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August 2022

Who Was It?

Correggio _giovane_che_fugge_dalla_cattura_di_Cristo
Antonio da Correggio, The Betrayal of Christ, with a soldier in pursuit of Mark the Evangelist, c. 1522
Mark 14:52
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Who was it?
Mr. Anonymous happened to be there?
- James the Just?
- John, The Beloved Disciple?
- Mark himself?
- Lazarus of Bethany?
My money is on Mark.
But, I am not sure it is important. If it was, the author of the gospel would have told us.
It seems autobiographical. Otherwise, who would care?
On the other hand, maybe it was an inside joke that some knew and some did not - a nod to those who did.
It could be that all your moments will converge into one grand moment.
Your most unexpected
Your most memorable
Your most embarrassing
Your most anonymous
You can be known forever for one moment or you can learn from the moment and keep living as you build a grander legacy.
Maybe, I will some day preach a sermon or write a blog on the times when people were caught naked in the Bible.
And, in another, the great value of being an anonymous servant of God in the great scheme of things.
image from

Stop Using Broken Cisterns



"...for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water." - Jeremiah 2:13

The debater counterpointed the proposition set forth by her opponent with these words, "That argument does not hold water."

She, then, began to show where the holes were in the idea that had been set forth.

The prophet voices God's indictment of a people by saying that their lifestyles, their religious practices, their ethics, their attempts to find meaning, and their pursuits of satisfaction were all empty wells, They were cracked cisterns. 

They would not hold water.

The psalmist voices the heart and words of God when he declares in Psalm 81:1-16

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
"But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

Satisfaction is available.

What we hunger and thirst for, God desires to supply, but we rebel and refuse. We run from the authentic and cling to our clever devices.


Public Domain

The invitation is to come to God and receive the best that God has to offer -- real quality, real satisfaction, true meaning, deep purpose, profound joy, reality, hope, grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, fulfillment. Leave our stubborn resistance behind and live.


Part of our resistance is our acquiescence to the norms of the world around us. We have bought into a philosophy that traches us to grab what we want, hoard it, and use it only for our own pleasure. We are pressured to apply pressure, to assert ourselves and our own importance, and to pursue pleasure, convenience, and prestige at all costs.

Pride and greed drive us. The great philosopher and teacher counters this in Proverbs 25:6-7.

Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

Overpromotion of ourselves and our own self interests can cause us to end up with egg on our faces.

Fried_egg _sunny_side_up


It is counterproductive. It is humiliating. It is unsatisfying.

In other words, a life that is driven by desire for satisfaction and pursuit of pleasure is unsatisfying and without pleasure.

Jesus goes deeper  and applies a different lifestyle to us in this morning's gospel. It is based upon his profound teaching that there greatest person in the room is the servant. He himself came to serve. The deepest satisfaction is in giving service. The Kingdom of God is the realm of children. Faith that forgives receives forgiveness. Grace is the greatest refreshment. Love is the highest value. Mercy is like honey. 

Luke 14:1, 7-14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Find someone who cannot repay or reward you and serve that person.

God's grace and mercy in Jesus clears the slate for us to start living this way. The cross demonstrates and activates a lifestyle that identifies with the lonely and lowly. Jesus identified with such folks and calls us to identify with them as well We are dignified and satisfied by our association with those considered the least among us.


A  Practical Guide to Living this Way

The Epistle to the Hebrews gives us instructions on how to do this,


Hebrews 13:1-8 NRSV

Let mutual love continue.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.


Hebrews 13:15-16 NRSV

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.


The Long Haul - "...nothing rises quicker than dust, straw, and feathers."


Arthur Rothstein This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.00241. Public Domain

Men think highly of those who rise rapidly in the world; whereas
nothing rises quicker than dust, straw, and feathers."
- attributed to Augustus Hare and to Lord Byron

There is a slow rise and a rapid rise. To these we must add, there may be no rise.

Fluff floats and then gloats in its meteoric success, but may not sustain under stress and testing.

Fame can make its name through crisis, accident, or blame when opportunities are seized.

But it is the long haul, the consistent call, the persistent hope and labor languishing in the heat of many days that produces steady growth in character and success.

Those who stay and stabilize their work for others to continue, stand and climb.

Those who rise quickly, must quickly act to build a foundation in the empty space beneath their feet, lest their decent be as rapid as their rise.

With far less fanfare and flair, others build their foundations step by step and step on the next step as they move toward their objectives.

As their circumstances change, they may not be aware that the greatest changes are within them. As they grow, their work grows.



Consider the Long Haul

While we are mixing metaphors, let us add another ingredient or two.

Consider the long haul that is most often necessary for sustainable success. It is worthy of its own acronym so that we can remember it.


L is Long

It is a long L.

The long haul in long. Will give the first letter and the first word its own special place. It is not called a long haul because it is one big short cut.

There are some short cuts. They involved eliminating superfluous activity, unnecessary errors that have been repeatedly made, and huge time-wasters. That is true, but skipping important steps will not shorten the process and insure success. 

If you miss some steps just to hasten the process, you will most likely have to go back and repeat the.

O is Over

We will make the O both a shape and a word. The word is over and the shape is a circle. Over and over, you will face some of the same challenges.

That is because, there will be times when you think you are going around in circles, repeating yourself, maybe even losing ground.

In those times, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" will not be, so much, a song off hope for you as one of despair. But do not despair. The circle really is one of hope.

Over and over you will meet the challenges until you become an expert in handling them. They will prepare you, as a creative and impulsive person, for the repetition necessary for sustainability.

N is Negative

The reason I will allow even the suggestion of negativity into my acronym is because you cannot spin every minus into a plus. A mess is a mess. Waste is waste or worse. A stink in a stink. Negativity will creep into every environment.

Some negativity will only become positive with time, commitment, tenacity, and long-term reflection.

So, expect the downers, the not-so-helpful criticism, and the losses. Anticipate it and determine to move past it. 

Shake it off and stay on track.

There will be much more to say about that later, but for now, in this short overview, take note that feces happens.

G is Get Going and Go, Go, Go

If you do not get going and keep going, you will go nowhere.

You may say, "Tom, that is so simple and obvious that I cannot pay you for that advice."

And that is why I am giving it to you, but it is the most valuable advice I can give.


Start now!

Keep going!

Don't stop.

Because it is a long haul, you will have to take a series of daily steps. Some days will be longer than others. There will be short breaks for rest and refreshment. But they will be followed by long days and more long days.


Get in front of your load and pull!

Now, the next word. It is a hard word too!


H is Haul

Again, we will do the whole word for the first letter because I want to emphasize it. 

This load is not going to move itself.

Your goal is not going to come to you.

Your work is not going to get done because you simply want it done. You will have to pull a load and it will be heavy. it will be work.

It will be a pull rather than a push. Pulling puts you out front. It also gives you leverage.

This weight that you are hauling is something you need to anticipate and accept. Count the cost before you start. If you are not willing to bear the load, don't start and do not ask others to join you. You will be wasting their time and your own.

A is Anticipation

Set many goals and move toward them. Anticipate and celebrate small, incremental successes.

Don't wait for the ultimate finish line before you congratulate yourself and your growing team.

The long haul is a process over time. It is has signposts, benchmarks, rest stops, and rewards along the way.

Set yourself up for success with mini-successes and many successes and measure progress in increments.

Anticipate a good and productive day and rejoice in it when you have one.

U is Understanding

Have a roadmap with annotations in your mind.

Do not be blind to your environment, to the social climate, to demographics, to organizational dynamics, to your own emotions, or to any other factor that may influence your success. 

Study your times and study your own efforts. Collect data. Analyze. Make your means of travel a university on wheels. Become and expert. Read, listen, ask questions, learn constantly. Share what you learn.

Understand more and more each day both the road you are on and your methods for traveling it.

Grow in understanding!


But I said that!

it needs to be said again because, by now you are either over-confident or discouraged.

Do not let either of these conditions develop.

You will keep going back to each of these points and renewing your commitment to the journey.

Then, one day, you will arrive, and you will discover that your journey has just begun.

Review and More

We have been mixing metaphors. dust rises quickly, but success settles in and goes deep. Success is a long haul. One more metaphor, well, maybe two.

Firsr, at 211 degrees, water is hot. But turn it up one degree, and it boils. 

If you are just hot, but not boiling, you may need one more degree of effort, another step.

Second, Chef Sally made the best apple cobbler in Polecat Hollow. Everyone wanted her recipe. She gave it out freely minus one secret ingredient. No one ever duplicated her cobbler. Everyone was confused except Uncle Bob. Bob volunteered to be her dishwasher for a week so he could watch her make cobbler and discover the missing ingredient.

He did and he made the cobbler for Christmas dinner to the delight of his family.

Watch successful people or experiment. It may just be a dash of something that is missing from your success cobbler.

Discover it and add it.

It will take you to the next level in your long haul.


One more pinch





Every Man, Every Woman

Cool water on a hot day
I am every man.
I embody every extreme.
I am the plundered poor.
I am the plunderer.
I am he who treasures and keeps the Word.
I am he who wanders.
I am guarded.
I am he, from whom the guarded must be protected.
I am pure and I am vile.
I am all in one - a complete package.
I am beloved ...
I am grateful.
I need and receive grace.
At every punctuation mark of this precious Word,
I see myself.
I identify.
I do so, reluctantly.
God, you have done so, in Jesus, intentionally and redemptively.
Today, I shall rather be plundered than plunder.
I shall prefer to be defrauded than to defraud.
Let me not exalt vileness.
Let me not wander.
May I cherish that which is precious and ...
May I live in the grace that is freely given.
Thank you for another day to learn to learn ...
To embrace your truth and to be transformed by it.
Of all the people I know,
I desperately need it.
" The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times."
"You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man."
(Psalm 12:6-8 ESV)
And may I, oh God,
this day,
embrace your people,
my neighbors.



More Than We Can Be

Leadership happens

Jeremiah 1:4-10
New International Version

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah's call is resonating in my heart today.

To be known, consecrated, and appointed is an awe inspiring insight into our own selves under God. It was never, "Will you go?" It was "You shall go." It was never, "Figure out what to day."

It was "You shall say what I command you to say."

But I am a very young boy? Yes, that is me speaking at 67. I have much to learn and much growing to grow and I am a boy.

"Fooey," God says in better words. "Don't say that. I am with you."

With me? Yes, with me.

That is a big deal. Do not gloss over it.

"Do not be afraid."

Could I be afraid with that reality etched into my consciousness?

Has your mouth been touched and words implanted? Has your courage been strengthened and your resolve reordered?

Words ... pluck up, pull down, destroy, overflow.... with PURPOSE:

To plant and build!

Go and say ... today.

"In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame." (Psalm 71:1, NRSV)

"Our God is a consuming fire,: (Hebrews 12:29)

"Awesome," the dudes on the street corner utter, "Awesome!"

He shakes things up.

He shakes me.

He shakes you.

And here we are, just boys and girls and we are shaking the world. God shakes! We shake! The earth shakes!

What a dance!

God has to clear away some debris and old broken down buildings of our own contrivances and the rubble of our rusty rubrics. There needs to be some bulldozing of old orders for the new order to take hold.

Jesus, by His sprinkled blood, the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 12)!

He too, was just a boy!


Just nothing ... but JUSTICE!

He came and healed on the Sabbath and exposed the rubric realm of reigning religiosity. (Luke 13"10-17)

But He was not just a boy! He knew the whole story. He knew what it was all about before we started messing with it, over-structuring it, and supervising it as supposed "deputies of God."

Why do we need anything but the words in our mouths and the God who is with us?

Jesus did not despise the Sabbath? He loved it, celebrated it, and restored it?

He did not come to tear down anything of essence. He came to clear the rubble around it so that it might be seen again, afresh, anew.

What have we come to? (Hebrews 12:18ff.)


There is fire ... always fire.

But there is also festal gathering! Mostly that. That is the THAT!

What cannot be shaken shall remain!

Acceptable worship with reverence!

At that time, a voice shook the earth and it is almost always ...


Hello there, all you Jeremiahs! You are not just anything. You are known, consecrated, and appointed! You shall go! You shall speak! God is with you and His words are in your mouth.

Go shake a few things and see what remains!

There are treasure out there to be unearthed of God's own planting!

Shake, rattle, and role!

Grace, peace, and joy to you.

Be raised!

Raise others!



The Sigh of a Weary Soul

Do not grow weary
I know this describes where some of you are today, weariness, tears, weeping, groaning, and weakness.
Know this from the psalm, that it is OK to tell God.
Know this also, that God knows, understands, cares, and enters into your experience.
Know even more that there is a parallel story being written about your journey. It is a story that is far more accurate because it is wrapped up in the final paragraphs, more accurate because it knows and tells the unseen and unperceived realities that are active all around you.
It is more complete because God wins and you win.
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 6:6-7 ESV

A Cry in Distress

My cry

In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,& my cry to him reached his ears. 

Psalm 18:6

The personal context the great declaration of faith is distress.

We have all experienced it.

It is that step beyond stress where stress takes its toll and sucks the life out of us.

We are depleted and devastated. Our hands are in the air. Our white flags are waving. We are disappointed and done.

At that point, we have a choice.

To whom or what shall we surrender?

Shall we  wave the flag at the distressing circumstances or discouraging voices or to the voice of hope?

The psalmist chooses hope.

He calls for help.

And he is heard.

It is your turn to choose.

Cry out!



Reporting for Duty

Timothy-eberly-_H_f_0tqt9k-unsplashPhoto by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Father, I am reporting for duty. It is a joy to do so. Just the idea of being chosen for anything thrills and humbles me. Unworthy as I am, you see something in me that you can use because you put it there.

Ignite it, God. Fan the flame and let it burn ... that it ... that something ... that investment you made in me by your grace.

I am here. I have some things to do, but that is all I know about the agenda for the day ... dates, times, places, tasks. These are important, I know, but they are not the real agenda. You know that. You know why I got up this morning and why I am praying this prayer.

Frankly, I wear a bit of confusion and uncertainty about today and tomorrow and the next day. Sometimes that feels like adventure. Sometimes that feels like being a bit unfocused or vulnerable. But that is OK. I have learned by faith and experience that you are guiding me in ways that I can only perceive through reflection and observation in the moment. I trust you.

I want to truly love you today and serve you and I sense that I must do that by loving the ones you love so much. Love them through me. I expect to encounter some difficult people, some folks for whom love will not flow naturally for and from me. It will just have to come from you through me and, for that, I am available. In that process, change my heart. Make me more loving in a spontaneous way.

I want to follow Jesus today. I want to keep in step with Him and see things the way He does. I have opinions, preconceptions, biases, and more than a couple pet peeves. But I sense that He walks right through these leading me in unexpected ways. When I follow Him ... when I follow you, I end up in some very strange situations, sometime caught off-guard, surprising places where I discover that He is already working and I am at home. I can't explain this life, but I embrace it.

Enter into my tasks, dear God. Enter and transform so that everything mundane job becomes worship of you.

Take my mood swings, my crusty gruffness, my irritability, my selfish desires, and my quirky quips and nail them to the cross. One they and I have died, re-resurrect them and me into something usable for you.

Thank you for forgiving me at my worst and loving me there,. Thank you for this new life and for all the precious companions you have brought my way to share my journey. Bless them. Some of them are going through very hard times, times and challenges that I cannot even sort out, pain I cannot imagine. Love them, Lord. I know you do. Love them through me. Meet them in their trials and lead them through.

Bless your church and your churches, those that I am honored to serve and those that my friends serve. As we serve them, may we and I see your bride, Jesus, a people for who you gave all of yourself in sacrifice. May I discern your body, flawed on earth and perfected in eternity. May I learn to love your bride here especially in light of what she is becoming in you.

It is a great mystery and I only perceive it in small doses.

But I am praying that the body of Christ will somehow re-center, refocus, and realign itself with you and your purposes. In any way that I may be an influence in that direction, make me available to you.

I also am flawed, very flawed, very vulnerable, imperfect, and needy. I limp to your altar. I am unkempt, unshaven, a bit battered, and joyfully expectant. Clean me up, Lord and send me out. Grace - I drink it and it rolls down my lips. I take it from your well and pour it all over me. Grace!!!!

Gracious God! Thank you. What a mighty, awesome, fearful God you are. You are like the lion Aslan to me. Something says "stay away" as you roar. My natural man fears your power and worships you in your glory. But you draw me in mercy and love and I cannot stay away. What I fear calls me to come. What I dread compels me. What shocks me, creates in me a wondrous curiosity to love you and know you and the more I know, the more I love and the less I know and the more I know and the more I want to know and the more I know that I do not want to spend one second away from you or outside of this glorious calling.

I don't have to figure it all out. If I follow, I will get it little by little and I will be where you want me to be because I will be with you and find you in the oddest places and circumstances.

Keep my eyes open today for that sort of thing.

There are many I desire to bring along on this journey and I have named there names before you. Others are in my heart and I bring them to you. Some are broken on the wheel of life and need mending. Some are deeply troubled and need peace. Some need healing in their bodies. Some are right here on Facebook, reading this prayer, praying it with me, and are included in the circle of love that is ever-expanding,. This prayer is for them as while ... my beloved .... Your beloved.

Abba, Father, Dad. I did not really know how to pray today. You know me. You know I have days like that. Far from being a spiritual giant, I am a spiritual child, but you accept me and allow me to pray as I will and you meet me there and teach me there. This is private prayer in a quasi-public "place and there is much more within that is very private that I expose to you and you know and you meet me there. It is a Romans 8 sort of thing. But I sense that I am ready now, readier than I was a few moments ago. You have a word for me and I am going to read it, digest it, and get going.

Please go with me as I go with you. In Your Son, Jesus' Name, my Lord, I pray. Amen.



What we worship will always shape us.


Money sex power

"No issues touch us more profoundly or universally, No topics cause more controversy. No human realities have greater power to bless or curse. No three things have been more sought after or are more in need of a Christian response.' Money, Sex and Power discerns the biblical principles that enable us to live out a relevant and authentic response to the three greatest temptations of our age."

-Richard Foster

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them. "

- Psalm 135:15-18 ESV

How do we become like the idols we create?

What are the characteristics and limitations on the objects we worship that shape us into their own image?

We make them in our images and find ourselves sucked into that place where we were when we made them and from there, we descend.

But these are the the psalms that follow after the Songs of Ascent. We have arrived at the holy hill and we must decide what we will worship.

I have been told that I married up and, it is true. I did well. Why would I worship down?

It is meant to be an ascent, not a descent.

We can still go higher, but not as long as we impose our own ideas, desires, motives, and biases upon our own worship. We cannot build our truth around our lifestyles. We must conform our lifestyles to truth.

Not only our lifestyles, but our thoughts, our theological constructs, our worship, and our devotion must conform to truth.

What we worship will always shape us.

We will become more and more like what we worship or who we worship.

If we worship what we ourselves create, then we are worshiping something less then ourselves (much more -- far less than God who created us). We will be worshiping that which, by nature, disintegrates and we shall disintegrate as well.

It is not that we are not made in the image of God nor than our creations are made in our images. It is that, We are not God and they are not us. With each degree of separation, there is disintegration. We must aim for what is authentic and true ... and above us.

If we worship that which infinite and eternal, the potential for growth is eternally expansive.

It is our choice.



All the Readings for Today - A Call to Worship


Detail from Religion by Charles Sprague Pearce (1896)

As humans, we tend to lean toward the worship of something,

Is it the great something in the great somewhere or is it a very specific Magnet of Truth and Realty that draws us toward reverence and intimacy?

What difference does it make in our lives, our relationships, and our world, that we either worship or do not worship God?

And does it matter that it matters?

Let us allow this question to be in the backdrop of our thinking as we explore some of the scriptures in our daily readings for today.

"I will praise the Name  of the Lord Most High." - from Psalm 7:17

The word “praise” occurs 248 times in 216 verses in the King James version of the Bible. 

According to the psalmist, it is according to God's righteousness that we praise Him.

If we are going to properly position ourselves in relation to God, it must be from this perspective.

God is righteous, holy, worthy, and wonderful.  All glory, honor, and majesty belong to God. 

God deserves our worship and delights to receive us. 

When we praise God, we enter into His delightful joy and experience the wonder of His presence. 

In Psalm 4, we pray.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.


Take some time to engage if you like or come back to it,

Consider the following conversation from the book of Job. What do you make of it?

All the characters in  Job believe in God, acknowledge God's sovereignty, and worship God.

They know much about God and what they actually know about God is fairly accurate.

But, do they know God?

Job 4:1,5:1-11,17-21,26-27
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:

“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Surely vexation kills the fool,
and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen fools taking root,
but suddenly I cursed their dwelling.
Their children are far from safety,
they are crushed in the gate,
and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat their harvest,
and they take it even out of the thorns,
and the thirsty pant after their wealth.
For misery does not come from the earth,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but humans are born to trouble
just as sparks fly upward.

“As for me, I would seek God,
and to God I would commit my cause.
He does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number.
He gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

“How happy is the one whom God reproves;
therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he binds up;
he strikes, but his hands heal.
He will deliver you from six troubles;
in seven no harm shall touch you.
In famine he will redeem you from death
and in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue
and shall not fear destruction when it comes.

You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.
See, we have searched this out; it is true.
Hear, and know it for yourself.”

There is nothing here that is not true.

But how much of it is relevant to Job's current situation? How much of it brings Job into face to face encounter with God where worship takes place?

I leave it to you, the reader, to explore.

We move to Paul's encounter with God in Jesus who has died, risen from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and now, appeared to Paul in a blinding encounter. Paul has been converted and is now being activated for service.

... and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists, but they were attempting to kill him. When the brothers and sisters learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Paul will do more to advance the worship of the God of Israel among the nations than any other human being of his time. He will speak boldly among people who are seeking to kill him and those threats will result in the church being built up,.

The further result will be a paradoxical worship experience: comfort and fear.

Say them in any order, comfort and fear, fear and comfort. They do not contradict each other. They evoke praise, They accompany worship. They create an atmosphere of worship and they emerge from an atmosphere of worship.

Revisit Jesus as he was among us in the flesh in his ministry, still from the NRSV, John recounts.

John 6:52-59

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." 

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

What could be more intimate than this?

What could be more familiar?

What could be more esoteric and yet, what could be more down to earth?

It is immanent! It is transcendent.

It is worshipful.

It is ordinary.

So much of our concept of God is other-worldly. So many of our ideas a absolutely consistent with those of Eliphaz or, for that matter, the psalmist. And they are not wrong. But how do we come to the balance seen in the experience of the disciples in Damascus?

It is here where "This is the bread that came down from heaven."

Where we find it difficult to ascend to a higher view, the bread comes down.

The bread comes to us.

What do we, then do, in order to meet God?

We eat the bread. We receive the gift.

We live forever and forever starts now.

Yesterday, in our lectionary, we read from Marks gospel of how a prophet is treated with contempt in his hometown. 

There is a gap between contempt for Christ and for all that is of God and the reverent worship of God. Contempt in any form for divinity brings self contempt as well. we cannot have self-respect or respect for others until we center ourselves in the praise of God.

For that reason, I will turn the floor over to Alister Begg to speak to us from Mark 6:1-6. 



Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?

Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate


Son of Mary

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.“ - Mark 6:3

 Some folks are motivated by a deep, sometimes pathological desire to impress the people of their hometowns, families, and neighborhoods. All the folks who once put us down will have to acknowledge that they were wrong. The critics of our childhoods and youth will eat their words.

“Don’t count on it,” Jesus says.

"Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 

Mary was flesh and blood and Jesus was her son, flesh, blood, and connected with her people.  We think very highly of Mary through the window of sacred history, but others saw the designation of Jesus as her son to be a justification for derision.

It was not her reputation for having conceived him out of wedlock at this point that framed their curses. That would come up at some point, but this was subtler. They accused him of being common and familiar. They knew him and his brothers and their familiarity bred contempt.

He was common and He was uncommon.

As the son of Mary, Jesus had history and culture, family and traditions. He was given the gifts of language, nuance, familial customs, memories, and relationships, but he was always, also the Son of God and that reality was easily obscured to those who knew Him best as a carpenter.

We must be careful not to allow familiarity to obscure holiness to our view. The ordinary may not be so ordinary at all. Our familiarity with the things of God can be a liability if we forget to seek the sacred amidst the profane.



" The expression familiarity breeds contempt was first used in English in the 1300s by Geoffrey Chaucer, in his work, Tale of Melibee. The first use of the phrase is credited to Publilius Syrus, a Roman citizen who began life as a Syrian slave and lived around 50 B.C. His master was so impressed with his intellect that he freed Publilius Syrus and educated him." -


You Are Set Free!

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Sunday, August 21, 2022 - The Fellowship of Joy


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..."

Luke 4:18, ESV

"Woman, you are set free from your ailment."

Sinner, you are set free!

Friend, you are set free!


Jeremiah 1:4-10

You are free to be all that God designed you to be.

You are free to grow, become, explore, and reach your highest potential because you were destined to stand over nations and kingdoms with God's Word in your mouth and purpose in your heart.

Israel was about to go into captivity under the judgement of God and the ambition and conquest of Babylon. God was raising up a prophet named Jeremiah to warn the people, to interpret their times, to instruct them how to survive, and to predict their eventual liberation.

In Jeremiah 1, the prophet reflects upon the call of God in his life.

The man who would be God's instrument for proclaiming  truth to the people would need to overcome his own personal bondage to his perceived limitations of youth in order to be fully used by God.

The fact is that he needed to be young because his message and ministry would be needed for a long time.

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."

But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."

Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth.

See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

Do you want to delve deeper into Jeremiah? Here is an overview:

A Message from this Passage:

The Lord's Song to You 

Psalm 71:1-6

Listen, pray, and read the psalm.

In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.

Respond in song 


Isaiah 58:9b-14

Listen and read 

You are free to discover the depth and meaning of worship in all its forms. You are furthermore, free and empowered  to make a positive difference in the world and rebuild ancient ruins.

Isaiah has been preaching on fasting, on carelessness in worship, and lifestyle choices that are incongruent with the worship of God. Religion itself can become a yoke and it can become a yoke we place on others. God's intent is that by submitting to the divine will, we shall liberate ourselves and others. God wants to set people and nations free to become their best selves and communities.

 If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Consider and dig in,


Psalm 103:1-8

Sing with scripture and praise God.

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits--

 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

1The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.


The Epistle Reading and Mini-Sermon

Hebrews 12:18-29

You are being set free from all that hinders you within you. You are being liberated from sin and impurity. Sometimes things become calcified in our lives and we become to careless about God and casual toward God. If God were like us, there would be no need for us to experience awe, wonder, reverence and worship.

But there would also be no reason for us to know, trust, love, or worship him.

God would just be another idea and our lives would just be a long string of chances and meaningless, unconnected events frozen in captivity to futility.

God is shaking things up in our lives.

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,

and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

 (For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death."

 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear.")

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!

At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven."

This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;

 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

For our God is a consuming fire. - Hebrews 12:29

What consumables are stored in the attic of your life?

What is present in your heart and soul that has no value other than to be fuel for the fire of God passing through you?

What is taking up space in your thoughts, attentions, relationships, and routine that really needs to be burned away as the Spirit of God rages through your life?

What has captured you to your detriment and held you in slavery?

What are you willing to throw on His altar that He might burn it way?

Our God is a consuming fire and that is not always to our disadvantage.

The other side of judgment in our lives is that once we know God through Jesus Christ, we no longer want that “old stuff” stored up in our lives. We see it as hazardous waste, no longer worthy of the storage space it occupies. It is offensive and putrefying and we want it out of our lives.

There is a problem, however. While the residue of pride in our hearts whispers to us that we can handle that mess, God knows that we cannot. Jesus came to rid us of sin and only His power can burn it out of our lives. We repent, but God removes. We can turn away from sin, but only God can eliminate its hold on our lives.

It may look like we are “reforming” from the outside, but the LORD is transforming us from the inside. Part of that process is welcoming the divine fire within. Judgment begins in the house of God, and we are grateful for it because it is the old man of sin that is being judged and he already has a death sentence over his ugly head. He is no longer worth our effort because we have new life in Christ.

Let the fire burn. It is liberating and purifying. As a forest is often regenerated by fire, so will our lives be renewed by God as He burns away all that is unworthy and plants holy seeds of newness within us.

After the fire in the forest, all that remains is the seed of new life.

That is true freedom to become.


The Gospel

Luke 13:10-17

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."

When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."

But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"

When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue.

That means that he has taken a text from the Torah. It was most likely the Torah portion for that day. 

Perhaps it was a teaching about the meaning of the Sabbath.

Perhaps it was the restoration of Israel's institutions, including the Sabbath, after the Exile, how God calls prophets and nations to represent the divine Word on earth and proclaim liberty to the captives as did Jeremiah in his brighter moments.

Perhaps it was from Isaiah and touched to the contradiction of going through religious rituals while allowing people to languish in oppression, injustice, and slavery.

The psalms of joy had been sung. People had been reminded of the covenant. They took the reading seriously, with reverence and holy fear.

And then a woman showed up. For eighteen years, she had been oppressed, imprisoned in her body, most likely maligned by her neighbors, considered to be under a curse from God when, in fact, the curse was from an enemy of God, an accuser, an oppressor, and a liar.

Had she believed the lie that she was less of a person than others in the synagogue?

Had she accepted a status as an outcast or unworthy soul?

Something in Jesus' voice, Jesus' manner, Jesus' teaching, Jesus' smile caused her to come when he called and Jesus set her free!

Jesus saw her value and demonstrated that the awesome God of creation, who is a consuming fire of holiness, cares about those who are oppressed, forgotten, and languishing.

Stand up! You are free of your infirmity and all the indignation that goes with it. Free!

And the onlookers who were still held captive by their misguided understanding and empty religious piety were offended. 

They did not understand that Jesus was not violating the Sabbath. He was fulfilling it! The Sabbath existed and exists to set people free. 

From the very start it was so.

Sabbath is God's rest from our labors. It is  release from our oppressors like those in Egypt and Babylon. Jesus mentions Satan here because Satan is a slave-master and oppressor.

The woman was free but Jesus' critics were still enslaved. She was whole, but they were spiritually crippled.

There  were more than critics in the crowd. In fact, the critics were a small minority. The larger crowd was delighted to hear this word. They rejoicced. It resonated with them. It made sense.

The Kingdom of God was arriving in power and liberation.

And it still is!

You have been set free of sin and every weight that besets you. Stand up!

Live in the freedom of Christ,

The same message on YouTube


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Spoken Word - T.D. Jakes 

Sing It

After the Fire.


Photo by Chad Peltola on Unsplash

"For our God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:29

What consumables are stored in the attic of your life?

What is present in your heart and soul that has no value other than to be fuel for the fire of God passing through you?

What is taking up space in your thoughts, attentions, relationships, and routine that really needs to be burned away as the Spirit of God rages through your life?

What are you willing to throw on His altar that He might burn it way?

Our God is a consuming fire and that is not always to our disadvantage.

The other side of judgment in our lives is that once we know God through Jesus Christ, we no longer want that “old stuff” stored up in our lives. We see it as hazardous waste, no longer worthy of the storage space it occupies. It is offensive and putrefying and we want it out of our lives.

There is a problem, however. While the residue of pride in our hearts whispers to us that we can handle that mess, God knows that we cannot. Jesus came to rid us of sin and only His power can burn it out of our lives. We repent, but God removes. We can turn away from sin, but only God can eliminate its hold on our lives.

It may look like we are “reforming” from the outside, but the LORD is transforming us from the inside. Part of that process is welcoming the divine fire within. Judgment begins in the house of God, and we are grateful for it because it is the old man of sin that is being judged and he already has a death sentence over his ugly head. He is no longer worth our effort because we have new life in Christ.

Let the fire burn. It is liberating and purifying. As a forest is often regenerated by fire, so will our lives be renewed by God as He burns away all that is unworthy and plants holy seeds of newness within us.

After the fire, what remains are the seeds.

When You Have One Job


Play Your Position

Never underestimate the importance of your current assignment.
How do you lead from the bottom?

Leadership is not limited by position,

In fact, real, genuine, effective leadership is never just positional. The qualities of a leader do not come with the salary package, title, and job offer in an organization. They come from within and are usually exercised, first, in positions and assignments that are not recognized as impressive.

Those are not sought-after jobs.

People holding those positions are not awarded credit for their successes. They may not get the bonuses, raises, or write-ups in the company newsletter.

They do, however, stick out like sore thumbs when they are not alert, aware, ready, and efficient in those rare moments when their opportunities to shine come,.

You have heard it said:

You had one job!

If that is the case, do your one job.

Do it with excellence. Do it with diligence. Do it with enthusiasm. Do it with love.

Do your job and always be ready to do your job. Do not underestimate its importance. No one knows when the batter is going to hit the ball to right field. When the ball comes there, someone needs to be prepared to catch it or lose first base, maybe second, third, or home plate.

Over 90% of your job may be waiting for something to happen, but, if it is, that is your job.

Waiting is hard work. It takes training. It takes concentration. It takes an attitude of teamwork and cooperative values. it takes humility. It takes leadership over one's assigned territory.

You may be the only person who thinks about the value of your job. If you are the only one, be that one!

Do not devalue or abandon your post.

Prove yourself, first to yourself, and, eventually, to the people who learn that they can count on you. You are patiently waiting for your big opportunity and paying attention to everything going on.

Study the big picture as you wait. observe other people's assignments. Learn. Grow in character. Refine your attitude. Carry yourself like a winner, Avail yourself of educational opportunities. Attach yourself to mentors.

Be trustworthy.

Be on time.

Be eager.

Cheer for the whole team.

Be a role model.

Be the person who is positive even when your tasks are lowly. Be friendly. Be the one that other people want to have on their team.

Never underestimate the importance of your current assignment.

It would not exist if it were not necessary or important.

We will see you at the top one of these days.



Is It True?

Plato academy

Science is

 in the words of the great scientists and philosophers

I am no scientist.

One might argue whether or not I am a philosopher or student of philosophers. I suppose am more of a philosopher than a scientist at any rate, sometimes one who enjoys philosophical inquiry about the nature of science.

Of course, there was a time in history where the two disciplines were interchangeable.

I have studied the scientific method. It facilitates its own kind of inquiry into questions of "how," "when," and especially, "what."

Yet, the question, "Is it scientific?" is no more ultimate than ...

-- Is it legal?

-- Is it feasible?

-- Is it popular?

A better question at any crossroads would be, "Is it true?"

Scientific inquiry can point us to one dimension of truth, but it alone cannot tell us the whole truth about anything. Science itself has deep appreciation for the notions of "unknowns" in the universe. Truth encompasses the universe and goes beyond.

That being said, when what we need is good science, good thoughts, opinions, and nothing else will quite do.

Here are some collected thoughts from others on science.

"In essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in." Cornelius Bernardus Van Neil (1897- ) U. S. microbiologist.

"Science is organized knowledge." - Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) English philosopher. Education.

"Science is simply common sense at its best that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic." Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

"Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated." George Santayana (1863-1952) U. S. philosopher and writer. The Life of Reason.

"Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science." Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.

"Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club." Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist. "The Method of Zadig" in Collected Essays IV.

"Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition." Adam Smith (1723-90) Scottish economist. The Wealth of Nations, 1776.

"Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know." Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician.

"Science is the systematic classification of experience." George Henry Lewes (1817-78) English writer and critic.

"Science is a cemetery of dead ideas." - Miguel de Unamuno

Now, why did he say that?


Aristotle, who laid a strong groundwork for the scientific method.



Now, This


"You have seen me, but do not believe."
In John 6, Jesus has been asked for big signs, bigger than the mass feedings, bigger than walking on water, bigger than calming the sea, more like daily food for the rest of everyone's life. "Lord, always give us this bread," they say after asking "What sign will you perform then, that we may see it and believe?"

Without exasperation, but with some penetrating insight, Jesus declares in verse 36, "But I said to you that you also have seen me and do not believe"

The indictment here is not on those who have not seen. It is not on those who are seeking truth with all their hearts. It is not on those who are struggling. Folks who struggle with faith issues get a lot of slack from Jesus. Remember the guys who said, "Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief?" He had no problem with that man.

Jesus is slamming the guys with an agenda who have to work hard not to believe.

Norman Ralph has posted some interesting observations about the demographics and characteristics of atheists. Several of us who spend time building communication bridges between ourselves as people of faith and those who are at other places on the faith continuum would be interested in some response.

You won't catch me maligning, ridiculing, or stereotyping you as evil if you are an honest atheist or agnostic. That is not what Jesus is doing either.

Imagine someone being presented with all the evidence anyone would ever need to receive a truth as truth. Imagine that the truth was clearly embodied in a person and that person was standing before you. Imagine that you know that he is true, but you refuse to believe. That is what Jesus is criticizing.

When the psalmist says that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God, he is referring the the decision making capacity of a person. The heart is the control room of ones life in ancient usage of the word. It is where we decide and commit. We know things with our minds and then, experientially. We can even start the process of believing with our minds. However, if it does not reach our hearts where we commit to it and begin to internalize it, it is the kind of faith without works that James says is dead.

There are many who profess belief in God, even in Jesus, who are "fools" by this definition. They are not honest intellectual atheists. They are practical atheists. The men who were grilling Jesus for more proof already believed more than they were willing to commit to in faith. They were just resisting.

When not believing starts to take more effort than believing, then it becomes stubbornness. That, then, is what Jesus means when He says, "You have seen and do not believe."



Abuse of Power

Power to serve

Why do we abuse power? I think it would be dangerous to oversimplify the answer, but we have some hints.

We do not understand power or appreciate its purpose.

Power is given to any of us for the purpose of service. We are entrusted with it, but it is not ours. It is a stewardship, but we grow possessive of it.

That is when we get into a danger zone. What we think we own, but suspect we do not, we grow to like too much and we start to defend it at all costs.

We divide the world into friends and enemies of our protected power and quest for more power. Our addiction to power, like any other addiction, causes us to act irrationally and even brutally.

We cannot handle power unless we work to maintain the attitude of a servant who is merely a steward of power that is not our own.

It can happen any time, to any people, anywhere that abuse of power becomes institutionalized, justified, and memorialized. Even if it grows out of a good cause or a noble endeavor, we must handle power as the powder keg of potential abuse that it is.

Power exists to serve.



Faith's Completion


The Author and Finisher of Our 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 Jesus in everything.

As we look unto Jesus, he completes our faith.




Arthur Saxon performing an early plate-loading barbell and kettlebell (late 19-century)
I was lifting weights.

I suppose I lifted a bit too much -- or for too long --- or on top of an injury --- or something.

No pain, no gain. I know and embrace that. I also know that I can overdo it. There is a balance to it all and sometimes I don't know where the edge is until I've gone over it.

All is well. We break down tissue and the healing brings development, strength, and a host of benefits.

None of those dead weights achieved any benefit from being lifted by me. I received them all. It is different with lifting people. Then, the person lifting and and the person being lifted are both blessed.

So, I thought I'd see what we could do for an acronym on "lift."

L - Love

No to be trite, but if what we do to lift another is not moved by love and infused with love, nothing positive has happened. It is always about the other person and never about ourselves. When I lift weights, it is about God and me. When I lift people, it is about God and them and I get benefits in a peripheral way.

I - Intuition

How do you know when to encourage, edify, or lend a hand to help? You learn to feel your way through it. You do that by developing the vulnerable art of sensitivity. For some, it comes easy. For others, it is counter-intuitive to be intuitive. However, by slowing down and using all of our senses, we will know when we are needed.

F - Fight

When we lift a weight, we are fighting resistance. The resistance is the weight, but the greater resistance is within us. We press against what seems to be an unmovable force with strength we do not know we possess. And that force retreats. We are lending our shoulders to a soul who does not know he or she can move upward. We are not fighting their battles for them, but with them. We become a team and rejoice with them when they overcome their resistance. In the process, we realize that we have overcome much as well.

T - Today

The question is, and always is, "Who can I lift today?"

We make ourselves available and stay available. If we are willing, the one who needs a lift will cross our paths. If will happen because the world is full of people who are struggling. Some are discouraged. Others just need a hand. God will bring you into contact with people who need a lift and with others who will lift you. After all, it is also His work:

"He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the
ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of
honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he
has set the world." - I Samuel 2:8 (NIV)


What Do You Preach On?


A Roadside Sermon by John Pettie

People ask if I preach ON sin, judgment, heaven, hell, this, or that.


What do you preach on?

I don't preach ON anything.

What do you do then?

I preach FROM something and TO something and TO someones.

FROM the scriptures and TO people, the times, people living in the times, issues, and answers.

Preaching ON is grabbing topics out of the air. It is the wrong starting place. The Bible addresses all of the issues directly or indirectly.

If we take it seriously and let it penetrate our hearts, it will expose our racism, our self-centered ways, our idolatry for wicked oppressing systems, and everything else we so easily avoid by preaching ON them, ABOUT them, or AROUND them.

It brings eternal truth to bear upon temporal circumstances and choices.

We do not avoid the issues; we just start with what God says to them.

And the Holy Spirit can bring deep conviction and conversion ... and sometimes uses us to tighten the screws.



Living in the Gap

And Filling in the Blanks
Years ago I was at the cemetery officiating the service of a man who had regularly attended our church. He was a quiet, decent, hard working, and interesting man with a deep commitment to Christ.
He found himself satisfied with very simple pleasures, few possessions, and a small circle of close friends.
He was a very good friend of Bill W. and participated in the groups that met at our church and helped many people as a sponsor.
I would not have considered him wealthy. He had a job that could not have paid a great deal of money. He walked almost everywhere he needed to go.
Yet, I am told, he left a small fortune behind.
It was not that he made a lot of money. He was just frugal and conscientious about savings and investments.
As I often do, I chose to talk about the space, dash, or gap on our tombstones between the date of our birth and death. We cannot control the dates, but we can control what happens in the gap to the extent that we are in charge of all of our choices.
It caused me to reflect on how I wish to spend my time in that gap.
Growing in grace, gratitude, and giving.
Acting so s to accept what is, acknowledge what is not, and attempt what can be.
Pursuing a purpose that provides peace and promotes the positive, and produces fruit for God's kingdom.
How am I living in my gap between January 3, 1955 and that unknown date in the future?
It is up to us to fill the gap.

Giddy Giving or Toxic Tension

The_Death_of_Sapphira_by_Ambrosius_Francken_the_Elder _Phoenix_Museum_of_Art _Arizona _USA

The Death of Sapphira, by Ambrosius Francken the Elder

Don't over-think this one; it will lose its impact.

This is not about the death penalty for telling lies. It is not about a tug-of-war between God as loving or vindictive. That is not why Luke tells the story.

This is about the vitality and buoyancy of generosity and the toxicity of deception and stinginess.

The prevailing mood of the early church, in the matter of needy members, was generosity, but it was not mandated. Truthful transparency, however, was expected. Lying to God is an indication that you are already dead inside.

One of the characteristics of the new believers in the Jerusalem church was their generous hearts.

Generous hearts are giddy with joy.

They did not consider their time, possessions or personal gifts their own. Whatever they had, they submitted to God an it became available for the Kingdom.

The church was not an economic utopia, but a body of Jesus followers freely associating and freely giving themselves to God through Jesus Christ.

Our lives are more complicated today. We have financial advisors and career paths, personal assets and discretionary time. Our day planners are filled with events that we must juggle to “make time” for ourselves.

We are rather tense.

We have carefully detailed maps of our futures and we wonder where the wonder went.

There was a freshness and awe in the early church that came from the loose fist.

Those believers did not hold things tightly in their hands and God was able to use their flexibility and generosity. So He can and will use us today if we will rediscover the wonder.

Here is the scripture. There is more to say about the passage, about the dynamics of the church, and the behavior of these two people, but I will let the videos address it. We can argue with the commentators, but it is not my point to do so and they do lay out some of the issues. Frankly, nowhere here does it say that A&S are lost forever.

Acts 4:32-5:11 (NRSV):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife's knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

"Ananias," Peter asked, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!"

Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price."

And she said, "Yes, that was the price."

Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.


Substantive Faith

Faith is assurance

Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1 is substantive and evidential in and of itself.

Does that suggest that faith in anything proves the thing?

Yes and no.

Yes, faith, because of divine and universal principles set in motion from the time when God first created wisdom, dictates laws of belief and reality. No, because some things are real and other things are not. Truth is not relative, but it is dynamic.

There are realities that can be changed by our beliefs. Mountains can be moved. Circumstances can bend. Choices made in faith between a positive or negative outlook on the moment can change the meaning of the moment. Faith can change the individual who is doing the "faithing." Often that is enough to change the truth of the moment itself.

On the other hand, there are eternal truths and realities outside of our influence that simply are what they are and cannot be manipulated by our beliefs about them. God and His Word are constants in the universe and not even the universe and universal principles can alter them.

In the case of God and His Revelation, the only valid faith response is to conform, by faith to faith in Him and His will. It is unchanging and persistent and greater than our own realities or beliefs about them.

You may call it limits without limitations - the kind of freedom I gave my then 18 month old grandson when I defined parameters within which he could wander at will and in which he felt absolute liberty to explore, express himself, and grow while enjoying, often without his own ability to understand, the safety of my watchful eye and protective gaze.

If he transgressed the limits into the realm of unknown dangers, I was there. As he grew older and became more accountable for himself, he ventured forth into areas where I could not guide him. He hit some walls and consequences which are real. Love compels me to let him grow and discover these for himself.

Even now, as he is almost an adult, I must be willing to let him fall down on occasion. When he does, the ground below him does not move.

Grounding is real whether we believe in it or not.

The faith that the author of Hebrews addresses is faith founded on foundational fundamentals and in the person of Jesus Christ. With Him are infinite possibilities but also, unbending truths. "Faithing" is what we do when we embrace the reality of God's sovereignty and filter everything we believe through faith in Him. It becomes the substance of all that we embrace and the evidence of all we proclaim in spite of all other indicators to the contrary.

Ask me how I am. I am great. It doesn't matter how I feel in the moment. By faith I know, it is well with my soul.

Go move a mountain!

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

1:12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more;

1:13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

1:14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.

1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,

1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

1:19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

1:20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.

50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

50:5 "Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"

50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

50:7 "Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.

50:8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.

50:22 "Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.

50:23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God."

Luke 12:32-40

12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:35 "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;

12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

11:2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.

11:9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

11:10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11:11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old--and Sarah herself was barren--because he considered him faithful who had promised.

11:12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore."

11:13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,

11:14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

11:15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.

11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.


Pass It On or Not

Spam letter
Almost all chain letters use one or all of these to get you to promote their spamming and disinformation:
1. Guilt 
"If you don't ____, then you _____."
2. Greed
"This will happen ...."
3. Fear 
"You will miss out ..."
4. A False sense of loyalty, piety, or patriotism
"All true _____s will copy and paste and send to all their friends."
Don't fall for it and please do not feel offended when I ignore one that comes from you.
I am not judging you. I know you did not start it and probably had good motives sending it.



“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29

 It is not enough to have a theoretical understanding of God’s redemption through Jesus and how He came to fulfill the Old Testament system of sacrifices as the Paschal Lamb – as important as that information may be.

No, it is of greatest importance that we behold Him.

Some translate the word, “Look,” but the meaning is the same. We must linger over the vision of Jesus and stare into His eyes.

We must be captivated by His presence so that to even blink we would disrupt the flow of His radiance into our souls.

We must drink deeply of His beauty that transcends human comeliness. We must experience Him in all His glory and behold Him.

In Jesus Christ, the Living Word, we have beheld the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. God has allowed us to glimpse Himself and touch His own incarnate flesh.

Why wouldn’t we stop everything else we might be doing and bathe in the wonder of a moment of Lamb of God?

Oh, Lamb of God
Upon whose sinless shoulders
All sin has pressed down its awful weight,
We pause amidst the frivolous trivialities of our lives
To behold You
In a manger, on the cross, ascending to Your throne
Coming once again in glory



“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. …  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God …  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! “  John 1:32, 34, 36

Against the backdrop of the Christmas story, we meditate upon John’s testimony to the significance of the Incarnate Word of God. The Spirit descends, the record is borne, and the Lamb of God is revealed.

It is a transitional moment of transformational power. The formative years of Jesus’ life are complete and the babe we left in the manger is now a man who knows who He is and what his mission is on earth is to be. It is the conclusion of the Christmas story and the beginning of a ministry that will culminate in His passion.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized and His baptism is a celebration of new life and new possibilities.

He stands with sinners though He has never sinned. He enters into the symbol of repentance for the sins that we have committed. He identifies intimately with humanity and in that act of identification, God sends forth His own Spirit to visibly and dramatically identify with Him.

It is a new day. In much the same way that we mark a new year with noise and celebration, God marks the ministry of Christ with John’s declaration, “This is the Son of God,” followed by “Look everyone! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World!”

The old is passing away. The new has come. From now on baptism will mean something entirely different and no one will need to be imprisoned in their despair of sin. New years had come and gone for centuries with their twin commemoration of the Day of Atonement. This was no mere new year. This announcement was of new life!

Happy New Life!




Quick Question

Quick question2
"Quick question," my friends say as a preface.
Absolutely. Ask away, but here is a warning, "Have you ever known me to give a quick answer?
For instance, "Where do you want that box?"
"Hmmm ... there are multiple shades of meaning to the question and numerous possibilities available with multiplied consequences not to mention the unknown unintended ones. Let us explore ...."
"Yawn, never mind."
But I come to God this morning with such quick questions and quick prayers and He really understands all of these contingencies, possibilities, opportunities, consequences, and unfolding repercussions resonating from one stroke of a tuning fork of choice. And I want a quick answer to a quick question with a quick fix.
Slow down, Tom! Are you a "laborer together with God (read: partner)" or are you just looking for a handout or a mindless assignment?
God has called us to participate in His kingdom and I would suggest that such participation might require allowing some time on my calendar for a few longer meetings.
Thank God He is open to quick questions and answers because He is so patient with me.
He gave us Psalm 100, but He also gave us Psalm 119.
As I have taught some of my bible study students to say and do when they get a chew-able biblical vitamin: