Why Marriages Fail

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;    Ephesians 5: 22 & 25

Wedding RingsA lot of people get themselves in a twist over this chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. They get stuck on the idea of wives being submissive and don’t ever seem to make it to verse 25, which tells husbands they should practice the same, selfless, sacrificial love toward their wives as Christ practiced for us, His church.

So husbands have the duty to put their wives above themselves, and wives should respond in loving submission and respect for their husband’s selfless love.

In short, it’s about “You First” instead of “Me First” for both partners in a marriage.

Enter Dr. Finkel from Northwestern University, Department of Social Psychology. His October 2 headline for the London Daily Mail: Why modern relationships fail: Psychologist says we expect too much from our partners and should lower our standards

He makes both some good points and horrendous points in the article. I’ll classify the article overall as something a bit more toward the horrendous side just because it’s overall focus, as written, is completely wrong.  You can tell from the title that the focus is self, not other.  If that’s your starting place, you can’t help going wrong.  But let’s take this one point at a time.

Holding Door

You first…

We expect too much from our partners? Wrong focus.  This is the WIIFM question – What’s In It For Me?  In a bible-based marriage, the question is “What can I do for you?”  The expectation is that we will seek to work with our spouse out of love.  If both people do that, a lot of problems will go away.

 

…people are expecting their partners to be everything to them.  No argument from me there.

Dr Finkel says in order to have a happy relationship we need to ask less from this person and think of ways in which our friendships could give us more.  Let’s say he’s getting warm here. His problem is that the focus is still on self.  I think that strong marriages include a circle of friends.  Friends are the “swizzle sticks” that stir our marriages,  They add other dimensions, other stimuli to all of our relationships.  Marriages make friendships better and friendships make marriages better.

DancingIf you read my article, Activation, you might recall the idea that families develop their own “dances,” a set of stimulus/response patterns that become ingrained and, over the years, become almost unbreakable.  The additional input from a good circle of friends helps introduce new steps into our family “dances” and helps keep ALL of our relationships fresh.

This means scheduling in time to do things together – and stop trying to do relationships ‘on the cheap’, he said.  Absolutely!  I’ve seen too many couples with his and her friends and doing more things apart than together.  You and your spouse are a team.  Do things together!  Do you maybe want to do things on your own at times?  That’s good, but don’t let that become the majority of the time!

‘The idea of the book is that the changing nature of our expectations of marriage have made more marriages fall short of expectations, and therefore disappoint us’, Dr Finkel said.  Agreed!  But what should our expectations be?  Ephesians 5 lays it out pretty well.

‘There’s no shame at all in thinking of ways that you can ask less.  Well, OK, sort of.  Again, his focus is on self and how much we can healthily get from our partner.  His statement comes from a point of selfishness, perhaps greed.  I could almost hear someone asking themselves, “What can I get away with getting from my spouse?”  The question should be more about what can I do FOR my spouse?

Story Photo: Patient Picture

Not me, but similar to my walk from ICU to Step Down

When I had bypass surgery I was determined to be the staff’s favorite patient. I do NOT buy into the current social attitude of “I’m the customer, and you need to kiss my butt!”  My attitude is that you’ll help me, if I help you first.  And I don’t mean just a little, token effort!  They told me walking was the best thing I could do to aid my own recovery, so I walked.  I did what they asked and never complained.  About anything.

 

Believe me, you have no idea how tiring walking is after having your chest cracked open for heart surgery, but I did it. More than one staff told me that I was the “walkingest” patient they’d ever had; they might charge me extra just to replace the carpet I was wearing out!

Those people took care of me!  I never had to ask for anything from them, because they wanted to help someone who was being such a great partner in his own recovery!

If that sort of giving effort gets that kind of response from total strangers for just a few days, imagine how that servant attitude can affect your marriage for decades!

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:… 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

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Thanks for…Me!

Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!  How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…  Psalm 139:12-18

 

I’m thankful for me. No, that’s not ego.  That’s just me appreciating how well God engineered me.  Despite sin, the human body is still an impressive piece of engineering!  There’s a (dark) joke that life is fatal.  It’s true.  When it is written in Genesis that, due to sin, we will die, the translation literally reads “…dying, you will die.”  In other words, we start dying at birth.

But look at how well we hold up! Look at what we are capable of!  We can thread a needle and (potentially) lift hundreds of pounds with the same limbs.  Speed, power, and grace all within the same frame.  God has given us a brain through which our soul works within our body, creating physical structures as well as intellectual ones.

Sharna+Burgess+Dancing+Stars+Season+18+Episode+AqxUVWD3BRRl

Sharna Burgess & Charlie White – “Happy”

I’m a big fan of Dancing With the Stars. What amazes me is the human capacity to convey ideas and emotion through music and movement.  The impact the performers can make on us is physical; laughter, tears, awe…

 

What sort of a marvel of engineering are we that we have such a capacity? Why did God do it?  I think He just gets a hoot out of it when we use what He has given us to do such beautiful things.  I think He enjoys watching us enjoy His gifts when we see them in each other.

And that’s just humanity. What about all of creation?  Do you realize what a piece of work water is?  It’s the only thing in the universe that expands when it gets cold and shrinks when it gets warm.  If not for that, it couldn’t do its job in circulating heat around the planet.  Life would be impossible!

Yup. I’m thankful for how well God has made me, despite the illnesses and brushes with death I’ve had.  I’m thankful for my days and the other wonderfully created people in my life!!

Guns: A Root Cause Analysis

It’s different now. If you have some savings, take them with you. If you have a pack, fill it and bring it. If you don’t have a sword, sell your coat and buy one.    Luke 22:36

Jesus: Put your sword back. People who live by the sword die by the sword.    Matthew 26:52

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.    Matthew 22:37-40

How do we reconcile the first two passages above? Defending yourself is one thing, both individually and as a nation.  Having the means to protect yourself is one thing.  Owning and using weapons as a way of living is quite another.

Karate SparringI’ve had friends who earned black and brown belts in a variety of martial arts. To a man and woman, they all had the same basic message for me: every good fighter avoids a fight at all costs.  You never know when you might be standing in front of that one person who’s going to hand you your ass.

Jesus was saying more or less the same thing, but more delicately, of course. Be prepared for trouble, but don’t go looking for it.

Matthew 26:52 also needs to be taken in context. Jesus wanted to be taken.  It was His job.  He had to be arrested, suffer, and die for our salvation.  That wasn’t the time for a sword fight, especially against trained troops.

So that leaves me in favor of gun ownership for home and self-defense. If you look at my article from last Monday, Gun Violence, you’ll see two very important messages.  First, the solution is in changing our hearts as a nation.  Second, you can follow the link provided to a Washington Post article from 12/3/2015, which clearly demonstrates that overall gun deaths have declined over the last two decades, coinciding with an increase in gun ownership!  The only parts of the country with increases in gun deaths are those states – Illinois, most notably – with the strictest gun laws.

Love HandsAs for Matthew 22:37-40, well, that would pretty much solve everything, now wouldn’t it?

Below I’ve pasted in a complete article from msc.com, which does a great job of talking about FACTS, not hyperbole and politics. When I taught corporate management classes, one mantra for solving problems and making the best decisions was “Think about WHAT’s right, not WHO’s right!”

It’s about fact-based discussions. Following is a great one.  I’ve highlighted parts to help you skim the article.  I also kept the links to other articles, which I don’t all agree with.  I provide them for you to look at and analyze yourself in light of the December 2015 article cited at the top and the article below.

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Opinion | I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinion-i-used-to-think-gun-control-was-the-answer-my-research-told-me-otherwise/ar-AAsRR7y?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site. She is the author of “Arriving at Amen.”

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

However, the next-largest set of gun deaths — 1 in 5 — were young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides. These men were most likely to die at the hands of other young men, often related to gang loyalties or other street violence. And the last notable group of similar deaths was the 1,700 women murdered per year, usually as the result of domestic violence. Far more people were killed in these ways than in mass-shooting incidents, but few of the popularly floated policies were tailored to serve them.

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.

Read more:

The Post’s View: The worst kind of American exceptionalism

Chris Murphy: Mass shootings are an American problem. There’s an American solution.

Richard Glover: How Australia beat the gun lobby and passed gun control

The Post’s View: Gun control’s silver bullets

Charles C.W. Cooke: The right to bear arms isn’t up for debate

Gun Violence

Originally posted December 29, 2015.

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“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.”   Psalm 14:1

DictionaryI learned something extremely important when I taught a class in Problem Solving/Decision Making; words matter! When listing goals and alternatives, properly identifying them would make a big difference in developing the rest of a solution or choice. Being precise in stating the goal of a choice is especially important!

This brings me to the ongoing debate over gun violence. Guess what? I think that’s a misidentification of the issue at hand. Gun Violence? I’ve never heard of a gun committing violence. Ever. The term subliminally skews our perception of the issue, as if guns are the real problem. Let’s call it People Violence.

GUN USE is another matter, and would best be listed as a sub point to People Violence. Once you straighten out your verbiage, you realize people are the problem, not guns. Apply the same logic to cars.

There are plenty of stories of people using cars as weapons; should we outlaw cars? Not a soul has suggested that, despite the fact that the same logic applied to guns can easily be used on cars – with a higher body count.

The terrorists in San Bernardino had a lot more than guns; pipe bombs, booby traps, grandparents to watch the baby, etc. Do we outlaw everything or do we try to fix the real problem where it resides: people. As a nation, we’ve invited God out of the country: you can’t show the 10 commandments hardly anywhere (Thou shalt not kill, for example), no praying in public – schools, football stadiums. Morality has taken a nose dive, and that is the real problem. Once we realize that the bible has something to it and that Christianity does not preach hatred but redemption…well, then you just might see the real solution.

“The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”    Psalm 11:5

 

Violence and wickedness go hand in hand. The Bible teaches morality, peace, and reliance on God.  And before you start yelling about how much violence is in the Bible, remember that God does not condone violence.  He will come down hard on the wicked to STOP THEIR violence.

“The violence of the wicked will destroy them, Because they refuse to do justice.”   Proverbs 21:7

 

God wants protection for the innocent and oppressed. He exhorts and expects us to work with Him for their good.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”   James 1:27

“Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”   Jeremiah 22:3

 

Execute judgment and righteousness. Do not shed innocent blood.  God calls us to His side, to work His works.  Unwarranted violence is not on that list.

“But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”   Jonah 3:8

 

We need to repent of our wrongs, not pursue them with ever increasing zeal as is the norm for today’s society; fighting over Christmas presents, killing over the last piece of chicken, and all other sorts of wickedness. Greed is not on God’s menu.  It is the root of violence

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”   1 Timothy 6:10

 

If we could only learn what our ancestors of as a little as 200 years ago came here to practice; freedom to pursue a life pleasing and faithful to God. How will that solve the problem of people violence?

“A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.”   Proverbs 13:2

 

To understand rates of gun use better, see this December 3, 2015 Washington Post article which documents the decline overall of gun violence with the increase of gun ownership.  Obviously, this gives the lie to those who use stories like today’s to push for gun control.

Headline: We’ve had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why.

“Premeditated mass shootings in public places are happening more often, some researchers say, plunging towns and cities into grief and riveting the attention of a horrified nation. In general, though, fewer Americans are dying as a result of gun violence — a shift that began about two decades ago.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/03/weve-had-a-massive-decline-in-gun-violence-in-the-united-states-heres-why/?tid=sm_tw

Comfort

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.    Isaiah 40:1

Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.    Apuleius Roman philosopher, rhetorician, & satirist (124 AD – 170 AD)

Stress - business woman running lateSome things are heard so often we don’t truly hear them any longer. We just rush through them without thought.  When it comes to Bible passages and what we say in church on Sunday mornings, I think this is too much the case.

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-12As a former actor, I was trained to be able to say something as if it were being said for the first time. That can be a challenge when confronted with something like the 23rd Psalm; “The Lord is my Shepherd…”  And it is such a thing of beauty!

One passage that ends most church services is from Numbers 6:24-26. It is the Benediction, which we hear most Sundays, and which is rattled off far too quickly.  Speed kills (meaning).  Allow me to type it here as if scripting it, not literally as punctuated and written in the Bible.  Think of someone saying this for the first time as they leave a friend’s house, not to return soon.  The speaker is thinking about what he or she is going to say next, making it up as they go along.

 

The Lord bless you!

(Pauses thoughtfully)

…and keep you.

(Cups her host’s face in one hand)

The Lord make His face…shine upon you.  And be gracious to you.

(Both hands on the host’s face now, looking deeply into the eyes)

The Lord lift up His Countenance upon you. And give you peace.

(Kisses the hosts forehead and exits)

 

HUGGING-FRIEND-570How would you feel if a dear friend said that to you in that way as they leave, not knowing when you’d see each other again? Warm?  Bittersweet? Comforted by such kind words?

There is much comfort to be had in the Bible with passages like this, the 23rd Psalm, and more.  Sit some place in the quiet with time on your hands and slowly read the Psalms.  Read the whole Bible.  There is much to learn in there, not the least of which is how much God loves you, everything He sacrificed for you, and how He wants to spend all of eternity.  With you!

quote-if-you-surrender-yourself-and-do-not-rush-but-meditate-on-the-word-of-god-you-will-find-john-r-rice-111-56-66

Thoughts From 1 Timothy

St Paul

St. Paul

3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,    1 Timothy 1:3-5

 

There are only two commandments that Jesus gave to His disciples and us, both regarding love:

Jesus Smiling34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:34-40

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genealogyAlso, Paul’s warning against genealogies is prophetic when one considers the Mormon preoccupation with them. From the official Mormon web site:

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints use family history records to perform sacred temple ordinances, for their kindred dead if these deceased family members were unable to perform the earthly rites themselves.  That gives deceased ancestors the opportunity to accept these ordinances in the afterlife.

Jesus teaches us through the parable of The Rich Man and Poor Lazarus that our eternity is sealed once our bodies die.  There are no earthly rites, pre or post death, that provide salvation.  There is only one means of securing our eternity in heaven with God and fellow believers in Christ:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6

Quite succinct with no room for argument.

As for genealogies: we’re all descended from Adam and Eve.

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salvation…the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.    1 Timothy 1:9b-11

For those who believe that Christians are homophobes and gay haters, because God denounces homosexuality, God does not approve of any sexual misconduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

It isn’t a matter of hate, but of love. People were made to operate within certain guidelines.  The list of aberrations listed above are not correct operations of human beings per their Maker.  He would have us forego the pain of improper behavior, both on earth and in eternity.  God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

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Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy…    1 Timothy 4:1-2

St Pauls Ground ZeroAmerica started as a Christian nation, but we have obviously lost our way as a country. George Washington began his presidency at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City.  This building still stands at Ground Zero, the only building there not to have suffered any damage.  At all.  Not so much as a broken window.  From the History Channel website:

George Washington PrayingAfter delivering his address, Washington walked up Broadway with a group of legislators and local political leaders to pray at St. Paul’s Chapel. Later, he made the humble and astute observation that his presidency, and the nation itself, was an experiment.

In the 21st Century we ban God’s law from our courthouses, persecute Christians while promoting Muslims, call evil good and good, evil.  We sooner believe in salvation from the cosmos in the form of enlightened aliens than the Son of God.  We say God doesn’t exist while entering into pacts with Satan.

Nothing good has or ever will come from any of this.

20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.  Grace be with you. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:20-21

Unspoiled

26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.    Matthew 27:26

Good Friday is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons. First, it recognizes the climax of our redemption.  When Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” we know that God’s plan for salvation succeeded.

Second, it’s the one Christian holy day that hasn’t been misappropriated and perverted by secular society. Babies and rabbits are just too easy.  But torture someone to death?  The boys at Abu Graib should count their blessings.

The Bible is so succinct and those events are so old that we have hard time really appreciating the magnitude of what we read sometimes. Let’s take a look at what happened, courtesy of Killing Jesus by Stephen Mansfield.

“Pontius Pilate…has not even rendered judgement in the matter of (Jesus), but still he orders the cruelest form of punishment possible shy of death under Roman law… He will give the screaming masses a bloody spectacle whether they want it or not.  What he will not do is free this man…though he already has declared (Jesus) innocent.

“They remove his clothes and tie his hands to a ring that hangs above his head. This stretches the muscles of his arms, back, and shoulders.

“Simple, ingenious, and cruel, this flagellum is a ring of iron or wood to which leather straps are attached. What makes the flagellum so horrific are the bits of sheep bone, rock, or steel knotted into each leather strand.

“…(he) swings the flagellum so as to partially wraps its straps around the victim’s torso… Blood gushes.  Pieces of muscle, even chips of bone, fly into the air.  The body is torn apart.

“With the second strike, Jesus can no longer stand…too stunned and weak to find his feet… Strips of flesh hang loosely, barely attached at one end.”

This is just the warmup. Once impaled through hands and feet on the cross he is a buffet for insects and birds.  He is not stretched out, but rather crouched slightly as though in a partial squat.

“Yeshua’s forearms knot and cramp, the searing agony moving into His upper arms and shoulders.  It is constant, wracking, unspeakable pain.

“Once a victim is impaled, he quickly realizes that if he hangs from the spikes in his wrists, his pectoral muscles paralyze. It means he can take in air, but he cannot exhale.  With his lungs full yet unable to breathe out, he panics…

“The prisoner soon realizes that the only way to keep from suffocating is to push down on the spike through his feet. This lifts him up to relieve the stress on his arms.  It is an unspeakable torturous move.  It rotates his forearms around the spike in his wrists, scrapes his back over the jagged wood of the (cross), and grips his legs in agonizing cramps.  It eases him slightly, though, by allowing him to breathe.  He cannot hold this position long.  Soon, he finds that pressing down on the spike through his feet is so exhausting that he has to lower himself and hang from his wrists again.  Until the panic returns.  Then, the sadistic cycle repeats.  In the barracks, grizzled legionnaires call this “the dance of death.”

Jesus was unspoiled, a Lamb without blemish. He endured this to redeem us from the judgment we deserve.  He stayed true to the bitter end, through all of the agony, all of the humiliation of nakedness and his few remaining possessions being divvied up.  He might have been in too much to even hear the laughter of the crowd and soldiers, but maybe not.

Then God turned His back on Jesus, who cried out in His supreme loneliness and died.

Wondrous Stories!

YES“I beg your leave to hear your Wondrous Stories”  Yes

I don’t know how many of you ever heard of the rock band Yes. They were big in the 70’s along with Emerson, Lake, & Palmer and other classical rock bands.  They had great tunes, arrangements, and lyrics.  I hadn’t listened to them for a very long time and found a CD I have of their greatest hits.

“Wondrous Stories” was always a favorite of mine; lyrical with floating melody, it seemed to lift you to another part of the world…or maybe another world with the idea of hearing someone’s Wondrous Stories.

It’s so sad that we’ve become so familiar with the story of Creation and salvation that we’ve lost the sense of awe and wonder in those true tales, those Wondrous Stories.

star-of-bethlehem1“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”    Matthew 1:23

God came to earth as a human being to pay the penalty of man’s disobedience. The Virgin, Mary, was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to the very Son of God.

But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.    Romans 5:15

Adam and Eve sinned. We are from their very flesh and bones, so sin comes to us all as an inheritance as surely as our genetic makeup.  So, by Jesus, one man, we can be absolved of our sin, joining with Him in faith.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.    Hebrews 4:15

temptation-of-jesusThis is, for me the Most Wondrous chapter of the story; He endured temptations as we do, but He didn’t give in. He could have gone off the rails at any point, because He had Free Choice.  Think on it!  Jesus could have sinned, He could’ve slipped up at any second and found Himself damned along with us!

So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.    John 4:46

In prayer, Jesus performed miracles during His short ministry of the Gospel, proving His divinity. He saved a wedding from disaster by making up the shortfall in wine, making it from water.

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.    Acts 10:38

He professed that He could do nothing apart from God. He began battling against Satan even at this time before the final showdown.

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. ThenFeeding the 5000 a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased…He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”… Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”… And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples[a] to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over.   John 6 Selected Verses

Nuff said.

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door,[a] and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”   Matthew 28:1-7

Jesus allows Himself to be captured, tortured, and crucified, suffering the fate we should have.  Having endured that – including being completely forsaken by God in the midst of His suffering – He is raised from the dead by God, shows Himself to His disciples, and just before ascending to heaven, He tells them – and us,

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”    John 14:2

Are those some Wondrous Stories, or what? Easter-Banner3

Battered

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.    Matthew 10:42

Well, friends, I’ve been lax this week as far as getting articles written. Obviously.  It’s just been one of those weeks.  Not enough hours or me to go around.

Now, lest I come off as “Woe is me,” that’s not what I’m saying. It’s been challenging, and that’s what happens.  A lot of people are challenged infinitely more than I am!

I conversed with a friend this week who is dealing with some family issues, and it’s been a challenging time for him too for more than just this past week. He’s moved, changed his whole life around to meet a family need.  Sacrifice and opportunity seem to be two sides of the same coin here, as he went from seeing all that was given up to seeing all that opened up.

We all get battered, bloodied, and torn. In the grand scheme of things, some of us have it pretty easy most of the time.  It may not look like much to some, perhaps, but if it’s the worst you’ve ever been, who’s to say?  That’s all you know.

My friend made me think that you can tell heroes from their condition. Heroes are the ones who cross the finish line ripped and scratched.  Some are a bloody pulp.

John the Baptist? Hero.  Camel’s hair clothing, wild locusts, and honey for dessert.

Jesus en route to Calvary? Bloody pulp territory.  It’s amazing He could even walk at that point.

Pick an apostle outside of John. Uneducated, persecuted, hounded from every direction.  Peter was crucified.  Upside down.

Histories are crammed with stories of 1st Century Martyrs meeting horrific ends.

Not one would make the invitation list to anyone’s dinner party.

But despite all of their own sufferings, they healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons. They did God’s work to help others in need even as they were in need.

Can you give someone a drink? Buy them breakfast at McDonald’s?  Take a minute to talk to them?  Share Jesus with them?  People who can do that are the kind of heroes Jesus is looking for.  He wants heroes who can do those sort of things while struggling themselves.

Are you dog-tired, but a son or daughter needs you? Be a hero.  Are you upset over an calamity in your life, and a friend calls with a problem?  Be a hero.

Because real heroes can do it with blood and sweat…and a smile God gave them.

Help from Heaven

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.    Psalm 68:17

Do you believe that angels exist? Do you believe that they are active in the world today?  You should.  Seeing an angel is not a common thing, but people do see them.  Some coincidences beg a cause, a providence of God and His angels.  They weren’t seen, but their effect was felt.

A recent article from Great Britain shows that seeing angels is more common than we might think: People Who Believe They Have Seen an ANGEL – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3981538/I-just-lying-appeared-two-beautiful-beings-wings-dressed-white-Incredible-tales-people-believe-seen-ANGEL.html

I recently saw a documentary about the Israeli war for independence in the 60’s. They defeated the armies of several Arab nations intent on destroying them and denying Jerusalem to them.  There was no way they should have prevailed, but they did.  History has recorded their magnificent victory, but it has left out the testimonials of the defeated Arab forces.

An entire Arab platoon happened upon a couple of lost Israeli soldiers who were certain they would be slaughtered, caught out in the open. As they steeled themselves for a fight to the death, the Arab platoon laid down their weapons and surrendered.  Why?  Because they saw the Israelis backed up by an army of angels.

This sort of thing happened often in that conflict. What’s amazing is that these eyewitness accounts came from the Arabs who surrendered!

The one thing we need to remember as we acknowledge that angels exist and move in our lives is that they are not the source. Some people tend to worship angels or believe in them, stopping there.  Angels come to us from God the Father.  They are His army for our good.  Salvation does not lie with them.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.   John 14:6

It is good to know ALL of the things God does for us, the entirety of the spiritual world that surrounds us and, indeed, battles over us. We thank God for His love and providence as He sends us His help from Heaven.