Live for eternity – it’s different than living forever…

Oct25Msg

“Is this for Bob?” I stopped and asked the woman and young man shoveling dirt into the grave at a cemetery I was riding past on Monday. They responded that it was and said nothing else as I informed them I had worked with him for a few years. I had been told he had passed but had not stayed up on service dates and was not asked to officiate. I remained a minute or two in silent contemplation and rode away.

I returned home tired and hungry after 30+ miles of dirt road riding and Agathe mentioned we had some brats needing to be grilled so as the sky was clearing with a brief glimpse of sun over the last week of rain, I just pulled on a warm hoody and split wood for the fire. I was crumpling up the local newspaper to start it when I noticed an entry in the obituary…

My heart sank recognizing the picture of one of our members from a group Agathe and I minister with every other Sunday at a nearby retirement home. This gentleman was one of the “pioneers” who turned his walker around and sat down to celebrate the Word together with about 6 other folk three months ago. He was absolutely, sincere, encouraging, supportive, and appreciative. I had noticed the last month and a half he was weakening but had no idea for his bright smile and quick mind upon meeting him that he was in his 90’s! Immediately warm and likeable, I was moved by thinking he won’t be with us again… …in earthly worship.

Here is the deal – life is short – but don’t take my word for it…

A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord.

And so it is with people…” Isaiah 40:6-7

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:14

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalm 39:5

Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. Psalm 90:10

Anybody here today over 80 years old?

Did you know you were defying the Bible????

Actually, I am SURE in this instance God is fine with that!

But, the fact remains, life IS short!

Granted it can be filled with the occasional day that seems to never end – but in the big picture, most of us will agree, life is short and time can fly!

I think there are two philosophies we can approach this phenomenon with: We can lament each tick of the clock as a harbinger of our inevitable demise, or we can live each moment in the quest to fulfill God’s good and perfect will.

We can lament, “WOE IS ME – ANOTHER CANDLE ON MY BIRTHDAY CAKE – WHICH THE DOCTOR SAYS I CAN’T EAT ANYWAYS!”

Or…

We can sing, “THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE. WE WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.” (Psalm 118:24)

Which are you?

Which of these two types of people do you prefer to be around?

Which of these two types of people make better evangelists?

You see the Psalmist in Psalm 118 is prophesying about God-incarnate in Jesus the Christ! He is looking forward to the day when the Teacher from Galilee redeems humankind via being rejected to the point of death and subsequent resurrection!

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. Mark 8:31

And as heartbreaking as Christ’s suffering was…

His resurrection offers us the hope of eternity, reconciled to God by Christ himself!!

Christ inquired of Martha’s understanding at the raising of her brother Lazarus…

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25

This is where we often falter because we think it ends in belief and neglect the necessity of LIVING IN JESUS!!!

The demons Jesus cast out in his early healing ministry believed and declared Jesus to be the Son of God and Jesus silenced them! How silent are we? Speaking to the religious leaders of his day Jesus informed them of the celebration of their faith RIGHT WITH THEM – but they missed it!

 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” John 8:56-58

WE CAN’T MISS IT!!! We MUST celebrate with the I AM while we still are!

Shouldn’t our very lives rejoice – not only in the hope of eternity – but also in the relationship we get to enjoy RIGHT NOW LIVING IN CHRIST whose very arrival the prophets foresaw with joy?

Closing Thought

A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,

but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:6-8 NLT

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

He existed in the beginning with God. 

God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
John 1:1-4

So who cares if we feel like we might be “over the hill” – with God doing most of the pedaling shouldn’t we just enjoy the ride?

I even think God doesn’t mind if we occasionally take our feet completely off the pedals and laugh in the pure celebration of this life and the life He created to come!!

 

Advertisements

What’s best?

IMG_0443.JPG

“Hm?” I pondered rolling the final batch of last night’s 40 hotdogs on the grill, “These will be ready in…5 minutes,” and I held up the wide-spread fingers of my hand just to let the little girl know we could count those minutes down pretty easily. She smiled, barely as tall as the bottom of the grill, and walked off a short distance still holding her folded slice of bread.

“You don’t have to go away,” Kathy encouraged, “You can wait right here.”

The tot came back over slowly step by step as the minutes passed quickly and I was pleased to place a golden hotdog in the outstretched bread in the girl’s hand. She contemplated it for a time, clear she was envisioning added options for the plain edible she had just procured. The catsup and mustard were a short distance away on the picnic table under the pavilion and when I directed her there it was immediately obvious she was a bit intimidated by the half dozen boisterous youth occupying that space…

“DOMINIC!” I shouted to the loudest ringleader at that moment. His head went on a swivel immediately shocked he was hearing his name but his reaction indicated he wasn’t unused to hearing it being yelled out, “help this girl put catsup and mustard on her hotdog!” Apparently the positive request was such a surprise to him he leaped up, spun around, and promptly tripped over the leg of the picnic table and ended up lying on the cement slab floor of the pavilion. His floundering was a sight to see and everyone busted out laughing – himself included.

Except a young lady who rolled her eyes behind big stylish sunglasses. “I will help you,” she declared and placing her hand gently on the small girl’s shoulder guided her to the table where the prized patiently awarded hotdog was embellished to the child’s liking and all was well.

According to the weatherman we shouldn’t have been there at all. Rain was forecast almost all week with a brief respite from the abundance of precipitation granted on Tuesday. “Looks like we won’t have the park Wednesday,” my wife declared placing an epic amount of faith in the 8 day forecast. However the day was near perfect with a big blue sky and 70 degree high temps! Save for a cool sweeping strong west wind it was nearly a perfect day and everyone made comments to that effect!

Even so, we did not have a huge crowd of youth and some newer faces were among our regulars. The new group sat together goofing around happily listening to music (yeah I know calling it “music” is often a stretch these days) until a rather lyrical piece came on where the female artist sang emotionally about wanting the best for you…

MY GOODNESS!!

These young ladies suddenly poured their hearts out singing word for word with the professional performer! And this wasn’t some easy little ditty – it was a soaring impassioned plea and these girls hit every note and knew every word as if they had penned the poetry themselves… It reminded me of a Dylan lyric because it was being lived out in front of me…

And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you

And these girls could care less who was listening! They belted out the entire song like the plight of their very souls hung in the balance of letting EVERYONE know they wanted the BEST for them!

Honestly it shook me!

You see what they had been listening to was the youthful norm of fast paced rap so quick you almost have to be hypnotized to catch every word and when you do – you wish you hadn’t as much of it is coarse, vile and profane but this song they joined their hearts with was almost Classic Hymnesque.

Why would such a song strike a deep vibrant chord with them?

Because when it is all said and done – from the core of our heart of hearts – no matter how wild, boisterous or rambunctious we can be at times don’t we all want what’s best for ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, our community? Shouldn’t we all be in harmony, belting out an aria of soaring magnitude…or if you are musically challenged like me…at least humming along with the score which encourages the best for everyone?

Maybe you have some wide angle, sweeping blue sky vision no one could possibly forecast – and the power to get that done…

WELL??? GO, GO, GO!!!!

Or maybe you are just willing to place your hand on a child’s shoulder and gently guide and direct them?

And by the way that same guiding girl in the stylish sunglasses helped me chase down wind-blown Styrofoam cups more than once last night so our Skatepark looked neat and clean…Maybe wanting what’s best for everyone starts with a servant’s heart?

She sure could sing!!

STRONG Ladies…

Mothers Day 2019.JPG

Don’t tell me the Bible is in short supply of great ladies and strong mothers!

About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River… Exodus 2:1-3 NLT

Moms how do you let us go? You must have GREAT faith!!

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:1-5

Mercy, Mary’s got some juice to initiate Jesus’ miraculous ministry! Never mind the sorrow of the empty nest Mary just jumpstarted a wild 3 year ride all the way to the cross and the empty tomb!

Mom’s you are amazing to nudge us even though it breaks your heart a little to watch us go!

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. Matthew 15:21-28

Mothers – have you ever had to fight for what your child needed?

NEVER give up – as if you need me to tell you that – because if you are earnestly imploring the Divine he will respond!

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”

As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:9-18

Moms have you ever prayed ARDENTLY for something? How did this work out for Hannah? YOUR prayers carry a weight – God hears you! Hannah does give birth to Samuel, dedicates him to physical service to God and eventually they both end up living in Ramah – so Hannah does get Samuel back too – as the voice of God for a whole nation!

 Moms, when is the last time you got to call in sick?

After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak. Mark 1:29-34

How do you feel when a high fever breaks? Do you feel like jumping up and cooking dinner AND THEN hosting the ENTIRE TOWN’S ILL AND POSSESSED for a healing service? Peter’s mother-in-law did and you KNOW she had to be a strong woman!

Moms you are AMAZING!!!

How about those special ladies who might not have children of their own but find themselves in a community where they fill that role for many… I wonder about…

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, I am the Messiah!” John 4:16-26

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 28-30

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!”  When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” 39-42

I imagine a few people snickered about the “Woman at the Well” telling them a man told her everything she had ever done because I bet there were a few ladies in Sychar who could do the same AND embellish on it! We know this woman had been in 5 relationships and was in a 6th but we don’t know if she had any children.

We do know she had a special relationship with the community for them to respond positively to her breathless announcement for them to join in her discernment of the Divine!

I think she was a mother to the marginalized. The go to lady when you were hurting because she could say honestly, “I understand!” AND based on her response to Jesus she seems to put a lot of stock in the ultimate answers to the big questions being supplied by the Messiah.

I bet she had a HEAP of children! DNA tests may not bear that out but sometimes moms are bigger than biology!!!

And praise God for’em!!!

Closing Thought

I officiated a Memorial yesterday and it was heavy in that both parents were present to address the completely unexpected passing of their daughter.

It was powerful in that the deceased’s daughter paid powerful tribute to her mom and ALSO her grandparents, honoring the person they raised to be her amazing mother!

Moms – you leave a mark! If you are here it will be the forged brand of faith you place strongly and rightly and gently on us!

I thank you all and honor the saintly ones who have gone before us and made sure the iron was forged in the fire of God’s refinement so faith could be shared through the generations!

 

Do you know the deal you got?

IMG_20170708_160245.jpg

“That wheel,” the man stated as I held up a vintage, Mavic 550 hub laced to a nice never ridden Mavic MA40 rim, “is an orphan.” (“orphan” in this context means a wheel does not have a matching front or rear wheel to go with it)

“That’s cool,” I responded, “I am a minister. It is my job to care for orphans!”

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:17

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

“GOOD ANSWER!” he and his partner laughed while manning their sales booth at last week’s HUMUNGOUS bicycle swap meet in Ann Arbor, “I want it to go to a good home! It can be yours for $100.”

Hm? I spun it and she rolled true and round and the mounted tire was still sticky fresh… “Now,” he sensed my hesitation, “the more you buy, the better the prices get!”

Okay, bundling bicycle goodies is a common haggling practice so I asked, “Do you have any 27.2mm seat posts?” He said he had a few among his myriad collection scattered around his large display area so I thought I would help narrow his search, “Do you have any Campy seat posts?”

“CAMPAGNOLO?” he detailed incredulously, “now you’re talking the high end stuff!”

Okay, I was wearing my stained work coverall – it’s a haggling practice of mine – so I can appreciate him treating me like I didn’t have a clue but…I was disturbed that he had to reach under the table to get his Campagnolo pieces and the whole stash was all crusty, dusty, worn, and thrown into a nondescript filthy plastic tub. I inspected a few, unimpressed by their condition and even less impressed by his willingness to negotiate a reasonable price for a seat post and the orphan wheel asking $200 for the pair.

He started to get perturbed with my conception of proper pricing and just as his agitation reached its peak I laughed, “I just bought TWO sets of CAMPAGNOLO wheels for a TOTAL of $120 and one set has tires mounted WITH the [gear] cassette.” He couldn’t deny any of that as I pointed to my brother Rob standing 6’ 7” above the crowd who had been watching my exchange and lifted up the wheels for the seller to see.

The guy’s mouth just fell open and his jaw almost bounced off the table. I shrugged and as no concession was made on his single wheel I just walked away and I can only hope the “orphan” eventually went to a good home.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Well we have available to us the Highest End – BEST of all – KING of kings and LORD of lords but do we give GOD ALMIGHTY proper place in our lives? Do we display Him rightly or do we regulate God to some dusty bin for an occasional dust-off when someone inquires if we “have any”? Do we throw God into the mix only after we find out He might help us “close the deal” or do we enthrone Him gloriously right from the start for all to see?

 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33

Rob, Justin and I strolled by another booth (Ann Arbor is the oldest and largest bicycle swap meet in the Midwest – possibly the whole country) and a vendor had an interesting old Stronglight crankset I slowed down to look at, “It’s more affordable and even better than Campagnolo!” the seller pitched.

I just laughed and kept walking declaring over my shoulder, “Funny, they ALL say that.”

He looked surprised.

Maybe I need to stop wearing my filthy coverall?

Satan enjoys presenting us with options to draw us away from the True Source of grace and mercy, new life, and the eternal embrace of the Divine in heaven! “It’s even better than Christianity and it’s more affordable!

NO!!

NOTHING is better than CHRISTIANITY!

Yes, our faith is EXPENSIVE because Christ asks for our lives in return for his already given! And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 – but the rewards of our faith are eternal and blessed!

Satan, on the other hand, just asks for your life in return for ruin, hopelessness, despair, and eternal DAMNATION! Christ warns us – “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Matthew 7:13-14

NEVER confuse God’s patience with our disobedience for “auto download” grace. I rode 58.9 miles to see our sister Helen yesterday and two thirds of that route is on rough roads. Guess what sections I like to ride? THE SMOOTH ONES! Yes I am a “work in progress” on many levels! Satan pitches his way as an easy one but the destination we reach – even before eternity with him – is calamity! If you have left the narrow way, ask forgiveness and come back to travel with Christ! He will give you the strength to cover ground over rough roads!!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Mathew 11:28-30

“THAT is a beautiful bike!” I exhaled in all earnestness as two older gents sat at their display. It is another common practice to draw people over by having a CLASSIC bike all dolled up in a stand. People do it because it WORKS and even though this Le Jeune was a bit older than the road racing machines I ride it was truly done right!

“I have owned it since 1974,” the soft-spoken man declared, “dad had it repainted and contacted Le Jeune for the original decals.” It looked better than new and I got the impression it had been his father’s bike.

Was the smiling older gent in the back corner of the booth this man’s father?

We swapped restoration stories and it turns out we had machines in common so I ventured a guess, “Would you happen to have a Campagnolo headset?” The two men looked at each other like I had just verbalized some long secret incantation and the younger one got down on his hands and knees, searched through a well-organized cornucopia of treasured parts and produced a NEVER used Campagnolo Record headset in the ORIGINAL LITTLE BOX!!

“Wow,” I uttered reverently.

And he sold it to me because he knew – I knew – what it was all about.

“Did you see the look on that man’s face when you came away with that headset?” Rob asked me, “It was like he was sending you away with one of his children!”

I surmised, “The key to getting folks to part with their treasures is ensuring them you know what it is worth, the item will be appreciated, used correctly, and respected – never abused or neglected.”

As we approach the Lord’s Table today, consider how you are doing with appreciating, using correctly, and respecting God having parted with his Child for us!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Closing Thought

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves. Interlude

God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm.
God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere.

Shouldn’t this have been our “Call to Worship”?

No, this is our CALL TO LIFE!

I read an article from Wycliffe Bible Translators where they were struggling with the English phrase “broken spirit” from David’s lament in Psalm 51 where he realizes God’s desire for us to make this a worthy sacrifice. Long deliberation on how to bring that into context for the native tongue Wycliffe was working in resulted in this definition…

“All my breath glorifies the Lord,” with the surrounding translation being, “The acceptable sacrifice with which to come and offer God is viewing one’s breath as nothing.”!!

I believe when we WORSHIP rightly in Spirit and Truth the contemplation of ALMIGHTY GOD should leave us BREATHLESS!!

And we should not reserve this joyous practice for Sundays alone…

And we should NEVER have to dust off our AWESOME GOD when people come looking for Him!!!

AND that little box with the Campagnolo headset? It’s empty – I am already using it!!

 

Prayer for the Bread

Lord of our lives… You held NOTHING back to ensure us the gift of grace.

As we give thanks for this bread representing your body…

May we renew our commitment to hold NOTHING back from you.

Amen

Prayer for Cup

Why would the King of kings, the spotless Lamb of God, the Word by which ALL came to be…

Why would YOU die for me?

This cup represents Christ’s shed blood…

A sacrifice proving our worth in His eyes.

May this cup stir us to live like we KNOW IT!!!

Amen

 

What makes the news?

38752163_2070324796320764_8911705106500550656_n

“I want to ride,” the little guy paused gazing out into the Skatepark, “like THOSE guys!” I had just offered him a hotdog off the grill but he was focused on the athletics of the evening as he straddled his BMX bike at the edge of the park.

“Jeff!” I shouted to one of our most proficient riders (he’s in this picture), “come over here for a minute!”

Jeff rolled over grinning.

“Hey this is…” and looking at the young boy waited for him to share his name but…

“ISAAC!” Jeff declared laughing, “Me and Claten and some other riders are going to start coming down here on Saturday mornings and teaching young riders some tricks!”

The new little rider appeared to have a shaft of warm embracing light come straight down from heaven and envelope him!

HOW COOL IS THAT?

Jeff is upright and I trust his influence to be a positive one!

“The park is coming back to life!” I announced to my friend Dylan as he sat next to me on his skateboard after 40 dogs got served up.

“I kind of wish it wasn’t,” he half grinned. I had to grin too as the majority of the 20 plus youth were basically hanging out and just enjoying each other’s company – on the Skatepark equipment! Dylan is a serious skater and can often be found skating the park by himself or with one or two like-minded skaters. I think he skates like I ride my bicycle – to sort out life.

“Yeah,” I laughed observing about six people lounging on a certain piece of gear, “I thought after we modified the ‘Poser’s Perch’ people wouldn’t just sit on it! This generation doesn’t even know we call it that and yet…”

Dylan grinned.

Then he shared about a young man who came through the Skatepark earlier and brandished a knife in a threatening way. When he was discouraged for this action the knife wielding guy announced he was going to come back with a “Glock” (handgun).

Mercy! I miss all the good stuff! I rode away from the church following our Men’s Lunch Discussion Group and dropped by the Skatepark on my full carbon time trial bike (the mechanical minded guys like to investigate it) to see how many hungry souls were there and returned only half an hour later with my grill supplies. In that short window of time this incident occurs!? I guess the police responded and everything was settled but how curious this would be a late evening revelation and not the BIG news of the day. Have we become that jaded or was it just some trash talking punk pulling out his lock-blade to feel all gangsta? Don’t know – wasn’t there – hope I will be the next time.

“I am concerned about older age guys hanging out with underage girls down here and smoking in front of younger kids and oh by the way some guy pulled a knife on that kid in the orange shirt and then said he would come back with a gun…” Is basically how it was described to me by the very calm Dylan. “They should have come to me with it instead of all following the guy down to the trestle.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “I appreciate that. Rarely does the mob make the right judgment call.”

We agreed and then Andy joined us to share about his birthing of a program to initiate the growing band of very young kids to skateboarding in our park. His daughter is already riding and some of these youngsters are her classmates! With her and Andy’s fiancé in the park a healthy window opens for parent’s to see their sprouting athletes get experienced instruction!

How cool would it be if we had to have a signup sheet for scheduled classes in our Skatepark!!!???

If we can pull that off – WITH OUR SKATEPARK FAMILY INSTRUCTING – the odds of anyone pulling a knife GOES WAY DOWN!!!

I am EXTREMELY PROUD of our riders who CARE to share their gifts, skills, talents and VISION for OUR SKATEPARK!!! AND represent a POSITIVE DIRECTION moving FORWARD!!!

That’s what I want to make the news from our Skatepark!!!

Everyone should recognize Christ – NOW – ALIVE!

France 2012 039.JPG

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). John 20:11-16

“Teacher!” – What an incredible way to be recognized in such a moment. Of all the myriad names by which Jesus could be called, Mary Magdalene chooses emphatically “Teacher!”

Last week we talked about recognizing Jesus – even in the midst of trial in our lives. This week I want us to contemplate how people are recognizing Jesus ALIVE in our lives?

What does your LIFE teach people about Jesus?

When I worked as a printer and would circulate among other people “with ink in their veins” I would be asked, “Who taught you?” or “Who did you learn from?”. You see printing is a pretty tight craft and if you learned from a respected craftsman you are accepted as being learned.

Do people identify you as taught by Christ?

Do people identify the TEACHER as being alive in you by the way you move, act, and speak?

Can people watch us and declare the obvious, “Ah, you have been taught by Rabboni!”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Thomas gets graded without a curve for not remembering what the TEACHER said for Jesus plainly told his disciples what was going to happen pre AND post resurrection yet Thomas doubts the accounts of his peers having seen the Risen Lord.

One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

What did it take for you for you to BELIEVE?

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

What did it take for you to accept the living Jesus?

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Some people are “wired” to require tangible proof before they accept Christ as their Lord and God. For people who need concrete evidence a long road may lie ahead! Historians believe Thomas traveled all the way to India to share the “Good News” and was martyred there – with a spear thrust into his side!

Can people observe we have been hand in hand with the risen Christ and walk side by side with him?

Are we providing Rock solid evidence of the foundation of our faith?

Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

Do you have a “favorite” activity which provides you a deeper peace when life gets a little too disorganized and spontaneous (aka CRAZY)? Most of these guys were fishermen so… …

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it!

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. John 21:7

I believe our testimony of CHRIST ALIVE shines the brightest light when life is darkest around us!

This is the second time we know of where Peter gets out of the boat in the presence of Jesus! One time it was being called out as a test of faith in the midst of the storm – and Peter nearly drowned!

This time, Peter who only days before denied Christ three times, jumps overboard at the mere mention of Christ’s presence and appears to care less about the consequences!

Would people say we have jumped overboard for Jesus?

Would people say we have gone “all in” for the Lord?

It is believed Peter was crucified but upon that sentence asked to be hung on the cross upside down because he was SO UNWORTHY to die like his Lord… You don’t have this kind of commitment unless you have submerged in the living Lord!

This world likes to think Christians are “all wet” for our faith in the face of what they think is overwhelming odds against the Creator or Christ alive.

I hope when I meet my Teacher, my Lord, my God, I am dripping wet!

I hope my baptism in the Spirit convinces the non-believer to reconsider!

Closing Thought

Traveling around Israel I was invited to go see the empty tomb at Golgotha.

I didn’t go – because I knew there was NOTHING in there.

Can people come to that same conclusion about that place from observing our lives? Will they know the tomb is empty because of the way we live?

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought!
Job 19:25-27

I look forward to this day – I am in no hurry though – and I hope all my friends will join me in this resurrection celebration!

In the meantime I will do my best to share the FACT Jesus is RISEN by how I live my life by His grace and mercy!!

Can we recognize Christ Jesus?

Sept4bllt

Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt. Zachariah 9:9

So prophesied Zachariah hundreds of years prior to the Messiah’s arrival so I think HE would have recognized Christ because…

They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

   “Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. Matthew 21:7-10

Hm “Who is this?”?

We all in this present day want to respond – “IT IS THE MESSIAH OF COURSE!! What do you mean, ‘Who is this?’?”

But how good are we at always recognizing Christ in the various seasons of our lives?

Have you been willing to accept TRIALS in your life in the midst of healthy Divine communion to the point you no longer whimper pathetically but instead look forward to who you will be when you emerge victoriously refined and renewed on the other side? Confession being good for the soul I am whimpering…less…and learning to take the heat a bit better while burning off the dross more and more but have a ways to go to always recognize my REAL source of strength in the midst of the fire.

There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament (2 Kings 4) about a wealthy woman from Shunem who welcomes Elisha the prophet into her home as he passes by from time to time. Eventually Elisha tells her she will be rewarded with a son for her hospitality and it happens despite her amazed disbelief at the prophet’s promise.

She and her husband love the God-gifted child – but one day he accompanies his father into the field during the work day, cries out that his head hurts, and shortly thereafter dies in his mother’s arms. TRULY heartbreaking! The woman hurries off the find Elisha and we can feel her anguish in this outpouring…Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?” I won’t pretend to embellish this but can’t you feel her begging why this unsolicited blessing of a loved child should be so swiftly taken from her?

Can you blame her?

Have you ever been gifted a blessing so rich it was more than you could have ever hoped for even in the knowledge of our miraculously abundant God? In real awe you might utter, “Whoa, I didn’t see THAT coming! THANK YOU LORD!” Have you ever been blessed like that for a season – and then have that season end? We go from the height of God’s warm embrace to feeling a cold chill of perceived abandonment.

Such experiences can certainly cloud our view of the Divine or worse yet, let us drift away on the tumultuous sea of these trials! The woman of Shunem could not have been blamed if she covered herself in sackcloth and ashes and mournfully separated herself from God in her grief. But we already know this didn’t happen. She found Elisha, God’s inspired prophet, poured out her heart and…

Elisha returns with her and revives the dead child!!

As we approach the cross this Lenten Season I wonder, did Mary recognize her Son hanging dead on the cross? Tortured, bleeding and disfigured? Did she remember her Magnificat – her joyous response to the Holy Spirit’s miraculous provision of the SON OF GOD through her? She hid many things away in her heart to prepare her for the challenges of Jesus’ life among sinful men and she had to glow with pride for the stories of his wit and wisdom, healing, teaching, compassion, and mercy!! But now she is at Golgotha – the place of the skull… And her loved Son has been beaten, flogged, humiliated, and mocked …

“OH LORD WHY DID YOU GET MY HOPES UP? I DID NOT ASK YOU FOR THIS SON, ONLY ACCEPTED THIS GRAVE WEIGHT ASSUMING YOU WOULD… …” Keep Mary from at least witnessing this horrific abomination? I don’t see that as too much to ask!!! No parent should have to bury a child and if you have used that as a reason to separate from God Almighty – come back to Him – because he knows how unimaginable that pain is and longs to heal with you through right mourning and continued communion.

I think we too often lose sight of God because we never saw him – RIGHTLY – in the first place. We assume God is all conquering/protecting and faith will place us in a constant communion of blessing. We hope to always be seated at His right hand and think we have been forsaken when that seat gets hot. For far less than the witnessed crucifixion of a miracle God-child, we abandon all hope for the trials we face in this hard world. We give up too easily the battle God has already won by welcoming us as his children through His grace!

We run from the fire and never benefit from the purifying flame.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS – I know people soldiering on through dire anguish which frankly would have crushed me and am by no means simply encouraging a “stiff upper lip” when we honestly feel like our insides have been surgically removed – with a stone axe. NOT AT ALL!!! What I am asking us to do today is to make certain we recognize CHRIST in it all. Not as the author of calamity when a blessed season passes in our life but as…the one who comes in the name of Lord – ALWAYS! The Three-in-One who perfects us by grace, calls us son or daughter and GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US THROUGH THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE SO WE CAN ENJOY LIFE ETERNAL IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and draw on HIM IN OUR HOUR OF NEED!!

We ALL need to ALWAYS recognize Christ!!

Closing Thought

The woman of Shunem is kind of an obscure Biblical passage and if you wonder what her life looked like after those dramatically changing seasons we can catch this little “update” – being aware some time has passed…

Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought back to life, “Take your family and move to some other place, for the Lord has called for a famine on Israel that will last for seven years.” So the woman did as the man of God instructed. She took her family and settled in the land of the Philistines for seven years.

After the famine ended she returned from the land of the Philistines, and she went to see the king about getting back her house and land. As she came in, the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God. The king had just said, “Tell me some stories about the great things Elisha has done.” And Gehazi was telling the king about the time Elisha had brought a boy back to life. At that very moment, the mother of the boy walked in to make her appeal to the king about her house and land.

“Look, my lord the king!” Gehazi exclaimed. “Here is the woman now, and this is her son—the very one Elisha brought back to life!”

“Is this true?” the king asked her. And she told him the story. So he directed one of his officials to see that everything she had lost was restored to her, including the value of any crops that had been harvested during her absence. 2 Kings 8:1-6

This week recognize Christ, whichever season you may be in. Famine doesn’t last forever when we are faithful and it can be pretty amazing what God helps us recover when the snows of winter finally melt.

Come back next week and CELEBRATE what Mary gets back after her Son dies…

It can be a WHOLE NEW SEASON FOR YOU!!!