Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Matthew 7:13-14.

 By now you are aware of my off-road adventures, from the numerous pictures I post. Sometimes I think I should hold back because I’m overdoing, but then a person will come up and thank me for visually taking them along. When on a trip, most of the population stays on the main roads.  Interstate travel makes the trip shorter, and there’s less chance of getting lost, but oh what you miss!   When I think of all the years that I took the wide gate, it made me recall this verse.

 There is a main road in life that has a lot of traffic. Both believers and non-believers zip along in carefree fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always take back roads, highways are great if I want to get to someplace fast, but cruising along with the crowd can be dangerous to our life in Christ..   The problem I see, with a spiritual life spent only on the fast road, is  you don’t get to see all the details, and it‘s easy to get sucked into the driving habits of the masses. So many Christians are only familiar with the religious on and off ramps, and little else.  They think that as long as they do what the church “laws” demand, and not veer from the wide road, they’ll reach their heavenly destination. That is a very unfulfilled journey, folks.

Jesus wants us to experience, for ourselves, the beauty of his multi-faceted being, details we can never see as we zoom by him on a religious fast-track. Think about it, how much do you really know about him?  Do you have a photo album brimming with personal shots of times, and adventures spent with him?  We can’t truly know him if we spend all our time on the highway, and that is very sad indeed.  Don’t be afraid to exit, he will guide you and show you up close what you have been missing. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  Psalm 16:11.  “Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:4

Monday, April 27, 2015


I absolutely love spring.  The return of life to the winter weary earth is, dare I say, divine!!  Acting as though I’m seeing the flowering trees for the first time, I gush at every redbud, apple tree and dogwood.  Despite my current joy, one thing creeps in and throws a damper on my glee, the knowledge that the colorful blooms will soon give way to plain old green leaves.  Their beauty will be gone in just a couple of days, and  you won’t be able to distinguish them from the other trees.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the gentle pastels didn’t have to fade into the crowd?  Oh well, there’s always summer and fall.

As I was pondering this process of blending in, I got to thinking about myself as a Christian. Was I standing out from the crowd, not in a bold or flamboyant way, but gently, presenting the true colors of Christ, or was I merely blending in?  While God’s plan is for the redbud to fade, that’s not his intent for Christians.  Some folks, like poor Job don’t know that, and will say, “All people spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”  Job 14:2.  Sure, he was a bit depressed when he penned this, and could only see the fading part of the picture, but what‘s your excuse?  We, who live as heirs of the new covenant, have the supernatural ability to show our true colors all year long .  Jesus never told us to be showy in our display, but like the spring trees, whose subtle beauty attracts us, the way we live our lives should draw people to him.

Are you a year round bloomer, or are you content  to blend in with the crowd?  "Let your light (colors) shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Born Again

Born Again

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” John 3:1-3.

 Most of us are familiar with the story of Nicodemus, but I’d like us to take a closer look at it today.  To begin with, Nick was a big shot in Jewish religious circles, a member of the ruling council no less. But, it appears to me that he had questions, maybe even doubts about his faith.  A guy like that was looked up to as a pillar of knowledge, very religious, and a sure bet to receive a good report from God on the day of judgment. So, why was he going to see this rebel, Jesus?   It goes on to say he went at night, under the cloak of darkness so he could sneak in without his temple cohorts seeing him.  After all, what would people think if they saw a man like that seeking answers from the likes of Jesus.  Something very powerful, his need to go beyond his secure, traditional “faith”, drew him.  Here was a man, a recipient of the ancient faith, a devout follower, one who strictly adhered to the Law, and we see him inquiring of Jesus.  What more could he possibly want to know?  Wasn’t he at the top of the religious heap?  Wasn’t his inherited faith sufficient?

 I’m no scribe, but I understand where Nick was coming from.  As a child, my parents handed me a nicely wrapped faith tradition, as well. It was fine, I never really questioned it, but I never really unpacked it either.  As I got older, it was relegated to a shelf in the back of my closet.  I’d been baptized as a child, and participated in all the required rituals, so I figured I had all the God I needed.  I never stopped believing there was a God, but I’d never actually met Him personally, either.  I was merely hanging on to a flimsy story my parents had passed along, and claiming it as faith.

Years later, not unlike Nicodemus, I started hearing things about this Jesus, things that pulled me in to Him.  As I questioned, studied and learned I realized that he could never be contained in that dusty box in the closet.  Nick saw what he was doing, and so did I, and then he spoke those words about being “born again”.  What could that mean?  I had already been born, physically.  I had done all the religious stuff, what did he want me to know?  Nick was far more savvy of religious things than I was, but Jesus told him this: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”…“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? “

Spirit, there’s the operative word.  My “faith” had only been born of flesh, I’d never entered into the realm of the Spirit, and now I was ready to truly know him, to be born again.  We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, did this meeting change him?  I can only tell you that it changed me, and continues to do so daily. Ask yourself, where is my faith?  Is it in a pretty box somewhere, or is it being used and developed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit?  Don’t be tempted into thinking that any  faith, no matter how weak or dusty is sufficient or pleasing to God.  Seek him out, any time of day or night, then claim and unpack this unbelievable gift with him, and be born again! “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Torn Curtain

The Torn Curtain

Since today is Good Friday, I thought it might be interesting to observe this sacred day by focusing on the supernatural events that happened not only on, but around the cross.  Try to imagine yourself standing near the cross.  You are exhausted, physically and emotionally, having followed Jesus from his arrest, trial, and ultimately to Golgotha, the place of skulls.  You watched as the Roman coroner signed his death certificate, even before the first nail was driven.

It was agony to watch him suffer. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:45-46.  “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.”  Matt. 27:50-51.  If social media had been around then, it would have been flooded with pictures, descriptions and selfies at the scene.

The Bible supplies us with all the information we need, but I want to concentrate on the torn curtain.  This was no ordinary curtain, it was about 60 feet in height, 30 feet in width and four inches thick.  It was said that a team of 4 horses couldn’t drag it, but the power of God tore it in half, from the top down!  But, size aside, the curtain served a purpose, it separated the Holy Place in the tabernacle, from the Holiest of Holies. It was behind this veil that the High Priest would venture in, once a year, to make sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of the people.  He wore a rope around his waist, in case, for some reason God didn’t accept the offering, his dead body could be pulled out.  Even if it was acceptable, the sin debt started racking up all over again, and had to be offered repeatedly.

 The torn curtain was God’s declaration that the new covenant, written in his son’s blood was now in effect, replacing the old.  Those who believed in the saving power of the cross, could now enter into that Most Holy of Holy places, the throne room of God.  “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.”  Hebrews 9:24-26.

Are you as awed by this as I am?  It’s so humbling to know that nothing I could ever do, including works, church-going, adherence to church doctrines etc. can add one iota to his perfect, atoning sacrifice.  It is finished, the curtain is torn, and God invites us in.  “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28.  He is no longer on the cross, He's alive, and today He is offering you this precious, grace-filled invitation to walk through the torn curtain with Him



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Re-Membering Jesus

I’ve already mentioned that Jesus had had a busy week.  Palm Sunday’s triumphant entrance, into Jerusalem, was the beginning of the end.  From Monday through Wednesday he boldly cleansed the temple,  stood up to the religious crowd when they questioned his authority, told the parable of the tenants, reminded them about paying taxes, and the Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times.  There was much more, but these controversial actions were separating the true believers from the mere Jesus “followers”.

We have reached the point, in Holy Week, where Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the Passover meal, and I want to invite you to participate.  The significance of this Holy festival should not be over looked.  Jesus, and every Jewish person was required to participate, and hopefully to do so in the City of David.  It recalled the God’s sparing of the Jews, in Egypt, from the Death Angel when they applied the blood of the lamb over their doors.  (Be sure to watch this short attached video.) The city was crowded with throngs of worshippers, and yet Jesus had not told his friends where the meal would be held.  You couldn’t just pop in somewhere, reservations would have been made a year in advance.  We can be sure that they wondered what to do when Jesus told Peter and John to go make ready.  “But where?” they asked.  Jesus had it all under control, and he gave them the details of how to locate the room.

Let’s go in with the others.  The meal was spread out on the floor, not in DaVinci style at a table, and we are invited to recline with the others.  We know the rest of the story, but the disciples don’t.  They only know that this a familiar celebration one that they have participated in all their lives. Jesus begins by telling them how happy he is to share this meal with them, but the bad news follows quickly.  “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15.  “Suffer, did he just say suffer?  What does that mean?” they all wondered.  He then breaks from tradition, and offers them wine and bread that he has blessed.  Jesus tells them that they represent his body and blood, which is soon to be sacrificed for them, ushering in a new covenant. He instructs them that each time they participate, in this meal, they are to remember him. In addition, Jesus acknowledges the one who is to betray him. We’ve heard this story many times, as Christians, but to those at that sacred meal it must have been devastating. Their Rabbi, the one they had put all their trust in was leaving, say it’s not so.  But it was so.  After the meal, and the departure of Judas, they leave to pray on the Mt. of Olives until Jesus is arrested.

When I retired, at the end of 2013, my friends and co-workers held a party for me as a way of saying goodbye.  I wasn’t going anywhere, merely leaving my position in the company, and I knew that they would remember me, because they I was still around.  Jesus was leaving his earthly position permanently, and He wanted to be sure they would remember him.  And by remembering I don’t mean simple recollections, but literally putting Jesus back together.  At death, his Spirit departed,  his blood flowed and the “members” of human life, as we know them,  ceased.  He asks us to “re-member him”, to put those pieces back together, because is alive and fully membered.  Please reread this account, in any of the gospels today and “Re-member” he Lives.