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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Being Poor

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.    Proverbs 22:2

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.    Proverbs 28:6

 

Faint on tthe RoadDefining “Poor” from Merriam-Webster:

  • lacking material possessions
  • less than adequate
  • inferior in quality or value
  • lacking a normal or adequate supply of something specified

 

From “Cheers,” Season 1, Episode 20, titled “Something Single, Something Blue.”

Glynis Johns Someone_SingleThis episode saw Diane Chambers’ wealthy mother facing the prospect of poverty due to a clause in her dead husband’s will, if Diane isn’t married by the following day. Mrs. Chambers was played by the great Glynis Johns, who many might recall as the mother in Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.

While Cheers is a comedy series, this is a poignant exchange toward the end of the episode. Glynis played it completely straight, tears in her eyes.  This came at about the 20:30 mark:

“I’m really quite afraid. I’m afraid of being poor.  I was poor before I met your father, and it took me years to really forget how being poor felt.”

I, too, have been poor. While in grad school and for a while after I lived in a roach infested apartment in downtown Detroit.  I had three years of fighting cockroaches and no hot water in the bathroom, all in all.  I had a ’68 Rambler station wagon that lived much longer than it should have.  I remember it always being a crapshoot if anything on it worked, from the windshield wipers to, oh, just about any accessory on the dash.  I remember wondering what it might be like to someday have a car where I could be sure everything on it worked!

God blessed me immeasurably in subsequent years. A wife, two daughters, and some very good jobs that came with company cars.  Everything worked on them, including bells and whistles not even thought of in the ‘80’s!

I lost almost all possessions in the financial ruin of 2008-9, but God has restored my fortunes since then. It’s been a tough road.

So, when I watched this scene over my lunch hour today, my eyes teared up along with Glynis Johns’.  I’ve been poor.  Twice.  And that’s just talking about money and possessions.

old-holy-bible-olivier-le-queinec

Not Used Enough…Yet

Within the last five years I’ve learned how poor I am in God’s Word. As any good Lutheran, I know the Gospel and directly related verses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the Bible that I’ve been embarrassingly oblivious to.  If you search my blog, especially under “Science & History and the Bible,” you’ll see many entries on how the Bible truly does intersect the world in history and today in ways I never before realized.

 

The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know, the more I mourn not having known in my younger years!

I find that I simply can’t penetrate certain things adequately, because I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. English is a very poor language, not nearly as nuanced as those ancient tongues.

I’m often dependent on trying to find a reliable source for translation, and those are not always easy to come by!

I often, once knowing what Scripture literally says, find myself poor at trying to execute what I think I’m hearing. For example –

I forgive people for wrongs done. I even pray for them.  But without their change in behavior I feel the only way to protect myself is to cut myself off from them.  Do I not love enough like Jesus, or would continuing to engage with them be like “casting pearls before swine?”

Even the disciples were told to shake off the dust of their feet at towns that refused their message. Of course, they were there proclaiming the Gospel.  Me?  I’m just trying to practice some decent behavior with the expectation of something approaching reciprocity.

I would like to bring more people to the knowledge of the truth of God’s mercy and love, but I find myself confounded as to how to do that more than I am.

Mercy. GOD’s mercy is the only solution.  Look at my article from last Saturday, “Sweet Release.”  Every 7 years, the Children of Israel were commanded by God to just let it all go.

All debts were cancelled.

fallow_landNo work was to be done for an entire year. It wouldn’t be necessary, because God would so bless their farms that they’d have plenty to get them through.  The land would lie completely fallow and rest.

And I thought some European countries had generous vacation schedules!

Still, with such a rich proposal, the Israelites blew God off. He let it go for SEVENTY, SEVEN-YEAR CYCLES, giving them fair warnings and even minor disasters.  God finally called it enough, and that was the reason the duration of their Babylonian Captivity was 70 years!

Maybe they remembered being poor at some point. Maybe they couldn’t bring themselves to trust God, because they were poor in faith in addition to being poor in money and possessions.

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Those seven-year cycles, those Shemitahs, were something God only brought to the Israelites. I know I’m only speaking from the cheap seats here.  I wasn’t there.  But I can’t help thinking that I’d take that.  A one year vacation of doing nothing after six years’ good, hard work sounds great to me.  That along with a guarantee of never being poor would be fine.

Being poor, whether in physical assets or knowledge or moral makeup, is never fun. As long as we’re on this earth there will be poorness.  Satan will see to it.  Jesus even warned us of that;

For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.    Matthew 26:11

But we can counter that with staying in God’s Word; all of it, Old and New Testaments. We can be charitable.  We can fellowship with other Christians in order to help other remain focused on how Jesus expects us to live –

RICHLY*!

 

*Regardless of how much stuff we have.

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.”

**************

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.

**************

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.

Getting Justice

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.    Romans 12:19

I watched a documentary series on NetFlix, The Keepers, over the weekend. It is about Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik (who) was a nun and an English and Drama teacher at the former, all-girls Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland. On November 7, 1969, Cesnik disappeared.[1] Her body was later discovered on January 3, 1970 near a garbage dump in Lansdowne, Maryland.[2] However, the murder still remains a mystery.”Who-Killed-Sister-Cathy-Keepers-Netflix

What is clear is that a Father Joseph Maskell, the school chaplain, had sexually assaulted scores of girls during his time there. He was a manipulative, evil man who not only engaged in raping the girls, but also provided them for other in his circle to engage with.

This was after having been transferred to Keough from a parish where he had been caught molesting an altar boy.

Maskall

Maskell

Maskell never faced criminal charges for his crimes, which destroyed many lives, both the girls and their families, in the decades since. He died in a mental hospital, where he was sequestered by the archdiocese of Baltimore to keep him and his sordid tale out of the courts and the news.

 

Two former students of Sister Catherine have taken the matter into their own hands, using social media to do the detective work that the Baltimore PD never did. In a latter episode they interview the current head of Homicide.  He was not a part of the department during the time of Sister Catherine’s murder, so there is no question of collusion on his part.  He did have a pretty uncomfortable time of it, though, as the ladies and their film crew had much more data than he was even aware of.

He had to keep looking over at assistants off-camera for any confirmation they might have of what these two civilians had uncovered. He stopped the interview at one point and left the room.  When he came back, he explained that he had just made several calls to state offices and the FBI to track critical missing evidence.  You could see he was getting hot, but not at the women.

That’s the very rough outline then; The Sister was murdered by Maskell and or someone in his circle. The men who disposed of the body have been identified, but one is dead, and the other is a feeble man in his 80’s.  I couldn’t decide if he was now a moron or very good at playing one on TV.

Sister Catherine’s parents have both died, never knowing who would’ve killed their daughter. Time is running out to find and get anyone responsible before they die.  The series leaves with comments that they want justice for their former teacher, but they don’t know if that will ever happen.

I started sharing their anger, wanting those who committed all of these inhuman acts from the abuse to the murder to get theirs. No satisfaction was to be had in the conclusion.  The women will just keep on digging and pushing until they can break something loose or die.

Maskell died a shell of a man. A former victim found him and scammed her way into the hospital to see him.  She found him in a wheelchair, pushed by a nurse and lied as to who she was to talk to him.  She knelt and got her face close to his and sweetly introduced herself by name and a few details that wouldn’t give her away, but would jog his memory.

I couldn’t wait to hear how he reacted; the fear, the panic. I was disappointed to hear her tell how he was a blank, a mere husk of a human being.  She looked into his eyes and found “no one home.”  He died not long after.

“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

We’re all pretty familiar with the Old Testament. If God wants to punish someone, He can be pretty thorough and imaginative.  I recall a passage that tells us it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.  Whatever Maskell lived through in his last days and what he endures at this moment…  I don’t even want to know.

There but for the grace of God… I’ve never done those things, but I’ve sinned and deserve damnation myself.  I can’t rejoice at Maskell’s fate.  I feel like the only smart play is to mentally fold my hands and not get in the way, so to speak.  If I were to give a victory dance, I can imagine God looking over His shoulder at me.  You know The Look, right?  The one your dad used to shoot you that shut you right up?  Imagine that from God.

If vengeance is God’s. should those women give up their quest? By no means!  I cite the well-known quotation – “The only thing required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

So, ladies, continue the fight. God gives us each our mission to accomplish.  You may not get justice from your government.  You may not win your cause in this world.  God will take care of things in the end, however.  You are in my prayers.

Sister-Cathy-916144

Sister Cathy Cesnik

The Problem of Pain

But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!    Matthew 6:23

Beauty Beyond Bones posted a podcast on May 4, 2017 entitled, “Permission to Let Go.” She also has it in writing at her WordPress blog site.  Click Beauty Beyond Bones to see her work at WordPress.

If you are not familiar with her, Caralyn has just celebrated her 10th anniversary of recovery from anorexia.  She has blogged about her recovery since 2015 and is inspirational.  25,000+ followers think so.  I wrote an article about her IN January 2016, Beauty and the (ED) Beast, in case you’d like a fuller description.  If you really want the full impact of her ministry, start at the beginning.

But let’s get to the point and start with her podcast itself:

PODCAST – Permission to Let Go

As I listened to this, I didn’t have an immediate response. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a situation like what she describes, having a problem letting go of pain.  Or maybe I’m not self-aware enough!

After some time, an analogous situation came to mind. It was the opening scene from Star Trek: The Final Frontier.  Briefly, An alien man is digging holes in a windswept desert. He hears, then sees another man approaching on horseback. He runs for a gun of some sort, and faces the intruder, who we learn is a Vulcan named Sybok. Sybok dismounts and strides up to him and says he can’t believe the man would kill him over a field of empty holes. The pitiful answer comes: “It’s all I have!”

For Caralyn, and so many more, the pain is all they have. The pain is nothing more than a desert field, pockmarked with empty holes we keep drilling into it.  You might even say we are drilling those holes into our very selves.

We tend to be pretty tolerant folks, as was mentioned in America’s Declaration of independence:

“…experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

In other words, we’ll put up with pain so long as we perceive the cost of removing it is greater than the pain itself.

But what if the pain becomes our comfort?  What if, like a dog who lives most of his life in a kennel, we fear the open spaces and suffer voluntarily inside our cage?

Here is where the last part of that opening scene tells us so much, and yet so tragically misdirects us:

“Your pain runs deep. Let us explore it together.  Each man hides a secret pain.  It must be exposed and reckoned with.  It must be dragged from the darkness and forced into the light.  Share your pain.  Share your pain with me, and gain strength from the sharing.”

“Where did you get this power?”

“The power was within you.”

“The power was within you. You can save yourself.  You can do it.  You always could; I just showed you how.”

This happens so often in our modern culture. We are seduced by the pleasant-sounding reasoning which contains truth and yet uses it to support a lie.  The power to save us does not lie within us.  Eons of human history are ample proof of that.  We’ve found multiple ways to fly like birds, cross ground faster than a cheetah, harnessed the atom, and gone to the moon.  Several times.

You’d think that, somewhere in the last 6000 years, SOMEONE would have discovered the most elemental, simple answer to human misery: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  And while you’re at it, love your neighbor as yourself.  Period.  That’s it.  No muss, no fuss, don’t even add water.

But we don’t love ourselves. No, indeed.  We find ourselves comfy in our muck of pain.  Or maybe we’re so blinded by it that we can’t see any way out if it and are resigned to our “fate.”

Jesus is the only One who has the power to remove pain…and the sin that ensnares us. Jesus is the only One who could live a perfect life, never sin, and offer Himself up to one of the most gruesome  deaths ever concocted by man; His back flogged down to the bone, and then hung naked on a cross to suffocate under his own weight.  He took our punishment for us, even complete separation from God, the ultimate punishment.

Sybok was spot on right up till the end: “Each man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with.  It must be dragged from the darkness and forced into the light.  Share your pain.  Share your pain with me…”  says Jesus.  “…and gain strength from Me in the sharing.  Confess your sins, and bring your darkness to be exposed and defeated by My light.”

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.    Matthew 4:16

Caralyn really is the Beauty Beyond those Bones. But her Beauty is not her own.  It is a Light that shines from within.  Even on the written page.  Her witness, her ministry point relentlessly to Jesus as the One who took away her pain after she held into it for so terribly long.  Literally with a death grip.  She was 78 pounds when admitted to recovery and was within hours of death, so close that the nurses kept her in their nurses’ station her first night instead of her room.

How many bloggers garner 25,000+ followers at all, let alone in such a short time? And the growth is not slowing down.  It’s happening because Jesus shines through everything she does.

I won’t tell you that accepting Jesus will get you a successful blog! I will tell you that accepting His forgiveness and light into your life will make you a light yourself.  The pain/sin that you cling to – or that clings to you – can be vanquished.  The power is within…Jesus!

What a Real Friend Can Do

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

A friend of mine recently found herself confronted with some past situations that caused pain. Regrets came flooding back anew, and the only words she heard were “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.”

I tried to tell her some things. I hope my words landed as intended. But then I got a little help from Mr. Shakespeare:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought (Sonnet 30)

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restored and sorrows end.

 

Even ol’ Bill had his days, his sessions of sweet, silent thought polluted with the regrets and cares of the past. He kept circling the drain, carried on the currents of broken dreams, ever closer to disaster.

But then the most important thought entered his mind; that of his friend who made sorrows end.

For me, it’s my wife Julie and my daughters. Rick Michael has been my best friend since my sophomore year of high school, was best man at my wedding, and collaborator on several songs, including the one for my wife at our reception.

You have yours too, I imagine. A different list from mine, certainly. There is one more name on my list that I pray is on yours too. Jesus.

He is the Friend Who leads me beside the still waters and restores my soul. He is the Friend Who anoints my head with oil and causes my cup to overflow with His blessings.

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever.

 

When your sessions of sweet, silent thought are hi-jacked by old woes that new wail your dear time’s waste…well, my friend, think on Jesus, Who, through His immeasurable love, saved us from ourselves, made us His friends, and stands at the door, waiting for us to arrive and dwell in His house. Forever.

 

Give Up!!

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because[a] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.     1 Peter 5:6-8

My heritage is German. Immigrant Germans, to be precise.  We always pick ourselves up, work hard, give help but never ask for it, and never, ever give up.  Ever.

I was in Europe to meet with some colleagues from our corporation. One is German.  I commented on hard work, German heritage, etc.  He laughed.

“You think we Germans work hard? Jeff, we think you Americans are insane!”

Germans might be known for hard work, high engineering standards, and the rest, but only the really nuts, workaholics came to America.

Giving up control just isn’t in my DNA. That’s crazy in itself, since I don’t have that much, if I’m really honest with myself.  Giving up control and giving up on anything just has never been a serious option.

Guess what God wants all of us to do? Even me!  Give up.  Wave the white flag and surrender.  Let go of the steering wheel.  Let God steer.  No, that isn’t right; acknowledge that He already is and quit trying to grab the wheel.  I don’t think life includes power steering.  I doubt any of us could turn the wheel even if God let go.

Satan is always after us, like a prowling lion. Subtle is something he’s good at.

“You can handle this! God’s busy.  Show Him you are doing your best, that He can rely on you to do His will.”

Listen to that and watch the wheels come off!

I’ve learned that I really need to trust God in my job. I travel a lot, and plans often go out the window when someone cancels or someone else calls.  Whenever that happens, I’ve learned to just keep going and just wait for God to turn the wheel.  He always does.

I came into this week, hoping I’d have some time to visit a friend. I prayed to God to take care of the week.  I was giving it up to Him to run it how He wants without me trying to take charge.  Even if things started looking lousy, I prayed He’d give the strength to just go with His flow and not get upset.

In His mercy, it looks like I’ll make that visit this week. And still get home a day early!

I’m not saying I got what I wanted, because I was trying to be cooperative. You don’t make deals with God.  I am saying I made my request known and told God I’d accept what happens.  And I would have.

When you give up to God, things always go right. Maybe not always fun and what you’d like, but always right.