Do You Need Help?

That question is music to my ears – sometimes, but at other times, I hate that question with a purple-passion. Say what? Yes, there are times when I legitimately want and need help, but there are times when I could use some help, but am loath to admit it.

Thanks…
I wrote “Tired Of Being “Tough”” in September of 2017 about my struggles with handling all the losses I had had in the previous several months. That is one time when I am very grateful that help IS available, because since I wrote and posted that piece, I have had several more traumatic-losses, which now brings the number of significant-losses in the last two years to five. The last loss was in April 2018, my middle daughter, but I didn’t find out about it until New Year’s Eve. I lost my brother in July 2018, after a long illness. That is a LOT of losses for one person to process and handle at the same time. I am still seeing a mental-health counselor once a quarter, and I am thankful that he is there for me.

We have all been in stores when we can’t seem to find ANYTHING, at least not what we are looking for. WalMart is infamous for rearranging their stores in a seemingly-random manner, and even if we have been in that same store a hundred times, there is always something we can’t find, and only store employees know where it is. That is when I don’t mind asking, or getting asked, if I need help.

I was in Staples a few months ago looking for a new desktop computer, and one of the employees was there to explain the differences between the various models they have, and make recommendations about which one would best suit my needs. A new computer will have to wait a while, because I have several more important issues to take care of first. Thank you very much!

I called Tire Kingdom a few days later about two tires for my vehicle. The store manager graciously helped me select the tires that would best suit my needs, based on his many years of experience in the tire business, and what he runs on his personal vehicles. His recommendations verified my own gut-feeling, so my new tires were shipped in from their warehouse, and installed a few days later. I also found out that my vehicle’s brake pads and rotors were worn-out, so I had to have them replaced. Thank you very much!

Thanks, but no-thanks…
There are also times when I DO need help, but I am too stubborn to admit it. Maybe, it’s more like, too PROUD to admit it. I have needed those tires for several weeks, but haven’t had the money to buy them, so I have kept putting it off. Now, it is crunch-time, because I just don’t trust them, particularly on the highway, any more. I made the mistake of admitting to one of my church’s deacons that I need two new tires but don’t have the money for them, so he offered help from the deacon’s fund. Thanks, but no-thanks!

2017 was a different story, because my refrigerator died suddenly in March, and I didn’t have any choice about accepting help to buy a new fridge because I didn’t have the money. I was able to maximize the help by getting my new fridge on sale. That helped me be a good steward of the resources God provided through my church.

In the early 90’s, my family and I were subsisting on my very-meager income – $200/week. We certainly would have qualified for food-stamps, but we were too self-sufficient (PROUD) to apply. My wife was the only person I have ever met who could pull something out of an “empty” pantry and an “empty” refrigerator and put a meal on the table for a family of six thirty-minutes later. We could have eaten “better” on food-stamps, but we never went hungry, thanks to her creative-genius in the kitchen. We thought that other people needed that help worse than we did. Thanks, but no-thanks!

Why was 2018 any different? I know that I wasn’t as frugal with my resources in the last year as I should have been, but, then again, I was counting on some income to help pay me extra expenses which never materialized. That left me in a bind as far as taking care of my own needs.

I have been taught to “own” and accept my choices and decisions, for better or for worse, and to deal, as best I can, with the outcomes. Maybe I am too stubborn, or maybe I am too proud, but I can’t accept financial-assistance to buy my tires. Thanks, but no-thanks!

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” 50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus couldn’t have descended much lower of the social-scale. He was blind, and a beggar. Only lepers were “below” him, and even servants and slaves “ranked” higher than him because they could at least work for their living. When he heard that Jesus was coming, out of desperation, with nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain, he called-out to Jesus; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus’ reputation had been spread far and wide, so Bartimaeus had probably heard many stories about His miraculous-healings. Would Jesus help him? Why did he throw aside his cloak when he was led to Jesus?

Do you detect a bit of “imagery” here?

50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

What did Bartimaeus call Jesus when he made his request? “Rabbi” was the typical title for religious leaders, but Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabboni“. “Rabboni” is Hebrew for “my master“, a recognition of and submission to Jesus’ authority. Who else called Jesus “Rabboni“?

Since Bartimaeus was claiming Jesus as his master, he may have not wanted to appear before Jesus dressed as he was. That cloak may have been all he owned, and was probably little more than a rag. There was no shame attached to nakedness in the Bible, other than the shame associated with extreme-poverty or enslavement, so Bartimaeus’ only “shame” would have been his poverty, symbolized by his tattered cloak.

God commanded Isaiah, in Isaiah 20, to prophesy barefoot and naked for three years against Egypt and Cush. When they were conquered by the Assyrians, they would be led-away as slaves, barefoot and naked. Isaiah’s nakedness symbolized how they would be treated when they were conquered. It was also to serve as a warning to Israel, which had, contrary to God’s command, made a defense-pact with Egypt and Cush. It was not “shameful” for Isaiah to prophesy naked, but they would be shamed in their captivity.

After Bartimaues made his request to Jesus, Jesus healed him immediately, saying; “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

Following Jesus, in gratitude for what He had done for him, was the natural-result of this incredible miracle. There are many other instances when Jesus healed people and they became His followers.

What about us?
We are constantly putting on a “show” for others, and ultimately for God, but why? We try to pretend that we have it all together, that we are self-sufficient, and that we have everything under control, and while we may fool the people around us, we can’t fool God. He sees us naked, as we are, stripped-bare of all of our pretenses, so why do we try to fool Him too?

Regardless of the resolution of my financial-situation, there is one person I, and you, need never be ashamed for asking for what we need – God. He already knows our needs before we ask Him, so why aren’t we willing to take our needs to Him? He won’t ever embarrass us, and He has far more resources than we can ever imagine. Yes, sometimes we need to be more like Bartimaeus, and less like stubborn-me, but we also need to have the wisdom to know when we REALLY need help, and accept it when we do.

Sola Deo Gloria!

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Down To Earth

From his lofty cosmic-view in John 1:1-5, the Apostle John brings his Christology down to earth, that the eternal Word, very-God of very-God, the Creator and Sustainer of all there is, took upon Himself not only our human-flesh, but our very humanity. He became one of us. He is, at the same time, BOTH God and Man, and while each nature remains distinct from the other, they are perfectly-united in one Person, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ humanity did not reduce His deity, nor did His deity reduce His humanity. He was 100% God and 100% Man.

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

Up to this point, we know that the Word was with God and that the Word was God; the “Word-God” We have also seen John refer to this Word-God as “He”. Now, for the first time, John identifies “him” as the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yes, for it was none other than Jesus who became flesh and made His dwelling among us at the incarnation, it is of Jesus that the Hebrews author asserts, “and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2) which is parallel to John 1:3; there can be no doubt about whom it is that John is referring to here. It is Jesus who is the Son, having come to us from the Father.

Now that we are certain of just who John has been talking about, we can look at the attributes John mentions about Him, He was full of “grace and truth.” Notice the balance between those two; how many of us maintain that kind of balance between grace and truth when we are interacting with others? Some of us have a great deal of grace, so much so in fact, that we can overlook almost anything; we might even make the truth hard to find. Others are so strong on truth that we find ourselves pointing fingers at those around us, seldom displaying love or compassion or understanding.

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent over three years with Jesus. They were cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion. While none of the stories of Jesus’ childhood made it into the Gospels, nobody knew more about Him, in His humanity, than His mother, Mary. John will go on to defend Jesus’ humanity against the heresies that were already raising their ugly-heads in the church by the time he wrote his first Epistle, 1st John. Notice his wording in 1st John 1:1-3:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Heard”, “seen”, “touched”, the three pillars of evidence which would have been decisive in a Court of Law. The Old Testament required that there be three witness in order to convict a person of murder. If John were testifying today of the humanity of Jesus, he would bring pictures, audio-recordings, and even video taken during His earthly ministry.

What is the significance of the Word becoming flesh?

What does it mean by “dwelt among us“? Why is this important?

How did Jesus reveal God’s glory?

Did grace exist before the Incarnation? Did truth exist before the Incarnation?

How could John the Baptist say “He existed before me” when he was older than Jesus?

How did Jesus model grace? How can we model grace?

What does “only begotten” mean?

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply, to us, that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up, because, while the Old Testament is chock-full on genealogies, and Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ human genealogy, that cannot be the sense of how “begotten” is used in this passage. It would make more sense to us if “only begotten” had been rendered “unique“, because Jesus IS unique“. Nobody before or since has had His “uniqueness“.

How did Jesus reveal God in His person and work?

How could John the Baptist say “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”?

Let’s not forget that John the Baptist was of the priestly-line of Aaron, so he was very-well versed in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah. We see that in John 1:23, where he said “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (from Isaiah 40:3) God had also revealed to him that he was the “prophet who was to come”, the forerunner of the Messiah, as revealed in Malachi 4:5-6.

John’s text continues as he mentions that John the Baptist testified concerning Jesus in verse 15, and then in 16-18 gives his own testimony about Him.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:16-18)

John’s first statement is about the abundance of grace that we have received through relationship with Christ. Then, John expands on his statement, pointing out that while the Law was “given” grace and truth “came.” I think that’s worthy of a little thought, for as John has structured this, the Law is a rather top-down thing. The Law was handed down by God to Moses, and then from Moses to the people; the people could take it or leave it. They took it, and then for the most part, they left it; there was no relationship with Law, for Law just is. The result was that that very Law became their condemnation, not their salvation.

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

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

And then, grace and truth came to them…

Grace and truth came to them in a person; they could talk and laugh and cry and walk together; there is relationship with grace and truth, for grace and truth become a part of who we are as human beings; there is no fear in grace and truth.

In the remainder of this text, John reveals to us that through Jesus, God can be known to Man, for Jesus is Himself God. Through Jesus, therefore, we can have relationship with God, the Creator of everything: Grace and Truth.

Would you like to know God?

Get to know Jesus. Would you like to know Jesus?

Get to know the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us“.

You may wonder why I am relentless in my emphasis on Jesus’ humanity, which wasn’t doubted during His sojourn on earth. If fact, it wasn’t His humanity that was challenged, it was His claim to deity. He was crucified because He, obviously a man, claimed to be God. It wasn’t until after His ascension that the first challenges of His humanity came along. Greek Docetic and Gnostic philosophy, which demeaned the body and emphasized the spirit or soul, began to infiltrate the church. Debunking that heresy was the purpose of the opening verses of 1st John, which we looked at earlier. Even the church today is infested with “Docetism-lite”.

Why does it matter?
The penalty for rebellion against God was death (Genesis 2:17), so while Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God didn’t bring immediate physical-death, it DID bring spiritual-death, and physical-death would become a part of the human-experience. The only atonement for sin was a blood-sacrifice, death, so it took a perfect human-being’s death to atone for the sins of His people. It took a perfect “seed of the womanto “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). That perfect “seed of the woman” was Jesus.

That is why it matters that Jesus is fully-human, and why I have written and taught about it so much. His humanity is the basis for our salvation.

Beloved, this is really too simple for us to miss! Out of all of the knowledge that has come to humanity over the ages, this is all we need to know to receive forgiveness and eternal life; grab onto it and hold on tight, never let it go…

Sola Deo Gloria!

Anatomy Of A SAR Mission

That Others May Live!
(Motto of the National SAR School)

I spent a dozen years in Search and Rescue (SAR) in New Mexico, from 1981 til 1993. Even though I did many things, my primary specialties were communications and downed-aircraft location. During that time, I worked over two-hundred SAR missions, drove thousands of miles, criss-crossing the state, spent thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies, and spent countless hours on the road and in the field. Long-days and sleepless-nights were the norm, rather than the exception.

Before I tell you about one particularly-memorable mission I worked, we will look at what happens to get the ball rolling. Note that this information is specific to New Mexico, where I was, and as far as I know, it is still valid today. Because the New Mexico State Police is constitutionally-tasked with performing Search and Rescue, everything begins at the State Police District Headquarters in the district where the mission is located. Resources can be called in from anywhere in the state.

How it all begins…
Mission Initiator (MI): A specially-trained State Police Officer who has volunteered to perform that function and work with SAR coordinators and teams. Being an MI is in addition to the Officer’s normal NMSP duties.

Field Coordinator (FC): A specially-trained SAR member who has been trained in SAR mission management. FC’s and MI’s receive the same training, except that FC’s also undergo a year of OJT under other experienced FC’s. FC’s are volunteers, as are all SAR team members in New Mexico.

When the call comes into a District Headquarters, the on-duty MI is notified. The MI then requests that District call an on-call FC. Once the FC gets the details and assesses the situation, they start calling for resources, which usually begin with a communications and logistics team, if one is available. Other specialized-resources are called as-needed.

When things really got sticky, the FC was also able to call for search-assistance from the State Police chopper, if it was available, and when rescues got technical, Air Force Para-rescue resources, which trained at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

Downed-aircraft missions…
I lost track of how many downed-aircraft missions I worked, but I was credited with three “finds“, one “save“, and two false-alarm “finds“, but none stands out in my mind more than that dark night in 1985, when we witnessed a miracle. Against all odds, the pilot survived an unsurvivable crash. That pilot was Mike Ryan, the famous stunt-driver and racer of anything that moves.

Mike was en-route back to California from the AOPA fly-in in Oshkosh, Wisconsin when his plane dropped out of the sky into a deep canyon, southwest of Grants, New Mexico. As he came over the rim of the canyon, the sky dropped-out under him, plunking him unceremoniously in the bottom of the canyon. That we were able to find him – alive, and get him transported safely to a hospital was a miracle.

We rarely know enough about the people we search for and find to track them down later to see how they are doing, but Mike Ryan has a very-public internet-presence, so he was easy to find. The following is from a message I sent him a few months ago. I haven’t received any kind of response, so it is likely a painful-chapter in his life that he would rather not remember.

There were things I had to do, places I went, and things I saw while I was in SAR, that I would rather forget, but can’t – things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. That is part and parcel of what it means to be a “sheep dog“. Is it any wonder that many First Responders suffer from PTSD?

We all have painful chapters in our lives that we would rather forget or sweep under the carpet, but those are often the very things that have molded us into who we are today. Everyone LOVES to remember the “cherries“, but we HATE to remember the “pits“.

How We Found You…

Have you ever wondered how we found you in that God-forsaken canyon in New Mexico in 1985? Have you ever wondered why it took SO long for us to find you after you crashed? Wonder no more. I was there. My partner and I were the first two SAR team members to find and get to you at 0200 that morning. We were not the whole story, but we were part of it, and this is how you were found and rescued from that canyon. You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you.

I was reminiscing a few days ago about some of the “good-times” I had had in my life, trying to take my mind off all the crap that has happened in the last few years. I remember that you survived your crash because I had read you article in Reader’s Digest a few months later, so I decided to see what I could find about the crash, and if I could find the article. I didn’t find the article, but I found your website, mikeryanmotorsports.com, where you mentioned the crash in your bio. I sent you a message on your Facebook page, but then I noticed that it hadn’t been updated in over a year.

You were a sight for sore-eyes. You were a miracle, a rare survivor of the many plane crashes in New Mexico. During the twelve years I was in SAR, I also worked several fatal plane crashes. By 1985, when you went down, the NELT Team had developed and honed our skills and technology in radio-direction-finding to a fine science. We had formed in 1982 to fill the void in the SAR capability in New Mexico for finding aircraft crashes, and set the gold-standard for the rest of the nation to follow in aircraft-crash SAR.

Your rescue really was two miracles; that you survived, and that your ELT survived. Most of the time, if we found the plane’s ELT, it was smashed almost beyond-recognition. Yours still worked, and it was the key to us finding you.

The SARSAT program was still in its infancy in 1985, so there were only a few satellites in orbit and operating by then, which mean that we only got a satellite “hit” every four to five hours. By the time we got a decent “fix” from satellite data, you had already been down for close to twelve hours.

The next step in locating you was launching a CAP search aircraft from Albuquerque which was equipped with the necessary radio-receiver. Because it was already dark by then, they were not able to spot anything visually, so all they could do was give us approximate coordinates. Once the CAP aircraft had localized your approximate location, ground resources were dispatched from Albuquerque, Socorro and Los Alamos, equipped with special RDF equipment.

I was a member of that NELT Team. When we briefed in base-camp, we were divided up into two-person teams, and each team was given a sector to search. We didn’t have enough people for every team to have two members, so the New Mexico State Police Officer (MI) who was working with us volunteered to go with me.

As we drove the roads in our sector, I was listening to my ELT receiver and watching the signal-strength meter. It took us a while to get to the right spot on the road, but when the signal-strength meter pegged-out, I knew it was time for boots on the ground. There was a gate across the trail so we couldn’t drive in. We had to walk in. You weren’t very far from the road, maybe a quarter-mile, so it didn’t take long for us to get to you.

We were amazed that, by the time we got there, you had managed to extricate yourself from the wreckage, get a sleeping bag out of the baggage compartment and unroll it to lay on, and got the ELT out of its bracket, activate it, and place it on top of the wreckage, AND, you still had a sense of humor. I remember that you said something to the effect of “The scenery is beautiful, but the runway was a bit short.”

As soon as we knew that you were alive and safe, we vectored in additional resources to affect the actual rescue and transport you to the hospital. They put you into a Stokes litter and evacuated you from the area. By that time, the gate had been unlocked so the rescue team was able to bring a 4X4 pickup in to transport you to where they could meet the ambulance. That was the last I heard about your rescue until I read your article.

I have often wondered whether you ever recovered your plane from that canyon, and whether you were able to rebuild it? Did you get any good pictures of the area and the wreckage? I have never gone back there, and wouldn’t even know where to start looking. I worked over two-hundred SAR missions in that dozen years, so lots of details never got recorded in my memory-banks.

I don’t know whether you have been given this information before, but it you haven’t, I thought you might be interested in getting the pictured laid-out for you. That is my sole purpose in contacting you, not to gain any public-recognition.

Other missions…
Downed-aircraft missions were only a small fraction of the missions I worked during those years. They were usually the messiest, but were not the most critical. We we got a report of a missing child, we pulled out ALL the stops. One missing-child mission went for three days, and we even called in the National Guard to assist us in our search. It was in rough country just southeast of Gallup, New Mexico, and even though the weather was fairly decent, it was country that could even swallow-up an adult. We had over a hundred-thousand acres to search. He was found, safe and sound, mid-afternoon of the third day since he went missing.

Once in a great while, we had a “bastard” search, where the “missing-person” would turn-up in a local motel, safe and sound. Their spouse usually wasn’t too happy with that outcome. I worked one suicide in that twelve years. The young man had disposed of all of his belongings except for the clothes he was wearing, written a suicide-note, parked his car at a trail-head, and walked about a quarter-mile up the trail, before shedding all his clothes, putting them in a neat pile, and putting a plastic bag over his head with some kind of toxic-liquid. That was how searchers found him, buck-naked, and dead as a rock. That was a body-recovery mission, so there was not a “happy-ending”. That was one for the Medical Examiner.

We never closed-out a mission without some kind of resolution, either positive or negative. We did “suspend” a mission if the person wasn’t found in a reasonable period of time, but one person was found, alive, over two weeks after we suspended that mission, so we never said “never”. He was found on a rarely-used trail by two Volunteer Forest Service trail-patrollers. One tended him as best they could, while the other walked out to get help. We were glad to be able to send him to the hospital to recover, because dehydration and exposure had almost killed him, not to mention his other injuries.

Final thoughts…
If you have ever wondered what happens when a “missing-person” report comes in, this is typical of what happens in New Mexico, where Search and Rescue is highly-organized and well-managed. Otherwise, each jurisdiction has its own policies and procedures, and its own resources which are geared to the unique needs of the area. Colorado and Alaska also have highly-organized SAR response networks.

I hope this gives you some perspective on what happens when you dial 9-1-1 and report that your loved-one is missing. We are out there so you don’t have to be.

Steve McFarland – NMSAR 555
Graduate: National SAR School (USCG/USAF)
Team-leader: NM SAR Support Team (NMSARS)
Member: National ELT Location Team (NELT)
Assistant Director of Communications: NM Wing Civil Air Patrol (NMCAP)

Good-Part – Bad-Part

In the beginning
When God created Adam and Eve, representing humanity, He created them as the perfect-union of body and spirit/soul, a state of completeness. Death was not in the original equation, rather, it came as a result of the Fall. As a result, the body is incomplete without the soul, and the soul is incomplete without the body. We call a soul-less body a corpse, and we call a body-less soul a ghost. Neither is complete – whole, without the other. Neither one is human.

The creation as Art…
Let’s imagine, for a moment, a great art gallery. God is both the Artist and the Curator of this gallery, and He is using this gallery to display His glory and creative-genius. The first works in this gallery were painted with broad brush-strokes, and some are almost chaotic, but as we progress into the gallery, the paintings show greater detail, until, at last, we come to His penultimate and ultimate creations – mankind, represented by Adam and Eve. The Artist used His finest instruments to create these two paintings, so the details are exquisite. In our mind’s eye, we can imagine Adam and Eve in the lovely park/garden in the preceding picture. While distinct from it, they appear to belong in it, because they do. Mankind, while a part of creation, is also set-apart from it.

Even as God declared His handiwork “Very good“, a vandal was plotting his evil scheme to deface this glorious creation. As the evil vandal goes about his dirty-work, grins are replaced with glares, smiles with scowls, and arms and hands that once held each other close, are raised in anger and defiance. Once-beautiful park-benches are defaced with graffiti, weeds choke-out the once-beautiful lawn, trash mars the landscape, rotten fruit drops from the trees, and once-bright skies give way to gray and gloomy skies. While this once-beautiful gallery seems to be defaced beyond-repair, the Master Artist began planning its restoration, but the Artist must step into His creation to restore it, but restore it He will, and it will be even more beautiful than ever, because it will include scenes that weren’t in the original gallery. That transition begins in Genesis 3:15.

Made in God’s image…
We can’t even begin to comprehend all the ways in which we image God, but some of the more obvious ways are:

Possession of a physical body: The infinite, divine Word took on human-flesh (John 1:14). The Creator of the cosmos (John 1:1-5) became a created-being in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God became a man so that He could enter into His gallery and begin to undo what the vandal had done. He became “the seed of the woman” so that He could “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). The Apostle Paul summed-up this whole restoration-project in Galatians 4:4-7.

The ability to think and reason: While our thinking and reasoning is flawed, this is something God has endowed us with the ability to do.

The ability to love: Love is an attribute of God Himself, and He has endowed us with the ability to love Him and others.

The ability to worship: We were designed to worship God.

The ability to communicate: That I was able to write this, and you are able to read it, is indicative of one of the many ways in which we communicate.

The ability to create: We can’t create something from nothing, as God can, but we can created things from even the most basic building-blocks of matter. As you look at your computer screen or smart-phone, pause for a moment to realize that many parts of those wonderfully-useful items began as a grain of sand – silica. Yes, we owe much of what we see and use to lowly grains of sand.

The ability to procreate/co-create: God could have populate the Earth by just creating more humans, bypassing human-reproduction, but He didn’t. He could have created us genderless, but He didn’t. Instead, He endowed us with the ability to create more humans through the act of procreation/co-creation. What do I mean by “co-creation“? Only God can endow a human-body with an eternal-soul, so in procreation, we provide the human-body and God endows it with an eternal-soul, ie. co-creation.

In marriage, we have unity in diversity, a “one-flesh” union, reflecting the unity in diversity in the Godhead. The Godhead is a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all equally God, and while diverse in their persons and actions, fully-unified in their nature and purposes. Men and women are alike in their humanity, yet different in the expression of their respective genders, and are most completely-united at the point of their greatest difference.

There are some who believe that the Imago Dei was erased in the Fall, but God reiterated the Imago Dei in Genesis 9:6, when He gave the murder commandment. God then reiterated the Creation Mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 9:7. God’s original plan for mankind hadn’t changed. We are STILL to be God’s Stewards, Regents and Viceroys on the Earth, ruling and subduing it, under His sovereign reign. That, if anything, should cause us to treasure the Imago Dei even more, because, even in our fallen-condition, we STILL bear the image of God. Yes, it is marred and scarred, battered and bruised, but it is still there. Need any more convincing? Read Psalm 8:
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,

7 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,

8 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

Furthermore, we are no “accident“, as we see in Psalm 139:13-16;
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.

14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Humanity under assault…
Our humanity, including our bodies and their parts, is under attack from all sides, but this isn’t a new battle. It began in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Satan fired the first volley when he convinced Adam and Eve that their gender-distinctive body-parts, their genitals, were “shameful” and had to be covered, and the onslaught hasn’t let-up since. Satan convinced them that their “shame” was from their genitals, not their disobedience, which was totally backwards. It was a baldfaced-lie, and Satan has been deceiving mankind ever since. God put His finger on the source of this lie in Genesis 3:11. 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” Most cultures have been covering-up with “fig-leaves” ever since, except for the ones that didn’t “get the memo“.

So what was “shameful” about, or “wrong” with those body-parts? They visibly-represent our ability to procreate/co-create new human-beings, to be able to produce more bearers of the Imago Dei, an ability Satan in jealous of. That act, which we call “sex“, has been glorified, demonized or perverted by both the secular and religious communities for centuries. Those parts are either lewdly-displayed or compulsively-covered, and people who seek to treat them as a normal-part of our humanity are marginalized, at best, or even demonized, particularly by the religious community, but, who’s right?

There is no basis in Scripture to call ANY part “shameful“, “lewd” or “wrong“, particularly considering what the psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Psalm 139:13-16.

We see, in the results of the Fall, the genesis of two great divides, the bodily “good-part – bad-part” divide, and the spiritual-divide, the division of soul from body in death. These great divides will continue to plague mankind until Christ returns and everyone is restored to their pre-fall condition in the resurrection.

Junk…
When it was revealed several years ago that TSA airport screeners were getting overly-aggressive in their pat-downs of some travelers, particularly men, the popular response to such actions became “Don’t touch my junk!“. “JUNK“? Since when is ANY part of ANYONE junk“, and that goes for their genitals too? Many men had been conditioned to believe that some parts of their bodies, particularly their genitals, didn’t deserve the honor and respect that God imparted to them. Psalm 139 reveals the truth about our bodies, that they were created by God, and deserved to be honored as God’s special and unique creation. God doesn’t create ANY junk“!

What about those “unseemly parts”?
The Apostle Paul, writing about the body of Christ, the church, in 1st Corinthians 12:22-25, talks about parts that are sometimes called “unseemly“, but what does he say about them?

On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1st Corinthians 12:22-25)

To get some perspective, just ask the person with a colostomy bag if they would rather have all their plumbing in place and working-properly. That “lowly” anus, as “unseemly” as it may be, is a crucial-part of our digestive-tract. Our mouth may be “prettier“, but our anus is just as important.

Because of nerve-damage in my lower-back, my bladder and lower urinary-tract doesn’t work normally, and hasn’t for over nine years. I am catheter-dependent, and while I am thankful for that means of emptying my bladder, I would LOVE to be able to pee normally.

When Connie and I were expecting our first child, we took Lamaze (prepared-childbirth) classes, taught by an experienced nurse-midwife. Imagine our shock one evening when she brought her two children, a boy and a girl, to class, and they both had badly-deformed hands and feet. We got a serious reality-check. Are they “second-class” or “disposable” citizens? Many would say they are, but they aren’t. Handicapped? Yes. “Disposable“? NO!!

I know a brilliant audiologist whose hands and feet are also badly-deformed, but he is a very talented doctor and a warm, wonderful person. He has succeeded in spite of his handicaps, and he spent thirty years practicing at John Paul Jones Naval Medical Center before coming to the Orlando VAMC. You won’t find any better than him.

We, and our parts, could be compared to those “unseemly” parts the Apostle Paul spoke of, and yet, in God’s sight, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” Whose opinion really matters? God is our Creator, so it is His opinion which should have the final-say.

Another great divine…
Not only have our parts been deemed “good” or “bad”, we see, beginning with some of the Greek philosophers, a divide placed between our bodies and our souls or intellects. This gave us Gnosticism and Docetism, which placed an emphasis on the soul or intellect at the expense of the body. The soul or intellect was deemed “good”, and the body was deemed “bad”. That gave us “The “Otherization” of Jesus”, because Jesus couldn’t have had a “real” body, because “bodies” are “bad”, but He did…

Another facet of this divide is “as I think, so I am”, or “I am what I THINK I am”. The MIND has become the “ultimate-reality”, and what the body reveals doesn’t matter, or is “wrong”. “Transgender” people don’t believe that their BODY is the ultimate-reality, rather, what they THINK they are is all than matters. I know a MAN who believes that SHE is a WOMAN, even though his BODY screams out the fact that HE IS A MAN. HE has MALE SEXUAL-EQUIPMENT, NOTfemale”, and no matter what HE does to HIS body, HE will never be a “woman”.

Much is at stake in this confusion today, both in the secular world and in our churches, about the meaning of the body. We live in a world that insists our bodies are meaningless. But that is to insist that human life itself is meaningless, and thus “disposable”. This evil ideology is behind abortion, murdering a baby in the womb, “partial-birth” abortion, murdering a baby during delivery, and now, infanticide, murdering an “unwanted” baby even after they are born. How much lower can they go? Euthanasia is already legal in some countries, so could “death-squads” be far behind? I doubt it…

The human being is not a soul “in” a body. Because of the profound unity of body and soul in God’s design, our bodies are not something we “have” or “own” alongside ourselves. In a very real way, we are our bodies. Our bodies reveal the spiritual mystery of our souls. And because we’re made in God’s image, our bodies also reveal something of the divine mystery. In fact, if Christmas is real, the human body reveals the very logic of God, the Logos of God: “The Logos (Word) became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

This is really the tip of the iceberg, and whole treatises have been written about this body/soul or body/mind divide, so there isn’t space here for me to delve into it deeper, but I highly-recommend “Love Thy Body”, by Nancy R. Pearcey.

Satan is jealous…
While Satan can think, reason and communicate, he couldn’t create his way out of a wet paper-sack. Satan couldn’t create a subatomic-particle if his life depended on it, and he is a spirit-being, so he will never have any form of body. He is jealous of the fact that we have bodies and are created in the image of God. We are everything he can never be, and he is jealous, so he wants to destroy what he can’t have – us. Satan is also jealous of the fact that we were created to worship God. He wants us to worship anything BUT God, including the gods of our own making, but his ultimate-desire is that we worship him.

Systematic-dehumanizing…
Have you noticed that “people” are no longer referred to as “people“, but as “individuals” in much of the media? “Individual” can refer to ANYTHING, as long as there is only one of it, and “individual” is commonly used to denote a single-serving of something, such as condiments or coffee-packets. Does the name “portionpack” ring a bell? Care to hazard a guess why this is? It is much easier to demean an “individual” than it is a “person“, thus by denying their person-hood, they can be demeaned to a lesser-thing…

This demeaning and dehumanization is the denial of our inherent-dignity as persons, human-beings who have been created in the image of God. Denial of the Imago Dei is denial of God’s consistent-witness about us throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1, and is the basis for all the dehumanizing things going on in our society, including abortion and euthanasia.

“Bad” parts…
Many of us have “bad” parts, but NOT because they “inherently-bad“, “dirty“, “nasty“, “shameful“, or any other of that nonsense. We may have been born with “defective” parts, birth-defects, disease or injury, wear and tear, or simply age has caused those parts to not function like they are supposed to. I have many parts that meet that description, because they simply no longer work like they are supposed to. My medical-diagnosis list is as long as my arm. There are two different uses and meanings of “bad“, and one is a meaningful-description, and the other is a LIE.

Into His work…
God, the Creator, in the Person of Jesus Christ, stepped into His work to begin the restoration. John 1:14 tells us that “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In order to step into His creation, He had to take on a CREATED human-body. In His humanity, He had to take on the Imago Dei. There was no other way. While He only dwelt among us for a brief period of time, and the work was far from finished, He came to crush the head of the serpent (vandal) and begin the restoration. When He returned to Heaven, to the Father’s right hand, He took OUR flesh and blood with Him. He ascended into Heaven as fully-human as He was when He walked the Earth. No, He isn’t “missing” any parts…

Death…
Death wreaks the penultimate separation in our humanity, separating body and soul, rendering each one incomplete. We are not a human without this union of body and soul, so we call a body, devoid of its soul, a “corpse“, and a soul devoid of its body, a “ghost“, because neither are human. The final judgment will separate humans from God, which is the ultimate-separation. Only those who are in Christ will escape this final-separation, and enjoy the Grand Finale.

The grand finale…
God has something planned which will be even grander than His original project, and the results will be PERMANENT and FABULOUS. There will be NO bad-parts” in the New Heavens and the New Earth, and every part of us will be restored to their “as-designed” perfection, not to a “better but still imperfect” condition. We won’t lose our individuality, but we WILL be all God created us to be – FOREVER!

Final thoughts…
What we believe about ourselves, our bodies and their parts has huge implications and consequences for how we live and think, and when we finally align our beliefs with God has revealed in His Word, we gain a new appreciation and respect for how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made“.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Our Past Has Consequences…

No man is an island. Everything we do has consequences, and not all consequences are bad, even though when we read or hear “consequences“, we automatically assume that it means “bad“. The consequences of poor nutrition will be poor health, but hopefully, the consequences of good nutrition will be good health. Everything else, likewise, has consequences.

For those who are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, we are promised numerous times in Scripture that God has forgiven our sins and cast them far from Him, but the Bible does NOT promise relief from the temporal-consequences of our sins. We may still have to “pay-the-piper“…

The murderer, on death-row, who has put their trust in Christ alone for their salvation, may still have to make that last walk to the execution-chamber. The person who has contracted a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) while having illicit sex may still die from that disease, and even if they don’t die, they may be reminded daily by the life-preserving medications they have to take for the rest of their lives. The person who had an illicit-affair may still have to pay alimony and child-support for many years thereafter, and may lose whatever relationship they had with their spouse and kids indefinitely. The examples are endless: the past has consequences.

My dad had syphilis, an STD, when he died, which, while it may not have been the cause of his death, it WAS one of the causes of his rapidly-failing mental-capacity during the last several years of his life. His mental-capacity had begun to fail noticeably four years before he died. Where did he get the syphilis?

I am surrounded by reminders that my past has on-going consequences. Every time I see a couple, I am reminded that I am part of a couple that should-be, but isn’t, because I hurriedly married a woman who seemed to be “too good to be true“, but all I married was an illusion. Once my usefulness was gone, she was too. As a result, I “sleep single in a double-bed“, and I “eat single at a table-for-two“, not to mention sitting alone at church, all because I acted in haste, and may be “repenting in leisure” for the rest of my life.

Christmas is a painful reminder that what I did many years ago, which contributed to me being estranged from my kids, is still coming back to haunt me. The last time my family was together for Christmas was 1996 – twenty-two years ago. The pictures of my kids in my wallet are from 1997, and the only other pictures I have of them and their families are pictures I downloaded from their Facebook pages, that is, before they blocked my access to their pages. I have never met, and may never meet their families. They finished growing up without me, and their kids are growing up without ever having met their granddad. I will never see my middle daughter again this side of heaven because she went to be with the Lord in April of 2018. I found that out on New Years Eve by digging through her husband’s Facebook page and looking into her church’s Facebook page. When I found her obituary, it had been scrubbed-clean of any references to me and my part in her life. Even her mother’s name was listed incorrectly. I did NOT kill their mother, and I am NOT evil-incarnate. They have been living a lie for over twenty-one years.

The same is true of many other “family” days throughout the year, days when families gather to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and maybe the other “worst” for me is Father’s Day, because I am reminded that while I am a “father“, I’m not a “dad“.

Not all of my consequences are as a result of “regrettable” actions. My body is broken-down and worn-out because of hard-use when I was younger, but I will take the aches, pains and limited-mobility because I know that many of them are the result of my many years of service to my community and mankind in general. I DON’T regret my dozen years in Search and Rescue (SAR), or the lives I helped save, nor do I regret my ten years in the Volunteer Fire Service and the good I was able to do there. Cherished-memories far outweigh the aches and pains. I talked to a dear friend Christmas Day who partnered with me on many SAR missions, and yes, we did a bit of reminiscing, and both agreed that we would do it all over again if we were able. I have been a man with a mission.

A “mission” is always about something bigger than you. A couple of years ago, my brother and I were reminiscing about our many years in public service. His has been part paid and part volunteer. Mine was all volunteer. His has destroyed his health and almost claimed his life, several times. His finally claimed his life last July (2018). Mine has taken much of my physical mobility and caused many of my health issues. Even knowing what we know today, we would both do it again in a heartbeat, because it is what we do. It was our mission.

Do you have a mission in life? Do you have a higher purpose in life other than to muddle through and only do what it takes to get by? Is there something that you would do, even if there wasn’t a paycheck attached to it, and even if it might cost you your health and maybe even your life? That, my friends, is your mission.

Final thoughts…

Yet, for those who are in Christ, “the rest of the story” is NOT one of “gloom and doom“, because, even as our broken bodies are restored to health, our broken relationships will also be renewed. We can take comfort with David, who, even as he mourned the death of his son, born to Bathsheba by adultery, was comforted by the fact that they would be united again. He was convinced that he would, some day, see his son again.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

Like Father – Like Son

As much as I would like to think that I am a “cut-above” my dad, the reality is that I am a “chip off the old block“. The only reason my parent’s marriage survived for fifty-nine years was because of my mom’s persistence. She relentlessly stuck by him through all of his sexual-escapades and domineering demeanor. I haven’t always been an easy man to live with, and I too have had more sexual-escapades than I care to admit, but admit them I must.

King David isn’t the only man in the Bible who succumbed to sexual-temptation. He trod a well-worn path that many other men have followed, my dad and myself included. Sexual-temptation is Satan’s favorite nuclear-tipped guided-missile to use against Christian leaders, and he has used it far too effectively. Another beloved pastor of a mega-church fell this year – to his sexual-escapades, not to mention the ongoing sex-scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

This is not an expose, because the details are between God and me. I have done things that were WRONG, things that I KNEW were WRONG when I did them, and I DID THEM ANYWAY. This is to remind ME that my life hasn’t been “lily-white“, that I AM A SINNER TOO. I am far too good at “letting the little-head think for the big-head“. Yes, I got hit “below the belt” too.

Why this? Why now?

As I have been reading through the early books of the Old Testament, it became painfully-obvious that many of the kings of Judah and Israel were “like father – like son“, and not always in a good way. Far too many took after the evil deeds of an evil father, and far too few took after the good deeds of their father, David, the man, who, while he DID fall, and fall HARD, was called “a man after God’s own heart“.

God has been using those stories to remind ME that I am my father’s son, and not always in a good way. Yes, I am “a chip off the old block“, and if anyone thought that I am a “super-saint“, I am definitely NOT. Sorry to burst your bubble, but, unlike the Apostle Paul, I am, in many ways, NOT someone worth emulating. That is why this blog is entitled “Struggles“, NOT Triumphs“. I write from the ditches, NOT the mountain-tops.

Final thoughts…

One of my new favorite authors is Chad Bird, who went from the pinnacle of being a professor at a prestigious seminary and sought-after conference-speaker, to being a truck driver in the oil fields of west Texas – after his sexual-escapades were revealed. After his defrocking and divorce, one night he found himself sitting in the middle of the floor of a scarcely-furnished, one-bedroom apartment, with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other. The whiskey won. His first two books are “Night Driving: Notes From A Prodigal Soul“, and “Your God Is Too Glorious: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places“. Chad writes from the ditches of life, and I can relate to his writing like I do few other authors. He lost it ALL, and I have too. Our respective lives haven’t always been “pretty“, which is why, as he has “squared” with his readers, I am with you too.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

The “Otherization” Of Jesus

I read an article recently in a well-respected publication that was trying to explain why Mary and some of Jesus’ other disciples didn’t recognize Him immediately after His resurrection. Aside from the obvious fact that they still didn’t understand the Old Testament prophesies concerning His death and resurrection quite yet, that author attributed their lack of recognition to some kind of “physical changes” in His body, as if He had suddenly become some kind of “other“. Did that mean He was no longer “completely-human“? WHAT???

Docetism“, the belief that Jesus was not truly and fully-human, has been around for almost two millenniums, and our churches are frequently infected with “docetism-lite“, such that, while not outrightly-denying His true and full humanity, they have trouble handling the “details” of His humanity. While Docetics would prefer a body-less resurrection, they will accept a bodily-resurrection, as long as God leaves the parts they don’t like behind. SO, what parts would they “leave-behind“? The parts they like to cover with “fig-leaves“?

This insidious “otherization” of Jesus even shows up in our Christmas carols where we don’t even give it a second-thought. Do you recognize these lyrics?

The cattle are lowing the baby awakes

But little lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love you lord Jesus; look down from the sky

And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

That is the second stanza of “Away In A Manger“. Am I being overly-picky, or not? What our kids hear and learn growing-up becomes part of the building-blocks of their theology later in life, so if they grow up accepting this “otherization” of Jesus, that there might have been some “changes” to His body when He was resurrected doesn’t raise any red-flags, but it does for me, because I have been studying Christology and realize how important it is.

Maybe Barbie and Ken are their ideal-prototypes…

I have found the Heidelberg Catechism quite helpful in its concise explanation. In question 16, we read:

Q: Why must he be a true and righteous man?

A: He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner he cannot pay for others.

The answer here is focusing on the need for a real human nature. Why? Because the penalty for sin requires suffering in body and soul. And only a human can do this (cf. Heb. 2:14; John 12:27). Jesus did not only share in our nature, but also he had to identify with us in the experiences of the fall (Heb. 2:17-18). But it was essential that Christ himself did not sin in this identification with us. Otherwise, how could he pay for our sin? Berkhof writes, “Only such a truly human Mediator, who had experimental knowledge of the woes of mankind and rose superior to all temptations, could enter sympathetically into all the experiences, the trials, and the temptations of man (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15-5:2) and be a perfect human example for his followers (Matt. 11:29; Mark 10:39; John 13:13-15; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 12:2-4; 1 Pet. 2:21). L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 319.

In short, the answer is Jesus had to be a man so that he could identify with us, suffering in our place and sympathizing with us in our weakness.

We don’t need for Jesus to have undergone some kind of “changes” during His resurrection to be able to explain why Mary and some of His disciples didn’t recognize Him immediately. When Mary went to the tomb, she was looking for a BODY, a DEAD-BODY, not her living Lord. She had seen Him die and be buried, so she was still convinced that He was as dead as a stone. People didn’t survive crucifixion. Period! The same was true of His other disciples. They knew that He was DEAD. STONE-COLD-DEAD! John and four women, including His mother and Mary, were at the foot of the cross when He breathed His last, so when He appeared to them, that He could possibly be alive was a TOTALLY-LUDICROUS.

Shortly before Jesus’ own death, burial and resurrection, John, in John 11:1-44, recorded the death, burial and resurrection of Lazarus. Why does this matter? There were two people present at all three events, Mary and Martha. They had nursed him while he was sick, they had prepared his body for burial, and they had buried him, so if there was something “different” about after his resurrection, they would have been the first to notice it, but there wasn’t. The Lazarus who was raised from the dead was the same Lazarus they had buried just a few days earlier. Why would Jesus’ resurrection have been any different? Jesus’ disciples knew Him as intimately as Mary and Martha knew Lazarus, so they would have been the first to notice that there was something “different” about Him, but they didn’t record anything.

It isn’t until later in the New Testament that we read about “glorified-bodies“…

When I lost my first wife in 1997, I did NOT know unequivocally whose body was in that casket. I did not witness her death, even though I saw evidence that something had happened in our home, and I never saw her dead-body because it was a closed-casket funeral, for which I had no hand in making the arrangements. All I had was a piece of paper, a “Death Certificate“, which already had fraudulent-information on it that I had to have corrected. I lived with the nagging question of whether her “death” was a cruel-hoax for many years, particularly since I continued to receive mail addressed to her for several years even after I had moved over a thousand miles away. That was NOT the case with Jesus. His death was witnessed by many people, including the Roman soldiers who crucified Him. Joseph and Nicodemus had prepared His body for burial and buried Him, events that were witnessed by others.

We DO affirm that there WAS a certain “otherness” about Jesus, because He IS the incarnate Son of God, the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14), very God of very God, Creator-God, but that did NOT diminish His humanity. No other person in all of history has been BOTH God and Man, but His favorite title for Himself was “Son of man“.

We also know, from the Gospels, that Jesus, after His resurrection, exhibited capabilities He had not displayed before, such as the ability to appear and disappear at-will. Did that make Him any less human. Absolutely-not! He still ate and drank…

Does it REALLY mater?

In a word, YES, because His resurrection body was His ascension body, and the rest of the New Testament makes it very clear that we have our own flesh-and-blood in Heaven, with all His parts intact. making intercession for us. SO, we either do our own flesh-and-blood, with all His parts intact, or we don’t. If part of that “change” was that He no longer has all His parts intact, then Jesus is no longer HUMAN. He is an “other“, a “changeling“, and is a worthless mediator, and our “salvation” is worthless.

What we believe concerning Jesus Christ DOES matter, because, unless we have a fully-qualified Savior, we have no Savior at all, which required that His humanity be genuine.

Sola Deo Gloria,

Steve

Jesus of Nazareth – Facts and Fallacies

Since Jesus of Nazareth strode on the scene over two-thousand years ago, calling followers and proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven had come, everyone, from His most intimate-followers, to theologians hundreds of years later, has questioned and argued about who He is.

Since then, many prominent heresies have evolved over the centuries, some evolving from Greek philosophies, while others came from the conjurations of prominent theologians and church leaders. I hope you will find this survey useful, particularly when you encounter one of the modern-renditions of these ancient heresies. Yes, “Old heresies never die, they just get a new look”.

Why does it matter?
If “Universalism“, the belief that everyone goes to Heaven – regardless, is true, my life would be SO much easier, because it wouldn’t matter what I believe or teach, or how I live my life, but the Bible doesn’t leave us that option open. Who Jesus is matters because it is a core-matter of our salvation, so it DOES matter what I believe and teach, and it DOES matter how I live my life.

From the outset, I must state that I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is true, so what it says is true and normative.

Denying Jesus’ Deity
While few would have denied Jesus’ total-humanity, many in His time denied His deity. The Jews, with their strictly-monotheistic understand of God, were adamantly-opposed to any notion that Jesus could be both God and Man, and that became the crux of the Jewish leaders’ sham-trial before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:60-64; Luke 22:66-71).

The Ebionites were one of the first groups of Jews who denied the deity of Christ. They accepted that Jesus might be the Messiah, but they believed that the Messiah was merely a human, not the God-Man. The Arians, another sect of the Jews, believed that the Son of God existed before the birth of Christ, but that He was a created being, albeit God’s “premier-creation”. As such, He could not be divine. We find a similar heresy espoused by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose “New World” translation of the Bible has been heavily-altered from the original manuscripts to suit their doctrinal-beliefs.

Docetism
Docetism was the belief that the gods sometimes appeared to take on a human-form. We see this in Acts 14:1-13; after Paul had healed a lame man, the locals believed that Paul and Barnabas were “gods“, and tried to worship them. There were some in the early church who believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be human, but really wasn’t. Instead, He only seemed to possess physicality. His body was an illusion, something that looked real, but in fact was not part of the physical order at all.

Docetism was popular among the Gentiles of the 1st century because they were heavily-influenced by Greek philosophy which downplayed the value of our human-physicality. The Greek’s philosophy of the resurrection was “resurrection FROM the body“, not “resurrection OF the body“.

John, in his first Epistle, soundly debunks this notion with eye-witness evidence. If John was an attorney today, he would have pictures, video footage, news coverage, and anything else he could gather for this case. That is the picture he has painted for us in the opening verses of 1st John.

There is still “Docetism-lite” in our day. Nobody, that I know of, will outright-deny the humanity of Christ, but when pressed to recognize the fullness of His humanity, they will waffle a bit. The “details” of His humanity make them uncomfortable, because if they own the fullness of His humanity, it has giant implications for how they view their own bodies, which they don’t necessarily “like“. There are parts of the “male-experience” which many men are embarrassed about, maybe even ashamed of, BUT, if Jesus was fully-human, “one of us“, and He experienced many of the same “male-experiences” we do, then He “normalized” our “male-experiences” and we have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed-of. Yes, it matters that He had the same male anatomy and physiology as every man who has ever lived or will live. Because of recent denials of the deity of Jesus Christ, it is easy for us to become so focused on defending His deity that we neglect His humanity, which is why we need a balanced, robust Christology.

Jesus, throughout His earthly-sojourn, was never recorded as saying something like “Why, Oh God, did we make men this way?“, as if He had just discovered some previously-unknown “design-flaw” or “undesirable-feature”. Everything was made with a purpose, on-purpose.

If Jesus only “appeared” to be human, how did He eat and drink all the times that are recorded in the Gospels? How did He eat the Last Supper? Sorry, but that heresy doesn’t hold water, because there is way too much evidence to the contrary.

If Jesus only “appeared” to be human, He only “appeared” to die on the Cross, He only “appeared” to rise again from the dead, thus we only “appear” to be saved, which means that we are HORRIBLY-LOST.

Gnosticism…
Gnosticism was perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries. Influenced by such philosophers as Plato, Gnosticism is based on two false premises. First, it espouses a dualism regarding spirit and matter. Gnostics assert that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.

Second, Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

The Person of Jesus Christ is another area where Christianity and Gnosticism drastically differ. The Gnostics believe that Jesus’ physical body was not real, but only “seemed” to be physical, and that His spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, but left Him just before His crucifixion. Such views destroy not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement, for Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (and physically-real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 2:14-17). The biblical view of Jesus affirms His complete humanity as well as His full deity.

Docetism and Gnosticism are “kissing-cousins” in regard to the person and work of Christ.

Eutychianism…
While hard-core Docetism didn’t survive for long, because Christians quickly realized the importance of Jesus possessing a true human nature, Docetic tendencies didn’t disappear entirely. Some thinkers taught a view of Christ that effectively-eliminated His true-humanity, while not going as far as teaching that Jesus only “appeared” to be human. One such heresy was Eutychianism, named for Eutyches, a fifth-century monk.

Eutyches taught that Christ only possesses one nature, not two, and that His divine nature swallowed-up or absorbed His human-nature, such that what is left in one theanthropic nature (from the Greek theos,God“, and anthropos,man“), Instead of being one person with two natures, human and divine, as Orthodox Christology asserts, the Eutychian Christ is one person with one nature.

The result is the denial of BOTH His divinity AND His humanity. If the divine nature of Christ absorbs the human nature of Christ, we are left with a composite-nature that is neither truly-human or truly-divine, Instead, it is a third kind of nature, that of a “divine-human“.

That leaves us with at least two problems. First, it makes many descriptions of Jesus in Scripture misleading, because the Eutychian Jesus cannot be subject to the normal, non-sinful limitations of humanity. Mathew 8:24 says that He was asleep in the boat, but, if God doesn’t grow weary (Isaiah 40:28), and Christ’s deity absorbs His humanity, the limitations of tiredness were overcome and Jesus must have just been pretending to be asleep. Second, If Jesus does not possess both a true human-nature AND a true divine-nature, He cannot represent both God and Man. He also can’t be the perfect Mediator between God and His people. Only a perfect human-being can pay for the sins of other human-beings, but if Christ doesn’t have a true human-nature, He could not atone for our sins, and we are doomed to Hell.

Apollinarianism…
Say-what-ism? Some people tend to over-think some things, and Apollinaris was no exception. Even though he started his career believing Orthodox theology he couldn’t leave well-enough alone. The Bible teaches that human-beings have two constituent-parts, a physical, mortal body, and an immortal soul (Matthew 10:28), but Apollinaris believed that human-beings are made of THREE constituent-parts, a physical body, a “lower” soul that animates the physical body, and a “higher” soul or spirit that is equivalent to the rational mind that humans possess.

So what about Jesus Christ? Apollinaris believed that, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Logos, or divine-aspect of the Savior replaced His “higher” spirit. Jesus, then, had a human body, a “lower” human soul, and a divine spirit. Apollinaris effectively-denied that the seat of rational-thought in our Savior is truly-human. He compromised Jesus’ true-humanity by denying that He posses a human-mind or soul, since the human mind or soul is an essential component that makes human-beings human. He might as well have been a “divine-monkey“, because without a human soul, He wasn’t truly-human, and we are still truly-lost.

Nestorianism…
Nestorius really took heresy to a whole new level. While all the previous heresies at least acknowledged that Jesus was one person, Nestorius believed that Jesus was the “union” of two persons, a human-person, and a divine-person. This is not a union of essences, but rather a close, moral union. In other words, Nestorius believed the union was not such that we could say the humanity of Jesus actually belongs to the Son of God.

Is your head spinning yet, because if it isn’t, it soon will be…

Nestorius believed that, when Christ died, it was not the Incarnate Son of God suffering according to His human-nature; it was the “other“, human, person that died. When Christ performed a miracle, it was not the Incarnate Son of God acting according to His divine-nature to manifest His power; it was the “other” person, the divine Logos acting independently of the human-person of Jesus Christ.

This raises some puzzling questions about the atonement. If Christ is two persons, who died on the cross? It cannot be the infinite person of the Son, since He didn’t assume a human-nature. He only possesses a divine nature, which cannot experience suffering or die. So, it must have been the “other” person, the human-being, who suffered and died because the human person in Christ has a human-nature, which CAN experience suffering. But then we have the death only of a finite person, because humans are finite. The merit of a finite human sacrifice could hardly be applied to anyone besides the finite person who offers it.

The Westminster Larger Catechism addresses this quite succinctly in questions 37-40:
Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God? A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death, give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man? A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person? A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us as the works of the whole person.

Thus, the Westminster Larger Catechism 38 says that Christ had to be God – He had to be a divine-person with a human-nature so as to give His human suffering sufficient worth to atone for many (Heb. 5:9). Nestorianism gives us an insufficient atonement. So much for substitutionary-atonement…

Where does Mary fit?
No discussion of Jesus of Nazareth would be complete without sorting out Mary’s role in the Incarnation. While her role as His mother must be recognized, she is NOT, as the Catholics believe, the “Mother of God“. God has no “mother“! Period! Mary gave birth to the pre-existing Son of God in His Incarnation (John 1:1-4, 14). She is the theotokis, the “God-bearer“. While Protestants tend to under-play Mary’s significance in the Gospel narrative, Catholics go way-overboard in the opposite direction, even “venerating” and praying to her. Mary is NOT, as they suppose, the “4th member of the Godhead“, and we are not told anywhere in Scripture to worship her, or any other departed Saint, for that matter. She was also NOT virgin-born“(immaculately-conceived), “sinless“, or a “perpetual-virgin“. In fact, the Gospels attribute at least six other children to Mary and Joseph, four brothers, who are named, and “sisters“, which means at least two, who are unnamed.

Mary was a young, ordinary peasant girl, who was chosen by God for an extraordinary mission, to conceive and bear the Incarnate Son of God. She was the “woman” foretold in Genesis 3:15 from whom the Savior of the world would come, and she was the “virgin” spoken of in Isaiah 7:14, who was to conceive and bear “Immanuel, God with us“. Ordinary-girl – extraordinary mission!

What if?
What if one of these heresies is actually true, or parts of them are true? Every one of these heresies questions the validity of both what Jesus said about Himself, and what the greater-volume of Scripture says about Him, so if one or more of them are true, Jesus was a fraud, and the Bible is an ancient book of made-up history and fairy-tales, worth little more than as a “guide-to-moral-living”. Oh, but if Jesus was a fraud and the Bible is a lie, it isn’t even a decent “guide-to-moral-living”…

Christology…
Christology – the doctrine of Christ, who He is, and what He has done, really DOES matter, because if you have an “unqualified” or “insufficient” Christ, there is NO salvation – period.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Church – or Religious Social-Club?

It should have been an older Pastor’s ultimate “gravy-job“. It was a large church, in an affluent part of a major city, and they were looking for a Senior Pastor. The salary and benefits package would have done many corporate CEO’s proud. It really WAS a “plum-job“, for the right Pastor. Looking for a change in scenery, and hoping to retire in a few years, Pastor-Bob applied, along with a several other applicants.

A few weeks after Pastor-Bob applied, he got a cordial letter from the Pastor Search Committee of the church asking him to come candidate(preach) at the church. When he went there to candidate, the facilities were impressive, and the parking lot was full of late-model upscale cars, an obvious display of the affluence of the members, but when he went into the church, he sensed that all was not as it seemed. Many of the members were aloof, and there seemed to be quite a few cliques, because the members didn’t really mingle. They just huddled in small groups. He might have his work cut out for him if he went there, because it seemed more like a social-club than a church.

The Pastor Search Committee was impressed with his grasp of the Word, and his ability to articulate the great truths of Scripture, so they voted unanimously to call Pastor-Bob to be their Senior Pastor. That was when he began planning his “not-so-grand” entrance.

While some of the details are contrived or embellished, it is based on a true story from an American Pastor, and the church could really have been almost any church in the world.

When he walked into the church for his first Sunday as their new Pastor, his breath smelled of cheap whiskey and stale cigars. He had fished his tattered clothes and mismatched shoes out of a dumpster. His hair was long and unkempt, and he had a scraggly beard. He resembled a hobo, a vagabond, or one of the homeless people down by the bus station. He came in limping and leaning on his cane, not exactly what the church was looking for in a Senior Pastor. The only person who greeted him was the usher who shuffled him to the far-back corner of the sanctuary. Everyone else ignored him, looking away in disgust. Some even moved farther away from him when he sat down.

Only two people were in on this little skit, his wife, and the Clerk of Session. His wife dropped him off about a block from the church so that he could walk by himself into the church. She parked their older car in the back corner of the parking lot and slipped inside quietly, where she could observe what was going to happen.

As the service progressed, the congregation wondered who was going to preach, because the chair where their Pastor usually sat was empty. Finally, the only Elder who was “in the know” stood up, and said that it was his great honor and privilege to welcome their new Pastor, Pastor-Bob. As Pastor-Bob slowly made his way to the front of the church, the congregation let out a collective “gasp“. Who was THAT man? Certainly that wasn’t their new Pastor, was it? That wasn’t the man who had candidated there a few weeks before, or was it?

When Pastor Bob got to the pulpit, and shook the hand of the Elder, he faced the congregation and said “I’m not sure that I am in the right place. I thought that I was coming to Pastor a church, but what I see here is a social-club, masquerading as a church.” Then he opened his Bible and said, “Turn with me to James 2, beginning at verse 1:”

2 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-8)

After reading from James 2, he related both his experiences when he had been there before, and what he had just experienced, and asked “Do you want to be a church, or do you want to be a social-club, masquerading as a church? If all you want is a “feel-good” Chaplain for your social-club, I am the wrong man for the job, but if you want to truly be the church of Jesus Christ, we have some work to do, but God can do it.

How we treat those around us, and those who walk through our doors matters – to God, and it should matter to us. We show the genuineness of our salvation by how we treat others, and God WILL judge us by our actions, or inaction:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

How we treat those who walk through the doors of our churches matters – to God, and it should matter to us too. Having been a Deacon in a church, I know first-hand that occasionally someone will come to our churches seeking some kind of help. While it behooves us to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided to our mercy-ministries, we can’t treat every sob-story with suspicion, because where there ARE genuine-needs, needs we should meet to the best of our ability. Sometimes it will be best if one of the Deacons goes with the person to get what they need, rather than handing them money which may get used for drugs or alcohol instead.

If you drive the streets of any city in America, you WILL encounter people who are homeless, particularly here in Florida, where our moderate climate makes it easier for them to survive on the streets. They may be begging on a street-corner, or huddled in an alley, but they have no place to call “home“. Sadly, many of them are Veterans, men and women who have been used-up by our Armed Forces, and dumped back on our streets, with little or no support-system or training to reintegrate into our society.

The person in need may NOT be homeless, but may be your neighbor. It may be necessary to exercise the same level same level of prudence that churches must exercise when supplying needs. I used to have a neighbor who was frequently broke, but she would pay the satellite-TV bill and buy beer before she bought groceries, so I didn’t usually hand her money, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t sometimes take care of her needs. I did buy some of her medications and took her grocery-shopping when she was broke, not because she had mismanaged her money, but because she didn’t have any income due to illness or injury. There was a difference.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, WE are the church, and we bring our attitudes towards those who are less fortunate than us into that building we call the “church“. The problems that Pastor found in the church in the story were amplified-symptoms of the attitudes of its members. While there were homeless people on the streets trying to eke-out their existence, church members were well-fed, lived in virtual-mansions, and drove cars that cost more than many houses, and they didn’t care. After all, they HAD earned that “right“…

I don’t live in a mansion, eat steak and lobster every night or drive a luxury-vehicle, but I DO have a place to call “home“, eat well, and have a dependable vehicle, which is far more than homeless people can enjoy. Maybe I SHOULD keep some extra cash in my vehicle to give people in need, and take that giving-attitude to church with me. How about you?

Church – or Social-Club?

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Sola Deo Gloria!

Do You Need Help?

Sometimes that question is music to my ears, but at other times, I hate that question with a purple-passion. Say what? Yes, there are times when I legitimately want and need help, but there are times when I could use some help, but am loath to admit it.

Thanks…

I wrote “Tired Of Being “Tough”” a little over a year ago about my struggles with handling all the losses I have had in the last several months. That is one time when I am very grateful that help IS available, because since I wrote and posted that piece, I have had several more traumatic-losses, which now brings the number of significant-losses to four. The most recent loss was in July, when I lost my brother. That is a LOT of losses for one person to process and handle at the same time. I am still seeing a mental-health counselor once a quarter, and I am thankful that he is there for me.

We have all been in stores when we can’t seem to find ANYTHING, at least not what we are looking for. WalMart is infamous for rearranging their stores in a seemingly-random manner, and even if we have been in that same store dozens of times, there is always something we can’t find, and only store employees know where it is. That is when I don’t mind asking, or getting asked, if I need help. I have even been known to ask another customer if they know where what I am looking for is. Sometimes it is almost right under my nose but I was too blind to see it.

I was in Staples recently looking for a new desktop computer, and one of the employees was there to explain the differences between the various models they have, and make recommendations about which one would best suit my needs. Thank you very much! A new computer will have to wait a while, because I have several more important issues to take care of first.

I called Tire Kingdom a few days ago about two tires for my vehicle. The store manager graciously helped me select the tires that would best suit my needs, based on his many years of experience in the tire business, and what he runs on his personal vehicles. His recommendations verified my own gut-feeling, so my new tires are being shipped in from their warehouse. Thank you very much!

Thanks, but no-thanks…

There are also times when I DO need help, but I am too stubborn to admit it. Maybe, it’s more like, too PROUD to admit it. I have needed those tires for several weeks, but haven’t had the money to buy them, so I have kept putting it off. Now, it is crunch-time, because I just don’t trust them, particularly on the highway, any more. I made the mistake of admitting to one of my church’s deacons that I need two new tires but don’t have the money for them, so he offered help from the deacon’s fund. I declined.

Last year was a different story. My refrigerator died suddenly last March, and I didn’t have any choice about accepting help to buy a new fridge because I didn’t have the money. I was able to maximize the help by getting my new fridge on sale. That helped me be a good steward of the resources God provided through my church.

Why is this year any different? I know that I wasn’t as frugal with my resources in the last year as I should have been, but, then again, I was counting on some income to help pay me extra expenses which never materialized. That left me in a bind as far as taking care of my own needs.

I have been taught to “own” and accept my choices and decisions, for better or for worse, and to deal, as best I can, with the outcomes. Maybe I am too stubborn, or maybe I am too proud, but I can’t accept financial-assistance to buy my tires. Thanks, but no-thanks!

That brings us to the story of a man who WASN’T shy about asking for help:

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” 50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus couldn’t have descended much lower of the social-scale. He was blind, and a beggar. Only lepers were “below” him, and even servants and slaves “ranked” higher than him because they could at least work for their living. When he heard that Jesus was coming, out of desperation, with nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain, he called-out to Jesus; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus’ reputation had been spread far and wide, so Bartimaeus had probably heard many stories about His miraculous-healings. Would Jesus help him? Why did he throw aside his cloak when he was led to Jesus?

Do you detect a bit of “imagery” here?

50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

What did Bartimaeus call Jesus when he made his request? “Rabbi” was the typical title for religious leaders, but Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabboni“. “Rabboni” is Hebrew for “my master“, a recognition of and submission to Jesus’ authority. Who else called Jesus “Rabboni“?

Since Bartimaeus was claiming Jesus as his master, he may have not wanted to appear before Jesus dressed as he was. That cloak may have been all he owned, and was probably little more than a rag. There was no shame attached to nakedness in the Bible, other than the shame associated with extreme-poverty or enslavement, so Bartimaeus’ only “shame” would have been his poverty, symbolized by his tattered cloak.

God commanded Isaiah, in Isaiah 20, to prophesy barefoot and naked for three years against Egypt and Cush. When they were conquered by the Assyrians, they would be led-away as slaves, barefoot and naked. Isaiah’s nakedness symbolized how they would be treated when they were conquered. It was also to serve as a warning to Israel, which had, contrary to God’s command, made a defense-pact with Egypt and Cush. It was not “shameful” for Isaiah to prophesy naked, but they would be shamed in their captivity.

After Bartimaues made his request to Jesus, Jesus healed him immediately, saying; “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

Following Jesus, in gratitude for what He had done for him, was the natural-result of this incredible miracle. There are many other instances when Jesus healed people and they became His followers.

What about us?

We are constantly putting on a “show” for others, and ultimately for God, but why? We try to pretend that we have it all together, that we are self-sufficient, and that we have everything under control, and while we may fool the people around us, we can’t fool God. He sees us naked, as we are, stripped-bare of all of our pretenses, so why do we try to fool Him too?

Regardless of the resolution of my financial-situation, there is one person I, and you, need never be ashamed of asking for what we need – God. He already knows our needs before we ask Him, so why aren’t we willing to take our needs to Him? He won’t ever embarrass us, and He has far more resources than we can ever imagine. No, He probably won’t lead you to what you are looking for in that store, or get that item at the back of the top-shelf that you can’t reach, but He may just send someone who CAN help with what you need. Money probably won’t come raining-down from heaven, but some other provision may arrive unexpectedly. Yes, we need to be more like Bartimaeus, and less like stubborn-me.

Sola Deo Gloria!