Wednesday, March 31, 2010

THAT'S LIFE: The longest night

The longest night

It was the longest of nights, I'll tell you. This Thursday night we could not make it through, it did not seem. We walked back and forth through Jerusalem with this Jesus, dragging him at times, with the men having their fun beating him on occasion. I didn't participate. I didn't. Seemed petty to me.

After Annas fortress, we walked to the upper city to Caiaphas's house. Most of the Jews still thought him to be the chief priest, so it would seem to me this would be the place where the trial would be held. If a trial could be held by Jews. I was confused about this. What could they decide without our authorities making their own decisions?

We got to Caiaphas' house hours before daybreak, Friday. My confusion grew. These Jews were in effect having a second trial. But what a trial. I was no expert on either Roman nor Jewish law, but still. I watched in silence, mere feet from the prisoner.

There was no defense of this man presented. None. There was no innoncent unil proven guilty approach at all. Instead, witness after witness was summoned, yelling their accusation. Where had these witnesses come from at such a late hour, I wondered?

I heard later that even the time of the trial was suspect. I heard later that night trials were forbidden by Jewish law. I heard later because I was suspicious and I kept asking. It was none of my business, but I couldn't forget this prisoner no matter how hard I tried. The high priest at one point put this prisoner under oath, but then when the prisoner said something that incriminated himself, it was allowed into evidence.

Finally, in my later questions of Jews, I learned that these types of trials had to be held at the high council, not in the former high priest's home.

This was a strangely timed, strangely executed trial.

Near daybreak, the call went out for many menbers of the Jews' high council. I heard later there were 70. It was a mass of humanity, and a mess, too. Many of them were angry about having been summoned during the night. Many of them were just angry. The shouts back and forth among the mob were incredible. These were religious individuals, mind you.

They were there, it seemed, to rubber-stamp what Caiaphas had decided. They did. They decided Jesus should die.

But even I understood that to be a massive problem for these men. They could not execute the judgment because of Roman law.

So, back across Jerusalem my men and I dragged the prisoner. I began to feel for him, though I knew him not.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It begins: the trip to Annas' house on Thursday night

My name is Trivinius.

I've drawn a strange detail. Our job was to find and detain a man named Jesus. We were told he was a rebel and that we might come across dangerous and difficult circumstances when we arrested him.

But when we found him in the garden of olive trees on the hill they, the Jews, call Olivet, he was very calm and serene and took the capture with grace and dignity.

It was mysterious at worst, strange at best.

As we took him to this Annas, brother-in-law of the chief priest of these people Caiaphas. Annas'palace was to the north of the city, up beyond the massive temple these people had built. Some of my fellow Roman legion members took it upon themselves to have some fun by hitting our soldier. One was particularly viscious, knocking Jesus down with a strong fist that left a bloody streak across his face and a large mark there. Jesus stayed down a few long seconds before he was dragged to his feet by the chains that wrapped his wrists. He was yelled at and cursed by my fellows, but I promise I did not do these things. I was still thinking about how he had healed Malchus, a glorious and mysterious happening for which some of us could not stop pondering.

As I said, we took him to Annas where there was a preliminary hearing of some kind. I understood that Annas had been high priest, and since that was an office that sort of was for life though my authorities had actually appointed his son-in-law Caiaphas to the position at one time, we had to run this arrest by him. Clearly you could tell that Annas cared more for the political ramifications of this event than for whomever this Jesus truly was. He didn't want to get too much blood on his hands, but he surely wanted this Jesus disposed of.

So he did the one thing he could do that would settle everything as far as he was concerned. He sent Jesus to Caiaphas. I heard as we left this palace that the high council was waiting. It was getting late into the night but we were required to see this through, so we did what we were told though we didn't like it. It felt like we were doing what the Jews required. Some of my fellows took it out on this Jesus, who was to them nothing but a rebel turned punching bag.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Journey into the Garden

Grandkid during communion at front of church yesterday as his grandfather (Me) began to offer him bread: "I don't need any; I got gum."

Makes me wonder how many of us say to Jesus? "I don't need any; I got ..."

I don't need any peace; I've got my own.
I don't need any salvation; I've lived a long life as it is.
I don't need any deliverance; Nothing could do that anyway.
I don't need any bill help; I work. I'll figure it out.
I don't need any help with my joints, or my hips or my back. I've got pain pills.

Thank you all the same.

This week I want to take a few minutes of your time to look at Holy Week through the eyes of some who usually don't get much attention, those who didn't need any Jesus because they had Caesar. Let's look at what happened through the eyes of certain Roman soldiers. Those who simply drew assignments that would have them part of the New Testament throughout time.

We begin with Malchus.

He tells us: A group of us, an entire battalion in fact, went with this Jew, Judas, across the Kidron valley from the city that night, a Thursday I believe. Our oders were to arrest this Jesus. We believed him to be in one of his common spots, the Mount of Olives, and we had taken one of his disciples, this Judas, with us to mark the rebel. Despite all he supposedly had done, none of us knew what he looked like.

My name is Malchus, and I am the high priest's servant, a job I am ashamed of. I should be with the 10th Legion fighting in Asia. Instead, I serve under Pilate here in this hole and even worse, he appointed me to work under (I do not serve under him; I would not, I simply would not) the high priest Caiaphas.

It took half a day to walk out of the gates of the city, across the valley (which was filled with the graves of both gentile and Jew) up the side of the mount. The night came upon us as we journeyed. By the time we walked into the Garden they call Gethsemane, it was dark. We lit torches to give us light as we walked among the large Olive trees that looked almost human in their strangling roots and their seemingly moveable faces.

His followers were separated. We figured that out quickly. Judas greeted some of them and asked where Jesus was. At first, his disciples didn't want to give up that information, but they did under pressure.

We walked farther, and there in among the thickest of the trees, were three men. Judas walked tentatively up to one of them, the smallest interestlingly enough, and he kissed him on the cheek.

This man moved forward and asked us straight on, "Whom are you looking for?"

I answered, looking at my note given to me by Pilate himself, "Jesus of Nazareth."

He didn't hide at all. "I am he," the man said. As he said that, for reasons none could explain to me later on threat of death even, my battalion of men fell to the ground as if struck by flaming arrows.One moment they were standing, the next they were on the ground, embarrassed and shcoked.

Once more he asked us, as if the previous conversation had not taken place, "Whom are you looking for?"

I answered the same way, though much softer as if I didn't want the same thing to happen to my men (and myself I admit) again. "Jesus of Nazareth."

He said, "I told you I am he. And since I am the one you want, let these others go." I looked round for the first time and saw that all the disciples had joined us. I was even more uncomfortable. Some had weapons, and they all were rugged and tanned and in good shape. I didn't care for the way this was going. It needed to be ended quickly.

I quickly moved to take the wrist of this rebel, but amazingly one of his disciples -- before I could move -- lashed out with a sword. I had been in battle across the world and never been injured. Here in a garden of Olive trees, in a soundless, dark night, suddenly my right ear was gone. I was in instant pain as I grabbed the side of my head. Blood gushed. I looked for the culprit but he was being held by three soldiers. He was a strong one.

Then this Jesus did the most stunning thing. "Peter," he said. "Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup the Fther has given me?"

As this Peter did so, Jesus walked up to me. I was hesitant. What was he going to do to me? Jesus raised his hand and gently placed in on the side of my head. I felt sick to my stomach for a moment, then I felt, uh, what? I felt strong. Stronger. I felt, well, healed.

My battalion still was in chaos. The force that had knocked them down still was unknown. They had seen their commander, me, attacked and yet had done nothing. Now they watched as I was healed by the very one we had come to arrest.

They were frightened, stunned and breathless.

What would happen next?

What did was not what we thought. This Jesus simply surrendered and asked us to leave, with no harm coming to any of his men, including this Peter.

In the face of such power, I allowed this to happen.

We marched back across the Kidron, coming into the Sheep Gate late in the evening on the night before Passover was to begin. I was totally unsure what was going to happen to this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, but I was completely sure that he was more than a man. Much more. My ear was testimony to that. It was gone; then it was found and re-attached to my head. With power such as this, maybe this man was what they said he was.

I had heard whispers all day that this man was the Messiah, the one who would deliver these Jews out of slavery. I thought that laughable, right up to the moment my ear rejoined my flesh.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bells ringing?

Jeremiah was talking to the army officers of Israel one fine spring day, officers who wanted to pick up stakes and move to Egypt because they felt the Egyptians could protect them more than God. They felt Egypt was a place where it was easier to live and certainly more peaceful.

No armies. Plenty of food. You know the drill. It was better there. Greener over that hill. You know that hill, don't you? It's the one you've been trying to go over all your life.

But God has an interesting retort. He tells Jeremiah to say this: If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You'll die there! Every one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve or get sick and die.

Now, you can focus on the killed, starve and get sick and die and you will miss the point. The point is that when you are determined to go outside the will of God, the very things you fear most will, uh, get you.

If you're determined to buy that new car though every ounce of you is telling you NO, you'll reap the consequence of that new car monthly payment.

If you're determined to take the job you've got night sweats about while the one that is over there that you've got complete peace about taking, maybe it's more than a risk. Maybe God is telling you to take the one with the peaceful, easy feeling about it.

My point is this: Your fears often are more than just a simple bit of fear. Often your fears are God telling you, directing you, pushing you toward his will. Try using the word nervousness instead of fear. Maybe you're nervous about what you're trying to decide upon because God hasn't given you peace about it. I've found that the time I'm at absolute peace about a decision is when I'm in God's will. It is the proof in the pudding, as it were.

Now, I know it would be easier for God to just go the Mt. Sinai route and just tell us in a loud voice, DON'T BUY THE CAR, DUMMY. Or it would be good to have a prophet on speed dial. But for whatever reason, we don't seem to have a Jeremiah lying around the house. The Holy Spirit and that ol' reliable still, small voice are what we have on call.

But you know what? When Jeremiah had finished telling the armies exactly what God had said, you know what they did? They called him a liar and refused to believe him. So even having that prophet standing there, giving you the very words from God's mighty mouth wouldn't mean you would do it. Excuses are as plentiful as leaves on the trees God created.

Finally, the Babylonians came crashing down upon the Israelites, taking prisoners and destroying Jerusalem and its temple.

God had offered his protection. They refused it. Stuff happened.

Does that ring any kind of bells? Any at all? Come on. Really?

God offers you protection. You BUY THE CAR ANYWAY and what do you get when a year later you get laid off at work?

God offers you peace. You TAKE THE OTHER JOB ANYWAY and what do you get when six months later the salary you were guaranteed has been adjusted because the economy isn't doing well?

The Bible says the source of all this "doom to Jerusalem and Judah was God's anger. God turned his back on them as an act of judgment." Do you think your going outside of God's will for your life will be any different? Really?

Bells ringing? Any at all?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our invitation

I was once famously asked about these titterings, "what happens when you run out of things to write about?"

That was about 10 years ago, and so far, for reasons I'm not sure, I haven't stopped. The blogosphere only heightens my ability to reach out.

But there are so many thigns I could write about. Health Care? Sure, why not, except I have no idea what it means or means to most of us.

American Idol? Sure, except I've never watched it.

Lost? Watch it every week. Haven't the foggiest what is going on but it's my favorite television show. I guess that says a lot about me.

New policies about discharging gay persons from the military? Nah. I don't want to go there.

So what is there to talk about today? How about what there is to talk about every day?

Has anyone out there invited a person to church this week? Has anyone out there got plans to invite someone to church for Easter? If not, why not?

are you inviting people to church this Easter season? Do you have a plan of action? Let’s get people Back to Church!

Look at Easter as a connection point between your community and Jesus and your church. When we bring people into the church on Easter we want them to meet Jesus, to begin and grow in a relationship with Him, as well as, help them get to know our church and to enter into a continuing relationship with the church community.

When an unchurched person thinks about attending church they don’t grab the phone book anymore, they go online to research churches. How is your church’s web presence?

If there is anyone who doesn't understand the importance of invitation, let me speak it loudly and clearly: Inviting someone to church is the No. 1 tool of evangelism. Let's make it happen sometime in the next seven days.

We want to make disciples because Jesus told us to. We want to change lives, reach the lost, do all those things that need to be done. Not so we can have better numbers in church, but so that we can help those who do not have HAVE.

Jesus is the answer. I believe it with all my heart. The question? Everything.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Time for the prophets to preach -- correctly

Oh,oh, oh...

I turned to an open page in my Bible, the Message this morning for no real reason, and this is what I read:

"Here is god's Message to the prophets, the peachers who lie to my people...For as long as they're well paid and well fed,
the prophets preach, 'Isn't life wonderful! Peace to all!'
But if you don't pay up and jump on their bandwagon,
their 'God bless you' turns into 'God damn you.'
Therefore, you're going blind. You'll see nothing.
You'll live in deep shadows and know nothing.
The sun has set on the prophets.
They've had their day; from now on it's night.
Visionaries will be confused,
experts will be all mixed up.
They'll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses
to cover up their God-ignorance."

8But me—I'm filled with God's power,
filled with God's Spirit of justice and strength,
Ready to confront Jacob's crime
and Israel's sin.

9-12The leaders of Jacob and
the leaders of Israel are
Leaders contemptuous of justice,
who twist and distort right living,
Leaders who build Zion by killing people,
who expand Jerusalem by committing crimes.
Judges sell verdicts to the highest bidder,
priests mass-market their teaching,
prophets preach for high fees,
All the while posturing and pretending
dependence on God:
"We've got God on our side.
He'll protect us from disaster."
Because of people like you,
Zion will be turned back into farmland,
Jerusalem end up as a pile of rubble,
and instead of the Temple on the mountain,
a few scraggly scrub pines.

Doesn't that sound familiar? Isn't that a siren call for preachers to be using their pulpits to talk about the wrongness of what is going on in this country?

I especially like the part where it says, "But me -- I'm filled with God's power."

Now, here's the issue. John Wesley and others thought that we were all ministers. That being the case, isn't it high time more of us were filled with God's Spirit of justice and strength, ready to confront Jacob's crime and Israel's sin?

Isn't it time all of us jumped off the bandwagon of the wealth, the bandwagon of the powerful, the bandwagon of injustice and even quit claiming we have God on our side when God is more rightly on God's side?

The sun has set on the prophets who do nothing but fatten their pockets, or it should set.

It's time, my friends, it's time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh, spring

Ah, it's 71 degrees and sunny, and life is about as grand as it becomes.

Mary and I walked almost two miles near noon after a 7 a.m. Bible study and a preaching class.

It's just about as peaceful as peaceful can get.

The apostle Paul, who knew some difficult days, says of this sort of thing: "whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

I can almost hear him searching his mind for something to grasp onto that is good, but he does at the end. He says, whatever you can come up with that is pleasing, think about that. You can almost hear the other shoe drop. You really can. You can almost hear him say "no matter what you're going through."

That works, you see. If you're going through difficult times, through financial problems, through parenting that is less than wonderful. Whatever there is that is attempting to bring you way, way down, there is a way to combat it. Think pleasant thoughts. Really. You have the choice.

Use your memory to find those times when things were better. Use your skills to do something that gives you pleasure. Think about what you would love to do in the future that you've never had a chance to or simply not gotten around to.

Whatever is pleasant, whatever gives you joy, whatever lays a layer of peace onto a dreadful day, week or it.

It is the balm that treats the problem.

Paul finishes by saying, "Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."

As conceited as that sounds, I try to do that which Paul writes about as often as I can for I know no one who seems to have been more filled with the Spirit. His next thought in his letter to the church in Phillip says it all for me. "I've learned by now to be content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, whatever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

That's life in a Paulian nutshell, friends. Whatever we have, God gave it to us. So think about that. It will brighten even a near perfect spring day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Retiring moments

I've been tring for the past six months to kill the beast that grew for 30 years.

I let the beast grow. I watered and fed the beast all those years. I watched the beast change from a small bit of my life to a daily large entity.

The beast?

My expectations.

I read this early this morning: For the past 40 or 50 years, Americans have lived by a series of unofficial tenets: A good education guarantees a good job, hard work will bring prosperity, and 40 years of 40-hour-a-week work earns a comfortable retirement. Then, maybe; now, not so much. Workers who believe that somebody owes them a comfortable life just because they try hard are risking bitter disappointment in a Darwinian economy, where there are likely to be more losers and fewer winners than we're used to. The winners will be those who learn how to adapt, expect nobody to give them anything, and are prepared to work harder in the future than they did in the past. That's how it was in America before anybody ever heard of the middle class, and it may be that way for a while again. The real middle class--the true bedrock of the nation--will be able to handle it.

I thought I had earned a wonderful retirement. I thought the figures I would occasionally glance at when they passed them out at work would be enough to live off when it came time to retire. I even thought I would work long enough to pay off my house so that, again, I would have enough to live off.

I was wrong. The beast of my expectations exceeded the food pan, drank all the water and left me with little.

In other words, there will come a day not too far away when I can't pay for my house and I can't pay for my health care and I will be overcome by my bills. That's one reality.

The other reality, however, is that I have finally, finally placed my future, my planning, my expectations in the hand of the Lord. Finally. Did I say finally?

I've had to, or will, have to look at what I buy and when I buy it and what aches and pains I go to the doctor for and which ones I don't. I will have to budget according to what the Lord tells me instead of me knocking around the world of purchases with abandon.

I will have to, er, be mindful of what I do.

Ain't the beast a terror?

The Bible tells me this:

3-8"Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

9"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

10-12When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can't see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don't see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don't understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven."

13He continued, "Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.

14-15"The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.

16-17"And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

18-19"The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

20"But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams."

Did you get that? The stress stangles what they heard and nothing comes of it. Worries about what the bills are, where the savings went, what we will wear in five years when the clothes get old and we can't afford new ones, what the old car will look like because we've ruined our credit. Stress like spring flood waters bubbles up.

The point of all this is that we all must reach an emotional and spiritual bottom someday that will allow us to completely give our lives over to our Lord.

It's either that or we quit calling him Lord, wrongly. For someone who is Lord is Lord of all, not a piddling penny.

Even our retirement. Or maybe especially our retirement.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Graceful kids

Grandson to Grandfather who has just given grandson $5: How about you give me $20?

Grandfather to grandson: I'll give you $20 when you're 20.

Grandson to grandfather: How about $30?

Grandfather to Grandson: I'll give you $30 when you're 30.

Grandson to grandfather: You'll be dead when I'm 30.

The Bible has little to say about friends (google it if you don't believe me) but it has plenty to say about children.

Children were an especial favorite of Jesus, if you remember. "But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Man, Gabe and Gavin and Parker and Livvy and Emma and Karli and Mia own the kingdom of God. Wonder if they know that? The way they act,I think they know.

Interestingly, Paul puts one of the qualifications for being in ministry this way: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

And of course there is the Psalm: 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. hey will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

And of grandchildren the bible says: Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

I revel in all that to say this: My grandchildren are wonderfully nuts. They say the strangest things, think the wierdest things and I love each moment of the far too few moments we have together.

Gavin to pawpaw yesterday: I got spit on your shirt.

They engage the world in the way it should be engaged. Each moment is one to be spent in full engagement, full out, today is the only day I have to worry about kind of living.

Gavin to pawpaw when pawpaw said he was keeping his pictures of Gavin and Gabe because it helped him to remember who they are: I'm Gavin Rubio (with puzzled look on his face as if to say, "dummy, I know who I am, don't you?).

All this nonsense about grandchildren making you feel younger is just that, nonsense. But what they do do it make you feel as if all this, whatever this is, has been worth it. They are each special, each capable in his or her own ways ... though Emma Rose still looks at me as if I was an interloper who must be run from the castle.

They each have their own pains, their own terrors, their own worries. No one can argue differently. But Jesus saw in the children a way that we should act. He said most famously, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Now, I always found it interesting that a man without children could speak that way, but that's okay. Children and our children's children are the reason we make it through our lives sane.

Of course, all those moments when they threatened our sanity are still bouncing around in memory, too.

But in the end, like most of what has passed for our lives, they are special. The scriptures conclude: Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.

A reward. That's what Jason, Shanna and Carrie have been to me. That's what Mia, Gabe, Karli, Parker, Gavin, Livvy and Emma are to me. A reward I never deserved.

Sounds like grace to me, huh?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friday night thoughts

Imagine if you would that you are the preacher (rabbi) called to do the memorial service for Jesus.

Perhaps the homily would go something like this:

I would take nothing away from the grief you feel today. I would not say to you that everything is all right. Because it’s not and you know it. You hurt. And we know you will hurt for a long time. God made us so that we can have relationships with one another and when that relationship is lost we feel pain. You have lost a loved one - and it hurts. Yet, I would like to speak a word of comfort today. I want you to remember what Jesus said last night.

Jesus was in the midst of us, his friends, when he told us:

Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also. And you know the way I am going.

It was at that point that Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth and the life; no on comes to the Father, but through Me.

I know with him lying in the tomb that it is difficult to believe what he told us. It is difficult to get those images of him on the cross out of our minds. It is difficult to release our own burdens and our own sins and our own disappointments from our own minds.

But in Jesus' words, I find a degree of comfort.

From this passage of scripture I find three thoughts of comfort.

First, I believed Jesus when he promised us peace.

Notice the words “Let not you heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me”. Yes, I know that today is a day of sadness - a day of grief, a day of mourning, yet even in the midst of this you can have peace. Why? Because we have faith - we believe. We believe that even in the midst of the storm - even in the valley of the shadow of death there can be a peace that pass all understanding - because we know that God is with us. The 23rd Psalm says that too, doesn’t it. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” He is here. He is present. Believe in Him - Trust in Him and God will grant you his perfect peace.

The second thought of comfort is that God has prepared a place for us. Jesus said; “I go to prepare a place for you.”

I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I know this: The Talmud tells us that in six days God created the heavens the earth, but just think, Jesus has been preparing a place for us since he was born.

What a place that must be. The verse tells us that it is The Father’s house and that there are many rooms. A room for us, a room for you - a room for me. Isn’t that a comforting thought? God has prepared a place for us. Even in death, we belong.

The next thought of comfort is that God has prepared a way for us to get there. Everyone wants to go to heaven, some just don’t know the way. But Jesus told us last evening that he was the way, he was the truth, he was the life. He was the way. i don't know what that means exactly, but I believe He did. That's enough for me, right now. I cling to that as if my fingernails were at the edge of a cliff, and the dirt is crumbling and the greenery is being pulled out and that cliff itself is falling apart. But still, I cling. I know nothing else to do. I believe so strong that like he taught us, I'm trying to move a mountain with but my faith. The mountain is his death. It is not moving quickly, I must say.

It's hard to understand that now. It's hard to believe the grief we're feeling. It is an ache deep in my bones. The Romans are searching, I believe, for those who followed him, thought him a king, thought him a Messiah. So it's difficult to admit you followed a man who could be killed. I know that's hard. But we're asking you to hang on. Hang on. Keep on believing, for it is the foolishness of God that will set us on the right path, the right track.

It's hard to understand that God still will make away. But we are all travelers on a road called life. There are many detours and many side streets. We don’t need to be confused - we don’t need to be lost. All we need to do is follow Jesus, even unto death. He will show us the way - in fact He is the way. He will lead us and He will guide us. That’s comforting. What I don't know doesn't bother me. Who I know comforts me. His death takes nothing away from that.

IMAGINE if you will, that you had to preach the memorial service for Jesus without knowing that Sunday was coming, without knowing that resurrection was just around the corner.

It's not that hard to imagine. Many ministers have to do that for those who have not known Jesus but who have known death.


there is comfort. Know Jesus. Know faith. Know victory. It's really that simple, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Older by the day

Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life?
Job 12: 7

Today might be more about sports, but I think a bit of life forces its way in there. I saw today that John Smoltz was joining TBS as a baseball commentator, though he refuses to say he had retired as a baseball pitcher. Oh, how that takes me back to a time when my kids were young and Mary and I were much younger.

We used to journey to see the Braves play baseball, either in Houston when they came through or to Atlanta. It was our summer trips, to see the Braves. John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were the Hall of Fame pitchers. You couldn't miss one a series, it seemed.

I can see my kids now, either at the little hotel outside the Astrodome or in a tent or cabin in the mountains outside of Atlanta.

Now these kids have kids of their own and I have no money to go to games and I've gotten creakedy (is that a word of any kind?) and time passed and the light grows dimmer and, and, and

I feel every day I get up closer to the end. It didn't used to be that way. I never worried about blood sugar counts or blood pressure counts or weight or any of those things. Now, I'm forced to worry about all of them, sometimes at once.

I don't feel I've led anyone in anything because all I've done is get older.

The Bible says of growing older, "Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives."

..."older men into live of temperance, dignity and wisdom." Is that what we do now? My wife, dear Mary, is headed to a nursing home right now to help comfort those persons who have no where else to go. One day there is a real possibility I could be in one of those, unless I let the above blood stuff go. Will anyone think me wise? Will anyone think me temperant?

I think not.

Today I saw a couple of sentences in the newspaper and I flashed to 1991 and 1992 and even that woeful 1993.

It's tought to get old.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Walking on risky water

Years ago several of my friends and I would set hooks. That was a way of describing putting our trot lines across a large creek that ran through the woods of Kemper County, Miss.

It was the easiest way of fishing I knew, with the possible exception of jug fishing.

You got a large, long line, set hooks on it a foot apart, tied one end to a tree on one back and floated your boat across while baiting the hooks and letting the line slide into the murky water. When you reached the other side, you tied it off on another trunk of a tree.

Then you went back to your tents, or by your campfire, and you waited a few hours.

Then you grabbed a lantern, walked down to where you dragged the boat up on land and set out to check the hooks. It was exhilirating to drag the line up and feel something wiggling on it, or simply feel the weight on the line. Most times it was a catfish, and it was a simple pleasure to quickly but carefully take the fish off the line, making sure the fish didn't pop you with his fin.

Once my dad told me the tale of a night of trot-line fishing that ended badly. He and two of his buds were checking the line and they dragged their boat under a tree that hung over the river. When they did, a moccasin fell off the limb into the boat with a thump.

My dad tells the story:

"The big ol' moccasin flopped at first, then it slowly came to its senses and began to crawl. My buddy Delbert backed away from the snake in the boat, pushing his way over one seat to the back of the boat. But the problem came with Bennie Egler. Bennie was deathly afraid of snakes, and he was a gun fancier with a love of hand guns. he had a revolver with him that night and when he flashed his lantern on the snake, his eyes got as big as silver dollar coins. Before the men could stop him, he flipped his hand back to his belt line, jerked out his gun and fired two shots at the snake. He did a bad job of eliminating the threat by missing the snake, but he did a good job of shooting the bottom of the boat. The snake figured these people must be crazy, I guess, cause it slipped up the side of the boat and out into the river. We just stared at the holes in the boat and the water coming in.

Finally, Delbert said slowly in that deep Southern accent of his, "Bennie, I sure hope you can walk on water, because we're going to be boatless in about 30 minutes."

Friends, we're going to talk about risks that we take today, but I hope we're going to hear the difference between good risks and poor ones. There is a real difference.
People in the Bible were risk takers, you know.

Try Adam and Eve. They took a risk that God didn't mean what he said when he told them not to eat of the tree. How's that working out for everyone?

Abraham's risk: heading out for a land he didn't know, on a trail he didn't know, at a time he wasn't aware of. Tremendous risk was taken.

Moses risk? Heading into a country where he was wanted for murder so that he could tell the ruler of the country that he must let his slaves go free. Why? God told him so.

Noah's risk? Filling a boat up with pooping animals and believing that every thing wouldn't come out messy.

Joseph's risk? Turn away the wife of the leader of the country and expect things were going to turn out well.

Paul's risk? Telling his countrymen that the way they had been worshiping for centuries was completely wrong.

And Peter? You hear sermons often talk about how Peter sank in the water the night he tried to walk on it, but I'm here to tell you that Peter took an incredible risk simply by picking up one foot and putting it down outside a boat on the water, just like my father's friend.

Friends, we will never stretch ourselves spiritually if we are afraid of getting wet, if we're afraid of taking a risk. Shelter of complancency is no shelter at all

Monday, March 15, 2010

Changing lives

The man wore prison blue, coat and pants, and a bald head though he was but 23 years of age. He also wore the truth, something these men had fought for and against all these years.

Corey admitted he was having a difficult time with Christ. "I'm fighting a tug of war inside me," he said.

I offered to hear him out, to find out out about this tug of war, but he declined, staring at the floor and rubbing his gleaming head with his hand.

Three hours later, he called me to the side of the old gym at the correctional center. "Can we talk?" I assured him I was willing and mostly able.

"It's just so tough," he said. "I have nothing when I get out of here. My parents have nothing, I have nothing and I have no way of getting anything. I won't have any money. I won't be able to get a job. I'll have to go back to selling drugs just to get enough money to eat on. That's why I won't say much about Jesus here like some of these guys. I don't want to say anything all the while knowing I'm going to be doing something when I get out of here. I won't be that say."

I looked at his clear brown eyes. He was waiting for some glimmering wisdom. Clearly he didn't know me.

Finally I said this, and I pray it was near the right thing. I told him, "Corey, I believe God loves you more than the action you might have to take. I believe if you have absolutely no other way of getting money to make some sort of living, God understands that too. We're not here to judge you. That's all between God and you. I just know that if you want to tell someone you love Jesus, no one is going to hold that against you in the future."

He tentatively smiled, looked up at me with glistening eyes that were filling and then he did the most amazing thing. He hugged me.

We spent a weekend in prison this past Thursday through Sunday. It was no amazing personal journey. It was a journey of 30 residents and 22 or so visitors together, hoping that Christ would be checked in at the door as well.

I can only speak for myself that I knew not what I was doing, but I prayed long and I prayed hard that hearts would be touched, and God did the touching. I saw men crying who simply weren't men who cried. I saw lives changed of men who simply wanted to get a better brand of food fed to them.

In the end, as we hugged and said our goodbyes, the truth was the visitors went back to their homes and the inmates went back to their bunks and to the endless days that lie ahead in their incarceration.

We can only hope that the lives that were changed were for more than a weekend. Oh, we can also hope that those in prison were changed, too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prison bound

Today, I go to prison.

Now, there are some people who believe I should have been there for quite some time, but I go with the absolute belief that I will indeed return at some point.

I go because ...

I believe God is still in the habit of using persons to meet the needs of other persons, that God softens the hearts of those he wants to soften the heart of and that wonderful things happen when those two incidents co-mingle.

I go because ...

I believe the Holy Spirit still is in the heart-warming business. Now whether it is one Dominic Brown, whom I am sponsoring and actively praying for this morning before I go into the prison or someone else, maybe even mine own, a heart will be warmed.

I go because...

There but for the grace of God go I.

Though Kairos ministry's mantra is "listen, listen, love, love" and I plan to do this as well as I possibly can, I also believe as the Psalmist wrote, "I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High."

God has blessed me, my family, my dogs, my cats. I often am negligent about praising Him, though, falling into the trap of comparisons. You know, what my life is versus what it was or what I have versus what the Joneses have.

But the bottom line is we have been remarkably blessed. From the moment I found sobriety in a drunken world, and accepted my Jesus as the Christ and as my Lord, I began a downward spiral out of journalism, demoting myself twice, always looking for how to serve Him better and more often.

I did not do that so that He would bless me more. Do not mistake that. He blessed me more because He so chose to do so. There have been difficult times along the way, deaths that I would not have had happen if I could prevent them and I still make horrific financial choices and apparently will till we're homeless vagabonds wondering where all the money went.

But none of that is a measure of my praise. I praise because I love and I loved, the Bible says, because He, HE, first love me. He started it, like I used to say when my cousin and I would get into stuff together.

All that leads to this: I'm going to prison not out of gratitude, despite the fact I am deeply, deeply full of gratitude that He reached down with a loving hand and saved me, literally saved me. I'm going to prison so that someone else can be reached. Plain. Simple.

Lord, have mercy on me.
Lord, have mercy on Dominic.
Lord, have mercy on the unnamed soul that you have called.

Let's get 'er done.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wrestling with God

Oh, how we imagine.

Remember the tale of Jacob, who scrambled away from his brother after taking Esau's birthright by subterfuge.

After living away from Esau for years, Jacob wanted to return home. Along the way, he built his brother into Hannibal Lecter in his mind. On and on he went, sure that when the two were in the same circle again, Esau would do a goodly amount of damage to him.

The Bible says he was "In great fear and distress." He was making Esau out to be the one who would end what he had come to love of his life.

Finally, he prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,' I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.' "

His imagination continued to play tricks on him, falling as hard as the night on Jacob.

Finally, you'll remember, that night Jacob wrestled with God and on that special night became Israel.

All that I say to tell you this: The use of our imaginations to build mole hills of imagination into mountains of fear is very similar to our wrestling with God. I'll speak for myself here: I'm in the midst of a life-changing moment, and fear has attempted to wrestle me to the ground. Only my faithful friends and my faithful spouse and my God himself keep me afloat at times.

But God doesn't run away when our faith ebbs like an evening tide. No. He's there to bless us when we come through the trial, even if we're battered and worn.

That's the God we love.

Oh, by the way, my hip is hurting. Wonder what that means?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's not easy

Busy-ness is upon me. I'm beset by things I have to get done. I'm struggling and it seems as if God has taken back his guarantee that he will never put too much upon me, or at least not more than I can take. We strongly disagree over how much I can take, at best.

This is life as we know it, a whirlwind that we ride till we drop off at some destination we call peace. I'm awaiting my time at the door of the bus to find that place.

My future is up in the air, my present is swirling because of it and I'm reaching out to a God who is so awesome we can't see Him without getting a bright tan on our face or be struck down in awesome terror.

It's not easy. It's just not. Anyone who says the Christian life is one of sitting by the stream and watching the water rush by is, to coin a phrase I use a lot, nuts.

It's not easy. We toil and we churn and sometimes we get to where God says, I'll take it form here. But the bottom line is this: God, scripture tells us, gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

What that tells me is this: I can't explain it when it comes, I can't call it as if it were a pet, I can't do it as if it were a task.

Jesus says to all of us to simply be still and know he is God.

That's the best I can do, even on these days when it seems the armor of the enemy is increasingly strong.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Living a high five

Somehow, life must be lived in a side of a hill, I suspect.

Unfortunately, sometimes life is lived in the deepest of valleys and further still, sometimes life is lived on the mountain top. The hardest thing to understand, I fear, is that life even on a mountain top can be difficult. Why? You can't live there forever.

This past weekend I had a spiritual aweakening unlike any in a long, long, long time. Thirty men and women prayed for me, well, for each other, in a circle setting as part of the commissioning for the Kairos prison ministry we're undergoing later this week. (I'll be out of touch from Thursday through Sunday so if there are daily readers, come back Monday.)

The Holy Spirit, I'm convinced, visited me and convicted me of my selfishness in my ministry, of my lack of faith that things will work out, of my fears that I've made the wrong decision in terms of retiring as a journalist. I wept openly in front of strangers. I wept on the way home. I wept when I got home.

That might not seem like a mountain top to some, but it was. It removed from me, gently but strongly, my obsession with wanting to plan my future, of wanting to SEE my future, at least for a day. I was bouncing at church yesterday.

But things happen and we come down from the mountain and it is then that we must find what life is about.

If we allow the mountain top to send us crashing to the valley, what was that experience really about?

No, life is better lived as a five than as a 10 and certainly as a zero. Now, if we're lucky and we understand this, maybe it's a high five. But it's a five we shoot for. Balanced. Even temper and even keeled and even peace.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Control issues

When I was a kid, I played the position of catcher in baseball. Always. Well, there was that year when I was 13 and I played second base when I played at all, which was rare. Anyway, I was a catcher. I threw the ball back to the pitcher, every pitcher, after every pitch in a game.

But I never pitched a single inning, though I had a good arm. Why? I had no control.

I could throw the ball back to hit a person somewhere in the middle of his body, but when I was tried a few times in practice from the mound, I could not throw the ball over the plate into an area approximately from the underarms to the knees of the person. In other words, I couldn't throw a strike. Had not control.

I saw all that to say control issues, I'm discovering, affect us all.

We want to control our bank accounts, what we do at our jobs, certainly our spouses, our kids, our lives. We want control.

Problem with that is, as near as I can read, scripture teaches us we must lose control to Him, willingly giving it away. Lots of us say we will, or we have, when what we've done is systematically given Him what we don't want control of any longer. Oh, Lord, you can control my taxes. You can have control of those things that I willingly say I can't control. You can fix all the blunders I've gotten myself into.

That's not giving control. That's giving away what you don't want any longer.

I've been there done that.

I've recently come closer to giving absolute control, and I've found it to be a real strugle. Giving up everything means accepting and loving what is given in return. When what that is doesn't measure up to what I thought, well, let's have a revote.

What we see over time is there are no do-overs in decision making. What decisions we make -- control we give over -- is done. We can't say to Him, well, that didn't go the way you said, because unfortunately, having trust in him means we're not given that sort of direction by him. In other words, when we arrive at a crossroad, we take the facts given, pray hard for direction, feel it in our bones and our heart and our mind that we should go a certain way. Then, if it turns out that decision doesn't seem to be the right one, we are not given the alternative side-universe of an episode of Lost. We simply must trust God that He can see the while picture and knows what is good for us.

The Bible says that when things were most difficult for the future king of Israel, David strengthened himself with trust in his God. The Bible says (in the Message) that Jesus told his disciples before He left then: "I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

Control issues ultimately are trust issues. Do we or don't we?

That's the correct pitch.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Signs anyone?

I went out to get my newspaper (which is the same as saying the sun came up this morning), and I was shocked at how cold it felt. Winter had dug its way deeply into my bones by the time I got back to the house, which only meant at 10-yard walk.

I got back, poured a steaming cup of coffee and opened the paper. Adds fell out, which is good for the industry but still makes me wonder if I did the right thing in retiring. On top was the Home Depot add, which among various hammers and such was an add for spring flowers for planting.

Has all this stuff come apart? It's the fourth of March and it's still in the 30s, and unfortunately that's temperature, not age.

Where are we now in the calendar? Do we need to rethink the days of Winter? Will Summer bring us 100 degree days beginning in May?

There are earthquakes galore, tsunamis (which means I've learned to spell it if that's the correct spelling) and just plan bad stuff all over the world daily.

What is going on? Do I need to cancel my life insurance and put it on the lottery?

The Bible talks of these things with anguish.

In Amos' prophecy, we read of a time when the Lord's wrath will come: "Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? the whole land will rise like the nile: it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt. In that day, declares the Soverign Lord, 'I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religous feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads.'

Now, if we read the context of that selection instead of merely diving into scripture on a cold March morn, we see that is a day of judgment against the land of Israel for numerous mistakes in judgment. Some were keeping the religious festivals but not in spirit. Their main intent was to make money and religious holy days kept them from it. So God is saying, there will come a time when I will send my wrath. Clearly that is different than anything that could be happening today.

In Matthew's gospel we read of Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives above the city of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. He says, "so if someone tells you, 'look, the Messiah is out in the desert,' don't bother to go and look. Or, 'Look, he is hiding here,' don't believe it. For as the lightning lights up the entire sky, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. Immediately after those horrible days end, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of heaven will be shaken.'

Again, this is Jesus talking about the end of days. Clearly that is not talking abut anything that could be happening today.

As there was a beginning, with God speaking the world into life, so there will be and ending.

Man, it's cold out there today.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What do we say?

This is a difficult one to write because what I try to do with everything I write is to simply find the hope in the hopeless. Sometimes that's harder to do that other times.

The news out there today that interests me but keeps me from writing about other things is the recent rash (is two a rash, I'm not sure) of suicides of the famous.

February was a month plagued by celebrity suicide. Former "Growing Pains" actor 41-year-old Andrew Koenig, 40-year-old fashion designer Alexander McQueen and Michael Blosil the teenage son of singer Marie Osmond all took their lives within weeks of each other.

Andrew Koenig may be best remembered for his role on the 1980s sitcom "Growing Pains," but his more lasting contribution may be lifting the lid off depression.
(Courtesy his father, Walter Koenig). Yet in between the vigils and TV coverage of the deaths, were the standard (and almost incongruous) commercials for antidepressants, promising relief.

In a country where antidepressant use is booming and suicide rates have barely budged, experts say science is still just trying to find the basic answer to how antidepressants work.

Do you realize that suicides out-number homicides in this country?

Recently I received a call about someone who was threatening suicide. We did all the right things, I believe, and I continue to monitor the situation with near daily calls to the person on top of that person getting professional help, which I do not claim to be.

But it got me thinking, as does most things, what does a person of faith say to those who not only have lost their desire to live in some form or have lost or never had their faith?

Does telling someone what Jesus did for us do the trick? I think not. In some ways it only pushes the fog of depression on to the other even moreso. In other words, "Well, if Jesus did that for you, why won't he for me? There must be something wrong with me."

I've found that despite my best wishes and strongest desires, the thing I can do, the only thing I can do, is listen in those situations. It is not my first thought. I figure I can talk my way thorough it all. I can not. I, with great effort, can liten. Often this is what the depressed needs most of all. They need a confidant, someone who can hear them, not just listen at that, but hear them.

Can we do that?

What does the Bible say about this?

In the process of writing this, I switched over for a quick google about what the Bible says about suicide. The first site I went to talks only about what the Bible says about suicide and eternal destination. I have to tell you, were I depressed enough to be having thoughts of my own demise, I wouldn't be in the mood to hear those conversations. Where is the hope there? Hope that this all has meaning or that whatever I can't control or change will one day indeed be controlled or changed? That's, I believe, what suicidal people are looking for, though I could be so far wrong.

A quick definition of depression is in order. Depression is a mental disorder where the person is in a low mood accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest in enjoyable activities. Depressive illness is generally not understood by those who have never been affected and can create varying responses from their friends and loved ones suffering from this weakening disorder. A mental illness of any kind frightens people and they often do not know how to react when faced with the problem themselves or with others. My mother used to say that anyone who was depressed obviously didn't have the joy of the Lord in them. I was depressed with that tact, I must say.

Trafficing in other sites brought me this, which I should have known: God is the author of life and it is his to take and his to give. It is no our's. I believe that with my inner being, but what does that say to those who are so down they want to end it?

In the end of my search, I find myself right back at the beginning. If being depressed and wanting to end suffering is the goal, if being depressed stems from loneliness and the feeling there is no one to talk to, if feeling a loss of control is what is the driving force in the feeling, there can be but one answer.

Jesus is my confidant. Jesus is my control. Jesus is my hope. Without him I have none of the above. I really don't. I can't fix myself, change myself, go on at all. He is my confidant. He is my friend. He is everything I have. I love my wife, my kids, my dogs (suddenly this is a country music song), but the love I have for Jesus is enough to sustain me when all else will fail.

Celebrity or not, that is what I must tell anyone who feels as if life is a losing proposition. It's not about getting right with God, for the fundamentalists. It's not about anti-depressent drugs for those who seek a more liberal way. King David, a man of God's own heart, wrote this: "When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer." If that isn't depression, what is it?

But God was there for him, and he was lifted out of that state.

All of this is about a savior who saves on this side of the River Jordan as well as the other side.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Today I learned.

Oh, what a miserable experience it was.

I learned that to trust God is life, to trust humans is to enlist the possibility of failure into your life.
I learned that to observe what is around me is to life. To be a part of what is around me is living.
I learned that love is something that I can own, share, delve into. Being loved is the greatest of all feelings, with the possible and sure exception of loving someone else.

I learned this because I arose this morning, and rising into that good morning is what we all must learn more about.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says this: Meaningless! Meaningless says the teacher. Utterly meaningles! Everything is meaningless."
What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises."

See, what I've learned in the past couple days is that no matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I try, no matter what I've pasted onto that resume, no matter how talented I might think I am, it all really is meaningless unless someone else thinks the same. So I have a choice. I can not try as hard or I can try as hard and not worry about the outcome. That's the hardest part. But it's what I must do, I'm afraid.

I'll continue to try to learn, continue to try to get better, continue to give effort. For I know that is what God would have me, have us do. It's not about raises or promotions, it's about doing what we do to the best of the gift God has given us.

If there were more who did that, then what a world we would have. Huh?

I learned today. It was a pleasure.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Spirit

It's Monday. All day long, it's Monday.

I've made a to-do list, and my to-do list isn't as long as I would like. I understand that many folks would love to be living the life I'm currently living with a lessening amount of stress and such, but I miss being busy.

I do, however, enjoy being, well, able to think more about my place in the God universe, think more about sermons, think more about services, think more about my congregations.

What I have discovered is this: I'm thinking too much. The sermons have been well-thought out but more boring. The services have been nothing special. My congregations have not changed.

The bottom line is the Holy Spirit moves where and when he wasn't to.

Look at his story: Peter and John are spending time in Jerusalem. They've gone up to the temple to pray at the ninth hour, about 3 in the afternoon. As they are walking into one of the gates, the one called beautiful, there is a begger at the gate asking alms from those who were entering the temple. He had been lame from the time he was born.

As Peter walks by him, he sees him and turns, saying "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." He took the beggar by the right hand and lifted him, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

That instant, a life was changed. Because the Holy Spirit moved, not at Peter's beconing, but because the Holy Spirit CHOSE to move.

All my reading, all my praying, all my meditation, all my hoping, all my trying means something, but in the long run it means nothing if the Holy Spirit is not involved.

Look at what the Holy Spirit is first translated to be, or what He is called by Jesus

Jesus says of him: I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper (he is a helper), that He may abide with you forever (he's with you, inside you, helping), the Spirit of truth.

In other translations, the word helper is given as Counselor, Comfortor. He is to come to us and help, counsel and comfort. Forever.

The Holy Spirit dwells with you. He changes everything. No longer is there a need for prophets, no longer a need for prophecy. He tells us what we need to know, when we need to know it and even teaches us about what Jesus has done.

All that is important for this reason: I believe no church work, no work in general, is accomplished without the Holy Spirit directing us, guiding us into the proper action.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is the origing of supernatural abilities, the giver of artistic skill, the source of power and strength, the inspiration of prophecy and the mediation of God's message. In the New Testament, he declares the truth about Christ, endows with power the proclamation of the Bible, purs out God's love in the heart, makes intercession, imparts gifts for ministry, enables the fruit of holy living and strengthens the inner being.

The Holy Spirit is God's flu shot, going into us to prevent all sorts of infections.

With the Holy Spirit inside him, Peter went from a coward to an evangelist, a fisherman to a fisher of men. Nothing else could explain his tranformation. And if he could be transformed in this manner, so can we.

The Holy Spirit has no silver or gold, but what he has, the Spirit of God himself, he freely gives.

Get up and walk this Monday.