What Is Our Only Hope? – Why Jesus’ Humanity Matters…

We are broken people, living in a broken world, and if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is far more brokenness in us than we would like to admit, which is why we act like we are “okay” even when we aren’t. We have learned to put on a “happy-face” even when we are crying inside because we don’t want those around us to know how broken we are. Only God can heal our brokenness and make us whole again, but we have to trust Him to do what we can’t do for ourselves. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became a man so that He could bring us back into a right-relationship with God and with one another. He IS our ONLY hope.

We often ask “Where was God when…?“, and we can list a thousand-and-one events when God was seemingly-absent, but was He? If we don’t really know who Jesus is, we would be tempted to think of God merely as a detached observer, but we couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Four major traumatic events are etched deeply into my memory, and beg the question Where was God when…?

Where was God when the Space Shuttle Challenger became a ball of fire?

Where was God when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed?

Where was God when the Twin Towers fell?

Where was God during the Pulse Nightclub massacre?

While I was somewhat “detached” from those events, every one of them left grieving family and friends behind, and I was deeply-shocked by them. The Pulse Nightclub massacre struck way too close to home, since I live fairly close to Orlando. Where was God when those events took place?

Getting more personal…

Where was God when my wife committed suicide?

Where was God when my brother Darrell died of cancer?

Where was God when my mom died?

Whether it is a major-event or a personal-tragedy, our deepest desire is to know that God cares, that He understands our pain and suffering. While we might think that God was “detached” from those events, as we will see from John 11, God was very-much present during and after those events. This should give us hope, both for the present, AND for the future.

The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-44)

In our era of instant-communications, we barely remember when all news from friends and loved-ones came by “snail-mail“, so it is hard for us to fathom that it could have taken several days for Jesus and His disciples to have found out about Lazarus’ sickness, but it did. At the end of John 10, Jesus had escaped Jerusalem with a price on His head and headed East to beyond the Jordan River where it was a bit “safer“. Jesus and His disciples were there when they heard the news that Lazarus was sick. “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.

Jesus was deeply-relational. Mary, Martha and Lazarus weren’t merely “friends“; they were virtually “family“. Jesus’ love for them transcended “friendship“; it was a deep, intimate love, which was reserved for those who were closest to Him, such as John.

I have no biological siblings, but I have a few dear friends who have become “family” to me. We care about each other on a far-deeper level than mere “friendship“. Maybe you have some of those too.

Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus, but He didn’t respond immediately. He stayed where He was for two more days. Oh, He could have spoken the word and Lazarus would have been healed immediately, but He didn’t. He waited until after the funeral. Jesus tells us why He waited in verse 4, But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

Lazarus being in the tomb for four days was proof-positive that he was actually DEAD. He also wasn’t in a coma or merely sleeping. He was stone-cold DEAD. Bethany was close enough to Jerusalem for her to have friends there, and many of them had come to console Mary and Martha, and while funerals happened very quickly, public-mourning continued for quite a while.

Martha was reeling from the death of her brother, but Jesus could have prevented his death. She expresses a curios mix of scolding and confidence. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Jesus begins to show her that, while He was too late to prevent Lazarus’ death, it WASN’T too late for Him to do something about it. Jesus wanted her, and us, to realize that God doesn’t operate on our time-schedule. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha, unlike the Sadducees who didn’t believe in a resurrection, DID believe that Lazarus would be raised when the final-curtain was dropped on this phase of our human existence. However, she still didn’t have any confidence that Lazarus would rejoin their family. It seemed that death had still gotten the last word…

This is where Jesus begins turning the tide. 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; Standing before her was the very Creator, the ultimate Author of life. He had breathed life into a pile of dust and given Adam life. He was also the ultimate Authority on resurrection, because if He could breathe life into mankind, He could also breathe new life into a man. He was also making an explicit-claim to Deity because only God could raise the dead.

His next claim either confirms His place in the looney-bin or completely-separates Him from the rest of humanity. “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” He is either who He says He is, the Incarnate Son of God, or the biggest fraud that ever walked the earth, because He is claiming that those who truly believe in Him WILL have eternal life.

Do you believe this?” This is the reality-check. Does Martha believe in Him? Her answer shows that she was willing to risk believing His claims and lay skepticism aside. She knew that, standing before her, was the ONLY person who could alter the course of history, who could make their family whole again. 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” She affirms that she believes that He is the long-awaited Messiah.

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. Mary didn’t waste any time going back with Martha to where Jesus was.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

Two sisters, same exact statement to Jesus, but He gave two very-different responses. Why? Both sisters expressed confidence that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying if He had been there. How could He confront Martha one moment and bawl like a baby with Mary the next? He was strong one moment and vulnerable the next. He was either a deluded, wacko nut-case, or He was who He said He was, the Incarnate Son of God. He revealed both His true Deity and His true Humanity by His responses to Martha and Mary. He is both fully God and fully human, the perfect God-Man. His favorite title for Himself was “Son of Man“.

When we look at Martha, she is almost angry at Jesus because He allowed Lazarus to die. Had He gotten there sooner, He could have healed Lazarus, rather than allowing him to die. Mary approached Jesus with pleading-humility, falling at His feet. Why did Jesus answer Martha rather harshly, while He entered Mary’s grief and broke out in tears?
Jesus demonstrated both “sides” of His personhood, that He is fully-God, and at the same time, fully-human. His deity allows Him to claim, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” , while His humanity allows Him to enter into our pain and grief.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” We may be wondering why Jesus didn’t know where Lazarus was buried, but that may have been in deference to His friends.

35 Jesus wept. This is the shortest verse in the Bible, and it should cause us to pause and rethink our doctrine of Christ. He was God, enshrouded in human-flesh.

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus hurt with Mary, Martha and their friends as they came to Lazarus’ tomb, which was simply a cave with a stone rolled in front of the entrance. It was, in most cases, reusable, because in that desert climate, bodies dried out very quickly, leaving nothing but bones, allowing other family members to be buried in it also. Joseph was buried in Egypt, but he bound his family with an oath that they would take his bones with them when God liberated them from Egyptian domination. (Genesis 50:24-26). He didn’t want to be interred permanently in Egypt.

39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Only dead bodies decay, proof that Lazarus was really DEAD. The stench of death was going to be replaced with the joy of resurrection.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Jesus, speaking as God Incarnate, was going to reveal the glory of God in a dramatic way.

Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus’ prayer may sound strange to us a first-glance, but it reveals something very profound about who He is, His intimate connection with His Father. He wasn’t just a man with an elevated “God-consciousness“; He was the Incarnate Son of God. He was God in human-flesh. He had a perfect “hotline” with His Father far beyond our wildest imaginations.

When Jesus walked up to the tomb, He didn’t have a look of glee on His face. No, He had tears in His eyes, and righteous-indignation in His heart, because Sin, the Fall, and the Curse had robbed Him of one of His dearest friends. As Creator-God, He never intended for Lazarus’ story, or anyone else’s story to end this way, in death. We are created to live, not to die.

Was He already starting to feel the icy-jaws of death close around Him? He knew that in order to raise Lazarus from the dead, He would have to die for the sins of His people. In order to interrupt Lazarus’ funeral, He would have to be buried too, and only by His own glorious resurrection would He be able to secure Lazarus’ resurrection. He was only a few days away from the cross…

We can almost hear the anger in His voice and see His rage as He bellowed-out “Lazarus, come forth.” Death was not supposed to claim the lives of those we love, but it had claimed the life of one of His dearest friends, Lazarus. They were virtually family. He was staring in the face of the vilest result of our fall into sin, death. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan. Death came as the ultimate curse of the Fall. It wasn’t “natural“, it wasn’t “normal“, even though we have come to think of Death as being both “natural” and “normal“.

How many people have you known who have slipped the bonds of this life and entered into the next life without dying first? If you are like me, you have attended far too many funerals as you have lost far too many friends and loved-ones to death. I lost my “twin” brother in 2011. That was a tough memorial service, but I couldn’t have NOT been there. My dad died in 2013. My friend Liz lost her mother in 2015 and her father this year as well as her best friend. I lost my mother in April.

He, who was the Creator of Heaven and Earth, invaded the Dragon’s lair, bound the Dragon, grabbed the keys and released one of its captives. He, who had breathed life into the first man, breathed new life in Lazarus. The Dragon would not be finally slain until Jesus strode from His own tomb after His crucifixion.

Lazarus didn’t come out of his grave as a zombie; rather he came out of his grave struggling with his grave-clothes. Lazarus was, after he was relieved of his grave-clothes, buck-naked. When someone died, those who were close to them washed their body, and if spices were available, packed spices around the body as they wrapped it almost “mummy-style“. Since clothing was handmade and costly, there was no reason to bury them in their clothes.

We can imagine the jubilation of his friends and family when Lazarus walked out of the grave – ALIVE. That would have been an event to celebrate in style. Their family was whole again!

45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. (John 11:1-45)

Why does Jesus’ humanity matter? Only by becoming human, one of us, was He able to live the life we cannot live, die the death that we deserve in our place, and be resurrected that we may be resurrected. God had to become a man, so that man could be brought back into fellowship with God.

A prominent theologian, who is the son of a prominent theologian, recently had to resign all of his positions in disgrace because he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol, AND, he had a minor child with him. The arresting-officer wasn’t swayed by who he is and what he has done prior to that time, because in the eyes of the law, he had violated the law. The judge might be lenient on him, but he won’t get off Scott-free. Thus it is when we stand before God. Regardless of how “good” we may have been, we were born sinners, and regardless of how “minor” our sins may have been, we are guilty before God, and there is NOT any “plea-bargaining“. There is ONLY on plea that holds up in God’s court and prevails, and that is the blood and righteousness of Christ on our behalf. Had God not become human in the person of Jesus Christ, there would NOT be any acceptable plea. We would ALL be guilty before God.

That was the way it was with the Apostle Paul. Paul, then known as Saul, was a Pharisee who was zealous for the Law of God, yet he rejected the very Messiah he had longed for all his life. He also rejected and persecuted the very faith that had grown up around Christ and His teachings. When the risen Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus, He didn’t confront him about the “good” that he had done, but about the EVIL he was doing. Paul was guilty before God, and he needed a new heart and a new life-direction. Acts 9:1-7 recounts his conversion.

His humanity also matters because He experienced everything that we experience, pain, sorrow, loss and grief, so that when we experience those things, He can share in them with us. When I lost my mom, as painful as it was, my supreme-comfort was that she is in the presence of God, and that Jesus shares in my pain, sorrow, loss and grief. I don’t travel this road alone. Jesus is with me every step of the way.

The Apostle Paul gives us even deeper reason to believe in Jesus’ true humanity:
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

If Jesus had not truly become a man, He could not have died on the Cross, and He couldn’t have been raised from the dead. All of these events are absolutely-vital to our salvation. Paul ends with these words; “we are of all men most to be pitied.”

The Heidelberg Catechism opens with these beautiful words:
Q. 1 What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul,
in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

For those who are in Christ, we are kept by the Lord and Creator of the cosmos. Jesus didn’t abandon His earthly-body when He ascended back into Heaven. He is living at the right hand of God the Father as the eternal God-Man, as fully-human as we are.

Is Jesus your Savior and Lord? I pray that He is, but if He isn’t your Savior and Lord, tomorrow is not guaranteed, nor are you even guaranteed your next breathe. We all have an appointment with death, but we don’t know when that will be. As I was working on this message, one of my elderly neighbors took her last breathe. I had seen her outside that morning. Only God knows her eternal-destiny. The only way for you to be certain that, when you die, that you will meet your Creator in peace, is by humbly acknowledging your need for a Savior and committing your life to Christ. He died that you might live, and He lives that you might live with Him forever. May this be your day of salvation. Jesus is waiting for you…

In Christ,
Steve

A Creational-Approach to Missions

Has the church been doing missions “wrong” for almost two-thousand years? No, but I believe that we can deepen our passion for missions by going back and asking “Why did God make man?” This also relates-directly to the greatest philosophical and theological question of all time, “Why am I here?

As I have worked on my message for the Sunday morning service during the 2017 CNA Spring Conference, I have been drawn to ponder more deeply what the foundation of that message should be. I believe that this must be rooted in what God has revealed about Himself in His Word, the Bible. Lest you think that I have finally lost my mind, bare with me and it should all start making sense.

Creation…
The first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God…” Our Creator-God pre-existed all of creation, so He decreed the “beginning“. The first two chapters of Genesis are the story of creation, what God did, and how He did it. As great as the cosmos is, they weren’t God’s ultimate-acts of creation. God simply spoke the cosmos into being, ex nihilo, out of nothing, but when He was ready to create man, He attended to that project personally.

Scientists love to talk about the “big-bang“, as if all matter coalesced into one place and exploded. Where did THAT matter come from? Matter isn’t self-generating. I also believe in a “big-bang“, a God-ordained “big-bang“, because when God said “let there be light“, and the nuclear-fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, releasing an enormous burst of light and energy, that WAS an unimaginably BIG BANG.

We pick up the story of man’s creation from Genesis 1:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 1?

From Genesis 1:
Man is created in God’s image.

That “image” is both male and female. We are neither one a “greater-image-bearer‘ than the other.

God gave two commands, “be fruitful and multiply“, and “subdue and rule over the earth“. God gave us the reasons for our existence from the very beginning, our “why’s“.

God created mankind to co-create more bearers of His image, and to continue His work in the world.

7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:7, 15-25)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 2?

From Genesis 2:
God got His hands dirty, because He hand-formed the man from the dust of the ground.

God performed the first “artificial-respiration“. God didn’t “snap His fingers” to bring His creature to life, He breathed His OWN breathe into the man.

There was only one restriction; do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Man needed companionship.

God performed the first “anesthesia” and the first “surgery“, making God the first Doctor.

The “companion” God created was NOT another man; it was a woman, the perfect-complement to the man. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Naked and not ashamed“: Adam and Eve had perfect-fellowship with God, just as God intended.

Why did God make man?
We often have trouble separating our “needs” from our “wants“, but God doesn’t have that problem. People have lived for thousands of years, and still do, in “improvised-shelters“, “shelters” that do what “shelters” are intended to do, “shelter” them from the elements. “Shelter” is a basic “need“, and yet, particularly here in the US, most of us aren’t content with “basic-shelter“. WE WANT MORE! We WANT homes with all the “amenities“, even when we could get by with much less. That is only one example of how we have inflated our “needs” into often-overblown WANTS.

Does God “need” anything? God has been totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining for all eternity. To put it more succinctly, God didn’t “need” to make man. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit ARE the PERFECT-FAMILY. There is no tension, strife or discord within the Trinity. As God told Moses from the burning-bush, He is the great I AM. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

What if God “wanted” something He didn’t have? What if God wanted a larger family, a “forever-family“? One of the few things God CAN’T do is procreate or replicate Himself. There always have been three persons in the Godhead, and there will always be three persons in the Godhead, because God is unchangeable.

If we want a larger family, we have two options, procreation and adoption. Many couples don’t have the option of procreation for a variety of reasons, one being endometriosis. Endometriosis runs in my first wife’s family, and even though Connie didn’t have that problem, our oldest daughter does, and has had since she was about thirteen. After trying for several years, she and her husband adopted a baby boy. She got pregnant shortly thereafter. They have two boys, and a “blended-family“, including ethnically-blended, because the boy they adopted is black, and she and her husband are white. I am button-popping proud of them as parents, and of both boys as my grandsons. A couple in my church has three children naturally, and they adopted three siblings. The youngest, a boy, is autistic.

For God to have a larger family, His ONLYoption” was “adoption“, which is why the theme of “adoption” comes up frequently in the New Testament. That, my friends, I believe, is why God created mankind, so He could have the larger family He desires.

What happened?
We have seen God’s plan to create and adopt a larger family, but something got in the way.

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:1-15)

Something happened, and it wasn’t good. Satan attempted to usurp God’s place to build his OWNfamily“. While it appears that Satan succeeded in the short-run, God wasn’t having any part of it.

Did this turn of events catch God off-guard? If it did, God isn’t God. The reality is that God knew this was going to happen before He even began creation. God’s “plan of redemption” was NOT some “Plan-B“, and the rest of the Old Testament is the unfolding-story leading up the coming of the promised “the seed of the woman“.

Redemption…
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters). 6 Because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son (or daughter); and if a son (or daughter), then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Notice that glorious word “ADOPTION“. “Adoption” means that we are part of God’s “forever-family“, furthermore, we can call Him “daddy (Abba)“, and we have become “heirs” of God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ was that long-promised “seed of the woman” who “crushed the serpent’s head” at Calvary, so that we could become part of God’s “forever-family“.

Why am I here?
For most of us, it is quite easy for us to determine “why” we are doing what we are doing at a particular moment in time, but when we get to the overarching question of “Why am I here?”, we are stumped. We don’t have a clue, UNLESS we have developed a Biblical view of our meaning in life.

About 350 years ago, a group of Bible scholars and theologians met in Westminster Abbey to scour the Scriptures for the most important doctrines of our faith. They summarized those doctrines in short, concise statements, in what became the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many churches and denominations still subscribe to that Confession, including my home church, Cypress Ridge Pres. I also subscribe to that Confession.

From that Confession of Faith, they set out to formulate teaching-tools so that those great doctrines could be taught to the masses. They produced two Catechisms, a Larger, more detailed Catechism, and a Shorter, or more simplified Catechism, which is suitable for even young children.

The very first question they asked was “Why am I here?” Thus, question and answer one is:
Q – What is the chief end of man?

A – Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

If you are thinking that this question sounds suspiciously like “Why am I here?”, you are right, because the Bible should inform our understanding of “why” we are here, the “meaning of life“. If it doesn’t, we are looking for “meaning” in all the wrong places.

Why am I here? To be part of God’s “forever-family“.

Family rules…
For a family to function smoothly, there have to be rules, rules about how the children are to interact with their parents, and rules for now the children are to interact with each other. God’s family is no different; hence God gave us the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments tell us how we are to interact with God. The other six commandments tell us how we are to interact with one another.

20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

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

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

By the time Jesus came to earth, the number of rules and regulations in the Torah had blossomed to over six-hundred, covering virtually every aspect of life. If the Pharisees thought that God hadn’t been “detailed-enough“, they added even more rules and regulations. They were always trying to pick a fight with Jesus, but they ALWAYS lost. Not surprisingly, they kept trying, because He made them look like the idiots they were. Anything to save-face…

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

We will now focus on that second Great Commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself…

We can certainly think of many ways we can show love for our neighbor, and all of them are valid, however, what is our neighbor’s GREATESTneed“? Think about that “need” for a few moments before we go on.

God gave me a “love-project” for over three years, a sickly, injury-prone neighbor. She needed MANY things, many of which I was able to help her with, but since she thought that she had gotten her “ticket punched” when she was a young girl, she thought that she “had it made“, and had no interest in the things of the Lord. Her lifestyle reflects that belief. She ONLY goes to church when she thinks it will be “advantageous” to her. She has a great “need“, even though she thinks she doesn’t.

There are MANY like her in this world, for whom God may only be a “useful-accessory“, it at all. We see them everywhere we turn.

Every person belongs to one of two families, either God’s family, or Satan’s family. There is NOmiddle-ground“. They are also going to either Heaven, or Hell. Again, there is NOmiddle-ground“.

What is MANKIND’S GREATEST “NEED”?

Mankind’s greatest “need” is to be restored to a right-relationship with God, and to become part of God’s “forever-family“. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ IS the GOOD NEWS that we can be restored to a right-relationship with God, and join His “forever-family

God has given US the awesome-privilege of being part of His “adoption-agency“, so doesn’t it make sense for us to share the Good News of the Gospel so that others can become part of His “forever-family“, and participate in His ultimate-plan for mankind? I sure think so.

That, my friends, is how we can “love our neighbor” in the very-best-way possible.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Studies in Ruth – Fulfilling A Promise

We have come to the “grand-finale” in our studies in Ruth. We have seen God’s hand of providence revealed in many of the details throughout this grand story, from Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem at the “right-time“, to them living close to a close-relative, to Boaz’s kindness to Naomi and Ruth, and now, Boaz’s promise to bring their case to “court“.

We have explored the basis for some of their “customs” which probably don’t make sense to us, but which are founded on the Law of God. Yes, it seems like we are coming to the “end-of-the-line” for Boaz and Ruth, but their story won’t really be “complete” until Christ returns to take His “family” home to be with Him. This story is our story too, because as we are “spiritual-children” of Abraham, we are also “spiritual-children” of Boaz and Ruth through our great kinsman-redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Some of “the rest of the story” is told in the Prophesies and Promises behind the Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas. Part of their story came before them, going all the way back to the Promise, given by God, in Genesis 3:15.

To get the background for this chapter, we need to go back to the Law of God as given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. There will be one significant difference in this story; who goes to court.

5 “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. 7 But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’ (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

Boaz goes to court…
4 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. 2 He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the closest relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 So I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.” 6 The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.”

After Ruth left Boaz and returned to the place where she and Naomi were staying, Boaz went to town. He stopped at the town gates where the Elders were to be found, which was a customary place for them to conduct their duties. When the other kinsman-redeemer came along, he asked the man to sit with him in the hearing of the Elders to discuss the situation. You will no doubt recall that the night before, Boaz had mentioned to Ruth that there was a closer relative who was first in line as kinsman-redeemer, and this is the matter Boaz brought up that morning.

It would seem, from verses 3 and 4 that Naomi had inherited her husband’s property, so Boaz mentioned this to the man first. In an earlier study, we saw that a kinsman-redeemer would buy the land of the dead husband from the widow so that she would have money in her old age with which to live, since she probably wouldn’t be able to make a living from the land by herself, and this other kinsman-redeemer, whose name is never mentioned in the text, agreed to buy it. If he had the cash, then why not buy it? He could do his duty to the family, and add to his own income in the bargain; so far, so good. Then something strange happens:

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” (4:5)

Oh dear, there’s a catch – that Moabite woman!

At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” (4:6)

Did you notice that as long as Boaz just mentioned Naomi and her property, the other guy was willing to redeem, but when he mentioned the Moabite woman was part of the deal, the other guy backed out? Why do you suppose Boaz mentioned that she was a Moabite, of all things?

Why would this unnamed kinsman have a problem with marrying Ruth? For an Israelite to have a Gentile in their household was problematic enough, but a Moabite woman was really too much; they had experience with Moabite women in the past; these women were trouble! It looks like there was something even deeper going on if we look at the man’s reason for declining the deal; “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate“. That begs the question; “Was he single, and thus didn’t have an heir, or was he married, but his wife was barren?” Evidently if he married Ruth, their first son would inherit both Naomi’s estate AND his estate. No way, the man was not going to redeem, even though it was his duty; Boaz could have the deal. Evidently, Boaz already had an heir, or he was content to have his legacy carried-on through a son, yet unborn, who would be born to him and Ruth. Would we even know anything about Boaz if Ruth hadn’t come along?

Making it legal…
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. 8 So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he removed his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.” 11 All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. 12 Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

Thus, with all of the Elders as his witnesses, Boaz acquired the right to redeem, and bought the land and Ruth from Naomi, and Ruth thus became his wife. I know that to the modern reader, this transaction sounds pretty weird, but this took place a very long time ago, and was proper and binding. The Elders agree and gave their blessing to the arrangement: Done.

The blessing the Elders pronounce harkened back to Boaz’s own direct-ancestry and the beginning of the Twelve Tribes. Rachel and Leah were Jacob’s wives, and they, along with their maids, were the mothers of Jacob’s twelve sons. Perez was Judah’s son by his daughter-in-law, Tamar. (Genesis 38)

Boaz was a very sharp man; he knew how to get things done in this world. He did so with wisdom and intelligence, and by the rules of the day. In the process, he did his duty to his family, to Naomi, to Ruth and to their husbands’ family line, and he did it with justice for all concerned. In so doing, he provides all of us with an excellent example of what it means to be a godly man.

Here comes the bride…
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. 15 May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Had Ruth been barren prior to her marrying Boaz? This phrase, “And the Lord enabled her to conceive,” is used many times throughout the Bible when God intervened and gave a barren woman the ability to become pregnant. Could this be why she and her first husband didn’t have any children? Had God “saved” her for this point in her life, to accomplish His special-purpose?

Naomi’s friends understood the significance of Ruth having a son, because not only did Ruth and Naomi receive an heir, their kinsman-redeemer had redeemed them from poverty and hopelessness. Ruth, through Boaz, had accomplished what Naomi’s own sons were not able to accomplish, give her an heir and security in her old-age.

The women’s praises celebrate the fulfillment of God’s covenant-love to Naomi. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, is more to her than seven sons would be. Moreover, Naomi in effect has a son in her grandson, Obed. He will become the grandfather of David.

The Line of David Began Here
16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. 17 The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Naomi had gone away “empty”, but her cup now overflowed with blessings.

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, 19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. (Ruth 4)

Why does the book of Ruth close with a genealogy? The closing genealogy shifts the focus from Naomi back to Boaz, and fulfills the larger purpose of the narrative. The genealogy begins with Perez, someone who could “break-through“, and whom the women in their blessing remembered as the vigorous son of Tamar. Like Ruth, Tamar became an ancestor of David in an unexpected way. For New Testament readers, David is not the end of God’s provisions for the people of His choice. But for her time, Ruth’s journey had reached its divinely-appointed goal.

After the scene that takes place in verses 1-12 of chapter four, Boaz and Ruth are married. There is not a single word in the text about their life together; other than they had a son named Obed. From what the text has told us, Ruth is humble and loyal, Boaz is kind, of high character and righteous, so we can infer that they lived happily ever after. Certainly there is nothing to cause this inference to be brought into question. It’s probably safe to infer that Naomi lived out her years in happiness as well.

The text mentions a son as the only specific about the lives of Ruth and Boaz because that son becomes a direct ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is a very big deal indeed. It places Ruth in that same lineage; a Moabite. Of course, she is not the only Gentile woman in that lineage, and I suppose that we should pause to clear up any confusion resulting from this point, since ultimately this line will pass to Jesus through Mary.

The Old Testament Law states that to be a Jew, someone must be of the seed of Abraham, a quaint old fashioned way of saying Abraham’s genetic descendant. This “seed” passes from the father, thus Obed is Jewish by birth even though his mother was a Gentile. The Father of Jesus was not strictly speaking a Jew; instead He was God. So how could Jesus be a Jew?

I hope you were sitting down when you read that; it is not a joke. You see, unless something happened first, Jesus would be the Son of God without being a Jew.

But something did happen.

During the captivity in Babylon, Jews began to intermarry with Gentiles. After the return from captivity, many Jews chose not to return, while others returned and continued intermarrying. It seems that men were much more likely to take a Gentile bride than women a Gentile husband and eventually, after much controversy and confusion, the Law was changed, so that descendancy from Abraham came through mothers instead of fathers. Thus, you could only be born a Jew if your mother was Jewish. If your mother was Gentile and your father was Jewish, you were considered to be a Gentile, and this is so to this very day. Thus, Jesus was Jewish because Mary was Jewish.

If you read this book again carefully, there would seem to be either a lot of coincidence or a lot of luck in the story. I think the biggest one of these took place when Ruth went out to work in the fields that first day, and somehow came upon the fields of Boaz. Why didn’t Naomi tell Ruth where to go? By all rights, shouldn’t she have directed Ruth to the fields of the other kinsman-redeemer, the one with first right of redemption? No, somehow Ruth just got lucky and stumbled into Boaz’ life!

You can be quite sure that there are no coincidences here, and no dumb luck either, for God was at work in the lives of these people. Now here’s a question for everyone to ponder: Why did God choose Naomi, Ruth and Boaz to be in this story, and thus to be part of the lineage of His Son?

Naomi, Ruth and Boaz Have Much to Teach Us
Looking at our adventure in the book of Ruth, it should be obvious to anyone that this story has much to teach us. I’m not going to say that the things I mention about them are an exhaustive and encyclopedic analysis, but I hope that what follows will give you a pretty good picture of the kinds of people they were.

Naomi
Here is woman who went through a terrible time; she can almost be compared to Job in her affliction. First there was the famine that tore her family away from their lands and lives in Bethlehem, forcing them to move to Moab just to try and survive. She was an outsider there, not knowing the customs or the people, being a foreigner in a foreign place. Thus, she had only her family to cling to; her husband and two sons. The sons then come of marrying age and they marry foreign women, a cultural problem that their parents had to deal with, and then her husband and two sons die leaving Naomi destitute with two foreign daughters-in-law. In this time of trial, Naomi becomes an embittered old woman, by her own estimation, and begins making drastic decisions.

She tried to do right by her daughters in law, releasing them from their obligations to her and urging them to return to their own, and one finally does so, while Ruth insists on being loyal to Naomi, and then Naomi returns to her homeland and her God and family. Upon her return home with Ruth, Naomi guides Ruth on several occasions, and even though some of her advice was risky, it turns out that Naomi was a very good judge of character and gave advice that can only be described as “harmless as a lamb and crafty as a serpent.”

Naomi, while she had her low points in a life marked with tragedy and adversity, overcame that adversity by returning to her God and making very wise choices. I’d say we can learn from her example.

Ruth
Whole books have been written on Ruth’s character, so I’ll keep it short; Ruth had the heart of a servant. She was loyal to the family of her husband, she was humble, she worked hard and without complaint, and she was submissive to her elders. In all of this, Ruth shows us what it means to deal with self, for there is no “self” on display in her story. To top it off, let us not forget the fact that Ruth made a conscious-choice to follow the God of Israel. How different she was from the way we are today, and great was her reward.

Boaz
Boaz was a leader of men, but he was not like many leaders of men, for Boaz was a servant-leader. Remember when, on Ruth’s first day in the fields, Boaz returned from town and “greeted” his workers? Maybe you recall that he told his men not to lay a hand on Ruth. Was there any mention of an incident taking place, or of any grumbling about that? How about when Boaz went to the village gate and asked the elders to come and listen to his discussion with the other kinsman-redeemer; did they say they were too busy? Did the tell him to buzz off? No! They immediately did as he asked because they respected him, just as his workers did. Yet in everything we know of Boaz, there is no indication at all that anybody’s respect was borne out of fear, for Boaz built relationships with other men that enabled him to lead them by gaining their trust.

Have you ever worked for a boss who was a “tyrant“? Have you ever worked for a boss who was a “team-builder“? I have worked for both types of bosses, and I will take the “team-builder” any day of the week. One time, I worked for both types in the same department. The day-shift-supervisor was a “tyrant“, but the night-shift-leadman was a “team-builder“. The night-shift worked like a “well-oiled-machine“. The day-shift could be chaos. Which type of manager was Boaz?

On that fateful night when Boaz awakened to find Ruth lying at his feet, how did he react? He reacted with mercy, kindness and gratitude for the opportunity to serve. That all of this must include a healthy dose of humility should go without saying…

Now, when you put the characteristics of these three people together, what do you have?

You have the type of person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I would submit to you that this is why God chose to work through these three people, and why their story has resulted in their names being forever associated with the lineage of the Son of God.

Some Final Thoughts
Thinking about the story of Ruth, it’s hard to come away from it without the sense that God really does work in the lives of His people. He certainly did so in ancient times, and maybe we sometimes feel like they were more “special” than we are because of this. Yet upon reflection, we should know better. The Bible is full of stories of amazing men and women of faith, and it also has many stories of men and women who were ungodly in their lives and characters, and isn’t this really the same condition that we see around us today?

I would actually like to go a step further and suggest that there are more amazing men and women of faith today than there were in Bible times, since unlike those in the Old Testament, God’s people in our time are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Old Testament Israelites were not. The problem we have today is that we aren’t having these people pointed out to us, and in the busy day-to-day we might not notice what is really going on around us. If nothing else, we might at least ponder the possibilities.

As for the specifics of the Ruth story, one thing is quite clear: Boaz was no ordinary man, for he was a “type” of Christ as a kinsman-redeemer. The fact that the text includes “redeemer” in it should bring this into focus for most readers. To review, a “type” is a term that comes from a manner of interpretation called “Typology”; a “typological interpretation”, and is a natural element of Old Testament writing since the Old Covenant itself is a “type” of the New, a fact brought out and referred to again and again in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Ruth is a type of the redeemed, which is to say of you and me. The humility that she demonstrates over and over is the behavior that is supposed to be seen in us, and when she lay down in total submission and humility at the feet of Boaz portrays our coming to Christ in humility and submission and receiving redemption from our sins and the gift of a new life in Christ.

The result of Ruth’s actions was that she was redeemed from widowhood and received a new life as the wife of Boaz, ultimately giving birth to a son in the direct lineage of the Son of God. For us, we are redeemed from sin and receive a new life in Christ, as I said, but we also join the family tree of Jesus as his brothers and sisters in the household of His Father… and our Father. While we remain on this earth, we are servants of His, but when we inherit this birthright, we have not only eternal life with Him, but that life is lived as His brothers and sisters in the Father’s house. It is because of this significance, we can say that the story of Ruth is much more than an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity and of godly role models, for it is a significance that leads us to the very source of life itself.

I hope that you have enjoyed our little adventure through this story, and I hope that you have found it to be an adventure that is worthy of more thoughtful contemplation. May all of us walk more closely with our Lord as a result of our adventures with Him.

Since we are approaching Christmas, we will spend the next few weeks looking at the Promises and Prophesies given throughout the Old Testament, leading up to when we will celebrate Christmas by reading the account of the birth of Christ from the Gospels.

Sola Deo Gloria!!!

Studies in Ruth – Ruth Goes To Work

We have come to one of the most amazing stories in the Old Testament. Ruth, who was from Moab, is not only accepted into the community, she is also welcomed by one of the prominent men in the community. Far from being lazy and hoping that someone is willing to help them out, she actively-pursued an opportunity to work for her keep and help feed them.

God had commanded the children of Israel to care for the poor, the stranger and the alien by giving them the opportunity to glean in their fields. They had been commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, nor were they allowed to go back and get anything they missed, but they were to leave it untouched so that those less-fortunate than them could have a place to get food. (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22, and Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

Another interesting command goes along with this one: 17 “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18 But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

Not only were they to provide for the needs of those who were poor and needy, they were also to make sure that the alien and orphan got the justice they deserved. They weren’t to be treated as “second-class citizens” in the courts of law. Did you notice the reason why God gave these commands?

We saw last time that Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Barley was the first grain to be harvested, and it was usually ready in about April. Thus, they had come home during a time when an abundant-harvest was a time of celebration and giving thanks to God. We will catch a glimpse of this celebration later on.

Ruth Gleans in Boaz’ Field
Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

This verse seems to come out of left field; it interrupts the narrative, yet it is used to set up what will shortly come into the story. His name means in him is strength, and he is a man of standing, meaning that he was mighty in wealth and in godliness, a rare combination.

2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

God’s providence is very-evident in this story. Not only did Naomi and Ruth get to Bethlehem at the right time, they were near to a prominent man in the community who was not only quite-wealthy, but was related to Naomi. Was it just “coincidental” that she picked a field belonging to Boaz? It looks more like a “divine-appointment” to me.

We see more of Ruth’s character coming out in the section, she was not only ambitious, she was also hard-working. She asked Naomi if it was okay for her to go glean in someone’s field, thus honoring Naomi’s place in their family. She also didn’t presume that it was okay to glean in that field; she asked the head-reaper first. By the time Boaz came along, she had already been in the field for several hours.

When Boaz came from Bethlehem back to his farm, the first thing we need to notice is how he greets his reapers. We don’t see him acting and talking like a “head-honcho” even though he is talking to his servants. He said; “May the Lord be with you.” This sounds more like a benediction or doxology than a mere-greeting. He is calling on God to be with his laborers as they do their work. They are not just “hired-hands” or “servants“… He is the kind of godly-boss everyone should delight to work for.

Notice their response; “May the Lord bless you.” Again, we see a benediction or doxology. Was this their “customary-greeting“? If they had worked for Boaz for many years, this may have become their “customary-greeting“. Among the Finnish-Lutherans, their “customary-greeting” is “God’s peace“.

While Ruth is toiling, Boaz returns from town and greets his workers, and then asks the boss if he knows who this woman was who was gleaning. Some commentators suggest that Boaz was curious about her because of her great beauty, but if our text has mentioned her being beautiful, I missed it; probably he just didn’t recognize her. The overseer tells him who she was, and from there forward, our text records the kindness Boaz affords Ruth. Boaz, it seems, views Ruth as a part of his extended family and recognizes that he has a responsibility here to care for her in some way. Now let’s be clear about that; Boaz has no legal responsibility for Ruth because her husband was dead, and she is free to marry anyone who will have her. In addition, she is a Moabite, and in that case, he would have no responsibility for her at all, yet because of the loyalty that she has shown to Naomi, Boaz goes out of his way to help her.

We don’t know whether the head-reaper was plugged-in to the community-grapevine, but he already knew who Ruth was. As we will see in the next few verses, Ruth’s reputation had already made the rounds in that community. Is our reputation so “good” that it goes-before us, or is our reputation so “bad” that we wish that no-one knew about us?

Have you ever treated someone like “family” even though they are not “related” to you?

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”

Boaz offered Ruth a “safe-place” to work, something that might not be guaranteed otherwise. Even though the Law required land-owners to allow the poor and needy to glean in their fields, some of them might not have been very “happy” about it. In addition, he also provided the means for her to get refreshed and to relax when she needed to.
Ruth didn’t take these extra “perks” for-granted, she asked why Boaz even noticed her, and she is thankful that he had noticed her.

It seems like Ruth must have been “the talk of the town” because Boaz already knew her whole history. As Boaz speaks of Ruth coming to seek “refuge under the wings of the God of Israel“, “refuge” became a recurring-theme for their future great-grandson, David, in the Psalms that he wrote. Psalm 36:7 is only one of many.

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

Boaz pronounced a blessing on Ruth; 12 “May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel,”

Even though Boaz “knows-of” or “knows-about” Ruth, he still doesn’t really “know” her yet. Thus it is in all of our relationships. Most of our relationships are superficial, at best. Even in marriage, our “most-intimate” relationship, we each have a long “voyage-of-discovery” as we travel life together, and we may not really know what makes our spouse “tick” until we go through some kind of traumatic life-event, such as loss of a job, or a major-move. That kind of event may bring out the “worst” in one or both spouses.

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”

Notice that Boaz orders his men to leave her alone, that he gives her a seat at the table with the rest of the household (a household in the OT would include the servants) and that he arranges for her to receive considerably more grain than she would have received just from gleaning. Also, please take note of Ruth’s attitude of humility; even now she assumes no rights or entitlements.

Even though Boaz was “duty-bound” to allow Ruth to glean in his field, we see him “going above and beyond the call of duty” in how he treats Ruth. We call people who “go above and beyond the call of duty” Heroes.

These are two very unusual people!

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. 19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.” 23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2)

Even though reapers didn’t usually “thresh” or “beat-out” what they had harvested until the harvest was done, what Ruth had gleaned was useless unless she did “thresh” or “beat-out” her harvest. “Threshing” separated the grain from the stalk and chaff.

How much grain did she get? An “ephah” was about half a bushel, or about thirty-pounds of grain. Once that barley was ground into meal or flour, it was going to make a LOT of bread, or whatever else barley was used for.

Naomi was probably blown-away by how much barley Ruth brought home because it is unlikely that gleaning-alone would have netted her that much. It certainly got her attention. It also aroused her curiosity; “Where did you glean today and where did you work?“, and also garnered a blessing; “May he who took notice of you be blessed.” From blaming God for her misfortunes to asking God to bless the man who was blessing them…

Ruth’s answer will set the stage for the rest of this story; “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Why is this important? 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” Was Naomi already starting to “connect the dots“?, because in that culture, family-legacy was so important that God had given them a means for preserving family-lines (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). We will look at that in more detail later in our study, along with what it means for us today.

Naomi knows that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer, which comes from the Hebrew word ga’al which means “kinsman-redeemer”. A kinsman-redeemer is a relative who is obligated to “redeem” the property, and sometimes the life or marriage, of a relation who has fallen into severe distress. For example, if there is real property that is owned by a widow, the kinsman-redeemer might buy that property so that the widow, who couldn’t farm it herself, has an income to live off of. They might also pay off a mortgage, take the person into their household, or marry a brother’s wife if they have no children so that the brother can live on through the children. In the case of Boaz, he was a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi, since he is related to her husband. In the case of Ruth, he is a relative of her husband as well, but the fact that Ruth is a Moabite would give Boaz an “out” if he wished to avoid his responsibilities to the family. Finally, we must remind ourselves that there had been a famine in the land 10 years earlier, and we do not know how long it lasted. A famine in the Promised Land would tell us that God’s Law was not being obeyed in that generation, thus Boaz may or may not be the kind of man who would honor this obligation. Naomi seems to think that he will do his duty, based upon Ruth’s report.

I am sure that Naomi is “all-ears” as Ruth recounts her day at work. 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” Naomi immediately-recognizes that Ruth will be safe as long as she doesn’t go somewhere else. “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.

23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

We see Ruth revealed as our first “type“. She was a “type“, or “forerunner” of everyone who will ever become a member of the “family of God” through faith. Up to that time, people were “born-into” the “family of God” by physical-descent, but not anymore. The Jews, in Jesus’ time, claimed Abraham as their “father“, however, in Ruth, we see that “door” opened-up to people who were NOT descended from Abraham, such as us. We become members of the “family of God” through faith, much as Ruth did. In the New Testament, we are called “the spiritual children of Abraham” (Romans 4:11-25), and yes, we still have a “blood-connection“, but it is not our own blood. Our connection is through the shed-blood of Christ, who was descended from Abraham.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – Come And Eat

Jesus and His disciples have gone back “home“, to Galilee. It was much “safer” in Galilee because they didn’t have the Jewish religious leaders stalking them at every move. Jesus had completed His work in Jerusalem, so there was no good reason to stay there. They would stay in Galilee until Jesus instructed them to go back to Jerusalem right before He ascended back into Heaven. Jerusalem was to become their “headquarters“, but not yet.

When we are hungry, those three words are music to our ears, and when they carry with them a restoration of lost relationships, they are even sweeter. Some of a family’s sweetest and most cherished memories are made while eating together, and nothing says “family” quite like eating a meal together, and it doesn’t matter whether it is a sumptuous holiday-feast or a simple one-pot-dinner. Eating a meal together carries an even more special significance in the Bible.

Jesus had a two-fold purpose for this event, to reassure Peter than he had been “disowned“, and to give Peter his new commission. This was a “family” meal, a meal of “reconciliation“. Satan was probably gloating over Peter’s denial of His Lord, but Jesus wasn’t going to allow Satan to have the “last-laugh“. Satan’s victory was going to be short-lived. The last time they had been together as a “family” was for Passover and the Last Supper.

David, the psalmist, points us to this special significance in the 23rd Psalm:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

Jesus Appears at the Sea of Galilee
21 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. (John 21:1-3)

Peter had “blown-itBIG-TIME, after he was SO adamant that he would never deny or desert Jesus. In case we need a “refresher“:

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Does this all sound familiar? “I WILL NEVER…

Who could blame Peter for going fishing? He had been a commercial fisherman before Jesus called him, so fishing was the one thing that he DID know how to do. After all, fishing was “comfortable“, fishing was “familiar“, and fishing was “safe“. Fishing was everything he wasn’t feeling at that time, so Peter and several other disciples went fishing. Besides, they had families to feed. How could Jesus ever trust him with carrying on the ministry after He ascended back into heaven after he made such a horrible blunder?

4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

Just as the sun was starting to peep over the horizon, when it was still too dark to make out anything or anyone in the distance, Jesus appeared on the beach. Jesus had told His disciples that He would meet them in Galilee, and there He was. Did Jesus just “guess” that they hadn’t been successful because they were still out there, or did He “know“? Jesus has demonstrated “limited-omniscience” on several occasions during His ministry, such as when He “saw” Nathaniel under the fig-tree (John 1:43-51), and yet He sometimes seemed to be “blissfully-ignorant” on other occasions, such as when He asked where Lazarus was buried and didn’t know the date and time of the fall of Jerusalem or when He was going to return in triumph. Either way, He asked them anyway. “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”

They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

This wasn’t the first time Jesus had told them where to fish resulting in a “net-stretching” catch. When Jesus first met Peter and his buddies in Luke 5:1-11, there was a similar result. It was also when Jesus issued the call to “Follow me“. Coincidence?

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. Why did Peter put on his outer garment? This certainly WASN’T the first time Jesus had seen him naked, so did he do it out of reverence for Jesus? It wasn’t what I would have done if I was going to jump into the water and wade ashore. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. Peter also left it to the other guys to drag the net-full of fish back to shore.

9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

When they arrive, it seems that Jesus had a campfire going and was cooking breakfast. It would seem that Jesus had a menu of bread and fish, something that we’ve seen Jesus do before, but this time, instead of the disciples rounding up fish and loaves that Jesus multiplied, Jesus has fish and loaves and the catch of the disciples will be the multiplier; Jesus has passed the torch, you might say.

John provides us with some eyewitness details in this portion of the text: there were 153 large fish in the net, Peter drags it ashore and Jesus is not only the cook, but the server. Interesting isn’t it? A guy who was executed, dead and buried is putting on a fish fry! He is no ghost, for I can’t recall a single time when I’ve ever heard of a ghost eating fish: Jesus had arisen from the grave bodily.

What was a “large” fish, three to five pounds? I was tickled to death to catch a one-pounder a few weeks ago, because that made it a “successful” fishing-trip for me. If they averaged four-pounds each, their catch was over six-hundred pounds of wiggling, squirming fish. A LOT of people were going to eat fish that day.

Jesus Provides
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

“Come and have breakfast.” They were going to eat a “family-meal” together, and nothing says “family” quite like eating-together. As He had done at the Last Supper, Jesus served them first.

The Love Motivation
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

John used two different Greek words for “love” in this exchange between Jesus and Peter, “agapeo” and “phileo“. “Agapeo” is “self-giving love“, and “phileo” is “brotherly-love“. Some commentators and scholars don’t see anything “significant” about the change in Greek “love-words“, but I believe Jesus was using the difference in the meaning of the words to make a point. So, let’s look at this exchange using the Greek words for “love” to see if we can get a sense of the true-meaning behind it.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you “agapeo” Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I “phileo” You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you “agapeo” Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I “phileo” You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you “phileo” Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you “phileo” Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I “phileo” You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep”.

Does anything jump-out at you?

Maybe we can catch the meaning by substituting the meaning of each word.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you “love Me with self-giving love” more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I “love You like a brother“.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you “love Me with self-giving love“?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I “love You like a brother“.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you “love Me like a brother“?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you “love Me like a brother“?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I “love You like a brother.”” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep”.

Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He had warned His disciples about the persecution they were going to have to endure as the continued to carry-out His mission. Life was NOT going to be easy. The sense I get from this exchange between Jesus and Peter is that He was asking Peter if he had the commitment and self-giving love which was going to be required. Was Peter willing to give his life for Christ? That was a tough “pill” to swallow for Peter, as evidenced by his “I love you like a brother” responses and him being grieved that Jesus asked him three times.

Even though Jesus and Peter finally got on the same “page” with their last exchange, Jesus’ point was already made. When Jesus called Peter to be His disciple over three years before, He said “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”(Matthew 4:19). Jesus had called Peter to “get out of the boat“, to be a “follower“, an “apprentice“, a “learner“, and after more than three years of intensive-learning, Jesus was calling Peter to “get out of the boat” again, to leave the relative-comfort and obscurity of being a fisherman, to put his training to work “catching” men by spreading the Good News that God’s Kingdom Had come. Peter’s new calling was going to require more than a superficial-commitment and “friendship-love“; it was going to require that Peter put all of himself, sacrificially, into this ministry. He was to “tend” and “shepherd” the “sheep“, lovingly and tenderly, and put their well-being ahead of his own.

Why Did Jesus ask Peter the same question three times? Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest, and Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him. Could it be that that had dawned on Peter? Could it be that Peter felt terrible guilt over his cowardly denial? Let’s not forget that this is the first time that they had been off together since Jesus’ death, and Jesus has some business to settle with him. Peter must learn to care for the other followers of Jesus, His “sheep,” and this means taking the charge seriously and selflessly, a lesson that must not be lost on all leaders of the church today.

As Jesus, in love, laid down His life for His “sheep“, we are called to love and serve our “flock” sacrificially too. We are also called to “feed” and “tend” our flock, and “feeding” implies looking for the best “pasture” so that they are healthy and grow. As ministers of the Gospel, we must be diligent in our preparation so that we deliver the best “spiritual-food” we can possibly give to our flock. To do any less is to shirk our responsibility.

Our Times Are in His Hand
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

Peter wasn’t promised an “easy” life, and we know that he died as a martyr for Christ. Early-church historians have recorded that Peter was crucified, however he insisted that he be crucified upside-down because he wasn’t “worthy” of being crucified right-side-up like his Lord.

We aren’t promised an “easy” life either, and if we remain faithful to our Lord, we may also die as martyrs for Christ, but we HAVE been promised that “He will never leave us nor forsake us“. Our times are in His hands. I can’t think of anyone more “qualified” than God to entrust my care to.

Peter’s call to “Follow me” is also our call. We are loved, we are accepted, and yes, we are called to “follow” Christ also.

20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Why was Peter curious about what was going to happen to John? Did he wonder if John was also going to be martyred for Christ? 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!

Jesus’ call to Peter was unequivocal, “You follow Me!

Certified…
24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Other Apostles are certifying that John’s account is true and accurate, because they were there too.

Too much to write…
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (John 21)

Even taken together, the Gospels only give us brief “snapshots” of Jesus’ life and ministry. It would have virtually-impossible to tell everything, even if someone was writing it down as it happened, but what we have is adequate for its purpose.

Why This Gospel Was Written
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)

John actually sums-up the whole purpose of all of the Gospels in one brief statement: “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name”.

Have you found new life in Christ?

We will wrap-up this study, based on John’s Gospel, next week, with the Great Commission and Ascension of our Lord. Stay tuned, as we will be moving into Ruth next month.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Six-O

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Steve

In Memory…

Death is UGLY, and calling a funeral or memorial-service a “Celebration of Life” is like chocolate-coating a turd. It may look nice on the outside but it still stinks in the middle. I attended the funeral for the mother of a close friend, and even though the funeral was short, as funerals go, it was still too long. As the pastor and a friend of the deceased recited a litany of her life well-lived, it was poignant-reminder that she is gone. As her lifeless body laid in the casket before us, we were reminded that caskets are made for the dead, not the living. Nobody goes to a funeral home and “test-drives” their casket before they need it. A casket is usually selected after the person dies, when the family is not in any position to protest the outrageous prices of caskets or the ridiculous prices funeral homes charge for their services.

The death of a loved-one may bring out the best in their family and pull them all together to support each other in their time of grief, or it may bring out the worst as family-members jockey for position and start dividing up the “spoils“. I wish I could say that the members of that family were on their “bestbehavior“, but they weren’t. It brought out the worst…

Does anyone ever live “longenough“? Death has been part of the human-experience since the Fall of Adam and Eve. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve didn’t die physically, but they did die spiritually, and they brought death to all mankind. Everyone who has ever lived has either died already, or will die if Christ doesn’t return before their death. Yes, there were a few people whom God took directly to Heaven without dying, but they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Lazarus died twice, as did Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15). Miraculous resurrections didn’t keep them from dying again.

The Grim Reaper has our number, but we don’t know when our number will be called. The Bible says “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Shouldn’t we be celebrating lives well-lived while the people are still alive so they can enjoy the party too? Maybe we should turn “Birthday” parties into “Celebration of life” parties. Have you lived a life worth celebrating? I pray you have, but if you are reading this, it isn’t too late to start living your life in a manner that will glorify God and be a life well-lived.

Blessings!
Steve

Come and Eat…

When we are hungry, those three words are music to our ears, and when they carry with them a restoration of lost relationships, they are even sweeter. Some of a family’s sweetest and most cherished memories are made while eating together, and nothing says “family” quite like eating a meal together. Eating a meal together carries an even more special significance in the Bible.

David, the psalmist, points us to this special significance in the 23rd Psalm.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

The prodigal son…
What image comes to mind when a person is described as a “prodigal“? Rebel? Wild-child? Black-sheep? If we are honest with ourselves, there is a bit of “prodigal” in every one of us. No matter how “good” you have been, there is a “prodigal” hidden inside…

11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24)

Can you imagine the father laying awake at night worrying about his son? Can you see the father keeping his eyes peeled, scanning the horizon for a glimpse of his son, day after day, day after day?

What did the son look like when he approached? Was he a “sight for sore eyes“, or an “eyesore“? To his father, he certainly was a “sight for sore eyes“. Otherwise, he smelled like a pig-sty and looked like he hadn’t had a bath in months. He was barefoot, and what little clothing he had on had seen better days. He probably looked very little different than the homeless people who wander the cities of America.

By rights, the father could have had his son stripped and flogged, but he didn’t. He celebrated, but the celebration wasn’t the robe. The celebration wasn’t the ring, or even the sandals. The celebration was a FEAST, a BANQUET, a PARTY!!! He was ALIVE! He was HOME!

Peter…
Loose lips may sink ships, but Peter got caught in his own mouth-trap. It was far more serious than “open mouth and insert foot“. Peter did one of those infamous “I will NEVER…”‘s. Do you relate? I sure do, and if I had a T-shirt for every time I said “I will NEVER…“, and did it anyway, I would have to turn my home into a closet. I must have inherited some of Peter’s bragadocious genes.

Peter already had a well-deserved reputation for being bold, brash, impetuous and even a bit arrogant. He was also the “toughguy” of the gang. Don’t forget that Peter was the one packing “heat” (a sword) when Jesus was arrested. Either his aim was a bit off, or his sword-wielding skills were rusty, because he “only” cut off the guy’s ear. So much for “protecting” Jesus from arrest…

Shortly before this, Peter’s tongue had gone from being “golden“:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

to “talking trash“:
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

What did Peter do that was SO bad?
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Does this all sound familiar? “I WILL NEVER…

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.

75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

Peter blew it – big-time, and he knew it. He had done what he promised to NEVER do, deny His lord. If this story ended with Peter’s denial, all that would have been left would have been a very despondent Peter, but this story DOESN’T end this way. It is time for another meal, time for another restoration.

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)

Who could blame Peter for going fishing? He had been a commercial fisherman before Jesus called him, so fishing was the one thing that he DID know how to do. How could Jesus ever trust him with carrying on the ministry after He ascended back into heaven, after he made such a horrible blunder?

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Peter not only was restored to fellowship with His lord, he also received a new commission.

The Last Supper…
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29)

This is the meal which we still celebrate, the Lord’s Supper. This is also a meal for restoration. Jesus didn’t say “Drink it when you are perfect“, or “Drink it when you have your stuff together“. He said “Drink from it, all of you“.

We will never be “worthy” to partake in this meal, that is, if we are depending on our own “worthiness“. We will always fall short, but this meal isn’t about us. It is about what Jesus Christ did for us. Only He can restore us to a right relationship with God the Father. I will never understand why He chose me, but He did. All of these meals are truly love-feasts, not because any of us deserves to be restored, but because Someone, who loves us more than we love ourselves, bids us come to His table.

In the presence of my enemies…
No, I didn’t forget that part of Psalm 23:5, although I am not going to touch on the last two phrases of the Psalm. We have an enemy. Satan is our mortal-enemy, and he loves to trip us up, and then make us feel ugly about ourselves after he trips us up.

The prodigal son certainly didn’t feel “worthy” to be taken back into his family, and if his older brother had his way, there wouldn’t have been any restoration, let alone a feast, but he received both. His older brother was the Devil’s advocate, but while the older brother moped, the rest of the family feasted.

Some would say that Peter had committed an unpardonable sin, and I am sure that Satan was having a gay old time reminding him of what he did, but Jesus wasn’t having any part of Satan’s celebration. When Jesus said “Come and eat“, Satan turned tail and ran.

Satan also wants to remind us of how rotten we are. There is just one problem with that. If we are in Christ, we ARE forgiven, and He has given us a permanent invitation to dine at His table. As Jesus dismissed Judas before that special meal, He also has forbidden Satan to interfere with His supper now. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that we can’t fix ourselves, but Satan is also reminded that we no longer belong to him. We can partake because we have been restored.

Come and eat!
Steve

Regrets…

As we grow older, our life starts coming more clearly into focus, and we start realizing, perhaps for the first time, how our life and decisions have impacted others, both for good and for ill. If we had gone through life making perfect decisions and always doing the right thing… Only one person ever perfectly-fullfilled that ideal – Jesus Christ. The rest of us are fallen sinners, and yes, we do make mistakes, and we do have regrets.

I just celebrated birthday number fifty-nine, which means that three-quarters of my life is behind me. Celebrating another birthday gave me the reason and opportunity to pause and look back on my life. The picture hasn’t always been pretty, but I am not here to paint pretty pictures. This is life in the ditches.

The famous American Revolutionary War hero, Nathan Hale, is reported to have said “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” as he was about to be hanged by the British. Many of us who have spent a lifetime in public service echo those words as our own. A few years ago, a dear friend (BROTHER) and I were discussing our lives as public-servants, and we concluded that our only regret was that we weren’t able to do more. Our bodies have betrayed us, and we are no longer able to do what we love, help others in the capacities we used to. If you haven’t been in the “family“, you won’t understand what drives us. Our “drummer” skips a beat, as does our heart, every time the pager goes off.

I have another, far more important regret that will go with me to the grave, that I wasn’t a better husband to my wife and father to my children. Every time I hear “Cats In The Cradle” I get a lump in my throat, because that is my story also. No, I didn’t seek fame and fortune, but I did “do what it takes” in my job, and my family suffered as result.

Cats In The Cradle
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it and as he grew
He said, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, dad, I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on lets play
can you teach me to throw?” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do” He said “Thats okay”
And then he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, dad, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

Well he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile

“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, Son, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day……..
I said “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said “I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu.
But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad,
It’s been sure nice talking to you……..”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me,
My boy was just like me…………..

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, Son, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then.

Regrets…
Yes, I have them. I can’t make it up to my dear wife, because she committed suicide in 1997. I can’t make it up to my children, because they don’t have anything to do with me. They are probably also “too busy” with their own lives and families to make time for their dad. Hopefully they are better parents than I was. I just pray that they aren’t “too busy” for their own children. That is one regret that I DON’T want them to have.

I am still self-centered, self-willed and selfish. I am not the man of God that I should be or could be. I am still a work-in-progress, and it shows. This is about struggles, not triumphs, and I still struggle.

God bless!

Steve

Priorities – Time

Time – that one commodity that we seem to never have enough of, but we all have the same amount of. We each have 24 hours in each day, and 7 days in each week. Why do some people seem to accomplish more with their time? It is a matter of priorities…

For most of us, earning a living consumes nearly a third of our time, and unfortunately it is taking more a more time to earn less and less real money. More and more families are now dependent on two incomes to make ends meet. Something has to give…

Let’s make a list of what has/needs to be done, and see where we spend our time:
1) Worship
2) Couple
3) Sex
4) Family
5) Work
6) Personal care
7) Community
8) Entertainment

Perhaps you are looking at this list and thinking that I have their order screwed up, but I believe that if we put the first four items in their proper place, the rest will fall into place.

1) Worship…
How can we call ourselves Christians if worshiping our gracious Lord is not a high priority in our lives? God has commanded us to take one day off every week for worship, rest, and fellowship with His people, and yet many Christians cheat Him out of worship time because they think they have “better” things to do. Is it any wonder our country and our society are in unprecedented moral decay? Worship also should include regular devotional and prayer time.

The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) If we are placing ANYTHING ahead of God in our lives, we need to revisit our priorities.

2) Couple…
You spend LOTS of time together while you are dating, but after the “I-do’s” are said, you almost go our separate ways…often only passing each other somewhere in the house. Why is that? Isn’t your spouse the most important person in your life?

While you were dating, you couldn’t get enough of each other and you seemed to have EVERYTHING in common. Now, all you have in common is a house and a mortgage. What happened? It seems that you forgot number 3 – sex…

3) Sex…
Why did I put SEX as your number 3 priority? Tim and Beverly LeHaye, who are noted Christian writers and counselors, called SEXThe Act of Marriage” in a book by that same name. It is THAT important! The couple that prays together, plays together (has sex), stays together.

Sex is foundational to a successful marriage. The first couple – Adam and Eve, were commanded by God to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), and when God instituted marriage, He said “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall BECOME ONE FLESH“. (Genesis 2:24) The picture of “one flesh” is sexual union.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over he own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you ::because of your lack of self-control.” (1st Corinthians 7:3-5) Sex is NOT an optional activity for when you both “feel like it” or are “in the mood“. Sex must become a high priority in your marriage. It doesn’t get any clearer than that…

4) Family…
When we consign our children to others to raise, is it any wonder they grow up with all the WRONG values? When we marry and decide to have a family, we are making a commitment to raise those children, and yet how many parents are strangers to their own children? “School” is now starting at a much earlier age than even when I was raising my children, and these “schools” are today’s childcare facilities. We are allowing someone else to raise our children.

Our children…our families are one of our MOST important responsibility, not an afterthought…and our children should be involved with us in worshiping our Lord.

A friend of mine recently had identical twin boys, and I was asking her a few days ago about their childcare arrangements, because she works at the blood center where I donate blood. Her husband is a career firefighter, so he works 24 hours on, 48 hours off, which means he is HOME two days out of three. With their staggered schedules, at least one of them is home taking care of their children 90% of the time, and when their schedules conflict, one of the grandmas pitches in. They are raising their own children…

I am reminded of a picture I saw recently of a father with his young son. They were sitting by a pond, with their feet in the water…fishing. Dad was spending time with his son.
In all honesty, the comment I had to make was that “I was too busy earning a living to be a father to my children“. Is it any wonder that I have been estranged from them for over 16 years? I am reaping what I sowed while they were growing up…without me.

5) Work…
I know, that as you are reading this list, you are probably thinking “Steve, you must be out of your mind, placing work this far down on the list“. Maybe I am, but I am seeking to know the mind of God, not the priorities of man. “Work” is a supporting-actor for the first four priorities. Yes, work IS necessary, to be able to support your spouse and family, but the problem is that it more often is to support a “lifestyle“. Which is more important… relationships… or lifestyle? Far too many people sacrifice their relationships on the ALTAR of their lifestyle. Their LIFESTYLE has become their “god“. See #1…

They think they “have” to have that new status-symbol car, and they “have” to live in that exclusive golf and country-club community. They think they “have” to “keep up with the Jones“, and they are sacrificing their most-important – their relationships, on the ALTAR of their least-important – their lifestyle.

Don’t you think their spouse and children would rather have quality couple and family time, instead of that new car, or expensive (unaffordable) house? I certainly do…

6) Personal care…
Personal care is taking care of your health – your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit. Again, from the pen of the Apostle Paul: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1st Corinthians 6:19-20)

Perhaps Christian would take better care of themselves if they understood this truth from God’s Word. I am not pointing fingers, because I am just a guilty as anyone. Personal care IS important…and it is really “temple maintenance“.

7) Community…
God exists in eternal community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He created us for community also. Our two most important “communities” are our church and our family. We are “relational” beings, and we can not thrive without relationships. What we do together is more important than what we do alone…

8) Entertainment…
Far too many people will place entertainment second only to their work. They work to afford their entertainment. Marriages get sacrificed on the ALTAR of entertainment, and families are destroyed by entertainment-addiction. Even if the whole family is home, each person is in their own corner with their TV or their computer. “Football-widow” is no misnomer, because some men are SO addicted to watching football on TV that they will skip social-occasions with their wife and family to watch that “big-game“.

Entertainment has become an obsession…an addiction, to the exclusion of everything else. By the time a couple gets to bed, they are too tired for what is important – couple-time – communication…sex.

Entertainment can also be a huge money-hog…the latest and biggest TV…the most expensive entertainment center…the most expensive stereo system, and addicts will work long hours and go into debt for those things, while sacrificing what is truly important.

Final thoughts…
I am sure that by now you are thinking that I have really lost my marbles, but I have seen first-hand the carnage that has been wreaked on couples and families by misplaced time-priorities. I have done some of it myself, as I mentioned earlier. If I could turn the hands of time back, there are things that I would do differently, but I can’t. I can’t get my family back, and I can’t raise my first wife from the dead. Yes, I have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, but I am not proud of it. I have lost a LOTTOO much.

I am in church every Sunday, unless I am too sick to go, and I have joined a fellowship group in our church, and even though it takes quite a bit a fuel every week to go there regularly, I wouldn’t miss it. There is also a monthly men’s fellowship, hosted by our assistant pastor, and it too is vitally-important to my spiritual-health. Those are my priorities…

If this brief article doesn’t do any more than prompt you to examine your own priorities, and see if they are aligned with God’s priorities, I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. That is my hope and prayer for you…that by getting your time-priorities straight, you will be better able to help build up the body of Christ – His church, and that your marriage, your family, will be blessed by it. May you use your time wisely. I am only His humble messenger. To God be the glory, forever and ever, AMEN!

God bless!