Showing posts from 2020

Patience is a Virture--so what?

What a year. We’ve been waiting for things to get back to normal. Waiting for schools to start and restaurants to open. Waiting for family reunions, weddings, and funerals. Waiting for test results, the next wave of virus, and a vaccine. Waiting seems to have been the theme of 2020.  What’s promised for 2021? Very likely, more of the same. Normality? Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new head of the CDC said on Wednesday, “I think we should manage our expectations in terms of taking off our masks… over time we will be able to maybe one day, not be in our masks anymore, but I have told my family I anticipate they’ll be wearing a mask for the better part of ’21 (Vanderberg).”  Let that sink in for a moment. What’s your response angry, disheartened, bothered, or maybe apathetic. My guess is that whatever we’re feeling it isn’t relief. But take heart because, for God’s people, waiting is not new. Listen to these two verses of scripture. “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children an

First Steps

 December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls” in reference to “summer soldiers” who fought well in Spring and Summer but gave up and went home in the cold. It was a statement read to the Colonial army at Valley Forge before they crossed the Delaware River and attacked the British. Let me paraphrase this for the Body of Christ. These are still the times that try the human soul . The ‘ fair-weather believer’ will, in 2020 , shrink from the service of their Lord. Unsettled, uncertain, and unprecedented describe the last year. This was the second Thanksgiving Phyllis and I had alone. The first being 1980 when we moved to Abilene Texas. I couldn’t sneak pieces of turkey to John as I carved it. There were no kids begging to watch their shows . In some ways it was empty. There have been other eras in which times seemed empty and without hope. I came across a meme the last week or so. “It’s important to remind people of the true meaning of Christm

Choices and Chances

Did you ever miss a get together only to find out that it was the party of the year?    About 47 years ago in an accounting class at Cal State Hayward, Dr. Zambetti told us how much he hated one particular movie. He stayed home to watch it while his roommate went to the party at which the host handed out shares of a stock that had just gone public. I can’t remember the company but missing that party made Zambetti sick every time he saw that movie come on TV. I can only imagine how much one would miss if they said ‘no’ to a royal wedding because that’s what Jesus describes in this parable. The King’s son was being wed and all the stops were pulled out for this wedding. An obvious first invitation had already gone out. It would be like our ‘save the date’ announcements. Now, it was time to present the second invitation is sent to these previously invited. The response is unbelievable. It is unthinkable. After all, this was the King whose party they ignored. Matthew says they “paid no

Generosity in a stingy time

Matthew is the only gospel that includes this story and it expands on helps explain the previous chapter in which a rich man walks away from Christ and the disciples, who had “left everything and followed” Christ asks, “What will we have?” v. 27 . Jesus tells them that they will judge Israel and that anything they have lost—houses, brother, sister, parents, children, or land “for my name's sake” will inherit eternal life and an overabundance of what has been lost. Jesus summarizes this teaching in 19:30 and 20:16. They aren’t exactly the same but their similarity tie them to one another; “ But many who are first will be last, and the last first” and “So the last will be first, and the first last” . The story that leads off chapter 20 is as normal to life in the first century as commuting is for us. A vineyard owner, quite possibly during harvest, makes repeated trips to a common area where people gathered for work. He offers to pay the going rate of a ‘denarius’ for each man’s

Count to 100

 Ernest Hemingway begins his story, “Capital of the World” by describing a joke in Madrid in which “A father who came to Madrid and inserted and advertisement in the personal columns of El Liberal which said: ‘PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTATA NOON TUESDAY ALL IF FORGIVENG PAPA, and how a squadron of Guardia Civil had to be called out to disperse the eight hundred young men who answered the advertisement (Hemingway 44).” The legend may have struck Hemingway as funny but there may well be no greater need for everyone than to hear all is forgiven. That is the truth of following Jesus. I could not believe God loved me and there are times even today I cannot fathom that truth. But it is absolutely, 100%, true. And the release from our past mistakes, crimes, sins, and errors may be the number one need we all face in this life. Peter doesn’t ask his question about how many times in order to find a way to get back at someone. He knows that God graciously set up sacrifices that were the mea

Fish or get out of the boat

Our two passages before us today couldn’t be more different. One is a story of Peter, once more, getting it wrong. Paul’s letter to the Romans is almost a laundry list of living for Jesus. I propose they are more related than we think. Matthew paints a bold background of what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus uses a ‘roller’ as He plasters dark reds and brown on the canvas before us. Painted with His blood, the ESV uses 20 words to define Christ’s calling, “If anyone would come after me, let them deny themself and take up their cross and follow me” v 24. Jesus makes it so clear b ecause moments earlier Peter had tried to tell Jesus what was best for him. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem to die but Peter thought that was a horrible idea and told Jesus so. I’m pleased to hear Jesus does not give in to Peter but called him to account, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance” v23. This is because Jesus’ call is for us to follow Him to death—Yes, eternal life. But death nonetheless becau

Rules and Worship

  When reading scripture, it is important to know the context in which the verses take place. What we learn in verses 10-28 flow from the Pharisees complaining to Jesus about the disciples breaking of the “tradition of the elders” v2. In answer, Jesus shows them their own ‘law-breaking’ in order to further their greed. Connected stories From here Jesus address the people who have gathered to hear Him. These two stories—what defiles a person and the healing of the Gentile’s daughter are connected. Those of Israel, the Pharisee, and everyday Jews had been raised on the logic that “ceremony=rightness with God”. Keep the Sabbath and its rules and God blesses you. Bring the proper sacrifice at the right time and God accepts you, forgives your sin, etc. Do ritual washing and don’t touch non-Kosher food and you will stay healthy. “But” Jesus does here what he did earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. There Christ said, “You have heard… BUT I say” . He doesn’t offer an expansion on th

I Got You!

  A universal truth in life is that we will have stress.   Acute’ stress is short-lived, situational, but can be earth-shattering—death of a friend, stuck in traffic, argument with a spouse, child, or boss. Acute stress passes. Following an experiment demonstrating  how acute stress can increase mental acuity one doctor wrote, “I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” she said ( Sanders ) Chronic stress is just nasty, it increases risks like “chronic obesity, heart disease and depression (Sanders)." Chronic stress can come from the constant presence of acute stressors partnered with no way to escape. There is no control over those things that bring chronic stress into our lives. The biggest contribution to date by atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins (IMHO), is gifting the world with the word ‘meme’. They are important because they allow us to deal with some of the stressors we face in our world on

What did you eat today?

Matthew 14:13-21 is one of the few experiences shared in each of the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in many places, but it must have been a special reason for John to record it.  John, like the others, is concerned with showing his readers and the world who Jesus is. John records the intent of the people, to take Jesus and make Him King. Soon afterward in John 6: 26ff, Jesus confronts the crowd, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” which leads to verse 35 where Jesus reveals “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus and God At the center of God’s creation is Jesus. The tipping point for all life is found in Jesus. Nothing is grander, more life-changing, fulfilling, earth-shattering, or joyous than Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel and if we miss this, we miss everything, everything! I owe a lot in this discus