Admit it! There’s not a single one of us who hasn’t dreamed about being a kid again. We were carefree. Our only concerns were getting homework done, and trying not to get caught if we were doing something wrong. Politics was not something we cared about. We didn’t watch the news, gas prices and 401k’s were foreign. Yes, when we were kids our few responsibilities were the trash, helping with the dishes, and feeding the dogs. Life was good as a kid. But on second thought, was it?
If we wanted to go somewhere, we had to rely on a parent to take us, for example, the movies. Then we had to ask for money for the tickets, and were only given so much. We had to choose between a big popcorn or maybe a giant box of thin mints. We could only watch pre-approved movies, and heaven help us if we got caught sneaking into a theater we weren’t supposed to be in. If you grew up in a small town and you did anything wrong, your parents knew about it before you got home!!! Being a kid maybe wasn’t as glamorous as we would like to think or remember.
Israelite children didn’t have it easy either. There were specific roles they had to play in the household and in the fields. They had absolutely no rights. The children couldn’t even eat with their father. They had to eat in the kitchen with the women of the house. To say they had to depend on their parents for everything in their lives is an understatement.
The disciples still did not get what Jesus was trying to teach them at this point in His ministry. Earlier Jesus told the disciples for the first time He was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. Peter rebukes Him, and Jesus fires right back telling Peter his concerns were not on spiritual matters, but on earthly ones. He then told them they must be willing to be called a criminal by society, pick up their cross and follow Him.
After this, they began to argue among themselves. They asked Jesus who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Boy, were they competitive! Jesus summons a small child to stand with Him in the middle of a crowd – a place where no child would be allowed! He told them they had to rely on Him for all things spiritual, just as the child had to rely on its parents for its very life!
We tie our wagon to many leaders in the modern church, preferring one pastor over another or one denomination over another. In the end we will stand before our Savior, and no earthly person can stand with us. Jesus will raise us up to a wonderful inheritance. But first we must be like a child now, and completely rely on Him and His provisions.
As my mother would tell me time and time again, “Be careful who you associate with!” She was correct because as we have heard, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can all look back and remember these and many more sayings our mothers, grandmothers, and other important figures in our lives would say. I call them my “granny-isms.” I tell you, she was one wise woman.
Experts today validate what these women in our lives would tell us as we were growing up. It is said that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. This means our facial expression, our body language, and yes, those we are associated with communicate more than just words alone.
To experience this, I invite you to turn on any cable news program, especially the opinion segments, and turn the sound off. Even though we’ve eliminated the auditory words by lowering the volume, the body language of the broadcast journalist says a great deal. You can easily pick up on positive stories, those that touch your heart, and even those that spew negativity, discontent, and outright hatred.
Don’t think for a minute this is new. Pick up your bible and read in any one of the Gospels. But when you do, turn down the “volume.” What I mean by this is open the big screen in your mind and “see” the mood, the context, and the intent of those speaking.
The Pharisees confronted Jesus almost daily. I read the encounters and can see in my mind the bombastic and pompous attitude and body language they must have elicited. And when they couldn’t get to Jesus, they attacked those around Him in the same way.
Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees were tired of getting nowhere with their attacks on Jesus, so they “commanded” this man (who could now see) to appear in their presence (can you picture their smugness?).
This man had been a blind beggar his entire life. They asked him what happened and he told them facts and facts alone: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.” After he washed the mud off he could see. Then they asked him “where is this man?” This is a laughing moment. They just asked a blind man who had not seen Jesus, nor would recognize him, where Jesus was!
Try as they may, the man would not fall into the trap of saying something negative toward Jesus – something they could use in an accusatory manner to finally catch Him. Frustrated, they called his parents before them and followed up with a second summons for the previously blind man. They failed at every attempt.
Why do we despise that which we do not understand, or refuse to allow ways that are different from our own? God made us all different, but yet we are all in the same “boat”; we all fall short. God will forgive our sins if we ask Him. Let’s try to be more encouraging this week to touch lives for His kingdom!
It was this time of year when I was a young boy when hope flowed more so than the rest of the year. The Christmas catalogs began to populate the mailbox, and the hardware store began to put up decorations in the store windows. Even the little town where I spent much of my childhood began to put decorations on the lamp poles lining main street. It was a sign of the fast-approaching holidays and all the celebrations and parades to come.
I remember one Christmas season vividly. Christmas day had come and gone, and the family was standing in the airport. The mood of the family matched the cold, rainy, and dreary weather outside. My father was about to board a plane for his first deployment to Viet Nam. As the oldest son, he pulled me aside away from my siblings and charged me with taking care of my mother , my brother and sister. It was a heavy responsibility for a ten-year-old boy. But my father whispered words to me that I’ll never forget; he said, “I’ll be back son.” They rang in my ears day after day, week after week, and month after month until his return a year later. His words gave a young man hope.
It seems there are very few sources of hope these days, with all the turmoil in our nation and even around the world. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, a day in which pride and admiration abound to those who are and have served. But we need a sense of hope daily in our lives.
Pets sit patiently in windows, waiting on the return of their owners. And when they see the car pull into the driveway or hear their voice, excitement fills their entire bodies! They even have hope in an event; one over which they have no control. We can take a big lesson from our pets.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, scripture says two men in white appeared beside the apostles. The apostles stood and watched as Jesus rose from the earth and disappeared into the clouds, no doubt with the mouths wide open! These two men asked them a very pointed question – “”Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”
After all they had been through in recent weeks and months, their hearts had to filled with hope. They had been on a roller coaster of emotions, but they stood there witnessing a physical act of their Savior ascending into the clouds. The words of these two angels gave them hope.
Jesus is coming soon. His words should give us all hope, a hope in glory. Revelation 22:20 Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We need to prepare daily for this promise to be fulfilled!
A word that can bring fear into students everywhere at any level – STUDY! Teachers and professors do their best to convey subject matter during classroom time, but work outside the classroom is needed to be successful. But try as they may, the professor just can’t get some students to understand it’s important to not only study classroom notes, but to also read the book!
Don’t think for a moment text books and instructional materials aren’t read. Students who are driven to achieve graduation honors will digest every page in the text. Professors will even pull one or two questions out of the text to place on test to reward those students who heed the warning to study. And of course, let’s not forget those professors who write their own textbook. They want a return on their investment of time and research to compile a tool for learning; to teach as much as they can to the students in their class.
I heard about a high school history teacher admit to his students “eighty percent of everything I told you in class is true, and the other twenty percent is made up!” The reason he admitted to this is history is elusive and no one has all the facts. Therefore, subjectivity comes into play in an attempt to fill in the gaps. History is like a paved road which has some of the pavement missing. We can see the trail, but some of the surface is gone forever from point A to point B.
Can the same be said about the Holy Bible? Some say it has been embellished in places and true in others. But how can we know if this is correct or not? To determine what the Bible is, we have to say what the Bible is not.
First, the Bible is very philosophical, but it is not a philosophy book. The Bible contains proven historical facts and events, but it is not a history book. It contains laws under which the nation of Israel was to live, but it is not a law book. It contains scientific facts as proven by leaders in the scientific field, but it is not a science book. The Bible is a book given to man from God revealing His Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Christ is the center and circumstance throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
There is so much more that can be said about what the Bible is and what it is not. Suffice it to say, it is a difficult book to fully understand. But if we agree it was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then one inarguable point remains – it is a spiritual book, one which can be best understood or discerned spiritually.
To read the Bible as an academic text is altogether possible. However, if we approach it in this fashion, we miss the intent of it, which is to come to a greater understanding and relationship with the creator of the universe – our Heavenly Father.
So get into the “Text” and study! We can learn a great deal in the “classroom” on Sunday mornings. But the Author wants us to study every day, and prepare us for the ultimate graduation to a place Jesus has personally prepared, and receive the riches stored up for us!
For the past 200 plus days I have been on a journey. I haven’t talked much about it, but right after Easter I made a decision to live a healthier life. Not only had there been little scare with my blood pressure, but I was tired of not being in optimum health. I had two vices that I needed to say farewell too; Diet Coke and Sugar. My dependence on these two things played a vicious role in my fully being my best self. I knew that it was time to say farewell to these habits. I had to start somewhere and so I picked the most evident.
The past seven months have been challenging, even hard at times…and yet it has been enlightening and encouraging as well. I have prayed for God’s strength like never before. I have had to learn to speak truth to what I am feeling. There have been days that my reflection of the past has brought gut wrenching tears as I realized how much of myself I have given away to harmful habits. But I have also learned that I can’t change the past…there is nothing to gain by beating myself up over the bad choices I have made…I can only correct myself from this point forward and give way to learning new habits.
This journey I have been on, and will continue for the rest of my life, has been more of a spiritual journey than ever being about a diet. The word “diet” is a bad four-letter word for the most part. We often talk about going on a diet, or blowing our diet…but the truth is that our diet is what keeps us alive. Food is fuel that gives us what we need to live and breath in this world. But so is prayer, silence, scripture, worship, community, love, grace, forgiveness…all of these are part of a healthy life of faith. A healthy diet in mind, body and soul give us the fuel we need to live life to its fullest.
While I have lost a sizable amount of weight, I have gained so much more in understanding myself and why I do the things I do. Putting perspective on the reactions I have to life and the curve balls it throws has been eye-opening. Giving God the space to speak into the whole journey has made all the difference. I have learned to treat myself with compassion, move outside my comfort zones, and to not let the past define my future. I may have lost pounds of weight, but I have gained a whole new lease on life. In fact its really more about what I have gained than what I have lost. I’m not missing those things at all.