Invincible…

Yes, I wish I was invincible, but I’m not. When we are young, we may think that we are invincible, but as we get older, and those health-debts start coming due, we may find that we don’t have enough in our health-bank to pay those debts. I was just reminded AGAIN that I am NOT invincible.

After my eye-stroke in 2007, I have tried to take better care of myself, and while doctors have kept hounding me to lose weight, I am the lightest that I have been since about 1980. But, the health-debt from my younger years was still too great, so this time I had an episode with my heart. I am no “fan” of hospitals, although I have spent a LOT of time in hospitals with my good friend and neighbor, Liz, who has had four surgeries and many other hospitalizations, but I had no choice.

This past Monday evening (1/25/16), I had just finished eating supper, so I got up to take my dishes to the sink, and suddenly my heart went into palpitations. I have had two or three of these episodes before, but they have all resolved within a few minutes, so I sat down in the same chair I am sitting in now, at my computer. A few minutes later, I checked my blood-pressure. It wasn’t particularly high, but my pulse-rate was over 150 beats per minute. Over the next few minutes, I checked it three more times, and as my pulse-rate went up, so did my blood-pressure. My pulse-rate topped out at over 170 beats per minute, and wasn’t coming back down. It was time to do something.

Thankfully, Liz got home about the time I started having the palpitations, and since I had been text-messaging with her about it, she was ready to go when I was. By the time I walked out my door, she had pulled her car in front of my driveway. We quickly decided that I should go to the nearest hospital, which is less than ten miles from here. When we got to the hospital, she told me to stay in the car while she went inside for help. Liz worked in an Emergency Room for several years so she knew what to say to get their attention, and within two or three minutes, she and two other people came outside with a wheelchair. I was immediately whisked back to the triage station, bypassing the waiting room, which was full, and admitting.

While a young fellow took my vital-signs, a young lady entered my information into their computer. A short time later, I was taken back to one of their treatment-rooms. After I got into that room, a nurse hooked me up to a monitor and inserted an IV line. She also drew blood for lab-work. A few minutes later, a technician brought an EKG machine in and ran an EKG strip on me. She did notice an anomaly on my EKG. An hour or so later, the ER doctor came in to tell me, based on my vitals, the lab-results and the EKG results, that she highly-recommended that I be admitted and see a cardiologist the next morning. I was a bit hesitant, but I also know that heart-disease runs in both side of my family, so I agreed. Liz had to go back home to try to get some sleep because she had to work the next day. By about midnight, I was moved to the cardiac care unit (CCU).

I am a frequent blood-donor, but that doesn’t mean that I “like” getting stuck. That didn’t keep a “vampire” from coming in every three hours for more blood. I didn’t sleep well that night because my system was still keyed-up and the air-vent above me sounded like a jet-engine. I may have slept for a total of two hours – maybe. Anyone expecting to get some rest in a hospital will get a quick reality-check.

The cardiologist came in first-thing the next morning, and he ordered an echocardiogram and a chemical stress-test. A lady appeared with the cardiac-echo equipment a few moments later. I have had several echocardiograms through the years, so it was no big deal. Shortly after she finished the echocardiogram, I was taken downstairs to nuclear medicine for the stress-test.

The stress-test was done in three stages, or phases. I was injected with a radioactive material, and then my heart was scanned with a gamma-camera. That scan took 15 minutes. Next, I was taken to the stress-test lab.

There are two varieties of stress-test, the exercise stress-test, and the chemical stress-test. Because I have limited mobility, due to severe arthritis, and COPD, I was given the chemical stress-test rather than the exercise stress-test. The exercise stress-test involves walking on a treadmill with the intensity being raised every three minutes while hooked to a ten-lead monitor. The chemical stress-test involves getting injected with a cocktail of chemicals which stresses the heart similarly to exercise while hooked to a ten-lead monitor. That may have been the most physically-grueling five minutes I have ever had, but my tech kept encouraging me through it. Once the chemicals wore off, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had survived it.

Because I and the other man who went through the stress-test at the same time hadn’t eaten since before midnight the night before, they took us to a little nook where we could eat and drink something. The orange juice tasted a bit strange and the turkey sandwich was a bit bland, but it was a welcome repast. After I finished eating, I was taken back in for another gamma-camera scan.

After I was done with all the tests, I was taken back up to my room where lunch and a big cup of water were waiting for me. Lunch was DELICIOUS! Yes, hospitals CAN serve good food, at least once in a while. My afternoon was spent waiting for results, and waiting, and waiting. I did manage to get a couple of cat-naps during that time. My nurse hooked me up to a bag of potassium, LIQUID-FIRE, and it was main-lined and bare-back with nothing to dilute it. When I couldn’t take the burn in my arm and shoulder any longer, I asked her to disconnect it, which she did. As hard as I try to keep my potassium level up, it wasn’t enough, and I sure hope I don’t get that low ever again.

The cardiologist finally came in to see me after supper, and when he did, he had a big smile on his face. I had passed the stress-test with flying-colors!!! He also told me that I have a strong, healthy heart, which was even better news. I had NOT had a heart-attack, and even though I do have some anomalies in my heart, I am NOT a heart-attack waiting to happen.

What I dislike most about being in a hospital is feeling “cooped-up“, because I am not able to move about freely as I choose. I don’t like getting stuck multiple-times, but being “cooped-up” is even worse. I did get excellent care, and kudos particularly to the nurses who cared for me. Special kudos go to Myra, my day-shift CCU nurse, because even though I gave her fits, she always had a smile on her face, and I always knew that she cared about me.

When my legs get restless and start cramping, I get restless and have to get up and move around a bit, so I would disconnect the monitor, hang the urine bag on my pants-pocket, and walk around. Every time I did, Myra would remind me to stay in sight of her, because if something happened while I wasn’t on the monitor and out of her sight, she would feel responsible. She accompanied me on one of my forays which meant that I could walk farther than just inside that small unit. Thank you Myra!

I am sure that Myra was ready to “get-rid” of me when it time for me to get discharged, because she accompanied me and Liz out to the lobby, where I gave her a big hug. Thank you Myra, because you made my hospital stay a bit more pleasant.

Special thanks go to Liz, who stepped up to the plate when I needed help. I was not in any condition to drive myself to the hospital. THANK YOU LIZ!!! You were my angel.

No, I am NOT Superman and I am NOT invincible. I am just an ordinary guy who is paying the price for pushing myself many times in extraordinary circumstances. I am reminded that the Apostle Paul also knew a bit about weakness and infirmities and left us this gem of divine-wisdom.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Tempted By Satan

Even though it is not mentioned in John’s Gospel, another important step towards beginning His earthly ministry was when Jesus was tempted by Satan. So, we are going to take another brief side-trip into the other Gospels and pick up that event.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

 

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ 11 and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13)

There are a couple of things to note right from the get-go. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, but He was also led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. His journey into the wilderness was reminiscent of the Jews forty-year wandering in the wilderness, and while the Jews failed their test miserably, Jesus passed His test with flying-colors.

Jesus’ three temptations correspond to temptations common to us today: lust of the flesh (hunger of all types); lust of the eyes or covetousness; and pride or lust for power.

Turn a stone into bread – Jesus was fully-human, so it was natural and normal that He was hungry after fasting for forty days. Satan tempted Jesus to use His creative-powers to satisfy His own hunger, which He refused to do. That He could have turned a stone into bread is not in question, but He never used His powers for His own self-gratification. Every time He used His creative-powers, it was for the benefit of someone else. He turned water into wine at a wedding. He multiplied loaves and fishes to fed hungry crowds at least twice. He also made breakfast for His disciples after His resurrection on the day that He restored Peter. All of those events, while clearly-displaying His power, were for the benefit of others. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament in response to this temptation.

You can fly – Satan also tempted Jesus to see if God would really keep His promise. Had Jesus flown that day, it might have been a grand-spectacle, but it would also have violated His relationship with His Heavenly Father. Whe Satan quoted and misapplied Scritpure from the Old Testament, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture also.

Become king of the world – Satan tempted Jesus to bypass the cross and become an earthly-king. Jesus already owned everything in the universe, and once His mission was finished, God the Father was already going to hand the reins of authority over to Him, so earthly-glory wasn’t going to hold a candle to His heavenly-glory, and when He returns, every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that He is Lord. Jesus once again fended Satan off by quoting Scripture from the Old Testament.

Could Jesus have failed the test? – Since Jesus DIDN’T fail the test, we will never know if He could have. He was tested so that He can understand our tests and temptations. Those were not the only temptations He faced. There were several times when adoring-crowds tried to make Him their king, but He passed on those as well. Probably His most intense test was in the Garden as He faced the cross and all the suffering that went with it. He did go to the cross, and He endured both the physical-agony and having the full wrath of God for our sins poured out on Him.

Today – While it may be tempting to sell one’s soul to Satan in exchange for earthly-fame and fortune, both of those “rewards” are short-lived, while the consequences are eternal. Many aspiring entertainers have sold their soul to Satan, become shining-stars, and met untimely-deaths.

Satan is still in the business of tempting believers today, because he loves nothing better that to trip us up, tarnish our reputation and cause us to mangle our fellowship with God and other believers. Whether it is lying on one’s income-tax return, perpetrating a shady business deal, or falling into sexual-sin, the results are the same. We become less like Christ and more like Satan. Satan has tripped me up with sexual-sin way too many times. No, I don’t walk on water or commune with angels.

Satan has also infiltrated the church in far more insidious ways. As he tried to tempt Jesus by quoting but misapplying Scripture, he has also gotten church leaders to twist and pervert Scripture by preaching as “gospel” lies from the pit of hell. Many of them have been taught those lies in Bible college or seminary. Unfortunately these lies sound so “right” that many Christians believe that they are true. John the Apostle has given us a stern warning about believing everything we hear from pulpits or read in books. 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. (1 John 4:1)

God has promised to supply ALL of our needs, but not necessarily all of our “wants“. In the Lord’s prayer, we say “Give us this day our daily bread“, and even though that may not include steak, God WILL provide for our needs. Trust God for your needs and trust God to help you resist temptation. Jesus understands our temptations and stands ready to help us because He was also tempted.

In Christ,
Steve

Have You Seen Jesus?

If you painted a portrait of Jesus, what moment in His life would you try to portray? If an artist were to try to capture the complete essence of His life and ministry, it would be a collosal project. What is your favorite “snapshot“?

As a baby in the manger?

Presented in the Temple?

Talking in the Temple with the teachers?

Baptized by John the Baptist?

Confronting Satan?

Calling His disciples?

Turning water into wine?

Feeding the multitudes?

Raising the dead?

Healing the sick?

Walking on water?

On the mount of transfiguration?

In the Garden of Gethsemane?

Nailed to the Cross?

Risen from the dead?

Ascending into heaven?

Over seven-hundred years before His birth, Isaiah the Prophet penned the last of his four “Suffering-Servant” Songs, and he captured the essence of why Jesus came to Earth in just a few, short verses. Isaiah 53 is the most-quoted Old Testament prophesy in all of the New Testament.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

Forget the pasty-white complexion, the elegant flowing robes, the dainty, manicured hands and the flowing-locks. Who was the REAL Jesus?

Had John the Baptist not known who Jesus was, He would not have stood out in the crowd of those who came to hear him preach and get baptized. Jesus didn’t have a stately-stature or kingly-appearance. Throughout His ministry, He was often identified by people around Him as “the son of Joseph and Mary” because He looked like “one of the boys“. He was born into an ordinary working-class Jewish family, so He looked like any other Jewish man, and as much as artists would like to portray Him in “regal” attire, He told some of those who wanted to follow Him that He didn’t even have a place to call His own. He is recorded as having spent time in the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaum, and that may have been His “headquarters” when he was in that area.

The hands that touched the eyes of the blind were strong, tough and calloused from working as a carpenter for most of His life. The arms that embraced little children and swung the whip when He cleansed the Temple were strong and muscular from hefting heavy pieces of wood and swinging a hammer. Heavily-muscled legs and calloused-feet carried Him all those miles He walked during His earthly-ministry. He was a man’s-man, strong yet gentle.

The only thing that made Him stand out in a crowd was the power and authority with which He spoke. He baffled the Jewish leaders of His day with His wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. He was the Son of God, the eternal Word, Immanuel, God with us, the Messiah, the Son of Man, Jesus.

Have YOU seen Jesus?

Steve

Why Am I Here?

That isn’t a rhetorical question, because it gets to heart of why I am still alive and taking up space on this planet. I could say that I am here because I have a mission to accomplish, but that would only be a partial-answer. The reality is that I should have been dead over forty years ago, but obviously I am not dead yet. I am not here because I want to be here, although I certainly do want to be here. The crux of the answer lies in Who controls my life and my “fate“.

There have been enough twists and turns, and ups and downs in my life to make a cork-screw look like an eight-lane super-highway. It is those twists and turns, and ups and downs which have brought me to where I am now, and as I look back on the last forty-plus years, had my life been the super-highway I envisioned, my life would have been very different than it is and my current mission could never have come about. So, sit back and relax while I lead you through my journey through hell.

 

1975 – I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had just had an ice-storm which left a sheet of black-ice in patches on the turnpike. It was snowing as a buddy and I headed south from Fort Sill towards Wichita Falls, Texas, in my Dodge pickup to see some of his family when we hit one of those patches of black-ice. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the ice until we hit it, and had it only been my driving-skill controlling that truck, we would have either been in a ditch or in the median. I still remember the rear-end of the truck fish-tailing at least forty-five degrees each way before straightening up…just as we hit a patch of dry road. Someone else was in control.

 

1978 – I had met the love of my life, and we got married on April 15th, income-tax day, with the expectation of “happily-ever-after“. Our marriage didn’t stay “happily-ever-after” for long because I was no “Prince charming“. My parent’s marriage was at best dysfunctional so I didn’t see a good marriage modeled as I was growing up.

 

Mid-1997 – I badly-needed a break, a mini-vacation, because I was working six days a week, averaging 55-60 hours a week, and the stresses both at work and at home were piling-up. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that our marriage was falling apart at the seams. I found out by “quirk of fate” (If you believe that, I have some real estate for sale, including some land that is under-water 13 months out of the year and a bridge that leads to nowhere.) about Oak Lake Trails, a nudist resort in northern Oklahoma and decided that would be the perfect get-away. I was NOT a nudist (Unlikely Nudist), but I wanted to try it anyway. It did turn out the be the perfect get-away, and I enjoyed two delightful weekends there. I still wasn’t “hooked“, but that experience planted the seed which would mature many years later. Yes, we lived in rural Oklahoma, not central Florida.

During this time-frame, I also received four death-threats, one from a man who I owed $25 to, and who was caught with explosives in his vehicle, and the other three were from a brother-in-law who thought that the best way to take care of our family-problems was to “eliminate” me. Another brother-in-law offered to pay for the divorce if my wife would divorce me.

 

October 1997 – I lost my job due to “management-streamlining“, even though I still haven’t figured out how they became more “efficient” when it took three people, who didn’t know what they were doing, to do my job. I was also forced to move out of our home and in with my parents. I took whatever day-work I could because I had no other income. I was doing some work for a friend on that fateful day when my wife decided to end it all, thus giving me an air-tight alibi that there was no way I could have been at my family’s home that afternoon. When I got back to my parent’s home later that evening, they gave me the horrific-news that my wife had committed suicide that afternoon. My plans for our twentieth wedding-anniversary went down the tubes along with any hopes for “happily-ever-after“. I was devastated.

 

1998 – I met my second wife online early in 1998, and after somewhat of a “whirlwind-romance“, we got married in August 1998. She was living in Phoenix and I was living in Oklahoma City, so after we got married in Phoenix, I moved her to Oklahoma City, where my dad and I had remodeled a mobile home for us to live in.

 

December 1999 – My wife and I flew to Florida for Christmas, and while we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to stroll on Boynton Beach – in shorts and T-shirt. We had left snow and freezing-cold weather behind and were enjoying semi-tropical weather – in December. I asked her whether she would be interested in moving to Florida, and a split-second later, she asked me when we were moving. Before we got on the plane to fly back home, she had TWO job-offers, one with a firm reporting-date. Who arranged THAT???

 

February 2000 – We arrived in Florida on Valentine’s Day, and within a few days, we were able to rent an apartment close to where my wife was going to be working – that we could rent by the month. This was important because we planned to buy our own place as soon as possible, and we didn’t want to be tied-up with a lease. I won’t bore you with the details, but less than ninety-days after we arrived in Florida, we were able to move into our brand-new, custom-built double-wide mobile home on our own piece of land. Okay, maybe a couple of details: The land had JUST gone on the market, and there was already a well and septic-tank on it, which saved us a LOT of money.

 

Fall 2006 – My wife and I decided that we did not want to retire in Florida, strange as that may seem, but with rapidly-rising property-taxes and sky-rocketing property-insurance, particularly on mobile homes, even with two incomes, it wasn’t going to be long before we couldn’t afford to live in Florida, so we decided to move to either South Carolina or North Carolina. I grew up around Greenville, South Carolina, so we started looking in that area. Unfortunately the places we really liked weren’t all that accessable, particularly in winter, and jobs, even for her, were few and far between. We finally found a home we both liked in Mount Holly, North Carolina. That area had the advantage of being close enough to Charlotte that working in Charlotte was both reasonable and practical, AND, she was able to get a job-transfer to a facility in Charlotte.

The home we found to buy had been foreclosed, so it had been repainted inside and had new carpet. It was also out in the country but in a small neighborhood. We celebrated Thanksgiving in our new home.

There was just one fly in the ointment. We still owned the home in Florida also, and that was when real-estate values were starting to go downhill very quickly. We still owed almost as much as that property was worth in the depressed market, so finding a buyer was a crap-shoot.

Another problem quickly reared its ugly head, lack of a job for me. Even though I had a lot of facilities maintance experience, I didn’t have the credentials or experience that industrial plants were looking for. I was offered one job, but when left that plant with a serious headache, I said “No thanks“. They sprayed a LOT of chemicals but didn’t have very good ventilation or exhaust in the plant. That only left one option, for me to go back to Florida where I could go back to my old job, and I could be there to more actively try to sell that home.

 

Easter 2007 – Sometime between 3am and 5am I had an eye-stroke. I had gotten up at about 3am to use the restroom and everything was fine, but when I woke up at about 5am needing to use the restroom, my right eye was blind. That nixed my plans to go to the Easter sunrise service at my church. The next day, I called an eye doctor I had seen before and was able to get right in. I had had an eye stroke, and the chances of regaining my eyesight were slim to none. He also told me to go to an emergency room ASAP, which I did that evening. I was admitted to the stroke unit of Monroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala early the next morning, and spent four days there being checked out before I got discharged, on Friday the 13th.

My wife didn’t come down from North Carolina to be with me, and she didn’t even send me a card. She filed for divorce six weeks later. In the divorce decree, she demanded and got a quit-claim deed to the property in North Carolina so that she was the sole-owner. She also dumped the Florida property on me, along with several thousand dollars worth of credit-card debt – for things that SHE kept. I also had to let my vehicle go back to the bank because I couldn’t afford to pay for it either. The home in Florida also got foreclosed, so I didn’t even have my own home to live in. Thankfully my parents had moved to Florida by then so at least I had a place to stay, and I was able to find a cheap vehicle to buy. That seemingly ill-fated move had cost me everything including my health. I had become a liability to her, so she dumped me.

 

The ink was barely dry on the divorce decree when I met my third wife. We dated for several months before getting married in the spring of 2008. I also bought a fifth-wheel travel trailier for us to live in, which I am still living in as we speak. That marriage lasted less than three years before she decided that she didn’t need me either. When I lost my job, I became a liability to her too. Ironically, she had promised that she would NEVER dump me like my second wife had. Sure, and I have a bridge for sale…a bridge to nowhere.

 

September 2010 – My dad started getting sick in early 2010, and by September, he was getting to be too much of a handful for mom to care for by herself, so I moved back in with them. When regular blood-work didn’t show any problems, his doctor referred him to a neurologist. That doctor ordered more blood-work and a spinal-tap. Those tests revealed that he had advanced-stage Lyme disease and tertiary-syphilis. Those diseases were destroying his brain. We had him admitted to Hospice on the 29th of September.

Dad wasn’t getting markedly-worse, but he also wasn’t getting any better, so right after Thanksgiving, we had him transferred to a nursing home, where he spent the rest of his days. Dad died on October 1st, 2013. I had been up to see him less than a month before he died.

 

August 2011 – I was on my way home from a month-long vacation when I was involved in an accident which should have been my last. I was two-hours south of St. Louis when a young lady clipped the right-rear door of my vehicle, sending me into a 270-degree spin at 65 miles-per-hour. My vehicle and I landed rear-end-first in a 25-foot deep ditch. I walked away without a scratch even though my vehicle was very much the worse for wear. I was seriously-shaken, but otherwise okay. My “guardian-angel” deserves “hazardous-duty-pay” for keeping me safe that day.

 

October 2012 – I met my fourth wife online, and after a whirlwind romance, we got married December 6th, 2012. A few days later, I moved down here. Less than six weeks after we got married, she also flew the coop, and moved in with another man. Thus began some of the darkest days of my life, second only to losing my first wife. I have chronicled a lot of what I went through in earlier posts on this blog.

 

Why has God allowed any of these events to happen in my life? Were they part of His plan? Hindsight may be 20-20, but that doesn’t make any of these events any less painful. Had none of these events taken place, yes, I might still be happily-married to my first wife, but this blog would have never come about, and I would not have been in a situation where starting a ministry at Cypress Cove became possible.

I have been asking God WHY He allowed my wife to commit suicide over eighteen years ago, and as strange as it may seem, I am now beginning to understand. As horrific as that event was, it was “necessary” in order that I could get to where I am now. What other horrific-event happened almost two-thousand years ago which was for our “good“?

 

Many years ago, another man went through many hardships, which culminated in him being in a position to save his family from certain-starvation. That man was Joseph. He was sold by his jealous brothers to slave-traders and wound up in Egypt. After spending some time in prison, because God was watching over him, he rose to being second-in-command over all of Egypt. God used him to save both the nation of Egypt and His chosen people from starvation during a seven-year famine. When he finally revealed his identity to his brothers, he told them something that may help us gain a better perspective on the hardships in our lives.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:3-8)

Two things ought to jump out at you. In verse 5, Joseph said “God sent me before you to preserve life.“, and in verse 8, he said “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;“. God had a plan, and Joseph was a vital-part of that plan.

The Apostle Paul also went through many hardships, and he left us with another piece of divine-wisdom. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Neither Joseph nor Paul ever said that the events themselves were good, but that God can and does cause good to come from these events. God never lets people off of the hook for the evil events they perpetrate in our lives even if He does cause “good” to come as a result of those events. Joseph’s brothers will still be held accountable for selling him into Egypt even though the “good” that came out of that event was the salvation of their families.

The Jewish religious-leaders, the Roman government and the Roman soldiers will still be held accountable for crucifying Jesus even though the “good” that came out of that events was our salvation. Likewise for Paul, all those who opposed him and caused all of his hardships will beheld accountable for their actions even though the “good” that came out of those actions was the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman empire and his many Epistles.

My wives and everyone else involved will be held accountable for their actions, even though you are reading some of the “good” and the ministry at Cypress Cove is part of that “good“. Yes, I will also beheld accountable for all of my sinful actions as well. One day God will settle ALL scores, and only those who are trusting in the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ won’t be condemned to eternity in Hell.

God has a plan for each of our lives, and sometimes we have to go through difficult situations in order for that plan to come to fruition. I am not here by “quirk-of-fate” or by “chance“. I am here because God brought me here, and if someone had told me along the way that I would be where I am now, I would have serious questioned their sanity. Maybe it is time for me to say what Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In Christ,
Steve

Trusting God In The “Rest-Areas”…

God’s plan for our lives is like a road-map, but He doesn’t show it all to us at once. He will only show us our next step when He is ready, not when we are. Like all good road-maps, ours includes turns, intersections, and even “rest-areas“. I LOVE rest-areas when I am traveling because I can’t drive for over two hours at a time and need to stop and stretch my legs periodically, but I don’t always like it when God places me in a “rest-area“. Maybe some examples will help illustrate what I am referring to.

A missionary couple comes home on furlough, and when they prepare to return to the country they were serving in, their way is blocked by the political situation in that country. Are they no longer missionaries? Of course they are, but their area of ministry may change dramatically.

A pastor I used to know, while he was without a church to pastor, took a job as the mail-clerk and telephone switchboard operator for his brother-in-law’s business. My mom was the owner’s executive-assistant, and she introduced me to Pastor John. I got to know Pastor John, and he was very instrumental in helping me through my wife’s suicide and the subsequent destruction of my family. He was also by my side during her funeral service, as was another Pastor, a Catholic Priest I had also gotten to know. Pastor John may have been in a “rest-area“, but God used his pastoral skills and loving heart to help me through a very-difficult time in my life. He also performed the wedding when my second wife and I got married. Just a few weeks later, he received a call to a church in another part of the country, and I haven’t seen him or heard from him since.

Another pastor I met a few years ago, while he was between churches, was the “substitute-preacher” when the church’s pastor was out of town, and he also taught at a private Christian school. When he was called to another church, he and his wife moved on.

From about 1981 til about 1991, I served in several different capacities in three different churches. I was on the building-committee of the first church. I taught Sunday School, sang in the choir and was a deacon in the second church, and I was in the band/orchestra in the third church. When we moved to a different part of the country in 1993, there was a brief “rest-area” period.

In 1994, I was elected, ordained and installed as an Elder in a small church. After I left that church in 1997, I went to another church where I was invited to sing in the choir. That only lasted for a few months until I remarried and we went to a different church. Our roles may change, but that doesn’t mean that our new role isn’t ministry.

After my second wife and I moved to Florida in 2000, I became involved in the music ministry of yet another church, and eventually became the Music Director. That lasted until I got cross-ways with the pastor’s mother-in-law who had very different ideas about what and how we should sing. Rather than fighting it, we moved on to another church.

Thanks to an invitation to participate in the church’s ground-breaking celebration, we immediately found our new church-home. I joined the choir, even though I decided to keep a low-profile otherwise. I also participated when we dedicated the new sanctuary. That lasted for about two years until we decided to move to another state in late 2006.

I have managed to keep a low-profile in every church I have been in since 2006, and I haven’t even joined the praise-team in the church I belong to now. I did offer to help out with the sound-system, but they haven’t even taken my up on that offer. The musical talent runs very deep in that church, so I enjoy just being there. When it comes to music-ministry, I am in a “rest-area“. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still enjoy singing, and He may yet use me in the music-ministry, but all in His good time.

God has kept me in a public-ministry “rest-area” for almost ten years, but has He? I felt led to start this blog on December 31, 2013, and I have been writing and posting regularly since then. With regular readers as far away as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, this ministry is pretty “public“.

A few months ago, I received the “call” to begin a ministry at Cypress Cove. This may be the most ambitious “project” I have ever taken on, but God is still in control. This isn’t about me. It is about spreading God’s kingdom into a part of His world where it hasn’t been before. I am simply His servant, and God calls the shots. If this ministry thrives, it won’t be because I am so great. It will be because God is great and awesome and doing His work through me.

While I have been in a “rest-area” from teaching and church-leadership since 1997, God hasn’t left me idle. He has directed me into other avenues for ministry. For those who are lamenting that God doesn’t seem to be using you for an obvious ministry, all I can say is “Trust Him” and see what else He may have for you to do. God alone knows His plans for you, and He is working everything out for your good and His glory. Oh, and by-the-way, loving your neighbor in tangible ways IS ministry, and you ARE serving God by showing His love to that person.

In Christ,
Steve

Would John the Baptist Be Welcome?

God had been silent for about 400 years when He sent the last Old Testament prophet to Israel to proclaim the eminent arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. That prophet was the man we know as John the Baptist. John, who was born to quite elderly parents, was empowered by the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb. If John the Baptist were to reappear today, would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit?

John didn’t appear in a three-piece-suit with shiny shoes and slicked-back hair. He lived off the land in the wilderness, had long hair and a beard, and looked like what many would call a “bum“. He didn’t “look good” and he probably didn’t smell much better. Would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit?

John didn’t come proclaiming a “gospel” of prosperity or “name-it-and-claim-it” religion. He came proclaiming repentance from old ways of living and self-righteous ways of thinking, and that the kingdom of God was at hand. Would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit? Would you welcome and heed his message? What was his message?
7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”

14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:7-17)

Does this message seem vaguely-familiar? John the Baptist was giving applications to the “Tall Orders” God gave through Micah the prophet almost eight-hundred years earlier:
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)

Jesus Christ would later sum up these “orders” when some Pharisees confronted Him:
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The Jews staked their claim on being children of Abraham, but that wasn’t good enough. Injustice was rampant in Israel, and even though God had condemned it almost eight-hundred years earlier, things still hadn’t changed. John’s message of repentance required more than just mere words, it required concrete actions.

We can show our love for God by loving our neighbor, not just in word-only, but by tangible actions. When my neighbor-gal came home at 11:30 one night and couldn’t walk into her home by herself because of the pain in her broken foot, she needed REAL help. She also needed to borrow my walker again, so real help was both helping her get into her home and putting my walker into the trunk of her car. Mere words of consolation would not have done for her what she needed done. Help required action. I am no “shining-star” in this, but I do try to do what I can, when I can.

John baptized people in the Jordan River in the same way new converts to Judaism had been baptized for hundreds of years, naked, and all the way under. Would you allow him to baptize you?

If John the Baptist wouldn’t be welcome in your church, you are in “good company“, because the religious-establishment of his day didn’t like him or his message either. They were particularly incensed that he was baptizing people. He hadn’t graduated from “Jerusalem Theological Seminary” and hadn’t gone through all the steps to become a “recognized” preacher. He didn’t have the right “credentials“, even though he was a prophet, and he was operating outside of their “system“. Of course Jesus Christ didn’t have the right “credentials” either, even though He was the Incarnate Son of God.

Even if we wouldn’t welcome John the Baptist into our church and pulpit, we should welcome his message. We can learn a lot from John’s simple message of repentance:
Abandon our self-righteous attitudes and admit that we can’t fix ourselves.
Love God with all of our being.
Truly love our neighbor as ourselves.

In Christ,
Steve

Jars Of Clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Christian ministry is humbling, because God has entrusted His message to us, unworthy as we are. As I work on each week’s Bible study, I am reminded of the awesome responsibility I have to open the Word and rightly and accurately proclaim it because God will hold me accountable for any mishandling of His Word. This isn’t just any book, it is God’s Word.

God has given us two particularly-encouraging promises which we know that we can take to the bank. Jesus Christ is building His church, not us, and He is the power behind His Word, not us.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18b)

I am nothing special. In fact, I am just another fallen man who has been saved by His grace alone, and commissioned to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know why He chose me, but He did. That Jesus came to save sinners IS GOOD NEWS!!!

Paul was probably the most educated of the Apostles, having been educated as a Pharisee under Gamaliel, but he still recognized his own inadequacies when it came to proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, which led him to pen the words of our opening verse. Why should I think any more of myself?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

In Christ,
Steve

Who Were Jesus’ Relatives?

I was challenged in a recent Bible Study when I stated that Jesus and John the Apostle were cousins. Since I certainly am not above making mistakes, I welcomed that challenge. Nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state that they were cousins, so if there is some evidence to that effect, we will have to put some puzzle-pieces together to get there. So, I have done a study focusing not only on this question, but also asking a broader question, “Who were Jesus’ relatives?“. This is results of that quest.

Brothers and sisters…
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:55-56)

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. (Mark 6:3)

Two of His brothers, James and Judas(Jude) appear later in the New Testament. James was one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem and the author of the Epistle of James. Judas(Jude) was the author of the Epistle of Jude. Nothing is known about the other brothers or His sisters.

Cousins…
The Bible doesn’t explicitly state that James and John were His cousins, but there seems to be some evidence to support that idea. John the Baptist was definitely related to Jesus.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Sons of Zebedee…
Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:21-22)

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (Mark 1:19-20)

Women and mothers…
Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. (Mark 15:40)

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

Conclusions?
In addition to Mary, the mother of Jesus, three additional women are mentioned in all three accounts. There are two Mary’s, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph(Joses), who was the wife of Clopas. The third woman is described variously as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee“, “Salome“, and “His mother’s sister“. Was Salome both “His mother’s sister” and “the mother of the sons of Zebedee“? It certainly appears that way, but I can’t say for sure.

Note: The Jews were multi-lingual during this era, speaking at least Greek and Aramaic, so it is not unusual for different names to be mentioned in the New Testament for the same person depending on who wrote a particular book. These names were also very common, particularly among Jewish boys and men.

What think ye?
Steve

Bible Study – John’s Testimony

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-17)

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent three years with Jesus. They may have been cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion.

The most profound marvel of the Incarnation is that the sinless Son of God was able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, fully-atone for our sins. If we die for our sins, we die, never to be raised again. Jesus died the death we could never die and was raised again so that we might be raised again also.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus, in His incarnation, was Emanuel, God with us, and unlike previous times when God dwelt among His people, Jesus, God, was approachable, touchable, with no strings attached. He wasn’t separated by a curtain, approachable only once a year, and only by the High Priest with a blood-sacrifice. God, in bodily-form, dwelt among His people for several years. God came near. The Holy One of Israel got His hands dirty so that we might be made clean and new.

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply to us that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up. If “unique” was substituted for “begotten“, it would give us a much clearer sense of what and who the Word was. Sometimes translation and our word-limitations make for less-than-clear understanding of the original thought.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am frequently amazed by how many Christians have bought into lies, with pastors even preaching those lies from their pulpits. Just because colleges and seminaries teach it, and much of Christendom believes it, doesn’t make it true. The Protestant Reformation was started to confront and correct the rampant-heresy in the Roman Catholic Church. Lies enslave us, while truth sets us free. Jesus came to speak truth into our fallen world, to set us free.

Was John the Baptist demeaning himself by saying the Jesus Christ ranked higher than him? Absolutely not. He simply recognized that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was God, and he wasn’t.

The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalim to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.

That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” based on His perfect record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, came to reveal who God is in an intimate way. He didn’t merely “represent” God, He WAS God.

The Testimony of John
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:14-34)

Why did the religious-authorities question John the Baptist? Didn’t he have the “right-stuff“? Didn’t he have the right “pedigree“? His father, Zacharias, was a priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron“, so he certainly had the right “pedigree“, but our answer comes in the “who” that questioned him, the religious leaders. They didn’t believe that he had the “authority” to do what he was doing, specifically, baptizing people. John the Baptist had not graduated from the “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, nor had he gone through the proper steps to become “ordained” by the “powers that be“. John’s “ordination” came from God, not from man. In a nut-shell, he was operating outside their “system“, and they didn’t like it.

John the Baptist did recognize that he was fulfilling the prophesy from Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

When John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal, he wasn’t demeaning himself, rather he was recognizing the greatness of the very Son of God.

Where have we seen the promise of God’s provision of a lamb before?
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:6-8)

Abraham believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice and his faith was rewarded with that provision. God’s provision of that lamb that day was a powerful symbol and foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God. Animal sacrifices could only cover-over sin, but could not take it away. Only the perfect Lamb of God could actually take upon Himself our sin and truly take it away.

Even though Jesus and John the Baptist were related, John knew very little about Jesus or His upcoming ministry until God revealed it to him. The clincher was when John baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descend on Him in the form of a dove, combined with the Voice from heaven.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all three members of the Godhead were revealed, Jesus, the Son of God, God the Father by His voice, and the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove. God had never revealed His fullness in this way before, which led John to say: I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

What a marvelous testimony!

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in 2016!
Steve

Remember Me…

Those two words, spoken by a dying man, both changed his eternal-destiny and remind us that we can’t save ourselves.

Three crosses…

Three men condemned to die…

Two men died for crimes that they had committed…

One man died who was innocent, but died for crimes that were not His own…

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

He didn’t walk an aisle, pray a prayer, sign a card, get baptized or join a church. He simply confessed his deepest need to the only person who could satisfy that need, Jesus. His simple faith in Jesus gave him what he couldn’t earn or merit – salvation and an eternal reward. Why do we have to make it so difficult?

Have you confessed your need for a savior?

In Christ,
Steve