One of Those Days

Have you ever had a day like this poor brother?  I know I have!

In his case, he wandered too close to a group of playing children and got knocked over, losing his head…  Oh yes, there are days like that!

Think about the picture… our brother who is having a bad day (really bad in fact) is giving us a clue as to how to cope; do you see it?

His gaze is upward, to things that are above!

And notice this: He really does look pretty calm, doesn’t he?  He’s had his worst day in a long time, he’s been knocked down by all that is swirling around him in this life, and yet he is calmly looking heavenward…

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

(Psalm 121:1-2)

I wonder what would happen if we lifted our eyes to the things that above before the crisis hit!

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The Narrow Door

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

(Luke 13:24)

Most everyone knows this passage (Luke 13:22-30) in which Jesus uses the metaphor of the narrow door to describe entry into His Kingdom which is not of this world.  Once the owner closes the door, no one else is admitted, no matter how much they thought they were worthy of admittance.

The clear message is that we need to do something to be admitted, and you can see this in verse 30:

“Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

If we live our lives with an attitude of selfishly holding on to our life, our own interests and our own advancement in this world, we might well be first in this life, but where will we fall when we come tor that door?  Will we even be admitted?

Self  is the great enemy of spiritual growth; spiritual growth is the building of our relationship with our Lord.  If we are stuck on self, we will not be able to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, for the two are opposites. When He says that we should “make every effort” that tells us that we have work to do.  Of course that is not to say that salvation comes by works, but rather that we must put effort into our relationships with Christ just as we must put effort into our relationship with our spouses and families.

I wonder, are we willing to be last, so that we might become the first?

Remembering John F. Kennedy

Today John F. Kennedy would be 95 years of age; hard to imagine…

Of course I’d rather be writing about how he was planning to celebrate today that having to remember him…

Mr. Kennedy inspired a Nation with his unusual blend of optimism and charm.  He affected style, fashion and the way we view government and politics in this country.  Whether you loved him or hated him politically, you always had to admit that he was witty and had class.  For those of us who were too young during his presidency to really be affected by the politics and partisanship of the time, he seems to loom over the stage as someone we’d like to have known better.

In looking back at the history and events surrounding  JFK, it strikes me as fascinating to see the mythology that has grown around him.  Some today like to claim him as the ideal of modern Liberalism and yet he was the conservative alternative to the more liberal Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 primaries.  He served as Ronald Reagan’s model for cutting taxes in the 1980’s and was Mr. Nixon’s rival for being tough on communism and national defense in 1960.

Interesting…

In any event, all politics and nonsense aside, JFK is certainly a man worth remembering, an interesting character, and a model of class in public that our current politicians would benefit from studying.

Not Forgotten

Today is Memorial Day in the USA, a day in which Americans pause to honor those men and women who have given “their last full measure of devotion” for our freedom and liberty.  All Americans, and even many others in various places around the world should pause to ask themselves what the world would be like today had these heroes not been willing to sacrifice for freedom.

I disagree with those who say that these honored dead are the source of our liberties, for Liberty comes from God.  However this in no way diminishes their sacrifice or their service.  On the contrary it could easily be argued that in defending freedom from tyranny they have been the very agents of God.

Personally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every man and woman of our Armed Forces for what they do for this Nation in difficult times and often terrible circumstances; you are all an inspiration to freedom loving Peoples everywhere.  I hope that each of us will take the time this day to reflect upon those who cannot hear our thanks and praise, for their selfless devotion  in the service of their country and of decency, peace and liberty which  must surely humble us all.

Finally, I would ask all who read this to approach Almighty God in prayer today, asking that such sacrifices may never again be required of the young men and women of any nation, that His mercy and justice would prevail on the earth for ever.

Sunday Class Notes: May 27

The Hour has Come

 

Today’s Text               John 12:20-35

Introduction

We pick up the story after Jesus has enteredJerusalem; His “Triumphal Entry”.  The news of His having raised Lazarus has spread like wildfire through the region and people are flocking to Jesus like never before, some just to have a look and others in faith.  The reaction of the Pharisees in verse 19 is classic:  “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” Yes, they must put a stop to this business, pronto!  Our text begins with some Greeks who are present for Passover who approach Phillip asking to meet with Jesus.  It would seem that they were not Greek speaking Jews, but Gentile Greeks.  Notice that they approach Phillip who goes to Andrew.  Phillip and Andrew are not only fromGalileelike these Greeks, but they have Greek names, the only two amongst the disciples.  They are “Hellenized” Jews which is to say that they have adopted Greek culture while remaining Jews.  Thus, it is believed that they took Greek names and most likely are Greek in dress and hair style.

Points of Interest

 

12:23-26            They approach Jesus with the request of a meeting and Jesus answers oddly by going straight to the subject of His impending death.  Using the example of a grain of wheat, Jesus will now teach those around him that life (eternal life) comes from death.  The use of the example of grain is designed to overcome the fact that this concept is entirely counter-intuitive to humans who have not seen the glories of Heaven.  The message is obvious in His case, now that we know the rest of the story, but the implication for us is quite serious:  Any of us who holds on to our lives in this world too selfishly will not inherit eternal life, for we will not follow Jesus at all.  This idea is seen in verse 26 where Jesus equates losing or “hating” this worldly life with serving Him and thus serving God.  Thus, we “lose” our life by serving God rather than serving ourselves.  I cannot over emphasize the importance for this in the Christian life!

12:27-28            These 2 verses reveal that Jesus was troubled by what He was about to face in going to the cross to die a horrible death.  Remember that He is both Divine and human and had the same instincts of survival that we all have.  How would you feel about things if you knew that you were soon going to be taken away for torture and death?  I would be on my way out of town! Jesus has a different response, for this is the very reason He has been brought to this point.  It is interesting that John tells us about this encounter that is begun with the arrival of the Greeks.  Maybe Jesus was tempted to go off with them and take His message to a whole different audience to avoid His date with the cross… In any case, He will not be swayed from His purpose, and God confirms His approval with a rare vocal endorsement.

12:29-33            The people heard the voice and stunned, await some clarification.  Jesus explains that the voice was for their benefit, so they would know that everything is going according to God’s plan.  Then, He demonstrates the point in three amazing ways:

First, the time has come for “judgment on this world”.  Since the Greek word rendered “judgment” is krisis, if we leave it un-translated, the statement would read “Now is the crisis of this world.” A crisis for this world would surely come when Jesus is murdered in front of everyone when all were aware of His total innocence.  This would expose the sin that has the entire world in its grip for all of its stinking rottenness. Second, it is the time when “the prince of this world will be driven out.”  Satan, who has the world in his pocket through their slavery to sin, will lose his grip on those who will follow Jesus, those who will be set free from bondage to sin.  Third, that Jesus will die by being “lifted up” gives His listeners the method by which all of this will be accomplished; He will die on a cross.  The result of this will be that all peoples who look to the cross in faith will see not merely a method of execution, but the means by which they can be saved from sin and death.

12:34-36            We reach a major turning point in Johns’ Gospel at this point.  The crowd has come to discuss national liberation fromRome, and Jesus is talking about death and redemption.  They object and refer to Daniel 7:14 which teaches that the Messiah will be with them forever.  Jesus doesn’t engage.  He does offer one last bit of advice: Darkness is about to descend, their only hope is to believe in Jesus (“trust in the light”) which will enable them to resist the oppressive spiritual darkness, for they will become “sons of light”.  With that, Jesus slips away.  The rest of the Gospel will describe Jesus’ answer to the question they have posed: “Who is this Son of Man?”

Quiet Lives

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

(1Thessalonians 4:11-12)

What great advice! Paul’s instructions here need little amplification from me or anyone else, but I might just add this…

Leading quiet lives is out of fashion these days with tweets, texts and people sounding off all the time.  I used to tell my kids that their friends don’t need to know about every little thought that passes their consciousness.  Of course teenagers tend to think their parents don’t know anything and they texted or posted or spoke frequently, and frequently got a face full in return… Hardly an example of leading a quiet life.

Back in Paul’s time, working with your hands would refer to someone who was self-supporting and not dependant on others.  It didn’t mean that they work in a factory as opposed to an office, for neither existed at the time!

Most importantly, the result of his instruction is that we maintain a good reputation in the community so that we reflect well on the Gospel we preach.  Boy, does this ever apply to us!

Living in this way allows us to focus our attention where it needs to be focused; on our relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is our hope, not this world.  He is the center of our beings, not gossip and social media.  He is the reason we are on this planet, not making millions. It is this understanding that is step one to a peaceful and satisfying life!