Monday, January 22, 2018

"Who Do You Say I Am?"

Matthew 16.13-16 NIV

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 

‘But what about you?’ he asked.

WHO do you say I am?”

A good man? A trusted friend? A nice guy?
A moral philosopher? The only way to heaven?

“Who DO you say I am?”

Do I actually say anything at all or do I depend on my
actions alone to influence others to follow Christ?

“Who do YOU say I am?”

Not what I read in a book or heard preached
from a pulpit. What is true within me?

“Who do you SAY I am?”

What flows from my lips when asked about faith in Christ?
Is it guesswork or am I fully assured of what I believe?

“Who do you say I am?”

D0 I speak with more intelligence and familiarity about Barak
Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates than about Jesus?

“Who do you say I AM?”

I know who Jesus isn’t. But exactly who is He?
If I don’t know, how will anyone else find out?

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

“Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone
asks you to account for the hope that is in you...”
1st Peter 3.15 AMP

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Are We There Yet?

Matthew 15.15 NIV and “The Message”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”  I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

Peter is the patron saint of the dense. He’s my kind of guy. Most of us “don’t get it” quietly. But Peter blurts out his ignorance for all to hear, “I’m lost. Can you explain what you’re talking about?” Peter validates and encourages me. I now know it’s OK to admit, “I don’t get it.” If Peter needed an explanation, why am I surprised when I do?

I would rather “get” everything. I hate looking stupid. I don’t want others to jeer and poke fun at my ignorance with snide remarks like, “Wake up and smell the coffee” or “Come to the party” or every sarcastic’s favorite, “Duh.” But that’s the risk I take when, like Peter, I choose to display my lack of awareness for all to see.

Of course, there is an upside to this risk. Maybe I will actually learn something. So, when the pain of ignorance becomes greater than the fear of reprisal, I may take the plunge and confess my reality:

“I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

My comprehension is limited. I only know a few things. I’m ever learning much but never knowing all; always on the journey but never quite arriving.

I grew up in a military home and my family moved constantly. (Thankfully, they never left me behind.) I actually attended three different schools in fifth grade in Massachusetts, Montana, and Germany. My parents, siblings and I took lots of trips. My memory of vacations and relocations all blend together now. We traveled by ship, plane, train, bus, subway, and car. I recall a few destinations, frequent journeys, and ample sightseeing along the way. I often wondered and pestered my parents with, “Are we there yet?” I’m still wondering.

Very little is crystal clear for me. I am a believer. I fully subscribe to the basic tenants of the Christian faith. I know Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. I am assured that my eternal destiny is secure. I know that I had twenty years with the most wonderful woman on earth before she died of cancer. I am clear on my role to raise my children and manage my household. I know I am called to serve my family, church, and community. I have a purpose and enough good health and brains to carry it out. For all these many blessings and my small bit of awareness, I am overwhelmingly grateful. But that’s about where my understanding ends. I grasp very little beyond the contents of this paragraph. I am in regular need of divine explanations to daily human dilemmas, many of my own making. 

Thank God for a Savior who never wearies of my need to know and the example of a disciple who overcame his shame and admitted his personal limitations…

“Explain the parable to us.”  
“I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”


Thursday, January 18, 2018

"In the Act of Sharing"

Matthew 14.16, 19c-20a HCSB

“‘They don’t need to go away,’ Jesus told them. ‘You give them something to eat.’

He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was filled.”

Who fed the “five thousand men” plus their “women and children” (v. 21) with “only five loaves and two fish” (v. 17)? Be careful. It’s a trick question and the answer is not ‘Jesus.’

Jesus did not feed the crowd. His disciples did. The followers of Jesus fed the horde of hungry people! Jesus multiplied their efforts. He made it possible. He performed the miracle. But it was the followers of Christ who took the loaves of bread from Jesus and “gave them to the crowds.”

These guys wanted Jesus to “send the crowds away” (v.15). The disciples were hungry. The throng, they surmised, was ravenous. No one expected the Lord’s response...

You give them something to eat.”

Not the grocer. Not the farmer. Not the local innkeeper. Not the government. Not even Jesus. You take care of the need. You feed thousands of hungry people. You take what little provisions you have and “bring them here to Me” (v. 18). He broke both loaves into at least 5,000 pieces and “gave them to the disciples.” Somehow in the act of sharing there was enough. “Everyone ate and was filled.” It was a miracle.

Have no regard for the size of the need or the inadequacy of your supply. Give what you have to Jesus and expect a miracle.

You give them something to eat.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Worthless Piece of Dirt?"

Matthew 13.44 NIV

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. 

When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

The man in Jesus’ parable of the hidden treasure sold everything to purchase what others deemed a worthless parcel of dirt. His neighbors wondered, “What does he see in that old field of weeds?” The wise man saw beneath the surface. This ground was far more than a collection of rocks and rubble. It held the promise of unimaginable wealth. He would dig, get dirty, go deep, and find the treasure.

Did you ever think of yourself as dirty, worthless, without value? Jesus thinks otherwise. He discovered “treasure hidden” inside of you. His Father in Heaven placed it there before you were even conceived. In fact, God “knew you” and chose you long before He “formed you in the womb” (Jeremiah 1.5).

The Son of God found you, an undeveloped parcel. He stopped to investigate, dug beneath the surface, and unearthed the treasure God placed there. Jesus loved what He saw in you. He found His fortune there. It’s the “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17.21). Like the man in His parable, with “joy” Jesus “sold all he had” to purchase the field. He shed His blood and gave His life for you. 

What does Jesus see in a dirty, useless parcel of ground like me?” He sees plenty. I am not worthy on my own merit, but I am worthwhile to my Maker. I am worth His while. Jesus gave His everything for me. He sold Himself to procure me. Jesus “bought [me] with his own blood” (Acts 20.28).

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,…”
2nd Corinthians 4.7 NKJV

“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us,
the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
2nd Timothy 1.14 NAS

There’s a “treasure hidden” inside of each one of us. We have value beyond measure to Jesus.
___________________

In Jesus' parable of the hidden treasure, the hearers of His words are the ones who are called by Him to sell all they have to obtain the treasure of God. This is the apparent and plain meaning of the text. However, my post's application of Matthew 13.44 seems fair insofar as Jesus demonstrates the point in all His interactions with the object of His devotion, which, of course, is all of humanity. We are His treasure. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"My Personal Something Greater"

Matthew 12.42 NAS

“The Queen of the South… came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

I once dreamt I was driving on a gray, cold, rainy day. I pulled into fast and heavy traffic on a four lane road. The window wipers suddenly stopped working. The defroster would not clear the windshield. I was not wearing my seat belt and I could not slow down or stop the car. The peril of my dilemma became rapidly apparent. I was driving at least 65 miles an hour in the left lane inches from oncoming traffic… and I could not see where I was going! Horns were honking and I was seconds from a crash that would kill myself and others. I panicked and screamed, “Jesus! Help me!” Then I woke up. 

In my dream (or should I say nightmare) I needed “something greater” than myself. I was driving toward destruction, fast. Without divine intervention, I was doomed. On the brink of disaster and desperate for someone to rescue me, I cried out for help from “something greater” than me. In my sleep I instantly and instinctively knew who that was. 

Jesus is my personal “something greater.”

_________________

[1] “The Queen of the South” came from the land of “Sheba” which may have been located in southern part of the Arabian Peninsula or the regions of Ethiopia. Pictured above are the Pillars of a Sabaean moon-god temple in the desert near Marib, Yemen, which some believe to be part of the kingdom ruled by the Qeen of Sheba recorded in both the Bible and the Koran. This gorgeous photograph was shot by Steve Raymer on assignment for National Geographic. His article "North Yemen" appears in the magazine's August 1979 issue, but without this photograph. 

The Queen’s quest, recorded in 1st Kings 10.1-13 and 1st Chronicles 9.1-12, was to verify reports the greatness of Solomon and discover for herself his vast wisdom. What she found at Solomon’s home in Jerusalem was “something [even] greater” than she expected. In fact, it took her breath away: “There was no more spirit in her” (1st Kings 10.5).

Monday, January 15, 2018

"In Honor of Dr. King"

Dr. Martin Luther King MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. He exemplified courage and conviction by standing up for the dream he believed in. Dr. King shared his dream for all the world to hear nearly sixty years ago.

Listen to it today. You can find it on Google and YouTube. You will be stirred.  

"The Reality of You-Know-Where"

Matthew 11.23a Wuest Expanded NT

“And as for you, Capernaum, you will not be exalted as far as heaven, will you? You will be caused to descend even to the depths of misery and disgrace in the unseen world,…”


If your name is Capernaum, you might take offense at the words of Jesus. In plainer English, the Contemporary English Version translates this verse:

“People of Capernaum, do you think you will be
honored in heaven? You will go down to hell!

Jesus never took a class in “Proper Etiquette for Aspiring Young Messiah’s.” Threats of damnation have never been effective in building a loyal following. Nobody wants to hear words like “hell,” or told they are going there.

In my home, even terms like “stupid” or “darn” are off limits. If I ever even started to utter “Go to hell” the wrath of my family would rise with the fury of you-know-where. Once I said “damn” while working on a project that wasn’t going well. My son, eight years old at the time, apparently overheard me. Pointing at me with tears squirting from his eyes, Robert cried, “You said a bad word!” I was so ashamed. My wife, when she was alive, taught us well. There is no need for words (or attitudes) like these in the home.

Yet, Jesus threw etiquette to the wind with His unpopular denunciation:

“You will go down to hell!”

Nothing about the text implies a softness in voice or manner as He passed decisive judgment on the “people of Capernaum.” Jesus loved the people of this small town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Clearly our Lord was worried for their eternal future and delivered His indictment with grave concern over the fate of the people He cared for.

This, of course, is completely unlike my attitude whenever I have said (or thought), “Go to hell.” Jesus used bad words for a positive purpose. I do not. My attitude is irritation, discontent, and resignation. Jesus said bad words to convey love, concern, and caution. You could say my bad words are actual grounds for His!

What I admire about Jesus is His absolute disregard for the etiquette of His day. He was not politically correct. His was not a policy of appeasement. Today it considered impolite in cultured society (except as slang) to even whisper words like “hell,” “sin,” or “eternal damnation.” Try it and you will quickly learn the meaning of other words like “ostracize,” “weirdo,” and “friendless.”

If I had the courage to adopt the attitude of Christ and loved the “people of Capernaum” (Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, or Hillsboro) as Jesus does, I would risk my reputation, as Jesus did, and warn them of the reality of a place Jesus wants everyone to avoid.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"You Can't Hide the Truth"

Matthew 10.26-27 NIV

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

Nothing good comes from a lie. No matter how we spin our version of it, the truth is still the truth. In the end, there’s no refuting or running from it. Sometimes truth hurts. It can be brutal. We may wish it away and cover it with insulating layers of denial but it remains what it is… the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

A woman called me because she was having marital issues. She needed someone to talk to. I agreed to meet with her if she would bring her her husband along.
 
“I can’t do that”, she said. “He must not know we talked.” 

“Why not?,” I asked. 

“He does not know that I know what he’s been up to. If he knew I knew, he would divorce me.”

I explained that my goal was to help her marriage. By speaking to me privately about “his problem,” whatever that may be, we would create an implied collusion in the husbands mind which would undermine his confidence in me as a part of the healing process. That would only make matters worse for the marriage. It is unhealthy and eventually impossible to keep secrets in a marriage. Besides, he deserves the right to share his side of the story. Additionally, to withhold crucial information about what she knew of his behavior meant the relationship was based partly on a lie which she was helping to perpetuate. 

Yes, it would be risky to expose the truth. He might get angry and threaten to quit the marriage. But wouldn’t that better than living with a lie? Sometimes you have to risk what you have to get what you need. She decided not to meet with me. I heard, few years later, that this couple was divorced.

We must not be afraid of the consequences of truth. Ultimately, what we work hard to conceal will “be disclosed” and what we try to hide will “be made known.” What Jesus tells you “in the dark”–ness of your prayer closet, “speak in the daylight.” What He whispers “in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”

“Do not be afraid.” Trust Christ. Take a risk. Tell the truth.





____________________

The hilarious cartoon in this post is entitled "Denial" by Tom Vencel, artist and freelance flash game maker, who was kind enough to grant me permission to display his cartoon here. Check out Tom's amazing work at http://www.ninjadoodle.com/.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Too Embarrassed to Post"

Matthew 9.27-30a “The Message”

“As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, ‘Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!’ When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, ‘Do you really believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Why, yes, Master!’ He touched their eyes and said, ‘Become what you believe.’ It happened. They saw.”

There are a few holes in my profession of faith. I do not always act in accordance with my belief system. The way I live does not perfectly match up to the standards I set for myself and others. To this reality Jesus offers a simple solution…

“Become what you believe.”

My response to this text is similar to the blind men: ‘Jesus, have mercy on me.’ Jesus meets me where I’m at: “Do you really believe I can do this?” That is a trick question. It’s another way of asking, ‘Are you for real?’ or ‘Do you really want this?’ or another way of saying, ‘Don’t waste My time if you don’t mean it!’


The sincerity test forces the issue of faith. Do I have enough faith to act in accordance with my request? The blind men could have remained blind even after Jesus healed them. They could have refused to open their eyes! Lest you think that is absurd, ask yourself, ‘Have I ever closed my eyes to the truth? Have I ever refused to see the obvious?’ Even spiritually blind people have choices. They must open the eyes of their heart and ‘become what they believe.’

I have a special request of the Lord this morning. It’s an old one. I’ve asked before. It’s a noble desire. I am certain that God wills what I want. But I don’t yet have it. I’m frankly too embarrassed to publicly post my prayer request. But I will tell you where the request is hidden. I have written it on the last page in my Bible just before the maps section, on page 1073 of my Zondervan NASB. I carry this Bible with me most places I go. If you really want to know what I am too embarrassed to post, you can look there. I give you permission.

My cry for Christ’s mercy reveals a big blind spot for me. Do I truly believe He can do this thing for me? Can I honestly say with other blind men who need Jesus, “Why, yes, Master!” If so, I should open my eyes and do what my Master says…

“Become what you believe.”
_______________ 

I originally made this blog entry on January 14, 2010 after many years of repetitive prayer.  My prayer was eventually answered by mid 2011, in a way I never anticipated. It was an absolute gift from God which I did not deserve but freely received. Today, January 11, 2018, exactly eight years later, God continues to honor my request, so I am willing to post here the original prayer I hand wrote on the last page of my NASB Bible: "Lord, I want to be free of all consumer debt. Lord, have mercy! Deliver me from debt!" I have been debt free for nearly seven years. That's a miracle, one I hope to enjoy for my remaining years of life. Thank you Jesus!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Jesus Asleep on the Job?"

Matthew 8.23-27 NIV

Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. 

But Jesus was sleeping

The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ 

He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ ”

A decision to follow Jesus does not come with a safe passage warranty, especially when you follow Him into your boat. Storms happen. They happen to followers of Christ and everyone else. The disciples were in trouble. Jesus was near but inactive. Overcome by slumber, He expected His disciples to weather the storm on their own. The Lord chastised them for waking Him: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” The tempest was of no concern to Jesus. Followers of Christ must face death alone, without Christ’s direct and obvious intervention.

Sometimes I feel alone. I wish Jesus would miraculously calm the seas of tribulation and guarantee an uneventful journey. Jesus has a different plan. He expects me to trust Him in dark and turbulent times, by myself. Christ is nearby but asleep. And why not? He knows there’s nothing to worry about. Jesus can afford a nap. I’m awake. I’m worried. Apparently, I must find faith and learn to face my own demise with courage.
 
I read an amazing book by one of the world’s greatest bluesmen: Clapton – The Autobiography. I’ve always admired what Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughn could do with a Fender Stratocaster. They possessed an amazing and rare gift. I’ve listened to a lot of Clapton music (Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos) and couldn’t wait to get an insider’s look at this man’s life. I found out my musical hero was more than a virtuoso. He was an addict. Clapton seriously abused sex, heroin, and alcohol and nearly ruined his life. In 1982, at the age of 38, Eric finally admitted he had a problem and became willing to enter an alcohol treatment center.

“On the flight over I drank the plane dry, so terrified was I that I might never be able to drink again. This is the most common fear of alcoholics. In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink anymore if I was dead. It was the only thing I thought was worth living for, and the idea that people were about to try and remove me from alcohol was so terrible that I drank and drank and drank, and they had to practically carry me into the clinic.”[1]

Clapton was afraid. Afraid to die and lose what he had come to depend upon. What am I afraid to lose? My income? My habits? My job? My house? My safety? My sex life? My favorite foods? My new IPhone? Why do I cling to this temporal existence as if it had eternal value? So what if the waves wash over me and sink my boat? So what if I drown? Is that all bad? Would I not rather be “absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2nd Corinthians 5.8)? Have I not gained more than I lost? Must I limit myself to “little faith”? Must I be “so afraid”?

I always admired Eric Clapton for his amazing musical ability. I now admire him for his ruthless honesty. His autobiography gives me permission and courage to look more honestly at myself.
____________________

[1] Clapton – The Autobiography, Eric Clapton, Broadway Books, 2007, p. 198.

Image at the top right is a 1959 Fender Bassman tube amplifier and Fender Sunburst Stratocaster guitar.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

"Your Couch May Kill You"

Matthew 7.21 NLT

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

I am in dangerously close proximity to an instrument of my own death. It’s not a gun. I do not own a gun. Neither is it the kitchen knife, poisonous pills, or a lethal injection. Yet, the actual cause of my death may be closer than I think. According to Trice Whitefield, senior analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C., I am actually sitting on the apparatus that could kill me… my couch!

“The growing epidemic of physical inactivity and its related disease are such a significant problem that U.S. doctors have coined a new term: Sedentary Death Syndrome. As the third leading cause of death, it claims the lives of 250,000 Americans each year. Basically, your couch is more likely to kill you than either a stroke or an accident.”[1]

I am active mentally, but much of my cerebral activity takes place on my family room recliner. I read my Bible, write, email, blog, make phone calls, plan my day, compose letters, watch videos, entertain guests, and talk with my family, all from this sacred Mecca for the seat. I would rather be on my couch than just about any other place in this world. The only other single place I spend more time is my bed. Couple that fact with the hours each week I sit behind the wheel in my car or in front of a computer at coffee shops and I may be a candidate for Sedentary Death Syndrome. I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned. Even my sofa’s label sounds perilous to my health… Lazy Boy®. No false advertising there!


Jesus gave the same notice. I found His warning label this morning in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 7. Apparently, it takes more than spiritual talk to get you to heaven. It takes spiritual activity. You’ve got to “actually dosomething...

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”

I can talk from the comfort of my beloved Lazy Boy®, but I cannot feed the hungry, meet a stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, or touch a prisoner from a reclined position. There is a difference between shaking a hand and entering a chat room, between serving food at a local shelter and sending an on-line check to a favorite charity. For some hard words on this subject review Matthew 25.41-43. Jesus makes faith-filled action, not half-hearted words or cheap talk, the criteria for entrance into “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

If comfort, security, and predictability are most important to me, then I will die spiritually. I understand my eternal destiny is secured by faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for my sins. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1.12). I further understand that my faith in Christ is proven to be real when I take action to get up and do what He says.

“Anyone who doesnt breathe is dead, and
faith that doesnt do anything is just as dead!
James 2.26 CEV

Sedentary Death Syndrome is both a physical and a spiritual threat.
_______________

[1] “A Healthy Diet Doesn’t Mean You Are: Food isn’t the be-all – you can be killed by your couch”, Trice Whitefield, The Sunday Oregonian, January 6, 2008, section E, page 5.

The painting of the girl asleep on a sofa is by Rick Beerhorst. Check out and purchase his amazing work at http://studiobeerhorst.com.

Monday, January 08, 2018

"After This Manner Therefore Pray Ye..."

Matthew 6.9-13 Webster

After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

We use language to communicate the meaning of words. Words are the primary vehicle of language and convey different meanings to different people. Both the words (their tone, inflection, volume, context, nuances, etc.) and the audience (its background, culture, mood, age, beliefs, etc.) must converge in order for communication to occur. Words alone, even lots of them, do not guarantee good communication.

To communicate the Word of God, translators attempt to combine the meanings of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic biblical texts with the language of the people they target. 

This translation objective is not a new effort. “America’s Schoolmaster,” Noah Webster, published many books widely used in schools across our nation including spelling, history, and grammar books. Upon the completion of his famous An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), Mr. Webster embarked on a project to update the King James Version of the Bible with an aim to make it more readable to 19th century Americans. He believed this common version of 1611 contained obsolete phrases, incorrect grammar, and offensive expressions. “His purpose was to clear away these obstacles to the use of the Bible as a model of correct and decent English usage in American schools and homes.”[1] Webster completed his revision of the King James Bible in 1833[2].

Today, Webster’s version of the Bible is mostly obsolete but there is one passage in his revision that remains popular in Christian circles to this day. That is, of course, the “The Lord’s Prayer” recorded in the gospel of Matthew. It’s difficult for even the most contemporary of language purists to do away with this 175 year old version of prose from the lips of Jesus. The “Our Father” in other modern translations doesn’t quite sound right.

On any given Easter Sunday, an estimated two billion believers worldwide will recite these words.[3] You’ve probably memorized Noah Webster’s version of “The Lord’s Prayer” and didn’t even know it. Say this prayer several times during the day. Let these words of Christ unite you with centuries of Christians who have also chosen to observe the words of Him who said, “Pray then in this way…” or, as Noah Webster and King James put it, “After this manner therefore pray ye…”

___________________

[1] “Webster’s Revision of the KJV (1833)”, Michael Marlowe, July 2005, http://www.bible-researcher.com/webster.html#intro.

[2] The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, in the Common Version. With Amendments of the Language, Noah Webster, ed., New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1833. Reprinted Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

[3] "Across the globe, Christians are united by Lord's Prayer", Kang, K. Connie. Los Angeles Times, in Houston Chronicle, p. A13, April 8, 2007. “On Easter Sunday 2007 it was estimated that 2 billion Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians read, recited, or sang the short prayer in hundreds of languages in houses of worship.”

Friday, January 05, 2018

"Dave's Rule and the Golden Rule"

Matthew 5.38-39; 7.12 Complete Jewish Bible

“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too!”

Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.”

Union Station was busy on December 27th, 2007. My aging mother, recovering from recent lung surgery, stood in a crowded waiting room to board the train from Portland to Seattle. I was there to assist mom and needed to verify her tickets. There wasn’t much time before departure. I got in line at the ticket counter, in a hurry to gather information. Just before my turn to speak to an Amtrak representative, a woman stepped in front of me.

Me: Acting surprised and glaring at her.

Her: Ignoring me.
 
Me: “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you took my place in line.”

Her: “Oh, I just have a quick question to ask.”

Me: “I also have a quick question to ask.”

Her: “Well, I’m in a hurry because my train to Seattle leaves shortly.”

Me: “My mother is on the same train. I am also in a hurry.”

Her: Ignoring me.

When the man at the counter said “Next” both the lady and I advanced quickly. We were in a foot race and I was determined to win. The pushy woman and I crossed the finish line at the ticket window in a dead heat, shoulder to shoulder. The Amtrak rep did not know who to address. I spoke fast and got his attention first. After answering my question, I explained that the lady standing next to me also had a question. I left while they were still engaged in conversation.

I try to be fair. You might say Im an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” guy. I am courteous when treated courteously. That seems right to me. I assume I am entitled because I give others what I assume they are entitled to. I possess a finely tuned and acute sense of justice, especially where my (human, civil, legal, ethical, constitutional, or personal) rights are concerned. I take pride in my self-bestowed role as judge and arbiter.  

The Bible confronts my belief system: “There is only one Lawgiver and judge... but who are you who judge your neighbor?”  Apparently, Dave’s Rule and the Golden Rule do not quite match up.

Me: “Treat people the same way they treat you.”

Jesus: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

Me: “But she stepped in front of me in line.”

Jesus: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

Me:
“Who will watch out for my rights?”

Jesus: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

Me:
“I am very fair. I will treat people with exactly as they deserve.”

Jesus: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

Me:
“But that’s not right. It’s not fair or just!”

Jesus: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

Me:
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That’s justice.”

Jesus: “But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”
______________________

The hauntingly beautiful watercolors on this post are entitled "Golden Rule" and "Winter Frost" by artist Chris Rankin whose limited edition art prints may be viewed and purchased at http://www.draftydesign.com/artprints.html.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

"It Seems So Right"

Matthew 4.7a AMP

“Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written also, “You shall not tempt… the Lord your God.” ’ ”


It takes more than a knowledge of the Bible to overcome temptation. It takes the right understanding and honest application of the Bible.

Satan knows the Bible better than I do and he twists Scripture to tempt me in wrongdoing. The best way to avoid sin is by the use of Scripture. But what happens when Satan tosses me a temptation containing an element of scriptural truth? That was his strategy with Jesus…


“Then the devil took Him into the holy city and
had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him,
‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command His angels concerning you”; and
“On their hands they will bear You up,…” ’ ”

The devil’s memory of the Hebrew Scriptures was impeccable and his ability to quote it, flawless. Satan used his Psalm 91.11-12 to entice Jesus to commit suicide by jumping from a tall building. Suicide is still a common demonic tactic, successfully luring 30,000 people a year in the United States alone. That’s one person every 18 minutes! More die from suicide than homicide, and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old’s.[1] Jesus’ choice of Scripture trumped Satan’s: “On the other hand, it is written also, ‘You shall not tempt… the Lord your God.’ ” Jesus rightly understood and honestly applied the appropriate verse for the occasion. 

“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 16.25 NLT). How does a man or woman of God fight back when the attraction of sin ‘seems so right’?

Adultery: “God wants me to be happy.”

Suicide: “Life is too hard. I just want to go to heaven now.”

Theft: “God helps those who help themselves!”

Lying: “He couldn’t handle the truth.”

Cussing: “God knows my heart. I didn’t really mean it.”

Selfishness: “I can’t take care of anyone else if I don’t take care of myself first.”

Pornography: “A woman’s body is a beautiful thing to behold.”

Rage: “I can’t help it. God made me this way.”

Laziness: “I deserve a break!”

Gossip: “Did you hear about _______? Let
’s pray for her.” 
Rudness: “I am God’s ambassador and I’m just telling it like it is.” 
Disrespect: “God knows they don’t deserve my respect.”

Abuse: “The Bible teaches wives to submit.”

Nagging: “The Bible teaches husbands should behave lovingly.”

Violence: “It’s the only way I could get his attention.”

Drunkenness: “I need to relax a little.”

Overeating: “I need lots of energy to do God’s will.”

Divorce: “The kids will be happier.”

History shows that humans are adept at finding scriptural support for any behavior they choose to engage. Investigate the history of slavery in America or the Middle Ages practice of selling religious relics for profit. The devil can quote Scripture. So can any self-absorbed society or individual looking for an excuse to sin. The Bible is not enough. It takes right understanding and honest application of truths contained in Scripture.  

The devil will entice me with plentiful Scriptural references to support my sin. “On the other hand” Jesus can show me where “it is written also” so that I may successfully combat temptations just like He did.


______________________

[1] “U.S. Suicide Statistics (2001) from http://www.suicide.org/

Painting above is "The Temptaion of Christ" (ca. 1854) by Dutch painter Ary Scheffer.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

"Jesus Needs Your Permission"

Matthew 3.13-15 NAS
 
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ 

“Then he permitted Him.

I’m no John the Baptist. Not even close. But I have more in common with him than with Jesus. John and I are human only. Jesus is both human and divine. John the Baptist and the rest of humanity stand on one side of a line drawn in the sand and Jesus stands on the other. We have sinned. Jesus is sinless. We are creatures. Jesus is our Creator. We are not God. Jesus is God. We can save no one, but Jesus is the Messiah. None of us died on a cross for the redemption of humankind. But that is exactly what Jesus did.

John the Baptist was called to baptize Jesus. It did not seem right to him. Nor would it have seemed right to me. Only in this way, explained Jesus, would He and John together “fulfill all righteousness.” It’s odd to me that Christ required human cooperation to “fulfill all righteousness.” It’s almost absurd to think that Jesus would need and seek permission from any human being. 

I wonder what would have happened if John denied Jesus permission? Would some “righteousness” remain unfulfilled? The Amplified Bible says, “John protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent” the baptism of Jesus. But Jesus convinced him to perform the sacred rite and John witnessed “the Spirit of God descending like a dove” (Matthew 3.16).

Peter was similarly reluctant when Jesus offered to wash the disciple’s feet. Peter informed the Lord, “Never shall You wash my feet.” It’s hard to imagine Jesus kneeling before a mere man like me with water and towel in hand. 
 
Why did Jesus need John’s baptism and John’s permission? Who was John that he would actually have the authority to grant (or presumably withhold) permission? The text perplexes me...

“Then he permitted Him.”
New American Standard Bible

“Then John consented.”
New International Version

“Then he allowed Him to be baptized.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible

“So John agreed to baptize Jesus.”
New Century Version

If I were John, my response might have been: “Jesus, You’re the Son of God. You don’t need my permission (consent, allowance, or agreement) for anything.” But apparently He did.

It boggles my mind how little I know about the nature of Christ. Jesus announces, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…” (Revelation 3.20). My immediate thought is, “Jesus, the door is open. Please come in anytime. You don’t need my permission.” But my ‘permission’ is apparently exactly what Jesus needs to “fulfill all righteousness” in me.