Accidents…

Have you ever not quite made it? Have you ever had that “oops” moment? There are times when certain body-functions, which are normally under our control, take charge of us and we lose control. I have been there, as have many others. We are embarrassed, but should we be ashamed? Embarrassment is normal, but what about shame?

Babies have no control of those body-functions for the first couple years of their life until they get old enough for their parents to “pottytrain” them. We tend to forget that God built these functions into our bodies for our good. We can’t go indefinitely without emptying our bladder or our bowels, or seriously-bad things happen to us. If we don’t heed that “call of nature“, sometimes the automatic system takes over, and we have an “oops“. Sometimes we eat something that doesn’t “agree” with us, and it goes through us like Drano on speed. Been there, done that.

Several years ago, my wife and I were in Wisconsin for a family reunion. On the morning of the reunion, as we were pulling into her parent’s driveway, my bladder decided to cut loose. I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time, so I wet my pants. She understood, because she had the same problem and way more often, so she wasn’t surprised when I asked her to get me a couple of “pantyliners“. I used a “pantyliner” and carried a spare with me every time we went out for several months thereafter. She always carried her “diaperbag” with her which had a change of clothes and some underwear. When we went to her parent’s for a game-night, she always sat on a water-proof pad, because it was not a matter of “if” she was going to leak. It was a matter of “when?”.

My neighbor has had a LOT of problems with her digestive tract, kidneys and urinary-tract, so she has had a LOT of “accidents“. When I first started getting to know her, she had a hard time admitting that she was having “accidents“, both from the embarrassment and from false “shame“. After I shared with her that I also have “accidents” and described some of mine to her, she started relaxing and getting less embarrassed about it. Even though I am normally catheter-dependent, once in a while, all those damaged “circuits” will make contact and my bladder will have a mind of its own with an “accident” as the result. Now we shamelessly share our “accident” experiences with each other, because we are each other’s “support-system“.

This really isn’t about whether “accidents” happen, because they do. It is about our response when they do. Embarrassment is normal, particularly if we are in public when it happens. We often confuse embarrassment and shame. We SHOULD be ashamed when we deliberately do something wrong, but we should NOT be ashamed when an “accident” happens. Embarrassed – maybe, ashamed – NO.

You might now be asking “What does this have to do with being a Christian and a naturist”? The reality is that it has everything to do with it, because if we are going to accept ourselves as God made us, we must come to accept that God made us this way. If God had not built into our systems the ability to go on “automatic“, we could find ourselves in a world of hurt – literally. Part of being “Fearfully and wonderfully made” is that God DID design our waste-disposal systems and He DID “program” them to go on “autopilot” when necessary, but sometimes that “autopilot” kicks in at an “inconvenient” time. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

God bless!
Steve

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Storms…

35 That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

Small boats and big water…
Even though some of Jesus’s disciples were experienced fishermen and good sailors, this storm was “over the top“. They had experienced many storms on the Sea of Galilee, but they thought this one would be their last.

Not long after 9-11, a friend of mine and I were patrolling in the Port of Tampa when a heavy thunderstorm blew in. We retreated to the Coast Guard Station to wait it out. After we tied our boat up to their dock and disembarked, the Station Officer of the Day met us. There had been an explosion at a power plant or sub-station in New York, but very little was known about what actually happened or whether it was an act of terrorism. He wanted us to check two power plants, one in the Port area, and one south of Tampa, and a ship which was docked at another Port south of Tampa for “suspicious activity“. After consulting the nautical chart, we agreed to take the mission. We were in a fourteen-feet, aluminum fishing-boat… Some would have said that we were crazy, maybe even out of our minds.

Even though the Gulf of Mexico is much larger than the Sea of Galilee, a storm can turn it from quiet waters to BIG WATER very quickly. We aren’t told how long it took Jesus and His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, but it took us eight hours to accomplish our mission. Yes, at times it WAS a scary ride. We didn’t find anything “suspicious” at any of our check-points.

Storms…
We all go through storms in life, whether they are physical storms or the storms of life. We can all remember some of the great storms, Hurricane Katrina, Super-storm Sandy, and even Hurricane Charlie, which cut a path of destruction diagonally across Florida. There have been super-tornadoes that cut mile-wide paths of utter-destruction for tens of miles. Storms are scary, and their devastation is real.

My wife and I rode out the tail-end of Hurricane Charlie in Daytona Beach, Florida. If there was a “peacefulplace” in that storm, we were in it. As the hurricane approached from the south, we were on the north side of our hotel, sheltered from the storm. We watched as debris pelted the vehicles in the motel parking-lot, which was right in front of us. A piece of roofing landed on the new Mustang which was parked beside our vehicle. It made a huge dent in the roof, before slithering down the side of and Mustang and coming to rest under our vehicle. We watched as the storm tore huge pieces of roofing off of the motel just north of us. We also watched as a transformer exploded into a ball of fire. When we woke up the next morning, devastation was everywhere, but there wasn’t a mark on our vehicle. We, and our vehicle, had been in an oasis, a place of calm during the storm. Coincidental?

We rode out three more hurricanes over the course of the next few weeks. She was at her work, and I was at my volunteer Fire Station. Even though they were bee-hives of activity, they were oasis, places of calm during the storms. We pooled our food, and the parents of one of our Officers made sure that we had good meals to eat. Sleeping-arrangements weren’t very comfortable, but we made do with what we had. Even though we didn’t have running water, we had six-thousand gallons of water in our tanker. Yes, devastation was all around us, but we were safe, and none of our fire apparatus got damaged.

Storms of life…
The storms of life can be even more devastating. Things can be replaced, homes repaired or rebuilt, but losing a loved-one is permanent. A lost spouse, parent, sibling or child can never be replaced. After my first wife committed suicide in 1997, I thought that I could “replace” her with another wife, that the “replacement” would take away the pain of my loss, but I was wrong. I did remarry, and remarry, and remarry, but none of them ever took the place of my beloved. Connie had, and still has a special place in my heart, a place that is all her own. I finally wrote my “farewell” letter to her about three years ago, but there will always be that part of me that belongs to her alone.

Health-problems is another kind of “storm” that many of us deal with. I have several ongoing health-problems, but they are manageable most of the time. Some days are worse than others, but I can still get vertical, put one foot in front of the other and take nourishment, so I am blessed. My brother has been in and out of the hospital MANY times in the last three years, and we almost lost him three years ago.

There are no “perfect” relationships because there are no perfect people. Some of us are more “broken” than others, so when we enter into a relationship, we bring our “brokenness” with us. If we expected that our new spouse was going to “fix” what was “broken” in us, we quickly found out that that wasn’t going to happen. Only God can “fix” what is “broken” in us.

Who is this?
Even though His disciples had spent quite a bit of time with Him, His disciples really didn’t understand who Jesus is. Many years later, John the Apostle finally unraveled the answers to that question for us .

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Jesus is the eternal “Word“, the Lord and creator of all there is. He had spoken the cosmos into existence, scattered billions of galaxies across the heavens, and when He said “Let there be light“, the nuclear fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, so calming the Sea of Galilee was “child’s-play” to Him. He had also knelt in the dust, taken a handfull of it, and lovingly fashioned the first man, before breathing His own breathe of life into the man. That is as “personal” as it gets.

Peace, be still!
We desperately want and need peace, but there is only one person who can breathe peace into us, Jesus Christ. He can place us in a place of peace in the midst of a violent storm. He can cause peace to surround us and ours such that, even though everything around us is destroyed, we suffer no harm or loss. God doesn’t “wave-off” our storms, any more than I could have “waved-off” those four hurricanes or the people of New Orleans could have “waved-off” Hurricane Katrina, but He can give us peace and the strength to go THROUGH our storms.

The storms of life ARE going to assail us, and there is no escaping them, but we can know peace in the midst of our storms. Do you have His peace?

Peace, be still!
Steve

Tall Orders…

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you,
But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

This is one of those passages of Scripture that just reached up and grabbed me out of the blue. WOW! Those ARE some tall orders. Just because they were written about 750 years before Christ, doesn’t mean that aren’t as applicable today as they were 2750 years ago. America, in 2015, mirrors in many ways, Israel in 750 BC. So, sit back, hold on and buckle up, as we take a look at what God, through Micah, requires of those who are in His family.

What does the LORD require of you?
This is a command, a requirement, not merely a request, by the LORD of all creation, and He has set in place three requirements:

To do justice…
God loves justice. God is a God of justice. Justice is one of His many attributes. Justice is mentioned about 125 times in the Bible, so that ought to give us a clue that doing justice should be a very high priority.

We do love justice, most of the time. We really like it when the bad guy gets caught, convicted, and sent away from society for an appropriate number of years. One of the problems is that we have a broken judicial system, one that concentrates on putting SOMEONE away for a crime, but not always the right person. We love it when cases are “solved“, just as long as SOMEONE is held accountable, but what if that SOMEONE is the WRONG person?

What IF that SOMEONE that got convicted IS the WRONG person? Will that person every truly get JUSTICE? JUSTICE requires that the wrongfully-convicted person not only gets his name cleared, but that he also gets appropriately-compensated for what he has lost during his incarceration. That is where justice gets sticky, because how will that person ever get his good reputation restored? What about his lost job, his lost wages? God, in His law, commanded restitution as part of justice. Restitution is sorely-lacking in the American judicial-system.

God has commanded us to do justice in ALL areas of our lives, and in all parts of our society. That, admittedly, is where it gets sticky for many Christians. We love justice as long as it is going OUR way, but we get all bent out of shape when it doesn’t go OUR way. We have seen that recently when police officers got acquitted of murder in the “wrongful” death of “unarmed” Black men. Sorry folks, but if you didn’t sit on those juries and hear all of the testimony, you DON’T know all the facts. I am not taking sides. We simply don’t know all the facts. God loves when justice is done, but He HATES our selfishness.

Doing justice” is about more than just murder trials and court cases. It is also about the laws we write and the attitudes behind them. How many times has someone seen something that they didn’t like, and said “There ought to be a law“? By the time the law was written and passed, it had painted the issue in such broad brush-strokes that it included things that were totally-unrelated. “Public-nudity” laws are one of many examples. In an attempt to prohibit “adult entertainment“, the law also outlaws simple ordinary-nudity if anyone else can see the nude person. Those laws are the result of the “tyranny of the malcontents“. Are we honoring God, or are we honoring ourselves, when we say “There ought to be a law…“? Is that really “justice“?

Capitol-punishment has come under a lot of scrutiny in the last several years because of several “botched” executions. How can an execution be “botched” when the prisoner dies? What is “cruel and inhumane punishment“? I would propose that, because of the brutality of their crimes, some prisoners should be crucified Roman-style, naked and in public. That would fit the punishment to the crime. Perhaps we shouldn’t be executing ANYONE, and yet the Bible prescribes capitol-punishment for certain crimes. My question is: “Is capitol-punishment really “justice””? I am not taking a stand on capitol-punishment, but we need to think long and hard before we execute another prisoner.

To love mercy…
Mercy:
: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly
: kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation
plural mercies

Full Definition of MERCY (from Websters dictionary)
1 a :compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also: lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
b :imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
2 a :a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
b :a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>
3 :compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>

Are mercy and justice polar-opposites? Are they mutually-exclusive?

We can learn a lot about mercy from God, because if God was strictly the God of justice, the human race would have ceased to exist long ago. God doesn’t “owe” us anything, including our next breath, but in His mercy, He gives us far better than we could ever “deserve“. If He gave us what we “deserve“, this breath would have been our last, if He allowed us to make it this far.

What we should come away with is a sense of profound-gratitude to God for the mercy He shows us moment by moment, and the desire to extend mercy to those around us, even if, particularly if, they don’t really “deserve” it. Extending mercy to those around us should become a way of life, because we all can be jerks, and it is hard to extend mercy to a jerk, but we receive it anyway.

To walk humbly with your God…
Have you ever heard it said of someone “They are humble, and proud of it”? Pride and humility are mutually-exclusive. Genuine humility is illusive, because once we think that we have it, it has already escaped our grasp. I have struggled with pride for most of my fifty-nine years, which is no secret to seasoned readers of this blog. God keeps His two-by-four handy for when I need another lesson in humility.

There is a story told about a young boy, a second-grader. At the end of the school year, the teacher had all the children vote for who was the “Best looking“, who was the “Best student“, and on and on, and the last one was “Most humble“. This young boy was voted “Most humble“, and so when the teacher handed him the “Most humble” pin, he proudly put it on… Had he calmly pocketed that pin…

True humility before God doesn’t debase us, rather, it exalts God to His appropriate place of honor and glory. We don’t need to grovel before God, because as our Heavenly Father, He loves and cares for us. We need to acknowledge that HE is God, and we are NOT, and give Him the glory He deserves.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you,
But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

I know that I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I even get close to keeping these commands. How about you?

In Christ,
Steve

Seasons

When we think of seasons, we usually think of the seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but our lives also go through seasons. It would be quite easy to equate the seasons of our lives with the seasons fo the year, and sometimes a season in our life appears where it really doesn’t belong. I wrote about misplaced winters in “The “Winters” of Life“. I want to delve into the seasons of our lives and demonstrate that our cycle of life, or our seasons, are not only “normal“, but that they are ordained by God.

A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

A time to be born…
Spring reminds us of new life. Trees start greening-up, flowers start blooming, and it seems that new life is everywhere. Regardless of when they are born, babies are a Spring event, and one of the most joyous events in the life of a family. Babies being born speaks of there being a future, and they are the beginning of a new cycle of life.

Being born-again into Christ is also a Spring event, because we are given a new life, a life with an eternal future. Some of us who have experienced a misplaced Winter in life experience a very-welcome Spring as we emerge from that Winter experience. I am in that place now, having experienced a very brutal Winter, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead of me. I feel rejuvenated.

A time to die…
When someone we love passes on, it reminds us that we all have an appointment with the Grim Reaper, that unless the Lord returns beforehand, we will all die. That is the epitome of a Winter experience. Winter, in many parts of the world, is cold, bleak, seemingly lifeless. Thus it is with death. Life has been swallowed up by death, as the body lays cold and lifeless on the mortician’s slab. I lost my first wife to suicide in 1997. She was 45. I lost my brother to cancer in 2011. He was 54. I lost my father in 2013. He was 78. Each loss had its own unique effects on me.

It is also a time of grief. Someone who we loved has been taken from us, and it is natural for it to hurt. When someone who seemed “too young to die” dies anyway, we speak of it as an “untimely-death“, and yet ALL deaths are “untimely“. God didn’t engineer death and decay into the original “blueprint” for mankind. We were intended to live on and on. Death and decay are results of the fall of mankind into sin. At that, there were several patriaches in the Old Testament who live over 900 years. Moses was still climbing mountains, had a sharp mind, and still had good eyesight at 140 old. Abraham fathered more children at well over a 100 years old.

For many older couples, sex in their “golden-years” consists only of fond memories of days gone by, but that wasn’t in the original “blueprint” either. We know that we are dying when we have already had a funeral for our sex-life. Solomon wasn’t just talking about celebrating anniversaries when he said “Rejoice with the wife of your youth”(Proverbs 5:18b), because that follows “Let your fountain be blessed“(Proverbs 5:18a), which is clearly a metaphor for sex.

The natural seasons of life…
Our lives are pretty easy to divide up in seasons:
Spring is the first twenty years of our lives, as we grow from birth into adulthood.

Summer is the second twenty years of our lives, from ages 21 to 40. This is the time when most people get married, have children, and raise their family.

Fall is the third twenty years of our lives, from ages 40 to 60. This is the time when our children start leaving home and starting lives of their own. This is also the time when our bodies start reminding us that we aren’t young anymore. Mine started rebelling shortly after I turned 40.

Winter is usually the last twenty years of our lives. We are in our waning years. Our bodies may be in full rebellion, and even though some people are hale and hearty well into their 90’s, they are the rare exception. If we haven’t already, we start losing our own parents. I was 57 when I lost my dad, and even though my mom is still fairly vigorous at 83, she isn’t going to last forever.

A time to plant…
Planting is a late-spring to early-sumer activity, which coresponds to couples bearing children. My first wife and I put together a child-bearing “plan” when we first got married, and we were fortunate to be able to have children pretty much on “schedule“. Her younger sister, who had endometriosis, and who was married to man who was virtually sterile, wasn’t nearly as fortunate, although they were blessed with one daughter.

A time to uproot…
Uprooting” is an appropriate metaphor for leaving home. We leave home when we become adults to start a life of our own. We may also “uproot” several other times throughout our lives as we move to new jobs and new life-situations.

A time to kill…
Our lives are not static, and neither are our relationships. Some relationships, even if they started out healthy, become toxic, and we need to have the wisdom to leave those relationships behind. We may need to “pull-the-plug” or “kill” a relationship so that we can move on and heal.

A time to heal…
The person who may need to “heal” may be you or me. After going through a very toxic separation from my wife, I had a LOT of healing to do. It would NOT have been a good time for me to think about another relationship, because I was too broken and needed to heal. I am finally to a place where I might entertain the idea of “dating” or at least finding a “girlfriend“. It is NOT, as some would suppose, because I am tired of “sleeping single in a double-bed“, as I have become quite comfortable with sleeping that way. It is because I am tired of doing everything by myself. Something as basic as eating is more enjoyable when one has companionship. I enjoy going out and having dinner with friends, which I do a couple of times a month.

A time to tear down…
Tearing down” may be equated with leaving old relationships behind. When my previous wife and I got divorced, I left her alone on the courthouse sidewalk because her ride wasn’t back from doing his errands. She had filed for divorce, so she had to deal with the consequences. Her lack of a ride was NOT my problem. In order to minimize the hurt from that broken relationship, I had to minimize any further contact. I had to move on, and I did.

A time to build…
We also have to build new relationships. When I moved to where I am living now, I didn’t know a soul except for my wife, who left me a month later. I had to build new relationships. I am thankful that I was led to a good church, where I have been able to develop a few new relationships. I also have a strong relationship with my neighbor-gal, although it is more of a brother-sister relationship. Relationships are important to our emotional and psychological health.

A time to weep…
There are things that happen in our lives when it is appropriate to cry our eyes out, but I wouldn’t know, because crying isn’t part of my emotional-vocabulary. The shortest verse in the Bible says “Jesus wept“. He had just met His friends, Mary and Martha, whose brother, Lazarus, had been dead for several days. Lazarus was a dear friend, so Jesus did what was appropriate for the situation, He wept. I didn’t cry at my own wife’s funeral, nor have I cried much since.

A time to laugh…
Equally-important is laughter. Laughter is good for the soul, and the ability to laugh at yourself is especially important. Some people laugh naturally, and others have to be taught HOW to laugh. I am somewhere in the middle.

A time to mourn…
Weeping and mourning go hand in hand. When we lose a loved-one, we mourn losing them, and our weeping is a visible sign of our mourning.

A time to dance…
Dancing, in the Old Testament, was something the children of Israel did in celebration of God’s mighty acts on their behalf. King David also danced before the Lord through the streets of Jerusalem as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought into the House of the Lord.(2 Samuel 6:14-15) King David is described as only wearing a “linen ephod“, which appears to have been only a short vest, so for most practical purposes, He was wearing very little more than a grin, and a BIG grin, at that.

God did not allow King David to build a permanent temple. That would be Solomon’s job, but there was a temporary “temple” in Jerusalem, so it was very important to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and put it in the temporary temple. The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s presence among His people, so bringing it into Jerusalem WAS a HUGE event, and a time of joyous celebration. King David was entitled to dance for that celebration.

In our modern culture, dancing is also used for celebrations. Wedding celebrations often include dancing, with the new bride and groom getting the first dance alone. Whether it is a slow, intimate dance, a waltz, or even a jig, it is hard to be sad when a person is dancing.

A time to scatter stones…
When would we think of “scattering stones”? What if we were preparing a new spot for a garden? Would we want any stones in our garden? That applies to our relationships as well, because “stones” can represent those “rough-spots” in our relationships, those things that cause friction. We want to “work things out” so that we have the smoothest relationships we can attain. Relationships take work…

A time to gather stones…
Stones” can also be the boundaries around our relationships, our walls, what helps safeguard our relationships. We don’t want or need outside interference in our relationships, so good boundaries are an important part of that. This is similar to the stone walls that were built to protect cities, or even to protect a vineyard, in the cultures when this was written.

A time to embrace…
What is the most awaited, and celebrated kiss in a couple’s life? We wait with baited-breath for the celebrant to say, at the end of a wedding, “You may kiss your bride“. That first kiss ALWAYS brings a round of applause, as well it should. That is the first of, what should be thousands of kisses throughout a couple’s life.

Hugs have been largely-replaced by handshakes in American culture, and many men wouldn’t be caught dead hugging another man, and will only hug their wife or other immediate-family member, and yet touch is very important to our emotional and physical well-being. I am reminded of a picture I saw recently of twin baby girls who had been born several weeks prematurely. One of the babies was doing very well, but the other didn’t look like she was going to make it. One of the nurses, in a last-ditch effort, and against hospital-protocol, placed them together in the same crib. Once they were back together, as they had been in the womb, the one that had been struggling started coming around. The picture shows the healthier one with her arm around the weaker one. Babies who are deprived of physical affection often die quite young.

The Apostle Paul said “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” One pastor I know, when he preached on that passage, said that he would accept hugs, but to not “go-overboard” with it. I have to wonder how affectionate he is with his own family.

A time to refrain from embracing…
When would it be appropriate to refrain from embracing? We certainly DON’T “celebrate” a divorce with a hug, but…

A time to search…
When we lose something of value, we are naturally going to look for it, and that goes double for lost people. I was in Search and Rescue for about a dozen years, and I was involved in over 200 search missions. The most intense missions were searches for lost children. We pulled out ALL the stops. I could write a book about my experiences in SAR.

A time to give up…
Is there ever a hopeless-case, or lost-cause? We never closed out a mission without some kind of resolution. We did suspend a few missions, pending further clues and evidence, but I don’t remember closing any out without being resolved, one way or another. If there was another stone to turn over, we left no stone unturned.

Giving up is hard to do“… There also comes a time in some relationships when it becomes painfully-obvious that the relationship is not salvageable, and that it is at a dead-end. Giving up, and letting the person go, particularly emotionally, is painful at-best. I have had to come to that point over the last couple of years, because even though I am still “married“, on paper, my “marriage” ended January 16, 2013. I have given it everything I could muster, but to no avail, so I finally had to give-up and let-go. Giving up was hard to do, but I had to for my own emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

A time to keep…
Are you a pack-rat? I sure am, and “keeping” is what I do best, often even if it is not worth keeping. But, something that is always worth keeping is HOPE. How many times have you heard it said about a person with a terminal-illness “There is no hope…“? Several years ago, I met a man who was supposed to be dead long before that, but he and his family were living in the same RV park I was in at the time. Even though his doctors had given up hope that he would survive, he not only survived, he was thriving, because someone else didn’t give up on him and gave him a cure that his regular doctors didn’t even know about. His survival would have confounded the best cancer specialists, but what he never gave up was HOPE. Keep HOPE alive regardless of what life throws at you.

A time to throw away…
We live in a very “disposable” society. People throw things away, and people throw other people away. It is one thing to throw things away, but something entirely-different to throw someone away. What we REALLY need to throw away is the excess-baggage of our past. Many of us drag around the excess baggage of regrets, “What if’s?” and “If only…”s. We need to let that stuff go. We need to hear from the lips of Jesus “Your sins are forgiven“, and “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.“, as He released the burdens of her past from that “SINNER“. Every sinner has a future, and every saint has a past.

Max Lucado, in his book, “Traveling Light“, has taken a candid look at the excess baggage we carry around with us, and addressing it from the 23rd Psalm. It is a wonderful book, and yes, I need to read it again. If you have excess-baggage, you owe it to yourself to get a copy and read it as many times as it takes to sink in properly.

Folks, it is time to take out the trash… We may just find that our step is lighter and we can hold our head a bit higher.

A time to tear…
What do you LIKE to tear up? WHAT would you LIKE to tear up? Junk-mail comes to mind in the first instance, and bills come to mind in the second instance. I have no use for junk-mail, so it gets torn up and pitched immediately. Bills are an unwelcome-reminder that we can’t live this life for free.

There is another “bill” which grows ever-larger by the minute, that is, if you are not in Christ. We, prior to coming to Christ, owe a “bill“, a “debt” for ALL of our sins, and only God can tear up THAT bill. The good news is that, if you have come to Christ by faith, God has not only torn up your “bill“, He wouldn’t even know where to start looking to find it again.

Are you in any “goingnowhere” relationships? I think we all have had a few of those. They were good, even great, you grew farther and farther apart, and maintaining that relationship wasn’t worth the effort. Is it time to tear up that “friendcard“? Maybe it is.

Many years ago, I became friends with Gary. He lived in the neighborhood and worked with his dad. I used to go over there and hang out with him. We were several years apart in age, but that didn’t matter at the time. Then, Gary met Johnnie, and they became engaged shortly thereafter. A few months later, they got married. Johnnie already had a couple of children, so Gary married into a ready-made family. Not long after they got married, I graduated from high school and went into the military. Long-story-short…I had gone my own way, and Gary had gone his own way, and even when I returned from the military, our friendship had gone by the wayside. That wasn’t what I wanted, but I finally had to tear up that “friendcard“. I haven’t heard from or seen Gary in MANY years.

A time to mend…
Do you have a strained relationship with someone, perhaps one of your parents? Regardless of who is at fault, many people DO have a strained relationship with one or both of their parents. My ex-wife had been sexually-abused by her father from her early-teens til her early-20’s, and she didn’t talk to him for many years. She finally found it in her heart to forgive him and work on mending that relationship. By the time we got together, she was on good terms with her father, so I was able to get to know my father-in-law. She notified me a few days ago that he had passed away.

I have had no relationship with any of my children for over 17 years, not because I have tried, but because they haven’t been willing to reconnect. I hope that some day they will come around and be willing to reconnect with me. We can’t help mend what the other person is unwilling to help mend also.

A time to be silent…
Sometimes there are no appropriate words to say, and our silence and a listening-ear are the best gift we can give someone. When someone goes through a personal-tragedy, such as the sudden-loss of a loved-one, we DON’T know what and how they are feeling, because we all process personal-tragedies differently. There are other times when we may not be able to add something intelligent to a conversation, and at those times, “It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”.

A time to speak…
There are times when it is appropriate to yell “FIRE“, but if one yells “FIRE” at the wrong time, the consequences can be disastrous.

A time to love…
Love should come naturally, but it doesn’t always. We are commanded to “Love your neighbor as yourself“, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Because I have written extensively about love in other posts, I would refer you to them for further study.

A time to hate…
What should we hate? Is it ever right to hate a person? I believe that there is a fine line between hating what a person does and hating them, particularly when what they do that we hate seems to define them, but does it? Boko Haram and ISIS do some horrible things, and abject-brutality define their movements, but should we hate those who belong to Boko Haram and ISIS, or just what they do? If one of those groups invaded my community, and was harming or threatening to harm my friends and neighbors, I would do everything in my power to stop them, including using deadly-force.

How about the doctor and staff of an abortion clinic? I abhor what they do because they are murdering unborn children, but in the US of A, they have the law on their side, thanks to Roe vs Wade. What we CAN do is lobby to get the laws changed, but killing abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics is not going to help anything.

A time for war…
Is war ever justified? Yes, but fabricating a “reason” to go to war NEVER is. I believe in having a strong defense to protect our own immediate interests, but meddling in other country’s affairs is NOT justification for committing our military forces.

A time for peace…
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:8) Our responsibility is to live peacefully with those around us, particularly within our own family.

Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Seasons…
We all go through them, and how we respond to the challenges of each season can make the difference whether we struggle or thrive. I hope that you will be encouraged by this little study to do what it takes to thrive, regardless of which season you find yourself in. Between birth and death, there is a WHOLE LOT of living to do.

God bless!
Steve

She Is A SINNER!

36 Now one of the Pharisees requested Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

Parable of Two Debtors
40 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”

50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

The setting…
We come to a very interesting “teachingmoment” in the life of Christ. Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to have dinner with him, but as exacting as Simon was in keeping the Law, he hadn’t even extended the customary-courtesies which were normal in that culture. Because everyone wore sandals, or walked barefoot, and the roads weren’t paved, the customary-courtesy that hosts were expect to extend their guest was to, at minimum, wash their feet. The greeting-kiss and anointing the heads of their guests with oil may have been “optional“, but Simon hadn’t even done the basics.

The host…
Simon was a Pharisee, and was probably quite well-known in the community, so word of a special guest at his house spread like wildfire throughout the area. There really was very little privacy, even in a person’s home, because “windows” were simply openings in the walls, and may only have been covered by some sort of “drapes” at night. Otherwise, they were open for all to see in.

The woman…
The woman is not named, but she was probably pretty well-known in the community as well, but NOT for the same reason. She was a “sinner“, which many commentators describe as an “immoral woman“. Was she a prostitute? Did she run the local brothel? She wasn’t someone who was “acceptable” in “politecompany“. She certainly wasn’t someone Jesus should be seen associating with, but…

Her actions…
37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

She not only washed His feet, she kissed and anointed them, not just with cheap olive-oil, but with very-expensive perfume. She was performing a service to Him, and if I really read her attitude right, she was also claiming Him as her Master. For those could afford servants, these basic-courtesies were relegated to a servant, and she humbled herself to become His servant. It was an act of devotion to Him.

Objection, your Honor…
That didn’t sit well with Simon, particularly since her actions betrayed how sloppy of a host he was. He also didn’t think much of Jesus for allowing her to serve Him as she did. “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”” If Jesus truly was a Prophet, He should have known better…

Objection over-ruled…
Jesus was not going to allow His character to be questioned, and neither was He going to allow Simon to put down the woman. He addressed Simon directly. “And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.””

Yes, your Honor…
And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

Parable of two debtors…
41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”

A denarius was a Roman coin worth a day’s wages, so if a person made the equivalent of $100 per day, one debtor owed $50,000 and the other owed $5,000. How many bankers are willing to “writeoff” $5,000? How many bankers are willing to “writeoff” $50,000, and yet that banker graciously “wroteoff” both debts. He forgave their WHOLE debt, interest and all.

Simon thought that he was a “pretty-good” guy. After all, he WAS a Pharisee, and he would have compared himself favorably to the Pharisee in the “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector“. He certainly was “better” than that poor woman, that SINNER, but, he wasn’t perfect. He still owed a debt to God that he could never pay.

The lesson for us is that whether we are “big” sinners, or whether we are “little” sinners, we still owe God a debt of sin that we can never repay.

A debt of love…
So which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

The appropriate response to a forgiven-debt SHOULD be love for the One who forgave the debt

And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

After pointing out to Simon where he had failed as a host, Jesus showed Simon how she had not only done the “basics“, but that she had gone way above and beyond the “basics“. Did she come seeking forgiveness? Even if that wasn’t her intent, she got way more than she bargained for.

Your debt is paid in full…
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

Jesus didn’t simply say “Thank you” to her, and then dismiss her, He did what only He could do, forgive her sins.

WHAT???
49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”

EVERYONE knew that only God can forgive sins, so who did He think HE was? In a way, they were right, but they didn’t realize that Jesus Christ was the very Incarnate God. He was everything God was in a human body, so it was His right to forgive sins. He also knew about their self-righteous sinfulness.

Your faith has saved you…
50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

She had encountered the living God, and I can imagine that there was a lightness in her step that she hadn’t felt in many years. She also didn’t have to hang her head in shame. She was FORGIVEN. She was SAVED. That was the best day of her life, and the beginning of her new life. She had gone to Jesus with only herself and a bottle of perfume. She had given all that she had, and she had received way more than she could have ever imagine, a new life.

Parting thoughts…
She had gone to Jesus, confident that He wouldn’t brush her off, and He didn’t. She gave Him all she had, herself, and He gave her far more in return, a new life. She shows us that we can come to Jesus in our need, and that He won’t brush us off or turn us away either. He has given us an invitation, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Where are YOU in this scene? Do you “have it all together” like Simon, thinking that God should be pretty pleased with you, or can you identify with the woman, knowing that you DON’T “have it all together“? Either way, if you haven’t gone to Jesus with your debt, acknowledging that you can’t ever pay it yourself, you need to, because your debt is growing by the minute. Only God, through Jesus Christ, can forgive your sins and release you from your debt. Please join me in acknowledging our debts to God…

“Lord Jesus, I owe a debt to you that I could never pay. I AM a sinner, and only You can save me, so, Lord Jesus, please forgive my sin and release me from my debt. Thank you for inviting me to come.”

In Christ,
Steve

Mystery Of Mysteries

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

The Mystery of Mysteries to me is not how Jesus, God, took on human flesh, but how Jesus perfectly combined both His humanity and His divinity into one person. I don’t have a problem understanding how Jesus became human, because I already have a good grasp on human reproduction, so it is no stretch for me to understand how God could have created one perfect human sperm, perhaps even emulating Joseph’s sperm so that Jesus looked like “one of the boys“.

We are born into space and time, so living in space and time is “normal” for us, but God isn’t constrained by space and time. God, in Jesus Christ, became constrained by space and time. He could not be in more than one place at a time, and yet there are instances in the Gospels when Jesus seemed to “dematerialize” and “reappear” somewhere else. This was most evident in the days following His resurrection, when He “materialized” on at least two occasions into locked upper-rooms, and when He “disappeared” from the dinner-table after breaking bread with the two disciples in Emmaus. Was His resurrection-body “different” than His pre-crucifixion human-body? He ate food in front of His disciples when He “appeared” to them in that locked, upper-room to prove that He wasn’t just a spirit, that He was real.

There were times when Jesus had “super-human” knowledge, and other times when He professed ignorance. He “saw” Nathaniel before he was introduced to Jesus, but asked where Lazarus was buried. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him during His trial and crucifixion. He told His disciples that only the Father knows when He will return in triumph, and yet He said “I and the Father are one“. Were there limits to what He knew, or limits to what He was allowed to tell them?

Jesus turned water into wine, asked the Samaritan woman for a drink and then offered her “living water“, which was clearly spiritual in nature. He walked on water, calmed a storm with His command, and then said “I thirst” on the cross.

“35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”” (Mark 4:35-41)

“Who can this be…?” so beautifully-illustrates this Mystery of Mysteries, because even though His disciples had been with Him for quite some time and had witnessed other miracles, this one blew their minds. Maybe everything else that He had done seemed trivial by comparison to Jesus calming the storm with a command. We see both His true humanity (asleep on a pillow) contrasted with His lordship over all of creation. One of those salty fishermen, John, who was probably trying to help hold the boat together in the storm, penned the marvelous words that I opened this with.

Prophets, hundreds of years before the Incarnation, said that Jesus would be called “Emmanuel“, which means “God with us“, and yet His favorite title was “Son of Man“. I sense that the more we get to know about Jesus, the deeper this Mystery of Mysteries will get.

Will you join me in exploring this Mystery of Mysteries?

In Christ,
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 3

In the previous segments, we have looked at the physical evidence of His humanity, and built a “photo-album” of His early life. Now I want to examine Jesus through the eyes of the Apostle John, who wrote extensively in his gospel and in his epistles about Jesus. John adds a dimension to our beliefs about Jesus’s humanity which few really take to heart.

Does it really matter if we believe that Jesus was truly and fully human? Does it really matter if we believe that Jesus is the Christ?

His divinity…
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word became flesh…
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Seen, heard, touched…
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

First warning…
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many Antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. (1 John 2:18-25)

Second warning…
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:1-3)

Third warning…
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the Antichrist. (2 John 1:7)

Conclusions…
People have believed many things about Jesus, both when He walked this earth, and since. Many will still say that “He was a great teacher“, or “He was a good man“, or even “He was a great prophet“, but none of these descriptions of Jesus even scratches the surface of who He really was and is.

It is hard to ignore the importance of what we believe about Jesus Christ. John, one of His closest disciples, opened both his gospel and one of his letters with affirmations of His humanity. After he gave us these solid affirmations, John gave us three warnings, warnings, that if we fail to heed them, our eternal destiny is at stake.

Are YOU willing to bet your eternal-destiny on a less-than-Biblical belief about who Jesus was and is? That is what is at stake.

In Christ,
Steve

If Only…

How many times have you said “If only…“? We are fallible human-beings, and we all make mistakes. Yes, that includes me, and I have made some whoppers. We are also expert “Monday-morning quarterbacks“. “Hind-sight is 20-20” is another one of our favorite phrases. As we look back at the carnage our mistakes have wrought, we often say “If only I had done _________“, the results would have been different. Does this ring a bell?

The problem…
The problem is that we can’t turn back the clock or roll back the calendar. What we have done is already done, and we can’t undo it. I have “If only’s” that go back over forty years…things that I am still paying the piper for today, but I can’t undo what I did back then. We can’t change it, nor can we change the result, but our stubborn refusal to let it go can and will steal our peace, both now and in the future.

The “RESOLUTION”…
How many times have you made a mistake, and RESOLVED to NOT make THAT mistake again? Yes, my hand is in the air also. How many times has that RESOLVE disappeared into a cloud of mist…and you did it again? Yes, my hand is in the air also. I have done that MANY times.

“New Year’s resolutions”…
What do we base our “New Year’s Resolutions” on? If you are like me, they are based on our failings of the past. We must keep reminding ourselves of our past failings by RESOLVING to do better. That is what a “Resolution” is. Does that sound familiar? “I screwed up in the past, so I am going to…” Does THAT sound familiar?

Ball and chain…
How would you like to drag a ball and chain around with you 24/7/365? I still remember the days of the “chaingangs“, prisoners who were taken to do work along the sides of a road, and then tethered to a heavy ball by a short chain attached to their leg. They couldn’t go very far without carrying the heavy ball, and they certainly couldn’t run. They could still do some work, but only within the confines of the length of that chain. They certainly were NOT free. Chain-gangs have been outlawed in many parts of this country for being “cruel and inhumane punishment“, but at least those prisoners were working for their keep, rather than living in “Cross-bar-Hiltons“.

If only…” invokes the image of a ball and chain, because we are so enslaved by our past that we can’t even live in the present. Some people, myself included, are dragging many balls and chains around, in the form of unresolved “If only…”s. The difference between us and those prisoners is that we hold the keys to all of those locks securing all of our balls and chains. They didn’t. Only the guards had those keys. Are we our own worst “guard“?

“Prison-cells” of regret…
Some of us not only refuse to unlock those chains and balls of “If only…”s, we also lock ourselves away in “prison-cells” of regrets. Could that be because of the mistaken-notion that if we force ourselves to do enough “hard-time“, we may be able to “atone” for some of our past mistakes? We may allow ourselves some reprieve once in a while, as if it is for our “good behavior“, but we can’t let ourselves become too comfortable on the outside. Can you relate to that?

We can fly…
If you tried to fly while still attached to a ball and chain, you would fall flat on your face at the end of the chain, but what if you unlocked the chain? I saw a video recently of a man in a wing-suit soaring effortlessly over a variety of beautiful countryside, but how far would he have gotten, locked to a ball and chain? There wasn’t a ball and chain anywhere in sight.

We are meant to fly, to be unburdened from our past, to live in the moment, to have a future, but how many of us do? How many of us are willing to give ourselves permission to unlock those chains and balls and walk free? This isn’t about some kind of “self-improvement” or “self-help” program, even though there are an over-abundance of those out there. This is about GOOD NEWS!

GOOD NEWS!!!
We all love “good news“, but this is GOOD NEWS that trumps the best news this world has to offer. This GOOD NEWS is about salvation and forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ. The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, sinners like me, sinners like you, and in Christ, we CAN have freedom from the bondage of our past. Jesus didn’t just die to take care our past sins. He died to take care of ALL of our sins, past, present and future, and that includes those stubborn “IF ONLY…”s. All you have to do is accept that you can’t do it on your own, and then accept that forgiveness that comes only from God through Jesus Christ. Then you can reach down and unlock those chains and balls and walk free by forgiving yourself as God has. While you are at it, bulldoze those prison-cells of regrets, because you won’t be “needing” them any more either. Do YOU want to fly? I sure do…

See you in the skies!
Steve

Parables: The Pharisee and the Tax-Collector

As I read and contemplated this parable a few nights ago, I was struck by how Jesus addressed attitudes that were not only prevalent in His day, but are also common among religious people today. Whose attitude do you see in yourself?

9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Target audience…
Did you notice who He spoke this parable to? “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:” He spoke it to the self-righteous, probably the Scribes, Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. Jesus butted heads with that group often, and they took the brunt of some of His worst barbs. Let’s break this down and look at their attitudes individually.

Self-righteous…
They were sure that they “had it made“. Observe: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” WOW! They were “shining-examples” of exemplary behavior to all of those around them. They had a list of “do’s” and “don’t’s” way longer than my arms, and they kept them to the letter. If anyone was going to please God and get into heaven, it was going to be them. After all, since God had given quite a few rules already, wouldn’t more rules be even better? God should REALLY be impressed. There was only one “little” problem…they were doing it THEIR way.

Despised others…
They were SO sure that they had it “right“, that they believed that they had the RIGHT to look down their long, Jewish noses at anyone who didn’t meet their high standards. Observe: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” Tax-collectors were particularly-despised, because they were often Jews who had sold out to the Romans, and they collected Roman taxes for a piece of the “action“. Matthew was a tax-collector before Jesus called him to be a disciple.

Two men…
Jesus introduced two men, a Pharisee, and a tax-collector. They both went to the temple, ostensibly for the same reason – to pray, and yet their demeanor, and the outcome of their prayers were very different. Notice the Pharisee’s demeanor: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,…“, contrasted with the Tax-collector’s demeanor: “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast,…“.

The Pharisee stood there in arrogance and pride, while the Tax-collector approached God in genuine humility. The content of their prayers was also entirely-different.

Their prayers…
The Pharisee said: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’“, as if to remind God of how “good” he was.

The Tax-collector said: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The Tax-collector knew that he was a sinner, and that he couldn’t do it on his own, so he threw himself on the mercy of God.

Their outcomes…
Both men prayed, but very different prayers, and two entirely-different outcomes. Jesus said: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

God heard the Tax-collector’s prayer, but the Pharisee’s prayer didn’t even get much more than out of his mouth before it fell flat.

Jesus’s commentary on their results is particularly-telling: “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Do we exalt ourselves, or do we humble ourselves?

Thoughts…
Jesus pointed out a much-needed “attitude-adjustment” that His audience needed to make, but as was typical of His other encounters with them, I doubt that it had much of an effect. We still need that “attitude-adjustment” just as badly as they did almost two-thousand years ago, because we can always find “worse-sinners” to look down on, or can we? Is their sin any “worse” than our own? If you think so, remember that God hates PRIDE…

The ROOT of those attitudes was PRIDE, pride in their ability to make God “happy” by their own efforts, and pride in the fact that they were “better” than that poor Tax-collector. PRIDE and me go WAY back, and at times, we have been best-friends, because I have always been accomplishment-oriented. My accomplishments have always been the basis for my self-esteem and the foundation of my self-worth, and the only way to give myself a “boost” was to pat myself on the back. This is nothing new to those of you who have been following this blog for a while, but for the newcomers, go back and read “Pride“.

Do you think that you are going to make it to heaven “your way“? Do you think that you are “better” than other people? If so, I pray that you will meditate on this parable and ask God to help you with that “attitude-adjustment“.

God bless!
Steve

The Life Of Christ…an Introduction

I know I already have the cart far ahead of this horse, but I really hadn’t planned to do a series on the life of Christ. The more I have pondered the life of Christ, the more I am coming to realize that there is no better usage of my time and resources than to study our Lord, because if I am to be more like Him, I need to know as much about Him as I can.

In my first segment, “How Human was Jesus?“, I explored the physical, visible reality of His humanity. He was just like me, male-equipment and all. In “How Human Was Jesus? Part 2“, I tried to put together a “photo-album” of his early life, with the purpose of emphasizing that, apart from His virgin birth, He was an ordinary child, and He went through all the stages of growth that my own children did. As the father of four children, I am intimately-acquainted with what children go through from birth through puberty.

Jesus wasn’t simply just born, appeared in the temple at twelve years-of-age, when He became legally an adult, and then burst on the scene at thirty years of age, when He began His public ministry. Along the way, He witnessed the miracle of life as His mother gave birth to several brothers and sisters. He was “big-brother” to several brothers and sisters. He probably became an accomplished carpenter like His dad, Joseph, and when He walked out of the J&J Carpentry Shop for the last time, it may well have been closed forever, because even though His mother, Mary, and His siblings are mentioned several times throughout His ministry, Joseph is only alluded to. Certainly by the time He went to the cross, Mary was a widow and Jesus was the “man of the house“, at which time He commissioned John to take on His responsibility. The only part of our human experience that He didn’t experience first-hand was being a husband and father.

So, welcome aboard. Sit back, relax and buckle up, as we explore the life of Christ. Come grow with me as we find out what it means to be more like Him. Don’t be surprised if your theological “house” gets remodeled, because to be a Christian is to be like Christ, in our thoughts, words and deeds. Mine certainly has been. One of the most important things we can do is ask “What would Jesus do?“, but if we don’t know what He did, we won’t have a clue as to what we should do. I don’t have a “plan” per se, so what I write about will be what comes into my heart that I can’t get away from.

God bless!
Steve