Margery Williams published The Velveteen Rabbit in 1922.
When Margery was seven, she lost her father in a sudden death. Throughout her life, there was a thread of pain, suffering, and sadness in her writing. Yet, she affirmed that through pain and adversity, hearts become more human.
Though English by birth, Margery moved to America with her family and became inspired by the innocence of children against the backdrop of the war to end all wars.
As she took her pen and began to write, she asked one of life's great questions: What is real?
Out of that internal dialogue emerged a beautiful story: The Velveteen Rabbit.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the skin horse only smiled. - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit (Read the whole illustrated story online!)
This is one of those stories from children's literature that is almost always sure to bring a tear to my eye. I have read it aloud many times to children and adults. It continues to touch me at the depth of my soul.
So many people stagger through life in an unreal shell of a persona. They struggle with fear of rejection or repulsion at the idea of the pain they might have to suffer in the process of becoming authentic. The pain is real and the risks are real.
However, the rewards are also real for being real.
The great theme of The Velveteen Rabbit is becoming real.
"...once you become real, you can't be ugly, except to those who don't understand."
And so it is among the battle scarred, war torn, life worn, lovelorn souls who face and embrace life. Being real is a thing of great value and a gift of great grace from God. To reject our authenticity is to reject wonder.
To reject wonder is to reject life.
To reject life is to reject God.
There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played.
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.
And when he one day passed away,
His insurance was denied.
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died.
Read the story here: The Velveteen Rabbit
What does it mean "to bless?"
How do we bless?
Here is an acronym for what it might mean for us to bless others.
B = Being.
We first bless by being who and what we are. It is our lives that must be channels of blessing as we are authentic, vulnerable, and transparent.
L = Living Out.
We bless others by living out our lives, living out-loud, living in love, and letting who we are find expression in our actions toward others.
E = Expressing.
We can bless others by how we communicate with them, verbally and non-verbally. Expressions of grace, mercy, love, and peace can encourage and uplift if that is our intention.
S = Salt.
Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth." For these purposes, that is the stewardship of our positive influence in the world. That is what Joseph exercised in Egypt and it resulted in a nation being saved from and through famine.
S = Sharing.
We bless by what and how we give as we use our resources for the good of others.
So, the call to bless is a call to authentic being, good deeds, gracious communication, positive influence, and generous giving.
What a difference those five things could make in our communities!
Social media are defined and valued by how we use them.
Yes. "Media" is a plural word and "medium" is the singular form.
Media are means to an end. Social media are tools for communication.
We have a wide range of possibilities for using the tools. Two of mine are prayer and prayerful concern.
Another is encouragement.
I feel fulfilled when I can encourage people.
For me, online friends are real friends.
Through social media, I find out what I need to be reading, listening to, and watching based upon friends' recommendation.
We collaborate on big ideas.
Then, there are puppies, kittens, cute pictures, and jokes.
There is music
Then, there is education.
Of course, it is all communication. It is a bag of tools and every age has its tools for communication. If you want to meet people, you have to meet them where they are with the tools available.
What is your favorite social medium and why?
Sometimes these platforms give me a soapbox for my ideas and sometimes a conference table for collaboration. Out of that collaboration come bigger ideas, mutual understanding, and respect.
Sometimes people complain about mean-spirited postings on Facebook, too much drama, too much politics, inconsequential conversations, and wasted time.
That is not my experience.
I have built my platforms for the most part. I have had a hand in creating my communities. I set the tone for my on-line presence and pages.
It is largely up to me what I experience, with some exceptions.
Facebook is one of the best tools I have ever had at my disposal for intercessory prayer as well as the nurturing of community and friendship. I utilize others as well.
They keep me "in-the-know," so that I can pray more effectively with my mind even as my spirit prays. Combine all the media into one singular entity and it connects us in a network of caring, even for people we have never met.
Like any "tool," it can be misused.
It is neutral as a technology; but it is powerful as an instrument for potential good.
Are we using social networking to build people?
If not, why not?
It is really all within your control.
“… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” From John 14:17
God is whispering in our ears, “Give me your hands and let me move them in my rhythm.”
God thinks of everything. God's purposes are complex, but not complicated. God's plan is to work in and through believers to accomplish God's work in the world. To do this, the Holy One intends to inhabit us.
The Holy Spirit is the very presence of Jesus among us today. It is by the Holy Spirit that we become the Body of Christ in the world and that the world is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment and hears the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Knowing that they might consider that a once and for all filling and forget the need for constant refreshment and refilling, he told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. As we celebrate Pentecost this year, let us focus on the necessity of the Spirit-filled life if we are to see God accomplish great things in and through us.
When Jesus called Paul, He had a plan for Him. But Paul needed the power of the Holy Spirit in his life to realize his calling and act upon it.
When Jesus restored Peter after breathing the Spirit into him, He questioned him about his love. Three times, he commissioned Peter to feed His sheep knowing that if Peter were to act upon his love and follow the Master, he would need the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.
By faith, allow the Spirit of God who dwells in you to overflow within you and spill out His blessings to the world.
Today, God is calling us to the next level of following, serving, and bearing witness in the world. We need the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have no choice but to rely on the Promise and Presence of the Spirit.
And Not a Shot Fired
Both created great beauty, one with words, the other with visual art.
Both suffered from mental illness.
Neither took a gun and killed masses of people.
Their beauty lives on.
Born this day in 1932 – Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer (d. 1963).
She died as a result of clinical depression at age 30.
So many of us!
So many of us!
We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence. I knew perfectly well the cars were making a noise, and the people in them and behind the lit windows of the buildings were making a noise, and the river was making a noise, but I couldn't hear a thing. The city hung in my window, flat as a poster, glittering and blinking, but it might just as well not have been there at all, for the good it did me.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.
Born this day in 1885. Sigrid Hjertén was a Swedish modernist painter and major figure in Swedish modernism. Her periods of productivity were spasmodic since she also suffered from schizophrenia.
She worked for 30 years. After a botched lobotomy, she died.
This is anecdotal, but in nearly 50 years as a pastor, I have known many mentally ill people both on and off the streets. All that I have known on the streets have been victimized in some way. Many of those I have known who are housed have been.
I have met very few violent criminals.
I have met many artists and beautiful souls.
One could almost look for old comments to repost, but I will neither say nothing nor dredge up old thoughts.
Same story - different locations and characters.
From New York to Maine to the Holy Land.
Murder, mayhem, heartbreak, fear.
Terrorism has a technical definition invented by lawyers and politicians, but ...
It is all terrorism, not matter who does it or for what reason.
If it evokes terror, it is terrorism.
If it kills innocent people, it is murder.
We want to know why, not to excuse it, but to prevent it before it happens.
It is never all about the individual perpetrators; it it never not about them at all.
It is never all about the individual victims; it it never not about them at all.
It is never solved by thoughts and prayers; it is not likely to be solved without them.
It is never solved by policy; it not likely to be solved without it.
Policy, police, and politics on one hand; prayer and commitment, goodwill, and transformation on the other. When they meet and intermingle, we have hope.
Get tough, get compassionate, get both, get on with something.
The fatalists say, "That's just the way it is."
The activists say, "We've got to do something."
They are all right.
Grit your teeth in anger or bitterly weep, but do not get numb. Blessed are those who mourn.
Life and this world are good and life is a mess. Things makes sense until they don't.
Thoughts are about thinking. That can never be bad unless thinking becomes the paralysis of analysis. Prayer is about presenting our problems, ourselves, and our time to the One who is Higher than we are.
Thoughts and prayers.
Deeds and decisions.
Born this day in 1881 – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter and sculptor (d. 1973).
His work was innovative and unprecedented.
Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War.
Guernica, Picasso's most important political painting, has remained relevant as a work of art and as a symbol of protest, and it kept the memory of the Basque town's nightmare alive. While Picasso was living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, one German officer allegedly asked him, upon seeing a photo of Guernica in his apartment, "Did you do that?"
Picasso responded, "No, you did."
But Others Also
Deep thoughts ...
I have them ...
They are quite deep ...
And, they are covered with hard pan ...
Many pounds ... tons of hard pan ...
I need something stronger than a shovel to get to them ...
There is some truly well written material here in social media in the blogsphere.
It is fresh, immediate, and compelling. It is edgy and controversial. It is raw, real, and relevant.
Of course there is junk, untruth, half-truth, and trash. You have to sort it out. You have to explore the sources and verify, but the wealth of information from the ground and the collaborative power of thinking together is a gift of our times.
I don't agree with everything I read, but when I find something well thought with which I disagree,
I find it a lot easier to address what it is with which I truly disagree and not be sucked into a sinkhole of generalizations or a shooting match of talking point bullets.
I really love this medium for the potential it has for reading, thinking, responding.
It is the Luther-Erasmus correspondence -- only quicker!
In the mutual search for truth, we are also seeking God for God is truth and there is nothing that varies, diverts, or strays from truth in the nature and character of God.
'"An equation for me has no meaning, unless it expresses a thought of God." - Srinivasa Ramanujan, Indian mathematician
Something I Wrote a While Back
to start some discussion
The Hated Hero
The Good Samaritan was a neighbor because he had compassion in his heart and acted upon He came to the rescue of one who had been reckless and careless in his travels and had suffered devastating loss.
He acted with mercy after the broken man had been ignored by one who put ritual before service and another who valued safety above caring.
He is held up as an example because he was the one considered least likely to be a neighbor. He was part of a culture, nation, and ethnicity that was held in suspicion. What we seldom emphasize is that he would have felt the same way about the man he helped if he were also given to the prejudice of his own countrymen.
"You've got to be taught ... to hate all the people your relatives hate. You've got to be carefully taught."
He was the neighbor because he broke out of the confining prison of bigotry and fear and stepped into the wide open space of love.
What might it be like if this were something more than just a nice Bible story told in Sunday School and actually applied and embodied by people of faith today? How radically might it change our behavior as followers of Jesus?
We could start every day with an attitude of compassion that says from the outset, "I am going to filter every impression I form through the pain of the people involved."
That would be a start.
We struggle so often, so persistently (though often, intermittently), and so blindly with this polar pull of selfish gain that yanks us way from living purposefully against living joyfully and eternally in time and space. We have no remedy to the war except to check in with the Commander daily to recenter our focus.
These are online conversations, correspondence, and collected thoughts. May they help us discover common ground and big ideas.
“Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” — I Corinthians 15:58
We gathered in the shade of an old oak tree that stood sentinel over the neatly placed markers that signified the lives of ten or twelve souls whose earthly remains were interred beneath its shadows. We joined hands as we sang together, God be with you till we meet again â€¦ till we meet at Jesus feet.
Minnie had labored hard for many years in God’s vineyard. It was time to say goodbye and consign her to that sacred place of memory that occupies such precious real estate in every person’s heart. Her soul was safe. She had committed that decades before to the care of a redeeming Savior. Her body
Her body, beyond our care, we committed to the earth.
I opened her well worn Bible to a passage she loved.
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”
Thoughts of her unsung heroism passed from one person to the next with memories of kind words and deeds, encouraging notes, and humble service. Minnie had achieved neither fame nor fortune in this life. She had written no books, created no fine art, or founded any great institutions. She had simply loved those who came across her path and lived a life of quiet devotion to God and others. This was her life’s work; this was her great contribution and even now, it was bearing fruit in the lives of those who would carry forth her legacy from this place.
God loses nothing. He wastes no effort, no labor, no tear. Not one moment of our lives. We who honored Minnie that day were reminded, by her example, to be steadfast, consistent, and abounding in God’s work.
Her labor in the Lord was not in vain; nor is yours.
People have differing views of work ranging from dread to excitement — but very view people relish working in vain. We want something to show for our efforts.
In the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to Corinth, the Apostle Paul admonishes his friends,
“Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Perhaps the Corinthians suspected that it all might be for naught.
Everyone who uses a computer to communicate deeply felt convictions and intricate concepts has had the experience of seemingly working in vain. We have labored over thoughts and words for intense periods of time and have finally formulated those ideas into concrete sentences when the computer suddenly crashes, and all is lost.
All of that for nothing! But not really.
We have meditated, wrestled, and have been shaped by truth. We may have to step away, take a break, or lick our wounds. However, the next time we write the same thing, it comes out a bit differently, but it comes, nevertheless.
The process was about what was happening inside of us and not what was occurring on the screen or the page.
It is often that way.
The occasion for Paul’s encouraging words was twofold. It came in recognition of the people’s present concerns. All truth is wrapped in a veneer of present reality. We live in context and experience the full range of what it means to be human. We know pains and joys, satisfaction, and discouragement. It is all a part of life. Add to that the ever-present, looming threat of death that eventually will overtake us all and we may wonder, “What is it all about?”
The second occasion he addresses is the future conviction that people of faith are going somewhere, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has something more than an historical significance to His followers. In the earlier verses of the chapter, he expresses the conviction that resurrection hope is shared among all who embrace Jesus and live in the power of His death and life.
Everything has meaning, even the mundane and tedious experiences of life.
What follows is a threefold admonition. The NIV uses the words:
“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself to the work of the Lord.”
The first admonition is to STAND.
It is hard to stand when the ground is shaking. For that reason, people who intend to live forever must find deeper grounding for their lives. They (we) cannot be controlled by our circumstances or our emotions. These are a part of our reality; they are not the sum of it
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Another way he could have said this might have been, “Don’t lose your footing.” Remember what you believe. Remember where you are going. Remember why you are doing what you are doing. Reconnect with what stabilizes you in your resolve and commitment.
Someone has said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
The second admonition is to WITHSTAND. “Let nothing move you.”
We have some choices to make about what we will allow to move us. I choose God and God alone.
It is easy to place one’s life in neutral when bombarded by a cacophony of voices and a barrage of influences all vying for our attention and compliance. Everyone wants our ears and our acquiescence.
Political, social, peer, commercial, moral, and familial voices tantalize, rationalize, and intimidate us into uncertainty about our core values and commitments.
That is what Paul is saying when he encourages the folks not to be moved.
Of course, we need to challenge our presuppositions, prejudices, comfortable notions, and assumptions. He is not addressing these. He is talking about our life mission, or unchanging purpose for living, our devotion to God and His vision within us, and the work that we are called to do.
Keep on keeping on. Be not easily dissuaded from the cause. Persevere. Expect to be maligned, attacked, challenged, and inconvenienced, but stay with it.
The third admonition is to ABOUND.
He says we are to abound in the work of the Lord, always giving ourselves to it. The first admonition was abounded grounding; the second was about rebounding in the face of opposition. Now we are looking at the call to be abounding in work itself.
It is about full engagement, heart devotion, energy investment, and enthusiasm.
“Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”
You can stand with deep conviction and withstand with stubborn tenacity, but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit within you to abound. You must rely on a strength greater than your own to fully engage.
The word “enthusiasm” means “God within.”
The word “inspired” means “breathed upon,” as though by the very breath of God.
“Motivated” really means “moved to action.”
Abound. As you know in the physical world, the body requires rest, replenishment of energy through nutrition, and exercise to abound. The health system Kaiser calls it “thrive.”
In the realm of work that has abiding significance and eternal implications, the same is true. We must nourish ourselves spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically to abound in our work. Paul says that our labor is in the Lord which means that He supplies the tasks as well as the ability to do them.
Some of the tools we have for abounding are true for ministry, business, and social endeavors:
READ — For me, part of the diet, the biggest part, is the Bible, but I also read instructive, encouraging, motivating, and challenging books and articles from many sources.
PRAY — Engage in an honest, ongoing, satisfying, and open relationship with the Source of your life. “Pray without ceasing.”
RELATE and PARTNER — In Christianity, we call this fellowship. In business and entrepreneurship, we call it networking. In any realm, it is the reality that we are not alone and the assurance that others are engaged in the mission that helps encourage us.
FOCUS -Christian words for this are obedience and faithfulness. We focus on what we are doing and let lesser things go. We keep eyes on the prize and invest our time, energy, and love in what produces lasting results and deep change.
Stand, withstand, and abound or, you could say, ground, rebound, and abound. That is the threefold admonition.
Finally, he gives a grand assurance —
Your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
God knows it is hard. You know it and God knows it. Sometimes you just don’t want to get up and have no idea where the energy will come from or how to muster the will, but you do in faith and it comes.
God knows it is discouraging. You will not always be complemented, appreciated, or affirmed. Stay with it. It is not in vain. There will come a day. The story has been told so many times that no one really knows the source or whether it is fiction or history. It may not be true, but it is truth:
This is the story of missionary Samuel Morrison’s return to the United States, as told in Ann Graham Lotz’s book, The Vision of His Glory:
The story is told of an old missionary named Samuel Morrison who, after twenty-five years in Africa, was returning to the United States to die. As it so happened, he traveled home on the same ocean liner that brought President Teddy Roosevelt back from a hunting expedition. When the great ship pulled into the New York harbor, the dock where it was to tie up was jammed with what looked like the entire population of New York City! Bands were playing, banners were waving, choirs of children were singing, multicolored balloons were floating in the air, flashbulbs were popping, and newsreel cameras were poised to record the return of the president.
Mr. Roosevelt stepped down the gangplank to thunderous cheers and applause, showered with confetti and ticker tape. If the crowd had not been restrained by ropes and police, he would have been mobbed!
At the same time, Samuel Morrison quietly walked off the boat. No one was there to greet him. He slipped alone through the crowd. Because of the crush of people there to welcome the president, he couldn’t even find a cab. Inside his heart, he began to complain, “Lord, the president has been in Africa for three weeks, killing animals, and the whole world turns out to welcome him home! I’ve given twenty-five years of my life in Africa, serving You, and no one has greeted me or even knows I’m here!”
In the quietness of his heart, a gentle, loving voice whispered, “But my dear child, you are not home yet!”
That is because God knows the outcome.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.”
You are going somewhere, and your labor is not in vain.
Keep on keeping on.
Sermon and musical stetting for Exodus 33 and Matthew 22.
Moses seeks to see the face of God.
Jesus is confronted with the face of Caesar.
One is the "I Am"; the other is a living symbol of idolatry, materialism, and empire.
Idolatry skims the surface; the call of God is to go deeper.
Yesterday's sermon, edited and set to music
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, please show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider, too, that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”
The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord,’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
and the gates shall not be closed:
I will go before you
and level the mountains;
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron;
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name;
I give you a title, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I the Lord do all these things.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Extol the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called on his name.
They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.
He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
they kept his decrees
and the statutes that he gave them.
O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Extol the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the Lord our God is holy.
e all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
1 Thessalonians 1
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For they report about us what kind of welcome we had among you and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one, for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed, and they left him and went away.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVUE)
New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
About Signing Up
Lately, I've been signing up for things - mostly free, but not always.
You have to sign up first; then you can sign-in whenever you like.
I have noticed that if I don't sign-in for a while, I sometimes have to sign-up again.
It is really nutty ... I am trying to find parallels to participation in the Kingdom of God here and the easy ones come easily ... but the really hard ones ... are really hard.
Something about the whole thing of an easy sign-up and a simple sign-in seems incongruent.
Something about that long list of affiliations sitting somewhere in my in-box and data-bases ... many forgotten, just strikes me as qualitatively different than the call to oddity that is the essence of holiness.
If being a disciple is nothing more than signing up and signing in, then I am reading a different four gospels
This makes most apologies and confessions seem sort of wimpy and half-hearted.
One thing you cannot say about the psalms is that they beat around the bush.
Nor can you accuse them of being cold and emotionless.
They are gut-wrenching and blatantly emotional. Poetry relies on hyperbole, but it goes to the heart of human expression, exposing every sentiments.
"O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”
For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.
Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!"
(Psalm 38 ESV)
The Anointed One
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” - Luke 4:18-19
“…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: …” Acts 10:38
To be anointed is to be a messiah. To be a messiah means to be anointed. Kings were anointed in Old Testament times. Saul was anointed as was David. The prophets told of an anointed one who would be the ultimate Messiah of Israel.
Jesus came as King, but, in Him, Messiah meant much more. Kings can be benevolent or malevolent. They can carry a concern for the larger family of humanity or be entirely parochial in their concern. They can lean toward violence or toward peace.
Jesus would first be a servant and a savior. His anointing was as redeemer, liberator, healer, and announcer of good news. His message would be, first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but that was merely to set the stage for something larger and more universal.
The Spirit of God upon the one who had emptied himself, was the source of his power. He is the King who humbles himself in obedience.
He is the Master who serves.
He is the Lord who liberates.
He is the Anointed One of God.
Jesus is Messiah, to the Christian, God’s anointed. The word “Christ” in “Christian” means Messiah in Greek.
The name speaks of his character, his calling, and his mission and has implications for who we become as we align with Him.
In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus takes up the mantle of a revolutionary liberator but refuses to use violence or coercion to accomplish his righteous ends. He wears the garb of a radical populist but refuses to be swayed by the fickle politics of His times.
He is, from beginning to end, God’s Anointed on God’s mission using God’s means and bringing God’s message.
And the truth is that God cares about the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, the bruised, and those so heavily in debt to life and sin that only a Year of Jubilee (the acceptable year of the Lord) will free them.
We must take these words somewhat literally and apply them at a higher level. When he speaks in the synagogue, he is talking about those who are oppressed in this world, but he elevates the meaning to include all of us who are bound by sin and absorbed by the constrictive cares of this dark world.
When life, precarious
as it is, begets nefarious times,
society snaps and nothing rhymes,
when despots rant and
allies recant their fleeting support.
and reasons out the door
like never ever before,
let us resort to another season
and age and word of reason
that ought to be our logo.
Walt Kelly said it
and we can embed it
through the voice of Pogo.:
The enemy is in our sights
and he is, for all rights,
none other than us.
Yes, we are the cause of it.
And now, because of it,
let us do something more
If we cause it, we can.
The call of God is consistent, persistent, insistent, and specific.
The mercy of God is scandalous, irrational, and gregarious.
Our response to God is critical.
An Invitation to Prayer
God of all that is without Whom there is not,
God of all that was, without who nothing has been,
God of all that can be and should be and might be,
God of all that shall be.
God of unfolding wonders and unfathomed waters of wisdom,
God all who live, who have lived, and shall live,
God of me …. my God, our God,
God of Jesus, Savior, Friend,
God revealed in Spirit and in Flesh,
You are here with us, and for that, we are ever grateful.
Hear our morning prayers.
Hear our heartfelt cries for mercy.
Hear our burning, yearning groans for those deep needs we cannot express with words.
You know our wounds, our open, oozing sores.
You know our stubborn, egotistical ugliness, but …
You also know what beauty lies within us, that which is of You, that which You would nurture inside of us.
With penetrating eye and skillful hand, root out our sin and heal our shame.
With gentle hand, guide us into Your purpose for our being.
Arrange our lives today and supersede our presumptions.
Grant us divine appointments and the spirit of serendipity to embrace them.
Laugh with us today; weep with us; look with us upon your world with love.
Oh, Master Designer, design our lives, my life, to conform with your vision.
Fill our hearts with peace, with joy, with holy love that we might serve you in serving others.
May not a moment be wasted of this day, not a thought lost, not a word vainly spoken.
I come, Father, referred by Jesus, Whose name I gladly take as the banner over my life.
I come willing to die to self today, but weak in the flesh, I identify with Jesus and express my desire to You, to follow Him …’
Wherever He leads.
I have no other agenda worth attending to …
There is so much time for second-guessing.
There is also time for making political points.
This is the time for neither.
And, there is never a time for hate.
When we say, "Let us pray," we know that not all people pray, but all have the capacity for caring that comes with prayer.
So, let us pray.
Whose side is God on – ever?
God is on God’s side.
It is the side of truth, love for humanity, justice, peace, restoration, hope, mercy, ands reconciliation. God is on the side of those who suffer and are under attack.
Yes, because God wants these positive things in our lives. They honor God.
The real question is:
Am I on God’s side?
On thus day in 1915 – World War I: British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium.
The night before her execution, she said, "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."
Teach us Lord, that we are brothers and sisters.
Engrave that truth upon our hearts.
Burn it into the fiber of our souls.
Help us to know that
All that injures one,
All that lifts another,
For Your heart is touched
By every tear and
Cry for help.
Psalm 133Ecce, quam bonum!
Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *when brethren live together in unity!It is like fine oil upon the head *that runs down upon the beard,Upon the beard of Aaron, *and runs down upon the collar of his robe.It is like the dew of Hermon *that falls upon the hills of Zion.
For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: *life for evermore.
Psalm 19:1 — The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Nature is God’s troubadour announcing His glory to humanity. The activity of God in creation is true to His character and there is much to be known of Him through observation, meditation, and contemplation prompted by an appreciation of all that He has made. The old adage that we must stop and smell the roses is an appropriate reminder to look for examples of the glory of God in the work of His hands. Open your eyes and heart today to His voice in all that is around you.
Psalm 19:2 — Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
One of the characteristics of God’s disclosure of Himself in nature is the consistency of the message. One of the characteristics of human beings as receptors of His message is our inattention and inconsistency in seeking Him through all He has offered us. Make up your mind to seek God today in the smallest things and He will show Himself clearly. There is much to be gained by reading the handiwork of God.
Psalm 19:3 — There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
God’s truth, as disclosed in the cosmos, is universal. It is not given in isolation or exclusion. It provides a common language for humanity to talk about God and explore His ways. It provides a meeting place and point of contact for seeking His deeper and more specific revelation through His Word and through His Son. Prayerfully be on the lookout today for opportunities to seek God more deeply with others to whom He has spoken through His handiwork in creation.
Psalm 19:4 — Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
Even in creation, God is busy about the work of evangelism. His purposes are inclusive and magnanimous. He makes provision for every necessity and extends His reach to every man, woman, boy, and girl. He pavilions the sun to shine on all humanity. He sends forth His Word of life to every corner of the earth. If we are to join Him in His own work, we will adopt His priorities and mission.
Psalm 19:5 — …which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
The sun, sheltered against the backdrop of the cosmos, does not remain cloistered in its pavilion of safety. It emanates; it extends, it goes forth with purpose and clarity to fulfill its mission and run its appointed course. God made it to do so and to be so and He has made us to be a people of extended purpose and profound significance. As part of His creation, our voices are available for His voice to reveal Himself through us and in us.
Psalm 19:6 — It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Consider the orderliness of God’s creative work in the cosmos. The rotations of the planets, moons, and stars proceed with a sense of direction that is consequential and graceful. Out of seeming chaos emerges an order that is indisputable. The changing relationship of the earth and the sun for example, forms a pattern by which we set our calendars and our clocks and order our lives. The heat of our private star brings light and life and through it, God speaks. How is your life radiating God’s warmth today in its appointed rounds?
Psalm 19:7 — The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
Having noted the general way God shows Himself to every person, we bring His very specific and personal self-disclosure into focus. Though present in creation in all of its truth, the written and spoken Word of God speaks with a clarity and grace that cannot be ignored. It marshals the forces of language to revive the soul and make wise the simple. In His Word, God describes and defines what He has made and why and shows us how to come into proper relationship with Himself and His creation.
Psalm 19:8 — The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
When things are right, they do not constrain but liberate us. Truthful precepts do not introduce legalistic bondage to our lives, but exuberant joy because they inform us who we are and how we relate to God and His truth. When God commands us, the lights go on, we no longer stumble in ambiguous darkness. Seek God’s truth in His Word today and expect radiant joy and you apply those truths to your life guided by the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 19:9 — The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
There is fear and there is fear. Fear can be irrationally muddled and deathly or pure and lifegiving. Fear of God is not a cowering dread or a fleeing terror as much as an awesome recognition that He is Other and in His holy brilliance, we are consumed but for His merciful grace. And that kind of fear never wears off. At the same time, what God orders can be counted as sure and certain and absolutely right. Bank on God today and turn from anything that views with Him for attention with extreme prejudice.
Psalm 19:10 — They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
Again, the psalmist is describing God’s ordinances, His disclosure of Himself through His revelation of covenant expectations. When God makes demands upon our lives, they are indications of His own holiness, and they are precious, sweet, and nurturing. They are signets of His love and call to us. He sets standards for us that are high because His esteem for us is high. We cannot attain to them in our strength, but He intends to come live them out Himself, in us and through us. This psalm is, after all, about God showing Himself.
Psalm 19:11 — By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
There are two functions of God’s ordinances toward us that are equally valuable and precious. One is to warn us. God’s warnings are not the results of His desire to “get us” or trap us in untenable situations. He deeply desires that we will avoid the pitfalls that He sees ahead of us in our sinful pursuits. The second is similar. The rewards of keeping God’s commands are intertwined with the deeds themselves. Obedience is self-rewarding because it draws us into a closer and more intimate love relationship with God.
Psalm 19:12 — Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Search as you will, and you will find no place of error with God. There is no basis for correction in anything He has done or said. He is simply always, infallibly, right and all that He does is in plain view even though His purposes may at times be hidden. To the contrary, we of human seed work our sinful deeds under the cover of darkness. Like Adam, We hide our faults and ourselves. Our healing comes when we come into the light and acknowledge our need of mercy, hiding nothing from God. Begin today to be set free.
Psalm 19:13 — Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
The problem with willful sin is that it takes on a life of its own and comes to think of itself as the ruler of our lives. They begin to dominate us addictively. Willfulness then obliterates our free will, and we need divine deliverance. I am not certain what the great transgression might be but I suspect it is that place of no return where we stop praying the prayer of this verse and seeking the help of the only One who can keep us from sin, blameless, and innocent.
Psalm 19:14 — May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Without a doubt, this is one of the great prayers of the scriptures. In its words, if we mean them and allow our spirits to pray them, is all the power and grace needed to face any day. Words and meditations lead our deeds. The centering point for our lives is the pleasure of God. When we get to the place where this is the deepest, most delightfully resounding prayer of our hearts, we will find that God is our Rock and Redeemer. As fearfully holy and demanding as He may be, His presence is mercy, grace, and love to us.
I am not sure that there are more tragedies in the world these days or if we are just more connected and the news becomes immediate and personal.
There are some good things about that for people of prayer: deeper, closer connectedness.
The danger is numbness and the blink factor.
We get distracted; we blink; we miss something; we kick ourselves; we go on.
We keep finding bodies broken, bleeding, breathless, and pleading.
For families and survivors of the tragedies among us - May you find hope on the wings of tragedy.
We are all connected - even if the web goes down.
Assignment (if you choose to accept):
Find someone (public or private) with whom you normally disagree - even someone you detest, distrust, or disrespect. Then look for something they say, do, or are, with which you have positive agreement.
The word, "positive" is important here.
Note it to yourself and then, start again tomorrow with the same person or someone else (Generally a different person unless you need to build bridges with one in particular).
Principle: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
And even better still, have a conversation with them that mainly involves you listening.
We have raised a generation on "reality" TV who believe that it somehow, actually represents reality.
Some, young and old, have bought the notion that meanness, pettiness, ruthlessness, narcissism, lack of civility, and vindictiveness are norms for human communities to be emulated. At the same time, they have adopted the attitude that truthfulness is not subject to verification, that negative reports are the most likely to be accurate, and that fact-checking is a conspiracy against their cherished opinions. That is the bad news.
The good news is that there is a large contingent of thoughtful young adults from the same generation who have a healthier way of thinking and have rejected the "reality" TV mentality. They ask a lot of questions, do not settle for simple slogans, read the fine print, dig deep, work to build cooperative relationships across ideological lines, and seek truth.
I take great courage and hope from them.
So, when I say, "We have raised a generation," I am not actually referring to the Millennials or any other chronologically defined generation. I mean that broad generation of citizens from 8-80 who have bought into one of the great families of fallacy of our times - which today, I am calling, "the reality TV syndrome."
Tomorrow, I will call it something else.
" When I stood outside the church looking in, I found much to criticize. But once I fully entered the church, I realized the difficulty of sustaining anything like the New Testament vision of what the church should be. I have much more sympathy for the church's failures now that I am contributing to them! Church 'frustrates us into holiness,' says Richard Rohr, by holding up a shining vision and then inviting us to join the lackluster reality. (pp.72/Church: Why Bother? my personal pilgrimage)" - Philip Yancey
These were some memories from three years ago and beyond. Each of these lives and moments were and continue to be consequential.
What consequences arise from our lives?
What of today's choices?
Born October 4, 1822, Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the United States, 1877 to 1881, after serving in the House of Representatives and as governor of Ohio. A lawyer and staunch abolitionist, he defended refugee slaves in court proceedings during the antebellum years.
Born this day in 1928, Alvin Toffler , writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution, the communication revolution and how they all revolutionize culture on the planet. Toffler was author of best sellers including "Future Shock" and :The Third Wave."
"Man remains in the end what he started as in the beginning: a biosystem with a limited capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the consequence is future shock." - Future Shock (1970)
"A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it. This new civilization brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as well...The dawn of this new civilization is the single most explosive fact of our lifetimes." Alvin Toffler, from The Third Wave (1980)
Born this day in 1903 – John Vincent Atanasoff, American physicist and academic, invented the Atanasoff–Berry computer in 1937. He died in 1995.
On this day in 1941 – Norman Rockwell's Willie Gillis character debuts on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Willie was a fictional everyman who joined the Army in World War II and held the rank of Private. His was followed on the cover of the Post from induction through discharge without being depicted in battle. Robert Buck was the real life friend of Rockwell who inspired the character. His picture is in the photograph below.
If you really want to understand the situation in the Middle East today as it involves Israel/Palestine, do not overlook the Crusades, but also, do not skip over the modern history around the Crimean War which began this day in 1853. This are always more tangled than they seem. Curiously enough, Jews and Palestinians had very little to do with it, but it had much effect on them.
On this day in 1535 – The Coverdale Bible is printed, with translations into English by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale. Coverdale based his New Testament on Tyndale’s translation.
Our friends at Merriam-Webster bring us this word for the day (without an appreciable sharable link) today.
The word is, in fact, "appreciable."
It is an adjective, pronounced, "uh-PREE-shuh-bul"
Definition : capable of being perceived or measured Etymology: from the Late Latin verb appretiare ("to appraise" or "to put a price on").
"It is one of several English adjectives that can be applied to something that can be detected, felt, or measured. Specifically, appreciable applies to what is highly noticeable or definitely measurable, whereas perceptible, which is often paired with barely or scarcely, applies to what can be discerned to a minimal extent."
I think that it would make an appreciable difference in the world today, if the memories recounted here and the lives noted, had never happened.
A brave woman of great faith, with nothing to lose, approached Jesus one day and would not be discouraged, even when he seemed to be brushing her off.
Art - Jean Colombe (1430-1493)
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.( But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. - Matthew 15:21-28
The Canaanite woman only wanted help for her daughter. She avoided the niceties of traditional greetings and came with desperation to Jesus blurting out the problem and request. Since she was not in the demographic of His initial mission, it was TARGETED strategy to at first ignore her. She persisted and it was TRUTH He spoke when He said He had come to shepherd Israel. Then it was possibly a TEASE when He said that it was not right to give the children's food to dogs - an example of the twinkle in His eye and His bantering humor.
She agreed and the upshot was that she passed the TEST of faith with flying colors in front of all the onlookers. Her request was granted and the mission of Jesus to the whole world was foreshadowed.
We have to narrow our focus in life and ministry if anything is going to be accomplished. The strategy of Jesus was attuned to the purpose of God for the entire world. However, the baseline and starting place was with the Covenant people. He had come to fulfill what had begun and there was not skipping steps. This was not Jesus' only positive contact with Gentiles, but it was the only one where He appeared rude and unresponsive. She was loud, rude, and pushy and He tried to ignore her. But, in the end, it becomes impossible to ignore those who persist.
You have to admire her. At first she was met with silence and many of you feel you have been met with the utter silence of God. Some of us give up and that point, but not the Canaanite woman! Then He excluded her. He told her that His ministry at that point was not for her. Some of us who hung on after the silence would have slipped away dejected and offended then. Many have left churches for far less. Finally, He insulted her. Calling her daughter a dog might do that for many. This may have been humor, but she agreed and was ready with a comeback. She didn't want anything other than a few scraps. Jesus' words and her response were would not quit. You have to give her a high five for that.
Jesus was not lying when He explained that He was not called to spread Himself too thin during His earthly ministry. He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. i wonder if some of the Pharisees caught that subtle jibe. After all, wasn't it the Canaanites who were the lost and they were the included? You can find lost folks everywhere - even in church.
I think Jesus was teasing this woman along. In the tease, He was teaching her and everyone else - including us - about persistence and the largeness of God's mission to the world.
In Merriam Webster the fifth definition of " to tantalize especially by arousing desire or curiosity often without intending to satisfy it."
He was certainly doing that and she was certainly exercising the third definition, " to disturb or annoy by persistent irritating or provoking especially in a petty or mischievous way b : to annoy with petty persistent requests : pester; also : to obtain by repeated coaxing c : to persuade to acquiesce especially by persistent small efforts : coax d : to manipulate or influence ..."
What is Jesus teasing out of you today? In what ways is He challenging and tantalizing your DESIRE for more of what He has to offer?
How are you responding?
In the end, it was a test and she passed. I think Jesus knew she'd pass. Perhaps the real test was of the way this would be received by the people watching through their jaundiced eyes of nationalism and religious supremacy. He was going through a process and he was voicing their arguments. In any sort of training including sports and military, there is a time of initiation and what you might call harassment. During that time, those without desire to succeed (among other things) are eliminated, and those who persevere move on. The time of testing produced elimination or confirmation. In faith, we can come back when we are ready, but we will not move on without deep desire and perseverance through obstacles. Jesus will not do us the disservice of removing the requirement of personal and spiritual development from our lives. He is more interested in us becoming all that we can be than in anything else for us.
This is not about a dislike of Gentiles. He came to draw all men and women to Himself and He certainly remembered Grandma Tamar, Grandma Rahab, and Grandma Ruth, his Gentile ancestors. It is about identifying a target, respecting the truth, teasing out faith, and passing the big test of great faith. In the end, that was the message. She had great faith and that faith transcended any "accident" of her birth and heritage.
It was her faith that saved the day. It was her faith that both Matthew and Mark hold up as an example to the rest of us who would otherwise be excluded from promises of God apart from grace.
God grant us great and persistent faith through every trial of life.
"And the LORD said unto Satan, 'Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?' " -Job 1:8
This was a defining moment for Job and he was not even aware of it at the time. Something was happening in the spiritual realm that would translate to the world of time and space and he was about to be tested.
There are such times in our lives that are defining.
Often we are tempted to believe that God is giving Satan a free hand to harass us. When we peek into this heavenly transaction, it would appear at first sight that God is doing business with Satan, dealing with him and inviting him before his court of justice as if he had the right to appear.
This is not the whole story.
Satan's name means adversary and is the same word that can be used for "prosecutor." He is always accusing and his case is always before the bar of God. God, the judge, is defending His chosen servant, Job as well as weighing the evidence.
God knows how Job will emerge from this trial because He is his helper and advocate. God knows that Job is about to enter a deeper dimension in his fellowship with Him and that through a series of questions, Job's wisdom is going to grow dramatically.
God is both defending you and weighing you even now.
He is your best advocate as well as your judge. In the same way that He believed in Job, He believes in you because He sees you through His Son. When trials come, He is in your corner taunting Satan. "Have you considered my servant, (your name)?"
"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. " -James 5:11
There are so many times I would love to avoid the banquet altogether and retreat into the quiet of my contemplative cave.
But I know there are wide-eyed folks the likes of Levi whose friends will gather to celebrate and anticipate good news, a virtual waiting room of sick souls awaiting their turn in the exam room to see the physician.
Mixed metaphors aside, the society is sick, yet feverishly ready for a healing party. It is at the party where all the guests are sinners like us. They do not know the guest of honor, but they know they need a doctor who can laugh and cry with them and is willing to to face the derision of the critics for his presence.
He is willing to be there and we should be there too.
Luke 5:29-32 - Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
For those who you who cry the cry of the destitute this morning, I stand with you in the sacred and sound solidarity of prayer.
This is "A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD."
I pray it for and with you, but, do not stop with 11. Read on.
"Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!"
"For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass."
(Psalm 102:1-11 ESV)
What does a dream mean?
You never know what you will see when you sleep.
But what do you do when you are awake?