Jesus and is not for us. We come to the cross and are emptied as Christ Jesus emptied Himself. Speechless and helpless, we lie in the dust of death and somehow realize that a God of love has allowed this experience in our lives and brought us to this place that, out of death, we might find life. If you will know resurrection, you must be laid out as dead before God. There is no other way. Any attempt to circumvent this process renders the cross as useless in your life. Trust God in the dry places and you will live.

Psalm 22:16 – Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

Onlookers, men and beasts, are waiting for your last breath. They are convinced that you are defeated. Around the cross, they all gathered, certain that they were about to hear the last of Jesus. Your enemies assume that personal failure and death will overcome you as well. Pain, it is felt, will conquer the spirit of any person. Not so with you. You are dead already and your life is hidden in Christ. In Him, you live. Whatever the enemy could throw at Christ was thrown, but He “arose a victor from the dark domain” and so will you in Him. Cast off despair and celebrate life!

Psalm 22:17 - I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

Have you ever counted your bones? How emaciated from the struggles of life, temptation, and sin have you been? Have you ever felt like such an oddity that people would stare? Have you ever been so humiliated that your enemies – especially those within, would gloat over your seeming defeat? When God made the choice to incarnate Himself into human flesh, He knew that He would be casting aside His glory for the lowest state of all. Hebrews 12 reminds us to consider Jesus who despised the shame but pressed on for the glory set before Him. Let us press on as well.

Psalm 22:18 - They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

We like to think that we will have death with dignity. We must redefine dignity then, for what Jesus experienced can only be described in human terms, as humiliation. Nevertheless, human definitions do not rule the spiritual realm, nor can they rule our lives. If we must face such a cross where even our clothes are bartered among our enemies, then so be it. Either we can scream and protest for our rights and “dignity” or we can enter into a deeper experience of trust and obedience. It is a crossroads that we face. If we are to die to self that we might live, we cannot set the terms.

Psalm 22:19 – But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

We are moving from first to second to third person intentionally in these thoughts – keeping the focus on God. That is where Jesus kept His focus in His lifetime identification with humanity. He asked only that His Father be near and trusted only in His strength. When we are empty and helpless, that is all we have and that is a very fine position for our lives. All other strength is an illusion and the sooner we understand that, the better. We have only God – He is all we ever have had, and we did not realize it. Perhaps now, we are coming to understand. Perhaps, we are coming into real life.

Psalm 22:20 - Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Did you know that your life was precious to God? Grace yourself with the thought that God cares more for you than you care for yourself. Why then, do you exercise the exhausting effort of worry? God knows all about the sword. He sees and hears the dogs. He is not removed from your suffering and He intimately acquainted with your struggles. He has never abandoned you and He has a plan for your deliverance that He has already set into motion. Call upon Him. He is ready to take your hand and walk with you through this present fire.

Psalm 22:21 - Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

Once we have come to terms with the reality of our circumstances and ceased our fruitless debates over the fairness of our surroundings, we can get down to the relevant business of petition. God does not keep us out of the lion’s den or the path of wild oxen; but He delivers us. Deliverance is far better than avoidance because God gets the glory and we get the victory. Beside that, the world gets to see a demonstration of the power of God that exceeds the expectations of limited minds. Daniel’s victory did not rest in avoiding the conflict, but in God’s salvation in the midst. Resurrection!

Psalm 22:22 – I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

We glory in the cross. We glory far more in the resurrection. Jesus came forth from the trial of the cross and the resurrection with a message of victory, redemption, and praise. We also emerge from our spiritual battles and, more importantly, the process of dying to self and rising to new life, with a message of hope. The faith-act of identifying with Jesus is what makes us evangelists. Good news permeates our beings so that our very lives are transformed into the gospel message. Like St. Francis, we preach everywhere and, when necessary, use words.

Psalm 22:23 – You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

Praise, honor, and reverence are the responses of all who know God as God. This fear of God is recognition of His utter divinity and absolute sovereignty. It is an awareness that is burned into our life through struggles and seared onto our hearts in crisis. It does not come easily. Do not associate praise with giddiness or shallow emotionalism. When it is refined, it flows from the very deepest places in our lives and transcend the moment, rises above circumstances, and soars to the heights of Heaven. It is a gem of great joy forged in the furnace of trial.

Psalm 22:24 - For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

The God we praise is a God of loving compassion. He knows. He cares. He heals. He listens intently to His people and He is near the broken. Jesus identified with our pain intensely and passionately. His participation in our suffering and affliction goes far beyond empathy. He entered in and continues to enter in. You can trust Him because He already understands and have your very best interest in His heart. When we back off from God., we do so in irrational ignorance. To really know Him is to trust Him profoundly.

Psalm 22:25 - From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

It all originates with God. If we think that we might like to organize our praise of God around ideas that intrigue us, we have missed the point. The very theme of praise comes directly from Him. It is about Him, from Him, and to Him that we praise. And, as we gather among those who know Him, this is understood. There are always personal and corporate dimensions to faith. There are individual vows that you make and fulfill to the Lord, but you do so in community among those who share a common vision of the God who is worthy of our praise.

Psalm 22:26 - The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him-- may your hearts live forever!

This is the grand turn-around. God feeds the poor. He fills the hearts of those who seek Him with praise. He brings life out of death and joy out of pain. He infuses our lives with such abundance that we cannot fully receive it. He lifts our spirits to heights we have never known. He fills our lips with praise and grants us eternal life. The present darkness is never absolutely dark because the light has already come to fill every crevice. We live now and always in the present reality of the resurrection and the future hope of Christ’s second coming. Seek Him and know this reality for yourself!

 

 

 



 

 


Better than Your Worse, Less that Your Best - - Sometimes

But Never Mind That!

Tracks

 

You are a lot better than the worst day of your life.

That's why there are some good people in prison and some other sticky situations.

You are probably not as great as your best day either.

Stop judging yourself by either one.

In fact, stop judging yourself at all. You are not qualified.

Own your bad decisions, bad attitudes, ugly deeds, and stinking thinking and move past them.

Own your successes and share the praise with those who have helped you along the way.

Give thanks to God for the breath of life and good genes.

Live today, your best life. At the moment, it is the only day you have.

And give others a chance to do the same and start with a clean slate if they need to.

Live graciously!


Fire that Purifies

Revealed with Fire

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. - - 1 Corinthians 3:13

Nat-cathedral-glass17

Washington National Cathedral - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ac4lt/11199433/

Believers welcome the revealing fire of God’s judgment with an odd sort of anticipation. Knowing that we have already passed from death unto life, we do not fear death, but embrace the joy of Heaven. We yearn to have the old dross of fleshly choices burned away so that what is of God can be refined for the enjoyment of eternity.

There is going to be some loss. And there will be some disappointment. But all that is lost will be worthless and the disappointment will be over the wasted time, energy, and emotion that were invested in the mess that was doomed for destruction.

There will be tears for Jesus to wipe from our eyes in Heaven. Some will be the tears of regret for what we could have been and done for the Master if we had been completely “sold out” to Him. There will be tears for misplaced priorities, unrealized visions that God gave us but we never pursued, and for words and deeds wrought in anger, lust, and greed.

There may be tears for those we could have told about Jesus’ love, but never did. Fear, apathy, selfishness, and pride kept us from rescuing the perishing and our hearts will be rightly broken when all is revealed and tested by fire.

Every motive and thought will be tried and we may not be happy with the results. But joy will follow when we are cleansed by the fire and all that is left is our true selves, purified and ready to meet God.

Why wait for eternity? God is ready to do his sanctifying work in your life even now. There are wonderful gains possible for us if we will invest in eternity. The fire within today can eliminate issues that ultimately must be burned away from without. Heaven is a wonderful mystery and fire is a necessary agent of sanctification. Let the fire burn in the altar of our hearts and let us bring everything we have and are to Him to be offered as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto him.


Equity in Our Lives

Jonathan-kemper-oHCalaoeD0Q-unsplash

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

 

“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” – I Corinthians 3:6

How many people have invested in the harvest that is your life? How many hands and hearts have been involved in your progress toward maturity? Coming to the place of graduation from an academic regimen or from one stage of life to another has been a gradual process.

That is why it is called graduation!

The answer is many, too many to innumerate.

Each has had a role. Each has unselfishly poured his or her life, wisdom, and time into your life. Each is due a debt of gratitude. Each one reminds us to so pour our lives into others.

There have been planters. These are those souls who have deposited seeds of knowledge, sparks of insight, and fragments of dreams into the ready receptacles of our lives with the hope that they would grow into something greater than they were when they started.

There have been those who have watered the seeds, cultivators, and tillers of the soil who have not avoided the hard work of steady time commitment. They have counseled, coached, and mentored. They have taught us when we were hard to teach. They have consistently demonstrated truth. They have labored long and hard with high hopes of our lives bearing good fruit.

There are harvesters who were in the right place at the right time when we were ready to demonstrate our readiness to step up and step out. They have given us the opportunities to shine and to lead. They have ushered us the final steps of our journey.

Then there is God who was working in all of these and who ultimately brings the harvest. It is He who is present at the beginning and at every step of the way.


We Must Not Forget

We Must Remember

On February 19, 1942, one of America's best Presidents, authorized the U.S. government to incarcerate Americans on the basis of their heritage and appearance.

110,000 or more Americans, citizens, immigrants, and multi-generational countrymen were rounded up. They were forced to leave their homes, businesses, and communities.

These were the Japanese Americans.

Their entire way of life was disrupted and most lost their homes, jobs, businesses, and lifestyles.

It was a travesty.  We all agree, but most of us were not there and none of us signed the orders.

Why must we be reminded of these things?

After all, it was not the decision of all Americans.

No, but it was made on behalf of all Americans.

The rest of "us" could have made a difference.

Many would have, if they had known the whole story soon enough or felt empowered.

We must not forget what neighbors can do to neighbors or what governments can do to people.

Decent people can inflict pain on decent people.

If we are not reminded of how often it has happened, it is too easy to let it happen again.

Fear is a powerful force. People caught up in fear act irrationally and without compassion at times.

We let other people become the objects of our fears. Then, we act in ignorance.

We abandon the Great Commandment.

We do it too easily and we do it without regret and with impunity.

It only takes a few people to initiate grave injustice, but it takes all of us to allow it to continue.

"I hated the brutality, the sadism, and the insanity of Nazism. I just couldn't stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That's all there is to it. Really, nothing more." - Oskar Schindler

 


Thoughts on the Book of Judges

Judges

What follows are some theological reflections from my personal bible study a few years ago - not necessarily inspirational or for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk of boredom 

They are just reflections, but I might as well share them .

Not all scripture leaves us with warm feeling, unambiguous guidance, easy lessons, or peace of mind. Some of it really rocks our concept of everything else we read in the bible. So, we sometimes avoid those passages (assuming that they only occur in the religious literature of "other peoples" religions). Hermeneutics is the art and science of text interpretation. It is an important tool for people who wish to wrestle with difficult scriptures and be able to interpret them in their historical contexts and apply them to life today. You need in reading, as I am, the book of Judges.

Judges takes place in a rather chaotic time in the history of Israel where there is little unity, no one clear leader, syncretistic religious practices, and lifestyles not unlike other communities in the ancient near east. The difference is that the bible teaches a continuation of God's covenant with a people who are trying to work out what it means to be His people over a long, long period of history,. There are some high points and many low points and lots of flawed people who become extraordinary leaders. They are presented "as is."

So, here is one of those problem passages where the bible does not exhort, but report, where raw truth is simply delivered as it is and people who are struggling to understand who God is and God's ways make some good decisions and some bad decisions. Jephtha , in Judges 11:29, has been empowered by the Spirit in a mighty way and leads his army against the Ammonites.. He makes a vow to kill and sacrifice the first thing that comes through his door. When he looks at his door it is his precious daughter. She hears and encourages him to follow through with his vow, but give her a little reprieve to mourn in the mountains and come back to be offered - which she does. I am thinking, "Is this supposed to inspire me?"

But here is a take-away, warning, and admonition - whether or not it was intended. Just because someone is caught up in the Spirit and accomplishes some great spiritual and/or physical feats does not mean several things:

1. It does not mean that they hear or understand or know God at any greater way than anyone else.

2. It does not mean that there is a direct connection between their rash statements/promises and the grace that was granted them by God.

3. It does not necessarily make them immediately mature or wise.

We have the rest of the bible for guidance and balance, so we might assume that Jephtha made a "stupid" vow and he could have called things off at any point. If he had any familiarity with his own Torah, he would have known that human sacrifices are forbidden. At that point, he might have gone back into consultation with the LORD.

His daughter, while motivated by her own distorted sense of who God is and what God requires and by her devotion to her father, comes back from the mountains - a kind of misguided integrity, to be honored during her eulogy, but certainly to be questioned in application to our own lives.

But who are we to stand in judgment from afar? We have advantages and opportunities they did not have. Remember that these folks were influenced more by the idolatry around them than any sound Torah teaching. They had fallen away and were just now returning and even in that returning were subject to making bad decisions --- which they did.

Even good, sincere, religiously enthusiastic people can make bad decisions ... and do.

Lessons for 21st century Christians and other people of faith?

1. Stay grounded in scripture and sound teaching, ethical thinking, and mature deliberation. Check in with what concepts about God are influencing you. In your approach to scripture, develop good hermeneutics.

2. Get to know God and communicate with God. The life of developing spiritual maturity is intensely prayerful, deliberative, seeking, and humble.

3. Be slow to make rash declarations and do not make deals with God. Give what God demands and do not try to bribe Him.

4. Remember that good people can make bad decisions and not everything they say should be followed uncritically. In the same way, bad people can sometimes make good decisions and we need to weigh their ideas in the light of logic and truth, prayerfully.

There is much violence, greed, immaturity, bigotry, and idolatry in the bible - and that is just among the good guys! That is because God is patient and gracious and chooses to work among, through, and with human beings. The bible reports this process of history as God reveals Himself over time until, as Christian scripture reports, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we [finally - my word] beheld His glory. His teaching might seem contrary to thousands of years of salvation history, but Jesus reports them as fulfillment of all that God was trying to teach all along.

Time is a funny construct. We don't really understand it. Thousands of years form only a blip in linear time. Imagine them/it in light of modern physics as a thin strand of a whole. Then see them/it encapsulated into something infinite and eternal. The bottom line is that we need thr whole story and, with the whole story, we meet a God who, Himself provides the sacrifice and gives Himself for our redemption, a God of grace, love, mercy, truth, holiness, and unending wonder who has reveled Himself in Jesus Christ.

The book of Judges sure creates a thirst in my heart for knowing THAT God in a deeper way.

OK ... on to Samson .


Ready for Better

Better days
 
I sure know a lot of folks who feel this way and it is for you that I am having some prayer this morning.
 
I'm ready for you to have some peace of mind too.
 
I am ready for things to get better as well. If you'd like to have some better times or some peace of mind or some hope other either or both, just click like and I'll be praying for you.
 
 
Father, my friends have had a long time with no peace of mind, such turmoil, sleeplessness, worry, sorrow, pain, agony, perhaps insidious habits they cannot shake, attitudes they cannot escape, bitterness they cannot release, grief they cannot bear, hardship they cannot endure, and loss they cannot explain.
 
Whatever the pain, speak remedy to their souls.
 
Speak peace, comfort, and stillness to their hearts.
 
If there is something they must release, hold their hands gently to let them know it is OK to do so.
 
If it is something beyond their control, inform them of their options and grant them your strength.
 
If there is something they must learn, help them to see a glimpse of truth and hope.
 
If there is something they must gain, may they gain it in good time with patient endurance.
 
But if there is something you can and will change and it is time for things to get better, please intervene and lead them out of the darkness.
 
For those who must remain and struggle a little longer, grant even deeper, greater peace, grace, joy, and even laughter in the midst.
 
Lighten the darkness by Your presence and transform the place of struggle into a place of meeting You that it might become a precious place.
 
You know the needs of my friends and You have designed a particular blessing for each one.
 
Grant it, I pray, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
 
"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." - Jesus
 

Let Us All Take Greater Courage

In honor of Alexei Navalny 

Hero

 

Photo by Mitya Aleshkovskiy This file was derived from: Alexey Navalny 2 (cropped).jpg

 

Guest Post on Super Heroes

 

 

It is the very struggle that moves us forward.

Sometimes the hero needs a hero to give him courage to take his last stand. It is about the Quest!

"You must fight and it doesn't matter whether you win or lose... Don't you remember? ... You must remember!"

It is the quest.

You are Dulcinea and you have a Don Quixote in your corner.

You are Don Quixote and you have a Dulcinea to encourage and to awaken you.

You are the dreamer and the doer and each time you fall, you shall rise again.

Give it your life.

Soon others may join you in the quest, but even if they do not ... keep on!

Watch and weep and be encouraged!

 


Something Is Ahead of Us and We Are Pressing On

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Photo by MIL-TECH PHARMA LTD on Unsplash

Something is ahead of us beginning, and unfolding.

We are not there yet.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:12

I’m not there yet, but thank God, I’m not where I was.

Progress is the word of the day. It is that quality which enables me to “follow after” and not be discouraged by the distance ahead. As a Christian, I have already been captured, apprehended, and held secure by Jesus Christ. That is a great comfort. But it is not that false comfort that lulls one to sleep. It is not that sinister imposter that whispers in the ear, “You have arrived; now rest quietly. No further progress is necessary.”

It is not that at all. Rather, it is the assurance that what we are becoming is not to be stifled by our inadequacies. It is not to be prevented by our lack of ingenuity. It is not dependent upon our own strength. It is not limited by our lack of vision.

We are still to work out that which His has worked within us. We are to pursue the prize. We are to follow the course. We are to move forward in faith.

We are not there yet, but the race is not over. We keep on keeping on.

Do not lose heart. Others have gone before and they had no more and no less than you to propel them on. We are given the stamina and the fortitude for the pursuit in whatever quantities are necessary for our unique calling under God.

Never give up. Your life is no accident; your calling is no second thought of God. This journey you are on is His purpose for your life. No, you are not there yet, but neither are you where you were. Press on!

One Thing

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-14 

We have an opportunity to refocus on the one thing. It is the thing Habakkuk longed for, Paul longed for, and we long for.

What if you had to leave everything behind except one thing?

What if you had to sort through your prized possessions and you only had a few minutes to make the decision? The storm is coming and you can only carry one thing with you.

What if you had to surrender all your trophies, all the reminders of your past success? What if your most cherished disappointments – that’s right, I said “cherished” disappointments – had to be forgotten. Men and women often treasure their failures out of some misguided sense of safety and security.

Forgetting what is behind means unshackling oneself from the comforts of past victories and the comfortable excuses of past defeats.

We are called to press forward toward a goal we have not yet achieved. The press involves some stress – the right kind of stress that is the tension between where we are and where we ought to be. It involves energy and intensity. It calls for commitment and consecration.

More than anything else, it demands a clear fix on the prize. Without knowing all the details, we can know that there is a clear mark. It is the calling of God in Christ Jesus, but it is not just any calling. It is the high calling.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, who you’ve been, or what you’ve done – great or small. The high calling is higher, loftier, and more wonderful than anything. It deserves to be the ONE thing in your life to which anything else of value is attached. If it cannot be attached, then it must be left behind because it is not worthy of the one great thing in your life: the prize.

A Complete Mind

We have all heard it said, when we complained about a pain, that it was all in our minds. That was probably not entirely true. Yet, it is true that our minds are powerful and how we set our minds and upon what we set them is vital to everything in our lives. That is why the Christian calendar devotes days of preparation for great celebrations like Christmas and Easter.

How much more so can be preparing for the great event of the unfolding of God's purposes in the culmination of all history?

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. - Philippians 3:15

There are two profound truths in this often-confusing verse. One is that if we are perfect in every other way, let us think as such – all thoughts fully integrated and focused on one great goal: the mark, the prize, the calling.

Of course, no one has arrived, but some think they have. Paul challenges such folks to live what they profess. Other ways of understanding perfection evoke visions of completion and maturity – relative terms. The point is this: if we have reached a certain point of maturity, it should affect the way we think. Our attitudes must be those reflected by Paul when he declared that he had not arrived and was committed to pressing on.

Mature people are always growing, always climbing, never satisfied with where they are spiritually, and always looking forward.

Another great truth is the principle of relaxed concern as regards the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters. Relaxed concern means that we care, we help, and we pray, but we don’t take the whole burden for their choices on ourselves. We trust that God can handle the misconceptions of His children about themselves.

Our trust is in God and that, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:5)

So, like Paul, we can encourage our brothers and sisters not to become self-satisfied, but we cannot judge their progress. That is God’s job and He does it well. What we can and must do is pray for spiritual dissatisfaction in our hearts and in the hearts of our fellow believers that is characterized by the words of the old hymn:

I am satisfied with Jesus.
He has done so much for me.
He has suffered to redeem me.
He has died to set me free.
I am satisfied. I am satisfied.
I am satisfied with Jesus.
But the question comes to me as I think of Calvary:
Is my Master satisfied with me?

Don’t Lose Ground

The prophet would not have had to pray for revival if the people of God had not lost so much ground in their pilgrimage of faith and obedience. Paul knew that it was possible to move backwards as well as forward.

Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. -Philippians 3:16

You shouldn’t have to start over again and again.

Nothing is as frustrating as having to retrace old ground. The solution then, is not to lose ground in the first place.

Have you ever wondered why some of us as Christians have to seemingly deal with the same issues over and over again? Why is it that we forget the lessons we have learned? Why do we insist that God rescue us from the same old tired errors and sins?

Why do we need so many personal revivals in our lives?

We grow complacent and the Spirit finds a way to wake us up. We stay focused on the prize for a time and then we get distracted. From distraction, we move toward boredom and from boredom to spiritual coldness and before we know it we are as useful as dead folks to the Kingdom of God.

And then we need revival again.

Revival is a good thing – especially if it is not always about reclaiming lost ground. Revival ought to be about encouraging us to the next step of spiritual progress, reminding us of the goal set before us, and stirring us up with a fresh breath of spiritual energy.

Sadly, it is often about waking the dead who ought to be alive. To that dilemma, Brother Paul speaks and admonishes us to walk by the rule of humble progress with our minds all focused on the one thing that surpasses all else.

Don’t lose ground – not this time. And if you do, regain it quickly and move on. The more you practice your faith, exercising it in daily discipline, the less likely you will be to fall, the more likely you will be to keep moving on toward the mark.

Let us keep moving forward, as we do, sing this song of ascent from Psalm 126.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

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Excerpted from The Confidence Factor

 


February 14 - A Busy Day - Another Digest

1554

On this date in 1554, Anabaptists David van der Leyen and Levina Ghyselius were burned at the stake in Ghent.

"In the year 1554, there was imprisoned at Ghent, in Flanders, for following Christ and living according to God’s commandments, a young brother named David, who, when examined, freely confessed his faith. Being asked what he thought of the sacrament, David said, that he considered it nothing else than idolatry. Then a priest said to him, 'Friend, you err greatly, that you so readily confess your faith, for it will cost you your life, if you do not change your mind in time.'

"Thereupon David sweetly replied, 'I am ready to shed my blood for the name of Christ, even though it should be here in this place; for God is my salvation, who will keep me, and preserve me from all evil.'”

"The priest said, 'It will not be as good as though you were put to death secretly here in this place; but you will be burnt publicly at the stake, for an everlasting reproach.'”

"He was then brought into the court, where he was condemned to death, and his sentence was read, namely, that he had fallen from the true faith into heresy, and was therefore, according to the imperial edict, sentenced to be strangled and burned. David said, 'No one will ever be able to prove by the Scriptures, that the faith for which I must now die is heresy.'"

There was also sentenced to death with him a woman named Levina, who rather forsook, not only her six dear children, but also her temporal life, than her dear Lord and Bridegroom Jesus Christ. Arriving on the scaffold, David attempted to kneel down in order to offer up his prayer to God, but he was prevented, and they were immediately driven away to the stakes, standing at which, David said to Levina, 'Rejoice, dear sister; for what we suffer here is not to be compared with the eternal good that awaits us.' (Rom. 8:18)

"When about to offer up their sacrifice, both exclaimed, 'Father, into thy hands do we commend our spirits.'

"A little bag of gunpowder was tied to each of them, whereupon they were strangled and burned. But there happened a manifest miracle of God; for though they were completely burned, and the fire was as good as extinguished, David was seen to move his head, so that the people exclaimed, 'He still lives.'

"The executioner seized the fork, and thrust it three times into his bowels, so that the blood flowed out; yet even after this he was still seen to move, hence, the executioner threw a chain around his neck, and bound him to the stake, and thus broke his neck."

"Thus these two valiantly fought their way through, firmly trusting in God, who did not let them be confounded, since they had firmly built their building upon the only foundation; wherefore they shall never perish, but abide forever." –Martyrs Mirror


A 2-13 Digest

Posts from the Past

Digest 2 13

Gotta Go
Sometimes on the phone,
Sometimes in person,
Often on-line,
Occasionally when knocking on the door of the privy,
Always first thing in the morning ...
Gotta go!
When the waves of life's stormy seas become more
Than the tired cliché they are ...
And actually start to soak the boat,
Then,
I gotta go.
I do mean, to be correct, "I have to go" or
"I must go" or
"Pardon me"
OR ...
"Bye now!"
But "Gotta go" is just more ...
REAL.
GOTTA
G - Grabbing necessity
O - Overwhelming urge
T - Temporal urgency (urge on steroids)
T - Trust me; its true!
A - After I've gone, I'll explain.
GO -
G - Get going and get in the groove; its time for movement.
O - Out of here.
And that is where I am now ...
And will be at moments through the day ...
BUT ...
I felt
I had to write
Even something trite ...
I may not have time later.
What must be done, must be done now
Because ONE DAY ...
SOME DAY ...
When I say,
"Gotta Go!"
I'll really have to go ...
And ...
In spite of my efforts ...
Or anyone's
I'll be gone.
You too!
Gotta go ...
I'll probably be back ...
But you never know.
SEIZE THE DAY!!!!!
SEIZE THE MOMENT!!!!

 


On Your Toes

Stay on your toes 2

Stay on your toes.

Lessons from Some Ancient Wisdom

Whether or not you look to the Bible as your source of faith and ultimate guide for life, do not discount the business wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Much of the contemporary business advice in the world today either directly or indirectly quotes it.

The admonition is to be alert and take nothing and no one for granted. Live life on tiptoe in anticipation, but also in awareness of what is going on over the horizon. 

Boasting vs Believing About Tomorrow

We are to make faith declarations and dream statements as freely as we breath, but boasting is another matter. It presupposes that we are self-sufficient and need neither God nor other people to reach our aspirations and excludes gratitude from the success equation of our lives.

Thus, the writer of Proverbs declares (27:1) :

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring forth.” (New International Version)

Of course we do not know. There are variables beyond our oversight and capacity to predict. We do not control other people’s choices or the heartbeat of nature. There are larger purposes than our own and we function best when we view our lives as part of a larger plan and submit ourselves to a greater will.

When that happens, the dream that is planted within our hearts is a dream we must pursue and can pursue with divine guidance and power. However, we do not know what valleys of sorrow or storms of trouble through which we must pass.

We cannot boast about the time frame.

All that we can determine are our choices and our beliefs and these we must control or they will be controlled by circumstance.

You can believe in tomorrow without boasting about it. You can predict your own success without presumption. You can embrace a life of faith without assuming that there will be no battles to fight or hardships to bear. You can control your decisions without controlling all of your circumstances.

You can choose to be an overcomer without knowing what tomorrow will bring.

You can live in absolute ignorance of the specifics of the future and remain positive if you know and trust the One who holds tomorrow.

Another Form of Dangerous Boasting

One of the principles of network marketing is edification. We edify up-line and down-line. That is also true in the church, ministry, and every business and social endeavor.

Proverbs 27:2 says,

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.

On might ask in panic, “How can I be sure that they will? If I don ‘t toot my own horn, who will toot it?”

Simple. It will be those you have built up in the eyes of others. They cannot wait to build you up. They will have, not only the desire, but the incentive, to increase the esteem others have of you by their own words.

The greater your credibility, the greater the credibility they can give to you when they speak.

Third party credibility is the lifeblood of marketing and all forms of networking, and it is the right thing to do.

Acknowledging all that as true, we return to the essence of the proverb: humility. It is the humble man or woman who does not destroy his or her own reputation through self-serving bragging. That sort of person undersells and over-delivers.

Dull Stupidity

Don’t be stupid.

The word “stupid” is offensive to some and rightly so. It has to do with being in a permanent stupor or daze and letting life pass by without our notice, attention, or intervention.

I know some really smart, stupid people who wander in and out of stupidity and allow their businesses, ministries, and lives to wander down paths of least resistance through minefields of needless danger with little awareness or care.

That is unnecessary.

Proverbs 27:12 says (NIV),

“The prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

How much trouble in your dealings can you chalk up to inattention to detail?

I know it is boring, especially for “hunters” like many of us. We are ambitious dreamers, focused on our multiple goals who do not want to be bothered with petty problems and possible snags in our drive toward success.

We must choose to be aware of the environments in which we operate or enter into stupors to our detriment.

That is what so many do when they dull their senses with chemical addictions and other forms of addictive behavior.

“If I don’t see it,” they delude themselves by declaring, “it is not a problem.”

Wrong! It is when we don’t see it that it becomes a problem. If we see it, especially down the road, we can take positive action and turn the potential danger into our own advantage.

Don’t be stupid. Wake up and take the proper refuge.

Sharpen Up

Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities that come to you with arms and legs every day?

You have been gifted with associates above you and below you on charts made by human hands who have the capacity to add value to your life with every conversation and as you observe them.

Some of them make big mistakes, but even they are not useless. You can use them as examples of what not to do.

You can learn from everyone with whom you come into contact.

Proverbs 27:17 in the NIV says,

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

How does this happen? Many ways. Perhaps we can touch on a few of them with the word, SHARP.

S = Seeing

We observe the other person’s life, choices, habits, techniques, strategies, behavior, and interactions and learn. If we watch people closely, we will collect valuable information and will observe timeless principles being fleshed out in their lives. Paul once told some of the disciples to follow him as he followed Christ.

H = Hassle

The word means “struggle” or “contest,” but we use it to refer to the resistance we sometimes get when we need to reevaluate our behaviors and choices. So it is sort of a struggle that begins within us and continues as others compete with us or challenge us about our behaviors. we get shaper and either change our choices or become stronger in them. Never discount the benefit of a good hassle.

A = Accountability

If we are never accountable to anyone, we will drift into an undisciplined and unproductive life. That is almost always true because God has made us for community and has designed systems of accountability into the framework of churches and businesses. Network marketing employs that principle. So, call your upline or your pastor, or your accountability partner and do it regularly.

R — Respect

We learn respect for ourselves by respecting others, We learn respect for others when we reverence and respect God and His handiwork in fashioning people so magnificently. When you look upon one of those polished pieces of iron with arms and legs, you are looking upon the very handiwork of God. You will get sharper by respecting people.

P — Practice

People give us the opportunity to practice principles, to practice our presentations, and to practice our principles. People sharpen people through practice, interaction, conversion, struggle, and shared labor.

Don’t be a loner. If you make the choice to do it all yourself, by yourself, you will suffer unnecessary setbacks and delays. Let other people make you sharper and let them benefit through their association with you as well.

How is Your Fig Tree?

Proverbs 27:18 NIV) says, “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.”

This is pretty simple:

  • Do your job.
  • Do your best.
  • Then, do better.

Treat your job, if you still have one, like it is your own business and act in the boss’s interest as if his or her success is yours.

Even if you are trying to retire with all the energy and ingenuity you have during your off hours by building your own empire, do your J-O-B (just over broke) with diligence and be conscientious.

There will be fruit. Sometimes the fruit will grow in places you do not expect, but it will grow and you will eat it.

Of course, once you get your own fig tree, you will get a bigger share.

Counting Sheep

Some people think of counting sheep as a way of falling asleep. I would suggest it as a metaphor for staying awake and alert.

Proverbs 27:23–24 says (NIV),

“Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”

Your business or ministry will not thrive, grow, and prosper without your attention. Your people will not become all they can be without your help. Your organization will not be protected unless you protect it.

You must pay attention to what has been entrusted to you.

Your network needs your knowledge, and you need to know what is going on.

Technology is your friend. We have phones, e-mail, databases, back offices, and so many tracking tools … but we need to use them.

We cannot assume that everything will take care of itself and that matters will be OK if we ignore them. We need a hands-on approach while trusting people, systems, and the leaders we train. We have to know what is going on with our flocks.

You are a shepherd over your business or ministry. It is your job to care and guide.

Relaxed leadership is fine; disengaged leadership is disastrous. Inattentive and apathetic leadership hurts your entire organization and all the people in it.

Some of the things that require your attention are:

  1. The raw numbers. You need to be tracking the internal trends within your system.
  2. The attitudes and morale of your people. Look for subtleties that need to be addressed before they become problems.
  3. The trends in your industry and in those societal factors that affect and affect your industry and the attitudes of people toward it. don’t be the last to know.
  4. Technological advances and innovations. Don’t be caught off-guard.

These are just a few of the signposts to which you need to pay attention. The bottom line is: PAY ATTENTION!

The rest of the passage (25–27) is a promise:

“25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will provide you with clothing, 
 and the goats with the price of a field.
27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk 
 to feed you and your family 
 and to nourish your servant girls.”


Unfair

Unfair

Life is not fair. Thus goes the lament.

Evil people prosper. There is no justice.

That is the lament of those who tag it all with this question:

"Why bother?"

The psalmist cried this often-cried cry and then,

"But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end." (Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)

"Until."

Until he went before God to gain perspective - the perspective of the whole of their lives, the whole of his life, and the vastness of God's purposes.

Some insights are simply unattainable outside the presence of God.

 


Unfair

Unfair

Life is not fair. Thus goes the lament.

Evil people prosper. There is no justice.

That is the lament of those who tag it all with this question:

"Why bother?"

The psalmist cried this often-cried cry and then,

"But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end." (Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)

"Until."

Until he went before God to gain perspective - the perspective of the whole of their lives, the whole of his life, and the vastness of God's purposes.

Some insights are simply unattainable outside the presence of God.

 


Visit Your Memories Often

Slide6

Visit your memories.
Relive them.
Move on.

This has been six years. I had to come to terms with this being my last bike ride. I enjoyed it, but it would be too dangerous for me now. We gave the bike away and I am not allowed to venture far from the house without some mechanical assistance "just in case," but it is good memory of a very happy ride.

What are some of your best memories over the last few years?

 

    

 



You can always visit them.
Relive them.
Move on.
---------------

" I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah"
(Psalm 143:5-6 ESV)-

 

 


Salty Seasonings for Today - A Digest

Have salt in yourselves

Self-conquest is the greatest of all victories." -Socrates


Socrates on self mastery

The power of self-conquest is in its greatest challenge, subjugating our own desires, passions, wants, and needs to something greater than ourselves.

When we can place things in their proper order, we can conquer any challenge.

When we have overcome self and self interest, we will have positioned ourselves for heroism should the need ever arise.

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

"The scandalous part of grace is that it is big enough to include both the oppressed and the oppressors."-Shane Claiborne

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

"... I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster." Isaiah 60:17, NRSV

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

In his musings, the psalmist wandered around the dusty trails of his own existence, traversing over his own struggles and victories, glancing upon the outgrowths of wickedness that tormented him and the grace that attended him.
 
He paused to pray a reflective prayer over his fleeting existence for perspective and resolve, assessing his own need of assessment.
 
" “O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

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

"Any time we rejoice in death, we disgrace the cross of Jesus." - Shane Claiborne

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No photo description available.

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Born this day in 1944 – Alice Walker, American novelist, short story writer, and poet. Happy birthday!

Alice walker


"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men."

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

"Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet."

"The harm that you do to others is the harm that you do to yourself and you cannot think then that you can cause wars in other parts of the world and destroy people and drone them without this having a terrible impact on your own soul and your own consciousness."

"I think unless the people are given information about what is happening to them, they will die in ignorance. And I think that's the big sin. I mean if there is such a thing as a sin, that's it, to destroy people and not have them have a clue about how this is happening."

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it."

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

Born this day in 1847 – Hugh Price Hughes, Welsh-English clergyman and theologian (d. 1902)He was a religious reformer in the Methodist tradition and leader of the "Forward Movement" in Methodism. The movement sought to reshape the Methodist Church as the moral and social conscience of Britain. He expressed discontentment with the notion that evangelical tradition had become overly focused on individual salvation, and it was time for them to become churches in a fuller sense, taking on responsibility for the salvation of society.

He was a leader for temperance and for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts and was a strong advocate for public education and international peace as well as home rule.

Hugh price hughes


"You cannot help being a politician. You cannot live for an hour without being a politician. But what a man generally means when he says that he is not a politician I am afraid is this--that he has been all his life enjoying his political privilege and grossly neglecting his political duties; and in that sense the observation is scarcely to his credit. As a matter of fact, politics, properly understood, is simply Science of Life--the doctrine of the way in which I am to do my duty to my neighbor, which is an essential part of true religion. It is nothing in the world except religion applied to human society; in fact, it is the practical recognition of the Second Table of the Law of God."

"Politics is the only serious subject that men think themselves qualified to act upon without any previous education or instruction whatever. If it happened to be astronomy, or botany, or medicine, or law, he would never be allowed to work in any of these arts, or to take a decisive part in the history of any one of these sciences without having, at least, acquired: the A B C of it; but the awful fact of politics is that we do not take the trouble seriously to understand the political situation."

"Free and just political institutions are absolutely essential to the progress and development both of the individual and of the race."

"What a man generally means when he says that he is not a politician I am afraid is this - that he has been all his life enjoying his political privileges and neglecting his political duties."

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

William henry harrison

Born this day in 1773 – The shortest-term President in our history at 31 days - William Henry Harrison, American general and politician, 9th President of the United States (d. 1841). A Virginian, he was the son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and the paternal grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States.
 
He was also the last president born as a British subject in the Thirteen Colonies.
 
He was succeeded by another Virginian, John Tyler.

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

If I am going to enjoy righteousness and the pursuit of holiness, I must also understand the pernicious power of the sin that does so easily beset me. I am not immune and you are not immune from The Great Distraction or its destructive persistence. There is a duality to our lives - an authentic self and a false self. I cannot speak of the wicked man without recognizing the phony me who walks around in and desires to rule my body and mind. I can own the reality and reject the rule, but it is a daily deed. As bad as any can be, so can I be! Yet, there is more.
 
"Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil."
(Psalm 36:1-4 ESV)

 

Satchel page overview

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

Praying together ...
 
Sometimes, when we cannot find the words or place within our hearts, we pray together ...
Across miles and timelines ...
Across languages and any other barriers to find mutual encouragement and to ...
Meld our prayers with those of others who have so prayed or would have ...
Or might and may and shall .
And to know that we always have at least one strong and true prayer partner means that ...
if we cannot pray well, He knows the secrets of our hearts.
 
 
 
I just love to post this song periodically from different artists and I love Joe Stead. I have a strong eschatology, but it does not preclude a hope for the present and near future based upon the calling we always have to be blessed peacemakers. May we never allow our eschatology to suppress our ecclesiology or to excuse us from our missiology.
 
 
 
No photo description available.
 
 

 


Posted on this Day through the Years

Jene-stephaniuk-Yc1Qi2e1MDs-unsplash

 

Photo by Jené Stephaniuk on Unsplash

 

In remembrance of Martin Buber's  birthday!
 
Born: February 8, 1878, Vienna
 
Died: June 13, 1965, Jerusalem
"It takes a lifetime to learn how to be able to hold your own ground, to go out to the others, to be open to them without losing your ground. And to hold your ground without shutting others out."
 
"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
 
"A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for."
"Play is the exultation of the possible."
 
"Through the Thou a person becomes I."
 
"The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings."
 
"To be old can be glorious if one has not unlearned how to begin."
 
"God wants man to fulfill his commands as a human being and with the quality peculiar to human beings."
 
"Solitude is the place of purification."
- Martin Buber
 
No photo description available.
 
-----------------------
 
Overheard:
Nurse : How are you?
Patient: I'm here, not all there.
Adding that to my repertoire
-----------------------
 

I set urgent goals,
make urgent plans,
play urgent roles,
Pray urgent prayers,
seek urgent interventions for my urgent cares.

God quietly,
silently, patiently hears my cries,
my fears,
my sobbing tears.
God speaks and cage-rattles as silently and patiently to my rage- battles.
And urgency gives way to intentionality ....
And rush to order ...
And I step into a different time-line where all that was slow
Is fast
And all that was fast
Is slow
And everything Is right on time.

"Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!" " Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143:7-8 ESV)


Beauty for Beauty's Sake

John Muir quote on breaty

There is great value in beauty for no other reason than the fact that it is beautiful

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”  -I Chronicles 16:29

The great naturalist, John Muir, once said, :.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. “

If God had not loved beauty so much, he would not have made so much of it.

The earth and the hearts of humans are consumed with glorious beauty and beautiful thoughts, words, melodies, colors, and  visions. Solomon said:

“He hath made everything beautiful in his time.”

There is the beauty of nature around us: flowers and grass, oceans and mountains, trees, rivers and plains, deserts and valleys, and all that God has made on this earth.

There is the beauty of the cosmos. The sun and stars, the planets and open space, all declare the glory of God.

There is the beauty of art. The written word lifts our minds. The spoken word stirs us. Music releases our emotions of love, joy, and pain. Paintings, sculptures, great architecture, and all forms of visual art cause our spirits to soar. All forms of art can express the beauty of human creativity and thus, the handiwork of God in our lives.

There is the beauty of children, the beauty of human love, the beauty of friendship, and the beauty of a sacrificial act of grace and mercy.

There is the beauty of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.

All of these forms of beauty are healing and nurturing, but more than that, all of these prompt us to worship God whose deepest expression of beauty is God's own holiness.




Beauty for Beauty's Sake

John Muir quote on breaty

The is great value in beauty for no other reason than the fact that it is beautiful

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”  -I Chronicles 16:29

The great naturalist, John Muir, once said, :.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. “

If God had not loved beauty so much, he would not have made so much of it.

The earth and the hearts of humans are consumed with glorious beauty and beautiful thoughts, words, melodies, colors, and  visions. Solomon said:

“He hath made everything beautiful in his time.”

There is the beauty of nature around us: flowers and grass, oceans and mountains, trees, rivers and plains, deserts and valleys, and all that God has made on this earth.

There is the beauty of the cosmos. The sun and stars, the planets and open space, all declare the glory of God.

There is the beauty of art. The written word lifts our minds. The spoken word stirs us. Music releases our emotions of love, joy, and pain. Paintings, sculptures, great architecture, and all forms of visual art cause our spirits to soar. All forms of art can express the beauty of human creativity and thus, the handiwork of God in our lives.

There is the beauty of children, the beauty of human love, the beauty of friendship, and the beauty of a sacrificial act of grace and mercy.

There is the beauty of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.

All of these forms of beauty are healing and nurturing, but more than that, all of these prompt us to worship God whose deepest expression of beauty is God's own holiness.




For the Good of All

Common good

A test of our immersion in and sensitivity to the Spirit, is that, in our work, play, and relations, we act for the good of all. We are a family and that precludes conceit, self-centeredness, and bitterness.

We are called yo work to forgive and restore people who fall, to have a realistic view of our own importance, to bear the burdens of others, but, also, to bear our own.

We are to live in awareness that what we plant in the Spirit, bears eternal fruit and what we plant in the selfish flesh, produced no lasting fruit.

It rots.

The promise of eternal life keeps us from growing weary in well doing. We know that harvest time is coming.

And we labor for the good of all.


Galatians 5:25-6:10
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.

Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.

All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

We need people to live fully in the Spirit and we need the Spirit to live fully among people. Competition, envy, pride, harshness, laziness, and weary acquiescence in resignation to the current of negative thinking and living are sown seeds of destruction and loss.
 
The life of the Spirit is that joyfully generous sowing of seeds for eternal benefit as we sow them into the lives of others. We need the world and all of its people and we need community of faith in order to have the soil for seed-sowing.
 
We need people to challenge us, stretch us, and bestow us with opportunities to live a life of service in the Spirit. As we live this life in the Spirit, guided by the Spirit, we are refined and others are built up. It is the genius of God and the genesis of eternal bliss.
 
Galatians 5:25-6:10 (NRSV
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

You Are the Laboratory for Your Greatest Ideas

Demonstration labs

We are demonstration laboratories for the truth that we embrace, internalize, and profess. 

What we add is conviction, attitude, and action. 

These gather under the broad yet specific category of faith. 

They, in turn, by the grace and power of God, contribute the twin evidences of credibility and authenticity through the thin filter of transparency. 

Our struggles are the testing grounds where the quality of our truth is either refined or shown to be faulty. 

One of life's goal, at this stage, and every stage is to authenticate and verify, as credible, the core Truth of my life that I have chosen to follow. 

I am weak, but God is able.

God wait for my resolve to do and to be what I believe in doing and being.

The world is waiting to see it so that it can be evaluated.

Does what we teach work?

Our lives are the laboratories for our declarations of truth.

Do we possess what we profess?

Can it translate to the real world?

These are questions that can become a template for our witness, our marketing, our sales, and our pitch decks. Whatever we promote requires a proof of concept. Whatever we pitch needs a demonstration.

Our lives and lifestyles are first in a long line of proofs of concept and life-demonstrations.

If I were coaching or mentoring around this concept, as simple as it is, I might ask some probing questions.

  1. Can you give me an elevator presentation of your mission in life?
  2. 2. Can you give me such a presentation for this project?
  3. What have you invested in it materially, or in terms of your reputation, time, energy, resources, or influence?
  4. If what you value and are asking me to value does not come into fulfillment in your life or in your community, what will be the emotional cost in your life?
  5. How do you feel when others see your passion and the reason for it?
  6. How do you feel as you imagine others buying into your vision?
  7. What are you willing to sacrifice to see your vision realized?

Contribute questions of your own to this list.

If you are coaching another person, use them. If not, use them on yourself. Coach yourself with them.


We Win

Malachi
Malachi 3:1-4

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight-- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Malachi gives us plenty to chew on.

Here are some bites I am taking:

Sometimes it is confusing to sort the good from the evil. It is not really our job.

But God says there will come a day when it will be very obvious who serves God and who does not.

We might even be a little vague in our understanding of ourselves as we compartmentalize our lives. We think we are serving in this area, but not in another. We name some activity in our lives and designate it as something that honors the Lord.

But maybe it is more self-serving than we think.

We might dismiss some menial task we do as not worthy of God. Yet, it is this that pleases Him most.

We might be equally confused about people as a whole.

Stubble is what has no substance in our lives, Arrogance and evil burn away in the heat of God's righteous judgment. Nothing is left of them. Pray for that heat to come early in your life. You don't need the stubble.

The hotness of God's wrath will be manifest to His people differently. The sun of righteousness rises with healing in its wings.

We bounce like young calves with the joy of new life.

We tread down the wicked who oppress.

We win.


Something to do

Doing nothing is sheer torture.

We are motivated to be motivated and are on a quest to find what motivates us most.

Significance, conquest, purpose, overcoming, solving problems.

These are activities that motivated us to greater work and conquest. These are factors that drive us to deeper commitment. These are challenges that keep us in the game.

If they work for me and they work for you, how about building them into your organization or team as a part of your culture? How might assessing the question of what it is that triggers passion among your people bring your group together to do more and be more.

"Self-conquest is the greatest of all victories." -Socrates

The power of self-conquest is in its greatest challenge, subjugating our own desires, passions, wants, and needs to something greater than ourselves.

When we can place things in their proper order, we can conquer any challenge.

When we have overcome self and self interest, we will have positioned ourselves for heroism should the need ever arise.

"They laboriously do nothing." - Seneca

People are getting weary if they are doing nothing or doing much and accomplishing little or nothing.

You can wear yourself out and wear out your team with a lack of purpose.

It is never easy to do nothing.

It takes great effort.

In the avoidance of work there is backbreaking toil.

It is easier just to decide to get up and do something.

Then in doing something, we shall gain much ... if only rest from the labors of doing nothing.

"Enjoy your life without comparing it with that of another." - Condorset

People are not looking for rank. They are looking for that undefined "something" that says, "This was a day worthwhile. I accomplished something. I gained something."

No comparison with others is necessary.

Out of my faith tradition comes three statements that reinforce the answer to any tension between comfort, ease, rest, and a drive to accomplish more.

"...godliness with contentment is great gain." - I Timothy 6:6
"The fear of the Lord leads to life. Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." - Proverbs 19:23
"... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11

Clearly there is something about this business of contentment.

Contentment is not laziness. It is not disengagement. It is not a life without goals and challenges. It is a life with attainable goals, a desire for personal best, and a reason for every activity.

Once we gain contentment, we can reach beyond ourselves to realize our dreams. That is because we are whole without that which we do not yet have and fulfilled in the quest to become more than we are.

We learn to love the journey.

We love the challenges.

We love the rest at the end of the day.

We love the rewards that we give to ourselves.

We love the conviction that we have lived with conviction and have fulfilled our purpose for the day. We even love the tasks that we have to move to the next day from today's to-do list because there were just not enough hours.

Organizations can develop the kind of culture that nurtures such thinking. Coaches and mentors, along with supervisors can promote it, encourage it, and reward it.

Perhaps you already know how you might implement this philosophy into your leadership. I welcome your practical ideas in the comments..

Here are a few off the top of my head:

  1. In your staff meetings, make "why we do what we do" a matter of conversation for part of every meeting.
  2. Tell stories in walk-around, coaching or mentoring sessions, meetings, newsletters, and emails about the difference that your work has made in the lives of people and communities.
  3. Feature outstanding examples of people on the team or in your circle of influence who have gone beyond what was expected of them to accomplish more and create an impact.
  4. Ask, "How can we do this better?"
  5. Ask, "Are we on task?" and "Are we in danger of mission-drift?" and "Do we need to correct our priorities in any way?" All of these questions are designed to undergird the purpose of everyone's work and the organization's mission.
  6. Stop by workstations just to find a reason to pay a complement, offer support, answer questions, show interest, or engage with your team members.
  7. Send out emails to some of the people you work with. Do some of these daily. Make them personal. Focus on something they are doing and how if promotes the overall significance of the project.
  8. Take and display pictures of team members in action.
  9. Share "clippings," social media posts, news items, quotes, and videos where your team members or clients are being featured.
  10. Show pride in the people with whom you work.

There is much more, but a brainstorm of ten is a great place to start.

It is your turn to brainstorm.

Help your clients and team members to grow, to experience self-conquest, and to learn the art of contentment with deep motivation to do and be more.

Then, find a coach or mentor who can do that for you.

 

From Start to Finish

The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

Author and Finisher of Faith

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …”  Hebrews 12:2

This verse tells us who Jesus is and what our response to Him must be. He is the author of faith. Faith originates with Him in its content of our faith and in our capacity to embrace it and live it.  Our response is to look unto Him.

Look unto Jesus, to turn every distraction of the world into an attraction for our response to Him. Looking to Jesus is not a passive, passing glance of recognition, but an act of wholehearted seeking whereby we exercise stillness and movement at the same time.

Looking unto Jesus involves every dimension of who we are: intellectually, physically, relationally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. We cannot seek Him from a position of indifference or from a heart of cynicism. It must be the primary activity of our life to look unto Jesus.

But you ask, “How?” and it is a dangerous question to answer.

It is dangerous because any answer might be a formula, and this is not a matter of following a formula. Seeking Jesus is a state of mind and heart. It is a predisposition. It is an approach to everything we do, think, and feel.

Nevertheless, there are some pointers that we are given.

We encounter the written Word of God in the scriptures. So that is a place of seeking. We commune with Him in prayer, so that is another. We are called to see Him in others, so we might look unto Him in our relationships.

The same is true for opportunities to serve, songs of worship, the glories of creation, the arts, and every other thing we see, hear, or experience. The call is to look unto Him in everything.

As we look unto Him, He completes our faith.

 

Comment on the Art - from the National Gallery:

In the art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Virtues were often personified by human figures carrying identifying attributes. Faith in this case had a chalice and a cross, now broken. As represented by Mino da Fiesole, a contemporary of Desiderio da Settignano and Antonio Rossellino, Faith and a companion piece Charity appear as slender young girls in clinging, layered gowns with fine pleats. Their heavy mantles are carved in distinctive, angular folds. Typical of Mino's style is the fine, precise, sharp-edged treatment of textile folds and locks of hair, giving these features an ornamental quality different from the softer approach of Desiderio and Antonio Rossellino.

Set in arched niches, the figures must have been intended as part of a monument combining architecture and sculpture, probably a wall tomb inside a church. The Virtues would represent reasons for the deceased person's good memory on earth and hopes for Paradise.

Faith and Charity stand on bases treated as little banks of clouds, as if they were already in heaven themselves. Hope, the third theological Virtue mentioned in Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, might have completed such a group.


From Start to Finish

The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

Author and Finisher of Faith

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …”  Hebrews 12:2

This verse tells us who Jesus is and what our response to Him must be. He is the author of faith. Faith originates with Him in its content of our faith and in our capacity to embrace it and live it.  Our response is to look unto Him.

Look unto Jesus, to turn every distraction of the world into an attraction for our response to Him. Looking to Jesus is not a passive, passing glance of recognition, but an act of wholehearted seeking whereby we exercise stillness and movement at the same time.

Looking unto Jesus involves every dimension of who we are: intellectually, physically, relationally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. We cannot seek Him from a position of indifference or from a heart of cynicism. It must be the primary activity of our life to look unto Jesus.

But you ask, “How?” and it is a dangerous question to answer.

It is dangerous because any answer might be a formula, and this is not a matter of following a formula. Seeking Jesus is a state of mind and heart. It is a predisposition. It is an approach to everything we do, think, and feel.

Nevertheless, there are some pointers that we are given.

We encounter the written Word of God in the scriptures. So that is a place of seeking. We commune with Him in prayer, so that is another. We are called to see Him in others, so we might look unto Him in our relationships.

The same is true for opportunities to serve, songs of worship, the glories of creation, the arts, and every other thing we see, hear, or experience. The call is to look unto Him in everything.

As we look unto Him, He completes our faith.

 

Comment on the Art - from the National Gallery:

In the art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Virtues were often personified by human figures carrying identifying attributes. Faith in this case had a chalice and a cross, now broken. As represented by Mino da Fiesole, a contemporary of Desiderio da Settignano and Antonio Rossellino, Faith and a companion piece Charity appear as slender young girls in clinging, layered gowns with fine pleats. Their heavy mantles are carved in distinctive, angular folds. Typical of Mino's style is the fine, precise, sharp-edged treatment of textile folds and locks of hair, giving these features an ornamental quality different from the softer approach of Desiderio and Antonio Rossellino.

Set in arched niches, the figures must have been intended as part of a monument combining architecture and sculpture, probably a wall tomb inside a church. The Virtues would represent reasons for the deceased person's good memory on earth and hopes for Paradise.

Faith and Charity stand on bases treated as little banks of clouds, as if they were already in heaven themselves. Hope, the third theological Virtue mentioned in Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, might have completed such a group.


On the Sea

Sea of G boat

"And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples..."

This raises an interesting question that I will return to in a few paragraphs.

For me and for today, the big phrase in this morning's gospel portion is this phrase:


"I have compassion for the crowd..."


He was concerned that they were hungry and would not make it home in good health.

So, he immediately formulated a strategy and involved his inner circle in solving the problem, calling upon the power of Eternity to make up for what resources they might have lacked.

Then he got into a boat.

Here is another statement that I often overlook.

It seems that, while in Galilee, Jesus often traveled by boat and would just get in the boat.

Where did the boat come from?

Did he hire it, rent it, borrow it, or own it?

I think, I would like to imagine that it was a part of the mini-fleet from the business that Andrew and Simon Peter left behind.

I like to imagine that when they became disciples of Jesus, the resources that they had were available to the God-Movement and that there was always a boat ready for Jesus and the disciples.

What resources from your life and work have you brought to the God-Movement?

Are they available to Jesus at a Moment's notice?

Someone made fish and bread available, but there was also, that boat.


Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat."

"If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way-- and some of them have come from a great distance."

His disciples replied, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?"

He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?"

They said, "Seven."

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.

They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Now there were about four thousand people.

And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

(Note, I took this picture at a port on the Sea of Galilee)

 


On Being Your Real You. And semi-related thoughts | by Tom Sims , Cultivator of Big Ideas | Jan, 2024 | Medium

Photo by

Living, itself, is a testimonial to others.Just living is harder for some folks. Those who continue to press forward, live as a source of courage for the rest of us. God knows who can be trusted to live openly & with joy on the wheel of suffering. Only God can measure the results.

Why is it that the same sort of shooting, bombing, and explosive violence we abhor in reality, we seek out and cheer in our entertainment? Then we are surprised when someone is unable or unwilling to see the dividing line.


Heal

Healing

"Heal the sick."

We were told what to do, not how to do it. All we got was this:

"Freely you have received; freely give."

The big hint, then is, that we have received something that, when we give it away, brings healing, resurrection, liberation, and cleansing to hurting people in a broken world.

The Master didn't say to spend endless hours figuring it out. We learn as we go and grow. He said, "Get started on your journey."

So, let's go.


Last to Die

Nolde

 

On this day in history, in 1973, as the Paris Peace Accords were bringing the war to an end, Colonel William Benedict Nolde became the last official American combat casualty of the Vietnam War.

He was the 45,914th confirmed death and 57,597th in the total list of Americans killed during the conflict.

Eleven hours later, the cessation of hostilities began.

Nolde was a professor of military science at Central Michigan University before joining the army.


Living Among Wolves

January Memes

Momentary Memes on a Multitude of Matters and ...

The Commission

"Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves." - Luke 10:3

We have been sent among the wolves to make a difference, not necessarily to tame to wolves or survive them, but thee live out our purpose and to bear witness.

The costly commission to follow Jesus and to go forth as His ambassadors is so controversial as to appear adversarial. Jesus warns us to expect hostility and opposition. He does not say this to discourage us, but to encourage us. He does not intend to frighten us away, but to have us brace ourselves in the embrace of His grace and power.

Go your ways,” He says, knowing that each of us has a path that is uniquely and wondrously ours. No two paths are exactly the same though they often intersect and frequently follow parallel courses. We may hesitate to go our ways because it is less risky to continue as we have been, sitting at the feet of Jesus in the cloistered environs of our religious retreats. But we must go. It is His commission.

I send you,” He says and that gives us courage to go forth, knowing that we have been authorized and mandated we bear His Name and represent His kingdom. It gives us confidence and joy to know that we are not staggering through the darkness of meaningless humdrum. We have been sent.

I send you forth as lambs,” He says. We are like baby sheep. We still need our shepherd. As we go from Him, we develop a new relationship with him. We discover that He has come along in a new way.

Lo, I am with you always,” He assures us.

“… as lambs among wolves.” This is the scary part. It is dangerous out there to the extent that we really could lose some things along the way. And if the things we can potentially lose are dearer to us than the commission, we could lose everything. However, if we have relinquished our hold on the things of earth so that they “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace,” then we have absolutely nothing to lose. We have died, as the scriptures say, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

Don’t be afraid of the wolves. Beware of them, but don’t let them stop you. Whatever you do, don’t miss the mission.

 

 


Piety is the conversation that happens at the crossing light at the corner of Holiness Way and Desperation Blvd. in the City of Human Vulnerability on a foggy day in January. - Tom Sims on a rather sunny day


Piety is the conversation that happens at the crossing light at the corner of Holiness Way and Desperation Blvd. in the City of Human Vulnerability on a foggy day in January. - Tom Sims on a rather sunny day


The Woman at the Well

Woman at thee well 2 messages

Today, I am blogging two messages on "The Woman at the Well" interrupted by a bonus Psalm. They are on video.

When I transcribe them, you will see them here.

 







 

The Call

“And the woman left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, ’Come, see a man, who told me all the things that I ever did. Is this not the Christ?’” – John 4:28-29

Are we too attached to our water pots to carry the call of Jesus to our cities? Are we so fixated on our trivial tasks that we cannot leave them to bear witness to his power, grace, and truth?

Here was a woman with the worst reputation in the village and she went to the very people with whom she had made her reputation. To the men of the city, with whom she had no credibility at all, she declared the credibility of Jesus. At least they would talk to her. And she did it without the slightest hint of intimidation and completely undistracted by the unfinished mission that had taken her to the well in the first place.

Who cares about two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen when you can have living water?

Washing clothes can wait. Cooking can be done later. Even drinking water can be postponed. It’s not everyday that you have a chance to meet a man who can tell you everything you have ever done – and in such a way that you feel love, forgiveness, and acceptance rather that shame, guilt, and fear.

This woman had been summoned to a new mission, a higher calling. She received the call and bore the call with passionate conviction and urgency.

The call is upon us and on our lips, but if it is to be heard by the people of the cities, we must leave our water pots and deliver it in person

 


The Strangest Prophet

Ezekiel


He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel-- not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. He said to me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears; then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them. Say to them, "Thus says the Lord God" whether they hear or refuse to hear. - Ezekiel 3:4-11

Of all the prophets, perhaps Ezekiel was the strangest.

God gave him a nearly impossible assignment for a human being.

We all want to be heard. We like to believe that people are listening to us when we speak, but that was not promised to Ezekiel.

You would think that they would listen if I sent you to speak to them, but that's not necessarily so.

They won't listen to you. They wouldn't listen to me. They are hardheaded and hard hearted. But as Ezekiel says in Ezekiel 4, your job is to tell them anyway. Speak the word that I give to you.

Here's the message Ezekiel say to them.

And here it is, it's in quotes. “Thus says the Lord whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

That is the prophetic preface.

“Thus says the Lord God.”

You have a message from God.

Now if you have something to say and you believe in your heart that God has given you that message to say your only responsibility is to say it, you don't have to manipulate people. You don't have to force them, coerce them, or do anything to force them to receive the message.

You just deliver it.

That can be discouraging. And that's why God needed a man like Ezekiel who was cut from a different cloth. Say it and say it consistently, persistently, compassionately, patiently, faithfully, and don't stop.

If you'd like to talk with me personally about this or some other subjects go to my site on Link tree https://linktr.ee/tomsims and sign up for a free 30-minute consultation. Put yourself on my calendar. I'll send you a zoom link. We'll have a great talk.

I'm saying this on January 18th, 2024.

I do not know where I will be a year from now, but I'll still be, if I have breath, saying I have a message from God for you. Listen to it. Sort it out. Check it out. Talk to him about it. See if I'm right. And if so, I do with it what you will.


Today's Archive of Thoughts

 

I keep a calendar of thoughts and compared those thoughts collected over the years, on the day of the month that corresponds to the first time I made them available to the public.

How they come together is something I sometimes manipulate, aggregate, collate, and curate.

At other times, I just let them fall into place and let the reader do all that “ate” work — or shall we say, “eating?”

If you see common denominators, please leave a comment.

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” -Mark 3:1–6 (ESV)

Jesus is angry and grieved here, because otherwise good people with sound doctrine are adding burdens to people that stand between them and their healing and redemption. Jesus’ heart does not allow him to pass a man with a withered hand and not do all he can to help and restore. He can no less pass an opportunity to make a teaching point in his own indignation — even if it creates hostility against him.

There are many lessons here, but one strikes me today. These Pharisees, by all accounts, reformers who sought to bring the faith of Israel back to its authentic roots, had gotten familiar with power and honor and were threatened when something different came along. They had also fallen for the mistaken belief that if everyone just followed the rules as they interpreted them, they would all be “cool” with God.

They were so convinced of their calling to control the Sabbath that God had given to man and made the Son of Man in charge of, that they were willing to align with the money-grabbing, religiously antagonistic, power brokers of the day whose Herodian inclinations were secular, unjust, oppressive, and basically evil. They had something in common — common economic and political interests that they were willing to justify with religious language.

So great was there lust for order, power, and social/religious favor and equilibrium that they made plans to destroy the voice that would upset their tentative and fragile apple cart of Roman-Jewish coexistence.

Jesus’ response was to feel the indignation, grief, and compassion, recognize the risk, and do what he would do anyway.

He was not about to be intimidated.

 — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

“The passion in the human heart for freedom, justice and forgiveness is only eclipsed by the passion in the human heart to inflict injustice, limit freedom, and seek revenge. That’s what theologians call ‘sin.’” — Leonard Sweet

“The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication, they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges and to kindle hope that inspires.” — Howard Thurman, Footprints of a Dream

Grace to you this day.

Free flowing, fresh, thirst quenching, life altering, mind bending, countenance lifting, laughter evoking, heart wrenching, heart mending, sweet, precious grace to you.

Grace to you that is greater than than sin, disappointment, and fear.

Grace to you that is so flavored with giddy God joy that no bitter words can shatter its confidence and all swords of disparagement pass through it like knives through Jell-O.

Grace, grace, grace to you.

Grace to you that lifts you and challenges you.

May grace that cannot be contained in you, be in you and flow through you to others today.

If you do not believe as I do, that grace can come in a person and dwell within you, may grace still surround you and may people of grace be gracious unto you. sing grace; dance grace; live grace.

Grace to you.

 

Here is my prayer for you today.

This prayer covers most bases. It gathers us into immediate and intentional community of support, love, and encouragement. Let us pray it together and, for today and maybe tomorrow, be a congregation of support that reaches around the globe and into eternity.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:14–21 (ESV)

 

Something in us longs for a sense of conclusion as long as that conclusion is culmination of purpose. Sainthood presupposes purpose and closure in accordance with purpose. Let us live with the peace that in the last chapter of our lives, God has determined to bring precious meaning and to fulfill His purposes in us.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD
 is the death of his saints.” -Psalm 116:15 (ESV)

 

 

When your heart belongs to God and is, essentially set on the purposes of God, a new shaping begins to take place. None of this is perfected in time and space, but, to the extent that it is dominant reality of our lives, it does effect our desires. Our desires exist at multilevel layers. They are not all-together free of corruption, but neither are they all-together corrupt. We must listen to our emerging desires, inner stirrings, and subliminal awareness because it is often at that layer that our minds, hearts, and spirits are sorting out the scriptures and insights that God is giving us through many sources all at once. It is those desires that we want Him to fulfill because they are His desires and they are our deepest desires. Out of those desires flow the legitimate dreams, visions, and plans for the future He purposes for us.

“May he grant you your heart’s desire
 and fulfill all your plans!”- Psalm 20:4 (ESV)

Listen to your desires and prayerfully examine your plans. Do not dismiss them, but dig deeper into them. Examine them in the light of scripture and prayer, peeling away the layers until you discover what God is saying to you in and through them.

 — — — — — — — — — — — — — — 

 

 

 



 



 
 

Live loose; live light; live large!

I have been reflecting on an issue that often troubles me. When a crisis occurs in the world, there is an urge to pack up and go, or to at least to write a very big check. Many share that urge. But we are constrained by time commitments, lack of preparation, and enormous personal debt.

As part of the changes in my own life, I am thinking I need to make an effort to live loose, live light, and live large.

Living loose means to take life as it comes and to be able to join Isaiah in his declaration, “Here I am; send me.”

If we live loose, we plan and implement our plans, but we do not become so attached to our plans that they take precedence over our purpose for living. Strategies are vital to our goals, but they change. They must not rule us. Calendars represent commitments to be honored, but there must be some flexibility built into our rigid lives.

Living loose means living in a state of readiness to respond to God’s call through the suffering of the world.

Living loose may mean having a passport ready at all times. I don’t have that. It may mean having contingencies plans and back up prepared for our routine commitments.

Mostly it is an attitude.

I need to live light. Too often we are guided by our limitations. We have created many of those limitations through compulsive spending, mismanagement of credit, consumer greed, and appetites out of control. I have wasted thousands of dollars for which I have little to show.

What do we really need? What is interfering with our ability to give when a need arises?

How can we lighten our loads and live simpler, more rewarding and satisfying lives?

Not only debt, but possessions and expectations of comfort and pleasure can tie us down.

So can mismanaged health and wellness. We are often just too out of shape to be ready to respond. I, for one, have abused my body through years of eating too much of the wrong food and failure to push myself beyond my comfort level in exercise.

These are seemingly innocent sins, but they have effected my availability.

I am just being honest here — I have not lived light. Yet, in recent weeks, I have been experiencing an emptying of myself before God. It has been obvious on the physical level, but it has informed my soul and my spirit.

The sad consequence of the past, however, is that barring a miracle, I could not financially, physically, or professionally get on a plane tomorrow and fly to Haiti.

Neither do I have the money in the bank to write a big check. I will write a check, but it will not be what I could have written if I had lived more wisely and lightly.

There are skills I ought to require, but there is the ever-present excuse: When can I find the time?

Where does anyone find time? We make time.

Living large means we take the world into our hearts and let it expand us beyond ourselves. It means growing toward a God-sized concern for the pain of humanity. It means weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It means thinking globally and eternally.

Living large means loving our neighbors as ourselves.

We love ourselves. We pamper ourselves, indulge ourselves, and fatten ourselves. In the process, we destroy ourselves for usefulness. We need to find a new way of loving ourselves that embraces the whole world. We need to transform our love of self into something that feeds a new self, a servant self, a more fulfilled and joyful self that is available to God and others.

As we change ourselves and love ourselves that way, we can love and change the world.

Live loose; live light; live large!

 

 


Harvest

Harvest - stevenson

Harvest reminds us of continuity. The wheat in the fields points upward toward the God who brings growth year after year along with the changing seasons.

Night points to day, winter to summer, cold to heat and back again.

Earth remains as all else changes because God is unchanging and His patterns form an artistically crafted choreography set to the tune of a grand symphony of nature.
Thomas Chisolm penned it this way in his lovely hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,”

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love."

The message of the seasons is a witness to the faithfulness of God.

The scripture says that grass, and wheat is a grass, will whither even as the flower fades. It is the Word of God that endures forever.

My favorite radio programs tout summer reading lists where notable individuals list the books they are reading in the summer. It is a catch up time for intellectual and literary pursuits.

May I suggest going out in a field or forest, or sitting on a beach in the midst of nature and catching up on the Bible?

God is faithful and God's Word never changes.

Seasons come and go.
Crops are planted, grow, and die.
Life goes on.
All the while, God keeps the universe on course
with faithful guiding hand.

 

 

 


Who Is My Neighbor? - with transcript of MLK's Last Speech

My NeighborA Parable -The Good Samaritan - CH

 Hochhalter, Cara B.. A Parable - The Good Samaritan, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=59287 [retrieved January 15, 2024]. Original source: Cara B. Hochhalter.

And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" - Martin Luther King Jr.

Who should I love as myself?

Who is my neighbor?

Who can I ignore?

Who needs me?

Who do I need?

These are huge questions and they are built into Jesus' opportune answer to the legal question that was once posed to him. Who told a story as he often did to give the listeners an opportunity to think.

Martin Luther King preached about the best sermon on this parable that has ever been preached and you can hear an excerpt at the end of this blog update.

In the meantime, refamiliarize yourself with the story, consider my reflection on it and ask yourself the big questions,

Do Likewise

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." - Luke 10:36-37

We all know the story. It was prompted by a question and occasioned by a teaching in response to a greater question. What we have here is the application: Go and do likewise. One question led to another, then to a story, and then to the lesson Jesus desired to imprint upon every heart: that everyone is our neighbor and that loving our neighbor is about making a practical and active decision to do so and following through regardless of our feelings.

A legal expert who sought to trap Jesus in His own words asked Him what was necessary to inherit eternal life. He turned the question back to him and to his knowledge and interpretation of the law.

“Love God and love your neighbor” was both the answer he gave and the one that Jesus Himself gave on another occasion when asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus commended him and told him to go and do likewise.

That wasn’t enough for the lawyer. He needed an escape clause, something that limited his liability and reduced his responsibility.

“Define neighbor,” was his retort. So, Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and put him in a real bind. He made the hero of the story an outcast from the social and religious life of the Jews. He told the story in such a way as to make the answer to the question obvious.

“Who was the neighbor? Was he one of those who left the poor man stranded by the road or the Samaritan who gave of himself and his means to help him?”

The lawyer answered generically, and Jesus responded specifically, “Go and do likewise.”

Go; live like an outcast among outcasts if you must, but practice love as you go. Love is not revealed in the words we speak or the sentiments we feel, but in the actions, we take in being neighbors to our neighbors.

Go forth and live it.

 

-----------------------------------
MLK's Last Speech - Memphis

MLK  and the Mounntain Top cover

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It's always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I'm delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but "fear itself." But I wouldn't stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."

Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee -- the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."

And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I'm happy that He's allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember -- I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn't itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God's world.

And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying -- We are saying that we are God's children. And that we are God's children, we don't have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.

Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be -- and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: We know how it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

We aren't going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do. I've seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around."

Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn't know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn't stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we'd go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we'd just go on singing "Over my head I see freedom in the air." And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, "Take 'em off," and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, "We Shall Overcome." And every now and then we'd get in jail, and we'd see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn't adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham. Now we've got to go on in Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us when we go out Monday.

Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we're going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.1 And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what's beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It's a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, "When God speaks who can but prophesy?" Again with Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me," and he's anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor."

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he's been to jail for struggling; he's been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he's still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit. But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren't concerned about anything but themselves. And I'm always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we'll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively -- that means all of us together -- collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say,

"God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy -- what is the other bread? -- Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town -- downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we've got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something that we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an "insurance-in."

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we've got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We've got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school -- be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base....

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem -- or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?" And I was looking down writing, and I said, "Yes." And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, your drowned in your own blood -- that's the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply,

"Dear Dr. King,

I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School."

And she said,

"While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."

And I want to say tonight -- I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed -- If I had sneezed I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.

And they were telling me --. Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

 

COMMENTARY BY THE ARTIST:
A Parable: The Good Samaritan
Luke 10:29-37


"The title of this parable points to its poignancy because Samaritans were not seen as 'good' in the eyes of the Jews around Jesus. They were considered 'outsiders,' and it would have been a jolt to the hearers of the story that the Samaritan was the one who offered help. Once again, Jesus teaches not only crossing boundaries to offer love, friendship, and understanding, but to see our adversaries as human beings who are worthy of good deeds! It is the way towards peace between races, nationalities, and people of differing faiths, political views, and sexual orientations. Looking beyond differences with compassion is a powerful story that Jesus knew would bring us closer to the peace of God..."

The Rev. Cara B. Hochhalter is a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister. She received her Masters of Divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where she studied the intersections of art, theology and justice. She served the Charlemont Federated Church in Massachusetts for ten years and now lives in Hyde Park, New York.

“Over the last thirty years, through my work as a Christian Educator, a seminary student and UCC minister, I have created images that interpret the powerful stories around the life of Jesus. These stories hold universal truths not limited to Christianity but relevant for all our lives and times. I find that art provides a very special means to break into these texts.”

The images in her book, A Challenging Peace in the Life and Stories of Jesus were created through the simple print-making process of carving out a block, applying ink and pulling a print. Cara says, “The interaction of light and dark is important in each image as we cannot have one without the other. The dark defines the light, and vice versa. I find this to be theological as we look to the whole—the light and the dark, the joy and the despair, the peace and the conflict—all under an umbrella of Divine Love that yearns for wholeness.”

Using her book, Cara also offers three online discussion groups: Jesus and Justice, Parables and Peace-making, and The Paradox of Humility in the Stories of Jesus.

To contact Cara B. Hochhalter for information about her art, to purchase signed prints of the images, or her book, A Challenging Peace in the Life and Stories of Jesus, please email: [email protected]

Original Sermon

On being a good neighbor – Dr. Martin Luther King On being a good neighbor – Dr. Martin Luther King Thursday, May 17, 2007 And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

I should like to talk with you about a good man, whose exemplary life will always be a flashing light to plague the dozing conscience of mankind. His goodness was not found in a passive commitment to a particular creed, but in his active participation in a life saving deed; not in a moral pilgrimage that reached its destination point, but in the love ethic by which he journeyed life’s highway. He was good because he was a good neighbor.

The ethical concern of this man is expressed in a magnificent little story, which begins with a theological discussion on the meaning of eternal life and concludes in a concrete expression of compassion on a dangerous road. Jesus is asked a question by a man who had been trained in the details of Jewish law: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” The retort is prompt: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” After a moment the lawyer recites articulately: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Then comes the decisive word from Jesus: “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

The lawyer was chagrined. “Why,” the people might ask, “would an expert in law raise a question that even the novice can answer?” Desiring to justify himself and to show that Jesus’ reply was far from conclusive, the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbour?” The lawyer was now taking up the cudgels of debate that might have turned the conversation into an abstract theological discussion. But Jesus, determined not to be caught in the “paralysis of analysis,” pulls the question from mid air and places it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho.

He told the story of “a certain man” who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, and, departing, left him half dead. By chance a certain priest appeared, but he passed by on the other side, and later a Levite also passed by. Finally, a certain Samaritan, a half-breed from a people with whom the Jews had no dealings, appeared. When he saw the wounded man, he was moved with compassion, administered first aid, placed him on his beast, “and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”

Who is my neighbor? “I do not know his name,” says Jesus in essence. “He is anyone toward whom you are neighborly. He is anyone who lies in need at life’s roadside. He is neither Jew nor Gentile; he is neither Russian nor American; he is neither Negro nor white. He is ‘a certain man’ any needy man on one of the numerous Jericho roads of life.” So Jesus defines a neighbor, not in a theological definition, but in a life situation.

What constituted the goodness of the good Samaritan? Why will he always be an inspiring paragon of neighborly virtue? It seems to me that this man’s goodness may be described in one word altruism. The good Samaritan was altruistic to the core. What is altruism? The dictionary defines altruism as “regard for, and devotion to, the interest of others.” The Samaritan was good because he made concern for others the first law of his life.

The Samaritan had the capacity for a universal altruism. He had a piercing insight into that which is beyond the eternal accidents of race, religion, and nationality. One of the great tragedies of man’s, long trek along the highway of history has been the limiting of neighborly concern to tribe, race, class, or nation. The God of early Old Testament days was a tribal god and the ethic was tribal. “Thou shalt not kill” meant “‘Thou shalt not kill a fellow Israelite, but for God’s sake, kill a Philistine.” Greek democracy embraced certain aristocracy, but not the hordes of Greek slaves whose labors built the city states. The universalism at the center of the Declaration of Independence has been shamefully negated by America’s appalling tendency to substitute “some” for “all.” Numerous people in the North and South still believe that the affirmation, “All men are created equal,” means “All white men are created equal.” Our unswerving devotion to monopolistic capitalism makes us more concerned about the economic security of the captains of industry than for the laboring men whose sweat and skills keep industry functioning.

What are the devastating consequences of this narrow, group-centered attitude? It means that one does not really mind what happens to the people outside his group. If an American is concerned only about his nation, he will not be concerned about the peoples of Asia, Africa, or South America. Is this not why nations engage in the madness of war without the slightest sense of penitence? Is this not why the murder of a citizen of your own nation is a crime, but the murder of the citizens of another nation in war is an act of heroic virtue? If manufacturers are concerned only in their personal interests, they will pass by on the other side while thousands of working people are stripped of their jobs and left displaced on some Jericho road as a result of automation, and they will judge every move toward a better distribution of wealth and a better life for the working man to be socialistic. If a white man is concerned only about his race, he will casually pass by the Negro who has been robbed of his personhood, stripped of his sense of dignity, and left dying on some wayside road.

A few years ago, when an automobile carrying several members of a Negro college basketball team had an accident on a Southern highway, three of the young men were severely injured. An ambulance was immediately called, but on arriving at the place of the accident, the driver, who was white, said without apology that it was not his policy to service Negroes, and he drove away. The driver of a passing automobile graciously drove the boys to the nearest hospital, but the attending physician belligerently said, “We don’t take niggers in this hospital.” When the boys finally arrived at a “colored” hospital in a town some fifty miles from the scene of the accident, one was dead and the other two died thirty and fifty minutes later respectively. Probably all three could have been saved if they had been given immediate treatment. This is only one of thousands of inhuman incidents that occur daily in the South, an unbelievable expression of the barbaric consequences of any tribal centered, national centered, or racial centered ethic.

The real tragedy of such narrow provincialism is that we see people as entities or merely as things. Too seldom do we see people in their true humanness. A spiritual myopia limits our vision to external accidents. We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or American, Negroes or whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image. The priest and the Levite saw only a bleeding body, not a human being like themselves. But the good Samaritan will always remind us to remove the cataracts of provincialism from our spiritual eyes and see men as men. If the Samaritan had considered the wounded man as a Jew first, he would not have stopped, for the Jews and the Samaritans had no dealings. He saw him as a human being first, who was a Jew only by accident. The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.

The Samaritan possessed the capacity for a dangerous altruism. He risked his life to save a brother. When we ask why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the wounded man, numerous suggestions come to mind. Perhaps they could not delay their arrival at an important ecclesiastical meeting. Perhaps religious regulations demanded that they touch no human body for several hours prior to the performing of their temple functions. Or perhaps they were on their way to an organizational meeting of a Jericho Road Improvement Association. Certainly this would have been a real need, for it is not enough to aid a wounded man on the Jericho Road; it is also important to change the conditions which make robbery possible. Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary. Maybe the priest and the Levite believed that it is better to cure injustice at the causal source than to get bogged down with a single individual effect.

These are probable reasons for their failure to stop, yet there is another possibility, often overlooked, that they were afraid. The Jericho Road was a dangerous road. When Mrs. King and I visited the Holy Land, we rented a car and drove from Jerusalem to Jericho. As we traveled slowly down that meandering, mountainous road, I said to my wife, “I can now understand why Jesus chose this road as the setting for his parable.” Jerusalem is some two thousand feet above and Jericho one thousand feet below sea level. The descent is made in less than twenty miles. Many sudden curves provide likely places for ambushing and exposes the traveler to unforeseen attacks. Long ago the road was known as the Bloody Pass. So it is possible that the Priest and the Levite were afraid that if they stopped, they too would be beaten. Perhaps the robbers were still nearby. Or maybe the wounded man on the ground was a faker, who wished to draw passing travelers to his side for quick and easy seizure. I imagine that the first question which the priest and the Levite, asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” The good Samaritan engaged in a dangerous altruism.

We so often ask, “What will happen to my job, my prestige, or my status if I take a stand on this issue? Will my home be bombed, will my life be threatened, or will I be jailed?” The good man always reverses the question. Albert Schweitzer did not ask, “What will happen to my prestige and security as a university professor and to my status as a Bach organist, if I work with the people of Africa?” but rather he asked, “What will happen to these millions of people who have been wounded by the forces of injustice, if I do not go to them?” Abraham Lincoln did not ask, “What will happen to me if I issue the Emancipation Proclamation and bring an end to chattel’ slavery?” but he asked, “What will happen to the Union and to millions of Negro people, if I fail to do it?” The Negro professional does not ask, “What will happen to my secure position, my middle-class status, or my personal safety, if I participate in the movement to end the system of segregation?” but “What will happen to the cause of justice and the masses of Negro people who have never experienced the warmth of economic security, if I do not participate actively and courageously in the movement?”

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.

The Samaritan also possessed excessive altruism. With his own hands he bound the wounds of the man and then set him on his own beast. It would have been easier to pay an ambulance to take the unfortunate man to the hospital, rather than risk having his neatly trimmed suit stained with blood.

True altruism is more than the capacity to pity; it is the capacity to sympathize. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul. Pity may arise from interest in an abstraction called humanity, but gympathy grows out of a concern for a particular needy human beig who li’es at Iges roadside. ~7mpath7 is fetow telling for the person in need his pain, agony, and burdens. Our missionary efforts fail when they are based on pity, rather than true compassion. Instead of seeking to do something with the African and Asian peoples, we have too often sought only to do something for them. An expression of pity, devoid of genuine sympathy, leads to a new form of paternalism which no self respecting person can accept. Dollars possess the potential for helping wounded children of God on life’s Jericho Road, but unless those dollars are distributed by compassionate fingers they will enrich neither the giver nor the receiver. Millions of missionary dollars have gone to Africa from the hands of church people who would die a million deaths before they would permit a single African the privilege of worshiping in their congregation. Millions of Peace Corps dollars are being invested in Africa because of the votes of some men who fight unrelentingly to prevent African ambassadors from holding membership in their diplomatic clubs or establish residency in their particular neighborhoods. The Peace Corps win fail if it seeks to do something for the underprivileged peoples of the world; it will succeed if it seeks creatively to do something with them. It will fail as a negative gesture to defeat Communism; it will succeed only as a positive effort to wipe poverty, ignorance, and disease from the earth. Money devoid of love is like salt devoid of savor, good for nothing except to be trodden under the foot of men. True neighborliness requires personal concern. The Samaritan used his hands to bind up the wounds of the robbed man’s body, and he also released an overflowing love to bind up the wounds of his broken spirit.

Another expression of the excessive altruism on the part of the Samaritan was his willingness to go far beyond the call of duty. After tending to the man’s wounds, he put him on his beast, carried him to an inn, and left money for his care, making clear that if further financial needs arose he would gladly meet them. “Whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again ‘ I will repay thee.” Stopping short of this, he would have more than fulfilled any possible rule concerning one’s duty to a wounded stranger. He went beyond the second mile. His love was complete.

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick has made an impressive distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations. The former are regulated by the codes of society and the vigorous implementation of law enforcement agencies. Breaking these obligations, spelled out on thousands of pages in law books, has filled numerous prisons. But unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society. They concern inner attitudes, genuine person to person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify. Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart. Man made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love. No code of conduct ever persuaded a father to love his children or a husband to show affection to his wife. The law court may force him to provide bread for the family, but it cannot make him provide the bread of love. A good father is obedient to the unenforceable. The good Samaritan represents the conscience of mankind because he also was obedient to that which could not be enforced. No law in the world could have produced such unalloyed compassion, such genuine love, such thorough altruism.

In our nation today a mighty struggle is taking place. It is a struggle to conquer the reign of an evil monster called segregation and its inseparable twin called discrimination a monster that has wandered through this land for well nigh one hundred years, stripping millions of Negro people of their sense of dignity and robbing them of their birthright of freedom.

Let us never succumb to the temptation of believing that legislation and judicial decrees play only minor roles in solving this problem. Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless. The law cannot make an employer love an employee, but it can prevent him from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin. The habits, if not the hearts, of people have been and are being altered every day by legislative acts, judicial decisions, and executive orders. Let us not be misled by those who argue that segregation cannot be ended by the force of law.

But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. Court orders and federal enforcement agencies are of inestimable value in achieving desegregation, but desegregation is only a partial, though necessary, step toward the final goal which we seek to realize, genuine intergroup and interpersonal living. Desegregation will break down the legal barriers and bring men together physically, but something must touch the hearts and souls of men so that they will come together spiritually because it is natural and right. A vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws will bring an end to segregated public facilities which are barriers to a truly desegregated society, but it cannot bring an end to fears, prejudice, pride, and irrationality, which are the barriers to a truly integrated society. These dark and demonic responses will be removed only as men are possessed by the invisible, inner law which etches on their hearts the conviction that all men are brothers and that love is mankind’s most potent weapon for personal and social transformation. True integration will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.

More than ever before, my friends, men of all races and nations are today challenged to be neighborly. The call for a worldwide good-neighbor policy is more than an ephemeral shibboleth; it is the call to a way of life which will transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment. No longer can we afford the luxury of passing by on the other side. Such folly was once called moral failure; today it will lead to universal suicide. We cannot long survive spiritually separated in a world that is geographically together. In the final analysis, I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road, because he is a part of me and I am a part of him. His agony diminishes me, and his salvation enlarges me.

In our quest to make neighborly love a reality, we have, in addition to the inspiring example of the good Samaritan, the magnanimous life of our Christ to guide us. His altruism was universal, for he thought of all men, even publicans, and sinners, as brothers. His altruism was dangerous, for he willingly traveled hazardous roads in a cause he knew was right. His altruism was excessive, for he chose to die on Calvary, history’s most magnificent expression of obedience to the unenforceable.


The Call to Follow

Samuel and phillip

The invitation was and is to come and see for yourself.

Investigate.

Observe. Listen.

Consider.

Decide for yourself.

It takes great confidence to issue such an invitation without undo persuasion.
But the confidence is well founded.

Come to know one who knows you already.

John 1:43–51 NRSV:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 
Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Follow — January 14, 2023 Sermon

Tom Sims — https://pastortomsims.com — https://linktr.ee/tomsims


Some Meme Catch Up with Deep Meming

Body building dad joke

Hyperbole

Waiting room

And Something to Chew On

Mighty God lifts humble humanity.
All knowing and poly-focused Sovereign lifts the lowly.
God of all sufficiency and no need cares to rectify injustice.
LORD of creation, whose thoughts are beyond our thoughts ....
Knows and enters into our thinking to reveal as much of Himself as ...
As we can handle.

"He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground."
(Psalm 147:4-6 ESV)

 


Let Me Not Be Silent

Image preview

 

We are talking about aspirations in Toastmasters tonight and I am bringing the inspirational thought.

I have an aspiration for my life as a whole and for each day in particular. It is to be useful in a broader way than just the small circle that defines my self-interests. The longer I live, the more I think about legacy. That includes my words and my voice, which is one reason Toastmasters is so significant to this aspiration which I think many share.

William Wilberforce served in the British Parliament from 1780 to 1825. In 1783 he began to be made aware of the horrors of the slave trade. In 1784, he had a life-changing spiritual awakening. Soon he was taking every opportunity to make a nuisance of himself on the floors of Parliament until he wore down the opposition.

It was not until 1807 that the House of Commons and the House of Lords passed the bill that abolished this great evil and scourge in the Empire.

Wilberforce had been making speeches for over 20 years.

He said:

"Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me." 

Let that not be said of us. Neither let us say that words do not have power and that what we are learning to do here has no significance.

Speech and speeches can change history, They can change the world.

God, open our mouths that we may speak truth to our generation.

Amen.


Like Night and Day

Baptism of Jesus PortauPrinceMural

The Message of Baptism

In Genesis 1:1-5, God calls the darkness night and the light day, separating the light from the darkness. It is the first major distinction recorded in the Bible; Light and darkness, day and night.

God does it by speaking.

God said, "Let there be light."

"God called ..."

It is something everyone recognizes.

In Psalm 29, the singer praises the power of a a God whose voice shakes everything up in heaven and earth.

"The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl
and strips the forest bare,
and in his temple all say, 'Glory!'"

"The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!"

Throughout history, God was revealing himself to people. The Hebrew scrriptures zero in on his revelations to a people who are descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, although others from outside that fold sometimes get a word from God.

The prophetic tradition traces the role of men, and, sometimes, women, who spoke for God. These exhortations were always a message for their times, but usually had implications for times to come and all times.

They almost always had a call to action. That action was repentance, namely a change of heart, mind, will, and direction.

The scriptures are hopeful. The writers of scripture, inspired by God, believed that people could change.

Sometimes, outsiders would want to become insiders. After the Babylonian Captivity, converts to Judaism would declare their intention to move from night to day and change their allegiance to God by being baptized. Jews who had been ceremonially defiled would be baptized for cleansing.

When the Apostle Paul went to Corinth in Acts 19, he found a group of believers who had been baptized in the tradition and under the message of John the Baptist and he introduced a question to them: Were you baptized in the Spirit or just on water?

In asking this question, he elevated the call to conversion to a reality beyond mere human choice. It was a spiritual transformation or nothing more than a bath.

So, we go back to a point in time, not the beginning of the ritual, but the beginning of the gospel.

We go to Mark 1.

"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.

"As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way,
"the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight,’ ”

Continuity is noted, but also a dramatic change.

Night is turning to day.

Darkness is turning to light.

The Star in the East has been made visible to those who are afar.

We have entered the days of Epiphany.

"so John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Sins are forgiven. The debt is cancelled.

Christ is proclaimed and Jesus, the Christ goes first.

The Spirit is descending and the Spirit transforms those who desire change.

God is well pleased.

 




You Can't Make These Things Up

Make believe

Here is an answer the next time you hear or read, "You can't make these things up."

I think you can make it up.

Anything can be made up.

Some people are really good at making things up or transforming things through literary acumen.

The power of human creativity is vast and unfathomable. And most of us are very good at suspending disbelief to enter into the marvelous experience of a good narrative when it reinforces the waves of the narrative ocean in which we swim.

You have to admire the skill if not the veracity.

Since any old story can be invented it behooves the reader or listener to be discerning. Discernment takes skill and practice. There is nothing magical about it.

To be discerning is not to be cynical. It may not even require an over-balance of skepticism. 

It does require an appreciation for reality and some elements of reality are these.

  • Not everyone fact-checks stories before passing them on. If they trust the story-teller, they may assume the truth of the story. They unconsciously add a little to the story by shaving some of the details, adjectives, and qualifiers. The story grows as it is told based upon trust until it has a life of its own.
  • People tell stories because they support a narrative they already believe.
  • People add their interpretations to facts as they pass on stories.
  • People make stories up and tell them under the assumption that everyone understands they are fictitious. One of the hearers only remembers the story and not the fact that there are no facts. The next person tells it as a real-life event. Soon it is history.
  • Finally, well, not necessarily, finally, the the final mention here: Some people just lie.

So, how do you act with discernment?

They are several techniques.

  • Ask for sources.
  • Check for sources if none are given. There are libraries at your fingertips these days.
  • Read real history.
  • Hold off on passing anything on you are not sure of.
  • If you suspect it may not be true, but must tell it as a good story, make sure you are clear that you doubt the historicity and veracity, but that it is good fiction to illustrate your point.

There is nothing wrong with fiction told as fiction.

Believe it or not, you can make these things up.

And sometimes, there is truth in fiction, but that is another essay.


The Epiphany Moment

Epiphany matthew 2

A New Day

 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,  Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.  - Matthew 2:1-2

When Jesus was born …

How common the words, how incidental they sound. Yet, they introduce an event of such significance that all of time is measured as before and after the coming of this one child into the world and the drama of His life, death, and resurrection.

When Jesus comes, it is a new day. Governments are in place imagining themselves all powerful and enduring and suddenly they sense that they are temporal and vulnerable. The truly wise recognize the waves of change in the cosmos and once again become seekers moving in the direction of the source of that change. They that move with the currents of change come to worship. New days and new years are best observed by recognizing God and worshiping Him.

We measure small blocks of time in seconds and move up the continuum, pausing to recognize the passing of years. In a year we circle the sun and pass through all of the seasons. We count them off and, as they pass, we find ourselves counting faster and faster.

We mark off the old and look with anticipation upon the new.

And while all of that is going on, something is being born, a new life, a novel opportunity, a fresh idea, a renewed hope, and occasionally, a burst of light. We follow that light and it leads us to a manger where, in unassuming splendor and simple elegance, we encounter the Son of God.

There we worship.

Because of that ever present possibility of meeting God in the passages of time, we peek around the corner of every new day and every new year with anticipatory wonder.

We know, as did the wise men, why we have come to this time. We have come to worship Him.

The Threat 

When Herod heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with Him. - Matthew 2:3   

Herod was troubled. We might say he was scared to death. You know that sinking feeling when the free ride is about to come to a screeching halt, when your charade is about to be revealed, and your scam is about to be uncovered.

Herod was a pretender. He knew he was a pretender. The notion that the authentic king might have been born was more of a threat than he could bear.

We are most threatened when we are least honest with God, with ourselves, and with others. We are terrified when we try to maintain our deception against all odds. We flail about, plot, and scheme when our straw houses begin to crumble around us – and we trouble all of those around us who have bought into our lies.

Are you like Herod, thoroughly invested in a false sense of who you are without which you would not know your own identity? Are you like those in Jerusalem who rode his coattails, riding the wave of someone else’s “power grab”? Or are you like the Magi, with no vested interest in protecting their positions or status, merely eager to embrace the reality of God’s presence in the world, anxious to find the King that they might worship Him?

Jesus invades our spheres of influence and our little kingdoms to establish His own rightful rule. There is no need to be troubled. The greatest honor and freedom in life is found when we step down from our thrones and let Him take His place of Lordship.

We are threatened when we compulsively protect what is not really ours.  We are troubled when we see Him coming and convince ourselves that He is coming to rob us of our lives. We are terrified at the prospect of having to forge a new identity from the self we have deluded ourselves into believing was real.

In fact, He comes to reclaim what is His – the throne, our lives, and even our identities. We have been living in a delusion and only realizing the tiniest fraction of our potential. It is only through surrender that we gain victory. It is only by relinquishing the throne do we become truly great. It is only in denying ourselves do we find our true selves and begin to live.

What Herod rejected out of fear, we must embrace by faith.

Why Religious Knowledge Is Not Enough

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. - Matthew 2:4

You can’t accuse Herod of not being religiously curious and hungry for religious knowledge. He was desperate for information, but he had no intention of using that information for good. He had every intention of misappropriating it for his own evil ends.

Some of us, at times in our lives, are curious for information about God – for no particular reason other than to satisfy our curiosity. Such knowledge is benign. It does us no harm. It does us no good. You can go to Sunday School all of your life and come out no better or worse for it if what you learn never goes from your head to your heart.

Herod may not have attended Synagogue, but he was surrounded by scholars who did. When he needed factual knowledge, he drew upon their education, but Herod was not seeking out the scholars in a game of religious trivial pursuit. He had a sinister purpose for what he wanted to know.

Some of us, at least at points in our lives, gather religious information for malicious ends. We have no intention of being transformed by that knowledge. In fact, we collect it to use as a weapon against other people – friends, enemies, spouses, children, parents, and entire groups of people with whom we disagree and with whom we spar for power.

We want to learn enough to give us an edge. We are filling our arsenals with biblical darts so that we might pierce the armored resistance of our opponents. There is no holiness in such pursuits. There is no honor. There is no edification.

God provides us with truth that it might change us from within. He is fashioning us according to His image and forming us for time and for eternity. Don’t be like Herod in your pursuit of spiritual truth. Come to the Word of God prayerfully and openly.

Lord, speak to me and transform me as I receive what You wish to say to me. Amen.

Not the Least 

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.  - Matthew 2:5-6 

Like young David, tending the fields of his father, Jesse, the City of David was often thought of as the least among the princes of Judah.

Greatness often takes us by surprise.

It took David by surprise. It certainly so took Jesse and his brothers.

Who me? We surmise by our surprise that our eyes have been playing games with our minds and our ears have distorted the garbled sound of, “Yes, you.”

It took a miracle of the manipulation of history for a Nazarene couple to fulfill prophecy and experience the birth of this son in Bethlehem. It took the hand of God guiding events that would seem much larger and more significant than this to bring it all to pass.

The Son of David would be born in David’s city. The unlikely King would provide a line of succession for an unlikely Savior born in an unlikely place.

Never underestimate the greatness of God’s plan for your life, your place, and your time. He is still guiding the course of events to His own ends.

Bethlehem, the House of Bread, figured into the redemption story in a way that might have seen disproportionate to its civic significance. God, on the other hand, measures importance by what He brings forth from our lives, places, times, and events.

Who me? Yes, you.

The Launch and the Landing

 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. - Matthew 2:7-11

Isn’t it wonderful that the Magi observed Herod’s words and not his intentions?

Once launched in the direction of Bethlehem by the deceptive words and commands of an evil king, they were again at the mercy and beckon call of the King of Kings. They followed His star to the destination where they would meet Him. When they found Him, they worshipped.

In the middle of their diligent search for truth, they were sidetracked by a liar, but not for long. God will not allow those whose hearts are intent upon finding Him to be lost in the search without hope. He will again intervene and guide them to Himself.

“Seek and ye shall find,” the Master promised.

From Jerusalem, there was a false launch, but God intervened and provided a sure landing in Bethlehem.

There will be circumstances in your life that are not of God. There will be people of malicious intend who will try and launch you in directions that approximate truth, but miss the mark entirely. Be cautious, but not fearful. God is greater than our circumstances and the schemes of evil entities. His light is more powerful than darkness. Follow the star and bring what is in your hands to Jesus, worshipping Him with all of your heart and soul.

You may have any number of dubious launches in this life, but if you seek Him with all your heart, you will always land surely.

After Christmas Special

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

The Magi seem to have come much later to Bethlehem, but they came joyfully and prepared to worship the Lord. The afterglow of Christmas had not worn off for them because they were seeing Jesus for the very first time. Every time we see Jesus is like the first time, so sweet is His countenance, so enveloping His presence.

As we prepare to put away the decorations and presents, finish off the leftovers, and throw out the tree, many of us experience a letdown. The celebration of the New Year seems anti-climactic. Friends we have not acknowledged during the preceding year will recede into the background of our lives for yet another year. There is no one to wish merry Christmas and no one to wish us happy holidays. The greenery and colors are gone and we recess into the bleak midwinter of January.

It was not so for the Magi. Their joy was not with a season or a holiday. No such attachments and traditions existed for them. Theirs was the joy of the discovery of a Savior-King. Take a page from their notebooks. Our joy is in Jesus! He is our cause for celebration every day. He is our hope for every New Year and every new day. He is reason for singing and our cause for living. For Him we would traverse the farthest desert or face the most difficult circumstances.

Post-Christmas blahs are a normal emotion phenomenon, but Christmas joy is for every day of the year. After Christmas can be as special as Christmas itself!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice.
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Jesus Christ was born for this.
He hath opened heaven’s door,
And man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this.
(Medieval Latin Carol, Translated by John Mason Neale, 1853)

Course Corrections

 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. - Matthew 2:12

If you have lived long enough and well enough, you’ve had some course corrections along the way. That is normal and good. It demonstrates an ability to be decisive in taking action while remaining sensitive to the still small voice of God.

The Magi had a set of directions in place that they meant to follow. As they laid their heads on their pillows that night, they fully believed that their course was set and that they would be heading back to Jerusalem to report their findings to Herod.

They just “knew” he would be as excited about the new King as they were. Not so.

If one man has a dream, he might discount it as indigestion or uncertainty. If several have the same dream, as implied here it is impossible to deny the confirmation. The next morning they all awoke and compared notes. It was time for a course correction.

Being willing and able to hear voice of God in the midst of our determined movement is a necessary component of a God-directed life. The humility to admit that we have been misinformed, misdirected, or mistaken is a strength that can only be birthed by weakness. It is that same weakness through which God’s strength is made manifest as we learn to trust and obey.

Sometimes we just need to go home a different way than the one we planned. When that time comes, may we not be found stubborn and prideful, but steadfast yet pliable. We may have to eat our words and swallow some tears, but we will avoid some major pitfalls.

Let us be ready for the course corrections of life.

God’s Postal System 

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. - Matthew 2:13-15

God’s Valentine has come to us through a circuitous route. It typically does. Such a route Joseph would take to protect his family. Such a journey would bring Jesus into Egypt along the paths of His anscestors. Such a path would bring Him out of the land of captivity into the land of the promise. Such would be the highway of love whereby God would deliver His greatest love letter to us, written upon the life of His Son, proclaimed by His death, and sounded forth with fury by the power of His resurrection.

God’s love letter, entrusted to the familial affection of a surrogate father’s devotion to his family traveled around the world to come home to those to whom it was addressed.

How far has His Valentine to you traveled to arrive at your doorstep?

What was the chain of custody that the Word of God traversed before it came to rest upon your heart. Who told whom and who did they tell and on and on before you heard the Word and responded to the compelling love of Jesus?

God’s postal system never fails. Whatever route His message of love must take, it will arrive at its destination. So often, the first word of His love comes to us in the context of family. Sometimes it is a sure and certain word of clarity. Sometimes it is only a hint and foreshaddowing of the message to come.

When our Jesus card first came to humanity, it was through a family comprised of two people who loved each other, one a mother, the other a stand-in dad. Before it could arrive, it would travel far out of its way, but it came to us in time. When we opened the card it said, “I love you” and it was signed, “Your Father.”

The Limits of Evil 

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. - Matthew 2:16-18

How far will evil go to carry out its evil ends?

Moved by humiliation and anger, Herod’s insult was matched only by his wicked lust for power. Lashing out against the threat to his illegitimate monarchy, he flung his nation into a time of evil that was inconceivable in its sheer horror. Sanity questioned lunacy with the haunting cry, “Is there no limit to such evil?”

There is none.

Evil will not stop itself. It perpetuates its terrors. It knows no boundaries. It will progress and regress beyond any hint of decency as it grows immune to conscience and compassion.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is, in fact a limit, but it is not pretty. Not until the death of Herod did the madness cease.

The good news is, furthermore, that God’s good is greater than man’s evil. He is monitoring the progress of wickedness and restraining its instinctive intrusion into the affairs of human history. A loving God allows us free will and its consequences because He does indeed love us, but He will only allow it to go on for so long. The length of its duration is a mystery to us. He will allow suffering to accomplish His purposes and, when they are complete, He will stop it.

When evil, which is not of God, ceases to work toward God’s redemptive purposes, it reaches its limit. We don’t understand it, nor can we predict its course, but we can trust in a God who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

When evil prevails, God weeps along with Rachel, but in the end, righteousness prevails and God says, “Enough!” Evil will not stop on its own. It is always brought to a stop by the intervention of God in history in one way or another.

That is the only limit that evil knows.

Either Way 

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. - Matthew 2: 19-21 

Here is a principle that Herod did not understand at all:

Don’t entertain evil for a minute. It doesn’t want to visit. It wants to move in and take over.

So, the only cure for the evil in Herod’s life was the death of Herod. No one was safe until Herod was dead. It is a sad commentary, but true. For as long as Herod lived and carried out his rain of pain and reign of terror, the true King of Israel remained in Egypt. Good news was stifled by sound of hoof beats as soldiers scoured the land to snuff out the life of any baby that just might be the Messiah.

Something had to give; something had to die. Only when Herod was dead was it safe for Joseph to bring his family out of Egypt and into the land of Israel.

It was not time for Jesus to die. He still had to grow up and live a redemptive life before He died a redemptive death It was time for evil to die and Herod had so immersed himself in evil that he had begun to personify it within himself.

Yet, there remained a window of opportunity for Herod as there remains such an opportunity for each of us. We also must die. Evil knows no limits. It will not restrain itself. Therefore, we must die to evil thoughts, evil deeds, and evil intentions. Furthermore, we must deem every action that restricts the reign of Jesus, every thought that keeps Him in Egypt, and every intention that wars against Him as evil that must die inside of us.

Because of the cross, we can choose to die that we might live. We can reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ. We will die to sin or we will die in sin. Either way, The Son of God will not remain in Egypt. He shall reign.

A Nazarene 

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. “ - Matthew 2:23

Some would be happier with a Jesus with no context, culture, or humanity. But that would not be the true Jesus. Incarnation means that He came at a specific time, place, and crossroads of historical events. He lived as a man and faced the time-space limitations of any person on this earth. He had gender, nationality, a native language, talents, physical strengths and weaknesses, most likely sickness, certainly the capacity to grow weary, and a family.

He was the descendant of David with all the nobility that was due to such a line, but He was fully identified culturally with the least noble region for any Jew in the minds of other Jews. Born in Bethlehem, He was raised in Nazareth. Jews spoke of Nazarenes with a sneer in their voices. And He was one of them and never wore the label with shame.

He identifies with us as well, whatever our histories, cultures, or backgrounds. He refuses to acknowledge the shame that the world associates with people based upon human prejudices but elevates people of every race and nationality to a place of dignity. As a Nazarene, raised near a great road traveled by numerous peoples, He must have encountered great cultural diversity. Out of that context, God gave us His Son to create a new race of mankind.


Demolition on the Battlefield of the Mind

Demolition

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." - 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)


Here is the larger context and another translation:


"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . ." - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)


Our minds are battlefields and we are in a battle.

I am in a battle.

I am starting this year with you and, in a couple of days,, I start the next year of my life. This is where I need to work.

This is where I will succeed or fail.

This is where the lines are being drawn.

What do I think?

How do I think?

How shall I discipline my own wandering mind?

How do I squeeze out every moment and every thought for a higher purpose?

How do I come to center, day by day and moment by moment?

I am fairly skillful at argumentation, rationalization, and nullification of real truth. I am good at it and that is not so good. I need to get better at going for the "it of it" all the time and finding focus.

Time is finite.

Thoughts are also finite. We seldom exhaust them, but they have limits. Each one can be purposeful, useful, productive, edifying, and propelling.

May it be so -- not easily so .... but through the battle, may God win.

Oswald Chambers put it this way:


"Determinedly Discipline Other Things. This is another difficult aspect of the strenuous nature of sainthood. Paul said, according to the Moffatt translation of this verse, “…I take every project prisoner to make it obey Christ….” So much Christian work today has never been disciplined, but has simply come into being by impulse! In our Lord’s life every project was disciplined to the will of His Father. There was never the slightest tendency to follow the impulse of His own will as distinct from His Father’s will— “the Son can do nothing of Himself…” (John 5:19). Then compare this with what we do— we take “every thought” or project that comes to us by impulse and jump into action immediately, instead of imprisoning and disciplining ourselves to obey Christ."


Granted, I am lifting this scripture from the context of Paul's idea battle with false teachers in a particular place --- but I also have false teachers inside of me. Each of us does.

If we are going to change thinking around us, we must first change the thinking within us.

This shall be one of my areas of resolve going forward.


Joseph's Side of the Story

Josh-applegate-i9TdDzXq5b4-unsplash

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

Just and Compassionate

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. — Matthew 1:18 -19

If you were about to send your only son to faraway place and could choose a family for him, you would be very careful. God was no less deliberate about His choice for who would raise His Son.

We celebrate Mary who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and nurtured Him in her womb before giving birth. In Mary were the finest maternal qualities.

But Jesus needed a man to protect Him and guide Him as well and God chose Joseph. First, He arranged the betrothal of Mary and Joseph through Divine providence. Then He kept them apart until He could work a miracle.

Joseph did not live in an age of miracles. The truth is, there has seldom been such a time. Miracles always take people by surprise and require a mind/faith stretch to be embraced. What Joseph did possess was a wonderful combination of integrity and compassion.

He was a just man. It would be no small thing for him to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful to him. He would have been devastated and offended. As a man of honor, he would know that he could not simply overlook such an offense.

But he was also a man of compassion and, while it might have soothed his bruised ego to do so, he was not willing to make a public example of her. By public example, Matthew might have meant anything from humiliation and banishment to death. No more could Joseph turn off his love and compassion than his sense of right and wrong.

Such a man was chosen by God the Father to be a father-figure in the life of His Son. Such a man would model the Law of God and the love of God for the Son of God. Such a man would figure prominently in God’s plan to fill the life and heart of the Holy One who emptied Himself by taking the form of a Servant. Such a man was Joseph.

Born of the Spirit

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.“ — Matthew 1:20

It was the kind of conception that was hard to conceive of. Joseph is silent during this transaction with the angel. No words are recorded. If he spoke, he must have deemed anything he had to say unimportant, because he reported only God’s words through the angel.

For some reason, miracles often evoke fear, perhaps because God voice speaks so powerfully through them and we are overwhelmed by His glory. This was a miracle of reduction. All of God’s glory would be compressed into one tiny little baby and His developing body would be planted into the womb of Mary.

Joseph was asked to come along as a willing and faithful participant in this process, to take Mary as his wife, to exercise restraint and patience, to accept any shame, humiliation, and ridicule that might come his way, and to rejoice with her in what God was doing. He was asked to take a giant step of faith.

People raise their eyebrows at the notion of the Incarnation, but they also turn a skeptical eye toward testimonies of new birth. The church boldly declares that men and women can be born of the Spirit from above and that God can transform the life of the most miserable sinner into the most useful saint. The world scoffs, but the true believer keeps testifying to the power of the miracle. That is because we know it is true. We have experienced it. Like Joseph, we are dumbfounded and receive the gift with joy.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
(Isaac Watts, 1719)

Of the Holy Ghost

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. — Matthew 1:20

Sometimes it takes a messenger from God, human or angelic to interrupt our thinking and redirect our beliefs so that we can see that the seemingly negative events in our lives are nothing less than something conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph was thinking as a natural man with the information he had and the beliefs that focused his thinking. He was filtering reality through a mindset that had not even considered the possibilities that were about to be revealed to him. As a result, he had come to certain conclusions, made certain decisions, and experienced a range of emotions including fear.

The angel’s message suggests that he might have toyed with the idea of marrying Mary in spite of everything, but fear prevented him. He needed a word from God to give him courage and assurance.

Joseph was thinking. Perhaps he was brooding. He may have been playing various scenarios in his mind, rehearsing his speech, considering, and reconsidering his options. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster and had drifted into the oblivion of racing thoughts when waking or sleeping, he saw what he had never seen before — an angel.

Though startled at first, imagine how Joseph must have welcomed the message he received. He could never have thought of it himself. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the nightmare of recent days. It was a word of hope. The angel gave him permission to love the girl of his dreams and take her as his wife because the one impossible scenario was actually the truth: God had done this thing. It was all His doing and it was good.

Is that not what we need to hear in the midst of our despairing conundrums? We need to know that however convoluted the circumstances and what we believe about them, that the Spirit of the Living God is at work and is working out His eternal purposes. Embracing that word, we are set free from fear.

Call Him Jesus

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. — Matthew 1:21

Call his name, “Jesus.”

It was the core of the angelic message that was delivered to Joseph. Mary would have a son. There were no ultrasound tests in those days that could have predicted gender. Only God could know.

Only God could know the meaning of that life. God knew and shared that knowledge with Joseph through His angel. You will call Him Jesus — not because it was a common name among the sons of Israel; such a designation was not unheard of, but neither was it common. Call Him Jesus — not because it was a family name or because it had a ring to it.

Call Him Jesus, because that name, like His life, like this great event of miraculous conception means something. Of all those who have ever borne the name, He would most embody it and fulfill its promise.

Call Him Jesus because it means that God is Savior and God saves. Call Him Jesus because it for the purpose of saving His people from their sins that He came. Call Him Jesus and never forget that you are part of something greater than your own self interests.

There is no evidence that the angel shouted these words or sang them, but never has there been a more dramatic proclamation in the annals or oratory or a grander crescendo in the history choral repertoire. Thus, whenever we recall them theatrically, homiletically, or musically, it is almost impossible to restrain the enthusiasm.

What God spoke to the disoriented and discouraged Joseph in the dark quiet of that moment has resounded through the ages as great exclamation mark in salvation history.

He shall save His people from their sins!

The experience of Joseph has become our experience and the culmination of its advent, we have come to call, “Christmas.” Our sins, so profound and so hideous with their dire consequences in our lives have met their match in the One we call Jesus.

Savior

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21

The name, Jesus means Yahweh Saves. In a wonderful application of that meaning, the angel informs Joseph of the role of this boy who Mary carried in her womb. His life would be the very saving presence of God among His people.

Let us meditate upon the significance of this coming. The Son of Mary, who is the Son of God, would bear a name that others had borne before. But He would bear it with authority and purpose. Others wore that name as a prophetic reminder, He would be the authentic fulfillment of the promise incarnate.

This salvation that He brings is not from the destructive power of armies or the oppressive arm of dictators. It is from ourselves, our sins, our choices. It is the offering that He brings with His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to save His people. Joseph, no doubt, heard this as the household of Israel, but God sent His Son to save the whole world. His saving arms are long enough to embrace all people and gather them to Himself. And so, His arms are open to you this day to rescue you from whatever wars against you and to deliver you from your sins.

God Is with Us

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. — Matthew 1:22–23

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity — even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event. Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality — the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. — Matthew 1:24

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God.

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. — Matthew 1:25

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!


Joseph's Side of the Story

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Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

Just and Compassionate

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. — Matthew 1:18 -19

If you were about to send your only son to faraway place and could choose a family for him, you would be very careful. God was no less deliberate about His choice for who would raise His Son.

We celebrate Mary who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and nurtured Him in her womb before giving birth. In Mary were the finest maternal qualities.

But Jesus needed a man to protect Him and guide Him as well and God chose Joseph. First, He arranged the betrothal of Mary and Joseph through Divine providence. Then He kept them apart until He could work a miracle.

Joseph did not live in an age of miracles. The truth is, there has seldom been such a time. Miracles always take people by surprise and require a mind/faith stretch to be embraced. What Joseph did possess was a wonderful combination of integrity and compassion.

He was a just man. It would be no small thing for him to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful to him. He would have been devastated and offended. As a man of honor, he would know that he could not simply overlook such an offense.

But he was also a man of compassion and, while it might have soothed his bruised ego to do so, he was not willing to make a public example of her. By public example, Matthew might have meant anything from humiliation and banishment to death. No more could Joseph turn off his love and compassion than his sense of right and wrong.

Such a man was chosen by God the Father to be a father-figure in the life of His Son. Such a man would model the Law of God and the love of God for the Son of God. Such a man would figure prominently in God’s plan to fill the life and heart of the Holy One who emptied Himself by taking the form of a Servant. Such a man was Joseph.

Born of the Spirit

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.“ — Matthew 1:20

It was the kind of conception that was hard to conceive of. Joseph is silent during this transaction with the angel. No words are recorded. If he spoke, he must have deemed anything he had to say unimportant, because he reported only God’s words through the angel.

For some reason, miracles often evoke fear, perhaps because God voice speaks so powerfully through them and we are overwhelmed by His glory. This was a miracle of reduction. All of God’s glory would be compressed into one tiny little baby and His developing body would be planted into the womb of Mary.

Joseph was asked to come along as a willing and faithful participant in this process, to take Mary as his wife, to exercise restraint and patience, to accept any shame, humiliation, and ridicule that might come his way, and to rejoice with her in what God was doing. He was asked to take a giant step of faith.

People raise their eyebrows at the notion of the Incarnation, but they also turn a skeptical eye toward testimonies of new birth. The church boldly declares that men and women can be born of the Spirit from above and that God can transform the life of the most miserable sinner into the most useful saint. The world scoffs, but the true believer keeps testifying to the power of the miracle. That is because we know it is true. We have experienced it. Like Joseph, we are dumbfounded and receive the gift with joy.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
(Isaac Watts, 1719)

Of the Holy Ghost

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. — Matthew 1:20

Sometimes it takes a messenger from God, human or angelic to interrupt our thinking and redirect our beliefs so that we can see that the seemingly negative events in our lives are nothing less than something conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph was thinking as a natural man with the information he had and the beliefs that focused his thinking. He was filtering reality through a mindset that had not even considered the possibilities that were about to be revealed to him. As a result, he had come to certain conclusions, made certain decisions, and experienced a range of emotions including fear.

The angel’s message suggests that he might have toyed with the idea of marrying Mary in spite of everything, but fear prevented him. He needed a word from God to give him courage and assurance.

Joseph was thinking. Perhaps he was brooding. He may have been playing various scenarios in his mind, rehearsing his speech, considering, and reconsidering his options. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster and had drifted into the oblivion of racing thoughts when waking or sleeping, he saw what he had never seen before — an angel.

Though startled at first, imagine how Joseph must have welcomed the message he received. He could never have thought of it himself. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the nightmare of recent days. It was a word of hope. The angel gave him permission to love the girl of his dreams and take her as his wife because the one impossible scenario was actually the truth: God had done this thing. It was all His doing and it was good.

Is that not what we need to hear in the midst of our despairing conundrums? We need to know that however convoluted the circumstances and what we believe about them, that the Spirit of the Living God is at work and is working out His eternal purposes. Embracing that word, we are set free from fear.

Call Him Jesus

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. — Matthew 1:21

Call his name, “Jesus.”

It was the core of the angelic message that was delivered to Joseph. Mary would have a son. There were no ultrasound tests in those days that could have predicted gender. Only God could know.

Only God could know the meaning of that life. God knew and shared that knowledge with Joseph through His angel. You will call Him Jesus — not because it was a common name among the sons of Israel; such a designation was not unheard of, but neither was it common. Call Him Jesus — not because it was a family name or because it had a ring to it.

Call Him Jesus, because that name, like His life, like this great event of miraculous conception means something. Of all those who have ever borne the name, He would most embody it and fulfill its promise.

Call Him Jesus because it means that God is Savior and God saves. Call Him Jesus because it for the purpose of saving His people from their sins that He came. Call Him Jesus and never forget that you are part of something greater than your own self interests.

There is no evidence that the angel shouted these words or sang them, but never has there been a more dramatic proclamation in the annals or oratory or a grander crescendo in the history choral repertoire. Thus, whenever we recall them theatrically, homiletically, or musically, it is almost impossible to restrain the enthusiasm.

What God spoke to the disoriented and discouraged Joseph in the dark quiet of that moment has resounded through the ages as great exclamation mark in salvation history.

He shall save His people from their sins!

The experience of Joseph has become our experience and the culmination of its advent, we have come to call, “Christmas.” Our sins, so profound and so hideous with their dire consequences in our lives have met their match in the One we call Jesus.

Savior

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21

The name, Jesus means Yahweh Saves. In a wonderful application of that meaning, the angel informs Joseph of the role of this boy who Mary carried in her womb. His life would be the very saving presence of God among His people.

Let us meditate upon the significance of this coming. The Son of Mary, who is the Son of God, would bear a name that others had borne before. But He would bear it with authority and purpose. Others wore that name as a prophetic reminder, He would be the authentic fulfillment of the promise incarnate.

This salvation that He brings is not from the destructive power of armies or the oppressive arm of dictators. It is from ourselves, our sins, our choices. It is the offering that He brings with His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to save His people. Joseph, no doubt, heard this as the household of Israel, but God sent His Son to save the whole world. His saving arms are long enough to embrace all people and gather them to Himself. And so, His arms are open to you this day to rescue you from whatever wars against you and to deliver you from your sins.

God Is with Us

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. — Matthew 1:22–23

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity — even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event. Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality — the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. — Matthew 1:24

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God.

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. — Matthew 1:25

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!