Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Yeast of the Pharisees

"Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."

Beverly used to make bread. Someone gave her some "starter." It was basically yeast that had been passed down from one person to another for who knows how long. It just continued to multiply.

The yeast of the Pharisees is thousands of years old. And it is real easy to pass down. It is hypocrisy. Let me clarify something here: It is not hypocritical to try to be something -- and occasionally fail. Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you never intend to be. It is a question of motive.

Example: The way Jesus described the Pharisees' fasting. They would make themselves look haggardly, but they had no intention of being broken in heart. It was just a pretense.

Let's beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. It is alive and well today. But God is not fooled by it. In fact, Jesus says, "There is nothing consealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." In other words, our motives will be revealed. So, God -- create in me a clean heart! And renew a right spirit within me!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Whoa to Those Woes!

They must have felt blistered that day. It was the day that Jesus laid his six woes on the Pharisees. He criticized them for their hypocrisy. He confronted them for their concern about portraying the right appearance, while inside being rotten -- full of greed and wickedness. He pointed out how maticulously they tithed from the leaves of their garden herbs -- but they neglected justice and the love of God. He chastised them for competing for the most prominent seats in the synagogue. He compared them to unmarked graves.

Those bad Pharisees! Nothing but hypocrites, right?

But then one of the experts in the Law spoke up. "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." And it's then that I realized how much I related to him. Because as I read back over those woes, I see too much of myself in what Jesus says. Concerned about appearance more than motive. Keeping nitpicky rules, but missing out on the heart of God. Seeking the approval of men more than the approval of God.

Oh, God! Please break me free from "religion." Crush my heart -- so comfortable with going through motions that have been programmed for a lifetime -- and remold it to be like you!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

When You Can't Do Anything Right

One day, Jesus drove a demon out of a mute man. When the demon left, the man spoke. The crowds reaction? "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." Incredible!

Beelzebub's identity is found in 2 Kings 1. The name means "Lord of flies" or "Lord of filth." Can you imagine associating Jesus with that? Ascribing the graciousness of God to Satan. No wonder Jesus refers to this in Matthew 12 as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Pessimists are everywhere -- even in the church. One author refers to them as "spiritual Eeyors." "It won't work." "You shouldn't have done that." "I don't like it." "Why did you do it that way?" Someone has said, "A pessimist is someone who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks." I know, because I have to fight pessimistic thoughts myself at times.

I love the following story: A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. Opposite in every way. One was an eternal optimist, the other a doom-and-gloom pessimist.

Just to see what would happen on Christmas, their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure. That night, he passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting among his gifts, crying. "Why are you crying," he asked. "Because my friends will be jealous. And I'll have to read all the instructions before I can play with this stuff. I'll constantly need new batteries. And the toys will eventually break," the pessimist twin said.

Passing the optimist's room, the father found the boy dancing with joy in the manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked. To which the optimist said, "With all this manure, there's got to be a pony!"

Lord, help me that when life dumps manure on me -- I can still see the gift!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pearl Harbor Day

A day that will live in infamy. That's the way Franklin D. Roosevelt described what happened 63 years ago today. In many ways, it was an event that changed the world. It united our country like perhaps nothing else ever has. Gas was rationed. Tires were rationed. A number of foods were as well. No cars were built during the war years. War bonds were sold to finance the war. Factories -- nearly overnight -- were turned from manufacturing consumer goods to manufacturing military goods. Husbands and wives were separated for extended periods of time. A nation pulled together for the common good.

Contrast that with what happened only three years ago. We were attacked. More lives lost (civilian lives, mind you) than were lost at Pearl Harbor. We face an enemy who thinks they are pleasing God by killing the infidel (that's us, by the way). And yet, those events have divided us rather than united us.

Why? What's the difference? Could it be that we are just too spoiled today? Could it be that we expect instant gratification? Because the same attitudes that are playing out on a national scale also are being seen in our churches. Rather than pulling together to promote the kingdom of God against the spread of Islam, we're biting and devouring our own. Churches are dividing like an amoeba.

Thank God for a generation that was willing to sacrifice for the common good! I pray that somehow their ideals will rub off on us.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Gift Giving

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Christmas season is in full swing. Our minds are on gift-giving. Last week, Beverly sent out an email to our adult children and their spouses asking them what they wanted for Christmas. She didn't have to ask Malaya (our granddaughter) because there is nothing left that Malaya hasn't already gotten from Grammy.

Why do you suppose Beverly would send out such a request? Because we want to get our kids what they need -- or, yes, even want. After all, our desire is for them to be happy, content and satisfied.

What Jesus tells us is that whatever feelings we have for our kids and whatever desire we have to meet their needs does not even compare to how our Father in heaven feels about us. He doesn't tease us. When we ask for a fish, he doesn't give us a snake. And when we ask for him to lead our lives to where he wants us to be, how do you think he answers? By leading us to where he is not? Of course not! He will lead us to where he wants us to be. He is our Father. And he cares more about our needs -- and, yes, even our wants -- than Beverly and I do about our own kids.

Could there be a more comforting thought?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Chosing What is Better

If any character in Scripture reflects American culture, maybe it's Martha. Busy, busy. Lots of activity. As Luke puts it in chapter 10: "Distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" (v. 40) and "worried and upset about many things" (v. 41). She holds to the opinion that she is such a hard worker, and her sister is a slackard.

Which brings us to Mary. What's she doing while there is so much preparation to make? She is sitting! Inactive. What a waste of time! How can you accomplish things when you're sitting?

Well, according to Jesus, there are times when that is the best thing we can do. Because Mary was sitting before the Lord. At his feet. Listening to him. And Jesus tells Martha that Mary "has chosen what is better."

Let's remember that during this busiest of times -- to chose what is better.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The One Who Showed Mercy

Mercy. One of Webster's definitions is "a compassion shown to victims of misfortune."

This morning's reading from Luke 10 is the story of the Good Samaritan. I've preached this text many times. I've made the points about the religious guys walking right by the dying victim. I've self-righteously talked about their being caught up so much in their "religiousity" that they didn't practice true religion.

But today it hit me: I'm those guys. I move within my routine. I'm busy. There are things to do and places to be. Sunday waits for no man. And while I don't think I would ever intentionally walk by a person in such need -- I wonder how often I don't even see him.

After telling the story, Jesus asked which of the three men did the right thing. The answer? "The one who had mercy." The one who had a compassion which was shown to a victim of misfortune. And then Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." It's not enough to know the right answer. We must also put it into practice.

Lord, lift my eyes so that I see people as you see them!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Living In Peace

These days are challenging ones for my faith. I have lived most of my life anxious about what the future holds. I've often taken pride in being able to make things work out. Reality is that I had little to do with it. The Lord has been good to me -- even allowing me to take credit for things he brought about.

But I now find myself in a unique situation. It's one I have little, if any, control over. And I am learning to give my anxiety over to the Lord. It's not easy, but I am left with no choice. However, I believe that in the long run the lessons I learn will be worth it all.

I am adopting the practice of, before arising from bed, quoting Philippians 4: 4-7. As I do this, the phrase "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" suddenly means much more to me. I want God's peace!

Then, I'm doing my daily reading from Luke today. Jesus is sending out the 72 on a mission trip. Listen to what he says in vv. 5-6: "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you."

Did you catch what Jesus tells them? He basically says that they should extend peace to others. But if their offer of peace is refused -- they will still have peace.

Wow! Lord, give me that peace which transcends all understanding!

Monday, November 29, 2004

What Not to Tell a Job Applicant

Imagine you have gone in for a job interview. The interviewer tells you three things you can expect if you hire on: 1. You will not have financial security. 2. You will not be allowed off for funerals -- even if it's your own father's. And 3. you might as well kiss your family goodbye. Wow! Let me sign on the dotted line!

But you know what? Jesus basically says that's what we can expect if we follow him (Luke 9: 57-62). And I wrestle with his words. They sound foreign to us. It's certainly not what we expect as American Christians. Not many pulpits preach such a message.

Verse 62 says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." I'm reminded again that the kingdom of God is counter-cultural. I know that I don't get it. But I want to! Oh, God -- help me to get it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Things I'm Thankful For

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving: the best of all the holidays, in my opinion -- because it is the least commercialized. And this morning feels like Thanksgiving! There is a nip in the air. The leaves are falling quickly -- and they are beautiful! The colors are vibrant this year.

This morning I just want to take a few minutes to share with you some things I am thankful for:
  • I'm thankful that I was able to get out of bed this morning feeling no different than I did when I was 20 (other than my sciatica -- but that's OK!).
  • I'm thankful that when I went to the bathroom to start shaving, I had hot water in just seconds.
  • I'm thankful that the 1st face I saw this morning is the face of an angel. Her name is Beverly, and she is the greatest blessing I have in this life.
  • I'm thankful for the other angel who shared my bed last night -- even though her feet were digging into my armpit at 6:30. I didn't see her face because it was under the covers. Malaya has brought so much joy to me. She is a real treasure.
  • I'm thankful for my three incredible children -- and their awesome spouses. I know of no other reward in life that could match having six adult children (yes, Josh qualifies as an adult -- at least according to the government) who are sold out to the Lord.
  • I'm thankful for cool mornings alone with the Lord on a golf course. There are few places I feel more at peace.
  • I'm thankful for the Lake Cities Church -- a place where I can worship God freely and be loved by others who share my faith.
  • I'm thankful for friends who care.
  • I'm thankful that the Yankees lost to Boston.
  • I'm thankful for the memories of good Cowboys teams.
  • I'm thankful that John Kerry will not be referred to as President John Kerry.
  • I'm thankful for contemporary Christian music (particularly my boys, Stephen Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith). Their music refreshes my soul.
  • I'm thankful that God has made food to taste so good. It's hard to beat a good meal shared in good company.
  • I'm thankful for fireplaces. There is something very soothing about sitting in front of a fire.
  • I'm thankful for good movies. I even enjoy chick flicks -- so long as my chick is beside me.
  • I'm thankful for two good cars and a really nice house.
  • Of course, most of all I am thankful to God (Father, Son and Spirit). He continues to amaze me with his faithfulness and grace. I am so grateful that I get to spend my life here on earth in pursuit of Him.

Well, this could go on and on. Here's praying that you have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Facing Rejection

I don't do rejection very well. The flesh wants to harbor resentment -- and lash out in revenge. I can relate to David who said (Psalm 3: 7) "Strike all my enemies on the jaw."

Fairly early on in their time as apostles of Jesus, James and John had similar feelings. As Jesus and his entourage traveled through a Samaritan village, the people did not welcome them. So, James and John suggested, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

Think about this: They are ticked because they have been rejected. They have seen Jesus work miracles of healing and feeding and blessing. Never have they seen him use his power to destroy or hurt. But yet their 1st reaction to rejection? "Lord, you save your power. We'll take care of this one for you. Give us the word and we'll just incinerate an entire village! That will send a clear message." Yes, I suppose it would have.

Have you ever experienced the humiliation of being in a classroom, or with a mentor or parent, and thinking you had a really good idea? You share it -- and get rebuked. Immediately, you begin looking for the nearest rock to crawl under, right? Well, James and John get rebuked by Jesus for their plan to "defend" him and his reputation. Why? Because their hearts are absolutely foreign to the heart of Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that citizens of his Kingdom are to turn the other cheek. We are to walk the second mile. We are to extend blessing for cursing. We are to love and pray for our enemy.

Wow! I'm glad that my citizenship doesn't depend upon always passing the test. However, I want so much to have my old hard heart softened by the King who sits on it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Real Enemy

When in war, it is a terrible mistake to misidentify the enemy. As Christian soldiers, we are often guilty of shooting our own -- or shooting those who are held captive by the enemy.

Luke 9: 49-50 relates the following incident:
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

John had misidentified the enemy.

I came across an interesting article this morning, entitled "Non-Christians: Friends or Foes?" by Ginger Plowman. Listen to how her words appropriately address this subject.

I used to view non-Christians as outsiders. I looked at them as mere projects that I needed to check off my "I shared Christ with them" to-do list. Unfortunately, I must admit, that while I had a heart for obeying God in sharing the Gospel with the lost, I did not have a heart for the lost. I can recall telling several people about Jesus and not grieving over their negative response to his plan of salvation. God convicted me that I was viewing non-Christians as a type of enemy, an enemy that I needed to conquer in the spiritual war of evangelism. I would faithfully put on my armor, swing the sword of truth at whoever came my way, and walk off the battlefield without giving a second thought to where the wounded fell. I simply counted my efforts as medals toward spiritual heroism. But Jesus doesn't view non-Christians as the enemy, but as captives of the enemy . . .

Sometimes I need to be reminded who the enemy is . . . and who it's not. Blessings.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

We Have Seen His Glory

The glory of God: I wonder what it looks like. Moses saw its afterburners, and his face shown like the sun. Isaiah got just a peek, and he said, "Woe to me!"

One day Peter, James and John went up on a mountain with Jesus to pray. As Jesus prayed, his appearance changed -- his clothes becoming as bright as lightning. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah were also there with him. What an awesome sight that had to have been! Definitely not something one would soon forget. In fact, years later Peter would write (2 Peter 1: 16) "we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." And John -- perhaps in his 80's -- wrote (John 1: 14) "We have seen his glory."

So I am blown away when Paul writes (2 Corinthians 3: 18) "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." We reflect His glory? How?

The only answer I can come up with is that the Creator has determined it to be so. Listen to Paul's words (2 Corinthians 4: 6) "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." God lets his glory ooze out of us as we keep our eyes fixed on the face of Jesus.

So let's fix our eyes and radiate some glory!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Identifying Jesus

"You are the Christ of God." That was Peter's assessment of who Jesus is. "Christ." "Messiah." "The Anointed One." And with that confession, he was probably ready to take up a sword and follow his leader into battle against the Romans.

The next words out of his Leader's mouth had to have set him back on his heels. Jesus said, "The Son of Man must suffer . . . be rejected . . . be killed." Wait a minute, Jesus. This isn't how the script is supposed to play itself out. The promise was that Messiah would be victorious.

But Jesus wasn't finished. He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Not exactly words to spur on an army into battle.

Or are they? What was needed was reframing. We are soldiers, and we are in battle. But the stakes are not material. And the weapons we fight with are unconventional. And the Kingdom is not to be found on a map. But oh, the spoils of victory! We will see our triumphant King come in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels! And we will enjoy eternal life in the kingdom of God. That is the reward that awaits a cross-bearer. So, reach down and pick it up one more day. And keep your eyes searching the sky for his next triumphal entry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

He Is Plenty Adequate

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. There is obviously something there that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all considered worth retelling. Maybe it is simply the magnitude of the miracle itself. But if that were the case, why didn't they all record the raising of Lazarus? (Only John did.)

I'm just wondering this morning if there isn't something very practical that we are to learn from this miracle. To be honest, through the years it is a miracle I have read and thought, "Wow! That is pretty impressive. A smorgasbord for 5,000+ when the only materials on hand were 5 loaves and two fish." A powerful story -- but it didn't have any application for me.

I think the practical lesson might have alluded me because I have grown up in an American culture that says, "I am adequate for all things." But the reality is I am not. In my personal life, I am unable to predict my adequacy beyond a couple of paychecks. In the life of my church, we are wondering how we are going to be able to pay for our building with the resources we currently have. We are no different from the disciples who, when Jesus said "You give them something to eat", responded "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish."

They were right. Or were they? Was that really all they had? They forgot to factor in one little asset -- JESUS! He was their adequacy.

Will Jesus still feed 5,000 with a sack lunch? I don't know. But I do know this: He will take what I have to offer -- and make it adequate for whatever he has called me to do. His name is YHWH-Jireh. "The Lord Will Provide." He will not call us to ministry -- and then leave us in short supply. What an awesome God we serve!

Monday, November 15, 2004

I'm Back!

What a special week Beverly and I enjoyed in Crockett! God brought revival! We had about 14 rededications and a baptism. I pray that the Lord will continue to feed the flame of revival there.

The Grace Street church in Crockett is so very special to us. Going back is always like going home. Driving around the community and seeing people from our past -- it's like stepping back in time. It seems like there is actually time to stop and take a breath there.

I will say that I am glad the driving is over! I had to come back to Dallas on Tuesday night to teach my class at Amberton. Then I went right back to Crockett. Wednesday night Beverly and I returned home. We worked Thursday, and then she spoke to a group of ladies in Fort Worth on Thursday night. I picked her up at 9:20 PM -- and we were off to Crockett again. This time it was to watch our two boys play in a flag football tournament in Huntsville, TX. Talk about exciting! It was great. We took Beverly's parents with us, and I don't think anyone enjoyed it as much as her dad. The boys' team (an ACU all-star team) placed 5th in the tournament.

Tomorrow, I will return to my daily devotionals from Luke. Thank yous to so many of you who have been encouraging to me about my blogs. Blessings!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Homecoming Weekend

Saturday, Beverly and I will be heading for Crockett, a beautiful little town in East Texas. The church there was the 1st one I served as a full-time minister. We return there a couple of times a year because it is still like home. The 5 years we spent there were really special, and the friendships we made are life-long ones.

We are returning for the 35th anniversary and homecoming of the Grace Street Church of Christ, which is where I served. In conjunction with their homecoming, they are going to hold a revival, and have asked me to speak for it. I am excited. Their pot-lucks are unbelievable! But I also know that we will be encouraged, and that we will encourage -- and that feels right and good.

Pray for us -- that the Lord will use us to minister and bless. I'll be blogging again soon.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Just a Touch

She was desparate. She had been sick for 12 years. As the crowd entered town, she heard that in the middle of it was the Healer. Her mind begins to race. She doesn't presume to think that she should have a one-on-one with him. If she could just touch him, though! That would be enough.

She begins to position herself in the crowd. There he is! It's now or never. Once he passes, there is no way she will be able to catch up with him again. So, she stretches out her hand -- and misses! She doesn't touch him. All she gets is the edge of his cloak. Opportunity lost!

Or was it? Because immediately, her condition is healed. Then, he stops. He turns and speaks to her. And his words are so full of grace: "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

You know what: Our faith in Jesus can still bring us healing today. Emotional healing. Spiritual healing. Yes, even physical healing.

Just a touch. Don't pass up the opportunity. It can make all the difference.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day

Well, today is election day. I'm really nervous about it, because I clearly favor one of the candidates. However, as a Christian, I am reminded of what Scripture says in Romans 13. I don't pretend to understand it. But I am going to do my best to submit to the Lord regardless of who wins today.

Here is what it says: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

I read that, and just can't say that it makes a lot of sense to me. Nero. Hitler. Saddam. Stalin. Ruthless men who brought pain and suffering and hardship on their people. And God put them in those positions? That's what the Word says.

The best I can make of it is that he put those men in positions of authority, and they had free will as to what they would do with their power. But it bothers me how Christians in America act toward those politicians with whom they disagree. It just doesn't seem very Christlike. After all, Paul is writing this while living under the rule of a tyrant.

So, my prayer today is that, regardless of who wins, I will respond in a Christlike manner. Will you join me in that commitment? Blessings.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Freed From Demons

I've read the story of Legion so many times. You remember him? The guy who lived among the tombs -- with superhuman strength because he was possessed by many demons. The people would chain him, but he would break the chains.

Jesus came along and cast the demons from Legion -- and into a herd of pigs. The pigs then ran off a cliff into the sea and drowned. Because of this, the people of the region were afraid and asked Jesus to leave. So he did.

The man from whom the demons were cast begged Jesus to let him go with him. Jesus' reply was, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."

Again, I've read the story many times. Yet, until recently, I never saw how that story related to me. I have recently shared with many of you the struggles I have been through as an ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic). My whole adult life I have battled with self-doubt, poor self-esteem and negative self-talk. Finally, figuring at age 47 that enough is enough -- I sought help to deal with my demons. And the Lord has delivered me. He has given me tools that I had never had to aid me in my struggle. I feel like I have had demons exorcised from me. It is a wonderful feeling!

And here is the cool connection between Legion and me: Jesus' words to me are the same as his words to Legion. "Tell how much God has done for you." And I will -- to anyone who will listen. You don't have to remain chained to your demons. So, don't settle with that kind of existence. Jesus wants to set you free!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Heading North

Tomorrow morning, Beverly and I will be flying to Pittsburgh for Tommy Maddox' gala tomorrow night. I would like to ask you to be in prayer about this. Tommy will be speaking, and I would ask that you lift him up to the Father -- that he will feel the peace and presence of the Spirit and that the Lord will speak boldly through him.

Friday, Beverly will be speaking at a luncheon being put on by Jennifer Maddox. There will be a number of the Steeler's wives there. Please be praying for Beverly during that time. She wants so much to give them a message from the Lord. I am confident that she will. But pray that the Father will direct her heart to just the words that these women need to hear.

I have a tough assignment, too. I will be playing golf on Friday. Please pray that I will get a hole-in-one (Hey, come on. I've never had one! I figure all of the fervent prayers of you righteous folks can accomplish much).

Blessings! Rick

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A Calm in the Storm

This morning, I was reading about the time when the apostles were crossing the Sea of Galilee. A storm arose so that the boat was about to be swamped. The disciples were afraid they were going to drown. And Jesus? Well, Jesus was asleep!

So, they woke him up. He got up and rebuked the storm. All became calm. Then he asked them, "Where is your faith?" I have struggled with that statement many times. Why did he ask them that? "Where is your faith?" They had faith that he would do something, or they would not have awakened him. So, were they supposed to have faith that they would not drown? Were they supposed to have faith that nothing bad would ever happen to them? Let me remind you that they all (except John) died a violent martyr's death.

I have struggled with the answer to this, and I don't think I like it. But I believe it. I think Jesus is saying, "When you are in the middle of a storm, and I am there with you -- that's enough. Even if you drown in the storm -- I'm enough. So, set aside your fear -- even when you are in the middle of a situation you have no control over. Don't be in awe of the storm. Be in awe of me."

Thank you, Jesus. Let me find calm in the midst of my storm, because you are enough. Please just keep reminding me of that. Keep readjusting my gaze from the fierceness of the storm to the faithfulness of my God.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Good Soil

Jesus' parable of the soils always has a way of shaking me into reality. I would like to think of myself as good soil -- which Jesus says stands for "those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Surely I wouldn't be like the seed that fell on the rock, or the seed that fell among thorns. Surely!

But when I read the way Jesus describes those soils, I do see myself. He says the seed that fell on the rock are "the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, . . . but in the time of testing they fall away." I don't guess I fall away when tested -- at least not in the way we usually think of falling away. But I don't think I always make him look good when I'm tested.

And how about the seed that fell among thorns? Jesus says that seed represents those who "are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures." Guilty as charged! I spend way too much time in the thorns of worrying about my work, my retirement, and the poor performance of the stock market.

God, I beg you to deliver me from the rocks and the thorns, and set me solidly in the good soil. Please work the soil of my heart until it can grow only one crop -- a crop whose fruit is Jesus.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Disciple-ettes

When we think of Jesus traveling Palestine to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God, we usually think of the 12 apostles walking with him. But Luke tells us that in that nomadic band there were also some women. He mentions three of them by name.

There was Mary (called Magdalene) -- from whom Jesus had cast 7 demons. She is mentioned on a number of occasions in the Gospels.

There was Joanna, the wife of Cuza. Luke tells us that Cuza was the manager of Herod's household. I can only imagine some of the discussions that took place between Herod and Cuza over that issue. Herod: "I'm told that your wife is traveling around with Jesus of Nazareth. You know he claims to be king? I'm thinking it isn't such a good idea for my household manager's wife to be following him. Do you get my drift?" Cuza: "Herod, she's a 1st-century woman -- with a mind of her own."

Then, there is a woman named Susanna. I don't learn anything about her from Luke. But don't you cry for me. Luke also says that there were many other women.
Catch this: Luke tells us that these women were helping to support Jesus and his followers out of their own means. I'm betting that Judas was very polite to them. After all, they were helping to fatten the account that he was skimming off of.

I'm reminded today of how blessed we are by the women who minister among us. And I don't mean that in a patronizing way: "The church wouldn't be where it is today without the women (but stay in your place)." That is often the bone that is thrown to them.

Listen: I am so blessed to be able to stand in the shadow of a woman who is a spiritual giant. She has instilled in our family a depth of faith in God that leaves me speechless. Her example has moved me from a "satisfied with mediocrity" Christian to one who is hungry for God.

Praise God for faithful women! Keep on dragging us guys along! Someday, we might get it too!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Cancelled Debts

In my opinion, it is one of the greatest stories told about Jesus. He had been invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner. While he was eating, a "sinful woman" came in with a jar of perfume. Weeping, she allowed her tears to wet Jesus' feet, and then she cleaned them with her hair and poured perfume on them.

Simon was watching, and said to himself, "If Jesus were a prophet, he would realize that he is allowing a sinner to touch him." Jesus, perceiving his thoughts, told a story about two men: one was forgiven a tremendous monetary debt and the other was forgiven a small debt. Who, he asked, would love the forgiver of the debt more? The obvious answer is the one who has been forgiven the greater debt.

My first thought upon reading this story again was, "Have I been forgiven a tremendous debt, or a small one?" Then it struck me: This really isn't about the size of the debt. Rather, it is about each one of us coming to the realization that we have all been forgiven a tremendous debt. If we think we are only small debtors, then we place ourselves with Simon. But it is to this "sinful woman" that Jesus speaks these words, "Your sins are forgiven." Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving my sin debt! Jesus, I am so in love with you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Give Me What I Want

I am, by nature, a pleaser. I want people to be happy with me -- especially in my preaching. Yet I am also aware that I can't please everyone all of the time. In fact, people today tend to want "something new" about every 6 months or so, it seems.

I was reminded of that again this morning as I read from Luke 7. Jesus was contrasting his ministry to John the Baptizer's ministry. How different these two were! John preached fire and brimstone, and doesn't strike me as the kind of guy you would want to go play golf with. Jesus, on the other hand, enjoyed a social occasion and, while he preached repentance -- also extended such grace.

It appears that the people of his day were being openly critical of both John's and Jesus' style. So Jesus said, "To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a durge, and you did not cry.'

"Do it our way, or we will complain." "Do it our way, or we'll withhold our contribution." "Do it our way, or we'll get someone else who will make us happy for a little while."

That's why I must constantly remind myself that I play for an audience of One. All that really matters is hearing him say, "Well done."

Monday, October 18, 2004

What We Deserve

Imagine telling God that you deserve his grace. Not only that, imagine then proceeding to enumerate the reasons that you deserve his grace. Seems kind of spooky to me.

One day, some of the Jewish religious leaders came to Jesus on behalf of a Roman centurion whose servant was about to die. They asked Jesus to heal the man's servant, and then told him, "This man deserves to have you do this." They then presented their evidence for why the centurion deserved it: He loved the Jewish nation, and he built their synagogue.

Those were certainly nice gestures on the part of a Gentile toward the Jews. It may have placed them in his debt. But did it obligate God?

Well, Jesus set out for the man's house. Before he got there, the centurion sent some friends to tell him, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof." He then explained how -- being a man of authority -- he understood how it works. You speak the word, and those under you obey. He recognized that Jesus was one of authority who needed only to speak the word and it would be done.

Catch this: Jesus was amazed at him! He turned to the crowd and said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." And he healed the centurion's servant.

Someone has said that justice is when we get what we deserve. Mercy is when we don't get what we deserve. But grace is when we get what we don't deserve.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me what I don't deserve!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Just Do It!

We read the words of Jesus and marvel. As those who heard him said, "No one ever spoke the way this man does." I'll bet people said, "I could sit and listen to him talk for hours."

But guess what: Jesus said that the wise person is the one who heards his words -- and puts them into practice. Now we're talking a whole different dimension. Because you know what? Jesus said some really tough things -- things that are upside down from the norm. Things like "don't murder people in your heart," "don't commit adultery in your heart," "be a person of your word," "don't take vengeance," "love your enemies and do good to them."

Great ethical teachings. Teachings we would love to see other people put into practice. But it all begins with me. God, give me a heart and a will to put into practice the teachings of your Son. Let me live a radical life for you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Putting Things in Storage

Storage buildings -- it must be a great business. They're popping up all over the place. As I see them, I'm wondering, "What are people putting in all those things?" I don't know. But I can guarantee you this: Whatever they put in them, that's all that they're going to get out of them.

Jesus once said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

When I read that verse, I'm usually thinking of the result: What comes out of the mouth. After all, we want what comes out to sound good -- to make a good impression.

But that is looking at this verse backwards. Jesus is saying that whatever comes out of a person's mouth is the result of what has been stored in the heart. We can't expect good to come out of the mouth of a polluted source. The spillway of a lake is only going to deliver the quality of water that has entered it. It can deliver nothing else!

So, what are we storing up in our hearts? What do we take in through what we view, read, or think on? Remember the simple principle: Garbage in, garbage out. I want my heart to be God's throne. He shouldn't have to share it with garbage.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Judging Others

I'm guilty. It is a subtle habit that can grab hold and -- before you know it -- you become a critic. You know what other people are thinking. You know their motives. You can read their minds.

What I have painfully discovered is that what I often do is project what I would be thinking onto other people. And sadly, it says a lot more about me than it does about them.

Jesus teaches me a difficult lesson about being judgmental in Luke 6. He does it by painting a humorous picture of a man trying to take a speck out of someone's eye when he has a log sticking out of his own eye. It reminds me of the cartoon that was popular when I was growing up -- Mr. Magoo. Mr. Magoo was extremely near-sighted. Can you imagine him doing lasik surgery? Trying to fix someone else's eyes? That's what I'm like when I judge others. I'm so near-sighted (focused on me). Yet, I'm going to try to deal with someone else's problem. The results could be disastrous for both of us.

I have decided I want out of the judgment business. I am asking the Holy Spirit to deliver me from this burden. And I am also asking you who know me to hold me accountable. Judgmentalism just doesn't wear very well. It certainly doesn't carry with it the aroma of Christ. Plus, it's a job that's too big for any of us.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Toughest Commandment

Undoubtedly, Jesus challenges us to a lifestyle that is clearly different from the norm. It is a lifestyle in which pretention and looking right and acting right mean little. He challenges our hearts!

Nowhere is this clearer than in what I consider to be Jesus' toughest commandment. Here it is: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." And he's not talking about us saying we love Al Queda terrorists who are thousands of miles away. He's talking about that person who has gossiped about your children. He's talking about the boss who has it out for you. He's talking about that church member who sees it as his purpose in life to criticize you each week. He's talking about that coworker who will stop short of nothing to pass you up.

Love them? It is the most unnatural thing a person can do.

Jesus goes on to say we should bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. And here is the clincher: "If you love those who love you what credit is that to you?" That is natural.

Jesus has not called us to be natural. If that were the case, we would not need him. No, he has called us to be supernatural, because we are powered by that which is supernatural -- the Holy Spirit. To continue to live "naturally" is to deny him the controlling influence in our lives.

Fortunately, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies he is not saying that we should have a pleasant feeling about them. Rather, he is calling us to make a decision of the will -- a decision to do what is in their best interests. It's a decision to see that person as God seems them: An individual who is in need of redemption. That, by the way, puts them on the same level as us. Ouch!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Being Comfortable is Suddenly Uncomfortable

It's a line that comes up regularly in conversations about money. In America, it even carries with it a sense of humility. Someone says, "I would love to have a large house on the lake." Someone else says, "I'd love to drive a Beemer." Then comes the line: "Well, I just want to be comfortable."

And I do too! But then this morning I read Luke's version of the Beatitudes (Luke 6), and once again Jesus' Kingdom principles turn me upside down. Jesus issues blessings and woes. One list contains those who are rich, well-fed, laughing, and well-spoken of. The other list contains those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded and insulted. The 1st list sounds like the American dream. The 2nd list sounds like a loser.

Guess which one Jesus blesses and which one he issues woes to? You know, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more radical this Kingdom living gets. I just hope I can get it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

He Chose Me!

I can still remember the feeling in my gut when we would get together as kids to play a team sport. Captains would be selected. Then came the chosing of teams. I was generally a fairly-early draft choice. But being that I could never shoot well, I would usually be one of the last chosen for basketball.

It's like it was yesterday. Eyes fixed on the ground. Glancing up every once in a while to see who was still left. "Surely I'll get picked before Chuck." Next pick: Chuck. Argh!

Luke's account of the chosing of the 12 apostles is interesting. Luke says that one morning, Jesus called his disciples together. I wonder how many people were there? Luke doesn't tell us. But from that group, Jesus picks 12 of them to be "designated apostles" (Luke 6: 13).

I wonder how it felt to be in love with Jesus and ready to follow him, but not to have been picked. I wonder if anyone pouted and left him because he had "slighted" them. I wonder if any feelings were hurt that day.

But on the other side of the coin, think what it felt like for those 12 who were chosen. They must have felt wonderful. Of course, they had no idea what being chosen would end up costing them. Yet in the glow of the moment, WOW!

And consider as Jesus made his selections. They are listed for us in Luke 6: 14-16. When it came to that #12 pick, Jesus looked over those who were left and his eyes settled on Judas Iscariot. Would Julius Caesar have picked Brutus to be his right-hand man had he known the future? Surely not. But Jesus knew the future. Yet he picked the man who would betray him -- and for three years, treated him with all of the kindness and respect that he did the others.

For those who are in Christ, listen to Paul's words in Ephesians 1: 3-5: "he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight . . . adopted as his sons." Chosen! It's a wonderful feeling!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Who Made Up These Rules?

When I was growing up in the church, I remember being told that you could not pass out the Lord's Supper unless you were wearing a tie. I also heard people say that preachers should only wear black suits. And, of course, they had to preach from the King James Version. After all, it does say it is the Authorized Version (that is, it was authorized by King James -- not by God).

Also, in many churches -- women had to wear dresses on Sunday morning and men had to wear suits. But on Sunday night, the rules changed. And on Wednesday nights, they changed again!

Further, there was no dancing and no drinking. Men's hair had to be short. Beards were frowned upon. Jesus was not born on December 25th, so we joined the atheists in not mentioning him during Christmas season. We just partook in the materialism of Christmas.

Rules, rules rules. Everywhere you turned -- more rules. Unwritten rules -- from the folks who "speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent." Someone trying to come into the church had to walk on eggshells because they might break a rule. And if you broke one, there was sure to be a stern-faced brother or sister who would be quick to let you know that you were not "sound."

Just goes to show that the more things change, the more they remain the same. In Luke 6, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of his day. They were accusing Jesus of violating Scripture for doing things that were not addressed in Scripture. Like plucking grain to eat on the Sabbath. Or healing a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath.

Jesus asked them (v. 9), "which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" He confronted them in their arrogant religiousity. The result is that these men who wanted to be so prim and proper began plotting to murder him. How ironic!

Understand: God has certainly given his children rules by which to live. But when we get his rules and our own rules confused -- the products are not pretty.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Those Were The Days

"no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskings will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking the old wine wants the new, for he says, "The old is better.'" (Luke 5: 37-38)

"I wish we could go back to the way this country was in the 50's!" I hear statements like that a lot. Our minds have an incredible ability to be selective about what we remember. Sure, some things were better back then. Abortion wasn't much of an issue. And movies and TV weren't so saturated with things not fit for Christian eyes and ears. Gay rights? Back then, that referred to our right as Americans to be happy.

We do the same thing in the church. Folks in my tradition are fond of saying, "I sure wish we could go back to the 'good-ole days.' You know -- like back in the 60's when we were the fastest growing religious body in America." True. But how about our sectarian spirit that led to a fortress mentality? And how about our lack of mercy to those who were "sinners." And how about the splits over such crucial issues as kitchens in the building, songbooks, bible classes, whether we can pool our resources to support the fatherless, etc, etc, etc. And don't forget racism -- of which we in the church stand tried and convicted.

I think what Jesus is saying is that the good-ole days are like some of my flannel pants I wear around the house. They have been worn so long that they are soft and comfortable. But they are also threadbare -- and may soon have to be replaced. And there is a discomfort associated with the new. It takes some getting used to. We have to adjust our habits and our thinking. We have to stretch ourselves.

What the past holds is nice for reminiscing and for learning lessons from. But what the future holds is challenging and full of potential. It's in the new that we are stretched. It's in the new that we grow.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

When Will We Get It?

When will we -- the church -- get it? Our tendency is to accept people -- even lost people -- only after they have first come our way in behavior, dress, lingo, etc. Only after they have "bought in" do we pursue (maybe).

So many times in my life I have heard people say, "I've invited my friend to church. He's not a Christian, but he's a good person." That's cool. But don't "bad people" need Jesus, too? And to be honest -- without Christ, aren't we all bad people?

All this hit home with me this morning as I was reading Luke 5. Jesus was being criticized by the Pharisees and teachers of the law for attending a banquet at Levi's house. Levi (Matthew) was a tax-collector (translation: bad person). Everyone who is religious knows that you don't eat with "sinners." (That would make eating a lonely occasion, wouldn't it?)

We love Jesus' answer to those religious hypocrites. We wish we could have been there to cheer him as he spoke those bold words. Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." GO, JESUS!

Yet, 2,000 years later, who do we most resemble in this story? Jesus -- feasting with the social rejects? Or the Pharisees -- wanting to keep a proper image?

Do you think we will ever get it?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


There have been occasions in my life when I have been absoluteley filthy. Repairing sewer lines, for instance. Times when the grime and smell have been so bad that I couldn't stand being close to myself. Wow, did it feel good to get in the shower and be cleansed!

One day Jesus was approached by a man who had leprosy. It is a horrible disease in which the flesh actually rots and falls off. The smell is gut-wrenching.

The man begged Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Get this: Jesus reached out and touched that smelly, rotting mass of flesh and said, "I am willing. Be clean!" Can you imagine how that leper felt? Flesh restored. No more odor. Clean!

What a physical picture of what Jesus as done for us spiritually! If we could only see what our sin looks like. It rots our soul. It is a stench in the nostrils of a holy God. But when we come before him, in that pathetic condition, and say, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" -- guess what? He reaches out his hand and says, "I am willing. Be clean!" And our soul is restored. And the stench is replaced with the aroma of Christ himself. Cleansed!

Awesome, huh.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Repulsively Attractive

I wonder what Luke had in mind in Luke 5:1 when he wrote that Jesus was standing by the lake and people crowded around him and listened to the word of God. Could he have been thinking along the lines of John's "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"?

Well, as the passage unfolds Jesus has Simon (Peter) put the boat out into the deep water to fish. Peter reminds Jesus that they had fished all night -- and caught na-da. However, they end up with a boatload of fish -- so many that the boat is beginning to sink.

Here's where the passage grabs my attention. Peter comes to Jesus and falls at his knees. "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" He comes face-to-face with the awful-attractiveness of God. In one instant, he is drawn to Jesus -- and yet knows he doesn't belong there.

This is the constant tension which I believe should always exist as we press into God. He is holy and awesome -- and we are not. There is a nagging feeling that we don't belong here. But at the same time, there is an attractiveness which we cannot resist and to which we are drawn. We want to climb up into the lap of our Abba. To lose sight of either end of the tension will make for an unhealthy and imbalanced relationship with Him.

Monday, September 27, 2004

It Doesn't Seem Right

As I have grown older, my interest in sports has decreased. I used to love pro football, but something about a defensive lineman making a tackle after a 4-yard gain on 1st down -- and then strutting around flexing and posing has turned me off. But I digress.

I do enjoy college football more now than ever. I love the way the fans so avidly follow their teams. One of the greatest rivalries is Texas-Texas A&M. Tens of thousands of people in burnt orange trying to outshout tens of thousands of others in maroon. "Hook 'em, horns!" "Gig 'em, aggies!" Imagine how it would throw things out of kilter if someone in burnt orange slipped out onto the field and led the crowd in the A&M fight song. Bedlam would ensue. It doesn't seem right, does it?

Well, it's not a perfect parallel -- but it strikes me as just as odd. One day, Jesus came across a man who possessed a demon. The demon began yelling at the top of his voice, "Ha! What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!"

Just a few verses later, we find people bringing others with various illnesses -- and Jesus was healing them. As demons were coming out of people, they were shouting, "You are the Son of God!"

Demons cheering for Jesus? It doesn't seem right, does it?

Now imagine a different scenaro: A Texas-Texas A&M game where the fans sat quietly in the stands. No burnt orange or maroon to identify anyone by. No "hook 'em, horns!" No "gig 'em, aggies!" Just silence. It doesn't seem right, does it?

How about this one: A sinner -- redeemed, cleansed, set free from sin. Filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Adopted as a child of the Father Himself. Promised an eternity in heaven. The response: Silence. No cheering. No identifying marks. Just silence. It doesn't seem right, does it?

Jesus once said of his disciples, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Rocks having to testify about Jesus because those he has saved remain quiet? It doesn't seem right, does it?

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Holy Spirit

I'm reading Luke chapters 3 and 4, and it just jumps out at me. In 3: 21-22, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptizer, and the Holy Spirit descends on him. Then, chapter 4 begins, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit . . . was led by the Spirit in the desert." There, he faces the temptations from the devil.

After the temptations, 4:14 says, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." He goes to the local synagogue and stands to read. The passage is from Isaiah 61: 1-2, and begins, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me."

Incredible! At the onset of his ministry, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who empowers us! The same Holy Spirit who sustained Jesus through his temptations will sustain us as well. The same Holy Spirit who covered his ministry of preaching the good news, setting prisoners free, giving sight to the blind, etc will bless our ministries as well. That is an awesome thought.

So, my prayer for you and me today is from Ephesians 1: 17: "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

One Weird Dude

He dressed weird. His diet was weirder. His opening words were said with such warmth: "You brood of vipers!" He wouldn't be welcomed into the pulpits of any churches I am aware of.

He wasn't politically correct. His message wasn't sugar-coated. Nor were they intended to convey that "Everyone is OK. Let' just all feel good." No, he came warning of coming wrath. He said, "Prove you have repented by living like it." He said, "Don't tell me you're OK because you come from a lineage of good people. God can turn stones into good people." He said, "The ax is sharpened and ready to cut down fruitless trees. And they will be thrown into the fire." He said to share your clothes and food with people who have less than you. He said to be fair in your business dealings.

And get this: He said to be satisfied with your salary.

Yet, Luke says (3: 18) that this man "preached the good news to them." Good news? Not to those who think good news means "you're OK just the way you are." But it is good news to know that the Redeemer is on his way.

So, who is this weird guy? Well, Jesus said that he was the greatest man born of woman. You probably already know that he is John the Baptizer. And in a short time, his preaching shook a nation. Join me in praying that God will raise up a few "Johns" in our day to shake us and wake us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Treasures of the Heart

Beverly and I love being at this point in our lives. As we walk or drive together, we find ourselves sharing memories of raising our children. Many of those memories are wonderful. A few of them, however, still give us chills. Like the time we lost Jenny, and found her floating face-down in the lake. Or the time we were at Tino's Restaurant and lost track of Josh. We ended up calling the police. I was freaking out. Praise the Lord, those stories had happy endings. Jonathan, thanks for not following in your siblings' footsteps.

So, there's Mary and Joseph -- leaving Jerusalem after Passover to return to Nazareth. They think Jesus is off playing with the siblings and cousins. After a day, they begin to worry. Where is he? So, they head back to Jerusalem -- and look for him for three days! Can you imagine how frantic they must have been? Probably as frantic as I felt when I found Josh that night -- calml watching a high school basketball game. "Do you know how worried you mother and I were?" "What, Dad? I wasn't doing anything." Grrrrrrr.

Mary finds Jesus in the Temple and tells him how worried she and Joseph were. Jesus' response? "Why are you searching for me?" (Hello! Because you are only 12 years old, and you're our son!) "You knew where you could find me. I had to be in my Father's house."

Then it says that Mary "treasured all these things in her heart." Can you imagine year later, as she sat around talking with Joseph and their other kids? "Hey, remember the time we went to Jerusalem, and on the way home we couldn't find Jesus?" Wow! What a story! And what an ending.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Living Intentionally

I don't know about you, but my life is lived with so many different focuses (focii?). My future is caught up with worrying about my retirement funds, my health, etc. My present seems to have an attention span of about 15 minutes -- as I flit here and there with minimal concentration.

Then I read about this guy named Simeon in Luke 2. He is described as righteous and devout, and the Holy Spirit is upon him. The Spirit had told him that he would not die until he had seen Messiah. And it seems that had become the focus of his life. Apparently, he hung around the Temple courts -- checking out each male child as he was brought in to be dedicated.

Then one day, he sees a man and woman bringing in their baby. Could this be the one? He took the baby in his arms and praised God. His eyes have seen Messiah! His response? I'm paraphrasing, but he says, "Lord, you are faithful to your promise to me. I have seen Messiah and the salvation that will come through him. You may take me now, because my life is fulfilled."

Wow! I want to live with that kind of focus! To see the face of the Christ -- that is enough to fulfill me.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm Too Old For This?

Next month, I turn 48. Sometimes I wonder how anyone can keep up with all of the new technology. Is it even worth the effort? I guess it must be -- or I wouldn't be "blogging" today.

So, I can relate to Zechariah. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel comes to him whil he is ministering in the Temple. Gabriel tells him that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son. Zechariah's response (v. 18) is, "How can I be sure of this?" I am an old man and my wife is well along in yars." Because he questions the angel, Zechariah is struck mute until the birth of his son.

But later in the chapter (v. 26ff), Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she will give birth to Jesus. Mary's response? "How can this be since I am a virgin?" Now, I ask you: Is Mary's response all that different from Zechariah's? Why isn't she struck mute? Where is the fairness here?

Could it be that more is expected from Zechariah because he is a minister -- a servant of God? God, help me to believe You when You speak -- no matter what You say!