15 Dec 2020

SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE BIBLE

By |2020-12-15T03:51:19-06:00December 15th, 2020|General|0 Comments

AND SOCIAL DISTANCING TODAY

HOW JESUS RESPONDED TO THE HEALING OF THE 10 LEPERS? 

HOW JESUS RESPONDS TO OUR COVID-19 CRISIS? 

AND HOW MANY OF US TRULY “GET IT”? 

In Luke 17:11-19 we read about the healing of ten lepers. We discover Jesus travelling along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village, ten men who had leprosy met him… from a distance.   And they called out to him in one loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”   

And today, here in 2020, there are still deadly diseases like Covid-19 from which we ought to keep our distance.  We’ve seen with our very own eyes how Covid-19 can indeed infect anyone and even take their life.

And then there’s this question that we all ask, “Why?” 

Why were these folks getting leprosy and Covid-19?  Were they worse sinners and therefore more deserving of these terrible afflictions than other folks of their time?

I don’t believe so.  All we know is that we are all subject to the same dangers that everyone must face in this “fallen” world. But as to why some folks seem to be “unlucky” enough to have their lives turn so incredibly ugly and painful while others do not I won’t pretend to offer an answer.  (This is way above my pay-grade!) 

But Jesus does make it plain in other verses that we’re all “guilty” of all kinds of sin, and that it’s only a matter of time before we “all” perish…unless we repent.  (Luke 13:3)

Now maybe you don’t want to hear this (and neither do I), but if what Jesus says holds any “truth” at all, then I’d say we ought to listen to what he seems to be saying.  The very next verses state, [Do you think] “those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam feel on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)    

It’s like Jesus is saying, “Hey guys, you’re all sinners, you’ve all fallen “far short of the glory of God.”  And guess what, everyone is going to die sooner or later… you know that right?” 

And I can hear some folks muttering to themselves, “Of course, we know that.” 

The point Jesus is making is that we all need to “get it’ … and sooner than later …because later will be too late. 

And so, what exactly does “get it” mean?

You see, just like the ten lepers and those who contract COvid-19 in this day, Jesus wants us to know that these terrible diseases were never intended to be a part of our lives.  But the world we inhabit is deeply flawed… it’s a fallen world. (And yes, there is still a lot of good in it!)  But because of this reality, bad things are going to happen to all of us.  There’s just no escaping this fact. 

And we’re all making our own assessments of who “this God” and what he requires is all about.  In Romans 1:18 we discover that humanity as a whole is described as “suppressing the truth” about God.   And the next verses tell us that “this God”, the God of the Bible, that “his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen” since creation.  

So, it says, that we are without excuse. 

We must see that we ALL are simply sinners like everyone else.  We are truly are in this thing called “life” all together.   And if we desire to be made “whole” we need to acknowledge our need for acceptance, for love, for mercy, and forgiveness. We must begin there. 

 

But that’s just the beginning. 

For after we’ve received Jesus forgiveness, then our life ought to be one filled with praise and thankfulness to our Lord and Savior…even when the hard times, the suffering times hit us.   

And this is where we can we learn from “the Samaritan” (one of the least of his day) who returned to praise and thank Jesus profusely. We can observe that his praise was loud, and his thankfulness was expressed by “throwing himself at Jesus’ feet.” (Sounds a little like worship, does it not?)   

And what is Jesus’ response?  We notice that he responds with 3 questions relating to whole encounter.   And it even “feels” like he’s just speaking out into the air, but we can be sure that he was modeling (for his disciples and us as well) the most complete and the most piercing perspective for the dissecting of the entire encounter.

First he asks, “Were not all ten cleansed?”  It’s like Jesus was expressing his immediate reaction with, “Hey, what happened?  I mean, I know I gave my healing powers to all ten, and so didn’t it work for the others?”   

Of course, he knew the answer.  

Secondly, he expresses his disappointment at the responses of the other nine “lepers” that he healed.  He’s thinking, “Hey, I know I healed all ten…so where are the other nine?  I mean, couldn’t they come back, if only for a moment, and give thanks and praise to their healer?”

And then the third question, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  

Jesus is revealing how disappointed he was with the other nine “totally healed” men’s response which must have included a few God-fearing Jews.  He’s observing how they these other “nine” really did not “get it?”  He’s observing that these men refused to grasp just how special and loving and powerful this Jesus was. 

But then he finally turns to this man who does return and he seems to be saying, “Hey, at least I can see that you “get it”?  You seem to get the fact that it could have only been “the power and the love and mercy of God” that has touched you so completely—not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.”   

And how does Jesus react?   If we can read between the lines, I’d say that Jesus wasn’t so amazed that this man was healed, and was so jubilant about his healing, but that this man, who was a Samaritan, one of the least of his day, was the only one who took a few moments to thank him for such an instant, and complete healing.   

In other words, he totally “got it.” 

And so what’s the lesson here?  It seems that many times it is the least who are the most grateful for any type of mercy they might receive, but especially for such a miraculous feat as this. 

And so what can we surmise concerning the other nine who were also healed, but couldn’t be bothered with taking a few moments to return to Jesus with some heartfelt thanks?

It’s apparent that Jesus is “hurt” by this blatant display of ungratefulness and not truly honoring the God who did indeed choose to heal them right then and there–with no “hoops” to jump through whatsoever.  

We could even say that they didn’t “get it.” 

So Jesus is truly disappointed and truly offended by these nine not returning.  Further, he seems to be taking out his disappointment on the Samartian…this least one.    

But he’s not really taking it out on him because then he says to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”  

It‘s like he’s saying, “Hey, you least one, you who are despised by so many, you know something.  I love you more than you can imagine, and  I’m so blessed that you “get it.”  And I’m rejoicing with you.” 

And Jesus is asking us the same question today, “Do we get it?”  I mean. really “get it?” 

And if you feel you’re just not sure that you “get it” like Jesus says you need to “get it”, then all I can say is talk to him about it.  

He wants to able to say to you, and me, and everyone who acknowledges who this Jesus is: “Rise and go: your faith has made you well.”

13 Nov 2020

Reaching Out

By |2020-11-13T14:28:43-06:00November 13th, 2020|General|0 Comments

This picture is not the man I talked to.  Just a stock photo.   

AT THE STOPLIGHTS.

IT’S A FULL-TIME JOB!

One recent fall evening I was driving back from taking my grandson, Aaron, to his basketball camp, when I found myself approaching a busy 3-street intersection on the way home.  It is at this intersection, which I do pass by regularly at various times of day and evening, that I notice an all too familiar face.  (But for the past few months during this pandemic, his face is generously covered with a mask.)   

What is this man doing?  In this one certain place, and at so many different hours of the day?  He’s simply walking in between the two lanes of cars which are stopped at their light with his paper cup extended toward each driver in a humble, almost prayerful gesture.    

Although, I pass this man regularly, I don’t very often dig into my wallet when I see him coming my way.  But I have from time to time. 

But on this evening, I felt led to pull over my van (after I went thru the light), park,  get out, and walk back to this man.  I just wanted to hear a little about his life…if he was “open” to any sort of conversation at all.   

This man seemed genuinely pleased that I had bothered to stop and interact with him for a few moments.  

It was a cool, fall evening and one of the first things that he said to me was that he definitely wanted to get in “off the streets” for the winter.  He was hoping to save up enough money “panhandling” to secure himself a room in the coming weeks. 

I asked him if he ever did any other kind of work.  He calmly replied, “Oh, yes, you might not believe it but I was once a chef who worked in many of the top hotels downtown for many years. “

So I asked if he tried working any other jobs since?    

“Oh, I do some painting once in a while, but I’m out here almost all of my time.” 

Then all of sudden, he asked me to come with him, to where his bag was stashed. He wanted to show me something. 

I readily agreed, and followed him about 20 yards or so, and we stepped into this doorway which was a part of a boarded-up, one-time restaurant.  

He quickly opened up his bag and began showing me some pictures of himself, outfitted in his full chef’s attire, at a couple at his former workplaces, and a couple with Chicago’s tall, downtown buildings in the background. 

I was impressed, and not a little dispirited that he had lost those jobs…for whatever reasons one could think of.   

And then he launched into a whole retelling of how he lost his wife to stage 4 cancer.  And then there was the reality of having to take care of his three boys, who were now living with his mother in India.  And, to be sure, he had pictures to back up this account of his story. 

And he also told me how he sends money to them on a regular basis, so that doesn’t leave much for himself.  

So what did I think?  Could I put much credulity to his story?  And if I had to give you an answer I‘d have to say, “Yes.” 

Now, having said that, doesn’t mean that I would necessarily empathize with all the “possible” reasons for his life taking the turns that it did. 

There was just one thing I could be sure of.  I was sure that I would not want to trade places with this man.  

I then launched into my concerns which centered around how he ought to be  working  with a “caseworker” (any caseworker!)  that could help get him off the street.  

He said he didn’t have any ID’s right now, and so he really couldn’t access any “caseworker” help even if he wanted it at this time.

I responded in my mind, “Ok, I guess you really don’t want any help.”  I mean, I thought that I‘d been making some simple, sensible recommendations that might indeed alter his predicament significantly.    

I then asked if I could pray for him. He readily agreed. 

We parted ways amicably.  I returned to my van, and he returned to walking between another double-line of cars stopped at their light. 

Did my “stopping” do any good?  I have no idea. 

But one thing this encounter did reveal to me was the question, “How would I like to do what he’s doing, day in and day out?  And how would I like “to count on” whatever folks give me to simply live and eke out “a life” if that’s what you can call it?     

I’m sure you know my answer.  

So what are we to do with folks like this?  First of all, can’t we at least be kind to these folks?  And then, can’t we give them “something” from time to time? (Whether it’s a little or little more than usual will be our choice.)  

And finally, can’t we “at least” pray for folks like these?  

I hope and pray so. 

P.S.  I was listening to Mark Heard’s “Victims of the Age” CD (a true classic that I wholeheartedly recommend) the morning after I finished this blog and his lyrics hit an ironic nerve.  He calmly belts out these lyrics:  “City life won’t let up while you’re waitin’ for the light to change.” 

True, back when this LP/cassette was released back in 1982.  And it’s still true today in 2020.  And I confess I may be wrong, but I bet Mark didn’t quite envision this form of NOT “letting up while you’re waitin’ for the light to change.”  

Thanks for stopping by.  Chris. 

29 Aug 2019

SO WHAT IS GOD UP TO?

By |2019-08-29T12:06:42-05:00August 29th, 2019|General|0 Comments

WHAT’S HIS END-GAME FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM?

A FEW THOUGHTS ON REVELATIONS 7:13-17

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to
springs of living water.
And God will wipe away
every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelations 7:13-17)

These verses paint a spectacular picture of what’s in store for those who have chosen to give their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

But first of all, let’s notice that this passage starts off with a little humor. We see one of the elders in the high courts of heaven showing the apostle John an astonishing scene that will take place in the future. And he asks John if he knows who these folks with the “white robes” are, and where did they come from?

John answers, “Sir, you know.” It’s like John was saying, “If you’ll excuse me for a moment, sir, you’re the one who’s showing me this “vision,” so I think I’ll go along with whoever you say they are.”

And the elder responds without hesitation. I can even see him with a comforting gleam in his eye, as he so proudly declares exactly who these folks are.

“These folks have come out of the great tribulation,” he says. And I believe he’s clearly defining these souls by saying something like: “These are the people who realized that Jesus’ shedding of blood for their sins was the gift that they did not deserve, and so they were willing to lose their “earthly lives” for His sake.”

And what is the result of their surrendering their “lives” unto Him for his honor and glory?

They are then rewarded with being permitted “to hang out” before God’s throne. But they’ll be doing more than just “hanging out.” They’ll be actively serving Him 24-7!

Now some folks might be thinking, “What? More serving, more surrender? What’s so great about that?”
But I don’t believe these folks will be thinking along those lines. No, I believe these folks will be so blessed to serve, to engage with, this God who is so far beyond our wildest imaginations. And why is this?

Because they have been granted their deepest desires that they had so faithfully been longing for “all their earthly lives.” And what were those deepest desires? To be accepted, to be loved, to be given a place their own ( John 14:3 ) , a place they will feel so secure and where they will be a willing participant of something so much grander than they could even imagine.

I believe it’s like God is saying, “Hey, don’t worry, I got you covered. And when I say covered, I mean covered. I mean, you’ll never ever be hungry, thirsty, again. And oh yeah, you know, when those temps on earth that reached almost “deadly levels,” like so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk hot, well there’s going to be no more than that to endure!”

And why is God so inclined to act this way towards these folks? It’s because this Lamb, this Jesus, who laid down his life for these folks is now simply fulfilling his promises to them. And notice, that even now, this Lamb, who is also a King, who is at the center of God’s throne, is acting as a “loving Shepherd” of his sheep. I guess it’s just a part of his nature!

This Lamb of God, who was the Good Shepherd during his earthly life (John 10:14-15), will simply continue on with his mission, and bring to fruition his desires for those who would follow him.

And a focal point of his “endgame” is that he, this Good Shepherd, will be overjoyed to give these followers real-life—eternal life! They will drink always from his “living water.” And I’d like to think that these “blessed” folks will also bathe in this living water.

And what happens when these folks are immersed in God’s eternal, living water?

They are so comforted, so relieved, so thankful, that they can’t help but shed tears of joy for God’s immeasurable grace and forgiveness towards them.

But then we see this God, wiping away every tear cried in humility, for being a “chosen one.” It’s sort of like God saying, “Now that you’re here with me, there’s no more need for the shedding of tears. That’s over with. Now it’s time to continue on “living.” After all, you’ve made it. You’ve arrived! Now we can continue on together—eternally—which is what I had in mind all along!”

Thanks for stopping by.

Chris.

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