Sunday, October 17, 2010

Essential for Being an Authority

A couple of years ago while working on my masters degree I did a 50+ page report on a four-day school week as a way for school districts to save substantial money. I spent weeks pouring over the academic research papers (super-boring), looking at tables, graphs, and other pictorial representations of findings. I even visited with the only superintendent to have successfully attempted a shortened week in Arkansas.

My extensive work gained me an "A+", compliments from my professor, and a suggestion I submit it to several academic journals for publication. If my paper was published I would be classified as an expert on the subject, qualified to travel all over the nation, and a professional speaker on the financial benefits of the shortened school week. I feel I am an authority on this tiny piece of academia.

Let's suppose YOU need to convince members of the local school board on a single method to save them scads of money. You have heard of the savings generated by the shorter school week. You can have only one person come in. Which would you chose? Would you chose me, or would you bring in a likable, experienced, successful, "4-day school week" superintendent? Anyone in their right mind will pick the superintendent. Why? He has authority based on experienced, not the type of authority based on what others have written.

Jesus had 'experiential' authority. He was with the Father in creation. He helped make man. He was with the Father when Moses received the 10 commandments, when Joshua crossed the Jordan, and when the walls fell at Jericho. Was he with the Father when the Jews stopped serving God? Was he involved in sending the Jews away to Babylon? Did he assist Nehemiah in re-constructing Jerusalem's wall? So, with all his dealings with man BEFORE he came to earth, he knows what mankind needs. He has experience!

The authority of the scribes during Jesus time on earth was like my kind of authority. They cited and quoted the works of many great Rabbis. They knew what had been written, and could report to the people what they knew. But they had no first-hand successful experience. It was an ineffective kind of authority. 

Is it any wonder people have always preferred to listen to Jesus?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zeb and Sons Fishing Company

Zeb had always been a commercial fisherman. He had followed in the steps of his father, a fisherman. Over the last decade he and his boys had experienced phenomenal company growth and expansion. Grandpa would have been proud of the boy’s work ethics. And his dad would have been proud when Zeb began to hire employees to accommodate increased demand.

This success had translated into a better income for the company, himself, the boys, and their families. The company, with freshly hired help, now could add two boats to their mini-fleet. Now they could fish, dry, pack and ship two and sometimes three shifts each day.

But his sons, Jimmy and Johnny, were something else. They were true Galileans. Yes, they were brothers, and yes, they fought among themselves. But he, nor his wife, could cool their tempers. They were a pair of hot-heads. And they fed off each other’s anger making them fierce in debates. If you found them separated you might win a heated discussion, but if the second one showed up, it was time to hush and leave. Zeb called them Thunder's Sons.

Although they were fierce competitors, they could be equally loving and thoughtful. There were times when Johnny was young that he wanted to spend extra time with mom, and he could because of the success of the business. Jimmy had an uncanny ability to see the needy and empathize with them. Zeb didn't understand where this came from considering how wealthy the boys had always lived.

But about a week ago Zeb and Sons Fishing suddenly became Zeb's Fishing. No, there was no mutiny. Both his sons had suddenly quit. Zeb could make no sense of it. Here the two successful, hard working sons had a growing company to manage after his death and a very healthy income. But they had just walked out. It was so sudden. They just left Zeb and the hired help in the boat. They didn't wait to get home. They didn't discuss this major change in the business with him. They just left. And what was more, when they left, they walked off with those small-time competitors from down the road, Pete and Andy.

He could not understand what this Jesus from Nazareth had to offer that he couldn't give them. He just did not understand!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Do I Smell?

I've read that people in Galilee are a bit rough. Well, OK, they are rough as sand paper. They don't get along with outsiders very well, and you better keep your political ideology to yourself. Education, especially in religion, is next to nothing. Yes they teach their children to respect and obey the scriptures, and they might make the mandatory yearly trip to Jerusalem. Don't bother asking for much more unless you are one of them. And Jesus was one of them.

I've also heard how sailors are a very foul-mouthed group. They can't talk without cursing. Pete and Andy were sailing fisherman. They were sailors of the most offensive odoriferous kind (they stank!), but we don't actually know about their language.

And these fellas were also brothers. Did they fight? What brothers don't? And when there are fights, or very strong disagreements, someone usually walks away. But if you and your brother are in a small fishing vessel on the Sea of Gallilee and an argument ensues, either one of you gives up or someone must swim to shore.

It was under these circumstances the leader of the 'hottest' religious movement in years came walking by their storefront (Ok, no storefront. They were actually washing their stink-ified nets). He told these two cats-in-bag to follow him (become a student of his teaching and person). He promised them they would become the ultimate fishermen, and get their own TV show. (Okay, Okay. The last part isn't exactly true. There was no TV deal.) 

Pete and Andy could hardly believe what he said. It was the one chance in their lifetime. They didn't need to discuss it or fight over which one would go. Both men immediately dropped their nets and walked off. They chose to follow.

Today, that same Jesus asks you and me, with all our bad, smelly, offensive habits, to drop who we are, walk off from our rough-cut personalities, educational background, financial limits and other imperfections, and begin copying the perfect one and imitating his ways.

Now, are we going to argue about it, or will we both get busy dropping our history???

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Not Into the Desert!"

Sammy's GMC truck could go faster over those bumpy, pot-holed dirt roads faster than Dad's Olds that I was driving. I had a much bigger motor, but he had ground clearance. For the last 30 minutes I had chased & tailgated him all over the roads around home. I got a break when he took a lumpy three-sides-of-a-box dirt road around the field behind Climatic of Clinton (a local industry). He didn't know I had hunted rabbits there about a month earlier. I thought I had finally found a way to win this game. So I turned the Olds into the open field to cut across it and head Sammy off. The friends in my car saw we were about to take him by surprise. And then that one HUGE clump off grass went under the car lifting the rear wheels off the ground. The high-centered vehicle stopped. Then we discovered the clump was surrounded with 6 inch deep water in a 30-foot circle.  It was dark. It was late. And Dad's car is stuck in the middle of a water-logged field. That is when Sammy did something I respected. He, and his truck load of friends, came to attempt the impossible rescue. 

Why this anecdote of a stupid teen-age boy? Because most of us will follow and repeat what we see in the lives of people we respect.

Respect is not just passed out like candy from a bank teller. Generally, it is earned. I already respected Sammy because he was in the high school band and was more successful than me. And then he returned to help me when it was not required. He earned more respect. Respect appears to be earned through living through similar life experiences successfully.

Jesus has faced life like we know it, including temptations. He was in that uninhabited place for almost a month and a half, Matthew says. He missed all his meals. And he was in danger of being eaten or injured from the wild beasts. After 40 days he was hungry, exhausted, and lonely. The ease of making stones into bread must have looked as good to him as the 'forbidden fruit' was to Eve. The false expectation of power over the people, instead of loneliness, must have been appealing. And because of his being tempted he can understand our temptations. So, we can respect & follow Him. He has had similar life experiences. 

Plus, we regard him as successful. He gas done what we cannot do -- overcome temptation. He never sinned. His suffering sin’s penalty was because of our temptation failures, not his.

The New King James Version says in Mark 1:12 that the Spirit DROVE him into the wilderness. What does that mean?  The Greek word used here can be either 1) to cast out, with the notions of violence, or 2) to command or cause to depart in haste including a) drawn out with force, to tear out, and a force overcoming an opposite force but without violence. Either way you chose, Jesus didn't volunteer to go. I personally don't see Jesus being violently thrown into the wilderness. So I must conclude that his 'force' was an unwillingness which was opposed by the Spirit (another force). Since Jesus chose to follow God's will, I see him consenting to follow the will of the Spirit (force).
My struggle and maybe yours too, is to not 'volunteer' to be tempted. In my case I put myself in situations where temptations, and the subsequent sin, can occur. By not being on my toes I have 'volunteered' de facto. 

I need to be a better disciple in how I follow and repeat the patterns of my respected Lord. How about you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parts or Production

For the past month I have been a fire-watching night guard at a sawmill. I walk four to eight miles each shift. I patrol the grounds and buildings looking for fires and security breaches.

In the process I see, besides sawdust everywhere, machinery, pneumatic/hydraulic equipment, chains designed to move logs, chains designed to remove waste products, control booths, and industry-specific hand tools. Ready for use are front-end loaders, large unloaders designed to handle tons of logs at a single bite, and forklifts. There are some items I am around that I am not permitted to write about. And it is almost inconceivable the number of piles of hardwood logs mounded 15-20 feet high all under spraying water. 

Up till recently this was what I thought a sawmill was. I could see all the parts, and stacks of product. It felt cold, static, and lifeless. But not now.

What is the difference? The sawmill came to life. I saw what happens when trained people use all that stuff. I saw rough, butt-cut logs go in. I saw useful crossties, planks, 'fuel', and woodchips come out. I saw how each part of the big place works together to make desirable products.

So where is "The Struggle" in all this? 

Each of us should read the Bible daily. We read about all the 'parts' in the church. We note elders, preachers, and members with many different skills. We see how financial contributions should be used. We memorize the 'great commission', 'Be-attitudes', Jesus' example of prayer, the steps of salvation, and various love passages. We might use our imaginations and pretend to be in the crowd on that sadistic Friday, the wondrous day of Pentecost, or agonizingly watch Stephen being stoned. Yes, we know all the parts.

But is that how it is meant to be? Is there something is missing? Could it be Spirit-led disciples? Could it be passionate, prayer-filled preachers proclaiming Jesus, hope, grace, love and duties? Is it elders leading by example instead of 'administrating'? Is life breathed into a dead congregation when ALL members use their skills, whatever they are? What happens when deacons report the results of joyous and generous contributions? What life-producing changes occur when we halt memorizing, and initiate the practice of soul winning, attitude changes, praying, and loving the people Jesus loved?  Is it advisable to quit limiting the gospel to our imaginations and pretentions? 

It just might be that we have a 'log yard' of egocentric people, grasping after the wind, that can be changed into productive, useful individuals if we, the trained disciples, use our Spirit-endowed skills.

Now do you see your personal struggle? I do.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Once in a Thousand Years

TENTH day of the TENTH month of the TENTH year occurs one time every thousand years. The first time it occurred was two years before Jesus made his first trip to Jerusalem.  In 732 a.d. at Tours, France the Muslims invasion of Europe was halted, but I found nothing on the internet concerning the events of October, 10, 1010.

Consider this question: Is it the historical events of the day that make it important, or the potential of what could happen that makes it special? History is important, but it is the potential that excites us. 

What will make 10-10-10 special this year in particular? It is the only time this day will occur for another 1000 years.

Here are a few things that the Bible says can happen.
  • 1 Sam. 10:19. I can reject God 
  • Exod. 32:29 I could dedicate, or re-dedicate, myself to God 
  • Deut. 6:6  I can put His commands in to my heart. Would memorization be a way? 
  • Deut. 29:12 This day, 10-10-10, I can make a make a pack (promise) with God to do what he says. 
  • 1 Sam. 11:13  I can watch the Lord accomplishing salvation in the lives of my friends and others. Could it be my day? 
  • Heb. 3:7.  This could be the day I start listening to God instead of the devil. 
  • Luke 19:9.  Is this the day salvation comes to my house? Your house? A neighbor's? A relative? 
  • Luke 23:43. This might be the day I leave this earth and go to Paradise.
Yes, 10-10-10 could be a VERY INCREDIBLE DAY! It will be the only one like it for the next 1000 years. It is the POTENTIAL that makes this date SPECIAL.
Now, consider this question. What is the difference between 10-10-10 and 10-11-10? Or which is the better date, 10-11-10 or 10-13-10?

Isn't it true any of the things the Bible said can happen on 10-10-10 can happen on ANY DATE? It is not the DATE that makes it special, it is what we DO WITH IT that makes ANY DATE special.
Besides, isn't right now the only day like this in recorded history?  Make today, whatever the date, special. It is unique.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In the Crosshairs

I fancy myself as knowing the basic tenants of science. So, I love watching Abby Sciuto on NCIS. And CSI is so fascinating.

But as I watch NCIS I have found the principal character, LeeRoy Jethro Gibbs, was once a sniper. A important colleague, Officer David (pronounced Dah'veed) is also a trained sniper and will shoot anyone, including her half-brother.

My teenage years were during the later days of the Vietnam conflict. Beginning in those days, I have heard repeated stories of a lone enemy sniper picking off the last member of a patrol squad and shooting him.

So why write about snipers?

What effect does a single sniper have on a battle? They usually don't shoot the highest ranking person, although they can. They wound or kill the grunts.
Consider this story. A private was recently assigned to patrol duty. Two days ago a sniper killed his buddy standing next to him. Yesterday the replacement was airlifted to a MASH unit to amputate what is left of his arm, shot off by a sniper. Today he is scheduled for a recon mission in the same area. How willing is he to follow orders? 

The effective work of a sniper is to produce fear in the grunts. And fear debilitates. It causes the individual soldier, the lonely-feeling one, to want to go A.W.O.L. He wants to quit. He senses he is next to die. 

Is Satan your "sniper". Have you been shot, or are you, like me, feeling you are next? Today, are you planning to go A.W.O.L. from God's Army? 

DON'T QUIT! But don't try to be a hero, either. Snipers work on killing ONE soldier, the lone soldier. So, get around other soldiers. Regain courage by listening to them. Restore determination by association.

Finally, consider this. In 'Nam' they dropped Napalm bombs where there were snipers. When the could not find them, they burned them. Is God going to 'Napalm' your sniper?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I love to win. Don't you?

As a child on the school playground I always wanted to be a cowboy. They had the guns and almost always won against the Indians.

In games of backyard football I loved being handed the ball. I certainly wasn't fast, but I could carry most of the defense with me over the goal line. We won frequently.

Ever since I can remember I 'called the hawgs'  (the Razorbacks) from my living room, especially when the were winning against Texas. (I am very convinced they heard me in Fayetteville. Everyone else did!  :-) )

In college I enjoyed winning at foosball against my friend 'Fuzzy' (which was not often enough). 

I love to win. Don't you?

Three days after Independence Day in 1967 I was added to THE winning team.
My captain never looses.

HE wants me on His team. He paid a very high price for me to be a team member. It does not matter to Him if I am fast or slow. He just wants me to play, to compete every down, every swing, every stroke, or every move.

What is more is that our team is not going to lose.  I can play like a confident winner, without gloating, taunting, or being unsportsman-like to any other contestant. I should not concern myself with the setbacks I might cause, but instead make adjustments before the next play. I must improve myself and my team. 

The opponent's discouraging talk should not dampen my attitude, the spirit of a winner.  Since me and my teammates know his trick plays, especially the ones that make us think we are about to lose, we pay no attention to them and succeed. Even his greatest scheme, the one when he threatens death, has no effect. You see, our Captain out-smarted him by overcoming it, and then gave His team the training to overcome it too.

I love to win. Don't you?