Monthly Archives: March 2013

Time and place, please

Today is Holy Week Saturday and is the interlude between Maundy Thursday, where we commemorated Jesus giving to us the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (His Body and His Blood), Good Friday, where we celebrate our killing an innocent man for our sins and our crimes (oh, yes, He did it by His own free will) and Easter Sunday, where in the Episcopal Church we can say Alleluia again.  The children get to hunt painted eggs all over the place and eat sugar until they are ready to implode and explode from it.  It is a grand and glorious day of celebration as it should be.  But are we missing it?

In the news today was a story from Zimbabwe of a prostitute who died while performing her appointed tasks in a hotel room with a stranger.  She just up and died.  Of course the client notified the authorities who sent out paramedics to collect the body and find out what happened. They came and they put the woman’s body into a coffin for the purpose of carrying her out and off to her final resting place, God rest her soul.  After putting her into the coffin the prostitute leaps up and out of the coffin screaming “You are trying to kill me!”  I bet at that moment a lot of pants needed to be changed as the air turned foul.  The woman probably wasn’t the only one screaming by now.

Why tell this story on a Holy Week day?  The woman did not want in the coffin, did not want them to “kill her .”  Let me out of here, as in now.  Jesus wanted to die, He wanted to be buried, He wanted to stay in the grave long enough that there would be no doubt that He was dead, buried and gone.  I will ask the question here for us to consider:  “When did Jesus know He came to die for you and me?”  when He was an infant looking up at the ceiling of a dirty, stinking stable, when He had His coming of age ritual, as He worked in His father’s carpentry shop, or was it when John baptized Him in the river Jordan and the Holy Spirit fell on Him with the very voice of God Almighty pronouncing “This is My Son.”  We know Jesus knew but I don’t know that scriptures tell us when He learned it.  When did you learn that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny, no tooth fairy?  Now, when did you learn that Jesus, God’s only son, came to live and die for you?  Would you please, right now, right where you are reading this blog, say out loud when you learned Jesus is your savior, that He died for you.  Let me be a bit more specific, when did you accept that fact, name the time and place, the events surrounding it.  Okay, some of you will same I have always known it, accepted it, believed it.  But when did you acknowledge it to yourself, consciously.  So go ahead and say it, aloud, right now, right where you are and know that He already knows not only where and when and why but that He knows exactly how many hairs were on top of your head both back then and right now.  Happy Easter.  He is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed!  Alleluia! Alleluia!

I Don’t Understand

Today as I write this it is Maundy Thursday and I am writing from the perspective of the Episcopal Church, not Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.  Historically it is a day when the church commemorates the Last Supper where Jesus himself instituted Holy Communion or the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread and the cup of wine.  In our church the service ends with the lights being turned off and the altar stripped of everything.  The thing that struck me this evening was when our pastor removed the colored portion of his vestments (I am sure there is a formal Latin name for them).  Seeing him remove the very symbol of his position in the church, our church, rang deep with me.

Now Lent is coming to a close and highlights tomorrow, Friday, and on Sunday.  But we are tired from our journey of traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem leading Him to Calvary and the cross.  We have known that this journey was to the death, and not just the death of Jesus but also to our death.  So tonight Jesus sits with us, dines with us, and gives us a present of great value, the Eucharist.  “Do this in remembrance of me” are the words He speaks as He looks around and deep into the eyes of everyone there.  He says it to you and to me, remember me, as oft as you eat the bread and drink the wine, symbols of His Body and Blood, poured out for you and me.

Last week while I was driving and listening to a Dennis Jernigan song a reality hit me.  I drove the nails into His hands and I pierced His side with a sword made with my own hands.  Yes, I have heard this image before calling out to me but this time I pondered it.  I not only drove the nails into His hands and feet but I did it with zeal.  No, zeal is not the right word; more like fervor or pleasure, taking care to make sure the most pain was inflicted with each blow.  Taking great satisfaction in a job well done, smiling while I worked.  Yet as I looked over Jesus just lay there and His eyes said that He loved me, said that while yes, it physically hurt, His love was of such greater importance that each blow was worth suffering if it meant loving me more.  Me, and you.

I was a skilled craftsman who made spears of the finest quality, works of beauty; beauty not just in their looks but in their brutality.  I instilled in each spear I made the wonderful ability to inflict the greatest hurt, hurt that came with nuances people could not realize until the spear had pierced them.  If I added twists and turns while impaling the pain only grew greater.  I took great pride in my spears.  And I used my finest on to pierce the side of Jesus and took pleasure and pride in doing so.  Yet He only looked down on me with love, His love, as only He could.

We call tomorrow Good Friday.  Who thought of that I will probably never know (unless some scholar tells me the history of it, please don’t).  We take the One who knows only how to love and we each nail him to the cross.  We think we have silenced this love that we cannot fathom, that we reject over and over.  But Love will not be silenced.  Love will hang on the cross willingly, will allow the piercing of the hands and feet, the spear in the side.  Love will and love does.  Love that is beyond comprehension and boggles the mind.  Why?  Why?  Why?  And love looks down on us from the cross, love that is covered in blood and sweat and every foul fluid possible, love that is spat upon and just loves.  And this love sees love when it looks down.  When it sees you and me holding the hammer and the spear, gambling for the clothes and it sees love.

This paragraph should speak of some really profound Christian commentary about what is happening but I do not and cannot grasp what this thing call love means.  I just hear the voice that only the deepest part of my heart can hear say, “Bernie, I love you.”  And my life is now thrown into total chaos because it is too, not radical, not revolutionary, not too complex or deep, but it is simply too simple.  Jesus loves me and is looking down from the cross knowing I put Him there and all He says is “I Love you.”.

Below is a gift for this time, a gift for you.  I hope I copied and pasted the link right.

walk the walk

Today in church the gospel was from John, chapter 12, Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Yet as I read it I only heard one word, anointed. Yet from the one word came a flood of meaning and application in my Christian walk, application that also applies to you as well. What story contains this one word which jumped out and spoke to me? A woman, second class citizen in the Middle East, takes a pound of very expensive fragrance and “anoints” the feet of Jesus. In non-spiritual terms she poured the oil on Jesus feet. The travesty of the appalling, wanton waste of something so valuable. John tells us it was valued at about 300 denarii. Yahoo.com says that the estimated translation of one denarii is about $21.00 US dollars. They also said that the average wage for a Roman soldier of the day was one denarii. That means about $6,000.00 dollars or 300 days wages. If you make $60,000.00 a year you just poured out $50,000 on Jesus feet. But these nice facts and figures don’t address the message, the heart.

Anoint is a verb, an action word. Mary made a choice to do what she did and it is fragrant with everything it said. Anoint, Webster uses oil in the definition but he also speaks of consecrating, setting apart. Mary declared that the feet of Jesus were sacred, Holy, set apart for God’s purpose.

Anoint the feet that in a short time would carry Jesus to Calvary where He would fulfill God’s calling and purposes, the redemption of man, the redemption of me and you. It makes me want to weep. Mary saw so much more than everyone else, she saw that Jesus was walking to God’s glory, was answering God’s calling placed on Him from before anything was. She said to herself that these feet are doing the work of God they are called by God to the hard task. Feet, those two things attached to the bottom of our legs that we take for granted and we don’t give credit to, but these feet carried Jesus to Calvary, these feet were nailed upon the cross to carry the brunt of Christ’s weight as He died for me and you. Those are Holy feet, worthy of our $50,000.00, 300 days wages.

Now, two more points to bring this to a conclusion. Can you, will you, look to see where God is in your life and around you? No one else saw the feet of Jesus and recognized their place in God’s hands. You and I are surrounded by feet everyday yet we do not see them. Look where you walk, when you walk, for God is there in your midst. Feet will come into your life. Will you see them and anoint them; acknowledging God has set them apart. Will you worship the Lord your God?

Finally, you yourselves, as well as I, we are feet in our own right because we have been called by God to walk. We are called to walk to Calvary to bring about that which God has purposed and God has anointed us for His good purposes to serve and love Him daily. Every time we rise from bed we need our feet, all day every day. They are vital to our lives, vital to accomplish all that is needed.

Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. Will you allow God to consecrate and set you apart for Himself? Rather than will you the question is will you acknowledge that you have been anointed and set apart for God, you are called by the Most Holy.

 

Presence

 

When I think of Jesus I think of Presence.  With Jesus there are so many facets to His presence.  Yes, He is Lord, He is Healer, He is Peacemaker, He is Joy, He is comfort, He is Tender, He is Loving, He is Kind, and He is Complete Wholeness.  All of these attributes occur at the same time and the same and are present for all to partake of.

In Jesus day you got from point A to point B by walking, no horses (unless you were very well off), cars, buses, whatever, you walked.  And likely you walked with someone, family or friend.  This morning I will drive 40 miles north to accomplish one of my tasks for today.  Then I will come home before noon and then drive south 40 miles for the second major task of the day before I come home in the evening.  In Jesus time 40 miles would have taken several days of walking.

Walking any distance allows time for thinking, meditating, praying, sharing and talking with your companion.  You have time to learn about your companion or to possibly discuss and issue and come to a greater understanding and conclusion about it.  You also come to a greater understanding of your companion and how they think and what motivates them, to understand the depth of that person.

Luke 24:13-17: “13 and behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?”

How wonderful would it be to be walking and have Jesus join you?  Oh, to tap His Presence, to breathe in His very essence, His wisdom.  But no, we are too busy driving, rushing, from our point A’s and point B’s, supposedly keeping alert and attentive to the road and traffic conditions, but actually fiddling with the radio, the smartphone, checking the gas gauge, conscious but not conscious.  What if instead we turned off the phone and the radio, really focused more on driving but in our mind and hearts we said “Lord, what would you say to me this day.”  Then when the Lord spoke a word we took that word and followed it.  Say God impressed upon you love your neighbor.  Take the time while driving all over creation to explore who your neighbor is He is talking about.  Explore what God’s love for them looks like and how God wants to involve you in His plan for your neighbor, what action He requires of you this day to fulfill His work.

So the question now is whether or not I will spend 160 or so miles driving today practicing the presence of Jesus or will I spend it listening to CD’s, letting my mind wander and ramble, will I spend it yelling at other drivers for being slow, stupid, or just not driving like I want them to. How will you spend your day? I would also ask for prayer today. Pray that Jesus will honor what time I allow Him. Pray that it will be spent in His presence filled with awe and wonder at the Lord of Heaven and Earth who has chosen to ride in my car. I pray that He will ride with you this day and spend it with you.

The relative un-importance of time

This post is inspired by watching the weather Friday evening. Amongst talk about a front coming through that could bring rain and hail we were informed that this weekend is daylight savings time change here in the good old USA. It is someone, somewhere deciding that an arbitrary change in calling what time it is will save everyone money and make everyone happier. NOT!

First, consider that we really don’t know what time it is because there is no absolute standard for when time began (more on that later). Next, it wasn’t until relatively modern times that man became able to measure the passage of time with any great degree of accuracy, Great Britain gets credit for that feat.

When I was a child growing up all of us kids had the knack for telling the time by looking at the sun and a pretty good idea about how much time had passed after sunset. We knew when Ed Sullivan came on TV as well as Flipper, all without using a watch or clock. Modern man has become dependent on “things” to govern their lives. We have become driven to make the most of every minute and every second of our lives.

I am guilty of being one of the worst about being driven to get “nothing” done. That is it in a nutshell. Rushing to get “nothing” done and I confess it hurts me and is not good for me in either the short term or the long term. What about you?

In talking about prayer you hear a lot of people say we need to make “time” to pray. Yesterday I talked about stopping to pray. One definition of stop is “to hinder.” Maybe we should hinder time which nowadays wants to consume us, maybe we should take back control of our lives and not let time dictate the pace of our lives. My “be” trumps “time” and I will stop and pray. Take that time! A friend is blogging about time in her garden. That is “time” in the context of “be-ing.” She has stopped her life to be with her God, to pray and seek Him with her hands, her heart, and her mind. Bless you, you know who you are.

As an example lets go camping for the weekend. Friday afternoon we pull up at the State Park and unload our gear (minimal gear) and set up camp. Now, time does not have a place in our lives, it does not exert its control outside of the general term “day.” Oh, you are required to leave the smartphone, laptop, TV, etc. in the car or at home. You eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired and get up when you are darn well ready too (or if someone else has fixed coffee for you and it smells oh so good). Your day is spent doing what you choose to, at you pace. In the evening you sit around a campfire and just “be”. All you have to be able to do and know is that on the third night you need to be back home. And you feel wonderful in having just been you.

Now, let’s put time in its proper context. Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. John 1:1-4: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. I scanned the concordance on the word time and the impression was one of now, when something was supposed to be (thee is that word be again). I did not see any places that spoke of hours, or seconds or of anything except God’s Kairos time, His appointed time.

God does not talk about when He created, He said it happened when He happened it. It does not matter what Bulova says, or Timex, or GPS satellites. It’s not down to the micro-second. It happened, that is the fact and nothing else matters. If we make time to pray, that is a fact and seconds and minutes don’t count. we did it.

God has appointed time for you to be in His presence. Actually it is all the time, it is now and now and now. When we wake, when we go through the day, when we end the day and rest, that is God’s time to be. To be who you have been called to be In Christ, His and His alone. When we are His then this world’s time means nothing.

Who’s hiding in your closet?

Hang on folks, today is looking like a very promising post. I say that because I do not yet know what it is going to be. I write by having things roll around in my head, I begin fleshing them out, and recheck references and cross references and see where things lead. I attended a Bible study for a long time that was taught by a PhD who was from west Texas and he was fully Texan. Brilliant man who knew the Word and who would often go off on tangents that he called “bunny paths” that we never knew where they would end up. So let’s get started on our trek for today.

This morning I had to leave the house before 7:00 am. That to me is very ungodly, that is a time to be in deep contact with the covers. But, as I was putting my stuff in the car I stopped and said “Good Morning Jesus” and that really had a WOW! factor on my attitude starting out. You should try it.

A few hours later I am having to wait in a waiting room (duh! Why is it called a waiting room?) and I opened up and read a daily devotional by David Wilkerson. If you don’t know who David Wilkerson is he is an evangelist who, in 1958, who was called to go and minister on the drug ridden streets of New York City. He is even known for ministering to a drug addict who had no shoes so David sat down, took his off, and gave them to the addict. Okay, I have gotten off track for this post.

His devotion for today talks about prayer and references Jeremiah 10:21 and Wilkerson talks about having a prayer closet (hint: Who’s hiding in your closet?) and a prayer habit. Without prayer we have no leadership and guidance. Jeremiah 10:12: “For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered.” Now he is talking about churches and pastors but that is not what spoke to me today. What is my prayer life like, how does prayer work and most important how do I grab hold of prayer and of God?

Jeremiah is saying that without the counsel and input from God there is failure, there is no prosperity. Prosperity in this context, to me, is doing things right, completing what we set out to do. This, the prophet says, requires communication with God.

So, when I pray, how does it work, what does it sound like? At times the voice of God, the meaning of what is occurring is clear. But a lot of times it seems like me talking and no one responding. There is a major country hit written by Willie Nelson called “Hello Walls.” “Hello walls, how’d things go for you today?” Sounds like me praying. So how do we pray, what does it mean, why do we talk to walls? Here is some of my two cents worth about praying by faith. Faith says I believe in something greater, someone greater. I pray out of obedience, because I told people I would pray for them. I pray because I know I don’t have the answers. I pray because I want God and I want to hear Him and have Him in my life. Lord, lead me, guide me, help me keep from making a fool of myself (okay, too big of a fool of myself). I am weak but He is strong. Jesus keep me from all wrong; yes, just a closer walk with Thee. That is my heart’s desire.

So how does prayer look? I think it is God speaking, maybe audibly, maybe like a crossword puzzle of thoughts and ideas adding up to complete the word, His Word. Maybe it is coming to accept truth you already know but just don’t like (cut out unhealthy food or spending). Also, and I think this is a key to prayer, it is stopping. Yes, just stop. Consider what the things are you are praying about, really sort, meditate, dwell on, ponder, soak in, relish every aspect of it. And do this in the light of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Prayer is us communicating with God and God communicating with us. I Corinthians 2:16 just spoke loud and clear. You and I have the mind of Christ. I want to hear what God has to say through you and I have Christ’s mind to know what God would have. So I offer to you the opportunity to stop and pray, get quiet and be who you, and I, are in Christ.

That which we stand on

The inkling for this post came last night while I was reading “God’s Pursuit of Man” by A. W. Tozer, I love the words of the older generation of Christian writers such as Tozer, Barclay, C. S. Lewis, Winkie Pratney (you probably haven’t heard of him so go, find, read, and feast on meat). Tozer opens his book from Habakkuk 1:12: “Art Thou not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One?” and then he quotes from John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”Bold, heady stuff that declares that God is, and more.

Tower’s point is that we have so accepted these facts that they are now just that, common. We have lost sight of the fact that God is and He is God and what that means and implies in our lives. We need to return to the awe factor of knowing God. If we know God we know the One who created the heavens and the earth, who not just “made man” but formed us as an artist forms a lump of clay. He made all of the stars in the heavens (more about that shortly), He made and set in order the microscopic, sub-microscopic, down to the atomic and subatomic levels. FYI: I don’t think science has a clue as to how big and how small creation really is.

Now lets first consider the stars. I go out at night and look at a specific place in the sky (assuming the skies are clear and I am in a dark sky place. There I see what looks like a smudge of white (is smudge a proper astronomy term?). I know I am looking at the Andromeda galaxy, a galaxy similar to our own Milky Way. Yet I really have no grasp, nor can I, how big it really is. How great is God’s creation.

So, that said, lets talk about something we can relate to, gravity, that upon which we stand. Sir Isaac Newton said that all objects have mass and that all mass attracts all other mass. Okay, I did not major in physics so don’t shoot me for not being properly correct. Gravity says that because the Earth is so big and has so much mass that that is what keeps us from flying off the face of the Earth. It pulls us toward the center of the Earth, the center of its mass. So, how do we see this at work. Go find a really high up, super sheer cliff. something like where you are standing looking over a 2000 foot fall. One of those really way up there places. Now scoot all the way to the edge of the cliff, that’s right, get those toes hanging over the edge. Now you are really putting what you know to the test. Gravity says that if you aren’t standing on that solid rock, the cliff itself, you will be drawn towards the center of the Earth’s mass (that means downward until something stops the fall). There is exhilaration and fear (grave fear in my case) because if gravity has its way I will be dashed to my death 2000 feet below. We can see and feel and know the reality of the truth of gravity standing on that cliff.

Back to God. When we are standing on flat ground we take gravity for granted. When we live our normal, average day we take God for granted just like we take gravity for granted. Read the Bible, read about God and His interaction with man. Then, important point here, remember that you and I are also men. God interacts with us. Lets be more aware of Him and His presence daily, hourly, moment by moment. He is mighty, awesome, great and powerful, wonderful, yada, yada, yada. We should spend each day standing on the edge of the cliff of God in awe and fear of the greatness of God. Go back to our opening in Habakkuk 1:12: “O LORD, my God, my Holy One.” Honor Him and love Him, that is His calling to each of us.