Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why "Red Letter Days"?

Why do we call them Red letter Days?
  • One possible response: The day you get to Name It and Win It. Sounds like a rare special opportunity.
  • Another response: The day you get to enter , Tanzania. Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime event, doesn't it.
  • One of the unique Red Letter Days I found was a video of an ordinary bus driver and how his regular Dutch riders treated him on his birthday. Go check this one out. I don't know what they said, but their actions and his re-action 'translated' just fine.
  • Or, as blogger Tom Davis reminds us, the phrase comes from how the Special religious holidays, on OLD calendars, were printed in RED
Any one of them could be a good illustration of a RED LETTER DAY, a day that was genuinely special to an individual, a day that changes life (or its direction) forever.

I think I had a Red Letter Day today. I had two major events happen today before lunch (and things didn't get smoother afterward either). Sorry, no details given.

It is just that these days are so rare they tend to shake us up. We try to get on with life, but  thoughts keep flashing through the old brain. Processing mundane activities become difficult, even frustrating.

And then I remember....
  • He stopped an argument among the 'special 12' by washing feet -- A Red Letter Day.
  • He told them he was about to die -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • One of his 'special 12' turned him over to the authorities -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • The other 11 abandoned him -- Yes, that same Red Letter Day.
  • He was treated like a common criminal -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • He had many people telling lies about him -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • He was dragged through an illegal trial -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • He was spit on, punched, slapped, mocked, ridiculed, and beaten within an inch of his life -- A big Red Letter Day.
  • His clothes were the 'jackpot' as the soldier who crucified him naked 'cast lots' for them -- The same Red Letter Day.
  • And then, on this Same Red Letter Day, he says, "Father, Forgive them. They have no idea what they are doing."
He did not survive His Red Letter Day. But that very Red Letter Day has deep meaning. It was the point in time my big mistakes against God were forgiven and atoned. A Red Letter Day with Red Letter Day size implications.

My day only had 2 things, and I feel like I'm just hanging on.

What is the matter with me? If I am His disciple, I must refocus! It is not about ME, it is about HIM. He accomplished so much good for others on his Red Letter day. What can I do with mine?

What should you do with your Red Letter days?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Supernatural Light, Voice Changes Politics

Did you read yesterday's Damascus Chronicle? Headline: 'Supernatural' Light, Voice Changes Politics. Yeah, and I am one of those who saw it all.

Three days ago i was walking with Josh, Saul, and 'Cooter'. We, under Saul's leadership, were tracking down members of a counter-cultural faction of Jews known as The Way. We had all the paperwork from the highest authorities in our society. We have already been very successful in Jerusalem, capturing and imprisoning these 'Jesus freaks'.

Nothing could have been more ordinary in our travels, when a really, really, bright light hit Saul. It was more bright than the sun and hit only him. We heard someone talking to him, but we couldn't find or see whoever it was. The voice said it was Jesus, but we couldn't even determine where the sound came from, much less who really said it. The light was SO bright. When Saul got up from off the ground, he couldn't see. I think it was because of the super-bright light. But what was more disturbing is that Saul was visibly emotionally shaken.

We helped Saul into town and found a place to stay. He didn't sleep, eat, or drink. He just sat in the corner praying, and praying, and praying. At this point I was very uncertain what to do. Saul would know what to do when he got over this, but when?

After three days this man, called Nias or something, came in and talked with Saul about, of all things, Jesus. I saw something that looked like contact lenses fall from Saul's eyes. But Saul didn't wear contacts. The next thing I knew Saul was being immersed like I've heard those 'Jesus freaks' do. Then he ate and began to feel better. Now, I assumed, we can get back to kicking butt.

Next morning we go to the synagogue, just like we always do when we check-in with the local officials. But NO!  Saul started telling everyone that Jesus was real. That Jesus really is alive, and he had heard him and saw him. He was acting like one of... THEM! As me and the other guys left the place, we saw some people, maybe those fanaticals, surrounding him and patting him on the back.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What does this have to do with me? I am a Gentile. Saul became a missionary to the Gentiles. Between Peter and Saul/Paul I have a chance, and so do you. Do I need a 'bright light' experience? No. I need just enough light to read these marvelous stories. They are better than any religious experience I could have. 

Start being a little fanatical today. Do something different. Read the Bible, and tell a friend about this blog. Thanks

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why do I have to learn this stuff?

As a teacher, students come to me asking "Why do I have to learn this 'stuff'?"  It is a good question, and deserves a respectful, thorough answer.

The simplest answer is 'it is the right thing to do."

What was it like for Jesus? We know he was a good Jewish boy, developing as he should. As a good boy he learned the trade of his father, Joseph, who was a carpenter. I am sure he had some cuts and smashed his fingers with a mallet more than once.

But he was not just a good Jewish boy. He was God's son. And as God's son, he was divine and knew all things. He asked his mother and father why they didn't realize he had to be about his FATHER'S business. So, he knew everything.

So, why did Jesus spend so much time learning a trade, carpentry, when he knew from the beginning that he would never earn a living using this knowledge? Could it be he was showing us what it means to learn obedience, even when we don't understand why? Could it be wanted us to know how much is necessary to be submissive?

Please put your thoughts in the comment section.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spell Church

Spell church, he said.

A member of the congregation said, "C-H-U-R-C-H."

"Correct," he said, adding, "Does everyone agree?".

Everyone did.

"That means there is not 'I' in church."

I considered what he said. That means that:
  • THE church has no place for MY opinions
  • THE church has no place for MY disapproval of the parts of the service (prayers not appropriate, sermon too long, wrong songs, etc.)
  • THE church assembly is about giving honor to God and not MY likes/dislikes. ("Your opinion is worth the same as mine," he said. "Either of us can take our opinion and 54-cents and get a cup of coffee at the convenience story in the morning." To which I add, 'And make sure you bring all the 54-cents. They usually are not interested in your 2-cents worth of opinion.)
  • THE church has plenty of servants and very few 'chiefs'.
I am thankful for the reminder I heard. I remembered I am to be a servant.

The speaker closed with a simply thought. People who will be followers of Jesus are first to deny themselves, and then begin to follow.

Why is it so hard to be lowly, humble, and just a servant? Do you have this same problem? Add your comments. 

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grandpa Joe

Justin looked at his last text before sending it. "Grandpa Joe is visiting & telling stories. Love it!" It looked good. He hit the 'send' button.

It's an understatement to say Justin loves his Grandpa Joe. And the stories Grandpa Joe tells are one-of-a-kind. He never lies. You know it is true by the twinkle in the old man's eye.

Last night Grandpa Joe talked about being a fan of The Man. He, and several others, enjoyed traveling with The Man everywhere. He did everything with Him and His 'official' support team.

Justin was trying to text his friend about the story Grandpa told last night. Grandpa Joe said he had been hanging around this hippie-looking guy named John for a while, and really liked what John was doing. Then The Man came by, talked to John, and John gave him his now-famous washing. John started talking about how The Man was more important. "So I became The Man Fan," Grandpa Joe said.

The Man was so different. "I loved everything he said and did, " Grandpa said, adding, "It was exciting to be at the beginning of a new 'superstar.'"

"He talked about chasing The Man for three years," Justin typed, checked and sent.

Then Justin wondered if he should text anything about the next story Grandpa told. How can anyone, even The Man, feed so many with so little? Justin fought to believe it. But Grandpa did have that convincing twinkle in his eye again. It had to be the truth.  "Grandpa said The Man feed a whole town with just a basket of food," he spelled one letter at a time. Check. Send.

Then Grandpa Joe told the story of when he was nearly chosen to be a replacement on The Man's support team. One of the support team, sometimes called 'Jud' for short, had turned The Man over to some powerful politicians, or religious freaks, or something. Jud's actions got The Man in trouble. Jud committed suicide.

Justin pecked "1 of The Man's helpers got Him n trouble. Helper killed himself." Check. Send.

Justin thought of what Grandpa said next. "A couple of weeks later a bunch of us was hanging around when Pete proposed me and Matt as replacements. They talked to The Man's father and rolled the dice. Matt was picked, " Grandpa said, adding with laughter, "Almost!"

Justin's fingers couldn't move fast enough. "Grandpa almost picked as replacement." Check. Send.

This Bible-based fictitious story asks us to decide if the stories about The Man are real. For me it depends on who is telling the story. The closest men surrounding The Man didn't lie back then. How do I know? Many of them died for what they said. Who would die for a lie?

Hey, just for fun, in the comment box type Grandpa Joe's full name. You can find help here.

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More Than Learners.

I am so amazed with the complexity of some of Jesus' simplest things.

Take discipleship for example.

I was taught from a small child that a disciple is simply a learner. That was good enough for a small child, but a developing Christian must come to understand the demands of the concept. I have trouble with this one, and my society does too.

Disciples of His day were more than 'learners'. They walked everywhere he walked. They ate every meal he ate. They heard every speech, discussion, lesson, parable, and chide. They heard the questions, objections, complains, and anger against the man with whom they lived.

I'm a teacher. I am glad when  3:15 comes and the kids go home. They don't walk home to my house. They don't eat with me every meal. They don't hear my personal grips, quips, the 'speeches' I would like to tell some disgusting people, and how I 'chide them' while I am with my wife alone. They don't hear my anger. They are not forced to listen to upset parents questioning my classroom actions. They don't defend me from objections, complains and individual frustrations.

This is what the 12 disciples did everyday. And when Jesus didn't go home to "Momma Mary", but traveled the countryside, they slept where he did, or rowed the boat all night.

They worked hard to memorize all the important stuff a Son of God might say. Once memorized they discussed it with the other disciples to make sure they were understanding it well.

They totally surrendered themselves to Him. Pete, Andy, Jim and Johnny (Peter, Andrew, James and John) had walked off from a fishing career. Matt gave up $$$ as a tax collector. What would they have for all their sacrifice? Jesus answered them clearly in Matt. 19:27.

How demanding are Rabbis? Jesus made it very clear the relationship He wants with all His disciples. They should be closer than a family member (Luke 14:26-27). Mark 10:20-30 infers separation (or at least a lesser importance) from family  for Jesus and his gospel's sake. Matt. 10:38 tells what must come next. Jesus too, re-defines His family (Matt 12:47).

The struggle is to move from being a man who learns ABOUT Jesus to full SURRENDER of my most important relationships, my family. Total surrender is hard.

What makes total surrender a struggle for you?