Rediscovering the Golden Rule

Golden Rule funnyFor the last 15 or so months, our pastor and elders have been doing a study together called Gospel Transformation by Neil Williams and Jack Miller. The lesson entitled “Incarnation” is the thirty-third of the 36-lesson study.

Incarnation is a religious term for God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ. Over time, the word has taken on a related meaning – to enter into the world of others, bringing help and grace through words and deeds.

The lesson opens with, “Jesus sums up the law and the prophets in one sentence: Do to others what you would have them do to you.”  (Matthew 7:12).

The Golden Rule, right?  The version I grew up with was “Do unto others and you would have others do unto you.”

One illustration the study poses is Mark 10: 35-52 where Jesus steps into the Golden Rule with this question posed in verses 36 and 51, “What do you want me to do for you?”

In the first situation (v. 36), the apostles James and John want Jesus to promote them to essentially a near-God status. In so many words, Jesus gently explains why he is unable to grant their desire  that, by the way, is way out of their league.

The second situation (v. 51) regards a blind man who asks to have his sight restored. Here’s how that went:

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10: 51b, 52, NIV)

I appreciate how Jesus handled this same question regarding two very different desires. The first permits me to be discerning when asking someone, “What do you want me to do for you?”  I’m not required to always give what is asked.Golen rule pottery

I confess I hold back from offering that question because I fear what might be asked of me. An exercise lists some of those objections that run through our mind:

  • That the problem will overwhelm me
  • That I won’t be prepared to do what is asked
  • That I won’t know what to say or how to respond
  • That I’ll have to keep offering again and again and again
  • That I’ll lose control of the situation

Perhaps having such objections ready means I’ve missed the point altogether?  To truly enter into another person’s situation is to take on their view and not my own. Incarnation is more about being than doing.

While I’ve messed up many opportunities to practice the Golden Rule, God has this way of giving me repeated chances to do right, like when Millie* called the other night.  Seeing her name flash on my caller I.D., a short list of those objections came immediately to mind and I let her call go to voicemail.  Guiltily, I called her back a little while later but missed connecting with her.  Seeing her in church Sunday, I apologized for missing her call.

“No problem,” she replied graciously.  “I just wanted someone to pray with me.”

“Ouch,” I thought as I encouraged her to try me again next time she felt the need. I said that knowing that next time, her need may be different but I resolved to trust the Lord to help me be responsive nevertheless.

As the story in Mark illustrates, the first step to practicing the Golden Rule is to ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Unless we ask, we never know how able we are to very easily meet someone’s need.

More often than not, discernment may determine that the most loving response is not even close to what is being asked.


‘* Not her real name

Golden Rule pottery: http://www.mountainemeadows.com/catalog/piece/the_golden_rule/

 

Set, and setting yourself, adrift

Set Adrift by Melissa Jacie (see notes)

Set Adrift by Melissa Jacie (see notes)

Recently, I wrote a note to a friend who found herself suddenly adrift after a long relationship.  “I know I can say this to you – lean into your faith.”

I knew I could say that to her because over years of casually conversing in gatherings we frequented together as members of the same group, we often talked about faith.

She made a commitment several years ago to become a Catholic.  I was impressed a young woman not raised in church would do that – to decide to pursue card-carrying inclusion in a church and then actually take all the prescribed steps.  Furthermore, how she reflected about the experience provided an easy basis for our discussions at these gatherings. I was sure she would be receptive to my invitation to lean into her faith and she was.

Next time I offer that “lean into faith” message, I hope not to let the word “faith” stand alone as much.  Faith has different meanings to different people.  The faith I wanted her to lean into is synonymous with Jesus Christ. “Lean on Jesus” would have been more what I meant to say to her – more along this verse from the book of Hebrews in the Bible.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB).

Of course, talking about faith is much easier than actually living faith out, at least without regular practice.

Since I only know her casually, I don’t really know how her conversion has shaped her life, day to day, beyond what she shared with me.  I recall my own conversion not to a particular church but to belief in Jesus.  I was profoundly changed by all-of-a-sudden coming to know Jesus in a personal manner.

I was also adrift then and Jesus sort of plucked me from the waves of vague belief and dropped me onto ground more solid.  A relationship with Jesus is that ground who we followers stand with and on.  That’s what I mean by faith that can be leaned into.

Come to think of it, being adrift, alone, lost, crippled, abandoned, persecuted, defeated, crushed, etc.  is an amazingly ideal “place” to connect and reconnect with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  If life has not cast you adrift, perhaps consider casting yourself adrift?

Think of it as an intentionally contrived setting to invite Jesus into.  Especially in today’s busy, hyper-connected world, creating an adrift-type setting and then “drifting” regularly to it involves no small effort.  If on the other hand, you’ve been set adrift unwillingly or reluctantly, try seeing it as an opportunity to trust more in the Lord.

I know this sounds crazy and unreasonable.  Furthermore, it’s hard.  But practice can transform difficult into habitual, even if not easy.

I contrived such a setting the other day to think and pray about my friend.  I prayed she is able to embrace this time to grow her faith and trust in Christ. Solid faith is great for standing on when the life’s footing gets wavy.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)


Image source site: http://melissajacie.com/set-adrift-no-worries-thoughts-thinkings/


Rescue THEN everything else

Foregiven - see link in notes for the story behind this picture

Foregiven – see link in notes for the story behind this picture

My wife and I are participating with our church in a week-long service trip in northeast Kentucky this summer. Looks like she will work on the “Project Worth” team leading a children’s program at a community center while I will be on one of several teams restoring homes in various levels of disrepair.

If you asked me why I am going, I would like to respond without hesitation that my heart moves when I encounter people in need and dropping everything to help them is as natural as breathing.

But that would not be true. Actually, I’m most inclined to be more cautious than responsive. Not a very noble picture but I’ve been thinking about it. Here’s where I am now.

It’s because I am loved and I guess love leaks out, even from the most cautious and self-centered people.  My parents were my first recollection of being loved.  No stretch to say their love was sort of bred into me and my siblings.

I know mom and dad would readily attribute their own loving natures to their faith in Christ. When I later became a disciple of Christ, I discovered that source for myself.  His love for me drew me into relationship with him.

Too bad being loved by God doesn’t automatically translate into participating in the transformative aspects of sharing God’s love.  Most Christians are familiar with the statement, “We love because he first loved us” in 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Or … “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT)

Note how God leads with love.  He loved us BEFORE he asked us to love others.  He died for us while we were STILL sinners.

Think about it this way – God rescued us THEN, … everything else.

Same goes for God’s commandments. He gave away Eden BEFORE issuing the certain fruit prohibition.  The Ten Commandments came AFTER the rescue from Egypt. And again, Jesus offered himself for us WHILE we were still sinners.

We don’t earn our way to God by any of our doing, even love.  Rather, we do BECAUSE God loved us first and BECAUSE he died for us while we were still essentially his enemy.

That’s why he can ask us without apology to love OUR enemies – because he loved us while we were still HIS enemy.  God never asks of us what he hasn’t already done.

So if God’s rescue rules everything – love, religion, rules, laws, than why aren’t Christians less known for love and more for doctrines, what they are against and who they don’t hang around with?

Good question.  Fortunately, God’s manner has not changed.  He still loves us first so we can eventually get it and be loving towards others.  And even though we profess belief in Jesus, we still sin so Jesus’ death for us while we still sin continues to apply.

And here’s an even more wonderful thought. While God’s love is how we are drawn TO him, exercising that love is also our way OUT of our own self-centeredness.  That’s why we’re going to Appalachia this summer.

I need to be loving even more than the people I may help there need anything I will do for them. Maybe I’ll help repair a leaky roof but eventually that roof will leak again.

Love is great on its own but it’s best when faith leads it.  Here’s why, as put by John the apostle. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)

To realize that God is love requires knowing God.  If you don’t know God, you won’t know where love comes from even if you practice love and benefit from it.

Now you know why the most loving, charitable, generous, patient people you who are NOT believers in Christ or God are that way.  We can’t give what we don’t already have.

While people who discount Christ may be the last to admit that how they are is due to God, imagine how cool it will be when they finally know God and understand that he is the source of the love they know.

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About the “Forgiven” painting: http://www.blackartdepot.com/products/forgiven-canvas-wall-hanging-by-thomas-blackshear?variant=935611517

 

From the Master’s Loom

Master Weaver

Master Weaver at work in my life and yours

A couple years ago, I joined a few friends meeting Saturday mornings at our church to pray.  For a quick hour (and a half?), we share the latest of our lives, situations encountered that week and then we pray about those things and for our church, the Sunday service and whatever else comes to mind.

This kind of prayer-based sharing and fellowship has anchored my walk with Christ.  In fact, I first encountered the Lord in just such a gathering of men over 33 years ago.

At last Saturday’s meeting, one of the guys (Mike) depicted the manner that God weaves our lives together as a “Tapestry,” integrating all of our circumstances and faith experiences, good, bad and ugly into a beautiful tapestry that reflects Him to others we encounter along the way.

Reminded me of a poem I wrote in 1985 that was originally entitled “Canopy.”  Last week I renamed it because, well, the new title fits the poem’s message so much better.  I share it now in honor of all the people the Master has woven into my life.

He works his craft because I matter to Him and so do you.  I see the tapestry of you and have even had a hand in it as allowed or lead by the Father.  I pray you see the same in me as well.

TAPESTRY

I prize you beyond measure

We are yarns in unison

You are a course upon the fabric

Of this tapestry, I am

 

You are such a vein within me

Less you, I’m not the same

And should life’s wear tear you from me

Some threads of you remain

 

I’m a product of who you are to me

Whether we’re sewn by blood or choice

You are woven in my sight and touch

And how I give my being voice

 

I believe that you were in the plan

When God sketched my pattern out

You are another way He shows me

What His love for me is about

 

Just think how pleased He must have been

When finally we met

In the awesome scope of what He’s made

Friendship is God’s vignette

 

How lovingly selected

Each thread, each friend, how sewn

One for accent, one for hue

One for contrast, one for tone

 

Interwoven, threads cascade

From His loom, the Master weaves

We are the products of the blending

Of what friends His love achieves

 

grt

4/1/85

(Initially written to friends and family who attended my 30th birthday surprise party on March 30, 1985. However, it has since been shared with many others along the roads of life – LIKE YOU! Originally titled “Canopy,” I renamed it “Tapestry” on 5/1/2016.)


Image source: https://textilesocietyofamerica.org/tsa_events/master-weaver-from-kutch-india-workshop/

A Vision of Home…

family_drawingThe easy part is behind you

the more delicate,

still ahead.

From the getting of the house

to the making of a home…

 

I suppose we bring the ingredients

with us

to transform this house

into home.

Over time, we carefully mix and mold

and shape

to cast ourselves into all

the spaces and nooks and crannies

until the character of our place

is synonymous

with us.

 

The best kind of home, I think,

is a haven

for its inhabitants,

a laboratory

for sifting and sorting through discoveries found outside.

From such searching,

we discover and mull over new truths.

 

A select “some” or one

of these

we work into messages

and give back again

to a world in the hope of bettering it

 

Sadly, the world is way too

twisted a place

to believe

that homes are like this for even most

of its occupants.

 

But I long for such kinds of homes

which make possible

meaningful transitions

that allow the molding and nurturing

that’s necessary

for people to live up to their design

and purpose.

 

This is a vision for home –

a place of refuge

where transitions occur,

 

from chilling to warming,

from shocking to emerging,

from hurting to healing,

from noise to quiet,

from crowding to unfurling,

from deception to honesty,

from bursting to maturing,

from forcing to choosing,

from isolating to accepting,

from stripping to discovering,

from alienating to accepting,

from pacing to resting,

from dying to living…

From “out there” to “in here”…

 

Home…

a refuge, a haven,

for transitions…

 

g.r.t.  10/15/99

Life: Not later, NOW! (Re-post)

benchedLast week, my wife and I attended a Mercy Me concert. Most of the songs and messaging between songs regarded their latest CD, “Welcome to the New” released in 2014. 

Do you think it odd for a premier band like Mercy Me to devote a two-month tour to feature a 2-year old record?  While not exactly an album-release, the between songs comments  by lead singer Bart Millard emphasized the importance they held for  the record’s main message – that no matter how we feel about ourselves, our conduct or standing as Christians, we are in fact redeemed and acceptable to God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”(Revelations 21:5, ESV)

Is that crazy or what?  Welcome to the New!  I for one am so glad Mercy Me decided to come to our town to share this great message once again.

Which got me thinking about resurrecting an older message of my own. First posted in June, 2013, I offer a message that will never get old.

——————————————————————————–

“I have come that they (read: you) may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV).

 I’ll bet this statement by Jesus is one of my pastor’s favorites.  It certainly enjoys a prominent place in his messages and life.  He “walks the talk.”

 “Practical discipleship” is another form of walking the talk – tracking with God through all life’s ups and downs. While I aspire to live this way, I tend to get into a funk now and then. I look in the mirror and see someone preoccupied with setbacks.  It’s like I’m stalled at Part A of Jesus’ declaration…. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;…” (John 10:10a, NIV).

Jesus’ entire statement, parts A and B are:  “(A) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; (B) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV).

 Life to the full.  Part B.  Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it?  Hear what Jesus is saying here.  “I have come that they may have….”  Jesus attributes “life to the full” as something he brings, as associated with his arrival.

Conversely, my tendency is to replace Jesus with myself like I have much to do with causing “life to the full” to happen.  That way, “life to the full” is tied to me attaining certain milestones like overcoming a sin habit, securing a new “calling-type” job, being a better husband and father, responding to needs around me….. I could to on and on and on.

 When I live this way, I rarely see a man living life to the full when I look in the mirror.  Too often I see a man not quite good enough, who perennially rides the bench, a man who practices with the team but sees real action only sparingly.

 I forget that “Life to the full” here, today, now, was what attracted me to Jesus 30 years ago. Jesus’ way and manner dawned on me as a whole new revelation, one I’ve held to ever since – even when I fail to live it out.

 Having been raised in a churched home, I already knew that faith in Jesus offered rescue from sin and eternal life in heaven after death.  But what sealed the deal for me was the LIFE NOW part – what Jesus simply called The Kingdom.

 “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Jesus, Matthew 10:7, ESV)

 Proclaiming the Kingdom, the realm of God as near, present, having come, at hand, is a dominant theme of Jesus’ message captured in the Bible. Wrote Dallas Willard in his superb book, The Divine Conspiracy, “To be sure, that kingdom has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the Anointed, only from the time he became a public figure.”

Simple confidence in Jesus requires taking myself out of the center to make room for Jesus to occupy that and all my spaces.  It sounds so simple and it truly is.  But I tend to heap layers of  complexity to it.  The result is the same as benching myself.

 But Jesus is running the show and he’s very clear that he not only wants me in the game, he’s got a place just for me.

How cool is that?


Notes:

Photo source: www.lawvisionphoto.com

New cover, same message

bulletinA new bulletin cover greeted us at church last Sunday.  The headline “Real God. Messy People. Changed Lives.” was followed by our slightly refreshed church mission.

The cover and messaging signified a new focus of sorts that our leadership has been thinking and praying about for nearly a year. In addition to the leader meetings, the congregation was invited to join the conversation, our pastor kept everyone in the loop during Sunday announcements and even devoted a sermon series to it.

The focus?  Oh yeah, discipleship.

I can almost hear you wondering, “Discipleship? What’s so new about discipleship that would involve a year of deliberation by your (or any church) leadership?”

What’s new for us about discipleship? Well, nothing and everything.

“Nothing” because discipleship is at the heart of the Jesus’ mission for His church.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “(Matthew 28:19, NIV) is the part of what Jesus had to say about discipleship that is most often cited for this topic.  Less often cited is the rest of what he said, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (v. 20)

We generally assume making disciples as helping people to come to belief in Jesus Christ.  But after belief occurs is where the second part kicks in – teaching observance of Jesus’ teachings and connecting with and allowing this connection to flow through us as we live the life he gives and allows for us.

We selected a few conduits for how discipleship expresses in us – Worship, Learn, Serve and Share as well as two focuses for these expressions: Proximity and intentionality.

Discipleship is simply not a solo sport.  Ultimately, it involves both engaging with others and being intentional when we do.

As pondered all this, we realized how difficult and unnatural true discipleship is, so much so that the Lord insisted we rely on him every step of the way. That’s where the “everything” part of what’s new about discipleship comes in.

Everything is new when we decide to not do what comes natural.  Even committed believers and followers of Christ find themselves in a new place when we really “get” this element of God’s discipleship equation..

Our inclination is to use our “God-given brains” to figure out how to proceed.  But if we do that, we are going against how God instructs we use our minds – to focus on Him.

“...think about these things. (see Philippians 4:8) … “Set your minds on things above….” (Colossians 3:2) …. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. (Isaiah 26:3) ….Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23).

Go ahead and look that up some more.  Scripture goes on and on and on about this.

We realized the challenge of this very early on so we took our time to let God lead us through it.  By waiting on Him.  Even as we finally step out now with this new cover, we are proceeding slowly.

solar energy

Gathering and concentrating the light.

On the one hand, this version of discipleship is the same message our pastor has been sharing ever since his arrival eleven years ago. Perhaps what we are taking on is more like concentrating the light that has been gathering all along to move beyond a general warming.

More like ignition or, more accurately, a more widespread state of igniting?

Seems like, sounds like the same message but really, it’s not.  Maybe the attention-getting new cover will help get that across.

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1, Image source: http://www.technologystudent.com/energy1/solar1.htm

 

Best practice to realign from dour to Sweet!

Adjusting a treadmill - just a little turn is needed.

Several smaller turns is better than fewer larger ones to realign a treadmill.

We are grateful to have a 2006 Landice L8 treadmill in our basement.  Given to us by a family member who prefers running outside, my wife and I use it almost daily.  It’s a heavy duty machine that requires virtually no maintenance except to keep an eye on belt alignment.

As the belt wears, it may drift from center. If not realigned, the belt edge rubs against one of the sides.  Two bolts at the end of the belt are for correcting such a drift.  Slightly turning both bolts is all that’s needed to restore belt alignment.

Sounds easy but if we allowed the drift to get severe, over-adjusting can lead to other problems that require a service call..  Funny how getting off just a little can really mess things up. Better to attend to regular minor adjustments than to allow a gradual drift that becomes difficult to recover from.

Recently, my attitude needed realignment. A situation at work got to me and I was a little short when my colleague invited me to consider a more positive perspective. I confess I  took a dim view of the matter and her “can-do” approach rankled me.

I was short with her and felt remorseful about it later on.  That night, I turned to prayer and my Bible for some perspective and didn’t have to look very far.

God has quite a lot to say to His people about shaping our thoughts that in turn under gird our attitudes.  While we are inclined to allow circumstances color our outlook, He insists we take our cues from Him.  This is one of those areas where the Bible is prolific with guidance.

The apostle Paul wrote extensively on this topic. To the Philippians, he advised,  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 2:5) “ whereas to the Thessalonians he emphasized, “...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18, NIV)

Attitude-shaping is not accidental but something we pursue in concert with the Holy Spirit.

Said Jesus, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 33-34, NIV)

I don’t know for sure but I bet my colleague is intentional about the influences she exposes herself to. I do know she is disciplined about her food intake and I’d be surprised to find that she is an aimless television watcher.

I know I’m not as diligent as I should be regarding my own day to day intakes.  Lack of discipline goes against God’s guidance to dedicate ourselves to seeking Him to assure a mindset that is in alignment with His will.  Furthermore, being diligent keeps us on guard against the “Big 3” spiritual enemies of God – the world, the flesh and Satan.

For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16, NIV)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

And get this – God strongly advises against us doing this alone.  That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer.

the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (from Romans 8:26) … Said Jesus about the Spirit, “he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)… And, “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:20)

I’m grateful to my colleague (and friend) for hanging in there with me and I’m even more grateful to the Lord for speaking to me through her. In God’s hands, a helping friend can be just the right tool to lovingly make a much-needed adjustment.

If we maintain along the lines God provides, guides and empowers, getting back on track from dour to Sweet! only requires a minor adjustment.

An Answer that Matters

question markEaster for me marks succumbing more than 30 years ago to God’s persistent invitation to walk out life with Him. While I shudder to imagine negotiating life without the Lord lighting my way, 2016 years after Christ, the people of the world are as divided as ever about faith.  As a matter of fact, the ideological battle of East vs. West that religious belief is the not so silent partner of is still front page news.

To think that this all started with an unnecessary family feud beginning 4,700 years ago.  Recall Abraham’s cataclysmic faux pas to manipulate fruition of God’s promise that he and wife Sarah would bear a son to father a great nation. Doubting that possibility due to advanced age, he and Sarah instead arranged for offspring to come through Sarah’s maid, Hagar. While unloved by Abraham, Hagar nonetheless bore his first son Ishmael, eventual father of the Arab nations.

Ishmael became a man of the desert, with a wild and hostile attitude toward people, exactly as God described him to his mother before he was born:

“The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16:11-12 NIV).

To his credit, God barely blinked at Abraham’s duplicity. Abraham and Sarah did bear a son, Isaac from whom arose the nation of Israel. When an indignant Sarah insisted Abraham part ways with Hagar and Ishmael, God graciously intervened for the banished duo:

“God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:12-13 RSV)

Here the Bible parts ways with Ishmael to focus on Israel and to seed history with hints of a Messiah.  Two thousand years later, the prophet Isaiah foresaw how Messiah: “will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4, NIV)

Another 2016 years have passed since that prophecy was partially fulfilled in Jesus Christ and we are farther than ever from the “swords into plowshares” ideal.

According to a Pew Foundation study in 2012, 84 percent of people worldwide claimed some kind of faith but are divided as to what they actually believe in. 32% of people identify as Christians, 23 percent as Muslims, 15 percent Hindus and 7 percent Buddhists. Trends show Muslims gaining and nudging into the lead after 2050.

While the story of Easter matters to Christians, is it making a difference with Christians or anyone else?  Do doctrines of belief factor into the rule of the world?

I suppose that depends on how leaders interpret their ideology and how that interpretation guides their day-to-day actions and decisions.

Would a Christian object to being measured against the Bible we hold so dear?  If so, how are we doing? Are 32% of people worldwide really Biblically guided, ruled and inspired?

What about Muslims? Is Holy War a true expression of Islamic jihad or a misrepresentation?  What about sharia with regard to free speech, rights for women and non-believers of Islam?  Is the problem with the people or the doctrine?

Recall the alignment of Christianity with the atrocities of the Crusades. Would a true interpretation of the Bible defend or condemn those Crusades?  Again, is the problem with the people or the doctrine?

Know that the God of the Bible sees conduct that disregards His supremacy and/or causes injustice to anybody Somebody thinks a Nobody as problematic.  If anyone is a Somebody, God is.  Yet his son Jesus was regarded as a Nobody by the self-appointed Somebodies in his time.

According to the story, Jesus took the rap that was laid on him.  By crucifying him, the Somebodies thought they solved the Jesus problem.  Except when three days later, all Heaven broke loose.

The Nobody became a Somebody.  And when he did, a new hope dawned for all Nobodies ever.

So I ask again, are our problems due to people or doctrine?  I think how we answer really, really matters.

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  1. Image source site: https://www.leadertreks.org/question-youth-ministry-matters/
  2. Worldwide Pew Foundation Study, 2012: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/watercooler/2012/dec/23/84-percent-world-population-has-faith-third-are-ch/
  3. Some of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac’s story drawn from a post from “ Daily Bible Study” – http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/20020120.htm
  4.  Islam–Facts or Dreams? by Andrew C. McCarthy in Hillsdale College’s “Imprimis” – February 2016 lhttp://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/islam-facts-or-dreams/

We Had No Idea

[I am pleased this Maundy Thursday to have permission from by my dear friend, Robin Schmidt to share this beautiful narrative she wrote that Pastor Doug Walker included in his own message at Grace Chapel on Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016.]

Palm Sunday…a narrative from the perspective of one of Jesus’ closer followers…as I imagine he might have told the story based on narratives from the four gospels…

Often, we think we know what’s happening…we lean on our own understanding, our own perspective…only to find out…

We had no idea…

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We knew what every good Hebrew boy knew…we knew God’s law, we knew the questions to ask on the night of Passover…we knew Messiah would come and establish David’s throne forever.

And like every Hebrew had been asking for hundreds of years we wondered…when would Messiah come?

We had no idea.

When the baptizer was in full swing preaching repentance, turn to God, get ready for the kingdom of God, Andrew was among those following him.  But one day John, who seemed like a prophet (and we hadn’t seen one of those for a long time) John pointed out another man and said​,  He is the one!  The one I said was greater than me because he was before me!

​​So Andrew followed this new teacher/rabbi, wondering Who is this man who John says was here before him?  We had never heard of him.  Who was he?

We had no idea.

When this new rabbi told Peter to go fishing in the morning, the Morning!  Peter got a little sarcastic and was like​,​ OK​,​ Teacher,​ ​whatever you say.  And then the nets pulled in so many fish it almost sank the boat!  It might have if James and John hadn’t pulled alongside.  Peter freaked and fell before Jesus the teacher and said, ​Get away from me I am a sinful man.

Well sure Peter, you and everyone else, but why did you say that to the teacher?  And how did you get so many fish, in the morning?

We had no idea.

When we were out on the lake and that crazy storm hit.  We were sure it was over for us.  Yet the rabbi was asleep- in all that weather!  Can you imagine?  Someone woke him up and he spoke to the storm, the water and the waves, and they calmed.  The storm stopped.

Who does that?  Could this be Messiah?

We had no idea.

James and John thought it was, in fact they were so convinced they wanted to secure their place in his new kingdom.  Their mom asked Jesus to put one of her sons on each side of Jesus.  Nice move dudes.  Jesus said those weren’t his places to give, but could they drink the cup of suffering?

Suffering?  Sure let me suffer on the right or left hand of the king!

What suffering would Messiah experience?

We had no idea.

When Jesus started talking about all kinds of suffering he would have to endure, Peter tried to set him straight.  Messiah suffer?  May it never be!  But he was harshly answered, rebuked as a stumbling block to God’s ways.

Poor Peter. He put his foot in it that time.  So maybe Jesus would suffer, but then maybe he wasn’t the Messiah​?​

We had no idea.

And then Passover came and we headed to Jerusalem. To observe the festival and remember when God set his people free from slavery.  Wouldn’t now be a good time for Messiah to set us free?  But when would he come?

We had no idea.

And then Jesus, he does this crazy thing.  He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey!  Like a king.  People lining the street yelling,​

Hosanna, Save us!  And he didn’t agree to ride into the city on the back of a donkey, he arranged it!  He sent a couple of guys to go get the donkey!

What?!  Is this it?  Is David’s throne to be established now once and for all? Freedom from our oppressors!  Is Jesus the Messiah? Could it be?

We had no idea.

Then the Passover meal itself.  It got a little weird at the end.  Jesus was talking about his body and blood.  And he offered us a cup, like a man offers a cup to the woman he wants to marry.  What did he mean?

We had no idea.

Then it got even weirder…he said someone was going to betray him.  What? ​!​ Who?

We had no idea.

So there we are, with our teacher, who just rode into Jerusalem like a king, on Passover no less, perfect time to free God’s people.  We were on pins and needles, also exhausted.  Was this God’s time?  Was freedom near?

We had no idea.

Then Judas shows up with Roman soldiers and high priests and it looks like a battle is about to erupt.  And Peter, ever the first to react, draws his sword and cuts off a kid’s ear.  But Jesus tells him to put his sword away and heals the ear.

And Jesus goes with the soldiers.  He just goes.  No fight.  No battle.  No freedom from slavery on Passover.  He just goes with them.

Wha…? What happens now?

We had no idea.

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Notes:

Also posted on Robin’s blog: Choosing Comedy.We.Had.No.Idea

Hear Doug’s Palm Sunday Message of 3/20/2016 at http://graceepc.org/archives/category/messages