Seek Jesus

September 25, 2017

I remember very clearly my first encounter with “style” in elementary school… I was in 1st grade. I’m fairly sure that I had not spent one moment of my very short life up to that point worrying about or caring about what I wore. (This proves that things come full circle.) Whatever happened to be in my dresser or strewn about on the floor of my room went onto my buff, 6 year old, Arnold “Schwarzenegian” body.  At some point, not too far into my first academic year, I noticed that I was the only boy in my class who was wearing suspenders. (I know… you need say no more.) All the other boys had belts.  I began to feel peculiar about it, so I went and asked my dad if he would buy me a belt.  I don’t remember his exact words but they were something like, “No, you have a perfectly good pair of suspenders, you don’t need a belt.”  Keep in mind that my father’s generation thought much more about “functionality and finances” than they did about their children’s social status.  So I spent the remainder of that year as a first grade pariah with suspenders.  I guess they must have broken by 2nd grade because I have no memory of ever wearing them again.  Nor do I have any recollection of the relief or exultation that should have come with my new “rank.”

I can’t possibly know the answer to this question but I wonder how many times in my life I have put on my belt? I mean, it has to be thousands… even 10’s of thousands!  Last week I was adding to those numbers by looking into the mirror as I tried to thread my belt through the pant loops.  On most occasions I can put my belt on in the dark. Do you think I could do that by gazing at the reflection?  Not for a second.  I finally had to turn away and allow my hours and hours of experience over the past… well, post-1st grade years… to take over.

Sometimes when the truth seems to be right in front of us, it’s only a deceptive reflection. The real truth is just the opposite of what we think.  Too often in the faith, I fear we accept the “deceptive reflection” without seeking after “real truth.”  We just allow ourselves to operate on “spiritual auto-pilot” doing things the way we always have; not realizing that the faith for believers is about our constant transformation; continual morphing.

I wonder how many Christians would say they do their best to follow the teachings of Jesus and yet they have not cracked open a Bible since I last wore suspenders? They are simply doing and believing what they always have.  Keep in mind that this is not about a guilt trip over whether you are reading your Bible.  I am asking this question.  How can one possibly know what the “truth” of Jesus is if we are not becoming more and more familiar with what He said?!  I think the answer is obvious.

A few verses about “truth.”

John 8 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Luke 20:21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 John 1:17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I wonder how many things we have believed in our lives that we have considered to be bedrock, indisputable truth, only to discover they are not true at all? I can remember one silly thing.  When I was 5 years old, I spent Monday-Friday with my grandmother who lived next door to us.  Both of my parents worked and my older sisters were in school.  On one occasion I was chewing gum and I grew weary of it so I swallowed it.  My grandmother took that opportunity to tell me a story (as grandmothers are wont to do) about a little girl who swallowed her gum all the time.  She died and when they cut her open they found that she was full of gum!  Needless to I say I immediately quit swallowing my gum and it was years before I knew this story to be untrue.  Need I even mention more substantial things like the earth being flat, or the sun orbiting the earth?  Or more mundane things like, “Eat your bread crust and it will give you curly hair.”  Or (my mother to me) “eat your peas and it will put hair on your chest.” 🙂

WE AS “BELIEVERS” MUST CONTINUALLY SEARCH FOR THE JESUS OF THE BIBLE!!!  Not the Jesus of our childhood.  Not the Jesus of our own invention.  Not the Jesus of our own desires.  Not the Jesus of our culture.  Not the Jesus of our political persuasions.  Only the Jesus as revealed in Scripture.  There are no valid alternatives to this for Christian people.  None!  If we look elsewhere or don’t look at all, we will surely get fooled by a “deceptive reflection.”

Seek truth… seek Jesus.

Blessings.

Advertisements

Speaking out

September 22, 2017

I was born in 1954 so in the early to mid-1960’s, I was in elementary school. The Vietnam War meant little to me in those years.  I didn’t know anyone who was killed in that far away land and outside of my step father, who was a lifer in the Army, I didn’t know anyone who even went to Vietnam.  The only thing I really remember were the nightly newscasts telling us how many young men had been killed that day.  An interesting side note (and I confess I have no way of checking to make sure this is accurate so I apologize if this is “fake news”), in the mid 1960’s, the numbers of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam began to rise.  It was a PR disaster for the government, so they decided to address the problem.  What they did was simply redefine “killed in action.”  Unless a soldier actually died on the battle field, they were not included in the day’s casualties.  In other words, if one died a day or two later from injuries sustained while fighting, they were not included in the everyday statistics.  Is it any wonder that my generation struggles to trust the government or institutions in general?!  Yet, there are still those who hold to the axiom “America right or wrong.”  Um… I don’t think so.

In my relatively protected neighborhood in Gibsonia PA (with a few temporary excursions to Utah and Texas), I never saw a black person.  I knew little of the “Civil Rights Movement.”  Oh, for sure I had heard of Martin Luther King Jr., but he and the “Movement” meant little to me.  That being said I was deeply saddened when he was killed, as I was when JFK and Bobby were.  I never heard of Medgar Evers or Malcom X until I was a young adult.  (Do you know Malcom’s birth name?  Malcom Little.)  It wasn’t until adolescence and the “hormone years” that it began to dawn on me that the world was in turmoil.  Or at least the world I lived in anyway.  The Vietnam War was escalating.  The Civil Rights movement had made great strides, but as we know today there was and is a long way to go.  I remember naively arguing with my dad over whether we should have dropped the bomb on Japan.  I was 16 for heaven’s sake… what right did I have to judge his generation!?

In early 1972, I enlisted in the Navy. I didn’t actually depart for boot camp until November.  Suddenly Vietnam became much more real.  I am thankful that the war began to wind down about then, even though the fall of Saigon didn’t occur until 1975.  I never was in any danger of going to Vietnam but I met many who had been there.

Well, what I really want to point out here is that there was a great deal of anger and division in our country. College campuses were hot beds of dissent and protest.  Draft dodging, free sex, protest marches, bra burning, drugs and hippies were the order of the day.  And speaking to it all were the artists, the poets and the musicians.  Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Paxton, Barry McGuire and many more.  I have asked this question before but… where are they now?  I don’t mean the specific people mentioned above… I mean the sages of our day.  The artists who will speak for a generation.  Where are they?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I will agree with them. I am merely asking what has become of a culture where even the artists are silent?!  I suspect it’s similar to a passage found in the Old Testament book of Judges.

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

That sounds great on the surface doesn’t it? Everyone making their way along in life… making their own decisions… doing what they thought was right and “fit.”  But that’s not what was going on at all.  At least it is not what this passage is alluding to.  Here’s what was happening:  People were pursuing their own demented thoughts and passions.  It was every man, woman and child for themselves.  Chaos and anarchy reigned.  Why?  Because they turned away from God and there were no leaders.

We now live in a culture of “me first,” “I want what I want,” and “I deserve to have whatever I desire.” Consequently, there is little sense of community, or working together toward common goals.  And that applies to artists, musicians and politicians as well.  They are unable or unwilling to speak to the culture.  They are only speaking to whatever brings them their self-appointed interests.  It looks on the surface like it might be impossible for a leader to come in to this mess and move us in a positive direction.

So, what do we do? Well, I cannot speak to unbelievers.  I have no right or expectation to think that non-Christians will look to Christian standards to “right the ship.”  But for believers….  There are many verses to which we could look.  Allow me to mention only a couple from Philippians 2. Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  

We ought to be reading these verses EVERY DAY… especially v.3-4.  Humble servant hearts… I don’t see much of that these days.  I only see arrogant, angry, loud mouths (especially on the internet!).  I really don’t care to hear what you say you stand for or against.  DO SOMETHING OF VALUE AND SOMETHING POSITIVE!  Maybe we need to cease screaming out our agenda for a while and allow Jesus to shine through.  If you think this applies to someone else… you might need to think again.  Just sayin.

Blessings.

Home

September 13, 2017

Yeah… it’s been a struggle to write one of these. I have several that are ½ done but I would be embarrassed to send them.  Actually if Ellen read them (my editor) she probably wouldn’t let me post them.  Some are angry.  Some are sophomoric.  Some seem to have been written by a 3rd grader (And that is an insult to 3rd graders).  Somehow my brain has just not been “into it” for the past few months.  I don’t know what that means.  This could be the beginning of a run of weekly ruminations or it could be the last for a month, two months or…  Well, enough of that.

Like you, I have met many people in my life. And I have been through the standard conversation/getting-to-know-you moments.

  • What’s your name
  • Where are you from
  • Where are you originally from
  • What do you do for a living
  • Etc.

I am always intrigued when the answer to the third question is, “Oh my… all over.” The person then goes on to tell you a story of their history and why they never stayed anywhere for very long…  father was in the military, father’s job moved him constantly, father couldn’t keep a job, family tragedy so they lived with numerous relatives…

It occurs to me that too often they really have no place to call “home.” Their current address may be “home,” but they have no place where they are “from.”  I’m not fully sure why but there is something sad about that.  E.T. said, “No place like home.”  For many of us that is true (not for all of us).  Home is the place where significant, life altering experiences took place.  Home is where mom and dad were.  Home is where siblings were.  Home is our house.  Home is holidays.  Home is old friends.  Home is laughter.  Home can be sadness but not to be lived out alone.

I spent the first 14 years of my life in Gibsonia PA. My mother and father were there (although not married from the time I was 6… it’s a long story). My sisters were there.  My grandparents lived next door until I was 7.  I had great friends here.  But when I think of “where I am from” I don’t think of there.  I think of the place I lived from the age of 14-18.  It’s odd because my mother was gone, my sisters were gone (for the most part), my grandparents were gone and my friends that I had for 14 years were gone.  But I think of it as “home” or “where I am from” because THE most significant growth in my life happened there.  It could be that for many of us that’s the case, i.e., we change and mature more in our high school years than at any other time in life.  But almost everything in my life that is important to me came as a result of those 4 years – my faith, my wife, my kids, my granddaughter…  Again, it’s “where I’m from.”

Where are you from? What are the places and events that formed you and made you who you are today?  Your story is not my story so maybe your answer is not as simple as mine.  But it’s worth pondering.

If I asked you where Jesus was from, what might you say? Nazareth?  Israel? Bethlehem?  Well in his ministry years he was from “nowhere.” Matthew 8:20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He seemed to have no place to call home. But of course, ultimately he was from His Father.  He was from heaven.  That was His “home.”

Truthfully? It is our “home” as well.  It is the place where Believers will spend the largest amount of our “creation.”  Paul in 2 Corinthians says this:

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Awaiting the New Body

5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Sometimes we wonder why this existence is so difficult. We look at the world around us and the tragic circumstances and we ask “why”?  I think the answer is fairly simple – we are not home.  We are in a temporary dwelling place.  A day will come when those who call Jesus Lord will finally find themselves at home.  When someone asks where we are from we will say “right here.”

Blessings.