Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Redundant Systems"

1st Peter 5.5b-7 NIV

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The theme of humility appears everywhere in Scripture. James echoes Peter’s warning:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble...
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4.6, 10

The humility theme is more than just a little redundant in the Bible. Both Peter and James quote Solomon who first recorded the saying nearly 1,000 years before Christ...

“He mocks proud mockers but give grace to the humble.”
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Solomon, Proverbs 3.34; 16.18

And Solomon was alluding to his father David’s teaching...

“Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar.”
David, Psalm 138.6

Redundancy is a systems precautionary measure. Modern gas valves, scuba tanks, and parachutes all use redundant systems. No one wants to blow up, run out of air, or fall to their death. Redundancies are introduced to insure the user’s safety in the event of an early first system failure.

Perhaps God is redundant on the “humility” theme for a good reason. He knows how cocky we can be after a little success. Often, and for no good reason, I fail to be humble. I must take extra precautions and make special note of the redundant instructions found throughout the Divine User’s Manual…

“Pride goes before… a fall.”
“Clothe yourselves with humility.”
“Humble yourselves… under God’s mighty hand.”
“God gives grace to the humble.”

Monday, November 12, 2018

"Keep Your 'I Love You's' Up to Date"

1st Pet 4.7-8 NIV

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Peter wrote to first century Christians in Asia Minor [1] to prepare them for the suffering they were likely to endure by the hand of the brutal and demented Nero during a time of political upheaval in Rome. Christians became scapegoats for all that was wrong with the empire. “The end of all things” associated with the return of Christ did not occur during Peter’s lifetime. The second coming of Jesus has yet to happen nearly twenty centuries later. While “near” may sound closer than two thousand years, God’s perspective on time is radically different than ours:

“But don't forget this, dear friends, that a day or a thousand years
from now is like tomorrow to the Lord. He isn't really being slow about his
promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way.
2nd Peter 3.8-9 The Living Bible

Christ will return and “the end of all things is near” as God measures ‘nearness.’

“The end of all things is near,” however, my personal end may be even more near. I may only have a few decades of life on earth left. Perhaps only a few minutes. My days on earth are numbered. Like the timing of Christ’s return [2], the “day or hour” of my own demise remains a mystery to me. I only know that I will die [3] and that, in the light of eternity, “the end of all things [for me] is [very] near.” All human beings can state most assuredly with Jeremiah and the people of Israel during their time of captivity in Babylon:

“Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come.”
Lamentations 4.18b New International Version

Perhaps the most important aspect of my life is the relationships I am privileged to enjoy. They mean everything to me. I could not survive without my family, friends, business contacts, fellow believers, neighbors, and local church. I need people, and now that my wife is in heaven, I need my human community more than ever before. God designed it that way. I have made and received commitments from many of these people in the form of contracts for business, certificates of membership, and in the case of my dear, deceased wife, a license for marriage. Most of my relationships (even those few defined by written agreements) were, and continue to be, held together because of love, trust, and good will. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

About thirty-six years ago Ken Blanchard wrote a popular book entitled The One-Minute Manager and coined the phrase “Keep your ‘I love you’s’ up to date.” I shall never forgot that. Life is too short not to keep your “I love you’s” up to date...

The end of all things is near. Therefore… love each other deeply...”

Every relationship will someday end. I will not be married in heaven. In a few years we’ll all be gone and our children will run the planet. In a few years after that, they’ll be dead and the world will be under the management of people not yet conceived! No one will remember me then.

In the meantime, all that really matters is to love the people together with whom I am called to share this very short space of time on earth.


The black and white image of "I Love You" in sign language is from LatinaGirl9519 on PhotoBucket.

[1] Asia Minor includes the areas of modern day Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. These areas hosted many young churches started by Paul and other apostles and would become the likely target of Nero’s persecution expanding south and east from his headquarters in Rome during the latter half of the first century.

[2] Matthew 24.36; 25.13 and parallel passage in Mark 13.32.

[3] “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27 NKJV).

Friday, November 09, 2018

"Sacramental Living"

1st Peter 3.20-21 NASU

“…in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark,… eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
There are two sacraments in the Reformed Church tradition: Baptism and Communion. A sacrament may be defined as an outward display of an inward reality. Baptism itself saves no one. However, a person who has truly encountered the risen Christ enters the waters of baptism or partakes in the Lord’s Supper as an outward and public demonstration of their inward faith. Jesus is alive and He lives in me... that truth makes all the difference!

Because He is alive my participation in the sacraments transcends mere ritualism. I do not robotically go through the rote motions of meaninless tradition. Rather, I am proclaiming before “God and all these witnesses” my belief in a Savior who actually lives!

Roman Catholic theology includes seven sacraments: Baptism, Communion (Eucharist), Reconciliation (Penance, Confession), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders (Ordination for the Priesthood), and Anointing of the Sick (Last Rites, Extreme Unction). Is it possible to take sacramental theology even a step beyond the Catholics? Could any faith-inspired action be considered a sacrament?

Clearly, it is not the sacramental act that saves you. That “baptism now saves you” means so much more than the outward “removal of dirt.”  A sacrament does not carry magical powers to create inward change. It has meaning only because of the operative power of God’s grace through the sacrament. Getting baptized, saying confession, choosing celibacy, or any other sincere sacrifice or good deed at all… none of that guarantees a home for me in heaven. Only the death and resurrection of Jesus makes eternal salvation and Christ-like behavior a possibility for me. When I walk into the waters of baptism (as I did nearly fifty years ago) or take the communion bread and cup (as I do weekly), I receive an impartation of the grace of God to do the work of God through faith in the Son of God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, 
it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” 

Ephesians 2.8-9 NASB

While I do not plan to partake of an ‘official’ sacrament today, I hope to exhibit outwardly the truth of Christ in me. When I look back on this day sixteen hours from now, I will want to know I lived it sacramentally. 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

"Being a Good Servant"

1st Peter 2.20b “The Message”

“But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.”

Our service to God is ultimately for God alone. We play to an audience of One. It’s Him we must please. Him alone. Those who make it their ambition to please men fall into a trap.

“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
Proverbs 29.25 NKJV

People pleasers can never perform to the level of people’s expectations and are left disappointed and bitter. Your service to God stands alone without regard for humam approval. You do not intentionally seek to antagonize others, but place your focus where it belongs… on being “a good servant” of Jesus Christ, no matter the cost. Some will offer their support. Many will not. Most will not even notice and a few may even oppose and criticize you. Rejoice when this occurs for so “they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Jesus, Matthew 5.12b). “Let your light shine” anyway (Jesus, Matthew 5.16a).

Do not be concerned about what others may think or do or say. Ask yourself one question at every point of decision: “Will this action please God?” Be honest. If it will, then go forth with uncommon confidence and total abandon. 

“We make it our aim to please him,...” 
2nd Corinthians 5.9 ESV

“…brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to 
please God, as in fact you are living.” 
1st Thessalonians 4.1b NIV 2011

Choose to live outside yourself and beyond those around you. Be a leader. Cast your net in “the deep water” (Luke 5.4). Get in over your head. Place yourself in a position where your only option is to trust God. Prepare to suffer for the cause. Take a little abuse for Jesus. You will have detractors. Ignore them and “be a good servant” anyway.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"How Hard Can That Be?"

1st Peter 1.17b NAS

“…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”

I am intrigued by the phrase “the time of your stay on earth.” The verse implies life (as we know it) will come to an end. My life had its beginning approximately nine months prior to 3:04 a.m. on October 6, 1952 in Denison, Texas. My parents were excited to bring me into this world as my birth announcement suggests...

Scriven and Scriven present
the Scriven Deluxe Model No. 1
Deluxe Features Include:
Two Lung Power Body
Scream Line
Free Squealing
Bawl Bearings
Knee Action
Changeable seat covers
Net Weight 7 lbs. 9 ½ oz.
The management wishes to announce
there will be no more models this year!

That was the beginning of “the time of [my] stay on earth.” Exactly eight years ago, on November 3rd, 2010, I knelt by my mother’s hospice bedside and whispered in her ear, “Go be with Jesus. Go be with Dad.” Then I prayed, “Oh Jesus, receive my mom into heaven.” Mom died, and that was the end to “the time of [her] stay on earth.”

I watched my precious wife take her last breath at 12:14 p.m. on August 30th, 2015. I fell on her lifeless body and wept. She was my best friend and the greatest human I have ever known. Adonica died, and that was the end to “the time of [her] stay on earth.”

Like my all my ancestors, grandparents, Mom and Dad, and wife, my life is just an eensy-weensy speck on eternity’s continuum. I am almost unnoticeable and certainly forgettable. No one will think or speak of me or find any evidence of my existence a generation or two after I’m gone. I’m a singular, tiny ‘blip’ on the EKG screen of life. As James once said:

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
James 4.14b NAS

My family and I traveled to Hawaii in January 2006 and thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Resort Quest at Papakea in Maui. We checked in on a Monday and left on a Tuesday one week later. In the broad scope of our lives, that week will play a very small role. Its memory is swallowed up by the 2,767 weeks of my life preceding vacation week and the several thousand that will hopefully follow.

Similarly, my entire life is virtually lost in the infinite volume of eternity. I checked into Hotel Earth and I will definitely check out. There’s a beginning and an end to “the time of [my] stay on earth.” Thankfully, God is a big God. He is “intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139.3b). He will remember me long after I vanish from this planet. He even remembered who I was long before I arrived here. God actually foreknew me (Romans 8.29; 11.2); that is, He knew the exact number of hairs on my head today trillions of light years before He created the world I live in. God’s knowledge of me; well, it’s incomprehensible,  unimaginable!

There’s a beginning and an end to “the time of your stay on earth.” I knew nothing of the first half of eternity. I wasn’t there. I only existed as a thought in the mind of Christ. However, I will enjoy the second half with Jesus forever and ever. He asks very little of me…

“…you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time
of your temporary residence (on the earth, whether long or short).”
1st Peter 1.7 The Amplified Bible

In the light of eternity and with the power and presence of Jesus living within me… how hard can that be?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

"The Paperboy"

James 5.4 NASB

“Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

My first real job was a paper route when I was fourteen years old. I delivered the daily and Sunday Seattle Post Intelligencer picking up my stack of newspapers at 5:00 a.m. each dark morning in front of Gov Mart Bazaar at NE 130th and Aurora Avenue. In those days it was not enough to deliver the paper. The aspiring young business man had to “collect” as well. At the end of the month I would retrace my paper route steps in the afternoons and knock on every customer’s door. “Hi. I’m here to collect for the P.I.”

Most people paid me so I could cover my newspaper charges and keep a couple of bucks for myself. Occasionally, however, a voice from the back of the apartment bellowed, “Who is it?” “It’s the paperboy. He’s here to collect.” Then, a kick-to-the-stomach with the dreaded words: “Tell him to come back tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow” never came for some of these people. Oh, I’d come back “tomorrow” and the next day, and the day after that. But the guy with the money wasn’t home, pretended not to be, didn’t answer the door, or moved away forgetting to cancel the paper and pay me. That hurt. I made a promise and kept it religiously for the past fifty-two years. I vowed I would NEVER send a paperboy away empty handed when he came to “collect.” I’d borrow the money from a neighbor if I had to, but no paperboy would EVER have to return to my home to get his money.

Paperboys don’t come by anymore. I used to pay for the Oregonian with an automated check online and the simple push of a computer button, just like almost every other bill. But the memory of the income I deserved and never received helped shape my attitude and behavior toward all vendors, business people, employees, and contractors.

“A laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Jesus, Luke 10.7

Questions come to mind. Am I current? Or, have I withheld what is rightly deserved? The Bible says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other (Romans 13.8 ESV). In the name of Jesus and His love, do I owe someone...
  • a smile?
  • an apology?
  • a phone call?
  • a return email?
  • a date?
  • some money?
  • quality time?
  • an explanation?
  • a cup of coffee?
  • a thank you?
  • a kiss?
  • an affirmation?
  • a warm embrace?
  • a listening ear?
  • a note card or letter?
  • a favor?
  • some public recognition?
  • a small chore?
  • a tool I borrowed?
  • a promise I forgot to keep?
Did I send them away when they tried to “collect?” The Bible makes a personal guarantee…

“…the pay… which has been withheld by you, cries out against you;
and the outcry… has reached the ears of the Lord…”

There’s only way to silence their outcry and put a smile back on God’s face. In the name of Jesus and for the love of God... pay what you owe.

Monday, November 05, 2018

"The Waiting Room"

James 4.10 NKJV

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

There are many things I want but even when I work hard to obtain them, they elude my grasp. I feel disappointed and angry. I may even blame others whom I perceive to be obstacles in my path toward the acquisition of these things.

I do not know why I cannot have everything I want. I often place my desires on the altar and God freely returns most of them to me. He seems to approve and even encourage my pursuit of fulfillment. But somehow some of my most cherished desires remain just beyond my reach. I pray but receive not, in spite of promises the Bible makes:

“…ye have not, because ye ask not.
James 4.26 KJV

Are my motives in question?

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong
motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
James 4.3 NIV

I ask God to shed light on the motives of my heart. When my motives seem self-serving, I try to let my desires go. That’s not easy for me.

I have heard God answers prayers in three ways… Yes, No, and Wait. The third answer is the most difficult for me. If God says “Yes,” I rejoice. When He says “No,” I can usually let it go. But when God says “Wait” or (even worse) “Yes and wait,” I have no other option. I am thrust into the tension between promise and fulfillment. I am required to do what I dislike... sit in Dr. God’s waiting room until the Great Physician is ready to see me!

Waiting is a matter of humility. Like a demanding child, I want what I want... and I want it now. But when Jesus says “Wait,” bowing to His will and forsaking my own is painful. “Waiting” demands humbleness of heart and inner resolve not to take matters into my own hands. Trusting Him to fulfill His promise in His way and in His time is the essence of the humility to which I am called. Learning humility may be more important than all the other things I think I want.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”


I found these symbols at the AIGA website. AIGA was founded in 1914 as a professional association for design (http://www.aiga.org/). They are the universal symbols for men's bathroom and waiting room.

Friday, November 02, 2018

"On the Brink"

James 3.13 NAS

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

“The gentleness of wisdom” sounds too nice for me. I confess I do not care for overly ‘nice’ people. I prefer men and women with a little ‘bite.’ I fear nice people cannot be trusted to complete difficult tasks. They will cave at the first sign of resistance. In the name of cooperation, their ‘nice-ness’ becomes easily manipulated by those whose agenda is not as nice.

I am afraid of becoming a ‘nice guy.’ I don’t expect (nor do I want) to see “He was a nice guy” on my tombstone. ‘Nice’ is not the first descriptor that springs to mind when someone thinks of me. The whole idea of ‘nice’ conjures up in me an image of a wimpy, milk-toast guy who is driven along like a dry leaf wherever the wind of social mores takes him. He is Clark Kent without the super powers. The color of his thoughts change like a chameleon and far too easily adapt to the shade of surrounding opinions. I do not respect ‘nice guys.’

My self respect depends upon my determination to remain true to my convictions. I will often ‘stick to my guns’ even when it is not popular, personally advantageous, politically correct, or a very ‘nice’ to do so. During times of serious reflection on verses like James 3.13, however, I find myself wondering if ‘sticking to my guns’ is code for ‘stuck in the mud’? Am I man of conviction, or just plain stubborn? I assume there is no redeeming value in the absolute refusal to change. The distinction between holding high standards and being a jerk may be very, very thin.

In a 1956 interview, then President Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles said:
“The ability to get to the verge without getting into war is the necessary art. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”

I am not afraid to “get to the verge” however I suspect I fight some battles I don’t need to. Perhaps a good dose of “the gentleness of wisdom” will keep me from plummeting over the edge when I am on the brink of my next personal war.


"Coming Soon - Mr. Nice Guy!" photo is by Los Angeles photographer Marc Horowitz at http://www.flickr.com/photos/marchorowitz/. It is used here with Marc's kind permission.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

"Jesus Fell on a Grenade for Me"

James 2. 12-13 NASB

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Mercy is expensive and requires sacrifice. Judgment is cheap and easy to give. Like most things of value, mercy is rare. You can find judgment everywhere. Merciful people set themselves apart from the crowd. Any fool can pass judgment. Cowards judge. It takes courage to show mercy.

I saw a TV show when I was a kid which I have never forgotten. I think the role of the unlikely hero was played by Sammy Davis Jr., but I’m not certain. It was nearly sixty years ago when this program first aired.[1]

A new soldier joined the regiment and quickly became the butt of everyone’s bad humor. He was picked on relentlessly by the other men in the barracks and was generally considered to be a wimp. The bullies thought up a joke that would further humiliate the new guy. They found a deactivated hand grenade and planned to toss it at the new recruit’s feet during the next gathering of the troops. The soldiers figured he’d run for his life in terror and everyone would have a good laugh at his expense.

On the day of the big gag the tormenters quietly rolled the unloaded grenade toward their victim and shouted, “Grenade! Run!” What happened next was a real bombshell. The so-called wimp fell on the grenade in an effort to save the men of his unit commanding them with what he thought was his last breath, “Run! Save yourselves!” The silence that followed was deafening. The entire platoon was choked with shame. That day real cowardice and real courage were exposed. 

Every time I think of the TV program, I well up with tears. I’m fighting to hold them back right now. The hero in this television show reminds me of Jesus. I’m glad Jesus showed me mercy, instead of the judgment I deserved. Jesus fell on the grenade for me.


The incredible picture at top is by former Green Beret and internationally renowned photojournalist Michael Yon who describes the scene in his book Moment of Truth in Iraq (Richard Vigilante Books, 2008, p. 85). Despite the valiant attempts of soldiers Sergeant Walt Gaya and Major Mark Bieger (shown above carrying the child), the little Iraqi girl named Farah died from a senseless suicide terrorist bombing on May 5, 2005. Check out Michael Yon's online magazine at http://www.michaelyon-online.com/.

[1] There are real soldiers who have given their lives by falling on real grenades to save their comrades. They are real heroes. The theme of today's blog entry is based on a story which has been repeated in other television and movie accounts of war. In an episode of M*A*S*H, for example, Maxwell Klinger plays a joke on the haughty Charles Winchester by dropping a rubber grenade on the floor. Much to Klinger’s surprise, Winchester promptly falls on the grenade. The original show was called "The Patsy" and aired on GE Theater on February 21, 1960 (Season 8, Episode 21). Apparently, all copies of this film have been lost. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Mirrors Don't Lie"

James 1.21b-24 NASB

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”

Mirrors tell the truth. They say it like it really is. There are very few people with Hollywood star-quality looks. Mirrors prove that. Mirrors reveal to the honest mirror-looker what everyone else already knows. Look in a mirror. You may or may not like what you see. But what you see is visual reality. Mirrors don’t lie. They cannot lie. 

Politicians ‘spin’ the truth. Photographers enhance the truth. Salespeople embellish the truth. Fishermen exaggerate the truth. Addicts ignore the truth. But mirrors tell the truth. 

Can you bear to take a mirror into your soul? There you cannot be a victim. You will find no one to blame. It’ s just you alone with you. What you see is super-visual, spiritual reality. Look deeply into this mirror. Memorize every broken, marred, and blemished detail in your reflection of self. Never forget the image. Be faithful to what you see. Be real with Jesus and everyone else.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, not merely hearers 
who delude themselves... like a man who looks... in a mirror;... and gone 
away, [and] has immediately forgotten what king of person he was.”

The photo above is called "Reflection in the mirror" by photographer Sergey Mikhalchik from Copenhagen.  You can view his excellent work on "Yet Another Blog" at http://www.mikhalchik.com/.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"It Stinks Out There"

Hebrews 13.11-13 NLT

“Under the system of Jewish laws, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, but the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates in order to make his people holy by shedding his own blood. 

So let us go out to him outside the camp and bear the disgrace he bore.”

Lots of seriously unpleasant things happened “outside the camp”…
  • The bodies of animals sacrificed to God were burned (Exodus 29.14; Leviticus 4.12, 21)
  • Moses chastised the people for their sins at the original tent of meeting (Exodus 33.1ff; Numbers 31.13ff)
  • Lepers lived there alone (Leviticus 13.45f)
  • People considered unclean due to sin or disease remained “outside the camp” for a prescribed period of time (Leviticus 14.3; Numbers 5.1ff; 12.1ff)
  • Special offerings for sin were made (Numbers 19.1ff)
  • Aliens were relegated to this place (Joshua 6.23)
  • Ashes of sacrifices, animal carcasses, and garbage were deposited (Leviticus 6.11)
  • Human sewage and excrement were buried (Deuteronomy 23.12f)
  • Dead human bodies were left (Leviticus 10.4)
  • Lawbreakers were executed (Leviticus 14.3; Numbers 5.1ff; 12.1ff)
“Outside the camp” is probably NOT one of the top 10 places to visit on your next trip to the Holy Land. Yet, that is exactly where we are commanded to go.

“So let us go out to him [Jesus] outside the
camp and bear the disgrace he bore.”
I don’t know the exact location of “outside the camp,” but I hear Him calling me there. I doubt it’s a comfortable, easy place to be. It probably does not smell nice there. I’ll bet the social outcasts of Calcutta were glad Mother Teresa willingly followed Jesus “outside the camp.”
Jesus, deliver me from clean, safe, nice, sterile, pleasant, antiseptic Christianity.

Garbage dump photo courtesy of http://www.hpsupplies.info/images/Lo-Landfill.jpg.

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Nose Job"

Hebrews 12.12-13 NIV

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

We are human beings. That’s what and all we are... humans prone to error, likely to stumble, and given to failure. When we interact with other humans, it’s not uncommon for feelings to get hurt and misunderstandings to arise. We can easily get our ‘nose out of joint.’ Sometimes (spiritual) surgery is required to reset the (emotionally) broken nose.

When my daughter was in middle school she played on a girl’s softball team. While playing catch between innings at her final game of the season, Julia was distracted and the ball bounced off her nose. She found out the hard way that softballs aren’t soft. I rushed Julia to the emergency room. Her enlarged and seriously discolored nose had literally relocated itself about half an inch to the right side of her face. It was both comical and horrifying, but mostly horrifying.

Surgery was scheduled and her nose was re-broken and forcibly moved back into position. The healing was completed and today Julia’s nose is no longer ‘out of joint.’ She looks great.

I am a human. I have been known to catch another human’s behavior, words or attitudes with my nose. The incident was probably not intentional by either party but I got my ‘nose out of joint’ nonetheless. The Bible offers an antidote to dislocated body parts. Quoting from Solomon’s wisdom which states…

“Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
Solomon, Proverbs 4.26-27 NIV

...the author of Hebrews commands us to...

“‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame [broken nose]
may not be [permanently] disabled, but rather healed.”
Hebrews 12.13 NIV

When I get my ‘nose out of joint’, I need to push it back into place where it belongs. To avoid becoming permanently “disabled.” I must learn to forgive and forget. 

Life goes on. So must I. 

The image above is a political cartoon by award winning Australian illustrator Ron Tandberg. The cartoon appears to poke fun at the conflict between Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello both of whom were in office from 1996-2007.

Friday, October 26, 2018

"Where Are You Thinking?"

Hebrews 11.8; 15-16a NIV

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one”.

On his long trek from Ur to Haran and then to Canaan, Abraham remained focused on the call of God. If he had lamented the loss of his former life and thought too long about ‘the good old days,’ Abraham might have given up and gone home. Was the “promised land” really the fulfillment of a glorious “inheritance” or would he be just another “stranger in a foreign country” (Hebrews 11.9)? Would Abraham trust the word God gave him?...

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people
and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’”
Genesis 12.1

Abraham heard, “obeyed and went.” Abraham was “longing for a better country” (Hebrews 11.16). He was not “thinking of the country [he] had left.” As a ‘forward thinker,’ Abraham accepted the risks, opposition, discomfort, and hardships which paved the way to “his inheritance.” He “did not know where he was going” but he went there anyway!

We naturally resist God’s call because it almost always involves change. Change is abhorrent to the carnal man who must remain comfortable at all costs. Comfort is an idol. It must be destroyed if you are to enjoy the promises of God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6.24). I cannot satisfy both the god of comfort and the God of the Universe who calls me to places unknown.

Stepping out in faith is more than uncomfortable. It’s frightening. The journey of faith is equally as threatening. If I think too long about ‘the way things used to be’ I might forget the promise, abandon the journey, and go back home. I can easily fool myself by thinking ‘the good old days’ were better than they really were.

Where are you thinking? Behind or ahead? Fill your mind with what’s in front of you. Consider the brightness of your future. Place your hope on the promise of something better. Mentally embrace the next place, not the past place.

“Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than
these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Ecclesiastes 7.10 NASU

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"Bad News for the Legalist"

Hebrews 10.1 NIV

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”

“The law… can never… make perfect.” I can never achieve perfection by sincere dedication or strict obedience to a set of moral standards. It cannot be done. That’s bad news for the legalist. How then does one gain favor with God? The “law” won’t get me to heaven and, of course, neither will ‘lawlessness.’ God takes no delight in deliberate lawbreakers. Thankfully, He has forgiven those of us who’ve gone down that path…

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
Hebrews 10.17

“The law” was written by Moses and is comprised of the first five books of both the Christian Bible and Hebrew Scriptures… Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Also known as Torah, this substantial body of work became the foundational standard by which Orthodox Jews measured all right and wrong behavior. 

Genesis contains historical narrative pointing to the origin of humankind and the birth of the nation of Israel. The Ten Commandments were recorded in both Exodus and DeuteronomyThe book of Numbers details forty years wilderness wandering by millions of Israelites after fleeing from the bondage in Egypt. Sprinkled throughout Torah are various rules related to community life: health, diet, money, land ownership, inheritance, worship, and ethical conduct. Leviticus contains an elaborate set of instructions for a system of animal sacrifices designed to appease the wrath of a just and Almighty God.

The author of Hebrews was well acquainted with Hebrew “law.”. He taught that neither strict adherence to Torah nor obedience to any other set of religious regulations could ever make the follower right with God.

“…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Hebrews 10.4

Jesus came as the ultimate sacrifice and final solution for the sins of all humankind. He paid for our lawless behavior once and for all…

“…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Hebrews 10.10

So neither the law nor lawlessness solves the dilemma of human sin. Jesus is the only answer! In some mysterious way I may be transformed by the Son of God. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29) took mine away too. Jesus performed His act of supreme sacrifice and absolute love for my personal benefit. Now my act of simple faith in Him fulfills God’s intention for the Law. I am, by His grace alone, made righteous. My righteousness is conferred and cannot be earned. It is “the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2.8b-9).

No one can achieve perfection by sincere dedication to a set of moral standards. That’s bad news for the legalist and do-gooder. That we may become righteous by the sacrificial offering of “the Lamb of God” is good news for everyone else.

“But my righteous one will live by faith.”
Hebrews 10.38