Bible Study – John Exalts Christ

Passover in Jerusalem had been a hectic time for Jesus and His disciples, so they left Jerusalem after Passover and went back out into the countryside. The crowds had been a constant reminder of how many people needed Jesus and His attention. He may not even have gotten a “night-off” as Nicodemus and who knows how many others came to see Him at night. I doubt, however, that Jesus really got a break, because people always managed to find Him. John the Baptist and his disciples were also in the area, preaching and baptizing. John affirms his role in preparing the way for the Lord while exalting Christ.

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:22-36)

Jesus took some time with His disciples to train them for their part in His ministry. Even though Jesus took the lead, He probably allowed His disciples to do the actual baptisms, because as we see in John 4:1-2, (Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), even though baptisms were attributed to Jesus, He wasn’t actually performing them. I suspect that Jesus did the preaching and His disciples did the baptizing.

25 Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. We shouldn’t be surprised about a discussion regarding Jewish purification-customs coming up because many Jews were meticulous about their purification-rituals. What might have been practical in an urban-setting wasn’t always practical in the wilderness. Jesus also got into many disputes with the Pharisees about ritual-purification, because as we have seen in the past, if God hadn’t given enough purification-rules to suit the Pharisees, they made up more of their own. Jesus wasn’t meticulous about ritual-purification and I doubt that John and his disciples were either.

26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” Were John’s disciples jealous of Jesus, and did they expect John to be jealous of Him too? That certainly appears to be the case, but as John’s answer reveals, he was not only NOT jealous of Jesus, he was elated.

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

John knew the source of his authority to minister, but he also understood the limits of his ministry. As if to pop his disciples “bubble“, he reiterated that he was NOT the Christ, merely a forerunner. Then he compares Jesus to the bridegroom who alone gets the bride. This marriage-metaphor is used throughout Scripture for “God and His people” or “Christ and His church“, God or Christ being the “bridegroom” and God’s people or the church being the “bride“. John was a friend of Jesus, the bridegroom, and he was elated at the upcoming “marriage“, that is, that many people were coming to Christ. John also knew that his tenure would be short, and even though he had been a “starter” for a while, he was already being relegated to the status of “bench-warmer“. John knew his place in God’s kingdom, and we should too. My calling is to be a servant-leader, and I am elated when someone comes to know our Lord or to know Him better. It wasn’t about John, as this Bible study isn’t about me. Jesus Christ was his primary-focus as He is mine also.

31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John then goes on to speak about the sources of their respective messages. While John’s message was from above, as was his commission, he only had limited knowledge. Jesus, who originated in heaven, spoke with divine-authority. Jesus was fully-empowered by the Holy Spirit, so His message was much broader and more expansive than John’s.

We see another interesting statement: “for He gives the Spirit without measure.” I believe that this statement was looking forward to the time when God would pour His Holy Spirit out on all believers, not just an “anointed-few“. Jesus was, at that time, the only person fully-empowered by the Holy Spirit, but that was going to change, and soon.

35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. This statement points forward to when Jesus would give the Great Commission: 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) “Go” isn’t merely a suggestion, it is a command, and the authority we go in comes from Christ. As we go, we are to make disciples, and our message is to be the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John then reiterates this Gospel-message: 36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We can’t add-to or subtract-from that Gospel-message, even though many Christians like to add to it. Salvation is by grace through faith, NOT grace through faith-plus, the “plus” usually being “works“. Jesus and John didn’t tolerate legalism then, and we shouldn’t tolerate it now.

Do YOU believe in Jesus?

In Christ,
Steve

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Rest

Are you tired? How about bone-weary? Does “exhausted” describe you? Maybe it is to the point that all you are is a semi-functional zombie? When was the last time you woke up after a good night’s sleep rip-roaring and raring to go?

Even though we may not intend to, we live our lives full-throttle, and before we know it, we feel like we have been rode-hard-and-put-up-wet…WAY too many times. Rather than going from a reasonable “can” to a reasonable “can’t“, we go from way-before “can” to long-after “can’t“. We aren’t just burning the candle at both ends, we are burning it anywhere we can get it to burn. Is it any wonder that being sleep-deprived is the leading cause of lost-time accidents and injuries?

For many years, I was no stranger to 36-hour days, because what I had to do was more important than taking care of me. A lot of my days still start way too early and end way too late, but getting older hasn’t changed me, it has simply changed my mission. I wrote “It Is What We Do” to give you a taste of life in my “fast-lane“. I am also paying the price for all that abuse. I was in the hospital recently (Invincible), and part of the cause may have been sixty-years of bodily-abuse.

I live about two miles from Interstate-4, and the sound of the traffic is relentless, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I also live about two miles from railroad-tracks. Trains go up and down those tracks at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. I live about four miles from an electric power-plant, which is staffed around the clock, seven days a week. I also hear the sirens from police, fire and rescue vehicles at all hours of the day and night. Our world never sleeps.

Very few businesses are closed on Sunday, but one that is, is Chick-Fil-A, which is owned by a Christian. By contrast, McDonald’s never closes. Some businesses are open on a shorter-schedule on Sunday. Hospitals are open ALL the time, and most nurses work twelve-hour shifts. Do they really deliver optimal-care?

God didn’t intend for us to work the way we do now. Up til a couple of generations ago, people worked from sun-up to sun-down, and because the sun isn’t up all the time, they got more much-needed rest.

Is there a way to actually slow down? Many people think that they HAVE to work those long hours, but do they really have to?

God rested on the seventh-day of creation, not because He needed to rest, but to give us an example for how we should also rest. God codified that day of rest in the Ten Commandments.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

I am NOT advocating a Sabbaterian-view of the Sabbath which requires that the day of rest be on Saturday, but what you do is between you and God. God gave us one day every week to rest and we should take advantage of and honor that gift.

Jesus got tired too, and there are several instances throughout the Gospels when He took His disciples away to a quiet place for some rest and relaxation. Jesus also spoke to our relentless drive:

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I think that there are some valuable lessons we should take from this. First – We NEED to rest. Second – Our service to God and His kingdom shouldn’t be a burden. Third – We should be able to rest in Christ’s finished-work on our behalf and cease our striving to be “good-enough“. Are YOU ready for some rest? I sure am.

In Christ,
Steve

Six-O

Another day older, another year older, another decade older, and as I cross this threshold, I want to go back and reflect on some of the amazing things that have happened in the last twelve months. I am also going to reflect on some significant memories from my past, because a lot of things have happened in the last sixty years.

The Fifties…
I was born on February 23, 1956 in Springfield, Illinois. Less than two years later, we moved to Greenville, South Carolina. I still consider Greenville my “home-town“.

The Sixties…
I grew up with the space-program, and like many boys, I dreamed of being an astronaut, but that dream was foiled by my less-than-perfect eyesight. Only the best of the best were allowed to become astronauts. We moved to the St. Louis area in 1964, and moved back to Greenville in 1966. We lost grandpa McFarland on my eleventh birthday, February 23, 1967. We moved to the Atlanta area in 1968, and then to Smyrna, Georgia in 1969.

The Seventies…
I started high school in 1970, at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia. Right after school was over in 1972, I went with the Cobb County Honor Band on our trip to Toronto, Canada, where we played a joint-concert with a local band and did some touristy-things. We moved to Oklahoma City in 1972, and I immediately went to the University of Kansas for the Midwestern Music and Arts Camp. After Music Camp, I went to Colorado for church-camp. I entered my Junior year of high school at Northwest Classen High School in OKC.

I graduated from high school in May, 1974, and went into the Army in June, 1974. Between graduating from high school and going in the Army, I drove up to Denver, Colorado to spend some time with Rev. Ben Male and his wife, Dee. That was a super-special time. Ben and Dee now are in heaven, so we will have a joyous-reunion when I get there.

After graduating from Basic Combat Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, I was sent to the Joint-Services School of Music at Little Creek Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Virgina for six months. After completing music-school in February, 1975, I moved back to Oklahoma, to Fort Sill and joined the 77th Army Band. I was at Fort Sill for the balance on my three-year enlistment.

After my service in the Army ended in June 1977, I moved back to Oklahoma City, and took a job as a welder at CMI Corporation in the Rotomill and Finish-Grader mainframe division. I passed my Fitter-B test about six months after I started at CMI.

I met Connie, my first wife, in late 1977, and after a brief courtship, we got married on April 15, 1978. We bought our first home in Tuttle, Oklahoma, and moved in shortly after we got married. It was about half-way in between where Connie was working and where I was working and would soon go to college.

I started college at Oklahoma State Technical Institute (OSUTI, now OSUOKC) in September 1978, and graduated with an Associates Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology in August 1980.

The Eighties…
I was recruited right out of college to work at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and started working there in early September 1980. We bought our first home in Albuquerque in early 1981.

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In May 1981, I got my Amateur Radio (Ham) license, and shortly thereafter, I joined Albuquerque ARES, which supported Search and Rescue (SAR) missions with communications. Within a couple of months, the group voted to make me their President, much to the chagrin of “Mr. ARRL” because I wasn’t a member of ARRL. A few months later, some of the members approached me about forming a new team, a team which would provide field-communications and base-camp support for SAR missions. New Mexico SAR Support Team came into being. We still cooperated with ARES, but while they were doing home-based communications, we were in the field.

In about 1984, several people I knew were in the process of forming another team, the National ELT Location Team (NELT), so I joined that effort also. The NELT mission was to locate downed aircraft by means of their locator-beacon (ELT). Some of our members were top-scientists and engineers at Sandia and Las Alamos, and they got busy designing affordable equipment and the techniques to use it effectively. There was equipment for locating ELT’s available, but it was neither affordable nor was it particularly accurate. With equipment in hand we started practicing to learn how to use it, and use it effectively. Needless to say, we practiced a LOT.

Most of us had joined Civil Air Patrol (CAP), so we worked cooperatively with CAP aircrews. I flew one mission with CAP as an ELT-Location Specialist. We flew from Albuquerque to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where a signal had been heard by a search-satellite. The “ELT” turned out to be one of the transmitters at Tucumcari Airport. The transmit-relay had stuck “closed” causing it to send out a continuous signal. Airport staff had to get special-approval to turn that transmitter “OFF“, but once they did, the signal went away.

I worked over two-hundred missions with either NMSAR or NELT between 1981 and 1993. Yes, I found quite a few dead bodies from aircraft-crashes, and even though every find was tough, the “reward” was giving the grieving-families closure. What is particularly tough is when children die as the result of their parent’s stupidity. I have seen that too. I did have one “find” with a “happy-ending” which resulted in a “save“, and that made it all worthwhile. We were fortunate that a member of both NMSAR and NELT was the Director of Security at Sandia, since it was his responsibility to approve our paid-time-off for emergency-services missions. He was usually out in the field with us, so approval was almost-automatic.
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Our first child, Rebecca, was born in September 1981.

Our second child, Carrie, was born in November 1982.

We lost my mom’s step-father, Grandpa Anderson, in February 1984. We lost my wife’s father, Dad Shepperd, in September 1984. Our third child, Jonathan, was born right after Thanksgiving 1984.

We bought our second home in Albuquerque, which was quite a bit larger to accommodate our growing family, in early 1985.

Our fourth child, Miriam, aka “Micro“, was born in July 1989.

The Ninties…
After 12-1/2 years in Albuquerque and at Sandia Labs, we decided that we wanted to move back home to Oklahoma. I moved my family to Minco, Oklahoma just before Christmas 1992 and we put our home on the market. After Christmas in Oklahoma, I went back to Albuquerque to sell our home and finish out my time at Sandia Labs.

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My time at Sandia Labs was very interesting. We were constantly growing our technology to keep up with evolving requirements for our testing services, which meant that I was constantly working on designing and implementing those new testing capabilities. I also had to keep pushing our instrumentation suppliers to provide us with more capable instrumentation. We were doing things that no other lab in the US, and maybe in the entire world, was doing. I was also responsible for the instrumentation on a couple of multi-contractor long-term test projects. That was the most technically and professionally challenging AND rewarding time in my career, but the handwriting was already on the wall, as programs were being cut along with the funding. Within two years, the department had been disbanded and the facilities were moth-balled.
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At the beginning of April, 1993, with our home sold, I moved back to Minco also. I took a job as a welder and mechanic in a brother-in-law’s welding and truck-equipment shop, and we started looking for a piece of land to buy out in the country.

By June 1993, we had bought five acres of land and a mobile home, and gotten the mobile home moved and set-up. That was our last family home.

In September 1994, I took a job as the Maintenance Foreman and Safety Manager at Exiss Aluminum Trailers in El Reno, Oklahoma. That job lasted almost exactly three years before Exiss eliminated all first-line managers, including me. I found out later from one of the men who used to work for me that management had assigned three people to do various parts of my old job but they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Some “streamlining“…

On October 22, 1997, my wife sat in the living-room of our home, put a pistol to her head, and pulled the trigger. Our oldest and youngest daughters found her dead on the floor when they got home from school. She was buried a few days later on a wind-swept hill in a nearby country cemetery. Those were some of the darkest days of my life. I have written quite a bit about suicide and her death in “No Easy Answers” and “The Faces Of Suicide“. Connie is in the arms of her Lord, waiting for me to get there too.

A few months after my wife’s death, I sold both the mobile home and the land because there was no way I could have continued to live there. Our faithful shepherd-husky mix, Fussy, also died not long after Connie. Dad and I buried her where she died, in her favorite spot in front of the home.

Early in the Spring of 1998, I met Sandy D, who lived in Phoenix. After emailing for a while and talking for hours, I flew to Phoenix to meet her. We got married in Phoenix in August 1998, and I moved her to Oklahoma City, where I had bought and remodeled a mobile home for us to live in.

In December 1999, we flew to Florida to spend Christmas with Sandy’s parents and visit her brothers. During Christmas week, we strolled the beach in shorts and a T-shirt while Oklahoma was suffering from a brutal Winter-storm. I asked Sandy if she would be interested in moving to Florida, and without any hesitation, she agreed that would be a good idea. Before we got on a plane to fly back to Oklahoma, she had two job-offers, one with a firm reporting-date. We were moving to Florida.

The 2000’s…
We arrived in Florida on Valentine’s Day, 2000. It didn’t take us long to find an apartment that we could rent by the month, because we were planning to find a piece of land to buy and a mobile home to put on it. We moved into our new, custom-ordered home less than ninety days later. Over the next two or so years, I built a covered-deck on the back of the house and a twelve-by-twenty-four shed.

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In early 2001, I joined the Coast Guard Auxilliary. Even though I enjoyed being out on a boat, I have never owned one. For the uninitiated, the acronym B-O-A-T means “break out another thousand“, because boats are very expensive to own, operate and maintain. Not to worry though, several other people in my Flotilla owned boats so I could hitch a ride often enough to obtain necessary certifications and maintain my competencies. I ultimately got Boat Crew, Coxswain and Personal Watercraft certifications, along with Communications and Navigation.

Several of the members were also members of a small Volunteer Fire Department, and since I had had an interest in becoming a firefighter since I was in high school, I also joined that Department. I quickly discovered that, in addition to having tattered, worn-out gear, they also didn’t have much of a training program. I knew enough to know that I didn’t want to fight fires with no training.

Fortunately there was another Department close-by that DID have a training program, so I went there for some training. It was also much closer to where I lived, so I joined it. From Basic-Firefighter, I was able to progress into Fire Fighter I, which, by then, had become the minimum-requirements for new members joining the Fire Service. Basic FF was a 40 hour course, and FF1 was a 160 hour program.

In July 2003, I became certified as HAZMAT Technician. In August 2003, I completed Firefighter I training and also became certified as an Emergency Vehicle Driver. I went through in-house Driver-Engineer training with our Captain, passed my check-ride with our Assistant Chief and became an Apparatus Driver-Engineer. To say that we trained constantly is an understatement.

In July 2005, I successfully-completed the Fire Instructor I course at the Florida State Fire College, and became an NFPA-Certified Fire Instrusctor in August 2005. I went through training to get certified to maintain and repair our new Drager SCBA’s (air-packs). I was promoted to Lieutenant in early-2006.

After I lost my eye in April 2007, I stepped-down from being a Lieutenant because I didn’t want to be a safety-liability to any fire-suppression team I might lead. The Chief asked me to become the Department Safety Officer, which I was happy to do. I retired from the fire-service in December 2012 when I moved down to the Orlando area.
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In August 2004, we rode out Hurricane Charlie in Daytona, Florida. We also rode out three other hurricanes that year, Sandy at her work, and I at the Volunteer Fire Department I belonged to. Even though there was some damage in our area, nothing on our property suffered any significant damage.

Over the next couple of years, we saw our property-taxes and insurance go up significantly. Property insurance companies raised rates to help cover their losses from four hurricanes, and mobile-home owners were hit hardest by the rate-hikes. As a result, we decided that we couldn’t afford to keep living in Florida for much longer, and we certainly weren’t going to be able to retire in Florida, so we started looking for property in the Carolina’s. Even though we liked some land in northern South Carolina, we weren’t able to put a deal together. We finally found a home in Mount Holly, North Carolina that we liked and was in our price-range. Sandy was able to get a transfer to a facility in Charlotte, so we celebrated Thanksgiving 2006 in our new home.

Even though Sandy had a job, I needed one too, particularly since we had not been able to sell our home in Florida before we moved. The same housing price-slump that had made the home in Mount Holly affordable also trashed home-values in Florida. I had been working in a bicycle shop, but none in Charlotte were looking for help. I had also spent quite a few years doing facility maintenance, but all of those jobs required knowledge and experience with the newest programmable machine controllers, which I didn’t have. Finally, almost in desperation, I called the old bicycle shop up, and they wanted me back.

In early 2007, I went back to Florida to work, and hopefully sell that home. Then disaster struck. On April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday, I woke up blind in my right eye. I had had an eye-stroke. My dad had already had two eye-strokes, so I was familiar with them. That nixed my plans to go to my church’s Easter sunrise service. I was able to get in to see an eye specialist the next day, and after taking pictures of the inside of my eye, he gave me the bad news. The likelihood of getting my eyesight back was slim-to-nil. I also had sky-high blood pressure, so he told me to go to an Emergency Room, which I did that evening. I was admitted to the stroke unit at Monroe regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida, where I spent four days getting tested and medicated. My wife didn’t come down to see me in the hospital, and didn’t even send me a “Get Well” card. That was the turning-point in our relationship. She filed for divorce just a few weeks later. I was no longer an “asset“. I had become a “liability” she wasn’t willing to deal with. Our wedding-vows had become a joke.

In the divorce, she got sole-title to the home in North Carolina and I was stuck with the property in Florida, which I couldn’t sell and couldn’t afford to keep. It went into foreclosure a couple of years later. I also lost my vehicle because I couldn’t afford it either.

The ink was barely-dry on the divorce-decree when I met Tammy, who would become my third wife. We dated for several months before getting married in June, 2008. In the mean time I had bought a thirty-six foot travel trailer for us to live in. She filed for divorce in September, 2010, after going to Wisconsin on an “extended-vacation“.

2010 to present…
I had moved back in with my parents in early September 2010 because my dad was sick and declining-rapidly. We put dad in a Hospice facility, but he didn’t die there, so we had to put him in a nursing home. Dad died October 1, 2013. Dad is in Heaven, so I will see him again.

In July 2011, my brother Darrell lost his battle with cancer. On the way out to Oklahoma City for his memorial service, I stopped and spent some time with Rocky, my baby brother. I hadn’t seen Rocky since 1974, and since then, he had become a semi-quadriplegic. He was injured in a motorcycle accident while responding to a fire-call. During the memorial service, which Darrell had planned in advance, we got to hear from some of the people who had worked with him about his impact on their lives. Even though Darrell wasn’t openly-religious, he had a deep reverence for God’s Word and studied it a lot. That I will see him again in Heaven was an immense comfort to me. During the service, someone asked about the mysterious “Three Musketeers“. The remaining two of us were there to honor the memory of our departed-brother. After the service, I was able to spend some time with Tammy, my younger sister, and Don, my older brother. I also got to spend some time with Joe, the third member of our “Three-Musketeers“. I also hadn’t seen Joe since 1974. It was great to be able to spend some time with my “other” family. Not all “blood-family” is truly FAMILY, and not all FAMILY is blood-family. Those of you who have friends who have become FAMILY understand what I mean. Tammy had put me back in touch with Darrell, who I also hadn’t seen in many years.

That trip ultimately lasted thirty-one days and covered fifty-two hundred miles. From Oklahoma City, I drove west to Albuquerque to visit my dear friend, and former work-partner, John and his wife, Sue. John and I worked together for about eleven years while I was at Sandia Labs. They treated me to lunch at La Salita, the Mexican restaurant that we had frequented while I was in Albuquerque.

From Albuquerque, I traveled westward towards Gallup, New Mexico to see my dear friend and brother Rich and his wife Phyl. Rich and I go back to about 1982. I was his best-man when he and Pat got married in 1988. Rich had lost Pat to cancer in 2008, just shy of their tenth anniversary. Rich was my best-man when I got married to Tammy in August 2008. I was again Rich’s best-man when he and Phyl got married in early 2002. To say that we have a lot of history between us is an understatement. I spent almost a week with Rich and Phyl, and we had a great time seeing the sights in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. Rich was my partner on several SAR missions.

From Rich and Phyl’s place, I headed back east into Oklahoma. After staying overnight in Oklahoma City, I headed to Muskogee to see an old high-school buddy. Emery and I played in the band together, but after high school, we lost track of each other for several years. Emery was pastoring a church in Tuttle, Oklahoma when I caught up to him in the mid-90’s. By 2011, he was the District Superintendent of the Muskogee District of the United Methodist Church. How he became a pastor rather than a lawyer is a fascinating story. Emery was in college in a pre-law program, on a collision-course with law-school, when God directed him in a much-different direction, to Bible college. I got to visit and have supper with Emery before I checked into a motel for the night.

Then I headed up to southwest Missouri, to Rolla, which is the home of the Precious Moments Chapel Center. I have been to the PMCC a couple of times before, and even though they have scaled-back some parts of the Center, I thoroughly-enjoyed my visit there. Then I headed northwest to Springfield, Missouri to spend a couple of days. While I was in Springfield, I went down to Branson, Missouri and toured the Veteran’s War Museum. They have memorabilia from World War I to the present. Particularly impressive was the life-size bronze statue of the fifty-soldiers from the Vietnam era.

Then I headed up to St. Louis to spend a few days, see some sights, and catch up to another old friend. I went to the Gateway Arch and went down into the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is under the Arch. Not even pictures can do that museum justice. I also went to Missouri Botanical Gardens and spent a full day there until my arms couldn’t take any more of wheeling my wheelchair around. I only saw about a third of that magnificent place. On my last day in St. Louis, I got to eat lunch with Gene, my old choir director. I sang under Gene in the choir at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto, Florida before he moved on to St. Louis. It was wonderful sharing a meal together and reminiscing about our times together. I was also in his church the Sunday before we met for lunch and got to hear some of his superb piano and organ playing.

I finally headed back south towards Florida, expecting to be home in two days, until disaster struck. I was two hours south of St. Louis when a young lady didn’t see me as she was entering the interstate. She clipped the right-rear door of my Durango and sent us into a 270 degree spin at sixty-five miles and hour. When we came to a stop, we were rear-end-first into a very-deep ditch. I wasn’t hurt, but my Durango was much the worse for the accident. I finished the trip in a rental car, with a friend calling me every hour to make sure that I was okay. Thank you Deb! You were my travelling-home Angel. The insurance company totaled my Durango.

In May 2012, I went up to Greenville, South Carolina to visit another brother, Steve, and his family. Steve and I go back to about 2003 when we were both in the same fire department. In 2010, after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig, we put together a forty-hour HAZWOPER course to teach to people who were going to Alabama and Louisiana for spill-cleanup. Great minds really DO think alike, because when we got together to put iron-out the curriculum, our rough-drafts were almost identical. While Steve was getting our curriculum approved and a course-number assigned by the Florida State Fire College, I was putting the over-eight-hundred Powerpoint slides together. By the time we were done, the presentation was up to nine-hundred slides. Whew! I spent two weeks in Greenville, staying in a motel at night, and working with Steve during the day. Steve was working as a radio-repair technician in a small radio shop, and since I have a background in radio communications, it was an interesting two weeks. One Sunday, we all packed into my vehicle to do some sight-seeing. We found a beautiful state park to explore, which also gave us some nice photo-opportunities. One night Karen cooked steaks on the grill, and that was the best steak I have ever eaten. She knows how to do it right. I have known their daughter, Allison, since she was a baby, and she is growing up to be a very smart, talented and beautiful young lady. Allie is a joy to be around. I must mention that we almost lost Steve in early 2012. He had got bitten by a brown-recluse spider on his foot, but hadn’t received proper care for the bite, and it became massively-infected. He had a massive heart-attack while undergoing a bariatric-chamber treatment, and only quick bypass-surgery saved him. He still has many ongoing health-problems, including kidney-failure from all the antibiotics he was given for the infection in his foot.

I met Sandy N in late 2012, and after a very brief courtship, we got married December 6, 2012. I moved my trailer down to the Orlando area and we set up housekeeping. Less that six-weeks later, she moved out while I was away for a doctor’s appointment. By the time I got home, all she had left was a note. She moved back in briefly in June 2013, for two weeks, but I haven’t seen her since October 2013. So much for our wedding-vows.

In late March 2013, Liz moved in next door to me. Over the last two and a half years, we have become like brother and sister, as I have taken care of her and she has been there for me. Yes, I have another sister. I have mentioned Liz and her challenges in other posts.

I posted the first two articles to this blog on December 31st, 2013, kicking it off with “The Old Knight” and “Who Is YOUR Jesus Christ?“. It is a labor-of love because I can’t see me writing for a living.

The last twelve months…
Early last year, I started getting a “vision” of a ministry at Cypress Cover. It was something I couldn’t shake, and now I know why.

Last spring, our pastor preached a series of messages on the theme “If you are going to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat“. Maybe that was the “nudge” I needed to start working towards starting a ministry at Cypress Cove. It was also part of the inspiration behind a few of my posts.

I went to the Christian Naturists Festival at Lake Como Resort last July, and it was an incredible blessing. It was where we launched the dream of a Christian ministry at Cypress Cove. You can read more about that event at “Christian Naturist Festival 2015 – Lake Como Resort“.

The Bible study ministry was launched at Cypress Cove on November 8th, 2015. A dream had become reality.

On December 6th, 2015, the Bible study ministry was recognized as an official organization by Cypress Cove management and we were given our own time and space to meet. That was another significant milestone.

We held our first public Bible study meeting at Cypress Cove January 3rd, 2016, which was a milestone in this ministry, because up to that point, it had been a private, in-home Bible study. Our attendance has been up and down, but there is a lot of enthusiasm among the regulars.

I went up the following week to spend some time with my mom and get checked-over by a dermatologist. The dermatologist said that I look good.

I had my episode of tachycardia January 26th, 2016, and spent 23 hours in Heart Of Florida Hospital. That is chronicled in “Invincible“.

Finale…
This is by no means comprehensive, but I am not writing a book about my life. In some ways, this is just the tip of the iceberg, a window into what my life has been like for my sixty-year journey through life. For more of the “back-story” on some of these events, I invite you to check out “Why Am I Here?“.

God is THE most-important Person in my life, and serving others is part of serving Him. I have devoted a lot of my life to serving others, and even though I haven’t done a very good job of showing God how much I love Him, I hope that He is pleased with my service. I am still very-much a “work-in-progress“, but I know that God isn’t done with me yet.

I pray that God uses me in extending His kingdom for many more years.

In Christ,
Steve

He Owns The Cattle On A Thousand Hills

I got a SERIOUS shock a few days ago when I opened the bill for my recent hospital-stay. They want me to pay THAT much? When I looked at the TOTAL, I almost had a heart-attack. That is absurd, and it isn’t even an itemized-statement, so I can’t even tell what they are charging me for.

Then, an old chorus came to mind, which I learned many years ago. It is based on Psalm 50:10, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” God knows about that bill, and He is fully-capable to taking care of it.

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
The wealth in every mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills,
The sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell –
He is my Father so they’re mine as well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills –
I know that He will care for me.
(Word and music by John W. Peterson)

Satan wants me to fuss and fidget about it and doubt God’s loving-care. God wants me to trust Him to take care of it, in His way, and in His time. The choice is mine, fidget or trust. I am choosing to trust God, even though my trust is far from perfect. God IS my Heavenly-Father.

I know that He will care for me!
Steve

Bible Study – You Must Be Born Again

Not all Pharisees rejected Jesus, as we see in this week’s passage. Nicodemus was a Jewish religious-leader who didn’t quite know what to make of Jesus, so he came to Him to have a wee chat. He was not just any “rank-and-file” Pharisee, rather he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the most-powerful religious-body of the day. He recognized that God was with Jesus because of the signs and miracle which He had performed. While other religious leaders were demanding more signs, Nicodemus wanted to know more about the Man behind the signs.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:1-21)

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? Was he afraid of being discovered and losing-face with his fellow religious-leaders? Did he come to Jesus at night because He was too busy during the day? Was he walking in spiritual-darkness, as symbolized by his night-visit to Jesus, hoping to get some spiritual-illumination? Was Nicodemus trying to flatter Jesus with his opening-statement? We may never know, but Jesus changed the subject immediately.

Nicodemus didn’t understand that Jesus wasn’t there just to teach and perform miracles, even though He did both. He was there to seek and save the lost, people who were spiritually-dead even though they were “religious“, like Nicodemus. Jesus also knew that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross and rise again on the third day. That salvation was what Jesus called being “born-again“. Nicodemus may have been looking for the kind of Messiah who would establish an earthly-kingdom, and not understanding that His kingdom was NOT of this world. Jesus quickly popped that bubble by saying “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus couldn’t relate to being “born-again” because he KNEW that a person couldn’t re-enter the womb and be physically re-born. Even though he was highly-educated in the Old Testament, and a teacher, he didn’t understand that the whole Old Testament pointed forward to Christ. All the rituals, all the sacrifices, while they had meaning, couldn’t cleanse a person from or atone for their sin. Animal-sacrifices covered-over sin, but they didn’t atone for it. To atone for sin required a more-perfect sacrifice, a human-sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God. Only a human-sacrifice could atone for human’s sin.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This answer reflects and emphasizes the fact that salvation, seeing the kingdom of God, is completely and solely the work of God. As we can’t be “reborn” physically, we also can’t become “born-again” by our own efforts. Nicodemus was a “good” man, a law-abiding Pharisee, but his own “goodness” could never gain him entrance into God’s kingdom. Only God, through Jesus Christ, was able to do that miraculous work.

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Jesus, and His mission, were badly-misunderstood by even the most highly-educated Jews, because they disregarded the “suffering-servant” prophesies in favor of the “victorious-Lord” prophesies, not realizing that the “victorious-Lord” prophesies were for the far-distant future. They imagined the Messiah coming on a mighty-steed, leading a conquering-army, rather than on a lowly donkey.

Jesus then turns Nicodemus’s attention to an event during the Jews wilderness-wanderings. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

The Bronze Serpent
6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

The Jews had grumbled against God – again, so God sent judgement in the form of poisonous-snakes. Once they repented, God ordered Moses to make a bronze-likeness of the snake and raise it up for all to see. Anyone who had been bitten could look at the snake and live. Jesus said that this event was a foreshadowing of His crucifixion.

What symbol do medical-people use today? The Caduceus, which features two entwined snakes around a pole, topped with wings, has been adopted by many in the medical community. Do they see themselves as “saviors“?

This brings us to the best-known and most-loved verse in the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If we have any doubt about how much God loves mankind and His creation, this should put any of those doubts to rest. We know, from reading “the rest of the story“, that God will, in due-time, renew and restore ALL of His creation, including us.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:17-21)

Jesus came to save, not judge, but as we see here, those who fail to believe in Jesus have been judged already because they have rejected their only hope of salvation. I am sure that we all know people who range from simple-unbelief to outright-antagonism towards the Gospel. I have friends who are Pagans, Atheists, and even Luciferians, and the only way I can show the Gospel to them is by living it and loving them. The are proud of their ungodly-ways. Any attempts to evangelize them would be rebuffed, but they don’t reject love. We live in the light because Jesdus has set us free from the darkess of our sin. They live in the darkness, hoping that God, if there is a God, isn’t watching their evil-deeds.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Cleaning House

Passover, the scene of our next event in the life of Christ, was one of the most important festivals on the Jew’s religious calendar. It commemorated when the Jews were released from their bondage in Egypt, and is also known as the “Feast of unleavened-bread“. So, we are going to take another side-trip into the Old Testament to look at this historical-event and why the Jews continued to celebrate it. It is also worth noting that Jesus was three years from the cross at this point in time.

The Last Plague
11 Now the Lord said to Moses, “One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.” 3 The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again. 7 But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 All these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, ‘Go out, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

The Passover Lamb
12 Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Feast of Unleavened Bread
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

A Memorial of Redemption
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.

28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”

Exodus of Israel
33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.

35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. 39 They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
Ordinance of the Passover

42 It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”

50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

Consecration of the Firstborn
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”

3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. 4 On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. 5 It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month. 6 For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. (Exodus 11-13:10)

After 430 years in captivity, God sent Moses back to Egypt to lead His people out and towards the Promised Land. God had already terrorized the Egyptians with nine plagues, which had decimated the landscape and sickened both man and beast, when we come to this tenth and final plague, the Destroyer, or Angel of Death. No firstborn would be spared, from the family of Pharaoh to the lowliest servant, the firstborn of both man and beast would be killed. Even hard-hearted Pharaoh would be forced to succumb to God’s demands to let His people go.

However, before the children of Israel left Egypt, God ordered them to plunder the Egyptians and enabled them to do just that. They made an incredible haul of silver, gold and precious stone, much of which would be used later to build and adorn the Tabernacle.

God was going to spare the Israelites, but only if they did exactly what He told them to do. They were also to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt ever year perpetually, which brings us to the opening of our next scene.

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (John 2:13-25)

Temple background:
Solomon’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and it had only been rebuilt after the Jews were allowed to go back to their homeland. Even though the new temple didn’t have the grandeur of Solomon’s original temple, it was consecrated in 516 BC.

Herod the Great, ever one to enhance his image and legacy, decided that Jerusalem needed a larger and grander temple, so he commissioned the building of a new temple on the site of the old temple. Even though the core of the temple was completed fairly quickly, the temple was being expanded almost constantly. This temple was still not finished when Jesus walked into it as our scene opens.

Temple layout:
The heart or core of the temple was the Holy Place and Most Holy Place, which were surrounded by the central courtyard where the Altar of burnt offerings was. Only Jewish men were allowed in this central courtyard. Adjacent to the central courtyard was the Women’s courtyard, which was open to all Jewish men and women. Surrounding the entire temple was a Courtyard of the Gentiles, which during that time, had become very much a flea-market. This is where Jesus encountered the sellers and money-changers.

Background:
Roman currency was not acceptable for money offerings in the temple, so it had to be exchanged for a more-acceptable currency. Animal-sacrifices could also be a problem for people journeying into Jerusalem, so it as common for them to buy animals locally. The problem wasn’t with this commerce, but with where it was being carried-out, on the temple-premises. During these special feasts and high-holy-days, it wasn’t unusual for there to be upwards of a half-million pilgrims in town. The noise was probably deafening and the smell was even worse, not that the temple smelled like a bed of roses either. It didn’t make for a worshipful-environment.

Our scene
Jesus, like most other able-bodied Jews, made that annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and He didn’t like what He found there. The religious leaders, who should have kept commerce out of the Temple, hadn’t, and judging by their reaction to Jesus’s actions, may have even been getting kickbacks from the commerce. At minimum, they challenged His authority to throw the business people out of the Temple.

Jesus was concerned with the purity and holiness of the Temple, His Father’s House, because worship was being disrupted by commerce. The quote referenced in verse 17, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” is from Psalm 69:9.

The Jewish leader wanted a “sign“, as if they hadn’t already heard about all the miracle Jesus had already done. Jesus didn’t perform miracles “on-demand“, and they weren’t getting one from Him now. Jesus gave them a “sign“, but it wasn’t what they were expecting. Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They were incredulous, because the only “temple” they could think of was the physical-temple they were standing in, and it had been under construction for forty-six years.

Jesus was already prophesying about His crucifixion and resurrection, something His disciples would only comprehend after-the-fact.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Something to note in this final section is that many people believed in Jesus, but only because of the miracles He was doing. This is not unlike people following Jesus after one of His miraculous mass-feedings. Did they want the true Messiah, or did they want Him for what He could do for them?

Not much has changed. While the “health, wealth and prosperity” preachers gather huge followings, many churches where the Gospel is faithfully-proclaimed struggle to keep their doors open. Our Lord’s call to “Take up our cross daily and follow Him” is no more popular now than it was when He issued it. Denying ourselves for the sake of the Gospel has never been easy because it goes against the grain of our self-centeredness. That begs the question: “Do we want our reward now, or later?” As hard as it is sometimes, I’ll take my reward later.

In Christ,
Steve

When Jesus Got Mad…

Jesus, mad? Yes, Jesus got mad and He had a very good reason to get mad. In His ongoing dispute with the Pharisees, this was another skirmish about what was “permissible” to do on the Sabbath. God had given some rules about the Sabbath, but the Pharisees didn’t think that He had gone far-enough in His prohibitions, so they “filled in the blanks“. I can relate, because I grew up in a very legalistic church and family environment. There was a short list of things that I was allowed to do, but a much-longer list of things I wasn’t allowed to do. Even after I was grown and had a family of my own, I struggled with this issue. I came to a conclusion I could live with, but I wish I had known then what I know now. By the way, this is not to imply that I am a Sabbatarian, rather I am a Christian Protestant who worships the Lord on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. I will tell you more about my struggle later on in this post after we look at a passage from Mark 3.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Mark 3:1-6)

There was only one Temple, which was in Jerusalem, but there were many synagogues, local worship-centers, which we might compare to our local churches. Was the man with the withered hand in that synagogue that day because he knew Jesus was in the area, or did he normally worship there and Jesus just “happened” to drop by? This passage follows several other miraculous healings, so Jesus had already gotten quite a reputation for taking care of people. He had also demonstrated His total-disregard for the Pharisee’s nit-picky rules.

The “they” in verse two is the ever-present Pharisees, who were getting more and more disgusted with this Jesus-character because He was always raining on their parade. They were NOT amused by His “antics“. Jesus made Himself and the man with the withered hand the center of attention when He called the man forward. He wanted all eyes on Him because He was going to teach them an important lesson. The question He asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?”, got straight to the core of what the Pharisees believed about the Sabbath. This question presented a no-win predicament, because if they had answered “Yes, it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath“, they would have been admitting that Jesus was Lord over the Sabbath, but if they had answered “No, it is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath.“, they would have shown that their interpretation was wrong and just how cold-hearted they were.

They were too stubborn and self-centered to say anything, and that is when Jesus got mad, hopping-mad. By healing the man, He demonstrated the validity of what He had said shortly before this scene. 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Do you see the irony in this scene? The Pharisees were mad because Jesus had healed a man, so they went out and conspired how the could destroy Him. They were plotting MURDER, on the Sabbath, no less. It doesn’t get much more warped than that. No wonder Jesus called them “a brood of vipers” in other encounters.

Jesus, Who was God-incarnate, was the ultimate “Law-giver“, and He asserted His right to have the final-say in how the Law was interpreted. He knew both the letter of the Law and the spirit of how the Law was meant. The Pharisees had it WRONG.

Next, we will turn our attention to Mark 2:27, Jesus said to them,The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”. When God instituted a day of rest in Genesis 2:1-3, and then codified that day as the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11, it was to be a day of rest, a time of refreshing, a break from ordinary-labor, but it was, first and foremost, for our benefit. Let’s see what those two passages say:

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Did God need to “rest” after He created all that there is? Of course not, but He rested as an example to us that we also need regular breaks for our usual labors. The Sabbath commandment wasn’t meant to be burdensome to us, rather it was given to us so that we can refresh and recharge before resuming our labors.

Now, we will turn our attention to what the Sabbath means for us today. Priests in the Old Testament and Pastors today were/are exempt from some of the provisions of the Sabbath commandment, because their busiest day is the day of worship. Many pastors take a day off during the week as their “rest-day“. How about, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and EMT/Paramedics? Those functions are essential to our wellbeing. Nurses are the heart and soul of any hospital, and if you don’t believe it, spend some time in a hopital, as I did recently. I rarely saw a doctor for more than five minutes at a time, and only once or twice a day, but my nurses checked on me very regularly. My hospital-stay is chronicled in “Invincible“.

The Pharisees would demand that hospitals all but shut-down on the Sabbath, but I believe that Jesus would attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony when a new hospital opens its doors. The Pharisees would demand that the Emergency Room only care for critical-care patients, but I believe that Jesus would want ALL patients get the care that they need. I have a couple of friends who are nurses, and even though we miss them when they aren’t at church, I am thankful that they are giving their patients the care they need.

Where do I fit in?
I had been in and out of volunteer public-service for several years when I joined two search-and-rescue teams in 1981. My involvement got more intensive and time-consuming because both teams responded state-wide, not just locally. One of the problems was that people got injured or lost mostly on weekends, and some missions extended into or were started on Sunday. My question quickly became “Could I, in good conscience, be away from my family and my church for a mission on Sunday?“, and “Would I be breaking the Sabbath-commandment by being on a mission on Sunday?“. Closely-related was “Could I, in good conscience, be away on a practice-exercise on Sunday?“. My upbringing screamed “DON’T DO IT!“, but was the Bible THAT strict? Following Jesus’s example of doing “good” on Sunday put me in direct-conflict with how I was raised, but I believed then, as I do now, that doing “good” is not only “okay“, it is the right thing to do.

Final thoughts…
Jesus taught us that caring for the needs of people IS consistent with the spirit of the Sabbath, and yes, He got mad, VERY mad when the Pharisees wanted to get in the way of Him performing His mission. May WE care as much as Jesus did!

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

In Christ,
Steve

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Are you living your life for God, or for yourself? Frank Sinatra may have made millions from singing “I did it my way“, but is that the kind of legacy you want to leave behind? Will people mourn your passing, or will they say “good-riddance“? Will you be remembered as a man or woman after God’s own heart, like King David, or will you be remembered as someone like King Jehoram, one of the most evil kings of Israel? What is your choice?

Then Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place. 2 He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. 3 Their father gave them many gifts of silver, gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram because he was the firstborn.

4 Now when Jehoram had taken over the kingdom of his father and made himself secure, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and some of the rulers of Israel also. 5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6 He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab’s daughter was his wife), and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. 7 Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever.

8 In his days Edom revolted against the rule of Judah and set up a king over themselves. 9 Then Jehoram crossed over with his commanders and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck down the Edomites who were surrounding him and the commanders of the chariots. 10 So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time against his rule, because he had forsaken the Lord God of his fathers. 11 Moreover, he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot and led Judah astray.

12 Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying, “Thus says the Lord God of your father David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, 14 behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”

16 Then the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians; 17 and they came against Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions found in the king’s house together with his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.

18 So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. 19 Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 21)

Even though Jehoram had come from a largely-godly line of kings, he didn’t stay that way. He had married Ahab’s daughter who came with all of the idolatry of her corrupt parents. Not only did Jehoram embrace idolatry, he spread it throughout his kingdom. Jehoram also consolidated his kingdom by murdering his own brothers and other princes in the kingdom. He was as greedy and blood-thirsty as he was corrupt.

There was no way that Jehoram could say that God hadn’t warned him, because God sent word to him through Elijah the prophet spelling-out exactly what he was doing wrong and what God’s judgement was going to be. He still didn’t repent. Elijah wasn’t very “popular” with Jehoram’s in-laws either. Jezebel, his wicked mother-in-law, had put a price on his head after he slaughtered all of her false-prophets. Both Ahab and Jezebel died violent-deaths, and dogs ate her body.

Because of his wickedness, God caused calamity to come upon his kingdom and condemned him to die a slow, gruesome death. Even when he was dying, he still didn’t repent of his wicked ways. When he died, he wasn’t mourned or even honored, and they didn’t bury him with his forefathers. His only legacy was that he did evil in the sight of God.

One thing to note is that, because of His covenant with David, God didn’t strike Jehoram dead until he had an heir to rule on his throne. God rejected and judged some of David’s evil descendants, but He never rejected the line of David entirely. Jesus Christ was David’s long-awaited permanent-heir.

We don’t have to look very far to find numerous modern-day examples of politicians and leaders who are following in Jehoram’s footsteps, people who are SO greedy and SO corrupt that they will stop at nothing to achieve their political-goals. Will God also judge them as He did Jehoram? It seems that they are getting away with it – so far, but when God settles ALL scores in the final-judgement, they will get their just-deserts.

Are YOU living your life for SELF, or are you living your life for God? Only you can answer that question, but God does know your heart. I pray that you are living your life for God.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Wedding In Cana

As our next scene opens, Jesus and His disciples have been invited to a wedding. Wedding-celebrations lasted up to a week, depending on the resources of the family, and they were a time of feasting and drinking.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. (John 2:1-12)

Running out of wine was serious-business, because either the guests had drank more than anticipated or those responsible for the feast hadn’t planned properly. Either way, there wasn’t a liquor-store in the neighborhood where they could buy more wine. They had a problem…

Mary knew what to do – ask Jesus to take care of their problem, but…

While we might recoil in horror that Jesus called His mother “woman“, in that culture, it wasn’t disrespectful, demeaning or dishonoring to His mother. Women didn’t have the status they have today. They were raised to be wives and mothers – period.

The next part of His response might also surprise us by its bluntness. “What does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus and His disciples were guests at this party, so the logistics of the party was not His concern. Jesus was also fully-aware of His mission on earth, and being the “divine-caterer” wasn’t part of the package. Yes, He did feed large crowds on a least two occasions, but that was out of compassion, not obligation. Jesus did NOT perform miracles “on-demand“, and His mother didn’t have any more say in His mission than anyone else. Even though Jesus told His mother that taking care of their host’s wine-problem wasn’t in His “job-description“, I don’t believe that it was a hard-edge rebuke either, as do some Bible-scholars.

Was Mary forcing the issue when she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”, or was she expressing full-confidence that Jesus would provide what was needed? I believe that she thought that Jesus would do something, and that what He would do would be good.

The need for the stone water-pots takes us back into the Old Testament, specifically the Ceremonial Law. The Ceremonial Law, which is detailed in Leviticus 12-15, touched virtually ever facet of their daily-lives. Something as simple AND normal as a woman’s monthly-period, or a couple having sex, made them ceremonially-unclean, which required that they go through a purification-ritual before they could enter any place of worship. They also didn’t have indoor-plumbing or any of the other conveniences that we take for granted. Some people kept water on hand to take care of their purification needs, as did this family. Others had to go to the public bathhouse or other body of water to bathe and wash their clothes.

We need to pause a moment and understand the difference between something which made a person ceremonially-unclean and something which was sinful. They were not the same, even though some things which made a person ceremonially-unclean required offering a sacrifice in addition to the purification-ritual. Even though the Law of Moses required certain sacrifices when a couple had a baby, that didn’t make conceiving and having a baby “sinful“. Some ancient church leaders used the ceremonial law to “prove” that sex was “sinful” but “tolerable” if a couple was try to conceive.

This “anti-body” dogma grew out of a blending of Gnosticism (spirit=good, body=evil) and Asceticism (all pleasure is evil), two ancient Greek philosophies. Some early church leaders denied that Jesus had a real, human body, something the Apostle John went to great lengths to refute in all of his writings. Even though we don’t see much hard-core Gnosticism today, it is still present in a lesser but more insidious form, such as denying that our physical-bodies are part of God’s image in us. I have run into this latter form of Gnosticism among some members of my own church.

It may have taken many trips to the well to fill up those waterpots, but at Jesus’s command, they did. If they averaged twenty-five gallons each, that was one-hundred and fifty gallons of water, which was soon to become wine. That must have been some very good wine, because the headwaiter wondered why they had saved the best wine for last. We don’t know how far along in the feast that this event took place.

While Jesus always performed His miracles for the benefit of others, His primary purposes in performing miracles were to show His glory and to lend credibility to His message, to further-convince His disciples that He was who He said He was, the Messiah.

It appears that Mary was already a widow by this time with several kids still living at home because there is no mention of Joseph in this scene, and Mary will reappear several more times throughout Jesus’s ministry. His sisters may have already been married-off by then, because girls got married much younger than boys in that culture. Whatever the case was, the family was together during the wedding and for a short time afterwards.

Jesus had already made Capernaum His “headquarters“, maybe at the home of Peter and Andrew, so that was His next stop. By this time, His entourage already included at least four disciples plus His family, and there was no “Motel-6” or “Days-Inn” to stay in. Other Gospels record Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum.

One very important thing to note is that this miracle symbolized a new kingdom-order. The old ceremonial and sacrificial system was being done away with, symbolized by the water for purification, and Jesus was establishing a new kingdom-order, symbolized by wine, a symbol of the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus came both to fulfill the old law and to nullify it, which He did by His sinless life and atoning-sacrifice on the cross. We are beneficiaries of both His finished work and promised Holy Spirit.

We should also see that Jesus was God over all of creation, which meant that He could create something from nothing or turn something into something else, water into wine. He will demonstrate His lordship over creation in many other ways as we progress through John’s gospel and His ministry.

In Christ,
Steve

Rescued From Darkness…

Darkness can be oppressive, particularly when you don’t have any source of light available. Imagine being trapped in a mine or a cave, deep underground, when your last light flickers out. It is dark, oppressively-dark. Any type of light would be a welcome sight, but there is NONE.

Several years ago, my wife and I took a tour of Fantastic Caverns, which is just outside Springfield Missouri. Guests ride in an open trailer towed by a Jeep. The cavern is normally well-lit, but at a certain point deep in the cavern, the guide stops the Jeep, goes to a switch on the wall, and turns out the lights. There is no natural light that deep inside the cavern, so it is dark, oppressively-dark. Even a candle would be welcome-respite from the dark, but there are no candles either. Human eyes can’t even adjust to absolute-darkness. After what seems like an eternity, the guide turns the lights back on. What a welcome-relief!

As oppressive as physical-darkness can be, it doesn’t hold a candle to emotional and psychological darkness. I have been through some very dark periods in my life, particularly after my wife committed suicide. I also went through a very dark period in my life after my current “wife” left me. I felt like I had lost everything worth living-for, so why was I even here? I asked God “WHY???“, but my pleas were met with stony-silence. Had God also abandoned me? Why did it take SO many years before God gave me an answer I could understand and live with? Didn’t God care about healing my broken-heart? It certainly didn’t seem like He cared.

As oppressive as physical darkness can be, and as oppressive as emotional and psychological darkness can be, none of them hold a candle to the oppression of spiritual-darkness. Spiritual-darkness is unrelenting, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t cure it ourselves. People try reading self-help books, getting counseling or therapy, or even going to support-groups, but as good as those things may be, they can’t cure spiritual-darkness. Religion isn’t a cure either.

RESCUE…
The arrival of a rescue-team with fresh lights and help getting out will bring welcome-relief to miners or cavers trapped deep-underground, and there are many good resources to help people going through the emotional and psychological trauma of losing a loved-one to death or estrangement, but to cure our spiritual darkness, we must go the the Source. The Good News is that there IS a Source of light to cure our spiritual-darkness, and that Source is Jesus Christ.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

The cause of our spiritual-darkness is our sin, and try as we might, we can’t live a sinless life. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned against God, they left us a legacy of being born with a sinful-nature. It is inescapable on our own, which is why we must be rescued, and ONLY Jesus Christ can rescue us, because He alone is sinless. As “good” as we may think that we are, we are hopelessly drowning in our sin. We are trapped deep-underground with no hope of making it back to the surface on our own. Our only hope is the ultimate “rescue-team“, Jesus Christ, for He, and He-alone is able to bring us back home.

That may sound harsh, but it really is Good-News, because we can quit our struggle to rescue ourselves and trust in Jesus Christ to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, rescue us. Our deepest need is for rescue, for forgiveness of our sins and restoration into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

If you die without being rescued by God, you will die in your sins and you will remain “underground” forever. Have you admitted that you can’t save yourself and come to Jesus Christ for salvation? If you haven’t, I pray that you will do so today, in this moment, while it is still fresh in your mind and heart.

In Christ,
Steve