Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Chance Did She Have?

What chance did she have? Everything about her was wrong.

She read the Tyre Tribune daily, especially the World News Brief section. She knew it was valuable to stay current with world events. Three days ago she read of Jesus leaving Galilee traveling northwest.

She was not blessed to live in Judah or Galilee. The Jews lived southeast, with Jerusalem being a 5-6 day walk. She dreamed of living there. If she did, the now-famous Jesus could see her demon-possessed daughter. But Jesus would never leave Judah or Galilee. What chance did she have?

She was not a blessed Jew. Jesus, the healer, spent all his time with the Jews. They knew they were God’s only people. But she was Greek, light-years from being a Jew. If Jesus journeyed to Tyre, why would He notice her? What chance did she have?

She was not blessed to speak Jewish. Jews had their own language, Greeks another, and Phoenicians yet another. She was Greek, but raised as Phoenician. If by some crazy chance He did come to Tyre, and if He was agreeable to being near a Greek, how would she communicate with Him. What chance did she have?

She was not a blessed male. Males talk with males, not women. Women are personal property for men. So, if everything else aligned, she should not address Jesus. What chance did she have?

“You say He is where?” she asked. She was not concerned about the little chance of seeing Him. He could help her daughter!

“Please, please! I beg you,” she said. Her daughter had no chance without Jesus.

“All I am asking for are the crumbs,” she told Him. His analogy did not agitate. She believed He could. This is her only chance. It made no difference what He said.

He spoke in a familiar language. He said something about the devil being gone from her daughter. She ran home. Her daughter was still in bed, but the demon was gone.

What chance did she have? With a deep, active faith in Jesus, she had a 100-percent chance of success.

What chance do you have?

Please leave comments below, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Facts Plus ???

The American Justice System is not based on belief. It is based on indisputable facts.

Conscientious pharmacists will not give you what they believe (think) will make you better. They depend on unchanging facts.

We will not work with mailing list brokers giving us a list of address they think will work. We demand they have current addresses (facts)

Do you see the pattern? We trust fact-based information and individuals. We don’t always trust someone’s notions, hopes or opinions.

In a previous post (No! I Will Not Wash My Hands), I asked if belief (or faith) is acceptance of facts only, or if belief includes actions. This post briefly investigates the question.

Belief (n. faith) is based on facts. It is not the facts themselves, according to Hebrews 11:1. Faith is evidence (facts) of things not seen. The TV weatherman tells you what he believes (thinks) the weather will be like tomorrow based on predictable patterns (facts).

If the weatherman tells us there is a 100% chance of snow, we have a choice:
  1. We can accept his fact-based prediction (and do nothing), or
  2. We can accept his fact-based prediction AND go (action) to the store for milk, break, batteries, candles, and disposable propane bottles (where I live snow can turn into an ice storm, knocking out electricity).

Choice #1 is NOT biblical faith. It is acceptance of truth. Choice #2 is biblical faith. It is acceptance PLUS action.

Note these Bible examples from Hebrews 11, the faith chapter.
  • Noah accepted God’s statement of a future flood, AND he followed God’s blueprint for building an ark (action).
  • Hebrews 11:8 speaks of Abraham. God tested Abraham’s faith. He told Abraham to give his only son as a burnt sacrifice. Abraham accepted God’s command as fact. He attempted to offer Isaac (action). Heb. 11:17-19.
  • The prostitute Rahab accepted as fact the spies report of how God was going to give Jericho to the Israelites. Later she hung a scarlet cord from her window, as instructed (action). She was spared.

Faith is acceptance plus action

With these ideas in mind, please consider these questions.
  1. Suppose you have biblical faith. God tells you to repent (turn away from sin) (Luke 13:3, 5). You accept his statement as fact. What follows next?
  2. Suppose you have biblical faith. Jesus tells you to tell others you believe Jesus is God’s son (confessing)(Matthew 10:32). You accept his instructions as fact, AND ???
  3. Suppose you have biblical faith. Jesus tells you to be baptized (immersed)(Mark 16:16). You accept his statement as a necessary fact, AND ???
  4. Suppose you have biblical faith. God tells you to live a new life (not sinning, but following God)(Romans 6:4). You accept your new statement of purpose as fact, AND ???

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No! I Won't Wash My Hands!

In the 21st century, it is common knowledge that hand washing helps prevent colds and influenza. But what will ceremonial hand washing do for you?

Jesus was approached because His disciples did not ceremonially clean their hands before eating. To the Pharisees and teachers, this was inconceivable. To them, the food was made unclean (religiously unfit to eat) because of contact with unclean hands. So where is the problem?

Mark notes these people expended so much energy upholding the traditions of the elders. They not only washed their hands, but ceremonially washed cups, pitchers, and kettles to keep traditions. They served men’s traditions, and not necessarily God’s commands.

Jesus struggled to make them re-think their actions. He called them hypocrites, and cited Isaiah as proof (Mark 7:6-7). Their actions were deafening compared to their words addressed to God. They honored men’s tradition more than God’s commands.

Jesus desires to free us from men’s philosophies and church creeds. He urges us to be people with hearts in tune with God.

How do I win this freedom struggle? First, stop immersing ourselves in men’s religious teachings (traditions). We clear out people’s clatter. Second, we refill ourselves with God’s talk. We listen to Him by reading His words (commands). This frees our heart to follow God instead of men.

Are you following men’s traditions or God’s commands? Let’s check. In your religion:
  • Who is your authority?
  • Is belief an agreement or an action?
  • How often are course corrections (repentance) needed?
  • At what point are you saved?
  • Can salvation be wrecked?

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What could you add to these considerations? Are there situations where we should do what I think instead of following God’s directions? Would you share your thoughts in the comment section?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jesus was a Trekkie

I relished the original series of Star Trek. As a child, I remember being glued to the TV its hour every week. Legions of fans extol the words of William Shatner’s intro, “…Boldly going where no man has gone before.”

Jesus exemplified this well-known slogan. He boldly went where no man had gone before. Here is evidence.

First, Jesus was the exception to the norm. Consider:
Yes, Jesus was the exception.

As a Trekkie, Jesus could see what most men cannot see. He could look 3 to 4 miles into the darkness of night (4th watch). At night and at a large distance, He could see disciples “straining at the oars.” Today it continues to be impossible to see that well, unless you have night vision binoculars or a small telescope. Jesus did what no man had done before.

As a Trekkie, Jesus could “transported” himself onto places where no man has been before. No one before, or since, has successfully walked on water, but Jesus did. He walked several miles across a rough, wind-blown Sea of Galilee until he found the disciples.

Seriously, did Jesus really defy nature to walk on water? Or is this just another fantasy for a children’s storybook?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Did He Tell His Father?

It had been a full day with a boat ride, afternoon teaching, 5000 men fed (plus women and children). Everyone satisfied. He directed exhausted disciples into the boat to go to Bethsaida, “I’ll meet you there,” he says, and sends the super-sized swarm homeward. He is finally alone. What does he do?

He goes up on the mountainside to pray. This appears odd to me. He is divine. He is equal to God. He works miracles like God. So what does He need? He needs time to talk with His Father.

What would He say to his Father on this day? Reading Jesus’ prayers gives us hints.
  • When He speaks to His Father, does He use the model prayer of Matt 6? How does He address The Father? Does He speak of His Father's holiness? Does Jesus ask God for the kingdom “to come”? Does He ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is being done in heaven? Is food requested? Does He plead for his antagonists' forgiveness? Are their requests for temptations to be removed or lessened?
  • Was this mountainside prayer parallel to His John 17 prayer? Did He request heavenly glory? Did He pray for His disciples by name, or collectively? Did Jesus pray for you? This day did He pray for unified believers?
  • Can we compare this mountainside prayer to Gethsemane's prayer? Was it as intense as in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46)? Did Jesus request His future to be re-arranged, or removed? Did He struggle with submission on the mountainside, as in the garden? Like Gethsemane, was He gearing up for grueling days? Or, unlike Gethsemane, savoring success?
  • Did He ask His Father with tenderness and affection? Did he emphasize his closeness to God (“Abba,” similar to 'daddy.' or 'papa')?

Not knowing the prayer leaves me inquisitive. If Jesus, with divinity and intimacy, dedicated time for prayer, should I, a far-less-than-perfect God-seeking human, dedicate time for prayer?

Would you take a moment and share with others a brief description of your prayer life in the comments section below?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Full or Fool?

No one remembers her real name. She is known around town as Full.

How Full got her nickname is a puzzle, but two ideas are possible.

The first explanation is she always knows more news. There was the time when the barber unintentionally nicked a customer's ear. In Full's version, the barber chased the man from the shop with a straight razor claiming the man tried to rob him. Or the time when a girl unwittingly started a car, almost driving over her younger brother. Full's finished variation had the girl plotting the attempted murder for more than a month. 

People started mispronouncing 'Fool' so it sounded like 'Full'. Full didn't understand, and did not care.

The other explanation may be a back-handed "compliment." Since she always presents a near perfect image of herself, the town's ladies began calling her 'Full'. Behind Full's back, they were saying she was "full of it." Others meant she was "full of herself." Neither was a calculated commendation.Full understood they believed she had correct information

Good cooks know marinating meat enhances the taste. Full believed the same was true about lies. A little "innovative intentional improvement" could heighten any story, making it more palatable.

Accuracy was not Full's concern. Telling lies was exciting. Lies create a 'pseudo-high' by increasing stress hormones. These increase your heart rate, breathing increases, and digestion slows. Over time lies can produce increased blood pressure resulting in coronary artery disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Recently, Full found her snare. She was the only witness to a vehicular homicide. In the ensuing trial, Full was put on the witness stand. The problem: the jury was composed of people in town. They knew of her inability to tell pure truth. No matter how Full answered, few believed her. She had told too many lies too often for too long. 

The Bible is proven true again.
  • "He who winks the eye causes trouble, And a babbling fool will be ruined." Prov. 10:10 
  • "Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool," Prov 10:23).
  •  A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies will not escape." Prov 19:5
  • "A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies shall perish." Prov 19:9 
  • "A man who bears false witness against his neighbor Is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow."  Prov 25:18
I guess the residents named her right: Full or Fool. Both are bona fide.

What can be done for Full? Does she have any hope of changing? Since you are Full's friend, what can you tell her?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You Are Not In Control

I, like most Americans, want control of their life. I like the potential of advancement through planning my education and harnessing experience. I want to grow into a higher paying jobs, or having more time for my family. I want to decide what is best for my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and myself.

Fact is, I control little. Many factors outside myself determine my obtainable choices.
A John the Baptist story illustrates the point.

First, John did right by telling Herod he was wrong. Herod had married his brother Phillips wife, Herodias, making them guilty of adultery. John told Herod he was wrong, envisioning change. John was courageous and right. He acted as God’s messenger.

Doing right is not optional. God expects all people to chose right actions. Men think they know what is right, but their plans end in death. God says if we do right we are righteous. Isaiah required rebellious Israel nation to do right. Jesus said our right actions must be better than the Pharisees. He said to do God’s righteousness first. Christians should never get tired of doing right. You will meet only right-doers in heaven.

So, regardless of the outcome, DO RIGHT!

Second, be aware of guilty parties nursing grudges. Herodias did not cherish John saying she was an adulteress. Mark says she “nursed a grudge.” The grudge grew into a desire to have John dead. John was not in control of her grudge wish.

People can only control themselves. Paul preached self-control to an uncontrolled Felix. Satan tempts people with no self-control. There is no law against self-control. Peter urged all Christians to add self-control to their virtues.

You cannot control others, or what they do. No one wants a grudge held against them, but you cannot stop them either. If they have suffered a relational injury and want to remember it (carry a grudge), you can’t stop them. You cannot stop people from carrying grudges, nor the paranoia that often follows. You cannot stop their “heightened sense of indignation.” You cannot stop them from going on a shooting spree.

Watch out for grudge possession.

Third, You cannot control the promises others make. Herodias’ daughter danced before Herod and his dinner guests (MARK 6:22). Herod was very impressed and wanted to dazzle his guests. He promised her anything she wanted, up to one-half of his kingdom. John had no control of Herod’s promise.

Other men's promises can be good, but you did not control them. The promises of other human beings can be bad, and you wish you were able to control them. Promises can result from deception, and you must deal with it. Promises can be rash and people will suffer, but you cannot control them. You cannot control the promises made by others.

Finally, you cannot stop mothers from manipulating their daughters. Herodias’ daughter had the promise of Herod, her stepfather (Mark 6:23). She came to her mother asking advice on what she should request (verse 24). But Herodias’ grudge against John the Baptist was stronger than her maternal instinct to serve the daughter's best interests. She urged her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist (verse 24). The daughter surrendered to her manipulative mother, and asked for his head on a platter (verse 25). Herod unwillingly complied (verses 26 & 27). John had no control over a mother manipulating her daughter. It cost John his head.

What can you do with a mother who manipulates though screaming, cursing and violence? Can you stop an out-of-control mother pressuring her daughter during the her (daughter’s) divorce. Who can stop a mother from using grandchildren to motivate the daughter. You cannot control a parent using manipulation, guilt, or self-pity to motivate their children. The repercussions of a mother’s manipulation ranges from a downswing to abhorrence. No one wins. Control is absolutely rare and enormously expensive. It cost John his head.

Since you cannot control others, it would be better to trust God to supply you with GRACE and FORGIVENESS for every situation. Paul could not control his “thorn in the flesh," but God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” If we forgive men when they hurt us, God can forgive us. Since you cannot control the harm against you, you must REPEATEDLY forgive. And we forgive to the same extent that God has forgiven the obedient believer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not Even McDonalds??

I have heard how companies launch with very limited financial resources, but note what these traveling salesmen were asked to do.

They were forbidden to carry any kind of food with them. They could not carry a picnic. They could not use a lunch bag, lunch box or thermos. They were forbidden to carry food.
These salesmen could not carry a suitcase, no backpack, no duffel bag. Purses were prohibited. Even Wal Mart bags were banned.

As for money, think miserly. They could carry no cash. Debit cards were declined. Credit card were cut off. Checks were curbed. They could not have any nickels, dimes, or pennies.

There was no method of taking any extra clothes, if allowed. They were not.

The ONLY thing they could take with them was a large stick. That is all! And it was for defense against some demented dog or a maniac mugger.

Under these conditions, what chance of success does the company have? I ask an  acquaintance.“Somewhere between slim and none,” he replied. I agree. Don’t you?

Jesus sent the apostles on a "mini" mission to convert people, cure diseases, and cast out evil spirits. They did. And yet, the conditions above is how they traveled.

What is more, Jesus had them stay in the home of whoever would take them in.

What made this venture viable?