God’s GPS (Glorified, Perfect, Son)

Me and my GPS

In West Virginia until a few years ago, driving the back roads was usually by visual reckoning.   You might hear such directions as “drive till you get to the fork in the road by the Jones place, but they don’t live there anymore, but we still call it that, and go till you see…”  Five years ago after complaining about getting lost going to visitations, my wife got me a GPS for Christmas.  I was so excited I went out to my car with a five year old Stefani in tow.  When the system was powered up, the female voice came on directing me to the next screen.  Stefani pipes up, “Daddy, now you have three women to listen to!”  I said, “Three?”  She continues, “Me, Mommy and GPS.”  My GPS is well used as a chaplain and at times, I have gone my own way with the GPS repeating, “Recalculating…recalculating, etc.”  One day I expect it to say after I have refused to listen to it, “Fine, I will just sit here on the dash and you can find your own way!” 
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Matthew 17:3-5 (NIV)

Hearing and following

Many times in the Gospels you see Jesus saying, “He who has ears, let him hear…”  We need to understand to the people of the Bible the word hear was more than sound waves vibrating on the ear drum.  Hearing included the required action of doing.  In twenty years of ministry I have heard people remark they did not get anything from the sermon.  The problem is they had no intention of putting the sermon to action in their lives.  As Christians we at times ask God for more and more understanding of his plan but have we put into use the things he has already revealed?  Just like my GPS will give me directions to a particular place, unless I am willing to follow them, why use it to get directions? 
God told the three disciples who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus to hear his Son.  Jesus is God’s Glorified, Perfect, Son and he has already given us the words, principles, and instructions of what God has for us if we follow the directions.  Don’t let what you know God wants you to do sit on the dashboard, put them into use to get where he wants you to be. 
To those who have ears, let him hear~!

God’s Welcome Mat

What is at the door of your heart

As a hospice chaplain I traveled to many different homes and knocked on many different doors.  What was different were the mats which welcomed you to the home.  Some of the mats featured the image of the family’s favorite sports team and of course as a Patriot’s fan I would never walk on the symbol of my team.  They may have purchased a mat with the family name blazed across the middle welcoming guests to their home and some had a mat with a utilitarian purpose of cleaning the shoes before they came into the house.  While some mats were carpeted others were recycled materials and even others may be heated for those who lived in northern climates. 
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:10-11

God’s Scales of our life are now balanced

 

Peter’s letter begins with reminding the weak and the strong persons of faith of the power which has been given to them to live godly lives.  The presence of this power in the life helps the Christian to continually evaluate and reevaluate their walk.  Matthew Henry’s commentary of this passage says we should turn the promises into prayers for the purifying and transforming by the Holy Spirit.  Like welcome mats which clean the feet of the person entering a home this power helps to clean away impurities from the disciple.  At the Passover before his Passion, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and while ritual bathing occurred before guests arrived for the meal washing of the feet was a welcome ritual for anyone entering a Jewish home.  God gave us a welcome mat in the form of his son.  The Messiah’s ATonement was the reconciliation of man to God through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah.  The word reconcile has the understanding of a set of scales which are no longer weighted on one side by the sins of man against the holiness of God, but are now brought in balance so man can have a relationship once separated by sin. 

 

Don’t trip over God’s MAT

 

When you walk in a home you might need to look down to see you do not trip on the mat but entering into the kingdom of God one must look down upon God’s mat, Jesus Christ. Remember it was my sin which required a payments and it was God’s love which brought him down to earth to die a horrible death for me.  No one will enter into the kingdom of God unless they use God’s Messiah’s ATonement.  All others will trip over it into judgment.  

 

 

Old Friends and Old Favorites–I Must Be Getting Older

A Phone Call From My Past

Last night I got a phone call from my old college roommate of twenty-eight years.  DJ and I lived together for two years but our friendship grew as it faced obstacles, hardships, joys and loss.  I was his best man for his wedding and was there years ago when he and Verda faced a major surgery.  When he called it was as if we had never been apart and were back at Minden Hall, our first dormitory in college.  I was a new Christian and he was my mentor even though he was younger and held me accountable and helped me to grow.  One day sitting in our room talking about our pasts, DJ opens his trunk of memories.  He showed me his prom pictures and one made us both laugh.  DJ was dressed in a white tuxedo with platformed shoes, cane and his fro was picked out to its fullest.  I told him I had a fro just before college and wore leisure suits, but fortunately there are no incrementing pictures.  Twenty-eight years and now he is a grandpa, his wife has retired and went back to school to be a teacher, and his baby is entering tenth grade.

 
This morning I was looking for another favorite.  Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter!  Peanut butter and banana sandwiches! Peanut butter and Fluff!  Peanut butter and apple butter!  Perhaps the reason I like Peter Pan is its logo—the image of a flying boy who never wanted to grow up.  This nearly one hundred year old product followed me to school just like Mary’s lamb.  I don’t usually eat it, but every once in a while I just have to eat a peanut butter sandwich. 

When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

I am no longer the young Christian I was twenty-eight years ago.  I have experiences which have been God’s method of maturing me.  My first pastorate I wanted to please people and so build a church to me.  I have learned I am there to serve God and not myself.  I can’t be a friend to God and the world, no matter how I might have wanted its approval.  I have grown to trust less in myself and more of God.  I may have put away my Christian childhood for Christian maturity, but nobody better take away my Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter!

Toothache Pain & Me

OH! My tooth!!!

Laying in bed and typing this blog I have taken pain pills and an antibiotic to deal with an abscessed tooth.  I left early from work because of the pain to get the needed medicine while I await the dentist on Monday.  I like our dentist because as a Christian brother we go to the Vineyard Church in Wheeling and I hope he knows on Monday I will be a walking bowl of Jell-O. I hear of advances in pain control in dentistry but waiting to see Keith may be as painful as the tooth.  I am a self-confessed dental coward!

 

Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray.  Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar. 

Psalm 19:13-14  (The Message)

No Fear and No Pain

At hospice we have a team of nurses, a social worker, aides, and me to extend care to our patients.  I am not permitted or equipped to do anything medical or discuss medical conditions or treatments to our patients.  I am also not equipped to be GOD, even though I might try.  When I gave my life to Christ, it was more than to save my soul from the wages of sin.  I became clean as newly washed sheets hung out on the lines behind my mom’s house in Florida.  I gave him control and accepting with humility his right to change my agenda any time he desires. I remind myself of his sovereignty and it becomes easier to continue in his plans as the God of Creation. As the pills are having their effect I am relaxing almost to the point of sleep.  With GOD I do not need medicine to relax and unlike Monday’s dental appointment, I have nothing to fear!

 

Growing Like A Weed? No. Like a tree.

In the storm the tree stands strong

Today a cool morning reminded me of the soon coming fall.  In New England where I went to college, the fall comes so quickly the leaves change seemingly overnight into the canopies of red, yellow, and orange.  The leaves fall and the tree moves into winter repeating their patterns for years on end.  The trees stand strong in the winter winds and shoulder in their branches the heavy snow and ice.  Sometimes weaker branches break under the weight but the healthy trees will soon send out shoots for next year’s leaves.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
Psalm 92:12-13 (NIV)
One type of palm tree for the land of Israel is the Judean date palm known for its food, shade and shelter. Recently a preserved seed of the date palm from two thousand years ago was recovered from the digs of King Herod’s palace on Mount Masada.  The seed has been planted and is now growing. (SFGate.com)  The tree would grow in the desert and unlike the grasses which withered in times of drought the palm continued to grow.  Owners of fine homes would plant trees in the courtyard and Nathaniel was seen by Jesus sitting under a fig tree.  The cedars of Lebanon had straight wood and wonderful scent and were used in palaces and temples.

A tree instead of grass

In Psalm 1, those who do not sit, stand, or walk with sinners and meditate upon the Word of God are like trees planted by streams of water.  In both cases, the word planted is used.  These trees do not grow wild or get there by wind-carried seeds but are planted as a course of action so the owner will receive fruit from the trees.  If you have ever planted a garden of flowers you try to have them blooming through the season to enjoy.  God knows the fruit we will produce and he is a patient owner. The picture of a tree for the righteous is compared to the grasses of the wicked.  They will dry up and blow away but the trees will endure even in harsh times of drought.  A mushroom can sprout almost overnight and has no roots but trees like the cedars withstand the winds on the mountain tops of Lebanon because the wood is straight, strong and deep rooted.

Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty

The highest award of our country for gallantry is the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Since the first medal was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott during the Civil War  3,457 have been awarded to heroes of extraordinary courage and bravery. The most recent soldier to be awarded this country’s highest honor was Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry.  He saved the lives of his comrades when a grenade landed among them by picking up the grenade and tossing it away but lost his hand in the process. 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for. 
Hebrews 11:1and 2 (NIV)

In Hebrews 11, the author declares twenty-three times the phrase, “by faith” to describe the actions of these heroes of the Old Testament.  However the word commend comes from the Greek word for witness or martyr.  Like those who gave the “last full measure” and died showing heroism witnesses of the faith are said to have been “living by faith when they died.”(v. 13) What is a hero and are there still Bible heroes today? Heroes are not people who do extraordinary things but those who act during extraordinary events by a set of beliefs or values.  A Medal of Honor winner risks his life  for belief in their country or for the love of friends and is commended for the actions.  They have given testimony the sacrifice of what was valued.

Yes, there are still Bible heroes today and many never are recognized for their acts of biblical heroism.  They are living each day “by faith” trusting in God’s provisions and not afraid of the wolf at the door.  They are the unsung hero who is not afraid to tell others of Jesus and “by faith” does not fear rejection or humiliation by those who resist the Word.  They are the Christian custodian who goes to work each day and “by faith” does his/her job as if they were doing it for Jesus.  They are the pastors of small churches who must work at a full time vocation to care for his family while working full time and a half for his avocation—the body of Christ.

There are no medals for biblical heroes but there is a commendation for their sacrifice which Jesus pronounced;

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

 

Honesty Is More Than Truthful Speech

Speaking with forked tongue

If you have ever stopped by a fast food restaurant you might find a yellow or red box displaying today’s headlines.  The newspaper company trusts you and me for picking up just one paper. Implied in the transaction is not allowing someone to take a paper as we take ours.  This act of trust may seem old-fashioned but there are other opportunities of proving honesty all around us.
There is a driving range where I live run by an elderly gentleman with the balls in the wire baskets on the porch and a basket with a rock in the office.  He has on the wall the prices of large and small baskets expecting you to put in your money before going to the range. Honesty is a way of life which has disappeared over the years of my life.  When I was a child I heard the story of George Washington saying, “I cannot tell I lie, father.  I chopped down the cherry tree.” Whether this is true or not the aim was to teach children the importance of honesty.

The devastation of lies

If you got in trouble by your parents it was more problematic if you compounded the crime with a lie.  Years ago schools had honor codes and you signed a pledge that you did not cheat on tests or exams.  Honesty is required in relationships as well and none can continue when lies are present.
An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.
Proverbs 14:5 (NIV)
Honesty is more than speech because it is a way of life far different from the world.  Jesus teaches our yes should mean yes and a no means no.  People lie to spare feelings, escape punishment or shame and so how do we live a life of honesty?  Do we give our employers a full 8 hour day?  Do we fail to help someone when it is in our power to do so?  Do we give our pastors a “fib” when he asks us to serve because we are not happy with him?  Do we give our full tithe instead of tipping God with a few dollars?

How will  you know if you are living a life of honesty?  Ask God to try your heart.  He has all the answers.

How To Refresh The Master

Thirsting from the Florida sun

Growing up in Florida we mowed lawns for money and the deal was $2 a lawn and gave half to my mother to pay Sears for the purchase of the mower.  Once she got a job from friends who lived about a mile away and we walked the mower to their house. Our jaws dropped as we saw the lawn had not been cut in at least three weeks.  It took us three days to complete the job in the hot Florida sun and no matter how much we begged Mom, she would not ask for extra money from the people. We almost cried looking at that single dollar bill since in the same time we could have mowed enough lawns to make ten dollars. 
Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master…
Proverbs 25:13 (NIV)

A trustworthy messenger–Jesus

God sent a trustworthy messenger to tell the world of himself–his Son.  His Son knew his father’s words, actions, thoughts and was the image of the Father in bodily form. He acted under God’s direction and spoke only what he was told. We see people make all kinds of statements and promises of what a particular thing can do such as the Clapper.  Those Christmas commercials of cheap commercial gimmicks get impulsive people to purchase inferior products.  Jesus as the trustworthy messenger only spoke truth.

 A Witness of the Word

The word witness in the Greek today means someone who has died for their faith–martyr.  Jesus tells us we are to be his witnesses and so all we have to do is report what we have seen. I have never seen Jesus or the wind but just as I welcomed the cool breeze cutting the lawn I did not doubt its existence.  I can see the change in me and can show others the existence of God, His Son and the Spirit by a sustained walk.  No hype! No false claims! Just the real truth and trying to be a trustworthy messenger and provide a refreshing to the One who sends me.   

Which Cross Will You Pick Up?

Three crosses on dark Calvary

When we see the image of Calvary you see the cross of Christ and those of the thieves who died beside Jesus.  In the story the one thief challenges Jesus to save them but the other thief rebukes him and turns to Jesus for help.  All three of them where under the sentence of death but Jesus died, unjustly.  The thieves are described as malefactors instead of just thieves.  Since Barabbas was to died for insurrection, it is possible to believe these two were part of the underground movement to rid Israel of the Romans.  These zealots would kill not only Romans, but are said to have also dealt with Jews who worked in unison with the gentile oppressors.

Sheep, Goats and Christ

In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks of dividing the sheep on his right side and the goats on the left.  The goats on the left were banished into eternal fire along with Satan and his angels.  The sheep are blessed and invited into the kingdom planned for them before creation.  I see the thief on the left hand of Jesus spitting hatred to the crowd and rebuking Jesus to save them without thoughts of his own actions. The one on his right side was repentant and fully aware this punishment was due him.  He knows there is no escape and he turns to this innocent man asking Jesus to remember him when he enters into the kingdom and Jesus grants his desire.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  
Matthew 16:24-25.  (NIV)

The cross of life and the cross of death

Every person faces death but some face the second death–banishment into eternal punishment.  God sent his Son to face the consequences of our sins so we may enter into the kingdom. The question we have to ask is which cross do will we pick. Like the thief on the left, not fearing God by refusing to account for our sins or asking for help, we have picked up the cross of death.  If we reject this life, accept and acknowledge our sins and need for Jesus, we have pick the cross of life.  Death is the requisite for sin and all have sinned but God’s son tells us to pick up a cross and follow him.  If the thief on the left was rescued he probably would return to the life he had chosen.  The one on the right chose Jesus instead and gained eternal life.

Which cross will you pick up?