A Love Tutorial

Re-published from 9/11/2014

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:3-5

Please see this video next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTOzt-aqxbo

This video struck me as being something like a parable or illustration of God and humanity. It’s touching both in itself and in how it can show how God deals with us.

Dog & Boy 1First, let’s characterize the players. There is one, vastly more powerful being who denies its strength and humbles itself to woo a decidedly less powerful, less capable being than itself.

Second, the individual it wants to win over is mentally incapable of understanding just what this big, perhaps scary individual is trying to do. Even if the intent is understood, the object of affection tries to push away – and even flee from – the being trying to love it.  But the stronger individual is not deterred from its purpose.

Dog & Boy 2Third, the stronger is infinitely patient, suffering repeated rejection in order to wear down and win over whom it loves. Time is neither an object nor obstacle.  It is virtually the tool of choice, as the lover outlasts that which is loved.

Dog & Boy 3Fourth, love conquers. In the end, the boy in the video embraces the dog.  God conquered on the cross 2000 years ago.  Alas, we do not all respond as the little boy does, finally recognizing just what a friend is before him.

What do you think of the dog in the video? Does she warm your heart?  Does her unconditional love inspire you?  Do you admire her persistence?  Do you think she would be hurt if she never succeeded?

Well, take all of that and make it infinitely bigger to fit God. NOW what do you think of Him?  What will you do about it?  Say thank you?  Tell other people about this great big, cuddly God who just wants a hug back?

Hopefully, your answer is a positive. To everything.

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Sweet Release!

Shemitah – Hebrew, translated literally as “release.”

jonathan-cahn.jpgI first learned this word through the books “The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah,” both by Jonathon Cahn, a Christian Rabbi. He wrote these books when he realized that the pattern of history over the last century has a strong parallel to the history of ancient Israel, their national sins. and their Babylonian bondage.  I wrote a series review of his work a couple years ago, starting with The Harbinger, Overview Part 1

Christians are all familiar with the term “Sabbath.”

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” warns the commandment. It was to be a day of rest commemorating God resting on the seventh day of the universe after spending six days creating it.  What I didn’t know until a few years ago and reading Rabbi Cahn’s books is that there was also a Sabbath of years.

sabbathJesus also informs the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath when they turned their noses up at His disciples picking grain to eat on a Saturday, which is the actual seventh day and the actual Sabbath.

Sabbath is to be a day of rest, a year of rest, and a year of…release!

I was recently reading back through “The Mystery of the Shemitah” and a passage captured my attention more than it had when I first saw it. Rabbi Cahn made some succinct comments about the Shemitah – the Sabbath Year, which I’ll reproduce below.  You’ll see that it isn’t just about resting from physical work, but a rest – a release – from the world, from possessions which encumber.  It’s a release to rest in the arms of our God without a care in the world.

The need to work for our food? Released!

The need to collect debts? Released!

The need to pay debts? Released!

Rest-in-Jesus-ChristThe Shemitah strikes me personally as something very much like my bypass surgery in 2003.  Was that a scary time?  It certainly had its moments!  But I remember that entire period from surgery through recovery very fondly.  I was released – I was “shemitah’d” from the cares of life to just be.  Eat, sleep, breathe…repeat as needed.

The law of Sabbaths from the seventh day to the seventh year to the seventh 7-year cycle was peculiar to the Israelites. Except for the commandment, God did not require these Sabbaths from any other people.  However, I can’t help wondering what this world would look like if  everyone on earth was “shemitah’d” from every debt and possession every seven years.

What a leveler that would be! There would be no oppression by debts lasting a lifetime, no burdens of a glut of unnecessary wealth.  We would do nothing but rest on the grace of God’s providence in those times, a true rest from not just labor, but from the world!

Here are selected portions of Rabbi Cahn’s comments from his book “The Mystery of the Shemitah,” page 31. After reading those, I invite you to slowly, carefully…care-freely read the passages from Exodus and Leviticus describing these Sabbaths, these Shemitah’s, these blessed releases!

‘The Shemitah declares that God is first and above all realms of life, and must therefore be put first and above every realm. During the Shemitah was, in effect, compelled to turn away from these earthly or worldly realms and turn to the spiritual.

The Shemitah cleanses and wipes away, ends imbalances, levels accounts, and nullifies that which has built up in the previous years…It ends entanglements and brings release…The Shemitah requires people to release their attachments to the material realm: their possessions, their finances, their real estate, and their claims and pursuits concerning such things.

The Shemitah is the reminder that God is the source of all blessings, spiritual and physical alike.”

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The Law of Sabbaths   Exodus 23:10-11

10 “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.

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Highlights are mine.

The Sabbath of the Seventh Year   Leviticus 25

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food.

The Year of Jubilee

‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.

13 ‘In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. 14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another. 15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you. 16 According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops. 17 Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

Provisions for the Seventh Year

18 ‘So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.

20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” 21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

Redemption of Property

23 ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. 24 And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.

25 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. 26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, 27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. 28 But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.

29 ‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year he may redeem it. 30 But if it is not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to him who bought it, throughout his generations. It shall not be released in the Jubilee. 31 However the houses of villages which have no wall around them shall be counted as the fields of the country. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the Jubilee. 32 Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, and the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites may redeem at any time. 33 And if a man purchases a house from the Levites, then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall be released in the Jubilee; for the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. 34 But the field of the common-land of their cities may not be sold, for it is their perpetual possession.

Lending to the Poor

35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

The Law Concerning Slavery

39 ‘And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. 40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God. 44 And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. 45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. 46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor.

47 ‘Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, 48 after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; 49 or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself. 50 Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him. 51 If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought. 52 And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption. 53 He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him. 55 For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

To BeautyBeyondBones:

BBBThe following started as my comment to yesterday’s article at BeautyBeyondBones; Preparation; A Lesson from Hurricane Irma.  It’s turned into a minor dissertation, so I figured, “Hey!  Here’s MY next article!”  I would urge you to read her article, indeed follow her blog, and even buy her new book, Bloom.

To Beauty BeyondBones:

The most critical thing I read in this blog is this: Sure I go to church. I try to be a good person and love Jesus. But is that enough? Frankly, I’m impatient, self-centered, and lazy at best. And if I’m being totally honest, I spend more time fixated on The Bachelor or other trash TV than I do in worship to Jesus.”

martin_luther

Martin Luther

That’s the Roman Catholic in you coming out (What can I say? I’m a Lutheran and we’re studying The Reformation’s 500th anniversary).  It’s not about what you do!  No penance, no good works, nothing makes a difference in your salvation.  You can’t do it!  Only Jesus can and, in fact did.  End of story.

 

Your “loving response” is to make every effort to give a drink to a child, care for widows and orphans, share the Gospel, and do your best to live as Jesus commanded us to.

“If you love Me, you will…”

When Jesus separates the sheep and the goats – you guys visited me in prison, fed me, etc. You guys didn’t.  Off you go – unbelievers who did good works don’t get a pass.  Matthew 25:31-46

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

The works are tangible proofs of our faith. And God doesn’t need those proofs!  They are for us and for those around us.  They are for us in moments of doubt when Satan attacks, such as you may have been experiencing when writing Preparation.  I believe but…do I REALLY believe?  Well, I do X, Y, & Z so, yeah.  But I also sin A, B, & C, but Jesus forgives, and I believe that.  The proof of that to me are the good works I do out of faith and love – not because I think they’ll save me.

satanSatan is also translated as The Accuser. You are right – we will have to answer for our words and actions on the final day of judgement.  Satan will make His accusations against you and me before the throne, but Jesus will step in and say, “All true, but Caralyn, Jeff, and the rest have agreed to allow me to pay their debt.  So here I am, and here’s my blood.  End of story.  Now make a hole so I can take my sister and brother up to the Big House.”

And that last line is critical – Jesus has already made the sacrifice, BUT if we don’t accept His payment on our behalf, if we reject Him by not believing in Him, our debt remains unpaid.  Going down!

And yeah, you silly thing, you watch the garbage TV, have your nose in your cell phone…just like I have my vices and failings. But I refer you to St. Paul in Romans 7:13-25:

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

St PaulWe’re in a lousy state, but we’re in good company if we’re struggling like Paul did. If our lives and struggles echo his, we could be doing a whole lot worse!

And the proofs are for others – to show that our faith HAS made a change in our lives! Proofs give others a reason to listen, it gives us credibility when we talk about Jesus.

Caralyn, is your blog going to save you, because you are reaching so many people with the Gospel? NO!  Are your blog and your life one massive collection of PROOFS that you are credible in your message?  YES!

Penance? Doesn’t do anything for anyone.  No one sees your prayers, etc.  And no one is supposed to!  They are between you and God.  Paul discounts speaking in tongues, because no one understands the speaker, so no one is edified.  In the same way, personal penance edifies no one, and since Jesus already paid the price, it doesn’t matter to our salvation.

Beauty Beyond BonesWhat does matter? BEAUTYBEYONDBONES!  It’s the life that screams JESUS IS REAL!  It’s the good work that is a beacon to draw people to the banquet of mercy and forgiveness.  BBB is what edifies others!

Are you doing enough? No.  None of us can.  That’s the point.  Only Jesus can.  Are you practicing your loving response to His sacrifice?  Absolutely!  Better than many.  Could you do better?  Of course.  We ALL could.  Just maintain the struggle as Paul did.  As my pastor says, if you’re struggling, your spirit against your flesh, you’re on the right path: So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

With that last thought, let me refer you back to my article on Mr. Mister and Kyrie Eleison.  Bad hair and all.  The pertinent lyric?

Somewhere between the soul and soft machine Is where I find myself again.

Caralyn, offered in love and support of the miracle that is BBB! Keep shining…”Tiffany!”

The Whole Matter

GodIn this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.    1 Peter 1:6-9

I write about a wide range of topics, and always from a Biblical perspective.

  • In 2014 there was the series review of The Exodus Case by Dr. Lennart Moeller, which evaluates archeology related to Exodus.
    • Why? This shows that Biblical history and world history are one, pointing toward the accuracy of the Bible.
  • Euthanasia. The latest being, Charlie Gard; His Parents Couldn’t Help Him.
    • Why? Well, murder for convenience is just that; murder. Call it abortion, euthanasia, mercy killing, dying with dignity…wrong is wrong and God is quite clear in right and wrong.
  • Various science topics. DNA Pirates CoverMost recently, another book review series on DNA: Pirates of the Sacred Spiral by Dr. Leonard Horowitz.
    • Contrary to secular claims, science does indeed affirm intelligent design. In a word; Creation.
    • Dr. Horowitz is a prominent research scientist who has demonstrated how DNA shows God’s design and how men have hidden it’s true nature from the world.

Sometimes I read a headline that prompts an article. Sometimes I like to share some personal memories that have taught me something I like to share with you.  Search The Jeff Tales.

I write about a lot of different things to bring God’s Word to light in a variety of ways. You just never know what’s going to prompt someone to either accept God or get closer to Him.

But what is the whole of the matter? Salvation from our sins thanks to the love of the God who created us.  So here it is as succinctly as I can put it.

God created all; from the rocks and stars to animals, people, and microbes. And it was good.

Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, had a perfect life, always on vacation as it were. No worries.  Have you ever wished you were your cat or dog?  They have no worries.  Just watch the house and let you love them, right?  They had it something like that.

Lucifer, one of the highest angels, wanted to be God. He got ambitious, and God condemned him.  In a moment of “You and your little dog too!” Satan decided to wreck it for Adam and Eve to spite God.  He succeeded.

adamevesufferingWe’re all descendants of Adam and Eve. We ARE Adam and Eve!  Blood of their blood and bone of their bone.  We inherit their sin right down to our DNA.  Because we are flawed that way, we commit our own sins in addition to being born with that inherited sin.

God set the rules up front, and once Adam and Eve – and we – broke them, He couldn’t very well go back on His Word. Right?  He’s perfect, saying what He means and doing what He says He’ll do.  But He devised a plan whereby He could absolve us of our sins under those very rules; namely disobedience must be paid for with blood/death.

Jesus SmilingAt the right time, He sent His Son, Jesus to earth by way of a human, virgin birth through Mary. He lived a perfect, obedient life and became the perfect sacrifice worthy to pay the price exacted by the original rules.

Passion of ChristJesus died horribly to pay our price, and then God raised this perfect One from the dead to rule over all creation. He holds out this gift of absolution to us for free.  All we need to do is say “Yes.”  With that simple acceptance, our eternal salvation is assured.

Once our sinful bodies die here on earth, our redeemed souls are free to enjoy an eternity of bliss in the direct presence of God.

Is the world a great place? Take a look around; past wars, present threats of war, constant and increasing crime, and the accelerating decay of society.  All of this will be replaced by peace and perfection by a loving God who will welcome us into His presence.

Why?

He created us. He loves us.  That’s all He ever wanted to do; have a relationship with us that we choose to participate in.

Everything else I write about is pointing to the reality of the salvation – and the danger – we have to choose between. The world is an evil place.  Satan still tries to deceive us and fill our minds with thoughts of only self and not God.

So, if you have a past that you aren’t proud of, if you have sins on your conscience that you can’t escape, if you want God’s peace in your soul amidst the scares and turmoil of the present day, just talk to God.  Talk to Him with a sincere heart, ask for His forgiveness and say “Yes” to the gift He holds for you to take from His open hand.

No muss, no fuss. Jesus took care of that part.  Just say “Yes.”  After that, get to know Him better by studying His Word in the Bible.  Learn how you can love Him back and have that relationship He wants with you!

What to Think

It seems we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves. We obsess over latest crazes.  We worry over insecurities we never knew we had until told we have them.  Here are some Labor Day headlines that do nothing but feed fear and irresponsibility:

  • Kate suffers from extreme morning sickness that strikes just 1% of pregnant women and can be DEADLY
    • According to Americanpregnancy.org “Morning sickness is not harmful to you or your baby…”
    • If severe, it can cause problems due to “possible lack of nutrients and electrolyte imbalances.”
    • Nothing about death
  • Friends, the ‘office feeders’ and your children: Expert reveals the people in your life making you fat – and how to stop them from increasing your weight
    • Temptations abound, of course. But they aren’t responsible for you behavior. YOU are.
  • How Amal’s make-up artist made her a walking advert: She reveals every lotion and potion used to preen Mrs. Clooney
    • A.k.a. – spend money here to be (like) someone else who is better than you
  • Instagram health warning: Why just half an hour browsing ‘fitspiration’ images on the photo-sharing platform will make you hate your body
    • A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.   Proverbs 14:30

 Listening NOTThey run the gamut from lies to feeding insecurities to subtly placing blame on others for our own attitudes and behaviors. The last headline, for example, is essentially good advice; comparing yourself to others can warp your attitude toward yourself and the life God gave you.  But THEY won’t make you do anything!

EXAMPLE: You’re expecting a phone call from someone you really don’t want to deal with but must. The phone rings and you get all tied up inside; this is it!  You answer, but it’s your best friend.  Ever.

Phone EvilSo who put your guts in a tizzy, you or the phone?

I don’t read news. I scan headlines and maybe read articles, if I want to know more.  I usually don’t.  I have a dear friend who lives just outside of Los Angeles in Tujunga.   I read up on the fires when I saw that headline, because he’s two time zones behind me.  He works very late, and I didn’t want to wake him if all is well.

Things like that.

We read the news. We watch the news.  We gobble up social media.  We spin spinners (what the heck is with that, anyway?!?)  We text.  We email.  We spell badly.  A lot.  Even “professional” writers for online news sites.

What are we doing? What are we thinking?  What SHOULD we be doing and thinking?

How about Bible reading, for starters?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.    Philippians 4:8

Isn’t that a nice message? Isn’t that good advice?  Doesn’t it give you a breath of calm instead of a jolt of worry?

Meditate on these things.

Lasting Memories

The sword shall destroy outside; There shall be terror within For the young man and virgin, The nursing child with the man of gray hairs. 26 I would have said, “I will dash them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men,”   Deuteronomy 32:25-27

That’s God taking about His retribution to Israel for forsaking Him. What is the climax of His curse?  Erasing their memory from the world!

Dale Boeru - Roadside MemorialWe all want to be remembered. Why is that?  Do we think that we remain alive as long as our memory lives?  I think that is too often the case.  People setup up roadside memorials to remember those who died there.  I’ve driven through cemeteries where many graves are decorated for holidays and birthdays as if the deceased can participate.

I want to be remembered after I die, but not because I think the memory will preserve me or even some small part of me. I consider it a litmus test as to how well I lived my life for others, how much of an impact I had on the world around me.  The idea of being remembered after my death gives me some sort of hope that I lived a good, God-pleasing life.

How well did I treat my family, my work mates, friends, and acquaintances? How well did I share God’s Word, whether teaching classes on Sunday mornings or talking with a seat mate on a flight?

I pray that God uses me well on this earth for His purposes. I pray that I will meet Him face to face in heaven because of the faith and salvation He graciously has given me.  I pray that when I’m to give an accounting of my life on judgement day my ledger shows at least some sort of appropriate loving response to His love.  I won’t appear among the likes of the apostles, but I hope to have some passing resemblance to them!

I submit to you that we do our best to live every day so that our loved ones, while mourning our absence from them, can rejoice that we are with our Saviour in Heaven. Build me no roadside memorial or decorate my grave.

Faith That Pleases GodDon’t live a life that leaves your loved ones wondering if you really are in heaven. Don’t leave them without hope.  Leave them with a memory that says you definitely had faith in your salvation, that the gift of that faith landed you in Heaven with Jesus.  Give them that comfort that Jesus’ sacrifice was not in vain for you!

Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.    Psalm 25:6-7

To the Max!

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.    Ecclesiastes 9:10

Kobayashi Maru ExplainedThings have been getting tougher lately. Work has been mostly a no-win scenario (a Kobayashi Maru scenario for you Star Trek fans).  It’s so easy to just give in to despair and just ride events as they happen.  In a word?

Be “docile.”

As a colleague says, you need to fly above the weeds and under the radar.

That’s not where God made us to fly, however. We’re not made for skimming treetops.  We’re made to soar.  How are we supposed to live our lives?

To the max!

Although he had a pessimistic-sounding way of putting it, Solomon said the same thing in the above passage. This life is the only one we get on earth.  After that is the grave where nothing gets done until Judgement Day.  Why on earth would we want to waste this one go-round by just floating in the current?

Solomon also points out that fate happens to all; some do evil and prosper and some do good and are harmed. The world is currently Satan’s, and evil befalls all men in some measure and at some time.  There’s nothing in fate that we can control.

But even the worm can turn. The worm can scream at the boot about to crush it.  The worm can still crawl back toward the dirt as quickly as it can; it might even make it!  The worm can still have an effect, however small, on how its life goes, even it’s only dying a little more to the left or the right.  Maybe the little bit one way or the other will leave an impression on someone else!

I can despair of all of the trials I have endured and continue to endure. But even in that despair, I can choose to make a run for the dirt!

So I take the opportunity to get a different job. I take the opportunity to change my career altogether…even at this late stage if my life.  I choose to invest time in writing a motivational speech, a short standup routine for an open mic night at a comedy club, and trying to get an agent.  I choose to MAKE the time to finish the bible class I started; From Creation to Completion.

None of those things will get done after I die. Any one of them might help someone else to strengthen their walk with God or maybe just find Him in the first place.

So I switch off the TV. I put aside a book or any other activity that detracts from really living!  I make every effort to not waste the time given me by my Creator.

Screw being docile! Get busy!  If there’s a boot coming down on you, make a run for it or at the very least scream at it in defiance!  When the run, when the scream is all that’s left, it’s still yours, because you are still alive.  So whatever you can will yourself to do…

…DO IT TO THE MAX!

kobayashi-maru-04

Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn

Always Something

jesus-on-crossBut we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

I knew so many adults as a child who had jobs, careers and retired comfortably. I attended a notable numbers of retirement parties after hiring in to a Fortune 100 Company in the 90’s.  Men who had worked all of their lives at that corporation were riding off into the sunset.

NYCentralPaintSchemeonFL9sWayneKochEven my dad had his blue collar career on the railroad, retired, and lived out a fairly comfortable retirement.

It seems those times are long gone for me and most people. I know this, but I still get frustrated by the constant negative turn in events.  Right now my company, well, let’s just say that it feels like the wheels are coming off.  I’m 60 and I’ve never seen anything like this.  Anywhere.

So now I’m being recruited by a former colleague, and that’s very nice, but the next step is the salary negotiation and then, if I make the move, another steep learning curve.

I’m getting too old for this stuff!crawling_finish_line_

I’d like to have more time to write these articles, complete a bible class I’ve been wanting to launch at church, etc. However, time continues to be eaten up by work’s ever-increasing demands, and my capacity continues to shrink.

I believe that the increasing challenges of just making a living are challenges to the soul and a Christian’s mission on earth to spread the Good News. Not enough hours are in the day, not enough gas is in my tank.

I just want to be left alone to work my job, be with my wife, and try to help spread the Word.

Then there is Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Despite the heresies of Joel Osteen and his ilk, Christianity is not a joy ride.  Jesus never promised us a rose-garden.

He warned us that we should expect troubles and persecutions. If we follow His teachings and Will, we will certainly have the world treating us no differently than it did Him.

nomad_tentI have to stop and remember that Paul didn’t just go out preaching, supported by the folks in Jerusalem or other organized denomination. He was a tent-maker by trade.  Along with the beatings, imprisonments, debates, preaching and travel, he had to spend time making tents so he could eat and have some shelter.  His path was a very hard one.

So I am perplexed and hard-pressed. And I also believe something else – my health is surprisingly good, considering my multiple surgeries and ills.  Maybe this new job, despite the trials of another big change, will be the thing to loosen things up just enough where I can continue writing and teaching at church.

Like Paul, I need to keep my eye on the prize and finish the race. Trust God to keep me from despair, even though Satan perplexes!

Insidious Pride

If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.   Psalm 94:18-19 NKJV

Pacino as Satan.gif

Al Pacino as Satan – “Devil’s Advocate”

I was a transfer student my junior year. I planned to study theatre and acting, but I didn’t expect to be a huge hit.  I figured I’d need to take a back seat to my classmates who had been there since their freshman year.

 

It didn’t turn out that way at all. The theatre director told me that I was the strongest male actor they had.  The department chair wrote in a letter of recommendation after I graduated, saying that I was the most self-motivated student she’d ever seen.  I guess that’s why she passed over 4-year seniors and gave me, a transfer student, the honor of being the senior who would emcee the annual department banquet.

I wasn’t well-like by a significant number of my peers after rocketing ahead of them like that. Not that that was my intention.  I just worked hard, and it happened.

However, becoming a first class ass didn’t help my cause much either.

Oh, I didn’t start out that way. I came in prepared to be everyone else’s second fiddle as a transfer.  I was caught unawares by the sudden success and accolades from both faculty and students in general.  It went straight to my head; do not pass “go,” do not collect…  Oh, what the hell; take the $200 too!

Vanity, Satan’s favorite sin. Yes, it’s a movie line, but if you think about it, Satan’s most basic approach is some form of “me first” temptation.  He’s got myriad ways of disguising it, but at the end, he puts the focus on us and our desires over everyone else’s.  Including God’s.

Unexpected success is a perfect crack for him to explore. Success of any kind will do!

I friend is on a run of incredible success after a lot of suffering. Although I continue to give my full-fledged support, I have issued the warning that this is a time of great danger; vanity is coiling to spring when things go so well!

I recall that the Chinese symbol for “Opportunity” is made up of several other symbols, including the one for “Danger.”

How do you fight something so insidious, so easily confused with confidence and happiness?

Prayer! Stay in touch with God, remembering who you are and whose you are.

Reading! As in reading the Bible and keeping His Word foremost in your mind.

Should you enjoy success? Absolutely!  It’s a God-given gift!  Enjoy it in thanksgiving to the One who gave you the talents to succeed, and keep insidious pride at bay!

 

Praying

Or…”When in SUCCESS, pray it out!”

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Washing Feet

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Washing FeetAnd supper being ended,[a] the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.   John 13 (Selected Verses)

A fellow student at Heidelberg College washed my feet 38 years ago. He wasn’t even a close friend, just in passing.  I can see his face, but I can’t remember his name.  I’m not even sure why I remembered that recently, what triggered the memory.

I just remember that we were hanging out in my room, talking. Something was bothering me.  I can’t even guess as to what it was.  I just recall that, after listening to me, he asked me to wait.  He’d be right back.

Minutes later, he returned with a towel and a bowl of water. He asked me to sit.  I did.  Then he knelt down to remove my shoes and socks.  I began to protest, but he simply looked at me, maybe said something, and I let him wash my feet.

After he finished, he simply left. I believe I just sat there for a time before doing…anything.

After some thought and reading John 13, I have several, brief thoughts to share with you.

  • He did this for me despite not being a close friend. That’s the kind of servant attitude Jesus was trying to teach His disciples.
  • We often speak metaphorically in terms of “washing people’s feet.” What if we literally did that for people to comfort them, sooth them?
  • I sometimes rub my wife’s feet with lotion when they are giving her pain. Could we do that or wash the feet of people we don’t know well?
  • Many people are Biblically illiterate and may not understand the Biblical origin, but would that have any less of an impact? If they don’t know the reference, that might be a great opportunity to tell them the story.
  • I’m nowhere near being the biggest blogger on the web. I often wonder if I do anyone any good. Just like I can’t remember my passing friend’s name, he likely hasn’t thought of it in decades and never will again. He may even be dead now. But his act is still remembered by me.

And now by you…Man Walking Away