Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The Connected Savior
There is probably more to the thoughts of Hebrews 4:15, “He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” than we traditionally think.  We usually go to Jesus’ interaction with Satan in the desert to demonstrate His various temptations and comeback. What I see in this Hebrews passage is an attempt to describe our High Priest as one who is connected. The preceding statement, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,” communicates connection. That glorious first chapter vision given to John in the Apocalypse places our connected Savior right in the middle of His churches.

This ought to resonate with a postmodern world. A world where it seems one cannot be connected enough. Our Savior didn’t have, and for that matter didn’t need, digitized connections. He connected with an adulterous woman, a tax collector, a synagogue ruler, a house full of friends, blind people, deaf people, possessed people, a nighttime Pharisee, and many others, so I feel secure in saying He wants to be connected to you and me.

It seems that the connection was lost for the most part with the religious elite of His day. It seems that the connection with most of His closest followers was tenuous at best at times. That connection eventually was secured. Resurrection will take care of that.

He is the example of being connected while disconnect seems to be what we are good at. I wonder in all of our religiosity and ritual if we think we are connected to Him. I wonder in all of our business and cliquishness if we think we are even connected to each other. Do we connect only along age, racial, belief or economic criteria? Do we hang with those in our demographic and then call ourselves connected?

There are a lot of “C” words that come to mind; community, culture, closeness, camaraderie, compassion, completeness, common, come, etc.

A connected Savior surely calls His church to be connected. Some Bible speaks to this; “come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” “I became all things to all people that by all means I might save some,” “let the little children come to me,” “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “that whoever believes might not perish but have eternal life,” “how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” “I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy,” “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together,” and many more.

Connection is a two-way street. No wonder those who come in after worship begins and leave as the last AMEN is still hanging in the air don’t feel connected. I know we have a connected Savior who wants secure a connection to you and me. Is the disconnect on your end?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Surprisingly Dependable
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, (Hebrews 13:8)” was my scripture for today. I think I have discovered that I was being simplistic in my understanding of this simple sounding teaching. To some degree it takes me back to the “What Would Jesus Do” days. I even remember seeing in a religious catalog a “What Would Jesus Do” Ouija Board – seems incongruous to me.
We read the testimony of the Gospels regarding the ministry of Jesus, and how He interacted with people, and we think we have it figured out. Because of these examples in scripture we think we have pinned down just how He would act if presented with the same or similar situation again.
One the one hand He rescues in violation of the law an adulteress from capital punishment, and on the other hand He brings ones' sins to the forefront pronouncing “woe” after “woe” on them.
Maybe we really don’t know what Jesus would really do. Did He ever do anything that surprised people? That’s almost a rhetorical question. Just maybe there are some things He knows that we don’t know. Maybe?  Maybe He is surprisingly dependable. Maybe that is what is “same” about Him. His varying displays of dependability just might surprise us.
Maybe there are some folks he expected more from, and rightly so. He reprimands His closest associates for their lack of faith even though they think they are about to drown, and He congratulates some unlikely folks for their demonstration of faith; those who would be considered very much on the fringe of the “acceptable” spiritual crowd.
We can always depend on Him to do His Father’s will – say what His Father wants Him to say, but would that involve always saying or doing the same thing when confronted with what we may think are similar situations? Again, maybe He knows something we don’t.
There are some things that we can depend on Jesus to do every time from now on. He will always do what is right for the situation and person at hand to help them to see the light and make mid-course corrections – “same yesterday.” That may look different from one person to another or one situation to another. What He does/says in His interactions with people will always be an expression of love for them– “same today.” That love may come in the form of discipline rather than blessings  He always considered Himself a servant of, and to, others even to the point of washing the feet of those who would betray/deny/forsake Him– “same forever.” Then He turns around and chastises the very ones He is serving - that is a form of serving.
So if you’re looking for the love that Jesus has for you which He has for all His faithful followers (same), look for the method that He is using to show you that love, and stand ready to be surprised. His dependability just might be displayed in surprising ways.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Signed, Sealed and Delivered
In Revelation 7 we are introduced to a huge crowd of, “144,000 from all the tribes of Israel, (7:4)” - 12,000 from each tribe. A quick analysis highlights that this is not intended to be literal Israel because the roll call of tribes is different from that in the Old Testament, and Judah is mentioned first rather than the traditional listing from the oldest to the youngest sons of Jacob, which would have Reuben first.
That added to the process of sealing each person on their forehead tells us that something important is being demonstrated to John, and us, in this vision. Its urgency is emphasized by the fact that this is a heavenly interruption (Chapter 7) between opening the sixth (chapter 6) and the seventh seal (Chapter 8) on the scroll. All of these symbols add up to a very powerful representation of God, and His relationship to His people.
In the previous chapter (6:12-17) a future ferocious and earth-devastating series of events is shown. Things are going to change, and it is being facilitated by God. While it is not the purpose of this post to explore the specifics of those devastating changes, it is quite natural that these faithful ones might be asking how they would survive through this traumatic turn of events. What will happen to them?
The seal on their foreheads (7:3-4) lets them know full well that God knows who His faithful ones are. He has His eyes on them/you – never out of His sight - similar in some respects to the picture of Jesus walking in the middle of His churches (represented by lampstands- 1:12-20).
Some might say that if indeed He knows those who are His, He would protect them from the coming trauma. That has never been a promise. The church in Smyrna would "suffer persecution for ten days," (2:10), and is exhorted to faithfulness. What He has promised is, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, (Hebrews 13:5).”
Just as God gives the assurance of His presence with these 144,000, He gives us the assurance that His eyes have not left us even when life has turned our world upside down. We have been given a seal just as these had received. “Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession -to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13b-14).”
There will be times in the life of each Christian when things get difficult – life has slapped us in the face or punched us in the gut. It is important that we know that God has not turned His back on us. He knows you and recognizes your faithfulness in both the good times and when the hard knocks of life come our way. You are signed, sealed and delivered into God’s presence and loving hands.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Criticism Can Give You a Headache
I heard a preacher once say that some folks live like they were born in vinegar and weaned on sour pickle juice.
I believe that one of the ways that Satan is very effective in defeating individual Christians, or at the very least rendering them as an ineffective witnesses,  is with a constant bombardment of negative criticism. He puts negative people in our lives that can turn us into continual critics ourselves if we are not careful.
In his book, “Three Simple Steps: A Map To Success in Business and Life," author, Trevor Blake, describes what happens in the brain when a person is exposed to constant criticism. Now before I go any further, I will admit that some will use this study to say there should be no criticism. That is not the intent of Blake’s study and it is not the intention of this article. What he and his study dealt with was what happens to us when we are in an environment of constant negativity.
Have you ever left with a headache after being cornered in a negative environment for a long period of time?
“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; Proverbs 27:15 NIV.” I use this passage not as a characterization of women, but because of the use of the visual - "a constantly dripping faucet.”  A quarrelsome anyone would be compared to this “drip, drip, drip.”
"The brain works more like a muscle than we thought," Blake says. "So if you're pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you're more likely to behave that way as well."
This is the danger for Jesus people. The study reveals that if exposed to constant negative criticism, we could end up becoming negative critics ourselves. We know that “bad company corrupts good character, (I Corinthians 15:33 CEB).” Paul’s point is that we should not be bad company, but it is also understood that we should not be in bad company for fear it would rub off on us.
Blake’s study reveals that constantly being in highly critical company can rub off on us.
I wonder how many of us became negative people because of constant exposure to negativity.
The kind of criticism we are referencing is not constructive input, but criticism where the critic is typically not interested in a solution, but only vocalizing his or her negativity and getting others to join in. The negative criticism may not be about you, but directed to you about who knows what: politics, sports, garbage pick-up, telephone service, etc.
The source of this type of bombardment is not limited to those we interact with. It can come from all forms of media. Much of what comes into our lives is accessed via the “on” button on our communication devices; and much of that input is constantly negative. So how can we insulate ourselves to some degree from this constant barrage? We can turn off the computer, the television, the radio, mP3 player, etc, but there is no “off” button for people.
The reason this is so important is because it affects our witness for Jesus. Who wants to become a member of a family full of constant critics?
This really presents a double-barreled dilemma. How do we not become enmeshed in negativity, and how do we help this person escape the prison of being constantly critical?
Our solution, I believe, is to, “Come out from among them.” We cannot allow ourselves to be continually exposed to continual criticism for fear it will turn us into a negative monster.
Then we need to carefully help a person out of that mire with love and patience, describing the impact, or potential impact, they can have on the people in their life circles. I really don’t think they want to, nor do they realize that they are, giving people headaches with their constant criticism of virtually everything that goes on around them – turning us into negative and constantly critical people.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


There Is Simply No More Room Under the Bus

Bosses sometimes do it to employees. Sometimes, employees do it to bosses, though probably behind their back if they want to keep their job. Sometimes it’s done employee to employee. We see politicians do it to their fellow politicians almost on a daily basis. Where ever it occurs, it creates a toxic environment. To put it in milder terms it’s called making your fellow human being look bad in order to make yourself look good. Another more concise and precise way to put it is “throw them under the bus”. And there’s just no more room under the bus.

I guess there was a time when “saving face” was something someone did for you. They acted or spoke in your behalf to make you look maybe not quite so bad. Now we take it upon ourselves to save our own face by throwing people under the bus.

And it’s even more tragic when you see two followers of Jesus Christ treat each other that way. To some degree it’s what turned me off from debates. It seemed at some point the debaters quit debating the issue, and started gouging each other’s eyes out - throwing each other under the bus.
We continue to see it in publications as editors and writers resort to name-calling and demeaning statements when addressing their side of an issue.

I believe the one who is doing the throwing is the one who is self deceived. They believe they are better than everyone else and they are, therefore, going to make sure that everyone else knows it no matter whose dignity and self-worth is at stake.

Too many times this takes the form of outright lies. They simply make up things about the other person which are not true. But for the self deceived person, the truth is not the goal - others thinking highly of them is.

And it seems that there are those who constantly find themselves under the bus. How long can they take it? Many would say it is their fault for not being more assertive. Since when do we shift the blame to the victim and away from the culprit? Oh yes. I forgot. This is the 21st century.

Surely we, at least intellectually, know this is not the way to treat people. But what about if you are the one being treated this way?

The words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray for those who harass you” (Matthew 5:44 – CEB)
The words of Paul, “Bless people who harass you - bless and do not curse them.”  (Romans 12:14 – CEB)

Easier said than done, I guess. There’s just no more room under the bus.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Jesus and Sacred Selectivity

The man has been sick for thirty-eight years. Whether factual or not, there was the belief that if one was the first to be immersed in the pool of Bethesda after the water has been disturbed he or she would be healed. This infirm man had a problem. His illness debilitated him from getting into the water by himself, and there was no one around to help him, so someone else would get into the pool first and be healed. Then the waiting would start again until the water was once again disturbed and the disappointment that would follow when he would not experience healing.

John records this for our reading in chapter 5 of his Gospel. Verse 3 indicates that there were many people at the pool waiting to be healed. Perhaps there were others who were of the same debilitation as this fellow. Maybe there were some who had been waiting just as long as he had – maybe longer. At any rate this is the one that Jesus focuses on and heals.

Are we not at least tempted to ask, “What about the others?” “Why does this fellow get preferential treatment?” “How could Jesus walk away from the rest of those who were suffering?” “Couldn't He just have waved his hand and healed all of those who were at the pool?”

In Matthew 8:16 and 12:15 we find Jesus in two different locations and he healed all the sick that were brought to him. Here in John 5 we find Jesus walking into a location where there were plenty of sick, yet he healed only one.

Of course, there were plenty of sick who were never touched by Jesus’ healing hand. There were many who were demon possessed and did not experience exorcism at the hands of Jesus. There were many who died and were not raised. Even those who were raised eventually died again without Jesus around for a second resurrection.

Today we hear stories, and maybe this is a personal experience for you, of those who have been miraculously healed. They give praise to God for this healing, and rightly so. But it does beg the question, why them and not my loved one? Is God being selective? If one is healed, why not all?

It may be that we are making too much out of this incident. Could it be that the healing is not the important message here, but rather it is Jesus recognizing the hopeless plight of this individual? His hopelessness was wrapped up in what he considered to be his source of healing. His hopelessness was a matter of the right, or wrong, timing. His hopelessness was exaggerated by his absolute dependence on some other human being. His hopeless state would be the state he would die in if he had not come in contact with Jesus.

The assurance that we take away from this incident is that Jesus will step into our hopeless situations – any time - any place. In the middle of your hopelessness, have you invited Him in? Are your prepared for His healing?

Monday, August 05, 2013


The Faith Expert
Yesterday our church family sat in heat because the A/C was not working. I guess we all survived and I did work through my sermon perhaps more speedily than normal. We discovered on Monday that a series of breakers had popped off which did not allow the compressors to do their thing in the chiller (Yes, that is the system we have). As soon as the switch was thrown, compressors start compressing, chillers start chilling, pumps start pumping, valves start...uhm...valving, and we now have cool air. That simple! All we needed was an expert who knew what to do.

Of course I am trying to use this as an illustration.  I am wondering what it takes to make our spiritual system work at peak performance. I am wondering how many of us have just become content with the way things are spiritually. Have we just puttered and muttered along out there when there was so much more success available if we can just find the switch.

I know one thing that really excited Jesus, the expert on faith. He was electrified, and said so, when he observed or interacted with someone demonstrating great faith in Him and/or His Father. At some points He “marveled” at faith. At other points He compared it to the lacking faith of the Israelites.

He gets after us when our faith is replaced by senseless worry. The very ones that should have had faith, or at least a growing faith, were the ones that were chastised. At various points He asked them, “Where is Your Faith?”

Sometimes I think I am acting on faith when in reality I have made a decision based on reason or logic, or on personal preference (what I wanted in the first place) and I, not the expert, have christened it “faith.”

A troubling statement that Jesus makes to two blind men was, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” Why is it troubling? Those words were said in response to positive actions of faith on the part of those two blind men. Wonder if it still applies to those of us who at times have little or no faith, “According to your faith will it be done to you?” What are we missing when the faith breaker has been tripped “off?”

If we are going to flip the switch that springs God into action, it will be when we turn on our faith.

Hebrews 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

At least, that is what the expert says.